HL Deb 07 July 1932 vol 85 cc712-22

Read 3a (according to Order).

Clause 8 [Approval, validity, coming into effect, variation and revocation of schemes]:


My Lords, the first is a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 11, line 37, leave out ("Provided that") and insert ("and (ii)").—(Viscount Gage.)

Clause 10:

Interim development orders.

Provided that— (b) an application for permission to use any building which is erected in substitution for an existing building, or other such previous building as aforesaid, and is commenced within two years after the destruction or demolition of the previous building, for any purpose of the same or similar character as that for which the previous building was last used before its destruction or demolition shall not be refused unless such a use would be seriously detrimental to the neighbourhood.

(5) An applicant who is aggrieved by the refusal of the authority to consent to his application, or by any conditions imposed by them, may within twenty-eight days from the date on which he received notice of the decision of the authority, or such longer period as the Minister may allow, appeal to the Minister, and the Minister, after taking into consideration any offer by the authority to make a contribution under the last preceding subsection, may dismiss or allow the appeal, either unconditionally or subject to such conditions as he thinks proper to impose, but the Minister, before deciding any such appeal, shall, if either the appellant or the authority so desire, afford them an opportunity of appearing before and being heard by a person appointed by the Minister for the purpose.

The decision of the Minister on an appeal under this subsection shall be final and shall have effect as if it were a decision of the authority.

LORD PHILLIMORE moved to leave out the last five words of subsection (3) —"seriously detrimental to the neighbourhood"—and insert "of a noxious or otherwise offensive character." The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is a consequential Amendment to an Amendment accepted on Clause 19. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 15, line 5, leave out ("seriously detrimental to the neighbourhood") and insert ("of a noxious or otherwise offensive character").—(Lord Phillimore.)


My Lords, the next is a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 15, line 7, leave out ("such an application") and insert ("an application under the last preceding subsection").—(Viscount Gage.)

LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM moved to leave out all words in subsection (5) after the second "authority" and insert "appeal to a court of summary jurisdiction for the petty sessional division or place within which the property to which the notice relates is situated or to a tribunal to be constituted for the purpose under the scheme." The noble Lord said: My Lords, you will remember that on the Committee stage I moved an Amendment to insert the petty sessional division as the authority, and the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor told me he would consider whether or not he could insert on the Third Beading words which would carry out my meaning. I have altered the proposal slightly by putting in the words "a tribunal to be constituted for the purpose under the scheme"; that is to say, I have taken the words which are in Clauses 12 and 13 of this Bill. I do not see why, if it is right that under Clauses 12 and 13 these words should be inserted, it is wrong to insert them in Clause 10. I understand that one of the reasons against the Amendment is that the officials of the Ministry are more competent to decide cases of this sort than the petty sessional division or a tribunal to be set up ad hoc. I do not know whether that is so or not.

My chief reason in moving to put in these words is that I object very much to the tendency, which is increasing yearly, of officials of the Ministry taking into their hands judicial power. It may be that the officials of the Ministry are very capable persons; probably they are; I would be the last person to say they are not; but they are not a judicial body, and it has always been the rule in England that when Parliament has made the law interpretation of that law should be left to a Court, of Law and not to a Ministry, however capable it is. Of course the Minister does not take any trouble about this. He does not know anything about it. He will leave it to his officials. I object very strongly to the officials taking the place of a Court of Law. Those are the reasons for which I introduced the Amendment, and as the hour is now getting late I will not dilate upon them. I hope I have put them clearly. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 15, line 18, leave out from ("authority") to the end of subsection (5), and insert the said new words. (Lord Banbury of Southam.)


My Lords, I will be as brief as I possibly can in answering the noble Lord. The Government cannot accept this Amendment for a great variety of reasons. I know what the noble Lord said on the last occasion about the Minister being an appeal from himself. That is quite a misapprehension. All that the general interim order issued by the Minister does is to authorise the local authorities to grant permission for interim development. It in no way sets out what the local authority is to do in any particular case. That, in the first place, is wholly a matter for the local authority. The Minister therefore has, and can have, no knowledge of cases until they come before him by way of appeal, and to say this is an appeal to the Minister from the Minister is really a misapprehension of the whole of the clause.

With regard to the next point. This has been the law ever since the Town Planning Act came into existence in 1909. I am perfectly well aware that the noble Lord said to me on one occasion when we were in a difference that he had not been impressed by that argument. What I want to point out is that not only has this been the law since the Town Planning Act came into existence in 1909, but it has worked extremely well and there has been no complaint against it. The next point the noble Lord made is that we have put this in in Clauses 12 and 13, so why not put it in Clause 10? The answer is a simple one. It is an entirely different matter from that dealt with in Clauses 12 and 13. Clauses 12 and 13 certainly give the right of appeal to a special tribunal, but when the scheme contains a provision enabling the responsible authority to regulate the design or external appearance of buildings it also provides that any persons aggrieved by any decision of the responsible authority under the provisions of the clause may appeal to a tribunal to be constituted for the purpose. That is a clause taken from an Act of Parliament and is known as the Bath Clause. It gave a special tribunal which, I think, is composed of the President of the Surveyors' Institute, the President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and a lawyer—about the most expensive tribunal you could possibly have.


Nominated by them.


Yes, it is not an appropriate body to deal with appeals bearing on the decision of a local authority during the interim period. This is a mere question of administration. With regard to appeals to justices, I dealt with that point upon the last occasion that we discussed this matter, and the noble Lord withdrew his Amendment. Justices are not a proper tribunal to do this. I pointed out on the last occasion that a great deal of the work done by the justices of this country is most admirably done, and I am sure we are all very thankful to the gentlemen who do that work without fee and without reward. I do not want to say too much about this matter, because I am responsible for the appointment of justices, but I do not think the justices are a fit tribunal all over the country to do this kind of work. Many issues cannot be satisfactorily decided without professional advice which is not available to the justices. One of the things the justices would have to do if they had to deal with an appeal of this kind would be to have expert evidence, and that would mean that there would be present at the appeal learned counsel and expert witnesses and that would entail considerable expense. All this could be done much more cheaply by the Minister in London. I do not think I need say any further upon the point of the justices not being the fit and proper persons to do this particular sort of work.

I am sorry to take up so much of your Lordships' time, but I must add one word upon the last point, the question of a special tribunal. We have all heard the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, time after time reminding us of the necessity for economy. I am sorry to find him on this occasion an advocate for expense. All I can say is, "Et tu, Brute!" There are far too many tribunals being set up in this country. Many Acts of Parliament have been passed in which the duty is put upon the Lord Chancellor to appoint somebody as a special tribunal, and your Lordships little know the expense to which the country is being put through the setting up of these special tribunals. Of course you can get a man—you can get hundreds of men—to sit on special tribunals for a guinea, but I would not care to trust them with a matter of this kind. There is the tribunal to which I have already referred. I do not want to say how much the sittings of that tribunal cost a day. If I were to tell your Lordships what sonic of the special tribunals do cost per day I think you would not want any more of them. My final point is that if the parties agree, they can, even under this, refer the matter to an arbitrator. That is an absolute protection for everybody. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, at the end of the Session is attempting to spoil a really valuable and admirable record as an advocate of economy.


May I point out to the noble Lord that the clause says this? A Minister shall make a general order with respect to the interim development of land. Having made that general order the local people have to carry it out. If anybody is aggrieved by the action of the local people on the order of the Minister, then the only appeal is to the Minister. It is true I have put in my Amendment "a tribunal to be constituted for the purpose under the scheme," and the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has devoted a good deal of scorn to the idea that there should be an expensive tribunal, but I have only taken his own words. I am taking these words out of Clause 13 in the hope of conciliating the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. I am following him. Is not that a good thing to do?




What, not to follow the noble and learned Viscount? I thought it was, and I did it for that reason. Another point is this. The noble and learned Viscount, as I understood him, has not replied to my chief argument, which is now, and which was, that when a person, a subject of His Majesty, is aggrieved by any action taken by any person under the authority of an Act of Parliament, the proper people to whom he should go to ask for redress of his grievance is not an official of the Ministry, but a Court of Law, and on that I believe I shall have the support of the great majority of the people of this country. It is now late and there are not many members of your Lordships' House here and unless my noble friend Lord Halsbury gets up and supports me, and I think he ought to on this question, I shall not put your Lordships to the trouble of a. Division.


My Lords, I am afraid I cannot help my noble friend Lord Banbury. I entirely agree with the noble Viscount on the Woolsack that there are far too many tribunals to-day. I am certain that there are too many in this Bill and we certainly do not want any more. I would only point out this, the noble Viscount on the Woolsack did not say how much these things cost, but some of us can make a shrewd guess. You would not have fewer than three people on the tribunal and, after paying their fees, railway fares, a registrar and a secretary, you would be lucky if you got but of it for less than £120 or £150 a day. My noble friend Lord Banbury seems to forget that at present the clause provides that it shall be a tribunal appointed by the Minister.


That was put in to meet the wishes of the Lord Chancellor.

On Question, Amendment negatived.


The next Amendment is drafting.

Amendment moved— Page 16, line 8, after ("was") insert ("confirmed or").—(Viscount Gage.)

Clause 17:

Power to make orders for preservation of certain buildings.

17.—(1) Where a resolution to prepare or adopt a scheme has taken effect, the council of any county borough or county district which, or any part of which, is situate within the area to winch the resolution applies or, as respects a building in such a county district, the council of the county comprising that district, may at any time make an order with respect to any building of special architectural or historic interest within that area and within the district of that council directing that without their consent the building shall not be demolished, and may at any time vary or revoke an order so made by them.

VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved, in subsection (1), to leave out "or" before "historic" and after "historic" to insert "or artistic." The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I move this Amendment to bring this clause into conformity with Clause 1 in which the word "artistic" appears.

Amendment moved— Page 24, line 12, leave out ("or") and after ("historic") insert ("or artistic").— (Viscount Bertie of Theme.)


My Lords, the Government are not very enamoured of this Amendment. We admit, of course, that it may be an advantage to have uniformity in drafting, but that is not the only consideration that has to be taken into account. As the noble Lord, Lord Banbury, pointed out earlier in the Bill, the question of what is or what is not artistic varies with time and circumstances. In this particular clause, where we are giving a new power to a local authority for the first time, we ought to avoid as far as possible any ambiguity as to what they can or cannot do. It is comparatively easy to determine what is of architectural interest or what is of historic interest. Those are attributes which instructed opinion will probably agree upon, but, if the local authority is also given power to make an order in respect of what is artistic, they might be given a very wide discretion. "Artistic" might apply to the setting as well as to the structural qualities of the building. A distinction can be drawn between the reference in this clause and in other clauses.


I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 19:

Power of Minister to exclude compensation in certain classes of cases.

(2) The Minister shall not approve the insertion in a scheme of a provision excluding compensation under the last preceding subsection or himself insert in a scheme such a provision—

(ii) if the provision in respect of which compensation is to be excluded is such a provision as is mentioned in paragraph (a), (b), (c), (d), or (g) of the said subsection, unless the scheme contains also provisions satisfactory to him for securing that—

  1. (a) existing buildings may be maintained and their existing use continued; and

VISCOUNT BERTIE OF THAME moved in subsection (2) (ii) (a), after "existing," to insert "or similar." The noble Viscount said: My Lords, in paragraph (ii) (d) of this subsection your Lordships will read: A new building so substituted as aforesaid may be used for any purpose of the same or a similar character as that for which the previous building was last used before its destruction or demolition. If a new building may be used for any purpose of the same or a similar character, then a fortiori any building which may exist to-day may be able to be used for a similar use.

Amendment moved— Page 28, line 17, after ("existing") insert ("or similar").—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)


My Lords, this matter is already covered, because Clause 53 defines "existing use" as being a use "of the same or a similar character."


Then I do not quite understand why it occurs in the line I quoted. If the noble Viscount does not wish to accept it, I beg to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 21 [Recovery of betterment from owners of property increased in value]:


My Lords, all the Amendments to this clause are drafting.

Amendments moved— Page 34, lines 23 and 24, after ("agreement") insert ("or determination") line 25, leave out ("to the") and insert ("in writing to the responsible") line 28, leave out ("repayment") and insert ("payment") Page 35, line 9, leave out ("the").(Viscount Gage.)

Clause 46:

Powers as to the preservation of trees.

(2) Where an area is so specified, the scheme may impose an obligation on the owner, if any part of the woodland is felled or otherwise destroyed, to undertake such replanting as would be in accordance with the practice of good forestry, but save as aforesaid the scheme shall not impose any control over forestry operations in the area.

VISCOUNT GAGE moved in subsection (2), to leave out "or otherwise destroyed." The noble Lord said: My Lords, this is an Amendment proposed by the Government to meet the point raised by my noble friend Lord Mount Temple, who urged on Report that the inclusion of these words might be unfair to owners in cases where the woodlands are destroyed by accident. By leaving out these words this point will be met.

Amendment moved— Page 51, line 18, leave out ("or otherwise destroyed").—(Viscount Gage.)

Clause 54 [Repeals]:


The Amendment to this clause is a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 64, line 26, leave out ("fifty-three"> and insert ("fifty-two").—(Viscount Gage.)

Clause 55 [Special provisions as to Surrey County Council Act, 1931]:


My Lords, the Amendment in my name is a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 67, line 18, leave out ("which") and insert ("whom").—(Viscount Bertie of Thame.)


My Lords, it is perhaps rather late in the Bill on one of the last Amendments to make some protest against the wholesale acceptance of suggested alterations in drafting. I must apologise but it has only been recently pointed out that there is a possibility that my noble friend's grammar is not always so superior to that of Government Departments.


If I may interrupt the noble Viscount, it is not my grammar. I must make a confession. I think "a court" or "a committee" ought to be treated in the singular, but it would involve two or three hundred Amendments in this Bill and in the Children Bill and, being of an indolent disposition, I have taken the line of least resistance and Followed the grammar of the Government.


That was just the point I wished to develop since I have had an opportunity of consulting the learned draftsmen on this point. What they pointed gut was that, although uniformity is desirable, the main consideration ought to be clearness of intention. Take the case where a multitude is followed by a plural verb. I will give an example where, if that is permitted, it is not too clear: Where a court is constituted of the Lord Mayor sitting alone". If that were to read: Where a court are constituted of the Lord Mayor sitting alone the noble Lord will agree that it is not a very harmonious phrase.

But that is not strictly germane to the point I have been discussing. On this question of "whom" and "which" we think the meaning of the Bill as drafted is quite clear and that the word in the Bill is better than the one suggested. The phrase is again I think more harmonious. "A joint committee of which the local authorities who have concurred" is better than "a joint committee, of whom the local authorities who have concurred." I do not think I need detain your Lordships any longer on this point, but I do think that in view of the very powerful manner in which we were reproved for slovenly drafting it is due to the draftsmen to point out that the question of uniformity has never been considered absolutely essential. The main consideration is clearness of meaning.


If the Government do not desire to be consistently bad I will not press the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Sixth Schedule [Adaptations and Modifications of this Act in its application to Scotland]:


My Lords, the Amendments standing in my name are consequential. I beg to move.

Amendments moved— Page 85, line 15, leave out ("For") and insert ("In subsection (5) for the words real or personal' there shall be substituted the words heritable or moveable'; in the proviso to subsection (8) for the words where a disposition is by way of lease or tenancy agreement' there shall be substituted the words 'a claim made on the granting of a lease or tack which is' and the words 'the claim' shall be omitted; and for"). Page 90, line 35, after ("16") insert ("for the words 'real or personal' there shall be substituted the words 'heritabie or moveable' and").—(Viscount Gaye.)

Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.