HL Deb 21 July 1947 vol 151 cc2-34

2.35 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, in moving that this Bill be now read a second time, I desire, with your Lordships' permission, to make a few preliminary observations. As your Lordships are aware, this formidable and complex measure of 113 clauses and 11 schedules is the Scottish counterpart of the English Planning Bill which was given its Second Reading by your Lordships some weeks ago and which has been the subject of much discussion during its consideration in Committee and on Report by members of this House. In the main, the Bill follows the lay-out of the English measure and does not differ from it on fundamental principles. But, of course, it takes full account of the different local government system in Scotland and the distinctive Scottish form of land tenure.

The Bill has been discussed at some length in another place. Speaking from memory, I think the Committee stage alone occupied 21 sittings, and during the other stages on the floor of the House the Bill was also fully discussed. In these circumstances it is, I think, unnecessary for me to re-state the case for the substantive provisions of this measure. That has already been done as regards the English Bill much more ably and eloquently than I could hope to do it by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor. I propose, therefore, with your Lordships' permission, to confine myself largely to the task of explaining the principal provisions of the Bill as they affect the planning of Scotland and to pointing out some of the main differences between this measure and the English measure. In this way, I hope that I shall not only discharge my duty but also conserve your Lordships' time.

The Bill provides that the local planning authorities shall continue to be the county councils and the town councils of the large burghs with, in addition, the councils of the two small burghs of Thurso and St. Andrews, on whom planning powers were specially conferred under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1932. The Bill will, however, enable my right honourable friend the Secretary of State, should he at any time consider it expedient in the public interest to do so, to transfer the planning powers of these two small burghs to the county councils. As your Lordships will appreciate, the important and far-reaching powers which are being conferred on local planning authorities by this Bill may well necessitate the combination of several authorities or the appointment of joint advisory committees so that planning may be carried out over a wide area in the interests of the area as a whole. Accordingly, the Bill enables combinations of local planning authorities or the appointment of advisory committees to be carried through either at the instance of the local planning authorities themselves or at the instance of the Secretary of State.

It has long been recognized that the existing planning system, based as it is on the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1932, is wholly inadequate and quite unsuitable for present-day requirements. The system is negative in its approach in that it can go some way to prevent bad planning but can do little or nothing to stimulate good planning. Moreover, the system is extremely inflexible. Once a planning scheme has been made tinder the 1932 Act, it cannot be adapted and brought up to date to take account of changing conditions except with extreme difficulty and after carrying through the most intricate and cumbrous procedure. It is not surprising, therefore, that prior to the war only about 2,000,000 acres out of a total of 19,000,000 acres of land in Scotland were subject to any form of planning control.

The new planning system proposed by the Bill is much more realistic in its approach, much more flexible and much more positive. As from the appointed day under the Bill, all local planning authorities will carry through a survey of their districts to give them the essential background of information against which to prepare development plans. These surveys will represent complete physical, economic and sociological analyses of the potentialities and future requirements of the local authorities' districts, such as the nature of the land, its suitability for various forms of development, the needs as regards communications and transport facilities, open spaces, and so on. The scope of the surveys will vary according to the nature of the districts involved. For example, the surveys for sparsely populated areas will differ materially from those applicable to the congested urban centres.

On the completion of these surveys each local planning authority will prepare and submit a development plan to the Secretary of State—the Bill lays down a period of three years for this task—showing how the development of their district is to be controlled and carried out. These plans will define the land which is needed for public purposes, such as housing, playing fields, road communications and so on, and, where necessary, land will be designated as subject to compulsory purchase for those purposes or for any other purposes for which it may be necessary to bring the land into use; for example, for the erection of churches, shops, industrial premises and so on. These plans will be reviewed at periodic intervals of riot more than five years and so kept constantly up to date. Coupled with these new provisions, the local planning authorities are given more extensive powers of compulsory purchase, and a new feature is that land may be earmarked on the local authorities' plans and designated for compulsory acquisition for the purposes of Government Departments. These plans will thus differ from the existing planning schemes. Their main function will be to assist and guide the local planning authorities, and to provide the necessary background of information for the exercise by those authorities of their planning powers.

In preparing their development plans it is important that local planning authorities should pay full regard to the interests of agriculture. Agriculture is one of our most important Scottish industries, and your Lordships will agree that everything possible should be done to enable it to thrive and flourish. This point was stressed in the discussions on the Bill in another place, and, while Scottish local authorities have always been alive to the need for conserving good agricultural land, a provision has been specially in-chided in the Bill to enable regulations to be made by the Secretary of State specifying the bodies and persons to be consulted by the local authorities in the preparation of their plans. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has also given an assurance that the regulations will specify the agricultural executive committees as one of the bodies to be so consulted. The Bill also provides a new machinery—in effect a system of licensing—for controlling outdoor advertisements, and it is contemplated that this new system will take the place of all existing codes, including the special codes at present operating in the four Scottish cities. In the result there will be, in future, one comprehensive code applying to the country as a whole.

So much for the planning provisions of the Bill. As your Lordships are aware, however, this measure also contains very important and far-reaching provisions dealing with the problem of development in land. There is no need for me to stress to your Lordships how the liability to pay heavy compensation for planning restrictions has seriously impeded planning in the past; nor need I take up your Lordships' time in attempting to explain in detail the effect of the provisions of the Bill dealing with the transfer of these development values to the State. Your Lordships have already discussed these questions at considerable length and there is, of course, no difference between the provisions of this measure and its English counterpart in this respect. As your Lordships are aware, a sum of £300,000,000 is being provided by the English Bill for payments to owners and others in Scotland and in England and Wales who claim that their land has been depreciated in value as a result of tie provisions of these Bills. After the development values in each country have been broadly ascertained, the appropriate share of the £300,000,000 will be allocated to Scotland by an order to be made by the Treasury, and the claims for payment will be submitted to a Central Land Board which will be set up for Great Britain as a whole by the Minister of Town and Country Planning and the Secretary of State for Scotland jointly. The Central Land Board will, in addition to distributing Scotland's share of the £300,000,000, determine and levy the development charges in respect of Scottish development.

There has been considerable discussion, both in this House during the Committee stage of the English Bill and in another place on the Scottish Bill, about the need for ensuring that full account is taken of Scottish conditions, and, in particular, the Scottish system of land tenure, by the Land Board. To begin with, there was a suggestion in another place flat there should be a separate Board for Scotland; but it is now, I think, accepted on all sides that the appointment of two separate Boards would be impracticable. Another proposal which has been made. both in your Lordships' House and in another place, is that there should be a separate Scottish Committee of the Board to discharge the Board's functions. under this present measure. This suggestion would appear to proceed on the basis that the policy to he adopted in Scotland, as regards the valuation of development rights and the fixing of development charges, should be different from that adopted in England and Wales. But it is, I submit, essential that on valuation matters of this kind there must be one policy for the country as a whole and one Board to ensure consistency and uniformity in the administration of that policy.

As my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has pointed out, this does not mean, as has been suggested, that the detailed administration of the Board must necessarily be the same in both countries. On the contrary, it is clear that the distinctive Scottish system of land tenure will necessitate special treatment of Scottish cases. Accordingly, the Bill provides that the Board shall have an office in Scotland and shall maintain there such staff as, is necessary for the proper discharge of Scottish business. The Board will, of course, also be subject to the directions of my right honourable friend the Secretary of State in carrying out their functions under the Bill. Moreover, as my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has already announced, at least two Scottish representatives will be appointed to the Board to ensure that full account is taken of Scottish conditions in the formulation of policy. No definite decision has yet been reached by the Government as to the precise number of members to be appointed to the Board, but, of course, if the full complement of ten members were appointed it may be that there would be more than two Scottish representatives.

One of the main functions of the Board will, of course, be to fix the development charges payable in respect of the development of land and, in so far as Scotland is concerned, these charges will be fixed by the Scottish Office of the Board in consultation with the Chief Valuer for Scotland. Again, the Scottish Office of the Board will decide such questions as the method of securing development charges in any particular case and questions as to the method of disposal of land. These arrangements, while they differ in some degree from the proposal put forward by some of your Lordships for the appointment of a Scottish Committee will, I am sure, achieve substantially, what your Lordships desire—namely, that Scotland has a voice in the formulation of the Board's policy, and that day-to-day Scottish business is handled in Scotland without reference to Whitehall.

I am sure that your Lordships will agree that the provisions of this measure should not prejudice in any way the Scottish feuing system. Accordingly, the provisions of the Bill and of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1945, as incorporated with and applied by the Bill make it clear that land acquired and subsequently disposed of by local planning authorities may, if they so desire, be disposed of by way of feu. Similar provisions apply in relation to the disposal of land by the Central Land Board.

Another important feature of this Bill is that it provides substantial Exchequer grants towards the expenditure incurred by local planning authorities in acquiring and clearing land in areas of comprehensive development—the war-damaged areas of which, fortunately, we have few in Scotland and the slum and congested areas which are such a regrettable feature of many of our Scottish towns and cities. In addition, there will be Exchequer grants towards expenditure incurred by local planning authorities in the payment of compensation in respect of the imposition of planning restrictions or in the acquisition of land which, because of planning restrictions, cannot be made capable of reasonably beneficial use. These financial provisions of the Bill will, I assure your Lordships, be of great assistance to the local planning authorities in the exercise of the important functions conferred on them by this measure.

My Lords, I will not seek to detain you further. I regard this Bill as essential to the future well being of Scotland. It presents a unique opportunity for well-ordered planning on the best modern lines, not only of our towns and cities, but also of the Scottish countryside. I therefore invite your Lordships to give it a Second Reading. I beg to move.

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

2.54 p.m.


My Lords, I would, if I may, at the outset, like to express my regret that Scottish business of such importance should be taken in your Lordships' House on a Monday. It is normally very difficult for noble Lords who live in Scotland to be present on that day of the week, and in the case of a Bill such as this it is very important indeed that those who are particularly familiar with the present-day incidence of land tenure in Scotland should be present. But I know that the business of the House is very congested just now, so I will not make any further remark upon that. One might, however, say that there is something rather refreshing about coming to the House on a Monday, because one has had the chance of being stimulated by reading the remarks made by the Minister of Health on Sunday morning. It does, I think, afford us a great sense of encouragement to note this public recognition of the work which this House is doing!

I agree with a great deal of what the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, has said. I agree that this Bill does provide a unique opportunity. But I must confess that I rather regret being presented with a unique opportunity with both my hands tied firmly behind my back. If it was the policy of His Majesty's Government that this Bill should follow the lines of the Bill drawn for England, should not the Government have made it clear that the stereotyped form of the English Bill was that which it was intended to follow exactly for Scotland? I think that it would have been fairer to have done so. Personally, I took no part in the discussion on the English Bill for that reason—not that my participation would have made any great difference. But there are certain specific points which might have been advanced and which, in fact, were not advanced.

We all agree, not only that this is a most far-reaching measure, but also that it is an extremely complicated one. When one hears, as one did in the course of the Committee stage of the English Bill, the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, frankly admitting that he was baffled by some of the clauses, it is but natural that some of us should approach this Bill with a certain amount of diffidence. That, of course, is a criticism—and, I submit, a proper and justifiable criticism. The fact is that very few people in the country to-day understand exactly what is going to be done under this Bill. The noble Lord said that the form of the Bill was cumbrous and intricate. There is no question that this Bill is cumbrous and it is certainly extremely intricate.

I regret that a Bill of this sort should not have been published a year before it was put before Parliament. If that had been done then the local authorities, the professional organizations, the law societies, and so on, could have gone over it thoroughly, so that when we came to discuss the Bill in Parliament we should have had before us in a fuller measure a really considered opinion about the correct import of the proposals contained in it. I say, with great respect, that though a few people might claim that they could pass an examination e n the actual text of the Bill, I doubt whether anyone would be prepared to say how the Bill is going to work. I do not think anyone could be quite definite as to its ultimate effect. We all hate intentions and hopes, but what is in Fact going to be the effect of this measure will be very difficult to forecast for a long time.

I have for years believed in physical planning, and I have no hesitation in supporting the principles—or shall I say the ideas behind the principles?—embodied in this Bill. There is no question that in regard to many of our big towns and cities to-day drastic powers are required to deal with this exceedingly difficult problem, and personally I have no hesitation in recommending that the right people should have and use drastic powers in the right place. If I may say so, there is probably no area to-day where planning on the broadest possible scale can be more suitably carried out than in Scotland. You have there, particularly, immense congestion in a number of towns on the one hand, and large open space; which are inadequately developed on the other. If I may put it this way, there are tremendous possibilities lying in front of us, and I hope that whoever is Secretary of State will bear that in mind.

There are many opportunities for development in our country. I would refer first to development in the matter of hydro-electric power in the Highlands, which is going to be revolutionary in its effects. Next there is the pending development in our coalfields in the east, although I am not one of those who say that the west is by any means exhausted. There is plenty of coal still in Lanark-shire. But I recognize the movement that must and will take place. The transitional stage will be difficult. It is a great opportunity and I do not suggest for one moment that considerable powers will not be required in making the best of it.

I think it is appropriate to remember that, although we want to re-plan for the future, not everyone who went before us was an absolute fool or an absolute knave. Speaking of the United Kingdom in general, we are among the most congested countries in the world, and although there is no country where there is greater opportunity for emigration, it seems strange that this situation should still exist. It does seem to postulate that the people of this country have found something here which is worth while. A second point is that there are in existence a number of absolutely first-class examples of planning. I will only give three, but there are many more. I instance the New Town of Edinburgh, so-called though a hundred and fifty years old, and the town of Troon, a much more modern example started before any Town and Country Planning Act. Then, to take an example in agriculture, there is the Forest of Darnaway, which shows a systematic planning of forestry which has gone on for two hundred years and is a very bold and magnificent conception.

My general criticism of the Bill is that it is too complex. It will require an enormous body of highly skilled men to run it properly and I do not think these men exist. This is likely to cause delay in operation and I hope the noble Lord will endeavour, so far as possible, to reduce the possibility of these delays to an absolute minimum. I must confess it is rather curious that a progressive Government should desire to put the financial burden entirely on the continuance of existing use. It does in itself seem to postulate that the present state is not nearly so bad as it is said to be. It would be better to put a tax on the men who did not develop their land rather than on those who really had done so.

This Bill has come out of three Reports. If I may say without disrespect to a well-known cricket club, it has come out of Barlow through Scott into Uthwatt. It is a pity that the Government have not made up their minds whether they accept these Reports or not, particularly the recommendation in the Barlow Report that agriculture should be interpreted in its widest sense as including horticulture, afforestation, etc., and the erection of dwellings for agricultural workers might be treated as not coming within the term "development." I express very great regret that that has not been accepted because it is quite impossible to maintain that any real social value attaches to a cottage in an outlying place. In most cases in Scotland—they are provided for the use of those engaged in agriculture and are let at a completely uneconomic rent. They are simply there for the utility purpose of housing men working on the spot. In general the Bill represents a conflict between urban and agricultural interests, and I am extremely glad to hear that the agricultural executive committee will have an opportunity of stating their case to the central planning authority. I would like to see it in the Bill and would ask the noble Lord to consider that point.

I further regret that the Bill has not followed the advice given by the Uthwatt Report in regard to minerals. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, said that minerals had to be included in this Bill because of planning and payment of compensation. It is just these two subjects which the Uthwatt Committee particularly examined and they examined them very thoroughly. They could not be accused of not facing up squarely to the problem; the only complaint perhaps could be that they were over-complex. Their views in regard to minerals are as clear as crystal. Speaking of surface minerals they say: In our view such acquisition is not necessary for the purpose for which we are concerned and we accordingly do not recommend that acquisition. And they gave as reasons for this recommendation that there was no shift or float in mineral values, that the development of surface minerals lessened or destroyed rather than increased the value of development rights; and, above all, that minerals should not be dealt with apart from restoration after their extraction. The absence of provision for restoration is an outstanding feature of the Bill. I think it is completely wrong to deal with minerals in this way without making adequate and proper provision for restoration. And this matter has nothing to do with the global sum if we accept the Lord Chancellor's statement that the minerals are worth about £22,000,000. We should be well advised to deduct the £22,000,000 from the £300,000,000, making a sum of £278,000,000, and let the minerals be dealt with by a proper and self-sufficing Bill at a later date.

It is very unfortunate that the Government have not made up their minds what to do with the Central Land Board. The original recommendation was that it should be a central planning authority. It is clearly not that. It is something between a valuation department of the Treasury and a subsidiary planning organization. The Government have not really decided what its functions are exactly to be. What is far more serious is that its work is very largely compensation and development values. It is iniquitous that neither the basis nor the manner in which payments are to be made are stated in the Bill. On the Committee stage of the English Bill the noble and learned Lord Chancellor, when requested by Lord Rennell, was unwilling to state at that time whether the basis of allocation would be one of expediency or justice. It is a very simple matter to give some basis on which compensation is to be paid. In regard to development charges, I feel that they should be public property just as you have to put any change of rent into a conveyance. There is, however, no provision in the Bill to make them public property, nor the slightest idea of how they are to be assessed.

First of all, we are told that the land-lord will get the highest price from the highest bidder. Then we are told that in fixing development charges all relevant considerations will be borne in mind. Thirdly, we are told that they will be assessed in the public interest. These things are frankly contradictory and simply mean that there is no idea of how they will be fixed. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, considered it was fallacious to compare this with Income Tax. I would like to remind him of the second canon of taxation laid down by Adam Smith, about which I do not think anyone can seriously cavil: The tax each individual is bound to pay is to be certain not arbitrary; and the time of payment, manner of payment and quantity to be paid should all be clear and plain to every contributor and every other person. Every single one of these things is grossly violated. If we do not regard this as revenue, I am bound to say that it is administrative. If it is administrative, I have no hesitation in saying that there should be two Boards, one for England and one for Scotland. What the Bill is making is one Board directed by two Ministers and by the Treasury to operate two separate Acts of Parliament.

I think it is a very clumsy arrangement and already we have considerable confusion as to what the functions are. The Secretary of State for Scotland said one of the functions will be the distribution of Scotland's share of the £300,000,000. The noble and learned Viscount said, on three separate occasions with great emphasis, that the Central Land Board was in no way concerned with the splitting up of the £300,000,000. There are sharp divisions of opinion already as to what the Central Land Board have to do. If we have them before the Bill is passed, how many more contradictory instructions shall we have afterwards? The Secretary of State said he would give instructions jointly with the Minister, and later on the noble and learned Viscount said that administration would be entire y independent. These statements appear be utterly irreconcilable.

The last two years we have seen responsibility in a number of spheres in Scotland passing outside to a considerable distance. We have seen the control of coal and of civil aviation move away from Scotland. Then the Government resisted any delegation in transport, and a large measure of control in electricity came to London from Scotland. That sort of thing is not popular, and I am sure that, in the light of experience, it is unwise. In this case we are seeing the responsibility for the very solum of the soil being moved to the Central Land Board, there to be administered by an absentee synthetic landlord. I do not envy the Secretary of State his responsibility in this matter. I would remind your Lordships that already the National Coal Board have had an interim interdict served on them for certain actions which they have taken in regard to Scottish land tenure. This is a matter in which the Secretary of State has a measure of personal responsibility. He did not raise it in the first place, we have been told by the Minister of Town and Country Planning. The Lord Chancellor, from his objective position advised that a divorce was better. The Secretary of State has said that he has all along resisted the idea of two Boards. We still have the Third Reading of the English Bill to take, and I submit that in the interests of this Bill and in the good administration of the Bill, we have a very strong case.

I would like to have some further explanation as to the responsibility of the local authorities. Though it is said that great responsibilities are fairly and squarely placed on them, so far as I can see, in Part II of the Bill, which deals with planning, every single clause is qualified by confirmation, authority, or approval by the Secretary of State. It does seem to me that more clear-cut responsibility could be placed upon the local authorities. I would add that under Clause 83, by including Government Departments in Crown land, they can take any action they like without consulting the local planning authority. I would like to ask if that is true. It does seem to place the planning authority in a completely impossible position. I would also like, if I may, to ask the noble Lord if he can explain Clauses 78 and 8o, because the position of local authorities with regard to compensation and development charges is, to me, quite incomprehensible. I make no apology for not being able to understand it. And I would like to draw attention to Clause 81, subsection (3), which makes the payment of grants dependent upon such conditions (those are the conditions of payment to local authorities) as may be determined, or in accordance with the regulations. That makes the local authorities no more than factors or agents of the Secretary of State and they have no real responsibility for what they are doing.

I will end on these two points. Through this Bill, and through a number of other Bills which have come before this House, there does seem to be a strong desire to build up what I would call the personal power of a few individuals; the creation of a narrow oligarchy which may sometimes comprise one lot of people and sometimes another. I submit that this narrowing of power is in itself wrong, because it inevitably reduces the responsibility and initiative of other people. I think this reaches its very extreme when the actions of these few individuals are protected from impartial inquiry. His Majesty's Government refuse to implement the principle that no man is a good judge in his own case, which is generally regarded as one of the first rules of natural justice. That has been rejected on more than one occasion recently. I think it is a very important principle, which is very well worth fighting for. This lust for power which is growing up is not likely to produce a form of society of which we shall all be proud. I reject it as a method of government, and I would press that in a democratic State the essence of good organization is the dispersal of control and the diffusion of responsibility. I do not want to say anything more, except this. At the end of the National Health (Scotland) Bill the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, was good enough to agree with me that we had made it a better Bill than the English Bill. I very much hope that a few weeks hence we shall be able to exchange similar remarks on this Bill.

3.15 p.m.


My Lords, I will not detain the House for more than a few minutes. I had not intended to speak when I came here to-clay, but there are one or two points which arise out of what the noble Earl who has just sat down said. I think the point he made last is of the utmost importance, particularly in view of the characteristics of the Scottish people. As the noble Lord on the Government Front Bench knows very well, we have a very strong clannish feeling in Scotland. It seems to me that the Secretary of State, as the noble Earl said, will be in a position where the local authorities are going to be in the nature of his agents. We Scots do not like that sort of thing. We want to have responsibility. We want the Secretary of State to give us ideas as to what we shall do, and let us do it. I am quite certain that, carried out with the efficiency with which we generally carry out any business or legislative undertaking, he will find that is the best way to do it, and will give the best results.

There is another point which I want to mention. As the noble Earl has said, we are going to see big mining developments in the east of Scotland. Anyone who is looking ahead now must realize that the food question in the world is going to be one of the utmost importance, perhaps not only for the next few years, but for a great many years to come. As mining does come into this Bill, I hope that every possible effort will be made to ensure in the development of the new mining industry—particularly in Fife, where it has tremendous potentialities— that the greatest care will be exercised in doing as little damage to agricultural land as possible. As the noble Lord opposite knows, the area under which the coal is to be found is very fine agricultural land. I feel there are places which, with care, can be used with practically no damage to the prospects of the agricultural land. We have to keep in mind the importance of growing more food in this country. We find all over the world that the sources from which we used to get much of our food will not be available for a considerable time, and I would like to stress the point—I am sure the noble Lord opposite appreciates it—that we should do everything we can to avoid interfering with some of the finest agricultural land in the country.

There is one other point which I do not think the noble Earl mentioned. Your Lordships will be aware that some of the hill grazing country is not as rich as it used to be. I think that if we are going to maintain large flocks of sheep in some of the hill grazing country something will have to be done to replace the lambs which for generations have been taken from that land. Undoubtedly, the land does not carry the same stock as it used to carry. I would like to see a very careful inquiry into the reasons for this. I should like to see something done as soon as possible to help restore the fertile pasture which is undoubtedly depreciating in some of the most valuable grazing country in Scotland.

As I have said, we in Scotland are immensely proud of our country. We are very clannish, and in a great many cases we run our affairs quite differently from the way in which they are run in England. Therefore I support as strongly as I can the suggestion of my noble friend. He made an admirable speech. I do not know whether that is the first he has made at the Box. If it is not I apologize to him; but if it is, I feel sure that it will meet with the approval of the whole House that I should compliment him on an admirable speech. I feel that we should have a separate Board for Scotland. Such a Board would meet with great popularity, and I believe that in the end the Government will be glad that they agreed to this, because the effect of it will be greater efficiency, and enthusiasm for any scheme that we shall eventually have to carry out. I beg to support the noble Earl.

3.22 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, in his admirable speech. so well covered the ground that there is little that one need add. I should, however, like to emphasize one point which he raised. It is that we do feel, in entering upon the discussion of this Bill, that we are to a certain extent entering upon the discussion with our hands tied. It is true that we took some part in the English Bill, particularly in the discussion of Clause 2 in which Scotland was definitely interested. But certainly I, and I think others, refrained from discussion on the other clauses of the Bill because we knew that a separate Bill for Scotland was being promoted, and that the appropriate time would come for us to enter into the discussion when that Bill was before the House. Indeed, at one period the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, definitely resisted an Amendment which was brought forward, on the ground that its appropriate place was in the Scottish and not in the English Bill. Although we had doubts on that question then, and still have them now, we deferred to the advice from the Woolsack and did not press that particular Amendment.

There is no doubt that in this very comprehensive and complicated Bill Scotland has a definite anxiety that she is being rather dominated by Clause 2 of the English Bill. In spite of what has been said in this House, and in another place, and of the assurances that we have been given, I do not feel satisfied that Scotland has secured that her conditions will be considered by those who know them and understand them. In the discussion in this House upon Clause 2 in the English Bill the Government claimed that there was no domination of Scotland. The noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, however, in replying to the Second Reading debate, admitted that in view of what had been said there appeared to be an incompatibility between Scotland and England owing to the difference in the systems of land tenure. That prompted him, indeed, to make the suggestion that there should be a divorce. That, presumably, was his considered view of the subject at that stage. But during the Committee stage later on, when there had been further discussions with the Secretary of State, he advised your Lordships, as I have already mentioned, to defer consideration of this matter until the Scottish Bill came before this House; and he assured the House that in the appropriate place there would be ample time to deal with that Amendment.

Now that the Scottish Bill has come before us with the Amendments which have been introduced into it by another place, I confess that I still feel some doubt and anxiety upon this subject. My doubts and anxieties may have been relieved, but they have not been removed. In passing, I would like to say that those anxieties do not include the anxiety that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack does not understand Scottish Law and is not fully qualified to adjudicate upon it. But it is not the noble and learned Viscount who is called upon to adjudicate under this Bill; it is the Central Land Board, set up by the English Bill. That is my difficulty, and I still think it rather a crucial one. Who is to have the responsibility of adjudicating under this Bill? So far as I can see, although the Scottish Bill lays down that in addition to the office which the Board were bound to provide under the Bill as originally drafted they now have to provide sufficient staff, that is our only guarantee that people who understand the law and practice in Scotland will be called upon to adjudicate upon these subjects. The Board are to have an office in Scotland and they will have to comply with such directions as may be given to them by the Secretary of State. They have also to provide the necessary staff to provide for the proper performance of their functions. Beyond that we cannot get; we are left in this indefinite position of wondering who will give the final decisions in Scotland and where those decisions are to be given.

This point has already been referred to by the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, but may I summarize it in this way? Who is to be responsible for these decisions? The noble Lord, who introduced the Bill, said, first of all, that the Central Land Board will determine Scottish issues. If the Central Land Board are to determine, who is to advise them? And when and where? If it is not the Central Land Board but the two members who (according to the Secretary of State) are to be Scotsmen, where are they to meet, and how are they to be advised? Where are they to deliberate? Are their decisions to be executive or are they to be merely recommendations to the Central Land Board; or is the authority and responsibility to be in the hands of the permanent paid officials of the Board? The whole thing is indefinite. We do not know where we are, and until some assurance can be given on those lines, I do feel that those of us who are anxious about Scotland and concerned with her interest should press for further consideration of this subject.

I must return for a moment to the advice given to us by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor. He suggested that a case had been made for divorce, but personally I should not like to press that there is a case for divorce. I should prefer to maintain a family alliance, based on mutual respect and understanding. But if that alliance is to continue happy it must be based on understanding; and there must be some definite assurance that those who are called upon to take these decisions are conversant with Scottish procedure and its terms, and understand its language. I cannot see that this assurance is given in either of these Bills as they stand. Perhaps either the Lord Chancellor or the noble Lord who has introduced the Bill will be able to give this assurance when answering the debate to-day.

To sum up, we have this most extraordinary position. According to the two Bills as I understand them, a Land Board appointed for the whole country are to be given instructions as regards England and Wales by the Minister of Town and Country Planning, and instructions as regards Scotland by the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Secretary of State, I believe, maintains that he and he alone can give these instructions. Will they or will they not follow the same lines as the instructions given by the Minister of Town and Country Planning to the Board in England? Then where is this Scottish business to be transacted? Is it to be done in Edinburgh, by those Scottish members who will understand the instructions given to them by the Secretary of State for Scotland and who will also understand the procedure of Scottish land tenancy and the problems that come before them? Or is it to be only a matter of reporting to the Board in London, after which they will have to make a report and somehow persuade their colleagues on the Board to understand it?

If it is to be the latter, I think it is placing far too heavy a burden on these two members. You may have them travelling backwards and forwards, night and day, over this business in order to attend these meetings. When they get to the end of their journey, they will have to try to explain to eight people who do not know what a feu is, what the point is that confronts them. I feel that the whole situation almost borders on chaos; and we must have a strong assurance as to how it is to be run before we can accept that this is a procedure which will conduce to good practice both in Scotland and in England.

3.35 p.m.


My Lords, I want to support what the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said with regard to local authorities' responsibilities not being taken from them. After twenty years of knowledge of local government I know well of the resentment these authorities will feel if these town planning powers which they cherish are taken away from them. After all, it is they, and not the people in London who may send up their orders to the Secretary of State as to what they want done, who should he responsible for planning in their own areas. This is a very complicated Bill, and I do not pretend to understand half of it. But there is one thing that stands out crystal clear; that is, that we all want a Scottish Board to take executive decisions.

We want that for one simple reason: that the operations of such a Board in London are bound to cause delay in the development and sales of property in Scotland. A Committee of paid officials in Edinburgh would be of no use, because they cannot make the executive decisions. We want a Board; and I warn noble Lords opposite that we are sick and tired of these sops which are being thrown at us all the time. Some Members in another place have shown up to date that they are more loyal to their Party theories than to Scotland; but there may be a difference very shortly. They will find out that from their own political point of view it is not a good thing. They are making the mistake of their lives, and the time may come when the worm will turn. I have no hesitation in saying that all the points which have been made by my noble friends to-day represent Scottish opinion. There is, for instance, the matter of the road bridge across the Forth. I understand that a measure for this purpose has been passed. by both Houses of Parliament and I am quite certain that the people in Scotland are anxious that it should be proceeded with as soon as possible.

3.37 p.m.


My Lords, a few days ago another Bill was under discussion in another place—a Bill different from this but similar in its extreme complexity—and a member of that other place described it (I may not be quoting him exactly) as a veritable Paradise for lawyers and accountants. By comparison with that Bill I would suggest that this is a super-Paradise, if not for the accountants certainly for the lawyers and the other professional men who are to be concerned with the working of it. But why it should be described as a Paradise at all I am at a loss to know, because as one who is studying for a professional qualification at the moment, and who has had to memorize and undergo an examination in various Statutes, I can assure your Lordships that the one thing which professional men seek in a Statute is clarity and good English. I can also assure noble Lords, having had to familiarize myself with Statutes of ten, twenty, and fifty years ago, that they are very much simpler to understand than such measures as we have before us to-day.

I cannot believe that the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, or even, with great respect, the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, would care to submit to an examination on this particular Bill. There is even in the Bill one word which, in the course of the debate on the English Bill, one noble and learned Viscount declared that he had never heard in the English language before. if we are to have Bills of this complexity and incomprehensibility there can be only one consequence: delay and uncertainty, and a great deal of unnecessary work for the civil servants who will have to administer the Bills and for the professional men who will have to interpret them. Meanwhile, ordinary folk—your Lordships included—will be kept waiting in uncertainty as to whether they may begin this or that development with or without permission, and whether they will be subjected to a tax or be presented with a bonus.

One of the most serious aspects of the Bill as it affects Scotland is the liability of agricultural land to designation by the local planning authority. Although the population of Scotland is less than one-tenth of the population of the United Kingdom, it contains, I believe, more than one-third of the total area of the United Kingdom. That being so, agricultural land plays a part of relatively higher importance than it does in England. A great deal of our best agricultural land lies round our big towns and cities, and it is this land which is most liable to designation, since it may be required for the development of the town. As the Bill stands, a farmer in one of these areas may well have his land designated and remain in uncertainty as to its future for anything up to a total of eight years. During that period he obviously cannot get rid of that land except at a much reduced value, because nobody will take it on at the proper value if he knows that it is liable to be purchased compulsorily; nor is the farmer likely to sink further capital in his business and try to improve that farm.

At the end of those eight years, admittedly, if the land has not been freed from designation the farmer may call on the local authority to purchase that land compulsorily. But, even if the land is freed from designation, what guarantee is there in this Bill that the land may not be designated again? I do want the noble Lord to give us an answer on that point, and to let us know whether such land may be designated again; or whether, once it is free from designation, one might say that it is reprieved. It is like sentencing a man to death and then reprieving him, saying: "You are quite likely to be sentenced to death again for the same crime."

There is one small point I wish to make and it is concerned with minerals, a subject which my noble friend the Earl of Selkirk has already brought up. I think we shall be happier with a more exact definition of "minerals." Suppose, for example, that a man has sand on his land, that he digs for sand to use for his own purposes and that he makes a regular habit of doing so. Will that be counted as a form of development liable to attract a charge? Or, if a man who has a gravel bank on his river wants gravel to mend his roads and he digs gravel, will that constitute a mineral working? Again take the case of a crofter in the North of Scotland whose staple fuel is peat. Peat could be included under the present definition of "minerals;" if the man dug his peat, he might be considered as developing and might be liable for a development charge. Although it may be a little farfetched, I think this point should be clarified in the Bill.

Finally, do not let us forget what the past has to teach us about planning. I know there have been and still are some blots on which we do not look with any pride; I know of the slums of Glasgow and of the industrial squalor which you will find at the very gates of the Palace of Holyrood in Edinburgh. But let us think of the bright side. The noble Lord has already mentioned one example—the new town of Edinburgh. The new town of Edinburgh was built some 100 to 150 years ago, in the main by private enterprise, and it still stands as a remarkable tribute to a system of planning and control with private enterprise doing the work within that framework. Planning and control you must have, I quite agree; they are essential. But do your Lordships believe that Robert Adam and the like, who designed and built the new town of Edinburgh, would have had the same incentive to do so if they knew that they were to be fettered with development charges and the like? I do not think that that is very likely. In connexion with that, I would give one warning to the Government. After much of this development had been done by private enterprise, the Town Council of Edinburgh decided that they would go into the further development of the town because it appeared to be a good thing—with the result that in the year 1833, as a consequence of their operations, they found themselves insolvent. There is a warning for the Government, and I hope that they will bear in mind that private enterprise can produce good development.

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, I will not detain the House for more than a very few minutes. First of all, I should like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, on the admirable speech which he delivered and upon having done so from the Front Bench, which I hope he will adorn for a long time. This is a very complicated and comprehensive Bill, as has been stated in this debate, and it is quite impossible to deal with one-twentieth or one-hundredth of the points which are raised by it, but there is one particular question which has been referred to this afternoon about which I should like to say one or two words. That concerns the mineral part of this Bill. I do not know how the Government propose to deal with the designation of minerals under the Bill. In the English Bill, they gave us no indication as to how they were going to do it. It was pointed out to them in relation to that Bill, as has been pointed out to them in relation to this Bill this afternoon, that there are many instances of minerals tucked away in woods or in grounds that are used by the proprietor or are used by the farmer and have been for generations. What I should like to know is this: Will those he designated in the future—gravel pits, as the noble Lord has said, sand pits, small slate quarries and so on, scattered as they are all over the country? Because whilst in certain cases you may find areas of coal, wherever they are, with outcrops, there are all these little isolated instances which, it seems to me, unless we know what is going to happen to them, might cause very great trouble indeed.

There is the question which has been dealt with very fully this afternoon, with regard to administration in Scotland. On the English Bill we were categorically informed by the Lord Chancellor, when my noble friend the Earl of Selkirk raised the question about a Scottish Board, that the time to do it was upon this Bill, the Scottish Bill, and not upon the English Bill. I should like to remind the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, that, under Clause 2 of the English Bill, it is the Ministers who are responsible for the policy of the Central Land Board so far as the payments are concerned—that is, the £300,000,000 fund—and yet, on questioning the Lord Chancellor very closely on that point one afternoon, the Lord Chancellor switched off and said it was the Treasury who were responsible for that and not the Central Land Board. Clause of the Bill refers only to "the Minister," and the Minister is responsible for the whole policy of the Central Land Board. When it was suggested there that "Minister" ought to be "Ministers" we were informed that we should not bring that point out on the English Bill but that it should be dealt with in the Scottish Bill. What has happened this afternoon? In this Bill we find it has not been dealt with, but the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, in his remarks tried to indicate to us that, in spite of its not having been dealt with, and in spite of the fact that we shall only have an Office in St. Andrew's House. and in spite of the fact that there will be two representatives of Scotland on t he Central Board in London, at the same time we were going to obtain that Scottish administration in Scotland, in Edinburgh, for which we were seeking. My noble friend Lord Elgin went very fully into that case, and I thought he rut it extraordinarily well. He asked some very pointed questions about it, and I cannot understand how it is possible for the administration of Scotland, in All these very important points, to be dealt with through a Board in London with two Scottish representatives on it.

I suggest to the noble Lord that he should explain further in his reply how it can possibly be done, because it is no good two Scottish members going to Whitehall, where perhaps there are six or eight English members, and for the n to think that they will necessarily impress their Scottish point of view upon that Board, because they will be speaking to the uninitiated, they will be speaking to people who do not know our customs or conditions at all and, consequently, the chances are that when they go there they will get very little result. I support very strongly what my other noble friends have said this afternoon, that we should press for an Executive Board in Scotland, working as closely as you like with the English Central Board, and hand in hand if you like on policy, yet having a Board in our country with executive functions, looking after our own affairs according to our own customs and conditions. I again wish to emphasize the fact that the Lord Chancellor in his speech on the English Bill, when he was pressed by my noble friend and by myself on this point, advised us to wait until the Scottish Bill cam along, and all we have got to-day is practically a reiteration of what we heard the other day. I ask the Government and the noble Lord to see what can be done to remedy that in the direction of better government for Scotland.


When the noble Lord makes his reply would he answer this question: Will peat require a development charge and will the owners of peat be subject to contribution?

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, I think those who are not of Scottish nationality will have been agreeably surprised at the admirable and quiet way in which we have conducted our deliberations this afternoon, and it is indeed a compliment that so many who do not hail from Scotland should have seen fit to listen during the whole of the period of the debate. In that respect we set an example to another place, where Scottish business is generally the signal for everyone born outside Scotland to remove themselves as quickly as possible. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, who opened the debate with such an excellent speech, regretted that Monday had been selected for this Scottish day, and I can only say in reply that I have my responsibilities, but one of them is not the responsibility for arranging the business of this House. I will certainly bring such influence as I have to bear upon those who are responsible, but the noble Earl will, I am sure, appreciate that the House is in rather a difficulty at this particular time. It is not usually done, and I hope that it will not be the practice to have business of this sort on Mondays, but for next Monday notices have already been given in respect of this Bill.

The noble Earl said—and this also was the key of most of the other speakers—that he had no hesitation in supporting the idea behind the principle giving general support to the proposal that there should be a measure of planning for Scotland. The noble Earl and other speakers referred to the new coalfields that were to be opened up and to hydroelectric schemes. Unfortunately, I have not had an opportunity of seeing the places where the new coalfields are to be opened up, but I recently had an opportunity of going over some of the ground where the hydro-electric schemes are operating, and I came away with a strong feeling that it was one of the greatest things in our post-war development that I had seen, either in Scotland or anywhere else for that matter, up to now. Really the people of this country, and a good many of the people of Scotland, must be almost unaware of the tremendous importance of the work that is being carried out. I was able to see the work at Loch Sloy and the Tummel at Pitlochry. I was very much impressed with the breadth and size of the schemes, and with the considerable progress which was being made.

Many of the points that have been mentioned this afternoon have already been discussed on the English Bill, and, unfortunately, we are not able to prevent that, but it makes it unnecessary for me to go into great detail. The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said at one point that he could not see where all the technical people were to come from to carry out all these plans. I cannot either, unless a good many of them now in England decide to return to their native land, in which case I should think there will be an abundance of them. If there is not, there are many other parts of the world where, at the head of many of these vast schemes, are usually to be found Scotsmen, and it may be that they will come to the conclusion that it might be a good idea, having spent most of their lives in developing other countries, to have a look-in and do something to help to develop their own. At any rate, one can say, I think, in reply to the noble Earl, that these vast planning schemes will provide an outlet for younger Scottish technicians, of whom a considerable number are being produced.

Then the noble Earl said that the Bill was certainly a very complicated one, and Lord Polwarth, in a speech towards the end, also harped on the complexity of the Bill. I am wondering to what extent the Scottish Lords—and I include myself—are over-stating the complexities of Scottish law and Scottish legislation. Is it to try to frighten away our English friends from taking any interest in our own affairs, so that we may have a stronger case for being entirely on our own? In all these matters we always start off by saying: "This Bill is really so complicated that it is quite impossible for anybody to try to understand it"—


May I interrupt the noble Lord? I was not comparing it with the English Bill in its complexity. I was drawing attention to the complexity of both the English Bill and this Bill.


I was not in that case replying to the noble Lord, but to others who have emphasized—and the name of the Lord Chancellor was mentioned as one—how complex this Bill was. It is certainly complicated, and the noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, made the point that it ought to have been printed a year ago, so that an opportunity could have been given for much fuller examination than had been possible before it came before your Lordships' House. I can only say that it has been published for several months, has been discussed in detail with those who have to administer it—namely, the local planning authorities—and debated in another place without the use of the guillotine. I suppose that that is the best that can be clone in these strenuous times.

With regard to administrative difficulties, some noble Lords have dealt at great length with the question—and really it is the main question that has arisen out of the discussion to-day—whether there shall he one Board or two Boards. One noble Lord said that administrative difficulties would occur if there were only one Board. It seems to me that the administrative difficulties with one Board would be nothing compared with what there would be if there were two Boards. The noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, referred to what happened during the discussion, in this House, of another Bill. The effect of that has been, as noble Lords know, not that there are now two Boards, one for Scotland and one for England, but that there have been certain alterations, which I mentioned, inasmuch as it has now been laid down that there will be two Scottish members of the Board, and in the event of the Board reaching its full complement of ten members. there will be at least one other Scottish member. There will be an office in Edinburgh, and, so far as possible, Scottish business will be transacted in Scotland. I am afraid that I can add nothing more on this particular matter. It is the opinion of the Government that this system will work better with one Board than if there were two.


My Lords, the nobly. Lord said that these matters had been laid down. Could he say where they had been laid down? He said it had been laid down, first, that there should be two members for Scotland— which is a matter to which I do not attach much importance—and, secondly, he said it had been laid down that business would be transacted, so far as possible, in Scotland. To that I do attach importance.


I did say that Scottish business will De transacted in Scotland, so far as possible. I think that if the noble Earl takes the opportunity of reading the Report of proceedings in another place, on the Third Reading there of this Bill, he will find that it was quite clearly laid down by the Secretary of State.


That is merely a statement. It is not laid down in the Bill, anyway.


No. There is still time for it to be laid down in the Bill, but I am not making any promise in that respect.

Before I forget, may I say that the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, raised the question of what was to happen with regard to minerals in certain outlying districts. The answer to that is so far as peat is concerned—I take it that peat is classed as a mineral——


According to the Bill it is.


If dug on a commercial scale it would presumably be liable to development charge. So far as the digging of peat on the owner's land for the owner's own domestic purposes is concerned, that is a matter which will be given careful consideration in the framing of regulations under Clause 65 (2) (b), dealing with exemptions from development charge.

The noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, asked me about designation of the land subject to compulsory purchase, and wanted to know whether the land could be re-designated. The answer is that if land is designated and de-designated it could be designated again. But in that event the owner could require the local authority to buy the land at the end of twelve years—eight years in the case of agricultural land—from the date of the first designation.


Will the noble Lord say whether, if it has been freed from designation before the lapse of the eight years, the owner would still have to wait till the end of the eight years before demanding compulsory purchase?


May I be allowed to put the question in another way? If land has been de-designated, six months after the twelve years or eight years has expired, can it then immediately be re-designated by the local authority?


My Lords, I would rather not try to answer those questions and for two reasons. One is—I will be perfectly candid with the House—that I could not give an answer upon this without consultation, and I do not want to make a mistake. The other reason is that a number of these points will, no doubt, be dealt with in the Committee stage, and there will then be an opportunity of giving a considered reply. The noble Lord, Lord Teviot, said that Scotland wanted more responsibility. I think I agree with that; I think that he is perfectly correct. Moreover, I think that applies not only to Scotland. I believe there is that kind of feeling to be found in most countries in the whole of the United Kingdom. I think there is a feeling that people are to be given more responsibility. But I see that the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, is looking at me. I know that he is interested in this particular subject, and he is likely to raise it in this House before many days are past. I can only say that I think it is a subject that calls for very close attention, and that it is a subject to which this Government will have to direct very close attention before they are very much older. I hope that noble Lords will forgive me if I do not say anything further with regard to my own personal views on that matter.

The noble Earl, Lord Selkirk, said that the Scottish Health Bill was improved in its passage through this House, that it was a better Bill than the English Bill when it left us. I would like to tell the noble Earl and other noble Lords that I shall have a number of Amendments to propose to this Bill, as no doubt the noble Earl himself will, and I hope that our joint efforts, with aid from other noble Lords representing Scotland, will result in our repeating our previous success so that when this Bill leaves us it will be a better Bill than it was when it came to us.


Before the noble Lord concludes, may I ask him if he can give me any answer to the questions which I put, and particularly to my question with regard to who is to have responsibility? I put the question as clearly as I could. I asked is it to be the Board or is it to be the Scottish members of the Board, or is it to be the officials of the Board. I also asked where is the decision to be taken.


I think that the answer has already been given fairly clearly. It has been stated that two Scottish members will be appointed. These members will be Scotsmen living in Scotland. They will be charged with transacting business concerned with Scotland. It was considered that it would be too difficult to have two separate Boards, because planning, if it is going to be a success at all, has got to be considered both in Scotland and England as one problem. These two Scottish members—and, as I have already said, if the total complement of the Board is raised to ten there will probably be at least three Scottish members—will have put to them all the Scottish problems that arise with regard to the matters with which the Land Commission are charged. While no one can give a guarantee that these two or three members will invariably get their own way, I think the noble Earl would agree that on a body of that sort, on a board or a commission of that sort, the other members will recognize that when the Scottish members speak they are talking about something which they understand thoroughly, something which is their particular business. In those circumstances full weight is more likely to be given to the opinions of those members in reaching a decision, and I have no reason to think that Scotland will get the worst of the deal.


The noble Lord said that there must be one public planning authority. He is not suggesting that the Central Land Board are to be responsible for planning?




Planning is not treated as one problem in the Bill; it is treated as two problems by two Ministers.


Yes, but the Land Commission are not set up by one Minister; they are set up by two.


The Central Land Board are not to be a planning board, so far as I understand. Does the noble Lord contend that they are?


No; they will have to deal with problems referred to them, and some of these problems will he peculiarly Scottish. The question the House has been discussing is whether Scottish representation on the Land Com- mission can more adequately serve the purposes of the Land Commission than a separate Scottish body. I take it from the remarks of the noble Earl that he proposes to pursue this matter during the Committee stage, in which case we have a further opportunity of going into it.

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

House adjourned at twelve minutes after four o'clock.