§ Debate resumed on the Motion, That the Bill do now pass.
§ 3.58 p.m.
§ The Lord Bishop of LONDON
My Lords, in returning to the Community Land Bill, I trust that I shall not try the patience of the House unduly if I make one or two comments now that we have reached the last stage of it. I should like first to congratulate those who have borne the burden and heat of this long and complex Bill. Those who, like myself, have been involved only in one comparatively 1604 small area have found it very hard work even to understand the portions of the Bill with which we are involved. Therefore, we have been lost in admiration of the physical stamina and mental agility which has been displayed by those on both sides of the House who have been concerned with this Bill over this very long period.
I do not want to comment in general on the Bill, except to say that I think it is unfortunate that a Bill which touches the lives of so many citizens should be of such extraordinary complexity. I suppose it may be necessary for anything to do with planning and land to have something of this character, but I fear for the ordinary person who wants to develop some of his land when I think of the convolutions through which he will have to go to discover what he may do and how he may do it. This Bill will be a lawyer's paradise in the future and I imagine that it will keep the courts very busy for years to come. It is a pity that a Bill which is of such intimate personal concern to so many people should, at the same time, have perplexed even your Lordships; and if we are perplexed and have been floundering, certainly as I have been, in trying to understand some of its provisions, imagine, my Lords, the result when it is inflicted on the ordinary citizen.
Your Lordships will appreciate that my main concern with this Bill has been for the "welfare'' of charities, and I use that word particularly because I see it enfolding both the ecclesiastical and the secular interests of those who are involved in the workings of the charities of this land. There is some impression abroad that in moving my Amendments and in pleading for them I have been, so to speak, trying to establish the rights of bodies which are selfish and introspective, and which want special treatment over and above that which is available to the ordinary citizen. If that impression is abroad, I hope that what I have said on a number of occasions will dispel it for, as the noble Baroness, Lady Young, pointed out, charities are by their very nature community activities. I was glad to hear the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, say that the Government were not greatly worried about some of the Amendments which do not touch the principles of this Bill. If it is a Bill concerned with the welfare of the community, then surely 1605 it follows in reason that anything which affects the welfare of charities is something which affects the welfare of the community.
We, the charities, arc indeed grateful to the Government for the considerable concessions which they have made, but it has been only as we have examined those concessions and consulted about them that we have realised that they are of comparatively short duration. We fear greatly that in the not too distant future the charities will be back where they were at the beginning of our consultations, and that all the things about which we have been so worried will again be imposed upon us. It is for that reason that I have moved my Amendments and, if the Government have been good enough to concede on some of the points that we have raised, we hope that they will not be weary in well-doing and that they will accept the Amendments which I have moved.
My objective, and the objective of those for whom I have been speaking, has not been as the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack suggested, the creation of a new and privileged class within this Bill. What I have been pleading for is that the traditional protection which Parliament has for four centuries given to charities shall be continued unimpeded. The charities are protected by law and that protection has been repeated time and again. It is not as if the charities are free to do what they want, because under the law they are most carefully scrutinised and can do only what the law allows them to do. There can, therefore, be no question that under my Amendments the charities would be free to rampage around against the interests of the community.
I hope very much that Her Majesty's Government will take note of the fact that my Amendments were debated on two occasions for a very considerable period and that, of the considerable speeches that were made, only two, made by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor, were against them. The Amendment which I pressed to a Division was carried by an enormous majority of 150 or more to about 50—I forget the precise figures —and of course the speakers and those who voted for it were drawn from the whole House. There is, therefore, no 1606 question that my Amendments are Party Amendments. Indeed, they are Amendments which affect very deeply the interests of the whole community as represented by your Lordship' House. I very much hope, therefore, that in considering the Amendments the Government will agree to accept those I have moved in the interests of the charities, so that they will be unimpeded in the work they are doing for the community. As in the past, so in the future.
§ 4.6 p.m.
My Lords, it is a privilege to speak following the right reverend Prelate and I wish just to touch on the theme about which he was speaking. I am the trustee of a few acres of land which were given 250 years ago for the benefit of a small village school. They have twice been mortgaged to enable the school to be rebuilt for the benefit of the children of that small community and the morale of the parish. That is what noble Lords opposite, the Government, are taking away from us. If a single acre of land is capable of development, then, as I understand it, the value will no longer go to the children of the parish but to what noble Lord opposite are pleased to call the community, which is the local authority.
It is a sad day for all of us to have to spend time on a Bill in which we think that everything has been got out of proportion and about which those on the Front Bench opposite, in order to make their case, must have resort to what the noble Baroness called "tortuous postures". We all accept that there is a problem. This problem of betterment has been with us all our lives and it always will be. At this time it is accentuated by uncontrolled inflation, and the methods which noble Lords opposite choose to meet it are most unconvincing. Surely a solution based on our system of planning and taxation could be not only fairer but less expensive and much better understood by the people of the country, for whom, I am sorry to say, there are many shocks to come when they begin to understand something about this Bill. As yet they understand very little about it.
This is, of course, a very political Bill; there is no getting away from it. It does nothing to overcome the main difficulties of the country at the present time. Indeed, 1607 it is more likely to divide than unite the nation. I wonder what those all over the world who are being asked to lend us money now think about this Government who are spending all this time at the end of a Parliamentary Session pressing this Bill and others on an overworked Parliament?
I shall quote the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, whose memorandum has been mentioned before. I was an active and practising member of the Institution before the war and their words are worth repeating:We believe that the scheme will be counterproductive to achieving development which accords with the social and economic needs of the country. It is likely to inhibit development and retard the provision of houses and other much-needed development.I thought the Government wanted the opposite.
The Institution goes on:Under the existing planning arrangements, which have been highly successful in many ways, there is a stable balance between the applicant who wishes to carry out a development, usually for commercial reasons, and the planning authority which must decide whether such a development would be in the public interest. The planning authority is, or should be, able to make these decisions without regard to its own financial gain.That is now being changed fundamentally. Furthermore, the Bill ignores the prerequisites of all successful development and puts temptation in the way of weaker brethren, whether they are developers or bureaucrats. We have had enough examples of corruption in this country in the last few years. Corruption is very insidious and we should do nothing to make it easier for that disease to spread.
During our debates we have heard mention of paving Amendments. I look on this as a paving Bill; that is, one which is pointing the way to a later Bill which will take nationalisation further along the road to what is called the "Socialist State". Why? Because fellow travellers among or behind those on the Benches opposite have increasing influence and they wish it so. They may not all write for the Morning Star, but they are there and they are working hard to make up for the weakness of having polled less than 40 percent. of the votes cast at the last Election. It is a very poor outlook for this country—for every two steps taken along the road leading towards the Socialist State there are never 1608 two steps back. There are plenty of examples in the world where people can look to see what is in store for them. They need only go to the other side of the Iron Curtain. I am not exaggerating —it is all very well for the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, to smile, but this is the road this country is going.
One small comfort, if any comfort there be, is that, when the moderate Socialists have done the work of their own more extreme brethren, they are generally the first to be put up against the wall, and those who have their fingers on the trigger are no respecters of youth or of women.
§ 4.12 p.m.
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, nearly all the speakers today have referred to the very great strain which has been placed on your Lordships' House, and I should particularly like to emphasise the strain which has been put on the staff. I refer to the Hansard writers, those who have been producing documents for us, the civil servants and those working in the Refreshment Department and elsewhere. Throughout all the stages of the very long discussions, we have had remarkably little time between the separate stages. That has placed the Opposition in considerable difficulty, which was no doubt what the Government intended. However, it also placed the staff of your Lordships' House under a totally unnecessary strain. That should never be undertaken by any Government, whatever its complexion, particularly at this stage of the Session.
I should like to address myself to a question which has been asked of me—and I am sure many of your Lordships will have been asked the same question —by people outside who have heard and read about the Bill. They all ask one thing: what are the most damaging and difficult parts of the Bill and why is it such a bad Bill? To that, one could probably give many answers but, in my mind, two separate clauses are particularly damaging. The first is Clause 17, which makes local authorities responsible for the dual duties of giving themselves and others planning permission, and of either carrying out development themselves or charging others with the responsibility. This duality of role is a virtually impossible function to carry out with success or satisfaction and this we 1609 believe to be at the heart of our disagreement with many aspects of the Bill.
The second danger which I believe should be drawn to the attention of those outside, as it was drawn to the attention of your Lordships' House in a number of Amendments, is related to the present Clause 49. This relates to the powers of the Secretary of State. The noble Lord, Lord O 'Hagan, instituted a debate on this subject and it is quite apparent that the far-reaching powers of the Secretary of State will be necessary simply because there are so many points on which disagreement will occur between statutory bodies, local authorities and individuals. It is therefore necessary, in the Government's view, to charge the Secretary of State with all these responsibilities. Those outside will read the Bill when it becomes an Act, as it will shortly, and the two clauses which I have mentioned will be well worthy of their attention.
I should like to dwell on the question of agricultural land, to which I have devoted some attention in the course of our discussions. Unfortunately, in the latest Hansard of the debate which took place on Thursday last, a number of mistakes appear in a quotation which I read out from the organisation known as COPA—the Committee of Professional Agricultural Organisations in Europe. With your Lordships' indulgence, I should like to quote again a paragraph which I believe sums up all our attitudes to agriculture. In criticising the situation, COPA said:Agricultural land, especially good agricultural land, must never be squandered just because urban planners feel that one day it might be convenient for their authorities to own some extra land for some nebulous planning purpose which may never be achieved in practice. To take land far in advance of need is folly. Agricultural blight would descend on large areas round our towns and production would suffer at a time when the highest priority should be given to maintaining and expanding it.Could the case be put more strongly by our colleagues in Europe? Could we not pay a little more attention to that fact and also to the Government's White Paper Food From Our Own Resources? Surely these facts should be drawn to the attention both of the Government and of Members in another place.
§ 4.17 p.m.
§ Lord SHINWELL
My Lords, it seems to me—and I say this meaning no offence to the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, and with the highest respect to him—that the speech to which we have just listened is an abuse of the procedure of this House. What we have just listened to is a Second Reading speech.
§ Lord SANDYS
My Lords, with due respect to the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, we listened to the Third Reading speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Birk, on the second day of the Committee.
§ Lord SHINWELL
My Lords, I refuse to accept that as an appropriate riposte to what I have just said. The fact is that my noble friend Lady Birk sought, by means of a very few observations, to justify the submission of this Bill. That is quite different from presenting the argument which has overwhelmed the House in Committee and at Report stage and today for much too long.
I should not detain the House for more than a moment, but I should like to do two things. First, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lady Birk, and those associated with her on the Front Bench, who have displayed remarkable skill in dealing with a very complicated measure. They deserve the congratulations of all sides of your Lordships' House, whatever the view of the merits or demerits of the proposed legislation. That is all I want to say about that. I offer them my congratulations.
Secondly, if I were ever tempted to indulge in a speech of a militant character it would be by the speech of the noble Lord opposite, who denounced the Government with bell, book and candle. Nothing would please him. For him, the Government cannot produce satisfactory legislation, no matter what happens. It is a remarkable fact that in the course of the debates—and I have listened to most of the speeches in Committee, on Report stage and this afternoon—Members on the Opposition Benches have denounced the propositions made by my noble friends on this side of the House, but have not presented any alternative to the proposed legislation. Some members of the Liberal Party have endeavoured to do so. For example, only this afternoon the noble Lord, Lord Wade—whose absence for 1611 some time we have all deplored and whom we are glad to see back—pointed out that the acquisition of land could be achieved by other methods, such as taxation of land values. That was an old Liberal Party proposition with which I was familiar, even before the First World War, when it was advocated by Lloyd-George, and even by Mr. Asquith and Campbell Bannerman and others who were associated with the Liberal Party, though it was not acceptable to the Labour Party at that time.
There have been no alternative suggestions. Everybody must agree that there are some deficiencies concerning the acquisition of land in the United Kingdom. Everybody must agree that in large measure, if not wholly and exclusively, local authorities have a right to acquire land; local authorities have a right to develop land. Surely these are principles which are acceptable everywhere in your Lordships' House. I do not want to proceed further about that, except to repeat that the speech we had from the noble Lord opposite—I am sorry that I cannot recall his name—is the kind of speech which makes militants. We must recognise an inescapable fact, whether we like it or not: the world is changing; views and opinions are changing. There is no turning the clock back, whether we like it or not.
It may well be that some features of this Bill are not only complicated and contentious, but objectionable. I myself ventured to offer a few observations on the submission made by the right reverend Prelate in conection with the Churches and charitable institutions. In fact, I voted against the Government on that occasion, because I felt that an exception might very well have been made. Whether the Government will respond to the plea we have heard this afternoon from the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, I am unable to say. They may do so; all the better if they do. But if they fail, we must just accept it and see what happens in the future.
Whether we like it or not, there are features in the Bill, however objectionable to Members on the other side of the House, which must be proceeded with, unless we are to find ourselves in the position of having what was objected to by the noble and learned Lord who sits 1612 on the Woolsack regarding the creation of a privileged class in the country; those who own land and who can hold it up to ransom against the community; who can charge what they like if the conditions are favourable to them; and all that kind of thing.
I come to my final words. I was amused—not amazed—at my noble friend Lady Birk, when she stated this afternoon in the course of her observations that this was not nationalisation. That was an observation made by the noble and learned Lord who sits on the Woolsack, in the course of the debate which we had on the subject of the Churches and charities. My noble friend Lady Birk said that this was public ownership. How we are to dissociate public ownership from nationalisation, I am not quite clear, unless it means —
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, will my noble friend give way? What I said was that this was public ownership of land for development. Nationalisation of land is, as I understand it, nationalisation of all land.
§ Lord SHINWELL
I am sorry, my Lords. In that case I must say, with great respect to my noble friend, that she has much to learn about the philosophy of Socialism. But I excuse her because of her youth. I can recall the debates we had way back, almost at the beginning of the century, in the Labour movement and in the country on the subject of nationalisation. I remember that great miner's leader, Bob Smiley, one of the greatest of miners' leaders who, in almost every speech, referred to the need for nationalisation of land. But, of course, there were exceptions. There was no question of acquiring land that belonged to small owners of property, or anything of that sort. We were thinking of the vast acreage in the possession of Members on the other side of your Lordships' House: the Dukes and the Earls, particularly in Scotland, and in Northumberland and Durham; the Lambtons, and the Durhams, the Londonderrys, the Linlithgows, the Sutherlands and the Argylls, and the rest—I was about to say "the crew but I do not want to be offensive.
That is what it was about. Are we not aware of our history? Do we not recall the land clearances in Scotland, what happened to the crofters, and what 1613 happened to the people in Wales, in England, and indeed throughout the United Kingdom? There is a case for land nationalisation. What we have now may well be merely a preamble, a preview, or the prologue to nationalisation. All I ask is that in the next Session we do not have more of this complicated legislation; we have had enough already. We are to be faced with devolution heaven knows how complicated that will be.
I have said before on several occasions, in debate on the public platform outside, and in this House—and I say it anywhere and everywhere—it is about time that we got together occasionally and considered how we are to get this country back on its feet. That is the essential prerequisite of prosperity and a decent future for the people of our country. I suppose that we have to put up with a lot of this righteous talk. I say no more about the speech made by the noble Lord opposite, but I repeat what I said at the beginning: I offer my congratulations to my noble friends on the Front Bench.
§ 4.28 p.m.
§ Lord SANDFORD
My Lords, because of what will follow I should like to start in the friendliest possible way and congratulate the noble Baroness and her colleagues, the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack and the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, on their part in handling this very complex Bill. In passing I wish to say, in respect of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, that I am glad to see that my old school is still producing competent, if misguided, politicians. I also wish to acknowledge very warmly the extensive and unaparalleled co-operation which we have had from noble Lords opposite in supplying us with information about this Bill, and in arranging the way in which we should use the all too short time allocated to us for considering it. Even so this Bill and these past few weeks together constitute, I fear, a classic example of how not to legislate.
Leaving aside for a moment criticism of the Bill—but I promise to return to that—I must reiterate our criticism of Members and Ministers opposite for failing to get their honourable and right honourable friends in another place so to arrange their business as to give us proper time and opportunity to consider this complex Bill. We must not he put in 1614 this position again. I must say, with my noble friend Lord Sandys, that the staff of the House have coped quite marvellously with the frightful task imposed on them, which they have shared with us. But the procedureis, nevertheless, an abuse of Parliament and it puts upon it strains which it is simply not designed to bear, even in a good cause, and the passing of this Bill was certainly not that.
Nevertheless, despite the time allotted it is true to say that this House has done a good revising job on the Bill. I was glad that the noble Baroness acknowledged that fact, and I should like to do the same. Despite the appalling programme set us by Her Majesty's Government, the House has done a thoroughly workmanlike job of revision, which is our main task. It has improved the Bill at least as much, as the noble Baroness said, by the force of arguments which have persuaded Her Majesty's Government to repent the error of their ways and change their minds as we have done in changing the Bill by pressing Amendments upon them.
We have made improvements to the Bill at a number of points, and in these two different ways. We have succeeded in persuading the Government to revert to the original basis, which has prevailed until now, for confirming compulsory purchase orders. We have persuaded the Government to be much more wholehearted than they intended to be in the first case in providing for proper publicity and proper public participation. We have persuaded the Government that they must treat local authorities, at least those in England and Scotland, as autonomous, independent bodies, responsible not to the Secretary of State as his agents but to their electorates who put them in power. These are just examples of points on which the Government have changed their minds, and we welcome that and congratulate them on it.
There are, however, issues where there is yet more scope for repentance and where the improvements at present in the Bill are the work of the House and not of the Government. Here we look, though with some anxiety, to the good sense of Ministers and the influence of Members in another place to do what is still necessary. By way of example, I refer first to the express wish of the Minister, at Report stage in another 1615 place, that public acquisition should be planning-led. We have incorporated that in the Bill by Amendments at Committee stage and at Report stage to Clause 17 and to Schedule 4. Secondly and mainly, I refer to the series of Amendments to Clause 4 and Clause 25 moved by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London, designed to maintain for the charities and for the Churches the position in law and in tax which they have held for the past 400 years and which this Government, in this Bill, at first sought to remove and now, more lately, have been concerned partly to restore under the guise of giving the Churches concessions.
My Lords, the Government began these debates by claiming substantial support, if not nearly universal support, for this legislation. We now perhaps know more clearly since the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, that, whatever may be on the face of the Bill, what his Party have always been after and are still after is public ownership, municipalisation and nationalisation. But, as soon as we started debating this Bill and doing detailed work on it, we on this side found ourselves in receipt of quite massive complaints and criticism on a scale unprecedented in my 16 years in this House. When we turned to those whom the Government had first claimed to be satisfied and to be supporters, we found anything but that to be the case. Support from their Benches, with one or two notable exceptions, has hardly been more than tepid, and at many points critical, as it has been from other quarters of the House. Only one matter brought more than one Labour Peer into a debate on a particular issue, but the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, who has just made a Second Reading, Committee stage, Report stage and Third Reading speech all rolled into one, has done manfully well to correct the balance.
§ Lord WADE
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord would remind the noble Lord, Lord Shinwell, that one has to exercise some care in introducing matters on Third Reading which really should come in at earlier stages, and therefore one has to exercise all the more care in putting forward admirable policies which may not be in the Bill.
§ Lord SANDFORD
My Lords, one of the delights of listening to the noble Lord, 1616 Lord Shinwell, is the unexpectedness and unpredictability of what we are all going to hear, and I hope, of course, that we shall all hear him many more times again. But we must congratulate Her Majesty's Government on having retained throughout the Bill the support, as my noble friend Lady Young said, of the Sand and Gravel Association—and that is something.
I am afraid the fact remains, my Lords. that we deplore and thoroughly dislike this Bill. As my noble friend Lady Young says, it does absolutely nothing whatever to help to solve our present ills. It will cost the community a very great deal—£1 million a week, surely, to administer it when it is in full operation—and it will do a lot of damage even in the short time that it will be on the Statute Book. We can, however, console ourselves that this so-called most Socialist measure will probably do more than any other piece of legislation to hasten and to bring about the electoral defeat of the Party opposite. Now that people are beginning to realise what its effect will be—and they are beginning to do so—we can already see this happening. It seems (and I hope, certainly, that this will be so) that it will be a major factor for good in the next local elections, in May, and let us hope it will not be too long thereafter before it can be erased from the Statute Book.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, we have had an interesting, short debate in which a number of matters have been gone over once again, and I do not think there have been many surprises. I should first like to thank all those who have thanked us and to echo what the noble Lord, Lord Sandys, said about the staff of the House. I think he came close to implying—I am sure he did not mean it—that there was something improper in the way in which this Bill was being dealt with because it meant harder work for the staff. While I would not accept that implication, if it was there, I would certainly join him in thanking all the people who have been kept so busy—as they are, indeed, on any piece of legislation. I should also like to thank my noble friend Lord Shinwell for thanking me and my colleagues on this side of the House. I will not take up any further time by 1617 going into the general seminar on nationalisation and public ownership. Apart from anything else, I was so very pleased to discover that I was too young to understand it that this waved everything else aside.
One of the things which I must confess I find rather depressing is that sometimes I feel that I have been listening not to your Lordships' House but to my husband. I feel I want to say, "You do not even listen half the time". The noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, once again brought up this old canard that the only support we have had from professional bodies is that which we have had from the Sand and Gravel Association. They are certainly getting a great deal of publicity during the passing of this Bill, which I do not grudge them, but I would point out that we have also had the support of the Royal Town Planning Institute and of the Town and Country Planning Association, and also of a number of other bodies. The fact that the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors does not support us, I do not find very strange. One does not expect that all bodies will support every piece of legislation, and you cannot please everyone all of the time
I was also fascinated by the noble Baroness, Lady Young, and the noble Lord, Lord Wade, and I think one or two others, who mentioned that they agreed with the principle of the Bill and then proceeded once again to demolish it. There seems to be a sort of schizophrenia which comes over them which results in them talking with forked tongues. On the one hand, they say, "Yes, the principle is all right", and then, on the other hand, proceed to say not only that it cannot work but that, in so far as they can contrive it, it will not work.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, perhaps I can continue and, if I do not answer the point that the noble Lord, Lord Wade, was going to raise, perhaps he will then get up. The noble Lord. Lord Wade, talked about the kiss of death and, I think, a funeral. But I doubt whether he or the right reverend Prelate would give this measure a funeral in consecrated ground. The noble Lord, Lord Wade. said that he did not think the Bill would 1618 be more successful than any other of these measures that have been brought forward. I was going to point out to him that on the last occasion the Government of the day acted on only the taxation recommendations of the Uthwatt Committee Report. If the whole of the recommendations, which linked together ownership, acquisition and planning had been given a chance, it might have been more successful.
§ Lord WADE
My Lords, the point I wish to make is that the noble Baroness referred to the principle of the Bill. The point which some of us are trying to make is that we welcome the principle of ensuring that values created by the community accrue to the community—certainly I do—but that is not carried out by this Bill and it is not its principle. I tried to make a distinction between the principle of the Bill and the principles which I consider highly commendable. The noble Baroness may or may not accept that; but it is the words, "the principle of the Bill" that I question.
§ Baroness BIRK
My Lords, I take the noble Lord's point. But, obviously, I still fundamentally disagree, because I think that the principles which he upholds are incorporated in the Bill. In my view, all those who spoke against the Bill, in spite of what they said—and, perhaps to be fair, in spite of what they think they said— "knocked" it. They are not giving it a chance to get off the ground. My noble friend Lord Shinwell spoke with relevance when he said that the world is changing and that people do not realise it. That was delightful, coming as it did from one of the most senior Members of the House. This I tried to underline when I opened this short debate: that things have changed and are changing, and that we must see things not as static but as flexible. I appreciate the remarks of the right reverend Prelate, but I would point out that fundamental changes have been made in relation to Church and charity land. Against the Government's advice, a distinction between land owned by charities before White Paper day and land acquired after White Paper day has been removed so that the special provisions for the former have been extended to the latter.
My Lords, I do not wish at this time to repeat the views of the Government 1619 which have been expressed on two occasions by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor. But there is one thing which I should make clear, for I believe it has become obscured in some of the speeches made in our debates. It is that the Bill does nothing to encroach on the activities of the great bulk of charities. It is concerned only with the development of land, and then only when a charity owns the land and wishes to develop it. Only then does the question of the application of the Bill arise. This has not always been fully understood although it was understood by the right reverend Prelate when he framed his Amendments. I want to emphasise this point so as to remove any misconceptions about what the Government intend for Churches and charities when development of their land takes place.
My Lords, other points have been raised by other noble Lords. The noble Lord, Lord Sandford, referred to the question of cost. The point made in the Financial Memorandum is a general one dealing with what would happen to the scheme after the second appointed day. Expenditure in the early years would have to be considered—as I and my colleagues have said—in the context of public expenditure as a whole. I think that most of the points that were made by noble Lords have been gone over during the proceedings on the Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, tried to make our blood curdle about the future, but we are discussing the Community Land Bill and I propose to restrict my remarks to that.
It is certainly a political Bill. It is also, in my view, a highly social Bill in that it deals with the public ownership of land and attempts to make a better country, a better planned and better developed country, for the whole community—and by "the whole community" I mean everybody. The noble Baroness said that this had not been defined. I can remember saying on one occasion that while "the community" in the widest sense means everybody, nevertheless one of the denifitions of "community" in the Oxford Dictionary is "a group or organisation, a social or political organisation "What we are saying is that the Bill should be applied through the local authorities acting for the community, except in Wales where there will he a Land Authority. I do not want to delay 1620 your Lordships by going once again into all the arguments over the situation in Wales, about which we have had several long debates.
Finally, I turn to a point which has often been forgotten but which was touched on today by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. It is that the Bill is not about changing the balance of development between the public and private sectors; it is about ensuring that land needed for private development passes through public ownership. We have deliberately included in the Bill provisions which will ensure that the authorities have to pay full regard to the needs of the private sector; and I very much resent a great many of the things that have been said, not only in this House but outside, which are scaring the pants off a lot of people who ought not to be scared in this way. When the noble Baroness said that there was a great deal of alarm then, with respect, I felt I must say that a great deal of that had been caused by members of her Party, by the Opposition in this House and in another place and by Conservatives in the country. That is where it has come from. They have a right to voice their opinions in a democracy; but should not blame the Bill, for their misreading what it is all about.
My Lords, I believe that the effect of the Bill should be to give the authorities important new duties to see that land is available in the right place and at the right time for necessary private development. In time it will therefore be seen not only as helpful but as essential to the progress of the private housing programme, and of importance to industrial and commercial development as well as public development, the impetus for which must still come from the private sector. In order to achieve this we have to work towards a partnership between the public and private sectors. This is something which has been very much played down by noble Lords opposite. We have plenty of evidence in new towns, expanding towns and among the many local authorities working today that this partnership can be fruitful for both sides. This is something that many of the more far-sighted critics outside this House have now begun to take on board and to recognise. When the Bill is in operation, it will be in their interest to take active 1621 steps to make sure that they are ready to play their part.
Surely, my Lords, this is what we want to see in our country. We want to see very much better planning. All of us on both sides of the House are, rightly, quick to criticise some of the bad development of the past, some of the planning errors that have been made by both sides and by local authorities of both political complexions. Surely this should be the objective of us all. The Opposition may not see it in that way; we do, and this is what this Bill is aimed at. It is not in that sense a particularly revolutionary measure. It is a radical measure but not a revolutionary one, in the sense in which the noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, or my noble friend Lord Shinwell spoke.
I admit that one of the things that can "ditch" this Bill finally is the threat that has come once again from the noble Baroness, Lady Young. The noble Baroness said that directly the Opposition come back they will repeal the Bill. On the one hand, they say that if only the Bill can be made workable they will accept the principle of it, and then, on the other hand, they try to ensure it will not be made workable and threaten that directly they return to power they will repeal it. There is only one answer to that: to make sure at the next election that the Tories are not returned, and that this Bill gets on to the Statute Book as soon as possible and that it is given a fair chance to work. It will then work for the betterment of the whole community.
§ On Question. Bill passed, and returned to the Commons.