§ 2.24 p.m.
§ Order of the Day for the House to be again in Committee read.
§ Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Hailsham.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House in Committee accordingly.
§ [The LORD AIREDALE in the Chair.]
§ Schedule 6 [Amendments as from 1st April, 1965, in Highways Act, 1959]:
LORD SHEPHERD moved, after paragraph 61, to insert:
62. After section 214(9) there shall be inserted:
(10) A highway authority in Greater London may acquire by agreement or compulsorily any land for the purpose of the provision of substituted sites or facilities for the owners, lessees and occupiers of land acquired for any of the purposes for which land may be acquired under the provisions of this section or for effecting an exchange of such land.
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move this Amendment. Its purpose is that the Greater London Authority shall have power to acquire, by agreement or by compulsory purchase, any land for the purpose of providing substitute sites or facilities. We on this side of the House regard this Amendment as one of considerable importance. One of the great problems in relation to road development 11 and widening schemes is the type of compensation that should be paid to individuals or businesses which may be affected. In some cases, mere cash compensation is sufficient; but in the case of businesses which may wish to continue, obviously cash compensation alone will not be fair or may not give justice to the person displaced. We feel that, in the case of the Greater London Council, where it is found necessary to displace a business they should be able not only to offer cash compensation but if, in justice, that is not sufficient, to provide an alternative site for the displaced business.
§ The London County Council, under their General Powers Act of 1958, have the same powers, and it is interesting to note that in this particular Act there are four or five sections on this subject. Four of them have already been included in the Highways Act, 1959. The terms of my Amendment are those in the London County Council (General Powers) Act, 1958, and if we were to include these same words in this Bill it would mean that what is now the power of the London County Council would be on the Statute books for the new Council. I recognise that it is just possible, under Clause 84, for the powers for which I ask to be granted to the Greater London Council; but the advice that I have received is that it would more likely require a ministerial order. The Greater London Council might have the power so far as the inner boroughs are concerned; but so far as the outer boroughs are concerned it would have to be by ministerial order.
§ I have consulted with a number of my friends on this matter, and we believe that this matter is of such tremendous importance that the full power should be given to the Greater London Council. It is for that purpose that I beg to move this Amendment. I believe that the time-lag in getting development in roads, because of the need to satisfy those persons displaced, would be very much shortened if the Greater London Council were in a position not only to give cash compensation but, if necessary, right and just, to provide alternative sites for those who were being removed. It will not be possible, as I know from the experience of myself and others, for the Council to 12 provide these alternative sites unless we give them the power of compulsory purchase. This is a matter of very considerable importance and I beg the Government to accept this Amendment.
Page 148, line 19, at end insert the said paragraph.—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ LORD CHESHAM
I am very glad to say that I completely agree with the noble Lord as to the importance of this matter and the desirability of its being done. I hope that he will accept that and I need say no more about the principle, which I accept. I must, however, draw his attention to a matter of procedure; and that is that the Amendment he is putting down to be inserted in this Part of the Bill would unfortunately not achieve what he wants. It is purely a procedural matter and nothing else. I would draw his attention to Clause 16(2), which states that any amendment made to the Schedule must be eitherconsequential on other provisions of this Act; or…designed to apply in relation to highway authorities in Greater London, in appropriate cases and with appropriate modifications, provisions of that Act applicable to comparable authorities elsewhere".His Amendment in this place does not fall into either of those categories, so if I were to accept it here any action taken would probably be ruled ultra vires later if anybody wished to resist such an order. In fact the way to do it, as it arises from a Private Act, is under Clause 81. What I will do is to give the noble Lord a very definite undertaking that my right honourable friend will transfer these powers to the G.L.C. and also to the London boroughs by order under Clause 81. That is definitely going to be done; and if the noble Lord will accept that that is the way to do it, and not by means of this Amendment, perhaps he will see his way to withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
In view of the assurance that Lord Chesham has given, I shall certainly respond and withdraw this Amendment. Naturally, I shall consult those parties interested in the matter to see whether they feel that the Minister's assurance meets their particular fears. I beg leave to withdraw this Amendment.
§ LORD CHESHAM
Before the noble Lord withdraws his Amendment, perhaps, as a finishing touch, I should say that it 13 will be under Clause 81 read with Clause 84, which he mentioned.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Whether Schedule 6, as amended, shall be agreed to?
§ 2.34 p.m.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I beg the Committee's pardon for rising at this stage to deal with a matter that occurred on Thursday evening. The Committee will remember that at 10.30 p.m. I asked the Government's assistance to adjourn the debate on the grounds of the fatigue that was being experienced by a number of noble friends of mine on this side of the Committee—and that was not surprising considering that we had been four very long days in Committee.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I do not know about that. However, on the advice of my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, I responded to the appeal made by the Government Chief Whip, and we agreed that we would go on to 10.50 p.m. At 10.51 or 10.52, according to Hansard, another Amendment, No. 119, was called. I must admit that I was not anticipating it; but the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, rose and informed the House that it was a drafting Amendment for clarification. I had a note to the effect that I should resist that Amendment, but in the particular circumstances I failed to react. That is my responsibility; but the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, said, when he moved the Amendment, that it was a drafting Amendment for clarity. I certainly acquit the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, of any suggestion that he was misleading the Committee. We know him well enough to know that he would not do so. But the advice I had before the Amendment was moved, and have had since, is that the Amendment is certainly not drafting, in that it changes the provisions within the Bill.
May I put it in this way? In another place on March 21, the Government, in Standing Committee F, moved an Amendment to Schedule 6 which read as follows:in relation to a metropolitan road and to any highway to which an improvement is carried out by the Greater London Council…14 This Amendment was moved by Mr. Corfield, and, because of the guillotine arrangements then in force, it was not discussed; but I think I am right in saying to the Committee that this was in fact an Amendment agreed between Her Majesty's Government and the London County Council. Briefly, it was to ensure that the Greater London Council would have power relating to roads which were of a borough character entering into metropolitan roads.
This Amendment was passed by another place. The Bill then came to your Lordships' House in Committee, and the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, in his Amendment No. 119A, removed from the agreed Government—London County Council Amendment (if I may put it that way) the words,…and to any highway to which an improvement is carried out…It is my understanding, from the advice I have received, that, by the deletion of these words by the Government Amendment on Thursday, the position is that the Greater London Council (which, under the Government Amendment in another place, would have had power to deal with the width not only of metropolitan roads but also of borough roads entering metropolitan roads) will lose their power in relation to those roads that enter a metropolitan road.
This is a very major point, because we well know—it has been accepted in your Lordships' House, and was recognised by the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, also on Thursday—that the flow of traffic from these borough roads into the metropolitan roads can have a serious effect upon the management of the flow of traffic in the metropolitan roads. My submission is that the Amendment that was moved on Thursday night was not a drafting Amendment, but that it has a material effect, or may have a material effect, in regard to the Greater London Council's responsibility for the flow of traffic on the metropolitan roads. My advice is that this was not a drafting Amendment.
I do not know the circumstances in which the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, moved it. He may feel that it is a drafting Amendment; and that, perhaps, is what he will say when I have sat down. But we on this side feel that the original Amendment which was in the Bill when it came to your Lordships' 15 House represented, in fact, the right attitude for the Government to take. That meant that the Greater London Council, which is the traffic authority for the whole of London, should have similar powers, particularly as they are the highway authority for metropolitan roads, to deal with the width and the line of those roads which play a very important part—the roads which bring traffic into metropolitan roads. I felt it right to raise this matter at this stage, and perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Chesham—because I have given him notice of my intention to raise the matter—could give us the information now.
§ LORD CHESHAM
I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, for more than one thing. I am grateful for the notice he gave me of his intention to raise this matter because of the doubt that he felt in his mind. I am also grateful to him for having acquitted me of any intention to mislead the House in this matter, because that is certainly something that I would not do. Had it not been that my understanding was, and as I shall explain to your Lordships still is, that this is a drafting Amendment and does not deal with a point of substance, I should never have moved it at that late hour, when we were about to adjourn, but would have left it until to-day.
Naturally, I have looked at this again carefully and I find that in fact it does not delete any point of substance in the Bill. The point is a complex and obscure one and I am not in the least surprised that the noble Lord and his advisers should have some misunderstanding about it. May I be frank with your Lordships and say that originally we ourselves had some misunderstanding on the matter? The only thing that I can do to give the noble Lord the information he wants is to go slowly and as simply as I can through the matter and spell out every step of the argument.
The Amendment is concerned with the application of Section 76 of the Highways Act, 1959, to the new London authorities. That section confers power on the appropriate authority to vary the relative width of carriageways and footways. The definition of "appropriate authority" in subsection (4) of the section is complicated but, for practical purposes, it is the local authority and not the 16 highway authority. If the local authority is not also the highway authority, as, of course, in almost all cases they will be, it has to get the consent of the highway authority. It is easy to apply that section to the London boroughs who are local authorities. Under the second part of the Amendment to Section 76, which is contained in paragraph 27 of the Sixth Schedule, it is made clear that the local authority of the area in which the highway is situated—that is, the London borough concerned or perhaps the Common Council—will be the "appropriate authority" to exercise the power.
We accepted—and the noble Lord agreed—that the Greater London Council should also have the power of variation in respect of metropolitan roads. This means that we have to spell out in the Amendment to Section 76 that the "appropriate authority" for metropolitan roads is the Greater London Council. I trust that the noble Lord is with me so far.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
The Greater London Authority is the highway authority responsible for metropolitan roads.
§ LORD CHESHAM
That is right. I have explained why it may be different, but the Amendment makes certain that the Council is the appropriate authority. Paragraph 27 of the Schedule also contains the words "and to any highway to which improvement is carried out by the Greater London Council". These are the words which I moved to leave out in Amendment No. 119A the other night, because the Greater London Council will not have power to carry out an improvement to any highway other than a metropolitan road and it would seem to be misleading if these words were left in Schedule 6, because they might imply that the Council had power in relation to some other road.
I think I was justified in describing the Amendment as a drafting Amendment for clarity. Here is the nub of the whole affair. It is possible that the noble Lord and his advisers have been misled into believing that the Greater London Council have power to improve roads other than metropolitan roads, because in Clause 16(3) the Council are given power to construct a new highway which will not itself be a metropolitan road but 17 which communicates with such a road. Although they have power to construct such roads, they will not become the highway authority for them, because, after construction, that responsibility will pass to the borough council concerned. Any improvements that may then be made to the new side roads will be the responsibility of the borough council, and the Greater London Council will not have power to improve them.
I think that in this context the words deleted are not necessary. Even if the noble Lord may find it a little difficult to follow at the moment, when he comes to look at what I have said, I think he will find that I was correct in describing it as a drafting Amendment for clarity. Although the clarity is perhaps a little difficult to discern in the argument, I think that when he comes to consider it, the noble Lord will see that there is certainly no removal or deletion of anything of substance by this Amendment.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I can see the difficulty. What the Government regard as drafting is what they themselves originally intended when they moved the Amendment in another place.
§ LORD CHESHAM
I should have said that the Amendment in the other place was related to the need to give the Greater London Council power to vary the width of carriageway on metropolitan roads.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Yes, but the Amendment also related to any highway to which improvement is carried out by the Greater London Council.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
The Government may regard it as drafting, but I think I was entirely right not to regard it as drafting and to look at the Amendment with suspicion. But the Government have now made their intention clear. I think it is right that the Greater London Council should have power to vary the width and line of borough roads, not metropolitan roads, which may have a serious effect on the flow of traffic. In the present circumstances, I do propose to press the matter, but I shall look at it again carefully and may put something down on Report stage.
§ LORD CHESHAM
May I suggest that in his consideration the noble Lord should 18 also look at the powers to do what he wants by agreement which are contained in Section 251 of the Highways Act, 1959, because I think that there already exists powers to cover what he has in mind?
§ Schedule 6 agreed to.
§ Schedule 7 [Metropolitan roads]:
§ 2.50 p.m.
§ LORD CHESHAM moved to insert in the list of metropolitan roads:
|"A.305…||Junction with A.307 (Richmond)||Junction with A.310 (Twickenham)"|
§ The noble Lord said: It might be convenient if I speak to Amendments Nos. 121 and 122 at the same time. They add to the schedule of metropolitan roads Richmond Bridge, A.305 and A.301, which is the route on the western side of the Thames from Richmond south to Hampton Wick. The general intention in the selection of metropolitan roads is that all Thames bridges and the roads leading to them (with the exception of the City bridges) should be the responsibility of the G.L.C. The maintenance of Thames bridges presents special problems and, in fact, within the inner area the L.C.C. are already responsible for the day-to-day maintenance of them. Richmond Bridge was the only other Thames bridge not included in the original schedule of metropolitan roads, because A.316 and Twickenham Bridge, a short distance to the north, provide a by-pass to Richmond for East-West traffic.
§ The omission of Richmond Bridge from the Schedule has, however, been commented on, and on reconsideration the Department has decided that it is right it should be included. The metropolitan roads, as selected, form a continuous network of routes which only terminate at the boundary of Greater London, their junctions with a trunk road or with another metropolitan road apart from roads leading up to the City bridges. This continuity reflects the fact that they are routes for through traffic. It would be inconsistent to include Richmond Bridge alone as a metropolitan road without also providing a continuation of the route. The route along A.305 and A.310 to Hampton Wick has thus been included, being a through route for North-South traffic crossing Richmond Bridge. I beg to move.19
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 154, line 9, at end insert—
|("A.305…||Junction with A.307 (Richmond)||Junction with A.310 (Twickenham)")|
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Amendment moved—
§ Page 154, line 19, at end insert—
|("A.310…||Junction with A.305 (Twickenham)||Junction with A.308 (Hampton Wick)").|
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD CONESFORD moved, in the reference to Route No. 3216, after "Clapham Common" to insert "excluding the whole of the centre island of Sloane Square". The noble Lord said: This is a simple Amendment, as I think Members in all parts of the Committee will agree, to retain for the local authority, Chelsea (it will, of course, be part of a larger London borough), one of their best-known and precious open spaces. Let me assure the Committee that it is possible for Her Majesty's Government to accept this Amendment without any injury to the matters which they hope to secure by making this a metropolitan road. I am not questioning that the road North from Chelsea Bridge along Lower Sloane Street and then Sloane Street should be a metropolitan road; I am merely asking that this important open space, which is important to the life of Chelsea and, indeed, to its history, should remain the property of and under the protection of the borough.
§ Chelsea has taken great trouble in the past over the use and layout of this open space. It has acted throughout under the advice of the Royal Fine Art Commission, and the square now, with its trees, its war memorial and its fountain is of great importance in local feeling. It is also a place that is used on various public occasions—ceremonial parades on Armistice Day and so forth. On all these matters the Royal Fine Art Commission were consulted. The local authority has repeatedly protected the amenities of this square from various encroachments that have been threatened from time to time. As I say, the whole object of the Amendment is that this open 20 space shall remain the property of and under the protection of the London borough, and it is not designed to cause any difficulty to Her Majesty's Government or to the use of the highway. I beg to move.
Page 156, line 35, column 3, after ("Clapham Common") insert the said words.—(Lord Conesford.)
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I should like to put a point to the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, with whom I do not want to disagree, because sometimes we do agree, and I value that. Does he mean here, when he says the central island, the central island only, and not the roadway or highway which surrounds the central island? If he means the latter, then I think it is an easier proposition.
§ LORD CONESFORD
The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, is quite right. I fully concede that the road around is part of the highway and will be a metropolitan road. My Amendment refers entirely to what I may call the central part enjoyed by the pedestrians.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I accept that explanation, and I am glad the noble Lord has been able to give it. I should like the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies—not that I have any doubts about the noble Lord's correctness in the Amendment—to say that the noble Lord's drafting of the Amendment is consistent with the highway around the central island being not under the borough council, but under the other authority, as the noble Lord has assured the Committee that he does not wish anything but the central island to come under his Amendment.
§ LORD SALTER
I should like to add a word or two to what my noble friend has said. In the first place, I would say that the interpretation that my noble friend has given in relation to the question put by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, is certainly also that which is given by the local borough council and conforms with what they wish. They fully recognise that the traffic around the central island would not be affected by this Amendment.
My noble friend has explained some of the reasons why this central island has in 21 a very special degree the affection and interest of those who live in the neighbourhood. I should like to add, as one who also lives in Chelsea, my testimony to the interest and affection for this central island which is felt by those who live in Chelsea. Perhaps I may also add that my own feeling is strengthened by the fact that I have perhaps longer nostalgic memories of this square than anyone else in the Committee. Nearly forty years ago that great series of plays by Bernard Shaw was produced for the first time, and I happened to live then, as I do now, in the immediate neighbourhood and to witness them all. It was a great series which introduced a new era in drama, in theatrical production and in acting.
§ LORD CHESHAM
First of all, I am able to reassure the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that the drafting is consistent for the purpose which my noble friend Lord Conesford is endeavouring to achieve. We have been thinking for some time that a central island of this nature was an integral part of the highway and, therefore, should form part of a metropolitan road. It is, for instance, part of the normal road for pedestrians crossing Sloane Square, to which they are directed by pedestrian crossings. There is the possibility that at a later date the G.L.C. as highway authority for the surrounding metropolitan road may require to provide pedestrian subways or possibly affect it in some other way to do with highway improvement. But for the reasons which my noble friend Lord Conesford has put forward—very nearly all the reasons, but not quite all—we have to recognise that Chelsea has a special interest in this Square and, therefore, that the Amendment should be accepted.
In saying that, there is one thing I ought to make quite clear. There is this possibility that at some future date (which may be, for all I know, dim and distant) some highway improvement will require some alteration to the Square. If in the course of doing that there was not agreement between the G.L.C. and the borough council, it might be necessary for the G.L.C. to apply to the Minister, under the provisions of Clause 17 for an order declaring the island, or part of it, to be a metropolitan road. Of course, if such art application were made, the Minister would have to consult the borough council and, if requested by 22 them, would have to hold a public inquiry before he made up his mind. Then, if there was a case, the Square, or part of it, might become a metropolitan road.
I say that only because I think it would be, to say the least, unfair to accept the Amendment without pointing that out to my noble friends. Provided they have that in their consciences, there can really be no objection to accepting the Amendment and leaving the responsibility with Chelsea for, perhaps, a very long time.
§ LORD CONESFORD
I should only like to thank my noble friend very much. I should like to thank him not least for the warning he has given me that perhaps we ought to look a little critically at Clause 17, when we come to the Report stage. Nevertheless, that is not intended as a threat. I let Clause 17 go without any challenge, and I am glad that Her Majesty's Government have found it possible to accept this Amendment, which I know will give great pleasure in Chelsea.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD SHEPHERD had given notice of his intention to move to leave out Schedule 7. The noble Lord said: I do not in any way take back my objections to Schedule 7, but in order to expedite the convenience of this Committee, I will not move the Amendment now but will come back to it on Report stage.
§ Schedule 7, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 21:
§ Housing powers in Greater London
(4) Without prejudice to the powers of a London borough council or the Common Council, the Greater London Council shall be a local authority as respects the whole of Greater London for the purposes of the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act 1899, Part V of the Housing Act 1957 (as regards housing accommodation both inside and outside Greater London), section 9 of the Housing (Financial Provisions) Act 1958 and section 13 of the House Purchase and Housing Act 1959; but the Greater London Council—
and in Schedule 2 to the Land Compensation Act 1961 (which relates to the payments to be
made on the compulsory acquisition of houses as being unfit for human habitation) alter paragraph 2(1)(e) there shall be inserted—
(f) an acquisition by the Greater London Council under Part V of the Act of 1957 ".
§ 3.4 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN moved, in subsection (4), to leave out the word "Part" where it first occurs, and to insert "Parts III and". The noble Lord said: This Amendment goes with Amendments Nos. 126, 127 and 128. This is, I hope, some inducement to the noble Lord to accept this Amendment, because by accepting the one we dispose of four Amendments at the same time. The purpose of the Amendment is to give to the Greater London Council concurrent powers in dealing with slum clearance under Part III of the Housing Act, 1957, in the same way as the London County Council have concurrent powers at the present time. In fact, there is an amicable arrangement between the London County Council and the metropolitan boroughs by which the London County Council take the burden of slum clearance. It deals with the larger areas and assists the metropolitan boroughs in dealing with the slum areas; and the metropolitan boroughs also deal with individual slum houses.
§ The Bill takes these powers away from the Greater London Council, although it preserves them for a limited period. I can only think that this has been done under a misconception or misapprehension as to what the real slum problem is. There is no doubt, in the minds of those who understand the magnitude of this problem, that the new borough councils will find it impossible to deal with the slum clearance problems in their own area. That is not to say that some of them will not, but those where the slums are greatest, where the burden is heaviest, will find it quite impossible, within a limited period, to deal with the problem without the aid of the London County Council. The aid of the London County Council consists in placing, at the disposal of the new London boroughs a large pool of housing, some 100,000 of them, which are outside the area of the new Greater London Council. These could be made available to the new London boroughs for rehousing people displaced from the slums. This would be useful, indeed 24 invaluable, for such areas as Stepney and Poplar, East Ham and West Ham, Tottenham, Leyton, Croydon and other new London boroughs of that kind, where the burden is still exceedingly heavy, and where it is quite unlikely that the slum problem can be dealt with within a reasonable time.
§ Moreover, it is assumed here that the slum problem is a static one and that it can be dealt with in a limited period; but, as the noble Lord will be aware, every year there are new dwellings which come to the end of their life and which become fresh slums, and the problem is an unending one. If you say that the normal lifetime of this type of house is 100 years, then next year houses which were built in, say, 1863 will have become fit for demolition. This will go on indefinitely. There is a large type of house which has hardly been dealt with at all. I refer to the large blocks of flats which were built in the year 1860 or 1870, where there are no bathrooms, and none of the normal facilities which we expect to-day, and which will be exceedingly difficult for the London boroughs to deal with. There are some 4,238 of these dwellings which were built before 1900 and are now 63 years old and which are, many of them, ripe for demolition. Of course, as each year goes by there will be more of them. There are a large number of dwellings in London which contain three or four storeys which are of the same type, and which are let out in multiple occupation. There may be four, five or even six families living in one house, and when you demolish that house you have to provide separate accommodation for each family.
§ As I say, this is a burden which many of the new London boroughs will find it impossible to deal with. It is evident, therefore, that the Greater London Council should have the same indefinite concurrent powers, in dealing with housing and slum clearance, that the London County Council have at the present time. On the figures that have been given to me I understand that the London County Council have dealt with more than twice as many slum dwellings as all the metropolitan boroughs put together. That is some indication of the needs of the Greater London Council in dealing with this problem. On these facts alone there is an overwhelming case for entrusting 25 the concurrent powers to the Greater London Council. But there is another side of it altogether: that is, that many of the large slum sites lend themselves not merely to redevelopment for housing but for other purposes. For instance, some are needed for open spaces, some for factories in which to rehouse nonconforming users and some for schools. It does not follow that the site, when existing buildings have been demolished, will be available for new housing or, when new housing has to be provided, that it would be provided within the borough itself, which in many cases is already congested.
§ I know that the Bill provides facilities for one borough to build in the area of another, with the consent of the other, but that is not going to work. London is a continuously developed area and, generally, overcrowded, and no London borough is going to allow an adjoining one to increase the overcrowding in its own area. It will have its own problems to deal with. As I see it, most of the accommodation that will be available to rehouse people from slum dwellings will have to be on the Greater London Council estates. Therefore, while the Bill provides for London boroughs to go outside their own area, that is not really a practical proposition.
§ I do not want to talk about my own experience in these matters, but I have had six years as Chairman of the London County Council Housing Committee and I know some of the difficulties. I feel that if we are to make a concentrated effort in dealing with our slum problem work, we must give the Greater London Council these powers, which they feel they ought to have and let them deal with the problem concurrently with the London boroughs. In the past, the arrangements, as I know, have always worked most amicably. There has never been difficulty between the London County Council and the metropolitan boroughs in apportioning the respective responsibilities, and I see no reason whatever why There should be any difficulty hereafter as between the Great London Council and the new London boroughs.
§ I feel that the noble Lord would be well advised to give serious consideration to this question. If he is not able to accept these Amendments to-day, I hope that at least he will agree that this is a 26 matter which ought to be discussed quite seriously between now and the Report stage. Either the discussions could be between the officers of the London County Council and the Ministry, or, if he is so disposed, I shall be happy to discuss the point with him and the officers of the Ministry as well. But I feel that we should be making a profound mistake not to give the Greater London Council these concurrent powers. After all, it is a matter of machinery there is nothing political about it, and we are all out to see that this slum problem is dealt with as quickly as possible.
§ There is one point that I should like the noble Lord to consider, because I am sure it will be made over and over again. It is assumed that, because each of these London boroughs will have a population of 200,000, they will, therefore, be self-contained, comparable with some of the larger county boroughs throughout the country, and quite able to manage their own affairs. But there are some very big differences. In the first place, a county borough has land surrounding it—in the majority of cases vacant land on which it can build. Most of these London boroughs will not have any adjoining land. As I have said before, they are given powers to build in adjoining boroughs with the consent of the adjoining borough, but that will not produce very much in the way of housing because these areas are all congested. Greater London is going to be one continuous built-up area and no London borough will, therefore, in any way be comparable to the existing county boroughs. In many cases, too, they will not be comparable financially. The county boroughs, especially the larger county boroughs, all have their civic centre and large shopping facilities which attract people from all around, and have high rateable values which provide a good income. In the case of the London boroughs, the really big shopping and the high rateable values are in the West End of London and not so much locally. Therefore, they will not be in as good a position, even financially, for dealing with their problems as cities like Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, which would be comparable. For all these reasons I hope that this series of Amendments will be given the most serious consideration. I beg to move.27
Page 27, line 32, leave out ("Part") and insert ("Parts III and").—(Lord Silkin.)
§ LORD SHEPHERD
May I support my noble friend in this Amendment, because it is of tremendous importance to slum clearance and the proper dispersal (if that is the right word) of residential accommodation in Greater London? The evidence is that since the war the main burden of slum clearance and the finding of new accommodation for those persons who lose their slum premises has undoubtedly fallen on the London County Council. I believe that the figures show that from 1945 to 1960 18,488 families have been rehoused by the London County Council, as compared with 6,465 by the metropolitan boroughs. This is not to say that the metropolitan boroughs were reluctant to deal with their own slum clearance: there was no question of reluctance on their part; but for many they had considerable problems, not only the shortage of land within their area but, as I understand, because, where they had to bring down slum property, land was not always available for rehousing.
I believe that the standards now required for new houses and flats mean that where a major block of slum flats in London is pulled down, only 50 per cent. of the land space that becomes available can be utilised for new building. This has meant that slum clearance plans in some boroughs have been facing opposition even from those people who live in the slums, with the result that there has been slowness in dealing with slum property. The metropolitan boroughs have had to pass on this major responsibility to the London County Council. They have had a wider area, 117 square miles, in which to operate and from which to find the land for rehousing. The Government have said that they wish to make the metropolitan boroughs the housing authority in their areas, and that they will be responsible for the slum clearance within their areas. I well believe that in the case of many of the boroughs this will be possible, particularly in those areas such as Croydon and Mitcham which have not a great deal of slum property to deal with. But in the case of some, those in the East End of London, where slums are real hard facts, I do not believe those 28 boroughs on their own will be able to tackle the problem.
We feel, and there is undoubted evidence from the past, that it requires some bigger authority with a wider horizon, with an architect's department, which the Greater London Council will have, with its major development plan and its responsibility for finding the right accommodation; and also, obviously, in later cases, where the position gets desperate, they will be able to deal with the overspill outside the Greater London area. This type of authority is the only one that can tackle the slum problems in the smaller parts of London where it has been found impossible for the borough itself to deal with the problem. I do not believe that three boroughs each with its inherent slum property is going to be in a better position to deal with this than one borough on its own.
I accept that, if two boroughs with no major problem were being married to one authority which had slum property, perhaps the task would be a great deal easier. But in this amalgamation of local authorities there are quite a number of authorities being brought together which all share the identical problem. I cannot believe that the bringing together of three authorities in a similar plight makes the position any different. The evidence is that the London County Council, whether it liked it or not, has been the main instrument for dealing with slum clearance. If you are abolishing the London County Council, then, for the sake of those people who live in slum property in these boroughs, provide an organisation which is capable and which has the resources for dealing with it. I do beg the Government to consider with all sympathy the Amendment moved by my noble friend.
§ 3.24 p.m.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD HASTINGS)
As the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said when he moved this Amendment, this is a question of machinery; there is nothing political about it. We clearly wish to try to get the most effective machinery for tackling the general housing problems of Greater London. Noble Lords have concentrated 29 their remarks solely upon slum clearance and upon that facet of housing as seen from the point of view of the London County Council. I think it fair if I remind noble Lords what the existing situation is in the country as a whole and in Greater London. As noble Lords opposite know very well, the housing authorities in general are county boroughs and county district councils, and the L.C.C. is the only county council with Housing Act powers. We really have to decide whether or not the new authorities are to be the primary housing authorities, as indeed in the rest of England and Wales the county district councils and county boroughs are; and again, whether the present L.C.C. powers are to be transferred wholesale to the Greater London Council.
We feel strongly that housing powers are very much part and parcel of the personal services which will be the responsibility of the London boroughs. Your Lordships will remember that the Royal Commission's Report said, in paragraph 785:Our conclusion is that housing is so closely connected with personal health and welfare that it must be essentially a borough service.It went on in the following paragraph to enumerate some of the very personal aspects of housing, and I do not think any noble Lord would really disagree with the desirability of a local borough being, by and large, master in its own house in respect of housing powers, which are so much part of its welfare services.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, anticipated my argument about the size of the boroughs, and of co arse I am bound to point out that they will be on an average somewhere round the 250,000 population mark, and they will, to that extent, be more powerful and better off. In spite of all the other points which the noble Lord made showing that they are not strictly comparable to say, Leicester, which has about the same sort of population, because they form part of a huge conurbation, we feel none the less that they are fully capable of being the primary housing authorities and exercising all their own powers in their own territory.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Would the noble Lord not agree that in the case of Leicester they have a greater opportunity 30 to expand beyond their existing boundaries to do slum clearance, and therefore it is not necessarily a fair comparison?
§ LORD HASTINGS
I have really conceded that point. That is what I was thinking of when I referred to the noble Lord's remarks. That aspect of matters we have looked after by giving to the Greater London Council, supplementary housing powers under which the Council can build anywhere within Greater London, with consent, and also outside Greater London in respect of overspill. Whereas Leicester can arrange its own overspill, if the previous Amendment had not been withdrawn I should have been able to argue (and I gather that noble Lords opposite must agree; otherwise, they would not have moved the Amendment) that the Greater London Council are the best authority to handle these vast problems of overspill, as they now spill well beyond the Green Belt, and industry, as well as houses, is being moved; and the two must be co-ordinated. Therefore, this wider aspect of the housing and slum clearance problem is, we think, very largely looked after by the powers of the Greater London Council for dealing with overspill. We therefore feel that we should make the local boroughs the primary housing authority.
The next question is whether, in spite of that, the borough councils should share any powers with the Greater London Council. We feel that it is very desirable to make a clear division between powers. That is why we have given the Greater London Council, purely on the ground of efficiency, exclusive powers for acting under the Town Development Act in respect of overspill. We wish to try to avoid unnecessary overlapping and to prevent any possible conflict between the authorities, which can too easily arise and for which we think there is really no necessity. And we have all along tried to avoid the semblance of a two-tier system where the Greater London Council might in respect of borough council affairs be able to override them.
We have, as I said, already made an exception in the case of overspill, but we have completely separated the powers so that they will not overlap at all. I think it is worth remembering that, in so doing, we deprived the outer London boroughs of powers which they in fact already possessed in respect of overspill. 31 These they will possess no longer. I think there are perfectly logical reasons for doing that. But if we were to follow the noble Lord's idea, we should also be depriving these outer London boroughs of control, which they have hitherto exercised exclusively in their own areas, of all other housing powers including slum clearance, and I really do not think that they would welcome that at all. We have to consider the feelings of these boroughs who are in fact dealing with their problems satisfactorily.
There may be difficulties. I can think of Willesden—obviously, a housing authority outside the county area—which is a difficult one. Nevertheless, it has been exercising its own authority and, because of the other parts of the Bill, we feel that it should continue to do so; and we should have to think hard before depriving these outer London boroughs of the powers which they at present possess. Whether the inner boroughs feel quite differently about this question of overlapping powers or authority within their area, I do not know; I rather doubt it. Noble Lords opposite have certainly been speaking to the point of view of the London County Council. Whether that is agreed by the individual boroughs within the L.C.C. area, I do not know, but that is perhaps beside the point.
When we come down to this problem of slum clearance I think it divides itself fairly clearly into two: the actual demolition of the property and the rehousing of the people who lived in the demolished property. As the noble Lord mentioned, the new London boroughs will have extensive powers for building anywhere in Greater London. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said that that would not work out because all the areas are so crowded that they cannot find room. It has happened—I admit not often—that one borough has grown into the area of another. But in addition there are new powers, in subsection (10) of this clause, which for the first time allow boroughs to help each other by agreeing, when they are building in their own area, to take tenants from another area on payment of contributions. So there is that possibility, too, for the separate boroughs. After they have made every effort to rehouse in their own area, outside their own area by building, or outside their own area 32 by agreement to enter into tenancy arrangements—after all that, then the Greater London Council come into the picture, with their supplementary powers. The Council in fact have a duty to help all the boroughs to organise a pool of names, as it were, and to try to place them in the L.C.C. estates which the Greater London Council will inherit, and in the new buildings which they themselves will in due course put up. In addition, they have the further duty to plan overspill schemes beyond the Green Belt for the movement of people and industry from different borough areas.
So there are all these powers in respect of the rehousing of the people, and I do not think that noble Lords opposite can truthfully claim now that the problem lies in the rehousing of the people after clearance. It may be that they will maintain that there is physical difficulty in actually getting the areas demolished by the boroughs themselves—and I will come to that point. It is true that the London County Council have been responsible for twice, or even more than twice, the number of clearances in the administrative county area than have the metropolitan boroughs themselves. I think I am right in saying that a great deal of that would have been in connection with L.C.C. estates outside London, whether quite near the boundary or even under the town development schemes, and a good deal of the population would have moved out altogether.
§ LORD SILKIN
May I be clear on this? Is the noble Lord speaking of actual slum houses which have been demolished under what is now Part III of the 1957 Act, or under the earlier Acts? I take it that he is not referring to dwellings that have been built? I am speaking of slums?
§ LORD HASTINGS
I agree that a number have been demolished, but some of the people who lived in them will have gone outside London so that there was an additional reason for the L.C.C. doing this clearance twice as much as the metropolitan boroughs have. The Greater London Council will have exactly the same powers in relation to overspill population. That is the point I was trying to make. As for demolition, I understand that in the next five-year period there is a programme of 20,000 unfit houses to 33 be demolished in the present L.C.C. area, and three-fifths of that number is to be handled by the action of the London County Council themselves. No doubt this is a problem that the noble Lord has particularly in mind. I think that here I should direct your Lordship's attention to the fact that immediately after this Bill comes into effect and the Greater London Council is set up, it will continue to exercise the powers which the London County Council at present hold under the Housing Act, including its powers in Part III. Subsection (5) of this clause allows the Greater London Council to continue with the L.C.C. plans, and it has been put there for the specific reason about which noble Lords opposite show anxiety, that we must maintain momentum and must not let them slacken off.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
The Greater London Council can continue indefinitely with slum clearance under concurrent powers with the boroughs?
§ LORD HASTINGS
The intention is to continue for a while to make quite sure that the programme does not slacken, and there is going to be a period when the Greater London Council will have to make its overall plans for rehousing in London which will take place, by and large, in the outer London boroughs obviously, where there is some room, and outside London altogether. They have got to do building within the Greater London boroughs, by consent, as we know, and it will take time to work out these schemes. In that interim period it is the intention that they should, in respect of slum clearance in the L.C.C. area, but not outside that area, continue acting under Part III powers to make sure that the present slum clearance drive shall not be relaxed or diminished in any way at all. That is the purpose of subsection (5).
I hope that that will allay noble Lords' anxieties and help them to realise that 34 the Greater London Council will be able to help the inner boroughs over the hump or the worst of the slum clearance problem before really coming on to the clear division of powers which is laid down in the Bill for the future, on the grounds that we believe that it is much more healthy in the long run that the primary housing authorities should be the London boroughs. I think that there should not really be any difficulty in this, because it is in the interests of both the London boroughs, the inner boroughs in particular, where the problem is at its most acute, and the Greater London Council to co-operate in this business. Even after the Greater London Council are limited to powers under Part V of the Housing Act, I think by that time the plans will have been made sufficiently far ahead not to have any trouble about declaration of unfitness orders and that sort of matter; but in the meantime we intend to continue these powers precisely so that the slum clearance programme shall not abate in any way. I hope that that will answer the noble Lord's problem.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
The more one hears the Government's impressions of this problem, both here and in another place, the more alarmed one becomes. I very much doubt whether the Ministry of Housing and Local Government understand the problem or have picked up experience about it. There was a Minister of Housing and Local Government a few years ago, Dr. Charles Hill (who I think was Minister in 1961) who within two days told two totally different stories about slum clearance. The Labour Party published a propaganda sheet, part of which was headed, "Maybe on Tuesday", and which quoted Dr. Charles Hill as saying at Scarborough, on November 7, 1961:Within ten years the great majority of authorities should have eliminated all the known slums. That will leave some 50 towns and cities with a substantial hard-core problem.But the very next day—and this appears in the sheet headed, "Never on Wednesday"—he said, in a Written Parliamentary Answer:The best estimate I can make is that if in the whole of Great Britain we could continue building at the rate of about 300,000 houses and flats a year, we should over the next twenty years"—35 not ten as he said before—meet the needs as we at present see them, though even then I do not think that we should replace all the slums.It is an extraordinary Ministry that can let its Minister get away with two contradictory statements, one day after the other—but, to do the Civil Service justice, it may be that the first statement was the Minister's own fault.
The reply of the Parliamentary Secretary to-day indicates that there is a complete lack of understanding about the problem. My noble friend Lord Silkin said that he did not want to talk about his own work as Chairman of the London County Council Housing Committee. That was modesty on his part, and I will merely say that as Chairman of that Committee he did a first-class job of work. The Parliamentary Secretary is afraid that there will be friction between the Greater London Council and the boroughs if they are given concurrent powers. I have checked with my noble friend, and in fact he does not remember, nor do I, any material difference of opinion—certainly no public row, between the London County Council and the metropolitan boroughs—over housing. I remember that Woolwich, the borough in which I live, and which at that time had a very good borough council—and still has—had a policy (it has since modified it) of not wanting anybody but Woolwich Borough Council to undertake housing within the borough area. Well, they were a competent and progressive lot; we understood, and we said, "All right", and Woolwich got on with the job. It was the houses that mattered, not the authority that built them. I think that Bermondsey took the same view.
It is a curious thing that relations on all matters between the London County Council and the metropolitan boroughs rapidly improved, even with Conservative boroughs, after a Labour majority was elected. Instead of there being friction between the county and the boroughs about housing there was friendship and co-operation, the only issue being who could do a particular job best in the particular circumstances of the case. Our relations were harmonious, not only with the Labour boroughs but with the Conservative boroughs as well.
36 The noble Lord queried whether the metropolitan boroughs would agree with us. I would say that they do, and that they do not agree with the Ministry. Certainly in the case of metropolitan boroughs, where they have had substantial and material housing experience, they have found it helpful, because not only is the job got on with more quickly if both authorities are engaged upon it, but also the financial burden which would fall upon the boroughs is eased by part of its falling upon the greater authority. The noble Lord might have a point on one thing. It might be that the City of London and the City of Westminster, who make very substantial contributions towards the London County Council rate, and who will do so towards the Greater London rate, see a chance of transferring that burden from the central authority to the borough authorities. I could understand that, but the Government's obligation is not to listen to the City of London or the City of Westminster about their particular problems, even though Westminster has done some pretty substantial work in the provision of housing. They must listen to the people of London, to the needs of London as a whole.
I do not agree that these problems come technically under personal services, as that term is commonly understood. Of course, there is a personal effect and a personal aspect about housing and slum clearance, but so is there about the rebuilding of schools, as there is about highway improvements. I would not regard housing as in the same category as, for example, maternity and child welfare or infectious diseases—that is to say, as a personal service. Consequently, I think the noble Lord, with every respect to him, has the matter all wrong and has been briefed badly about it.
He also asked: what will outer London say? I will tell him what outer London ought to say. They ought to have noted the substantial work that has gone on by co-operation between the county council and the boroughs in London and they ought to welcome a similar arrangement. I know that the county district councils of the County of Middlesex were against the Council's getting housing powers, although a number were ready for the Middlesex County Council to have powers to build outside the county. But they were wrong. The absence of 37 powers on the part of Middlesex County Council has meant that dealing with the housing problem in that county has been slower and less adequate than it would have been if the county council there had adequate power as well as the districts.
Nor must it be thought that this problem is confined to the County of London. The London County Council and the metropolitan borough councils are clearing the slums in each five year period; they are dealing with the increased number of slums that have come to exist, and others as well. By contrast, figures taken from the Government's own publication Slum Clearance, Command 9593, which was presented to Parliament in November, 1955, indicate that some authorities were unable to deal with a large majority of their slums during the 1956–60 programme. These are outside the County of London: some in the County of Middlesex, some in Essex, and one in the geographical County of Surrey. In Tottenham the estimated number of unfit houses was 2,189, and the number out of that figure not being dealt with in the programme of 1956–60 was 1,224. The percentage of those which were not being dealt with, as compared with those which were being dealt with, was 56.
This is the Department's own White Paper. Has the noble Lord read it? I understand he has. I should like to cross-examine him on how far he has read it, but this is not a court of law, although it should be a court of justice, a court of enlightenment. But he comes here and says, "This is a problem peculiar to the County of London; outside London the country districts can get on all right." With that 56 per cent., obviously Tottenham—I am not blaming the council; it is a difficult borough—is not getting on all right, and it would have got on better if the County Council of Middlesex had had concurrent powers.
For East Ham—this is the present County Borough of East Ham, in Essex—the estimated number of unfit houses is 2,580, and the number not being dealt with is 2,180–84 per cent. not being dealt with. I should be very slow in blaming the County Boroughs of East Ham, or West Ham, to which I will come. They have both got thorough Labour majorities: so big that I wish they were perhaps not quite so big. They are too big. But it is 38 not that they would not do it. No Labour majority on a council would not do it if it could. It is because they are left on their own, isolated; and the problem of rehousing the slum dwellers of those places must be terrific. In West Ham there are 2,854 unfit houses. The number not being dealt with is 1,659, or 58 per cent. Leyton 1,500 unfit houses; number not being dealt with, 1,320–88 per cent. In Croydon—a Conservative borough and a county borough—the estimated number of unfit houses is 705. That is a relatively light problem. This is a Conservative borough: I concede that point to the Government. The number not being dealt with is 522, or 74 per cent. Croydon may have less of an excuse than these heavily-populated, poorer boroughs, and it may be a matter of policy there, too. How can the noble Lord, who has mastered, read and thoroughly digested this White Paper to which I have referred, come here this afternoon and say something which flatly contradicts the actual contents of the Government White Paper itself?
It is not merely a matter of rehousing the slum dwellers. We must remember this: my noble friend Lord Silkin will correct me if I am wrong, but I think that in some slum areas there are houses with only two storeys but which are so congested that when the borough council or the county council provide high flats in place of those slum houses and leave reasonable air space around the flats, it may be that on that site they cannot rehouse as many people as lived there before. My noble friend confirms that. Now what is a poor, congested borough—and some of these are poor boroughs—to do, faced with problems of this sort? We must remember, too, that they have not got to deal only with the actual rehousing of the people: they have education services to look after, which are incidental to it and in which new building may be required; they have residential (and the residential are the most important), open space, roads, health, industry and commercial problems. All that has to be taken care of. If the boroughs have not been able to handle this problem on quite as big a scale as the London County Council, it is not a matter that we are boasting about at the expense of the boroughs, or with the idea that the boroughs will be apologetic about it because the County Council has 39 done better. It was because the County Council was in a better position to handle some of these problems, especially in the bigger areas, and had a great pool of housing accommodation to which people could be removed. Without this there will be enormous difficulty to many, if not all, of the individual London boroughs.
Now this is all utterly elementary. I cannot make out why Ministers put up with this Department. I do not understand it. The Prime Minister ought to do something about it—redistribute the powers, or something like that. Because they are consistently advising Ministers wrongly, unless I am to believe that the Department which advises the Ministers is right but the political prejudices of the Ministers make them go wrong. That may sometimes be true, but I do not believe it is so in this case. I believe it is the Department's advice which has gone wrong.
So it is a big and complicated problem, and when you come to a big clearance area you must provide for all these things. You must provide particularly for industry that may have to be demolished in the course of the clearance, not only in the interests of London, not only in the interests of employment but in the interests of the industrial property owner himself or the property renter. Because, poor chap!he gets a notice that his premises are going to be demolished under a clearance order—it cannot be helped; the public interest requires it—and he may be in a very great jam as to where he is going to rebuild his factory. It may well be that he can solve it, but, on the other hand, it may be that he cannot; and then the London County Council could come along and say, "All right, brother, we will help you out. We have sites A, B and C on which you can build, and we will help you to do it. We will give you facilities". In that way it is good for the manufacturer that these concurrent powers should exist. But to think that all this big and complex problem can be solved within an individual borough, whether it be in London or whether it be in any other part of Greater London, is to show complete, tragic, unfortunate ignorance of the great human problem that has to be met in these matters.
40 Now it is said, "Well, it will be all right. If borough A has not got space in which to build new property it can build in another borough". I am not sure the Minister did not say it could build outside London.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
That is not so. Then I am wrong. I do not want to get him wrong. He has enough to suffer for as it is. But when one takes these boroughs and thinks about it, one sees that it is an almost impossible thing. Every borough has a waiting list for housing. I doubt whether there is one in Greater London that has not a waiting list for houses bigger than the supply of housing it has got, or is likely to get for some years to come. Borough A receives an application from Borough C, D, E, or F. What does Borough A say to itself? "We should like to help our friends of the other borough, but we have this waiting list, and if we dare to let somebody else build houses in our borough or if we dare to let them transfer their applications for tenancies to us we shall face a dreadful row among the ratepayers and citizens of our borough." So the political pressure against their doing this will be inevitable, substantial and effective.
Now I want to see the slums go. I want to live in a city where every slum has gone—and it can be done. But remember, as my noble friend said, you are not only clearing the slums that are: you have to be ready to deal with the slums that are growing up every year as time goes on. I want to see them go. I love this city so much that I want the disgrace of slums to be got rid of as soon as we can. I honestly think that the Government are utterly wrong about this matter. Concurrent powers work in the county of London, and there is no reason why they should not work elsewhere. They may take a bit of getting used to for a few years, but other areas will get used to them all right. They have worked well in London; and I appeal to noble Lords from the bottom of my heart, with deep sincerity—I appeal to noble Lords irrespective of their politics—to think of the slum dwellers. Think of the young married people, or people who are about to be married, and who cannot get housing accommodation for some time to come.
41 Some of the saddest letters I have had when I was a Member of the other place—and I still get letters as if I were the Member of Parliament for the United Kingdom—were about housing; and the most sad were from young people who had been married for one or two or three years and living with their in-laws. They were not able to get on with their in-laws; and others are the same. It is very natural. Fortunately I can get on very well with my mother-in-law; she has been staying with us for some weeks. But they are not all as good as my Lancashire mother-in-law.
These people are living in crowded conditions: they may have to get two meals and to double up in the kitchen; frictions arise and some of the men and women who wrote me were desperate. Sometimes a man could not live with his wife; there was no room for him. It is a real, deep, tragic human problem. And that was notwithstanding the vast housing programme of the London County Council and the metropolitan boroughs to whom also I would pay tribute for their contribution to the solution of the problem. I beg the Government to have a heart. Do not let Party politics determine the attitude of noble Lords opposite. Let them think about these people, about the slums and about new housing that is wanted for these young married people. I beg noble Lords to have a heart above Party politics and vote for this Amendment which will enable the housing problem, not only in the County of London but in Greater London, to be dealt with more efficiently and more speedily than can possibly be the case otherwise.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
I earnestly support the plea of my noble friend on this particular Amendment. Until five years ago had the honour to represent two London boroughs right in the heart of London where these problems were particularly acute. They were the boroughs of Shoreditch and Finsbury. There it was not just a case of slums but, through bombing and other reasons, the two boroughs had virtually to be rebuilt. Both Shoreditch and Finsbury are competent housing authorities as will be proved by reference to the official statistics. It can be seen that in relation to population Shoreditch has built more housing than any other metropolitan 42 borough; and the borough of Finsbury comes second. There was never any question of friction between those two housing authorities. They and the London County Council were building flats as fast as possible. The only question that ever arose was, "Can you do it more quickly?". No Member of your Lordships' House who has knowledge of areas of that kind can possibly vote against this Amendment. The noble Lord, Lord Hastings, said there was nothing of Party politics in the Government policy on this subject. That may be true; but it is equally true that there is nothing of reality in the policy the Government put forward.
I would just ask the Committee to consider what happens when a compulsory purchase order is made; when the date is announced and a particular block of property is going to be pulled down on the given date. There are, of course, a great many families living in that property. As has been said, there will be more families than can be rehoused on the same site even though eleven-storey or fourteen-storey blocks are built; even though the density is increased above the normal limit, they cannot all be rehoused there. Some of these families will have lived in that property for many years. Others will have been there for only perhaps a few months before the actual date of the compulsory purchase order. But it is the duty of the local authority, whether it is the borough housing authority or the London County Council, to rehouse all the people who are in the property at the date of the compulsory purchase order.
As my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth indicated, this question of rehousing is one which arouses the strongest feelings I have ever experienced among people; and it was my lot not merely to have letters from them but, every Friday of every year, to see about 40 or 50 of them. I saw not only young people but people with growing families who lived in hopelessly overcrowded conditions. It was my duty to explain the rules and to impress on them that the rules were fair and that in due course—it might be a matter of years—when their turn came they would be fairly dealt with. When you come to a compulsory purchase order you deal with a variety of people, some who have been in the 43 property for a number of years and some who have been there only a few months. Therefore, inevitably, you get suspicions or rumours or feelings that the housing list has been abrogated—somebody is jumping the queue; somebody is being dealt with more quickly.
So far as the London County Council are concerned—and it would be the case with the Greater London Council—they have vastly more housing accommodation and, what is more important, a far greater variety of housing accommodation than is available to any single enlarged borough under this Bill. What used to happen—and it still does—was that the London County Council would be able to offer not a sub-standard flat but a pre-war flat, not one of the newest and best, to those people being rehoused out of slum clearance properties whose claims were less than others. That is not going to be possible with one of the Greater London boroughs; and one of the Amendments we are now considering, Amendment No. 128, asks the Government to agree that not only can the London boroughs and the Common Council of the City of London rehouse any person from another of the boroughs, but also the Greater London Council should be able to do that.
This seems to me to be absolutely essential, otherwise you are going to have countless unnecessary problems arising and a great deal of dissatisfaction and accusations of injustice because here we have this Greater London body with a vast amount and a very great variety of different types of property, and if they are joined with the others in being able to house people from another authority—and I am referring in particular to Amendment No. 128, which is one of those we are now considering—then obviously you are going to make the matter very much easier. It is not only a question of slum clearance. Even now, under existing conditions, it is possible in some London boroughs for you to write, for example, to a Lancashire borough to ask whether they will house somebody from this area. It may take years, but they will do it if somebody in a council house there wants to come here. But that is a thing which is exceptional and may take a very long time. That is the kind of thing which the noble Lord is suggesting can be done under the new Act. I agree it can be done, 44 but it is a long and difficult process, as I am well aware, having had to try to do it many times, whereas through the Greater London Council it can be done fairly simply because they have so many of these cases. Often when a young family has been persuaded to go out to an L.C.C. estate, it may be that, through a change of circumstances, necessitated by work or domestic changes, they may want to move back again. There are constant movements of this kind. And the Amendments which we want the Government to accept will not merely be better administratively and relieve misery; they will also make for greater mobility of people from one district to another and from one house to another. The Government are constantly reminding us how changes in employment mean that, if people want to continue to be employed, there must be greater willingness to move house. This is an example of how the Government can make it easier, instead of insisting that it should be as difficult as possible. Whichever way we look at this problem—from the point of view of administration, from the point of view of industrial mobility, or, above all, from the point of view of the people we ought to be thinking of, those who badly need rehousing—these Amendments should be accepted. If they are not, it will only show that on this matter the Government are completely divorced from reality.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Before the noble Lord replies, I should like more information on the points he made. I do not want him to have a pained look on his face, because he made a very disappointing speech. First of all, the noble Lord said that, having taken away the overspill powers of the outer boroughs, they would object strongly if further powers were taken away from them, as proposed in the Amendment. Let me make it clear that the Amendments take no power away from anyone. The boroughs will retain the powers the Government have given them. All we seek to do is to give the Greater London Council concurrent powers. I hope the Minister will accept that as a fact and withdraw his suggestion that we are in any way proposing to reduce the powers of the outer boroughs.
The noble Lord also said he hoped that the boroughs would be able to stand on 45 their own with regard to slum clearance. Can he give any indication when that will be—in ten or fifteen years' time? He has only to go four or five miles from this Palace of Westminster to see slums as bad as he would find in Glasgow and Liverpool. He suggested that the boroughs would be able to help each other. Is there one of the inner boroughs which has a waiting list of less than ten years? Is there any major outer borough, like Croydon—I agree that some of the smaller ones are not so badly placed—with a waiting list of less than five years? How can these boroughs provide accommodation or space for other boroughs outside? The suggestion of the Minister hardly bears examination. Can the noble Lord also say what extra resources will become available to the three boroughs with slum properties to deal with their slum properties?
The noble Lord said that he wished to get away from two-tier government. Perhaps on paper the arrangement that exists between the L.C.C. and the metropolitan boroughs looks as if it were two-tier government; but both are prepared to work together and to face the problem as partners, as my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, has described, with the bigger council taking more of the burden. This is what we should like to see with the new authority which is being created by the Government. There should be a partnership between the Greater London Council and the new boroughs which are being set up.
§ LORD WALSTON
With all respect to my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, it seems to me that the strongest argument in favour of this Amendment came from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, himself. If I understood him correctly, he said that the existing powers enjoyed by the L.C.C. under the Slum Clearance Act were to be retained for a period "to help over the hump of Slum clearance", but after that had been done, there was no need for them any longer. If we want efficient handling of housing, we must give power to the central authority. It is only when we do not have that overriding need any longer that we can revert once more to the less efficient, but from the point of view of local government more attractive, method of leaving the powers to the borough council. With that I will not argue. I 46 am inclined to agree with it. From the point of view of local democracy, the more power you can give to the local authority and the less interference there is by a higher authority, the better. I would certainly agree with the noble Lord that if we want efficient action, there must be a centralised, overriding authority to manage this infinitely complex problem, which cannot be dealt with on a local basis but which obviously transcends the semi-artificial and historic boundaries of local authority.
The argument really hinges on whether at the end of the five-year period we shall have solved the housing problem. Shall we be sufficiently over the hump that we can coast down on to the plan of a housing surplus, or shall we still have a housing shortage? I think that anyone who has listened to the arguments put forward and to the quotations from the late Minister of Housing, Dr. Charles Hill, will not doubt that, far from the housing problem being solved in five, or ten or twenty years, it will still be with us.
As I say, the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, has put forward the best argument in support of this Amendment. And if any noble Lords are in doubt about whether Party loyalty will constrain them to support the Government on this matter, I would point out that we again have the argument of the noble Lord that this is not a Party matter. This is purely a question of efficiency and what is the best method of achieving results. Therefore we have the argument that centralised authority is the best method of achieving results. I sincerely hope that noble Lords opposite and noble Lords on this side also, will not regard this as a Party matter, but will think of it purely from the point of view of experienced local administrators, business men and men of the world. I hope they will support this Amendment, which demonstrably is going to give a more efficient and more rapid solution of the housing problem, which, as has been so eloquently put by my noble friends, is not merely a matter of bricks and mortar but also a matter of the people who live in the houses.
§ LORD BURDEN
I should like to say a word or two in support of the Amendment moved on this side of the Committee. I suggest that this is not merely an 47 administrative problem. If it were, these Amendments would not have been stressed with the vigour which has been shown and by the number of speakers who have supported them. Behind these Amendments, what I call the administrative machinery, are great human problems. I suggest that the problem of housing for London is unique. Just consider the everyday position. A man may live in Poplar, but he may well work in Hammersmith. There is a clearance scheme for Poplar. If there was this Greater London authority, able to look at the problem as a whole, there would be more hope for the man in Poplar, his wife and family, who have been looking forward for years when the clearance scheme for Poplar comes into operation (or it could be any other place) obtaining accommodation somewhere nearer to his place of employment. But to confine the area of operation to the council that does the clearance and rebuilding is, so to speak, to freeze the population of one of these boroughs to the area in which they reside. Is that a good thing for social amenity or social contentment, when the hopes which a family has shared for many years are dashed by this piece of administrative machinery which the Government are introducing in this Bill?
The problem, so far as London and its housing is concerned, is, as I have said, unique. It cannot be compared to the problem in a place such as Leicester, because of the distances which men and women in London have to travel to their work. If in this Bill it is provided that the boroughs can enter into arrangements between themselves in regard to rehousing, what objection can there be to amicable working arrangements between the new boroughs and the Greater London Council in solving the problem? On behalf of the people of London who have been waiting for five, ten or fifteen years for accommodation, I would beg for something more than hiding behind the problem of administrative machinery. Loosen up; get the flexibility and provide for that mobility which is so necessary in this great city if there is to be the social peace and contentment which we all desire.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I have just one or two short points. I think the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, would like to 48 know that the waiting list for the L.C.C. is 53,000, which at the present rate would mean a building programme of fifteen years. But, as I said, the transitional powers are going to be continued in respect of that area.
§ LORD HASTINGS
No, I am afraid not. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, gave some figures and complained about the rate in Middlesex, but I understand that the latest figures show that they aim to clear their slums in the current five-year programme. We have all been talking about rehousing; that is what noble Lords opposite have emphasised. I would repeat that the problem is rehousing on slum clearance. The Greater London Council have all the powers of the L.C.C. for that purpose, and under subsection (6) they will gather information in a more complete, comprehensive and integrated fashion for the whole of Greater London than has ever been gathered before. They will have that degree of flexibility which the noble Lord, Lord Burden, wants to see in respect of rehousing. This is a rare problem, and full powers are taken under the Bill for the rehousing of the slum population.
§ LORD SILKIN
I have listened carefully to the two statements made by the noble Lord, and I must say that, except that this happens to be an Amendment which emanates from this side of the Committee, I can see no reason at all why it should be refused, or at least considered. After all, it is conceded that there is a slum problem and that it cannot be solved within a limited period. That is conceded, as my noble friend Lord Walston reminded us, by the fact that it is proposed to continue the functions of the London County Council for an indefinite period or until such time as the Minister directs that they shall end. That being the case, what is the argument against giving the Greater London Council concurrent powers? Obviously, if the Greater London Council and the boroughs work together they will be able to carry out the operation much more quickly than if the boroughs do it alone. It is not merely a question of rehousing—and I do not want to repeat all the arguments I have put forward. I 49 would concede that it is possible for the London boroughs to go to the Greater London Authority for housing to help them out of the pool that they possess. But it is the whole machinery of slum clearance that is involved. As I know only too well, there is a limit to what a borough and its officers can do in the way of carrying out the mechanics of slum clearance—the representations, the surveys, the inquiries that are necessary and so on. Surely, if the Greater London Authority is willing to help, they should be given the power to do so.
The noble Lord said that the boroughs would not need the Greater London Authority. But that argument is defeated by the very fact that there is already provision in the Bill to continue the powers of the L.C.C. Surely it would speed up things if the Greater London Authority also were given the powers. The noble Lord also said that it was not necessary that the Greater London Council should have the concurrent powers; that these were large authorities, with an average population of 200,000 or thereabouts. But he will bear in mind that, when you take these larger authorities, they have in each of them the accumulation of the slums of the previous authorities which are joined together.
For instance, if you take borough No. 2, it is, of course, a more powerful borough than the individual metropolitan boroughs, but it will contain the slums of Finsbury and Islington which will make its task very much bigger. The same applies to Borough No. 4, Hackney, Snoreditch and Stoke Newington. Of course, it is a much larger borough, with are infinitely greater number of slums. So you go right through the list, and you find that the problem has become bigger. Even a larger borough will have proportionately a much bigger problem. There is some argument as to whether this is a question of machinery or of administration. Is seems to me that the question is merely how the slums of Greater London can be more quickly disposed of. I should have thought that the case which has been put forward from this side is conclusive: that we have two authorities prepared to do the work, with the machinery of the two authorities involved, and that we should make use of that.
The final point made by the noble Lord was that it was undesirable that two 50 authorities should be doing the same kind of work. In theory, perhaps, yes; but my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth has already indicated how smoothly this dual control has operated in the past. I would suggest that if this Amendment does not quite meet the case, it might be possible for the Greater London Council at any rate to come to the help of the London boroughs and assist them in their work, not only by providing the pool of accommodation—which they can do already—but also by carrying out the machinery, where necessary, of designating slums and carrying out the work.
If, therefore, the noble Lord were prepared to look at this again and consider whether some alternative could be devised to utilise the assistance of the Greater London Authority in this work of slum clearance, somewhat in the way suggested by this series of Amendments, I should be prepared to have the matter reconsidered at a later stage. If the noble Lord is adamant about it, the only thing we can do is to divide.
§ LORD LATHAM
In the course of the consideration of this Bill the Minister has made many unconvincing statements. But surely the ones that he has made this afternoon are the most unconvincing, and every supplementary intervention by the Minister makes the situation more confused and worse. The Minister started off by saying that this was a matter of machinery. Suppose that be the case. What we are seeking is to get the most efficient machine to deal with this human problem—the most efficient and the most efficacious. I submit that we have made the case for having a Greater London Council with concurrent powers. The Minister said that this proposal, if extended to London, would need to be extended nationally. I thought the whole case for this Bill was that the local government of London was unique, and that it needed a Royal Commission, in the first place, and then special legislation of this sinister character. Yet the Minister seeks to justify this absurd proposal, this absurd piece of inadequate machinery, by saying that if it were conceded to London, it would have to be conceded nationally.
It is not the case that we are seeking to deprive the London boroughs of any 51 powers in housing. We are seeking concurrent powers. In short, we are seeking that what has proved to be successful in the past should be continued, as regards slum clearance and housing generally, in the future. We understand from the Minister that the powers at present possessed by the London County Council are to be temporarily, but only temporarily, granted to the Greater London Council. But, as I understand it, no duty is cast upon that Council to provide any housing accommodation. The temporary powers which it is proposed to give them will be applicable only to the London County Council area, only to the inner boroughs: they will not apply generally over the whole of the Greater London area. It is absurd, of course, to suggest that if our proposal were accepted it would result in there being a two-tier authority. That is just nonsense. There would be two authorities
§ Resolved in the negative and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ 4.46 p.m.
§ LORD HASTINGS moved, in subsection 4(6) to leave out "subsection (7)"52
§ rities with concurrent powers, the cite helping the other, the two acting In partnership. It seems to me that this proposal is a proposal for a machine which will enable the problem of slum clearance to be dealt with in a satisfactory and rapid way, and I should like to join with my noble friend Lord Silkin in the hope that either the proposal may be accepted, or the Government may be willing to look at the matter again.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I am afraid that I can only tell the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that I will consider his remarks. In the meanwhile, I am afraid I cannot give him any undertakings or accept his Amendment.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 125) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 37: Not-Contents, 59.51
|Addison, V.||Henderson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Kennet, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Latham, L.||Sinha, L.|
|Amulree, L.||Lawson, L.||Somers, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Longford, E.||Stonham, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Summerskill, B.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Meston, L.||Walston, L.|
|Burton of Coventry, B.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Williams, L.|
|Champion, L.||Ogmore, L.||Williams of Barnburgh, L|
|Douglas of Barloch, L.||Rusholme, L.||Williamson, L.|
|Faringdon, L.||St. Davids, V.||Wilmot of Selmeston, L.|
|Greenhill, L.||Shackleton, L.||Wise, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Mansfield, E.|
|Aldington, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Margesson, V.|
|Ampthill, L.||Furness, V.||Merrivale, L.|
|Atholl, D.||Goddard, L.||Mersey, V.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Milverton, L.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Grenfell, L.||Monsell, V.|
|Bossom, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Montgomery of Alamein, V.|
|Boston, L.||Hamilton of Dalzell, L.||Newton, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Hastings, L.||Palmer, L.|
|Conesford, L.||Hawke, L.||Runciman of Doxsford, V.|
|Cottesloe, L.||Hereford, V.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Craven, E.||Howe, E.||Salter, L.|
|Denham, L.||Ironside, L.||Soulbury, V.|
|Derwent, L.||Jellicoe, E.||Spens, L.|
|Devonport, V.||Jessel, L.||Strathalmond, L.|
|Devonshire, D.||Lambert, V.||Swinton, E.|
|Dunleath, L.||Lansdowne, M.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Eccles, L.||Long, V.||Twining, L.|
|Ferrers, E.||Lothian, M.||Wigram, L.|
|Forster of Harraby, L.||Lyle of Westbourne, L.|
§ and insert "subsections (7) and (10A)"
§ The noble Lord said: This is a paving Amendment with the later Amendment which I am going to move on behalf of the Government, No. 128A, so I should 53 imagine that noble Lords would like to know what is going to follow before accepting the paving Amendment. No. 128A accepts the substance of part of an Amendment which noble Lords opposite are moving on Schedule 8 (Amendment No. 152). The main difference is only one of presentation. We feel that it is more appropriate to insert the provision here in Clause 21 than in the Schedule. It refers to paragraph 10 of the noble Lords' Amendment, No. 152. It allows that the Greater London Council can come to arrangements with councils just outside the boundaries of Greater London in contra-distinction to arrangements under the Town Development Act, 1952. It will enable them to come to amicable and mutual arrangements with the authorities on the boundaries of Greater London in respect of helping over housing for the London boroughs and making contributions for doing so.
§ It will be of limited use because it will mean building in small areas, perhaps towns, which happen to be within the Green Belt, and, therefore, there will be no question of making a great use of it; but the powers are of some use now to the London County Council and it is intended that they should be continued. I hope, as it falls in with the noble Lords' Amendment, that they will be agreeable to it. At the moment, of course, I am moving paving Amendment No. 125Z. I beg to move.
page 28, line 13, leave out ("subsection (7)"), and insert ("subsections (7) and (103)",—(Lord Hastings.)
§ LORD SILKIN
This does not go the whole way that we should like under the Amendment that we have later on which the noble Lord says is in the wrong place. When we come to it we may have a word to say on it. But, so far as it goes, we are prepared to accept this Amendment and we will have another look at it in due course.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ 4.50 p.m.
LORD HASTINGS moved to add to subsection (5):
and different days may be appointed under this subsection for different purposes.
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment refers to subsection (5) of Clause 1, 54 which was referred to during the course of the long discussion we had on Amendment No. 125 moved by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, when I said that the Greater London Council would have transitional powers which are now possessed by the London County Council. We are adding to the end of the subsection that those powers may be exercised in different ways and may be brought to an end on different days in respect of different purposes. That is clearly because not all the powers are going to be necessary as long as the others.
§ I do not know whether noble Lords wish me to give a further explanation in any detail, but one thing I could mention by way of illustration is this. We have had a long discussion of Part III; I need not mention that again. But the powers of Part V of the Housing Act, 1957, which are going to be given to the Greater London Council are to be subject to the system of consents when they build in other boroughs—that is, consent by the other boroughs. When the Greater London Council is able to build, it will be able to build inside London but only with the consent of the London boroughs. If there should be some disagreement, which I do not think would happen often, if at all, the Minister would decide. But this is in the interim; they would continue to have unfettered powers in the transitional period to build inside and outside London until such time as a system of consents has been worked out. When this time comes this Amendment will be brought into effect and the Minister will say, "Now your powers under Part V will be subject to consent".
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
This means that at that point the powers of the Greater London Council will be materially lessened as compared with those of the L.C.C., because the L.C.C. are now able to build without consent and can engage in compulsory purchase.
§ LORD HASTINGS
That is so, in theory. We felt it right to put this system of consents into the Bill. But there is, of course, the overriding power of the Minister, if there is any disagreement as to whether that particular area should be used by the borough council for its own needs or by the Greater London Council for the general needs of London.
§ LORD LATHAM
Is this temporary power to be exercisable over the whole of Greater London or only the inner area of London?
§ LORD HASTINGS
This will be in respect of the whole of Greater London. Therefore we are laying it down that the powers will lapse gradually, and the Minister is taking power to say that the Greater London Council shall give up certain powers for certain purposes on a particular day, and not all its powers. That is all this Amendment does. I beg to move.
Page 28, line 26, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Hastings.)
§ LORD SILKIN
If we accept the policy laid down in subsection (5)—which we have not; we have just voted against it—but accepting that policy, then I suppose the words that are intended to be added are not unreasonable. But if we let this go, it must be clearly understood that we are not thereby accepting what is contained in subsection (5): that the powers that are given to the Greater London Council are to be temporary and can be withdrawn by the Minister presumably at any time. I should like to come back to that. Although he may have different times in which he withdraws the powers, there is no provision here for consultation with the Greater London Council or with the London boroughs before he actually fixes the date. It may well be that both the London boroughs and the Greater London Council will be prepared that the arrangement, if it must be done on that basis, should continue; but there is no provision for consultation. While we cannot object to this Amendment, we do not think it goes far enough or is entirely satisfactory, and I hereby give notice to the noble Lord that he will be hearing more about it at a later stage.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD HASTINGS
This is also a paving Amendment for an Amendment introducing a new subsection (10A). That is on page 29, line 25, and that is the Amendment I have just been talking 56 about, No. 128A. it is a paving Amendment for the same thing. I beg to move.
Page 29, line 3, after first ("and") insert ("without prejudice to subsection (10A) of this section").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD HASTINGS
This Amendment fills a gap. The Housing Repairs and Rents Act, 1954, and Section 2 of the Housing Act, 1957, required all housing authorities to submit to the Minister for his approval their proposals for clearing unfit houses. Clause 21(8) as it stands requires the London boroughs made up of the metropolitan boroughs to have regard to the proposals submitted by those authorities jointly with the L.C.C. to the Minister, but leaves the outer London boroughs with no such obligation. This obligation is now by this Amendment laid on them. I beg to move.
Page 29, line 10, leave out from ("submitted") to ("but") in line 13 and insert ("before 1st April 1965 under the Housing Repairs and Rents Act 1954 or section 2 of the Housing Act 1957 by any existing council to whom section 3(1)(b) of this Act applies or jointly by the London county council and a metropolitan borough council").—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD HASTINGS
This is an Amendment to which I have already referred: it meets part of the Amendment of noble Lords opposite under Schedule 8 I beg to move.
§ Amendment moved—
Page 29, line 25, at end insert—
("(10A) The Greater London Council and any of the following other councils, that is to say, the Common Council and any borough or urban or rural district council whose area lies outside but adjacent to or in the vicinity of Greater London, may enter into agreements for the provision by the Greater London Council of houses outside the London boroughs to meet the special needs of that other council, or for the provision by that other council of houses within their area to meet the needs of the Greater London Council, and for the payment in either case of such contributions as may be agreed by the council needing the houses to the council providing them.")—(Lord Hastings.)
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 21, as amended, agreed to.57
§ Clause 22 [Applications for, and facilities for exchange of, housing accommodation]
§ 4.59 p.m.
LORD HASTINGS moved to omit all words after "maintain", in subsection (1), down to the end of subsection (3), and to substitute:
in such form and manner as they think appropriate records showing the needs for the time being of Greater London with respect to housing accommodation.
§ (2) Any applicatior for housing accommodation maintained by a housing authority in Greater London—
- (a) if the applicant is resident in a London borough, whether or not the accommodation is sought in that borough, shall be made to the council of that borough; or
- (b) in any other case, shall be made to the Greater London Council who may, if they think fit, transmit the application to such of the London borough councils as they think appropriate,
§ (3) Each London borough council shall establish and maintain a register of all applications duly made to them under subsection (2)(a) or transmitted lo them under subsection (2)(b) of this section which are for the time being outstanding, and shall furnish to the Greater London Council such particulars in such form as the Greater London Council may require for the purposes of their functions under subsection (1) of this section—
- (a) of any such application as aforesaid; and
- (b) of the steps taken by the borough council to satisfy the needs of persons requiring housing accommodation maintained by that borough council.
§ (4) Subsections (2) and (3) of this section shall apply to the City as if it were a London borough and the Common Council were the council of that London borough."
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment, which covers the first three subsections of Clause 22, has been put down as a result of an undertaking given in Standing Committee in another place by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that the Ministry would consult expert opinion with a view to reframing subsection (3). It had been said that the clause as previously drafted was too complicated and too rigid. The present Amendment is the result of discussions which have been held between the Department and representatives of the Metropolitan Boroughs Standing Joint Committee, the Association of Municipal Corporations, the 58 Urban District Councils Association and the London County Council. The representatives of all those bodies are agreed that this Amendment will provide the basis for satisfactory arrangements for the handling of applications.
§ The Greater London Council have a duty to see that the housing needs of Greater London as a whole are met, and the object of this clause is to enable them to derive the maximum information in the most convenient way from the applications for houses which are made to the London boroughs. The clause seeks to solve the problem of how to channel applications to the London boroughs so that, while there is no duplication, the essential information is extracted for the London boroughs and the Greater London Council about what sort of houses are wanted for what sized households, for what reasons, and in which part of London the houses are sought. It is, of course, a well-established principle that local authorities are solely responsible for the selection of tenants for the housing under their control, and it must be stressed that the clause does not touch the responsibility of the London boroughs, who will select their tenants and keep their own housing waiting list in whatever form they wish and based on whatever criterion they choose. I beg to move.
Page 29, line 32, leave out from ("maintain") to end of line 15 on page 30, and insert the said new words.—(Lord Hastings.)
§ LORD CHAMPION
This Amendment is certainly better than the clause as it now occurs in the Bill, but despite the powerful bodies that have been consulted on this matter, I must admit that I am still left in some little doubt as to what is to happen in one case. Paragraph (a) of subsection (2) of the Amendment says:if the applicant is resident in a London borough, whether or not the accommodation is sought in that borough, shall be made to the council of that borough;".Therefore, if I live in Kensington and I want to submit an application for one of the outer London boroughs, I must submit it to Kensington. That is quite clear. Subsection (3) refers to the other case, and I should imagine that, living as I do in South Wales, if I wanted to come into London I would apply to the Greater London Council, which would 59 then transmit the application to the appropriate borough or boroughs. The only thing which worries me a little about this detailed instruction in this Amendment is what does a London borough do with an application for a house outside its own boundary? So far as I can see, no provision is made for the actual transmission of the application by that borough to the other borough where the applicant wishes to live. This may appear to be a trifling point, but it struck me, when I read through this Amendment, that we have set out the machinery for all the circumstances I can think of except for the transmission of the application in the case cited in subsection (2)(a).
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Before the noble Lord replies, could he help us on this point? All these authorities will have waiting lists and the names will be submitted to the Greater London Council. The question of priorities will arise, and the length of time that a name has been on the list. Will the Greater London Council be aware of the general position within the boroughs, including the length of waiting time, and can they take that into account, or will it rest entirely upon the Greater London Council, who may say "We have 500 houses and we intend to apportion them equally over all the boroughs"? Will there be some apportionment according to the need and the length of the waiting lists?
§ LORD HASTINGS
The idea of the scheme is to avoid duplication. To take Lord Champion's point first, if people were allowed to apply in more than one borough that is where duplication would come in; but the idea is that the Greater London Council should be the central exchange bureau, as we might describe it. The London boroughs will send all the names up to the Greater London Council, telling them at the same time their own situation, the numbers for whom they are going to provide in their own boroughs; but the Greater London Council will be able to sift through the whole register of people and then, if there are special applications to live in another borough, they will get into touch with that other borough, and the individual boroughs will not have to bother each other about it.
§ LORD CHAMPION
I can well see that the Greater London Council will be the clearing house for applications, and that is a sensible arrangement. I just wondered where, in this Amendment, the London boroughs are instructed to send the applications. The remainder is so detailed that this perhaps ought to be provided for.
§ LORD CHAMPION
I merely wanted to know where the instruction is contained in this Amendment that the applicant within the borough shall forward it on to the Greater London Council.
§ LORD CHAMPION
Under what instruction does the London borough then send on this application to the clearing house which is the Greater London Council? There are all sorts of other instructions about the transmission of this sort of thing, but, so far as I can see, there is no instruction for this to be done, although it may be hidden there somewhere.
§ LORD HASTINGS
I am afraid I cannot pick up that point immediately but I will try to let the noble Lord know in a moment.
In answer to a point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Shepherd, everybody who wishes to have a house will apply and the local boroughs will be obliged to register the application, irrespective of the length of residence. I understand that at the moment some people cannot even register if they have not been resident long enough to get on to the waiting lists. The point is that we should get the overall needs of housing throughout London, and therefore length of residence would have nothing to do with the application. It will obviously, however, have a great deal to do with allocation, in the London boroughs, and it is also one of the factors that will be taken into consideration when the matter gets to the Greater London Council. It will be 61 shown on the application forms, so that they will arrange their allocations in accordance with need.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
Then the Greater London Council will be the decisive factor as to how their pool of housing is distributed, from the information provided by the boroughs.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
What we shall get is all this coming and going, and to'ing and fro'ing, and duplicating, if not triplicating; and at the end of the year we shill find out how many unsatisfied applicants for houses there are. But under this scheme of the Government, whereby there is to be a divorce between the Greater London Council and the borough councils of the concurrent powers, whereby they will be smashing that up in a short time, we shall know how many people are without houses—everything will be lovely, except that we shall not have provided the houses. Is that not right?
§ LORD HASTINGS
No. I do not put it like that. Thee idea is to have a complete picture of the situation so that we may deal with it.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Clause 22, as amended, agreed to.
§ Clause 23 [Transfer of land held for housing purposes]:
§ LORD LATHAM moved to leave out subsection (6). The noble Lord said: The purpose of this Amendment is to correct a weird and wonderful thing done by the Government on Report stage in another place. An Amendment was there moved by the Government. The subsection referred to enables a charge to be made on inhabitants of inner London—I stress that: inner London only—in relation to assets which will be taken over by the Greater London Council and which may be used again for the benefit of the inhabitants of Greater London as a whole. The introduction of a charge on one section of the inhabitants in relation to a function administered on behalf of all sections should be resisted, and indeed we are resisting it. If the principle were to be applied on any equitable basis in relation to all functions of 62 the Greater London Council within the area of Greater London, if the principle implicit in the subsection were accepted, it would be logical to charge only the inhabitants of outer London with the cost of providing assistance to the severed counties. But there is no provision to that effect in Clause 68, and similar considerations apply in relation to parks and open spaces under Clause 58. We therefore consider that the Greater London area should be treated as one complete unit from its inception, and that charges should be levied on a uniform basis throughout the area.
§ The practical accounting difficulties which would be created would not appear to justify the introduction of the principle of making special financial arrangements for selective services. In short, apparently all are to share the benefits, and one section only is to meet the costs. Surely, that is a new conception of local government. Why should the inner area of the County of London be punished by bearing the whole cost of services enjoyed not only by the residents of the county of London but also by the residents of the outer areas, including the Greater London area? I beg to move.
Page 31, line 39, leave out subsection (6).—(Lord Latham.)
§ LORD HASTINGS
This subsection provides that any deficit on the Greater London Council's housing revenue account shall be chargeable only on the inner London boroughs in the first year of the Council's life, and then shall be gradually spread over in the way laid down. This subsection was introduced on recommittal in another place as a result of an undertaking given by the Minister in Committee, and it met Amendments on roughly similar lines which were put down not only on the Government side, but also by Mr. Skeffington from the Opposition. It seems quite fair.
The object of the Amendment was to deal fairly, because, after all, the tenants of houses which will be inherited by the Greater London Council from the London County Council will largely come from the former metropolitan boroughs; that is to say, the new inner London boroughs. Therefore it was felt quite right to secure that any deficit on housing revenue account on the part of the Greater 63 London Council in the early years should at first fall more on the inner London boroughs, whose citizens were getting the benefit, and only gradually be transferred to the shoulders of the ratepayers of Greater London as a whole.
I do not know that noble Lords will consider that particularly unfair. If one looks at the transitional table over the seven-year period, which appears in subsection (6) on page 32 one will see that the proportions will taper from six to one, until they become one to six. The left-hand column refers to the special rate which shall be charged in respect of the houses taken over from the L.C.C. The figures in the right-hand column refer, not to a special rate to be levied only on the outer boroughs, but to the general rate which will be levied on both inner and outer boroughs. So at the end of the period, although it may not seem so from the subsection, the load is being spread evenly over all the ratepayers.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
If the Government say that at the end of the day the burden shall be spread, could the noble Lord say why that should not apply from the beginning? When one creates a new corporation one brings into it all the assets and liabilities, all the gains and all the losses. The Government's case, by the creation of this Greater London Council with this new area, is that this will be for the benefit of all sections, the outer boroughs as well as the inner boroughs; that all will gain by it. Therefore, in spite of the quotations given by the noble Lord opposite of the support which came from a rather peculiar set of circumstances, I cannot see why a burden which will arise from this Government Bill should be placed more unfairly on those in the inner boroughs than on those in the outer boroughs. If the Government believe that because of this Bill there are gains to be had for all, should not that burden be borne from the beginning by all sections?
§ LORD HASTINGS
I do not think we agree, because, after all, all these houses which are to be taken over from the L.C.C. by the G.L.C. are being used for the housing of people from the inner London boroughs—the old metropolitan boroughs. That will continue to be the case when they are taken over. It is 64 really only when the Greater London Council begin building new estates that the tenants of such estates will then be taken from the whole of Greater London. In the meantime, the London County Council have to make up the deficit on the special housing revenue account, and they do so by levying a rate on the metropolitan boroughs for that purpose. It therefore seems reasonable that the G.L.C. should take over the obligation. The G.L.C. will have to balance the deficit on the housing revenue account, and it seems reasonable that they should continue the practice followed by the L.C.C. So that until the situation begins to even out, and the new housing estate comes in and the G.L.C. can make more accommodation available for people outside the metropolitan boroughs, there should be a period when the levy should continue, as it does now, for the first year and then become less. It seems to be generally agreed that a period of between five and ten years is reasonable, and we have taken seven years as a fair compromise. All the boroughs will then have this levy for the housing account evenly distributed upon them.
§ LORD LATHAM
I described the action of the Government in this connection as being weird and wonderful. It really is, especially in view of the explanation given by the Minister. The Minister did not say whether the accommodation referred to is going to be exclusively available for and used by the inhabitants of the inner London area. It is the case, of course, that the London County Council have to make a contribution to the special housing account, a contribution which is related to the measure of subsidy which the London County Council receive. If the Minister says that the assets which are to be taken over, in respect of which a charge is to be made, are to be available for the use (as I understand to be the case) of all the inhabitants of the Greater London area, then it seems to me, whatever may be the arrangements as regards the special housing account, that they should all contribute to the cost. I really cannot understand why that is not the case. However, having regard to the statement made, that this Amendment was put down on the Report stage with the concurrence of the representatives of the Opposition, 65 I will see to it that the matter is looked into, and meantime beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Clause 23 agreed to.
§ Clause 24 [Local planning authorities]:
§ 5.22 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS moved, in subsection (3), to leave out "subsection (4) of this section and to". The noble Viscount said: This is really a paving Amendment for the point of substance which appears in Amendment No. 134, but I think it would perhaps be convenient to the Committee if I were to try to discuss the two together. One of the strange things about this Bill, to me, with great respect to those who drafted it, seems to be the order in which various points of great importance occur. One of these is the part with which the Committee has already dealt—that is, the traffic and transport part—which I would have thought, logically, would have been better placed after the planning part, which the Committee is now discussing, so that it can be seen that traffic is to be fitted into the planning and not vice versa. But, be that as it may, that stage has now passed.
§ However, here there seems to be a very strange example of the same thing. There are two stages in town and country planning. First of all, there is the matter of preparing a development plan and having this approved by the Minister. Then, the second stage comes when an application is before the local planning authority. They have to decide how to deal with it, land the first thing that they are required by law to look at is the development plan—and, it is true, any other material circumstances. In this Bill we have development control before development plan, and from this, I think, arises a very great deal of confusion about the two-tier planning that is to take place, under this Bill, in London.
§ The Committee will remember—if I start where I think the beginning should be, with the development plan—that the Greater London Council first of all make their strategic plan and submit it to the Minister, and thereafter the various London boroughs make their local and more detailed development plans which have to fit in with the Greater London 66 plan. They then go up to the Greater London Council for their consideration, and finally they have to go to the Minister as well, and are approved or not by him. In any case, at that stage the complete map of London is set out in full, with the two authorities having worked together to produce the thing which they think is best.
§ The difficulty about subsection (4) of Clause 24, if I understand it rightly, is that the Minister is taking powers to take completely away from the jurisdiction of the boroughs certain areas (which, of course, we do not at this moment know, but which will be laid down in the Regulations) for the purposes of planning control—that is, after the development plan has been approved—and is giving them instead to the Greater London Council. I am not for one moment objecting because this Bill has a two-tier system. I think that is right. Nor am I in the least objecting that the two-tier system is going to work under this Bill in exactly the same way as delegated planning control works in any number of planning authorities in England and Wales to-day.
§ Of course, there must be cases—and they are dealt with in outline under subsection (6) of this clause—where a specific application should be called in, and in my Second Reading speech I think I mentioned on this point some of the things which I should be very glad to see called in—high buildings, for instance; perhaps buildings of importance surrounding the Royal parks; certainly cases where the development plan is to be departed from. But in subsection (4) the Bill goes much further than this, in taking out complete areas. My noble friend Lord Conesford has more radical views still on this particular point, which I am sure he will explain to the Committee later; but, at any rate, even as it stands now, the Minister could perfectly well, if he so thought fit, take out of the jurisdiction of the boroughs the whole of Central London. He could take out any part of it, big or small, and it would simply be a matter to be dealt with by regulation.
§ What follows from this? Suppose he were to use this power extensively. In another place a new clause was put into this Bill, which is now numbered 72, which required as a matter of law that 67 the London boroughs should all appoint borough architects, one of the most important of whose functions will be to deal with the day-to-day planning applications which come in to them from the people who want to develop sites in their area. If you have a large and important borough like the one which will include Westminster or parts of Marylebone, or, indeed Holborn and Finsbury, or the City of London, all of whom will have these statutory architects, and if some or all of the area which these men are dealing with is taken away from their control and given to the Greater London Council, surely they will have nothing left with which to deal at all. It will be a complete waste of time appointing them, and it will be a complete waste of their salary, too.
§ The other side of the picture is this. If you have large areas, or even comparatively large areas, which are going to be dealt with not by the borough council, as is the general case under this Bill, but by the Greater London Council, that Council would have to do as the London County Council does to-day and employ a large staff of officers who will have to deal with the small details of all the applications which come in as to these excepted areas. They will have to say what sort of shop front there should be, what the elevation should look like, what the materials should be and all the other small and detailed things—important, it is true, but small and detailed things; and this is really quite inconsistent with the Greater London Council's position as the strategic planning authority, which is what it is under this Bill.
§ That seems to me to be the situation if you take it as far as it might be taken under subsection (4), and that is why I am very concerned. I should very much like to know what Members of the Committee think and what my noble friend Lord Jellicoe is going to say. It seems to me that the real answer to this problem is this. If you put things in the right order, the Greater London Council are going to make out a strategic development plan. Surely it will be within their duties when they are doing that to take account of the really important sites in London: perhaps Piccadilly Circus or the Bank, places which are 68 of national importance, which everybody minds very much about, and about how they are developed.
§ Part of that development plan which the Greater London Council will prepare will be the statutory written statement. I do not believe it is in the least beyond the power of the people who write the written statement for development planning, to put down in black and white in that statement the important matters they wish to have dealt with in those vital national sites. If that is done, the details ought to be able to be left to these well-paid, competent and most authoritative borough architects; but if anything comes up that offends against the principles in the planning and written statement prepared by the Greater London Council, that automatically will be a departure from the written statement and development plan and that will be one of those things I would envisage being called in in any case under subsection (6) of the clause.
§ Therefore, if these things were put in the right order I cannot see why there is any necessity for subsection (4) at all. I do not believe it will bring anything of substance to the power the Minister has already taken under subsection (6), and will tend to inflate the Greater London Council and to lead them to do things which they ought not, and do not need, to do. I therefore hope the Committee will think that this subsection is really quite otiose and ought to be struck out. I beg to move.
Page 32, line 29, leave out the said words.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)
We have now embarked so far as this Bill is concerned on the ocean of planning, and I am afraid your Lordships may discover, so far as this question is concerned, that you have gone to sea in a sieve. I must candidly confess that this is a sphere which I find difficult and esoteric—unlike the rest of the Bill which is simple and straightforward. Given the difficulty of this matter, I am only too conscious that a lot of the running is likely to be made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, or by experts of his calibre. I am also only too acutely conscious that there are two daggers, friendly but sharp, poised behind me in the persons of the noble Viscount, Lord Colville 69 of Culross, and the noble Lord, Lord Conesford. I must confess that I, personally, approach this part of the Bill with considerable caution and will keep my head down low into my brief. That said by way of explanation and mitigation, I shall now plunge in medias res.
Subsection (4) makes it clear that, apart from any delegation to the boroughs or the City under subsection (5), the Greater London Council will deal with applications for planning permission for such classes of development in such areas in Greater London as may be laid down by regulations. Your Lordships are doubtless clear that, broadly speaking, in providing for this we have followed the recommendations of the Royal Commission. The Royal Commission looked into this aspect of London planning very carefully and thought that there would be types of development or particular areas of London where the wider views of the Greater London Council should be brought to bear. They mentioned matters which my noble friend has mentioned—high buildings impingeing on a familiar sky-line, historical areas lying in the heart of London, large buildings which may, though not necessarily in the heart of London, throw up particular employment or traffic problems, and the impact of traffic matters generally in relation to planning.
I submit that there is at least a prima facie case for looking at certain classes of development in certain areas of London with an especially careful and attentive eye. I would have thought that there was also at least a prima facie case for considering such types of development, especially in central areas, in a context wider than that of the borough. An application to build a tall hotel or a tall office block in the heart of London can be regarded, I think, not only as a local affair and a borough affair but as a matter of national and regional and, indeed, of international importance; or so I would judge having listened for some eighteen months with attention to what the noble Lord, Lord Bossom, has said on this subject. That is the basic justification not only for this subsection (4), which my noble friend would like to strike out, but also for subsection (6).
Having said that by way of introduction, I should like now to turn to some of the arguments which he has 70 advanced for striking out this subsection of Clause 24. I think the first thing he said was to suggest that we have drafted this Bill in an odd way in that we have put the cart of planning control in front of the horse of development planning. I would grant that he has a precedent here for his argument in the Town and Country Planning legislation where the development plan comes before development control. But I think that is primarily a matter of form and I would, in any event, like to draw my noble friend's attention to subsection (2) of this clause which puts the Greater London Council into the Bill as the overall strategic planner (to use his own phraseology), and does it right at the start of the planning section, and does it in such a way as to cover both development planning and development control. So I suggest that, at least to that extent, my noble friend's argument falls.
My noble friend has also argued that this subsection is unnecessary in view of the fact that the Greater London Council will be able to strike out of a particular development plan those bits which they may judge incompatible with the Greater London Development plan, because of the power which is embodied further down in this clause in subsection (6). I think, and I will be arguing this as we go along with Clause 24, that subsection (6) is a desirable provision and a desirable reinforcement, but I do not think that it can or should be held to take the place of subsection (4). Under subsection (6) the Minister can prescribe types of development on which a borough council must consult the Greater London Council before giving their decision, and it is true that by such means the Greater London Council would certainly be brought in on the sort of matters likely to be covered by the regulations which will be made under Clause 24(4). But under subsection (6) machinery they would be brought in only after the borough council has spent time considering the application. I suggest that may well be undesirable with development which is of real regional or national significance as certain development in the heart of London may be.
The Greater London Council will undoubtedly consult the borough council before they take such a decision under the subsection (4) machinery in such matters. I would argue that there is no good reason to keep applications at borough 71 council level while that council is making up its mind. I would suggest there is all the difference in the world between the Greater London Council handling an application ab initio and handling it, as it were, on the bounce from a borough.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
I very much dislike interrupting but I do wish to follow the argument. The words of subsection (6) are that these particular applications have to be referred either to the Greater London Council or to the Minister before they are dealt with by the local planning authority. It seems to me, although I am not sure I am following the argument, that under that subsection they go first of all to the higher authority before they are dealt with. That would be the speedier way.
I do not think that that is so. They will go through the Greater London Council, but the inferior body (though this is a phraseology I would not myself use), the body dealing with the narrower range of problems, the borough, may well have to put a great deal of work in on this matter in the initial stages, in informal working dealings with the potential developer and his architects. An example is the Knightsbridge Green proposal, where for a long period of time there have been informal L.C.C. initiatives at working level. It is that type of thing I have in mind.
I feel that with more significant types of development, especially at the heart of London, there is a great deal to be said for our adopting a machinery which enables the Greater London Council to be brought into this whole operation right at the start, before the borough council may have crawled over an application with the potential developer and his architects. In this sort of case there is a lot to be said for getting this type of application straight to the Greater London Council before the positions that have been adopted become too rigid, before the development has "jelled".
My noble friend has also suggested that if we keep subsection (4) we shall be excluding boroughs, or certainly those which may be in the area covered by subsection (4) regulations, from a lot of important work. He fears that thereby we may diminish the keenness and quality of the work for their planning and architectural departments. He referred 72 to the provision which has now been made in the Bill for borough architects. I would suggest to my noble friend that he might bear two points in mind here. The first is that no one is more anxious than my right honourable friend that the new boroughs should be able to make a really worthy architectural contribution to the London of the future and he will have that very much in mind when drawing up his regulations, in consultation with the boroughs and the Greater London Council.
I would also ask my noble friend to recall how much development and building is going on at the present time, not least at the heart of London, and to remember how intensive that building is in value and how much demand it makes on the time of qualified architects and planners; and, in the light of these considerations, that there is bound to be plenty of work for borough architectural and planning teams in central London areas as well as for the Greater London Council's architectural and planning team, even if we retain subsection (4), as I hope we shall. Perhaps I could add, by way of conclusion—and I apologise for speaking at some length to this Amendment, but we are here embarking on planning—that I should have liked to be able to say rather more about the type of regulations which my right honourable friend has in mind.
As I hear from the support which I have received on that point, that would have met some of my noble friends' wishes, but I am afraid that at this stage, at least, there is little I can add to what has already been said about this subject in another place. It is obvious that my right honourable friend has taken, and will take, careful note of the Royal Commission's views here. He has already taken steps to consult a wide variety of professional and local authority associations, including the L.C.C., on the possible content of any regulations to be made under this subsection. He has had, not surprisingly, a rather varied response. Some would wish him to go in the direction which my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross is pressing. Some would wish him to go along the lines which my noble friend Lord Conesford is pressing. But I think that at this stage he is bound to wait for the appointment 73 of the new authorities under the Bill, so that they can be properly consulted when they are elected. But what is clear is that the machinery laid down in Clause 24 is both wide enough and flexible enough to cover all the suggestions which have been made and which I think are likely to be made to him.
Most critics of the Bill have felt that we are giving the Greater London Council insufficient say in development proposals, especially at the heart of London, and I suspect that we may hear that view expressed forcibly and cogently in a moment or two by my noble friend Lord Conesford. Personally I believe that we have held the balance here about right and that the flexibility which we have written into Clause 24 is desirable. But the exclusion of subsection (4) will radically upset the balance, and I cannot ask your Lordships, in spite of my noble friend's advocacy, to accept his Amendment. I hope that, until he has had time to consider this matter further, he will not wish, at least at this stage, to press it.
My I ask whether the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, is going to speak on this Amendment—because his Amendment is really a direct negative? if we are ready to dispose of this Amendment before Lord Conesford's speech, presumably speeches of a more general nature should follow Lord Conesford's Amendment.
THE CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES
It is not possible for more than one Amendment to be called at the same time, but it is possible for several noble Lords to speak on that one Amendment and include arguments which relate to a subsequent Amendment. It is possible to debate two Amendments together.
§ LORD CONESFORD
I have considered this, of course, but, as at present advised, I think it would be for the convenience of the Committee that we should keep the two Amendments quite separate. I think that any other suggestion would be introducing great confusion. I am sorry, because I appreciate some of the points my noble friend has in mind.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Jellicoe and certainly should like to read carefully what he has said. I hope, 74 though, that he will not mind my chiding him mildly on what he said by way of reply to my Amendment. First of all, he ignored the major argument I put forward and followed it up by putting two bad points. I did not in any way retract from the recommendations of the Royal Commission in saying that there should be special things dealt with by the Greater London Council, and I went out of my way to say I agreed with that. This is exactly the sort of case of which I was thinking. So, when I was speaking about a development plan and the control that could be gained from that, I was thinking exactly of what Sir Edwin Herbert said in his Report.
My noble friend will remember that what I was putting to him was that arrangements for special control can be dealt with in the development plan and in the written memorandum before it even comes to the question of an individual application in one of the areas of which he is thinking. I hope he will seriously think about that, because it did not seem to me that he was meeting at all the point I was making.
May I ask him to think about two other points? The first is the question of procedure. My noble friend said that the words "before they were dealt with by the local planning authority", in subsection (6), mean that obviously there will have been lengthy and detailed examinations of an individual proposal by the borough council and the would-be developer. Is this really likely to be the case? One of the matters which would certainly be dealt with under subsection (6), I am told, would be departures from the approved development plan. Is it really likely that a developer and a borough council will spend a lot of time in collaborating on something which they know very well is in complete contravention of what the Minister has already said, and on which they know will have I to go to the Greater London Council for their views, and perhaps also to the Minister? Surely it is more likely, in those circumstances—and so, too, in the case of high buildings and other controversial matters of that kind—that the Greater London Council will be brought in, as my noble friend wanted, at the earliest possible stage. I hope that my noble friend will hear that in mind, because it seems to me that the point he put is most unrealistic.
75 The second thing that seemed to me to be questionable was when he went on to tell your Lordships that it would be all right for the borough architects, because in these central areas a great deal of building is going on, and it is of such importance and value that a lot of time and trouble has to be spent on it. Of course it is—provided it is not in one of the special areas. If these special areas comprehend so much of central London that the borough architect in Westminster, or the City, or Holborn and Finsbury, has all the important places taken away from him, he will be in exactly the position that I was describing. I think it is a pity that my noble friend cannot say more about the areas that his right honourable friend has in mind to put into these regulations. I hope that he will be prepared to consider those points again, because I think they have some force. However, I will fall in with what he has suggested by reading his speech, and for the moment, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 5.53 p.m.
LORD CONESFORD: moved, in subsection (3), to leave out all words after "respects" down to and including "Common Council" and to substitute:
the area of any London borough outside the Central London Area hereinafter defined shall be the council of the borough, and as respects the Central London Area shall be the Greater London Council".
§ The noble Lord said: In the discussion of the central area we now come to one of the principal planning points, of which I spoke in the debate on Second Reading and, indeed, in the debate on March 14 of last year. I think it will be for the convenience of the Committee if we take Amendments No. 132A and 133A together.
§ The subject of planning, as my noble friend Lord Jellicoe has said, is one of extreme difficulty and complexity, but I shall try to keep my submissions as simple and as straightforward as I can. My major proposition is this: it is absolutely essential that a single development plan should be prepared for the whole of the central area. On this I strongly agree with the Royal Institute of British Architects. In mentioning the R.I.B.A., I would remind the Committee that I am 76 not speaking of hostile critics of the whole idea of this Bill. My noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor, in moving the Second Reading, called attention to the approval given by the R.I.B.A. to a great deal of the reforms embodied in this measure. But the Institute's criticisms of the planning powers are the criticisms of technicians, speaking with an expert knowledge of the subject. If laymen were seeking to build a ship, they would take some notice of the advice of engineers and naval architects. If we are laying down the planning machinery for one of the greatest cities in the world, we should surely take some notice of the advice of the greatest experts.
When I read the planning provisions of this measure I am bound to say that I found them extremely complicated and difficult to construe. Giving them the best attention I could, I came to the conclusion that, on the whole, they were not workable. But I hope that I should have had sufficient modesty not to press those views, had I not found them to be shared by the greatest experts in the country. I am going to quote two short statements from these experts. The first is from Mr. Lionel Brett, who is Chairman of the Town Planning Committee of the R.I.B.A., and who gave the views of that body at the meeting with my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government on January 10 of this year. I might say to any noble Lord interested in this subject that this particular issue of the R.I.B.A. Journal contains the best series of statements in a single volume to be obtained on this whole problem. I will quote the second of the criticisms that Mr. Lionel Brett made. He said:
Second, the Bill appears to make no effective provision for the planning of central London as a whole. We do not, of course, know what regulations the Minister intends to make, and the Bill would enable him to make an order defining an area of central London within which certain classes of application would be dealt with by the Greater London Council. We would like to know what the Minister intends to do, and we would like to see his intentions written into the Bill and not left to ministerial order. But, even assuming he makes such an order, the most extraordinary confusion will remain. Central London, as it is now handled by the L.C.C., will be divided between five boroughs and the City of London, each of which will be required by the Bill to prepare a separate development plan. This, we think, is grotesque, and the Bill as drafted only makes sense if
the Government does not intend to permit the G.L.C. to plan central London. In our view there must be not six separate development plans for the six central boroughs, but one comprehensive development plan for central London, to be prepared by the Greater London Council in consultation with the boroughs. Public building within this central area should be done, as it is now, concurrently by the G.L.C. and the local borough council.
That is my first quotation. I believe in the doctrine there enunciated completely, and I commend it to the Committee.
The other is a more recent statement, also made in the presence of the Minister. It was made, in fact, at a supper discussion of the Architecture Club, of which I have the honour to be the President, by the President of the R.I.B.A., Professor Sir Robert Matthew. This is what he said:
This leads to my second point concerning central London. The Government have invited the R.I.B.A. and other bodies to suggest the kinds of town-planning applications that should be dealt with by the Greater London Council. The regulations which may be made would ensure that certain kinds of applications—such, for example, as those likely to create large numbers of jobs, or those for very high buildings—are not dealt with locally in a way that could make nonsense of the Greater London Development Plan. But it is hard to believe that regulations of this kind could effectively solve the whole problem of central London. It is in the centre that London has its unique quality as capital city, focal point both of country and of Commonwealth. It is in the centre, within the area touched by all the main railway terminals that the greatest national developments take place. It is an area where all the problems of the metropolis are tied together in a single knot, where borough boundaries have no physical significance at all and a single comprehensive plan is needed. To require each of the central boroughs (and the City of London) to prepare separate development plans is surely wrong, particularly if by regulation the Minister is going to refer the major applications to the Greater London Council. We did suggest at one time that them should be a central London borough, and many still argue for this, but if it is not desirable, then we can see no alternative to giving the planning of central London to the Greater London Council, as the only local authority that can plan the centre in the interests of the metropolis as a whole.
Those are two quotations from men of the very highest authority in the country. They are supported by Sir William Holford, perhaps one of the greatest town planners now living. I beg the Committee and the Government not to disregard advice of such disinterested force.
§ Let us remember that we are dealing here with one of the greatest urban concentrations in the world, with an intensity of use unequalled anywhere outside Manhattan. We are laying down a machinery utterly unlike any machinery that has ever been tried or succeeded anywhere else. The central area of a great city must be planned as a whole. I could invite the attention of the Committee to great examples of town planning in the past, and to important examples of town planning now taking place. If your Lordships want a great example of town planning in the past, there is the replanning of Rome by Pope Sixtus V from 1585 to 1590. As a result of his work, the plan of the centre of Rome still, broadly, stands. It is absolutely essential that the plan for the centre of a great city must be conceived architecturally in three dimensions from the start.
§ I come from the historic case of Rome to a very relevant case at the present time, and that is what has been taking place in the last few years in the City of Philadelphia, a very good example of the successful improvement of a great city at the present time to meet modern needs, not least the needs of traffic. One body must take the initiative, as in other capital cities. That is being done both in Washington and in Canberra. In making its development plan a London borough, however able and however disinterested, can deal only with one artificial fragment of the centre. I have read and studied all the statements that I have been able to find of Her Majesty's Ministers on this subject. A series of Amendments, with the same general abject as those I have in mind, was moved in Committee of another place by my honourable friend Sir Hugh Lucas-Tooth. The whole discussion occupied only a page or two. The Minister made a very sympathetic reply, saying he was considering all those matters about the regulations—which he is still considering—and the Amendments were withdrawn.
§ The only other discussion of any length was certain criticisms that I and my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross offered on Second Reading, and the very useful reply made by my noble friend Lord Hastings at the beginning of the debate on the following day. That is 79 the best and most complete statement of the whole policy of the Government on this matter that has yet been made. I have carefully studied it. He dealt with the work that would be done in planning, both by the Greater London Council and by the London boroughs.
§ Use has frequently been made in these discussions of the term "strategic planning" in describing the proper sphere of planning by the Greater London Council. When people use the word "strategic", I am never too confident that I know what they are talking about. But in order to make it quite clear what I am talking about, I want to substitute for "strategic planning", "three-dimensional planning". Having read the speech of my noble friend Lord Hastings, I came to the conclusion that, whatever else the Greater London Council were expected to do, they were not to indulge in any three-dimensional planning. They were to suggest the roads and communications and certain things, but three-dimensional planning was to be left to the boroughs, if I understood it correctly. On the 19th of next month it will be exactly 21 years since, as Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Planning, I gave an address to the Town Planning Institute on three-dimensional planning. I confess that if I had then prophesied to the Town Planning Institute that 21 years after the date on which I was speaking a measure would be introduced in Parliament laying down that there should be no authority at all who would consider the three-dimensional planning of central London as a whole, I should have been thought to be talking the wildest nonsense. And it is nonsense; because if this plan that the Greater London Council are to prepare is to deal with three-dimensional planning, then there will be a tremendous duplication. But if it is not to deal with three-dimensional planning, then the plan it produces will certainly not be good enough.
§ I beg noble Lords to make themselves familiar with what has been done in Philadelphia and elsewhere in the planning of the centre of great cities. Let me give one example where, even for communications, it is necessary that the Greater London Council should think in three dimensions. All the leading 80 authorities on traffic in the great cities know the importance for the centre of the segregation of traffic on different levels. There are cities which are being reconstructed in England where our town planners are bearing this in mind. It is absolutely essential, if we are to have a worthy reconstruction and planning of our capital, that the centre of London should be considered as a whole.
The Bill and the Amendments to this clause tabled by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross and myself give three different solutions—if indeed they are solutions; or three different plans. There is the plan of the Government embodied in the clause as it stands; there is the plan of my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross to leave out subsection (4) and there is my own plan for creating a central London area. These plans have one thing, and one thing only, in common: every one of them differs from the recommendations of the Royal Commission. Let me first come to the difference, the admitted difference, between the Government's plan and the recommendation of the Royal Commission. My noble friend Lord Hastings made this quite clear in his speech on the occasion to which I have referred. The Greater London Council are to be the local authority for preparing a development plan, but that is not to include, as I have said, any of the details because there are to be a series of separate plans by the boroughs and the city. This is not at all what the Royal Commission recommended. If I might quote the paragraph from the speech of my noble friend Lord Hastings [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 248 (No. 72), col. 1216]: he said that the Greater London Council would be
a body with very wide and real powers. But, at the same time, the borough councils and the Common Council, nearer the ground, will be responsible for the detailed planning of their areas.
And I should like noble Lords to mark these next words:
In this respect the Bill differs from the Report of the Royal Commission, who recommended that the Greater London Council should be responsible for all development plan work.
The noble Lord then went on to give the Government defence that
…clearly it is an advantage to spread detailed work of this kind in order to get it done in a reasonable time.
Some of the best planners do not think that the scheme of the Government will lead to any acceleration in producing the necessary plan, but if it did, the acceleration would be bought too expensively if the price were that the centre of London was not to have a development plan prepared by a body planning it as a whole. That is where the Government differ from the advice of the Royal Commission.
§ Now we come to my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross; and remembering how he and I saw eye to eye on all the traffic provisions, I regret that we do not see eye to eye on this clause. But the Amendment of my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross would take out of the Bill the only alternative method to defining a central area which the Royal Commission suggested for securing special treatment of the central area. For that reason I could not support it, though I appreciate his point, that you might get most, but not all, of the express terms of the recommendation by directions under subsection (6).
§ Lord CONESFORD
Nevertheless, the noble Viscount differs from the recommendation of the Royal Commission because the Royal Commission clearly recognise that there are special problems of the central area. Their Report states objections to defining it, as I attempt to define it, but it does say that areas should be defined by the Minister. Therefore the suggestion of my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross conflicts with the recommendation of the Royal Commission. And so, I must frankly admit, does mine: because I define the central area. And I may say that there is no magic in the definition; I have used for my definition a description of what is the existing central area in the practice of the L.C.C. in dealing with their area, or what they treat as a central area; and though my definition might be improved on, it gives an idea to the Committee of what I have in mind.
I differ also from the Royal Commission because I would define a central area and say in the Bill what is to happen to it. But I think I differ from the recommendations of the Royal Commission less than either the Government or my noble 82 friend Lord Colville of Culross, because what I enthusiastically support is that we must have a single development plan for central London prepared by a single body. On that point the Commission agree with me. For that reason I say that my proposal is at any rate nearer to that of the Royal Commission than either of the others which are before the Committee. That is the point of principle I have endeavoured to make clear, and I think that is the point of principle which it is the duty of this Committee to decide. I beg to move.
Page 32, line 32, leave out from beginning to ("and") in line 33 and insert ("the area of any London borough outside the Central London Area hereinafter defined shall be the council of the borough, and as respects the Central London Area shall be the Greater London Council").—(Lord Conesford.)
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
I should like to support the noble Lord in his Amendment. I think he has used every possible argument that could be brought forward, and I am not going to repeat anything he said. He said it in a most eloquent manner which I could not match. But in my judgment it is desirable that there should be one authority dealing roughly with the part of London that is set out in the Amendment No. 133A. It is an area which has been recommended by the R.I.B.A., and it contains most of the important buildings and thoroughfares of London, which ought to be looked at and developed as a whole and which other-wise would be in danger of being redeveloped piecemeal.
The noble Lord said that there was no magic about the particular area which he set out, and I agree with him although in certain respects I think it could be changed to advantage—for instance, some of the railways stations are not included. But I think that is a matter of detail, and if the Government were prepared to accept the principle of the Amendment then I think we could get together and discuss how wide should be the area to be dealt with The real case for the Amendment is that we are desirous that this area, which is one of the most important in the world, containing some of our priceless buildings and historic areas, should be considered not piecemeal but as a whole. I know the Bill provides that, broadly, the Greater London Council 83 should prepare a development plan for the whole of London, which would include this area, and that the details should be filled in by the local authority. But it is exactly in the detail that the problem arises.
What one fears is that the London boroughs concerned may interpret the filling-in process, the detail, an completely different ways; and although it is possible to co-ordinate, for the Greater London Council would have a voice in it, that is a most unsatisfactory way of dealing with it and it would be much better that the whole of this area should be dealt with by one authority; that all applications for development should come to it and it should consider, as in the case of Piccadilly, whether this is an area which should be redeveloped over a larger field or whether any particular proposal for development should be refused because it might conflict with something that is proposed to be done at a later stage. You have a number of pieces of development which would be on the boundaries of various of the new London boroughs and difficulties would arise there, and generally I feel that in view of the great historic importance of the area which is delineated it should be dealt with as a whole by one authority, both in the making of the plan and in the implementation of it. The noble Lord has dealt with the matter so thoroughly and adequately that there is very little I wish to add to what he has said, but we strongly support the Amendment in principle.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ LORD SALTER
I rise to support this Amendment. I am extremely glad that both my noble friend Lord Conesford and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, made it clear that in supporting this Amendment we are not binding ourselves to the precise detail of the definition of the central area which is included in the second Amendment. That was the only posible doubt I had as regards my noble friend's proposal. I think it is beyond question of great advantage that an authority as wide as that of the G.L.C. should have, with regard to this particular central area, a more concentrated responsibility than it has with regard to the whole of London. This is an area of such tremendous 84 importance to the city and all who visit it.
The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, referred to the case of Rome and a number of other principal cities of the world. I should like to add one more. I happen to have paid a visit a fortnight ago to Paris, and there I revived the impressions and reflections I had made on many previous visits, and, indeed, during some years of residence. With the question of town planning in my mind, both because of this Bill and also because until a few days ago I had been President of the Town and Country Planning Association for some years, I came back with one reflection more deeply in my mind than any other. That is, the inestimable advantage it has been to those who live in Paris and those who visit Paris that there should have been an effective general authority which could control building in the whole of that great and beautiful central area of Paris. No one can build a house of a height which is not in conformity with the general level of the houses in that region; so that the kind of beauty, added to other forms of beauty which can be preserved only by height uniformity, has been effectively preserved.
We cannot go quite so far in that respect as Paris has been able to with such an authority for a very considerable time, but undoubtedly a special responsibility for the Greater London Council will go much further than any other arrangement to give us the kind of advantage which you see in this supreme form in a capital like Paris. A good deal of the argument has been put not only by my noble friend Lord Conesford and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, but also by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, in opposing the Amendment proposed by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross. There is, of course, one difference between his argument and the argument of my noble friend Lord Conesford, that is that he relies upon the powers of subsection (4) of Clause 24. I do not myself think that in a matter of this essential importance it is enough for us to rely upon the Minister of the time. We do not know who he may be or what may be his views at the time when the important decision has to be made. I think we ought to have the extra source of reliability which the embodiment in the Bill my noble 85 friend's Amendment would secure; with it we could be confident that there will be an adequate and efficient consideration of the plan as a whole of the vital central area of this great metropolis.
As an amateur town planner in the Provinces, I feel considerable diffidence in discussing the affairs of another authority, but in a sense we are all interested in the central part of London, and as Members of this House have been asked to express our views on various Amendments. We have dealt with Lord Colville of Culross's suggestion that there should be no central area, and we are now dealing with Lord Cones-ford's idea of a large, defined central area. Then we have the Government's suggestion, which really seems to amount to giving the Minister wide powers to do what he thinks best, on which we should be much more able to judge if we knew what he did think best.
With this choice before us I must confess I tend to be guided, perhaps wrongly, by my own experiences, which are now rather lengthy, in two-tier planning, and I think I can summarise this by saying that in my experience two-tier planning works, but it works only if there is considerable co-operation between the two tiers. You can make all sorts of conditions about delegation, and leave boroughs or other authorities much power or little rower, but, whatever happens, they have powers in other directions, particularly housing, and once they get into a thoroughly obstructive frame of mind, which can easily happen, they can be very obstructive indeed.
As opposed to all-purpose authorities, where, if there is a difference between two committees, the Council can take the overriding decision, where there is two-tier government the only person who can decide ultimately the Minister. This co-operation, in my experience, is important enough in negative planning when you are telling private enterprise what they can or cannot do, but it applies particularly in positive planning where you must get something done—redevelopment of central areas, and so forth—and it is very easy to reach the position where, after years of argument and negotiations, you have nothing to show for it at all except a large pile of paper and quite a lot of frustrated feelings. That is one important point.
86 In connection with slums we have been hearing about the human problems, but there is also a human problem in connection with this planning machinery. Notwithstanding all the delegation that we enjoy in county councils we still tend to get bogged down in matters of detail, and of course these include negotiation about propositions put up by the housing authorities themselves. It seems to me that, if we have all this difficulty with a population of 400,000 people, the same difficulty might arise in greater measure with a very much bigger population and with a much larger number of boroughs than we have to deal with.
I personally agree that there is a strong prima facie attraction about Lord Conesford's conception of a central area being planned as one. I do not profess to understand precisely the intention of the Bill, but I thought that was the function of the Greater London Council. Perhaps there is a difference of opinion about what is covered by the word "planning". It may, of course, include nothing but zoning and the remainder has to be filled in under what the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, described as three dimensional architectural planning. Although I agree it is an attractive idea, because we have seen some surprising things happening already, I would certainly welcome the feeling that the centre of the Metropolis was being planned as a whole, although in view of my own experience I am wondering whether the scheme would work as it is presented. Would it be possible for one authority to deal with all the multitude of applications which might be expected, possibly not from large residential populations but a large business population?
I should imagine, as we tend to get down in detail, that possibly the Greater London Council in their dealings with this area might also tend to get into some difficulty. Those are my fears and it may be that the Government's proposals are really the best we can find to deal with these conflicting points of view.
I should like to see the central area properly planned, in regard both to zoning and to architectural three-dimensional planning. I want something to happen. I do not want the thing to get bogged down in controversy between these quite large boroughs which have already expressed a good deal of doubt as to 87 whether this is going to work, and I do not want the people dealing with this to get bogged down in a lot of detail. I must confess I should feel very much happier about this if we could have a little more explanation from the Government as to what this somewhat mystical subsection (4) of Clause 24 really means. Perhaps as we continue with the Bill we may get a little more information, or are we going to be told that it is quite impossible during the passage of this Bill to get any information as to the real intentions of the Minister?
§ LORD WALSTON
The noble Lord, Lord Salter, has very rightly pointed out the result of having town planning on a grand scale in Paris and he might have added, and by implication he did, that if one wished for a monument to lack of town planning one only had to look around in our own City of London. As one looks back it is fantastic, with a country like our own which has had, and still has, some of the greatest architects in the world, that a city with a river running through the middle of it, with open spaces and ancient parks, should have, over the course of years, produced this extraordinary higgledy-piggledy mass of buildings, streets, offices and the rest of it which make up the City of London and the whole conurbation. Surely that in itself must be sufficient argument, if any were needed, to reinforce that of the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, that if we are to avoid a perpetuation of that and to overcome some of the errors which have been made in the past, if we are to hope to produce a great, beautifully planned city, there must be an overriding central planning authority for the whole Greater London area.
It is not as if, in this country, we were lacking in town planners. We have many, Sir William Holford being one of the foremost in the whole world. Look at Coventry as only one example of town planning, and the great results that have been achieved there!It seems to me inconceivable in creating a plan for a new Greater London area that the Government could possibly be content with this form of decentralisation and consultation of an amorphous and not clearly defined kind, between a whole series of authorities. The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, said at the beginning of his speech that nobody in his senses 88 would build a ship without consulting naval architects and engineers, but perhaps he had forgotten the earlier remarks of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. He stated, with his customary honesty, that he was embarking on the ocean of planning, not in a ship which had been designed by naval architects but in a sieve and I think, my Lords, that that is probably the answer to this whole question.
I wonder if I might interrupt the noble Lord for a second. I was not referring to the Bill in this respect as a sieve; I was merely referring to my inadequacy properly to expound it.
§ LORD WALSTON
I would certainly not accept the noble Earl's explanation that he is inadequate to expound the Bill. I think he is the able navigator put into a highly unseaworthy craft. I do not wish to elaborate these points at greater length. As the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has said, the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, has said everything in a most cogent manner. But while I was listening to him one point came to my mind and it has recurred when I have listened to other noble Lords who have spoken on both sides of this question. We are dealing with a mater of really vital importance to the future of the Greater London area. It is not a Party matter, it is not a matter where noble Lords can say, "The experts in my Party have decided this. I will follow their advice". It is a matter where there is room for wide variations of opinion, and as the speeches we have listened to have shown, that variation exists on both sides of the House.
During the course of this discussion there have been between thirty and forty of your Lordships listening to the arguments put forward on either side. I do not think I would be far wrong if I say that, should a Division take place, there will be something nearer to seventy to eighty noble Lords who will record their votes. It seems to me that, apart from those who have already studied this matter carefully and are experienced in it, it is a great misfortune that a decision of this kind should be taken by noble Lords without their having listened to the arguments which have been expressed on both sides, and which are strong. For that reason it will be more 89 by luck than good management, I am afraid, if the right decision is arrived at.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
Before the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, replies I hope your Lordships will for give me if I say one or two things arising out of this Amendment. I hope the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, will consider it some small comfort, if the question should come to a Division, to know that he will have my support against the great Goliaths who have spoken. First of all, in reply to what the noble Lord, Lord Walston, has said, if—and I do not think this is so—at any rate the central area of London has been made the more higgledy-piggledy and the more of a mess since 1947 under the Town Planning Regulations and Acts as they are now, this is because there has been a central planning authority, and not in spite of it.
§ LORD WALSTON
I was not suggesting that the damage has been done in the last ten or fifteen years. The damage has been done over the last 200 or 300 years.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
In that case, with great respect, the noble Lord, Lord Walston, is reckoning without his noble friend's Town and Country Planning Act. Apart from that, if the Amendment of my noble and learned friend Lord Conesford were to be carried, it goes so much beyond what I think is right that I think I must support my noble friend in any Division that should take place. It would be saying—and I think this must be remembered—that the following London boroughs simply could not be trusted to deal with the situation on the ground when it comes to a planning application. The metropolitan boroughs of Westminster, Paddington and St. Marylebone could not be trusted, nor could the metropolitan boroughs of Hampstead, Holborn and St. Pancras, as well as the metropolitan boroughs of Finsbury and Islington; then, further down the list, Bermondsey, Camberwell and Southwark—part of the South Bank comes within them—and then Lambeth and part of Wandsworth; then there is the City as well. It seems to me that those boroughs are going to be great and responsible boroughs with far-sighted councillors and fine officers to help them run their affairs. Over and above that, the provisions 90 in this Bill to supervise them if they should go wrong are very considerable indeed.
When we come on to deal with development plans, the provisions of Clause 25(4) relating to the borough development plans make it quite clear that these go to the Minister to be co-ordinated, with any observations thereon by the Greater London Council. So there will be two people to see that the point the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, made is not offended against, in that two boroughs on either side of the boundary do not agree what the general principles should be. Then Clause 27 also provides that if the local development plan involves a departure from the Greater London development plan, then even before it goes to the Minister at all the G.L.C. can veto it. So that with the size, the importance and the trustworthiness of the boroughs concerned, and with the checks and safeguards which are written into the Bill already, it is quite unnecessary to cut up the area of Central London and to deal with it in the way that my noble and learned friend suggests. If my noble friend Lord Jellicoe will not take my Amendment, I will support the Bill as it stands.
I think that we have had a useful discussion on this Amendment. I entirely agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said, that this was not adequately discussed in another place, as it is an exceedingly important matter. I have listened with interest, attention and respect to a number of noble planners. My noble friend Lord Conesford is one; so is the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, as we all know; so is the noble Lord, Lord Salter, as I very well know; and so, indeed, is my noble friend Lord Gage, who was planning in the Soviet Union (as I read the other day) in the 'thirties. We have also had very useful contributions from the noble Lord, Lord Walston, and my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross.
In passing, I should like to say that when Lord Salter was speaking about planning at the heart of Paris, and how they had avoided high buildings with their unity of control, the Eiffel Tower did slip into my mind. I wondered how, with these great defences, that managed to get where it is; but let that pass.
§ LORD SALTER
It is not part of a row of houses, and is a very different thing from what we are thinking of here.
I am not resting my argument on the Eiffel Tower, which is a very nice and jolly object. I shall be asking your Lordships not to accept my noble friend's Amendment. Before I do so, I should like to make one thing quite clear, and that is my right honourable friend is no less concerned than my noble friend Lord Conesford to do all that a legal Statute can do to make London not only a better place in which to live, but a better place to look at. I do not think that, on principle, there is anything here which divides us.
I should now like to come to the reasons why I cannot give the Government's blessing to my noble friend's Amendment. With his Amendment the power of the Minister to prescribe classes of development and areas for which applications are to be dealt with by the G.L.C. in Clause 24(4) would remain—certainly as I read his Amendment; but with his Amendment this power would operate only outside his central area. Within that area the G.L.C. would be the controlling authority for all development. My noble friend's Amendment would divide that central area by Statute.
I would remind your Lordships that the Royal Commission went into this whole matter carefully. They came to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the definitions of the central area which they had studied and set out in their map were unsatisfactory. The main difficulty that they saw in defining the area was that London was undergoing a period of rapid change, a process of urban renewal which they thought would, if anything, be accelerated; and I think that they were right about that. Therefore, they said if any definition were now attempted to-day for a central area they had great fear that in a few years' time it would be found to be unduly restrictive, and that we might well fail to put something into that definition which should be caught by it. For those reasons the Royal Commission recommended that my right honourable friend should take power by order to designate a central area and to specify the types of application within that area to be dealt with by the G.L.C.
Clause 24(4) of the Bill, broadly speaking, adopts that recommendation. In this 92 respect I would claim that what we are doing in the Bill—right or wrong—is much closer to the Royal Commission recommendation than what my noble friend Lord Conesford has suggested. The Royal Commission came down specifically against prescription of a central area. Clause 24(4) makes no specific reference to a central area, but, clearly, the case for unified control in such an area, which has been put forcibly to your Lordships, must be one of the matters which the Minister will have to consider when deciding on the use of these regulatory powers. I would suggest that it is far better to proceed in the more flexible way provided in the Bill than to try to define, as my noble friend does, by Statute and now, a central area. Regulations can be amended, so any prescription in that way can be adjusted to suit changing circumstances, and London is changing very fast at the present time.
§ LORD SILKIN
Am I to understand that the noble Earl is accepting the principle of unified control over some areas? What he is objecting to is the definition of a particular area for this purpose.
I am certainly objecting to the definition by Statute now of a particular area. I am saying that the possibility of unified control over a central area is certainly one of the things which my right honourable friend will wish to consider; and I am quite certain that he will consider it in the light of the arguments advanced in this Committee this evening when he comes to make the Regulations. But, of course, he will be consulting the whole range of authorities whose views he will also wish to consider.
May I just turn to the disadvantages of defining an area, or perhaps elaborate on them for a second now? It was pointed out in another place, I think—and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has mentioned it—that the "Lord Conesford central area" would exclude almost all the main railway stations, the Royal Mint and the Tower of London. It may or may not be right to exclude these important areas, important either by way of geography and economics, as the railway stations are, or important by way of history, as the Tower of London is. But I would suggest it would be far better to try to determine this matter after consultation with the authorities to 93 be set up under the Bill, and to embody those consultations in specific regulations, than for us in our wisdom, or in our lack of wisdom, to try to draw the boundaries here and now by Statute.
My noble friend's Amendment would also place all development control—and I stress the word "all"—in the central area with the Greater London Council. Again, I would remind your Lordships, if I may, that the Royal Commission did not go so far as this. They thought it would be better to specify from time to time particular types of application within specific areas which should be dealt with by the G.L.C., but they were not suggesting that all applications should be dealt with by the G.L.C. Here again I think that the Royal Commission and the Government are right, and that my noble friend, with respect, is wrong. All through this Bill we have been anxious to try to preserve the G.L.C. overall as the strategic authority—and I make no apology for using the word "strategic"; I think it is perfectly clear what we mean here by that term.
It will not be able, I suggest, to carry out its function effectively—and here I entirely agree with what my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross said—if we clutter it up to deal with a mass of detail and, very often, quite unimportant matters of development control. It would be quite wrong, in my view, to lay down that this great Council should concern itself, for example, with whether a shop in Victoria Street should be used for a particular purpose; but that is precisely the sort of responsibility which my noble friend, if he gets his Amendment accepted, will foist upon the Greater London Council. I do not know whether he wants that. All I can tell him is that that is the effect of our accepting his Amendment, and I, for one, think that it would be wrong.
I think that the noble Lord, in his Amendment, tends too much to overlook the local characteristics of the different areas, even towards the heart of London; and certainly, if his Amendment is carried, I think one result would be to reduce a great deal the quality and the virility of the new borough councils. Here again I must say how much I agreed with my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross, whom I was opposing just now. I believe that these boroughs can be 94 really effective, not only their councillors and their aldermen but also their officials. I should not wish to diminish the authority of boroughs in that respect, and I think, again, that if my noble friend's Amendment is accepted in its entirety that is likely to be one of the consequences.
I would feel quite differently about this if there were not already very full provisions in the Bill enabling the Greater London Council, sometimes with the Minister in the background, to control and guide the main lines of development in London (and not only, of course, in the central area) and to ensure that local development harmonises with the broad strategic plan which they will have to draw up. My noble friend's Amendment is specifically addressed to the question of development control because of where it comes. My noble friend queries that, but this clause of the Bill with which he is dealing in this subsection is related to development control. I was going to say that my noble friend expanded his remarks beyond the field of development control. I am not quarrelling with that, but as he has done so, and raised the whole question of unified development planning, I feel I must touch on that aspect in my reply and show how, at five stages at least, the Greater London Council will be able—not only in the central area, although very much in the central area—to exercise control over the development planning.
The first stage is the Greater London plan. In the Greater London plan, it will be able to lay down the factors of regional importance for the central area which the boroughs, in making their own local development plans, will have to take into account. Secondly, the local development plans: the borough plans, where they run into the central area, must accord with any such general prescription. As to the third stage, I would emphasise to my noble friend that the Greater London Council will inevitably be drawn in, sucked in, to the preparation of these local development plans. That will, of course, demand co-operation between the two planning tiers. I should hope and I should anticipate that we shall get that co-operation. I think it is absolutely essential, as my noble friend Lord Gage said.
95 Fourthly, the Greater London Council can give the Minister their views when they pass on the local development plans to him. They have to go through him. But, of course, they can also send back to the boroughs any local plan which goes against the principles laid down in the Greater London development plan. Fifthly—this is the fifth and final stage—the Minister himself can make any amendment to the local development plans to bring them into line with the greater plan if he so desires, in consultation, of course, where necessary with the Greater London Council. I do believe that those five stages are very important weapons which will enable the Greater London Council to ensure that the plan for the centre is in accordance with their own strategic concept for the centre.
To pass now to the development control, to which I think my noble friend's Amendment was more properly directed, there are again at least four stages which have the same effect. First, any development which would fall under the umbrella of the Clause 24(4) machinery would be dealt with by the Greater London Council. Secondly, other matters of more than local significance could and would be referred to the Greater London Council under the Clause 24(6) machinery. Thirdly, if there were a development application which represented a substantial departure from the Greater London development plan, it would require to be referred to the Minister under the Clause 24(6) machinery. Finally, there is the Clause 27(1) machinery, to which my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross referred. Given all this, I really do not see why we should not be able to secure really first-rate modern urban development right at the heart of London, and development which, broadly speaking, will fall within the concept of the Greater London plan.
As I said in reply to my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross, I think that here—it is perhaps a rash claim, because this is an exceedingly difficult and complicated matter, but this I would claim—we have the balance about right. But, just as the acceptance of Lord Colville of Culross's Amendment would upset that balance in one direction, so, by the same 96 token, acceptance of Lord Conesford's Amendment would upset, and totally upset, the balance in another direction. Because I believe this; and because I believe it is better in this admittedly difficult but very important field to rely upon the more flexible machinery which is written into the Bill; and because I believe there are very substantial safeguards which I have tried to outline to the Committee, I hope I may be able to carry your Lordships with me in asking you not to accept my noble friend's Amendment.
I would say in conclusion one thing. I agree that we all have, and rightly so, the future of central London very much at heart. I do not think this is in any way a party matter. Most, or some, of us are Londoners and we all know the central London area extremely well. I should very much hope that my noble friend would not press this matter to a Division.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
I have listened to the Minister of State, Home Office, with great care; he is always worth listening to with great care. But the more he went on the more I was convinced that the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, as between the two arguments, was right and the case that the noble Earl was putting for Her Majesty's Government was wrong. The central area of London is a very important area, and even if one allows for the bias that the Government have in favour of the London boroughs, to give them everything possible in the way of functions, and the Government bias against the Greater London Council to give that body as little as possible, here the balance of argument is eminently on the side of the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, and his Amendment.
Let us look at subsection (4) of Clause 24. There it is laid down:In relation to development of such a class in such area of Greater London as the Minister may by regulations prescribe the Greater London Council shall be the local planning authority for all relevant purposes of the Planning Act other Than the reception of applications for planning permission…Then it goes on to say that they should be addressed to the borough who will require to send it on to the Greater London Council, and then in respect of these defined categories of structures and 97 the area defined the Greater London Council, subject to appeal to the Minister, can proceed.
The noble Earl said in the course of his argument that it was wrong to define the Central London area. In the first place, the Minister will have, under subsection (4), an obligation to define an area administratively but outside effective Parliamentary supervision. He may have, at least, an order or a statutory instrument—I have forgotten which. In that position all you can do is vote for or against, whereas, in our judgment and, I hope, in that of the House, this area should be defined by Parliament and not left in the air to be defined by the Minister by order or regulation as the case may be. My other point is that the noble Earl does not want the Greater London Council to be bothered with town planning consent about a shop in Victoria Street. It need not be. The Greater London Council can delegate matters of lesser importance to the borough and, indeed, I think some matters are delegated now. They can do it under this legislation and under the Act which I believe the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, brought in.
So it is a choice between giving general power to the Greater London Council, subject to it, if it wishes, delegating part of it to the borough council; or giving it without Parliamentary supervision to the Minister, who again will proceed to make an area and to classify the matter which will come before the Greater London Council, and leave others to go to the borough. In either result, the end can be much the same. Therefore, the choice is between Parliament's deciding what this area would be and Parliament's deciding what the powers of the Greater London Council shall be. I think the Amendment which has been moved is reasonable in all the circumstances of the case.
It has been argued, I think by the noble Earl, that the area here may be imperfect; that the Tower of London is left out. The Tower of London is in the metropolitan barouah of Stepney, which is outside the City. I presume that is the noble Earl's point. There is nothing to prevent making an Amendment on Report stage whereby any minor troubles of that sort are put right. If the Minister wants to modify the area, that can be done by a Government 98 Amendment on Report stage. But I do not think all the London boroughs will be really able to deal, or that the London public will take it that it is right to filet these local authorities deal, with matters of such vast importance as the future of central London. They will want, I think, the Greater London Council to deal with it.
Having listened very carefully to the greater part of the debate, I think that the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, is right. I presume, having moved the Amendment, he cannot accept the Government's assurance, if they can give such an assurance, because they are in opposition to this Amendment. Therefore I would advise my friends and the Committee generally to support the Amendment and to press it with all possible vigour. I think it is of real importance to the interests of London and ought not to be so objected to by the Government.
§ LORD CONESFORD
I should like to thank my noble friend Lord Jellicoe very much for the details of his reply. I know that he will not expect me to be satisfied by his answer to the main point of my Amendment; but since that has been misunderstood a little by my noble friends Lord Gage and Lord Colville of Culross, perhaps they will forgive me if I make one thing clear. I put down these two Amendments and not any of the consequential Amendments which will certainly be involved if, as I hope, my principal Amendment is accepted. What I want to say at once to my noble friends Lord Gage, Lord Jellicoe and Lord Colville of Culross is that I am not mainly concerned with development control.
What troubles me about the Bill as it stands, in the absence of my Amendment, is that the proper development plan will never come into existence, because the formation of any development plan for central London ought to be done by a single body. Once that plan has been adopted I should not mind at all trusting some of these great boroughs in dealing with applications. There are various ways in which that matter could he dealt with, but this so called strategic plan of the Greater London Council will never deal with many of those three-dimensional matters with which it is absolutely vital that the planning of any great city shall deal.
99 My noble friend Lord Jellicoe dealt with all the various controls that would enable something very bad that conflicted with the general plan of the Greater London Council to be stopped. But we are not concerned only with stopping what is bad: we ought to be concerned with promoting what is good. And the promotion of what is good must depend on one body considering what is required for Central London, just as has been done in Philadelphia by a single
§ 7.20 p.m.
LORD LATHAM moved to add to subsection (3):
together with a copy of the application and such other information relating thereto and to the decision as the Greater London Council may reasonably require".
§ The noble Lord said: Now that we have moved into the field of town planning, perhaps it is appropriate that I should make a declaration of interest—namely, that I am a director of a company dealing with properties and their development. The purpose of this Amendment is principally procedural. It is designed to secure an adequacy of information for the Greater London 100 body and in every great and famous city in the world that has made a success of planning. It is for these reasons that I feel it necessary to press this Amendment.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 132A) shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 29; Not-Contents, 48.99
|Addison, V.||Faringdon, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Airedale, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Henderson, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Latham, L.||Strang, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Lawson, L.||Summerskill, B.|
|Attlee, E.||Longford, E.||Walston, L.|
|Burden, L.||Lucan, E.||Williams, L.|
|Champion, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Conesford, L. [Teller.]||Salter, L. [Teller.]||Williamson, L.|
|Crook, L.||Shackleton, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Derwent, L.||Ilford, L.|
|Aldington, L.||Devonport, V.||Jellicoe, E.|
|Ampthill, L.||Devonshire, D.||Jessel, L.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Dunleath, L.||Lambert, V.|
|Balfour of Inchrye, L.||Ebbisham, L.||Lansdowne, M.|
|Blackford, L.||Ferrers, E.||Long, V.|
|Bossom, L.||Forster of Harraby, L.||Lothian, M.|
|Boston, L.||Fortescue, E.||Luke, L.|
|Brecon, L.||Fraser of Lonsdale, L.||Margesson, V.|
|Carrington, L.||Gage, V.||Mersey, V.|
|Cawley, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Milverton, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Grenfell, L.||Monsell, V.|
|Colville of Culross, V.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Newton, L.|
|Colyton, L.||Hanworth, V.||Runciman of Doxford, V.|
|Craven, E.||Hastings, L.||St. Aldwyn, E. [Teller.]|
|Denham, L.||Hawke, L.||Wigram, L.|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ Council. Clause 24(3) of the Bill provides that a copy of every decision made by the London borough councils and the Common Council shall be sent to the Greater London Council. This will be of some value to the Council, but the decision alone, although perhaps in respect of a major development, could be very brief in form. The application will often contain important information not shown in the decision—that is the gravamen of the whole thing—which will assist in analysing the trends of development. For example, a decision on an application for a change of use may indicate only the proposed use and not that which is being discontinued. The total floor space in a new office development would not necessarily appear in a decision, but would be shown on the drawings 101 accompanying the application. The clause does not require drawings to be sent with the copy decision, nor is it considered necessary to require them.
§ The Amendment, therefore, seeks to ensure that the Greater London Council should receive a copy of the application and other relevant information which could be set out in brief form. It is considered that this probably would be of great value to the Greater London Council in assessing future planning policies, particularly in relation to planning standards, such as car parking, plot ratio, and density of building. The Amendment is merely an extension of the requirement in the clause that a copy of every decision should be supplied to the Greater London Council. I hope that the Government will be willing to accept what is clearly a desirable Amendment. I beg to move.
Page 32, line 42, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Latham.)
I quite understand why the noble Lord, Lord Latham, feels that it would be right for the Greater London Council to be kept fully in the picture about what is going on, by way of development, in the boroughs. The Royal Commission dealt with this point, and the Bill as drafted follows their recommendation. It has been indeed our intention in framing this legislation to do so in such a way that the Greater London Council will in fact be in touch with what the boroughs are doing. That is why the concluding words of Clause 24(3) require a borough to send a copy of their planning decisions to the Greater London Council.
That being so, I am not really clear, despite what the noble Lord has said, whether his Amendment would really serve a useful purpose. I should have thought that in most cases, at least, a copy of the decision would have told the Greater London Council most of what they wanted to know, and if they wanted more information about the particular development, having seen the decision of the borough, they could always ask for it. I should have thought, again, that given the sort of relationship between the boroughs and the Greater London Council which we expect to be established, the borough council concerned would not be "sticky" about providing that information.
102 I gather, too, from what the noble Lord said, that what he may have mostly in mind here is the sort of statistical information which may not necessarily appear in a decision but which is, at the same time, useful to the Greater London Council when they have in mind broad planning consideration. But there is no reason, so far as I can see, why the Greater London Council should not be able to obtain information of that sort from the boroughs through the machinery of Clause 26(1), under which they can require surveys to be carried out by the boroughs from time to time. I gather that some doubt has been expressed about the efficacy of the use of this power for this particular purpose, but I am assured, and I can assure the noble Lord, that it is quite adequate for this purpose; and this would, of course, be made crystal clear when the necessary circulars go out to the local authorities following the passage (I hope I am not anticipating) of this Bill.
I would suggest, therefore, that the Amendment is not needed, and I also have some doubt about whether it is really desirable. There is already some danger in the existing provision that by requiring the Greater London Council to receive a copy of every planning decision we are exposing them to an avalanche of paper. The Amendment would further increase the weight of that avalanche. I think we must, throughout this Bill, be careful not to clutter up the machine with unnecessary paper. I was on the point of using another phrase, but my noble Leader told me that it would be unparliamentary.
For those reasons, I must confess that I do not feel any passionate enthusiasm about this Amendment; but, by the same token, I must equally confess that I am not totally and irretrievably opposed to it. If noble Lords feel strongly that we should write in this extra requirement on the boroughs, then I, for one, having made my own reservations about it clear, shall not wish to dissuade your Lordships from so doing.
§ LORD SILKIN
I must say I am rather surprised at the way the noble Earl has dealt with this matter. He must realise that in many cases mere receipt of a decision does not give the Greater London Council adequate information. Then he says that they can write and ask for it. 103 On the other hand, he is saying that he does not want to add to the amount of paper. If the Greater London Council really require this information, and if the receipt of a decision is of any value to them, they will inevitably want to see what the application is. The noble Earl by his process is certainly adding far more to the amount of paper involved than if the boroughs straight away automatically gave the Greater London Council a copy of the application as well as of the decision and any other material documents. In those circumstances, I feel that this Amendment is fully justified. The noble Earl said that he does not feel passionate about it, and I do not suppose we do either; but as we think it is right, if he is prepared to accept it, we need not say any more about it, but move on to other pressing business.
I do not want to take up your Lordships' time, but what I said has been a little misunderstood. What I was endeavouring to say was that I did not think on every decision it would he necessary for the Greater London Council to have the application as well. Having seen the decision, they would realise that it was the type of planning case where they would want to see the application. I also added that if they wanted further statistical information I thought they could easily secure that under the machinery of Clause 26(1). Having said that, I should like to come back to what I said at the end of my reply: that if the general feeling of the Committee is in favour of placing this additional requirement upon the boroughs I should not wish to oppose it, and should be willing to accept this Amendment.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
I think we have reached the time for supper and, therefore, I beg to move that the Committee be adjourned during pleasure until 8.30.
§ Moved accordingly and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ [The Sitting was suspended at half-past seven and resumed at half-past eight.]104
LORD LATHAM moved in subsection (4) to leave out "Minister may by regulations prescribe" and insert
Greater London Council after consultation with the London borough councils and the Common Council and, with the consent of the Minister, shall prescribe".
§ The noble Lord said: This is an Amendment of some considerable importance, for it goes to the roots of the organisation of planning and control of development. We have been repeatedly told, in support of the provisions of this Bill, that they are based upon the recommendations of the Royal Commission. I now pray in aid that the submissions which I am going to make in support of this Amendment are based upon the recommendations of the Royal Commission and that there is equality between the two contending parties.
§ The Royal Commission recommended that application should normally be dealt with by the London boroughs, but that certain types of application, and applications in certain areas, should be dealt with by the Greater London Council. The Commission considered it to be important that the Minister should have the function of designating any of these special areas and of specifying also, from time to time, which types of application should be dealt with by the London boroughs and which by the Greater London Council. They thought it to be in the best interests of all concerned that the Minister should take the responsibility for such a decision rather than that the Greater London Council should be in a position to dictate to the boroughs—a sentiment which most of us, I think, would in the proper circumstances share.
The Commission gave some valuable examples of the types of application which they considered should be dealt with by the Greater London Council, such as for tall buildings which would alter an historic skyline, buildings which would greatly increase the number of office jobs, buildings proposed to be sited at historic points, and buildings which would involve the major replanning of highway accommodation even to considerable distances away from the site of the buildings. After giving such examples and referring specifically to the central area, which, in revelant connection, we have been discussing earlier
on this evening, the Commission Report states, and here I quote:
…nor have we found it possible to produce any definition which satisfies ourselves. The reason is that we envisage London as undergoing a period of rapid change, a process of urban renewal, which will, we believe, be accelerated during the coming generation. Indeed, we cannot see any possible solutions to London's problems in which a large degree of urban renewal does not play a part. If we were to attempt a definition today of the central area or the type of planning application which needs to be dealt with centrally, we have great fear that our definitions would be in a few years' time found to be unduly restrictive upon the Greater London Boroughs or, on the other hand, to have missed some development which is not suitable to be dealt with by a Borough alone. Life has a way of rendering definition; obsolete.
The Commission indicated here a very important point which we should like to stress, the need for as much flexibility as possible in the division of the development control function as between the London boroughs and the Greater London Council—a matter which, as I have said already, we have this evening been discussing. Ministerial regulations as proposed in the Bill are not considered to be a sufficiently flexible instrument for dealing with such matters of detail in a situation which may be constantly changing. Experience has shown that it is very difficult to secure any amendment of regulations, and that even when this is possible a long period of time is invariably involved in the process. The Times leader of December 6, 1962, commenting on the Bill, said as follows:
Ministerial regulation is too inflexible a way of determining which developments being of particular importance should fall to the Greater London Council for consideration.
§ It is also considered that the Greater London Council, as the planning authority charged with the responsibility for looking at planning of the London area as a whole, will be in much the best position to judge the sort of application and area which is beginning to become of more than borough significance in the context of Greater London as a whole. The Minister will, in the nature of things, be in less direct contact with new trends in what the Commission recognise as a period of rapid change likely to be accelerated during the coming generation. It is essential to tackle new situations when they first emerge. It is much more difficult later. It is considered that the procedure proposed in the Amendment 106 would be more effective and more efficient than that proposed by the Bill, as it will be much more flexible and capable of being quickly adapted to new circumstances. To meet the Commission's point that the Greater London Council should not be in a position to dictate to a borough, any proposed action by the Greater London Council in this way has been made specifically subject to consultation with the boroughs and the consent of the Minister. In these circumstances, I beg to move the Amendment.
Page 33, line 2, leave out from ("the") to the end of the line and insert the said new words.—(Lord Latham.)
I do not dissent from what the noble Lord, Lord Latham, said about the importance of this Amendment, and it is certainly clear-cut. It would place the responsibility for prescribing these regulations under subsection (4) of Clause 24 fairly and squarely on the Greater London Council, rather than on my right honourable friend. To be, I hope, equally clear-cut in reply, I should like to tell him straight away that I do not think this would be right. In the first place, I was surprised to heat the noble Lord, Lord Latham, pray in aid the Royal Commission in this respect. I was surprised for two reasons. In the first place, the Report of the Royal Commission has not much been prayed in aid from the Benches opposite during our discussion of the Bill.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
It is legitimate for the noble Earl to claim that he has a monopoly of the Royal Commission, which he nearly had, but that is no reason why we should not quote it when it suits us.
I would not, of course, deny the right of noble Lords opposite to quote the Royal Commission when it suits them. I was merely saying that I was surprised, given the tone of their past references and also because of what the Royal Commission have said in this respect. As the noble Lord, Lord Latham, said, they went into this matter extremely carefully and came to the conclusion that it was right to vest this particular responsibility in my right honourable friend. I should like to quote here what the Royal Commission have said. It is the 107 last two sentences of paragraph 774 of their Report which the noble Lord, Lord Latham, in part paraphrased. What they said was this:We think it is important that the Minister should have these functions because in effect their exercise would be to remove certain powers from the borough to the Council for Greater London. We believe it is in the best interests of all concerned that the Minister shall take the responsibility for this decision I rather than that the Council for Greater London should be in a position to dictate to a borough.They were talking there precisely on this question of the prescription of regulations covering the matters which are covered by Clause 24(4) of the Bill, at least as I understand it.
My second reason for believing that the noble Lord is wrong here is that, as in other matters, I believe that the Royal Commission were right in this respect. In some respects, at least, I think that the planning of the central areas of London is a matter of more than local importance. I said that in reply to Lord Colville of Culross's Amendment and I repeat it, because I believe that in some respects the planning of the central areas is a matter of at least regional, perhaps national and perhaps even international importance.
I should like to take as examples the planning of Piccadilly or of high buildings round the Royal Parks. As I do not wish to prejudge what my right honourable friend will say in this respect, I do not say that these particular things will be covered in his regulations, but this is the type of thing which will be covered; and if the concern of your Lordships for these matters is any yardstick, then, indeed, they are ones of national importance. It might be thought, and I, at least, most certainly consider, that in matters of that sort the responsibility for promulgating and, if necessary, for varying the regulations should be one which would be fairly and squarely placed on the responsible Minister.
I think it could be placed fairly and squarely on the Minister in this respect, but I would agree that there should be close consultation before he takes that decision, 108 not only with the boroughs but also with the Greater London Council. My third reason is this: usually in this matter we try to preserve a balance, and it is not an easy balance, between the boroughs and the Greater London Council. We are trying to get their respective responsibilities on to the right basis, and I feel it is right that the Minister, having heard the arguments on both sides, should weight the balance. It is proper that he should do so rather than that one of the interested parties should do so in this type of matter.
The fourth reason—here I was very surprised to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Latham, was saying—is that in a matter of this sort there is a great deal to be said for allowing Parliament to have the last say. This point the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, argued with great cogency when speaking to my noble friend Lord Conesford's Amendment before supper, but as I understand it—I may be wrong here—the noble Lord's Amendment will take this responsibility away from Parliament. As I see it, these regulations would not necessarily be subject to Parliamentary approval if we were to accept his Amendment.
§ LORD LATHAM
But they could be subject to Parliamentary approval. My Amendment does not prevent their being so regarded and dealt with.
It may be it does not. I should like to look at that particular matter, and I will undertake to do so; but I think that it would be far better if Amendments of this sort, if they are going to be subject to Parliamentary approval—as I think they should be—should be promulgated by the responsible Minister, and not by a local authority.
§ LORD LATHAM
If they were Parliamentary they could not be prescribed by a local authority, could they?
That is precisely what I was fearing. That is why I thought that the responsibility should vest in the Minister. This is a point I should like to look into. I am speaking quite "off the cuff" in this respect and am not speaking with the knowledge and the experience of the noble Lord, but this was precisely the point that was worrying me here.
109 There is no desire on our part to cut the G.L.C. out of consultation on this matter. We regard this whole question of planning the central area of London and planning in regard to this particular type of application which the Royal Commission had in mind as a matter of the very greatest importance, and it is certainly not our desire that on such matters the Greater London Council should be in any way excluded. As I have already mentioned in speaking to the Amendments moved by my two noble friends Lord Cones ford and Lord Colville of Culross, it is certainly my right honourable friend's intention here to enter into very full consultations both with the G.L.C. and with the boroughs before he promulgates these Amendments. But—and I come back to this point in conclusion—I feel that it is right to place fairly and squarely on the Minister, after due consultation with the local authorities concerned, the responsibility of promulgating these Amendments. It is for those reasons that I would ask your Lordships not to accept this Amendment.
§ LORD LATHAM
I gather the noble Earl says that this matter is relevant to the matters he had undertaken to consider with his right honourable friend? If that be the case, cannot this be considered in connection with those matters
I am sorry, but I think that the noble Lord may have misunderstood me. I do not think that I had undertaken to look into this particular matter with my right honourable friend.
Quite frankly—and I think that I must come back to this—I feel that the arguments I sought to adduce for placing this responsibility on my right honourable friend are in fact conclusive. It is right, I think, that the responsibility should rest with him. Much though I should like to fall in with the noble Lord's wishes here, in the light of the arguments so far advanced I do not think I would be right to do so.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment (No. 134A) shall be agreed to?109
|Addison, V.||Faringdon, L.||Morrison of Lambeth, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, E.||Henderson, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Archibald, L.||Latham, L.||Silkin, L.|
|Attlee, E.||Lawson, L.||Stonham, L.|
|Burden, L. [Teller.]||Longford, E.||Summerskill, B.|
|Champion, L.||Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Williams of Barnburgh, L.|
|Ailwyn, L.||Derwent, L.||Ingleby, V.|
|Albemarle, E.||Devonshire, D.||Jellicoe, E.|
|Ampthill, L.||Dilhorne, L. (L. Chancellor.)||Lansdowne, M.|
|Balfour of Burleigh, L.||Fortescue, E.||Lothian, M.|
|Boston, L.||Fraser of North Cape, L.||Margesson, V.|
|Brecon, L.||Goschen, V. [Teller.]||Milverton, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Grenfell, L.||Newton, L.|
|Cawley, L.||Hailsham, V. (L. President.)||Somers, L.|
|Chesham, L.||Hampden, V.||Stuart of Findhorn, V.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Hanworth, V.||Tweedsmuir, L.|
|Colyton, L.||Hastings, L.||Waldegrave, E.|
|Conesford, L.||Ilford, L.||Wigram, L.|
|Denham, L. [Teller.]|
Resolved in the negative, and Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 135. Its purpose is to 111 ensure that the Greater London Council shall deal with any applications made under Section 43 of the Planning Act which may involve development of such a class in such areas of Greater London as the Minister may prescribe in a regulation to be made by him under Clause 24(4) of the Bill. Section 153 enables anyone proposing to carry out any operations on land or to make any change in the use of land to have it determined whether development of land is involved. If the Greater London Council are to deal with planning applications, or set in prescribed class of development, they should also have the power—and this is the importance of the Amendment—to decide whether any particular proposed operation falling within such class would constitute or involve development, and to give a determination accordingly.
§ Section 43(1) of the Planning Act provides that an application for such determination may be made as part of an application for planning permission. It would be illogical and undesirable for one planning authority to deal with one part of an application and then pass it on to another local planning authority to deal with the other part of the same application. If, nevertheless, something on these lines is envisaged by the Ministry, the position could arise where a borough might determine, in a matter of some consequence, that no development was involved, whereas the Greater London Council might not have taken this view and might have gone on then to refuse permission for the application.
§ Applications for determination can also be made separately from an application for permission and on occasion are made consequent on the receipt of a planning refusal. They would still be received in the boroughs in the first instance, but if the operation proposed falls within one of the prescribed classes or areas, the application should be forwarded to the Greater London Council for determination. Shortly put, it is a matter for resolving the course and nature of the procedure. I beg to move.
Page 33, line 2, at end insert the said words.—(Lord Latham.)
§ LORD HASTINGS
As the noble Lord said, Section 43 of the Planning Act provides 112 machinery by which anyone can find out whether planning permission is required for something they wish to do. They apply to the local planning authority. Often the request is accompanied by a planning application asking for permission, if permission is required. The majority of these applications will be for small things, generally change of use, with which the borough council can appropriately deal. But the Amendment as moved would send all these applications, without exception, to the Greater London Council, and I do not think that that is quite what the noble Lord intends. He is referring to the class of development alluded to in Clause 24(4). Even in that respect the borough council is left to do the initial sorting out and to send on what is necessary to the Greater London Council. Therefore, I do not think it could possibly be a reasonable suggestion to send all applications under Section 43 to the Greater London Council on the chance that some might involve such development. We feel that a borough council is perfectly capable of sorting this out for itself.
On the other hand, if the noble Lord wishes to confine the cases under Section 43 which would be sent to the Greater London Council to the few matters which would specifically concern Clause 24(4) of the Bill, then we feel we could accept this Amendment in principle, but we should wish to find some different words in order to make clear that the scope of the Amendment is limited to these particular cases. We do not wish to load the Council with all applications under Section 43, but would be willing for borough councils to have the obligation to send on to the Greater London Council those which are limited to development under Section 24(4). My advice is that words to that effect could he found. If that is also the intention of noble Lords opposite, we should be willing to put down the appropriate Amendment at Report stage.
§ LORD LATHAM
I am much obliged, and in reliance on that statement I am quite willing to withdraw the Amendment.
§ LORD MOLSON
May I ask a question on drafting? The Amendment says, "which may involve such development". Does that not apply to what is provided for in subsection (4)? Is my noble friend correct in suggesting that the Amendment 113 as drafted would include all minor matters? Do not the words, "such development" apply only to those cases which, if they did not come under Section 43 of the Planning Act, would already be contained in subsection (4)?
§ LORD HASTINGS
On first reading the Amendment I had hoped that that was the result, but my advice is that it is not so, and that because of the words "that it may involve" everything would have to be sent to the Greater London Council to determine whether it involved such development or not.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.5 p.m.
§ LORD CHAMPION moved, in subsection (4), to leave out words after "made to them" down to and including the words "local planning authority". The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 136 and 137 go together. This afternoon your Lordships have shown such a mastery of the 226 sections and 15 Schedules of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962, that in relation to this Amendment it is necessary for me to remind you of only Section 42 of that Act. This section makes provision for development of land owned by a local authority which is also the local planning authority for the area in which the land is situate. An application by such an authority for planning permission to develop that land, as I understand it, has to be made, not of course to itself, but to the Minister, who shall have power to grant such an application unless the proposed development has been dealt with by the regulations expected to be made under the Act, or the development is entirely in conformity with the existing development plan.
§ The purpose of these Amendments is to provide that the Greater Landon Council shall be treated as the local planning authority for the purposes of its own development. Under the provisions now in the Bill, the Greater London Council would have to apply to the London borough concerned for planning permission to carry out any development necessary for its statutory functions, even if such proposed development were entirely in conformity with the development plan. For it is the case that under this Bill the borough councils are to be the local planning 114 authorities for the reception of application for planning permission. The London borough council, on the other hand, would not need to seek planning permission provided its proposed development did not involve a substantial departure from the development plan and was not in a class or area covered by the regulations to be made by the Minister under this clause.
§ I am aware of the fact that the Minister may by regulation except certain classes of development or areas from the requirement making it necessary for the Greater London Council to seek planning permission from a London borough council. What we are seeking to do by these Amendments is to try to ensure the recognition of the Greater London Council as a highly responsible authority, whose planning function must be of metropolitan significance. We think it can be fairly assumed that any development the Greater London Council would make of its own land would be of a wider significance than purely a borough one. The Greater London Council as a local planning authority may be expected to treat its own development as being in accordance with proper planning principles. It ought, therefore, we say, to be in precisely the same position as every local planning authority in the country in relation to the development of its own land. I beg to move.
Page 33, line 10, leave out from ("them") to ("but") in line 14.—(Lord Champion.)
§ LORD HASTINGS
The noble Lord, Lord Champion, is perfectly correct, of course, in putting the position as he has: namely, that local planning authorities can give themselves permission, provided they refer to the Minister anything which is a substantial departure or a departure likely to cause injury to amenities or is otherwise development likely to raise controversy. But in the case we are dealing with, the local planning authorities are, or will be, the new London boroughs, and they will be in the position which the noble Lord opposite and I have described.
This Amendment and the next go together. In this clause the Greater London Council is to be the planning authority in respect of special development which has been nominated by my 115 right honourable friend under Clause 24(4). But we do not see why all the operations of the Greater London Council should be done as though they were the subject of local planning permission by the Greater London Council. We feel there is no case for this. The Greater London Council will be building in the areas of other local authorities for housing. It will have statutory obligations in respect of the inner London area for schools and for metropolitan roads, but there is no reason why it should not go through the London borough in order to get planning permission in the regular way. It is not a superior body, and we do not wish to put it into that position. The Government's view has always been that this is not a two-tier system and that the division of powers should be perfectly clear. The Greater London Council will have quite specific powers in relation to planning but they are not to be overlapping powers with the local borough councils.
For instance, if we take a nationalised board it might be said that that is a matter of importance, but it has to go through the ordinary planning authorities in order to get planning permission, and we do not think there is any case for making the Greater London Council its own planning authority in respect of any operation it undertakes anywhere in Greater London. I think the borough councils could reasonably complain at having matters taken out of their hands solely because the Greater London Council is the developer, irrespective of the nature of the development. I can see that this is a fundamental difference between the two sides, and there is no prospect of my being able to accommodate the noble Lord in respect of this matter. I think the only case in which the Greater London Council should be its own planning authority is that laid down in Clause 24(4).
§ LORD CHAMPION
The noble Lord has said that the Greater London Council is not a superior body. As I understood the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, he told us when replying to an Amendment by the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, that it is to be the body responsible far strategic planning and therefore clearly will have an overall significance in this regard. I do not think his instancing of a nationalised board is a good one. The 116 board of a nationalised undertaking quite clearly is not a planning authority in the same sense as the Greater London Council will be. The Greater London Council has clearly a definite planning function and would not do anything which would depart from the overall plan which it has itself assisted to prepare, or has prepared. I must say that I do not regard the noble Lord's reply as satisfactory, but I do not feel that this is an Amendment upon which we should divide. I therefore propose to ask leave to withdraw it and consider this matter further between now and the Report stage.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ LORD SILKIN moved, in subsection 6(b), to leave out "or to the Minister". The noble Lord said: I beg to move Amendment No. 138 and with it will go, I think conveniently, Nos. 139, 140 and 141. Subsection (6) of Clause 24 empowers the Minister to make regulations regarding applications which come in paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) of subsection (6) and for the giving of directions by the authority to whom such applications are to be referred. That is to say, these are cases where it is thought that the borough councils should not deal with the applications without their being referred, as in the clause as drafted, to the Minister or to the Greater London Council. The assumpton is that these are applications of some importance—because they conflict with a plan, or because they are major matters which we discussed earlier this afternoon and which ought to be dealt with by the Greater London Council and by the Minister.
§ The short point of my Amendment is that all these matters should go, in the first instance, to the Greater London Council, who are, after all, responsible for the overall plan. Therefore any application which is sufficiently important to justify its being taken out of the hands of the borough council is one of which the Greater London Council ought to be aware. The whole series of Amendments that I am putting forward would create the position that every such application would be referred simultaneously, to the Greater London Council and to the Minister, who would give the Greater London Council an opportunity of expressing their views and would ultimately come to a decision.117
§ I am trying to condense the substance of these Amendments, but the object, as I understand it, is to give the Greater London Council not only knowledge of any application of the kind I have described (which may be at variance with the plan, or may involve matters of great importance which will involve their being informed of such applications), but also the opportunity of making representations and expressing their views. It seems to me a perfectly sound thing to ensure that the body responsible for making the overall plan should know of any proposal which is intended to vary it. It was suggested. I think, in another place that these variations may be very slight. That may be so; but, even so, I think that the Greater London Council ought to be aware of them and ought to be able to make representations on them. After all, what is a slight variation is, in a great many cases, a matter of opinion, and no harm will be done if they have this opportunity in all cases. For these reasons, which I have put very shortly, I beg to move Amendment No. 138.
Page 33, line 40, leave out ("or to the Minister").—(Lord Silkin.)
§ 9.20 p.m.
I am very grateful to the noble Lord For the brevity with which he has moved this Amendment. There is one point I should like to be clear about in my mind straight away; that is, whether we are taking this Amendment and the Amendments linked fairly closely to it together. If that is the way the noble Lord would like me to deal with this, I shall try to deal with them under the same umbrella.
§ LORD SILKIN
If the noble Earl deals with them all together, I must reserve the right to come back to any particular Amendment; but, as he said, they are all on the same point.
I entirely agree with the noble Lord, and I quite understand the reservation he has made. Although respecting the brevity with which he has moved this Amendment, I feel it would be helpful if I were to state briefly the reasons which have led us to write paragraph (b) on machinery into this subsection of the Bill. I think it might be helpful ever if it takes a minute or two. We have done this because we 118 have wished to import into the new London machinery the provision which is operating generally elsewhere. As noble Lords know, my right honourable friend has required, or his predecessors have required, planning authorities to notify the Minister of any application they propose to approve which is a departure from a development plan, if it is a substantial departure or one which seriously damages amenity. This subsection will also enable the Minister to require other kinds of application to be referred by a borough council to the Greater London Council.
Your Lordships will see from paragraph (b) of this subsection that certain cases will fall to be referred to the Greater London Council under the regulations to be made under this part of the clause. The sorts of thing which my right honourable friend has in mind here are, for example, developments affecting a metropolitan road or some other development which might have important traffic control implications. The category of cases which would be referred to the Minister under this paragraph are those which involve substantial departures from a local development plan. The object of this double line of reference, if I may so term it, is that, while the Greater London Council would fall to be consulted on matters of more than borough significance, there will be other matters which do not carry such significance but where nevertheless it may very well be desirable that the public, or interested members of the public, should be able to express their opinions; and that would be the main object of providing for reference to my right honourable friend.
What would the position in this sort of category be? The Minister will have approved the development plan after a local inquiry. If the planning authority wished to approve something which substantially departs from it, the Minister is told under this procedure, so that if he thinks an inquiry should first be held he can calf in an application and arrange for the necessary inquiry. The purpose of making this distinction is not to bring the Minister as opposed to the Greater London Council into the decision making process, but rather to enable him to initiate the inquiry machinery and bring the public in where this is felt to be 119 necessary. In such a case I hope that I should carry your Lordships with me in suggesting that there is no point in referring an application of that sort to the Greater London Council, or for providing, as I think the noble Lord's Amendment is intended to provide, for the application to come through the Greater London Council to the Minister. The Greater London Council will not have the powers to trigger off an inquiry, and to introduce them as a step on the way to the Minister would have as an inevitable result a certain slowing up of the whole planning machine. I would suggest that it would be a mistake for us gratuitously to import into the machine an element which would have that effect, since delays in planning are among the accusations which are most constantly made against the whole of our planning machinery.
I would also suggest that it would be a mistake to clutter up the Greater London Council with work which is not the sort of work with the larger strategic implications which we feel should be their proper concern. We must remember that the departure from a local development plan may be quite substantial, may affect amenity and may well arouse a lot of local interest, and indeed opposition; but although it may do all those three things it may not be a departure from the Greater London development plan and it may have no larger significance whatsoever. In such cases I would suggest that it is best that the reference is left straight to the Minister, as is provided for in the Bill.
Having said that, may I, in conclusion, again remind your Lordships that if the departure from the local development plan involves a departure from the Greater London development plan, or is in some other way of wider regional significance, then it will already go to the Greater London Council under the regulation-making powers provided elsewhere in the Bill? In fact the Bill provides ample machinery for bringing to the attention of the Greater London Council all those things which are of real concern to them in their regional planning capacity, and I think there is little case for cutting out the separate channel provided for in this part of paragraph (b) of subsection (6)—the separate direct channel between the borough 120 council and the Minister on other, lesser, local matters. For these reasons I suggest that your Lordships should not accept Amendment No. 138.
I am not certain that I am in order in so doing, but if I may speak briefly to Amendment No. 139 under this general umbrella, I would just say that I think on this Amendment there is not very much between the noble Lords opposite and myself. As I understand it, that Amendment seeks to ensure that before giving directions the Minister should consider any Greater London Council representations, and also that he should notify the Greater London Council of any directions which he may have made.
May I ask a question of the noble Earl? I do not quite understand this. Is the Minister going to receive any form of representations from the Greater London Council which will enable him to operate in this way? If the application is not going to the Greater London Council, how is the Minister to know what their view is?
Since I see this is a little complicated, I think it might be better if we could come back to Amendment No. 139 rather than try to catch it under this particular umbrella. I had hoped that it would be possible to deal with them both at the same time, but if we do I think we shall get rather involved. I would suggest—and I am now restricting myself to Amendment No. 138, and placing myself more within order—that for the reasons I have attempted to give, your Lordships would be right not to accept it.
§ LORD SILKIN
I am sorry the noble Lord is so unreceptive. In the first place, the clause, as it stands, is rather vague. Paragraph (b) of subsection (6) saysin the case of an application falling to be dealt with by a London borough council or the Common Council, to the Greater London Council or to the Minister".Who decides to whom the application goes? It is perfectly vague. I was suggesting that the words "or to the Minister" should be cut out, because that is covered by paragraph (c). But if you allow it to stand in the Bill, it is really making a nonsense. Does it mean that it is to go to the Greater London Council? Does it mean that it is to go to the Minister? Or does it mean both? Who 121 is to decide? I really think the subsection needs clarification in any case. I would therefore suggest that the noble Earl might very well reconsider paragraph (b) and make his own meaning clear. I have tried to make clear what I thought ought to be its meaning, but as it stands the wording is not at all clear. I think the best way of dealing with it is for the noble Earl to give an assurance that (b) will be looked at again, not only with a view to making it clear but also in the light of the Amendment that I have moved.
I should like to be as responsive as I can to the noble Lord here, because I personally found the greatest difficulty in interpreting to my own satisfaction the precise meaning of this particular subsection. I think that the answer here is that the precise determination of what should go to the Greater London Council and what should go to the Minister will be provided for in the regulations which are to be made under subsection (6). That is a point I should like to be able to check upon.
I should also like to say—without in any way departing from the substance of the case which I have sought to put before your Lordships this evening, because I think there is real substance in the main point I was making—that there are certain matters which will be quite unnecessary, and indeed undesirable, for the Greater London Council to be troubled with. Without departing from the substance of that, I should like the chance of seeing whether the precise division of functions here could not be more easily provided for from a drafting point of view.
§ LORD SILKIN
Would the noble Earl, when considering the drafting of it, also consider whether it would not save a great deal of trouble if, in the long run, the Greater London Council were informed of all these applications, which in any case involve a departure from the plan? If they are trivial, then no further action will be taken by the G.L.C. If they are important, they can make representations to the Minister. It does not follow that in every single case they would find it necessary to make representations. I hope the noble Earl will take that point into account: and, without asking him to reply, I will withdraw the Amendment on the assurance 122 that he will at any rate look at this paragraph (b) again.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
Amendment No. 139 provides simply that, before making any such directions, the Minister will consult the Greater London Council. I think it would be wise in any case that he should do so; and I do not think it is necessary for me to develop the argument. What I am asking is exactly what the Amendment says. Any wise Minister, before issuing directions, consults with the authority who are going to be affected by it, and all that I am asking is that it should be definitely stated in the Bill that they should be so consulted. I beg to move.
Page 34, line 2, after ("with") insert ("and before giving any such directions as aforesaid in relation to any application mentioned in the foregoing paragraph (c) the Minister shall consider any representations made by the Greater London Council as to the manner in which the application is to be dealt with and shall notify the Greater London Council of any direction so made by him").—(Lord Silkin.)
Could I first, in replying, deal with the point which I deferred and which the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, raised? It is my understanding that, so far as Amendment No. 139 is concerned, we are here dealing with an application which would already have been referred to the Greater London Council, because it is an application of the sort covered by the Minister's regulations specifying which applications should be so referred—that is, regulations which would have been made under paragraph (b) of subsection (6) of Clause 24. So it will already have come within the Greater London Council's purview.
That said, I wish to remind the Committee that, under the clause as it stands, the Minister gives directions to the referring council. In the kind of case which we are talking about, that would be the authority which had referred the case to him—namely, the Greater London Council. As I understand it, the noble Lord's Amendment would seek to ensure that, before giving directions, the Minister would consider any representations made to him by the Greater London Council, and also would notify them of any directions made by him. Now I think I can 123 satisfy him—at least, I hope I can—that this is already provided for in the Bill as it stands. In the first place, the Greater London Council will be free, quite free, to say whatever they like when they pass the application to the Minister, and they would of course say why the application should be approved and what there is about the particular application which has led them to send it to the Minister. There is nothing to stop them from doing this, and I should have thought that, on any matter to which they attached importance, they would in fact be bound to do precisely this.
So far as notification of the Minister's decision is concerned, I would merely point out that the clause already provides that the Minister will give any directions direct to them, so they are bound to be notified of the Minister's decision. I therefore feel that the substance of what the noble Lord wishes here is already provided for in the Bill as it stands.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
I wonder whether my noble friend could just clarify this matter a little further to me. As I understood him to say earlier when he was referring to paragraph (b) of subsection (6), there may be cases which are referred straight to the Minister from the borough council without going through the intermediate stage of the Greater London Council. This seems to me to be the same point as appears in the last two lines at the bottom of page 33, where there is envisaged the case of the referring council going straight to the Minister without in the meantime going to the Greater London Council.
Now in the case of a planning application, or something of that nature, which is called in, under the normal county system, where there is delegated planning, the proper planning authority, who are the county council, would have full cognisance of the facts of the case and would be able to make their representations to the Minister. If there is going to be a series of cases where the G.L.C. are missed out, I feel, with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that they must at any rate have an opportunity to appear in front of any inquiry which takes place, and make any representations that they think fit. I wonder 124 whether the wording in this clause as it stands really covers this point.
I think it covers this point, because I sought earlier on Amendment No. 138 to show your Lordships that there were certain types of application where it was quite proper that the Greater London Council should be by-passed; and I am not saying "bypassed" in the sense that they should be deliberately circumvented, but am referring to where the application is of such a type that it is not of immediate concern to the Council. I assume that we are dealing here with that type of application which is precisely what my noble friend had in mind. I would sense that we are in this particular matter in fairly deep planning water and, if the noble Lord would permit me, I should like to have a close look between now and Report stage at the remarks made to the Amendment, because I will not hide for one moment that I find this a difficult part of the Bill and I should like to have the chance of seeing whether I had understood it aright. I hope I did.
§ LORD SILKIN
I should be glad to withdraw the Amendment on that understanding. I understand that the noble Earl is saying that my Amendment is actually covered in the clause. I do not think it is, but I should not like to lay heavy odds on it, and neither would he. I think it best that we should both have a look at it again. I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD SILKIN moved, after subsection (6), to insert:
( ) Where by virtue of regulations made by the Minister under section 42 of the Planning Act an application for permission is required to be made to the Minister by the Council of a London borough or the Common Council, as the case may be, a copy of the application shall be sent to the Greater London Council at the same time as the application is made to the Minister and the minister shall consider any representations made by the Greater London Council as to the manner in which the application is to be dealt with.
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment is designed to deal with cases where a local planning authority proposes itself to carry out development which involves a substantial departure from the development plan. In such case the authority 125 is required to submit an application to the Minister, who grants or refuses permission, but there is no obligation on the Minister to inform the Greater London Council or to give them an opportunity of making representations. The Amendment is designed to ensure that in the case I have referred to, the Greater London Council should be informed of the application at the same time as the application is made to the Minister; and that the Minister should be required to consider any representations made by the Greater London Council. That seems to me to be a self-evident proposition. Where a borough is seeking permission to depart from the plan in a material sense—a plan which is made by the Greater London Council—it seems self-evident that the Greater London Council should be notified about the application to depart from it and given information about it, and should have the opportunity of making representations. I beg to move.
Page 34, lime 9, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Silkin.)
We are here in the area of Section 42 of the Planning Act. That section, together with the regulations in a circular which flowed from it, requires the planning authority to inform the Minister of any development they wish to carry out which amounts to a departure from the development plan and which is substantial or likely to damage amenities. The effect of the noble Lord's Amendment is to require a copy of any such application to be sent to the Greater London Council so that they can send their comments to the Minister. I can well see the purpose of this Amendment. If its object were to make certain that the Greater London Council knew of borough projects which have a significance which go beyond the borough, the larger matters which in our scheme of things are designed to come under the umbrella of the Council, then I think I can assure the noble Lord that this is adequately covered in the Bill as it stands.
Where a borough wishes to carry out a development of special or regional significance of the kind covered by regulations which my right honourable friend intends to make under Clause 24, then it will be the Greater London Council itself and not the borough which will be the 126 local planning authority. Thus it would be the council itself which would have to seek the Minister's approval under Section 42 of the Planning Act and, of course, it would know all about the issue from the start.
Going back to my earlier argument, I think there is no point and some harm, as we see things, in bringing the Council into planning issues which are of purely local significance. A borough housing scheme, for example, may well involve a controversy as a departure from the local development plan, but I can see no point in involving the Greater London Council at all, as the Amendment would do, unless the project concerned had a wider significance. To take another example, a borough may wish to convert a room of a private house from residential use to use as a council office. This might annoy somebody in the neighbourhood and there might well be a great local rumpus about it. In that circumstance, it might be highly desirable for the borough concerned to invoke Section 42 machinery; but surely this is not the sort of matter with which the Greater London Council should in any way be concerned.
I do not want to reiterate what I have been saying, but this will merely clutter up the planning machinery. If it is a matter about which, for one reason or another, the Greater London Council is exercised, and if, as a result of the invocation of Section 42 machinery, the Minister decides to institute a local inquiry, the Council would be perfectly entitled to give evidence at that inquiry. By the same token, there is no reason at all why the Minister should not consult the Council on any matter of this sort which had been referred to him by a borough, if he felt that there was a regional or wider significance in the matter. While not unsympathetic to the purpose behind this Amendment, I do not feel that I can advise your Lordships to accept it.
§ LORD SILKIN
Here I think we are in fundamental disagreement. In my view, as the authority responsible for the overall plan the Greater London Council ought to know of any matters that come within the scope of this Amendment. The noble Lord thinks that there are some cases where it is not necessary. Who decides whether it is an important application or not? Who decides in what cases the Council will be notified 127 and in what cases they will not be notified? He says, quite glibly, if he will forgive the expression, that they will be informed in important cases, but there will be trivial cases where they will not be. Who defines what is important and what is trivial? You can have quite a big argument about the matter which may take up much more of the time and energies of the local authorities concerned than by simply making it a routine matter—and there will not be a great many of these things—that the Greater London Council should be informed in all cases.
I hope that the noble Earl will be prepared to look at this matter again. I am not asking him to give an undertaking, because I will come back to it at a later stage. However, I hope that on reconsideration he may feel either that some means can be devised by which the trivial can be separated from others or, as the Amendment lays it down, that all cases should be referred to the Greater London Council.
§ LORD LATHAM
The noble Earl mentioned as an example an individual building to be reconstructed or replaced. Could not this proposal be limited to area development rather than individual premises or buildings? For instance, would it not apply to the development of a town centre?
I am not a Parliamentary draftsman, and I speak subject to correction here, but I think the proposal could be limited in order to cut out the individual application or the very minor one not dealing with matters of area significance. But that is not the Amendment with which we are at present dealing. So far as the specific question which the noble Lord has put to me is concerned, I think that what I was saying would certainly cover an area development by a borough council which did not happen to be either of regional significance or involve a departure from the Greater London Development plan. Provided it did neither of those things, then my argument would still stand, and I think I am meeting the difficult case here.
§ LORD LATHAM
Stand on the basis of the present Amendment. The Amendment could be adjusted on the lines indicated.
What I was saying was that I was trying to meet this argument on its most difficult point, where there would appear to be an important development in the hands of a borough council, but a development of a type which did not have a wider significance (though I should have thought that an area development of a central area would have such significance), and which also did not amount to a departure from the Greater London Development plan. Then I would suggest that a development of that sort undertaken by a borough council could well be under Section 42 and should be submitted direct to the Minister. I am not certain that we are diverging on principle here, as the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, suggested, because I think a development of this sort would almost inevitably, first, be of regional significance, and secondly, would involve a departure from the Greater London Development plan if it had not already been written into the local development plan.
I do not know whether the noble Earl will reconsider this, but it seems to me that the Greater London Council as the guardian of the strategic plan ought to be in touch with all variants of the plan, even though it be on a lower level. It seems to me difficult to know what would be a purely local variant of a local plan which would have no influence on a general plan. I should have thought it was desirable that the Greater London Council should always be kept informed of all changes of plan at any level. It seems to me that little nibblings away might easily in the end vitiate very seriously the main strategic plan. I hope the noble Earl will look at this matter again.
I was anxious not to elevate this (as I thought the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, did) into a great dispute over principle. If I correctly understand what the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, has said, it has now been de-elevate from a point of major principle. I do not think we are discussing a point of major principle, and if the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, would see fit to withdraw this Amendment, I am quite prepared to have another look at this point. But I do not think, especially if we are dealing with the Amendment as drafted at present, that I could come 129 back at Report stage and say, "On re-examination, this appears right"—that is, if we are dealing with the matter as drafted.
§ LORD LATHAM
If the noble Earl deals with this on Report stage, I hope it will not be on the basis that the Amendment as drafted is immutable.
§ LORD SILKIN
If the noble Earl is able to distinguish between one kind of case and another which comes within Section 42, and any other kind of case, I should be perfectly prepared to consider that and see whether he can distinguish between what is a serious departure and what is not. I think he will find it very difficult. It is for that reason that the Amendment is drafted to make it a requirement that all departures should be notified to the Greater London Council. It did not seem to me to be a very onerous duty, because I cannot visualise borough councils constantly making departures from their plan or seeking to depart from the Greater London Plan. It would not involve this enormous amount of work and cluttering up to which the noble Earl has referred. However, he has promised to think about it again, and certainly I am not wedded to the words of this Amendment. In these circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 9.57 p.m.
LORD SILKIN moved, after subsection (6), to insert:
( ) The Greater London Council may deal with any particular application falling within paragraph (b) of the last foregoing subsection, and in relation to any such application that Council shall be deemed to be the local planning authority for all purposes of the Planning Act other than the reception of the application.
§ The noble Lord said: This Amendment falls into the category of those I have been discussing earlier—that is, from No. 138 onwards—because here we are seeking to provide that where an application is referred to the Greater London Council the Council should have the right to call in the application and deal with it as if the application had been originally made to the Council. It seems to me that this is the most convenient way of proceeding, rather than for the Council to give directions to the London borough concerned as to how it is to deal with a particular 130 application. Once it comes within the category of an application which has to be referred to the Greater London Council, surely the simplest way and the method in the best interests of general planning is for the Greater London Council to deal with it as if the application had been originally made to them—in other words, to call it in. This is all part of the structure of this particular clause, and I hope the Minister will see his way to give this Amendment consideration. I beg to move.
Page 34, line 9, at end insert the said subsection—(Lord Silkin.)
I am just as anxious as noble Lords opposite that we should get this Part of the Bill as right as we can. The matters which we are discussing may well appear to be rather dry and legalistic, but beneath all this legalese what we are really discussing is the shape and skyline of the London of the future. We all know how important these legalistic forms can be. We all know, for example, how much difference has been made to the shape of the London sky-line over these decades by the question of whether or not the 10 per cent. shall be judged on the cube or on the square. Therefore I entirely agree that we should not let these things go by lightly. So I hope, having said that, that noble Lords will believe me when I say that we are just as anxious as they are that we should get this as right as we can at the present time, and also that the Greater London Council, as a strategic planning unit, should be given by us planning teeth sharp enough to bite effectively on those planning applications which should properly concern them.
However, I do have doubts here again about this particular Amendment. In the first place, I should have thought that a lot of the matters about which noble Lords opposite are concerned will fall to be dealt with under the Clause 24(4) machinery. Given that machinery, I assume—and I have been reinforced in this assumption by what the noble Lord has said—that the purpose of this Amendment is to enable the Greater London Council to call in any application referred to them under Clause 24(6) machinery rather than, as the Bill provides, to give directions to the boroughs 131 as to the way in which such applications should be handled.
I do not think that this change is really necessary for two reasons. In the first place, there is the Section 24(4) machinery under which the Greater London Council will, from the start of planning applications which have this wider significance, be the planning authority pur sang. Secondly, I do not think that it is necessary since the Greater London Council, at least as I understand it, would be able to do, under Section 24(6), by way of direction, all that they could do by way of "call in". For those reasons—and I should like to put this as briefly as possible—I am at this moment not disposed to feel that we should accept this Amendment. At the same time, I have all through found great difficulty in this particular subsection (6) of Clause 24. If we are looking at these other matters under this subsection, I am perfectly prepared, although I must safeguard myself by saying without commitment, to have a look at this particular issue as well.
§ LORD SILKIN
I am very much obliged. I join with the noble Earl in finding some difficulty in subsection (6) and as this is an Amendment to subsection (6) I think it is sensible that if the noble Earl's Department is going to look at it again they should also look at it in the context of this Amendment. I should like to say, perhaps in apology to the Committee, that I did not develop this at any length because I felt that the right solution was that the whole subsection should be looked at again. But I could have given a great many examples of cases where I should have thought it was right that the Greater London Council should be able to call in in matters of the greatest importance. I deliberately did not wish to bore the Committee at this late hour, and I do not propose to do so now, but I should like to suggest that in this further consideration—and as the noble Earl said, this is very important—it might be wise to have consultations about it. I do not mind with whom; with me, if you like; at any rate, I am available if the noble Earl feels that I can be of any use. Certainly there should be consultations, possibly with the London County Council, or anyone else the noble Earl thinks right, between now and Report stage. There again I am sure the 132 noble Earl cannot give a decision here and now, but having made that suggestion I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 10.6 p.m.
LORD HASTINGS moved, after subsection (7) to insert:
7A. Any reference in Part III of the Land Compensation Act 1961 to the local planning authority shall be construed in relation to land in a London Borough or the City as a reference to the borough council or, as the case may be, the Common Council; but that council shall consult with the Greater London Council before issuing a certificate under section 17 of that Act in any case where an application for planning permission for any development to which the certificate would relate would fall to be dealt with by the Greater London Council.
§ The noble Lord said: The Government feel that some clarification is needed as to whether the Greater London Council or the London boroughs should be local planning authorities for the purpose of issuing certificates of appropriate alternative development under Section 17 of the Land Compensation Act, 1961. It may be argued—and I suspect from the noble Lord's Amendment to this Amendment that it will be argued—that since the Minister may prescribe particular cases of development application which must be dealt with by the Greater London Council, the Greater London Council should therefore deal with all application certificates under Section 17. On considering this matter, however, we have felt that on the whole it would be best to lay the responsibility on the London boroughs, since they will be responsible for the preparation of the detailed local development plans which will be the main framework for development control, and they will deal with most of the planning applications.
§ The Minister, of course, will from time to time prescribe particular classes of development for which planning permission must be handled by the Greater London Council. However, it is not possible to classify applications under Section 17 of the 1961 Act in the same way, and hence it is proposed that where the authority proposes to give a certificate for development that would fall to be considered by the Greater London Council, then in those cases, and those cases only, the authority must consult with the Greater London Council.133
§ Therefore, I beg leave to move this Amendment.
Page 34, line 18, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Hastings.)
§ LORD SHEPHERD moved, as an Amendment to the Amendment, to leave out, "in any case where an application for planning permission for any development to which the certificate would relate would fall to be dealt with by the Greater London Council." The noble Lord said: I beg to move the Amendment to the Amendment. The Government acknowledge the need for the Greater London Council to be consulted in particular cases. The object of this Amendment is to ensure that in all cases where a certificate is to be granted by a borough the Greater London Council should be consulted. The authority's function is a matter of determining what alternative zoning might have to be made, which is essentially a matter for the development plan authority, the Greater London Council.
§ It is considered that, as the authority responsible for the master plan, and for giving observations to the Minister on proposals in all the local development plans (and I think the noble Lord would accept that), the Greater London Council should be consulted before any certificate is issued for a development not in accordance with the provisions of either the Greater London development plan or a local development plan. We accept the general principle of the Amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hastings. We feel that there will be only a few occasions when a borough would not, in fact, have to consult the Greater London Council. We feel that it would save a good deal of dispute that might arise, and would be safer and better, especially in view of the small number of cases where certificates would be issued without consultation, and also because the Greater London Council is the development authority, that the development authority should be consulted in all cases where a certificate is issued by a borough. I beg to move.
§ Amendment to Amendment moved—
§ Leave out the said words.—(Lord Shepherd.)
§ LORD HASTINGS
I have listened to what the noble Lord. Lord Shepherd, has said. He feels that only a few of 134 these cases under Section 17 would not have to be referred to the Greater London Council. Our feeling is that there would be much unnecessary paper work involved and most cases would relate to development which would not fall to be dealt with by the Greater London Council. I do not wish to be dogmatic on this matter. Of course it is a question of zoning, and particular uses and certificates for residential development might cut across some zoned metropolitan road, or something like that. There are many cases one can think of. I feel that in this particular case the matter would bear looking into further, and if the noble Lord will accept my Amendment—which at least puts into the Bill the substance of the matter we wish to see there—then in relation to the particular words he wishes to leave out, I will consider the matter further and let him know, in rather more detail than I am able to now, and after a better examination of this problem, what we feel is the best thing.
§ LORD SHEPHERD
I am quite willing to do that. We have accepted the principle of the Government Amendment. We feel that it is unnecessarily restrictive, and I hope the noble Lord will consider the rather inadequate words that I have used. I could have spoken at far greater length and in detail to support my case, but I purposely kept my remarks short. The position is important, and I hope the Minister will see our point of view and will be able to concede our point. I beg leave to withdrawn my Amendment to the Amendment.
§ Amendment to Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ LORD SILKIN
I understood that discussions were going on with a view to terminating at this point, which might be convenient. The next Amendment may take a little time.
That is my rather belated understanding, too, and in view of that I beg to move that the House do now resume.
§ Moved, That the House do now resume.—(Earl Jellicoe.)
§ On Question, Motion agreed to, and House resumed accordingly.