§ [ALLOTTED DAY]
§ Order for Third Reading read (King's Consent signified).
§ 3.42 p.m.
§ The Minister of Town and Country Planning (Mr. Silkin)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
This Rill has now almost reached the end of a long and somewhat adventurous career in this House. It was introduced over four months ago, and in view of statements that may hereafter be made from the opposite benches, it may interest the House to know that although the Bill contains a large number of major principles every one of them has been considered at some stage or other during its passage through the House. In consequence of that, a considerable number of important changes have been made. For instance, the whole basis of compensation for the acquisition of land, not only in respect of planning, but for all public purposes, has been completely changed. There has been a considerable change in the machinery of local administration, of the London Clauses, of the charity Clauses, and in respect of ripe and near ripe land
During the Second Reading, the Opposition moved a reasoned Amendment for the rejection of the Bill I have refreshed my memory of the terms of that Amendment, and I think I may say that the grounds on which it was moved have now entirely gone. No grounds remain for a similar Amendment in respect of the Third Reading, but it is, nevertheless, too much to hope that the Third Reading will go through without some such Motion
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
Does the right hon. Gentleman intend to explain in what respect the grounds for that reasoned Amendment have been removed?
§ Mr. Silkin
If the hon. Gentleman also will refresh his memory of its terms, I think he will find that the objections raised in it have been met. I believe I may also claim that throughout the proceedings on this Bill, no one has alleged that it was unnecessary, or that it was based on wrong principles. There have been from time to time differences of opinion on relatively minor matters of machinery and so on, but there has been no major difference of opinion on the merits of the Bill.
There is one matter with which I regret it was not possible for me to deal earlier, but about which I gave an undertaking. The House will remember that the Bill provides for the making of regulations for the purpose of giving grants to local authorities in respect of the redevelopment of extensively war-damaged and blighted areas. When the Bill was in Standing Committee there was considerable discussion on the question of what the regulations would provide. The Bill provides for payment of grants, and sets out the maximum grants, but does not deal with the details of the grants, that matter being left to the regulations. The proposed regulations were criticised by some hon. Members on two main grounds. The first ground of criticism was against the weighting system being applied in the calculation of grants for the redevelopment of extensively war-damaged areas. It was said, with considerable force, that the operations of the enemy were not due to any fault on the part of local authorities; that they constituted a national misfortune, and that it was unfair that differentiation should be made between local authorities, in respect of the repair of war damage, which ought to be a national charge. There was also criticism of the lower range of grant in respect of blighted areas.
I promised in Committee that the Government would consider both those objections, and if the House will bear with me for a short time, I would like to tell Members the result of that consideration. The Government have accepted entirely the view of those who made the criticism as regards extensively war-damaged areas, and they have decided that payment of grants shall be not on the weighted basis, but on an equal basis to all local authorities. The grant will be paid for 60 years. For the first period of five to eight years, it will be paid on the basis of 90 per cent. For the remaining period of from 52 to 2192 55 years, the grant will be paid at the rate of 50 per cent. That will be paid throughout, to all local authorities. There was not the same criticism of the weighting formula as regards blighted areas, and there it will remain. But the Government have reconsidered the lowest range of grant and have decided to raise it. The new grants will, therefore, be: In the highest range, 80 per cent. for five years; 50 per cent. for the rest of the 60 years; in the lowest range, 50 per cent. for the first five years; 30 per cent. for the next seven; and 20 per cent. for the rest of the period. The grants are payable under the terms of the Bill not only in respect of areas of blitz and of blight, but in respect of most other matters for which compensation is payable by local authorities to an individual on planning grounds. There are eight different classes provided for in the payment of compensation to local authorities under the Bill. Moreover, the local authorities will have the advantage, after the appointed day, of being able to acquire land at its existing use value—that is, free of development value—and that will be a material advantage.
The House may be interested to compare the grants to local authorities which are payable under this Bill with the grants payable under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944. Under that Act, grants were payable in respect of redevelopment of blitzed areas over a period of ten to 15 years only. This Bill extends that period to 60 years. No grant was payable in respect of redevelopment of areas of blight, and no grant was payable in respect of other planning activities of the local authorities. The regulations will provide that the grants payable under this Bill will be retrospective to any activities of local authorities carried out under the 1944 Act. I hope I may claim that the improvements which I have just announced to the House will commend themselves to the local authorities as generous, and as providing a reasonable incentive to them to carry out necessary redevelopments.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Would the Minister say what formula will be used for calculating this weighting period?
§ Mr. Silkin
The formula is still under consideration and discussion with the local authorities. I know that there was some 2193 objection taken to the basis of rateable value. I hope that before very long it will be possible to remove the objection to the rateable value basis. I am not in a position to say more than that, but as hon. Members know, that matter is under active consideration. So far, it has not been found possible to find any alternative to the rateable value basis as one of the components of the weighting formula.
The Bill creates a number of new planning instruments. For the first time, with very minor exceptions, the county councils become planning authorities to whom the existing powers of the district councils will be transferred, and the Bill provides for the setting up of a new organisation—the Central Land Board—whose main function will be to assess and levy development charges in respect of developments after the appointed day. The Bill also radically changes the system of land tenure in this country. There will be, after the appointed day, and there may be today in anticipation, considerable changes in the value of land, particularly where development value is involved. It is very important that prospective purchasers between now and the appointed day, should take great care to be properly advised on the value of their land, in view of these impending changes, otherwise they may find themselves paying for the development value of land of which they may not be hereafter in a position to get the benefit. I feel that it is very important that this advice should go out to prospective purchasers, because no one wishes that, in consequence of these changes, innocent parties should suffer.
The House may ask how all these changes are to work. In the course of the Second Reading Debate, difficulties were put forward in good faith, and I should like to assure the House that my Department and I do not view the future administration of this Bill with any sense of complacency. We are fully alive to the many difficulties which may arise. We are aware that the county councils, as I have said, are new to planning, and that, by and large, they have not at present the staff or the experience, and that the Central Land Board is not even set up. It will be an entirely new organisation with people on it who possibly have not had a planning background. Other qualifications may well be 2194 required, and it may not be possible to get all those in one individual. There will be a lack of trained staff among the local authorities—the county councils and the county boroughs—and I am fully conscious of the fact that, probably, in the beginning, the machine may well creak at times, in places. There will be a new technique of planning required. For the first time, planning authorities are required to make a survey. In the past, very few authorities have preceded the making of plans by a survey of the conditions in their areas. Now that will be obligatory. Very few authorities have made plans at all. The making of surveys is to a large degree in this country a new technique. There will be danger of delay. There will be the possibility of uncertainty, and perhaps the multiplicity of consents required may, in the beginning, discourage development. I am conscious of all these dangers, but I believe that to be fully alive to them and ready to face them in advance, is going a long way towards overcoming them. I do not suggest that it is going all the way, but I feel that by realising these dangers in advance we shall be better able to meet them than we would be if we were confronted with them suddenly and taken by surprise.
I explained to the House on Second Reading that it is the intention of my Department and myself, if at all possible, to ensure that the prospective developer is not required to make separate applications to a number of different bodies; that they should be in a position to make one application and get one reply. I have gone some way in exploring that possibility, and I have every reason to believe that it will be possible to ensure that that will be done; that the prospective developer will be able to lodge his application, and within one period—I hope a short period—get a decision on his by-law application, on his ribbon development application, on his planning application, and on the development charge.
I have also taken in hand the very difficult task of securing the planning staff which will be required both for the local authorities and for the purposes of administration. I am not at all sure that the administrative staff will not be even more difficult to secure and to train than the technical staff Of course, there is in existence a considerable body of trained technical ability and experience em- 2195 ployed by the existing town planning committees, and by other authorities which will become available for service with the county councils, but I am convinced that we have to go much further, not only in increasing the numbers of technical staff, but perhaps, even more, in increasing its ability and its standard. I have had a number of conversations with the universities, and I am glad to say that they are very willing to play their part in the training of technical and administrative staffs of the highest quality in order to assist in this task. I have also been in touch with the professional bodies and while it would be folly to say that the problem of staff has been solved, I should like to tell the House that I have every hope that, within a reasonably short period, staff of the requisite numbers and quality will become available.
I realise that in the last resort, the task which this Bill is designed to secure can only be successfully carried out if the functions of town and country planning are understood and accepted by the general public. It is essential that it should be appreciated that town and country planning is not merely the preservation of the amenities of our towns and countryside, important as that is. I am afraid that in quarters where one would have expected the functions of town and country planning to be fully understood, there is still the impression that my functions and those of my Department are exclusively concerned with amenity. Of course we have all become more or less accustomed to the exercise of planning controls. Planning control at its best, has been accepted as a system of collective security on the principle "I do not interfere with your amenities, and in return you do not interfere with mine." I think that has become generally appreciated, but what has not been appreciated is that town and country planning is something very much more than that.
It is true that this Bill makes the kind of control I have indicated more effective by removing the deterrent effect on the local authorities of the payment of compensation. The Bill, however, provides much more than that kind of control. The new conception, the wider view of planning is that planning is concerned to secure that our limited land resources are used to the best advantage of the 2196 nation as a whole, and it provides for resolving the often conflicting claims upon any particular piece of land. Planning must ensure that economic, industrial and social needs are met in the most efficient manner. It is a much bigger problem than one of mere amenities. It must recognise the need for land for all sorts of purposes, some of them, apparently, not very popular. We do not control planning unless we provide even for power stations, for land for the Services, for mineral works and for pylons—admittedly in the right places. There are some who object to these things wherever they happen to be. We have even got to provide for industry and housing and agriculture.
In many of these forms of national activity, the individual Minister concerned must have his say. There are some who would say that the Minister of Town and Country Planning should be the sole arbitrator in respect of all uses of land in this country, and flattering as that may be to the position which I hold, I think hon. Members would recognise that it is not a very practical possibility and that it must be left to the individual Ministers who are concerned with the particular function of the land, to make their case for the use of land for any particular purpose. The business of town and country planning must be to reconcile conflicting claims on the use of any particular piece of land. Town and country planning must also recognise that some uses of land which are necessary for the welfare of the community, will not be carried out at all unless the community undertakes the task. So, new and considerably greater powers are conferred by this Bill on the local authorities in respect of the acquisition of land and for the carrying out of this particular purpose. I hope that the local authorities will not hesitate to use the new powers that are conferred upon them to the fullest extent possible, although on the other hand I hope that no words of mine will encourage them to acquire land or to exercise their powers merely for the sake of doing so.
We shall no doubt see something of the Bill once more when it returns to the House from another place, but I take my temporary leave of it with complete confidence that as amended it will stand up successfully to the close scrutiny which it will undoubtedly receive. I believe that this Bill when it passes, will constitute 2197 one of the greatest achievements of this Government and one more example of the carrying out of their pledges. I believe indeed that it will be one of the most important landmarks in the social history of this country, and I commend it to the House for Third Reading.
§ 4.9 P.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
I beg to move, to leave out "now", and, at the end of the Question, to add "upon this day six months."
This wording which has achieved formal significance in our deliberations in this House is, I find, singularly appropriate to the particular circumstances in which we are debating the Third Reading of this Bill. A period of six months' duration cannot justifiably be regarded by the Government as excessive, considering the size, the scope and the technical and difficult character of this Bill. It is a Bill with far-reaching effects on every section of the population. The scanty and inadequate time we have had in which to discuss it makes this Amendment singularly appropriate in its natural meaning apart from its formal sense. The Bill to which we are asked to give the Third Reading has only lately been available to us. By constant vigilance at the Vote Office I obtained a copy of it late yesterday afternoon, and it has not been in the hands of hon. Members generally until this morning. Again, I draw attention to the difficulty created by this rushing of our Parliamentary programme, for those loyal servants of this House who have to print and circulate documents which are essential to our deliberations. Many Amendments were made to this Bill on the Report stage. Most of these Amendments were made on the suggestion of the Minister, and at this late stage, on the Third Reading, the Minister announces to us the results of his consideration of an Amendment which we moved in Committee, regarding contributions to the finances of local authorities. Personally, though I have not had time in which to study the details of what the Minister has told us, I rejoice in some features of this new proposal.
§ Mr. Morrison
I had the honour of moving the Amendment in Committee and arguing the case that, for the bombed cities, no account should be taken of the 2198 relative wealth of the communities concerned, but that they should be a national charge inasmuch as they suffered in the national cause, and not by any action of their own or any incident that was peculiar to their own locality. I was surprised and delighted, in moving this Amendment, to receive the cordial support of the hon. Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Mr. Medland). I am glad that our joint forces have been sufficient to persuade the Minister that the view which we then argued is the wise and just one. All these events, the large number of Amendments on the Report stage, and this last announcement this afternoon on this important topic, show that the Government have, to some extent, profited by discussions at other stages, on which their Guillotine Motion seemed to pour prospective contempt. Much of the Bill has gone undiscussed and I think another six months could profitably be spent on it as it now comes before us in this House.
There are many things which could be improved during such a period as I propose for further reflection. The right hon. Gentleman just now made reference to the reasoned Amendment which we proposed on the Second Reading, and he uttered what, to me, was the amazing remark that the points to which we then drew attention were met by the Bill as it now stands. In one very important respect, on which I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman, those points have been met. I will return to that later. But think the other criticisms which were offered, as far as I can recollect them, still stand against the Bill in its final form. As I remember, we argued in our reasoned Amendment that the time allowed us for considering the Bill after printing was too short. It would be out of Order on Third Reading to pursue that topic, but I may be allowed to say that this Measure still shows signs of haste and lack of mature deliberation, and that those signs justify up to the hilt the portests of myself and my hon. Friends at various stages of this headlong process of guillotined discussion.
Nothing has emerged, so far, to justify the figure of £300 million which we find in the Bill as the proper global figure for the loss of development rights. There is still no provision for ascertaining the proper figure by some impartial and expert investigation. The figure, therefore, 2199 rests on no firmer foundation than the right hon. Gentleman's assertion that his guess on this matter is as good as anybody else's. I cannot pretend that this is a satisfactory basis for a transaction of this size and importance, nor can I agree that the House should proceed upon such shifting and delusive grounds. If the total sum in the Bill is, to say the least of it, very uncertainly computed, the method of its allocation, as proposed in the Bill, remains almost equally obscure. We are told by Clause 55 (1) that payments out of the fund are to be made in accordance with a scheme which is to be prepared by the Treasury. Can we be told how long we shall have to wait for this scheme to be put before us? I hope that the period of uncertainty will be abridged more than the language of Subsection (1) indicates.
Uncertainty is fatal to willing development. Let the House be under no illusion. It is upon the willing developer that we must rely, if we are to provide people with the homes that they now so urgently require. This uncertainty is increased by Part VII of the Bill, which relates to the imposition of development charges. Clause 66 describes the charge as beingof such amount (if any) as the Board may determine. …Then it says that no such operations—that is to say, building—shall be carried out until not only has the Board ascertained the proper charge, but the charge has either been paid or secured to the satisfaction of the Board. I think it is unfortunate that the sanction which is used to enforce prior payment of the charge is expressed in this way. No doubt the hold-up of building operations, which is the sanction in the Bill, will hurt the would-be developer, but it will punish and hurt the community far more. I see that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Labour yesterday addressed some wise and grave words about strikes which hurt the community, women and children, and so on. He said that these strikes hurt innocent people and he hinted at evil machinations being at work. I entirely acquit the right hon. Gentleman of evil machinations. No one who has had the close association with him that I have had—for both of us, it is true, some of it was forced association, but none the less 2200 agreeable—no one could harbour such a suspicion about him. But I most urgently ask him and the Government, now that they have attained so far the planning purpose which is the reason for this Bill, to stand outside their Bill for a moment in the time which remains to them, and examine the Bill with fresh eyes from the point of view of its effect upon development and, particularly, house building.
Let us remember that though town and country planning is an admirable desire and an object worthy of all our endeavours, still the provision of homes for the people at this time is an urgent and crying necessity. I am sure there is not an hon. Member in the House wherever he sits who is not daily saddened by the letters he receives from old and young on this topic, and I feel sure that if the Bill were re-examined from the point of view of its effect on the speedy provision of homes for our people, not only would housing benefit but the real interests of town and country planning would, in the long run be furthered. If there is a conflict between the necessity for houses on one hand and town and country planning on the other, both the right hon. Gentleman and I know which of these two great interests is bound to suffer.
If such an examination were carried out, it would, I am sure, reveal the necessity for drastic amendment in some cases and at least for the imposition of a moratorium as regards the coming into effect of certain provisions of this Bill. I refer in particular to Clause 11, which defines what is meant by "development", and to the Third Schedule, wherein are set out the classes of development which are exempted from development charge. Both these parts of the Bill are so tightly drawn as to be irrelevant to our present needs in the housing world. We are not dealing with this matter at a time when housing is like a great river in flood, with an irresistible momentum which sweeps all obstacles aside. No, on the contrary we are dealing with a feeble, impotent rill or trickle of housing, one which is easily discouraged or diverted by impediments or obstacles arising from legislative or other causes
In particular I think that the limitation on permitted development of 10 per cent. of the previous cubic content is quite anomalous in an era of rising housing 2201 standards. It has the further absurd result of permitting, say, the noble owner of Welbeck Abbey to add to his mansion, free of development charge, the equivalent of what most of us would consider to be a roomy and commodious mansion, whereas if a man adds a new kitchen or bathroom to a farmworker's cottage, the Bill in its present form cracks down upon him. in my view, all agricultural cottages should be taken clean out of the system of compensation and betterment with all its cumbrous uncertainty. The money involved in it is trivial, and the need for agricultural houses is urgent if our people are to be fed. The same course should be taken with all land that is now ripe for building. The tests which are imposed by Clause 78 are so rigorous as to exclude much builders' land, and it is that builders land which offers the speediest hope of homes for our people at this time of great scarcity. There should be at least a wide moratorium for such land before it becomes embroiled in the uncertainties and delays of this new system.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke with great truth of the formidable difficulties of administration which confront him. Not only are there new authorities, but they have to administer a new law. There is not only the scarcity of planning staffs but the equal or even greater scarcity, as he properly said, of the administrative staffs. Unless the greatest care is taken, and unless the Minister is prepared to postpone the operation of some of these restrictions in the way I have suggested, he will find that this new system, with its deterrents having to be worked out by new people in a new way, when the proper staff is so short, will diminish still further the provision of housing which we are all so united in trying to stimulate.
I have now the more grateful task of congratulating the right hon. Gentleman, the Government and the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the new Part IV as it now appears in the Bill. The abandonment of the notional 1939 prices, for which we on this side of the House had consistently argued, is undoubtedly wise and will go a long way to mitigate a widespread feeling of injustice. That feeling of injustice is the very worst mental or psychological climate for good town and country planning to flourish in. I have already expressed myself on the new Clauses. I think they are unduly complicated but I remember also that the Minister has pro- 2202 mised to give further consideration to this point; so, beyond merely remarking that I do not think they are perfect yet and saying that we are grateful for this concession on the 1939 prices, I leave the point for the moment.
I am conscious that there are many other matters in this Bill on which I could address the House, but I am also conscious of the fact that during the limited and truncated periods allotted for our discussions, I have myself already absorbed more than my share of the common stock of time, and I assure you, Mr. Speaker, and other hon. Members that there is a limit even to my garrulity. The Bill, in its present form, is something like a new house, all glittering with its latest coat of paint, but I part from it with the awkward feeling that the work of building has been unduly rushed and stamped in its past stages, and that there is in it much unseasoned timber. I feel fairly sure that, in its present form, it will not be long before some of this timber begins to warp and twist and bend when it reaches the atmosphere of reality; the windows will cease to run smoothly up and down in their grooves, the doors will refuse to open and shut according to the purpose of their designer; and that what may happen to the roof and foundations I am not competent to prophesy.
There are many things in the Bill of which we do not approve. Constrained like us by this iniquitous time table, the Minister has, I feel sure, done his best within these limits to give consideration to the many points which have been raised, but in view of the arguments which I have put before the House, and in view of the past history of this Bill since it has come before us, I submit this Amendment to the House.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Having listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison), I cannot help feeling that most of his argument was directed to what he called "the iniquitous time table" rather than the merits or demerits of the Bill. Unlike both the Minister and the right hon. Gentleman, this is the first time I have had the opportunity of addressing the House on the Bill. I was not fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, on the Second Reading, and I was not privileged to be a Member 2203 of the Standing Committee which dealt with the Bill. The only issue this afternoon is whether or not this Bill should be read a Third time today, or on this day six months. On that issue I do not think, having heard the two speeches that have just been made, there can be any doubt where the overwhelming balance of argument lies.
However, I feel a good deal of sympathy with the views expressed by hon. Members about the time table, and the Guillotine Motion to which this Bill has been subjected. I speak as one who supported the Allocation of Time Order which governs the proceedings of this Bill, and I supported it for reasons for which I would support it again today. This Parliament has a great deal of legislation to be carried through, and if that legislation is to be carried through, there has to be an allocation of time of this Muse. Having said that, and having listened to much of the discussion on re-committal and Report, I think that all who take an interest in this Bill will feel that much more time could, with advantage, have been spent on discussing the provisions of the Bill. I think all will agree that the discussions which took place on re-committal and the Report stage were both instructive in principle and will be of assistance to the Minister in the administration of the Bill. I should like to take this opportunity of adding my congratulations to the Minister for the skill and ability with which he has piloted this important Measure through the House and through the Committee stage, and the patience and consideration he has given to the numerous Amendments which have been put down.
I found the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman for the rejection of the Third Reading singularly unconvincing. Nobody can reasonably deny that our town and country planning law as it stands today, is in need of reform and improvement. Its major defects obviously are: first, that it is too static and does not admit of ready adaptation; secondly, it is too localised; thirdly, that it is mainly negative and restrictive in character. Those three major defects are all removed by this Bill. For the first time local authorities and the Minister are given real, live, positive powers of direction and planning. There are many matters of detail with which one could comment on 2204 in a Bill of this kind, but in a Third Reading Debate one can only mention its salient aspects. I listened with profound satisfaction to the Minister when he said just now that he and his Department would not approach the task of the administration of this Bill in any mood of complacency. I think the House will be glad to acknowledge the way in which the Minister realises the immensity of the task ahead. My approach to this Bill is that the principles it enshrines are admirable, with one exception—I would have preferred to see deleted the provision for the payment of £300 million for development rights. I would have reached the conclusion which apparently was reached, but not expressly stated, by the Uthwatt Committee, namely, that under the common law owners of land who have restrictions placed upon the user of their land are not entitled to compensation. It seems to me that in logic and in law and in common sense there is a convincing case for the view that the Government should have saved £300 million, and used it for some better purpose.
It emerges from the discussions on this Bill and was emphasised in the speech of the Minister today that the problems of administration, both centrally and in the localities, will be immense. As the Minister said, we have to develop a new technique of planning; we have to develop a new science, we have to provide of find or train the architects, the surveyors, the planners who will implement this Bill. We are to start with a national survey. Nothing on the same scale has been attempted since Domesday Book, which was a creditable achievement for the resources and outlook of its time. The Minister has told us that the universities will co-operate in providing the specialised planners that we shall require, but it takes time to establish chairs in town and country planning, to build up a corps of people with the adequate scientific background, breadth of outlook and experience of affairs for carrying out the functions of harmonising conflicting interests, which will have to be carried out under this Bill. I think the Minister realises that planning is not an exact science. The survey may be a matter of exact, scientific presentation of ascertained facts, but the real problem will be planning which is ultimately a matter of judgment and opinion.
2205 The Minister mentioned Bankside and I would refer to that by way of illustrating the difficulties that arise in planning. I speak as one who has opposed the proposal for a power station at Bankside since its inception, but I am bound to say that reading the correspondence in "The Times," and listening to the argument as it has developed in another place, and elsewhere, I have realised how much can be said on both sides. I have also realised the importance of educating the public to the principles that underlie town and country planning because, although Bankside may be a particularly spectacular example of conflicting views, there will under this Bill be innumerable examples, occurring all over the country, in which legitimate business interests, legitimate industrial interests, the needs of the community for utilitarian purposes have to be balanced with aesthetic considerations and arguments based on amenities.
In the final analysis, the decision on which arguments will prevail depends on a balanced judgment, and such judgments will have to be made all over the country by the professional advisers of county councils, and by the chairmen of town planning committees who, though elected public representatives, will have no special planning knowledge or experience. On innumerable occasions where matters concerning the use and development of land fall to be decided, there will be occasions of friction, resentment, doubt and difficulty. In securing the wise and effective administration of this Measure—which I believe will lay the foundations of a well-planned and better Britain—I urge the Minister not to neglect the importance of enunciating reasoned principles of town and country planning, and also of ensuring that the public are educated in these matters so that he may have a healthy, well-informed, critical public opinion behind him in carrying out decisions as to how the land of our country is to be utilised and developed.
I thought the discussions which took place during the Report stage in regard to the Minister's functions under Clause 9 were particularly significant. In view of the recent decisions in the Courts on the Stevenage case and the Plymouth case, decided, it is true, under different Acts of Parliament, I am glad that this Bill puts the legal position beyond all doubt. Although a local public inquiry may be 2206 held, the Minister is free, either before or after the inquiry, to consult with such other persons or bodies as he may think fit, in order to inform himself on all relevant matters before finally coming to a decision. I hope that, once and for all, this House will bury the heresy that a Minister in these matters exercises judicial or quasi-judicial functions. It is most desirable in the interests of justice itself as well as of administration and public responsibility that the difference should be made clear between the ministerial functions of the Minister in matters of this kind, and judicial functions of the Judiciary.
The Minister is not concerned merely with the rights of two parties, but has to consider the rights of all parties, the needs of the locality, and the interests of the community. He is not bound by any prescribed rules of evidence, but has to take into account any information that comes to him from any source, and duly weigh and consider it, and then in the discharge of his ministerial responsibility to reach a decision, subject to criticism in Parliament. But just as the Judiciary in this country has established an unparalleled reputation for integrity and impartiality, similarly the Minister and his Department if they are to earn public respect must not merely aim at administrative efficiency, but also do all they can to ensure that justice is done, and is thought to be done. The public must understand and appreciate that a full and impartial hearing is the object of local inquiries, and, although not finality, must play its part in forming the Minister's decision. The Minister in the discharge of his functions, whether on appeal from local authorities of otherwise, should apply principles of planning widely understood among the community. For his success in administering this Bill he must earn a reputation for acting fairly, equitably and impartially between all the interests concerned. I also hope the Minister will have the courage, where necessary, to change his mind, because one of the essential characteristics of this Bill is that planning is to be not on fixed but flexible lines. The plans of particular localities must be capable of adjustment to meet the changing needs of the future.
A further point of detail which emerged on the Report stage and was, I thought, left in an unsatisfactory state, occurs in 2207 Clause 11, dealing with the control of development. Subsection (3) of Clause 11 which is introduced by the words "For the avoidance of doubt" still leaves very vague whether or not, if a single dwelling-house is divided, a material change is produced so as to bring the provisions of the Subsection into operation. Having heard the Debate on that point, I suggest that my right hon. Friend should consider the desirability of making arrangements in another place for the Bill to contain some definition of "dwelling-house" so that we shall know whether it has the same definition in this Bill as it has in the Rent Restriction Acts. There are numerous other matters to which one could refer. I would like to have said a word on the announcement the Minister made this afternoon about the contributions to local authorities. Local authorities, no doubt, will welcome that statement. Naturally, they will not think it goes far enough, and I hope that at an early stage some announcement can he made which will remove the present unsatisfactory features of the weighting formula.
I conclude by recording my conviction that this Bill is an historic and ambitious Measure, enshrining a noble ideal, and will enable the Minister and his Department to preserve the historic beauty of these islands, to cherish the attractions of our countryside, and to see that the natural resources of our land are harboured to secure a well-planned development in the best interests of the whole population and of future generations.
§ 4.47 P.m.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)
We are reaching nearly the final stage of this Bill and, like the hon. Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher), I shall not attempt to deal with all the points on which, if there were more time, I should wish to comment. I am glad that he has not been deterred by the fact that he did not serve on the Standing Committee, but made his contribution on the Third Reading of the Bill. The trouble about this Bill is that it is so immensely complicated and difficult that it is very likely to deter hon. Members in whatever quarter of the House they sit from speaking on it, unless they have been compelled to live With it for a long time and to study it.
2208 One point on which all hon. Members are at one is that we all want a further Measure of town and country planning, and want it soon. Nevertheless, speaking as one who for years has advocated further Measures of town and country planning, I join with my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) in supporting the rejection of this Measure on Third Reading. In moving the Third Reading the right hon. Gentleman the Minister spoke of our reasoned Amendment on Second Reading, and suggested that most of our points had subsequently been met. I think I am right in saying that only one has been at all substantially met. I shall say nothing against the importance of that point, but congratulate the right hon. Gentleman and the Government on coming to the right decision to recognise current market values to some extent. In a speech I made during the Report stage I said that I was sorry that they had not gone further, and that they had introduced this very complicated provision regarding a notional lease, which, again, takes the matter some way from reality. Before I leave the question of the complexity of this legislation I should like to admit quite frankly that any Measure, however well framed, would be rather difficult and rather complicated, but it would not be as complicated as this. If we examine it, and try to analyse the complexities, we may well come to the conclusion that one of the reasons why it is too complex is because it is insufficiently just. When one is just one can frequently be simple, but injustice has frequently to be wrapped up in complexity.
Among the few matters with which I wish to deal, I come first to one outstanding example, as I think, of injustice. I mentioned it on Second Reading, I mentioned it in Committee upstairs, and I return to it once more with this excuse, that a rather erroneous impression was given, perhaps inadvertently, by the hon. Member for East Islington. He mentioned the Uthwatt Report, which I think he cannot have studied recently, because he appeared to be under the impression that the Uthwatt Report would have afforded some justification, not merely for not having a sum as great as £300 million, but for not having any sum at all. Let me try to put what I have previously tried to put in Committee upstairs, and to the House, 2209 namely, the simple considerations governing this question of the £300 million which is to be allocated to landowners in respect of the loss caused by their being deprived of the development values in their land.
There are two distinct questions. The first is whether the sum is sufficient, too large or too small. The other question is whether, when we have got the right sum, all who are deprived of development values should be entitled, as of right, to share in it. The view of the Uthwatt Committee was clear on both points. To deal with the second one first, the hon. Member for East Islington mentioned the fact that the Uthwatt Report made certain statements regarding what the law of England was in this matter. Let me try to sum up in my own words, as I have done before, what the Uthwatt Report, in fact, said. The relevant passages are to be found in two great groups—the paragraphs beginning with Paragraph 32 and those paragraphs that begin with Paragraph 79. The Uthwatt Committee pointed out that under the common law of England there is no right to transfer the ownership of property without compensation. They then went on to point out that where a mere restriction is made on the nature of the user of the property, the common law recognises no right to compensation, and therefore, unless that right were recognised and imposed by Statute, a person who suffered from mere interference with user would have no remedy.
What, therefore, did the Uthwatt Committee recommend? They recommended quite distinctly that if any such universal restriction of user as deprivation of development rights involved were imposed, such as the universal restriction they recommended, and the Government, in a different form, are now enacting, the Statute should give the right to compensation, since otherwise great hardship would be caused. They did not say that the Government should only relieve hardship; they said they should give a right to compensation, since otherwise there would be hardship. I will not weary the House with all my justification for these statements. I have referred the House to the two groups of paragraphs, and they will find that that is the effect of what the Uthwatt Committee recommended.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
As the hon. and learned Member has referred to me, may 2210 I complete the matter by quoting from paragraph 36 of the Uthwatt Committee's Report? Before doing so, it would be fair to say that the substance of the first group of paragraphs in the Uthwatt Report to which he has referred is to make it clear that there is no common law right to compensation, that hardship would result in many cases if there were no compensation, but that it is a matter at large for Parliament to decide. I think the relevant sentence is:The extent to which the common law principle ought to be modified by statute in favour of the subject is a matter of policy upon which the decision rests with Parliament.
§ Mr. Strauss
Certainly. The hon. Member has quoted one sentence. I say that if one takes these paragraphs as a whole—I am most reluctant to repeat to the House everything I quoted on 19th March, 1947, in Committee—one will find that the summary I have given to the House is accurate. It is perfectly true that the Uthwatt Committee said that Parliament would have to decide, but they equally pointed out the great hardship which would ensue unless the right were recognised. If the hon. Member would look at the Report and turn to the other group of paragraphs, in particular paragraph 79 itself, he will see there:Our recommendation is that the compensation to be paid should be assessed for the whole country as a single sum … the amount of such sum to be determined by reference to that fair value and such sum to be divided among claimants in accordance with the value of the development rights attached to their lands. …In paragraph 82 the Report says that the amount… should be fixed by the Government after taking expert advice.It is clear that the Uthwatt Committee contemplated that expert advice would be taken as to what the right sum was. The hon. Member will find that paragraph 83 discusses an approximate sum that had been suggested.
§ Mr. E. Fletcher
It is only fair to add that the group of paragraphs beginning with paragraph 79 are introduced by a heading which begins:Assumption that Compensation will be paidIn other words, what is said is that it is a matter of policy involving public considerations whether compensation shall be 2211 paid at all. This group of paragraphs deals with the basis on which compensation should be paid, if paid at all.
§ Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, West)
On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it in Order upon the Third Reading for an hon. Member to quote at length from a document such as the Uthwatt Report, upon issues which are not in the Bill?
§ Mr. Strauss
May I point out that this matter is in the Bill? It will be found in Clause 55 (2). The figure "£300 million" is to be found in the Bill. I submit that I am therefore clearly in Order in questioning whether that sum is, or is not, sufficient. And it is on that point that I have been giving the quotations.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
The hon. and learned Gentleman has been quoting from the Uthwatt Report, which does not seem to me to have any connection with what is at present in the Bill, which is, of course, the matter which is now under discussion.
§ Mr. Strauss
Upon the Second Reading the same points were involved, and the Minister quoted from the Uthwatt Report to support his claim that Clause 55 and the scheme generally in Part VI of the Bill was, to a large extent, based upon that Report. Hon. Members who have spoken have regarded £300 million as either sufficient or insufficient and have dealt with the Uthwatt Report. I am proposing to argue the adequacy—this was all that I was doing—of the figure mentioned in Clause 55, and the provisions made in the Bill for distributing that sum. I, therefore, submit with confidence that argument must be in Order.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
The hon. and learned Member is using the Uthwatt Report for the purpose of arguing that a statutory right of compensation should be in the Bill. I am certain that it is out of Order on the Third Reading to argue that something should now be put into the Bill.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
That is so. Clearly, it would not be within the scope of the Bill. I gather that the hon. and learned Member does not propose to continue that line of argument.
§ Mr. Strauss
Perhaps none of these points would have arisen, if I had not had 2212 the courtesy to yield to the hon. Member opposite. I am attempting to argue something which is in the Bill, in Clause 55. I propose to adduce an argument which is obviously and demonstrably relevant to Subsection (2), which mentions £300 million. Perhaps I might deal first with the last intervention of the hon. Member for East Islington. He called attention to the heading of the paragraphs in the Uthwatt Report:Assumption that compensation will be paid.The Uthwatt Committee made that assumption because, as they had previously pointed out, injustice would be caused if the Government of the day failed to pay compensation. I have pointed out that, according to every expert opinion, the sum, whatever be the right sum that should be allocated, should be paid out as a matter of right. If hon. Members will turn to Clause 55 (3) they will find that the Treasury will make a scheme providing for the distribution of that money as between certain interests:or such of them as may be prescribed by the scheme.That is a divergence from the recommendations of the Uthwatt Report, and I say that it is wrong and unjust I am astonished at the arguments that have been used by the Government about the £300 million. The last argument used during the Report stage by the Minister of Town and Country Planning was to this effect: "I am almost certainly right, because everybody agrees that I am wrong." He pointed out that hon. Members like the hon. Member for East Islington and the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), upon whose clear-minded intervention on that occasion I congratulate him, had made it clear that any sum whatsoever paid to the landlords was wrong and that no sum at all should be given. That was their clear view and that meant that the £300 million mentioned in the Subsection should be "nil." Various other hon. Members thought that the sum should be much greater. On the Second Reading the Minister gave an idea of what lay behind his own estimate. What does the House think of the argument that, because hon. Members who believe in confiscation take the view that this sum is too much, and those who believe in compensation that it is too little, the Minister is entitled to say "I am sitting pretty. I am almost certainly 2213 right." It really is a fantastic argument and not worthy of the Government or of the House.
Before I leave this point I would revert to the points raised by the Minister in the only explanation that he has, given of this figure. He gave it on the Second Reading, and it will be found in HANSARD. He based his calculation first of all on what the correct annual sum was, and he said:I do not think, on that, that anyone would suggest that you should take more than 15 to 16 years' purchase for a speculative security of this kind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January, 1947; Vol. 432, c. 980.]When the Minister takes 15 or 16 years purchase for "a speculative security of this kind," he leaves out of account altogether the fact that in his calculation of the annual sum everything of a speculative nature had been expressly excluded. Therefore, 15 or 16 years' purchase is not enough, and every expert critic outside says that it is an utterly inadequate estimate. I have only mentioned this sum of £300 million because it is one example of what I say is the injustice of the Bill as it now stands. I wish to impress upon the House one point. Suppose I am right, and that in the working of the Statute it is found that the provision is confiscatory, then Parliament will not only have done an injustice but will have inflicted the greatest possible injury upon town and country planning in this country. Nothing will bring town and country planning into such disrepute, or will so much prevent its efficient working, as a well-established suspicion that in its working it is unjust.
There are a few other matters I would mention. One is the haste and the difficulty caused by the fact that the Bill in its present form was available only yesterday afternoon. From those difficulties other hon. Members have suffered as well as Members on this side. As one who worked in the Department administering the law of town and country planning and as one who has studied the subject for years, I suppose I should be in as good a position as anyone to master the contents of the Bill. I say frankly that today I am not master of the contents of the Bill. I believe it is now a Bill on which nobody, with one exception, could possibly secure really high marks in a written examination. I think that one Member 2214 would be the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Town and Country Planning. He has at all times been master of his Bill, and within the time he has had he has always done his utmost to assist the House and the Committee.
But because of this complication, I think I ought to allude to one Clause on which I ventured to address the Committee at some length, and that is the Clause which then appeared as Clause 80 but which now appears as Clause 83—land held for charitable purposes. From the reply that I got from the Minister in Committee, I doubted whether I had completely succeeded in proving to him that the Clause as it then stood was unsatisfactory. The Minister would not promise to meet me in any way. Nevertheless, I notice that, by Amendments moved by the Government on Report, which, of course, could not under the guillotine be explained or discussed, the Clause has been completely transformed. I do not profess to have mastered all the implication of the Clause in its present form, but if I convinced any hon. Members in Committee of the importance of this Clause, they may have some idea of what we who have studied some of these Clauses think of the fact that the Bill is leaving the House, to go to another place, with matters of that importance unexplained and undiscussed.
There are two further matters which I think are of some importance The first is one that has been mentioned from time to time by hon. Members in all parts of the House and the Committee—planning as between different Government Departments. The machinery of the Bill is quite inadequate for that purpose. In one of the few Clauses in which there is mention of another Department in connection with planning, that Department is given powers which are quite inconsistent with good planning by the right hon. Gentleman's Department. If hon. Members wish to find it, they can turn to the reference to the Board of Trade in Clause 13, (4), where extreme powers on one topic are given to the Board of Trade. I do not say that the Board of Trade should not have important powers, and powers of making representation in all cases, on that topic, but I say they should not be supreme. I maintain that the Bill, as it now stands, falls completely between two possible theories. There is 2215 the theory that planning inside the Government between the various Departments is so perfect that none of these other Departments need be specifically mentioned. I think that is quite untrue, and it is not a theory that is adopted in Clause 13, (4). The other theory is that other Departments must be mentioned. If so, then the mention of a single Department in Clause 13, (4), and perhaps in one or two other places, is quite insufficient.
The right hon. Gentleman said—and I agree with him—that amenity is not the only subject with which his Ministry must concern itself. That is true, but it is true also that amenity, both of town and country, is a subject with which it ought to concern itself. I draw the attention of the House, to illustrate the importance of the topic I am now mentioning, to the appalling thing that nearly happened to White Horse Hill the other day. I feel certain that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary took their part in securing that the Government eventually stopped the scheme, but I agree entirely with the comment made, if I remember rightly, in the "Manchester Guardian," that this incident was very much more alarming than that which excited so much interest on Bankside, because on Bankside, although I think the Government are wrong—we may have another chance of discussing that—at least there were views on either side that had to be weighed; but as we saw in the case of White Horse Hill—and innumerable cases of that sort can arise under the Bill—it is possible for the most beautiful things in this country and our greatest treasures to be ruined by another Government Department acting under its statutory powers, without the right hon. Gentleman or his Department being even consulted. Although the Parliamentary Secretary may tell me that, as a matter of administration, that will not happen, as a matter of statute law, as it will be left by the passing of this Bill, it will be possible.
I turn now to the other matter—the last I shall mention—of the immediate effect of the Bill upon planning and the putting into operation of excellent plans that we desire. The House will find that the Clause dealing with London has now become Clause III. It was formerly Clause 105. I will not repeat the arguments I used in Committee in objecting strongly to what this Clause does in 2216 depriving the City of London of its planning powers, but I thought that the Minister, if he intended to maintain this purely political decision and insist upon the provisions of this Clause, would at least have been able to assure the Committee and the House that no delay in the execution of excellent plans would result there from; but the Minister cannot give any such undertaking. What happened this afternoon? In a passage of his speech which I found rather moving, because he so clearly recognised some of the difficulties he would have in putting through those reforms on which I know he has set his heart, the Minister talked about the shortage of first-rate planners, and so forth. How has the right hon. Gentleman occupied the two best planners in this country? For months at the instance of the Government and the Minister—I thought it was admirable on their part, and I did not criticise it—there were secured for the planning of the City of London Professor Holford, lent by the right hon. Gentleman's own Department for the purpose. and Dr. Holden—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I do not see why the hon. and learned Gentleman is going into details of these particular instances. Surely that is not necessary to the furtherance of his argument on the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. Strauss
I have very little more to say, but the matter is directly relevant to Clause III. The result of passing that Clause in its present state was stated by the Minister in Committee, but the House has never been informed of what the Minister now says is the effect of passing Clause in. The effect is that the plan prepared by these two eminent gentlemen, which could, but for Clause III, be put into execution to the immense advantage of London, as soon as it has been adopted by the City Corporation, is indefinitely postponed. I must read what the Minister said on that subject. The passage will be found in the OFFICIAL REPORT of the proceedings of the Standing Committee on 2nd April, and this is what the right hon. Gentleman said about the City plan:I admit the dilemma that a plan is actually in course of preparation, and will be ready, or is promised by the 21st April. I do not know what I am going to do with it. That plan under present conditions will have to be considered by the L.C.C. and in due course by me. It may be possible to incorporate that plan into the County of London plan; it may 2217 even be conceivable that in many respects some account has been taken of the County of London plan."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee "D," 2nd April, 1947, C. 1025.]Of course every account has been taken of the County of London plan by those eminent technicians. Here we have hon. Members in all quarters who have at heart, as I know many have, the dignity of our cities and the preservation of our countryside. They regard this Bill, and rightly regard it, as machinery. Is it good machinery? I have given a test by which it is proved to be bad machinery. Here is the Minister saying, in reply to my objections to Clause in, that he does not know what he will do with a plan prepared at his request over a period of months by the two best planners in this country. I say that a more damning admission of the futility of this machinery could not possibly be suggested. I am grateful to the House for having given me time to look up the reference. I am addressing it, I know, for the last of the many occasions on which I have thought it right to speak on this Bill. Although this Measure contains many things which those of us who have been interested in planning have long sought, it is marked by great blemishes, great injustices, and great inefficiencies. For those reasons I support its rejection.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Braddock (Mitcham)
I am sure we are all sorry to hear that that is the last of the speeches which we are to hear from the hon. and learned Gentleman on the Bill. I want to deal with two points he raised, one of them in regard to the City of London plan itself. It was fortunate that we have had the opportunity of seeing the model in this House before the hon. and learned Gentleman made his speech, and I suggest that if any justification is needed for the attitude taken by the Minister on this question, it is that model, because whatever may be the qualifications or the instructions of the people entrusted with the preparation of that plan, I think it is obvious that an abominable jumble has been made of the North bank of the river immediately adjoining St. Paul's. Whereas the view from St. Paul's to the South bank has a gracious and wide spirit about it, the opposite view is just appalling. But no more on that point.
With a remark which the hon. and learned Gentleman made at the start of his speech I think we can all agree, and 2218 that was that this is a difficult and complex Bill. When one considers the conditions under which the Minister is trying to bring into being a workable Measure to deal with town and country planning, I think one must agree that it is bound to be complex. We are trying to give public authorities opportunities of planning this country properly when the land of the country is still privately owned, and that, in itself, is the basic cause of the complexity of this Bill. All of us who sat through the long Committee stage—and we appreciate the contributions that were made from both sides of the Committee—realise its complexities. To me, it is a most interesting Bill, but it has forced upon me the conclusion that at no very distant date this House will have to take in hand the nationalisation of the land of this country, because by the very nature of things—
§ Mr. Braddock
The Minister said, in opening the Debate this afternoon, that important changes have taken place in the Bill. I agree that changes have taken place, but whether they are improvements or not I am very doubtful. This applies particularly to almost the latest Amendment that was made concerning the throwing-over of the 1939 basis of valuation. I can see very little justification for that. During the Report stage I asked the Minister whether the adoption of that Amendment would mean that the landowners would gain additional profits and compensation for their land, and he quite clearly stated that they would. That in itself condemns this new Clause. Personally I very much regret that it was introduced. I think it was wholly unnecessary, and I do not think there was any general demand for it either in this House or in the country. What there may have been in another place I do not know, possibly there was a demand from that sort of quarter.
In spite of the time that has been spent on this Bill, and in spite of the long discussions we have had on many Clauses, I still find myself very uncertain with regard to two very important matters. One is how this sum of £300 million for payments to landowners is really to be used. The question is not, I suggest, 2219 what the Uthwatt Committee Report had to say about this matter; the question is what attitude the Government have taken in regard to it. As I see it the Government came down quite clearly on the side of the view that compensation for hardship only was due to landowners. The Minister has made it plain how that is to be dealt with—it is to be in accordance with regulations. But what does hardship mean? I suggest, and I think the country generally takes this view, that if we are taking over land and the landowner who is being dispossessed is actually suffering hardship, is actually suffering privation and loss, he is entitled to some compensation. But he is not entitled to any compensation for development rights which he did nothing to make, and which actually do not exist as a result of his own exertions. This Bill will have to be considered in the future, and if there is any determined effort by the Government to compensate landowners to the tune of £300 million, it will rouse opposition in the country, and from that point of view I believe the Bill will ultimately have to be amended.
There is another point also which I think is important and on which I am still uncertain, and that is the delegation of duties from the planning authorities to lesser authorities. I have tried to get this clear once or twice, but I am still uncertain of what the Minister's intentions are. We must all realise, of course, that a regional plan is necessary. In the Second Reading Debate I suggested that that ought to be part of a great national plan. We have heard very little of that suggestion, but I hope that the Minister has not lost sight of it, and that we do agree that a broad regional plan is necessary. I hope that the Minister will, by regulation—I think he has the power to do so under the Bill—delegate the detailed working out of these regional plans to the local authorities. I do not see how we are going to get a Measure of this sort operating unless we do it in that way, and the Minister today made it quite clear that he appreciates the difficulties facing us in this respect. I suggest that many of the difficulties could be overcome if a good deal of delegation from the central planning authority to the lesser authorities in the regions could be effected.
It has been suggested that there is going to be difficulty owing to the lack of plan- 2220 ning staff, town planners, architects and surveyors. I suggest that we are rather over-emphasising that aspect. After all, the best way to carry out planning is to make use of experience, and I suggest that we have in this country at present, a sufficient number of qualified surveyors, architects, and town planners who can be put to work on this job and who will learn the job as they are carrying it out. Take one name which is prominent in town planning at the present time, that of Sir Patrick Abercrombie. He has become a great town planner largely because he has been given the opportunities. I suggest that we have many hundreds of young men—and older men—in this country who are quite capable of taking up these duties immediately. I am, therefore, not unduly depressed by the suggestion that there is any lack of technical and professional skill, and I am sure that we shall be able to start on this job immediately.
It is for that reason that I was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) suggest that this Bill should be read again in six months' time. I am not a very old Parliamentarian, but I rather gather that that means that in six months' time this Bill would have to be started all over again, and that would mean that there would be a delay of at least 18 months or two years, before we could get this thing started. [HON. MEMBERS: "Longer."] It is quite possible. In my opinion, that would be a catastrophe. We cannot suffer in this country now what we suffered after the 1914–18 war. There is just the same necessity for building; there is just the same urge for it among the people of this country; and unless we have a Measure of this sort to control town planning for the benefit of the nation there will be another appalling catastrophe, such as took place after the 1914–18 war. I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, from whose observations during the Committee stage I gained great benefit, not to pursue his rejection proposal. Because I gained great benefit from his observations in Committee I was the more appalled to hear him, of all Members of the House, move such a proposal. I hope that he will withdraw it, and that this House will not divide against the Third Reading of this Bill.
§ 5.35 P.m.
§ Mr. Basil Nield (City of Chester)
The hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock) has put before the House several interesting points, and has, indeed, suggested Amendments to the Bill. I should have thought in those circumstances, and in view of what several hon. Members have said, that he would welcome a little further time in which to consider these matters. My object in intervening in this discussion, on a Bill which has so rightly been described as difficult and complex, is to ask the attention of the House to two quite short and specific points. They relate to the position of dock and harbour authorities under the Bill, and I would ask the Minister, either now, or in the course of the next six months, as the case may be, to give consideration to them.
The first arises under Clause 13 (4). As the House will appreciate, it is in that Part of the Bill which deals with the control of development and permission to develop land. Clause 13 provides for the application to the local planning authority for permission to develop. The relevant part of the Subsection I would ask leave to read:An application to the local planning authority for permission to develop land by the erection thereon of an industrial building of any class prescribed by regulations made for the purposes of this Subsection by the Board of Trade shall be of no effect unless it is certified by the Board that the development in question can be carried out consistently with the proper distribution of industry.My submission is that where dock and harbour authorities apply to a local planning authority for permission to develop, they should not be required to have the certificate of the Board of Trade. The reason for that is quite simple The places at which dock and harbour authorities can develop are, obviously, rigidly limited by geographical and technical considerations, and the development must really be related to port requirements, and is not affected by considerations such as the distribution of industry. This matter was raised in correspondence passing between the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry and the Dock and Harbour Authorities Association, and the Minister's view appeared to be that when the Board of Trade made their regulations these points I have now endeavoured to make would be considered. All I am asking is that the Minister might now 2222 be prepared to say that the Association shall be consulted when these regulations come to be drafted. The House will appreciate, perhaps, that the Association I mentioned embraces in itself membership all the main dock and harbour authorities in the country, and that their chief object is to assist in the proper functioning and good administration of the parts. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to give the assurance for which I ask.
The second point arises under Clause 82. This part of the Bill deals with the exemption from liability for development charges of operational land of statutory undertakers. I want the House to envisage the position where a dock or harbour authority leases operational land to tenants. and those tenants carry on operations which are consistent with, or ancillary to, the functions of the authority itself—for example, granaries or warehouses carried on under a lease. Here, my submission is that in such a case there should be exemption from the liability for development charge. The position surely is that the knowledge that operations on or uses of operational land by persons other than the Statutory authority might involve a considerable financial liability, might be a serious deterrent to development in a port. This point, again, was the subject of correspondence, and the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry said this about it:It is recognised that, where a statutory undertaker grants a lease of operational land for certain purposes, in some cases no development charge should be levied. The matter can however be dealt with by the regulations to be made under Clause 62 (2) or Clause 63 (3), and the point will be considered further when these regulations are being framed.Even at this late stage, I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he could not consider, before this Bill becomes a Statute, whether the matter might not be amended in another place, so as to include the exemption from this charge of this operational land leased by such authorities. I cannot feel that any hon. Member will disagree when I suggest that, in the struggle for recovery and the restoration of prosperity, all who operate and work at the docks, harbours and ports have an immensely important task before them. None of us forgets the part they played in the war. I strongly urge the House and the Minister to take the 2223 view that to accede to the two suggestions which I have made would be to provide substantial help in the task to be undertaken by the ports around these Islands.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Medland (Plymouth, Drake)
I have listened with great interest to the speeches made in this Third Reading Debate, but most of all, of course, to the speech of the Minister in commending this Bill to the House. I regard that speech as the best Third Reading speech I have yet heard in this House, because, in it, the Minister demonstrated that all the arguments which I put to him upstairs were perfectly right, and because he has incorporated them in his new proposals and has made the position of the local authorities much more secure than it ever was before. I noticed that the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) wanted to claim, along with myself, some credit for having improved the Minister's mind, and I am delighted to be in such company. All I would say further about that is that this concession which the Minister has made to the local authorities, on the question of the grants to be paid to them for the development schemes and the reconstruction work which they undertake, will be received with the greatest satisfaction, and will, I am sure, be accepted as having met their just claims very largely indeed. I would express to my right hon. Friend, on behalf of many of the local authorities in this country, our thanks for and appreciation of what he has done in this respect.
The Minister has told us that his new proposals with respect to these grants are for a period of five or eight years. May I suggest that he should look at that figure again? Why should he split it between five and 10? In other cases, the period will have to run up to 60 years, and it will not run at all nicely. I suggest that he should increase the figure to 10 years, and that, in all badly devastated towns, and particularly the city of Plymouth, he should give us a guarantee that, for the first 10 years of the period, he will find 90 per cent, of the cost of reconstruction. Then, of course, we shall be perfectly happy.
The great merit of this proposal is that the Minister is taking away a most unfair method of rating, namely, that of considering the rateable value of a city by 2224 judging whether it is rich or poor. That was a most unfair and inequitable method. The Minister has cast it aside, for the purpose of these blitzed cities, and has proposed that the grant shall be 50 per cent., which is the same as we get for police, education, and various other local government services. I should like to address to him two questions concerning what is to be contained in the figure upon which he is going to pay 90 per cent. or 50 per cent. as the case may be. Is that to include all acquisitions of land, and will it also include all questions of clearance? Can he tell us whether his definition of "clearance" is the same as that which is applied in the 1944 Act, or is it something which is now being advocated by the present Ministry? In the 1944 Act, the terms for clearance were extremely widely drawn, and I believe there is some attempt to restrict the implications of what is meant by clearance. I should be very much obliged if, in that respect, the Minister could now give us an indication of what is contained in the basis on which grants are to be payable of 90 per cent. and 50 per cent. respectively.
The other big alteration in this Bill, of course, is the decision to get away from the 1939 basis of valuation for compensation when sites are taken over. We discussed that at some length on Second Reading, and, very largely on skilled advice, I took the view that this would not make a great deal of difference in the case of the local authorities, but would certainly give an appearance, at least, of justice to the owners of sites which were being acquired. Some of my hon. Friends seemed to have an objection to that, but, where we are going to buy land—and if we buy it we must pay for it—let us buy it on a proper basis. There has never been any suggestion that, for public purposes, we should confiscate land. We have always held, and it has been part of the policy of the Labour Party, that we should pay compensation in this respect. I cannot see why, under these proposals, there is anything wrong in altering the basis from 1939 to 1947, particularly when development value is taken out of it. Having taken out development value, I am convinced that not very much difference is going to be made to the purchasing authority.
I was interested in the very frank admissions which the Minister made in 2225 his speech. I think that those admissions were made because he is probably the greatest expert in this country on town and country planning, and the law relating to it. That distinction certainly lies between him and the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury, who gave us a Bill in 1944 which was, more or less, a good Bill—more good than less. But this Bill is a great improvement upon that Measure. I think that even the right hon. Gentleman will admit that. It has been born out of the experience of trying to plan under the 1944 Act.
I was very glad to hear the Minister express so completely and fully the difficulties which he realised we were going to be up against in operating this Measure when he decides upon the appointed day. He said that, in the beginning, the machine will possibly creak. I have not much doubt about it myself. I am pretty sure that the machine is going to creak. I would suggest to my right hon. Friend that there is one way in which he can pour a little oil on this creaking machinery. He should take notice of the fact that there is an abundant amount of planning ability in the country which can be made available to him, if he will use it and pay for it. The trouble is that the Civil Service rates of pay for technical officers and technical people are perfectly ridiculous. I believe that is the greatest deterrent to our getting proper planning officials, either at the Ministry or in the regions. I suggest to my right hon. Friend that he should go to the Treasury once more—I know his visits have been frequent, and I congratulate him upon their results—and appeal for a proper staff, in order to enable him to make what is a very fine Measure, a success. I believe that is one of the ways in which he can make it a success.
Having said all that, I want to ask—and this was never made clear upstairs—what is to be the position in the interim period between the passing of the Act and the appointed day. I shall be glad it my right hon. Friend will tell us about that, because I am sure he has something in his mind about whether the regional set-ups which he has already created are going to take over some kind of control of the country district councils, and whether we are going to have a regional dictatorship or not. If we are, I think that it will be greatly resented by the 2226 country district councils, and I hope that, in that direction, he is not proposing to extend the kind of dictatorship which has recently been evident in the Town and Country Planning Ministry.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to speed up his decisions under this Bill for the granting of compulsory purchase orders more than he has been able to do under the old Act. I do not know what the delay is about, but there are cases, where local inquiries have been held and where the application has been made over five months ago, which still await the decision of my right hon. Friend's Ministry. I suggest that where a new city has to be built, and where on the decision to grant the compulsory purchase order rests the decision of a big manufacturer to acquire land in an area and to set up his factory on it, these delays ought to be avoided. At the moment, while the manufacturer has the licence to build his factory and has everything in his hands for getting on with creating his works, he has to await permission to buy the land on which to build. That is a very bad position, and I hope that it will be remedied under this Bill.
Finally, I want to say a word about the £300 million. I have never been able to understand why the Opposition have been kicking up so much fuss in respect to this sum. It would be quite improper for me to suggest that they have never read Clause 55, because, whatever the merits of the sum might be, its amount does not seem to me to matter very much at the moment. What does matter is the fact that it has been conceded that compensation is to be paid in hardship cases and for loss of development value. Whether that compensation is to be paid after apportionment between England, Scotland and Wales, or whether it will be sufficient or not, compensation is to be paid under a scheme made by the Treasury. Under Clause 55, the scheme has to be brought to this House and discussed and approved by it. I wish that I could have got a provision into the Bill for the setting up of joint planning boards. It was a principle for which I fought very hard upstairs. This principle, however, is granted when there is talk of compensation to landlords, and is refused when we ask that it should apply to joint standing boards, which takes away the powers of local authorities 2227 which have been vested in them by Parliament.
I cannot see that hon. Members opposite have very much to grumble about in regard to the £300 million. My own view that they are lucky to get £300 million, and that they ought to be very well satisfied. They should say, "We will share this out among them, and accept it as a token of your feelings towards the poor disheartened and tried landlords, who have suffered these agonies for so many years in looking after and managing land for which they have received value and for which they have never provided one halfpenny." I want again to thank the Minister for the fine job of work he has done. I am sure that the country and the local authorities who are interested in planning will agree with me. We hope that all the blandishments of the Opposition will be of no avail in another place, and that the time may soon come when this Bill will be the law of the land so that we can have, as early as possible. the appointed day for its operation.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Commander Maitland (Horncastle)
I shall not follow the hon. Member for Drake (Mr. Medland); it would be very difficult for me to do so, as I agree with so much that he has said. I should like to follow him in the technique which he has exhibited throughout the passage of this Bill because, if I may say so without offence, there are few Members in this House who talk with more common sense than the hon. Member for Drake. I feel that even more, because on several occasions he has accompanied us into the Lobby.
§ Commander Maitland
I would like to follow his technique also because I think he has put up one of the best cases of special pleading which has been made in this House for some time. Later on in my speech, I too intend, quite unashamedly, to put up a case of special pleading to the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Town and Country Planning. The point about this Bill which has impressed me most is the astonishing lack of interest that a Bill of this importance has excited in the country during its passage. I think the "New Statesman and Nation" 2228 brings that fact out very clearly this week. It says;It is, no doubt, unsatisfactory that such a revolutionary Measure should be debated with so little comprehension,and, again:Seldom have so many Clauses been understood by so few.I think that is, possibly, a just criticism, but I think it is due to the curtailed periods that we have had in which to consider the various Clauses, and also, of course, to the enormous amount of other legislation and murder cases which are attracting public attention at the present time.
I want to draw attention to two points in the Bill and their effects. Clause 26 appears, on the face of it, to be an admirable Clause. It deals entirely with the powers of planning authorities to control, with the Minister's permission, the arrangements for cutting down and planting trees, and, generally speaking, the management of forests. At first sight, this would appear to be an admirable Clause, and I give this as an example of how many points there are in this Bill which need careful examination. This Clause affects another Act of Parliament, the Epping Forest Act, 1878. This is where the special pleading comes in. It may astonish the House to realise that when the Epping Forest Act was passed, there were far more excitement and interest in it than there has ever been in this great Bill. Perhaps it was because it was in the days when men believed in their rights and people fought for their freedom.
Nevertheless, the Epping Forest Act gave the Corporation of the City of London control over Epping Forest. It also arranged democratically for these to be, on the control committee, members elected from the people living in the vicinity of Epping Forest. Throughout the years, that Act has been unchallenged. It has done a very fine piece of work. It has provided, right alongside London, probably our finest open space. The point I wish to make is that that open space has been developed not at the public expense, nor by rates, because nobody pays any rates for the upkeep of Epping Forest, but entirely by the beneficence of the Corporation of the City of London. It has been preserved as a forest, and it is not very different today from what it was when Queen Boadicea fought her battles in it.
2229 This Bill gives the local planning authority, in this case the Essex County Council, power, with the Minister's consent, to interfere—I use that word not in the least rudely; I mean it in the ordinary sense of the word—with the whole management of the forest. It may be said that that power will never be exercised, but here I must plead special knowledge. I served as a verderer of Epping Forest for some years, and I went into that job from a local authority thinking that almost everything that was done in connection with the forest was wrong. I did r t appreciate the traditions and the tremendous amount of knowledge necessary to manage a forest properly. It was not until later that I realised that the outside authorities, who had no internal knowledge and control, were wrong. I fear that under this Bill, pressure may be brought to bear on the Minister so that he will interfere, and some of the great traditions of Epping Forest may be lost. Every now and then we have quite deliberately to build barriers against expediency. Such a barrier was the Epping Forest Act, as may be seen by anybody who reads it. It deliberately protects the forest against all assailants, whoever they may be. We are told it is expedient that Bankside power station should be built, that White Horse Hill should have a radio station on it. We were once told, "It is expedient for us that one man should die for the people." It is always the danger of expediency with which we have to contend. The Minister would be serving the needs of this part of the country, and also conforming to the desires of a great many people, if he were able to look into this matter in the six months which we are so generously offering him in which to do it.
The second point I wish to make was mentioned very briefly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison), and is to be found in the Third Schedule of the Bill. It is monstrous that an agricultural cottage should be affected by this Bill in such a way that the owner is prevented from increasing its original size by more than one-tenth without obtaining special permission and attracting to himself the payment of a development charge. It is true that in Committee upstairs, standing on the scaffold with the Guillotine overhead, as the right hon. Gentleman will remember, I managed, at the 2230 last possible moment, to ask him about this. As the Guillotine was literally falling the Minister threw me a crumb of comfort. I only hope that that can be specified more clearly when the Parliamentary Secretary winds up, and that the crumb of comfort which the Minister then threw to me will, in fact, he something worth eating.
Finally, I must join with other hon. Members in congratulating the Minister on the way in which he has conducted this astonishingly difficult Bill through the House. It has been a magnificent exhibition of skill, and of courtesy, too; he has been extremely kind in at least listening to what we have said. I cannot quite follow what the hon. Member for Drake said in describing him as the finest Minister in the world, but if he goes on long enough I hope he may give us all we want and then perhaps he will qualify for that title. I hope, too, that in the administration of this Bill all these points, two of which I have referred to, small in themselves but meaning a great deal to many people, will be watched most carefully, so that injustices are set aside.
§ 6.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
In a very short time this Bill will leave the House and go to another place and will, I hope, have a happy passage on to the Statute Book. But once it gets there, where are we? In the early stages of the Bill we find that the local authorities are the planning authorities. But at the present time local authorities are so heavily burdened with debts and responsibilities of one kind and another that it will be almost impossible for many of them to assume further responsibilities, even though the Minister is prepared to make the most generous grants, and even if the Chancellor is prepared to do what he promised during the weekend, namely, to assist them by cutting down the rates of interest which local authorities have to pay on old loans.
I have spoken with many representatives of local authorities and with planners. Indeed, I have some ideas myself about the planning of towns and cities. I have discussed many times the layout of our towns and cities. Referring for a moment to the proposed Bankside power station, I think the Minister is deserving of the highest commendation for that advance in the planning of the South bank of the names; and I hope there is to be 2231 similarly advantageous development right along the Thames If we are to get the towns, cities and villages that we desire—and which I am sure the Minister desires—and that we should have in this country, it will involve an enormous outlay and a burden which the local authorities can never bear, no matter what grant the Minister makes, unless he makes a 100 per cent. grant for this development in the planning of our country.
Unfortunately, the Minister has not sufficient power for proper planning, because the Bill limits him very considerably. Only today a Question was directed to the Minister in regard to some very valuable arable land on which somebody was proposing to build, and the Minister was asked what he intended to do and whether he would prevent building on that land. In different parts of the country local authorities are already simply taking over land which is most convenient for building, but which may be most valuable arable land. Here the Minister will be in a difficulty. He can acquire adjacent or contiguous land to a particular project but I suggest that it will be necessary for him to be able to acquire land in the very widest area if we are to plan our towns, cities and villages in the way we desire, and at the same time, give the greatest possible assistance to those engaged in agriculture by not taking valuable agricultural land merely because that land happens to be convenient, or contiguous to the particular work which a local authority has in hand. The Minister must be able to exercise power over a really wide range in order to save that arable land, because everybody knows that every acre of arable usable land for food production is vitally necessary in this country. The Minister will have to think seriously about that.
I will return to the question of local authorities and their liabilities and burdens in a moment. Meanwhile, I wish to touch on a smaller matter in connection with Clause 30. That deals with the penalties for breaking the regulations in connection with advertisements. It gives the Minister important powers, because if we are to plan and beautify our towns, villages and the countryside, it is essential that those responsible for advertisements should be controlled and directed by the Minister. Advertisements which are of use can be 2232 presented in such a way as to assist in improving the amenities of the countryside, but one thing which the Minister must be prepared to control and eliminate is the horrible advertisement for proprietary pills and potions which do to death so many of our people. While he may eliminate those, there is another type of advertisement which must be free from any restrictions. We must never adopt the practice of kicking down the ladder on which we ourselves climbed to a position of passing eminence. One of the most effective means of exposing the tricks of the Tories and extolling the advantages of Labour was the fly poster. The fly poster must be protected under this Bill. Maybe right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench are now too respectable for the fly poster, but some of us still value it. Also, of course, the fly poster is useful for church bazaars, and similar organisations.
§ Mr. Sidney Marshall (Sutton and Cheam)
Could the hon. Member explain to the House exactly what a fly poster is?
§ Mr. Gallacher
It is a poster put up by a fly gentleman, who wants to get across an idea without paying for it.
I now turn to the all-important question of the £300 million. During the Report stage an hon. Member tried to break my heart by saying that if we did not go beyond the £300 million there would not be very much left for the Scottish landowners. Well, that will never make me cry. I should be quite happy if the Scottish landowners had to do what so many others have had to do in years gone by when they were faced with hardship, and had to go to the Assistance Board and take whatever was given to them. At present, of course, nobody knows exactly what will happen to the £300 million, or how it is to be paid out. The Treasury can prepare a scheme, but nobody knows the principle on which the £300 million is to be allocated. It may be possible for a Tory to enunciate a principle which we do not like, but which may in altered circumstance be quite acceptable. I remember that in the last Parliament we discussed finance of the character referred to in Clause 55. It has been laid down that the £300 million does not represent, and is not meant to represent, compensation. It is an ex gratia payment out of public 2233 funds to meet hardship cases. That is what the House has to accept.
I remember when we were discussing a matter of this kind in the previous Parliament one of the representatives of the Tory Party laid down the principle which was supported by my right hon. Friend opposite—I can call him "friend" for the moment—and by all other Members of the Tory Party, and which I now put to the Minister who, I hope, will carry it to the Chancellor. It was that, "we have no right to hand out public money unless we are satisfied that those who are receiving it are actually in need of it." As far as concerns these people who are having development rights taken away from them for which they never contributed anything, the scheme should be one which would place them in the position of having to prove that they are actually in need before they receive a penny of the £300 million. If that scheme were operated a great amount of the £300 million would be surplus, and instead of being wasted on people who have done nothing to deserve it, it could go to the heavily burdened local authorities in order to assist them to carry out the Minister's plans. I ask the Minister to consider that, and I would say to him. "Do not be too generous with this £300 million so far as the landowners are concerned. Take it from me, the people of Scotland will give you all the support you want in carrying through the most effective planning, even if every landowner in Scotland has to find that so far as he and his kind are concerned the workhouse is the only hope. Put the, local authorities into such a position that they can do the biggest job that was ever done. That is what the people of this country want that is what the masses of the workers by hand and brain want. It is what all intelligent people are looking to the Minister to achieve. The rest do not matter a tinker's cuss."
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
The House is always entertained by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), although not necessarily edified. I found some difficulty in determining under which—if either—of his two definitions he himself would come—a worker by hand or a worker by brain. After listening to his speech I felt that the second must necessarily be excluded 2234 so that I have come to the conclusion that during the week-ends and times when the House is in Recess, the hon. Member must put in manual labour in order to come within the first of his definitions.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
It may be that this manual labour takes the form of the fly posting which he mentioned. Anyway, I feel that we can be reasonably certain that though he may deplore the fact that the right hon. Gentlemen who sit in front of him have grown too respectable to indulge in it, it will be a very long time before the same reproach can be applied to the hon. Member for West Fife. I would have dealt in detail with the points raised by the hon. Gentleman if, as the result of listening carefully to his speech, I had a clear idea of their purport or relevance; but in the absence of that I must proceed to make one or two observations of my own
First, let me join in saying that, like others of my hon. Friends, I feel that the Minister has acquitted himself both creditably and courteously in what has been a very difficult Committee and Report stage of this Bill owing to the Guillotine time table which was applied. Next, let me say that I propose to vote for this Amendment, not because I do not want town and country planning law to work, but because I do. I think that the Minister and the Government had here a great chance to produce a Bill which would have stood the test of time. By undue haste and for other reasons they have largely missed that opportunity; and now that we are about to part with this Bill I am bound to say that considerable parts of it are still complex where they should be clear, blurred where they should be precise, and sometimes even harsh where they should be humane.
This Bill seems to me to be so concerned with stopping up every gap or crevice through which the possibility of bad development may creep that it is creating an atmosphere in which the possibility of good development will be largely stifled, and that is contrary to the function of true planning. After all, this is a planning Bill; and the function of planning is not the multiplication of controls but the elaboration of machinery which will provide the motive power for positive and beneficial action. Applying that to town 2235 and country planning it is surely not enough to be careful to preserve the ancient amenities of our countryside and cities. Town and country planning has a positive duty to see that this generation leaves a legacy of buildings for which future generations will be grateful to us, a legacy not only of great houses and public buildings but of homes for the people of a standard of design, lay-out and workmanship which will be a credit to this generation and a delight to those who live in them in the generations to come. As it stands this Bill seems to me to be in danger of failing for two main reasons. One is that it is not in all respects just, and the other that its machinery is not in all respects workmanlike. By way of illustration only, may I refer to one or two aspects which appear to me to point the criticisms that I have made? First, as regards the justice of its provisions. We have heard a good deal of reference this afternoon to the global sum of £300 million. In that respect the Bill has seen no significant improvement through its various stages. There is still an arbitrary assessment of the £300 million and we are denied the right for which we pressed in Committee and on Report for ourselves and the public to be given some idea how that sum is arrived at. There is still, if I may so phrase it, a sort of Silkin curtain between the public and the method of computation. I should like too to protest against the way in which the Minister has chosen to regard this global sum of compensation as a bargaining weapon out of which he can grant preferential claims to those interests which he happens to wish to conciliate. We have always urged that the just way to approach that—for instance in the problem of near ripe land—would have been by the exemption from liability to development charges, and not by the giving of preferential claims out of the £300 million global sum.
Another respect in which I consider that this Bill is unjust—I do not want to give a catalogue—is in regard to the provisions for inquiries and appeals. We have had a speech from the hon. Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher), in which he said that he hoped it would be made clear that the Minister is not concerned judicially in these inquiries. I do not think the public care very much about the 2236 technicalities of these matters; but they are concerned as to the value of inquiries which lead to nothing but departmental decisions arrived at behind closed doors. It is an astonishing thing that during the Report stage on Monday last, the Minister defended himself against an Amendment by saying that after all the Minister was bound to act in a judicial capacity, and then two days later the Attorney-General came to the House and exulted in the fact that a decision of the courts had exempted the Minister from acting even in a quasi-judicial way. The public do not understand the technicalities of these things, and they care little for them. The public are nevertheless disturbed, and take the view that the machinery prescribed for these inquiries is not serving the great purposes of justice.
In regard to appeals, we have the astonishing situation that there is no appeal against the assessment for a development charge. The Central Land Board determine the charge in accordance with principles that as yet are shrouded in mystery, as the hon. Member for West Fife has said. Their fiat is like the laws of the Medes and Persians it changeth not. We have this extraordinary situation. A citizen can appeal against a decision of a judge of the High Court, administering a code of law which is understood, against a background of great experience and judicial training; he can even appeal on occasions against a decision of the Court of Appeal; but what he cannot do is to appeal against a decision of this new body, interpreting principles as yet undefined, with no background of judicial experience or training. On this aspect of the case, let me sum up by saying that I do not believe there can be a strong planning growth until we can root out the tares of injustice.
The position in regard to development is that Clause 11 defines development very widely and imposes an obligation to obtain planning permission in respect of development. Clause 66 then renders all operations, for which planning permission is required, liable to a development charge, except for those limited operations set out in the Third Schedule. The House should ask itself this question: What will the consequences be on the prospect of that good development of which this country stands so very much in need? I think the consequence is bound to be a deterrent unless the levy of development charges can he shown 2237 to be not exorbitant, can be carried out on just and well-understood principles, and can be speedily determined. These three requirements must be satisfied if the procedure of development charges is not to be a grave deterrent to building operations in this country. We do not know yet whether the charge is likely to be exorbitant or not, because we have not been given the data upon which to form an opinion.
It is not, however, merely the financial aspect of the development charges which is important in regard to the effect on building operations. Delays, uncertainty and the fear of injustice are the real deterrent factors upon the good developer, and the machinery in this Bill does nothing to remove the apprehensions that are entertained in regard to them. The time, for instance, for obtaining planning permission will be greatly extended by the regrettable action of the Minister on Report in flying in the face of what I would call the opinion of the local government world, in regard to interim arrangements for planning permission. It is bound, as the Bill stands, to be a long and laborious process to obtain permission for planning consent, and to ascertain the extent of the development charges. The lack of defined principles in assessing the development charges will add the fear of injustice to the uncertainty of delay. I believe that this whole business of planning consent may degenerate into a perpetual game of snakes and ladders, with all the ladders going to the Department, and all the snakes to the unfortunate developer.
There is another matter I wish to mention on the Third Schedule which has been already referred to. It is this curious provision which lays down a flat rate of a 10 per cent. increase on existing buildings as the extent to which building operations can be undertaken without incurring liability to development charges. My right hon. Friend has already pointed out that this puts a grave penalty upon the small man and the small builder. I should like the Minister to address himself to this consideration: How can a Government, which in the realms of income and taxation puts large incomes so very much at a discount, justify the principle of levying a development charge which puts a premium on big buildings as against small buildings? It is obviously inconsistent, unjust and anti-social, and I hope that before Parliament has finished with this 2238 Bill the Third Schedule, upon which there has been so little discussion in the House of Commons, will receive due scrutiny and due reconsideration. I hope that this Bill as a whole will receive that degree of scrutiny and consideration which will make it in due course what it is not completely at the present time, a Bill worthy of the high purposes of planning which it sets out to serve.
§ 6.39 p.m.
§ Mr. J. H. Hare (Woodbridge)
I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) in saying how much I, as a Member of the Standing Committee, was impressed with the great courtesy and skill with which the Minister carried out his very difficult task. I would join also with my hon. Friend in saying that the Minister, being a reasonable man, really must look again into many of the Clauses contained in this Bill. We stated on Second Reading that one of the reasons why we were voting against the Bill then, was because we were taking the Second Reading too soon for the various interests affected by this complicated piece of legislation to have time to note its contents and to make public their conclusions. That process of rush started from the moment of its Second Reading, and it has remained throughout the whole of the procedure in this House and in the Committee. The rush has continued with a vengeance, and complete disregard has been taken of the rights of Members, who as the elected representatives of the people have the right to make ordinary democratic criticism of the legislation under consideration. The Minister, in his speech, said that he felt that the vast majority of the Clauses of this Bill have been discussed in one way or another during the various stages the Bill had had to go through. I was trying to look quickly through the proceedings of the Committee stage, to find out how many Clauses were discussed.
§ Mr. Hare
In that case, I beg the Minister's pardon. If he had meant Clauses, my calculation shows that 52 out of 115 were not discussed, on either the Committee or Report stages. That means that this Bill has not had the detailed criticism that it deserves. The proceed- 2239 ings on this Measure have certainly been a field day for members of the legal profession, and I hope that those Members who belong to that excellent profession will forgive me for saying this. The battle has been fought with keen legal minds and with sharp legal tongues, but for those who are not members of that profession it has been difficult to follow the complexity of the various arguments which have been put forward. To the general public, this Bill is obscure, complicated, and completely impossible to understand, and I only wish that members of the legal profession would realise that they speak a language which ordinary mortals do not comprehend.
Nothing has been said, so far in this Debate, about the position of farmers under this Bill. I am very concerned with the position of the farming community, who are attempting to get the best out of their land in areas which are adjacent to large cities. I am affected by that, because my constituency surrounds the great city of Ipswich on all sides, except the sea, and runs up to the boundaries of the borough. Many of my constituents will, within the next few years, be affected by the legislation we are now passing. None of us have any quarrel with designation when it is given for the purpose of warning somebody that, in the general public interest, his land may have to be taken away from him. But designation, as laid down in this Bill, really needs tidying up. In extreme cases, a farmer could be evicted within three and a half weeks of receiving his designation notice. That is not likely to occur, but it could occur. He may have to wait one, two, three, four, five or 10 years before being evicted; in fact, he may have to wait 15 to 20 years or until he dies. He will remain under sentence of designation, and yet not be disturbed from occupation of his land. I feel that it is wrong that a farmer should remain under sentence of designation once a period of, say, five or 10 years has elapsed.
The Bill gives too much scope to local authorities to think loosely about designating land in their area of responsibility. Already, local authorities are not sufficiently encouraged to plan tidily. There is no compulsion on them to produce a budget to show their ratepayers 2240 the cost of their town planning schemes. Land can be earmarked by them more or less where they like, and it is human nature that they will take more land than they are likely to require for their development plans. This will have a very bad effect on the agricultural community, and on food production in areas adjacent to big towns. Is it likely that a farmer whose land has been designated will be prepared to modernise his buildings, to lay out capital, to improve the productivity of his land, and increase his livestock? Further, the farmer will not be able to get out of his holding. Nobody will buy it from him. There he will be, stuck and sterilised, without any hope except that when he is evicted he will be given a proper price for his land. Something should be done to make clearer and fairer the position of the farmer who will be affected in this way.
I would like to turn to one other point, and to say how much I welcomed the Minister's announcement about the grants he now proposes to pay to local authorities for the redevelopment of blitzed areas. I was very impressed by the extreme cogency of the arguments which were put forward in Standing Committee, urging him to do this, and I think he deserves great credit for accepting those arguments. But I am a little disturbed that he has not gone further in raising the minimum grants for local authorities for the development of the blighted areas, areas of obsolete development and bad layout. I feel that the weighting procedure which he intends to adopt will retard the slum clearance and development of our cities. I feel that the extra increase in the grant which he is giving, the 10 per cent. over his original proposal, is still not enough. Cities like London will hesitate before they go ahead with slum clearance and development schemes, because they fear that they will not be paid enough. They fear that under this weighting procedure the Minister will treat them as being a rich authority, and make them contribute more than they can afford.
The object of London—and the same could be said of many other great cities—is to get people out of the congested central area, to decentralise industry and population. Having thinned out the centre, they will put the people in places outside their boundary. By doing that they will increase the value of the land to 2241 which those people will be sent. But London will get no benefit from the increased rateable value of those outside areas. At the same time, the central area will be redeveloped at a lower rateable value, because there will be far less congestion. Therefore, I feel that some higher minimum grant should be given to local authorities on this question of obsolete development and bad layout.
I hope that the Minister, when this Bill goes to another place, will be prepared to accept Amendments where reasonable and which will help to improve the Bill, which, he himself must admit, has been grossly hurried: So many of the provisions are still obscured by complexity that the public as a whole are still woefully in the dark as to what is coming. I hope that the Government are fully aware that unless this Bill is improved compared with the condition in which we find it today, it will be difficult to administer. The public will not have that confidence and knowledge which is essential if it is to be a success, and the Government will fail in their intention, whch I know is very dear to their heart
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Colonel Wheatley (Dorset, Eastern)
It has been truly said that this is a very complex and difficult Bill for the ordinary layman to understand. My hon. Friend the Member for Woodbridge (Mr. Hare) has pointed out that this is a lawyers' Bill and that they speak a different language from that of the layman. Upstairs, some of us found it very difficult to follow all the Clauses in their real meaning. I would remind the House that on Second Reading hon. Members on both sides tried to persuade the Minister to give some consideration to the county districts in their desire to carry on their own planning, within, of course, the general schemes of the county areas. He has, I am glad to say, gone some way to meet our request, and I will only ask him, when he draws up his regulations, to give county planning authorities the right, if they so desire, to delegate their duties to the county districts, and to put into the regulations something to the effect that the county districts may themselves apply to have town planning duties delegated to them. An urban county district has probably already planned its town. It knows the intimate life of its town such as building lines and so forth, and it has taken a lot 2242 of trouble and care in drawing up its plans. I hope that the Minister will give the county districts an opportunity of applying for delegated powers, much in the same way as was done under the Education Act.
The hon. Member for Woodbridge has spoken on the agricultural side of the Bill. I do not want to cover the same ground, but it seems to me that the agricultural industry, or at least part of it, will look with some gloom on this Bill. We are all impressed very much with the necessity of feeding ourselves. Every inch of land that can produce food, we are told, should produce it, but this Bill, in some respects, will deter agriculture and the full use of agricultural land. When agricultural land is designated, it will be mostly in the neighbourhood of towns, and this will put a blight on that particular land. Once land has been designated, whoever is farming it may be turned out within three weeks. It may be a tenant farmer who is farming land in the neighbourhood of a town, and he will say, "I shall leave this land; I have no security of tenure. I may be turned out at any minute, and I shall, therefore, go as soon as possible." He goes off; and what chance has the owner of the land to relet it to a farmer? That means that if agricultural land is designated in the close neighbourhood of a town that land will be taken out of agriculture.
Clause 3 has already been referred to, and it is certainly a great deterrent to the agricultural industry. It has been pointed out that it will deter one of the most important factors in the agricultural industry, which is the provision and improvement of rural houses for the workers. If the owner of a farm wants to improve his cottages by adding one or two rooms to them, he has to pay betterment value. The owner will think a bit before he goes into that improvement. Before he can do anything at all, or draw up his plans, he has to pay the cost of the betterment, and if that cost is excessive, he has to think again whether he will go into the expense of having plans drawn up, getting contracts made, and so forth, and he may say, "I will leave this matter for another year." The owner of a farm can house his cow without any betterment payment, but he cannot house his cowman. That is putting the matter quite simply, and it seems to me to be a deterrent to the provision of houses for rural workers. 2243 This is bound to cast a gloom over our agricultural community.
There is another point. If a farmer or an owner desires to reclaim land to bring it into cultivation he has to pay betterment. Anyone who has had anything to do with the reclamation of land knows that it is a very expensive game, particularly if, on top of that which he is doing at the behest of the Government to increase the production of land in this country, he has to pay betterment value before he can start the work. It is very difficult to assess that value, and I suspect that the valuers of the Central Land Board will not err on the side of letting him off cheaply. Before he can start the good work of reclaiming the land he has to get a betterment value. That is going to deter anyone, unless he is well off, from going in for land reclamation. Indeed, when reclamation has been done, it may not prove to be a success. The landowner has already paid a betterment value. Is he going to get any rebate because the scheme has not proved as successful as was first thought? It may be that a man is anxious to answer the appeal of the Government to get more land into cultivation and he may undertake a reclamation scheme on the estuary of some river. He takes a risk in so doing, but he will not take that risk if he is going to pay a betterment value. It will be problematical what the value of the land may be, and he may lose on the transaction.
There is one other point to which I should like to refer and which has nothing to do with agriculture. It is more concerned with the administration of the Bill, and I refer to a very weak point in the Bill. I was sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary was unable, on the Report stage, to heed the appeal from all sides with regard to the interim period when we suggested that local authorities who were already planning authorities should have the duty of approving of applications. The Parliamentary Secretary, as far as I understood him, produced as his main reason for not acceding to the request, that these authorities might approve something which might upset the overall scheme of the planning area.
In practice when these overall schemes are drawn up, in a large number of cases they will merely consist of marrying up already existing schemes. In most county 2244 areas—and I am talking of county areas not of county boroughs—many of these schemes are in being or are well on to being in existence. Such approvals in the interim period will not upset the main scheme, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will think this matter over and that he will remember the appeal was not made from only one side of the House. There is nothing political in it; it is purely a matter of administration.
These are the defects in the scheme and I think the agricultural ones that I have mentioned are really blots upon it. There are many others which have already been alluded to by Members on both sides. Even the hon. Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Mr. Medland), although he congratulated the Minister, had many criticisms to make. Surely, if this Bill can be criticised somewhat severely from both sides of the House it is ample justification for the Amendment to put off the Third Reading of the Bill for six months, which is really a criticism of the speed with which we have been forced to deal with this Bill of 115 Clauses and 10 Schedules. As has been said by more than one hon. Member, it is a very difficult and complicated Bill, and for all these reasons I propose to support the Amendment moved by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison).
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mrs. Middleton (Plymouth, Sutton)
I do not intend to follow the hon. and gallant Member for Eastern Dorset (Colonel Wheatley) except to say one thing with regard to the closing passages of his speech. I have not yet had very much experience in this House, but I have seen a Committee stage on the Floor of the House; I have also taken some part in the discussions on this Bill and another Bill in Standing Committee upstairs, and I have come to the definite conclusion that the better way of getting adequate discussions on Amendments is by the method of Standing Committee and sometimes by the Guillotine rather than by discussion on the Floor of the House. Further, I think that that is borne out by the fact that while the Committee stage upstairs was proceeding, we had far larger attendances than we had when the Bill has been discussed on the Floor of the House
2245 I have listened in vain this afternoon to very many of the speeches which have been made from the opposite side of the House for any real reason for putting clown the Amendment, which stands on the Order Paper in the name of the leaders of the Opposition, to postpone the Third Reading of this Bill for six months. Of course, we all realise that the object of the Amendment is not a six months' deferment; it really means killing the Bill as far as this Parliament is concerned, and leaving it until the party on this side of the House come in with a renewed majority after another General Election to carry the Bill into operation. Owing to a spasm of coughing from which I was suffering I was unfortunately unable to hear the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison), and so I cannot speak of the arguments which he put forward in favour of the Amendment. I have noticed, however, that some speakers from the other side of the House have asked for the reconsideration of certain points in the Bill, and quite rightly so from their point of view. But ii putting forward their arguments, they have not, so far as I can see, adduced any reason whatever for postponing the Bill for six months.
The hon. and learned Member for Chester (Mr. Nield) asked for some information with regard to docks and dock undertakings. The hon. and learned Member for the English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) raised points concerning amenities, compensation, and those clauses of the Bill affecting the City of London Plan. The hon. and gallant Member for Horn-castle (Commander Maitland) talked to us about his desires regarding Epping Forest. However, in none of these speeches, to which I listened with great care and attention, did I find one single argument for the postponement of the Bill, and none of the points put forward by these Members gave any adequate reason for this House accepting the Amendment which has been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury.
Speaking for the city part of which I represent, the city of Plymouth, I want to say that the sooner the appointed day comes, the better will the citizens of Plymouth be pleased. We want this Bill put into operation. At present in the reconstruction of Plymouth we have to 2246 proceed under the 1944 Act. I can quite understand that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury does not want to see that Act supplanted. It is natural in the circumstances, because we all have great regard and great affection for our own babies. However, in operating that 1944 Act this is what we in Plymouth found. In making a declaratory order and the ensuing compulsory purchase orders we have had to wait a whole year for various parcels of ground which the local authority is wanting to take over. Even under the speediest procedure, which is the procedure of Section 2 (2) of that Act, it takes at least 12 months from the time when the local authority begin their operations towards the acquisition of the land before they can enter upon the land and reconstruction can begin. This may be all right for some of the more leisurely parts of the country, but when cities are faced with problems of the magnitude of those which beset my own city of Plymouth, the cities of Hull, Bristol, Coventry, Portsmouth, and Southampton, and other bombed and blitzed cities of this country, then the procedure is far too slow and cumbersome.
I am sure that most hon. Members will be aware that it was in 1943 that the plan for Plymouth was completed. The corporation planned boldly. In doing that they took the advice of Lord Reith. They planned for agriculture, for the overspill of population and for industrial development. No section of the social, commercial and industrial life of the city was overlooked. Indeed, I think that the corporation can rightly claim that the plan has been a model for other plans since made. They have suffered delay after delay but this has not been the fault of the corporation or, in the main, the fault of the Minister. All our people have been waiting impatiently to go forward with our reconstruction proposals, and we welcome this Bill because we believe that when it becomes law, we can begin to undertake, in really serious fashion, the building of the new Plymouth on which our citizens have set their hearts.
Some comment has been made in this Debate upon the question of 1939 values. At least one of my hon. Friends suggested that he would have welcomed the retention of the 1939 values, instead of the introduction of 1947 values. I welcome 2247 the acceptance of the 1947 values for the reason which the Minister gave in Standing Committee. The 1939 values are becoming more and more out of date. It is more and more difficult for people to throw their minds back to the situation which obtained in this country in 1939. But I welcome the alteration for another reason. I welcome it because those citizens of our blitzed towns and cities whose former properties come within reconstruction areas and who lost their property as a result of enemy action, will now have something which will compensate them for the cost of works awards which they lost when their properties were scheduled as being inside reconstruction areas. The rearrangement will bring a larger measure of justice to those people who suffered so terribly in our blitzed cities, though I do not think that even yet it will bring full justice.
I also very much appreciate the indication given by the Minister that he did not altogether accept the criterion of rateable value as the sole factor for determining the financial position of any local authority. I shall not today suggest what should replace the rateable value criterion in determining the level of wealth or poverty of a city, but I am confident from comparisons that I have made myself, and others which have been shown to me, that rateable value alone is not sufficient. I am indeed glad to know that the Minister, and perhaps other Ministers in the Government, are paying attention to this matter and trying to work out a better basis of comparison between the finances of different local authorities. For those reasons, I and the citizens whom I represent welcome the Bill. The sooner it is passed into law and comes into operation, the better we shall all be pleased.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
We on this side of the House very much welcome the speech of the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Mrs. Middleton). It was so long since we had heard from an hon. Member opposite, that we were beginning to wonder if they had lost all interest in the Bill. The hon. Lady has asked, I think with justification, why it is that if we on this side of the House say, as we do say, that we approve of much of what is in the Bill, and that we believe in town planning, nevertheless we 2248 should decide to vote against the Bill. I will endeavour to tell her, because I think that is a fair question. But first let me deal with the remarks by the hon. Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher), who seems to have disappeared from his place. I wanted to pay him a compliment. When he said that this was an historic Bill, he was quite right. It is an historic Bill. When it gets on to the statute book it will affect the destinies of people in the towns and countryside when all of us in this House have long since gone to other places. Therefore, it behoves us, before we allow this Bill to pass from this House, to make up our minds that it is a good Bill, a just Bill and one which will work.
The real trouble about this Measure is that it is of mixed parentage. On its mother's side, if I may so describe the Minister in his absence, with great respect, I am sure there is a genuine desire to bring in a Bill which will provide for the long-term planning of our towns and country. I feel that if the Bill had been left to the wishes of the right hon. Gentleman as he has expressed them in this House, and as I know he has them in his mind, then we should have had a Bill which would have commanded the support not only of all parties in this House but of the country as well. But, unfortunately, there was another parent to this Bill. That other parent was the spirit which has disfigured so much of the legislation which has gone from this House during this Parliament, a spirit which I think is not only repugnant to the best traditions of the British people, but which, in the long run, will make much of this legislation unworkable. I would like to illustrate what I mean by this Bill itself.
This spirit has shown itself in this Bill in a desire to pay off old grudges; a spirit of malice towards those with whom the Government differ politically; a love of regulation for its own sake; a love of meddling even when meddling is unecessary and even positively harmful; a vagueness as to how the Bill is to be operated; and a secrecy as to the real intentions of the Government in operating it. Lastly, we see in this Bill the increasing tendency in all relations between the State and the individual to weight the scales heavily in favour of the Government. The Government are not prepared to play with anyone unless they can load the dice and mark the cards.
2249 My only regret is that the Minister was unable to resist the blandishments of the other parent to his Bill. Had he been able to do so, we would, I think, have supported him in the Lobbies tonight, but the result of this unholy alliance is a child which we have done our best in Standing Committee to knock into shape. The Bill has had the advantage of the criticism of the candid uncles of this side of the House and the doting aunts of that side.
§ Mr. Gammans
The hon. Member has sometimes wobbled from one side to the other. Our process of education has been a little too hurried. We would have liked a little more time as whole sections of the curriculum have not been dealt with at all. Without endeavouring to make a party point, I would remind the House that very long experience of Parliament has shown that Bills which go through the House of Commons without adequate consideration are seldom effective when passed into law. Whole sections of them may become, and do become, dead letters. Very often amending legislation has to be brought in. Nothing is easier than to turn the handle of the Parliamentary sausage machine, but the real acid test of this Bill is: Will it work?
I would be the first to admit—all through this Bill my hon. Friends have admitted—that there are very many fine things about it. We have units of planning which have some regard to large scale or regional development. A genuine attempt has been made to tackle the problem of betterment and to relieve planning authorities of burdens which they cannot be expected to bear. If the Bill had concentrated on these things, it would have survived the passage of time, but the defects of this Bill will in course of time be regretted by hon. Members opposite, as they are by us now, and will prevent the Bill from doing all that all of us want it to do.
For the benefit of the hon. Lady the Member for Sutton, who challenged us just now, I would like to tell her specifically why we cannot support the Bill tonight. First we see this desire on the part of the Government to vent spite upon the property owners over the question of compensation. We have suggested machinery for arbitration. The Government have refused it. The Minister has 2250 even refused to permit the Central Land Board to make known the global sums of the claims that are made against it. There can be only one reason for that action, and that is that the Government have a bad conscience and know that the sum is quite indefensible. I suppose this is all we can expect from the party opposite, which has an avowed bias against any individual who owns a bit of land, large or small. After all, the property owner is the very centre, the very totem pole, of the demonology which right hon. Gentlemen and hon. Gentleman opposite have built up over a number of years.
Another reason why we shall vote against the Bill is that we also see that spirit of malice to which I referred just now. I can best illustrate that by the attitude taken towards the Corporation of the City of London. It seems to us quite indefensible that the powers of the City of London should he taken away when they are allowed to remain in the hands of, say, East Ham or a borough of far less importance. The third reason is this love of regulation for its own sake. My hon. Friends have given several illustrations of that. Perhaps the one that appeals most to me is this ridiculous provision that a man cannot turn his house into two fiats without paying a development charge. I say that that is not only unnecessary meddling but thoroughly bad planning, because it will mean in the long run that people who own one large house and would willingly have turned it into two or three flats, each with a proper kitchen and proper bathroom, will be disinclined to make these alterations, but the same number will be living in it in a state of squalor and slum. I represent a constituency in London which has many hundreds, if not thousands, of houses which are quite unsuited to house more than one family unless the owner is prepared to spend money on proper division of the house. In future why should he do so? We are discouraging the good landlord and encouraging the slum land-lord.
There is also this ridiculous meddling in refusing to allow a man to rebuild his war damaged property and add to it by more than 10 per cent. without again being liable to a development charge. I cannnot think what is behind the mind of the Government over that perfectly absurd provision. Surely we want to 2251 encourage people to put up better buildings than those knocked down. Here again it is not only unnecessary meddling but discouraging the good landlord and encouraging the bad.
Then there are the uncertain provisions regarding any change in the use of land, as, for example, the point which was argued with great vigour and sincerity by an hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House the other day with regard to the owner of a piece of land possibly making himself liable to a development charge if he allows his land to be used temporarily for a circus or something of that sort. I am not quite certain what would happen to someone who let his garden for a church fête or perhaps a garden party for the local branch of the Socialist Party, and whether he might not in those circumstances find himself in due course liable to a development charge. The Minister may say that I am talking ridiculous nonsense. I hope I am, in that sense, but why have a Bill that leaves that vagueness and uncertainty?
There is also a vagueness and uncertainty as to the way in which development charges are to be levied. I have asked the Minister on two or three occasions: Is the development charge levied on the site or is it levied on the site plus bricks and mortar? The whole case we have heard from the other side about the justification for the development charge is that the site has been enhanced in value because of the community itself. I do not accept for one moment that only the community has enhanced the value of land, but surely, if that argument is only half right, the justification for levelling a development charge is on the site and not on the bricks and mortar. The community has certainly nothing whatever to do with any improvement in the bricks and mortar. Why is that not stated? If the development charge is levied on the site alone, it would simplify at least half of the provisions in this Bill.
What about this uncertainty regarding ripe and near-ripe and dead-ripe land? My right hon. Friend this afternoon brought out that point with great clarity. He said that, from now on, no developer will know where he stands. I should have thought that if the Government in their corporate capacity wanted to get houses and get them keenly, and were beginning to realise that local authorities were not 2252 going to put them up, surely they ought to have given every possible encouragement to those developers who have land ready or near ready for building and have said, "Get on with it. We will have a moratorium for four or five years over any question of development charge on that land. Get on with the building of houses, and we will come along later on over any schemes which you may have." The amount of money which would be sacrified would be infinitesimal, but the difference in the building of houses and getting our people out of the appalling conditions in which they are now living would be enormous.
There are also a delightful vagueness and an unnecessary differentiation between the various rates of compensation which people will get according to the period when their land is acquired. A few days ago there was a letter in "The Times" which showed that of a dozen houses in the same street, of the same type, there might be no fewer than 12 different rates of compensation payable, if those houses were acquired, according to when they were acquired and under which particular Act of Parliament. If you have that sort of uncertainty, any Bill which perpetuates it is the very negation of good legislation.
With regard to the effect of this Bill on the private developer, may I tell the Minister that between the Second Reading and now I have taken the trouble—and I hope other hon. Gentlemen have done so—to try to find out from builders and others who have developed land between the two wars—who incidentally put up most of our houses—what will be the effect of this Bill upon their activities if it goes into law in its present shape. The answer I get from all of them is the same: that if this Bill goes into law as it now stands, to all intents and purposes it means the end of the private developer. Perhaps it is the Government's intention to get rid of the private developer—there is always one section of the community against which the cheapest of cheap sneers are levelled—but if you are going to get rid of him, do it properly and say so. There is no point in getting rid of him in a Clause of a Bill which is supposed to be a Bill to encourage building and good town planning.
I will not repeat what I said on Second Reading, but I would make two points about the private builder. The first is 2253 this: let us be under no illusion. the imposition of a development charge will mean that houses will cost more because, in many cases, developers have made their profit not so much upon the house but upon the land. If they lose their profit on the land, it goes on the house, and that will mean that houses will cost more. In the long run, if houses cost a lot of money, either the rents go up or else the taxes go up, or both, for you must always unload the high cost of houses on the consumer, that is the occupier.
My second point is this: Will any private developer he prepared, or able, to undertake development under this Bill? Let us think for a moment of the obstacles which he has to overcome. First, there is the delay in getting permission to go ahead at all. The Minister has held out to us a rosy picture of one application and a very quick answer. I hope he is right, but I fear he is not because of the extra obstacles which now have to be overcome before any permission can be obtained. Then think of the haggling which will go on as to whether the development charge they propose to levy is right or wrong—haggling, incidentally, against which there is no appeal. The man will suddenly get a note saying, "If you want to develop this piece of land, it will cost you so much." He will not know how that has been arrived at, and the first reaction any developer will have will be a sense of resentment. He will ask his friends, "How much were you charged in this county?" or "How much were you charged in that parish?" There will be a long period of haggling as to whether the sum is correct, an effort to knock it down, visits and interviews, and so on. Then there is the uncertainty he will have as to whether the scheme will be a success or not. Hon. Members opposite, in talking about private developers and business men, always assume that every venture is a howling success; they do not know, or they choose to ignore, those which are failures. There is always great uncertainty in any development scheme without having all this added to it.
Lastly—and this is a very relevant point—in many cases there is the sheer impossibility of private developers having the money to put down for the development charge before they start. The vast 2254 majority of these people work on an extremely narrow margin and it will mean the end of many private developments. So what will happen under this Bill is that the State will have prevented the private individual from developing, without any certainty that the State will do any better themselves. The acid test of this Bill—and I am sorry that the hon. Lady the Member for Sutton has disappeared before hearing the answers to the questions she posed—is not merely that it prevents bad development but that it encourages good development; not merely that it preserves and improves the town and country. but also that it encourages houses to go up quickly and cheaply.
This Bill may attain its first object, of preventing bad development, but it is not capable of encouraging good development. I would like to support the Minister, for I am as keen on planning as he is and I am quite aware of the defects of our present legislation. I agree with him that we want a new Act on the Statute Book, but we want houses and we want them quickly, and we shall not get them under this Bill. We want a Bill which is fair and just, and this Bill is not fair and just. We want a Bill which will work quickly and efficiently and this Bill will not work either quickly or efficiently. It is for those reasons that I am not able to support the Minister in the Lobby tonight.
§ 7.37 p.m.
§ Mr. McAllister (Rutherglen)
The hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) began his speech by saying that he would reply to my hon. Friend the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Mrs. Middleton) but he did not do anything of the kind. Her main criticism was that hon. Members opposite, while apparently supporting the Amendment, gave no reasons at all why this Bill should be put forward six months. Neither did the hon. Member for Hornsey. If his arguments had any substance at all, they were arguments for killing the Bill once and for all, and not for postponing it for another six months.
§ Mr. McAllister
It is as well to be clear. I am not as old an hon. Member of this House as the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. Baxter) but I understood 2255 that the six months was merely a formal Parliamentary device, for registering the dissent of the Opposition to giving the Third Reading to the Bill. In this case however the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) addressed himself specifically to the desirability of postponing it for six months. The hon. Member for Hornsey did not do that; he told us why the Bill was a thoroughly bad Bill, it was he said a Bill animated by malice—
§ Mr. Gammans
The hon. Gentleman appreciates that at this stage of the Bill, if we disapprove of it in any major respect, that is the only course open to us. It is because we failed to persuade the Minister to accept our Amendments at an earlier stage.
§ Mr. McAllister
They could have objected to the Motion, but the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury said that six months was a very good idea, whereas the hon. Member for Hornsey did not say so. He addressed us in general terms, and told us that the Bill was animated by malice. He used a curious phrase to the effect that it gave the Government loaded dice and marked cards. That is not how I see the Bill. I see it as ending the inheritance of loaded dice which the landlords of this country have always employed against the common people.
I wonder if the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson), if he speaks in the Debate, will approve of all the sentiments which the hon. Member for Hornsey used in the last part of his speech in regard to speculative builders. Let me make it quite clear; I know the term is often loosely used, and is often used as a term of abuse. I do not want to do that. I know there are good and bad among them, and that many of them are excellent people who have done useful service. But when we think of speeches made by the hon. Member for The High Peak, and the hon. and learned Member for the English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) not only in this, but in previous Parliaments, in which they condemned ribbon development, suburban sprawl and bijou baronial bungalows on by-pass roads, are we to take it that it is now the view of the Conservative Party that all those infamies that disfigured our 2256 countryside between the two wars ought to be perpetuated and go unrestrained, because this new Bill introduces a little impediment?
I do not think this Bill is six months too early; I think it is 26 years too late. Let us remember what happened between the two wars—the sprawl of London, the doubling of the land area of London as of Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow, all our great cities sprawling into the countryside, and devouring agricultural land, spoiling the countryside and making life more difficult for the man in the centre of the town by taking the country further away. We all regret those things. But hon. Members on the other side of the House had power in 1920, and for many years after 1920. It is their fault, and their fault entirely, if this Bill is deficient in any respect. I waited while speaker after speaker on the other side criticised the Bill, hoping that they would put forward some really sound argument for refusing to give the Bill a Third Reading tonight. I waited in vain.
If they had an argument at all, it was the view that the development tax would be a barrier to building development. That was the whole of the argument of the hon. Member for Hornsey. Indeed, it may be a slight barrier. I would be the last to say that if one creates a machine of this kind it would from the beginning function smoothly, and without any difficulty. But, if that is true, it is also true .that the great barrier to proper reconstruction of our towns in the past has not been any question of a development charge, but the onerous claims for compensation which every city had to face. If in this Bill we are reversing the process and removing the compensation difficulties from our cities, and thereby putting a little difficulty on the landlord, then, if there is anything in the argument, it is not malice or meddling, but a tiny spot of poetic justice.
In his opening speech, my right hon. Friend the Minister suggested that he feared the machinery would run into difficulty because of shortage of personnel. I agree that there is a shortage of personnel, and I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that he was consulting with the universities and professional town planning organisations in order to speed up the training of new personnel. I congratulate the Minister on that, and I hope that in his discussions he will seek to broaden the whole conception of the town 2257 planner. The town planner per se should be replaced, not by another town planner, but by a town planning team, which should include the agricultural expert, the forestry expert and an expert on landscape design and so on, so that the whole operation can go forward as a great constructive enterprise in three dimensions.
But I must say something in qualification of that. The question of amenity has been raised today. Bankside and Epping Forest have been mentioned. I do not warn to say anything about the Bankside issue, except that in one respect the Minister has been profoundly right, and the critics have been profoundly wrong. That is that town planning could not, and should not, usurp the functions of government. It must be a great temptation, and as one studies town planning and sees how town planning affects every aspect of life, there is a tendency to assume that the town planner is the sole repository of wisdom. That is not so, and it would be doing an ill-service to the cause of town and country planning if any Minister in the post which my right hon. Friend occupies were to attempt to usurp the whole functions of government, and say that the other issues, the economic issue, the mineral issue, and the question of services, were irrelevant to the decision to he taken.
Unless this Bill when it becomes an Act is backed by a great programme of public education, it will not succeed to the extent to which it might otherwise succeed. I know the Member has a public relations officer in his Department. I believe it would be well worth while from the point of view of the country if much larger sums of money than have yet been contemplated were spent through the Ministry on a programme of public education on town and country planning issues. I believe that would be a great service to the country as a whole. I know from my own experience that if people are presented with this picture of town and country planning as an instrument for improving human environment, it is a subject in which they can become deeply interested and about which they can become greatly excited. I think we should start with some education in this House. It is a rather shocking thing that on the Third Reading of this important Bill the attendance of hon. Members should have been so poor. It rather gives the lie to con- 2258 stant complaints of hon. Members opposite that we have not had time to discuss the Bill. There has been time enough for all hon. Members who have shown a passionate interest in the Bill to express their views, not only once, but several times.
§ Mr. Gallacher
In regard to the question of educating the people of this country on the meaning and value of town and country planning, would the hon. Member be prepared to cut down the payment to the landlords and spend some of the £300 million on that education?
§ Mr. McAllister
I think it was the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) who said that my right hon. Friend had made several excursions to the Treasury with excellent results. Let him make another excursion to the Treasury to see what he can do to secure funds for public education. Like other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House, I should like to finish by congratulating the Minister on the excellent way in which he has conducted this Bill. He has shown a spirit of conciliation and moderation which has lent great distinction to his work on the Bill, and has made it a delight to serve on the Standing Committee and generally to co-operate with him in putting on the Statute Book a Bill which will open the gates of beauty wider to the common people of this country, and will redound to the credit of the Minister.
§ 7.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Western)
It would be strange if those of us who have lived with this Bill for the last four months, who have thought about it, talked about it and even dreamed about it, were not to cherish some regret as we part with it on its way to another place. It could have been so much a better Bill; it could, even in its details, have been so much improved, had more time been given for its discussion. I anticipate that if I were to follow that point further I should be out of Order, so these are but vain reflections. We must accept the Measure, as the auctioneers say, "with all faults." Where do we go from here? It is remarkable to me that there has been so little turmoil outside the confines of this House about the immense significance of this Bill, 2259 because it has, indeed, immense significance for all the people of this land. I believe that even yet its effect is not properly appreciated outside. It will have far-reaching effects upon the owners of property. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans) has spoken about one section in particular—the developers of property.
I want to consider for a moment its effect on much more humble people, the ordinary small owners of quite humble property, and see what will be the effect upon them. As soon as this Bill becomes law, they will have to review the value of. their holding, whatever it may be—that piece of land they own, that land with buildings upon it, it may even be the value of the house in which they live: they will have to review its value. This will have to be done not only by individual owners, but by trustees and mortgagees, by banks and insurance companies, commercial and industrial undertakings, schools and colleges, churches, charities and clubs of every kind.
All these individuals and organisations will have to look into the value of the property they own, not only the large landowners, but, as I say, the small landowners, the little men, the farmers, the owners of a house who have acquired, in the course of years, a building plot next door to give them a little bit of extra seclusion. They will have to look at the value of these. The widow with the "weeklies," which she has been left in a will, will certainly have to look at the value of the property if it is in an area which might be redeveloped. That review will have to be carried out very soon by these people, to determine what claim, if any, they ought to make against the fund which has been established to compensate individuals for the loss of development value. The method they will adopt will be to value their properties with reference to the prices which obtained on 7th January, 1947, the date of the introduction of this Measure. They will have to value, first of all, the unrestricted value of their property, and to deduct from that its restricted value for its existing use, and upon the assumption that it may only be used for those minor developments which are sanctioned in the Third Schedule to the Bill. The basis upon which this valua- 2260 tion is to be carried out will not be known until the regulations, which will be drawn up after this Bill becomes the law of the land, have been made by the Treasury and approved by both Houses of Parliament. Then, somewhere around the year 1951, these owners of property will have to look out for the development plans which will then begin to be deposited. They will have to look at those plans very closely indeed, and will have to see, in particular, whether their land has been scheduled for compulsory acquisition during the next 10 years, whether it is land which is designated for compulsory acquisition. Even if it has not been designated they will have to obtain permission for every change in the use of their land, and they will have to pay, in respect of those changes, development charges of unknown amounts, which will be assessed by the Central Land Board.
In passing, I would say that we have listened this evening to one or two most excellent speeches from agriculturists, who have put the point of view of the farmer. I listened to the speech made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Dorset (Colonel Wheatley), who spoke about the effects of this Bill upon the argicultural interests. I want to know what happens in the event of there being a conflict of interest in respect of agricultural land which may be designated for compulsory acquisition during the next 10 year, and which may be the subject of a management direction under the Agricultural Bill. There might be a conflict of interest, the management direction stating that the owner of the land must put his buildings in order and must spend, possibly, a large sum on the land. Yet it will be very unwise for him to do so if that land is to be taken over by compulsory acquisition in a short time.
§ Mr. Alpass (Thornbury)
Does not the hon. Member realise that the county argricultural committees will be fully acquainted with all these facts, and that they have to advise the Minister whether money should be spent by the landlord on improvements or not?
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
Yes, and d am very grateful to the hon. Member for Thornbury (Mr. Alpass), who is a great authority on agriculture. I complain that the planning authority will not consult the county agricultural executive committees in making their plans. There 2261 is no compulsion on them to do so. One hopes that they will, as a matter of commonsense, but there is nothing in the Bill to make it incumbent upon the planning authority to go to the agricultural experts in the county to see where they should put this or that type of development, which may or may not conflict with agricultural interests.
I do not want to appear to suggest that all these difficulties with which owners will be faced will be entirely to their disadvantage. We ought to look at the obverse in this case. Undoubtedly, there is a long-term benefit which all owners of land, large or small, will be able to reap from the orderly planning of the countryside. That planning should do much to check the unregulated urban spread which has been referred to by the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. McAllister), to secure the preservation of the most suitable land for agriculture and forestry, and to encourage positive planning on a national basis of major industrial locations.
In parenthesis, I hope that the Minis try of Transport is well ahead with its national road plan. I have no doubt that the Minister is in close touch with the Minister of Transport. It seems to me to be very important that the Minister of Transport should he looking at least 15 years ahead with his national road plan. That policy should be clear, and worked out even in some detail. What is the policy of the Minister, for instance, about motor ways? He ought to be thinking about it now, and the proposals ought to he on a map somewhere. Unless they are, the plans that will be made may be spoilt by the last-minute requirements of the Ministry of Transport.
Having talked about the effects of the Bill upon owners of property, may I turn now to its effects upon the professional classes who are particularly concerned in the valuation of land? The Bill will, of course, have an immense impact upon them. I believe the Minister would be the first to admit that he has been receiving valuable suggestions from such bodies as the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, the Auctioneers and Estate Agents Institute, the Royal Institute of British Architects and so on, at all stages of the Bill. I am not thinking only of the work that members of those professions will have to do for the public 2262 authorities. The hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock) spoke rather loosely about putting people to work on development plans. He suggested that there were plenty of technicians in the country who ought to be put to work in that way. It is not quite so easy as that.
The majority of property-owners, to whose anxieties I have been trying to draw attention, will want to be advised by professional men. The Minister himself said he would counsel them to go to professional men for advice, particularly if they wanted to sell land. These proposals in the Bill will have an inevitable effect upon the value of their property. For five years at least the private practitioners will be working under great pressure. I hope that the Minister will arrange with the other Departments concerned to have all the data assembled with reference to values on 7th January, 1947. That is going to be a very important date in land values, just as important as 31st March, 1939. It is a date to which we shall look back. We can remember very well now what values were at 7th January, 1947. We can remember the cost of road making and of building in stone or brick. We know the cost of timber per square. We will not know that so well in five or ten years hence, but we will still have to look back to that date. I hope that the Minister will take steps with the other Ministries to make all that data available.
Experts employed by the Ministry, by the Central Land Board and by the local planning authorities will certainly be severely tested during the next five or more years. The Bill throws upon them the onus of arriving at right judgments upon the business and social implications of developments. They will have to organise and equip themselves to arrive at those judgments fairly, and expeditiously. There are two dangers ahead. The first is that sound and proper development may be hampered by undue delay in the assessment of development charges and the grant of planning permission. Secondly, we are endowing the Ministry, the Central Land Board and the local planning authorities with tremendous powers, with no clear proof that there are sufficient experts with the capacity and technical qualifications to use them aright. I am sure the House must have been delighted when the Minister told us this 2263 afternoon that the universities were willing to play their part along with the great professional bodies in order to foster education in town planning. I should like to see a Silkin Chair of Town and Country Planning in one of the great universities I believe that would be a fitting and by no means undeserved tribute to the Minister's handling of this Measure.
For a few minutes I would like to consider the effect which the Measure will have upon land values. That effect will be far-reaching. Land value is made up of two elements, the value for existing use and the value for development possibilities. Development rights in land—the second element—are to be nationalised. When development rights are held under a monopoly, who will be competent to assess their worth? I believe there will be great difficulty in arriving at a correct assessment of development possibilities in the absence of a free market in-development values. The solution will be to recreate, as far as possible, the conditions which obtain in a free market; that is to say, the presence of a willing buyer and a willing seller negotiating together for the purchase and the sale of property. This pre-supposes three things. First, it presupposes direct contact between buyers and sellers; secondly, it pre-supposes, within broad limits, freedom to negotiate; and thirdly, it pre-supposes competition. I learn on very good authority that one of the possibilities which will be open to the Central Land Board, when the Bill becomes law, is that it will acquire property, by agreement one hopes, in order to put it up to auction to test the market with regard to development values. Presumably, the conditions of sale of the property will specify the type of development which will be allowed, and the auction will be held so that the market may be tested in that way. I would not have any complaint about that provided the purchase were done by agreement, but I would have very serious complaint to make if the machinery of Clause 42 were used in order to give the Central Land Board power compulsorily to acquire land to auction in that way. I would have very serious complaint to make if compulsory powers were given to it in order to carry out that process of trying out the development possibilities on defenceless guinea pigs
§ Mr. Thornton-Kemsley
No, not by compulsory powers. In conclusion, we have all moved a very long way in planning matters in the last 10 years or so. There is now general acceptance of the policy of green belts and new towns, and there are very few people who dispute the paramountcy of the public control of land use. The air raids have helped, and Scott, Barlow and Uthwatt, that trinity of blessed memory, have shed much light on the path along which the present Minister and his immediate predecessor have moved steadily forward.
The problem which has been fundamental to this question of town and country planning almost from the beginning of time has been the extent to which the rights of individual owners to use and develop. their land as they choose can be restricted without incurring a liability to compensate them for injurious affection. It is the old familiar problem of compensation and betterment, on the solution of which so much ink has been spilled and so many words have been used. The Government have grasped this nettle firmly. I respect them for this. I have no quarrel with the broad principles of the acquisition of individual rights of development. My quarrel with them is on other grounds. I quarrel with them becase, throughout the proceedings on this Bill, they have failed completely to prove the adequacy of the sum which they have arbitrarily fixed to satisfy claims for loss of development rights, to define the selective principles upon which this sum is apparently to be distributed, to satisfy us that there will be sufficient incentive to development, and that the housing of the people will not be needlessly delayed; and finally, I blame them because in matters of this importance and complexity they have not afforded sufficient time for their full discussion in Committee or upon the Floor of the House.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Sparks (Acton)
This Bill will be a landmark in history for all time, and it will rank with any of the major Measures which the Government have introduced during this Parliament. It is a Measure to clean up the relics of the past. There is not a town or city in our country that is not suffering from the haphazard unregulated development of 2265 bygone days; there is not a town or city that does not possess a festering sore of some kind or other; and until now local authorities have been unable to remove those festering sores, first because planning law was not sufficient to enable them to accomplish their planning purposes, and secondly, because if they were able by law to proceed, the financial liabilities involved were far too heavy for them to undertake. Consequently, in great industrial towns and cities, particularly in London and Greater London, we have great built-up areas, land covered with factory development and housing development, without any conscious planning, with lack of open spaces and of good fresh air for the people.
The local authorities have been hamstrung in their attempts to deal with the situation. I very much welcome the passing of this Bill, because it will give the local authorities power which they have never had so far to clear the slums and areas of bad layout, and to effect a proper balance within their boundaries of industry, housing and open spaces. I believe the Bill will accomplish a great revolution in the social life of the people of our towns and cities. It will give the Greater London area power to deal with many age-old problems. Under the Greater London Plan, we shall attempt to accomplish a great change. We shall attempt to accomplish something of great historic moment in the life of this great city. We must endeavour to decentralise many of our people from the London area into the outside regions, and we must attempt also to effect industrial decentralisation. I come from an area which is situated on the edge of the North-West London industrial concentration, and it is as well to remember that, within the Greater London region, there reside 25 per cent. of the population of our country, and that the drift towards this area still continues.
Nearly 25 per cent. of the industrial activity of the nation is centred in the Greater London area. In my own particular area we are over-industrialised. We are over-industrialised because there has been no conscious planning in the past; the local authority have been quite unable to control industrial development, and consequently factories have been built upon land which ought to have been preserved for open spaces for the population 2266 and they have occupied land that ought to have been used for housing the people. Now that they are established we have little power to deal with over-industrialisation, largely because of the weaknesses of town planning law and the heavy financial liabilities that would have fallen upon our shoulders if we had attempted any such planning.
This Bill gives to local authorities like my own the power to replan their areas. It will give us the power to acquire land and redevelop not only land that has been blitzed but the black spots and the festering sores which I mentioned earlier on. It will enable us to rehouse the people from the slum areas and put them into better localities, and give them a better and fuller life in healthier surroundings with plenty of fresh air and open space. It will enable us to effect a proper distribution of industries in proportion to the population and open spaces, and it will also help us, in Greater London as a whole, to be concerned not merely with the welfare of our own smaller localities but jointly, through the good offices of the Minister, to effect that decentralisation of industry and population so urgently needed if we are to build up a better standard of community life in the Greater London region.
I hope that the Third Reading of this Bill will be carried by this House. In fact, I am sure it will be carried; I am very surprised that the Opposition should seek to destroy this Bill, because their Amendment is nothing more or less than an attempt to sabotage a very great Measure which many hon. Members opposite have praised very highly. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison) said that unless we could get the willing consent of the people we should not be able to obtain development of housing schemes and other desirable developments, I would like to point out that the willing consent of landlords to development has been sadly lacking for many generations. They have acquired land and they have not been willing to allow it to be developed. In my own little area we pay something up to £4,000 an acre for land required for housing purposes, and 100 years ago you could buy that land for £10 or £15 an acre. Land has been held in many parts of the country, and its development has been refused, because landowners were unwilling to sell it for developments 2267 which were urgently needed in the interests. of the community.
This Bill will correct all that. It will take away from persons of that character their right to a monopoly of the land and its development. It will enable a local authority to acquire the land they require for the proper layout of their own locality. By granting this power to the local authorities it will enable them to get down to the job of removing the errors of the past and building up better towns and better cities, giving mankind a better, fuller and freer life in healthier surroundings. This, I believe, is the object of the Bill, and I believe it will be welcomed by every progressive man and woman throughout the length and breadth of this country as one of the finest Measures that this Government has ever been responsible for.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
The Minister, in moving the Third Reading of this Bill, claimed that it was a great and comprehensive Measure. It is because it deals with so many matters that we must regret that so little time has been given for its discussion. We do not blame the right hon. Gentleman for that, and we recognise that within the limited time available he did his best to listen. with courtesy to the suggestions the Opposition had to make. This Bill is, in the first place, a new planning Bill; in the second place it is a solution of the compensation and betterment problem, and in the third place it produces a new basis for Treasury grants. So far as the new code of planning is concerned, I agree that it is, on general lines, sound. I am glad that the new planning authorities are to be large enough to take in a reasonable planning area, and we regret that unlike most Socialist Ministers, the right hon. Gentleman was unwilling to take wider powers in order to introduce a certain flexibility in these planning areas.
I ask him to give special attention to two matters. One is the need for a single document which will deal with all the permissions which have to be obtained for development from different Departments. We are all most anxious that there shall be no unnecessary conflict between good planning and housing development. In the second place, I hope that even now, he will look again at the problem of designation. I should like to 2268 feel that other Government Departments could not compulsorily acquire land, without having gone through the procedure of designation. I welcome the general outline of the provisions dealing with compensation and betterment. They are too closely similar to certain proposals which I ventured to make in the last Parliament for me to criticise them, without being inconsistent, but I feel that the Third Schedule to this Bill should be looked at by the Minister. The 10 per cent. limit on rebuilding and development is, I feel, unduly narrow.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman will not allow the division of houses into different dwelling places without special permission for development. I am sorry, too, that in the matter of agricultural land it is permissible for an owner to build a cowshed without permission, and without paying a development charge, but not to build a cottage for his cowman. I hope that in all these respects the right hon. Gentleman, who said he recognised the difficulty of administering this Measure, will make sure that these various controls are as little vexatious as possible. In his opening speech the right hon. Gentleman made the bold claim that the various grounds of complaint specified by us in our reasoned Amendment on the Second Reading had all been met. When I asked him to specify in what respects they had been met, he chose not to deal with the matter, but perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary, with his dialectical ability, will take up each one of those points and will make a convincing reply. Should he do so, then I would not find myself able to vote with my hon. Friends tonight. I find that in concluding my speech on the Second Reading I said:While a Measure of this kind is necessary and the planning Clauses are, I believe, sound. I think at present that the betterment provisions are too vague and they give no guarantee against unfair discrimination; that the figure for compensation has not been justified: … "[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th January. 5947: Vol. 432, c. 1018.]I believe that those charges are still true. I welcome the change of heart on the part of the Government in having departed from the 1939 standard of values, and since in that respect they have listened to the still small voice of reason coming from a small, but, I hope, determined Opposition, perhaps there will still be an opportunity in another place 2269 to improve the Measure in other respects which we criticised in our Amendment on the Second Reading.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)
It is with some trepidation that I rise to make the final speech from these benches on this Bill, before it goes to another place. Whatever differences of opinion there may be among us as to the merits of the Bill, we are certainly agreed in all parts of the House, that it is one of the longest and most complicated Measures we have ever had to consider. In making this final Opposition speech on the Third Reading it will be necessary, to some extent, to pick and choose between various aspects of the Bill because it is obviously impossible to attempt to cover them all, however general one's remarks.
The provisions of the Bill are not at all easily grasped, and I should like to add my thanks to the Minister for the extremely lucid way in which he has always dealt with the points which we have put to him and, if I may say so, for the great candour which he has always shown in recognising difficulties and attempting to meet them by accepting Amendments. In particular, I should like to thank him for the Amendments which he put down on the Report stage to Clause 3, dealing with directions which he is to give to the Central Land Board, and as to the report which that body is to make to Parliament. In some ways I think that those are the most important Amendments, and they were put down entirely as the result of representations from my hon. Friends on this side of the House. Although the right hon. Gentleman has gone a long way to meet us on matters of detail, nevertheless the main structure of the Bill remains almost precisely as it was when it was first introduced into this House. I think the right hon. Gentleman made a rash reference to the reasoned Amendment which was put down on the Second Reading. I looked up the records to see what were the actual points raised by that Amendment, and I think it may be of interest to the House if I refer to them very briefly now.
We complained, in the first place, that no time had been given for local authorities to study the provisions of the Bill. So far from giving extra time for study- 2270 ing these provisions, after six days of very useful discussion in the Committee upstairs we were suddenly and without warning met with a Guillotine Motion on the Floor of the House. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman can say that he met that objection. We also complained that an arbitrary sum was being provided for compensation for taking development rights, without any inquiry before the sum was finally settled. I do not think anything has been done to meet that objection. We complained further that no principles were laid down about the allocation of that sum. The Bill is still silent as to the principles to be followed. We complained, too, that there were no principles in the Bill about the levying of development charges. The Bill is still silent as to the methods of levying these charges. We complained about the continuance in force of the 1939 value, and that is the one point on which the right hon. Gentleman has met us in regard to the main structure of the Bill. We complained that the Bill involved discrimination against particular developers, and I think I can say that the Bill in that respect has remained completely unaltered. Finally, we complained of the number of matters left to be dealt with by regulation. I have attempted to check this, and as far as I can make out, there are no fewer regulations to be made under the Bill now than there was when it received a Second Reading.
This Measure is so large and complicated that its effect and implications are not generally recognised, either in this House or outside. Those who have studied it carefully will agree that it is the most far-reaching, fundamental and basic Measure which has come before this Parliament. I should like to set out very shortly its purposes, which I do not want to exaggerate or over-simplify. The Bill sets up a system enabling the Minister of Town and Country Planning to control all land, all building and every activity on land in England and Wales. I find it difficult to think of any activity which does not require the use of land. The Bill, in fact, enables the right hon. Gentleman to control every single thing that is done in this country. Most people think that town and country planning is concerned entirely with amenities. I agree with the Minister that that is not so. I agree with him also that it should 2271 not be so, but the measure of control which this Bill gives over our economy generally is far too wide.
The methods of control the Minister takes under this Bill are both direct and indirect. They are exercised, in the first place, through the Central Land Board, appointed by the Minister and bound to obey his directions. They are exercised also through the local planning authorities, who are bound to carry out a development plan, and although it is true that they may make that plan themselves, before it can become effective it has to be approved by the Minister, who can modify it to any extent. Finally, there are the powers of the right hon. Gentleman to make regulations. By these methods the Minister will be able to do exactly what he pleases with every inch of land, and every stone of every building in this country. It lies within his power to do so. It has been said that a slave cannot set foot on English soil and remain a slave. However true that may be, I believe that when this Bill becomes law there will be very little left that is not slavery for the owner of English land. The purpose of the Bill is to centralise the control of the use of all land. Some Members would object to the principle of such centralised control, whatever the expediency for such a control may be. Other Members would support the principle, whatever injustices or tyranny such control might bring forth. There may be some Members behind me who would object to that principle, but I know there are some Members behind the Minister who would support it. I think we can agree that these views are held mainly by what my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. Hogg) described as the "lunatic fringe."
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
I am referring to those Members of this House who would either support or reject a Bill of this kind on principle, whatever it contained. I think the great majority of Members recognise the expediency of a wide measure of planning for land. But they also recognise the difficulties, dangers, and injustices which may be involved in such a measure. There is a disposition on the part of supporters of the Government to regard us on 2272 this side of the House as obscurantist supporters of laissez faire in these, matters, but I ask them to consider the actual provisions of this Measure. Very little of this Bill could have been brought forward today if it had not been for the town planning legislation of the past. The hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr McAllister) said that the Bill should have been brought forward 26 years ago. I do not believe that he really holds that view at all. I think he knows that the great bulk of this Bill has been built on the Measures which have been introduced by Tory Governments during the last 20 to 26 years. It is on the work of those Governments that the good parts of this Bill have been brought forward today.
§ Mr. Sparks rose—
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
No, I cannot give way; I have very little time. I think it was Sir Isaac Newton who said, "I am not great myself, but I have stood upon the shoulders of giants." The Labour Party are not so modest. They have claimed all the good work of the last 20 to 26 years, and have added that to the few puny efforts towards good which they have made in the last couple of years. It is our duty tonight to weigh up how far the difficulties, dangers, and injustices have been met by this Bill. If we decide that they have been adequately met, we shall approve of the Bill, but if we decide that they have not we shall oppose it. We on this side have carefully considered the Bill in that light, and we have come to the conclusion that it seriously increases the practical difficulties of planning, that it creates political and economic dangers, and that it inflicts certain grave injustices. For that reason we propose to vote against the Bill tonight.
Now to deal with the injustices. Public opinion is of course most sensitive to this aspect of the matter but in a sense, it is the least important aspect. Expropriation, even if it is unfair, does not, in itself, destroy wealth. But I venture to say that unfair expropriation is the gravest cause of public evil. If we legislate for expropriation on unfair terms, we are doing nothing short of committing a public theft and if we commit a public theft, then what becomes of private morality? It is of the utmost importance that when public needs require private rights or private property to be taken over, the compensation should be scrupulously fair.
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
There are two kinds of compensation payable under this Bill. There is compensation for land compulsorily acquired, and there is compensation for the development rights taken over. So far as compensation in Part IV of the Bill is concerned—that is, for land compulsorily acquired—I should like to congratulate the Government upon the change which they have made in the Bill since it was introduced. In a sense, of course, the change which they have made does not really affect the structure of the Bill. It is in a watertight compartment by itself, and whatever the basis of compensation for compulsory acquisition might be, the rest of the Bill has required very little alteration. I do not think that the change is necessarily as generous to the landlord as some hon. Members on the other side of the House appear to think. The hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock) I think opposed the change, or at any rate indicated to the Minister that he regretted it on the ground that it was being unduly generous to the landlord. I hope it may be possible for the Parliamentary Secretary to give us some indication this evening of the increase in price of land to the local authorities which may be involved. My own suspicion is that although some owners of land will stand to gain, a considerable number will stand to lose—I think quite rightly and properly. The case we made against the 1939 values was not that they were too low all round but that they were hopelessly out of date, and as a result completely unfair both to the individual concerned and to the community.
Perhaps I may say this. The right hon. Gentleman announced his intention to make the change, as early as 13th March, but it was not until 25th April that we saw on the Order Paper six new Clauses and a new Schedule effecting the change, and within a fortnight of that we were debating it on the Floor of the House. Now it seems to me that these facts are characteristic of the attitude of the Government in this matter. They have taken six weeks to consult with their advisers—the civil servants and the draftsmen and others—as to what requires to be done to effect the change, but they make it virtually impossible for Members here, on all sides, to consult with the local authorities, with the surveyors and 2274 the other outside bodies who are vitally concerned in this matter. This is if I may say so a civil servants' Bill, and I think it would have been better if outside experts had had a little more opportunity of considering it and expressing their views upon it.
I wish to say something about the compensation payable under Part V of the Bill for the taking over of development rights. The right hon. Gentleman refuses to see it as compensation at all. He claims that it is payment for hardship. I notice that when the Central Land Board are to dispose of these rights, those who wish to acquire them and develop the land will have to pay a development charge which is not a tax. On the contrary, the would-be developer will have to pay a commercial price. The right hon. Gentleman has explained on a number of occasions that the Central Land Board, in disposing of development rights, are doing nothing but selling a valuable commodity. Why is it that when the Government acquire the same commodity from the present owners, those owners are not paid a fair and uniform consideration? Either this is a commodity when the Government buy it, for which proper payment should be made, or else it never was a commodity, in which case the whole of the right hon. Gentleman's argument on the rest of the Bill, falls to the ground.
The development rights are not mysterious, metaphysical or diabolical as some hon. Members appear to think—particularly some on the Liberal Benches, who do not seem to be here now. A development right is merely a power for a man to use his land for any purpose he pleases, subject to the general law of the country regarding nuisances and so on. The value of the development right is the present value which can be got for the land in the open market, less the value that could be got for it if it is restricted to its present use. In passing, I should like to say that when the development right has been taken away from that land, one result must inevitably follow. There would be taken away the inducement to sell the land, because the owner cannot make a profit out of it. Therefore, the owner will have no inducement whatever to try to get that land developed. The result of the buying up of those development rights, leaving the landlord with no interest in getting his land developed, will 2275 have a serious effect towards stopping development in the country generally.
The point I make is that the value of a development right is the present value of that right in the owners' hands. ft may be that the land will not be developed until some future time, but the development value is a present value. The Inland Revenue have no difficulty in assessing the value of that right at any time for the purposes of Estate Duty, and I do not believe there is any mystery or difficulty surrounding this matter at all. I think when the development rights can be valued as they will have to be, we shall get a very clear picture of the total value of what is to be taken over under Part V of the Bill. Then we shall be in a very much better position to assess the total amount of compensation which should be paid for those rights.
It is very unfortunate that the Bill is going forward including a figure which the right hon. Gentleman himself has said is really nothing but an intelligent guess. He has attempted to justify it on the ground that some say the sum is too much and others say it is too little. He has suggested that this is a nice average which is fair, but, with great respect, that argument is really nonsense. If a figure of £200 million instead of £300 million, or even a figure of £100 million only, had been in the Bill, I think the hon. Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) and other hon. Members opposite would have objected just as much. In other words, this is not an average at all. The hon. Members who say £300 million is too much really object to any payment of compensation for this purpose.
No one in any part of the House has attempted to justify a smaller figure than that of £300 million. The right hon. Gentleman's own actions clearly show that he appreciates that it is far less than the value of what is being taken over. He proposes to give the builders the first cut out of this sum to make their compensation precisely equal to the development charge on the greater part of the land which they hold. I agree that it is fair and proper to do that. I think that is a very right thing to do, but why give this priority to the builders?' The right hon. Gentleman says that payment out of this total sum is a payment to relieve hardship. Why should the builders 2276 specially be relieved of hardship. Are the builders a particularly poor, abused, down-trodden class of the community? Is that his suggestion?—Why should it be said that on grounds of hardship the builders should get special priority? Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman has made it perfectly plain. His reason—and he said so much in Committee upstairs—is that without this priority builders' costs would be increased. In other words, he admits candidly that the owners of land generally will get less than the fair compensation. That is the only inference to be drawn from the argument which he has put forward.
He has been driven to make this exception in the case of the builders because of the impact on housing generally. I believe that before this scheme goes through the right hon. Gentleman will be driven to make a number of other exceptions. This sum will be whittled down for special reasons in no way whatever connected with hardship, and the administration of the scheme will be reduced to chaos. We on this side of the House protest against the global sum scheme partly because we think that the sum itself is entirely unrelated to the needs of the situation but more particularly we protest against the power of the Government to pick and choose amongst the beneficiaries who are to receive something under it.
That brings me to our objections to the development charge. First, we object to the definition of development in the Bill as being far too wide. Except for maintenance and repair work, virtually every human activity is included. There will be need to get permission before starting any activity whatever when this Bill becomes law. Coupled with the need for permission, there will be the cumbrous and arbitrary procedure for paying the necessary development charge. We believe that this machinery will delay and frustrate enterprise. It may be that the underlying idea is sound. It may be—and I readily agree with my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson)—that there is the need to introduce some machinery of this kind some day; but is this the time to introduce such machinery? Surely a complication of this sort is the last thing required at the present moment when the need is to get industrial activity started again. The right hon. Gentle- 2277 man has supporters on his side of the House who share these views and some of them, including the hon. Member for Rutherglen have indicated that they fear very much that the machinery under this Bill will make very great difficulties for would-be developers.
If the definition of development is too wide, the power to impose a development charge under the Bill is far wider. The Central Land Board are to have regard to the value of permission to develop and there are regulations to be made to prescribe the general principles on which they are to levy the charge, although those principles are entirely undefined in the Bill. Otherwise the Central Land Board can charge exactly what they please. Under the Bill the Board can charge, for instance, 100 per cent to private retailers who desire to acquire land for a shop and only 50 per cent. to a co-operative society for the same purpose. Or they can do the opposite, depending perhaps on the complexion of the Government giving them directions at a particular time. We believe that these powers are far too wide, that they will lead to grossly unfair discrimination and that they should not be allowed.
I recognise that the time is going past, and if the Parliamentary Secretary is to reply before the Guillotine falls, I must bring my remarks to a close. There are many other features under this Bill to which we take exception. We wished to develop them at far greater length and would have done so had it not been for the shortness of the time which has been left to us as the result of this procedure. We object to this Bill because it contains features which we think will deter development, it contains grave injustices and will only complicate matters, and we shall go into the Lobby to vote against it.
§ 9.4 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning (Mr. Fred Marshall)
I am very glad that tribute has been paid to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning from both sides of the House for his conduct during the progress of this Bill through the Committee and Report stages. I would like to add my tribute to the Minister for his unfailing courtesy during the progress of the Bill and also for his amazing grasp of the baffling complexities of the Clauses of this Bill. In 2278 that respect I cannot claim to equal him. Like many other hon. Members, I suffer from the difficulties of the technical, legal jargon in which the Clauses are couched and, having a non-legal mind, I find the Bill very difficult from that point of view. I would also like to say a word of praise for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) for the way he has led the Opposition on this Bill. He has conducted himself with his usual courtesy, and I would like to couple both those names together in my tribute. It is a difficult Bill, a long Bill and an important Bill, and both right hon. Gentlemen have given of their best to what has been a rather difficult task.
Many complaints have been made about the short time allocated to the discussion on the Committee and Report stages. The remarkable thing is that all those undiscussed Clauses have not been discussed today. Whether the Opposition regard them as being not important enough to warrant a discussion I do not know, but the discussion today has gone on the well worn lines that we heard on Second Reading and on the Committee stage, and if these alleged undiscussed Clauses are important and contain vital provisions, we have not heard them discussed on the Third Reading. I want to say a word about the time allocated to this Bill, and I do not do so with the idea of causing contention and discord. I want to content myself with a statement of fact. The fact is that when we finish today we shall have devoted no less than 90 hours discussion to this Bill. [An HON. MEMBER: "Not on the Floor of the House."] There were about 108 Clauses and 10 Schedules. I think the hon. Member will realise that a good proportion of those Clauses were of minor importance and consequential, and I should say that, if the matter was averaged out, we have devoted enough time on this Bill to have allocated an hour to each Clause.
§ Mr. Marshall
Yes, I am coming to that point. I make this assertion, that if in the early stages of the Committee consideration of this Bill we could have come to co-operative agreement, with the Opposition and allocated the time in accordance with the varying importance of 2279 the Clauses, we could have got through and submitted practically every Clause to its proper scrutiny. Instead of that we used the first two or three or four meetings—
§ Sir H. Lucas-Tooth
Does the hon. Gentleman say that the Opposition were consulted, before the imposition of the Guillotine, with a view to arriving at any time table?
§ Mr. Marshall
I am saying that if we could have come to a friendly agreement with the Opposition, we could have submitted every one of these Clauses to scrutiny. There is no doubt about it that at the first four meetings of the Standing Committee we went exceptionally slowly. We were dealing with one Clause at each meeting and all the important Clauses were before us. It is quite evident that had we gone on at that rate, it would have taken a considerable time to have discussed all the Clauses of this Bill. Tributes have been paid to my right hon. Friend for his unfailing courtesy. It was not his fault, and my view is that if the Opposition have not discussed these Clauses it is, to some extent, their own fault. I thought I ought to say this because this question of lack of opportunity for discussion has been mentioned so many times during the Debate.
The right hon. Member, in moving the rejection of the Bill, made one of his usual very able speeches. It was a speech without bitterness, and I frankly confess I always enjoy listening to him. But, I listened very carefully and failed to detect any reason why the rejection of this Bill should be moved. The right hon. Gentleman very adroitly suggested that what he was doing was to move to delay the operation of the Bill for six months. He is too old a politician to believe that. He knows very well that the ordinary procedure of this House is that when it is moved that a Bill be readthe Third time upon this day six months,it means the virtual rejection of the Measure. It means the rejection of the Bill lock, stock, and barrel. It means that the Conservative Party by their action today are in favour of preventing 2280 the local authorities from receiving the benefits of the operation of the better compensation provisions of this Bill. It means that the Conservative Opposition—
§ Mr. Marshall
—are refusing today to compensate owners whose land is compulsorily acquired at current values, instead of 1939 values. It means to say that the Conservative Opposition by their actions would prevent local authorities from receiving the far more generous grants enshrined in the Bill than those in the 1944 Act. I can only say that the responsibility will be on their own heads.
Practically every speaker of the Opposition has come round to the £300 million. On the Second Reading I had occasion to say a few things about the speech of the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans). He has more or less repeated the spirit of his Second Reading speech, if not the letter, today. He referred to the "candid uncle" of the Bill, and I believe that in that description he was referring to his right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury. He rather suggested that the "candid uncle" had inspired the Bill to that extent. But the right hon. Gentleman's action today did not seem to be quite in accord with that idea. The hon. Member went on to praise the Bill for certain things it did. It took a larger area for planning, the implication being that planning over these larger areas would be done more efficiently, and that was a far better method than the old localised planning based on the old local authority planning unit.
The hon. Member admitted that we had to some extent solved the problem of betterment in the Bill. I thought I detected from his reference to betterment that he was rather in favour of solving this problem. I know that the right hon. Gentleman in his White Paper, during the time of the Coalition Government, was very desirous of solving this question of betterment, if the White Paper could be believed. I think that the hon. Member for Hornsey felt that when he made his statement today. Another thing he implied was that the Bill was good because of the fact that it provided better grants for local authorities, and that it 2281 had taken off the local authorities heavy claims for compensation which they had hitherto borne under the 1932 Act. The hon. Member indicated these three or four items and suggested that they would be good features of the Bill
Then he went on to suggest that in spite of that there were certain bad features of the Bill which compelled or induced him to vote against it. I would say that on balance his reasons for voting for the Bill were far more potent than the reasons he gave for voting against it. Let us look at one or two of the things he indicated. First, he complained that the Bill did not allow the conversion of houses into flats; secondly, that the 10 per cent. tolerance was altogether wrong, and did not allow for agricultural cottages, for example, being increased by 10 per cent. without incurring the threat of a development charge. He also said that the Bill would get rid of the private developer. I characterise that statement as utterly untrue. The private developer will not have to pay any more for his land than before—not as much. He will certainly have to pay a development charge, but the fact that he will be getting his land at the present use value, plus a development charge, will mean that these two together will just about amount to what lie paid for his land previously. The suggestion that this Bill will get rid of the private developer is simply not true.
The hon. Member talked about the delay in getting permission for development. Through all the stages of this Bill my right hon. Friend has insisted, and has stated over and over again, that it is his desire that one application should suffice for planning permission, for the development charge and for by-law permission. It is his intention to bring that about, so that objection goes by the board.
§ Mr. Marshall
My right hon. Friend has stated over and over again, both in Committee and on the Report stage, his intention of doing it. The hon. Member says there will be a lot of haggling about the development charge. My view about this, which I am sure is the view of my right hon. Friend, is that the Land Board will treat this matter in a proper businesslike way, like any other business man or business board. I think that that objection to the Bill is very weak. The hon. Member 2282 suggested the possibility that developers would not be able to face development charges. Probably the hon. Member has forgotten Clause 68, which enables the Land Board to make proper arrangements in cases like that. They can even take a charge on the land belonging to the builder in lieu of the development charge. They can vary the payment of the development charge either by asking for it as a capital sum or as an instalment. There are all those modifications in Clause 68. Therefore, that objection goes by the board.
The real objection of hon. Gentlemen opposite against the Bill is the £300 million. That has come out time and again in the speeches of hon. Members opposite, and the hon. Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth), in winding up the Debate for the Opposition, once more returned to the £300 million. The real opposition to the Bill is not that it is not a good planning Bill, that it does not solve the betterment problem, that it does not deal with the multitudinous and varied difficulties of planning; it is that hon. Gentlemen opposite do not believe that the £300 million is a large enough sum for the landowners of this country. My right hon. Friend is between two fires on this matter. Many hon. Members on this side of the House think that £300 million is far too heavy a sum, especially believing, as they do, and as I do, that development values have not been created by the owners of the land, but have been created by the energy of public enterprise, by the laying of sewers and the making of roads. It is for that reason that we believe this sum is adequate. On the Second Reading of the Bill, my right hon. Friend gave reasons for believing that £300 million is an adequate sum, and those reasons seemed to me to be logical and his calculations to be just.
§ Mr. Marshall
My memory of them is pretty vivid. I shall not repeat the figures, but I feel that the calculations have stood the test, of criticism With regard to agricultural cottages, I ought to 2283 mention that we are looking into this matter, that we have a proposal in mind, and that this proposal has already been discussed with the Ministry of Agriculture. It is as follows. A development charge should be assessed in the ordinary way and put on an annual basis. The suggestion which we are considering is that if a certificate is given by the Minister of Agriculture that the cottage is necessary for agricultural purposes, the charge will be waived and will continue to be waived as long as that certificate is maintained. I think that will be satisfactory as far as farm cottages are concerned. and the proposal is made in response to many requests from the Opposition.
I want now to say a few words about designation, which has been mentioned as being likely to hinder and prevent development. The hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) raised this point on several occasions in Committee, and I believe he raised it on the Report stage. It is his view, and the view of many hon. Members opposite, that designation will create an atmosphere of uncertainty on the part of the owner and the builder so far as the acquisition of land is concerned. I do not take that view, and never have. The principle of designation has been included in order that owners, developers and local authorities can secure a complete picture of the programme proposed by a development plan. In that development plan areas for industry, housing, agriculture and mineral working will all be indicated, and, of course, many more, and there will be certain areas. of that land designated as subject to compulsory purchase. My right hon. Friend has never claimed that designation eliminates all uncertainty, and I think it would be beyond the wit of man to devise any instrument that would do that, but what he does claim for it, and what I claim for it, is that it limits the threat to certain specific areas. That is my view of it, although I know the hon. and learned Member does not agree with me. It limits the threat to certain specific areas, and enables the owner to know that land has been designated and may be liable to compulsory purchase. If one compares this position, where one gets a complete picture of all the factors in a development area, with what took place under the old 1932 Act, one will recognise 2284 that it is infinitely better from that point of view.
During the Second Reading my right hon. Friend made a very striking statement. He said that although less than half the country had been covered by planning schemes local authorities had zoned sufficient land in this country to house no less than 350 million people, and over all that land there would be the threat of compulsory purchase. The owners of the land would not know where this threat was going to settle, and there would be a floating uncertainty as to which land would be compulsorily acquired. Under designation the certainty is settled on definite areas of land, and while it does not eliminate all uncertainty, it clearly reduces it.
I have only two or three minutes left. but I want to deal with one more point. I remember that on the New Towns Bill the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) taunted the Minister and myself with not being bold enough to bring in a compensation and betterment Bill. I indicated that probably in good time that Bill would be forthcoming. The hon. Member rather suggested that we were not sufficiently courageous to face up to that particular task, but I replied that the Bill would come in good time and when it did we would confidently look forward to seeing the hon. Member for The High Peak in our Lobby when the Division took place. He said "Yes, if the Bill was bold enough." I should have thought that this Bill would be bold enough for the hon. Member, and I confidently look forward to seeing him tonight in our Lobby. No adequate reason has been given for the rejection of this Bill. It is a Bill which, I am sure, will make an immense difference to planning in this country. It is one for which we have been waiting for many years. It marks the stage where planning leaves the negative principle and goes over to the positive principle. I believe that this Bill will mark a stage at which this House can say, that we have enlarged our planning policy so as to suit it to the greater compass of the nation.
§ It being half-past Nine o'Clock, Mr. SPEAKER proceeded, pursuant to the Order made upon 3rd March, to put forthwith the Question necessary to bring to a conclusion the proceedings on the Third Reading of the Bill.2285
§ Question put, "That now stand part of the Question."2286
§ The House divided: Ayes, 297; Noes, 126.2287
|Division No. 217.]||AYES||[9.30 p.m|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Logan, D. G.|
|Allen, A C. (Bosworth)||Ewart, R.||McAdam, W.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Fairhurst, F||McAllister, G.|
|Alpass, J. H.||Farthing, W. J||Mack, J. D.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Fernyhough, E.||McKay, J. (Wallsend)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Fletcher, E. G. M (Islington, E.)||Mackay, R. W. G. (Hull, N.W.)|
|Attewell, H. C.||Follick, M.||McKinlay, A. S.|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R||Foot, M. M||Maclean, N. (Govan)|
|Austin, H Lewis||Forman, J. C||McLeavy, F.|
|Awbery, S. S||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Ayles, W. H||Gallacher, W.||Mallalieu, J. P. W.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Ganley, Mrs C. S.||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)|
|Bacon, Miss A||George, Lady M. Lloyd (Anglesey)||Manning, Mrs. L. (Epping)|
|Baird, J.||Gibbins, J.||Marquand, H. A.|
|Balfour, A||Gibson, C. W.||Marshall, F. (Brightside)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J||Gilzean, A.||Medland, H. M.|
|Barstow, P. G.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Mellish, R: J|
|Bechervaise, A E.||Gooch, E. G.||Messer, F.|
|Benson, G.||Goodrich, H. E.||Middleton, Mrs. L.|
|Berry, H.||Gordon-Walker, P. C||Mikardo, Ian|
|Beswick, F.||Granville, E. (Eye)||Mitchison; G R|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A (Ebbw Vale)||Greenwood, A W. J (Heywood)||Monslow, W|
|Bing, G. H C||Grenfell, D. R||Montague, F.|
|Binns, J.||Grey, C. F.||Moody, A. S.|
|Blackburn, A R||Grierson, E.||Morgan, Dr. H. B.|
|Blenkinsop, A||Griffiths, D. (Rather Valley)||Morley, R.|
|Blyton, W R||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)|
|Boardman, H.||Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)||Mort, D L|
|Bottomley, A. G||Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Murray, J D|
|Bowden. Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Gunter, R. J.||Nally, W|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Guy, W. H.||Naylor, T E|
|Braddock, T (Mitcham)||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)||Neal, H. (Claycross)|
|Bramall, E. A.||Hall, W. G.||Nichol, Mrs M. E. (Bradford, N.)|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Noel-Baker, Capt. F. E. (Brentford)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Hardy, E. A.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J. (Derby)|
|Brown, T J. (Ince)||Harrison, J.||Noel-Buxton, Lady|
|Buchanan, G||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Oldfield, W. H.|
|Burke, W. A.||Henderson, A. (Kingswinford)||Oliver, G H|
|Butler, H. W (Hackney, S.)||Henderson, Joseph (Ardwick)||Orbach, M.|
|Byers, Frank||Hobson, C. R.||Paget, R. T.|
|Carmichael, James||Holman, P||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Wentworth)|
|Castle, Mrs B. A||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Paling, Will T (Dewsbury)|
|Chamberlain, R. A||Hoy, J.||Palmer, A. M. F|
|Champion, A J.||Hubbard, T.||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Parker, J.|
|Clitherow, Dr R||Hughes, H. D. (W'lverh'pton, W.)||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)|
|Cobb, F. A||Hutchinson, H. L. (Rusholme)||Paton, J. (Norwich)|
|Cocks, F. S||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Pearson, A|
|Coldrick, W.||Irving, W. J.||Pearl, Capt. T. F.|
|Collindridge, F||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A||Plaits-Mills, J. F. F.|
|Collins, V. J||Janner, B||Porter, E (Warrington)|
|Colman, Miss G. M||Jay, D. P. T.||Porter, G. (Leeds)|
|Comyns, Or L.||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Price, M. Philips|
|Cook, T. F.||John, W.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Corlett, Dr, J.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Corvedale, Viscount||Jones, J. H. (Bolton)||Pursey, Cmdr. H|
|Crawley, A||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Randall, H. E.|
|Daggar, G.||Keenan, W.||Ranger, J.|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Kendall, W. D||Rankin, J.|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Kenyon, C.||Rees-Williams, D. R|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E||Reeves, J.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Kinley, J.||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Davies, Haden (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Kirby, B. V||Rhodes, H.|
|Deer, G.||Lang, G.||Richards, R.|
|Delargy, H. J||Lavers, S||Robens, A.|
|Diamond, J||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)|
|Dobbie, W.||Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Leonard, W.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Leslie, J. R.||Rogers, G H. R.|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||Lever, N. H.||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)|
|Durbin, E. F. M.||Levy, B. W.||Royle, C.|
|Dye, S.||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Sargood, R.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Lewis, J. (Bolton)||Scollan, T.|
|Edelman, M.||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Scott-Elliot, W.|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Lindgren, G. S.||Segal, Dr, S.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Whilechapel)||Lindsay, K. M. (Comb'd Eng. Univ.)||Shackleton, E. A. A|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Lipson, D. L.||Sharp, Granville|
|Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H (St. Helens)||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)||While, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Shurmer, P.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)||Whiteley, Rt. Hon W|
|Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Silverman, J (Erdington)||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||Willey, F T. (Sunderland)|
|Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Thomas, George (Cardiff)||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Simmons, C. J.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Skinnard, F. W.||Timmons, J||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Titterington, M F.||Williams W R. (Heston)|
|Smith, S. H. (Hull, S.W.)||Turner-Samuels, M||Williamson, T|
|Sorensen, R. W||Ungoed-Thomas, L.||Willis, E|
|Soskice, Maj. Sir F||Usborne, Henry||Wills, Mrs. E. A|
|Sparks, J A||Viant, S P||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Stamford, W||Walkden, E||Woodburn, A|
|Steele, T.||Walker, G. H||Woods, G. S|
|Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E)||Wallace, G D. (Chislehurst)||Wyatt, W.|
|Strauss, G R (Lambeth, N.)||Wallace, H W (Walthamstow, E.)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Stubbs, A E.||Warbey, W N.||Younger, Hon Kenneth|
|Sylvester, G O||Webb, M (Bradford, C.)||Zilliacus, K|
|Symonds, A. L.||Wells, W T (Walsall)|
|Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||West, D. G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Taylor, R. J (Morpeth)||Westwood, Rt Hon. J||Mr. Simmons and|
|Aitken, Hon. Max||Glyn, Sir R.||Nield, B. (Chester)|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W (Armagh)||Grant, Lady||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H|
|Amory, D. Heathcote||Gridley, Sir A||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Pete, Brig. C. H. M|
|Astor, Hon. M||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Pickthorn, K.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C||Pitman, I. J.|
|Barlow, Sir J||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Poole. O. B. S. (Oswestry)|
|Baxter, A. B.||Hogg, Hon. Q||Prescott, Stanley|
|Bennett, Sir P||Hollis, M. C.||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C (Wells)||Howard, Hon. A||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Bossom, A. C||Hurd, A.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S C (Hillhead)|
|Bower, N.||Hutchison, Lt.-Cm. Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Jennings, R||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Braithwaite Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Kerr, Sir J. Graham||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W. H||Scott, Lord W.|
|Carson, E||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Shephard, S. (Newark)|
|Challen, C.||Langford-Holt, J.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W|
|Channon, H.||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.||Smith, E. P. (Ashford)|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Smithers, Sir W|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Snadden, W. M|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Lucas, Major Sir J||Spearman, A. C. M|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U (Ludlow)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Spence, H R.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon H F C||MacAndrew, Col. Sir C||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col O. E||McCallum, Maj D.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Crowder, Capt. John E.||Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J (Moray)|
|Darling, Sir W. Y||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Sutcliffe, H.|
|Digby, S. W.||Maclay, Hon. J. S||Teeling, William|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Thomas, J P. L. (Hereford)|
|Dower, E. L. G. (Caithness)||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Thorneycroft G. E P (Monmouth)|
|Drayson, G. B||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Drewe, C.||Manningham-Buller, R. E||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R A F|
|Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Marples, A. E.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Eccles, D. M.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Walker-Smith, D|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)||Ward, Hon G. R|
|Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L||Maude, J. C.||Wheatley, Colonel M J.|
|Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Mellor, Sir J.||White, J. B. (Canterbury)|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Matson, A. H. E.||Williams, C (Torquay)|
|Fraser, Sir I (Lonsdale)||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Willink, Rt. Hon. H. U|
|Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M||Morris-Jones, Sir H.||Winterton, Rt. Hon Earl|
|Gage, C.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W S. (C'nc'ster)|
|Galbraith, Cmdr. T D.||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C E||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Gammons, L. D||Neven-Spence, Sir B.||Commander Agnew and|
Question put, and agreed to.