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Commons Chamber

Volume 389: debated on Tuesday 25 May 1943

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House Of Commons

Tuesday, 25th May, 1943

[Mr. SPEAKER in the Chair]

Private Bills Lords

Standing Orders Not Previously Inquired Into, Complied With

Mr. SPEAKER laid upon the Table Report from one of the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, That in the case of the following Bill originating in the Lords, and referred on the First Reading thereof, the Standing Orders not previously inquired into, which are applicable thereto, have been complied with, namely:

Cardiff Corporation Bill Lords

Bill to be read a Second time.

Provisional Order Bills

No Standing Orders Applicable

Mr. SPEAKER laid upon the Table Report from one of the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, That in the case of the following Bills, referred on the First Reading thereof, no Standing Orders are applicable, namely:

Ministry of Health Provisional Order (Wetherby District Water) Bill.

Ministry of Health Provisional Order (Harrogate) Bill.

Ministry of Health Provisional Order (Bucks Water Board) Bill.

Ministry of Health Provisional Order (Banbury Water) Bill.

Ministry of Health Provisional Order (Chiltern Hills Spring Water) Bill.

Marriages Provisional Order Bill.

Bills to be read a Second time upon the next Sitting Day.

Private Business

London County Council (Money) Bill

Read a Second time, and committed.

Oral Answers To Questions

Trade And Commerce

Children's Shoes


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that while ample stocks of adults' shoes are available in shops there is a shortage, particularly in London, of children's shoes; that this shortage is causing much anxiety to parents, schools and nurseries; that his Department has been repeatedly warned of the development of the shortage; and what steps are being taken to meet the difficulty?

Some shortage of children's shoes is, I am afraid, inevitable at this stage of the war, since we have lost nearly all our rubber supplies, and hides must mainly be imported from overseas and run the risk of enemy action on the way. Civilian requirements must, moreover, be balanced against very heavy Service requirements. I cannot, therefore, hold out any hopes of an increase in the total civilian supplies. I have, however, been taking steps to maintain the supply of children's footwear at the highest possible level and gave instructions last October to switch production, so far as feasible, from adults' to children's footwear. The production of children's leather footwear has now for some months been at the rate of about 30,000,000 pairs a year, that is to say more than three pairs a year per child. More children's leather footwear is being produced now than before the war, though no new rubber footwear for children is being made. I am also encouraging the development of children's shoe and clothing exchanges which, with the help of the W.V.S. and other women's organisations, are making rapid progress in many parts of the country. These exchanges are principally for children under five, but I am glad to say that many schools are running similar exchanges for older children. The House may rest assured that, in spite of the inevitable difficulties which lie ahead, I shall do my utmost to maintain supplies for the children.

Is the right hon. Gentleman that the complaint is not of a shortage of adult shoes? There are plenty of useless, stupid, adult shoes available. The shortage of children's shoes is extremely grave. Is he aware that, although our home production has certainly increased, it is the shortage of overseas supplies that causes the trouble, and that a special increase is needed? What is the Department doing to satisfy that special demand?

I have given the figures of the shortage and of our present production. Those figures should be known. Overseas supplies are, of course, a very grave pre-occupation. The U-boat is still the enemy of the child. I have indicated that cargoes of hides have to run the gauntlet of enemy action. We are very well aware of these matters, and I have given evidence to show that we have had them very much in mind for some time.

I beg to give notice that I will raise this question on the Adjournment.

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is necessary to have strong shoes for the country child?

Toys (Price)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that the new price control order for toys, Statutory Rule and Order, 1943, No. 615, will result in the same article being offered in different shops at a wide divergency of prices, the difference between the highest and the lowest being as much as 33i⅓ per cent.; and what action he proposes to take to prevent this anomaly?

Yes, Sir. But this is not peculiar to the price of toys. Variations in retail prices were normal in peacetime, and it is not in the public interest to eliminate them.

I think the right hon. Gentleman is doing what he can, but the toy industry as a whole is rather disturbed. If he will give the matter further consideration, I am sure that he will be able to eliminate a number of these anomalies.

I have given a good deal of time and thought to the question of toys and have thought it desirable to have prices fixed well in advance for next Christmas. That is why the Order has been made now. If you fix prices at each successive stage between the manufacturer and the consumer, as you must do, if there is a variation in the number of stages there must be a consequent variation in the maximum price. These are maxima within which a good number of sales take place.

Concentration Of Industries


asked the President of the Board of Trade the number of businesses that have been concentrated up to date, stating what are those businesses, the number of firms closed down by this process and the number of nucleus firms left; whether concentration is being pursued further; and, if so, which industries are to be dealt with?

Concentration of production has been applied by my Department to nearly 70 branches of industry. Up to date, 6,156 nucleus certificates have been issued and 3,294 establishments have been closed. The only industries where concentration is now proceeding are the clothing and printing industries.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the desirability of not concentrating industries in those parts of the country which suffered severe industrial depression between the two wars and are likely to suffer it again when this war is over?

I think my hon. Friend knows that I am very deeply concerned to see that we do not have, so far as it is within our power to prevent it, any repetition of the state of affairs in prewar distressed areas. These concentration matters are a war-time provision, and it is laid down in the White Paper issued by my predecessor that the Government will give all facilities for the re-opening at the end of the war of businesses which have been closed down. I will, however, bear in mind what my hon. Friend said.

If my right hon. Friend concentrates some of these small businesses out of existence during the war, it does not follow that they will re-open at the end of the war.

Clothes Rationing (Heavy Industries)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the difficulty experienced by persons engaged in mining and other heavy industries in obtaining suitable clothes with the coupons now available, he is disposed to reconsider the position and increase the number of coupons allotted to them?

On all these matters I am advised by the T.U.C. Full particulars of the arrangements made, after consultation with the T.U.C., for meeting the special needs of miners and workers in other heavy industries were given in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Shipley (Mr. Creech Jones) on 7th April last.

Are negotiations still pending between the T.U.C. and the right hon. Gentleman?

I am constantly in touch with them. They have regular meetings with my officers at the Board of Trade and we are constantly watching these matters. The latest provision that has been made is that, in addition to the General Occupational Supplement, there has been set up a special pool of coupons in each undertaking for workers in the heavy industries—in the case of miners and iron and steel workers at the rate of five coupons per head. These are distributed by committees on which the workers are represented.

I am quite aware of this arrangement, but it is because it is still unsatisfactory that I raised the question.

I am afraid that this and many other matters will go on being somewhat unsatisfactory until the end of the war.



asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that utility perambulators are made without extensions and without brakes; and, as without extensions these are generally useless for babies after about 10 months old, and as without brakes they frequently endanger the lives of their occupants, will he take steps to remedy these defects?

A large number of wartime perambulators are made with drop-ends and can, therefore, be adapted for use by older children. In view of the vital need to save material and labour, fitted brakes cannot now be provided, but a sufficient supply of leather strap brakes is available.

Bespoke Tailoring


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether, in view of the dissatisfaction which exists among bespoke tailors concerning certain aspects of the operation of clothing control in its application to bespoke tailoring, and concerning the present methods of consultation with the clothing industry, he will arrange for the appointment of special officers in his Department to operate control in the bespoke clothing trade and for special consultation with the trade?

The organisations which represent the bespoke tailoring trade are already in constant touch with my Department, and I see no reason for appointing special officers to deal solely with matters affecting the bespoke trade.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the widespread dissatisfaction in the bespoke tailoring trade?

There are two organisations, the National Federation of Merchant Tailors and a more recent break-away organisation. I have seen both, and they have seen my Director-General of Civilian Clothing on several occasions, and we do our utmost to meet their requests, but I must frankly say that some of their requests are quite unacceptable in view of the present shortage.

To what extent are bespoke tailors represented on the committee which deals with tailoring and clothing generally?

The one that deals with tailoring and the wholesale manufacture of clothes.

There is one that advises us on which the National Federation is represented.

Works Of Art (Export)


asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he is aware that there is a steady drain to the United States of America of the richest treasures of this country in furniture, pictures, plate and the like; and whether he will lock into this situation and take the action best calculated to bring it to an end?

No articles more than 75 years old, nor any work of art, may be exported without a licence from the Board of Trade. When, in any particular case, my officers are in doubt whether export is in the public interest, they consult the Museum authorities and only issue a licence with their concurrence.

Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that there is an important outflow of objects of art from this. country, and does he not think, whatever private reasons may apply to a sale, there are solid public reasons for retaining for the nation these quite irreplaceable products of the crafts of a former generation?

I should be very grateful if the Noble Lord would give me examples of these rich treasure that are being exported. The answer that I have given suggests that there are sufficient safeguards, and the Museum authorities ought to be good judges of what it is in the public interest to retain in the country.

Does not the right hon. Gentleman think there is, and has been, a considerable inflow of American money into this country and that to do a thing like this now would be one of the most foolish things we could do?

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that unless snobbish Americans buy the furniture of aristocratic houses, we shall not be able to pay for a Ministry of Social Security?

Does my right hon. Friend include in the export of treasures to America the Prime Minister?

I am afraid that I have failed to make myself cleat. There is a ban in the sense that an export licence from the Board of Trade must be obtained before any work of art is exported. That is a ban unless I raise it, and I keep it down if the Museum authorities want me to keep it down. I consult them on all cases of doubt.

Axis Powers (Supplies From Denmark And Rumania)


asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Economic Warfare whether he has any information as to the extent to which factories in Denmark are being utilised by the Germans for the production of war material and propelling plant; and what is his estimate of the amount of oil supplied to Germany from the Rumanian oilfields?

Yes, Sir. The Danish capacity for the manufacture of war material in the strict sense of the term is extremely small. There have, however, been deliveries to Germany ever since the occupation of small calibre A.A. guns, and there is reason to believe that such deliveries are still continuing. I have also received information showing that Danish firms have been engaged in the manufacture of engineering components for incorporation in items of war material assembled in German factories. The manufacture of propelling machinery in Denmark is largely a matter of marine diesel engine production, which was covered by the reply which I gave to my hon. and gallant Friend on 26th January. The value to the enemy of this manufacturing capacity is much reduced by the restrictions which his present oil position imposes upon his use of this type of engine. As regards the second part of the Question, it is estimated that oil supplies are now reaching Germany and Italy from Rumania at the rate of approximately three million tons a year.

Will my hon. Friend see that any target in Scandinavia and Denmark from which supplies are going to Germany is put on the list of those to be bombed by the Royal Air Force?

My answer is two-fold. While it is true that my Department has certain advisory functions in connection with bomb targets, the final responsibility for the selection of targets must always rest with the Air Ministry. Secondly, my hon. and gallant Friend will appreciate that it is difficult to discuss specific bomb targets in public Debate.

But is not my hon. Friend aware that his Department submits possible targets to the Air Ministry?

War Office (Public Relations Officers)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether, in view of the number of public relations and Press officers at the War Office, which was given in the official record in May, 1942, as 356 at a cost of £112,370, he can state what the increase or decrease has been in May, 1943; and whether the future policy of the War Office will be to reduce both the number and cost?

The net reduction in numbers since May, 1942, is 63. The future policy is under review.

Can my right hon. Friend tell me what is even now the necessity for such a very large number of people being employed by the War Office on this work, and can he say how many of this number are of military age? Is it not possible to get them reduced to a reasonable number? It is a very bad example.

I have answered Questions with regard to military age, but if the hon. Members wants the up-to-date figures, I would ask him to put a Question down. As regards the other part of the supplementary, I said that the future policy is under review, but I would like to point out that most of the complaints against the War Office are that the Army is not getting enough publicity.

British Army

Explosives (Accidents To Children)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he can now give consideration to the question of the defence of contributory negligence against infants under the age of 16 who are injured in connection with explosives left by military personnel; whether, in view of the new type of danger now brought to children in this connection and the increased use of these explosives through intensified training, he will waive this defence in all cases where permanent injury is caused, so that in such cases compensation can always be paid for the benefit of the maimed victim?

My hon. Friend's proposal has been carefully and sympathetically considered. In questions of this kind I feel, however, that I must be guided by the general attitude of courts of law in similar cases. Children over 10 are usually regarded as capable of contributory negligence and I regret therefore that I do not feel justified in issuing a general direction as suggested by my hon. Friend. Every case is considered separately on its own merits and ex-gratia payments are often made and other assistance given notwithstanding contributory negligence. In conjunction with my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Education steps are being taken to bring these dangers to the notice of all concerned by means of posters and warnings issued to schools and on the wireless.

While thanking my right hon. Friend for his sympathetic reply, may I ask him to impress on the authorities the great importance of not leaving about dangerous explosives which are the cause of these accidents?

I will certainly do my best to do that, but in the more realistic military training a certain amount of that becomes inevitable.

Home Guard (Bicycles)


asked the Secretary of State for War for what reason bicycles recently issued to Home Guard mobile platoons are being withdrawn?

I am not aware that any bicycles used by the Home Guard have been withdrawn, but if my hon. and gallant Friend will send me particulars of the cases he has in mind, they will be investigated.

Territorial Army Officers (Promotion)


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will reintroduce substantive promotion in the Territorial Army that has been embodied?

I am not satisfied that there is sufficient case for changing the present policy under which Territorial Army officers receive promotion under war-time regulations only.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that in some units Regular Army officers are receiving substantive promotion which has been denied to Territorial officers, and will he reconsider the matter?

Substantive promotion in the case of the Regular Army is based on the pre-war establishment.

Personnel, Prisoner Of War Camps


asked the Secretary of State for War the number of soldiers passed A.I and fit far military service who are now employed at prisoner of war camps; if they are eligible for service overseas; and whether he will consider replacing these men soon by men who are older and are not A.I, or who have already seen some active service?

About 850 non-commissioned officers and men employed at prisoner of war camps are under 40 and in medical category A.I. The position is reviewed from time to time, and as many A.I men are released as possible, but my hon. Friend will appreciate that a nucleus of these men is necessary as stiffeners for the large majority who are of low medical category.

Does the right hon. Gentleman seriously consider that a nucleus of these men is necessary to guard what are mostly Italian prisoners? Surely it is fantastic.

Prisoners Of War


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a further effort, through the Protecting Power, to obtain a full list of British prisoners in Japanese hands as a result of the fighting in the Malay Peninsula and the capitulation at Singapore?

The flow of notifications by the Japanese Government of the names of British prisoners of war in their hands has shown a distinct improvement lately, and I do not think that further representations through the Protecting Power at the present juncture would result in a speeding-up of the process.

In view of the fact that these lists were compiled over a year ago and have been deliberately withheld by the Japanese Government, will the British Government let it be known that the refusal of the Japanese Government to follow the practice of civilised countries will be borne in mind when the final reckoning is made?

There are a large number of other counts against the Japanese, and some of them much more serious than this. I have no doubt that all these things are being put down in the bill.

Is there a Protecting Power? I understood that the Swiss Government were unable to act in this respect.

There is a Protecting Power. My recollection is that they are not given the normal access which Protecting Powers in other cases are given.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether it is his intention that before long the bulk of the German prisoners captured in Tunisia and elsewhere will be employed on the land and on reconstruction work in this country?

For a variety of reasons I do not think that my hon. and gallant Friend's suggestion is practicable.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that no communications have been received by some relatives of men held as prisoners of war in Campo P.G. 154 since October last; and can he say what action is being taken to trace the present location of these men?

As regards the first part of the Question, the answer is "Yes, Sir," and I regret to say that inquiries that have been made about individuals through the International Red Cross have failed to elicit any information about them. As regards the second part of the Question, urgent requests for information have been made to the Italian Government, but so far without result.


asked the Secretary of State for War whether any Service or battle-dress, the property of officers who have been taken prisoner, is at present being held in the baggage depots in the Middle East; and whether, in such cases, he will arrange for the despatch of the Service or battle-dress to the relative prison camp?

The kit of officers who are taken prisoner is held in the Middle East for a short time and then as shipping permits is sent back to this country for storage. The kit cannot be disposed of in the Middle East without the officer's directions, and before these were received the kit would in many cases have left the Middle East. Even if it had not, it would be difficult to implement my hon. Friend's proposal as the only means of sending things directly from the Middle East to enemy prison camps is by it lb. postal parcel, and I do not think it would be desirable for special arrangements to be made in the Middle East for opening officers' kits and sending them individual items of clothing.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it is done frequently in many cases of individual officers, and has been done in the last six months?


asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is aware that seven weeks ago Roman Catholics in Oflag IX A/ H were transferred to Oflag IX A /Z; that this camp, where there are also many seriously wounded, is overcrowded, 570 being housed in accommodation which used normally to hold 100 to 150 girls; that washing, cooking and sanitary arrangements are very bad; and whether he will make representations, through the Protecting Power, with a view to the improvement of these conditions?

The answer to the first part of the Question is, "Yes, Sir." I understand that this move was made because there is a Roman Catholic chaplain at the new camp. I believe Oflag IX A /Z was formerly a boarding school for boys, but I do not know how many pupils it accommodated. The report of a visit carried out by the Protecting Power at the end of November, 1942, states that the washing and sanitary arrangements were adequate and that there were no complaints about the cooking arrangements. The camp was visited by a representative of the International Red Cross at the end of March. The telegraphic report on the visit states that the accommodation was then overcrowded and the sanitary installations inadequate. The full report is expected soon, and the attention of the Protecting Power will certainly be drawn to any unsatisfactory features it may disclose.

Has the right hon. Gentleman any idea why it is that the reports of the Protecting Power are so invariably optimistic and do not tally with the letters which we get from prisoners?

I could not give any general explanation about that, because it would be an admission of a general statement which I am not prepared to accept without a good deal of further investigation, but in this particular case there is an interval of four months between the two reports, and it is clear that the circumstances have altered materially.

In view of the distress that will be caused to relatives by a Question like this, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that certain officers, including myself, have received better reports from that camp than the Question of my hon. and gallant Friend implies? Also, I believe that not only the Red Cross but representatives of the Protecting Power visited the camp at the end of March or the beginning of April, and will the right hon. Gentleman get a special report?

One of the awkward features about conditions in prisoner-of-war camps is that we do get contradictory and conflicting testimony from prisoners in the same camp about conditions there.

Will the right hon. Gentleman get a special report from the Swiss Government? I understand that representatives of the Swiss Government visited the camp.



asked the Minister of Fuel and Power whether he is aware that the supplies of bitumen are now so restricted that various manufacturing processes are being seriously handicapped; and whether any considerable quantity of bitumen is being used on road and runway construction although available fluxed pitch could equally well be used for such purposes at a price much lower than bitumen?

In order to reduce the consumption of imported oil, it is the policy of my Ministry, with the co-opera tion of other Ministries, and of the industries concerned, to secure the fullest possible use of coal tar products in place of bitumen for manufacturing processes and for roads and runways. The quantity of bitumen used for road and runway construction is relatively small as compared with fluxed pitch, and I am advised by my right hon. and Noble Friend the Minister of War Transport that care is taken to ensure that bitumen is not used for such work if fluxed pitch could be used with satisfactory results.

Communist Party Organ, South Africa


asked the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs on what grounds "Inkululeko," official organ of the Communist Party of South Africa, is prohibited from entering the Protectorates of Basutoland, Bechuanaland and Swaziland; on what grounds the request by the Communist Party of South Africa for an interview with the High Commissioner for the Protectorates, in order to appeal against the ban, was refused; and whether, in view of the fact that "Inkululeko" is not restricted anywhere in the Union of South Africa, he will take steps to see that this prohibition is removed?

I am informed that the entry of this paper into the territories mentioned was originally prohibited by the Resident Commissioners, with the approval of the then High Commissioner, because of articles which had appeared in 1940 calculated to hamper the war effort. Though the views expressed in the paper have in some respects altered since the entry of Russia into the war, the High Commissioner feels that certain of the policies which it advocates are likely to be misunderstood by rural natives and cause unrest during the war. The High Commissioner thought it unnecessary to grant an interview to the Communist Party in South Africa in order to discuss the matter since it could suitably be dealt with by correspondence.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that in general the natives will be more capable of understanding the message in this paper than is the High Commissioner, and will he not use his influence to get the paper into the hands of the natives?

Does the hon. Gentleman make that statement on the ground that the natives cannot read the paper?

House Of Commons' Members Fund


asked the right hon. and gallant Member for Rye, as representing the Trustees, whether he is aware that the income of the House of Commons Members' Fund, derived from the statutory contributions of hon. Members, is proving to be 10 times as great as the calls on the fund; and whether, in these circumstances, he will obtain an early report from the Government Actuary, as provided under Section 3 of the House of Commons Members' Fund Act?

I apologise for my absence last week when this Question first appeared on the Paper. An interim report from the Government Actuary was obtained in January, 1943. The actuarial status of the Fund is that the accumulated reserve is not yet sufficient to meet all estimated demands which may be expected in the near future.

In view of the fact that this is a domestic issue of some interest at the moment to Members of this House, will my right hon. and gallant Friend consult with the Patronage Secretary with a view to our having an occasional discussion about it, say once every two years? We have not had any opportunity of discussing the management of the Fund or the position since the Act was passed.

Will my right hon. and gallant Friend consider raising the minimum limit for giving pensions to people?

The limits are laid down by the Act under which we are working, and the Fund has not yet been in operation over a General Election. I think it is likely that we may get a great deal of fresh experience after the next General Election.

Fire Guard Duties (Women)


asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department the date on which it is expected that the new Order respecting the liability of women for fire-watching duties will be issued?

The recent establishment of close working arrangements between the Fire Guard Service and the National Fire Service has made it necessary to introduce certain changes in the draft Orders. My right hon. Friend hopes, however, that he will be able to sign the Orders next month.

National Finance

Government Borrowing (Bank Loans)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he is aware that £1,500,000,000 new money has been created by the banks since the commencement of the war until the late autumn of 1942; and whether he is in a position to state what it costs to create this money?

I do not agree with the implication in the first part of the Question, nor do I follow the figure there given. I can only refer my hon. Friend to the answer I gave him on 11th May, to which I do not think I can usefully add.

Arising out of that most unsatisfactory reply, may I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that the figure given in the Question has been computed by a well-known authority on this subject, and if I put another Question down to my right hon. Friend, will he state specifically what he considers the amount of newly-created money to be?

No, Sir. As I guessed it, the figure had come from Stokes's Encyclopedia of Phrase and Fable. [Laughter.]

This is not a laughing matter. Has my right hon. Friend taken the trouble to assess for himself the amount of newly-created bank money since the war started? Does he not think it is one of his duties as Chancellor of the Exchequer to do so?



asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether, in view of the fact that we pay 3 per cent. on £90,819,000 borrowed from the United States of America for war purposes, he proposes to invite the United States of America to borrow a similar amount from us at 3 per cent. to pay for a portion of supplies and services now rendered by us to the United States of America under Lend-Lease or to make other- suitable arrangement to the same effect?

No, Sir. This would not be in accordance with the Reciprocal Aid Agreement of 3rd September, 1942 (Cmd. 6389).

In view of the fact that probably most of the £90,000,000 mentioned was bogus bank-manufactured money, would it not be at least a gracious thing for the Government of the United States to suspend payment of interest for the duration of the war?

Post-War International Currency


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer the theoretical aggregate of the quotas as defined in the Clearing Union plan, on the assumption that all the United Nations came into the scheme?

I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for asking this Question. In the course of the Debate on the Clearing Union Plan I said that this aggregate amounted to £25,000,000,000. I should have said 25,000,000,000 dollars.

Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer satisfied that even his figure of 25,000,000,000 dollars is correct? Is it in fact the aggregate of the sum of the export and imports of the United Nations, or is it the 75 per cent. of that sum which is suggested as the basis of quotas in the Keynes plan?

Perhaps my right hon. Friend will allow me to consider that question, and I will give him a considered answer.

Old Age Pensions (Computation Of Income)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether it is his intention to bring the computation of income derived from capital in the case of persons claiming a non-contributory old age pension into line with the proposals relating to supplementary pensions in Clause I of the Pensions and Determination of Needs Bill now before Parliament?

Under the Pensions and Determination of Needs Bill the national income assumed to be derived from capital up to £400 would be substantially the same under both the Supplementary Pensions Scheme and the Non-contributory Old Age Pensions Scheme; beyond this point in the case of Supplementary Pensions capital is regarded as available to meet the applicant's needs. There are, however, respects in which the noncontributory pensioner in possession of capital has advantages over the supplementary pensioner, and assimilation of the two systems would clearly not be of benefit to the non-contributory pensioner.

Could the right hon. Gentleman explain whether what he is referring to concerns the calculation for the purpose of assessing whether the individual is entitled to a pension under the non-contributory scheme apart from the supplementary pension?

The matter I had in mind which made it clearly not of benefit to the non-contributory pensioner was the absence of the £400 limit which I have referred to in my answer and the special deduction from means not derived from earnings.

Does the right hon. Gentleman not think it is a little unfair that when a person hopes to get a pension he has first to submit to a calculation based on one set of figures, and that if he gets his pension and then has to apply for supplementary pension, his capital should be taken on an entirely different set of 'considerations?

Yes, Sir, that may be so, but it is to the advantage of the noncontributory pensioner. We shall have an opportunity when the Clause in the Bill comes before us to deal with the matter a little more fully.

Are the Government really going to proceed with the Bill, in view of the large number of abstentions and votes against it?

Officer Prisoners Of War, Italy (Income Tax)


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether officer prisoners of war imprisoned in Italy are allowed a deduction from their income tax liability in respect of sums deducted from their pay for their maintenance in the prison camps?

In accordance with the normal practice, in the case of serving officers who are abroad, the Service pay, but not the family allowance, of a prisoner of war is assessed to United Kingdom Income Tax, and there is no deduction for amounts spent on maintenance. I understand, however, that in the cases to which my hon. Friend refers a special allowance is credited to the officer's account here towards the expenses on account of maintenance which have to be met from his pay issued in Italy, and this special /allowance, like the family allowance, is not charged to United Kingdom Income Tax.

United States Silver


asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether the price of the United States silver to be made available to industry will be fixed by the Government or by the bullion market; and whether the arrangements have the approval of the United States Administration?

The price of U.S. silver to be made available to industry will be fixed by the Treasury. This continues the existing arrangement, and the question of obtaining the approval of the U.S. Administration has not arisen.

Private Business (Notice To Members)

May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether you have any statement to make in regard to the publication of notices concerning Private Business?

Yes. I have looked into this matter, and I can now announce that the office clerks in the Vote Office have instructions to draw the attention of Members calling for the Blue Papers to the Private Business sheet on any day when there is one published and on any such day the box containing Private Business sheets will be placed alongside the box for the Blue Papers in the Members' entrance. I hope that these arrangements will be sufficient to keep Members informed of Private Business to be taken in the House on any particular day.

Thank you very much indeed, Sir, for the great trouble you have taken in this matter.

Parliamentary Committee (Use Of Title)

May I ask you, Mr. Speaker, whether your attention has been drawn to instances of the use of the term "Parliamentary Committee" to designate bodies which have not been appointed by either House of Parliament and whose membership is not exclusively reserved to Members of Parliament; and whether, in view of the misleading impression that may be produced by the public use of such a title in those circumstances, you can give some guidance to the House as to the limits within which the. title "Parliamentary Committee" should be used?

The title "Parliamentary Committee" has a technical meaning and can be properly used only by a body appointed by one or both of the Houses of Parliament. Its use by bodies not so appointed is, as the hon. Member says, apt to mislead the public by suggesting that the body has an authority and powers which it does not in fact possess. It ought not to be impossible to find some other term to designate bodies, entirely or partly composed of Members of Parliament but not appointed by Parliament,. which would sufficiently indicate their connection with Parliament without giving rise to misconception. In some cases, "Private Members' Committee" would do; in others, "Parliamentary Group." I think the good sense and ingenuity of Members can be relied on to find a form of designation appropriate to each particular case, once the principle governing the use of the term "Parliamentary Committee" is pointed out.

Will that Ruling interfere with the committees sometimes set up by local bodies or local authorities? As a rule, at the commencement of the year, they elect what is known as a Parliamentary Committee.

I do not think those terms are so misleading as when they are applied to committees of this House. Those bodies have obviously been appointed by organisations outside, and not by this House, and the general public quite understand. If there is any case of doubt, I should be glad if it could be submitted to me for consideration.

Questions To Ministers

May I ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker? I endeavoured to put down a Private-Notice Question to-day, but I was informed that such a Question was already going to be asked; but it has not been so asked. I should be grateful if you could tell me why it has not been asked. It referred to the intense irritation which has been excited all over the country in consequence of the method proposed for the serving-out of the ration books.

As to why the Question has not been asked, I would point out that in fact three Questions on the subject are down for the next Sitting Day, and that we must not anticipate any Question which has been put down upon the Paper.

As I am the Member who handed in the proposed Private Notice Question dealing with the confusion which is arising in connection with ration book distribution, may I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you realise the difficulty in which Members are now placed by reason of the fact that Questions for the next Sitting Days are not all circulated with the Green Papers which are sent round to Members at the' end of the week? Consequently I had no knowledge that those Questions to which you referred had been sent in on Monday, as they did not appear in the Questions circulated. Members are in a certain amount of difficulty in not being aware that such Questions have been put down, as there is no notice of that fact in the Green Papers.

I quite understand the hon. Member's position, and I am not imputing any blame to him. I am only pointing out that his Question could not be allowed, as no doubt the other Questions will be asked and answered upon the next Sitting Day.

When I was informed that those Questions had been put down, I quite understood the position, and I accept it. I understood at once that my proposed Private Notice Question could not be accepted. I would, however, point out that in the old days a Paper used to be circulated to us showing what Questions there were for the days immediately following. Now we do not know anything about them until we get to the House and see the White Order Paper.

Disposal And Custody Of Documents

Ordered, That the First and Second Reports of the Select Committee on the Disposal and Custody of Documents in the last Session of Parliament be referred to the Select Committee on the Disposal and Custody of Documents.—[ Sir Percy Harris.]

Public Accounts Committee

Ordered, That a Message be sent to the Lords to request that their Lordships will be pleased to give leave to the Earl of Drogheda, C.M.G., to attend to be examined as a witness before the Committee on Public Accounts.—[ Sir Assheton Pownall.]

Business Of The House

I beg to move,

"That the proceedings on Government Business be exempted, at this day's Sitting, from the provisions of the Standing Order (Sittings of the House)."
There are a number of Amendments on the Paper to the Town and Country Planning Bill. We are proposing this Motion simply as a precautionary measure, and I hope it will not be necessary for the House to sit late.

Question put, and agreed to.

Orders Of The Day


Considered in Committee.

[Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS in the Chair.]

Supplementary Vote Of Credit, 1943

Expenditure Arising Out Of The War

Motion made, and Question proposed,

"That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,000,000,000, be granted to His Majesty. towards defraying the expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1944, for general Navy, Army and Air services and supplies in so far as specific provision is not made therefor by Parliament; for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of the war; for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community; and generally for all expenses beyond those provided for in the ordinary Grants of Parliament arising out of the existence of a state of war."

I would like first to take this opportunity of referring to the passing of the new Mutual Aid Act of the Canadian Government, to which my right hon. Friend the Deputy Prime Minister referred in a message which he has recently sent to Mr. Mackenzie King. It is, I need hardly say, and as I will explain a little later, material to this Vote of Credit. This is the first Sitting of the House since the Bill received the Royal Assent and became law, and I am sure that the Committee would not wish this moment to pass without testifying once again the high appreciation of this House, on behalf of all our people, of this further measure of Canada's magnificent assistance to us and to all our friends and Allies united in the common cause. This new contribution on Canada's part makes a substantial difference to the sums which v5e are called upon to find from our own resources for the prosecution of the war. The action which Canada has now taken goes far beyond even the generous gift of 1,000,000,000 dollars in money which Canada gave this country last year. It represents the acceptance by Canada of new financial liabilities of a very large order; it will enable the United Kingdom and other United Nations, which lack Canadian dollars to obtain from Canada the war supplies they need; and it will do this without the accumulation of those war debts between nations which we so much wish to avoid. I feel sure that the Committee will join with me in expressing our gratitude and admiration for these magnanimous and far-reaching measures.

I have to ask the Committee for a further Vote of Credit to meet expenditure on the war. In view of the close proximity of the Budget and the Finance Bill Debates on our general financial policy, I propose to confine my remarks to-day to a very few facts about our Vote of Credit expenditure. The original Vote of 1,000,000,000 for the financial year 1943, passed by the Committee on 26th January last, is likely to be exhausted in 'the early part of next month, and I accordingly now ask for a further sum of £1,000,000,000, which, on the basis of such estimates of the probable rate of expenditure as can be made at present, should suffice to cover expenditure on war services up to about the month.of August, before which time I shall doubtless have to approach the Committee again. When I addressed the Committee in January I explained that our expenditure on war services was then at the rate of about £14,000,000 a day, which figure included £11,000,000 a day on the Fighting and Supply Services. Before the end of the financial year these figures had risen tai something like £15,000,001 and £11,500,000 respectively.

In the present financial year the amounts of the Votes of Credit will be affected by the different arrangement made by the Government of Canada with regard to the generous measure of assist ance which, as I have explained just now, Canada is again giving us. Last year the gift of a billion dollars was a money receipt in our Revenue accounts, and all our expenditure in Canada was included in the charge to the Votes of Credit. This year the Canadian Government are making provision of essential war supplies in kind, and in addition are accepting direct financial liability for the cost of the Royal Canadian Air Force personnel serving overseas, as well as purchasing for cash certain capital assets concerned with production in Canada. Thus, considerably less provision is required in our Votes of Credit for expenditure in Canada, and no provision is required for the Canadian air personnel overseas. ' The effect of these changes is to reduce the totals of the Vote of Credit expenditure below what would otherwise have been necessary. In the new financial year the rate of Vote of Credit expenditure has not so far been affected by the arrangements for Canadian supplies in kind or for meeting the cost of Canadian air personnel, but the net expenditure has been, reduced in recent weeks by the Canadian Government's purchase of the assets to which I have referred. The result is that the average rate of expenditure in the seven or eight weeks since the, beginning of the financial year cannot be regarded as an index of the prospective rate of expenditure over the financial year as a whole.

The rate during this period has in fact been about £13,500,000 a day, of which about £11,000,000 a day has been on the Fighting and Supply Services. But lest anyone should be tempted, despite the special temporary factors I have mentioned, to look on the somewhat lower figures as reflecting some slackening in our war effort, let me remind the Committee that the total Vote of Credit expenditure for which I have 'budgeted in the present financial year is £4,900,000,000. To bring that figure on to a basis comparable with. the Vote of Credit expenditure last year, we must add last year's Canadian Government contribution of £225,000,000, the cost of the Canadian air personnel which we have previously borne, and the amounts which we are receiving in return for the transferred capital assets. Further, as the Committee will remember, the Vote of Credit estimate makes only nominal provision for war damage, whereas the payments actually made were included in last year's Vote of Credit expenditure. Since the realised total of the Vote of Credit expenditure last year was only £4,840,000,000, the Committee will see that this year's Vote of Credit represents a substantially larger provision for the war than last year. As far as actual expenditure in the current financial year is concerned, the position is that at the moment, in view of the new arrangements with Canada which T have just described, we have no common basis of comparison with the daily rate of war expenditure in any previous period. But by the time I have to ask the Committee for the next Vote of Credit I may be able to give some further information of the trend of our current expenditure on the new basis. I would therefore ask the Committee to grant me this further Vote in the hope that I expect I shall be able to give some further particulars on the next occasion.

On a point of order. Might I ask whether we are now passing from consideration of this Measure?

The first thing I should like to do is to associate this side of the Committee with the acknowledgment which the Chancellor has, rightly, made of the magnificent gesture by Canada. I do not think that even on the last occasion we fully appreciated the range and magnitude of this form of assistance. It is only right that those who speak for Parliament and for the British people should recognise it.

I desire to take the opportunity of this new Vote of Credit, which Parliament will no doubt readily grant, to raise one matter. The facility with which the Chancellor has hitherto got his Votes of Credit indicates a general endorsement of his policy. I want now to discuss a phase of our 'financial policy, namely, the stabilisation of prices. I make no apology for doing so, because the Chancellor himself emphasised in his Budget Statement the importance of the matter. He said:
"In the forefront of the measures which we have taken during the war to remove the threat of inflation is cur policy of stabilisation of prices. It has wide significance, and it involves a considerable annual charge upon the Exchequer. In my Budget speech of April, 1941, I undertook to hold the cost-of-living index number, apart from minor seasonal changes, within the range of 125 to 130 in term: of the pre-war level. That endeavour has been rewarded with a full measure of success."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th April, 1943; col. 952, Vol. 388.]
That applies to the stabilisation of food prices. I think the Chancellor can claim a full measure of success for that policy. In the Debate on the Ministry of Food Estimates the other day, I expressed appreciation of the value of the food subsidies, pointing out the immense and favourable repercussions that that policy was having on the whole of our war effort. I reminded the Committee that a pound each of six primary commodities, butter, margarine, lard, bacon, cheese, and sugar, cost 7s. 11¾ld. in 1917, and only 6s. 2d. in May, 1943, showing a total saving of Is. 9¾c1. on a pound of each of these six commodities alone. That is an outstanding justification for subsidising as a method of controlling food prices. In this policy of stabilisation, however, it is not possible to follow the method Of subsidy to any extensive degree, although with regard to basic food supplies, it is, in my view, quite unsound in war time for the Government to follow other methods.

Later we see a further working-out of this policy in the development of utility lines. I submit that the Government policy has not been pursued with the same vigour, and has not met with the same success, in regard to general price and commodity controls as it has in. the case of subsidies. I would press for an extension of the policy of developing utility lines. While the retail index is suitable for food, it is not, in my view, fool-proof in respect of the general range of goods. I do not say at this stage that the Chancellor has been inaccurate, but I want to query a subsequent statement of his, that,
"apart from price increases deliberately brought about. by higher indirect taxes, the whole volume of consumption goods and services, including luxury goods and other non-necessaries, has not risen in price by more than 36 per cent."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 12th April, 1943; col. 952, Vol. 388.]
Everyday experience does not bear out that statistical assertion. It is ail very well to use statistics, but the average housewife could proceed, and rightly, from her own experience. Let me state the price of clothing. I want the Chancellor, if he will, to note these figures. By 1st January, 1942, the price and general index figure of clothing had reached 93 per cent. above that for 1st September, 1939. The policy of utility lines was developed by the Government three years after the war started. That shows how slowly the stabilisation policy has been followed, in this direction, in contrast to the promptitude with which subsidies were _applied. It is interesting to note that it was not until utility lines were introduced that the general level of clothing prices began to fall. Now they have declined to 70 per cent. above September, 1939. If you take the other general lines of consumption goods, they were 30 per cent. above September, 1939, on 1st January, 1942, and they are now 50 per cent: above. This is the real issue that the country has to face in regard to this problem of stabilisation. Stabilising food prices at 20 per cent. above those for September, 1939, permits of a continuation of that figure after the war. If one reflects, one can see the immense advantage of stabilising food prices at their present levels, in framing our post-war agricultural policy, if we do not have to pass through a period of deflation with regard to food supplies.

When we turn from food supplies to general consumer goods, the point here that I desire to make is that the importance—I really wish that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be absorbed while I am presenting an argument of some substance—of this general range of consumer goods is reflected in respect that it is to' this class of goods coming into normal manufacture that we shall look for the absorption of a considerable proportion of our demobilised labour from the Services, the Civil Defence services and from war production. If the prices of this general range of goods are higher than is necessary—and I claim that 78 per cent. is too high for a certain range of goods, and I shall point out that others are still higher—just at the time when we want stability of prices to develop maximum production, we shall have uncertainty if we have to face a deflation period. The Government are the largest buyers of goods in this country to-day, and therefore we need to keep prices stable, because it is of advantage in our current war expenditure. If we get an accumulative advantage from the stabilisation of prices in war-time, it will give us security and stabilisation when we move from war to peace production.

I have already asserted that, in my view, the prices of clothing and general merchandise have been allowed to reach too high a level. There are statistics, but I want to quote some figures taken by an Oxford test—the Oxford Bulletin of Statistics—to show that, when one applies a test to retail establishments, the figures are much higher than the percentages which I have given, and which again are double those of the Chancellor. This test carried out in Oxford, taking the figure of 100 per cent., in 1938, showed that clothing and footwear had reached 168 per cent. in 1943, furniture 250 per cent., household textiles 265 per cent., hardware and household stores 185 per cent., leather and travel goods 185 per cent., fancy goods 185 per cent., and drugs and toilet goods 156 per cent.

Can the hon. Gentleman help us by giving the range of that test?

The goods there cover practically every form of domestic, household and furnishing equipment.

It is taken in Oxford, but it is no use suggesting that Oxford is not a sound test in this respect, because I am prepared to give another test. Here is an interesting comparison of prices made by the Council for Art and Industry. In 1937 it gave the cost of completely equipping a working-class home, and the estimate for 1936 was £52 10S. 4d. If you took that same range of goods for equipping the same type of house in 1942, it would cost £167 11S. 10d. If you took off the Purchase Tax in that range of goods, it would mean a reduction of £31 3s. 2d., leaving the comparative cost in 1942 £136 8s. 8d. as against £52 10s. 4d. before the war. If you take the ordinary simple daily test and you try to buy a tin kettle to-day which used to cost 6½d. and 10½d. for a two or four pint kettle respectively, you will have to pay 1S. 7d., 1S. 9d., or 2s. or 2s. 6d—you find the prices vary very considerably in different shops. If you take the ordinary scrubbing brush which the housewife uses in her home for which she used to pay 8½d. or 10d., she will now have to pay 1s. 11d., 25. or 2s. 6d. My contention is that there is no similar control of prices; that the machinery of price control on this range of goods is not working as effectively as it might do. The interesting thing is that, if you study this very wide range of goods, the introduction of the utility lines marks the first occasion upon which the general rise of prices was arrested.

The introduction of utility lines is having the same effect on this range of goods as the subsidy on the basic lines of food. Directly we follow the policy of subsidising the major basic food items it exercises the same influence on the whole range of food supplies, although the whole range is not subject to the subsidy policy. Since utility lines have been introduced the same influence has been observable with regard to dry goods and hardware and similar things. That is a definite advantage. I am not inexperienced enough to suggest to the Chancellor that the utility principle could be introduced over the whole of this very wide range of goods, but it could be extended much more than it has been. The whole policy was 'too slow; prices were allowed to rise to a high artificial level before it was introduced. We already have the evidence that after a few lines had been covered, it exercised a moderating and declining influence on prices. Therefore, before I leave this' subject, I want to urge upon the consideration of the Chancellor, who fully accepts the policy of stabilisation and has stated that to be his policy, the need for the picking-out of a number of additional articles that exercise a good influence on prices generally and the extension of utility lines to cover the position as much as possible.

Is it not the case that prices of unrationed or uncontrolled goods have risen very largely owing to the scarcity of labour? How is it possible to control the prices of these goods unless by a complete Order of control and unless at the same time we either supply labour or control prices?

There is price control running through all these articles, hut it is impossible, in view of the present position, to exercise proper supervision over these prices. Therefore when one is faced with a situation of that character it is desirable to look to experience to see what factors operate normally in all industry to hold prices to a reasonable figure. When one observes this factor and discovers that the subsidy in respect of certain basic food supplies has had a more arresting influence than your general price legislation, and when you find that since utility lines have been introduced the tendency of prices for this range of goods has been to remain stable, and to some extent to decline, whereas previously they had been steadily mounting, it is worth while Parliament giving attention to these matters in so far as we cannot hope to establish an extensive inspectorate to see that breaches of price regulations are not taking place.

The third phase of policy on which, it appears to me, the Government are depending to secure some form of stabilisation is the exercise of the machinery of their commodity control. As regards the general distribution of goods, we have subsidies, utility production and price control. When it comes to the more important materials of industry the Government fall back on their commodity control machinery. I put this definite point to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Do the Treasury and the Government suggest that their own commodity control as regards both the acquisition and the pricing of material, the machinery with which they operate prices and releases to the trade, is working efficiently? It is very difficult to justify the prices of materials released by some of the commodity controls.

I take timber as an illustration, and I can give only one illustration, because I understand there is a desire that this,Debate should not occupy too much time. The price of super beech in 1938 was 3½, a foot. The price fixed by the Timber Control is 9⅝d. an increase of 175 per cent. The question of the difficulty of importation has, in my view, nothing to do with it. We are doing without the timber that we cannot import, and I submit that there is no justification for an increase in price of this description. Super American oak was 4d. a foot in 1938, and the control price is 1s. 1⁝d. Admittedly this has to be brought from America. but surely there are international arrangements by which space can be found for cargoes which are necessary, and if a cargo is necessary, it is not desirable that prices should be increased to such an extent. A standard of deal in 1938 cost £16 15s. The price fixed by the Timber Control is £47 7s. 6d., an in- crease of 182 per cent. Birch ply in 1938 was 7s., and the price fixed by the Timber Control is 34s. to 36s., an increase of 385 per cent.

Here we have a Government machine which ought to be able to exercise complete control over prices, apart from any natural or inevitable increases resulting from the war. Follow the effect of this through industry. It is impossible to get timber to-day except for essential work. Nearly all of it goes on Government account, and therefore increases of this kind permitted by the Timber Control are added to the cost at every stage of production. In the case of utility furniture, for instance, you are faced with the position that the timber must come from the Timber Control; the wholesaler has his margin, and the retailers have their margin, and if you start off with a highly priced raw material, your wholesale proportion, your manufacturing proportion, your retail proportion are subject to the cumulative effect.

Therefore, I submit that from the standpoint of national economy, and having regard to post-war reconstruction, the policy which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has stated to be the official policy of the Government, namely, stabilisation of prices, is not being pursued as thoroughly or as efficiently as it could be. I have raised this discussion for the purpose of getting over one or two points in that connection. I regret that I have had to do so rather hurriedly and that I have not had time to support my remarks by the evidence which I should otherwise have wished to bring forward. I have however curtailed my remarks to meet the convenience of the right hon. Gentleman, and I hope that he, in return, will re-emphasise his policy and give an assurance that it will be pursued more vigorously and more efficiently in the future.

My hon. Friend the Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes) will forgive me if I refrain from making any comments upon the interesting and important argument which he has just presented to the Committee. We are now in the midst of the discussions on our financial arrangements for the year, and you, Mr. Williams, have already been good enough to afford me an opportunity of speaking on some aspects of our financial position, and I would not have intervened on this occasion did I not feel bound, in few but none the less sincere words, to associate my hon. and right hon. Friends who sit on these benches with what the Chancellor of the Exchequer has said regarding the passage of the Mutual Aid Act through the Canadian Parliament. This is indeed a remarkable action by the Canadian Legislature. The conception of Lend-Lease which owes so much to President Roosevelt, and now this great act by the Canadian nation, which will be of the utmost practical value to us, seem to me to indicate the opening of a new era in international finance.

We have reached a stage in the war when it is our duty to devote such time and attention as we can divert from the immediate prosecution of the war, to the consideration of the arrangements to be made after the war. We want to ensure the continuance, in the difficult financial times which will follow the war, of that unity of purpose which is to-day bringing us steadily nearer victory over our enemies. It is not the actual size or magnificence of this transaction, great as it is, which is most remarkable. I think- the most remarkable thing about it is that it should have been done at all. As I say, it is the indication of a new era, and I rejoice that it should be so. The financial and economic transactions of Lend-Lease and the Mutual Aid Act which our Canadian brethren have passed are signs of that higher standard of conduct in international finance which we shall have to maintain if the world is to be made a place fit for human habitation.

At' the outset, may I briefly associate myself with what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for East Birkenhead {Mr. Graham White) about the action of the Canadian Government? I only hope that they are not as misled as the Chancellor of the Exchequer is, by the bogus money which is being created, and it is in order to make a protest on that particular aspect of this Vote of Credit that I rise to address the Committee. It is not because I am annoyed with my right hon. Friend for his quips at me during Question time. I can take it, and I may add that I think I can, on this occasion, return it with interest. But I am bound to make this remark to my right hon. Friend, that from the studied expressions of amusement which I observed in the Gallery at the side it seemed to me that some of his supplementary retorts were inspired, and I desire first to make a protest on a particular point—one which I have made before. I greatly regret, as I am sure other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen also regret, the ever-increasing habit of Ministers reading their speeches, and I look forward to the day when I shall be able to send my right hon. Friend a bouquet—

The hon. Member has already wandered round at least two subjects which are out of Order. I hope he will now proceed to deal with the Vote of Credit.

I want to move the rejection of this Vote of Credit, and I want the Committee to be fully apprised of why I take that view. I do not want the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be too much hurt by what I say, and I was merely remarking that I would like to be able to send him a bouquet, if and when he gives me occasion to do so. There seems to me to be no sense whatever in voting money to a Government when it would appear that the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not know where his money is coming from.

I am not discussing where it actually comes from, but I am contending that the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not know where it comes from.

We cannot discuss whether the right hon. Gentleman knows or does not know where it comes from.

It is surely in Order when we are discussing a Vote of Credit for £1,000,000,000 to point out that the Chancellor of the Exchequer does not really know what the money is. I put that to the Chancellor—as I have done on previous occasions when he has not seen fit to answer me, not because his Department did not know, but because they.did not want to tell the truth£that he, as the responsible authority, should tell the House how much of the money he borrows is bank-created money.

That is just the point we cannot discuss just now; we can only discuss how the money is spent.

I do not know quite how to put this, but my point is that the Chancellor does not know what money is. However, I suppose I shall have to sit down without developing my argument and reserve my words of wisdom for a future occasion [Laughter]. It is all very well for the Chancellor to laugh. My historical recollection is that Departments only do that when they are in a jam—

If the hon. Member does not know how to put his case, that is no reason for giving a general lecture on matters which have nothing to do with this Vote of Credit.

Then I must conclude my remarks. It seems to me a matter of concern that this Committee should be asked to vote £1,000,000,000 when the Chancellor does not know what money is. Perhaps I may emphasise this point. We have heard a great deal lately about unconditional surrender. I want to say to the Chancellor that unless he achieves unconditional surrender of privately controlled money power, we shall never get the peace we want.

I think I had better pass over the speech of the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) in case I, too, am ruled out of Order. First of all, I would like to thank the Committee for the references they have made to our financial administration. In particular, I appreciate the observations of the hon. Member for East Ham South (Mr. Barnes). I would not have expected the Committee to do otherwise than associate itself with my remarks concerning the generous help we have had from our Canadian friends. I have no doubt that reports of this Debate will appear in Canada, so that our friends there can see how much we appreciate what they have done and are doing. I wish the hon. Member for East Ham South had had a little more time to develop the case he put forward, because he is an authority on that subject, which is one well worth our deliberation and consideration. He did, however, have time to put forward some part of his case to-day, and while in view of our other Business I do not wish to trespass on the time of the Committee, I would like to make one or two observations on what he said and to tell him that I will carefully study the points he has raised and communicate with him later, if I may.

I would like to give some explanation to the Committee about the figure of 36 per cent. which is in the White Paper. That figure relates to the average increase in aggregate retail prices which has taken place since the outbreak of war, excluding the effects of indirect taxes and subsidies. The figure is an average for the calendar year 1942, during which period the average of the Ministry of Labour's cost-of-living index was 29 per cent. above pre-war level. I want to make it quite clear why these two figures are different. The reason is, as was pointed out in the White Paper, that the two figures measure different things. The cost-of-living index measures the increase in the cost of buying a fixed collection of goods, based on samples of working-class consumption, and for the most part this collection of goods consists of what may be termed the necessities of life. The figure in the White Paper covers all classes of goods, not by any means confined to necessities, and relates to practically the whole of the aggregate personal expenditure of the community; it is not confined to any particular budget of consumption.

In addition to this difference in the basis of comparison, the White Paper excludes the effects of indirect taxation and subsidies, the result being to give an indication of the aggregate movement of retail prices which has taken place apart from the deliberate action of Government policy in the spheres of taxation and subsidies. The stabilisation policy, which operates by means of subsidies, has, of course, been to a large extent concentrated in the field of the most essential goods, with which the cost-of-living index figure is chiefly concerned. I think the hon. Member for East Ham South will agree that that was the right thing to do and a good concentration to take. Naturally, the cost-of-living index, which reflects the stabilisation and subsidy policy, shows a lower price increase since the beginning of the war than the White Paper figure, which has regard to the total collection of all -L-Asses of consumption over the community as a whole. As I said in my Budget speech, I think that when regard is paid to these factors the rise of 36 per cent. over the whole field, apart from taxes and subsidies, is in an appropriate relationship 'co the cost-of-living index. The hon. Member, with his usual fairness, expressed appreciation of the Government's policy in the field of foodstuffs, but he said that he did not think that we had been so successful in another class of goods, particularly those which come within the sphere of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade. It is quite true that food prices have risen less than those of most other goods and services, but we must not forget rents, which have not risen at all.

I am quite ready to admit that when the Government first embarked on the great new experiment of our stabilisation policy two years ago we concentrated our efforts at first in the field of food, and I do not think anybody will quarrel on that account. Quite clearly the first and most important thing to do was to try and stabilise the prices of those staple articles of food which appear week by week on every housewife's shopping list and on which there must be steady, uninterrupted, weekly expenditure. Nevertheless, since then a great deal has been done to extend the stabilisation policy over an even wider field. I will give these instances. Clothing prices have now been successfully stabilised and in the case of utility clothing have even been reduced. I think everyone has praise for the exceedingly good value for money represented by utility clothes for which the President of the Board of Trade is responsible, and which he has done so much to make successful. Of course, this has been assisted by the exemption of utility clothes from Purchase Tax, and this has been followed by similar exemptions in respect, first, of utility furniture and now, as I announced in my Budget speech, of the various forms of household textiles. Some 80 per cent. of all the clothing that is now produced is utility clothing and is thus exempt from tax. In the case of furniture 100 per cent. of current production, excepting only certain old stocks now being worked off, is utility furniture and is also exempt from Purchase Tax. When you take this very wide range of things—food, clothing, furniture and so on, I think we have gone a very long way to meet the objects my hon. Friend has in mind by means of a properly co-ordinated policy of stabilisation and price control, coupled with the exemptions from Purchase Tax in relation to the various classes that I have mentioned. I will take note of what the hon. Member has said and carefully study the suggestions he has made and, if necessary, confer with the President of the Board of Trade concerning them. I hope he will feel that, taking the policy as a whole, and all that we have done during the year. there is a substantial amount to the credit of the policy introduced some time ago. I regard this as one of the main features of our finance introduced during the war. It is true that it is costing a large sum of money—£180,000,000—but I think it has met with a full measure of success and has certainly done a great deal to help the great body of people, particularly those with small fixed incomes, whose case must be very much in our mind at present.

Yes, I will look into that. I thank the hon. Member for his useful and informative speech, and I will certainly take into account all that he has said and study it.

Question put, and agreed to.


"That a Supplementary sum, not exceeding £1,000,000,000, be granted to His Majesty, towards defraying the expenses which may be incurred during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1944, for general Navy, Army and Air services and supplies in so far as specific provision is not made therefor by Parliament; for securing the public safety, the defence of the realm, the maintenance of public order and the efficient prosecution of the war; for maintaining supplies and services essential to the life of the community; and generally for all expenses, beyond those provided for in the ordinary Grants of Parliament, arising out of the existence of a state of war."

Resolution to be reported upon the next Sitting Day; Committee to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.

Ways And Means

Considered In Committee

[Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS in the Chair.]


"That towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the service of the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1944, the sum of £1,000,000,000 be granted out C the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom."—[Sir Kingsley Wood.]

Resolution to be reported upon the next Sitting Day; Committee to sit again upon the next Sitting Day.

Town And Country Planning (Interim Development) Bill

Considered in Committee.

[Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS in the Chair.]

CLAUSEI —(Application of planning resolutions to land not already subject to planning schemes or resolutions.)

I beg to move, in page 1, to leave out lines 15 to 21.

Under the existing law as contained in Section 10 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, provision is made in regard to the interim development of land within an area to which a resolution to adopt a planning scheme applied and that Section gives some but not sufficient control to the planning authorities in regard to developments that may take place prior to the actual making of a planning scheme. The defect in the Section is that a person can still develop land notwithstanding the planning authority's refusal of consent if he is prepared to risk the inclusion in the scheme as eventually made of a provision depriving him of compensation in respect of the building which has been erected contrary to the development. It is suggested that no serious hardship is experienced by landowners by reason of the interim control of development given by Section 1o, as all decisions of the planning authority may be the subject of an appeal to the Ministry of Health. The purpose of this Clause 1 (1) of the Bill is to bring those parts of the country which are not already the subject of a town planning.resolution within the scope of the interim development control, and it provides that areas in which a town planning resolution is not already in force shall be deemed to be subject to such a resolution, that is,
"that it shall be deemed to have been duly passed by the local authority for the district in which the land is situated."
These words, of course, mean the local authority by virtue of the provisions of the Act, namely, as respects the City of London the Common Council of that City, as respects the County of London the London County Council, and elsewhere the councils of county boroughs and county districts. The expression "county districts" means urban rural districts and non-county boroughs. We put this Amendment forward largely on behalf of the Urban District Councils Association, whose view is that interim development control should be exercised by the local authority as defined and that it should not be open to the Minister to make an order transferring the responsibility to another local authority or to a county council or to a joint committee. There is no provision in the Act of 1932 for a compulsory transfer of this kind. There are provisions for voluntary transfer, and* it is difficult to see why the Minister should wish that different provisions should be applicable to the interim control which is exercisable under the Bill.

Under Section 2 (2) of the Act, the council of a county district may at any time by agreement relinquish in favour of the county council any of their powers or duties under the Act. There have been many cases of relinquishment of this kind. Under Section 3 two or more local authorities may appoint a joint committee for the purpose of acting jointly in the preparation or adoption of a scheme, and they may delegate to that committee any powers under the Act other than the power of borrowing money or levying a rate. Again, under Section 4, the Minister, where it appears to be expedient that two or more local authorities should act jointly in the preparation or adoption of a scheme, may, at the request of one or more of them, by order provide for the continuance of a joint committee for that purpose. We propose largely that those things should be continued. We feel that in this proviso you are taking away the voluntary association of various councils with the desired object in View. It cannot be said to be in the nature of a default power, as the local authority could not be said to be in default merely because Clause i operates in regard to land which has not already been the subject of a standing resolution. If it should be suggested that the proviso is only operative where there is something in the nature of default, the answer is that these powers are already contained in Section 36 of the Act of 1932. The omission of the proviso has already been proposed to the Minister by the Urban District Councils Association. The Ministry, while not replying to the Urban District Councils Association, has sent a letter to another association, and if that were made applicable generally, it would be accepted. The Ministry wrote:
"As you are aware planning powers in respect of areas which have already been planned have in some cases been relinquished under Section 2 (2) and 3 (1) of the Act of 1932 to the county council or delegated to a joint committee, and in others are being exercised by a neighbouring authority. In such cases it may be convenient that a new area coming under planning for the first time under the provisions of the sub-section should also be planned by the county council or the joint committee or other authority as the case may be. The only object of the proviso is to enable the Minister by order to give a direction accordingly."
If such an assurance embodied in those words could be put into the Bill, the Urban District Councils Association would be satisfied, but without it the proviso is wide enough to permit of an Order being made by the Minister transferring the power to an entirely different local authority in respect of a part of the district, although in the rest of the district the existing powers are being discharged by the local authority itself. While I am ready to admit that present conditions may warrant any great interference with the Minister having new powers, we should endeavour to get as much local agreement as possible. I therefore move this Amendment and ask the Minister for some assurance on the matter.

I hope that the Minister will not be carried away by the eloquence of my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment. If I have any criticism of the words which my hon. Friend desires to delete, it is that they are of too limited a character. They apply only to areas or parts of areas where no resolution has been passed, and the Minister has to exercise his power before the expiration of the three months from the passing of the Bill.

Does the hon. Gentleman wish to discuss, with this Amendment, the Amendment which stands in his name, in page 1, line 15, after "may" to insert:

"after consultation with the local authority for the district in which the land proposed to be specified is situated."
or would he wish to discuss it separately? It might be convenient if we discussed both together.

I think that would be convenient. The real criticism of town planning areas at the present time is that they are far too small. I had hoped that in this Bill my right hon. Friend would have done something about the reorganisation of local government, at any rate from a town planning point of view. If he were not able to do that—and possibly it is asking a great deal to reorganise local government in a town planning measure—I would have liked him to take far greater powers to amalgamate areas or to substitute areas one for another for town planning purposes than he has done. May I quote the example of the Metropolitan traffic area? In that area there are 117 town planning authorities. One can well imagine the kind of patchwork of planning which one could expect if each authority were to prepare a scheme for itself based entirely on its own needs, or what it regards as its own needs, regardless of conditions outside. I regard this proviso as the bare minimum which the Minister ought to be empowered to carryout. If I may refer to my Amendment, before the Minister brushed any local authority on one side he ought at least, as a matter of courtesy, consult it and give reasons why in his view it would be better for some other local authority to carry out its functions. I do not object to the principle. All I suggest is that the Minister, as I am sure my right hon. Friend would wish to do, should pay the local authority the courtesy of consulting it before he takes any action.

The proviso to Sub-section (1) has certainly been drawn in very wide terms and it has aroused among planning authorities a certain amount of apprehension. I understand that my right hon. Friend's purpose is to exercise the powers which the proviso gives him only in those cases where there has already been a relinquishment of planning powers either to a joint committee or to a county council. The apprehensions which the proviso has aroused 'in certain quarters would be allayed if my right hon. Friend could assure us that it is his intention to exercise the powers which the proviso gives him in that way and not to use them for the purpose of transferring the interim development powers to a new authority in cases where there has not been any relinquishment to a joint committee or a county council.

Let me first allay any suspicions that may naturally enough arise from the words of the proviso that it is the Minister's intention to exercise his powers by transferring to strange authorities powers which normally ought to reside in the locality. If the hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Collindridge) will look at Sub-section (1) he will see that the notional resolution which is necessary to bring the whole of the country under a planning resolution is deemed to have been duly passed by the local authority for the district in which the land is situated. As he told us correctly, under the 1932 Act there have been changes from the position where each local authority planned its own land. There have been reliramishments, there have been joint committees, and so on. It may happen that when Clause 1 becomes operative a small section hitherto not subject to a resolution, situated it may be in the very middle of the area which has joined up for joint action, will, if we have not the proviso, be its own authority for planning. It would be undesirable within an area of that character to have a division of planning functions-between one large body which has voluntarily come together or is the result of a voluntary relinquishment and another authority holding a small place in the middle of the area; and that there should be no powers on the part of the Minister to tidy up the position and make an effective planning body governing the whole of the land in question.

It is for that purpose and no other that the proviso exists. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will accept my assurance on that matter. It is necessary in the case of those areas brought under a notional resolution to tidy them up and to secure that there is one authority which will function in an efficient manner for the whole area. I do not anticipate that the areas which are now brought for the first time under planning will feel any reluctance at the proviso. If I were suddenly confronted as an administrator of local government with the task which would be imposed on me, I would welcome inclusion in an area which is already provided with planning powers, and I anticipate no trouble in this provision being accepted. I thoroughly agree with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) that it would be wrong for the Minister of Town and Country Planning to make these alterations in authorities without the fullest consultation with the authorities concerned. It is not only a question of courtesy, although that is involved. I hope that courtesy will always be a feature of our administration in this country and that those who take upon themselves the burden of public affairs, whether locally or at the centre, will always treat each other with the greatest amount of respect.

Apart from that, there is involved a sound administrative point. A Minister of Town and County Planning who attempted to carve up areas without consultation would not only be extremely discourteous but very foolish, because he would be depriving himself of that local knowledge which is essential if planning is to be effective and popular. I hope, however, that the hon. Gentleman will not press the Amendment for this reason. Consultation is a piece of administration and a Minister would be foolish if he did not indulge in it to the full, but the place to check errors in administration is Parliament where the Minister is subject to scrutiny by his fellow members. It is one thing for the. Minister to be obliged to consult by rules of good administration and Parliamentary criticism, and it is another thing for him to be subjected on the matter of consultation to the jurisdiction of the law courts. If we alter the Statute and put these words into it, it opens the door for people to ask: "Did you actually consult before you made the Order?" Possibly years after, when a local authority in good faith has made orders affecting property rights, some cantankerous individual might come along and say that everybody had not been consulted to the full and, therefore, the Order was ultra vires.I am not anxious to avoid the fact of consultation, but I want to avoid cluttering up the Statute Book with possible rocks of offence for the future. The word "consultation" itself is extremely vague in its import. We know what it means, but what degree of consultation is necessary for it to be effective in the words of the Statute? If a Minister likes to be high-handed it could be the most perfunctory consultation, and that would be no safeguard. Nothing but good administration can secure that. I give the assurance, on the one hand, to the hon. Member for Barnsley, of what the proviso is intended to accomplish, and on the other, to the hon. Member for Peckham that the fullest consultation will be necessary and will be carried out. I hope, therefore, that they will not think it necessary to press their Amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I shall have pleasure in withdrawing my Amendment, but I would like to tell my right hon. Friend that the 1932 Act is full of references to consultation, and I hope he will have a look at it.

The hon. Gentleman did not actually propose his Amendment. Perhaps he will formally move it, so that it can be withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page line 15, after "may," to insert:

"after consultation with the local authority for the district in which the land proposed to be specified is situated."

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 2, line 3, at the end, to add:

"(3) There shall be set aside around all towns and cities of fifty thousand or more inhabitants a strip of land approximately five miles wide to form a green belt and, within three months of the passing of this Act, this shall be considered as subject to planning resolution and no new development or building schemes shall be planned for future construction within this space without the consent of the Minister."
This is rather a drastic Amendment, but I would point out that all the land in this Island of ours can be administered at the Minister's discretion three months after the passing of this Measure under an interim development Order. The position as to the use of land is rather vague, and I think it is most desirable that the use of the land be more definite, and this Amendment sets out that areas five miles wide around towns and cities with a population of 50,000 and over should be reserved as a green belt. The Minister may wish to vary the width to four or six miles, but I have thought it right to bring the matter forward in order that local authorities should have some knowledge of where they can undertake developments. Both the Ministry of Health and the former Minister of Works and Planning have called upon local authorities to plan boldly, but it will be difficult to plan boldly until they are sure how land can be used. Local authorities must prepare plans for future housing estates, for factories and for development generally, but until the Government have given a definite lead they cannot know whether or not their proposed developments will be located in some future green belt, and if that should prove to be the case all their work will have been wasted. This situation is very important from a practical point of view.

More than the questions of law, it is the question of the physical working of the principle that has disturbed me. Our future housing, health and happiness are to a large extent involved, for if plans are not ready when the war ends, the great pressure there will be for houses will make it necessary for us to go ahead under possibly ill-considered arrangements. Green belts, which are advocated, as I think the Minister will agree, by all planning authorities, affect the congestion of our cities and towns. They prevent the improper use of good agricultural land, and they introduce possibilities of control, instead of leaving the lay-out to the merry whims or nebulous chance of land speculators or poorly-advised authorities. In its concluding words the Amendment leaves this matter very largely in the discretion of the Minister, but gives him the opportunity of allowing the growth of communities where possible and permits the extension or the introduction of industry in desirable cases. It will also allow him to define the appropriate size of built-up areas and will certainly stop ribbon development without his consent and I am sure we have had enough of our rural areas spoilt by ribbon development.

Without this Amendment local authoritise may plan their affairs in a very inconsiderate and unfair manner, without regard to any long-term planning ideas of the Minister. We have to face the fact, and this to my mind is most important, that the planning, the making of the drawings, the letting of the contracts, the carrying out of much administrative work will not take less than about 18 months. We have all seen in the papers to-day that General Smuts has said the war will end suddenly, even though the end may not come in a very short time and we shall certainly not get a warning, and if the principle of the green belt, which has been advocated by every authority on the subject is to be introduced, now is the time to do it, so that local authorities may have the opportunity to deal not only with their legal problems but with their physical problems. They will want to get some guidance. If the Minister will accept this Amendment, it will undoubtedly lighten the work of his Ministry, which is going to be tremendous, but this Amendment goes to the root of one of the great uncertainties of the national position and is an essential step in town and country planning.

Can the hon. Member explain how he would make a green belt between Stockport and Manchester, where there are only zoo yards between the one town and the other?

I think that is a very justifiable question. Obviously it would be totally impossible, and I should think that my hon. and gallant Friend, in putting his question, knew that it would be impossible. It was a very amusing suggestion on his part under the circumstances.

I would ask the hon. Member to give a fuller explanation of his Amendment. It seems to lay upon the Government the obligation to see that there must be a green belt round every town of a certain population. Is that to involve the pulling down of houses on a vast scale? It would be quite impossible in a great area of the Black Country to carry out any policy of this kind. It would be very desirable, but there are no green belts now in the neighbourhood of many large towns. At the same time this Amendment calls upon the Minister to preserve such belts. I really cannot understand how it would work out. Does the hon. Gentleman mean that this should be done in so far as it may be practicable? The words of his Amendment say that it must be done everywhere.

In an old country like ours it is obvious the principle of green belts could be only done where it is possible and practicable. As I said in my opening remarks, the Amendment is rather a drastic one, but I hope the Minister will accept the principle of it, and introduce any words which may be necessary to make it workable. My desire is to get the principle of having green belts where possible introduced into the Bill, so that local authorities can go ahead with their physical planning work for many of them are now much disturbed by the absence of this information.

I support very strongly the principle of this Amendment. I think the objection raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Penrith (Lieut.-Colonel Dower) in no way touches the principle of the Amendment. It would be very unfortunate if, because one cannot ensure a green belt around certain towns in the Black Country or between Manchester and Stockport, the Minister did not take powers to see that a green belt is provided in the large number of other cases where it would be quite practicable. Therefore, I hope the Minister will accept the principle of the Amendment and redraft it in words which are suitable. Because things are so dismal and miserable in the Black Country, we ought not to fail to make provision for the future where that can be done.

I am sorry that I have not been able to take much part in these proceedings on planning, but the principle raised by this Amendment is one that has been in my mind a great deal, as it must have been in the minds of most thoughtful people who are looking forward to the proper development and planning of this country. As the Commission which sat before the war discovered, all experience shows that there may be unexpected and rapid developments of population in different parts of the country, without any arrangements having been made for preserving the amenities of those areas and for maintaining those natural surroundings which are even more desirable than the things one learns in school. I think it is very necessary that the Minister should give his attention to the question of ensuring that there are green belts around certain areas. Anyone who has noticed the developments which are taking place during the war knows that industry springs up in quite unexpected places, and unless the principle of the green belt is adopted we may find ourselves in a very parlous condition.

There is another very important reason why I am interested in this proposal. It seems to suggest a limitation on the population in certain areas, a limitation of the size of towns, and I feel that in a country like ours that matter deserves serious attention. As a people who believe in democracy and in the development of the individual's personality, we suffer from the danger of communities growing to a size at which the communal sense is lost. That is an outstanding problem in this country and one of the great dangers which we run. It has been pointed out—and London provides a particular example of it—that in many places one lives alongside one's neighbours without ever getting to know them. In the shelters a communal sense developed. People gathered together there and learned to know who their neighbours were. I have known many families who have had to come from the North to the South of England. I was never one who was against transference, because I have felt that the change from one locality to another enlarges one's outlook and education, but men, and women too, have often said to me when speaking of life in the outskirts of London: "We get better wages, it is a better living and there are other advantages, but we do not know anybody; there is no social life for us here." That is a psychological consideration which should not be overlooked. There is a very subtle danger to this country there. While it is very necessary to have a green belt round large areas of population in order to provide the amenities which are necessary—for I feel that trees and landscape are far more important than books in the general development of one's mental outlook—it is also important that some attention should be given to the limitation, in a rough and ready way, of the size of the population in these areas, in order that we may redevelop the communal sense upon which our real British character is based.

I do not know whether the Amendment in its present form can be accepted, for the reasons which have been pointed out, but if not I hope the Minister will at least do something about this very important matter. As the hon. Member for Chesterle-Street (Mr. Lawson) has said, it is of the greatest importance that people should not live in such large communities that they lose their community sense, and it is also of great importance, especially to the children, to have ready access to what are commonly known as the green belts. In my native city 5o or 60 years ago there was a delightful green belt accessible within easy walking distance to all the children in the city, but since that time I have seen buildings cover more and more of those green spaces until to-day the distances that have to be travelled in order to reach the countrified surroundings are very great and put them out of reach of a great many of the children. For that reason I support very strongly the principle which lies behind the Amendment, and I hope that if the Minister cannot accept it in its present form, he will at any rate do something which will help us to realise the ideal.

Nearly 300 years ago Sir Christopher Wren proposed something of this sort for London, but his ideas were entirely neglected. I wonder how many of us now regret the treatment of Wren. No one feels it was a good thing that he was not allowed to carry out that plan. Very few large towns exist around which some green fields cannot be found. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has pointed out that there are big places in the Black Country where no green belts can easily be provided, but I do not think there is a town, even in the Black Country, where there are no fields within five miles. Very likely between Wolverhampton and Dudley there is comparatively small scope for leaving still unbuilt upon such agricultural land as exists, but there is some, even there. In the area of Sedgley, where I happen to live, there are still green fields and farms, and it is half-way between those towns. North of Wolverhampton and West of Dudley there are beautiful stretches of country, a bit spoiled perhaps, still not absolutely ruined by modem industrialism. Round West Bromwich, and Eastward at any rate, there is similar country. It is of vast importance that we should preserve our heritage and make provision for preventing gradual ribbon development and the spread of ugly industrial building, unplanned, over the countryside. As a piece of English literature the Amendment, it is possible, might be improved upon, but in its spirit and ideas it is perfectly admirable. I ask the Minister to give it that sympathetic and friendly consideration for which he is so justly famous in this House and beyond.

I support in full every word that has been said on behalf of this Amendment. I would give the Minister every power he desires in order to prevent our countryside being spoiled by the monstrosities which have been built up along our highroads, but the question I would put to him is, Is this Amendment necessary? Has he not already the power? The Bill states that all land not already the subject of a scheme in force shall be the subject of a scheme. The Minister can exercise his power. I want to give him these powers, but I should like his assurance as to whether he will have these powers already by the terms of the Bill.

I am heartily in agreement with what my hon. Friends have said on this subject, but my hon. Friend who has just sat down has brought up a point upon which I also would like an assurance from the Minister. Although it would appear from the Clauses generally that the Minister has the power to regulate a matter of this kind, I do not see how he can insist upon local authorities doing the work which has been suggested without taking upon himself some central authority. That is the point which he knows very well is disturbing many of us, namely, the relationship between the central authority which is to be the directing force and the local authorities who are to carry out the work. There is a word of warning to be said on the Amendment. I agree that the wording is perhaps not right, but we must not come to regard green belts as public parks. In those green belts are to be performed acts of cultivation which cannot be properly performed if the townspeople are continuously trespassing upon and looking about various fields full of corn, and so on. Those fields may also contain stock, and in particular T.T. milk herds. The warning ought to be given in regard to this idea of a five-mile belt that the belt cannot be regarded as a playground of the towns on either side. A further warning is that we ought not to try to make concentric ring around towns the limitations which may be imposed by an Amendment of this sort, otherwise there would be one ring after another till the town, instead of being limited, would be extended still further.

I have seldom found myself so entirely in agreement with the course of a discussion as I have upon this Amendment. The Committee is unanimously in support of the spirit which prompted my hon. Friend to put his Amendment down. There was a great deal in what was said by the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson), that it is sheer destruction of communal life to allow unregulated expansion all over England of vast communities of shapeless form, and that every effort ought to be made, by good town and country planning, to secure that the community sense is maintained which is one of the priceless possessions of the ordinary man and his friends and neighbours. The loneliness of vast cities is a very grievous matter. Access to the countryside is of importance not only for children but for grown up people to enable them to get away from the cities and disport themselves in the beautiful countryside.

If we were writing on a completely clean slate in this matter, which we by no means are, it would be a desideratum in every ideal urban community that a man could get out of it into the country without undue expenditure of time and money when he wanted to go there. That by no means says that cities and. towns cannot themselves be objects of beauty, refinement and dignity, as they certainly can be and as we shall endeavour to make them. The old saying is true of the Amendment as was said about many other things: "The spirit maketh alive, but the letter killeth." To adopt my hon. Friend's Amendment in the form in which he has drafted it would lay it open to the animadversions passed upon it by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Penrith (Lieut.-Colonel Dower). We are not writing on a clean slate, and to adopt the Amendment and so make statutory a proposal of this kind, would be impossible. My hon. Friend's mistake—I suggest it to him with affection—is in trying to put a plan into the Bill. We ought to concentrate upon getting the machinery for good planning right. That is properly a matter for the Bill. If you try to put into the Bill a plan for all England and Wales, you will find cases here and there to which the plan is inapplicable. I would like to assure those who have asked me the question, that we have in the Bill ample powers to secure the great object which we all have at heart. The mover of the Amendment suggested that the green belt should be the subject of a planning resolution. This is possible under the Bill, as are his further suggestions that no development should take place without the Minister's consent and that no development should be allowed in a planning scheme except with the Minister's consent. Under the present law the Minister's approval to a planning scheme is required, and this object can be achieved.

There are one or two other points. In reply to my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major York), who asked about the relationship between central and local planners, I would point out that there is an invaluable link, which I hope to strengthen and make more perfect as a matter of administration, in the regional planning officers who are situated in various parts of the country and who are in close personal touch with local planning officers and committees of local authorities who deal with this matter. I hope they will be very powerful in helping to secure consistently good planning throughout the country. There must be a lot left to local authorities, because local authorities know their own problems. We hope to secure that harmonious working of local enthusiasm and initiative with the central direction in the way I have suggested. I hope that what I have said will satisfy my hon. Friend that I am entirely in sympathy with the motives which prompted him to put down the Amendment. For technical reasons—I put it no higher—the Amendment cannot be accepted.

Is it not a fact that very often the local authority are the guilty people in the production of ribbon development? They do it because they do not want the expense of making roads, and so they IAA their council houses on the main road. Will the Minister take power in the Bill to stop local authorities from destroying the countryside?

Yes, Sir, I am taking that power. I am aware of some deplorable instances in which the local authorities have been bad offenders, and I will take power in the matter in future.

I was glad to hear the Minister speak so sympathetically of my Amendment. I beg of him to give advice to the local planning authorities throughout the country, if he cannot go further than that, and to ask them to arrange where possible to apply the principle of the green belt so as to make possible the many things which have been advocated during the discussion on the Amendment. He should not forget that the desire to get ahead is being interrupted, and he should realise that until the green belt principle is substantially approved local authorities will not know where to put their housing development and matters of that sort. I am glad of the Minister's assurance that he will help in this and the country's requirements in this matter, and I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I beg to move, in page 2, line 3, at the end, to add:

"(3) Any local authority required by the Ministry to prepare a scheme shall also prepare a schedule of buildings of architectural and historical merit which are deemed to be worthy of preservation."
We have been discussing means of preserving one of our national heritages, our green fields. I wish to discuss the possibility of preserving another, namely. buildings, many of them constructed in a bygone age, of architectural or historical value. The Amendment is very small, and I fear it will not go far towards achieving the result which many of us want: But as it is small I hope the Minister will be able to accept it. Under the principal Act local authorities have been empowered to prepare schedules of buildings which are deemed to he worthy of preservation. Such schedules do not in fact ensure that the buildings will be preserved. They merely ensure that there shall be a list which can be referred to, and that the local authority itself, by the very preparation of the schedule, shall be cognisant of every individual building in its district worthy of preservation. I understand that the new Bill, when it becomes law, will refer in the main to local authorities which I think I might call backward in so far as they have not previously prepared schemes of their own. It cannot be assumed that those authorities which have been backward before will, in fact, prepare schedules simply because they are asked to do so. I would submit that they must be told it is their duty to prepare schedules such as have been prepared by the L.C.C. and many other local authorities. I would ask the Minister, if he cannot accept this precise form of words, whether he will not do something which will compel all local authorities to prepare these schedules in the same way as some have already prepared them, so that we may at least know what buildings there are in the land worthy of preservation, whether or not we do preserve them.

I feel a good deal of sympathy with this Amendment. If I thought that what my hon. Friend proposes was likely to accomplish the object he has in view, I should press upon my right hon. Friend that this Amendment should be adopted. But, on the contrary, I think that the effect of what my hon. Friend proposes would be the direct opposite of what he anticipates. What will happen will be this, that the local authority would prepare a schedule of buildings of architectural and historical interest—and, of course, local authorities are likely to take different views of what sort of buildings ought to be included in a schedule of that nature—but the moment the schedule had been prepared, it would be regarded as a licence to demolish every other building in the district.

When proposals are made for re-development which will involve the demolition of buildings to which people in the neighbourhood have come to attach importance because perhaps of their historical associations or their architectural interest, this schedule, in which they have not been included, will be invoked as an argument that they possess no historical or architectural interest at all. 1 see my hon. Friend is laughing at that suggestion, but I would remind him that that is exactly what has happened in places where these schedules have already been prepared by the local authorities. It is much wiser for the planning authority not to prepare, any schedule in advance but to deal with each application for re-development as it is made to them, and as it arises and, when they deal with the application, to consider whether the buildings it is proposed to demolish possess historical or architectural merit which would justify their preservation. I warn him that if a list is prepared beforehand it will in a great many cases be used as an argument against those persons who desire to preserve buildings of the kind which he has in mind.

I think we are indebted to my hon. Friend who has put down this Amendment for raising a matter of very great importance which I am sure is near to the heart of the Minister. If he is not able to accept this particular Amendment, I hope we may be clear that the object of the Amendment is one which he has very much in view. We are far behind France in our arrangements for the preservation of ancient and historical buildings. The classification in French law of first, second or third class monuments of historic importance, with corresponding obligations for the State, the Department, and the minor local authority for their maintenance and repair, is one I should gladly see adopted in this country. This Amendment does not go more than a very little way in the direction of preserving buildings of architectural value and historic interest.

I feel sure that the danger my hon. and learned Friend opposite anticipates is hardly likely to arise. There has not come about a general destruction in France of buildings which are not classified, while there is a careful preservation even of buildings of comparatively minor interest, and an obligation is put upon the local authority to do it. That may come in this country later, but I think we need at this particular stage provision made for a survey of those buildings, whether in the form of this Amendment or in some other way. In many cases quite a small building could be preserved which would otherwise go, the ancient cottage, for example, dating back perhaps to the 15th century or earlier. I can think of one such falling into decay with no one taking an interest in it, and actually disappearing little by little. If we had a classification of this kind, the attention of local antiquaries would in some cases be called to small buildings which have escaped their notice, and you would have the county architectural and archaeological societies interesting themselves in the preservation of such buildings. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will see his way to meet the object which the Mover of this Amendment had in view in putting down these words on the Order Paper.

My hon. Friend, in moving this Amendment, has raised a very interesting and important point. It is unfortunately the fact that while permission is generally required to put up a building, no permission is required of anybody to pull down a building. Consequently, we have lost a considerable number of important buildings which have an architectural value or an historical interest, merely because the owner of such building thought it would suit him financially to pull it down. I think some action ought to be taken to deal with that possibility in the future. Under Section 17 of the principal Act the local authority may make an Order regarding any particular building. They are under no obligation to make an Order but may make an Order, and in that event the building may not be demolished without the consent of the local authority. I would like something of that sort extended in the present Bill. I am not sure that the words meet the case, because the mere making of a survey does not seem to me to be carrying the matter very much further. I think that local authorities should be required to make an Order in respect of any buildings they regard as being of architectural value or of historical interest, and those buildings, after consultation with the owner, should be properly safeguarded. I attach importance to consultation with the owner. At the present time in London surveys are being made on behalf of various Churches regarding the buildings which in their view should be preserved after the war. It happens that there are many churches of architectural value and of historical interest which are of no importance as churches, and the ecclesiastical authorities are anxious not to be burdened with the cost of maintaining them purely as museum pieces. That does give rise to a problem, and if the local authority made an Order that those buildings were not to be demolished, it would put upon the owner the burden of maintaining something which is of no importance or interest to him.

There are many churches which are very beautiful but have no congregations at all. It is therefore important that the owner should be consulted in those cases, and it should not be entirely for the local authority to order that the building should be preserved or maintained at the cost of the owner without any consultation with him. Subject to that, I think the present law needs to be strengthened. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some assurance that, perhaps in another place before this Bill is parted with, some Amendment will be introduced which will more effectively deal with the present situation.

It is a great pleasure to support my hon. Friend and neighbour in the representation of a Black Country constituency, who incidentally bears what is perhaps the most honoured of all names in English archaeology. It is rather more the spirit than the letter in this case which I should like to support. It is extremely important that such a list should be made. I am not perfectly certain that the local authority is always the best body to make it. I have lively recollections of the Royal Burgh of Edinburgh having torn down some of the most important archeological and historical buildings in that city for no good reason at all. I am still extremely sore about my defeat over Taylors' Hall.

I do not think there is so much difficulty about churches and castles—buildings of obvious importance that go back for centuries. About cottages there is far more difficulty. Some of the ancient cottages to which my hon. Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. Harvey) referred to are damp and difficult to bring up to modern standards. I think it can generally be done if there is an honest desire. It must be done. Some of our by-laws about old cottages are obviously out of date and absurd. My attention was drawn in Cambridge a few years ago to the fact that one of the finest chambers in that University, the famous Long Gallery at St. John's College, which forms the Combination Room, could be destroyed under our ridiculous laws as not being sanitary because the distance between the oak floor and the moulded plaster ceiling is not sufficient! It is perfectly ridiculous to condemn old buildings simply because the height of their rooms is not according to modern ideas, but cottages to be lived in must be made sanitary. I want very strongly indeed to support the spirit of this Amendment. We do want a far better arrangement to preserve ancient buildings than we have.

I am not so awfully certain that the bouquets handed to France are entirely deserved. In the city of Caen they shaved off the chancel of a medieval church for a road improvement in a way that seemed to me to be extraordinarily unnecessary. We are not by any means good at preserving our own buildings. This war has, unfortunately, destroyed a great many, and that seems to me to make it more urgently necessary than it would be otherwise that every old building we have should be preserved.

Personally, I would rather these lists were made by His Majesty's Inspectors of Ancient Monuments, in whom I have the very utmost confidence, than by the local authorities. But the really important thing is that the lists should be made, and that we should not merely rely on the inventories of really important buildings, that county by county are now being compiled by the Office of Works. We desire lists of small buildings—it may be that they do not go further back than the Regency—which really have architectural interest of such a character that the country would be very definitely poorer by their destruction.

I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bilston (Mr. Hannah) that perhaps the local authorities are not the best persons to compile a list of this kind. The experience of a great many of us has shown that familiarity often breeds contempt, and that local councillors and others who walk by a building every day are quite incapable of appreciating its historical value and arc not much concerned if an attempt is made to pull it down. I think you want the intervention of people with a specialised, or wider, outlook, such as the Ancient Monuments Board or representatives of the Royal Fine Art Commission, who would be in a position to look at these buildings from the national point of view which they represent. I am anxious to hear what the Minister has to say on this subject. It is one of great importance, which should be dealt with in whatever is the most suitable manner. I am inclined to think that my hon. Friend's suggestion is not perhaps the best that could be devised.

I want to associate myself with this Amendment. The old Office of Works had considerable experience in preserving historical monu ments, and from that experience the Ministry should be able to get a very good idea of the number of historical monuments that we have up and down the country. One of the most shocking experiences one can have when passing through some of our towns or villages is to see something which, when you know really what it is and how it came into being, you want to treat it with reverence, and then to see it suddenly flanked with a glaring red headline, "Woolworth's Stores," or something of that kind. It gives one hope of a future civilisation if one finds that there is a realisation of the need for the preservation of those links in our life which are concrete evidence of what our forefathers did for the love of God—because all great art is that, and nothing else.

I am not sure that we should follow the example of France. I remember being over there on two occasions and seeing those marvellous Gothic figures on the facade of Chartres Cathedral. When I touched them, I found, to my horror, that they were coming away as dust in my hands. I immediately reported this to the Ministry of Fine Arts in Paris, and had an interview there afterwards. They asked—would you believe it?—if I would make a report on the subject, and on what steps might be taken to preserve one of the greatest facades known to man. What did I find on making my inquiry? That such was their sense of proportion and reverence for this thing, which belongs not to France but to mankind, that they had put an aerodrome behind the Cathedral and an engineering shop nearby, thus inflicting the atmosphere which was destroying that delicate facade. It would be true to say that in certain ways the French are concerned about historical buildings, but there was a lapse in French minds when their reverence for things religious lapsed also. Anything which was regarded as religious tended to be disdained. I would suggest that the Minister himself, with that alertness which I know is innate in his character, and probably with some assistance from his Parliamentary Secretary, who is also alert in these matters, might compile a list of things which want preservation.

When I am asked whether local authorities should decide which historical monuments should be preserved, I think of Criccieth. Go down to Criccieth, and you will find a very ugly cottage, where some Member of this House lived. Both his memory and that house, I think, should be extinguished, but you will find the people there want them to be preserved. I also want to speak of a matter near to my own constituency. We have there Croxted Abbey. One of the greatest blasphemies in England is that we have allowed a main road to be constructed right through the nave and what used to be the chancel, right through the centre of this old structure. I want the Minister to put a stop to that in no uncertain fashion. Then we have another spot known as Abbey Hulton. The local authority, with that precise and almost uncanny tenderness for things artistic, stuck on it one of those marvellous creations called a corporation housing estate, and when they found the spot where the original altar stood they covered in the whole of it with asphalt, to make it a playground. I hope we shall not be too keen to give local authorities custodianship over local monuments or sites. I would rather plead that the Minister should have the courage to get on with the preservation of these structures through his Department and through the experience of the old Office of Works.

I sincerely hope that this proposed schedule will be prepared, but I doubt whether the local authorities are the best people to prepare it. They are only too prone to regard the exact width of a road as being far more important than the preservation of an ancient or beautiful building. That has been my experience in several unfortunate cases. I think that the weak spot in this Amendment is the word "deemed." Who is going to deem buildings to be worthy of preservation? Some authority has to do it, and I do not think that the local authorities are the best qualified. I hope that we shall have some higher authority to decide. However, I hope that in some appropriate form the idea behind this Amendment will be put into the Bill.

I rise to say, in general, that I desire to give my support to the Amendment; but there is one caveat that I should like to lodge, in regard to cottages. I was brought to my feet by something that was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bilston (Mr. Hannah). He said that he would like to see old cottages preserved, as well as historical buildings. Delight ful as it is, from the aesthetic point of view, to see the old cottages and villages we have in this country, it is hardly fair to the inhabitants of those cottages to expect them to live in them, unless they are repaired under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act.

That may be done under the Housing (Rural Workers) Act. But if you go into some of these old cottages, and see the condition in which the inhabitants and their forefathers for generations past have lived, you will agree that it is up to the Government to see that nobody continues to live in that sort of a house. Having made that protest, I give general support to the Amendment.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning
(Mr. Henry Strauss)

I think the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. J. Dugdale) has initiated a most useful discussion, particularly as many of the things that have been said in the course of it are also germane to Amendments which will come later. Nearly every Member who has spoken has expressed the hope that the Government will accept the spirit behind this Amendment. That, I have no hesitation in saying, we are doing. Perhaps I may incur slightly less suspicion in making that statement than a Minister sometimes incurs, because I have served on the Executive Committee of the National Trust and of the Georgian Group for a very much longer period than I have been a Minister in this House. I hope my own sympathy with this cause will not be suspect. Many Members have indicated that the problem is not so simple as might at first sight appear. I am not suggesting for a moment that the hon. Member who moved the Amendment thought it was a simple problem.

Doubt has been expressed in certain quarters on the question whether the local authority itself is the most suitable body to prepare a list of this kind. There are, as the Committee will be aware, such organisations as the National Buildings Record, and other outside organisations that are concerning themselves very much with this question. However, I think there is more in the desire of the mover of the Amendment than that, and more that deserves our respect. I agree in part with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for 1lford (Mr. Hutchinson) that there is always the risk in compiling a list of things of merit that some people will assume that things not included in the list have no merit. Nevertheless, I think it is the duty of the planning authority to concern itself with ascertaining what are the buildings of architectural and historical merit in its area. I do not think it right that we should put this Amendment—or another to the same effect, because this has certain technical defects—into the Statute, because there are many things which it is the duty of the local authority to do in making a survey. We shall certainly impress upon them the importance of this subject—and, indeed, on that subject the opinion of this Committee has been unanimous—but if we selected one particular duty of an authority in making a survey, and put that into the Statute, that might cast doubt on the question whether certain other things which we say are their duty are really so important as we say they are. I would much rather leave it to be a matter for administrative action than put it into the Statute in this form. Indeed, if we found it necessary to make a regulation making the preparation of a schedule obligatory, we have sufficient power under the principal Act to make such a regulation.

One hon. Member mentioned the Ancient Monuments Acts, and in dealing with this whole problem—and I agree that further control to achieve the object which we all have at heart will be necessary-careful collaboration with those responsible for the administration of the Ancient Monuments Acts will be necessary. The Ancient Monuments Acts do not completely cover the field. That was one of the reasons for the enactment of Section 17 of the Town and Country Planning Act; 1932, to secure the preservation of these buildings. I think further action is necessary, but I do not believe that the Amendment is the way to achieve our purpose.

The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) drew attention very rightly to what is the essence of the problem, that a person can pull down a fine building without any permission, and he went on to say that owners frequently did this on financial grounds. That may be true. I am afraid it is also true that local autho rities sometimes do these demolitions because they wrongly think them to be improvements, and when we are mentioning the one case we should not be blind to the other. I think that that covers the points raised by various Members in the Debate. I would suggest to my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment—and I should have to criticise it on technical grounds—that he has achieved his object by moving it and obtaining the unanimous opinion of this Committee in favour of 'the idea that lies behind it, a unanimous opinion which my right hon. Friend and I very much welcome. I would ask him whether in these circumstances he now sees fit to withdraw the Amendment.

In view of the hon. Member's assurances, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

I want to say one or two things about Clause r, and, in particular, I would like to give my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary the opportunity of repairing some omissions he made on the occasion of his speech on the Second Reading, when, possibly owing to the temptation to score debating points against my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. Bossom), he did not leave himself with sufficient time to deal with other equally important matters. I asked him then, realising the importance of bringing the whole of the country within the scope of town planning interim schemes, why it was that, in fact, local authorities were not deemed to be covered by resolutions until after three months from the passing of the Bill. He did not give the reason, but I presumed there must be a very good reason for that delay. Secondly, and possibly this may be one of the reasons for the delay, we are dealing with local authorities which have not so far seen fit to pass resolutions, and presumably therefore they will have no conception of how their area is to be developed. Is it the purpose of the three months to give them time to look around in order that they may gather their thoughts and be in a position to deal with applications to develop in some orderly manner? I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he proposes to give such local authorities any assistance or directions. If the purpose of the three months is what I imagine it to be, I respectfully suggest that even that period is not very long to enable a local authority, which has not previously been thinking very much about planning or planning a specific area, to get busy and to give some kind of standards by which they may measure applications to the Government. Unless they get considerable help from the Ministry, I imagine that they will not be in a position to discharge their duties very effectively.

The next point I want to mention is something which I mentioned to my right hon. Friend privately, and it is the application of this Clause to London. The effect of the Clause in London would be to bring into the scheme only land be- ' longing to the several Inns of Court, the Inner and Middle Temples, Lincoln's Inn and Gray's Inn. The whole of the rest of London is already covered by resolution. I take it that the effect of this Clause would be that these various Inns would become subject to town planning control by the London County Council. The whole of these areas, including the Inner and Middle Temples, are out of the administrative county of London, and no part of them is within the City. I personally feel that the London County Council is quite competent to deal with the redevelopment of the Inns of Court. The Benchers of the various Inns will be fully consulted, and I feel that they will not suffer at the hands of the London County Council, which will be the town planning authority. Therefore, if my interpretation of Clause 1 is what I think it is, I would welcome the Inns of Court coming within the jurisdiction of the London County Council. I thought it right to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to the point, as I do not want this jurisdiction to come to the London County Council without all parties being fully conscious of the state of affairs.

I want to say a few words about the considerable distrust which is presently shown by hon. Members here, including, in part, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, against local authorities. They are considered to be unfit to carry out this thing or that particular duty. They cannot be trusted to prepare lists of historic buildings and so on. If that is the feeling of hon. Members, how can local authori ties be entrusted to carry out these vast town planning schemes which are being imposed upon them, and which everyone in this country hopes they will discharge? We, in this country get the local authorities as well as the Government that we deserve. I respectfully submit that in the past the defects of local authorities, their blindness to beauty and their inefficiency in town planning, have been but a reflection of the blindness of people of this country. A local authority is no less a regarder of beauty than the ordinary member of the public. If you asked the ordinary member of the public to contribute sixpence towards the maintenance of a building of beauty, he would hesitate very much, and the local authority merely, reflects that view. But I believe that there is growing up a consciousness of the preservation of the countryside and beauty which is reflected in local authorities to-day. The hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H: Strauss) has suffered in the past from the action of local authorities, and so have we all, but I believe that local authorities to-day reflect faithfully and truly the opinion of to-day, and I hope very much that they can be trusted to carry out the enormous tasks which it will be necessary for them to carry out after the war.

I want to raise one point which I raised on the Second Reading and to ask for an assurance, if we pass Clause r as it stands, that there shall not be delay in dealing with the very urgent building problems with which we shall be faced immediately on the conclusion of the war. Reading the Clause, it seems to subject all land not already under a scheme to an imaginary scheme, but it does not suggest how the scheme is to be brought into being in the immediate future. I am wondering how a man who wants to build urgently needed cottages on land which is not, in fact, subject to an existing scheme but which is now going to be deemed to be subject to a non-existent scheme, is to get leave to carry on with his building. Who is going to tell him whether or not this building conforms to a scheme; which, as I have already said, is non-existent? I should like more information on that point.

I would like to say a few words in reply to the observations which have fallen from both hon. Members. The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) is right in diagnosing the reason for the three months' period. About 250 local authorities are affected altogether by this resolution, which is deemed to have been passed by them, and they have in the past taken no planning action at all, so that they are devoid of staff and experience in the matter. The figure looks very formidable, but it is not so formidable if one analyses the position, because a number of the smaller authorities will, under the proviso to Clause r, find themselves taken in and co-operating with the larger existing authorities. Still, there will remain a few hard cases which will have to be met and given a chance to supply themselves with a proper staff for the purpose. There will certainly be decisions, and the regional planning officers in the various districts will give them all the help they can in putting their house in order to meet this new obligation which is upon them.

The other question my hon. Friend raised was that of the Inns of Court. I think he is right in his view that Clause r of the Bill applies to them, and we shall have to think about that in the future. There is no doubt at all that the Inns of Court are in rather a special position in that the use to which their buildings are put is not likely to change. In the past they Were excluded from schemes on the idea that they were static and no development was likely to take place in them, but alas, the war has changed that situation entirely and no doubt great reconstruction will be necessary in these ancient and beautiful buildings. All I would say at the moment is that there is power, if necessary, to deal with the matter by-revoking the provisions of the scheme and under the Bill one could possibly ask that the obligations of interim development concerning the Temple should be referred to the Minister. I put these things forward not as having made up my mind. It may not be necessary to deal with them at all, but if the difficulty to which my hon. Friend alluded arises, he can be sure that there are ways of easing it. I agree with what he said about local authorities. If you take any category of human beings, you can always abuse it as a category. Even politicians as a category have not been immune from that sort of abuse in the past from the general public. If there are a few such local authorities— and they vary as human beings do—it is true to say that the great services which they render far outweigh the defects which may exist. Therefore, from my point of view it is very necessary that local enthusiasm and knowledge should form the basis of good town and country planning. He was right in saying that the carelessness, if it has been so, in the past over many aspects of planning by local authorities was but a reflection of their constituents' views, and indeed, the same is true of Parliament in the past.

Our neglect of this aspect in the past has been entirely the reflection of the general view of the people of this country. I can assure the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Jewson) that this Clause in no way delays the provision of housing, when it becomes possible. It will keep step with any easement of the position with regard to materials and labour, which is the real stumbling block at the present moment. He can give assent to this Clause on that understanding, and I hope the Committee will now agree that it should stand part of the Bill.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clause 2—(Refusal And Postponement Of Interim Development Applications)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 8, at the end, to insert:

"Provided that where an application is for permission to erect a new building on the site of a building destroyed by war damage or in respect of which the War Damage Commission have determined that a value payment shall be made under the War Damage Act, 1941, and such application is refused or conditions are imposed the effect of which refusal or of the imposition of which conditions -would be to render it impossible for the applicant to erect a building having a cubic content above the level of the ground as great as that of the previous building, or, in the case of a previous building used for business or industry, to erect a building having as great a cubic content above the level of the ground and as great 'a superficial area on the ground floor as those of the previous building, or to use such new building for any purpose of the same or similar character as that for which the previous building was last used before the destruction thereof, there shall be payable by the interim development authority to the applicant, provided he was the owner of the previous building, if he shall make a claim for the purpose within twelve months of the date of the refusal of the application or of the imposition of the conditions, such coi1pensation as would have been payable under Sub-section (1) of Section eighteen of the principal Act if a scheme under the principal Act had been in force at the date of the refusal or of the imposition of the conditions and action had been taken by a responsible authority under paragraph (a) or paragraph (c) of Sub-section (1) of Section thirteen of the principal Act."
In moving this Amendment, I would like to apoligise for its inordinate length. In order to make compensation, however, I will cut my remarks as short as possible. The object of the Amendment is to see that fair treatment is given to those people who own a building as a shop or business premises, or use it for other purposes, which has been destroyed by enemy action, by a bomb, by one of our anti-aircraft shells, which do not always explode in the air, or which has been destroyed by any other means. This Clause will prevent the owner of such a building, in certain circumstances, from erecting a similar building if the original one is destroyed. I approve thoroughly of such power, because it is extremely unwise that a person should be allowed to erect a similar building if it offends against a planning scheme. But when we say to him, "You cannot erect a similar building," we ought to see that he is treated as fairly as his more fortunate neighbour whose property has not been damaged or destroyed.

I would like to put forward the sort of case I have in mind. Suppose there are two shops, one of which has not been hit by a bomb. The owner in that case will receive under the principal Act, under Section 18, Sub-Section (1), compensation for the decreased value and compensation for the injury to his trade. That compensation will be adequate to enable him to start a shop or business elsewhere. But the owner of the shop that has received a direct hit from a bomb or has been set on fire will only receive his value payment under the War Damage Act. The War Damage Act was intended to enable him. to re-erect his premises and recover his lost trade. Now we come along and say, "You cannot re-erect your shop because it will offend a planning scheme." It is quite right that we should be in that position, but I do not think that person should be put in any worse position where compensation is concerned than his fortunate next-door neighbour who has not received a direct hit. I hope the case I have put forward is not the correct interpretation of the various complicated Acts which apply in regard to compensation, but as I see it the man whose shop has not been destroyed will have sufficient compensation to open a business elsewhere, while the man whose shop has been destroyed by a bomb will get inadequate compensation and will not be in a position to open a shop elsewhere. As the Committee have already spent two hours on the first Clause, I do not intend to be-labour this point. I regret the length of my. Amendment, but I could not put it down in fewer words.

I think my hon. and gallant Friend is under a misapprehension in this matter—