HC Deb 18 November 1949 vol 469 cc2418-38

A local authority may, with the consent of the Minister, borrow such sums as may be required for the purposes of this Act:

Provided that money so borrowed shall be repaid within a period of seven years.—[Captain Field.]

Brought up, and read the First time.

Captain Field (Paddington, North)

I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."

The object of this new Clause is to avoid heavy and immediate expenditure falling upon the revenue of local authorities. On Second Reading, and indeed this afternoon, many hon. Members pointed out the very heavy expenditure which will fall upon the revenues of local authorities by virtue of the work which they will have to do under this Bill such as fencing and laying out bombed sites as gardens. Even if, as was suggested, voluntary effort is brought into play—as I think it should be—the local authorities will be called upon to expend a great deal of money in the initial outlay in preparing these sites for the voluntary associations to take over.

Under the London Government Act, 1939, and the Local Authority Government Act, 1933, there is power to borrow moneys to clear land and this may be regarded as capital expenditure. Under Clauses 4 and 9 of this Bill the local authority may remove refuse from land without taking a lease or obtaining authorisation from the Minister, and thereby they will be incurring considerable expense. If the view is taken that this expenditure is not capital expenditure, then I think this Clause is necessary to enable local authorities to borrow moneys to carry out the provision of this Act without unduly burdening themselves in any one period.

I do not know whether it is in Order to do so, but I should like to point out that expenditure falling under this head would not be so great if local authorities had greater powers of deterrent, to prevent people from dumping rubbish on these sites. The present penalty is only £2 and the necessity for borrowing would be lessened if the penalty were very much greater. Perhaps the Minister could look into that point also.

Mr. Bevan

I am satisfied that I have enough power at the moment under the Act of 1933 to authorise local authorities to borrow on short term for the purposes of this Bill when it becomes an Act. However, I will certainly make quite sure that that is the case. If it is not, we can take the power at a later stage. With regard to the last part of what was said by my hon. Friend, I am hoping at some later stage to take additional powers of deterrence.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

I am glad to hear the Minister make that answer, because I was not at all clear whether the powers already existed in the previous Act. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is seized of this aspect of this problem. The hon. and gallant Member for North Paddington (Captain Field) represents a constituency which will be involved in heavy expenditure, as will other authorities in various parts of the country. What the Committee has to consider is what financial procedure is likely to get this repair work expedited. I think we must all be satisfied that unless local authorities are enabled to borrow considerable sums on short term, that work will not proceed with expedition. That is my approach to the matter, and I am glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that if these powers do not exist he will put them in on the Report stage.

Captain Field

On receiving those very satisfactory assurances from the Minister, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.

Schedule agreed to.

Bill reported with Amendments; as amended, considered.

Mr. Walker-Smith

On a point of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. May I ask whether the two Manuscript Amendments which I handed in as Amendments to be considered on Report stage are selected, or either of them?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

Mr. Speaker has not seen his way to select either of the Amendments of the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I do not want in any way to press that point, but you will appreciate, Sir, that those Amendments though in form they are manuscript Amendments—and here I express my regret—are, of course, Amendments—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman. He will appreciate that Mr. Speaker has given his decision which is not subject to discussion. It is not within my power, even if I thought it desirable, to make any alteration in that decision. Therefore, the matter cannot be further discussed.

Mr. Walker-Smith

In that case may I say that no doubt I shall have the opportunity—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is not a point of Order.

Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth (Hendon, South)

May I ask your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? I have referred to Standing Order No. 47 where I find it laid down that: … when amendments shall have been made thereto … That is to a Bill— … a day shall be appointed for the taking of the bill as amended into consideration, unless the House shall order it to be taken into consideration forthwith. As I understand the matter, no day has been named and the House has not resolved that the Bill shall be taken into consideration forthwith. In those circumstances, I submit with great deference that it is out of Order to take the Report stage.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

When I put the Question, the Whip said "Now." It was so decided and hence the Third Reading must be taken now.

Sir H. Lucas-Tooth

May I have your ruling on this matter because it is of some importance. Does the mere ipse dixit of the Whip sitting on the Treasury Bench saying "Now" constitute a Resolution of the House which would override any objection—and so far, of course, there has been no objection put forward—to the Report stage being taken forthwith?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The practice of the House is to act as I have indicated. The Third Reading must take place now.

Mr. Walker-Smith

Further to that point of Order. Surely on any interpretation of Standing Order No. 47, the Chair would collect the voices as to whether or not the House wished the Report stage to be taken today. It is specifically stated to be an exceptional proceeding. In this case, the voices were not collected and may I respectfully suggest that they ought to be?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

No. I am afraid I cannot agree with the hon. Gentleman. The practice is a perfectly usual and proper one. In fact, no objection was taken, though I must not be understood as indicating that if any objection were taken it would be in any way effective.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Hon. Members cannot discuss that question any further. Unless there is any further point of Order, I must put the Question, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

Mr. Walker-Smith

Before that Question is put, would you inform the House whether, if there is objection, account will be taken of it, because hon. Members on this side would wish to take exception to the nomination of today in that way? If the voices are to be collected they would wish to register their objection.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

No objection can be taken in those circumstances.

3.3 p.m.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

Mr. Walker-Smith

I sincerely hope that we shall not part with this interesting Measure without some discussion upon it, the more so as the Ruling which you have just given, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, unfortunately leaves certain matters undiscussed which otherwise would have been discussed upon Report stage. The principle of this Bill was discussed on Second Reading and my hon. Friends and myself abide by what we said on that occasion—that is to say, that the principle of the Bill in itself is good though the Bill cannot be considered to more than a minor Measure. It is a minor Measure in the sense that it is necessarily only a patching up Bill which would not have been necessary at all if greater and more satisfactory progress had been made with the basic requirement of getting on with desirable redevelopment at the quickest possible pace. It is only because there has been so significant a failure in that regard that the House is called upon to put this Bill upon the Statute Book.

We on this side of the House recognise that in the position at which we have arrived after 4½ years of Socialism—a position of retarded development and of cuts in capital investment programmes—it is necessary to put patching up temporary Measures such as this upon the Statute Book. We are forced, of course, to regard this Measure within the framework of existing circumstances and conditions, however unsatisfactory and regrettable they may be, and they are both unsatisfactory and regrettable. Within that limited framework, we agree that the purpose of this Bill is good, and we have never deviated from that. It is for that reason that I pointed out how unwise and unreasonable it was of the Minister to try to impute to us a point of view which in fact we have never either expressed or entertained.

If we agree in principle with the desirability of giving local authorities power to deal with war damaged sites where there is a detriment to amenity, we have not in every case considered that the procedure laid down in this Bill is the best calculated to achieving that purpose in the public interest. It would be a strange doctrine if it were thought that any criticism of the machinery of a Measure implied a criticism or derogation of the underlying purpose of that Measure, and, of course, all the Amendments which we put forward and all the efforts that we have made to improve this Bill have been directed towards making it a more satisfactory and efficient instrument for carrying out this beneficent purpose, which has been rendered necessary by the failure of the Government to go ahead with full-scale development. [Laughter.] I do not know why the hon. Gentleman should laugh at that, unless he thinks that the failure of the Government is funny, and it is not funny, but lamentable; or that he considers that the present state of these war damaged sites is funny, and it is not funny, but highly regrettable; or it is because he regards Debates in this House as funny, and they are not funny, but part of the machinery of democratic government. If, on the other hand, the hon. Gentleman has some particular, peculiar and personal cause for mirth in what I have to say, perhaps he will have the ordinary courtesy to explain it if he is fortunate enough to catch the eye of Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

Mr. Ronald Williams (Wigan)

With great respect, the hon. Member must permit me to show my sense of mirth if I find his arguments so thoroughly ludicrous.

Mr. Walker-Smith

The House will recall that, in the pages of "Pickwick Papers," how Mr. Pickwick finds himself commenting on the ease with which the friends of Mr. Peter Magnus were apparently amused. For this purpose, I put the hon. Member in the category of the friends of Mr. Peter Magnus, but, in every other aspect of the activities of the hon. Member, there are other characters in "Pickwick Papers" with whom he is more suitably compared, and, indeed, if it were in Order to press these literary comparisons wider—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)

I think the hon. Gentleman has had as was said "a good run," and that he must now apply his mind to the Third Reading of this Bill.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I am obliged to you for that Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Of course, the House will appreciate that the last few observations that I have made were no part of the speech which I intended to address to hon. Members but were provoked solely by the intervention of the hon. Gentleman opposite. Though, as you know, Sir, I am always anxious to save the time of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—always anxious to save the time of the House—I cannot guarantee that if I am interrupted I shall not reply to any interruption which you, Sir, find to be in Order. After all, I am, perhaps, like the wicked animal in the French proverb, and when I am attacked I defend myself.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

There are other occasions on which we shall all be interested in the hon. Gentleman's literary recollections. On this occasion I must ask him at once to revert to the Third Reading of the Bill.

Mr. Walker-Smith

Before I was interrupted by the hon. Member for Wigan (Mr. R. Williams) I was dealing in broad outline with the position of this Bill and the attitude of the Opposition to it. Having explained the broad outline of what our position is, I think that, with your permission, Sir, I will come to certain specific points in which the Bill is still unsatisfactory. I cannot, of course, at this stage propose any addition to the Bill by way of improvement, and if, therefore, I am thought to be in any respect less constructive than I habitually am, hon. Members will appreciate that it is solely because I am bound by the Rules of Order of the House, and that had I been able at an earlier stage to move the Amendments I had designed to do I should have been able to be a little more constructive.

Now, the points I am about to make are, I am afraid, a little technical, and for that I express regret but it is regret tempered by this consideration, that, after all, this is a technical subject and these are technical matters. [Interruption.] I do not know really whether the hon. Member wants to interrupt—

Mr. Gibson


Mr. Walker-Smith

It is very difficult when hon. Members opposite are muttering and mumbling in their seats—

Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)

Get on with the speech.

Mr. Walker-Smith

The hon. Lady has been here long enough to know that she is out of Order to speak when sitting down in the House. [Interruption.] The Home Secretary is now falling into the same elementary error. I do ask for your Ruling on this point, Sir, whether or not it is in Order for hon. Members opposite to make interruptions from a sedentary position.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

If the hon. Gentleman will be good enough to address his remarks to the Chair I am sure it will be a much better way of dealing with the matter and we shall get on.

Mr. Walker-Smith

With respect, I am so addressing my remarks, but I am consistently sniped from the flank by these irrelevant and sedentary interruptions. I have, by way of preface pointed out to the House that the points I was now about to make were, unfortunately, a little technical. It is a little difficult to make technical points unless one has, at any rate, some measure of freedom from interruption from hon. Members opposite. After all, if they are not interested in this Bill they can always quit the Chamber and leave it to others who are.

The first of those points to which I wish to refer is on Clause 5. Clause 5 (2, a) says that: the term of that lease"— that is, the lease for the purposes of compensation— shall be treated as a term not exceeding the period for which the local authority are authorised to take or retain possession of the land under this Act.… On the face of it, it is very reasonable to fix the length of the lease for compensation purposes at the length of the period of requisition, but in fact the position is this. The length of time for which rental compensation will be paid must be the same as the length of the occupation. From that, of course, there could be no dissenting view, and I should not like any hon. Member to think I meant that that should not be a necessary consequence of the taking of the possession of the land. But the term fixed for the lease not only affects the length of time for which compensation is paid, but also has an effect on the quality and amount of the compensation paid, because the length of the lease also must determine the type of hypothetical lease which is taken for the purpose of compensation.

Now, under the Compensation (Defence) Act, 1939, which is the statute governing the compensation for requisition in general, the view has been formally taken that the length of the lease must be conditioned by the probable period of requisition, and the effect of that in certain cases was that, where ripe land—that is to say land ripe for building development—was requisitioned compensation was not paid on the basis of ripe building land, but was paid simply on the basis of allotment or grazing land because the argument ran thus; the period of requisition is a short period, and one cannot contemplate a building lease as a short one, because in practice it is uneconomic to take a building lease of less than 75 to 99 years.

Therefore, it was always argued by Government Departments and those who act on their behalf that compensation, even in those cases, had to be restricted to the sort of lease which could take effect within a short period, such as five or ten years As a result of a decision taken by the General Claims Tribunal last summer, this hypothesis on which Government Departments have been working for some time has, I think, been decided to be irrelevant, and I trust that it is now discontinued in the minds of valuers in Government Departments. That, by way of prelude and explanation, is the broad general background of the requisitioning position in regard to the effect of the length of lease to be taken on compensation.

Under this Bill it is sought to restore, for the admittedly limited purposes of this Bill—and they are very limited compared with the broad general position with which I have hitherto been dealing—the position as it was previously understood by the valuers of Government Departments. Therefore, it is in terms enacted that the term of the lease shall be treated as a term not exceeding the period for which the local authority are authorised to take or retain possession of the land"; that is to say, for a period of five to ten years at most. The effect of that is not only to confine the period of the payment of compensation to that short period, which is quite right and unargu able, but also to confine the type of lease to the sort of lease for grazing land and to exclude the long-term building lease.

There may not be many cases under this Bill in which a building lease would be the appropriate form of lease, but so long as there are any such cases it is right that they should be catered for. I should not be in Order if I went on to say what should be put into the Bill to meet that position in this limited number of cases, which are none the less worthy of being dealt with. Therefore, I cannot go on—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am going on to some other points. As I was saying, I cannot go on, as I would naturally wish, to put forward constructive proposals in that regard. [Interruption.] The hon. and learned Member for Gloucester (Mr. Turner-Samuels) says "Hear, hear." He really ought not to taunt us with not being constructive in our contributions.

Mr. Turner-Samuels (Gloucester)

It is because the hon. Member is always constructive that I was regretting he is unable to be so now.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I express my regret for having misunderstood the purpose of the hon. and learned Member's interruption. I am glad that he recognises I do try to be constructive in my contributions.

Owing to the limitations imposed on me by the Rules of Order, I shall have to pass to another point, which is also, I am afraid, of a technical character, and that is in regard to Clause 7 Here, again, I express regret if the point I am about to make is a little technical, but these matters are technical, and if one is to make any contribution of value at this stage, it is necessary to go into the technicalities of the subject. Clause 7 deals with the determination of possession for the purpose of development by the owner. May I say, right away, that I have nothing but respect for the purposes and the general principle of this Clause? It is a good Clause in its purposes, and I do not want anything I say to be considered as a criticism of the underlying purpose of the Clause, which is to allow the Minister to determine the period of requisitioning when he is satisfied that the owners are going to carry out development.

There is one rather interesting point arising from this Clause, to which I ventured to make some reference on Second Reading, and which, I hope, was a helpful and constructive, if somewhat technical, point. It got me into some disagreement with the right hon. Gentleman, who did not altogether share my interpretation of the difficulties to which this Clause will expose the owner in making application to the Minister. Looking at the Clause, it will be seen that the Minister, in order to take the action prescribed thereunder, must be satisfied of three things. The first is that the person interested in the land desires to develop the whole or any part of it, the second being that he has got the planning permission under Part III of the Town and Country Planning Act in respect of that development, and the third, which is the important one, that the said person will, upon obtaining possession of the land, proceed without delay to execute any works necessary for the purposes of that development. The effect of that is that the owner cannot get his land released from requisition.

Air-Commodore Harvey

On a point of Order. Nobody on the other side of the House appears to have been listening to this Debate, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, with the exception of the Home Secretary, who has now left the Chamber together with the Minister of Health. Should we not make much better progress if the Front Bench opposite were listening to what my hon. Friend is saying?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is not a point of Order, nor is it any part of my duty to ensure that any hon. Member takes an interest in the proceedings.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I am much obliged to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey). I am addressing my remarks to yourself, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and, through you, to those hon. Members of the House whose minds are sufficiently receptive and informed to be anxious to follow the argument that I am presenting. I am quite content with that position. If the majority of those Members happen to be those who sit on this side of the House, that is not a matter for me either to comment upon or to complain about.

Mr. Royle (Salford, West)

Is it not the case that if the hon. Member could see the look of boredom on the faces of his hon. Friends he would cease what he is saying?

Mr. Walker-Smith

The hon. Member must be a little careful. It may be, as he implies, that some of the countenances of my hon. Friends bear a somewhat strained expression, but that is a de facto observation. He must not go on from that to infer that that expression necessarily means that my hon. Friends are in any way bored with the argument that I am presenting. On the contrary, I suggest to him, through you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the right interpretation is that their faces are perhaps showing the close attention to what, I freely admit, is a complex and difficult subject.

Mr. Beswick (Uxbridge)

Is it not more correct to say, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that the strained expression on the faces of hon. Gentlemen opposite reflects their personal animosity to certain types of people who are connected with a Bill, the discussion of which—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Order. I hope that the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) will now confine his remarks strictly to the contents of the Bill and will not be diverted.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I will at once accept your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but it will be within your recollection that I have at no stage diverted from the Bill, except to deal with points that have been put to me. Being put to me, those points must have been in Order because you have allowed them to be put. If those points were in Order it was not only my right but my duty to deal with them. If no more points are put, I can give an unqualified guarantee that I shall pursue my argument very closely, in relation to what I have to say on the particular Clauses of the Bill.

I was putting before the House what is, unfortunately, a rather technical point. I am concerned at the moment with the regulations which will come under Clause 7, which is the Clause whereby the Minister can determine the requisitioning of premises or sites, if he is satisfied on certain matters. Of the three matters, the last is that the person will, upon obtaining possession of the land in question, proceed without delay to execute works that are necessary for the purpose of the development. That means that the owner can get his land released if he can convince the Minister that, in addition to having planning permission, he will proceed without delay.

This is where the matter becomes a little complicated. In order to proceed without delay, the owner must have got a determination of the development charge under the Town and Country Planning Act. It is illegal for him to embark on that development without such a determination under Section 69 of that Act, but in order to get that determination of the development charge under the Town and Country Planning Act he must have an interest in the land sufficient to carry out the development or to be able to convince the Central Land Board that he is in a position to obtain such an interest. For the convenience of the Attorney-General, that is Section 70 (1) of the Town and Country Planning Act.

In the case contemplated by this clause where the land is under requisition, the owner can only convince the Board that he is able to, get an interest sufficient to enable him to carry out the development if he can show that he is going to regain possession of his requisitioned land, but he can only show that that is the case if he can satisfy the Minister that he will proceed without delay. But he cannot satisfy the Minister that he will proceed without delay until he has got his determination of development charge under the Town and Country Planning Act; and that is where we came in. These two Acts, read together, involve a complete boxing of the compass. They make a circle into which the owner is quite unable to break. If this provision is embodied in the Bill, as it will now be, unless the Minister sees fit to change it in another place, it will when read with the Town and Country Planning Act make a reductio ad absurdum.

I am glad to see the Attorney-General in his place because the Minister of Health was not altogether able to agree with this interpretation of the interrelationship of these two statutes on the Second Reading of the Bill, and I feel that, much as the House respects the views of the Minister of Health, he is not a lawyer, and I am sure that on Third Reading hon. Members would be glad to hear the view of the Attorney-General to see whether he agrees with the interpretation which I have now put forward or that put forward by his right hon. Friend on Second Reading, and if he disagrees with my interpretation, why he does so.

Those are some of the points which are still unsatisfactory in regard to this Bill with whose principle, in the framework which I have previously described, we agree. I have felt it right to draw attention to them, but I should not like it to be thought that the Opposition are not anxious that a properly phrased Bill should be upon the Statute Book at an early date to deal with the difficulties of amenity which arise from war damaged sites which for one reason or another cannot be made the subject of normal long-term developments. Other hon. Members wish to take part, and, therefore, I shall say no more than that we shall not for that reason oppose the Third Reading although we have found points of criticism in it with which to deal. Finally, I would merely remind the Government in general and the right hon. Gentleman in particular that the only satisfactory and long-term solution to these problems of amenity and war damage is to get ahead with positive and desirable permanent development in the interests of the community as a whole.

3.35 p.m.

Colonel Dower

Because my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) has a considerable knowledge of the law and is prepared to give us the benefit of his opinion of this Bill, I do not see why other hon. Members should not be prepared to listen and gain thereby, but I can assure hon. Members that I intend to be brief, very much to the point, and perhaps not very polite.

This is a Bill in which it was quite unnecessary to engender hostility or heat and I am attacking the Minister for having done so. The right hon. Gentleman came down to this House today bombastically, with a thorough determination apparently not to accept one of our Amendments. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I know that you know all these Amendments by heart and I think you will agree that they were not wrecking Amendments. Fully half of them could have been brought within the Bill, and it would have been a better Bill because of them. Both sides of the House would have co-operated, the Minister would have got his Bill through, and the Busi- ness of the day would have been dealt with.

What I do not like about the Bill is that the right hon. Gentleman has, as usual, produced a sledgehammer to crack a peanut—

Squadron-Leader Sir Gifford Fox (Henley)

A groundnut.

Colonel Dower

I do not know why it is we never seem to get away from groundnuts? Why does the Minister do that? He could have achieved the same result if he had paid consideration to our arguments. Why must he ride roughshod over us in order to obtain powers which are not necessary? Time after time in this Bill he has deliberately refused to accept the principle of coming to an agreement with the parties in question. First, he should have come to an agreement with them on taking over their leases. I am sure they would have been the first people to want him to do so.

When it comes to the actual working of this Bill, I still say to the right hon. Gentleman that, if he wants these sites cleared, it is no good leaving it to a bureaucracy. He should get the local inhabitants together, let them make up their work-parties. In that way not only would the sites be cleared much quicker, but much better gardens and amenities would be achieved.

There are three parts of this Bill to which I take strong exception. The first is where the Minister has gone out of his way to say, "We do not want co-operation." The second is where he says, "If necessary, we will seize what we want within 24 hours." The third is something which has nothing to do with the objects of the Bill except that it is in the Bill, namely he has gone right out of his way to deny reasonable compensation. Why the owners, who may be small people, who are having their sites taken should have their costs of work payment forced to be turned into a depreciated value payment I cannot understand.

Had the Minister dealt with the Bill properly there would have been hardly a voice raised in opposition. We would have given him every assistance, the Bill would have gone through quickly, and there would have been no question of a Debate of this nature. But the Minister says, "Oh, no, we must take a party line on this matter." I deeply regret that he did so because, if he had done otherwise, we should all have left here happy in the feeling that we had put a Bill on the Statute Book which was useful and which would have resulted in the removal of rubble from these bombed sites. Not only that but we would have expunged unsightly scars not only from London, but from other cities.

3.40 p.m.

Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)

I, too, intend to be brief, but I should like to put one or two queries which, I should think, would be in the minds of most hon. Gentlemen opposite if they had the courage to express their views or to take any part in the Debate. It is always the trouble with large majorities that their enthusiasm and intelligence are crushed and their oratory suppressed—[Interruption.] Yes, that is so. I am taking it upon myself, therefore—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman kindly address his remarks to the Chair and to the Third Reading of the Bill?

Sir T. Moore

I was explaining to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, why I was taking part in the Debate; that I was trying to assume part of the burden which has been shirked by the supporters of the Government, in order to elucidate one or two explanations which have hitherto not been given in regard to the Bill.

As you know, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and as the House realises, we are accustomed to Measures being rushed through this House without at the time any indication of when they will become effective. We have had the passing of the National Health Service Act before the clinics were built or the nurses available.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker indicated dissent.

Sir T. Moore

I notice you are shaking your head, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but one has to illustrate one's main arguments.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon and gallant Gentleman will forgive me, but what appears to be his main argument does not refer to the contents of the Bill and is out of Order.

Sir T. Moore

I am coming to the contents of the Bill, but I thought it would illustrate my point to the House better if I were to give a few examples in order, so to speak, to rub in my points. I was also going to mention, before you interrupted me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker the question of the Criminal Justice Act.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. and gallant Member is compelling me to interrupt him because he is not obeying the Orders of the House. I hope he will not refer to any of those other Measures. The simple question is, the contents of this Bill.

Lieut.-Commander Braithwaite

Is my hon. and gallant Friend out of Order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, on Third Reading, in giving his views as to how the Measure is liable to operate when on the Statute Book and in giving examples of similar Measures?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I do not think so, but that was not the burden of the argument of the hon. and gallant Member.

Sir T. Moore

I was coming to my argument. We all know that the remand centres have not been built, so I shall not dwell on that, and that the various hostels and so on to be built under the Criminal Justice Act cannot come into operation for years to come.

When is this Bill going to operate? We have been waiting now for five years. We have seen these great sinister aggravating gaps, destructive of all amenity, in our streets and countryside, and at last the Bill is introduced. But with our previous experience—that is why I had to use my illustrations—what indication or proof have we that the Bill will be put into operation before, say, even the 1951 Exhibition? That is an occasion on which we seek to attract visitors from all over the world. Surely, we want to present to them a country that is worth seeing, with our villages, countryside, and great cities as examples of British ingenuity, capacity and workmanship, but we are not likely to be able to do so unless the Minister can say that the Bill will he given immediate implementation. From the examples I have quoted, I can see no indication that there is any intention by the right hon. Gentleman to put this Measure into effect within a reasonable time.

This Bill applies to Scotland, as we all know. It says so. On many occa- sions I have had to complain in regard to Bills published in this House about their phraseology and about the redundant use of words. I have never blamed those responsible for printing or drafting a Bill, but I have blamed Members of the Government for rushing their unfortunate officials at such a pace that they cannot give effect to what possibly is in the minds of Ministers—goodness only knows, I do not know. In reading this Fill through, and knowing that I can only speak on what is in the Bill and not on what should be in the Bill, I come to the definitions in Clause 15. These are definitions as applied to Scotland. What do we get in page 10, line 15? I want to call attention very seriously to the definition of "church," as applied to England and the definition as applied to Scotland. In the English interpretation it is perfectly reasonable. It says church' means a place of worship … Everyone understands what that means, but the Scottish definition says: 'church' means a church … I ask where is the intelligence in placing a definition of that kind on the Statute Book? Sometimes I give up this Government in complete despair.

Mr. Turner-Samuels

Does it not say that a church means a kirk?

Sir T. Moore

The Bill might have given some better indication of what "church" meant, but it says 'church' means a church … [HON. MEMBERS: "Read on."] I do not need to read on. I am merely stating the first line in the definition and comparing it with the definition in the English section, which says 'church' means a place of worship … That is intelligible and everyone understands it.

I do not intend to detain the House much longer, but I thought it my duty to point out these obvious defects which, apparently, have not yet come to the attention of the Minister responsible for the Bill. I should have thought he would know the Bill through and through having studied it by midnight oil for months before it came to this House. No doubt there will he other opportunities to correct this Bill in another place and no doubt it will be dealt with there with the intelligence that we expect from another place.

3.48 p.m.

Commander Galbraith

I am certain the whole House enjoyed and appreciated the very eloquent, informative and interesting speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith). I am certain most hon. Members were grateful for the explanation he gave, out of a great knowledge acquired from a deep study, of what he himself told us was a most intricate and technical subject.

It has been observed that this Bill has really no political implications whatever and that there is no need for any heat to be generated on the subject. I rather regretted that at an earlier stage today that appeared to have been forgotten. A great deal of interest has been aroused in this Bill, which has shown itself in a fairly long Debate today. I anticipated, for instance, that we might have been able to finish with this Bill round about One o'clock, but the interest has been so great that now, within a few minutes of Four o'clock, we are still discussing the Third Reading.

Reference has been made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Sir T. Moore) to the fact that this Bill applies to Scotland as well as to England. I had hoped that in those circumstances we might have had with us today some representative of the Scottish Office. Had that been so, I am quite certain that some of my hon. Friends who represent Scottish constituencies, apart from those who are present, would have put to the Scottish Minister some very interesting points for elucidation. But as the Scottish Office has not been represented we have been unable to have those points put before a Scottish Minister.

There is one matter on which I should like some further information. We have been told during the debates on the Bill, and it is perfectly obvious, that the cost of the clearing of these sites or of improving their amenities will in certain circumstances be very great. It was pointed out at an earlier stage that it was very doubtful whether in the circumstances and in view of the cost local authorities would be able to proceed under the powers which the Bill gives them. The right hon. Gentleman told us he was satisfied with the powers which he had under the 1933 Act, and that he would be able to help the local authorities in view of those powers. I trust that that may be so, because I am almost certain that help of some kind will have to be given if the Bill is to succeed in its purpose.

There was one other matter to which the right hon. Gentleman referred a few moments ago, that is the powers of deterrent. He said during the Committee stage that he would add these powers at a later stage. I thought he would do so during the Report stage but as that stage followed at once, I would ask him whether he intends to obtain those powers while the Bill is in another place by having them inserted in this Measure there?

The Bill is for a purpose with which every Member of this House must be in agreement. We all want to see these war damaged sites cleared up, made presentable and respectable and put in order. But we should like that to be done under certain conditions and it is in respect of those conditions that there is not full agreement between us. Take, for example, Clause 1, which gives only two alternatives, and it is a pity that they are alternatives. There can either be agreement or compulsion; it is one or the other. The right hon. Gentleman has told us that that in fact will not he so; that he will see that agreement comes first. That is not provided in the Bill, however, and we are sorry about it. We would much rather have seen it provided in the Measure but the Bill as it stands leaves no option. It must be one or the other, not one first with the other to follow if it is impossible to get agreement.

Again, Clause 3 of the Bill lays down a completely new procedure which many of us think is unfortunate. It means that lawyers and other people will have to make an intricate study of this new procedure when there is already one in existence which could be followed, and which is well understood and well recognised. But there it is, that is what is in the Bill and we cannot at this stage do anything about the matter.

The other point I would criticise most strongly related to Clause 4. It is a matter to which I drew attention at an earlier stage. I do not believe that the matter of amenity is impressed strongly enough on local authorities in that Clause, and I wish that that could be altered. The Attorney-General is with us at this stage—

Sir T. Moore

He has been with us all day.

Commander Galbraith

He has been with us from time to time during the day and we are grateful and happy to see him here. I am not being funny in saying that: it is perfectly well meant. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has been engaged on a great mission in the United States and we are glad to see him back again. I mean that genuinely and there is nothing funny about it. Today he was in the House when there was a discussion on the subject of the War Damage Commission, and what happened under a Clause of the War Damage Act, 1943, and a Clause of this Bill. The Minister of Health endeavoured to give a legal interpretation of the difference between the Clause in the War Damage Act and Clause 11 of this Bill which few of us could understand. Indeed my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford was in great difficulty, and heaven knows, if he is in difficulty others of us must have been floundering very badly indeed. I did wish that the right hon. and learned Gentleman had been able to intervene and make this matter abundantly clear to us. But that cannot be helped now. The matter is in the Bill and there it will have to stay.

Everyone of us wishes this Bill well We doubt whether its machinery will be sufficient for the purpose. We doubt whether funds can be found to carry out what we all wish to do. But in spite of our doubts, we have hope, and our hope is that the Bill will be sufficient for the purpose for which we are passing it. Therefore, without any second thoughts we on this side of the House pass it on its way with our best wishes, and in the hope that, having been given an unopposed Third Reading, it may indeed bring those benefits to our bombed cities and war damaged sites which we all wish it to bring to them.

Question put, and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed