HL Deb 04 May 1967 vol 282 cc1078-141

3.24 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, the purpose of this Bill, as stated in its Title, is exactly stated, as is everything else in it. It is designed as a vehicle for the improvement of the physical environment of these Islands. As its sponsor, Mr. Duncan Sandys, has said, its aim is to preserve beauty, to create beauty, and to remove ugliness. I have said that the father of the Bill was Mr. Sandys. I should like to suggest that he has probably done as much as any other English politician of his day, with the possible exception of Lord Silkin, to improve the visual quality of our country. This Bill is undoubtedly the offspring of his rugged loins, and I am delighted to acknowledge its paternity.

But this Private Member's Bill has been lucky in possessing benevolent and generous godparents: the co-sponsors, from all Parties, in another place, and the Government, who have given it their blessing. May I say, incidentally, how glad I am that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, has the Bill, as it were, in his Portfolio and will be replying to this Second Reading debate. We all know his positive and informed interest in matters of preservation. Also, I cannot let this moment pass without acknowledging the part which the Civic Trust—Mr. Sandys's own creation—and Members of another place have played in bringing the Bill to its present advanced and balanced state of health. We sometimes pat ourselves on the back in this House about our interest in amenity matters. Having noted the concentrated attention which Members of another place gave this Bill, I think perhaps we should be looking to our laurels.

Living as we do in these tight little Islands, we may at times feel that our choices are sometimes circumscribed in this era of super-powers and great impersonal forces. But one of the many things we can decide, and do, by ourselves is to preserve and enhance the beauty of our physical surroundings. We have inherited perhaps the loveliest manmade landscape in the world. Our cities and our towns, and perhaps above all our villages, have great quality and great variety. But this heritage is desperately fragile and vulnerable. It needs support and it needs reinforcement. I recognise, of course, that there is a limit to the reinforcement which a Private Member's Bill can bring. A great responsibility rests on Government and local authorities; and we await with interest the "eggs"—the Countryside Bill, for example—which the noble Lord and his other broody colleagues are, I understand, hatching. Meanwhile, I would modestly claim that this modest measure brings, in the three fields to which it is specifically addressed, substantial reinforcement to all those who are keen to do what they can to make our country a nicer place to look at and live in.

Apart from this, I would suggest that this Bill has three special merits. First, it is almost intelligible to even the most unintelligent of your Lordships. For my part, there is only one word in the whole Bill which I do not understand, that is, "excambion", which is the first word in line 12, page 5. Second—and this is perhaps the explanation—the Bill applies to Scotland, a very notable feat in itself. Third, it comes to your Lordships, I think I can claim, with the very wide agreement of the interests most affected by it.

Part I of the Bill deals with areas and buildings of historic or architectural interest—a matter of very great concern to my noble friend Lord Hailes, the Chairman of the Historic Buildings Council, who I am delighted to see will be speaking in this debate. I think he would agree that there are two big holes in our present system of preservation. The present arrangements are basically negative and defensive. The authorities are usually alerted only when someone is keen to pull down or "muck up" an historic building; and sometimes they are alerted too late. Moreover, the present system is designed only to protect individual buildings of historic or architectural merit. The composite value of groups of buildings, of areas, is neither safeguarded nor recognised.

We are, I think, behind some of our neighbours across the Channel in this respect. The Portuguese have done a great deal in this area. The Dutch brought in a Bill dealing with it in 1962 or 1963. In France, under the so-called Malraux Law of 1962, there are now special provisions for the preservation of particularly valuable areas—the so-called secteurs sativegardés of certain towns, areas which may indeed comprise the whole of an old town. I think I am right in saying that a thousand such areas may possibly be designated in France in due course. Some 50 already have been designated and there are about 15 pilot projects in hand in places like the Marais quarter of old Paris.

Meanwhile we have witnessed a steady erosion of some of our finest groups of buildings. Many of the London Squares went some time ago and have, of course, gone for good. More recently we have seen the cathedral setting of Worcester ravaged. We have seen, in a humbler setting, the destruction of almost all the charm of old Gosport—I mention these only as examples—and we have seen the destruction of the splendid warehouses along the river front at Boston. Much of this has been a failure, in part through lack of legislative backing, to recognise not only the value of individual buildings, but also the value of their general setting.

Clause 1 of the Bill is a start—rather more than a start, I would suggest—in this this direction. Under it local authorities will be required to designate conservation areas for those localities which are of special architecural or historic interest. Where such an area is designated it is a requirement not only for them to have regard to the preservation, but also to the enhancing of such an area; and this duty is laid fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the local authority. There is no vast and complicated panoply of procedures. The ministerial power of direction in subsection (2) of this clause is only designated, as I understand it, for cases in which local authorities conspicuously fail to act, or if they act without knowledge or sensitivity.

These areas could be big or they could be small; they could be part of a particular street, a terrace, or a series of squares. They could be a major area like Whitehall, or indeed a whole town. They could be a tiny cluster of country cottages; they could be a particularly lovely village green or its surrounds; they could be the area round a village church or, perhaps, an historic site like the Bloody Meadow, the site of the Battle of Tewkesbury. The important thing is to remember that it is the group value of the area that counts, and the point is that these special areas should receive very special treatment. The design of the new in such areas might well require especially tactful architectural treatment to lie down with the old. Particularly careful attention might be needed for such things as traffic signs, street lighting, bus stops and the like, and again such areas might well require special traffic arrangements.

So much for Clause Clauses 2 to 11 are important, but perhaps less so. Some increase the defensive protection for listed buildings. Thus under Clause 2 the period of advance notice of an intention to demolish or alter a building on the statutory list is increased from the present inadequate period of two months to a period of six months, and the penalties for transgressing a building preservation order are drastically increased. A further defence is that under Clause 10 a local authority can bring a building preservation order into immediate effect without prior and time-consuming reference to Whitehall. Thus "crash" action can be taken when required to preserve an old and historic building.

Finally, under Clause 9 the residences of clergyman are brought within the purlieu of the planning Acts—and here I should like to reassure your Lordships. The Bill and its sponsors are not "gunning for" the Established Church: the Bill bites on all ecclesiastical residences of any denomination. It merely restores the position to what it was thought to be before 1964, when Church, in the person of the Rector of Bloomsbury, and Judiciary, in the person of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Denning, put the cat amidst these ecclesiastical pigeons. This particular clause, I may say, has the agreement of the Church's Main Committee.

So much for the negative defences. The positive side of preservation is buttressed by Clauses 4 to 8. Under Clause 4 the noble Lord, Lord Hanes, will be able to turn his money over and to make loans as well as grants. Clause 5 relates to Scotland and is, at least for me, a little shrouded in Scots mist and excambion. I confess that. Clause 6 makes it possible for a local authority to step in and give essential first aid to an historic building in distress, and under Clause 7 the power of a local authority compulsorily to acquire historic buildings which are not being properly maintained by their owners is extended from the 1,000 or so buildings subject to building preservation orders, to the 102,000 that are on the statutory list. One final word on Part I. I am quite certain that if we in this country are going to make a real success of this sort of preservation we need, one way or another, to obtain a far higher degree of public involvement and far closer links between public and local authorities, and indeed White hall. This approach is, I think, reflected in Part I of the Bill.

Few living things—save, perhaps, some members of the other and fairer sex—can do more to enhance our physical surroundings than beautiful trees. Our ancestors, who knew quite a thing about trees—and also about girls—knew this very well. We need to guard that heritage of lovely woodland which they have handed down to us. We need, therefore, in the coming decades to plant many millions of new trees. That being so, I hope that the House will welcome Part II of this Bill.

Under Clause 12 a positive duty—I underline the word "duty"—will be laid on local planning authorities to see that, whenever this is desirable, adequate provision for the preservation of old trees and the planting of new trees is written into the planning permissions which they grant. Of course they must discharge this duty and exercise their discretion sensibly. Fine trees can humanise what might otherwise be a rather arid new estate. But in well-wooded areas more trees might well be an embarras de richesses. This is the positive heart of Part II of the Bill. If local authorities discharge their duty under it, as I am sure they will, Clause 12 may well make a major contribution in the future of our whole island scene. But Part II also strengthens the negative defences, in this case for trees, as Part I does for buildings. I do not propose to take your Lordships hand in hand through its various clauses. I should merely like to single out three of the more important trees in this particular wood.

Clause 13(1) is important. It means that, with certain exceptions, trees protected by a tree preservation order must be replaced if they are lost. Clause 16 provides for the same sort of "snap" protection for trees by the local authority as we are now hoping to provide for historic buildings. And Clause 15, with its significant increase in the level of fines, means that in future no-one should be able to defy a tree preservation order and reap a profit from his defiance.

Finally, my Lords, Part III—the provisions for the disposal of the waste products of our modern, mechanised society. The Litter Act 1958 dealt with the smaller droppings of that society: the tins and the toffee papers. Part III of this Bill goes after the bigger game: the mattresses, the prams, the bikes, the cookers, the fridges, the T.V. sets. Above all it goes for the bulkiest and most intractable droppings of all—the motor cars which are strewn around these islands having run their course.

There is a real and an urgent national problem here. In 1960 the estimated mortality among our car population was perhaps something over half a million. Automobile demography seems to be a rather inexact science at present. By 1970 the mortality rate may be as much as one and a half million a year. Unless we now take drastic corrective measures an awful lot of these one and a half million cars a year will not be properly dismantled and disposed of. They will just lie around our streets and highways and countryside as eyesores, as obstructions and, not least, as tempting and dangerous provocations to the curiosity of our youth. Clearly it is time we did something about this; and something pretty drastic.

Some local authorities have already taken useful initiatives—for example, Coventry and Portsmouth. The Greater London Council, I understand, are now hatching a big scheme. Whether it is the scrap metal market, the economies of scale, and indeed modern technology, all seem to point in one direction, and that is that the most sensible way for us to dispose of most of our dead cars in the future is not to abandon them in someone else's back garden, or to "flog" them to the gypsies, or to let someone break them up in his backyard on a small scale, but rather to organise the proper siting, and with it the screening, of collection points which would serve a number of strategically placed big disposal plants.

There are all sorts of such plants these days. There are crushers and pounders, shearers and smelters and pulverisers. One of the latest is a Japanese plant called "the barbecue fractional smelter." Another, a pulveriser, has such an omnivorous appetite for dead cars that it will eat 100,000 or so a year and serve them up for Lord Melchett and his steel-makers as fist-sized lumps of high quality steel. But to get all this going properly, to do away with the derelict cars which increasingly disfigure our island scene to-day, demands close and sensible cooperation between local authorities and between local authorities and industry. It also needs a proper framework of legislation.

This Part III of the Bill is designed to provide. The present permissive powers, mainly under the various Public Health Acts, are quite insufficient. The Bill offers a three-pronged solution. The first prong, Clause 18, imposes a duty on local authorities to provide public refuse dumps. The second prong, Clause 19, outlaws promiscuous dumping of motor cars—or anything else, for that matter. It also provides for heavy penalties. The third prong, Clauses 20, 21 and 22, requires local authorities to remove abandoned cars and to make arrangements for their disposal. Taken together, I believe these clauses should do the legislative trick, but doubtless your Lordships will wish to look closely at them. But to get this working, a strong lead from central Government and energetic and co-operative action on the part of local authorities is very necessary indeed.

As this Bill was leaving another place, one of its many well-wishers expressed the hope that your "civilised Lordships"—that was the phrase he used—would look on it with nothing but favour. In asking your Lordships to give this Bill, which is, I believe, a good Bill, a Second Reading, I should like to express the same hope. My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be read a second time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Earl Jellicoe.)

3.44 p.m.


My Lords, I should like, first of all, to express my appreciation, and I am sure the appreciation of everyone else, to the initiator of this Bill in another place, Mr. Duncan Sandys and his Civic Trust. As the noble Earl has said, he has for many years past been immensely interested in this question of amenity and has done as much as anybody in this country to achieve it. I would also express my congratulations to the noble Earl on having the privilege of introducing this Bill in this House, and on the way in which he has done it. He said that the Bill was a simple Bill. Well, I think it is on the whole—not quite so simple as he made out; nevertheless it is a simple Bill. But his explanations have certainly made it much easier to understand than would otherwise be the case. I welcome the Bill immensely. It is a big step forward. The conception of the conservation area is a new one. It is an extension of an existing conception, and it is all to the good. There is little that one would need to say about the Bill. Most of the matters which one would like to comment on are really Committee points, and I hope it will get a very thorough Committee stage.

I should like to say one or two things about the Bill which strike me straight away. The first is that this is one more type of area of this country which we are proposing to designate. We are doing a great deal already in the way of designation of areas: we have designated areas as National Parks—a very substantial part of this country is already designated as National Parks. Very large areas are designated as green belt. We have areas of outstanding natural beauty. We have new areas of great scenic beauty. We have areas that are free from advertisement. And this is a new type of designation. While I have no criticism of this new conception, I think we ought to be clear as to where we are going; otherwise we may find the whole country designated in one way or another.

The noble Earl stressed the fact that this was a simple Bill, and I fully agree with him; but there is one provision, and it is a rather key provision, which I find far from clear. That is in Clause 1, which deals with the point of designating areas as conservation areas, and it says that the Minister may give such directions as he thinks necessary with respect to the exercise of the functions of local authorities under this provision. What kind of directions is certainly not clear, and what local authorities will be required to do about them is not mentioned at all in the Bill. Is the Minister to have complete discretion as to the kind of directions he is to give? I know the noble Earl set out a number of matters which local authorities would wish to have in mind in treating such conservation areas. They are not in the Bill, and one would like to be quite sure that local authorities would not be going outside their powers in dealing with a conservation area as they would like. It would be helpful if we could have a Schedule, or something of that kind, setting out the kind of matters on which the Minister could give directions and which local authorities would be required to have in mind. That is all I want to say on Part I, because, as I have said, it will be examined in Committee, and there are small points which I need not trouble the House about at this stage.

I should like to refer to the planting of trees. In another place there was some conception that we ought to be very rigid about the type of trees that should be permitted. I see that local authorities are to have regard to a number of factors, not necessarily the expense. After all, they are putting the owners to expense in requiring the planting of new trees. I think that expense ought to be a factor. Apart from that, the great beauty of this country is the immense variety of trees. I do not think there should be any pressure upon persons planting trees as to exactly the kind of trees which should be planted. There is an idea that they have to harmonise with existing trees. I do not take that view. I think that every tree is beautiful, and that every beautiful thing harmonises with every other beautiful thing, and there is no need for them to be of the same shape, size or colour, or anything else. Indeed, the beauty of our countryside lies in its variety. At the present time, you have only to look out to see the different shades of green and the different types of trees. I therefore hope that there will be great elasticity, and that local authorities will not be hidebound in telling owners as to what kinds of trees they are to plant.

There is one thing I want to say about Part III of the Bill. I fully agree that we must do something about abandoned cars. I have seen the dangers of leaving abandoned cars in the streets. In a thoroughfare in Battersea I noticed that for some days children were playing around with an abandoned car. Incidentally, I doubt whether at the end of the day there will be much of value left of the car. They were stripping it piece by piece, and eventually they set fire to the whole thing. Had it been possible to take earlier action, that would have been avoided. Fortunately, the fire was noticed in good time and nobody was injured, but it might have had disastrous consequences.

I should like this Part of the Bill to be strengthened so that a local authority could act immediately they find that a car is abandoned, or when they have reason to think it is abandoned. I think the noble Earl was a little optimistic about the financial side of the matter. It will be an expense to local authorities. Do not let us run away with the idea that our mutual noble friend Lord Melchett is going to help them cut in this business. It is not going to be profitable to try to sell whatever is left of a car as scrap metal, and local authorities will be required to provide facilities for storing. That is going to be costly, especially in the cities where storage space is expensive. If we are to implement this provision seriously, local authorities must be under no delusion that they will get away with this cheaply. It will be an expense, but I think it will be worth it, and will add much to the amenity and beauty of the countryside.

I should like to discuss this point again in Committee, but I feel that perhaps an opportunity has been lost of carrying it much further. If one is considering what is really damaging the countryside over large areas it is the pit heaps and slag heaps, and all the rubbish that has been left for generations to lie by the roadside with nobody having any responsibility for dealing with it. I wish it were possible to deal with this problem at this stage and under this Bill. That would have a far greater effect even than dealing with abandoned motor cars, important as that may be. Whether it will be possible to deal with slag heaps and pit heaps in this Bill, I do not know. I wish it were. But, as I say. I hope that we shall consider it.

That is all I feel it necessary to say at this stage, except once more to say how delighted I am that this Bill has been introduced. I am sure that it will receive the unanimous support of this House, and I hope that, if possible, it will even be improved as we proceed.

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to support as warmly as possible this useful and timely Bill, and to add my congratulations to those of the noble Lord to Mr. Duncan Sandys, who produced it. I wish to do this quite briefly and, like the third man in the batting list, my innings is not going to be a long one. It deals mainly with Part I, with one comment on Part II. I do so not just as a Member of your Lordships' House but as one who has been consulted by successive Ministers under Section 32 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1962. That section requires the Minister, before he approves or amends the list of buildings of historic and architectural interest, to consult with such persons or bodies of persons as appear to him appropriate as having special knowledge of, or interest in. buildings of this kind. I am one of those who have appeared to the Minister to be "appropriate", and I have been called into consultation over the past 22 years. I feel sure that my epitaph will be "Here lies an ad hoc body." I say this only to make it clear that my support of the Bill is grounded on a little experience as well as on conviction, and that the next step forward in this matter of linking preservation with new growth is, in my view, not only due, but overdue.

The link dates from the time when the idea of listing historic buildings was introduced, I believe I am right in saying, in a war-time Act in 1944, when the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, was Parliamentary Secretary to the new Ministry of Town and Country Planning. It was further developed in the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, when the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, who has just spoken, was Minister of Town and Country Planning. It was he, I think, who appointed the first Advisory Committee on the listing of buildings, under the chairmanship of the late Sir Eric Maclagan. In my view, Part I of the Bill is the next step in the process which was started then. It is a process of identification, of protection, and now of creative action to preserve the character of towns. It moves from the individual building, the monument, the garden ornament, to an area of a town, a group of buildings, a place that has identity and feeling and character. I do not really think that that is a large step forward. I hope that Mr. Sandys would accept that. But I think it is a significant step forward.

Part I of the Bill requires the local planning authorities to identify the areas for conservation in their towns and villages. This is a process which might be described as compulsory recognition.

Many local authorities are well ahead in this matter—they are almost as far ahead as public opinion. But many local authorities are not. They either are not aware of it, or have taken the view that it is no part of their responsibility to look after their past and future environments as being parts of the very same process of historical development. So it seems to me—and I speak now as somebody looking at the process over a long period of time—that identification is necessary and that Clause I does this.

Although the Bill recognises that this is fundamentally a local authority responsibility, it makes just sufficent provision for encouragement and advice from the centre to launch it, as in fact it should be launched, as a national responsibility, as something which we owe to those who come after us—in fact, in specific terms, to the 70 million or so people who will be inhabiting these small Islands by the end of the century. The point which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is valid in this respect, and I hope it will be taken in Committee: that is to say, the point as to what kind of directions should come from the Minister. I have no doubt at all that in the initial stages some instructions must be given from the centre, particularly to those authorities which are not aware of the richness of the heritage which has come down to them.

To put it in brief terms, the pictures and the furniture in a house are the owner's affair; but the picture of the house in its setting, particularly when it has subsisted for a very long time, is now the country's affair. Therefore, it is essential that there should be some kind of national standard of preservation if this country is to remain in the forefront of civilised action in this matter. It is also necessary that we should not just have a kaleidoscope of interesting, individual buildings dotted about. In the work upon which we have been advising in relation to the listing and preservation of buildings since 1945, it has become more and more apparent that buildings depend to an enormous extent on their setting. It is not only the setting of a country house; it is the setting of the ' extremely interesting building which is in a terrace of houses in a town, in a street, or in a public place. It is not only the forecourt, the trees and the approach to the building which are of primary importance; it is also what other new buildings are built right next to it.

The Bill goes on to require local authorities to have regard to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character and appearance of these areas, and draws their attention to the powers contained in the Local Authorities (Historic Buildings) Act and in the Planning Acts. Mild and permissive though these duties are, as at present drafted, they bring preservation clearly into the mainstream of town planning and development. In other words, it is taking it from the sphere of an academic or antiquarian exercise into perspective with what is there now and with what is going to be built there, planned there and planted there for the future.

When one brings preservation into the planning field, one surrounds it with a great number of difficulties, and the greatest of these is economic. It is always more expensive per square foot to restore old buildings than to build new ones. That is to say, the actual craftsmanship, the work to be done, the survey of the buildings themselves, and all the operations connected with the preservation of buildings is not a cheap matter; it cannot be mass-produced. It should deal with every case on its merits and is therefore costly and will become more costly as building becomes industrialised. Therefore it seems to me that in relation to buildings as well as to trees and to other things—even to the disposal of old cars to which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has referred—it is not going to be a cheap affair.

It is very important that local authorities should take their responsibilities under the 1962 Act very seriously and should be encouraged by the Minister to identify, and then to preserve, the character of these special areas. This is a big problem. One hopes that any instructions from the Minister will be mingled with a certain amount of more direct encouragement, either by way of grant or by increasing the grant which is operated by the Minister of Public Building and Works on the advice of the Historic Buildings Council, or even by way of certain relaxations in the requirements for new buildings in the area of old ones which, if one sticks to the letter of the law, will sometimes be out of scale and not in harmony with the old buildings with which they form part of the setting.

I will not talk about the penalties in the Bill, except to make one observation which was drawn to my attention before I came to the House to-day. The penalty on summary conviction in regard to historic buildings is £100, but in the case of a tree it is £250. I realise that only God can make a tree, but there seems to be some disparity in these figures. I think that probably the answer is that there is no limit—and this is a very interesting provision in the Bill—to the fine that can be imposed in a court upon the man who makes £50,000 out of a development deal and who cheerfully pays at the moment a fine of £100, which is simply written off as being part of the cost of redevelopment. Therefore, to make the punishment fit the crime in this case seems to me to be an extremely ingenious and worthwhile provision.

The last point I wish to make is perhaps an architectural one. It is that in our new environment of modern buildings the importance of trees is even greater than it was. We are often accused of putting up faceless slabs, but when one comes to examine the function of a modern building, whether it be a block of flats, an office building, or the headquarters of a local authority, a public building, one finds that between 60 and 70 per cent. of the value and interest of that building is internal. All sorts of comforts and conveniences and other things are included of which builders of our historic monuments knew nothing. Where those builders were able to provide flying buttresses, indentations and external sculpture, and many other features which produce the light, shade and composition of buildings such as abbeys, the modern architect contains his within a package. That package has to be as clean, as sheer and as smooth as he can possibly make it.

While a number of modern buildings, particularly the very high ones, provide the space in which trees can he planted, they also provide, by reason of the good deal of glass which is normally associated with them, the reflective background which doubles the value of a tree planted reasonably close to it. Taking any layout in a city, if it does not ensure that every habitable room has a view of a tree or of some piece of green—which is an essential quality for those who do not possess it—and if it does not allow any views of Nature of any description, the layout should be so amended as to provide it. Therefore, I should like as an architect to say how very much I welcome the importance which is laid in Part II of the Bill on the planting of trees, and on the substitution of new trees for old when they reach the end of their useful life.

To sum up my feeling on this Bill, it is that up till now the balance has been a little too much in favour of demolition and a cleared area. It is always nice (as an architect I know this) to have a cleared area on which you can start from scratch and do more or less what you want. But most schemes which are prepared on a tabula rasa are less interesting than those which take into account, in composing the new layout or design, the sense of the place, the existence of historic buildings near it, and even the physical remains of some of them. I am reinforced in this view by the fact that most modern architects who have progressive ideas about buildings are the very people most sympathetic to the preservation of the really interesting examples of old buildings.

Therefore it is time—and this Bill helps to do this—to redress the balance a little in favour of retaining what is interesting among the old. I am not one of those who are interested only in preservation and fear that we can never replace an old building with anything equally interesting. If I were, I would stop being an architect to-morrow. Nevertheless, I feel that there is often a lesson to be learned, there is often a sense of scale, and there is often an opportunity, in retaining the historic buildings in the centre of an old town, to make anything which we add of our own century doubly valuable. I hope that your Lordships will give this Bill a Second Reading.

4.13 p.m.


My Lords, I so agree with the noble Lord, Lord Holford, about having a pleasant view of green out of your window. I feel it so strongly that I feel that I should like to move an Amendment on Committee stage to the effect that whereas there is a £100 fine for knocking down a building, and a £200 fine for cutting down a tree, there should be a £500 fine for pollarding trees in front of windows, which makes them look peculiarly revolting.

We on these Benches heartily welcome this Bill. I think that very nearly everything which can he said about it has already been said. We have had three very interesting speeches this afternoon, and the Bill had a great going-over in another place, so I do not think I have much more to say. I welcome it particularly as a portent of the sort of things which are to come. It is a portent of the fact that we are moving into the field of Government action those activities which in the past have always been undertaken by private societies or individuals. We are now coming round more and more towards the view that the Government must take action along this line, and in this repect it is interesting that this Bill is a Private Member's Bill.

I think it is a very good Bill so far as it goes. This is not a complaint, because it goes just about as far as a Bill of this sort ought to go. This is not a suggestion that the Bill is going too far, because it is of just the degree at which Bills of this sort should aim, and I hope very much that the Government will bring in more Bills of this character. We are waiting for a Countryside Bill, which will no doubt be a very comprehensive measure, embracing all sorts of different aspects—the sort of things about which we are talking to-day. But so far as matters of this sort are concerned, what have come to be called "quality of life issues"—I rather dislike that expression, but it describes what I mean—we do not necessarily have to wait for a comprehensive Bill. There is no reason why certain specific issues should not be dealt with from time to time as they arise—piecemeal, if you like—by the Government's introducing small Bills of the same nature as this Bill. I do not mean that the issues are small; I mean only that they are perhaps narrow. This is what the Government should aim at in introducing legislation to cover matters of this sort. Later on one can bring together all the various small Bills and put them into consolidating legislation.

This Bill deals with three issues—buildings, trees and the abandoning of it is right that there should be in the last these matters are now touched by the law at some point or other, but either the law is ineffective, possibly because of the complexity of the subject, or there is so much breaking of it that it is too expensive and too difficult to cope with the problem. There are whole areas of our lives which are also touched by the law, and whole areas of quality of life issues, but to some extent ineffectively, where we must do something more, and I welcome this Bill as a beginning in this direction.

The Bill does not touch, nor is it meant to touch, problems like pollution, noise or the proliferation of advertisements. All of these are aspects of the quality of life which, as I say, are touched by the law but which somehow or other we have not got round to dealing with effectively. In the past it was always felt that the law could not touch a great many of these things effectively, and that therefore they were best left outside legislation. I do not accept this view. The more I look at life—and in a way this is coming away from the old Liberal doctrines—the more it seems that we live in an age, not when we have too much legislation, but when we do not have enough. Certainly I feel this so far as the amenity side of our life is concerned.

It is no good leaving it to education, to better feeling and to good will to find a solution. We have to deal with things of this sort by legislation, and only by legislation. I admit that when one has legislation in regard to civic amenity aspects, one relies on bodies like local planning authorities to implement it. Many local planning authorities—and, after all they are manned by people like us—are very feeble. They are not as good as they should be. They often rely on advice from experts and professionals which is not as good as it should be. Nevertheless, in the last resort it is we who administer the law which we feel is necessary to preserve our amenities.

There is one small part of the Bill on which I want to comment and to which I would draw attention. That is the question of the cost of the quality of life issue. There is a cost to be met. I sometimes think that we assess it wrongly. It is entirely a matter of opinion, but I felt that we assessed it wrongly in the case of the Tees Valley Authority; and I suspect that we may have assessed it wrongly in the case of Ullswater. Here, there was an amenity to be saved; there was a quality of life which it would have cost the community a certain amount of money to maintain. I think the community, in the last resort—again, this was through the advice we gave them—felt that the cost of preserving these amenities was too high. I do not take that view. I think we could have maintained those amenities at a cost, on the end product, which was not unduly high. Nevertheless, we did not take that view.

There is a slight danger with regard to some of the ideas this Bill puts forward, in that the community is suggesting that no small part of the cost of preserving these amenities should be borne, not by the community but by the individual. In the case of the great territorial magnate this is so small an issue that it does not very much matter; he has probably been doing this all along; but where the small owner-occupier is concerned this is far from the case. There are certain difficulties; and I do not minimise these. I know that there are cases where men deliberately pull down buildings to make their land worth more for development, and such cases can be dealt with. But there are a thousand and one smaller ones. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, mentioned battle sites. Here is another. If a farmer may not destroy a battle site—and I entirely agree that he should not be allowed to do so—then somehow or other we must see that the cost of preserving that is borne by us and not by the individual.

The same applies, to a lesser extent, in the case of trees. It certainly applies in the case of buildings, and it applies in other directions as well. We have the National Parks where the farmer on one side has to use rather expensive materials for roofing his buildings, whereas one on the other side can put up any old stuff. I entirely agree that he should not be allowed to put up any old stuff anyway; but if, for the benefit of the community, he must spend a good deal more than he would otherwise have done to preserve those amenities, we must see to it that the extra cost is made good.

I put this forward only as a caveat; one must not make too much of it. Indeed, a few moments ago the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, reminded me of the fact that it sometimes works very much to the disadvantage of the community that we see cases of local authorities—rather ridiculous cases, really—who, when they acquire a building which might otherwise have been developed, have to pay compensation for their refusal to allow the development. I agree that there is an element of internal payments here; that it is one Government Department paying for what another Government Department is doing. Nevertheless, this is a point on which I am quite sure the noble Lord, when he comes to wind up, will air his own views. What is bad about it is not so much one quasi-Government Department, as it were, paying into another Government Department: it is that it discourages local authorities from doing what they ought to be doing, and one feels that on the whole local authorities need encouragement to do more, rather than discouragement.

Again on this point I would make certain reservations. I sometimes think that we schedule rather too many buildings. In the North of England, where every other building is a castle or a peel-tower, virtually every one is scheduled. This is reducing the situation to a farce. It seems to me that in this respect we might with advantage look at the French experience, and schedule perhaps rather fewer items—but making quite sure we maintain those that we do schedule. These are details, my Lords, and they are outside the Bill.

I welcome the Bill chiefly as a measure of the way we are thinking on these matters; as an indication that we are becoming more aware of the needs and of what can be done. I also welcome it because I think there is implicit in the Bill—though it is not actually expressed—a feeling that there is no conflict between preservation and proper development. There is the feeling that when it refers to preservation it refers to it in such a way that it means what we understand by conservation; that is to say, the best use of all these things, whether old or whether the best modern development we can devise. So, my Lords, I welcome the Bill, not only for itself but for what it foreshadows

4.26 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to all those responsible for this excellent Bill, which is the result of the close cooperation of Mr. Sandys, who deserves special congratulations, the Civic Trust and the Government. I wish to speak only very briefly, as several noble Lords who know more about these matters than I do wish to speak, and others have already spoken. But I felt I must say a few words, principally from my experience, such as it is, with the Historic Buildings Council for England, of which I have the honour to be Chairman, for the Bill touches upon the work of that Council at so many points.

We in this country have been very slow in waking up to our responsibilities in the matters with which this Bill is concerned. Extraordinary though it may seem, I think I am right in saying that, although for many years voluntary societies—the National Trust, and so on—have done much in forming public opinion and in other ways, apart from that concerning ancient monuments there was no legislation until after the last war, when we had the Town and Country Planning Acts, to which the noble Lord, Lord Holford, has referred, and which provide, among other things, for the making of preservation orders and listing of buildings.

Then in 1953 there was passed the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act, which made it possible for the first time for grants of public money to be made to owners of buildings of outstanding architectural or historical value. This is not the occasion to speak of this legislation at any length, except to say that but for it, owing to the decay, the neglect and often near-despair of the post-war years, the face of Britain as regards its architectural historical heritage would have now been a very different and very tragic one. Had that been the case, there would have been less material for this Bill to deal with.

However, there is still much that is piecemeal and incomplete in this whole field. I am sure that this Bill, which I hope will be law very soon, will do a great deal to pull things together and give new form and meaning to the whole concept. I am glad to say, incidentally, that one bit of piecemeal by which the listing of buildings was under one Minister, and the wherewithal, such as it is, of preservation was under another, have recently been combined under one Minister—the Minister of Housing and Local Government.

This Bill is far from being primarily a Bill of pains and penalties, but it is the fact that in former annual reports the Historic Buildings Council for England drew attention to abuses, to which the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has referred, such as the demolition of worthy buildings in anticipation of a preservation order or the occasional—I am thankful to say only occasional—calculated destruction of a listed building in defiance of the law and in face of a wholly inadequate penalty, and so on. I think that in this Bill the new safeguards, the new powers, and the much more alarming penalties—which I understand under Clause 2(3)(2) can be swingeing—should prove much more effective; and if they do not, I presume there could always be an amending Bill by which the penalties could be made greater.

I suppose that the most important provision of the Bill is in Clause 1 for which, for the first time, statutory provision is made for the preservation of whole areas—"conservation areas"—of architectural or historic interest, as distinct from the preservation of individual buildings of special architectural and historic importance. It is to be the duty of the local planning authority to designate these areas and to have always in mind their duty to preserve and enhance them. Although the Historic Buildings Council was essentially designed to care for individual buildings, as time has gone on—and the noble Lord, Lord Holford, referred to this—we have become more and more conscious of their surroundings. While we could recommend help for a fine house we could do nothing to avert the danger of unworthy neighbours. When in 1960 the Historic Buildings Council extended its activities to what we call O.G.V., "outstanding group value", that is to say, giving grants to groups of houses that individually did not come up to the mark, we had no power to prevent unsightly development near them, often cheek by jowl, thus spoiling the whole.

I take it that when this Bill becomes an Act the responsibilities of the Historic Buildings Council will become involved in some way in the system of conservation areas. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, if he is ready to do so, will say something about that when he speaks. Possibly it will work in with a further extension of the present work of the Historic Buildings Councils in their towns schemes which could become absorbed in the wider conception of this Bill. But if it is to be a case of "wider still and wider" for the Historic Buildings Councils—and we should certainly welcome that—it will have to be financed. I am tempted to pursue this and to quote figures; but I do not think it would be the appropriate occasion and I do not think it would be fair to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, who is so devoted to and active in the cause we are talking about to-day; and I know he fully appreciates the problem. But if one sees what is spent annually on the Arts in general, the amount that comes to the Historic Buildings Council—although one must not look a gift horse in the mouth—is almost derisory.

Perhaps however the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, could say something about Clause 4, which deals with the making of loans as well as giving grants to houses. I am not quite sure how finance will come in there; although I have a shrewd suspicion. But we welcome this proposal in principle, because it will give the Historic Buildings Council more room for manœuvre. However, I think the general theme of the Bill, which is the most important thing of all, is that although, as I understand it, the Minister will have certain responsibilities and reserve powers, the obligations and duties contained in all three Parts of the Bill are placed fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the local authorities. I am sure that is the right way to do it. Any attempt at coercion might engender resistance and the objects of the Bill would be defeated.

Everyone knows that local authorities have much important work to do apart from that in the field of conservation and preservation. I hope I shall not give offence when I say that in this particular field their record has been unequal: some have made full use of the Local Authorities (Historic Buildings) Act 1962—also, I think, the result of a Private Member's initiative—and some have not. But this Bill, which—and here I agree with the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe—I do not suppose for a moment will be the last Bill of its kind, has such far-reaching powers to preserve our national heritage of architecture, history and beauty which is second to none, to any country that in due course I trust there will be, perhaps with the willing help of local civic and amenity societies, a real drive by local authorities to get the very best out of the opportunities which this Bill provides.

4.36 p.m.


My Lords, I like this Bill. I think the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has rendered a valuable public service in bringing it before this House. I must confess that I was rather fascinated at one stage of his speech when he started to embark upon a comparison between beautiful trees and beautiful girls. Unfortunately, he did not carry it through to the conclusion; nor shall I. In fact, in view of my age I am probably not qualified to do so. But I love beautiful trees. That is one of the particular reasons why I welcome this Bill. Probably I love trees because my grandfather was a village blacksmith with a real spreading chestnut tree outside the smithy door. Sixty years ago, I spent many hours watching the sparks fly.

I move very much in local government circles and everywhere I find a warm welcome for this Bill. I have been for over twenty years a county alderman, a chairman of a county council, and so on. That may make me something of a civic amenity in myself. If so, I hope I shall be preserved. This Bill, unlike so many other Bills affecting local government that come before this House, is not going to arouse any fiery political controversy. It has no great revolutionary changes; it merely does a few useful jobs. Because of that I think it will be welcomed by all public-spirited citizens as a whole.

I do not think there is any easy way of singling out one particular part of the Bill as being more important than the others. There is no obvious point at which to start the examination, so I will return to the old-fashioned system of starting at the beginning. Clause 1 improves the law with regard to the preservation of historic and architecturally beautiful buildings. That in itself is a very worthy object. But, as other noble Lords have said, Clause 1 goes much beyond that. It enables us to designate what are called conservation areas so we shall not merely preserve historic buildings, but preserve them in their own historic frame.

In the past preservation orders have too often been made on historic buildings, only for those buildings to be damaged by excessive traffic, which is growing in volume every year, or to have the whole picture of the scene ruined by some modern shop or housing development that has been allowed alongside or in the near vicinity. In Essex we have tried to use our normal planning powers to prevent that happening. We have not necessarily preserved beauty spots and beautiful buildings as isolated museums, but have tried to ensure that they were preserved in a proper setting. We have made some fifty orders in recent years, mainly in beautiful little towns like Thaxted, Saffron Walden, Coggeshall and Witham. In the course of our ordinary planning procedure we are trying to create conditions favourable to the preservation of these old houses of quality. This Bill will be a real encouragement to those local authorities which have souls as well as public bodies.

My Lords, it can be done, and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, mentioned towns in France and in some other countries. I have often been impressed, when travelling around Germany, by the way one is sometimes able to turn off from a main arterial street in a city into some little backwater where a little mediæval square of buildings has been preserved. There are many of our towns in which we could do the same thing, and the provision in Part I of the Bill will make it easier for us to do so than has been the case in the past; although, as I say, there are some local authorities who have made use of their ordinary planning permissions in order to bring about that state of affairs.

These preservation orders are usually well worth making. I remember a mansion in my county, part Tudor, which was bought by two men who were determined to demolish it. We, as a county council, bought it and made a preservation order. We did not keep it idle as a medieval museum, but sold it to a charitable organisation which I think concerns itself with the care of what are called distressed gentlefolk. This organisation carried out essential repairs and they are now able to rent homes to a number of families who live in very gracious surroundings. It would have been a shame to demolish that mansion, which stood in the midst of a beautiful park. It was owned, back in the days of Henry VIII, by Lord Rich, one of his Chancellors. The first Queen Elizabeth slept there; of course she slept in a good many places, because she used to get around. It was also the seat of the Court of one of the dethroned monarchs of Europe who found refuge in this country, and I think that we did well in saving this building from the hammer of the demolition workers.

My Lords, Part II of the Bill will give extra powers to local authorities to ensure that their districts are not denuded of beautiful trees. In Essex we have been very ferocious in the action that we have taken against people who threaten to indulge in that kind of activity. We have been able to do so because many years ago we promoted a Private Act of Parliament which, among other things, gave us power to act in this way. We have also carried out a lot of tree planting. There is a yearly item in the county budget for tree planting, and now that the transplanting of mature trees has reached a stage which I think I can say is of technical perfection, I hope that we shall be able to do still more in the future than we have in the past. This Bill will give encouragement to those councils which need it. We have one body in my county which hardly needs any encouragement, the Basildon New Town Development Corporation, which has planted nearly half a million trees since it was established about fifteen years ago.

I hope that in those parts of the Bill dealing with trees we shall not have the legislation drawn so tightly as to make the owners of old elm trees and trees of that kind afraid to have them lopped or topped in the interests of safety. I remember that at the old rectory where I lived for twenty years we had a majestic ring of elm trees round one side of the house. It was not until I called in an expert that I discovered the state of permanent danger in which we were living, so I hope that no owner of elm trees will find himself prosecuted or persecuted under this legislation if he takes the steps which he thinks are in the interests of public safety.

Now to Part III, my Lords, where we move from the ancient to the modern. This Part of the Bill gives local authorities powers and also calls upon them to perform certain duties with regard to cars abandoned on the roadside. This legislation is certainly overdue. The other day I saw twenty abandoned cars along twenty miles of an arterial road. But I hope that there will be some safeguard provided here as well. There are motorists (and I speak particularly as one who for forty years worked on newspapers and used to drive home in the early hours of the morning) who experience occasions when they have to abandon their cars by the roadside because of foggy conditions, or because of the icy state of the road—and we all know of the legendary case of the young man driving a girl home who suddenly runs out of petrol along an isolated stretch of road. I think there must be safeguards for motorists who are genuinely compelled to jettison their cars for a night or two.

I am not particularly happy about the clause which calls on local authorities to create dumps where householders may throw their refuse. I think that public health considerations have here to be borne in mind, especially if people are to be encouraged, or permitted, to dump verminous old mattresses or perishable food, or tins which have contained food. We do not want this Bill ultimately to become an Act for the Encouragement of Bugs and Rats in Public Places, but that is what may easily happen.

I know as well as anybody the enormous amount of illicit dumping that goes on. My present house stands on the verge of Epping Forest, and every Sunday morning when I go for a walk I see enough old petrol cans, lavatory bowls, mattresses, old chairs and baked bean tins to enable me to set up half-a-dozen stalls in the Caledonian Market. I am not convinced that official council dumps for this kind of refuse would be the right way to tackle the problem. I would rather see the authorities permitted to make a charge for moving refuse of this kind from people's back yards.

My noble friend Lord Silkin expressed some slight apprehension about the extent to which, in one case after another, we were designating certain areas of land, and he feared that the day might come when the whole of our countryside might be so designated. Well, my Lords, under our town development maps and town and country planning maps the land is virtually all designated now, and so I should not allow that to frighten me. All these are matters of detail which I think may be usefully considered in Committee.

There is, finally, the question of money which I had intended to raise earlier in my remarks, but which has been dealt with by a number of noble Lords. This legislation will put an extra financial burden on local councils, and therefore upon their ratepayers. Noble Lords will understand the psychology of local councillors. Council elections come round each year, and they do not like having to go to the electors to apologise for having to put up the rates; and everything that tends to put up the rates, even though in itself it may be a relatively small item, is something which councillors will not be too keen on doing. So I sincerely hope that there will be some form of assistance from the national Exchequer to enable local authorities to interpret this legislation really enthusiastically without the fear of repercussions for financial reasons which might follow any action they take. The Bill as a whole aims at making Britain a prettier place. Anything that is pretty should be welcomed, and it usually is. So I enthusiastically support the Bill, and I hope that it will have a fast passage to the Statute Book.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to give a warm welcome to this Bill. As the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, explained in his admirable exposition, it does three things in three separate spheres, all of which badly needed doing. In all these ways, and as the noble Earl has said they are positive ways, the Bill should do something to improve the aspect of our towns and countryside to help to save them in some measure from the desecration which never ceases to menace them. As the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe said, perhaps over-modestly, it is a modest Bill; but it is an extremely useful one. The initiation of the Bill owes much to the vision and energy of the Civic Trust, and it is fitting that it should have been sponsored in another place by the founder of the Civic Trust, Mr. Duncan Sandys.

There are three preliminary points about the Bill which are perhaps worth making. First, it has been wholeheartedly commended by the Government. Secondly, in the course of the proceedings in another place the Bill was largely redrafted, with the help of Parliamentary draftsmen. The result is that it comes to your Lordships' House in extremely good shape and should not require very lengthy consideration. Thirdly, during the debate in another place the Bill was equally warmly welcomed on both sides of the House. In many places the Bill lays duties on local authorities; in other places it confers powers on local authorities, and in, I think, two places it gives the Minister power to give directions to local authorities or to make orders in default of action by local authorities.

The proper relationship between Whitehall and local authorities in regard to action by the latter in the kind of field covered by the Bill will always be a matter of debate. The conception which seems to be implicit in the present Bill is that it is best to rely to the largest possible extent upon the willing co-operation of local authorities and not to provide, beyond necessary, measure for direction or order from Whitehall. Like the noble Lord, Lord Hailes. I have sympathy for this view, but the fact remains that local authorities vary widely in their efficiency and in their willingness to act. The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, has just blown the trumpet for Essex, and probably rightly so. It is fair to say that financial considerations will have a bearing on this in the eyes of some local authorities, and the noble Lord. Lord Leatherland, rightly drew attention to this.

From this point of view, Clause 1 of the Bill now before us is of some interest. In subsection (1) a specific duty is laid upon local planning authorities—namely, the duty of determining and designating areas of special architectural or historic interest. In this particular case, this provision is backed up by subsection (2), by which the Minister is given the power to give local planning authorities, after consultation with them, such direction as he thinks necessary with respect to their fulfilment of the duty thus laid upon them. This, I think, is the only place in the Bill where such a power of direction is provided, and in this place I think it is rightly provided.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked, "What kind of direction?", and I think that at some stage in our proceedings we should like to know a little more about what is intended by these words. Once an area has been designated under this clause, what then has the local planning authority to do about it? The answer will be found in subsection (5). One would think that the duty of local planning authorities here is somewhat too vaguely expressed. What the local planning authority has to do, if I may quote the words of the clause, is to have regard to the … desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of the designated area … in the exercise of its powers under the Historic Buildings or Planning Acts. "To have regard to the desirability" are vague words which place no specific duty upon the local authority, and one may wonder whether this goes far enough and whether it might not be possible to place upon the local authority a definite responsibility to preserve and enhance. But perhaps as a matter of practical politics the existing text is as far as one can go.

In one other place in the Bill there is provision for a default power in the Minister. That is to be found in Part III, which deals with the removal and disposal of abandoned vehicles and other refuse. In this part of the Bill the various duties laid upon the local authorities are defined in specific terms, and they are very extensive. They include the provision of refuse dumps and the removal of abandoned vehicles. Here the local authorities are not left entirely to themselves. If they fail to carry out their duties in this respect their failure may be inquired into by the Minister, and if he is satisfied, after holding a local inquiry, that there has been such failure, then he may, by order, require the authority to carry out the duty in such manner as he may prescribe. It seems to me to be right that where duties are so specific in a practical sense as they are in this part of the Bill, and where they may be tiresome and somewhat difficult to perform, it is right that there should be in the last resort this default power in the hands of the Minister.

With these few words, I repeat the hope that the House will give this Bill a Second Reading.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, I wish to say how much I welcome the new provisions in Part I of the Bill. It is now twenty years since the passing of the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, and I think it will probably be agreed that the area where it has been least effective is in the preservation of the centres of our towns and cities. A survey made by the Civic Trust at the beginning of this year gives the illustration of one town of 70,000 people where there were 130 houses listed as being of architectural or historic interest. There are now only 25, or perhaps 30, of them left. That is the measure of the erosion which has gone on, even with the operation of the Town and Country Planning Acts. Therefore the need for such a measure as this seems to me to be without possibility of contradiction.

The moving of the emphasis from the individual building which must have either historic or architectural interest to the area is of immense significance. I think that if we are going to persuade the local authorities—and it has already been said how they vary in their quality and sensitiveness on this matter—to act in this matter, we must be able to give good reasons to the property owner or developer why we regard it as important that in any particular area certain groups of buildings should be preserved and individual property rights should be limited or overruled.

I believe that the social and organic life of a community is a living thing. A community is not just a collection of individuals. It has an organic life. This is something which is not artificial and cannot be taken for granted. As we know from building our new towns, it is something which is laboriously built up generation after generation. This organic life needs to have co-ordinated planning. Every great civilisation bears witness to this fact. But there is a further point. I believe that in the old-established communities we must preserve visual reminders of the long continuity of community life in that place, reminders of the cultural and spiritual traditions out of which the community has come and by which unconsciously so often community actions are modified. To destroy wantonly, without any deliberate plan for replacement, the old centres of our towns and villages often destroys this sense of continuity and tradition, which at the present time the community desperately needs as a kind of spring-board for its outward-looking action.

At one time, before I went to America, I was very critical of the movement of works of art and buildings from Europe to America. Having been to America, I am entirely converted. I believe it to be absolutely right that the American people should have visible signs—they are almost sacraments—of the great cultural European tradition out of which they come. Although, for example, a thing like the Cloisters in New York may sound absurd, if you go there and see it you recognise that it is a creative achievement to which millions of Americans go, and I believe something in them is stirred as to their heritage and tradition. This is something that I think has to continue and has to be safeguarded.

In almost every town and village of this land there is a nucleus of old buildings, usually associated with the parish church, and this nucleus of buildings is the visible expression of the experience of community life over the centuries. Certain buildings in the group can be safeguarded. I think it is not unfair to say that in this respect the members of the Church of England, with many well-wishers, have preserved this astonishing heritage of the parish churches of this country at the most enormous cost. In the county of Lincolnshire there are no fewer than 700 buildings, many of them with tiny communities around them. Nevertheless, these buildings have been preserved. And there may be the odd building of architectural interest. But at present there is nothing to prevent what happens again and again. First of all, an old building, not of great architectural merit but part of the group, falls into decay. Often in a village it reaches a stage when it is just cleared, and all that remains is tumbledown brick work and nettles, and the thing becomes a sort of scar, a sore in the heart of the village.

Secondly (and this has happened as a result of the Town and Country Planning Act), because of the difficulty of getting planning permission for a new house, very often a house—again of no great architectural merit, apart from the group—will be sold; it will have to be pulled down, and in place of it a new house will be built. This is not necessarily a bad thing. But what so often happens is that the building is built without any sensitivity to the environment. The owner has seen some particular model at some building exhibition, and thinks how pretty it will look. I do not think we want just prettiness in our villages; we want something better than that. Thirdly, there is the building which is bought by a developer. Here, again, much depends on the planning authority, but so often the building which is put up is designed, possibly here in London, without any sensitivity to the neighbourhood and in no way relates to it.

I want to make it clear that I am not a preservationist, as such. I should hate the idea of kind of "olde worlde" ghettoes surviving in the heart. This would be terrible. I think there is a proper place for development, even in the centre as a living thing. But what I believe to be important is that there ought to be a burden on the developer to prove to the local authority that what he is going to do is sensitive to the neighbourhood in which he is developing, and not something which is imposed upon it irresponsibly.

Again, this does not mean the preservation of particular styles. There is a very good illustration in Coventry. If you go to the North-West corner of Coventry Cathedral you will find a 17th century half-timbered building; immediately adjoining that you find an 18th century building, and near to that there is this modern building. There is perfect harmony; they all seem to be sensitive to each other. Or there is the example of King's College, Cambridge, with the Chapel and Gibb's Building side by side. It is more subtle than just trying to build in old style. I am reminded of the words of the new President of the Royal Academy, Mr. Monnington, who said: All the best work is traditional. But he added: It is often not until the next generation that you see how the tradition has been continued. I do not think we want to discount the possibility of continuing a tradition within this central area, but it has to be something which goes beyond the immediate interests of the individual or the particular developer.

I want to say here that we owe an enormous amount—and it is part of our English way of doing things—to the whole idea of the Civic Trust, the body of people concerned and interested, who quite spontaneously come together and exercise a particular interest for a neighbourhood. We have many illustrations of the way in which this has effectively safeguarded and salved particular places. The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, has spoken of the work in Essex, and the development of the Thaxted Society, with the co-operation of the county council, of the survey which has fairly recently been done by David Insell and associates. I think this a glorious illustration of how voluntary association and interest, co-operating with the local authority, can have a tremendous effect on these very things.

This we must encourage, because the Act itself, if it is to be implemented effectively, still requires people of sensitivity, understanding—it is difficult to describe the exact qualities which are needed. It is unlikely, humanly speaking, that one can be sure of finding these, even in the county planning office. One would hope to find groups of people who will sometimes have to act as a gadfly. This is a good thing for the Civic Trust to be. Many horrors would have been perpetrated but for the gadfly playing that particular part, determined to see that the legal planning authority exercises all the expertise that is possible and that of opportunism and insensitivity are challenged. I believe we can hope that as a result of this Bill many areas, without being restricted to being some kind of museum piece, will be preserved. And the reason for this is that we may have these visible signs of continuity of the great heritage and tradition out of which we come.

5.09 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, should like to convey my thanks to the noble Earl for introducing this Bill to-day. When he told me about it the other day I said I hoped that I should be able to get here before the debate finished—at that time he seemed to think that there would be only two or three speakers—and that I should not have to leave before I had been able to help him. I mention this last point because I have an engagement later which may require me to leave before the end of the discussion, and if that should happen I hope your Lordships will forgive me.

I agree with, I think, almost every speaker this afternoon that this Bill, so far as it goes, is a good Bill. In some respects it does not go as far as many of us would like, and as Lord Strang particularly emphasised, it is very vague in some particularly important parts. I hope it will be possible to tighten it up a little in the Committee stage, and that the noble Earl will not say that that is very dangerous because it may mean that we shall lose it if we attempt to do so.

I would also pay my tribute to Mr. Duncan Sandys and the Civic Trust, which he has played such an important part in building up and which has done a tremendous amount for urban civilisation in this country over the last few years. As a very keen worker in the National Trust, and the C.P.R.E. perhaps more particularly, I have always felt that when he was Minister in charge of the planning arrangements he did much to give local authorities the push which they often require, as Lord Strang pointed out, and we were all very grateful to him; and here is another reason for gratitude this afternoon.

I felt very much in agreement with the speech of the right reverend Prelate who has just resumed his seat. Indeed, I think I agreed with everything he said. I should like to comment on many of his remarks, but there is not sufficient time and I do not want to spend what time I have in commenting on individual speeches, except that I should like to follow up what the noble Lord, Lord Hailes, said, speaking from such an intimate knowledge of the work of the Historic Buildings Council. He and his colleagues have really done wonderful work there. I do not think that small sums of money have ever been expended more profitably in this country. I had the opportunity of seeing this from the angle of the National Trust, who have benefited a great deal from their help. There can be no doubt that the historic buildings of this country owe an enormous amount to this; and that this miserable pittance was provided only just in time to save very many of them. When we look back from the next century, I think we shall feel that this money, which does not come to the amount which is spent on a bomber from first to last, has been very much more valuably spent than most of the money we spend on bombers. I should like to say that, because I feel this very strongly.

This Bill really consists of an innovatory part, the first clause, and a number of very useful proposals for minor amendments of the law. I should like to say a word or two about some of these, though I shall deal with them very shortly, and particularly in relation to Part II, which deals with trees. I find myself in very strong agreement with several noble Lords who have spoken about the subject this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, made a very good point indeed about the way that trees in cities, in urban areas, are maltreated all the time by pollarding. The men who are put in charge of the pruning arrangements are usually people with no sensitivity whatever, and it almost makes one cry to go through the streets of some of our great cities after this terrible operation has taken place. I hope that in this Bill, or in some way, the appropriate Minister will take powers to deal with this business, because it is one of the worst eyesores in very many of our cities.

The planting of trees, as the noble Lord, Lord Holford, particularly emphasised, is of very great importance. The aspect of this which appeals to me very much is the stepping up of penalties for the deliberate disregard of tree preservation orders and the cutting down of trees without the necessary licences from the appropriate Department. We in the National Trust have suffered very severely on more than one occasion, for a valuable stand of trees can bring in enough to pay all the fines which magistrates can impose, even if they impose them all at the top level, and yet leave a very substantial profit for the miserable men who deliberately break the law in this way; and they usually succeed in getting away with it—at any rate that is our experience in the National Trust—before we hear about it and are able to get an injunction.

I hope that these higher penalties will be effective, but I myself would be prepared to put a man like that into prison. Many of the unfortunate men who I, as a chairman of quarter sessions, have to sentence to prison are much less guilty in the eyes of the community than the people who behave in this way. These trees are part of the culture of the country, and deliberately to destroy them in this way seems to me to be in just the same sort of line of conduct as defacing a picture or some other great work of art. I should like to see the provisions of this Bill tightened up even more, and to see the courts given power in proper cases to send a man to prison for this kind of behaviour, as a lesson to others and to deter them from this kind of conduct.

The business about dumping rubbish is, again, a very serious one. I live on the edge of a common on the North side of London, where people bring not only their old motor cars but their old bedsteads and all sorts of other rubbish just to get rid of them. And this is happening all over the country, as the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, emphasised. It is at this point that the urban dweller goes out into the country very often, and the country dweller suffers from his activities of this kind. It is very important, I think, that the authorities should be given powers to handle this particularly noisome problem.

It is interesting to reflect that the Englishman, in a way, is much more a countryman than a town dweller. These crusades (I do not know whether one should call them that) tend to start in the country. The National Trust starts in the country. It is followed by town and country planning, the country planning being much more highly developed—or the control certainly is in many areas—and much more tightly applied in the country than in the towns. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Henley, who referred to advertising. Advertising is really not a problem in the country any longer. The Scapa Society was so successful in its efforts to get the law tightened up in relation to advertising in the country that it had no more work to do and had to wind itself up. It is true, of course, that in the urban areas there is still a problem in connection with advertising. But I think that one of the things on which we can legitimately congratulate ourselves in this country is that we have been much more successful in preventing unsightly advertising in the country, and controlling it in the towns, than any other country it has been my fortune to visit. This has frequently been commented on by sensitive visitors from foreign countries after spending a holiday here.

I should like to say just a few words about the first clause and the first Part of the Bill, which is to a large extent innovatory and makes a very important beginning. Your Lordships had a most interesting debate, in which I was not able to take part, about the Arts only a week or two ago. I have not had time to study it very thoroughly in Hansard; but so far as The Times went, it did not seem that there was very much emphasis on architecture, the outside part of culture; and that, I thought, was a pity. I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Holford, said. After all, architecture is that part of our art which is visible to everybody.

We cannot go about the streets without bumping up against it. To see pictures one has to go to a picture gallery; or to hear music one has to go to a concert hall. But architecture is, par excellence, that part of our cultural heritage which every citizen bumps up against, and I think that to a large extent, if unconsciously, it forms the taste of large numbers of people. Some of them are beyond hope—they could not have any taste formed—but I think large numbers of people develop a quite reasonable standard of taste through walking about the streets, even in London, and more so in some other cities—particularly Edinburgh, perhaps—and many continental cities. In parenthesis, I should like to say how much I found myself in agreement with what the noble Lord, Lord Holford—a distinguished architect—said about work on a tabula rasa being not always so good as the work which the architect has to fit into an already developed area. Whenever I go to the National Trust Office, which is just out- side St. James' Park Underground Station, I spend a minute or two looking at that remarkable building which the late Sir Charles Holden built. He was not one of our greatest architects, but he was a very good one, and I think St. James' Park Station is very much his finest piece of work. He had to put it in a very difficult place, and I am quite sure that it was the struggle to put a good building into that place which produced that piece of architecture. When, in Bloomsbury, he was given a tabula rasa and he built the Senate House, I am afraid it was not as good as those of us who worked in the university hoped it would be.

Throughout Western Europe from the seventeenth century, and particularly during the eighteenth century, an urban architecture of great importance and loveliness, often reflecting the cultural traditions and sensitivities of different European nations, was built up. In this country, as John Somerson has shown in his admirable book on Georgian Architecture, particularly in London squares and streets, buildings of real beauty were built during that time and into the nineteenth century. When I first came to London Bloomsbury, to which he devotes a good deal of attention, was still intact. There is not very much of it left. It is a tragedy. I was walking through there only the other evening and found that several streets which had been there last autumn had now been razed to the ground. There are parts of Kensington which are still very fine, but there again the demolition gangs are moving in and the speculative builders are buying up the properties.

I hope that this Bill will be on the Statute Book in time to save some of this cultural heritage which has formed the artistic outlook of many thousands of Londoners. Therefore, I have the greatest pleasure in welcoming this Bill, and I hope that it will shortly be on the Statute Book.

5.25 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to congratulate both my noble friend Earl Jellicoe and my right honourable friend the member for Streatham, Mr. Duncan Sandys, for having initiated this most important Bill. It has been suggested that the Bill has not gone far enough. With that I agree, but one has to remember that this is a Private Member's Bill, and those of us who have had experience of moving Private Member's Bills, as I have, will know that if one tries to "push one's luck" too far, so to speak, one may lose the Bill. In any case, the Government have promised an elaborate countryside Bill, which we await with great interest, because it is bound to have a profund significance so far as the present Bill is concerned.

I think the real value of this Bill will be seen by future generations. There is a tendency—and I think there will be general agreement here—for city centres and town centres to be pulled down or altered somewhat indiscriminately. Sometimes it is the price of progress which has to be paid. Sometimes it is necessary, and sometimes I submit it is not so necessary. But these are probably points which may be pursued in Committee, although obviously a long Committee stage is something we should like to avoid, because with a Bill of this kind its progress would be inevitably jeopardised.

I should like to say a few words about Clause 13, and the question of trees. Being a lover of trees, I deplore as much as anyone the need for having to cut them down. I live in the county of Surrey, where we have many lovely areas of tree land, particularly around the hills, where there is some of the most beautiful country in the whole of Southern England, and also the Sussex Downs, which I know very well and where I have spent many happy hours, particularly in areas such as Friston Forest. When it comes to replacing trees—and I think this part of the Bill is most necessary—we must take great care about the trees which are to replace those cut down. I submit that conifers and most deciduous trees are particularly desirable, whereas elm trees, of course, are highly susceptible to weather conditions. I hope that when the Bill becomes law attention will be paid to this matter. Of course there is a financial problem here. I am a little uncertain as to who is to pay for the replacement of these trees. If it is to be done by private people, obviously they will not want to be put to enormous expense.

I live almost on the edge of a common in Surrey. I know there has been recent legislation on common land, but I hope that this Bill at least touches on provisions regarding common land. Quite apart from the dumping of cars and other objects, to which I shall refer in a moment, there is the danger of fire. In a dry summer, particularly on the common near where I live, it is no unusual sight to see a fire engine—or perhaps more than one—combating fires, some of which may have been caused by sheer vandalism and others by carelessness, such as leaving broken bottles which catch the rays of the sun, at such time as the sun decides to shine. These fires can do untold damage, not only to wild life but to shrubs and trees, and those of your Lordships who are authorities on common land will know how long it takes to replace flora and fauna when it is destroyed in this manner.

My Lords, I turn now to Part III and the question of refuse, abandoned cars and suchlike. My noble friend Lord Cromartie, who is unable to be here to-day, has particularly asked me to raise this matter in relation to Scotland, and particularly Northern Scotland where he comes from. Knowing that area myself, I should like to ask the Government what plans they have, particularly for the rural areas, where there is not the necessary personnel to make the collections of these vehicles. Also, who is to pay for this work? Not all county councils, particularly in the North of Scotland, are particularly wealthy, and, alas, places such as the shores of the Gairloch and other areas have tended to become dumping grounds, not only through the actions of people passing to picnics and for other purposes, but because people tend to dump old prams, bicycles, cars, refrigerators on some of the loveliest countryside. I hope that particular attention will be given to requiring a proper method of payment for the collection of these vehicles. I note from the Bill that there is virtually free collection of these objects. This work is desirable, but what is it going to cost?

Not far from where I live there is a dump which is primarily for council house tenants. I am not for one moment going to suggest that council house tenants are necessarily any more untidy than other people, but the collection of these objects is not done very regularly. It is absolutely vital, if this Bill is going to work, that a really regular collection takes place. All your Lordships will have seen litter bins full of orange peel, papers and other rubbish, and they are full primarily because there is not a regular collection. I hope that in this Bill a real duty will be laid on the local authorities to undertake regular collections. It is all very well having a Litter Act—and I am entirely behind the Litter Act: in fact I think the penalties are, if anything, too low—but there must be a duty to collect the litter regularly so that people do not go by a litter bin or dump and say "It is much too full; I will just throw it on the ground". I think this is a very important point to keep in mind.

There is one omission from the Bill which I hope will be rectified, if not in this Bill then in the forthcoming Countryside Bill. This concerns fire. All too few places of natural beauty have proper fire precautions, and this is particularly true of common land, as I said a few moments ago. Whether it is possible to do it in this Bill I do not know, but it is something to be considered for the future.

Finally, as has been mentioned, there is the question of safety. As a Vice President of ROSPA I am very anxious to see that these old cars, many of them rusty, and it may be with petrol tanks half full, are removed as soon as possible to prevent the kind of accident—sometimes fatal—which happens to a number of children every year. With those words, I commend this Bill to the House.

5.35 p.m.


My Lords, I take it that one of our main duties in connection with this admirable Bill, which I join with other speakers in welcoming very heartily, will be to ensure, so far as possible, that its provisions are not evaded. I rise to call attention to the possibility which seems to me to exist of the evasion of Clause 19. I have given notice of the point which I am about to raise to the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, though I am afraid that it was rather short notice. It may be that in his reply the noble Lord will be able to set my fears at rest.

A month or two ago I was walking down an unrestricted road in London, and I saw a somewhat aged minicar with an advertisement on the windscreen. The advertisement indicated that the car was for sale for the sum of £75 and gave the telephone number of the vendor. I do not know whether this way of disposing of an old car is legal under the present law, but I do not think that it would become illegal under the provisions of the Bill we are discussing. I do not believe that a court would hold that a car is abandoned if it is being offered for sale; yet an old car offered for sale, even though it may seem barely saleable, is just as unæsthetic as an old car dumped.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships very long. I should like to say first of all how glad I am to see this Bill before your Lordships, and how deeply all of us are indebted to the right honourable gentleman who was responsible for its initiation and its progress through another place, and also to the noble Earl who is looking after it in this House. I agree with everything that has been said this afternoon, and your Lordships may well suppose that in that case there is very little else for me to say. That is true, but I have one or two points I should like to make on each Part of the Bill. They are all of them rather similar. They are basically founded on certain anxieties, if I may put it that way.

I am delighted by the provision that local authorities shall be called upon to schedule certain areas in their jurisdiction. I suppose it is inevitable that this task should be put upon the local authorities, but some of us who have had a certain amount of local authority experience cannot feel entirely happy about that attribution of power. It may be—and it has been said here this afternoon—that there are local authorities which are good, and some which are not so good. Within the last few days your Lordships will have heard or read a great deal about the gasometer in Abingdon. I dare say some of your Lordships even went to look at this proposed horror. If you did, I wonder whether you looked at the far more horrible horror, the destruction of the market place in Abingdon, committed, quite happily presumably, with the approval of the planning officer, if of course there is a planning officer. Unfortunately, it is only too true that there are not planning officers in all the local authorities. But even planning officers are not guaranteed to be right because, unfortunately, they still have to consult their City Fathers—and I expect all your Lordships at one time or another have come across an alderman or a councillor who is quite certain that he, who has lived there all his life, knows best what is needed to improve the outlook and the development of his town. I suspect something of the sort happened in Abingdon.


My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him for a moment, to remind him that one of the major difficulties in the Abingdon case was that the planning authority had no power to prevent the erection of this gasometer?


My Lords, I am aware of that. It was, of course, the county council. But clearly the county council have a responsibility for the towns in their neighbourhood; and I should have thought that if a strenuous opposition had been put up by the people of Abingdon—who, incidentally, let me say at once, in other connections are an extremely lively and reliable municipality—then I think that the county planning officer would have advised against this destruction and, what is worse, the replacement.

I should like to say one or two words about trees. I am delighted by the proposal that trees, like houses, are to be protected. I am not quite clear how they will be protected because, as your Lordships are aware, a tree which has been damaged by the cutting of its roots, for example, does not die immediately. How long after the erection of the new building or the construction of the new street, or whatever it is, will the builder or contractor be held responsible for the death of a local tree?

I should like to differ slightly from my noble friend Lord Silkin in one respect. I agree with him entirely in regard to a variety of trees, but I am not sure that the Japanese flowering cherry is the answer to every architect's dream. I should have said that though there is a place for such trees (and beautiful they are when properly placed), among buildings something more substantial and something like a forest tree is much more effective and much more to be desired.

I am as pleased as anybody in this House by the proposal to eliminate, if possible, the accretion of refuse. But I do not believe that this will be achieved by refuse dumps. These dumps are a nightmare, a "hideousity", an abomination. They stink, and their appearance is unspeakable. Surely the disposal of refuse has to be considered in the light of modern possibilities. There are instruments which will crush this refuse and render it much more easily disposable. These tools are extremely expensive, costing, I believe, as much as £1 million.

It seems to me perfectly clear that no single local authority can possibly undertake the installation of such an apparatus. It is therefore inevitable that they should be supplied by the central Government, with perhaps one in every area large enough to keep it occupied. I am convinced that this is absolutely essential if this major blight upon the face of our countryside is to be removed and prevented from recurring. I hope that I have not sounded too critical, but that my criticism may be useful. I commend this Bill to your Lordships.

5.45 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my thanks and congratulations to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, for introducing this admirable Bill, which I am sure will go far to meet the needs of the country in dealing with these difficult problems of preservation and the efficient disposal of wasted assets which now so increasingly litter our countryside. I speak as a countryman who believes that this greatest asset we possess is at all times in need of protection, not only for the benefit of those of us who live in it, and therefore have the greater responsibility to protect it, but for the swelling urban population as a whole who seek relaxation and restoration of spiritual values in returning to the natural beauty and tranquility of our British countryside.

We have all experienced in our travels those many happy stops by the roadside, perhaps for a picnic or a short walk to look at the view, and in our ramblings have come across that unsightly junk heap in a corner of a field, or in some hidden quarry or some disused pit; or, in picking our way through the woodland admiring the bluebells or perhaps listening to the bird life, have stumbled over some rusty old horror, and discovered that the undergrowth is littered as far as the eye can see with all these remnants of earlier mechanical masterpieces. It is not only our own reactions which show disgust and repulsion at this blighting of the landscape; our many visitors from overseas are also repelled by this ever-accumulating evidence of some national lack of civic pride and, until now, by our apparent inability to deal effectively with it.

The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, referred in his opening speech to the desperately fragile situation on preservation; and the words of the noble Lord, Lord Strang, whom we heard earlier to-day, during a previous debate (on February 23 this year) referred to a "losing battle in defence of the countryside", and the necessity of calling a halt to the "continuing, irreparable spoliation of the dwindling countryside" will be as fresh in your Lordships' minds as they are indeed true of the position to-day. There are also some who may remember an article in a weekend supplement, almost a year ago, which specifically covered many aspects of this spoliation, and showed pictorially the hideousness of these dumps which have been mentioned by so many of your Lordships this afternoon, and stated there the urgency of the situation. So it is indeed most heartening to read the provisions of this Bill before us, and to realise that when they become law they will go such a long way to redress that balance from the losing side nearer to the winning one.

In welcoming this Bill and speaking in its support, I should like to mention one factor—it arises under Part III—which seems to me to be not entirely provided for. That concerns the provisions for the removal from private land which is generally adjacent to public roads of old cars and other mechanical débris for which the landowner cannot really be held responsible. As I understand it, the relevant clauses—Clauses 19, 20, 22 and 23—read to the effect that if a motor vehicle or any other thing is abandoned: on any land in the open air or on any other land forming art of a highway it is the duty of the authority to remove the vehicle. Or, under Clause 23, they: may if they think fit … remove the thing". This seems to deal effectively with the future as regards the highways, but it does not deal completely with past abandonments on land which may be privately or publicly owned but on which, by reason of its situation, the owner has not been able to prevent refuse dumping. I am not certain, but it may be that there is a gap in the Bill on which it may be difficult to legislate in a suitable manner.

Perhaps the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has examined this point. I believe that if we are to go forward in what I hope is going to be a national purpose with the passage of this Bill, to preserve and enhance what is very much worth preserving in our countryside and also to clean up the detritus of past years, some greater direction, and possibly financial support, may have to be given to local authorities if they are to tackle dumping grounds where neither the owner of the land can be held responsible for the cost of clearance nor can the last owners of the junk be traced. Perhaps there is a case for the availability of a once-for-all grant to enable local authorities to clear up the squalor of the countryside and for a general direction that this should be done with all possible speed. The noble Lord, Lord Leatherland, referred earlier to this aspect when he mentioned the increased expenses which local authorities might well have to consider, and undoubtedly it might affect their view as to whether they should clear a particular dump or not. Where charges can reasonably be levied, so much the better; but where they cannot be suitably attached then the local authorities should be enabled financially to exercise their powers and "see fit" to remove "the thing". The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, said that not a word in this Bill could be unintelligible to your Lordships. Perhaps the "thing", although all-embracing, is a little unintelligible.

Certainly I, as one British taxpayer, feel that the expenditure of extra money for clearance is something upon which I should prefer my money to be spent rather than in some other directions, and I suspect that many of your Lordships feel the same. I think there is a problem in who will pay for the clearance of dumps and in the effect that this may have on local government views as to whether they "shall think fit" or not. I hope that this matter can be gone into during the passage of this wholly admirable Bill, and perhaps the noble Earl will be able to think of a possible solution if he considers, as I hope he does, that these points are worthy of further examination.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, in general what this Bill sets out to achieve is excellent, and it is a very great credit to its sponsors who have worked so hard to try to make everybody appreciate our countryscape and townscape and to help make it, and keep it, an agreeable and clean place in which to live. I have some criticisms and suggestions to offer upon the Bill, and some questions to ask, upon which I hope my noble friend will be able to help me when he comes to reply. However good the principles behind Part I of the Bill which seeks to preserve the character of certain areas, I have some reservations.

I feel very cautious about encouraging parts of Britain to be turned into museums. One can go too far. The kind of thing of which I am thinking has already occurred in National Parks. Those who live in them have to abide by some curious rules in regard to, say, the colour and texture that they must make, and keep, their roofs. Some people are charmed by stone-tiled and clay-tiled roofs. My experience of them is that they are awkward, leaky and expensive to maintain; and most slate roofs, are, in my opinion, ugly, leaky and expensive to maintain. The simplest and cheapest form of building material yet invented is concrete asbestos sheet. Yet some people throw a fit if one uses it on a barn, let alone on a house. In one area which I know quite well—not a National Park—farmers have solemnly had to paint their barn roofs with cow dung to hide the offensive whiteness. They are encouraged to have white walls, but not white roofs. To me, there is little æsthetic difference between a white roof, a red roof, and a grey roof.

The trouble is that asbestos cement is a new material, and is associated in people's minds with factories. It is likely that stone tiles were at one time looked upon by some with disfavour when they replaced thatch, which certainly has no virtue in itself, unless it be a certain quaintness. There is no reason why asbestos cement could not be moulded to look like tiles, though that would really be a little absurd. This is the sort of rule which can—and it is likely will—be made in designated areas, and I hope that the protests of the inhabitants will be listened to and respected by those who seek to impose regulations about something as arbitrary, whimsical, subjective, impracticable and expensive as æsthetic tastes and opinions can be. That our countryside looks like it does is very largely accidental. One must appreciate that it is, and always has been, changing, and we must mind what we are about if we try to freeze it in any one position.

Historic buildings are a different matter, for there are rarely doubts about what one is trying to preserve, and there are grants for upkeep and replacements. Here I think that we should make it as certain as we can that an historic building, once listed, is maintained as well as it reasonably can be maintained. It appears to me that amendment to the Bill might profitably be made to help towards this end. The first is in regard to Clause 2 where, perhaps rightly, an offence is committed where it is proved that the person charged did not know, and could not reasonably be expected to have known, that the building preservation order in question had been made. I do not know the procedure at the moment as to how a new owner is informed that his purchase is designated or listed. It would be much less easy to plead ignorance if the designation were entered in the conveyance, and perhaps on the deeds. The same could and should apply to tree preservation orders under Part II. In both cases entering the designation order on the deeds would have the additional virtue of fairness, for a prospective owner would be almost certain to be informed or warned thereby.

The next amendment which I should like to make is one to cover the case of somebody who buys a property which is listed as being of historic interest or as an ancient monument, and who just lets it fall to pieces by neglect. Clause 3 of the Bill refers to: any person who, but for this section, would be entitled to do so, does or permits the doing of any act which causes or is likely to result in damage to the building and so on. So what the clause says is that if he does something, he can be prosecuted; it does not say that if he does nothing, he can be prosecuted. Neglect and injudicious treatment are mentioned in Clause 10 of the 1953 Act, but in that case the Minister has to be told by the Ancient Monuments Board that the building is being neglected, when he can serve an interim preservation notice on the owner.

What can happen though, and I suspect it is happening at the moment in a case of which I know, is that someone can purchase a house and grounds, perhaps in a strategic place on the edge of a town or in the middle of a town. He purchases it at a reduced price because it is listed as being of historic interest. He can let it fall down because nobody from the Ancient Monuments Board happens to come round, and can then claim an absurdly high grant to put the place in order. When that is refused because the place is not worth it, he may successfully apply to pull it down and put houses there instead. I do not know how one could word a suitable Amendment which applied to houses but did not necessarily apply to ruins, but some way should be found to do it, and it should be an owner's duty, so far as is reasonable, to see that his ancient monument does not fall into decay.

Before I leave the matter of buildings, I wonder whether my noble friend could enlighten me on this point. Under the Leasehold Reform Bill estates which have so far been managed by responsible landlords will be split up. Crescents and terraces and squares may have been painted uniformly by the landlords, but on enfranchisement each tenant will be free to paint his house any colour he likes. Even one freeholder can absolutely ruin such a terrace by painting his house a different colour. I want to know whether Part I can be made to cover this matter.

I have some questions about Part III, To relieve the towns and countryside of old vehicles and other ironmongery would be splendid, but it may not be easy or cheap, because, however quickly motor cars appear to disintegrate in normal use, they need professional attention and large and costly machinery to destroy them entirely at the end of their lives. The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has mentioned the various machines for scrapping and baling. I should like to know how local authorities will be expected to cope with and dispose of old cars and scrap which they will be collecting, and how they will be encouraged to form a syndicate to buy the huge balers which will otherwise be beyond their means. Perhaps I have asked too many questions, and the remainder are really Committee points.

Finally, I should like to say that I wish the public would learn to be more tidy-minded. By that I do not mean that the whole country should be clinically cleaned, with everything trimmed and regimented neatly in rows. I should not like to see it like that, because that sort of tidiness is only for cemeteries. I am talking of the public being tidier about litter. On the day I first read this Bill I was sitting in my car at the traffic lights where Beauchamp Place joins Brompton Road, and a woman came out of a shop with a small, empty jar in her hand. It might have contained boot polish or face cream. Quite deliberately, she bent down and put it into the gutter and then she dusted her hands and walked back into the shop. I was flabbergasted but I was too pushed for time to do anything about it. But that woman, after all these years, still thought that the gutter was the natural repository for rubbish. Others think that over the hedge is the best place. I wish that somehow we could succeed in educating people into thinking otherwise.

6.5 p.m.


My Lords, I owe the House an apology for not having heard the whole of this debate, and I rise only to put a point very shortly. I told my noble friend the substance of it, but I confess that I find it very difficult indeed to work out, because this legislation and other legislation to which I propose to refer in a moment follow on a number of amending Acts and the like, and one really does not know where one is in the whole matter.

If I am right, the Minister of Works is still the guardian of a number of ancient monuments, and there are arrangements as to their preservation and the like in the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953. Though there have been some changes made, that, in substance, is still the position. If I read the Act rightly, I do not think it includes buildings occupied as dwellings by anybody other than the caretaker, but it does include a great many buildings which, had they been occupied, would possibly have been a subject for the Bill which we are now considering.

I should like very much to know—not now, because this is not a question which one can expect any Minister to answer without notice—what is the position about ancient monuments and ancient buildings in this country. What are the respective jurisdictions and functions of the Ministry of Housing and the Ministry of Works? I notice in one part of this Bill, in a clause which deals with loans in lieu of grants in certain cases, a reference to "any Minister", and I think the legislation says that "any Minister" may include the Minister of Works. I rise to mention this, because when I was in another place I had to do with some of this legislation in Committee, and I remember that at that time there was double jurisdiction, which no doubt had a historical foundation but which seemed to have little administrative sense about it. I am rather disappointed to see that there is no attempt to deal with that question—if, as I suspect, it still exists—in a very useful Bill for which time has been found. That is really all I want to ask.

I should like to add that this does not apply to Scotland, because Scotland has a Secretary of State who is, as it were, a Prime Minister without a Cabinet, and the whole thing is co-ordinated in the Scottish Office—at least, I hope it is. I am not quite certain about Wales. Certain functions have been transferred to Wales lately, and there may or may not be a similar difficulty there. But it is a very real point. It has gone on like this for very many years indeed, simply because nobody has ever faced up to the question of trying to see what was the most economical and sensible way of dealing with the preservation of ancient monuments and buildings as a whole in the country.

6.9 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise to your Lordships that at this late hour I should intervene in this debate without notice, but I can assure you that it will be for only a very few minutes. I am wholeheartedly in support of this Bill and I would, if I may, respectfully add my congratulations to my noble friend Earl Jellicoe and to my right honourable friend Mr. Sandys; and, indeed, not only congratulations but warm thanks, too, for tackling this problem at last. I am, if I may say so, especially attracted by the concept in Part I of the conservation and preservation of areas as opposed to single, particular houses. I am sure that this is a very big step forward in what we are trying to do.

Mention is made a good deal in this Bill about local authorities. I wonder whether I might ask the noble Lord, Lord Kennet: what is the real position of the area of Whitehall? In introducing the Second Reading of this Bill this afternoon, my noble friend mentioned this, I think, on one occasion. If I remember rightly, it is not a matter in which a local authority has any jurisdiction at all, but is a matter for the Government of the day. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, probably knows what I have at the back of my mind in asking that question. I remember that some years ago, in another place, there was a great deal of discussion and some controversy regarding the future of the Foreign Office, and at Question Time I asked the then Minister of Works, Mr. Geoffrey Rippon, when it was their intention to pull down the Horse Guards. That was not quite as silly as it sounds, because if you are thinking about the preservation of buildings, and if a building like the Foreign Office is sacrificed, then long after the reaper has caught up with all of us here, in perhaps fifty years' time, someone is going to come along and say, "The Horse Guards does not fit this area, in these particular surroundings; therefore, that must come down too." I believe that a decision in principle may have been taken about the future of the Foreign Office, but I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that he should not regard this pass as completely sold, and that if we are thinking about preservation and conservation this should be high on the list.

I do not know how in a field like this I dare even comment on anything which may have been said by the noble Lord, Lord Holford, to whom the country owes so much for all his work, thought and ideas, but he said something during his speech to-day which worried me a little, if I understood him correctly. He was talking in the context, I think, of public buildings, and I understood him to say that these old, beautiful buildings, with wonderful sculpture, flying buttresses and so on, which were built in the past, were models of discomfort and inconvenience inside, whereas the new buildings which were going up had all the amenities and comforts inside that they very rightly should have. This worried me a little, because I cannot see why one cannot have both the convenience and the amenity inside and the beauty outside as well; for I have the fear that posterity is not readily going to forgive this generation for some of the things which we have perpetrated in our time.

May I say one word about Part II? The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, referred to the beauty of trees—and how right he is! He spoke of the need for elasticity (I think that was the word he used) in the approach to this problem of replanting and so on, and I am sure he is right about that. I also agree absolutely with what the noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, said a few minutes ago, when he remarked that the flowering cherry is not the answer to everything, and when he also remarked upon the desirability of planting forest trees.

It is conceivable, when you are considering replanting, that there may be some commercial considerations as well. I would therefore express the hope—and perhaps my noble friend and the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, may think this worthy of consideration—that the Forestry Commission should be brought in to advise on the species most suitable for replanting in any given area. They have the experience and the knowledge, and I cannot think of a better body to advise on what would be a very important decision over replanting, and one which will affect for many years to come the area in which the planting is to take place. I therefore hope that this suggestion may be thought worth while considering. Having said that, I would once again say how very strongly I support this Bill.

6.15 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps I may start by taking up some of the stray points, as it were, and work backwards through them. The noble Lord, Lord Oakshott, asked about the position of Whitehall. The position is that it is a street in the area of the Greater London Council and in the City of Westminster, and most of it is Government property. There is the Whitehall Plan, which was inherited from the Conservative Government, and reaffirmed by this Government; and part of that Plan, which was laid down for the consultants before they were hired, was the demolition of the Foreign Office. I believe that the demolition of the Foreign Office and new building on that site is not among the first things which are to be done under this Plan. The general situation of Government property, as the House well knows, is that, although Crown property is exempt from the planning law, there is a procedure whereby consultations are held between the owning Department and the local authorities concerned, so that in effect very much the same thing happens as would happen if planning law were applied in its full public rigour.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord on that particular point? Am I right in thinking that, with the qualification he has made about the particular ownership of the public buildings in Whitehall, there would be nothing against the London borough council concerned and the G.L.C. together designating Whitehall, if they so wished, as a conservation area?


My Lords, I can think of nothing against it on the spur of the moment, and the observations of the Greater London Council on the Whitehall Plan are, as the House knows, already in the hands of the Government.

My noble friend Lord Mitchison asked me about the relationship between the Ministry of Works and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in this field. I will, if he wishes, give him a full and proper answer later on, when I have had time to prepare it. Generally speaking, there are in the country ancient monuments, which stem from legislation beginning in 1913, and there are buildings listed as of architectural and historical interest, which stem from legislation dated 1944. Normally, the ancient monument is uninhabited. It may be a ruined abbey—that kind of thing. But not all are uninhabited: some are inhabited. I could find out later the precise proportions. Always, I think, the listed building is inhabited. Until last year the control of listed buildings was in the hands of the Minister of Housing and Local Government, but the funds for their maintenance were in the hands of the Minister of Works, and the control of ancient monuments was in the hands of the Minister of Works. What has happened recently is that the funds for the maintenance of listed buildings have been transferred from the Minister of Works to the Minister of Housing and Local Government. There is a faintly tricky boundary line here, but I must say that in practice it does not give us too much trouble. We work closely together and the two sets of powers are handled together.

The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, asked about the effect of leasehold enfranchisement upon estates which are largely leasehold and which all look nice because they are painted the same colour. We can go into this question in greater detail when the Leasehold Bill comes before us, as it shortly will, but this point has been thought of, I am glad to say, and when a leasehold estate is broken up, or partially broken up, by enfranchisement what will happen is this. We all have in mind great estates, especially in London, where this will apply. The freeholder will apply to the Minister of Housing and Local Government for a declaration that his estate has been a well-managed estate. If he obtains this declaration, which should not be too difficult to obtain, he will then arrive at a scheme of management which will be adhered to by both himself, as residual freeholder in houses which have not been enfranchised, and by the new freeholders in houses which have been so enfranchised. This will be a unified scheme of management; and this will then have to be approved by the court. I think we need have no fear that Belgravia or the Cadogan Estates are going to burst out in a rash of pink and green paint. This provision in the Leasehold Bill is designed, at any rate, to ensure this.

My Lords, as many speakers have recognised, Part I of this Bill carries us beyond the concept of the "single gem" towards the concept of the whole area, or zone, in a town or village. Not that the Bill has nothing to say about single gems: it was only last year that the owner of a 14th century manor house near Solihull, in the Midlands, illegally knocked it down and was duly fined £100. I am not precisely informed of how much the deal was worth to him; but I believe it was considerably more than 100 times as much as the fine he paid. Under this Bill, he could be fined a sum equal to or—there is no ceiling—above whatever profit he got out of the new development on the site of that 14th century manor house.

This is Part I and it sets the tone of the Bill. It introduces an altogether more determined era in the planning of these matters. The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, asked me two very interesting questions. He asked whether the fact that a building was listed ought not to appear on the title deeds of that building and so be immediately apparent to any future purchaser. It does, of course, appear on the Land Register, or, in Scotland, on the Register of Sasines; so, if the would-be purchaser makes an ordinary search, he will find out. It may be that he does not make the ordinary search and will never know. As a "snap" reaction, my view is that it is probably enough as it stands, but I will look at it again.

The noble Lord's other interesting suggestion was about wilful neglect and decay. The Bill copes with the owner of a listed building who deliberately removes a tile. He can now be ordered to put it back, and can be prosecuted if he does not. But what about the owner who deliberately sits back and twiddles his thumbs, hoping that the tiles will fall off themselves—as of course they always do. And when that happens the building decays and is lost. I think this is a most interesting suggestion. I am not sure what the right answer would be. If the noble Lord feels like putting down an Amendment on this point, with exploratory intent, I should welcome it.

The noble Lord, Lord Hailes, inquired about the effect of the provision that the Historic Buildings Council will be able to give loans as well as grants in future. I do not know whether he had in mind the possibility that this was the thin end of a wedge tending towards a reduction. of the total sum of money available for the Minister to expend on the advice of the noble Lord's Council. That is not the idea at all. It is to give the Minister increased flexibility in his operations. There are many cases where a loan would do the trick and where a grant would not be necessary. The provision is there only in order to allow that to happen. I should like to say at this point how grateful my right honourable friend is, as were his predecessors, for the work done for a long time by the noble Lord, Lord Hailes, as Chairman of the Historic Buildings Council, and the noble Lord, Lord Holford as chairman of what is now a sub-committee of it, on the actual technical criteria to be adopted when buildings are listed.

A provision in the Bill which has not been noticed—it is a small one, but it makes a beneficial change—is that a local authority can now acquire buildings compulsorily for the purpose of preservation whether or not they have a building preservation order on them. This means that all the 102,000 buildings on the statutory lists can now be compulsorily acquired by the local authorities for that purpose. I do not suppose they will acquire many. Unfortunately they will not have the funds. But this introduces yet another area of flexibility. The bringing of parsonages within the ambit of the planning laws is another clear advance. As a matter of fact, I think everybody in the Ministries concerned believed that they were within it. "An ecclesiastical building in ecclesiastical use", which is the term used in the Planning Act, sounds like a church. But, lo and behold! a court one day decided that it also covered a parsonage; that this was an "ecclesiastical use". We were surprised; everybody was surprised. The anomaly is now rectified.

But, my Lords, the great point of this Bill is the establishment of the conservation area. The Bill for the first time gives statutory effect to this idea of group value. We have all pointed it out. This is the biggest advance of all. The noble Lord, Lord Strang, took exception to the weakness of the words which bind the local authorities, having designated an area, simply to "have regard to the desirability of maintaining and enhancing" and so on. He said that it would have been better to bind them to "maintain and enhance". This is an interesting proposal. I should like to consider it between now and the Committee stage. One can see pitfalls in it; but I agree that to "have regard to the desirability of" is not as strong language as it might be.

Many noble Lords have asked the question that arises after an authority has designated its area: What is it supposed to do about it? What does the Minister propose to do about it? What are the powers of direction he has? Basically, it is to be up to the local authority to decide what to do about it; and I think everybody conversant with this field realises that the great problem is how much money they have with which to do it—money for paying out grants and, let us face it, for hiring skilled staff to decide what is the best thing to do. I hope that the local authorities will designate rather a lot of land, large areas; that they will be rather liberal. The fact that the area is designated is not in itself going to provide the money to do the necessary jobs; but we hope that in the future the money will come along. Then the area will be there and the thought and the planning will be ready to match with the money when it does come along.

I hope the local authorities will designate not simply the High Street, the little mediæval yards, the obvious bits. I hope they will designate whole quarters of towns and, in some cases, whole towns within the walls. I hope that they will designate Victorian quarters, good Victorian development, with fine streets which are still untouched and which should remain untouched. I hope that they will designate villages. I hope that they will have some liberality of designation in this field.

They are not going to be without advice. My right honourable friend will be publishing later this year a book called Preservation and Change—a title familiar to many noble Lords who work in this field. It has been in preparation for a long time. It contains the background doctrine about how to reconcile what is old and good with the need to develop new and good things. It is not technical; it is in no sense mandatory. It is simply background information, and it contains a mass of pictures of things well done and things badly done. The Minister, soon after the Bill passes, will also send out to local authorities a circular which will contain much more concrete advice on how to proceed. Between now and then I shall be in touch—I hope in continuous touch—with the Civic Trust and the Historic Buildings Council on what ought to go in the circular.

Lastly, my Lords, on the question of direction. My noble friend Lord Silkin asked whether there could not be a Schedule to the Bill saying what the Minister could give directions about. I should be rather against that. I think it would be better to leave it open, as far as the Bill is concerned. The circular is going to contain hints of circumstances which might give rise to ministerial direction. The obvious circumstances is the case where one local authority do nothing for "x" months. It may then he necessary for the Minister to prod them. One can imagine (although if the circular is widely drafted it should not arise) an awkward disparity of standards between one local authority and another. If there is not a corporate body of wisdom developed in time, one local authority might put down dozens or hundreds of small conservation areas and others might put down one or two simply enormous ones. This situation ought to be avoided and we shall help the authorities to avoid it.

Despite all the good advice that Lord Hailes and Lord Holford have given successive Ministers, and despite the existing powers—which are insufficient; and this Bill goes some way to rectify them—we are at present legally losing listed buildings at the rate of rather more than one each day, including Sundays—that is, about 400 a year. I do not know how long it takes, on average, to knock down an old building, but if we say that it takes a week, we must imagine that somewhere in this country there are seven listed buildings being legally knocked down.

We can improve the powers—we are improving them; this Bill is doing it. Everybody hopes that in due course we shall be able to increase what is known in the trade as the H.B.C. slice. At present it is running at £450,000. The noble Lord, Lord Hailes, compared that with the amount of money available for the live arts and museums, which is considerably more, and the contrast strikes one in the face. In time it will be increased, but I do not know when. I think that even when it is increased to any considerable amount there will still be a gap between the cost of building and letting or selling new building, and the cost of restoring, repairing and maintaining and letting or selling an historic building.

We must develop planning procedures—and this we are working on hard with the local authorities at the moment—to direct the right amount of wealth into the historic quarters of our towns; not too much, otherwise you "bust" them up and the pressure for skyscrapers becomes irresistible; not too little, otherwise the buildings decay, people simply go elsewhere, and the buildings fall down. I am not without hope that we may, in time, develop planning procedures with wisdom and experience and hit it just about right in most of our historic towns. I hope we shall get the right amount of wealth by normal planning Bills, by channelling the wealth here, there and elsewhere; with industrial development in one place, transport in another, and so on, so that we can make a living concern of these historic centres without knocking them down.

Various things will have to be done beyond the Civic Amenities Bill. We should look ahead to future legislation. The Minister has under consideration at the moment various provisions which could go in a later Bill, in particular the matter of the compensation payable to a householder who is denied permission to knock down his old house and build something more profitable. At present a local authority acquiring a listed building for the purposes of preservation has to pay not only compensation for the value of the building being acquired, which is normal, but also compensation for the value resident in the very development it is preventing. It says to the vendor, "The development you propose is anti-social, but still we will compensate you for not being allowed to do it". This matter is under consideration.

My Lords, I turn now to Parts II and III of the Bill where there is a reference to trees. I do not want to take the House in detail through the Bill because the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, did that. The noble Lord, Lord Faringdon, inquired how long after new development a developer might be held to be liable to replace a tree if it had died, after some delay, because the roots had been cut. The answer is that there is no limitation on the period. If a tree dies, the local authority may decide that it was due to the developer having been careless about the roots, and take appropriate steps. If the developer argued, the matter would have to be settled by the courts. There is no limitation.

I turn now to the question of rubbish. The noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, inquired about the most interesting case of a car bearing a "For Sale" sign which had been placed in a street. Many factors would have to be taken into consideration. Quite likely the car would not be licensed, and if that were so it would he an offence to leave it about. The "For Sale" notice might be bogus. Under the provisions in this Bill a local authority might take the trouble to follow up the offer for sale and if the notice was bogus the car might be held to be abandoned. It would then be caught under the Bill.


My Lords, would it not be difficult to prove to a court that the sale notice was a bogus one?


My Lords, I think it an obvious conclusion that it would be difficult indeed, but the short answer to the question is that to put a "For Sale" notice on a car which is in the street, whether the vehicle is stationary or moving, is not in itself an offence; nor is it in itself—nor will it be in itself—proof that a car has not been abandoned. in the terms of the provisions of this Bill.

Several noble Lords expressed fears about stinking rubbish dumps and asked whether large new rubbish dumps would appear because of the provisions in the Bill. Of course, nothing in the Bill changes the existing public health provisions about rubbish dumps, and nothing, in the Bill—I profoundly hope and confidently believe—will change the standards which local authorities observe about rubbish dumps. All it is intended to do is stimulate local authorities to provide rubbish dumps, especially for the enormous things. and especially for cars and "things", by the way, is intended to be interpreted very largely as parts of cars, It is intended to stimulate local authorities to provide places where these may be taken and left. I hope and suppose that the fears about an increased incidence of bad dumps in the country because of this Bill will not prove justified.

The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, inquired about what would happen in Scotland, especially in the case of the poorer local authorities. I should perhaps say that everything in the Bill applies to Scotland and there are poor local authorities in England as well. The provisions in the Bill have the welcome and blessing of the Scottish local authorities' associations. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Hughes will look at the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, and if necessary will make a further statement, or observations, about them when we come to deal with the relevant clause in Committee.

Lastly, my Lords, I would join with virtually every other speaker in congratulating and thanking the "father" of the Bill, Mr. Sandys, and, shall we say, its "uncle" the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, who brought it before your Lordships' House. For me it has been a great pleasure to work with Mr. Sandys and with the Civic Trust in the drafting of the Bill, and I look forward with equal confidence to its being a pleasure in the future to work with the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, during the Committee stage. My Lords, the Government give this Bill 100 per cent. support. We are confident that it is an excellent measure and that it will mark a turning point in the history of attempts by Private Members in another place and Members of your Lordships' House, and Governments, to make this country an even nicer place to live in than it is at present.

6.36 p.m.


My Lords, I shall detain your Lordships for only a moment. I should like to thank all those noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. They have brought a very wide experience and much particular expertise to our discussions. I would particularly thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, for his informative and constructive remarks. I shall certainly undertake to consider very carefully—and those are not light words—between now and the Committee stage the specific suggestions which have been made. It is obvious that I may count on the continued advice of the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and the ingenuity of the Parliamentary draftsmen. In conclusion, I should like to thank your Lordships for the reception which you have accorded to this Bill.

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