HL Deb 22 October 1942 vol 124 cc756-816

LORD REITH had given Notice that he would call attention to the machinery of planning advocated in the Reports of both the Uthwatt and Scott Committees; ask His Majesty's Government whether they propose immediately to adopt some such essential first step in preparation for postwar reconstruction; and also move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, as it was I who invited Lord Justice Scott and Mr. Justice Uthwatt to set their minds to the task which your Lordships know of, I might be permitted to say a word of appreciation to them and to their colleagues. Whatever your Lordships may feel about the recommendations in those two Reports, I think it will be agreed that in a task of such magnitude and complexity they have done their work so well as to merit anything that we could say in admiration of them and in gratitude to them. The Motion which I have the honour to submit to-day deals not with the content of those Reports but with the machinery which they advocate for national planning. I should like to make that clear—that I am dealing with machinery and not with anything else in those two voluminous documents. If one contemplates putting an article on the market or establishing a cause, there are three points which, if one is sensible, one considers: first, whether in fact there be a market for the article or a need or a demand for the cause; secondly, the processes of production; and, thirdly, the machinery or organization required for the purpose. We might argue as to whether processes have to be designed to fit machinery available, or whether machinery should be devised to which processes must conform. In this case I submit that it is the machinery which has to be settled, and that if it is settled it will not be so difficult to design the processes of production.

My submission is that the machinery for national planning should be settled now, and that it is quite impossible to wait until all the points in the two Reports have been studied and analysed, and decisions taken on them. Three decisions are required, and in this order of urgency. First, machinery for national planning now, as I have indicated; secondly, a Government decision quickly on two, anyhow, of the major recommendations of the Uthwatt Report; and, thirdly, as soon as may be, decisions on all the points which have to be covered, and legislation introduced thereon. I believe that any machinery is better than none, and my advocacy to-day is that, primarily, machinery should be settled. The Motion says "some such essential first step." It does not say this or that step—not even what the Uthwatt and Scott Reports recommend. But subject to the qualification that any machinery is better than none, may I give my views on the machinery? First, we cannot separate social and economic planning from physical planning. Secondly, in both the social and economic spheres and in the physical sphere the machinery must be inter-departmental. Thirdly, about a dozen different Departments must all plan in their particular fields, planning not being the responsibility or prerogative of anyone. And, fourthly, there should be ultimately responsible one Minister, non-departmental, unbiased, and with such authority as will enable him to co-ordinate and reconcile, and, above all, to get things done.

Both Reports recommend such a Minister, and that is significant. It is no less significant in that their terms of reference did not include a specific recommendation on machinery, and if they have gone beyond their terms of reference I for one am glad, and I endorse that recommendation of one Minister such as I have indicated. Your Lordships may ask: "Does this mean the undoing of what was so lately done in the transference of town and country planning powers from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Works?" Yes, my Lords, it does. You may say that it was I more than another who was responsible for that transference; that after more than a year of effort, and with no small satisfaction, I announced it in your Lordships' House on February 11. Yes, it was I. So then your Lordships may ask: "Is this a change of front?" No, it is not a change of front. What is recommended now is what I wanted in December, 1940. What I was able to secure was what I announced in your Lordships' House on February 11, 1942. As it was I who was to be Minister of Planning I was perhaps entitled to hope, despite the experiences of the past fifteen months, that more might come. Well aware of the difficulties—there were times when I saw little else but difficulties—but with the encouragement and support of the Lord President, to whom this country owes more than it knows, we came to what was then announced; we established a position from which I had hoped to advance

My noble friend—and I am fortunately able to use the term personally if I am not entitled to use it officially—my noble friend the Minister of Works and Planning—is he clear where he gets off and the Paymaster-General gets on, or are they both off or on together? I am sure they are very polite to each other, but I suspect that at times they are rather bored with each other and with the lack of definition of their respective responsibilities. Why is my noble friend not replying to-day? "Because it is an inter-departmental matter," I presume he would say, and, indeed, it is. And why is the Paymaster-General, for whom I have an admiration, studying the Reports of the Scott and Uthwatt Committees and not Lord Portal? Those Reports do not recommend the abolition of a Minister of Planning, as some may feel and may contend this afternoon. May I submit to your Lordships from experience that they are recommending the establishment, for the first time, of a Minister of Planning? So long as there are two Ministers so long will there be confusion and procrastination—and I speak with no small experience of that particular administrative twilight. The rest of the machinery is of less importance than that there should be one Minister in general charge, a Minister of National Development; secondly, under his chairmanship a Committee of Departmental Ministers concerned; thirdly, the central planning body for land control, in which the town and country planning powers would be vested; and fourthly, the individual Ministers concerned with particular aspects of planning. I have no time to define the respective responsibilities of those four parts of the organization. There are obvious difficulties, but they are slight compared with the magnificence of the objective.

I am in favour of a Commission and such a Commission as the two Reports recommend. I say again, please let us have machinery settled, any machinery that will work; and subject to that I would make these observations. I am in favour of a Commission, rather than a Department, for all the reasons that I gave fóur months ago when I spoke on public corporations and Commissions. I know well the arguments that will be advanced against such a Commission: that it is undemocratic, that it might become arbitrary and autocratic, that Parliament would never agree to such a range of responsibilities passing from its own control, the control of the elected representatives, and that local authorities might find it or consider it infra dig. to deal with a Commission in such an important matter.

The Commission would be responsible to the Minister of National Development; it would be subject to him and to direction from Parliament; it would operate under such safeguards as Parliament wished to impose upon it. I believe that a Commission would be much the most efficient type of organization and, incidentally, that Londoners and others concerned would have more confidence in it than in a Civil Service bureaucracy. Its main duty obviously would be to advise the Minister on the proper use of land and to administer and strengthen the Town and Country Planning Act.

I mentioned the second stage—a quick decision on the principles of the more important recommendations of the Uthwatt Committee. The country expects an early decision, first, that the Government accept the principle of wholesale prohibition of the development of undeveloped land, subject to fair compensation, and secondly, that local authorities should have wide powers of purchase where areas require development as a whole (and not merely because of war damage). Such a statement would be welcomed by the country, I believe, and it would encourage local authorities to go ahead with their plans. I ventured to tell them, when I was in a position to speak to or with them, that if I were they I would plan boldly and comprehensively. Someone should see that they do it now.

On the only other occasion when I came here to speak, if not unfortunately in from the sea, at least up from the seaside, I said that the lack of institutions was preventing the country from getting the most out of our key men. That applies to causes as well. By lack of institutions I mean the proper constitutional setting and adequate circumstances of all sorts to enable people to work and causes to be prosecuted. We are tired, some of us, of lip service to the Almighty and to dreams of new Jerusalems in what little is left of our once green and pleasant land. New Jerusalems never have, and never will, come down from Heaven, and nothing of high significance — social, economic or physical—will ever come unless we start building now.

I well know the oppositions that will come—oppositions of vested interests, prejudices, apprehensions (some more understandable than others), politicians, political Parties, Party machines, local authorities, landowners, speculative builders. Cannot they be subordinated to unbiased consideration of these tremendous issues at stake, for the good of England and the English people? Despite all that has happened and all that may yet happen, the people of this country believe in victory, unshakably believe in victory. Victory as an aim is splendid, but tolerably obvious. I would urge on the Government that victory is not enough—just that, my Lords, that victory is not enough—that the people in England, in their faith and courage, are looking beyond victory to the coming of peace with healing in its wings. They require of the Government a vision of England beyond the war; they require a vision of clear shining to cheer them after storm and rain, and they ask of the Government now a token of a covenant thereto. I beg to move.


MY Lords, I am sure the whole House without any distinction of Party or of persons, will join in appreciation of the initiative of the noble Lord who has moved this Motion. I do not know the happenings in Government circles, but I do know that we all feel that the initiative and drive of the noble Lord were of immense value to the country. In bringing this Motion before us to-day he has added to the debt which we owe to him. Before making any observations upon the Motion, I would address a question to His Majesty's Government with respect to the debate. I see that a very large number of speakers have put down their names to take part in the debate and in view of its prime importance that is not to be wondered at, but I understand from my very good and noble friend the Deputy Leader of the House, who is to reply, that we are not to have any statement from the Cabinet as to their views or decisions on this matter. I cannot but think that it will be an unsatisfactory and insufficient use of this splendid opportunity of debating these great issues, unless the House receives the fullest information from a member of the Cabinet as to what the Cabinet think about it. I think also, in view of the large number of speakers, that the Government should give consideration to the desirability of having a renewed debate at an early sitting.

My noble friend behind me (Lord Latham) has given Notice of a Motion which raises questions concerning the Uthwatt Report, and unless we receive more satisfaction than the prospect seems to open out to-day, I think the wider general issues raised in the debate should not be disposed of before the Government have given us some authoritative decision on the matter. I do not expect that the noble Lord will wish to intervene at this moment on this question of the position of the debate, because I am quite sure we shall not conclude it to-day, but I hope that as soon as possible we shall receive some guidance on the matter. We know that, unfortunately, the Leader of the House cannot be here just at present. Perhaps my noble friend will consult him.

I think that the noble Lord, Lord Reith, has brought this matter before us with the big issues in his mind, and I confess that the long delay which we have experienced in this matter is very depressing because it is evident that at the end of the war immense issues will thrust themselves upon us at once. We shall have our desolated towns to consider, and immense questions will be rained upon somebody as to what is to be done about living conditions and replanning in town and country. There will also be a rain of questions with respect to the location of industries, and as to the continuation of policy affecting agriculture and the great cluster of interests which gather around it. It is quite impossible to think that any decision of any use can be given on these matters unless long beforehand some body of men has been giving sustained thought to them. Nor is it possible to imagine that there will be anything but confusion unless there is central direction available on the bigger issues of policy and principle, and that cannot be provided unless a body of men is set up to think about it and deal with the issues which are involved. We have these four Reports, the Barlow Report on the Location of Industry, the two Reports of Mr. Justice Uthwatt and the Report of Lord Justice Scott. I would like to associate myself with what the noble Lord said in paying a tribute to the infinity of labour which has gone to the consideration and fashioning of those Reports. I have been, on more than one occasion, Chairman of a Government Committee of this kind, and I recognize, therefore, the immense amount of work which must have gone to the fashioning of these Reports.

Apart from the emergencies that must arise at the end of the war, there is one other fact, from which there is no escape, which adds to the urgency of the matter: that is the conspicuous and undeniable failure of what has been called planning in times past. It has not prevented the desolation of the countryside. It has not prevented the ruin of much good land. It has not, in fact, been effective in any efficient way. I shall say a word in a moment as to why I think that that is so. There are two main issues of policy which must be decided by the Government, neither of which, I am sure, can be decided without much thought. Those issues are what is to be the action with regard to the acquisition or control of land, compensation, and other matters affecting land, and what is to be the machinery which the Government are to adopt, both central and local, with regard to getting this work done. There appear to me to be two outstanding questions of policy on which we ought to receive some guidance. What is to be the central Government machinery dealing with these things and how is it to function? Clearly, whatever issues come up, you have a cluster of Departments involved, since building, roads, location of industries, agriculture, housing, and so on, are all matters related to great Departments of State. A number of busy Ministers are involved in each one of these matters. Yet there seems to be no body at present—and so far as I can make out the Government have not decided who or what it is to be—to take charge of the business.

It is in relation to this that I think the noble Lord deals with the key of the matter. We want to know when the Government are going to decide—I take it they have not yet decided—and what form of Government machine they are going to set up to consider and decide the major questions of policy involved in what is called planning. Really it is much more than planning; it is the economic well-being of the country. I quite agree with the noble Lord that we ought to have a Minister. I am not in the least concerned as to what his name is to be. But clearly there must be a Minister whose business it must be to get these matters considered, to bring the Departments concerned together, to get the issues formulated and focussed and to get the matters of high policy—I think one could easily mention a dozen without any difficulty—brought before the Cabinet for decision. Until the Cabinet decide something about what is to be done on some of these big issues, no Minister can do anything. Therefore the first thing to do is to have a body of Ministers who will formulate for the Cabinet the issues which require decision and direction. It seems to me that the noble Lord must be right when he says that we ought to have a group of Ministers—clearly Departmental Ministers—and that there must be a Minister in charge of the business generally. That Minister ought, I think, to be Chairman and should be appointed to get to work on these matters at once.

Now as to the Minister in charge. The matters that will come before this body are of such high national importance—they affect housing, industry and the life of the people in every respect—that he must be a Minister of high rank. This is a vitally important business. I think the noble Lord suggested that he should be called Minister of National Development. I am not quite sure what the name suggested was, but it is really immaterial. At all events, this is much more than a matter of planning. The next question upon which early decision is clearly required is as to how the Committee of Ministers are to secure action when they have decided what it is they want to do. I hope that an attempt will not be made to direct and control the policy of rehabilitation by leaving it to the initiative, active or otherwise, of the individual Departments; one would go slow and another might go fast. It must be directed, and we must have a Minister in charge who will be possessed (if I may use a slang term) of a sufficiency of ginger. It is a big job which is contemplated, and therefore I think that this Minister should be served by a very efficient staff. The noble Lord has raised the question of whether this Minister should be served in respect of this group of questions by a semi-independent Com- mission. For my part, I do not mind much how he is served, so long as a body of persons is appointed to get on with the job.

I can quite see that the objections to a Commission which the noble Lord indicated would be very forcibly entertained in many quarters. A Commission may be useful for dealing with many limited tasks, however. I myself was responsible for proposing, many years ago, that there should be a National Parks Commission, and that has been supported on all sides many times during many years. That is a defined and special job which could properly, I think, be put in charge of a Commission. I am quite sure that, unless the Government take some effective action in respect of this side of the matter, our countryside will be progressively desolated, to our eternal regret. A National Parks Commission might well, I think, be created, as well as other specific Commissions; but in the main we must look to this Minister being served by an efficient Department. There must be continuity of work, continuity in the collection of information, and in many other ways, such as the building up of exteriors.

There is one other word which I should like to say, although the subject is not, perhaps, quite material to the Motion. It is about the local machinery, because this is a vital matter of policy. There are two main reasons why planning has failed so far. First of all, we have not had any satisfactory system for dealing with the acquisition and control of land, and with compensation questions. My noble friend behind me (Lord Latham) is initiating a. debate at a later date on the recommendations of the Uthwatt Committee on this subject, and I hope that we shall have an interesting discussion. I and my noble friends will probably find ourselves in a considerable minority in the view which we take, but this is a fundamental question and we must have some agreement on how to deal with these issues affecting the land.

Secondly, the whole thing has been cluttered up by a multiplicity of authorities, who have looked at small private interests rather than the big national interests. In the war, we have taken a very short cut so far as that sort of thing is concerned, and I am not sure that sometimes we have not taken too short a cut. In respect of agriculture the powers are very drastic, and they are exercised fearlessly. The way we put the big national issues in front in time of war, and get things in their right perspective, is a strange and remarkable contrast to the niggling way in which we have dealt with these issues in time of peace. We have seen many a charming hillside desolated by some shanty which a man has been allowed to put up to sell ginger-beer and bananas, and that has been due to the fact that matters have been considered by people with narrow personal considerations in their minds, rather than big national issues. I do hope, therefore, that the Government will decide to make a clean sweep of a very large number of so-called planning authorities. The one thing which they have not done is to plan; they have been completely useless, and in fact a hindrance. In my view regional or local planning authorities should not be smaller than county councils and county borough councils, or a combination of them. I hope that the Government will decide that in setting up effective machinery for getting things done they will have regard in the first instance to the fashioning of the local machinery as well as the central. However, the object of this debate is to urge the Government to present the country with some decision as to the central machinery for the direction and formulation of policy. It is a matter of the first urgency, and I hope that this debate will lead to progress.


My Lords, there is no member of your Lordships' House who is better qualified to take the initiative in opening this debate than the noble Lord, Lord Reith. We are grateful to him for the work which he did while he held the office of Minister of Works and Buildings; and we are grateful to him for opening the debate to-day, and especially, perhaps, for limiting its scope by the terms of his Motion. The subject is an exceedingly wide one. The two Reports which we now have under consideration, the Scott and Uthwatt Reports, contain over 300 closely-printed pages, full of a variety of suggestions and of many technicalities. The noble Lord's Motion today does not ask us to consider what the plans ought to be, but who it is that should make them. He is not raising the question of the planning of Britain, but the question of planning the planners.

The word "planning" is being used in a variety of senses, and much confusion has been caused thereby. When the noble Lord, Lord Reith, said that for fifteen months he was groping in a Ministerial twilight, I believe that that state of things was due to the confusion in the minds of the country at large, not excluding His Majesty's Government, as to what the term "planning" really meant; and during the study which I have been giving to this subject in the last two years I quickly came to the conclusion that, unless that confusion was dissipated, we should still be in a state of indecision and still be groping in the twilight. The word "planning" first came into use in a political sense shortly before the Housing and Town Planning Act was passed in 1909. That dealt with such questions as the layout of cities, the future development of our towns, the preservation of amenities and the like. Gradually Parliament extended the provisions of this legislation, and in 1932 there was passed the Town and Country Planning Act. When people used the term "the planning movement" they have had in mind the movement to deal with those subjects and to secure those objects. Of recent years, however, the term "planning" has been given a very much wider sense, and indeed has come to include how we are to secure a rationally-organized society.

There is a very useful organization generally known as "P.E.P."—Political and Economic Planning—which for some time past has been issuing what it calls "broadsheets," now numbering about 200, dealing with various aspects of planning, and in fact covering all sides of our national life. The fact that there have been in Russia Five-Year Plans covering the whole development of the country in every aspect has also had an influence here. During the war, the fact that the nation as a whole has been able to act by common agreement and to extend State activities into a number of fields from which it had previously been absent, has also brought public opinion to the conclusion that, after the war, similarly, public action in one form or another should be able to plan and to improve in many respects our system of society. Under the term "planning" are now included such subjects as the rationalization of production and consumption so as to avoid unemployment and give some security of employment to the working-classes, the location of industries in different parts of the country, the division of the land of our country between agriculture on the one hand and industry and urban development on the other, the improvement of the health of the nation and of its education, the dealing possibly with the excessive inequality of incomes and, generally, a policy of creating a better Britain. The confusion has arisen through using the word "planning" or "Minister of Planning" at one moment to mean planning in the narrower sense in which it has been used in earlier years, and the next moment in using it in the sense of creating a better Britain. Both these policies and both these activities are essential.

With regard to the wider policy, including all these various aspects to which I have referred, it is quite obvious that no one Minister could possibly accomplish all these tasks, and to suggest that there should be a Minister of Planning who should deal at one and the same time with the location of industry, with the relation between agriculture and development, with education, with health, with finance and with trade is an obvious absurdity. Such a policy could only be carried out by the Cabinet as a whole, possibly devolving upon a Council of Ministers—the Ministers chiefly concerned—the actual practical application of a general policy. And to call the Chairman of such a Council of Ministers the Minister of Planning, or the Minister of Reconstruction, or the Minister of Development, or what you will, seems to me entirely wrong, and is likely only to continue and to increase the existing confusion. That large policy on which the nation has set its heart is likely to be the main purpose of Governments and Parliaments for many a long year when this war is over. It will, in fact, dominate the political field, and it can only be accomplished by a Council of Ministers acting under the Cabinet as a whole, which will include the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of Labour, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Transport, the Ministers of Education and Agriculture, the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and also, in my submission, the Minister of Planning in the narrower sense, that is to say, in the main the physical planning of town and country.

The model which I would submit to your Lordships is rather that of the Committee of Imperial Defence, and the task is no less vast and no less important than that of Imperial defence. That Committee, working largely through sub-committees, summons to its meetings whatever Ministers are concerned with the particular business of the particular day. The Chairman of that Committee, the Committee of Imperial Defence, is of course the Prime Minister, although it is impossible during war-time to conceive of the Prime Minister becoming Chairman of this other Committee. After the war, if the Prime Minister were himself closely concerned with these domestic policies, he might become the Chairman, working perhaps often through a Deputy-Chairman; or the Chairman might be the Lord President of the Council or the Lord Privy Seal—some Minister of high Cabinet status, but certainly not anyone who should be called Minister of Planning. The title might well be "Committee of National Organization," which I think would be a better title than "Committee of Development," which has certain limitations, into which I need not enter, which would make it perhaps unsuitable.

Such a general layout was the result of the Government's deliberations, which lasted for a whole year. They spent twelve months in doing little else than considering what should be the pattern of the machinery of Government at the centre, and in the end the noble Lord, Lord Reith, announced to your Lordships' House on the 11th February of this year that the Government did propose to set up a Council of Ministers, with a Chairman who should be an independent non departmental Minister, and that one of these Ministers should be a Minister of Planning. At that time they included "Works," and made him Minister of Works and Planning. And the policy which was laid before this House by the noble Lord, Lord Reith, in the earlier part of this year was accepted, and the Government introduced a Bill and passed it through Parliament in this Session, to carry out that very purpose, which the noble Lord himself now, as a somewhat unnatural father, repudiates. It seemed to me at that time, and it seems to me now, that that policy was right, and I sincerely hope that the Government will not again cast it into the melting pot and produce something quite unnecessarily that is entirely different.

If the functions are to be divided, one authority to carry out planning in the wider sense—the creation of a better Britain—and the other the physical planning of town and country under the Town and Country Planning Acts, then the division of functions would be perfectly simple and easy. The Council of Ministers would lay down the general lines of policy—location of industry, relation of agriculture and development, stability of trade, and all those wide issues I have mentioned—and further, where there were divisions of opinion between particular Departments on actual plans as to the use of land in a particular locality—the Minister of Agriculture might have one opinion, the Minister of Planning might have another, the Minister of Health might have a third and the Air Ministry might want that particular land for an aerodrome—then such a difference of opinion between Departments (which would not often occur, let us hope), would come to the Council of Ministers in the last resort to be solved.

On the other hand, a Minister of Planning, a Departmental Minister, would have very wide duties that would require the full attention of the most active and energetic member of the Cabinet. His would be the duty to give initiative to the whole physical planning policy throughout the country. Just as the Minister of Education or the Minister of Agriculture gives a lead to public opinion on those subjects, so would this Minister on the subject of planning in this narrower sense. Hitherto town and country planning has been restrictive, regulative, rather negative, telling people what they must not do. In future planning ought to be a more positive policy—with initiative, constructive, showing people what they ought to do and to accomplish. Such a Minister would have to be in daily touch with perhaps a hundred planning authorities throughout the country with whom would rest the actual preparation of the local plans themselves. For I trust it will never be a question of some body of civil servants in Whitehall under the head of a Departmental Chief drawing up maps, sending them down to the different localities and saying:

"This is what the Government have decided should be the characteristics of your locality, and you will kindly adopt these ideas and carry them out in detail." That would never be tolerated by the country as a whole, and, I feel sure, would never be attempted. But the Minister of Planning would be the channel between the Government as a whole and its Committee of National Organization, as I ventured to call it, on broad matters of policy, and the individual local authorities.

With regard to the problems that immediately arise now owing to the devastation caused by the war in so many of our cities and the reconstruction of the "blitzed" areas, it may be that at the present time the Minister of Planning would be the best person to deal with that problem also. Then he would have to superintend the general policy of national parks and preservation of the coastline and of landscape scenery. His would be the duty also of carrying out the specific recommendations of the Uthwatt Committee with regard to development rights and to superintend the administration of that property. Furthermore, he would have an extremely important duty in research and in the supply of information on all matters relating to this aspect of our national life, drawing that information from all sources at home and abroad and spreading it throughout the nation. In Parliament he, the Minister of Planning, would be responsible for the execution of the whole of this vast policy. There I differ from the two Committees and from the noble Lord, Lord Reith, with regard to the entirely different plan which they suggest. They suggest that the whole of this policy should be in charge of the Minister who is to be the Chairman of the Council of Ministers. He is to be responsible in Parliament. There is to be no Minister of Planning, but a Commission which is to act under the general superintendence of this Minister of the first rank.

I make the less apology for differing from those two Committees, great as is their authority—the Scott Committee and the Uthwatt Committee—because this matter was entirely outside their terms of reference. They were not asked to advise on the machinery of planning at all. The title of the Scott Committee is a "Committee on Land Utilization in Rural Areas." It is not the business of a Committee with that title to decide how the Cabinet should devolve its work, whether on a Minister or on a Commission. The other, the Uthwatt Committee, had the title of an "Expert Committee on Compensation and Betterment," so that the matter is even further from their terms of reference than in the other case. With all respect to the distinguished character of the membership of those Committees, I venture to say that they were not constituted as bodies qualified to adjudicate upon this point. If this had been the topic referred to them, their membership would have been very different. For instance, there was not a single member of the House of Commons on either Committee, and only one member of your Lordships' House, Lord Radnor. As far as I can judge, there was not one member of the two Committees together—there were sixteen members altogether—who had ever served in the House of Commons, except Lord Justice Scott himself, and not one other who had any firsthand acquaintance with the machinery of Government. Moreover, they took no evidence on this point—neither Committee. They did not consult the great organizations of local authorities, and last of all, in the Scott Committee, two of the most competent members dissented from the recommendations of the Committee on this head for the reason that it was outside their terms of reference and beyond their competence.

The reasons why, to my mind, this proposal of a Commission is a bad one are these. Neither Parliament nor the local authorities nor public opinion will, or should, tolerate these matters which touch so closely the lives of the people, which raise great social issues, and are concerned with wide property interests, being relegated to some body which is not directly under the control of Parliament. It is proposed that this Commission is to approve or disapprove the plans prepared by the great local authorities. The local authorities would not tolerate that for one moment. It is proposed by the Scott Committee that the Chairman is to be, not a Minister, but of "Ministerial status," whatever that may mean, but he is to have a staff drawn from the Civil Service, with local officers. It is to be a Government Department in fact, but without either the name or the status of a Ministerial office. If, as the noble Lord who has just spoken suggested—I hope I did not understand him wrongly—there is to be both a Ministry of Planning and a Commission, then there would be a great deal of duplication and overlapping.


I said a Commission of a limited kind.


There may be Commissions for specific purposes, but if there is to be a Commission of the wide power suggested by the Uthwatt and Scott Committees, and at the same time a Minister of Planning in the narrower sense, there would be a great deal of duplication and overlapping, and the complications would be found to be intolerable. I remember years ago, when the policy of national health insurance was first carried into effect, its administration was put under the superintendence of a Commission, and similarly the Road Fund was administered by a Road Board; but it was not very long before it was found that that was an unsatisfactory arrangement, and both these functions have been devolved upon Ministers of the Crown. Commissions may be very useful in their own way—the Forestry Commission, for example. Parliament has approved Commissions to deal with mining royalties, to administer electricity supply, to deal with war damage—all very suitable bodies. And also with respect to national parks and stretches of the coastline, there again, these things can best be administered by some body of that kind and not directly, perhaps, by a Government Department.

Furthermore, development rights, if they were purchased under the proposals of the Uthwatt Committee, might be very well supervised by an expert Committee under the general superintendence of a Minister. But to set up a Commission to do the work now being done under Act of Parliament by the Minister of Planning, administering, under so recent a Statute, the Town and Country Planning Acts—to upset that and devolve it upon an official body with the status of a Commission like the Forestry Commission—would, I feel convinced, be a wrong policy. If the Government were to think of accepting this recommendation—coming from these two Committees, they must give it the most respectful consideration—before accepting it I urge them to consult the great associations representing the municipal corporations and the county councils, see what their view is, and, through the usual channels, ascertain what course is likely to be taken in another place should such a proposition be made.

Whether there ought to be also some regional planning authority in regions like the present Civil Defence Regions, is a moot point on which different views might be held and on which, for my own part, I have formed no very strong opinion. Possibly with regard to the location of industry there might be a regional organization, but I am quite sure that the region is far too large an area to deal with particular local plans of individual cities or counties. I am inclined to think that the local authorities would prefer to have direct access to a Department in London when they are unable to deal with the matter entirely within their own competence, rather than to have an intermediate body as well. However, on that point, as I say, I hold no strong view; but with regard to the local authorities, who, after all, must be a part of the machinery of planning, there I think there is a very clear line that the Government should take. It is certain, and I think no one would dispute, that our present local governing boundaries are not satisfactory so far as London is concerned. One has only to look at the state of London in this respect for an example, and most or very many of our county boroughs have agricultural land around them which is vitally affected by the planning activities of county boroughs. Questions of the green belt and so on come in and affect a wider area than our present county boroughs. But at the present time, and before the war is over, it is quite impossible to undertake the highly controversial duty of reconstituting our local government boundaries. Therefore we have to have some more or less makeshift arrangements to carry on the work meanwhile.

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. But the duty and responsibility should, I believe rest ultimately on the county boroughs and county councils. It is very urgent to determine now what those areas should be, because unless and until they are determined the local authorities are unable to act. And I hope the Government will at some convenient time set on foot a campaign to impress upon the nation as a whole the great importance of proper membership of local authorities, that our local authorities, our local councils, should be strong, honest, energetic, enlightened bodies, able to carry out effectively the much wider duties which are now to be cast upon them. Let us, all of us, in our own spheres take every opportunity of pointing out to the public that here there is a sphere of public service which is worthy of the devotion of the best of our citizens.

This discussion is upon machinery and not upon functions, but I cannot refrain from saying in a very few sentences how much I think should be welcomed the constructive suggestions of the Scott Committee for the revival of agriculture and of rural life in general, and also how valuable are the technical proposals of the Uthwatt Committee with respect to the question of land compensation and betterment. I regard the Report of the Uthwatt Commitee as one of the most valuable documents presented to Parliament in our time, and I earnestly hope the Government will accept its recommendations, except of course where they stray outside their proper sphere into the question of Governmental machinery. The purchase of development rights proposal does seem to me an admirable conception, and the wide extension of the local planning authority's powers of land purchase is one that should make a strong appeal. Possibly even those powers might be made still wider and very simple by giving these great local authorities general powers of land acquisition for any purpose for which they might think it necessary to take action, while allowing an appeal against their decision to some suitable a authority.

With regard to the financial aspect of all this, I do not see why there should be any dead weight debt imposed upon the country as a whole. Such land purchase on a large scale for purposes of reconstruction should bring its own revenue. It could be financed by a suitable issue of bonds and ought not to impose any heavy burden upon the taxpayer in general, but on the other hand might bring in course of time a large additional increment to the public purse. As to the actual development, the construction of buildings and so forth, while there may be a case for some State or municipal action, in the main that would be left in all probability to private enterprise, to private initiative, or to the work of the great corporations which are engaged in public undertakings of one kind or another.

Let me in conclusion reinforce, if I can, what was said so strongly by my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition, and has been urged again and again in this House in previous discussions, that this is a matter of real immediate urgency, that it is not to be left pending month after month and year after year. It is quite essential that the local authorities should know, and know soon, what are to be the areas within 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 are to be their own powers of purchase of land and how they are to be financed. Some early indication should also, if possible, be given of what is the Government's policy with regard to the location of industry.

Let us visualize the situation that will certainly arise the moment that the war is over. I myself am haunted by the gravity of the problem of unemployment which will straightway confront this country and other countries. It has been well said that the signal "Cease fire" will also be for millions of people the signal "Cease work," and unless we are ready with our plans and arrangements for giving employment over this great field of industry, the field of construction, there will be in this land a surging tide of passionate feeling and of indignation that provision had not been made duly in advance. I hope that property rights will not be an obstruction to the adoption of a policy of this character. Property rights disregarding the public interest will not, I believe, be pressed in the present age, but property owners would be wise to remember that the alternative proposals to those of the Uthwatt Committee will not be to leave things as they are, nor yet to accept an indefinite delay, but would be likely to prove to be reforms of an even more radical character, and perhaps executed in a more revolutionary temper. The Government declaration on these matters will be awaited with the deepest interest throughout the country. Already there has been excessive delay. A whole year was lost in the inter-departmental disputes to which the noble Lord, Lord Reith, has indirectly referred, arising largely through this confusion as to what planning really means. A second year was spent—not lost but usefully employed—in the preparation of the Uthwatt Report, and, as an excellent leading article in The Times said not long ago, the publication of their proposals removes the last excuse for further postponement of official action in the field of national planning. Let us not lose a third year because there is no one in the Government in a position of authority and with sufficient enthusiasm and drive to push matters through to their proper conclusion.

I am sure we all hope that early in the next Session the legislation which is indispensable will be introduced; but if once more we receive to-day a reply in terms that have become too customary in this House, that "the Government fully appreciate the importance and indeed the urgency of this question, that it is engaging now their most active consideration, and that they hope to give a pronouncement on policy at no unduly distant date," while in fact no real effort is being made behind the scenes to solve the difficulties because the Government have been unable to make up their minds, then I think the country will not tolerate such a situation and the Government will find their credit undermined. That, for my own part, I should deeply regret, and it is for that reason that I venture to offer this note of frank and friendly warning.


My Lords, I wish to associate myself with what has been said by other noble Lords about the welcome which we give to Lord Reith on returning to a subject which he has made his own. Great as is the confidence o which we have in his successor some of us regret that he was not left longer to see the task which he has inaugurated at least effectively begun. I hope I shall not be trespassing too far upon the freedom which is allowed in your Lordships' House, if I do not keep strictly to the terms of the noble Lord's Notion. Indeed, there is little to be said on this matter of machinery after the very able and weighty speech to which we have just listened from the noble Viscount. I wish to speak on another subject, though that subject does stress the importance of creating at once suitable machinery. What I wish to speak about is the supreme importance to the national life of preserving an unspoilt countryside. A great deal of my life in the last thirty-four years has been spent in the country districts in the north of England, in Yorkshire, and in the south of England. For the last fourteen years I have had the good fortune to spend much time in, and give much thought to, the country districts of Kent which was once called the "Garden of England," but I have had the ill-fortune to see, during the whole of that time, progressive deterioration of the beauty and care of the countryside. The worst of it is that a mischief of this sort is a mischief which literally is irreparable. Once done it cannot be undone.

I am surprised at the contrast between the amount of well-meant legislation on these matters and what has been actually done. There was the Town and Country Planning Act of 1932. I suppose there are many plans on the shelves of various authorities as the result of that Act. I am told that before the war seventy rural authorities had plans prepared. I do not know what kind they were, but they were certainly never carried out. What is going on in spite of that Act? The wonderful line of the South Coast is defiled for miles and miles with ramshackle bungalows and apparently nobody is able to say them nay. Or think of housing. We rejoice in the number of houses built since the last war, but how little care there has been as to the site, or the materials, or the design and their congruity with the landscape in which they are placed! Again and again, as I pass through these districts I see houses built, I am sure, with the best intentions but wholly incongruous with their surroundings. Sometimes they break the skyline. Somebody must be responsible, but nobody seems to know who it is.

Take again the Ribbon Development Act passed in 1935. Its passage was acclaimed, but still I see towns sprawling into the country—long rows of dull houses with the advantage neither of country nor of town. Then there is the matter of advertisements. There were Acts passed in 1907 and 1929 dealing with this evil. There has been perhaps some improvement but still there is obtrusive ugliness. Some advertisements of a certain kind, no doubt, may be necessary for the information of the public, but advertisement certainly ought to be prohibited at least in any conspicuous place unless it has had the licence of the planning authority of the area. Think again of the desecration of the countryside by colliery tips and ironstone slag heaps which is going on in spite of what has been said. I believe Northamptonshire is particularly suffering at the present time in this way. There is no reason for it, because experiments made in the Midlands and in Lancashire show that very efficient alternative uses can be made of these excrescences.

I agree with the recommendation of the Scott Committee that it should be made obligatory on those who have worked the land that they should restore it, when the working has ceased, either to agriculture or forestry or some similar use, and restore it at their own cost. For all this it seems to me three things are necessary. The first has been forcibly pointed out by the noble Viscount. We really must see to it that our local councils, rural and even parochial, are vastly more strong and representative than they are at present. It is really lamentable that so few people of real public spirit and education think it worth while to serve on those bodies in spite of their increasing importance. Their election ought to be a matter of reality and not, as is so often the case, a matter of form. In the second place, it is very important that these local authorities should receive something more than advice and assistance from the central authority, whatever that may be. There should be much more clear direction. I agree with the noble Viscount that you cannot cut the local councils out of this countryside planning. They must have their position, but it should be one, in my judgment, of advice and influence and not of final settlement. That I think ought to be the function of a larger authority. In the third place, before all, the tendencies which were only too rife before the war set in again after the war—here I would speak in support of my noble friend Lord Reith—we should have machinery ready to act, and to act at once, else it will be too late.

Do not let it be thought that in urging this view about the preservation of the planning of the countryside we are indifferent to the claims of the townsfolk to enjoy its beauty. On the contrary, our object is to enable them to enjoy it, for it is their heritage, before it is spoiled. By all means encourage everything that enables our townspeople to escape from the conditions of urban life. I am sure we are all in favour of the further development of camps, provided their character and situation are approved by the planning authority. We are all in favour of hostels for our youths who show themselves happily so increasingly eager to avail themselves of opportunities of escape into the country. We should support what has been dwelt upon by other noble Lords who have spoken, the development of national parks and the implementing of the admirable work of the National Trust. Places which ought to be so set aside spring at once to our minds—the ranges of Snowdonia, Dovedale, the Lakes, and great parts of our coasts.

Again I am sure we shall all view with sympathy the desire of townspeople, if they can, to have a house in the country, if it be only a cottage, provided—here I speak with some experience—that these town-dwellers, coming down for the end of the week, do not appropriate houses which were meant to be used, and ought to be used, by agricultural labourers, and provided also that those who wish to have a place in town and country are not allowed to build their houses anywhere and anyhow without regard to site, material, design or other considerations. But in the main what we wish to do is to encourage the use of the country; nor need I dwell upon the advantages of the green belts of which we have been hearing so much. Only in that connection, I would say that perhaps more than anywhere else before expansion of the towns can begin there must be in readiness some sufficient authority to control and regu late. I mention all this because I am sure that it is by increase of control that we shall secure for our people increase of enjoyment.

Will your Lordships allow me to add one word about our country villages? Some of you perhaps may remember a very eloquent passage in the essays of James Anthony Fronde where he had asked himself: "Where shall I find the essential old England, which after all lies deep in the hearts of our people everywhere?" And he replied: "I find it looking down upon the village church rising amidst its trees, over clustering roofs, and hearing the sound of the church bells, and then I say to myself that is England. "In passing I cannot help adding how welcome it will be when we are permitted to hear church bells again. I do not wish to take—indeed I never do take—a sentimental view of the village. We all know that picturesqueness is often the cloak of most unhealthy conditions. Vast improvement is still needed in the housing conditions in these villages, in spite of all that has been done to bring the houses more into harmony with the life and needs of the country people, in giving access to piped waterlines, in arranging for supplies of gas, electricity and so on. I am sure we shall all agree with the Scott Report that we cannot expect to restrain the drift from the country into the towns unless we maintain adequate wages for those highly-skilled workmen, the agricultural labourers, and the amenities of their village life.

Everything should be done to encourage the life of the villages. Much is being done by our Women's Institutes, and at present also by the Home Guard, in developing a real sense of community. After all, we must remember that the English village gave us the first form of self-government in this country, and it is upon this basis that the whole structure of self-government of which we now make our boast has been built. There are many of us who think it is hopeless ever to expect a sense of community in the whole nation unless it is first developed in the smaller communities where it can be made real and intimate and natural. For all these reasons I hope that everything possible will be done, under the care and supervision of a proper planning authority, to see that the village life of England is maintained. I apologize for the length of time that I have taken in speaking, but I do not apologize for the choice of my subject, because I am certain that it is one of the greatest importance. We are the most urban nation in the world, and the preservation for our people in the future of all that the countryside ought to mean is a matter the importance of which can scarcely be exaggerated. For that reason I support my noble friend Lord Reith, at least to the extent of his plea that machinery, whatever its form, must be ready when the war ends. I wholly agree with what the noble Viscount said about the necessity of restricting the planning authority to workable limits. I am sure there is nothing pertaining to what we call our post-war reconstruction of greater importance than preserving for future generations what yet remains—and adopting the words of the noble Lord, I say: Thank God there is much still of "England's green and pleasant land."


My Lords, it is rather pathetic to reflect that it must be two years this month, or possibly early next month, since Lord Reith received permission to set up machinery for the physical planning of this country. Nothing has happened yet in the way of the appearance of anything in the nature of an effective Central Planning Authority. My own feeling is that the passage of these two years has proved one thing. It has proved the need of one Minister, not two, to handle the economic and social planning and physical town and country planning. I regret to find myself in this matter differing from the opinion of the noble Viscount opposite. I did venture to keep my eye on the noble Lord, Lord Portal, while Lord Reith was speaking about the two Ministers. I can tell your Lordships that I did not notice any acute symptom of distress or denial appearing on his face, and I am going to draw the conclusion that he is in agreement that there should be one Minister and not two. The noble Viscount opposite, in the course of his argument to the contrary, said that Government Departments had spent twelve months considering the pattern of the machinery and at the end of that time had come to your Lordships with a satisfactory solution. That is one way of putting it. I should prefer to say that the Departments in Whitehall spent twelve months quarrelling about the division of functions and then produced a totally unsatisfactory and unworkable compromise.

That was the statement of February 11. I am not saying anything which is derogatory to Lord Reith, because he has told your Lordships that it was what he could get and that he had hoped to get more. The noble Viscount said that a Minister of Planning would give initiative to the whole planning policy and that he would be responsible for the execution of vast plans. Most of them would be in the Departments of other Ministers, and the noble Viscount did not attempt to give you a definition of what the functions of the Minister of Planning would be. I do not think he can because it is impossible so to define physical town and country planning as to distinguish it from this social and economic planning.

In passing I would like to observe that the noble Viscount quoted an excellent article from The Times in favour of no delay. The same article came down quite strongly in favour of a Commission. Moreover, I think that it was not quite a fair argument to compare the proposed Commission with the Forestry Commission; I cannot imagine two things more different. The last thing that I wanted, however, was to be involved in this debate in a dispute as to the form of the machinery, and I regret that the noble Viscount, whose services to planning in the past have been immense, as I am sure they will be in the future, did not concentrate more on the points of agreement rather than on the points of disagreement amongst those of us who are keen about planning. If my noble friend Lord Snell did not know what he was going to say when the debate began, he has certainly a good idea now, and I have no doubt that he will make the most of the differences which have manifested themselves.

Since the Government accepted—as they did—the implications of the Barlow Report on the Location of Industry, there has come into being a totally different conception of what is meant by planning. The Barlow Report has three main implications; the redevelopment of the congested urban areas, the dispersal of both industry and industrial population from those congested areas, and the encouragement of a reasonable balance of industrial development in the various regions of the country. Whether we like it or not, that means control and direction of industrial location. The point that I want to make is that planning is good for industry, just as it is good for agriculture and for the preservation of amenities. It is important to try to persuade our great industrialists that they have everything to gain by planning, because I am quite certain that in industry to-day there is not a general recognition of that fact. There is a reluctance on the part of industry to accept the new conception of an ordered development of the whole of our industrial and agricultural resources and of the amenities of the country.

The recognition of the need for a prosperous agriculture has come to us since the war. If we can have an ordered development of industry in line with that of agriculture, then the protection of amenities will follow. Instead of attempting to deal with a ribbon here or a rural area there, we want protection to take a positive line and not to be done simply by the negative restriction of development. To convince industry that ordered development is in its own interest is the most important thing that those of us who are keen about planning can do to-day, and I feel strongly that, by comparison with the state of affairs before the war, there is a case which we can establish. Before the war we had overbuilt and overcrowded our great towns, with the result that a large proportion of the population was becoming hopelessly urbanized. The urbanization of our city populations is one of the greatest misfortunes which can befall a country, and in the long run it will be just as detrimental to industry as anything else could be. The failure to co-ordinate transport with housing is another great burden upon industry. Had the war not interrupted the progress of the traffic problem towards chaos, I think we should have been faced with difficulties which we can only faintly imagine. That again is a burden on industry, which only an ordered development can possibly avoid. Industry needs a happy and healthy industrial population, just as agriculture needs a happy and healthy agricultural population. If we can get that, then I think that the protection of amenities will follow of necessity. Planning in this matter seems to me to be simply taking the long view. Industrialists take the long view in their own affairs, and it is up to us to convince them that in national affairs planning is the long view too. I favour the conception of a Committee of National Development which was outlined by my noble friend Lord Reith. They would co-ordinate departmental policies, and that must be done above the departmental level. Take four Departments: industry, agriculture, transport and housing. They all intimately act and react one upon another, and we shall never get a definite policy of ordered development unless that higher Committee, which ought to be—and there we are in agreement—a Standing Committee of the Cabinet, can spend its time thinking out, initiating and co-ordinating policy. The reason that I feel that a Minister of Planning in addition to a Minister of National Development is wrong is just that planning is not a function of government which can be separated from other functions; nor is it possible to separate planning from development. All development has to be planned, and all Departments are developers, more or less. For that reason, I am perfectly clear that the new conception of planning demands new machinery of government.

It is the glory and the strength of our Constitution that new demands find a response in our constitutional machinery. Constitutional principles remain unchanged, but constitutional forms change. One constitutional principle which we have to observe is, of course, democratic control, the responsibility of Parliament and the control of Parliament over all these arrangements. Another is that one Minister cannot interfere with the Department of another; and that is why I think that a Minister of Planning is a wrong conception of the inter-departmental arrangements which are necessary for securing this ordered planning. The Central Land Control—which is the term which I should use, since "'Commission" has made itself so unpopular—has to be the servant of all Departments and not the master of any, except through its Minister, the Minister of National Development, if I may give him that name. The Central Land Control will influence all Departments, because all Departments will consult it.

I should like to outline to your Lordships some of the qualities and characteristics which I think that this Central Land Control or Organization ought to have. Firstly, it must be so composed as to command authority on land use. It must have at its head the Minister of National Development, and through him be subject to Parliamentary control and criticism. It would receive directions from Departmental Ministers, subject to the co-ordination of this Council or Committee of National Development. It would be able to give independent and authoritative advice on land use to Departments, to local authorities, to statutory bodies, to private developers, to landowners and to anyone else, because it must be remembered that the new conception of planning embraces not only all private development but statutory bodies and Government Departments, not excluding the Service Departments. For the first time all Government Departments have to come under control and co-ordination. That will be done by the upper body, but all developers should have to take advice from this Land Control, which will be the authority on land use. Again, I think that this body could very conveniently act as a buffer between the private interest and the local authority; and if, as would be the case, appeal was necessary, it could act as an impartial and fair-minded tribunal. It would, of course, conduct continual research and study, and it would build up a great body of information which would be of the greatest possible service to industry.

Coming now to the question of local authorities, this body would save the Minister from the day-to-day work of administration of the Town and Country Planning Act. I do not think that it is right to pour scorn on the idea or to suggest that the local authority would find that beneath its dignity. Local authorities will be supreme in planning in their own spheres. Policy will be laid down from above, and the day-to-day work of administration will be done in this Control of which I am speaking. I see no reason whatever to suppose that that would not be a convenient body to deal with that administration and to deal with the local bodies.

Lastly, one attribute of this body which I envisage would be its power and its right 'to make an annual Report to Parliament. That is something which a Government Department cannot do, but it would focus public opinion on the progress that was being made and on the proposals for land use. I think it would exercise a very great influence on all developers, and on everybody who had occasion to consider land utilization. I attach the greatest importance to the right of such a body to report to Parliament, and for that reason alone I would favour a new body to be devised rather than a Government Department. This planning is a new field of government. It needs exploration by the best mind the Government can spare from the conduct of the war. I wish that mind, wherever it is to be found, could be set to work now and given the proper machinery. I have been emphatic about the machinery which I suggest, but that is really a minor point. I wish we could get agreement, and I believe your Lordships are agreed that what we want now is to get this Central Planning Authority established. I would be prepared to let the Government select the right man and give him a free hand. If he says a Department is right, have a Department.

I think it is fatal to quarrel now about details, however strong the views some of us may have. For this planning is going to have a great effect on the future. It is a platitude to keep repeating that, but it is true. I would like to conclude by giving you the words of General Smuts, which he uttered when he arrived here a few days ago. Talking of the future, he said it would require wisdom and planning, foresight and good will—good will above all, as well as wisdom. Wisdom one cannot command, good will one can. And I think good will is what is wanted by everybody concerned—individuals, Government Departments, local authorities, and everybody else. If we are all going to stick out for what we think is right we shall never get on. If the Government would get on with it there is hope of seeing some daylight


My Lords, I would like to support the weighty adjurations which have been made this afternoon to get on, and get on quickly, with the settlement of the necessary machinery for effective planning in this country. But important as is the need for speed and the avoidance of delay, it is not less important that the machinery which is devised should be machinery which is able to discharge its functions. Nothing could be more fatal to effective planning in this country than that there should be erected a machine theoretically capable of action but in practice not capable of action. I therefore cannot subscribe to the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh, that what is of most importance is that we should seek agreement, and not, as he said, concern ourselves with details. The details of this machinery for planning are of prime importance, because if we do not erect a machine which will properly take its place in the constitutional machinery of the country and at the same time be capable of working cordially with local government and other agencies upon whom will fall a very considerable proportion of the task of planning, then the machine will fail and planning will suffer a setback. It is in my submission therefore of the utmost importance that we should thrash out our differences as to machinery with the common object of seeking that machine which can best and most efficiently do the job.

I do not propose to go outside the terms of the Motion this afternoon. I shall beg leave to invite your Lordships to consider the recommendations and proposals of the Scott and Uthwatt Committees at a later date. I shall therefore to-day confine myself wholly to the question of the machinery. I am, if I may say so, terrified of this Central Land Control. If it is to discharge the functions which are assigned to it by the Scott and Uthwatt Committees, and which have been amplified and added to this afternoon by my noble friend Lord Balfour, it will in fact take over the home government of this country. It would in practice be the usurpation of most of the functions of the home Ministries, and that is a proposition that only needs to be stated to be rejected. My noble friend Lord Balfour particularized somewhat as to the personnel which would constitute this Central Control. I can only say that however select its personnel may be it will be much more than human if it is capable of accomplishing half of the duties which are assigned to it in the Reports of the Scott Committee and the Uthwatt Committee, and in so doing it would, in my view, hinder rather than help the effective planning of this country. I do not wish in this debate to make debating points, but I was a little surprised at the statement of my noble friend Lord Balfour that he was not in favour of establishing a Minister of Planning, because in his speech to your Lordships' House on February 11, in the debate which followed the statement by the noble Lord, Lord Reith, Lord Balfour said: I welcome the establishment of a Ministry of Planning. May I suggest, with every respect to my noble friend, that there really must be some relative permanence of viewpoint among us if we are going to construct a machine which can do the job?

I should be the last person in the world to seek to minimize the importance of planning, but I do think there is a danger of planning, in the sense in which we are this afternoon considering it and in the sense in which both the Scott and the Uthwatt Committees considered it, being magnified into the planning of the whole economic and social life of this country. If that is pursued, planning in the narrower, but none the less important, sense will be entirely submerged, to the detriment of planning. We are, I apprehend, considering what is the best kind of machinery to secure the best use of the land of this country. That amounts very largely to physical planning. There appear to be two almost conflicting views on planning. One is that planning is national organization' and development, with town planning as an addition to it instead of being an important integral part of it; and the other is the conception of planning only as a matter of amenity, artistic effect, and architectural beauty. I submit to your Lordships that planning in the sense that we are considering it to-day is the control of land user in this country and that the machinery for that control is what we should consider.

I share the view, so impressively expressed by my noble friend Viscount Samuel, that there is no need for the appointment of a Central Planning Authority in the form of a Commission or a Board. I do not believe that such a Commission or Board could work effectively. Certainly I do not think that Parliament would—or, as o Viscount Samuel said, should—give it the very wide powers which are recommended in the Uthwatt and Scott Reports. It would amount to a supersession of local government in the very important matter and realm of planning. It may well be, as my noble friend Lord Reith submitted to your Lordships' House a few weeks ago, a proper form of organization to have a Commission or Board to manage transport, to control water, to regulate the generation and distribution of electricity, even to manage and control the mining industry, but it does not follow that a Commission, whether quasi-independent or independent, is the proper organization to control planning, which enters into so many aspects of economic and social life.

It has been suggested—I think it is in the Uthwatt Report—that the formation of a Commission for this purpose might follow the lines of the War Damage Commission. The War Damage Commission has been set up to discharge important functions but of a limited order. That Commission is concerned with the settlement of claims for damage to property arising from enemy action. It may well be that that is a complicated business. It may well be that it will be a longterm job, but it is a limited job, and sooner or later it must come to an end. Planning, on the other hand, is not a limited job. It is a continuous process, and it will not and ought not to come to an end. I suggest, therefore, that a structure which may be eminently suitable to deal with claims for damage to property as a result of enemy action is not necessarily the machine which would be appropriate for dealing with planning. It is not, perhaps, sometimes sufficiently recognized what an important part regulation will play in planning in the future. I have been one with many others who, fore years, have inveighed against the negative character of town planning powers which, as my noble friend Lord Samuel said—and as is the case—amount to no more than power to prevent a person from doing a certain thing, but not power to require him to do anything, or indeed for a local authority itself to do very much. It is to be hoped that in any new legislation that deficiency will be repaired.

But even if it is in the most ample manner, it will still remain the case that the bulk of development will be done by private developers, and town planning therefore, will be the regulation of that private development—determination as to whether it can take place on a certain site and, if so, to what requirements it must conform. Therefore town planning, the use of land, will resolve itself into the administrative process of a large measure of regulation. That is an aspect of town planning which can be properly done by a Minister of Planning, responsible to Parliament, through the proper local planning authority. It has been estimated that immediately after the war, although there may be unprecedented building activity by local authorities and Government Departments, nevertheless 6o per cent. of the building will be done by private enterprise. That means that 6o per cent. of development will be of a regulatory character. I can conceive of no better way of hindering town planning and increasing the reluctance of private developers to accept town planning restrictions than that the regulations should be imposed by a non-representative body such as a Commission or a Board. I can see this as one plain result of the appointment of a Commission having the powers adumbrated by the Scott and Uthwatt Reports, that the Minister would become a court of appeal in disputes between local planning authorities and the Commission, with private developers frequently inter-pleading. If that were the case it would constitute a very serious embarrassment to effective planning.

I cannot accept the doctrine that a Commission, constituted as is suggested, would necessarily be better than a Government Department. Let us be perfectly frank. However selective you were in setting up this Commission, whatever distinguished material might be available, it is idle to pretend that you can collect a body of men or women in a Commission who will know more about the various problems of the Home Departments than the staff in those Departments themselves. In point of fact the Scott Committee admit that almost by implication, because they suggest that the staff of this proposed Commission should be drawn from the Departments. As my noble friend Lord Samuel said, this Commission would de facto be a Government Department, and it would lead, in my view, to confusion, to delay, to overlapping and shilly-shallying between the various Departments and the Commission. I cannot accept the doctrine that because a Ministry may need prodding we should bring into existence a non-representative body to do the prodding. That is the function of Parliament. If a Ministry is not doing its job it is the function of Parliament to see that it does it; and it is a curious departure from constitutional procedure that we shold first of all have a Ministry knowing that it is going to need prodding and then set up an independent Commission to do the prodding. It is not in that way, I suggest, that we can solve this question of planning.

My own view is that the Minister of Planning should be relieved of all other departmental cares, but that does not mean that he will be without departmental cares. His cares will be planning, and there will be plenty of them, and they will keep him busy. It is largely a fiction, I suggest, to talk of a Minister being freed from departmental cares. In my submission we do not want a Minister of Planning who will be, as it were, a kind of sublunary person living in a ratified atmosphere without departmental cares, looking down upon the theoretical conception of planning this country. We want a Minister of Planning who is a Minister for operating the powers of the Town and Country Planning Act, who will initiate schemes of development with other Departments and with local planning authorities, who will when necessity arises be the final authority to give the decision, a Minister who will be prepared to act when a local planning authority has failed properly to act in planning its district, who will settle and see to it that the plans of local planning authorities conform to the national plans, who will be prepared to hold the scales of justice evenly if occasion should require between the private developer and the local planning authority, and who should be generally the urge and impulse of planning. If that is done, if the Minister of Planning takes that view of his duties, if his Department discharges them effectively, if appropriate local planning authorities are brought into existence and co-operation between those local planning authorities and the Minister is secured and encouraged, then in that way, subject always to adequate powers being given to the Minister and to the local planning authorities, you will find, I suggest to your Lordships, a machine capable of effectively and efficiently planning this country without the complications and without the incumbrances of quasi-independent bodies responsible to nobody and whose fiat would be accepted by nobody.


My Lords, it is inevitable that there should be certain disagreements about the major details of what is a comparatively new undertaking such as we are discussing to-day, but I hope that His Majesty's Government will take note of the fact that there is no disagreement at all, that indeed there is complete unanimity, on the point that the time has come when we have got to look and plan ahead. We have to go further than that and we must be prepared here and now actually to lay the foundations. If your Lordships will forgive me indulging in a generalization before saying anything about the particular Reports that are before us, I am emboldened to do so because, after all, we have had to wait a. very long time before hearing anything from the Government, and I am afraid some of us are riot very sure that we are going to hear a great deal to-day. These Reports have now been published for some months and we have still heard nothing.

One sometimes hears in discussions on these Reports the suggestion that there is a great deal in them that is going to be very useful, but that on the whole they go rather too far. It is inevitable when Reports of this character are issued on difficult and controversial subjects, however excellent they may be, that none of us can say we are going to accept them without very careful detailed examination and criticism, but for all that I cannot help feeling that this is a time when we should begin to look ahead, when we should be very clear in our minds as to the spirit in which we intend to plan the future of this country. Are we going back to the pre-war spirit when, after every Report showing bold or wide vision was published, we at once set up a number of subsequent Committees, to bring about suitable modifications, or are we going to say that we have learnt what seems to me one of the main lessons of this war, that if we intend in the future to be a great country, a leading country amongst the nations of the world, we have got to be prepared to think big and not look for small mean solutions that inevitably lead to doing too little and being too late?

If we look at pre-war days, if we look at our treatment of the Social Services, at the treatment of our great Colonial Empire, of agriculture, the distressed areas and, last but very far from least, our treatment of armaments, we see that they all received the same treatment, not the maximum we could do but, if I may put it crudely, the minimum that we thought we could get away with. We have all got to take our share of responsibility for that, and not least those of us who were in the Government at the time. But that is not really the point. The point is that we should make up our minds that we are not going to repeat the mistakes of those days. Small nations can think and plan on small lines, but a great Empire like this, if we are going to remain a great Empire, has got here and now and onwards to make up its mind to plan with courage and vision and imagination. I am myself encouraged by the debate that we have had to-day, because it is evident, although it is a debate devoted mainly to the questions of machinery, that as a House we are determined to tackle this great question of planning in a spirit of breadth and courage.

The object of these two Reports, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Latham, very briefly defined them, is to secure the best use of our national resources in land whether it is a question of farming, preservation of amenities, or development for building or industrial purposes, and that no matter whether they are publicly or privately owned. At the present moment, in the interests of food production, we are not prepared to tolerate bad farming or bad landowning, and I do not think anyone of us concerned with farming or landowning wants to see that tolerated in the. future. But we have still to look at the problems of the future use of land in terms of preventing the waste and destruction caused by the speculative builder or by the capricious location of industry. In some cases we find, from lack of planning of the location of industry, great congestions that make us feel quite hopeless as to any possibility of being able to bring some order out of the chaos that is there, while on the other hand there are areas. well equipped with services, all too frequently at the public expense, that have been allowed to lie derelict. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Portal, is not present because no one has seen more of this than he has in his capacity of Commissioner for one of the Special Areas, and no one has done more to help to alleviate the position in one of those areas.

I think it is quite clear from what we see of the past and from what we see of the possibilities of the future—the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, stressed that point with particular emphasis—that henceforward we must not plan only in terms of negation but in terms of making more of the land than is possible unless we look ahead. This debate has shown that if we are to make any progress there must be a Central Planning Authority of some kind. We have not yet reached agreement on the form that that central planning machinery should take, but we are agreed that there should be some central authority. Both the Committees and the Barlow Commission were agreed on that point, and I think even those of us who look on ourselves as champions of local authorities and experienced in their work, would agree that the piecemeal local treatment hitherto given to this subject has proved a failure. Let us have all the decentralization we can, once we have a central body, but without that central body no real progress will be made.

The noble Lord, Lord Reith, asked us to-day to concentrate on machinery. I think it is perfectly clear that the point in regard to the setting up of machinery that is most troubling your Lordships—and I imagine possibly troubling His Majesty's Government, hence the delay in being able to make any pronouncement—is whether, in handing over this matter to a Central Planning Commission, we are to put the matter into the hands of a Minister of Planning with a Department of his own, or whether Ave are to have a Minister without Portfolio acting as Chairman of a body of Departmental Ministers. This system of outside statutory bodies working under the ægis of a Department, is a system that has grown very much lately and we should agree that for certain executive functions it is a very sound development, but I think we should, all of us, including the noble Lord, Lord Balfour, agree that when it comes to questions of settling policy there has to be Ministerial control, and the more direct that is, the better. Whether it is exercised by a Minister with a Department of his own or by a Minister sitting as Chairman of a Cabinet Sub-Committee is a matter of detail as compared with the importance of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Addison, that he should be a Minister of real weight in the Cabinet capable of putting plans and policy through once policy is evolved.

For myself—here I am in disagreement with the last speaker—I should be inclined to think that a Minister would be less likely to be faced by an organized alliance of Departments against him if he has not a Department of his own. Once a Minister has a Department of his own then, if he has anything to say, about another Department, he is in the position of one Departmental Minister interfering with another. Under him, and responsible for executive functions, I personally would like to see a body of the character of which the noble Lord, Lord Balfour, has spoken. As to exactly what powers should be given to that body, there obviously must be considerable thought and discussion, but I should have thought that it would be a source of some sense of security to those who are going to be planned—and some might fear that they were going to be planned out of existence—if they knew that it was not going to be possible for some new political Minister to come in and make use of the strong administrative powers granted him in order to bring about a change in policy without Parliamentary sanction. I can well see that a Commission, working under a Minister, would give a greater guarantee of security.


Surely it is the function of Parliament to prevent, a Minister doing things with which Parliament is not agreed.


I know Parliament has a lot of functions, but it does not always succeed in carrying them out. I do not share with the noble Lord, although. I am, I suppose, a politician myself, that tremendous confidence in politicians. I believe that for carrying out executive functions, such as will need carrying out, there is a great deal to be said for bringing in the outside expert and putting him under the Minister, but, nevertheless, in a defined position. Whatever the form of central planning machinery we set up, I think that there is another point upon which we can be quite in agreement, and that is that it is not the least good having this machinery unless we have also the powers. In the past we have had a series of Town and Country Planning Acts, Ribbon Development Acts and so on, but, as I think the most reverend and noble Lord, Lord Lang, said, remarkably little was to be seen as the result of those Acts of Parliament. We must see to it that in our future legislation we do not have those safeguards, not only of private but of local authority interests, which, in fact, have made any progress whatsoever impossible. The tragic story is told, I think, in Chapter VI of the Scott Report, and it culminates with the reductio ad absurdum that in order to obtain some degree of control of planning, local authorities up to date had evolved plats for housing a population of no less than 300,000,000 more than our present population of 41,000,000.

The Uthwatt Committee have endeavoured to tackle these problems. I think they have made it clear that they do not feel that trying to patch up the existing patchwork is going to be any use, and that in order to make progress it would be necessary to make a clean start by vesting in the State the rights of development in land. They make, also, certain proposals as to the method of compensation, and for making easier public purchase of land. But those are matters which I imagine we shall discuss at a later date in the debate raised by my noble friend Lord Latham. Some of these proposals must strike us when we first see them as very drastic, and drastic they are. But it does depend upon that to which we compare them; whether we compare them with pre-war standards or possible alternatives. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, mentioned what he felt to be the only really possible alternative. I am not sure that he used the word but lie, obviously meant out-and-out nationalization the land—a proposal championed by nobly Lords sitting on this Bench and also by many agriculturists to-day who have no connexion whatsoever with the Labour party. For myself, I cannot feel that the mass of thinking people in this country care one rap for theories about the public or private ownership of land, and that if we were to start a political discussion on these lines we should find ourselves not only quite out of touch with reality but quite out of touch with public opinion. What they do care about, and what we all care about who have spoken in this debate, is that the wild and thoughtless use of this precious and limited commodity of land in this country should not be continued, and that somehow, by some machinery or other, it must, at all costs, be prevented. Can that be done without nationalization? The Scott Committee and the Uthwatt Committee both, in such consideration as they have given to the problem, are of opinion that it can.

Surely every one of us would feel then that an attempt should be made to make this new system of planning work. We have all of us seen a good deal of bureaucracy in the last two or three years of war. What we want, surely, to get out of this system of planning is the maximum of control in the public interest with a minimum of bureaucracy. As one who has rather been inclined to take the other view than that which has been put forward in these Reports I feel strongly that we should make the attempt to make these proposals work, on one condition, and that is that the attempt is made wholeheartedly. If the Government are going to delay yet further before adopting any policy at all, if when they do adopt some policy it is to be subject to such safeguards of private and local authority interests that, in fact, planning legislation will not work, then let us realize that planning can be written off as a failure, and that the public will demand something further. If, on the other hand, the Government will, here and now, accept the principle of planning and will set up a Central Planning Authority, whether it is based on a Commission or based on Ministers—never mind that for the moment—then I believe the system can be made a success. It will solve a great problem, and, at the same time, will show the world that it is possible to have ordered development and to combine that with individual freedom.

There is a middle way between chaos on the one hand and bureaucracy on the other. It is not just a compromise, because it is something very much more positive than either: it is the planned development of a free people. I believe that these Reports may well lay the foundations on which we can erect a structure of that character. I do, therefore, implore His Majesty's Government not to give us a non-committal reply to-day. I hope that they will tell us that they have accepted the principles of these Reports. I hope they will tell us what action they intend to take on them, and what kind of machinery they intend to set up to give effect to those principles; and, last but not least, when.


My Lords, I do not propose, at this late hour, to occupy your Lordships' time for more than a very few minutes, but I cannot convince myself that sufficient tribute has been paid to the really eloquent, cultured and inspiring speech with which this debate opened. Listening to the noble Lord, Lord Reith, one was reminded of the Parliamentary utterances in days gone by of such great orators as Burke, Disraeli and Gladstone. I for my part welcome in your Lordships' House such speeches as we hear from time to time from the noble Lord, which seem to lift us for a time above the somewhat mundane outlook which this commercially-minded country is apt to take in forming and expressing its political views. A very great poet, in less commercial days, said: The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers. When the noble Lord, Lord Reith, addresses us, I feel that it is possible to combine the idealist with the practician, and to combine some measure of idealism with a constructive policy for the benefit of this country.

There is one note which I think all the speakers have struck in this debate, and which I want to emphasize: the enormous importance of promptitude in announcing the machinery of planning to be set up by the Government. The reasons which I venture to urge in this connexion are these. Deferment and uncertainty create a feeling of insecurity amongst all those concerned with the land of Britain and with its development. Moreover, land speculation to-day is rife. Land speculation has been found in recent years to be a much more profitable business than land cultivation, and it has proved to be to the obvious detriment of this country, especially in time of great emergency. A third reason why I would urge that something should be done at once towards setting up this machinery is that sporadic developments are now going on which may prove, and probably in very many cases will prove, inconsistent with an optimum national plan.

In spite of all that my noble friend Lord Samuel has said—and I agree with the greater part of what he said—I still feel bound to favour, as part of this Government machine, something in the nature of a non-political Commission. I do not care what it is called, but I do not like the term "Control" suggested by my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh, because I think we shall all be heartily tired of the word "Control" before this war is over. I have in mind a sort of largely-expanded and glorified Development Commission, which will be able to carry out the execution or administration of Government policy continuously and without perpetual distraction due to turbulent variations in political outlook. It would be subject, of course, to paramount Ministerial control and general direction on the part of the Government. To my mind, it is of vital importance to have continuity of administration according to a definite plan, without such constant unsettlement as we in our experience as politicians know quite well occurs with changes of political outlook and changes of Government in tins country. Let me give you, to show what I mean, an illustration which must be present to the mind of all agriculturists in this House. One certain anticipation in the minds of nine-tenths of the members of both Houses of Parliament at the end of the last war was the rehabilitation of the agriculture of this country; and yet, within a year of the passage of an Act passed with that object, another Act was passed repealing it, with the result, of course, that agriculture was thrown back and was ill-prepared to face the insistent demands made upon it at the outbreak of the present war.

As part of country planning, I want to make a special appeal to the Government to make use of the landowning class. It is the enterprising, patriotic and public-spirited landowners who during the last century have been mainly responsible for the most successful and the most progressive planning in our country districts. Nowadays landowners are regarded as a class whom it is not necessary to consult, and still less necessary to invite to cooperate with the Government in matters relating to land development. I think that that is a profound mistake; and I for my part, as the sole surviving founder of the Central Landowners' Association, which was set up many years ago under the guidance of a former Lord Chairman of Committees of this House, the late Lord Onslow, with a view to carrying out a constructive policy, so far as the landowning interests are concerned, in the development of agriculture, most earnestly hope that the valuable help which is available from the more enlightened and progressive landowners of this country will be made use of on any minor committees or commissions which may take part in carrying out rural development.

There is one other body which I want to suggest should be taken into account, and that is the Council for the Preservation of Rural England. I happen to be President of the Gloucestershire branch of that body, of which my late respected friend Lord Crawford was the enthusiastic President for many years. That body has in many counties prevented the rural degeneration to which the most reverend and noble Lord, Lord Lang of Lambeth, referred in his very poetic speech. It has preserved the countryside against the somewhat impetuous war-time policies of different Government Departments, and has saved no small part of our most beautiful countryside from contemplated depredations and unnecessary vandalism on the part of those Departments. I share the view which my noble friend Lord Samuel expressed, that we should not deprive county councils in particular, not only of the valuable powers which they possess but of the incentive and enthusiasm which are developing on county councils with a view to systematic and wise planning in their areas. When it comes to the lesser councils I am by no means convinced. My experience of the small local authorities is that they suffer from smallness of outlook—a lack of vision—and very often, perhaps owing to that lack of vision, a tendency to hamper rather than encourage most desirable development in the countryside.

There seems to be considerable difference of opinion as to whether there should be one planning authority or several different planning authorities. Surely progressive development, viewed from a national point of view, is inconsistent with a multiplicity of various watertight planning units without any really effective liaison or constant consultation between those representing seemingly conflicting ideas. I could not help wondering when Lord Samuel was speaking about London and Middlesex. Of course there is a portion of the county in which geographically London is situated which is definitely agricultural, but there must be any number of problems arising on the borders of metropolitan London and rural Middlesex which would necessitate some body over and above the existing local authorities which is to decide, in the national interest, what is the best planning for the areas that they control. I have nothing further to say except that I do hope that whatever my noble friend Lord Snell is about to tell us he will be able to say that this matter is going to be dealt with, and dealt with at once, by His Majesty's Government.


My Lords, this has been a satisfactory debate. I understand that we are discussing the machinery advocated in the Scott and Uthwatt Reports, which they had no right to consider, and that we are not discussing the body of those Reports, where the recommendations reside. I think it is well to get that quite clear in case this debate finished on a note of triumph for the noble Viscount opposite, and a note of threat to me, with a suggestion that the guillotine is waiting for me round the corner. We are not discussing, as the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, spent some of his speech in discussing, the wisdom of planning or central planning. I say that in no spirit of offensiveness, but I think we may assume that we all agree now on planning, we all agree on a Central Planning Authority, we all agree on a "ceiling," and furthermore, we agree that these planning powers shall be universal and compulsory. Now I think we have got some considerable way if I am right in supposing that that is what we have agreed to.


What kind of ceiling?


The March, 1939, ceiling.


The price of land?


Yes, the price of land. I venture to think that we have been presented with something of a wrong and incorrect picture. It is always easy to decry the past and to substitute that for energy in the present. I think if you look back on the history of the town-planning efforts of the last fifteen years you will find that a very considerable result has accrued to the nation. When you think that town planning involves the separate hunting up of every separate occupier and every separate owner in the district concerned; when you remember that the valuation for Mr. Lloyd George's Land Values Duties took from 1910 to 1921, and that the scheme was then thrown on the scrap-heap as being useless; when you reflect that the whole of the people of this country had to be educated into the idea of town planning; when you reflect that the Civil Service Department at the disposal of town planning was new, was scanty in size, had no previous experience for the most part, and was generally thought of as the underdog in the Departments—when you remember all those things, and when you remember that model bylaws of every description were thrown at the town planning authorities over a period of years, then I think you will have to agree that the figures in the Uthwatt Report of schemes in process of being carried out, are not so bad, and indeed in certain cases the completed schemes were ready for submission to Parliament.

Well, I do not think myself there has been this loss of time which has been assumed this evening. I do not despair of going more quickly. I hope we shall go more quickly. I agree that the central machinery must be found. Personally I thought Lord Latham, who has now left his place, was somewhere on the right lines. I thought that he alone of all the speakers had the proper municipal pride and the proper faith in local self-government. I believe myself that the debate so far, with that honourable exception, has stressed far too much what will be done in Whitehall and far too little what will be done in the country. I cannot help thinking that, given a good Minister with a good working service under him, and some larger units—and here I quite agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe—in the country, there is no reason why we should not find by that very simple and orthodox method the proper machinery for running the town planning of the future. But I want to make it quite clear that it is machinery that we have been discussing to-day, and that no vote that your Lordships may take will mean that we approve of the specific proposals of the Scott and Uthwatt Reports.


My Lords, the fact is apparent that we are thoroughly divided to-day, so that there is a possibility of the still small voice of reason being heard. We have the astonishing spectacle of the pillars of the Conservative Party urging State dictatorship in the user of land and the pillars of the Socialist Party urging the righteous rival claims of the local authorities. Well, that shows openness of mind on both sides, which is most useful. We do want time to consider where we are going and even what we want. In the eloquent opening speech of the noble Lord, Lord Reith, he said those terrible words which we have had re-echoed ever since in every speech—"get something done." Everybody thinks getting something done is what we want. If that is all you put your mind to you will get the wrong thing done. A friend of ours, known to most noble Lords here present, President Nicholas Murray Butler, of Columbia University, has said that the greatest danger to democracy is the people whom he calls "the for-God's-sakers"—the people who cannot think for themselves, who are always saying to those in authority "for God's sake get something done." The business of Parliament, I need hardly tell your Lordships, is to stop the Government doing foolish things, not to urge it. It is most necessary that in this case we should reflect before we try to "get something done."

What do we want to do? I gather from the Uthwatt Committee's Report and from the speeches to-day, particularly Lord Lang's, that the great aim and object of the new Planning Minister or Commission, or whatever it is going to be, is the preservation of rural amenities and, above all, the preservation of our existing form of agriculture. The essence of the Committee's Report is that the land of England should be divided into two classes—agricultural land and developed land. If that appears a desirable course to your Lordships, to me it is a perfect abomination. It is the development of Fascism so far as agriculture is concerned. It means the crystallization of the existing system of tenure and the existing system of agriculture. You are going to preserve part of England for agriculture and refuse to allow industry or workers to live in that part of England.


Hear, hear.


You are going to Ghetto-ize the industrial population of this country. Lord Balfour of Burleigh may approve of that. All Fascists will approve of it; but nobody who loves liberty can possibly approve of confining the industrial classes to the towns and keeping the agricultural portion of England in pristine beauty. It is not only the Ghetto-izing of the industrial population I am thinking of. This crystallization of land ownership and land tenure means that the agricultural labourer must say good-bye for all time to any ideal of three acres and a cow. He will not be allowed to buy. He has got to remain for ever an agricultural labourer. The Guild system in the Middle Ages had the same idea. Messrs. Chesterton and Belloc would have liked to see the Guild system introduced for agriculture, I suppose, as well as the retention of every man in that state of life to which God has pleased to call him. But that is not England. That is not our history. We have spent four hundred years breaking down that system. I do not believe you will be able to re-establish it in this country, however much you want to do SO.

Every industry in this country during this war is thinking of how it is going to get on after the war. They all see the same way—that is, to have for themselves the organization of their industry, whether it he the agricultural industry, the potting industry, or the textile industry. They are all anxious to get back to the condition they were in before, and to avoid competition. Just as we have passed Acts of Parliament preserving the interests of dentists, doctors, nurses, and perhaps lawyers, by preventing fresh people from coming into their professions, so you are going to do it for the agricultural industry as well—crystallize, ossify. It may succeed, but it will be the ruin of our Empire and the destruction of all possibility of recovery of our trade and prosperity. We are all nowadays mixing up reconstruction of the country with the reconstruction of industry after the war. You cannot separate them. This question of the user of land is fundamental to the reconstruction of every industry. In my particular industry—the pottery industry—we have recently, fortunately, been able to buy a large estate, to transfer our factory there, and to have the people, when the houses are built, living in delightful country conditions. We should not be able to do it under the system proposed.


Of course you would.


We should not. Who would be the people to say whether this industry could go out into Staffordshire? They would say, "Keep your industry in your towns." In these circumstances no new industry can develop. The user of land depends on getting rid of the idea of preserving the existing system, preserving agricultural land as it is to-day. The only hope from these discussions and Reports that I can get is that we have had Lord Phillimore, who used to be the principal supporter of the landowners in this country, accepting the ideal of a ceiling for the price of land—the 1939 ceiling. That is all right. I am sure Lord Balfour of Burleigh would accept that too. But let noble Lords consider for one moment the impossibility of determining now what the 1939 valuation should be. If you are going to deal with the user of land in this country—and I agree with every noble Lord who has spoken that it is the most important thing for the future of this country—the essential thing is a valuation of the land as it is to-day. We must have that valuation if we are going to buy pieces of land for anything. If you are going to dictate the user, you must know what you are going to pay. When you have your valuation, then you can reconstruct back from that your ceiling valuation for 1939. You have only got to consider the inflation that has taken place since, and make the percentage deduction. It is easier to make your valuation of what it is to-day than to start trying to value property which has changed hands dozens of times, perhaps and been broken up.

Whether you are going to deal with that problem of the user of land by purchase, which I do not recommend, or by the rating and taxation of land values, which I do recommend, valuation is the key to both. Valuation is essential. When you have that valuation, you might remember the incidence of taxation. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, that this might have been a better Report if they had put a politician or two on the Committee. When people recommend that there should be an increment duty on land instead of a tax on land value, they seem to be completely ignorant of the well-established fact that the incidence of an increment duty falls upon the user of land, upon the purchaser, whereas the incidence of a tax on land values falls on the landowner. One is a burden on in- dustry for all time, the other tends to make land cheaper and easier of access for the people who want to use it.


My Lords, I wish to explain to your Lordships at once why I am replying to this debate, and not the Minister of Works and Planning. The reason is that the subject under examination is the proposed machinery of a Central Planning Authority, and as the recommendations of the two Reports are being examined not by one but by many Departments, and as the particular machinery suggested involves a change in the powers of the present Minister, it is thought advisable that the reply should be made by someone not directly involved. I am the most readily available victim and therefore I make the reply. I should like first of all to say something about the question which was put to me by Lord Addison. It was as to the possibility of a renewed debate on this matter. As your Lordships know, there is a Motion on the Order Paper in the name of my noble friend Lord Latham, which raises the whole question in wider aspects than the Motion of to-day, and therefore Lord Addison's point will be adequately met when that is discussed.

The Motion which has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Reith, is one of exceptional interest, and the speeches which have been made are altogether worthy of the subject with which they have dealt. The question of planning is the latest and perhaps the best of our recent national enthusiasms, and the nation, I am sure, will not permit that the matter should be neglected, mishandled or delayed. The nation has become planning conscious, and it desires to have quick results—but it was not always so. I can remember the days when to suggest that a thing should be planned was to offend the aesthetic ideas of the time. It then resented the suggestion that beauty from order springs. Untidy irregularity was preferred to any kind of the monotony of order, and I can remember in a public lecture Oscar Wilde saying that it was wrong to arrange even the furniture in a room, that it should be left to occur. That is what happened to our villages and towns and to the whole country. Things were left to occur, with results that called forth the tremendous flaming anger and opposition of men like Ruskin and William Morris. But to-day the nation is in open revolt against the waste and ugliness of disorder. It wants planning and wants it quickly and it is unwilling to wait for it. That is a good sign, but let us be clear what planning involves. It is an altogether vague term and might include anything from the planning of the future of the currency to the planning of the future of your Lordships' House.

Certain charges have been made to-day that there has been undue delay on the part of the Government in announcing their decisions. That charge, I venture to suggest, is ungenerous, and I think it is untrue. Lord De La Warr, for instance, said that this matter had been considered by the Government for a very long time, some months. In actual fact, of these two Reports the first was presented to Parliament in August, 1942, and the second, the Uthwatt Report, in September, 1942, so that the Government are chided because in a few short weeks they have not been able to decide on this very complicated and important matter.


The noble Lord does not suggest that that was the beginning.


No, I am referring to the Reports. The Government could not consider the Reports till they were available. The recommendations made in them cover a very wide field. They raise issues of the most fundamental importance which cannot be overlooked. In the Scott Report alone there are offered a hundred separate recommendations, and they affect almost every Government Department. For instance, they affect the Board of Trade, the Board of Education, the Service Departments, the Home Office, the Ministries of Agriculture, Health, Fuel and Power, Labour, War Transport, and Works and Planning, and the decisions that have to be made upon these matters are perhaps the most vital of any of the social decisions that have had to be made in recent times. Among the questions arising out of these recommendations may I quote the following? The Scott Report includes these questions: the place of agriculture in our post-war economy, the provisions of public utility services in rural areas, and the control of the extractive industries. The Uthwatt Report deals with the prohibition on payment of fair compensation of the development of undeveloped land outside built up areas except with the consent of the State, and the grant of compulsory powers of acquiring the land itself when wanted for public purposes or approved private development.


Does the noble Lord say the Government approve of them?


No, I say those were the recommendations involving the consideration of these specific problems. In addition to those I have named there are the assessment of such compensation on the basis that a single sum is to be fixed representing the fair value to the State of the development rights taken as a whole; wide powers of compulsory acquisition of land in reconstruction and other areas; the proposed new procedure for obtaining and exercising compulsory powers of acquisition; and the scheme for the imposition of a periodic levy on increases in annual site value with the object of securing betterment for the community as and when it is realized, enjoyed or realizable. Those are a few of the great questions that have to be examined, and when you reflect upon the complexity of those questions it is surely ungenerous to charge the Government with delay. I understand the enthusiasm which promotes criticisms of that kind. In a black-out we can always go at a thrilling pace if we do not mind where we are going. But this is not a subject for slap-dash decisions of which you might have to repent. What the nation has the right to expect and demand and what the Government are determined to give to it, is that it shall have the wisest decision possible in the shortest possible time. It was always made the charge against Shakespeare's most famous character that he showed irresoluteness of will because he postponed a proposed act until he had satisfied himself that what he proposed to do was right. I imagine the argument is that if you have an uncle to kill the right thing is to get on with the grim business and then reflect about it afterwards. All I can say on this point is that the Government are giving to these matters close and continuous study and no time whatever is being lost or wasted.

The noble Lord, Lord Reith, said that the machinery should be settled now. As my noble friend Lord Latham pointed out, machinery has no virtue in itself. It depends on what it is going to do. In- effective machinery is no contribution to the solution of a complicated problem. Machinery is useful only in proportion as it is able to do what it was expected to do. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, was so enthusiastic as to demand that something should be done now. As a politician he knows that at present we have not got a Government composed of people of one particular political school of thought; it is a National Government composed of people with many different points of view and that makes it rather more difficult for decisions of this kind to be made quickly. In the opinion of the Government it would be obviously very short-sighted to come to an immediate decision on the proposal for a fresh change in our central machinery without taking account of the wider powers and responsibilities which these two Reports recommend that the Government should assume. I do not wish to imply that no decision can be reached on the proposals of these two Committees in regard to the Central Planning Authority until we have reached decisions on every one of their very extensive and important recommendations, but we must clearly view the Government's policy in this field as a developing whole.

When we come to the consideration of the Reports I will try to shorten my comments as much as I possibly can. My first duty, I think, is to thank those who worked at the two Reports for what must have been a very strenuous period of labour and for the work that they have put into them. It would not be right on my part to comment on the specific criticism which the noble Lord, Lord Reith, has made to-day, without recognizing to the full that he not only speaks with authority on the matter but also knows as well as anybody something of the difficulties that have to be faced. In regard to the central authority, for instance, I hope he will not think it improper on my part to remind him that at an earlier period he appears to have regarded the establishment of the Ministry of Works and Planning as at least a preliminary step towards the creation of a Central Planning Authority. On February 26, 1941, he said on a Motion of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, that the principle of planning will be accepted as national policy and that some Central Planning Authority will be required. Therefore, when the noble Earl, Lord De La Warr, says that the Government should accept the principle of planning, I reply that they do accept that principle and have said so quite specifically in the various statements that have been made.

If I may pursue that further, you had a pledge from the noble Lord, Lord Reith, and then you had an acknowledgment of the fulfilment on July 17, 1941. In reply to a Motion by the then Lord Bishop of Winchester, Lord Reith said: if the noble Lord from the north— referring to Lord Balfour of Burleigh— chooses to regard the Central Planning Authority as having been established, I will not gainsay him. I, as an individual, personally regard that as having been accomplished in embryo. He also said—I regret that that thought was not repeated in his speech to-day— There is much new and hard thinking to be done before the right permanent form of positive central planning machinery … an be determined. He went on: The Government believe it to be too early to set up the new Central Planning Authority in its final form. The noble Lord, Lord Reith, explains, like all Ministers, that that did not represent all he wanted, but represented all that at that time he could get. At a later period my noble friend Lord Portal, on April 21 this year, stated that the statement of Government policy which Lord Reith had made still stood, so that the acceptance of the principle of a national planning authority has been adequately stated. On the Second Reading of the Ministry of Works and Planning Bill on April 29, in another place, the Parliamentary Secretary for Planning stated that the Bill was a first step, and a first step only, in carrying out the policy of the Government which was announced on February 11

I should enjoy going into the differences which appear in these various Reports, but I have not the heart to detain your Lordships for that purpose. The recommendations in the two Reports regarding a Central Planning Authority, although they have much in common, are not identical by any means and the differences between them cannot be ignored. In the Uthwatt Report, for example, the important Minister is to be specially charged with development; national development is to be added to planning and the Min- ister is to be the Minister for National Development. In the Scott Report the important Minister is to be "Minister of National Planning" or "Minister of National Organization," and an essential distinction is drawn between planning and development. In regard to the Commission that is proposed, both Reports recommend as part of the essential machinery of the Central Planning Authority the setting up of a Commission, called in the Scott Report the Central Planning Commission. This would involve a fundamental change in the planning machinery. From the Government's point of view, this proposition requires to be examined in all its aspects and implications. The Uthwatt Report does not deal with the functions of what the noble and gallant Admiral the other day, in suppressed quarter-deck language, called the "narrow-minded, pig-headed local authorities." And yet the subject is one of very great importance and the Scott Report does recognize that difficulty. The present position, as I understand it, is that it is the local authorities who plan subject to the revising power of the Minister of Works and Planning. In the discussion which has taken place to-day in regard to this particular matter, Lord Reith has expressed himself as being in favour of a Commission. In that he was supported by Lord Addison and Lord Balfour of Burleigh. On the other hand, the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and Lord Latham were opposed to the Commission in that particular form.


My Lords, I am in the recollection of the House, but may I say in the absence of my noble friend Lord Addison, that I do not think that he agreed with the proposal for a Commission.


Perhaps I may not have caught his point correctly. But the Official Report to-morrow will show. I cannot help feeling that as the debate has gone on the difficulties in the way of quick decisions have been more and more revealed. If the debate could have gone on for some time longer the result would have been, I think, unanimous approval of the position of His Majesty's Government.

Now with regard to the Government decision. As these proposals are being continuously and thoroughly studied, together with other recommendations, the Government are not prepared to announce their decision in regard to them until their investigations have further advanced. I might, however, quote one paragraph, paragraph 360, from the Uthwatt Report which runs as follows: However the Central Planning Authority is constituted, and whatever departmental arrangements are made, it is essential that there should exist means by which the requirements of agriculture, transport, public services, and defence, as well as housing, industrial location, town siting, and other matters can be given proper weight and considered as a whole. Co-ordination at the centre as respects the various Government Departments interested in particular aspects of planning is necessary. Without this the general lines on which national development should proceed cannot he properly determined, nor the lands properly managed it the interests of national development. His Majesty's Government accept that paragraph because it states in terms with which the Government agree the object which we all have in view.

There is another matter that I should like to mention. Lord Justice Scott's Committee on Land Utilization in Rural Areas recommended, under the title, "Registration of Title," as follows: We recognize that the registration of title should be made compulsory over the whole of England and Wales. We recognize that the extension of compulsory registration of title will, for reasons of staff and administration, take some time, but it is important that it should be completed within five years. The existing legislation on this subject contemplates a gradual extension of compulsory registration on sale by orders made with references to particular counties or for particular county boroughs. It is riot perfectly clear from the Report of Lord Justice Scott's Committee whether the recommendation is intended to refer to compulsory registration on sale or to compulsory registration irrespective of any change of ownership. At the time when the war began, it was the settled policy of successive Lord Chancellors gradually to extend the compulsory provisions of the Land Transfer Act; but it was obvious that the rate of the extension must be determined, in part at least, by the resources available to the Land Registry for the purpose.

The events of the war have restricted those resources. The building belonging to the Land Registry in Lincoln's Inn Fields has teen seriouly damaged by enemy action; and the staff of the Land Registry has been greatly depleted both by the departure of men for the Fighting Services and by the necessity of lending all the staff that could possibly be spared to assist other Departments more immediately concerned with the conduct of the war. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, therefore, within whose sphere lies the administration of the Land Registry, has to face serious problems connected with that administration, apart altogether from those presented by the extra burdens proposed to be placed upon the Registry by Lord Justice Scott's Committee.

Bearing in mind, however, the declared policy of Parliament, as expressed in the Land Transfer Act, 1925, and the recommendations made by Lord Justice Scott's Committee, the Lord Chancellor thinks that the time has come when a further extension of the compulsory provisions of the Act demands serious consideration, and he has, therefore, appointed a Committee to consider the recommendations. Its terms of reference will be as follows: To consider the recommendation made by the Committee recently presided over by Lord Justice Scott, and to consider whether it is practicable to give effect to it at the present time, and, if universal registration of title to land is not immediately possible, to report in what localities and by what stages compulsory registration on sale can best be brought about. My noble friend Lord Rushcliffe has been good enough to promise the Lord Chancellor that he will act as Chairman of the Committee. Although I am not yet in a position to announce the names of those who will serve upon it, I can say now that it will include representatives of both branches of the profession and others conversant with the advantages which follow upon the substitution of transfer of land by registration for transfer by conveyance, as well as with the administrative problems connected with a further extension.

Something is, after all, being done; the Government are not entirely so blameworthy as has been suggested. I shall not detain your Lordships further, but I will express my opinion that this has been an interesting and even an important debate. What has been said will receive the immediate and careful consideration of the Government. This House, Parliament and the nation are of one mind and purpose in this matter, and they are determined that the opportunity, whenever it may come, to reconstruct our shattered world shall not be neglected or misused. His Majesty's Government share that great enthusiasm, and they will try to ensure that the nation shall not be disappointed. We owe this common endeavour not merely to posterity but urgently and particularly to those who with ever-shining courage are bearing the dangerous hazards of these grim days. When men are dying to keep England free, the least we can do is to try to make her great.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Snell, speaks as though the Scott and Uthwatt Reports had fallen like bolts, or rather like bombs, from the blue of heaven on an unsuspecting and unprepared community. Two years have passed! I am glad to hear that a Committee has been appointed at any rate. I thank Lord Snell for his reply—courtesy demands that I should—and I shall say no more, except this. He maintained two or three times that Government policy in this matter of the creation of a Central Planning Authority for England still stands. I submit to him that he has merely made it clear that it is standing still. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned