HC Deb 23 May 1960 vol 624 cc108-35

7.0 p.m.

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

I beg to move, in page 2, line 29, to leave out Clause 4.

I can best indicate the purpose of Clause 4 in relation to the Bill by reading from the first paragraph of the statement on behalf of the promoters in support of consideration of the Bill which, I think, has probably been sent to most hon. Members: The main object of the Bill is to confer powers upon the County Council of the Administrative County of the County Palatine of Lancashire which would enable them to assist and, if need be, to promote industrial development within the administrative county. Clause 3 of the Bill would enable the County Council, for the purpose of such development, to acquire land within the administrative county by agreement, and Clause 4 provides that the County Council, by means of orders to be submitted to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and confirmed by him may be authorised to purchase compulsorily land in the administrative county for the purpose of such development in any case where the County Council are unable to acquire land by agreement on terms which, in their opinion, are reasonable. My first objection to Clause 4 is that as a matter of principle, any body that comes to this House, whether the Government themselves, or a local authority, or, still more, any form of private undertaking seeking to acquire increased powers which it is to use by force or compulsion against private interests—in that case the onus is upon it to show that the powers are both necessary and desirable in the national interest. That, in my view, the promoters of this Clause have not done.

The House will know that the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, contains very wide powers of compulsory acquisition in cases of this kind. It may be helpful if I read the opening paragraph of Section 37 (1) of that Act: Where any land is designed by a development plan under this Act as subject to compulsory acquisition by any Minister, local authority or statutory undertakers, that Minister or authority or those undertakers may be authorised to acquire that land compulsorily in accordance with the provisions of this, section. Section 5 of that Act, which deals with development plans, specifically gives powers to the local authority, amongst other things, to designate on the development plan any land …as land as subject to compulsory acquisition… which brings it within the terms of Section 37 by any Minister, local authority or statutory undertakers any land allocated by the plan for the purposes of any of their functions. The word "functions" is defined in the Act as including "any powers or duties". In other words, it includes the powers and duties which the rest of the Bill seeks to confer upon the Lancashire County Council. It follows, therefore, that once the Bill becomes an Act, without Clause 4, as I hope, all that the Lancashire County Council has to do is to get its development plan right. Moreover, if we turn to paragraph 3 of the statement issued by the promoters we are told some of the reasons why these powers are considered necessary: The powers of the Bill relating to industrial development are, in the view of the County Council, urgently required on two main grounds. First, the County Council are most anxious to be able to secure the success of the various Town Development Schemes which are proposed for the accommodation within the county of overspill population from the congested cities and towns of Lancashire which in the County Development Plan approved by the Minister is estimated to be of the order of 353,000 people by 1971. The County Council believe that the only answer to this problem lies in the planned movement of overspill population to existing towns which are capable of being built up and developed. In the case of the more distant reception areas it is essential that employment, as well as houses, should be provided for the persons to be accommodated. To this end, the County Council need powers themselves to provide and develop suitable industrial sites within such reception areas. The House will remember that these town development schemes referred to in that statement which are designed to provide for this planned movement of overspill population derive from the Town Development Act, 1952. Section 1 of that Act defines land within the town development area in this way. It means development in a county district … which will have the effect, and is undertaken primarily for the purpose, of providing accommodation for residential purposes (with or without accommodation) for the carrying on of industrial or other activities… Section 6 of that Act confers compulsory powers on the receiving district, that is, the district to which the overspill population is moving, to purchase the necessary land compulsorily.

So, here again, there are already clear powers to acquire land compulsorily precisely for the purpose which the Lancashire County Council may require such land under the terms of the Bill. Section 6 (4) of the Act of 1952 incorporates the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946, in the same way as Clause 4 (2) does of the present Bill. Section 6 (5) provides that the whole of Section 6 is to be read as one with Part IV of the Act of 1947, from which I have already quoted.

It is clear, therefore, that the Lancashire County Council already has very substantial powers of compulsory acquisition. In the conversations which I have had with the clerk of the county council and the Parliamentary agents I have, naturally, been anxious to ascertain why these powers are inadequate and why further powers are required. They have been quite frank with me and they told me that the sole reason is one of speed.

That brings me to my second objection, which concerns planning. It is clear from what I have been told by the clerk and the Parliamentary agents that their fear is that without these powers, in the case of land which has not been properly designated within their development plan or is not within an area designated for town development, the delay which alteration of the development would necessitate might result in the county council losing a possible customer. In other words, these powers are there purely to meet the case of the firm which, although perfectly willing to move into Lancashire, is not attracted by a particular site which may be available and earmarked in the development plan or under the 1952 Act or by any site which the Lancashire County Council is able to acquire by agreement under Clause 3.

The plain fact is that the Lancashire County Council, to catch its industrialists, is quite prepared and, indeed, anxious to jettison the whole of its development plan, and it seeks these powers to enable it to do so. When all is said and done, it is the House which has cast upon county councils as local planning authorities the obligation to plan. If the Lancashire County Council has a misconceived development plan and has already earmarked the areas suitable for industrial development, whether under the development plan or under the 1952 Act, it has all the powers it needs to carry out the purposes enumerated in the other Clauses of the Bill. If the county council has not done what is necessary, then the 1947 Act provides adequate machinery—

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

The hon. Gentleman has just said that the Lancashire County Council is quite prepared to jettison its development plan, which has been published now for some years. What is his evidence for saying that?

Mr. Corfield

If the hon. Gentleman has followed the argument which I have been trying to put, he will observe that these powers can be required only if that is its intention. If the county council wishes to stick to its development plan, then the powers of the 1947 Act are already there to enable it to acquire the land it requires. If the development plan is wrong, or if the county council finds that it wants to alter it for one reason or another in order to be able to acquire land, then the 1947 Act, in my view, provides perfectly adequate machinery for amending the development plan and bringing it up to date from time to time in accordance with changing circumstances.

It seems very questionable that the House should pass private legislation enabling an individual planning authority to be able to say, in effect, "As regards industry, we need not bother about the development plan because we now have powers to overrule it whenever we feel like it". As I understand them, that is the effect of these powers.

I am the last to suggest that all aspects of planning legislation today are perfect, but I am quite certain that matters will not be improved by giving individual planning authorities powers of dispensation. If there are to be amendments of our planning legislation, they must surely be on a national basis, as, indeed, the original planning legislation was.

I know that the county council has given certain undertakings in paragraph 5 of its statement, and, in particular, to meet certain criticisms, it says that it is prepared to give an undertaking to provide that the County Council shall seek planning permission from the Minister of Housing and Local Government for any development proposed under the provisions of the Bill which is the subject of objections by any person having an interest in the land concerned. I suggest that, to safeguard the planning position, the undertaking should be an undertaking that planning permission will be secured from the Minister in every case when these powers are used in contravention of the county council's own development plan.

My third objection arises from my grave doubt whether the safeguards in the Bill for the ordinary private interests are as strong as they would be under the existing powers or as strong as I have been given to understand that they are. When I spoke to the clerk and to the Parliamentary agents, I was assured that the rights of private individuals were safeguarded to exactly the same extent as under the other legislation by which the county could acquire land compulsorily. Although I accepted that assurance, I am not at all sure, after further investigation that it is sound. The Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946, which is incorporated by Clause 4 (2) of the Bill, requires the Minister to afford to any objectors an opportunity to be heard, but it requires him to do so only where those objections are made by an owner, a lessee, or an occupier who has an interest in the land extending over more than one month.

Of course, if, as a result of objections from any of those people, the Minister decides to order a public inquiry, then other people can attend and other objections can be heard. Nevertheless, the fact remains that, if there is no objection from this limited class, there will be no inquiry.

Any proposal to put an industrial undertaking on some piece of land designated in the development plan for some other purpose is surely something likely to be of interest to a much wider group of people than those having a legal interest in the land. For instance, if the green belt were affected, it could well be that the land involved would be in one ownership and in the occupation of the freeholder. In such a case, the only person whose objection the Minister would be bound to hear would be that one person, yet, as I think most hon. Members will agree, the matter might well be of far wider interest from the public point of view. Indeed, that one person might very well not object, especially if the result of objecting would be to lose for himself the industrial value of the land and have it permanently restricted to the agricultural value.

On the other hand, when an amendment to the development plan is involved, the requirements are very much wider. This is my principal objection to the safeguards. By Article 17 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Plans) Regulations, 1948, it is provided that After the Development Plan has been submitted the Minister shall take into consideration the Development Plan and any objection or representation received by him within the specified period and shall decide whether or not to cause a public local inquiry to be held into the objections or representations at which any interested persons may be heard. I ask the House to note that the words are "any interested persons", not "any persons legally interested". The Article goes on: If the Minister decides to dispense with an inquiry he shall, before approving the Development Plan, afford to any person who has duly made an objection and whose objection has not been met or withdrawn, an opportunity… That is very much wider than the limited requirement of the 1946 Act.

It is, therefore, not true to say that the safeguards in the Bill are the same as those in the 1947 Act. They are the same as under the 1952 Act, but the powers of the 1952 Act are virtually identical with those sought under Clause 4. It is very difficult to imagine a case arising in which there would be any advantage to the county council in using the proposed powers of Clause 4 instead of the powers it already has under the 1952 Act. The only advantage which the proposed powers under Clause 4 give is to enable the authority to override the difficulties of compulsory acquisition under the 1947 Act. It is then and then only, as I see it, that the Clause 4 provisions are likely to be used as an alternative to the existing provisions. It is precisely when compared with the 1947 Act that these safeguards do not reach the standard of those in the earlier Act.

My fourth objection arises under the Local Employment Act. This, again, is referred to in the undertakings in paragraph 5 of the statement by the promoters. As we all know, that Act gives to the Board of Trade powers to acquire land compulsorily for industrial purposes to meet local unemployment problems, but to meet them on a national basis. Once again, we should ask ourselves: is it sensible to put individual local authorities into direct competition with the national effort? It is true that there are certain restrictions on the terms under which any land acquired under Clause 4 can be disposed of—I refer to Clause 6—but it is equally true that Clause 8 contains powers which enable the Lancashire County Council, in certain circumstances, to be a very strong competitor with the Board of Trade.

Although an assurance has been given that these powers will not be used where there is a development district under the Local Employment Act, the danger is that the Lancashire County Council may attract away from a development district industry which might otherwise be prepared to go there. The Board of Trade, admittedly, has a final say through its ability to refuse an industrial development certificate, but I do not think that it requires much imagination to visualise the sort of pressure which would be exerted on the Board of Trade once the Lancashire County Council acquired the land, built a factory, agreed a loan—it could be a very generous loan and was in a position to offer a firm vacant possession.

That brings me to my fifth objection, which follows from the statement at the beginning of paragraph 4 of the statement of the Lancashire County Council in which it admits that these powers "are virtually unprecedented". There is, I believe, one other Private Bill with similar powers, the Jarrow Bill. It is clear, however, that once the Bill becomes an accepted practice, it will be very difficult to refuse these powers to other county councils and county borough councils.

It seems to me that we are courting the danger of major local authorities eventually competing with each other and with the Board of Trade, initially at the expense of the ratepayer, to attract industry to their areas, thereby increasing the rateable values on which the salaries of their officials depend, and generally building up an empire over which the only arbiter will be, not my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who is responsible to this House for planning, but the President of the Board of Trade, who is not.

Finally, it may, and possibly will, be argued that Lancashire is a special case and that there is no question of a precedent. We must remember, however, that the special case of Lancashire has already had very considerable consideration under the Cotton Industry (Compensation for Redundancy) Act. There is at least one school of thought, illustrated in the Economist of 7th May, which clearly thinks that that Measure has had its effect and that the special position of Lancashire is no longer applicable. I should like to quote two short passages from that article. In referring to the closing of mills, it states: Yet, as so often in the last ten years, the latest mill closures have had a much less disastrous effect than was at one time feared. In part, this is because up to half the spindles and looms now taken out of commission had for long been unemployed. But mainly it is because the latest closures have coincided with a general period of industrial expansion and a world-wide upsurge in the demand for cotton. Order books have lengthened and the reorganisation scheme, far from leaving great pools of local unemployment, has actually been attended by shortages of some types of mill labour in some of the cotton towns.

Mr. W. R. Williams (Manchester, Openshaw)

Will the hon. Gentleman now deal with those parts of Lancashire which have no direct relationship with cotton?

Mr. Corfield

I am saying that the argument which is always put forward is that Lancashire's dependence on cotton puts it in a special position. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] In so far as Lancashire has other difficulties, I submit that there are other parts of the country with similar difficulties. What I am saying is that what is proposed here is likely to be followed as a precedent.

I should like to continue with the quotation from the article: One's guess is that the labour shortage will continue and hasten cotton's decline. If that is a fair, or even a tenable, forecast, it seems that it is hardly likely to help by over-stimulating alternative employment, which is the purpose of this Bill.

I do not believe that there is any need for these powers at all. I am prepared to give hon. Members opposite the rest of the Bill which enables the local authority to do all that it wants to do without the special powers. It already has all the powers, if it will use them properly, necessary to carry out its objectives. The only object and effect of the power in this Clause is to enable the local authority to ignore its development plan and to take a short cut where it has either made a mistake or wished to make a more attractive offer to a firm by offering it land which, in the past, it never occurred to the authority to designate for industrial purposes.

7.25 p.m.

Mr. J. T. Price (Westhoughton)

On glancing round the Chamber, I am happy to see a respectable number of Lancashire Members present. No doubt, like myself, they are wondering why these fundamental objections to Clause 4 should be put before us so forcibly by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield). I agree, however, that this is the proper place to ventilate any objections that might legitimately arise on a Private Bill of this kind. I should like to apologise to the hon. Member for missing the first few minutes of his speech, but I was detained on other business in another part of the House.

In putting forward these technical objections, I think the hon. Member is trying to avoid the main issue which is the concern of all of us in Lancashire who understand the principles behind the Bill. We are not concerned with technical arguments to defend property interests beyond the point at which public interest demands.

Mr. Corfield


Mr. Price

I will give way in a moment.

We are not concerned to defend the property interests of private landowners who might be opposed to the public interest and to the things that the Lancashire County Council requires to do. We are concerned that the Lancashire County Council should have adequate power to deal with a situation which has changed radically and fundamentally since the Lancashire development plan was published some years ago.

I should like to put this to the hon. Gentleman, not as an academic point of law, but as a practical point of the industrial needs of Lancashire. Manchester, a great industrial conurbation, is grossly overcrowded. It is without land to house hundreds of thousands of people waiting for new houses.

Mr. James Watts (Manchester, Moss Side)

I do not think that this is accurate. There is a great deal of open space which is not being used.

Mr. W. R. Williams

Before my hon. Friend seriously takes up that intervention, I should like to make this point. Successive Ministers of Housing and Local Government have expressed the view that Manchester, with the land available, cannot meet the obligations of its overspill population. The hon. Member for Manchester, Moss Side (Mr. Watts) ought to know that as well as anyone.

Mr. Harold Boardman (Leigh)

I might also say that the Lancashire County Council—

Mr. Speaker

This multiplicity of interventions is a little confusing.

Mr. Price

I am much obliged to anyone who wants to help me with this argument. I referred to Manchester only in order to bring out the real point that I wanted to make.

I represent one of the county divisions of Lancashire. The Westhoughton division is an urban area of about 100 square miles, and it still has some open spaces. Manchester, which is from 12 to 15 miles away, is faced with an inability to house the people on its waiting lists within its own boundaries. I need not bore the House by going over a historical recital of the efforts made by the city council in Manchester for many years to find living space for the people which it is unable to house.

I am not concerned directly with the affairs of Manchester. I am concerned with the repercussions on county areas as a result of the demand of Manchester for more space where it can build houses to take up the slack in its surplus population. I am told that in the Westhoughton division approaches recently have been made to the urban authorities to make them responsible for the acceptance of an overspill population of about 60,000 from Manchester within the next few years. It is impossible to envisage a situation in which any urban authority, controlling the population of these outside districts miles away from Manchester, would be so stupid as to tie itself to binding agreements to take large surplus populations unless it was reasonably assured that there would be employment to match the needs of the people who went there.

Mr. Corfield

The hon. Member has missed the point. He is talking entirely in terms of the Town Development Act. 1952, which gives all the powers that the hon. Member wants to deal with the overspill problem and the accompanying industry. My argument has been directed to the fact that there is no need for these increased powers in addition. All that the hon. Member has done is to confirm that argument by stating exactly the conditions which the Town Development Act was designed to deal with and does, in fact, meet.

Section 6 of the 1947 Act makes it clear that at any time when a local authority wants to amend its development plan, there is simple machinery for doing so. A local authority is not hound by something which it has done five or even ten years earlier. It must put forward amendments every five years, but there is no need to wait five years if it does not wish to do so.

Mr. Price

The hon. Member has put forward a clever lawyer's argument. All these matters of principle have, however, presumably been debated by the Committee upstairs, composed of representatives of both sides of this House. Apparently, competent people representing the Government side, matched by similar Members from this side, have given proper consideration to the Bill and have given their full approval to the needs of the county in this respect. It is rather late in the day for an hon. Member from Gloucestershire to tell the House that the Committee upstairs did not know what it was doing. Presumably, the Committee upstairs was properly advised by counsel and knew well the merits of the argument.

If the 1952 Act had given the county council powers satisfactory to meet the situation which I have tried to describe, it would not have sought new powers. The Lancashire County Council is not everybody's cup of tea. We know perfectly well that a struggle is always going on between the county boroughs and the county council. Within the next few years, this struggle will be intensified by the operation of the Local Government Act, 1958, a piece of legislation to which I devoted a great deal of time as a member of the Standing Committee upstairs. These tendencies must be met as they emerge.

I am not expressing any opinion tonight about the merits of where the surplus population of Manchester should go. This is a highly controversial issue. It is controversial in my constituency, where people who represent small, established communities fear that a large influx of population may blot out the characteristics of those communities. That is not a matter that we are called upon to debate tonight.

The matter which I want to face is one which is germane to the terms of the Bill, to which objection has been taken. If the Lancashire County Council wishes to canalise, or to encourage or assist in any way, an orderly redistribution of the population, it must also have in mind the needs of industry to match the transfer of population from large centres to the small centres.

I make no apology, as representing one of the areas affected, for saying that I would be disinclined to support any acceptance of large population from Manchester or anywhere else into my part of Lancashire if I were a local government officer or councillor unless adequate guarantees were given that it was possible to plan the industrial development of those areas to match the population.

Let us not forget also that we are considering the Bill against the background of the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, which has been often debated in this House. The great criticism of that Act and all that flowed from it was that it had no teeth. It provided for advice, counsel and assistance by giving preferential rates and all kinds of inducements, but in the last analysis it did not provide for the direction of industry to any place that could prove a need for industry.

On behalf of the sponsors of the Bill, we as Lancashire Members are saying that Lancashire needs these powers to ensure as far as is humanly possible that if populations must be transferred into areas where land is available, the county council is able to provide the industrial land that is needed for the communities to be established there.

I cannot see the force of an argument which takes refuge in some kind of veiled defence of property interests. I cannot see the force of such an argument when in all the preceding stages of the Bill it has been established beyond cavil, in the Committee upstairs and elsewhere, that the Lancashire County Council needs these powers. I shall be very sorry if at this late stage, perhaps on a theoretical or ideological basis, the House of Commons puts a spoke in the wheel of the Bill at its most vital point, the point at which the county seeks power in its special circumstances to apply for the compulsory purchase of land.

The hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South quoted one or two extracts from the memorandum issued by the county authority. I should like to remind him that in the same memorandum, dealing with the need for Clause 4 of the Bill, the county authority states: The only reason why the County Council consider that the powers of the clause are necessary is that such powers would meet the situation where the development and laying out of an industrial estate is prevented by one individual owner of one parcel of land so situate in relation to the remainder of the estate (which could be purchased by agreement) that the scheme could not proceed without that parcel of land. In other words, the county council is prudently taking steps to safeguard itself against the man who sticks his neck out and tries to capitalise his nuisance value by asking an exorbitant price for a piece of land which is needed to complete the development of an estate. As the county council memorandum puts it, the county council could be 'held to ransom' since they must either pay whatever price is demanded for the parcel of land in question or abandon the scheme. I entirely fail to see the force of these technical arguments.

The Lancashire County Council, being, as it is, one of the largest and most important county authorities, staffed by some of the most skilful and competent officers, who know what they are doing, would not go to all the expense required to promote a Parliamentary Bill of this nature if it did not need these powers. It would not do it for cussedness.

The powers which are sought are reasonable. They will assist not only the orderly industrial development in the special circumstances: they will inferentially assist great conurbation areas like Manchester and help us to blend the population together in the best way that is open to us, not in the best interest of landowners, but in the greater interest of the community. These greater needs should prevail when there is a dispute of this nature. I therefore very much hope that we shall be able tonight to dispose of the Amendment and will give authority for the Third Reading of the Bill without it.

Mr. Corfield

We are in an extraordinary position. I am supporting the Socialist Act of 1947 and it is the hon. Member who says that it is insufficient and that more powers are required to carry out the planning.

7.39 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I assure the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) that my argument will not be technical, theoretical or ideological, but, I hope, practical. The hon. Member put forward a sound argument for the Local Employment Act, 1960, the general argument for many parts of Lancashire being development areas under that Act. It is surprising that, as we have only just passed that Act through the House of Commons, Lancashire County Council should come forward asking for almost identical powers to those given to the Board of Trade, and, indeed, to the Minister of Housing and Local Government, under that Act. Those powers were given provided that the Board of Trade declared the areas to be development areas, that is to say, districts whose needs required certain particular consideration from the point of view of development of industry. As the House will recall, that Act gave power for the provision of premises and sites, the acquisition of land, the giving of grants and loans to industrial undertakings, and various ancillary powers.

If a local authority desires something further by way of powers of acquisition to those powers granted so recently by that Act, I think that the House will say it ought to show exceptional circumstances. It ought to show not only exceptional circumstances, but that the Local Employment Act is insufficient to meet those exceptional circumstances.

Thirdly, having proved those two things, it ought to show that the rights of individuals concerned, where there is proposed compulsory purchase of land, are sufficiently protected by the Private Bill which the county council wishes the House to pass. The county council has stated, in a statement put before us, that this power now asked for is virtually unprecedented. Therefore, it is surely right that the House should consider it; otherwise, as my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) said, this might become a precedent for much weaker cases than Lancashire's.

In my own view, Lancashire has proved that there are exceptional circumstances. Evidence was given before the Committee of the areas of unemployment and the various circumstances, which I shall not detain the House now upon, which put Lancashire in an exceptional position. Having accepted that there are those circumstances, one has to go one step further and ask: does the Local Employment Act provide for this? Are there sufficient provisions in the Act? Or, to put it another way, is it possible or advantageous for a local authority, if given the power, to supplement the Act?

I would go as far with the Lancashire County Council as to say that there is a case for the county council' supplementing the Act; that because of certain particular overspill difficulties it is right that the county council should ask for power of supplementation. Therefore, having disposed of those two points, are there the exceptional circumstances, is it right that if there are the exceptional circumstances the county council should have some extra powers to deal with them, I come to the third question: are the rights of individuals being properly protected in this Private Bill?

I have no compunction in saying that I want to ensure that the rights of vested landowners—I think the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westhoughton called them—are being protected. It is right that this House should see whether a Private Bill is giving protection to the private property owners. Perhaps, now, I should mention a financial interest in the National Federation of Property Owners, who were the petitioners against the Bill in Committee. Therefore, I do look at it from the point of view of the individual owner who is faced with a compulsory purchase order by virtue of this Bill.

As the Bill stood when it came out of Committee the owner, who might be reluctant to dispose of his land and is faced with a compulsory purchase order, might first be faced by the Board of Trade; and having escaped the Board might then be faced by the county council. I thought that this was too much of a duplication of attack on the individual. I asked the county council whether there was any solution to that, whether it really wanted to use those powers within an area which the Board of Trade had declared a development area. I was assured that it did not, and I was given an undertaking that in another place, when the Bill reached there, a Clause would be proposed with the purpose of avoiding that duplication of attack on the individual. Indeed, I have been provided with a draft of that Clause, which to me is satisfactory. It overcomes my objection on that score.

The second point on the protection for the individual owner is whether he would have proper rights of objection to any course which the county council desired to take—proper right of objection in time. It is true that under the Bill he would have the right to object to a compulsory purchase order when it came, but that is rather too late to put forward matters of principle against a compulsory purchase. Under the ordinary law a county council, if it wishes to change a development plan and, for example, build industry where there is at present housing, has to go through a form of inquiry. The individual owner has the right to make his voice heard at that inquiry. Under this Bill that would be cut out. That is to say, the Bill authorises a change of the development plan without any inquiry and so the individual would be deprived of one point at which he could make his voice heard.

Then, if the county council had this power for which it asks in the Bill, it could then proceed to give itself planning permission. It is true that it would be bound by the 1947 Act to get planning permission, but it could give itself planning permission; and, of course, there is no appeal against a grant of planning permission; and so the owner concerned with planning permission over his land which is to be compulsorily purchased would have no voice.

I put the point to the county council, to see whether there was any solution. The solution which I suggested was that the county council in such a case should always have its planning permission called in by the Minister; that is to say, it should not grant itself planning permission, but that the application should be made to the Minister. Of course, then if any person were to object the Minister would hold a public inquiry and the objector's voice would thus be heard. I have been given an undertaking that in another place it will be proposed that a Clause to that effect be inserted in the Bill, so that where the county council wishes to change the zoning, say from housing to industrial, and the owner of that housing property objects, the planning permission will have to go to the Minister and the objector can be heard at a public inquiry. If a public inquiry is held others can come in and be heard in addition to the objector.

Mr. W. R. Williams

I have listened sympathetically to the hon. Member's argument, but can he tell me in what way what he is now saying differs fundamentally from the present contents of the Clause? The council says that: Any order made by them for this purpose would, however, be subject to confirmation by the Minister of Housing and Local Government who, as you know, would be statutorily bound first to consider any objections made to him against the order after giving the objectors a hearing either by way of a public local inquiry or informally.

Mr. Page

I do not know to what order the hon. Member is referring.

Mr. Williams

I am talking about Clause 4 and the statement made to us by Lancashire County Council.

Mr. Page

I take it that the hon. Member means a compulsory purchase order. As I said earlier, objecting to a compulsory purchase order is rather too late to make an objection on principle to development. It is an objection to the actual purchase of that piece of land. I have never felt that that was sufficient to deal with a matter from the point of view of principle.

Indeed, the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, recognised that there should be different stages. As the hon. Member for Manchester, Openshaw (Mr. W. R. Williams) knows, there is, for example, the clearance order. Residents have a right to object to a clearance order and then to a compulsory purchase order on their own land. That is the sort of procedure that I want to retain in the Bill and which Lancashire County Council has given me an undertaking it is desired to retain by the introduction of a Clause which will oblige application to the Minister for planning permission, instead of to the Council itself, and thereby give the objector the right to object in principle.

On the undertakings which I have been given I am satisfied from the point of view of the individual, where the Bill is an encroachment on the rights of owners or the rights of property the county council has done everything it can to overcome these difficulties. At the same time, because the county council admits that this power is virtually unprecedented, I think that it is right to raise it in the House and to have the decision of the House upon it, in case, unless the House is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances, it should become a precedent for local authorities merely endeavouring to get a little bit more than the House has been prepared to give by general law.

7.53 p.m.

Mr. H. Boardman (Leigh)

I am sure the House listened with rapt attention to the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) talking about the problems of Lancashire. Whilst, as my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price) said, the hon. Member has a perfect right to raise matters of this kind in the House, I would advise him in future that if he wants to talk about Lancashire at least to leave the Lancashire cotton industry alone until he knows something about it and about the effect of the Local Employment Act on Lancashire industrial locations, because I have a feeling that the hon. Member knows very little.

Mr. Corfield

Perhaps the hon. Member will give me some credit for knowing something about the problems of Gloucestershire. It was those I had in mind in expressing the hope that What was happening in Lancashire would not be a precedent.

Mr. Boardman

I would hesitate to talk about Gloucestershire unless I knew rather more about it than the hon. Member knows about Lancashire.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Westhoughton said, this Bill has gone through Committee, and I rise only to mention something about which the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) must be feeling very flattered. He has told us once or twice this evening that he has had an undertaking. Lancashire Members have been informed by Lancashire County Council that it has given an undertaking. This really makes a lot of nonsense of Private Bill procedure in Committee upstairs. I sat on one such Committee when I had occasion to object to something of a similar nature going on, and I went to the Private Bill Office and said, "Do not ever put me on a Committee on a Bill of this kind again."

It is nonsense that we should have a Committee deliberating and listening to arguments and then merely because one back bencher puts his name on the Order Paper and lets Lancashire County Council know that he is displeased with a particular Clause somebody runs round to him and says, "Please, Sir, we will amend it in another place."

Mr. Page

The hon. Member will observe that I did not take my name off the Order Paper. The result is that I have been able to report to the House the undertakings given and allow the House to decide upon them.

Mr. Boardman

What I am saying is no criticism of the hon. Member. He has a right to put down a Motion, but when a Bill has gone through Committee upstairs and that Committee has listened to all the arguments and conceded the Clause it is quite wrong that on notice of an objection by a back bencher and in order to meet his wishes as a representative of the National Federation of Property Owners, the Bill should be amended in another place.

In future, I shall take the strongest objection to any Private Bill when there is any likelihood of anything of this kind happening. I would prefer a Clause to be refused by a Committee upstairs than have it subject to this Parliamentary privilege in reverse, with the result that one has only to give notice on the Order Paper that one does not like a Clause and a local authority may be intimidated and the Clause removed. If Lancashire County Council wants to keep the loyalty of Lancashire Members and it believes that it has a worth-while Bill in the first place, it should stick to that Bill during its passage through the House.

7.58 p.m.

Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)

I hope that my short intervention will not arouse the wrath of the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Boardman). I apologise for the intrusion of a Member representing a constituency in south-east England in a north-western affair, but Lancashire is not the only county facing the problem of town development, with which I am wholly sympathetic, and I think that Lancashire would be the first to admit that the provisions in the Bill may well have repercussions far outside the County Palatine. That is why, in a way, I support the Amendment.

The first question to be considered is why at this stage the county feels that it must promote a Bill which contains, as the county readily and straightforwardly admits, at least one Clause, namely, Clause 4, which is virtually unprecedented. The Bill is a measure which is obviously presented in good faith and because its provisions are urgently needed. The Town Development Act was passed in 1952 and is obviously the foundation of the work which Lancashire and other counties are trying to do with varying success in different places, and it has been supplemented by other Acts.

What the House has the duty to inquire into is not what Lancashire is seeking to do but why it is seeking to do it at this point. There seems to be a clear indication in the Bill that the task of co-ordinating the movement of industry and of population is not going at all on the lines so hopefully envisaged in 1952 when we passed the Town Development Act. It is with a view to making that point that, with some trepidation, I intrude in this all-Lancashire affair.

A Bill of this scope—and I do not think that its scope will be denied by hon. Members representing Lancashire—makes one wonder whether there ought not to be a much wider reappraisal by the Government. In effect, the Bill suggests that town development is not moving so much on one rail as on two rails, and they are not strictly parallel. One rail is borne by the Board of Trade, with its responsibility for industry, and the other by the Ministry of Housing, which must make the best of the social consequences created by movements inspired or sponsored by the Board of Trade.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)

I do not want to interrupt the hon. Member, but I hope he will remember that we are debating just one Amendment, which is to leave out Clause 4.

Mr. Deedes

I was stating my reasons for supporting that Amendment, but I will endeavour not to go too wide in what I am saying.

Lancashire is seeking to improve its work, in this matter of co-ordinating the movement of industry with the movement of population, in a new way, and, coming back to Clause 4, with new powers which must include very heavy additional and unfamiliar responsibilities for Lancashire. I am not suggesting that Lancashire County Council wants to burden itself with what will be heavy additional responsibilities. At least, if it does, it must have very cogent and good reasons for seeking to do so. If such powers are needed in Lancashire, always admitting the exceptional problems of that county, will they not be needed elsewhere?

There was a reference to the possibility of a free-for-all—local authorities competing against one another for industries —resulting from Clause 4. I began by saying that I do not suggest that these powers are not needed. From Lancashire's point of view they probably are, but they are not in the direction I would like to see taken. Rather than the compulsory powers suggested in Clause 4, I strongly favour, in Lancashire as in any other county, a much closer co-relation between industry and local authority, a formation of some kind of consortium, in which the two could work together and not apart. However, that would take me to a subject wider than this debate.

The Bill should cause the House and my right hon. Friend to reflect, because there are clear signs that if Lancashire means what it says, especially in Clause 4, then our intentions in 1953 are now failing, or Clause 4 would not be necessary. That is the real meaning of the difficulty which the House has in this case. I have no wish to obstruct save to add my objection to the Clause, but I hope that this will be a signal that others, outside Lancashire County Council. have a rising problem in this respect and that sooner or later we will have to have a fresh look at the matter and take fresh action.

8.3 p.m.

Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)

I want to make one or two comments on some of the observations which have been made during the debate. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Leigh (Mr. Boardman), I regret the intervention of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield) in matters which are not germane to his constituency or county. I would have preferred that that intervention had been made by someone with some knowledge and understanding of Lancashire's social and economic problems.

The hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) said that he believed that Lancashire had cogent and good reasons for introducing the Bill and thought that it had been introduced in good faith. I am confident that that is true. I appreciate the fear of hon. Members opposite that the Bill might create a precedent with which they would not be disposed to agree, but I am not sure that I endorse that sentiment. If a local authority wants to look after the interests of the community, social or economic, why should we frustrate its efforts?

The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) said that he had been given an undertaking by Lancashire County Council regardless of what was done in Committee upstairs. I say quite frankly that that is a great reflection on the Committee and on hon. Members on both sides of the House. No hon. Member should be able to claim the right to be able to induce a county council to give him some undertaking to meet his point of view. That is entirely wrong.

The arguments against Clause 4 tonight have been pathetically weak and the only reason for them has been the assumption that the Clause would create a precedent which the House would not want. I believe that the Lancashire County Council has done what is right and that it will co-ordinate its efforts with the Board of Trade and all other interests before seeking to do anything which might be thought not to be in the best interests of Lancashire.

8.6 p.m.

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

It may be helpful if I intervene now to make a few comments. The debate is on a very narrow but extremely important topic, and is restricted to Clause 4. I note the wider comments of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) and I will consider them, but I must restrict myself to Clause 4 and its implications.

Hon. Members from Lancashire have already spoken and it is not for me to argue the case for the Lancashire County Council, but it is for me to remind the House that the decision is for the House and that my right hon. Friend has already expressed his opinion to the Select Committee which has considered the whole Bill, including Clause 4. In fact, it gave a whole day to receiving evidence on Clause 4. The case against Clause 4 was vigorously presented, but in the end the Committee passed it.

After his own serious consideration of Clause 4, my right hon. Friend decided that Lancashire had made a case for including that Clause. The House will remember that in his report to the Committee, referring to Clause 4, my right hon. Friend said: Parliament will no doubt wish to be satisfied that the county council have a need for these powers before they are granted, but for his part the Minister would not wish to raise any objection to them. I shall seek to persuade the House that Clause 4 does not remove any protection from the citizen. My job is the harder because of the formidable case made by my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South (Mr. Corfield). He had every right to make that case, and the hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. J. T. Price), who referred to it as a casual or weak case—

Mr. J. T. Price

indicated dissent.

Sir K. Joseph

—could not have been listening. It was a sustained and cogent argument. Surely no one here thinks that planning principles stop short of applying to Lancashire. My hon. Friends who have spoken have been dealing with the elementary rights of the citizen and they had every right to make the points which they made, particularly when they made them in a most responsible and cogent manner.

I want now to try to meet their understandable points about any potential loss of protection of the citizen's rights. I am in a difficulty. I shall set out to prove that Clause 4 does not deprive the citizen of any rights, but that may imply that there is no harm in repeating Clause 4 up and down the country, and I do not want to maintain that point of view.

My right hon. Friend believes that the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947 powers suffice, except when there is a very strong case for the need for some such special powers as Clause 4 introduces. I hope that no argument which I set out this evening will be taken as meaning that I think that Clause 4 should set a precedent. I emphasise that my right hon. Friend will consider every case on its merits and that there will need to be the strongest possible argument before, without protest, he sees other local planning authorities introducing a Clause like this.

I turn now to the reason for the Clause. I agree with my hon. Friend who said that there was no justification for this Clause in town development because the Town Development Act already gives compulsory purchase powers to the local authority concerned. The reason for this power is because technological change is operating so quickly these days that it outpaces any predictable development plan. It has been said on both sides that a local authority faced with declining industry may want to tempt industrialists in conditions where speed is of the essence. What are its powers for acquiring land?

We already know that it can, by other parts of the Bill with which no one is in dispute, acquire land by agreement, lay it out and develop it ready for any industrialist. We know that if it is a town development local authority it can use the compulsory powers, if it needs them, under the Town Development Act, but I have to meet the case where land which they wish to acquire for the industrialist does not fall within a town development scheme, cannot be acquired by agreement, and has not even been allocated to industry in the development plan.

That is the case that I have to meet, but I hope that my hon. Friend will agree with me that technological change is so quick that it is not necessarily the fault of the local authority that it cannot predict where industrial land may be needed within the period of time during which any development plan must remain constant. We must therefore face the possibility that a local authority may need to use compulsion. It it does not have the power given it within the Bill, it is thrown back on its powers under the 1947 Act to which my hon. Friends have correctly referred.

I must now distinguish between land which is allocated for industry on the one hand and land which is not allocated for industry in the development plan. If it has already been allocated for industry, I think my hon. Friends will agree that the people living in the area will have had their chance to make representations about the allocation for industry when the development plan containing that allocation was made. If it was not allocated for industry, the local planning authority should seek my right hon. Friend's permission for a change of allocation before making any substantial departure from the development plan allocation and it is open to my right hon. Friend to hold an inquiry, and to call in the decision himself and hold an inquiry, or require the local planning authority to advertise its proposals and then to hold an inquiry.

In any of those cases the public has a right to have its voice heard, and I think that the protection of the citizen is clear, but, and here I come to the point which is important, the 1947 Act requires that not only shall land be allocated for industry either because it was so allocated in the development plan or because a change of allocation has been approved by my right hon. Friend, but it must also be designated for compulsory purchase. This also requires approval, and, if there is an objection, a local inquiry is necessary. The third requirement for compulsory purchase is that there shall be made a compulsory purchase order, and that again requires the approval of my right hon. Friend. There are, therefore, three stages.

I come now to the crux of my hon. Friend's arguments. They say that instead of three stages as is required by the 1947 Act, Clause 4 reduces them to two stages in the case where the land is not already allocated for industrial use. They are quite right because the designation stage which could attract to itself a local inquiry is omitted by Clause 4, but here I am able to give the complete answer to my hon. Friend's objections, because it is at the discretion of the local planning authority, or of my right hon. Friend, to request that the three stages under the 1947 Act be taken concurrently with one public inquiry. If they do this the result for the local inhabitants is the same under the 1947 Act and under Clause 4.

There must be a reference to my right hon. Friend if there is a substantial change of user in the development plan, and there must be a reference to my right hon. Friend for a compulsory purchase order.

Mr. Corfield

My only criticism of that argument is that there can arise under the second procedure a case in which there will be no public inquiry. I agree that there is a representation to my right hon. Friend, but there can arise a case where there is no public inquiry because the Acquisition of Land Act, 1946, limits the people who can object and who have a right to be heard. The Act limits it to people with an actual legal interest in the land. I do not think that that is enough.

Sir K. Joseph

I can meet that point. The owner or occupier of land must be heard at an inquiry when a compulsory purchase order is sought. Inasmuch as local inhabitants are concerned they wilt have a chance either to make their case against an industrial user of the land when the development plan is published, or, if there is a departure from the development plan, that departure must be referred to my right hon. Friend who, in all ordinary circumstances, particularly when there is a hint of local objections, holds a local public inquiry.

My hon. Friends may say that all this is unnecessary and ask why a local planning authority, if it cannot get its development plan right because of the speed of technological change, should not designate all the areas that it might want to acquire. Let me explain that a local planning authority may be in a dilemma. It if waits until it has a firm proposition from an industrialist, it may be too late in designating an area and the industrialist may go elsewhere before the procedure of designation has occurred. If, however, a local planning authority designates in advance of its needs, that may be unfair to local land owners and some sort of planning blight may descend on the land which had been designated. I hope that I have met the point.

I should now like to meet the point that it is open to a local planning authority to decide for itself whether there is a sufficiently substantial departure from the development plan for it to refer the proposed departure to my right hon. Friend. This is a potential loophole because the local planning authority is the judge in its own cause, not so far as owner or occupier is concerned because of what my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) told us but because of third parties who only have a chance to intervene in a proposed change of user in the development plan if the proposed change is referred to my right hon. Friend.

The local planning authority is bound to refer to the Minister before itself carrying out development, or before granting permission to someone else to carry out development, which represents a substantial departure from the development plan. As I say, it rests with the authority to decide whether a particular development represents a substantial departure. My right hon. Friend hopes that, in exercising its powers under the Bill, Lancashire.

will interpret this obligation strictly and will err on the side of referring too much to the Minister rather than too little.

I hope my hon. Friends will agree that I have answered the objections they made. They made a formidable case, but I hope that by dealing in detail with what they said I have satisfied them.

It remains for me to comment on the criticism of my hon. Friend the Member for Gloucestershire, South that this Clause means that planning which should be decided by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government might be decided more by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. That is not so because, as I have tried to explain, every decision that concerns a third party or owner must come to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government before it can be enforced.

I finish as I began, by repeating that the decision lies with the House, and asking hon. Members to bear in mind the fact that after hearing a full day's evidence a Select Committee decided in favour of Clause 4 and also that my right hon. Friend, after his own mature consideration, decided that there are no objections to the Clause and that in the circumstances Lancashire has made out a case for including it in the Bill.

Mr. Corfield

In view of my hon. Friend's speech, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Bill to be read the Third time.