HC Deb 25 July 1963 vol 681 cc1848-51

Lords Amendment: In page 37, line 41, at end insert: (3A) A London borough council or the Common Council—

  1. (a) when preparing their local development plan under section 25(4) or any proposal under section 26(3) of this Act shall give to the Greater London Council any information which that Council may require with respect to the matters to be included in that plan or proposal; and
  2. (b) before submitting that plan or proposal to the Greater London Council shall give that Council an opportunity to make representations in the light of that information and shall consider any representations so made."

Sir K. Joseph

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said Amendment.

This Amendment meets the point made in another place that there is at the moment in the Bill no provision by which the Greater London Council may be kept in touch with proposals considered by the London boroughs in making their local development plans. The Amendment enables the Greater London Council to be kept in touch with such information as it requires the London boroughs to produce, so that the G.L.C. may know the whole while what the London boroughs are thinking in connection with their development plan work.

Mr. Skeffington

We are considerably overjoyed that the Government have at long last seen that there is some force in the point which was repeatedly made in Committee that the planning proposals as envisaged when the Bill was originally introduced would be absolutely chaotic. We said it was farcical that there should be in this London conurbation boroughs making their separate development plans and the Greater London Council making its development plans with practically no means of reconciling or harmonising them except when the Minister intervened. This addition to the Clause will, at any rate, ensure that the essential information is given at an early stage. Furthermore, it ensures that the type of information is given to the Greater London Council which it must have in considering its own plan.

The only thing that astonishes me is that it has taken all the discussions in Committee and in both Houses before we have been able to get this modest piece of additional power for one of the overall planning authorities in the London area. I am glad to note that the second part of the Amendment enables discussions to go on between the Greater London Council and the boroughs, presumably in order to get agreement so that the matter does not have to be referred to the Minister, which was the position until the Amendment was introduced.

During our long discussions, the points that we made were not recognised by the Government—indeed, they were disputed—and we were told that we were raising quite unnecessary complications. We now find in a few casual sentences that the Minister gives us all the points that we were making. I would have respected the Minister more if he had conceded that there was considerable force in our arguments in Committee, and I am sorry that he has not done so.

Mr. M. Stewart

I express emphatically my agreement with what has just been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington). It is some comfort to us to realise that it was worth while hammering away at certain points in Standing Committee, even though there was no immediate result. It is always admirable in planning and housing matters when there is a full exchange of information. It is difficult to get judgments on planning and housing right if everyone concerned is not fully informed. If, to give an example, a Ministry has in its possession a document describing housing needs in 1960, it is deplorable and stupid that it should sit on it for a couple of months when it might have been made available to the general public. I am reminded of that by the Clause. Perhaps the Minister will take this opportunity to assure us that such information will be available to hon. Members in the Vote Office or, perhaps, in an agreed form at the earliest opportunity.

6.30 p.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn

It seems to me that at last there will be co-operation between the boroughs and the Greater London Council. Am I right in assuming that whichever way it works, if the G.L.C. has to do something it must consult the boroughs, and vice versa? It seems to me that before anything is done, both sides must come to some agreement. Am I correct in this?

Sir K. Joseph

In answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn), the Amendment does not touch the powers of the Greater London Council and the Minister to approve or disapprove what is contained in a local development plan. It equips the G.L.C. to discover the thinking which goes towards the making of the development plan.

I detected in the remarks of the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) one of his rare factual mistakes—he makes plenty of policy mistakes. He said that we had held up a document for two months. To give the hon. Member the full force of what he said, I think that he meant two years.

Mr. M. Stewart

I was giving the most charitable view possible. The document is dated May, 1962. I should have said one year and two months.

Sir K. Joseph

The document, dated 1962, referred to housing information of 1960 and was, therefore, somewhat out of date when put into the Minister's hands. Certainly, anybody who is interested may make application and I will be glad to see that a copy is sent. A copy has been put in the Library.

Question put and agreed to.

Subsequent Lords Amendment agreed to.