HC Deb 18 July 1960 vol 627 cc31-169

3.31 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Gaitskell (Leeds, South)

It is an interesting historical phenomenon that out of the strains and stresses of war there often emerge the brightest hopes for the peace that is to follow. This has happened twice in our lifetime, and on both occasions the experiences of the war produced profound changes in public opinion, as a result of which there grew and blossomed a mass of proposals for social reforms which would have had little or no chance of survival in the colder and more cautious pre-war Climate.

It may be that the struggle of war produces a stronger sense of nationhood, and so of responsibility to one another. It may be that the hardships and the danger lead us to reject the social injustices and inequalities which were tolerated in peace time. It may be that in war time the community has 'to assert itself if victory is to be won, and that, therefore, the idea that it should do so in peace as well naturally follows. Or it may be simply that State control and initiative, previously derided and feared by many people, justify themselves in war and so win more general recognition as a benevolent influence.

Whatever the explanation may be, the fact of this change of opinion, and the hopes to which it gives rise, is undeniable, and no better illustration is to be found than in town and country planning and the way in which we handled the problem of how to determine the use we make of our land. Even before the war there was, of course, concern about some aspects of this problem. The Barlow Committee was appointed largely because it was realised that the drift, at that time, of the population towards the South and South-East of England was creating tremendous problems not only of social and economic, but also of a military character. There was the realisation then that we could not go on in the old ways, simply leaving it to the lure of profit to decide where industry was to be located.

The Barlow Commission reported in 1940, and one of its recommendations was that the problem of planning could not be solved unless the problems of finance were also tackled and, in particular, the problem of compensation, on the one side, and betterment, on the other. So we had the appointment, during the war, of the Uthwatt Committee and the Scott Committee, then following their Reports, much debate within the Coalition Government, and, later, under the Labour Government, we had the Town and Country Planning Acts, 1947.

It is unnecessary for us to go over the ground of these Reports again, but it is worth recalling the general ideas which were current at that time, and which lay behind all this blossoming of social reforms and new legislation. It was the feeling widely shared that we must somehow, as a community, ensure that our industrial development was balanced and that we did not have certain areas which were derelict with high levels of unemployment while others had a shortage of labour and rapidly developing building and transport problems.

It was the belief that in a modern age we ought to ensure, as a community, the gracious and harmonious development of our cities. It was hoped that, at last, out of the bombing of so many of our cities, there would emerge better architecture and more attractive surroundings, There was hope that we might at long last do something to preserve the loveliness of our countryside, so frequently desecrated in the past by uncontrolled development. There was the hope, too, that the community, at last, would reap the benefit of the increased land values resulting from its own development, and that with the help of the benefit accruing to the community in this way, the cost of compensation, inevitable in any attempt to control development, would be met.

Now, fifteen years later, we must ask ourselves how the reality of today compares with the high hopes of the war years. There are some things to be set on the credit side. However much we may criticise, as indeed we do, the inadequacy of the Government's action in development areas and in bringing employment to Scotland, to North and South Wales, and to the North of England, I would not wish to deny that at least today no Government dare refuse the responsibility for trying to do something about this problem.

Undoubtedly, there have been granted to local authorities quite substantial planning powers, though of a negative kind. Whether they are used adequately or not is another matter, to which I shall return.

Equally, one must certainly record that in a few individual cases municipal post-war development has been admirable. I think that the outstanding example of redevelopment of a city centre since the war is that of Coventry. The council, facing the problem of building on a bombed area, has produced what many of us regard as one of the most architecturally satisfying and harmonious groups of buildings, the Precinct, near the new cathedral.

Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)

And Plymouth.

Mr. Gaitskell

I shall not get into an argument with my hon. Friend about civic centres. I did mention Coventry and I shall not give a general list, but the Plymouth plan is also a fine one.

Equally, one must put on the credit list the establishment of National Parks, with the especially severe control of building which exists within them. Last, but not least, I would put on the credit side the 14 new towns, which have been built since the war. The new towns must be regarded as one of the great achievements of the post-war period. Socially, economically and architecturally they have been an outstanding success.

Having mentioned these items on the credit side, however, I must turn to the other side, where a most depressing picture appears, very different from the hopes of the war and of the early postwar period. First, despite the efforts that have been made to help the areas of heavy local unemployment in Scotland, Wales, and the North of England, the drift to the South of population and labour undoubtedly continues.

For instance, in 1949, the London and South-Eastern and and the Southern regions contained 30 per cent. of the population of Great Britain. By 1959, those three regions had accounted for half the country's total increase in population. The Midlands and the North Midlands regions had only 16 per cent. of the population in 1949, but by 1959 they had accounted for nearly one-quarter of the country's total increase in population. London and the Southern region and the Midlands between them had a net gain of 167,000 insured workers between 1951 and 1958, all at the expense of other regions.

I could go on with quotations of similar figures all showing the same tendency, but I will mention only one special point in this connection. It has been estimated that new office space approved by the L.C.C. between 1948 and 1958 provided employment for nearly 250,000 people in the central area alone, an increase of 25,000 office workers a year. In the first three months of this year, it is interesting to notice, The Times advertised just over 3 million sq. ft. of office space to lot, of which only 400,000 sq ft. was outside the central area. That gives a vivid picture of the magnetic attraction of the great conurbations of the Midlands and the South of England.

Secondly, planning or no planing, there is no denying that the red brick sprawl of these great concentrations of population in the Midlands and the South continues. We have green belts around the cities, but the building continues on the other side stretching further and further into the countryside, a slowly mounting tide which seems never-ending.

Thirdly, an appalling problem of traffic congestion has arisen in our major cities. More people are working in the centres of the large towns and, at the same time, more people are living on the peripheries. More people, going to their offices in the mornings and coming back in the evenings, are trying desperately to find a tolerable means of transport for getting there and back. Public transport is hideously overcrowded in the rush hours and private cars are jammed tight together, bumper to bumper, throughout the city. People spend more and more of their time travelling to work and correspondingly less of their time in leisure pursuits.

Fourthly, the redevelopment of our cities, and the city centres in particular, is not being properly planned and carried out by local councils. It is taking place piecemeal as private developers put up this building or that building, in many cases without serious regard to what a decent, planned development should be.

Indeed, for the most part the councils are helpless to stop this nowadays, because the costs of positive planning, or even of negative planning—the cost of acquisition, on the one side, and the cost of compensation for refusal of planning permission, on the other—are so enormouse that the councils cannot bear them.

Finally, there has been, especially in the last year or two, a sensational and shocking rise in the price of land, as a result of which huge fortunes have been made overnight for landowners and speculators at the expense of local councils and the public generally, who have to buy land at tremendously inflated prices.

I can think of no better way of vividly describing the situation with which we are now confronted than that taken from a leader of the Daily Mail on 21st June this year, which said: A crisis threatens our lovely land. It could be called a Crisis of Property. We all know it. We can all see it. How many people, watching the ever-growing flood of cars and the ever-shrinking space on which to use them, have said: 'A few more years and the whole lot will seize up.' This is but one aspect of the Crisis of Property. Another is the increasing urban migration into the country, the pressure of building space, the appalling rise in land values, the spread of subtopia… What is to be done? The remedy can be summed up in one word: Planning. Too many people, especially Conservatives, regard this as a dirty word and shy away from it. But it is time some real planning was done in Britain… The Government must also tackle the scandal of land prices. 'Betterment value' has become 'Scarcity value'. It is like food profiteering in a besieged town. The rights of property do not extend that far. The time is short. If action is not soon taken we shall be caught in a crowded, noisy, muddled subtopian trap of our own devising. And we shall never get out of it. For all this we hold the Tory Government, by their sins of omission and their sins of commission, entirely responsible. Of course, underlying social forces are at work. We all know that. The population is growing, and growing rather faster than we had assumed. There are fewer persons per house. Families are smaller. People have higher living standards and particularly higher dwelling standards—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Certainly. That is what we all expect. That is what we must provide for. There is a natural desire to own a house and a car, but it is for the Government so to control the influence of those changes that we do not have the muddle, the congestion, the ugliness and the speculation, but that, instead, we realise the high hopes of the war years.

The Government's failure to do this—nobody can deny that the picture I have given of what is happening today is true—can be traced to a doctrinaire dislike of State interference and planning, except in the most negative fashion, combined with determination in one respect only—to give back to private enterprise the right to own and to profit by community development.

What is the Minister's opinion of the situation which has now arisen? Is he satisfied? Does he feel that after his efforts and those of his predecessors we are now having the kind of town and country planning which he expected? Is he satisfied that we are building the kind of country which he wants to see? Does he think that it does not matter that the red brick sprawl goes on and subtopia goes on increasing? Is he satisfied with the colossal rise in land values and the private speculation that goes on? I hope that we shall have a clear explanation of what he feels about all this and whether he thinks that, after all, the legislation is not what it should have been.

If the right hon. Gentleman admits that things have gone wrong, at least that will be some advance, but, from what he has so far said, one cannot be very encouraged. All he has said is that there will be a firm line about the green belts and that they are not to be touched. He has said that we should build higher and that there should be more flats in the cities so as to reduce the pressure of demand for land in that way. However, he has also said that he has no intention of interfering with the so-called free market in land values.

I want to spend some time on the land-price scandal. I hope that the Minister is aware of the scale of this scandal—he should be from the amount of information which has poured out in the Press every day. I could give hundreds of examples, but I begin with a famous speech from the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Sir Basil Spence, who said: Our precious land, so beautiful and so small, has become a casino for the speculators, who are now clamouring to build in the green belts that surround our cities—less, one suspects, because they really want to solve the housing problem, than because there is a fortune to be made if the Minister of Housing and Local Government can be persuaded (and I hope he never will be) to relax his defences. Sir Basil went on: The speculators are cornering the limited supply of building land in town and country and holding the community up to ransom. The money that should be going into better architecture and higher standards is being taken by people who have contributed nothing to the building process. This has grown to the dimensions of a public scandal, and threatens to make good planning and city reconstruction prohibitively expensive. Let me give a few examples out of the many from which one could quote. Mr. Thomson, of the Southern Counties Federation of Building Trades Employers, said: In 1952, a reasonable price for an acre of land for housing development would be £1,500, now builders have to pay £8,000. There was the case of the half acre at Luton, which is said to have been sold for a £¼ million, a plot of land which, according to local surveyors, was bought pre-war for £10,000 to £15,000. There is the case of land bought for school building in Hampshire to which my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) referred earlier this year. In that case the rise in price was from £2,824 to £7,500.s

Another example is to be found in Maidstone. A total of 101 acres were sold for £47,700 on which planning permission for 35 houses had been granted, which meant that the cost of land per house was approximately £1,500.

Then there was the case of Middlesex. The Annual Report of the County Valuer for Middlesex said: The value of land in Middlesex has trebled since the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959. He then proceeded to give a number of examples, one of which I will mention in a moment or two.

There was the case of the estate of 64 acres, at Camberley. In 1958, this was sold for £25,000. In 1960, without any buildings on it, it was sold for £210,000. There was the case at Coventry where an acre of land was sold for £14,250. At Walsall, in Staffordshire, a site of 40 acres, wanted for a training college, would have cost £24,000 before the 1959 Act. It cost £240,000 afterwards.

Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

What a racket.

Mr. Gaitskell

I am told of one case where a quarter acre site of agricultural land, worth £50 in the ordinary way, was sold for £40,000 when permission was given to build a petrol station on it.

I mentioned one special case in Middlesex. In July, 1953, the Middlesex County Council approved the purchase of four acres at Sunbury at a cost of a little over £2,000. The council wanted that land to build a school. The owners were reluctant to sell, and, as the site was not required for early development, compulsory purchase could not be invoked. Negotiations continued, and, in October, 1955, a revised figure of £3,500 was approved, but it was not until the basis of the purchase was changed by the 1959 Act that the vendors were prepared to consider an offer. The county council has now had to pay the full market price of £24,500 for three acres.

This is what is happening—as I think that the Minister will agree—all over the South of England and the Midlands, and to a considerable extent over the country as a whole. I must ask him again: did he really think, when he put through the 1959 Act, that this would happen? Was this in his mind? Did he himself feel that the 1953 Act—which, of course, was the first and, in a sense, the most damaging Act of all—which threw away the compensation and betterment provisions of the Silkin Act, would bring all this about?

I notice that the Financial Memorandum of the Town and Country Planning Bill, 1959, says: In 1957–58 local authorities spent some £33 million on buying land. The additional capital costs due to Part 1 of the Bill in respect of acquisition at this rate may be of the order of £8 million a year. Does the Minister really think that that figure is accurate? Does he think that that is all the 1959 Act will cost local authorities? All I can tell him is that from talking to a number of local councillors and officials of local councils all over the country it has been made plain to me that that is a gross underestimate of the cost to the community of what has been done.

It is our view that this was totally unnecessary. It is our view that private individuals, owners, or speculators, or whatever they may be, need not, and should not, be given free gifts of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman may say that the Ecclesiastical Commission owns the land, or produce examples of trade unions owning land—though I do not think many of them do so—but that does not matter. That is not the point. The point is that the community should have the right to the increase in the value.

A real responsibility for this rests not on the Minister of Housing and Local Government today, but on the Prime Minister who, when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government threw away the compensation and betterment provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act, which, at least, would have ensured that the benefit of these increased values came to the community and put nothing whatever in their place.

The curious thing is that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister himself seemed to be aware of this at the time because, during the passage of the Town and Country Planning Bill, when arguing in favour of retaining the 1947 valuations for acquisition he said: The third reason, and to my mind the overwhelming one, why we should retain the 1947 valuation is that if compensation had to be paid in future on values as they accrued"— which is what has happened— unknown and perhaps heavy claims would fall upon the community. Thus the broad principle of the 1947 settlement—no compensation for values which accrue after 1947—has been generally accepted as fair. The Prime Minister went on: If that were destroyed, new controversies would arise"— he is right there— and the revival of those controversies I feel sure would have been equally injurious to the long-term interests of landowners and those of the general public."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1952; Vol. 508, c. 1117.] That is what the Prime Minister said in 1952, but exactly what he forecast has now happened as a result, in large part, of his own actions.

What is to be done in the face of this situation? Some people say, "It is really a matter of increasing the supply of land", and they consider that the most obvious way of doing that is to increase the supply of land for building purposes by allowing some building on the green belts. We are emphatically and utterly opposed to any such suggestion. I am glad that the Minister has made his position clear on this, but I am bound to ask this. Does he really think that he will be believed? Evidently many people do not believe it, because at the moment land is being bought in the green belts by speculators and prices there are going up pretty fast. They are moving in.

One can hardly be surprised when one considers what this Government and the previous Government have done in the way of putting money into the pockets of private people. One can hardly be surprised if the speculators buying land in the green belts are standing in the queue waiting for their turn. After all, commercial television had it to start with, the steel shareholders then had it, and then the landowners had it. Why keep off the green belts when we have given so much away already?

Even if the Minister stands firm on this I am not sure what his policy is about building on the other side of the green belts. This is what is happening, and it is utterly wrong. The green belts should be the start of the countryside, and not ditches between subtopias. Yet the Minister is doing nothing to stop this. As far as I can understand it from his statement he is not even discouraging anybody from building on the other side of the green belts. The effect is clear enough; it simply means that we have people working in the towns and living on the other side of the green belts, commuting between the two, with all the problems of transport, congestion and the ruin of the countryside of which I was speaking earlier.

What is the nature of the problem that confronts us? In the course of the next ten or fifteen years we shall have very great pressure from the urban areas for more living space and working space, first, for the increased population that will come from those areas, secondly, for the improved accommodation which is necessary following slum clearance, and, thirdly, because of the higher living standards of which I have spoken. So we have in these areas what we call the problem of overspill. How shall we find room for all these people? Originally, the development plans of the various councils allowed for an estimated 2 million people for whom living and working space would have to be found—2 million people who could not be housed and provided with work within those areas. But now there is every reason to think that the figure is substantially higher.

At first sight, this is a formidable task, but we must keep it in perspective. The problem can be exaggerated. It has been estimated that no more than about 600,000 acres of land would be required for this purpose in the next ton or fifteen years, which amounts to about 2½ per cent. of our existing rural land. That is not an impossible figure. We may all regret giving up any more of our countryside for housing, but it is inevitable, and 2½ per cent., in itself, is not a very sensational figure, which should cause us a great deal of concern. The real question is not finding the amount of land, but where the land is to be found and where the building is to take place.

The Minister has also suggested that the solution to the problem lies in building more flats—in building high—in the cities and towns. I do not deny that some relief may be obtained from this. I have no prejudice against flats, and much of the prejudice which used to exist against them is disappearing, but the cost of building high is itself very high. It will certainly cost the Government a good deal in subsidies and, beyond a certain stage, it becomes prohibitive. Secondly, many people do not wish to live in flats. Thirdly, this still leaves a considerable transport problem, unless the flats are built fairly near the places of work.

But my biggest criticism of this solution is not that it is wrong, but that it is totally inadequate. According to my information, with the building of flats in all our largest cities, on the largest conceivable scale, at the very most we should be able to cope with only a fraction of our overspill problem. Perhaps one-fifth of the people concerned would be rehoused.

What is the answer? I believe that it stares us in the face. Surely it is the building of more new towns, well apart from the other urban districts. We have had a great success in the post-war planning of new towns. It is undoubtedly recognised as a matter in which we have a lot of experience. Why do not we do more of it? The Town Development Act, on which the Government have been relying, is not objectionable in principle, but it is not producing the results. It is far too slow and cumbersome. To leave the unfortunate Birmingham Corporation to negotiate on its own to get some of its overspill taken up by 50 or 60 different towns—as it has tried to do—is simply hopeless. We can only feel sorry for the Corporation.

By all means let us keep the Act on the Statute Book. We have no objection to it. But it is not enough; what we need is initiative by the central Government, as we had it before, when the decision to build the earlier new towns was made. The solution to the machinery problem at that time was the right one. The best way of proceeding is to set up new town corporations. We now have people with considerable experience in this matter, whose services could easily be used.

That brings me to another powerful argument in favour of this solution. As the existing new towns develop, and as the corporations' functions are taken over by the New Towns Commission, we shall have a number of people whose services will no longer be required in the towns where they were working. Instead of wasting their experience why should we not employ them in working for the corporations we set up to build new towns?

The second powerful argument in favour of this solution is the fact that even under the right hon. Gentleman's present legislation the land acquired for new towns can be bought at existing use value and not with the development added in. Therefore, we can have an extension of public ownership without vast profits being made by speculators.

Quite apart from this, some action must be taken to deal with the problem of land prices. I admit that it is much more difficult to deal with today than it was a few years ago, and it will certainly be much more expensive to deal with, whatever we do. In essence, if the land remains in private ownership there is the problem of imposing, in some form or other, a tax or charge—call it what you will—on the unearned increment or the capital profit made by the owners of that land as the development takes place, and siphoning off from them and back to the community the profits they make simply as a result of community development.

There are many ways of doing this. We could have a capital gains tax, which, in any case, we believe to be a just and fair tax, generally. But we could not oppose a special arrangement in regard to land. There are certain distinctions to be drawn between the ownership of a site and the ownership of shares. We could introduce a revised development charge. I am disposed to agree that the procedure laid down by the 1947 Act suffers from various weaknesses, but I do not agree that the principle of that Act was wrong. If the Minister prefers it he could have another look at the Uthwatt Report. That also proposed a periodic betterment levy on all privately owned land as its value went up. Again, the profits would be siphoned back for the benefit of the community.

But the Uthwatt Report contained another proposal, which, to my mind, still stands out as one of the most important ever made, namely, that public ownership should be automatic as development became due. It proposed that local authorities—and I do not mind if it is the Government instead, or some other authority—should have the right to purchase land at its use value before development takes place. I make no bones about it; I have always regarded the case for the public ownership of urban land, or land about to be built upon, as exceptionally strong.

If, in all our major cities, one hundred years ago, the municipalities had bought up all the land in a belt of 10 miles around, what an immense revenue they would now be receiving. What an addition the rents would be to local government finances. Why should not they have those? Why should we allow all this to go to private individuals? Certainly they can be compensated at the time, but for the future the community should ge the rise in value.

Mr. Ronald Bell (Buckinghamshire, South)

Will the right hon. Gentleman explain what he means by "existing use value" before development takes place? Does he suggest that there should be two prices for a piece of land which is zoned for building in an existing town plan, but not actually built on at the moment—namely, one price if a private person buys and another price if a public authority buys?

Mr. Gaitskell

I said that all land should be in this category. The simplest answer is to refer the hon. Gentleman to the Uthwatt Report. If the hon. Gentleman has not read it, I suggest that he does so now. That is what I was referring to.

Before I sit dawn I must briefly mention one other problem. There has been a great deal of discussion lately about the problem not only of developing undeveloped land, but of the redevelopment of city centres. Such bodies as the Town and Country Planning Institute and the Civic Trust have taken a great interest in this. It is generally agreed that the present situation as regards the development of city centres is profoundly unsatisfactory. It is unsatisfactory for the simple reason that development takes place piecemeal by private developers. Local authorities' plans are, for this purpose, too general, and, even when they are more specific, with the present negative powers available to them it is impossible to get them carried out.

The lesson, which all these bodies without exception have drawn, is that there should be positive Government planning in some form or other—whether it is local authority or through some other authority is another matter—to ensure a proper, harmonious and, one would hope, beautiful development. It agreed, also, that there must be for this purpose unified ownership of the sites. I cannot see why the Government should not encourage local authorities to buy up the sites in these redevelopment areas. I am sure that unless they do that there is very little chance of getting adequate and proper planning carried out.

We are told that there is a financial problem. We are told, indeed, that that is the reason why local authorities are not able or are unwilling to do this. I am told, for instance, that the Minister frequently refuses them permission to borrow in order to buy the sites. If Mr. Cotton can borrow to buy the sites and make a lot of money out of it, why should not local authorities be able to borrow?

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

Will not my right hon. Friend agree that Mr. Cotton is a special case? No private developer in this country is rich enough to buy a site big enough to do the job properly?

Mr. Gaitskell

I agree. That is true. However, local authorities have an advantage over Mr. Cotton, as my hon. Friend will agree. They are permanent bodies. They can go in for longer-term investment. This is exactly what public authorities should be doing.

I know that it has been suggested in some quarters that, instead of local authorities, some planning corporation should be set up on the lines of the new towns development corporations to do this job. I do not rule that out entirely, and I can see that there may be advantages. It may be thought that these bodies would be more likely to produce better plans, and so on, but I am somewhat prejudiced against them. It is far better that the elected representatives of the people, in their localities, should make the plans and carry them out, and develop in that way a civic pride and interest in a way in which an outside body could not.

I agree, however—I must be frank about this—that we need to ensure from the centre that better advice from architects and planners—not only local ones, either—should be available to councils in carrying out their developments. The various professional institutes can play a very useful part in this.

Another change which I think is necessary is this. If we are to go in for new towns, which it seems to me is essential, and if we are to go in for a policy of dispersal, two things are necessary. First, the whole idea of the Board of Trade simply confining its activities to mopping up a little unemployment in this area or that is not enough. What we need from the Board of Trade is a policy, not only of encouraging employment in development areas but of actively discouraging congestion in already congested areas. In particular, the time has long since come when there should be established control, not only over the location of factories, but also over the location of offices.

The second change which will have to be brought about is that the present machinery for planning must be overhauled. It is doubtful whether the present authorities—county councils and borough councils—will be able to plan the dispersal of property, industry and building over a wide area. The time has come when there must be some regional planning bodies.

It is no use trying to plan separately housing on the one side, employment on another, and roads on another. They must be brought together. They must be treated as a whole. Someone in Whitehall has to be thinking not only of these problems as they affect the various regions, but as they affect the whole nation. I do not go so far as to say that we need an elaborate and carefully worked out national plan, but somebody in the Government should be thinking about the broad picture of our development over the next ten to fifteen years in all these fields.

The subject of this debate is far-reaching and complex, but it is also of immense importance to our whole future as a people. I do not pretend that the solution is easy, but what is absolutely clear is that the Government's policy of leaving it chiefly to private ownership and private development, to be lured on by the prospects of huge profits and subject only to a few negative controls, has failed utterly.

The time has come when planning must no longer be regarded as a dirty word, when the central Government must accept their responsibilities for comprehensive and positive planning—planning of employment, transport and building—and when they must encourage and assist the public ownership of land for development and redevelopment and so make possible harmonious and beautiful cities. Only in this way can we avoid the ugliness, the sprawl and the congestion which again threaten us today. Only in this way can we preserve the natural loveliness of our countryside and provide a worthy heritage for the future.

4.18 p.m.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)

The Government wholly agree about the importance of the subject we are discussing today, but it is fortunate indeed that the party whose one contribution so far to land price questions has been the development charge is not in a position now to impose on the country an equally ill-judged experiment.

Each of the Conservative Measures to wipe out the legacy of development charge—the 1953 Act, the 1954 Act, and the 1959 Act—has been thoroughly approved by public opinion. [Laughter.] Yes, and the 1959 Act, which the right hon. Gentleman attacked was not opposed by him or his party on Second Reading. I had thought that not even the right hon. Gentleman would say, "Let us repeat the dose in which the last Labour Government put faith. Let us restore the development charge". Yet today the right hon. Gentleman actually criticised the Government for getting rid of it.

Mr. Gaitskell

Without putting something in its place.

Mr. Brooke

It was completely discredited as a remedy. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] If hon. Gentlemen say "No", let them say it to the country. Let them go round the country and say, "The Socialist Party stands for restoring the development charge." Let them see what will happen at by-election after by-election.

Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)

I appreciate the force of the Minister's challenge, but may I put a counter-challenge to him? Is he prepared, on behalf of the Conservative Party, to go up and down the country saying not merely that the development charge was bad and unworkable and ought not to be replaced, but that the Government and the Conservative Party should make no effort whatever to retain or preserve for the community the land values created by the community?

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Member knows that his proposition would involve legislation and it is not my doing, but the choice of the Opposition, that we are having this debate on land values on the Vote when questions of future legislation would be out of order.

Mr. Gaitskell

Will the right hon. Gentleman then say why he referred to the reimposition of development charge?

Mr. Brooke

I did so because the right hon. Gentleman did so. I think that he set a very bad example. The truth, of course, is that the Opposition do not know what they really want to offer as an alternative to that discredited remedy. They do not want to commit themselves. [An HON. MEMBER: "What does the right hon. Gentleman offer?"] Members of the Opposition do not want to say "Land nationalisation", because they are afraid of what the electorate would reply.

The right hon. Member sought to persuade the Committee that everything went well in this country from 1945 to 1951 and that everything has gone badly since. He sought to persuade the Committee of that, but, at one election after another, he has singularly failed to persuade the country of it. He asked the Government whether we would consider going back to the old Uthwatt proposals. He wanted public purchase of land suitable for development. So far as I could see, he wanted it at existing use value. That, of course, would mean buying it below the full market price. In other words, he wishes to throw over again the principle of the 1959 Act, which, so far as I know, was generally approved.

I am sure that public ownership, municipalisation, and words like that, are an attempt to make nationalisation of the land more palatable. It would, of course, do nothing at all to bring down land prices, but would simply bring into the market another potential buyer. He would have to define how far the purchase would go, where it would stop, what land is suitable for development and redevelopment. It is not only the land allocated in plans which would have to be bought, but land suitable for development and "white land" not yet allocated.

In other words, it would come nearer and nearer to general nationalisation, but there was no sign in the speeches that the right hon. Member has made on this subject that he has thought out these matters. It would be a colossal financial transaction. I should have thought that a Leader of the Opposition who is a former Chancellor of the Exchequer would have addressed himself to the effect of that on the economy before advocating it as a means of dealing with this very real problem of land values.

If the right hon. Gentleman is taking the view that it is possible for public authorities to borrow unlimited sums to buy up unlimited areas of land, I advise him that before he puts that before the country he should take the measure of the effect on the monetary and economic position of the country. In any case, I doubt whether public opinion would stand for the vast bureaucratic machine that would be needed for all these miles and miles of land suitable for development and redevelopment. Indeed, I am quite sure that we would not now have so prosperous a country, if years ago, a machine like that had been created to get its grip on this land.

Of course, the Committee will have noticed that the Uthwatt solution, which the right hon. Member mentioned, was a solution which the Government of which he was a member rejected in 1947 when they might have adopted it. I do not think that this is the time to go back to Uthwatt. Of course, values rise in places where people would like to go to live. There is nothing strange about that. There is nothing economically unusual about that. One cannot wave away the market forces. Every hon. or right hon. Member opposite who, since the war, has bought a house in London or the Home Counties will find, if he decides to sell it, that he will get a much higher price for it than he paid for it.

The profit that he makes he will call unearned increment and, if he is a loyal Socialist, he will hand that over to the local branch of the Labour Party. Certainly after the speech that we have just heard, it would be entirely immoral for him to keep for himself. The right hon. Member, my constituent, might well like to offer that, as evidence of his Socialism, to the town ward of the Hampstead Labour Party. I expected, when the 1959 Bill was going through, that there might be strong Opposition pressure for some kind of betterment relief. That pressure did not develop, but, in the Second Reading debate on that Bill, I remember pointing out that the theoretical case for a betterment levy—which might be strong—runs up against a whole series of practical questions, to which no one has yet seen practical answers. So, if anyone tries to say that all would have gone well had there been a betterment levy, I simply challenge him with those questions, which are already in HANSARD.

I notice that measures which some people have been advocating to take the profit out of land speculation would do nothing to reduce the price of land. I shall explain. It would have the reverse effect. Any kind of levy on the profits of land sold for development would have its effect in discouraging people from selling, so less land would come on the market. The commonsense remedy for high prices is to try to bring more land on the market, and that is exactly the course which the Government are pursuing.

Mr. S. Silverman

Look at the results.

Mr. Brooke

I shall show the Committee that we are taking this whole matter of high land prices very seriously indeed.

Mr. Harold Davies (Leek) rose

Mr. Brooke

The Leader of the Opposition was allowed to deploy his case without interruption. I am sure that the Committee will show me the same courtesy.

In essence, high land prices are unavoidable in a prosperous country of limited size unless one allows building everywhere. But they cause a great deal of anxiety and difficulty. That makes it all the more important to get down to bedrock and to handle the problem in the right way, not the wrong way.

What we have been doing in the Ministry for a long time is to make constant reviews of future population trends for the whole country and for each region of the country, and also of the prospective numbers of separate households, because that is even more important from the housing point of view than the population figure.

We advise local planning authorities of the latest and best estimates of these and other factors so that they can have all this up-to-date information available to them when they are revising their development plans, or deciding whether the amount of land allocated in their area for housing is too little, too much, or just right. We meet the authorities and discuss with them the implications for their planning of all the detailed information we provide.

Taking England and Wales as a whole, there is ample land allocated for housing purposes in development plans for years ahead. It may not necessarily be in the areas most sought after. It may not all be in the market. Some of it may be owned by people who do not want to see it developed at once; they may want to go on farming it for a time. Or it may have been bought up by builders in advance of their immediate needs. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am sure that the Opposition, in their ignorance, believe that it would help the building industry to live from hand to mouth and never to have any land in reserve, but that really is nonsense. The building industry cannot properly organise its work if it cannot see any land ahead in reserve for its building operations.

Of course, it is quite true that the terms on which land could be bought compulsorily before the 1959 Act bad an artificial effect on land transactions. Buying in advance of building need was discouraged by the risk of having the land compulsorily bought from one at a fraction of its value. In that way the 1959 Act has removed an artificial limitation. That Act was—I remind the Committee again—supported in principle by all parties in the House of Commons because the warping effect of the previous law had become so unfair and unjust. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I say that it had become so unfair and unjust with the passage of years—[An HON. MEMBER: "Through the Government's mistakes."]—but there is no truth what ever in any allegations that the total amount of land in the country allocated for building is inadequate.

There is no need for some form of central independent inquiry into future housing and building needs, as I have seen suggested. The problem is essentially local and not national. There are local shortages, not national shortages. In most parts of the country, outside the tentacles of the big prosperous cites and other places along the coast or elsewhere that are particularly attractive to builders, there has been no unusual rise in land values.

I keep myself informed about this and I get regular reports from the Valuation Office, who are the people who know. There is no mystery at all why land prices in certain areas have gone high. It is because we are determined to preserve green belts and not to allow any more of the coastline to be ruined, and it is also because, under a Conservative Government, ordinary people are better off than they have ever been before. To buy a new house or bungalow with a garden and go to live in it used to be a remote hope for millions of people who now, thanks to Conservative policies, are finding their hopes and dreams coming true. The right hon. Gentleman, at the beginning of his speech, spoke of the brighter hopes for the years that would follow the war. The hopes of home ownership were never brightened until the Conservatives came to power.

The Government will not let the green belts go. I advise the people who are still trying to detect loopholes or weaknesses in what I have said about the firmness of our green belt policy to give up their faithlessness, because the green belts are to stay. There is no doubt that the existence of a green belt tends to raise land prices on either side of the belt, especially on the inner or urban side. There is equally no doubt that if a city like London, that is encircled by a green belt, remains prosperous, a time is bound to come when there is virtually no open undeveloped land left for building in the urban or suburban areas which the green belt surrounds.

I assume that it is common ground among all of us that we shall not let parks and playing fields go just because there is a shortage of building land. We have to allow, too, for all the land demanded by new and widened roads to cope with modern traffic. So it is necessary to look not only to the land on the urban side, but also to the land beyond the green belt. There is no intention, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, of just repeating urban sprawl on the other side. Any development there will be under close planning control. Prices tend to rise on the far side of the green belt, despite the distance out from the centre, because all the green belt land is sterilised from building.

The very essence of a green belt is that it is a stopper. It may not all be very beautiful and it may not be all very green, but without it the town would never stop, and that is the case for preserving the circles of land around the town. Generally speaking, it is not true that values of land beyond the green belt are rising because not enough land there has been allocated to housing, so that there is an artificial scarcity. The land Values have been rising because land there which was not interesting to builders until lately is now becoming interesting, owing to the dwindling of the amount of undeveloped land with development potential nearer to the centre of the city.

Beyond the green belt, open country may stretch for miles, but that is not to say that to bring down prices anyone should be allowed to build in it where-ever he likes. There is danger in allocating too little land beyond the green belts for building. There is also danger in allocating too much, or allocating it too quickly, because that might only recreate the sprawl, just as the right hon. Gentleman says, so that we find that the better agricultural land is being built on before the less good land.

We must never forget, in all this very difficult problem of land prices and values, that there are 50 million of us living on a small island where we have no land at all to waste. It is true that at present only about one-tenth of the whole land surface of England and Wales is built up or used for roads or railways, or the like. But the increase in population, as well as the inescapable demands of the modern world—wider roads for more cars, more power stations, more industrial plant and more factory space per man employed—all these mean that before the end of the twentieth century that 10 per cent. of land which is built on may be 12 per cent., if not more.

We have to plan ahead to see where that extra land can be found. We need to try to ensure that good agricultural land is kept and that, as far as possible, the land that is taken first is the land least valuable for farming. That is one obvious reason why it would be wrong to release great tracts of land beyond the green belts for building purposes far in advance of building need.

I have found it rather intriguing to read speeches and letters to the newspapers lately suggesting brightly that it is high time the Ministry started doing this or that. Some of them have been excellent suggestions, but we had thought of them first and are doing them already. The crux of the whole land problem is to make sure that artificial land scarcities do not arise around towns through any wrong judgment of the amount of land which could reasonably be used for building.

There is no avoiding natural land scarcity when an area is fully developed. One has only to think of Westminster, where we are, or of Lambeth, across the river. The supply of open land for building in Westminster and Lambeth ran out years ago. That is what I call natural unavoidable scarcity. What would be culpable would be an artificial scarcity caused by bad or out-or-date planning, or by neglect of suitable land. What the Government are doing, therefore, is not only to make sure that sufficient land is allocated for building in suitable places beyond the green belts, but also to encourage the fullest use of land within urban and suburban areas on the inner side of the green belts.

In the first place, the responsibility in all this, of course, lies with the planning authorities. Each planning authority is required by law to review its development plan every five years. Of course, it need not wait for that; it can put forward amendments to the development plan at any time for my approval. There is now a steady flow coming into my Ministry of five-yearly reviews, further town maps and ad hoc amendments of development plans. The planning authority marries all the local knowledge which it has on local needs and trends with the national and regional information which is supplied to it by my Ministry about population growth, the increasing number of separate households, and so forth.

It is true that the 1947 Act is based on counties and county boroughs as the planning areas, but I am quite certain that these matters need to be looked at on a regional as well as on a county basis. This is just what the Ministry has been doing. On top of our discussions with individual planning authorities, we are adopting a policy of regional conferences of central and local government officials. All this is already in hand. This of course, is specially important and necessary in making sure that there is coordination and a common understanding between one planning authority and another and that the whole problem of outward migration and overspill movements is looked at realistically as between different planning authorities.

Mr. Harold Davies

I am very much obliged to the Minister for giving way. I am not trying to make a cheap point. Some of us are worried about the very matter he has mentioned. In certain areas corruption is taking place. In some instances, there are previews of the maps and planning is breaking down. I know of it, but cannot prove it. [Laughter.] It is all very well to laugh, but many of us know of this corruption. What safeguards can we devise? I know it is very difficult, but I beg the Minister to devise, at this difficult time, some kind of safeguard to prevent the corruption which is taking place in many parts of the country.

Mr. Brooke

The hon. Gentleman knows very well that every one of us, whether in central or local government, would do everything in our power to exclude corruption of that kind. If he has any evidence of it it is important that he should bring it to the fore. Really, to make a charge like that in general, vague terms in Parliament is not right unless he is prepared to support it with further evidence.

The hon. Gentleman can certainly rest assured that all the influence of all Government Departments would be wholly against that kind of thing. Indeed, one reason why I should be very chary of mentioning any particular places in my speech is that I certainly do not intend by anything I say in the House to indicate anything that speculators or others might hitch on to.

Mr. F. J. Bellenger (Bassetlaw)

The Minister has said that local or planning authorities are suggesting new plans. In areas like that of the London County Council, which is a very large planning authority, have there been any proposals to alter the present plans?

Mr. Brooke

The London County Council is carrying out its statutory duty. This year, it has submitted to me its quinquennial review. The public inquiry into the objections to that is to be held later in the year. The machinery as a whole is working all the time. The right hon. Gentleman's intervention shows, I think, that a great many people fail to appreciate that the process of planning is a continuous one. It is not just the approval of a development plan at one point in time and then a complete absence of movement for five years until a review of the plan is due.

Before the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies) interrupted me, I was speaking about overspill which, as we all appreciate, is important in the matter of arrangements between different authorities. There are only five or six cities in the whole of England which have major overspill needs. I have recently held meetings with representatives of three of them, London, Birmingham and Liverpool. My aim is that, within the next year, we shall get definitely settled how each of the large overspill needs is to be met.

Mr. Frank Allaun (Salford, East)

And Manchester.

Mr. Brooke

Manchester is another, but Manchester has its plans for developing at Westhoughton. I am seeing representatives of Newcastle-upon-Tyne during the next few days.

I would not rule out the idea of development corporation machinery for a major town expansion scheme if the local authorities wanted that. I do not rule out the idea of other new towns, though I think that the search that the London County Council made recently shows how hard it is to find a fresh site suitable for a completely new town as distinct from an expansion of existing towns. It is easy for the Leader of the Opposition to suggest the idea of more and more new towns as a complete solution, but he never addressed himself, in his speech, to where these new towns should go. I understand that the London County Council looked at about 70 sites before settling upon Hook, a site which was, in due course, bitterly criticised on other grounds.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

The Minister says that he would not rule out development corporation machinery. Would he rule out new town financing under the Act?

Mr. Brooke

I rule out nothing here, but the hon. and learned Gentleman must appreciate the problem. If there is an existing town which is to be expanded it would be wrong to impose the development corporation machinery on the expansion of that town unless one were quite sure that all the local authorities concerned accepted that they could not do the job and that it must be done by an external authority. I do not think that those who believe that there is a great future in the development corporation machinery here in expanding towns have fully measured the amount of friction there might be between the corporation and the local authorities.

Mr. Mitchison

The Minister has not answered my question. Are the Government prepared to find the money for a new town in a proper case?

Mr. Brooke

Yes, certainly. I was not at all unwilling to say so. I made it perfectly clear that I did not rule out the idea of other new towns. The Government would be willing to find the money for a new town, but it is no good talking about it in general terms of new towns.

If one is thinking about a new town, one must find a suitable site, a site where industry will go and where people will go. If that can be discovered, then—it all depends upon the merits of the case—the Government would be perfectly prepared to consider whether the new town machinery was the right instrument for development.

Mr. Albert Evans (Islington. South-West)

Do I understand the Minister to say that, as a result of consultations now going on, he, hopes to formulate, in about a year, plans for the solution of the overspill problems of some of the big cities?

Mr. Brooke

I am in consultation with one after another of the local authorities of the big cities and I hope that, together, we shall work out plans that will afford, over the years, a solution for their overspill problems. I met Birmingham recently. I have set on foot conferences with planning authorities all round Birmingham and we are to try to work out there how the very serious overspill problem of Birmingham can be met. There is no one solution for this. We must look at each case on its merits and against its own geographical background.

Migration trends from one region to another can never be forecast with certainty. I think that no political party, at any rate until today, favoured the direction of industry. The right hon. Gentleman—I took down his words—spoke of "planning the dispersal of industry". What does he mean by that? Is it just a vague and abstract phrase, or does he mean seriously that industry ought to be directed to different places? I cannot conceive that he does.

Mr. Gaitskell

Surely the right hon. Gentleman should try to keep the debate at a rather higher level. Does not he now know that when we built the new towns in the south of England and elsewhere industry was dispersed into them, and that that is what we mean by the dispersal of industry?

Mr. Brooke

Industry went into them in due course, and when the Conservative Government came to power in several of those new towns considerable anxiety was felt as to the likelihood of their attracting sufficient industry. But it would be quite useless to try to make industries go to places where they could not prosper and hold their own with their competitors from overseas.

If one could foresee all the economic trends and developments for fifty years ahead, no doubt one could work out centrally a tidy national plan showing exactly where all the new houses ought to be built for the rest of this century. This is precisely what a country like ours, which lives by export trade, cannot do. What the Government can do in influencing regional trends is to hold back further growth of industry in the highly prosperous areas where pressure on land is heaviest. Look at the motor firms which are going to Scotland, to Merseyside and to Cardiff, because my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade refused them I.D.C.s to expand in Luton and Birmingham and elsewhere, and so accentuate the pressures round those places.

It is prosperity which has raised land values, but it is also prosperity which makes attainable a better distribution of employment throughout the country. That is the sort of remedy we want for overstrain whether it be local or regional. People seem to forget that the drift of the population towards London and the Midlands in these days, about which the right hon. Gentleman spoke, is only a fraction of what it was in the days between the wars.

The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the importance of getting offices decentralised from London to the suburbs and the new towns. I thoroughly agree with him, and when the London County Council submitted its development plan the Government amended it so as to allow for less office building in the county of London and more house building instead. I know that the L.C.C. now accepts that as right, and is cooperating to the full in that policy.

But we cannot control offices and office building by the development certificate procedure in the same way as factory building, if only because factories are built to the order of the firms which are to occupy them whereas a great many office buildings are not. They are built speculatively to let to tenants. It makes an essential difference. One might have to say that there was to be no more office building in a certain area, but then where should we get with our development of city centres, to which hon. Members on both sides of the Committee attach so much importance?

I am doing all I can to get office employment moved out of London so as to cut down travelling, but I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that what he proposes would do nothing at all to reduce the price of land on the periphery. If anything, it would do the opposite. I have looked at the question of the control of office development very carefully and if anybody imagines that one can apply the development certificate process easily to office building, as one does apply it to factory building, he will soon find what substantial and radical differences there are between the two cases.

May I come back to what I was referring to just now—the flexibility of development plans? I should like to tell the Committee how the review of a county development plan goes forward. I will take an actual current case in a county affected by rising land values, but I will not mention names for the reasons which I gave just now.

First of all, my Ministry furnished information derived partly from the Registrar General and partly from migration studies about population trends and numbers of households and so forth. The county council married all that with its own local knowledge and arrived at probable population figures for 20 years ahead. Then the council decide provisionally where to allocate land in various parts of the county to meet the whole needs of this additional population for the next 20 years. Now it is discussing with all concerned the agricultural, industrial and other problems involved and is keeping in touch informally with my Ministry. The final step will be for the planning authority to submit formal proposals to me for the amendment of its development plan.

This is the way in which we shall get the right pieces of land selected for housing development with proper regard for communications, agriculture and water supplies and all else which has to be taken into account. I know of areas which, on a map, look ideal for more building, but in one of these places no more houses ought to go up until a big new sewage works is finished, because the existing system is overloaded. In another place there ought to be no more house building until a great new reservoir, now under construction, is ready. That is what wise planning means. It cannot be done by looking vaguely at a map and thinking that it would be nice to build here or there or in another place. The fact is that we in the Ministry have most cordial and close relations with planning authorities in these reviews which are going on the whole time and, as I have said, I have now extended it to regional forecasts as well.

Mr. Glenvil Hall (Colne Valley)

This seems to me a most important point which goes right to the root of what the Minister is trying to say. He has been referring to increased amenities and essential planning. Who pays for the amenities, the sewerage, the roads and all the rest of it? And who gets the enhanced price of the land sold because of this?

Mr. Brooke

At the moment I am seeking to explain how this review of development plans is done. I hope that the Committee will forgive me if my speech is rather long-drawn-out. I have given way for a number of interruptions. What I am seeking to give the Committee as a basis for today's important debate is an accurate account of what is going on at the present—

Mr. James Callaghan (Cardiff, South-East)

Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would answer my right hon. Friend's question.

Mr. Brooke

Certainly I will answer the question. Every piece of land which has to be bought for the various purposes is bought under the 1959 Act. I have said that land values have been increasing and so, of course, has the wealth of the community that has built up in these areas which are developed. I am not receiving complaints from the county councils. It was the County Councils Association which was strongly in favour of the 1959 Act being put on the Statute Book. Because I think it would be of service to the Committee, I am now seeking to describe, in as objective a way as I can, the actual steps taken between my Ministry and the planning authorities to review the use of land, to detect the prospective demands for land and so forth, and to make sure that sufficient land is allocated for the various purposes for which it is needed.

The most up-to-the-moment example I can quote of how my Ministry and the planning authorities work together is over the Tyneside Green Belt. Tyneside is another area which has urgent need for expansion. In 25 years' time, or thereabouts, areas in South Northumberland where mining has ceased will become stable, so the experts say, and suitable for building; but in that 25-year interval we must see that building is not brought to an end through lack of sites.

It seemed to us at the Ministry, on the information available to us, that the planning authority was under-estimating the needs for housing land over that 25-year period. Accordingly, within the last few days, I have sent the planning authority the modifications that I propose on that account, with a map, so that they can be published and any objections can be expressed.

I quote that as an example of the active collaboration that exists between my Ministry and the planning authority, each of us contributing our knowledge which, together, should help to provide a proper pattern of land allocation—

Mr. Ernest Popplewell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

As the Minister is now talking about collaboration with planning authorities, will he explain to the Committee why he has deliberately refused to allow the Newcastle-upon-Tyne city planning authority to build houses at Hill Head but gave permission to private enterprise? There is also the other scheme where the local authority has been refused permission to go ahead with building, and the land has been handed over to private building.

Mr. Brooke

The reason why, in certain cases, I have taken that decision is that in those cases I find that the local authority has plenty of building land in hand for a number of years ahead whereas there is a shortage of private enterprise land. What I was explaining just now is that I have taken special steps to see that there is not a shortage of building land over the next 25 years as, I think, there might have been had the Tyneside green belt been drawn as it was previously proposed—

Mr. Popplewell rose

Mr. Brooke

No, I cannot give way again.

Mr. Popplewell

On a point of order, Mr. Thomas. The Minister says that in that particular locality in Newcastle which I have just quoted there was plenty of land available, but the right hon. Gentleman and his Department know perfectly well that there is absolutely no land available in Newcastle.

The Temporary Chairman (Mr. George Thomas)

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Brooke

It may be that the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to make his speech later in the debate.

I do sometimes hear complaints that there is only one or two years' supply of land altogether allocated for housing in one place or another. I must say that most of those complaints usually turn out to be based on information that is incomplete or not quite up to date, but I am always ready to have an on-the-spot study made of particular places where it is alleged that insufficient land is allocated to building.

My intention is to make quite sure that all planning authorities everywhere are alerted to the need. I have it in mind to send out a fresh circular emphasising again the importance of whether they have enough land allocated for housing and other development, and also whether any town maps need to be reviewed from this angle in advance of the rest of the development plan.

I must say that I anticipated that we would have a debate on this subject during the course of the month, so I decided not to send out the circular until after this debate so that, if any fresh points came up in it, I could include them. I hope that that course commends itself to the Committee. I can assure the Committee that no time has been lost by this because, as I have already explained, conferences and discussions have already been going on with all the authorities most concerned.

To illustrate that, I may say that in March of last year my Ministry sent a letter to local planning authorities in the Greater London area asking them to consider the allocation of more land for building beyond the green belt. Also, on the Ministry's initiative, the London and Greater London planning authorities are engaged at this moment on a fresh survey of land available, in the short-term, for residential development in the suburban fringes and in what we call the "islands" of the Green Belt. Then, within the built up area, too, the possibility of finding additional areas for development is continually being explored. The search will have been a very thorough one by the time it is finished.

There are not many large areas to be seen in London or Greater London but there are one or two. Croydon Airport is an example. The future use of that is formally before me at the moment, so I must not comment on it at this stage, but I can certainly say that very careful consideration will be given to the planning authority's proposals.

Another case is Woolwich Arsenal. I shall be following up, with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, the recommendation of the Hutchison Committee that Government storage occupying more valuable sites elsewhere might be moved to the Arsenal, thus releasing that other land for other purposes. With the urgent need for housing land not too far out from London, I intend to make sure, with the help of the planning authorities, that no land is wasted or overlooked.

Density proposals have, of course, to come before me formally as amendments to development plans. I think it quite possible that some densities in some places could be revised upwards, but let us remember that a density increase does not bring down values. Actually, it puts up the price of that land. People will pay more for land if a higher density of development is permitted. What it does is to keep down the need for more land elsewhere.

In order to preserve more of the countryside untouched, I am not prepared to approve of urban densities going to excessive heights at which the country lovers would never be willing to live themselves, but I am sure that there are places hitherto accustomed to nothing above about two or three storeys where we ought to see some high blocks, though, at first, they will probably be objected to locally.

In my circular, I shall remind the urban authorities of what they can quite properly do to secure more intensive use of land already developed. They can encourage more conversions of the larger houses into flats. For that, conversion grants are available. They can study how they can get older areas of low density building redeveloped really well to greater densities.

A high price for undeveloped land has its good effects as well as its bad ones. It encourages the best possible use of land, and it discourages the waste of it—and in the outward spread of many towns there has been prodigal waste of land in the past. When builders now find that they cannot get open land for building in the area they want, and at the price they want to pay, that, more than anything else, is likely to turn their thoughts to buying up older property, demolishing it, and redeveloping the site. This is one of the crying needs of our time, but it will not be met as long as there is judged to be plenty of open land available which is easier and more attractive to develop.

I have heard it said that this sort of re-development is held up because local authorities still fix densities too low. Without prejudging whether or not that is true, I would remind developers that they have a right of appeal to me against density limits that they think too restrictive.

I say again that naturally land is bound to be scarce whenever an area is fully built up. My business is to see that there are no artificial scarcities, and that is what I am doing by the practical steps that I have described to the Committee. I do not believe that it could be done as well by any external independent body of inquiry. The national assessment is relatively easy. It is the assessment of all the local needs and trends that is difficult, and that, I am sure, could not be done more effectively than it is now being done by the interchange of information going on all the time between the planning authorities and my Department.

The only proviso that I would add is that it requires to be done on a regional as well as on a county basis, and that is what I am seeking to achieve by the regional conferences and discussions of which I spoke. I am determined to see that there is regional assessment and regional co-ordination, and that development plans, whether of counties or of county boroughs, are not considered in isolation from the whole region round about.

I want, finally, to remind the Committee of one cardinal fact which almost everybody seems to overlook. Even where the sharpest increases in land values have occurred, there is very little sign that prices are holding up development. People talk about a land famine. If they mean an actual land famine, how does that square with the fact that more than 20,000 more houses are under construction now than at this time last year?

I see no reason to doubt that more private enterprise houses will he completed in 1960 than in any year since 1938. If, on the other hand, those who speak about a land famine mean a land famine at some time in the future, then that is exactly what the Government intend to prevent by the detailed regional and local studies, and the practical actions based on those studies, that I have described and that are already in hand.

Mr. Mitchison

There is one point that I should like to put to the right hon. Gentleman before he leaves the question of high prices. He said that they did not hold up building, but, surely, they hold up local authority building and put up the rents of council houses. Does the right hon. Gentleman approve of that?

Mr. Brooke

I have said that there are problems here. I know that they put up the costs to local authorities, but I am certainly not going to be led by the hon. and learned Gentleman into going back on the 1959 Act and restoring a position whereby local authorities are enabled to buy compulsorily land below its market value. Nor do I believe that a policy of that kind would have the slightest degree of support in the country as a whole.

What I have been explaining to the Committee at considerable length—I believe it is what the Committee would wish that I should do as I am speaking at the beginning of the debate—are the various steps which we are taking to make sure that adequate land is available. No power could prevent land prices from rising in a prosperous country where there is limited land. My business is to see that there is no artificial rise in prices through too little land being allocated for houses which are necessary and desirable.

That is what we are doing, and that is why I suggest that we do not panic or dash for quack remedies, that we use present trends as evidence that we must put land to full use and not waste it, and that we press on with careful forecasts and research and make absolutely sure that we keep all our development plans right up to date both regionally and locally.

Above all I suggest that we work with the market forces and seek to harness them to serve national purposes, instead of acting like Canute's courtiers and the right hon. Gentleman, vainly telling the tide that it ought to turn and threatening to tax it if it does not.

5.14 p.m.

Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)

I am very glad to have this opportunity of following the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I had feared at one stage that he might have departed to another office before this debate took place, because I saw a number of reports in the Press to the effect that he was being considered for the post of Foreign Secretary.' However, in view, I presume, of the right hon. Gentleman's diplomatic failures with the Welsh, it has been decided not to unleash him upon the world.

I think that the best description of the right hon. Gentleman's speech is that Latin tag ex nihilo nihil fit, which, translated colloquially, means that out of nothing nothing fits. But it is no part of my case this afternoon to attack the right hon. Gentleman. That would really be reducing the great scheme of things to their fullest insignificance. Today we are discussing a more serious problem.

A few days ago, in reply to some Questions in the House, the right hon. Gentleman said in the course of his statement that it was his intention at all costs to preserve the free market in land. That statement is a direct contradiction in terms of the meaning of planning. When we accept the need for town planning we reject the concept of a free market in land. The issue that we are discussing today is the problem which arises when we accept the need for planning but still try to apply the principles of a free market. That is the central problem to which, I suggest, the Committee should address itself.

Town planning confers certain values on certain property and at the same time it restricts the value of other property. If we decide to build on one side of the town in the interests of the community and also decide, in the interests of the community, to preserve the green belt in another part of the town, then by virtue of that decision we confer, by a public decision, large increases in value on the areas designated as probable development areas. At the same time we restrict the values of the areas being sterilised. This is the old classic problem of compensation and betterment.

The whole history of our town planning legislation in this country has been bedevilled by our chronic failure to overcome this difficulty. This was the reason for the failure of the 1932 Act. That was made perfectly clear by the Report of the Barlow Commission in 1940. Out of that Report, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell) said, arose the Uthwatt Committee. The Report of that Committee remains the standard analysis of this problem.

The Committee made three major recommendations. First, the Uthwatt Committee proposed a periodical betterment levy. Secondly, it suggested that land should be divided into two values, the existing use value and the possible development value; and that the development value should be nationalised. Thirdly, in order to give effective implementation to the nationalisation of the development values, the Committee suggested that a global fund of compensation should be set up and that, at the same time, the physical machinery of acquisition of that land should be undertaken by the local authorities—so that all land that was taken for development, regardless of whether for public or private development, should be acquired automatically by the local authorities and made available to the public or private developer.

The Minister spoke just now of the need for builders to have land available for a number of years ahead. This is the way in which development land can be made available for builders a number of years ahead—by large-scale acquisition as was suggested by my right hon. Friend.

The Silkin Act of 1947 accepted much of the analysis of the Uthwatt Committee, but it proposed its own solution as far as the developments charges were concerned. The right hon. Gentleman said that we on this side of the Committee would not like to go round suggesting a reimposition of the development charges. The fact is that if those charges failed at that time—and this was recognised by everyone concerned with town planning—then the next logical step was to implement the Uthwatt Committee's recommendations for the physical acquisition of property.

When the right hon. Gentleman talks about going back to development charges, we say that we are not going back to them but may be going forward from them. There is no substitute, as far as this problem is concerned, other than facing the fact that when planning occurs there is inevitably a conflict between the public and the private interests and that when plans are published certain values inevitably accrue.

When the 1953 Bill was introduced by the present Prime Minister in December, 1952, a clear warning was given to the House by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl). He told the House exactly what would happen if the development charges were abolished and if nothing was put in their place. My hon. Friend the Member for Widnes said: The Minister's policy is giving freedom to the landowner to get as much as he can for something on which he has done nothing, at the same time giving no protection at all to the man who wants to do things, the man who wants to create some value."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1952; Vol. 508, c. 117.] That is not a bad assessment, eight years ago, of the situation which has arisen as a result of the Conservative Party's legislation in 1952.

The Minister, the present Prime Minister, took a different view, and it is worth examining this because it gives one some idea of the superficial thinking that is involved whenever we come to consider this matter and hear speeches from the Treasury Bench. The present Prime Minister said: There is nothing wrong that in those cases there should be a free market. It is said that the price of land to private buyers will rise and that, therefore, although we may be trying to encourage development, in the long run we may injure it. Of course, the price of land for development may rise in the first instance…but I trust that the price will not rise to the point which the development charge might have reached if we had maintained it as a permanent feature in the system. Does the right hon. Gentleman still subscribe to that view? His predecessor went on to say: …it is not so much the cost of the land which is the main worry, but the high cost of development, building, and all the rest. Having heard my right hon. Friend's examples, does the Minister still subscribe to that point of view?

The Prime Minister went on to say: But the problem arises, what about the land for private development? It is our firm intention that local authorities should, where necessary, arrange that this part of the estate should be acquired in the same way and made available to the private developer, The same will apply as necessary should the land be required for industry. Of course, if the landowner or his representatives do not ask more than moderate prices, it may not be necessary to have recourse to this weapon, but the fact that this power exists and will be exercised is an immense weapon to prevent exploitation. I am fairly confident that once this is fully understood, these provisions will have their effect upon the free market price. So much for the first lot of difficulties,"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1952; Vol. 508, c. 1119–21.] That was the present Prime Minister's assessment of the situation then. The present situation stems from the fact that we have had a lamentable failure to deal with compensation and development charge provisions. The planning provisions of the Silkin Act have been adhered to. We have had the removal of the balancing factors of development charges by the Macmillan Act, and thirdly, we have had the administrative lethargy of the right hon. Gentleman himself.

What is the answer to this problem? The first thing we have got to do, as my right hon. Friend said, is to go back to the Uthwatt Report and bring it up to date. The first suggestion that I would make is that we should have a new committee examining with urgency the original Report of Lord Justice Uthwatt to see where it still applies and where it is no longer relevant.

The second thing that we should do as an interim proposal is to implement the undertaking that was given by the Minister of Housing and Local Government of the day in 1952 that, where private landowners were exploiting the need of the community, the Government would use the sanction of public acquisition.

Thirdly, we should recognise that we must go much further in our control of the location of industry. My right hon. Friend spoke about control of office accommodation. The Minister explained how difficult it was to do this. Of course, all these problems are difficult, but the fact is that unless steps are taken along these lines we shall have in London the greatest traffic jam in the history of the world.

There has been a suggestion by my right hon. Friend that we should hurry up the new town policy and the policy for expanding country towns. Since the Government have been in office, very little has been done in the implementation of the expanding country towns policy. A whole range of towns throughout England, Wales and Scotland could easily be expanded by a few thousand people and a few industries with very little increase in capital investment so far as public services are concerned. What does the right hon. Gentleman propose to do about that as a matter of urgency? That is where he should be looking to see that land is made available for factories and housing.

Mr. H. Brooke

The hon. Gentleman refers to these towns. Would he care to mention their names?

Mr. Donnelly

The Town and Country Planning Association submitted a memorandum to the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry, mentioning thirty or forty expanding country towns which were ready for immediate development, another sixty or seventy which might be considered as probable, and another sixty or seventy which might be possible. If the right hon. Gentleman will study the memorandum in his own office files, no doubt he will be more useful to the Committee in his observations.

Mr. Brooke

Does the hon. Gentleman suggest that these towns should be expanded against the will of the local authorities and against the will of the local inhabitants?

Mr. Donnelly

No, but the right hon. Gentleman really must study the report. The report was based on long consultations with the local authorities. I took part in some of these consultations. The local authorities themselves made the representations, and if the right hon. Gentleman cares to study the report he will see that these suggestions are largely at the request of the local authorities themselves.

The position at the moment is that something like 40 per cent. of the population of the British Isles lives on 4 per cent. of the land in the island. Unless we get away from that situation by an urgent policy of decentralisation, we shall not be able to tackle the problem of rising land values around London and other big cities, whether we deal with the compensation and betterment problem or not.

The next thing we have got to do is to take another look at our transport system. If we have a transport system that is centred on London, funnelling people back into London as fast as we get them out of London, we shall inevitably get a continual increase in the growth of this vast conurbation here. The same is applicable to Birmingham, Manchester and Clydeside. It is absolutely essential that we should have a transport system which is geared to a decentralisation policy. We are nowhere near getting that today.

The final thing that my right hon. Friend said is that we have got to have another look at the borders of the planning authorities. It is not Ministry regional departments which are required; it is regional planning authorities themselves. The present boundaries of the planning authorities are quite inadequate for the great problem that is facing the country today.

There are two inescapable conclusions from this debate. If the industry of Britain is to function, if our people are to live happy and healthy lives, if agriculture is to exist and is to be safeguarded, and if other national resources are to be deployed, it is essential that we have planning. The second specific lesson to be learned from the debate is that the Conservative doctrine of free enterprise cannot work any longer in circumstances such as these, and the dilemma which faces the present Government is that they know this and are not prepared to admit it.

5.28 p.m.

Sir Colin Thornton-Kemsley (North Angus and Mearns)

The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) spoke about the lethargy of the administration of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I was reminded of a story about the Prince of Wales, as he then was, who was driving through the streets of south London in the 1920s, when someone was heard to call out, "There is one of the idle rich". At this, His Royal Highness replied as quick as a flash, "Rich maybe, but idle—by heavens, no". If anyone should describe my right hon. Friend as lethargic it shows that he has paid very little attention to the administration of my right hon. Friend and his Department.

The right hon. Member for Leeds, South (Mr. Gaitskell), in speaking about what he called the credit side of planning in the inter-war years, mentioned, rightly, I think, the new towns, but he failed to mention two factors which I think most of us, judging the matter dispassionately, would regard as omissions.

First of all, I would put the revitalisation of the countryside during the postwar years. Many of us remember the decaying country houses and the villages without work and without hope. These villages have been expanded, with the thriving village life of post-war years. Country houses have been occupied, many to some useful purpose, being used as centres for culture, education and business. We recognise that one of the achievements of post-war planning has been the revitalisation of country life in Britain. Secondly, we recognise the general acceptance, not least by planning authorities, of the idea of the green belt.

The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition blamed the Government for everything that had gone wrong with planning since the end of the war. What is the true picture? Mr. J. R. James, deputy technical planning adviser to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, has told us that in every year since the last census in 1951, 200,000 more people were living in England and Wales. He has told us how this has astonished and surprised even the experts. The most recent population projection is that during the next fifteen years there will be an addition of about 3 million people to the population of England and Wales, which is almost double the figure allowed for in the development plans when they were first drawn up in 1948.

Moreover, immense pressure for living space has been engendered on the one hand by the rising population of these islands and on the other hand by the demands of an affluent society, for which the Government, which I have the honour to support, certainly cannot escape some responsibility. These combined pressures upon land have led to uneven pressures in different parts of the country, and particularly is the pressure noticeable in certain parts of the Midlands, especially the west Midlands, and the south-east segment of Britain, and in particular in land within a radius of forty miles from Charing Cross.

The effect of these pressures is upon areas of land which are very much restricted by the existing development plans, not through the fault of the planning authorities making their plans in 1948, because many of these pressures could not have been foreseen. But there is a limited area for housing development in the present development plans, and the immense pressure on it has inevitably given rise to high prices.

The debate is about the use and prices of land, and I propose to deal with those two factors in that order. Dealing first with the use of land, I am sure that my right hon. Friend is right in his determination that—I quote his own words— green belts, once properly established, should remain, and, again quoting his words, except in special circumstances…inviolate; He continued, proper provision must be made for development beyond the green belt."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th July, 1960; Vol. 626, c. 23.] Here I come to my first real clash on planning matters with the Leader of the Opposition. If I understood his speech correctly, he regards the green belt as an agricultural girdle around a town, beyond that being open country. That is a conception which will not hold water in these areas of explosive pressure. I think that the lines on which local planning authorities ought to proceed in the areas to which I have referred, particularly in the south-east segment of Britain are that in these areas where pressure is strongest they should realise that it is no good merely providing scattered areas of land from which people will commute ten or twenty miles across the green belt into the towns to work. To do that will merely increase the cost and the daily frustration of getting to and from work and will worsen an almost intolerable traffic situation.

The solution should lie in what I shall call regional development. The present explosive expansion should be guided to development areas beyond the established green belt, areas in which employment possibilities, in offices as well as in factories, can match the provision of housing, with existing small towns and communities as the focal point. The conception should be one of a city region, with the parent city at its heart, surrounded by the green belt, and beyond that green belt a cluster of satellite towns and expanded villages, each retaining its individual character and separated from its neighbours by open country.

Imaginative plans on these lines, providing for the release for development of large areas of white land at present unallocated in development plans, in and around towns and villages, where services and communal facilities, churches, schools, cinemas, shops and other facilities are already available, could do much by increasing the supply of developable land to reduce its price.

Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham, Northfield)

I would have great sympathy with what the hon. Member is saying, if it were true. Is he not aware that the biggest problem in the South-East today is that even in areas which are not likely to be developed for some time, speculators are buying land at today's highest prices in order to be ready for the time when the land becomes ripe for complete development? The problem, therefore, is that if we release any more land it will immediately be bid up in price to present-day heights, unless, of course, the market is flooded.

Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley

The hon. Member is bowling at me on my own wicket. He may not know, but I am a chartered surveyor in daily practice in the City of London, and I am dealing daily with these problems in the Home Counties and beyond. I do not think that there is this hoarding of land. I will tell the hon. Member what is happening. It is not that the speculators are buying up land but that firms of builders, mainly large firms of builders, who have the means with which to do it, are buying land in advance because they must have a stock of land. Because of the shortage of available land they are turning to the white land—that is to say, land which is unallocated in the development plans at the moment for any development. They are buying white land in the hope that in the next review or the review after that it will be made available for building. To that extent, therefore, white land is fetching something like building prices.

I now want to turn to the question of land prices. Having regard to the immense pressures engendered by the demands of an affluent society, in conditions in the parts of the country with which I am dealing virtually of full employment, upon the limited area of land which is available in those areas for development at present, land prices are not unduly high. The danger, I think, lies not in the level of land prices, but in the relationship of those prices to the prices obtainable for almost comparable and even adjoining land which is denied the benefit of planning permission.

This is where the real danger lies. The growing and often immense disparity between the value of land which has planning permission for building and land which is denied permission for development by the fiat of the planner because it happens to be in a green belt gives rise to three undesirable features.

Mr. Glenvil Hall

The hon. Gentleman has most lucidly explained why building land is so costly. Will he tell us who it is who makes it costly? Is it not the community which wants to live there and, therefore, ought it not to share in the burden of the rising price of land?

Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley

I was coming to that point, and, if the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to continue, I shall deal with it.

I should like to point to what I believe are three very undesirable results of the disparity between the price of land with development permission and the price of land without it. First, there is the obvious one that it gives rise to very great injustices between one individual and another. No one can possibly deny that. Secondly, since this is done in the name of planning, it tends to bring all planning into disrepute. I do not like that because I want to see planning respected and effective. Thirdly—and this is the point made by the hon. Member for Leek (Mr. Harold Davies), who is not in his place—whatever may be said about the charge, if it was a charge, made by the hon. Gentleman, this great disparity leads to immense and serious tensions and temptations upon all those who have to administer planning in the county and other planning offices.

The hon. Gentleman used the word corruption". It is not a word which I like, hut, not to put too fine a point on it, there is a great danger of corruption taking place. I have not heard of any instances, but, upon my soul, I wonder that we have not had the most explosive instances of this. I look at the newspaper almost with trepidation every thy to see where things are going to break first. We are putting the most unfair pressures upon young men of my profession in planning offices up and down the country. A fortune may be made by a man who can secure the benefit of planning permission, but a fortune may be lost because that benefit is moved one field away from that land. That is not a situation which I can tolerate without saying something about it.

These factors lead me to suggest that we ought now to consider the introduction of some sort of device to redress the balance between the price of land obtained by an owner who can secure planning, permission and the price obtained by a man who is denied planning permission by a decision of the planning authority.

The hon. Member for Pembroke mentioned the Uthwatt Report. If Uthwatt's theory of shifting values is to be accepted—and I think that it is generally accepted in the Committee and in the country—the development value of land which is refused development permission is not destroyed but is shifted to other land, thus enhancing the value of that other land. In my mind, that is basically the justification for suggesting that those who benefit from a shift of value to their land should return some part of that benefit to owners from whom development value has been removed by the decision, I was about to say the arbitrary decision, of the planning authorities.

Since at the choice of the Opposition this debate is taking place on a Vote, I am prevented, if I understand things correctly, from setting out details of a moderate ad valorem duty which I should like to see levied on the vendors in all future sales of undeveloped land, the proceeds of which would reimburse the Exchequer for the compensation paid to owners of land sterilised against building. In view of the present demand for building land and the prices which that building land is fetching where planning permission is available, I do not think that anyone could claim that an ad valorem duty of about 10 per cent. levied upon vendors would lead to hardship on anyone. A man in a hurry to catch a train does not grudge the small tip which, when he has secured his objective, he gives to the taxi driver and which he adds to his taxi fare. If such a duty were graduated, it would have the advantage that it would help to keep land prices down, but, in any case, it would provide a source from which owners aggrieved by a refusal of planning permission could be compensated in full upon a genuine sale, and only upon a genuine sale, of land for which they had been refused planning permission.

Mr. Donnelly

I have been following the hon. Gentleman's argument very closely. Without going into any question of legislation, could he tell the Committee how the tax which he proposes would not merely add to the price of land? Suppose that there was a piece of land which was the only place on which one could build and one either paid the money or just did not build.

Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley

I do not think that that instance would arise. There is always an alternative site. But, in so far as the moderate tax which I have in mind would be a graduated tax and would vary with the price per acre given for the land, it would have the effect of keeping prices down. I would welcome the opportunity to develop this further, but I realise that I cannot do so at present.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

Will my hon. Friend explain exactly how he would divide the compensation? Would it be the field next to the one in question, or the field next to that, or a field ten miles away? Further, does not he think that a tax would only add to the cost of land?

Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley

I should like to explain, but, as we are on a Vote, it is difficult to explain the details of what I should like to see done. The compensation would be paid to the man who is refused planning permission because his land happens to be in a green belt. That is the short answer. He would get compensation only if his land were in a green belt. I cannot see anything unfair about that.

Once that had been achieved—and I believe that until it has been achieved planning will continue to be unfair in its incidence and planners will be exposed to intolerable stresses—there would no longer be need for the retention of the liability to compensate owners who are refused planning permission to the limit of the unexpended balances of Part VI claims under the 1947 Act. This would go the way of development charges and other consequences of the ill-conceived provisions of the Silkin legislation.

I address myself particularly to my hon. Friends in this matter, because I know their feelings about it. I have not had the opportunity to develop the matter as I should like to have done. Whatever hon. Members may feel about the wisdom or the unwisdom of the proposals which I have outlined—sketchingly in view of the difficulties that the Committee faces this afternoon—I do not believe that there is any hon. Member who will not admit the validity of the proposition that the wide disparity between the price of land with planning permission and the price of land in the Green Belt gives rise to individual hardships and places temptation in the way of those responsible for planning permission which we ought, if possible, to remove. I believe that until we have solved this problem, planning in Britain will be tolerated but unpopular. I want it to be fair and acceptable to the ordinary men and women.

5.52 p.m.

Mr. Donald Chapman (Birmingham. Northfield)

I do not intend to make a strongly political speech, because the brilliant speech of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has put as strongly and as clearly as anybody can the criticisms that are to be made on the political front against the Government's views on the whole question of land use and land values. There is not much that anyone can add to that except by way of unnecessary elaboration and repetition.

I want to confine myself to one or two suggestions which the Government, even with their present views, might adopt to alleviate the situation. Before I come to that, however, I am bound to say that the real tragedy of the Minister's speech today was the partisan attitude which he took. I would have felt much greater respect for him had he come along to the Committee and said, "We in the Government quite admit that there is a frightful problem here. We admit that what has happened in the last ten years is that we have continued to restrict the supply of land, quite rightly, for planning reasons and have yet tried to carry on a free market with the supply limited. This has ended up in a famine situation in many areas and with people paying the price of the sheer shortage which planning has imposed upon us."

Had the Minister come to us honestly and admitted the seriousness of the problem which, on the one hand, the Labour Government did not solve in the Silkin Act and which, on the other hand, the Government have not solved with a free market—which is not capable of being a free market because the supply is limited—and had the right hon. Gentleman then told us what he would do to try to save the country from the results of this terrible dilemma, I should have felt much more respect for what he had to say.

The trouble was that the right hon. Gentleman made a partisan speech to bait the Opposition right from the beginning, justifying almost the very speculation at which the country grumbles. There was no apology for the high prices, no condemnation of them and no indication that the Government wanted to cure them. Under present-day conditions, that kind of attitude is quite unforgivable. Even The Times today said in its leading article that if the Minister came along with the sort of speech he has made it would be unforgivable. That is what the right hon. Gentleman has done.

The Minister said that building was, after all, going on and high prices have not stopped it and he asked what there was to worry about. That is typical of his partisan approach. What I am worried about is that ordinary people who want to buy houses have been faced in the last two years with an additional £500 to £1,000 on the price of a modest sized house. This is the problem to which the Committee should be addressing itself. It is no use hon. Members opposite merely telling us that the building is going on. The fact is that it is not going on for the people who cannot afford this excessive inflation in the price of their houses. They simply stay out of the housing market. We should be considering how to get and keep prices more within the reach of the man in the street and to get rid of this inflation, because tie rise in living standards is not at the moment fast enough to cope with the rising price of housing.

I have a dual interest in the problem, as I freely admit. First, as a Birmingham Member, I have an enormous wealth of evidence of what is going on in that great conurbation. The situation is fantastic. The town clerk has sent me figures, with which I do not intend to weary the Committee in detail. Whereas, however, in the early 1950s we were paying something like £500 to £2,000 an acre, Birmingham is now faced with anything from £5,000 to £10,000 an acre. Some of this has occurred in my constituency which is being built up and where prices are reaching astronomical heights.

My second interest is that as a director of a firm which is developing in the south-east of England, I have to handle land price problems every day. Before I left my house this morning, I was offered on the telephone land at £1,750 per plot, plus road charges, making a total of about £1,900, whereas I know that I would have bought those plots at £850 two years ago. That is £1,000 not to me as a developer, but on the price of a modest sized house which has to be built on the site.

Along the south coast, where my business occurs, one finds plenty of this sort of example. In Worthing, where the town is just about built up, 77 acres of what is simply part of somebody's farm has just been sold for £500,000. It is just a few fields on the edge of Worthing. Can anybody justify the impact that this has on the price of a small house?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Sir Keith Joseph)

I do not want to intrude on the hon. Member's private business, but he has told the Committee about an offer that was made to him this morning. Does he feel willing to tell us whether he saw fit to buy the plot? If he replies "No", I shall respect his willingness to keep out of it. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the relevance of this?"] This is not relevant, but it will form part of an argument which I propose to deploy later. This is not said intrusively.

Mr. Chapman

As a developer, I considered that to be a ridiculous price, and I was determined not to contribute more to the inflationary situation in that locality by buying at that price. I prefer to stay out of the market.

Mr. S. Silverman

Somebody else will buy it.

Mr. Chapman

As my hon. Friend says, somebody else will buy it. The tragedy is that values such as I expressed do not count; people have to go on building and there are so few plots available for them to buy.

Let me give another example. During the weekend, three building plots were offered to me for £4,500. Two years ago, or even one year ago, I would have bought them for £2,500. This is the sort of thing which we have to deal with in my business. The hon. Member for Angus, North and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) is in exactly the same position. Our standards of living may be rising, but they cannot rise fast enough for ordinary people who buy their own houses to cope with that situation.

This problem will go on. We must not think that it is going to disappear. We now have people who tell us that we need to provide 200,000 houses a year for the next twenty years. In addition, we have 4 million houses which were built 80 years ago, and these have to be replaced, probably at a lower density than their present sites. If the standard of living goes on rising and more people want their own homes as opposed to living with their in-laws or whoever it is, and if the rise in the population continues—and it may go up 3½ million quite quickly—we shall need more land developed for ordinary housing purposes. Therefore, this problem is going to go on.

If I may now take the situation as I see it on the south coast particularly, I want to try to analyse it in two ways. We are facing a frightful situation on the south coast. This might be called England's "golden mile". Everybody in London now seems to have the idea that all they want is a bungalow down at Brighton before they retire, and this is now reaching a pitch of demand which has to be seen to be believed. It is true that the population is not moving rapidly at the moment, but as the standard of living rises it is moving more rapidly than it used to do. We are now building up towards the position in which, if the standard of living is doubled in 20 or 25 years, I hate to think what will happen on the "golden mile", roughly from Worthing to Eastbourne. This applies to any place in that area within an hour's reach of London, or in any similar area in any other part of the country. Even inland there are similar areas.

What can we do, even within the Government's present views? I do not want to be too partisan. First, we have got to get more land made available, and, secondly, to some extent, we have to try to abate the excessive price of land. I would say, first of all, that the great difficulty of the Minister's approach to the need for making more land available is the fact that he is not allowing or not insisting upon his own Ministry taking the proper initiative. He is leaving far too much to the local authorities, and merely co-ordinating the views of local authorities, instead of taking up these matters, as he should in my view, by going into certain areas, discussing the problem actively with the local authority and putting to that authority the point of view taken by the Ministry.

The Minister should say, "We see your problem in this locality, and your need of land in the next twenty years. We must examine with you your development plan on this area, and we must try—this cannot always be said publicly, but we have to do it somehow—to stop a local authority's parish pump politics in this matter. We have to see, in areas like this, where land is scarce and where people want to move in, that the best possible use is made of the whole area within the next couple of decades before it is too late.

I will give an example of what I mean. First, the initiative. There are parts of this area which ought to be transferred from "white land" to land for housing purposes. What happens? There is a suggestion that six golf courses, all of which lose money, should be reduced to four, but nobody can agree which couple of golf courses should be sacrificed in order to build 400 houses on each of them. This need will not be satisfied by this method of parish pump politics until the Minister says, "You have got to take so much population in the next twenty years, and we are here to see you do the job properly."

Again, a lot could be done without prejudicing the skyline of the beautiful South Downs, which I want to preserve as much as anyone. The borough surveyor says that that area is a watershed, and that we cannot get over that problem. That is nonsense. We can get over it, and we have got to find a way. Parish pump politics, local conservatism, the lack of challenge by the Government on what is a national problem, is leaving the local authorities to find the easy way out, they can do nothing at all.

Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)

It might help us in following the deployment of the hon. Gentleman's argument if I were to point out what has happened in the case of Worthing, where there is a lack of uniformity in regard to the local planning authorities. It happened with regard to one particular street, and I could give the hon. Gentleman details of it. In this particular avenue, there are already flats developed at a certain density. There is another body which desires to develop flats, which would be admirable from the area, but the authority is reducing the density and making it impossible.

Mr. Chapman

That is the sort of thing that is going on. The pressures inside the local planning offices and whims that occur in making decisions are fantastic.

The other point, in looking at the problems of special localities, where the land famine really occurs, is that the Ministry is not doing enough in merely having consultations with the county council or county borough council. These areas cut across the boundaries of local authorities. If we take the area about which I am speaking, it consists partly of East Sussex, partly of the county borough of Brighton, partly of the boroughs of Hove and Eastbourne, and partly of a whole lot of miscellaneous land in between. We have to consider that area as a unity. This is the area which is being built up. At the moment, one authority does not know what view is taken by any of the other authorities about their share of this national problem with which it is supposed to be trying to cope. There is no co-ordination. The Minister's idea of talks with the county council or the county borough will get us nowhere until this area, as such—an ad hoc area—is designated as a famine area and the Ministry moves in on a total regional scale and says, "Let us see what we can do to make the best use of the land we have got."

I hope that the Ministry will now stop this merely local approach and try to broaden it into the consideration of areas which ought to be taken together. This is a matter which affects not only the south coast, but which occurs also in my own constituency. What is the use of just talking about Birmingham? I agree that there are talks going on about overspill populations, but it is the people in the whole of the Black Country for whom we have to find room. We have to find a way of absorbing these people in the numbers we can and in 'the regions that matter, and it cannot be considered as a local problem.

I think that, in the areas that are difficult ones, the Ministry should also employ super-planners. I do not want to see Abercrombie plans, taking many years to produce, for every difficult area, but I do suggest that a lot of local authorities, with the best will in the world, have planning officers not of high enough calibre to consider the whole problem of land in the area. It would be a very good thing if, for example, the area of the south coast were looked at as a whole by super-planners, with a view to doing something in the way of co-ordination and designation which was acceptable to everybody's needs.

Fourthly, I am sure that there is some need to help and urge local authorities to do something more active in the way of urban redevelopment. I have already referred to the case of Brighton. We have one area in the middle of the town where some weeks ago it was proposed by a committee of the corporation that it was ripe for demolition and redevelopment. What happened? Parish pump politics intervened, stressing the problem of the area as opposed to the problem of Brighton, and some members of Brighton Town Council said, "Look at the hardship on the poor shopkeepers who will be displaced". Of course, it was pointed out that some private developer would get hold of the land piecemeal very soon. The very idea that somebody might be hurt, however, caused that plan for the redevelopment of an area which could have been very attractive to be thrown out by the local authority.

The, Minister himself should have indicated what were the needs of the whole area, because here was a contribution to the wider solution of the main problem. I plead for the Minister taking a line with these authorities, and not only saying what can be done, but going one step further and helping them to find and use properly the land they need.

The private speculator can do this. He can move in in a big way. I do not know exactly how he does it. I am not on a scale big enough to do these things. But the big-time operator moves in and soon sorts out the multitude of local ownerships. The local authorities persevere slowly over a period of time and never get anywhere—or seldom get anywhere. We have to find a way of helping local authorities in that problem.

I now come to the question whether there is anything we can do about high prices. I take the view that after we have started the bonfire, which has got so big, in repealing the 1947 Act, no fire extinguishers will cope with it now. We must let the bonfire inside the present development plans burn itself out. It is too late to restrict prices, for reasons at which the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) hinted when he interrupted an hon. Member a little while ago. I do not think that much in the way of taxation would help at this stage. With the present famine in some areas, any tax of that nature would be added to the price and the individual purchaser of a house will end up paying the tax when the house is built on the land. I am not really in favour of any of these expedients, worthy though they all are. I would agree with a capital gains tax. On the whole, that would catch a lot of profit on land which is really income and is being disguised as capital. That is a small measure of social justice which we can certainly afford.

There is another way, which is more controversial, but I wish the Government could accept it. I believe that we could draw a line round the present development plans and say that, broadly speaking, we have to let the fire burn itself out inside this line. Then I think we could, even with a Conservative conscience to deal with, try a different approach in respect of the new areas which are brought into designation for house building outside development plans. We ought to be able to say, "We have made a mistake. We never faced the dilemma of restricting the supply and hoping that the price would take care of itself. But, having made that mistake inside our development plans, let us not go any further. Let us draw a line around and try something fresh outside."

In the sort of areas that I have mentioned—the back of Brighton, the edge of the great conurbations and so on—I should like to see the local authorities again given an opportunity to buy stretches of white land at something less than the present-day astronomical prices. I should like to see the local authorities given the opportunity to buy land at agricultural value plus. We should have to find a new formula. We should certainly not pay the astronomical, speculative prices on land already designated in development plans. After all, the people concerned will get a windfall capital gain through designation. As the next stage in our development plan, we can afford to moderate that capital gain in the interests of the community.

I should like to see local authorities given an opportunity of buying stretches of such land, partly developing it themselves and partly making it available, on a non-profit-making basis to themselves, to private developers who are willing to put up houses at modest prices, the emphasis being on a category of house in, say, the £2,000–£3,000 range which ordinary people can afford.

I know that this is makeshift and ad hoc, and that it does not accord with the Tory Party's principles of a free market and all that nonsense. It is, however, frankly admitting that this is a problem, that we made a mistake inside our development plans and that we are now going to try, outside the development plans, to help the people who really matter—those in the £2,000—£3,000 range.

Mr. Alan Green (Preston, South)

I hope that the hon. Member agrees that most people think that this is a problem, and not just hon. Members opposite. When he produced the suggestion that local authorities should pay something plus, I sympathised with him in his difficulty in saying how much plus. He did not say how much plus. Does he mean that the local authorities should have powers of compulsory purchase at so much plus, and that only the local authorities should have such powers? How will he get people to sell if that is the case?

Mr. Chapman

There are two points there. I agree that hon. Members opposite have admitted that this is a problem. I have complained that the Minister has not been honest and has concealed that there is a problem. I agree that there would have to be powers for compulsory purchase at agricultural value plus. That is a sheer makeshift for getting round the problem of high prices in order to satisfy the market for modestly priced houses. I offer it as no more than that, perhaps only as a temporary expedient, but it seems to me to be the one halfway house towards which I could draw the present Government. It is in that spirit that I offer it.

This is a great problem, as we have all said. I plead with the Committee that we should have no more speeches of the type made by the Minister today. Let us face it; we are in a frightful dilemma. We are in a muddled situation. There are many people who are paying through the nose for houses today; they cannot afford it but they have no alternative. Let us bend our minds not towards making partisan points but towards trying to solve that problem.

6.17 p.m.

Mr. John M. Temple (City of Chester)

I accept the closing words of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), in which he definitely said that we are facing a great problem. I would go further than that and say that there is no simple solution to the problem. My speech will attempt to analyse its causes. I shall then have a word to say about planning, and then I hope to make some constructive suggestions about how I would attempt to deal with the problem.

I cannot go any distance with my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley), who suggested that there is a case for a betterment levy upon land which is being sold at high prices at the present time and, in train, a case for compensation where there are planning refusals. I support my right hon. Friend the Minister, who stated that he wishes to have a free market in land. I believe that questions of compensation and betterment are so very difficult that the sensible suggestion at present is to ignore solutions along those lines and to look to the free market in land.

Speaking as one who comes from the north-west of England, I can find no real evidence of speculation in building land in that part of the country. The Minister said that he had evidence of builders buying one, two and three years in advance of requirements. I do not call that speculation. I call that ordinary sensible planning in advance by the developer.

Mr. S. Silverman

Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. Temple

No, I cannot. The hon. Member will have his turn.

There has also been mention of land hoarding. I can find no evidence of that, either, in the north-west of England. I think that the position has been built up where we have this great demand for land largely as a result of the prosperity brought about by the Conservative Government.

In anything that I say from now onwards I shall make an exception of Greater London. Greater London is one of the world's urban constellations. It is in the same category as Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles. I believe that different considerations should apply to the problem in Greater London.

I think that I shall carry the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) with me in saying that for many years, while living in the North-West, I have observed the tremendous magnetism of the south-east of England. There is no doubt that families leave Scotland, Wales and the north of England to come and live in the South-East, never to return. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred to this magnetism of the Greater London urban constellation. I believe that that magnetism is real. I do not think that it is entirely engendered by the amount of industrial activity in the South-East, nor by the amount of employment there. I believe that it is partly social and partly climatic, and, therefore, that we must live with it. There are special considerations to be taken account of in the problem in the Greater London urban constellation.

Two major factors have caused the rise in the price of land. One is the prospering society, and the other is planning. Both my right hon. Friends and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition might well have referred to the statistical argument of the prospering society. I shall refer to it briefly. I build up the case for this demand for land partly on increase in population—which we can now look forward to—and partly because the sizes of our households are decreasing.

During the last ten years the number of persons per household in the South-East has decreased from 3.3 to 3. In other words, there has been a decrease of about 10 per cent. of persons living in each unit of accommodation. That in itself gives a 10 per cent. increase in demand for housing accommodation in the South-East. This trend may well be observable in other parts of the country.

There is also earlier marriage. Anyone who goes about the country can see the young "grannies" who are so self-evident, and will realise that the velocity of the reproductive cycle is, indeed, increasing in Britain. I am not saying that it is for the benefit of young "grannies," but we have to provide more playing fields and open spaces. I have seen young grannies "jumping about on tennis courts in my time.

Another factor, apart from the social side of the progress of our prosperity, is the amount of land which is needed for industrial development. Again, I think that I carry the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne along with me here—in bygone days, in the cotton districts, all the industrial development was in the form of multistorey mills. Today, it is rare to find a multistorey factory being built. The new ones are nearly all automated single-storey factories, with one operative looking after an immense amount of machinery. This leads to a tremendous additional demand for land for industrialisation. When I use the words "industrialisation" and "urbanisation", I use them as being largely synonymous.

There is also now the demand for a second house in the country. That sounds strange, I know, but so many people want a caravan as a second home. If they are living in high blocks of flats, the one thing that they want is to get out into the country for the weekends which they now enjoy. There is developing in the countryside a demand for accommodation for caravans or pied à terre for holidays and weekends. All these factors add up to the accelerating demand for land. Unless a major slump develops I cannot see that demand subsiding—and I am sure that no hon. Member of the Committee wants a major slump to develop. All parties are committed to a policy of full employment.

Planning is another major factor in the rise in land values. It is time that we had a fresh look at planning. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition and The Times leader today both referred to the Barlow Report. The Times said: The Barlow conception…must be made to work. I believe, however, that major factors have supervened since the Barlow Report in 1940, and that they are of tremendous importance.

As hon. Members will recollect, the Barlow Commission was set up to examine the disadvantages of large cities—not the advantages. I shall read one paragraph from its Report, for it is significant in looking today at the economic future of Britain. It said: From the economic standpoint, the experience not only of Great Britain but of all the great industrial nations of the Western civilization clearly indicates that the big industrialised community has definite advantages. The Barlow Commission said that there are economic advantages in a large urbanised community. One factor which I believe has supervened since it reported is that today the strategic reason—which the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition referred to—for dispersion from our large cities has largely passed away. Equally, the Barlow Commission was reporting against a background of the heavy unemployment of the 1930s. Again the Commission was reporting against the background of what it conceived to be either a static or a declining population in Britain. That has been entirely overtaken by events. We are, in fact, envisaging an increase in the population.

The Barlow Commission took no cognisance of the universality of the motor car. That is another important factor which has come upon us since then. Another factor, not exactly self-evident today, but only just over the horizon, is that we are proposing to integrate ourselves as an economic unit with the countries of Europe. With all that, there is a case today for the larger urbanised communities in Britain. As the Barlow Report said, there are economic advantages in large cities.

If I have carried the Committee with me so far, I suggest that urban growth is a natural concomitant of a prospering society. I believe that the social and economic trends which were accepted at the time of the Barlow Report have, to a certain extent, been vitiated today. Before I come to my recommendations, I say that we have to live with planning but live without land nationalisation in all its forms. I propose to group my constructive suggestions under four headings: redevelopment of our city centres; reasonable peripheral development; green belts; regional planning. I propose, at the end, to seek to show the effects that my recommendations will have on British agriculture.

The case for the redevelopment of our city centres has been fairly and adequately put by my right hon. Friend. I add only one factor—again quoting from experience in the Liverpool area. The local authority there is, I understand, acquiring land at approximately 9s. per square yard, or about £2,000 an acre, as a result of its slum clearance schemes. These parcels of land which it is acquiring at this favourable price are being redeveloped by the local authority itself at the moment.

There is a case for a local authority—certainly making a profit, because it acquires the land, quite fairly, at the relatively low price of £2,000, which is the sort of price it paid when acquiring similar land before the war—allowing a private developer to develop some of those important sites, the local authority selling the land to the private developer for the purpose.

I wholeheartedly support my right hon. Friend when he says that he would consider accepting higher densities. I quote an example from an area just north of Liverpool and my authority is the President of the Chartered Auctioneers and Estate Agents' Institute, who said that land to the north of Liverpool had been granted a housing density of five dwellings to the acre. That density should be raised to seven and a half dwellings to the acre, giving a 50 per cent. increase in the number of units of accommodation available. I support an active policy of redevelopment of our city centres and I believe that that is what my right hon. Friend is proposing to do.

Now I turn to a subject which will be far more controversial. I favour reasonable peripheral development. I prefer that to what I call "patchworking", or "pepper-potting". Perhaps I should explain what I mean by patchworking and pepper-potting. Replying to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) on 5th July, my right hon. Friend said, of his green belt policy: …proper provision must be made for development beyond the green belt".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th July, 1960; Vol. 626, c. 23.] By patchworking, I mean development of new towns with populations of 50,000 to 100,000, fairly large units of urbanisation. By pepper-potting, I mean the development of small villages into large villages, developing villages with populations of 1,000 or 2,000 into villages of 4,000 to 5.000, in other words comparatively sporadic development beyond the green belt.

My major reason for advocating extensions of 'peripheral development is that as anyone with knowledge of agriculture will realise, where urban development meets the countryside there is always a sterilisation of the land on the periphery of the urban development. If reasonable peripheral development is allowed, there will be a shorter length of perimeter at which the urban development will meet the countryside, because the area of one large area of urban development will be confined by a smaller perimeter than would a similar area confined within many smaller plots of urban development. I seek to limit the urban perimeter, which we would have by patch-working and pepper-potting, by reasonable peripheral development.

There is also a case for peripheral development on administrative grounds, because local authorities are better able to organise their education and other services when urbanisation is in one large compact area.

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

The hon. Member is making a serious case which should be challenged and perhaps more clearly explained. If he restricts urban development to the inside of the green belt, the peripheral development as he says, then that is only a short-term policy dealing with immediate needs. What happens to the green belt in the next decade? Surely the circumference will be extended all the time, so that in a few years, as has been argued, there will again be the need to leap-frog the green belt.

Mr. Temple

I shall deal with the question of green belts in a moment. The views of the hon. Member and mine on green belts may not coincide, but I will explain my policy about green belts.

However, I was about to say that I doubt whether country dwellers would welcome the patchworking or pepper-potting of the countryside any more than they would welcome the extension by peripheral development, but we have to find the land for urbanisation somewhere and I make the case for an extension of peripheral development because I believe that it merits very serious consideration.

Continuing the same line of argument, I do not believe that by putting the development beyond the green belt we will necessarily decrease the pressure on our urban centres, because it may well be that people living beyond the green belt will have to have their own transport to get into the city and thus they will cause more congestion—and they will still have to use the city centres for shopping, social and business purposes. The congestion in the centre of the cities may well increase by reason of development beyond the green belt.

Now I come to the subject of the green belts themselves. Every hon. Member is aware that there is only one statutory green belt in the country, the Greater London green belt. I have with me a plan of that green belt and I have endeavoured to discover the logic behind it. To the south of London the green belt is 15 miles deep, while for most of north London it is five miles deep and does not exist at all in two places. In other words, there is no complete green belt round Greater London.

The boundaries of the Greater London green belt are largely coincidental with local authority boundaries. A local government commission is now sitting and it may recommend variations in local government boundaries. Is it the Minister's intention to vary the green belt if local government boundaries themselves are varied? I would have much more respect for green belt areas if the boundaries had been conceived on planning grounds, in other words, if the green belt perimeters had followed the lines of rivers or escarpments, or natural features. That would be more logical than following local government boundaries existing at some moment of time.

In my own area there is a proposal, now before my right hon. Friend, to build the largest commercial vehicle factory in Europe in what is, in effect, a proposed "green buffer". Until the public inquiry, this proposed green buffer of land, between Ellesmere Port on the south side of the River Mersey, and Bebington, was considered an established green belt, but at the inquiry learned counsel, Mr. Geoffrey Lawrence, referred to this parcel of land as being a proposed green belt. In fact, he was perfectly right and it was not a statutory green belt. I understand from reports in the local newspapers, however, that the Clerk to Cheshire County Council referred to it as a green belt area.

Whether a proposed green belt or green belt, the fact remains that, for excellent economic reasons, the Vauxhall Motor Company is seeking permission to build a huge factory there, with all the repercussions which will follow. If it had not been hoped that that request would be acceded to, it would not have been made. My argument is that one does not appear to be able to have complete faith in these green belts, whether proposed or statutory. Are they, in fact, inviolate when major economic reasons are put forward to show that they should be varied?

I was very glad to find some measure of agreement between my right hon. Friend and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition about regional planning. I believe that there is a case for regional planning. I believe that the Local Government Act, 1958, was designed for this specific purpose, because it is possible that the local government commission will recommend the setting up of joint planning boards for the special review areas. I know both sides of this argument and I believe that at present there is a strong case for regional planning.

It would be wrong to neglect to make a certain amount of comment on the effect of this urbanisation on British agriculture. I have an interesting article from the Farmers' Weekly of 8th July. It refers to Mr. Arnold Priestley, who farms about 40 acres. During the last ten years he has increased his output sevenfold, from £1,500 to £11,000.

I am sorry that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is not here, but I think that everyone is conversant with the fact that although the agricultural acreage of our country has been declining its gross and net output has been increasing. As an agriculturist I am convinced that, even if a certain amount of valuable agricultural land goes to urbanisation, agricultural output from the remaining acres will be in excess of the present agricultural output.

I hope that I have made it clear that I am not panicking over this situation. I am fortified in that outlook by a speech made at Newcastle-upon-Tyne, at the annual spring meeting of the Town Planning Institute, by Mr. J. R. James, the Deputy Chief Planner to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. He said: Analysis of the present set of development plans reveals that the rate of local dispersion has been underestimated almost everywhere. Speaking of the green belt, he said: It was never intended as a defensive measure against the reasonable peripheral expansion of urban areas…It cannot stop growth in the city region. It can only shape it. I believe that those words are immensely significant. I understand from those who were at the conference that the accent was on the word "reasonable". Mr. James ref erred to "reasonable peripheral expansion.", and the fact that the green belt could not stop development but could only shape it.

I go all the way with him, and that explains my attitude to the price and use of land. I believe that urban growth is interlocked with prosperity. We want the latter, so we have to learn to live with the former. Let us continue to shape it—not restrict it—for the benefit of the nation.

6.43 p.m.

Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)

I am sorry that the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) does not feel able to express agreement with the proposals of his hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) for a betterment levy or, rather, what he called a betterment levy. It was a betterment levy with a difference, because, as I understood it, it was designed to provide that a vendor of land which had greatly enhanced development value should make a payment to an owner of land whose land was sterilised by planning decisions and refusals of permission. That is betterment with a difference, and not betterment as we on this side of the Committee have understood it.

Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley

The levy would be charged on the vendor and would go to the Exchequer. The Exchequer would reimburse owners who were denied their development value.

Mr. Irvine

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. It is, as I say, betterment with a difference, but there are hopeful signs that the hon. Member for North Angus is at least moving in what some of us on this side of the Committee regard as the correct direction.

The Minister's speech today must have given relief to the speculators in land. It was not unexpected relief. Their foresight and powers of anticipation are recognised to be considerable, and they probably expected something of the kind which they received, but the Minister's speech revealed no constructive proposals for dealing with a serious situation.

I felt that the Minister did not give sufficient recognition to the fact, of which he must be aware, that the present movement of land prices is fairly and squarely the responsibility of the Government and the result of the policies that they have pursued. I believe that any consideration of what is the appropriate step to take in this situation should be clearly founded on a recognition of that fact. After all, the 1959 Act introduced an assessment of prices for the compulsory purchase of land on a basis of what might be expected would be realised on a sale by a willing seller in the open market.

As we know, that constituted a departure from the provisions of the 1947 Act, which required that compensation should be assessed on the basis of existing use. The 1959 provisions marked the final and complete breakaway from the 1947 concept, with the 1954 Act representing a kind of half-way house.

Any endeavour to work out a constructive policy to deal with what has rightly been described as the scandal of land prices at the present moment must take account of what I have referred to, namely, the transformation of the situation which has been brought about by Government policies, because the position now is that an acquiring authority, in the case of compulsory purchase of land, is paying for every single element of value comprised in the land. A local authority does not pay merely for the element of value which is attributable to the communal effort and enterprise put into the land by society, which is the element of value which those who advocate the taxation of land values are after. It pays in addition for the element of value in the land which is attributable to the making of planning decisions and the grant of planning permission.

From many points of view a grotesque situation faces a local authority which, in the general interests of the community, seeks, for example, to plan open spaces within its area. It feels all the time, as it were over its shoulder, that the consequence of making a generous allocation of open space in its development plans will inevitably be that it will have to pay a higher price for the compulsory purchase of adjoining land for housing purposes.

The Minister said this afternoon that when these matters were discussed in connection with the 1959 legislation the argument for the betterment levy was not urgently pursued by the Opposition. He will no doubt remember, however, that there were considerable arguments on the issue of a betterment levy. Also, he will remember the discussions that took place in connection with floating value and matters of that kind.

We on this side of the Committee are united in the view that any policy designed to deal with the scandal of land prices must be considered and arrived at in the setting of our recognition that an entirely new situation has been created in which the compulsory purchase price of land is equated with the price of land in the open market, and that local authorities in acquiring land for the purposes of housing, or any other purposes, are required to pay every single element comprised in that open market value of the land.

There is a certain parallel between the reaction of prices in the land market to the Government's provisions in the 1959 Act and the reaction of prices on the Stock Exchange to the Conservative Party's victory at the General Election. It is a matter of creating a climate of opinion. In one case investors in certain classes of security, and in the other case investors in land interests, recognised that the climate of opinion was favourable to them—as they saw it—and the immediate consequence was the kind of inflationary movement in prices that we have been witnessing, although the social disadvantages accruing are very great.

I admit that there is a certain disadvantage in having a discrepancy between the compulsory purchase price of land and the open market value, but in my view the objections to that are less than the social and economic dangers which are occurring today in the current movement of land prices. The 1947 Act endeavoured to equate the existing use value of land with its open market value. If that endeavour had been successful it would have got over the difficulty with which I am dealing. In other words, the compulsory purchase price of land would have been the same as the open market price, at the existing use value. It is true that the endeavour of the 1947 Act failed. Even so, I feel great pride in my party's record in connection with the 1947 legislation. It was a splendid Act, and it is one of the tragedies of the post-war era that it just did not get by. I believe that if the Central Land Board had made a more assertive use of its powers of compulsory acquisition to buttress the concept of the open market price of land being equal to the compulsory purchase price at existing use value there might not have been any need for the subsequent amending legislation.

But the endeavour to equate the existing use value of land both to the compulsory purchase price and the open market price broke down. Whereas we endeavoured to effect that equation in value, the Conservative Party, in its long phase of Parliamentary power, has sought to achieve, and has achieved, another equation, namely that of the compulsory purchase price with the highest conceivable price including every element of value that any valuer in this world could think of.

The real nigger in the woodpile is the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield). It was he who fanned into flame this development. For many years the Conservative Party resisted the proposition which has now prevailed, of the compulsory purchase price of land being equivalent to the top open market price. That method had not been used in the 1944 Act. In that Act, passed by a Coalition Government in which the Conservative Party played its part, prices were pegged at 1939 levels. There had been substantial inflation in land prices since the beginning of the war, and yet it was determined, in the 1944 Act, that the price for the compulsory purchase of land should be confined to the 1939 level.

That necessarily meant the introduction of a two-tier system. In the Town and Country Planning Act of 1954 the present Prime Minister had an opportunity to close the gap and make the compulsory purchase price of land equivalent to the open market value. He did not do this, because he is a very shrewd politician and knows the appropriate pace at which to proceed in matters of this kind. The passage in his speech quoted by my right hon. Friend this afternoon clearly reveals that he thought there would be a good deal of popular objection to any proposal to equate the compulsory purchase price of land with the open market value. For that long period this development we now see was resisted. It was at that point that the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South came in and carried all before him. The Government must realise that in yielding to the pressure behind them they are responsible for what is now occurring.

It is interesting to recall that in the early part of the history of compulsory purchase in this country the practice was that when land was compulsorily acquired a percentage-plus was paid to the owner. He was given something additional to the open market value as compensation for the fact that he was the victim of something so unsocial as a compulsory acquisition. That was the climate of opinion when compulsory purchase first developed.

We have now left all that behind. The weight and influence of social and economic change has made people see these things quite differently. We have gone through an intermediate period in which there has been an endeavour to equate the open market price and the compulsory purchase price, and I believe that we should now direct our attention to going further and giving to local authorities a preferential rate of purchase of interests in land where these purchases are made for social purposes, such as housing. Only in this way shall we achieve uninhibited planning. All this financial aspect is very closely related to the planning side. To the extent that financial considerations run counter to planning requirements, this whole aspect possesses great relevance.

I recognise that hardship accrues in certain instances where, on compulsory purchase, an amount less than the open market value is received. I acknowledge that, because it stands out a mile. That was one of the factors which undoubtedly diluted the opposition to the 1959 legislation. There were many comparatively small owner-occupiers whose interest was diminished in value because of some such matter as a street-widening scheme or something of that kind. It seemed very hard that those people should recover on compulsory purchase anything less than they could have received by selling in the open market.

We must remember that in such cases by definition there is no element of betterment. What we want to aim at is provision for deducting from the open market value on compulsory acquisition the element of betterment. That is the element of value which derives from the grant of planning permission. In the case of the small owner-occupier which I have cited that element will be non-existent.

I acknowledge that any such process of deducting betterment must necessarily follow a rather rough and ready method. Betterment is not an easy element to quantify. It would have to be a matter for the district valuer. It would have to be applied uniformly and according to pattern over different parts of the country. It should be referable on appeal to the Lands Tribunal.

But this matter of the compulsory purchase price is the key to the whole problem. There is a raging inflationary movement of land values. There is a need to do something urgently to put it right. The character attaching to any real remedy is that there must be a limitation of the compulsory purchase value of land. That will" have an immediate restraining effect upon the market. Without some such endeavour, the situation, which is already bad, will tend to worsen.

In conclusion, the recommendation which I make, that the whole issue of what is the appropriate compulsory purchase price of land should in this connection be looked into again, is not at all inconsistent with other suggested reforms and recommendations. For example, it is not inconsistent with, and does not run at any point counter to, the concept of a capital gains tax or to any of the additional claims of those who desire to tax land values.

Nor is it inconsistent with the proposals one reads—The Times leading article today refers to this—that there should be more drastic, careful and comprehensive treatment of the quinquennial reviews of development plans. All these related matters can be usefully pursued at the same time that we review the question of what should be the compulsory acquisition price.

Mr. H. Brooke

I should be grateful if the hon. and learned Gentleman will indicate to me, having listened to my speech, in what directions he thinks greater trouble should be taken over the reviews. I read what was said in The Times. So far as I know, it was quite without foundation. It was certainly written without any attempt to discover from me what was done.

Mr. Irvine

The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that at the point when he intervened I was endeavouring to bring home to the Committee the point that my recommendations about the compulsory purchase price of land are not inconsistent with recommendations being made for changes in the treatment of development plans. He has invited me to launch forth upon a somewhat exceptional sideline point. Although I am grateful to him for making the suggestion, I am not sure that my gratitude would be shared by the rest of the Committee on that aspect. I would prefer to confine my observations to the point that what I have recommended about the compulsory purchase price is not inconsistent with any reforms which may be necessary in other connections, though the right hon. Gentleman will deny that any are necessary.

In a somewhat critical situation, rapidly worsening, the constructive and effective method to handle this problem is to reconsider the whole subject of what is the appropriate price to pay on the compulsory purchase of land, and to recognise that the correct course in arriving at that price is to deduct from the open market value an element for betterment. I strongly plead that the admitted difficulty of calculating that element is not sufficiently great to justify allowing things to continue as they are.

7.7 p.m.

Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)

The hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) made two points to which I want particularly to refer. The first was his surprise that the Conservative policy should create confidence and thus a rise in prices. Prices in any commodity must depend on confidence and the demand.

The hon. and learned Gentleman's second point was that, when the 1947 Act decided that land should be sold at existing use values, there was some surprise that land was sold only for existing use. Nobody is anxious to sell land unless he makes a profit or has a good reason for selling it. Like the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman), I am a builder. To me, land is a raw material. Any industrialist who sees a raw material appearing to become a speculative province must become apprehensive, but the experience is that speculation in any commodity is generally broken down finally by excess of supply. The rings we have seen in pepper and copper were always broken down when the demand was found to be less than the supply. The ultimate end to this is getting much more land than is being found at present. That is why I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement.

Before I discuss the problem in detail, I should like to view it from my point of view as a builder. Unlike the hon. Member for Northfield, my private enterprise instincts run exactly parallel with my political ones. Consequently, I appreciate that I am able to see the problem in its full concept. I agree with him entirely that there is a great demand in local authorities for parish pump politics. Having built a great number of houses in my lifetime and seen the joy that people experience from owning their own houses, I always appreciate that they, having acquired a house, are not overanxious that people round them should get houses.

At the same time, we ought to look at the problem in its overall aspect. What is the land to be used for? There has been considerable mention by hon. Members opposite about the fear of offices being built, but they were as anxious as we that the Offices Bill should be passed. I voted against that Bill on Second Reading because I was apprehensive that if we decided to raise the standard of offices, as we all wanted to do, but at the same time objected to offices being built, all we should accomplish would be to raise the price of offices. Then we would have another scare about private enterprise taking advantage of the position.

Mr. Boyden

Will the hon. Member agree that hon. Members on this side of the Committee did not object to the building of offices but to where offices were to be built?

Mr. Costain

I quite agree, but it is just as well to build offices where they are needed.

It may be worth considering various prices of building flats and houses, for there is not enough clear thinking on this matter. The cost of building an ordinary dwellinghouse today is about 40s. per square foot. The cost of building a maisonette is about 45s. per square foot. The cost of building an 8-storey flat is 74s. per square foot, and the cost of building a I2-storey flat is 83s. per square foot. I mention those facts because we must appreciate that if the demand for building more flats is to be considered we have to realise that we shall use more capital of the country to achieve that objective. My company has built almost as many flats as houses, so I hope I may be considered unprejudiced on this point.

Generally, with the rising standard, the family man wants a house and garden of his own, and who can blame him? Equally, elderly people, those about to retire, and particularly widows, are very anxious to have flats. In the planning organisation we must bear those factors in mind. We must also realise that if we force family men to go into flats, of necessity they will want to get their children out into the country at week-ends. That will increase the road programme problem. I feel strongly that we ought to plan in such a way that family people can get houses.

There are certain points we can learn even from the Commonwealth. My business takes me all over the world. In areas where they want to encourage development in some of our Dominions, they insist that a certain type of development shall be comprehensive. For instance, they insist in certain parts that if a developer wants to build a number of houses he shall also build a factory to go with them. I see the possibility in our larger towns of comprehensive development being a help. I quote the instance, only because it is near here, of the number of offices being built on the South Bank. Slum property is being demolished there and offices are being built.

Then there is the instance of Battersea. There is a great amount of small property in Battersea which I believe could be developed as a co-ordinated area, a small town inside a town, provided that the land could be released on the basis of putting up x number of houses and building offices to go with them. That would have the advantage of preventing traffic coming the whole way into London. If in a town planning proposal there could be a link between one type of development and another, we could encourage private enterprise to get on with the job. I do not think anyone in the Committee would deny that private enterprise has got on with the job of housing in this country.

We have to bear in mind just what the rise in the price of land really means. There is a great temptation always to look upon the spectacular. The Leader of the Opposition gave details of a series of prices of land today. Of course, every one of them was quite accurate, but picked them out of a tremendous number of individual prices. Last week we read in the newspapers about a diamond fetching a fantastic figure—or, to be more correct, it did not reach that figure. The value was put on the diamond because it was a special item and in someone's opinion it had a special value. In Luton, someone rightly or wrongly decided that land there was equally valuable to land in London. High prices in the centre of London have been known for hundreds of years. If a person decided in his wisdom that land in Luton is equal in price to land in London, that is his judgment. Do not let us reorient our ideas around that factor.

A better picture can be obtained by studying an interesting book by Mr. Denman on "Peak Prices and Planning". As a practical man, he used his commonsense on this subject. He took a series of prices with 1939 prices as the basis. Taking 1939 as 100, he drew attention to the fact that compared with 1939 the price per acre in 1959 was 792. I do not deny that probably it is 1,000 now. The cost per foot frontage had risen from 100 to 323. What we have to notice is that, while the price per foot frontage has gone up three times—which is about the same as the increase in the cost of other commodities—the price per acre has gone up eight times.

There are two reasons for that. The main reason is that over that period we have learned to develop land economically. When land is sold on a foot frontage basis at a high price, one cannot afford to buy it, but when it is sold by the acre the development, planning and experience is such that one can afford to pay that much more without relatively very much altering the price of land.

Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)

I noticed that the hon. Member's figures went up to 1959. Has he any figures for 1960? It is in the last, few months that the spectacular increase in the price of land has taken place.

Mr. Costain

I said that although in 1959 it was 792 it might be 1,000'today.

Mrs. Butler

That was in a particular ease, but has the hon. Member any examples of increases since then?

Mr. Costain

There has not been very much variation on the foot frontage basis, except for the odd petrol pump that we hear about. One could get a bookie stand or anything else there.

Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)

The hon. Member referred to Luton. Does what he said about that imply that when builders in the West Riding of Yorkshire complain of the extremely high price of land they do not know what they are talking about?

Mr. Costain

As a builder, I often complain about the high price of everything; that is a builder's prerogative. In anything I have said I do not want in any way to give the impression that I do not think this is a problem. It is a problem and one which can be dealt with only by releasing more products over the whole picture. I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Angus, North and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) that if we tax land we help to get it developed. I do not think we have ever decreased the cost of a commodity by nationalising or taxing it. I would suggest that every hon. Member should make a contribution—a really serious contribution—

Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East) rose

Mr. Costain

I am sorry, but I cannot give way. I have given way four times and many of my hon. Friends want to speak.

I think that every Member could make a real contribution. We all know our constituencies very well. I suggest that each hon. Member should go to his own council and discuss with it the amount of land that is available and compare it with what the building programme has been over the last two years.

The Minister in his speech today said that he would be only too anxious to take up any particular case. I have already written in my mind two letters to him. I believe that if every hon. Member would do the same we could do a great deal to cure this problem of land shortage.

7.21 p.m.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

I hope that the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) will forgive me if I do not follow him in detail. He spoke with very considerable practical knowledge of the building industry, and I want to limit myself to what was touched on, but not at great length, both by the Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, namely, the redevelopment of our city centres.

In a way, the problem is similar, although not identical, to that discussed by most hon. Members in the Committee when talking about building houses. What is common to every aspect of this problem is that it is decisive who owns the land. That is crucial when thinking in terms of redeveloping our city centres, where we have to gut, change and perform radical operations. There ownership of the land is tremendously important.

I think that every hon. Member will agree with me that unification of ownership is essential and that what we have grumbled about so much in the past and what is causing us apprehension now is the fact that the absence of unified ownership has allowed the private developers to move in on a fragmentated site which is not big enough and where, with the best will in the world, he cannot satisfy the community.

We are naturally anxious to see that the centres of our cities, as they are being redeveloped, are redeveloped quickly where it is most needed. That is probably not so much a problem in London as in many of our large cities and towns in the provinces. Not only should it be done quickly, but no serious mistakes should be made.

I hope that I shall be forgiven if I speak a little about what I have in mind as to how this might be done. In The Times of 14th June, an article by Mr. Lionel Brett made reference to the annual conference of the Royal Institute of British Architects which met in Manchester. The subject of the conference was, "The Rebuilding of Cities". In the last few paragraphs of that article he stated: Today we are coming to realise that in the very size and boldness of projects lies their economy. Moreover, we are presented with an entirely new combination of circumstances. On the one hand, we have cities too squalid for our present standard of living and so congested by traffic that we can clearly see the stage of strangulation only a few years ahead. On the other hand, we are in the midst of a building boom which, if we could ride it, could do all that needs to be done by the turn of this century. The question is"— this is the most serious question— whether we can ride it. whether, in other words, democratic control of environment is a contradiction in terms. This is the very serious question which, in a way, the Committee has been asking itself this afternoon. Although we have not achieved a specific answer, and although most of us probably think that there is no one specific answer to all these contingencies, I think that we should get our thinking and philosophy right about it and be prepared to make some sacrifice of our innate prejudices, if there are any due to party political considerations, because what must be done must be done soon and, if it is to be done soon, it has to be acceptable to the country.

I remember very well that when it passed the Town and Country Planning Act in 1947, the Labour Government made certain assumptions. I think that in the main there were three. They assumed that large-scale redevelopment would, in the main, be carried out by local authorities which would use their powers to designate areas for compulsory purchase to deal with blitzed and blighted areas which they would buy quite cheaply at existing use values.

In developing the centres of our cities—I do not know whether the Parliamentary Secretary agrees with us—it was felt by the Labour Government that the local planning committees would prepare development plans for the redevelopment of the centre of the cities, the thriving areas, and would control what happened by negative procedure by saying that no one would be allowed to redevelop there unless the redevelopment conformed to a plan. It was hoped that this combination of having a plan and using negative procedure would be enough to give a co-ordinated and visually satisfactory redevelopment, and that it would be private enterprise, in the main, which would undertake this.

I think that these were the assumptions which we made at that time. We did not think that there would be any hurry about it. We did not see that certain changes would take place and that the private developer would be pressing so hard on some of our local authorities, particularly in the great intersections of our great cities, picking out the plums for development and not doing what I am sure the Minister would have them do.

I know that the Minister made a speech on Friday morning across the road to the Civic Trust in which he asked rhetorically, "Where is the private developer when he is needed most?" We have not seen any signs of him in places like Wigan and Widnes because he does not think that it is lucrative enough compared with great and glittering prizes like those in Piccadilly Circus.

I do not blame anybody. I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary will not run away from the implications of what I am saying when I declare that the changes in legislation since 1947 have some responsibility for this. But it does not matter who is responsible. Whether we made a mistake in 1947 by bringing forward an Act which I think was excellent philosophically but which apparently did not succeed because it was too rigidly administered—which was a great pity—or whether the present Government have gone too far in their legislation of 1953, 1954 and 1959, the fact remains that between us we should put this right now or we shall be blamed by everybody and for ever in the future.

The question is, how are we to get things better? I have details in my notes about what has happened as a result of recent legislation, but other hon. Members wish to speak and I will not analyse these details. It is obvious that by making a more or less free market in land, difficulties are created. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that grants for comprehensive development are now limited to areas of extensive war damage and have been so limited for some time. I think he will agree that with the abolition of the development charge and the restoration of development value to private enterprise, local authorities in their planning found themselves liable in some circumstances to pay very heavy compensation if they tried to prevent any fragment of planning which they thought would not fit into their overall comprehensive scheme. That has been a bad result.

Moreover, the Parliamentary Secretary knows better than I that two months is too short a time for a local authority to have to say yes or no when presented with a plan by a developer. At least by means of an administrative change in respect of the centres of our great cities, we should allow a local authority a year to look carefully at the problem presented to it by a would-be developer.

Mr. Costain

Does the hon. Member seriously suggest that land should lie fallow for a year while a local authority makes up its mind what should happen to it?

Dr. Stross

I must beg the hon. Member's pardon if he has not appreciated that I am speaking about the centres of our great cities.

Mr. Costain

I understand that.

Dr. Stross

I am thinking of places, for example, where there are great intersections, such as Piccadilly Circus, where redevelopment has to take place. As the law stands a developer can say, "I want to redevelop this property which I own, and if you do not let me do it, I want my 10 per cent. compensation under the Third Schedule." The local authority must say yes or no within two months. If, by agreement with the developer, it obtains a longer time for discussion, we hear complaints that it is not fair to the developer to keep him for months and months while consideration takes place.

Sir K. Joseph

Does not the hon. Member agree that this problem would not arise so much if local authorities had a plan and carefully considered what they wanted to do with the city centres?

Dr. Stross

I do not want to stress it too often, but let us take the example of Piccadilly Circus. Certainly there was a plan and a model which was shown, but the Parliamentary Secretary knows that not one developer was prepared to segregate pedestrians from wheeled traffic. The London County Council gave way because it could not afford to buy these areas of land, which are so expensive and which are needed if we are to have comprehensive redevelopment of the heart of a great city such as London.

I think that the London County Council made a great mistake by giving way and was rescued from it ultimately by the Minister's action. We were grateful that he was able to rescue the L.C.C. from its mistake. But the L.C.C. fell into this trap partly because of the Government's action. With £30 million to £35 million a year to spend on the whole of Greater London, we must have priorities. We must decide between Piccadilly Circus and helping those who are homeless or are living in horrible slums and must be rehoused. We must deal with the blitzed areas and the slum dwellings. With this limited amount of money, the L.C.C. had to earmark it mostly to rehouse these people, and it could not afford to spend the money on Piccadilly Circus.

The Minister has now said, "The scheme which you agreed with a certain private developer is not good enough and will not do. Please let me have a careful comprehensive plan for the whole area." Such a plan is being prepared by Professor Holford. But the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe knows that a plan is not enough if one has no money with which to buy land ultimately to carry out the plan.

Mr. Costain

If an authority keeps a site in the centre of the city sterile for a year, it will want a lot more money.

Dr. Stross

I would rather keep the centre of my city sterile for a year and not make a horrible mistake, of which I should be ashamed, for over a hundred years. I would rather keep it sterile for a year than go for a quick profit because I cannot wait for a year. Let us do some thinking and do our planning properly When it is properly done we can do the building, and if it involves a cost, we must remember that it has a social purpose. It is planning for the future, and we cannot afford to make mistakes. I am certain that when the Prince Regent was planning Regent Street much careful thought was given to the subject before the work was carried out. We should not mind waiting and losing some potential profit in order to ensure that it is well done.

I must be forgiven for diverging a little. The Parliamentary Secretary knows that recent legislation gave encouragement to the private developer and that there is not one private developer or group of private developers who, in the centres of our great cities, where land is very expensive, can afford to buy enough land and buildings to provide the twenty-five acres we need for comprehensive redevelopment. When I think of the price of land in the centre of London I cannot work out how much twenty-five acres would cost. Only the nation as a whole can afford to move forward in this way and to think in such terms, and certainly the L.C.C. cannot.

As the private developer cannot afford it, he picks the pieces of land which he wants to redevelop in small fragments, and that is when he meets difficulties. He has to pay very high prices to persuade people to agree to a unified development on even a small piece of a quarter or half an acre. Even that costs a lot of money in the centre of a great city. The developer then has to build in such a way as to get the maximum profit, because he has had to pay very heavily for the land. That is one factor which we should consider, and another is that if the negative procedure is used to prevent bad redevelopment, it is very expensive for the local authority, which cannot afford to pay the 10 per cent. compensation.

The pressure which has been brought on some local authorities by this new and highly skilled group of speculative developers is unfortunate. I should like to see full use made of their skills and knowledge, but they must be harnessed. I think it was the Minister who said that they must be harnessed so that the ultimate result will give us not only buildings to enable us to ride the building boom but, at the end, something worth looking at and something of which we shall not be ashamed. In any event, however expensive the land is, we may have to put pieces of it aside for the development of roads.

The Minister of Transport does not always help local authorities to the full; often the assistance which he gives is niggardly. I have heard him accused of being hag-ridden and always frightened by the Treasury, and certainly he is not a favourite of the local authorities. Local planning authorities cannot always afford to do what they would like, so when a developer offers some further financial assistance they are tempted and fall into the trap of carrying out hasty redevelopment of a partial nature which they would have preferred to avoid.

Any patient can go to a general practitioner to have a wart taken away or a small fatty tumour removed from the skin. To deal with the centre of a large town or city is a job which calls for the most highly skilled "surgeons" in the form of the best technicians, town planners, architects, surveyors and engineers, but they are not always easily available, and not to small local authorities. There are possible ways of finding a solution, and although I do not think that I would hold up any one in particular, I will give my preference.

Could local authorities be given all the powers and finance they need? At present local authorities must account annually to their ratepayers. Councillors and aldermen feel that they cannot buy land in expensive pieces in the centres of towns and cities because long before the land can be developed and bring in a return the rates will have gone up owing to the extra cost and these councillors will be thrown out of office as a result. They will be succeeded by people whose views are in opposition to theirs and the scheme they have in mind will be scrapped. Therefore, local authorities will not take the risk and, as a result, they find themselves in great difficulty.

Can private enterprise do this? I have already said that normally private enterprise cannot, because a private developer will fail, however wealthy, and even though he be backed by a great organisation like a building society. Such developers have not proved that they could buy 25 acres of land in the centre of London, Manchester or Birmingham.

Should there be a partnership between private developers and local authorities? There is an interesting example in the experiment being conducted at Frankfurt where it was decided that if pieces of land could not be purchased by the local authority, because of public accountability, they would form a landowning company and in this way avoid the need for annual public accountability. There the local authority is in partnership with the developers. We cannot do that at present—I must not dilate on this subject because legislation would be needed and one must not enter upon a discussion on legislation.

We could have public boards and development could be run by such boards. The boards which I envisage would not take authority from the local authorities who have planning powers. Local authorities with such powers would not give them to any other authority gladly and easily. These public boards might be set up on a regional basis, one for Scotland, another for Wales, another for the north of England and one for the Midlands and the South. They might be empowered to buy land at present prices by compulsory purchase, and to own it and release it to private developers or local authorities as it was needed for the kind of purposes which I have in mind.

It seems to me that two things would result. There would be less tendency for a spiral of inflation, and local authorities would feel assured regarding their future. They would know that land would be available when they wanted it and could afford to buy it. The rates would not go up in the first few unfruitful years when there would be no return from development. Everyone knows that ultimately they might make a profit, but sometimes we must be prepared to make a loss on redevelopment because we wish to make a garden, or do something like that, and give people the right to live spaciously and comfortably in the centres of their cities.

Psychiatrists from all over Europe have told me that it is difficult to live in a big city. Someone today said that it is a great thing to build a city big, it is profitable; but we have to pay a penalty. Above a certain size, and the size is only 15,000, which is equivalent to a large village or a small town, the rate of mental breakdown rises sharply. It is hard and exasperating to live in a great city, and the least we can do is to make the centres of our cities as attractive and homely as possible. We must make them safe for our people to walk about leisurely, and we must separate the people from the danger which arise from traffic.

If the public boards which I have described could own land and hand it over to public authorities or private developers as it was needed, at least we should have overcome the first hurdle. But it is important that such public boards should be able to establish research units to investigate this type of redevelopment about which we do not know very much. Every problem is different in every big city, and even in parts of the same city. A great city using its own offices might tend to duplicate and imitate the solution applicable to one intersection for every other problem, which would result in something that was dull and boring. The visual end result is as important as the profit motive. That is what we as legislators should be thinking about all the time.

I apologise for the length of my speech. I know how interesting hon. Members find this subject but I think it a highly political subject. If we are to succeed it had better not be too party political. But it is highly political as the basis of the future of our lives and the lives of those who come after us, and I hope that soon we shall succeed in finding a solution.

7.47 p.m.

Mr. F. V. Corfield (Gloucestershire, South)

The hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) was over-complimentary when he suggested that I had played the major part in the passing of the 1959 Act. In any case, the hon. and learned Gentleman might like to know that I have no regrets. I make no apologies; I am absolutely convinced that the situation existing before the passing of that Act was quite intolerable, and that no system envisaging a two-tier price system can be justified.

However that may be—and I want to come back to that subject a little later—I think that most people will agree that in a debate of this sort it is essential to keep separate questions dealing with the price of land, on the one hand, and those with regard to betterment, on the other. The economic price of land is quite different from any question of how or whether any part of the profits accruing to a private person should be channelled back into the coffers of the State.

There has been general agreement to- day that a considerable part of the problem arises from the fact that we have artificially reduced the supply of land through planning control, while, on the other hand, we have to some extent artificially stimulated the demand by various social policies which I think most of us have agreed are almost the corollary to a rising standard of living. It is apt to remember that, so far as I, at any rate, can understand the criticisms of Government policy from the benches opposite, they have generally been directed to suggesting that houses are not being built fast enough; that hospitals and roads are not being built fast enough and that we have not enough facilities for recreation, and so on. All that must mean an even bigger demand on land than now exists.

I, for one, subscribe to the point put forward by those who feel that it is important to decide whether, in this very overcrowded island, with a population that is, apparently, increasing quite a lot faster than was envisaged ten years ago, and which is continuing to concentrate in certain areas, we can really afford to be quite as extravagant in the use of land as we have been in the past. One has only to go by train or car out of London from any of the main termini or along any of the main arterial roads to see acres and acres of land developed, some- times with one-storey buildings but, more often, with two-storey buildings—and that on land that must be amongst the most valuable in the world.

If high prices induce a greater economy in the future—and my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) has given some interesting figures to suggest that higher land prices will make it more profitable to build higher—and if those prices also give an added financial inducement to helping forward my right hon. Friend's policy of redeveloping obsolete urban areas, I cannot regard them as a wholly unmitigated evil.

It is interesting to compare some of the modern development since the war with that of many years ago—perhaps centuries ago—when there was no development control except the ordinary play of economic forces. In my part of the country, practically every village is built either on the side of the hill or tucked away on the land that is virtually useless for agriculture. The agricultural land—the great flat fields, or nearly flat—on top of the Cotswolds was much too valuable to build on. Since the war, however, even with planning control, the reverse has been happening, and if prices go up and the land on the side of the hills, very often making the development invisible from any great distance, comes back into use for development, I cannot regard that as anything but an advantage. My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe has given us some interesting sidelights on the view of the builder. I do not want to say more about that than that it seems to me that if we are to have a rising standard of living we need, among other things, an efficient building industry, and I cannot see that we can have that unless the builder has a chance to plan with a reasonable degree of continuity. That must mean some degree of reserves of land which, as my hon. Friend pointed out, is the builders' raw materials.

If, between the time when the builder buys the land and the time when he uses it the land goes up in value, it can no doubt be said that that is a profitable speculation, but I cannot see that he has done anything really very wrong, and I cannot think that it would be right for this House to exhort the builder to live on a hand-to-mouth basis, dismissing men every time he was having an idle time or could not get any building land, and trying to take them on again at other times.

If, as a result of planning control, prices are too high, and if it is agreed that the present policies and higher standard of living are likely to increase the demand, and if, as I think, there are some prices that are too high, we must see how planning control is working. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition suggested that in some quarters the word "planning" was a dirty word, but I myself firmly believe in planning, in the principle of planning. As a greater lover of the countryside, I do not want to see one single acre sprawled over with urban development that is not necessary. Having said that, I must add my belief that there is a lot of very bad planning, and that there are aspects of planning control which need looking at, and which can be improved.

In the first place, we have to remember that as land is a basic commodity for practically every activity, as well as for housing, hospitals, and so on, there are a tremendous number of contestants, not only for the limited area of this island but for that very much more limited area in which people want to live. I get the impression that in certain areas planning is carried out very much with the idea of large open spaces and areas of green belt, but with very little consideration for the needs and demands of the customers—the general public.

My first worry about the present situation—and it ties in with much that has been said by my right hon. Friend and by a number of other speakers who have suggested that some sort of regional planning organisation should be considered—is whether the present system really is capable of giving the right priority to the really fundamental factors which do, in fact, determine movement of population. Those factors must be, in the first place, communications and, in the second place, the location of industry.

Trying to decide whether industry follows communications or communications follow industry is a little like trying to answer the question as to which came first, the chicken or the egg. Nevertheless, I suppose that it is broadly true that where industry has been established in the past, communications tend to connect with those areas and that, on the other hand, new industry comes in where communications already exist.

However that may be, the policies with regard to the movement of industry and the network of communications are fixed at national level, and are the responsibility of the Board of Trade and of the Ministry of Transport. Although I fully endorse my right hon. Friend's belief that the answer is to provide more land for building, the success of that policy must depend on providing it in the right place; that is to say, at the places where industry can be persuaded to establish itself and where people can be persuaded to live. And the distance from their work that people will live will depend on the communications in and around the place of work.

In these respects, it is not the development plans prepared by local authorities that are the deciding factor. It is the policy of the Board of Trade and of the Ministry of Transport, and the location of industry will depend on the inducements which the Board of Trade holds out under the Local Employment Act, or, if the Board of Trade has no positive policy in the matter, it will depend probably more than anything else upon communications between the proposed factory and the sources of supply, on the one hand, and with markets, on the other.

The first essential of any development plan proposed at local level, therefore, is the broad framework resulting from estimates of future trends as seen by the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Transport, but the impression that one now gets, rightly or wrongly, is that by making the task of initiating development plans the responsibility of county councils and of county boroughs, the national industrial and communications interests are superimposed on development plans that are primarily drawn from a local angle and not, as I think should be the case, the other way round.

With this in mind, it seems to me that this broad framework of the development plan can be drawn only by bodies with a much wider responsibility and taking a much wider view than can be expected of county councils or county boroughs. I shall not now suggest how those bodies should be composed, but I think that they must have on them representatives from the Board of Trade and from the Ministry of Transport, at any rate—and possibly from other Ministries. For the rest, I would hope that there would be representatives of the areas they control or for which they plan, but not necessarily delegates from the local authorities.

The present situation also gives rise to the question whether we have the chain of responsibilities right. It seems to me that my right hon. Friend, who is the Minister responsible for planning, can do little more than fill in the framework supplied to him by the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Transport. Other questions arise, particularly when we bear in mind the case which happened in Kent only a few months ago, when my right hon. Friend's planning decision with regard to a line of pylons was overruled by the Minister of Power. We should get into our minds quite firmly which ought to be the overriding considerations in matters of this sort and who ought to exercise them.

My second ground of concern about the adequacy of the present system of planning follows largely what has been said by other hon. Members. I am referring to the areas round our great cities. In short, it simply does not seem sense to me that the basic planning functions should be split, as in the case of London, between ten to twelve county councils and several times that number of county borough councils. I was interested to hear my right hon. Friend tell us about his regional conferences, but I doubt whether, however good that co-operation may be and however much supervision his Department may exercise over development plans, it is sensible not to have a body with regional representation responsible for these plans, particularly bearing in mind the transport and trade problems which I have mentioned. Every major office development in London can have repercussions over a very large area. It may increase housing demands in places as far away as Reading, Guildford, Bromley, or St. Albans, and it all adds to the enormous transport problem of the London region.

This regional idea has attractions quite apart from the conurbations. It has never seemed to me sensible to divide planning responsibilities, even in county areas, between county councils and county borough councils. Just as in conurbations, where something which happens in London may affect a much wider area, the development of a county borough must affect the use of the land around it, in the administrative county in which that county borough is geographically situated. I should have thought that there was an overwhelming case for a body either over and above both these bodies, or for the county council, to take overall responsibility in planning matters.

I do not want, and I do not think that anybody wants, to remove purely local decisions from local bodies. There would always be room for county boroughs and county councils, and even county district councils, in the filling in of the broad framework of the development plan produced by the regional board and for doing such things as town maps and administrative planning control. But even in the matter of administration, even where purely local matters are concerned, I do not think that it is always apparent that we have the best possible balance between the advantages of local knowledge and the disadvantages of local vested interests.

The price of, land emphasises the enormous value of planning permission. It is absolutely essential that any decision which results in conferring or withholding planning permission should be taken objectively, and, with the best will in the world, it simply is not always possible for very local people to divorce from their decisions personalities or even personal interests. I am reminded of a village which I visited not long ago, in Northamptonshire. It was a most delightful and extremely attractive village, the sort which I thought existed only in the Cotswolds, and that is the highest compliment that I can pay it.

Like so many villages, it had about half-a-dozen old houses of about the average age of the houses in the village spreading out along the roads leading to it. Those houses—actually, I think, there were four, but to be on the safe side I have said six—have been made the excuse for in-filling for no less than 40 other houses since the war and since planning control came into force. The result is complete ribbon development between that village and Northampton. It was appalling to look at and impossible to conceive that anyone who took an objective view could have allowed it to happen. The only conclusion to which one can come is that in that case, as in many others, the local people responsible had been unable to see the wood for the trees because they were too near to it.

I have other cases in mind, such as that of a quarry being opened in a village where the bulk of the people in the neighbourhood were very much against it, whereas there were a few who, although there was no unemployment, had an eye on the better and more convenient jobs which they would get. In these circumstances, feeling runs much too high, in my view, for an objective decision to be taken on whether it is sound planning to open that quarry in that village.

Another point which one is shutting one's eyes to if one does not recognise it is that in very many parts of the country one is made aware of a real feeling among a great many people who come into contact with planning that planning is not fair. There is a widespread feeling that someone is getting a better deal than someone else. This is largely a result of the secrecy with which so many pinning authorities approach their work. They fail to publish the reasons for a decision and that can be particularly damaging when, to all intends and purposes, the case is similar to one upon which a different decision had been made a few weeks before.

Perhaps more important, when they give reasons they fail to try to ensure that they are consistent with reasons which they have given in similar situations before and which they intend to stick to in future. We must remember that it is only when a planning application is turned down that my right hon. Friend comes into it and there is any question of a public inquiry.

In think that in certain circumstances there is definitely a case for decisions being taken by a body which, although relatively local, would be sufficiently remote to be objective. I do not want to go into how those bodies would be composed, but I do not support the suggestion of the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman) for a super-planner, who sounds to me a most unattractive person, quite apart from the difficulties of finding him.

Before leaving the matter of planning, there are one or two minor points which are worth consideration. One concerns the very rigid distinction which continues to be drawn between the industrial use of land and its use for other purposes. That seems to me a wholly obsolete distinction in many cases with regard to light industry. It is a relic of the days of the "dark, Satanic mills", but many light industrial factories can no longer be called unpleasant to look at by any stretch of the imagination. They are not a nuisance.

If we could get away from this rigid distinction, although it would not solve any problems, some of them might be made a good deal easier, particularly in smaller towns or large villages which inevitably, in many cases, have a declining agricultural population owing to mechanisation on the land and where the introduction of light industry might be a valuable economic and social addition.

The second problem arises aver the rigid adherence on occasions to densities. Sometimes this produces some very odd results. I have in mind a case in which the cartogram area concerned was relatively homogeneous throughout, but during its early stages of development a density had been approved by the local planning authority somewhat above the average which had originally been laid down for the whole area. The result was that, by the time the development was about half-way through, to get the sums right and the total population for that area the same as it was in the development plan the density had to be so reduced as to be almost wholly uneconomic. This seems to me a great economic waste of land in areas like London, where there is a tremendous pressure extending throughout the whole area of the Home Counties. It is things of that sort that make the "science" appear to be regarded as much more important than the actual practical effect.

I want to say a few words about betterment. In view of what has been said, it is just as well to remind ourselves of what the Uthwatt Committee said about it. After considering all the various ideas which had been put forward and tried in the past, the Uthwatt Report said: There is no prospect that either method will be any more successful in the future, mainly because their first requisite is one which cannot be satisfied, viz., the identification or segregation of the strict 'betterment' element in the total increase in value of any property…We are forced to the conclusion that no ad hoc search for 'betterment' in its present strict sense can ever succeed, and that the only way of solving the problem is to cut the Gordian Knot by taking for the Community some fixed proportion of the whole of any increase in site value without any attempt at precise analysis… That is worth bearing in mind, particularly in view of some of the suggestions put forward by the hon. and learned Member for Edge Hill and by several other Members. Even the Uthwatt Committee, after the most exhaustive inquiry, was quite unable to find a formula for deciding what element in any particular case or in general could be treated as betterment.

The Uthwatt Committee made two recommendations. It divided the problem into that of the urban land and that of what it called undeveloped land, which by and large was rural land. It was the recommendations for the rural land which found their way into the 1947 Act. The urban land recommendations were based upon a straight site valuation similar to the forms of site value rating which are used in certain parts of the Commonwealth and in America.

In the context of the 1947 Act, however, the important part about the urban recommendations of the Uthwatt Report was that that Committee recognised that if it took for the community more than, at the most, 75 per cent. of the increase in value, that would be taking away the inducement to the private owner or private developer and that would defeat the whole object of the exercise. The 1947 Act, unfortunately, did not make that recognition and it set the development charge at 100 per cent. of the difference between the unrestricted value of the property and its existing use value.

Many people have thought that that might have been the main reason why the 1947 Act broke down, but I have doubts about it. I used to agree with that view, but I think that the main cause was that it became so complicated. The Central Land Board reported as early as 1949–50 that The evidence available to the Board of prices paid for land suggests that sales at or near existing use value are more the exception than the rule…The theory that the development charge would leave the developer unwilling or unable to pay more than existing use value for his land is not at present working out in practice. The reason probably was that the whole concept of the 1947 Act, as, indeed, of any of these schemes, for defining betterment became too complicated.

Land being a basic commodity, and particularly a commodity which we encourage in the House of Commons—and the Opposition seem to be equally anxious to encourage it—should be spread over a much wider section of the community, it seems to me essential that any control over the prices or any form of development charge should be based on a principle which is readily understood. As Lord Dalton said in one of his speeches when he was a Member of this House: We admit that the development charge was open to much criticism and much misunderstanding, and was not, perhaps, one of the happiest inventions of the legal mind in our time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 16th December, 1952; c, 25.] After consideration, although there was a time when I took another view, I am inclined to agree that that was what killed the 1947 Act.

Therefore, however much we may talk about betterment, as the hon. and learned Member for Edge Hill has talked about it, we must face the fact that, although an enormous amount of thought has been given in the past, nobody has been able to produce a sensible way of sorting out what is betterment in a manner which is either accurate or is readily explainable to ordinary people other than lawyers and economists. That is its great snag.

As a result of that, one has to face the proposition that probably only two things—the two extremes—can be done with land. We can nationalise it, which people understand—and from the point of view of the Opposition they probably understand it only too well. Alternatively, we can have a free market. I very much doubt, however, whether anybody can devise a satisfactory arrangement to have something in between which will work any better than the 1947 Act.

I remind those who have stuck rigidly to Clause Four, and who are anxious to nationalise land, that if they are sincere in believing that we Can have a property-owning democracy, with people owning their own houses, and a reasonable degree of security for any form of private industry to carry on, it is necesssary to create some sort of interest in land, which it would be difficult to differentiate very much from the existing tenure of freehold. That is one of the big problems. That, however, is not my problem or the problem of any of us sitting on these benches.

I am convinced that having once got to a stage of a two-tier system of prices, which was already indicated by the Report of the Central Land Board and was recognised by the 1954 Act, the situation in which people who buy land at the full market price can themselves have it taken from them by compulsory acquisition at a lower price without any means of finding out that they are moving into an area where that is likely to happen, cannot be justified under any circumstances. If there is a case for betterment and if a means can be devised, we should look for it in the realms of taxation. For my part, I find it' difficult to see where we can find a satisfactory arrangement.

I used to have considerable liking for the site value basis, but here again the difficulties are enormous. It works in various parts of the world, but as far as I know it has never been tried in conjunction with planning control. In this country, the value of a site depends upon what planning permission one gets. It is difficult to believe that one could get a sufficiently forward-looking planning system to give a site valuation which would be realistic and would not lead to enormous anomalies. We have already an anomalous tax system operated by the Inland Revenue and we have a great many anomalies in planning. I cannot believe that by marrying them together we should get a healthy child.

I come to the conclusion that the only solution to the problem is, as my right hon. Friend has suggested, the supply of more land available for building. I do not believe that it can be fully successful, however, unless many of the present planning arrangements are subjected to a thorough scrutiny and review and, if possible, a considerable part of the responsibility is transferred away from the strict local planning authority to something in the nature, not of regional conferences, but of a regional planning authority.

8.20 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)

There are a number of very interesting points which the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) has raised, and I would rather like to debate them all, but as I want to make some points of my own, I must resist that temptation. I think I ought to say in passing that the Danish system which a number of towns have not only includes site values but very complicated planning provisions. So far as I know, there is no difficulty in applying the site values system of taxation in that country, and, I believe, in others.

One other minor point in regard to the hon. Gentleman's speech was that he admitted that the two-tier system was difficult, and he gave that as one of the reasons for his dissatisfaction, but I find it rather difficult to understand how he voted for the 1954 Act, which created a three-tier system.

Mr. Corfield

I can explain that perfectly easily. I was not in the House.

Mr. Skeffington

That may clear the hon. Gentleman, but certainly that argument cannot be made by any other hon. Member on that side of the Committee. My main quarrel with what he said is his defence and justification, and the Minister at one point used the argument himself, that a high price for land was not necessarily a bad thing because it might compel the most valuable use of land. By that, I suppose he meant the most profitable use of land, which is something from which I would recoil very strongly, and I would hope from which all hon. Members on this side would also recoil.

First, on the grounds of economic justice, I resent having to pay high prices for land to landowners who themselves have produced nothing. If I am buying a valuable machine into which much research and workmanship has gone a reasonable price is obviously justified, but in the case of land, which the whole community has made valuable, I see no justification at all for paying vast sums because society must use a particular piece of land. My second reason, which follows straight on the economic argument which the Minister used, is that it means that for all social and useful development the community always has to pay the highest commercial price.

For the reasons I have just given, I resent that, and I do not see why, if we want to build hospitals or schools, or indeed residences, the local authority wishing to proceed with the development, or as one of my hon. Friends from Birmingham said, the private developer, should have to pay for that land the most commercially profitable price. In other words, the price for a hospital has to be equated with the price which can be paid by a greyhound racing promoter, a funfair or whatever may be the most commercial profitable use for that land. It seems to me to be not only an economic wrong but morally completely unjust, and I am surprised that we have had that point of view put forward by hon. Members opposite, because I am ashamed that it should be so.

Mr. Gough

Does the argument which the hon. Gentleman is deploying really mean the compulsory purchase of land at below its market value?

Mr. Skeffington

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman will stay in the Chamber long, but I hope to be able to deploy some of my own proposals in due course.

I do not want to be unduly politically provocative, though I think we were all excused after the first part of the Minister's speech, but I hope that the Committee and the country outside will face political facts. The truth of the matter is that, whenever one is dealing with the problem of land and landowners, the Conservative Party is at its most vulnerable, for the simple reason that large landed interests are an integral and important part of the Conservative Party. We must face this fact. Indeed, Disraeli himself gloried in it, as hon. Members opposite still do. They always approach land problems with a delicacy and tenderness which they would not show to the trade unions or some other interests.

History is full of evidence, although I do not want to deploy this argument at too great length. This is the only country in the world, outside one or two parts of the Commonwealth, which retains the purely feudal tenure of private leaseholds, and in the House, and no less in another place, on twenty occasions have Bills to change that system been blocked. The Commit tee may wonder why it is, when we never have the Parliamentary time to discuss Reports of Royal Commissions like those on marriage and divorce, taxation and offices, on which noshing was done until a Private Member introduced a Bill, and we are told that we never have the time to look at [these problems, yet we have had five complicated Town and Country Planning Acts since 1951.

The major purpose of these Acts was not that there was a need to deal with the situation resulting from the 1947 Act under its betterment proposals, but because it was the deliberate policy to restore as soon as politically convenient the free market value for land publicly acquired. I am quite certain that that was the purpose. It is interesting when we look back to 1952 and 1953, to find that the present Prime Minister said on 13th July, 1954, that he was not introducing a charter for landlords but a charter for developers, but an hon. Member who is no longer with us, Sir Ian Horobin, said, that the Bill was only a temporary expedient and that it would not be very long before the process was completed by another Measure. I believe that what Sir Ian Horobin said is What most people and the landed interests knew.

In 1959, we had the other Measure We warned the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South and the Government, in full private and public discussion, that the 1959 Act would result in an astronomical further increase in the price of land. A lot was said at the time about the Act being necessary to protect the little man and give him market value if his home was publicly acquired. We had the Pilgrim case, which arose out of a different point, thrust down our throats.

There was an Amendment, which I myself moved in Committee, which would have confined the provisions of the 1959 Act to the owner-occupier in the case where his land had been acquired and which would give him the market value for it. We moved this Amendment confining the proposals of market value in the 1959 Act to the residential owner-occupier. The Postmaster-General, as he now is, said it was unnecessary. He said: When one turns to the ordinary case of an owner-occupier who is subject to compulsory purchase procedures, then we find that, as a general rule, the owner-occupier does in fact receive the market value from the acquiring local authority."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, Standing Committee D, 2nd December, 1958; c. 57.] In one or two sentences, the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry let the cat out of the bag for the residential owner-occupier was already getting market value. The 1959 Act was not necessary for him.

One further consequence of the 1959 legislation was not only to restore market value but to give what I called market value plus. If we look at Sections 18 and 20, we find that even in a period up to five years after land has been acquired on the terms of the market value, a private landowner can go back to the acquiring authority if it is making a more valuable use of land than at the time of acquisition, and demand and get additional compensation.

So one sees this traditional characteristic of the Conservative Party coming up right the way through this legislation. I need hardly tell the Committee that if the acquiring authority uses the land for a less valuable purpose than the planning permissions or assumptions at the time of purchase, the private landowner does not have to give anything back to the local authority. That sort of thing applies only the other way round.

As a result of all this a great deal of our social development is being thwarted and twisted. What can we think of a state of affairs when for the Cromwell Road Extension within the County of London the L.C.C. had to pay more for the land than the cost of the whole of the work? It is absolutely absurd. Take the Piccadilly site, which I very much regret was not able to be bought by the London County Council so that it could have been made an area of comprehensive development. Sir Milner Holland told the inquiry that the cost of the entire work—the cost of the salaries, the wages, the materials and all the professional advisers—would come to £3 million and that the cost of the site—that small site—would be £4 million. It is a fantastic state into which we have got. Yet the Minister and the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South were justifying the position.

But, of course, even before 1959 prices were high. The community has always paid pretty highly to the few great land owners to go on their land. Sir Frederick Pollock, in his great land book in 1883, "The Land Laws of England", said: The land near our great towns is a monopoly of the landed gentry upon which you go at their terms. Because of that we had gradually, particularly during the First World War, to build up some system of public acquisition so that some needs of the community could be met. Otherwise, if one had a reluctant seller one would not be able to provide the service which the community needed.

Even before the 1959 Act we had the new Bucklersbury House on three acres of land costing £2.5 million. Last year an insurance firm in the City of London was willing to pay £135,000 a year rent for a site of less than an acre in Queen Victoria Street. It was calculated that if one parked one's car in that London street throughout the working week one should pay £225 a year in rent, because that is how the rent of eight square yards there would work out.

The social consequences of these phenomenal land prices are something which we shall ignore, or attempt to justify as the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South has tried to do, at our peril. We can see the social difficulties arising time and time again. I noticed a letter in the Guardian from the Vicar of St. George's, in Camberwell, a constituency I used to represent on the L.C.C., in reply to a letter which had said that it was a good thing—this is perhaps the view of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South—from almost every point of view that land at the moment is at such a high cost. The vicar said: …from every point of view except perhaps the human… He also said: As the vicar of a not untypical parish in the County of London I have to face the fact that anyone whom I marry is unable to get accommodation through the council housing list for at least ten years. (This in spite of the local authority's magnificent housing record.) There are over 5,000 on the housing list. He also says that the thing to do is for people to move out; but with land at a premium that is impossible.

Not long ago the staff architect of Wates Limited, Mr. K. W. Bland, speaking at a meeting of the Town and Country Planning Association, said that many of the sort of people who used to buy a Wales house before the war were earning £3 or £4 a week and in a similar sort of job now would be earning between £600 and £800 a year but were virtually being priced out of buying houses. He said: Today land, except in remote places, costs a quarter or more of the total cost of the building. This is the staff architect of one of the largest firms in the country building ordinary residential houses. As a result he suggests that if a person earning £800 a year spends a quarter of his income on purchasing his house—the maximum permitted by building societies—he cannot afford a house costing more than £2,300, the site cost of which should be £600 at the most. However, with the price of land as it is, it means that these people are outside that figure and would not be able to get a loan. Alternatively, they would have to travel 40 miles out of town to find a site.

Earlier, one or two hon. Gentlemen said—I am not certain whether the Minister agreed—that they did not know much about the pressures being put on the owners of green belt land either in London or in the other so-called green belt areas. I call in evidence the estates correspondent of the Guardian—he seems to me to be extremely well-informed on property matters; I read him very regularly—who wrote in the issue of 16th October last year: …already owners of green belt land are accepting up to £100 an acre cash down for nothing but an option to buy it if eves permission to develop it is granted. In some areas the humble members of small district councils exercising delegated planning powers are being plied with embarrassingly lavish hospitality, and divisional planning officers are being told 'That's a shabby-Booking car you've got, isn't it?' though its celullose gleams factory-fresh. He also wrote: In effect the property market is betting a huge and rapidly mounting sum that it will succeed in breaking planning control, or, alternatively, that it will get its money back in the form of compensation (at current market prices) for the refusal of permission to cash by development the speculative values it is creating—which would speedily produce the same result. I call this in evidence of what is happening throughout the country.

Mr. H. Brooke

Is the hon. Gentleman complaining that these people are going to lose their money—because they are?

Mr. Skeffington

I hope that that is the case. I was dealing with the point that it has been denied in many quarters that this is happening in the green belt as a result of the Minister's 1959 Act. It is happening, and we want even stronger statements than those we have heard from the Minister, not only about the green belt round London but also in other places.

Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)

And an assurance that they will lose their money.

Mr. Skeffington

Yes, and an assurance that these people will lose their money.

I want now to turn to the county of Middlesex and my own constituency. As my right hon. Fiend the Leader of the Opposition mentioned, land in the county, according to the valuer of the county council, has trebled in value since the 1959 Act. The Greater London area is where these land prices are at their highest. In my own constituency, twenty-five acres could be bought for an open space at Yeading for about £1,429 an acre in 1955. The Borough of Ealing now desires to buy 61 acres of adjacent land, but the price has risen from £1,429 per acre to more than £8,000 per acre. That has happened in this short time.

We have another problem arising which the Minister has created by taking the lid off land prices in this way. He has put himself in a very embarrassing position in refusing local authorities the opportunity to go forward with land purchase schemes of their own. In 1955, the Hayes and Harlington Council wished to buy the site earmarked for its civic centre. It could then have done so at a price of about £1,400 an acre. The price today is likely to be £5,000, or £6,000 or £7,000 an acre. We shall thus have the Minister or his predecessors to thank for adding £30,000 or £40,000 at least to the cost of this site because the local authority was not able to put it in 1955. Why should the Minister help the landowner in this way?

In Stanmore there is a welfare scheme for which land would have cost £1,500 before the 1959 Act and which will now cost £36,500. If the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South thinks that this is the best way of getting the most valuable use for land, is he saying that some commercial profitable enterprise is worth more than a welfare scheme? The welfare department in Edgware had another scheme the ground for which before the 1959 Act could have been bought for £9,000. This has now swollen to £28,000, and I understand that the local authority has had to withdraw because it cannot contemplate such a cost. An educational project in Enfield would have needed £5,044 for the land before the passage of the 1959 Act. Now it will cost £11,000.

The result is that we may or may not be getting the most valuable use of the land but that somebody is making a large sum of money to which he is justified neither morally nor economically.

Mr. Corfield

The hon. Gentleman is misquoting me. I never said that this was the best way of doing this. I said that if it had had the effect of making the use of land more economical in certain cases, it would not have been an unmitigated nuisance.

Mr. Skeffington

The Minister used the same argument. I hope he will withdraw, as the hon. Gentleman has.

Despite all the difficulties about betterment, there is no reason for shirking the problem and pretending, as the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) did, that nothing can be done about it. I believe that the Uthwatt solution, of public authorities acquiring land, to be developed is one way in which the community can put both some curb on prices and have the kind of comprehensive development which is essential in city centres.

It is a great pity that the London County Council did not have enough money for the redevelopment of Piccadilly. If that redevelopment could have been undertaken, I believe that it would have paid for itself without prices having to go to the fantastic heights which will probably eventually be reached. What has been done with the Elephant and Castle scheme shows what can be done and I think that that scheme will commend itself to every hon. Member. On Thursday we saw the model scheme which Willetts are developing, leasing the land from the local authority for 125 years. It would not be wise to give the precise financial details, but it can be said that London ratepayers will not do too badly out of it, quite apart from the fact that the value of the land is to remain with the people of London. At the same time, commercial development is possible and there is some incentive for the commercial developer. I do not know why such an arrangement could not be applied generally, if the finance were available to the local authorities.

Where that sort of scheme is not possible, as it is not always, then at the least some of the inflated value, which we have all created, should go back to the community to help in other developments. I cannot see why there cannot be some kind of tax when planning permissions are given. It might also be useful if local authorities had the right to levy taxes on site values, which would be some way in which the inflated value of land could be returned to the whole of the people.

Great moral and social factors are involved. I was shocked by the way in Which the Minister rode off all the implications of the high prices of land and by the way in which nearly all his hon. Friends who have spoken in the debate followed his example. I pay tribute to the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) who at least recognised that there was a problem and who sought some way in which the community might not be wholly and in all ways the loser.

8.42 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)

The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) deserves the gratitude of the Committee for at least bringing some punch into the debate. I have been in the Chamber for the whole afternoon and I have not heard a speech from any hon. Member opposite comparable with the standard required far a debate on what is supposed to be a Motion of censure of the Government.

I imagine that the reason is that right hon. and hon. Members opposite have a thoroughly guilty conscience about this subject. Let us take one topic about which the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington developed a great deal of heat—the difficulty for most people of buying a house of their own. I remember very well when the party opposite made it absolutely impossible for people to buy houses of their own and when hon. Gentlemen opposite said that it was a deplorable and bad thing to do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I have only about 12 minutes and I am entitled to my innings, as hon. Members were to theirs.

It was best put by the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine), who admitted that the policy of the Labour Government had failed and then said that, to put things -fight, we Should now return to that Policy.

The problem before us is very simple, it is a question of the law of supply and demand. That is a law which is not recognised and appreciated by Socialists, but it goes back to the beginning of humanity. If people do not realise that, they should begin to think what a mess humanity has got into because of the scarcity of apples in the Garden of Eden. [Interruption.] I cannot hear what hon. Members are saying, but I am sure that they are pearls of wisdom. Before hon. Members opposite wax too heated on this subject, they should look at their own record in housing, building private houses, factories, and so on, and that of the Conservative Party since it has been in power. There is less land today because we have built so many more schools, factories and houses. These new houses have taken up considerable space. The Socialists must recognise this fact of life, that as more houses are built the scarcity becomes more pronounced and prices go up.

My object this evening is to look at this scarcity position. The picture is not as bad as hon. Gentlemen opposite painted it. Let us look at the picture and consider whether there are some scarcities which could be put right. I believe that there are. I believe that there is a fault in planning. I am a supporter of planning. I have spent a certain amount of my time in the Army and in the Navy fighting battles. A battle cannot be fought without planning, but planning is the first essence of the matter. After the plan has been made, action roust be taken.

Unhappily, planning today has got into a welter of bureaucracy. As a result, there is bureaucratic delay in dealing with this problem. I want to be serious about this. I am not making a party point. Bureaucratic delay today is causing unnecessary shortages. I ask my right hon. Friend to give this consideration.

In my constituency there is the new town of Crawley, which is freely known as by far the most advanced of the new towns, and indeed, the best. More than once during debates in the House I have said that the unhappy result of the new towns is that they have not taken away from London one single person, or made any open space available in London. As soon as one takes people from London to the new towns, more people come in. That is understood, and that is why, with respect to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, I am very much against further new towns unless they can be properly sited.

The siting of Crawley is one of the reasons for its success. It is sited on a main line railway and across communications running north and south, and east and west, and in recent years an active aerodrome has been developed nearby. I know that it is difficult to site new towns, but the position is that the new towns have not taken the problem of the population of south-east England one stage further.

We have some problems in Crawley at the moment. We have the problem of a change from the old situation of the development corporation to the new situation which will come into force within the next year or so. As a result of that—I want to make it abundantly clear that I have the highest possible regard for the authorities of the Crawley Development Corporation—there is a hiatus, a feeling of doubt, and a lack of policy. I have tabled a Question on that subject.

It is a difficult problem, but I consider that at present there is room in Crawley for more private enterprise building of private houses. House building has not been going ahead as fast as it should. This is having an effect on local industry. Also, it is creating a strain in Horsham and neighbouring towns. That is one of the reasons why the price of land is rising in those areas.

There is an extremely unnecessary delay in planning. I have here one or two examples which have been given to me by a very eminent civil engineer, who has no special financial interest in the cases. For obvious reasons, I shall not refer to the actual localities, although I shall be very pleased to give them to my right hon. Friend, or mention them to any hon. Member outside this Chamber. One is in a town on the outskirts of London, with a population of about 39,000 people. This proposal involves the expenditure of approximately £1 million, and comprises about two acres. The development includes shops, offices, flats, public houses and garages.

The scheme was submitted to the borough council on 1st February of this year and approved in principle. It was then forwarded to the county council for overall planning consent. The county council, however, was unable to give a decision pending the submission and approval of a town plan. The borough council has informed my friend that a town plan cannot even be started until a traffic census has been taken, and that, thereafter, two years must elapse to clear formalities before overall consent can be given by the county council.

That is not an unusual case, by any means. The people who are interested in the development are normal human beings, and they will not wait for two years. They will employ their money elsewhere. They will enter into competition for land which is becoming more and more scarce. That is why I say that these delays are aggravating the situation. They may be essential, although I can hardly believe they are.

Mr. Chapman

After a certain period these people can appeal to the Minister. They have no need to wait for years.

Mr. Gough

I am grateful to the hon. Member for his intervention, because he has referred to another delay. These people can appeal to the Minister and, with great respect to my right hon. Friend, a further delay of some months will ensue. I have already pointed out that there will be a two year's delay in the case I have mentioned, and to that we must add another two months for an appeal to the Minister.

Another proposed development in London consists of three multi-storey blocks, comprising an hotel, flats and offices. In this case general planning approval in principle has been given by the London County Council, which has intimated that a two-year period will be required to achieve overall planning consent, that period being broken down as follows: in the first year there have to be valuation clearances; the issue of compulsory purchase orders; the production of a block model, and approvals of interested Ministries, the Royal Fine Art Commission, and also three separate councils.

The third case I wish to mention is fairly well known to the Committee. For at least six years, to my knowledge, various developers have been putting forward to the British Transport Commission and the London County Council a proposal to develop 8½ acres over the railway from Victoria to Chelsea. It is a brilliant conception, but nothing has happened. The buck is passed from one authority to another.

This is a very serious and important problem. We must look for a greater expansion in the centres of these great conurbations. There must be much more leadership at the centre, and a much more careful check on unnecessary waste. If that can be done there is not a great deal of difference, basically, between the two sides of the Committee.

8.54 p.m.

Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)

I always know when the Minister of Housing and Local Government has a weak case. In that event, he begins his speech by putting up a number of Aunt Sallies which he thinks describe the conduct or policy of the Labour Government, and he then knocks them down. That is exactly what he did today. He spent ten minutes or a quarter of an hour at the beginning of his speech on doing nothing else. I said to myself, "There cannot be much to come afterwards". I was right.

I want to say, in connection with what the right hon. Gentleman and other speakers have said, a few words about the legislation on this matter. I shall not go back to the Committees that sat on it. Compensation and betterment are fairly old subjects, but it is as well to remember one or two simple things about them. One is that, if a local authority buying land has to pay full compensation at market price, the only fair corollary is that it should get the betterment that arises from the growth of the community and the improved and extended use of land.

We all know what happened in the nineteenth century. We know of the growth of the big landowners in London and other cities. What do we owe to them? That is a matter which history can best assess. The present position undoubtedly is that full compensation in the case of a local authority without betterment is unfair.

The 1947 Act was the only attempt that has ever been made to provide for both compensation and betterment. I could give my own reasons why it broke down, but they are not concerned either with the merits of the Act or the possibility or impossibility of providing for those two elements. I have no doubt that, with the hindsight we now have, we could provide for both of them. In that respect, I differ from the right hon. Gentleman.

What happened? The 1953 Act took away the betterment provisions—the development charges—and left the compensation at an abnormally low value. It was a perfectly fair value so long as the development compensation charges were fair. It thereby set up a two-value system—one for compensation in the case of purchases by local authorities and another for purchases by private individuals.

During the passage of that Measure it was suggested to the Prime Minister that he could perfectly well deal with the matter by providing full compensation. He refused to do so for exactly the reason I have just given, namely, that equitably, and in fairness, if there is to be full compensation there must also be betterment. He pointed out that the increase in the price of land which results in high compensation comes from the community and should go back to the community. I quoted his words in the debate on the 1959 Bill, and I shall not repeat them.

In the 1954 Act, the Government went one worse. They provided three alternative methods. One was the full price to the private purchaser. Another was the reduced price—it was actually existing use in 1947 development value—in most cases of a purchase by a local authority. There was a different price if there had been an admitted claim and in certain other cases. That system was complicated, unworkable and unfair.

In 1959, the Government said that they proposed to give full compensation to the private purchaser. They produced a most elaborate piece of machinery for doing so. I am not concerned with the piece of machinery. I merely say that there were 'two points about it. One was that as a proposition taken by itself it was fair. It was full compensation as compared with a full price when sold in the open market. What was unfair about it was that it lacked any provision whatever for betterment.

When this was put to the right hon. Gentleman his answer was that one could not provide for betterment. What 'we said on that Bill was that on a Government Bill, given the ordinary rules of the House of Commons and a number of other matters, such as not 'having a Ministry of our own, we, the Opposition, obviously could not provide a betterment system. We said that we accepted it only on the understanding that we proposed to tax capital gains. Hon. Members who are interested in this will find it in HANSARD. We said that, as between the central Government, who may profit from taxation, and local government we also proposed a financial readjustment.

I shall not go into the whole long story now, but our case all along has been simply that there must be provision for the two elements. It may be fair, so far as it goes, to provide full compensation. After all, the person who may receive it may not necessarily be the person who would pay betterment, but it is not fair from the public point of view and that of the local authority to have statutory provisions which give full compensation unless one can also provide for betterment. We say it is possible to provide for betterment and I have given one instance of a possible way of doing it.

Having put up his Aunt Sallies and knocked them down to his own satisfaction and, I think, to the boredom of a certain number of other people, the right hon. Gentleman was good enough to say that there was a strong theoretical case for a betterment levy. There is a strong theoretical case for a betterment levy and I can give practical reasons for it. I now turn to the particular manifestations of the trouble with which we are concerned today.

The Times, in a leader on the matter this morning, ended with two sentences which I commend, not so much to the right hon. Gentleman himself as to other hon. Members behind him who have spoken in the debate. It said: The one unforgivable thing would be for the Government to pretend that land prices, however high, do not matter. The social hardships they can, and do, cause cannot be dismissed merely because they may be irrelevant to 'pure' economics. "'Pure' economics" means the economics of the open market, the increasing prosperity of society without regard to who shares in it. Those are the sort of things which are meant by the phrase "'pure' economics" in that connection.

To do the right hon. Gentleman complete justice—for I certainly would not wish to do him anything less—he did not say that high prices did not exist. He said that high land prices were unavoidable, that is to say, we could not do anything about them. In a moment I shall turn to one or two things which he and his predecessors have done which are partly responsible for these high land prices. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say what he was doing about it in three ways. One was to preserve the green belt. Another—and this brought the breath of the sea for the first time into the debate—was that he was keeping the coastline intact. That was a very useful, but not a very direct contribution. Lastly, he pointed out that everyone was better off. Those were the contributions of the responsible Minister, so far as he chose to state them, towards what, after all, is a rather urgent matter.

Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman one or two of the things which have made the position very much worse. Then I shall make a few suggestions to him. Let us begin with the things that he has done. The effect of the legislation I have been talking about was to increase sharply the price of land—and not merely the price to acquiring local authorities, but the price to other people because, as soon as local authorities have to pay more, that brake on rising prices is removed. The result is that, although the Financial Memorandum of the 1959 Act anticipated a rise of about a quarter, we have had a rise in the south of England of at least two or three times on the average and, in a great many cases, a great deal more.

Did the Government make an honest estimate of the effect that the Act would have? We must assume they did. Did they have the best advice about it? We must assume they had. Why, then, were they completely and utterly wrong in the estimate they made? It will be interesting to hear from the Parliamentary Secretary the answers to those questions. I should like to know.

I say to the Parliamentary Secretary that I have already pointed out the greatest inconsistency between what the Prime Minister said in connection with the 1953 and 1954 Acts and what was done by the 1959 Act—the exact opposite of what he refused to do in the earlier one. I do not attach too much importance to consistency in matters of this sort. The reason I do not attach too much importance to it is that this is a complex and varying problem and that estimate, if honestly made at the time, is one of the best bits of evidence towards it being a complex, variable and very difficult question. That is one thing that has been done, but there is something else.

The Government have responsibility for some dealings with houses which have a considerable affect in this matter. What have they done? Through the operation of the Rent Act they have turned out a large number of people from houses in which they lived. I am not talking merely about evictions. I am talking about people who have had to find somewhere else to live because the landlord wanted to sell the house, or for whatever reason. I shall not go into that controversy again. That had a considerable effect on the price of land. It pushed some people out from parts of London and left others searching to get a house at any cost. If a tenant is bound to pay whatever price he is asked, then prices go up, the price of laid and the price of the house. The two are closely connected.

Again, if council housing is restricted and councils are unable, through lack of subsidy and owing to high interest rates, to build the number of houses which they had been building—and the number has been steadily falling over the last two or three years under the present Government—what will happen? No doubt more houses will be built by private enterprise, but they will be houses at increasing prices. That is exactly what has happened. Not only has the price of land gone up, but the price of houses to buy and the price of other building has gone up, too. For the moment, let me confine myself to that.

What else have they done? The competition in the centre of London is not just that of one house with another, but also that between houses and offices and houses and factories. I will make clear what I mean by the last two words in a moment. The Government have refused to allow industrial development certificates to be applied 'to offices, and I have heard no satisfactory reason for that refusal. Of course, it makes the task of local authorities much more difficult in trying to diminish the number of offices in the centre of London and other large towns.

We were told by 'the right hon. Gentleman that it bad something to do with the way in which offices and factories were built. He said, "You always build your own factory, but you do not often build your own office." My answer is that that is not the case. One of the first bodes to call 'attention to the whole of this problem was, very appropriately and rightly, the Royal Fine Art Commission, which published a Report in December last year. In dealing with the difficulty about the centre of towns, it took as the first point of comment the fact that The need for concentrating very large administrative staffs in effigies in central areas is often greatly exaggerated. It depends in part on what seems to us to be a mistaken sense of prestige. So it is. It is that mistaken sense of prestige which, in its view and mine, is causing a great deal of the difficulty about excessive office development in the middle of large towns.

What about factories? The point about factories has always seemed to me to be that under existing legislation when a man moves out of a factory to a larger factory, or to a factory somewhere else, no one can prevent someone else from going into that factory and causing the whole trouble over again. As long as that is the case we are bound to have in the middle of the large towns this form of competition between offices, factories and houses—and who is to suffer at the end of the day? I shall have something to say about that.

I turn to one or two of the suggestions which could be put forward. I have already mentioned capital gains in land as a subject for taxation, and I have done so because they seem to me to be the taxation equivalent of betterment and only fair. This would certainly have a very sobering effect on the market in land. What else is there? It seems to me that what we want to do is to get out of places such as Greater London at any rate a proportion of the industrial and office accommodation which is there at present. We want powers to review the use when there is a change of factory ownership. We want industrial development certificate provisions for offices. We want proper powers of control.

We may well have to look again at the rather difficult question of compensation on refusal of planning permission, which at present depends on a provision of the 1947 Act which is rather obscure and not altogether satisfactory.

Mr. Gough

The hon. and learned Member said that he wants to see factories and offices moved out of central London. What guarantee can he give that other firms will not come into London to fill those places?

Mr. Mitchison

The hon. Member cannot quite have heard what I said. I regard that as one of the defects in planning legislation at present. I think that there ought to be a provision by which the use can be reviewed on a change of ownership. That is not open to review at present, and it is one of the difficulties. I am glad that the hon. Member agrees with me about that.

Mr. Manuel

He does not.

Mr. Mitchison

I turn to the broad question of the redevelopment of the centres of towns, on which my right hon. Friend touched. I thought that he made a "right masterly" speech on the subject, if he will not mind my saying so.

At present, this planning is by purely negative control, and I cannot see how, with a purely negative control, we shall ever get the centres of our large cities right. By the centres I mean not just the tiny core of Piccadilly Circus, or the area around the Mansion House. I mean the centre in a much larger sense. The reasons we shall never do it are many and various. One is that all that the private developer will do, unless he gets a sharp lesson—as he sometimes does—is to build in the cheapest possible way for the maximum profit. That is his business, and we cannot expect him to do better than that.

On the other hand, the local authority has responsibility in the matter and whether it is done directly by the authority, or through an agency which, in effect, it controls, is a matter of finance, upon which I shall have a word to say in a moment. But the local authority is the body to do it, and it must not be precluded by financial or other considerations from embarking on such projects as Piccadilly Circus, and a great deal more than Piccadilly Circus in that part of London.

If the authority is to do that, the main difficulty with which it has to deal is what is sometimes called multiple ownership, which means not merely many owners but many lengths of lease and similar problems. Yet this must be done, and if it is not done we shall not discharge our duty to the future inhabitants of this country and we shall have a town which will compare disgracefully not merely with many towns in other countries but with much which has been built in the past. We cannot look at London and some Scandinavian capitals without feeling a little ashamed that we have been so much more motivated by considerations of private profit in this matter and have been unable to devise a single and beautiful plan for the centre of a great city such as this. It is not a very creditable record in that respect.

As I say, it must be positive control, that is, it must be done with I suggest the backing of a properly advised authority with a certain amount of central expert advice for, after all, not every local authority can have the services of leading people in this rather difficult and skilled business. It implies the considerable expenditure of money.

I was very glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman had got this far in recognising that there was something wrong with the state of Denmark. He did at least admit that the Government might consider financing a new town in a proper case. He has never got nearly as far as that before. On previous occasions, he simply stood there with the most wooden expression he could possibly put on and said, "Not a penny, not a new town, nothing whatever in that line."

The right hon. Gentleman really must be thinking that there is something badly wrong, because he is one of the hardest people to move that I have ever met. Well, he did, and once he has done it let him also consider whether the Government ought not to have some responsibility for developing the centres of our old towns, too. I am not going into details of local authority finance, but they have not the proper equipment and the financial set-up quite appropriate to this. There is a case for an agency of some sort. At any rate, it has been done in the new towns and it ought to be done in many of the old towns, too.

I turn to a rather wider matter. This is not a question of housing, it is not even just a question of town and country planning as we understand it. It is, of course, tied up with at least two other important functions of Government. One of them, and the most obvious and clearest one, to which most hon. Members have referred in the debate, is employment. It is no use building houses unless we can link that up with employment, and it was because of the failure to do so that so much effort was wasted in providing house building in the wrong places in the years before the war.

We have to see that the two things go together on the matters about which I have been talking; for instance, the use of an old factory from which the previous occupants have moved; office building in the middle of cities, and a great many other things which hon. Members can quite easily think of for themselves. Housing and the functions of the Board of Trade are closely tied up. I have had experience of new towns, as have other hon. Members, and even in a venture like a new town it took considerable time to get the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Board of Trade to see eye to eye. How much more necessary it is in the case of the type of planning which I am inviting the Committee to consider.

The second thing with which this business is inextricably tied up is the question of transport. There is not the faintest chance of solving London's transport problem if we look at it purely as a transport problem, how to transport a given number of people in a given direction day by day. That is not the problem. The problem is how to link up the development of cites, the production of employment and the transport of the people. After all, every hour wasted in transport, in getting to and from work, is so much waste of the productive capacity of the community. This Government have a singularly bad record compared with others regarding industrial production and I think that kind of thing is one of the reasons for it.

When I heard right hon. and hon. Members talking today about expansive development beyond the green belts, I said to myself, "What are they thinking about? They have forgotten that the transport difficulty will be just as great and will be made a little worse by the greater distance from the centre." Do not let there be any misunderstanding about this. Hon. Members on this side of the Committee, and, to do them justice, I think the majority of hon. Members opposite, are determined, for good social reasons and reasons of amenity, to keep the green belts. We are determined to see that new green belts are established where they are proved to be necessary, and strictly defined and kept to. All the same, if the green belt is simply to be a gap—or, as my right hon. Friend called it, a ditch between one subtopia and another—it is a very limited intention indeed.

I cannot believe that we are really fulfilling the purpose of the green belt, or keeping these huge conurbations within reasonable limits, or promoting the best planning for the country as a whole if we accept without demur the building of more subtopias beyond the green belts. That is not the right the solution.

I want now to say a word or two about planning in general—

Mr. Norman Cole (Bedfordshire, South)

I have been following the hon. and learned Gentleman's speech with great interest. With some of his points I agree, but would he address his mind to that last point? If he does not want to go to the other side of the green belt, if he wants more planning, and all the other things of which he spoke, where is all the land to come from? It does not matter whether it is owned by a local authority, or a private developer—where is it to come from?

Mr. Mitchison

A factory or an office takes up much the same amount of land whether set up directly outside the green belt or elsewhere, and I am not suggesting any absolute prohibition in these matters. I merely say that it is very much better, if one possibly can, to make the green belt—again to use my right hon. Friend's phrase—where the town stops and the country begins, rather than to make it a ditch between two subtopias. I think that the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Cole) would himself agree, at any rate to that extent.

I turn for a moment to planning as a whole. I am quite certain that it must be not only planning as between housing, offices, industry, transport and the like, but country-wide planning. I agree with those—and I think that the right hon. Gentleman himself had something to say on the subject, and I will mention it in a moment—who suggested regional planning. This is not just a matter, as the Minister seems to think, of getting a number of planning authorities together and co-ordinating them—as that blissful phrase goes.

It is not that sort of question at all, but a much wider one. It is linked with employment and transport and it is nation wide. We now have the benefit of hindsight, and should not be ashamed to use it when necessary. My feeling about the new towns that we set up has always been that we directed them a little too much to the solution of particular problems—the excessive population of London, and this or that industrial purpose. It is a good thing that they should have been started in that way, but they should have been supplemented on a much wider national scale.

I should like it all to be regarded as a national question, as something that can be dealt with regionally rather than by individual planning authorities, but, still, as a national question. I should certainly not like to see the whole subject of regional planning, or national co-ordination, whichever one likes to call it, left to the mere chance that the right hon. Gentleman can succeed in getting a number of planning authorities to agree. That is not good enough. It is a broad national question.

I have said most of what I want to say, but I want to return for a moment to the two sentences I quoted from the leader in The Times of this morning. Here, we are considering high prices in land. What frightens me about the high prices is not merely that they are high, but that they have risen very sharply in recent months. It is like a patient with a temperature. This is an outburst of fever of some sort, and one looks for the cause and the remedy, and one thinks of the results.

What will stop this rise continuing? According to the right hon. Gentleman, who is, after all, the responsible Minister in these matters, high prices are unavoidable. On that process of reasoning it appears unavoidable that they should go higher and higher. That is what has been happening. What is to stop this rise in price? As I see it, it is one of two things. There will either be a general economic crash in which land prices and a great many other things may be involved, or there will be a point when the ultimate consumer jibs. I hope that right hon. and hon. Members remember that land is not merely the builders' raw material. It is the raw material of human beings. We live on land. We dwell and work on it. Many years ago, more than a century now, David Ricardo was inclined to say that the land owner, the property owner, always won. That was very many years ago, but certainly he has been doing remarkably well lately.

What about the man who wants to live in a house or to use an office or factory? Take the man who wants to live in the house. At present, unless he can pay a high price for a house, with or without the assistance of a building society, he has nowhere to live. That applies to a great many people in the big towns. He cannot rent a house. He cannot get a council house because it has been the business and policy of the Government to restrict council housing. He is, therefore, driven to do what—go into lodgings? I do not know what happens to him. I wish that I did.

The number of people who will be driven to desperate extremities by increases in the price of land will go on increasing with the price. That is one social hardship which rising prices entail, perhaps the main one. It is not sufficient for the Government to behave like an ostrich and say that there is no problem, that it is unavoidable, that they cannot do anything about it, or that if they look after the green belt or the coast line all will be well. That is not the function of the Government. Their function is to see that this product of the free market does not result, on the one hand, in the hardship which I have been sketching and, on the other, in a form of injustice which people will not go on accepting. Those who buy land, whether to build on or to hold, get quite inordinate profits out of what is either a legislative muddle by the Government or their failure to do anything whatever about it. I think that it is more the latter than the former.

I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will not make a Minister of Housing and Local Government speech—that is to say, spend a quarter of an hour in putting up Aunt Sallies and knocking them down. I hope that he will not pretend that there is no problem, or that there is no social injustice and hardship, but will tell us, for a change, what the Government propose to do about this problem, or whether they are to be bound for ever by Conservative idolatry of the profit-making free market in something which the citizens of the country must have—the land of the country.

9.29 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Sir Keith Joseph)

The debate today is on a subject of the greatest possible human and public interest. Millions of people in this country want to own their own homes and they want to know that land is available at a price within their purse. I hope to be able to reassure them on both grounds this evening. [Interruption.] Certainly, there is a problem of where the houses are to go and how the price mechanism affects them. The problem is difficult enough if we are considering only where and how, but it is harder still if we try to tackle simultaneously the problems of compensation and betterment.

The debate has shown that unless widespread compulsory purchase is accepted, and widespread public ownership is accepted as well, land owners, big and small, simply do not want to sell if they are discouraged by some form of tax or levy on the land they own. It was the Leader of the Opposition who himself said during his wide-ranging speech that there is no easy solution.

The debate has shown that no common solution appeals, not only between the parties, but to all the members of one party. We have had recommended today by different hon. Members a return to Uthwatt and public ownership, compulsory purchase below the market price, a levy on the sale of land—that was from my hon. Friend the Member for Angus, North and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley); peripheral expansion of cities, more release of "white" land, a capital gains tax and control of offices by industrial development certificates. None of these, however, and nothing that is said today, can overcome the basic truth, which is now being generally realised and which planners have been preaching for years, that land is scarce and we must make the best possible use of it.

I should like to quote as an accurate statement of the position something that was said by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield (Mr. Chapman). Speaking of the Government, the hon. Member said that we had sterilised—rightly—large areas of land from development and had preserved a free market in those areas where development is permitted. That is a fair statement of the hon. Member's remarks. We are all aware of the rising demands against which we face the future, with rising population, increased prosperity and smaller households, which increases the number of dwellings per thousand in the population.

There are, therefore, emerging from this debate three interwoven themes: the availability of land, the price of land and whether and how part of the price should be siphoned off by the community. I will try to deal with each of those, in turn, and I hope that I shall not be accused of forgetting one of them when, for the moment, I am dealing with another.

I shall deal first with the shortage of land. The building industry is flat out. There is scarcely any unemployment in the industry—[Interruption.]—in England and Wales. [An HON. MEMBER:" What about Scotland?"] I was speaking of England and Wales. We are told that there will be a shortage of land. Incomes are rising, population is rising and the number of households is rising, but so also is rising the amount of land allocated for housing.

Local planning authorities normally look twenty years ahead in their land planning allocation. On a national basis, there is sufficient land, either allocated or which will, without damage to major planning objectives, be allocated, including redevelopment and infilling, to cope with the rising demand of that time; but it will not necessarily cope in the more popular areas. One of our functions in this direction is to supply to the local planning authorities the basic statistics on future population, the prediction of household sizes and emigration and the picture of employment and the prospects of employment, and to interpret all these with our research staff so as to advise local planning authorities on the allocations that they should make for various purposes. I repeat, however, that there are at present in aggregate enough areas devoted, or that can be devoted, for housing to meet the predictable need.

As we all agree is natural, house builders look ahead. They want to have land in stock for several years' work. It is their raw material. If they fear a shortage, they will try all the harder to have even more in stock, thus creating the very shortage they fear. More land is constantly being released, not only as town maps and development plans are reviewed—and the Committee knows that that must be done every five years—but as planning applications for the use of land suitable for housing are made. There is, however, no guarantee that newly-released land will go to those builders with least land in stock. Of course, it is vital that the building industry should see its way forward, and my right hon. Friend has said that he will gladly examine any area where it is said there is not enough land in stock.

My right hon. Friend did, in fact, invite the National Federation of Building Trade Employers, three months ago, to let him know, after it had told him of its general worries, of any area where the Federation said that there was not enough land in stock. It has since indicated two places, one shortly after the meeting, and the second only three weeks ago. My right hon. Friend arranged a meeting in connection with the first area and was able to point out space allocated for housing in the neighbourhood, which was still available. The second area is being studied.

Of course, my right hon. Friend remains willing to study any particular area where this allegation is made. What he cannot do is guarantee that every house builder will be able to acquire stock for several years ahead. There is not in any business this sort of security as of right. If one source of work is reduced, another has to be opened up. We must see that land is released ahead of need, but we cannot carry this to the point in every area that every house builder has his larder full.

I may be asked, why not? If the land is there for foreseeable future demand already allocated for housing, or in that part of white land which could one day be allocated, what harm would there be in releasing more or most of that land now? The fact is that it might well be snapped up by some of those who already have adequate stocks of land in hand. Secondly, it might be developed out of sequence, taking into account, say, communications or water supplies. Thirdly, it would be an unnecessary loss to agriculture or to whatever use was being made of that land at the moment.

The Committee must face the hard physical fact, unwelcome though it may be, that some communities, the most popular communities, either have or will have no more land available for development and no more in reserve. This is because further expansion in these popular areas would run up against major planning barriers, either scenic barriers—areas of great beauty or green belt barriers or agricultural land barriers. In nearly all cases, however, where this is so, there is available land now and in reserve in the form of "white land" in the neighbouring districts. I must, however, point out that there are whole stretches in the most popular counties which it can be foreseen will one day be filled to their optimum, except only for redevelopment. Demand will then have to turn to what are now the less popular areas.

I can only repeat that there is or will be room allowed in the aggregate in the development plans for all the foreseeable demand problems, including the bulge, including rising standards of living, including overspill, and without endangering the major planning objectives. This is true for the foreseeable future as far as we can reasonably predict, but the most popular commuting area will tend to fill up first. There will still remain the less popular areas within the same radius. I suggest to the Committee that, by the time this belt outside the green belt but within commuting distance has been developed to the optimum, no doubt the less densely populated suburbs within the green belt will then be ready for re-development with higher densities. Meanwhile, the unspectacular but effective bringing into use of unnecessarily large gardens and such spaces will continually be helping.

I wish to take issue with one picture painted by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. He gave the impression to the Committee that outside the green belt all is now chaos. He painted a picture of continuous subtopia outside the green belt. It is true that we and the Labour Government inherited sprawl, ribbon development and every sort of chaos in our countryside, but the present position is very different from that painted by the right hon. Gentleman. Let him try to build a house in the countryside. I spend most of my time refusing appeals by people who want, for sentimental and other reasons, to build in the towns or villages where they were born seeking to pass their lives there. Planning seeks to keep development compact. We agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the country should be country and the town town; outside the green belt development is only permitted in compact areas, except where there is a good agricultural reason.

It is not only the green belt that preserves land from sporadic development. There are areas of outstanding natural beauty, where there is special control of development, the National Parks, again special control of development, and agricultural land, again special control of development. My right hon. Friend recently published the second edition of a pamphlet, "Your house in the country", which explains that no one can expect to be allowed to build a house in the country without seeking guidance from the local authority, to find out which villages and towns are being expanded, and in which he may build. So the picture is not as black as the right hon. Gentleman painted. We are determined to keep the town town and the country country.

The right hon. Gentleman also spoke about commuting. It can be a great burden on the individual involved. But it is, after all, a matter of degree. Some people travel long distances and some people less, but, one and all, they took the decision to move out with their eyes open, knowing that there would fall an obligation on one of the family to commute. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Besides, commuting may not be quite such a bad idea as some suggest as traffic improvements continue and if over the decades the working week continues to shorten as it has done in the past.

I should like to face one particular problem which may be in the minds of some hon. Gentlemen. It may be feared that in some areas all the land allocated for housing will be held undeveloped and, thus, an artificial land shortage will be created. I would remind the Committee that local authorities already have power to buy land compulsorily, if need be, for development, including private housing development where this is necessary. It is possible to envisage a situation where that would be a reasonable proposal. So much for my first attempt to give a picture of the space for housing position.

I turn now to prices. I would ask the Committee, first of all, to ignore in this debate shop and office land prices. They are very confusing when we are primarily discussing housing prices. Secondly, I would ask the Committee to follow the example set by the hon. Member for Birmingham, Northfield and discuss prices not per acre but per plot, because the density allowed on an acre obviously makes a great deal of difference to the prices of plots.

Thirdly, I should like to assure the Committee that, though local authorities now have to pay market value for land, they are helped by a subsidy when they have to acquire land for housing of over a certain cost and they are helped by means of the general grant towards land purchase connected with education and specific grant in connection with classified roads.

The fourth thing that I want particularly to stress to the Committee about prices, is that they vary up and down the country. Today we have heard quotations of the top prices. These are the prices for the favourite areas near the centres of growth, but there are plenty of hon. Members here today, who, if they had the chance, could tell us that in their areas prices are not high. Prices in many areas have not even kept pace with the fall in the value of money since 1939. It is the popular, favourite areas alone which give this false impression. In many parts of the country land prices have not risen.

Mr. Manuel

Tell us which areas.

Sir K. Joseph

It is absolutely true, but I will not start a rush to those areas by quoting them.

Mr. Manuel

That is the best yet.

Sir K. Joseph

Once again, we are seeing an adjustment to present conditions which has been concentrated in a few years rather than spread out over two decades, as would have been the case but for the war. I suggest to the Committee that in the very different conditions of the thirties land tended to he under-valued. The suddenly increased prices to bring them into line with real values today and with demand has certainly caused a shock, and to the extent that demand has concentrated on an area limited not only by value but by communications and by consumer preference, prices have in these limited areas gone especially high.

Land is valuable. Whether the owner, who was probably originally a farmer, has held the land himself, has sold it direct to a developer or has sold it to a middle man, the price paid will not be decided in a vacuum. In his first contacts with the purchaser he will not have thought of the price out of his head with no reference to anything else. The price paid will generally be no more than an ever-increasing proportion of the population in turn is willing to pay for it.

As the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said, when the consumer refuses to pay these high prices, then prices will tend to start to come down. [Interruption.] That is true. It is a basic economic fact. The fact is that incomes have risen, and are still rising. Most houses are bought through building societies, and the societies will only lend what they consider may prudently be borrowed on the earnings and prospects of the borrower. Full employment and rising standards of 'living and housing tend these days to be taken for granted, so even if more land than is needed for the next few years could be released it is unlikely that prices in the favourite areas would come down substantially. Developers and middlemen would tend to put the land released into stock.

Another criticism is that as prices rise developers are forced to build houses of smaller size and lower standards to keep within the prices purchasers can afford. It may well be true that profit margins are under pressure, but there is no evidence that either the size or the standard of housing is dropping. This is a point we shall watch. I remind the Committee that houses have to obtain both planning and byelaw approval, and this would certainly not be forthcoming if the size and standard were too low.

There are some good effects to be gained from high prices by the community, because greater prices and greater competition for large sites may force some developers back into the towns and cities, and as rents and incomes rise there should be opportunities for big and small alike in converting and redeveloping. If I am told that this takes too long, it ties up capital no longer than that tied up in the white land in the hope that one day it will obtain planning permission. High prices persuade us to make full use of the land we have.

Densities certainly used to be too high. Now—or rather recently—they are perhaps too low. Now perhaps we may strike a happy medium and make fuller use of land, including high buildings, without returning to the high densities of the nineteenth century. That could also mean the fuller use of large gardens of old houses.

High prices for land are of great concern to the Government. My right hon. Friend will ensure the steady release of land wherever possible to replace land that is developed, but he believes that the capacity and willingness to pay sets the limit to prices. The only way to reduce prices, therefore, would be either to confiscate the land—and we must remember that the 1959 Act was no apposed by the Opposition, although the hon. and learned Member for Kettering said that it had mental reservations about the need to bring in a system of betterment or to reverse—

Mr. Mitchison rose

Sir K. Joseph

I have very little time.

Mr. Mitchison

They were more than mental reservations. They occupied several columns of HANSARD.

Sir K. Joseph

The only way to reduce the price of land would be that mentioned by the hon. and learned Gentleman—to reverse the trend of growing prosperity and no one wants that. So far the price of land is not halting or slowing up development. The building industry is fully employed. If, for any reason, developers did prove less willing to go ahead, or lenders to lend, or purchasers to buy, because the price of land was disproportionate, that would certainly, as the hon. and learned Gentleman says, tend to bring prices down.

Prices reflect demand. Prices do not just reflect the first figure. They reflect what the owner thinks the purchaser can afford to pay. I would remind the Committee that there has been some talk of speculators, but there has been some evidence that speculators have burnt their fingers. I have evidence that people have been buying farmland in the green belt, and now that my right hon. Friend has made his firm statement that there will be no housing or other use of the green belt they will find it difficult to dispose of that land at the price they paid for it.

A number of suggestions have been made and I will try to deal with a few of them, although I cannot possibly deal with all. First, the development charge has been mentioned, but I must ask the Committee to realise that, whatever its merits or demerits, there is one thing which it will not do, and that is to reduce the cost of land. We had plenty of experience when it was with us to show that its result was to discourage owners from selling, and if owners are discouraged from selling there is less land available and that means that prices go up and not down.

Then we had invocations of Uthwatt. "Back to Uthwatt" we have been told, with all that Uthwatt means in the way of public ownership of land ripe for development. This would be a huge financial task and would create of the State and local authorities a huge landlord spreading steadily outwards as more and more land became ripe for development. I do not believe, for all the stress laid upon it by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, that that would be acceptable to the public.

Several hon. Members referred to a capital gains tax. It is not for me to discuss a capital gains tax, since we are discussing the Vote of my right hon. Friend, but I point out that there is one thing which a capital gains tax is most unlikely to do and that is to reduce the price of land.

We have had further references to betterment and at least everyone has recognised that betterment is an extremely difficult concept to legislate. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition was the first to say that there was no easy solution to betterment. I point out again that if betterment is to be levied on sale it is one more discouragement to prevent the landowner from bringing his land to market and, therefore, has nothing to do with the problem of reducing the price of land which is one of the primary objects of the debate.

Hon. Members have shown great interest in office control in ate centre of cities, particularly London, and I especially liked the reference of my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) to the importance of taking work to the workers. My right hon. Friend told the Committee something of what had been done to reduce the building of offices in the centre of London and, indeed, what we are now seeing is, the completion of the exercise of the approvals given before policy tightened under my right hon. Friend's predecessor.

The example of the Government in moving many of their staff out of London and the persuasion of my right hon. Friend are succeeding, as prices for office land outside the centre of London are beginning to evidence. The fashion of building offices outside the centre is beginning to take hold. We regard this as a most important development which we shall seek to encourage, but I point out to the Committee that to apply to offices the control at present applied to factories would be almost certainly completely impracticable, although we shall continue to study it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I am short of time, but, briefly, it is because offices tend to be built—and hon. Members on both sides want new offices built—for an unknown occupier, in most cases, and offices tend to play a part in city centre redevelopment. It is, therefore, difficult to control the user of that office when he is not known and particularly when he may so easily change by a sale of occupation.

I wish that I had time to refer to some of the interesting speeches of hon. Members on both sides of the Committee. We had very valuable surveys of the problems and suggestions from my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) and, because of his experience, the particularly interesting speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe. My hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) rightly stressed the need for close liaison between my right hon. Friend and the Ministry of Transport and the Board of Trade. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), who, in this respect, was echoed by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering, spoke of the problem of city centres, which is a problem in which I have particular interest.

As the hon. Member may know, I spoke to the Conference of the Royal Institute of British Architects on that subject. I pointed out that just because there is unified control it does not follow that architecture will be superior. We may get more mediocre architecture; less variety of architecture is generally to be preferred, unless there is a Nash among us. Secondly, it does not make very much sense that the taxpayers should be asked to help the ratepayers to develop the most profitable part of the ratepayers' own centres.

I wish that I had time to deal with other contributions, particularly that of my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) and that of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington)

. I now turn to a summary of the action being taken by my right hon. Friend. Basically, it is a continuing service of statistics, projections, advice, research and interpretations for the local planning authorities, and a continuing review of each area's development plan, a review that is renewed on each planning appeal, and on each proposal for ad hoc amendment.

My right hon. Friend continues to be responsible for co-ordinating the county authorities for the urban areas where demand arises. He has initiated and will continue to initiate regional conferences for this purpose. My right hon. Friend will continue to bring pressure to bear towards conversions, in-filling, redevelopment in the towns and cities, and, acceptance in suitable cases of high buildings and higher densities, but my right hon. Friend and the Government will not take panic action; they will not endanger any major planning objectives; they will not allow a return to sporadic and ribbon development which was so expensive in real terms even if the land was cheap. Land for development will continue to be chosen with due regard for communications, work, agriculture, water supply, and all the considerations proper to town and country planning.

The fact is that land is precious and the country is rightly beginning to be aware of it. My Minister will continue to ensure, without imperilling any of the general planning objectives, that a

supply for several years ahead is allocated wherever possible in each area, though not necessarily in each individual community. That is broadly the position now.

With his research staff my right hon. Friend has long guided the planning authorities, and he will go on coordinating and initiating arrangements to satisfy the rising demand not only on a local but also a regional basis. He has in hand much effective work on expanded towns to provide both housing and employment, and, as he said, new towns are not excluded if shown to be necessary and practicable. Urban redevelopment which holds out so much for the future—both of city centres and the redevelopment of out-dated residential areas which has already tentatively begun—lies ahead.

The price of land is no more than a free market judges to be the capacity to pay. Sometimes the market judges wrong, but it judges a great deal better than any Whitehall gentleman. Prices are much higher in the favoured areas than elsewhere. This will ensure the minimum waste of land.

Local authorities have been and will continue to be helped by subsidy or grant to pay the market price for the high cost of housing land and for all land for schools and classified roads.

Today's debate has given further proof that there is no magic wand to wave. We shall go on seeking to predict and to plan for the demands of an even more prosperous future.

Mr. Mitchison

I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his well-read speech. I beg to move, That Item Class V, Vote 1 (Ministry of Housing and Local Government) be reduced by £5.

Question put:

The Committee divided: Ayes 235, Noes 319.

Division No. 139.] AYES [9.58 p.m.
Abse, Leo Blyton, William Castle, Mrs. Barbara
Ainsley, William Boardman, H. Chapman, Donald
Albu, Austen Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.) Chetwynd, George
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.) Bowles, Frank Cliffe, Michael
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe) Boyden, James Corbet, Mrs. Freda
Awbery, Stan Braddock, Mrs. E. M. Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)
Bacon, Miss Alice Brockway, A. Fenner Cronin, John
Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.) Broughton, Dr. A. D. D. Crosland, Anthony
Beaney, Alan Brown, Alan (Tottenham) Crossman, R. H. S.
Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J. Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper) Cullen, Mrs. Alice
Bence, Cyril (Dunbartonshire, E.) Brown, Thomas (Ince) Darling, George
Benn, Hn. A. Wedgwood (Brist'I, S.E.) Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.) Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)
Benson, Sir George Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green) Davies, Harold (Leek)
Blackburn, F. Callaghan, James Davies, Ifor (Gower)
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr) Jones, Jack (Rotherham) Rhodes, H.
Deer, George Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham) Robens, Rt. Hon. Alfred
de Freitas, Geoffrey Jones, T. W. (Merioneth) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Delargy, Hugh Kelley, Richard Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Dempsey, James Kenyon, Clifford Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Diamond, John Key, Rt. Hon. C. W. Ross, William
Dodds, Norman King, Dr. Horace Royle, Charles (Salford, West)
Donnelly, Desmond Lawson, George Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John Ledger, Ron Short, Edward
Ede, Rt. Hon. Chuter Lee, Frederick (Newton) Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Edelman, Maurice Lever, Harold (Cheetham) Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)
Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly) Lever, L. M. (Ardwick) Skeffington, Arthur
Edwards, Robert (Bilston) Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.) Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Edwards, Walter (Stepney) Lipton, Marcus Slater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Evans, Albert Loughlin, Charles Small, William
Fernyhough, E. Mahon, Dr. J. Dickson Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)
Finch, Harold McCann, John Snow, Julian
Fitch, Alan MacColl, James Sorensen, R. W.
Fletcher, Eric McInnes, James Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Foot, Dingle McKay, John (Wallsend) Spriggs, Leslie
Forman, J, C. Mackie, John Steele, Thomas
Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton) McLeavey, Frank Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Galtskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg) Stonehouse, John
Galpern, Sir Myer Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.) Stones, William
George, Lady Megan Lloyd Manuel, A. C. Strachey, Rt. Hon. John
Ginsburg, David Mapp, Charles Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)
Gooch, E. G. Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A. Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C. Marsh, Richard Summerskill, Dr. Rt. Hon, Edith
Gourlay, Harry Mason, Roy Swain, Thomas
Greenwood, Anthony Mayhew, Christopher Swingler, Stephen
Grey, Charles Mellish, R. J. Sylvester, George
Griffiths, David (Rother Valley) Mendelson, J. J. Symonds, J.B.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly) Millan, Bruce Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Griffiths, W. (Exchange) Mitchison, G. R. Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Grimond, J. Monslow, Walter Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.) Moody, A. S. Thornton, Ernest
Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley Morris, John Thorpe, Jeremy
Hannan, William Mort, D. L. Timmons, John
Hart, Mrs. Judith Moyle, Arthur Tomney, Frank
Hayman, F. H. Mulley, Frederick Wade, Donald
Healey, Denis Neal, Harold Wainwright, Edwin
Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (RwlyRegis) Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon) Warbey, William
Herbison, Miss Margaret Oliver, G. H. Watkins, Tudor
Hill, J. (Midlothian) Oram, A. E. Weitzmann, David
Hilton, A. V. Oswald, Thomas Wells, Percy (Faversham)
Holman, Percy Owen, Will Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Houghton, Douglas Paget, R. T. White, Mrs. Eirene
Howell, Charles A. Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.) Whitlock, William
Hoy, James H. Pargiter, G. A. Wigg, George
Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey) Parker, John (Dagenham) Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.
Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire) Parkin, B. T. (Paddington, N.) Wilkins, W. A.
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.) Paton, John Willey, Frederick
Pavitt, Laurence Williams, D. J. (Neath)
Hunter, A. E. Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd) Williams, Rev. LI. (Abertillery)
Hynd, H. (Accrington) Peart, Frederick Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Hynd, John (Attercliffe) Plummer, Sir Leslie Willis, E. G. (Edinburgh, E.)
Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill) Popplewell, Ernest Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)
Irving, Sydney (Dartford) Prentice, R. E. Winterbottom, R. E.
Janner, Barnett Price, J. T. (Westhoughton) Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.
Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas Probert, Arthur Woof, Robert
Jeger, George Proctor, W. T. Wyatt, Woodrow
Jenkins, Roy (Stechford) Pursey, Cmdr. Harry Zilliacus, K.
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.) Rankin, John
Johnston, Douglas (Paisley) Redhead, E. C, TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield) Reid, William Mr. J. Taylor and
Jones, Dan (Burnley) Reynolds, G. W. Mr. G. H. R. Rogers.
Agnew, Sir Peter Bennett, F. M. (Torquay) Brewis, John
Aitken, W. T. Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm) Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.) Berkeley, Humphry Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry
Allason, James Bevins, Rt. Hon. Reginald (Toxteth) Brooman-White, R.
Alport, Rt. Hon. C. J. M. Bidgood, John C. Browne, Percy (Torrington)
Arbuthnot, John Biggs-Davison, John Bryan, Paul
Ashton, Sir Hubert Bingham, R. M. Bullard, Denys
Atkins, Humphrey Birch, Rt. Hon, Nigel Bullus, Wing Commander Eric
Balniel, Lord Bishop, F. P. Burden, F. A.
Barber, Anthony Black, Sir Cyril Butcher, Sir Herbert
Barlow, Sir John Bossom, Clive Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)
Barter, John Bourne-Arton, A. Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)
Batsford, Brian Box, Donald Carr, Compton (Barons Court)
Baxter, Sir Beverley (Southgate) Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John Carr, Robert (Mitcham)
Beamish, Col. Tufton Boyle, Sir Edward Cary, Sir Robert
Bell, Ronald (S. Bucks.) Braine, Bernard Channon, H. P. G.
Chataway, Christopher Holland, Philip Osborne, Cyril (Louth)
Chichester-Clark, R. Hope, Rt. Hon. Lord John Page, John (Harrow, West)
Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.) Hopkins, Alan Page, Graham
Clark, William (Nottingham, S.) Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)
Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.) Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire) Partridge, E.
Cole, Norman Howard, John (Southampton, Test) Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)
Collard, Richard Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John Peel, John
Cooper, A. E. Hughes-Young, Michael Percival, Ian
Cooper-Key, Sir Neill Hulbert, Sir Norman Peyton, John
Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K. Hurd, Sir Anthony Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth
Cordle, John Hutchison, Michael Clark Pike, Miss Mervyn
Corfield, F. V. Iremonger, T. L. Pilkington, Capt. Richard
Costain, A. P. Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye) Pitman, I. J.
Coulson, J. M. Jackson, John Pitt, Miss Edith
Courtney, Cdr. Anthony James, David Pott, Percivall
Craddock, Sir Beresford Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich) Powell, J. Enoch
Critchley, Julian Jennings, J. C. Price, David (Eastleigh)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E. Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle) Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)
Crowder, F. P. Johnson, Eric (Blackley) Profumo, Rt. Hon. John
Cunningham, Knox Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Proudfoot, Wilfred
Currie, G. B. H. Joseph, Sir Keith Ramsden, James
Dalkeith, Earl of Kaberry, Sir Donald Rawlinson, Peter
Dance, James Kerans, Cdr. J. S. Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin
d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry Kerby, Capt. Henry Rees, Hugh
Deedes, W. F. Kerr, Sir Hamilton Rees-Davies, W. R.
de Ferranti, Basil Kershaw, Anthony Renton, David
Digby, Simon Wingfield Kimball, Marcus Ridley, Hon. Nicholas
Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M. Kirk, Peter Ridsdale, Julian
Doughty, Charles Lambton, Viscount Rippon, Geoffrey
Drayson, G. B. Langford-Holt, J. Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
du Cann, Edward Leather, E. H. C. Robson Brown, Sir William
Duthie, Sir William Leavey, J. A. Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)
Eden, John Leburn, Gilmour Roots, William
Elliott, R. W. Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard
Emery, Peter Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Royle, Anthony (Richmond, Surrey)
Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn Lilley, F. J. P. Russell, Ronald
Errington, Sir Eric Lindsay, Martin Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan
Erroll, Rt. Hon. F. J. Linstead, Sir Hugh Scott-Hopkins, James
Farey-Jones, F. W. Litchfield, Capt. John Sharples, Richard
Farr, John Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield) Shaw, M.
Fell, Anthony Longbottom, Charles Shepherd, William
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Longden, Gilbert Skeet, T. H. H.
Loveys, Walter H. Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)
Foster, John Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby Smithers, Peter
Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone) Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.) Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)
Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton) Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher
Freeth, Denzil McAdden, Stephen Spearman, Sir Alexander
Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D. MacArthur, Ian Speir, Robert
Gammans, Lady McLaren, Martin Stanley, Hon. Richard
Gardner, Edward McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia Stevens, Geoffrey
George, J. C. (Pollok) Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs.) Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Gibson-Watt, David Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.) Stodart, J. A.
Glover, Sir Douglas MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty) Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham) McMaster, Stanley R. Storey, Sir Samuel
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.) Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax) Studholme, Sir Henry
Godber, J. B. Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries) Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)
Goodhart, Philip Maddan, Martin Sumner, Donald (Orpington)
Goodhew, Victor Maginnis, John E. Talbot, John E.
Gough, Frederick Maitland, Cdr. Sir John Tapsell, Peter
Gower, Raymond Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R. Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Grant, Rt. Hon. William (Woodside) Markham, Major Sir Frank Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)
Green, Alan Marlowe, Anthony Teeling, William
Gresham Cooke, R. Marples, Rt. Hon. Ernest Temple, John M.
Grimston, Sir Robert Marshall, Douglas Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G. Marten, Neil Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)
Hall, John (Wycombe) Mathew, Robert (Honiton) Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough) Matthews, Gordon (Meriden) Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)
Hare, Rt. Hon. John Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald Thompson, Richard (Croydon, S.)
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.) Mawby, Ray Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter
Harris, Reader (Heston) Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C. Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Harrison, Brian (Maldon) Mills, Stratton Tiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd) Montgomery, Fergus Turner, Colin
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.) Morgan, William Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Harvie Anderson, Miss Morrison, John Tweedsmuir, Lady
Hay, John Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles van Straubenzee, W. R.
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel Nabarro, Gerald Vane, W, M. F.
Henderson, John (Cathcart) Neave, Airey Vaughan-Morgan, Sir John
Hendry, Forbes Nicholls, Harmar Vickers, Miss Joan
Hicks Beach, Maj. W. Nicholson, Sir Godfrey Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Hiley, Joseph Noble, Michael Wakefield, Sir wavell (St. M'lebone)
Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton) Nugent, Sir Richard Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek
Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk) Oakshott, Sir Hendrie Wall, Patrick
Hinchingbrooke, Viscount Ormsby Core, Rt. Hon. D. Ward, Rt. Hon. George (Worcester)
Hirst, Geoffrey Orr, Capt. L. P. S. Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold
Hobson, John Orr-Ewing, C. Ian Watts, James
Hocking, Philip N. Osborn, John (Hallam) Webster, David
Wells, John (Maidstone) Wise, A. R. Worsley, Marcus
Whitelaw, William Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Williams, Dudley (Exeter) Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard
Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.) Woodhouse, C. M. TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater) Woodnutt, Mark Mr. E. Wakefield and
Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro) Woollam, John Colonel J. H. Harrison.

Original Question again proposed.

Mr. Ray Mawby (Totnes) rose

It being after Ten o'clock, The CHAIR-MAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.

Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.