HL Deb 15 July 1952 vol 177 cc1065-87

3.30 p.m.

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

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

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly:

[The EARL OF DROGHEDA in the Chair]

Clause 1:

Definition of town development

1.—(1) In this Act the expression "town development" means development in a county district (or partly in one such district and partly in another) which will have the effect, and is undertaken primarily for the purpose, of providing accommodation for residential purposes (with or without accommodation for the carrying on of industrial or other activities, and with any public services and other incidentals needed) the provision whereof will relieve congestion or over-population elsewhere.

LORD HAMPTON moved, in subsection (1), after "services" to insert, "including playing fields." The noble Lord said: In moving this Amendment, I do not think I need detain the Committee for very long. This Bill is called the Town Development Bill. I assume that that title means the complete development of our towns, old or new, to be in every way suitable places for habitation in modern conditions. If this is so, it is inconceivable to me how any town can regard itself as having reached that standard unless adequate provision, or as adequate provision as can be made, is forthcoming in regard to playing fields. I believe the Minister in another place agreed that provision for playing fields was desirable—I rather wish he had used the word "essential"; I think that would have been more suitable. There is no doubt that the Government now and for a long time past have been thinking in the same way. In regard to local education authorities' policy, the Ministry of Education issued a circular (No. 242) on December 7 last, part of which reads: No doubt there are certain directions in which drastic economies could not be made without serious detriment to the health and well-being of children and young persons; the Minister has in mind particularly, in the field of primary and secondary education, the expenditure on playgrounds and facilities for physical education. It finishes up by saying: But with these reservations the Minister must ask authorities to review the whole of their expenditure under this Section with a view to making economies wherever possible. In the Housing Act of 1936 we find these words: .…that the layout and construction of public streets or roads and open spaces is part of the provision of housing accommodation. There are many instances where land has already been scheduled for the purpose of playing fields by local authorities, but for one reason or another, chiefly financial, they cannot at present take up the land and develop it for its original purpose.

The National Playing Fields Association are anxious—and they are not alone in that anxiety—about the fact that there is no provision in the present Bill to empower the Minister to make grants for the purpose of playing fields. As the Committee probably know, this Association founded twenty-seven years ago, have done a great deal to improve the playing field situation throughout the country. From the outset, and after a most careful survey, they set themselves a target of six acres per thousand of the population. To-day, after twenty-seven year of strenuous effort and with the ready co-operation of local authorities throughout the country, they have been able to secure no more than roughly one and a half acres per thousand. The difficulty of finding big open spaces is great and is growing. The needs of housing, allotments, agriculture and aerodromes, and the requirements of other services, mean that competition for any available land is keener now than at any time in our history, yet the need for playing fields is greater, especially in the case of children. It is admitted that the scarcity of playing fields is a serious factor in road accidents among the children, and all social workers agree that the same lack of space for organised games is one of the causes of the more dangerous types of child delinquency. We want our children to be near their own homes to play games, but on grass and not in the streets.

We are spending hundreds of millions of pounds annually on our National Health Service, but surely adequate playing fields, or as adequate as we can make them, should be looked upon as an essential complement to that Service. I know that local authorities are doing what they can, and I feel sure that the Government is alive to the need. I realise that our present economic condition is a stumbling block to what the Government would like to do; but the general financial stringency throughout the country is a stumbling block also to what local authorities would like to do. We all sympathise with Her Majesty's Ministers in the harassing problems of to-day in keeping their estimates of expenditure pared down to the bare bone; yet I am informed on good authority, that in many cases quite a small grant, given at the right time and in the right place, may make just the difference between the ability to develop a site probably already scheduled, and sadly letting it go. Once gone, in all probability it can never be recovered.

The National Playing Fields Association have done, and are doing, what they can in the matter of grants, and are, I believe, allocating £27,000 this year for the purpose of playing fields. Distributed throughout the whole country that is not a large sum, but necessarily their funds are limited. By the way, I am sorry that the Chairman of the Association, Lord Luke, cannot be with us to-day. I know he wanted to speak, but I believe that at this moment he is flying on his way to Helsinki as a member of the Committee of the Olympic Games. In addition to these grants, throughout the history of the Association there have been many generous private gifts of land and many schemes sponsored by local authorities. Could not the Government play their part for this purpose, looking upon it as a long-term investment—a gilt-edged investment—and one carrying with it in the years to come a rate of interest out of all proportion to the capital involved? I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 1, line 12, after ("services") insert ("including playing fields").—(Lord Hampton.)


I rise to support the Amendment, which I regard as perhaps the most important Amendment on the Marshalled List to-day. It is an Amendment which, I am sure, will command the support of the whole Committee. I anticipate that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, will tell us how sympathetic he is to the idea of playing fields, and then possibly will tell us that we cannot have the support of Her Majesty's Government to provide them. That support is important, not only for the full reasons, which I wholly support, given by the noble Lord, Lord Hampton, but because it is urgent that playing fields should be provided at the very beginning of the development of a large area: once the area becomes built on it is too late.

In these days there is a tremendous amount of pressure upon local authorities to use their land to the fullest possible extent. There is the financial pressure, the desire to build at the highest possible density. There is also pressure from agricultural interests—and quite rightly—who are anxious that wherever possible not a single acre of land should be used for purposes other than farming. It is quite likely that local authorities developing areas under the conditions of this Bill will succumb to that joint pressure, unless they have some encouragement from Her Majesty's Government. Therefore, I should like to see these words inserted in the Bill, showing that it is a matter of serious policy on the part of the Government to ensure that, wherever development of this kind takes place, the question of playing fields must be taken into consideration. I think on Second Reading the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, said that there was not much money involved in this matter—that local authorities could easily provide the money because these playing fields were being provided in areas where land was cheap, and I think that that is true. At any rate, to a certain extent there is a good deal of truth in it. There is not much money involved, and one would say that the Government can much more easily afford the small amount which may be involved than some of the local authorities who are going to incur considerable expense in rehousing their populations outside their areas, or the receiving authorities who are going to incur expense in providing for the people who will be going to their districts. So we are not talking about a great deal of Honey.

I am much more concerned about a gesture; about having it on record in the Bill that the Government do attach importance to the question of playing fields, and will make some contribution. The amount of that contribution really does not matter. I am not at all concerned whether the contribution is small or large. Indeed it is left entirely to the discretion of the Minister; there is nothing in the Bill at all which affects it. But I attach importance to the principle of making a contribution, and I hope, therefore, that if the noble Lord is not able to accept the Amendment, at least he will be prepared to go back to the Minister and tell him that there is really strong feeling in the House about it—as I believe there is—and that it is not a question of spending any large amount of money, but really of showing the concern of Her Majesty's Government on this question and of ensuring that at the outset of development provision is made for playing fields. If the noble Lord can give us an assurance that he is prepared to do that, then, perhaps, we shall live to fight another day.

3.43 p.m.


I do not think that here is a great deal between us here—certainly there is not on the principle of my noble friend's Amendment. We recognise, as fully as he does and as fully as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, does, the necessity of playing fields in any properly developed community. Of course, your Lordships must remember that these town development schemes are going to be worked out as planned development, with all the essential amenities planned in advance. I can give this definite assurance to my noble friend: that the Government have very much at heart the whole question of proper provision being made for playing fields in any development that takes place under this Bill. The noble Lord, I think, stated that there is no provision in the Bill for this purpose. That in a sense is true; but perhaps in another sense it is not entirely true. In all cases these schemes have to be considered on their merits and what is done will depend upon a number of factors—for example, the amount of money the "exporting" authority will be able to contribute, the amount of money the county council will be able to contribute, the state of the finances of the receiving authority, and so on. All these things have to be taken into consideration before the Minister decides how much he ought to give to any particular scheme. When all these factors have been taken into consideration, the Minister will assess the burden that is going to fall on a receiving district and how much he can give. When he assesses this burden he can take account of expenditure on the acquisition of land for playing fields under Clause 2 (2) (b) of the Bill.


if that is the case, would the noble Lord say what is the objection to saying so in terms?


The objection to this Amendment, I am advised, is a legal objection.




If the noble Lord will listen to what the objection is before he starts making disapproving noises I think we shall get on faster. The legal objection, I am advised, is that these words would tend to throw doubt on the generality of the words "public services and other incidentals needed." As the noble Lord, who has been much concerned with these matters, knows, if you particularise some particular activity you may well in legal drafting, throw doubt on various other activities. In this case, I am advised, if you particularise playing fields, you will tend to throw doubt on other necessary things, such as churches, parks libraries and community centres—to give a few examples. Therefore I do not think that I can accept the Amendment. I am prepared to give the noble Lord an assurance that we are concerned about this matter; we shall do everything possible to see that these things are planned as a whole and that all the necessary amenities are contained in the plans. I hope that perhaps my noble friend may be content with that assurance.

3.46 p.m.


I am sure we cannot really accept as satisfactory what the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, has just said. I quite appreciate the noble Lord's position. Perhaps he will accept the suggestion of Lord Silkin and have another talk with the Minister about this matter. I have found myself in the position of the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, on many occasions; I have been told to withstand pressure to accept Amendments. I have been given various reasons, but never have I been given the reason which the noble Lord has now advanced—that there is a legal difficulty because if he has the example of playing fields inserted in the Bill it may prevent the building of churches. I think that that is straining our credulity a little too far. I would ask the noble Lord, if he would, to take this matter back. We in this House have this afternoon been dealing with a Children and Young Persons Bill, and we have been considering how to deal with child delinquency and the victims of it. I would suggest to the noble Lord that, as my noble friend has already said, this Amendment does not commit anyone to anything except the principle. Surely it is far better in this new town development to ensure having adequate playing fields for young persons. Even to-day there is agitation in the heart of this City of Westminster to block up roads and stop traffic passing along them, so that children shall be able to have some reasonable recreation.

Does it not sound common sense, as my noble friend has said, that before this town development gets bogged down, before licensed premises are set up for some future children to hang around, or cinemas are built in which children will be given the sort of mental food which some of the modern cinemas do feed to children, playing fields should be dealt with as a first essential? I do not suggest that they are an essential merely so that we can bring up "little Mo's" or people of that kind who will carry off world championships in the field of sport; but they are at least essential for the health and recreation of future generations. I beg the noble Lord to have another word with the Minister and see whether he cannot give us some better news at the next stage of this Bill.


I should like to support the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and his noble friend. I have been concerned with the Playing Fields Association ever since it was started, and I feel very strongly that this is an Amendment which should be accepted. In my view, it is not only the matter of playing fields which is so important. It has been my experience in cities where I have been concerned with youth organisations that I have continually had to investigate the reasons why boy scout troops and boys' clubs had disappeared. It is most necessary that in new town development some provision should be made for youth organisations to carry out their function, and I hope that the Amendment may be accepted at this stage of the Bill.


I have only a few words to say on the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. Neither of us are lawyers, but I was surprised to hear from him that he had never heard of the doctrine of ejusdem generis which I thought would have been as well known to him as it is even to such a non-legally minded person as myself. I really think he need not have lectured me so violently on my lack of desire to see playing fields, having regard to the fact that I had just told him that the Government were particularly keen on this matter. Indeed, I think there is very little on the matter of principle which divides us. Finally, I would say that I am always susceptible to the noble Lord's blandishments; and in view of the general desire expressed, I am perfectly prepared to have another look at this matter. As he knows, I can give no promise, but I am prepared to take it back to see whether we can meet this point.


I am sure we are all grateful to the noble Lord.


I also should like to express my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, for what he has just said—that he will take it back to the Minister and think again. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth: I could not quite swallow the excuse about the legal difficulty. Surely an open space or playing field cannot be put on the same plane as a new building for any purpose whatsoever. It is one of those things that are essential, and when new towns are springing up this is the time of times, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, when we should be thinking of developing them properly under modern conditions. On the assurance which the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, has given, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [Exchequer contributions to council of receiving district]:

Exchequer contributions to council of receiving district

2.—(1) This section applies to development to be carried out after the passing of this Act as to which the Minister of Housing and Local Government (hereinafter referred to as "the Minister") is satisfied—

(b) that the provision of the accommodation will relieve congestion or over-population in—

  1. (i) a county borough, or
  2. (iv) a county district outside the county in which the development is to be carried out,
or in two or more such local government areas.

LORD SILKIN moved, in subsection (1), to add to sub-paragraph (iv) of paragraph (b): or where the Minister is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances, a county district inside such county

The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to provide for exceptional circumstances. In the normal case, where a district council desire to disperse their surplus population and get the benefit of this Bill, they have to disperse it outside their own county. There may be exceptional circumstances which make it desirable and convenient, indeed, essential, to disperse it within the county. An example which I gave on Second Reading was Ilford. I hold no brief for Ilford; I have not been approached by them; but Ilford happens to be a good example of what I mean. Ilford is a congested area, and if they disperse their surplus population, they can do it only in the county of Essex, a considerable distance away. It seems to me that that is the kind of case which the Minister might be prepared to treat as exceptional, so as to give Ilford and the receiving authority in the county access to the benefits of this Bill. It would be entirely in the Minister's discretion and he would have to be satisfied that it was exceptional. There would be no fear of a wholesale introduction of large-scale extensions of the provisions of the Bill. There may be half a dozen cases throughout the country, but where such cases do exist, I think it is important that they should be met. I beg to move

Amendment moved— Page 2, line 19, after ("out") insert the said words.—(Lord Silkin.)


The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has stated his first proposition correctly. In the normal case, the county borough or district council which wishes to export its surplus population has to do it outside the boundary of the county. That was the situation when the Bill was first introduced, but I think the noble Lord is under a slight misapprehension when he cites the case of Ilford


I realise that the Ilford case is met because it is on the outskirts of London, but I had that sort of case in mind.


The Ilford case was met in Committee in another place. Strong representations were made about Ilford and, as the noble Lord knows, there is provision in Clause 2 of the Bill which covers the Ilford case and all other cases where the district is part of a large conurbation—to use another awful phrase. I think the point is satisfactorily covered. If the noble Loud wishes to include in the provisions of the Bill any district council that may wish to export population within the county, then I am afraid I must resist his Amendment. In our opinion, that would widen the scope of the Bill in a way which we never intended. The object of the Bill is to assist built-up areas with enormous surplus populations to export them to new towns. That is a matter of national concern, and we believe it should have national financial assistance. But when a small district wishes to export its population for some reason, perhaps because the planning authority thinks it should not expand further, that is only a local affair, which does not come within the main purview of this measure. That is not the problem we are tying to solve. In any case, if a local planning authority decide that any district should not expand in their own area, the district council can obtain a contribution from the county council under existing powers provided in Section 126 of the Local Government Act, which empowers county councils to contribute to any expense of county districts. We think that they ought to help the district councils and that the problem does not come within the purview of this measure. I am sorry, but I am afraid I cannot accept the Amendment.


I do not think the Amendment is of world-shattering importance. I think the noble Lord is wrong, but I do not propose to press this to a Division.

On Question, Amendment negatived.

Clause 2 agreed to.

Clauses 3 to 7 agreed to.

Clause 8 [Provision for participation by agreement]:

On Question, Whether the clause shall stand part of the Bill?


I should like to say a word about Clause 8 (1) (c). The point I want to make is not on the merits of the clause, because I do not understand what its merits are: the point I want to make is on the drafting. I have spent a good deal of time trying to understand the meaning of subsection (1) (c). Sometimes I think I do understand it, and then, as I go on, I find I do not. Nobody ought to be put in that position. I think I have got the meaning here and, if I have, the idea is so simple that surely it could be put in much simpler words than are here. I am not going to torture the noble Lord by asking him to explain what subsection (1) (c) means. Oh, I see he has a brief! What I ask him is this: Will be please try between now and the next stage to reduce this paragraph to its simplest terms and produce something which even the least intelligent of us can understand?


I must confess that anything on Local Government Bills which the noble Lord, Lord Silk in, does not understand is Greek to me, but I have taken the precaution of finding out what this means, anticipating that the noble Lord might be in difficulty. Neither of us is a lawyer—


He is.


Then the noble Lord should not try me with the provisions of this subsection. It is his profession which clothes all these simple things in this horrible language. I will take it back and have a look at the drafting, but I am advised by my legal experts that this is the simplest legal way in which the particular object we desire to achieve here can be expressed.

Clause 8 agreed to.

Clause 9:

Provision for participation under order of the Minister

9.—(1) If it appears to the Minister that any action required for the purposes of town development within the meaning of this Act (being action for the taking of which by an authority eligible to participate provision could be made, with the authorisation of the Minister under subsection (1) of the last preceding section if needed, by an agreement to which the council of a receiving district were parties) is prevented or hampered by inability or unwillingness of the council of the receiving district to take that action or to concur in providing by agreement for its being taken, and application in that behalf is made to him by that authority, he may after consultation with the council of the receiving district and the council of the county in which the receiving district is situated make provision by order—

  1. (a) for authorising the authority by whom the application is made to take that action, or to assume any obligation with respect thereto for the assumption of which by them provision could be made as aforesaid, and for requiring the council of the receiving district to permit the taking by that authority of that action;
  2. (b) for imposing on the council of the receiving district any obligation with respect to that action for the assumption of which by them provision could be made as aforesaid, and for conferring on that authority the right to enforce an obligation so imposed as if it had been assumed by the council of the receiving district by agreement with that authority; and
  3. (c) if any agreement with respect to that action has been made by the council of the receiving district with that authority, for varying the terms thereof.

LORD SILKIN moved, in subsection (1) to omit all words in parentheses, beginning "being action" down to and including "were parties." The noble Lord said: My reason for putting down this Amendment is exactly the same as that for my remarks on Clause 8. I am not sure that I understand this correctly; and, if I do, I can say only that it could be put much more simply. The Amendment proposes the deletion of the words within brackets in Clause 9. I agree that they are a limitation of the powers which are conferred upon the Minister. But surely, if that is the intention, it could be put much more simply. The words which I am moving to omit are: (being action for the taking of which by an authority eligible to participate provision could be made, with the authorisation of the Minister under subsection (1) of the last preceding section if needed, by an agreement to which the council of a receiving district were parties). What those words are supposed to mean is, "such an agreement as is contemplated in the previous clause." If that is what it means, why does the Bill not say so? If it means something else, then I cannot make out the words at all. I am moving the Amendment to get the noble Lord opposite to elucidate what the wording means. If he is successful in doing that, I beg of him to take it back to see whether the intention cannot be expressed in simpler language. One day this will have to be interpreted.

I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 8, line 43, leave out after ("Act") to ("is") in line 47.—(Lord Silkin.)


I have not been asked to construe so often since I was at school, but again I will endeavour to elucidate for the noble Lord, to the best of my ability. I am advised that what this does, as the noble Lord says, is to limit the power of the Minister. Clause 8 sets forth the fact that authorities may participate in any development of this kind. It then sets forth the sort of things they can do: for example, subsection (1) sets out the kinds of action that one party acting on behalf of another party, in fact, acting as the agent for the receiving area, may take. It authorises any action outside their area by a participating council … being action which apart from this subsection they could lawfully take if it were for the benefit of their area but whcih is not, or may not be, for the benefit thereof;". That, I believe, is quite simple. Clause 8 (1) (c) would take me quite a long time to explain, though I am well fortified. However, I wish to spare the Committee if I can. I will run through the rest of the provisions if the noble Lord wishes, but I feel that they are fairly plain sailing. All Clause 9 (1) does is to say that the Minister may not make an order if people have not done something which is outside its provisions. But if they have failed to do something which they could do under Clause 8, he is in a position to make an order. That is how I understand it. Clearly, if we did not have the words in the Bill the Minister could make an order for almost any reason at all; his powers would be unlimited. So this Amendment could go impossibly far. I gather that the noble Lord put it down only to torture me. I hope that I have satisfied him and that, in the circumstances, he will be prepared to withdraw the Amendment.


I cannot say that the noble Lord has related the intention of the words to the words that are actually there. I think I understand what is intended, but I cannot make the words of the clause correspond with what is intended. However, I understand that the noble Lord will see whether these words can be elucidated—I agree that some kind of limitation is necessary—and on that understanding I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 9 agreed to.

Clause 10:

Contributions to authorities participating from the Exchequer and local authorities benefited

(3) Where the council of a county borough or county district are satisfied that the provision of accommodation by my town development within the meaning of this Act will relieve congestion or over-population in their area, they may, in pursuance of undertakings in that behalf given by them with the approval of the Minister, make contributions to any authority participating in the development towards expenses incurred by them in relation to the development.

LORD LLOYD moved to add to subsection (3): A council, when giving an undertaking under this subsection, may lay down, as conditions to which payment of the contributions undertaken to be made is to be subject, such conditions as it may appear to that council to be expedient to impose for securing the intended relief from congestion or overpopulation.

The noble Lord said: This Amendment is consequential on an Amendment carried out in another place to Clause 4, which now appears as subsection (2) of the clause. That Amendment made it clear, if that was necessary, that a local authority contributing to the expenses of the council of a receiving district could attach to its payments conditions Of the type mentioned in subsection (2). All this Amendment seeks to do is to give a parallel opportunity to contributions which a participating authority may make to another authority in town development. To give an example, suppose that the Manchester Corporation were themselves carrying out a development at Leyland, and that Salford wished to participate in it—letting Manchester do the work—and wished to house some of their population at Leyland as well, but that Manchester did the work for both. This Amendment enables Salford not only to contribute to Manchester's expenses but also to make conditions in respect of their contributions, even though they are not doing the work—one condition might be that they should have so many houses of those being built at Leyland, or something of that sort. This Amendment is on all fours with the Amendment made in the other place and, as I say, it is almost consequential upon it. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 10, line 39, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Lloyd.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 10, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 11 and 12 agreed to.

Clause 13:

Re-transfers of land, and other adjustments, after carrying out of town development

(4) Subject to subsection (2) of section nine-seen of this Act, no order shall be made under this section unless a draft thereof has been laid before Parliament and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament.

4.8 p.m.

LORD KENNET moved to leave out subsection (4) and to insert: (4) An order under this section shall be subject to special parliamentary procedure.

The noble Lord said: This is a matter of procedure and machinery, and not of principle, but it is one which has been taken seriously into consideration by the local authorities and their representatives. I put it forward from their point of view with a good deal of confidence that it will be the means of saving expense, elaboration and time in carrying out the procedure under the Bill. Clause 13 is the tidying-up clause, under which, after the county borough, for instance, has completed the development in, say, the area of a county district, the Minister comes in and makes an order adjusting matters as between the two authorities, probably by transferring the property in the new development to the authority which will administer it, which will be the county district. That is merely an illustration. In any event, this tidying-up order will necessitate the investigation of boundaries, sites and financial compensation, and possibly other subsidiary matters, such as title, and so on. In other words, it will not be a simple order, but will contain a good deal of detail.

Under the present provisions of the Bill, all that is provided for is the submission of such an order to Parliament for approval or rejection—the more general procedure. That is a valuable safeguard, and we should value it very much. But experienced administrators of local authorities venture to suggest that what is wanted is something more, and that is an opportunity of holding an inquiry (if it is thought necessary) and taking evidence before the order is made. That is the whole point of this Amendment: to give the parties interested—the Ministry and the two local authorities—an opportunity, if it will be useful, to hold an inquiry and take evidence which will enable them to adjust these difficult matters in detail (ownership, compensation, title, and so forth) before the order is made. The representatives of the local authorities feel confident that that will be of the greatest value and assist them to get the things through quickly, cheaply and without undue contention. Perhaps I may assure the Minister that this matter has been considered very closely in detail by the local authorities and is put forward by them, with, I think, complete unanimity, through their representative associations. I have informed myself of the opinion of the association most concerned, and I venture to support it as a practical matter which may save a little trouble in the future. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Page 12, line 40, leave out subsection (4) and insert ("(4) An order made under this section shall be subject to special parliamentary procedure.").—(Lord Kennet.)


Could the noble Lord explain why he regards it as important to have this procedure for Clause 13 and not for Clause 9, where the Minister is over-riding the views of the local authority? I should have thought that that was much more relevant.


The answer to the noble Lord must be that the clause deals with a different subject matter. One likes to confine one's suggestions for changes in a useful Bill to the minimum of what one thinks is most necessary. The answer would be that it is thought that the corpus of cases in which this procedure would be most useful and necessary would be those raised under Clause 13.


So far as Her Majesty's Government are concerned, we recognise the doubts which exist in the minds of local authorities about this question of re-transfer of development to the authority who is finally to administer it. One answer to the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is that the amount involved in Clause 13 is considerably more than in Clause 9. In Clause 9 we have only the receiving authority with no burden placed upon it, as no development has yet begun. In Clause 13 we have the handing over for a consideration of what may be a considerable development, involving a great deal of money, and clearly it is desirable that too heavy a burden should not be imposed. Equally, one wants to ensure that there is not an unjust price awarded to the developing authority who perhaps have spent a great deal of money. My right honourable friend was of the opinion that the ordinary affirmative procedure would have been enough to cover all these cases, but if local authorities feel strongly on this particular point, I have his authority to accept this Amendment and we shall be pleased to do so if it sets any doubts at rest.


I am much obliged to the noble Lord. I can assure him that it has the unanimous support of the local authorities, as a matter of substantial practical importance, and that it will receive the warmest welcome by them.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 13, as amended, agreed to.

Clause 14 agreed to.

Clause 15. [Continuation of sewage disposal or sewerage systems]:

4.15 p.m.


This Amendment and the next in my name are both put down by me in the hope that they will receive the agreement which has been accorded to the other Amendment. These Amendments are consequential upon the first Amendment, and the whole effect is to produce a re-arrangement of the Bill consequent upon the change just made in Clause 13, in order that the Bill may read more clearly. I beg to move.

Amendment moved—

Page 13, line 45, leave out subsection (2) and insert— ("(2) Where the Minister is of opinion that an order should be made—

  1. (a) under section six of the Public Health Act, 1936, by virtue of paragraph (a) of the preceding subsection, or
  2. (b) under section nine of that Act amending or revoking such an order as is mentioned in paragraph (a) of this subsection, or,
  3. (c) under paragraph (b) of the preceding subsection.
he shall give notice of that opinion to all authorities appearing to him to be concerned, setting out a provisional draft of an order and stating a period, not less than twenty-eight days, within which objections may be made and if either no objection is made by any such authority within the time stated in the notice or all objections so made are withdrawn, the order may be made in the terms of the provisional draft, or with such modifications only as appear to the Minister to be immaterial, but an order shall not be made in any other case unless a draft of the order has been laid before Parliament and approved by resolution of each House of Parliament")—(Lord Kennet.)


The noble Lord is perfectly correct. This Amendment is consequential on our acceptance of his last Amendment, and I am it very pleased to accept it.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 15, as amended, agreed to.

Clauses 16 and 17 agreed to.

Clause 18 [Repeal of s. 19 (5) of Town and Country Planning Act, 1944]:

4.17 p.m.

LORD SILKIN had giver notice of an Amendment to omit Clause 18. The noble Lord said: The Amendment which is standing in my name is to leave out Clause 18. I observe, however, that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, has a similar Amendment on the Marshalled List. The object of my Amendment was to leave the clause out of the Bill altogether. The object of the noble Lord's Amendment is to leave it out and to put another even more obnoxious clause in its place. This raises a question of major policy, and if it were to be debated in a serious way, and in the way in which I think it should be debated, it would take a considerable time, but there is a good deal of business on the Order Paper to-day, and I am sure that noble Lords would welcome any effort to save time this afternoon. I feel, therefore, that it might be advisable not to move my own Amendment, but to let the noble Lord's Amendment go through, with the understanding that I shall move my Amendment to delete the new clause on a further stage of this Bill. If that is acceptable to the noble Lord, I shall be prepared not to move my Amendment at all to-day, but to put down an Amendment to delete the new Clause 18 on the further stage.


I am perfectly prepared to agree with the noble Lord, if that suits him.


I thought it might suit the House. It would suit me to move it now.


I beg the noble Lord's pardon. I will move my new clause, and we can have a debate on it next time.

LORD LLOYD moved to leave out Clause 18 and insert the following new clause:

Repeal of restrictions on disposal of land by local authorities and development corporations

"18. So much of section nineteen of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, and of section five of the New Towns Act, 1946, as restrict the power of the Minister under those sections to consent to the disposal of land by a local authority or development corporation shall cease to have effect and, accordingly, the enactments specified in the Schedule to this Act are hereby repealed to the extent specified in relation thereto in the third column of that Schedule."

The noble Lord said: This Amendment arises out of an error which occurred through the original clause not going far enough. It was intended to repeal part of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944. Unfortunately, it went the whole way through the House of Commons and through the Second Reading in your Lordships' House before anyone noticed that we had failed to repeal the reenactment of the same piece of legislation in the Eleventh Schedule of the 1947 Act. It was, therefore, necessary to delete the original Clause 18 in the Bill for that purpose, if for no other; and, since we are doing that, we should at the same time insert the provision of which I gave notice on the Second Reading—the provision to repeal part of the New Towns Act of 1946. In view of what the noble Lord has said, I will confine my remarks to a minimum. I will merely say that these two Amendments remove a limitation on the Minister's power to give permission to local authorities either to sell their houses or to make leases of more than ninety-nine years. I do not think that at this stage I need say any more about it—we shall be debating the matter more fully on the Report stage. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— Leave out Clause 18 and insert the said new clause.—(Lord Lloyd.)


The Question is, That the Amendment be agreed to, subject to the insertion of "1944" in place of "1947" as printed.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

LORD MERTHYR moved, after Clause 18 to insert the following new clause: . The Council of a receiving district shall, before carrying out any development under this Act, consult with the councils of such of the parishes in its area as will be affected by such development as to the manner in which the development is to be carried out.

The noble Lord said: I must say that when I had finished drafting this Amendment I was astonished at its modesty. It is asking a very small thing indeed: that before development takes place in a parish the council of that parish should be consulted as to the manner in which the development is to take place. The Amendment does not require the permission of the parish council. It cannot hold up the development unless there is agreement. All it says is—and this is surely a very small thing—that the parish council must be consulted. I take it that it is part of the policy of Her Majesty's Government to encourage the ordinary form of democratic local government as applied to parish councils. It must be a discouragement to parish councils if development on any scale takes place in their own area without their being consulted at all. On the other side of the picture, surely there must be occasions when the parish council could contribute something really useful, in the words of this Amendment: as to the manner in which the development is to be carried out"— not whether a house shall be built but, perhaps, where it might be built; something as to the siting and elevation, and the material. When all is said and done, there is no compulsion on anybody to accept the decision of the parish council or to do more than merely consult them. That being so, I submit that this Amendment is inherently reasonable. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 18 insert the said new clause.—(Lord Merthyr.)


I have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Lord would like to do. We do not want to see local authorities overridden. At the same time I think the Amendment, if accepted, would introduce a new principle into local government. Obviously we desire that local people should assent to what is being clone. After all, the rural district councils are elected on a parochial basis, and often a member of the rural district council is a member of the parish council. I think we must assume that the district council has an access to the views of the parish council. It must do so, in fact, because its representatives, as I say, are elected on lint basis. We must also assume, therefore, that it will take their interests into consideration. I do not think we should introduce such an entirely new principle into local government; I think it would be wrong to do so. While, therefore, we have every sympathy with what the noble Lord desires to do, I am afraid that I cannot accept the Amendment.


I am sorry that the noble Lord cannot accept this Amendment. I have been a district councillor for over twenty years, and also a parish councillor. Sometimes I have found myself unable to attend the district council meetings at the right time because of lack of transport. I remember a case where it was decided by the district council that cottages should be built at a certain place. If the parish councillor had been there he would have been able to point out that every few years a certain spring came to the surface and made that place impossible for building. I think the Amendment extremely reasonable and I wish the noble Lord could accept it.


I should like to make one or two observations upon what the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd, said. I submit that there is room for new principles in local government. The noble Lord suggested that district councils were in some way elected by the parish councils. He seemed to be under the. impression that members of district councils were also members of parish councils.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord. I think he misunderstood me. I did not say that the district councils were elected by the parish council members. I said that on occasions the district councillors were also members of the parish council.


I gladly withdraw my interpretation of the noble Lord's remarks. Of course, it may be that a district councillor does not live in his own parish or in the parish he represents. He may live in neither place; he is not bound to live in either place. This new principle to which the noble Lord is objecting might be a very good principle, and I would ask him whether he will kindly consider this matter again, for the reasons put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Middleton. In the meantime, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 19 agreed to.

Clause 20 [Provisions as to orders under this Act]:

LORD KENNET had given notice of an Amendment to omit subsection (2).


I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, said that this Amendment was consequential.

Amendment moved— Page 15, line 38, leave out subsection (2).—(Lord Kennet.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 20, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses agreed to.

LORD LLOYD moved after Clause 23 to insert the following Schedule:

7 & 8 Geo. 6. c. 47. The Town and Country Planning Act, 1944. Subsection (5) of section nineteen.
9 & 10 Geo. 6. c. 68. The New Towns Act, 1946. In section five, in the proviso to subsection (1), the words from "and the Minister shall not consent" to the end of the proviso.
10 & 11 Geo. 6. c. 51. The Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. Subsection (5) of section nineteen of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944, as reprinted in the Eleventh Schedule."

The noble Lord said: In rising to move the insertion of the Schedule which your Lordships will see on the Order Paper, I need say no more than that it is consequential on the Amendment we made to Clause 18. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— After Clause 23 insert the said Schedule.—(Lord Lloyd.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.


This Amendment also is consequential on the Amendment we made to Clause 18. I beg to move.

Amendment moved— In the Title, at end insert ("and part of subsection (1) of section five of the New Towns Act, 1946.").—(Lord Lloyd.)

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

House resumed.