§ Order for Third Reading read.—[Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, signified]
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ The Minister of Land and Natural Resources (Mr. Frederick Willey)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
In the White Paper we said:The view that control over development must be exercised by the community is not now seriously disputed and it is generally accepted that the value attached to land by the right to develop it is a value which has substantially been created by the community.That conclusion has been fully justified by our discussion on the Bill.
No one would deny the patience and courtesy of Lord Silkin, but the 1947 Bill was obstructed in Committee and was subjected to the Guillotine. As one who has had a good deal of experience in opposition, I am relieved and satisfied to have reached Third Reading without having had to resort to a Closure on a single occasion and without even mention or suspicion of a Closure. There have been complaints about the length and complexity of the Bill, but, '00 hint of a Closure. The Bill was dealt with in Standing Committee in only 21 Sittings. I am entitled to take those complaints with a pinch of salts. No hon. Member can complain that the Bill has not been adequately discussed.
I pay tribute to the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham page) and colleagues for the meticulous care which they gave in our consideration of the Bill. I do not wish to prejudice the hon. Gentleman by too much praise from this Bench, but I recoginse his hard and tenacious argument on the consideration of the Bill.
I recall, Sir, that when he was a Law Officer on the Government Front Bench, and I was leading for the Opposition, your predecessor Sir Harry Hylton-Foster, sent me a note saying:And even the ranks of Tuscany could scarce forbear to cheer.I would convey the same message to the hon. Member for Crosby. He also 49 took upon himself the difficult task of improving the Bill. I hope that he will not charge me with being unresponsive. We have, in fact, seriously considered the more constructive proposals he made. A large number of Government Amendments and Schedules on Report were in response to requests by the hon. Gentleman to amplify and extend the Bill. I would add that those Schedules were, without exception, to relieve and advantage the levy-payer.
I cannot disguise the fact that this is a complicated Bill. I agree with Dr. Denman—and this is the only point on which I do agree with him—that land is a bundle of interests, a bundle of rights, and that if one is affected the others are affected. It is an inevitable consequence that any legislation affecting land, whatever it be, is complicated.
I admit that I could have made the Bill shorter and simpler. I could have said that here we were establishing a responsible public body, and much could have been left to the judgment and discretion of the Land Commission itself. The Commission could have been left to devise its own rules. I believe that Parliament itself should closely define the operation of the levy. I am sure that is right. It certainly has not been challenged. I could also have followed precedents. I could have left much more to regulations, and thereby shortened the Bill itself. Nowadays, complicated legislation is unavoidable and is accepted by the House. However, I have tried as far as possible to limit any resort to regulations. Where it has been unavoidable, I nave conceded, as in Case F, for example, that the resort to regulations should be as closely defined as possible.
The White Paper was presented over a year ago. That means that we are drawing to the end of what was bound to be a difficult interim period. The Bill makes special provision for house builders. We extended this still further in Standing Committee. These provisions have been welcomed, but my critics have said that the White Paper and the introduction of the Bill would lead to a sharp increase in land prices and a drying-up in the supply of land for development during the interim period.
I am happy to say that those gloomy prognostications have not been borne out. On the contrary, the land famine we have 50 suffered from in past years has, if anything, eased somewhat. It is a little less acute at the moment than it was some time ago. There is no evidence that land prices have been aff[...] by the Government's proposals. Recently, they appear to have steadied again.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Hexham)
Would the Minister agree that land prices have, in fact, been rising steadily? Would he also agree that if there is some land not being developed it is because of the Government having halted so many essential building programmes, including the house-building programme?
§ Mr. Willey
We are on Third Reading. I am dealing only with the allegation that the introduction of the White Paper and the Bill would lead to both scarcity of land and higher prices. This has not been borne out.
There is obviously a correlation between land prices and the supply of land for development. Indeed, this is a major argument for the Commission. Despite the ambivalence of the Opposition, I am convinced that most people now accept the view of the Government that there is something special about development value which justifies special treatment. In spite of the continuous debate we have had on the Bill, I remain equally convinced that it is administratively impractical to use the normal taxation system to deal with development value.
There is a further point: if the levy might result in land being withheld from the market, if there is any risk, it is equally right that the body responsible for the levy should be armed with compulsory purchase powers. If there is any risk of land being withheld or, for that matter, any risk of part of the levy being passed on to the purchaser, the risk would be exactly the same in anything proposed by the Opposition in substitution for the levy.
Having said that, I agree that the rate of the levy is not unimportant. The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) said he had no disagreement with the levy in principle, but that it should be at a moderate level. We have had our protracted discussions, but so far the Opposition have remained coy on what they regard as being a moderate rate of levy. Indeed, so far, inasmuch as they have 51 treated development value separately, they appear to have discriminated in favour of the landowner and in favour of the speculator. Sir Coli[...]rnton-Kemsley, who used to grace the benches opposite, and who has considerable experience in development and property, put forward the notion of 50 per cent.
The Government have made their intentions quite clear by stating in the White Paper that the levywill be prescribed by order at an initial rate of 40 per cent. which in the Government's view is a modest rate leaving ample incentive to owners to offer land for development. But it is the Government's intention to increase the rate progressively to 45 per cent. and then to 50 per cent. at reasonably short intervals. The question of increasing the rate further will be examined as acquisitions by the Commission, and thus their ability to provide land for development, increase.I believe that this is a moderate approach. When the White Paper was published, this was generally accepted as a moderate approach. I agree with the Financial Times that the warning that the rate will increase should help to bring land more quickly on to the market.
However, although we have got the rate right, clearly if we impose a levy we must have powers to ensure that development is not frustrated by landowners withholding land on account of the levy. If there is any risk, the Commission must be prepared to use its powers to bring land forward for development.
Even within the context of the levy and of betterment, there is an irrefutable need for a national body with effective compulsory purchase powers. As I see it, the position is that, impelled by the scandal of land prices, the Government are taking steps generally recognised as reasonable. They will not be held up to ransom by certain landowners and speculators.
As has been recognised throughout our debates, the Commission has two objectives. It is not concerned only with the scandal of land prices. It is not concerned only to secure that a substantial part of the development value created by the community returns to the community so that the burden of the cost of land for essential purposes is reduced. It is concerned, also, to secure that the right land is available at the right time for the implementation of national, regional and local plans.
52 The Opposition have constantly argued that, to do this, all that is required is an improvement of planning procedures. It would be inappropriate to pursue this far on Third Reading. I would merely say that, while they were in office, the Opposition showed little concern about this. In fact, we are now considering ways and means of making planning more expeditious and more efficient.
The Bill is not concerned with planning itself. It is concerned with the implementation of planning policies. The Commission itself is not a planning authority. In the Bill, I went to pains to provide that the Commission can exercise its compulsory purchase powers only where there is a decision of a planning authority indicating that the land is suitable for development. The purpose of the Commission is to introduce a new dynamic, positive element into planning.
At present, as the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) knows, because he has called attention to this, there is an enormous number of outstanding planning permissions not exercised because the land is not available. To seek a solution by having more and more planning permissions is defeatist. It would result only in half-hearted, second-rate planning. To be effective—this is where the Commission will help—the most suitable land must be developed first at the time that it is required. The only satisfactory solution is to use, if necessary, the powers of compulsory purchase provided in the Bill to ensure that in fact the development takes place in the right place and at the right time.
However, the Commission will not use its powers only to bring land forward where at present it is being withheld. The new towns and some of the more enlightened local authorities have demonstrated the advantages of acquisition well in advance of development. Indeed, as I said in a previous debate, I am certain that without advance acquisition, bringing the whole of the land into single ownership, satisfactory development on a substantial scale is impracticable. Unification of ownership is absolutely essential if development is to take place in an orderly co-ordinated fashion.
I am not thinking only of comprehensive redevelopment, the rehabilitation of twilight areas, or the harmonising of 53 acceptable development with the country side. Obviously, the regional plans involve considerable extensive development possibly disregarding local authority boundaries. They envisage the release of substantial areas for private development. In all this I am convinced that the Commission will play a decisive rôle. Once land to be developed has been determined, the Commission can buy and manage the land so that it can be effectively released for development and ensure that meanwhile the best agricultural use is made of the land right up to the point of development.
§ Mr. John Farr (Harborough)
The right hon. Gentleman used a phrase a short time ago which none of us heard him use in Committee, namely, "unification of ownership". How far does he envisage that such unification will go, because this is a very important point?
§ Mr. Willey
There will be unification of ownership because the Commission will take into its ownership the land required for development.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
"Unification" literally means "monopoly". Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that or not, because monopoly means land nationalisation?
§ Mr. Willey
I thought that it was clear, but I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for seeking clarification. I was using this in the context of a specific acquisition for particular development and saying that, if there is to be orderly development, unification of ownership is necessary.
§ Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull) rose——
§ Mr. Willey
I will not give way now. We have only a short time for debate. I would rather proceed and allow more hon. Members the chance to participate.
If we accept the scale of the task of reshaping our towns and cities, if we accept the present state of land prices as being wholly indefensible, and if we accept that part of the development value should rest with the community, there is an unanswerable case for the Bill.
On Second Reading, the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham talked about the prospect of bitterness. He should have spoken retrospectively. The bitterness 54 is already there. In fact, it was given political expression at the last two General Elections. The bitterness arose because the Conservative Government, by allowing the opportunity of these vast windfall profits, allowed landowners to hold the whole of the planning system up to ransom. It arose because of the monstrous speculation which the Conservative Government not only tolerated, but, in fact, created. It arose from the land famine which was consequent on this.
§ Mr. Rippon rose——
§ Mr. Willey
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will have the chance to reply. I was merely calling attention to the fact that the bitterness is there as a result of the actions of the previous Government. On the contrary, we find this absolutely intolerable. The sooner the Bill is effective the better. [Interruption.] The Bill is dealing with two things—betterment and the supply of land. Both things affect the price of land.
§ Mr. Willey
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will continue to the last ditch his opposition to the Bill. In view of his record, this is not surprising.
I hope shortly to be able to announce the names of the prospective chairman and members of the Commission. I am sure that they will command the greatest respect. We are determined to avoid, as far as possible, any duplication of staff. We are recruiting the staff. For some time they have been attending training courses at Croydon. We have joint teams, with staff from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, carrying out surveys and studies of land availability in the more difficult areas. There will be teething troubles obviously, but at any rate we are at the moment making satisfactory and smooth progress.
To sum up, although the levy provisions are unavoidably and necessarily complicated, the provisions of the Bill itself are basically simple. To meet the objectives that we set ourselves in the 55 White Paper we are setting up a powerful Land Commission. The Commission, by agreement, will be able to buy any land which it has reason to think may be needed for development. Provided that there is planning permission, the Bill confers on the Commission comprehensive powers of compulsory purchase. The Commission can act expeditiously because of the vesting procedure and it can dispense with the ordinary conveyancing procedure. It does not affect at all the rights of the landowner.
The Commission has all the powers necessary to manage and improve land while it is in the Commission's possession, and, although its main task is to bring land forward for development, the Commission itself has powers to build and develop, though in the case of housing it would have to obtain the consent of the Minister of Housing and Local Government. To aid the owner-occupier the Commission has power to dispose of land to him at less than market value. This is concessionary crownhold. It means for the owner-occupier that we can mitigate the high cost of houses.
The Commission, if it chooses, is able to dispose of land while retaining for the benefit of the Crown future development value. This is crownhold. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) has said that he would give crownhold status to all land which passes through the Commission's hands. It will be for the Commission to decide in what form it can dispose of that, but I would agree with him that crownhold may for the future provide a solution to the problem of betterment.
I have been told, and I have been reminded again by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), that I am introducing creeping nationalisation. This is nonsense. The Commission is providing land for development. But, as I said before, I am not afraid of the charge. Already, a considerable amount of urban land is in public ownership, and, in so far as it is necessary to provide better towns and cities, the Commission will further public ownership. By the levy and by the fact that the Commission itself buys land, deducting levy from the price that it pays, the Bill deals with the problem 56 of betterment. It deals with it equitably because the burden of the levy falls on the person realising the profit—generally the landowner and not the developer. It is assessed on the actual price paid.
What is especially important is the fact that the Bill successfully avoids a two-price system. By doing this it removes any pressures on the Commission so that it can exercise its own judgment in extending its activities. It was for this reason that we were able to provide in the Bill itself the two appointed days, the two stages in the Bill——
§ Mr. Reginald Eyre (Birmingham, Hall Green) rose——
§ Mr. Willey
I should like to give other Members an opportunity of taking part in the debate. We have only a short time.
§ Mr. Willey
The hon. Gentleman knows well enough that this is a matter we discussed fully in Committee. This is no special problem for the Land Commission. We have got many precedents, in local authorities, housing associations, and other bodies.
I was saying that the extent of the Commission's activities will depend on the success of its activities. I am certain that this pragmatic, realistic approach is the right one. As the White Paper concludes, we intend to achieve our objectivesby a flexible system which, combining a levy with the other operations of the Commission, will both provide an effective and fair solution to the problem of betterment and ensure a sufficient and orderly supply of land for development.The Bill provides a practical, empirical solution to the problem of betterment. I believe that it will be a final solution. The need for the Bill is urgent. Our planning beliefs have been subject to the test of experience, and the racket of land speculation has proved that, in fact, it is not true that speculative freedom results in the greater good. We have, therefore, 57 determined to end the scandal of land prices. We are determined to deal with the problem of betterment. We are determined, also, to provide an agency which will give effect to good purposeful planning.
§ Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn) rose——
§ Mr. Willey
The Bill provides a major radical reform. I am certain that this time, as I said before, the solution will be a final one.
§ 4.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
I thank the Minister for his kind remarks at the beginning of his speech. It really is no traditional formality if I offer my sincere congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary for piloting the Bill through the Second Reading, the Committee and Report stages to this Third Reading stage.
My congratulations are all the more sincere because of the craft that these copilots had to pilot, namely, this Bill, this unnavigable juggernaut, which, if it ever sails, will collide with every principle of justice and liberty enshrined in the British Constitution. For the same reason my thanks to the right hon. Gentleman are just as sincere for the happy personal relationship we have had between the Government and the Opposition sides throughout the course of the passage of the Bill. But that is where the honeymoon ends.
Somehow, somebody persuaded the right hon. Gentleman into producing very long Schedules right at the last moment—complicated, unintelligible, unworkable Schedules which were just as much an embarrassment to him, I think, as they were to us. Had it been some other Minister, I would have accused him of deliberately withholding these Schedules so that we would not have time to understand them and debate them and would have to let them slip into the Bill. But I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would not stoop to that sort of strategy.
I think that the reason is far more fundamental than that. It is simply this. Socialism does not work in practice. One put the theory into the text of a Bill, but then one has to work out how it will apply in practice; this is where one gets into these complicated and unworkable Schedules. The Minister only has to ask his own back benchers. I do not mean 58 the few who have come in here. Let him ask them outside in the corridors, and he will find that they are bitterly disappointed at a Bill of this sort, which they thought would be a simple little Bill of land nationalisation. It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to tell my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), as he did just now, that this is not nationalisation. The Prime Minister has been stumping the country telling us that this is nationalisation of all urban building land. Whom are we to believe?
The Bill has turned into a mass of legal jargon and lawyer's jungle, which is what happens when one tries to put this sort of Socialist theory into practice. It has gradually dawned on the right hon. Gentleman's supporters, as well as those of us on this side of the House, that when one has a statute which one cannot explain to one's constituents, and which even professional men cannot explain, one is in the hands of the bureaucrats. One is under the heel of the bureaucrat, whom we identified in Committee as that short sighted little man in the attic office in Newcastle, making orders which there is no possibility of questioning because nobody understands the basis on which they are made.
The Labour Party should not show angry surprise at the impossible form of legislation which has developed from the theory of a Land Commission. Land nationalisation and the seizure of development value of buildings or land looks all very well in "Signposts for the Sixties" or "Socialist Commentary", but, like all Socialist theories, it does not work in practice—despite the Herculean task of the draftsmen who, working against time, two years, managed to produce this version of what I would call the "service of unholy deadlock". I was about to say that perhaps it was just in time for the child, the Land Commission, to be born in the vestry. It was not in time.
The Commission remains a statutory bastard. It is the result of a wholly unconstitutional union between compulsory acquisition and capital levy, and the Commission will inherit that dual personality. Under one hat it decides what property shall be seized, and it carries out the seizure. Under the other hat it assesses the levy to be imposed on property, and it collects that levy. I know of no other 59 unelected body that has ever been given those wide dual powers, striking right across the powers of local authorities and even of the Treasury.
Local authorities could have acquired democratically, in a proper way, with proper safeguards, for known purposes, all the property which the Land Commission will desire to acquire if its acts properly. The Exchequer could have assessed and collected the taxation on betterment. We should have had a chance to ask a responsible Minister about it and its citizen would have had a chance of taking any questions which he had through the process of taxation appeals. But now the levy is to be squeezed out of the victim, sometimes even before receipt of the money on which it is assessed and from which it is said to be payable.
I have made some rude remarks about the proposed Land Commission, which has the power to seize property and levy taxes. Now let us see for a moment what it is, or what it will be. It will be nine men appointed by the Minister, and each can be dismissed at the whim of the Minister. It will be required, according to Clause 1, to act upon the Minister's directions, which may be specific in the case of compulsory acquisition of land and the management of the Commission's land, which includes the allocation of concessionary crownhold. Is not this Ministerial control very significant?
At present, the Minister under the Bill is the Minister of Land and Natural Resources, but we all know that his office is under suspended death sentence and that there will be a take-over by the Minister of Housing and Local Government. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us that that takeover is not imminent, or perhaps that it is "unthinkable", which means that it will happen in two months; or that there is "no intention" of it happening, which means that it will happen in one month; or that it is "quite impossible", which means that it will happen tomorrow. But at some time the Minister under the Bill will be the Minister of Housing and Local Government.
Bearing that in mind, let us apply the Bill to the ordinary dwelling house, a person's home with a bit of garden to 60 spare. Let us assume that the home owner who is living there does not particularly want to sell because he knows that if he has to sell he must pay the levy, and he may not have enough money to buy a comparable house when the levy has been deducted from the proceeds of sale of his present house. But the Minister specifically directs the Land Commission to purchase the house, and so the Commission puts on a compulsory purchase order. The Commission need not state in the order the purpose for which it requires the property. That is a new piece of law about which we have protested through all the stages of the Bill, that the Land Commission can acquire property not only entirely arbitrarily, but without stating its purposes.
Having had the compulsory purchase order put on his dwelling-house the home owner appeals to the Minister, who, of course, will be the Minister who has given specific directions for the property to be acquired. Perhaps to save embarrassment to himself, the Minister will also have made an order for the special compulsory purchase procedure to apply, which means that there will be no inquiry and no appeal to anyone against that compulsory purchase order. The house and garden of a home may be taken away without anyone hearing the home owner's plea, and without anyone delivering a judgment, except perhaps the little man in the attic in Newcastle.
It has been said more than once, but it is worth mentioning again, that when one is summoned for a parking offence or sued for a few shillings' debt, British justice insists that one shall be allowed to plead one's case before a magistrate or judge, and judgment shall be delivered publicly. But under this Socialist Government one's home can be taken away without any form of justice, even of the crudest kind, being seen to be done. There is obviously no intention, under this Government, of justice being done when the individual's rights conflict with the claims of this politically guided Land Commission.
That is this Government's policy. A man can be chucked out of his home and perhaps, if he remembers a little bit of law, he will clutch his title deeds and say, "They can't take this away from me." Of course, he is not right. Under Clauses 9 and 10 and the Third Schedule, the 61 Land Commission can convey the property to itself without any title to it, merely signing the general vesting declaration, and it can thereupon deduct from the compensation what it thinks is the right amount of levy.
How does the levy arise? The process emerges in this complicated Bill that 95 per cent. of all transactions in land are notifiable to the Land Commission in the future. I guess that figure, but I am pretty certain that I am very nearly right. Even the smallest transactions are notifiable. In addition, all starts of change of structure or use of property will be notifiable to the Land Commission.
The right hon. Gentleman optimistically said that a staff of 2,000 can cope with all that. I wonder whether that staff of 2,000, who, we are told, are already in training in courses at Croydon, have found the Bill, as the right hon. Gentleman describes it, basically simple. With all these transactions to be reported to the Commission, it will be impossible even to sort them out and file them with a staff kept down to 2,000. That staff is only just the clerks. They will pass the notices to district valuers—how many of them we cannot tell—who will ascertain, to put it briefly, the gain which has been or will be made out of each transaction. That gain has to be divided into two parts, current use value and net development value. It is significant that neither of those expressions is defined in the Bill.
Thus, one is left with somebody somewhere guessing at figures, guessing at the gain made or likely to be made out of a transaction, guessing at the division between the assessment by which the current use value of the property has increased and the amount by which the net development value has increased, and charging on that two sets of taxes, Capital Gains Tax or Corporation Tax on the current use value, and capital levy under the Bill on the net development value.
Could anyone have conceived a more incredibly stupid and uncertain form of taxation? If there is one thing required in any taxation, it is that there should be some certainty about it, that the taxpayer, the levy-payer, should be able to ascertain what is the right figure he should pay. But under the Bill it will be quite impossible for the professional man, let alone the ordinary citizen, to ascertain the figures. The whole Bill will prove unworkable in this respect.
62 The danger is that the Government will try to make it workable both as regards the levy and as regards the property monopoly which the right hon. Gentleman chose to call unification of ownership. Whether it is a local monopoly or a national monopoly makes very little difference. It is an effort to draw together into the hands of the Commission the property in a certain area so that it may be devoted to certain purposes without competition from elsewhere. All this—trying to work an unworkable Bill—will cause untold damage to development, and this in face of a disastrous drop in the rate of house building and a deliberate Government contraction of the construction industry.
As one reads through the Bill again, after one struggles with it in Committee and after its being doubled in size on Report, one cannot but come to the conclusion that it will be an absolute disaster for the economy of the country as a whole.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I concur in what has been said by my right hon. Friend and by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) about our amicable work in Committee. There were passages at times which could not have been said to be exactly calm, but heat generally did not overboil the pot to the extent that there was much deliberate obstruction, though there was occasionally.
My right hon. Friend said that we had only 21 sittings in the Standing Committee. I myself feel the same—that other hon. Members feel the same—that those sittings went on for a very long time. Of course, legislation of the kind with which we are now dealing unavoidably has a great deal of tediousness about it, but anyone in the country who has seriously considered the question of land, land prices and land speculation does not doubt that there is the greatest need for legislation.
Hon. and right hon. Members opposite have admitted this. The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter), about whom I may have something to say later, has said so. While great mistakes may have been made in previous legislation, there is no doubt that authoritative reports from both individuals and organisations have clearly and unmistakeably indicated the need 63 for Government legislation to tackle the question of land being available where necessary and at the right price.
§ Mr. Manuel
I shall come to that in dealing with the local authorities. At least, it will not go into the one big private pocket of someone who, possibly, could not produce the title deeds of the land, about which the hon. Member for Crosby spoke. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer the question."] When we are talking about title deeds and land ownership, we should remember that the Bill will deal somewhat better with the great land anomalies we have and questions of ownership of land in respect of which it would be very difficult for the present so-called owners to produce title deeds. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] I do not want to deal with the froth of the Tory Party which took no part in Standing Committee and does not know too much about what happened.
§ Mr. T. L. Iremonger (Ilford, North)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it in order for an hon. Member to refer to another hon. Member who is attending the Chamber on Third Reading as "froth" because he was not on the Standing Committee?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)
I do not think that there has been any Ruling that the word is unparliamentary.
§ Mr. Iremonger
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to assist him in following the train of argument? We were not talking about title deeds. We asked about the price of land, and he would not answer. How will the Bill reduce the price of land?
§ Mr. Manuel
I said that I would come to that when dealing with local authority interests, which I know something about. I referred to title deeds simply because the hon. Member for Crosby referred to them in his opening speech.
I could not deal with the speech of the hon. Member for Ilford, North (Mr. Iremonger), because he has never made one on this legislation. I was dealing with the speech which had been made 64 and pointing out that the reference to title deeds would not hold good in connection with certain large areas of land in this country. We know quite well how the ancestors of the present owners secured it. Perhaps the less said about it the better. Much of this land was at one time in common ownership—church lands, for instance—and we shall, possibly, restore some of that land to an ownership a little wider than the present.
§ Sir Douglas Glover (Ormskirk) rose——
§ Sir D. Glover
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that, to get justice back again, we should return the land to the Anglo-Saxons?
§ Mr. Manuel
I am suggesting that this applies possibly to land presently owned because, to use a Scottish term of one period, someone was born on the wrong side of the blanket. The Bill will give us a better type of title deed, because we shall be able to take land into public ownership until it is required for development in the interests of industrial location or house building or for some other good reason.
There can be no doubt at all that responsible people and organisations have proved conclusively the need for more legislation to deal with land. We had the Uthwatt Committee in 1942 and the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act. While there were criticisms of that Act, there were features of it which were good for the community. This was what disturbed right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite: certain privileges had been taken away from land-owning interests. The Conservative Party obtained power in 1951. In 1953, it abolished development charges. Next, it introduced the 1954 Town and Country Planning Act, which restored market values and gave free play to the market. It made thousands of houses built by local authorities much dearer than they ought to have been. This is why some of us were keen to get some legislation.
§ Mr. Walter Clegg (North Fylde) rose——
§ Mr. Manuel
I think that we have had enough interventions, and had enough argument in Committee. For a new Member, I feel that the hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) has done extraordinarily well. I do not think that he should have too much publicity, for it might rebound on him at the next General Election. He should sit on his oars at present. I think that he will be all right. I have given way three or four times and I do not want to interrupt the sequence of my argument.
My right hon. Friend and I sincerely believe that we are doing something which will be good for Britain and in the national interest. We may be wrong, and it is for right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite to tell us where we are wrong, where our confidence is misplaced and where we are acting against the national interest and the interest of local authorities.
The history of this country is one of land inequalities. The great Liberal Governments of the past were associated with the demand for this reform time and again. I do not know where the Liberal Party stand today. I think that the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell) is the sole representative of the Liberal Party in the Chamber. I think that he will vote against the Third Reading of the Bill. If he intends to do that, I would remind him that on this question of land ownership we are trying to get through the Third Reading of a reform which was strongly advocated by the Liberal Party in its heyday, when it had the greatest leader that it has ever had—Lloyd George—who went very much further than we are trying to go today. He said, "The land belongs to the people". He wanted nationalisation.
§ Mr. Peter Bessell (Bodmin)
If I am fortunate enough to catch Mr. Speaker's eye, I hope to reply to the hon. Member's argument in detail. But when he speaks of a number of my colleagues now in the House he will do well to look at the number of his own colleagues present.
§ Mr. Manuel
That was not the burden of my argument. I was referring to what Lloyd George said for the Liberal Party. The representative of the Liberal Party 66 today repudiates the whole of Liberal Party history and beliefs in this connection. If he wants to debate this in his constituency, I will gladly debate it with him. He is certainly welcome to come to my constituency, although, as there are no Liberals there at present, it might be difficult to get an audience.
I feel that I may be taking up too much time, when many hon. and right hon. Members opposite are rightly keen to take part in the debate. I hope that some of my hon. Friends will take part in it, too. In this country, over the past few years we have had land speculation. Speculators—individuals and companies—have bought land not to develop it but to make a profit out of it. We all know this to be true. It has become a positive scandal that owner-occupiers and people wanting industrial locations in order to give employment to others in the area have been held to ransom before they could secure the land needed for these objectives.
I may say on behalf of myself and the Government that these matters were often discussed within our party circles. It is wrong for the hon. Member for Crosby to say that he meets people in the corridor, belonging to our party, who run down this legislation. When he makes these charges he should name them and their constituencies. It is unfair otherwise to level a charge. He has often met me in the Lobbies. Have I ever said anything remotely resembling what he suggested? I have stuck up for the Bill in every way I could. I believe in it and I do not think that my sincerity is doubted. Whether the hon. Member thinks that my "grey matter" is not what it should be is another matter. I have a right in this democracy to my point of view. I sincerely believe that the Bill will cure many inequalities.
Both the hon. Member for Crosby and the hon. Member for Ilford, North asked about present high land prices. In this way they admit that there are high prices and that there is speculation. Both questions presuppose that situation. They are trying to protect their friends, who speculate by retaining the high market prices. The Bill does not provide for market price or scarcity value. It provides for a levy. The right hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames 67 stated clearly that he was not against the levy and that he accepted the principle of a levy. The question whether it should be 30 per cent. or some other figure was debatable, but he accepted that a levy was preferable to the situation to which we are subjected at present in this country.
In my younger days, I was a member of a local authority which was very keen to build houses to wipe out the soul-destroying conditions which we had in that seaside town on the Ayrshire coast, where I was privileged to be a member of the local authority for 15 years. I knew that the conditions were intolerable and that families should not be subjected to such living conditions. We, by building hundreds of houses in the land ward portion of the town, were encroaching on virgin ground behind it, not ground of very high agricultural value but ground which was made much more valuable than it had previously been—and which was not paying rates at all; agricultural land was completely derated at that time.
As we brought up services of gas, electricity, sewerage, this land became a goldmine in comparison with what it was worth before. Those owners had not spent a halfpenny piece upon it, and as the ground changed its value to that extent it became a very valuable holding indeed to the owners. The public purse through the medium of the rates had spent money on the building of houses and bringing up the services and in providing other amenities which are necessary for a properly planned community.
I want to ask hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite: do they really think that it was correct, right and justified that those owners should have creamed off to the extent they did the profit they did because of the community effort exerted by that local authority? And we had to get the land, to relieve those intolerable conditions I was talking about.
I want to congratulate my right hon. Friend——
§ Mr. Graham Page
The hon. Gentleman has asked us a question, but he has not touched on the point about that land that under the Bill the owner would still be able to sell it at a price plus development value. It merely means some of 68 it would go in levy. It does not cheapen the price of the land.
§ Mr. Manuel
I am sorry to prolong this, but the hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that the main facet of this is that the price is not going into the private pocket. If the use value is £300 and he gets £2,000 there is a levy, between £300 and the £2,000, to be paid by the seller.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Still it does not make the land cheaper."] This is different from the 1947 Act, where it was the other way about. This is going into the public purse, and I for one much prefer that to its going into private pockets because of speculation in land necessary for development either for industry or for housing.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend and the Parliamentary Secretary on the way they have steered the Bill through the House. I hope that before we are very much older we shall see it on the Statute Book, when, I believe, there will be proved to the country and other side of the House the value it will have for the people of the country.
§ 5.3 p.m.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
In spite of the agreeable exchange of congratulations with which this debate started I must confess that I find this a melancholy occasion. It is a melancholy occasion because after two bites at the cherry, one in the last Parliament and one in this, the Government are putting forward for adoption by the House today a Measure so complex, so obscure, so arbitrary, and in some respects so sinister in its ulterior intention.
The melancholy of the occasion is enhanced by the fact that the Government have here notably missed their opportunity. They had an opportunity to put forward a Measure which could have commanded, I believe, had it been an appropriate Measure, unanimous assent and, indeed, approbation. They could even have used the opportunity to do something—not, it is true, very much, because things had gone too far for that—but something to restore, at any rate a little, of the fallen credit of the Government and to brighten a little their tarnished image.
The Government could have brought forward a Measure which would have provided a basis for the reasonable 69 recovery by the community of betterment in land. They could have brought an appropriate solution to a matter on which Conservatives embarked as long ago as the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, which solution, unfortunately, was deferred for two decades by the impracticable and self-destroying provisions of the development charges under Part VII of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947.
Had the Government brought forward a constructive Measure on those lines, so far as I am concerned they would certainly have commanded my intellectual assent and, indeed, my congratulations. I agree with the basic principle that community-created value should accrue to the community. That does not mean the whole of the development value, because the community does not create the whole of the development value; but that proportion of the development value which is created by the community should accrue to the community. I said in the debate on the Second Reading in the last Parliament thatthe optimum is as free a functioning as possible of the land market … together with a reasonable recovery to the community of the values which the community has created."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st January, 1966; Vol. 723, c. 742.]That has always been my belief. But, unfortunately, the Government have notably missed their opportunity, or, I suppose it would be strictly more correct to say, they have deliberately turned then-backs on it. For partisan, doctrinaire reasons they have put forward a Measure which is bound to be difficult in interpretation, harsh in effect, and detrimental to that desirable development the encouragement of which is the main, positive function of good town planning.
The Bill, of course, bristles with matters on which it is susceptible to criticism in detail, but the Third Reading is not the time for that; on Third Reading one can only prefer the major points of indictment. There are, I think, two. First, the Bill is not concerned only with betterment. It also provides for a Land Commission which is quite unnecessary for the purpose of the levy, and it gives to that Land Commission powers of compulsory acquisition of almost unrestricted scope, and exercisable without proper 70 democratic safeguards. That is the first of the two main counts in the indictment against them.
The second is that the levy provisions are so complex, so devious and so far-reaching as to threaten the proper functioning of the market in land. Of course, on this second count I appreciate that legislation for the collection of betterment cannot be wholly simple. Of course it cannot.
The House will be aware that measures which are too complex and cumbersome inevitably collapse under their own weight. We have no further to look than to the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, as an illustration of that proposition. Some of its provisions turned out to be wholly unworkable, and had to be repealed, without, so far as I can recall, any great expression of regret. This Bill is worse. If the Act of 1947 was a puzzle, this one will be a maze. I have had about twenty years' experience in this House of dealing with complex and difficult legislation, and longer still in my profession; and, against that background, I am reluctantly bound to say that in my view this Measure commands the dubious distinction of being the most difficult and the most obscure piece of legislation I have had to seek to construe.
It has had insufficient explanation and discussion. The right hon. Gentleman took credit for the fact that he had not guillotined the Bill. I must dissent from him as perhaps the only hon. Member present in the House who served on the Standing Committee considering the Town and Country Planning Bill, 1947, that there was any obstruction on that Bill. That Bill was guillotined. Whole passages of it were undiscussed by Parliament, and that is one of the reasons why it had to be repealed. The provisions were too complex and not fully canvassed by Parliament.
This Bill has not been sufficiently canvassed by Parliament, either. Discussions may have been relatively short, but one reason why they were short was because so many and such complex Amendments were put upon the Notice Paper with far too little time to prepare for informed discussion. It was little short of a Parliamentary scandal that that should have been so.
71 One reason why there has been so little explanation is perhaps lack of understanding by the right hon. Gentleman who put forward the Bill. We know on the authority of the Book of Proverbs thatDiscretion shall preserve thee,Understanding shall keep thee",but the right hon. Gentleman has concentrated on the first of those maxims at the expense of the second. He has kept discreetly silent and reticent in the Report stage of the Bill, no doubt to cloak his lack of understanding of its provisions.
If the Government succeed in putting the Bill upon the Statute book, they will add gravely to the difficulties of the courts in its construction and to the difficulties of professional men—of counsel, solicitors, surveyors, architects, valuers, accountants and so on. They will do worse that that: they will harass the ordinary citizen, the small men of little property and limited resources, because the Act will affect all such. Just as much as those great companies to which hon. Members opposite are so fond of referring, they will be caught in the tangled skein of the provisions of the Act.
As to the other main count in the indictment against them, the Land Commission to be set up is not only unnecessary but injurious. It will be a bureaucratic body with such wide and arbitrary powers of compulsory acquisition that it has no proper place in a democratic society. In a sophisticated modern community, of course, there have to be powers of compulsory acquisition Everyone accepts that. But such powers should exist only for clearly defined statutory purposes and be exercisable by democratically responsible bodies. Neither of those concepts applies to the Land Commission. It will be democratic neither in its composition nor in its conduct.
The powers of compulsory acquisition which it enjoys will be incredibly wide. In so far as its powers of compulsory acquisition are directed to useful and appropriate ends, they are a mere duplicate of those already held by local planning authorities, with the difference that the planning authorities are properly, democratically constituted, electorally responsible bodies.
§ Mr. Manuel
I think that he omitted one important point. If powers of compulsory acquisition are exercised, it will be only where the local authority have already given planning permission for development.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
No, I am sorry. The hon. Gentleman must go back and read the provisions of the Bill much more carefully. I made this point on Report stage and I do not want to repeat it in detail. My language was carefully chosen. He will find that those powers are incredibly wide and almost unrestricted, or will be when they come to be applied.
In so far as they do not duplicate powers held by the local planning authorities, in my view they are unnecessary, excessive, dangerous and contrary both to private property and the public interest. Again, those powers can operate not only against large landowners and great corporations, but against the modest house holder and the ordinary citizen.
Not only will the powers be wide; they are powers that can be exercised in ways which are undemocratic and contrary to the rule of law. Clause 8 of the Bill lays down a so-called special procedure. It is not only a special procedure, but a harsh and arbitrary one whereby the Land Commission will be able to acquire compulsorily the property of the citizen—his house and his garden, as my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) has said—without any inquiry and without any right on his part to be heard.
This is a bad Bill. Instead of providing a solution to the great problem of land betterment, it is an aggravation and an affront. The House should condemn it now, as indubitably the country will condemn it hereafter.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Gardner (Rushcliffe)
I am grateful for this opportunity to address the House on the Third Reading of what I regard as a most important major social reform. As I said in my maiden speech. I seem to have spent most of my time in the House listening to the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), and I have no complaint about the courteous way in which he has dealt with this Measure on the opposite side of the 73 Standing Committee. However, I shall have something to say about the general tenor of the opposition to the Bill, both in Standing Committee and on the Floor of the House.
In Committee and again this afternoon we have heard a great deal about the detailed problems associated with land legislation. Again, I have no complaint, because this was a very long and difficult Committee in the sense that we were dealing with difficult legal problems. As has been said by my right hon. Friend, any legislation dealing with land must be difficult in the sense that it involves a multitude of cross-rights and, therefore, legal problems arise from them.
There is no complaint that the Opposition have used their opportunities to the full to examine the Bill in great detail. What I complain about is that they are up to their old tricks in a political sense. We have heard time and time again about the problems of the owner-occupier, the problems of the little man with a little piece of land. We heard at great length in Standing Committee from the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) about the problems that might be associated with his orchard or his side-drive, in certain conditions.
That is fair enough. It is right that we should examine proposed legislation to see how it affects the small man. I shall have one or two questions on that to put to my right hon. Friend in a moment. However, the real purpose of the Opposition's attack on the Bill has nothing to do with that. The real purpose of their attack is because, if the powers contained in the Bill are used, they will take away once and for all the sacred right to do what one will with the land on which we must build our houses, schools and hospitals.
That is the real burden of their attack. I can understand why the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) feels melancholy. For the first time in this country we have legislation that does not simply soak up some of the increased development value, but gives the community the opportunity well in advance to acquire the land which it needs for planned developments. That is what makes right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite 74 so melancholy. That is the purpose of the attack that they have launched against the Bill, attempting to get Press publicity for the various points that they have raised, simply because they want to cloud the other main issue which is that the Bill will give the community an opportunity to get control of that which Lloyd George once described as having been given by God to the people. In due course, I hope that we shall hear from hon. Members on the Liberal benches.
§ Sir D. Walker-Smith
The hon. Gentleman says that I am melancholy because the Bill provides the first opportunity for acquiring compulsorily in advance land which is needed for public purposes. That is not the reason for my melancholy, nor is what he says fact. When the debate is over, will he go back and quietly study Section 5 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962?
§ Mr. Gardner
The fact is that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his colleagues are upset because this power is available. I am not an estate agent, or a solicitor, or a barrister, or a chartered surveyor, so, while the Bill was being discussed in Committee, I made it my business to discuss this Measure with local builders and developers in my constituency.
I heard a long and sorry record of the kind of land transactions which were taking place—this relates to what hon. Gentlemen opposite were saying about building levels—and preventing small builders from building houses. I heard about agents and property organisations buying up parcels of land, holding them for considerable periods of time, and then letting them off to certain builders at a certain price. This was the kind of problem faced by small builders.
§ Mr. Gardner
The hon. Gentleman says "Rubbish". I am prepared to show him correspondence from local builders making these points.
§ Mr. Gardner
These local builders said time and again that they did not care whether it was the Land Commission acquiring land, or whether the basis 75 on which the land was available was leasehold or crownhold, as long as they had an opportunity to build houses, and as long as Parliament once and for all stopped people holding the country, the community, and even the building industry to some extent, to ransom.
§ Mr. Gardner
If this turns out to be a problem, I shall not hesitate to discuss the matter with my right hon. Friend, but the builders about whom I am talking are not worried about who eventually owns the houses. If, for example, the Bill gave housing associations an opportunity to acquire land more cheaply on a crownhold basis, the small builders about whom I am talking would welcome it.
I have referred to the kind of problems which they have to face, and this is why I wanted an opportunity to say something in reply to the campaign which right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite have waged against the Bill in an effort to fog the basic issues.
I confess that I am a little worried about the possibility that some injustice may arise. When we are involved in compulsory acquisition, and when this is connected with planning decisions in any way, as we all know, having legislated to protect the community from the vicious and the greedy, and those who are prepared to operate as near to the law as possible, it is often necessary to spread the net so wide that we catch people whom we do not want to catch. We have seen this with clearance orders in particular. I ask my hon. Friend to say something about this aspect of the matter. I am not clear about whether, at some stage, it will be possible for this Commission to be considered by the Parliamentary Commissioner.
Having attended 21 sittings of the Standing Committee, having served my political apprenticeship, albeit in silence most of the time, and having supported the Government in getting the Bill through the Committee, may I seriously and quite straightforwardly ask that the 76 compulsory purchase powers in the Bill be used? My fear is not the fear expressed by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I do not think that these powers are too limited. My fear is that they will not be used effectively. The powers of compulsory purchase laid down in the Bill will have the effect of reducing land prices simply because they will allow the community to get the land at a reasonable price instead of at market value.
If these powers are not used effectively we shall have wasted out time. We shall have a complicated piece of legislation which will cost a great deal to operate. If the powers are used effectively, the price that we will have to pay will be worth it. The time has come, both in this House, and in the country to realise that we live on a small island. We cannot, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman said, merely tinker about with free markets. The time has come to consider this problem as a whole, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will assure us that when the debate is concluded we shall have a weapon which we can use, and which will be used effectively, to bring down the price of land.
It may be that the Bill will give rise to some problems. It may be that in some respects we shall find mistakes which will have to be remedied, but this happens with all legislation. I am convinced that if, in the general working of an Act as it will be, the powers in this Measure are used effectively, the country will be grateful to us for the decision that we are to take this afternoon.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Clegg (North Fylde)
Having listened to the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Gardner), I must say that I do not think he can have been listening to the same debate that I have been hearing, or indeed attending the same Committee, because it is clear from what my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) said that the betterment levy will not go entirely to the State.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite are under the delusion that local authorities and the Commission will buy land at less than market value. As I understand, this is not so. The Commission will buy at market value and deduct a levy. This will not bring down the price of land to the man who wants to buy so that he can 77 build. This is what we put to the Government time and again, but we have never received a satisfactory answer.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Archie Manuel) warned me in Committee that he intended to annihilate me, but I survived that. Without his contribution from the back benches the Committee stage of the Bill would have been a dull and feeble affair indeed, and I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for the effort which he has put into his remarks in support of the Government.
As a new Member, I should like to echo what my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) said about the courtesy shown to us by the Minister and by the Parliamentary Secretary in their treatment of our questions, and in the way this matter was dealt with upstairs.
Speaking again as a new Member, I found it remarkable that on Thursday night, and during the early hours of Friday morning, the only way in which we could get hon. Members from the back benches opposite to attend the debate was to call a Count, not once, but on several occasions. It does not surprise me that they do not comprehend the Clauses in the Bill, but I found it incomprehensible that they did not attend a debate which affected the property of their constituents, and the rights of these constituents as citizens.
§ Mr. Gardner
Would the hon. Member care to tell the House how many of his right hon. and hon. Friends were present at 2 a.m. during that night?
§ Mr. Grieve
Are not hon. Members opposite to be congratulated upon attending today in such numbers, for the first time in our debates on the Bill?
§ Mr. Clegg
Any contribution from a Member of the back benches opposite is a matter for congratulations—until one hears it.
The meaning of all these complex Clauses, subsections and Schedules is 78 clear, namely, that the Government and the Commission are given powers that they should not have, and which are to the great detriment of private citizens. This at least can be clearly spelt out, because after the second appointed day no land will be safe from the State—either in form of the Government or the Commission—and the so-called safeguards of inquiry contained in the Bill are nothing but a deliberate charade which, as Clause 6 makes quite clear, depends on the opinion of the Commission or the direction of the Minister. Against that, the private citizen and also the courts will struggle in vain.
Throughout the proceedings on the Bill hon. Members on this side of the House have tried to build into it safeguards for the rights of private citizens, but they have failed each time. The right hon. Member has refused to consider our proposals, in part on the ground that because the Commission is a public body it will act reasonably. If he believes that he will believe anything. The rights of private citizens should not rest on the belief of a Minister that some body which he appoints will act reasonably; they should rest clearly on the law introduced by the Bill itself.
Let me give two examples. First, when the Commission buys urban land, as it will, it is clear that it will take over many private dwelling-houses which are subject to the Rent Acts, and in which there will be many Rent Act protected tenants. We asked the Minister to write into the Bill, in respect of those tenants, the same safeguards that they had under the Rent Acts, but he refused to do so. The Parliamentary Secretary said that they had protection under the Rent Acts, and so they have, but it is nominal. He went on to say that the Commission will provide alternative accommodation.
But when the Bill becomes law the remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary will not be read. When the Bill becomes law the Commission will look at its terms and not at what was said on Report. Things said in our debates are not legally binding, and if a right is not enshrined in the law it means nothing. To be effective it needs to be built into a Measure passed by this House and by the other place, and which receives the Royal Assent. No other right is worth while. It would certainly be a bad day 79 when the rights of the citizen depended on the obiter dicta of a Minister in Committee.
Our people do not yet know all the consequences that will arise from the operation of the Bill. Every freehold transaction, and almost every leasehold transaction, will have to be reported to the Land Commission—including all dwelling-house transactions. Our people do not realise that many private houses will be subject to the betterment levy. That fact is hidden in the massive verbiage of the Bill. People do not realise the great powers of patronage and preference that are being given to the Commission.
Again and again we have asked how the crownhold will be allocated to builders and how this system will reduce the price of land. The Government do not know. It sounds wonderful in theory, but in practice it will be very difficult to allocate this land fairly and to say which builder should have it, why, and on what terms. All this is still in the mists of the future.
The Government, by use of those powers and acting through the Commission, could change the whole of the freehold land of this country to crown-hold, although that is a very inferior tenure compared to freehold. This is part of the machine which the Government are building up—a machine which could be tyrannical. Looking at the right hon. Gentleman one could easily believe that the word "tyrannical" and he do not go together—but the right hon. Gentleman will not always be there to control the powers provided by the Bill. Some right hon. Gentlemen opposite would be more than capable of using those powers to achieve the ends which I have just set out.
The Bill is merely another step on the road to the absolute government of the country. We now have absolute control of wages, prices and dividends, and we are moving at an ever-increasing speed towards a situation in which the State allocates public money not as a right but by the discretion of Ministers and civil servants. The Bill is part of the machine that is being built up to achieve this end.
We are living in an age of double-talk where words seem to have lost all meaning. In such an age the instrument which 80 is being forged in the House today could be an instrument of tyranny, which some hon. Members opposite would not hesitate to use. It is ironical that the feudal system in this country started almost 900 years ago to the day, when Harold fell on the field of Hastings. It is ironical that, 900 years later, we should start galloping back as fast as we can to the feudal system. That is what the Bill means. It is going backwards.
For the reasons that I have urged upon the House I ask hon. Members to reject the Bill before any more harm is done.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ Mr. A. H. Macdonald (Chislehurst)
I did not have the privilege of serving on the Committee that dealt with the Bill, but it seems to have been a remarkable one. To a person outside the Committee seemed to go on sitting and sitting interminably, and yet I heard an hon. Member opposite say that the time for discussion was cut short. It is also remarkable that although the Bill seems to have been such a contentious matter hon. and right hon. Gentlemen should pay graceful compliments to each other about their conduct in Committee.
I was not a member of the Committee, as I have said, but I sat in the Chamber during the Report stage of the Bill and—this is in response to the remarks made by hon. Members opposite, especially by the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve) a moment ago—one of the things that I noticed was that although the Bill was abhorrent in the eyes of the Opposition, after ten o'clock their abhorrence was rarely, if ever, pressed to a Division. The conclusion that I drew was that, apart from the handful of Members in the Chamber, nobody belonging to the party opposite was interested in discussing this vitally important matter.
There are two basic provisions in the Bill: first, the concept of a levy, and, secondly, the concept of the Land Commission being enabled to purchase land. As I understand the arguments of hon. Members opposite, they do not object in principle to the concept of the levy, though they take exception to some of the details. But I have heard them strongly criticising the idea that the Commission should be able to acquire property in the way proposed in the Bill. They referred 81 to unification of ownership as though this was undesirable.
§ Mr. Macdonald
That is certainly true. The phrase was originally used by my right hon. Friend. But it was picked up by an hon. Member opposite. I regret that I cannot remember which hon. Member it was.
I have served, and still serve, as a member of a local authority. I think that there are hon. Members opposite who share that experience. If they are not still serving, they have served on local authorities. Their experience must be the same as mine. When a local authority engages on a major scheme of redevelopment—my council is currently engaged on no fewer than four schemes—the first thing which the council does is to seek to acquire the ownership of the land concerned in the redevelopment.
This Bill will assist in the process. It is the difficulty of acquiring land for redevelopment in major schemes which holds up schemes which are so necessary. Anybody who has read the Buchanan Report, or indeed any other report, relating to town planning must be well aware that it is the concept of the ownership of property which is the main stumbling block in the redevelopment of town centres, which is so necessary.
I do not see the Bill as one for the nationalisation of land. Whether that ought to be brought in is another question, but the Bill does not bring it in. I see it as a means of stopping the exorbitant profits which have been made in certain quarters from the necessity of acquiring land for redevelopment. How well I remember a case when I was a member of an authority which has been dissolved in the London local government reorganisation. The council of which I was a member wished to acquire a piece of land simply for open space as a back way into a park. The owner did not want to sell and applied for an alternative development certificate, or whatever the document is called, and it was determined that an alternative use 82 of the land might be for housing. The local council would have been obliged, if it had proceeded, to pay a housing price for it. In the end it decided not to proceed.
I regretted it at the time, but I could understand the arguments for not proceeding. It appeared to me that the law was merely a device to allow people to make unreasonably high profits from the sale of land. The authority of which I am a member recently sought to acquire land for housing redevelopment. It reached the point of contemplating a compulsory purchase order, but other considerations prevailed and it was decided not to proceed with the order. The land was acquired by a private developer. Now, five or six months later, this man seeks to sell us the land back. If the Bill had been law at that time it would have been possible for the Commission to apply the speedy process of acquiring the land, and the cost of the land to the local authority would have been a great deal cheaper.
Right hon. and hon. Members opposite have constantly referred during the Report stage and in this debate to the Bill as an infringement of the rights of individuals and the rights of ownership of property as though by simply saying that magic phrase that was a sufficient condemnation, as though the rights of property were absolute. But the rights of property cannot be regarded as absolute.
The hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) referred to the feudal system which once prevailed in this country. I believe that I am right in saying that in those days the ownership of property was always accompanied by the concept that duties as well as rights attached to it. The time has come when we should consider the duties, or, if one likes to put it the other way round, the rights of the community in property ownership and not confine ourselves to the rights of property holders as though they were absolute and inviolate and not to be entrenched upon in any circumstances. The rights of the community—and the community has rights—require that we should have some Measure of this kind.
I never dissent—how could I—from the view of those who defend the rights of the individual. But there is a great clamour of voices all the time defending 83 the rights or the individual. How few, and how weak, are the voices of those who defend the rights of the community. This kind of Bill defends the rights of the community and makes practicable, reasonable redevelopment possible on civilised terms. I warmly welcome the Bill on these grounds.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Peter Bessell (Bodmin)
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) and another hon. Member opposite are particularly anxious, it seems, to hear the Liberal Party's view on this Measure.
The Liberal Party has stated repeatedly over a period of about 60 years that it is of the opinion that no individual or group of individuals has the right to benefit by the possession of land which, of its nature, must belong to all the people. In short, in the words of David Lloyd George, God gave the land to the people. I think that nothing that I say today will be in contradiction of that statement.
We have always maintained, too, that any increase in the value of land or property consequent on the endeavours of the community should result in the profit from those endeavours reverting to the community and not to speculators or individuals who may have contributed little or nothing by their efforts.
On 31st January this year I set out in this Chamber the Liberal Party's objections to the Bill. Nothing which has transpired since, either in the changes which have taken place as a result of debate in the Standing Committee or in subsequent debates in the House, has caused me or my right hon. and hon. Friends to change our objections. I shall not go over them in detail today; indeed, it would be out of order for me to do so. In any event, I believe that it is important to keep our speeches short so that as many Members as possible have the opportunity to make their contributions.
Our two main objections remain. There is contained in the Bill an element of potential, if not actual, nationalisation. The powers given to the Land Commission are not only quite unnecessary; they serve no useful purpose. Anyone is entitled to feel a suspicion that the Bill is a back road to nationalisation. It 84 may well be that the spokesmen on the Government side who have reiterated that the Bill is not intended to nationalise the land are honest in their statements, but we have the authority of the Prime Minister, who in the last General Election campaign stated that the idea behind the Bill was to bring urban land into public ownership. It is no use his right hon. and hon. Friends denying that statement. Any denial must come from the Prime Minister himself.
Our second objection is that whilst we welcome wholeheartetdly a betterment levy, we believe, as we have stated repeatedly, that it is inappropriate to make a single charge. We believe that there should be a continuing benefit to the community by way of a site value tax. Anything short of this falls short of Liberal principles and Liberal objectives, which have been restated so often that I do not propose to burden the House by restating them again this afternoon.
In short, the Bill remains in concept a Socialist Measure and not a Radical one. It does not adequately meet the problems of land shortage, it does not go far enough to reduce the speculation in land and it does nothing at all to reduce the cost of land. These considerations are of the utmost importance. Clause 8 contains a ruthless disregard of the rights of the individual.
The hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Macdonald) made the point that it is more important to protect the rights of the community. I do not wholly dissent from that view, but I do not believe that it is necessary to endanger individual freedom and individual rights in order to protect the community. Indeed, the Bill could have been framed in a way which would have met both objectives and there would then have been no cause for complaint on any side of the House.
The Bill, after amendment and after long stages in Committee, remains for me a disappointing hotch-potch. The objectives have not been reached and in its administration as an Act of Parliament the Bill is likely to present many grave difficulties.
I should like to echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Cheadle (Dr. Winstanley), who on 12th May said that we on this bench were at one with the 85 Government in their stated aims concerning the rights of every man in respect of land ownership and sharing the benefit of its increased value. Like my hon. Friend, however, I do not believe that the Bill fulfils those aims. We shall, therefore, vote against it again this evening.
In his opening speech this afternoon, the Minister used the word "empirical" and said that it had been stated that this was an empirical Measure. The right hon. Gentleman rejected that argument and went further and said that it was a final solution. I believe that the Bill represented an empirical decision and that it is nothing like the long-term solution which we had the right to expect from the Government.
Government supporters throughout the debate have shown a curious sensitiveness as to the attitude of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. I believe that that sensitiveness, which has been expressed and re-expressed so often, is evidence of their own sense of failure. The ghost of David Lloyd George most certainly hangs over the Government benches this afternoon.
If right hon. and hon. Members opposite take the trouble to read the speeches contained in the volumes of HANSARD in the year 1909 and compare the intentions of the Liberal Government of that day with the intentions contained in the Bill, they will find that the phantom of Lloyd George hangs over them with its finger pointed in condemnation.
We are asked to vote for the Bill. But even though we have asked for a betterment levy, for greater control of the use of the land in the years that have passed and we still demand these things, and we demand that there shall be a share to the community of the value resulting from community endeavour, this does not mean that because we have asked for an apple we are prepared to eat the rotten fruit which is contained in this legislation.
§ 5.55 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Hilton (Bethnal Green)
Anybody who expected legislation on land at this late date to be other than complex., perhaps even containing mistakes, would be extremely naïve. Throughout history many Governments have attempted to tackle the land problem, 86 including the Liberal Government, who made a far more urgent attempt than many others to tackle it. That is, perhaps, why we are rather sensitive to the Liberal attitude today. The Liberal Party failed, as others have failed, in tackling the land problem and it is left to us to try to do it, even with a Measure which many of us find complex and about the future workings of which we might have misgivings. At least, we have got to try.
It is worth while looking to the background of why we must try to ensure that the community's stake in land is greater than it has been before. There has been criticism from the Opposition benches, and it has continued over the last few months, about the increased cost of housing. The comment has been made that the price of houses has risen more during the last year or so than in any comparable period. In a question-and-answer session with the Minister responsible, it was shown that it was not labour or materials which had led to the dramatic increase in price, and a great percentage of the increase must be attributed to increasing land charges.
Land charges have accelerated ever since the Conservative Government's Rent Act, 1957, liberated speculators so that they could make a greater profit out of the land. Anybody who studies the land question in the period immediately following 1957 can understand the need for introducing this legislation today.
Very few of our constituents realise that any addition to land prices means a dreadful burden round their necks by way of rent. A local authority house built today at an average price of about £2,300 may have an addition of between £6,500 and £7,000 in interest. The house becomes four or five times dearer than the actual building costs. My Government have tried to bring about legislation to curb these land charges, even if we all see complexities in the Bill and things that we might rather not have.
The challenge before the whole House is whether to leave the land question entirely alone in the situation which it has reached simply because any legislation to deal with the subject must contain complexities. If a Conservative Government had attempted to do this, they would have run into the same difficulties 87 in trying to introduce legislation. That is clear and, I think, is accepted.
There are many different interests involved in this legislation. One of them which has been bandied about from one back bench to the other is the interest of the small builder. I presume that those on the benches opposite claim to represent the small builder. They have one builder among them, the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain). The only way that one could describe him as a small builder is in the physical aspect, certainly not the financial aspect. The small builder is not represented by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Representations on behalf of the small builder have been made to the Minister and I was asked by the Federation of Master Builders to make those representations to my right hon. Friend; certainly a quaint position in which to find myself. The small builder is not represented by the national organisation to which the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe is affiliated.
The fears of the small builders were that if there was no control over land prices—no national element at all in influencing where land was to go—they would lose out in the long run. Their livelihood depends on getting sufficient land on which to build and they expressed fear that they would lose out to the Laings, the McAlpines and other big builders with whom they are unable to complete financially for the purchase of land. A delegation of small builders therefore, came to see me and they asked for an assurance that the Commission would be able to purchase and redistribute land so that the small builder could compete with the larger builder. They received some assurances and this has meant that their opposition to the Bill has at least been mitigated, for they see that this legislation will be to their long-term interests.
Apart from the complexities of the Bill, we must remember that the ownership of land presents a problem which must be tackled sooner or later. I accept the complexities of the Measure. We may make mistakes but at least, in making those mistakes, we are trying to do something to influence land prices for the ultimate benefit of the community.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Percy Grieve (Solihull)
The hon. Member for Chislehurst (Mr. Macdonald) drew a contrast between what he called the rights of the community and the rights of the individual and gave the House to understand that it was time that the rights of the community were considered perhaps in preference to the rights of the individual. I acknowledge no such dichotomy between the rights of the individual and the rights of the community. The community is nothing but the sum of the individuals who compose it and if one individual suffers unjustly in his rights, the whole is injured thereby. If, as will be the case under the Bill, many thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of individuals suffer unjustly in their rights, then the community will suffer irreparable damage.
It would be ingenuous indeed in rising at this late stage, remembering that I did not have the honour of being a member of the Standing Committee, if I were to think that I could make any original contribution to the discussion. My hon. and right hon. Friends have time and again—in Committee, on Report and today—made many points against this complex, ill-thought-out and, in many ways, thoroughly unjust piece of legislation. I rise at this late stage of the Bill only because I do not yet believe that there has gone out to the country from the House the real message of the appalling damage which the individual is liable to suffer by the provisions of the Measure which affect his property rights.
At the very beginning, Clause 1, which we debated extensively on Report, gives the Minister power to give directions—not to make regulations, but to direct—to the Commission. Clause 6 gives the Commission powers of compulsory purchase and, by Clause 8 and Schedule 2, the only protection which the law now gives to the subject against the overwhelming power of bureaucracy is wholly taken away.
The individual may wake up one morning to find that the Commission, acting under directions from the Minister, has taken over his house, garden or plot of land; and I do not care what size it is, since an injustice done to the great and rich is equally an injustice. But this is an injustice which may be suffered equally by the poor owner, who may own a small plot of land which the hon. Member for 89 Chislehurst thinks might be in the way of a road which his local authority wishes to build. The individual may wake up to find his property vested in the Land Commission, that he has no public inquiry open to him or power of appeal to the Minister or anyone else to protect his rights.
It is a sad and sorry day for this country when legislation of this kind is passed. The day is perhaps long since past when an Englishman or Scotsman could say with pride that his house was his castle. Nowadays many individuals, under powers given by Parliament, have the right to enter his castle and see what is going on inside. If Parliament passes this Bill the castle will no longer be a castle but a house of cards, to be puffed down by the puff of the Minister whenever the right hon. Gentleman may so desire, acting through the Land Commission.
It is no use saying that this legislation is designed to deal with problems involved in the taking over of great estates, and trying to excuse it in that way. The Measure affects every individual who has a plot of land or is ever likely to acquire one. I will not go into the question of the levy and the criticisms of that. Suffice to say at this stage that this is an absolute jungle. Last week on Report my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls) paid hon. Members who are lawyers the compliment of saying that only we could understand the Bill. It was a wholly undeserved compliment, for I believe that there are parts of the Bill which pass all human understanding.
The hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Gardner) said that he was not a surveyor, estate agent, barrister or solicitor. Perhaps that is a pity for him, because if anybody will do well out of this legislation it is the gentlemen in those professions. I say that and at once declare an interest, because the work which will be given to specialists to protect the rights of the individual and try to interpret it and explain its meaning to the courts will provide a living for all those professions for so long as this legislation is on the Statute Book. I only pray that when we return to power we will sweep it into the dustbin of defunct, unjust and unnecessary legislation where it belongs.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Moonman (Billericay)
The imagery created by members of the Opposition has certainly reached the all-time low. I was very troubled in Committee by some of their references, but the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Greave) has raised images of cards falling, and so on, which suggests that if the Opposition are really serious about their rôle as an Opposition, and take this idea of the "great divide" seriously, they should employ either a public relations expert to give good images or make sure that they have some co-ordination in what they say. Personally, I think that the "great divide" came unstuck last Friday morning in the debate on new towns, which is a related subject, but some of the things we have heard from hon. Members opposite suggests that there is no Opposition at all.
What has also been of interest has been the question of the absolute rights. This is an area of discussion which troubles the Opposition. The hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) spoke of the State assuming an interest in wages and prices, and now in land. Is this so regrettable? For reasons that some of my hon. Friends have given, we are saying, "Yes, we want the State to be interested in these matters. We want the State to be concerned with them, because we have had a rather sordid experience of several hundred years of a capitalist system that has not proved itself." It is because we feel that there is a better way of acquiring land, of running our society, that we have this Bill, and will have many other Bills as well, which will become Acts of Parliament, as sure as night follows day. The Opposition must prepare a much better brief if they want to convince Government supporters that we are likely to introduce the wrong Bills.
The other subject that has been discussed has been that of the individual and the community interest. I agree that the two are closely related, but, at the same time, we have seen examples of individual abuse which have affected the community interest. It is extremely unfair, even at this late stage of the Bill, for hon. Members to make rather pious statements about the value of individual initiative. One might have heard that sort of speech in this House last century, but to have it 91 now, when we have sufficient evidence of how individuals can abuse their power, is quite clearly very misleading. It is true that individual and community interests are related, but it is for the Land Commission to make sure that the community does not lose out.
It has been said that this Bill means nationalisation by the backdoor. I would hope that it was nationalisation by the front door because, quite clearly, what we hope is that there will be no individual, group or regional variation, but a common pattern of overall service, and this is one of the basic aims of nationalisation.
The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Bessell), who has now left the Chamber, said that he would vote against the Bill tonight. That is very sad, because many Liberal statements on housing, on land and on new towns suggest that the Liberals believe in some form of co-ordination which, again, is the basic point of this debate. Unfortunately, we now see a repetition of the circumstances of last Friday, when we discussed new towns and there was no representative of the Parliamentary Liberal Party present on such a very important issue of land and land co-ordination. I regret that the hon. Member is not now present. If the Parliamentary Liberal Party really does believe in what its representatives have written in the past, if they do not want to see individual abuse of land but some co-ordination, some planning, they should vote tonight quite differently from the hon. Gentleman's expressed intention.
The heart of the Opposition's case was reflected in Committee by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) when he said that the Government are… setting up a body of Commissioners with these privileges merely so that they can acquire and sell property. Local authorities have carried on this job for years and years without these privileges, and have done it perfectly well without any difficulty."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee E, 16th June, 1966; c. 60.]The main point here is that the Opposition are saying, in effect, that they want to restore this facility and privilege to local authorities, but I believe that sufficient has been said from this side, and also by some hon. Members opposite, to show that local authorities have just not had the organisation, the facilities, the power.
92 The heart of the Opposition case—and I challenge the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) to disagree with this—is that they want to see local authorities continue to maintain and regulate land. We say that that is not enough; that we must have a national organisation to deal not only with the national position but with the regional position as well. If the Opposition had taken the trouble to present their case much more fluently on the lines suggested in the paragraph to which I have referred, the subject could have been debated much more vigorously and realistically, although I do not accept the idea behind what the hon. Gentleman said.
What we have had has been a very unfortunate line of attack by the Opposition, a line concentrated at one extreme on images, packs of cards, and the like, or, at the other, concerned with the authority given to individual members of the Commission. Hon. Members who served in the Committee will remember the extraordinary references made by one hon. Gentleman to the little man with dark glasses—or was it the dark man with the little glasses?—who was to be a super-authority in deciding what was to be done. That is nonsense, and it is a reflection of the lack of intellectual basis on the other side that hon. Gentlemen have to resort to that sort of imagery.
We have not heard their case sufficiently since 16th June last, but we have a right, and the country has a right, to hear what the Opposition really believe to be the value of the Land Commission. It cannot be confined to these rather sordid images but, having heard this, we must also recall that the case has been well put by the Government of the value and extent of the Land Commission's powers. To shy away from the value of the Land Commission is to fail to understand the problems with which local authorities have had to deal in the last 20 years.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Hexham)
To night, the House is being asked to give the Third Reading to a Measure the language of which is as obscure as its purpose is pernicious. Even if hon. Members opposite think that they can understand and approve that purpose, they 93 ought at least to agree with their colleague the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) who, last Wednesday, demanded that the Bill should be withdrawn, and redrafted in language that people can understand. We all applauded his courage in coming into the Division Lobby with us simply to protest at the obscurity of the language in the Bill Everyone who has had the misfortune to read the Bill must agree that it comes among the world's top 10 worst-drafted statutes. I described this as pop art, with the print just thrown at the paper; I should have called it, of course, pop law, because it is just as sensible read upside down or any way.
The Government will be most unwise if they do not listen to the strictures passed this afternoon by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), who speaks with as much authority on these matters as anyone in the country. They might listen also to the views expressed by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve), who says, and none of us is ashamed to admit it, that no lawyer can understand the Bill. Hon. Members opposite need not be ashamed therefore, if they do their duty as Members of the House by refusing to give the Third Reading to a Measure of which, if they are honest, they must admit they cannot understand a word.
I think that the House will be grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) and others of my hon. Friends who have apprehended, so far as may be possible, the incomprehensible and have diligently sought in Committee and in the House to bring some order out of chaos. It is not their fault if, on this occasion, they cannot be congratulated on making a bad Bill better; it remains bad through and through.
On the occasion of the Third Reading of the Bill I would wish to say something nice about the Ministers who have been responsible for piloting such an intricate Measure through the House. All I can say, I am afraid, is that the Ministers who have been—not piloting it, but trying to follow it through Committee and Report stages—have done their best. Now, of course, they have worked themselves out of a job. But although they are redundant they can look forward to being 94 redeployed. If they cannot get knighthoods, at least they can look forward to jobs in the largest Government in the world—and that, as the Prime Minister knows, is a much more tangible political honour.
Of course, no one can see those two benevolent-looking gentlemen opposite me as two red devils. The mantles of Wormwood and Screwtape fit very uneasily on their shoulders, but they are there all the same. I think that they can be described as angels only in so far as they have kept their feet firmly in the air through month after month in Committee. They have been courteously incoherent through Clause after Clause and Schedule after Schedule.
On the 140 Amendments which they put down for Report the Minister complained that there had not been such a long discussion as there was on the 1947 Act, but there is a limit to the time that we can spend discussing gibberish. At least, parts of the 1947 Act had something to commend them.
§ Mr. Willey
I made the point that the Closure had never been moved and that no one could complain that there had not been time for adequate discussion.
§ Mr. Rippon
I gather that the Minister is congratulating himself on the speed with which he got this intricate Measure through the House. For people outside who try to understand the Bill it will be nether heaven nor hell, but just purgatory. For those who have to suffer under it, it will bring only trouble and hardship.
Anyone who wants to understand the full horror of the Bill and how it will affect the ordinary individual and practitioner ought to read the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) on 26th October, as reported in columns 1067 to 1071. Perhaps a public-spirited journal or periodical will print it in full, because it needs to be read in full to understand how complex and difficult this Measure is.
Support for the Bill has been sustained by the party opposite only because of the illusion—and it is only an illusion—that in spite of its complexities it will fulfil what various hon. Members 95 opposite have described as the laudable aims of making land cheaper and more readily available and helping the community to share in betterment value which they have helped to create. But in fact the Bill is totally irrelevant to the attainment of these objectives. Indeed, it is bound to hamper them because of the needless duplication of powers and machinery which already exist. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East pointed out what these powers are and how they can be used already.
There is no necessary connection between the establishment of the Land Commission and the collection of betterment levy. The levy will not be used to reduce the cost of land, as some hon. Members opposite seem to think. It will go straight to the Exchequer, not even to the local authorities. The incredibly intricate and expensive process of collecting it will add to the cost of land. As we have said from the outset, whatever view is taken of a betterment levy of some sort, it would save an immense amount of time and trouble if the Capital Gains Tax were allowed to cover the whole field.
It is significant that the Minister has repeatedly refused, on Second Reading, in Committee, and on Report, to give any indication of the net yield of the levy, that is, after regard is had to the loss to the Exchequer of Capital Gains Tax, Corporation Tax and other taxes on these various transactions. That is wholly wrong in what virtually is a taxation Statute. I know that the Minister said that the levy is not a tax, but that will mean nothing to the person who has to pay. As the Minister told us this afternoon, what we shall have will be an initial rate of 40 per cent. and then by Order it can be increased first to 45 per cent. and then to 50 per cent.; and we do not know how much thereafter. Whatever view we take of the amount of the levy, it should be fixed in the Bill so that people will know where they stand.
While betterment levy may not make any difference in money terms to the sort of people who pay Corporation Tax and Capital Gains Tax now—that is, to the big landowner and developer—it will 96 mean much to many people covered by this Bill. It will mean much to every owner of a house, an office, a shop, a farm, a factory, a piece of land. All those people the vast majority of whom are today exempted from taxation of this kind will be affected, and they include 7 million owner-occupiers, the investment lands of charities and housing associations, and even the farmer who reluctantly grants a wayleave to the electricity authority to put up a pylon on his land and has a small annual payment in compensation for the nuisance.
How many hon. Members opposite, much less members of the public, realise that if the Bill becomes law after 1st March next year every single sale of land, most tenancies, every grant of an easement, every release of a restricted covenant, will have to be notified to the Land Commission? The fact that there are estimated to be 2 million or 2½ million "notifiable acts or events" occurring every year shows not only how arbitrary the assessment of the levy is liable to be, but also how many people will be brought within the scope of this iniquitous Commission's grasp.
It is an utter illusion to imagine that only 2,000 additional civil servants and £4 million a year in administrative costs—the Minister's present guess—will be a sufficient provision for the operation of this Measure. That is quite apart from the millions of man hours which will be wasted. I do not mind so much about the lawyers who will get paid for it, although it is a waste, but there will be the waste for valuers, estate agents and others who will have to devote hours to clearing up the mess. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Solihull, said that they may be paid, but one thing is certain, they will not be happy in their work.
One of the most disturbing features of the Bill for the ordinary citizen is that the Land Commission is given up to six years to serve a notice of assessment for levy. That shows that the Minister understands even now that no one will be able to cope with the flood of transactions which will have to be notified. Even if the levy is assessed and paid, the Land Commission may make a further assessment at any time within the six-year period. It is intolerable that there is no way for the ordinary citizen to get a 97 notification within a shorter period. All that time he will have an absolutely unquantified debt over his head.
There is another factor. In the case of a tenancy or easement, like the farmer and the granting of a wayleave for a pylon, the levy is payable as a capital sum even before rent or profit is received. Tax levied in advance of profit made, or earnings is a bad provision. Every time the provisions contained in the Bill will hit the little man hardest of all because he has no means of financing these transactions and waiting long periods of time. It is a Bill which in Swift's definition, clearly falls under the description.Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through",We on this side of the House deeply regret that the Government have repeatedly rejected our Amendments to remove owner-occupiers of small houses and minor transactions under £5,000 of a reasonable sum from the scope of the Bill, together with charities and other non-profit-making bodies such as housing associations. It must be understood that the Bill taxes a whole series of people who are exempted under our present taxation laws, and rightly exempted, from provisions of this kind.
We also strongly object to the extensive discretion which the Bill gives both to the Minister and the Commission on fundamental matters, such as how or why, or even if, the levy shall be paid. Such powers are manifestly open to abuse and are quite contrary to the principles of taxation which have been established in this country for centuries. We are saying that the House should not approve the imposition of a levy whose incidence will be widespread, arbitrary and uncertain, and the net yield value of which, when all the work is done, may well prove negligible.
How will the rest of the Bill make more land available for development? Here again, hon. Members have pointed out time and time again that there is no necessary connection between the powers of acquisition given to the Commission and those already possessed by local authorities. One hon. Member asked whether I believed in local authorities. I do. I said that I believed they could make far better use of £45 million to £75 million 98 provided under the Bill for the Land Commission.
We have to look beyond the question of betterment, price and the availability of land to find the real purpose of the Bill. It is a dangerous and sinister purpose which will strike at the very roots of our free society. Before the second appointed day—we do not know when the mysterious second appointed day will be—the powers of acquisition of the Commission do little more than repeat those which are to be found in existing Statutes. After the second appointed day, these powers are breathtaking in their enormity. The Commission will be given power to acquire any land which, in its opinion, is suitable for material development and it can develop it itself. In effect, the Bill enables every piece of land and property in the country to be brought into public ownership on the grounds that it is suitable for development, redevelopment, or a change of use. The Commission's description is virtually unchallengeable in the courts.
There is no requirement that the Land Commission must be satisfied that the land is required for development within any period, however long. That is the real purpose of the Bill. That is why the Prime Minister appears as one of the sponsors of the Bill. It is a rather unusual procedure and it is not the only ground of objection to the Bill. It was the Prime Minister himself who said at Chiswick on 17th March this year that the Bill willtake urban land on which planning permission has been granted into public ownership.No doubt agricultural land will come later.
The hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Moonman) was frank and said that we should not call it creeping nationalisation or nationalisation by the back door, that it was nationalisation by the front door and that it is what we wanted. The hon. Member is a little inexperienced, otherwise he would have wrapped it up. He must learn, like the Prime Minister, to be subtle and sinuous of discourse. Do not say that it is nationalisation by the front door, although that is, of course, what it is.
The alleged safeguard which the Minister referred to, that there must be planning permission to say that land is suitable for material development, is not a safeguard. The Commission can obtain 99 planning permission or it can amend the development plan and go to its own Minister of Housing and Local Government to get it. After the second appointed day, the Commission is not required to give any reason for acquisition. It is not required to use the land for the purpose for which it acquired it. It is not obliged to return it to the owner if it finds that it does not need it.
As my hon. Friends pointed out, it can acquire land by the expedited procedure which is absolutely unprecedented in peace time. Under this procedure all land, including dwelling-houses, can be acquired without a public inquiry, without even the right of representation to the Minister, simply by sticking a notice on the land or house. Under the Bill the Commission is able to acquire or enter upon the land without the owner having any knowledge of the acquisition, without having any opportunity to object, without knowing whether he will receive compensation. He will be a little worried about this, because although the Minister says it is market value, some of his hon. Friends do not understand that. Many people outside know hon. Members opposite do not want to pay market value at all. This is a matter of alarm.
I do not know why hon. Members are afraid of market value. It is very much better. The Minister should talk to the Minister of Public Building and Works and see how many millions of pounds of land and office accommodation is acquired without any compulsory purchase at all. I know. When I was at the Ministry for two years we had no need to resort to compulsory purchase because we were willing to pay the free market price, and if you are willing to do that then people are willing to negotiate on sensible terms, and by so doing you save time and money.
It is significant that the powers contained in the Bill are not limited to cases where there is a degree of urgency. It has always been understood that there might be some expedited procedure during war time or in case of emergency, but these powers can be introduced by the Minister as the normal procedure. Why should we have an expedited procedure when the whole purpose of the Land Commission is to buy land in advance of requirements?
100 These are pernicious powers to give to any Government and we will not support the Bill. They represent the most comprehensive attack that could be made on freehold rights and the occupation of property. What are we to have in place of freehold? We are to have something called "crownhold". It sounds a very respectable title. There is the bait that it can be offered on concessionary terms, but I have a feeling that those terms will be rather worse than those which people would have to pay for freehold under a Conservative Government.
There is no guidance in the Bill on the basis of concession. Everything, here as elsewhere, is at the discretion of the Commission. Restrictive covenants, the limitation on the tenure to the life of the house, the right of the Commission to repossess, make crownhold no better than tenancy at the will of the Commission. It is not as good, in practical terms, as the much maligned long lease. Crownhold will be feudal in substance as well as in name, with the vassal subservient to the ever growing power of the Socialist State. That is the real purpose of the Bill. It is an infamous Bill. We will oppose it tonight and we will oppose it in the country. If, in spite of all our efforts, it becomes law, we will pledge ourselves to repeal it at the earliest opportunity.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources (Mr. Arthur Skeffington)
Before the House gives its decision to the Third Reading of this important Measure, I hope that I may be able to help, as I have tried to do through all our long discussions, on some of the significant issues, apart from those of purely political prejudice which I do not think at this stage I would be in order to discuss; and in any case would not be of help to the House.
I turn, first, to the charges about the Bill's complexity. Fundamentally, it is a criticism which should be directed at the intricacies of the English land law. As I reminded the House some time ago, Oliver Cromwell referred to the laws of property as being "a tortuous and ungodly jumble". For 600 years the system added layer upon layer of confusion and contradiction to justify Joshua William's remark at the end of the nineteenth century that much of our land law was worthless and 101 a good deal of it positively harmful. Although we had a great series of changes in the J 925 legislation, much still remains to be done.
In connection with the problem we are discussing tonight and the Bill itself, the record of the late Administration has not been very helpful. They not only repealed by way of the 1953 Act, Part VII of the 1947 Act, but they followed it by the Town and Country Planning Act, 1954, which contained 72 Sections and eight Schedules. Not content with that, we had the Town and Country Planning Act, 1959, which I think is the main cause of much of the scandal of ever-spiralling land prices. That had 59 Sections and 10 Schedules.
The former Administration were not content with that. They introduced the Land Compensation Act, 1961, with 42 Sections——
§ Mr. Skeffington
I am fully aware of that, Mr. Speaker. I was trying to show that the Bill was not so unreasonable in relation to the provisions which have already been made. Indeed, I take the view that my right hon. Friend the Minister very much deserves the plaudits of the House.
Despite the length of the Bill, and, in certain parts, its difficult nature, particularly the part dealing with valuation, he never had to move the Closure. This was very different from what happened on the Pipe-Lines Bill in 1962, when whole Clauses were never discussed, either in Committee or on the Floor of the House.
The Bill deals with a subject which is complex. We all realise that. However, all our work will be very much easier on future occasions when there can be a greater simplification of land law as a whole, as is now beginning to take place elsewhere.
Nevertheless, I have been agreeably surprised at the considerable mastery of considerable parts of the Bill, which has been amply demonstrated by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) and some of his hon. Friends. Indeed, it will not be long before we see "Page on the Land Commission". I hope it will not be too expensive. At any rate, a 102 number of hon. Members have grasped the essential principles of the betterment levy and its application.
In relation to the charges which have been made—some of them grotesque exaggeration—it should be realised that, because there are so many interests involved—English law provides for those interests—if an attempt is made to be fair and to legislate to cover the rights of all individuals, the Bill is bound to be long. It could have been much shorter if we were doing what the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) suggested, namely, riding roughshod over individuals. Then the Bill could certainly have been much shorter. Ten of the Schedules deal with betterment and provide various reliefs for those who will have to pay it. This should win some gratitude for the Government rather than criticism.
Levy is dealt with by means of the Schedules so that, as far as possible, it is a charge upon the betterment value for those who actually raise it and not upon those who are to carry out that objective. If that objective is sought, the necessary steps must be taken. Having regard to the other legislation to which I have referred in passing, I think that, on the whole, the Bill is not nearly so complicated as has been suggested.
My right hon. Friend mentioned at various stages—I repeat it—that, just as the Department has given all the help that it can and will continue to do so, when the Measure passes through the other place in due course, as I hope it will, there will probably be three main series of memoranda to help. There will, first, be a general memorandum for the public, explaining the main functions of the Commission and the collection of betterment levy. There will then be a further explanation of a more technical character for the professional bodies—the chartered societies and others—which have to advise their clients. Finally, there will be a full explanatory memorandum, in question and answer form, covering the whole range of the transaction. I am sure that these will be helpful.
The second criticism of the Bill centres around the creation of the Commission itself. I do not agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) about Part 103 VII of the 1947 Act, but we should both be out of order if we discussed that point now. The case that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and others have put is that even accepting the principle of the levy, as he does—I am glad that he does—why do we need all the other apparatus to enforce it?
A moment's reflection answers this question. I believe that there were many on both sides of the House who hoped at the time that the 1947 Act would be a permanent solution, because it is not in anyone's interest to keep on having these cataclystic changes in land law. All those who hoped that the 1947 Act would be a success and who were familiar with its working know that its weakness lay in the fact that the old Central Land Board's powers of acquisition and compulsory purchase were uncertain.
In the result, there were very few cases in which the Board ever could proceed to compulsory purchase. There was great uncertainty. It was followed towards the end of 1950–51 by a wholesale withdrawal of land from the market to escape development charge.
This was very much in the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Gardner), who asked whether my right hon. Friend the Minister intends to use the powers contained in Clause 8. If there is any danger that the just and proper development of the community will be in any way prejudiced by what I might call the wholesale withdrawal of land, my right hon. Friend will have no hesitation in using his powers, and I am perfectly certain that he would be supported by the public if he used them.
Since we are told repeatedly, though without very much evidence, that everybody believes in a whole range of professional and other people take the view that the Commission is unnecessary, I must refer to the speech made on 13th January by a former very respected colleague of all of us, Sir Colin Thoraton-Kemsley, who is a chartered surveyor in private practice. In answering the very point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East, Sir Colin said this:I confess to having been surprised that a public opinion which has swallowed the camel of a betterment levy is now straining at the 104 gnat of a Land Commission, which I regard as a technical question concerning the right machinery for the job rather than one involving matters of principle.On that level, once the levy is imposed, one must as a realist "—no right hon. or hon. Member opposite has presented this case in argument this afternoon—face the possibility that some owners will hold back land hoping for the recission of the levy or its replacement by something less onerous. It follows that there must be a body possessing compulsory powers ready to step in and acquire land which is required for public purposes. Some may ask why should not local authorities do this?My answer would be "—it is the answer of the Government, too—that powers of compulsory purchase are held by over 1,400 local authorities in England and Wales, and by 50 to 60 in Scotland, and these have varying resources and widely differing views of their responsibilities. The principles of compulsory acquisition should be generally understood and applied uniformly throughout the country and this can best be insured by the intervention of a national body.The Director of the Town and Country Planning Association reinforced that point of view in his paper to the conference of the Association.
§ Mr. Graham Page
Does the Parliamentary Secretary hold the view which was expressed there, that powers of compulsory purchase should beapplied uniformly throughout the country"?Does that mean that the Commission becomes a monopoly throughout the whole country and that the powers of local authorities are taken away?
§ Mr. Skeffington
No. As the hon. Member knows, powers of compulsory acquisition for purchases within their own areas will, if local authorities desire to continue to use them, continue. But in a reinforcement of the levy proposals then public, and certainly compulsory, acquisition by a centralised body is necessary and must be uniformly applied. That is what I said. That is what I repeat after the intervention.
As was to be expected, the Opposition suggested that the betterment proposals in Part III will affect—here we had inspiration and suggestion of the Fat Boy of Peckham kind—7 million owner-occupiers. Indeed, Dr. Denmam went a 105 good deal further in an article in The Times on 30th September when he suggested that every tenant would be affected. Hon. Members who served on the Standing Committee will know that, unless a tenant holds for more than seven years, he is excluded by Clauses 29 and 30. So that was a non-starter to begin with.
It is, of course, true that copies of the return which have now to be made in any event to the Stamp Duty Office under the Finance Act, 1931, when land or an interest in land is sold or assigned, will be seen by the Land Commission as a result of Schedules 10 and 11. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham, in a display of Buzfuzian forensic cross-examination on 26th October, wanted to know, as reported in c. 1112 of the OFFICIAL REPORT, whether the number would be 6 million or 7 million who would be affected by Clause 7. My right hon. Friend said then that the vast majority of such owner-occupied houses would be unaffected.
To put the matter mathematically, at the outside something less than 10 per cent. of the cases would be likely to attract attention. Quite a number of these would not pay levy because of the expectation that 10 per cent. could be added to the value and still escape the levy. Something of that order might be expected because the prospects of future development might make levy payable. This is far from the stupid story which has been put about that all these individual tenants and occupiers will be affected by the levy. I am glad that it is now on the record, and I hope it will be accepted.
§ Mr. Rippon
If so few people will be affected, why will not the Government accept the Opposition's suggestion that all these people should be exempted from the levy as they are from the Capital Gains Tax?
§ Mr. Skeffington
If we had had the great benefit of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's presence on the Standing Committee he would have known the practical reasons for it.
My right hon. Friend has been very forthcoming in accepting any practical, technical and competent Amendments which have been moved by the other side. But the fact is that we have looked at this matter extremely carefully, and I assure the House that had it been possible 106 to put a figure of that kind on exemptions we would have done so. But it has not been possible. Until one sees the details of the assignment or of the sale of interest, one does not know what the prospective development value will be and whether levy will be chargeable. The whole of the calculations in what the right hon. and learned Gentleman said were wrong by about 100 per cent. He mentioned a figure of 2 million whereas it is much more likely to be 1 million.
I think that it is very important to realise that the Commission set up under Part I of the Bill and its powers set out under Part II have an even more positive and important side in land policy as well as being merely a reserve power in connection with the imposition of the betterment levy. It is important to realise, also, that what we are doing is adopting the deliberate conclusions of practically all the professional and scientific opinion which is not hopelessly politically prejudiced, that there is a need for a centralised body to do the positive side of this work, quite apart from giving the reserve powers in connection with the levy itself.
This opinion was expressed in Chapter V of Uthwatt, which said that there should be a central planning authority with units connected with extensive compulsory purchase powers. The Civic Trust put forward the point of view—and its president's views are not generally shared by this side of the House—in "Rebuilding City Centres", that there should be a land finance corporation which would pay for and hold all land compulsorily acquired for the purposes of comprehensive redevelopment.
It would resell this land to local authorities and private enterprise for redevelopment in accordance with three-dimensional schemes prepared or approved by the local authorities. We have considerably adopted that proposal. The Architects' Journal, in an editorial on 9th February this year, put the case for a centralised body that can do this positive work in connection with comprehensive development.
It is important that the public outside as well as hon. Members opposite should know these facts. There is a considerable body of technical opinion which believes that, apart from the question of the levy 107 and having a reserve power to see that the levy does not lead to a withholding of land, there is a positive and important rôle to play without which we shall not get the comprehensive urban development which is essential if we are to rebuild many of our old cities. I think that this is very good testimony that our late colleague, Sir Colin Thornton-Kemsley——
§ Mr. Skeffington
Former. I do not mind how the Opposition care to refer to him. He is certainly very much alive in my mind. His independent scientific testimony is worth quoting. After making a number of suggestions as to how the Land Commission could work, he expressed the hope that it would make the fullest use of the valuation departments and would proceed pragmatically. It should proceed wherever possible by agreement and not by compulsory purchase. He also said something which I would commend to the hon. and learned Member for Solihull (Mr. Grieve), because I thought that he concluded his speech with a rather intemperate gesture.
Sir Colin said:If these things are done, and if those who are opposed to the idea of a central land purchasing and holding body resolved to give this particular one a fair chance, I believe that the Commission could become an accepted feature of our mixed economy and that our descendants will come to say of it not 'Why did they allow it?' but 'How did they contrive to get on without it?'.This is the sort of testimony which ought to be borne in mind when the House is considering this point.
I must cover a few remaining points as quickly as I can. We have had rehearsed the arguments: how will the Commission and the Bill ensure that the cost of land to local authorities is reduced? I ought to answer this point under four heads. First, there is the levy itself, the £80 million of which a substantial part will be used for local authorities. Secondly, there is the provision for seeing that land is available well ahead of time. The current use value is less. There is the fact that there will be adequate supplies of land available, which will have its effect upon not only its availability but its price.
108 Lastly, there are the concessionary schemes whereby the advantage of the Land Commission buying at use value, less the levy, can be passed on to the concessionaires. There is not a single hon. Member opposite who has proved that the four ways by which we can help are not practicable.
§ Mr. Graham Page rose——
§ Mr. Skeffington
No, I will not give way now. I have listened to the hon. Member on many occasions and he knows that I usually give way, but there is one other point that I want to answer before I sit down.
I want to refer to some of the comments on Clause 8. Two questions have been asked in diametrically opposed fashions. The hope was expressed that the powers would never be used, and from this side of the House the fear was expressed that the Government would lack the courage to use the powers.
I have already explained the circumstances in which the procedure power in Clause 8 might be used, but there has been a number of not entirely accurate accounts of Clause 8. It is not true that the implication was made that in no cases could an inquiry be held. The Minister has the right in certain circumstances, at his discretion, to proceed with an inquiry. If there were a kind of wholesale withdrawal of land because of the levy, my right hon. Friend might decide to go straight ahead. But he has the discretion.
Secondly, if the Commission is acting outside Clauses 6(3) and 6(4) anybody who is aggrieved has the power to go to the High Court within six weeks for the necessary order. The Minister must issue a reasoned letter, if asked, under the Tribunals and Inquiries Act, 1958, as to why there is not to be a public inquiry. It is wrong to say that he is not bound to consider representations. He is bound to consider representations under paragraph 4(2) of the First Schedule of the Acquisition of Land Act, 1946, which is applied by Schedule 2 of the Bill. If the House had taken the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham alone it would have been completely misled about the proceedings. This power was used not in war time; it was used after the war, in 1946, for some hundreds of cases, and as far as I know not one gave rise to any difficulties.
109 A distinguished former Member of this House, John Stuart Mill, who represented the historic City of Westminster, said in 1848:No man made the land: it is the original inheritance of the whole species".By the Bill which we are now considering we are at long last seeing to it
§ that mankind comes into its own, and I hope that the House will give the Bill its Third Reading.
§ Question put. That the Bill be now read the Third time: —
§ The House divided: Ayes 322, Noes 235.113
|Division No. 190.]||AYES||[7.1 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Dell, Edmund||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)|
|Albu, Austen||Dempsey, James||Howie, W.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Dewar, Donald||Hoy, James|
|Alldritt, Walter||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Allen, Scholefield||Dickens, James||Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)|
|Anderson, Donald||Dobson, Ray||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Archer, Peter||Doig, Peter||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Driberg, Tom||Hunter, Adam|
|Ashley, Jack||Dunn, James A.||Hynd, John|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Dunnett, Jack||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Dunwoody. Mr. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Eadie, Alex||Janner, Sir Barnett|
|Barnes, Michael||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Barnett, Joel||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Jeger, George (Goole)|
|Beaney, Alan||Ellis, John||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n&St. P'cras, S.)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.||English, Michael||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)|
|Bence, Cyril||Ennals, David||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Ensor, David||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)|
|Binns, John||Faulds, Andrew||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Fennyhough, E.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Blackburn, F||Finch, Harold||Kelley, Richard|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Kenyon, Clifford|
|Boardman, H.||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Kerr. Mr. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)|
|Booth, Albert||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)|
|Boston, Terence||Floud, Bernard||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Foley, Maurice||Ledger, Ron|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. Herbert||Foot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)|
|Boyden, James||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Lee, John (Reading)|
|Braddock. Mrs. E. M.||Ford, Ben||Lestor, Miss Joan|
|Bradley, Tom||Forrester, John||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Fowler, Gerry||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)|
|Brooks, Edwin||Fraser, John (Norwood)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Tom (Hamilton)||Lipton, Marcus|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Galpern, Sir Myer||Lomas, Kenneth|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Gardner, Tony||Loughlin, Charles|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Garrett, W. E.||Luard, Evan|
|Brown, R. w. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Garrow, Alex||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)|
|Buchan, Norman||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Gourlay, Harry||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||McBride, Neil|
|Butler. Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||McCann, John|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Gregory, Arnold||MacColl, James|
|Cant, R. B.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||MacDermot, Niall|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanefly)||Macdonald, A. H.|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||McGuire, Michael|
|Chapman, Donald||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R, J.||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)|
|Coe, Denis||Hate, Leslie (Oldham, W.)||Mackie, John|
|Coleman, Donald||Hamilton, James (Bothwsll)||Mackintosh, John P.|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Maclennan, Robert|
|Corbet, Mr. Freda||Hunting, William||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, g.)||Harper, Joseph||McNamara, J. Kevin|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||MacPherson, Malcolm|
|Cronin, John||Hart. Mrs. Judith||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Haseldine, Norman||Marion, Simon (Bootle)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Hattersley, Roy||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)|
|Cullen. Mrs. Alice||Hazell, Bert||Manuel, Archie|
|Dalyell, Tam||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Mapp, Charles|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Heller, Eric S.||Marquand, David|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Henig, Stanley||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Mason, Roy|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Hilton, W. s.||Maxwell, Robert|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)||Mayhew, Christopher|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Hooley, Frank||Mellish, Robert|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Horner, John||Mendelson, J. J.|
|Davies, Robert (Cambridge)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Mikardo, Ian|
|de Freitas, Sir Geoffrey||Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)||Millan, Bruce|
|Delargy, Hugh||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Miller, Dr. M. S.|
|Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Redhead, Edward||Thornton, Ernest|
|Molloy, William||Rees, Merlyn||Tinn, James|
|Moonman, Eric||Reynolds, G. W.||Tomney, Frank|
|Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Rhodes, Geoffrey||Tuck, Raphael|
|Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Morris, John (Aberavon)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Moyle, Roland||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Robertson, John (Paisley)||Wallace, George|
|Murray, Albert||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Neal, Harold||Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Newens, Stan||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Weitzman, David|
|Norwood, Christopher||Roebuck, Roy||Wellbeloved, James|
|Oakes, Gordon||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Ogden, Eric||Rose, Paul||Whitaker, Ben|
|O'Malley, Brian||Ross Rt. Hn. William||White. Mr. Eirene|
|Orbach, Maurice||Rowland, Christopher (Meriden)||Whitlock, William|
|Orme, Stanley||Rowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)||Wigg, Rt. Hn. George|
|Oswald, Thomas||Ryan, John||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Owen, Will (Morpeth)||Sheldon, Robert||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Palmer, Arthur||Shore, Peter (Stepney)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Park, Trevor||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)||Williams. Mr. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Parker, John (Dagenham)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)||Williams, W. T. (Warrington)|
|Parkin, Ben (Paddington, N.)||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)||Willie, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Wilson, Rt. Hn. Harold (Huyton)|
|Pavitt, Laurence||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Skeffington, Arthur||Winnick, David|
|Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Slater, Joseph||Winterbottom, R. E.|
|Pentland, Norman||Snow, Julian||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Spriggs, Leslie||Woof, Robert|
|Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Stewart, Rt. Hn. Michael||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.||Stonehouse, John||Yates, Victor|
|Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Strauss Rt. Hn. G. R.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Summerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley|
|Price, William (Rugby)||Swain, Thomas||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Probert, Arthur||Swingler, Stephen||Mr. Charles Grey and|
|Pursey, Cmdr. Harry||Taverne, Dick||Mr. George Lawson.|
|Rankin, John||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Crawley, Aidan||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Astor, John||Croathwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver||Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N. W.)|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Crouch, David||Harris, Reader (Heston)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Crowder, F. P.||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)|
|Baker, W. H. K.||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)|
|Balniel, Lord||Dalkeith, Earl of||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Dance, James||Hawkins, Paul|
|Batsford, Brian||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hay, John|
|Bell, Ronald||Dean, Paul (Somerset, N.)||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Digby, Simon Wingfield||Higgins, Terence L.|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Hiley, Joseph|
|Bessell, Peter||Doughty, Charles||Hill, J. E. B.|
|Biffen, John||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||Hirst, Geoffrey|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Drayson, G. B.||Hobson, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Eden, Sir John||Holland, Philip|
|Blaker, Peter||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Hooson, Emlyn|
|Body, Richard||Errington, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Hordern, Peter|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Eyre, Reginald||Hornby, Richard|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Farr, John||Hunt, John|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Fisher, Nigel||Hutchison, Michael Clark|
|Brains, Bernard||Fortescue, Tim||Iremonger, T. L.|
|Brewis, John||Foster, Sir John||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt. Col. Sir Walter||Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Gibson-Watt, David||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)|
|Bryan, Paul||Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N&M)||Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Jopling, Michael|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Glover, Sir Douglas||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Glyn, Sir Richard||Kaberry, Sir Donald|
|Burden, F. A.||Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Kerby, Capt. Henry|
|Campbell, Gordon||Goodhart, Philip||Kimball, Marcus|
|Carlisle, Mark||Goodhew, Victor||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Gower, Raymond||Kirk, Peter|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Grant, Anthony||Kitson, Timothy|
|Clark, Henry||Grant-Ferris, R.||Knight, Mrs. Jill|
|Clegg, Walter||Gresham Cooke, R.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Cooke, Robert||Grieve, Percy||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Grffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Langford-Holt, Sir John|
|Corfield, F. V.||Gurden, Harold||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Costain, A. P.||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey (Sut'nC'dfield)||Nott, John||Smith, John|
|Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Onslow, Cranley||Stainton, Keith|
|Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Longden, Gilbert||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Stodart, Anthony|
|Loveys, W. H.||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Lubbock, Eric||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Talbot, John E.|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Tapsell, Peter|
|MacArthur, Ian||Pardoe, John||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Mackenzie, Alasdair (Ross&Crom'ty)||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Peel, John||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Percival, Ian||Temple, John M.|
|McMaster, Stanley||Peyton, John||Thatcher. Mr. Margaret|
|Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Maddan, Martin||Pink, R. Bonner||Tilney, John|
|Maginnis, Jahn E.||Pounder, Rafton||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Marten, Neil||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Mathew, Robert||Prior J. M. L.||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Maude, Angus||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Mawby, Ray||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter||Wall, Patrick|
|Maydon, Lt-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Pees-Davies, W. R.||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Webster, David|
|Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Ridsdale, Julian||Whitelaw, William|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Monro, Hector||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|More, Jasper||Roots, William||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Royle, Anthony||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Russell, Sir Ronald||Worsley, Marcus|
|Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Younger, Hn. George|
|Murton, Oscar||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Scott, Nicholas||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Neave, Airey||Sharples, Richard||Mr. Francis Pym and|
|Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)||Mr. R. W. Elliott.|
|Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.|