HC Deb 21 June 1963 vol 679 cc829-35
Sir G. Nicholson

I beg to move, in line 4, after "to", to insert: make advances for the erection of buildings and to". With the permission of the House, I should like to take this and the next Amendment together.

Mr. Speaker

I see no objection to that.

Sir G. Nicholson

These two Amendments are purely drafting Amendments rearranging the items of the long Title so that they are in the same order as the provisions of the Bill. This might, perhaps, have been done in Committee, but as we failed to do it there I am doing it now.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In line 5, leave out from "vehicles" to "to" in line 6.—[Sir G. Nicholson.]

Order for Third Reading read.—[Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified]

12.26 p.m.

Sir G. Nicholson

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

I do not propose to weary the House with a long speech. I said all that I had to say on Second Reading, and even then I compressed my remarks within six minutes. I recommend the Bill to the House as a useful tidying-up Measure. It has had approval from the local authority associations and from my right hon. Friend and his Department. I hope that as it stands now it has the approval of my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), to whom I am most grateful for the help which he has given. I content myself with recommending the Bill to the House and hope that it will be given its Third Reading.

12.27 p.m.

Dr. Alan Glyn

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) on the Bill and would draw the attention of the House to two things in it which, I think, are of tremendous value. One of them is the ability of local authorities to clear up some of the ghastly derelict sites which certainly in central London constituencies spoil a large number of fine streets in residential areas. I am also very pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham accepted the Amendment of my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) on this point, because I think that the qualifications giving some latitude to owners who may wish to develop in, perhaps, two or three years' time when adjoining property falls in is an extremely useful thing.

The only Clause in the Bill to which I should like to make reference is that which provides for garage accommodation. This again is something which we in central London welcome very much indeed, because the problem of providing sufficient garage accommodation is, in many cases, beyond the capabilities of private developers. I think that in this case we have to look to the local authorities to take an active interest in the provision of proper garage facilities in order that, to some extent, residents in London do not have to litter the streets with their cars and are provided with reasonable accommodation for them.

I should like once again to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham on getting almost on to the Statute Book a Measure which in itself is a very useful adjunct to the powers which local authorities already possess.

12.29 p.m.

Mr. MacColl

The hon. Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) had a sort of prize giving in which he expressed his good will towards the people who had helped him get his Bill through. He did not include us in the prize giving.

Sir G. Nicholson

May I now make up for that omission and include hon. Gentlemen opposite?

Mr. MacColl

I was going to say to the hon. Gentleman that with some Bills it may often be the case that silence or non-appearance is the best contribution which the Opposition can make. Therefore, although I was not a member of the Committee, I think that the hon. Gentleman got his Bill through rather more quickly than he might have done had I been a member.

I welcome the Bill, I congratulate the hon. Gentleman, and thank him for having used his Parliamentary time for this very useful Measure. I do not share the view of the hon. Member for Clapham (Dr. Alan Glyn) that the Bill has been improved by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). I long ago learned to fear the hon. Member for Crosby, especially when he has been moving non-controversial Amendments. I only hope that he has not succeeded in wrecking this Bill in that process, but according to the advice of the Parliamentary Secretary he has pot so succeeded.

I particularly welcome Clause 6. My emotional interest has rather diminished because my own constituency has very recently become a development district. Until then, I had very strong views on this subject, because although there may not be a strong and close connection between derelict sites and unemployment—they may, but do not always, go together—the cleaning up of these legacies from the past in our industrial towns, and making them look reasonably attractive to business enterprise, is a very important duty for local authorities to undertake.

The fact that the Bill makes it easier for them to do that in areas that are not development districts is admirable. As I say, my enthusiasm would be the greater had my own constituency not been made a development district, which means that there we can now deal with these matters under the Local Employment Act. This Measure, however, is useful for other local authority areas, and I hope that it will have a quick Third Reading.

12.32 p.m.

Mr. Renton

Although I have taken practically no part in the proceedings on this Bill, I feel very strongly about the matters to which it relates. One of the most severe problems that the country has to face in the future is that caused by our enormous population density. It is frightening to think that as the years go by we shall continue to lose agricultural land and a countryside of great natural beauty when we already have one of the highest population densities in the world.

I know that not only the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, but the Ministry of Agriculture, the Scottish Office, and even the Service Departments are conscious and anxious about this problem, but perhaps I might put forward a proposition that I hope my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary may carry to the right quarters. I feel that if the powers to restore derelict land, whether for development or for amenity purposes, or for the resumption of agriculture, are properly used, and local authorities make a determined drive on redevelopment where-ever it is timely and possible, we might in those two ways minimise the amount of land that is year by year lost to agriculture.

The initiative to use the powers under the Bill depends entirely, as I understand it, upon the local authorities. If they decide not to use them, the magnificent effort of my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) will have been wasted. I therefore hope that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government will draw attention to the opportunity that Parliament is giving to local authorities, and will issue a very strong circular expressing the hope that those powers will be used to the maximum.

If those thoughts are borne in mind, if a two-pronged thrust is made at the problem, as I suggest, this country can be a very much happier place in the future, although it will become more overcrowded.

12.35 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page

I join in most sincerely congratulating my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson),and all the more so because I have, at the same time, to apologise to him for the trouble I have given him throughout the proceedings. I thank him most earnestly for the courtesy that he has shown, despite my niggling Amendments, if I may call them that.

I am still a little nervous about the powers that we are giving to local authorities but that does not detract from my admiration of the way in which my hon. Friend has conducted his Measure through its various stages. If some of the powers are properly used, great benefit to the nation can be derived from them. I have always maintained that there are many areas of land within our cities that can be used for the filling-in process; that it is not always necessary when thinking, for example, of housing development, to go to areas outside our cities, within the green belts, and so on.

There is much to be filled in within our cities, and if it is used for housing, a very useful purpose will be served. We cannot put all our dwellings outside the cities—there must be a proportion of dwelling-houses within them—and I think that we shall find areas on which to develop in that way in the small parcels of land that have remained unused, perhaps for years, in some of the big cities.

I hope that the Bill will be an encouragement to local authorities to look for development by the filling-in process, and particularly to use Clause 3, which gives them power to make advances to those prepared to develop these small parcels of land. The small man needs help. He is not like the big developer, who has a wide area and can employ large sums of money. The small developer who can provide housing on the derelect plots within the cities should be encouraged under the powers given by Clause 3.

12.37 p.m.

Mr. Corfield

It only remains for me to add my welcome to the Bill, and to congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Farnham (Sir G. Nicholson) both on introducing it and on the manner in which he has piloted it through its various stages. I think that we would all agree, despite the reservations and distrusts of power expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), that this will be a valuable Bill for local authorities, bearing in mind that we give local authorities powers to enable them the better to serve their public and not for the sake of giving them powers.

With due respect, the Bill probably represents a useful exercise in easing the burden of work in the House. Many of its provisions are taken out of private legislation, much of which is very time-consuming. I think that as these provisions in legislation of that kind become more and more generally adopted it is sensible to incorporate them in general legislation of this nature, and thereby relieve a degree of duplication of the work in this House.

I can assure my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Renton) that the question of making the maximum use of land not otherwise of great value, let alone of any amenity attraction, is very much to the fore. In view of the rather recent circularisation of local authorities—particularly those in the development districts—on the same subject, I hardly think there is any need for a further circular. I would remind my right hon. and learned Friend, however, that although basically, the initiative comes from local authorities, there is a degree of supervision in the sense that areas like this are shown on development plans, and that consideration of the best use of land is a matter over which there is a degree of ministerial control, at least in the final stages.

I again congratulate my hon. Friend, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister is most anxious to be associated with our congratulations.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.