HL Deb 07 November 1944 vol 133 cc826-51

12.13 p.m.

Order of the Day for the House to be put into Committee read.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Lord Woolton.)


My Lords, on the Motion to commit this Bill I rise to call attention, as I have given private notice to the noble Viscount the Leader of the House that I intended to do, to what I regard as the extremely unsatis- factory nature of the reply to your Lordships' debate last week which we received from the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. I intend to ask the noble Viscount the Leader of the House two questions, but as they are rather long, before I read them to your Lordships I ask your Lordships' permission to recall very briefly the course of the debate last week. In moving the Second Reading of his Bill my noble friend the Minister of Reconstruction stuck pretty closely to the Bill, as he was perfectly entitled to do. There followed a debate extending over two days, during the course of which noble Lord after noble Lord got up to complain that there was no indication in this Bill of the Government's long-term national planning policy.

When my noble and learned friend came to reply, I suggest to your Lordships that the least your Lordships' House had the right to expect was a reply which would put this instalment of policy into perspective in connexion with the Government's planning policy. What did we get from my noble and learned friend? Not only did my noble and learned friend not tell us anything about the Government's long-term planning policy, which is now extremely obscure, but he went out of his way, if a literal interpretation can be put upon his words, to throw overboard the whole idea of national planning. Let me read two very short extracts from my noble and learned friend's speech. In reply to something I had said about national planning he said: We must, I think, avoid getting into the condition where we speak of national planning as though it were to be brought about by some heavenly body, without any connexion with local committees and the people who live on the part of the land that is going to be affected. A little later he said: Is it not really necessary that, while adequate powers are provided, it should be the local authorities who make the plans, and who get the approval and encouragement and financial support of the central Government and administration to carry them out? That my noble and learned friend should indulge in a modified sneer at my efforts in support of national planning leaves me entirely cold. It is a matter of no importance. But it is important that my noble and learned friend should go on to say in so many words that the initiative has got to be with the local authorities and not even to qualify that by saying there is to be some national direction and inspiration.

That is a situation so serious that I have ventured to take this rather unusual course of calling attention to the matter on the Motion to go into Committee. I ventured, in an intervention which my noble and learned friend was courteous enough to allow me to make at the close of his remarks, to refer to the need for some national direction in connexion with the overspill from the great cities. I am greatly obliged to my noble and learned friend because my intervention was perhaps rather a long one. I would like to develop the point. I want to show the need for some national direction of planning by a reference to a plan to deal with overspill from the greatest city of all, that is, London. I wonder how many of your Lordships noticed a week or two ago an unobtrusive little paragraph in the public Press to the effect that the Minister of Health has confirmed the provisional order for compulsory purchase by the London County Council of the Oxhey Estate. What does that mean? Another few thousand acres of green and pleasant land engulfed into the ocean of bricks and mortar, the countryside pushed a mile or two further from the teeming population who may benefit by it.

I am not blaming the London County Council. The London County Council are under extreme urgency to provide for their own overspill and for their immediate post-war plans. They are driven by necessity which I have no doubt has compelled them to take this step. But what next? What after Oxhey? If there is no national direction of planning it can only mean a further expansion of the suburban sprawl extending miles and miles into the countryside, enveloping agricultural land that touches upon the area and, what I feel is the worst feature of the situation, more and more divorcing the people of the towns from access to the countryside. The obverse to Oxhey is, of course, the problem of open spaces in the great towns. I am quite sure many of your Lordships must have felt great sympathy with my noble friend opposite, Lord Latham, when he was pleading the cause of the poorer London boroughs in your Lordships' House last week. He told us that there were ten metropolitan boroughs which, I think, have less than one acre of open space for every thousand persons; some of them have one-tenth of an acre and some one-fifth. That is equivalent to saying that they have no open space at all. In talking about preservation of the countryside and about providing open spaces for children and others to play in, I am talking about things which are very dear to your Lordships' hearts. There is nothing that your Lordships treasure more than the good life in the country and unless we have some degree of national planning that is what is threatened by the lack of policy of His Majesty's Government.

An immense amount of industry was evacuated from London at the beginning of the war. How incomparably better would it not have been had there been some sort of plan instead of indiscriminate evacuation. How immeasurably better would it not be even now if there were a London plan so that the Government could indicate and influence permanent homes for that industry instead of letting it all flock back into congested districts, whence it came. It is not generally realized that plans for a new town, should it be decided to establish such, will take two years from the date when the decision is taken. Your Lordships can see how greatly the shilly-shally of the last two years is going to prejudice permanent arrangements for the proper ordering of Greater London. The Barlow, Uthwatt and Scot Reports have become household words. They have been discussed, perhaps. I might say, with more enthusiasm than knowledge of their contents, but there is another Scott Report of which I wish to remind your Lordships. Mr. Justice Scott was asked, during the last war, to consider and report upon the defects in the existing system of the law and practice involved in the acquisition and valuation of land for public purposes. What became of that Report is history. It may have had some moderate influence on the 1932 Planning Bill. Mr. Justice Uthwatt begins his Report after quoting some paragraphs from the Scott Report, by saying: That these paragraphs, although written in 1918, would form a fitting opening to our own Report, is a measure of the failure of the past twenty years to adapt planning policy and methods to the needs of the situation. I must confess I was disappointed with the reply of my noble and learned friend. I have listened to my noble and learned friend defending national planning so often in the last two or three years that he must forgive me if I had come to the conclusion that he really believed in it himself. I hope I am reading more into those sentences than they really meant, but I cannot afford, and your Lordships' House cannot afford, to leave the matter in doubt. There are two questions therefore which I address to the Leader of the House. They are these. What machinery do the Government propose to coordinate the various Departmental policies for land use and development, and in particular to concert policy with regard to the location of the overspill of industry and population resulting from decongestion of the big towns? The second question is: Will the Government give an undertaking that they will introduce legislation next Session dealing with compensation and betterment on the lines of the White Paper on Land Use or of some improvement of it? Where is the White Paper? We discussed it five or six weeks ago, but so far as I know the Government have not put it clown for discussion in another place. What do the Government really intend to do? Having had some difficulty over the 1939 price, are they going to funk this difficulty about development rights altogether and is that the last we are to hear of it? It looks uncommonly like it.

Naturally I do not ask for a reply to these two questions now. What I suggest is that the Government should think them over and tell your Lordships on the Third Reading of this Bill what the answers are. They are vital to your Lordships' consideration of the principle of this Bill. I think we ought to have had answers to these questions on the last occasion, but I do not press for an answer now. I ask that we shall have a considered answer on the Third Reading of this Bill, and if the answer is not satisfactory I for one shall certainly record my vote against the Third Reading.


My Lords, may I say how very glad I am as an ordinary Back-Bencher, who has been considerably troubled during the week-end trying to understand this Bill, to hear the pertinent speech of my noble friend Lord Balfour, because it appears to me we are handing over powers to local authorities—there are local authorities and local authorities—which are not always the best authorities to carry out duties in connexion with national planning.

12.23 p.m.


My Lords, I need not say how sincerely sorry I am that my noble friend Lord Balfour of Burleigh should entertain such strong feelings about the inadequacy of the reply which I made, very late in the afternoon of the second day of the debate on this Bill, to an extremely select collection of your Lordships. I had thought that there was no objection raised to the Second Reading of the Bill, and as it was the Second Reading of the Bill which had been moved and the Second Reading of the Bill which was about to be decided, I had thought that I was entitled to recognize that fact and to reserve discussion on a large number of matters of very considerable importance which we should enter upon more completely at this stage of the Bill. If in the course of my remarks I made some observations which have so much disturbed my noble friend I am sincerely sorry, because that was not by any means my intention. I am grateful to him for having said that he is not asking for an answer now to his specific questions, because although he is absolutely correct in saying that he propounded these questions to my noble friend the Leader of the House, he did so, I understand, on a piece of paper which reached the hands of the noble Earl the Deputy Leader while he was speaking, and as far as I am concerned I have had no communication from him. Therefore your Lordships will probably think I am entitled to a certain measure of indulgence.

I understand from the noble Lord's speech, and more particularly from what he said at the end of it, that he is anxious among other things to know when the White Paper on the Control of Land Use is likely to be debated in another place. He said so in his concluding sentences. When he asked "Where is the White Paper?" he meant in regard to another place. I will give him all the information I have. As far as your Lordships' House is concerned we have had a discussion upon it. Time was found for that, but I gather that time has not been found for it yet in another place. We have no con- trol of the programme in another place, but I feel perfectly confident—and I am prepared to take the risk of giving my noble friend an assurance—that it is the firm intention of the Government to arrange for a debate on this very important White Paper in another place as soon as it can be managed. I do not say it will be debated this Session—I have no right to say anything of the kind—but I am quite sure the matter is not shelved. The Government realize the importance of it, but it is one of a vast number of questions which will have to be considered in another place. Therefore I hope I may give my noble friend some small measure of comfort when I assure him, as I do, that it is the intention of the Government at the earliest moment that can be managed, probably early next Session, to have such a discussion of this White Paper.

My noble friend has spoken with great sincerity and great fervour, and I do not complain if he was a little reproachful to me, as to the relation between national planning and the provisions of the present Bill. I thought that I made a relevant observation, though he did not quote it, in my reply on the last occasion when I reminded him and others that this Bill is an instalment. I think most people recognize it as a necessary instalment. I pointed out that the Government had been forced to bring in this legislation dealing with "blitzed" areas as soon as they could and that that is the primary object of this Bill. The relation between national planning and the provisions of the present Bill is an important question and if everything was to be left until that is settled, this Bill could not be passed into law at once. If, however, this Bill were all, there would be much ground for the criticism which the noble Lord made. But although this is an instalment, the Bill is so drawn that the Minister of Town and Country Planning will exercise control and supervision because of the necessity of having agreement, I will not say at every point, but on a large number of points. The Bill does preserve the situation until more complete provision can be made.

I myself have been most conscious that there is still what we may call a gap as to the intentions of the Government in dealing with the general question of compensation and betterment. I think the noble Lord is deeply interested in that for the reason that he believes that the great enterprise of planning the use of the land of this country in the best interests of the nation will be crowned with final success only when the present state of the law governing compensation and betterment has been corrected and improved, and I am of his own opinion in that respect. I can go further and I can say deliberately that the Government share that view. It would indeed be foolish of me to hesitate on such a point because, of course, in the Paper on the Control of Land Use there is a paragraph—it happens to be paragraph 5—which says so in the plainest terms. The purpose of the Government in publishing the White Paper, as set out clearly in the foreword, was to secure public attention and public discussion on this question. They set out reasons for having made a prolonged and detailed search for a solution which might be broadly acceptable, and they declared their belief that the scheme outlined in the Paper provided the basis of a practical system whereby individual rights of land tenure may be reconciled with the best use of land in the national interest.

The final words of the Foreword were these: They present this Paper to Parliament in order to focus public discussion of the difficult issues involved and to assure themselves that there would be a substantial measure of public support for a solution on the lines proposed. It is the Government's intention that this process of focusing public discussion shall. be carried further with the least possible del We have had, as I have reminded your Lordships, the discussion in this House on the White Paper, and it is, as I have intimated, the Government's hope that there may be found time in the near future, despite the pressure of other business in the House of Commons, for similar discussion there. That will be the next and most necessary step in the direction, I trust, of an agreed solution of what is undoubtedly a highly difficult problem. And I wish to assure the House that the Government are most anxious that the solution should be found without delay.

So much by way of explanation, and I hope that my noble friend will understand that, at the same time, I am endeavouring to make some amends for what he seems to feel was an omission, or perhaps a misunderstanding, on the Second Reading. I venture to say that I think your Lordships will agree that it would have been a profound error of judgment on the part of the Government if they had delayed further the introduction of planning legislation until agreement had been reached on the vastly complicated subjects of compensation and betterment. In view of the fact that the Motion for the Second Reading was carried without a dissentient voice I take it that that is the opinion of this House We were perfectly right in presenting to Parliament, simultaneously with the White Paper on the general subject of the Control of Land Use, a Bill which is designed to provide for special needs, most urgent needs, arising directly out of the war, in order that local authorities may be able to secure redevelopment of both devastated and obsolescent areas on sound planning lines without waiting for agreement to be reached. It would not, perhaps, be too easy for agreement to be reached on those wider and still more controversial issues of compensation and betterment and the relations between them.

That is the true background. I am very willing to believe—and I am sorry for it—that my language may have been careless in sketching in the background, when I spoke last Wednesday, and that I may have seemed to have sketched it in in some different way. Lord Balfour of Burleigh is, of course, perfectly entitled to call attention to that, and I am grateful to him for giving me the opportunity for making plain, I hope, what is the Government's position on that matter. Our object is to get this Bill carried through with the least possible delay after your Lordships have considered it in Committee, in order that, at least, this instalment of land reform which this Government is endeavouring to bring about may be brought about. I am sorry for having had to take up these few minutes of your Lordships' time in this way, but, after all, I had to answer. I hope that I have done so with complete good temper, and that I have spoken to the point. I trust that your Lordships may shortly be prepared to accept the Motion that this House do resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

12.36 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to detain your Lordships for a few moments only but I cannot refrain from expressing deep concern at the concluding observations of the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack. He emphasized two or three times over that the Government's further progress in these matters must depend upon agreement being reached. Not once or twice, but three or four times, he said that this matter of compensation and betterment and the future larger development of town planning must depend upon agreement being reached. This means that a veto is to be placed in the hands of those interests specially affected. That has been the subject of our complaint during the last four years, when we have vehemently and repeatedly objected to the prolonged procrastination in dealing with this matter, and asserted the view that it was due to the fact that the Government was unable to move unless it had complete or, at all events, substantial agreement between the various parties and interests affected. So long as that continues, so long there may be this delay and inaction. Therefore, I think it my duty to raise a protest at this stage against the whole development of national policy being made dependent upon the consent of all the parties affected.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I would like to say a few words in reply to the noble Viscount who has just spoken. I seem to be singularly unfortunate in my endeavours to make my meaning plain. The stipulation that agreement should be reached does not mean that every interest in the country should be of one mind. It means that you cannot carry legislation of this sort through unless there be, as a result of discussion and exchange of views, .a plan which can be worked out which will command the support of the great mass of the country. That is all I meant to say.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The LORD STANMORE in the Chair.]

12.40 p.m.

Clause 1:

Designation of areas of extensive war damage, and of land needed for re-location of population and industries of such areas.

(2) Where the Minister is satisfied that land is or will be required for the purpose of providing for re-location of population or industry, or for replacement of open space…

In this Act the expression "re-location of population or industry" means, in relation to an area of extensive war damage, rendering available elsewhere than in that area, whether in an existing community or in a community to be newly established, accommodation for residential purposes or for the carrying on of business or other activities, together with all appropriate public services, facilities for recreation, worship and amenity and other requirements, being accommodation to be rendered available for persons or undertakings who are living or carrying on business or other activities in that area…

(4) Where a local planning authority have taken into consideration for the purposes of this section the question of the laying out afresh and redevelopment as a whole of a part of their area, or the question of providing in any locality for re-location of population or industry or for replacement of open space, they shall publish in one or more newspapers circulating in their area a notice stating that they are considering the said question and describing in general terms the situation of the part of their area or the locality, and shall not make an application for an order under this section as respects that part of their area or that locality, as the case may be, before the expiration of two months from the date on which a notice has been published or first published in relation thereto in pursuance of the subsection.

THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON had given Notice that he would move, in the second paragraph of subsection (2), to substitute "worship, recreation" for "recreation, worship." The right reverend Prelate said: Since I put this Amendment down, another point has occurred to me. I think that in an Act of Parliament the proper wording should be "public worship" and not "worship." Worship may be either public or private, and in so far as it is a private act it requires no facilities from anybody. I therefore ask leave to move the Amendment in the form of leaving out the words "recreation, worship," and inserting the words "public worship, recreation." I trust that this Amendment will at once win universal consent. The Bill refers to "facilities for recreation, worship and amenity." I do not think that the Committee will feel that it is fitting or suitable that in such a catalogue worship, the obligation owed to God, should come second to recreation, which is an amenity enjoyed by man for his own sake. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 20, leave out ("recreation, worship") and insert ("public worship, recreation").—(The Lord Bishop of London.)


The Government are prepared to accept this Amendment with the change, which seems to me to be an improvement, just suggested by the right reverend Prelate.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD AMMON moved, in subsection (4), to substitute "one month" for "two months." The noble Lord said: Subsection (4) of this clause was added to the Bill in the Report stage in the House of Commons, and provides for two months' notice being given before application is made to the Minister under this clause. During the Committee stage of the Bill in another place, various Amendments were made at the instance of the Minister, simplifying and expediting the procedure under the Bill with regard to compulsory purchase orders and local inquiries, these Amendments being made as a result of his discussions with representatives of the local authorities. On October r8 in another place the Minister, in moving an Amendment to give effect to an undertaking in the Committee stage, said: My desire, and the desire of the House, will be that local authorities should co-operate at the earliest possible moment with all important interests in their locality, so that their project for reconstruction will bear some close and real resemblance to the needs and wishes of their constituents. That was supported by the Parliamentary Secretary, who said that he was anxious to secure that it should not be made a burdensome or cumbersome requirement on local authorities, but should help to secure what was already the practice of the best local authorities—namely, the consultation of all proper interests in advance.

Although consultation is desirable, it should be borne in mind that war-damaged areas will be somewhat different from those dealt with in an ordinary town planning scheme, in that the proposal will deal with a devastated area which has to be redeveloped as a whole. If the giving of two months' notice of the intention to apply for an order is to enable negotiations to take place and modifications to be made in the proposal, it will operate to delay the submission; on the other hand, if the notice is intended to serve only as a warning of what the local authority propose to do, the time is too long and will lead to delay in submitting the application. It is therefore thought that the period of notice might be reduced from two months to one month. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 6, leave out ("two months") and insert ("one month").—(Lord Ammon.)


My noble friend has very clearly expressed the proposal which he makes, but I would ask the Committee not to make the change. It is necessary to look at the subsection in which this occurs, which is subsection (4), on page 2. I will read it: Where a local planning authority have taken into consideration for the purposes of this section the question of the laying out afresh and redevelopment as a whole of a part of their area, or the question of providing in any locality for re-location of population or industry or for replacement of open space, they shall publish in one or more newspapers circulating in their area a notice stating that they are considering the said question and describing in general terms the situation of the part of their area or the locality, and shall not make an application for an order under this section as respects that part of their area or that locality, as the case may be, before the expiration of two months from the date on which a notice has been published or first published in relation thereto in pursuance of this subsection. The application, of course, is the application to the Minister under subsection (1) that an order may be made for declaring, that the land is subject to compulsory purchase.

Subsection (4), I understand, was put into the Bill during the Report stage in the House of Commons, although the principle of it had been accepted before. This principle is clearly right, because if a local planning authority is proposing to make an application which may result in an order by the Minister declaring that the land is subject to compulsory purchase being made, it is only right that there should be some notice given to those in the neighbourhood of what is afoot The sole question is whether the notice should be given two months as a minimum before the application is made, or one month. I should expect in the working of the Bill that an energetic authority would probably make the announcement a good deal earlier than two months beforehand. Its object is to carry people with it and to make it clear to those to whom it is responsible that it has plans afoot and wants to carry them through. This is a notice in quite general terms, and not at all to be confused with the plans which are laid before the Minister. It does not involve publishing any map or plan, and it does not give any new right of objection. It has the good and' democratic purpose of informing everybody concerned in the area of the kind of thing which the local authority is going to ask the Minister to authorize.

What remains is a practical point on which I do not presume to speak with special authority, but it is one which we can all judge. The practical question is whether it is reasonable to say that that should be done two months before the application is actually made. It may be done at any time of the year, and it may be that those who are interested in the land are also interested in some rival plan and are not immediately available. Is not it reasonable to say that the local authority shall not make their application until they have given this general announcement of what their intention is? The effect of the Amendment would simply be to reduce the period for such local consideration and perhaps for the submission of suggestions from two months to one month. The view taken by those who are informing me on this matter—I do not claim to be an expert myself—is that it is perfectly reasonable to say two months, and that nothing much would be gained by altering the period to one month.


The effect of this subsection will be to delay the work of local planning authorities. Even without this provision the Minister would not proceed to make a declaratory order without public notice, because by paragraph (a) of subsection (7) of this clause the Minister, before making the order, must give appropriate notice in the Gazette and otherwise, and when it comes to the actual acquisition—that is to say, the confirmation of the compulsory purchase order—under Part I of the Second Schedule the local authority is required again to advertise. This new subsection will hamper and delay the work of the local authority. If the object of the two months' notice is to permit of negotiation and consultation with the interests concerned, then two months is quite inadequate for schemes which may embrace relatively large areas of built-up cities. It is a little difficult to discern what were the reasons which led the Minister to introduce this subsection. It had not been discussed with the- local authorities. In his statement in another place, the Minister seemed to be concerned about the needs and wishes of constituents, which are not necessarily the same as interests, whereas the Parliamentary Secre- tary in another place seemed to be concerned that the local authorities should consult all proper interests. Now as regards constituents they are consulted and what the council or planning authority proposes to do is made available at the open council meetings, at which the Press are by law entitled to be present.

At what point does the intention to make an application commence? Is it when the appropriate town planning committee starts to consider a recommendation to the council that certain redevelopment should be done in a specified area, or does the intention crystallize only when the council have approved it? If the latter then the public will have had notice, because there will have been a public meeting of the council. We are very concerned that this subsection will delay the work of planning authorities, especially in areas where there are many and, in some cases, large devastated areas. If it is for the purpose of consultation with interests it is much too short. If it is for the purpose of giving notice to constituents we submit that it is unnecessary. We should prefer—and I think the local authorities would prefer—that this subsection were omitted from the Bill, but, as the noble Lord, Lord Ammon, has said, we had no great hopes of that. We have sought, therefore, by this Amendment to minimize the delay and, if I may say so, the damage which in fact its appearance in the Bill may do.

On Question, Amendment negatived.


The next Amendment is a drafting Amendment. It is really consequential on changes made in the Bill in the House of Commons, but all the consequential changes in the draft were not made in that House.

Amendment moved— Page 3, line 22, leave out ("replacements") and insert ("re-location of population or industry, or for replacement of open space").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This is purely a drafting Amendment.

Amendment moved— Page 4, line 14, leave out ("as aforesaid") and insert ("by Gazette and local advertisement").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 1, as amended, agreed to.

12. 54 p.m.

Clause 2:

Power to purchase land for re-development of areas of extensive war damage, or needed for re-location of population and industries of such areas.

(2) Subject to the provisions of this section, a local planning authority may be authorized in manner aforesaid to purchase compulsorily any land in their area which is in an area of extensive war damage, notwithstanding that no order under Section one of this Act is in force in relation thereto, if—

  1. (a) the Minister is satisfied that its acquisition by the authority will be required for the purpose of dealing satisfactorily with the damage whatever may be decided as to the manner in which the land is to be laid out and used, and that the postponement of the acquisition thereof would be prejudicial to the public interest; and
  2. (b) the order authorizing the purchase is submitted to the Minister before the expiration of two years from the date appointed under subsection (1) of the preceding section.


The purpose of the first Amendment to this clause is really to assimilate the language here to the language used in other parts of the Bill.

Amendment moved— Page 5 line 9, after ("made") insert ("by the authority")—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD ADDISON moved, in paragraph (b) of subsection (2), to substitute "five years" for "two years." The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment on the Paper. It will bring the Bill back to the form in which it was when it was introduced. This relates to the time which is allowed to elapse before the local planning authority may be authorized to purchase land, etc., in their area under the expedited procedure in the Bill. Originally the general scheme of the Bill was that, in view of the very extensive damage which has been done in some places and of the very prolonged negotiations which must take place with a very large number of authorities, a period of at least live years was required. So it was defended by the Minister in charge of the Bill, but for some reason which I have never been able to ascertain, he accepted an Amendment on the Report stage to limit this period to two years, curtailing five years to two. My submission is that the Bill as it was originally introduced was right and that two years is too short a period.

If we think even in sketch of what will be involved on the part of an authority in an extensively damaged area in preparing schemes, in negotiating with the different interests concerned, in taking care that it gets its plans right, that it adjusts itself to public requirements and is as reasonable as possible in all its exceedingly complicated business (and nobody knows how or when it will end, or the circumstances, and so on) it is to my mind quite unthinkable that, unless the thing is going to be improperly rushed in a large number of places, the work can be done in two years. I do not think it will be possible with the best will in the world to get all this complicated business transacted before the expiration of two years. Let me read what the Minister himself said on this very point. He was explaining why five years were necessary.


On what date?


October 3. The Minister himself said that if local authorities were to make a proper job of it (they might, for instance, apply for too much land) at all events they ought to have good time to work out where their roads and everything else should be, to avoid ill-digested applications, and so on. He made a very reasonable statement, with which I entirely agree, that five years will at least be necessary in a large number of cases.


Was that on Clause 2?


That is right. I understand that it was. There was an Amendment on the Committee stage. On the Committee stage the Minister resisted the Amendment but for some reason which I cannot make out—though I have read his speech—he agreed that the five years should be reduced to two on the Report stage. I hope the noble and learned Viscount will be able to explain it. However, it is quite evident to me that whatever the Minister may have said or may not have said, two years is too short. I am quite sure it is too short for a local authority to gets its application in order, before it is submitted to the Minister; but if it has to submit its application to enable it to take advantage of the procedure of this Bill within two years—which is the proposal here which I am discussing—it will certainly mean that in a large number of cases you will have rushed applications, you will have applications which have not been properly thought out; and I submit that the period of five years as originally printed in the Bill was the right period. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 24, leave out ("two") and insert ("five").—(Lord Addison.)

12.59 p.m.


I do not differ from my noble friend Lord Addison, that there has been a certain amount of what may be called confusion in expounding this clause, but if your Lordships will be good enough to give me your attention for two or three minutes I am confident that I can show that there is good reason in using this shorter period of two years. Even now (I say it with the sincerest respect to the noble Lord) I doubt whether he has quite apprehended what it is which Clause 2 provides. At any rate he will forgive me if I do a little rather elementary exposition. The normal procedure of the Bill is under Clause 1, with the five years; and under that procedure it is necessary for the local planning authority which is making an application to the Minister, to present not merely a map showing what area it wants to take but—what is a far more elaborate thing—the map or maps which show what it intends to do with the area, and my noble friend referred incidentally to roads. That is perfectly correct under Clause 1; I will cite the words if necessary, but I think that will be understood.

Therefore if you are going to have the normal procedure, before the local authority is in a position to ask the Minister to give it the necessary formal authority it has to work out its plan and has to present to the Minister the scheme that it has got—for London or wherever it may be. Clause 2 deals with a totally different situation. There will be cases in which it is very important to get authority to purchase an utterly smashed up area before ever it has been possible to work out the plan. If you do not purchase this shattered area quickly and at once all sorts of interests may arise, all sorts of difficulties may trip you up, and Clause 2 is designed for the case where, because of that need for urgency, the local planning authority asks for authority to buy the area without ever producing a plan at all. That is the distinction, and I think, once that is really appreciated, my noble friend will see it. He is much too candid to shake his head.

I have no doubt about it because I was as much confused as he was by reading what was said in the House of Commons, so I am not in the least claiming to be superior about it. But if one really looks into it, one will see that is right, and that is why the shorter period appears to be right too. Under Clause 1, the normal case, you have to get an order from the Minister declaring that the land should be subject to compulsory purchase for dealing with war damage, and you have five years in which to do it. But in subsection (6) you have to accompany your application with maps showing what you intend to acquire and—what is much more important—with maps and details which show how you intend to use the area, both as regards the internal arrangements and in relation to the layout of neighbouring areas. That is a tremendous job. One knows in the London case what an enormous amount of work has been put into it. But if you look at Clause 2—and this really was not understood on the Second Reading and that is my excuse for being a little insistent now—Clause 2 has nothing to do with that. Clause 2 is the case where the local authority shows the Minister (may I call attention to page 5 line 21?) that the postponement of the acquisition of the area would be prejudicial to the public interest, because it is very important for the local authority to lay hands on it quickly; and consequently a local planning authority may be authorized to purchase compulsorily "notwithstanding that no order under Section I of this Act is in force in relation thereto."

That is the case that has been provided for here. I am sure that Lord Latham would agree. If you take Shore-ditch, which has been swept by bombs, the most important thing there is to acquire the land at once, and consider the details of how it may all be worked out thereafter, and that is the object of Clause 2. That power to act quickly on grounds of urgency, must, I think, of necessity be for a period which is shorter than the period of five years. If indeed Clause 2 could also be used for five years there would be no particular reason for having Clause 1. What is the good of stipulating that you must produce your plans before the Minister if you can get the lard equally well without producing your plans? I am not sure that what I have said is the best way of persuading my noble friend, but I hope he will understand that it is meant in the kindest way. If he will refer to what he said on this matter on the Second Reading he will see that at that moment the matter was not completely appreciated. What he said was this: The orders subjecting to purchase land required by local authorities for replanning purposes in areas extensively war damaged …must be made within five years. That is not quite right, it is not the order which must be made, but the application-. He goes on: If your Lordships will look at Clause 2 (2) (b) you will find that the application for the order must have been made before the expiration of two years. That is not so at all. The application could be made within five years under the normal procedure of Clause 1 and accompanied by plans for the future; but if there be a case in which it is thought urgently necessary to acquire the land, saying nothing about how it is going to be used hereafter, you acquire it so that it may be stripped and be ready as a site when proposals as to how to use it come forward later, then you may do it within the two years.

There is a manifest inconsistency between saying that Clause 2 confers this power because the matter is urgent, and at the same moment saying it may be done with the same degree of delay as though it were the principal and normal method under Clause 1. I am not in the least acting as an advocate here; I really want, like everybody else, to make the Bill right, as far as I can, and on this there has been a good deal of misunderstanding. It was not till after I had sat down and read it and asked questions about it that I understood it myself at all. I think some of the language that was used about it was a little difficult to follow, but that is the true explanation, and I hope I have shown the Committee, which is always reasonable in these matters, that there really is a good reason for reducing this period to two years.

1.8 p.m.


May I say a word about what has fallen from the noble Viscount? His explanation of the difference between Clause 1 and Clause 2 (2) is precisely in accord with my view as to what is the true conception of these two clauses, which I have read very carefully. Therefore I think that my noble friend Lord Addison perhaps did not quite appreciate, in the maze of this legislation, exactly the point which was raised by Clause 2 (2). But may I suggest this to my noble and learned friend, that, after all, there is a good deal of difference between two years and five years, and it is conceivable that after the expiration of the two years the local planning authority may come to the conclusion that there is some land which they do urgently need, while at the same time they cannot make their application under Clause 1 for another year or two? In those circumstances I suggest, without pressing it in the least, that the Lord Chancellor should undertake to consider before the Report stage whether he will not substitute the word "three" for the word "two." I think that would be a little more convenient perhaps to the local planning authority.

1.10 p.m.


In the view of the local planning authorities, as represented by their respective associations, the curtailment of the period during which Clause 2 (2) is to operate from five to two years does serious injury to the Bill, and will make very difficult the discharge by the local planning authorities of their duties. I do not think my noble friend Lord Addison misunderstood the situation at all and I would like to thank the noble and learned Viscount for a speech which, as to three parts of it, was admirably in support of the Amendment. The position is this, that when local authorities were considering this novel procedure of declaration as embodied in Clause 1 of the Bill they were concerned that in many districts it would not be physically possible to do what is required, either within the five years, or by the time by which they needed to acquire certain land. They pointed out that the detail required to accompany the declaration may be very voluminous and may need a good deal of time to prepare. The Minister accepted that submission and sought to remove the danger, in the case of an area which was likely to be declared (although a site ought to be acquired at once in the public interest), that the local authority would nevertheless have to wait until all the declaratory procedure had been completed.

I can assure your Lordships that in certain areas the completion of this declaratory procedure will be no simple or short matter, especially having regard to the multiplication of various property interests. The local authorities therefore rested upon that assurance, and indeed when the Bill was first introduced it contained the proposal that it should operate for five years. There is no inconsistency, if I may say so with every respect to the noble and learned Viscount, in having the same period—namely, five years—both as regards the main provisions of Clause 1 and as regards the special provision of Clause 2. Even in the third, fourth or fifth year, during which Clause 1 will be applicable, there may be land which it is urgently necessary to secure in the public interest but the local authorities may not even then have been able to conform to, and go through, the procedure provided in Clause 1. It was because of that that the local authorities were—I will not say insistent, that would not perhaps be the right word, but represented most solidly and most firmly to the Minister that for the period of five years there should be this special procedure. This special procedure is intended to apply only at the instance of the Minister in special cases, as he said in another place, where it is in the public interest—and where the scheme as a whole has been approved by the local authority—that it should be able to buy a particular parcel of land.

This reduction to two years places local authorities—not only planning authorities but it may well be housing authorities—in a very serious position. Speaking in another place on 4th October last, the Minister referred to the importance of local authorities getting land which might be necessary for rehousing and re-establishing our people. Save as regards one detailed element of the procedure called referencing, this clause as amended gives local authorities, as regards housing, nothing that they have not got already, because under the Housing (Temporary Provisions) Act the public inquiry procedure does not operate for two years. But we are concerned with what the situation will be after two years. We shall have on the one hand, unless it be otherwise continued, the Housing (Temporary Provisions) Act in respect of housing coming to an end and the obligation generally to hold public inquiries coming again into force in respect of the acquisition of land for housing, and we shall have this clause also coming to an end after two years. I beg your Lordships to remember that two years in connexion with the promotion of a housing scheme is a relatively short period having regard to all the procedure steps which have to be taken. At the end of two years we shall neither have power under this clause nor under the Housing (Temporary Provisions) Act. It is not the case, if I may say so with every respect, that because other provisions in the Bill were amended in another place to secure a speed up of procedure (which I willingly admit was the case, and for which I am sure local authorities are thankful) we do not need this Amendment.

In the discussion which followed the Second Reading of the Bill in another place, we were never given to understand that if another place accepted Amendments in regard to procedure, the consequence would be that the Minister himself would take three years out of the five years during which this clause would operate. It means in many cases, especially in regard to housing—it is not improper for me to say this in respect of housing which will become more acute than it is now—that at the end of two years we shall be thrown back as far as the acquisition of land is concerned, upon the public inquiry and the referencing, because the Housing (Temporary Provisions) Act will have expired and so will this clause. Nobody believes, I am sure the Minister of Reconstruction does not believe, that we shall have got very far in the solution of the acute housing problem by the end of two years. It is a long-term policy and there must be a long-term programme.

I beg your Lordships to look at this Amendment in the light not only of general considerations but in the light of the obligation which faces local authorities and the country at large with regard to housing. If the noble and learned Viscount would like to reconsider the position in view of what has been said by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Maugham, to see whether on reconsidera- tion the original five years, or at least some period more than two years, cannot be provided I am sure my noble friend and we on this Bench, and also the local planning authorities outside, would be most grateful.

1.16 p.m.


The noble and learned Viscount explained very clearly why this procedure in Clause 2 is necessary—namely, that the local authorities should not be required to go through the whole process which may take the whole five years before having special powers to apply to the compulsory acquisition of particular areas of land, but he did not explain why that special procedure should be limited to two years. What reason is there why the powers should not proceed continuously during the five years in order that any special cases might be dealt with whenever they arise? But to compromise on three years would be better than to leave it as it is. I do not see, however, why the period should not be the same for both Clause 1 and Clause 2.


May I:ay one word in support of the suggestion that we should have a longer period than two years?


May I help the debate by saying I am prepared to accept three years?


I was waiting to hear what Lord Balfour of Burleigh had to say, but if my noble friend says he is going to accept the Amendment, naturally I will hold my peace.


I was only going to support the view that it ought to be more than two years, because of my intimate knowledge of the great length of time that these housing schemes take. But I will not detain your Lordships.


I still am exactly of the same opinion as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. I cannot see why it should not be five years, the same as Clause 1. I am quite sure that some local authorities when they put their application in will make themselves sure by applying for more than they really want. Some noble Lords opposite are extremely anxious that the local authorities should not do too drastic things, but I am sure, if I were a leading spirit of a local autho- rity and had to rush my application in I should take good care that I applied for plenty. I think it will be probably found that that will be the case. Does not the noble Lord think, in the interests of sensible forms of application, that it should not be less than five years? I was not under any misapprehension although I did not quite express myself clearly as to the difference between Clauses 2 and I read them over very many times before I got hold of their meaning.


You should not read them too often if you want to understand them.


I accept that. Being an old Parliamentarian I will say that we are prepared to accept small mercies and if we cannot get the bigger one I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, will accept three years.


If the Amendment is moved to substitute "three" for "two" I will accept it.


Then I will withdraw the original Amendment and move in that form.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment moved— Page 5, line 24, leave out ("two") and insert ("three").—(Lord Addison.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment, in subsection (4), is a drafting Amendment and the object is to make quite clear that the proviso applies to the quantum of the price and not only to the method of determining it.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 2, leave out from ("agreement") to ("his") in line 4, and insert ("at the like price, to be determined in the like manner, as if the purchase were compulsory").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


The next Amendment is consequential on an Amendment made in another place. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 6, line 5, leave out ("subsection (1) or (2) of").—(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 3 to 9 agreed to.


I think it would be convenient if we adjourned now for a short interval for lunch.

House resumed.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past one o'clock and resumed at twenty minutes past two o'clock.