§ 2.52 p.m.
VISCOUNT COLVILLE OF CULROSS
My Lords, this is a Bill which is divided into six Parts. I think five of them are liable to be controversial, but it is the second which is really the heart of the Bill, although the other provisions are also of some importance. Part II arises from a problem which is now becoming increasingly common and a matter of concern, particularly in the Inner London Boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea, Camden and Westminster, and it is the problem which is known as the "creeping hotel". For this strange creature there are a number of slightly differing recipes and ingredients, but essentially what you do is to start off with a block of furnished flats and perhaps introduce bed and breakfast service or some sort of maid service, then add a restaurant and perhaps other communal rooms, then start letting the flats on shorter and shorter terms, and in the end you have an hotel. This is almost always contrary to the terms of the planning control under the Town and Country Planning Acts, but the change takes place very gradually, and in steps sometimes, and it is always a matter of fact and of degree to see when it has occurred. There was recently the fairly celebrated case of Chelsea Cloisters in Sloane Avenue, where a long inquiry into a number of enforcement notices in relation to exactly this sort of thing occurred. The Department of the Environment eventually 10 upheld most of the enforcement notices on the appeal, and so far as I know the further appeal to the High Court has been abandoned, but it took a very long time to do it room by room, and in some cases enforcement notices did not succeed.
The damage that is done by this particular practice is twofold. Far the most important is the loss of accommodation in Central London, which, as the House knows, is at the moment a very important and difficult problem facing all those concerned. But, secondly, one can also, in the process, get something which is far from a satisfactory type of hotel. Last November there was a very good debate in another place which touched upon this subject, among others, and a good deal of first-hand experience was given by Members of another place who represent constituencies particularly in the middle of London, and they explained what had been happening and what damage was caused. In reply to that debate my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State in the Department of the Environment made two remarks in his speech. First, he said that he had no precise figures available of the amount of housing accommodation lost because of changes to hotel use. He went on:…because the changes can take place without the local authority being aware of them. That is the nub of the problem.A little later he said:The real problem, therefore, is to find ways and means of discovering when material changes of use have taken place without planning permission.What is proposed in Part II of the Bill is a form of registration of sleeping accommodation in terms that are carefully defined in one of the early clauses of the Bill. I think it has been agreed by all those concerned to do something about this situation that registration would be the best way of dealing with it. It would give early warning of the incidence of these matters to the local authorities concerned and allow them to consider whether they wish to make use of the powers they possess under the planning laws. Incidentally, there is another provision on the Statute Book, in the Development of Tourism Act 1969, which allows registration of hotel accommodation, but I think if your Lordships will look at Section 17, which provides these 11 powers and is not in force at the moment anyway, it will be seen that an entirely different matter is there being dealt with—registration by the Tourist Boards, primarily to get information about the quality of the hotels concerned, grading and the accommodation they can provide. That sort of registration would not help local planning authorities, as would registration under Part II of the Bill.
There is no doubt that this Part of the Bill is controversial. There are petitions against it which, if your Lordships give it a Second Reading, will be carefully considered by a Select Committee upstairs. What I say about this Part of the Bill, indeed really about all of it, is that it is at present a local matter; that there is a critical effect resulting from this particular damage in Central London; that the machinery that is in Part II of the Bill, and I think in the rest of it, is of the right kind to deal with the problem, and that it is something which ought to be looked at by a Select Committee in order that its full merits and demerits may be discussed and determined.
Part III of the Bill has also a petition against it. That Part relates to some changes in the planning law, and I am bound to tell your Lordships that as it stands I am sure it is much too wide. The intention of the Corporation is to propose to limit the operation of this Part of the Bill if it gets to Select Committee, by way of amendment, so that it would apply only to the sort of creeping-hotel use dealt with in Part II. Even so, I see technical snags in it, and I am not in general very happy about amending the general legislation, the Town and Country Planning Acts, on the basis of one local authority area alone. The point here is that the Corporation have found, as I have told your Lordships, that the enforcement notice procedure can be interminably long, and meanwhile there is little one can do to stop the offending use going on, particularly because the machinery of stop notice applies only to building operations and matters of that sort and not to development which consists of change of use. The amendments proposed in Part III are very technical, and if noble Lords want further explanations of them I shall be happy to 12 give them, but otherwise explanation may be a little tedious. This is another Part of the Bill which as a result of the petitions will be carefully scrutinised by the Select Committee.
Part IV is again controversial and again subject to petitions. It would allow the local authority to take powers compulsorily to acquire houses where the owners or occupiers have been convicted of harassment of their tenants under the Rent Act 1965. Of course, such compulsory powers could be used only if there was a case as defined in Part IV, where there had been a conviction, and they would have to be subject to confirmation of the Secretary of State. Nevertheless, a problem of this particular nature has been found to exist in the Central London areas, and the Corporation would again like to have the merits of their suggestions threshed out in front of the Select Committee. They do not find that they have adequate powers under the Housing Acts to do what they want to do in these cases, though I think the powers would be fairly rarely used. Again, in all honesty, I must have a reservation about the change in the compensation code which occurs in Clause 17. I do not very much approve of general legislation being altered on the basis of one borough for a specific type of acquisition, but I am sure the Select Committee will look very carefully at that, too.
Part V, as I said, also the subject of petitions, relates to the control of noise from premises, usually in the form of music which can be heard in the street. The design of the Corporation here is again to impose by way of licence some sort of control over the number and the volume of loudspeakers. The present legal position is extremely cumbersome, and is largely ineffective in dealing with noise that is heard in the street. There are some methods whereby you can deal with it if it upsets the inhabitants of adjoining premises, but not if it is simply the passers-by in the road who are affected. Here again, your Lordships may have differing opinions. Some may like the gales of "pop" issuing from boutiques down the Kings Road, but there are others who take a contrary view, and there may be some happy balance which should be by way of licence sought and found and some limitation on decibels imposed.
13 Part VI, which I think is not the subject of petition, is mainly clearing up, but it has one substantive clause dealing with the problem that has arisen in the borough of people who drop litter and also those who allow their dogs to foul footpaths. Both are offences: under general legislation in the case of the litter, or by-laws in the case of the dogs. The difficulty here has been that when people are approached and asked to give their names and addresses when they are seen to be allowing either of these practices, they very often refuse to do so, and it is only if a policeman can be brought on the scene in time that their names and addresses can be obtained. Sometimes they give false names and addresses. The borough has certain wardens who attempt to keep the borough tidy. They would be the authorised officers who would be empowered, if this particular Part of the Bill were to become law, to ask for and obtain people's names and addresses in order to try to prevent the litter and mess that now occurs in the borough and to help tidy it up. That may be a provision that commends itself to your Lordships.
My Lords, that is the extent of the Bill. I must admit that most of these provisions are of a pioneering nature, but they relate to specific and fairly urgent problems which arise at this moment in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. There are these objections in the petitions to most of the controversial material in the Bill. It would therefore be very fully scrutinised and argued out if it were to be sent to a Select Committee upstairs, and I have little doubt that the Department of the Environment would wish to comment on it. I look forward to hearing what my noble friend Lord Sandford has to say this afternoon. I therefore ask your Lordships to give the Bill a Second Reading so that all these matters may be fully discussed and dealt with upstairs. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Colville of Culross.)
§ 3.4 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF KINNOULL
My Lords, I should like to congratulate my noble friend on introducing the Second Reading of this Bill with his usual clarity, brevity and persuasiveness. I am sure 14 that the House will realise that with his specialised knowledge of planning law the noble Viscount is singularly well equipped to move this Bill. May I say at the outset that I support the Bill in principle, and hope very much that the House will give it a Second Reading. As my noble friend has said, it will be examined in great detail by a Select Committee, if it reaches that stage.
I should also like to congratulate the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea on promoting the Bill, no doubt at considerable expense—and at expense to the ratepayers, of whom I am one. I am sure that they have a special problem to tackle in their area. As my noble friend has said, this is a bold Bill, of which a number of Parts are controversial. Indeed, as he has said, a number of petitions have been put down against it. I should have thought that the most controversial Part concerns the power of compulsory purchase. The Bill reminds one of the Isle of Wight Bill, which the House will recall asked for special powers for one local authority. In the Second Reading of this Bill the question seems to be whether or not such power should be given to one local authority, or whether it should be a matter of general legislation. No doubt my noble friend Lord Sandford will be commenting on this aspect. Perhaps he could also comment on whether, if this Bill is successful, many of the clauses and the powers under the Bill will become general legislation. The House will recall that when the Isle of Wight Bill went through this House, there was a general understanding that much of the legislation which particularly dealt with the control of the "pop" festivals would eventually become general legislation. For this reason I think that this, in a sense, pioneer Bill will assist the Government, and one hopes it will assist particularly the Parliamentary Draftsmen.
As my noble friend has explained, by Part III the Bill seeks to streamline the procedure of the enforcement notices. I personally believe that this process is a necessary evil. It has come about mainly because of the number of cases where unscrupulous people have flouted planning controls to the detriment of their neighbours. They know that by stalling off the enforcement notice they can gain 15 at least a year in which to carry on certain activities which they know, or consider, will eventually be stopped by an enforcement notice being confirmed. As my noble friend has said, the Bill sets out as well to tighten the control over the—I think he used the phrase—"creeping hotel". This of course is a special problem in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea which is faced with enormous demand for temporary accommodation, particularly from air travellers. From the planning control aspect and, for that matter, from the disturbance of the residents aspect, I believe that the Council have a case for this power. But no doubt again the Select Committee will consider it with care.
The Bill also covers the control of musical noise—or noise purporting to represent music. This is another power which anyone who has suffered this experience will welcome. Again I hope that this power will become a matter of general legislation relating to all local authorities. As I said at the start, the only power that one has immediate hesitation about asking for in the Bill is that of compulsory purchase. The compulsory purchase powers are obviously an emotional subject at the best of times. One wonders what is wrong with the existing law of harassment, and why the compulsory purchase powers should be granted outside their normal and traditional purposes. Could this power be abused, and act as a deterrent against the landlord? I am sure my noble friend Lord Sandford will be commenting on this later. If this Part of the Bill is deemed unacceptable by the Select Committee or the House, I hope the Bill as a whole will not be lost.
I repeat my support for my noble friend and I congratulate him again and wish him luck in steering this Bill on to the Statute Book. I again congratulate the Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council on showing commendable initiative in promoting the Bill, and I wish it every success.
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, DEPARTMENT OF THE ENVIRONMENT (LORD SANDFORD)
My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has broad sympathy 16 with the Corporation in their general aims, and has no desire to stand in the way of a Second Reading of this Bill. But he has serious reservations about the means of achieving its objectives, as set out in Parts II, III and IV, in particular, dealing with hotels, enforcement of planning law and harassment of tenants by landlords respectively. I have listened to what my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross has said about the loss of residential accommodation in the borough, and we are aware of the problem of the surreptitious transformation of residential premises into hotel use. My right honourable friend is of course very concerned about the problem with which Parts II and III of the Bill seek to deal. It is one facet of the general question of the provision of hotel accommodation which involves loss of housing. Last month my Department published a development control policy note, which drew attention to the special problems in London and made it clear that, in our view, there is a presumption against hotel development involving a significant loss of housing; and that presumption is particularly strong in the three Central London boroughs.
Leaving that point, I think it is right to mention, as my noble friend has done, that Parliament has already made provision in the Development of Tourism Act 1969 for the registration of hotels. As my noble friend said, that Act provides for registration to be the subject of a scheme made by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. He is only now about to receive the recommendations of the Tourist Boards. In considering this Bill, we are therefore in the difficulty that the Government will have before them proposals for another registration scheme which is at present being designed for a rather different purpose. That is not an insuperable difficulty, but it is a complication.
The Corporation's first objective, as set out in Part II, is the registration of hotels and near-hotels. One immediately sees from that term that there is a difficulty in deciding where to draw the line, and I am glad to hear that changes are already in mind. But not only would Part II of the Corporation's Bill impose the need to register; it would also give the Corporation power to refuse registration on planning grounds. While I accept that 17 the Bill would catch some fish which might get through the planning net, it would involve a duplication of control over a considerable amount of development which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment regards as undesirable. This is exacerbated by the right of appeal to a magistrates' court against refusal of registration which the Bill gives. Appeals against planning decisions—and this is what appeals under Part II would in effect be—normally lie to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment, and my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross has already commented on the difficulties here. But the Bill goes still further than this, and makes the use of unregistered premises a criminal offence without giving any opportunity for a defence such as is provided in the planning appeal system. This particular feature of the Bill is quite unacceptable.
I now come to enforcement, the objective of Part III of the Bill. The general approach is consistent enough with planning policy, but there again we have strong reservations about the way it is proposed that this should be done. This Part of the Bill would make amendments to the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 which deal with enforcement of planning control. As my noble friend noted, these provisions are of course of general application throughout the country and we have to be very careful before accepting any local variations, unless these can be fully justified in exceptional local circumstances. Although the greater part of the provisions of Part III savour too much of an attempt to amend the general law in ways which we do not consider useful or justifiable, I should not exclude the possibility of adopting some of the features in Part III to deal with the particular problem to which Part II is directed. This is something which my right honourable friend would want to discuss further with the promoters.
I think it only right in this connection to let your Lordships know that, in our view, there is much that can be done under the existing law to combat creeping conversion from residential to hotel accommodation. The recent decision of my right honourable friend on the Chelsea Cloisters case is relevant here. I am sure that the Corporation are alert to the 18 possibility of action under the existing powers. Nevertheless, following a debate in another place we have undertaken to examine urgently whether further planning powers are needed to deal with the problem of creeping conversion. We have already consulted the local authority associations, first to ascertain how widespread the problem is, and secondly to seek their views on wider solutions. Though there is little real evidence of a general problem, your Lordships will have realised from what I said earlier that there is recognised to be a very real and intense problem in Central London of which the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea forms such an important part. If your Lordships agree to give this Bill a Second Reading, I hope that we shall be in a better position before it has gone through further stages to assess the prospects of tackling this problem, either by general legislation or by way of legislation designed to deal with the problems of London in particular. But I think that the prospects of early Government legislation are not very strong.
Part IV of the Bill adopts a quite novel approach to harassment. I should like to take this opportunity of commending the efforts being made by authorities in the central area, such as Kensington and Chelsea, to deal with this social evil. My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Construction, Mr. Amery, called a conference of the inner London boroughs in April last year to discuss landlord and tenant problems in housing stress areas, following the recommendations of the Francis Committee on what administrative action could, and should, be taken in an attempt to ease the difficulties with which landlords and tenants are faced in areas such as these. I should like to make it absolutely clear how great an emphasis the Government place on the need to deal with these problems. In that connection, I should like to draw your Lordships' attention to an Amendment to the Criminal Justice Bill which has been agreed to in another place, further increasing the penalties. The Francis Committee recommended increased penalties, and penalties greater than those proposed by that Committee have been incorporated in the Bill.
Unfortunately, my right honourable friend sees certain difficulties in the principles and methods adopted by Part IV for dealing with the harassment problem. 19 The fundamental point is that the Bill provides for the use of compulsory purchase powers following a harassment conviction. Compulsory purchase is in fact used when it can be shown that in the public interest property should be acquired from the existing owner for the proper planning of an area, and it has not hitherto been used at all for any other purpose—certainly not as a punishment for a criminal offence. But this Bill provides that such powers should be used to give effect to a decision that certain persons are unsuitable to own property, the criterion for unsuitability being a conviction for harassment. The Francis Committee found that harassment can, and often does, arise from many causes, some of them quite trivial, and a harassment conviction in itself is a very poor guide to a landlord's criminality or to the suitability of certain people to be property owners. Therefore, my right honourable friend feels that the departure from accepted compulsory purchase principles is unacceptable, particularly in the light of other steps taken to deal with this problem.
My Lords, there is more in the Bill, as my noble friend has said, about noise and litter, but I think I have said enough to show that my right honourable friend has a number of serious reservations about certain provisions in this Bill. But it has long been the convention in this House that Private Bills should be passed to a Committee for detailed scrutiny of their contents, and I should not wish to advise that this Bill should not be given a Second Reading.
§ 3.20 p.m.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I should like to thank the noble Lord the Minister for the support, albeit qualified, which he has given to this Bill—a support which I share. And I should like to congratulate the City Fathers of Kensington and Chelsea upon their courage in bringing this Bill forward, and my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross upon the skill with which he has introduced it. Much though we may agree, as I do, with the principles of the Bill, there are nevertheless certain serious reservations which I think your Lordships should ask to be considered at the appropriate time. Here, my Lords, I must declare an interest—not a financial one, because I do not live in 20 the borough, but an interest in that I have for some years been President of the London Tourist Board; and we in the London Tourist Board, and in the English Tourist Board as well, have been considering this matter very carefully. Much though we agree with what the borough are trying to do, we are apprehensive that they are setting about it the wrong way.
Your Lordships may think that it is odd to hear somebody connected with the tourist business saying that there can be too many hotels. I do not go as far as saying that, although there has been a tremendous amount of new hotel building in the last two or three years, and I myself think that one or two people are going to get their fingers burnt. But what we feel is that if you destroy the nature, the environment, of a borough such as Kensington and Chelsea by turning it over to too much hotel development, you will destroy the attractiveness of the borough which makes the tourist want to visit it. You will also, of course, make life intolerable for the citizens who live there. If your Lordships doubt what can be done by uncontrolled outbursts of hotel building, you have only to go and look at Miami Beach or the Costa Brava. If we are not very careful, we shall find ourselves saddled with a Costa Cromwell Road; and that is going to be unattractive.
What the borough are trying to do is admirable. They are trying to control development in a way which is acceptable to the citizens who live there, to the tourist trade and to London at large. I suspect that they are going about it the wrong way, because what will happen is that if their Bill is passed into law there will be an outcrop of exactly the same trouble in Camden, in Marylebone, in Paddington and in Westminster. This is not suitable, my Lords. Either this matter should be tackled civically—that is, by the G.L.C.—or nationally, that is, by national as opposed to local legislation. But it should not, I submit, be tackled by one borough because, with the best intent in the world, it will lead to confusion. What has happened here arises from a weakness in our planning law, and that weakness should be put right by national legislation. I can see the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, giving me a nasty look, and understandably so, because 21 anybody who stands up in your Lordships' House and suggests new legislation at this particular time is not going to be popular. But this is the only way to do it.
I shall not oppose this Bill, of course, and I hope it will be carefully considered. But I should like the noble Lord to realise how much we support him in his suggestion that this is really a planning matter and a national matter, and not one to be considered solely on behalf of the citizens of this distinguished borough, although they are the principal victims. I am sorry for them. I admire their courage and determination in putting this matter forward, but I think they are going the wrong way about it. This is a serious problem which, my Lords, it is up to the courts to solve.
§ LORD DAVIES OF LEEK
My Lords, I am very grateful that the last point has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, who spoke with authority—and we know how he stands with the tourist industry. All I would make an appeal for is a recognition that this needs national attention. I can think of, say, Mecklenburgh Square, where for many years I had a flat, and where people were pushed aside because the University wanted to extend, and the neighbourliness and the motive for living in the area disappeared altogether. It is possible to have an arid area which may be rich in tourism yet not representative. I go to my own country, and think of Aberystwyth. Aberystwyth itself, I think, from when I remember it as a child, has been altered completely because of the accommodation needs of the University; and I sometimes wonder whether that accommodation was planned out. I shall not vote against a Second Reading, if there is a Division, because I have not gone into the Bill in enough depth. But I would put in the caveat that a thing like this needs attention, and that the time has come for it to be given attention in depth by some Government.
§ BARONESS STOCKS
My Lords, those who attend affairs in this House are accustomed to ask strength to resist "private interest, prejudice and partial affection". I acquit myself of the first two: I must plead guilty to partial affection, because I have partial affection for the Royal Borough of Kensington, in which I was born; and I am very proud that, 22 with regard to hotels, it should now adopt the policy of "Enough is enough". The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, raised a rather difficult point. He spoke of the possible future of two registration authorities both tackling the problem of registration, one on a national scale and one on a local scale. Did the noble Lord not say that? Yes, so I understood. Suppose they are both tackling the subject of registration. They are doing it from different angles, because I presume that the body which is doing it on a national scale represents the Tourist Board, whereas the body which represents Kensington on a local scale represents the inhabitants of Kensington. The two bodies may be tackling the problem with different motives—one favouring more hotels, and the other fewer hotels. So what? I would rather have double registration than single registration by a national body which is in the interests of the Tourist Board.
There is another point that was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft. Of course we all agree that this is, if not a national problem, at any rate a Greater London problem. The whole question of hotel development should be tackled with a view to development which could and should happen to the East and South-East of London, and which I believe is already beginning to happen. But since the matter is urgent and the thing is happening, I would plead for Kensington to be regarded as a special case. I use that phrase with a little distaste on account of recent associations with special cases; but Kensington is a special case. Mayfair has gone; Bloomsbury has gone, thanks to higher education, as the noble Lord has pointed out. Kensington and Westminster still have far to go, and I beg that they may not he allowed to go any further.
§ 3.29 p.m.
§ LORD NUGENT OF GUILDFORD
My Lords, I should like to add a brief word about Parts III and IV of the Bill, to which my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross made some reference. First, I should like to say that I would support his moving of the Second Reading of the Bill. I think its objectives are excellent; and, goodness knows! it could not have had a more able advocate than my noble friend in moving it. But in Parts III and IV of the Bill the powers which are sought by the borough would be an 23 enlargement of national powers, particularly with regard to enforcement; and I was grateful that my noble friend referred to this proposed extension of the general law, which I think would be objectionable. I was also encouraged to hear my noble friend Lord Sandford referring to this particular feature of the Bill.
I should say, my Lords, that I speak in particular for the National Association of Property Owners, of which I am president. They are concerned that the balance between the interests of landlord and tenant should be properly preserved. All landlords are not criminals. They have an important role to carry out in the community; and it is a matter of keeping the balance right. If we feel, as Parliament, that it ought to be adjusted in any significant way, that is clearly something for national legislation to do. But may I say again that I sympathise with the general objective for which the borough are aiming, and especially in controlling the "creeping hotel" abuse? I hope that in Committee it may be possible to cure the Bill of, perhaps, its over-enthusiasm and defects in some respects. I shall be happy to see it given a Second Reading.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I should disclose my interest. I am a very old inhabitant of Chelsea and very fond of the place. I wish briefly to support what has been so admirably said by the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks. Let me say at once that of course I recognise that some of the points put forward by the Minister are points which should certainly be carefully considered by the Committee and I am glad that the House is unanimous in thinking that this Bill should go to the Select Committee upstairs. Let me say also that I think the recent record of the Minister for the Environment in this matter of hotels in Chelsea has been a worthy one.
Perhaps I might speak of some of the things in which as a private citizen I have been involved. There was a major development in what is known as the Pier Hotel site, which involved the site of the old Pier Hotel and a great part of Oakley Street. The buildings on the site were in great demand by the people of Chelsea as places in which to live. The buildings were destroyed on the 24 assurance of the then developer that they would be replaced substantially by residential development. Then, suddenly, there was an application to build an enormous hotel. So monstrous was this that I decided myself to give evidence and oppose it. As my next-door neighbour felt likewise, we briefed counsel. I gave some angry evidence; but the evidence given in favour of the development consisted of a number of quotations from tourist boards that tourism was a national interest and that London could do with more hotels, et cetera, et cetera. I think that I was almost the first witness to say that it was also a recognised national interest that Londoners should have places in which to live and to work and not all be compelled to become commuters; that this also was a national interest. I think that I was almost the first witness to put this point of view. I am glad to say that the inspector in due course came down on the side which I had ventured to support and that the Minister upheld the inspector's decision. He also stopped what was threatened in Chelsea Cloisters.
But my Lords, these are constant threats. The noble Baroness is entirely right in contending that those in favour of the hotels have no difficulty in saying that there are various national interests and national bodies who have pronounced more or less in their favour and that the interests of the inhabitants are liable to depend on local angry people who are prepared to fight or on amenity societies and so forth. I venture to say—I said this some years ago in this House and I say it again—that it should be an accepted principle of planning that no part of central London in which people still like to live should be made such that they no longer wish to live there. It is a major planning purpose that London, and particularly central London, should remain worth living in. It will not remain worth living in if we constantly weight the chances against those who wish to preserve the London we love.
There is only one other thing that I wish to say. It is often said that if there is anything desirable in this proposal it should be the subject of national legislation. I agree with my noble friend the Minister who spoke this afternoon that there is often strength in this point and 25 that we must be very careful about proposals to change the general law in the interest of one particular locality. But it is also in the national interest that somebody should act as a pioneer. Some of the beneficient by-laws we now have in a great part of the country owe their existence to some borough or another having asked for them and having pressed for them. Sometimes a precedent is thereby established which results in national legislation.
This Bill was so admirably introduced by my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross and has received such general support for a Second Reading that I think I should be trespassing on the patience of the House if I said more; but I did not wish the wise words of the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, to pass unsupported. I agree with every word she said.