HC Deb 14 February 1975 vol 886 cc855-71

Order for Second Reading read.

3.2 p.m.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)

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

This is a modest measure, but it deals with an important subject—the subject of public participation in town and country planning.

The full concept of public involvement in planning extends to public participation in the formulation of development plans, structure plans, local plans and the like. In the Bill we are not concerned with those wider matters. We are concerned here with the narrower but still very important matter of public consultation in regard to specific applications for planning permission for development.

This is a matter which concerns citizens, on the whole, more closely than the wider aspects. Certainly it affects far more citizens in their individual capacities. After all the number of citizens who, except perhaps indirectly as members of amenity societies and the like, would regard themselves as qualified to contribute by way of public participation in the formulation of plans is relatively small. On the other hand, the number of those who consider that they should have, in respect of applications affecting their own property, a right to consultation, including the right of notification and representation, is large, as many hon. Members must know from their constituency correspondence, and as I do myself.

At present the law recognises some right in principle for citizens affected by planning applications and decisions to receive information regarding them. But the scope of that entitlement is unduly restrictive, and the machinery of consultation is inadequate. The purpose of the Bill is to broaden the scope and to improve the machinery.

Local planning authorities are under a duty to keep a register of planning applications which derives from Section 34 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971. Article 17 of the Town and Country Planning General Development Order 1973 prescribes the form of that register, with a Part I containing a copy of every application made and a Part II containing further and fuller information, including the decision of the authority when it is reached.

These registers serve a useful purpose, but they are not helpful in the context with which I am here concerned—that is to say, they are not really effective in providing safeguards to existing residents against proposed new development in the immediate vicinity of their homes. Intending developers no doubt make systematic searches of planning registers, and, indeed, prudent intending house purchasers should do the same, but it is obviously not reasonable to expect an ordinary resident who already has his house to keep himself informed on a day-to-day basis of the contents of the planning register. To do so, indeed, has been made more difficult by the operation of the Local Government Act 1972. The larger local authority units, although there is much to be said for them in many contexts, mean in some cases a centralisation of registers, taking these matters that degree further from the ordinary citizen.

There is also, I should in fairness say, under the present law some provision for notification of special categories of development. This is provided by Section 26 of the 1971 Act and by Article 8 of the General Development Order 1973. Nine forms of special development are specified in the order, but, apart from one relating to the construction of buildings exceeding 20 metres in height, they are a rather specialised assortment of cases—zoos, knackers' yards, casinos, cinemas and the like.

Indeed, the first class designated in paragraph (a) is public conveniences and the last and ninth class is cemeteries. The provision of public conveniences can be a hot political issue, at any rate in pre-war France, as readers of "Clochemerle" may perhaps recall. Cemeteries, by contrast, I always regard as ideal neighbours because of their quietness and good behaviour.

The basis of prescription of these special categories of development is narrow. In the words of a former Secretary of State, they cover only very limited types of development which might be considered bad by public opinion in the locality. Even with this limited category, the duty of notification does not go beyond a site notice and advertisement in the local Press. The Bill proposes to improve that situation in three main respects.

First, it will extend the categories of development to which the duty of public consultation applies. Second, it will prescribe a specific duty of neighbour notification by placing an obligation on local authorities to give to adjacent residential and other rateable occupiers and also to agricultural occupiers an individual notification in a form to be prescribed. Of course, that notification need not replace the duty relating to a site notice and advertisement, but can if necessary supplement it.

An alternative method of notification would be to place the duty to do so on the applicant, but the applicant would not be in such a good position as the local authority to discharge the mechanics of that duty. In the interests of good administration, therefore, we have thought it better to place the duty on the local authority.

Third, the Bill confers on the adjacent occupier a right to make representations to the local planning authority in regard to the proposed development and imposes a duty on the authority to take those representations into account as material considerations in coming to its decision on the application. The category of development to which this statutory duty will apply and in respect of which this right will arise is dealt with in the new Section 25A(1) of the 1971 Act as set out in Clause 1.

Taking the ordinary case of a residential neighbourhood, the category will include all sorts of non-conforming development; that is to say, all development other than residential. That will be a useful addition to the relatively narrow range at present covered by Section 26 and Article 8 of the General Development Order.

Legislation for neighbourhood notification as an important additional ingredient in public consultation is not revolutionary. Many local authorities already seek to give effect to that on a voluntary and non-statutory basis. The Department of the Environment's survey of neighbourhood notification, which I think is called the Simms Survey, showed that about 75 per cent. of local authorities already have some such notification procedures. If that be so, it shows both the demand for such notification and the general recognition that it is justified. Where so much is done ad hoc there is clearly a strong case for uniformity and universality of practice, and that my Bill will supply.

Clause 2 puts right an oversight in earlier town planning legislation. Generally speaking, any party to a ministerial decision on town and country planning can apply to the courts by a simple procedure if there has been an error of law or a substantial defect in procedure. Up to now, however—unless the law is changed by the Bill as I propose it should be—this has not applied to decisions relating to details submitted for approval following an outline permission if the Secretary of State calls in the application for his own decision. In those cases the old cumbersome procedure of prerogative orders—certiorari or mandamus procedures well-known to the right hon. Gentleman—is still necessary. Clause 2 makes the modern and simpler procedure applicable to those decisions as to the generality of cases.

I cannot conceive that there could be any rational objection to the clause. Indeed, it is difficult to think that there can be any rational objection to the Bill as a whole. It is true, and we may be told, that we are at present awaiting the report of Mr. George Dobry, Q.C., which is imminent, and I am told that we may have the advantage of it next week. The report will no doubt contain, with other important recommendations, proposals for improving public participation. I should be surprised if such proposals did not include proposals for neighbourhood notification on the lines I am suggesting. I have the advantage of knowing Mr. Dobry personally. I know him to be an enlightened, conscientious and imaginative person, and I should be greatly surprised if there is anything in the Bill which will be found to run counter to the spirit and tenor of his report.

I give this undertaking on behalf of myself and my hon. Friends and hon. Members who are kind enough to sponsor the Bill with me. We should certainly move in Committee any amendment which a study of the Dobry Report—which, fortunately, will be available by the time the Bill is in Committee—would seem to make desirable. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will not seek to pray in aid the imminence of the Dobry Report as a reason for the House not giving a Second Reading to this useful measure.

I believe, indeed, that it is appropriate for the Government to signify their approval to the Bill, modest as it is, as an earnest of their good intentions in regard to the Dobry Report as a whole in order that they may show the sceptics—there are sceptics, and there will be more if the right hon. Gentleman takes a negative attitude—by the positive act of giving a fair wind to the Bill, that they do not intend to let the report as a whole and its proposals for reform and improvement moulder in the dusty archives of Whitehall. This is a Bill which will do good to many and harm to none, and that is more than can be said for most legislation.

3.21 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Cormack (Staffordshire, South-West)

I support my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), who has moved the Bill with his usual forensic skill and debating eloquence. His case is unanswerable. The Minister for Planning and Local Government is a sensitive man, who appreciates how ordinary people feel. He is one of the least doctrinaire Members of the House of Commons. I was delighted to have the opportunity of serving in a modest capacity with him during the proceedings on the Local Government Act and the National Health Service Reorganisation Act when they were going through the House. Once he stated his objections in principle, he concentrated on making sure that those measures would work and could be properly implemented.

The right hon. Gentleman will recall that in Committee on the Local Government Bill amendments along the lines contained in this Bill were moved and incorporated after a fair amount of discussion. By those provisions, parish councils are now notified of applications within their locality. I believe I am light in my recollection that the right hon. Gentleman welcomed them as warmly as I do.

It seems to me that what my right hon. and learned Friend is now suggesting is merely a logical extension of the modest proposals included in the Local Government Act. My right hon. and learned Friend called his Bill "modest" several times, although I think that he was perhaps being too modest in so doing. The Bill could bring considerable relief from potential distress to many thousands of people.

In our constituencies we have all had examples of ordinary householders who, through no fault of anyone in particular, have suddenly found that, adjacent to their property, some development is taking place which materially affects the future or the selling price of their property, or both, or which brings within earshot or eyesight something which is to them objectionable. If the Bill is enacted, that will no longer be the case, because householders will be notified in advance and will have a proper opportunity to state their case and have it impartially considered, so that at the end of the day, if they lose their argument, they cannot feel that they have been wronged by the machinery that the law provides.

That seems to me an essentially civilised thing to try to do. I hope that the Minister will accept the spirit of my right hon. and learned Friend's good intentions and say that the Government will do all they can to assist the Bill in its passage through the House and on to another place. Being a sponsor of the Bill—I am delighted that my right hon. and learned Friend did me the honour of asking me to be one—I am convinced that those of us lucky enough to serve on the Standing Committee will be prepared to consider sympathetically any amendments which do not wreck the purpose of the Bill.

It could be argued that now is not the time to do anything that could in any way impose extra expenditure upon local authorities. I do not think that anyone in the House would dissent from that proposition. But that is no argument for not accepting the Bill. It is not beyond the wit of the House to delay the enactment of this measure and to say that it will come into force at the end of this year or early next year. I have not discussed this matter with my right hon. and learned Friend but I am sure that he shares my concern about getting this principle enacted, so that at some date in the reasonably near future our citizens can have this potential danger removed. I, for one would be delighted if people did not always have to arrive at my surgery in tears or in worry and distress to ask about something that has already happened, about which I am powerless to help and on which the law offers no redress. I hope that the Bill will be welcomed by the Government and enacted speedily.

3.26 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Rossi (Hornsey)

I add to the general welcome that we are giving on this side of the House to the Bill that has been introduced by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith). We consider that it is a measure that has been long overdue. I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend on seizing the opportunity of his success in the Ballot for Private Members' Bills to introduce a measure of this kind in an area in which he has such deep knowledge, as right hon. and hon. Members well know.

As my right hon. and learned Friend has said with typical modesty, this is a modest Bill. It is limited in area but it is by no means limited as to the good effect it will have in this area of planning law. As my hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) has just said, constituents continually approach us to express dissatisfaction with developments which may have taken place on neighbouring land in respect of which they have no locus standi in raising objections and which could materially affect the enjoyment of their own homes.

I appreciate the objection that might be raised that this is throwing yet another burden upon local authorities at a time when we are all anxious about the rate burden that is occurring and increasing. The House is. I hope, becoming loth to increase the burden on local authorities and to add yet another duty. My right hon. and learned Friend's Bill has the merit that it is restricted in its operation in the sense that it does not apply to what are the majority of cases where planning applications cause the greatest concern— namely, applications in residential areas for further and new residential development, infilling and matters of that kind.

The Bill is restricted only to cases where there is to be a material change of user. I suggest that the Bill could serve as a useful experiment in ascertaining what experience may be derived in operating a participation of this kind over a limited area of planning applications. In the light of that experience, the Government can introduce major legislation on town planning, as they are bound to do, following the Dobry Report. In the light of experience gained from this measure, the Government could deal with this subject with greater confidence and certainty.

My right hon. and learned Friend mentioned the Dobry Report, which we are awaiting with great interest. I am sure that by this time the Minister will have read that report. Will he tell us whether there is anything in the Bill which is in direct conflict with that report? If there is a conflict between the Bill and what Dobry has recommended, the Bill as my right hon. and learned Friend has said, should be withdrawn and the matter reconsidered in that light. However, if there is no conflict and this is merely a small anticipation of what Dobry might be saying, this would, as I said a little earlier, provide an excellent and interesting pilot scheme to enable us to gain experience of the way in which participation of this kind will operate well before the Government begin the journey on the long road that will have to be taken by them in introducing major legislation. I hope that in that spirit the Minister will be able to give a fair wind to the Bill.

3.31 p.m.

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

May I first thank the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), who moved the Second Reading of this Bill, and the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West (Mr. Cormack) who made an interesting, moderate and persuasive speech in support of the principle. I know, from many years of experience, how interested the hon. Member is in the general subjects of the environment and planning. He was kind enough to make some generous remarks about me concerning the long period we worked together, although on opposite sides, in the days of the Local Government Reorganisation Bill. I pay the same tribute to him. Basically we have many ideas in common. I hope that in a recent matter, that of historic churches, he is not wholly disappointed with our reception of some of his ideas.

As to the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I suppose that there is no greater expert in this House on planning procedures. Not only did he speak with moderation; but he spoke with his usual clarity, good humour and wit. Even if I had totally disagreed with the spirit of everything he said I would still have been intrigued by his manner of addressing the House. I therefore find myself in the awkward position of asking for the sympathy of the House because I shall call upon it to reject the right hon. and learned Gentleman's Bill. It gives me no great satisfaction to do so.

The House is, therefore, entitled to a fairly full explanation of why I take this position. It was implicit in what the hon. Member for Staffordshire, South-West said of me that I am, although not doctrinaire, reasonably consistent when I hold to a view. For a long time I have held to the view that in planning there is, or should be, firm, settled amendments of the law and that law should not be amended piecemeal.

It is of some historic but perhaps topical interest to note that during the Second Reading debate in this House in October 1971 of the measure whose amendment we are discussing—the then Town and Country Planning Bill of 1971—I referred to piecemeal legislation. For some curious reason—I cannot remember why it was—the then Solicitor-General, the right hon. Member for Surrey, East (Sir G. Howe) was replying. I do not know why that should have been so. I raised critically the possibility of piecemeal legislation following the passage of the 1971 Bill. The right hon. and learned Gentleman replied: The point is that it is almost impossible not only to understand legislation but to undertake amendment of it if it is scattered around in a multiplicity of statutes. The fact that we have this legislation in one tome does not mean that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Cooke) said, it becomes enshrined like the Bible. It means that it is much more likely to be read than if it is scattered around the place and that it provides a proper foundation for people to see what the law is …"—[Official Report, 18th October 1971; Vol. 823, c. 508.] It is important that we should have a main body of planning law which people can see, rather than that the alteration of the law should be made in a scattered form. That is all the more the case while we are in the process of considering the amendments to the law in the light of what Dobry has to say. It is no secret that Dobry will report in the near future. That report will be large and far-reaching.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

The 1971 Act was a consolidating Act. It consolidated the law as amended over the 24 years since the principal Act, which was introduced by the father of the present Minister for Planning and Local Government. During the intervening period many amendments were made. I hope that we shall not have to wait another 24 years before the right hon. Gentleman thinks we should improve the law.

Mr. Silkin

The right hon. and learned Gentleman always makes a fair point. The Secretary of State and I will ensure that amending legislation does not wait for 24 years but is introduced after a much shorter period.

I have not come to discuss the details of the Dobry Report. Although hon. Members may be curious to know its contents, I am not sure of the propriety of blurting out the details now rather than of allowing hon. Members to see the whole of the Dobry Report in due course and to make up their own minds.

The hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) made a fair point when he said: "If the Bill is not in conflict with the spirit of Dobry, why not give the Bill a fair run?" That puts me in a difficult position. If I said that it is not in conflict with the spirit of Dobry but that nevertheless I object to piecemeal legislation, I might indicate what is in the Dobry Report. If I say that it is in conflict with the spirit of Dobry I shall be saying what is not in the Dobry Report.

We must wait for the Dobry Report. Even if everything in the Dobry Report were to be considered by my right hon. Friend and me as right and valid, it is imperative that we should hold consultations with those who will be affected by the report. I do not believe that a Minister for Local Government would be doing his job if he did not consult local authorities. We may have other battles in the near future. There are occasions when I am in close consultation with local authorities; for example, on matters affecting land.

Mr. Cormack

I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would find much objection from local authorities to this set of proposals. In my local authority there is a voluntary agreement, as there is in 75 per cent. of authorities. I do not think that this provision need wait upon consultation.

Mr. Silkin

The hon. Gentleman one day may well be sitting on the Government Front Bench. [Interruption.] It may happen. We are all young. Let me give him this advice. Whatever he does, he must not prejudge the views of local authorities. He must give local authorities a fair wind and time to consider their views. There are interests other than local authorities to be considered. In every question of this kind the greater the consultation the better the result. Even if one is 100 per cent. convinced of the validity, reasonableness and necessity of one's case the consultations are absolutely vital. Therefore, I should have thought that in any event the closest consultation over a reasonable period was required. Since we shall then be in the consultation period for Dobry, my answer must be that we should wait for Dobry.

I said that even if I agreed 100 per cent. with what is in the Bill the consultations are vital, but I must admit that I do not. Let me start with the parts of the Bill with which I agree. Perhaps it would be simplest to start with Clause 2. I do not take refuge in the occasional plea of Ministers that there are drafting errors in the Bill. I realise that minor drafting matters can easily be dealt with.

Until 1968 there was no express power for the Secretary of State to call in applications for approval of details reserved under a planning permission. This was rectified by the 1968 Act. Then, under Section 242 of the 1971 Act, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman correctly said was a consolidation Act, a change should have taken place. It is possible to apply in the High Court to challenge the Secretary of State's decision on an application—one can question his right to call it in—but not for the approval of reserved matters. That is what Clause 2 seeks, rightly, to change.

Were the clause, correctly drafted—and only a minor drafting correction is required—to become law, the Secretary of State's decision could be challenged in the courts on the ground that the action was not within the powers of the Act or that the relevant requirements had not been complied with by the Secretary of State. I agree that this would be a valuable addition to the law. I have said that we must consider legislation in the not-too-far-distant future, and I undertake that we shall take this matter into account.

I do not propose to say any more about Clause 2. The purpose behind it and most of the wording are excellent, and we shall ensure that they are embodied in any legislation which may be introduced.

Clause 1 provides that local authorities shall notify occupiers of adjoining land and take into account any relevant representations received within the prescribed period whenever they consider a planning application materially different from the lawful use obtaining in the adjoining land.

Clause 1 deals only with developments involving a material change of use. The interesting thing is that I caught by inference in the three speeches that the right hon. and learned Gentleman and his two hon. Friends made a different basis behind it. What they were looking for was the giving of publicity where development in adjoining land concerns new building or extensions to building, because that is where the main difficulty arises.

The trouble is that such new building or such extensions to existing buildings usually occur without a change in the use of either land and they would not, in my view, be covered by the right hon. and learned Gentleman's clause in any event. He would, as it were, with the best will in the world—and I am with him on that—be aiming with his usual magnificent precision at the wrong target.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

This has been explained by my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi). Of course there are cases which are not caught by this clause. They might impose a greater administrative burden on the local authorities in notification. I am following the counsels of moderation and taking this smaller step in order to see how it works. It was explained with characteristic lucidity by my hon. Friend and it is not really necessary for me to repeat it.

Mr. Silkin

I was not conflicting; I was agreeing with the hon. Member for Hornsey that in endeavouring to destroy the man-eating shark one was dealing with the Dover sole. We should be dealing with the shark.

Mr. Cormack

It is the flounder.

Mr. Silkin

Or the flounder, if the hon. Gentleman likes.

Sir Derek Walker-Smith

It is the red herring.

Mr. Silkin

The right hon. and learned Gentleman has made my case for me. It is the red herring that would be caught here and not a shark. I think that possibly one is moving away from the very important question of planning procedure into a piscine field which I would rather not go into because I am no expert on it.

The hon. Members for Hornsey and for Staffordshire, South-West both felt a little uneasy about the possibility that there might be increased expenditure or administrative difficulties for local authorities. If we give the local authorities rather than the applicant the duty to notify, we are creating not only administrative difficulties and additional expenditure, but also very great delays.

The hon. Member for Hornsey knows as well as I do that it has been the concern of successive administrations of whatever political character that planning procedure takes so long. I submit to him that with the best will in the world the moment one puts this duty on the local authority one is increasing the time of that planning procedure and not diminishing it. I though that the hon. Gentleman did his best with this point, because he was trying to say that this would occur in a very few cases and therefore the administrative difficulties, the expense and the delay, would not be so great. There is always difficulty in selection. Selection itself may cause delay and if it did nothing else it would certainly create a splendid excuse for it.

There is another difficulty. The right hon. and learned Gentleman says that his clause should apply where on adjoining land the planning application is materially different from the lawful use of that land. I submit to the right hon. and learned Gentleman—he and the more respectable side of the profession; I am the less respectable side—this rather difficult point. What is the lawful use of land? Do we always know it in every case? Is not that precisely where the difficulty arises, for example, in enforcement appeals, as to what is the lawful use of the land? Are we going to burden local authorities not only with the finding out of the properties in question and what use may be made, but also the notification, and then, in addition, perhaps the litigation, in which the right hon. and learned Gentleman and I in other times would find ourselves happily and professionally engaged possibly for years to come? The lawful use of land is another factor with which I could have no agreement whatsoever. It would create an even greater difficulty than exists at the moment.

There is another point. The right hon. and learned Gentleman understandably wants to point the finger at the occupier of the adjoining land. He says "What is the best way of dealing with this?" and he comes up with the idea of the valuation lists. A valuation list, unfortunately, is not always the best guide to who the occupier of the adjoining land may be—indeed, the occupier of any land. It may have agricultural use, in which case it may be derated and may not appear on the valuation list. The right hon. and learned Gentleman properly seeks to cover that.

But there is another difficulty. Valuation lists, unfortunately, are very often out of date. Years go by and they are not changed. Therefore, the mere fact of identifying people on a valuation list will create a tremendous burden for local authorities. I submit that that, too, makes Clause 1 effectively inoperable—or, rather, not operable in the way that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would like.

It is, as I say, in no cheerful mood that I advise the House to reject the Bill. I believe that the spirit behind it, which the right hon. and learned Gentleman fairly stated at the beginning—that of giving the maximum amount of publicity so that we may have the proper consultation, the optimum amount of consultation—is highly to be commended. But even forgetting the question of piecemeal legislation, and forgetting the question of Dobry, if I were merely to consider the Bill itself I think that the major surgery which would have to be done on it—on Clause 1, at any rate; on Clause 2 there need be only minor drafting points—would be such that when the right hon. and learned Gentleman came to the Third Reading he would not recognise his own child.

For those reasons—regretfully but believing that we shall nevertheless be amending the legislation and doing it, I hope, in the correct way after due consultation with those involved—I ask the House to reject the Bill.

3.55 p.m.

Mr. Charles Irving (Cheltenham)

I had no intention of speaking on the Bill, but perhaps I ought to make a modest contribution, having been a member of a local authority planning committee for some 25 years, having been chairman for some seven years and vice-chairman for five years, so that I know a little of the problems of planning.

I am grateful to have the opportunity of supporting my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) on the ground that his Bill would give the humble man in the street an opportunity to be heard. With every respect to the Minister, who complicated the issue more than was necessary, it is a fact of life that the ordinary chap seems to think that he has no voice in planning. Many times I have been in the unhappy position of having to adjudicate knowing that the applicant has a right of appeal if he is refused while the offended has no right of appeal if the application is granted.

The Bill is the essence of bringing some justice to the average man who feels unjustly treated about an application that some of us might consider trivial but is not trivial to someone who lives in a small modern development where someone suddenly decides to put in a large bow window or to put something on top of his garage and obscure the light to other dwelling houses. It may be trivial to those of us who deal in larger planning matters but extremely important to that person. At the moment, such a person feels that there is grave injustice in his not having the opportunity to be heard.

I am happy to say that I am a member of a very enlightened authority. For a considerable number of years, public participation has been our mode of practice. We are among the 75 per cent. of authorities that find no difficulty in effecting this sort of scheme. Alas, at times one is not able to cover all the avenues of participation that one would like to cover. The expense involved in the Bill would be modest compared with the alleviation of what is felt by ordinary humble people in our society to be a grave injustice when they see planning applications granted that affront them and about which they feel themselves to be the injured party and about which they should have the opportunity to be heard at the planning committee or local planning level.

I do not believe, and I have had some experience of it, that putting the duty on the applicant makes sense. It is always difficult to know how far the applicant has circularised the neighbourhood. It is properly the responsibility of the local planning authority. I earnestly hope that we can support the Bill, if nothing else to give the sense of justice that there should have been in the past for everyone, not just the big developers, affected by planning applications.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

Before my hon. Friend sits down, I wonder whether he would allow me to inquire of him whether he has not made the most effective and unanswerable contribution to the proceedings on the Bill. Would he not agree that the case having been made—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)

The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that his hon. Friend had sat down.

Mr. Charles Irving


Mr. Deputy Speaker

It is no good the hon. Gentleman rising now and sitting down again. He had completed what he wanted to contribute.

Sir D. Walker-Smith

I think it is now 4 o'clock, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and if I say anything else it will be out of order.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Cormack

rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put, but Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER withheld his assent and declined then to put that Question.

Mr. Peter Snape (West Bromwich, East)

It would be difficult for those of us who serve in any modest capacity in local government seriously to oppose a Bill that has been put forward so ably, so predictably, so customarily ably, by the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) and supported equally ably by his hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi)—

It being Four o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed upon Friday next.