§ 2.57 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT JOWITT)
My Lords, I rise to move that this Bill be now read a second time. It is difficult to over-estimate the importance of this measure. For better or for worse, if this Bill finds its way to the Statute Book, it is bound profoundly to affect the development of building in this country. I am one of those who believe that if the future is to be happier and better than the past, it depends on the character and health and habits of the people of this country, and I believe there is no sphere in which we can more directly influence the character and health and habits of the people than in the proper lay-out and development of our towns. Therefore I commend this Bill to you. I admit that it is a very complicated one; I admit that there are few people who understand all about it, and I certainly do not claim to be one of them; but I commend it to the closest attention of your Lordships.
It is very difficult for me to compress into anything like a reasonable space all I want to say about this Bill. You will therefore forgive me if on this occasion I adhere more closely to my notes than is my practice, if only to restrain my garrulity, of which I am afraid your Lordships have had experience in the past. I shall not attempt to argue the case for planning, because that case is now established and I believe it is agreed in all quarters of your Lordships' House that it is proved. Nor shall I discuss those three great Reports—we always mention the three together—the Barlow, the Scott and the Uthwatt Reports. Like "The Pickwick, The Owl and The Waverley Pen" they "come as a boon and a blessing to men," at any rate to the men who have studied these complicated Reports. I assume that your Lordships have read, marked, and inwardly digested all there is to know about them.
124 Having said that, your Lordships will agree with me when I say that the real difficulty in the way of making any progress in planning has been this very complex problem which is described as the problem of "compensation and betterment." Unless you can get rid of that problem, you cannot, in my belief, effectively plan this country. If, when you restrict improper development, you are confronted with the position that you may have to pay large sums of money by way of compensation, then it is impossible to suppose that the planning authorities can ever undertake such a task. In the Coalition Government I played a humble part—I played it for a good many months—in investigating and trying to find some solution to this problem. I think that we who were members of that Government can take credit for the fact that we all contributed to the pool of ideas, and we all rid ourselves of our prejudices, so far as we could, in bringing forth the White Paper which the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, presented to your Lordships' House some years ago.
So far as the general idea of the out-and-out purchase of development rights is concerned, it is satisfactory to record that all Parties accepted that solution. To my mind, that White Paper failed in certain respects, which were forcibly pointed out in a debate in your Lordships' House in 1944. In the first place, I believe it to be quite untrue to say that there is any necessary equation between compensation on the one hand and betterment on the other. Spread over a long period of years, one might equal the other, or it might not, but deriving, as they do, from different concepts, there is no necessary reason why one should equal the other; and in so far as that White Paper presupposed there would be a balance, and a balance in the near future, I think we were building on sand.
Secondly, that White Paper had this disadvantage. Committed as we were to purchasing development rights, we had no idea as to how much that purchase would cost. I can recall discussions about that matter. I can recall wise men saying how very unwise it was for the State to commit itself to a plan if it had not the least idea how much that plan would cost, and as the Bill was to come into operation in five years' time, surely it was necessary to have some idea as to what 125 was involved. Thirdly, although the White Paper conferred a more generous right of purchase upon local authorities than the one which had hitherto existed, that right of purchase was not wide enough, for by removing a definite inducement to land owners to develop their land you are not sure of the profit motive operating to secure development. You must see there is a means by which development can be secured, and that pre-supposes that local authorities shall have an absolute power to secure development.
I think I can usefully begin by asking your Lordships to consider with me what were the criticisms of the existing code of planning which are indicated in the three Reports to which I have referred. The first surely was this. The Uthwatt Report told us quite plainly that the present system is essentially one of local planning. The Act of 1932 gave planning functions to no fewer than 1,441 authorities. Many of those have combined—not always willingly—into joint committees. On the whole, I am not sure that the joint committee system has been a success. If necessary, I can develop that point at a later stage. There are very obvious reasons why it has not always worked well. This Bill follows a recommendation of the Scott Report by making the new planning authorities the county councils and the county borough councils. In addition, joint planning boards may be set up to enable planning to take place over natural geographical areas instead of being confined to the sometimes arbitrary boundaries of local authorities. Although the county district councils cease to be planning authorities, there is ample provision to retain their interest in planning and to utilize their local knowledge. The planning authority are bound to consult them in preparing the plan, and may, and to a large extent will, delegate to thorn the control of development. Moreover, members of county districts may be co-opted on to the committees and sub-committees of the local planning authorities.
Speaking for myself, I confess that I am sorry that under this policy the Common Council of the City of London lose some of their planning functions. I should like to emphasize that this is no reflection whatever on the Common Council or on their consultants. It is simply that in the County of London, of 126 which the City is an integral part, there must be one plan, and one plan cannot be prepared by two authorities even though there is, as there should be and as there surely will be, the fullest consultation and the fullest co-operation. There is no question, as some noble Lords feared in the debate of 1944, of the Government imposing a national scheme for the whole country. Plans will still be local plans, though based on larger areas than at present; but the Bill gives the Minister ample powers for ensuring that these plans, though locally conceived, give effect to national requirements and that they reflect national policy.
The next criticism of our planning code was in regard to its purely permissive character. Until 1943 there was no planning control whatever in many areas. It was a great step for and when the Act of that year extended interim development control throughout the country. But even so, there is no enforceable obligation on local authorities to prepare a planning scheme, and until they do so there is no firm basis for considering applications for permission. This Bill places on every local planning authority the clear duty of submitting a development plan to the Minister within three years, and that plan must be preceded by a survey covering the resources of the area and the life of its people from every aspect. The third criticism is that planning schemes, where they exist, are too rigid, especially as any alteration under the existing code involves, as your Lordships know, a very long and complicated procedure. The new development plan is flexible. In its first stages it will be in outline only, and the details will be added as development becomes imminent in a particular area, so that the plan can be amended to suit changing circumstances, and the local planning authority are bound to review it every five years.
On the other hand, flexibility will not be carried too far. An amendment to the plan, like the plan itself, requires the approval of the Minister, and this avoids the risk of an irresponsible authority changing their plan so often that owners and developers cannot tell where they stand. The fourth, and perhaps the most damaging criticism of the code, was that the existing system is merely restricted. The Uthwatt Report says:The planning scheme secures that if development takes place it shall take place only 127 in certain ways. It does not secure that in any particular part of the area of the scheme it shall in fact take place.This weakness has been, to some extent, corrected by the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944, which enabled local authorities to purchase land compulsorily for the large-scale redevelopment of blitzed and blighted areas, and for certain other planning purposes, and enabled them to carry out development themselves. In passing that Act, your Lordships, I think, recognized that, in order to repair the losses of war and to deal with the scandalous conditions that exist in many of our towns—and we must admit that that is so—local authorities must play a more positive part in planning than they had before. The Bill merely applies the same principle over a wider field by giving local authorities power to acquire land compulsorily wherever necessary to carry approved plans into effect, and whether the development is to be carried out by a public authority or by a private developer to whom the land is leased, powers of purchase and development remain with the county district councils and with the City of London.
There is one feature in this part of the Bill which is new, and which has attracted some attention in another place, and that is the designation of land as subject to compulsory purchase. I want to discuss that with your Lordships for a few minutes. The local planning authority can designate in this way land required by public authorities, land destined for comprehensive development—such, for instance, as areas of extensive war damage—and any other land which they think should be subject to compulsory acquisition, to secure its use in accordance with the plan. They may designate in this way—and this must be noticed—only land which is likely to be acquired within ten years. That proposal has, I know, received criticism, and it will no doubt receive further criticism from your Lordships. But I think all your Lordships will admit that no planning system can work effectively without adequate powers of compulsory acquisition. If there is complete power to prevent development in the wrong place, surely there must also be equal power to secure development in the right place. Granted the need for these wide powers, 128 we must ensure that they are used in an orderly and not in a haphazard way.
Designation secures that the plan embodies not only the planning authority's long-term policy, which must be in fairly general terms, but also a more precise short-term programme of development for ten years ahead, the programme being extended at each five-yearly review of the plan. This has a planning advantage, in that it provides a means of making sure that the expansion of a town, or the redevelopment of a town, takes place in an orderly, methodical way. But it also helps the land owner, as an example will show. Let us remember that the full reconstruction programme for blitz and blight, as I pointed out to your Lordships a few days ago, will in many towns take fifty years, or even more. If the plan merely showed the total area to be reconstructed, all the owners in the area would be uncertain as to when their particular land was going to be taken. If, on the other hand, we show a ten years' programme, then the owners of that land know the worst, and the owners of undesignated land know that they are reasonably secure to continue their use of the land undisturbed for some period of years to come. It is quite true that compulsory powers of purchase in other Acts are unaffected, but I am sure that all Departments will co-operate by arranging that the land they purchase, or the purchase of which they authorize, is first designated in the development plan.
I pass to another feature of the Bill relating to advertisements. Here for the first time we have an effective and a uniform system of control. I think both the advertising industry and those interested in the protection of the countryside will realize that such a control is long overdue. The detailed control is rightly left to regulations, and the Minister is already discussing with the interests concerned the exact scope and content of these regulations. Broadly speaking, the intention is that in certain special areas commercial advertising will be almost completely prohibited, while elsewhere advertising will be allowed, either by the provisions of the regulations themselves, or only after permission has been obtained from the local planning authority. So much for Parts I to IV.
The Bill deals next, in Part V, with the price payable on compulsory acquisi- 129 tion, provisions which are sure of a welcome because they abolish the 1939 standard. When in the last Government we introduced the 1939 standard we gave it a life of five years—that was until 1949—but I should imagine that few of your Lordships would shed tears at its premature decease. In future the basis of compensation will be current values, with two qualifications. The first is a temporary qualification. It is the idea of the notional lease ending in 1954, which is a valuation device intended to eliminate the special scarcity value which at present attaches to vacant possession. The second qualification, which is not temporary, is the restriction to existing use value—that is to say, the price paid will be the value for existing use, since any value for potential development will have been withdrawn as a result of the Bill itself.
Parts VI and VII contain our solution of the compensation and betterment problem. But before I embark upon that I would like to say something about the Exchequer grants in Part IX. These complete the new system of positive planning, and they will secure that the bold projects for which local authorities now have powers are not frustrated, as so often in the past, by the high cost of land. These are very important provisions. It often happens that a local authority has to buy out land on the basis of one use, and then divert it to a use that is less valuable and provides a lower yield of income, leaving the deficit to be borne on the rates. In future, the Exchequer will make a substantial contribution towards that debt. With the details, which are left to regulations but which have already been largely worked out in consultation with the local authorities, I need not detain your Lordships.
The Government have recognized that, as the damage by air raids was a national disaster, reconstruction should be aided by contributions from national funds on a generous scale (much more generous than in the 1944 Act) and my right honourable friend the Minister announced in another place recently that all authorities will get the same measure of grant for dealing with blitzed areas. The proposal to reduce the grant for blitz to the richer authorities has been abandoned. In addition, for the first time, there are Exchequer grants under Clause 92 towards the re-development of blighted areas and their associated overspill areas, 130 towards compensation for planning restrictions, and towards compensation for the compulsory purchase of land. This grant will vary according to the financial strength of the authority concerned.
Now I come to Part VI, which deals with the £300,000,000 fund, a matter which has excited a certain amount of attention and controversy but which is capable, I think, of a simple and rational explanation. In some quarters it has been said that by this Bill we are nationalizing development rights. I think, if I may say so, that we had better not use that phrase because it is not accurate; we shall have confusion of thought if we use it. This Bill does not vest any legal rights in land in the State at all. Let me analyze what it does and, if I may say so respectfully, let us bear these points in mind in our discussion. First, the Bill says that nobody can develop or re-develop his land—that includes, of course, building on it or extracting minerals from it, or changing over to some new use—without planning permission, and that planning permission can be granted or refused. Your Lordships will appreciate that there is nothing new in that. That is the position under the planning Acts of 1932 and 1943. Secondly—and this is the new feature—there is no provision, save in a few very special cases, for the payment of compensation if permission is refused.
Up to the present time the approach of the present planning Acts is that an owner is entitled to use his land as he pleases, and if he is prevented from doing so he is compensated. There are important exceptions to that. You may exclude compensation, for instance, in respect of restrictions on density, height, type of building or use, if the use is what I may term "anti-social." But the broad rule hitherto has been compensation for refusal to develop. There is the crux of the trouble with which all your Lordships are familiar, and that is the compensation problem about which so much has been written. The Uthwatt Report ably demonstrated that the local authorities, if they planned properly, had to keep on paying out money snowball fashion for values which were not really destroyed but which shifted from one parcel of land to another until they finally settled where development was permitted, and the owner of that land received all the benefit.
But if some owners can be restricted from development without compensation— 131 which we propose—should the fortunate man who happens to own land that is suitable for the development be allowed to keep the development value? For instance, in the Green Belt round London we restrict development, and we propose to pay no compensation for that restriction. If that is right, it cannot be right to allow a man who owns land outside the Green Belt, to which the development urge comes just because you restrict the Green Belt, to reap the full benefit of the development value. You can, of course, take the line that it is just the luck of the day—some win, some lose; some are granted permission and some are refused permission—but I think all responsible people would say that we should not deal with the matter in that way.
I come now to the third point. Owners who are permitted to develop are required to pay to the State a development charge, based on the additional value due to that permission. That, of course, was the same proposal as in the Coalition White Paper, in which, you will remember, we were going to make them pay 80 per cent. I will deal with the development charge later, but here we are to say that the development charge shall be assessed having regard to the difference in the value of the land as it is and the value of the land with the particular permission. The fourth point is this. The Bill provides that in future the compensation payable on compulsory purchase should be the market value for existing use, and should no longer include any payment for development value. That, you will see, is the natural corollary of the first three points.
May I summarize the whole matter? All land owners are left free to enjoy the existing use of their land and to reap the value attributable to that use. But all land owners are deprived of the increases in value resulting from the selection of their land for development in the future. I stress the point that these are future values and are problematical. They represent income from land not yet reaped, and perhaps never capable of being reaped, an income which is dependent on future economic and social development, international development, public taste, and a host of other factors. It is the element of land value which has for long been the happy hunting ground of land speculators. It is what has often been 132 termed "unearned increment" and has long been recognized—at any rate, in some quarters of this House—as a proper subject for heavy taxation.
This is not an orthodox taxation bill. It approaches this age-old problem in a new way, and it, finds a solution more suited to the needs of our times, directed primarily to planning requirements. Our solution is at once more drastic and more just than the scheme of taxation. It is more drastic because we take away values; we do not let them accrue and then tax them—we do not let them accrue. It is more just because we meet the hardships involved. We recognize that there will be cases in which the operation of taking away development values, as compared with the former idea of merely taxing them, may work hardly on individuals, and the Bill therefore allots a sum of £300,000,000—which I submit is not an ungenerous sum—in order to meet cases of hardship that will arise.
I am not going to attempt to prove, either now or in the future, by calculations and figures, that that is exactly the right sum to meet all reasonable claims. Nor do I propose to attempt to compare it with the various cases of development value that have been made from time to time. They are all shots in the dark, and what is the use of trying to make these calculations when the fact of the matter is that the data upon which to make the comparison are not available, and could not be obtained even after many years research? And of what service would the comparison be? The Government do not admit that land owners have any right to compensation for the loss of values resulting from future development. We set out our view plainly in paragraph 26 of the Explanatory Memorandum which was published with the Bill. The £300,000,000 does not pretend or purport to be a global sum, in the sense that it is an estimate of the individual valuations discounted to eliminate floating value. It is a sum which, in the opinion of the Government, ought to be quite adequate to meet all reasonable hardship claims. It may be more generous or less generous than a global sum would be; but at all events it is generous.
If you take the global sum as being the sum of all the individuals' rights, and you arrive at a figure of "X" million pounds, you then admittedly have to discount it 133 by some proportion to eliminate the floating value. The noble Lord, Lord Woolton, and I in the old days used to listen to experts, some of whom said that there should be no discount at all. Others said the discount should be 80 per cent. and that only 20 per cent. should be paid. It is really very little good, as I used to find in my life at the Bar, going through elaborate calculations to try to find a figure when, after you have found it you have to operate upon some consideration which is quite incapable of any exact proof. The figure of £300,000,000 is the figure which we intend.
The next problem is how to distribute it. We could in this Bill have made specific provisions, but it would have been quite impossible to be certain that every deserving case was covered. We suffer from knowing far too little about land ownership in this country. Accordingly, what we propose is that all owners shall submit claims. This will provide much information that is now lacking about land values and land ownerships and about the effect of the Bill upon individual owners. When that information has been obtained the Treasury will prepare a scheme for distributing the £300,000,000, and that scheme has to be approved by affirmative Resolutions of both Houses of Parliament before it can become effective. I believe that this is a wiser course than trying to settle now, without adequate information, the precise circumstances in which payments ought to be made. I think it is a wiser course than trying now to fix an arbitrary percentage that eliminates "floating value." In previous debates several of your Lordships suggested a flat 50 per cent. payment. That may be the right figure or it may be too much or too little. We have no means of knowing. There may be some cases where a mere 50 per cent. payment itself would be a hardship and others where it would be too generous. Floating value is a curious phenomenon; land held already by builders for the erection of houses is an example where float is small and can be disregarded. The Minister has already stated that in such cases as that the Treasury scheme would provide for a full 100 per cent. payment in respect of it, and there seem to be other similar cases.
I am not going to discuss with your Lordships problems concerning ripe or 134 near-ripe land; that I will do at the proper time. The Act provides under Section 54 that the Treasury scheme may apply to war damage; and in the War Damage Act of 1943, Section 24, as your Lordships will remember, provides that in cases of a mortgage, the mortgagee is entitled to receive direct such part of the payment as is fairly attributable to him. That is a matter will have to be taken care of by the Treasury scheme. I submit to your Lordships that the scheme we have adopted is a fair, statesmanlike, and practical measure.
Now I turn to a difficult part of the Bill—that which relates to development charge, which is to be collected when development takes place. I would like to emphasize a few point which ought to be kept quite clear. Let me make it quite plain that a development charge so called is not a tax on development, and there is in our opinion no reason why it should discourage the erection of or increase the price of houses or other buildings. In the ordinary case, the perfectly straight-forward case, of land being sold for development, the development charge is merely part of the purchase price of the land which the developer at present pays to the land owner. In future he will pay it to the Central Land Board, and in consequence should pay the land owner less. That is right, because the Bill takes development values out of private hands, and the land owner—who would of course have been entitled to submit a claim against the £300,000,000—ought no longer to be able to gel more for his land than the value appropriate to its existing use plus a reasonable sum to compensate him for any disturbance he may suffer.
Your Lordships will observe that this Bill does not lay down a hard and fast formula for calculating the development charge; but it does provide thatin determining the charge the Board is to have regard to the amount by which the value of the land with the benefit of the planning permission to develop exceeds the value which it would have had without the benefit of such permission.That is to say, the Board has to look at the purpose for which the land is going to be used and limit its charge to the value for that use. It will not base the charge on some other hypothetical use to which the land might have been put and for which it might command a higher—or lower—price. Suppose land, is wanted for 135 housing. That is not a private undertaking. But the same land might perhaps be used for a greyhound track, and if you go to the owner of the land he will no longer be entitled to say, "My land is worth so much money because I might have used it for a greyhound track." There may be a difference between the value of the land as it is to-day and the land if used for a housing estate.
Thirdly, I call your Lordships' attention to the fact that the Bill does not provide for arbitration on the amount of the charge. I call attention to that because I like to call attention to these debatable points, and it may seem to some of your Lordships that this is dictatorial or bureaucratic. But I think noble Lords will agree that the Board will be in very much the same position as a person negotiating a sale of the land. In some cases, not infrequently, the Board will actually buy the land, either by agreement with the land owner or under compulsory powers. In those cases they will sell or lease to the developer and will negotiate a price just as any private owner or local authority or Government Department does now when disposing of land. It would be quite inappropriate to introduce arbitration in those circumstances. The ordinary processes have always worked satisfactorily in the past, and there is no reason why they should not continue to do so. If the Board do not actually buy the land, but merely dispose of what I may term the "right to develop" in order to secure the "development value" which the Bill vests in the State, is there any difference in principle? I submit not.
The Board will be in no different position from that of a person selling a commodity. They will be in the position of a willing—indeed I might almost say, an anxious—seller. They will be subject to the general direction of the Minister, and they will certainly not be permitted to hold up development necessary in the public interest by demanding a price that is excessive and which therefore frightens the developers away. Such a situation would be the negation of the process of planned development which the Bill seeks to achieve. Nor would this situation be avoided by providing for arbitration. The arbitrator might well award a figure which the particular developer finds excessive. He would then have to withdraw from 136 the development, and no positive result would be achieved.
I submit that it is much better to leave matters with the Central Land Board who can take into account all the facts of a given case and, in particular, at the instance of the planning authorities, can have regard to the need for encouraging development in some areas and not in others, and so on. It is because we are convinced that the inflexibility of the arbitration machine is much more likely to be harmful and discouraging to developers that the Bill avoids it and relies upon flexibility—flexibility not only in amount but also in the method and time for payment. Sometimes it would be a lump sum, sometimes an annual payment and sometimes a payment in the nature of a royalty.
Let me emphasize that we do not seek by this Bill to crush private enterprise in development; on the contrary, we want to mobilize all available methods, and to encourage all of them to play their part in the building and re-building of the country. We claim that the Bill will encourage private enterprise in two ways. First, it enables the land, which is the builders' raw material, to be made available in accordance with the plan instead of leaving the developer at the mercy of the land owner to build only where the land owner is willing to sell; secondly, it encourages building by enabling the land to be made available at a price that is governed by considerations of public policy, and not of private gain. That, my Lords, is the cardinal feature of this Bill. I have said nothing about Part VIII, which is the part of the Bill that applies to special cases. Much of Part VIII is non-controversial, but there are certain clauses—for instance Clause 79, dealing with minerals, and the clause dealing with land owned by Charities, which is, I think Clause 83—which are vital matters upon which we must have much discussion.
I have detained your Lordships far too long, but it is difficult to address one's observations to you in too short a time. Those I think are the main features of the Bill, but I would like to add this other consideration: that it is the fact that the discussion in another place, although it lasted for some one hundred hours, was subjected to a time table, or what is called "the guillotine." I do not doubt 137 that one of the problems—and there are many—which our democracy has to solve is to know what to do in these cases. On the one hand, if you have no time schedule and no guillotine it may be said, and said with truth, that Parliament becomes a mere talking shop—we have heard people say that about democratic institutions. On the other hand, the very essence of democracy is that it is government by discussion, and the real problem is to fix a time limit which allows adequate opportunity for discussion. Whether or not in this case we allowed adequate time I do not propose to say—it may be on the one Hand that we did not allow enough time, or it may be, on the other hand, that the time we did allow was not very wisely used. But there is no doubt about this: that parts of the Bill, because of their volume, have not had discussion in another place, and therefore your Lordships have the right and, if I may say so, the duty, to subject this Bill to careful consideration and careful scrutiny, and I am certainly not objecting to that at all.
I shall try, as I do with all these Bills, to meet reasoned argument with reasoned argument. I cannot promise that when the time comes I shall be master of the Bill in the way the Minister was, but I shall at any rate do the best I can to assist your Lordships, either when we get to the Committee stage or before we get to the Committee stage, because, after all, this Bill is a vitally important Bill. We are all committed to the broad principles of this Bill, and we must all work together to make this Bill as good as it can be. From my previous experience of your Lordships I do not doubt that, as a result of discussion and the exchange of views, we shall be able to improve this Bill in certain respects. It is a fact, of course, that the main structure of the Bill has been very carefully thought out, but I have no doubt at all that there are many details in which your Lordships can help, and I shall do all I can to help you in every respect.
There are some Amendments which I myself am going to propose. The principal ones are these. It is desirable, I think, to have some Amendments relating to Agreements made under Section 34 of the Act of 1932, and we have been obtaining information from local authorities with regard to that matter. Another Amendment that I want is to set out in 138 a Schedule, for information purposes, the provisions of the Act of 1944, so that we may see at a glance to what extent we are or are not altering the provisions. I am quite sure that we can examine this Bill together in a non-controversial atmosphere and make improvements, and, at the same time, see that reasonable expedition is reached.
I shall invite your Lordships to help us. I am not suggesting that this Bill will give us a new Britain, but I am suggesting that this Bill gives us the tools without which we cannot begin the job. The completion of the work which we are starting to-day will obviously be a matter for the generations yet unborn; but it was said that we are entering the century of the common man, and Mr. Churchill said, "We are joining the forward march of the common people towards their just and true inheritance. "I believe there is no better way in which we can help the forward march of the common people towards their true anal just inheritance than by seeing that there is built a far better and nobler Britain than in the past. I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(The Lord Chancellor.)
§ 3.49 P.m.
§ LORD LLEWELLIN
My Lords, we are all indebted to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack for the manner in which he has introduced this Bill to the House. We are faced, as he has indicated, with what is a long and, I must admit, very complicated measure, and many parts of it, as he has told us, fall to be discussed for the first time in this House. I believe, having made some calculations, that 52 clauses out of 144 were never discussed on the Committee or Report stage in another place, and 6 schedules out of 10, and I see that the Minister of Town and Country Planning said on the Third Reading:We, shall, no doubt, see something of the Bill once more when it returns to the House from another place, but I take my temporary leave of it with complete confidence that as amended it will stand up successfully to the close scrutiny which it will undoubtedly receive.Whether the Minister's complete confidence is securely or insecurely founded we shall have to wait and see, but it is our duty, as the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, has told us, 139 to give due consideration and close scrutiny to a measure a large part of which is in fact being initiated in your Lordships' House, and to a measure which is so far-reaching in its consequences.
This Bill enables the Minister of Town and Country Planning, apart from the powers still vested in other Ministers—a point on which I shall make a comment later—to control the use of all land, to control all but de minimis building, and, indeed, to direct every activity that takes place on land in England or Wales. I know of no activity that does not, in some way, require the use of land. In addition, the Bill allows the Board of Trade to be the complete dictator as to where any industrial undertaking may commence business, and, indeed, as to whether such an undertaking may or may not expand its business on its present site. Again, this Bill gives the Central Land Board a complete monopoly to make what charge they like to anyone who wishes to develop. The Bill also gives to local planning authorities powers to designate (I do not suppose that many of them will do it) the whole of the land in their areas. In effect—and despite what the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, said, I am going to use this word—it nationalizes all minerals, and provides a maximum of £300,000,000 as compensation for all the values that are being taken over. That shows in broad outline what this Bill does. And that, I think, is full justification for us to give it a close scrutiny.
I want, if I may, to deal in more detail in a moment or two with those different heads. But before doing so I would like to make one or two general observations. Some people seem to think that the whole of the development of this country—which I still maintain is the most beautiful in the world—has been carried out by the community as a whole. They do not say that about some of the horrible development of the last century which I, equally with most of your Lordships, deplore. But, except with regard to a public park here or there, those who think or say that the community as a whole have produced our wonderful countryside are, in reality, quite wrong. It has been done largely by great and far-sighted land owners of the past, many of whom were numbered among the ancestors of noble Lords sitting in this House. I think that to them the country as a whole, owes a 140 great debt of gratitude. In this connexion, I am reminded of a story, which I may perhaps be allowed to tell in your Lordships' House.
A certain parson was walking down a street in the village where he lived, and looking over a fence he saw a man tilling his garden. He remarked: "What a beautiful garden this is, and what wonderful results can be produced when God and man work together." The man working in the garden looked up and replied: " That may be all very well, Parson, but you should have seen this garden when God had it to Himself."
I think a lot of people of this age would have been quite surprised if they could have seen this countryside of ours when God and our forefathers of the Stone Age had it to themselves. However, times have changed, and land owners no longer have the means to develop the land in the way they did in the past. The very heavy burden of death duties has had a great deal to do with this, and the land—or some of it at any rate—has certainly got into the hands of those who are not developing it for the love of the beauty of the countryside, as many of the men of the past did, but for what profit they can get out of it. In those circumstances, all Parties are agreed that there must be some control over development. Indeed, I think we can claim that most of the previous measures dealing with this matter have been introduced and put on the Statute Book by the Party to which I belong.
But in a matter of this sort you can certainly have too much of the laissez faire attitude. You can, on the other hand, I submit, go too far the other way and get involved in too much red tape. There is no doubt that in the last century there was far too much laissez faire in regard to this particular problem, but I am quite convinced that in one or two respects the present Bill goes much too far in the other direction. I started by saying that the Bill enables the Minister to control the use of all land. There is complete centralization. It is quite true that the local planning authorities—and with the exception of the matter of the City of London I welcome the lessening of the number of planning authorities—submit surveys and then schemes, but the Minister can alter them and approve of something quite different; and ultimately the Central Land Board are the body of people who have, under the direction of 141 the Minister, complete control, by reason of the power they have to assess the amount of every single development charge. Under this head, what I would first like to submit to your Lordships is that the definition of development, as we find it in the Bill, is too wide. And it will be even more disastrous if the field for the imposition of development charges remains so wide as it is at present in the Bill.
May I take three classes of cases to illustrate what I mean? There are a large number of houses, both in the countryside and in towns, but particularly, for rural workers, which are too small inside. In passing, let me once more say that I think that position might not have been as bad as it is if the Government had allowed the Housing (Rural Workers) Act to continue; but they have not done that. I had hoped, after the last food debate, something might be done in that respect but so far they have been adamant on this matter and now, by the provisions of this Bill, no one will be able to improve such cottages by a cubic content of more than 10 per cent., without making himself liable to a development charge. It is true that with a house such as Hatfield you can acid 10 per cent. to it, and no doubt my noble friend could put on an extra bedroom and a bathroom and lavatory; but if you have a rural cottage of only 1,000 cubic feet you cannot add another bedroom and a bathroom to that, as many people want to do, without incurring the possibility of a development charge. One of the things I shall suggest, in the course of discussion on this Bill, is that at any rate for the smaller house the 10 per cent. shall be increased so that when you have a cottage—and there are quite a number in the country now-with a sitting room, kitchen and only two bedrooms you will be able to acid an extra bedroom, which is essential if there are girls and boys growing up together in the same house, and a modern bath and water closet, without incurring a development charge.
The second reason why I think the basis of this development charge is too narrow is that where there is a clamant need for more houses you should be able to divide some of the larger houses into separate flats. Under the terms of the Bill you cannot make this change without incurring the risk of having to pay a development charge. This has nothing to 142 do with planning. I am still one of those who believe that the Englishman's house is his castle, and so long as he does not commit a nuisance to his neighbours he should be able to do more or less what he wants inside. It would be different if he were going to pull the house down, and put up some different structure, but if he is only going to alter the internal features surely it is a matter which does not affect the amenities of his neighbours. If we can get that alteration made in this Bill we shall stop it preventing people from doing the right thing to the larger houses in the present time of acute housing shortage.
Take the case, too, of an old-fashioned office—there are a lot left in London—where alteration should be made to make more comfortable quarters for the staff working there. Again, if you make alterations or eliminate some cupboards to make more space for the staff, and go over 10 per cent. cubic capacity, you will incur liability for a development charge. And so either one of two things will happen. A man will say: "I am not going to do that; as things are this will still have to do." Or he will possibly say to his architect: "You can make out new plans but on no account increase the cubic content by more than 10 per cent." These development charges ought not to be left on what is done internally. Have development charges on sites, which is right, but not on existing buildings on the land.
I hope the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack will not merely meet reasoned argument with reasoned argument, but occasionally will meet reasoned argument with reasonable concession—as indeed we know he has lone when he has dealt with Bills in the period in which I have had the honour of being a member of your Lordships' House. This narrow definition of development charge is not encouraging good planning. It is quite the reverse. It is not facilitating proper development: it will have the effect of hindering it. The tendency will be to prolong the life of obsolete buildings and prevent the proper adaption of existing buildings to the new and wider needs of the community which we all want to see fulfilled.
Another thing I want to mention in regard to the question of getting on with house buliding is that up to date the Minister has refused to allow interim 143 planning authorities to have any interim planning permission at all when the Bill becomes law. He knows the difficulty with which he is going to be faced. In fact, he said on Third Reading:You are aware that the county councils are new to planning, and that by and large, they have not at present the stall or the experience, and that the Central Land Board is not even set up. It will be an entirely new organization with people on it who possibly have not had a planning background. Other qualifications may well be required and it may not be possible to get all those in one individual. There will be a lack of trained staff among local authorities—the county councils and the county boroughs—and I am fully conscious of the fact that, probably, in the beginning, the machine may well creak at times, in places.If that is the position, why are the present planning authorities not to be allowed to give interim planning permission, as they have done quite adequately in the past? So far as I can see, under the present policy, we shall have to wait until this machine ceases to creak, until the Central Land Board have their staff, before we can go ahead.
I want to come now to the centralized power of the Board of Trade to say where any industrial activity should take place. The officers in that department, good men as they are, are not practical industrialists. In fact, I discussed this problem with the then Permanent Secretary during the short term I was President of the Board of Trade, and I suggested that in the days after the war it would be a good thing to follow Admiralty practice. When an officer of the administrative grade has been in the Admiralty for two or three years he is posted down to the Fleet, and when he gets down to the Fleet he begins to learn what the people in the Fleet think about some of the orders he has drafted in the Admiralty. I suggested that it would be a good thing to second to industry for a year or two some of the young administrative officers so that they could look at the matter from the other side of the fence. At the same time, some selected people from industry could come into the Board of Trade to take the place of the administrative officers. They could then learn some of the difficulties encountered in Government Departments. I think things would work much more smoothly if that were done, but it has not been done.
144 Some of these men in the Board of Trade will be actually dictating to industries where they are to go, and what they may do. I know that a number of leaders of industry look with dismay on the necessity to obtain a permit from the Board of Trade before they extend an existing factory. I do not say that where they start a new factory on a completely different site they should not be subject to the Board of Trade. But where they have bought a site (and many of them have) they ought to be allowed to extend their factory on that site; they ought not to have to, seek permission for it, because, automatically, the zone is an industrial one from the fact that the factory is already there. There ought to be none of this red tape or hampering of industry at the present time. I am against making a development charge on these people for extending their factories. In our present state of affairs we do not want to place any extra burdens on the industry of the country which, by its work, is going to bring us through these difficult times.
It is no good replying that with the price attributable to the existing use of the land the development charge will only equal what they would have had to pay for the land, because in most cases they will already have bought the land at a price which included development value and will have it ready for the extension of their factory. In that case they certainly ought not to have to pay a development charge in addition to the price they have already paid for that land. While talking about Government Departments, I want to say that, despite the meticulous control of individuals and of planning authorities which we find in this Bill, there is no control over the worst offenders of all—the War Office, the Ministry of Fuel and Power and other Government Departments. I do not see the slightest control in this Bill on the activities of those who are really at the present time the biggest offenders in this country against proper planning.
Now I come to the power of the Central Land Board. This Board are being given a complete monopoly, and I am one of those who do not like monopolies, even if they are in the hands of the State. At present, if one landlord asks too much, there are a vast number of other land owners to whom one can go, because when we talk about land owners in this coun- 145 try it is not just a question of a hundred or so people. If one includes the people who own their own houses, this number, is above the 4,000,000 mark. Of course, all these people do not own land where there is further room for development, but there are a vast number of land owners in this country who do. Under this Bill there will be only one, the Central Land Board, the personnel of which is at present unknown. Unlike the judges, they will have no well-tried system to administer. We know and have great confidence in the way in which judges are appointed and we know their previous training; but here we have a body from which there will be no appeal whatever.
I know that the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said it has worked well in the past, and that one did not have an arbitrator between a prospective purchaser and a land owner to see what ought to be the price. It worked all right in the past because there was another land owner to whom one could go. Now there will be this Board, who will be the only body that will assess all development charges. And, so far as I can see, there will be no kind of appeal by the developer against some kind of charge, however much it is, made upon him by this body; nor am I at all sure that this body will be open to criticism even in Parliament. The Coal Board, apparently, can buy house after house, not for offices but to house their senior members, and the Minister gets away with it with the answer that that is entirely within the discretion of the. Coal Board. I would like to know whether we are setting up another body like that, which is to be remote from criticism by Parliament and with no appeal whatever against it. It is not good to have set up these bodies which are above the law, and we ought to see that the Central Land Board are subject to some sort of appeal and are subject to criticism in Parliament for what they do.
I want to say a word or two about designation, with which the noble and learned Viscount also dealt. I think it was right to have designation in the blitzed areas, and I do not see any harm in it if it can be limited properly in some way. There is a lot to be said for a local authority designating a piece of land which they are to use within a reasonably short period, but I think that ten years is much too long. First of all, the whole survey 146 has to be done again in five years time, when another lot of land may be designated, so some land may be, as I understand it, undesignated—if that is the right word for a designation being removed—in the course of that survey. Ten years is certainly too long, and I think there ought to be some rights for the individual who has had his land designated to say at some period: "You either take off this designation or you buy it."
What is to happen with regard to these designated areas? Take the case of a farm just outside a town, which might well be designated because it is the next place for a housing estate. If the farmer is an owner-occupier he will cease to do much about repairs for the period of ten years mentioned in the Bill. That is quite obvious. There will be this blight upon the place, and he will do little to keep his buildings in repair, knowing that they may be taken away almost at a moment's notice within that period of ten years. We shall see derelict buildings in all these designated areas. If he is a tenant farmer he will not stay there long when once the land has been designated. I forget the exact period, but I think it is only notice of a month or two that has to be given to take it over for the purpose for which it has been designated. Then, of course, that farm tenant will say: "I want to go somewhere where I have greater security of tenure than I can have in this designated place." So as soon as he can get another farm he will leave that one. How on earth is the owner to get any other tenant to take over and run that farm which may be taken from him at a couple of months' notice? That is a part of this Bill that we can well alter, without affecting its fundamental structure, by saying: "Designate if you like for a period of five years, but if you do not do anything about it within that period, then the owner may say: ' Either you take over this designated land, or you buy it, because it is you who are causing this blight upon this land and you ought to take it over and deal with it yourselves one way or the other,'"
I am delighted to see in this Bill a considerable control over advertising. Some of the advertisements: which have been allowed to be put up in the beauty spots of this country in the past have been quite monstrous. The noble and learned Viscount said that all commercial advertising will be stopped in some areas of the 147 country. I hope that will also include the Government posters. It does not matter who produces the poster; it is a question of not having a poster at all in those areas. I hope, from that point of view, that the word "commercial" will be taken to include the Government advertisements. It is probably right to do it by regulations. I have no doubt that when we see them (we shall have to look at them very carefully) they will not restrict a man from putting his name on his shop, or what he is selling—as, for instance, a tabocconist or confectioner, or anything like that—and we shall not have any stupid planning authority trying to get rid of our familiar inn signs on our old inns up and down the country. People are sometimes a little fearful on those scores, and we have to be careful about them.
I would like now to come to two more clauses. Clause 79 was mentioned in passing by the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. That seems, somehow, to have been tacked on to this Bill. It is the clause in regard to minerals. It is far wider than mere planning, and it is a difficult clause to discuss because, like a number of other clauses in the Bill, it leaves the matter to regulation; in fact, we do not know quite what we are doing when we look at Clause 79. It begins:In relation to development consisting of the winning and working of minerals, the provisions of this Act shall have effect subject to such adaptations and modifications as may be prescribed by regulations made under this Act with the consent of the Treasury.So what is going to happen about minerals one just does not know. It refers merely to "such adaptations and modifications as may be prescribed." It is a little difficult to discuss this problem intelligently without a sight of the regulation. But it means that in future anybody working the minerals, after the three years at any rate, will become liable to development charges. I think this will make people less keen to develop the minerals. It will also mean that anyone who has minerals in his land ought to put in a claim for compensation to be paid to him now. This clause being tacked on to the Bill seems to make the £300,000,000 a more absurdly small sum than it was previously.
There is a mineral which is called fuller's earth. I did not know that it had the great value that it has, but I am told that if proper value were paid for existing 148 leases this in itself would take one-twelfth part of the £300,000,000. We all know,about the clay pits, the gravel pits, and the various other things, and I must say that those are minerals to which people who owned the land have always had the right. The ancient common law doctrine that he who owns the land owns right down to the middle of the earth and up to the sky has long long been recognized. I remember that we had to modify it because it might have been trespass for an aircraft to fly over land. The doctrine was so well recognized that that point had to be dealt with quite early in the days of aviation in this country.
I know that some say no compensation should be paid at all, on the ground that the State is only taking away something to which the individual had no right. The short and simple answer to that is that it would have been no good saying that to the Inland Revenue authorities when they came to assess death duties on some land you had inherited. Indeed, Section 23 of the Finance Act, 1925, specifically separated the right of property in agricultural land into the agricultural and the development rights, and they called the development rights "the excess principal value." That had to bear duties at a higher rate than those borne on the agricultural land. So if compensation is not paid here, what will happen to a large number of people is that they will have been charged death duties on the value of the land by the Government of the day, and they will be told later on by the Central Land Board, or by somebody else, that they have no value in the land at all; that theirs is not a case of hardship, and they will not get anything out of the £300,000,000. I do not think that argument holds good.
Others say that no compensation should be paid, on the ground that the whole value has been created by the community. Does this apply only to land? If there were no community, would there be any value in having a fish shop or a tobacconist's? There would be nobody to whom to sell anything. Would there be any value in a solicitor's or barrister's practice? There would be nobody to befriend with good and learned advice. So I think we can get rid of that contention. There is one other comment I wish to make, and that is that one of the indirect effects of this measure—and we might as well face it—will be to reduce the 149 wealth available for trade and exchange in this country. Now that may seem an absurd statement at first sight, but if a farmer or anybody else wants to raise money now from his bank to use in his business, he can raise it on the full value of his land. After this Bill becomes law, he will be able to raise money only on the agricultural value of the land, and so we are taking away some wealth—some means of raising other wealth, at any rate—that previously existed. Of course, anybody who happens to own land, after this Bill is passed, will probably have far fewer disputes with the Inland Revenue with regard to death duties, because the excess value under the 1925 Act will no longer belong to the individual.
I do not think that the £300,000,000 is a big enough sum. I am always a believer that when the State, for the good of the country as a whole, takes over something which the individual owns, the burden should fall on the shoulders of the whole community and not on the individual concerned, and they should pay him a fair compensation. I do not think the £300,000,000 is enough. The Barlow Committee put it at £400,000,000, and when they did that it covered only development rights in areas not built up. Now the £300,000,000 is supposed to cover places with even such valuable sites as there are in London. Also, the Barlow Committee's,figures were based on 1938 value, when the value of the £ was certainly higher than it is to-day, and the Barlow Committee's values did not include minerals. If a fair compensation were given for the minerals, most of this £300,000,000 would go in that respect. It is quite clear to me, therefore—and it will be clear in the course of a few years to many people in the country who own small or large properties—that owners are going to be badly "done down" by this inadequate sum. I think four or five times this amount might be needed to give people fair and proper compensation.
There is, therefore, quite a lot to be said against this measure, although there are some good things to be said in its favour. It comes here largely undigested; some of it looks as though it will take a good deal of swallowing, and many people will have some aches and pains, especially those who are concerned with quick and good house building and the proper improvement and modernization of existing accommodation, unless, of course, we can 150 improve it in some of the ways that I have suggested. But it is our duty to try and improve it, and if we can get down, to use the same metaphor, to "chewing over it" together, we may by our joint efforts put a passable measure on the Statute book. It is certainly the wish of all of us on this side of the House that good planning should be encouraged and our countryside properly developed, but we want to see that done without red tape and with complete fairness to all sections of our people.
§ 4.35 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT BUCKMASTER
My Lords, the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has asked me to say that he had intended addressing your Lordships personally, and it is only the fact that he is not at the present moment in England which is preventing his doing so. Noble Lords with whom I sit have also asked me to say that while there is much in this measure to which they take exception, they are in fact prepared to support this Bill. I should like, if I may, to join earlier speakers who have paid tribute to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack. One thing he said gave me encouragement, and that was his statement that he did not profess fully to understand the Bill. May I use a phrase which may appeal to him and say that I find myself in pari delicto? I only hope that the penalty your Lordships may exact will not be a severe one.
Whatever view one may hold about the merits or demerits of this Bill, I think it is clear that in its complexity, in the effect it seeks to achieve, it far exceeds any measure that has been before your Lordships for a great many years. If this Bill becomes law, every acre of land in this country will come under its provisions, and further, what is not generally known, every building on that land will be included also. It is not easy to guess—and I doubt whether the Government themselves know—how many people in this country, in some capacity or another, or some interest or another, come within its ambit, or how much of our land is adversely affected by its provisions. But, at the same time, there is much in it which one can commend. There are the provisions for the preservation of ancient buildings and certain conditions for preserving trees. I heartily support also 151 the control of advertisements. I am reminded that that is necessary by something which I am assured happened recently, when an approach was made to a company notorious for its posters. They expressed their readiness to co-operate, but they added, "You need never have approached us, because we are most careful never to disfigure a beauty spot. We put our hoardings only in the open countryside."
I heartily support also the provision for starting new local planning authorities. Indeed, I would say that I anticipate that property owners in this country would welcome any measure of planning which they felt to be just, practicable and effective; but I fear that this measure, whilst it does not fail completely, at any rate falls short in some respects in at least the first two of those qualities. I consider that the measure is lacking in justice because, as the noble and learned Viscount has stated, the compensation is uncertain and in any case, as I hope to show, is quite inadequate. If my advices are correct, the Bill is likely to be impracticable for the reason that there do not exist in this country, and there cannot be created within a reasonable measure of time, the skilled, trained, technical men needed to carry out its provisions.
Can that be wondered at, if we really stop to think what the Bill sets out to do? Every acre of land in this country must be surveyed within a period of three years. In addition, where the value of an owner's land will be depreciated. Clause 55 makes it plain that he has a right to lodge a claim for compensation. That claim, will consist of an assessment of the unrestricted value and the restricted value—two calculations. The Government, of course, will not accept that claim without consideration. They have to employ their own valuers and will have to make those calculations over again. I suggest to your Lordships that far from this machine creaking, very soon you will hear the components groaning and the gear wheels grinding, as it lumbers to a standstill on a gradient which it never can surmount. There is one other unhappy feature of the Bill, and that is the uncertainty which clouds it. I would say one word in this regard about compensation. Compensation, as your Lordships know, is uncertain; you may never 152 get it, and the amount you may receive if you are fortunate is also uncertain. The manner in which the compensation will be assessed between Scotland and England is also uncertain.
Now let me turn to the question of development. Clause 66 states that the developer will have "to pay a development charge of such amount, if any,"— mark the" if any "—" as the Board may determine." The clause adds "no … operations shall be carried out … until the amount of the charge, if any, … has been determined." With the greatest respect to the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, whose arguments I do not feel competent to counter, is it right to say that a Bill so vague, so uncertain, so imprecise can encourage development? Is any man in his senses going to develop under conditions like that? Of course not. It cannot he said that the Bill can be anything but discouraging to the building of houses by private enterprise in this country.
It would be improper, indeed wrong of me, if, after the full survey of this Bill given by the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, I were to attempt to follow in his footsteps. I therefore propose to use an instrument which has latterly become popular; I refer to the guillotine. The only difference between the Government and myself is that whereas they use it on the Opposition, I propose to use it on myself. In other words I propose to address myself to only four clauses which I consider important, with two of which my noble friend has already fully dealt. The first is Clause 55, which deals with the question of compensation. There is little there that I can usefully add to my noble friend's statement, but he will allow me, I think, to point out that while this Bill is limited to England and Wales, where compensation is concerned it extends to Scotland as well. Therefore you get this figure of £300,000,000, which, as the noble Lord pointed out, is £100,000,000 below the estimate made, not by the Barlow Committee but by the Inland Revenue on behalf of the Barlow Committee as compensation for England, Wales and Scotland.
Now the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack says that there are no available data. Surely, as your Lordships know, the Inland Revenue are possessed 153 of very considerable data; they know a great deal. I should have thought that their assessment would be as precise and as accurate as such assessments can be. As the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, pointed out, it did not include anything for urban values or anything for mineral values and was made at a time when properties were worth approximately half what they are to-day. In addition to the smallness of the compensation, which I think is a great deal less than property owners may in justice expect, there is the fact that no impartial arbitration is permitted. So harsh an attitude does indicate a feeling that development values accrue from the efforts of the community alone. But I suggest to your Lordships that this is by no means always the case. Take a man who at great risk develops an isolated site, creates perhaps a small town on it: surely by his initiative and enterprise, by the risk he has taken, he has created something. I agree that there are places where the development value accrues from the efforts of the community, but I feel that in these cases also it is by no means easy to avoid hardship.
Perhaps your Lordships will allow me to put the very elementary case of a man who owns a farm of one hundred acres. Imagine that the unrestricted value, the agricultural value, is £20 an acre. This man is a good farmer, he is anxious to build cow stalls, to increase the output of food. He wants to make a road, to put in electric light, to instal water. With that end in view he approaches the bank. The bank have the property valued, of course on the unrestricted basis, which we will assume to be £100 an acre, or a difference of £80 an acre, which gives an unrestricted value of £10,000, on which they advance him £5,000. As from the day that this Bill becomes law that land is worth £2,000 only and not a penny more. The farmer can claim against the fund of £300,000,000 but he may never receive a penny; or if he does receive anything it may be far less than he has lost—and it is uncertain when he will get it. I have no connexion with banking myself, but I think that in such cases the bank will be forced to call in their money. What is the position of the farmer if he has no other resources? He will have to sell his farm and go out to business.
154 The same condition a obviously operates in regard to other trustees who have advanced money on land. With great respect, I would ask the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack whether he will enlighten us as to what our duty in such cases may be. Far be it from me to suggest that he has even inadvertently committed a breach of trust, but it appears to me that the position of trustees at this moment is a most unfortunate one, and that the banks—I am sorry that none of their representatives appears to he here—may have very carefully to consider their position in this matter.
There is the other point which my noble friend raised, the question of estate duty. I have a letter setting out very simply a case analogous to that which he had in mind. We have here a case in which the owner died in 1939. The agricultural value of the land was £42,000, and we find that the Inland Revenue claimed £580,500 for what they called the excess principal value—that is, the development value. This estate was 950 acres. Here you have the authorities claiming over £500,000 on one estate of under 1,000 acres. Does that suggest to your Lordships that a total of £300,000,000 is adequate compensation for all the land, the minerals, and the urban values in this country and in Scotland? In this particular case I am glad to say that the unhappy owner, by fighting the authorities, was able to reduce the claim to £340,000, on which he paid the increased duty which, as my noble friend Lord Llewellin, pointed out, was imposed by the 1925 Act. He has paid that increased duty, yet, assuming that he borrowed the money to pay it, what is the present value of his security? He is left with only that which in 1939 was worth £42,000. The Government did not attempt to dispute that small figure; moreover, as it carried a lower rate of tax they were perfectly happy. I suggest the example I have given illustrates a very unfortunate and a very unhappy position.
I was going to direct your Lordships' attention to Clause 11 and the Third Schedule, which deal with Houses and buildings, but I feel that now to be unnecessary in view of what my noble friend has said. I would only add that it seems to me an amazing supposition that if a man owns a large house he is not to be- allowed to divide it into two, that he is forbidden from making two homes and 155 housing two families; and, if he does that he must pay a development charge. In regard to the prohibition on exceeding the 10 per cent. cubic content of war-damaged buildings, I can suggest only that the architect would be sorely tempted to skimp the reconstruction, reduce the level of the ceilings, and cut out one or more bathrooms and generally to produce a result in which the accommodation is something far less than any responsible landlord would care to offer.
The other clause to which I wish to direct your Lordships' attention is Clause 5, which deals with designated land. This is not an easy matter. I understand that the Minister felt that this clause would be helpful, and that it would prevent a lowering cloud of uncertainty hanging over a large area of land. But to my mind this clause defeats its own purpose. To my mind it is a direct incentive to authorities to launch out, especially when you read on through the subsections, and find in subsection (2) (c) permission to the authorities to designate "any other land." I think here you have a clause inviting the authorities to embark on schemes that are grandiose and ambitious. It is true that a public inquiry is permitted, but the result of these inquiries has not always been fortunate for those who have interests at stake. I suggest that the ten-year period in the clause should be reduced to five, and that the words "any other land" should be deleted.
The last point with which I wish to deal is one which is highly technical, and which I can assure your Lordships I would not touch were it not that it relates to housing; but I can assure you that I can do it in a moment or two. It is the question of ripe land. Speaking in another place, the Minister drew a distinction between land which was "near ripe" and land which was "dead ripe." By "dead ripe" land he means, I think, land on which the floating value has settled, land in regard to which there is no uncertainty as to its development value; it is going to be developed quickly and the position is known. He proposes that that land should carry no development charge. Except in so far as I feel that Clause 78 (which governs this) is drawn too tightly, and excludes much land which should be included, I have nothing more to say about it.
156 I, do wish to say something, though, about "near ripe" land; that is land in which there remains an element of floating value. It is land which forms the builder's reserve, it is his stock-in-trade, as it were. It is going to be developed as part of a long-term plan. Much of that land is represented by building estates which have been started and which have never been fully developed, owing to the incidence of war. It is very much in the public interest that building should be resumed, and that those estates should be developed, and I hope that on reconsideration the Minister may find it possible completely to eliminate all "near ripe" land from having to bear the burden of a development charge. I feel it is in the interests of the community that that should be so.
This Bill will control in years to come the lives of the people of this country in many vital ways. It has not received in another place the consideration which I feel it deserves. Only fifty-two clauses out of more than one hundred were ever discussed in full. Your Lordships have now a chance to give it that careful and competent consideration which it deserves—consideration which I feel sure it will now receive, and as a result of which I hope it will emerge a measure worthy in every way of the great purpose which it sets out to achieve.
§ 4.58 p.m.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK
My Lords, I think the House will find that I shall be adopting a somewhat more friendly attitude to this Bill than the noble Lords who have just spoken. That may be because I am glad that at last we have a comprehensive Bill of this nature before this House. During the Coalition Government some of us from time to time urged very strongly that such a Bill should be introduced. We had hoped that the noble Lord who sits on the Bench now opposite, Lord Woolton (and I believe he hoped so too), would be able to introduce such a Bill, but circumstances were too strong. I am now able, in looking through and reading this very complicated Bill, to recognize how controversial some of its clauses must inevitably be, and I understand now why it was impossible for the Coalition Government to bring forward a Bill so comprehensive as this. If this Bill goes into law it will be by far the greatest thing of its nature which has ever been passed 157 in this country, and will give this nation a lead over all other nations in the matter of physical betterment.
I should like to pay a tribute to the very great care with which this Bill has been drawn up. There have in the past been Bills which have been presented to this House nothing like so complete as this Bill. I know that very great care and trouble were taken in the preparation of it, and, just because so much care was taken in its preparation, I am sorry that so many of its clauses were not discussed in another place. That may be an involuntary tribute to this House, for if this House did not exist it would have been necessary to spend very much more time on this and other Bills in the other place. In fact, this House is a place of penitence and amendment for the Minister who is in charge of a Bill. Here he is able to do those things. which he did not do elsewhere, and to undo those things which he did wrongly elsewhere. I gather from the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, that among acts of amendment, or reparation if you like, which will appear in this House there will be many which will come from the Government Benches.
I do not want to go in any great detail into the various clauses of this Bill. Quite frankly, I am among the noble Lords who cannot pretend to understand the whole of the Bill, but I feel that it is necessary that there should be such a comprehensive Bill, and I will deal with it very briefly on general lines. I believe it is necessary that there should be a planning Bill so that this country may make the best use of the limited amount of land which it possesses. Ours is a very over-crowded country. There is no other country in Europe which has such a dense population to the square mile. Whereas in Belgium there are 702 persons per square mile, in this country there are 766. This means that we should take the utmost care in using our land. Between the two wars a large number of houses were built. No country in the world, think, had such a fine housing programme as we had. Most of the houses were good, and most of the estates were well-planned. The fatal defect in all that building was that in the great majority of cases those estates were put down without any kind of reference to the industries in which their tenants would be working. The result was often that people had to make long and 158 expensive journeys backwards and forwards, to and from work, day by day.
I think it was in one of the broadsheets of that useful and valuable series called Planning that it was said that we used very strange modern inventions to take several hundreds of thousands of people backwards and forwards to and from their work in conditions so unhealthy that we would not submit valuable livestock to them. In addition, roads which were made for speed and safety have largely been rendered useless by ribbon development. Industries have gone to some towns where already there was plenty of industry, and they have been taken away from others, where there has been, consequently, serious unemployment. Towns already large have become much larger, and, in addition, we find good land for agriculture being steadily destroyed. I have not the actual figures, but I am told that every year several thousands of acres which ought to he used for agriculture go out of cultivation, as they are taken over for the building of houses.
That, then, is the first reason for a planning Bill—so that we may make better use of the land in this country. Already, we have been thriftless and extravagant in the way in which we have been using this possession. The other reason is that we may preserve all that is most beautiful in our countryside. I agree with everything that the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, said a bout the beauty of our English country. No one enjoys more than myself going abroad and seeing the beauty of other lands, but I always come back feeling that there is no country which has greater quiet beauty and greater variety than our own. I know that the intelligentsia will say that that is a very insular opinion. I suppose it is, but I do not care; it is perfectly correct. The beauty of the countryside has been steadily damaged in these last years. One sees disused railway carriages perched on the tops of cliffs and doing duty as summer dwellings, unsightly bungalows situated in beautiful valleys, great factories occasionally put up in valleys where they squat like ugly toads, and rivers contaminated. And we go on doing these things.
There is still a great deal of the country left to us which is beautiful, but month by month. we are losing what is most beautiful and lovely in our country and 159 even in many of our country villages. Here again there is strong argument for a comprehensive Bill which will prevent our country being spoilt in this kind of way. I fully recognize that a good deal has already been done in the way of planning. It would be ungrateful and inaccurate to speak as if nothing had been done during these last few years. On the other hand, there have been certain grave defects which have stood in the way of comprehensive planning. First of all, there has been no clear purpose about our planning. Planners themselves have often engaged in controversies as to what ought to be done. There have been planners who seemed to believe that people should be cooped up in towns, and whose main idea was to build tenement houses higher and ever higher. Others have wished to revive "Merry Old England" in an unreal kind of way in the country. There have been many controversies and differences of opinion as to the kind of policy which should be adopted.
But with the publication of the three Reports which have been mentioned—the Barlow Report was a truly historic document—there has come about a great change of opinion, and we have agreed, I think, on three great principles. The first is the principle of dispersion: that so far as possible some of the population should be dispersed from the towns. Next, there is the principle of new towns on sites carefully chosen, built under careful regulations, and, thirdly, there is the principle of the preservation of the countryside—the establishment of the Green Belt and the preservation of agricultural land. I, for one, welcome this Bill because I believe that it will help that policy and those principles to be carried out. A defect which, I think, the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack pointed out in, if I may say so, that most clear speech with which he introduced this Bill, has been that in the past our planning has been conducted on lines which were much too local. Local jealousies and parochialism often stand in the way of comprehensive schemes. People accept in principle what is to be done, but will object to it very strongly indeed when it is to be applied to their own locality.
I know this well because of matters relating to the union of parishes which come to my notice. Almost everybody agrees with the necessity for uniting 160 parishes, but, as I know, a most vigorous resistance will frequently be put up by a parish concerned, especially by the parish which thinks that some advantage may be given to its neighbour. That sort of thing you find on a very much larger scale in purely secular affairs. You find cities and towns and villages and local authorities alarmed and jealous lest anything may be done that is derogatory to their own rights, and so they prepare their schemes, and go forward with their planning, quite indifferent to what their neighbours may be doing a few miles away. The result is that all sorts of queer anomalies have sprung up through the opposing views of different factions, and these anomalies show clearly how unsatisfactory is the present position. Half the country, I believe, has not yet had any kind of zoning or planning scheme, but for the other half there has been the greatest industry on the part of a number of various authorities and they have zoned the country so as to hold, I believe, if it were all built over, a population of 350,000,000. That is for half the country. It shows there is some strange overlapping in the present system. What we want are authorities which are really comprehensive and will deal with the matter on a large scale with, above them, the Minister, directing, guiding and influencing.
The third difficulty has been that the various local authorities have had, in the past, to face the cost of these various planning schemes. They have not been certain what the cost would be. In the past they have been waiting for some definite policy about compensation and betterment. They have known what they ought to do in many cases but felt they simply could not face the financial responsibility which might fall upon them. I think one of the greatest merits of this Bill is that it removes the responsibility of payment from the local authorities to the central organization which is going to be set up.
While I am supporting this Bill I am not for one moment claiming that it is perfect in every respect, any more than did the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor. There are various matters on which I would like information and reassurance. I should like to know what the relation of the Planning Ministry is to be to the other Ministries. Will the Planning Ministry be able to make and carry through decisions, or will it have 161 to refer decisions to Ministry after Ministry? If that happens, we shall be in the tangle we are in at the present time. I believe that some of the minor but extremely serious hindrances to house building at the present time arise from the way in which so many different authorities have to issue licences and permits, and then they disagree with each other, and when five agree the sixth refuses and the whole matter is held up for months. We shall not get forward with planning on a comprehensive scale if this Ministry has to consult a whole series of other Ministries before it can issue an effective order.
I am bound to admit I am no financier, though no doubt it is my own fault, and I have not been able to understand the basis on which the £300,000,000 has been decided upon. Others have spoken upon that. The figure may be quite correct, and I have done my best to find out the reasons which led to its being adopted, but so far I have failed. Important points were raised by both the noble Lords who have spoken in criticism. I hope very much that this Bill, when it becomes an Act, will not delay private development. It would be a serious matter if there were such delays on the part of the new authorities which are to be set up that progress could not be made by those who otherwise would be prepared to go forward with schemes of development.
I hope some answer will be given to the questions already put about the restrictions which this Bill may place (I am not yet convinced it does) upon the reconditioning of rural cottages or the division of large houses. If it does put restrictions upon the reconditioning of these cottages and the division of large houses it will be a. very serious matter. I am one of those who regret very much that the Government did not renew the Housing (Rural Workers) Act. The reconditioning of these cottages would have been a real contribution towards improving the serious position of rural housing, and I would like some reassurance on that matter.
One final matter on which I would like some definite reassurance is in regard to the kind of staff the Ministry has to carry through this tremendous scheme. Heaven forbid that I should ask that Government staff should be increased in any way, but my own impression is that while every 162 other Ministry is overstaffed (I know no Minister will agree with that) the one Ministry which is under-staffed is the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. I believe that was the case some time ago. Great schemes such as are foreshadowed by this Bill cannot be carried through unless there is a strong staff of capable people at the Ministry. A different type of planner is needed, not simply to give good advice about soil and roads and drains, although these are quite essential, but to think out the position from the social, community point of view, and make a new approach to the whole question. I am not convinced that at the present time we have anything like the number of expert planners required for a scheme of this kind, but, with certain reservations and questions, I welcome this Bill. I hope it will become law with whatever Amendments may be necessary. I believe that this Bill will help the country to preserve wisely and economically its land for the best use, and preserve for future generations some of the loveliness of the country of which we are all proud.
§ LORD LATHAM
My Lords, it will occasion, no surprise if I rise to support this Bill and commend it to your Lordships. When the Town and Country Planning Act of 1944 was passing through its Second Reading consideration in your Lordships' House, I ventured to say that the Bill was a "might have been" in, that it might have sought to deal comprehensively with planning. However, it failed to do so, and although it was amended with considerable advantage in your Lordships' House, a process in which I was privileged to play a modest part, it remained inadequate as a measure for comprehensive planning as planning needs to be done. The loud authorities, when seeking to operate the Act, speedily came to the conclusion that the misgivings of many of us were only too well founded. Both administratively as well as financially, the Act of 1944 contained substantial defects and did not give the local authorities the instrument they needed for effective planning. This Bill, I submit, largely remedies these defects and fills in many gaps left by previous legislation.
The word "charter" has perhaps become in these days a little pejorative, but I think this Bill, if it becomes an Act, can be termed the "Charter of Planning." It can be, and indeed is, in my opinion, 163 the key to unlock the principal door Which will open the way to tidy, ordered, and planned use of land in this country for the benefit of the people. It is the case, as the most reverend Primate has said, that the Bill is not perhaps without blemish. Indeed, the Lord Chancellor has already indicated that the Government will themselves propose certain Amendments, and I shall venture to ask your Lordships to give consideration to certain Amendments from the point of view of local authorities. But the Bill does aim at comprehensive planning.
It does not, it is true, abolish land monopoly, which was described by Mr. Churchill, in one of his recurrent moods of spaciousness, as being by far the greatest of all monopolies in that it is a perpetual monopoly and the mother of all forms of monopoly. But the provisions of this Bill, whilst they do not abolish land monopoly, will curb the exercise of that monopoly and will secure that the uncovenanted benefits which flow in many cases to owners of land from communal activity, both social and economic, will in future accrue in substantial measure to the whole community. It is the case that the land is not nationalized, but the future development of land will be nationally controlled through the local planning authorities. From the town planning point of view, the proposed restriction on the right of private owners to develop how, where, and when it may please them, will make sound planning, for the first time, possible and practicable in this country.
This afternoon I would like to deal with this Bill principally from the point of view of the planning authorities, who, when all is said and done, will be the executive agencies for planning. First and foremost, the Bill gives, for the first time, reality to the positive conception of planning. Pre-war planning legislation, as has been said by the noble and learned Lord Chancellor, was largely regulatory. It gave local authorities a measure of control of private development as and when it occurred. It could prevent development, but it could not initiate development. This Bill adopts a positive attitude towards the problem, and gives the local authorities much wider and much more ample powers to secure and develop land themselves, if they and the Minister concur. It is the case that the 164 principle of positive planning was first adopted in the Act of 1944, to which I have referred, but in that case the powers, broadly speaking, were confined to areas of blitz and blight, and the procedure was different for even these areas. This Bill proposes to make the powers generally applicable.
Speaking as one not without some experience of town planning and reconstruction, I submit that these additional powers mark a notable and valuable advance. Areas of blitz and blight can now be dealt with for the first time in the new pattern of a comprehensive development scheme, without distinction between either or any of them. That should be most helpful to active, energetic planning authorities. The Bill introduces a new method; the method of the development plan. The procedure for making, and from time to time amending, a development plan is much more simple than the procedure under the existing law. I ask those who, like the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, criticized this Bill inter alia because of the increase of technical staff that it would occasion, to remember that there are some offsets to that, and that the simpler procedure now provided will assist local authorities in the difficulties which they are experiencing in finding adequate technical staff to carry out this kind of work.
The present cumbersome procedure for making a planning scheme, and then making declaratory orders with respect to blitzed areas, is, happily, to be done away with; one fairly simple procedure is to be available and to be applicable to all types of land. From the point of view of planning authorities, that is a most notable advance. Moreover, the working out of a development plan will allow a greater flexibility than the rigid application of a planning scheme under the existing law. Planning schemes and zoning have been the bugbear of town planners in the past. There is now to be much more flexibility and latitude. The provisions for the designation of land within a development plan make more general and wider the powers of acquisition. The noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, and the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster, questioned the period of ten years allowed for the acquisition of land which may be designated, and suggested that the period should be reduced to five years because of the uncertainty under which owners might be. I only 165 wish to say this: I most fervently hope the Government will not reduce the period of ten years, because the local authorities concerned with the planning of urban areas are concerned whether the period of ten years is long enough, having regard to the large comprehensive schemes for development which they must undertake.
There is one other point in connexion with planning control on which I would like to ask the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, whether the Government would not consider some amendment. This is in connexion with the control of unauthorized non-conforming development. Under the Bill it will be possible to serve enforcement notices against this unauthorized non-conforming development, but the notices cannot be exercised after three years from the appointed day. In a closely built-up area such as London, or in other big cities of the country, to serve all the enforcement notices in connexion with unauthorized non-conforming developments will cast a very heavy burden upon the local authorities. I hope the Government may see its way clear to extend the period of three years to at least five years, in order that local authorities may be able to deal with this unauthorized blight on the development of their towns and cities.
I come now to the question of the acquisition of land, which is the basis of positive planning. It is no good giving to a local planning authority the power to develop unless, at the same time, you give power to acquire the land upon which it is to carry out the development. The development plan may designate land as being subject to compulsory acquisition by any Minister, local authority, or statutory undertaker, if such land is wanted for the purpose of any of their functions. But the provisions go much beyond that, and this is a most useful extension of the powers of local authorities. The local authorities will be able to acquire land required for any purely planning purposes. This is most valuable; it enables one to plan with some elasticity and some imagination, and tie powers to provide for expedited completion of purchase, which were first put on the Statute Book by the Act of 1944, are being applied by the to any land required for any planning purposes. The local authorities are very well aware of the important instrument which these provisions will 166 place in their hands in connexion with the obligation to plan.
With regard to the cost of land, the fact that after the passing of this Bill the land will be acquired at its restricted value—that is, its existing use value—will mean a considerable saving of expense to many local authorities. But it is only fair that I should point out that this advantage will be materially lessened in those areas, as is the case in London, where the land is a ready very highly developed, because the projected development value of much land in London is not much higher than its existing use value, due to the density of user and the exploitation, if I may say so, of land in London. On the other hand, the clause which abolishes the 1939 standard of compensation on compulsory acquisition will obviously increase the commitments of the local authorities to an extent which at the present time is not ascertainable. But if it be accepted—the Government have accepted it, and I rather regret that they have—that there is no longer any justification for the retention of the 1939 basis, then the Bill does safeguard local authorities and the public pocket by seeking to eliminate the present inflated value attributable to vacant possession. Local authorities will be very grateful to the Government for having been wise enough to include within the Bill provisions in order to restrain the inflationary value attributable to vacant possession.
I come now to the grant proposals. These proposals show a substantial improvement over the existing grant provisions; indeed, the proposals now before the House are a substantial improvement on the proposals originally submitted when the Bill was first introduced into another place. It is the case, however, that the extent of the improvement cannot be measured by individual planning authorities until the regulations are made. I hope I shall not be thought, to he churlish if I say that the local authorities will wish to make representations to the Minister when he is framing those regulations which will control the amount of grant which the planning authorities will receive.
I do not think there is any need for me to go into the details of these grants, but I would like to draw attention to the fact that—unlike the Act of 1944—they 167 provide for grants upon the cost of the acquisition of blighted land as well as blitzed land. It is the case that as regards blighted land the weighted formula basis of calculation is still to apply, although the Minister has indicated that he hopes he may soon be able to alter that basis. In areas where war damage is widely spread there will be difficulty in dealing with land if that part which is blitzed attracts a straight grant, not based upon any weighted formula, and the adjoining land which is blighted attracts a grant on the basis of the weighted formula, one of the elements of which is the rateable value of the district itself.
One of the most important essentials of good planning of built-up areas is the provision of adequate open spaces, fairly distributed. They are the lungs of the community—the places of rest and repose, of sport and entertainment, and especially of safety for the children. Opening up of built-up areas cannot be achieved only by reducing the number of buildings on the ground; we must also increase the number and extent of the open spaces. In London, not only are we very short of open spaces, but they are most unevenly distributed in the county. As your Lordships well know, in the County of London Plan it was suggested that at least four acres per 1,000 persons should be provided. In ten boroughs of London there is less than one acre per 1,000 persons. The London County Council have already resolved to acquire some 300 additional acres in 13 boroughs where they have less than two and a half acres per 1,000 persons. The estimated cost of the acquisition of that land was no less than £3,000,000. It is the case that the cost is now likely to be less, as a result of the provisions of this Bill, and I am sure we all devoutly hope that that will be so.
At any rate, under this Bill the London County Council and other local authorities will be able to buy land for open space purposes at the restricted value, and will not be required to pay on the basis of future development. Even so, the cost will be high in built-up areas because, as I have said, existing use value is already high. But the Bill provides, for the first time, for a Government grant towards the loss involved in acquiring and clearing land, and its use for a less financially valuable purpose—namely, open 168 space, a purpose which, though it may be financially less valuable, is certainly socially very much more desirable, especially in built-up areas.
One of the very valuable provisions of this Bill is that which assimilates the procedure for the acquisition of both blitzed and blighted land. It will be remembered that when the Act of 1944 was under consideration, those of us who were aware of the problems of planning strongly urged that it was unreal to make any procedural distinction between blitzed land and I blighted land; and we pointed out that if such distinction were maintained it would frustrate the proper development of areas which contained both blitzed and blighted properties. Such experience as we have had since 1944 has certainly confirmed that misgiving. However, that distinction is now to be removed, and the procedure is to be common to both blitzed and blighted properties.
As the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, said, the Bill for the first time provides for effective control of advertisements. As experience has shown, the provisions of existing legislation are inadequate for controlling outdoor advertisements in the way they should be controlled. For instance, under the existing planning legislation a scheme can provide only a limited control over advertisements on land especially defined as land to be protected, and the Advertisements Regulation Acts confine themselves to limited classes of outdoor advertisements—namely, those on hoardings more than 12ft. high arid advertisements affecting rural amenities. I feel that all persons of good will will warmly welcome the proposals to control more effectively outdoor advertisements which still deface many stretches of our countryside and outrage the amenities of many of our cities and towns. It is idle to plan for rural beauty spots, or dignified buildings in our urban areas, if every canon of amenity and good taste is to be affronted by the blatant ugliness of uncontrolled hoardings, posters, lights and signs. In too many places, sites rendered temporarily derelict by enemy action are now plastered with posters, authorized or otherwise.
In February, 1945, on a Motion submitted to your Lordships by the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, this matter was considered, and it was the general view 169 of your Lordships that more effective control was needed over outdoor advertisements. This Bill provides for it. Outdoor advertisements will come under town planning control, and the power to preserve the amenities will be strengthened. I feel sure that the Minister will have the support of all worthy citizens if, when he is framing his regulations, he puts public amenity above vested interests in the right—I had almost said the "squatters' right"—to perpetuate ugliness.
So much for the general framework of the Bill as it will affect planning authorities. It is, in my opinion, a good Bill and a sound Bill. It will give planning authorities substantially the powers they need to plan and order the development of this country, its towns, cities and countryside. Its grant proposals, if not wholly adequate, go a good way to provide the financial assistance which is essential. As one who is deeply devoted to planning, I would commend the Bill to your Lordships' support.
Before I conclude, I feel sure that your Lordships will expect me to say something about the proposal in the Bill to transfer certain planning functions now possessed by the City Corporation to the London County Council, and indeed I wish myself to say something on this aspect of the Bill. A great deal of heat on this matter has been engendered in certain places, and there has been a good deal of criticism of the London County Council, both uninformed and misinformed. Up to now, the London County Council and I, as its Leader, have borne with silence—if not without effort, so far as I am concerned—this criticism, but I think it would be appropriate that I should now state the case for the proposed transfer and also indicate the position of the London County Council in the matter. I hope I can do both with more taste and more grace and, perhaps, more courtesy than has been shown by certain persons who have participated in the public controversy about this matter. I have never been able to understand why in some quarters, in order to exalt—as I think sometimes a little excessively—the historic virtues of the City, it is considered essential to denigrate the London County Council and the great work which unquestionably it performs for the teeming millions of this great county of London.
170 First of all, I would like to make it clear that the London County Council did not ask for this transfer of powers. It is the case, however, as I think any reasonable person must admit, that the step proposed is a proper step; is an essential step in the interest of the satisfactory planning of the county as one unit. There are at present two planning authorities in the County of London, one for an area of 116 square miles with a population of 3,250,000, and another for the City with an area of one square mile and a resident population of 5,310. Such a situation, I submit, is indefensible—two plans to be prepared by two separate authorities, one for 116 square miles and the other for one square mile. As the Minister said in another place on the Second Reading of this Bill:The City holds, as I have told them, a unique position in the financial and commercial life of this country. Nevertheless, situated as is it in the centre of the County of London, and forming an integral part of its normal administration, its status as a separate and independent planning authority preparing a plan for its own square mile is anamolous and indefensible. I hope the Corporation will, on reflection, recognize that in this matter the wider interests of London as a whole ought to prevail.The Minister found reinforcement for that statement from The Times, which said on January 24 of this year:The special character of the City, however, can scarcely justify the demand that for planning purposes the City, alone of all the communities in the heart of a gigantic urban area, must be accorded the sovereignty of a county borough.I would like to quote also the Evening Standard. I must say that up to the present, at all events, the solicitude of the Evening Standard and the support of the Evening Standard for a Labour London County Council have not involved us in any embarrassment, so I can quote that paper on this matter with perhaps more freedom and may be with more effect in certain quarters. This is what the Evening Standard said on the question in its issue of January 23, 1947:The difficulties entailed by the present procedure are in fact graphically illustrated by the tardy progress made by the Corporation's own plan for rebuilding the City. As far back as July, 1944, a scheme was sent to the Minstry of Town and Country Planning. One year later Mr. W. S. Morrison, the Minister at that time, rejected this plan. Another year passed. In July, 1946, a new interim report was completed. But no final plan has yet been approved.171 May I say, in parenthesis, that of course the final plan has now been published. The Evening Standard goes on to say:The London County Council on the other hand submitted its plan to the Ministry in July, 5943; received approval in general print ciples the next year, and in July, 1945, directed their Town Planning Committee to go ahead with the plan, subject to amendments suggested by various bodies.The claims of sentiment must not be allowed to obscure the true interests of London's 5,000,000 citizens."—That is putting it a bit high; the number is about 3,250,000—They need London not only replanned, but rebuilt. If endless delays in Whitehall are to be avoided the L.C.C. is the only possible authority which can carry out the necessary work effectively and in accordance with the expressed wishes of the London people.I should be the last to gainsay the unique position that the City occupied in the financial and commercial life of this country. But planning is a social, a local government matter; and in the field of present-day local government of the County of London, the City's position is no greater than that of a metropolitan borough council. Like the twenty-eight metropolitan boroughs, the City forms, as the Minister said, "an integral part of the normal administration" of the County. Indeed, the City Corporation carries not more, but I submit less, responsibility in the field of local government than an average metropolitan borough council, because of its very much smaller population. It is true that according to the last census—in 1921 I think—the City had at that time a day population of some 450,000, but its night population in 1931 was no more than about 10,000. Its night population, according to the estimates made in December of last year is, as I have indicated, 5,310. And its area, whilst being larger than some of the metropolitan boroughs, is much smaller than many others.
The average population of the twenty-eight metropolitan boroughs is nearly 120,000. The largest of the metropolitan boroughs has a population of 328,000,and an area of 9,107 acres. None of the metropolitan borough councils is a planning authority. I ask your Lordships to contemplate what kind of a plan would have been prepared for London if each of the twenty-eight metropolitan boroughs was a separate planning autho- 172 rity, preparing separately a plan for its particular area. The result would have been chaos, confusion, and nonsense. One needs only to state the proposition to realize how absurd and chaotic the situation would have been. The claims of the City in this particular matter—namely, to be a separate planning authority—are no stronger than, and indeed for reasons which I have stated, it could be submitted that they are not so strong as, the claims of the metropolitan borough councils.
The City—I pay tribute in this respect—can claim long historic and worthy tradition. But there is no historic tradition in the City in regard to town planning. The City has been a town planning authority only from 1932. The London County Council have been the town planning authority since the first Town Planning Act was put on the Statute Book in 1909, and until 1932 the County Council were the town planning authority for the whole County, including the City of London. It was only under the Act of 1932, when the situation was changed, that the City of London became a separate town planning authority. The County Council, of course, are still the town planning authority for the rest of the County. I submit that no reasonable person can question that the proper thing to have done would have been, in 1941 when the London County Council commenced to prepare their County of London Plan, for that Plan to embrace the whole of the County, including the City. There must be one plan for the whole County. The situation is that there are now two plans; but they must he merged into one development plan. And if they are to be merged the merger must be done by one authority, and clearly that authority must be the London County Council.
I suggest to your Lordships, I hope without any offence, or without any kind of thought of being in any way unappreciative of the historic position of the City of London, that in this matter no claims of tradition or prestige can avail. Planning is for the future, and while the past must be respected, it must not be allowed to impair or frustrate the future ordered development of London as a whole. That, I submit, is the unanswerable case for the proposal in the Bill. It may be of interest if I briefly sketch what the Bill proposes in this regard. It is the case that the London 173 County Council are to become the planning authority for the City, as they were before 1932. There is nothing punitive about this. The City has not been selected for special treatment; what is to be done in London is to be done throughout the country. A large number of existing planning authorities are to be relieved of their functions, which are to be transferred to the county councils, and it is not the case that the City of London is being specially treated; it is being treated in accordance with the national set-up for planning powers and planning operations in the future.
The London County Council will prepare a development plan which will embrace the whole County, and the County Council will be responsible for the implementation of that plan when it is approved by the Minister. But in the formation of the development plan, before determining applications and before making a tree preservation order or building preservation order which affects any land in the City, the London County Council will be required to consult with the City—and will willingly. The City Corporation will be the authority empowered to acquire compulsorily and to develop the land required for development in accordance with the development plan. This is a power which no metropolitan borough council enjoys at the present time, nor will any metropolitan borough council enjoy it under this Bill; it is a power which is to be left with the City. The City can therefore carry out re-development, whereas the metropolitan borough councils, at the present time and for the future, can carry out only redevelopment with the consent of the London County Council, and at the option of the London County Council. Therefore the City of London will have substantially wider powers than are possessed by the metropolitan boroughs.
In the discussions which took place prior to the introduction of the Bill, the County Council made it clear that they would be willing to consult with the City on all classes of application for planning permission. Here again is a procedure which is much wider than the one followed with regard to the metropolitan borough councils. As regards the metropolitan borough councils, the County Council are under obligation to consult only in respect of a limited class of appli- 174 cation, whereas the County Council will be prepared to consult with the City Corporation, the Common Council of the City, in respect of all applications for planning permission. Therefore I submit that the transfer of these planning powers from the City Corporation to the London County Council is sound, is reasonable, is desirable, and does fit in with the national scheme for planning envisaged by the Bill. The Council are willing to undertake this new responsibility. They did not ask for it, as I said earlier in my speech, but they will willingly undertake the responsibility, and they are convinced that it is the proper course for the Government to have taken.
I should, however, make this perfectly clear: that it is of great importance that any regulations which are to be made by the Minister should not in any way hamper the Council in the exercise of the responsibility which they assume, or endanger the proper implementation of the major London Plan. Finally, I do not doubt that when the Bill reaches the Statute Book, and when tempers are perhaps a little cooler, the London County Council and the City Corporation will be able to co-operate in a spirit of mutual respect in laying the foundations of a better and finer London, wherein the City will retain its historic place.
§ THE DUKE OF BUCCLEUCH AND QUEENSBERRY
My Lords, this Bill was presented to Parliament and to the nation as a wholly innocent and well-intentioned Bill to secure better planning, the preservation of urban and rural beauty, to prevent speculation, and to secure for the State certain values which it is claimed should belong to it. When the proposals were first released I remember the charming description in the Government papers, and I would find it difficult to-day to recognize those accounts as being of this Bill, which is to such a large extent a financial measure with vast implications. It involves the imposition of fresh taxation, new charges on development in respect of buildings as well as of land, and a large-scale acquisition which one can fairly call confiscation (including that of minerals) from certain sections of the community—frequently, so far as one can see, without compensation—of values, to the largest extent that the Government feel bold enough or able to accomplish in one Bill. What is worse still must strike many 175 people: that these values are not likely to be transferred to the nation or the State; most or many of them will disappear. There will be a destruction of wealth and values—involving a loss to the nation, and to individuals—which have been very useful in the past. There will be also the destruction of incentive to create that same wealth.
I think it may fairly be said that the first reception given to this Bill was more favourable than the reaction is now, after much study and after revelations in another place, and the sabotage there of Amendments and proper discussion. I feel that we are all intensely indebted today to the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, for the clear and able statement which he made to us. I was also grateful to him for emphasizing how complicated the measure is, and how difficult it is to understand and speak about. I hope, therefore, the shortcomings of people like me, who feel it very difficult to do either, will be excused.
I feel I should also say that, like many members of this House, I and my family are financially concerned in a measure of this sort. My experience is much more from the country angle—the land, rural local government, land management and agriculture—and I can only, therefore, endeavour to speak from that angle. I feel we can justifiably complain that this Bill, like so many others, has been designed far more for the cities and large towns and crowded areas than for application to the country. And I think it can be shown that there is much that is unsuitable and unnecessary for application to the country, and that there these measures will prove to be harsh and unjust. This Bill is in no way confined to planning, and much has been brought in under the mantle of planning for which it is difficult to see justification. I think it is agreed that this is a measure of exceptional magnitude and complexity, having profound consequences upon a very great number of people. The restriction on discussion in another place is admitted and, so far as one can see, was the deliberate policy of the Government. The task imposed on us here is all the greater, and there are many questions one would like to ask. There is much information that we still need, and many Amendments are still needed to improve the Bill.
176 Even if it were clear to the members of the Government and the members of the two Houses of Parliament, I feel that not enough attention is paid to those hundreds of thousands, or millions, of individuals who are affected by this Bill and who are being planned for, and to whether we are planning for them in the best way. While there is much that is good in this Bill, I do hope the Government will not spoil it by bringing in a great deal that seems to be bad and unnecessary. I feel that everyone is prepared to acknowledge that a big attempt is being made by the Government for better planning, based on the progress and the results of many investigations under previous Governments, and it does seem unfortunate that any good proposals for planning are associated with others that seem to be based mainly on political prejudice and not substantiated by facts.
The Lord Chancellor said, I think, that 'we are all agreed on the principle of planning, and that that was not, therefore, a subject which it was necessary to discuss. But I feel that we have to consider whether there is not sometimes too much emphasis on the word "planning," and that that, in itself, does not necessarily mean good planning. When one comes to deal with the landward districts, one finds that more and more a vast amount of time has to be devoted to small details. County councils, naturally, will have more work put upon them by these proposals; that is to be expected. But surely we ought to make every endeavour to avoid the imposition of a great amount of detailed work and red tape, additional costs, the employment of many more people, the setting up of more offices and the occurrence of delays, all of which are things that threaten to ensue in the case of a number of councils and committees dealing with these minor matters. Surely all such things should be eliminated so far as possible, and otherwise be kept to a minimum.
To those who represent the cities, this is perhaps a different matter. With them costs, possibly, do not matter so much. But with those of us who deal with much lower valuations these costs are a very important matter, and we find that they tend to become onerous. One receives the impression that good planning proposals have to give way to expediency. Even in comparatively small towns one finds that 177 good planning is the intention but that pressure is brought to bear, and what were regarded as fine open spaces are demanded, as a matter of expediency, for housing sites. In that connexion, it comes as a disappointment and a shock to us in the country that this sort of thing should happen also at the very centre of the Empire, in London itself, where recently, we have noted, there has been a controversy about the erection of an electric power station on the South Bank of the Thames. We have seen what we understood to be good planning proposals, proposals drawn up by experts and responsible authorities, overthrown for purposes of expediency. Now if that can happen in the very centre, in London itself, surely it is all the more disappointing to those of us who have responsibility in a much smaller sphere. In fact it is a discouragement.
I felt that the noble Lord, Lord Latham, who speaks with such knowledge of the municipal affairs of London and other large cities, was perhaps a little scathing in his reference to land owners not being able any longer to plan as and where and when it pleased them. I felt that there was a note of sarcasm in his remarks, which he might not have infused into them if, perhaps, he had been more closely in touch with the more rural side. On that side, I feel that the land owners have done their utmost to play their part in regard to planning, and have made a very good contribution. Moreover, local councils in those areas are guided very often in their best planning work by the local land owners. If I remember correctly, the Minister of Town and Country Planning, during the Second Reading debate, made a remark which I understood to mean that the best planning in this country had been done by land owners in the time before planning officially started as planning.
The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, referred to the compensation side, and. I would like to say a few words on that. Even though it is a subject that may be dealt with at greater length in the Committee stage, there are certain things which deserve to be said now. The Lord Chancellor spoke of £300,000,000 as being, the global figure. I notice that he did not adduce any arguments in support of that figure, he merely said that it had been decided on by the Government. I noticed, too, that he 178 spoke at some length when he was dealing with the better and more constructive proposals of the Government, and passed over rather quickly what I would call the destructive proposals—proposals which could not be defended quite so easily, At the very beginning it was argued that that figure which I have mentioned was inadequate and unjust. Since then other claims on this pool have been discussed and made good, with a proportionate reduction for other genuine claims. The case, therefore, for revision and increases is stronger than ever.
I find it difficult to ascertain exactly what is to be the basis for compensation, and I also find it difficult to know how the word "hardship" is to be interpreted. It seems to me that the words "justice and fairness" would be more appropriate. About the time of the last General Election—both before and after the polling—leaders of the Government made several statements and gave a number of pledges about compensation in cases where any asset, were nationalized. In each case, or in most cases, the emphasis was on the words "fair compensation." I have a number of quotations, and I might perhaps give one as an example. The Right Honourable Herbert Morrison, Lord President of the Council, answering a question in the course of a broadcast to America, on August 17, as to what were the Government proposals for promoting the best use of the land, said:there is no question of us taking away private property without compensation. We stand fully and firmly for the principle of fair compensation and for a square deal for the individual.I find it rather difficult to follow how those and similar pledges fit in with the policy which is embodied in this Bill.
It appears to me that these pledges are not being carried out; but perhaps the fact is that the Government are unaware of the probable figures. In that case there is all the more reason for revision. In many publications, including the Economist, which is not very friendly to the Conservative Party, I remember the word "robbery" being used frequently for descriptive purposes. It seems that out of this pool the compensation will be mainly for the cities and large towns, and it looks as if small claims and anything for the country generally will be eliminated. Let me ask 179 if this is so and why? Is it because it makes too much trouble if all these claims are likely to be small? The sums may seem small in comparison with the larger claims, but to refuse them is to cause hardship on small people, the owners of one or more farms on poorer lands, where capital and revenue from any natural or legitimate source is necessary.
Under the Agricultural Bill landowners are to be asked to manage, develop and equip their lands efficiently for production. They have been urged on many occasions to do this on business lines. A great many have been doing so and are doing so now. But it seems that the Government, by these proposals, will punish them, negative their endeavours and make it less possible to develop their lands in future. On most estates there are variations in the quality and value of the land. It seems a matter of good management to utilize revenue from more valuable lands to develop those which are less valuable. By regular or occasional sales of land for building, revenue is obtainable which can be used for the development and equipment of the rest of the agricultural land. In this way, much poor land has been developed and equipped which otherwise would not be possible.
The noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor said that everything in this Bill was intended to encourage private enterprise, but in this particular case I feel that there is a distinct discouragement to private enterprise in regard to agricultural equipment and development. I would like to ask what justification there is for removing from agriculture this source of revenue, without compensation, and from where else the revenue is expected to come for this necessary work. The prices of land are naturally riot big in comparison with those in the towns, and the figures at stake are not large. The impression one gets is that the Government is apt to ignore this side of the problem. If there is no payment for the assets and the value they are expropriating, they are removing from agriculture at this critical time sources of revenue which are normally applied in efficiency measures to increase production. I hope the Government realize that, or that they will do so if they have not done so before.
180 In much the same way there will be a loss of income from royalties in respect of minerals, which are also to be confiscated and which are similarly used for agricultural development and for necessary expenditure on lands and farms. Between the two, this loss of revenue for agricultural purposes is a very serious matter, and I am sorry there has not been any reference to it from the Government side. The subject of minerals was mentioned by the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, but was somewhat quickly passed over for further discussion. I hope I shall be excused if I say a few more words now. It is very difficult to understand why the inclusion of minerals is necessary in this Bill, or how it is justified. It is an additional complication to the Bill. The reasons are obscure. There is no necessity for it. It certainly complicates the Bill and the compensation proposals. Little mention was made about the possibility of minerals coming into such a Bill in any of the pronouncements at a high level by this Government, and it was contrary to the recommendations in the Uthwatt Report, which dealt with it incidentally and suggested other treatment.
These minerals are very different from surface development values. Their values can be estimated and are generally well fixed. They are usually held on lease and are being developed. There is already planning control in the case of minerals and if that is not sufficient now it can be strengthened. But again we see the confiscation of assets, contrary to the pledges to which I referred. The provision for the inclusion of minerals seems to have been tacked on at a late stage, and the amount of the values appears to have been overlooked or underestimated. It is important to know if the Government have ascertained what are the values affected. I think they ought to have some information by now, as the matter has been under discussion for some time. It has been suggested there ought to be an inquiry to ascertain what they are.
Many subjects are included under minerals, and perhaps iron ore is rather prominent among them. Coming from Northamptonshire and the East Midlands, where this matter is particularly important, I wish to take this opportunity to say a few words about what is the principal problem there from a planning aspect—namely, the restoration of the disfigured 181 surface after the minerals have been extracted. It is very disappointing to people in the Midlands to find no reference at all to that matter in this Bill, especially as it has been a subject of so mach concern on the spot. The district was visited by the Minister of Town and Country Planning. There has been an investigation for many years into this disfigurement, with a view to making recommendations as to the best way of dealing with it. Local people on all sides co-operated—the iron ore producers, royalty owners and others—and expert advice was taken and recommendations made to the Minister. I am sure there will be much disappointment if the Government ignore these recommendations, do nothing about surface restoration, and still take as much money as they can out of the industry and leave those on the spot with fewer funds with which to make good this damage.
A global figure was considered the appropriate method for coal royalties, so why should it not be also appropriate for iron ore royalties? I believe that in another place an effort was made to show that in a large number of cases death duties must have been paid on development values and on minerals, often at high rates. and also that investments were made in land including payments for these valuable assets. If compensation is based on hardship, may I ask how it is interpreted in those cases? It is a factor which has to be taken into account. I was very glad that this subject was dealt with from the Liberal Benches so thoroughly and so much more clearly by the noble Viscount, Lord Buckmaster. I hope that the questions put by him (which are of interest to so many others) will receive an answer and that there will be some information at an early stage. I would like to emphasize that, in all these cases, one of the effects of the Bill will be the removal of capital from country areas where it is needed for local development of the land, and, as regards death duties, it seems quite inequitable to take large sums in taxation and then take the ironstone and other minerals without any payment, or, perhaps, with only a nebulous share of the pool fund for the development values in land.
References have been made to many of the important points in this Bill, and the blighting and sterlizing effects of designation have been referred to both from the point of view of the land owner 182 and of the agricultural tenant. It has been said that designation is for the benefit of land owners, but we have not been able to see how this is so. It is clear that there will be losses in different ways from designation. Reference has been made to the development charges on buildings as well as on land. It is very difficult to see how that is not a tax on development, and how the land can be secured more cheaply in the future. It is also difficult to see why there should be discouragement of the modernization of old buildings by development charges. To most people who are learned on these subjects it seems that this collection of betterment and development charges is likely to discourage development, and we do not see where the encouragement comes in. It is clear that the treatment of dead ripe and near ripe land presents problems which are not yet solved, and it is not easy to see how a fair and satisfactory solution is likely.
Theory, often of a political nature, seems to a considerable extent responsible for legislation of this kind, and the further this Bill is examined the more impracticable and unfair it seems in certain respects. There appears to be little in it which will really achieve what is wanted most of all now—the securing of more houses, better houses, and less costly houses. I am sure that everyone acknowledges that this is a most difficult subject upon which to legislate or for any Government to draft a satisfactory measure to deal with. I think there is recognition that much in the Bill is capable of improvement. In another place, the Minister gave a number of assurances and half assurances on a large number of points which, I understood, were to be dealt with before the Bill was finally passed.
There is much that still unknown and still uncertain, and I consider that we are entitled to some information at the earliest possible stage. There is also much in the measure that is controversial and unfair. The noble and learned Viscount has invited co-operation, and I feel sure that that will be forthcoming. I believe that the Government themselves can help much more to secure a better Bill and a more rapid passage through Parliament by giving concessions on a number of points about which there is strong feeling. I hope there will be an early indi- 183 cation of whether there will be concessions on different matters, and one matter I have in mind is the subject of minerals, upon which I have just spoken. I do not think that the Bill is workable at all in its present form and it is likely to break down. In any case, it is our duty to improve the Bill and to make it as beneficial and as workable as possible. Though disliking much in this measure, I feel sure that our co-operation will be forthcoming to the best of our ability.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ LORD SIMON OF WYTHENSHAWE
My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor and Lord Latham between them have given an exceedingly lucid explanation of this admittedly exceedingly difficult Bill. I do not propose to go into the details of the measure as they have done, but what I would like to do is to show how the Bill will affect provincial cities, and I am thinking particularly of my home city of Manchester. In almost his last words, the noble Duke who has just sat down said that the Bill is impracticable, unfair and unworkable. I say that, with regard to Manchester, this Bill is exactly the reverse. I think all noble Lords will agree, including the noble Duke, that Manchester needs replanning and rebuilding, as do our other cities. We have what we call a slum belt. Around the centre of the city of Manchester there is a slum belt which contains about 80,000 houses, and 68,000 of these have been officially condemned by the medical officer of health as being unfit for human habitation. That, of course, is our major problem, but there are a great many other problems.
We have in Manchester, as in so many other cities, a bold and imaginative plan. The question is how far this Bill is going to help us to implement that plan. May T go back very shortly and give a historical sketch to show what the difficulties have been and what extraordinarily slow progress has been made? We built our slums between 1800 and 1850, at a time when this country was probably the richest country in the world, and Manchester one of the richest cities. Owing to the laissez faire attitude, which the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, admitted—
§ LORD SIMON OF WYTHENSHAWE
That is where the Liberals made their mistake. But now we have had 100 years of slums. Under that system of unenlightened self-interest we built these slums, which are the foulest and most shameful things which human beings have ever built.
§ LORD SIMON OF WYTHENSHAWE
That went on for twenty or thirty years, and in 1830, as a result of all these slums, there were violent epidemics of cholera, smallpox, and so on. Parliament began to take notice and reforms were begun. The first era of planning began with sanitary reform to preserve health. That consisted only of getting proper drains, and a proper, clean water supply, and in letting air and light into the houses. Those were the first stages of planning, and that lasted until about 1914. The city councils did the whole thing by their various committees—nobody else did it—and they gradually cleaned up and improved the slums until the sanitary reform period ended in about 1914.
Then came the first Town Planning Act of 1909 and the John Burns' Act, and the local authorities set up planning committees. I was a member of the Manchester Town Planning Committee in 1912. We did not do much more than begin to think about planning; our powers were entirely negative, and in no way effective. The next step was the Tudor Wallace Report, under the direction of Sir Raymond Unwin, which laid down the "twelve to the acre" estates which we now know so well. That was the biggest bit of planning for the estates, and the 4,000,000 houses to which the most reverend Primate referred were built on those lines. That again was on quite a small scale. We had that bit of planning, and at the end of the First World War we had a great reform in housing, of which the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, was perhaps the leader, along with Mr. Lloyd George, and we had the "Homes for Heroes" campaign. Public opinion made up its mind that the slums had got to go, and housing then went ahead. But public opinion did not make up its mind that planning mattered, and planning did not go ahead. There were some rather feeble attempts which led us nowhere in the inter-war period. 185 I should like to give two examples of how. difficult it was in those days. In the first place, Manchester made up its mind to do something and showed a good pioneering spirit by building a satellite garden town, something like the new towns which we are now building. That town was Wythenshawe, from which I have the honour to take ray title. It was after I left the council that most of this happened. They purchased an estate of 3,000 acres in Cheshire, and they called in Sir Patrick Abercrombie and the late Mr. Barry Parker to make sure that it was planned on the best lines. They produced an admirable plan. But what happened? There was opposition from all quarters. There was opposition from the unimaginative section of the Manchester City Council, and it took years to overcome that opposition; there was opposition from the people of Cheshire, who hated the Manchester people coming to live in their beautiful county; there was opposition from Parliament, who rejected our Bill for the incorporation of these 3,000 acres, and we had to come back later to get it passed; and there was also opposition from, the Minister of Health. Public opinion was not ready.
It was only the pioneering spirit of men like Alderman Jackson of the Manchester City Council, who was one of the great pioneers of this generation, which led to the creation of the town of Wythenshawe. But it did go through, and after thirty years £10,000,000 was spent, and Wythenshawe is now a model of pioneering enterprise. We have several thousand acres under development which in the next two or three years will be completed, and there will be a population of nearly 100,000 there—roughly equivalent to the population of Chester and Gloucester added together—living under really good conditions. I hope that has contributed to this 'movement towards new towns, and that perhaps the new towns movement will benefit from our experiences at Wythenshawe.
The second experience I had was much more disappointing. Manchester did try in about 1936 to plan a Civic Centre. I am sorry to say that it was a pathetic failure. I went over to Moscow in 1936 to look at the planning and housing of that city. It was really wonderful. In the ten-year plan they adopted in 1931 they made up their minds to build the 186 finest capital in the world. for a population of 5,000,000; even the population was planned. The planners had full power and the full support of the Government. I am sorry the noble Lord, Lord Latham, is not here, because I should have liked him to hear the example I am going to give of what they did and what they are doing with their river. The river flows for fifteen miles through the City of Moscow. They planned that and made boulevards along the whole length of that stretch of river; they had granite embankments built, and raised the level of the river by ten feet; they planned eleven new bridges, of which five or six are finished; and they have made the river available for 20,000 ton ships to come right into the heart of Moscow. That is just an indication of their kind of spirit and their determination to succeed.
While I was there, the British Ambassador, who lives in a beautiful house just opposite the Kremlin—a house that is overcrowded, as are all other houses, and the kitchens are in the basement—received a letter front the Chairman of the Waterworks Committee of Moscow saying that they regretted that they had not advised the Ambassador before but they were increasing the depth of the Moscow river three meters, which would mean that the kitchens of the house would be so much under water. They hoped that this would not cause any inconvenience. That was all that was said. I do not know that we would care for such methods here, but the town planners there were the happiest and most enthusiastic people I have ever met. That was in Moscow, which was at that time, and still is, a very poor city compared to London. Yet that is the kind of imagination and drive which they put into their planning. They had one great advantage, of course, Which is that the land is all nationalized; it is not even valued, but just used for this purpose. I went back from there to Manchester, where the Town Planning Committee had planned a modest Civic Centre. Just before I got there an insurance company came along and bought a patch of land for £40,000, right in the middle of the Civic Centre. The Town Planning Committee said: "Can we buy that land back?" The insurance company said: "Yes," but the City Council said they were sorry, but they could not afford 187 £40,000. The City Council had no idea of the importance of planning in those days.
That is as far as we have got. I think one speaker said that we had already done a great deal of planinng, but I very much doubt whether we have, apart from this minor planning. Then came what we have already referred to, the period of Barlow, Scott and Uthwatt, and things began to move. We had a Ministry of Town and Country Planning. The noble Lord, Lord Reith, went round, as the first Minister, telling the local authorities to plan, and they did plan. I think that is very largely why these bold plans have been produced. It seems to me that we have now arrived at a stage in planning very similar to the stage at which we arrived in housing after the First World War. Public opinion made up its mind at that time that it would have houses, and it had houses.
I hope that this Bill, and the general welcome which it has received—apart horn certain financial criticisms—is a sign that public opinion has now made up its mind that it will plan. In that sense, I hope it is decisive. It does give the local authorities great powers, as the noble Lord, Lord Latham, said. It removes once and for all the bogey of compensation; it enables local authorities to purchase whatever land they may need for planning purposes, at what I think are likely to be reasonable prices when your Lordships' House has done with the Bill, and, above all, it enables one thing to be done which has never been possible before—that is, it enables the authorities to purchase land in the centre of the cities for adequate open spaces, and to build houses at a reasonable density in the centre. I think and hope that this Bill will enable local authorities to have, at least, something approaching adequate open spaces in the centre of the cities. I think it is true that our cities now have all the powers, and in some ways possibly even more than the powers, which enabled a few landlords in the past to carry out those model pieces of planning in Bath, Edinburgh, Regent Street and so on. I hope and look forward to the time when individual cities will do even better.
There is one other aspect to which I should like to refer—quite a different one. It is that this has an importance which 188 goes, I think, far beyond planning. There is a tendency, which is regrettable but perhaps unavoidable, to reduce the powers and responsibilities of local authorities. They are losing gas, electricity, transport and hospitals, and there is a great danger that the more vigorous and ambitious citizens may hesitate to go into local government if they find their responsibility decreased. Everybody here, I am sure, will agree that successful democracy does depend on local government, first of all because local government can do a great many important jobs far better than central government can possibly do them. Secondly, the Bill gives county boroughs and county councils very great powers of responsibility, probably greater powers than they have ever had before, and certainly in a more difficult subject than they have had before. In that sense I welcome this Bill particularly, and I believe that its success will be a test of British democracy. I should like to congratulate the Government, if I may, on their courage and faith in giving these great added responsibilities to local authorities.
Your Lordships know that many cities—I think I have already mentioned them—have courageous and imaginative plans, and I am parochial enough to believe that the Manchester plan is among the best. We now have, under this Bill, the powers and the support from the centre for which our Town Planning Committee has been praying for the last twenty years. One rather depressing feature of our rather drab, dirty and smoky towns, is that in this generation of the motor car almost everybody who can afford it has gone to live in the country—in Cheshire in our particular case—and comes into Manchester to work; and really those people have ceased to be citizens of the city. That is one of the serious features of local government. All over the world, except where you have a beautiful well-planned city, that flight to the country is taking place, and it is undermining the citizenship of those who live in cities. I hope and believe that that can be reversed.
We have, in Manchester, not only the great task of clearing the slums, but a particularly magnificent plan for what is called the cultural centre which has been worked out between the City and the University. Three hundred acres have been set aside there for the University and all ancillary buildings, with teaching hospitals, and civic buildings for 189 concerts, theatres, and so on. It is hoped that flats and houses will be built around this. We hope that the atmosphere can be cleaned within twenty years, as the Ministry of Fuel tell us. When we can manage that, it will be possible to get back to a condition of civilized urban life in beautiful surroundings, with all the amenities that a city can give but which the country can never give. We regard that as a great and exhilarating prospect in Manchester. We hope and believe it can be done, and that we shall get the kind of conditions you have in Zurich, in Stockholm and the best of the other Continental towns. If those happy days ever come—and I am young and optimistic enough to believe they will—I have little doubt that this Bill will have made the greatest contribution to those newer and happier days in Britain.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I will not follow the noble Lord who has just spoken so interestingly this afternoon, although many of the points which he made are ones which I would be glad to follow. I will confine myself, with your Lordships' permission, to one point; and it is with particular reference to what I would describe as the "hook-up" of this Bill and another Bill which is coming before your Lordships' House at a future date. I would like some enlightenment as to how that is in fact supposed to work out. I notice in Clause 2 reference is made to "the Ministers," but in Clause 3 the word "Minister" becomes singular. I am not at all clear as to why that is so. Are we to suppose that in fact the Secretary of State for Scotland—who is one of the two Ministers—has no say in the tasks which fall under Clause 3; that is, directions which may be given to the Central Land Board? I do not know if that is so, and I do not know whether it would be proper for me to comment on remarks which the Secretary of State may have made in another place with reference to another Bill, which hardly seem consistent with such remarks as have been brought to my attention.
I would like to ask: what exactly is going to be the structure of this Central Land Board? Are they to have, in fact, a duality of control? I will go further, and say that it appears that they are to have a tripartite control, because I notice that under Clause 51 it appears that the 190 Treasury will have a great deal to say as to the way in which the Board's work is carried out. This Central Land Board have been represented as a department of the Inland Revenue, and I see no objection to their structure as such, but if they are a Revenue department, why does the Minister of Town and Country Planning wish to give them directions? If they are a Revenue department he would have no say at all. I noticed that the noble arid learned Viscount said that it was not a taxation Bill, and I should agree with that—it is, indeed, something much more. I am confirmed in that view by what appears in Cause 66, which says that "no such operations shall be carried out, and no such use shall be instituted or continued" (that is, the development of land) "until the amount of the charge, if any, to be paid n respect of those operations or that use has been determined by the Board," and the account so determined paid or squared.
It appears to me, quite definitely, that that is an administrative function, and is not simply a question of collecting revenue. I think it is common knowledge that so far as revenue is concerned it can remain uncollected for many years—if one is fortunate. It may lead to certain financial instability, but it does not slow up development. No, development can take place under this Bill unless this account is squared. That means to say it is quite capable of holding up any development whatsoever. There has been the suggestion made—and I do not know whether His Majesty's Government agree with it—that in effect this amounts to something approaching a Central Planning Authority. I do not think there is very much doubt, from the terms of the Bill, that it has Central Planning Boards, otherwise I see no reason why the Minister of Town and Country Planning should want to give it direction.
It is quite impractical to have a body which deals substantially with land tenure working 300 to 500 miles, away from Scotland, or any other part where the land concerned is situate. To everyone attempting to build a house the very long time that it takes to get permission is common knowledge. I can give an example of a housing estate which was begun eighteen months ago and still not one foundation has been dug. Yet nobody has suggested that there were any difficulties or anything improper about the 191 proposals. If you add to that the fact that an application for an assessment of valuation and authority to proceed has to be made to a Board 300 miles away it will, to my mind, constitute a really intolerable burden on development. There is another reason, and that is that the whole system of land tenure in Scotland is entirely different from that in England. I have grave doubts as to whether this Bill was in fact properly examined and passed by the law officers in Scotland.
Tenure by feuing is known to most of your Lordships and there are other forms of tenure such as udal, allodial, and burgage tenure. These are things which are quite unknown in England. I would also mention crofting; the law of crofting is quite unknown here and would constitute grave difficulties to any central board operating in this country. Another thing is common interest in stair or roof which the proprietor of a flat can have. That is hardly known in England. There is the question of the "real" burden of estates; there would be a great difficulty in dealing with that at considerable distance. The noble Viscount, Lord Haldane, once said that in Scotland the laws relating to estates are also radically different from those in England. A distinguished professor of conveyancing recently said that it would be as competent for a Scottish lawyer to advise his client with regard to the law of land in France as for an English lawyer to advise a client on Scottish estate law. This is a point which should be emphasized. The subject is one of great complexity. Moreover, in Scotland we have had for more than three centuries—since 1617—a central registration of land. I am informed that no such register exists in England even now. I contend, therefore, that even if there were no difference in the tenure of land there would be a strong argument for having an executive body in Edinburgh to deal with these matters, particularly development charges affecting land tenure. I believe the case to be unanswerable.
The difficulty has been raised that if a land board were to be set up there would be a difficult and embarrassing task in dividing the global sum. I do not think the Secretary of State for Scotland is anxious to place that in an Act of Parlia- 192 ment, because he knows well that under any division, whether you use the Goschen scale or a per capita allocation, Scotland would not get as much as England because the development values are greater in England than in Scotland. The giving of authority for development, however, is in an entirely different category and is a very important matter. A criticism has been made to-day—and it is a matter which even a strong supporter of this Bill must view with some anxiety—in regard to the cumbersomeness of the machinery. Even if you think the Bill good, there is no doubt that it may be rather heavy and cumbersome to work, and anything which means cumbersomeness must be regarded with some seriousness, bearing in mind the interests of good management.
I suggest that something could be established on similar lines to the Forestry Commission, or the Tribunal in the Transport Bill; or there is some parallel in the Crown Commissioners. If effective decision is to be given, it must be given in an area where competent men understand the nature of the tenure and where the central register is. If all executive decisions are given at a great distance it will enormously encumber this process, making it much less efficient and a much greater burden on the people who have to administer it.
§ 7.5 P.m.
§ LORD BROADBRIDGE
My Lords, I must first of all make reference to the somewhat scathing remarks which were passed on the City of London by the noble Lord, Lord Latham. I am sorry he has left your Lordships' House because I was going to say that I should have thought that in ordinary circumstances of courtesy he should have told me beforehand that he was going to attack the City. I should also have told him, when he referred to discourtesy offered to him during discussions with the Minister, that I, at any rate, was never a party to any of those proceedings or discussions; and the only reason why none of my colleagues is here in your Lordships' House to-day is, as will be obvious to your Lordships, that none has the right to be here.
The only reason I take up the cudgels for the City of London is that I can say, perhaps proudly, that at one time I was its first citizen and its chief magistrate. One does not like to be treated or to see 193 one's town or city treated like a naughty boy, especially when that city happens to be not only the capital city of this country but of our Empire. It is silly for any noble Lord or for anyone else who has been associated for a long time with the London County Council to say that the City of London has no greater power than any of our local government areas—West Ham or East Ham, and so on—because it shows a great want of knowledge of what the historic past and the great future of the City of London really is and stands for, I have no intention at this late hour of detaining your Lordships for any great length of time, but I cannot leave the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Latham, in a better way than by saying that they remind me of the story of a well known K.C. who was briefed to lead in an action. As he saw that there was no case at all, he handed his brief to his junior and endorsed it: "No case; abuse the other attorney." That, I feel, is what has happened this evening.
Let me say at once that I am not objecting in any way to this Bill, because is has been conceded that a Town Planning Bill is wanted. I have no reason for saying that the Bill now before your Lordships' House is not a good Bill. What I am objecting to is the proposal to eliminate the City of London from being its own town planning authority. There are in connexion with any Bill of this kind several schools of thought. There are those who object to any town planning, however good it may be; and there are large numbers of persons who do not want the delay which the planning provisions are bound to entail—and that applies, of course, very largely to the City of London, which has suffered such devastation and seen its merchants and industrialists robbed of proper office accommodation for themselves and their staffs. But I am at any rate deeply sensible of responsibility when one makes any remarks regarding the capital city of our country. I regarded it as a great compliment when the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack said that he regretted that the City of London was going to lose some of its planning authority, and I am quite sure, speaking for myself and for members of the Common Council, that we appreciate such a compliment from such a high quarter.
Now under the Town and Country Planning Act of 1932, the City of London 194 fifteen years ago was made its own town planning authority, and that was done with the approval not only of the London County Council but also of other metropolitan bodies. If this Bill passes as it is now, the City of London, under Clauses 4 and III, will lose its planning authority. It may seem a very simple thing for a city or a body of local government to lose an authority of that kind; but it is far more than that; it is the loss of prestige to the capital city not only in this country but in other parts of the Empire and abroad, where the City of London is always looked to in giving the lead on all matters of national importance. Taking away its planning authority is just one of those meddlesome actions which is prejudicial to the influence of the City.
If there is any governing body in the country that is capable of carrying out a town planning scheme it is the Common Council of the City of London. The City Corporation knows its requirements from A to Z, and it knows better than anybody else or any other body how to carry them out. The noble Lord, Lord Latham, referred apparently to the Common Council as being either misinformed or misunderstanding things. I think the boot is on the other foot, and I would like to remind your Lordships what the City has done to justify its taking up the position it has done. For instance, it has provided out of it; private cash, and has maintained probably for 50 or 100 years, entirely free from asking the ratepayers for any money, four bridges over the Thames—Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Southwark Bridge and Black-friars Bridge. It is still maintaining them, and will go on maintaining them, free of ratepayers' money until the end of the world.
What have the Common Council done, besides that, to show that they have studied the welfare of the people? They have acquired and given to the public for ever, out of their own private cash, and also without asking the ratepayers for anything for maintenance, that great East lung, Epping Forest. That is not all. They have acquired in the same way, at their own cost, and maintained, that great sanctuary of trees, Burnham Beeches, in Buckinghamshire, which is the rendezvous at week-ends or holidays of the people of London who go there 195 to get a breathing space. There are many other similar open spaces. They have given Coulsdon Common, Riddlesdown, Farthingdown, and so on, all out of their own pocket, all done to add beauty to our country and for the benefit and the welfare of the people. Now it is proposed to take away the planning authority from them, when they have done so well for the people, and one can only conclude that it is a case of a political mess of pottage.
Even the Minister of Town and Country Planning, in another place, made this remark about the City; he said he would not wish to hurt the susceptibilities of this historic and important authority. The City, he said, holds a unique position in the commercial and financial life of the country. I might add myself that the City of London leads the country and the Empire in all matters that affect the welfare of the people. There is no authority that is more desirous of working in harmony with the London County Council, and it has in fact always done so, and we have always had the most friendly relations. I cannot help thinking that when the noble Lord, Lord Latham, referred to heat and temper it was not in any way in connexion with any discussions that have taken place, one might say, officially; it must have been discussion from outside sources which upset him.
But when one has regard to the way in which he laboured the matter, and from the heat which he showed in it, one can quite understand that there was perhaps some little feeling in the matter on both sides. I can assure him, however, that the Common Council of the City are desirous always of helping, of comparing notes, and of doing everything they can to dovetail all their arrangements. Even the plan which has now been prepared and finished for the City, in consultation with those two great planning experts, Dr. Holden and Professor Holford, whom I might regard really as Government planners, has been made to fit in and dovetail with the plan of the London County Council. There is nothing else in it. The heat arises because they want to eliminate the City from having planning authority. My answer to that 196 is that the City has a dignity to stand up for and protect, not only in this country but also in other countries. The first thing that some countries abroad and in the Empire will say is, "What has the City of London done to have their town planning authority taken away under this new Bill?" It is a matter that is not merely for the City Corporation alone, it is for the betterment and the welfare of the country as a whole.
There are other clauses in the Bill which will probably have to be the subject of amendment. I am not going to deal with them to-night, they can wait for the Committee stage; but when your Lordships come to take decisions on this Bill I do ask you to do nothing that is in any way going to affect adversely the prestige and the influence of the City of London. If I may quote a story, I would say this. In our life we have all been given a bag of tools and an hour glass, either to create a stumbling-block or to make a steppingstone. I can say this in regard to the great past of the City of London. There has never been an occasion in the whole of the historic record of the City authority upon which they have not created a stepping-stone for the benefit of the people of the country, and never a stumbling block. I have, I hope, said enough to induce your Lordships to feel that when the time comes to take a decision on this Bill, whether it be on the Second Reading or in Committee, you will bear in mind what I have said, and have full regard to the prestige and influence of our great capital city of London.
§ Moved: That the debate be now adjourned.—(Lord Henderson.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and debate adjourned accordingly.