HC Deb 24 July 1950 vol 478 cc153-75

9.47 p.m.

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

I beg to move, That the Town and Country Planning (Development Charge Exemptions) Regulations, 1950, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th July, be approved. We have before us tonight new Regulations relating to development charge which I undertook to bring before the House when we were debating these matters on 13th June. I will make a few observations. I do not think that at this stage the House will wish to hear a very lengthy exposition, but I will make a few observations on the principal points in the Regulations, indicating how they link with the undertakings which I gave on 13th June.

I should like to make it quite clear that these Town and Country Planning (Development Charge Exemptions) Regulations do not in any respect affect the need to get planning permission. We have eased up on planning permission on a previous occasion. On this occasion no question of affecting planning permission is involved here at all. What is provided in these Regulations is that if planning permission is obtained in respect of any of these changes of use, then there will be no development charge. In other words, the Regulations apply directly to development charge exemptions and have no relation to planning permission.

The three principal exemptions are those which I forecast in the Debate on 13th June. The first relates to the enlargement of a dwelling-house; the second to the so-called lateral conversions of dwelling-houses; and the third to small shops created within dwelling-houses. The particulars are found in the Schedule; the detail is all in the Schedule, and the references I shall give are to the paragraphs of the Schedule.

Paragraph 1 deals with the enlargement of dwelling-houses, and it increases the amount by which a dwelling-house may be enlarged without payment of development charge from 10 per cent. of the cubic content or 1,750 cubic feet, whichever is the greater, to 10 per cent. or 7,500 cubic feet, whichever is the greater. This will, of course, bring a large number of extensions within the field of exemptions which were not within it before, and generally will cover, broadly speaking, additions of three or four ordinary sized rooms to a dwelling-house.

The exemption will therefore cover all ordinary additions to dwelling-houses of modern size. The word "enlargement" here includes the erection of detached buildings; it need not be the same building; there may be detached buildings within the curtilage—as the lawyers say—a detached garage or any other detached building, provided it is within the maximum of 10 per cent. of the cubic footage of the house before enlargement or 7,500 cubic feet, whichever is the greater.

Paragraph 2 of the Schedule deals with lateral conversion, and provides that lateral conversion into flats of two or three, but not more than three, contiguous or adjacent houses will be exempted from development charge. This is confined, of course, to houses existing at the appointed day, but I think that has always been clearly understood.

The third case, dealt with in paragraph 3 (1), deals with shops and houses, We have been able to put that in rather simpler form than I thought would be necessary when I was referring to the matter on 13th June. We are simply providing that if a man wishes to use as a shop a part of the house in which he is living, he may do so without development charge, provided he gets planning permission, and provided the area so used does not exceed 200 square feet. I had thought that it might be necessary to have a more complicated formula involving the rateable value, but my advisers have advised me—I think wisely—that we should keep this as simple as we can. We will only have the criterion of 200 square feet as the amount of the house to be used as a shop, and the man must continue to live in the house; it is not intended that this should be a "lock-up" shop; it must genuinely be a part of the man's own dwelling-house which the man himself uses as a shop. A small post office would for this purpose count as a shop, which will meet the difficulty we have sometimes had with regard to post offices in rural districts.

Those are the three principal exemptions which I forecast and promised in Debate on 13th June, but we have also embodied in these regulations one or two other exemptions which I hope and believe the House will generally welcome. For example, paragraph 3 (2) deals with what is sometimes called the "white elephant" house; that is to say, a house which is no longer convenient for its original residential use, and which is to be used for some social or institutional purpose—very often for a charity of some kind, a children's home, a nursing home, a crêche, a social centre, or any institutional or social use of that kind. In such a case also no development charge will be imposed, provided planning permission is obtained.

Paragraph 3 (3) is also, I think, a useful minor alleviation. It exempts changes between a shop and an office in either direction; no development charge is payable there. Paragraph 3 (5) enables changes to be made without incurring any development charge between any of the special industrial use classes.

I understand that it will not be in order to discuss the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order tonight. It has been laid and is available to Members. Under the provisions of Section 12 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, this type of Order requires neither a negative nor an affirmative Resolution, but if it were seriously objected to in any section of the House there would be other means of bringing the matter forward and putting the Minister upon his defence with regard to it. I am advised—and you will correct me if I am wrong, Mr. Speaker—that since this Order requires neither an affirmative nor negative Resolution, it is not in order to discuss it tonight. It is referred to in the Regulations. I think I have already explained that it makes certain changes enabling a greater facility of movement of use, and in future these changes of use will not be liable to a development charge.

Mr. Molson (The High Peak)

May I ask for your guidance, Mr. Speaker? The right hon. Gentleman is now explaining the uses to which premises may be put without becoming subject to development charge, and exactly what these uses are is dealt with in Statutory Instrument No. 1131. I suggest that it obviously is not easy for us entirely to understand the exact effect of the Regulations which the House is considering at the present moment, if the Minister is precluded from explaining what are the uses which are dealt with in this other Order. Speaking for myself, it certainly would be helpful if that particular matter could be dealt with. I ask for your Ruling upon this matter as to whether, in order to understand what the House is now being asked to approve, we might not have the matter explained to us, even though that does deal with another Order which, under the provisions of the Act, has to be prayed against and does not require the affirmative consent of the House.

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid that I cannot accept the proposition which the hon. Member has put forward. My advice was asked on the classes which have been referred to, and I indicated quite clearly that we cannot discuss what is already in the Order and therefore has been passed by the House and has nothing, except by way of definition, to do with these Regulations. We cannot go back and discuss what is in an Order which has been passed by the House. These are really definitions and nothing else, and if the hon. Member cannot understand what is referred to, he must refer back to the previous Order which will give him the information he requires.

Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)

Further to that point of order. I quite realise that it is not open to the House under the Rules of Order to discuss the contents of the various classes in the Order. What I do submit, Mr. Speaker, is that it is competent for us to ask the Minister to explain why, in respect of certain classes and certain classes only, the change from one class to another does not carry any development charge. I am not querying the content of the individual classes, but the effect of the Regulations which we are now discussing is to say that the change of use from one class to another, and not to all, is permitted without a development charge. I suggest that it is in order for us to ask the Minister to explain why he selected certain classes and not others for this particular privilege.

Mr. Speaker

I think not; I think that would be wrong. The question which the right hon. Gentleman would be asking is: why is something omitted from the Order?

Mr. Hudson


Mr. Speaker

Surely, if the right hon. Gentleman asks for an explanation of what this means, and, therefore, why is not something else in the Order, that would be incorrect?

Mr. Hudson

No, I am asking why he has selected these classes in particular. It must be in order to ask why he selected certain classes for this privilege, even if we do not go on to ask him why he selected certain others. There must be some reason.

Mr. Speaker

I am a little nervous in these Debates lest we should range widely over the whole subject. If it is limited to that subject and to nothing else, then I should be prepared to admit it.

Mr. Dalton

I am entirely in your hands, Mr. Speaker. We will all, I am sure, accept your guidance. The view which I put was a view on which I had received learned advice. I should, of course, be perfectly prepared to answer questions and to expound, within limits, if desired so to do, but I was advised that it would not be in order tonight, although it would be perfectly in order to do so on another occasion in another form. This Order which has been made available to Members does not require, either tonight or at any other time, affirmative or negative approval, because under Section 12 of the 1947 Act, which was assented to at the time—there was no Debate on the procedure—the matter is not debatable on this occasion.

Mr. Speaker

My impression was that the right hon. Gentleman was asking why these particular classes had been selected.

Mr. Hudson

No, Sir, I am not query-the definition of these various classes. If you will look at the Town and Country Planning Order, Mr. Speaker, you will see that it consists of a schedule of various classes, and that inside each schedule there is a special industrial group A, a special industrial group B, and a special industrial group C. Before these Regulations we are now discussing were brought in, it was, as I understand it, impossible to change the use of a building in special industrial group A to use in special industrial group C without incurring a development charge. We are now saying that in certain cases, that use can be changed without a development charge, but only in certain cases.

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman is surely out of order. He is talking about another Order which has been passed by the House. We can talk about the present Regulations only, and nothing else.

Mr. Hudson

With respect, I could not agree more, but if you will be kind enough, Mr. Speaker, to look at the Regulations we are now discussing, you will see that they empower an owner of a building in one class, to alter the use of that building into another class without a development charge. What I am suggesting is that we should ask the Minister to explain why he has come to that conclusion. I am not querying at all the contents of the Order.

Mr. Speaker

I consider that to be outside the scope of these Regulations.

Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)

Is not the position this: that the Order groups together certain uses, and that it would not be in order, for the reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman, to discuss that grouping, whereas the Regulations we are now discussing prescribe that it is possible to have a change between certain of these classes without attracting a development charge, and that therefore it would be in order to debate whether or not that interchange is rightly stated in the Regulations?

Mr. Speaker

I am afraid I must rule that we must stick to these Regulations and nothing else.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I have given my Ruling, and I am not prepared to hear any further arguments.

Mr. Dalton

I accept, as we all do, your Ruling, Mr. Speaker, and I shall not therefore make further reference to the Order. I was enumerating the various points in the Regulations, dealing first of all with the three concessions I indicated would be made on 13th June. I was speaking of what is called the "white elephant" concession, and then the changes between shop and office.

There are one or two further provisions in the Regulations I ought to mention. These are exemptions which have been promised from time to time since the 1948 Regulations were made. The first of these relates to conversions under the Housing Act, 1949, when public money, financial assistance, is provided under Part II of that Act for the improvement of house property. Where conversions and improvements of this kind are carried out with financial assistance under Part II of the Act in future no development charge will be levied. This carries out an undertaking given by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health on 30th May, 1949, and is in paragraph 5 of the Schedule to the Regulations.

I would draw attention to the provisions, which I hope will be helpful, in certain coastal areas and which are in paragraph 21, regarding sea or river defence works. In the 1948 Regulations the exemption for this class of work was confined to work carried out by local authorities and statutory undertakings. When the Coast Protection Bill of 1949 was going through the House, the undertaking was given that the exemption should be extended to works carried out by any developer, private person as well as public authority. If they carry out any sea or river defence work solely for the purpose of defence against erosion by the sea, or by the flow of a river, that also will be exempted from development charge.

Those are the principal provisions. I have little doubt that, so far as they go, they will be welcome. They are an illustration of the effort which, as I have told the House before, I am making at the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, in view of the fact that legislation for the moment does not seem to be likely to be practicable, to do what we can to ease the burden of development charge upon certain sections of the community by administrative action. As I told the House when we spoke of this before I have received a valuable report on the subject from Sir Thomas Phillips, Chairman of the Central Land Board, and his colleagues. I am also indebted to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors for the valuable report they have made on the subject. Certain proposals embodied in these Regulations are due to the suggestions made by the Surveyors.

I hope therefore that the House will approve these Regulations which at any rate move a certain distance within a rather complicated field in the direction of relieving from development charge a large number of developments which in our view should not be so burdened.

10.8 p.m.

Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)

A short time ago the right hon. Gentleman described his intentions which he has now embodied in the Regulations which are before the House as, "a small experiment in freedom." All I can say is that it is very small. We take the view that the bulk of the restrictions he has removed are restrictions which should never have been imposed.

One of the great objects of this Town and Country Planning Bill, and the Regulations made under it, was to try to secure sound planning, and at the same time to accumulate from the persons who benefited by development contributions towards the £300 million which was earmarked for paying compensation to persons who suffered hardship through deprivation of development to which otherwise they might have been entitled.

I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman made reference to the very valuable report of the Chartered Surveyors' Institution, and I congratulate him upon having taken some of it to heart. Surely one of the objects of his Department ought to be to make the whole of this matter as simple and as economical in manpower as possible. I am not blaming him personally, but there is no doubt that the action of his predecessor in imposing the original Regulations was directly contrary to that principle. A great deal of trouble and expense was involved in trying to settle development charges which were really de minimis. I am glad to welcome the steps which the right hon. Gentleman is taking in the Regulations to diminish this burden. The report to which he referred goes a very great deal further than he has gone. It would be out of order for me to state in detail where he has not carried out a particular suggestion.

Mr. Dalton

A lot of it would involve legislation.

Mr. Hudson

Some of it undoubtedly would, but a great deal could be done by administrative action. We hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be encouraged by his success in this very small experiment to continue the good work and to simplify matters still further. I am certain that every hon. Member would agree that the emergency facing us today is bound to impose a heavy burden on the taxpayer and on manpower. That imposes the duty on the Government to do everything they can to simplify the administration of this kind of Measure.

It is notable that a house which the right hon. Gentleman described as a "white elephant" is only to be allowed to be used for an asylum or a child nursery. We would like to know why the right hon. Gentleman picked on those two and why he did not do the obvious and logical thing of enabling such a house to be used to increase the inadequate housing facilities of the country by being used as a guest house or hostel. We welcome the raising of the limit from £1,750 to £7,500 for lateral conversion into flats or conversion of adjacent houses. We are glad that the Minister is carrying out the pledge given by the Minister of Health during the passage of the Housing Bill, when a proposal was put forward by this side and was withdrawn, in view of the promise by the Minister that the present right hon. Gentleman would insert the necessary provisions in these Regulations.

We are very grateful for that, but we believe that the suggestions in the memorandum on town and country planning which was put forward by the Surveyors' Institution can be carried out without legislation. The original idea which was present—and, I think, accepted—in the minds of all hon. Gentlemen when the Town and Country Planning Bill was going through the House was that the development charge should not be 100 per cent. but something nearer 80, and we still believe that that change can be made without legislation because the change from 80 to 100 per cent. was made by the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor as an administrative act.

As far as the changes from one class of use to another are concerned, all we can say is that, in the absence of any explanation why the right hon. Gentleman has confined these changes to certain classes, we cannot understand the principles that guided him. I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, that he has not been allowed to give an explanation to the House as to why, for example, he included classes XIII, XIV, XV, XVI and XVII in paragraph 3 (2), but I suppose that we have to be thankful for small mercies.

If hon. Members will look at the Order we are discussing they will be very interested to see that, unlike the past, anyone who was engaged in the distilling, refining or blending of oils—to take one example at random—will be entitled in future to change his business or his building and become a breeder of maggots from putrescible animal matter. No doubt, he will be able to do that for the first time without having to pay a development charge.

That is a very small experiment in freedom. The right hon. Gentleman has, I gather, been responsible in the Labour Party for a large number of official documents. There was one recently, a duncoloured document about which there was a certain amount of difficulty—

Mr. Dalton

Has the right hon. Gentleman read it?

Mr. Hudson

Yes, I have read it There was an earlier one called "Let us Face the Future." I offer, free, a title for the next document which the right hon. Gentleman issues—"Set the maggots free."

10.19 p.m.

Mrs. Middleton (Plymouth, Sutton)

While I welcome very cordially the exemption from development charge outlined in the Order, I should like to put one point of elucidation to my right hon. Friend. Paragraph 2 states that buildings in category (c) can be exempted from development charge Other than a building which sustains war damage in respect of which the War Damage Commission have determined that the war damage involved total loss and that a value payment is appropriate. Will my right hon. Friend make clear why that category of buildings has been exempted, and why it has not been decided also to exempt buildings rebuilt under War Damage Commission cost of works awards? That is the only point I want to raise and, as it will affect my constituency, I would like some more information on it.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

Yes, but it would be out of order.

10.20 p.m.

Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)

It is a gratifying if rather infrequent occupation to congratulate a member of the present administration upon his actions, but I would like to join my right hon. Friend in congratulating, not wholly unreservedly but in the main, the right hon. Gentleman on the Order we are discussing this evening. I can congratulate him dually both on the question of its form and of its substance. On the question of its form, the Minister of Town and Country Planning and his predecessor have adopted the helpful practice, when extensive amendments are made of these complicated regulations, of revoking the previous Regulation and modifying all the matter in one comprehensive document. That practice has been followed in this case.

I have one criticism to make in the matter of form; or, at any rate, if it is not a criticism, it is a query which I hope will be dealt with. A good deal of what appears in the present Regulations appeared also in the previous Regulations of 1948 but, for some reason, the Order in which this common matter appears is varied considerably in the present Regulations. It may be that the Minister will be able to say that it follows some logical pattern. If it does so I have been unable to discern it. If there is no logical pattern, the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that it is much more convenient to preserve the general order of the present Regulations; otherwise, just when people have become accustomed to the order of one set of Regulations, they have to get accustomed to quite a different order in the superseding set.

The main substance of this Order is welcome, but some of the concessions have been given with rather a niggardly hand. In my view, when a concession is made on a point of principle it ought to be made generously. I will illustrate that by drawing attention to two of the matters to which the Minister has already referred; that is to say, the matter which appears in paragraph 2 of the Schedule and the one which appears in paragraph 3 (1).

The concession made in regard to the conversion of flats is restricted to the conversion of three adjacent buildings. Why should it be so restricted? This is not a matter of planning control. It is still necessary to get a planning permission to effect this kind of conversion. This is merely a financial matter of paying development charge in respect of development which, because it has a planning permission, is presumably desirable development. It may be that the normal figure would be three, but there must obviously be cases where it is desirable to convert more than three adjacent terrace houses into flats.

Would the Minister say why it has been found necessary to confine this concession to the conversion of three adjacent houses only into flats? In my view, it is inhibiting the chances of the best development and therefore of the best town planning, to put an economic sanction on some forms of conversion into flats but not on others and to draw an arbitrary and inflexible line of demarkation between the two.

The other point raises a similar principle: that is to say, the change of use for a part of a house into a shop is only exempt from development charge if the part to be used as a shop does not exceed 200 square feet. Again, why that arbitrary and inflexible figure? In some cases, clearly it may be desirable to use a little more, just as in some cases it would be desirable to use rather less, than 200 square feet. I would say in passing that 200 square feet is not a very large superficial area for carrying on a shop.

My right hon. Friend referred to some of the rather surprising consequences of the Order in giving exemption from the development charge in respect of inter-changeability between use classes, and he specified as an example the fact that it is now possible for a distiller and, I think, a breeder of maggots to interchange without the payment of development charge. It is difficult to see what is the bond between them. Whereas the breeding of maggots, I should have thought, is an offensive trade, distilling is probably part of our trade offensive in the getting of dollars, but I cannot think that that is the only reason which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind.

Another rather curious example comes in paragraph 3 (3) of the Schedule, which permits the interchange of use between an office and a tripe shop without payment of a development charge. The right hon. Gentleman has a good deal more experience of office than most of us, and it may be that he has reasons buried deep in his own experience for including such an interchange of use. These are surprising provisions, albeit they are at any rate welcome as concessions, although, perhaps, concessions that may not have very frequent practical effect.

I should like to deal with three very short points of detail with which I hope the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary will deal when replying. The first relates to paragraph 2 of the Schedule, to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. What is the intention regarding a house which was vacant on the appointed day but of which the last use was residential? It should be covered, I think, by the Order, but is not in fact covered by the present words. The second point arises from paragraph 10 (3). It is a very small point, but I raise it because, although this is an Order which on the whole expands the right to development free of charge, this subparagraph relates to: The erection or construction and the maintenance, improvement or other alteration of roadside milk churn stands. In a comparison with the wording of the previous regulations which are now revoked, the words therein used were: whether on land used for the purpose of agriculture or not. Would the Minister explain why it has been found necessary to narrow down that definition in the present Order?

The third and last point is one to which the Minister referred, regarding the use of part of a house as a shop. The right hon. Gentleman made it clear that in his view it was necessary for the man living in the house to be the same man as is carrying on the shop. That is not entirely clear from the wording of the Order, and it may be that a court would put a different interpretation on the wording than is the Minister's intention. Is the Minister convinced that the view he has expressed is the more desirable of the two? There may well be circumstances when a man either wishes to discontinue the running of the little shop or wishes to live elsewhere, and there might be occasions on which what has started as a joint undertaking, residentially and as a shop, should be split. I would be glad if the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister would deal with that point as well. Subject to these matters, in my view this is a welcome Order and goes, at any rate, some degree towards giving a desirable relief in the matter of development charge.

10.31 p.m.

Mr. Rhys Davies (Westhoughton)

Like every other preceding speaker, I also welcome these Regulations. I hope my right hon. Friend will not stop here. I have never been shocked more than in connection with the administration of the Town and Country Planning Act, and I know three ordinary working-class people who were shocked by what happened in connection with development charge. Would my right hon. Friend be good enough to look again into the administration of this Act. I am not blaming him, because he is not responsible for that. I was in the House when the Bill was passed, but if I had my time over again, I would not vote for development charge in any Bill.

10.32 p.m.

Mr. Molson (The High Peak)

Like everyone else who has spoken tonight, I would like to express my appreciation of what the right hon. Gentleman has done in trying to simplify the administration of this Act. I think he has done very well in bringing these Regulations before the House tonight. Like the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), I hope he will not weary in well doing and will continue to look for opportunities to simplify what is turning out to be a somewhat onerous act. If I were to suggest two ways in which that could be done, I should no doubt be out of order.

I shall confine myself to asking two questions with regard to the effect of these Regulations. The first is the point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith). Why is it that in the case of the conversion of existing houses into flats, exemption from development charge applies only to houses that were in existence on the appointed date? The right hon. Gentleman suggested that we should know why restriction was maintained and perhaps I ought to know, but I am afraid I do not. It occurs to me that there may well be cases in future where it would appear to be desirable to make into flats for the accommodation of several families a house built since the appointed day, and it is undesirable that that conversion should be penalised by levying a development charge.

My other point is a new one. Am I right in understanding that paragraph 13 of the Schedule for the first time exempts the National Coal Board from development charge in respect of their operations? We discussed this matter fully when the Bill was in Committee and I think it was the decision of the Committee, supported by the House, that the development charge which was to be payable by private industry and private enterprise ought equally to be payable by statutory undertakers and the National Coal Board and all analogous services, if the effect of these Regulations is to exempt the National Coal Board from development charge of this kind, I should like to know what is the reason for that.

Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)

I see the Secretary of State for Scotland is represented here. May I remind the House that under this important Act, Scotland—

Mr. Speaker

We have not got to Scotland yet; we are still discussing England.

Sir W. Darling

I am on safer ground when speaking to the English Regulations now before the House. I was disappointed to learn that in the rebuilding paragraph—and that is the only one to which I wish to refer, one is entitled to rebuild so long as the cubic content of the premises is not exceeded by one-tenth. I ask the Minister representing England and Wales whether he thinks that is a suitable development. I have in mind an hotel which it is desirable should be brought into accordance with modern tourist needs and an extension of one-tenth without a development charge is quite inadequate for that purpose.

There is a growing desire to have a separate bathroom with each room, and if one considers the case of an hotel with 20 bedrooms where there are only four bathrooms, such an extension would invoke a development charge. I therefore ask the Minister, if, as I know he is, he is deeply interested in developing the tourist industry, and considers it is desirable to improve the sanitary conditions of the premises to be used, whether in the interests of developing the tourist industry one-tenth is adequate? I suggest it is inadequate, and I hope that, with other matters he has to consider, he will bear this point in mind.

10.37 p.m.

Mr. Dalton

If I may, by leave of the House, I will reply to some of the questions that have been put. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) asked about the "white elephant," and why we had limited the switches. As a matter of fact if the white elephant house—as we call it and we all understand what it means—is transformed into flats, there is no development charge. If it was previously a residence and is continuing as a residence, there will be no change in use. If it continues to be used as a residence, without conversion to flats, no question of development charge will arise. If it is converted into flats, there will be no development charge payable in that case. The other uses mentioned are mainly charitable and non-profit making, and it seemed right that we should exempt them from a development charge.

On the other hand, if it is going to be transformed into an hotel, that is, and will be, a substantial profit-making business and, therefore, seems to fall into a different category, and a development charge would be chargeable in the event of that particular change.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman: it is an important matter that wants clearing up. Surely the Minister is trying to make a distinction where there is no difference. A "white elephant" house would hardly be used as a home for incurables or an institution with the object of losing money or not making money. Is there any difference between running the show as an institution for the reception of patients and running it as a guest house for the reception of guests.

Mr. Dalton

The guests would pay, and there would be a profit ensuing, but in the other case the matter is handled as part of the local authority's activities and there is no comparable profit. I think that is clear. In many cases not only the local authorities but private charities are taking over the houses, and as a charity is defined—and I am no lawyer and they will correct me if I am wrong—as an undertaking in which no private profit accrues it seemed reasonable in the case of a charity that there should be exemption, but where a private profit did accrue there should not. That is the reason why we have drawn the distinction.

Mr. Molson

I respectfully doubt whether that distinction has been correctly drawn in this case. For example, in the case of a nursing home there might very well be a profit made, whereas in the case of a boarding school, which is excluded, no profit would be made.

Mr. Dalton

We cannot over-complicate these Regulations. We have to take the broad typical cases and, broadly speaking, an hotel—which was the case raised from the other side of the House—makes a profit and in my view that is not a suitable case for exemption from development charge. On the other hand whether the typical case is a charitable use, there would not be a profit and it seemed to me that this should be exempted from development charge.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

If the right hon. Gentleman will look at page 4 of the Order, he will see that one of the classes is the use as a home, etc., a convalescent home or a nursing home. I am sure it is not suggested that either a convalescent home or a nursing home is not run for profit. It does not say a nursing home run by a local authority. Surely the right hon. Gentleman will agree that both institutions are run for profit?

Mr. Speaker

We are now discussing another Order. We cannot discuss two Orders at the same time. The one in which boarding houses, etc., appear is not the Order that we are discussing.

Mr. Hudson

It is a question of whether the "white elephant" case is under one of these classes.

Mr. Molson

With great respect, the point the right hon. Gentleman was making is that a certain criterion had been drawn and in order to see whether it has been correctly drawn, it was necessary to understand exactly what the different classes of user were, and only by referring to the Order to see what is included in these various classes is it possible to see whether the criterion has been correctly drawn.

Mr. Dalton

We cannot over-complicate these Orders and I do not think I shall get the matter better understood, but I shall try once more to put it. Hotels in practically all cases are run for profit. Sometimes they make a large profit and sometimes they make none, but the purpose is to make a profit and there is nothing wrong with that. But a charitable hotel is a contradiction in terms as far as I understand it. On the other hand, many nursing homes are run as part of the Health Service or as charitable activities. As these uses are in many cases charitable, and in many cases public in the sense that they are within the public sector, we have decided to exempt them even though there may be some cases in which a profit may be made. Instead of being criticised for that, I think we ought to be congratulated.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

It is rather important to know whether the right hon. Gentleman was giving the House an accurate description. If he will read again the Order—and after all we have to look at the Order to see how the various classes are defined—he will see that under Class XIV, under which I am suggesting a "white elephant" might well fall there is a nursing home or convalescent home (other than a hospital, home … included in Class XIV). It must therefore be clear that the use under Class XIV is use by a private person, for the most part for profit.

Mr. Dalton

We are again on the Order which you, Mr. Speaker, have ruled cannot today be discussed, and therefore I must ask permission not to discuss that further. I am bowing to the Ruling of the Chair, as I am sure the right hon. Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) will also do.

My hon. Friend the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Mrs. Middleton) asked a question with regard to war-damaged houses. The position here is that war-damaged houses which have attracted value payment are excluded from this particular exemption, because the main effect if they were not included would be to increase the site value of the property.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

On a point of order. We were told that it would not be in order to explain why certain things were not included in these Regulations. We on this side of the House have been very careful to avoid raising such questions. We are dealing here with Regulations and what is in them. I am sorry to insist on this but, after all, a great deal of what hon. Members on this side wished to say was ruled out of order. This is a Third Reading speech, not a Second Reading speech, and reference cannot be made to things which are not in the Regulations.

Mrs. Middleton

Further to that point of order. As I understood Mr. Speaker's Ruling, the point which I raised does not refer to any Order which has been decided by the House on any other occasion, and therefore it does not come within the Ruling which you gave.

Mr. Dalton

There are two documents which have been circulated to hon. Members and which have attracted the interest of hon. Members who have spoken in this Debate. One I call for short "the Regulations"; the other I call for short "the Order." Mr. Speaker has ruled that reference to the Order should not be made. My hon. Friend is not making any reference to the Order; she is referring to the Regulations. Therefore, it is in order for me to reply to her. What she has asked she might equally have been asked if there were no Order.

Mr. R. S. Hudson

Perhaps I have not made myself clear. As I understand it, we are confined very strictly, in discussing the Regulations, to what is in the Regulations. Personally I think that is bad, but it is the rule of the House.

Mr. Speaker

The right hon. Gentleman is correct. As far as complaining that something is not in the Regulations is concerned, that is out of order.

Mr. Dalton

I am glad to be successively excused from answering a series of questions. If they had been in order I would have done my best. As it is ruled that they are not, I must pass on. Perhaps the hon. Lady will have a quiet talk with me. Now I will deal with some of the other queries.

Mr. John Hynd (Sheffield, Attercliffe)

There are other hon. Members who are interested in this. If value payments are included in these Regulations, surely it is permissible to explain why they are included, and the difference between them and other forms of war damage payments.

Mr. Speaker

The Regulations do not deal with war damage as a whole, but merely with one particular point. One cannot discuss the whole matter on these Regulations.

Mr. Dalton

I will "have a go" now at the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson). He asked about the Coal Board and its position in regard to these Regulations. If the hon. Member looks at paragraph 13 he will see that the Coal Board, in this respect, has no privileged position; it is neither over-privileged nor under-privileged. It is in the same position as other industrial firms in this regard.

The hon. Member for The High Peak also raised a matter with regard to conversions. The point he raised was why this conversion is limited to houses in existence on the appointed day. If I understood him aright, he thought that this concession ought to apply to houses built, or completed, after the appointed day. It is assumed that having built his house, or a series of adjacent houses, a man might want to knock holes in the wall and take advantage of the lateral conversion concession. In the first place, I think it is rather soon to consider converting houses built since the appointed day. Further, I think it would be fair to say that any person who has built a house since the appointed day—and not such a large number have been able to do that, but those who have—will have built the house with full knowledge of the Regulations, and this concession should be confined to houses of greater age.

The hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) raised several points, including that of arrangements. He asked why we have changed the order, and said some kindly things about the form in which these, and some earlier Regulations under the Act, had been set out. The answer to that is that the previous Regulations follow the Third Schedule to the Act of 1947; in drafting these new Regulations, it seemed to me, and to those who advise me, that since these cover a much wider field than the Third Schedule caters for, it would be better to begin with exemptions covering ordinary property—and these are the preliminary items in the Schedule—and to put after those, provisions touching upon special kinds of property. That—and I think that the House will agree—seems logical, and that is the reason why the change was made.

The hon. Gentleman also spoke about what, under paragraph 2 of the Schedule, was the position with regard to a vacant house. The answer is that, if the last tenancy was residential, that covers the matter; the vacant house is deemed for this purpose to be used as it was last used before it became vacant.

He also asked a question with regard to the concession to use part of the house as a shop, and whether I thought it wise to make a limitation that the person living in the house must be the person keeping the shop. Here, the answer is that we are primarily seeking to benefit the "small" man living in a house, who wants to use it as a small shop or sub-post office, and it seemed to me that the best way of assisting him would be by a concession of this sort. It is not designed to make a lot of landlord and tenant arrangements whereby one lives in the house, and another comes in and uses part of the place as a shop; that is not the idea.

Mr. Summers (Aylesbury)

Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether the term "shop" as used in this context would refer to a room used as a sub-post office?

Mr. Dalton

Yes, that is one of the cases which we consider most desirable to cover. It is felt that especially in villages it is very hard that development charge should be imposed on such a change, and I have had that point particularly in mind.

The hon. Member for Hertford raised a further point, and that is why we should limit it to three. If one is making the conversion of more than three adjacent terrace houses all as one part of a single operation, then that becomes a major development and it seemed that we could justify development up to three as being minor. I would tell the hon. Gentleman that the original proposal to me was that we should allow only two, but I thought that that was a little restrictive. But to go further than that is a major development, which it is not reasonable to exempt.

Mr. Walker-Smith

Does the Minister contemplate that if a lateral conversion of more houses is carried out, the development charge will be on the whole conversion or only on the excess over the three?

Mr. Dalton

I would rather not give a "snap" answer, but I promise the hon. Gentleman that I will take advice on that point. My guess would be—I must not be bound by this—that it would only relate to the conversion in excess of the three, but I may be wrong. I will take advice and let the hon. Gentleman know. The Lord Advocate tells me I am wrong. Well, we will look further into the matter. I will not take "snap" legal advice any more than I will give "snap" legal answers.

The question was raised, also I think by the hon. Member for Hertford, as to whether 200 square feet was not rather on the small side. It was meant to be rather on the small side. This is meant to benefit the small people in the conditions I have described. It is not intended to facilitate very large-scale conversions of large types of houses. There are some serious planning objections, apart from other considerations. Wherever I had drawn a line, I should be asked why I did not make the ceiling higher. Two hundred square feet is pretty fair. When I introduced the Regulations, I said it is a very simple criterion and much simpler and easier to administer than some of the alternatives I have been considering.

My hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. Rhys Davies), said he was against all development charges. That is a large and debatable matter and he will not want me to seek to deal with that point now.

Mr. Rhys Davies

I think my right hon. Friend will receive a letter from me tomorrow morning written by a constituent of mine, who is an ordinary working man, and who is asked for £500 development charge. How would the right hon. Gentleman like that himself?

Mr. Dalton

It would depend on how much profit I was going to make out of the development. If my hon. Friend has written me a letter, I will give it very careful consideration. If it is as much as £500, a good deal is going on.

Mr. Rhys Davies

Nothing has started "going on" yet.

Mr. Dalton

I will look into that in connection with what my hon. Friend is forwarding to me. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, South (Sir W. Darling), thought that 7,500 cubic feet was rather on the small side. No, I think that is wrong. I think the hon. Gentleman perhaps did not apprehend that there was an alternative ceiling for dwelling-houses of 7,500 cubic feet. He spoke of the 10 per cent. being rather on the small side. Of course, if the 7,500 cubic feet is greater than the 10 per cent., then the 7,500 cubic feet is the governing measure, and I do not think that is too mingy. As a matter of fact, a good deal can be done by making full use of this ceiling. At any rate, we begin by seeking to benefit people of relatively small means, which is the whole idea of these Regulations. I hope that having answered all the questions put to me which you, Sir, have not ruled out of order, we may now have the Regulations.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That the Town and Country Planning (Development Charge Exemptions) Regulations, 1950, a copy of which was laid before this House on 11th July, be approved.