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Clause 93—(Transfer Of Property And Officers To Local Planning Authorities Under This Act)

Volume 437: debated on Monday 12 May 1947

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I beg to move, in page 98, line 18, to leave out "and joint planning committees."

This, and the next four Amendments on the Paper, as well as the Amendment to be made in page 99, line 5, go together. The purpose of the Clause is to provide for the transfer of property and liabilities to local planning authorities in accordance with regulations which will be made under the Clause. On consideration, it appears that it would not be appropriate to trans- fer all property and liabilities to the new planning authorities. In certain circumstances, it may be more appropriate to leave the liabilities where they are. For instance, in the case of superannuation, the assets and liabilities of a fund established under the 1922 Act may have been transferred to a fund under the 1937 Act, and to the extent that the liabilities exceeded the assets, the local authority may have agreed to make that deficiency good by annual payments. In those circumstances, it may be better not to transfer the fund at all to the new planning authority. Similarly, it may be more appropriate that in certain other cases, particularly where we are dealing with a joint planning committee, the assets and liabilities should be transferred to the constituent members of the joint planning committee rather than to the new planning authority. These Amendments are designed to provide the necessary elasticity so that the assets and liabilities of existing local planning authorities may be transferred to such authority as may be appropriate in the particular circumstances.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 98, line 23, at the end, insert:

"(b) for the transfer to local planning authorities, or to the constituent authorities of joint planning committees, of property and liabilities of such committees."—[Mr. Silkin.]

I beg to move, in page 98, line 25, to leave out "any such councils or committees," and to insert "councils of county districts."

Does that include a parish council? Is there anything in the Clause which defines "a council of a county district"?

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 98, line 28, at the end, insert:

"and of officers employed by joint planning committees."

In line 33, at the end, insert:

"or the constituent authorities of joint planning committees, as the case may be."

I beg to move, in page 98, line 34, to leave out paragraph (d).

This Amendment, and the two following Amendments, both in page 99, line 11, go together. The purpose is to secure a more logical arrangement of Clause 93. There are certain regulations which "may" be provided and certain regulations which "shall" be provided, and this Amendment sorts out the two types of regulations.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendments made: In page 99, line 5, leave out from "authorities," to "in," in line 6, and insert:

"or the constituent authorities of joint planning committees, on the one hand, and the councils of county districts or joint planning committees on the other hand."

In line leave out "aforesaid" and insert "to which the regulations relate."

In page 99, line 11, at the end, insert:

"(2) Regulations made for the purposes of this section shall provide for the payment of compensation, subject to such exceptions and conditions as may be prescribed by the regulations by such authorities as may be so prescribed—
  • (a) to officers who, immediately before the appointed day, were employed by local planning authorities, by the councils of county districts, and by joint planning committees, and who suffer loss of employment or loss or diminution of emoluments which is attributable to provisions of this Act or of the regulations; and
  • (b) to officers who, having before the appointed day been employed in any such employment as aforesaid, would have been in that employment immediately before that day but for any war service in which they have been engaged."—[Mr. Sillein.]
  • Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

    Before we part with this Clause, I feel we ought to express the hope that the Minister will make use of these very wide powers of making regulations to overcome what I anticipate will be one of the stiffest obstacles in the administration of this Bill. We have not objected to the, long list of drafting Amendments which he has put before us, as they appear, on the whole, to be giving a little more elasticity in regard to the method of transferring the rights, liabilities, functions and powers from the present planning authorities to the new ones. I have no objection to that, because I anticipate that one of the greatest difficulties with which those who will administer this Bill will be faced will be the fact that they are altering the planning law and at the same time changing the people who, locally, will administer it. The county councils now for the first time will take their place as the local planning authorities. Those who have hitherto discharged that function, namely, the district councils—which, I will tell the hon. Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Mr. Medland), are defined in the Local Government Act of 1933, "district councils" being a well known expression meaning what the Minister said it means—will, so far as this Bill is concerned, be obliterated from the hierarchy of planning authorities, except for certain small delegated functions. It is in starting the new authorities that the trouble will come; that is to say, it is not easy to pick up planning officers to fill these extended spheres of supervision and control which the counties will now administer. My hint to the-Minister on the subject would be that he should use as many as he can of the experienced officers, who have hitherto laboured in the county districts, to start his new county council authorities. It would be a tragedy if the experience of these men were to be wasted, if he were to spend time and trouble in trying to get the new authorities to start from the very beginning with new men. I gather, however, that that is not his intention, and I hope he will succeed in what he does intend.

    I rise to inquire about one phrase in the new Subsection (2, a) which it is proposed to insert. In line 6 occur the words:

    "and who suffer loss of employment or loss or diminution of emoluments which is attributable to provisions of this Act or of the regulations."
    I wonder in what sort of circumstances the Minister envisages this loss or diminution of emoluments? Is the sort of case he has in mind that of the local authority which, will not be a local planning authority under this Bill, that is to say, a country district, which has a planning officer who does not devote the whole of his time to planning functions and who remains in the service of that authority? Is the case the Minister has in mind the possibility that such officers who carry on their previous functions, less the planning part of those functions, are likely to receive less in emoluments from the local authority whose officers they are, and that that diminution will be made up under the provisions I have just referred to in the Amendment it is now proposed to incorporate in the Bill?

    The case that the hon. Gentleman quotes is a possible case. Another case might well be where such a person is taken over by the new planning authority, but not necessarily at the same rank or with the same remuneration. I think it is right that the new authorities should have elasticity in dealing with the personnel employed by existing planning authorities, although I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that they will take the fullest possible advantage of the now existing staffs, and use them in the most effective way. We shall in the beginning be very short of personnel in carrying out our functions under this Bill, and we cannot afford to waste any experienced staff who may be available. I am quite certain that the proposed new planning authorities are very conscious of this, and will take the fullest possible advantage of the experience that already exists.

    7.15 p.m.

    On that too, I share the view of the Minister that there will be a shortage of planning staffs, rather than any embarras de richesses, at any rate in the earlier stages. At the same time, I would like to say how much I for one appreciate the care which the Minister has evidently given to the question of seeing that local government officers do not suffer by reason of the provisions he introduces in this Bill.

    Question put, and agreed to.

    Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.