§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
I beg to move,That this House expresses its grave concern at the continuing sharp rise in the price of building land which enriches landowners and land speculators at the cost of the community and places great difficulties in the way of local authorities and would-be owner- 1478 occupiers who wish to buy land for building, and urges that in the interests of effective planning, and so as to ensure that increased values resulting from the development of our towns and villages are secured for the benefit of the community, provision should now he made for the public acquisition of the freehold of land required for public use or land for private development.The Motion refers, first, to the continuing sharp rise in the price of building land, but that rise in price, familiar and alarming as it now is to us, is only the most spectacular manifestation of a deep-seated evil, which affects not only the distribution of wealth and the price of land, but affects the use of land and the whole future of the idea of town and country planning in this country.
To set the problem in perspective, it may be useful to quote one or two examples of a vast number that could be quoted of rises in the price of land in the last few years. Let us begin with a modest one. In Cardiff, one-seventh of an acre of land, suitable for a nice residential house, in 1956, was worth £300. That plot now sells for £1,000, a multiplier of three-and-a-third times in five years. In Surrey, 40 miles from London, which for the purpose of working and travelling is really the London region today, a plot of land which, in 1953, changed hands for £800, now sells for £11,000, fourteen times its value in eight years.
Near Bromley, on the Prime Minister's doorstep, 100 acres of agricultural land, which, when it was agricultural land, a few years ago, was selling at £15,000, is now selling for building purposes for £440,000, an increase of thirty times. At Wilmslow, near Manchester, which is becoming an attractive dormitory to that city, farmland in 1956 selling as farmland for £100 an acre is now selling for building at £3,000 an acre, again a multiplier of thirty times.
In many of these examples, if one lists all that are handed to one from many different parts, there is a tendency for most of ahem to be either in the centre of cities, as, for instance, the half acre car park in the centre of Luton which has been sold for £250,000, which equalled £500,000 an acre—and that today, to my knowledge, is the highest price yet reached, but I do not suppose that it will be long before that record is broken—or on some attractive outskirts.
1479 Although this is the most common pattern it is by no means confined to that. For example, in the village of South well, which I know well, in Nottinghamshire, the rural district council, during the last few months, bought 22 acres of land for housing. In 1953, those 22 acres changed hands for £1,800. A few months ago the rural district council had to pay £45,000 for them, a rise of twenty-five times in seven years.
All this gives a new and special meaning to the words of the Welsh National Anthem quoted in our debate on Welsh leaseholds by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West (Mr. G. Thomas), "The land of my fathers is dear unto me." The facts are not really in dispute and I need not burden the House with further examples. It has been usual for the Minister and other apologists for the present state of affairs to say, "All this is a sign of our prosperity." With his eyes on next Tuesday's debate, as one hopes they are, and as the eyes of all members of the Government should be, the Minister will not perhaps make use of that particular phrase this afternoon.
I suppose that when we are worried about the yawning trade gap, or perturbed at the threat to sterling, we are expected to console ourselves with the thought that a small butcher's shop in St. Albans built 500 years ago, was sold on 12th April for £100,000. We must deplore the impatience of the owner who said that he could not wait any longer or he could have got another £20,000. Remarks about this being a sign of our prosperity will be a little muted at the present juncture. In plain truth, these figures are no more signs of prosperity than the bright eyes and hectic flush on the cheeks of a consumptive are signs of good health.
What are the results of this situation? They are, first, the results to the public purse. Take that little rural district council in Nottinghamshire that I have mentioned. How is the price of that £45,000 to be met there? It has either to be met from council rents, or rates, or from both. The same problem is to be found in one local authority after another, when London buys land for schools, Middlesex buys it for welfare 1480 centres for essential purposes they are all having to pay prices which have doubled, trebled, multiplied tenfold in the last few years.
This is having the most ominous effect. It is causing local authorities, when they have to site a school, to site it further away from the parents' residences than good planning requires. It is urging them to stint on the provision of playing fields. My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Small Heath (Mr. Denis Howell) asked, a little while ago, during business questions, "When are we to debate the subject of the provision for youth?" If we do not debate this matter soon the rising prices of land will have made it impossible for a local authority to make proper provision for playing fields and for other recreation.
Perhaps more serious is the effect on those people who want to buy their own homes—and how many they are. When people come to me with housing problems there is one question which I feel obliged to ask them and I feel, at the same time, that I must almost apologise for the fact that, in many cases, it may sound a silly question. It is this: are you in a position to buy a house? For many of them that is the only prospect of their getting a secure roof over their heads.
It is stated:Rocketing land values have forced Walton and Weybridge Urban District Council, in Surrey, to strike 348 families off its housing List and to stop building houses. The council's clerk told the Press; 'We have been knocked out by private builders. We are on the edge of the Green Belt and just cannot compete in the open market for land purchase. The Council is unable to pay the prices asked for building land. The average plot for building a house is fetching £2,000 and upwards. Prices are rocketing all the time.'That is the position for people who might hope that one day their council will build them a house.
For those who hope to build for themselves, let us see what the chairman of the Abbey National Building Society said:A year ago I remarked on the high cost of Land, but prices which seemed high in 1959 were bargains in comparison with the prices in 1960…Whereas, five years ago, land might have made up to 25 per cent, of the 1481 total cost, a more probable current proportion is 33 per cent., and all the indications are that this regrettable trend will continue.That was said a short while ago.
I see that in today's newspaper there are reported the words of Mr. John Dunham, chief of the Building Societies Association, to the effect that men earning £20 a week or less will soon be barred from buying a house in or around London because of the spiral in land prices.
How can the Government, while urging people to be independent and not to accept subsidies when they are seeking a home, defend that situation? Perhaps most serious in the long run is the effect on general standards of conduct and belief. The site of these enormous profits being made by a limited number of people is a clear message to the nation that the virtues and qualities of lucky Jim and smart Aleck are to be preferred to those of honest John.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking at Hawarden recently, said that we must discipline ourselves. Who must discipline whom? Will we hear from the Minister today that anything will be done to discipline this kind of thing? The Chancellor also said:We cannot reward ourselves in advance of actual achievement.Certain people in the country who know much better than that have been rewarding themselves quite comfortably, not merely in advance of achievement but with no intention of achievement. In many of the cases which I have quoted and others where land prices have rocketed during the years nothing what-ever has been done to the land. These are rewards for doing nothing at all. They are rewards for pure luck.
The Minister is very fond of saying, "You must pay the owner of the land the full market value for it". I wonder whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be so pleased if organised labour said to him, "It is a sacred principle that labour must never be sold for a penny less than the highest market value that its owner can extort for it."
There is the situation, there are the results. Who is responsible for this state of affairs? It has not come about merely by accident. The Government, by omission and by commission, have brought about this situation, in particular the Minister and his predecessors at 1482 the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. But responsibility also lies on the President of the Board of Trade who is supposed to be responsible for industrial location, and on his predecessors, and on the Government as a whole.
I wish to trace for the House the steps by which the Government have brought about this result. The first was an error of omission. With a rising population and, we hope, a rising standard of living, there is admittedly an increased demand for land which will go on for a long time. But if we look at the probable requirements and size of this country, that increased demand for land would be quite manageable without fantastic prices if it were not unhealthily concentrated into certain regions of the country. The regions around London and the Midlands are striking although not the only examples.
Why is it concentrated? The concentration is undoubted. Let me make clear what is at issue. An area of 50 miles around London, which, as I have said, with modern methods of travel must be thought of as one region containing the homes of people who work very often right in the centre of that region, contains a quarter of our population. During the last eight years 45 per cent. of the new jobs which have come into existence have been in that region.
What is the effect of that? It is that that region becomes a magnet for more and more people wanting to live on its outskirts and to work in its centre. Those whose opinion is entitled to respect say that it is to be expected that, of the population growth which we may expect in the next twenty years, 40 per cent. of it will try to live in that region. There is a similar position, although on a rather smaller scale, in the Midlands and in certain other conurbations. If we were to draw a broad belt across the country from Dover to Blackpool, we would find the areas towards which the population is gravitating. The inevitable result of that is that the increased demand for land, which would be manageable if our population were more evenly spread, is unhealthily concentrated at certain points.
What could have been done to remedy that situation? First, the Minister, as the person responsible for new towns 1483 policy, could have taken his responsibilities more seriously. So far, we have had one new town and the nomination of a couple of others. The Minister seems to be more concerned with trying to prevent the people living in new towns from having a proper control over their own affairs than with the developing more new towns, counter-magnets to these overgrown conurbations around which the land fever develops.
Secondly, the Government as a whole ought to have secured better co-ordination between those responsible for housing, for roads and for the location of industry. So far as one can tell, there is no relation between policy pursued by the Board of Trade with regard to the location of industry and our long-term needs with regard to traffic problems and the price of land.
Thirdly, something could have been done about office building in the centre of cities. The Minister is proud of telling us that he has proved to himself that it cannot be done. Let him have a shot at this one. Why should not it be a rule that, before a firm can decide that it will put its offices in a city centre, it must obtain a certificate to show that that is really necessary and that it cannot reasonably meet its needs elsewhere? Secondly, if anyone wishes to build a block of offices in the centre of a city, he should be able to show that he has a sufficiency of applications to use them from firms who have certificates giving them permission to do this. If the Minister does not like that machinery, it is high time that he thought of something else. It is no good his continuing to say that he cannot think of a way to do it. If he cannot think of a way, there are others who can.
The result of this is that in the centre of cities more and more jobs are created and more and more people are living further and further out. The green belt tends to become a barrier between home and work. The green belt, which everyone ought to look on with pride and affection, is coming to be regarded with greater and greater resentment, and fewer and fewer people are believing the Government's protestations that they will save the green belts.
1484 What has the Minister done about all this? He has issued a circular to local authorities saying, "Please allocate more land and when you arrange for more houses to be built please see that industry goes there, too"—a thing which they have neither the power nor the resources to do. This is an attempt to shove on them a responsibility of the central Government, and it is something which the Minister knows they cannot do. That was the first sin of omission by the Government—their failure of policy on all those counts.
Having in that way ensured a feverish demand for land in certain areas, the Government concurrently set to work to destroy the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, which was introduced by my noble Friend, Lord Silkin, whereby part of the increased value of land in those areas would accrue to the community as a whole. That was a long process, beginning in 1953 and culminating in 1959. The result has been these opportunities of enormous unearned gains at the public expense by a very limited number of people. While this was going on, local authorities were supposed to carry out the job of town and country planning, to ensure that decency, order and common sense were preserved as houses went up, shops built, factories erected and open spaces provided.
But what is the position of town and country planning committees and of planning officers when they have to do that work against the background which the Government's sins of omission and commission have created? It means that the planning committee and the planning officer are the unwilling but inevitable agents by which the loot is distributed to one person rather than to another. They know that when they make the decision that a person can build on this land but not on that land, they are saying, "Here is £10,000 to go into the pocket of John Doe rather than Richard Roe". The Minister must know that that is a thoroughly unhealthy situation.
When on the map, with the white undeveloped land, the brownish-yellow colour is put indicating permission to develop, it might well be a golden colour. It is worth a very great deal of money to certain people that the planning officer's 1485 brush should slip from one part of the map to another. Planning officers and, indeed, members of local authorities have a high reputation for integrity, but if a situation is created in which the rewards for behaving corruptly can be very great indeed, and in which to behave honestly may be regarded more and more, as time goes on, as a sign of mere simplicity, we shall be asking for trouble. If the Minister will have frank conversations with planning officers throughout the country they will tell him that what I am saying is true—that they and members of planning committees are coming under increasing pressures to behave improperly in this manner because the rewards to certain persons are so great.
Another effect of that situation is to build up an army of frustrated people. In every one of those examples which I have quoted, where Mr. A has done well because his land is to be built on, there are B, C, D and E who are vexed because they were not the lucky one. We shall build up an army of people who are frustrated and indignant about the whole process of town and country planning, and the public at large will say, "We have this planning machinery and it enables a man I do not like to make £20,000, whereas my good neighbour was disappointed." The public will also say, "For all this fuss, they are not remedying urban sprawl or dealing with our traffic problems." All this brings the whole process of town and country planning into disrepute. Is that what the Minister wants?
We know that until the last week or two the word "planning" had a disreputable connotation to the Conservative Party, but we had always supposed that the specific meaning of town and country planning, of seeing that all kinds of development did not go on higgledy piggledy, at least meant something to them. But the logical culmination of the Minister's policy, the end of the road on which he has begun to travel, partly through policy and partly through lack of it, is the destruction of town and country planning as a whole. That is the problem which we face—the problem both of profiteering and of the whole machinery and principle of town and country planning.
1486 We are entitled to ask what is the Minister's remedy for this. We have asked him before. His remedy, partly, is the circular which he sent out to local authorities, but he knows that it is not working and will not work. We are entitled to ask for something better and more constructive.
In default of that, we from our side will present him with a measure which will make a very important contribution to the solution of this problem. If the Minister will allow me to say so, we know him quite well. If he runs true to form he will feel that he is discharging his duties if he can point out that the measure which I shall suggest will present administrative difficulties. Of course it will. If the Minister will allow me the expression, any fool would know that. But it will not be good enough for him to ride away on that. Our measure is meant as a constructive contribution to this problem.
But it is not our measure which is in the dock this afternoon; it is the right hon. Gentleman. The measure must be drastic, and it must deal with planning considerations and as well as financial measures. I regard this feverish profiteering out of land as discreditable and ugly, but in the long run I do not believe that it is as vicious as the threat which is involved in all this to the decent and dignified development of our towns and our countryside, and the remedy must deal with both.
We suggest that certain types of land ought to be acquired by the nation—but not land on which houses now stand, in which people dwell and will continue to dwell, not land which is and will remain agricultural land, but, first, land which, although not yet built upon, is about to be developed; secondly, land—and I have in mind notably but not exclusively land in the centre of cities—where existing buildings are to be demolished and new buildings erected; and, thirdly, land which is required by public authorities for public purposes—for example, for local authority housing, schools, welfare and playing fields.
We propose that when the decision for building or rebuilding or for acquisition for public purposes is made a body which we have designated the Land Commission shall acquire the freehold 1487 of the land and shall do so at a price determined by these considerations; that we begin by having in mind the existing use value of the land, and that we should then recognise that it is both sensible and right to make to that existing use value an addition bearing a proportion to the existing use value.
Let us suppose, for example, that a piece of farm land is to be bought. We want to see that the sum which the owner receives, since he may have to acquire a farm elsewhere, enables him to re-establish himself in at least as favourable a position for carrying on his farming business as his previous position, and ensures that he can say that although he is not making the fantastic gains now permissible, he has carried through a fair and reasonably worthwhile transaction. I believe that the acquisition of land by the Land Commission should be based on those principles.
Two comments may be made on this proposal. The first is that is almost sacrilegious to depart from the principle of paying the full market value. Hon Members who have that in their minds must consider that if we believe in town and country planning we impart an element of monopoly into every transaction for the buying and selling of land. When a man who has planning permission sells his land, he is in a semi-monopolistic position; he is in a favoured position from the start. The only way to remedy that would be to tear up town and country planning altogether. It is a semi-monopolistic position in which there must be advantage to someone, and we say that the advantage should accrue to the public authority and to the community.
The second comment which might be made is that this would be impossibly complicated. The Minister would be a little cautious about saying that because he knows how astoundingly complicated are some of the things that have to be done at present. If he looks at Section 9 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959, he will see that where land is acquired by a public authority in an area forming part of a new town the valuer has to answer this question; what would be the value of this land in a new town area if there were no 1488 new town there? When recommending that Act to the House the Minister said itsets a difficult task for the valuers but I am asured that they can undertake it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1958; Vol. 595, c. 690.]I am almost tempted to say that anything which arises from our proposals will be child's play compared with that. Seriously, the Minister knows quite well that he cannot brush aside a proposal by pretending that it is administratively impossible in this field. I hope that the time of the House will not be wasted by that kind of argument.
Having acquired the land, the Land Commission would then lease it to those who intended to develop it. I want to give two examples which illustrate how that would work. Let us suppose that it is leased to someone who will make commercial, profitable use of it. It seems to me important that the terms of the lease should be such that as the business expands and becomes more profitable, the public authority should share in that growth and that profit. The terms of the lease should be of that kind.
In case anyone says that we cannot do this, I point out that it is what the London County Council is doing in the development of the Elephant and Castle site, and, indeed, the City of London is doing something like it on the limited scale which that area permits. It is quite remarkable how many pointers of public opinion and practice there are leading us on towards a solution very similar to that which, on behalf of my hon. Friends, I am now putting before the House.
Then, let us suppose that it leases land to someone who wants to build a house on it. It is very important there that we should not reproduce the evils of the leasehold system, about which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, West spoke so eloquently, and, to judge by the presence of Government supporters in our Division Lobby, so effectively the other day. We propose, therefore, that if a house is built on land leased from the Land Commission, that house should remain the property of the owner and his heirs so long as that house shall stand, so that we shall never get the situation in which, while there is a house there, it reverts to the owner of the freehold of the land. What the Land Corn-mission will own is the freehold of the 1489 land without title to the ownership of the house, which will remain the property of the owner and his heirs so long as there is a house there.
What will be the effects of a policy of this kind? There would be some quite striking ones. First, as soon as it was known that when land that was to be developed was to be acquired by the Land Commission at a price fair to the owner, and—the point so often forgotten on the other side of the House—fair to the community as well, the whole fever would be removed from the present land prices. Nobody but a fool, after that, would pay a fantastically inflated price for land which he knows will, in the end, have to be sold to the Land Commission for a fair and reasonable price. That will enable local planning authorities to get on with the work of town and country planning in an atmosphere freed from the fever, from the ugly shadow of possible corruption, which surrounds their work at present.
The second effect would be a considerable saving to the public purse. Southwell, in Nottinghamshire, would not have had to pay that ridiculous price if a policy of this kind had been in force. Walton and Weybridge would not have had to strike off 348 families from its housing list. The West Riding of Yorkshire, to quote an example from yesterday's local newspaper, would not be having to buy land at £3,000 an acre to get a school. There would be a considerable saving to the public purse.
There would not be the present unnecessary outflow from the public treasury, central and local, but there would be a positive stream in. As leases were given by the Land Commission, and as the leased land was profitably used and applied, an income would come in to the community, and it should not be beyond the wit of man to see that there was some proportioning of it between the central Government and the local authorities.
Indeed, I think that we have found here one part of the answer to the question that has been worrying anyone interested in local government—how can we provide local authorities with a fresh source of revenue, so that they can both perform the many duties which Parliament lays upon them, and, at the same time, not become hopelessly subject to 1490 the central Government if direct grants from the central Government form too large a part of their income?
The fourth effect is that our proposals would restore some element of justice to one part of the distribution of wealth. They deprive nobody of any just property rights. The words "right of private property" are often used to cover the most scandalous abuses. What should the right of private property mean? It should mean security of his home and his right to the savings which his own work and thrift have brought into being and the enjoyment of his own dear, personal possessions, which have a value of affection to him outside their intrinsic value.
That is what the right of private property ought to be, but the fantastic profiteering in land which we now experience is related to that true right of private property only in the sense that a tiger and a cat are related. To say that, in the sacred name of private property, we must not interfere with the profiteering which is going on in the land market at present is as if we should tell a man that he should invite a tiger into his house to keep down the mice.
There is one further rather special effect that this will have, and an effect which illustrates the importance of having in the solution an element of public ownership. It is the effect concerned with the problem of the redevelopment of our city centres. Many of them, as we all know, are afflicted with what is commonly called blight—neglected, with higgledy-piggledy development, lacking dignity or beauty. This was a matter to which the Civic Trust paid much attention, and the right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations had much enthusiasm for the beautifying and redeveloping of our city centres, upon which the right hon. Gentleman who has now succeeded him at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government did his best to pour as much cold water as possible.
The Minister himself, when speaking to the Civic Trust on this matter, was inclined to say that they could get quite a good way by doing this redevelopment of city centres piecemeal, a bit here and a bit there. I do not say that we can never do anything useful that way, but I do say, and I am sure that expert opinion would bear me out in this, that 1491 in the great majority of cases, if we are to do the job properly, we have to be able to consider as a whole a large tract of land in the centre of a city—a tract so large that it will at present be owned by a large variety of owners, and that we shall not be able to make proper progress unless we can bring this development under one control, and to do that we need to bring it into a single ownership.
That is a large transaction which, ultimately, as the activities of private developers show, is a very profitable one indeed, but it is so large and requires looking at such a long distance ahead that it is beyond the scope of local authority finance. Under our proposals, the Land Commission could buy up land of that kind and lease it to the local authority. At the same time, the central Government could see that the local authority was helped over the financial difficulties in the first years, when the redevelopment was actually being carried out, and then central and local authorities alike could share in drat ultimate very considerable benefit that would accrue from that redevelopment.
That is one reason why I think that it is necessary to include in the remedy not only remedies against profiteering, but remedies which involve the power of the public acquisition of land. We are pressing this on the Minister not as a panacea or a cure-all, but as a substantial part of the remedy—the remedy not only for profiteering, but for sprawl, muddle and ugliness.
I am a Londoner, born near London, and having had my home, for all but the first four years of my life, within the boundaries of the County of London. Therefore, I know well the splendour and the fine background to living which a great city at its best can provide. I know, also, the squalor and confusion to which it can give birth wherever greed and shortsightedness are allowed to prevail over public interest. I know, too, as a city dweller must, the delight and recreation which can be got from the countryside when the city dweller is on holiday.
We ought to love and to treasure these things. A few months ago we Londoners had our regular three-yearly battle for the control of the London County Council. On this occasion the party opposite 1492 went into that contest in high spirits. It went in licking its lips and came out licking its wounds. Our watchword in that struggle was "Labour Loves London." I see the Minister smile. The watchword was derided at the beginning of the contest as a piece of sentimentality. Well, it is a sad commentary on our standards if it is to be thought soft and trivial in a man that he should love his country or that he should, in the Periclean phrase, be a lover of his city, as he sees it in its daily life.
We should love our country, the very physical aspect of it, the charm of its countryside, the dignity of its cities, and we should be resolved that we will protect those things from being degraded and profaned by the greed of the few and by the indolence of the Government.
§ 4.31 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Mr. Henry Brooke)
As the Minister whose indolence has just been attacked I am very glad to reply to this Motion. Adequacy of land for development is an absolute necessity. We must ensure it. What is principally wrong with this Motion which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) has moved is the suggestion in it, the unimpressive suggestion, that nationalisation will solve the difficulties over land. I really would have thought that he and his party would have recognised by now that there are few people who any longer believe that nationalisation is a cure for anything.
There is one basic remedy for high land prices, and only one, and that is to bring more building land on to the market. The land plan which the hon. Gentleman has described—and I take it that he was giving us a fuller account of the plan which is contained in a chapter of "Signposts for the Sixties"—would do exactly the opposite. As the proposal in his plan is to pay the owner less than the market value, obviously less land would be offered for sale.
The hon. Gentleman sweeps that away. He says that I must not talk of any difficulty of that kind: it is an administrative difficulty. But what if one finds that the difficulty of the plan one is advocating is that it will produce the exactly opposite result from that at 1493 which one is aiming? Because, quite clearly, this would bring less land on to the market voluntarily than at present, then the plan is really one for compulsory purchase, for compulsory purchase below the market price, which is exactly what public opinion would not stand three years ago and which brought Parliament in 1959, with the consent of all parties, to bring it to an end.
I may mention, incidentally, as the hon. Gentleman was referring to examples of high land prices, that I have already identified two of the four cases with which the chapter on page 19 of "Signposts for the Sixties" begins, and two of them are clearly misleading, because they do not make a fair comparison. They make a comparison between the price of land bought at market value now and the price of land which was bought at the restricted pre-1959 value at an earlier date. Anyone who knows anything at all about this subject knows that one does not use that kind of argument in a serious document.
What this plan would lead to is compulsory purchase on a massive scale. The hon. Gentleman did not mention that, but, quite clearly, that is inherent in the scheme. This land, when it has been purchased by the land commission, is, presumably, to be leased at the full market rents. So there will be no contribution to the second purpose either, which, I thought, the Opposition were seeking, and that is, cheaper land for building. If it is to be leased at the full market rents, quite clearly, the final occupant will not gain anything.
If, on the other hand, it is for leasing below the market rents, then where is the profit to the State, which the hon. Gentleman said was to be used for all those admirable purposes and possibly to provide an additional source of revenue for local authorities, and so on? If this land is to be leased below the market value how is it to be rationed out? The free working of the price system deals with that kind of thing. [Laughter.] Yes, it does.
§ Mr. Brooke
It has vices, but that is one of its greatest virtues.
1494 One of its greatest virtues is that it does not require a licensing system. Once we fix prices below the full market price somebody has to decide which applicants are to get the advantage of the favourable terms, and, that being so, what safeguard will the plan embody against the purchaser or developer, the lessee, immediately subletting it at the full market value and pocketing the profit? That is precisely what would happen next.
The truth is that this plan which the hon. Gentleman put, if I may say so, so persuasively to the House, breaks down at once the moment one begins to analyse it. The analysis has already been undertaken in the papers where technical people examine these schemes, and it has already revealed the weaknesses which are inherent in it.
Of course, to implement it enormous Exchequer sums would be required and it would involve an enormous extension of control and bureaucracy. The hon. Gentleman, I know, said that I must not mention that, because that is an administrative difficulty. That would be the effect of it, because, after all, what one has to examine is the result of it on the people of our country, and certainly the result of it would be to slow up development, which, I would have thought, was not what the hon. Gentleman wished. I should have thought that he wanted an active, dynamic economy—that is what the Opposition are talking about—rather than putting the brakes on development.
No, the Opposition's plan raises the hopes of people who want houses that they would get them quicker and cheaper, but the likely result of putting it into force would be that they would get them slower and hot cheaper, by a process of large-scale compulsory purchase, with a confiscatory aspect to it, because the purchase would be at below the market value. Mr. Deputy-Speaker, this is what happens when you try to work against the natural economic forces.
We have got some gloomy precedents. We have Lloyd George's taxation of land values; we have the ill-fated development charge; and now we have a signpost pointing in two wrong directions. I noticed that the hon. Gentleman, when he referred to the development charge, did not give it that name, 1495 because he knew that that name was disliked by the public. He referred to it as "a provision in the Silkin Act".
The far more sensible way of tackling this sort of situation, of course, is to observe economic principles, and, if the demand for land is outrunning the supply, then to try to increase the supply and make sure that it is put to full use. That is the Government's policy, but before I come to that in more detail I want to say a few words about collecting betterment. I see that the Liberal Party have an Amendment on the Order Paper on site value tax and there is an article in The Times this morning suggesting the possibility of a further examination of betterment. Almost certainly we shall hear more about that in the debate and I fancy that many people feel that if we could devise a system of collecting betterment it would advantage the State, even if it did not bring down the price of land. Frankly, it would be more likely to put it up than to bring it down.
I should like to remind the House of the practical questions that are there involved. Anybody who seriously wishes to put up proposals for the reclaiming of betterment must address himself at the outset to a number of practical questions. Administrative difficulties they may be, but they are inherent in any betterment scheme. Is betterment to be taxied on the occasion when it is realised, or is there to be a periodic tax whether it is being realised or not? I believe that that is the Liberal proposal. Is any betterment to be taxed, or is only that part which has not been created by the owner's expenditure or the owner's effort?
If it is only that part which the owner has not created, who is to make the distinction and how is that distinction to be made in practice? Is all unearned betterment to be taxed, or is it only the unearned betterment of the development value? Then, at the root of all these questions and above all, betterment from what date? If it is to be some date in the past, how are we to determine with accuracy what the value was at that past date?
I entirely agree that in broad theory there is much to be said for a system of reclaiming betterment, but the plain 1496 truth is that all the people who have examined all these subjects over the years have failed to agree on practical answers to these questions. I put it to the House that it is simply not quite honest with the public to say that the solution of this problem is to adopt a system of reclaiming betterment, unless one is prepared first to think out these questions and determine precisely what answers one will give.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
Surely one is being quite honest with the public if one puts forward proposals for the solution of this undoubted problem of high land prices. My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) was speaking of proposals by the party to which we on this side of the House belong. Surely that is an honest thing to do. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will put up his proposals.
§ Mr. Brooke
I do not think that the hon. Member quite followed me. I was not at the moment devoting myself to "Signposts for the Sixties". I did not propose to devote the whole of my speech to talking about that. I did not think it necessary. I was going on to a point which is inherent in the Liberal Amendment and which underlies the thinking of many people who are genuinely worried about this question. This is the possibility of finding a practical scheme for the collecting of betterment. I must say that so far no practical scheme has been devised.
I want to look over what has been happening in recent years. It is not true to say that the prices of land have soared everywhere. The principal rises in land prices have been in areas which are within reach of London or Birmingham, or attractive coastal towns, or certain places where rapid industrial development has been going on.
I read with interest a series of articles in the Daily Mail recently and I expect that a number of hon. Members saw them. I noticed that almost without exception the places to which that correspondent of the Daily Mail went were places which fell within the geographical definition which I have just given. As far as I could judge, listening to him, the hon. Member for Fulham was also quoting places from much the same geographical range.
1497 Over far and away the greater part of England and Wales the movements in land prices in recent years have been no more than would be normal in a reasonably prosperous society. Without doubt there have been some parts where there have been abnormal rises, and that is what justifies Parliament giving attention to this matter. There is no doubt at all that it has caused anxiety, and if one takes individual cases one can convey the impression that it is easy for everybody, right and left, to line their pockets and sting the public.
The truth is that over a certain area where the pressure of land has been very great, prices have risen much more than the normal amount, and that is the question to which we all need to address ourselves. The action which the Government took very shortly after the last time that we debated this matter in the House was to send out Circular 37/60 on 25th August. But one thing which that circular did not do was the thing which the hon. Member for Fulham said it did. I have read the circular again since the hon. Member spoke. In no place did it tell local authorities to attract industry to themselves.
The hon. Member implied that it was the function of the Government to decide where industry should go. In every one of these debates—and I remember it coming up again last year—there is the implication in Opposition speeches that the Government have power of direction over industry. I do not think that anybody believes it, but that is the phrase that springs to Socialist lips. It is used as if it were true and people begin to think that it is true. Of course it is not true. If the Government had that power it would be bad for it to be exercised, because it is useless to attract industry to a place where it will not prosper. Industry cannot be expected to survive in places so unsuitable to it that it cannot make ends meet. By directing industry to such a place one only raises hopes to dash them again.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
Is the right hon. Gentleman saying that industrial development certificates are not used, in effect, to direct industry to development districts?
§ Mr. Brooke
They are used to direct industry away from overcrowded areas. 1498 They have been used by this "indolent" Government, to use the description applied by the hon. Member for Fulham, with extreme vigour, as any hon. Member who tries to obtain a certificate to build a factory in London or Birmingham or some other places will find, perhaps to his dismay.
§ Mr. Brooke
If the hon. and learned Member is asking whether the industrial development certificate is effective to attract industry to a development district, the answer is that it is not. There are various powers which the Government can use to persuade, but in the last resort, if the industrialist decides to stay away there is nothing that the Government can do to overcome his reluctance to move. What the circular does is to call upon planning authorities, first, to review their development plans and extend them for the full twenty-year period up to 1981. It calls upon them to consider whether more land is needed to be allocated for development.
It calls on them to consider reviewing their town maps in advance of the main development plan review. It calls on them to join in discussions with neighbouring authorities and with my Department so as to look at land resources and land needs regionally. It calls on them to take all possible steps to get full use made of the urban land by various methods; that is to say, by encouraging conversions, by redevelopment at higher densities, by insisting that new projects make full use of their site and do not waste any space, by searching out sites not being used and by reclaiming waste or derelict land.
The effects of this circular will be seen cumulatively. We shall gain more out of it each year. But we have already started to gain. Of course, more land is needed for development and reviews of development plans now reaching me show that that is realised by planning authorities. The new census figures will be of the utmost value. The population of England and Wales is going up by nearly 250,000 a year, that is to say, that it can be expected to grow by between 4 million and 5 million in the next twenty years. That is more than double the rate of increase on which 1499 the first developments plans were based way back in 1948, at the time when the Silkin Act was passed.
Households are increasing faster than population. The average size of a household is falling so that more separate houses and flats are needed. The prosperity of the last few years has been creating even greater demands for space. Incidentally, it is important to remember that high employment and rising land prices generally go together. Falling land prices and unemployment go together. I do not believe that any of us want to start the prices of land moving downwards by re-creating the conditions which, between the wars, prevented any such crises in land prices occurring. We need 10,000 acres a year simply to meet the land needs of the growth of population. Altogether, we need 30,000 to 40,000 acres a year to meet all our needs for new houses, schools, roads, factories, playing fields and everything.
Although we are almost the most densely populated nation in the world, fortunately only about 10 per cent. of the land surface of England and Wales is built on. If we had to take 40,000 acres of agricultural land a year for twenty years, that would in fact mean taking no more than 3 per cent. of the agricultural land in the country. With modern farming and scientific advances, of course, the productivity of our land rises many times faster than that. But even so, we must take great care in choosing the right land for development.
One of my guiding principles is always to avoid using good agricultural land if less good land suitable for the purpose is available. Our land is precious. That is the justification for town and country planning. That is the reason why there is close co-operation between my Ministry and the Ministry of Transport and the Board of Trade—yes, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, which the hon. Member for Fulham did not mention.
These problems would be far easier to solve had we to give no consideration at all to the need for safeguarding our Road agricultural land. But, with the pressures that we have to meet—the increasing population and the advancing need for more space—we cannot strangle 1500 ourselves socially and economically. We must find the land for development. But in finding it we must not throw overboard other planning objectives which I should say are universally acknowledged, that is to say, the protection of the beauty of England, about which the hon. Member spoke so movingly, and the open countryside. We must save the good agricultural land and the green belts which, as the House knows, I am determined to preserve, and the unspoilt parts of the coastline.
I have been reviewing the situation with reference to new towns. It is sometimes imagined that the Government have taken no action regarding the new towns policy. In fact, at the moment I have before me proposals to enlarge Bracknell New Town. I hope to be able to reach a decision about that before very long. There is a proposal to start an entirely new town at Skelmersdale, which has been the subject of a public inquiry. That, too, will fall to be decided. As the House knows, I have set on foot a survey to see whether Dawley, in Shropshire, would be a suitable site for a new town to help the Midlands conurbation.
But, beyond all that, the reviews which I have asked planning authorities to undertake are all the time producing returns. As I say, they are cumulative. They are in pieces here and there over the country. I think that the House may be interested to hear—as there was some suggestion in the hon. Member's speech that that circular had been ineffective—some of the results in different parts of the country of what the reviews of planning authorities are actually producing.
Cambridge is proposing to allocate another 436 acres for housing. Exmouth, a coast town, is proposing another 152 acres for housing. Worcester, within range of Birmingham, is proposing to allocate another 194 acres for housing. The other day, close to Manchester, I approved 124 more acres for housing and I insisted that the number of houses per acre should be nearly twice as many as the developers had proposed. I was not satisfied that the density which they had in mind would make sufficient use of the land.
Turning to the South Coast, I have approved a plan at Bexhill to build 168 1501 flats partly in four-storeys and partly in nine-storey blocks, with 30 flats to the acre; quite a high density, but where the development plan proposed only ten persons to the acre. There the local authority wanted a high density, but sometimes I have to make myself unpopular by insisting on a high density and I hope that the House will support me. The other day, and against the recommendation of my inspector, I approved a proposal at Blackheath to build ten new houses on the site of one old one, and I came in for a certain amount of criticism over that.
As the House may know, in Henley I allowed a fifteen storey block of flats and a density of 90 people to the acre and I had letters from hon. Members on both sides of the House protesting against what I had done. But if we want to save land and achieve high densities, we must be prepared to take decisions that are temporarily unpopular.
I am not going to stand for excessive densities anywhere. We simply must not repeat the mistakes of a hundred years ago. There are bound to be a great many people for whom houses will have to be built in green fields, because there is no more room to build in the towns. But we are entitled to ask for green fields for house building only if we are sure that we are making full use of the land in the towns.
This search for suitable land is going on continuously and I gave the House those random examples to show what is happening all the time all over the country, particularly in those areas where pressure is more severe and where prices have been rising.
My Ministry has started regular meetings with the chief planning officers of all the planning authorities in and around London to make sure that nothing in the whole of the London region is overlooked. Elsewhere, at my request, the planning officers concerned are getting out special records about the land available and the land needed, in each of what are called the conurbation regions, that is to say, Tyneside, Birmingham and the West Midlands, South-East Lancashire and Cheshire.
As soon as that South-East Lancashire and Cheshire review and report is sufficiently far ahead, we shall go on to Merseyside, which, of course, concerns 1502 much the same planning authorities. Each of these is a regional assessment, because the land balance needs to be struck regionally. One cannot simply look on each planning authority by itself.
If everybody wants to live in one place it is quite impossible to prevent high prices. People who insist on living within a quarter of a mile of the Palace of Westminster must expect to pay high prices. In places like that—and this is not the only one—we cannot keep prices down by making more land available for there is no more land to make available. We must accept that. People who are determined to live in a particular spot and nowhere else cannot complain if they have to pay scarcity prices for living there. Almost everywhere people can reach lower prices by going farther afield.
My concern is to make sure that no prices are artificially high by reason of an artificial shortage of land consequent on slowness to allocate land for housing which is available and suitable. I can do that by my planning powers even if the planning authority does not agree, but I am glad to say that, generally, I find planning authorities are co-operative in this matter. They recognise the problem; they are desirous of helping.
Despite all these sayings that there is no land to be had, and that prices are too high for people nowadays to afford them, it is rather significant that the number of houses built by private enterprise builders last year was a post-war record. The number built in the first five months of 1961—the latest figures we have—were actually up again on the corresponding period of 1960. So there is not a land famine which is stopping the building of houses. People are building more houses and more people than ever are finding it possible to afford to buy those houses. I state that not in any spirit of complacency whatever about the land position, but as a fact which we must take into account.
The hon. Member spoke of the difficulties of local authorities and quoted a rural district council. Of course, every housing authority can get expensive site subsidy from the Exchequer if it has to pay a high price for land. He said that the cost must go either on to the ratepayers or on council rents, but the 1503 Exchequer always contributes where land is unduly expensive. In passing, I should say that he is misinformed about Walton and Weybridge Urban District Council. It is not the case that the council has stopped house building. I know that it is not his fault that he was misled by something he read in the Press and failed to check.
§ Mr. Brooke
I think that exactly the same was done as London County Council did a number of years ago. It told a number of people with relatively low housing needs on the council's list that the council saw no prospect of being able to help them.
§ Mr. Brooke
I do not know whether it was my fault or not. London County Council did it many years ago and I cannot remember which Government were in power.
§ Mr. Stewart
Is it true or not that the urban district council has taken 348 families off its list? When the Press reports that the council clerk said, "We have been knocked out by the private builders", who does the Minister say was not speaking the truth, the Press or the council clerk?
§ Mr. Brooke
I understand that the council told a number of people on its waiting list that it saw no prospect of being able to house them. That is what London County Council said to many tens of thousands of people many years ago. I also understand that the urban district council is very worried about the high price of land, but there is no truth whatever in Press reports that it was proposing to stop building houses. That is the important point at issue in this debate.
I know that there are some speculators who have paid too high a price for land and are now left with it, wondering what to do because they are not finding it so easy to unload as they imagined they 1504 would. I want to make this point, which I think important. Shortage of building land coming on to the market might not necessarily mean that too little land has been allocated in the development plan for development. It may simply mean that land is being held back from development by people who have bought it and, so to speak, are sitting on it.
I want the House to know that if an artificial shortage was being created anywhere in that way, so that no land could be obtained for urgent housing needs in an area where the land was required, I would be prepared to consider a compulsory purchase order made by that local authority with a view to offering the land for sale again to those who would develop it and not sit on it. We cannot have much-needed land in these days permanently idle.
Fortunately, high land prices, although in many ways a curse, are a blessing in other ways. They tend to bring more land into use and that is what we want. They operate against waste of land. They operate in favour of using land as intensively as can be. High land prices for virgin land make the redevelopment of outdated property more attractive to developers and that is a direction in which we so much want development to take place. In those ways high prices actually reinforce sound planning.
If the Opposition's plans had been in force I am quite certain that we would not have had anything like the building activity that we have had in recent years. In the mind of the hon. Member I know that is just an administrative difficulty, but bureaucratic machinery is the enemy of progress. Whereas he says that many people are frustrated and angry through the present operation of the planning Acts, I would bet him that a much larger number of people would be frustrated and angry if his plans for a national Land Commission ever came into operation. Instead of discouraging the bringing of land on to the market, as the Socialist plan would, under our plan we shall be searching all the time for more land which can be used.
In conclusion, I give one more example, which is a striking one. Various Government Departments, as the House may know, are sited at Kidbrooke, in South-East London. There has been a further 1505 examination of the position there. It now seems that most of those establishments could be moved to Woolwich Arsenal or elsewhere, subject, of course, to satisfactory arrangements being reached on the various problems involved in the moves. The next step will be for negotiations to be opened with London County Council. If those negotiations are successful a programme for the planning of the site can be drawn up.
It looks as though it may be practical to release up to 100 acres here, within the County of London, which is the area where we need housing land most acutely of all. Those 100 acres, developed to a high density as they might well be, could make a really worthwhile contribution to London's housing problem. Besides what the Government may be able to do on these lines, there may be places where other public bodies holding land could take steps to get part, at any rate, of their land put to better use for meeting the urgent needs of more space for the builders to build.
I am far from satisfied over the land position. I make no secret of that, but I think that the Government are working on the right lines and that the Opposition's plan for State ownership and control is on the wrong lines. That is what we shall be voting on tonight, and that is why I invite the House to reject the Motion.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Irvine (Liverpool, Edge Hill)
What was most distressing about the right hon. Gentleman's speech was that he offered no hint of a remedy for what is a public scandal. He got into greater difficulties than I have known him to get into for some time. He suggested that the only long-term prospect of a way over the land prices difficulty was to be found in the mechanism of the free market. His difficulty is that his party has now been in power for many years and has had the opportunity of putting this basic economic remedy to the test. In all reason, it follows that, every time the right hon. Gentleman repeats the argument, from the mere fact that more time has elapsed the less convincing it is. That is his problem and it will tax even his ingenuity to get out of that dilemma.
I understood him to be saying that it was his desire that more land should become available for development. Later 1506 in his speech he was going to the length of arguing that it was one satisfactory consequence of high prices for land that they made more land available for development. He seems to have got on the horns of a dilemma, to put it mildly; he is tangled up in confusion and contradiction almost beyond belief. Not only does he have no current positive remedy, but he is actually forced into saying to the House that what we all know to be wrong about the present situation, the high prices for land, are an inherent element in the only remedy he can think of. This is because they make more land available for development, and only if more land is available for development, can he see a way through our difficulties.
I have never known a more complete failure to put before the House even an outline of a remedy for what is a very critical and unsatisfactory situation. It is a situation to which the right hon. Gentleman and his Government have contributed in no small measure. They contributed to it particularly by the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959, when it was decided that on the compulsory acquisition of land by local authorities, the open market value price, on the basis of the willing buyer and willing seller transaction, should apply. That gave the green light to landowners. There was no limit to what, from that moment on, they could look for.
If a compulsory purchase price can be fixed at a figure something less than the open market value price, at least it has the effect of discouraging the speculator, for it makes him realise that if he pays the sky for a piece of land, he may be deprived of his pecuniary advantage by a compulsory order. But when the compulsory purchase price for land is the full open market value price, the green light is shown and there is no kind of deterrent left to prevent the speculator from moving into the business. Many of us will not forget for a long time the spectacle of a Conservative majority scraping the barrel to ensure that every possible element in the open market value of land should apply in the determination of the compulsory purchase price.
The right hon. Gentleman has failed to come forward with any suggestion of a remedy for our present problem, and his failure occurs during a controversy 1507 which has aroused the keennest indignation. Great resentment is felt about this, probably greater resentment than over other legitimate grounds for grievance and objection, such as untaxed capital gains, which afflict our society. Of all the occasions for resentment, it is this which creates most. I believe that that is so because in a special sense the enhanced price of land is felt to represent a value which is created by the community and by the enterprise of the community and by local authority planning decisions, the granting of permission and so on.
It is fair to say that successive generations have found it difficult to solve this problem. I acknowledge that the problem of collecting betterment has defeated many able minds. The right hon. Gentleman went further than I expected in acknowledging that the collection of betterment was desirable. He was positively disarming in his acknowledgement of his total incapacity to discover any way of achieving it.
I grant that it is a difficult task. What hon. Members on this side of the House should remember is that easily the ablest endeavour to solve the problem was in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. I believe that if compulsory purchase by the Central Land Board under the powers which that Board was given in the 1947 Act had been applied with sufficient effect to equate the market value of land with its existing use value, the Act might have succeeded. If it had and only if it had—and I am convinced that it was a narrow thing—at long last we should have largely achieved a solution to this problem. Nevertheless, I grant that the collection of betterment is difficult.
I think that the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged that the problem of betterment was right at the centre of any useful discussion about the present problem of land values and land prices. I am conscious of having dealt with this problem of the collection of betterment before. I want to use the term "betterment" in what I believe to be its strictly correct sense—that element of value which attaches to land arising from planning decisions made by planning authorities. That is what I think betterment is, and it is as well to clear our minds about it.
1508 When one is talking about betterment, one is, I think, speaking about something different from that element of value which has arisen from community enterprise, which is the element which Vie people who desire to tax land values are after, and, it may be, rightly after. Whatever it is, it is not betterment. Betterment is a much narrower and stricter thing, and it is the element of value which arises from the application of planning law and the granting of planning permission, and that in itself is a very important factor affecting the value of land.
A method has to be discovered of recovering that element for the community. I think that that is where we should start. One of the reasons why we should start from there is that, if we can achieve a proper method which is in itself inherently fair and accurate, it will appeal to public opinion.
Perhaps I might illustrate what I have in mind. Take the case of a local authority compulsorily acquiring land for housing where that local authority, as may easily be the case, is the self-same authority whose planning decision created a large part of the value of the land. Hon. Members on both sides will agree about this; it is not a party matter. This constitutes, to my mind, a vivid example of the way the failure to recoup betterment may result in the most glaring and obvious injustice. If one thinks it is desirable to recoup this element, we should set about doing it in a way which in the public mind will be regarded as fair and reasonable.
Perhaps I might endeavour to drive home the point. Under our existing laws a local authority has the power of compulsory acquisition of land at a very enhanced price, indeed in circumstances where, as in practice will often be the case, an important element in the price it has to pay is the consequence of its own decision as a planning authority to permit particular classes of development.
It is all wrong. It is not reasonable. I am inclined to go as far as saying that it is indefensible. I acknowledge that if one endeavours to differentiate in the field of compulsory purchase between local authorities and other purchasers, one gets into difficulties. I am not denying that the difficulties are there. They are there in plenty. If one differentiates between local authority compulsory 1509 purchase and private purchase, the result is a two-tier price system with the many disadvantages which attach to that. I commend to the House in this connection, among others, the advantages which accrue to the proposals which in outline have been prepared by the party to which I belong, and to which reference has been made in this debate.
What is proposed there is that purchase by the proposed Land Commission is to be a necessary concomitant to planning permission, and the Commission may purchase land required by private developers as well as land required for development by local authorities. If the Land Commission which we propose does in fact, in the price that it pays for land, deduct from the open market price of land an element representing betterment, then at least under the dispensation which is proposed there will be no differentiation between land purchase for private development and land purchase for local authority development. The nub is the price which the Land Commission will pay for the land.
What do we put forward under that all-important head? First, that the price to be paid should comprise the element of the existing use value of the land. Secondly, that it should contain something to cover what is described as contingent losses, by which term is meant, I think, things like disturbance and severance with which those who axe concerned with the compulsory acquisition of land are well acquainted. Thirdly, what is perfectly reasonably described as an amount sufficient to encourage the willing sale of land.
An amount which is sufficient to encourage the willing sale of land can quite clearly be an amount less than the open market value of the land. It can be something less than the indefensible level of land prices at the moment. It does not take as much as that to make a man a willing seller. A man may be willing to sell for less than that. This price to be paid by the Land Commission under our proposals can perfectly reasonably be less than the open market price—and this is the point I desire to press the Minister about—and less by precisely this element of betterment to which I have referred, and which he has 1510 this afternoon so interestingly indicated it is desirable if possible to recoup.
One wonders what the Minister's objection is. Is it that it will be difficult to assess? No doubt it will be somewhat difficult to assess, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) pointed out, there are valuation problems imposed on valuers by existing legislation which are as complex as what is proposed here. If betterment is kept in mind as being the element of value which derives from planning decisions, then the consideration of its value, the consideration of what is appropriate to deduct from the open market value price, is something which can well come within the ambit of a valuation court, or a lands tribunal, or a similar tribunal.
Such a tribunal could hear the evidence. It could go into the history of planning permission affecting the site. It could study the development plans. It could study the terms of the relevant specific planning applications and grants of permission. It could hear the evidence of witnesses as to the effect of these specific decisions and development plans upon the value of the site affected, and it could come to a satisfactory determination of what, in the strict sense of the term, the "betterment" is. That, or part of it, would be an appropriate deduction to make from the open market value of the land.
When that has been done in several cases it will be discovered—because this is the way we conduct our affairs and have done for generations—that a pattern will develop. A pattern will be formed. A degree of uniformity will spread. The precedents will grow. Although some of my hon. Friends—and I can quite understand their point of view—might think that this is a very insufficient and niggardly approach to the matter, I would venture to draw their attention to the fact that if we could only do this we should, first of all—if we did it successfully—achieve something which generations of our predecessors have failed to pull off. We should have taken a step which is distinctive from anything proposed by the right hon. Gentleman and which would amount, at any rate, to the beginning of a corrective intervention against the contemporary scandal of land prices.
1511 It is upon these lines, I believe, that a solution to this problem can be found. What strikes me as most significant of all at the moment is that whereas, apparently, on both sides of the House there may be found a desire to recoup betterment for the community, we on this side of the House have started working the thing out while hon. Members opposite, after ten years of melancholy Government experience, have nothing whatsoever to offer.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)
I wish to follow in a moment some of the comments which the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) made about betterment. The first thing I should like to do is to acknowledge the very considerable difficulties confronting the planning officers and their staffs in a great many counties, certainly in the county with which I am associated, and to pay a tribute to the way in which some of them are doing a very thankless, a very difficult, and in some places a progressively more difficult, job.
As far as the Home Counties are concerned, in which I have a particular interest, this seems to be a task which is growing more and not less formidable. In the County of Kent last year there were 20,000 applications for development. The same could be said for most of the home counties. My right hon. Friend said recently that in England and Wales planning applications for the use of land are now running at something like 500,000 a year, and that arising from them some 12,000 appeals are reaching the Ministry. I think we all know well what that means in terms of work for the planning officers, with which some of us are associated, because if my right hon. Friend says that his work has doubled in this field in the last four and a half years, it can be taken as certain that their work has also doubled. In some respects they are subjected to a strain which my right hon. Friend's Department does not experience.
Here I have not the least hesitation in echoing something which the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said when he opened the debate. There is a very great deal at stake financially 1512 in many of the decisions which these people are called upon to make and the role of the planning officer and of his local staff is correspondingly very heavy. I think that we in the House do well to recognise and acknowledge that. At the root of one of our difficulties, however we may feel about tackling it, is the fact that we have done with land what we managed to avoid doing with food during the war. We have rationed it by planning, but we have not controlled the price. As the hon. Member for Fulham said, a planning officer can, by a stroke of the pen, add or subtract a large sum of money to or from the value of a piece of land.
On this I wish to say two things. I think that we in the House are perhaps more fortunate than we realise, or perhaps deserve, because we devised this machinery, and we have so far avoided any serious scandal. I think that that ought to be acknowledged. It is questionable whether in some places it is fair to submit any administration to the pressures, difficulties and temptations which arise. In saying that, I offer no reflection at all on any planning department. I am saying only what responsible planning officers have been saying for some time on their own behalf. I think that at least we should be aware of it.
This is only one of the direct consequences of what this debate is about. As the hon. and learned Member for Edge Hill knows, perhaps better than any present occupant of the House, we are certainly not discussing a new situation. I think that this is where he came in, almost. The oldest and toughest problem in town and country planning is how fairly to apportion between the private and the public purse what is called betterment. It has taken us ten years, as the hon. and learned Member said, and many hours, which should have been given to the important physical aspects of town and country planning, to discover that the development charge was not the right answer.
I do not want to make any point about the past history of that, but we have tried it. It has been abandoned, I believe quite rightly, by stages, and we are back to where we started. We shall now hear, and have heard, ingenious ideas for doing it in some other way. Bath the Amendments on the Order Paper offer that 1513 kind of line. The more I look at the matter, the more doubtful I become whether we are going to solve the main problem by any financial formula. I think that it may be a mistake to try.
Before it becomes a financial problem, in my view, this price of land has a social, industrial and commercial background. It has really got to be looked at if we are going to find any sort of lasting solution.
As the hon. Member for Fulham and my right hon. Friend have said, this pressure on land is nothing like uniform. Over most of the country prices remain steady and normal compared with the prices of other things. It is in and around the urban regions, in particular—I should have thought in the five big conurbations—where the situation threatens to get out of hand. By far the largest is the conurbation of London and the South-East. In these five areas, of which London is by far the largest, we have allowed to be created four or five huge magnetic fields which show no signs at all of losing their magnetism. So long as the currents which create this magnetism remain unchecked, so long shall we have this land famine in certain places, soaring prices and the strain on planners.
Around London we are now witnessing the advanced, though not, I fear, the final, stages of what Spengler described in his book "Decline of the West" as "megalopolitan capital". The implications of this, which have been studied and tinkered with since Abercrombie, are quite alarming. Abercrombie's London, which looked sufficiently threatening, stretched from 25 to 35 miles in every direction from Charing Cross. Today its limits in terms of metropolitan influence, defy definition. It would be hard to say where it begins and ends. It must now be nearly a hundred miles across, and it has drawn, as the hon. Member for Fulham said, something like 650,000 additional breadwinners in the last eight years. That figure is rising and will eventually rise by something like 100,000 people a year.
This gets us somewhere near the root of the price problem, not a financial formula. It is true that some easing of the problem can be noted in the inner ring of London, but the outer rings, a belt of from ten to twenty miles thick 1514 encircling London, continues to blow up like a gigantic tyre. That is one of the principal causes of the land shortage, land famine, and the land price problem. That belt has acquired 750,000 more people in the period I have just mentioned.
Nor is that the whole picture. Nearly half the 500,000 new jobs which have been created in the last decade have been concentrated in the London region. It is well known now that jobs are increasing in London faster than the population. Any combination of transport will shortly find this situation hard to meet. I think that I am right in saying that the new jobs created in London have drawn a bigger total of new breadwinners into London than the new towns around London were designed to siphon off. In other words, the number of new breadwinners exceeds the total population of London's new towns.
This has not come upon us suddenly. We have known about it for about twenty years. The present occupant of an office is always held responsible for everything that happens, but this has gone on under Governments of both parties. We have had enough Reports on the subject to guide us. Barlow, who considered this problem before either of the two Governments we most recently recall, made it clear, perhaps not for the first time, that the two worst consequences of urban sprawl would be high site values and chronic traffic congestion. We have both those consequences exactly as Barlow predicted. This is the root of the land problem and the price problem. It is repeated with not much less emphasis in the other four principal conurbations. Land prices round all towns are bound to be high, but it is only in these circumstances that they are liable to become alarmingly high. That was acknowledged by my right hon. Friend and by the hon. Member for Fulham.
This background suggests to me that, if we are to solve the problem, we shall have to begin to think a little more fundamentally, which means industrially and socially and not simply financially. The consequence of all this is now being felt not only in the Home Counties but, on the information I can gather, in counties just beyond the Home Counties. I am speaking of the London problem 1515 in particular. It is there that the planning departments are beginning to experience a new pressure, and some commuters have to travel like cattle. We are creating a bad, exhausting and sometimes a rather anti-social pattern.
To say that all this is due to land hunger or higher standards of housing—to which we know that we must attribute several things—or to my right hon. Friend's policy, which I support, of holding on to the green belt, misses the point. We can buy a certain amount of time by selling bits of the green belt. We shall not buy anything else. I do not think that the root trouble here is the groan belt. This, in effect, is "megalopolitan-mania". This is a disease which the largest capital cities in industrial countries tend to get, and nobody has yet found a way of curing it.
There is one very important point which has not yet been mentioned in the debate. Conscious of the fact that, unless they take action for themselves they will be overwhelmed by immigration, some county authorities are now beginning to act independently for themselves. Certain counties are devising what might be termed immigration policies. They are putting up the gates in their own way. In certain counties—I had better not particularise, but I have the facts—more applications are being refused than has been the case for a very long time. It is quite clear that counties under pressure are now beginning to find ways of dealing with the problem themselves.
This more stringent attitude, particularly in respect of applications for private housing development, in itself gives a fresh twist to the price spiral, because the tougher a county makes it for a man to get planning permission to build what he wants in that county the more likely it is that the price of the available land will be pushed up. This is one factor which is perhaps not receiving the attention it merits. County authorities lack confidence that we have the grip on this situation which they would like to feel we have.
With respect to the signatories of the Motion and the Amendment, I do not think that we can solve the problem by any ingenious form of Profits Tax or indeed by the "signpost" solution. The root solution must be to slacken the current in the magnetic field. The only 1516 long-term prospect which makes sense to me, short of absolute compulsion, which I think both sides of the House would reject in the matter of the movement of labour and manpower, is the creation of counter-attractions far outside the magnetic field. The word "far" is an important qualification. Without using hindsight, which it is easy to do in town and country planning, if the new towns have a fault it is that in terms of modern transport they are quite close enough to the central city they were designed to relieve.
Two main courses are open to us. One is positive restraint on growth in London. The second is the creation of counter-attractions elsewhere. My right hon. Friend may say with some justice that both those objects have been the main planks of our post-war policy. I agree. The first has not succeeded as one might have hoped because, although we have restrained factory development in London, as hon. Gentlemen associated with the region know quite well, we have given commercial development a relatively free hand. Again, with the hindsight which is given to us all in these matters, I think that that was a mistake.
The effect of the commercial development which has taken place in London, as against the factory development which has been subject to rather closer control, has been to add 500,000 to London's commuting ring. It has slightly distorted the central pattern, certainly as between domestic and commercial, the effect of which we now perceive on prices. I think that it has also done something to spoil the balance of the new towns and the expanding towns, which I should like to see have a bigger proportion of commerce instead of simply factories to mix with the population which they are expected not only to sustain but to make into social communities. A town is not well-balanced if it only has factories and houses. Some of the office blocks which are now to be seen all over the centre of London would have done very well in some of these towns and would have achieved not only a commercial balance but also a social balance.
The dispersal of commerce from the central area of great cities by every sort of inducement is now of very great importance. I cannot dismiss the thought that certain local authorities—again I had better not name any of them—are 1517 reluctant to part with the rateable value which huge commercial blocks offer. Certain sums of money go with large blocks. Some local authorities are quite willing to be rid of overspill but are very reluctant to part with the rateable value portion of the real cause of overcrowding, namely commercial buildings.
I come now to the second possibility, which is the creation of counter-attractions elsewhere. The new towns, a success in themselves, must fairly be described in relation to London and modern transport as less of a success because they decreasingly solve the problem of not only London but South-East England.
Added to this we have the expanding towns. I shall not worry my right hon. Friend—who must be weary of my views on this subject—with repetition. I never thought that the expanding towns policy would be likely to flourish, partly because of the disparity in size and ability between those sending population out and those receiving it, and partly because of the nature of the L.C.C.—and I say that in no political sense. There were also financial grounds. The expanding towns were landed with problems of a social and industrial character which we should have foreseen as being beyond their capacity.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I agree with what the hon. Gentleman is saying and the way in which he is developing his case. He has dealt with two areas—Greater London and the new towns—and has analysed what he thinks is happening and what might be done. But there are other areas about which the Minister should be, and is, very sensitive—namely, those towns all over the country, including the Midlands and the North, which are run down and where developers are, not yet anxious to go and play a part. How could they be encouraged to do so?
§ Mr. Deedes
I will deal with that point at the end of my speech. In the considered view of abler judges than I, the expanding towns policy has not been altogether a success, although I think that for very small-scale expansions it may be able to do something for us, particularly if given guidance by a central body, which at the moment does not exist. But whatever machinery we use—and this is regardless of political 1518 solutions on either side—the major objective must be to prevent the continued drain of population into London and south-east England. That is the principal problem. There is, in addition, a smaller corresponding movement in the Midlands.
Is there any way in which we can make existing towns or prospective new towns exciting enough and with sufficient counter-attractions to the Metropolis? I do not think that we have tried very hard on this, but some hon. Members will have seen the thoughtful solutions put forward by the Town and Country Planning Association. I recognise the knowledge of this which the hon. Member for Fulham displayed in his speech.
The Association advocates regional centres which would attract population and influence a radius of 25 miles or so. It is not thinking of new towns or of expanding towns, but of substantial places like Northampton, Peterborough, Ipswich and Swindon. In effect, the concept as I see it, is that some of these old towns should become new cities, with all that that implies. I believe that that is the only way in which we shall be able, over the years to raise counter-attractions to the Metropolis. These centres would be given the status, the amenities, the look, the reputation and the qualities of a city, giving them something that might attract people on a large scale, at any rate the younger generation.
Given some concept of this kind, I do not believe that it will be as difficult to tip the scales away from London as we now think. The London rat-race is not becoming more attractive as it goes on. More and more people are thinking that. Paradoxically, I see a source of hope in this sign that much that is in London does not now attract the breadwinner. A determined effort to woo him elsewhere would demand certain changes, however.
First, there must be closer relations between the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Labour and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I know that my right hon. Friend will declare that this is already the case, but I stress that there should be closer relationship not merely between officials but also at high Ministerial level. Secondly, an imaginative effort must be made to make 1519 any counter-attractions, whether in new towns or in new cities, more attractive—something that will take the gloss off London.
Thirdly, there may well have to be financial inducements, but the money spent on this would be saved on transport costs in the Metropolitan area and other areas like it through cutting down delays and in arresting the rising capital outlay which now has to be made on transport in these areas. Fourthly, we may have to think in terms of regional units as well as county units, and lastly there will have to be a willingness to incur the wrath of London and certain other authorities, which will kick at policies of that kind. London is quite happy to be the hub, however big the wheel becomes. It will be a struggle and it will take time to produce results—an aspect which may well put people off. But I see no other long-term solution. We should do better to face the prospect of a struggle than to continue to strangle the lives of nearly half of this working generation and of much more than half of the next.
§ 5.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)
The Opposition have performed an extremely valuable service in raising the question of the price and use of land. I suggest that it epitomises one of the worst by-products of post-war inflation. Although I do not agree in all respects with the proposals in "Signpost for the Sixties", it shows that some useful and fresh thinking has been done on the subject. I hope that it may also be thought that the Liberal Amendment—which is not to be called—indicates that there are those in the House who are trying to put forward some solutions to our problems. Our Amendment is, in line 4, to leave out from the second "and" to the end of the Question and to add:recognising the overwhelming objections to the nationalisation of the freehold of all land required for public use or private development, urges Her Majesty's Government to introduce a tax on the site value of land so as to encourage development and to ensure that some part of the increased values resulting from the development of our towns and villages is secured for the benefit of the community and further, having regard to the fact that certain areas in our towns and cities are in urgent need of replanning and rebuilding, urges Her Majesty's Government to make available funds 1520 for the acquisition of these areas through the medium of a civic development trust with a view to facilitating development and rebuilding".Indeed, some Members opposite are similarly anxious to make proposals to cure these problems.
I say, more in sorrow than in anger, that this is in contradistinction to the contents of the Minister's speech, however. Whatever else is clear, it is that far greater powers are needed by someone appointed by the Government in the shape of a Commission or civic trust or some other quasi-statutory body. I want to fulfil three objectives in my speech. I want first, to examine the grave defects which attach to the present exercise of compulsory purchase powers, because, before we extend them, there are defects which need the right hon. Gentleman's immediate attention. Secondly, I want to examine what I believe are some of the shortcomings of the Labour Party's proposals. Thirdly, I wish to put forward for the House's consideration one or two ideas contained in the Liberal Amendment.
In dealing with the first, I want to relate my argument to one specific case, because a particular case can so often be the cause of compelling a general reform. This case has in it all the seeds of the difficulties which we have at present over compulsory purchase regulations. Every action in this case was intra vires, with the consent of the Minister, who enabled a council to indulge in speculation quite as bad as and just as serious as any private speculation on behalf of an ordinary free enterprise speculator.
It is possible for councils to acquire land for one purpose and, therefore, at a particular value, and subsequently by their own act to increase the value of that land by changing the user and then selling it at a profit. The case to which I refer is one at Plymouth, about which I will put a Question to the right hon. Gentleman on Tuesday, asking for an inquiry. I have given notice to the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. I. Fraser), who rightly enjoys the reputation of being jealous guardian of the interests of his constituency; and were it not for the fact that she is enaged on other vital parliamentary work, the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Miss Vickers) would be here also.
1521 I want to make plain that I am not attacking Plymouth as such, but I believe that this is an example of something which is as outrageous in its treatment of individual rights as anything which occurred at the time of the Crichel Down scandal.
Briefly, there is an area in Plymouth which was designated in the development plan for residential development. It is a large area. For my purpose I shall refer to part of it, comprising a 32-acre plot known as Hendwell Farm. On 17th Auguest, 1953, the council, authorised the acquisition of the plot, and on 16th February, 1954, the Minister confirmed the compulsory purchase after an inquiry had been held. I say at once that it was an inquiry on the basis that the land was urgently needed for housing. The land was acquired pursuant to powers under the 1936 Housing Act. The compensation received by the farmer was £7,357. That was the whole basis of his objections to being deprived of his own land, namely, that here was land which should more properly be used for farming than for housing.
Subsequent to that, the council changed its mind. It had been refused an application to acquire compulsorily a further six acres which it wanted to develop for educational needs. It was told in the inspector's report in regard to this latter plot that the development plan had gone wrong in detail and possibly in wider principle. On 13th October, 1958, in Minute 2086, the Plymouth City Council decided that a 15-acre area would be rezoned for industrial use, and part of this covered Hendwell Farm.
On 24th November, seven acres was sold by the council to a private firm known as Ranco, and 3.8 acres of this comprised Hendwell farm. The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to my Question on 14th July, said that a rent of £1,323 per annum had been obtained. This was land which had been compulsorily acquired for housing purposes, and the owner had been compensated on that basis, and he now found that it was being sold for industrial use.
What the right hon. Gentleman did not tell me in his Answer—no doubt he did not know; he will discover this if he consults the council minutes, Minute No. 3074—was that there is an option to purchase the land in three years' time 1522 for £23,800. Therefore, we have here a position where land is bought for housing purposes for approximately £862 with an option to sell it at approximately £11,900, and enormous speculative profit made by a council as a result of compulsorily acquiring for one purpose and then proceeding to sell for another. The unfortunate farmer tried to obtain compensation, but he was twenty-one months too late because under Section 18 of the Town and Country Planning Act application for such compensation has to be made within five years of confirmation.
There is also nearly 10 acres at Langley Farm next door similarly acquired, after an inquiry held on the basis that it was needed for housing purposes. Part of this has been similarly sold for industrial purposes, and I am told that the figure is in the region of £4,000 per acre. It is not merely this. Again, part of this property was compulsorily acquired for urgently needed housing. Indeed, a municipal housing scheme laid out in 1953 by the chief engineer was referred to at the inquiry. Now the council has decided to sell five acres of such land for £15,000 to George Wimpey for private speculation and development. It bought this plot for approximately £1,138, by compulsory purchase.
To me, this is a fantastic way of bringing on to the market, through the exercise of compulsory powers, the property of private citizens only to speculate in it later by selling it for a totally different purpose. It is true that a large sum of money, £6,000, was spent in the development of this latest plot, but I would ask, rhetorically, whether it is part of the function of a council to spend ratepayers' money and to use council employees to improve the value of compulsorily acquired land only subsequently to speculate in it. There was a suggestion that the farmer might like to purchase it back but there was no special prior consideration given him, merely two letters and the duplicated sales sheet passing. He could not, of course, find £15,000, and, in any event, he wanted to carry on farming.
Arising out of that, I suggest the following conclusions to the right hon. Gentleman. First, it is wrong to allow councils to use compulsory purchase powers in order subsequently to speculate. It is wrong to allow them to buy 1523 at one value for one purpose only subsequently to sell at another price for a different purpose. I should have thought that that had all the evils of private speculation at its worst. Another aspect is that the council is the planning authority and, by altering the user of the property, can alter the value of the property which it acquired.
I believe that there should be the possibility of a subsequent inquiry for further objections to be raised if the original purpose for which the acquisition was made has changed. That suggestion was made by Sir Thomas Dugdale, now Lord Crathorne, in the debate on Crichel Down. In column 1190 of the OFFICIAL REPORT of 20th July, 1954, he said, in effect, that if a Ministry had acquired for one purpose and that purpose had been exhausted before the land was transferred to another Ministry there should be a right for the previous owner to raise his objections and to try to repurchase. I believe that the right which the Government saw fit to accord to previous owners in those cases should be accorded in this case.
I believe, also, that in those cases the dispossessed landowner should have the right of having the first refusal. Again, I believe that he should have the price assessed by the district valuer along the lines of the Crichel Down formula. I believe that if there is to be a great capital appreciation the owner of the property should have some share in it. I should have thought that to make £24,000 out of £862 was a bit high even for a go-ahead council.
I wonder, again, whether it is right for ratepayers' money to be used, in effect, for speculation. I believe, again, that we should extend the provisions of Section 18 of the Town and Country Planning Act so as to enable somebody in the position in which this farmer finds himself to apply for compensation for change of user.
In biblical times, when King Ahab coveted Naboth's vineyard, it was necessary to stage an assassination. Today, a similar covetous council need only exercise compulsory purchase powers. Indeed, it may go further than that; it may re-offer the plot for sale to the previous owner at a greatly increased price and then pocket the profit. I very much hope that this Plymouth position, 1524 which is by no means exclusive to that council, will be investigated by the Minister.
To turn to the Labour Party's scheme, I agree with the hon. and learned Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. A. J. Irvine) that the nub of the problem is the rate of compensation. It will be something more than present user value and something less than market value. If, in effect, no land can be sold for development except to the Commission, unless it does not wish to purchase, there will no longer be a true market value upon which we can assess the rate of compensation.
If the price to be paid is less than what would be the market value, by divorcing the development value from the advantages of ownership, that in itself would be a disincentive to development. I believe, therefore, that if people are unwilling to sell, it will be all the more necessary to use compulsory purchase powers. That is why I believe that the scheme proposed by the Labour Party, although initially attractive, could have the reverse effect of holding up development.
There are three things that I would far rather see. First, I should like the Minister to use fiscal weapons which would help to return to the community the values which the community itself had created. I should like to see a removal of the disincentive to development of property which is inherent in our current rating and taxation law. The moment a man improves his property, it is uprated. That is a disincentive to improvement. I should like to see fiscal weapons preventing the holding back of land.
Therefore, I re-echo what the Minister was kind enough to say was contained in the Liberal Amendment: the idea of the taxation of land values. With what, even for a Conservative Minister, was a shattering display of modesty, the right hon. Gentleman said that nowhere had this worked, that it was in theory a good scheme, but that it simply was not a starter. I merely refer the Minister to the interesting and useful article written by the Bow Group in Crossbow this summer, pointing out that this system had worked in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Denmark, West Canada, and other parts of America.
1525 If the Minister raises his sights and looks around a bit, it seems that here is a case for praying in aid once again the dictum of the nineteenth century Conservative Prime Ministers that we must educate our masters. Certainly, the Young Conservatives, as represented by the Bow Group, have a formidable task in regard to the right hon. Gentleman.
After hearing from the Young Conservatives of the various places where the tax works successfully, why does not the Minister experiment? Why not try the recommendation of the majority on the Simes Committee and experiment with experimental values to ascertain what the product of the site value rate would be? The right hon. Gentleman could be far more flexible than he has shown himself today. He should try to experiment in the taxation of land values in a limited area. This is one way in which the community can enjoy the wealth which it has helped to create. It would remove disincentives to improvement and it would prevent the holding back of property.
§ Mr. A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
Surely the hon. Member must know that all the countries he has cited where the test of land value is used are, in the main, vast countries, where the prime need of the community is to develop the land which is available, whereas in this country the very reverse is the case, because we have so little land which has to be developed. In any event, in the case of Denmark, it applies to only 15 per cent. of the land.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I concede at once that some of the countries to which I referred are sparsely occupied. If, however, the hon. Member considers, as I did when I was in America, how this system is working in heavily populated American towns, he will see that it has been an extremely successful way of obtaining economic development and of returning some of the benefits to the community. I suggest that the Government should experiment with this method on a limited scale for a limited time. I believe that it would work.
I should also like to see something in the nature of a capital gains tax. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether this would be merely on betterment caused by change of user or on the sale or dis- 1526 position of land generally. I would say the latter. This is logical, because those who sit on this side of the House all believe that we should have a capital gains tax not merely for property, but in regard to all capital sales and capital gains.
I should like the Minister to reexamine the idea of the increment tax which was contained in a Budget which, probably, stimulated more opposition from the party opposite than the present Chancellor's proposals will do on Tuesday. On the occasion of the 1909 Budget, Mr. Lloyd George took four hours to explain the increment tax to the House of Commons. Therefore, I hope that I shall be forgiven if I do not attempt the task in a few minutes. Briefly, when sales of land took place, ½d. in the £ was to be returned to the public in the form of an increment tax.
A third paint which, I hope, the Miinster will consider is the idea which the Civic Trust put forward in July last year of a land finance corporation which could move into areas designated as areas of special importance needing collective development. It could hold land and sell it either to private or to public enterprises. That would have many of the advantages which the Labour Party plan is trying to achieve without the disadvantages which I have suggested.
I plead with the Minister to realise that this is a grave social problem. We hope that he will be able to come to the House shortly with fresh ideas on how to deal with it.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Sir Colin Thornton-Kemsley (North Angus and Mearns)
The hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), as is so often the case with his party, has been completely out of date in two instances. In the first part of his speech, he told us about some land in Plymouth. What the hon. Member said was entirely right. He must, however, recognise that had this happened after the introduction of the 1959 Act, which was not conspicuously supported by the hon. Member, the vendor of the land would have received full market value for residential purposes when the land was compulsorily acquired from him. Then, when the local authority changed its use to industrial, he would have been entitled, as the 1527 hon. Member wanted, to receive a supplement representing the difference between the residential value and the industrial value of the land.
§ Mr. Thorpe
I was not conspicuous in my support of the 1959 Bill, because I had not the advantage then of having been elected to this House. Concerning his second point, surely the hon. Member would agree that there is still the five-year limitation. I accept at once that any purchase subsequent to the passage of the 1959 Act, which I welcome as a good Act, or, rather, an improvement, would have been at full market value. Nevertheless, we are still faced with the position that if there is a change of user five years after the confirmation of the compulsory purchase order, the aggrieved person is not entitled to receive any further compensation.
§ Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley
I agree with the hon. Member. With him, I dislike the five-year limitation. I am delighted to hear that he thinks, as I do, that the 1959 Act was a very good one.
The hon. Member advocated the taxation of site values. What my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Cooper) said about that was, of course, right. Whereas it might be appropriate to circumstances where there is a great need for development to take place, exactly the reverse is the case today; there is every inducement in the price mechanism for landowners and others who have land to put it on the market to get a good price. There is no reason why they should hold back.
The hon. Member set himself three objectives, and I want to do the same. I must, first, divulge an interest in the matter, in that I am a chartered surveyor, dealing daily with problems of land values and the sale of land, and it also happens that I help to direct two property companies—Which I hope are entirely reputable. It cannot be said that I have not some knowledge about the subject upon which I wish to address the House.
The first thing I ask my right hon. Friend to do—and I do it with great diffidence, because it is a difficult matter, and I cannot offer him any positive proof of what I am about to say—is to institute an inquiry into abuses of the sale of developable land. Although I 1528 cannot prove cases, we have all heard of many occasions where, by agreement, land which has been bought by one person is sold, and perhaps sold again, to business associates of the first purchaser to bring up the price of that land so that a valuation is arrived at which will provide the basis of a mortgage sufficient to cover the whole of the original, and genuine, purchase price.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
That is a fraud not upon the Government, but upon a private mortgage company, and it is the mortgage company's fault if it does not arrive at a proper valuation.
§ Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley
I quite agree. All I am asking for is an inquiry. I have not come across this thing professionally in my own case, but many people who know how these things work have told me that it is not unknown, and I want it looked into.
The second point which arises from what has been said in the House this afternoon concerns today's leading article in The Times. I want to talk a little about betterment. The leading article refers to the possibility of recreating some sort of betterment charge. It goes on to say:Although the development charges were abolished by the 1953 Town and Country Planning Act as unworkable it by no means follows that no such charge can be devised which would be equitable in both principle and practice …In the debate that we had a year ago I put forward some reasons why I thought that a very strong case could be made out for what I then called a land sales levy. One more year's experience of the continued eager disregard by prospective developers of the price of developable land has reinforced my feeling that we should think again about the problem of extracting some sort of betterment charge in all cases of dealings in land and buildings.
When I see thousands of pounds an acre being given for land which has the benefit of planning permission—and I see it daily in my profession—I am led to the belief that my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer has a unique opportunity of extracting without harm to anyone, and without defiance of any Conservative or other principle of which I am aware, 1529 some large sums of money for the benefit of the Exchequer and other purposes which I shall mention shortly.
I want this question of a land sales levy, betterment charge, or whatever it is called, examined as a matter of urgency by the Treasury in the light of present-day conditions. As I see it, it would work in this way: from the appointed day vendors of land and buildings would be required to pay, by way of additional Stamp Duty, a small percentage—fixed by Statutory Instrument—of the purchase price of those lands and buildings, and so as not to discourage the sale of homes I advocate that there should be total exemption up to a certain limit, exactly as there is at present in the case of Stamp Duty. It could be up to a figure of £5,000, with a sliding scale above that.
Although in the first place the duty would be collected from the vendor it would, in fact, fall upon the purchaser, since he would obviously want to recover the duty as one of the costs in his sale of the land. In order that development which is deemed to be in the public interest should not be made the subject of additional taxation it might be desirable to exempt from liability to this additional Stamp Duty land acquired compulsory by bodies which have powers of compulsory acquisition.
It might be asked what justification there would be for a levy of that kind. The basic cause of high land prices—as speaker after speaker has admitted this afternoon—is the pressure of demand concentrated upon the very limited area of land in this country. Although planning is not the cause of the demand, it intensifies it. If, overnight, all restrictions were to be swept away; if green belts were scrapped, if white land were released for development, and if developers were given the green light to go ahead and build on any land which they were able to acquire, the price of land would fall dramatically.
I conclude that planning restrictions, by limiting the area of land available for development, enhance the value of the land upon which development is permitted, and developers are prepared to pay enormous prices for land which has the benefit of planning permission. No one can persuade me that a levy by way 1530 of additional Stamp Duty, of 5 per cent. or even 10 per cent. of the value of land with planning permission, would cause any hardship whatsoever.
It may be asked whether this would raise the price of land, in circumstances when most people want to see that price brought down. I am not sure that it would. In spite of what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) said in his interjection, I have heard enough of "rigged" sales—whether legal or not it is not for me to say, and whether they are spotted by the building societies who lend the money I do not know, because they are sometimes very difficult to spot—to believe that a tax or levy of this kind on all sales of developable land might prove an effective deterrent, and, in many cases, might bring down the price.
But I am much more concerned about the high cost of planning than I am about the high cost of building land. I believe in planning. I believe that only by the intelligent planning of land use can the beauty of the countryside be preserved and our limited area of land in these islands be put to the best possible use.
But that involves a heavy price both in compensation for refusal of planning permission—and I agree that it is not as fair as it should be—and a heavy price in compensation where land is compulsorily acquired. I can see no reason whatever, in theory or in practice, why the State should not recoup itself for some of this expense and, indeed, recover some part of the public expenditure on communications and services which have, in many cases, contributed substantially to the value of land for development purposes.
My third point is that the remedy for the high price of land lies, to some extent, in the hands of my right hon. Friend the Minister, who can release more land for building in areas where the pressure of demand has forced prices to high levels. I agree with the Minister—and I make this perfectly clear—that the green belt should and must remain absolutely inviolate. I support the Minister 100 per cent. in his determination that that shall be the case. But when he and I speak of the green belt we mean the statutory green belt, that is to say, the green belt which is, so far, 1531 approved by Statute and which, I think, includes only that around London.
Here we find that the Home Counties have assumed that the next step is to widen the green belt and they are treating a large area of land outside the statutory green belt as though it were already of green belt status. I believe that to be a mistaken policy. In London particularly, and to a lesser degree in the case of the other great conurbations, we have seen in the past few years coming into being what can be described best as the "city region." The exploding Metropolis has jumped the green belt and is exerting its pressure on towns and villages 20, 30 and even 40 miles beyond it, with all that that means in terms of discomfort to commuters, space on the roads, and so on. This point was graphically described by my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes). I am convinced, as my hon. Friend said, that there is scope for the planned development of many of these focal points beyond the established green belts.
In the debate of 18th July, 1960—almost exactly a year ago—the Minister was reported in col. 54 of the OFFICIAL REPORT as saying that the Government were making sure that sufficient land is allocated for building in suitable places beyond the green belt. I should like to know now how much white land has, in fact, been released in the pressure areas since that date last year and where it is. In what he called "random examples", the Minister made no mention of Surrey, Hampshire, Hertfordshire, or Essex—yet these are the pressure areas at the present time where land should be released for more building if the steam is to be taken out of the present demand and prices are to be brought down.
I should also like to know how many regional conferences have been called, in the sense of the Minister's remarks during that debate, when he said that extra building should be permitted in the south-eastern segment of England or in the Midlands, which are the two greatest pressure areas. I was glad to hear my right hon. Friend say that he is having regular meeting with the planning officers in the London areas, because I am sure that much can be done by calling local planning authorities concerned, in turn, to the Ministry to explore with them the 1532 possibility, as a matter of the greatest possible urgency, of releasing more land for building in the pressure areas. No single step could do more to reduce high land prices.
I would sum up by saying that I want, first, the Minister to initiate an inquiry into the sale and developable land with a view to stopping abuses. Secondly, I want the Chancellor of the Exchequer to examine the possibility of a land sales levy as a means of paying for land use planning, without which our still lovely country can quickly degenerate into a sprawling subtopia. Thirdly, I believe that the Minister himself could do much to bring down prices by releasing more land for building on the basis of regional surveys of needs and possibilities in the areas where the pressure of demand for land is the strongest.
§ 6.37 p.m.
§ Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister will forgive me for being absent during the first part of his speech. My excuse is a good one because, together with the hon. Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr), I was considering what is to happen to Oxford with reference to the road scheme. The right hon. Gentleman will be hearing something about it from us, and I hope that he will let us talk to him about the matter.
The debate on this subject this year seems somewhat different from the way in which we debated it a year ago. There seems to be a better consensus of feeling on both sides of the House and more determination to urge the Minister to take some action. This is natural in view of the information that comes to us not only about the rising prices of land but about the redevelopment of city centres and general urban renewal.
When the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) was speaking I asked him a question, to which he replied, on a subject which the Minister also raised in the Middlesex Guildhall on 16th July last year, when he addressed a meeting called by the Civic Trust. The Minister drew attention to the matter which I raised with the hon. Member for Ashford. The Minister asked, on that occasion last year, "Where are the developers for the towns and cities that are run 1533 down?" It is not, therefore, only the great centres and cities like London that we should consider. Nor should we only consider persuading people to come into the new towns. We should consider urgently how to make the older towns in the Midlands, the north of Scotland and in Wales so attractive that people will not run away from them but will remain and live in those areas. I hear a whisper from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) about the embellishment of Stoke, but Stoke is doing something about embellishing itself. It is doing it quickly, and the idea has spread. But our problem of redevelopment is very real, and I hope in due course to say a few words about it.
In the debate last year I made a suggestion not very far removed from that made today by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart). I suggested establishing public boards which would be empowered to buy land at current prices by compulsory purchase, and to release it to private developers or local authorities as and when it was needed by them. I felt that in this way we should not only get redevelopment but could rebuild comprehensively on three-dimensional lines.
The great road-widening schemes that are utterly essential in many areas could be the better carried out. We are told by the chairman of the Planning Committee of the London County Council that while there are one or two intersections where this work has been done, there are so many others that are ripe for it that the money is not available—and the amount they get from the Ministry is not sufficient—to do any one of them properly, but that they have to be left ragged and unsatisfactory, ultimately creating further problems.
I remember that at the meting at the Middlesex Guildhall on 15th July last, the Minister gave us his views—and very thoughtful views they were, although with some of them I do not entirely agree. When he spoke about the need to bring new life into towns and cities that find it so very difficult to obtain the land for three-dimensional planning because of lack of unified control of a large area and because they have not much money—and in these things there is a very powerful financial aspect—I must say that I agreed with him entirely.
1534 If the right hon. Gentleman is to be the champion of those who live in towns that show the blight of the Industrial Revolution, I shall certainly call him my friend. At the same time he and his Department created great offence the other day among such towns as that which I represent. On 14th July, I noticed an article in the Daily Telegraph which pointed out that the local authority of Bootle was at odds with the Minister. It said that although that local authority had objected, the Minister was allowing an advertising firm to put up a large illuminated sign 28 ft. by 11 ft. on the gable end of a house and that, in giving his decision against the local authority, the inspector had declared that there was not much amenity in such a town in any case, and that any redevelopment would be of an industrial nature.
That is rather a body blow for those representing constituencies like Stoke. The worse off we are in that respect, the more we need the help and sympathy of the Minister and of the Parliamentary Secretary. This was an unhappy decision for all of us, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will think about it again. If it is too late now to do anything about Bootle, I sincerely hope that such a thing will never happen to Stoke-on-Trent.
The Minister told us at the Middlesex Guildhall that the problems of comprehensive planning were not merely technical, and he then used words that were absolutely right. He said:These problems raise in the bluntest form the question of balance between the public and private freedom.That is true, and that is what we are now debating. Some of us wish to compromise. Some want a more radical solution—I certainly do, and I think that the plan we have put forward is a radical one—hut we all want to improve the present situation.
The Minister said that the problems were not merely technical, and I think that he will agree that three things must be considered in all planning. There is unification of ownership, the preparation of a plan—not in two dimensions but in three—and then the question of deciding who will execute the plan according to the instructions given.
On unification of ownership, the Parliamentary Secretary disappointed me 1535 when, towards the end of his speech in the debate on 18th July, 1960, he said:… because there is unified control it does not follow that architecture will be superior. We may get more mediocre architecture;"—and then he spoke these strange words—less variety of architecture is generally to be preferred, unless there is a Nash among us." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th July, 1960; Vol. 627, c. 162.]I think that there must be a mistake in the printing, and that what the hon. Gentleman meant to say was that variety of architecture is generally to be preferred unless there is a Nash among us.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Sir K. Joseph) indicated assent.
§ Dr. Stross
I am glad to put that right, because it was confusing.
Now let me quarrel with the hon. Gentleman—and that quite strenuously. To say, as he said, that we must wait for a Nash before we bother about obtaining a reasonably large area with unification of ownership is rather absurd. If there were a dozen or fifty Nashes among us today and none had the opportunity to show what he could do, nobody would know that there was a single Nash in the country. People like Nash made their reputations because they were given a large area of land and told, "Get on with it." If we were to have only tiny, fragmented areas we would never realise that any architect of this generation had the ability of Nash. I therefore think that it would be wiser to put up with the risk of some mediocrity rather than have some schizophrenic results, though that is what the Parliamentary Secretary was arguing.
When in the Middlesex Guildhall the Minister addressed an audience of interested people—architects, planners, chartered surveyors and chairmen of planning committees from all over the country—it was apparent, as the day went by and the matter was debated, that general agreement was gradually coming about—as I have felt up to now that an agreement is becoming apparent among many of us here—that something must he done. The only problem was to decide on what would be the best way.
1536 The general consensus of opinion was that unification of ownership was essential for major schemes, but that planning authorities could not carry out three-dimensional schemes if the land was in the possession of a large number of individual owners. Those two points were accepted. Then there was the third point—I think that the hon. Member for Ashford touched on this—that local authorities are so hard pressed by private developers that they are being compelled to give decisions within two months unless they can come to some agreement with the developer to defer it for a little while. When they come to an agreement to defer—I think the Parliamentary Secretary will agree—it seems almost as if the developers are receiving a tacit promise that their plans will in the end be accepted.
Refusal of an application often means heavy damage, for the provisions of the Third Schedule to the 1947 Act regarding compensation have not been abolished. If any building is pulled clown—I have in mind particularly an office building—in each case according to the existing law a 10 per cent. increase in floor space on the development is allowable. If there is a refusal, compensation must be paid. But many of our old office buildings have very high ceilings. If, on redevelopment, one increases the floor space by having lower ceilings, the amount of compensation on refusal is very much greater than would be represented by the 10 per cent.
§ Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley
I think that the hon. Member is in error. The 10 per cent. tolerance was allowed under the Third Schedule of the 1947 Act, but at the beginning of the Third Schedule appear the wordsDevelopment included in existing use for purposes other than compensation under Section 20Section 20 deals with compensation. I think that the hon. Gentleman will find that compensation is not given for refusal to allow the extra 10 per cent.
§ Dr. Stross
I hope that that is right. It was not the information given to me, and that information came from a surveyor. I am grateful to the hon. Member for his intervention. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will say where we stand when he winds up.
1537 There have been suggestions from the Liberal benches that the establishment of a land finance corporation should be considered. This was mooted by Mr. Henry Wells, chairman of the Hemel Hempstead New Town Corporation, and his suggestion was received very well, on the whole, by the majority of the expert people who attended the discussion at the Middlesex Guild Hall. Putting it briefly, Mr. Wells said that the core of the problem was to resolve two major difficulties, both of an accounting nature. They should be resolved without either tampering with local autonomy or relying on national subsidies. No doubt, the Parliamentary Secretary will be relieved to hear the second qualification.
Mr. Wells said that the difficulties were, first, how to bridge the financial gap until the redevelopment earned enough to meet the loan charges on the cost of land acquisition, and, second, how to make the lucrative schemes pay for those which were socially necessary but not profitable.
I speak for cities like my own, like Wigan and other places where it is more desirable that we should have rebuilding and renewal than in the great intersections in a city like London. There will be no lack of developers willing to tackle renewal here. Developers are not willing readily to come to Wigan, Widnes or Stoke-on-Trent. We have no problem of land unification in Stoke-on-Trent. Years ago, we bought every inch we could lay hands on, and we have plenty of land. Nobody wanted to come near us, so we were able to buy it.
The solution which Mr. Wells suggested—I quote from the Report of the proceedings—was this:His solution for both these problems was that the Government should set up a land accounting or finance corporation whose functions would be:1538 That was Mr. Wells' proposal. He added that such a body would need a float from the Treasury to tide it over the few years until its first purchases were disposed of. Thereafter, fresh purchases would be paid for out of the proceeds of sales.
- (a) to pay at prices fixed on the present basis for all land designated, subject to present checks, for compulsory purchase by local authorities.
- (b) to hold it until required for redevelopment, meanwhile carrying the loan charges as an accumulative deficit.
- (c) to sell it at prices reflecting its value in the use prescribed for it by the development plan for private or public redevelopment in accordance with the three-dimensional scheme prepared or approved by the local planning authority."
The difference between that scheme and the scheme propounded by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham, the scheme of the Labour Party, seems to lie in only one particular. Our scheme suggests that we should not sell the land but should hold it and lease it where it is required either for private redevelopment or for public use. As a result of the freehold being retained in that way, any betterment would accrue automatically to society at large. We should pay rather more than was suggested by Mr. Wells because, in addition to the fair market price at the time, we should pay an extra sum called a contingent sum.
§ Dr. Stross
We should pay an additional sum called a contingent sum. I have no doubt that others of my hon. Friends will discuss and develop the matter. I will just give an example. If we take a portion of a man's farm because we need it for building, if it is a small farm, we must indeed pay a heavy contingent sum because he may be prevented from farming. These are matters to be adjusted. I know that some hon. Members opposite take a purist view completely opposed to the one I am now propounding. It is quite natural that they should. But I have noted that there is a very great deal of agreement among us all that the Minister should do something. I gather from the right hon. Gentleman's speech that he is beginning to feel that land should not he regarded like any other ordinary commodity and be allowed its entirely free market because it is of no value except as we give it value.
Mr. Fiske, Chairman of the Planning Committee of the London County Council spoke at the meeting at the Guildhall to which I have referred. The effect of what he said was this. Within a few years, the London County Council would have to pull down the London Pavilion and throw the site into the road widening scheme at Piccadilly Circus. In 1539 doing that, it would lose £1 million of public money. That £1 million of money thus lost by the public would then appear at once in the balance sheets of properties on what would then be front land. Thus, £1 million would be handed to people who never asked for it, who never wanted it, but who would, nevertheless, be given it by the public who had just lost it. Rhetorically, he asked, "Will the public stand this sort of thing for ever?" I do not believe that they will. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us what he feels about it when he winds up.
Summing up the meeting at the Guildhall, Sir William Holford said that there was a "growing obsolescence" in the areas which needed special attention, the areas where me may well have to work at a loss if we are to help them to redevelop and to be made attractive, as the Minister himself suggested. There is, said Sir William Holford,a growing sense of depression and wastefulness which appears not only in a physical form in buildings and streets and advertisements, but also in the very faces of the people who live in these areas.That is perfectly true. We shall not be doing our duty throughout the country if we do not solve this problem. If it calls for a radical solution, that radical solution should be offered. I hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will, speaking in a more relaxed manner than he showed in our last debate, give us tonight his real views on the subject.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
This subject is very important because it must affect, directly or indirectly, everybody in this country. It is a subject which the party opposite, having control of the Supply Days, has chosen for debate and, indeed, has written about in a hook which shall refer to at considerable length in a short time. Yet we have seen today, apart from those hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench who have to be here, not more than, perhaps, between three and five hon. Members opposite—at the moment it is a maximum of five—interesting themselves in this very important and vital subject. Those who have contributed to the debate have been helpful and constructive, and I shall come in a few minutes to say why I disagree fundamentally with some of the things that 1540 they have said and agree slightly with other things that they have said.
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) confined himself largely to the question of the reconstruction of city centres. In London and other big towns, there is no difficulty in private enterprise carrying out that work without one penny of public funds. The difficulty is to get those whose duty it is to be responsible for planning and design to make up their minds. Once they have made up their minds, have produced the plans and can say, "We want the centre reconstructed in this way", private enterprise will get on with it quickly enough.
§ Dr. Stross
I wish that were true. The facts are against the hon. and learned Gentleman. Does he remember that plans were produced for the reconstruction of Piccadilly Circus by the London County Council and how we heard from the Minister a year or two ago that not a single developer would look at the segregation of pedestrians from wheeled traffic? Those plans had to be entirely scrapped. Let us not hear again this plea that what is wrong is that the local authorities do not know how to make up their minds.
§ Mr. Doughty
They are very slow in making up their minds. I agree with the hon. Member about that case and, perhaps, some other towns such as the one he represents, but generally there is no difficulty whatsoever caused by developers. The difficulty is to find out what plans are required by those who are publicly interested in the centres of these towns.
The real problem on this question of land use and land sale is one that arises from the fact that land is in a very special position. It is one of the few articles which one cannot create. It is not like coal or motor cars in respect of which, if there is a shortage, we can talk about building more factories and getting more men to go down the mines to produce more of that particular article. Such a suggestion in respect of land is quite impossible. The Dutch may have solved the problem to a certain degree, but the methods there would not apply to this country.
That is the fundamental basis of this problem. The result is that, because the 1541 quantity of this scarce article cannot be increased however much the population of this country increases, we must have a measure of town and country planning, words which I do not find at all attractive, though I would be the first to agree that, so far as the land in this country is concerned, whether urban or rural, we must have town and country planning. Indeed, it results also in a great accumulation of population around the attractive parts of this country, particularly in the South-East and around London. The result is that this horrible word, which we hear all too frequently in this Chamber and elsewhere, "conurbations" is used.
When we are dealing with this problem, particularly around London, with which I am most concerned, representing, as I do, a part of Surrey, I want the Minister to say that the green belts which have been carved out with such difficulty and defined in the development plans with such accuracy, and other open spaces, parks and things of that kind, shall not be in any way diminished or abolished. There may be from some quarter—I do not say from any quarter in this House it from some quarter outside—pressure on him to say that it is time that the green belts were cut down or abolished. I want him to say once more that he will not listen to those siren voices which may be whispering in his ear that that might be a very good way to find land for building.
Unfortunately—I say unfortunately for a variety of reasons—compulsory purchase has to be part of our national practices. I think that it was the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) who referred to cases where a council or public authority bought land for one purpose and sold it for another at a very large profit. I would only point out that the importance of that is this. The annoyance of a person from whom the land was compulsorily bought shows how wrong it is to suggest that people are prepared to get rid of their land at anything less than market value. The farmer to whom he referred, who is quite unknown to me, obviously had a genuine grievance for that reason.
§ Mr. Donald Wade (Huddersfield, West)
It was not the case so much of whether or not he wished to sell at a particular price, but that he wished to go 1542 on farming. It was a compulsory purchase in the case of an individual farmer who did not want to sell at all.
§ Mr. Doughty
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber at the time. That is quite right. He also went on to say that he went back to apply for further compensation, but was twenty-one months out of time That is why I said what I did.
As a result of that, the Government, through its Ministries and through the councils, are one of the biggest landowners in the country. I ask them to be very careful when talking about other people who are landowners, whether they operate the land or sell it, to see that they are entirely in the clear themselves.
I work frequently in the Law Courts, which are between the Strand and Fleet Street and which occupy many acres of valuable land. There could not he a worse building on that land. If that land had been put out to private enterprise that building would have been pulled down years ago. A piece of land opposite here, where the Westminster Hospital used to be and where a new Colonial Office was to have been built but now is not, has been left vacant for years. That is not good planning policy. The Government and public authorities must set a good example in the use of land in this country if they are to impress on others that land must not be misused or wasted and that we must always make the best use of it.
As a result of town planning and compulsory acquisition there must be a shortage of land available in the open market where it is wanted for building purposes, and the demand, therefore, becomes far greater for private house building, for flats and for offices as well. The obvious result must be an increase in the cost that the land will fetch in the market. There is no reason at all to be particularly upset about that. It means that there is a free market in the land, which means that the land comes into sale and that where there is a demand there is a supply. It also means that better use is made of land.
I will tell the House, from my own experience, what is happening in the part of Surrey which I know best, where there is a tremendous amount of land which is fetching a very high value for building 1543 for residential purposes. Many houses in my constituency which were built seventy or eighty years ago, had large gardens and employed, perhaps, two gardeners. They are left vacant because the owners die or move elsewhere and they are not reoccupied. Someone buys them and they are down in a few minutes, and on, say, six or ten acres of land, eight or ten more modern houses go up. That number is controlled by the planning authority of the council. That is one way in which the better use of land has to be made from a population point of view. As I have said, we cannot manufacture new land but we can build upwards. We must face the fact that building in this country, whether it is residential or office building, has to go a great deal higher. Office building in Central London must be similar to the skyscrapers in New York. That would make the full use of such land as is available for building. The same thing applies to residential building.
If it is said that the increased price of land makes it difficult for people to obtain houses, then I assure them, speaking from my experience of the part of Surrey which I represent, that houses are sold before they are built. They are often sold on the plans alone. The idea that anyone is suffering hardship because he is building houses which he cannot sell is completely wrong. This is the result of a free market in land. The land is available, the houses are available, and they are being sold very quickly. It is true that the land which has been bought, perhaps by a builder on which he builds many houses, may have been bought originally for a quite small sum. It may have been bought at the beginning of the century when a family paid a small sum for it. Perhaps it has greatly increased in value. I have no hesitation in asking: Why not? That is a betterment value. It is an ordinary increase in value.
One hon. Member on this side spoke about various means of putting up the price of land. As soon as we start doing that sort of thing we shall put the brake on house building and on land being available for houses, which will shock the people who at least can see new houses being built everywhere. Nor is there any special reason why it should 1544 happen. I hope that that idea will be completely resisted.
I now wish to refer particularly to the Opposition's Motion. Their objective is set out much more fully on pages 20, 21 and 22 of a book which I have here, with which no doubt hon. Members opposite are familiar, than in their Motion. Their Motion does not use the strong language which is used in this book. Let there be no beating about the bush and no doubt about what they mean. Clause 4 hangs over their heads the whole time. Political appendicitis, from which they suffer and for which they refuse to be operated on, is still there. Let me quote from page 20:… such powers and facilities include the transfer to public ownership of the freehold of the land on which building or rebuilding is to take place. The case for public ownership of building land is not new",and they advocate why it should happen.
Do not let us mince words. This advocates the nationalisation of building land, nothing else. This is a matter on which there is a great gulf between hon. Members opposite and hon. Members on this side and it is the reason why, if they issue documents like this, they must expect to sit on the benches opposite in ever diminishing numbers. It is just as well that the public should know about this and that they should know how hon. Members opposite intend to implement their policy. The book refers to the compulsory acquisition of land at less than its real value and the compulsory acquisition of land at the existing use value. If any hon. Member challenges me about this, I will refer him to the passage in the book where it is set out.
Reference has been made to the value of land going up because planning permission has been given, but it has gone up very little because immediately before planning permission was given it was ripe for development.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
I appreciate that the hon. and learned Gentleman is pursuing a careful argument and I am not merely heckling. Will he meet the point that there is a difference between a property which has been ripened by the owner and a piece of land which has been ripened by the energies and planning of the community as a whole? That is the nub of the argument.
§ Mr. Doughty
I have heard that argument before. The fallacy of it is this. If the hon. Gentleman puts his money into the Shell Petroleum Company and gets a dividend from it, it cannot be said afterwards that it was because motorists use petrol that he has not done anything about selling petrol himself.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The hon. and learned Gentleman spoke of the real value of land. Could he tell us what it is?
§ Mr. Doughty
No. I referred to the existing value of land. The real value is the value that a willing purchaser will pay to a willing seller. There is a big difference between the two things.
This book to which I have referred, which I presume is Labour Party policy—the party opposite issued it as such—makes it clear, with one exception to which I shall refer, that it is the existing use value or lower value which is to be paid. At first, I did not understand this, although the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) gave an explanation which I followed carefully. Having found a man who is forced 'to admit that he intends to sell his land and therefore one forces him to sell to this party who does not exist, as a sop he is given a certain sum to cover any contingent losses by the owner. I understand that a contingent loss is the difference between the existing use value and the real use value. If we turn a farmer out or if he says that he wishes to farm in another area, do we throw him a kind of bone and say to him, "Here is 1s. in the £ of the money which we have taken from you and which we deprive you of"? What would the suggested commission do when it has the land? It would lease it. To whom?
Criticism has been made about the difficulty of planning officers in deciding which piece of land they shall bless with their planning permission, knowing that it will increase in value. It has been hinted that some scandals result from this. What will be said by the man who is refused a lease about a man who gets a lease? At what rent will the lease be let? Let the party opposite realise that it will be a complete stopper on building because a builder, when he has finished building, will wish to sell everything, the building and the land. No one will buy a house which is built on 1546 a piece of land which is only leased, because the builder cannot sell the freehold. All the time he has behind him the Land Tribunal and no proper transfer of the property can be made. Therefore, no builder will build on the land and I suppose that everything will be thrown on the local authority. It would merely stop the rise in the price of land because the land would be of less value, would be unattractive to the builder and people would not have houses in which to live because none would be built.
§ Dr. Stross
I am trying to follow what the hon. and learned Gentleman is saying, but I cannot follow the last part of what he has said. Is he suggesting that no one is able to sell a house because it is on a 99-year lease? I know of many such houses which are sold.
§ Mr. Doughty
No. Nearly every house is sold freehold. The builder wants his money back to build somewhere else. If all that one has to transfer is a 99-year lease, one will not get the freehold price and the builder will be out of pocket. The hon. Member will not get builders to build on those terms.
§ Mr. Parkin
The hon. and learned Member is overlooking the fact that large parts of London are developed precisely on those terms. He knows perfectly well that builders are accustomed to seeking a deathless landlord from whom to lease land for development.
§ Mr. Doughty
Once again, the hon. Member is hopelessly out of date. The building lease was common up to 100 years ago. Every new property now being built in Surrey, Kent, Sussex and everywhere else is freehold. Nobody is interested in a 99-year lease.
The hon. Member was quite right to speak of his constituents who have housing troubles and asked where they could buy a house. The explanation is given at page 22 of the Labour Party leaflet "Signpost to the Sixties". It tells us that the Rent Act is coming back. Who will let his house to people on lease with this threat hanging over his head? This threat will encourage under-occupation and all the troubles that went with the old Rent Act and which still exist to a large extent with the present Act. The country should know that the party 1547 opposite intend to reintroduce the old Rent Act. It is all there in black and white in the pamphlet to be seen by those who doubt what I am saying.
If we leave these things alone, we will get the houses built. We must not interfere and start frightening people with this kind of not very well thought out idea or start talking about betterment value and putting a tax upon it. If that were to happen, the fine record of housing built under the present Government, which it is even improving, may well come to an end. I therefore ask my right hon. Friend to stand firm, to continue the good work which he has been doing and not to be put off by anything which has been said today.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)
After nearly four hours of debate, it might be difficult to say something new on this subject. I should like first, however, to deal with some of the points brought out by the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty). There were two or three points on which I agree with him. He made a good point when he said that we cannot create more land. What the people do not realise is that our land is limited but that our population is increasing. I do not think that the Minister realises that. Instead, he seems to think that he can bring more land on to the market as easily as a conjuror, taking it out of a hat.
I agree also with the hon. and learned Member that the green belts must continue to be sacrosanct. The third point on which I agree concerns land in the possession of public authorities being kept too long before anything is done with it. Going about the country, I see so much land standing vacant awaiting use for schools or playing fields. This makes people who want houses frustrated when they see the land idle.
The hon. and learned Member suggested that land might be disposed of at any price. One reason against this is inflation. The hon. and learned Member's analogy with the shares of petrol companies is altogether the wrong one to use. It is not a comparison of like with like. The fact is that we simply cannot produce more land.
My hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) suggested 1548 that the Minister proposed to do something. I listened carefully to what the Minister said, but my impression was that he was quite satisfied, as he always is, with what he is doing, and there was no sign that he intended to do anything at all. There was so little in the Minister's speech with which I agreed that I am glad to say that I welcomed his intention not to allow the loss of too much good agricultural land. Here I must declare my interest. I am a farmer and I own land. As a citizen, however, I recognise the necessity for getting roofs over the heads of people who are without homes. From that point of view, I cannot disagree that 2 or 3 per cent. of land taken for that purpose is not a high figure. It must, however, be used carefully.
The next point in which I agree with the Minister, although I disagree with a number of my hon. Friends, is that there is a strong case for higher density housing in certain areas, not so much in the centre of towns, but on the periphery, particularly of places like London. In my constituency, for example, the town of Enfield is bounded on three sides by the green belt. For that reason, one would imagine that the density of the area could be considerably increased. When tall blocks of flats are erected, it is usually possible to provide an enormous amount of space around them which is not possible when the scarce available land is utilised for maisonettes, bungalows or flats of merely two or three storeys. If we are to solve the immediate housing problem of the thousands of people in need—and my constituency has a waiting list of over 3,000—we must increase the density on the land which becomes available.
Before I came into Parliament, my interest was always in agricultural land. Since I became the representative of an urban constituency, however, the importance of the provision and development of land has become of increasing concern to me and I have had to study it closely. This is a subject in which, as the speeches of both the Minister and of the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East show, there is a basic difference between the two sides of the House. We on this side do not believe in the economic principles advocated by the Minister for bringing land on to the market.
1549 Today, we are not arguing about whether a high price will bring land on to the market, but about what it is best to do for the public and what is socially and morally right. The hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East, waving a copy of "Signposts for the Sixties", suggested that we on this side were ashamed of it and of the inference that we would take land into public ownership. In all my political career, I have always advocated taking land into public ownership, and I continue to do so unashamedly.
We have heard from various hon. Members how the problem has existed for fifty or even a hundred years but that nobody has yet produced a solution. The fact is that nobody has tried the obvious solution of giving the land to the people, to whom it belongs, through public ownership. In 1945, the value of agricultural land alone was reliably put at £1,600 million. Today, agricultural land is worth three times that figure. Calculations which I have made show that at least one-quarter, and probably nearer one-third, of it has since changed hands at figures three times as high. If only one-quarter of that land has changed hands on that basis, it represents inflation to the extent of £800 million. That is to say nothing about the inflation which has been created by way of mortgages.
I know of a farmer who wanted a big mortgage, so he put his farm on the market. I do not suggest that he got somebody to bid a big figure for it, as, we have been told, is done in London. We are slightly more reputable in the countryside. That was what the farmer did to get a mortgage at today's figures. A tremendous amount of mortgage demand has created a fantastic figure of inflation. Before I leave the point made by the hon. Member for North Angus (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley), I must say that I was amused when he said that he was going to be a director of what he hoped would be two reputable development companies, and I presume from that that he thought that the vast bulk of them are not reputable.
When one comes to urban land, the position is considerably different, and the inflationary values are so much greater. I do not want to bore the House with figures, as the Minister has given figures showing that we are using 1550 land for houses at the rate of 35,000 to 40,000 acres per year, and that is a fairly big figure to come off agricultural land. We must remember that most of this will be taken from land round the towns, where it is expensive and where it will remain expensive, and it will change hands at about £10,000 or £20,000 an acre. That is not a high figure. In my own constituency, we are paying £16,000 per acre, and indeed my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), in opening the debate, mentioned far higher figures than that.
If this is the case, we are going to have an inflation rate of £300 million or £400 million a year. That is what it will create, and that is not taking into account the fantastic inflation of site values that goes on in the big cities. If we take the life of this Government, that will represent £1,000 million, because it will create inflation to that extent. How can the Government defend a policy in which they control a commodity—and land is still controlled by the green belt, by planning and by the amount of land that we have—and then leave it to a free market? We have a rising population, as the Minister has said, and this will go on, and I just cannot think that the Government can possibly defend the way in which they are going on, with the price of land as it is, when they are not prepared to do anything about it.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I am puzzled by the hon. Gentleman's argument, I can see all sorts of strengths in the argument he is making, but surely this is not inflation. It is a transfer of money from one citizen to another citizen.
§ Mr. Mackie
I think it most definitely is inflation, if something which is valued at £100 in one year goes up to £10,000 the next year. That is inflation, and I should imagine that this is one of the biggest inflationary movements that has happened in this country in the last ten or fifteen years.
My second point concerns the question of the tremendous responsibility that is placed upon planning officers in deciding whether a man shall make a fortune overnight or not. I do not want to say any more about that, because it has been emphasised before, except that I think that we have a very good record of public service from these officers, and I do not 1551 think it is fair to them to put that fantastic temptation in their way. As an old schoolmaster used to say, the person who leaves temptation in a boy's way is just as bad as the boy who succumbs to it. This is a matter that should be looked into.
Now I come to the effect that these high prices are having particularly on private houses, if £10,000 or £20,000 per acre is a common figure and we are building ten or twelve houses to the acre, although the Minister is doing his best to increase it. A builder has given me some figures concerning a town only 40 miles from London, where fourteen houses per acre are permitted, for houses in which just under £2,000 per house represented the price for the land. My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham gave some much bigger figures, and, over and above that figure, before a man can put one brick on top of another, many sites require roads and sewers before the houses can be started, and this adds fantastically to the price of the houses. What is happening at the moment is that there are a lot of people who are willing to raise £4,000 or £5,000 for a house, but there are many people who have saved up in the expectation of getting a house at about £2,000 or £3,000, and what happens to them?
What is happening, I should say, is that houses are being built with less than 700 sq. ft. of living space, and we shall be left with a legacy of these houses. They are increasing all over the countryside, and in my home town of Aberdeen, there are whole streets of ridiculously small houses with two bedrooms, and not very large bedrooms, a living room, kitchenette and bathroom, altogether about 700 sq. ft., costing up to £3,000. I could go into details showing how the quality of housing is being reduced because people cannot afford to pay these high prices for the land.
The late Aneurin Bevan said that the private builder was responsible for doing irreparable damage before the war, when there were no controls and there was ribbon development and so on, but this Government will be responsible for an appalling number of low quality houses being built today because of the price of the land. In his speech, the Minister mentioned how many houses he had built, but I wonder whether, if we take the floor area and cubic capacity, 1552 we shall find that he has provided as much housing space as he thinks he has done—and the figure has been going down during the last few years.
I should like to touch on three cases on the human side that came to my notice quite recently. I was invited by the Postmaster-General to visit a post office in my constituency. The postmaster had served for a long time and was almost due to retire, and he told me that he started to look for a plot of land on which to build a house. He was a man who had given good public service until he was 65, and he thought that he would get a plot of ground on which to build a house to which to retire reasonably near where he is now working and living, but that he found the price quite alarming.
I go on from that to the village in Essex where I live, where a schoolmaster is due to retire in three months' time. He also had saved up in order to buy a plot for a house costing £2,000 or £3,000 reasonably near, but the cheapest plot he could get was £2,000, which represented more than two-thirds of what he had saved to build the house. The other day, a young couple came to me—I meet my constituents every three weeks—and told me they had been trying to buy a house and had had quotations of from £2,300 to £2,400, but the first thing they were told was that all the £2,400 houses had been sold and they were offered houses costing £3,000 and so on. They had pledged everything they could in order to pay for the house, and had put down a deposit, but the price was put up in the middle of the deal. They did not employ a lawyer, which was stupid of them, and thus found themselves in great difficulty.
If we multiply cases like that all over the countryside, we find that the Government are responsible for a considerable amount of unhappiness among people who would normally support them. I do not think that the Minister has given any indication that the Government have any real solution to this matter, and I would therefore appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to take some steps to stop this sort of thing. He has not dismantled all the controls, and still has the town and country planning powers and certain others, and I assure him that with a rising population, and, we hope, a rising 1553 standard of living, this problem will not get any less, but will become greater and that he must do something about it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham gave a broad picture of the situation, but the picture which I see is a narrower picture. It is the human picture. There is in my constituency a housing waiting list of 3,000 people, and I have to tell them that they have not any hope of getting houses, and that the position is getting worse. I therefore appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to give considerable thought to this, because there is a real problem here, and it is not a problem which can be solved, as the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East has said, by just letting it drift. That is the hon. and learned Gentleman's attitude, and he was quite frank, but we on this side of the House do not believe that we can let these things drift. This is a very real human problem, and I appeal to the Government to do something about it, and to do it quickly.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Sir Cyril Black (Wimbledon)
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) has been commendably frank with the House, because he has told us that his solution to the problem we are debating tonight is the solution, if it be a solution, of the nationalisation of land, and in that proposal he included the nationalisation of agricultural land. He told us that if his policy had been adopted in 1945, and, in his view, it ought to have been, agricultural land would have been acquired at one-third of its present value. I have no doubt that the proposal which he has made in that respect will be noted with interest by the farming community throughout the country.
Like some previous speakers in this debate I think that I ought to declare an interest. We are debating today the price and the use of land both by local authorities and by private developers. I happen to be a chartered surveyor, a member of two local authorities, and also a director of companies interested in the development of land.
§ Sir C. Black
Let me say in regard to the matter in respect of which I declare an interest that I am not a seller of land. I am a purchaser of land, and, that being the case, it obviously suits me, as far as my personal interest is concerned, if the price of land be low, not if it be high, because land is the raw material upon which I am engaged, and everyone engaged in business knows that it is better to be able to purchase one's raw material cheaply than to have to pay a high price for it. So if the hon. Member opposite will just realise that fact he will understand, of course, that my personal interest is on the side of land being cheap and not on the side of land being dear.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), if I may say so with much respect, commended his case to us with great persuasiveness. His persuasiveness was very greatly in advance of the conviction which his case brought to the majority of Members on this side of the House. He quoted to us a number of cases in which apparently staggering increases have taken place in the prices obtained for land and for properties. I would not for one moment suggest that the figures which he gave us were in any way in-accurate. Of course, I accept their accuracy.
I am sure that the hon. Member satisfied himself upon that, but I should like to make this point, beause I think it is a valid one, that it so often happens, when one hears of a property which was sold at an apparently low price five or ten years ago and is now sold at a very large price, that in the intervening period there may have been very large expenditure by the earlier owner on construcing roads and laying sewers and all sorts of things of that kind, and this expenditure is sometimes not known to people who quote these cases, and, therefore, the figures they give, while strictly accurate, are very liable to create a most misleading impression. I am quite certain that that circumstance does apply in the case of a great many of these sensational cases which are quoted of enormous increases in the prices of land.
The hon. Member for Fulham referred to the effect of high land values upon the local authorities and remarked that these high prices, some of which he 1555 quoted, had very adverse results upon the public purse. I accept, of course, that high land values create a problem for the local authorities. On the other hand, I think that it is not unfair to point out that the local authorities and other public authorities are sellers of land as well as purchasers of land, very often sellers of land on a very big scale indeed.
We have been told by the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) today of a staggering profit made by a local authority in a case where it was not the purchaser but the vendor. Earlier this very week I read in the Daily Telegraph of a case at Banstead, of which some other hon. Members may also have read. The report said:£229,000 profit on 30 acres. Council sell land back to firm. A firm, which ten years ago sold 30 acres at Banstead, Surrey, to the local urban council for £2,500 have now bought it back for £250,000, it was announced yesterday. A profit of £229,000 goes to Banstead council. The purchasers, Downs Estates Ltd., Banstead, originally received £21,000 for the land, £2,000 from the council and the rest in compensation from the Government.I know nothing about that transaction apart from what appeared in the Press, and I would not be thought for one moment to criticise in any way the propriety of what the local authority has done, but I suggest that it is fair, when we consider these matters and the difficulties of public authorities as purchasers, that we should also bear in mind that they get great advantages in the not infrequent cases in which they are vendors. I have never found that public authorities, whether Government Departments or local authorities, when they are vendors, are willing to take less for the land than any private owner would be inclined to do; and there is, indeed, no reason at all why they should.
It has been suggested that the local authorities are gravely concerned at the present position. I do not minimise the fact, which I have stated already, that high land values obviously create problems for the local authorities, but I do say—this point has not been made yet today—that the local authorities were in much greater difficulty, and were much more perturbed because of the position which existed prior to the 1959 Act, than because of the position in which they find themselves now.
1556 I have been a member for nearly twenty years of Surrey County Council. In 1955, we approached the County Councils' Association, telling it of the difficulties which were experienced in buying land under the code of compensation which then existed. The Association, as a result, went to see my right hon. Friend the Minister to press him to bring in legislation to set up market value as the basis of compensation on the compulsory purchase of land by local authorities.
Why did it do that? Not because it wanted to pay a larger price, but because it was faced with immense difficulties in getting land under the pre-1959 position, and for this reason. Prior to 1959, if a local authority wanted to buy a site for a public purpose, it might have been a suitable site where the owner did not want to sell; if the owner had wanted to sell, if we may assume easy figures, he could have obtained £10,000 on the open market; but on the measure of compensation which was then permitted, which was the ceiling price which the local authority was permitted to pay, it could perhaps pay only £5,000 for the land.
Local authorities felt themselves inhibited on account of the hardship and injustice which they would impose upon the owner of the land from exercising the compulsory purchase power against him, the result would have been so unfair to him.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I find myself in considerable agreement with the hon. Member and I rise only to remind him that that situation arose because the present Prime Minister, who was Minister of Housing and Local Government at the time, refused to allow the local authorities to give full compensation. He set up a double-price system. We objected.
§ Sir C. Black
All I am saying is that, whoever was responsible for it, the system prior to 1959 was a bad one for the local authorities. It was conceived by local authorities themselves to be a bad one and contrary to their best interests. I am not concerned with who will have the credit for this. What I am saying is that the 1959 Act which established market value was a fair and good Act which was supported by all hon. Members who were in the House at the 1557 time and was in accordance with the expressed wishes of local authority organisations at that time.
I should like to pass on to the position of high land values in reference to private developers. I hope that hon. Members will not mind if I quote three personal cases in which I have been involved during, the last few weeks. It is sometimes rather helpful to see from personal cases how these things work out rather than to discuss this kind of problem in terms of general theories without seeking to apply them to particular cases.
As I have told the House, I am interested financially as a building developer. I buy land as cheaply as I can. I do not sit on it, to use my right hon. Friend's phrase. I build on it at the earliest possible moment. I am creating assets all the time as a result of doing that. Except when I come to the House and have doubts created in my mind by speeches from hon. and right hon. Members apposite, in the ordinary course of my life I am convinced that the operations in which I am engaged are of benefit to members of the public as well as being of benefit to me.
I see no reason why I should not mention these cases of very high land values which I have had to pay. We are told that these high prices are a great evil. I am doubtful about that. In one Midland town I paid recently for a small central site a price which works out at £223,000 an acre. It was much less than an acre. For another one in an outer suburb of North London, again a rather small site, the price works out at £219,000 an acre. Yet another one in a Midlands town works out at £290,000 an acre. These figures may sound to some hon. Members so staggering that they may be pleased to have this evidence to fortify their views about high land values. These are actual purchases within the last few months.
All these sites were either not developed, or very inadequately developed, or had buildings on them which were outworn or could be better placed on some less expensive site in a different part of the town. As a result of the building operations on which I am engaged, it seems to me that the town planning of these centres will be improved and that there will be a large increase in the rateable value to the 1558 benefit of the inhabitants of these communities. It is also the case that the tax collector will reap a considerable reward through the Schedule A tax which he will collect on the buildings when they are completed, and through the tax he will collect on the profits of the traders who will occupy them. I find it difficult to think that any kind of harm will result to anybody from these operations.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Aston)
Where does the money come from? Whom does it benefit? The consumes?
§ Sir C. Black
The hon. Member can put it like that if he likes. These will be retail shops, and unless they can sell their goods as cheaply as other shops in the district sell them they will not prosper. Competition between one shopkeeper and another will obviously keep prices on a competitive basis. I say that no harm has accrued to the public welfare as a result of these high prices. I say, furthermore, that not one of these developments would have taken place but for high land values, and I will say why.
One site is occupied by two very old churches, a Church of England and a Free Church. They were only willing to sell the sites, which were quite unsuitable in present conditions for church purposes, because the value had gone up and they could obtain sufficient money to build adequate churches on better sites in other places. If the value had not gone up they would have stayed there and the improvement of the town would not have taken place.
The second case is that of an old garage building occupying a site in the very centre of a business street, with all the difficulties of cars having to go over the pavement and came out again over the pavement, a most unsuitable site in present-day conditions. The owners sold only because the price of land had gone up. They received enough money to build a better garage in a part of the town more suited to the business they carried on.
The third case is of a site belonging to the local authority in the area which has cleared away a lot of bad property in the town centre. It is reaping a very handsome reward—and jolly good luck to it—as a result of its enterprise. Hon.
1559 Members will do well to realise that a great deal of the rebuilding of sites on which there are old worn-out buildings today will take place only because the owners will obtain a good price which will enable them to rehouse themselves somewhere else. But for that, they would go on occupying valuable sites in the most important centres of towns and cities.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The result will be that the shopkeepers will have to pay correspondingly higher rates and get them out of the customers.
§ Sir C. Black
I have already dealt with that point. Unless the shopkeepers sell goods at prices not higher than the prices charged by other shopkeepers in the town the public will not buy their goods. If the prices are not good enough the customers can go to the Co-operative society. They will not buy from the occupiers of my shops. Obviously, competition will compel the tenants of the shops to sell goods at competitive prices. That is the only way people keep in business.
A great deal has been said today of a theoretical character about betterment proposals of one kind or another. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government that a good deal can be said on the ground of equity for some kind of betterment charge, but I also agree with him that up to the moment no one has been able to produce a workable scheme. Some hon. Members opposite have spoken rather nostalgically and in complimentary terms about the 1947 Act and the charge for which it provided. It is not irrelevant to remind them that Mr. Dalton, as he then was, who was Minister for Planning for a time, said, in 1952:We admit 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.]One could regard that as a masterpiece of understatement, but it is an admission that the development charge of 1947 was a complete flop in the sense that it largely brought to an end public development and public building.
The hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) referred with typical 1560 Liberal fervour to the 1909 Budget and the four-hour speech with which Mr. David Lloyd George introduced it. He pleaded that the Government should introduce some modified experiment in the form of a tax on site values, and he instanced, with commendation and approval, the tax which was introduced in the 1909 Budget.
The fact of the matter is that that had a completely disastrous effect. Not only did it dry up building development but the fact was that, although it was imposed in 1909, it was repealed eleven years later, in 1920, and the total yield of the tax in those eleven years was less than the cost of making the valuation of the properties. So how anyone can turn his mind and attention back to 1909, and ask us to think again in terms of a tax which was then tried and proved a complete flop, I find myself unable to understand.
The hon. Member for Fulham, if I understood him correctly, suggested that under the proposals which he had put to the House occupiers of houses would not own a freehold, but would have a lease which would be for an indeterminate period, and would go on as long as they or their heirs and successors occupied the house, and if the house were demolished the lease would then come to an end.
All I would say about that proposal is that the effect must be to discourage people from improving their property or rebuilding it, because even though the house might be worn out there would be every inducement to the owner to patch it up when rebuilding would be very much better, because if he only patched it up the tenancy would continue, but if he pulled it down and rebuilt it he would lose his interest in the land and the property.
The second consequence that would follow from that proposal is that it would be utterly impossible for anyone to obtain a mortgage on a leasehold property where the term was indeterminate as to its length, and, therefore, people who wanted to house themselves by the purchase of houses would, unless they were able to put down the whole of the money out of their own resources, be quite unable to purchase because no building society or mortgagee would be willing to provide them with any money on that kind of tenure.
1561 We have to recognise the fact that all these schemes for what we call levying tax on site values or betterment and so on in this country or elsewhere have nearly all been tried, and in every case in which they have been tried the yield of the tax has been negligible and the effect of the imposition of the tax on building development has been disastrous.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
The last two speeches made by hon. Members opposite amount to a defence of the present system. Indeed, the hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) ended his speech by saying, "Leave things as they are." That is what the Government have been doing for the last ten years, and that has resulted in the present distress which the country suffers.
The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) very fairly declared his interest. He told us that he is a chartered surveyor, a member of two local authorities, belongs to some organisation which purchases land and is interested in keeping the price of land down. But, in spite of all that wealth of experience, he has not given the House a workable solution to the ills from which the country is now suffering and has suffered for the last ten years. No hon. Member opposite has offered a persuasive or workable solution. Indeed, the missing link in this debate is the absence of any workable scheme which could be put as an alternative to the plan which is adumbrated in the Motion and embodied in the Labour Party's most recent publication.
Many figures and examples have been given explaining the present plight of the country in relation to the soaring price and use of land. Some hon. Members have described the state of the country as "startling", "fantastic" and "dramatic". I shall not deal with any of those figures, nor shall I follow earlier speakers in the use of adjectives of that kind. I will merely say that the Government during their ten years of office have not produced a workable solution for these ills. It is their duty to have done so, because they are the Government. Also, they have failed to deal 1562 with the facts and figures already mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) which have brought the country to its present plight.
I shall deal with the principles, procedure and practice relating to the constructive proposals in our Motion, concerning which I have some special experience, both theoretical and practical, in my profession and otherwise. It may, indeed, commend the Motion to the House if I refer to the first leading article in The Times today entitled "Land Values", which is very relevant in that it is on the subject of this debate. The article ends its careful consideration of the nation's position and problems with these words:Whatever the solution the reality of the problem provided by soaring land values is not to be denied, and it is to be hoped that the Government do not attempt to do so in the debate today.I would amend that sentence by substituting "prices" for "values". It is not necessarily values which are soaring but the prices which are artificially contrived by speculators in many cases without much relation to the real value of the land.
Indeed, this point is conceded in the article, which is a sound and well-considered one. It commends those parts of the Labour Party's new document "Signposts for the Sixties" which deal with this problem, and it says:After a familiar recital of examples of soaring land prices"—There the article uses the word "prices"—and a partial analysis of the causes and results a scheme is announced for setting up a land commission which would purchase the freehold of land on which building or rebuilding was to be authorised.It is with that aspect that I shall deal on the lines of the Labour Party's constructive policy for the future when in a year or two it becomes the Government of this country.
The leading article then very reasonably proceeds to consider the objections and solutions to Labour's policy on this problem, and mentions a number of both. It argues that Labour's policy 1563 would take away the incentive for private development altogether. It suggests that an unwilling owner or developer might refuse to sell his land unless he was offereda price which the developer would find irresistible.Neither of these objections is either cogent or insuperable. They were not found insuperable by earlier Conservative Governments. They were not found insuperable during the last hundred years, when Tories and Liberals alike were seeking to solve problems of this kind, notably the Irish land problem. They then passed a number of land Acts—as is suggested in this Motion— setting up an Irish Land Commission to administer them by transferring the land from the landlords to the occupying tenants.
The analogy is relevant here and now. That Irish land code tried various means, from time to time. First of all, it enabled fair rents to be fixed by the Land Court, as was done to some extent here by the Rent Restriction Acts passed not only by Tory Governments but also by Labour Governments. Later, voluntary sales by landlords and tenants were encouraged, with some success, but not with complete success. That aspect is implicit in the plan adumbrated in the Motion.
Difficulties arose because there were some unwilling vendors, as is suggested in The Times article. The landlords were then offered, in addition to the purchase price, a bonus of 12 per cent., to induce them to sell their estates to the tenants. That is a possibility which will have to be considered by the Labour Government when they are setting up the land commission adumbrated in the Motion.
Even that was only partially successful. Other difficulties arose. Recalcitrant landlords refused to sell, and compulsory land purchase Acts had to be passed. That may happen here, but is in the remote future and is not one of the ideas which is expressed, though it may be implicit, in the Motion.
The result over the years was that there was a gradual transfer of land from the landlords to the State, which then stood in the position of landlords. The occupying tenants, instead of paying rent to the landlords, paid an annual sum 1564 to the Land Commission in repayment of the sum advanced by the State for the purchase of the land. Some similar principles in practice could, and should, be applied, with appropriate adaptations, to the present problem in Great Britain.
Those principles seek the public acquisition of freehold land required for public use and private development. The Motion is expressly limited to public, not private acquisition, and to freehold, not leasehold land, and even freehold land is limited to that which is required for public use or development—which is, of course, a good thing for the common good.
I support this Motion for a variety of reasons, mainly those which are indicated in the Motion itself. It is reasonable, altruistic, statesmanlike, and for the public good and the national welfare. Its principles are hallowed by tradition. They are principles which were advocated by social philosophers like John Stuart Mill and Bertrand Russell and by statesmen ranging from Mr. Arthur James Balfour and Mr. William Ewart Gladstone to Mr. C. R. Attlee, as he then was.
These reasons are stated expressly in the Motion—to stop the adventitious rise in the price of land; to stop the traffic in building land; to divert the resulting enrichment from speculators who have no real interest beyond money in the land to the community; to facilitate communal planning; and to encourage the development of the land for the public good.
It is obvious that the present system results in many evils. It handicaps both Government and local authorities in developing our country for the common good. It makes development plans expensive and in many cases impossible. It enhances the price but not necessarily the value of building land. It puts the resulting profits into the pockets of private speculators instead of into the Treasury of the nation or of the local authorities, where they could be used towards the reduction of taxes or the rates. Indeed, I am credibly informed that some German towns in time past—long before Hitler—purchased the land of their towns and developed it in such a way and at such profit that they were able to run their towns free of rates and taxes of any kind.
1565 The present system in this country penalises those who wish to build their own homes, as they have every right to do in a free country and in a free society such as ours. The principles enshrined in this Motion, when applied to similar problems on other occasions, have obviated evils of a kind from which we are now suffering. They have done more. They have restored happiness and prosperity to the people concerned.
In order properly to apply these principles to Britain's present problems, it would be necessary to establish a public authority, in the nature of a land commission and perhaps analogous to the Irish Land Commission, for the purpose of transferring the land of Britain from the landlords to the occupying tenants on a basis which would be fair and just to landlords and tenants alike but, above all, to the community in which they live.
As I have said, this is a sphere in which I have some special knowledge, theoretical and practical, from my practice at the Bar and otherwise. If I may be permitted a personal reference—I have used that knowledge for the purpose of writing law books on the subject which will, I hope, enhance my argument's cogency.
I commend this Motion to the House. I remind hon. Members of a report in today's Daily Express which shows how closely this matter affects the life of our people. The report said:Mr. C. John Dunham, chief of the Building Societies Association, said yesterday that men earning £20 a week or less will soon be barred from buying a house in or around London—because of the spiral in land prices.Fifty-three-year-old Mr. Dunham was speaking as President of the Co-operative Permanent Building Society.He said that land prices in South-East England are now four times as high as building plots in the North.And out of the cost of new houses in the London area, 8s. in the £ is now accounted for in purchasing the site.The building societies' yardstick is that no one should spend more than a quarter of their wages on their homes.There is more to the same effect. A newspaper like the Daily Express would not publish that unless it thought that it was of great public interest.
This problem is of great public interest to the hearts and homes of the people. The Government have made no 1566 persuasive or workmanlike suggestion for solving the problem. On the other hand, the Opposition Motion is workmanlike and constructive, and I hope that the House will accept it unanimously, without a Division. If there be a Division, I hope that the Motion will be carried.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Leonard Cleaver (Birmingham, Yardley)
I have listened attentively, as I am sure the whole House has, to the most interesting speech of the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes), but he ended, as he began, by being rather unjust to my right hon. Friend and to other hon. Members on this side of the House. We have put forward a persuasive and workmanlike scheme. The whole crux of the matter is that there is not enough building land to satisfy the needs of certain industrial areas. Realising that, my right hon. Friend intends to provide more building land. I am sure that the House would agree that if that is done and if there is more land to be bought and offered for building, prices will come down.
It must also be remembered that this is not a problem which affects all the country. Its evils are found in certain parts of the south of England and around conurbations like London, which are heavily built-up. It is not so bad in other parts of the country. If my right hon. Friend can make a survey to see what additional building land there is and can make it available for builders to acquire, I am certain that we will solve the problem.
My right hon. Friend is to make a survey, but I hope that he will go further than that. We are a very small island and, whatever my right hon. Friend does, in another twenty years we will be facing exactly the same problem. If the population is growing, as we have been told, more and more houses and more and more factories will be wanted, and we will eventually get to the point when we have to make a difficult decision about the use of agricultural ground or green belt areas. That decision will be difficult for hon. Members irrespective of their party.
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) spoke very persuasively about London in a very heartfelt 1567 manner, but what is now the position in London will one day be the position over the whole of the country. I would like to see my right hon. Friend extend his survey throughout the country to ascertain how much building land there is, but, at the same time, designating once and for all what land is to be true agricultural land and what green belt area. It is the uncertainty which has produced so much of the scramble for available building plots.
I live in an area which is now a green belt, although it was not when my house was built. It is tragic that landowners should quietly and secretly go to the planning authorities to try to get permission to build while residents try to find out what they are doing so that if necessary they can make objections, and representations. I do not say that the necessity to get planning permission is wrong, but the right and interests of individuals should also be taken into account.
Several hon. Members referred to compulsory purchase. The hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) spoke of a case in the Plymouth area where, he said, injustice had been done to a farmer. My hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) also referred to a request for an inquiry to stop abuses arising out of compulsory purchase.
We all realise that there are times when compulsory purchase is in the national interest, and it is noteworthy that many people who are hurt by compulsory purchase do not object because they do not want to oppose the national interest. But compulsory purchase should be operated fairly, and there are two unfortunate incidents in my constituency which show up some unfairness. One may be an abuse of compulsory purchase powers.
There is a scheme for improving traffic conditions. It is known as the "Swan" scheme and it necessitates buying plots and houses from certain residents in the area. Those residents do not want to be disturbed, but they are prepared to cooperate in the national interest and in the interests of the city. But they feel that they should be fairly compensated.
Offers by the corporation to acquire the property have been at the figure of 1568 £1,750 per plot, but if alternative accommodation has to be found for these people and they are evicted, the price per plot will be only £1,250, the corporation saying that it will have to find other houses for them. That is unacceptable when people are being disturbed. Many of them are retired and have their houses on mortgage. Many are old, and the compensation they will receive will not enable them to buy other houses, because they are too old to be able to make the necessary mortgage arrangements. They are to be charged £500 if alternative accommodation is found. That is not fair and I can understand why representations about it have been made.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) pointed out that the law provided for market value to be paid on compulsory purchase. However, in my constituency there is a possibility of compulsory acquisition in connection with what we have called an "elevated skyway". The scheme has not yet been approved, but it may be at any moment. Although the notice to treat has not been given, because the scheme has not been approved, residential property on either side of the Coventry Road, from the airport to the "Swan", has depreciated in value because of the fear of an elevated roadway being built through a residential area.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has confirmed to me that the law provides that compensation is payable at the market value before the date when the scheme was announced, and not at the ultimate date when it is finally approved. That will allay the fears of many of my constituents who might be involved. Nevertheless, this is a factor which should be considered.
In fact, the whole subject of compulsory purchase should be inquired into. There is an old saying that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. I do not suppose that those who exercise compulsory purchase powers are any different from anybody else. It is time we inquired into whether the power of compulsory purchase is corrupting those who have to exercise it.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite suggest in their pamphlet Signposts for the Sixties that nationalisation is the way to cure this difficult problem, but there is one point about which I am not clear. If the 1569 land is nationalised, some means will have to be devised for letting it to the public, to the factory owner or to the owner-occupier. This will lead to a dilemma, because we will either have to stop transactions in land except through a central authority, or allow the leases to be sold. If the leases are sold in popular areas like Birmingham and Southern England, where there is a shortage of land, the prices will go up.
If we adopt the other method of saying that dealings in land must be done only through a central authority, all transactions in the sale of land will be put into a straitjacket and both the industrialists and the owner-occupiers will suffer.
§ Mr. Stan Awbery (Bristol, Central)
The point is that if the value of land rises after it is nationalised, the profit will come into the coffers of the State. The people will get the advantage of it. At present, any increase in the value of land goes to the absentee landlord who has done nothing to earn the money. The value of his land increases solely because a number of people move into the area which he owns, land becomes scarce, and the price of it goes up.
§ Mr. Cleaver
If it is necessary to sell the leases, the profits will accrue to those who own them. I do not subscribe to the idea that the owner-occupier, or the man owning the house, should be taxed on the sale of his house if he sells it merely for the purpose of moving to another district. I agree that where there is speculation in land the people who indulge in this practice should be taxed on their profits. The Finance Acts provide for that. We hear about it if someone has not been caught by the net, but no one comes along and says that he has been caught. It is not the responsibility of my right hon. Friend to see that the Finance Acts are operated in the way that Parliament intended. That is the responsibility of my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am in favour of people who speculate in land being taxed in the proper way.
My right hon. Friend has said that he intends to try to make more land available. It will be extremely difficult to do that in a city like Birmingham. For instance, we have a College of Technology in Birmingham. The students 1570 have made representations to me and to my hon. Friends because the necessary sporting facilities are not available to enable them to enjoy an ordinary social life. That immediately raises the problem of trying to find fields which can be used for sporting activities. It is almost impossible to find the necessary land for this purpose in the city, and even if land were found it would be far too expensive to buy. It will be necessary to find a suitable site outside the city boundaries.
I have been impressed with the way in which these students have made their representations, but their problem raises the question of the use of land and whether we can find land just where we want it. I know that my right hon. Friend must have many demands made on him to provide playing fields, but I hope that he will be able to accede to the request of the students to whom I have referred.
It would be of great help if we could get the Turf Research Institute to look into the problem of finding turf which would stand up to the weather conditions in this country.
§ Mr. Awbery
The hon. Gentleman is evading the issue. These technicalities are all right in their place, but the point at issue is the increase in the price of land. What does the hon. Gentleman propose to do with the increase? One knows of examples where land was valued at £10 an acre but, because it was decided to build a technical college or school on that land, the price immediately jumped to £1,000 an acre. Our complaint is that the profit on that land goes not to the community, but to the absentee landlord.
§ Mr. Cleaver
When it is necessary to acquire land for playing fields, the price of it can be settled by a lands tribunal. There is no reason why that should not be done. I still say that the more land my right hon. Friend makes available the less it will cost.
§ Mr. Cleaver
It is bound to be limited in Birmingham, where we have built on all the available land. My right hon. Friend has great demands made on him to provide land for sporting facilities. If the Turf Research Institute could find turf which would stand up to the British 1571 weather, and stand up to being played on twice each Saturday, that alone would double the facilities for sport. I am thinking not only of sporting clubs. There are the playing fields attached to schools, and the facilities in parks. After three weeks of a wet British winter these are like rolled-out patches of mud.
I hope that in his search my right hon. Friend will not interfere with the green belts. Many of my hon. Friends have pressed him to safeguard them, and I hope that he will do so. The green belt round Birmingham is quite invaluable. Every weekend it is used by people who have walked or motored from the city. People ride about there, or fish in the lakes and canals. It is only right that they should have this facility and be able to enjoy the country within easy reach of the great industrial City of Birmingham, and not have to go 40 or 50 miles for their enjoyment.
§ Mr. Awbery
In South Wales two large steel works are being built on marsh land. Marsh land is not attractive, but when it became necessary to build the steel works there up went the price, and the landlord came in and benefited from this enhanced price, which had been created by the community and by no one else.
§ Mr. Cleaver
I do not know the details of the case to which the hon. Member is referring, but I hope that a great deal of the land between Birmingham and Wolverhampton which has been spoilt for agricultural purposes can be reclaimed and turned into good building land. I hope that may prove to be a source from which my right hon. Friend can find land to help the electors in my area. If the price of land is economic there will be more offers, but if it is too low no one will want to sell at all.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
It is a pleasure to follow one of the younger hon. Members of the Conservative Party who has made his speech with great sincerity, dealing with a variety of problems which he is prepared to face on their merits under existing circumstances. In spite of a little badgering from my hon. Friends, he has not taken refuge in any party political slogans to get out of the difficulties which he admits to exist, and which must be faced. In 1572 the course of the debate, it has been fascinating to follow the alternation between those hon. Members opposite who are as worried about this matter as I am, and are trying to find a solution, and those who think that this is just another debate about nationalisation.
The Minister set a very bad example by starting off the cry about the Labour Party policy. He said, "This is nationalisation. They dare not say so, but it is." That cry was taken up by one or two subsequent speakers, and I want to deal with some of the points that they made.
The Minister's speech was almost a collector's piece of immorality. I know that he does not understand what I mean by this; he thinks that I am making a personal attack upon him. I want him to give himself a bit of fun. Let him read through his own speech tomorrow, crossing out the words "land" and "land-owners" and inserting "labour" and "workers". He can be thankful that he did not make that speech as a Member of the Labour Party, because in spite of the great provocation for workers to demand more wages, caused by the present situation in the towns, if he had made that speech with those changes he would have found himself being investigated either as a Trotskyist or a Fascist. I hope that he will consider the problem in those terms, and judge whether it is right to make that sort of challenge to those of our constituents who are faced with the threat of ever rising rents for ever worse accommodation.
It may be that the solution will not be found in time to prevent a great inflation of wages in the big cities—wages which will be demanded by those who have to do the servicing jobs in the cities in order to pay over a large part of them to the landlords to meet the increasing rents.
The argument that the Opposition's proposals amount merely to nationalisation seemed to settle the matter at that, as far as the Minister was concerned. The right hon. Gentleman triumphantly said, "This is it; it is out of date. No one will take any notice." If that is what the Minister thinks he would have surprise if it were put to the country. The electorate would have something to say about it if the Labour Party put it before them. The right hon. Gentleman should not be so sure.
1573 It is true that most people who advocate nationalisation do so on broad political principles—they advocate the expansion of public ownership—and it is true that very few people write to hon. Members saying, "You should nationalise a particular industry." However, I know that hon. Members do get a few letters on this subject. Those I get are all from Tories and they all say, "I would vote for your party if you could produce a policy for the public ownership of land." The Minister should bear in mind this point of view because I am sure that a lot of his own supporters are bearing it in mind and are trying to find a solution on those grounds.
Of course, the argument is often confused, as it was by the hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black), Who confused the contribution which a developer had made to the value of land and the increase in the price which was the result of a boom, such as the present one following increased values, added to by the activity of the community itself.
§ Mr. A. P. Costain (Folkestone and Hythe)
As my hon. Friend the Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) is not in his place, I can assure the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Rankin) that I heartily disagree with what he is saying. I have not yet had a chance of making a speech, but how can the hon. Gentleman separate the developer's effort from the general community effort? The hon. Gentleman is speaking as though the developers are doing nothing. I must inform him that I have been a developer all my life, and I know something about the work that is done.
§ Mr. Parkin
I had no intention of attacking the hon. Member for Wimbledon in any offensive way. I was merely saying that I thought he rather overdid it when he said that parcels of land were bought and sold at enhanced prices after certain improvements, such as sewers, had been made. I thought, when the hon. Member for Wimbledon was propounding that argument, that there must have been very little room left for anything else if £40,000 had been spent on sewers being put into some of the plots which have been mentioned today. Of course, I expect that the hon. Member for Wimbledon did not mean exactly that.
1574 I have no objection to a man seeing ahead to the possibility of a property improving and his being able to sell it at a higher value. One of the self-trained property dealers whom I have observed with great interest during his career in the village in which I lived was often able to get a quick profit on a house merely by cutting down a couple of overgrown laurel trees and putting in a new window. That, of course, is a contribution and is a different matter entirely.
The hon. Member for Wimbledon also quoted my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) about farming land—that if that land had been nationalised a number of years ago we should have got the farming land at one-third its price. My hon. Friend said that farmers would note this point with interest. I hope that they will. It will occur to them that they would have to pay only one-third of their present rent. Much as many farmers dislike the word "nationalisation", they always seek a deathless landlord. It is better than having to buy the land. A farmer would much rather pay rent than buy his land because he always has an excellent use for his capital, for the provision of buildings and equipment and to generally improve his farm. A proposal such as we are suggesting today does not involve dispossessing the farmer.
My only comment on my hon. Friend's exposition of this problem is that although he has expounded it more simply than it has been done before, we are still in danger of finding complications because we shall try, as before, to find an alternative to the direct taking over of the land. I am quite sure that if a Tory Government decided to take over the land and wanted a device, they could find a very simple one.
The device eludes me, because I am not sufficiently of a lawyer or historian to put a finger on it, but I am quite certain that if the Tory Party asked for advice on the best way of resuming control of the land they could get it. They could find it in some of the Acts that have been repealed, or Acts which they are seeking to repeal at the present time.
As I have said before to the Minister, when arguing with him about his attitude to land ownership and house ownership in the great cities, the one thing he leaves out of account is the third party 1575 to every contract, which is the community itself. The right hon. Gentleman preaches the honest agreement between the honest landlord and the honest tenant, and assumes that everything will be all right if people behave in that way, but this is a new doctrine. It is not very many years old.
The ancient doctrine of stewardship which was in the conception of our Constitution could be revived. If we could revive the notion that the freeholding of land meant that one either continued to hold it for the purpose for which it had previously been used or, if one wanted to change its use, one had to go back to the Crown for a reassessment of what rent one might have to pay, if any, that would, I think, take us a long way towards a solution of the problem.
A lot of the arguments that we on this side have to face are old and confused, and at this hour I shall not recapitulate them merely to abolish them, but I at once accept as a challenge one argument that has emerged. It is the argument that, in some way, any device so far tried freezes development or discourages it, because one cannot get owners to sell. That, I think, we must accept—and when I say "we", perhaps I may say that I mean those on both sides who are honestly searching for a solution.
I do not think that that matter is as bad as hon. Members have tried to make it. The hon. Member for Wimbledon spoke of a church which he said was in a place quite unsuitable for a church, but told us that those responsible would not have sold it if they had not been offered a high price. I wonder if that is really so? If the people who had that church in a place so very unsuitable for a church to be had been offered a new church in a place that was suitable for a church, they would surely have accepted the offer.
The same thing applies to the shopkeeper. We do not have to bring this old doctrinaire market price idea into it. Talk to the shopkeeper reasonably, offer him alternative accommodation elsewhere—a slightly better building and equipment—and one will get a deal. That is how we ought to go about it.
I must admit, however, that there is a strange psychological difference between dealing with a company and dealing with 1576 a person. If one were dealing with a chain store, one would certainly not have the slightest difficulty. One would say, "We wish to develop the centre of this country town of ours. We want your shop, and will offer you one as good or better elsewhere." The chain store people would be highly delighted.
What we do have to cope with, however, is the psychology of the individual who does not want to be dug out and shifted even a few hundred yards. That, however, is a psychological demand for security—and does not that stem from the sordid society which the right hon. Gentleman supports? Is not this insecurity a psychological result of the affluent society in which we live, of the suggestion that the only sort of security one can have in this world is achieved through the acquisition of more and more material goods? It is a psychological problem which can be solved only whop there is more sense of security in the community and more feeling that there will be continuity of employment and belonging.
I quoted in the Second Reading debate sentences from one of the Acts which is being repealed by the Crown Estate Bill. I will cut my speech short now because I know that there is another hon. Member on the benches opposite who wishes to speak. Another sentence I quoted from an Act of Edward II provided that the land of natural fools should revert to the Crown.
I suggest with all the solemnity that I can muster that the natural fools of this day and generation in this country are those who do not see that on whether we solve the problem of land ownership and land price depends whether we can carry out the next stage of the social revolution by consent.
Those who look at our system will observe that one cannot win. There is a built-in cheating system in the free enterprise, freedom for incentives, freedom for the individual system which is preached by hon. Members opposite without any recognition of the obligation of landowners to the community. It is a built-in cheating system which enriches the landowners and re-enriches them in every generation at the expense of the community. Hon. Members opposite know it. They know that there is a difference between this proposal for State 1577 ownership and any other. There is no question here of the skill and inventiveness of the individual. In this matter, the absent owner of land profits entirely from something which is socially created. That which is socially created should be shared by the State.
Hon. Members opposite know that, in advance of anything we discuss here, devices are already being tried out for the sharing of the equity in land development. One can get brighter ideas from the insurance companies than will have been admitted by hon. Members opposite in their speeches today. The insurance companies, for instance, have gone a long way towards coming to an agreement with the deathless freeholder and with their own lessee to take a share of the equity as well as interest on the investment. Devices of that kind are being tried out in the realm of free enterprise. Let hon. Members opposite look at them carefully, within the operation of their own system, and see whether they can come towards us on this side in solving this problem. I say again, with the very deepest feeling, that I believe that on the solution of the problem depends the future of our democracy and the possibility of our liberating the creative power of the community for the benefit of all.
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Ian Fraser (Plymouth, Sutton)
I hope that the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) will forgive me if I do not follow him directly through the very interesting paths of political philosophy which ran through his speech. This is not a debate in which, ordinarily, I should presume to wish to take part at all. I do so because I wish to refer briefly to one or two comments made by the hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe). I thank the hon. Member for Devon, North for his courtesy in letting me know, stage by stage, what he was up to, and for his kindly interest in my constituency.
I was glad that the hon. Gentleman made perfectly clear that he was not attacking the Corporation of Plymouth as such in the first part of his speech, but that he had in mind that what he was referring to was something which might have happened in almost any other case. Further, he accepted that all that 1578 was done was done intra vires, within the statutory powers of the corporation.
I do not quarrel with the picture which the hon. Gentleman painted of the unsatisfactory situation in which someone in the position of the farmer in that case, Mr. Bickle, finds himself. Indeed, I wonder whether we could look again at the provision relating to limitation of time for compensation in such matters. I feel that, had it not happened that Mr. Bickle was out of time by, I think, twenty-one months, this case might very well never have reached the Floor of this House at all.
The hon. Member for Devon, North presented his picture of what the Plymouth Corporation had done as one of a corporation indulging in speculation, and he used the words at a later point, if I heard him aright, "the covetousness of a Corporation"—perhaps not of this one, but of a corporation in this position —indulging in covetous speculation by changing the user of the land, and the implication must be that this was in order to make a profit.
One must look at the motives behind what was done and the result of it, if one is to judge questions of this kind at all. This was a case where a housing estate, which I know very well, was being built up from comparatively small beginnings into a complete neighbourhood with places of work, places of worship, schools and shops, and the concept of the project changed over the years from 1954 until now, as it was bound to do.
There was no question of the corporation being motivated in what it did by a desire to make money out of it. It took the land by compulsory purchase order originally under powers which clearly allowed it as a corporation not only to put municipal housing there, but to facilitate the putting up of factories, to sell off for private building, and so on. These powers were inherent in the original Section 79 powers when the land was taken over.
As the years went by the situation changed, particularly with regard to the factory which has been mentioned. It was done in that way because the corporation could not in any other way have obtained the very desirable end of getting a centre of light industry into that 1579 estate, which it passionately wanted to do. This took place when parties of both political colours were in power. Any corporation would have wanted to provide housing and work in that way because, as the hon. Gentleman knows, of the difficult employment position in Plymouth.
§ Mr. Thorpe
If the corporation wanted so passionately not merely to build houses, but to provide factories and works, and so forth, would the hon. Member not agree that it would have been very much more frank if that fact had been made known at the initial inquiry and had not subsequently appeared four years later?
§ Mr. Fraser
I think that the answer is that the concept of this grew. This was against the background of a city which was completely destroyed and which has been virtually rebuilt. There have been many matters coming up which have crowded on the attention and powers of the members of the corporation.
That is the background against which this project grew up. One must look at the motive and the result. Surely the result is one of which, on the whole, hon. Members on both sides of the House must approve. There is growing up there a neighbourhood of very fine quality, providing good houses. Incidentally, if the question of private housing is raised, as it has been, there again, the composition of the housing lists changes, the forecasts change, the outlook changes when inquiries are made from time to time, and the number of houses which may be approved for the corporation to build changes over the years.
It is not necessarily wrong or immoral to sell land for private housing, which itself fills a real need, particularly for those who have been in the place too short a time for them to be accommodated in municipal houses. The hon. Member for Devon, North, in making the main Liberal contribution to the debate, founded his speech on what seemed to be a rather narrow and unbalanced foundation. It was a slim case on which to found so heavy an indcitment as that of the hon. Gentleman. He used the words "Crichel Down" in connection with it.
1580 One of the things that I was told not to do when I came into the House of Commons, including not continuing to speak after nine o'clock, was to try to quote Latin and Greek, although I am sure that the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) would not mind if I did. In trying to tell the hon. Member for Devon, North what his Crichel Down case is, I will not quote Latin or Greek, but will use a modern well-known "folk song", "It's an itsy-bitsy, teeny-weeny, ickle-Bickle Crichel Down".
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
The Motion begins by expressing the grave concern of the House at the continuing sharp rise in the price of building land and goes on to mention some of the consequences of it. Today, the Minister ran very true to form. He did what my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said that he would do. He spent the first half of his speech in saying nothing about his own duties or policy and in attacking a pamphlet issued by my party and about which I shall have a word or two to say.
I always know when the Minister has not got a case and when he is well aware that he has got a case. I know from the way in which he deals with the difficulty. I listened carefully to what he had to say. The oddest thing was that at the end of his speech he said in one sentence that he was concerned with the gravity of the problem concerning the price of land. The rest of his speech was devoted to saying that there was not such a problem, that he was tackling it piecemeal or that the local authorities might tackle it; there was no concession about the gravity of the matter.
This is a very grave matter and the Government must do something about it. If they do not do something about it, it is one of the things which, from a political point of view, will cause them to be kicked out by the voters, and, from a national point of view, they will have wasted a long period of office without coping with what has become a serious injustice in our national life and a serious hindrance to the proper development of the country.
I do not propose to deal with what The Times said this morning and what 1581 my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hector Hughes) said, namely, that they hoped that the Government would not deny that there is a problem. The Government have behaved like the historic paris council which upset lawyers for quite a time by going into court and saying that it neither admitted nor denied that there was a right of way. In this case, the Government have neither admitted nor denied that there was a problem. They dare not admit it, because then they would have to say what they were going to do about it. They could hardly deny it in view of the facts which are fairly common knowledge. However, they contrived to steer a doubtful and ambiguous way between these two courses.
I follow the Motion a stage further. Is it denied that it is the sharp rise in the price of building land which is at present enriching both landowners and land speculators? I have not heard anything about Mr. Cotton or Mr. Clore. It is surprising to have a debate about land and the sharp rise in its price without either of those two gentlemen being mentioned. I suppose that we must all have better manners or, perhaps, there are more land speculators about.
The hon. Member for Wimbledon (Sir C. Black) said that he took a share in several property companies. He proceeded to give us the figures that he had been charging for various bits of land—
§ Sir C. Black
Not figures that I had been charging, but figures that I was charged. That is entirely different.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I must have misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. Having paid those prices, he was then letting the land to shops which would use it on which to sell goods to customers. When I asked the hon. Member whether that would not put up the price to customers, his answer was, "Oh, no. That is all solved by competition." So that we were left with the choice either of a number of shopkeepers who had been ruined by the hon. Member or by a number of purchasers who had been ruined by the shopkeepers. I was not sure which alternative the hon. Member preferred.
1582 In all conscience, and apart from the quainter efforts of the hon. Member for Wimbledon, we must be concerned as a community when land is not only very highly priced, but when there is a continuing and sharp rise and nothing whatever is done to check it. That is the problem with which we must be concerned today.
I want to see how much of the Motion is agreed by the Government. Does the high price of land placegreat difficulties in the way of local authorities"?Surely, it is common knowledge that one local authority after another has found that, when it wants to buy land, it is now having to pay prices that it either cannot afford to pay or which involve an exceedingly heavy burden ultimately on the ratepayers. I should have thought that everyone knew that and that there could not be any doubt about it.
I want to say a word in that connection about the 1959 Act, which is relevant. We did not oppose the 1959 Act because we are not opposed to paying a fair price for land which is compulsorily acquired. We did, however, say definitely that, in our view, this was only half the problem and that if the rules of the House had allowed, we would have asked nothing better than to put in a scheme for betterment at the same time that we were dealing with compensation. If any hon. Member doubts that, I ask him to look up what I said at the time. I did it myself today. There was not the least doubt about it.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Does not my hon. and learned Friend agree that if the 1959 Act had not been passed, the present racket in building-land prices, although it might have gone on a little, would have been vastly curbed in weight?
§ Mr. Mitchison
No, I do not agree; but it is too long a question to go into now. It goes beyond the town and country planning legislation and a good bit deeper than that.
The foundation of it is the foundation which I have just indicated. The Government have dismantled by one Act after another and by stages the provisions in the Silkin Act, which for the moment, whether or not they worked, were at least intended to deal both with 1583 compensation and with betterment, and which, in my opinion, with some alterations, could have been made to work. That is a matter merely of opinion, however. The point is that they were the only serious attempts—as far as I know, the only attempt—which has been made to deal with a problem which, we all recognise, must be dealt with. Even the Minister and the Bow Group—they go together—both recognise, in the case of the Bow Group, that it was logically irresistible and, in the case of the right hon. Gentleman, burdened by the caution of office, that there is something to be said for it.
Of course, it is right. How can it be the case that public bodies, local authorities in this case, which have to pay full compensation for the land which they acquire, which use that land for developing the neighbourhood, putting up the price of land there, should then fail to get any advantage out of that which they, as representatives of the community, have themselves contributed? This was recognised by the present Prime Minister when he drew the distinction in one of the earlier Town and Country Planning Acts between compensation in the case of acquisition by local authorities and ordinary market payments, and he himself said—
§ Mr. Mitchison
I have my hon. Friend's point, and he has my views upon it. Perhaps I may now be allowed to talk to other hon. Members in the House. We know one another much too well for any offence to be taken at that, I hope.
That was recognised by the Prime Minister himself, who said on that occasion that the reason why he thought a different price was appropriate was because so much of the value had been created by the community, and ought therefore to be returned to the community. That is the real case for betterment. If, in fact, the right hon. Gentleman says that betterment is never workable and that we cannot do anything about it, what a remarkable confession to make.
Here we are, living in a very complicated community in many ways, 1584 engaged in the development of the land, in the adaptation of our country to the needs of an industrial civilisation, in a certain amount of progress in education, health, housing and so on, growing as a modern community; and the result of that is to make a remarkable difference in values and in prices. We know perfectly well that at present these changes in prices are benefiting a very limited class of people who own the land or speculate in it. We know perfectly well, and we all admit that, logically, morally and on every other consideration, there ought to be a transfer of this betterment to the community, to the local authority, to the central Government, take it how we like.
Are we to say that we know it to be right, but that we have made such a complicated society that we cannot possibly do the right thing? That is what is being said by the Government, and has been said by the Government, if the right hon. Gentleman's admission today was right, for the past ten years or thereabouts, ever since the Government have been in office. It is a most terrible confession of social failure, not only by the Government themselves, but by the community in which we live, and one which I suggest we ought to have the courage to refuse to make if we possibly can find another way of doing it.
The value of the pamphlet I am talking about today is, I suggest, first, that it makes a suggestion which, at any rate, I believe to be workable and which is certainly arguable. I will come to it in a moment, but I want to say a word or two about the nature of the problem. This is not merely a problem that arises in isolated cases or involves a particular state of affairs on one occasion. What we have to consider is this. As the right hon. Gentleman rightly indicated, the sharp rise in land values is most marked and exists, I would not say almost entirely, but to far the greatest degree, in certain quarters of the country, and most obviously in the south-east of England.
How right my hon. Friend was to couple this with what he pointed out at the same time—that though there is only about a quarter of the population in Greater London, 45 per cent, of the new jobs in the last few years have come this way; that as to say, that it is a 1585 question not merely of the use of land in the abstract in one particular case, but a question of shifting population, shifting industry and shifting employment, and that the proper use of land could not be regarded merely as a matter of providing houses and so on, but as a question that involves both employment and transport. It cannot be solved simply as a matter within the immediate, narrow purview of this Ministry in particular, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.
The right hon. Gentleman himself has really recognised this. He relied on a circular which he sent out to local authorities. This is part of the right hon. Gentleman's old game. Whenever he gets into an insoluble difficulty he tries to put it on to the backs of the local authorities, though he knows quite well that they can do little or no more about it than he can. That is exactly what happened in this case. But why did he say, as I understood him to say—he will correct me if I am wrong—to my hon. Friend, that he did not say anything about the question of employment in this circular? He did. In paragraph 10 he said:The aim should be to encourage employment as well as people to move out from the large cities to places beyond the green belt.That is perfectly right. There is no doubt about it. That should be the aim— though this is followed by a rather discouraging sentence saying, "You may not be able to do much about it". Still, that is, undoubtedly, what is required.
Then when I said something to him about directing employment, he said, "Oh, we cannot do that". But what are industrial development certificates for? Are they not being used at the present time in practice to move opportunities of employment into the development districts? Are they not being used for just that purpose? And do not the Government boast of it? With whatever great or little success, they are actually doing it.
Surely, when we come to the sort of questions we get in London, we get exactly the same questions about offices. Are the Government prepared to exercise the same control about offices—which, after all, are a very important source of employment, especially in a metropolis —as they are exercising over factories?
1586 Are they prepared to consider the use of land in connection with that sort of thing, employment, whether in factories or in offices?
When we come down to look at it, we come to this. No local authority—not even the London County Council, which is nearer than anyone to this, though how long it is going to exist the right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, knows—I do not, but be that as it may—no local authority is really in a position to decide what is really a national question, shift of population in the country, the need to see that we put a green belt around the town and at the end of the town and not at a place where another sort of subtopia starts off on the other side. All that kind of thing is beyond the purview, as I see it, of local authorities. It is too much a question, not merely of housing, but of transport—we have hardly mentioned that—and of a policy of employment.
Really, it is a very narrow point of view indeed to suppose that the use of the land can be controlled only by the competition of private interests for offices or that form of development, and that it can be controlled only within the ambit of local authorities by sending appropriate circulars to them, and at the same time denying the public interest in what seems to me one aspect of practically all the national problems which face us today.
I turn from that to the pamphlet which is being discussed. I suppose that the Parliamentary Secretary is going to get up to say the same thing as the right hon. Gentleman did. He is not going to say what the Government have done, because they have not done anything; he is not going to say what the Government are going to do, because they are going to do nothing; and therefore he is going to occupy his time in saying how bad the Labour Party's pamphlet is. That, I am sure, will be the line. It always is. Well, let us see; but, for the moment, let us have a look at what is proposed, and let us look at the real substance of the matter, and not fiddle about in a mess of words.
The point is that one wants, first, one central authority to deal with the land. Then one turns to consider for a moment this whole idea of the ownership of land. It is really rather an artificial one. I should have said that if there is land 1587 which is owned by one person, in the sense that he is the landowner, and which is let to another for a number of years and occupied by someone else to whom it is sublet, then in a sense they all own the land. They all have an interest in it, but what we are dealing with today is the ultimate interest, what we call the landlord's interest. The central body would have power to dispose of the land. That is the substantial point that is being made, and the land in question is of two kinds—land required for public purposes by local authorities and land for development.
§ Mr. Doughty
I should be interested to know whether the hon. and learned Member supports the words in the pamphlet to which he is referring to the effect that the powers which shall be taken include the transfer to public ownership of the freehold of the land to which he was referring.
§ Mr. Mitchison
That is exactly what I am saying. If the hon. and learned Member did not understand, I apologise for not having made myself clear. I would ask him to follow the advice often given by one lawyer to another, "When you are looking at a document, look at the whole of it and do not pick little bits out of it." I will not quarrel with the hon. and learned Member any longer. He knows that there is nothing personal in it.
What is the alternative to this proposal? Are we still to leave the question of the control of land to a central political Ministry with powers which I should have thought were rather unsuitable for this purpose? On the other hand, are we to hand it over to the local authorities? I think that there are objections to both these and I prefer what is now recommended in the pamphlet. If we are not going to step in at the critical stage when planning permission is given—and that is the suggestion in the pamphlet—I do not see how we shall find any solution on the one hand of the equitable question of betterment as against compensation and, on the other, of the national problem of how to get the land of this country used properly in relation to building on it, to transport, and to employment.
It seems to me that in a case of that sort what we are drifting towards is, as 1588 regards the money problem, a constant accretion of unearned and undeserved income to people who are expert land speculators and who will attract round them expert professional support of various kinds. Surely that is quite wrong and there can be no possible justification for it. In another sense, we are drifting in the direction of creating a Great Wen beyond anything that could have been thought of in Cobbett's time. We are dealing not merely with London but the whole of south-east England, and we are being helped to drift in this respect by the change that is happening in industry itself.
It is easy enough to take one's automatised or electronic industry and push it down to the South-East and leave the mills of Lancashire and Yorkshire finding it more and more difficult to get on in competition with the south-east of England. I do not say that they will not succeed; but this is a national probblem, and it is a problem of the use of the land and of the development of the land. When one is told "Oh, it is not fair. It is not the real value of the land that is being given by the compensation, and that is a fatal objection", my answer is that I just do not know what is meant by "the real value of land".
The hon. and learned Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) told me that it was the price as between a willing seller and a willing buyer. I can assure him that that is a hopelessly old-fashioned view. What it depends on now is what the planning permission is, and that was what the 1959 Act was about. Look at the enormous list of supposed permissions that we are expected to consider, and to have to consider, in order to value the land properly. There is no such thing nowadays, except perhaps in the remote countryside, as any absolute value for land. It depends on its contiguity to the rest of the community, on the type of place it is in, and, as a matter of form on the planning permission that can be obtained in respect of that land.
The planning permission is given in the interests of the community, or so it is supposed. The contiguity to the community, the Character of the rest of the area round it—all such things are matters of the community. But surely it is literally true to say that it is the community which makes the value of the land and ascribes a particular value to a 1589 certain piece of land, by the planning permission which is given in a certain case or which is deemed to be given for the purpose of valuation. I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman at any rate had been telling us just that for so long and in so many forms in connection with the 1959 Act that he, at all events, would appreciate the consequence of what he was saying?
I find this whole conception of the ownership of land something to which we are very well-accustomed—perhaps too well-accustomed—as having in it a little of the artificial. There is so much more than the mere soil that one treads on. There are rights, interests and responsibilities attaching to land, and those responsibilities are, in my view, being neglected at present as a result of the profits which can be made—as I see it, wrongly made—out of the transfer of land. Yet it is the land of our country. It is on its proper use that the future of our country and of all the people who live in it depends. If land is misused, then the man who cannot find a house or the man who cannot find a place to do a useful job are the people who suffer.
These inconsistencies and superficialities are translated into terms of human suffering, and, where it is not as active as that, at least into terms of a loss of some human opportunity. I suggest that we, as a country and as a community, must recognise that the land must be dealt with on lines which appear fair to everyone and to the best purpose and in the interests not of those who may own it at any given moment or of those who may buy it or sell it but of the mass of us, the British people as a whole.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Sir Keith Joseph)
I shall try to deal with as many of the questions that have been raised today as I can, and, of course, with those in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison). It would be most helpful, I think, if I tried to cover the subject under three headings. First, land prices themselves, whose sharp rise is the natural concern of the country, and, of course, of the Government. Secondly, the question as to whether these prices are interfering in any way with the legitimate programmes and hopes of the people. Thirdly, what- 1590 ever the answer to the second question may be, whether, as a separate question, the community should and could recover for itself more of the profit that may be made out of these land prices.
I maintain that this country is going through a process of adjustment in land prices. [Interruption.] Yes. We are now taking into account the land implications of a fully employed economy, living in an island which is subject to tight town and country planning, a community in which the £ has fallen in value and in which earnings and prices have risen substantially.
These high land prices are concentrated, as everyone has agreed, in the areas either of industrial growth or of popularity—the areas where the demand for land is, therefore, naturally highest. As these centres of growth or of popularity shift and spread—sometimes because of the efforts of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and improvements in road and rail travel—the demand for land shifts and grows with them, and new areas are touched by high demands. Of course, in these areas the prices respond.
The whole House agrees that our island is limited geographically and by planning. I can assure my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty) and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Yardley (Mr. Cleaver) that the Government remain firm in their resolve to maintain the green belts. I do not need, in this debate, to repeat the objectives of planning, which are most succinctly summed up in our desire to keep town town and country country.
The House is also at one in agreeing that demand in our community is rising. There is a growing population. For a given number of people there are now, because of prosperity and the effects of medicine, more households, and, of course, there is more money to spend. Mercifully, the community has higher standards in housing. All these factors have to be taken into account.
It is, however, a little confusing when hon. Members opposite mingle descriptions of land price increases connected with housing, on the one hand, and shops and offices on the other. Of course, they may be the concern of all of us, but, so far as shops and offices are concerned, 1591 except for those rare cases where someone wants a prestige position, we can assume that the rent that is implied by these land prices is a very small item in the turnover of the firm concerned, and can only have a relatively trivial effect, if any, on the price of the goods.
The fact is that prices reflect what purchasers are thought to be willing to pay. Of course, the prices which purchasers are thought to be willing to pay can be misjudged, and there is evidence that here and there there has been just such a misjudgment. One thing that is very useful in restricting what a purchaser will be willing to pay is the discipline that can be imposed in a whole area by the rules made by one or more building societies, limiting the advances they are prepared to make to some multiplier of earnings.
There is evidence in some areas that this discipline has had an effect in keeping the rise in the prices of land lower than it would otherwise have been. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] There is also evidence in some areas—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"]—that auctions of ripe land have not been successful, and that the land has had to be withdrawn because the prices expected by the vendors were not realised. There is evidence that in some areas developers have paid too much and have not been able to unload the land and have been forced, therefore, either to take a loss or to bear heavy interest charges.
In judging what purchasers can pay, it is obvious that a boom has an influence on the judgment of the people concerned. Prices have recently been reflecting the boom conditions which the country has been enjoying and the desire of those concerned to build at almost any cost.
In this situation, the job of the Government seems to my right hon. Friend to be threefold; first, by ensuring the steady release of appropriate land, to ensure that there is no artificial scarcity of building land; secondly—and here my right hon. Friend agrees very much with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes)—as far as possible to weaken the currents of the magnetic fields, as he put it, which lead to the concentration of development around the main areas of industrial 1592 growth; thirdly, to ensure that public programmes do not falter owing to the lack of building land or the price of it. I will deal with each of those three responsibilities in turn.
As the House knows—my right hon. Friend has given examples—new land for development is being continuously released at least in pace with the consumption of land. Not only is more land being released the whole time, more than keeping pace with the consumption of land, but the land that is released, or made available for redevelopment, tends to be used at higher densities. I repeat what my right hon. Friend said, that nearly every time higher densities are agreed there tends to be an outcry from hon. Members and people in the community, but it is one of the prices which the community has to pay for making sure that we keep the country country and the town town and still provide proper homes and amenities for our people.
There is no doubt that, taking the nation as a whole, there is ample land available for development, but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford wisely said, the demand over the whole country is by no means uniform. It is greatest where industrial growth is strongest.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) asked whether there were any examples of land released in Hampshire, Hertfordshire, Essex and Surrey. I could give examples of land recently released for development and I could give other examples of densities increased in those areas on appeal or on review, but those are just the areas where demand tends to be at its highest and where any substantial release of land may run up against major planning barriers, that is, either good agricultural land, or green belt, or areas of outstanding natural beauty is involved or there is some other major and generally acceptable planning barrier. The only hope for those areas is in relatively small releases of land, in town expansion schemes and in higher density, and I shall return to those later.
I remind the House that just as there are areas where demand is high because prosperity and growth are high, so there are many areas where demand is not high enough to absorb the land which 1593 has been allocated and where, for that reason, prices have risen only in pace with the fall in the value of the £ and scarcely reflect the difficult conditions of which we have been speaking. I hope that the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) will not misunderstand me when I say that those areas are ideal for the sort of constituents of whom he spoke, if their desire to find a home of their awn with their limited resources exceeds their desire to stay very close to their place of work. There are areas, therefore, which are available to those who are free to move.
The second factor—[HON. MEMBERS: "Where are these areas?"]—I hope that I shall not be interrupted, because I have much to answer, but I will gladly give examples of where this land is. For instance, there are parts of East Anglia, not near Norwich and not near Ipswich.
I think that the House valued the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Ashford. He spoke very wisely of the danger of "megalopolitan mania", the magnets which attract excessive development and tend to raise the price of land. I can only tell the House that but for constant resistance by the local authorities concerned, and by the Government through planning and other machinery, the effects of these magnets would be a great deal more serious. The fact is that in the main conurbations the resident population has fallen over the last ten years—the census is evidence of that. But, while there has been a net fall in the population of these cities, there has been a substantial net increase in the number of dwellings.
I should like to meet square on the main case against us, which is that in the South-East region there has been a disproportionate growth. The facts should be stated in terms of population. Between 1951 and 1961 England and Wales had a 5 per cent. growth of population, while in the South-East region the growth of population was as much as, but no more than, 7 per cent. It is true that a disproportionate number of jobs in the South-East region has gone to London, and my right hon. Friend has been challenged to say why the I.D.Cs. cannot be applied to offices as well as to industry.
§ Sir Lynn Ungoed-Thomas (Leicester, North-East)
It would be more instruc- 1594 tive if the hon. Gentleman gave the percentage increase for the South-East compared with the percentage increase for the rest of the country instead of including the South-East with the rest of the country and arriving at a figure of 5 per cent.
§ Sir K. Joseph
The hon. and learned Gentleman has not been present. I gave the comparable figures—5 per cent. against 7 per cent.
The practical difficulty about applying I.D.Cs. to offices would be to apply any satisfactory test of needs to the large and miscellaneous collection of prospective tenants for any building, but my right hon. Friend is extremely concerned about the growth of office employment in London, and this is under constant review.
Hon. Members have referred to expanded and new town programmes, and a number of hon. Gentlemen have asked why, as the Town and Country Planning Association suggested, larger towns cannot themselves be expanded. The answer is that they can be, and Basingstoke, which was one of the towns chosen by the Town and Country Planning Association, is probably to be expanded, and discussions are going on now between the London County Council, Basingstoke, and the Hampshire County Council. The exporting authorities can talk to any town and urge it to became an expanded town to take overspill population. The problem of all these new and expanded towns is to persuade industry to move to them.
§ Mr. M. Stewart
The hon. Gentleman made a point about offices. If he had ears for anybody's speeches except that of his hon. Friend the Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) he may remember that I dealt specifically with this point and suggested a way in which the admitted difficulty about offices could be dealt with. Will the hon. Gentleman venture to reply to that?
§ Sir K. Joseph
I think that the hon. Gentleman is under-estimating the difficulty of finding an objective test of need for so many different tenants, but the subject is under continuous review.
The second theme that I want to cover is whether the high prices of land are interfering with the programmes which 1595 are valuable to the country. Here I should state that in the view of my right hon. Friend and the Government market value and a free market for land offer the right basis, provided that the needs of those who cannot afford market value are safeguarded and the needs of the community generally not endangered. I maintain that there is no evidence that they are. The building industry has never been busier. The slum clearance programme has all sorts of problems to surmount, with land, staff and many other difficulties, but the problem of land prices is not one of them. As the House knows, local authorities which are building houses for slum clearance or other purposes have expensive site subsidies which go a long way towards meeting any rise in the cost of land.
As for private housing, we are in the midst of a record post-war boom, with starts and completions at post-war record levels. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East said, houses generally are bought on the plan long before they are completed. Taking a broad comparison, and taking the salaries or earnings of men at the lower level of income with which it is prudent to consider buying a new house, the price of doing so today—admittedly outside London—is just about the same product of average earnings as it was in 1939, that is, about three times as much.
In all other public spheres of interest the country is at the moment enjoying record programmes, despite the high price of land. Industrial investment, and the development of power stations, factories, water and sewerage installations, roads, hospitals, schools and universities are all at record levels, obviously not hindered in any way by the price of land. I wish I had time to deal with the speech of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross), who spoke eloquently about Civic Trust ideas. These are still under study by my right hon. Friend, and I would only say now that there seems no lack of schemes for city centre redevelopment coming forward at the moment. In brief, I maintain that building programmes, public and private, are not being hindered by the price of land.
For all that, no one likes high prices, especially when there is an element of scarcity demand about them, and in the 1596 popular areas, Where demand is most concentrated, there must be some scarcity if planning objectives are to be preserved. But the Government believe that without a free market land supply would be reduced and prices would rise further. The Government, therefore, have three main jobs—to ensure a steady release of land—by at least keeping pace with consumption without sacrificing any major planning objectives; to ensure that land prices do not interfere with the needs of the community; and to meet the demand for development by expanded towns, or in other ways, as much as possible.
Hon. Members on both sides of the House, and especially hon. Members opposite, have spoken wistfully of wanting all the objectives that we all want, and wanting them all at once. It may be that some of them are incompatible. All hon. Members want to preserve country as country, and to achieve all the purposes of town and country planning; so do the Government. All hon. Members want there to be an adequate supply of land; so do the Government. All hon. Members want a free and prosperous society; so, obviously, do the Government. But whether we can have all that and cheap land as well is by no means self-evident.
A number of speeches have touched upon betterment. Theoretically this may be a very attractive objective—but not at the cost of prices or progress. It is easy enough to make rhetorical speeches, but it is a very different thing to put a betterment scheme into practice. The Government have to consider whether any scheme is practicable and equitable, and what its effect on prices and progress would be. Some hon. Members—my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns in particular—have spoken of either a capital gains tax or an additional Stamp Duty. These are essentially questions for my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I would confine myself to saying that it does not seem obvious to me, as it did not to my right hon. Friend, that either a Stamp Duty or a capital gains tax would have any success in reducing the price of land. But it may have something to do with betterment.
Now I turn to the Labour Panty Scheme in the pamphlet Signposts for the Sixties. I commend warmly to the 1597 House, and those who read our debates afterwards, everything that was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East who made a wise and penetrating speech about the probable effects of this scheme. It has been made plain by this pamphlet, and by the speeches made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, that the land commission proposed will buy the land on which development is going to be permitted and that land will obviously be of the highest value.
I think that some hon. Members may have had in mind that this is going to be tycoon's land and business land but, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) admitted, a lot of this will be private building land, and that raises strong psychological barriers. For instance, what will the commission pay for this land? I read the pamphlet and I was under an illusion. It was ambiguous enough to make one think that the commission would pay the market value and I wondered what saving there would be in the cost and what profit would accrue to the community. But now we are left in no doubt because the hon. Gentleman the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) explained that it is going to be bought below the market value.
The righteous indignation of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) about a constituent of my hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. I. Fraser), and the purchase of his land for £890 in 1953 and the sale of that land for £11,000 in 1961, is a typical example of what can now no longer happen, but what would be common practice all over the country if the Labour Party's scheme was put into practice.
Will the commission sell this land at the price it was bought for? Is it going to sell it for the current value? For what will it sell the land? [An HON. MEMBER: "Money."] I am glad that some hon. Gentlemen opposite are so material in their outlook that they intend to sell it for money. Some of the speeches to which we have listened indicated that they were going to sell it for love.
There would be no saving to the end consumer, so that illusion goes. If land is sold below market value, there will be no profit to the community, so that illusion goes. If the proposed commission 1598 sells or lets it below the market value, it will find that it has to control the sale or letting price, otherwise the developer will simply make the additional profit that the community have forgone or, if it controls the price, it will have to enter into further controls to stop the ultimate consumer letting or selling at a profit. The commission will have to settle the matter by a system of rationing or allocation, and everyone who knows how difficult is the task of town planners knows how difficult it would be to decide which of their thousands of applicants should receive it.
It will reduce supply rather than increase it, because it will involve the massive use of compulsory purchase and it will, therefore, tend to raise prices rather than reduce them.
§ Mr. Callaghan rose—
§ Mr. Callaghan
The Parliamentary Secretary still has a few minutes before the debate comes to an end.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. If the hon. Gentleman who is speaking does not give way another hon. Gentleman should not remain standing.
§ Mr. Callaghan
I wish simply to put this point. I have carefully read the document to which the Parliamentary Secretary has been referring. I was associated in drawing it up and I am pointing out to the Parliamentary Secretary that it is absolute rubbish to suggest that it is going to—[Interruption.]—it is not my time that hon. Members opposite are taking up. What I was about to say to the hon. Gentleman is that it is not true to say that this will—[Interruption.]—I will try again. I want to put it to the hon. Gentleman that it is false—[Interruption.] Well, if hon. Gentlemen 1599 will not accept that, I will put it in another way. I will put it again; that it is quite wrong—[Interruption.]
I can go on substituting these adjectives till ten o'clock, if hon. Gentlemen do not want to listen. Now, perhaps, they will let me continue in silence. I want to put it to the hon. Gentleman that it is quite inaccurate and misleading to suggest that this policy will raise the price of land. It will, in fact, lower the price of land to the consumer and, in so far as it might not do that, it will return a profit to the community.
§ Sir K. Joseph
The hon. Gentleman will perhaps do me the honour of reading my remarks in HANSARD. I have argued precisely the opposite at some length and, I think, with some reason. If it is meant to acquire and dispose of land below market value, which is the purpose explained, it will involve compulsory purchase at one end and the rationing of land at the other end, and it will certainly not make any profit for the community. In any event, it would involve a vast bureaucratic body with, at least, confusion and heavy public cost.
This scheme certainly is one of confusing signposts, and if those are the "Signposts For the Sixties" I am sorry
§ for the Labour Party. The owners are described as being willing sellers, but as the price at which they are to sell their land is below market value they will not be very willing. House owners and shopkeepers are led to expect bargains at below market price, yet the State is expected to net a profit. No way has yet been discovered by which we can defy market values in a free and prospering economy without drying up the supply of land and thus, in the end, raising prices.
§ We shall go on ensuring the steady release of land, ahead of need and without damage to our major planning objectives. Despite the high prices of land, there have been record programmes of house building, in industry and for all social purposes. No doubt, the demands of the house buyers and of developers for all purposes, public and private, will still, over the years, outrun the capacity of the industry to build, and the community to save. This is where the difficulties are likely to occur rather than in any shortage of land where buildings can be put. I hope that the House will decisively reject the Opposition's Motion.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 179, Noes 261.1603
|Division No. 256.]||AYES||[9.59 p.m.|
|Ainsley, William||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. John||Houghton, Douglas|
|Albu, Austen||Ede, Rt. Hon. C.||Hoy, James H.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Edwards, Robert (Bllston)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Allen, scholefield (Crewe)||Edwards, Walter (Stepney)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Awbery, Stan||Evans, Albert||Hunter, A. E.|
|Baxter, William (Stirlingshire, W.)||Finch, Harold||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Bence, Cyril||Fitch, Alan||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)|
|Benton, Sir George||Fletcher, Eric||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Blackburn, F.||Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Blyton, William||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Jay, Rt. Hon. Douglas|
|Boardman, H.||Forman, J. C.||Jeger, George|
|Bowden, Herbert W. (Lelcs, S.W.)||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (WaKefield)|
|Boyden, James||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Galpern, Sir Myer||Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)|
|Jones Jack (Rotherham)|
|Brown, Alan (Tottenham)||Ginsburg, David||Kelley, Richard|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Gourlay, Harry||Key, Rt. Hon. c. W.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Greenwood, Anthony||King, Dr. Horace|
|Callaghan, James||Grey, Charles||Lawson, George|
|Castle, Mrs. Barbara||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Ledger, Ron|
|Chapman, Donald||Griffiths, W. (Exchange)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Chetwynd, George||Gunter, Ray||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)|
|Cllffe, Michael||Hate, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Crosland, Anthony||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Hannan, William||Loughlin, Charles|
|Darling, George||Hart, Mrs. Judith||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Davles, Harold (Leek)||Hayman, F. H.||Mclnnes, James|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. Arthur (Rwly Regis)||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Deer, George||Harbison, Miss Margaret||Mackie, John (Enfield, East)|
|Delargy, Hugh||Hill, J. (Midlothian)||McLeavy, Frank|
|Diamond, John||Hilton, A. V.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Dodds, Norman||Holman, Percy||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Manuel, A. C.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Mapp, Charles||Probert, Arthur||Swingler, Stephen|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Marsh, Richard||Randall, Harry||Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)|
|Mendelson, J. J.||Rankin, John||Thomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)|
|Milne, Edward J.||Redhead, E. c.||Thornton, Ernest|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Reid, William||Tomney, Frank|
|Monslow, Walter||Reynolds, G. W.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Moody, A. S.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Mort, D. L.||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Warbey, William|
|Moyle, Arthur||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Weitzman, David|
|Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Ross, William||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hn. Philip (Derby, S.)||Royle, Charles (Salford, West)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Oliver, G H.||Short, Edward||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Oram, A. E.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Wigg, George|
|Oswald, Thomas||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Owen, Will||Skeffington, Arthur||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Padley, W. E.||Small, William||Willey, Frederick|
|Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Snow, Julian||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Parker, John||Sorensen, R. W.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Parkin, B. T.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Woof, Robert|
|Pavitt, Laurence||Steele, Thomas||Yates, Victor (Ladywood)|
|Peart, Frederick||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Pentland, Norman||Stonehouse, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Plummer, Sir Leslie||Stones, William||Mr. Charles A. Howell and|
|Popplewell, Ernest||Strachey, Rt. Hon. John||Mr. S[...]dney Irving.|
|Prentice, R. E.||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Cunningham, Knox||Hay, John|
|Aitken, W. T.||Curran, Charles||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel|
|Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)||Currie, G. B. H.||Hicks Beach, Maj. W.|
|Allason, James||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hiley, Joseph|
|Arbuthnot, John||Dance, James||Hill, Dr. Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hill, J. E. B. (S. Norfolk)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Deedes, W. F.||Hobson, John|
|Balniel, Lord||de Ferranti, Basil||Hocking, Philip N.|
|Barber, Anthony||Digby, Simon Wlngfield||Holland, Philip|
|Barter, John||Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.||Hollingworth, John|
|Batsford, Brian||Doughty, Charles||Hopkins, Alan|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Drayson, G. B.||Hornby, R. P.|
|Bell, Ronald||du Cann, Edward||Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. Patricia|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos & Fhm)||Duncan, Sir James||Howard, Hon. G. R. (St. Ives)|
|Berkeley, Humphry||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Howard, John (Southampton, Test)|
|Bidgood, John C.||Elliott, R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne, N.)||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral John|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Emery, Peter||Hughes-Young, Michael|
|Bingham, R. M.||Errington, Sir Eric||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Bishop, F. P.||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Farr, John||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Bossom, dive||Fell, Anthony||Jackson, John|
|Bourne-Arton, A.||Fisher, Nigel||James, David|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. John||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Foster, John||Jennings, J. C.|
|Brewis, John||Fraser, Hn. Hugh (Stafford & Stone)||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Freeth, Denzil||Johnson Smith, Geoffrey|
|Brooman-White, R.||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Joseph, Sir Keith|
|Browne, Percy (Torrington)||Gammans, Lady||Kerans, Cdr. J. S.|
|Buck, Antony||Gardner, Edward||Kerr, Sir Hamilton|
|Bullard, Denys||Glover, Sir Douglas||Kershaw, Anthony|
|Bullus, Wing Commander Eric||Glyn, Dr. Alan (Clapham)||Kimball, Marcus|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)||Kirk, Peter|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Goodhart, Philip||Lagden, Godfrey|
|Campbell, Sir David (Belfast, S.)||Goodhew, Victor||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Gough, Frederick||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Carr, Compton (Barons Court)||Gower, Raymond||Lilley, F. J. P.|
|Carr, Robert (Mltcham)||Grant, Rt. Hon. William||Lindsay, Martin|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R.||Linstead, Sir Hugh|
|Chataway, Christopher||Green, Alan||Litchfield, Capt. John|
|Chichester-Clark, R,||Gresham Cooke, R.||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)|
|Clark, Henry (Antrim, N.)||Grimston, Sir Robert||Longbottom, Charles|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Longden, Gilbert|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Gurden, Harold||Loveys, Walter H.|
|Cleaver, Leonard||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby|
|Cole, Norman||Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn|
|Cooke, Robert||Hare, Rt. Hon. John||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Cooper, A. E.||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||McAdden, Stephen|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Harris, Reader (Heston)||McLaren, Martin|
|Corfield, F. V.||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||McLaughlin, Mrs. Patricia|
|Costaln, A. P.||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Bute & N. Ayrs.)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford||Harvie Anderson, Miss||McMaster, Stanley R.|
|Crowder, F. P.||Hastings, Stephen||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Pott, Percivall||Teeling, William|
|Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Powell, Rt. Hon. J. Enoch||Temple, John M.|
|Maddan, Martin||Price, David (Eastlelgh)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Maitland, Sir John||Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Proudfoot, Wilfred||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. Peter|
|Markham, Major Sir Frank||Pym, Francis||Thornton- Kernsley, Sir Colin|
|Marples, Rt. Hon, Ernest||Rawlinson, Peter||Turner, Colin|
|Marshall, Douglas||Redmayne, Rt. Hon. Martin||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Marten, Neil||Rees, Hugh||Tweedsmulr, Lady|
|Mathew, Robert (Honiton)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)||Renton, David||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Maudling, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Ridley, Hon. Nicholas||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Mawby, Ray||Ridsdale, Julian||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Rlppon, Geoffrey||Walder, David|
|Mills, Stratton||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)||Walker, Peter|
|Montgomery, Fergus||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir Derek|
|More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Russell, Ronald||Wall, Patrick|
|Morgan, William||Sandys, Rt. Hon. Duncan||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Morrison, John||Scott-Hopkins, James||Webster, David|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Shaw, M.||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Noble, Michael||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir Jocelyn||Whitelaw, William|
|Oakshott, Sir Hendrle||Skeet, T. H. H.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Ch swick)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Orr-Ewing, C. Ian||Smithers, Peter||Wise, A. R.|
|Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Spearman, Sir Alexander||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Page, John (Harrow, West)||Speir, Rupert||Wood, Rt. Hon. Richard|
|Page, Graham (Crosby)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Woodhouse, C. M.|
|Pannell, Norman (Kirkdale)||Storey, Sir Samuel||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)||Studholme, Sir Henry||Woollam, John|
|Peel, John||Summers, Sir Spencer (Aylesbury)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Sumner, Donald (Orpington)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Pike, Miss Mervyn||Tapsell, Peter|
|Pitman, Sir James||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Pitt, Miss Edith||Taylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)||Mr. Gibson-Watt and Mr. Finlay.|