§ 2.40 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT JOWITT)
My Lords, in rising to move this Bill be read a third time, I have it in command from His Majesty to signify to the House that His Majesty, having been informed of the purpose of the Town and Country Planning Bill, has been pleased to place at the disposal of Parliament the interests of the Crown in so far as they are affected by the said Bill. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 3a—(The Lord Chancellor.)319
§ On Question, Bill read 3a, with the Amendments.
§ Clause 2 [The Central Land Board]:
LORD HENDERSON moved to insert after subsection (5):
(6) The validity of any proceeding of the Board shall not be affected by any vacancy amongst the members thereof, or by any defect in the appointment of a member thereof.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is a common form provision to ensure that the proceedings of the Central Land Board are not invalid because of a vacancy in the membership, or because of some technical flaw in the formal appointment. Broadly speaking, all Acts setting up bodies of this sort either contain a provision on the lines of this Amendment, or enable regulations to be made about the proceedings. The Bill as brought from another place contained a power for the Minister to make regulations on the point, but the Bill as now amended leaves the Board to regulate its own procedure. Hence the need for this Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 2, line 34, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Henderson.)
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
My Lords, we have no objection whatever to this Amendment. I think it is partly consequential on my Amendment which was accepted during the Committee stage, whereby we left much more power to the Board itself to regulate its own proceedings—to appoint its own secretary, and so forth. This provision, whether or not it was necessary before, certainly becomes necessary now.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 3 [General provisions as to functions of Central Land Board]:
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, Clause 3 (2) enables the Minister to instruct the Central Land Board to withhold publication in their annual report of any directions he has given them if, in his opinion, it would be against the national interest to make them public. This Amendment replaces the words, "national interest"—which are somewhat vague and capable of different interpretations—by the more precise and possibly more limited words "interests of national security." A similar Amendment has been accepted in the Electricity Bill, I beg to move.
Page 3, line 5, leave out ("national interest") and insert ("interests of national security").—(Lord Henderson.)
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
My Lords, these words are obviously preferable from our point of view and, I should think, from the point of view of the whole House. We want these reports that are made every year to be public, so that everything may be, as it were, above board, which is very necessary in the functioning of a Board which will have such wide powers as this one will have under this measure. I prefer the words "in the interests of national security" to the words "in the national interest." They are much more precise. None of us want any disclosures made that would in any way affect national security, and I congratulate the Government on having found a very apt set of words.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause i4:
§ Applications to local planning authorities for permission.
§ (4) Without prejudice to any provisions included in the development order by virtue of the last foregoing subsection for restricting the grant of permission by local planning authorities, an application to the local planning authority for permission to develop land by the erection thereon of an industrial building of any class prescribed by regulations made for the purposes of this subsection by the Board of Trade shall be of no effect unless it is certified by the Board that the development in question can be carried out consistently with the proper distribution of industry, and a copy of the certificate is furnished to the local planning authority together with the application:
(a) no such certificate as aforesaid shall be required in respect of the erection of any industrial building if the building does not cover an area of more than five thousand square feet; and
§ LORD HENDERSON moved, in proviso (a) of subsection (4), to leave out "if the building does not cover an area of more than" and insert "which will have an aggregate floor space not exceeding." The noble Lord said: My Lords, it will be recalled that an Amendment was moved on the Report stage exempting a proposed industrial building of less than 5,000 square feet from the need to get a certificate from the Board of Trade that the proposed development was consistent 321 with the proper distribution of industry. I regret to say that, by mistake, the Amendment was drafted in terms of 5,000 square feet ground cover, instead of in terms of 5,000 square feet floor space. Floor space is the test for Section 9 (1) of the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, and it was intended that this Amendment should follow the same lines. It was the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, who drew attention to the defect by pointing out that if a person is building a factory three storeys high it means an exemption for 15,000 square feet. The noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, thanked the Lord Chancellor for being unexpectedly generous. I think I should say that the noble and learned Viscount was accidentally overgenerous. It is my duty to request the noble Lord to accept this Amendment, which brings the concession strictly into line with what it was intended to he. I beg to move.
Page. 28, line 13, leave out from ("building") to ("five") in line 24, and insert ("which will have an aggregate floor space not exceeding").—(Lord Henderson.)
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
My Lords, on this measure we have had such generous treatment both from the noble and learned Viscount and from the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, that I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, should have to rise and be less generous than the Lord Chancellor was on a previous stage of this Bill. As a matter of fact, the assurance we were given when we discussed this matter on the Committee stage was exactly in line with the Amendment the Government are now proposing One learns by one's mistakes. I gather that if I had not made the speech which I did make on the Report stage we might have secured 15,000 square feet instead of 5,000 square feet, because, as I understand it, the mistake had not been spotted in any of the Government Departments concerned. I must curb my words a little in future. But let me say at once that there is no going back on any promise on this Amendment. The promise made to us by the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, on the Committee stage is now carried out by the Government Amendment. I thanked him last time, not only for implementing a promise, but also for implementing that promise rather more fully than was 322 expected. I still thank him for the original concession.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 41 [Power to acquire buildings of special architectural or historic interest]:
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, the next three Amendments are purely drafting Amendments, consequential on a manuscript Amendment accepted on the Report stage. I beg to move.
§ Amendments moved—
§ Page 50, line 16, leave out ("maintaining") and insert ("preserving")
§ Page 50, line 26, leave out ("maintaining") and insert ("preserving")
§ Page 55, line 6, leave out ("maintaining") and insert ("preserving").—(Lord Henderson.)
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
My Lords, fiat is, of course, what these Amendments do. We found a form of words that suited us all by inserting the word "preserving" instead of the word "maintaining." There were several other Amendments on the Order Paper, and these present Amendments are consequential so that the word "preserving" shall appear in other parts of the same clause in the same way.
§ On Question. Amendments agreed to.
§ Clause 43 [Acquisition of Land by Central Land Board]:
LORD HENDERSON moved to add to the clause:
(6) Provision may be made by regulations under this Act for requiring the Central Land Board to keep a register containing such particulars as may be prescribed by the regulations of land acquired and disposed of under this section, and for the inspection of any such register by the public on payment of such reasonable fee, if any, as may be so prescribed.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, on the Report stage the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor resisted an Amendment by the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, requiring the Central Land Board to give to anybody who asked, information about the person to whom land had been disposed of, and the price paid. The noble and learned Viscount promised instead that "the Minister would endeavour to see that a register is kept and open to public inspection." The noble Earl, Lord Radnor, agreed that this was a much better suggestion than its own, and asked that it should be put into the Bill so that it should receive "greater
publicity than would result from a mere assurance." This Amendment gives effect to the noble Earl's request. I beg to move.
Page 53, line 11, at end, insert the said subsection.—(Lord Henderson.)
THE EARL OF RADNOR
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor for putting down this Amendment which fulfils the purpose I had in mind.
As I said on the Report stage, it is better than I anticipated. I had an idea that it was intended to put it into the regulations, but putting it into the Bill in this way is really very much better and I am very grateful.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
My Lords, as an old conveyancer I should like to add that I think this Amendment is exceedingly valuable and will save a lot of trouble in connexion with transfers of land which are subject to the charge.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 2.51 p.m.
§ Clause 73:
§ Variation of determinations and repayment of development charges in certain cases.
§ 73.—(1) The Central Land Board may at any time, on application made to them in that behalf in accordance with regulations under this Act by the person entitled to an interest in land to which a determination under this Part of this Act relates, vary their determination in such manner as appears to them to be appropriate having regard to any change of circumstances since the determination was made, and may amend, discharge or release any covenants or charges made or given in respect of the determination, or repay any sums previously paid thereunder, so far as may be required in order to give effect to the variation:
§ Provided that, except in a case where application is made to them to confirm a previous determination on the transfer or creation of any interest in land, the Board shall not have power to vary any determination under this Part of this Act so as to increase the amount of the development charge payable thereunder.
§ LORD HENDERSON moved, in subsection (1), after "determination was made," to insert "including the development, after the determination, of adjacent land in accordance with planning permission granted otherwise than in accordance with the provisions of the development plan." The noble Lord said: My Lords, 324 this Amendment follows an undertaking which I gave on the Report stage, when Clause 14 was being considered, that a Government Amendment would be put down to meet the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Savile. The noble Lord's object was to ensure that compensation would be payable to developers whose development charge had been determined on the assumption that development would he allowed only in accordance with the development plan when subsequently, as a result of departure from the plan, they suffered any worsement. The present Amendment makes it clear that, in the circumstances the noble Lord envisaged, the Central Land Board will have power to vary their determination of a development charge and make a repayment where appropriate. I beg to move.
Page 86, line 25, after ("made") insert the said words.—(Lord Henderson.)
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
My Lords, this does meet another point which we pressed quite strongly. If your Lordships remember, the original answer was that this had never been done in the past. I then pointed out to the Government that they had never had a development charge in the past. The case that I had in mind was where somebody had paid a development charge to develop a certain stretch of land under one set of plans, and then the plans were changed and something quite obnoxious was put up which completely altered the value. I said that that case ought to be met. The Government have met it in this Amendment and I thank them for doing so.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 85:
§ Land held for charitable purposes.
§ 85.—(1) This section applies to land an interest in which is held for ecclesiastical or other charitable purposes of any description if the land, as distinct from the rents and profits thereof, is used in any manner (including use in a manner involving the beneficial occupation of the land by any person) for or in connection with the purposes for which the said interest is held, and not otherwise, or if the land would be so used but for the occurrence of war damage or but for the fact that the land is for the time being requisitioned land.
LORD LLEWELLIN moved, in subsection (1), after "held," where that word first occurs, to insert "on charitable trusts or." The noble Lord said: My
Lords, this Amendment arises on the new clause for the introduction of which we are obliged to the Lord Chancellor. When this Bill originally came before this House the opening words of the clause read as they will read if my Amendment is adopted. They read then as follows:
This section applies to land an interest in which is held on charitable trusts or for ecclesiastical or other charitable purposes.
§ Then there was a second draft on the Older Paper in the form of the new clause,. and the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack altered the opening words to meet a point which had been raised by my noble friend Lord Simon. Therefore, in the course of the discussion upon this clause we had three different sets of words. Now since our new clause has appeared and has been read by various trustees—certainly those who look after the interests of the hospitals and some other trusts—they are extremely doubtful whether the words which are at present in this clause will cover anything which is not ejusdem generis with ecclesiastical purposes.
§ The whole discussion centred very largely on the universities, when we had the longish discussions on this new clause and the clause proposed by the noble and learned Viscount, Lord Samuel, on the Report stage. All I am aiming to do—and if my words are unnecessary I do not want to do it—is to make it absolutely certain beyond peradventure that these words cover institutions such as universities, schools and other charitable trusts which we all mean to be covered by Clause 85, although there may be differences between us as to whether the coverage should go so far as Clause 86 goes. At any rate, we are all quite determined that it should be covered under Clause 85. If they are covered by the present words, and everybody will say that that is beyond a shadow of doubt, then leave the words as they are. But my words are, after all, only going back to the earlier words which were in the Government draft, which for some reasons unknown to me were omitted front the new clause and which, by their very omission, now raise a doubt as to whether the terms are as wide as the objects we all want to cover.
§ I am always very doubtful myself about this ejusdem generis rule. I never know whether, if you only mention one thing before it, everything else is to be ejusdem generis with that one thing or 326 not. But we have a wealth of legal talent in this House to which I shall bow on anything like that. All I say is, let us have words in the Bill by which there can be no possibility of any litigation or anything of that sort, just because we have not made quite clear what it is we want to cover. I know we all want to cover such things as universities or hospitals, but there is some doubt at the present moment whether they are covered by the present words. I beg to move.
Page 104, line 14, after ("held") insert ("on charitable trusts or").—(Lord Llewellin.)
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
My Lords, may I mention that I have three Amendments on the Paper designed to achieve the object at which my noble friend Lord Llewellin aims by the present Amendment, and I have naturally given great attention not only to my Amendments, but to his. First of all I would say that I do not think there is anything in this suggested trouble about the ejusdem generis rule, which would not apply in this case at all. On the other hand, I have had the same experience as my noble friend. People have come to me and expressed the greatest anxiety about the effect of the words which have found their way into the clause as it now stands. I am strongly in favour of making the thing quite clear so that people in the country, people in charge of schools, and people connected with universities should feel no anxiety on the subject at all. Therefore, I wish to say that I am quite content with the Amendment proposed by my noble friend which we are now considering and which goes back to the form of the original Government draft. I am satisfied that in that form there will be no trouble such as seems to have been anticipated. Accordingly, if this Amendment is accepted I shall not move the three Amendments which stand in my name.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, perhaps I can short-circuit the discussion. There is no disagreement amongst us at all upon this point. The Amendment which was accepted on Committee or Report, and which is now in the Bill, was intended to cover exactly the same hind of ground which the Amendment replaced. I am not a lawyer, but if am advised that the ejusdem generis rule would not in fact 327 limit the construction of the words as they now stand in the Bill. However, to remove any doubts, I have pleasure in restoring the original words and in accepting the Amendment.
§ VISCOUNT SIMON
My Lords, I have no doubt that the advice which Lord Henderson has received is perfectly correct. I speak subject to correction from the Lord Chancellor, but I should expect him to agree that there is in fact nothing in the anxiety which has been expressed. But in an Act of Parliament we ought to relieve people from anxieties even if the anxieties are not well founded. I have no doubt that what was proposed was not cutting down the width of the clause. But it is true to say that some people are anxious about it and it is very sensible, if I may say so, that the Government have recognized that and put back the words which after all were the words in the Bill at the time of the Second Reading.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
May I just say "Thank you" to the noble Lord? All I wanted to do was to make it quite sure that nobody had any doubts.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
I completely agree with the observations of the noble Viscounts, Lord Maugham and Lord Simon.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 105, line 11, after ("day") insert ("on charitable trusts or").—(Lord Llewellin.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
Page 105, line 26, after ("held") insert ("on charitable trusts or").—(Lord Llewellin.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 86 [Investment land held for charitable purposes]:328
Page 105, line 35, after ("held") insert ("on charitable trusts or—(Lord Llewellin.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 3.5 p.m.
Clause 120 [Interpretation]:
minerals" includes all minerals and substances in or under land of a kind ordinarily worked for removal by underground or by surface working;
LORD LLEWELLIN moved to add to the definition of "minerals," the words "provided that it shall not include peat cut for purposes other than sale." The noble Lord said: We have a Scottish Town and Country Planning Bill, and some of us are therefore in some little difficulty. As the timetable is at present arranged, this Bill will complete all its stages in your Lordships' House before the Scottish Bill is taken in Committee here. Therefore, if we do not want to see Scotland "get away with" something we have not got in the English Bill, we have got to be up and doing now. The case has arisen of the definition of "minerals," which is extremely wide. I do not know of anybody who would apply the definition of "minerals" to peat. I certainly should not do so myself; I should have thought it was entirely a vegetable! But if one looks at the definition on page 137 of this Bill, it includes
all minerals and substances in or under land of a kind ordinarily worked for removal by underground or by surface working.
§ Peat, I suppose, is a substance which is "ordinarily worked by surface working" and so is within the purview of the Bill as drafted.
§ That means that anybody on Dartmoor or Exmoor or in one of the Western Isles has got to get planning permission before he cuts a bit of peat to burn on his fire. The crofters and a large number of other people have always cut peat beside their crofts and used it. It has been so always in the past and it is all the more necessary now. It hardly seems to me that cutting bits of peat should involve getting planning permission, the possibility of paying a development charge, and all the rest, if I may so put it, of the paraphernalia of this Bill. I think the Government have put 329 down an Amendment to meet this point, but I much prefer my own Amendment. There is a difference between taking a bit of peat for use and taking it for sale. Big commercial peat cuttings would he in a different category from the kind of thing that we want to deal with. I hope the Government will be able to accept the Amendment, because it does not seem to me that you ought to have to get planning permission to cut these bits of peat. The definition of the Government is somewhat too narrow.
§ Take an ordinary sheep farm. There it is not necessarily the farmer himself who will go out cutting the peat, it may well be the odd man who does various jobs on the farm who does it—and it is quite proper that the farmer should be doing the more skilled jobs in the general conduct of the farm. So that the Government's Amendment for the domestic requirements of that person do not in my view go far enough. There are many cases where people will want to cut peat for domestic requirements and where the person who is cutting it is not necessarily the person who is going to use it. In fact if this were strictly followed, the housewife who wants peat for her kitchen fire would have to go out and cut it herself. So I think my words are better ones.
§ Or take a person living in the middle of moorland. Out there in the depths of the moors he will have to apply to some county planning authority before he can cut a bit of peat for his cottage fire. It becomes a little absurd. For limited pur-purposes, not for sale but for ordinary domestic purposes I want that to be taken outside the purview of this Bill. I would, therefore, ask the Government to have a quick change of mind and accept my Amendment, which I am quite certain is rather better for the purposes that they themselves want than their wording is. With those few words, I beg to move.
Page 137, line 27, at end insert ("provided that it shall not include peat cut for purposes other than sale;").—(Lord Llewellin.)
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for extending his exposition of his Amendment in order to enable me to go into consultation. As a result, it has produced the quick change of mind which the noble 330 Lord desires. I will accept the Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Tenth Schedule [Transitory provisions and provisions consequential on repeals]:
LORD HENDERSON moved, after paragraph 10, to insert the following new paragraph:
11. Where any such agreement as is mentioned in the last foregoing paragraph is modified or rescinded (whether by agreement or by virtue of the exercise of any powers conferred by sub-paragraph (b) or (c) of the proviso to that paragraph) at any time within three years after the appointed day, then if it appears to the Minister that it is reasonable so to do having regard to the terms on which the agreement was made and to cry loss or damage sustained by any person having an interest in land affected by the agreement by reason of the provisions of this Act or of anything done thereunder, he may direct that the development value of that interest in the land, or in any part thereof, shall be calculated for the purposes of Part VI of this Act Ls if the agreement had been so modified or rescinded immediately before the appointed clay.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, both on Committee stage and Report stage, Lori Gage urged that if an agreement made under Section 34 of the 1932 Act was overridden for planning reasons, so that a local authority "not only removed the advantages he had but also prejudiced him," then that owner ought to be able to claim against the 300,000,000 as if the agreement had not been made. Examples he gave were of an authority wanting to take land restricted by an agreement against development, for the purpose of a sewage disposal works or a council housing estate; and on Report stage he stressed that he intended his proposal to relate solely to people who will be damaged by the Bill, and to people who lad made some sacrifice in order to be public spirited. The Lord Chancellor promised to do his best to introduce an Amendment on Third Reading dealing with that point. The Amendment is now on the Order Paper and we think that it meets, satisfactorily, the point of substance which the noble Lord raised, and will enable the Minister to avoid any hardship or appearance of hardship and any appearance of breach of faith. It will be observed that the Amendment can operate in cases where an agreement is completely rescinded as well as where it is partially overridden. It can also operate where all 331 parties concerned agree that the agreement should be rescinded or modified and is not necessarily dependent, therefore, on a formal Ministerial direction or a formal arbitration under paragraph To of the Tenth Schedule. Further, it can operate to ignore not only restrictions which have been overridden but also other provisions in an agreement which it is found necessary to sweep away on planning grounds. I beg to move.
Page 175, line 51, at end insert the said new paragraph.—(Lord Henderson.)
My Lords, I am very grateful to the Government for all the trouble they have taken to meet this point, but, at the same time, I must confess that I am surprised that so much trouble has been necessary. The simple proposition I put forward was that it did not seem right that a man should be damaged solely because he had at some previous stage entered into an agreement. It seems to me that the Government have accepted that principle, for which I am very grateful, but they have now put in a kind of double check; they say that not only must the Central Land Board decide that there is hardship, but the Minister must also decide that there is hardship. I should have thought that the Central Land Board, who are going to distribute the whole of the £300,000,000 on a hardship basis, would be quite well qualified to decide whether there had been hardship or not on the rescinded agreements. But if the Government think that the Minister must also come into it, then I must accept it. I am grateful, though my gratitude is mixed with a certain amount of mystification.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 3.16 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass. The process we have gone through in this Bill has been rather long because the Bill is highly technical and, in some respects, controversial, but I venture to think that our time has been very well spent. First of all, I want to express to all of your Lordships my gratitude for the co-operation you have given me in a very difficult task. I think many of your Lordships who have had intimate concern with this Bill have realized what a tower of strength I have had in the 332 noble Lord, Lord Henderson, who has given throughout this Bill his most enthusiastic and most unselfish support in everything I have had to do. Many of your Lordships have had great practical experience in this matter, and I appreciate the constructive suggestions which have been made; even though I have not in all respects been able to meet the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, I am very grateful for the part which he has played. I am particularly grateful to those of your Lordships who have given of your time to come round and see me and to see my experts on this matter. The noble Marquess, the Leader of the Opposition, and Lord Llewellin, in particular, have spent many hours discussing this matter and doing that work behind the scenes which has enabled us to get to the bottom of these problems, to define the issues in this Bill. I am beginning to get rather a large experience. I have always done this: I have always put my cards completely on the table and I have never found that any single word which I have used in discussion has ever got outside the room in which it has been spoken.
I asked your Lordships, at a much earlier stage, to give this Bill careful consideration and scrutiny, if only because it has been subject to the guillotine procedure in another place, and you have certainly done so. It is interesting to tell your Lordships that we have had, in all, nearly boo Amendments and they are about equally divided between the Government and the Opposition. That is to say in the Committee and Report stage, my statistical experts tell me that that is some four or five Amendments for each clause or Schedule of the Bill. I said, at an earlier stage, that I would do my best to meet reasoned argument with reasoned argument. I hope I have done so; but the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin asked me to do something better—namely, to meet reasoned argument with reasoned concession. I am glad to tell you this, that out of 171 Amendments actually moved by the Opposition, I have been able to accept 42 as they stood and, in addition, a very large number of the Amendments which have been moved by my noble friends and by myself have dealt with points raised in Amendments which were moved from the other side of the House and which, in consequence, have been withdrawn, or not moved, on the assurance that we would meet them.
333 For example, I think we have met four of the main points made by Lord Llewellin in his Second Reading speech and repeated in Committee. By moving Amendments we have been able to meet, to some extent, at any rate, those four points. We have exempted from development charge the extension of small houses; we have dealt equally with the conversion of houses into flats; we have exempted small factories from the necessity of getting the Board of Trade certificate; and we have gone a long way, I think, to protecting the owner of designated land, especially agricultural land. In these and in many other respects, I would readily acknowlege that the Bill has been very much improved by the suggestions which your Lordships in all quarters of the House have made, and, let me add, by the moral support which the Back Benchers on my own side have given me, which has been all the more welcome because they have kept comparatively silent.
There is one other criticism that I would like to deal with, and that concerns the position of houses built for farm workers. We agree that there should be no development charge so long as the house is occupied by a genuine farm worker, and, as I explained to your Lordships on Report, the problem is the policing of the scheme to find out when the farm worker moves out and the weekender moves in. That applies particularly as regards houses which do not attract the subsidy under the Act of 1946. We have looked at this point again since the Report stage, and we have followed up a hint which was dropped by the noble Viscount, Lord Gage. We now propose to exempt any house erected with a planning permission granted, subject to a condition to the effect that the house may be occupied only by members of the agricultural population. The exemption will last so long as the condition is complied with, and we shall ask the local authority to check the compliance with the condition, just as they do in regard to other conditions which they attach to planning permission. The details of the scheme, which would extend also to houses built by local authorities, has still to be worked out, but I thought your Lordships might be interested to know what we have in mind.
I claim that this shows that we have done our best to meet the points which 334 have been raised. There were some which we could not meet and which your Lordships, in your wisdom, felt you must press to a Division. There were four point: on which we disagreed, but I think that this is a small number considering the wide scope of the Bill and its controversial aspect in regard to some of its provisions. There was a question as to whether there should be a right of arbitration on the amount of the development charge; there was a question as to whether the definition of dead ripe land should be widened and whether there should be some further concession made for minerals actually being worked; and another as to what should be done for the investment land held by charities. All those are questions of principle on which we felt we had to stand firm. But we had a long and, I think I may say, an instructive discussion on each of them, and your Lordships reached your conclusions. I feel quite certain that those conclusions, and the arguments which led up to them, will receive, as they undoubtedly merit, the most careful consideration by those in another place. I desire to say nothing whatever about them now except, if I may adopt the phraseology of the old-fashioned charge to the jury in criminal cases, I would say "God send you a good deliverance."
It is clear to me, from the care which your Lordships have taken in studying the Bill, and in making suggestions for its improvement, that you recognize its importance for the life of the community, and I should like to pay my tribute to its principal author, the Minister of Town and Country Planning, who has been responsible for the enormous volume of preliminary work before ever these proposals could be cast in legislative form. The subject is very near to his heart, and he has given ungrudgingly of his time and energy.
I believe, as I said, that this is an historic Bill. It is a planning Bill, Out it is quite different in kind from all the planning Bills which your Lordships have passed before. From 1909 onwards we have established planning authorities and vested them with planning powers. It became clear in the administration of these Acts that planning powers are not in themselves sufficient to promote effective planning. Despite the impressive edifice of statutory powers, social benefits which should have come 335 from planning were not achieved. In my firm belief, the main reason for that was this compensation and betterment difficulty with which we are now all painfully familiar; and that difficulty, in its turn, was inherent in our present system of land ownership, and could only be removed by a change in that system.
The present system permits the owner of land, broadly, to use his land as he wishes. This is the fact of the matter, despite the power to impose planning restrictions, because the fear of compensation has in practice prevented the restrictions being imposed. It is, quite naturally, in the interest of each owner to put his land to the most profitable use, but the use which is most profitable to him need not necessarily be the use which is most beneficial to the community. Hence there arose a conflict of interest between owner and community that has done so much to frustrate planning up to now. This Bill removes that conflict once and for all. From now on, although the landowner is free to go on using his land in the way in which he is using it at present—I have not got the agricultural provisions in my mind at the present time—he is required to obtain permission before he puts it to a different use, and he is liable to pay a development charge for so doing. The result is that the decision whether land is to be developed, and how it is to be developed, will in future be taken by reference to the interest of the community as a whole, and no longer by reference to the financial interest of individuals.
I believe that to be a very great change. I called it "revolutionary" the other day, and I believe that to have been no exaggeration. But it is a change to which all Parties are committed, because all are agreed that it is the only way to make planning effective, and that is why there has been broad agreement with the aims of the Bill, and with the general lines of its approach to the problem. Among the many advantages resulting from this change there is one in particular which I should like to mention, because it concerns a somewhat topical subject. The Bill, by removing the burden of compensation from local authorities, ensures that there will be effective control over development in areas which may become national parks. On this subject I might 336 perhaps mention that the question of the type of organization which is appropriate for the administration of a national park is, of course, still unsettled, but I cannot see that the question will be prejudiced if, on the passing of the Bill, the Minister decides, on general planning grounds, to establish a Joint Planning Board which includes an area covered by a potential national park.
A Bill that makes such a change in the system of land tenure is bound to be highly technical. I confess I found this the most difficult Bill of all I have had to master, and I am grateful to all your Lordships for having taken such trouble to master its complexities. Apart from our differences on these four important points, each of which is a point on which I fully realize different views may be held, I feel that this Bill, as it leaves your Lordships' House, is a Bill of which your Lordships may be justly proud. I know of course that its success will depend on administration, and that that will be in the hands of the Minister and his Department and the local authorities. They have a wry difficult task, but they also have an opportunity which town planners have never had before in this country, and have probably never had in any country in the world. By passing this Bill your Lordships will be giving them that opportunity, for you are passing a Bill that is unique in the history of town planning, a Bill which in the words of the most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of York, "will be by far the greatest thing> of its nature which has ever been passed in this country." I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill do pass.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
My Lords, I think we are all indebted to the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, for the speech which he has just made. As he has said, this is a Bill that came to us from another place with large sections which had never been discussed at all. Therefore it was our duty to go into the measure very carefully, line by line and word by word, because nothing brings the rule of Law and the Legislature into greater disrespect than for hastily considered legislation to be thrust upon the country. I think that we can say, and say in respect of the House as a whole, 337 irrespective of Party, that we have taken considerable trouble to improve this measure while it has been passing through its various stages in this House. Here I should like not only to thank the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, for his kind remarks about myself and some of my colleagues, but also to express our appreciation to him and to the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, for the very reasonable attitude which they have displayed throughout, and the immense trouble which they have taken in trying to meet us when we put up a reasonable case.
The technique that was adopted—the Lord Chancellor has already referred to this—of a number of us spending some hours in his room was, I think, a good one. I work it out that I spent over fourteen hours in that room. At any rate, one can say that quite a good Bill, and I think a greatly improved Bill, has come out of those discussions and of the discussions which we have had in your Lordships' House. The two noble Lords to whom I have referred have considered the Amendments which we put forward in exactly the same spirit as that in which we put them forward—that is, they have approached them purely on the ground of whether they would make this Bill a better and more workable measure.
There are, of course, some things in this Bill, and in its general structure, which we do not altogether like, and quite a number of them we never took to a Division at all. I will mention two. We doubt whether it is right that the proper planning of our countryside should form the basis—as it is evidently going to do—of revenue for the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and we still believe that if you are going to deal with shifting values in. this kind of way you should only collect the amount of development charges necessary to pay for the compensation that you pay out to persons because they are no longer able to develop their land. We also believe that if you are taking away the rights that landowners have had for centuries, and on which indeed they have paid Death Duties, you ought to pay them full compensation for those rights which you are taking away.
We are grateful to the Government particularly for accepting one of the points which we put forward—namely that we should have full disclosure of the amounts 338 of these claims for development rights. An assurance was given that before the Treasury scheme came to be considered we should have a White Paper setting out the full facts. When we see that, we shall see who is right. We shall see whether: or not the £300,000,000 is enough, and what proportion it bears to the total claims. The second point on which we feel strongly is the question of minerals. The clause which deals with minerals was not very thoroughly thought out—to put it mildly—before the Bill came to this House, and a lot of the question—indeed practically the whole of it—is left to be dealt with by subsequent regulation. I have considerable doubt whether a large number of those who have to administer these schemes know even to-e ay exactly how they are going to handle this problem of minerals. What I am afraid of is that unless the machinery for facilitating the getting of permission, especially in the case of minerals, acts extremely well, there may be, under this Bill, considerable delay in the further exploitation of the raw materials for some of our most essential industries. However, the Opposition in this House did not seek to interfere in these respects and on the general basic matters of the Bill. Whatever may be said of the later stages of this Bill's progress through another place, nobody can say that ample and usual time was not given for its Second Reading when its main principles were approved by another place.
As the noble and learned Viscount has said there were only the four matters on which, in a Bill of some 207 pages as it has now become, with most complicated clauses and schedules, we had to take any difference between us to a Division. Two of those occasions seem to me to fall into the category of trying to see that justice shall be done. I think it is only just that there should be some kind of appeal from decisions of the Central Land Board. One of the extraordinary things that is happening to-day—and it is indeed odd to think of it—is that although our forefathers struggled through the days of the Stuarts to get rid of the over-strong central Executive with no appeals to the courts now in these modern times, we are turning; right back to the years before the Statute of Monopolies in 1623. If our Amendment is not accepted, there will he no appeal from the decision of the Central Lane Board any more than there was for a man 339 arraigned before Charles I's most treasured tribunal, the Star Chamber. that is the way things are tending to go back in this country. It gives one most interesting food for thought when one considers what tremendous struggles our forefathers waged against this very kind of thing.
The other matter which I think comes under the category of trying to see that justice shall be done is the question of the investment lands of charities. We had a long discussion on that point and I only hope that some accommodation may be come to in another place as the result of which it will be possible to let those institutions, which have done so much for the cultural and social life of this country, go on unhindered in their work. As to the other two Amendments, there was one seeking to ascertain the definition of ripe land. Somebody thought out the definition and was absolutely keen on sticking to it all the way through. The land which would come within the definition of my Amendment is, to any man of common sense and ordinary intelligence, just as ripe as any land in a town. That is some of the first land that ought to be used for housing. If you take it into the category of ripe land, it need not go through all this survey by the Central Land Board or anyone else, and there would be no delay. If you put it into this machine, you will hold up the finding of sites wanted for your housing programme.
We have no minerals exemption in the Bill as it comes before us. I sincerely hope here that the Government will think again, because a time when we need more production unless we are going to perish as a great nation, does not seem to me the time to throw all these agreements and mining leases, on which so much industry is worked, into the melting pot. There will be an unfortunate effect on the production of iron ore, cement, bricks, tiles, pipes and pottery. All these depend on these leases and on people being able to work ahead. Do not let us do anything, merely to gain a few extra thousands for the Treasury, that may set back our industrial recovery.
I do not want to spend much time on the points on which we have disagreed. The wonderful thing about this Bill is that there are so many points on which we are agreed, and I am grateful to the 340 noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, for the reference he made to that. We find ourselves in this House getting a lot of publicity the moment we take anything to a Division. I should like to see those occasions written up when we settle things, as this House should settle things, by reasoned argument and by convincing one another that the argument is right, so that matters need not be pressed to a Division or so that the Government should give way. After all there are so many more of those occasions. They happen so often and they are so valuable in getting good legislation on the Statute Book, that I hope in future they will receive more attention than they have had hitherto. I am not going to go through all the agreements we reached because there are very many of them. Apart from the forty-two which the noble and learned Viscount mentioned, which were our Amendments he accepted as they were drawn, I think there were about forty occasions where the Government Amendments were put down either on seeing ours or to carry out what we wanted to do.
I would personally like to thank the Government for meeting the four main points I made on my Second Reading Speech. I am certain we are quite right not in any way to hamper the proper housing of our agricultural workers. That has been met by allowing the improvement of small dwellings up to 7,500 cubic feet and by allowing new houses which are built for them not to attract a development charge so long as they are used by bona-fide persons working on the land. I am also much obliged to the Government for meeting us, as they said they would do, in the putting up of reasonable sheds and greenhouses for our market gardeners, whom, if the food scarcity of these days is to get any better, we want to encourage by every possible means. Again, it was correct to allow the conversion of houses into two or more dwellings so as to help with our housing problem. I think we have improved matters by not cluttering up the Government machine, by not giving more work to people in offices of industrial undertakings in having to appeal to the Board of Trade even for quite a small extension of a small new factory. I think it was a wise provision to allow the Board of 341 Trade to give a blanket permission for factories to go up on places like the Slough Trading Estate and Trafford Park, which are being developed for industrial purposes. I think, too, the Government have met us extremely well in regard to forestry. There will be no development charge on forestry, as there is none on agriculture. It is a very sensible thing to allow a person to get chalk, as he always has done, from his own estate, to spread on his own farm, or gravel for the estate roads, without having to pay development charges or getting planning permission.
Despite the differences we had on the clause relating to charities, I would like to return my thanks, as I had not an opportunity of doing that day, for the greatly improved Clause 85 which the noble and learned Viscount brought back to us. I am certain it would not work the way we want it to if it only applied to land adjacent or contiguous to a charitable institution. The noble Lord, Lord Lindsay, will know that all the playing fields of the Oxford colleges cannot be near the colleges. My old college and his cannot possibly have a playing field on the High. Of course we used to but things have changed, I am told, since those days. But at any rate it is quite right that our colleges should be treated like a college such as Magdalene which has a playing field near its college although some hundreds of yards separate them. It is right that where an extension is planned they have not to pledge themselves to put up the buildings immediately but within a period of twenty years because you cannot do that with any certainty these days.
In many other ways we have been able to improve this Bill as it passed through this House. I think it was right to put some limitation on the time in which a local authority can keep land designated and say that if they do not use it within a period of twelve years, in the case of urban land, and eight years in the case of agricultural, they must either buy it or take off the designation—whatever the correct phrase is for that operation. It is wise that we have made provision for the widest publicity. There is not only the White Paper to which I have referred, but the register of all the Central Land Boards dealings in land which will be kept at the Central Land Board, can be seen by anybody, so that any rumours 342 as to who has got it, or had it, or dealt with it, can immediately be quashed by the truth being made known. I think it is a good thing, also, that the development plan should be advertised in the London Gazette and in local newspapers.
This is my final word. Again we have done something about rights of appeal. I have referred already to the right of appeal from the Central Land Board, and I will not refer to it again. But we have got it accepted that it is for the High Court ultimately to determine what is a charity and what is not; there is now an appeal to local courts if a compulsory purchase order is made, and on failure to comply with a building preservation order; and in case of dispute as to development value payments you can take it to an arbitrator or to a special tribunal. Sc we shall not go quite as far back as we might otherwise have gone—to the old Stuart times. Let me once more say that we are obliged to the noble Lords who have led for the Government on this Measure for their friendly co-operation the reasonable way in which they have met us. I believe they think we put up reasoned arguments, and all I can say is that they have met us with reasonable concessions. As my plea on the Second Reading has been so well lint, I think we can send this Bill back to another place with the feeling that, although there may be many Amendments for them to consider, those Amendments have been carefully thought out, and the Bill is now an improved Measure. We all hope it will work well once it becomes law.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, before making a few observations on the Bill as, a whole, I would ask your Lordships' leave to refer to three particular points, of which the first two need only detain your Lordships' attention for a very few minutes. The first was dealt with by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack towards the end of his observations on the Motion now before your Lordships' House. It relates to the fact that the forthcoming National Parks legislation, and this Bill which we are now passing, must in some degree overlap. I have been asked to draw your Lordships' attention to this matter by the National Parks Committee (of which I have been for some years a member) which has been 343 promoting the establishment of National Parks for a long time in this country. The point is this. The Report of the Hobhouse Committee, which has just appeared, recognizes that there should be established as the supreme authority dealing with National Parks a National Parks Commission, and that in each individual area there should be a parks committee which should act, so to speak, as their agent.
The present National Parks Committee—which is a voluntary society—think that that is the right proposal. But it must necessarily involve a certain adjustment between these local parks committees to be established to conduct the actual management of the parks, and the planning authorities of those areas. That matter might be a rather delicate one. It is proposed by the Hobhouse Committee that the local planning authorities—that is, as a rule, the county councils—should nominate half the members of these parks committees, but whatever arrangement is to be made will, as I say, have to be very carefully adjusted. Clause 4 of this Bill which is now leaving your Lordships' House, and the First Schedule, give power to the Minister of Town and Country Planning to create anywhere where he thinks it necessary a united district, consisting of representatives of the county authorities and a joint planning board.
Before any new National Parks legislation comes into operation, some time must necessarily elapse. A Statute has to be passed—for my own part, I hope it will be introduced at a very early date—areas must be designated and authorities constituted. Meanwhile, some provision must be made for the protection of those areas. What we have been anxious to obtain (and I wrote on this subject to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor) was some assurance that in any future National Park area the establishment of a parks committee under, the National Parks Act, when it is passed, shall not have been prejudiced by action taken under the present Bill in the establishment of a joint planning board. That is a short point, which I hope I have made clear. I am glad to say that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack has been kind enough to give this assurance and, if it is effectively and sympathetically interpreted, I feel sure it 344 will relieve the minds of all those who are specially concerned with this subject from considerable anxiety.
The second point is simply this. My noble friend Viscount Esher moved an Amendment in Committee asking that the lands of the National Trust should be exempted from development charge. That has been done on the Report stage by an Amendment of the Government on Clause 85. My noble friend Viscount Esher—who is unfortunately unable to be here to-day, as he was also unable to be present on the Report stage—has asked me specially to express the very warm gratitude of the National Trust for this valuable concession in the Bill.
The third point brings me back to the vexed question of the so-called charity lands. Here my observations may perhaps be described as "bitter sweet." in the first place, I have to thank the Government as the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, has done, for the revised form in which they put the original clause, now Clause 85. In a number of minor particulars that is a valuable recognition of the moral claims of the universities, the colleges, the hospitals and the other bodies which are technically charities for the purposes of these discussions. But that clause did not deal, and did not purport to deal, in any degree with the major claim that has been put forward. I do not propose to spend a moment's time in covering again the old ground that was so fully traversed in the debates on the Committee stage, which were somewhat brief, and also on the Report stage, where the discussion was a full one. At the end of the latter debate the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, made a reply technically on Clause 85 to which I had no opportunity of answer, because Clause 86, on which I moved, was taken without debate.
Your Lordships will realize that, as this may possibly be a matter of some controversy in another place, it is really important that the whole subject should be clearly laid before the Government, and also before those members in another place who propose to take an interest in the matter. Therefore, I would venture to ask your Lordships' forgiveness if I attempt a reply to the observations made by the noble and learned Viscount on that occasion. After all, this is only a hang-over speech from the 345 Report stage which I was unable to deliver then. The noble and learned Viscount's first point was to combat the argument we advanced that, while agreeing that the community has a right to unearned increment, we urged that these bodies were rendering a communal service. The noble and learned Viscount poured scorn upon that argument, and I will quote his words. He said:That argument applies to the future just as much as to the past, and everybody agrees that it is utterly wrong to make this extension apply to anything except land existing at the critical date. It cannot apply to the future.The noble and learned Viscount is there using the future to cover two quite different things. The question of the future development value of existing land owned by the universities and other bodies is what we have in mind; what he is referring to as being agreed by everyone should not be done is to allow these bodies to buy fresh land, after this Bill has been passed, in the hope that they may reap further unearned increment in the future. That was indeed included in the Amendment originally moved in another place in Committee on behalf of the charities. But it was realized that the objections to that were very strong, and that was not included in our Amendments in this House. We claim that before the State came into the field these bodies were really acting on behalf of the community, but now that the State has come into the field we recognize that these bodies should not be allowed to go on purchasing other land in the hope of further future increment which is not allowed to anybody else. That is no reason for confiscating a large part of the future development value of land which is already in the hands of the universities.
Therefore, in our view this argument of the noble and learned Viscount with regard to the future is misconceived. His main point was that it would be better, if anything has to be done, to take these lands out of the compensation scheme altogether, not to require them to pay development charge, not to allow them in any circumstances to receive compensation from the fund, and that the clause as it now stands would allow the charities, so-called, to make the best, as he said, of both worlds. I suggest with respect 346 that that argument also does not hold. because here again there are two different matters in question. The more one goes into this very difficult and technical subject the more complicated it becomes. We have been discussing this matter on the basis that there are two classes of land to be considered—namely, those which the Lord Chancellor designated operational land, which belongs and is actually used by the charities themselves for their own buildings and so forth, and the lands which were investment lands.
In point of fact, however, there are three categories which must be regarded differently, operational land and two classes of investment land, because some of the charities have land which is not likely to have any future development value at all. For example, in the Green Belt the land is sterilized and they had to abandon any hope of reaping the full value. It is hard upon them, but it is their misfortune that their land happens to be zoned in that way, and they must suffer like other people from planning laws. Rut that land which is building land, which will have a great deal of future value and which has been bought by these bodies with the approval of Government Departments precisely for that reason, stands on a different footing. The former are entitled, in the same way as other people, to have compensation, and they do not ask to be left alone because they have no value of any future increment. Surely they are entitled to be treated like otter people and not to be deprived of such compensation as they might receive. Whether or not it is only a small fraction of what they consider they are entitled to get, they are surely in justice entitled to have that money.
Assume that property is owned in the neighbourhood of Epping Forest in tie Green Belt of London. Some other charity, on the other hand, has land in Holborn, which has been ripening for a number of years, which will soon be rebuilt and where it is claimed that they ought to receive that exemption cm development charge as privileged charities—namely, as charities working for the public. Consequently, there are not two worlds in question but three. It is legitimate to ask why, because special arrangements are made on the one hand for the college or hospital which owns land in Holborn, the other college which owns I land in the neighbourhood of Epping is 347 to have nothing at all and is to be deprived of the little they might get from this Bill as it stands. That is our answer to the noble and learned Viscount's claim under that head.
The noble and learned Viscount's third and last point was that there was a better course to take than to press an Amendment of the character of that previously before your Lordships' House. I will quote his words. He said this:If so, may I suggest to your Lordships that a much more hopeful way of trying to achieve that which you want is to hold your hand until the scheme has to be presented for the division of the £300,000,000, and try then to get yourself into the preference class of shareholders?He went on to say:As a matter of principle, there can be no noble Lords on either side of the House who can say that it is fair that you should get full compensation out of the £300,000,000, and also over and above that have this concession.But that is not the desire. In the first place, in what the Lord Chancellor said there is no assurance that these charities would be included in the preference class of shareholders and would receive full compensation of the actual value. If there were such an assurance, no doubt from the financial point of view that might come forward for consideration. But it has not come forward, and indeed the noble and learned Viscount could not be in a position to give such an assurance.
The main contention in this regard is that the Lord Chancellor is not suggesting that any addition should be made to the £300,000,000 in order to provide for this contingency. If his advice were taken it would mean that whatever preference was given to the charities the ordinary shareholder so to speak, the ordinary private landowner, would get less than he otherwise would under this Bill. I cannot see that such a proposal would be at all attractive to the ordinary landowner. This proposal, if it were adopted by the charities and universities, would merely divide the forces which, in the main, have hitherto acted together, and would lead those who spoke on behalf of the landlords to say that they were being treated most unjustly in order that these charitable investors should have privilege.
That is the only point upon which I myself have any divergence from the noble 348 and learned Viscount, and I am sorry that in the conduct of this and other measures we should have been brought into controversy over this one matter. Let me take this opportunity of saying how deeply the whole House appreciates—as has been stated by the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin—the manner in which the noble and learned Viscount has conducted these Government Bills. They are a series of massive Statutes, probably unprecedented in bulk and complexity in a single Session of Parliament in modern times. The very large share that he has taken in so many of them has involved an intellectual and physical effort that must he almost unprecedented. He has, as has been said, received valuable assistance from the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, and from other members of the Government Bench in some other Bills, but at the same time the main burden has fallen upon him. Considering the political composition of this House, and the nature of the controversies which have arisen, these Bills might well have aroused a great degree of animosity and somewhat bitter debate.
For my own part, I have watched, at very close, quarters, with ever-growing admiration, the noble and learned Viscount's handling of the Government's business in your Lordships' House. He has sometimes reminded me of a lion-tamer, standing all alone in a cage full of lions and tactfully persuading them to jump through their hoops and group themselves into pyramids. Fortunately, the lions are all elderly and experienced, and really very kind-hearted. Occasionally one might hear a sort of perfunctory growl, which was intended to signify that they were capable of a ferocious roar if occasion required; and sometimes there was a gentle gesture of a paw, to indicate that they could, of course, tear their tamer to pieces if they were provoked too far. But that was for the benefit of the audience, and everyone knew that such things were not going to happen.
Some of my noble friends on these Benches have rendered considerable service to your Lordships' House in the discussions on this and other Bills. And I must pay testimony, and it is an impartial one, to the work done by the Front Opposition Bench, on whom the burden has chiefly fallen, and, particularly in this Bill, to Lord Llewellin; and with regard to the Transport, the Companies, and 349 other Bills, to the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton. They and many of their colleagues have rendered great service to this House. The industry, the care, and not least the readiness to discuss and the willingness to arrive at agreement that they have displayed: all this has contributed greatly to the efficiency and therefore to the prestige of your Lordships' House as a revising Chamber.
This Bill is a really momentous addition to the Statute Book. It is one which, of all the legislation proposed by the present Government, I regard as the most urgent and, in the main, the one which in the long run is likely to be the most beneficial. In the matter of town buildings it will go very far indeed to undo the harm done to this country by nineteenth-century laissez-faire. It has long been recognized that a measure more or less on these lines was essential, but as the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has said to-day, the road was blocked by the vexed question of compensation and betterment. The Coalition Government failed completely to arrive at any solution of that matter. It has been left really to the Uthwatt Committee to find a way, and those of us who are deeply interested in this question must say a word of heartfelt gratitude to Lord Uthwatt and his colleagues for having found a solution to that problem.
I would add that I am exceedingly happy that the clause relating to the control of advertisements has passed through with universal support. Ever since I had a hand in passing the first Bill for the control of advertisements, forty years ago, I have been interested in this matter of the part which the degradation of our cities and countryside by advertisement has played on the outward appearance of our civilisation. I hope that this clause will be strictly administered and that our cities and countryside will in the future be free from that defect. As to the clause dealing with universities and colleges, I am well content with the Bill as it stands. I hope that it may so remain and reach the Statute Book. So far as the main purpose of the Bill is concerned—the principle of rational planning of land use—this enactment is a measure of the highest importance and of outstanding value.
§ 4.15 p.m.
My Lords, I do not wish to make any comments on the Bill 350 except to suggest that a very large number of questions will be asked in the future to which answers may or may not be forthcoming. There is one question, however, which I should like to refer to the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor. I wonder if he can say anything about the appointed date on which this Bill is likely to commence. If not, perhaps he could tell us the date on which we shall be loll when that appointed date will be. From the obscurity of the Back Benches I also should like to thank the noble and learned Viscount and his associates for the consideration he has always given to the humblest of us, and also the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, for making many of our suggestions appear a great deal more reasonable than they otherwise might have been made to appear.
§ 4.18 p.m.
THE EARL OF RADNOR
My Lords, as one of the lions, I do not propose to roar; but I would like to thank the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor for his kindly reference to the small effort; II have made to improve this Bill. I think we all agree that in its progress the Bill has been improved, but perhaps it has not been improved nearly so much as we hoped at one time it would be. Perhaps we pitched our hopes too high, and they have not been realized to the full. A large number of Amendments have been put into the Bill, the bulk of them by reasonable agreement, and they have made a considerable difference to the picture presented by the Bill.
I speak as one who was more actively interested in the measure from the point of view of the general landowner. We take a Bill of this nature in a purely nonpolitical way. We set out really to try to improve the Bill from our own knowledge from the countryside. I think that the bulk of the Amendments put forward in this House, whether they have been agreed to or not, have been largely of a non-political nature. Where there has been conflict it has, in my belief, been largely a conflict between a theoretical belief and the knowledge derived from practice, often from the practice of generations. I believe that His Majesty's Government would be wise to pay rather more 351 attention than they have in the past to that knowledge which comes from practice in the holding of land. We have had a very close examination of the Bill, but even after that close examination I defy anyone to say how the Bill will work. A great deal in the Bill is still left to regulations. Those regulations are going to be the machinery by which the Bill will work, and until we see how those regulations work in practice we must not praise the Bill too much or pride ourselves that we have introduced the last word in town and country planning legislation.
The Lord Chancellor, in his admirable speech at the beginning of this debate, pointed out the undoubted fact that in this Bill the Gordian knot of compensation and betterment has been cut, and that the conflict between the interests of the owner of land and the interests of the community have disappeared, and the interests of the community have been made paramount. I know that the noble and learned Viscount thinks that that is an excellent idea. I am not quite so certain that he is right. It is true that the interests of the community should be paramount, but I very much doubt whether the agents of the community on the whole have in the past done very much better for the community than that selfish person, the owner of the land, has done. Owners of land are not all bad, by any means. Sometimes they have done things for their own selfish ends, but very often their own selfish ends are what the community needs. They have done things for the community in the past and they have done them better than any public authority can do them or is likely to be able to do them, because the owner of land, when he has his own unfettered discretion, can act swiftly, whereas no public authority under this Bill, or under any other Bill for that matter, is able to move quickly, swiftly, or very surely.
That is one point. In the removal of that conflict there is another feature of the Bill on which I must express certain fears, and that is that the incentive to the owner of land to develop his land has been removed. You are removing one agent for development almost out of existence because he has no incentive whatsoever, and it is going to place an increasing burden upon public authorities generally, which again, I think, will result 352 in perhaps a slowing up of development. I am afraid that, under the provisions of the Bill, which are very complicated indeed, those public authorities which will have to do the development will not be able to do it very quickly. That is a fear which I express and which I think ought to be expressed, because I believe that, in practice, while the Bill may make development more orderly on the whole, it will also make it a much slower process than it is now, and that at a time when certain forms of development are very desirable and are required quickly.
I have said all I wanted to say with the exception of one point, and that is that the Minister of Town and Country Planning, I think, is very much an optimist. County planning authorities have to get their plans out in three years. They will need a lot of assistance of a technical nature. The owners whose land is going to be planned will also need a lot of assistance of a technical nature. Trained men are not available, and I suggest to the noble and learned Viscount that it would be wise to face the fact that those plans cannot be ready in three years' time—I think it is almost physically impossible, because of the lack of the necessary trained manpower, to do it. If you are going to obtain the necessary trained manpower for the planning authorities to carry out the terms of the Bill, you are going to denude many other activities which require exactly the same kind of trained men. I hope that when this Bill goes to another place the Amendments that have been made will be treated on their merits, without any political questions arising, because certainly, so far as my Amendments are concerned, they were put forward without any political implication whatsoever.
§ On Question, Bill passed and returned to the Commons.