HL Deb 02 February 1943 vol 125 cc834-61

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I move the Second Reading of this Bill. It is a straight-forward measure, and the language in it does not need much explanation. It has been passed by general assent in the House of Commons, and I cannot doubt that your Lordships will receive it favourably here. The Bill implements the announcement which was made to this House by my noble friend Lord Portal on December 1 last, when the House was informed that the Government had decided to ask Parliament to constitute a separate Ministry of Town and Country Planning for England and Wales, under a separate Minister. That announcement was received with general approval, having regard to the importance of the function which such a Minister will have to discharge. Let me quote, merely as an example, an observation made by my noble friend Lord Samuel a week or two earlier, when he said that a Ministry of Planning "would require the full attention of the most active and energetic member of the Cabinet."

Clause 1 of the Bill defines the duties of the Minister. It is well known that the present Postmaster-General has been designated as the first incumbent of this most important post, a post which is to be regarded as that of a Minister of the first class. It will be for that Minister, in collaboration, of course, with the Government as a whole, to promote the necessary legislation, and my noble friend Lord Portal has already informed the House of certain matters on which the decision to legislate has been taken by the Government. I shall not say more about that now, because this Bill is not a Bill proclaiming any detailed policy or programme, but a Bill for creating the Ministry and a Minister. There is, however, one fact to be noted which I think will receive general acceptance, and that is that the Minister, in Clause 1 of the Bill, is described as To be charged with the duty of securing consistency and continuity in the framing and execution of a national policy— I emphasize "national policy"— with respect to the use and development of land throughout England and Wales. The effect of this Bill, therefore, is to transfer to this new Minister and to his Department the powers and duties connected with town and country planning; that is to say, the control and proper use of land in town and country.

These are powers which, since the Minister of Works and Planning Act, 1942, have been a part, and a part only, of the responsibilities of the Minister of Works and Planning. As your Lordships will recall, before that last-mentioned Act was passed in June last, these powers and duties were again a part, and only a comparatively small fraction, of the multifarious duties of the Minister of Health. What is significant about this Bill is that it involves the decision by Parliament that it is not enough to make this all-important subject one of the topics which have to occupy the attention of a Minister, whether he be the Minister of Health or the Minister of Works and Planning, but that it is a topic of such overwhelmingly great importance as to require the concentrated attention of a Minister to be devoted to it.

It will not, perhaps, be thought inappropriate if in a sentence I remind your Lordships, especially in view of the recent death of Mr. John Burns, that it was Mr. John Burns who first made this subject of town and country planning a matter of legislation and of departmental attention. Mr. Burns has now passed from the scene, and indeed for the last quarter of a century has been in complete retirement; but there are in this House, I think, four men who sat in the same Cabinet, Mr. Asquith's Cabinet, with Mr. Burns, and we all preserve the memory of his vigour, of his comradeship, and of his intense championship of London and of everything that would make London fine and beautiful. It must have been largely that aspect of the matter which led Mr. Burns to take up the subject. He was the first wage-earning workman who ever entered a British Cabinet.

As I have tried to point out in these few words, down to the present time town and country planning, in the sense of the control of the proper use and development of the soil of this country, and of the kind of buildings put upon the soil, has been only one out of a large number of urgent tasks laid upon the back of a particular Minister; but now we are recording in Parliament our resolve and intention that it should be regarded as a first-class subject, calling for the undivided attention of a Minister of the first rank. As for how this work is to be related to the wider and more general aspects of the new Britain, and of what in a different and wider sense is sometimes called planning, your Lordships are aware that the intention is that this new Minister of Town and Country Planning shall be one of a circle of Ministers presided over, as things are, by the Minister without Portfolio, who has a far wider range of duties, and who will secure the necessary contact and co-operation for present purposes.

There is one other feature of the Bill to which your Lordships may wish me to refer in a sentence or two, and that is Clause 8, the subject-matter of Clause 8 being the power to establish Commissions in this connexion. There was in a previous debate, in which I and others took part, some difference of opinion as to the part which Commissions should play in this matter, and I call attention to Clause 8 because, while this is completely consistent with the decision of the Government that in this particular matter they would not follow the suggestion that the subject should be handled over to a Commission, it none the less marks out the proper function which Commissions in this connexion may fulfil. Clause 8 confers the power to establish Commissions for certain purposes. The language of the clause, as originally drawn, produced a little misapprehension, or at any rate a little apprehension, on the part of the associations of local authorities, who feared that under it Commissions or regional authorities might be set up to perform functions now performed by local authorities. That was their anxiety.

In the view of the Government there was really ground for such fears, since it is a well-known principle that a power to make Orders in Council does not confer the power to alter Acts, unless such power is expressly given. The passage of the Bill therefore would not have enabled the statutory functions of local authorities to be interfered with, and if a situation arose in which it was thought desirable to transfer statutory powers to a Commission established under the clause, further legislation would be needed for the purpose. But while that is in the view of the Government and its advisers correct, it is a very proper object of Parliament so to frame clauses as not to give rise to anxieties and apprehensions, but to quiet them. Therefore in the House of Commons this clause took a different form, and a change was made, so that it is now framed as it appears in the Bill; and in order to make the true imitations of the clause quite clear to everybody the Government proposed an Amendment which has removed the apprehensions that were felt. I may say that the Amendment was settled as a result of discussion between my right honourable friend the Minister without Portfolio, who took charge of this Bill in another place, and representatives of the associations of local authorities, and everybody is, I think, now quite satisfied.

The Minister under this clause might find it convenient to use the machinery of the clause to establish a Commission, or more Commissions than one, for various advisory purposes—perhaps to make a survey over an area, or to collect information, for example in connexion with national parks; and further, if it were decided to adopt the scheme for the acquisition of development rights recommended by the Uthwatt Report, that Commission might well be required in connexion with that scheme. Of course, the adoption of that scheme would necessitate further legislation. I have said that in some little detail but I am anxious that in both Houses of Parliament a most definite assurance should go forth to these great local administrative bodies—an assurance which is only their due—that Clause 8 is not designed to have, and cannot have, the dangerous effects which, in view of their own great responsibilities, these local authorities were anxious should be avoided. I do not think there is anything else in the Bill. The details to a large extent are necessary machinery, taking steps which I think will be generally approved, and future legislation on this all-important subject will be a matter for the Minister when he is authorized to set up in his Ministry under the Powers of this Bill. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a—(The Lord Chancellor.)


My Lords, I am sure that every one of your Lordships would wish to be associated with the tribute which the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has paid to the late Mr. John Burns, especially in connexion with the initiation of town-planning activity when he was President of the then existing Local Government Board. His work for London is on record, and it is no doubt the case that, as the noble and learned Viscount has said, it was his great devotion to London that impelled him to tackle the problem in those early years of town planning. This is the second procedural Bill to deal with the machinery of town planning. On the 11th February of last year the noble Lord, Lord Reith, informed the House that a great step forward had been taken in regard to planning by reason of the decision of the Government to transfer the planning powers from the Ministry of Health to the then existing Ministry of Works and Buildings. Some of us doubted whether there was very close affinity between planning and the Ministry of Works and Buildings. Nevertheless, in June last year—some four months later—a Bill was passed to effect the transfer, and now over six months afterwards we have another Bill to transfer the relatively modest powers which at present exist away from the Ministry of Works and Planning to a brand new Ministry.

It has taken the Government just a year to make up their mind by whom and by what machinery planning is to be done, and the Government cannot pray in excuse for this delay that they were waiting for the Report of the Scott Committee or of the Uthwatt Committee, because neither of these Committees was asked to consider matters of machinery. It is true that both of them did and, as my noble friend Lord Samuel pungently pointed out in an earlier debate, whatever other qualifications the members of these respective Committees may have possessed, they did not possess in any particular degree the qualifications for determining the proper machinery for dealing with planning. And so a year after the momentous announcement of Lord Reith we are now asked to assent to a second Bill, this time to set up a separate Ministry of Planning. If planning could be accomplished by procedural Bills, Government declarations, and Reports of Expert Committees, it would already be well on the way, and the fair face of new Britain could already be discernible. But in sad truth it does not appear that very much positive has been done. There has, of course, been the transfer of the related staff from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Works and Planning, and I suppose that staff, augmented, will now be transferred from the Ministry of Works and Planning to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. That, so far as one can discern, is about the only positive thing which has up to the present been done in this important matter of planning. And it is the case that the Government are laying themselves open to the charge of shilly-shallying and procrastination in failing to make up their mind as to how this very complicated problem is to be tackled.

I am not here specially referring to the major proposals of the Uthwatt Report—namely, the development rights scheme and the proposal for a periodic levy—but I am referring to the more manageable, less controversial, but no less important, recommendations of the Uthwatt Report that planning authorities should be given new and enlarged powers, that they should be able more quickly to acquire land, that they should be permitted to deal with non-conforming buildings and non-conforming user, and that the procedure of planning should be speeded up. This was urged strongly upon the Government in the debate that took place in this House on the 18th and 19th November last. We were told then, as we had been told before, that these matters were receiving careful consideration—close consideration, urgent consideration; but apparently that is as far as the Government have gone.

The Lord Chancellor himself, in winding up for the Government the debate on the 19th November, resisted with, as I thought, some petulance the strong complaints that had been made by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, about delay. He said: Is there really any ground for saying that there has been any procrastination or any ground for reproach because the Government between the 10th September and the present date have not been able to reach those conclusions which we all hope it may be possible for the Government to announce very shortly? Ten weeks have elapsed since that statement was made, and nothing beyond the declaration of December 1 has eventuated. Since that declaration, which conveyed the decision arrived at by the Government before December 1, very little indeed seems to have been done. In fact, the Minister without Portfolio, in another place, when introducing the Bill now before your Lordships said that "For the last few weeks I have deliberately not pressed forward with the consideration of any amendment of powers." Why, I do not know.

One is not moved to accept the curious explanation of the Minister without Portfolio—namely, that he wanted to await the sage advice and wisdom of the Minister Designate. The Minister was designated shortly after December 1, and I should have thought there was no reason to delay consideration with him, or the taking advantage of his sage advice and wisdom, until after this procedural Bill was on the Statute Book. I wish to stress, on behalf of my noble friends on these Benches, that they and the country are getting very disturbed about the sustained delay which is taking place with regard to planning, and that they find no comfort in being repeatedly told that this is a first step. An accumulation of first steps will not carry us very far. Like marking time, that is a process of great movement but little progress. What the country is awaiting with some impatience is second steps, and the steps beyond the second steps—steps which will give some earnest to the people of this country that promises are likely to be implemented, and that the Government are determined to be ready for the problems of planning in peace-time and not, as they were for the problems of war, unready.

As the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has said, this Bill is procedural. The local authorities were glad to have the assurance given by the Minister without Portfolio that it was not intended to impinge on the rights of local authorities or to restrict or impair their right of direct access to the Minister, whoever he might be. The assurance which has been reiterated by the noble Viscount that the functions of these Commissions are intended to be advisory and, in case of necessity, managerial and not executive—not in substitution of the powers of the Minister—has given comfort to the local authorities and to those concerned with the discharge of the duties cast upon local authorities. I should like to express the hope that the reference to Commissions in the Memorandum—though not in the Bill—does not mean that the Minister will appoint any large number of Commissions. It was said in a debate in your Lordships' House last week in another connexion that Committees tend to proliferate. The same is the case with Commissions. It would he unfortunate for the exercise and maintenance of democracy in this country if the appointment of Commissions was regarded as an alternative to democratic, decisive, responsible government. It would be equally unfortunate if a Minister sought to escape from Ministerial responsibility through the appointment of Commissions. We on these Benches support the Bill. We hope that the Minister Designate, when he is in the saddle, will, at all events, exercise decision and speed. I should like, for myself and for my noble friends on these Benches, to extend to the Minister Designate our every good will and encouragement in the great and inspiring task that he has before him. We assure him that his activities will be the more praiseworthy if they are expeditious.

Before I sit down I should like to crave indulgence to refer to an earlier debate on the question of planning. It will be within the recollection of your Lordships that in November last I initiated a debate upon the Scott and Uthwatt Reports. I sought to indicate certain personal views upon these Reports, and especially upon the recommendations of the Uthwatt Committee. I can fairly claim that the views I then expressed were not based upon a cursory examination of the proposals. It is correct that in some quarters my views were received with some measure of surprise, in others with some impatience, but the mere fact that my views may coincide on certain aspects of the Uthwatt recommendations with those of noble Lords whose political and social philosophy is not mine, does not make my views any more or less sound. I cannot accept the words that were put into my mouth by the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack.

The Lord Chancellor wound up the debate for the Government on the second day and in the course of his speech thought fit to deal with some of my submissions. As I listened to the Lord Chancellor I thought that my views were not receiving the fairest interpretation, and I sought to correct that interpretation in the few words with which I prefaced the withdrawal of my Motion. But the hour was getting late, and I thought I was consulting the convenience of your Lordships by being brief on that occasion. When, however, I had the opportunity of reading in the Official Report the statements of the Lord Chancellor, I was o frankly amazed at the misconstruction which had been placed upon my reference to nationalization in connexion with planning, and I am bound to say that I felt it amounted to a travesty of what I said. With your Lordships indulgence I would like to take this, the first opportunity of correcting this misinterpretation of what I said.

The Lord Chancellor stated, according to the Official Report, column 188: I should like now without delaying any longer to return to the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Latham. As I have said, he stated the case as he saw it against the proposals of these two Committees, proposals which are designed to promote orderly planning, and my noble friend felt it right to indicate what he thought was a preferable mode of action. I am speaking quite summarily, because it is too late in the day to go into precise detail, but I state it fairly, I hope, when I say that his view was that the right line was quite different, the right line was nationalization, and the right line was the rating of site values It is impossible to spell out from what I said with reference to nationalization any such thing, and I will read what I said on that occasion about nationalization.

I said, with reference to the development rights scheme: The situation is that it is part of this scheme that immediately development of land within it is impending the State shall become automatically the owner of the fee simple. It means, therefore, that from day to day the State will become the owner of land; large units, small units, near cities, away from cities, all over the country, without any relation one to the other; a sort of unplanned, fortuitous ownership which is initiated, not by the State, and which may not be initiated by the owner of land, but can be initiated by some third party who thinks he would like to develop the land of somebody else. Then I went on to say, in order that it might not be thought that in general I was opposed to nationalization of land for other reasons: I hope that my objection to this scheme will not be misunderstood by any of my noble friends opposite. I still believe in the nationalization of land. I believe that the nation's land should belong to it, and I believe that the nation should re-possess itself of its national asset as soon as practicable. But I should hope that if this is done it is done on some ordered lines with regard to the ownership of land being of benefit and advantage to the whole of the nation, and not that we should proceed to land nationalization by the acquisition of, or rather by receiving into the fold of national ownership, isolated bits of land merely because some third party has decided to develop them. That would be a Joseph's coat of nationalization. I went on to point out the difficulty of management of such isolated units of land, and I indicated that I regarded that proposal as being one of the defects of the development rights scheme.

If it can be said from those words—and I made no further reference to nationalization—that I offered nationalization of land as the right line to the solution of the problems of planning which we were then considering, then I submit to your Lordships language has ceased to have any meaning. But the Lord Chancellor, satis- fied no doubt with his first statement about land nationalization, warmed to the work. Having set up a nine-pin of his own fabrication, he exulted in exhibiting how dexterous he was in knocking it down. He proceeded therefore to say: I am afraid I take the same view about nationalization. Putting aside the perfectly enormous range of such an operation, which I should have thought is quite inconceivable in the course of the war; putting aside all the formidable questions that arise about compensation, which I gather Lord Latham would, to a large extent, avoid by the process of not paying compensation unless he was convinced manifest injustice had been done—putting aside all that, when the State has acquired the land, is planning any further on? I did not suggest it was any further on. I think it is not unnatural that I should seek the indulgence of your Lordships' House to correct this travesty of what I said. I have never thought or felt that the age-long debating trick of erecting nine-pins in order to knock them over served any great utility. It is sometimes amusing, it is seldom useful, and I had not thought that it had a large part to play in the debates in your Lordships' House, or much contribution to make to the solution of the complexities of planning. I am bound to say that my almost unbounded admiration of the capacity for exact comprehension and precise definition possessed by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack makes it very difficult for me to convince myself that this misrepresentation was entirely unwitting, and I have felt it necessary to make this statement.


My Lords, the noble Lord will not expect me to follow him into this altercation between himself and the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. I feel indeed, so great is his indignation, in a somewhat dangerous position geographically with himself on my left and the Lord Chancellor on my right. The House, I am sure, will desire me now to revert to the subject of the Bill which is before us, although I understand the noble Lord's wish to make a personal explanation with regard to a matter which arose in some previous debate. First I may be allowed to re-echo what was said so well by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack about our late colleague, Mr. John Burns. The Housing and Town Planning Act, 1909, was due very largely to his personal initiative and enthusiasm in these matters. I think that the only occasion on which he spoke in public from the date of his resignation in 1914 to the date of his death was at a function at which I had the pleasure of being present, a dinner, which was held to celebrate the 21st anniversary of the passing of that Act. On that occasion, and on that occasion only, as far as I am aware, Mr. John Burns broke his self-imposed silence. He was a pioneer in these matters.

It happened that I succeeded him as President of the Local Government Board when he was appointed to the Board of Trade, and the Government of that day contemplated a very active campaign of propaganda throughout the country to promote town planning, but the war came almost at once and that was made impossible. During the third of a century since the passing of that Act it must be confessed that the progress that has been made has been slow. It has been hard to get started and we have found that to be the case also during the last two or three years. This Bill is on the right lines so far as it goes. It does not, of course, present the whole of the Government machinery for promoting planning in the widest sense—in the sense of a better Britain policy and a national organization—for there is to be not only a Ministry of Town and Country Planning but also in the future a Committee of Ministers concerned with the wider aspects of national organization, under the presidency of seine senior Cabinet Minister, which will deal with these wider matters. That Ministerial Committee is of the first importance in promoting planning in general and town and country planning in particular. One member of this Committee must of course be the Minister of, Town and Country Planning. This title which has been adopted in the Bill is a somewhat clumsy one, but it was perhaps desirable to insert the words "town and country" in order to prevent confusion with the wider aspects of national organization. I have no doubt in popular usage he will be called Minister of Planning pure and simple.

The purpose of this Bill is mainly to separate from the Ministry of Town and Country Planning the Ministry of Works which has lately been combined with it, and that also seems to me to be quite right. I have suggested in previous debates that it might be desirable to effect that separation. Indeed, almost the only purpose of the Bill is to effect that separation. The rest is merely to confirm what has been done already and to give power, which could easily be given by later legislation or which perhaps would not require legislation at all, to establish Commissions for particular purposes. Let me take this opportunity of saying how much I rejoice that the Government have at last come to a clear-cut decision, which is embodied in this Bill, that we are not to have a Commission instead of a Ministry of Planning. That would have involved considerable controversy in this House and elsewhere. It should have been obvious from the beginning that the House of Commons would not tolerate for a moment the relegation of these matters to a Commission with some Chairman instead of a Minister fully responsible to Parliament; nor would local authorities have agreed to it. I was greatly surprised that so many men of great distinction in your Lordships' House should have supported that proposal, which personally I thought had no merit whatsoever. However, the Government have now come to their decision, and the Bill contains proposals for the Ministry, and in Clause 8 for Commissions for very limited purposes, to which the Lord Chancellor has referred and to which no one takes objection.

We have frequently said in this House that there ought to be Commissions similar to the Forestry Commission or the Mining Royalties Commission to own properties, such as the property in development rights if established, or for the management of national parks, which should have these definitely limited functions, and I am glad that Clause 8 makes provision for that. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said that a Commission might be established to obtain information on the subject of national parks. I hope it will do very much more than that. I think it ought to select the areas for national parks and should own, or at all events manage,, those parks on behalf of the Ministry.

As for the duties of the Minister himself the Lord Chancellor quoted the somewhat odd phraseology of Clause 1. The Minister is to be charged with the duty of securing consistency and continuity in the framing and execution of a national policy with respect to the use and development of land… "Consistency and continuity" will not carry us very far. It is the case, as was hinted at by the noble Lord who has just spoken, that a company of soldiers who are marking time may show all the virtues of consistency and continuity, but they would not take them very far. What is needed above all in a Minister of Planning is the quality of leadership, the power of stimulus and the power of action. I do not suggest that phraseology of that kind should necessarily be inserted in an Act of Parliament. The words in the Act of Parliament do not matter very much if the Minister himself has these qualities. If he has the quality of initiative and the power of stimulus and the power of action, it does not matter very much what the phraseology of the Act is; but if he lacks them then the words of the Statute will make no difference whatsoever. It depends on the personal qualities of the Minister and upon the support or the opposition which he may receive from his colleagues.

We have had three successive Ministries in the last three years. We have had the Ministry of Works and Buildings, which was replaced by the Ministry of Works and Planning, and now that is to be replaced by the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. We have had three Ministers—Lord Reith, Lord Portal and, now, Mr. W. S. Morrison. I hope this Ministry will not equal the record of the Colonial Office which has had seven Ministers in seven years. Each of these three Ministers has been a member of one House or the other who has not had any particularly close acquaintance with the subject-matter of the Department. Indeed, apart from the noble Lord, Lord Portal, who had some experience of it in the time when he was a Commissioner for Special Areas, it may be truly said that they knew nothing at all and each in turn has had to learn the whole subject from the beginning. The new Minister, Mr. W. S. Morrison, has at this moment immense opportunities for achievement in this sphere, but there also face him very dangerous opportunities for failure. A vast public is keenly watching what is being done, and also what is not being clone, and the nation will judge by results. The Minister without Portfolio—may I express, in parenthesis, my regret that that absurd Continental title has been revived? —the Minister without Portfolio, Sir William Jowitt, has spoken in another place of the Minister Designate as being at this moment hoisted into the saddle to start his triumphant gallop. I must say that I feel a little anxious about that. In the first place the new jockey has never seen the horse until this moment, and the horse itself is notoriously a bad starter. Hitherto it has been going round and round in circles in front of the starting gate to the great annoyance of the crowd. We must wait to see whether the new jockey will in fact be engaged in a triumphant gallop or not.

The one unsatisfactory clause in this Bill is the humble and formal clause at the end, Clause 12. It says that "This Act may be cited as the Minister of Town and Country Planning Act, 1943." 1943! Well, there is no reason at all why it should not have been the Minister of Town and Country Planning Act, 1941. When Lord Reith made his statement here on behalf of the Government that the principle of planning was to be adopted as part of the national policy, and that a Central Planning Authority was to be established, there was no reason why this Bill, not precisely perhaps in its present form, should not have been presented in a week or two. There was no need to wait for the Uthwatt Committee. This raises none of the questions to which that Report refers. It is purely a matter of governmental framework. The real reason that was not done was that the Government could not be persuaded to give close attention to this matter, or induced to make up their mind with regard to what form the Central Planning Authority should take. It is true that under Lord Reith and Lord Portal a good deal of progress has been made in a preparatory fashion, with the assistance of the very able staff they have had to help them. But over it all there hung the blight of Government indecision.

I am afraid it is not possible for anyone to put down an Amendment to make 1943 read 1941. It has been said that over past events not even the gods have power. To that we may add, still less has Parliament power. No one can "restore the years that the locust bath eaten." We have lost two years and the matter has now become increasingly urgent. No local authority can make any definite plans until this substantial legislation has been passed—it has not yet even been intro- duced—to decide what their areas should be, what their land powers should be, or what should be the position with regard to compensation and betterment, and indeed to cover the whole great field of actual planning. Many areas, even, do not know what the planning authority is to be in the future. Many owners of destroyed buildings all over the country are eager to prepare the actual plans and designs—which must necessarily take time to prepare—for the erection of their new buildings, but their advisers must inform them that it is quite unsafe to do so because they cannot tell whether they will still have control over the same sites as before, and cannot know what conditions may be attached to the new buildings. Not a single step can be taken effectively in any part of the country until this new legislation has been enacted.

The only announcement which has been made by the Government as to their intentions is that local authorities are to be endowed with large and simple powers for the purchase of land. That is a matter of the first importance. But it is also essential that all these other questions should be dealt with, and, if possible, that the Government should come to some decision on the central recommendation of the Uthwatt Committee which deals with development rights in unbuilt-upon areas. It is now five months since the Report of the Uthwatt Committee was presented, and there is no indication whether the Government intend to accept that particular proposal, or indeed any of the proposals of the Committee, or not, apart from the enlargement of the local authorities' power to purchase land. I trust that this pronouncement will soon be made in definite terms, and that it will be an announcement of the acceptance of the recommendation of the Uthwatt Committee dealing with development rights. It has already received widespread support throughout the country. Here we are in February, 1943 Two years have gone by. February seems to be a critical month in this matter of planning. In February, 1941, we had Lord Reith's statement on Government policy. In February, 1942, if my memory serves me aright, the Ministry of Works and Planning was established. In February, 1943, we have this Bill. I only hope that by February, 1944, the main legislation for which we are all waiting will have been passed through Parliament. But I do not feel at all certain that it will be passed within twelve months from now. If it is, then the local authorities will be able to set to work and frame their definite plans, and, possibly, by February, 1945, the country will have a proper system of town and country planning.

Meanwhile great military events are taking place, and every hundred miles that the Russians advance in their glorious campaign may mean some months taken off the time between now and the end of the war. Some months will be taken off the time still available for the preparation for dealing with the vast and urgent problems that must face us immediately the war is over. The Minister without Portfolio used language which seemed to be somewhat ominous in his speech when presenting this Bill in the other House. He said: I hope that in due course the new Minister will bring in a Bill to amend the Act of 1932 dealing with town and country planning. Again, he said: The powers will be the subject of some future Bill which I hope will be introduced shortly. I hope the Government will not amble on in this easy-going fashion, but that they will make a definite pronouncement that in the immediate future the comprehensive legislation which is indispensable will be introduced. If there is further delay before the introduction of the great Bill which is needed—for this is only a small pioneer measure—or if, when it is at last produced, it is found that obstructive influences within the Government, stirred up by vested outside interests, have reduced it to a feeble, half-hearted measure which is plainly inadequate, then the Government must be prepared to face a very bitter controversy, and must expect to be the object of a nation-wide and indignant attack. They have been warned of this again and again from every quarter. The nation, I am sure, will not tolerate chronic indecision and unending delay.


My Lords, I wish that Mr. John Burns were alive today, so that he might reply to the speech to which we have just listened, and so that I might have some support for the speech which I am about to make. Mr. John Burns was an individualist, who was also devoted to the local authorities not only of London but throughout the country. The country owes its greatest debt to John Burns for the work which he did for those local authorities. This Bill has one good thing to be said for it, and I shall support it on that ground: at least there is being put in charge of the future measures dealing with town and country planning, a House of Commons man, instead of a man who has had no experience of getting elected. I must, of course, have no confidence in Mr. Morrison, because he is a Tory; but at any rate he is alive to the importance of ultimate results and of popular support for measures such as these.

To my mind, the proposals behind the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, are proposals which will not benefit the community, and which will prove a dangerous weapon for any Party. I see in these proposals a scheme for preventing the poor from living in the country, and I do not believe that that is ever going to be popular in England. Recently, my cousin, Mr. Vaughan Williams, of Leith Hill Place, induced the other landlords of that beauty spot in Surrey to combine together and sacrifice their future development values, consent to a piece of country planning with which we can all agree, and for which we should be deeply grateful. Several thousand acres round Leith Hill are now preserved under this plan, with the approval of the Surrey County Council, and cannot be used for building development, save and except for the building of large houses, with, I think, forty acres to each house. Such buildings will not interfere with the natural beauties of the district. We shall all be in favour of that; and it is because we are in favour of such schemes that so many have supported this idea of general country planning. We have to remember, however, that there is all the difference in the world between a scheme such as that, for a beautiful piece of country or for the national parks which are proposed, and a scheme involving the planning of the whole country. In future, only the rich can live round Leith Hill—people who can afford to build a house on forty acres of land. That is all right; there are other places for poor people to live in; but, if that is made universal, you are going to prevent poor people having the opportunity enjoyed by the rich of living in the countryside. You are so terrified of ribbon development that you are getting to believe that the view matters more than the human being.

The Town and Country Planning Association, which represents public opinion on this issue, says that it is not preventing the poor from living in the country, because satellite towns will be built to which industries can be sent, and which will be laid out as garden cities in the same way as Welwyn and Letchworth, as places where it will be a pleasure and a delight to live and work. That is where you come up against the local authorities and local sentiment. There was a proposal the other day to concentrate the straw made hat by taking it away from Luton and putting it somewhere else. The immediate result was that Luton came en masse to interview Mr. Dalton at the Board of Trade, and said that they were not going to have their hat industry taken away from them and put in some beautiful satellite town somewhere else. I believe that a suggestion has been made that the potting industry would be much better in South Wales, near the coast, so that there would not be the need for transporting coal and clay and china-stone such long distances, and the industry could be conducted more economically. That may be a beautiful idea, but what is Stoke-on-Trent going to say about it? Exactly what Luton said about it. When Luton spoke the scheme dropped to the ground at once, and when Stoke-on-Trent speaks… !

Will it not be the same with every one of these satellite towns? If you take some industries out of Birmingham and dump them down thirty or forty miles away in Warwickshire or Gloucestershire, it may be a beautiful tiling so far as the Town and Country Planning Association is concerned, but it has no relation to reality; the ratepayers and the municipality of Birmingham will not hear of it. I understand, from a speech made the other day by an Under-Secretary, that London is to have ten satellite towns, taking away London's industries and ratepayers. I doubt if London will like it ! A scheme of that kind will not be popular. You have to consider these facts when you are drawing up these schemes. I am glad, therefore, that the Government have not rushed these proposals through. I hope that there will be, on the part of this new Minister, a thorough consideration of the practical difficulties in the way. The first difficulty which he will have to realize is that we have a Town and Country Planning Act already. We have had, as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, knows; perfectly well, a Housing and Town Planning Act on the Statute Bock for the last thirty-five years, but there has not been a single case of town planning yet, except for Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth. There was there only one landlord to consider, and he considered the best way of developing his property; and the best and most remunerative way of developing that property was, as we have seen, the beautiful garden cities of Letchworth and Welwyn.

Why has not that taken place anywhere else? It is because there has not been only one landlord; because there have been numbers of landlords involved, and every ore of them has asked what compensation he is going to get out of it. Local authorities all over the country have passed their town-planning schemes. Newcastle-under-Lyme has drawn up an excellent scheme. The people there have had the common sense to buy up all the suburban lands themselves, so that they may lay out their own property. Even that scheme has not been finally approved. It will not be approved of until this question of compensation is decided, until you know what you have got to pay. Under that Bill, and I think under the more recent Bills, you have got to pay when the plan is made and the form of a new town is developed, but not when the development takes place.

What I am glad to see in this Bill is that there is under Clause 8 the opportunity for the new Minister to set up Commissions to inquire into this question of compensation. He is not tied down to the Uthwatt Report; he can come to his own decision; he can advise the Government himself. I hope he will give the Government better advice than they got from the noble Lord, Lord Reith, and that this question of compensation will be tackled on sound, serious lines. I have my own ideas as to how it should be done, and I thought that very brilliant reply to the Lord Chancellor was a very just criticism of the last debate. There ate two ways of approaching this question: either by the taxation or rating of land values, or by State action and compensation. Hitherto, all these Ministers, who have had no previous political experience, have adopted the attitude of saying, "Oh, it will be all right on the night. Just plan and don't bother about compensation. That is a detail for the Treasury." You cannot do it that way. You either have to do it by saying, "We will take the land and compensate you afterwards when we find out what it is going to cost," or you must have some means of driving land into the market at a reasonable price.

I think myself that this Bill is good. I think it is just as well that this matter should be put into the hands of a Parliament man who will be able to appreciate difficulties and at least know what they mean. This whole question has been under discussion all through my political life, and these Committees which have been sitting on it recently, the Uthwatt and Scott Committees, do not seem to realize that the question has ever been raised before. Lord Balfour of Burleigh reported on this matter, I think it was in 1886—I do not mean the present Lord Balfour of Burleigh but the good, sound, free-trading Lord Balfour of Burleigh. This is an old question. The previous people who have been considering what to do have taken no account of the Commissions and Committees that considered the matter in the past. They have not the faintest idea of what has been done long ago in Germany—by the late Burgomaster of Frankfurt, for instance. They have met these difficulties there, and met them not by paying for the land, but by taking the land and saying, "You can have a little bit of the new frontage as it is laid out—no compensation, but you get your bit of your land." All these things have been thought out in other countries: why have not they been thought out here? Ministers there have been, with an enormous staff, for two years. It is quite time a new Minister took the job in hand and tried to see what could actually be done in the way of compensation, or of getting without compensation many of those advantages that we hope to get ultimately by decent planning of town and countryside.


My Lords, I am sorry to inflict another speech from this Bench, but I promise it will be a short one. I should like to ask the Lord Chancellor if he can tell us something about what this Minister is going to do and what his powers are. I ask that because I want to remind your Lordships of a most remarkable speech that was made here last week by the noble Lord, Lord Beaverbrook. It was made in relation to quite a different subject, but there were matters in that speech which are so peculiarly appropriate to this subject that I may perhaps be excused for reminding your Lordships of them. This new Minister is appointed after two years' deliberation, and I would say in parenthesis that I am not disparaging him. We welcome his personality and we are glad that at long last the Government have decided that somebody should be given charge of the job. That is all to the good, but it has taken two years to do it. His functions are described in the Bill in these words. He will be charged with the duty of securing consistency and continuity in the framing and execution of a national policy with respect to the use and development of land… I want the Lord Chancellor, if he can, to tell us what that means. What is it intended to convey? I have been involved in this subject I think nearly as many years as my noble friend on my left, and during the whole of that time we have been discussing the "framing and execution of a national policy with respect to the use and development of land." In putting those words into the Bill I want to know whether the Government have decided upon anything, and if so, what. I am most anxious to know what this man is going to do, and whether he is going to have any powers to do it.

The bane of this matter for the last thirty years or so has been the multiplicity of Committees. This brings me to the speech of my noble friend Lord Beaverbrook. He said: These committees …raise one inquiry after another, and they waste time. He also said: They sit in committee all day long, They go into session in the morning, and they are there all day. They have a paper output that is unexampled. Well, if that applies with literal truth to anything it applies to town and country planning. To my knowledge, for the greater part of twenty years a multiplicity of authorities, with multitudes of Committees, has been trying to arrive at something that they would wish to do with regard to the Lake District. To quote the noble Lord again, he said that "the great superstructure of committees and coordinating agencies" was "obscuring the main purpose and principal object of our lives." Literally true! I support the institution of this Ministry, expressing the hope that the Minister will be given the power to obliterate a very large amount of the procedure which is at present preventing anything being done that has been instituted under the Town and Country Planning Acts and various Amending Acts. I hope we may be assured very soon that the Minister will be able effectively to secure the necessary preparation of plans, and also that we shall have an announcement which will confront us with realities as to what is to be done for "the use and development of land throughout England and Wales."


My Lords, I intervene for a very few moments only. I listened with immense surprise to the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, who told us that in 1909 the Government had prepared a project for planning and that nothing had been done about it, although the noble Viscount remained for six years in office after that time. Nothing was done in six years, and yet this Government are denounced because they do nothing in two years—and two years in the midst of a very great war!


I said the war came. I was referring to the period of 1914. A good deal was done, but if the noble Lord thinks we could have gone on doing it during the last war he is very much mistaken.


The noble Viscount said his plan was prepared in 1909 and propaganda was ready.




I understood the noble Viscount said 1909. If he said 1914 then I withdraw and apologize. But he was in the Government again in 1931, and we heard nothing about planning then. Continually we hear from the noble Viscount abuse of the Government on account of plans and projects which he did nothing to carry out when he was in office. Like my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition, I must say that this Bill is more or less a diversion from the main pur- poses of the war. The Bill is nothing but a project for creating yet another Ministry, providing for more and more Committees, and for—what is the most damaging feature of this war—multiplying the number of civil servants. Already the Civil Service has grown by 50 per cent, during this war. The Bill has to do with the development of land after the war. Surely the time for considering the development of land after the war is when the war is over. No man can say what will be the conditions confronting us in those days. Vast bombing attacks may take place on this country. We cannot imagine what the condition of the land and the conditions of occupation will be. Why not deal with these issues after the war? That is the proper time. By bringing forward these issues now, we are simply, if I may use a golf term in a House which is entirely familiar with the game, although I know nothing about it, taking our eye off the ball. That is all we are doing. The three matters which should occupy the whole attention of this House at the present time are: (1) The campaign in North Africa; (2) the campaign in Russia; (3) the U-boat campaign, the war at sea. These are the problems upon which your Lordships should fix your minds, for unless they can be dealt with, unless the day comes when we can determine these issues in our favour, there will be no need for developing the countryside at all.


My Lords, I confess that my anticipations as to the probable character of this debate have been entirely falsified. I had expected that a rather dull, rather brief, and entirely unanimous view would be expressed in approval of the Bill now before the House, but I am not sure that the main feature of the debate is not that it has been an occasion when twice over one noble Lord refers with indignation to what another member of the House said on a different occasion. I therefore cannot be too glad that among the multifarious duties which fall upon the Lord Chancellor, the keeping of order in this House is not one of them.

Let me say at once to Lord Latham that I assure him that I had not the slightest intention, in the previous debate, of misrepresenting him, and I feel sure he will accept that assurance as very sincerely given. He tells the House—and we all accept it—that the observations he made on that occasion in support of nationalization had nothing to do with his ideas about the way in which planning and the use of land could be carried out. Then I was mistaken. The subject of debate was planning and the use of land, and as the noble Lord did refer at some length to nationalization I made the mistake of supposing that the one thing had something to do with the other. I admit I was wrong in that, and I am content to leave the passages which the noble Lord read in order that any impartial person may determine whether my comment deserves his censure. On that occasion the noble Lord told us he was not speaking for the Labour Benches, but was making a distinctly personal contribution. I can only hope that, as matters now stand, he is completely reconciled to the main body of the Labour Church, and that there will be no reason to suspect him of producing any personal and original views on this matter hereafter.

Then there is the speech made by Lord Wedgwood. The very fact that he speaks from that Bench is sufficient to show there will be no artificial unanimity in the Socialist Party. It is very refreshing to hear it. He reflected sadly on the circumstance that when the town of Luton, which as far as I know has kept silent for a good many years, exercised, by exception, the privilege of public speech, it was attended to. He said he wondered whether it would be the same in the case of Stoke-on-Trent. Well, it is possible that the emphasis rightly to be attributed to an argument depends to some extent on the frequency with which it is presented to an audience.

Then Lord Beaverbrook comes up to defend what he said on a previous occasion. I am not criticising that at all. He describes this Bill as a case of failure to keep one's eye on the ball. I should say that this is a Bill which, if it is not put into effective operation, is calculated to take nothing but a series of divots out of the soil. No doubt it will be important that the skilful hands of the new Minister should be addressed to his difficult task—not as difficult as the game of golf, but none the less exceedingly difficult—and I am glad to think that in this matter we are entrusting the game to a Scotsman.

These various matters having played their part in what has been to me a most entertaining discussion, I return to the Bill. On the subject of the Bill there is, first, the comment that things should have been proceeded with more rapidly. That has been put by more than one of your Lordships. I am not going to offer a further defence to that now. I did say something about it, as Lord Latham reminded the House, on the last occasion. The sentence that he quoted, however, did not sufficiently give the context. What I was saying on the last occasion was that it hardly seemed reasonable to charge the Government with having no policies to announce about the Uthwatt and Scott Reports in the comparatively few weeks which had elapsed since those Reports appeared. This is undoubtedly a very difficult and extensive matter. I have no doubt that many of your Lordships would like further announcements to be made as soon as possible. I can assure you that the Government will take into account what has been said, but in a matter so difficult and serious as this and, as Lord Beaverbrook indicated, in the very middle of the pinch of war, with all its terrific and special dangers, I do not think the Government can fairly be charged with not having got on more quickly with this matter.

The other question expressly addressed to me as arising on the Bill was put by my noble friend Lord Addison. He put his finger upon the words describing the duty of the new Minister and said they were obscure and needed further explanation. The full content of such words, of course, cannot be provided except in the proposals which are put forward hereafter by the new Minister when he assumes his new duty, and I may here observe that it is no use treating Mr. Morrison as though he had been Town and Country Planning Minister since the moment it was announced that he was Minister Designate. He is not at this moment holding that office; he never has, as this Bill provides, received the seal or taken the oath. He has been actively engaged in the duties of the Post Office, and the sooner we carry this Bill into law the sooner it will be possible for him to enter upon his new duties. In connexion with that I hope your Lordships may be disposed now to agree, in view of the urgency of carrying the Bill and putting it on the Statute Book, with the proposal to take the Bill through its remaining stages on the next sitting day in order that it may receive the Royal Assent without delay.

Now I come back to Lord Addison's question. Is it fair to say that a Bill requires, at this stage, from the Government any further exposition? The Minister is to be charged with the duty of securing consistency and continuity in the framing and execution of a national policy with respect to the use and development of land throughout England and Wales. I must say that I should have thought it was not stating it obscurely if it is thus stated, as it ought to be stated, in wide and general terms. I am glad to make an observation or two with respect to the question put to me by Lord Addison. I call his particular attention to the phrase "national policy." From his long experience and indeed his very connexion with the office which originally dealt with this question, he knows very well how extremely difficult it has been hitherto to pursue a policy of town and country planning where you find that contradiction which arises from the existence of so many authorities and which has prevented anything like a national scheme being put through. It appears to me, therefore, that those words are in themselves a valuable indication of the kind of work and purpose which will fall to the new Minister. Again I think "consistency and continuity" are very proper words in the circumstances: consistency because it is no good having plans which are not consistent with one another, and continuity because it is no use having plans which will be rescinded in the next six months.

Lastly my noble friend Lord Samuel, who has known the Ministry in the early days, has expressed his concern in regard to the difference between the framing of such a policy and the execution of it. May I point out that this Bill expressly states that it is not merely the framing of a national policy but the execution of it that is part of the charge and the function of the Minister? I hope now that the more lively passages in debate are concluded, we can come back to the not very exciting language of the Bill which, as far as I know, contains no misrepresentations, no traps, no provocation either about Socialism or individualism or anything else of that kind, and I hope that your Lordships will now give a Second Reading to this Bill.


Will the noble and learned Viscount say whether the phrase about consistency and continuity includes initiating national policy?


I am sure my noble friend would not wish me to go a word beyond what is right in view of the fact that my right honourable friend Mr. Morrison is about to undertake a very heavy task, but I should have thought myself that these words "in the framing and execution of a national policy" did include the inspiration and initiation of such a policy.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.