§ LORD LATHAM rose to call attention to the Reports of the Uthwatt and Scott Committees; to urge His Majesty's Government to introduce without delay legislation so that the necessary preparatory steps may, as far as is practicable, be taken now in order that actual planning and reconstruction may be commenced immediately after the cessation of hostilities; and to move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, on October 22 your Lordships considered the type of machinery thought to be necessary for discharging the functions and tasks of planning in this country. We all hope that the Government have given urgent attention to the consideration and determination of what kind of machinery would be best able to discharge this important duty. There are, perhaps, reasons to expect that the Government will be in a position—I gather very shortly from now—to make a decision and to communicate it to us. The Motion which I submit to your Lordships' House to-day is to urge the Government to proceed to determine what the foundations of planning shall be and, having so determined, to take the earliest possible steps to bring in legislation for that purpose. The Government have now had the advantage of the Reports of two expert Committees which were appointed to advise upon complicated elements of this problem. The Scott Committee have reported on the difficult question of the utilization of rural land, and the Uthwatt Committee have reported upon the difficult question of control and the twin problems of compensation and betterment. With these Reports 88 in hand, it ought to be possible for the Government to make up their minds as to the steps necessary and to take action without much further delay.
§ I should like this afternoon to invite your Lordships to a consideration of some of the recommendations of both these expert Committees. I should like to say that I, with many others, wish to express my appreciation of the distinguished labours carried out by these Committees in considering and advising upon the difficult problems which were remitted to them, and I beg the personnel of both not to think that if I offer, as I shall, a criticism of some of their proposals, I am in any way detracting from the high value which I place upon their labours. I should also say at this stage that I am not speaking either for my Party or for the London County Council. The views which I shall venture to submit to your Lordships must be regarded at this stage, at all events, as being my own personal views upon these matters. Considering the Scott Committee's Report first, this Committee were principally concerned with the control of the development of land in rural areas in order to prevent, quite properly, the spread of industrial buildings and the spread of urban populations without order and without plan. They make a number of very notable recommendations designed to secure that control and to preserve the amenities of the countryside. None of us would wish to see any extension of the spoliation of the countryside which we have had rather hopelessly to witness during the past twenty-five years. It has, however, to be remembered that a proper balance must be preserved between the appropriate requirements for the preservation of rural England and the interests of agriculture and the interests of industry and commerce. Much as we may regret ribbon development, it ought not to be used as an argument unnecessarily and unduly to confine industry and urban populations within existing urban areas.
§ There is a tendency, I think at times distinctly marked, in the Report of the Scott Committee to regard industry, so far as the countryside is concerned, as a kind of poor relation which must be kept severely in its place, and there are raised in this Report high questions of major policy as to the economic and social future of this country. We all wish to see 89 a prosperous agriculture, and we all, I hope, desire that the agricultural labourer shall share in that prosperity, but whether that prosperous agriculture can best be secured by an enlarged agriculture depending, as it appears to me, either upon tariffs or subsidies or both, or whether it can be achieved by a highly specialized and concentrated form of agriculture, is a matter for very serious consideration. I think we must bear in mind that for good or ill this country is an industrial country and it is too late, even were it desired, to change it into a major agricultural country. Our exports must be very largely paid for in food, and after this war, fundamental as may be the changes which will flow from it, the world price of food will still be very important for the people of this country. Personally, I should find it difficult to agree with an agriculture which was bolstered up by tariffs or by subsidies.
§ Moreover, the Scott Report seems to raise issues which in certain connexions would be in conflict with certain of the principles laid down in the Atlantic Charter, and in conflict with that freer intercourse of trade between nations which we have been compelled to recognize as being one of the most important foundations of international peace. If industry is to be dispersed it must go into the countryside. I suggest that it would be wrong to seek to put industry in a strait-jacket, to seek to crystallize the existing boundaries between urban and rural areas. Industry must not be regarded as being one of the untouchables. I could not fail to be other than impressed by the very weighty Minority Report signed by Professor Dennison, in which he submits in very telling language grave issues of economic and fiscal policy which are raised in the Majority Report of the Scott Committee. It is, therefore, important that the Government should hasten to resolve that question because until it does it may hamper other steps necessary for proper planning and reconstruction.
§ The Report, however, does contain many admirable procedural recommendations. All of us will agree that rural housing should be improved. In the consideration of housing problems it is not, perhaps, unnatural for those who live in cities and urban districts to feel that the problem of slums is one confined to those districts. Many of your 90 Lordships will know from wider experience than I have that there are slums in the countryside and it is our business to remove those slums. Agriculture cannot be regarded as prosperous so long as those slums continue to exist. There is a very admirable proposal that subject to certain restrictions the tied cottage should go. I think everyone will agree that there can be no real freedom for a man if the same person who determines whether he shall be employed, and the conditions upon which he is employed, is also in a position to determine whether he shall live in a house or not. It will be a useful step forward that this survival of feudal bondage should be abolished. The Committee direct attention to the disgraceful conditions regarding water supply in rural areas and call for steps to be taken to unify and rationalize the supply of water in the country districts. It is indefensible that at one time there should be floods and at another time lack of water. The suggestion that the gas, electricity and other common services should be extended to the countryside will, I am sure, meet with wide support among your Lordships and among the population generally. As a town dweller myself I could not fail to be amused at the suggestion in this Report that town dwellers should be helped to keep pigs. I can imagine a number of objections, palpable and impalpable, arising in the towns if that recommendation is widely acted upon. I leave your Lordships to contemplate what the situation might be if there was a large growth of the pig population in London.
§ Certain members of the Committee in a separate memorandum recommend that there should be a valuation of land for all purposes. My own view is that we cannot much longer muddle along without such a valuation. Many of the elements of taxation, of rating and of property rights demand that there should be a uniform valuation of land. It is to be hoped that the Government will face up to that problem and will provide machinery for carrying out such a valuation. Part of the recommendation of the Scott Committee is that the valuation should be based upon a declared value by the owner. I doubt myself the efficacy of that, but I would urge the Government to reflect as to whether the problems of planning, compensation and betterment can really be solved unless the 91 solution starts on the basis of a valuation on a uniform scale of land.
§ I come now to the Uthwatt Report. In this Report there are posed two major questions of policy. One is the proposal that the development rights of un-developed land outside urban areas, with certain exceptions, should be acquired for the State on a basis of fair compensation, and the other is that land not within the development rights scheme should be subject to a periodic levy upon increases in annual site value. The purpose of the development rights scheme is to control development of undeveloped land. It is based upon the submission that to preserve beauty spots and to control fringe land and certain desirable tracts of land, coastal or otherwise, the cost to local authorities would be beyond what they can bear. As an alternative to that, it is proposed that the development rights of all land should be acquired, although it is admitted that a relatively small part of the at present undeveloped land is ever likely to be developed or is ever likely to need any real restrictions against development being imposed upon it. I find it difficult to agree that it is sound to incur the cost of restricting all un-developed land merely in the hope that you may reduce the cost of that portion which needs to be controlled. The cost may well be more than it would be under ordinary town-planning procedure strengthened, as I hope it may be, by future legislation. The price of the whole improvement, as I have said, however much it be scaled down, may nevertheless be larger than the cost of that part which it is needed to restrict.
§ It is proposed that a general compensation fund should be established which I will refer to as the global sum, but no indication is given as to how that sum is to be fixed. It must, I submit, be a shot in the dark. It is seeking to estimate one of the most imponderable elements in social and economic life, and even when it is so determined apparently by reference to no known consideration, it then has to be distributed and we are faced with the difficult problem of its distribution. This distribution will require a valuation of the development rights attaching to each individual land unit, and, where there are subsidiary interests, valuation of the rights of those subsidiary interests in potential develop- 92 ment. It may be, and no doubt is, difficult to value something which is, but it must be more difficult to value something which is not, and which is only potential, and the valuation necessary for the distribution of this fund would, in my submission, be infinitely more difficult and more complicated than the valuation necessary for the rating of site values or otherwise. In my view it is idle to pray in aid the analogy of the coal royalties. Whatever procedure was found appropriate in that connexion would not necessarily be appropriate in this. After all, it was known, generally speaking, where the coal was. The coal had been worked for a number of years, there were all the concrete elements upon which one could base a valuation. None of these concrete elements exist as regards potential development rights.
§ But the problem of the cost, apparently, did not seriously concern the Committee, because, with romantic nonchalance as regard the financial aspects, they invite readers of the Report to regard the sum paid by the State for the acquisition of these rights as having historical interest only. I have never been one who has reverenced deeply the mysteries of finance, but it seems to me that if reconstruction and replanning is to proceed on that basis it may be very romantic, but I doubt whether we shall get very far. One requirement would be essential, I think, if that piece of romantic financial improvidence were followed, and it would be that in London it would be necessary to have at least one processional way and that a broad one—a processional way to Carey Street.
§ Moreover, this scheme, which in my view is unfair to the State as being more costly than proceeding in the normal way, is likely to be inequitable as between the owner of land in the rural areas and the owner of land in urban areas, and is likely also to be inequitable as between owners of rural land themselves. If that were the case, it would lead to obstruction on the part of owners of land in rural areas which could not fail to slow down proper and desirable development. The suggestion is that it is part of this scheme that immediately development of land within it is impending the State shall become automatically the owner of the fee simple. It means, therefore, that from day to day the State will become the owner of land; large units, small units, near cities, 93 away from cities, all over the country, without any relation one to the other; a sort of unplanned, fortuitous ownership which is initiated, not by the State, and which may not be initiated by the owner of land, but can be initiated by some third party who thinks he would like to develop the land of somebody else.
§ I hope that my objection to this scheme will not be misunderstood by any of my noble friends opposite. I still believe in the nationalization of land. I believe that the nation's land should belong to it, and I believe that the nation should repossess itself of its national asset as soon as practicable. But I should hope that if this is done it is done on some ordered lines with regard to the ownership of the land being of benefit and advantage to the whole of the nation, and not that we should proceed to land nationalization by the acquisition of, or rather by receiving into the fold of national ownership, isolated bits of land merely because some third party has decided to develop them. That would be a Joseph's coat of nationalization. The management of these isolated pieces of national land in a sea of privatety-owned land could not fail to need a vast and costly machinery, and, after all, the best results from land ownership, apart from it being worked agriculturally—and perhaps that is no exception—arises from good estate management, and I cannot see how you could have good estate management on a basis of finding yourself the owner from day to day of isolated, disconnected land units. In these circumstances I am bound to say that I do not think that this development rights scheme would work, and I do not believe that it is necessary in order to solve the problems of compensation and betterment. The problem of control can be solved by imposing a general restriction upon the development of land under enlarged town-planning powers, on the footing that such restriction shall not attract the right to compensation unless manifestly the restriction does injustice as between one owner and another. By that means it would be possible to secure control of all land without having to pay in advance for something which may never be needed.
§ I come next to the question of the periodic levy. The proposal is that there should be a quinquennial valuation of the annual value of a site which, by reference to a datum valuation, may show either in- 94 creases or reductions. Where increases are shown it is proposed that, excluding such elements of increase as arise from the expenditure of the owner, 75 per cent. shall be taken by somebody. The Report is rather disappointingly silent as to who shall receive it. I should hope, of course, that the local authority would receive it, but the same hope may be entertained by the Treasury. Inasmuch as we are both hoping for something which is not available at present, we need not get too angry the one with the other! That proposal for a periodic levy will require a valuation, and so already under these proposals two valuations will be necessary, one under the development rights scheme and one under this. Under this there will be a datum valuation, and then there must be subsequent periodic levy valuations.
§ The basis of this valuation is to be the value of the site as actually developed, and therefore such a valuation is not likely to catch any increase in value arising from betterment in the narrow senses—namely, increase of value arising from public expenditure or public activity—nor is it likely to reflect increases in value arising from general community influences, which are by no means inconsiderable in growing urban areas. For that reason I think that the proposal has a defect. Moreover, the effect in operation of the periodic levy may be to hold out of proper development sites which otherwise would be developed, because, so long as development does not take place on the site, any increase in value is excluded from the valuation and is therefore excluded from the levy. I think that there would be a tendency on the part of owners to hold their land out of development; and any land properly required for development which is held out of development cannot but help to increase the difficulties of planning, of the re-location of industry, of the decongestion of congested areas and of the removal of the slums.
§ In those circumstances, my own view is that in place of the periodic levy it would be better to proceed by means of a rate or a tax based upon annual site value. Valuations of the site unencumbered by any building, made from time to time, would reflect any increase in value arising from betterment or from general community causes, and therefore the State or the local authority would be able to have a fair share of that 95 increase in value which arises principally from public activity and frequently from public expenditure. The fact that an undeveloped or badly-developed site would be subject to this rate would tend to force owners to develop undeveloped land in urban and near-by urban districts, and it would compel owners of inadequately-developed sites to develop them properly. I say this, I hope, without offence to anyone, but those of us who saw the remaining traces of the development of some of the land in the City of London, traces which were revealed as the result of enemy action, must have been astonished that some of the most valuable land in the world was in fact so poorly developed from the point of view of accommodation and from the point of view of proper use; and any proposals which will tend to secure the proper development of land will be salutary.
§ I suggest, therefore, that the way to tackle the three problems of the control of development, the avoidance of payment of excessive compensation for land required by local authorities or otherwise for planning, and of catching a fair share for the community of increase in value which arises from community activity, and indeed arises from the very existence of the community, is two-fold. There should be control of development through town-planning procedure over all land, without compensation save where such control and restriction would work a manifest injustice; and there should be prosposals for the rating of site values which would squeeze out of the price of land a large portion of its speculative element. If that were the case the problem of fair compensation would be very largely solved. I invite the Government to consider those proposals as alternatives to those submitted by the Uthwatt Committee.
§ The development rights scheme and the levy, however, are matters of high policy which may need a long time for consideration, and it would not be unusual for this Government, or for any other Government, to require a long time to consider them. There are certain things, however, which can be done at once, and I should like to urge this on the attention of the Government. We can prepare legislation for putting on the Statute Book the recommendations of the Uthwatt Committee which deal with procedure and 96 with the powers of local authorities for planning purposes; and there are in those recommendations some very helpful proposals. There is the proposal that the words "reconstruction area" shall be interpreted to include also areas ripe for redevelopment. We all know that, extensive as may have been the damage in some cities in this country, there still remain, and will still remain when the war is over, parts of those cities where the condition of the buildings, whether industrial buildings or residential buildings, is such that they cannot in any planning scheme be allowed to remain, and they should be dealt with in the same way as an area which has to be replanned as the result of enemy destruction. The Uthwatt Committee recommend this.
§ The Uthwatt Committee also recommend a very wide extension of the powers of local authorities to secure land. They would remove most of the limitations which so much hamper local authorities in carrying out improvements and in planning their respective districts. And they would remove, subject to the Minister's consent, another obstacle which is in the way at present—namely, the statutory exemption of statutory undertakings. Subject to the Minister's consent—and, I apprehend, the consent also of the Ministers charged with supervision of the statutory undertakings, such as the Minister of Transport, for electricity and for transport—it is proposed that the exemption of statutory undertakings should go. That would make for speed and for unity in many of the schemes of the local authorities which are at present hampered by existing statutory exemptions. There are some very excellent proposals for speeding up and simplifying the procedure for the acquisition of land, which I hope the Government will accept in their entirety. There is a proposal also to widen the field where compensation for restrictions on development is not paid, and I have indicated general lines on which I think that problem should be treated. Powers are also proposed to enable local authorities to develop themselves. The Government have a great opportunity in this respect. Up to the present, as we all know, the great defect of town-planning legislation has been that it is principally regulatory: it is negative. The only power you have is to tell somebody that he cannot do a certain thing; you have no power to do anything yourselves, and this 97 recommendation would confer upon local authorities, if it were ample enough, power to develop positively, power to make a real concrete contribution to the planning of their own areas.
§ There are a number of other recommendations to which I will not refer, but there are, I regret to say, a number of omissions from the recommendations. It may well be that the Uthwatt Committee took the view that consideration of the practice and procedure of town planning was not within their terms of reference, although it must be conceded that that particularity as to their terms of reference was not shown so keenly in other matters which they considered. Evidence was submitted to the Committee showing the need for the amendment of the town-planning procedure which has at present to be followed. That evidence and those suggestions do not appear from the Report to have been considered, at least nothing much is said about them, and I invite the Minister responsible to consider whether it would not be a useful thing now to get into touch with the appropriate associations of local authorities and discuss those elements of town-planning procedure which those experienced in it consider should be changed. Otherwise it might fall out that in the legislation which may be contemplated important omissions may occur and the machine to that extent may prove to be ineffective, even when it is remodelled.
§ Finally, I come to the question of finance. Even if we have the most perfect machine and the most liberal policy for the acquisition of land, and the fairest policy for securing that compensation shall not be excessive against the public interests; even if we have all the required amendments to town-planning laws, the local authorities cannot begin planning unless they know where they stand financially. In point of fact, urgent as will be the problem of housing after the war, with returning populations to cities and urban districts, that cannot be dealt with, however much local authorities may make prior arrangements, until the Government have spoken with regard to finance. And I again urge the Minister to take courage and, if he feels he wants more, to take one or two other Ministers with him and go and see the Chancellor of the Exchequer and find out what it is proposed to do with regard to the finance 98 of replanning and of housing. Already, as will have been observed from the Press, local authorities have represented to the Minister of Health that this problem of finance must be satisfactorily solved before they can recommence the building operations that will be needed after this war. Therefore I urge him very strongly to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer and submit to his colleagues in the Cabinet that this question of finance must be settled, as otherwise the authorities will be hamstrung, and we shall find after the war that we are quite unable to deal with the problem of planning or to solve the problem of housing. It is no good the Chancellor of the Exchequer saying "My lips are sealed." Some of us remember the disasters which followed from the adoption of that attitude prior to the war. You cannot solve this pressing social problem by the preservation of sealed lips. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government must say how they propose to finance planning and housing. I therefore urge upon the Government the extreme importance of their not wasting a single week in deciding what they are going to do in order to enable the foundations to be laid of the new Britain which they, we, and everybody else want to be commenced when the "Cease fire" shall have sounded. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That there be laid before the House Papers relating to the preparatory steps to be taken now in order that actual planning and reconstruction may be commenced immediately after the cessation of hostilities.—(Lord Latham.)
§ THE MINISTER OF WORKS AND PLANNING (LORD PORTAL)
My Lords, I should like first of all to thank the noble Lord for the speech which he has made and also to say not only that we heard it with great interest but that we know the noble Lord's knowledge and experience on matters on which he has addressed the House. I should also like, at this time, before beginning my reply to the noble Lord, to say that during the nine months that I have held my present office I have had a great deal of help, support and advice from my noble friends Viscount Samuel, Lord Balfour of Burleigh and Lord Latham when I have asked them to help me or to advise me on any question. Lord Latham to-day first of all alluded to the debt of 99 gratitude that was due to Mr. Justice Uthwatt's and Lord Justice Scott's Committees for all the work they have done and the amount of time and trouble that they have taken on these two Reports. I would like to add my tribute to the great work which those two Committees have done.
The Notice on the Order Paper to-day calls attention to the Reports of the Uthwatt and Scott Committees and urges the immediate introduction of legislation to secure that all practicable preparatory steps are taken forthwith. There are a great number of speakers who wish to speak on this question, and the debate is going over to another day when my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor will wind up on behalf of His Majesty's Government. At the commencement I wish to refer to the debate initiated by my noble friend Lord Reith three weeks ago on the machinery of planning advocated by the Uthwatt and Scott Committees. In that debate my noble friend Lord Snell wound up on behalf of the Government. Here you had two separate Committees appointed by my predecessor both reporting on the machinery needed, and in both cases they reported that the Ministry to which the name "Planning" had been added was not the one to carry it out, though, as my noble friend Lord Samuel pointed out, that was not included in the terms of reference to these Committees. It was difficult for me to answer in a debate which concerned only machinery in which my own Department was involved. That debate was a very useful one to the Government—as is this one initiated by Lord Latham—because it brought out the different arguments with reference to a Ministry of Planning as against a Commission.
My noble friend Lord Reith asked the question in that debate whether I knew where I got off and the Paymaster-General got on. My answer is that I get off at exactly the same place as my noble friend Lord Reith did, and the Paymaster-General is in exactly the same position as the former Minister without Portfolio, with this important exception, that the former Minister without Portfolio was in the War Cabinet while the Paymaster-General is not. That is the distinction between the present set-up and the last. In his final remarks, after 100 my noble friend Lord Snell had wound up, Lord Reith, in criticising the Government for not showing greater speed in dealing with the Scott and Uthwatt Reports, said that two years had passed. I should like to remind your Lordships of the debate in your Lordships' House on April 21, when I told your Lordships that my desire was to ask Lord Justice Scott and Mr. Justice Uthwatt to press on with their Reports and to put off any legislation on the Interim Report of the Uthwatt Committee until I had received both Reports in full. They told me that they expected to get them out within a month of one another—in August and September—which they did. Both these Reports were published immediately they came into my hands, one in August, the other in September. We are now in the middle of November. I cannot accept the statement that there has been any undue delay.
Before the war I was associated with three Commissions which reported to one Government Department, and it took three or four months before decisions were arrived at on the work of those Commissions. Here you have these two very intricate Reports—especially the Uthwatt Report—which concern the Ministries of Health, Agriculture, and War Transport, the Board of Trade, the Board of Education, my own Ministry, and many others, and we have had this Uthwatt Report in our hands barely two months. The question that matters to your Lordships' House is the amount of work that is being put into it by those concerned, and that no time is being wasted. That is really all that your Lordships want to know. I can assure your Lordships on both points, and there is no one better able to judge this than myself. A year and a half ago my noble friend Lord Samuel, speaking in a debate in which I had not given him satisfaction, chided me with being a man of action but not getting on with my job. My noble friend will remember that two days later I was able to complete the job and wrote and told him so. Since that time he has been much kinder to me. But this is a much bigger question than that. I assure your Lordships that we who are concerned with this question are really not wasting time. As your Lordships know, there was legislation on the stocks before these two Reports came out. What I wanted to see was how much 101 more we could include as the result of these Reports, and that is what we are trying to see. We cannot leave things as they are. My noble friend Lord Latham has to-day, in some ways, criticized the two main principles of the Uthwatt Report, but he has said that if some solution cannot be arrived at then we should get on with the questions of procedure, which are urgent. I say that it was much better to wait to see how much we could get from these two Reports before going on with any legislation which was contemplated before the Reports were sent in. I hope to make a Government statement on machinery in the near future.
Before I deal with the Uthwatt and Scott Reports I wish to refer to three passages in the speech of my noble friend Lord Samuel in the debate of three weeks ago. In the first place he said:It is quite essential that the local authorities should know, and know soon, what are to be the areas in which they will operate, what powers are to be conferred upon them, what rights they will have for the acquisition of land, whether they are to be freed from the present tangle of compensation and betterment, whether development rights are to be purchased by the State, what is to be their own powers of purchase of land, and how they are to be financed. Some indication should also, if possible, be given of what is the Government's policy with regard to the location of industry.This passage really sums up the whole situation. The Government must try to determine as much of this as possible so as to enable the local authorities to plan for the post-war period.
I have had representatives from great cities such as Birmingham, Hull, and others coming to see me and asking me these questions—ready and eager to get on with their plans, as my noble friend Lord Latham said, and seeking for guidance. Take the question of location of industry. Finns have had their premises destroyed, and other cities and towns are already asking there to move away. I claim one thing in your Lordships' House, and that is that I have had as much practical experience in the location of industry as anyone in the House to-day. When I was trying, along with my noble friend the Minister of Food, to help to locate 200 industries in the Special Areas, this is what we found. We found that one local authority vied with another to get industries into its area. I need not tell your Lordships why, because you doubt- 102 less realize that without my saying it. I tried to combat this and to solve it by the finance I had at my disposal, by which one was able to help places like Jarrow, Merthyr Tydvil, Bishop Auckland, White-haven, and many other places. If I were to discuss the reason which your Lordships understood without my mentioning it, it would raise a much bigger issue. But these are the questions people are asking. They came to me only the other day from Hull, where three or four firms have had to leave, and they wanted to know whether they would be allowed to go back after the war.
Another passage from my noble friend Lord Samuel's speech which I should like to quote was this:A Minister of Planning would require the full attention of the most active and energetic member of the Cabinet.No one would dispute this statement if the necessary powers and authority were given to this Minister. The third passage in the noble Viscount's speech to which I would allude was this:I agree in the main with what was said by my noble friend Lord Addison that the work of planning must be devolved upon the larger authorities, the county councils and county boroughs, or joint committees of the two, in the particular areas where that may be the best course, but I do not quite agree with him in saying that all these small authorities ought to be wiped out altogether in this connexion. I think the non-county boroughs and the urban and rural districts can undertake very useful functions of an advisory character, and with their more intimate knowledge of the local details may be of great assistance to the county councils and county boroughs in the actual drawing up of the particular plans.I think it is all-important to retain the interest and help of all local authorities as far as possible. If you take England by itself, the most densely populated country in the world, and if you include Scotland and Wales, second only to Belgium, it is essential to see that the proper use is made of the land and that piecemeal, spasmodic and wasteful development should not take place. That is what we have to start with, and that I think is a formula with which everyone will agree.
I will now describe the salient points in the Uthwatt Report. Your Lordships will realize, I feel sure, that it is not possible for me to discuss fully the advantages and the difficulties of these proposals while they 103 are still under consideration. I cannot to-day, as my noble friend Lord Latham did, speak with the great initiative that he showed on his own behalf, and therefore, while this matter is under consideration, I hope your Lordships will excuse me in not being able to come down on one side or the other in regard to those two points, but I am going to discuss the Uthwatt Report and I shall be able to tell you of certain things as to which we are in agreement.
As my noble friend Lord Latham has already said, the Committee recommend that the State should forthwith acquire the development rights in undeveloped land outside built-up areas on payment of fair compensation. The Committee set out their recommendation in these words:We recommend the immediate vesting in the State of the rights of development in all land lying outside built-up areas (subject to certain exceptions) on payment of fair compensation, such vesting to be secured by the imposition of a prohibition against development otherwise than with the consent of the State accompanied by the grant of compulsory powers of acquiring the land itself when wanted for public purposes or approved private development.The Committee explain that the scheme which they recommend involves four points. The first is the placing of a general prohibition against development on all undeveloped land outside built-up areas, and immediate payment to owners of the land affected of compensation for the loss of development value. That point was criticised by my noble friend Lord Latham. The second point is unfettered determination through planning machinery of the areas in which public or private development is to take place, the amount and type of development being determined as regards development for public purposes by national needs and, as regards private development, by private demand. The third point is purchase toy the State of the land itself if and when required for approved development, whether for public purposes or for private purposes; and the fourth point is, in the case of approved development for private purposes, the leasing of such land by the State to the person or body undertaking the development.
The Committee reached their conclusion after examining various alternative proposals for the solution of the compensation-betterment problem. That problem 104 has hitherto been a main obstacle to good planning. In the words of the Committee—this is in paragraph 38 (b):The existence of the compensation-betterment problem can be traced to two root causes:(1) The fact that land in private ownership is a marketable commodity with varying values according to location and the purposes for which it is capable of use;(2) the fact that land is held by a large number of owners whose individual interests lie in putting their own particular piece of land to the most profitable use for which they can find a market, whereas the need of the State and of the community is to ensure the best use of all land of the country irrespective of financial return. If planning is a necessity and an advantage to the community, as is undoubtedly the case, a means must be found for removing the conflict between private and public interest.The scheme which the Uthwatt Committee propose gives the Central Planning Authority complete control of development outside built-up areas, and enables that authority to acquire the land required for approved development and to see that such development in fact takes place. Compensation for the prohibition of development is to be paid on the basis that a single sum is to be fixed which will represent the fair value to the State of the development rights taken as a whole. This sum would be divided among the owners in accordance with the development value of their various holdings. That is the Committee's view.
The proposal to pay a single global sum is designed to meet the difficulty of "floating value." This difficulty has long been well-known. The Town and Country Planning Advisory Committee of the Minister of Health in their Report on the Preservation of the Countryside, presented in July, 1938, used these words which the Uthwatt Committee quote with approval in paragraph 25:If all building, except agricultural, is permanently prohibited over wide areas, compensation must be paid for the loss of potential building value over these areas. It may be that on any reasonable estimate that can be formed not more than 100 houses are likely to be built in a 100,000 acre rural zone in the lifetime of the scheme, so that over the whole zone the loss of 'potential building value' on prohibition of any building, would be only one hundred houses. But 'potential building value' is necessarily a 'floating value' and it is practically impossible to predict where it will settle. Hence if the 100,000 acres are held in many ownerships, and claims by individual owners for loss of potential building value come to be separately adjudicated (as under the 105 present system they must be), the total resulting bill for compensation is likely to be enormous and greatly to exceed in the aggregate the amount of the real loss,My observation upon that is that so novel and far-reaching a scheme must present difficulties both of policy and administration. It is, however, recommended by an expert committee as a solution of what has been found to be a principal obstacle to good planning and it deserves, and is receiving, the most careful examination by Hiss Majesty's Government.
My noble friend Lord Latham referred at some length to the levy on increases in annual site values. The Committee point out the difficulties of these levies and I am not going to go over the points again in your Lordships' House. I should say that the scheme is a very technical one, and that it is controversial appears from the fact that one member of the Uthwatt Committee records his dissent. It is clear that the necessary datum line valuation could not be made until after the war and the proposal therefore is not of the same urgency as the remaining recommendations of the Report which are accordingly being examined first.
With regard to control over interim development, control of development must cover the whole country. It is recommended in paragraph 136 that it should be provided by legislation that areas not already covered by operative schemes or resolutions to plan, should be deemed to be subject to such resolutions. We agree with this recommendation and provisions for this object are included in draft clauses for incorporation in forthcoming legislation. These draft clauses also contain provisions for strengthening the powers of planning authorities and of the Minister in the control of interim development. Their effect is to give power to control building and other development throughout the country by reference to national requirements.
The question which I next wish to deal with is the compulsory acquisition of land. The Committee make important recommendations regarding the powers of local authorities to acquire land compulsorily. This was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Latham. In war damaged and other reconstruction areas, the Committee recommend that the planning authority should be given the power to purchase the whole of such areas. We 106 accept this view and have in fact clauses already in draft so far as war damaged areas are concerned in accordance with the Government statement which was made by my noble friend Lord Reith in the House on the interim Uthwatt Report. He then stated:The Government agree with the Committee that these 'reconstruction areas' must be planned as a whole. The Committee advise that provision should be made for defining these areas and that planning authorities should have adequate powers to acquire land in order to secure that planning schemes for them shall be effectively carried out. These recommendations are also accepted.The Committee recommend that land passing into public ownership should be disposed of by way of lease only and not by way of sale. This is a proposal on which local authorities themselves take differing views, but the recommendation is being carefully considered.
The Committee further recommend that planning authorities in all areas should have powers to acquire land compulsorily for various definite purposes such as acceleration of planning, reinstatement and recoupment. These recommendations are contained in paragraphs 148 to 153 of the Report and are now being carefully examined by the Government. We agree that additional powers of compulsory purchase are necessary. We also agree with the Committee on the importance of questions of finance which lay outside their terms of reference. The Committee recommend radical alterations in the procedure for the compulsory acquisition of land. These recommendations are contained in Chapter VI and are designed to avoid the delays which are unavoidable under the existing law. That question was raised by my noble friend Lord Latham, not only, I think, on this occasion but on another occasion when he spoke in your Lordships' House. I told him then and I still say that the Government are in sympathy with him on this point. Another point which my noble friend Lord Latham mentioned was the desirability of consulting all the necessary authorities before any change is made by way of amending the Town and Country Planning Acts. I can give him an assurance that that will be done.
Now I would like to say a few words on the Scott Report. First there is the question of the control and ownership of land. It is said that the power of acqui- 107 sition of agricultural land by the State should be exercised when required in the interests of national planning or of providing agricultural efficiency. In all planning for the countryside it is essential for the Ministry of Agriculture to play a prominent part. As your Lordships know, the county war agricultural executive committees are already playing a very important part, and in various parts of the country are exercising their power where land is not properly farmed to take it over on behalf of the State and farm it. That, I suggest, conforms to the recommendation of the Scott Committee. Another point which was made was that local planning authorities must employ qualified personnel. I consider it is very important in planning anything in the countryside to employ people who really do understand the countryside and there are many members of your Lordships' House, including myself, who do understand the countryside. The Council for the Preservation of Rural England gave great assistance to the Scott Committee. Then it is proposed that a procedure similar to that adopted under the present Town and Country Planning Act of 1932, but considerably strengthened both locally and by the super-imposition of national planning, is the best method of controlling land use in country areas.
If your Lordships read the recommendations of the Scott Committee you will find that there are a great number that can practically be agreed to immediately and some of them are in use to-day. I would like to mention one matter in which I have taken a great interest, that is, the provision of holiday camps. Before the war my noble friend Earl De La Warr, who was then President of the Board of Education, asked me to be Chairman of the National Holiday Camps, of which thirty-two were to be formed, for the purpose of giving holidays to schools coming out of London, for three weeks or a month. All these camps are in occupation now, though it is true that the children in them are children who had to be evacuated two years ago. I cannot claim any credit for myself because for a year and a half I have not been able to look after them, but they are doing great service. The result is that after the war there will be a great number of camps that can be used for holiday purposes, and I suggest 108 that the children should come first before anyone else is allowed to use these camps. They will be very valuable in the future. Then there is the question of the control of advertisements. What we who love the countryside have to try to do is to keep all the things that are useful, beautiful and progressive in village and rural life and see if we can improve them. There are many things that we want to maintain in the countryside, but I think nobody can say that advertisements beautify it. Their removal may upset some people, but if you are travelling from London through beautiful country and see advertisements of a popular pill all the way down you feel ill before you get to your destination.
§ LORD PORTAL
Then we come to the most important question and that is the question of rural housing. Everybody who lives in the countryside knows that a great deal more rural housing is required but I join issue with my noble friend Lord Latham on this subject and it is probably the only subject upon which I think I have as much knowledge as he. I do not agree with his remarks about tied houses. I dislike the word "tied." I look upon a tied house as part of the equipment of a farm. If the Minister of Agriculture asks me to get x number of houses built in the countryside and at the same time tied houses were to be abolished, very little progress would be made. The noble Lord talked about tied houses and the feudal system. If he visited the part of the country where I come from he would find no feudal system there. The important thing is to do what you can to make agriculture prosperous. Wages are up now to £3 and above and that gives one great hope because it may prevent young men in the country going off to the towns. The future of agricultural policy is not a subject which we can discuss to-day, but I should like to be allowed to say that if wages can be kept up to the point which they have now reached we may have great hope for agriculture. The noble Lord alluded also to the state of the cottages. It must be remembered that after this war everybody is going to want buildings of some sort, and you will need a Minister with broad back and broad shoulders to resist people who are going to ask for all sorts of houses. The availability of labour and 109 materials will have to be taken into account. I know that there are anomalies in regard to supply of electricity in rural areas, where you may have a man on one side of you paying 8d. and the man on the other side paying 3d. a unit, but in a progressive countryside that sort of thing can be remedied. The question of water supply also is being dealt with now. I have not alluded to the whole of these two Reports. My duty is to see in conjunction with my colleague, the Paymaster-General, and others that we get on as speedily as we can with these questions, and I can assume your Lordships that we are doing all we possibly cart and that we hope in a short time to be able to show you something of the work we have been able to do.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
My Lords, I am sure we are all very grateful to the noble Lord who introduced the subject we are debating. He has spoken with very great knowledge of the work of local authorities and I would join with him and with the noble Lord who has just spoken in expressing gratitude to those responsible for the two Reports which are under consideration. I would add to them a third Report which has not been referred to so far, a Report of outstanding importance, the Report on the distribution of the industrial population. These three Reports taken together form a group of most important State documents. They are written clearly and logically and they have, what is not often found in Government Reports, a certain distinction in literary style. I certainly was one of those who hoped that an effective housing and planning authority would have been called into existence by this time. Various delays and disappointments have followed the original announcement, but the noble Lord who has just spoken for the Government has at any rate convinced us that he himself is a man of action and that he is doing everything is his power to create as soon as possible the central effective authority which the great majority of us desire.
All three of these Reports insisted on the importance of having such a central authority. They did not all agree on the particular form which it was to take, but all their recommendations have behind them the assumption that this central authority will be brought into existence. If there is no strong, effective central 110 authority we shall soon be in a state of hopeless confusion again. The local authorities will all go on their own way with their own plans. Of course, the local authorities must have the initiative, and must carry out the plans. Some of the larger local authorities could undertake any amount of responsibility in this matter, but there is a considerable number of small local authorities which are quite incapable of carrying through any comprehensive schemes of planning. Unless, therefore, there is, in the immediate future, called into existence a strong Central Planning Authority which will coordinate different plans, which will advise, which will lay down the general principles of development and planning we shall have a hotchpotch of all sorts of buildings and estates in inconvenient places with great waste and overlapping. I agree thoroughly with a remark which appears in The Times this morning to the effect that, unless machinery is soon put up, the chaos which succeeded the last war will be repeated with all its horrors of ruined countryside and shoddy suburban development. The noble Lord who has spoken on behalf of the Government has convinced me, at any rate, that he is pressing forward with the machinery and that he hopes in a very short time to be able to make a statement to your Lordships about the machinery which has been brought into existence.
Side by side with this we need a definite policy, as the noble Lord opposite has stated, of finance, of compensation and betterment. The noble Lord who replied for the Government has already told us that the Government have accepted a number of suggestions made in the Uthwatt Report. Later on, in the Official Report, we shall be able to follow his statement more carefully and to distinguish more clearly between those matters which are still under consideration and those recommendations which have actually been accepted by the Government. Certainly, there again progress has been made. But it is of vital importance that we should know what the financial aspect is going to be, and what will be the principles of compensation. The Uthwatt Report points out that unquestionably the greatest Obstacle to really effective planning has been the fear on the part of the planning authorities of incurring indefinite liabilities in the matter of compensation if the extreme step of for- 111 bidding development is taken. The Scott Report refers to the "ever-present bogey of compensation." A number of towns have already prepared some extremely picturesque schemes of rebuilding. These schemes have been largely prepared by architects. Now I have had a good deal of experience of architects and I admire them greatly as a class. But I must say that as a class they are inclined to be very optimistic. Their optimistic estimates of what the cost of their buildings is going to be is not always in harmony with the estimates of the contractor who has to carry out the work. I feel that a number of these schemes which have been made to appear attractive by pictures published in the Press are, so far, if not castles in the air, at any rate towns in the air until we know what the principles of compensation are to be, and until we know more about the financial aspect generally.
Now I turn if I may for a moment or two to some of the recommendations of the Scott Report. That Report is mainly concerned with the countryside. I think—and perhaps here I disagree with the noble Lord opposite—that that Report does, no doubt quite unconsciously, ignore some of the principles laid down in that other Report, the Barlow Report. It has been truly said that you cannot put the countryside into a strait-jacket. That was the phrase employed by the noble Lord opposite. There must be dispersion of industry and we must do something to relieve the congestion in a large number of our great towns. This does mean that part of the countryside will, in future, have to be occupied by new towns and new estates, but we want this development to be orderly and to be of such a nature that it will not further ruin the countryside. And it is here, I think, that the Scott Report makes a number of most important recommendations. One of the real disasters of the last fifty or sixty years has been the decline of agriculture, the moving, the continuous moving, of the people away from the countryside into the towns, the countryside becoming more deserted and the towns becoming ever more crowded. Even in the fourteen years before the war the number of agricultural labourers declined by something like 25 per cent. Then the war started, and now agriculture has once again had its chance. We are realizing afresh that we are in the last resort dependent upon 112 the land. We are recognizing that our very existence does depend on what is produced from the land. And that is not the only aspect of this matter. There are large numbers of people who for the first time in their lives have come into contact with country life. They have moved into the country from the towns, and many of them, especially the younger ones, have felt the great attractiveness of the country. I believe that when the war is over these people will return to the towns for a short time, and then many of them will go back to the country if it is made at all possible for them to do so.
If, in the future, the countryside is to be repopulated three conditions must be observed. I am assuming, of course, that the Government will carry out their promises to agriculture, that it will be made possible for farmers to carry on their work, and that help will be given them. Assuming all this, there are, as I say, three conditions which must be observed. The best agricultural land must be reserved for farming. Again and again valuable land has been wasted by being used for haphazard building. There is plenty of land which is not valuable agricultural land which can be used for housing estates. The Barlow Commission point out how many acres of land in the North of London, first-rate land for market gardens, has now been covered by a network of streets and houses. It is important that a Central Planning Authority should reserve the best agricultural land for agricultural purposes. It is also important—and the noble Lord has already referred to this—that the wages of the agricultural labourer should compare fairly with the wages of his brother who is working in the town. The agricultural worker will inevitably be attracted to the town if he finds that the men who are working there obtain wages two or three times larger than he himself receives. It is crass ignorance to regard the agricultural labourer as a man who is unskilled; he is much more skilled and has a far greater sense of responsibility than many men who work in factories or otherwise in towns.
The third condition is that there must be proper houses for the people who are working in the country. It is almost impossible to emphasize that too strongly. 113 The Scott Committee make some very strong remarks on this. They say:From many sources we have received evidence of the grave inadequacy of much rural housing. Housing conditions usually associated with slums are both common and widespread in country towns, in villages and amongst scattered dwellings, and call for drastic and urgent action. Even where the conditions cannot be described as equivalent to the slums of towns, so many rural houses lack the material improvements, now becoming general in town dwellings, that the inequality is a principal factor in inducing migration of young people to the towns. We regard the improvement of rural housing as an essential prerequisite to the re-establishment of a contented countryside.Shortly before the war, I was Chairman of a small Committee appointed by the Ministry of Health to inquire into rural housing throughout the country. From all over the county we had evidence showing that there was a serious shortage of houses for those who were living in the country, and that many of the existing houses were quite hopelessly inadequate, with the result that young men who wanted to marry found it impossible to discover houses to which to take their intended wives and were almost compelled to move to the town and increase the congestion already existing there. It is therefore a matter of prime importance that there should be a comprehensive policy of building more houses in the countryside.
I welcome the promise made by the noble Lord who has just spoken that people who know the country will be consulted as to the kind of houses which should be built in our villages. I suppose that most of us can think of houses built in the last few years just outside some of our most beautiful villages which are an almost exact repetition of the kind of house to be found in a street in an urban district—no doubt appropriate for a great town, but inappropriate, both in architecture and in convenience, for the country. We need countrymen, and country women too, to give their advice as to the kind of house that country people like. It is also important to obtain the advice of competent architects. When I was serving on the little Committee to which I have referred, the late Lord Crawford, who was a member of it, was constantly impressing on us the importance of obtaining architectural advice regarding any buildings which were to be put up in or near a country village. I think that this question of rural housing 114 will have to be dealt with before the war is over, difficult as it will be, because the moment demobilization begins there will be numbers of men who will be prepared to come and work in the country, and it will be impossible for them to do so unless there are houses in which they can dwell. I hope very much, therefore, that the Government will be able to state that even before the war is over they propose to build a number—no doubt a limited number—of houses in the countryside.
There is another reason why this whole matter is urgent. When the war is over the nation will be confronted with two domestic problems of the first importance. First of all, there will be the problem of housing. Before the war a great deal of building was still necessary; we had not dealt sufficiently with the slums or with overcrowding, although great progress had been made. All building has stopped during the war, and large numbers of houses have been swept away by the indiscriminate bombing from the air. Districts which were not overcrowded before are now necessarily overcrowded with the families of those who have had to move from the bombed areas. Large numbers of houses have been sadly deteriorating, through age and overcrowding, into slums, and at the end of the war the country will be confronted with the largest and most serious housing problem with which it has ever had to deal.
The other problem will be that of the danger of unemployment. When the war industries cease, and when large numbers of men are demobilized, work will have to be found for them at once. If at the end of the war men find neither houses nor sufficient work there will be throughout the country a most dangerous feeling of angry discontent and disappointment. If, however, we have a strong and comprehensive plan for dealing with the housing problem, we shall also be dealing with the problem of unemployment. I am certain, from what the noble Lord who has just spoken has told us, that he means to press forward with all his power with schemes for a strong and effective planning and housing authority; and I will only say in conclusion that the more vigorous his plans are, the more strongly -*be supported by the nation as a whole.
THE EARL OF RADNOR
My Lords, when I came to your Lordships' House this afternoon I anticipated that the noble Lord who was going to move this Motion would find himself very largely in favour of the findings in particular of the Uthwatt Committee, and that I should find myself in the position of having hotly to defend the rights of the landowner.
THE EARL OF RADNOR
Unfortunately for me, the noble Lord has taken most of the wind out of my sails by criticizing the Uthwatt Report in various important respects. On the other hand, he has dealt very kindly with the Scott Committee, of which I had the privilege of being a member, and I should like to thank him for that kindness. He did, however, suggest that we were largely an industrial country, and that the Scott Committee had tended to trail the industrial part of the country behind them as a sort of poor relation. I should like to differ from that point of view. The function of the Scott Committee was quite definitely to consider the planning of England with especial reference to rural England and to agriculture; and actually what they did do, in my opinion, was to try to save something of our countryside and our agriculture from the wreck which industrial England has made of them.
I want to refer to a detail in the Report of the Scott Committee which has already been referred to twice, and that is the vexed question of tied cottages. The noble Lord, Lord Latham, does not want to see any tied cottages, as he considers it unfair to rural workers to have to live in them—I think that that was his argument. I should like to put this point of view to him. It is equally unfair to expect a man to go to work in a rural occupation, where he may quite often have to turn out in the middle of the night, and expect him to live two or three miles or more away from his work. This question of tied cottages works both ways. And I might also inform him and the House that the very moderate proposal regarding tied cottages was, I think, substantially my own drafting. Apart from that, I think and I hope that the Scott Committee in reaching their conclusions have at the very least focused and crystallized all that we who love our countryside hope for; and I trust that, as the result, some vigorous action will take 116 place in order to restore the countryside to the position which it should hold in this country.
The Uthwatt Report, on the other hand, raises much more controversial issues. It raises issues which really go far beyond the question of compensation and betterment, and I feel that when we are discussing the Reports of both those two Committees we ought to have some clear idea in our mind as to what planning means. Both Committees, going outside the terms of reference in each case, recommend a Planning Commission. I am not going to argue the principle of a Planning Commission.
I signed the Scott Report and I think your Lordships can judge from that where my sympathies lie. But I would draw attention to a very important difference between those two Committees with regard to that. The Scott Committee draw a very clear and emphatic distinction between planning and development, and they charge the Planning Commission with the job of planning and not of development. On the other hand, the Uthwatt Committee as emphatically and as clearly join planning and development together and talk about a National Development Commission, having in mind, if I have read the Report aright, that the National Development Commission should not only make plans but should also actively interest themselves in the business of developing the land subsequently. That is a very important difference, and one which one needs to bear in mind.
Planning is of recent growth—a very sturdy growth. A lot of people now are keenly interested in planning. This possibility of adding development to planning means a very great increase in the growth of planning, and one which I view with great distrust. I feel that public bodies are not suitable people to undertake on a large scale the active business of development, especially when you have added to it the absurdity, as I think, in the Uthwatt Report of giving power to a public body to purchase land compulsorily from a private individual in order to re-let it to another private individual for development—and presumably to let to that third party for the benefit of his own pocket. It is an absurd situation, which carries development and planning to a degree which I do not think was ever 117 contemplated when we first started talking about planning.
On the other hand, I rather reluctantly agree that planning in some form is necessary. Constitutionally, I am an anti-planner, and I suppose, for that reason, ought never to have served on the Scott Committee; but I do realize, as I think even the most hidebound individualist realizes, that planning of some sort is necessary in order to prevent the private individual from doing harm to the public by the misuse of the land under his control. I would, however, try to confine planning very clearly to the rather negative and preventive operations, rather than any positive planning and development. The Scott Committee, I think, defined what planning should be in a great deal better words than I can. In paragraph 217, after dealing with the question of who would undertake the actual development, they say:Unless the various types and units of development are co-ordinated and, where necessary, prohibited, by suitable machinery, the best use of the land of the country will not be attained.If the work of planning can be confined to that we get the whole question of the utilization of land into a proper focus.
I come next to what is perhaps the most important, and I think will probably prove to be the most controversial, of the recommendations of the Uthwatt Committee—the unification of development rights in undeveloped land. I may say, in parenthesis, that I should have had more respect for the findings of the Uthwatt Committee if, instead of using that horrible word "unification," which was pulled out of the dictionary some years ago in order to conceal real intentions, they had come out into the open and talked about State acquisition or even nationalization—because that is what it is. The State acquisition of all the development rights in undeveloped land must mean that on the State would devolve the task of getting that land developed. It would become, for the purposes of development, the landowner of the land which may be developed. And I sometimes wonder whether those people who view with favour such a proposal, or proposals of this nature, really understand the problem. I think there are far too many people who have it in mind that the landowner with land which is likely to be developed has merely to sit 118 back, watch the land develop almost automatically, and rake in the money when it is developed. Well, of course, there are cases where that happens. On the other hand, there are a number of cases where it does not happen. A great deal of the development, and some of the very best development in this country, has been owing to the initiative of the individual landowner, who has taken a chance—a speculative business, as I know to my own cost, in many cases.
I personally—and I think most of your Lordships will agree with me—think it is not the duty of any public body, nor is it desirable, that they should enter into any speculative business on a large scale, as is suggested by the acquisition of development rights. They are not suited to it temperamentally, and it would lend itself to all sort of difficulties. Besides that, there also seems to be an idea that all development by public bodies is good, and that all development by the individual is bad. Well, I do not think either statement or belief is true. I have seen some extraordinarily bad development by public bodies; I have also seen some extraordinarily bad development by individuals. But I think what one must remember, first of all, is that planning is designing to preserve much of what we love in this country and, if possible, improve it—preserve that which has been created by private endeavour in the past. I do not think a public body is going to do any better. My personal conviction is that in nine cases out of ten a public body will do a great deal worse, and that they are not the right people to carry out active development. On the other hand, this question of the acquisition of development rights was recommended by the Uthwatt Committee in order to get over the difficulty of compensation which has arisen, and has always been a difficulty in any question of planning.
I appreciate—more so from hearing all the evidence on the Scott Committee—that that difficulty is a very real one. It has been a bar in the past to good planning. It has led even to the extent—I think the figure comes from the Barlow Commission's Report—of land being planned for building which, if all built on, would be sufficient to accommodate 291,000,000 people. I do not think that is all entirely owing to the rapacity of landowners. Rating authorities in many 119 cases do not very much like to see land planned out of all possibility of an increase in rateable value. They like to keep the chance that it may increase their rateable income. That is one thing; and the Scott Committee also point out that owing to certain defects in legislation a good deal of land has been planned for building in order to retain it, in fact, as open space—a paradoxical situation. I cannot remember the exact paragraph, but your Lordships will find it detailed in the Report.
That difficulty of compensation is not, as I say, entirely due to the landowners. On the other hand, it remains, and it is difficult to see how it is going to be dealt with. In fact, as we realize from the Uthwatt Committee's Report, they can see only one way—State acquisition of development rights. They propose, as I understand, to pay a figure for the development rights which would, in fact, not be anything like the ad hoc valuation throughout the country. They take the element of floating value into account and consequently reduce the global figure. I would point out to your Lordships something which most of you have known for a long time in connexion with this element of floating value. It is very easy for a Committee to recommend it, it is quite easy for a Government to pass a law on the subject, but in the past the Treasury has never considered the element of floating value in valuing for Death Duties. It has taken the highest valuation as though any land which was capable of development was, in fact, actually at that moment ripe for development. It would be distinctly unfair to a great number of landowners if as a result of legislation the past should be forgotten and that they should then get in return a much smaller figure for their land than that on which they have had to pay Death Duties or possibly have thought it wise to provide for.
I feel that there is one possible way in which the difficulty may be overcome—the noble Lord, Lord Latham, alluded to it—and that is by strengthening existing legislation. The main difficulty about this question of compensation is that it is immediately payable. As soon as the land is zoned, a claim lies against the planning authority for compensation for building value. If by some amendment of the 1932 Act there could be a provision 120 for deferred payment, or a spread-over of the payment, the burden would be that much lightened, and as and when rating value increased by development, there would be money available to pay the charges in respect of compensation. I throw that out as a suggestion worth considering because I believe the real burden lies in the necessity for immediate payment.
I am not going to deal at length with the suggestions in the Uthwatt Committee Report with regard to developed areas. They are very detailed and very highly controversial, but by the time they have been examined carefully I think they will be found to be quite unworkable. I would, however, once again tilt at the Uthwatt Committee. I get the impression from reading the Report that they do not suggest the acquisition of site values in developed areas merely because they were frightened of the expense. They had not the courage of their own convictions to recommend, once again, nationalization. But they make several arbitrary suggestions, and once again in this case there would come in the question of the speculative element on the other side—that is to say, anybody who owns land in a developed area has to suffer the risks of speculation while the suggested taxation takes 75 per cent. of any increased value. As was said in the Minority Report, there is no provision for repayment in the case of "worsement." But so much of this is highly controversial. It merely raises fundamentally the question of land nationalization. Land nationalization is very controversial, both socially and politically, and I do not feel we ought during war-time to raise a political controversy of that nature. It would be highly undesirable and might cause grave difficulties. I do therefore beg that only the minimum necessary to safeguard the position after the war should be done now and, if possible, these controversial questions should be shelved, leaving us to think them over and to occupy the leisure we shall have after the war, when we shall once again be able to enjoy the throes of political controversy.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, you will remember that in a recent speech by Mr. Wendell Willkie he suggested, with respect to the conduct of the war, that a little public prodding of Governments was desirable, to which our Prime 121 Minister replied that so far as he was concerned he needed no prodding, but was himself rather a prod. When it comes to the question of planning, this House has been engaged for the last two years in continually applying the goad, and I am not at all sure that the necessity is over. I agree that the noble Lord, the present Minister of Works and Planning, is himself rather a prodder than a proddee. He recalled that on a previous occasion when he was at the Ministry of Supply I disagreed with certain inaction and recommended a particular measure. He said that within two days he was able to write and tell me that the measure I had recommended was being carried out. He did not mention that the two days were occupied in pawing into force a proposal which he had previously rejected! In this matter we had a debate four weeks ago in which the noble Lord, Lord Snell, who has the sympathy of all of us, was called upon, as happens not infrequently, to endeavour to persuade the House that he had something to say when, as a mater of fact, we knew and he knew he had nothing to say. At the end the noble Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, with an air of somewhat modest triumph, announced that the Government were taking one action of a definite and constructive character.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
It was Lord Snell himself, as I now remember, who ended his speech with an expression of satisfaction that he was able to make the positive and constructive announcement that the Government had appointed a Departmental Committee to examine the recommendation of another Committee that there should be an extension of the law relating to the compulsory registration of land. That did not carry us very touch further towards the solution of these great and grave matters we have been debating to-day. The next incident, if one can call it an incident, was in connexion with the gracious Speech from the Throne. Everyone anticipated that in view of the immense national interest in this matter of post-war reconstruction and planning, there at least would be the promise of definite legislation in the present Session to deal with some at any rate of these problems. But the only 122 reference in His Majesty's Speech was that the Government were examining the two Reports that had been presented. That came as a disappointment. And to-day it was hoped that the Government, if they could riot pronounce upon the proposals, undoubtedly technical and complicated, of the Uthwatt and Scott Reports, would at least state what was to be the framework of the Central Planning Authority, what machinery of Government would be set up to treat of these matters, and, furthermore, that they would indicate to the local authorities what would be the general layout of the planning system throughout the country. However, the noble Lord, Lord Portal, to whom we always listen with great pleasure and whom I have to thank for the kindly reference he made to my previous goadings, in his speech made several quotations at length from the Uthwatt Report and, as he quoted each important and vital passage from that Report, we were expecting that at the end he would declare what action the Government were about to take. But, as each quotation came to an end, we gleaned that this matter was receiving the careful examination of the Government. It was rather like a serial story in a popular paper where each instalment comes to a conclusion with the words in brackets "Another thrilling instalment will be found in our next number."
No one can prophesy of course, and anyone would be foolish to attempt to prophesy, when the war will come to an end, but, if it is not a probability, it is at least a possibility that when the German system is exposed to serious shock it may collapse all of a heap for it has no foundations. If that is so and if, to use the words of Lord Reith, the Government are "caught by the peace," with none of these necessary measures passed through Parliament, and none of the local authorities ready with their schemes, and if you have a great problem of unemployment following upon demobilization and the cessation of war industries, the Government will not be forgiven for this procrastination; they will be discredited in the eyes of the nation and there will be a spirit of anger spread throughout the country which might result in very grave consequences.
My noble friend Lord Latham, who opened the debate to-day, for which we must all thank him, made a speech which 123 I confess I found disappointing. He also is not adequately convinced of the urgency of the problem and the need for adopting within a matter of weeks positive constructive legislation. He did, in one passage of his speech, indeed say that we ought to start with a general valuation of the land. I do not know whether he meant that seriously to be attempted straight away. He said also that he had not abandoned hope of a policy of land nationalization, and that it ought to be begun as soon as may be. But his main hope was the adoption of a scheme for the taxation of land values, which he thought would solve the problem. I have been advocating the taxation of land values all my life. It is just forty years this month since I was elected a member of the House of Commons, and close upon fifty years since I was first adopted as a candidate for Parliament, and during the whole of that half century I and Liberals in general have been advocating a policy for the taxation of land values. We have had the opportunity twice of making a great effort to carry it into effect: the first time following upon Mr. Lloyd George's historic Budget of 1909, and the second time when Mr. Snowden was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the Labour Government of 1929. But still half a century has gone by, and there is no taxation of land values.
And as for a system of betterment, I find in the Uthwatt Report a reference to the fact that the principle was adopted by Parliament in the reign of Charles II, and that an Act dealt with it in 1662 and another dealt with it after the great fire in 1667 under the name of "Melioration." Neither the taxation of land values nor any effective system of betterment has in fact been adopted, and it must be confessed that town planning ever since the first Town Planning Act was passed in 1909 has failed to achieve its purposes. It has achieved much, it is true, and a great many evils have been avoided which otherwise would have occurred, but we still have the wretched towns which are a shame to our civilization and a discredit to the capital land of an Empire such as that to which we have the privilege of belonging. But now the noble Lord, Lord Latham, considers that all we have to do is to tax land values and this problem will be solved.
§ LORD LATHAM
I am sorry to interrupt, but the noble Viscount will forgive me. I did not urge the taxation of land values; I urged a rate upon site values, a rate upon annual site values. And I did not urge that as the only solution; I urged it in combination with complete control over development of all land in the whole of the country.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
When I used the term "taxation of land values" I meant the imposition of a burden upon the land for public purposes and was not using it in a technical sense but including both national taxation and local taxation.
§ LORD LATHAM
I am sorry, but if that is so I cannot follow the reference of the noble Viscount to the two previous endeavours in that direction, the rating of site values bears no relation to either of the two.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
What I had in my own mind was the proposal which the noble Lord was mentioning to-day, that the rating of land values was to be carried into effect, but that is equally a controversial matter and equally as technical as the taxation of land values, and all the observations I have made under the name of taxation of land values would apply equally to the rating of land values. When the noble Lord says that he would also have complete control given to local authorities or planning authorities over all future development, that does not touch or dispose of the question of compensation and betterment which has been the block hitherto. Every member of a local authority who has been endeavouring to deal with these matters knows that they are stopped by not knowing what would (be the financial result in dealing in this way or in that way with given areas of land, and whether or not their ratepayers would be involved, sooner or later, in financial burdens which they would not be prepared to undertake. But his remedy, as I understand it to-day—and he will correct me again if he disagrees with my interpretation—was that there ought to be no compensation for land taken unless there is manifest injustice owing to inequality of treatment between one owner and another. But there is always inequality of treatment between one owner and another if you take land. Two cases are never quite alike, and, if you are to give no compensation, certainly 125 one landowner would claim that he had been treated with manifest injustice; in fact, I am not sure every landowner would not claim he had been treated with manifest injustice.
How you are to put into an Act of Parliament the principle of "no manifest injustice" I do not know. You have to translate it into terms of pounds, shillings and pence, and probably not so many shillings and pence as hundreds or thousands of pounds. I am afraid that that formula for the solution of the difficulties with which the Uthwatt Committee were grappling will not carry us any further. Is there any alternative to the proposal of the Uthwatt Committee? When I read the Report I was convinced by their argument that there was none; and whatever difficulties may arise I think the proposals in their Report ought to be accepted, unless on the one hand you are going to leave planning for ever blocked by the insoluble problem of compensation or, on the other hand, are to proceed straight away with land nationalization. I think myself that is the only alternative. If the Uthwattt recommendation of the purchase of development rights is not adopted the nation as a whole will be compelled to turn to the other solution of general State ownership, or of devolution to the local authorities, of the land of the country. The noble Lord, Lord Phillimore, who spoke in a previous debate, said all landowners would be prepared to accept a ceiling, and by "ceiling" he meant a limitation of price to the valuation as at March, 1939. We should be very glad if that proposal, which has been announced as Government policy, is generally accepted, and I hope it will be carried through; but that also would not solve the questions of compensation and betterment, because how are you to determine what compensation is to be under that ceiling?
As to the proposal of the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, one could not on the spur of the moment grasp its implications. No doubt it will be considered, but at first glance it did not seem to me that it would be quite adequate to meet the necessities of the case. He spoke as an anti-planner by instinct, so far as planning by public authority is concerned, and no doubt if all towns were like Folkestone he would perhaps have a strong case to make; but they are not. You have only to go around the country and especially to the big in- 126 dustrial towns and compare them with what might be done under enlightened control of a whole area to see how great is the need and how urgent it is to find a remedy. Here in the Uthwatt Report and its recommendations we have, I think, an admirable opportunity to solve these problems. The members of that Committee were not radical reformers, nor were they landowners having a financial interest in the matter. They were dispassionate, impartial lawyers and surveyors and on this matter they were unanimous. I think that the Government and Parliament and the country would be wise to accept their adjudication on the whole matter. I am not surprised that the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, speaking to a great extent on behalf of the landlords, welcomed the speech of Lord Latham, because any criticism from that quarter—though I am glad to know he did not speak for the Labour Party to-day—discrediting and depreciating the Uthwatt recommendations will, of course, be cordially welcomed by those who attack it on the ground that it is insufficiently considerate of the landlords' interests.
In conclusion I would urge that the Government should decide on certain priorities. Some things must be left over—you cannot do all at once in a matter of weeks—but these priorities should be observed. The first is that the Government should make up their mind once for all what is to be the Central Planning Authority, whether there is to be a Ministry of Planning or not, what is to be the Council of Ministers to deal with the larger questions of post-war planning and reconstruction, who is to be its chairman and what authority he is to exercise. I hope they will dismiss quite definitely the proposal that there ought not to be a Ministry of Planning but a Commission in place of it. I have dealt with that on a previous occasion and I will not repeat what I said then. A Commission, yes, perhaps, if it is thought desirable for administering a property like development rights. I see no objection to that being handed over to the control of a Commission, just as no one raised objection to a Commission for administering coal royalties when they were purchased by the State. But if anyone had proposed that there should be a Coal Commission and that the Ministry of Mines should be abolished that would have been very hotly controverted.
127 When you find the Uthwatt Committee recommending that the powers under the Town and Country Planning Act should be transferred to this Commission to be set up, I am by no means convinced that that will be accepted either by Parliament or by local authorities. When it is suggested that the Commission should have the right to approve or disapprove plans prepared by local planning authorities, as was suggested by the Scott Committee, one may be certain that London or Birmingham or Glasgow would never for a moment agree that plans which they had prepared with the utmost care should be judged and accepted or vetoed by a Commission not itself directly responsible to Parliament. This matter being entirely outside the terms of reference and the Committees not being constituted in a manner qualified to give advice on the subject, and having taken no evidence on the subjects from those concerned, this recommendation, I think, ought definitely and at once to be cleared away.
The second priority I suggest is that local authorities must be informed at once what are to be their areas for planning, what Joint Committees are to be constituted and what will be their powers and their finance. For all purposes it is necessary that the Government should decide for or against the proposal of the Uthwatt Committee on the purchase of development rights and what powers local authorities are to have for land purchase. On that I thought I detected in the noble Lord's speech a somewhat stronger note of decision than on most other matters. I regard that as of prime importance. Local authorities should have powers of purchase of all lands that they need for improvement of their cities. Many other things are highly desirable, but these are of the utmost urgency and I hope when we reach the next instalment, which I trust may be at an early date, it may be of a somewhat more definite character than that we have had to-day.
§ VISCOUNT BLEDISLOE
My Lords, like my noble friend who has just sat down I welcome with some mental surprise the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Latham, who began this debate. I welcome it not for the reason at which my noble friend Viscount Samuel hinted just now, that of expressing sympathy with 128 the outlook of an agricultural or other landlord, but because it seems to me that my noble friend Lord Latham did fairly and with sound argument expose some of the extreme difficulties in carrying out the cumbrous machinery that is foreshadowed in the Uthwatt Report. I may be a somewhat old-fashioned bucolic, but during a long life and a somewhat active one I have adhered to the view which was well expressed in a proverb which was current in the time of old Jethroe Tull, some three hundred years ago, that the best thing to do on earth is to cultivate it. The noble Lord, Lord Latham, started off to my surprise by saying that the Scott Report treated industry as a poor relation. The great trouble with those of us who have been interested in rural welfare and development for many years past is that we rather enviously described and regarded urban industry as a "rich relation" by comparison with those who have to make a living out of the soil of this country.
Lord Latham asked a very pertinent question, apropos of the findings of the Scott Report, as to whether a prosperous agriculture can be identified with an enlarged agriculture. I am bound to say that in studying that illuminating and very inspiring Report that is the problem I feel that I am up against the whole time. It is dealt with quite interestingly by Professor Dennison in a Minority Report. Lord Latham says that food must continue to be relatively cheap, that the agricultural worker must be well paid—paid on a comparable basis to the urban worker. Rural slums, he says, must go. But when he urges that food must be cheap, and that urban industry must thrive as heretofore, I ask how is it going to be brought about if agriculture is to enjoy that larger measure of prosperity which appears to have been inaugurated under war conditions? As my late, very well informed friend and colleague, Christopher Turnor, who had travelled more in other countries on tours of agricultural investigation than any man I know, repeatedly said—and I have found it, from my own experience, to be true—England's agricultural land is, for its quality, the cheapest land in the world. If that is so, and as I say, I believe it to be true whether applied in normal conditions to the price of agritural land or rent charged, can it be reasonably expected that by putting some 129 artificial value, or shall I say, extracting some theoretical or speculative value out of the present value of agricultural land, agriculture is going to be put on a sounder fooling than that upon which it has rested in the past? I cannot believe that that is likely to be the case.
The most reverend Prelate, the Archbishop of York, pressed for the establishment without delay of a Central Planning Authority to lay down a general outline of planning and to give some indication to local authorities of what their functions shall be. With that I most emphatically agree, especially as I sit as an alderman upon a county council which I believe is taking the lead amongst the county authorities of England in endeavouring to plan for the future, particularly with a view to the establishment of new industries and preventing unemployment arising from those that are decadent. The most reverend Archbishop asked the question: Cannot we avoid putting the countryside in a strait-jacket? Let us, at any rate, promote some development that will be orderly, he said. Then he propounded three conditions that were necessary to counter the process of rural depopulation. With all three of those conditions I imagine that your Lordships, in whatever part of the House you sit, will be in entire agreement.
It appears to me from both these Reports which we have been discussing that there is too strong an assumption that Government ownership and Government or communal enterprise can do what individual effort cannot do to right the present position. Is it not individual enterprise which, after all, has been largely responsible for building up the prosperity of this country and its status amongst the nations of the world? Is not individual enterprise compatible with Government planning and Government direction? British Governments have not shown themselves to be at all good landowners or good planners in days gone by. I have lived for the whole of my life on the borders of a Government estate, and I said in the House of Commons years ago, and I repeat it here to-day, that the executive of that estate, like those of other Government estates that I know, have displayed a lack of enterprise in providing for the social requirements of the population to a far greater degree than the ordinary well-disposed agricultural land-lord.
130 There is much need for planning a new Britain. No one who has been, as I have, at the head of the National Council of Social Service can fail to realize that Great Britain is far behind some other countries, notably the new countries of the world, in developing social progress, in improving the conditions of the housing of the working people, in promoting national parks, in the beautification of cities and towns and other improvements which long ago have been put in hand by other countries. There is much need, I say, for a new Britain. She is collectively or communally the most casual, happy-go-lucky, unsystematic, myopic country in the world. She passes countless Acts of Parliament of a piecemeal palliative character, spurred thereto by temporary outbursts of reforming zeal or industrial unrest, but most of them are based on no systematic, comprehensive long-range plan whatever. Many of these Statutes become inoperative, or only partially operative, soon after they are passed. Others with considerable potentialities for solving serious national problems, instead of being put into full operation and amended as circumstances and public opinion require, are superseded by others. This, I venture to say, applies with special force to the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, which appears to me to be capable of such amendment as to provide for most of the more convincing requirements of these two Reports—certainly of the Uthwatt Report and, to a large extent, of the Scott Report.
In the matter of planning and its successful execution, there is much that Britain could learn from her daughter States, and particularly from New Zealand. She has now got to plan nationally, determinedly and with vision if we are to hold up our heads as a nation in the days to come; but heaven forfend that, having planned, we should leave it to the bureaucracy, guided by politicians, to carry out the plan! Both with regard to the protection of scenic beauty and with regard to the preservation of even our most fertile land against encroachments for industrial or for defence purposes, there have been in the past no more serious offenders, no greater vandals, than successive British Governments and Government Departments. Is it quite certain that the scheme adumbrated in the Uthwatt Report is calculated to work smoothly, expeditiously, effectively and, 131 above all, economically, in securing for the public the land values which they themselves admittedly, have created? It seems to me that, whatever advantage the public may derive from it, there is likely to be a rich harvest for surveyors, for valuers and for the legal fraternity; but will commensurate advantage flow to the community a large?
So far as rural land is concerned, I want to submit that no one knows his land and its potentialities better than the rural landowner. If that is admitted, why not invite the rural landowners to carry out, within a time limit, the process of optimum land utilization according to a scheme prescribed by the National Planning Authority? Give them, let us say, five years in which they will have the opportunity to do what, in the Government's considered view, should be done in regard to the development and optimum utilization of the land of this country. I believe that the Central Landowners' Association would be perfectly capable of organizing such a scheme, to the advantage of the country and without serious criticism from any political Party in this country. If the landowners fail to do it, either individually or through their main rural organization, then let the Government take it in hand themselves and see whether they can do it better. I do not claim to be anything more than an old country squire, brought up from my childhood in the belief that anyone who owns land in this country is a trustee for the public and must always regard himself as such. I am sure that the old landowners, at any rate, are always prepared to do what they can in the public interest, if they have a lead from the Government and if what is required can be carried out without serious financial detriment to themselves and to those who come after them. As for betterment values, let them pass to the public, if that is desired, after quinquennial or decennial valuations, but do not fetter individual enterprise or hinder the evolutionary progress of British husbandry by the constant fear of bureaucratic interference.
As regards the Scott Report—a most unconventional, breezy Report, full of original ideas and suggestions, including consideration for the aesthetic and spiritual aspects of "England's green and pleasant land"—there are two criticisms which I feel bound to make. One is the 132 almost entire lack of reference to the very serious problem of land drainage. There are enormous areas in this country today, including some of the potentially most fertile areas in England and Wales, which still sadly want effective, large-scale drainage schemes, which have not. yet been put in hand, and there is no indication in the Scott Report of how those schemes can be rapidly and effectually carried out.
Finally, I want to return to the problem with which I began, and which Lord Latham himself indicated to be the most serious problem. The Scott Report presumes, as a condition precedent to any improvement in our rural areas, that a healthy and well-balanced agriculture will be maintained after the war. The vital question, as my noble friend Lord Latham indicated, is this: Is Britain going to base her prosperity in the future, as in the past, on exported manufactures and the importation of cheap food?
§ LORD ADDISON
May I interrupt the noble Lord? I do not think that my noble friend Lord Latham said "cheap food." He said "food," not "cheap food."
§ VISCOUNT BLEDISLOE
I am not quoting Lord Latham. I put this vital question which was referred to by Lord Latham—I am not quoting him—on this basis: Is Britain going to base her prosperity in the future, as in the past, on exported manufactures and, if you like, relatively cheap imported food? If not, where is the statesman big enough or bold enough to grasp the nettle of fulfilling the Government's pledge to maintain a healthy and well-balanced agriculture after the war? Theodore Roosevelt did it forty years ago in the United States of America, but he was a man of exceptional prescience and vision and great courage. For the moment, in this super-industrial country in which we live, I cannot see any statesman coming forward and saying: "I will ensure, and subsequent British Governments will ensure, that there shall be in this country a healthy and well-balanced agriculture." Yet the whole picture as disclosed by the Scott Report falls to the ground unless there is that basis on which to build.
This is interpreted by the Scott Report as meaning the continuance and revival of the traditional mixed character of 133 British farming. Without it, the whole Utopia of rural renaissance foreshadowed by the Scott Report vanishes into the mist of the unattainable. The planning of our agriculture, and therefore of our rural life, must, for its national justification, on the one hand afford reasonable security against famine in time of grave emergency, and on the other make the nutritional needs of the great masses of our population the primary and dominant consideration. But those are not considered by the Scott Committee to be the primary considerations. We must modify and adapt our farming processes. It is beginning at the wrong end to lay chief stress upon the quality of the land and its traditional suitability for, and therefore the inevitability of, certain types of husbandly. The four-furrow plough, the combine harvester, the grass drier, the making of silage of equivalent feeding-value to that of cattle cake—all these are indications of a revolution in our methods of husbandry, which we cannot stem even if we would.
Just as with the enclosure of the commons in the eighteenth century the whole organization, aspect and outlook of British agriculture changed, to the detriment of the peasant but to the economic advantage of the industry and the greater security of the country, so, with the mechanization of agriculture in the twentieth century, we are confronted with an economic revolution of the industry. We cannot check the wheels of progress. That we can raise two-thirds of our essential food supply on our own soil is now indisputable; that twenty years hence we shall be raising, or could be raising, four-fifths is more: than possible. In the planning and reconstitution of the countryside the Government must make it crystal clear whether and to what extent there shall be this largely increased output of human food, and whether the lot of the agricultural producer, and especially the agricultural worker, is to be subordinated to that of the industrialist and his more fortunate employees.
§ LORD BROCKET
My Lords, a great many of us will agree with one particular sentence in the Uthwatt Report—namely, that "Planning is for the planned and not for the planners." We have heard this afternoon and in the other debate various opinions expressed about the scope of this planning, and we have heard some people 134 express the opinion that the new Minister or Commission for planning must be almost an omnipotent being. In another place, on the Second Reading of the Minister of Works and Planning Bill, Mr. Austin Hopkinson made one or two criticisms of planning, and said that "at one remote period, instead of living in houses, we lived in trees and gracefully swung from branch to branch by our tails. Fortunately," he added, "there were no planners in those days, or the whole country would have been planted with nut trees in order to provide suitable food for the future population." That, of course, show's that one cannot plan too far ahead. He also expressed his very individualist opinion by saying:The supreme planner of all is Adolf Hitler, who is going to plan the whole world. He is doing it most successfully in his own country. What are we fighting the war about? We are fighting to avoid planning.Well, I do not agree with those statements, any more than I agree with the absolutely omnipotent planners, and I do hope that when the planner, whether a Minister or a Commission, is set up the planning will be confined to really workable limits of physical planning of the countryside and the building of houses.
The last time I had the honour of addressing your Lordships' House was on the 30th July last year, when I moved a Resolution, which was, incidentally, accepted by the Government and by your Lordships' House, "that an agreed long-term policy for agriculture is essential in the interests of the nation." Any long-term policy of agriculture must also include such items as land tenure and planning, and I wonder whether it is too much to hope for that political Parties might be brought together to agree upon a really long-term policy for agricultural planning and what is called the land question. If that were possible, the whole of these very important subjects might be taken out of Party politics, and I should personally like to see that happen. But political Parties are political Parties and, speaking as a member of the Conservative Party, when I sec the suggestion put forward for the nationalization of development rights I am quite naturally suspicious that perhaps at some future time the Hitler technique of one by one will be put into operation by some political Party, and that the nationalization of development rights is the thin end of the 135 wedge of wholesale nationalization. We have had already the nationalization of oil, and we have had the nationalization of coal royalties and, incidentally, arising out of that, we have had the first attempt at fixing a global sum, which I do not think treated the coal royalty owners very well. Now we are asked to consider the nationalization of development rights, and it is, in fact, one of the main recommendations of the Uthwatt Report.
I do not wish to go into the financial parts of this scheme very much this afternoon, because I believe that the agricultural landowners of this country—and when I talk about the agricultural landowners I do not mean the land speculators on the outskirts of towns—are a very patriotic body of people, and I believe that they would be willing (as in fact they have been willing in many parts) to plan their properties and give up development rights to the nation. The Ministry of Health Report for 1936–37 states:In several parts of the country landowners have made valuable contributions to the preservation of the beauties of the countryside by agreeing with planning authorities to restrictions covering considerable portions of their estates.The Report then goes on to state that some 80,000 acres in the South Downs Preservation Scheme of the West Sussex County Council, 6,500 acres of down-land in East Sussex, some 19,000 acres in Buckinghamshire and 6,500 acres in two districts in Hertfordshire are instances indicating that planning authorities and owners are co-operating to secure the preservation of the countryside. I feel that landowners as a whole would be very willing to consider planning, as they have in the past, without this threat of the acquisition of development rights. I have heard it stated that the landowners, from the financial point of view, would be well advised to agree to some such scheme as this, but that of course one must consider the alternative. I have also heard it stated that the only alternative, as the noble Viscount opposite said, was nationalization. I do not agree with that statement. It rather reminds me of an American officer whom I met the other day who flew over from America and had breakfast at a hotel in Glasgow. He asked the waitress what there was for breakfast. She replied: "Kippers." He asked her then what alternative there was, and she said: "Take it or leave it."
136 I do not think it is quite like that with development rights, because I think there is an alternative which would be fair to all parties. I am sufficiently progressive in some of my views that I would agree—in fact, I think it must happen under any planning scheme which is set up—to a negative prohibition being put on all land to start with. I do not see that you can start from any other standpoint. But where the owner wishes to develop his land, and this development is forbidden, then a valuation should be made of that land, and compensation should be paid, if necessary, with an agreed percentage deduction to offset the floating value which Mr. Justice Uthwatt's Committee talk about. The sum which is mentioned by the Committee is, I think, £120,000,000. This is arrived at by deducting various sums from the £400,000,000 which was put forward as an intelligent guess, as it was called, by a witness before the Barlow Commission. But that £400,000,000 included undeveloped land in town areas. The Uthwatt Committee said that undeveloped land in "town areas"—and they do not proceed to define it any more than that—should not be taken over by the State. They then, after a considerable amount of mathematical calculation, reach the figure of £120,000,000.
I do not, as an owner of land myself, wish to say that that figure is too great or too small, because I hope that these financial considerations will, as far as possible, be kept out of any debate of this kind. But that figure of £120,000,000 is only a guess; it can only be a guess. If you have any global sum put forward without a valuation it must only be a guess. I quite agree that a valuation of the whole land of the country would take a long time, and that probably it would not be practicable; but I do say, as Lord Latham said at the beginning of the debate, that the Town Planning Acts should be extended and, if possible, simplified. Of course a sum will have to be provided by the Government for compensation, but I do not see why that sum should not be paid as and when land is completely sterilized. In other words, if the owner wishes the negative prohibition to be lifted, and he is refused by the planning authority, then would come the time for settling a reasonable amount of compensation.
137 Another very important proposition in the Uthwatt Committee is the 75 per cent. levy on urban site values. I was rather glad to hear the Minister express the opinion to-day that that proposition might take some time to put into effect. Personally—and perhaps I can speak more bluntly than the Minister can—I think that proposition is entirely impracticable. If you take as an example a property worth £500 a year, that property is still worth £500 a year even though the local authority thinks it is worth an annual value of £1,000 a year. Even though the owner gets £500 a year for it, he is going to be charged £375 a year by the local authority. The owner, on the income of £500 a year, already pays £250 a year in Income Tax at 10s. in the pound. He may pay Surtax as well. In addition to the £250 a year he would then have to pay another £375 a year, which adds up to a total of £625 a year, and he would not be able to pay that out of an income of £500 a year. That, your Lordships may say, is an extreme example; but it might happen under the scheme, and therefore I think the 75 per cent. scheme ought to be cast aside when the Government are considering the Uthwatt Report.
I would call the attention of your Lordships to a very eminent authority, one of the members of the Uthwatt Committee, Mr. James Barr, who criticizes this scheme on pages 169 and 170 of the Report. He says:Further, the scheme appears to have the following disabilities:—We need not think very much more about this 75 per cent. levy. Mr. James Barr, in his Minority Report, has, I believe, largely killed that scheme.
- (1) It is too late.
- (2) It would be expensive to administer. There would be innumerable and difficult appeals to deal with for which a specially constituted technical Court would be required.
- (3) It would discourage enterprise, as it only works one way, viz., to collect alleged 'betterment' but does not provide for recompensing 'worsement.'
- (4) There would be a difficulty in many cases in assessing and recovering from the person who had enjoyed the benefit and who should pay the levy.
- (5) The financial results might well be disappointing looking to the difficulties and costs of administration."
But there are one or two other suggestions in the Uthwatt Report which are 138 very objectionable to owners of land and are also not helpful to the population of the countryside in general. One is that if all the development rights are vested in the State, the developer would then have to go to the State Department and ask if he could develop a certain piece of land. That piece of land may be land upon which the owner of the remaining agricultural value sets great store. It may be near where he lives, it may even be a beauty spot, tout if the developer can convince the Government Department that it would be a good thing to develop this land, neither the neighbouring owner nor the owner of the land itself would have very much say in the matter. The land would be taken away from him and leased out to the developer, who might develop it exceedingly badly and greatly to the disadvantage of the old owner. That is a very unfortunate suggestion and if, as I hope will not happen, this scheme of nationalization of development rights is brought into law, I would suggest that the owner of land in the case of an approved scheme should have power to buy back the development rights and develop his own property in the way private owners and individuals have developed their properties in the past.
Arising out of this scheme, I feel very much that the time after the war will be equally as difficult as the time during the I war. None of us can say whether the National Government will continue for many years, or whether after a General Election has been held the National Government will cease and a Government of a Party character come into being. I feel that all the brains of all the political Parties will be needed to carry out reconstruction after this war. I also feel that all classes of the community will be needed to do their best to carry forward this country to better days. Among the various classes of the community the landowners have a very considerable part to play. Most of your Lordships will agree with me that much of the planning and the beauty of the country which we see now is due to the landowners of the eighteenth century who planned their parks and their plantations and did so much good to the countryside and to agriculture as well. I should like to endorse the plea put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, that landowners should be invited to co-operate and to help not only with agriculture, but with 139 town and country planning. I believe there is no better person for developing either the town or the countryside than the landowner on the spot. I believe he is far more suitable than any Government Department, and I therefore hope that landowners will be allowed to play their part in post-war reconstruction.
I should like, before I draw to a close, to suggest to His Majesty's Government that the non-controversial parts of these Reports should be proceeded with and that those very controversial parts should not be proceeded with under the cloak of war. I cannot help feeling that several parts of the Uthwatt Report would definitely make for controversy and would not help at a time like this. It is interesting to note that in the introduction to the Scott Report occurs this paragraph:Much that we propose requires good will rather than money; and we do not consider financial arrangements to be an insuperable difficulty in any of our recommendations. Indeed we regard all our proposals as essentially and immediately practical and practicable: we have ventured to demonstrate this by suggesting the main lines of government machinery by which, we believe, they could be carried out.Of course, the Uthwatt Report goes into a great deal of financial machinery, but it is very interesting that the Scott Report, which is a very able document, says it is possible to carry out many of the recommendations of that Committee without financial difficulty. I do hope therefore that the non-controversial parts of both Reports will be proceeded with, but that those parts which obviously must raise controversy and which may lead to land nationalization will not be proceeded with at the present time.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
My Lords, I can assure you that I shall detain you for a very few minutes indeed. I have nothing to say on the general question of the acquisition of development rights except that as regards the valuation it seems to me wholly unfair that in assessing the value of any land a possible public demand should be ignored, and I believe that the arguments of one of the Committee himself, Mr. James Barr, are irresistible. What, however, I want to direct your Lordships' attention to are some of the provisions of Chapter VI, page 64 onwards. We are told it is provided that developed land within a town 140 can be compulsorily taken without any local inquiry or Parliamentary sanction, positive or implicit.
I think it is fair to say that where town improvements are in the air speculation in property is in the air. I believe it is notorious that when Baron Haussmann carried out his great schemes in Paris, a number of persons with inside information were able to make large fortunes, and if one-fifth of what one hears about such matters in some American towns is correct, it is clear that tips are often given from those who are responsible for the planning, and that even the planners may be themselves speculators. I have no evidence whatever that anything of the kind prevails in England, and in my long connexion with the City of Sheffield I never heard a whisper of anything of the kind, but for all that it is a possibility and the temptation is there. The supervision of a Minister in London would not be a preventive at all. What you want is a local inquiry where the advocates of the plan can state their case and answer objections and can be made to discuss alternative proposals, and I should add that it ought to be possible to discover in a case where there was any doubt about the matter what transactions have taken place recently in properties affected. In other words, the proper preventive is not a Minister at a distance but local vigilance upon the spot.
I have nothing more to say except that I do think these very drastic powers that it is proposed should be given to local authorities, apart from the danger I have indicated must have some Parliamentary check. It is apparently proposed that schemes of local authorities shall be dealt with only by Ministerial order and without any Parliamentary sanction, absolute or implicit. I have some acquaintance from the office I held in another place with the making of Provisional Orders, and I know that such Orders were dispatched as a rule with great celerity, and I think without undue delay in their preparation. But if it is not possible to have Provisional Orders in every case, I do think that there should be an opportunity for Parliament, by means of the process known as "laying on the Table," of considering any proposals. An interposition by Parliament in such a case is very rare, but the fact that it can be acted upon is a valuable 141 check in making those who bring forward such proposals careful. I think that Parliament should, in some form or other in this connexion, retain its hand upon the legislation it has itself passed.
§ Moved, That the debate be now adjourned.—(Earl Be La Warr.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and ordered accordingly.