HC Deb 15 June 1961 vol 642 cc634-5
40. Mrs. Butler

asked the Prime Minister if he will instruct the Minister of Housing and Local Government, the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Transport, and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to consult together with a view to initiating a joint study of the present use of land resources, and to make recommendations.

The Prime Minister (Mr. Harold Macmillan)

There is already close coordination between the Ministers concerned. I do not think that a new joint study is needed.

Information about the present use of land, and proposals for future changes, are contained in the development plans prepared by local planning authorities. The information is brought up to date periodically as the plans are reviewed.

Mrs. Butler

But does not the Prime Minister know that there is complete agreement among experts on the vital necessity for such an inquiry which the first Census Report has shown to be urgent? Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that if he leaves it to the individual Departments to go on fumbling with the land problem our way of life and the beauty of our country can be irrevocably mutilated, if not destroyed? Since the right hon. Gentleman has now turned down a Ministry of planning and a co-ordinated inquiry, may I ask whether at least he can see that the present limited activities of the separate Departments are co-ordinated and that there is some implementation of these ideas in the next Session?

The Prime Minister

I think that the Departments work very closely together. There is, as the hon. Lady knows, prime responsibility on local authorities to make their development plans and to keep them up-to-date. What I said was that I am not satisfied that to set up, however grand it might sound, a new Department or a new joint study would really do what the hon. Lady wants done. All that the Departments are trying to do is to solve the problem by their work together.

Mr. Gaitskell

Nevertheless, does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that there is a real problem here? Could he say which Minister is responsible for seeing that there is proper co-ordination of the decisions of the Board of Trade on industrial location, of the Minister of Transport on trunk roads, and of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the local authorities under it on the question of urban development?

The Prime Minister

They work closely through the Government machine and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows from experience, these things are very often discussed in Ministerial committees. The final responsibility for local plans rests with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government to approve them or disallow them.