§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL rose to call attention to the statement made in this House on behalf of the Government on February 26, 1941, to the effect that the principle of planning was accepted as national policy, and that a Central Planning Authority would be required; also to statements in both Houses that legislation would be introduced, it was hoped, before last Christmas, to carry 752 into effect the recommendations of the First Report of the Uthwatt Committee and for other purposes connected with town and country planning; and to move, That this House considers that the establishment of a Central Planning Authority and the introduction of legislation for the amendment and extension of the Town and Country Planning Acts should be no longer delayed.
§ The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I understand that the noble Lord, the Minister of Works and Buildings, is in a position to make a statement on behalf of the Government, and I am sure it would be for the convenience of your Lordships that that statement should be made at the beginning of our proceedings. Therefore with your Lordships' leave I will move pro forma the Resolution which stands in my name, and will reserve until after the Minister's statement such observations as I desire to make. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House considers that the establishment of a Central Planning Authority and the introduction of legislation for the amendment and extension of the Town and Country Planning Acts should be no longer delayed.—(Viscount Samuel.)
§ THE MINISTER OF WORKS AND BUILDINGS (LORD REITH)
My Lords, the Government have had under consideration the best means of carrying out their pledge to establish a Central Planning Authority and have reached the following decisions:—The existing statutory duties in regard to town and country planning, exercised by the Minister of Health in England and Wales, will be transferred to the Minister of Works and Buildings, whose title will, with His Majesty's approval, be changed to "Minister of Works and Planning." The Minister's planning functions will be to guide the formulation by local authorities in England and Wales of town and country planning schemes which will adequately reflect the national policy for urban and rural development. The Ministry will be recognized as the Department which local authorities in England and Wales must consult on the general lines of town and country planning, and it will exercise the powers of the central Government under the Town and Country Planning Acts, including the powers which 753 will be available under forthcoming legislation to give effect to the First Report of the Uthwatt Committee, and it will lay down the general principles to which town and country planning must conform. The Secretary of State for Scotland will be responsible as heretofore for the exercise in Scotland of the functions in regard to planning to be exercised in England and Wale;; by the Minister of Works and Planning.
It is evident that the work of the Minister of Works and Planning and of the Secretary of State for Scotland will touch upon the work of other Departments of State at very many points. The Minister of Works and Planning and the Secretary of State therefore, will be assisted by a Committee of Senior Officials representing the Departments concerned. The main functions of this Committee will be to ensure that, so far as possible, the national policy of urban and rural development is carried out as a single and consistent whole. Much of the work of interdepartmental co-ordination will be carried out by means of this Committee of Officials. Questions which cannot be settled by this Committee will be dealt with by a Committee of the Ministers concerned, under the Chairmanship of the Minister without Portfolio, by virtue of his special responsibilities for reconstruction matters generally, arid will be settled by them unless reference to the War Cabinet is necessary. The Council of Ministers, the appointment of which was announced on July 17, 1941, will be dissolved. It will of course be understood that these arrangements do not divest individual Ministers of their responsibility for taking action within the spheres of their respective Departments.
In reaching these decisions, the Government's intention has been to secure the most appropriate development and use of the land of this country, and they believe that by a procedure of this kind the various activities; of the Departments concerned in post-war reconstruction, including the speedy provision of houses for those who need them, the redevelopment of devastated areas, the clearance of slums, the relief of overcrowding, the provision of all necessary public services, and the general promotion of rural development in the light of a positive policy for the maintenance of a healthy and 754 well-balanced agriculture, can be welded into a single and consistent policy.
The Government will review, having regard to subsequent developments and experience, the objectives stated in paragraph 4 of Section 428 of the Report of the Royal Commission on the Distribution of the Industrial Population—namely:The Government will study and concert, in the light of the review, the steps that should be taken to reach these objectives.
- " (a) Continued and further re-development of congested urban areas, where necessary.
- (b) Decentralization or dispersal, both of industries and industrial population, from congested areas.
- (c) Encouragement of a reasonable balance of industrial development, so far as possible, throughout the various divisions or regions of Great Britain, coupled with the appropriate diversification of industry in each division or region throughout the country."
In furthering their policy for urban and rural development, the Government will seek to avoid measures which would interfere with the overriding aim of raising the standard of living to the highest possible level. In particular, the Government
The necessary legislation to give effect to these decisions will be introduced at an early date.
- (a) Will seek to ensure that fresh development is planned with due regard to the use which can be made of existing capital equipment and existing public services, and will not wantonly countenance the break-up of old and valuable industrial concentrations:
- (b) Will seek to avoid the diversion of productive agricultural land to other purposes if there is unproductive or less productive land that could reasonably be used for those purposes.
That is the Government's statement of their decisions. I submit to your Lordships that those decisions implement unequivocally undertakings given in your Lordships' House and elsewhere some time ago. Some may think that the implementing of those undertakings should have come sooner, but here now is a decision of major policy importance. I suggest further that it is what planners, and all anxious to see the best use made of our limited land resources, have desired and have been waiting for. May I tell your Lordships briefly some of the things that have been done, meantime, 755 by the group in my care? In fact quite a deal has been done. The Uthwatt Committee, of which your Lordships know, has been established and its Interim Report accepted. The decision now announced adopts the Uthwatt assumption of the early establishment of a Central Planning Authority. The Committee are now on their main reference of "objective analysis of the subject of the payment of compensation and recovery of betterment in respect of public control of the use of land." This is a fundamental problem of great complexity, and the Chairman, Mr. Justice Uthwatt, either will not, or cannot, say when the Report will be presented. But he and his colleagues are working very hard at it.
The Consultative Panel which I explained that I was to set up have been doing various things. Here are two or three of them. Under the Chairmanship of the Director-General of Ordnance Survey and with the help of Dr. Dudley Stamp and Professor Eva Taylor, maps for planning showing physical features, land uses, movement of population, industry, and communications, have been drawn up. They are working now on base maps for the whole country so that for the first time a co-ordinated series of maps will be available to planning authorities and others. Another thing the Panel have been working at is the demand for, and the training of, technical planning staff in consultation with the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Town Planning Institute, and universities and technical schools, with a view, as your Lordships will see, to the avoidance, if possible, of a shortage of skilled assistance after the war. The examination of means to improve planning control over the design and external appearance of buildings is another matter with which the Panel have been concerned. As planning has to cover all land, powers will be sufficient; so adequate expert advice is needed for better standards of design. Some local advisory panels exist. They can be strengthened and extended. We visualize the incorporation of the Royal Fine Art Commission in this task to a greater extent than ever, and we have drawn on the experience of individual members of the Panel to a considerable extent.
Another thing we have done is to set up Lord Justice Scott's Committee. They 756 are working hard and they have a vast field to cover. Let me read the terms of reference. Appointed in October, they haveto consider conditions which should govern building and other constructional development in country areas consistently with the maintenance of agriculture and, in particular, factors affecting location of industry having regard to economic operation, part-time and seasonal employment, the well-being of rural communities and the preservation of rural amenities.The members have experience of industry, agriculture, scientific applications and social services. As I say, they are working hard, but they have a vast field to survey.
Then there is the Interdepartmental Committee which I had to assist me. Let me give you two or three words about them. They co-ordinate all views of all Departments concerned. Many Departments are in fact concerned, and that inevitably makes progress slower than it might be. The Committee have prepared a new Bill which the Uthwatt Interim Report recommended. I will say a few words about that later. The Committee also prepared a scheme for the redevelopment of "reconstruction areas" in legislative form—a system for areas substantially damaged and requiring replanning—for discussion with local authorities. The members have examined improvements in the long-term planning system, including the operation of the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act. They have considered safeguards against disfigurements—advertisements, petrol stations and the like—and the means of preserving amenities, such as woodlands, in town and country.
Next I would mention my little group of special assistants. Among other work for which they have been responsible come activities of the Interdepartmental Committee and special research, which, as your Lordships are aware, is an essential foundation of national planning. These assistants have also been engaged in the collation of information for the survey of land resources and uses, and have worked on possibilities of development or conservation. Survey must precede all planning, central, regional or local. It has not hitherto been done nationally, but now it is nearing completion as a basis for the consideration of the main lines of land use. Another activity is the collation of information from all quarters—including professional bodies, amenity and welfare 757 societies—on the components of town and country planning and the standards of provision in planning schemes. Principles are emerging of community planning, industrial and residential zoning and open space reservations. We have had contact with planning authorities in damaged areas, and most of them have been visited to ascertain conditions and to discuss lines of replanning on the spot. As to greater London, the City Corporation and the London County Council have each outline plans and are in touch with each other, and the authorities all around London are now being brought in to discuss co-ordinated planning.
That describes the past. Let me now give you a brief outline of what we have been doing while we have been waiting. Now we are to have a Ministry of Works and Planning, the central authority which- was promised, and a real central authority, with powers and responsibilities, as you have heard, transferred from the Ministry of Health. More than that, town and country planning will be extended to give effect to the principle that planning will be a matter of national policy, which it has not hitherto been. It will not be a subsidiary activity; it is not as if a department were being added to an existing Ministry. What we do will, I hope, satisfy the expectations of those who have urged the importance of a national plan for the use of land and land resources and for a competent organization working on a system of partnership—I should like to underline that word—with local government administrations. I wish to make the partnership idea clear at the outset. We must have local initiative and the elements of national planning applied to localities with the co-ordination of local plans fitting into a wider framework. We must therefore encourage further combinations of planning authorities over areas which demand planning as a unit. We must have experienced officers ready for consultation, and we therefore propose to set up on a small scale, and in urgent areas first, local offices for advice and help in the co-ordination of planning. We propose to ask individuals of standing, with experience in public administration, to promote co-operation between authorities in planning over wide areas and in contact with the various interests affected. In many parts the need for collaboration over wider areas has been recognized but no one is responsible for effecting it.
758 Coming now to legislation, in addition to a Bill transferring powers there is another which is nearly ready. It is only a first step—the noble Viscount has already referred to this—to strengthen planning control over building and other development, so that properly conceived reconstruction is not prejudiced by present action. I should like to repeat that: to strengthen planning control over building and other development so, that properly conceived reconstruction is not prejudiced by present action.
The recommendations of the Uthwatt Committee are to be implemented. The first is the extension of planning and planning control over the whole country. The Act of 1932 left certain types of land outside planning, notably built-up land unlikely to be redeveloped and land so remote as not to need planning. The whole country will be covered. Secondly, there is the improvement of planning areas, which Mr. Justice Uthwatt and his Committee recommended. We shall encourage planning authorities to group in areas suitable as units. Many joint planning committees are in existence, but too many too small units were being.—and to some extent still are being—separately planned. In any new or further groupings, local authorities will be consulted; I ought not to need to say that. The third recommendation is for the strengthening of interim development control. I shall seek to strengthen the system of interim development control—that is, control before a planning scheme is operative. That will obtain during the war and for some time after the war. With new legislation, however, must go efforts to improve administration. Not all the troubles of the past are due to imperfections of the Act. Authorities have not made full use of their powers, as, for instance, in regard to the placing, design and character of buildings. Much depends on the qualifications and adequacy of the central and local staff to deal with questions of land utilization in the broadest sense.
I said a year ago that planning must work to national policies—policies to be determined—in agriculture, industry and transport in particular. These have to be decided, as it were, to some extent outside planning, but planning issues have to be taken into account in formulating economic policy. Local and area planning, however, cannot wait for national 759 policies to be fully determined; they must proceed according to the conditions and needs of areas related to larger areas. It is a long and difficult process. Once there is a plan, adjustments can be made to meet changing circumstances, national or regional or local; but, for all the desirability of formulating national plans and national policies for agriculture, transport, and industry, a plan—plans—must be started now.
One final word about the association of the existing Ministry of Works with this new responsibility. It seemed to us natural, and almost inevitable, that in addition to planning there must be execution, or at any rate aids to execution, including the whole organization to implement plans and to ensure that they materialize. I should be glad to be given an opportunity later—perhaps in two or three weeks' time—to describe some of the many activities of the Ministry of Works which have an essential, sometimes predominant, bearing on planning, sometimes almost entirely post-war in orientation. We have had the Cement Industry Committee, under the late Mr. George Balfour, and the Brick Industry Committee, under Mr. Oliver Simmonds, whose first Report is to be published shortly. The supply of other materials is being examined and controlled not only for war purposes but for what is coming after the war. A great deal else is being done with post-war implication and effect in the present Ministry, including standardization of materials and of design for war purposes, but with at least some post-war interest. Technical institutions of all kinds are co-operating. If I do make such a statement later, I think that it will show your Lordships that there is an effort on the part of the Ministry of Works, and a considerable one, to do what can be done for the future as well as for the war period, and with no prejudice to what is being done for the war.
I thank your Lordships for your patience. I have given you the Government statement, I have given you a brief account of some of the things that we have been doing while we waited, and some amplification of the paragraphs in the Government statement. Let me end by saying that we in this Ministry realize the responsibility and the opportunity; there need be no mistake about that We have to try to secure the 760 maximum benefit to the country of limited land resources—a new and a high objective. There has been no previous study on a national scale of these resources, nor of groupings of communities, nor of balance of land utilization for various requirements. All the evils that you have seen of increasing urban concentrations and congestions, with undesirable encroachment on, and disfigurement of, the countryside, will have to be dealt with. A post-war planned foundation for physical reconstruction is what we achieve in all the various forms and kinds of development, to the end of better and fuller and happier living. I would ask your Lordships to speed us on our way. I would implore your Lordships not to imagine for one moment that this is a detraction from war effort. I submit that it is a war aim, a notable and urgent war aim. And "let not England forget her precedence of teaching nations how to live."
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, the noble Lord the Minister of Works and Buildings had been kind enough to send me in advance a copy of the statement that he has just made. I have had an opportunity of studying it, and I have no hesitation in saying at the outset that to my mind it is a most excellent statement, which will be warmly welcomed throughout the country, and which will be cordially approved by those of your Lordships' House who have taken an active part, for many, many months past in pressing for a policy of this nature. In fact, this statement very closely coincides with the aims which we have advocated in this House and which we have urged upon the Government. Two points in particular are embodied in it: one, that there is to be a single Ministry of Planning, that is to say, physical planning of town and country; and, two, it is recognized that such a Ministry cannot cover the whole ground of the economic and social reconstruction of Britain and special machinery has to be devised for the purpose.
That there must be a single Ministry is agreed by all who have made a study of these problems. The slow development of town and country planning in this country is very largely due to the confusion of central and local authorities that has prevailed hitherto. Furthermore, the Town Planning Acts have been somewhat negative in character. They have controlled and vetoed, but they have provided no 761 positive stimulus, guidance or direction. A Ministry is needed in order that under the general direction of Parliament it should exercise a propulsive influence in the country and see, or help to see, that difficulties are overcome and that action is in fact taken.
The local authorities, of course, must continue to control the actual creation of the schemes in particular localities and their execution. No one suggests for a moment that a new Ministry should be created and by bureaucratic action from Whitehall determine the schemes in every town or county of the land. That is contemplated by no one. But it is also recognized that many, in fact most, of our present local governing areas are too small for the proper execution of a planning policy. They have arisen from ancient historic causes, and frequently their boundaries bear little relation to the practical needs of the present day. Therefore, pending a general readjustment of the boundaries of the local governing areas, which will be a long process and give rise to much controversy, it is necessary now to group local regions of sufficient size for the task in hand. It should be the duty of the Ministry of Planning to take the initiative and to help in the formation of such regions by general consent in the various areas.
Furthermore, I think there is general agreement that the matter would advance more quickly if there were not the present degree of centralization in Whitehall, causing much delay. Indeed it is often a question of years before a local authority's scheme is finally put into effective operation. If there were devolution by this Ministry to regional bodies within the Civil Defence Regions, or areas equivalent to them, that would be a step in advance. So that the plan contemplated by this statement and by what has been said before is for a single central Planning Ministry in London, devolving parts of its authority on the several Defence Areas or the equivalent and below the local regional authority, consisting of groups of the present local authorities, which will carry out the actual work itself.
A Ministry is essentially needed as the author of the legislation that will be required, to present it to Parliament and to get it enacted. There is a great body of legislation which is needed, reforming and expanding in many directions existing Town and Country Planning Acts. Only 762 an authoritative Ministry can undertake that task. Such legislation would have to deal especially with the question of the acquisition of land and the difficult problems of compensation and betterment, which have hitherto been one of the main causes of the holding up of the advance of building. An essential point is that the present powers in the Town and Country Planning Acts, which are in the hands of the Ministry of Health, should be part of the powers transferred to the new Ministry. It would be fatal to leave the Planning Ministry without those powers. It would mean duplication of effort, overlapping, conflict and delay, and I am indeed glad to hear to-day that the very first point mentioned in the statement made by the noble Lord is that those existing powers shall be transferred from the Ministry of Health to the new Ministry of Works and Planning.
Whether the powers of the Ministry of Health dealing with housing—the housing of the working classes and others—should be transferred is perhaps a moot point. There are arguments on both sides. On the whole, the course which is being taken by the Government to leave the actual Housing Acts in the hands of the present local authorities and, centrally, in the hands of the Ministry of Health, is one with which we will not quarrel. The question of housing is very closely connected with the question of over-crowding, with streets, and with local finance. Ail these matters are within the purview of the Ministry of Health, and although it may be said that it is somewhat illogical to deal with town planning by one hand and with housing by another, nevertheless, viewing the matter as a whole, I do not criticize the decision which has now been arrived at by the Government with regard to housing powers.
One point I missed from the statement that has been made to-day. Nothing has been said about certain planning powers which are of national and not of local interest, particularly national parks, the preservation of the coast line and other amenities, which are of general concern to the whole country. We have advocated that those matters should be centralized to a great extent under the control of the new Ministry of Planning and that there should be a National Planning Fund, to be at the disposal of, or to be allocated by, the Ministry of Planning for achieving 763 these objects. I trust that when the legislation is presented it will be found that powers in that direction are also to be conferred on the new Ministry.
A question has arisen whether this Ministry should not be separated from the Ministry of Works and Buildings. I think, for my own part, that the Government have arrived at the right decision, that there should be only one Ministry and that the actual works and buildings—questions at present dealt with by the noble Lord—should continue under his control in a separate section or department of the whole Ministry. Otherwise again, if these matters were under dual control, there would probably be delay and possibly friction.
I myself have advocated in this House on more than one occasion that the new Ministry of Planning should absorb the whole of the present Ministry of Works and Buildings as well as take over planning powers from the Ministry of Health, and I have also advocated that certain powers of the Ministry of Transport should be transferred. It is an anomaly, when you are controlling, or endeavouring to control, ribbon development along the main roads, which is essentially a matter of planning, that the Ministry concerned is neither the Ministry of Health nor the Ministry of Works and Buildings but the Ministry of Transport, so that local authorities have now to look to three separate Ministries for various parts of the same undertaking. I trust that the legislation will provide that these very anomalous powers, which were almost accidentally conferred upon the Ministry of Transport when some hurried legislation was passed through Parliament, shall revert to the new Ministry of Works and Planning. With regard to Scotland, we should all agree with the proposal now made that that country should be dealt with separately, otherwise, if Scottish planning were transferred to Whitehall, whether to one Ministry or another, Scottish national feeling would be gravely offended and strong protests would speedily be made.
The noble Lord has said that steps will be taken to provide the necessary skilled assistance for carrying out these various proposals. I might remind him, although he is, I am sure, very conscious of it, that considerable difficulty has been 764 created on account of calling to the Colours many of the key men in this administration—professional town planners and other advisers of the local authorities who are frequently being called up to one Service or another, leaving the work in their own localities frequently in a state of some confusion. I hope that, so far as military exigencies allow, the very small number of individuals concerned will be allowed to continue this work, for without it the ambitions of the noble Lord cannot be adequately fulfilled.
I have suggested that two points have to be borne in mind—first, the essential duty of creating a single Ministry of Planning; and, secondly, that such a Ministry cannot cover the whole field of reconstruction. I am very glad that the Government do not propose to adopt the suggestion made in some quarters that there should be a Minister of Reconstruction. That is a matter far too wide and naried to be dealt with by one Department. The location of industry, for example, which is a fundamental matter in this connexion, is a question which raises every aspect of economic development in this country, and could not be dealt with by a Minister whose prime duty was the physical planning of town and country. It belongs specifically to the Board of Trade. Furthermore, strategic considerations enter into the location of industry, and the three Service Departments are therefore concerned. Again, arterial roads and railways must belong to the Ministry of Transport. Agricultural interests are very vitally concerned when you are considering the disposition of urban and rural land, and that cannot be divorced from the Ministry of Agriculture. Similarly, the creation of green belts—broad areas of rural land to be preserved round our cities, which is an essential of planning policy—vitally concerns agricultural interests.
Lastly, in connexion with the building industry, the Ministry of Labour is the authority involved, so that if you attempt to establish a single Ministry of Reconstruction, that Ministry would have to overlap all these various Departments which are already dealing, and must continue to deal, with important areas of the whole matter. Furthermore, such a Ministry of Reconstruction would be likely to become a bottle-neck through which an immense volume of varied business 765 would endeavour to pass, causing a very great deal of postponement and delay. The Minister for the physical planning of town and country will have, in carrying out his own specific task, enough to tax the energies of the most active administrator, and to endeavour to convert him into a Minister charged with the whole of this vast complex of varied questions would be an error of policy.
I am very glad, therefore, that the statement we have had to-day docs not adopt that suggestion, but provides, very wisely, in my opinion, for the creation of a Council, over which the Minister is to preside, and of which official representatives of all the various Departments concerned will form part in order to secure a proper liaison between them. Furthermore, at the Cabinet level, there is to be a Committee, similar to the Committee of Reconstruction, I presume, which now sits under the Chairmanship of Mr. Arthur Greenwood, which would deal with any matters in which there is a difference of opinion or with questions of adjustment that cannot be decided by the officials. The Chairman of such a Committee should, in normal times, I suggest, be either the Prime Minister or his deputy, for these matters will be the main task of government in the years that follow the war, and I envisage an organization something like the Committee of Imperial Defence for dealing with these matters of national reconstruction.
All these matters, and particularly the principal ones—the creation of a single Ministry and the co-ordination of the work of reconstruction—have long been obvious, and these proposals have been generally supported throughout the whole country. I have myself had the advantage of attending, within the last few months, three Conferences; which have consisted of representatives of all the associations and the institutes concerned, representatives of some of the chief local authorities, the chairmen of committees, and the leading pofessional town planners. They have all been unanimous on these two points—no dissentient voice was heard at any time—first, that there should be a single Ministry which must take over the powers of the Ministry of Health with regard to planning and, secondly, that there should be some co-ordinating body of officials and a-; the Cabinet level. Indeed, in all the voluminous literature 766 which is now pouring from the Press on these questions of planning, these objects have been repeatedly reaffirmed, and so far as I know no one has gainsaid them. Therefore it is all the more surprising that it should have taken all this time to reach the statement that has been happily made to-day.
If I remind your Lordships of the steps that have been taken in this House and elsewhere, it is not in order to recriminate about the past or even to make any protest against the delay, but because I am anxious lest the same procrastination should prevail in the future. The noble Lord has spoken of legislation being introduced of a preliminary character as a first step, and I am anxious to know when the more comprehensive and definitive legislation is to sec the light. I feel bound to remind your Lordships of the melancholy calendar through which this question has passed. In October, 1940, the new Ministry of Works and Buildings was established, and the noble Lord, happily for all of us, was nominated as the Minister. He brought to his task great energy and enthusiasm. He realized his opportunity and he realized the obligation. He proceeded to build up a Department. He appointed at once an expert Committee to deal with the crucial problems of compensation and betterment, and he came to his work full of zeal and enthusiasm. After three months, in February, 1941, exactly a year ago, he was able to announce on behalf of the Government that the principle of planning had been accepted as a national policy, and that the Government recognized that some Central Planning Authority would be required. That was a great step in advance. It was cordially welcomed throughout the country; but we soon learnt that announcement is one thing and achievement is another.
The noble Lord found himself surrounded by all kinds of departmental obstacles and obstructions. The start of the new Ministry was glorious, but that splendour did not last long.Heaven lies about us in our infancy !Shades of the prison-house begin to closeUpon the growing boy.Five months passed when, in July of last year, a solution was announced of the problems before the Ministry. A conference of Ministers had been held, and we were given the quite futile proposal of a Council of three Ministers, a proposal 767 that was immediately denounced here, which bore all the marks of a Ministerial compromise, of an endeavour to escape from the problem without settling it. I heard recently an observation made by a man of great experience, well known to your Lordships if I were to name him. He has probably seen as much of the inner working of the British Government system as any other now living. He said that when you get half a dozen Ministers in a conference and expect to obtain a clear and definite decision more likely than not all you will get is the greatest common platitude. After this declaration of this triplet—the noble Lord called it an embryo; it was a triplet—that was born, in October, just one year after the noble Lord had taken office, there was a debate in this House in which members from every quarter expressed great disappointment at the prolonged delay, asked why it was, why nothing definite had happened, when a Central Planning Authority was to be established and when legislation would be introduced. We were told last October that it was hoped the necessary legislation would be introduced before Christmas.
Christmas came and went, and I put down before Christmas a Motion which is now before the House, giving a full month's notice, postponed it for another fortnight in order to meet the convenience of the Government, and at last to-day we have the sixth discussion that has taken place in the House of Lords on the same subject during the last fifteen months. In all those discussions all of us have said exactly the same thing. It may be said that the delay does not matter very much, that there is plenty of time, that the war will last a good time yet. But these are immense problems requiring most careful study in detail and great elaboration in execution. What I fear, what has obsessed the minds of many of us, is that if this war should come to a sudden end, as did the last war in 1918, the Government would be faced with what the Minister has said would not happen. They "would be caught by the peace," and the whole of this matter would be thrown into a state of confusion. On the one hand, you would have the enormous problem of unemployment through demobilization of the Forces, and the cessation of the manufacture of munitions; on the other hand, you would have a demand for constructive work; but 768 plans would not be ready, and local authorities would not be able to act because the necessary legislation had not been introduced. That is why I have ventured to go back over this unhappy history of the past. It is because I greatly fear, that although now this Ministry is to be established, and although the preliminary legislation, the sort of safeguarding legislation recommended by the first Report of the Uthwatt Committee, will perhaps be soon introduced, the more important legislation covering the whole field and telling local authorities what they will be able to do, and what they will not be able to do, will be delayed month after month, and even, possibly, never be put through.
When is this legislation, I would ask the noble Lord, likely to be introduced? I know it must await the final Report of the Uthwatt Committee, but in a few weeks it will be a year since they presented their first Report. I know their task is an exceedingly complicated, technical and difficult one, and requires the greatest care and deliberation; still I do hope the Minister will see that these terrible delays that have taken place now for some fifteen months will not be repeated. The Minister himself, I know, is full of zeal. He appreciates the urgency, but I am not so sure that the Government as a whole are animated with the same spirit. When will this other legislation be produced? Do they hope to produce it before next Christmas? If the Minister would only fix that date I should feel greatly relieved, but I should be still more relieved if the promise is fulfilled and the legislation is passed before the end of this year. I can assure the noble Lord, and I feel I can speak in the name of your Lordships when I say that this House, which has on six occasions pressed forward the urgency of this matter, and which now rejoices that a definite step is to be taken, will continue to keep the closest watch upon it, and if efforts are relaxed will insist on the measures being-taken which we are sure the nation as a whole desires.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, may I trespass upon your time to indicate the views of the Labour party with regard to the statement which has been made by the noble Lord the Minister of Works and Buildings? While I feel sure that those concerned with planning in this country will be gratified that at length the Minister 769 has found it possible to make this statement of Government intentions, I regret I cannot share the belief of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, that they will be satisfied by this statement and by the steps which are proposed. I see no great contribution to the preparatory steps necessary to deal with this complicated problem in what amounts to no more than a transfer of certain powers from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Works and Buildings—powers which we are told are to be increased and amplified by further provisional legislation, but which at present amount to no more than the powers given under the Town and Country Planning Act of 1932.
I am not one of those who hold the view that difficult problems can necessarily best be solved by the creation of new Ministries, nor am I one of those who feel that difficult problems can best be helped towards solution by the creation of multifarious Committees. I do not believe that Committees are an alternative to democratic representative Government or Ministerial responsibility. I see no close affinity between the Ministry of Works and Buildings and planning. I can see a much closer affinity between planning and the Ministry of Health. I am one of those who regret that the term "local government" was dropped from the new title of the Ministry of Health just after the last war. The Ministry of Health, we are informed, is to retain present powers with regard to housing. As one who is not without experience in dealing with the problem of housing, with the decongestion of congested areas in this great Metropolitan City, I see housing as one of the important elements, I will not say the most important, but certainly one of the most important elements in planning. Notwithstanding the proposed Committee on a Cabinet level which is to be set up, I can see possible confusion through the Ministry of Health still being responsible for the solution of what still remains a grave problem in many of the cities of this country—the solution of the slum problem—while planning is being dealt with by the Ministry of Works and Planning.
I was encouraged, however, by the statement of the noble Lord, the Minister of Works and Buildings, that both the Government and he recognize that planning is in essence a problem of local 770 government. It is correct that the main outline of the national plan must be settled nationally, but planning cannot be settled nationally on the drawing board. The national settlement must be the decision of policy relating to roads, to agriculture, to open spaces, to the location and distribution of industry; but may I suggest to your Lordships that it will still remain a problem of local government to execute planning in this country? The preservation of a close partnership between the central guiding and, as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, put it, propulsive Ministry and local government authorities, is of extreme importance. There are in my view far too many planning authorities in this country at the present time. The latest information I have is that there are 751 planning authorities in England and Wales. There are in the Metropolitan Police district, an area of 690 square miles, no fewer than 77 town planning authorities, whereas in the County of London, an area of 117 square miles, there are happily only two town planning authorities—the London County Council for 116 square miles and the City of London Corporation for the balance.
I was encouraged by reading an informative article in The Times yesterday in which among other things the writer said:The central authority will not be alone in the field of planning. Hitherto planning has been the duty of local authorities under a loose supervision from Whitehall. There must still be local planning and a local administration, but the areas must be large enough to make them both effective.The noble Lord, the Minister of Works and Buildings, proposes to get over the difficulty of the numerous small town planning units now in existence by the appointment of Committees which, as I gather, will have no statutory foundation, which will have no power to raise finance and which will not enjoy the other statutory powers necessary for effective planning. With all respect, I do not believe that town planning can be done by Joint Committees. I believe that town planning must be done by popular, democratically-elected local authorities, and if their boundaries are inappropriate, as they clearly are for existing conditions in this country—and will be even more inappropriate for the conditions which we hope may be brought into being—then the Government should have the courage to tackle the problem (complex, I agree) of the reorganization 771 of local government units in this country.
With your Lordships' permission I should like to extend to the noble Lord, the Minister of Works and Buildings, my commiseration that he should be asked to operate the Town and Country Planning Act of 1932. He will find that no adequate weapon. Not only is it not a Tommy gun, it is not even a pike; it is only a disappointment. One can understand how it comes about that it is a disappointment. After all, 1932 was not a very good year for social legislation. The nation and its elected representatives were still suffering from the fright of the economic collapse of 1931, and it is not surprising that the high hopes held out at the time were falsified as regards that Act. The noble Lord has indicated that provisional legislation is contemplated. I agree entirely with the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, that provisional legislation is not encouraging. Interim legislation has a great habit in this country of becoming final legislation. What is really needed in my submission for dealing with the problem of planning is not necessarily the creation of a new Ministry, nor is it the transference of powers from one Ministry to another. Local authorities should be given adequate powers to plan.
We want a new Town and Country Planning Act. It must be an Act which will embody new and ample and comprehensive powers. It must be an Act which will embody, not in the preamble but in its sections, recognition that if this country is to be replanned, if the land of this country is to be used most efficiently and most economically for the social, economic and cultural benefit of the people, then private interests must be subject to public requirements and public needs. The new Town Planning Act must embrace proposals which will make town planning less burdensome financially upon the public purse and must make the powers capable of much speedier operation. About compensation I would say that in my view the basis of compensation and of its ascertainment still has too much of the atmosphere which prevailed in 1845, when the Lands Clauses Act recognized not only the existence of land as the predominant form of property in this country but the opposition of landowners to the projection of railways, and 772 it is unfortunately true that local authorities, notwithstanding the substantial improvements embodied in the Act of 1919, have had to acquire, for statutory purposes, land at prices which in many cases have been oppressively inequitable, and in some cases have been—may I use the word?—something in the nature of ransom.
The basis of the ascertainment of compensation cries aloud for amendment. Whilst we are all gratified at the Government announcement that, as regards the price of land required for local authorities in the future, the standard would not exceed that of 1939, I assure the noble Lord, the Minister, that that does not satisfy or meet the legitimate requirements of local authorities. It is the basis upon which that standard has to be ascertained when a local authority enter the market, not as willing buyers, that is important. Local authorities are seldom willing buyers. They must buy land to discharge their statutory functions, and frequently they must buy a particular plot of land. If, for instance, they are under the obligation to provide a school, they must provide a school within a certain distance of where the children live, and they must, therefore, get a site within that distance. Accordingly, it is seldom that the local authority are willing buyers. The basis of compensation when amended, must also take account of the anomalies which arise from the right to claim injurious affection. It is a curious anomaly that, although there may be no direct injurious affection, the person owning land a portion of which is taken by a local authority can claim injurious affection, whereas an owner, although, in fact, he may have a more substantial claim for injurious affection, cannot claim it if the local authority have not acquired a portion of his land.
And then there are problems of speeding up. The London County Council are not inexperienced in acquiring land, but even with our great experience—and I may say with our very efficient machine—it is a rare occasion if, after we have decided to clear an area of its slums, we can get into possession of the slum dwellings within two years. When it is a matter of less urgent problems, where the London County Council, like other local authorities, possess less imperative powers, the time can be very much longer than two years. I respectfully commend to the 773 attention of the Minister amendments of the Town Planning Act which will shorten that period and will also enable local authorities to deal with another curious anomaly—namely, that of non-conforming user. That, briefly stated, is the right possessed by the owner of a building which, whether as a building or as to the uses to which the building is put, does not conform with the town planning scheme, to go on not conforming in perpetuity unless the local authority are able and willing to pay him compensation. I suggest that it would be in every sense equitable that a term should be put to the exercise of that right, which can, and frequently does, militate very seriously against schemes of road improvement and schemes of town planning.
May I indicate a further direction in which the Town Planning Act should be amended? It is that there should be some substantial limitation of the obligation to hold local inquiries which result in much delay, much expense, and, often, much confusion, and at the same time of the obligation to give individual notice to owners whose land or property it is contemplated will be included in a scheme. I suggest that that notice should be by public advertisement or that some other simple means should be adequate.
I must ask your Lordships' forgiveness if I have trespassed too long on your time, or if I have presumed, on the first occasion on which I have addressed you, to be somewhat definite upon this matter. I have had the privilege of being associated with the problems of planning and local government for a number of years, and I am, like your Lordships and many people outside, very much concerned that this great opportunity to replan this country, to make it worthy of the sacrifices which have been, and are being, made in its defence, should not be missed. I beg the Minister to delay no more than he is compelled before introducing—and I hope before being successful in putting on the Statute Book—new powers which will enable local authorities, in conjunction with the central Ministry, to replan and reconstruct the country. I want to see the term "East End" cease to be a term of social reproach, and become a geographical term.
But if we are late, if peace should come before these powers are on the Statute Book, before local authorities have had 774 the opportunity of making their arrangements to operate them, before the owners of land and the private developers have the opportunity of finding out for themselves what their rights and powers are, then there is a great danger that the intense pressure of seeking to get back to normal conditions, the pressure to provide houses for people returning to damaged cities, the pressure to rebuild factories, the pressure to rebuild schools, will be such that planning will be postponed, or will be so prejudiced by those activities as to make it more costly and its operation much more difficult. In conclusion, therefore, I beg the Minister to do what he can to expedite the final Report, or the next Report, of the Uthwatt Committee, and not to delay for a moment in getting new and comprehensive legislation upon the Statute Book.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, I am sure that I speak for every one of your Lordships when I offer our congratulations to the noble Lord opposite on the maiden speech which he has just delivered. That is no empty compliment, for I am certain that your Lordships must have been greatly impressed both by the knowledge displayed in, and by the vigour of, the speech to which we have just had the pleasure of listening. If I may say so, I agree with a very great deal that the noble Lord said, and in particular I was glad to hear the admonitions which he addressed to the Minister for greater speed in the compulsory acquisition of land; and, as one who is not entirely without experience in acquiring land for houses, I appreciate very much the reference which the noble Lord made to the difficulties which local authorities experience.
I venture to say, however, that a great deal of what the noble Lord said in the latter half of his speech was in entire contradiction and in disproof of the thesis with which he began his remarks. He began by saying that he entirely disapproved of the transfer of town planning powers from the Ministry of Health to the new Ministry of Planning; but I think that all the complaints which he made—I shall mention one or two of them in a moment—afford very good reason for welcoming the transfer of these powers, which I myself do very whole-heartedly. I am not going to follow the noble Lord into questions of injurious affection and 775 non-conforming user and all those other very interesting things about which he spoke, because I want to remind your Lordships that he is a little unfair to the Minister—perhaps more in his attitude than in his words—in putting the Minister in the dock, for, after all, this is the Minister who appointed the Uthwatt Committee, and it is to the Uthwatt Committee that we look for a solution of these difficulties, particularly in regard to compensation and betterment. I do not think therefore that it is quite fair to the noble Lord, Lord Reith, to blame him and to give the impression that it is his fault that things are going slowly. I myself look for a great improvement in these matters when we receive the Report of the Uthwatt Committee on the question of compensation and betterment. The noble Lord said, with some heat, that the public interest has to come first. Of course it has to come first. What we want to find out is how to put into fair legislation the means of making the public interest come first. If Mr. Justice Uthwatt can tell us that, we shall all be very happy indeed; and I hope that it will not be long before he is able to do so.
The noble Lord, Lord Latham, does not agree with the proposal to transfer these town-planning powers to a new Ministry. There are several reasons why I think that that is a very wise step. Most of them have already been mentioned, either by the noble Lord, Lord Reith, or by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, but perhaps I may mention one or two, quite simply and shortly. The land resources of this country have never been properly studied and have never been properly planned. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said that we have all made the same speeches six times in your Lordships' House, and I am afraid that I may have mentioned more than once that the good agricultural land of this country has been wasted in a very shocking way. That is a statement which we must go on making until the position is put right. What have the Ministry of Health, as the Ministry in charge of town planning, ever done about that? They have never initiated anything that I know of for a national study of land resources, but I hope that that is going to be one of the first things which the Central Planning Authority will do. Then there is the question of our great national amenities, 776 the coast line, and so on. The Ministry of Health have never looked at planning from the national point of view, and that is another reason why planning should be transferred to a new Ministry. The noble Lord accused the Minister of an intention to do planning by Committees; he said that he did not believe in Committees, but that the Minister was going to set up Committees, and that instead of doing it through Committees the Minister ought to do it through the local authorities. If I understand the Minister's proposals aright, however, these Committees are to be Committees of local authorities.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, I did not accuse the Minister; I warned him against the danger of too many Committees, and I went on to say, and I think with ample justification, that the setting up of Committees was no alternative to Ministerial democratic government.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
What I understood the Minister to say was that he regarded the proper basis of national planning as a partnership between the national planning authority and the local authorities, and that it seemed desirable that the initiative should be taken to encourage local authorities to cover wider areas than have been the case up to the present with planning schemes. That seems to me to be entirely democratic and entirely in consonance with the important position of the local authorities. I feel certain that the local authorities have nothing whatever to fear, but a great deal to gain, from the setting up of a Central Planning Authority, which will give not dictation but direction, and which will work through the local authorities themselves who, of course, must be responsible for the administration of planning.
Another national aspect of planning is urban development The Barlow Commission made it quite clear, I think, that it is contrary to the national interest that we should have continued enormous urban development. That is a point which is full of difficulty and on which I do not intend to try to enlarge, beyond reminding your Lordships that it was the unanimous finding of the Barlow Commission that this is a matter which requires attention from the national point of view. It is obviously a matter which ordinary local authorities, working separately, could not possibly take in hand. The question of 777 a plan for Greater London must need some kind of guidance and direction from above, and some help in getting all the local authorities concerned together, because, large as is the area under the jurisdiction of the London County Council, quite clearly no plan for London which took into account only the area of the London County Council and the City area could be satisfactory. The planning must be done in collaboration with all the county councils and other planning authorities affected, of which the noble Lord mentioned a number. All this has been, if I may say so, ignored in the past, owing to the fact that the Ministry of Health allowed a local view of planning to be taken instead of regarding it from a constructive, national point of view.
The noble Lord, Lord Latham, commiserated with the Minister on having to administer the Town and Country Planning Act of 1932. The Minister made it perfectly clear that one of his first preoccupations would be to introduce legislation to amend the Act. There is one other observation which the noble Lord made to which I feel bound to refer. He said that the solution of this problem was to give local authorities adequate powers. Well, I think one of the troubles is that the local authorities have never used the powers which they have had.
I welcome the establishment of a Ministry of Planning. I hope that it will be perfectly clear that this is not an absorption of the Ministry of Planning by the Ministry of Works. I think the boot must be regarded as being on the other leg. The Ministry of Works and Buildings has great importance now in war-time. In post-wartime it will be very much less important. It will have much less, or almost no, constructive work to do, and the section of it which is the Ministry of Planning will be of much greater importance. I think it is essential that the local authorities all over the country should not suppose that the planning powers are being transferred to the Office of Works. The planning powers are being transferred to a new Ministry of Planning, which is being set up in order to give guidance from a national point of view to the whole initiative in the planning idea.
Before I sit down I would like to say one word about Scotland. The noble Viscount opposite referred in passing to the impossibility of exercising planning 778 powers over Scotland from London. That of course is right enough. There is a certain devolution of local government to Scotland which renders it essential that the Secretary of State for Scotland should be the authority to approve the local authorities' plans. But that does not remove the necessity for the closest possible collaboration, which I am sure will in fact take place, between the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Ministry of Planning. If I may say so, Scotland has a much greater contribution to make to the national prosperity than is represented either by the number of its population or by the number of its acres. I think there is a great deal to be said for a United Kingdom Planning Board, because planning is indivisible. You cannot plan transport separately for England and Scotland any more than you can plan defence separately for England and Scotland. The whole of the agricultural, industrial, and transport problems for the United Kingdom have to be planned as a whole. And I am not quite clear from the Minister's statement how the necessary close collaboration is to take place. That it will take place I feel confident, because I am quite sure that all concerned will come to it with good will. But anything more injurious to the interests of Scotland, speaking from the point of view of Scotland, I cannot imagine than that it should be thought that Scotland can be planned in any way in isolation from the planning of Great Britain.
§ VISCOUNT SANKEY
My Lords, I rise to give general support to the views expressed by the noble Viscount who proposed this Motion. Undoubtedly the major task at present is that of winning the war, but the time has already come when attention should be devoted to preparing plans for the problems which must inevitably arise when peace is proclaimed. No one suggests that those plans can be put into immediate execution, but at any rate they should be prepared and be in readiness. The subject of planning is already exciting the attention of a very large number of our fellow subjects, and no doubt your Lordships receive many pamphlets and many books about it. But let me at once say that everybody who is interested in or engaged in discussing the future of planning should study the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Reith, this afternoon. It is a pronouncement 779 which ought to be read and re-read by everybody who is considering the matter. When peace comes the gravest problem facing the nation will be that of unemployment. Millions of men and women will be discharged from the Forces, from the factories, and from the public Departments. The end of the war will see a tremendous shortage of houses and the need for a colossal building programme. What a chance the Minister has of marrying unemployment to reconstruction. We shall require all our patriotism to be invoked for the purposes of peace, just as it has been invoked for the purposes of war. It was therefore good news when the noble Lord laid down at the beginning of his speech that the principle of planning has been accepted as the national policy, and that a Central Planning Authority will be required.
The subject divides itself into two heads. There are certain general problems and certain special problems which have to be solved, but there is one matter to which we should venture to hope that the Minister will give his immediate attention, both from a planning point of view and from a legislative point of view. He said that his immediate work fell into three groups, the first being the measures necessary to prevent action during the war which would prejudice the work of reconstruction thereafter. This is of cardinal importance and should be attended to at once. Legislation should devise immediately some restrictions to prevent people from reaping inordinate profits after the war from their speculative operations during its continuance.
With regard to the general problem, it appears from the various speeches and pamphlets which have been published that many of our fellow subjects desire that planning should go much further than the objects of the Town and Country Planning Acts, which concern themselves mainly with the promotion and enforcing of the orderly development of land. In his speech on February 26 of last year the noble Lord indicated that such matters as industrial development and transport should be matters of consideration, and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, presses in his Motion for the extension of the Town and Country Planning Acts. We can foresee that if these matters are dealt with grave questions will arise as to labour, transport, highways and finance. It is 780 in my view therefore good news that this question will be in the hands of a single Ministry, assisted by senior officials from other Ministries. One of the gravest causes of delay, as anybody who has had experience of public Departments would I am sure agree, is the overlapping of the various Ministries and having to go from pillar to post to get consents. No man can serve two masters, but very often a planner will have to serve five or six.
It may be wise to consider how far the area of planning should be enlarged. Is it wise to enlarge it? Some communications which have reached me suggest, for example, that planning should interfere with the production and distribution of goods and commodities so as to keep them at one centre or in one hand, that it should even produce plans for a single railway system. It is very wise to prevent disappointment and to say at once how far it is proposed planning should proceed. We are not going to reconstruct everything and everybody at the end of the war. Are you going to regulate the number of people who may reside, or conduct businesses or professions, in a particular area? What are you going to do for the little man? Our enemies seek to say that the day of the small man, like the day of the small nation, is at an end. That we shall certainly not assent to.
Let me finish with the general problems and come to some of the special problems. They are more concerned with what was the original object of the Town and Country Planning Act—for example, with regard to questions of rebuilding, where you have the simplest form of planning, how to restore the homes of the people, public buildings, churches, and colleges. It is a matter of regret that these questions were not transferred to the new Ministry. Some of the powers of the Ministry of Health on these matters, even now, call for consideration whether they, too, ought not to be in the hands of the Minister. There was a remarkable speech made by Mr. D. W. Smith who was addressing the Yorkshire County Association of Building Societies in November of last year. He said:Housing development in the past has oftentimes suffered because it has been guided by purely local or commercial considerations. There must be no more ribbon building, no more barrack-like tenements, but homes for all where each family unit may develop its own individuality.781 Then, again, you have to consider the question of standardization of design and, as the noble Lord pointed out, standardization of materials. We can surely do something better for our working classes than the designs of the houses even of a generation ago. Architecture consists in building beautifully, and it is to be hoped that priority of building will be given to the restoring of the homes of the people. We know that the ideas of an age of reconstruction are seldom realized and that "homes for heroes," although an attractive alliteration, were not exactly attained after the last war. But English family life is the base of our Empire, and both for the sake of material and spiritual planning ought to receive the first consideration. If you pay attention to the family and the State, you need have no fear for the future of the Empire.
The next question that arises will be, by what machinery of government are you to accomplish these results, by whom, and how is the work to be done? Again the noble Lord has given us a lead. He says that some services will require treatment on a national basis, some regionally, and some locally. But private enterprise should also be encouraged. With regard to the housing question, great help may be received from the experience and knowledge of those men who have conducted the great building societies since the last war. No doubt private interests must give way to public requirements, but I hope that private enterprise and private individuals will not be entirely reconstructed out of existence under our new order. Sacrifices will have to be made in peace as well as in war, but we must not allow planning to restrict unduly our rights of freedom of speech and action, many of which we have already attained, and for some of which we still profess ourselves to be fighting.
Another question I would ask the noble Lord is this: What sort of Civil Service are you going to have to assist you? To begin with, are there to be a multitude of new officials created? It has been said that in 1914 the number employed in the Civil Service was over 57,000, and by 1937 no fewer than 356,000 were employed. I do not vouch for these figures, but it must be admitted that modern Acts of Parliament have called for an increase in the number of officials. It is to be hoped that this new Town and Country Planning Act will not greatly increase the number 782 of officials. I would like to ask the noble Lord, if you grant jurisdiction to local authorities, may it not be necessary to have a more expert local Civil Service in close touch with, and under the control of, the municipal or Central Government? Those who are always criticizing the civil servants fail to distinguish between the man and the system, between the servants and the Service. You have already, in the Civil Service, men with the necessary brains and experience, but it will be imperative to have some alteration in the system itself. You do not want so much new men as a new outlook and new methods.
Let me now refer to another matter of considerable importance, and that is with regard to the Minister's powers. It must be recognized that planning will be on a larger and more extended scale, and the machinery of the existing Acts should be reconsidered. What powers are you going to give the Minister in control of planning? This subject is even more important if considerable powers are to be entrusted to local authorities. A great deal of the legislation and of the regulations must necessarily result in many questions having to be decided which concern not only the liberty of single individuals but also the liberty of groups of individuals, which are more appropriately dealt with by administrative action than in a Court of Law. Administrative tribunals are not at present suited to our system of government; but are you going to give the Minister absolute autocratic powers? You may say, if you like, and with your eyes open, that his position should be Hoc volo, sic jubeo, and that there should be no right to challenge it, no right to make representations to him, no right to see the reports of his inspectors, or to challenge their conclusions. If you do this you will probably find the position of the Minister almost untenable and a great deal of friction amongst those whose liberties are restricted without any right of protest. No doubt it is a joyful and pleasant thing to plan, but it may not be quite so joyful or pleasant to be planned, especially if you are planned without being able to say a word on your own behalf. This is not a matter to discuss at length to-day, but I would remind your Lordships that in 1932 a Committee on Minister's Powers was appointed and issued a Report on the subject. No doubt the noble Lord, the Minister of Works and 783 Buildings, has read it, but may I refer him to the final recommendations of that Committee at page 115?
There is one further question—whoever does decide these matters will have to exercise both administrative and judicial functions. The problem is a difficult one, but I hope your Lordships will not forget Private Bill legislation before Parliamentary Committees. These Committees do exercise both administrative and judicial functions, and they have given very real satisfaction. I speak in the hearing of the noble Earl who is Chairman of Committees, and he will not misunderstand me if I say that these Committees are rather expensive. In one way, of course, the expense is negligible when you are dealing with very large capital sums, say, in promoting a new railway, but, on the other hand, for smaller matters it would be an advantage if some consideration could be given to reducing the cost and giving an opportunity to the individual or to groups of individuals to appear before the Committee to protest against some planning which they think is unfair, and so hostile to their interests. I regret to have detained your Lordships so long, but the object of our present debate is merely discussion, and as time proceeds I have no doubt that under the guidance of the noble Lord we shall find a satisfactory solution of what in my view is one of the most difficult questions which awaits us after the war.
THE EARL OF ONSLOW
My Lords, my noble and learned friend referred to the practice of your Lordships' House in referring a proposed Private Bill to a Committee of the House, and he has paid, if I may say so, a very well-earned tribute to the Committees of your Lordships' House. As he says, they give universal satisfaction both to promoters and to opponents. When I was Chairman of the Royal Commission on Local Government we had evidence before us from more sources than one of the truth of those observations, and of the satisfaction which the Committees of your Lordships' House give to all parties concerned. I would like to explain to your Lordships that the question of Private Bill procedure, and any desirability of reforming that procedure with a view to assisting the passage of Private Bills at greater speed, has been carefully considered by my Department. I have been in consultation with the 784 authorities in another place, and in communication with my noble friend opposite and other heads of Government Departments. We have had various proposals which I will explain to your Lordships in a minute; but in the first place let me say that all those concerned, and I am sure all members of your Lordships' House, are anxious to facilitate the passage of Private Bills through Parliament. I think your Lordships would agree, however, that nothing should be done to prejudice the rights or interests of Petitioners against such Bills, whether they are individuals or local authorities, or to weaken the safeguards which the Private Bill procedure of your Lordships' House provides.
We have had proposals from various sources in regard to Private Bill procedure, and suggestions have been made as to certain alterations in order to accelerate the transfer of labour—this is one of the main points—from war work to peace work after the war. There have been various suggestions with which I need not trouble your Lordships at the moment. After very careful consideration we came to the conclusion that these limitations—I think they are limitations-are really not acceptable, because the general elasticity of Parliamentary procedure is superior to any of the suggestions that we have received. Parliament is supreme. Parliament can take any steps it likes in regard to the passage of Bills through Parliament. I have always tried to facilitate in every way the bringing in of a Bill as a late Bill almost at the end of a Session. There is no difficulty whatever in that respect.
Then, again—though we have not encouraged the practice, it has been done, especially when there have been a Dissolution and a General Election and Parliament meets again—it is quite possible, (and Parliament will always do it, if necessary), to suspend Standing Orders to carry over a Bill from one Parliament to another. Further, supposing a Private Bill comes in as a late Bill and Parliament is not sitting at the time, the power exists for permission to be granted for a Private Bill Committee to sit and hear a Petition during a Recess. I do not think that there is really any limit to the possibilities which Parliament may, in its wisdom, adopt to enable the passage of Bills to be accelerated. Therefore I venture to hope your Lordships will agree 785 that it is undesirable to make any alteration in the existing procedure. If you do, all that would happen would be that you would reduce its elasticity.
My noble and learned friend referred to the question of costs. I agree that the question of costs is one, especially at the present time, which requires very careful consideration. As he said, in a very large proposal which involves hundreds of thousands of pounds, the question of costs does not really arise. You have a great county borough or other large local authority promoting a scheme and all sorts of county councils opposing it. If the costs then are considerable, or appear considerable, it is really not a very large matter, but to smaller local authorities and to private individuals it may be a consideration. I feel sure that your Lordships would give sympathetic consideration to any proposals which might be made to lessen the costs as well as to facilitate the passage of Bills through your Lordships' House. I do not think there is any more I need say on the subject, but I would like to assure your Lordships that this matter has received very careful consideration. So far, I do not think any recommendation has been put forward which could usefully be adopted to facilitate the passage of Bills through your Lordships' House, and I should humbly recommend that Parliament should retain its present full powers, and with them the full elasticity of its procedure, without introducing any further rules or regulations which, I think, would do more to hamper procedure than to accelerate it.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
My Lords, I am anxious to say one or two things on the subject which is now before the House. I want to call attention to the fact, which not many of your Lordships seem to have borne in mind when addressing us, that there is a war on, and I cannot help thinking that some parts of the ambitious and interesting programme that has been laid before us by Lord Reith are matters which really cannot adequately be considered or wisely dealt with until the end of the war. What I do think can be dealt with now, and what I do think there is a strong case for, is the matter of legislation. Legislation of the kind suggested would take a long time, and, I would add, it would require very grave consideration. I wish now to suggest to the Government that 786 they would be making a very grave mistake if an endeavour were made to rush through the House an amendment of these very complex Acts and proposals of a very wide, sweeping character as regards powers given to a Minister or to local authorities, without affording the House ample opportunity for long and careful consideration of all the details.
We have seen too many examples in this House during the last two years of legislation which we have been practically compelled to accept without proper time to consider it. If this particular measure or these measures adumbrated to-day come before your Lordships' House, I think the Government should be warned that this House will not be inclined to swallow all sorts of ill-considered details with an assurance that unless they are the Bill will have to be postponed to the great disadvantage of the people. For my part, if I am here I intend to discuss the proposed measures—dealing with matters of which I have some knowledge and experience as a lawyer—in considerable detail. I think these Bills should be introduced as soon as possible after Mr. Justice Uthwatt's Committee and Lord Justice Scott's Committee have reported. I do not know whether any Bill will be introduced in your Lordships' House or whether it will be introduced in another place, but in whichever House it is introduced a long time will have to be given to the Committee stage.
I would observe this, in reference to what has fallen from my noble and learned friend Viscount Sankey, that it would be in my opinion a very dangerous thing to attempt to confer upon either the Minister or upon local authorities very wide and extensive powers interfering with the liberty of the subject in dealing with the land, without any means of checking the actions of those persons and without any redress to the unfortunate subject whose land is being affected. I have some recent experience of the grave objection which the people as a whole have to interference with liberty. Although it may be, and I agree is, true that in many cases you have to interfere with liberties in the interests of the people as a whole, and I am the last to object to that, you ought to be very careful, if you are going to extend the rights of individual Ministers without appeal, to settle, for instance, the frontage of a house, even though that house will not 787 affect anyone but passers by. That is the sort of thing that will be criticized. Other things which were suggested in the interesting but I must say ambitious programme put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Reith, will be subject to very great criticism when we have a Bill before us.
So much for legislation. I venture to suggest to the Government that they will be doing a very ill service to the country if when they get the Act—which, of course, they have not got yet—they should embark upon all sorts of Committees for the production of plans all over the country, and for town and country planning measures requiring the assistance of hundreds of skilled persons all over the country. I think it was my noble friend Viscount Samuel who suggested that a great many of these gentlemen who were serving would have to be brought back—that was his idea—if these things are to be proceeded with. For my part I have a strong conviction that to proceed with any substantial number of these details during the war would be a profound mistake. None of us know how long this war will last, none of us know what the financial position of the country will be when it is at last over, and without a knowledge of what funds can be provided by the Exchequer and by the local authorities it is impossible to tell the scale on which this vast planning for town and country can usefully proceed. That there are some things that can be done and ought to be done towards the close of the war I agree, but I venture to suggest to the Government that they must be very careful in interfering in any way with the real prosecution of the war.
These are very grave and perilous times. For my part, even though it may be suggested that I have a one-track mind, I rejoice to think that it is a mind similar to the mind in that respect of M. Clemenceau. When he took over his duties on November 13, 1917, he was asked for his policy, and he said, "My foreign policy is to wage war. My home policy is to wage war. All the time I am concerned with the waging of war. Je fait la guerre." To take away even a dozen first-class men, still more to take hundreds of well-trained and fully educated persons who might be helping in the war effort, to make plans which may have to be scrapped, would be the very worst service which those who are in favour of this 788 great reconstruction of the country after the war could give to that cause.
§ LORD HARMSWORTH
My Lords, I am sure that every one of your Lordships will agree with my noble and learned friend who has just addressed you in his desire that the necessary legislation should be submitted to Parliament and the country with the least possible delay. That I have no doubt is one of the first purposes of my noble friend Lord Reith. But I do not think that my noble and learned friend has evoked an echo of sympathy with his opinion—surely, if I may say so with the greatest respect, very old-fashioned at this stage—that we really ought not to proceed with preparations for the peace in the midst of the war. I thought that the great majority, not merely in your Lordships' House but elsewhere, had come to the conclusion that we ought at all events to show some foresight, some preparation for conditions after the war, in contrast to our very serious lack of preparation in some departments for war.
I feel that we have one thing upon which to congratulate ourselves—I mean those who hold the opinions I do on this subject—that we have seen the last of the Council of Ministers. My noble friend, I hope, has not been impatient with critics of his Department and has not felt himself to be unfairly pressed, but the setting up of the Council of Ministers was one of the most depressing circumstances which we have had to consider in connexion with this great subject. It was quite obviously a flimsy and, as it turned out, purely temporary expedient to meet a very urgent and pressing problem. I myself welcome very heartily the solution of the difficulty with regard to the Ministry that the noble Lord has propounded to us this afternoon, but I have some little misgiving—as I think the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, has—that there may be some little confusion in the public mind between the planning side of my noble friend's administration and that which we formerly viewed as the function of the First Commissioner of Works. It may be a convenience that the Office of Works should be conducted from the same Department, but there is something very incongruous, to my mind, unless it is merely a matter of Departmental convenience, that the Office of Works should, after the war, 789 be associated, as it were, on level terms with what would be one of the most important of all Departments of State.
I have nothing further to say than to note, with my noble friend Viscount Samuel, the omission of ribbon development from the authority of the Minister of Planning. It is quite clear, of course, that the Minister of Transport must have a great deal to do with construction along the lines of the great roads. I have not observed that he has been able to exercise his authority to prevent ribbon development in the past, but I think that on its housing side, on the development side in planning, that is a matter which ought to be within the purview of the noble Lord the Minister of Planning. I have only to express the hope that, as matters work out, as his Department get into working order, if he finds that his powers are not equal to his requirements, he will go to Parliament and get them extended. In my judgment we are most fortunate in the Minister of Works and now the Minister of Planning. I should like to think that he will continue in that office throughout all the early years of reconstruction.
§ LORD WEDGWOOD
My Lords, I hope that some of your Lordships object as strongly as I do to this multiplication of new offices, new civil servants, new controls and new regulations, to all this making of blue prints for other people's lives. I wish that when we: are planning for after the war we would consider for one moment that the people for whom we are planning might have some voice in the plans. We have talked to-day about the iniquities of slums and ribbon development. Surely it must occur to your Lordships that numbers of the people who live in slums and in houses in ribbon development areas would prefer it to living elsewhere. What right have we to say to a man: "You shall not live in a house by the roadside instead of living in a slum''? And why should a man be cleared out of a slum, although the house he is living in is his home, and shifted elsewhere? We do not represent these people, and yet they are the people for whom we are making blue print plans of their lives. I, for one, object to interfering in this way with the rights of men to live as they choose. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, introduced in 1909 the first Housing and Town Planning Act.
§ LORD WEDGWOOD
Oh, it was John Burns, was it? Well, that was the first of a series of these Acts which embodied the intention to be kind to the poor. But they have all been dead letters. We have had strings of them, the last being the Town and Country Planning Act of 1932. We have laid down exactly how the local authorities may, if they choose, decide exactly how their areas——
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, will the noble Lord forgive me if I ask him if he is speaking for his Party?
§ LORD WEDGWOOD
Certainly not. When Crispi was introduced to the Italian Parliament he was asked to what Party he belonged. He replied Io sono Crispi. Unfortunately, I have been for a long time, in the House of Commons, opposing these Bills. My one consolation is that they are all dead letters. Why is it that this housing and town planning business has been a dead letter in the town and in the country? It has been optional on all local authorities. A great many local authorities have employed the very best town planners. My own borough has done it, and the whole place has been planned out beautifully. But this matter is still optional. I do not think there is a single compulsory town planning scheme except that of Welwyn Garden City. The scheme, as I say, is beautiful on paper, the blue print is perfect, but it has no legal authority whatever. It has not received the final sanction, it is not an authoritative document, because every one of these schemes is dependent on finance.
In connexion with that admirable scheme introduced by John Burns in 1909, compensation had to be paid immediately, although plans might not be put into operation for twenty years, for injury inflicted on a landlord because his land was to be used for factories instead of houses or for houses instead of factories. Compensation had to be paid at once, directly the scheme became law. It could not wait until the builders came along and got to work. Finance is at the bottom of the whole thing. It is no use bringing forward fresh and admirable schemes and handing them over to local authorities to operate, if they choose, as 791 long as they have this question of undefined compensation hanging around them. The only way to get round that difficulty is to have a general valuation, so that local authorities may see what they will have to pay; may have the matter before them in black and white. It is the undefined compensation that has blocked all these schemes in the past, and will block all Bills and Acts of Parliament and Committee plans evolved by the noble Lord and his Department. Valuation of the land is an essential preliminary to any reform. There will not be so much trouble before Committees of the House of Lords and of the House of Commons if it is known what is to be paid; there will not be those heavy costs of passing the Bills. If there is a certain definition based upon valuation, all will be well.
§ LORD WEDGWOOD
There would be blue prints for people's land. That is why we want the valuation. It would not be popular with the landlords, but it is the essential basis of any sound system of constructing England on new lines; and, if we have any further legislation on this matter brought before your Lordships' House, I hope we shall find that the Bill gives full power to have a general valuation made, in order that the plan may become a practicable one.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, I shall not keep your Lordships for more than a few minutes, but I must ask for your patience, because my remarks have to do mainly with Scotland. I represent the Association of County Councils in Scotland, and I know that I speak for them when I express regret that the Government have failed to carry out their promise to bring forward this legislation before Christmas. We want this legislation quickly because, under the present law, town planning cannot be effectively proceeded with. The Act of 1932 laid down a procedure, but tied up the provisions with so many restrictions that it is difficult to make any headway at all. The present regulations make it necessary for local authorities to decide first of all what areas they consider to be ready for planning. Then, after passing resolutions and advertising the fact, they get the approval of the Department of Health, with or without an inquiry. After that, 792 a notice has to be served on every owner, a register kept of all replies received, and other useless and devious paths have to be taken. Then the technical experts are expected to produce a plan which is more or less detailed, although we know quite well that, with all the various large and small interests which have to be consulted, the plan often becomes out of date.
I know that all this has been said on the six previous occasions on which your Lordships have discussed the subject, but there is no harm in saying it again. If town planning is to function expeditiously and efficiently, much of this cumbersome procedure must be swept away. The preliminary procedure to which I have referred was intended to ensure that all those interested had adequate notice of what was afoot. The new legislation should accordingly provide for planning being automatically applied to all the land in the country; this would simplify matters and do away with all this heartrending procedure. It would be a great step forward if we could get into the habit of doing what is absolutely necessary for the good of our people without unending discussions, safeguards and restrictions which on the face of them seem reasonable but which in reality obstruct progress. What is required is a clean sweep. I am very glad to know that it looks as though we were going to have one, and that we were going to have something in the nature of a national planning board.
In Scotland the Secretary of State is the Minister in charge of town planning, and the Department concerned is the Department of Health. The Secretary of State, therefore, will have to be associated with any new Department which is set up. We know that the Department of Health has not been a success in this respect. It has so many other things to do with regard to local government that it is only natural that it has not been possible to come to some arrangement for carrying on town planning, which has been to some extent put aside. There has been no guidance, and there has been a lack of drive. What is wanted is an authority with a new outlook, and this outlook could best be obtained through a new Central Planning Authority for Scotland, which should be linked up, of course, with a similar authority for England, since there are many large interests involved which are of national as opposed 793 to local interest. The Association of County Councils has accepted this view. It is against planning being done from Whitehall, and is in agreement with the Convention of Royal Burghs that it is essential that the Secretary of State for Scotland should be the Minister responsible for town and country planning in Scotland. For all those reasons, those of us who have to do with local government north of the Tweed desire that this legislation shall be brought in as soon as possible.
§ LORD REITH
My Lords, with the permission of your Lordships' House I will deal rapidly with some of the points which have been raised. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, might have told your Lordships that, when he put his Motion down some weeks ago, I ventured to say to him that although he might, if he wished, make his speech for the sixth time, I was not going to do so, but that if he cared to postpone the Motion for three weeks, until to-day, he might make a different speech, and so might I. He was kind enough to do so. I am sorry that in addition to a melancholy retrospect he gave us an almost equally melancholy prospect. It will not materialize; I can assure the noble Viscount that his forebodings about the future will not come true. I have noted the points which he raised on amenities—I mentioned that matter in my remarks, although it is not covered in the official statement—and transport and the call-up of labour; in fact, although this will distress the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Maugham, we have already-approached the Minister of Labour and the Secretary of State for War in that respect.
As to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Latham, who edified the House with his maiden speech, I confess that I found some difficulty in following him from one part of his speech to the next, as did also the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh. It is not that I was not greatly interested in what he said. I took him to object to the Committee which was to assist me, and to the arrangement whereby if that Committee could not get beyond a certain point, there should be a Committee of Ministers under the Minister without Portfolio. I cannot see anything undemocratic in that. Some of us would very much rather proceed without Committees, and have, in previous incarnations, been accustomed 794 to proceed without very many; but I should have thought that it was the essence of democracy that one should have advice, particularly where, as I indicated, so many Departments are concerned, and where no one Department can live to itself, or even try to do so for long, without damage to the whole. The other Committees to which the noble Lord objected, and to which Lord Balfour of Burleigh referred, would in fact be such as are already in existence, having spontaneously arisen by the action of local authorities, and consisting of the representatives of local authorities.
In the preparation of legislation, we shall do the best we can. The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Maugham, wants careful consideration given to any legislation. He will have it. The more detailed care that he and others of your Lordships give to the legislation which I shall submit the better pleased I and the Government will be. Why should the suggestions be ill-considered, however, when they are brought up? I do not think that that is a habit of any Government, and it is not my habit, at any rate deliberately, to bring up ill-considered suggestions. We shall do our best to see that they are not ill-considered, and the more careful the consideration that they are given here the better. I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Latham, would be pleased with the provision of legislation as a first step—and, after all, you have to make a first step before you make a second—giving local authorities the powers which they badly require in order that prejudice by ill-considered action now to properly conceived post-war development schemes may be prevented. I look forward to working with the noble Lord, Lord Latham, representing the London County Council; and the attitude of the London County Council as a body, and of himself as an individual, to this work is of great concern to the Government and to me personally. I do not doubt that I shall receive plenty of constructive criticism from Lord Latham and from the London County Council, nor do I doubt that I shall have a great deal of help from them.
The noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, can be assured that the new Department, or rather the new function, will not be merely a department in a corner of the existing Ministry. I think 795 I should be able quite shortly to allay any fears your Lordships may have on that score, and that in fact the new responsibility will be taken very seriously by the Ministry. As to Scotland and the remarks that fell from the noble Earl, Lord Glasgow, I cannot answer at the moment how collaboration will be effected because I have not yet discussed it with the Secretary of State. All I can say quite clearly is that to whatever degree the Secretary for Scotland wishes collaboration he will certainly have it.
The noble and learned Viscount, Lord Sankey, spoke of the grave problem of unemployment that will face the nation after the war, but he was followed by another noble and learned Viscount who said, "Do nothing at all to deal with unemployment." He referred also to the subject of speculative profits during the war. I think we are in the process of handling that, although as the noble Lord, Lord Latham, said, not yet quite satisfactorily; we are seeking to do so but there again we are waiting for Mr. Justice Uthwatt. Mr. Justice Uthwatt cannot or will not give a date—he is working very hard—but I think I can assure the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, that legislation based on the Uthwatt Interim Report will be before the House before next Christ-mas.
As to the Civil Service on which observations were made by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Sankey, a new outlook and a new method are needed. No reflection is intended on the Civil Service here. Where an entirely new Ministry is started with such responsibilities it needs men with wings to their minds. We shall be careful in our selection of staff, but as all your Lordships know, it is not so easy to obtain the staff one requires in these days. We are making it our business to try and get the men who will rise to these responsibilities, which are so new and so inspiring. I agree with some of the remarks made by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Maugham, in which he offered some considerations on the question of legislation. With great respect to him I profoundly disagree with some of the other remarks which fell from him. Money is not required 796 for planning, or very little; money is required for the execution of plans. And I want to answer his objection to anything being done during the war. I said in my opening remarks that I took this to be a high and notable war aim. I feel that most definitely. I feel it would be a dereliction of duty if I were to take any other point of view. I only regret that a noble Lord of such eminence as Lord Maugham sees this differently.
Lord Harmsworth asked a question about the position of the Office of Works in relation to the Ministry of Planning at the end of the war or before the end of the war. We will deal with that in due course. I have announced a Government decision, but decisions can be amended, amplified and adjusted as experience shows to be required. I was also asked about the question of ribbon development. I cannot answer that question now, but I assure Lord Harmsworth and the noble Viscount that the matter is under consideration. Lord Harmsworth encouraged us to seek more powers. I hope I shall show that we are worthy of the powers conferred by the Government decision, and I am glad to feel that by and large that decision meets with the approval of your Lordships, because, after all the criticism that has been offered, much of it constructive, I take from this debate the encouragement of the great majority of your Lordships.
I should like to finish with a reference to the end of the war and the urgency of these proposals. The war will end. I do not know how your Lordships feel, but, though Singapore may fall and other places may fall, I for one have no doubt as to the ultimate issue of this conflict. I am not frightened about the war, but I am frightened—and I think some of your Lordships are too—about the peace, frightened about what will happen after the end of the war. The Government propose to do something—and therein I hope to play my part—to prepare for the stupendous problems, in some respects more serious than those of war, that will then arise.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.