HC Deb 29 April 1975 vol 891 cc236-381

Order for Second Reading read.

Mr. Speaker

I should inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) and his right hon. and hon. Friends on the Liberal benches.

3.35 p.m.

The Minister for Planning and Local Government (Mr. John Silkin)

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

Two matters are inserted in the Bill not because they are strictly germane to the main principle but because the Bill itself is a suitable vehicle for them. The first of these is that contained in Part IV of the Bill; namely, to deal with office premises which have been left unoccupied for a period of time. The second relates to Clauses 39 and 40 and tidies up the powers of the Property Services Agency when it is acquiring land in certain limited circumstances and gives the agency the power to buy land for international organisations.

The main purpose of the Bill is to provide for the community ownership of development land, and it was this purpose which prompted the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) recently to suggest that the attempts to solve the land problem have been uniquely the work of the Silk in dynasty. I am grateful for the compliment—backhanded or not—but as a matter of history it is inaccurate since it ignores the contributions of David Lloyd George in 1909 and the Labour Government in 1930.

The main objectives of the Bill were clearly set out in paragraph 16 of the White Paper, Cmnd. 5730, which was published on 12th September 1974—namely, to enable the community to control the development of land in accordance with its needs and priorities and to restore to the community the increase in the value of land arising from its efforts". It is nearly 30 years since the great Planning Act of 1947 and, certainly, our planning system is well in advance of that of most other Western nations. But it has one great drawback. It is negative. It can stop development in most cases where development is undesirable. What it cannot do is to create development according to the social needs and priorities of the community. It is wrong to say that we have no positive planning in our country. We do have such planning, but it is dictated not by the needs of the community but by the profits of the market place. What the Bill does is to take the ownership of development land and give it to the community as a tool to achieve positive planning. Ownership enables the community to take the initiative in planning and to decide as a matter of positive policy where our development is to take place.

At present, far too much of the land that is brought into development privately is not chosen by the planning authorities. Whether that land can be considered for development is decided by the private land owner. The disadvantage of market planning is that it encourages the concentration of development in areas which land owners decide are to be made available. No wonder that such planning is sometimes costly in terms of social problems, or that it has a bearing on the stress disease of modern urban society—over crowding, long journeys to work, and the decline of city centres.

Mr. Michael Latham (Melton)

How can the Minister say that planning is negative and left to the land owner when the local planning authority has the duty to draw up a plan and delineate areas of development and, secondly, when planning applications can be approved only by the local authority?

Mr. Silkin

I did not say that it was negative. I said that it was positive planning by market forces.

In addition, the need to acquire the cheapest sites for the community to provide for its social priorities only too often defeats the aims. Most hon. Members have old people's homes in their constituencies—no doubt well-furnished and devotedly staffed. But if because of the high price of land those homes are situated two or three miles away from the centre of life, we deny to those of our old people who are still physically capable of doing so the enjoyment of participating fully in the life of the community—even, indeed, of just watching the world go by.

If we are to have a real system of planning that has as its basis the needs of the community and not the demands of the market place, the land that the community buys for its social purposes must be at the real value of the land and not at the value created by the planning permission which the community itself has given.

The truth is that planning permission for, say, a block of offices in the heart of the Yorkshire Moors, without roads, without schools, without the amenities of urban life, would be valueless. What creates the value is those urban amenities that the community itself has provided. In order that we may plan our towns in accordance with those social needs and priorities, the price that the community should pay for the land is the real and not the inflated value of the land—in other words, the current use value. It is that basis which the Bill seeks to arrive at.

Ideally, the two objectives of which I spoke positive planning and the restoration of development value—would be achieved immediately, but we face the fact that not all local authorities—the principal agencies under the Bill—are fully geared up in professional staff to accomplish the task so quickly. As is shown in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill, total local authority staff increases to operate the scheme in full will amount to 12,000. I estimate that about 4,000 of those will need to be professionally qualified in this field.

It is for this reason that we have adopted a flexible approach, accepting that local authorities will differ in their capacity and in the time scale needed to reach the required standard. They will all, however, start with one great advantage. They do not come as novices into the field of development. It is sometimes forgotten that nearly half of all the land coming into development is already being developed by public authorities, and it is not surprising, therefore, that I have already had intimations from a number of local authorities of differing political complexions that they are ready and willing to assume the responsibility in their own areas.

We are talking of large financial advantages. When we reach CUV, public authorities will be saving £350 million a year in the cost of land they keep, and there will be an annual profit of £500 million from the disposal of land for private development. In their expenditure on land for private development, neither the interest, nor site works, nor staff costs will be chargeable on the rates. The cost will be financed from borrowing and be repaid out of the surplus created on disposal. Only 40 per cent. of the profits will go to the Exchequer; the remaining 60 per cent. will go to the local authorities—and, since not all authorities will harvest the same reward from development land, 30 per cent. will go to the individual authority and 30 per cent. to a pool for authorities generally.

Mr. Tim Sainsbury (Hove)

Will the Minister say whether in those calculations, which I think he will admit are vague, general and based upon imprecise statistics, he has allowed the interest charges to the local authorities for the land they must buy up to 10 years in advance? Secondly, has he allowed for the loss to the Exchequer of the tax revenue arising from the profits he poses?

Mr. Silkin

I must make a slight correction. The local authorities are not asked to buy land for 10 years ahead. They are told that 10 years is as far as they can look ahead. There is a difference. As to the hon. Gentleman's other points, the answer is "Yes".

We intend to attain our objectives with speed and realism. The Government will, of course, ensure that adequate notice of the change to CUV—which will come on the second appointed day—is given. But, so long as there remain private transactions in land—and these are provided for in the transitional provisions of this Bill—we must see that there is no advantage in private sales as against sales to local authorities. In addition, we must provide a mechanism for reaching current use value.

It is for this reason that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will be introducing a development land tax—initially at 80 per cent. but rising to 100 per cent. in the period before we reach the full current use value basis.

This tax will be payable whether on sales to private individuals or to the public sector, but where local authorities buy the land they will buy net of the tax, so that land will be acquired at a figure nearing its real, and not inflated, value. This will be true when that land is acquired both to fulfil existing statutory duties—the provision of homes, roads, schools, and the like—and to exercise the new functions that they will have under this Bill.

Inevitably, the new basis of land acquisition will involve changes in compulsory purchase procedures, and these are dealt with in Schedule 4 of the Bill. Most of this schedule deals with matters of detail. In particular part II of the schedule simply applies to the Bill the powers that already exist under the planning Acts.

But Part I of the schedule does make three important changes in procedure. The first is that CPOs under the Bill will not be required to state the specific purpose for which land is being acquired. [Interruption.] I shall answer questions later.

Of course, authorities will have to justify a compulsory acquisition and to show that they are purchasing within the planning framework. The Secretary of State will require them to give a broad indication of the type of development proposed

. In answer to the question of the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Latham), there will no longer be compulsory purchase of an individual site for the old statutory purposes. It will occur so that development takes place on publicly-owned land. Therefore, it must be done on a broad-brush principle.

Second, it can be a valid objection to a CPO today that the person who owns the land could himself carry out the development. This is obviously inappropriate where development is concerned with land which will be communally owned. There is nothing intrinsically new in this; it has been the position in the new towns ever since the Act of 1946.

The third change does involve a real change in procedure. The Secretary of State will no longer be bound in every case to hold an inquiry or a hearing into objections to a CPO under the Bill. We shall lay down guidelines in due course. But the sort of case I have in mind arises where, for example, the planning status of the land has already been considered at a public inquiry.

We are also taking the opportunity in Clause 42 of tidying up the case where a public authority wishes to acquire land from another public authority. Although this sort of decision has long since been merely a matter of administration, it has remained subject to special parliamentary procedure. Few will mourn its disappearance in this case since individual rights are not affected.

While I am on the subject of compulsory purchase, I should like to draw the attention of the House to Clause 29, which enables the Secretary of State to create financial hardship tribunals arising from the change in the compensation code on the second appointed day. We want the ordinary person to know that he can go to an independent referee if, rightly or wrongly, he feels aggrieved so that additional payments up to a maximum of £25,000 can be paid ex gratia where the tribunal feels that a claimant ought to be helped. As far as I know, there is not, and never has been, so generous a provision in any previous legislation.

Clause 29 applies after the second appointed day. I should like to tell the House about something which affects the transitional period. When we drafted the White Paper we felt that as a matter of equity—and, indeed, for good practical reasons also—it would be wrong to halt development on privately-owned land before the full operation of the scheme. For this reason paragraph 36 of the White Paper stated that we would normally exclude from acquisition under this scheme land which on White Paper day either had planning permission or was owned by builders. These exclusions, as my right hon. Friend made clear in a reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mrs. Taylor) on 27th January, will be governed by advice that he will give to local authorities. We must see that land is available for all house building with a greater certainty than in the past.

I remember how in 1970 the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker) was forced to issue a circular—No. 10/70asking the local authorities to release land for private house building because the free market in land had dried up the supply. There was a free market from 22nd July onward, the date when the right hon. Gentleman announced to the House that the Land Commission was dead. We want to see all house building going ahead at full speed. That is why we have introduced the exclusions to which I referred. They will help supplement the supply of land for both private and public house building. Under the scheme, of course, the local authorities will be the provider of land. Indeed, for the first time the local authorities will have an incentive to do this, and house builders can make their plans secure in that knowledge.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

If the right hon. Gentleman wants the citizen to feel the reassurance of which he spoke just now, can he explain why Clause 29 is only an empowering clause and there is no duty laid upon him to set up any financial hardship tribunals? He will appreciate that the language of the clause is permissive, whereas, had that been his intention, it could have been mandatory.

Mr. Silkin

I know that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will take it from me that that is the intention. I claim parentage of it, and I shall sec that the child does not die. In any event, I hope to welcome the right hon. and learned Gentleman to the Committee in due course, and I am sure that he will make that point as eloquently as he always does.

But, while development will still be taking place on privately-owned land, from the first appointed day under the Bill the local authorities will have the power to buy land for private development; and where authorities are geared up to go further, my right hon. Friend will ensure by order that a duty be laid upon them to own all land in their area on which the relevant development that he will designate will take place.

When every area in the country is under the duty, we shall move on the second appointed day to current use value.

As I have said, the method envisaged by this Bill is highly flexible. Under it we can ensure there is no unnecessary check to development for house building, industry and other essential programmes. But this flexibility is not confined to individual local authorities. The same powers will extend to new town development corporations and to the national park planning boards.

Now, although in England and Scotland we have chosen the local authorities as the main agencies, the arrangement is somewhat different in Wales. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will be describing these arrangements when he replies to the debate.

But now I should like to tell the House why in England and in Scotland we have chosen the local authorities as the main agencies.

In the last two post-war Land Acts, the 1947 Act and the 1967 Act, the then Labour Governments created central organisations to deal with the acquisition of land—the Central Land Board in 1947 and the Land Commission in 1967. The difficulty about such central organisations is that, although they have advantages—they can cross boundaries to assemble land, they can respond with ease to national decisions—they are still not accountable to the needs and wishes of the local community.

More and more over the years, ordinary citizens have become concerned with the changes in their environment. They want to express that concern, and they demand the right to hold to account for their actions those who claim to plan upon their behalf.

Nobody has been a stronger critic of the present system of local government reorganisation than I have, but it has at least achieved one thing. It has created powerful units of local administration with greater populations and greater resources than were known before.

When my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) chose the Land Commission as his instrument rather than the local authorities, he did so in the knowledge that there were then more than 1,200 local authorities in England alone—too many for such a task.

I was persuaded by the argument that an unreformed local government consisting of so many weak authorities without resources or population would be like creating positive planning in penny numbers.

However, there were those who, even at that time, were not so persuaded. In a classic maiden speech, the hon. Member for Hornsey declared on 12th May 1966, on the Second Reading of the Land Commission Bill: …I believe that the proper agencies for the redevelopment of land are the local authorities. If their powers are not sufficient, then Parliament can extend them. If their finances are not sufficient, Parliament can supply their needs".—[Official Report, 12th May 1966; Vol. 728, c. 642.) If the hon. Gentleman felt so strongly then, now that we have the new large local authorities the case is overwhelming. But, even so, there must be four safeguards.

First, despite all that we hope, there could conceivably be occasions when some authority was unable or unwilling to act—more particularly, perhaps, in the matter of disposal of land. There must be a back-up agency—a longstop, if one likes. Clauses 50 to 52 give the Secretary of State reserve powers to act in such cases.

I hope and believe that these powers will never need to be exercised, and if they are not, the rewards for local authorities—and the communities that they represent—will be enormous.

A second safeguard will be the accounting system. Authorities will keep community land accounts. These land accounts will record what they buy and sell under the scheme quite separately from the generality of local authority finance. When land is disposed of, receipts will be used to pay outstanding debt, and within agreed programmes to buy more land.

Additional funds will clearly need to be made available for this purpose in the early years—I do not disguise that—and we shall create a new "key sector" for borrowing for the purchase of land for private development. Obviously, in current circumstances we do not want to see the land scheme producing a net increase in the public borrowing requirement for longer than is absolutely necessary. The level of spending for this new key sector will have to be considered in the same way as other calls on public expenditure, and against the economic background of the time.

Third, we must ensure that the weakness of the last Conservative reorganisation—namely, the tension that it created between county and district—shall not affect plans. For this reason we are asking districts and counties to provide land acquisition and management schemes which will determine the task of each level of authority and will avoid duplication. I am happy to say that, without any imposition from me, the authorities are moving towards this concept, working closely together to prepare the necessary schemes.

A fourth safeguard must be that decisions on the acquisition of land, and, above all, on disposal of land, must and will be taken as openly as possible. We are fortunate in this country in having very little corruption in our public life. But suspicion—whether justified or not—exists where decisions are made behind closed doors. Unfortunately, it is always possible to justify closed-doors decisions when one knows that their result may be to increase the value of land because of the decision taken. When there is no longer such a danger—when the stakes are no longer high, in fact—there is every reason why decisions, and tenders offered and accepted, should be taken in the full glare of publicity.

The Municipal Journal described the this Bill as …probably the most exciting thing to happen to local government for decades and much more significant in its way than reorganisation". The one great feature of the Land Bill, it said, …is that it puts its trust in local government; it is now up to local government to earn that trust". One newspaper, The Times, would have preferred a different Bill—a Bill with which both sides of the House could agree. I am afraid that I cannot oblige. The Bill that I am moving today is one based upon a deeper philosophy than the politics of consensus. So far from denying its radical principles, I take pride in them. I commend the Bill to the House.

4.0 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Rossi (Hornsey)

Not since the days that a Socialist Government, in all its arrogance, declared, "We are the masters now", has any measure been presented to the House which the Opposition find more odious and more oppressive than the Bill before us.

Under the innocuous and comforting title of "The Community Land Bill"—"the Communist Land Bill" would be more appropriate—it seeks to confiscate or steal from the individuals who make up our community what is theirs. It would take away from the individual, without any real right of appeal or protest, that upon which his independence and ultimately his freedom depends. It would give the State a complete monopoly in the basic wealth of this land, to be administered by faceless bureaucrats, and give the most terrifying powers to politicians. It is a denial of basic human rights.

Dr. Colin Phipps (Dudley, West)


Mr. Rossi

I shall not give way because many hon. Members wish to speak. The Minister, in smooth and honeyed terms, informed the House that one of the main intentions behind the Bill was to stop the land speculators making great profits and to ensure that the value created by the community in land should return to the community. The language that he used when addressing the Labour Party Local Government Conference in January was a little different. He said: It is true that if all we were concerned about was to stop land speculation and to restore to the community the loss of development values, taxation would have been the way to do it. But it is not. In our overcrowded island, where land is in such short supply, we should now embark upon a total solution. I must say that I find such terms as "total solution" or "final solution", to be terms which come ill out of the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman, with all the hateful, historical connotations that they contain. They are the language of dictatorship and, as an examination of the Bill will show, this is what we have.

I should like to deal with two general propositions before I go into the Bill in some detail.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)

Would the hon. Gentleman prefer the phrase "St. Bartholomew's Eve of the property developer"?

Mr. Rossi

If that is the sort of remark to which I shall have to give way, I am not encouraged to do so.

Mr. McNamara

Then do not make that kind of comment again.

Mr. Rossi

We have no quarrel with the proposition that there should be a return to the community of wealth created by the community. If the granting of planning permission adds exorbitantly to the value of land, it is quite right that much of that value should be enjoyed by the community as a whole. This is particularly so where the increase in that value—the creation of a development value—results in expense to the community in the provision of services, roads, sewerage systems, schools and recreation facilities.

However, this can best be done through the taxation system. Indeed, in December 1973 Mr. Anthony Barber valiantly put forward proposals to do just that. The Labour Government have rushed these ideas through without proper consultation with the interests concerned. With hindsight, we feel that the earlier proposals have resulted in an unhappy situation. They went too far and have caused difficulties. There has been a slowing down of redevelopment. The security offered to banks, upon which much of the borrowing of industry depended, has been undermined, and pension and insurance funds have been adversely affected. We would not go that far again.

However, a fair and just form of taxation is right and we would ensure that such removed for the future the unacceptable sight of huge gains through property speculation. We should also wish to ensure that the fruits of such taxation were not wholly enjoyed by the Exchequer but were shared by the local communities.

One of the greatest impediments to land development today—developments upon which the wellbeing of our country depends and upon which the provision of our homes so much depends—has been the slowness or reluctance of local authorities to grant planning permissions. This has been due mostly to the financial strains caused by the need for those authorities to provide the infrastructure for development at their own expense. Therefore, local authorities and developers should be free to negotiate terms for the granting of planning permission which would enable the developers, on a far larger scale than hitherto, to provide roads, schools, community and social centres.

The cost of this would be set off against tax on development value. The local authorities would then be more ready to grant planning permission and the community itself would see developers making a tangible contribution towards their wellbeing and not just a profit. Our discussions, and we have had many, with developers and local authorities have shown that these proposals are considered to be entirely workable and acceptable.

The other matter that I should like to raise relates to the financial effects of the Bill. The Explanatory and Financial Memorandum says that the capital costs of acquisition will, in time, run at the rate of £300 million to £400 million a year, or about £3,000 million to £4,000 million over the 10-year period. In addition, the administrative costs will be £1 million a week. Additional civil servants and local government officials will total 15,000.

We are told that none of this will be any burden on the rates because everything will be financed out of capital borrowing against the day when it is hoped that some profit will be made. However, this is diametrically opposed to the economic strategy announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget Speech only 14 days ago. Let me remind the House that the Chancellor said that he had come to the conclusion that there are intolerable risks in current borrowing requirements. He added: My intention is to reduce the borrowing requirement by well over £1 billion in 1975–76 and by about £3 billion in 1976–77."—[Official Report, 15th April 1975; Vol. 890, c. 286.] In pursuance of this grand strategy he made some cheese-paring reductions in the crucial housing area. He lopped £50 million from housing capital expenditure. £65 million from housing subsidies and, before Easter, £150 million to £200 million off improvement grants which are essential for the preservation of our existing housing stock.

Yet now we have proposals to transfer all development land into public ownership by increasing public sector borrowing way beyond these mean little cuts that he was obliged to announce in his Budget speech.

Mr. John Silkin

The hon. Gentleman seems to like dealing in half the shape of a balance sheet. Would he kindly direct his mind to the returns and inform the House that development of land is one of the most profitable occupations that there is?

Mr. Rossi

I would tell right hon. Gentlemen that property development is one of the riskiest occupations that there is. If he thinks that local authorities of the inner areas redeveloping commercial properties feel that they are likely to make large profits, I suggest that he consults them again, because the inner city authorities are intensely worried about this matter. In any case, when will there be such profit? How many years hence? We are talking of public sector borrowing today. The Chancellor was talking about public sector borrowing today and the dire risks that there are in increasing it. The Government will have to resolve this problem for themselves.

Mr. Michael Latham

Does my hon. Friend accept that we would find the right hon. Gentleman's argument about profits more interesting and acceptable if he explained, first, how he arrived at those figures, a question which he specifically refused in answer to me and, secondly, how there can possibly be development profits when everybody is operating on current use value?

Mr. Rossi

The figures in the memorandum are no more than estimates. When I tell the House that, for example, pension funds have invested £1,500 million in development land which would all come under this measure, we begin to realise the size of the exercise and the amount of money involved.

The Chancellor went on to say that the reason for this increase in the public sector borrowing is that incomes financed by the public sector are rising faster than present rates of inflation …Pay in central and local government is likely to cost upwards of £3 billion more in 1975–76 than in 1974–75…based on settlements…already made."—[Official Report, 15th April 1975; Vol. 890, c. 285–6.) Yet in the Bill we have the proposal that we increase central and local government employees by another 15,000.

The Government are moving in two opposite directions at one and the same time. However, how the Government make the Bill work is their problem. We merely point out the absurdity of the situation in which they are placing themselves on their own forecast of the economy. Our one fear is that the consequence will be the complete stagnation of development and house building in this country.

Let us examine the Bill a little more closely. It proposes that local authorities will have the power, and ultimately the duty, of acquiring all development land. The right hon. Gentleman said all, except in Wales, where apparently local authorities are not to be trusted and therefore a larger authority has to be set up.

What is "development land" as defined in Clause 6? It is anything which a local authority considers to be development land—in other words, any land at all. There is only the anticipated exception of a house standing in up to a quarter of an acre of ground—no more than that.

Included in "development land", if one reads the schedules closely, are common land, open spaces, village greens and allotments. They are definable immediately under the Bill by local authorities as development land. It will be interesting to see the dialogues which will take place between county and district authorities and local councils which have no standing in the Bill but are very jealous of their village greens and open spaces. Let us see what they say when the larger authorities designate their village greens as development land.

Nothing is safe as long as the authority considers that it can be developed. [Interruption.] I am merely quoting from the Bill. If that is not the intention, the Government should bring forward a Bill which precisely states the intention.

What is more, local authorities are not to be hampered or restricted in any way. When they consider what is to be brought into public ownership as development land, they can completely ignore the fact that they themselves in the past have refused planning permission—that is, considered that that land was not development land. Heads they win, tails we lose. The local authority's development plan is not conclusive or binding upon it. It can ignore its own development plan. Therefore, it can take whatever it likes when it likes even land adjoining development land which it did not choose to call development land if it thinks it necessary to have it.

The price at which the authorities will take the land will be net of development tax which, we are told will be 80 per cent. of development value rising to 100 per cent., and eventually they will be able to acquire everything at current use value.

At that stage, no one else will be able to buy land for development at all. Therefore the local authorities will have become the monopoly buyers. In a monopoly situation, what value can be placed on any commodity when only one buyer is ready to pay and when only that buyer can buy and insist on buying when he wants to do so? There will be no current use value. There will be no value at all.

Mr. John Silkin

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman quite understands the position. The basis of current use value means that the land is bought at the value of its then current use. For example, agricultural land will change hands between those who want to buy and those who want to sell agricultural land. Of course there will be a market and a value.

Mr. Rossi

There will not, because, under the procedure for designated areas, no exchange of land can take place without notification to the local authority, which will then have the right to acquire by deeming it to be development land. What land will change hands on that kind of basis? I suggest that a complete and utter monopoly situation will have been created with the consequences that I outlined.

Mr. John Silkin

indicated dissent.

Mr. Rossi

The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. I suggest that we had that kind of shaking of the head when we were debating the Land Commission Bill many years ago. All that we prophesied would happen under that Bill indeed came into effect, and the Government had to start amending that legislation to take away some of its worst consequences almost at once until it fell to us to abolish it altogether.

The Government envisage that land owners will not fall over themselves in offering land to local authorities on these confiscatory terms. Therefore, we have the provisions of Sections 21 to 26 under which, if anyone applies for planning permission to develop land, the local authority may suspend the planning permission, take over the land, and then grant itself planning permission. Thus, the local authority not only takes the land but steals the expertise and ideas of the people who have identified and suggested bringing forward the land for development.

Dr. Phipps

Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the period currently required to get through a planning objection is a great deal longer than one year and that the proposal currently embodied in the Bill giving a moritorium of one year will in fact speed up the process?

Mr. Rossi

It will delay it, because after that there will be a CPO and the whole matter will take far longer. The whole of the development will stagnate on that kind of procedure.

The Minister no doubt takes the view that developers—the people with the expertise that I have outlined—are unnecessary to our society and that the local authorities can do it all themselves. Experience has shown the contrary.

The Department of the Environment study, "Housing Land Availability in the South-East for 1975", revealed that less than half of the planning permissions granted in the four years from October 1972 were identified by local authorities. House builders say that up to 75 per cent. of the land made available for new housing has been made available on appeal from refusals by local authorities. Thus, local authorities have not been outstanding in their expertise in the exercise of entrepreneurial qualities in finding, identifying and bringing forward land for development.

The Minister, to a certain extent, recognises this, and has been signalling heavily with his head that he does, because in Schedule 3 he has given power to local authorities to do deals with some developers. Indeed, I understand that he has been going around in private to developers and saying, "Look here, boys. Do not worry about the Bill. It will not spoil your business. The local authorities will not have the staff or the expertise to identify the land. Owners will not bring it forward. You go and find it and tell the local authorities and there will be something in it for you."

Mr. John Silkin

What I have said to developers is absolutely clear and firmly on the record, and I am perfectly willing to send the hon. Gentleman copies of my speeches because it might improve his knowledge of the subject if he were to read them. I have been saying that just as in new towns, where land is owned by the development corporation but there are private developers or private finance funds coming together, so exactly the same thing will occur in this situation.

Mr. Rossi

The right hon. Gentleman is launching on a national scale the creation of a legion of bounty hunters whose task it will be to bring in for reward land to local authorities, and their reward is spelt out simply in the Third Schedule. This will ensure—and this is the iniquity of it—that the owners will not be receiving the proper value for their land. The local authorities will be getting the land at use value and the profit will then go to the local authorities, subject to whatever deal they may make with the developers who have been acting as bounty hunters for them in this exercise.

Consider the further implications. Local authorities will be able to acquire land at give-away prices and to resell it at full market value or make a deal with developers—and developers of that kidney will not be slow at giving the private "kick-back" to councillors and officials for a share of the booty. The opportunities for public corruption, however open the right hon. Gentleman may make his tribunals, will be on a gigantic scale too terrifying to contemplate.

In planning terms, too, the situation is appalling. At present local planning authorities act in a quasi-judicial capacity. A landowner or developer comes forward with a scheme for development. His incentive is profit, the profit he hopes to make out of it. The planning authority considers the application in terms of the effect that the development will have on the community, amenity and the environment. Local authority has nothing to lose or gain in the giving or refusing of planning permission. But make it the owner of the land over which it has to judge the granting of planning permission, to make a profit out of the development, and nothing will be safe, nothing will be sacred.

The manner in which local authorities will be able to take private property is also hideous in the extreme. The powers of compulsory purchase in this Bill are Draconian. Local authorities will not have to specify the purposes for which the land is required. The compulsory purchase order cannot be opposed on the ground that the acquisition is unnecessary or inexpedient. There will be no need for, or right to, a public inquiry. The Secretary of State can depute any individual to speak behind closed doors to the owner who is protesting—a Star Chamber procedure which we thought had long since disappeared from this country.

The Minister need not even give the wretched owner the courtesy of a hearing by anybody but can communicate his decision in writing. But even that is not an end of the matter. Any officer of the Inland Revenue will be able to enter upon anyone's land on 24-hours' notice, snoop around at will, value, survey, bore holes or dig it up, and anyone who tries to stop him will be committing an offence and can be prosecuted. That is the kind of measure that this Government are trying to impose upon the hitherto free peoples of this country who have lived in the illusion that their property was their castle.

Who will benefit from all this? We are told that it will make housing cheaper, but that is a myth because, although local authorities will be able to confiscate at less than market value, they will have to sell at market value, and market price is determined by demand. Therefore, the house purchaser will not find any houses being sold cheaper as a result of this measure. Indeed, one can see all this paraphernalia and bureaucracy leading to delays and interest charges which will add ultimately to the cost of a house. It is estimated today that current planning delays add £500 to the cost of each house. One could almost add a nought to the end of that figure after one has gone through all the bureaucratic paraphernalia that this Bill will impose upon us.

But a great many more people will suffer. Let me outline a few examples. I have mentioned the £1,500 million of ordinary people's money that is invested through pension funds in land and buildings. That is just at-cost value, so that its value today is much higher. From the very nature of pension fund investment, this is all developable property, because investment funds invest on a basis of 150 years forward looking, with the intent that there shall be a redevelopment twice or three times within that 150-year span to increase their rental base and therefore to maintain pensions in step with inflation. All this is to be fair game for local authorities because every time an investment fund wishes to improve its rent base and to carry out a development—and this can be within the definition of the Bill, the renewal of an office block in a central situation, a factory or any commercial property—and puts in for that renewal or redevelopment for the benefit of those dependent upon it for income, the local authority will have the right during the transitional period of this Bill, and thereafter it will have the duty, to take that development off the pension fund and thus it will destroy its basis.

Where does this leave the 250,000 miners of the National Coal Board who have £45 million of their money invested in land, 30 per cent. of their pension fund? Where will it leave the 120,000 pensioners of the electricity supply industry with £108 million, or 29 per cent., of their pension fund invested in land? Where will it leave the 116,000 pensioners of Unilever and the General Electric Company, with £90 million, 22½per cent. of their pension fund, invested in land? All these figures are for the world to see in the public reports of pension funds.

Consider next the Churches. Will church halls and schools in inner city areas be available for sale at full development value? Of course they will not. The situation today is that with the shift of population many churches with their halls and schools in inner city areas want to sell so that they can then buy another church or school in areas to which the population has gone. Today they finance that operation by selling their inner city properties to developers at commercial rates, using that money to build their churches and schools elsewhere. If this Bill comes into effect they will not be able to do so because they will get only the current use value of their land—but they will still have to pay the full market price for the replacement land they want to buy elsewhere.

Mr. R. B. Cant (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

Surely, in the case of a church, the current situation is that the compensation must equal reinstatement value. This is a very serious problem for local authorities, but they face up to it. This Bill will not place any greater burden on the churches in future.

Mr. Rossi

Reinstatement applies only where there is currently a compulsory purchases order, but many of these transactions take place on the free and open market, and this will be denied to the churches. They will be obliged under the Bill, which makes no provision for reinstatement, to take current use value for a derelict empty school in an inner city area—the hon. Member can do the figures on that—and will have to pay a full market price for development land on the outskirts of that city. The hon. Gentleman can do the arithmetic for himself. It is obvious what hardship this will impose on churches and charities.

Consider the charity which sold 50 acres of development land in 1965 for £750,000 and out of the proceeds built a special school for educationally subnormal children, 12 children's homes and hospitals and purpose-built accommodation for unsupported mothers and children. Another charity sold land next to an old people's home in order to modernise and refurbish the home. They will not be able to do that in future because the profit and the land will go automatically to the local authority.

Mr. Arthur Jones (Daventry)

But does not my hon. Friend see that the Labour party does not want all those facilities? It wants the whole thing municipalised and State-controlled and has no sympathy for the people for whom my hon. Friend is acting as advocate.

Mr. Rossi

I have no illusions on that score. As the Minister did not take care to spell out these matters, I wish to draw attention to them so that people outside may know exactly what is being perpetrated in their name under the Bill.

Consider sports clubs wishing to build a pavilion or clubhouse. When they apply for planning permission, they will again invite the local authority—and oblige the local authority after the transitional period—to take over the land. Consider the farmer wishing to build agricultural buildings on his land, who finds that the consequence of applying for planning permission is that the land is taken over by the local authority. If the local authority does not wish to develop it immediately, it will have to become a farmer and manage the property as a farmer for a period of years. What more ridiculous consequence can one see than local authorities entering farming?

Consider also industrial companies which are buying land and who do buy land for extension of their factory sites, and who plan 20 years in advance in order to programme. They will be caught by the Bill. The land can be taken off them the moment they apply for planning permission. They will get existing use value and have to buy back at full development value from the local authority—if it chooses to sell.

This is the Land Commission Act all over again. That was a tremendous failure, imposing great hardship with great complexity of provisions, like first, relevant and second appointed days just as we have in the Bill.

The local authorities which seem to welcome this measure should take heed of the powers of the Secretary of State. There are about 30 provisions in the Bill for the making of orders, directions and regulations which leave the effective power in the Secretary of State's hands. He will be able to control and regulate every act of every local authority, and make them dance to his tune. Under Clause 50, he can take over all their powers himself, whenever he considers it expedient to do so. Local authorities are to be simply the tools, the instruments, for the State acquisition of land in this country, because the Secretary of State dare not introduce another Land Commission.

If one wonders at the extent of the Secretary of State's power, may I conclude with one example? Under Schedule 4, not even consecrated ground or cemeteries with recent burials are safe from him. This can only be his last territorial demand from us—our last six feet of earth. He may make regulations for the disinterring of our bodies. Thus, this Government, having despoiled us of all our possessions in our lifetime, having regimented us into local authority developments, having stripped us of our pensions, having sucked us dry with their taxes, will not even allow our weary bodies to rest in peace.

As a party, we abhor this Bill and we shall not co-operate in its implementation. As a Government. we shall see that it is repealed.

4.36 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Willey (Sunderland, North)

All that I can kindly say about the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) is that I was entertained by his speech. I would say about my right hon. Friend the Minister that I am delighted that he has had the opportunity to introduce the Bill. I had enormous respect for his father, and it is a tremendous thing for the Silkin family that my right hon. Friend is privileged to pursue, as his father did, what is essentially the question of the utilisation of our most precious resource, land, in the interests of the nation.

I do not want to be unduly retrospective, but I want to go back to the last occasion on which I addressed the House on the subject of land, the occasion of the Second Reading of the Land Commission (Dissolution) Bill. I said then that the policy of the Conservative Government was a policy which …will bring about the frustration of decent planning, which will set land speculators deliberately to worsen land scarcity, and which will bring back disturbance and anger at the scandal of land prices—[Official Report, 16th December 1970; Vol. 808, c. 1422.] That is exactly what has happened. We know that the hon. Member for Hornsey was speaking absolute nonsense. We know that even a Conservative Government recognised what had happened and that to allow laissez-faire again would be to court disaster.

I am not making a special plea for the Land Commission—that was only one solution—but the argument behind it was that there are two inevitable public responsibilities nowadays. It is a public responsibility, in the first place, to secure that a substantial part of the development value created by the community returns to the community. Second, it is equally a public responsibility to secure that the right land is available at the right time for the implementation of national, regional and local plans. In other words, we must acknowledge the primacy of land use over land ownership.

Consequently, there are only two matters which concern us. The first is betterment. Despite what the hon. Member said, there is no difference in principle between the two sides of the House on this matter. It is only a question of degree—

Sir D. Walker-Smith

No, of method.

Mr. Willey

I will deal with both aspects, but both essentially come back to the fact that it is a question of degree. When we remember that it was not a radical Labour Minister but a Tory Chancellor who proposed a swingeing 80 per cent. tax, this shows that the question is only one of minor degree.

The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that it is a matter of method, but he means whether we should have a tax or a levy. We should have a tax, the Tories argue, because they all know only too well that it bites less effectively I was disturbed to hear that my right hon. Friend was considering a development land tax, but I have found that it is outside the general arrangements of taxation, so, for all practical purposes, this is the betterment levy revived.

I am sorry that the Minister has dropped the use of the word "betterment", because his father, as a close disciple of Uthwatt, had a particular affection for betterment. I am not unduly critical, because I am delighted that my old personal friend "current use value" has come brazenly into the front row. I had to be more discreet, but I am glad that in this legislation we are concentrating on the crux of the matter—current use value.

Whether we call it a tax or a levy depends on the agency which administers it and so we turn to the second objective. We all agree, I hope, that land ownership is crucial to positive planning and that what we are concerned about is the form of agency which we should create to bring the land forward at the right time. If we do not have a national agency, I cannot complain if the levy is called a tax.

Just as the Conservatives have always argued for a tax and not a levy, it is they who have always argued for the local authorities and not for a national agency. When Harold Macmillan butchered my right hon. Friend's father's Act he said—and he pleaded this in justification—"All this could rightly be left to the local authorities". All Conservatives, however, in recent times, have not fully accepted that. Those more directly concerned—Mr. Duncan Sandys, as he then was, the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) and the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon)—all conceded that a national agency was needed to supplement the work of the local authorities. That view was originally taken by my right hon. Friend. I have a lot of sympathy with him, because I was thoroughly unscrambled. My right hon. Friend became obsessed with the dangers of being unscrambled and felt that there would be great advantage in a close involvement with the local authorities.

I adopted a similar approach in a rather different situation. I had a Ministry of Land which was violently opposed in Whitehall, and the idea of attracting local government support for it was not particularly attractive to other Departments. Also there was then—we might not realise it now—a lack of confidence in local government and considerable concern about local government finance. But, as conscious as my right hon. Friend is of the importance of having the local authorities as allies, I made a particular effort, and succeeded to some degree, to ensure that the operations of the Land Commission provided some financial assistance to local authorities. The Land Commission bought net of levy and that was important because it put the commission in a very favourable position in relation to the local authorities.

I found the local authorities very approachable. I arranged with some of them that we should work together on an agency basis because they had the valuation departments. They might act on an agency basis with the commission. I made it clear in the debates and throughout the operation of the commission that it had powers which were only supplemental to, and in no way impaired, those of the local authorities. The situation was different in that I had an explicit electoral mandate. I am not flamboyant enough to take the Churchillian view of that, but, in spite of the mandate, I said publicly, and carried it through, that I was willing to consider whether there is a case for relying upon the local authorities". My figures are slightly different from those of my right hon. Friend the Minister, but what is a few hundred between friends? I was told that we had 1,500 local authorities and it was against this multiplicity of local authorities that I felt that I could not turn to them to be the agencies. However, at the same time —and I want to emphasise this—I said publicly that the local authorities differed widely in the willingness and the effectiveness of their ability to use compulsory purchase powers". It is a matter of degree, but I believe that this factor still affects the situation and remains a powerful argument against leaving the local authorities as the sole agencies.

I list one or two of the distadvantages, as they appear to me, of making local authorities the sole agencies. We have had local government reorganisation, but, unfortunately, it is not a form of reorganisation which we would have chosen. We have a two-tier local government system It causes complications and difficulties, and it will cause delay. Secondly, we have not had reform of local government finance and local government remains unstructured to bear the capital burden for private development. Furthermore, local authorities directly reflect the impact of any economic restraint and their land acquisition programmes will inevitably be vulnerable.

I turn from the general considerations to a matter which has been touched upon namely, the question of administration. It will be difficult to make a realistic assessment of the administration of land acquisition with the local authorities as the agencies. My right hon. Friend is up against the difficulty which I was up against, and it is no less acute. There is a great shortage of qualified manpower. It was for this reason in particular, that I had discussions with local authorities about acting on an agency basis because I could not see how we could afford to duplicate valuation departments. In this situation, we need some rationalisation. If local authorities were the sole agencies, we should have the most wasteful and, perhaps more impor- tant, the most uneven distribution of qualified manpower. May I point out in passing, in view of something that my right hon. Friend said, that that also applies to accountants in public service?

I wish to say a few words about the question of planning. I do not want to go into it at length because my views are well known. I have always argued that in the case of private development it is important to divorce planning from land acquisition. I may be rigid and doctrinaire in that view, but I confess it, I do not want to exaggerate it, but there is something to be said for the argument that if they were brought together and merged there would be risk of debasing the currency of planning. There is a good deal to be said for the concern of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and other such bodies.

On the other hand—and my right hon. Friend has recognised this—there are genuine difficulties in operating the policy of land acquisition through agencies based on the present local government boundaries because those boundaries are at the very point where land acquisition is often most material to the authorities. The authorities most hardly pressed must look over their boundaries.

An aspect of the matter which is often called in aid of the local authority approach is mixed development. However it was on this ground that I was pressed strongly to set up a national agency. Mixed development had broken down at the time that I was considering the question of the Land Commission. We had the city centre schemes, but they had ground to a halt. The Knightsbridge scheme had collapsed.

The developers were in difficulties about sorting out matters fairly with the municipal authorities. Secondly—and this is what the developers impressed upon me—there was a need for national planning. There was a haphazard plan for development of the city and urban centres. The developers found that, because one authority was discussing the question of development unbeknown to another authority, development became far too expensive, which often made the schemes less viable.

That was one of the major arguments for the Land Commission, and that was why Sir Henry Wells, the Chairman of the Land Commission, said at the first meeting of the commission that there would be concentration on the twilight areas. Hon. Members will remember that the Land Commission had wide powers. It had building powers and it could act as a building agency. This is a problem which is difficult to tackle except comprehensively from outside because somebody must see the development through.

I do not want to list all the disadvantages but I must refer to housing. It is probably still true that 40 per cent. of the house builders employ fewer than 20 people. In other words, they are small-scale contractors, and they have no stocks of land. They exist from day to day. That situation requires great sensitivity of response, which one would not necessarily get from a local authority. A choice will have to be made continually between rival claimants, and the town hall is the last place where such choices can effectively be made. This is a real factor affecting housebuilding, because housebuilding is cyclical. We have to get the cycle going again as quickly as possible. If there were a clamour for land it would be extremely difficult—I am not saying anything about Poulson—to take such decisions at town hall level.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in his customary ebullient way has said that the Bill will give heart to Labour councils, that it will give them enthusiasm to get on with the job. There is a lot in what he says. I can assure my right hon. Friend that Tyne and Wear and Sunderland will enthusiastically implement the Bill.

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman has read the study by Norman Dennis of what happened when the local authority at Sunderland planned an enormous housing scheme, and produced an appalling result. How can he enthuse about the possibility of this taking place on a far wider scale?

Mr. Willey

I am a great friend of Norman Dennis, who has done a great deal in the town to get people who are affected by clearance to participate and co-operate. I am sure he would agree with me that this will be of great help to Sunderland.

However, not only can Labour councillors put their foot on the accelerator, but Tory councillors can put their foot on the brake. There may be more Tory councillors after Thursday. This is a fact of life that we have to live with in local politics.

In the context of housing, it will be unfortunate if something which I believe every sensible person recognises must be done—namely, bringing the right land forward—is prejudiced by local party politics. For example, one of the essential reforms that this country has lacked is effective reform of secondary education. One of the reasons why it has been prejudiced and delayed is that it has been a matter of violent local controversy.

Mr. John Silkin

Will my right hon. Friend not agree that while some Tory local authorities may decide not to implement the scheme properly, although there are the Secretary of State's back-up powers, the Tory Party at a stroke destroyed his Land Commission?

Mr. Willey

I completely agree. These are not black and white matters. The differences between us are matters of emphasis.

I concede at once that the Bill apparently will provide regional authorities in Scotland, and it provides for Wales having its own Land Commission. I am delighted, because I could always rely on the steadfast support of the Welsh Office. But what is good for Wales might be equally good for England. There is a strong case for having behind the local authorities a regional organisation, either a national organisation organised regionally or straightforward regional organisations to compare with those in Scotland and the Welsh Land Commission.

My right hon. Friend says "We are not at variance, because I have provided in the Bill for back-up arrangements and for joint boards" I ask him to think again about that. What is provided for is the possibility of joint boards. If the possibility of joint boards becomes a real issue and is tackled, it will considerably impair the impetus of land acquisiton and cause delay. I believe, as I am sure my right hon. Friend does, that it is essential to build up the scale of acquisition as rapidly as possible.

My doubts are concentrated on the issue of implementation. If we do not have speedy implementation we shall be at risk. When I look at the transitional arrangements and the exemptions, those fears are aggravated. I know that to some extent they are inevitable, but I should like my right hon. Friend to see whether he can expedite the implementation of the Bill. There is a real danger that little will be done for 10 years, and that what is done is piecemeal. I wish to avoid those dangers.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend. I have emphasised some of the dangers which might impede him, but I have done so only to encourage him to overcome them. I am the last person in the world who is likely to disregard the risks of being unscrambled, but I believe that even the Tories have to recognise what happened after 1970. While the Bill will not be the final solution, I am convinced that it will be an enduring solution and that the effect of subsequent legislation will be not to weaken but to strengthen its provisions.

4.58 p.m.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), whose contributions I have consistently followed with a sometimes critical but always affectionate interest since I heard him second the Motion for the Address fittingly and eloquently nearly 30 years ago.

I ought to be able to say that it is a pleasure to participate in what could and should have been a constructive, imaginative and stimulating occasion—an attempt to find at last a viable solution to the vexed problem of land development and betterment. However, regretfully I must say that the attempt put before us in the Bill deserves none of those laudatory epithetis. After many decades of active participation in town and country planning, both professionally and politically, I find that my main impression today is a melancholy sense of déjà vu of hope deferred, of hope almost at last abandoned.

Reference has been fittingly made to the Minister's eminent father. I was present in the House when he moved the Second Reading of what became the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act. The right hon. Gentleman, with an economy of phrase, took only a quarter of the time that his father took to move his Second Reading. Whether that is a more or less precise proportion of their respective merits is not for me to say. As is well known, Part VII of that Act introduced the 100 per cent. development charges, which soon sterilised the market in land and dealt a body blow to necessary and desirable development, housing and much else.

I was an active protagonist in criticising those provisions and pointing out the damage they would inevitably cause to the economic and social fabric of the nation. I spared no effort to convince Lewis Silkin of the error of his ways. Of course, I tried. I owed it not only to the community as a whole but to Lewis Silkin, whom I respected as a man and valued as a friend, as the right hon. Gentleman knows. I did not succeed at the time, but I think that in later days he perhaps came to appreciate the force of our argument and to realise that his approach of 1947 was at best an oversimplification of a complex problem.

That being so, it is doubly tragic that the right hon. Gentleman today, instead of seeking to progress in wisdom, has chosen to harden in error. It is sad indeed. As a great reader of the Scriptures, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman has chosen to take his text from the tenth and eleventh verses of the twelfth chapter of the First Book of Kings: My little finger shall be thicker than my father's loins…whereas…my father hath chastised you with whips, …I will chastise you with scorpions. How much better it would have been if the right hon. Gentleman had thumbed his way back a few chapters in the Book of Kings and had sought to emulate the achievement of Rehoboam's father, Solomon, who, we are told, had a wise and understanding heart.

Mr. Michael Latham

Would it not also be appropriate for my hon. and learned Friend to go back three or four books and recommend to the right hon. Gentleman the advice given by a certain gentleman to Moses: Thou shalt not covet"?

Mr. Raison

Is not the story of Naboth's vineyard also most relevant to the Bill?

Sir D. Walker-Smith

All these citations are relevant. They should end, so far as the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues are concerned, with an extract from the Book of Exodus—and the sooner the better.

The repetition and aggravation of error which the Bill represents will fail like its predecessor, but with the added odium that it is flying in the face of experience. It will not solve the land problem. It will merely postpone and make harder the solution.

The land problem is not easy of solution. I have never thought that it was. I have lived with it for many years—more than the right hon. Gentleman—and, for good measure, my father lived with it for longer even than the right hon. Gentleman's father did. My father was a pioneer of town planning in his professional and civic capacities. When he entered politics he maintained that interest. He spoke on the Second Reading of the then Town and Country Planning Bill in 1932, and achieved the record in length for a back bench contribution in this House—75 minutes by the clock. I see an involuntary shudder of apprehension cross your features, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and therefore I make it clear that I hope to make do in marginally less time this afternoon, though a proper analysis and exposure of this travesty of a solution would justify and require a speech even longer than that of my father.

As I think the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North has suggested, the difficulties of the land problem lie in the method of solution rather than in the definition of principle. I have never been in doubt about the principle—the re-coupment for the community of that part of development value which is created by the action of the community, normally known as betterment, together with the right of the developer to a proper return for his industry and ingenuity, and a sufficient stimulus for the undertaking of desirable development.

That was the philosophy of these benches even before Uthwatt. It is enshrined in the 1932 Act. I have consistently espoused it as a principle and have advocated legislation to give effect to it. Regrettably, the Conservative Party has to some extent missed its chances to give effect to the principle. It has tended to over-react to the extreme measures of successive Labour Governments, thereby affording an excuse to those Governments for more extreme measures in their turn.

When it was clear that Lewis Silkin's 100 per cent. development charges had failed, we should have introduced legislation to give effect to the basic principle that I have defined. I wanted to do so. I served on a working party under the chairmanship of Lord Llewellin, then a member of Mr. Churchill's Shadow Cabinet, which made recommendations to this end. Unfortunately, the odium aroused in the nation by the 100 per cent. development charge system made it politically easier simply to abolish the charges and to leave a vacuum.

Again, in the early 1960s I advocated a constructive effort to put the basic principle into effect and to provide a just, practical and lasting solution before a Labour Government had another opportunity for fanciful and doctrinaire legislation. But only in 1973 did we have Mr. Barber's rather ham-fisted approach to the matter in the 80 per cent. development gains tax.

However, I have not given up hope. I have no doubt that the Bill, like the development charges and the betterment levy, will be a failure because of its absolute and autocratic nature. I believe that that will give a further opportunity to my right hon. and hon. Friends to initiate a just and practical solution of the problem of land and betterment.

Meanwhile, we are face to face with a quack remedy far worse than the disease which it purports to cure. The scheme in the Bill combines the highest common factor of injustice and impracticality. It is complex, cumbrous, costly and confiscatory. It will penalise land ownership and at the same time frustrate land development. It will in its immediate effect distort the market in land. It will prevent proper development in appropriate places by way of houses, factories and the like, which is an important positive aspect of good town planning. In the longer term, it erroneously equates the public ownership of land, which is economically unrewarding and socially undesirable, with the proper principle of the recoupment by the community of value created by the community—two very different things.

I could cite many illustrations from the Bill in support of these general and melancholy truths, but time allows only—if I am to keep my undertaking—the extraction of a few gritty nuggets from the limitless quarry of error and prejudice that is this Bill. Within the limits of time, I shall cite a few particular instances only to support the grave charges which it is my duty to bring against the measure.

It is a clumsily compiled, or maybe a craftily compiled, Bill. Most of its far-reaching and sinister effects are hidden away in the numerous schedules or, worse still, have no definition in the Bill and await future regulations, for most of which no parliamentary procedures or parliamentary control are provided. The drafting is in many cases imprecise and in some cases seemingly contradictory of other provisions. There are no fewer than five stages of implementation which I have identified in the Bill, two in the transitional phase and three in what the Government hope to be the permanent scheme. The transitional phase is at best fraught with uncertainties and disparities between different areas. The permanent scheme is at the least characterised by authoritarianism and inequity.

The Bill is devious and imprecise. This is clear from the first thing which has to be done under the Act when it becomes law—the setting up of the local acquisition and management schemes under Clause 19 and Schedule 5. The schemes are to be prepared jointly by county councils and district councils which have to determine the basic question of which authority in each particular case will be responsible for the acquisition and disposal of land. That is a clear recipe for disagreement and delay if there ever was one.

Mr. John Silkin

The right hon. and learned Gentleman will therefore be relieved to hear how very closely they are all working together at this moment.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

The Minister assures us that they are working closely together, but will they come to any agreed solution?

Mr. Silkin


Sir D. Walker-Smith

The right hon. Gentleman says "Yes", but the pages of history are studded with these false prophecies, particularly those coming from Labour administrations.

Mr. Silkin

I have a higher opinion of Tory councils than does the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I assume that they mean what they say.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

They will do their best, but no workman can do better than is permitted by the tools he is given. If these councils are given the tools of this Bill, the product will be bad. There will be long delay. The Bill provides that these schemes must be ready by the end of this year but, sensing that this is unrealistic, it adds or such later date as the Secretary of State may agree". I go on record as prophesying that the timetable of the Bill will fall at the first fence, and that in most areas the agreed date will be much later than the end of this year.

Even worse is the secretive approach of these schemes of which the content will clearly be of vital importance to land owners and developers if only because these schemes, and these schemes alone, will tell the developers with which local authority they have to deal. Surely therefore it is very strange that the Bill regards these schemes as purely private administrative documents and makes no provision for their deposit, no right of investigation by the public and lays down express exclusion from the purview of the courts.

I come now to cost. The Bill will be costly both in money and in manpower. The amount will be £1 million a week on administrative costs alone with perhaps eight times as much on what the Financial Memorandum calls "direct costs of acquisition". There will be 14,000 or more added to the already swollen ranks of the local authority staffs, and that figure may well prove to be an underestimate. Of course, the Government hope, and the right hon. Gentleman has said, that this vast outlay will be made good by local authorities making a bonanza out of development. But will they? Development is not the easy pickings of the Government's fevered imaginings, and there is no evidence that public authorities will be able to make a profit here any more than they have from any of the other activities in which they have dealt. On the contrary, all evidence and experience from the groundnuts of yesterday to the Crown Agents of today suggests the reverse. Burnt fingers and red faces will be the order of the day, and empty coffers and calls on the taxpayer will be the inevitable outcome of the Government's untutored and inexpert venturings.

Mr. John Silkin

I am indebted to the right hon. and learned Gentleman who is obviously describing a Bill which he dislikes, but which does not happen to be my Bill. The purpose of my Bill is the acquisition of land on which private development takes place, not the encouragement of local authorities to go overboard on development schemes.

Sir D Walker-Smith

That brings me directly then to the question of compensation and the procedures of compulsory acquisition. As I have said, the Bill is unjust and confiscatory. It does away, for example, with the certificate of appropriate alternative development as a basis for compensation on acquisition. By the combined effects of Clause 49 and Schedule 8 of this Bill, Section 17 of the Land Compensation Act 1961 will be amended so that the local planning authority will be required not to certify what planning permission might reasonably have been expected to be given if the land was not required for a public purpose but to certify what planning permission would actually have been granted. The effect of that is that neighbouring land owners will obtain widely differing amounts as compensation, depending solely upon which plots the planning authorities select for development and which they select for open space and the like. Of course, the unfortunate, despoiled citizen will be left with the melancholy consolation that the actual difference in the amounts will be drastically narrowed by the proposed 80 per cent. tax on development.

Compensation based on current use value may have a certain superficial plausibility, but in practice it is likely in many cases to be unjust and confiscatory, less, very often, than the amount given for the land, or at any rate less than that amount together with the cost of improvement.

Nor should the despoiled citizen place too much reliance on having the wind tempered by a financial hardship tribunal. I have indicated that there is no requirement to set up a single tribunal. The right hon. Gentleman, however, said "You have my assurance", but Ministers go and the law remains. No such dramatically and decisively split administration as the present one can guarantee who will be the Minister. We want these provisions written into the law, and I hope that before the Bill ends that will be done.

I come then to the last and gravest charge, that the Bill is authoritarian. Unfortunately, it is so studded with this defect that the task of illustration is difficult. Perhaps the most striking is the amendment of the procedure for objection to compulsory purchase orders to which the Minister referred. The present procedures are in Schedule 1 of the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act 1946. That schedule gives the statutory right of objection and inquiry in all cases, save only where it is solely a matter of compensation, in which case the Lands Tribunal has jurisdiction, or where there has already been designation for compulsory purchase in an approved development plan.

These are two reasonable exceptions, and they are the only ones. That was the thinking of the late Aneurin Bevan, author of the 1946 Act. One would have thought that what was good enough for Aneurin Bevan would be good enough for the right hon. Gentleman and the present administration, who so constantly take his name in vain. But, no, the Bill takes a very different approach.

The most obvious objection to a compulsory purchase order, the most usual and the one most likely to succeed, is that the acquisition is unnecessary or inexpedient. So, what does the Bill do? It says in Schedule 4, paragraph 3(5)(b)—and one could hardly hope to tuck away one's dirty linen more discreetly than that—that such objections may be wholly disregarded. And for good measure the preceding paragraph of the same schedule abolishes the requirement, as fundamental as it is elementary, that an acquiring authority must state the purpose for which the land is required.

It has been suggested that these provisions may constitute a breach of Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or Article 1 of the first protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights. That may be so, and these matters may be decided and one hopes that they will be—but whether or not there is a technical breach of these Conventions, the provisions represent a clear breach of natural justice and should not be allowed to disfigure the Statute Book.

These then in briefest outline are some, and some only, of the defects of the Bill, defects which every man of practicality and common sense and every lover of liberty and justice will excoriate and seek to eradicate. The Bill is a ragbag of Socialist prejudice and error. In the words of Professor Denman, Whoever drafted the Bill has read the textbooks of Labour's past failures at land policy, and has repeated the mistakes with great diligence and a wanton disregard for the warnings of history. One last question remains. How could such a Bill have achieved Cabinet approval for presentation to Parliament? I was puzzled by this question until I chanced on a passage in the "Crossman Diaries" dealing with the Bill's predecessor, the Land Commission Act 1967. After paying proper tribute to the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North, as I have done, Dick Crossman went on: I'm gradually beginning to twig a little tiny bit from a general practical point of view, but for most of the colleagues around the table this is a subject completely beyond comprehension. No doubt when we have the advantage of an equally candid narrative of the conduct of the present Government—perhaps the "Silkin Diaries"—we shall have a similar picture of ignorance and incomprehension, in those few scanty moments that could be spared for the study and consideration of this measure from the fighting and feuding, the struggle for personal power and position which is the major preoccupation of this Cabinet.

I can see one advantage only in this grotesque measure. The recognition of its folly and futility, of its impracticability and its injustice, will be a further nail in the coffin of what one must reluctantly but ineluctably call the most arbitrary government since King John and the most incompetent since Ethelred the Unready.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

Order. May I remind the House that a large number of hon. Members wish to speak. I hope that hon. Members who are called will bear that in mind.

5.21 p.m.

Mr. R. B. Cant (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

Following, as I do, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), who spoke with all the great knowledge that comes from one who launched the Land Commission on the world, and the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) who not only has this enormous legal erudition but, obviously, has the great advantage of having been president of a university union somewhere at some time, I feel at a serious disadvantage. Both right hon. Members have regulated their emotions in at least partial tranquillity.

I speak not as a lawyer nor as one who has enjoyed the preferment of high Government office. I speak from an altogether different point of view, that of a humble elected representative on two local councils—a new district and a new county. It is a strange experience. I said earlier that I was against this method of reorganisation in local government, and 12 months' experience has confirmed all of my misgivings. We have had 150 years of discussion of one sort or another about the fundamental reform of land ownership. We have had some commendable although obviously not universally approved statutes to deal with this. My right hon. Friend referred to those from the time of Lloyd George up to the present Bill.

As has been hinted at by the right hon. and learned Member, this Bill contains powers far more radical and far reaching than anything we have had before. Yet strangely enough, although there have been many bitter attacks on the Bill, it is launched at a time when there is more consensus about the need for the reform of land ownership than at any other time in our national life. I will not go into the history of the statutes or our experience at the hands of property developers.

I should make a slight historical interpolation here in that I come from Stoke-on-Trent which has a reputation for containing a large number of people who believe in the philosophy of Henry George. The great apostle of this philosophy in this House was Andrew McLaren, who died recently at the age of 91 and who converted practically everyone in the Potteries to the doctrine of the taxation of site values.

I want to comment on one or two non-technical issues which are of concern to some people, even to some local councillors. The first issue concerns whether local authorities are the right agents for this job. It has been said that the Bill will be difficulties for local authorities to implement because they will not be able to get the staff. This is undoubtedly a problem. My right hon. Friend minimises the difficulties of local authorities in obtaining expert valuers and surveyors. We shall need about 4,000 of these professional gentlemen.

Many are worried because local authorities do not have people with the special market skills that developers had in the past. Indeed they still have them today, but they were more renowned for them in the past. If we are to have more positive planning, local authorities must at least work closely in co-operation with such people. I am not making out a case for embracing the whizz kids, who in many cases, although we are talking about land here and not development, have managed to destroy our cities. On balance, I believe that this is something with which local authorities can come to grips. People need have no undue fear.

I am more concerned about the difficulties of local authorities in making purposeful and truthful links with financial institutions such as pension funds. Somehow or other it will be necessary, to get this scheme off the ground, to acquire sources of finance which perhaps go outside the public sector borrowing requirements. I do not know how my right hon. Friend will keep an eye on this in a gentlemanly, monitoring sense, so that he may know how it is working out in the context of getting together the necessary skills in the local authority area and outside. Some people are worried about whether the necessary element of detachment will exist at all times in the approach of local authorities to land acquisition and associated planning problems.

The Town and Country Planning Association has argued that local authorities will have plenty of incentive to pursue policies of acquisition but little lead on how to accomplish positive planning. We have argued that the property developer need bother only about profit. We say that local authorities in some subtle way must combine the pursuit of profit with the duty to plan positively. There may be occasions when that will not work out. The gravy train of property development has passed and it may be that planning does not attract the bouquets it might have attracted at one time. There will be a temptation for local authorities to do a little property speculation of their own, and, as they will have much greater funds, they may not take residents' objections as much into account as they have done in the past. They may even bias housing development in favour of council houses rather than private houses. But we in local government shall have to face all these matters.

The Dobry Report, "Review of the Development Control System" has just been published. When the White Paper on land was published Mr. Dobry was taken aback by it and said that he felt that the Community Land Bill might make his report irrelevant almost as soon as it was published.

There is no doubt that positive planning will make it necessary for many more considerations to be taken into account. As chairman of a planning committee, one consideration that interests me is the conflict that may develop between the new-style policy committees which want to acquire land and the planning committees which may have certain ideas about the use of land. The consultative document said, in effect, that there will be safeguards to ensure that decisions on land acquisition do not pre-empt planning decisions, but the policy committee in future will become much more powerful.

Another area for concern is whether the incentive for development to take place will be sufficiently strong We are left with the old difficulty of whether we shall get the release of land, which is essential. We have the powers, but the Bill is not a consensus Bill. I am a great believer in public participation, but public participation is not worth a great deal if between the publication of the White Paper and the publication of the Bill, despite enormous consultation, little is changed.

Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South)

Does my hon. Friend agree that although they may have disagreements on specific issues, the local government associations in general welcome the White Paper and the Bill? I have here a brief from the ADC to that effect.

Mr. Cant

Having been a member of a county council and of a district council for 25 years, I might be expected to know what the response of councils is likely to be. I cannot imagine their being detached and objective. I cannot imagine that local authorities which have been invested with these great powers will do anything other than embrace them. To think that their reaction would be different is unrealistic.

To some extent I agree with one—no doubt completely cynical and totally reactionary—commentator who said that the most important element of a sound land policy was the avoidance of the dreary cycle of repeal. I do not think that that will happen on this occasion, but during the transitional period we may be faced with the old problem of people being reluctant to sell voluntarily in the hope—disastrous for the country but helpful to them—of the Labour Government's losing office. As a councillor, I do not look forward to protracted procedures for the compulsory purchase of land.

On behalf of local authorities, I hope that this will not be another abortive exercise in the sense that my right hon. Friend cannot get a firm commitment from the Chancellor of the Excequer for adequate funds in the run-up period until the fund either makes a profit or breaks even. On so many occasions TPP schemes, house-improvement schemes and schemes for the projected municipalisation of property have run on the rocks, to the great disappointment of many people, because suddenly the funds have been curtailed in the interests of that sacred cow the public sector borrowing requirement.

We have to remind ourselves that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech said that a sizeable proportion of the proposed cuts in total expenditure would fall on programmes administered by local authorities and that local authorities must prepare for the unavoidably stringent rate support grant settlement for 1976–77. That fills me with forebodings, especially when I hear my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade wishing for many thousands of millions of pounds for investment.

The Labour-controlled cities are more likely to find it difficult to make community land ownership pay than are the Tory counties because, except for railway sidings and other derelict areas, even existing use value can be very high, and interest charges will mount up during the long time it takes to float a scheme. Elsewhere there is more virgin land to be bought at knock-down prices, and probably that will prevent the repeal of the legislation if the Conservatives return to office.

Despite the reservations I have mentioned, I believe that the local authorities, having been given the tools, will meet the challenge. The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire local authorities work harmoniously together in every aspect of local government, and we shall see to it that our combined efforts bring to fruition at long last the solution of the problem of land ownership.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. George Thomas)

Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) and his hon. Friends.

5.40 p.m.

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

I beg to move to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which is unlikely to solve the long-standing problem of the development of land in a manner which could give a fair return to the community while avoiding vast public expense and the growth of bureaucracy. This is a very sad day, and the initials SAD happen to stand for second appointed day. Presumably that will come to us at some time. I feel—and this is an expression of opinion that has been made from both sides of the House—that a great opportunity has once again been lost. After all our experience since 1945 it should have been possible to bring forward legislation on which all parties could largely agree. We have heard again this afternoon that the Conservative Party is already committed to repealing this Bill just as a Conservative Government repealed the Town and Country Planning Act 1947. I think that they were probably wrong to do that. They were definitely wrong, when they came to power in 1970, immediately to repeal the Land Commission Act 1967 and speedily to wind up the Land Commission. I readily agree that the betterment levy under that Act was a nonsense. It was quite easily replaced by capital gains tax.

The Land Commission had considerable merits. I well remember the late Sir Henry Wells. The right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has referred to him. I well remember Sir Henry coming round to see members of my profession and trying to impress upon them the need to accept the Act. I remember the very poor way in which he was received by fellow members of my profession. It is very sad that shortly after the Land Commission was wound up Sir Henry retired to Australia and was dead within six months. I do not think that it was going to Australia but rather the running of the Land Commission that brought such an untimely death.

My book shelves are already full of weighty tomes which explain the intricate details of various town and country planning Acts as well as the betterment levy. No doubt new legislation will provide a field day for the text-book professionals. In due course such books will once more be consigned to the waste paper basket. Perhaps the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) will be the author of one of them. He certainly has been in the past. The question is: can the country afford to go through another exercise of the sort envisaged in the Bill, and particularly at this time? I suggest that it cannot. Any measure coming before the House at this time which openly admits that over the next few years it will necessitate a build up of over 14,000 administrative staff at a cost of £50 million and a further £300 million to £400 million per annum in acquisitions before there will be any return should be regarded with the greatest of suspicion. Such a course is proposed at a time when, as has already been pointed out, we are cutting back substantially on the money that should have been available for the expansion of the housing programme. I suggest that we have our priorities wrong on this aspect alone.

The tragedy is that practically everyone of responsibility who is associated with building, development, planning, surveying and architecture agrees that it is only fair and right that the community should have a share in development gains made by the granting of planning permissions. They agree that development should be controlled. I think that all of them agree that we cannot afford a repeat performance of what took place during 1971, 1972 and 1973. The argument, of course, is how it can best be done. With the exception of the Association of Metropolitan Authorities it seems to be agreed that taxation in one form or another is the answer.

The Association of County Councils, for example, doubts whether the rather complicated machinery of the Bill is needed to achieve the Government's objectives. It calls for the amendment of Section 52 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971, thus allowing local authorities to recover relevant infrastructure costs from developers as well as the implementation of a development gains tax.

In what I think has been widely regarded as a well-considered and well-argued document the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, in a recent publication entitled "The Land Problem—a fresh aproach", came down in favour of a development gains tax and went so far as to say that it felt that it could reasonably be pitched as high as 66 per cent. That is a much more realistic approach to the problem than ever it has conceded before. It set out in the booklet, which many hon. Members will have read, what it saw as the criteria for a lasting solution to the problem. I remind the House of the six important points that it listed.

First, the institution suggested that the measures must be patently fair to all concerned; fair to the national community, fair to the local community and fair to the landowner and the developer. More particularly there must be an equitable division of development gains amongst the Treasury, the local authority and the landowner/developer. And there must be no confiscation of gains, whether or not they are realised, which have accrued lawfully in the past. On the whole I think that the Bill measures up to quite a bit of that.

Secondly, the Institution suggested that

the measures must encourage the orderly development of land in a manner and at a pace consistent with the needs of the community; Thirdly, it suggested that the administrative machinery required to operate the legislation should be within the capacity of government (both central and local) and should not be disproportionately costly; I suggest that the Bill does not measure up to that.

Fourthly, the institution suggested that

the measures must avoid the two-tier market situation which arises where land is compulsorily acquired at a price below the open market levels; Of course, the Bill does not do that. Fifthly, the institution suggested that

the system must be consistent with a mixed economy, and must encourage an adequate rate of private investment in development, especially from institutional sources; The final criterion was that the solution must be such as to command broad political support, so as to avoid the damaging cycle of enactment by one government and repeal by another. I say amen to that.

Where my party parts company with those knowledgeable people is that none of them has come up with any positive powers which will encourage landowners to bring their land forward and to increase the pressure on builders and developers to get on with their developments. The most promising tax to achieve that objective would be one levied annually on the value of the land. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant) has mentioned the name of Henry George. That method has been adopted in parts of Australia and in the United States and it seems to be working well. It would also provide the local authorities which would levy the tax with much-needed revenue.

If it is argued that the simultaneous valuation of development land all over Britain would not be a feasibility, why not allow self-assessment by the owner, coupled with a confiscatory capital gains tax on any gain over the owner's valuation. In that way he would be caught by capital gains tax if he undervalued and on increased site tax if he overvalued.

The immediate need is to re-establish a market in building land. I do not know what land is changing hands at the moment. It seems that arbitrary figures have to be picked out of the air by the district valuers. If the Bill is enacted what sort of market will there be when local authorities are the sole manipulators? I believe that a land value tax coupled with a lower rate of capital gains tax than 80 per cent. is the right way ahead. It would restore confidence to builders while cutting out the dormant speculator, the man who sits on land until its value increases and then sells it. Such a person helps no one.

At this stage I must put in a word to defend the speculator. Those who have risked their money over the centuries have really achieved a great deal. To appreciate that it is necessary only to look at Regent Street, for example, and to remember the name of John Nash. John Nash was an absolute speculator but we appreciate the buildings which he erected.

The more I think about it, the more I dislike the idea of local authorities playing the dual role of planners and distributors of land for development. Not only are there obvious opportunities in such a situation for corruption, but one must ask, "Who is to safeguard the interests of the community?". I suggest that the Minister is too remote.

I support the view of the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North. I believe that some sort of land action board, with only a limited staff and based in the regions, could be very helpful. That is one of the reasons why I was sorry to see the old Land Commission wound up so quickly. This is where Wales should score. The role of such a board would be to act as a catalyst in bringing land to the market, to act as an arbiter in cases of dispute and, as a last resort, to be an initiator of development projects. It could also act in a funding capacity for local authority development projects.

I know that there are many hon. Members who wish to take part in this debate and I shall deal with only one or two aspects of the Bill.

The fundamental change in development procedure will mean that the public and private sectors will have to rethink their traditional roles, and in particular those in the public sector will have a huge responsibility imposed upon them. Despite the Minister's good intentions and encouraging remarks, I believe that the main burden for initiating development, once carried by the private sector, will fall almost entirely on the shoulders of local authorities.

To operate effectively the development industry needs to attract long-term investment funds. To attract such funds it needs certainty. The main cause for concern within the private sector of the market is not therefore the taxation of development value but the concept of public acquisition. The situation should not be surrounded by uncertainty and delay. The Bill is riddled with uncertainty and protential delay. It starts in Part III of the Bill. In Clause 17 the authorities have to have regard to the desirability of nationalising development land. In so doing, they have to have regard to existing planning consents and refusals and yet we see in subsection (2) that refusal of planning permission shall not be taken…as a determination that the land is not development land… They have to have regard to the development plan and yet we see in subsection (3) that the plan shall not be treated as conclusive. The clause seems to fall between two stools. It is not a general statement of intent nor is it a precise definition. If all land is to be considered, why refer to the development plan and to planning consents? As the clause stands, the private sector will be unable to be sure whether land is development land without being able to read the mind of the authority.

Even if development land were clearly defined, there would, during the transitional period, be uncertainty as to which authorities have what duty in relation to which relevant development, or which relevant development is designated relevant development.

Even when we reach the final stage, the second appointed day under Section 23, one authority may give planning permission and yet another, having disposed of the land, must before the development takes place, by the issuing of a certificate, approve the carrying out of the development in accordance with the planning permission. Can anybody say that this will not cause uncertainty and delay?

There is a great deal more to which I could refer in the Bill which is confusing, but obviously I should not do so at this stage.

There is one query I should like to raise with the Minister—namely, the basis of compensation for an owner of a site acquired by a local authority where no planning permission exists but where there is in existence a certificate for alternative development. The situation does not appear to be covered in Section 49 or in Schedule 8. Perhaps we could be told whether the compensation is to be paid on market value, or 20 per cent. of market value, or on existing use?

If the Bill could only be replaced by a measure empowering councils to buy, net of tax, to allow them to impose a site value tax on building land which remains undeveloped, which continued with a high but not crippling rate of development tax, and which also placed the infrastructure costs of site lay outs firmly on the back of the developer, I believe that it would achieve a wide measure of support and provide a lasting solution to the problem. But I regret that the Bill will prove unworkable in practice and will only postpone effective action still further.

I call on hon. Members to support our amendment and to vote against the Second Reading of the Bill.

5.58 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Blenkinsop (South Shields)

It is extraordinary that there has been so little apology from the Opposition over the fact that in recent years legislation which they supported has brought about the necessity for the present Bill. This is the consequence of events put in train by the Conservatives. There was perhaps a modest note of apology in the remarks of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), for whom I have a great deal of personal good will and who has a good deal of legal knowledge. He admitted that some difficulties had emerged because of the practice of previous Governments, but he said nothing like enough to emphasise the difficulties caused by earlier actions.

By destroying the financial provisions of the 1947 Act, Conservative Governments gave carte blanche to speculators and to others and made the job of planners and local authorities almost impossible. Indeed, they made their task almost wholly negative. That brought contempt on planners and local authorities—in many instances unfairly, because they had to carry out such a miserably negative operation. Who destroyed the Land Commission but the Conservatives? But they now seem to realise the virtues of that body, particularly in terms of land assembly. Had our measures been allowed to come to fruition, the Bill might not have been needed in its present form.

It has become clear to ordinary people that the complicated measures of the past—measures difficult to understand—were not a sufficiently radical solution. I only wish that in the early days, when I first came to the House, the Government with whom I was then associated had taken more radical measures to deal with the public ownership of land, since that would have been an easier time in which to carry through such policies.

The Conservative Party did not learn from experience, and a Conservative Government added to a dismal record by carrying through a local government reorganisation which, in turn, has caused problems in every direction. It will also involve additional problems in regard to the implementation of the Bill, but these are problems which will have to be overcome.

We must now, for the first time, seize this new opportunity and take a step towards real, positive planning. We must unlock the prison in which planners and local authorities have been incarcerated for so long. Planners have been able to squeeze out only little bits of social benefit from proposals put up by private developers, because that was the best thing they could hope to do. It has been a pretty miserable and negative operation.

We must give local authorities an opportunity to act. In spite of the difficulties imposed on us by the unsatisfactory local government reorganisation, I am sure that everybody involved in local government will be anxious to see that effective use is made of those new powers.

We must face many problems. There are many anxieties. Since charitable and other organisations have been living in one type of society for many years they have become involved in many of the structures of that society. They may even have a tendency to wish to protect those parts of society to which they have become accustomed. Sometimes they forget their major objective in their close association with the whole pattern of the money society of today. Unfortunately that is true. However, it does not mean that we should alter this measure to bring back the former society, which we reject. It means that we must seek ways of protecting the real long-term objectives of bodies such as the National Trust and the Youth Hostels Association. A multitude of bodies have an interest in property because they wish to use its value for their future development. Ways and means must be found to meet their problems without going back on the fundamental basis of the public ownership of land provided for in the Bill.

I am concerned about the apparent separation of land acquisition from planning procedures. I do not agree wholly with my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) who, when he spoke earlier, seemed to support that separation. However, I was encouraged by what the Minister said. He made it clear that in the process of land acquisition, as the authorities go forward with their plans for acquisition there will be a requirement for an indication of the way in which they mean this to fit into their longer-term appreciation of the plans for their areas.

We know that in many cases structure plans are not now available. This means that there must be a re-examination of the position of structure plans to see whether any modification of the present format is needed. Indeed, some interesting experiments are taking place in that regard. In East Sussex one authority is making experiments for a more flexible form of structure planning which might well fit more nearly into our requirements today. I hope that the Minister will examine that matter.

I understand the difficulty in maintaining exactly the same type of link which existed in the past, because we are dealing with a different situation. We are now determining whether or not development land shall be in public ownership. We argue that issue. It is right that there should be the fullest public discussion about the use to be made of the land. I hope that we shall take every possible precaution to ensure that there is the widest publicity and discussion about the use to be made of the land. However, it is for the House to decide whether or not the land shall be publicly owned. That is our decision. That is why some forms of public inquiry seem no longer to be applicable under the provisions of the Bill.

A proper anxiety has been voiced as to whether local authorities will give too much priority to their desire to make the windfall profits they have seen elsewhere, and whether that could lead to bad planning and bad decisions on priorities. Heaven knows, we have suffered from that in the past for long enough. We have suffered from the inhumanity of a great deal of the development, responsibility for which was laid at the door of the planners and architects, perhaps justly. They are reasonably self-critical people, but they accept some of that blame which is placed on them because of the nature of the origin of the plans.

Opportunity is now to be provided for the plans to be prepared by the public authority. We are right to concern ourselves with that so that they give proper priority to the major social objectives in the area, the question of open spaces, and so on. As time goes on, we should be able to make use of the values accruing to the local authority for the improvement of the quality of the environment, which is lacking in many cases. I know that some local authorities made valiant attempts, under difficult circumstances. These provisions should afford a great deal of additional opportunity. They are to be welcomed.

There is reality in the anxiety about staff. We should try to find ways in which some of the local authorities now established can work together in the presentation of joint proposals. This is where I hope that the provision of joint boards will be valid. Taking the example of the area of Tyne and Wear and the metropolitan county authority, it is nonsense to narrow the scope of an authority to make the kind of broad planning which is needed. If such authorities can be joined with those of Northumberland county and Durham county to present joint proposals, I should welcome it. That would be a great advantage. Many people would welcome the idea of some form of regional authority. That concept has been set back a long way by the local government misconstruction imposed by the former Conservative Government.

I hope that the Minister will encourage in every possible way the use of the skills of those in private development firms as direct employees of local authorities, and the use, under contract, of some of the firms which have undoubtedly sought to do good work and which have been prevented from doing so by the circumstances under which they are working. I do not rule out the possibility of making a much wider use of such personnel than has been suggested so far.

Many charitable bodies are concerned and anxious about their position. I hope that their fears will be allayed, at any rate partially, by the provisions with regard to financial hardship which may apply to some of those cases.

The hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) developed a panegyric, but towards the end of his speech made a colourful final statement, in which he tried to shake our bones in our graves.

Despite all this, I hope that as time goes on, just as occurred with the National Health Service, the Opposition will begin to recognise the vital need to take the radical step of making this major change. If they are now converted to realising how unacceptable it is to allow the kind of private profiteering in land which has gone on in the past, cannot they encourage local authorities to realise the wonderful opportunities which the Bill offers for development of the kind that we all want to see?

6.10 p.m.

Mr. W. Benyon (Buckingham)

One of the extraordinary features of this Bill is the amount which is left to regulation and the amount left out of the Bill as a result. One can only feel that the Government wish to keep the Bill as short as possible and to disguise their intentions as much as possible by putting them in regulations.

For that reason I wish to ask a specific question which is arousing considerable concern among members of the farming community. It concerns the erection of agricultural dwellings. Paragraph 26 of the White Paper says that these proposals are not concerned with land which is to remain in use for agriculture or forestry; and no change is proposed in the existing arrangements relating to such land. There is nothing in the Bill about it. However, the consultation document issued by the Department of the, Environment talks of exemptions being made for all development connected with agriculture and forestry except for the erection of dwellings. What people in the farming communities wish to know is whether this means that, after the second appointed day, a dwelling erected by a farmer on his land will have to go through the local authority purchase procedure. I shall be grateful to know the answer to that question.

The true absurdity of the Bill is two-fold. First, it cannot succeed. Secondly, it is totally unnecessary.

I am sorry that the Minister has left the Chamber, because I should like to know his answer to the question asked by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) about the 1947 Act. It seems to me that all responsible opinion takes the view that if the Labour Government of the time had not been so immoderate in their demands and had not fixed the development charge at 100 per cent., there is every chance that the legislation would have been with us today, though obviously in an amended form.

There is general agreement on both sides of the House that high prices were paid for land in the past due to a buoyant demand for housing and a restricted supply of land because of planning regulations. Therefore, it is sensible and just in the circumstances to tax those gains. However, in the view of the Opposition the level of the tax must be such as will provide an incentive to the seller and fairness to the community at large. I believe that my right hon. and noble Friend Lord Barber fixed the rate too high and thereby removed the incentive to the seller. However, there was general agreement between the Liberals, ourselves and the Labour Party that this was necessary. On that basis, I suggest that it would have been possible to ensure long-term confidence in the land market, to ensure continuity of the supply of land, to ensure the prosperity of the building industry, and to ensure that no disruption occurred to charities, pension funds and insurance funds which have much of their money invested in land.

In my view, all or part of the proceeds of such a gains tax should have gone direct to the local authorities because it would have helped to wean them away from their present negative attitude to planning and would have made them more positive in their approach to developers. As the Bill rejects all that and as it rejects market value as the basis of compensation, in our view it is a bad and dangerous Bill. It is confiscation, and, if confiscation is to apply to land, why should not it apply to houses, shares and every other form of property?

People will always oppose confiscation. There will always be a sense of injustice. There will be no willing sellers, and the Government must recognise that fact. Therefore, whether the Government continue in office for two, five or 10 years, legislation of this kind will remain a running sore. It will not be like the Housing Finance Act which after a time would have been accepted even in Clay Cross. It will come before the public time and time again, and it will entail enormous expenditure of time, labour and money.

If this were not bad enough, the fact that market value has been removed as the basis for compensation also means that it has been removed as the basis for compensation in respect of other matters relating to land. All the elaborate structure of the 1973 Act comes into this. Severance, disturbance and injurious affection will all be assessed not on market value but on current use value. This will apply not only to large landowners or farmers but also to every owner down to the owner of the smallest plot. Every sewer, water main, pipeline, cable laying, and electricity pylon proposal will be fought to the last ditch. There will be no easy way out, and the Government will be wise to take out a special insurance policy for the benefit of the poor agents of statutory and local authorities who will have to undertake these disagreeable negotiations.

The Bill gives enormous additional powers to local government and also to the Minister. To take such action before the echoes from the Poulson court room have died away seems to be crazy. That is the only possible description of it. The possibilities for corruption are immense, and not only one way. It has been suggested to me in farming areas that we shall see the creation of protection rackets. People in vulnerable areas who do not want their property taken in this way will be willing to pay protection money. The possibilities are immense.

The Bill requires 14,000 additional officials. That is the Government's estimate. It is quite probable that the number will be even more than that. None of them will contribute one iota to the public good. If it could be proved that, as a result of this Bill, we should have cheaper houses, there might be some justification for their presence, but the Bill lays down clearly that that will not happen. There is a responsible argument coming from many quarters that, as a result of the delays and uncertainties created by the Bill and as a result of the large bureaucracy it entails, the price of houses will rise and not go down.

The real tragedy, though, is the missed opportunities, and the fact that it forces moderate, sensible people to all-out opposition to the Bill. It is putting back the clock completely for all those who want to see a sensible policy on land. From the point of view of the Opposition it is too bad and too dangerous a Bill to attempt to improve it.

Therefore, we are driven back with regret to study well the efforts of the then Labour Opposition, especially those of hon. Members below the Gangway, when the Housing Finance Act was passed. Without transgressing the law, if we put our minds to it, we can make Clay Cross seem like a vicarage tea party. The Bill is an agitator's paradise. Every compulsory purchase order will be opposed to the hilt. Conservative-controlled councils are bound to consider whether they should implement the Bill, even with the bribes which have been held out to them.

I cannot see any developer or builder laying a finger on confiscated land unless he has an assurance from the Opposition that he will be all right if there is a change of Government. I can only hope that the Opposition make the pledge at once, that it will return to the original owners, at the original price, the land that has been confiscated. Any person who buys a freehold on this confiscated land must appreciate and understand that he does not buy a true freehold but a stolen freehold. That should be made very clear. We should not look kindly on any civil servant who plays any part in the implementation of this appalling piece of legislation. It is the tragedy of the Bill that it forces people like me to take this attitude.

It will set the building industry back many years. Only today I went over a building factory in Kent. It is being built on American lines. It is a revolutionary form of building. It is very impressive, and there are great possibilities for the future. Everyone I spoke to there was in the depths of despair. All of them said that the Bill would set the clock back a great extent.

Instead of achieving social justice—the view put forward by the Labour Party—the Bill will achieve nothing but bitterness and frustration. Its provisions strike at the roots of individual liberty and fair conpensation. I can only conclude that the Bill is the child of the bigoted Left and it should be opposed root and branch.

6.22 p.m.

Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)

Amidst all the hysteria of the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi), the purple passages of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D Walker-Smith), the pained expressions from the Liberal benches and the threat that we have had from the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon), it strikes me that the Minister has just about got the Bill right. If he is able, in such a simple measure, to achieve the united opposition of all the benches opposite—and when we compare it with what his father did, it is very simple—we realise that on this occasion he has been able to solve the problem which has caused so much unhappiness and evil in our land over the past 100 to 200 years.

There could have been some humility from the Opposition spokesman when he mentioned the attitude his party takes. Does he not remember the land scandals under his administration, and the empty office blocks? In 1972 we were promised that they would be dealt with within a year. They never were. Does he not remember the grasping landlords who evicted tenants?

Mr. Rossi

It ill becomes any member of the Labour Party to speak of empty office blocks, especially when the one the hon. Gentleman has in mind is Centre Point, which was put up by a property adviser to the last Labour Government, recruited by the personal solicitor of the Prime Minister of the day.

Mr. McNamara

That gentleman was not a property adviser to the Government. The hon. Gentleman missed quite a good opportunity because he could have spoken of the CIS, and we should all have joined him in condemning its attitude on this. He did not talk about the grasping landlords who have been evicting tenants, and the greedy landlords who have held communities to ran-some while they have demanded their price. In the words of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon), this would have been the free operation of market price. It does not become the hon. Gentleman to forget the policies of the last Conservative Government, of which he was such a distinguished member, proposed by the former right hon. Member for Altrincham and Sale—a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Barber, as he then was—and the terrible effect that they had on the price of land and buildings. Thousands of millions of pounds which he let loose were supposed to go into productive investment and land but they went into battered old slum properties and secondary banks.

The effect that that has had upon our present economy and living standards is crippling. Home prices soared, and so did mortgage interest rates. Gazumping became a new word in our language, and the Tories, with their belief in a property-owning democracy, refused to do anything to help its innocent victims. Young people's hopes of buying a home were dashed, with a price increase, overnight, of thousands of pounds by the free operation of market forces, not on their current use value but on what they were prepared to get out of it.

Mr. Michael Latham

Before the hon. Gentleman finishes this irrelevant diatribe, will he tell us something about the great success of the Land Commission and the amount of money it spent, which was described by Richard Crossman on television as a total failure.

Mr. McNamara

Mr. Richard Crossman was well known for the objectivity of his statements. I can understand that it hurts the hon. Gentleman to have this said to him, but this is why Labour Members are so incensed about it. What the hon. Member for Hornsey said is sheer hypocrisy, because his party did nothing whatever to build homes for people, and it ill becomes his party to say that the Bill will stop home building when the figures published when they went out of office were some of the lowest ever in our history. This Government have taken this opportunity to build more council houses. I shall refer to some of these abuses later.

Conservative Members are talking about the free operation of the market forces—the power of the market place. That is all. Opposition Members have no conception of the value that is put on land by planning and other decisions, taken at council meetings. Why should a higher value suddenly be put on a piece of property just because planning permission has been given? What land owner has done anything to improve that situation? None. The value of land, including derelict land, factories and warehouses, rose dramatically under the previous Conservative administration. Rents increased and homelessness rose. This is the free operation of market forces. Financial immorality was rife. No, they did not break the law; they just used it to exploit vulnerable people in difficult situations—free operation of the market forces.

The people who suffered most were the small business men and shopkeepers—the Federation of the Self-Employed. They seem to have forgotten what was happening when their leases were due to be renewed and they were unable to renew them at reasonable prices because of the property speculators under the previous Conservative Government who were not held in control. Who were the others who suffered?

They were the homebuyers, the slum tenants and the local authorities, which could not compete for city centre sites and developments. The Tories talk about the poor builder. The builder needing a land bank found that it cost many times more to service his land bank, and so house prices rose again. Conservative Members have the temerity and the cheek to talk about home prices and how they are helping the owner-occupier. All this for free operation of the market forces. I could never understand why a planning decision, overnight, increased almost a thousandfold the value of a green field with a few cows in it.

In my maiden speech, of which, for greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy, I spoke about Orchard Park Estate, in my constituency— When Hull Corporation first negotiated to buy the land, it was to cost approximately £70,000. When right hon. and hon. Members opposite were in Government and, eventually, gave the corporation permission to buy, the 1959 Act had been passed and the land cost not £70,000 but £500,000."—[Official Report, 23rd February 1966; Vol. 725, c. 456–7.) That was 10 years ago. Let me take another case in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott)—"the Bransholme Estate Scandal". These, there are 13 landowners, owning 489 acres, which had the valuation of £380,000 put on the land by the local authority. The price being demanded by the landowners was over £8 million. This land was four miles from the city centre and was mainly agricultural. It was the free play of the market forces. Conservative Members say that there is no need for this legislation, and that the Bill is irrelevant. The Bill is very relevant to the people who live in the slums of our cities. Let us remember the words of the hon. Gentleman, that all that these 13 landowners were looking for was "the market price". They had done damn-all for it. They had not laid a ***wer or built a road, they had not even voted in the local government elections for the council.

This will be the third occasion on which a Labour Government have sought to deal with the problem. The first was under Mr. Attlee and the second concerned the Land Commission. I recorded my first vote in this House on Second Reading of the Land Commission Bill. Now we have this Bill. The first two measures failed because, apart from sabotage by the professions dealing with land, they were over-centralised and bureaucratic. People living locally could see little direct relevance to them in the cumbersome machinery that existed. Despite that, when the Land Commission was operating at the end of the then Labour Government's period in office, the price of land had stabilised and fallen as a result of its operations.

I consider that my right hon. Friend has proposed a scheme which will succeed for the main reason that, as the title of the Bill suggests, it will involve the community, the local authority, the housing authority, the planning authority, the industrial development committee of the local authority, the education committee and the social services committee. All will be involved in positive planning and be answerable to democratic control. Why will it succeed? Because, for the first time, the land will not be too expensive when bought at current use value to prevent the situation, about which my right hon. Friend was talking in his opening speech, of putting the community, the people, back in city centres. In the past, because of the other two measures, they were remote. But the new planning authorities will understand local community needs and the objections of remoteness and lack of accountability will go.

There will be more open, free discussion about the use of land as it is acquired by local authorities at current use value. The opportunities for corruption will be lessened, not increased, because everything will be done in the open and by more open tendering. People will know the purpose to which the land is to be put. There will be none of the rumour and counter-rumour which goes round. There will be greater opportunities for people to influence more directly their local authorities regarding the use to which land shall be put.

Current use value will mean that life can come back to our city centres. Communities will not be moved to suburbs away from their familiar habitats because of the high price of city centre land. People will be able to live where they were brought up and want to live. They will be able to stay near the shops, churches, market places and pubs that they know, not be pushed out to the suburbs because city authorities cannot afford to develop city centres. The prices paid for land will be not potential value, but current use value.

House prices should benefit to some extent from this legislation. Although wages and building material prices may rise, builders will not have to acquire and service their land banks. When the house purchaser buys his freehold from the local authority, it should be at a considerably reduced price compared with the plot that he would now buy from the builder. Hon. Gentlemen opposite forget that people will be getting their freeholds from local authorities.

I turn now to one or two detailed points and then to one special plea.

The town clerk of my local authority, who supports one of the most important parts of the Bill, in a letter to me said: I feel that the legislation should give local authorities maximum flexibility for dealing with the land they had acquired so that any new factors experienced can be effectively taken into account. That is perhaps one of the most positive points which appears in the Bill, because the planning will be long term and positive and we shall have local authorities taking the initiative. It will not be negative in the sense that they must reply to suggestions. It will be positive in that they can make the suggestions. However, he feels that the use of joint boards as land acquiring authoriteis might undermine local democratic control. Democratic control is what we are looking for. I hope that my right hon. Friend will look more at the question of the joint boards when he winds up.

The town clerk is concerned about which authority will own the land when two authorities are planning authorities in the same area and are able to buy land. Whilst I hope that my right hon. Friend's statement about co-operalion between authorities and different tiers of authorities is correct and can be borne out, I trust that we shall have more definite indications of the way that it will work out—perhaps on the lines of the West Riding concordat.

I turn now to the special position of churches and charities. A delegation of leading churchmen went to see my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who was accompanied by the Minister for Planning and Local Government and the Paymaster-General, on St. George's Day. They were concerned with the effect of the Bill on their work and that of their churches. Presumably, that applies to kindred authorities. They were not objecting to the principle of or the proposals contained in the legislation. Indeed, I understand that some of them positively approved of it, because they appreciated the scandal and the hardship which had been caused by what happened about land in the past. But that does not take away from their particular problem.

The Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster in a letter to me said: Our chief plea was that our land is virtually all we have in the way of resources. It is by the sale of our property that we are able to continue our work. Here is a good example: when people leave a city centre a church can be sold and with the proceeds a church built on the new estate to which the people have gone. If the price of the old church and site is reckoned on use value' the sum would be negligible. Though it is not intended the Bill would in fact discriminate against Church premises by contrast with a shop or factory. Exemptions have traditionally been made for churches on the ground that they are non-profit-making and are used for the general good of the community. The work done for the community by parishes and Religious Orders would have to be undertaken by the State if the Church were no longer able to continue its work. Apart from education there are the convents of the Little Sisters of the Poor, the Sisters of Charity and the Sisters of Mercy who look after the sick, the old and the inadequate. He pointed out that: It is part of the Church's work to serve the whole community. We never make a condition in any of our hospitals, homes or seamen's hostels that those who are helped must be Catholics. Such is the position with other churches and religious bodies. I am not suggesting that churches or charities should escape and be specially treated if they make vast profits and use them on other speculative ventures at the expense of the community. But I am suggesting—I hope in less hysterical and more measured terms than the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi)—that the White Paper refers to financial hardship on individuals and that there are also communities and organisations which can suffer hardship. Perhaps that point might be considered within the Bill or by reference to some of the land acquiring authorities. I suggest that when the movement of parishes and populations takes place, communities, whether Catholic, Jewish or any other group, which have invested their pennies to provide a community service should not necessarily get back what one might call the market sum, but some form of land swop agreement or building grant to replace the type of building that they have lost, or to go into another type of building that they have lost, or to go into another type of work. For example, if an orphanage has closed because of the different attitude to the work the proceeds might go towards home-support or something of that nature.

Many people who support the terms and conditions of the Bill realise that they might suffer a little under its provisions but I am sure that was never the intention of the working party which looked into this matter and proposed the Bill.

This is a good Bill. I am sure that, with the comments that have been made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, we will be able to overcome some of the difficulties that they have described. I am prepared to make it less bureaucratic and to give local authorities more powers if bureaucracy is what the Opposition are worried about. I am prepared to extend the power to bring forward the selected dates and to increase the amount of money which can be used by local authorities in operating the provisions of the Bill.

I should like the Bill to go on to the statute book as soon as possible. It is a good Bill. There have been too many scandals associated with land during my time in Parliament and when considering what has gone before this Bill has not come too soon. My right hon. Friend and the Government are to be congratulated for ensuring that this legislation came in in the first Session of this Parliament.

6.40 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

While acknowledging at once the genuine concern of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) about the property abuses that he mentioned earlier in his speech and about the possible effect of the Bill on community land, such as that held by churches, I can assure him that the Bill is not going to remedy those abuses and it is not going to assist in keeping down the prices of homes, or industrial or commercial property. There has been a lot of discussion so far in this debate about property being bought at current use value, but when it has passed through the hands of the local authorities and has been farmed out to some developer, what is the assurance in the Bill—indeed there is none—that the ultimate cost of the home, the factory or the office is to be any cheaper than it is now?

Neither of the previous devices of Labour Governments has succeeded in keeping down the price of land, let alone the price of the ultimate product. We have heard some very interesting reminiscences from the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North Mr. Willey) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), but I thought that the speech of the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North was a complete admission of the failure of the Land Commission. I do not wish to be unkind to him in any way, because we have fought across the Floor of the House many times in the past and it was extremely interesting to hear him reminisce on events through which he had lived, and to hear how he had, perhaps, learned from the way the Land Commission had failed to do what the then Labour Government hoped it would do.

What emerged from the hon. Gentleman's speech was that we are here talking about the question whether the local authority is the right agency to carry out what I believe both sides of the House agree is necessary—first, that the community should share in development value and, secondly, that we should bring forward the right land at the right time and at the right place for development. I am glad that the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North has now returned, because those were the two points that he made. He went on to discuss whether the local authority is the right body to carry them into operation.

I believe local authorities should have the power to carry out specific development but should not have the power to become monopoly developers. It is the intention of the Bill, as I see it, to make local authorities monopoly developers. They will not have the staff. It will destroy our planning, as we know it. With great respect to the hon. Member for South Shields (Mr. Blenkinsop), this was where he was so wrong at an early stage of his speech, in saying that this was the first chance to do planning. This will destroy our idea of planning at the present time.

What happens to the structure plans, to the local plans and to the whole basis of present planning? Surely, that is what we should be developing—not acquisition and management schemes upon which local authorities will be spending all their time arguing between themselves. Land acquisition tied to planning is an extremely dangerous concept for planning. Local authorities should have the power for specific developments but should not be given the type of monopoly development power that they are given by this Bill, or at least which I believe it is the intention to give them by this Bill. I am not quite sure that it is actually given.

I must admit to the House that when I pick up a horror novel I look first at the lurid front page and then turn to the end to see if there is a happy ending. I can bear the scares if I know that the horror novel is to end happily. When I picked up this horror novel, or novel horror, that we are debating today, I did not find a happy ending. I looked at. Part VI, which is called "Supplemental"—that is the part one skips over quickly in Committee to get on to debating the new clauses.

People do not notice the "Supplemental" very much but I would draw the attention of the House to the supplemental part of the Bill, where I find that the Secretary of State is given immense powers. I said I look first at the lurid cover, and certainly on the first page of the Bill we are told explicitly that the local authorities are to exercise the functions of the community land scheme. In particular, development land is defined as land which, in the opinion of the authority concerned, is land suitable for relevant development"— relevant to community development. But if any councillor thinks he can decide what development land is under that rather broad definition, which sounds rather like a definition from Alice in Wonderland, or was it Alice through the Looking-Glass?—"That is what I say it is"—he had better turn to Clause 3, where the Secretary of State himself can lay down exactly what is development and what is development land.

The Minister said he puts his trust in local authorities. It really does not look like it when one studies the terms of the Bill. I could scarcely believe my eyes when I read Clause 50 which says: The Secretary of State may act under this section in a case where it appears to him expedient that an authority should cease to be responsible for exercising

  1. (a)any functions under this Act, or
  2. (b)any functions under any other Act…".
Is this showing faith in local authorities? The right hon. Gentleman said "Oh, but this is only a longstop", or whatever phrase he used, and he hoped it would never be needed. But has he such lack of faith that local authorities will carry out the terms of this Bill that he has to say that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State may usurp all local authority functions? Has he such a blind faith that the Secretary of State, of whatever Government may be in office, can do the job of local government better than the locally elected council?

Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Mitcham and Morden)

I would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he was in the House when his hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) spoke earlier? Did he hear the threat by his hon. Friend that a campaign of civil disobedience would be launched against the Bill and local authorities incited not to operate it? In those circumstances, does he not agree that the powers given in Section 50—particularly if he reads the additional words that he failed to read at the end of subsection (b)—are needed?

Mr. Page

I heard what my hon. Friend said, and it was not what the hon. Gentleman has just said he said. If the hon. Gentleman wants me to read the rest of the subsection I shall do so: (b) any functions under any other Act, whether passed before this Act or later, being functions concerning the disposal or management of land". If a local authority thinks it is going to have any freedom either in the purchase or disposal of land under this Bill it had better look at some of the other clauses. There is a clause requiring the Secretary of State's consent to any compulsory purchase. There are some new clauses which require the Secretary of State's consent to any disposal of land. There is a clause under which the Secretary of State can decide exactly what a local authority is to make out of any sale, what part of the profit, if any, a local authority will be left with out of the disposal of its own land.

It is farcical to pretend that the Bill gives local authorities the power to do this job as the Secretary of State gave us to believe. The White Paper said that the Government believed that the acquisition and disposal of development land was best left to local authorities, but as the clauses that I have quoted show, if the Bill is ever enacted, the functions will be entirely under the Secretary of State's control. It is a facade to say that this will be carried out by the local authorities.

I come back to the two main points mentioned by the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North. The desire that the community should share in development value can be achieved by taxation—and, I would add, not by a general form of taxation only but also by a form mentioned by the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) in passing, which I term "infrastructure contribution". That is rather a mouthful, but all it means is that the local authority should be rewarded for the value that it has brought to any plot of land by building roads, putting in sewers and improving the neighbourhood.

It is the local authority which spent that money and produced that value, not central Government. It is the local authority which can give great value to land, by putting in roads and drains and, perhaps, developing a shopping area nearby. The local authorities should get that cost back 100 per cent. Therefore, I advocate that the form of taxation of development value should, partially at least, be a reimbursement of the local authority for the infrastructure which it has put around the land, thereby increasing its value.

That is one point, dealing with the share of development value to the community by taxation. The second is that we should produce the right land in the right place at the right time. We have a sound form of planning in the structure plans and the local plans. I say that not from a party point of view, because this process was introduced by a Labour Government in the 1968 Act. It was a form of planning which, when we were in office, we tried to encourage and carry out to the full. Local authorities have progressed a long way in preparing structure plans and preparing for local plans.

This is the key. This is where the control of development can really lie. I hope that, from the planning point of view, when we have the structure plans and the local plans, the whole procedure of planning can be simplified by mere registration of a proposal to develop if it is in accordance with the plans, rather than the applications and all the present palaver of planning permissions. That is perhaps a little outside the Bill, except that a good form of planning is the alternative to control of development by confiscation of property as the Bill proposes.

I have no hesitation in saying that if the Bill gets on the statute book, it will not produce the homes and the other developments that we need. It will result in stagnation and sterilisation of development—residential, industrial, commercial and cultural—and it will be a disastrous piece of legislation.

6.55 p.m.

Mr. Bruce Douglas-Mann (Mitcham and Morden)

Notwithstanding my intervention in his speech, I congratulate the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) on a constructive speech, which was very welcome. He does not always make constructive speeches—

Mr. Graham Page

I do.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

—particularly when he is in office, but he has done so this afternoon, although I disagree with much of what he said.

What he said contrasted sharply with the speech of the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) from whom we had a volley of synthetic indignation. However, it is fair to say that he had the grace not to be able to keep his face straight in his final rhetorical flourishes. After that, it was almost inevitable that the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon), an Opposition Whip, should retire to the back benches to threaten that there would be such a campaign—I am sure that he used the phrase—of "civil disobedience" over the Bill as to make Clay Cross look like a vicarage tea party.

The right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) wisely warned his hon. Friends about the danger of over-reacting. It is as well for the Opposition to bear in mind that the Bill, radical though it may be in their eyes, to many of us represents a compromise. The hon. Member for Hornsey spoke about a "basic human right", which, when we heard a little more about it, turned out to be the basic human right to speculate in land. But it is not just this matter which is repugnant to us. Many of us feel that it is as repugnant to be living merely on the ownership of land as distinct from having put up the houses and buildings on it by one's own efforts.

It is not just socially unjust that someone should get rich from speculating in land: it is also economically inefficient, because it enables the recipient to consume without producing. We cannot, as a society, as an economy, afford to carry people who consume without producing.

The Bill effectively tackles the problem of the unearned profits from development land. However, when the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East warns about the dangers of over-reacting, I hope that he will bear in mind that, if the Bill should fail, if the campaign about which the hon. Member for Buckingham spoke were to succeed, or if the Conservative Party by some misfortune were returned to office and repealed the Bill, the likely consequence is something much more radical which will deal not just with development gains but with the profit from land itself.

The Bill has more or less got the situation right, but I have certain anxieties about it. I have spoken about the public consequences if the Bill should not work or should be repealed. But I am concerned to make it work and desperately concerned to ensure that the Bill will in operation be successful in ensuring that there is no hold-up in the supply of development land for housing. Even if we had to make certain compromises—even if that meant leaving a few unjust gains in the hands of those who should not have them—in order to get a Bill which lasted and worked, I should be prepared to do so.

As I said, I believe that the Bill is about right, but there are one or two aspects which need to be considered. The first point that I am anxious about is whether the small site is likely to be brought forward. The local authorities, with the assistance of the bounty gatherers, of whom the hon. Member for Hornsey spoke, are capable of finding the major sites on which development is to take place, but I have some apprehension as to whether the site for three or four houses is likely to come forward under the Bill as drafted.

I hope that Ministers will consider the possibility of providing some greater incentive here. There is in the Bill a provision for some relief for the owner-occupier who is selling off part of a site immediately adjoining his land for the erection of one house. There may be a case for a greater degree of incentive, certainly in the transitional period of the Bill, to enable the small site to be brought forward for development.

If an owner-occupier, in particular, has a field covered with stinging nettles behind his house, he may prefer, if there is to be a 100 per cent. development tax, to let it stay as it is rather than have houses built on it. It may therefore be advisable to make a concession in that respect.

Another anxiety of mine, which has been dealt with particularly by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), is the question of the conflict of local authority interests. The Conservative leader of my borough council, the Merton Borough Council, is on record as having said that although he is strongly in favour of council housing he does not think that it should be built on open space, whether public or private. He has not said where he would contemplate the building of houses—presumably in the sky—but it will be difficult to persuade the Merton Borough Council, while it remains under Conservative control, that any land in the borough should be acquired in any circumstances.

It is all right for us, because under the Bill the Greater London Council will be capable of dealing with the situation, but in many local authorities, particularly in crowded city areas, where perhaps the local authority area terminates at the city limits, there may be no land in the city on which housing can be built. If outside there is a county council which is totally indifferent to the needs of the inner city area, it will be difficult to enable the housing developments which are so desperately needed to take place.

There is a case for extending the land authority on the lines suggested by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North to enable the national or regional authority to carry out developments. I appreciate that Clause 50 provides for the Secretary of State to take over the powers in certain circumstances. But these are all the powers. The Bill as drafted contains no provision to enable the Secretary of State to say, "I shall ensure that development is carried out on that land while leaving the local authority to maintain the rest of its powers under the Bill".

Mr. Graham Page

Clause 50 provides that the Secretary of State can take over any functions under this Act". What is more, he does not have to ask Parliament to approve an order to do so. He can just do it.

Mr. Douglas-Mann

I hope that it is intended and contemplated that the Secretary of State will be able to do that and that the term "any function" not only means the taking over of land acquisition functions in general but also gives power to exercise the functions of acquiring land on a certain site. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales will be able to reassure me that the intention is that the Secretary of State can ensure that a particular development is carried out. Otherwise, I am apprehensive that the sledgehammer provisions of Clause 50—they involve taking over all the functions, as happens with the appoint- ment of a housing commissioner under the Housing Finance Act—will be exercised only in relatively rare circumstances. I hope that consideration will be given to the question whether greater flexibility might be put in the Bill in this respect.

One part of the speech of the hon. Member for Hornsey with which I agreed related to his anxieties about charities. He expressed them in extremely emotive terms, but there is a valid point here, although I am apprehensive that his plea for exemption for charities may turn out to be a plea for exemption for the playing fields of private schools. That would not be my intention or that of any of my hon. Friends. I should declare an interest in that I am vice-chairman of the National Council of Social Service.

My major anxiety about the Bill concerns the finance aspect. Municipalisation programmes—improvement programmes—have been slowed down because the Chancellor of the Exchequer has had to cut back on the extension of public sector borrowing. This problem can be overcome if Ministers can persuade the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Treasury officials to draw a distinction between public expenditure which is capital expenditure and public expenditure which corresponds to income expenditure—in other words, expenditure which involves the consumption of goods and services, on the one hand, and expenditure which is virtually a book keeping entry, on the other. It does not involve a drain on the public services to acquire land. The building of a town hall does involve a drain on public services. Under the present financial arrangements, both types of expenditure are treated in the same way.

The programme implicit in the Bill will not be carried through unless there is a fundamental change in the Treasury's approach to the question of public expenditure. I hope that my right hon. Friend will urge on the Chancellor of the Exchequer that such a change should be made.

I accept that a difficult and delicate exercise is involved in the Bill. It is an absolutely essential exercise. It is difficult and delicate because we are trying to marry a private land ownership system with a system of using to the benefit of the community the development which takes place. If it does not work, there will ultimately be only one remedy—to bring all land into public ownership. I want it to work because I want the houses to be built and the necessary development to he carried out.

What is proposed in the Bill was the most popular single measure in the Labour Party's manifesto at the last election. It must be put into effect. I hope that the Opposition will note what the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East said about the danger of over-reacting and will enable the Bill to be implemented and to work. If it does not work, the changes which will take place will be unsatisfactory for all of us, but they will be even more unsatisfactory for those who live off the backs of the rest of us by demanding a tithe out of everything that we buy.

7.7 p.m.

Mr. Wyn Roberts (Conway)

I hope to refer to one or two of the points made by the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann), but the main subject of my speech is Part II of and Schedule 2 to the Bill, which deal with the setting up and constitution of the Land Authority for Wales. In Wales, it will be this body, rather than the local authorities, that will be primarily responsible for performing the various functions assigned by the Bill, although Clause 16 states that: The Authority may arrange for the discharge of any of their functions by a local authority, and all local authorities in Wales shall have power to enter into such arrangements". In other words, what is proposed for Wales is the exact opposite of what is proposed for England and Scotland where the primary responsibility clearly falls on the local authorities.

This has aroused criticism among Welsh local authorities and it is remarkable that the Government should have opted for an all-Wales central agency of this kind in view of the White Paper's clear preference for local bodies. Paragraph 24 on page 5 of the White Paper states: The Government therefore believe that in England and Scotland the acquisition and disposal of development land is best left in the main to local authorities …In Wales, however, the acquisition and disposal of land for private development will be the responsibility of an all-Wales body. Why this difference in treatment as between England and Wales? It is not justified anywhere. Cannot the Welsh local authorities be trusted with these powers, or is the Secretary of State expecting a decline in his powers after the creation of a Welsh Assembly, and seeking to build up his office by making the Land Authority, like the Welsh Development Agency, directly responsible to him?

Earlier in the White Paper it is argued that one of the main lessons to be drawn from experience is that a central agency is too far removed from people and from those responsible for planning decisions". Will not the Land Authority, that will probably be based in Cardiff, like the Land Commission, be especially remote from the people of North and Mid-Wales? How will it be able to cope with the problem of the small sites referred to by the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden? The Land Authority for Wales certainly requires more justification than the apologetic "In Wales, however…" of the White Paper. I hope that we shall get this justification from the Secretary of State for Wales when he winds up the debate.

The Land Authority is very reminiscent of the Land Commission. That was never a popular body in Wales. However, the operations of this authority are likely to be far more extensive than those of the commission ever were. The commission never held more than about 600 acres in Wales. Capital disposals are estimated at between £50 million and £55 million a year. If in Wales the cost of acquisitions is about half that amount—as it is in England and Scotland—we can guess how much agricultural land could be bought in Wales at the latest average price of £338 per acre. The answer is about 75,000 acres, an area half the size of Anglesey, Flintshire or South Glamorgan. The commission never employed more than a maximum of about 90 staff. The Land Authority, and local authorities acting on its behalf, will employ 750, and that is probably an underestimate.

The authority's administration costs are estimated at £4 million. This is between three and four times as much as the administrative costs of the entire Land Commission for England, Scotland and Wales in 1967–68. I quote these figures simply to give the House and the people of Wales some idea of the scope of this vast new authority. In the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum to the Bill dealing with its financial effects, it is stated: Similarly, expenditure by the Land Authority for Wales is estimated at £12 million. What is this figure comparable with in the case of England and Scotland? It is by no means clear. What is clear is that the financing of this authority is to be similar to the financing of the Water Authority, and that the Land Authority will have to pay similar high interest rates. For this and other reasons we doubt whether there will be much of a profit on the authority's land deals, but if there is a surplus we note that 40 per cent, of it is to go to the Consolidated Fund. In other words, it is to leave Wales. This news will, we may be sure, be welcomed in the Principality and duly noted by some as suitable for exploitation for propaganda purposes on the lines of "First they take our water; now our land".

We are critical of the Bill as far as Wales is concerned. What is proposed for Wales is a central authority which has all the disadvantages of such bodies as noted by the Government in their White Paper, and other disadvantages not stated by the Government anywhere because they do not regard the concentration of power in the hands of the State to be to the detriment of individual interest as a disadvantage in any sense. Quite the reverse.

We do not argue that local authorities should have these powers rather than the Land Authority. We do not think they should have them, either. We do not think that anyone should have the right to acquire private property on confiscatory terms. We recognise the need for the general public to participate in the value created in land by community decisions, but we believe that this can best be done by a fair and just system of taxation.

We forecast a land famine in Wales as a result of the Bill, because people just simply will not sell their land on the terms proposed. The new arbitrary and Draconian compulsory purchase procedure will be the order of the day. As a result, housing and development programmes will be delayed while dilatory bureaucrats wind their way through the maze of acquisition, preparation and management and, finally, disposal.

In the past, the country has survived similar attempts at extending State ownership because their scope was limited and there were other comparatively free methods of proceeding. What is frightening about the Bill is its totality. The exemptions are few indeed. It places virtually all development in the hands of bureaucracy. In England and Scotland it will be local bureaucracy, responsive, one may hope, to local democratic pressures. In Wales it will be a national bureaucracy responsive to no one.

7.15 p.m.

Mr. Douglas Crawford (Perth and Fast Perthshire)

Listening to the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), with his biblical references and his references to the Minister, I thought that I was listening to a recitation of the sins of the fathers.

On the face of it, there is much that is commendable in the Bill and with which the Scottish National Party can agree. The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) referred to Wales. I should like to direct the attention of the House to Scotland.

In the Scottish National Party's election manifesto last October we stated: The land of Scotland is its most important material resource. The Scottish National Party has always held that, ultimately, the land belongs to the people. In order to be just, it is necessary to balance, against the collective rights of the people, the rights of the people as individuals. We went on to say, The SNP proposes the institution of a Land Use Commission which will have as a priority identification of land in private ownership and not, in the opinion of the Commission, being used or developed in ways most appropriate for the benefit of the local community or the nation… The object in proposing such a structure is to ensure that the interests of the local community are considered of first priority and importance, and the local bodies responsible shall have the power themselves to initiate proposals innovating upon existing use of land. So far, so good, but we think that the Bill goes a little too far. As is usual with this Government and with the major Opposition party in England, Scotland has been virtually forgotten. As is usual in this Chamber, the political argument in general has gone to the extreme of the right and the left. There is a great deal of necessary legal jargon in the Bill which recognises the de jure differences in the Scottish legal and land systems. About a tenth of the Bill consists of clauses recognising the de jure differences of the Scottish situation. However, it does it in words, not facts.

But facts are chiels that winna ding. and cannot be gainsaid. We are tempted to ask "Why no separate Scottish Land Bill which the Scottish National Party could have welcomed?"

I am sorry that there is no representative of the Scottish Office on the Government Front Bench. Throughout the Bill the responsible Minister is the Secretary of State for Environment and not the Secretary of State for Scotland, not the Secretary of State for Wales. As the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) said, it will not be the local authorities that will have the ultimate power. It will be the Secretary of State for the Environment. The Scottish National Party believes that the land of Scotland ultimately belongs to the people of Scotland and not to the Secretary of State for the Environment.

Clause 2 says, If it appears to the Secretary of State expedient that a joint board should be established". Clause 3 states, In this Act relevant development' means all development except development of such class or classes as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State". In Clause 18 we read, Where an authority exercise their powers under subsection (1) above in relation to any development land, they shall have power to acquire by agreement or on being authorised to do so by the Secretary of State". Presumably that is the Secretary of State for the Environment and not the Secretary of State for Scotland. It does not involve the people of Scotland or the forthcoming Scottish Assembly.

There are differences between Scotland, England and Wales. In Scotland there is a vast local authority land bank lying vacant and unused. I agree with Conservative Members that ownership of hind does not make development ipso facto happen. The existence of this local authority land bank in Scotland could stem partly from local authorities not having a sufficient quantity or quality of people to develop the land they already own, but the new regional authorities appear to be recruiting people of a higher calibre than the local authorities in Scotland have employed in the past.

There is much more land available in Scotland than in England. It is not right for the Minister to lump Scotland and England together in this context. He said that there was a shortage of land. There may be a shortage in the South-East of England, but there is no shortage in Scotland.

I would direct the right hon. Gentleman's attention to two minor matters. First, there is not sufficient incentive to make land available for development, because of the Conservative Government's proposal for a development gains tax in 1973. Secondly, one effect of the Bill—perhaps not intended—will be to concentrate industrial development in those areas which are already industrialised.

The Bill appears to lay on local authorities a duty to make land available for leasing to industrial developers. But the industrialist moving to areas such as Scotland, Wales and the North-East and North-West of England tends to want to buy rather than to lease. Business is too full of uncertainties, and business men do not want to add more uncertainties about future increases in rents, the cost of leasing and so on. Therefore, if the Bill goes through in its present form it will tend to keep industry in the already congested areas of the South-East and West Midlands and will not help it to be mobile.

We in Scotland have suffered from the physical and mental heartbreak of immigration for long enough to say "Bring the industries to the people. Do not force people to emigrate to the jobs." There is a need for a special Scottish Land Bill, a different Bill, less dogmatic and—dare I say it?—less political. Scotland's laws, its system of land ownership, its different industrial and development needs, and its possession of much more land per capita, make it essential for us to have a less dogmatic and less political Bill.

Like many other measures, the Bill does not recognise Scotland's special position. Once again it has been forgotten that Scotland is not just another region. It is forgotten that Scotland is a nation and that the land of Scotland belongs to the people of Scotland, not the Secretary of State for the Environment in London. The fact that the Bill fails to recognise that means that my party must reserve its position on the matter.

7.23 p.m.

Mr. Geoff Edge (Aldridge-Brownhills)

I cannot take up in detail the arguments of the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford), save to say that he seems a trifle ungrateful to the Government. He said that his party's election manifesto stated that the land of Scotland belonged to the people of Scotland. The Bill will give the land of Scotland to the people of Scotland. How dare the hon. Gentleman reserve his position? It would appear that the Scottish National Party's election manifesto contained an empty promise.

Mr. Crawford

The point I was making was that the land belonged to the people of Scotland, but that the Bill tried to make it available to the Secretary of State for the Environment—in London—who was to have ultimate control.

Mr. Edge

I feel sorry for the hon. Gentleman if that is the argument that he is going to advance to the electors of Scotland. His vision of the Secretary of State owning all the land in Scotland is false—almost a drug addict's vision, almost as bizarre as what the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) predicted for the Bill. If the hon. Gentleman's party believes that land in Scotland should belong to the people of Scotland, it should welcome the Bill as I do, because its real point is that it recognises that land upon which development is to take place is a national asset and should belong to the people of the country and not be a source of profiteering for those who do not work.

Mrs. Margaret Bain (Dunbartonshire, East)


Mr. Edge

I shall give way shortly. I do not want to be ungallant to the fairer sex in Scotland.

We cannot afford to have a society in which people can profit merely by speculating in land. No hon. Member would criticise a builder who does a useful and important job—whether he be a local authority builder or a private builder—but the person who speculates in land alone is making a profit without doing any work. We hear plenty of talk from Conservative Members about the need for everyone to pull his weight, but the arguments of sonic of them today suggest that land speculators are not included.

Mrs. Bain

Members of the fairer sex in Scotland have always fought strongly for their land in Scotland. If the hon. Gentleman has watched recent plays on television he will be only too well aware of that. However, we cannot lend our support to a Bill which allows the continuation of the vast landed estates in Scotland, which maintains a position of privilege for many people who go grouse shooting on the moors in the autumn, and which does not bring the land back into agricultural use for the people of Scotland. It gives power to the Secretary of State for the Environment and not the Scottish people, who should have the right to control and use the land.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

Order. If the hon. Lady wishes to make a speech she should catch the eye of the Chair.

Mr. Edge

I do not disagree about the need to break up the great landed estates in Scotland, but the Bill deals with development land—with that part of the land of Scotland which will be turned from agricultural to industrial use, or be used for housing, and so on. If the hon. Lady is arguing, as I suspect she is, that there should be legislation to do that, I have every sympathy with her, and hope that the Government will consider it. But it is no anwer to say that one cannot support this Bill because it does not do something for which it was not designed.

At least in taking development land into public ownership, and recognising that it is a national asset, the Bill recognises that the whole concept of a free market price for land is nonsense. There has not been a free market for land for 30 years, because the price of all land in this country is inevitably determined by the planning designations which apply to it, whether it is zoned for housing or even as green belt, as is much of the land in my constituency, if the developer thinks that there may be an opportunity for development. The planning process plays an important part in determining value.

The Bill is at least honest in recognising that talk about a free market in land is now nonsense. It tries to remove the process whereby people can make a profit on land merely because of a planning decision. That could easily happen in my constituency, where the Secretary of State has designated a large area of land as interim green belt, where development might take place. Developers have naturally been attracted to that land, knowing full well that the Walsall Borough Planning Committee may decide in the future that it is suitable for housing development. Land which they bought at something over agricultural prices will then immediately be worth far more.

That sort of thing also happens in my own area in Buckingham, where I am vice-chairman of the planning committee of Milton Keynes council. Large areas are put forward for development by local property developers seeking permission for housing. On land that they have acquired at agricultural prices they seek to make a profit as a result of its changed planning designation.

My local authority—the former Bletchley Urban District Council—made an enormous profit on land acquired at agricultural prices. We gained an entire golf course and a brand new clubhouse as a result of buying land at agricultural prices and selling part of it for housing development. That is a small indication of the enormous revenue that can flow to local authorities under the Bill, if they can acquire land at existing use value and resell or let part of it to builders for development. They will make considerable profits, which can be used to provide many of the amenities, facilities and houses for the local community, the cost of which must otherwise be borne by the rates and the Exchequer. That is desirable. The Bill provides an opportunity for a major new source of local authority finance.

Mr. Michael Latham

Where does it say in the Bill or in the consultation papers which the Government have issued that they envisage selling land to builders for owner-occupation? They have said quite categorically that they will not do that, but will sell off to the individual plot purchasers. If that is so, how will the public purse make a big profit unless the money is taken from the plot purchasers?

Mr. Edge

The hon. Gentleman will have noticed that I corrected myself and said that land would be leased to builders for development. He is right in saying that the freehold would then only be conveyed to the person who bought the lease of the house from the builder. In other words, in future someone acquiring a house on publicly-owned land would acquire the house from the builder but would acquire the freehold of the property directly from the local authority. The profit arises where a local authority is then in a position to charge the builder the market price for the lease of the land for building, and that of course can produce a considerable financial gain. It is really quite simple.

If I may give an example, at the moment in Buckinghamshire half the price of a house consists of the value of the land. When the land is acquired at existing use value the local authority will clearly have the option of passing on that lower price to the people who will ultimately acquire the houses as owner-occupiers, or of using it for public purposes as an extra source of finance for the local authority's activities. My own local authority acquired a field for £500 three years ago. This was a good business transaction. We wanted to make the houses on that land available to young couples who were looking for a first home. We wanted to make the land available at the price which we paid for it, plus the building costs of the houses. We could have put the houses on the market on that basis at £5,000, but the district auditor of the day stepped in and said that we had to charge the full market price for the land as well. That increased the price to £9,000. As a result there are young people in the constituency of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon) who are without a home because the previous Government insisted that every local authority should take a full profit from development land in the same way as every private developer did. That is utterly wrong. It means that young people cannot afford to pay the price being asked.

That is the situation that the Bill seeks to correct. It gives a local authority the option of making a house available at a lower price through not inflating the price of the land, or using the money for the other activities of the local authority. That way the advantages and profits of developing land accrue to the public either through their local authority or directly to them as individual purchasers of the freeholds of houses from the local authority.

The Bill creates one or two problems. Most of the land, which is owned by builders falls outside the scope of the Bill. One of the real difficulties is that many builders have acquired land well in advance of their requirements, as a speculative venture, hoping to obtain planning permission in the future. Unless this point is reconsidered with a view to enabling local authorities to purchase land at present owned by builders, the builders could, in effect, continue to speculate for many years.

In the Stonnall area, which is on the border of my constituency and the neighbouring constituency of Lichfield and Tamworth, there are many thousands of acres of land which have already been purchased by builders hoping to obtain planning permission. It would be utterly wrong for them to be able to take all the development gain from that land without the Government intervening in some way. Perhaps the land tax provisions, when they come, will cover this aspect.

The Bill is perhaps too vague about what the relevant authorities should be for acquiring land. The Minister for Planning argues that flexibility is a virtue, but perhaps in this case it has gone too far and perhaps the Bill should specify exactly the relationship which should exist between county councils and district councils for drawing up plans for acquiring land and sharing the development gain between them. I am not suggesting that this should necessarily be uniform for the whole nation, but for broad categories of authorities—for example, districts within metropolitan counties, and districts within normal county councils—there should be closer guidelines than exist at the moment.

In the West Midland Metropolitan County, within my own district council area of Walsall there is land which I believe should be regarded as the property of the West Midlands County Council, of the conurbation as a whole. It should be used to meet the housing needs of the whole conurbation rather than simply meeting the needs of the Walsall authority. There must be many examples of this sort of thing. I wonder whether greater thought should not be given to setting up a regional body, perhaps a local authority planning conference, which could designate the broad areas of land which need to be acquired for development. The need arises because the last Conservative Government, when reforming local government, drew the boundaries around the metropolitan counties very closely. In some cases, therefore, there is no possibility of obtaining land for development within the metropolitan counties themselves. Through that some of them are already being forced to consider demolishing houses in order to build new ones at a higher density, and that is a ludicrous situation. More thought should be given to the creation of regional machinery which can consider the acquisition of land outside the metropolitan county council boundaries.

It is a pity, too, when many hon. Members have been deeply critical of appointed bodies, that the agency for Wales should be an appointed body. Many of us have argued that the existing appointed bodies—the water authorities and so on—have been a disaster and are not answerable to anyone. The authority in Wales should as a first step be a democratic body, even if it is created by indirect appointment from local authorities, and should ultimately be transferred to the responsibility of the Welsh Assembly, if the power is not to be given to the local authorities as it is in the rest of the United Kingdom.

The Bill provides a real opportunity for planning committees to go in for positive and creative planning for the first time, and I say that as Vice-Chairman of Milton Keynes Planning Committee. Too often planning committees can produce on paper very fine schemes for improving the urban environment and providing new houses, new recreational facilities, new social service buildings and so on, only to find that the cost of acquiring the land is prohibitive. In these circumstances many schemes come to grief. Therefore, I believe that this new power, added to the power of the existing planning committees, will enable planning to be far more positive than it has been in the past.

All of us are heartily sick of negative planning, of having a planning committee saying that it will sometimes allow a development and often having to say it will not, without being able to play a positive part in the development of our physical surroundings and environment. The Bill opens up an opportunity to do that, and for that reason I warmly welcome it.

7.40 p.m.

Mr. Tim Sainsbury (Hove)

There are two general points which I find surprising about this debate. The first is the absence of declarations of interest. This seems to be a Bill that affects every single commercial and industrial company in the country, not to mention the house-building industry, the vast majority of pension funds, life assurance funds, Churches, the majority of charities and voluntary organisations. It is extraordinary that there have not been others like me who wish to declare an interest under every one of those headings.

The second thing I find surprising is the amount of considered and well-thoughtout criticism of the Bill which has come from the Labour Benches. I mention particularly the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant) and the hon. Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann). It is not often that a piece of legislation is brought before us by the Government and is then the subject of so many reservations and in some cases direct criticism from Government Members. Perhaps this is one of those occasions when the only thing on which we can all agree can be found in the words of the Secretary of State in reply to a Question of mine when he said: the supply of land for building and development is vital."—[Official Report, 19th March 1975; Vol. 888, c. 1620.] We all ought to agree at least that this is a subject that we should approach with considerable caution with the benefit of 66 years of failure behind us.

I agree that the Labour and Liberal Parties were responsible for most, but not all, of the initiatives which failed. The Conservative Party should not be at all complacent. For far too long we did not show any initiative in this critical area of betterment. May I declare another interest, as an associate member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Its publication entitled "The Land Problem: A Fresh Approach" has been referred to in complimentary terms by several speakers. There is included in that document a definition of betterment which is well worth recalling. It says that betterment may be defined as the enhancement in the value of land (including buildings thereon) resulting from the actions or decisions of central or local government or by a statutory body, or from the expectation of such actions and decisions. I go along with the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Edge) when he said that making a profit on land merely because of a planning decision is a questionable activity. I depart radically from him when he, like so many of his colleagues, confuses speculation with development. I remind him that speculation is dealing in a commodity without changing its nature. It is a totally different concept from development. Development is what house builders are up to. If they did not develop there would be no houses. It is a dangerous trap to assume that every developer is necessarily this object which must be condemned—the speculator.

There are some excuses for the Conservatives reluctance to act on this problem of betterment because of the abundant evidence of the consequences of the Labour initiatives that have been taken. When we eventually did act, the development gains tax which we brought forward was sensible. Here I would hope to have some support from Labour Members, because it was the Labour Government who carried that tax into law. I was glad that I arrived at this House just in time to make my maiden speech on 18th December 1973 and to pay tribute to Lord Barber's initiative, although I now say that I think it was a bit late—too late. It has perhaps led to the over-reaction we now see in the form of this Bill.

The surveyors' publication commented that development gains tax appears to provide an effective way of ensuring that after tax no excessive net gains are made from land transactions". Those are particularly important words coming from so authoritative and independent an institution. That surely is the first objective we should set in dealing with the problem of betterment.

The tax had other points in its favour including one which again I commend to the consideration of the Government. It was said of it that it is relatively straightforward to administer and although it introduces some new valuation problems, it does not require the establishment of any new machinery. The main criticism of development gains tax that has been heard from independent sources is that the level of the tax is too high. I am somewhat reluctantly persuaded that this criticism is well founded and needs to be attended to. If it is well founded and accurate, the result will be a shortage of land for everyone.

Of course we have to deal with betterment, but it is the height of absurdity, if we care about housing, to try to deal with it in a way which will make providing housing that much more difficult and bureaucratic, if it will make it more expensive for and remote from those who want to live in those houses. We need a tax on betterment. We have had a tax on betterment—the development gains tax. I do not think we can pretend that*** with that tax, we needed this Bill.

There was a minor criticism of the development gains tax in that it did not give the money back to the local community. This is something which the Bill is intended to remedy. Before we press this aspect we should consider whether it is the right concept. Apart from the definite initial costs in staff and capital tied up in return for uncertain future profits, there is the doubt in my mind whether the gain arising from the development of green fields for housing outside the area of a major conurbation should go to the local authority in whose area the development is taking place.

The need for the development arises from the extreme pressures in the inner urban areas where development is not likely to prove very remunerative. When we further remember that the Treasury is subsidising local authorities in excess of 60 per cent. of their expenditure, it is a questionable method of trying to return benefit to the right section of the community.

The main excuse for the Bill is this splendid concept of positive planning. This concept springs from two errors. The first, about which we have already heard, is the confusion of ownership with development skill. Ownership does not of itself create development. It is not an essential element in ensuring that the sort of development that is required or believed to be required will take place. There is abundant evidence for that throughout most local authority areas.

The profound error into which the Government seem to have fallen is to believe that the local authorities are the unique repository of wisdom and understanding in planning natters and that they alone are able to identify the needs of the community. Who built the tower blocks? The local authorities. They would never have been built by developers, who would have known that people did not want to live in them. When we look around the country and see the white elephants in commercial development we look for the hand of the local authority.

Have the local authorities the flexibility and the response? They have never shown such qualities so far. If they have all this wisdom why has there ever been a planning appeal granted? Plenty are granted. We are reminded today that over half the land in four South-Eastern counties used for housing was found to be on land not previously identified as being available in planning terms.

It is self-evident nonsense that the local authorities are the sole repository of this wisdom. What other justification can we find? Power to the people? Surely not. This is power from the people, concentrating power and authority in State organisation and, as has been pointed out, giving the Secretary of State the ultimate sanction over everything that locally elected authorities do. It is a Marxist concept, concentrating error and not offering flexibility of decision. It concentrates error and increases by a unique stroke the risks of corruption and the certainty of procrastination.

What is perhaps more serious is that it confuses the rôle of the planner by subjecting him directly to the financial pressures that come on the developer. The Council for the Preservation of Rural England is particularly conscious of that.

The conflict of interest is clear. However conscientiously local authorities try to discharge their planning function they will inevitably be faced by financial considerations which are unrelated to planning requirements and will have a strong incentive to approve development which on its planning merits should be rejected.

Finally, this legislation fails to distinguish between essential and less essential development. By trying to bring in everything, the legislation becomes totally unworkable. This measure is unnecessary to deal with betterment, it is unwise as a way of giving some value back to the community, and I contend—and I am supported in that contention by many independent authorities—that it is totally unworkable.

Why do we have to have this legislation? Why do we have to have this extravagantly enlarged bureaucracy; this increase in local government expenditure which we certainly cannot afford at the present time—whatever might be the position at the end of the decade; this expropriation of private property; this damage to industry and commerce—on which I should have liked to enlarge had there been sufficient time—because all the plans of industry and commerce will be adversely affected and delayed by these proposals; the effect on Churches and charities, which has been referred to; the diminution of individual freedom, individual authority and ability to act; and the delay to house building, which is the most serious of all?

Why do we have to have it? Because, once more, theory is to be elevated above experience, and, once more, it is Marxist theory and dogmas which will stand in the way of the people and the houses they need. For that reason alone, the Government should stand condemned for introducing the Bill, which I hope the House will decisively reject.

7.52 p.m.

Mr. Bryan Gould (Southampton, Test)

The view one has of the Bill depends enormously on the viewpoint from which one looks at it. Unlike the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury), I do not view it from the viewpoint of a range of vested interests in commercial and industrial concerns. My viewpoint is that of a person with only one interest, that of the ordinary householder, and I believe that that is the way in which the vast majority of people will view the measure.

I regard the Bill as by far the most logical and imaginative attempt to solve the problem of the way in which land can best be utilised in the community's interests. The excesses of 1972, the soaring land prices and the outrageous profits of the speculators provided a renewed spur to political action, but those who say that the circumstances of 1972 have changed and that therefore the Bill is no longer necessary take far too narrow a view. The Bill has a wider object than that. There is in any case something peculiar about the argument that we need not seek an effective cure to a recurring illness simply because the last attack has passed and the next one has yet to come.

The Bill has a fundamental object. It recognises that land is not just another commodity like baked beans but is a uniquely scarce and important resource of direct and massive significance to every family in the country. Its use cannot be regulated properly, safely and wisely by the operation of market forces. Its supply cannot be increased if demand increases. The price mechanism cannot be allowed to depress the market without causing unacceptable damage in a civilised society. That is exactly what happened in 1972.

The Bill, in effect, removes land in a significant sense from the market place and makes it what it should be—a commodity resource. In consequence of that, both the cost and the supply of land can be regulated less capriciously and less irresponsibly than has been the case in the past. There is a further implication because the market forces—the highest bidder, for example—will not necessarily wish to put the land to the use which will be in the best interests of the community. An office block may provide the best return on investment but it will do precious little for the housing programme or the homeless. The Bill makes the public interest and not commercial considerations the predominant issue in deciding how we should use land to the best advantage.

Planning authorities will be provided not just with a brake, as they have been in the past, but with a steering wheel and an accelerator as well. They will determine on behalf of the community not only what should not be but what should be. It is this aspect of positive planning which is the real innovation in the Bill and which will change the whole way in which we treat and regard land. I do not share the pessimism of the hon. Member for Hove in this respect.

My right hon. Friend the Minister in some ways has an easy task. Reformers usually have a twofold problem. First, they must demonstrate that a problem exists and they must then show that they have a satisfactory solution. But in this case there is already—perhaps largely as a result of the experience of 1972—a widespread recognition that something must be done and, as a consequence, an equally widespread readines to welcome this solution. I echo the comment which was made earlier that there was no more popular element in the Labour Party's manifestos in the two elections last year than the proposal to take development land into public ownership.

That does not mean that there will not be dangers and difficulties. Any imaginative and far-reaching proposal for reform necessarily brings with it short-term problems, but many of those have been exaggerated by the Bill's opponents. For example, it is said that the Bill will cause a drying-up of the supply of building land, but that is to ignore the fact that there is already in the hands of major builders and developers a large stock of building land with building permission. The fact that the development land tax will be fixed initially at a rate of 80 per cent. but will eventually be raised to 100 per cent. should act as an incentive to early development.

It is said that the Bill will be too costly. As has been explained, the whole capital cost will be met initially out of borrowing, and the interest charges and infrastructure costs will be rolled up and included in the capital sum initially borrowed. The scheme will eventually be self-financing out of the receipts of development. Even those authorities which have to acquire inner city land of a high existing use value will by virtue of the equalisation scheme benefit from the development.

Fears are expressed, often by people who are generally sympathetic to the Bill, that there is not a clear enough link between the existing planning procedures and system and the powers and duties created by the Bill. There may well be something in that, and it should be looked at carefully. But that reservation should not be exaggerated. We should not underestimate the effect of the mandatory words in Clause 17(3) which provide that local authorities shall have regard to development plans in deciding whether land is development land.

I foresee two dangers. One is that land owners and others may decide to sit it out in the hope that the Bill will eventually be repealed. Unfortunately, some may have received encouragement in that direction from comments made from the Opposition benches today. The answer to that is to get the machinery working well and working quickly. I am confident that once the advantages of this measure are revealed and become apparent, not least to Tory-controlled local authorities, we shall, as we did with the National Health Service and similar reforms before it, hear very little talk about repeal.

The other and linked danger is that in a few cases the public ownership of development land may prove to be a time consuming detour, whereby the land eventually resumes its original course and private developers will have been in the driving seat all along. In my view that can happen only if the power and duty of positive planning is not backed by the necessary accumulation and assembly of the required skills and resources. In fact, the skills exist. They exist in local authorities and amongst the employees or former employees of the developers.

It is essential that we make the right decision on the point at which the necessary skills and resources and expertise should be assembled so that powerful and effective machinery not merely for acquisition but for development can be put into operation.

That will not happen merely by giving powers and duties to all local authorities alike, regardless of the area they may represent. Further, it will not happen because they are required jointly to prepare and submit land acquisition and management schemes. It will not happen because Clause 20 orders are made and duties imposed. Those orders can apply only to local authorities whose land is affected by the orders. In many cases the authorities which will be more directly interested will be those outside the order which are able to use the land.

The problem is well illustrated in my own area of Hampshire. There we have a county authority and two powerful district authorities—namely, Southampton and Portsmouth. Their interests may well conflict but at least they have the necessary skills, expertise and resources to tackle them effectively. However, there is an enormous disparity between those authorities and the poorer rural districts. The rural districts will lack the resources. Indeed, they lack them now. It will be difficult for them to acquire the necessary resources and skills. In addition, their interests will be different from those of the metropolitan districts. They have the land, and Southampton and Portsmouth, but Southampton in particular, need it.

The only way in which we can resolve the problem is by avoiding the clear waste of time and effort which would be involved in requiring all the authorities to build up staffs. That would be quite unnecessary as it would duplicate, diffuse and divert all the resources which will be needed. That is to say nothing, of course, of the conflicts and delay which might be involved in giving each of the authorities an independent rôle.

The case for a joint board is that it provides a solution to the problem. That case is overwhelming. I believe that it has by far the best chance of providing the required machinery to build up the necessary centre of expertise and skill and to short cut the committee cycle. I hope very much that my right hon. Friend will pay serious attention to that point. I believe it will go a long way to ensuring the success of what is a very important reform.

8.5 p.m.

Mr. Michael Latham (Melton)

The hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould) made a sincere speech but some of his remarks, particularly those at the beginning, lacked any relationship to reality. That was especially so when he said that he could not see any likelihood of a land shortage appearing. I immediately declare an interest. I am a developer. I am a director of a house-building company. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that as a matter of practical fact builders are not buying land. In particular, they are not buying white land. The Housing Land Availability Report makes it clear that white land is often the land which developers subsequently build on, having got planning permission against the wishes of the local authority, because of the poor record of many local authorities in not designating enough land in their development plan.

There are five points in any developer's game plan—namely, land, finance, design, construction and sales. It is, of course, the risk-taking element in land buying which differentiates the developer from the contractor. Once we take away the developer's ability to exercise his entrepreneurial rôle by buying land freely on the market and building houses on it for a speculative profit, we have destroyed the development industry. Once the land is vested in some other organisation, the developer's art is gone. Instead, he becomes a contractor, risk-taking only on the tendering and construction side—difficult enough in all conscience but without the wider rewards and penalties which come from all-through development.

We also set the industry back 50 years. I have seen the private development industry in West Germany, where the developer and the contractor are normally separate. Although the houses produced are good and sturdy, they are also very expensive. Private housing as we know it is at a far lower level than in this country. I do not want to see that happen here.

After the second appointed day in the Bill there is to be, as we know, a mandatory duty on local authorities to buy up all land for development and to do so at existing use value. Once that day comes, estate development is finished. Builders may well think hopefully, "Oh well, the local authority will resell to us at market value and it will really be no different from our buying it off the farmer. Indeed, it may help us, because the local authorities will cream off all the development value and they will have no reason to refuse consent on the ground that they cannot afford the infrastructure costs." Let them not believe that. Once the local authority becomes the monopoly buyer of development land it will set up its own direct works department and will build the houses itself or invite builders to tender for the building work only on the sort of design-price system that they have experienced, to their cost, in the new towns.

We all know perfectly well that the whole scheme of nationalisation is quite impossible. It is based on two asumptions, and both of them are false. The first assumption is that structure plans are in existence, approved and up to date. The second assumption is that individuals will willingly sell their land at existing use value when manifestly it is intended for development. The truth is quite otherwise. Many structure plans are nowhere near presentation, let alone approval. Even those that are reasonably well advanced are already out of date, as they are based on population assumptions which the population forecasters now admit are 25 per cent. too high.

No structure plans yet contain 10-year programmes of land acquisition. If the Government wish them to do so, they will have to change the law, as the structure plans do not contain maps, on an Ordnance Survey basis, identifying land for development. Any local authority which tried to make them do so would make nonsense of the whole "strategic" nature of the structure plan vis-à-vis the local plan. To attempt to include 10-year rolling programmes in plans already submitted would make nonsense of the whole statutory concept of public participation. The only way in which the Government can get round that difficulty is, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) has said, to say that it does not matter about the structure plan—indeed, it does not matter whether there is a plan in existence.

Indeed, there is one extraordinary subsection in the Bill which suggests that although the existence of a plan will have some relevance as to whether or not land should be built upon, it will not be the binding criterion. As my right hon. Friend said, anything more destructive to the planning system could hardly be imagined.

The second assumption is equally false—namely, that it is possible to acquire land for development at current use value. There are two contradictions here. The first is the propriety of the direct involvement of the planning authority itself in the development process. The second is the basis of compensation. If the land is to be acquired before it has been designated for development—namely, before the publication of a structure plan, whether under the existing or some new law—it makes nonsense of the whole planning system. The plan makers themselves will have "anticipated the development plan". That is a phrase well known to every applicant for planning consent. In so doing, they will have given themselves planning permision on the very ground that they would automatically refuse it to any private applicant.

If, on the other hand, the land is to be acquired after designation but at existing use value, it will all have to be taken by compulsory purchase. No one, but no one, will willingly sell his land to a local authority at agricultural value when it is already zoned for development in a published plan.

There are, of course, many other absurdities in the Bill which we could examine. For example, there is the ludicrous idea that it will be possible to bring in the full duty to acquire all land by stages when local authorities are able to cope with it. Let us imagine the scenario. For example, the Minister decides that Dorset County Council can cope, so he makes an order on the council and imposes the full duty to acquire all development land Ipso facto, he prevents Dorset developers buying any land speculatively. Meanwhile, next door, in Wiltshire, the county council is considered unable to cope and a normal market in land buying still persists. There are no prizes for guessing where the Dorset builders will go to buy land, or for guessing what that land will cost in Wiltshire as a result.

Although the Bill is dangerously irrelevant, the problem of betterment still remains. I want to say in one minute how that problem can be resolved. It can be resolved, first, by amending the certificate of alternative development procedure to bring about the free dedication by the developer of land for schools, open spaces and community centres. If there is free dedication by the developer, one straight away meets the objection that the developer should contribute towards the cost of an interest which the community has created.

The second consideration is that agreements under Section 52 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 should be made mandatory between the developer and the local authority for the construction costs of roads and sewers. If one does those two things, straight away one takes away a considerable degree of betterment and puts into the public purse of a local authority the ability to finance development.

The third thing which, above all, is needed is to get away from the creation of betterment—and that betterment is created by the rigidity of the planning system. Only when we have a new and more effective system which relies more on zoning powers and less on the drawing up of rigid development plans—plans which are years out of date by the time they appear—will we reduce betterment and reach the core of the problem—namely, the putting of more land on the market.

This is an unworkable Bill, a measure which has been almost universally condemned and which undoubtedly will dry up land. It cannot be improved, but can only be repealed.

8.12 p.m.

Mr. Jim Marshall (Leicester, South)

I do not wish to dispute the points made by the hon. Member for Melton (Mr. Latham), but I wish to pick up two comments. Earlier in his remarks he said that once a local authority had these powers, it would not allow private developers to move in on a development but would set up its own public works department. I wish the hon. Gentleman were correct, but I fear that, even after the new legislation has been enacted, development will continue as at present—namely, with one or two shining stars in the local government firmament having first-class direct labour departments, but with a far larger majority of local authorities not being actively involved in future developments.

The hon. Gentleman said that the legislation had been universally condemned. I do not know which universe he inhabits, but people who have informed him of their objections to the Bill certainly have not been in contact with me. I have in my hand a letter from the Association of District Councils which says, From the local government point of view the Association supported in principle the White Paper on land. Local government is to be entrusted with important new functions under the proposals. I suggest that the Association of Municipal Authorities would go along with that view, if not put it in far stronger terms. I do not know the situation of the Association of County Councils on this point since it has not communicated its views to me.

I state categorically that I welcome the Bill and I am sure that all those who suffered from the grasping land speculation of 1971 and 1972 will welcome the Bill as a first step to ensuring stability of house prices. The Bill will stop the mad escalation in house prices and will be warmly welcomed by prospective home buyers and those who are now on the home ownership merry-go-round and who each month find themselves paying mortgage repayments at levels which they find difficult to maintain. I welcome the measure on behalf of those unfortunate people.

I also welcome the Bill because it will stop the ruthless speculation in development land which we all saw in 1971 and 1972. The Bill will ensure that the community—and all hon. Members must be interested in the community's general welfare—will benefit financially from decisions taken on the community's behalf. One of my Labour colleagues said that development value arose from planning decisions taken in many cases by local authorities acting on behalf of local communities. We have heard the phrase "natural justice" used by Opposition Members. But surely it is natural justice that the community, which gives rise to added value as a consequence of development or redevelopment, should also share in the financial rewards which accrue from that decision. As somebody who spent many years as a local councillor, I know that on many occasions planning decisions have meant huge public expenditure and have been balanced only by huge private gain. We can no longer condone that situation.

The evils of the present system can be effectively removed only by taking land into public ownership. I am glad that the Government have grasped this nettle and have decided to take action. I am delighted that the Government have chosen to use local government as the vehicle by which this work should be undertaken. The Bill provides local government—and, through local government, the country as a whole—with a unique opportunity to ensure that in future social factors, in addition to market factors which have determined redevelopment in the past, should be taken into account when local government, on its own or in partnership with private developers, decides that development will take place.

I sincerely believe that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara) is right to say that one of the social factors that will be taken into account in future is the re-population of our inner urban areas—areas which have been diluted in the past few years because local authorities have not been able to afford to house people in city centres. I hope that this legislation will reverse that trend.

We realise that the confidence of local government has been shaken in recent years —not through any fault of local government, but because of slipshod reorganisation which has set one tier of local government in opposition to another. Fortunately, these differences of opinion are now beginning to wane and are being replaced by a feeling of partnership.

This situation has helped to undermine the confidence of local government in itself. Local government is often unfairly criticised—there are one or two exceptions—because of escalating rates. This again is through no fault of local government but arises in the main from the obligations put on local government by Governments of both political complexions.

A golden opportunity is provided by the Bill since local government will be responsible for exercising a function which will make money, and it will make that money on behalf of the community. That money will not be squandered, as some Conservatives have tried to argue. Many parts of local government are already fit and ready to meet the challenge posed by this legislation.

However, having been so optimistic in my earlier remarks, I wish to issue a warning to local government, particularly to planning officers who will be responsible for ensuring that the legislation is being carried out. Despite what has been said about structure planning, local planners will determine which land will be taken into public ownership. The local plans will determine where the development will take place.

In Leicestershire, the county councils and district councils are trying to work out a system whereby the county council can agree to a local plan going ahead. I realise that that anticipates the structure plan. Nevertheless that is how the system will work and how it will affect legislation of this kind. Planning officers will have responsibility to ensure that their local plans are kept up to date. If those plans are not kept up to date, as is frequently the case, and if they are not revised, local planning authorities and local government will be criticised if the plans are subsequently found to be unsatisfactory. Local planning officers must ensure by periodic reviews—and continuous assessment, if that is a better phrase to use—that the local plans are kept up to date.

That will apply especially to city centre redevelopment since that is where the needs for development are indicated to a great extent by consumer demand. Many local authorities, especially those with strong local planning departments and estate management departments, are already in a position to exercise those powers. I hope that when the first appointed day arises the Secretary of State will not be niggardly in choosing the number of authorities to exercise these powers from the outset.

As regards the equalisation fund, I agree with the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Mr. Gould). The equalisation fund account will ensure that those authorities which are faced with huge urban renewal programmes receive benefit from this legislation. Despite the difference in our political views, we all know that urban renewal is expensive whereas developing virgin fields is comparatively cheap. If local authorities are to be responsible for exercising these powers, and are to receive the amounts of profit which the Secretary of State has mentioned, it is only fair that the money should be redistributed in an equitable fashion.

I see that a Treasury Minister is present. feel that the 40 per cent. which will go to the Treasury is far too high. I ask the Government to ensure that this figure is drastically and dramatically reduced in Committee so that far greater benefits can accrue to local government. However, knowing my right hon. and hon. Friends in the Treasury, I feel that the vain hope which I have expressed will be dampened in a short time in Committee.

Much concern is being expressed by local authorities, including that which I represent, which have land banks. Clause 43 does not differentiate between the present land banks and land acquired under the new legislation. Clause 43(1) reads: Except with the consent of the Secretary of State, a principal council shall not— (a) appropriate any land That does not differentiate between land acquired under the Community Land Bill and land now owned by local government.

Many local councils have acquired large land holdings to protect the local residents, or ratepayers, against the excesses of the property speculator. Those local councils now wish to know how their land banks will be treated under the new legislation.

Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

The hon. Gentleman keeps talking about the property speculator. He gives the impression that the speculator fixes the price. Will the hon. Gentleman please say something about the overall control of the economy and what effect that has upon land prices?

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

I am sorry about that intervention. There are still six hon. Members who are anxious to take part in this debate. There are roughly six minutes left to each of them. I hope that the hon. Member will not pay too much attention to the last intervention.

Mr. Marshall

I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker first for allowing the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) to participate and secondly for going on for too long.

Local authorities who have acquired land banks in the past would like to know whether they will be allowed special treatment when the legislation is introduced, so that they may treat land which they already hold differently from land which they acquire under this legislation.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

Arithmetic was never my strong subject. Nevertheless, I have calculated that six hon. Members are still anxious to speak. If they will each confine their remarks to six minutes, which can easily be done, all of those hon. Members can be accommodated.

8.27 p.m.

Mr. Arthur Jones (Daventry)

I should like to address my remarks briefly to the position of private property in our society in the context of the Community Land Bill.

Ownership of land—the house we live in, perhaps the shop or office in which we work, the factory and the farm—falls within the scope of the Bill. Continued ownership and occupation are now in question.

Local authorities are to be required to buy all development land and under the terms of the summary consultation document of March 1975, there are to be provisions enabling, and ultimately requiring, local authorities to buy development land and either to develop it themselves or to make it available for private development. There are also to be provisions aimed at reducing the cost of land to local authorities, first through the arrangements for buying net of development land tax and then by changing the compensation code so that the price of land is reduced to its current use value. Those provisions apply to all local authority land purchases and not only to those directed towards the implementation of the first provisions.

The provisions in the Bill disregard basic democratic freedoms and rights of ownership, placing in the hands of the State and the local authorities powers of compulsory purchase against which the citizen has in effect no protection whatever. He will have no right to a public local inquiry and the Secretary of State will be empowered to disregard objections made on the ground that the proposed compulsory acquisition was unnecessary or inexpedient. An acquiring local authority is therefore under no obligation to indicate what use the land or buildings would be put to, nor to establish the need for the site in question. Indeed, the local authority may acquire land for a private development.

The point was made earlier in the debate that private developers wishing to develop land may go to the local authority asking it to acquire land from private owners for schemes which they themselves wish to promote. That is where a local authority is asked by someone wishing to obtain land to exercise its powers on his behalf. Words to that effect are to be found in paragraph 15 of the consultative document issued by the Department of the Environment.

There has been widespread criticism of the powers which are to be given to local authorities and of the powers accruing to the central Government contained in the Bill. Sir Frederick Corfield, Q.C., until recently a colleague of ours, wrote in a recent letter to The Times: Much more important is the utter disregard of basic democratic freedoms and the quite deliberate removal of all the safeguards built up over the years against arbitrary action of public authorities at the expense of the subject. Mr. David Widdicombe, Q.C., a barrister specialising in planning matters, speaking to the Centre for Advanced Land Use Studies, was reported in The Times of 24th April as having said: …the Secretary of State will become a veritable dictator of development.…It is no good looking to the courts for control over these powers. In one section, dealing with land acquisition and management schemes, the courts are expressly excluded, and the other discretions are so widely and unconditionally drafted that the courts are effectively excluded.…In effect it gives complete power over the ownership and use of development land to the administrative authorities. Professor Denman, Professor of Land Economy at Cambridge, wrote in an article published in the Daily Telegraph on 27th March: Citizens in this country have always been protected against an arbitrary use of compulsory purchase power by the State.…The Bill comes very near to a breach of Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which requires that ' no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property'. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) mentioned that point earlier. The Government's proposals offend the freedom of ownership, the independence that it ensures for the individual and the bulwark that it provides against arbitrary State power which, in the terms of this Bill, is confiscatory in character. These proposals place grave and, in the main, unwanted responsibilities upon locally elected representatives who will have the distasteful task thrust upon them of deciding whose property to acquire compulsorily, in which circumstances, and when.

If this Bill carries the Government's proposals into effect, the law of the land will not demand necessarily good reasons. But I assure the House that communities and the local electors will require good reasons for the compulsory acquisition of privately owned property.

The Bill makes proposals with regard to ownership, planning and development and the problems, which are widely recognised, of land values and development costs. Its provisions are a denial of private rights, and its procedures are confiscatory. In calling for the public ownership of all development land, this Socialist administration are seeking to fulfil ideological objectives which in the not-too-distant future will, if they have their way, result in complete land nationalisation. I assure the Government that they have a fight on their hands both in this House and in the country.

Mr. Deputy Speaker

I congratulate the hon. Member for Daventry (Mr. Jones) on taking exactly six minutes. I hope that other hon. Members will follow his example.

8.33 p.m.

Mr. Tony Durant (Reading, North)

I am grateful to be called in this most important debate, which has far-reaching effects on our society.

Two of my hon. Friends who have spoken already are experts in these matters, and I do not intend to pursue the matters which they raise. Instead, I intend to take up three points made by the hon. Member for Leicester, South (Mr. Marshall).

The hon. Gentleman said, first, that society wished to share in the rewards of property development. I have been here for most of the debate, and I have heard no Opposition Member deny that. We say that what is important is the way that these rewards are passed over to society. That is the argument; it is not a question whether the rewards should or should not be passed to society.

The hon. Gentleman then said that local government was in a shaky state. I agree with him. In recent years, so much legislation has emanated from this Chamber that it is no wonder that local government is shaken. Every time that we pass a Bill of this type, local government has immediately to face the problem of dealing with it.

The hon. Gentleman also spoke about urban renewal. He said that this might be a problem under the Bill because there would be an attraction to go for green land. I agree with the hon. Gentleman. Obviously something must be done to counteract that.

We have here another Bill in the flood of Bills which have come from this Government. The Government seem to be convinced that if they introduce a piece of legislation it is bound to solve the problem facing them at the time. I am afraid that I do not share that view. All too often laws create more problems than they solve.

I have no doubt that the Bill has been introduced in good faith. The Government see an apparent shortage of land. They see what they believe to be high profits being made in land deals, and they see a great many empty offices, together with slow planning and a shortage of housing. I see those as the reasons for the introduction of this Bill, and in the time available to me I want to examine each of them.

I deal first with the apparent shortage of land. I do not accept that there is a shortage of land. What is in short supply is the right land in the right places.

Who hoards land? Nationalised industries are great examples of organisations that hoard the land they sit on and do not know what to do about it. Local government is already a hoarder, without the new powers in the Bill. We should not put the whole blame on the developer; national authorities and institutions are just as guilty.

Why have there been these profits? Land at the end of the war was far too undervalued. When the restrictions of war were lifted, there was bound to be an explosion in the price. However, there has been a shortage of the right land in the right place. The detrimental effects of town planning have also helped to cause the high price of land. These are three factors which have affected the price of land.

I have given bad planning as one of my reasons. Perhaps we have had too much planning. I sat on a planning committee for five years and I often wondered whether we were not spending too much of our time planning away like billy-ho and doing more damage to society in the process.

Planning applications take a long time. It is a pity that the Dobry Report has not been considered in the Bill. The nub of the problem for local government is that major developments have been short of money to carry out essential services, such as sewerage. The Bill is another attempt to deal with the problem. We accept that the Land Commission failed. Now we are to try to do this through local government. My experience is not good on this. Planning officers are hardworking, conscientious people, but I am not sure that they are the right people to advise local authorities on an overall plan.

It used to take 18 months for a tree preservation order to be passed. If the procedure takes that long under the Bill, I cannot see the ideal behind it ever being realised. The Bill will give local government more power, which may sometimes be dangerous. It will give the local government a monopoly. I notice that the Secretary of State for the Environment nodded when it was said that there would be a monopoly in the hands of local government. He has accepted that point. That is a dangerous move. There are pressures in local government which can be dangerous. One of those pressures is political pressure. I fought hard to retain the character of my ward, because that is what the electorate wanted. Whether that was right for the whole town remains to be seen, but it was a political pressure. There will be many of these pressures if the Bill becomes an Act.

Mention has been made of the financial profits which local government can make. The hon. Member for Leicester, South referred to green land. It would be an attractive idea to some local authorities to plunge out of their town to make money while leaving the town centre deteriorating fast behind them.

There is no doubt that there would be corruption. We need not pretend that there will not be. The more local government is involved in this sort of exercise, the more corruption is likely to become prevalent. I am not sure that local government would want this Bill if it sat down and thought about the implications. Up to now local government has held the ring and has stood between the electorate and the developers. It has been in the middle, trying to get the best result. Suddenly it will become the developer, and this will put it in a dangerous position.

The right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) had doubts about the Bill. I listened with great interest to what he had to say, because he has had a lot of experience in this matter. He had doubts about the intervention of local government.

Mention was made of the debt that this will put on local government. In this House I have been a strong advocate for examining local government debt, especially the capital debt. This will put another strain on ratepayers. Whether we like to put it aside or not, it is there. A shortage of land will result because of delay, and developers and owners will fight on this matter.

Turning to profits, one thing of which account has not been taken is infilling. We shall have small plots in which the local authority is not interested because it does not feel they should form part of its comprehensive plan. That will leave them open to the developer, and prices will go though the roof because people will cash in on the small plot at the end of the garden.

There is a great deal in the Bill about empty offices. The empty office question is a red herring. The whole question of Centre Point has been vastly exagerated. The story began with a local government muddle. Yet it is suggested that local government should take over in this sphere. Looking back, one sees that local government created the Centre Point situation.

Who will use these offices when they have been taken over? Will the offices be used by the people involved with the legislation, or others in local government?

I support the view expressed by my hon. Friends that we must put a reasonable tax on all land development profits. I suggest that between 50 per cent. and 60 per cent. would be reasonable. Land will then be forthcoming and we can develop it under private enterprise.

I believe that there will be a housing shortage due to the operation of this legislation, through the drying up of land resources.

The Minister has gone round saying to builders, "It is all right, boys. You will get in on the act." What about the local authorities which do not like private builders? My hon. Friend the Member for Melton (Mr. Latham) mentioned direct labour forces employed by large numbers of councils. Will they not intervene against local builders?

Many people have been led to believe that the ordinary house owner, like many of us here—my only vested interest is as a house owner—will be outside the scope of the Bill. I do not think that is so. Clauses 5 and 6 are rather sinister, and need examination. The private owner is prone to attack if he considers those clauses. I hope that the Opposition will probe what is behind Clauses 5 and 6. The private individual house owner is bound to be involved.

What I find slightly depressing is that in the Bill there is talk about the community but very little about consulting the community. The Skeffington Report, which I favour, seems to have been completely buried. That report recommended that everybody should participate in all developments. That idea seems to have gone. I have always advocated that all people concerned should know about any development in a district, so that they can express their views.

This is a bad Bill. It does not achieve the three aims which it sets out. It sets out to achieve more land, cheaper land and more houses. None of those objectives will be achieved. I submit that this is another attack, as is a great deal of the Government's legislation, on the freedom of the individual.

8.44 p.m.

Mr. Michael Morris (Northampton, South)

The more one reads the Bill, the more convinced one becomes that the overall principles encompassed within it are totally unacceptable.

I pull out four points. There is little doubt that unless there is adequate amendment in Committee, the Bill will result in a land grab affecting the land resources of our Churches and charities the like of which will not have been seen since the dissolution of the monasteries.

There is little doubt that, regardless of any amendments which may be made, the house building programme will slow down. There is more than adequate evidence from house builders that this is already beginning to happen.

There is, as has been said, a further addition to bureaucracy. Indeed, one is reminded of Circulars 30/75 and 171/74. Paragraph 8 of the latter states: It is an essential feature of the rate support grant settlement for 1975–76 that local authorities should provide for no expansion in present total staff numbers. Yet we already know, on an optimistic estimate, that an extra 14,000 staff will be required for this little Bill. We have heard from the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon that the cost is to be at least £1 million a day but that none of this will fall on the ratepayer. I say to the Secretary of State for Wales that he may not control the rate support grant for England but we shall come back to the Government if one penny comes upon the ratepayers of this country from this Bill, if it ever gets on the statute book.

Fourthly, as has been amply demonstrated by hon. Members, I believe on both sides of the House, this will usurp the freedom of companies to use the land they have in their land bank. It will affect anybody who owns more than a quarter of an acre, as do many modest cottages up and down the country—and I do not think that in the right hon. Gentleman's own Principality that a quarter of an acre is exactly over the top. Be that as it may, we are seeing a situation where individual freedom is being removed and transferred to central or local bureaucracy.

I would like to spend a couple of minutes looking at some aspects of charities' safeguards. On charities, this House for well over a century has accepted that they do something to the public benefit, and therefore for well over a century they have been exempt from income tax, corporation tax, capital gains tax and, after a lot of arm twisting of the present Government, capital transfer tax. I wonder, therefore, why it is that in the Bill the Government are not prepared to exempt charities. They must realise the effect of this Bill on charities and that it will mean that the development value of the land banks that most charities have, which are not all that great, although they have some, will be removed.

The Government must look at three amendments to this Bill if they are to enable charities to carry on the good and great work that so many of them have done for so long. They have to free charities to be able to develop their own land for their own purposes without any charge falling upon them. Charities must be free to develop commercially. I know that that word is unacceptable to hon. Members on the other side of the Chamber, but charities must be allowed to do so, to finance their charitable aims. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) gave two sincere and concrete examples of how money has been used in the past. They must get market value when a local authority moves in to buy, as many must at this time.

Besides the point about charities, there is the problem of safeguards. I have listened to most of the speeches and I counted the mention of seven safeguards being withdrawn from the public. I will mention just one. It concerns the fact that a local authority can be judge and jury in its own court. It can carry out a development and give itself planning permission. Just to indicate that all is not well in the world at the moment I would draw the Minister's attention to an advertisement which appeared in the Estates Gazette of 15th February last headed: Notice, London Borough of Islington Town and Country Planning Acts. The notice goes on to say that a private inquiry has been set up to look into three aspects—first, a refusal by the planning committee to an application when the applicant was aware that the application had originally been recommended by the planning officer; secondly, details of cases where there had been an unreasonable period of delay; and thirdly, details of cases on appeal to the Department of the Environment where the appeal had succeeded on grounds which could, in the first instance, have been properly recognised by the local authority.

It must be unique in the experience of planning that private parties have had to insert an advertisement in a publication. They have done so because there are instances which suggest that anomalies are created in this particular local authority—for example, office consents being given outside policy and disturbing political associations with planning permisions. I will not go into further detail, because a full report is going to the Secretary of State and he will have to decide how to act. But even the present safeguards cannot be adequate if a private inquiry has to be arranged, so how can we justify the removal of so many safeguards which are intended to look after the interests of ordinary people.

As I have said in the House before, the primary aim in housing is to get the houses built, and however we consider the Bill we see that that will not happen. If they persist in putting through the Bill unamended the Government will desecrate the charities of this country. I do not believe that that is part of the aim of any Government.

8.51 p.m.

Dr. Colin Phipps (Dudley, West)

The three aims of the Bill have been well set out by a number of hon. Members. It has already been said that the production of additional houses is a principal aim. I listened with interest to the two opening speeches. If the predictions of the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) are correct, that a reduction in the flow of building land will result, my right hon. Friend will have to consider other possibilities—perhaps a more Draconian system of CPOs than anything we have seen for many years. I do not believe that the Conservatives want that, or that it would be good for the building industry. I therefore hope that hon. Members will take the view that this Bill has to work, for the benefit of the developers and the local authorities and to ensure the production of more houses.

However, certain aspects of the Bill need clarification. In particular, I am a little concerned about the operation of the development land tax. The transitional period seems open-ended. We are not sure how long it will last, and it may vary from area to area. This period will operate along with a development land tax, which will rise from 80 per cent. to 200 per cent. This could raise serious anomalies, particularly in those areas where full duty applies only partially to house building and not to other building. Would it not be easier to go for 100 per cent. DLT from the start, while retaining the transitional provisions in other ways?

Mr. John SiLkin

There is no question of differential taxes. The transitional period is only the period between the first appointed day and the 80 per cent. development land tax situation and the time when, because every area is under a duty, we go to current use value. The rate of tax will remain the same throughout the United Kingdom, whether an area is under a duty or simply a power.

Dr. Phipps

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, but I am still not persuaded that a difference in the level of tax over that period will not produce anomalies which might be exploited by developers and produce difficulties for local authorities.

I am disturbed by the thought that an appeal on the ground of amenity will not be possible under the Bill. I recently attended such an appeal in my constituency, at which the appellants were really the local inhabitants. It would be unfortunate if this form of appeal were not provided for in the Bill.

The compensation, for which a maximum of £ 25,000 per event is proposed, would perhaps be more suitable, more easily managed and fairer if it were to be a percentage of the total value involved rather than a fixed limit. I do not know how the figure of £25,000 was arrived at, but I should have thought that a percentage was likely to be applicable over a longer time—

Mr. John Silkin

Our object was to help the ordinary person, not the millionaire. It seemed to us that a limit of —25,000 would deal with all the difficult questions in which an ordinary person might be involved. Once we deal with percentages or higher figures, we go beyond the question of individual hardship.

Dr. Phipps

I was concerned not so much about individual hardship but about corporate hardship. The question of pension funds, and so on, arises in this respect. The hon. Member for Hornsey touched on the question of current use value, as opposed to market value. I accept that a difficult situation might arise if, say, a church sold its building and wanted to build elsewhere. If the Bill is to work—and is to be seen to work—fairly it is important that current use value and free market value for the same use should be one and the same. I do not know what is in my right hon. Friend's mind, but this is an essential part of the Bill. I hope that the Department will ensure that current use value and market value are one and the same.

8.57 p.m.

Mr. Walter Clegg (North Fylde)

I hope that the hon. Member for Dudley, West (Dr. Phipps) will forgive me if, in the interests of time, I do not take up his arguments.

I protest to the Minister for Planning and Local Government about the form of the Bill, which is quite disgraceful. It is a desiccated skeleton of a thing with at least 24 powers to introduce rules and regulations. The House will never have a chance to amend this further legislation. It will either have to reject it entirely or accept it entirely. Legislation by shorthand is quite wrong. The Minister, who is a solicitor, should be thoroughly ashamed of himself for introducing this Bill.

Something which has not been mentioned very much is the presumption behind the argument that the actions of the State are necessarily beneficient. Hon. Members have spoken at length about the great benefits which the State gives people when it grants planning permissions. This is only part of the picture, as any hon. Member with knowledge of his constituency realises. For every planning permission which puts money into people's pockets there are planning permissions which detract from the value of people's land.

Recently planning permission was given in my constituency to erect a silo which has deprived at least 200 people of the ability to receive television. They receive no compensation for it. Directly opposite the front window of another lady's home is a urinal which has devalued the price of her house. She receives no compensation for it. There is not an hon. Member who has not constituents who have been affected by the grant of planning permission, probably to other people. Yet there is nothing in the Bill to compensate them, and there should be.

I introduced the Planning Blight and Worsenment Bill—a dreadful jargon phrase, but it expresses my meaning. In view of the bonanza which local authorities will make out of the Bill, and in view of the vast profits which they will gain from their land transactions, they might well think of reimbursing people who have suffered as a result of the grant of planning permission—

Mr. Joseph Dean (Leeds West)


Mr. Clegg

I shall not give way. I have very little time left and I want to give someone else a chance to speak.

Mr. Dean


Mr. Deputy Speaker

Order. The hon. Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) is not giving way.

Mr. Clegg

The first charge on the funds raised from betterment should be those who suffer from the decisions of the State. I do not trust the State. I would sooner trust a nanny-goat to a hungry boa constrictor than trust the State. It is time that Parliament got back to what it was originally intended to be, namely, a place to check the executive and not to aid and abet it.

9.1 p.m.

Mr. Nick Budgen (Wolverhampton, South-West)

As an owner of two houses and four plots I declare in interest in this matter. I hope that I shall not be affected by this legislation.

I wish to deal briefly with one point. I am sure that many hon. Members have a deep affection for the institution of local government. All hon. Members believe that it is vital that power should be decentralised away from Whitehall, but we are about to bring local government into increasing contempt as a result of this proposed legislation and I shall explain why.

At present local government is blamed for inflation. Very often local government is blamed for bad services which it performs for the population. However, when this great burden is heaped upon local government we shall find that the people of this country will come to hate even more the whole idea of local government. We shall see that local government, like the secondary banks or the Crown Agents, will demonstrate that not all transactions in property give rise to profits. We shall see losses arising, and then local government will be blamed for those losses.

Alternatively, we shall see something far more serious and yet another built-in factor which prevents central government checking inflation.

The proposals in the Bill make local government the monopoly property developer. Every time that the economy is deflated and credit is made difficult, there is always an effect on the property industry. It is obvious why that happens. The property industry is based upon borrowing fixed-interest money or depreciating money against an appreciating asset. Every time there is deflation, it affects the property industry. After the Bill is passed we shall find that every time the Treasury wants to deflate the economy, along will come the treasurers from local government saying, "We have a vested interest in inflation. Let it continue. Do not let us worry about hyperinflation. Let it go on." We shall find that this is allied to the corruption which will occur in local government and which will finally bring local government down. We shall see that this country, which hates bureaucracies, will hate local government even more when local government is seen first to be bloated, then to be bent and finally to be bankrupt.

Eventually we shall realise that tonight we have done grave damage to an important part of our constitution. We shall see local government being brought down first by public distrust and secondly by public contempt.

9.3 p.m.

Mr. Timothy Raison (Aylesbury)

During my time in the House I have never heard a Bill so comprehensively shot to pieces as I have heard this Bill shot to pieces today. My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) started it with his devastating attack. We heard then from the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), who attacked it selectively. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) attacked it exquisitely, in a speech which everybody present thought enchanting yet highly pertinent. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Mr. Cant) attacked it apologetically, but extremely effectively. The hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) attacked it from a Liberal point of view. My right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) attacked it with all his authority. So it went on. My hon. Friends the Members for Melton (Mr. Latham) and Daventry (Mr. Jones), any many others, continued the attack. Only a few moments ago my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Mr. Clegg) made an extremely important point when he talked about the enormous order-making power in the Bill, and the fact that so much of the delegated legislation will never be debated or effectively discussed by the House if the Bill goes through.

If the Minister had any sense of shame he would have been deeply disturbed by the course of the debate. He has heard a string of devastating criticisms from right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House who know an enormous amount about the subject. It is no good his shaking his head. Those who have spoken have between them a weight of experience in this matter which the House can hardly match in any other field. They have destroyed his case.

Of all the speeches that the right hon. Gentleman heard, some of those by his hon. Friends must have worried him most. The right hon. Member for Sunderland, North said, rather kindly, that he did not want to list too many disadvantages of the Bill. The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central was clearly deeply worried by such matters as whether the scheme allowed the necessary detachment in controlling planning, and its effect on Dobry. This criticism of the dual and conflicting rôle of local authorities is crucial. I cannot see how it can be overcome in this kind of scheme.

The Minister should perhaps be even more worried by the regret of the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central that this is in no sense a consensus Bill. This point was echoed by the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) and my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon). The Minister did not mind. He revelled in the fact that it is a provocative Bill. He will rue the day when he did so.

If we think of the Bill, I suppose that the obvious thought that comes to mind instantly is "1984". But to put what we have been through in studying the Bill is more like a ride on a ghost train. We have been bumping into all the most moth-eaten cobwebs and rusty contraptions that one could imagine, against a background of the strangled cries of long-ago Socialist dreamers. In spite of the attempt of the Secretary of State and the Minister to keep up with the Secretary of State for Industry, the Bill has about it a period flavour. It is William Morris, Henry George and the early Fabians on a summer school outing, still seeking something which, time and again, has proved to be a mirage, and a damaging mirage at that, to do with drought rather than with plenty. It is curious that out of this perhaps well-intentioned romanticism should come jackboot Socialism of the type advocated in an article in The Times this morning by the hon. Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk).

I suppose that, above all, there was about the Minister's approach an attempt at filial loyalty. I do not begrudge the right hon. Gentleman his sense of filial loyalty. The force of it came through in the first section of the White Paper, which started with a quotation from his father. There was only one other quotation, which was from David Lloyd George—suppose on the well-tried principle that "Lloyd George knew my father".

Why is the Bill so unnecessary as well as so doomed to failure? Why, if it ever reaches the statute book, will it have to follow the Land Commission into oblivion? Its aims are two. The first is to enable the community to control the development of land in accordance with its needs and priorities". The second is to restore to the community the increase in value of land arising from its efforts". Those are the words of the White Paper.

I wish to look shortly at those two principles before turning to the onslaught on liberty and logic alike which the Bill represents. I start with the so-called positive planning aspect. I believe this to be in some ways the most archaic and perhaps the most totalitarian element in the scheme. The Minister says that the present planning control powers are insufficient, that the initiative must pass to local authorities. As many hon. Members have pointed out, local authorities will be unequipped to exercise those powers. They lack not only the staff but all relevant expertise in development. Even if they had the staff, and even if public expenditure were to become a forgotten worry, I do not believe that they would be the right people to do the job. The record of local authority planners does not begin to justify this as my hon. Friend the Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury) so eloquently argued.

At present we have a kind of counterpoint between planning authorities and developers which produces a reasonable system of checks and balances. Total power for local authorities would not only lead to the destruction of the spirit of planning control by placing everything in the hands of local government by making it judge in its own cause, and as the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North pointed out, debasing good planning; it would also give full scope to those local government planners whose insensitivity and aggrandisement have often disfigured our country.

Surely the Secretary of State—who, alas, is not here—if not the Minister of Planning, must see that the kind of things which have been so often condemned in recent years—the sub-Corbusier brutalist horrors which have been created by so many local authorities—have been made all the more likely by this Bill. The point about the market system is that, fundamentally, it has to be sensitive to things and to people, otherwise it cannot work. Why cannot the Minister listen to the words of people like Jane Jacobs, Nicholas Taylor and Norman Dennis on Sunderland, and see that all too often positive planning means, in practice, the accumulation of horror upon horror.

This Bill is an avowedly Socialist measure and throughout the world Socialist planning has not given the kind of things that William Morris dreamed of, even it that were desirable. All too often it has meant Stalinist architecture. I have no doubt that if the Bill is allowed to go ahead we shall see more of it in this country. What about the second objective of the Bill—to restore to the community the increase in value of land arising from its efforts"? I am not sure about the validity of the phrase "from its efforts". It seems more likely that the value of the land has risen as a result of the efforts of the planning committee and the developer. I accept, as the last Conservative Government made clear, that some of the proceeds derived from planning permission should go to the community indeed, that a substantial share should do so. The last Tory Government accepted that—

Mr. Joseph Dean

They did not do anything about it.

Mr. Raison

—in December 1973. Therefore, the development gains tax makes sense, although it is extremely important that it should be set at a realistic level which will not dampen down the market. We would be quite prepared to think about some of the proceeds going to local government as part of the new system of local government finance, but we must avoid giving local government an increased incentive which could override good planning, and this, of course, the Bill fails to do.

I cannot accept the vast tyrannical apparatus that the long-term scheme would require. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East said, this represents the highest common factor of injustice and impracticality. I cannot accept the principle of local government acquisition of virtually every slice of land, by compulsory purchase of a peculiarly offensive kind. I cannot accept the competence of many local authorities to use land effectively. Perhaps I may quote just one example from a letter to The Times on 5th April from Mrs. Dorothy Brown, who said: In Bristol, and I think the same must be true of other cities, there are hundreds of acres of long-derelict, publicly owned land and thousands of unoccupied buildings. The local bureaucracy cannot even handle its present obligations in planning ". This is a story that the Minister must know and which can be repeated time and again over the country. Anyone who has ever looked at London, for example, as I did a few years back, can see land lying idle—

Mr. John Silkin

Centre Point.

Mr. Raison

The Minister says "Centre Point", and that is true. It is a problem that has long been recognised. It does not destroy the fact that local government in many parts of the country has large areas of unused land.

Mr. Joseph Dean

Where? Name it.

Mr. Raison

In Bristol and London. I cannot believe that anything will be gained from frustrating the skill and drive of the developer. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey pointed out, local authorities do not have a particularly good record at spotting development land. My hon. Friend quoted the study of housing land in the South-East, which reinforces the point.

I cannot see any way in which this Bill will make for cheaper housing for the home owner. This point was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Buckingham. The Government now seem to have given up this claim.

It is also true that the Bill is likely to discourage infilling, which is at present an important part of house building. I cannot see how the disadvantages of monopoly ownership can be avoided, a point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Reading, North (Mr. Durant). Nor can I see how the risks of corruption can be avoided. Virtually all land will go through local authorities. As the right hon. Member for Sunderland, North said, the town hall is the worst place to make a choice between claimants for house building.

In short, I cannot see how this scheme could possibly work. The Minister for Planning and Local Government may be blind. Surely the Secretary of State must have grave doubts. Surely he, who is intelligent and not so doctrinaire as his right hon. Friend, who has set out to win the approval of the Tribune Group, must be concerned. He must be wondering whether this is not a dreadful Frankenstein monster. Let the Minister recognise that this scheme has had a rotten Press on all sides.

We have only to look at the headlines of the papers which commented on it. The Times said, "Unworkable", The Guardian," An overdrawn land bank" It went on to make an apt comment, saying: Like the Cheshire Cat the Government's community land plan is already beginning to disappear tail first. The teeth that were smiling prominently in the White Paper are still in the Bill, published yesterday, but it is becoming increasingly likely that they will never bite. The Observer headline was, "Land: The unworkable Bill". The Evenino Standard said: As an example of socialist thinking at its most muddled and naive, the Community Land Bill published yesterday would be hard to beat. The Economist said: A town hall monopoly will not be the best and most democratic way of determining the use of all land for building. Against that, the Minister was able to produce one quotation from the Municipal Journal.

Mr. John Silkin

The hon. Member is wrong. He says that I quoted from one paper when I quoted from two. The second was a periodical called The Times. I would point out that the local government Press was unanimous in its approval. The New Society—which has improved remarkably during the past two years, since it has had a new editor—and one or two other periodicals, the ones that know, have said that this is a right and good Bill.

Mr. Raison

Even the Minister's attempt at a personal crack is abortive. I gave up editing that magazine seven years ago and there has been only one editor since.

The Bill has been heavily criticised by many expert bodies. I will not go through this in detail but if I were the Minister I would be ashamed, rather than sitting there smirking. It is also true, as my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) pointed out, that the Bill is thoroughly odious and insulting to the Welsh with its provision of a single land authority for Wales. I shall not pursue the point now. It has been made effectively. I shall be surprised if the Minister is able to answer it effectively.

The Bill also represents a grave threat to industrial investment which the Government allege they want to encourage. It gives no certainty that industry will be able to build on its own land. It will subject industry to a great deal of bureau- cratic bumbledom and cause a substantial increase in the cost of new development by firms on their own land, because they will have to sell their land at current use value and buy it back at market value. Is it possible to imagine a more absurd way of trying to stimulate industrial investment?

The Bill is also liable to be gravely damaging to churches and charities. My hon. Friend the Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris) put forward effective arguments about charities. The National Council of Social Service has sent out a letter which includes the following paragraph: The effect on charities will be that those—and there are many—who hold land either as an endowment or for functional purposes, will be deprived of any development value and will no longer be able to finance their activities and plan for development of their services by the skilful management of their land assets. The effect on churches will be even more disastrous. Even the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, Central (Mr. McNamara), in an otherwise rather fatuous speech, made that point with great force.

The Minister who replies to the debate must face the fact that what is being put forward in the Bill will go some way to wreck organisations such as the Church of England. That is an extremely serious matter. I do not exaggerate in any way. One has only to talk to bishops and the people who run the churches to realise what a grave threat the Bill presents. I wonder whether the Minister realises how badly the clergy are paid and how heavily they depend on the proceeds from the work of the Church Commission to keep up their present exiguous salaries. If I were the Minister, I should not laugh about that.

Another area in which grave damage may be done is farming. The National Farmers' Union has come out with an equally tough condemnation in a paper which was published on 24th April which reads: The NFU has come to the conclusion that the Community Land Bill, as it stands, will have a profound impact upon farming, the farming community and on food production. Indeed it runs counter to the planned expansion of agricultural production and will not encourage the best use of the nation's natural resources. The union foresees a massive loss of productive farm land too few safeguards for agriculture in the designation of land for acquisition; the blighting, without remedy, of many further acres of agricultural land and a magnification of the current inequities and inadequacies in the compensation code for those farmers and their families who are dispossessed. Perhaps most important of all, the Bill flouts the democratic principles of the existing planning system. The right of the individual to insist that an acquiring authority justifies any proposed compulsory acquisition would be removed for all time. That is an argument we have heard time and again.

Another group which will be adversely affected, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey, consists of the administrators of pension funds who invest heavily in property. They are deeply concerned by many aspects of the Bill. For example, they are concerned about the prohibition of private development by the suspension of planning consents; the appallingly arbitrary power of compulsory purchase, with no need to prove that the acquisition is necessary or what it is for, and no need for the old style of public inquiry; and the grave uncertainty whether landowners or investors will be able to develop their own land, and so on.

I hope that those whose money is invested in pension schemes will take note of what the Government propose.

Then there is the whole question of the ability of local government to carry out the provisions of the Bill. The cost of the bureaucratic requirements has been repeatedly emphasised in the debate. I wonder what on earth the Treasury thinks about the Bill at this time.

In all probability, the Bill will require whole new departments to be set up in local authorities. The new functions that will have to be performed are not just planning functions; they are legal, financial and technical functions. Above all, what is the justification for imposing vast new duties on local government at a time when we all recognise that that is the last thing it needs?

For that matter, what is the justification for the retrospective element in the Bill, and for the mass of stuff that is going out from the Department about it before it has become law? Equally serious, what is the justification for the great new additional powers for the Secretary of State and the Department of the Environment which have been kept much more firmly in the background until today? This was summarised by Professor Denman in the Daily Telegraph of 27th March. He wrote The Secretary of State will have control over construction work; will give directions for the disposal of land for development; will make and revise management schemes if he does not like what the local authorities send him; and has reserve powers to take to himself all the functions of a local authority over that authority's district. These are grave incursions into the powers of local authorities and are in addition to the power of the Minister to order authorities to acquire land againset their will. The inevitable and inescapable consequence of the Bill will be deteriorating relationships between local authorities and the public. There will also be bad blood in many cases between the two tiers of local government. In my view the Minister has skipped far too lightly over the problems of working out some sort of scheme for managing the system between the county and the district tiers. There will also be bad blood between local and national government.

I hope that the Government will pay careful attention to the memorandum on compulsory purchase which has just been published by the Association of County Councils. In the memorandum the association demolishes something which the Minister has been in the habit of making great play of—namely, comparison with the new towns procedure. The association says: in the new towns situation there has been a designation of the new town area preceded by public rights of objection, participation etc. i.e. the public and owners have had a right to express their views at the planning stage. In the case of an acquisition under the Bill there may not have been a similar procedure e.g. no enquiry or public participation leading to a structure plan or local plan under the Town and Country Planning Acts. (2) the new towns situation, where development is to be carried out as part of a national policy, is very different from many situations to which the Bill will apply. The memorandum continues: The Association believe that owners should continue to have the present rights of objection and hearing if the planning purpose of the land to be acquired has not already been approved under the development plan procedures. That again is a point which has caused the most enormous concern amongst many people.

The Bill also represents a fraud. In a letter to The Times by Mr. T. W. H. Eckersley, it is said: In the election manifesto published by the Labour Party before the February 1974 election, it was stated that public ownership of land 'will emphatically not apply to owner-occupiers'. Later the letter reads: Such expectations, if they existed, are certainly not fulfilled by the provisions of the Bill now published. Clause 18 would empower local authorities to acquire compulsorily any 'development land'; this expression is defined in Clause 6 as 'land which, in the opinion of the authority concerned, is land suitable for relevant development' and Clauses 3 and 4 empower the Secretary of State to prescribe as 'relevant development' any development except the building, by a person who owned a plot of land on September 12, 1974, of a house on that plot for occupation by himself or a member of his family. The argument continues.

The House is entitled to ask what on earth is happening in the Department of the Environment. What are the 80,000 or 90,000 civil servants doing? Worse still, what is that gaggle of Ministers up to; what do they yodel to each other across the great mountains of Marsham Street? At times they remind me of Falstaff's troops, namely, Mouldy, Bull-calf, Wart, Shadow, Feeble, and the rest, but what they have produced is as potentially tragic as it is farcical.

The Department of the Environment is the Department that has come up with the disgraceful Housing Finance (Special Provisions) Bill which, I believe, is beginning to turn the stomachs of some Labour Members. It is the Department that is causing disorder in housing by its pigheaded ideology. That is made worse by the economic collapse which the Budget represents. It is the Department that is allowing our transport system to be submerged in escalating subsidies while the Minister looks on with about as much vigour as a station master at a station too obscure for Dr. Beeching even to have noticed.

Now we have this catastrophic Bill—a measure which must be anathema to the Treasury, as it is to the Government's business managers.

Therefore, I say to the Secretary of State for the Environment—it is not worth talking to the Minister for Planning and Local Government—that he should allow his true nature to assert itself. He should shrug his shoulders and forget about this legislation. If the Bill, against the run of the debate, gets a Second Reading, I appeal to the Secretary of State not to bother to send it to Standing Committee. If it must go into Committee, but does not come out, I ask him not to bother to reintroduce it next Session. Even if the Bill became law, it could not last. It is too crazy, and too odious. We would have to repeal it.

I ask my right hon. and hon. Friends to support the Liberal amendment, with which we agree. However, I must point out that it understates the case. If the amendment is not passed, I ask my Conservative colleagues to vote against the Bill. All in all, it would save a great deal of bother if the House were to chuck it out tonight.

9.31 p.m.

The Secretary of State for Wales (Mr. John Morris)

I am sure the hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Raison) will forgive me if I comment that there was not an ounce of constructive thought in his speech from beginning to end. He did not put forward one alternative, save for the old pathetic reliance on free market forces.

At one stage there was a grave contradiction in his remarks. The newspaper cuttings which he used referred to the fact that teeth were supposed never to bite. On the other hand, the hon. Gentleman spent a great deal of time referring to jackboots and 1984. He must make up his mind. Does he believe that the Bill will or will not bite? I assure him that the object of the Bill is to succeed.

We marvelled—those of us who were here—at the speech made by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) who opened the debate for the Opposition. It was a rather unusual speech because the hon. Gentleman began with a peroration and then settled down a little and became a scaremonger extraordinary. The picture he portrayed of my right hon. Friend was as the advocate of a total solution. These fears were reinforced, and more elegantly expressed, by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) who suggested that my right hon. Friend and the Government might be in breach of Article 17 of the Declaration of Human Rights. It was a somewhat novel approach from the Opposition benches. The picture of terror portrayed by the hon. Member for Hornsey left little to the imagination. He ranged far and wide. He said that the Bill was a comprehensive insurance policy of terror and he ranged over the prospect of quavering authorities and the dangers to village greens to a special plea on behalf of consecrated ground. He gave the House a cradle-to-the-grave service.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I say that his second peroration was not as good as his opening peroration. The hon. Gentleman acknowledged the laughter on all sides, because he could not contain the smile on his face.

The hon. Gentleman made two statements which should not go unremarked. He mentioned—I took a note of his words—the unacceptable sight of huge gains through property speculation. I wondered how the hon. Gentleman could make that statement speaking from the Conservative benches, having regard to the long history of Conservative support for unacceptable gains through property speculation, only retrieved late in the day by a death-bed conversion in December 1973.

The hon. Gentleman then made the point I was not sure whether he was speaking for himself or for the Conservative Party—that he would not co-operate in the implementation of the Bill. That was not a very happy phrase. I coupled those words with the speech of the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Benyon), who also uttered words of warning about the need for insurance policies which should be taken out by the Government to provide support and protection for civil servants who operated the Bill. We shall read those remarks carefully. I hope that neither of those hon. Gentlemen will subscribe to any law-and-order lobby after their declarations in this debate.

I turn to the provisions dealing with the Principality. I noted in passing the comment made by the hon. Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. Crawford) who objected to the Bill because it gave a great deal of power to the Secretary of State in London. The hon. Gentleman seemed to be under a misapprehension. Where the words "Secretary of State" appear in the Act they refer to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment so far as England is concerned, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland with regard to Scotland and, with all due modesty, myself as regards Wales. The hon. Gentleman reserved his position. However, I hope that he will now be entirely happy with my explanation.

Mr. Crawford

Perhaps the offices of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Secretary of State for Wales could be included in the Bill. Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that the powers in this Bill could perhaps be transferred to the Welsh and Scottish assemblies as and when they are constituted?

Mr. Morris

I shall deal with the second matter in due course. However, this is a usual provision in a statute. Ever since the offices of the Secretaries of State were set up, that has been understood. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not think that I am saying this in a patronising way. This is the general understanding for all legislation. Each Secretary of State is not separately referred to by name. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept my explanation and that his position will no longer be reserved.

There has been much interest in this matter. The hon. Member for Aylesbury referred to my having insulted the people of Wales, while the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Roberts) used less strong words. I think that the way in which the Bill will operate in Wales is an indication of the flexible approach of the Government. We are proposing different arrangements. Our arrangements in the Principality will be for a land authority. The reasons are simple. I believe that such an arrangement will effectively ensure the achievement of the objectives of the scheme, will permit a comprehensive approach and will utilise all available resources.

I have been criticised for nonconformity in that respect. That is a criticism which I never find wholly uncongenial. Welsh needs are not always the same as those of the rest of the country. What I seek to do in my office is to tailor plans and administrative machinery to meet the needs of Wales as I see them. There is no reason why we should slavishly follow England, although I would be the last person to pursue difference for the sake of difference.

I have applied one straightforward criterion—how best can these radical and socially vital proposals be implemented throughout the whole of Wales. This requirement—throughout the whole of Wales—represents an important part of my political philosophy. I believe in a national approach to our own national problems. But I also seek to ensure uniformity within Wales so that no one part loses out while other parts are marching forward. I want the benefits of this Bill to flow throughout the whole of Wales.

That has meant that I have had to take into account the capability of every local authority in Wales to implement the proposals. I would have been negligent if I had not done so. That is in no way an adverse reflection upon local authorities individually or collectively. It is an acceptance of the practical reality of the situation at present. I know that my right hon. Friends have recognised this, too, with the provisions which are being made for a back up agency in Scotland and England.

We shall therefore establish a land authority for Wales which will ensure that the scheme envisaged in the Bill will he implemented throughout the whole of Wales according to the need and requirement and not in a piecemeal and haphazard fashion dependent upon the capacity of an authority to deal with it.

Sir Anthony Meyer (Flint, West)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has used a great many words to say nothing. Will he satisfy the Opposition's curiosity and say which local authorities in Wales he does not trust to carry out his lunatic scheme?

Mr. Morris

There is no question of not trusting any local authority. We are negotiating with each of them—the eight county councils and the district councils—and the solution for each area undoubtedly will vary with the capability of each local authority.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards (Pembroke)


Mr. Morris

No. I shall not give way. The hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Edwards) has not been here to hear any part of the debate. In any event, I have given way a number of times already.

The hon. Member for Conway referred to the 40 per cent. which will be kept by the Treasury. Exactly the same amount will come to the Exchequer in England, in Scotland and in Wales. There is no difference in that respect. The criticism which the hon. Gentleman made in something of an aside struck me as a little odd. He knows the heavy dependence of Wales on the rate support grant, which averages 78 per cent. I am afraid that I have not the figure for the constituency which he represents.

Mr. Wyn Roberts

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has spoken about trusting the local authorities in Wales. If he has full trust in them, perhaps he will tell us why, as I understand it, as a result of recent discussions between the Welsh Office and the local authorities, they have to report to him every land deal which they propose, and he refuses to allow them the freedom of a rolling programme.

Mr. Morris

The hon. Member for Conway has got it wrong. He is completely out of touch with the negotiations which have taken place between me and the local authorities. I was about to come to that matter.

Local authorities in Wales were initially anxious about my proposals, and I suspect that the speech of the hon. Member for Conway was written some months ago when that anxiety was being expressed—

Mr. Wyn Roberts

Not at all.

Mr. Morris

Certainly it is out of date today. In the meantime, we have had very useful discussions with the local authority associations, and we have given weight to their observations. I believe that general agreement has emerged with the local authority associations in Wales.

My general proposals for a land authority will allow successful on-going arrangements to be made between the land authority and many local authorities. I say that against the background of the general agreement with my proposals for agency arrangements to be worked out with the local authorities. Details of these arrangements are being worked out, and this will be taken further as soon as it is possible to appoint the chairman and chief officers of the land authority. Thus, in Clause 11, there is provision for the Government to incur an initial debt of £750,000 on behalf of the land authority. Subject to the approval of this Second Reading, my intention will be to finance this expenditure from the Contingencies Fund pending reimbursement by a supplementary Vote in the summer. Therefore, I shall be able to establish a shadow land authority which could Jo so much in co-operation with local authorities to prepare Wales to implement this Bill effectively.

Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)

Is not the danger of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's proposals that this authority will be too bureaucratic, rather like the proposals of the right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) about the National Health Service which the right hon. and learned Gentleman condemned, and rightly so? It has made administration much more remote.

Mr. Morris

Having regard to the scale of the agency proposals now envisaged and now understood by local authorities in Wales, I do not think that anything of the kind will occur. Criticisms that this might happen were made many months ago. They have now evaporated in the light of the discussions which have taken place between the local authorities and the Welsh Office. There is now a general acceptance of what I propose and a welcome for the agency arrangements which have been put to the local authorities as the way in which the Bill will be implemented in Wales. I have spoken about what I hope will be the growing spirit of co-operation between all authorities involved in the community ownership of land. None of what I have said, of course, derogates from the traditional powers of local authorities in Wales. They remain and are unaffected.

I want to reject any suggestion of a charge of "remoteness" of this body or the fact that we are divorcing planning powers from acquisition. I accept that if we were a nation of many millions, a national authority might well seem remote—and with a disadvantage of being yet another nominated body, to which I note that, like me, the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) objects.

However, we are a small and compact nation of 2¾ million people, substantially less than some local authority areas in other parts. We shall benefit from a central body with a single purpose without the disadvantages which might arise elsewhere.

As we announced in our White Paper last September, we are giving particular attention, in the studies now being made of the rôle of the Assembly, to the possibility of the Assembly having responsibility for executive functions being carried out by nominated bodies in Wales. The land authority falls within these studies. We are also considering devolving substantial powers to the Assembly in the fields of housing and planning and the studies recognise the links between responsibility for the community land scheme and the powers which the Assembly might have in associated fields connected with the use of land. Co-ordination of these functions at an all-Wales level could be extremely valuable. These issues are, however, still under study and it is too early to say exactly what the relationship between the land authority and the Welsh Assembly might be.

Through the land authority we shall ensure the most effective implementation of the Bill. It will be a national land authority exercising powers flexibly, deploying scarce staff resources at national and local level wherever they are needed most. It will be an accountable body and we intend to move an amendment to bring its operations within the scope of the Commissioner for Local Administration.

But above all, in co-operation with local authorities it will be the means by which the gratuitous profits, made at the expense of the community by land speculation, will accrue to the people of Wales. We envisage that £20 million a year will accrue to the Welsh people. It will mean that 2,000 acres of land per year, urgently needed for private housing, industrial and commercial development, will be available at the right time and in the right places. I therefore commend the Welsh provisions in the Bill.

I turn to the issue of the Churches and the implications of these proposals for charities and pension funds. The difficulty is that some of the points made amounted, in essence, to saying that some kinds of profits at the expense of the community are justifiable if they are to be devoted to worthy purposes. One difficulty is that there are many bodies which could make this same claim. But I well recognise that for the Churches there may be some special problems, particularly over the valuation of a site which ceases to be used for Church purposes. My right hon. Friend the Prime Minister had a talk with leaders of various denominations only last week. We shall be considering carefully the points made to see to what extent, within the principles of the legislation, some of the difficulties can be overcome.

I should add that the hon. Member for Hornsey was quite wrong when he suggested that the equivalent reinstatement basis of compensation would no longer be available. All that the Bill does is to change the assumptions to be made about planning permission. It does not affect the other provisions of the compensation code.

Therefore, on that basis I hope that the House will be reassured that we are aware of and will consider the points made.

Mr. McNamara

I am most grateful to my right hon. Friend for the undertaking he has given on this occasion. It is very welcome and will go a long way to allay some fears. Does he accept that people are not seeking to make a profit from unjustifiable increases in value, but are faced with them along with further sections of the community?

Mr. Morris

I am aware of the point made by my hon. Friend in his most eloquent speech regarding changes in the needs of the Church between one community and another. I assure my hon. Friend that we shall certainly look at the problems.

Mr. Rossi

I accept that, regarding compulsory purchase, the rule as to equivalence remains. But the Bill also deals with the question of agreements between local authorities and those wishing to sell or develop land. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman suggesting that the Churches should invite local authorities to purchase their land com- pulsorily on every occasion and never seek to reach an agreement?

Mr. Morris

I have already given an assurance to the House on this matter. This is essentially a point that the hon. Gentleman could consider and raise in Committee. We are aware of all the problems of the Churches. I have given an assurance that we will consider these points in due course. I hope that the House will be satisfied on that basis.

Mr. Graham Page

Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman give way?

Mr. Morris

No. I have already given way generously. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] There is no one more generous than I in giving way. I must have given way six or seven times already. Some hon. Members want to hear my reply to the debate.

The hon. Member for Hornsey, who referred to pension funds, deserves an answer to the problems that he canvassed. The hon. Gentleman was under a great misapprehension. I am sure that he knows that the great majority of pension fund investment here is in buildings, and probably most of it in fairly new buildings. It is therefore investment in current use-values, not in development values. The definition of "current use value" in the Bill includes value attributable to the prospect of rebuilding within the terms of Schedule 8 to the 1971 Act. Therefore, a site on which an office block stood will still be valued as a site for offices, with some tolerance over and above the size of the previous building. I hope that is some reassurance to the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Rossi


Mr. Morris

I want to deal with the question of cost. The point canvassed time after time was that the Bill would impose a burden on the rates. I should like to assure the hon. Member for Northampton, South (Mr. Morris) that there is no intention of imposing a burden on the rates. The Bill is not opposed to the Chancellor's strategy as announced in his Budget speech. There is no cause to be concerned about the cost of the scheme in the early years before it moves into surplus. Hon Members' fears on that issue are groundless. [Interruption.] There is a Treasury Minister backing the Bill, and he is here. If hon. Gentlemen had done their homework, they would have seen that there was a Treasury Minister endorsing and backing the Bill. Our intention is to make this period as short as we can.

Apart from that, we have to think of the cost in terms of real resources. My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Mr. Douglas-Mann) put the point exactly. The fact is that it will not represent any significant diversion of resources away from the central goal of economic recovery. Most of the expenditure which will be incurred under the scheme does not represent a call on our national resources. The money will be spent on transferring a capital asset, land, from the private to the public sector. Capital transactions of this kind are totally different in their economic effects from other kinds of Government spending. Schools and hospitals, desirable as they are, represent demands on scarce manpower and materials. Money spent on buying land does not. That is, I hope, a piece of economic sense of which hon. Gentlemen are, or should be well aware.

I believe this Bill will achieve its major objectives. It will restore to the community the betterment value which results from the actions of the community. We shall plan better and more effectively, because we shall be planning positively. My right hon. Friend in opening this debate was following a great tradition of reform in this field, a tradition with which he is personally connected. The attack upon land profiteering has always been a popular radical rallying cry. The tragedy is that despite the campaigns of the past it has not so far been resolved. I believe we can now see this chapter of reform achieved.

It was Mr. Justice Uthwatt and his colleagues who in their historic report upon betterment, quoted earlier by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), advanced the view that "virtually all development land should he publicly acquired at the point of development". Now, over 30 years later, we are giving effect to this proposi

tion and we are completing the work started under the 1947 Act. It was John Stuart Mill who wrote: The landowners grow richer as it were in their sleep without working, risking or economising. What claim have they, on the general principle of social justice, to the accession of riches?

The Conservative Party created the greatest boom in land prices in our history. In the three years from 1970 to the end of 1973, housing land prices trebled. I find it rather peculiar today for hon. Gentlemen opposite to charge that this Bill puts up house prices. Then land and property speculation reached fever pitch and newspapers were filled every day with accounts of the fortunes which were being made.

These profits for landowners were made at the direct expense of people wanting homes or new factories in which to work. It was an intolerable situation. The injustice created undermined any sense of national fairness, and indeed undermined national unity itself. What was the reaction of the Tory Government? We had the then Secretary of State for the Environment, the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker), running hither and thither and not able to tackle or to do anything about the problem. The then Chancellor of the Exchequer fanned the flames with his reckless monetary policies. He finally introduced the development gains charge, a classic example of too little, too late.

Then we had the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), who did nothing. The Tory Government tackled the land problem with all the vigour, all the sense of purpose and all the effectiveness of a man taking on a squadron of Spitfires with a fly swatter. Listening to their attacks today I find the attitude of Liberal Members inconceivable. What would David Lloyd George have said of their attitude today? God gave the land to the people. Given a fair wind tonight, this Labour Government will return it to them.

Question put, That the amendent be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 237; Noes 262.

Division No. 192.] AYES [10.0 p.m.
Adley, Robert Arnold, Tom Banks, Robert
Altken, Jonathan Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Bell, Ronald
Alison, Michael Awdry, Daniel Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Baker, Kenneth Benyon, W.
Berry, Hon Anthony Hastings, Stephen Pardoe, John
Biffen, John Havers, Sir Michael Parkinson, Cecil
Biggs-Davison, John Hawkins, Paul Pattie, Geoffrey
Blaker, Peter Hayhoe, Barney Percival, Ian
Body, Richard Heath, Rt Hon Edward Peyton, Rt Hon John
Boscawen, Hon Robert Heseltine, Michael Pink, R. Bonner
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Hicks, Robert Prior, Rt Hon James
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Higgins, Terence L. Raison, Timothy
Braine, Sir Bernard Holland, Philip Rathbone, Tim
Brittan, Leon Hooson, Emlyn Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Brotherton, Michael Hordern, Peter Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Rees-Davies, W. R.
Bryan, Sir Paul Howell, David (Guildford) Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Buck, Antony Hurd, Douglas Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Budgen, Nick Hutchison, Michael Clark Ridsdale, Julian
Bulmer, Esmond Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Rlfkind, Malcolm
Burden, F. A. Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd) Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Butler, Adam (Bosworth) Jessel, Toby Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Carlisle, Mark Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Carr, Rt Hon Robert Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Jopling, Michael Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Clark, William (Croydon S) Kaberry, Sir Donald Royle, Sir Anthony
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Kershaw, Anthony Sainsbury, Tim
Clegg, Walter Kimball, Marcus St. John-Stevas, Norman
Cockcroft, John King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Scott, Nicholas
Cope, John King, Tom (Bridgwater) Shaw, Glies (Pudsey)
Cormack, Patrick Kitson, Sir Timothy Shepherd, Colin
Costain, A. P. Knight, Mrs Jill Shersby, Michael
Crouch, David Knox, David Silvester, Fred
Crowder, F. P. Lamont, Norman Sims, Roger
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) Lane, David Sinclair, Sir George
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Latham, Michael (Melton) Skeet, T. H. H.
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Lawrence, Ivan Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Drayson, Burnaby Lawson, Nigel Speed, Keith
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Le Marchant, Spencer Spence, John
Durant, Tony Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Lloyd, Ian Sproat, Iain
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Loveridge, John Stainton, Keith
Emery, Peter Luce, Richard Stanbrook, Ivor
Eyre, Reginald McAdden, Sir Stephen Stanley, John
Fairbairn, Nicholas McCrindle, Robert Steel, David (Roxburgh)
Fairgrieve, Russell Macfarlane, Neil Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)
Fell, Anthony MacGregor, John Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Finsberg, Geoffrey Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Stokes, John
Fisher, Sir Nigel McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Stradling Thomas, J.
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest) Tapsell, Peter
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Madel, David Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)
Fookes, Miss Janet Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) Marten, Nell Tebbit, Norman
Fox, Marcus Mates, Michael Temple-Morris, Peter
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Mather, Carol Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Freud, Clement Maude, Angus Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Mawby, Ray Townsend, Cyril D.
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) Mayhew, Patrick Trotter, Neville
Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham) Meyer, Sir Anthony Tugendhat, Christopher
Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Mills, Peter van Straubenzee, W. R.
Glyn, Dr Alan Miscampbell, Norman Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Mitchell, David (Basingstoke) Viggers, Peter
Goodhart, Philip Monro, Hector Wainwright, Richard (Colne V)
Goodhew, Victor Montgomery, Fergus Wakeham, John
Goodlad, Alastair Moore, John (Croydon C) Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)
Gorst, John Morgan, Geraint Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral Walters, Dennis
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Morris, Michael (Northampton S) Wells, John
Gray, Hamish Morrison, Charles (Devizes) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Griffiths, Eldon Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Wiggin, Jerry
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Neave, Alrey Winterton, Nicholas
Grist, Ian Nelson, Anthony Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Grylls, Michael Neubert, Michael Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Hall, Sir John Newton, Tony Younger, Hon George
Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Nott, John
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Onslow, Cranley TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Hampson, Dr Keith Oppenheim, Mrs Sally Mr. Alan Beith and
Hannam, John Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Mr. Cyril Smith.
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss
Anderson, Donald Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Bates, Alf
Archer, Peter Atkinson, Norman Bean, R. E.
Armstrong, Ernest Bagier, Gordon A. T. Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood
Ashley, Jack Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N)
Ashton, Joe Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Bidwell, Sydney
Bishop, E. S. Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Park, George
Blenkinsop, Arthur Hatton, Frank Parry, Robert
Boardman, H. Hayman, Mrs Helene Pavitt, Laurie
Booth, Albert Heffer, Eric S. Perry, Ernest
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Hooley, Frank Phipps, Dr Colin
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Horam, John Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Price, William (Rugby)
Bradley, Tom Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Radice, Giles
Bray, Dr Jeremy Huckfield, Les Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Broughton, Sir Alfred Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Richardson, Miss Jo
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Hughes, Mark (Durham) Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Buchan, Norman Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Hunter, Adam Roderick, Caerwyn
Campbell, Ian Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Canavan, Dennis Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Cant, R. B. Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Rooker, J. W.
Carmichael, Neil Jackson, Miss Margaret (Lincoln) Rose, Paul B.
Carter-Jones, Lewis Janner, Greville Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Cartwright, John Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Rowlands, Ted
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Jeger, Mrs Lena Ryman, John
Clemitson, Ivor Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Sandelson, Neville
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechford) Sedgemore, Brian
Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen John, Brynmor Selby, Harry
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Johnson, James (Hull West) Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Corbett, Robin Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Crawshaw, Richard Jones, Dan (Burnley) Short, Mrs Renee (Wolv NE)
Cronin, John Judd, Frank Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Cryer, Bob Kaufman, Gerald Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Kelley, Richard Sillars, James
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Kerr, Russell Silverman, Julius
Davidson, Arthur Kilroy-Silk, Robert Skinner, Dennis
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Kinnock, Neil Small, William
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Lambie, David Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lamborn, Harry Spriggs, Leslie
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Lamond, James Stallard, A. W.
Deakins, Eric Leadbitter, Ted Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Lee, John Stott, Roger
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Lester, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Strang, Gavin
Delargy, Hugh Lever, Rt Hon Harold Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Lipton, Marcus Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Dempsey, James Litterick, Tom Swain, Thomas
Doig, Peter Lomas, Kenneth Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Dormand, J. D. Loyden, Eddie Thomas, Dafydd (Merloneth)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Luard, Evan Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Duffy, A. E. P. Lyon, Alexander (York) Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)
Dunnett, Jack Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth McElhone, Frank Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Eadie, Alex MacFarquhar, Roderick Tierney, Sydney
Edge, Geoff McGuire, Michael (Ince) Tinn, James
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Mackenzie, Gregor Tomlinson, John
Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun) Mackintosh, John P. Tomney, Frank
English, Michael Maclennan, Robert Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Ennals, David McNamara, Kevin Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Madden, Max Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd)
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) Mahon, Simon Walker, Harold (Doncaster)
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Marquand, David Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Evans, John (Newton) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Ward, Michael
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S) Watkins, David
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Mason, Rt Hon Roy Watkinson, John
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Maynard, Miss Joan Weetch, Ken
Flannery, Martin Meacher, Michael Weitzman, David
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Mellish, Rt Hon Robert White, Frank R. (Bury)
Ford, Ben Mikardo, Ian White, James (Pollok)
Forrester, John Millan, Bruce Whitlock, William
Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N) Wigley, Dafydd
Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Freeson, Reginald Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe) Williams, Alan (Swansea W)
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon) Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Gilbert, Dr. John Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Ginsburg, David Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Golding, John Newens, Stanley Wise, Mrs Audrey
Gould, Bryan Noble, Mike Woodall, Alec
Graham, Ted Oakes, Gordon Woof, Robert
Grant, John (Islington C) Ogden, Eric Wrigglesworth, Ian
Grocott, Bruce O'Halloran, Michael Young, David (Bolton E)
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fite) O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hardy, Peter Orbach, Maurice Mr. James Hamilton and
Harper, Joseph Owenden, John Mr. David Stoddart.
Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Owen, Dr David
Hart, Rt Hon Judith Palmer, Arthur

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put forthwith pursuant to Standing Order No. 39 (Amendment on second or third reading):—

The House divided: Ayes 263. Noes 240.

Division No. 193.] AYES [10.18 p.m.
Anderson, Donald Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Maclennan, Robert
Archer, Peter Flannery, Martin McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)
Armstrong, Ernest Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) McNamara, Kevin
Ashley, Jack Ford, Ben Madden, Max
Ashton, Joe Forrester, John Mahon, Simon
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin) Marquand, David
Atkinson, Norman Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Freeson, Reginald Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Garrett, John (Norwich S) Mason, Rt Hon Roy
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Maynard, Miss Joan
Bates, Alf Gilbert, Dr. John Meacher, Michael
Bean, R. E. Ginsburg, David Mellish, Rt Hon Robert
Benn, Rt Hon Anthony Wedgwood Golding, John Mikardo, Ian
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Gould, Bryan Millan, Bruce
Bidwell, Sydney Graham, Ted Miller, Mrs Millie (Ilford N)
Bishop, E. S. Grant, John (Islington C) Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen)
Blenkinsop, Arthur Grocott, Bruce Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Boardman, H. Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Booth, Albert Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Hardy, Peter Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur Harper, Joseph Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King
Boyden, James (Bish Auck) Harrison, Walter (Wakefield) Newens, Stanley
Bradley, Tom Hart, Rt Hon Judith Noble, Mike
Bray, Dr Jeremy Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Oakes, Gordon
Broughton, Sir Alfred Hatton, Frank Ogden, Eric
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Hayman, Mrs Helene O'Halloran, Michael
Buchan, Norman Heffer, Eric S. O'Malley, Rt Hon Brian
Butler, Mrs Joyce (Wood Green) Hooley, Frank Orbach, Maurice
Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Horam, John Ovenden, John
Campbell, Ian Howell, Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Owen, Dr David
Canavan, Dennis Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Palmer, Arthur
Cant, R. B. Huckfield, Les Park, George
Carmichael, Neil Hughes, Rt Hon C. (Anglesey) Parry, Robert
Carter-Jones, Lewis Hughes, Mark (Durham) Pavitt, Laurie
Cartwright, John Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N) Perry, Ernest
Castle, Rt Hon Barbara Hughes, Roy (Newport) Phipps, Dr Colin
Clemitson, Ivor Hunter, Adam Price, C. (Lewisham W)
Cocks, Michael (Bristol S) Irvine, Rt Hon Sir A. (Edge Hill) Price, William (Rugby)
Colquhoun, Mrs Maureen Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford) Radice, Giles
Cook, Robin F. (Edin C) Jackson, Colin (Brighouse) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)
Corbett, Robin Janner, Greville Richardson, Miss Jo
Cox, Thomas (Tooting) Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Craigen, J. M. (Maryhill) Jeger, Mrs Lena Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Crawshaw, Richard Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Robertson, John (Paisley)
Cronin, John Jenkins, Rt Hon Roy (Stechtord) Roderick, Caerwyn
Cryer, Bob John, Brynmor Rodgers, George (Chorley)
Cunningham, G. (Islington S) Johnson, James (Hull West) Rodgers, William (Stockton)
Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh) Johnson, Walter (Derby S) Rooker, J. W.
Davidson, Arthur Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Rose, Paul B.
Davies, Bryan (Enfield N) Jones, Barry (East Flint) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Jones, Dan (Burnley) Rowlands, Ted
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Judd, Frank Ryman, John
Davis, Clinton (Hackney C) Kaufman, Gerald Sandelson, Neville
Deakins, Eric Kelley, Richard Sedgemore, Brian
Dean, Joseph (Leeds West) Kerr, Russell Selby, Harry
de Freitas, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Kilroy-Silk, Robert Shaw, Arnold (Ilford South)
Delargy, Hugh Kinnock, Neil Sheldon, Robert (Ashton-u-Lyne)
Dell, Rt Hon Edmund Lambie, David Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Dempsey, James Lamborn, Harry Short, Rt Hon E. (Newcastle C)
Doig, Peter Lamond, James Short, Mrs Renée (Wolv NE)
Dormand, J. D. Leadbitter, Ted Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Lee, John Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Duffy, A. E. P. Lester, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Sillars, James
Dunnett, Jack Lever, Rt Hon Harold Silverman, Julius
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Lipton, Marcus Skinner, Dennis
Eadie, Alex Litterick, Tom Small, William
Edge, Geoff Lomas, Kenneth Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Loyden, Eddie Spriggs, Leslie
English, Michael Luard, Evan Stallard, A. W.
Ennals, David Lyon, Alexander (York) Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Stoddart, David
Evans, Gwynfor (Carmarthen) McElhone, Frank Stott, Roger
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) MacFarquhar, Roderick Strang, Gavin
Evans, John (Newton) McGuire, Michael (Ince) Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.
Ewing, Harry (Stirling) Mackenzie, Gregor Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Mackintosh, John P. Swain, Thomas
Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W) Walker, Harold (Doncaster) Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)
Thomas, Dafydd (Merloneth) Walker, Terry (Kingswood) Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)
Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery) Ward, Michael Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E) Watkins, David Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)
Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW) Watkinson, John Wise, Mrs Audrey
Thorne, Stan (Preston South) Weetch, Ken Woodall, Alec
Tierney, Sydney Weitzman, David Woof, Robert
Tinn, James White, Frank R. (Bury) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Tomlinson, John White, James (Pollok) Young, David (Bolton E)
Tomney, Frank Whitlock, William
Varley, Rt Hon Eric G. Wigley, Dafydd TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V) Willey, Rt Hon Frederick Mr. John Ellis and
Walden, Brian (B'ham, L'dyw'd) Williams, Alan (Swansea W) Miss Margaret Jackson.
Adley, Robert Gilmour, Rt Hon Ian (Chesham) McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)
Aitken, Jonathan Gilmour, Sir John (East Fife) Madel, David
Alison, Michael Glyn, Dr Alan Marshall, Michael (Arundel)
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Godber, Rt Hon Joseph Marten, Nell
Arnold, Tom Goodhart, Philip Mates, Michael
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Goodhew, Victor Mather, Carol
Awdry, Daniel Goodlad, Alastair Maude, Angus
Baker, Kenneth Gorst, John Mawby, Ray
Banks, Robert Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Mayhew, Patrick
Beith, A. J. Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Meyer, Sir Anthony
Bell, Ronald Gray, Hamish Mills, Peter
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Griffiths, Eldon Miscampbell, Norman
Benyon, W. Grimond, Rt Hon J. Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)
Berry, Hon Anthony Grist, Ian Molyneaux, James
Biffen, John Grylls, Michael Monro, Hector
Biggs-Davison, John Hall, Sir John Montgomery, Fergus
Blaker, Peter Hall-Davis, A. G. F. Moore, John (Croydon C)
Body, Richard Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Morgan, Geraint
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hampson, Dr Keith Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral
Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown) Hannam, John Morris, Michael (Northampton S)
Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent) Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Morrison, Charles (Devizes)
Brain, Sir Bernard Hastings, Stephen Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)
Brittan, Leon Havers, Sir Michael Neave, Airey
Brotherton, Michael Hawkins, Paul Nelson, Anthony
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath) Hayhoe, Barney Neubert, Michael
Bryan, Sir Paul Heath, Rt Hon Edward Newton, Tony
Buchanan-Smith, Alick Heseltine, Michael Nott, John
Buck, Antony Hicks, Robert Onslow, Cranley
Budgen, Nick Higgins, Terence L. Oppenheim, Mrs Sally
Bulmer, Esmond Holland, Philip Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)
Burden, F. A. Hooson, Emlyn Pardoe, John
Carlisle, Mark Hordern, Peter Parkinson, Cecil
Carr, Rt Hon Robert Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Pattie, Geoffrey
Chalker, Mrs Lynda Howell, David (Guildford) Percival, Ian
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) Howells, Geraint (Cardigan) Peyton, Rt Hon John
Clark, William (Croydon S) Hurd, Douglas Pink, R. Bonner
Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe) Hutchison, Michael Clark Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch
Clegg, Walter Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Prior, Rt Hon James
Cockcroft, John Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd) Raison, Timothy
Cope, John Jessel, Toby Rathbone, Tim
Cormack, Patrick Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead) Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Costain, A. P. Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Crouch, David Jopling, Michael Rees-Davies, W. R.
Crowder, F. P. Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Renton, Rt Hon Sir D. (Hunts)
Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutsford) Kaberry, Sir Donald Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Kershaw, Anthony Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Kimball, Marcus Ridsdale, Julian
Drayson, Burnaby King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Rifkind, Malcolm
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward King, Tom (Bridgwater) Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey
Durant, Tony Kitson, Sir Timothy Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Knight, Mrs Jill Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Edwards, Nicholas (Pembroke) Knox, David Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Emery, Peter Lamont, Norman Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Eyre, Reginald Lane, David Royle, Sir Anthony
Fairbairn, Nicholas Latham, Michael (Melton) Sainsbury, Tim
Fairgrieve, Russell Lawrence, Ivan St. John-Stevas, Norman
Fell, Anthony Lawson, Nigel Scott, Nicholas
Finsberg, Geoffrey Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Fisher, Sir Nigel Lloyd, Ian Shepherd, Colin
Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh N) Loveridge, John Shersby, Michael
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles Luce, Richard Silvester, Fred
Fookes, Miss Janet McAdden, Sir Stephen Sims, Roger
Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd) McCrindle, Robert Sinclair, Sir George
Fox, Marcus McCusker, H. Skeet, T. H. H.
Fraser, Rt Hon H. (Stafford & St) Macfarlane, Neil Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Freud, Clement MacGregor, John Smith, Dudley (Warwick)
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham) Speed, Keith
Gardner, Edward (S Fylde) McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury) Spence, John
Spicer, Michael (S Worcester) Tebbit, Norman Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Sproat, Iain Temple-Morris, Peter Walters, Dennis
Stainton, Keith Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S) Wells, John
Stanbrook, Ivor Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon) Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Stanley, John Townsend, Cyril D. Wiggin, Jerry
Steel, David (Roxburgh) Trotter, Neville Winterton, Nichlas
Steen, Anthony (Wavertree) Tugendhat, Christopher Young, Sir G. (Ealling, Action)
Stewart, Ian (H'tchin) van Straubenzee, W. R. Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Stokes, John Vaughan, Dr Gerard Younger, Hon George
Stradling Thomas, J. Viggers, Peter TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Tapsell, Peter Wainwright, Richard (Coine V) Mr. Adam Butler and
Taylor, R. (Croydon NW) Wakeham, John Mr. Spencer Le Marchant.
Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart) Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Bill committed to a Standing Commitmittee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).