Town And Country Planning (Recommitted) Bill
[2nd Allotted Day]
Considered in Committee [ Progress, 12th May].
[Major MILNER in the Chair]
New Clause—(Compensation For Compulsory Acquisition Of Land Attracting Converted Value Payments)
(1) Where an interest in land the value of which is to be ascertained in accordance with the provisions of Section (Compensation for compulsory purchase after appointed day) of this Act is an interest in a hereditament or part of a hereditament which has sustained war damage, and any of that damage has not been made good at the date of the notice to treat, then if the appropriate payment under the War Damage Act, 1943, would, apart from the compulsory purchase or apart from any direction given by the Treasury under Section twenty of that Act, be a payment of cost of works—
(2) Where, under Subsection (1) of this Section, the value of any interest in land comprised in a hereditament is required to be taken to be the value which that interest would have if war damage sustained by that hereditament had been made good before the date of the notice to treat, and any works, other than works for making good the war damage, have been carried out on the land since the occurrence of the war damage, then if the making good of the war damage would involve the removal of those works, the value of the said interest shall be taken to be—
whichever is the higher.
(3) Where an interest in land is acquired by agreement in pursuance of a contract made after the appointed day by a person authorised by virtue of any enactment to acquire 'it compulsorily, being an interest in a hereditament or part of a hereditament which has sustained war damage any of which has not been made good before the date of the contract, then if the appropriate payment under the War Damage Act, 1943, would, apart from the acquisition or apart from any direction given by the Treasury under Section twenty of that Act be a payment of cost of works, the right to receive any value payment or share of the value payment which, under that Act, is payable in respect of the interst so acquired (including any interest payable thereon) shall, notwith-standing anything in that Act, vest in the person by whom the interest is acquired as aforesaid.
(4) Where, by virtue of paragraph ( b) of Subsection (1) of this Section or of the last foregoing Subsection, the right to receive a value payment or share of a value payment becomes vested in the person by whom an interest in land is acquired, whether compulsorily or by agreement, the amount of that payment or share (including any interest thereon) shall not exceed the sum paid by that person by way of compensation or consideration in respect of the interest so acquired.—[ Mr. Silkin.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."This Clause deals with the case of land which is to be publicly acquired, either by compulsion or agreement, which has suffered war damage, and which has attracted the converted value payment. In that case, the acquisition will be made on the assumption that the land was in the state in which it was immediately before the damage, compensation being paid on the same basis as that on which it is paid in respect of other property, namely at market value which is subject to the notional lease. The amount of the converted value payment which would have been payable to the owner will be paid to the acquiring authority, so that the owner will not get both compensation and value payment. The acquiring authority will also be entitled to the interest on the purchase price. This new Clause will put an end to the considerable feeling which has been aroused in all the blitzed areas about what is commonly known as the portable cost of works payment. The Committee will remember that there was a strong feeling that owners of war-damaged property would have been entitled to cost of works payment, but on account of necessary re-development in the blitzed areas they had their cost of works payment converted to a value payment and in such cases were suffering an injustice which was felt acutely by the local authorities themselves. Under this Clause, such persons will become entitled to compensation on the same basis as if that property had been in the condition in which it was before the damage.
; I intend to support the right hon. Gentleman in this new Clause, particularly in regard to the beneficial effect mentioned in the last part of his speech. It was very evident to me when I was in his place, that the provisions of the War Damage Act had a very prejudicial effect on proper planning, in that property which had suffered damage would have attracted cost of works payment, which was necessary for acquirement, but the mere act of acquisition excluded the owners from receiving this measure of compensation and that caused a reluctance on the part of the owner, and even a reluctance on the part of the local authority to enforce the full rigour of the law, which they felt to be unfair. I am glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman that this formidable obstacle to the planning of our bombed cities has been overcome.
I welcome this new Clause. As I indicated in a Question to the Minister yesterday, I wish that the 1939 standard could also be replaced for the people who are to get the original value payments, as well as those who will get the converted value payments. I agree with the Minister that this new Clause will end the dispute which has been raging ever since it was announced that the cost of works payments in reconstruction areas would be converted to value payments, and that it will end a great sense of injustice in all cur bombed cities. I wish to ask how long the people who will get the converted value payment will have to wait for pay- ment of their claims. I understood my right hon. Friend to say that the converted payment will be met in toto to the local Authorities, and that the local authority will be responsible for compensating the people whose properties they are acquiring. But in badly 'blitzed cities such as Plymouth, Hull and Bristol, the acquisition will be spread over a consider-able period. In some cases it would create great hardship if people had to wait perhaps for a period of years, before they could get the compensation due to them on account of properties which had been destroyed. I am sure that if the Minister can reassure us on that point—that where money is needed by the people who will be the recipients of these payments, the money will be available—everyone will welcome the fact that the new Clause is being introduced.
I should like to join the hon. Lady the Member for Sutton (Mrs. Middleton) in pressing on the Minister the necessity for not delaying the payment of these people. They have experienced considerable delay and they are people who have already undergone considerable suffering. The new Clause goes a long way to meet a plea which has been put mainly from this side of the Committee, and I am sure the Minister must realise that a strong case can be made on behalf of these people.
I have no responsibility for payments under the War Damage Act. The Chancellor has stated that these value payments will be made, I believe, this year. It is only in cases where the local authorities desire to acquire the property that this adjustment will be made, and payment made to the local authority instead of the owner. This provision is not intended in any way to delay payments to the owner, of the value payments to which he is entitled. He will either get that, or the amount to which he is entitled in respect of acquisition.
If I may press the point further, I think I am right in saying that converted payments are only made within reconstruction areas. There are no converted value payments outside those areas, and therefore all the properties which attract the converted value payments will be those acquired by local authorities.
Yes, but that is not exactly the point. People who become entitled to value payments will get them, unless their property is acquired at the time when the payments are being made.
But there is some element of doubt in this matter. I am not arguing the technical details but I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman should look into this matter again. If there is any difficulty or doubt, will he get it put right in another place? If he will give that assurance, I shall be happy.
There is no doubt about it.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
New Clause—(Compensation For Compulsory Purchase Of Requisitioned Land)
(1) Except as otherwise provided by this Section and Part VIII of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945, the value of any interest in requisitioned land shall be assessed in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act as if the land were not requisitioned land; and in particular an interest in such land shall be deemed for the purposes of Section (Temporary provisions for eliminating special value attributable to vacant possession) of this Act to carry the right to vacant possession of the land or the right to obtain such possession before the first day of January, nineteen hundred and fifty-four, if it would carry that right if the land were not requisitioned land.
(2) Where an interest in land the value of which falls to be ascertained in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act is acquired compulsorily in such circumstances that Part VIII of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945, applies to the acquisition, then—
Provided that for the purposes of Subsection (2) of the said Section (Compensation for compulsory purchase of land attracting converted value payments) no account shall be taken of any such works as are mentioned in paragraph (b) of Subsection (1) of the said Section forty-one.
(3) Where, by virtue of paragraph (a) of the last foregoing Subsection, the Third Schedule to this Act applies in relation to the assessment of compensation for the compulsory acquisition of an interest in land being requisitioned land as if the beginning of the period of requisition were substituted therein for the appointed day, then if any buildings or works have been erected or constructed on the land during the period of requisition, and either—
those buildings or works shall be treated for the purposes of the said Third Schedule as having been erected or constructed immediately before the beginning of the period of requisition.—[ Mr. Silkin.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."This Clause deals with the compulsory acquisition of requisitioned land, and broadly speaking, its effect is that the price payable is the current restricted value of the land, excluding, on the one hand, any enhancement due to buildings erected during the requisitioning, unless the owner has himself paid for those buildings, and, on the other hand, any diminution of value due to the requisitioning, so that in assessing the compensation to be paid the requisitioning will be ignored, except in the case where buildings have been put up, otherwise than at the expense of the owner
This Clause raises a question of considerable difficulty and intricacy We are entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman for a fuller explanation of what it does. He said that, broadly speaking, those affected would get the current restricted values. What exactly does he mean by that? Does he mean that where there is a compulsory acquisition of requisitioned land, no matter when that acquisition takes place, the development values attached to that land, assuming that it was derequisitioned, will be ignored when payment is made? I am not clear, from his explanation, what interpretation he seeks to put on the phrase "current restricted values." I have endeavoured to work out this Clause, and particularly Subsection (2) with the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945, Part VIII, which, according to my recollection of that Measure when it was under discussion in the House, endeavoured to provide a code for compensation on the acquisition of requisitioned land. I am not clear to what extent this Clause varies that part of that Act, particularly when one finds that Subsection (1) is subject to the provisions of Part VIII of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945. Bearing in mind that so much property is still held under requisition in 1947—houses, aerodromes, and a wide variety of properties—we are titled to ask the Minister to tell us a little more in detail, precisely what is the object of this extremely complicated Clause. I daresay it is all right, but his explanation has not resolved the difficulties which I found when I read this Clause with the Act of 1945.
I have not altogether appreciated the hon. and learned Member's difficulties. The current restricted value of the land is the value of the land in the ordinary market without the development value in respect of which compensation will be paid out of the £300 million, and on the assumption that there was a notional lease in existence which expires in 1954, at the current rent. That is the meaning of "current restricted value" of the land. Then I dealt with the position of buildings on the land. They are governed by the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act. Again, very broadly, if the buildings were put up at the expense of the owner, then the value of those buildings will be taken into account in valuing the land; if they were not it will not. The hon. and learned Gentleman will appreciate that it is sometimes necessary to have simple things explained in very complicated language.
There is one question I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman, as we have no Law Officer on the Government Front Bench to help us. On Subsection (3) in regard to the compensation for buildings, I am anxious to know what the position is if building goes on after the acquisition. As I understand it, there is then precisely the same form of compensation as there would be if the building had taken place before the acquisition. Everyone will admit the need for carrying on the building, and I want to be sure that nothing is done due to the taking over of the land which might hold up building. That would be a rather serious matter. Will the Minister assure me that he will try to exercise his authority over Departments, so that they do not either delay or hold up building by means of this new Clause on compensation, which is difficult to understand?
I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation. There is one point on which I should like further information. The Minister has dealt with the meaning of current restricted values. In regard to the compulsory purchase of requisitioned land, do I understand that we are not to have the three different scales of assessment of the value dependent on the date of service of notice to treat? That is to say, if the notice to treat is given before the Bill, becomes an Act, the basis is the 1939 values; if it is between the passing of the Act and the appointed day, it is 1947 values; and, if after 1947, it is current values. Are those distinctions eliminated in the case of compulsory acquisition of requisitioned land? If they are not eliminated, where are the words which make the Clause subject to the earlier Clauses in that regard?
"the value of any interest in requisitioned land shall be assessed in accordance with the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act as if the land were not requisitioned land
May I have an answer to my question?
I can give the hon. Member a complete assurance on that point. This has nothing to do with the case of building actually in progress on the land. Certainly, if what he suggested were conceivable, I give him the assurance that everything would be done to prevent any delay.
If it does not affect building, what does the Subsection mean?
It does not affect building or development which is continuing.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
New Clause—(Compensation For Compulsory Acquisition After Passing Of This Act And Before The Appointed Day)
(1) Subject to the provisions of this Section, the foregoing provisions of this Part of this Act shall apply in relation to land compulsorily acquired in pursuance of a notice to treat served after the passing of this Act and before the appointed day as they apply in relation to land compulsorily acquired in pursuance of a notice to treat served after the appointed day; and Subsections (3) and (4) of Section (Compensation for compulsory acquisition of land attracting converted value payments) of this Act shall apply in relation to land acquired by agreement in pursuance of a contract made after the passing of this Act as they apply in relation to land acquired by agreement in pursuance of a contract made after the appointed day.
(2) The value of any interest in land which is compulsorily acquired as aforesaid shall be ascertained by reference to prices current immediately before the seventh day of January, nineteen hundred and forty-seven, and for that purpose the interest shall be deemed to have been subsisting on that day subject to all incidents to which it is subject on the date of the notice to treat, and the land shall be deemed to have been on the said seventh day of January in the same state as it is at the date of the service of the notice to treat.
(3) Subsections (2) and (3) of Section (Corn. pensation for compulsory acquisition after appointed day) of this Act shall not apply to any interest in land which is compulsorily acquired as aforesaid, but in calculating the value of any such interest it shall be assumed that the land was, at the time of the notice to treat, subject to a permanent restriction prohibiting the carrying out thereon of any development other than development of the classes specified in the Third Schedule to this Act; and for the purposes of this provision, Section ten of this Act and the said Third Schedule shall have effect as if for the references therein to the appointed day there were substituted references to the date of the notice to treat.
(4) Nothing in Subsection (2) of this Section shall be construed as affecting the operation of Part VIII of the Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945, in any case to which that Part applies; and where any land the value of an interest in which falls to be ascertained in accordance with the provision of Subsection (3) of this Section is requisitioned land—
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."This Clause deals with the case in which land is acquired after the passing of the Act, and before the appointed day, and is in the second category to which the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) referred, namely, that in respect of which compensation will be based upon prices current on 7th January, 1947. In the earlier general discussion yesterday I said that I had been somewhat impressed by the arguments that the Bill might be simplified if one could eliminate this category, and pay compensation on the basis of the date of the notice to treat in the same way as in the third category. I promised to examine that matter. I have not been able to do so since midnight last night, but I will do so before the next stage, and if there are no technical or other objections, I will see that the three stages are reduced to two.
I am sure the Committee will be pleased to have the assurance it has just received from the Minister So far, the Minister has carried the Committee, broadly speaking, with him on the proposals that these new Clauses should be added to the Bill. But this Clause, I feel—and I think most of my hon. and right hon. Friends feel the same about it—is one without which the Bill would be much better. It deals only with a comparatively limited class of cases in a very limited space of time. I was very glad to hear the Minister's assurance yesterday that there has been no change of mind about the appointed day. I mentioned yesterday that I had the pleasure of hearing the Minister at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors say he hoped that the appointed day would be very soon after the Royal Assent. After I spoke yesterday, he said very much the same thing. He said he hoped it would be early in 1948. That being the case, it seems we are making provision here for a period, at the utmost, of nine months; because, after all, the Royal Assent will probably be about July, and if the appointed day is to be early in 1948, nine months seems to be the outside limit. Really, is it worth while to have this very complicated Clause, adding further complications to an already complex situation, for the sake of that nine months or so?In speaking on these Clauses yesterday, I made some attempt to give examples of the different values which would arise under these different Clauses in comparison with a prewar example, of a three-bedroom house that would have sold for £750 and would sell now for £2,000. A house of that type which, under the existing law, would fetch about £1,200 if compulsorily acquired would, under the Clause that we passed recently, under the terms of notional lease and subject to vacant possession, attract compensation of about 1,500 in round figures. The same house, under the terms of this Clause, would attract compensation at rather less than £850. Of course, to that figure there will fall to be added any small share that there may be of the sum which is to be distributed under Part V of the Bill, but one cannot anticipate that it will be a very large amount. It is certainly very doubtful whether it will bring this sum of £850 up to anything like the valuation of a house under a notional lease which could be offered now with vacant possession. I repeat, that this Clause adds to the complications of an already complex situation without adding to the value of the Bill as a whole. What I should like to see is that in the straightforward case, where a notice to treat is served before the date of the giving of the Royal Assent to this Bill, we should have compensation in respect of compulsory acquisition as at present; where the notice to treat is served after the date of the Royal Assent, we should get right on to the new basis of the market value. I hope my right hon. and hon. Friends will feel inclined to vote against this new Clause, I feel so strongly that this Clause is unnecessary that I should be prepared to go to that length.
I am impressed by what my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) has said. I always experienced, when I scanned these Clauses for the first time, a feeling of gratitude that the 1939 prices had been abandoned; but that feeling is modified by the complication of the system of compensation which it is proposed to put into the Bill. The particular case we are considering now, namely, that in which notice to treat is served between the passing of the Act and the appointed day, refers us back to current prices before 7th January of this year. There was this to be said for the 1939 prices, that, although they had their defects, which I have pointed out on several occasions, and which the right hon. Gentleman now handsomely admits, there has grown up a sort of body of law as to what were prices current in March, 1939. But is it really necessary to hark back to January of this year? Does it make all that difference? I wonder. I feel much sympathy with the criticism, which, I feel, is entirely valid, made by my hon. Friend the Member for West Aberdeen, and I should follow his suggestion to divide against this Clause but for the assurance the Minister has given us that he will look into it again, and that, if he can eliminate this complication, he will do so. But I should feel happier in my own mind in not dividing against it, if I could have some description from him of what the difficulties are. We may be able to solve them.
Perhaps it would help the Committee if I stated the reasons which prompted us to fix the values prevailing immediately before 7th January, 1947. They were these. One must recognise that, whether this Bill is a good Bill or a bad Bill—I think it is a good one—it must have created a certain amount of uncertainty in the property world. There were a good many misconceptions about it, and values have changed—and, I suppose, will continue to change—somewhat arbitrarily. It was felt that that would continue, possibly, until the appointed day. Therefore, we thought—and I thought there was some substance in this, and certainly agree with it—that we should take the date when the values were relatively firm, without a shadow that this Bill may have cast on values: the values immediately before 7th January, 1947. It was not arbitrary, and I think there was good sense in it. It may be that, to avoid complications, we should pay for simplicity a price which would be unfair and unreasonable.I do not know how this is going to work. If I were thinking only of how to get property cheaply I should say straight away, "I accept the hon. Gentleman's suggestion: I withdraw this Clause." But undoubtedly, the probable effect of this Bill was to depreciate values for the time being and this depreciation may continue for a period of uncertainty until the market begins to understand how it is going to work. From that point of view I should have no objection to saying straight away we accepted the suggestion; and we should get property, probably, cheaply. But I want to give it more consideration than has been possible hitherto. However, if hon. Members want to divide on it, one Division more or less does not matter.
I think it might be convenient if I were to address the Committee now on one of the Amendments which we have put down to this new Clause.
It will not be in Order to move or speak on the Amendment now.
I appreciate that I cannot move the Amendment now. What I should like to do, with your permission, Mr. Beaumont, is to raise the point which the Amendment itself raises.
The Clause must be read a Second time, before any Amendments can be moved.
Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put and agreed to.
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 20, to leave out from "aforesaid," to the end of the Subsection.The words proposed to be left out provide that land compulsorily acquired between the passing of the Act and the appointed day shall be valued as if all development, except the minor developments included in the Third Schedule, were prohibited. Presumably, the intention of including these words is that the owner of the land which is being compulsorily acquired will get the development value of his land by way of compensation, instead of by way of an enhanced price paid by the purchasing authority. When I look at Clause 57 (1), 1 find that, in the case of an ordinary sale —a sale otherwise than by compulsory acquisition—payment for compensation in respect of land sold between the date of the passing of the Act and the appointed day is made to the owner of the land on the appointed day. In other words, in the case of an ordinary sale, the purchaser pays the vendor the full price of the land, including any development value, and he himself is then entitled to receive the compensation for the loss of the development value, brought about by the passing of this Act, by way of compensation out of the sum of 300 million. There is therefore, a completely different method of treatment as between a sale of land by compulsory acquisition and any other sale of land which may take place throughout this relatively short period. I do not see any reason for treating these two types of sale differently. It may be that there is some special reason, and, if the Government can tell us why they should do this, it may not he necessary to press this Amendment. At the same time, it seems to me that an unnecessary distinction is drawn, and that this is an example of the sort of complication which this Clause involves, and is one of the reasons why we hope that it may be possible to take it completely out of the Bill at a later stage.
I want to add a word on the very important point raised by my -hon. Friend. This point would appear to apply equally to the Clause which has just been under discussion, under which we have compulsory acquisition of requisitioned land by notice to treat being served when this Clause comes into operation. Here, again, is an illustration of the operation of this Clause. It would appear to function so that the owner of the requisitioned land, from whom land is to be compulsorily acquired, will not be entitled to claim from the £300 million fund for the reason that Clause 57 (1) says that the person to claim must be the owner on the appointed day, and this acquisition will take place before the appointed day. Therefore, I would pray in aid the observations which the right hon. Gentleman made during the discussion on the Clause, in answer to a point raised by me regarding compensation on the acquisition of requisitioned land. He clearly indicated then that it was the intention to pay restricted value in the middle case, and that the owner of the requisitioned land would have power to claim against the 300 million fund. I suggest that this is obviously not provided for in the Bill as it stands, and I support the Amendment and hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept it.
The hon. Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) tried to justify the Amendment on the ground that there were some differences in the way in which acquisition would work out, as between private persons buying land and acquisition by public authorities. Of course, whichever method is taken by private persons, the result will be the same. A private person buying would be aware of the Act, and, if the purchaser were to make a claim under Part V, that would be taken into account in the amount of the claim. In the aggregate, he would pay just the same, whether the arrangement was for the purchaser or the vendor to make the claim.
The right hon. Gentleman is making the assumption that, in fact, the compensation payable and the development chargè will be identical. If that were so, it would not matter, but, when a private person is buying, he will have to pay the development charge and meet the compensation. The public authority, under compulsory acquisition, will not get any compensation, but the compensation will be paid to the vendor, arid there may be a substantial difference.
I was not assuming that the development charge would be equal to the amount of the compensation. What I was suggesting, and it is a perfectly simple proposition, was that the purchaser is prepared to pay a certain amount, and he will calculate how much compensation he is likely to get and what development charge he is likely to have to pay. He will do this as best he can, and he will arrive at a figure on that assumption. If he is to receive the compensation, the figure he will pay will be one figure, and, on the other hand if the vendor is to receive the compensation, the figure will be another figure. All these things will be worked out freely as between free contracting parties, and, no doubt, they will arrive at a result satisfactory to themselves. I see no reason, whatever individuals may do in buying and selling property, why that should necessarily govern the basis of compulsory purchase A voluntary sale and purchase may be done by private arrangement, and either the vendor or the purchaser claims the compensation. If, indeed, I had accepted the suggestion of the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley), this Amendment would have been quite inappropriate. It arises only because this applies to cases after the Royal Assent has been given to this Bill and before the appointed day. Nobody suggests that, after the appointed day, there should not be paid the restricted value, as if permission were given only for development under the Third Schedule and for no other development. The hon. Gentleman does not suggest that?
In that case, only the restricted value would pass between the vendor and the purchaser. For some extraordinary reason the right hon. Gentleman has put private sales in one way, and compulsory sales in another.
I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman. Private sales will be carried out in exactly the same way. The purchaser will take into account what is going to happen on the appointed day, especially now that he has been warned that it is not very far off, and he will, presumably, pay a price which has been arrived at after consideration of the fact that, after the appointed day, the development value passes to the State. Therefore, there is going to be no real difference between the two. The hon. Gentleman is now seeking to make a distinction between land bought before the appointed day, and land bought after that date. I thought earlier that hon. Members opposite were going to divide in protest against this complexity of having two different bases. Now it is they themselves who, by this Amendment, are trying to get a different basis of compensation. Is that not right?
The right hon. Gentleman rather invites me to intervene. The Amendment under discussion points out the defects in the proposed new Clause and the disadvantage of having this intervening period during which a different standard of assessment is to be applied. Indeed, the whole force of the Amendment is that this new Clause should be dropped. I should like to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention w the point which he makes between private and compulsory purchase. On a private purchase taking place, how on earth is the vendor or the purchaser to know the amount of compensation that they are likely to obtain out of the £300 million fund, when the scheme has never been formulated and may not be formulated at the time that transactory takes place? How can they assess the amount of development charge that may be put on that property?
Unless all transactions between private persons are to come to an end on the appointed day—which I do not for a moment believe—and before the Treasury scheme is announced, people will have to make up their minds as to what compensation they are likely to get out of the fund, and will have to make their purchase on some kind of assumption, even, perhaps, as to what the development charge may be, although that would be easier to determine. They will have 'to make some kind of estimate of how much will be recovered out of the £300 million in order to arrive at the purchase price and the selling price of land. That will apply equally before the appointed day as after the appointed day. Therefore, this difficulty does not arise on account of the new Clause. I think I am right in saying that what the Amendment seeks to do is to add one more complexity to the Bill, which hon. Members opposite have submitted, in regard to the acquisition Clause, is already complex enough. On the point made by the hon. Gentleman about Clause 57 (1), the fact is that we have been moving so rapidly that both he and I overlooked the fact that we have already dealt with that very point in an Amendment which I moved yesterday to Clause 84, page 91, line 26. We had foreseen this point, and the Amendment which I then moved was intended to cover it.
Clause added to the Bill.
New Clause—(Power Of Ministers To Contribute Towards Compensation Paid By Local Authorities)
Where compensation is payable by a local authority under this Act in consequence of any decision or order given or made under Part III of this Act (including compensation payable in respect of land compulsorily acquired by virtue of section seventeen of this Act) then if that decision or order was given or made wholly or partly in the interest of any service which is provided by a Government Department and the cost of which is defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament or out of the Road Fund, the Min-
ister responsible for the administration of that service may pay to that authority, out of moneys so provided a contribution of such amount as he may, with the consent of the Treasury, determine.— [ Mr. F. Marshall.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."This is a much simpler Clause than the one we have just been discussing. Local authorities are sometimes required to take restrictive planning action, at the request of Government Departments, in the interest of some national service. By doing this, the authority concerned may incur expenditure and the necessity of paying compensation, towards which it is only equitable that the taxpayer should contribute either in whole or in part. This Clause deals only with planning action taken in the interest of a service provided by a Government Department, the cost of which is to be defrayed out of moneys provided by Parliament, or out of the Road Fund. The particular restrictions which we have in mind are primarily those in connection with height of development around airfields and prospective trunk roads, although there are, of course, other possibilities. We believe that where local authorities are required to take this restrictive planning action in the interest of a national service, it is only right that they should be compensated for that service, and this Clause is intended to secure that end.
I think it is a reasonable proposition that if a local authority is rendered liable to pay compensation because of something done by the central Government, the central Government should be entitled to contribute to the fund of that local authority in order to meet that charge. That, I understand, is the real purpose of this Clause, and we support it. However, I remember that, on an earlier occasion, when I was asking about people who had non-conforming uses on such land as the result of obedience to Government behests, there was not the same readiness on that occasion to accept the view that the Government should pay.
My feeling is that this Clause does not go far enough. It seems to me that when the Government come along and require a local authority to do the kind of thing mentioned by the Parliamentary Secretary— I admit that there may be many other things—the Clause should say that they "shall" pay to the local authority money in respect of compensation. At the moment it is permissive, whereas, in my view, it ought to be mandatory. Can the Parliamentary Secretary tell us what he feels about that?
I should say that the amount of compensation could be safely left as a matter for negotiation between the local authority concerned and the Government Department. Knowing local authorities as I do, I should imagine they will exact their pound of flesh in these matters, and I think it is quite safe to leave the Clause as it is.
Question put, and Teed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
New Clause—(Agreement Under Previous Acts)
Where in consequence of the provisions of the Ninth Schedule to this Act an owner of land in respect of which an agreement for restricting its planning, development or use under Section thirty-four of the Act of 1932 has been made with any such authority as is mentioned in Subsection (2) of that Section, or has been made, or has effect as if made, under any provision of a scheme under that Act with the responsible authority for the purposes of the scheme, shows to the local planning authority in a claim made to that authority in the manner prescribed by regulations under this Act that by reason of any provision in a development plan made or amended under this Act his interest in any land is depreciated and that neither he nor any of his predecessors in title has received any consideration in respect of that agreement, the local planning authority shall pay to that person compensation (to be assessed in accordance with the Fourth Schedule to this Act) in respect of that depreciation.— [ Mr. W. S. Morrison.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."This proposed new Clause deals with the provisions contained in paragraph 7 of the Ninth Schedule which states:
Under the Act of 1932, most valuable agreements were made between landlords t, on the one hand and public authorities on the other, to secure amenities for the benefit of the public at large. In Standing Committee we raised the larger question, which I shall raise again if I get the opportunity, of the inadvisability of bringing these agreements to an end. I believe it is a mistake to bring all these agreements suddenly to a conclusion. The Minister says that the planning powers contained in this Bill would enable anything that was done by agreement to be done by this planning scheme. I doubt whether that is so. I am advised by many experts in this matter that some of these agreements made under the Act of 1932 enter into more detail concerning various points in connection with the use of land, which in their cumulative effect are very valuable from the point of view of the public, than is possible in any statutory instrument. That is the major proposition, and it is far more important than the point raised by this Clause. This is only a secondary offshoot from that general proposition that these agreements should be honoured and not swept aside in this ruthless manner. The point raised by the new Clause is illustrated by the case of an owner, or his predecessor, who has entered into an agreement with a local authority giving access to his land or doing something for the preservation of the countryside, and whose interest in making the agreement was the common interest of all the inhabitants in the locality, that its beauty and character should be preserved. He was acting in a double capacity—first, as the owner of the land with power to enter into a contract, and, secondly, as a citizen of the locality itself, so that the agreement was of benefit to all. In these cases— and I am advised they do exist—there will be no consideration whatever of the position of the owner or his predecessor in relation to these agreements. When these agreements are brought to an end by the operation of the Ninth Schedule on the appointed day, if action contrary to the agreement is taken by the planning authority, as may well happen—there may arise a generation which will take a different view of the joint property of the countryside—a claim for compensation should be considered. As long as the matter is allowed to rest on the agreement, which I submit should not be disturbed, there is no question of any money passing to anybody. If the agreement is broken by statute, and something detrimental to the owner is put in its place by the planning authority, if he or his predecessor in title can show that no remuneration has been received for what he did, a claim for compensation should be considered."Any agreement for restricting the planning, development or use of land made under Section thirty-four of the Act of 1932… shall cease to have effect on the appointed day."
I now understand what I have had some difficulty in understanding hitherto—the purpose of this Clause. The Clause is not at all intelligible, and I had great difficulty in understanding what the right hon. Gentleman was seeking to secure. I now gather that he wants to raise the whole question of Section 34 agreements. I do not think the Clause itself would stand that critical examination. For one thing, it is extremely vague and difficult to follow, and I do not think the purpose which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind would be achieved. I will give two reasons why I believe that to be so. Let me refer to the example which the right hon. Gentleman himself gave. It seems to me that the owner who has entered into an agreement will not have suffered any damage and will not necessarily become entitled to compensation, because it is difficult to see where the question of depreciation arises. Secondly, this Clause would only operate if there had been no consideration at all. In fact, there will have been some consideration in all cases because—to take this example—the fact that the amenity has been preserved since the agreement was entered into would be some consideration. In any case, therefore, I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that this Clause could not stand.I should like to say a word about the Section 34 agreements in general The matter was raised in Standing Committee, and I then promised that I would examine the question of these agreements. I think it was generally admitted that these agreements were probably a mixed bag. Some were good and some were bad. There were some which one would probably wist to preserve in the spirit if not in the letter, and there were some which a local authority ought to be able to abrogate. It is very difficult to talk about these agreements in the abstract. There are probably some thousands of them which have been entered into between a local authority and an individual, with no obligation on the part of the local authorities to communicate the contents of these agreements, let alone to submit copies of them, to the Ministry. Frankly, we have no definite knowledge of what kind of agreements have been generally entered into, and whether by and large, they are advantageous or otherwise. We have accordingly communicated with the local authorities—1,500 of them —and have asked them to submit to us any agreements which are still in force. We have had replies from a thousand of these local authorities, and it appears that, in many cases, a number of agreements are in force. I do not suggest that my Department will examine every one of them—I do not think that would be necessary—but we will examine a sufficient number of them to enable us to get a good idea of the general character of these agreements. Based on what we find, I am prepared to give an undertaking that the matter will be considered again. I am by no means wedded to the proposal contained in the Ninth Schedule that all these agreements should be abrogated. It was thought that the new system of planning could probably reproduce all that was best in the agreements that had been made, and would have the further advantage of abrogating those agreements which were not in the public interest. However, I see the force of what was stated in Committee and of what the right hon. Gentleman has now said, that some of these agreements may have entered into considerable detail, and that it is in the public interest to preserve them. One would not wish to abrogate something which has already been achieved with great care and, very often, with great public spirit. Therefore, I am prepared to give an undertaking that the matter will be re-examined in the light of our survey of the existing agreements, and, if necessary, an Amendment will be put down at a later stage. I also wish to say that I would not assent to one of the parties to an agreements extracting all the benefits from it and then saying, "Thank you very much. I now abrogate it." I think the best of these agreements are mutual affairs, and where a party has received some benefit from it, neither he nor his successors in title should then be able to abrogate the agreement, and to put the other party to the agreement in a worse position. I am prepared to examine that aspect of it as well. Of course, every owner of land becomes subject to the provisions of this Bill when it becomes law, and the person who has entered into an agreement, can be in no better position as regards the provisions of the Bill than any other person; but I imagine that nobody would suggest he should be. With that proviso, I am prepared to examine the matter in order to ensure that fair treatment is given to persons who have entered into agreements in good faith, where for reasons of sound public policy the basis of the agreement has changed, and, in consequence, the person who entered into the agreement suffers loss. In those circumstances, I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not press this new Clause.
I am very glad to hear what the Minister has said. I am certain he is wise to look into the matter again. I would add only a very few words on the two points he raised. First of all, he raised the question of fairness for those who have entered into these agreements. Under the Clauses of the Bill as it stands, the very injustice which he has clearly recognised as wrong would be at any rate possible. Therefore, on the ground of justice alone, it would be necessary for him to make some further provision. The main point about which I wish to speak is the advantage of these agreements, in many cases, to the public. This is, of course, the provision under which many private open spaces have been preserved. The owner of the land enters into a covenant to retain the land, or part of it, as a private open space, which can be of the very greatest advantage to town planning.
; A private open space does not always give the public access. If the public has no access to a private open space, how can the question of compensation arise?
I am not dealing with the question of compensation for the moment. I am dealing with the question of the use of the land. I do not want to go too far into the question of compensation, for the reasons given by the right hon. Gentleman. These agreements have served a good public purpose, because they have, in fact, preserved much land as private open spaces, and in other ways. For that reason Section 34 of the 1932 Act was found, by amenity societies and civic societies, to be a valuable instrument. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, that there were certain risks in the procedure. There was at least the possibility that some unwise agreements would be entered into under this statutory provision. It was for that reason that, when Parliament came to legislate again on the subject in 1943, we provided, as the Minister well knows, in Section 10 of the Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) Act, 1943, that:
That was to guard against the possible dangers to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred. It was not thought right by Parliament, when they legislated in 1943, to make any further interference with agreements made under Section 34 of the 1932 Act, because of the belief of the Department that those agreements taken as a whole were very much in the public interest. It is perfectly true, that the inquiries which could be made at that time were not nearly so extensive, or on anything like the same scale as the Minister says he has made and is making, very properly, at the present time. I think the Committee will welcome the undertaking given by the Minister, to look into this matter again, because both in the interests of planning and for the sake of avoiding injustice some further provisions in the Bill will be necessary. In view of what the Minister has said, I have no doubt my right hon. Friend will think fit to withdraw the Motion."No agreement made after the commencement of this Act under Section thirty-four of the principal Act for restricting the planning, development or use of any land shall have effect unless it has been approved by the Minister."
I welcome the announcement of the Minister, that he will look into the problem again. I can only envisage it in the rather narrow field of a local planning authority. I must say, from the point of view of an authority which submitted to the Minister its interim development scheme well before the war, I can quite see that there will be a certain amount of difficulty. A large number of agreements were entered into, the result of which was that the owners refrained from developing, or selling for development, a lot of land which, I am afraid, would otherwise have gone. That was the result of their agreement, so something has definitely been forgone. There will be a feeling that some of them have been let down if they find the other side of the agreement in any way not implemented, because it was really a question of quite a large number of self-denying ordinances. After the Bill becomes law, the general tendency will be to restrict very much more land, so that people will have lost their chance for ever of developing land which, in some cases, they actually bought with a view to development.
I welcome the statement made by the Minister. His inquiry into the two points mentioned will be well worth while, and I am sure the statement he has made will be received with considerable relief by many persons, including amenities societies, who are very interested in this matter. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.
Third Schedule—(Classes Of Development Excepted From Payment Of Development Charge)
I beg to move, in page 116, line 41, to leave out from the beginning to "including," and to insert:
Paragraph I of this Schedule includes within the classes of development excepted from payment of development charge the rebuilding of a building which has been demolished within a period of 10 years before the appointed day. The significant phrase there is "the appointed day." The effect of the Amendment would be to substitute for the appointed day 7th January, 1937, that is to say, 10 years before the publication of the Bill. The Amendment has been moved because of an undertaking given in Committee to consider extending that period. The Schedule as it was originally was quite in line with the Acts of 1932 and 1934, but the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) urged that an extension of the period up to 15 years should take place. This Amendment does not go the whole length of 15 years, but it will extend the period roughly by about one year, from 18 months to two and a half years, and, therefore, it goes a considerable distance to meet the desires of the hon. and learned Member and other hon. Members opposite. I hope that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will accept the Amendment in that spirit as being a substantial concession towards what they desire."since the seventh day of January, nineteen hundred and thirty-seven."
I welcome the Amendment and acknowledge with gratitude that it goes some distance towards meeting the point we raised in Committee. Apart from the extension of time, the substitution of the fixed date is another element of improvement, because the original words dated from the unknown fixed point of the appointed day, and it is well that those concerned with the matter should know a definite calendar date from which it operates.
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to
Fourth Schedule—(Provisions Relating To Compensation Under Part Iii)
I beg to move, in page 117, line 33, to leave out paragraphs i and 2, and to insert:
This Amendment and the next Amendment, are rendered necessary as a result of the conversion of 1939 values set out in paragraphs I and 2 of the Schedule to the current market values."1. For the purpose of assessing any compensation payable by virtue of a decision or order under Section eighteen or Section twenty-four of this Act, being compensation in respect of the diminution in value of any interest in land, Section two of the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919, (which prescribes rules for the assessment of compensation by an official arbitrator), shall, so far as applicable and subject to any necessary modifications, have effect as it has effect for the purpose of assessing compensation for the compulsory acquisition of land."
Amendment agreed to.
Further Amendment made: In page 118, line 18, leave out from "omitted," to the end of line 29.—[ Mr. Silkin.]
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Seventh Schedule—(Enactments Amended)
I beg to move, in page 125, line 21, column 2, to leave out "subsection," and to insert "subsections."This Amendment and the next Amendment should be taken together. Their effect is to give to the Minister of Transport or to the local highway authority powers to purchase land compulsorily for the purpose of providing a public right of way alternative to one which it is proposed to extinguish.
Amendment agreed to.
I beg to move, in page 125, line 3O, column 2, to leave out "subsection (3) shall be omitted;" and to insert:
"(3) The Minister of Transport or a local highway authority may be authorised to purchase land compulsorily for the purpose of providing any public right of way which is to be provided as an alternative to a right of way extinguished under this Section; and the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act, 1946, shall apply to the compulsory acquisition of land under this subsection, and accordingly shall have effect—
(a) as if this subsection had been in force immediately before the commencement of that Act; (b) as if this subsection were included among the enactments specified in paragraph
|ENACTMENTS REPEALED AS FROM PASSING OF THIS ACT.|
|Session and Chapter.||Enactment repealed.||Extent of Repeal.|
|7 & 8 Geo. 6. c. 47.||The Town and Country Planning Act, 1944.||In Section twenty-four, in Subsection (2) the words from "and Section fifty-seven" to the end of the Subsection, Sections fifty-seven to sixty-two, and the Seventh and Eighth Schedules.|
|8 & 9 Geo. 6. c. 43.||The Requisitioned Land and War Works Act, 1945.||In Section forty-one, Subsection (7) and paragraph (c) of Subsection (8).|
|9 & 10 Geo. 6. c. 70.||The Civil Aviation Act, 1946.||In the Third Schedule, paragraph 10, in the Fourth Schedule paragraphs 4 and 5 and paragraph (b) of the proviso to paragraph 6, and in the Sixth Schedule paragraphs 2 and 3 and paragraph (b) of the proviso to paragraph 4.|
|9 & 10 Geo. 6. c. 68.||The New Towns Act, 1946||In Section four, in Subsection (7) the words from "and that Part II" to the end of the Subsection.|
Enactments Repealed As From Appointed Day"
This Amendment is rendered necessary as a result of the change of the 1939 standard.
(b) of subsection (1) of Section one of that Act;
Provided that Section two of the said Act shall not apply to the compulsory acquisition of land under this subsection."
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in the choice of the land which the Minister of Transport can acquire under these powers, he has secured that the fullest consultation with his Department shall be made in every case.
As the hon. and learned Gentleman knows, this is done by administration, and, as I have said before. it works in 999 cases out of 1,000.
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Eighth Schedule—(Enactments Repealed)
I beg to move, in page 132, line 24. at the end, to insert:
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
New Schedule—(Modifications Of Part Ii Of Town And Country Planning Act, 1944)
Elimination of overlap between owner-occupied supplement and increase of converted value payment.
1.— (1) Where an interest in land the value of which falls to be ascertained in accordance with the provisions of Part II of the Act of 1944 for the purposes of the compensation payable on a compulsory acquisition thereof is an interest in a hereditament or part of a hereditament which has sustained war damage, then if—
(2) Any reduction required by virtue of this paragraph to be made in the compensation payable in respect of the compulsory acquisition of an interest in land shall be effected as follows: that is to say, the War Damage Commission shall pay to the Minister or authority by whom that interest is compulsorily acquired a sum equal to the amount of the reduction, together with interest thereon at the rate of two and a half per cent. per annum from the date of the acquisition, and shall deduct that amount (including interest thereon as aforesaid) from the amount of any value payment or share of the value payment (including interest on any such payment or share) payable by the Commission under the War Damage Act, 1943, to the person from whom that interest is acquired
(3) Any sum payable by the War Damage Commission to a Minister or authority by virtue of the provisions of this paragraph in respect of the compulsory acquisition of any interest in land shall be paid at the time when the value payment or share of a value payment payable to the owner of that interest under the War Damage Act, 1943, is discharged.
(4) Any question arising under this paragraph as to what reduction is appropriate in the compensation payable in respect of the compulsory acquisition of an interest in land shall, in default of agreement, be referred to and determined by the War Damage Commission, whose decision shall be final; and paragraph 6 of the First Schedule to the War Damage Act, 1943 (which enables the Commission to regulate the procedure for the determination of questions subject to determination by them under that Act) shall have effect as if any question falling to be determined by the Commission under this paragraph were a question subject to determination by them under that Act.
(5) Where an interest in land which has been acquired by agreement before the commence ment of this Act by a person authorised by virtue of any enactment to acquire it compulsorily is an interest in a hereditament or part of a hereditament which has sustained war damage then if—
the amount of the purchase price payable in respect of the acquisition shall be reduced by such sum as may be appropriate, not exceeding the amount by which the value payment is increased as is mentioned in sub-paragraph (I) (b) of this paragraph, or the amount of the supplement which would have been payable as aforesaid, whichever is the less; and sub paragraphs (2), (3) and (4) of this paragraph shall apply in relation to the reduction required by virtue of this sub-paragraph to be made in the purchase price as if for any reference in those sub-paragraphs to the compulsory acquisition of an interest in land or to the amount of the compensation payable in respect of that acquisition there were substituted respectively a reference to the acquisition of an interest in land by agreement arid to the purchase price payable in respect of that acquisition.
(6) The reference in sub-paragraph (2) of this paragraph to the date of acquisition of an interest in land shall be construed in accordance with the provisions of Subsection (3) of Section fourteen of the War Damage Act, 1943.
Extension of owner-occupier supplement to certain agricultural land.
2. In subsection (2) of section fifty-seven of the Act of 1944, and paragraph 4 of the Seventh Schedule to that Act, references to agricultural holdings and to holdings as defined for the purposes of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1923, shall be construed as including references to any land which, if it were held by a tenant, would be a holding as so defined.
Assessment of compensation by reference to after-damage value
3.—(1) Where under section sixty-one of the Act of 1944, the value of any land in a hereditament which has sustained war damage is for the purpose of a compulsory acquisition required to be ascertained, in accordance with the provisions of the Eighth Schedule to that Act, by reference to the certified after-damage value of the hereditament, then if—
sub-paragraph (3) of paragraph (1) of the said Eighth Schedule shall have effect as if the change constituted a material difference in the state of the premises and the change shall be taken into account under the said subparagraph in determining the value of the premises under the War Damage Act, 1943, by reference to the state of the premises at the time when the notice to treat is served
(2) Neither the right to land tax in respect of any land nor the right to a redemption annuity under the Tithe Act, [936, in respect of any land shall be taken into account as interests in land under paragraph z of the Eighth Schedule to the Act of 1944, but such adjustments of the certified after-damage value of the hereditament shall be made for the purposes of that Schedule as are necessary to produce for those purposes the result which would have been produced there for if liability to land tax or to any such annuity had been included among the burdens referred to in paragraph (1) (c) of the Second Schedule to the War Damage Act, 1943.—[ Mr. Silkin.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, "That the Schedule be read a Second time."I gave an explanation of the greater part of this Schedule yesterday in answer to an Amendment which was moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison), who moved an Amendment for the purpose of getting an explanation. As is stated in the marginal note, the purpose of the Schedule is to eliminate overlap between the owner-occupier supplement of 60 per cent. and the increase of converted value payment. Without this provision, it would be possible for an owner whose land is being acquired to get the 60 per cent. twice over. I am sure that not even hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would wish that to happen. The first six paragraphs of the Schedule are devoted to that. The remainder of the Schedule is a re-arrangement of Clauses 38 and 39 of the Bill, which, as will be remembered, have been deleted as a result of a previous Amendment. It was thought more appropriate to put those Clauses in this new Schedule.
Question put, and agreed to.
Schedule read Second time, and added to the Bill.
Bill reported, with Amendments; as amended (in the Standing Committee and on recommittal) considered.
New Clause—(Validity And Date Of Operation Of Development Plans)
(1) Immediately after a development plan has been approved or made or amended by the Minister under this Part of this Act, the local planning authority shall publish in such manner as may be prescribed by regulations under this Act a notice stating that the plan has been approved, made, or amended, as the case may be, and naming a place where a copy of the plan or of the plan, as amended, may be seen at all reasonable hours, and shall serve a like notice on any person by whom an objection or representation was duly made to the proposed plan or amendment, and who has sent to the authority a request in writing to serve him with the notice required by this subsection, specifying an address for service, and on such other persons if any, as may be required by general or special directions given by Minister
(2) If any person aggrieved by the plan or by the amendment, as the case may be, desires to question the validity thereof or of any provision contained therein on the ground that it is not within the powers of this Act. or on the ground that any requirement of this Act or any regulation made thereunder has not been complied with in relation to the approval or making of the plan, or as the case may he, in relation to the making of the amendment. he may, within six weeks from the date on which the notice required by the last foregoing subsection is first published, make an application to the High Court. and on any such application the Court—
(3) Subject to the provisions of the last foregoing subsection, a development plan or an amendment of a development plan shall not, either before or after it has been approved or made, be questioned in any legal proceedings whatsoever, and shall become operative on the date on which the notice required by this Section is first published.
(4) Except by leave of the Court of Appeal, no appeal shall lie to the House of Lords from a decision of the Court of Appeal under this Section.—[ Mr. Silkin.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."The purpose of this Clause is to limit the vulnerability of development plans to challenge in the courts, and it does so in two ways. First, it limits the grounds upon which a plan or a modification of a plan may be challenged, and, second, it lays down that the only grounds on which it can be challenged are that the plan is ultra vires, or that the requirements of the Statute or the regulations made under Clause 9 have not been complied with. It also limits to six weeks the period within which the challenge in the courts may be made. This Clause is in common form. Similar provisions have been applied to almost every modern Act in respect of compulsory purchase orders, the latest of them being Section 16 of the New Towns Act. Without some such provision as this, development plans would still be challengeable in the courts within a period of six months, which would have the effect of holding up redevelopment very seriously.
I do not propose to object to the Second Reading of this Clause; it is, as the Minister says, in common form, and has appeared in other Statutes, its first appearance being I think in Section 16 of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1944.
The New Towns Act.
There were similar provisions in the other one, but without prejudice to the Amendments which I hope to move to extend its scope, my hon. Friends on this side agree to its Second Reading.
Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Clause, in line 13, after "be," to insert:
All the Amendments in my name to the new Clause can be taken together, because apart from the first, they are purely consequential. As the Minister has said, it has been common form to include in Acts concerning the compulsory acquisition of land provisions of the character we have just read a Second time, and the reason for that is that unless some limitation is placed upon the query in the courts on points of law, it is possible, or might theoretically be possible, for years after the transactions have been completed and all sorts of persons have changed their positions in life in accordance with what has been done—as they believe, legally—to have the matter reopened by a litigious person, and all those rights placed in jeopardy. When we were dealing with this Bill in Committee we put down an Amendment, framed in terms almost identical to those of this new Clause, which applied the same provisions to acts not only of a local planning authority in its development plans, but acts and orders of the Minister and of the Board, to try and make sure that they should have the right to be protected against undue litigious interference, while at the same time the subject should have reasonable access to the courts in case either the Minister or the Central Land Board acted ultra vires to the Bill. 5.15 p.m. I think it would be very difficult for the Minister to act ultra vires on this Bill, because the vires are so extremely wide that it would take seven-league boots to step outside the limits the Minister has set for himself, but he or his successor might make even such a stride, and in that case the subject should have the right to challenge his orders in the courts. The case is even stronger with regard to the Central Land Board, because it is a body which is not yet in being, it has not learnt the limits of its statutory authority by actual experience, and it is possible that when it gets into its stride its enthusiasm over-zeal or ignorance of its legal powers may bring it into conflict with the law of the land as expressed in this Bill and in other Acts of Parliament. In such a case the proposition is that the subject should have the same limited, but effective, right of appeal to the courts against the orders of the Minister or the Board for being ultra vires on the Bill, as is given by the Clause we have just read a Second time with respect to development plans and orders. The only ground on which that appeal could be made is that the Minister or the Board is going outside what this House has authorised them to do, and I think the House should make it possible for the subject to invoke the law of the land should that happen."or by an order of the Minister or of the Central Land Board under this Act."
I have no violent objection to this Amendment, but I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman himself has really considered its implications. This Amendment does not confer upon the subject the right of access to the courts, he already has that; if the Minister or the Central Land Board does anything which is ultra vires—difficult as that may be, as the right hon. Gentleman explained—the subject has already the right to go to the courts. But instead of having that right which he can exercise within six months, this Amendment would limit him to six weeks. Also, instead of the wider grounds upon which he might go to the courts, he would be limited. Therefore, in so far as it would make the administration of the Bill easier, less uncertain and less vulnerable—and vulnerable for a shorter period—I would have no objection to the Amendment. My only objection is to its language. I am not quite certain as to what are the orders of the Minister, because a great many orders of the Minister are already covered by the terms of the New Clause, and I am not sure what other orders the Central Land Board might make. There is an element of uncertainty about the language of the Amendment, but I am quite prepared to accept its principle if the right hon. Gentleman really presses me, and to give an undertaking that something of this sort will be included at a later stage.
With the leave of the House, may I say that I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said? Perhaps I may also be permitted to remark that the chief purpose for which this Amendment was set down was to ensure that, in our hurried scamper through this Bill owing to the operation of the Guillotine, there were not concealed in its interstices some provisions which did debar the subject from getting his right of access to the courts. The Amendment which we put down for the Committee stage we were not able to consider, so the matter was not ventilated until the present stage of the Bill. In view of the assurance that the matter is already covered, and because I have no desire to prolong the proceedings, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That the Clause be added to the Bill"
The hon. Member cannot speak upon the Amendment now.
I am speaking now on the Clause, and I want to draw the attention of the Minister to a particular matter. The new Clause proposes to give an opportunity for recourse to the High Court, but I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that there is a possibility of the High Court being used in order to hold up all sorts of plans. It would be very undesirable that people who feel aggrieved at a plan, or an amendment to a plan, put forward by the planning authority, should be able to go to the High Court and delay the proceeding. I ask the Minister to keep that point in mind and not to make any concession which will put outside this House the decision as to the fate of an Order. It is this House which should decide whether the Minister's Order is to be carried out.
I prefer the new Clause in its original form, but not for the reason given by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). I am glad that the Minister has resisted the suggestion to alter it.
We have heard the representative of the Communist Party urge the Minister to limit the already very small right of the citizen to go to the High Court. That shows the extreme power which the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has over the Front Bench opposite. It is extremely difficult to be certain that we are not limiting the rights of the subject. The hon. and learned Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) is a fairly astute reader of the Bill, but I must confess, especially after the speech made by the Minister, that I am not sure whether we may not be further limiting the power of the subject to appeal against oppressive Orders which may be made, for example, under this Bill. I do not know whether the Clause can be amended, but I do not welcome it. We should do all we can to make it easier for the subject to appeal against arbitrary decisions of the Executive.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause added to the Bill.
New Clause—(Land Subject To Claims For Betterment Under Other Acts)
Where, on the carrying out of any development after the appointed day, any payment falls to he made to a local authority by virtue of the provisions of any Act in force at the passing of this Act, in respect of any works carried out (whether before or after the passing of this Act) by that authority, then—
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."The object of the Clause is to preserve the power of the authority to obtain betterment accruing to the landowners as the result of the operations of local authorities. Certain local Acts enable sewerage boards, for example, to collect increases in value due to the provision of a sewer. Secondly, the object is to save owners of property from having to pay two development charges. They have to pay betterment to the original local authority and that will be taken into account in assessing the development charge.
We welcome the new Clause, which takes care of the position of certain local authorities working under the Public Health Act, 1936, or under local Acts, because they would otherwise have been in a difficulty in regard to betterment. I had tabled a new Clause designed to have the same effect, but the point I had in mind is covered by the Clause proposed by the Minister. I have, therefore, the advan- tage of his superior efficiency in drafting. On behalf of one or two authorities who are affected by local Acts, I desire to express gratification that the Clause is being incorporated in the Bill.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
New Clause—(Saving For Postmaster-General)
(1) Subject to the provisions of this Section, and to the provisions of Subsection (4) of Section twenty-three of the Act of 1944 as applied by this Act, nothing in this Act or in any order or regulations, made thereunder shall affect any powers or duties of the Postmaster-General under the provisions of the Telegraph Acts, 1863 to 1943, or apply to any telegraphic lines placed or maintained by virtue of any of those provisions.
(2) Where in pursuance of an order made by the Minister of Transport under Section forty-six of this Act any highway is stopped up or diverted and, immediately before the date on which the order became operative, there was under, in, upon, over, along or across the highway any telegraphic line belonging to or used by the Postmaster-General, the Postmaster-General shall have the same powers in respect of that line as if the order had not become operative:
Provided that if any person entitled to land over which the highway subsisted requires that the telegraphic line should be altered, paragraphs (i) to (8) of Section seven of the Telegraph Act, 1878, shall apply to the alteration and accordingly shall have effect, subject to any necessary modifications, as if references therein to undertakers included references to the person so requiring the line to be altered.
(3) Where any order made under the said Section forty-six provides for the improvement of any highway, not being a trunk road, and, immediately before the date on which the order became operative, there was under, in, upon, over, along or across the highway any telegraphic line belonging to or used by the Postmaster-General, then if the local highway authority require that that line should be altered, paragraphs (i) to (8) of the said Section seven shall apply to the alteration and accordingly shall have effect, subject to any necessary modifications, as if references therein to undertakers included references to the local highway authority.
(4) In this Section the expressions "alter" and "telegraphic line" have the same meanings as in the Telegraph Act, 1878.—[ Mr. Silkin.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."The object of the Clause is to exempt the Postmaster-General from the provisions of the Bill in the exercise of his powers in regard to telegraphs, and to give him certain safeguards under Clause 46.
I cannot express any great indignation, from my experience of the office of Postmaster-General, at the object of the Minister's proposals. I am only surprised that the Clause makes such a tardy appearance. Postmasters-General have always been regarded as having dominion over roads and under the roads. We hope that the present Minister will be able to use the Clause to improve the telegraph and telephone service, and if he has time after that, the postal service as well.
Question put, and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
New Clause—(Report By Central Land Board On Development Values)
(1) As soon as may be after the development values of interests in all or substantially all land, in respect of- which claims have been made under Part V of this Act, have been determined by the Central Land Board in accordance with the provisions of the said Part, the Central Land Board shall cause to be made out a statement showing:
(2) The statement made under the last foregoing Subsection shall be transmitted to the Minister, who shall forthwith lay copies thereof before both Houses of Parliament if Parliament be then sitting, or if not, within one month after the then next sitting of Parliament. —[ Mr. W. S. Morrison.]
Brought up, and read the First Time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."The purpose of this new Clause is to place upon the Central Land Board a certain duty, which the Bill does not impose, to make out a statement showing the aggregate amount of development values and the amount by which, in their opinion, that aggregate amount would be diminished if the determination had been made on a single claim but otherwise in accordance with the provisions of Part V of the Bill, together with their reasons. I think I can show the main purpose of this proposed new Clause very briefly. It has to do with the provision in the Bill of £300 million as a global sum in settlement of depreciated development values. The reason why the right hon. Gentleman and the Government have adopted the global sum method of settling this form of compensation arises from the problem of floating values which is discussed at considerable length in the Uthwatt Committee's report. I need not worry the House with an elaborate disquisition on the subject of floating values, but the trouble briefly is this. It was stated in the Report of the Uthwatt Committee that while development value is a part of the total value of all land in the neighbourhood of cities, it is nevertheless very difficult to assess its true value. The Committee state that if the portion of the value due to its development right for every separate parcel be taken and the total of these parcels added together this will in fact give a total for development value which is in excess of the value that will be realised by actual development. The reason for that is that every owner of land in the vicinity of a built up area says that his land has a chance of being developed, and until the land is actually developed it is impossible to deny that this chance of development does exist in every parcel of land that is contiguous to a built-up area. But by valuing everybody's chances, say the Uthwatt Committee, one arrives at a total which is greater than the value that would be realised in fact by the actual development which settles on particular plots of land. This amount of excess value which is due to the addition of a number of chances, not all of which can be successful, is what is called the element of floating value. This controversy about floating value is in itself a very academic one. That there is such a thing there is, perhaps, little doubt, but as to its extent I have always had the greatest misgiving about some of the confident predictions that are uttered on the subject. In the process of valuation of a plot of land no valuer would claim—and no arbitrator would assess—any development value approaching to a certainty that the land will ultimately be developed. He would discount the added value of development by what was considered to be an appropriate factor having regard to the chances involved. I myself believe that the statement in the Uthwatt Report that the total values would amount to three times the actual value of development is somewhat exaggerated and only compatible with a statement that the surveying and valuing profession do not know how adequately to discount the chances of development in the area. In their approach to this matter the Government have adopted the global sum, and the Minister has from time to time given us the reasons which prompted him to assess the value of this figure as £300 million. That has been criticised by hon. Members on both sides of the House—some saying that it was too high, and some that it was too low. What we seek by this new Clause is to charge the Central Land Board with the duty of finding out the truth. It is quite easy for hon. Members on both sides, in accordance with their own views, to give confident predictions as to the truth of what I find a very baffling and complicated question, but we do suggest that if the process which we ask for in this Clause were added to the duties of the Central Land Board we should, after the lapse of some time, be in possession of a mass of information about the real incidence and value of development which nobody in this country possesses at present. We are therefore moving that the Central Land Board—which will receive all the claims for compensation out of the global sum—should tell the House and the Minister what the total of this sum is, so that we have a factor for coming to a just conclusion on this matter which we have not had before. The Central Land Board will be the first body of its kind to be in a position to collect this information and make the assessment. I think it highly important that we who are trying to solve these difficult problems in this House with the aid of what are, at best, intelligent guesses, should take advantage of the institution of this new body, charged with the duties of the Bill, to make it amass for us or our successors information which we ask it to produce. Then the Central Land Board, having received all these claims for development values, can make a decision and an estimation that no one else can make as to what is the actual float involved in this matter. Then we shall no longer have these guesses, either upwards or downwards. I will give the House one instance of the widely varying estimates of skilled people on this subject. There is a passage about it in the Barlow Committee's Report which reads to the effect—I speak from memory—that the chief valuer to the Board of Inland Revenue gave evidence and put it as an intelligent guess, and no more, that the total development value in undeveloped land was between £300 million and £400 million. That is the opinion, for what it is worth, expressed in 1937 by a man who had probably a wider conspectus of development valuation than has any of us here. How different that is from the valuation of the right hon. Gentleman. He takes the lower of the two figures, £300 million, and includes in it not only development values in undeveloped land but redeveloped value in developed land, which must be an enormously large sum, much greater, I should have guessed, than the development value in undeveloped land.
It also includes mineral values.
I was about to add that, as my hon. Friend has just pointed out, in this great mass of £300 million the Minister has also added, under the terms of the Bill, the compensation for mineral values. In addition to that, we are now dealing with this year of Grace, 1947, whereas the chief valuer's guess was made in 1937, and it is common knowledge that the value of money has changed very greatly since then. If one takes all these factors into account—the chief valuer's guess in 1937 for a very much smaller area of development values than is included in the right lion. Gentleman's guess, and the lower guess of the right hon. Gentleman to cover a very much wider area—we can see how large are the discrepancies which honest men can make in trying to solve, by guesswork, this great problem. If this Clause were adopted, we should set out to solve this matter, not by guesswork, but by ascertainment of truth. It may be that hon. Members opposite are quite right in thinking that £300 million is much too great a sum, or that we are right, but I, personally, would abide by the result of whatever the eventual examination indicated.It is very difficult to express in legal language what is really comprehended by the term "floating value." We are not wedded to the words in this Clause, and if the right hon. Gentleman, with his skilled draftsman, can suggest a better method to achieve the object, I shall be perfectly happy to fall in with his wishes. What we are asking is that during the performance of their duties, the Central Land Board shall tell us the aggregate amount of the development values so determined, and then, with their experience, tell us what is the difference in the total amount, if the determination had been made on a single claim, and the real development values involved. An impartial body of this character, which has access to more information than any body of persons has had before, would be able to make a contribution which would help us to determine this very baffling and complicated question.
The Treasury have to prepare a scheme for the apportionment of the £300 million between England and Wales, on the one hand, and Scotland, on the other. Not until they have done that, do they proceed to their further task of apportioning the sum in respect of the English and Welsh claimants. They may not do this until they are, in the words introduced by the Minister in Committee, sufficiently informed about the extent of the claims. What we want to secure. is that the data upon which this determination has been made, shall be made public, and we propose, therefore, that the development values should be submitted, and adjusted with the district valuers, as they presumably must be before they can be agreed as approximately correct; that the adjusted claim should then be aggregated and the Board should then deduct an element, if there is such an element, in respect of floating values. It might be said here that there ought not to be any element of floating values after these claims had been discussed and agreed with the district valuer because the valuer should be able to write off the element of floating value in respect of every valuation made. In other words, the two parties, sitting opposite each other and adjusting these things, ought to arrive at a true value, or at least something like it. We want to be quite safe, and so we suggest inserting this Clause as an additional safeguard. If it is found at the end of the day that there is still an element in the aggregate figure which represents floating values, that can be deducted.After all these processes have been gone through, the Board submit their figures to the Minister, who has to make them available to both Houses of Parliament. I want the Minister to notice that this Clause is specifically designed to eliminate floating values. It is not our desire that there should be an element of floating value in any claims paid to anyone who is being deprived of development values. That is not part of our case. We must not overlook the fact that all the evidence goes to show that the total sum with which we are dealing, this £300 million, is fantastically inadequate.
It is too much.
All informed opinion is agreed upon what I say. My right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) has recounted some of the difficulties which he found when he was in the Minister's place, and he has told us of some of the considerations which then entered into assessments of this kind. He has told us of the intelligent guess which was made, in 1937, by the chief valuer of the Inland Revenue Department as to development values on land outside urban areas. He reminded the House that we are dealing not only with this but with mineral rights, and here I would point out that I am informed that mineral values in this country alone are worth £100 million. I cannot say whether this estimate is right or not, but it is put forward by people who know about these things, and that being the case, the figure of £300 million does not seem to be an over-estimate, to put it no higher than that. In these circumstances, there is bound to be a great feeling in the country about the determinations under Part V of the Bill. For that reason, the Minister would be well advised to make everything as clear and above board as possible, which is the purpose of this Clause.
When I heard the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) say that £300 million was fantastically inadequate, I felt tempted to protest. I listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) talking about honest valuation, and it seemed to me that he made a very peculiar remark, on which I congratulate him, when he said "I believe myself, etc." If he wants an honest valuation, he would have to go into the whole question of how these people came to own the land. The hon. Member for West Aberdeen says that the mineral rights are estimated at £100 million. Who is going to claim the right to these minerals? Is anybody going to say, "Because we putt these minerals under our land we have the right to be paid?" It is fantastic for anybody to suggest that the people should pay for those minerals. Instead, let us make an investigation as to how the land-owners got their land—
Even if the Clause is passed it will not allow for that investigation.
An ex-Secretary of State for Scotland wrote a book to prove that a!1 the land of Scotland was stolen—
I cannot find that that book is mentioned in this Clause.
I mentioned it only by way of illustration. My hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) has just reminded me that when we were at a Socialist Sunday school we were always taught that the robber bands had seized our land. It is now being suggested that £300 million is inadequate to provide proper compensation. I say that that sum is far too much, that the people of this country have the right to protest about this system—
Does the hon. Gentleman realise that without the disclosure of these figures, he cannot be sure that Scotland will get her fair share? Does he not want to stand up for Scotland?
If I had my way no landowners in Scotland would get a penny; they have had far too much already.
The hon. Member will not get his way and be permitted to continue this argument. He must keep to the Clause.
I hope the Minister will not be affected by the appeals which have been made to him from the benches opposite. I hope he will not consider the Clause, and that he will not encourage those who are demanding an increase over and above the £300 million. If there is any way of scaling the sum down he should seek that way, but he should not consider any method of increasing it. The more we discuss this Bill, and other Bills involving compensation, the clearer it is, that in these matters we have to deal with a gathering of highwaymen, and not a gathering of representatives of the people of this country.
I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) and his hon. Friends on the skill with which, under the guise of a perfectly innocent-looking new Clause, they have been able to initiate a discussion on the merits, or otherwise, of the figure of £300 million, which, I thought, had been settled by the House on the Second Reading, and by the Money Resolution. I take it that the main object of the right hon. Gentleman is not to get more information, or one more opinion, but really to try to get a bigger sum than £300 million. Otherwise, such opinion as he would get from the Central Land Board would be of only academic interest. I am sure Members opposite are not concerned merely with the academic opinion of a body which is not yet in existence.I do not propose to follow the right hon. Gentleman in his very interesting discussion of the adequacy, or otherwise, of the £300 million. As I have said before, some people think it too much, some think it too little. Probably it is about right. At any rate, the House has decided that it is right, and this Clause could not have the effect of increasing it. Is this new Clause of any value, even from the right hon. Gentleman's point of view? Will it get information, or an opinion, from the Central Land Board? The right hon. Gentleman is asking for the aggregate amount of the development values. That is merely a matter of arithmetic. He is also asking for the amount by which, in the opinion of the Central Land Board, the aggregate amount would be diminished if the determination had been made on a single claim. What will he get if the determination is made on a single claim? He will not get a figure which is the true development value, even if the opinion of the Central Land Board were a valuable opinion. Merely by valuing all the land, as if it were made on a single claim, will not get him the true development value. To get the true development value you have to ascertain, or forecast, how much development will take place over, say, the next 30 years. When you know that, you can assess the true development value, but you will not know that until the 30 years have expired. That is the difficulty in which everyone who has attempted to ascertain the amount of the float has found himself. All you can do is to make an intelligent guess. A number of intelligent guesses have been made. I have made one myself, and it is as good as the right hon. Gentleman's or that of the chief valuation officer, or anybody else. The right hon. Gentleman is seeking, in this Clause, to get one more intelligent guess to add to the intelligent guesses which already exist. At best, the Central Land Board will be able to give him only an intelligent guess. But, apart from that, is not the Clause itself somewhat contradictory? How do you value the land on the basis of a single claim, but otherwise in accordance with the provisions of the Bill? The whole basis of valuation is the existence of a willing buyer and a willing seller. Without them you cannot carry out valuation at all. If all land is owned by one person, if the valuation is made on the basis of a single claim, you have eliminated the one element which is essential in making a valuation at all. You have no willing buyers; you have no willing sellers; you simply have a monopoly selling to another monopoly. It will not carry the right lion. Gentleman one inch further along the road he is seeking to travel. I imagine that the main purpose of putting down this Clause has been to get the sort of discussion which has taken place. I cannot think that the right hon. Gentleman seriously believes that the Government will agree to put forward, as an official document, an intelligent guess by the Central Land Board on this basis. It would have no value, and nobody knows that better than the right hon. Gentleman himself. Although I am willing that they should inform the House and the public, through the Minister, as soon as possible, of the aggregate amount of the development values determined which, as I say, is merely a matter of arithmetic, I do not think that any purpose would be served by getting them to express an opinion.
I think the Minister has dismissed too lightly the claims advanced by my right hon. Friend and by the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) in support of this new Clause. I am not concerned to argue, any more than the Minister is, whether £300 million is the correct global sum or not. As he properly says, we are strictly stopped by the decision of the House from arguing that particular proposition; but, even so, I think that the Minister would be prepared to agree that there is this estimate, and there is likely to remain a large degree of doubt in the minds of people as to whether it is the right sum or not. I hope that I shall carry him with me one stage further. I hope he will agree that any reasonable steps that can be taken to diminish that doubt, and to establish the justice of the course that has been taken, are valid and, if practicable, should be put into effect.The Minister asked the House to reject this new Clause on the ground that it will not add anything other than another intelligent opinion. So far, we have had two major opinions on this point. The first was the opinion given by the Barlow Committee, which was a very large sum for undeveloped land only, and the second was the opinion formed—we still do not know how—by the right hon. Gentleman and the present Government that the global sum should total £300 million. This Clause proposes that there should be made available something rather more than an opinion—a public and reasoned estimate of the float value. That is what we are asking for. It may be that it cannot be precise, but it does not follow from that, that it would serve no useful purpose. I think that if the machinery of this new Clause is put into effect, we shall have a far more accurate estimate than we are likely to get by the assessment of the Minister arrived at by no one knows what political-economic considerations. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman asks, "What will you do?" I take it that the point he has in mind is that, whatever the answer, we cannot affect without fresh legislation the total sum of £300 million. That of course is true; but I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree with me, that even though that is so, it is right that the basis of assessment should be before the public. It has been rightly said that—as a lawyer I am sure that he will bear the words in mind—it is no less important that justice should be done than that justice should be seen to be done.
Suppose it were established that justice had not been done, and that £300 million of public money had been paid for nothing. Since, in any case, we cannot get it back, what possible public service would that be?
The hon. Gentleman has put one side of the case. Since he has chosen to introduce this question of whether £300 million is too much or too little, I must take the other and, in my view, much more likely alternative that a public and reasoned estimate would show that £300 million is too low. If that is so—
The hon. Gentleman cannot discuss that on the new Clause. That has been discussed and settled on the Second Reading.
With great respect, I am not. I thought that I made it clear that I am not discussing the adequacy of the £300 million as a global figure. I began by saying that before the helpful intervention of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman). What I was doing and I submit that I am entitled to do this—is to deal with the point raised by the hon. Gentleman, who put the point: What effect would it have if as a result of these calculations being made public, the sum of £300 million was shown to be too high? I am taking the alternative point: What will happen if it is shown that the figure of £300 million is too little?
I may have been in error in allowing the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne to introduce the point. I certainly cannot allow discussions on it.
I did not introduce any such point. The point I introduced was this: I asked, in an interjection to the hon. Member, what would be the point of having such an investigation, and what would he do, with the result of it, when everyone knows that it cannot affect the decision which the House has already taken that £300 million should be the figure?
Let us leave this controversial topic on this note, that, whatever the answer may be, it is of course true, as the hon. Member knows, that Parliament does not bind its successors, and that there can be some practical action taken if the sum is found to be too low. The practical action which would ensue is, however, only part of the justification for incorporating this new Clause in the Bill. Even if no practical action could result from it, I would still submit that it was right to have this public and reasoned estimate for the guidance of the public, in order that they should see whether this matter had been approached correctly, and whether justice had been done. The right hon. Gentleman said, with his characteristic felicity of phrase, that he was "sitting pretty" and that his estimate must be right because some people said that it was too high and others that it was too low. That, surely, is very rough justice.What this new Clause is designed to do -is to bring a more precise estimate to bear, and to show to the public how that estimate has been arrived at. In my submission, even if no action were possible on this, it would nevertheless be right to incorporate this new Clause into the Bill in order to provide the machinery for a more precise estimate than has been possible in these sketchy opinions, which is all that we have so far been given by the right hon. Gentleman as the basis of the estimate of the sum at which he has arrived.
I would like to give the House reasons why there should not be this public and reasoned estimate for which the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) has pleaded. The show was given away very effectively by the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) who, as will be within the recollection of the House, did in fact say parenthically, but none the less truly, that the value of money in 1931 was very much greater than the value of money in 1947. That being so, I submit that 1947 is not the time to incorporate a Clause of this sort in a Bill of this kind. After all, a public and reasoned estimate would be arrived at by very hard and practical people, not by any means starry-eyed ideologists but people in the habit of assessing these things in the light of experience, and their experience would be based on the prices in the market in this year of grace, 1947. I submit that a public and reasoned estimate, when prices are high and the value of money is correspondingly low, would be a distorted estimate. As the hon. Member for Hertford admits by implication, in the light of the interjection of the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) that estimate when we had it could have no effect, and could be of no use to anyone. But it would be on record and would disturb the public and would no doubt be used by the party opposite to prejudice this Measure when it is enacted. I think that my right hon. Friend was right in resisting this new Clause, and I hope that it will not be carried.
There is another argument which one can adduce for the publication of these figures. The £300 million with which we are dealing is taxpayers' money. Is there any reason then why these figures should not be disclosed so that the House and the taxpayers may know the position? There is another reason. There are certain priority claims which the right hon. Gentleman has admitted are to be fixed later. If there is to be general satisfaction with regard to the expenditure of this money, it is reasonable to suggest that the figures for which we have asked should show the public that justice has been done with regard to this matter. The real facts of the case are that the right hon. Gentleman dare not disclose these figures because they would show that the figure of £300 million is inadequate.
If there was no other good reason for this Clause we can find one in the reason put forward by the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. N. Smith). He said that an inquiry of this sort might lead to the public being upset and that it would be against the interests of the Government. Surely if an inquiry is going to disturb the public it is obvious that the inquiry concerns something which ought to have been known a long time ago. To burke an inquiry, as the Minister seems to be doing, because it might do damage to the Government is not an argument. I want an inquiry, because I realise what the object of the inquiry would be—to convey useful information to the public generally.We do not know what proportion of this money is to go to Scotland and Wales and what proportion will come to England. As far as I am concerned, I have no doubt that Wales and Scotland will combine to rob the poor Englishman. I do not know if we are going to get enough for England. I am not sure if the people of the West Country—the people of Torquay—are going to get enough. Until we see what the figures are and how they are going to work out, I cannot be sure what the Government intend to do, and what amount of the money is going to certain parts of the country and what amount to other parts. That is why I am in agreement with the principle of an inquiry. Naturally, the Government do not want an inquiry; naturally they are trying to burke if because if it were held it would show how awkward and unfair the position is. On the Second Reading, when I was arguing about this matter, I referred to it from another point of view. I put forward that point of view again. After three years, it would be perfectly possible to have an inquiry—even under this Government—from which perhaps we should get some information. I am not saying it is probable but it is possible that even this incompetent Government might get people who would find out something after two or three years. How are we to know whether the sum is not too large? As a representative of the taxpayers I should like to know.
The hon. Gentleman talks about being a representative of the taxpayers. While it is true that this is taxpayers' money it is also true that is it taxpayers' land that was stolen from them, and there should be no money paid for it at all.
I will not follow the suggestion of the hon. Gentleman as I might be tempted to do, but I will say quite frankly that I feel more justified than ever in asking for this inquiry because I am looking alter the interests of the taxpayers, which is why I came here and why I am sent here. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is always a kind friend of mine in helping me in what I find are complicated efforts to make a speech.On the Second Reading of the Bill I asked for a closer estimate not based on Government cases or on suggestions from the front Opposition bench, but on actual facts as to what floating or other values might be. There will be considerable information on this point in Government offices, and there will be even more information during the next two or three years. That information is bound to be acquired during the ordinary conduct of Government business. During that period a considerable number of valuations for Death Duty purposes take place. I stress that point, because it is one which has caused much thought to many of us. I hope that this new Clause will be pressed to a Division because I am sure, judging by the way the Minister refused to accept it, the Government do not want a concise value. I am sure they are trying to avoid having a concise value. They have done it at every stage to which I have been privileged to listen, although I have not been privileged to listen all through. I particularly want to emphasise the words in the last Section of this Clause, where it is laid down that a report should be laid before the House of Commons. I want the House to know what is going on.
I desire at all times to have reports laid before the House of Commons giving information to the House and to the public, but I do not understand the desire to have the information of a body, however distinguished or competent it may be, placed on the Table of the House. It does not seem to carry us any further and the principle is bad. It gives no information that will have an effect and will really be of little difference and will possibly be irrelevant. No one can question the information being given to the Central Land Board. What this new Clause asks for I cannot support nor to a certain extent do I understand.
I only wish to answer two points which were made from the other side, one by the hon. Member for South Nottingham (Mr. N. Smith) and the other by the Minister. I cannot think that, whatever may be a good answer to this Clause, that given by the hon. Member can be right. He fears that on account of Government inflation proceeding at an enormous pace the value of money will soon be very different. He may be right, but it does not provide a reason why we should not be informed of the facts. The other matter I wish to raise was one sentence of the extraordinary speech of the Minister. He said there were some who thought that this valuation was much too low and others who thought it much too high. He said he thought therefore that he was right and was sitting pretty. So as not to get out of Order, I will point out this: that those who think that the sum is too large do so on the ground so admirably put by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), who thinks it should be nothing. Those who think there should be confiscation believe that the sum is too high. Those who do not believe in confiscation think, and have given reasons for thinking, that the valuation is too low. The Minister finds satisfaction in the fact that the people who believe in confiscation believe he has made one error and those who do not believe in it that he has made the opposite error, and he therefore concludes that he must be right. Such an argument is illogical and unworthy even of the present Government.
I was very interested in the line taken by the hon. and learned Member for Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) because he of all people on the other side of the House, with the exception of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison), has argued this subject for a long time. He does not usually simplify a case, but just now he has been simplifying it beyond all recognition. It is perfectly true that there are two extremes. We have that of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), which has the sympathy of a great many other people on this side of the House. Land is a very peculiar and special commodity that ought never to have passed to private ownership. It ought never to have been exploited by private ownership and, in taking it back by any means whatever, the Government are at least moving in the right direction.Then there is the other side, the question of valuation. I think that broadly it will be agreed by all who have studied the problem that if one were to take all the value that is being taken into the hands of the people, that would represent a sum considerably in excess of £300 million. I do not think there are many people who would argue that £300 million would cover, on a valuation basis, the development values that have been taken away by this Bill. I do not think the Government have argued from the very beginning that we are attempting to make an actuarial calculation and to say to the people whose development value is being taken away that here is strict and legal justice. On the contrary, we have denied, and denied in specific terms, that there is any right in common law and any right in morality to compensation as such at all. Therefore, the £300 million is, as the Minister himself said in his great opening speech on the Second Reading of the Bill, an ex gratia payment on a very large scale. On that basis hon. Members on this side of the House are prepared to vote for the granting of £300 million. In doing that, we think we are being extremely generous to all the interests concerned. If the Central Land Board does its work efficiently and humanely, we shall be concerned to see that in real cases of hardship the compensation is ample, but in cases where quite obviously compensation would be merely to add riches to overwhelming riches, that compensation can he forfeited.
In the case of a collier who has put his life's savings into a house and who has retired, does the hon. Gentleman suggest that that man has no right to compensation if his house is taken away?
I had hoped that the hon. Gentleman really understood the Bill a little better than he has now shown. The collier's cottage has nothing whatever to do with development values. If we are getting down to the case of the poor widow and the poor collier, I trust my right hon. Friend and any hon. Member on this side of the House to give them a fairer deal than hon. Gentlemen opposite.
The hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. McAllister) has covered a wide field in the course of his arguments. I am rather nervous about following him because, as far as I can see, if I do, I shall be going even further out of Order. He has made it clear that he and certain of his colleagues are really in favour of the principle of confiscation without doing anything by way of compensation though he gives an ex gratia payment on the vague ground of what he calls hardship. He is not in a position to answer the pertinent inquiry put by my hon. Friend the Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) in regard to the position he would adopt in the case of the small landowner who is deprived of his development rights. I do not intend to follow him on that point. I propose to come back to the new Clause.
The hon. and learned Gentleman has said that I am in favour of confiscation. I am not in favour of it nor is the party of which I am a Member. The Uthwatt Report, which recommended the course which my right hon. Friend has taken, was not in favour of it.
If I followed on this course of argument, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I am sure that you would stop me in a very short time. I would like to summarise the matter by saying that the hon. Member's words as he said them will be recorded in HANSARD, and that if he looks at them again he will see that the proper inference is that he was in favour of confiscation.I return to the discussion of this new Clause. I am astonished at the defence put up by the right hon. Gentleman in seeking to resist our proposal. He drew a distinction between what he called his "intelligent guess" and what he said would be the academic opinion of the Central Land Board. What is the position? We have his intelligent guess that 300 million is the right sum. In passing, I remind him that in the course of one of our discussions he reserved power to make an alteration to that sum in the case of the value of minerals being in excess of the amount he allowed in computing that £300 million. We are asking that that intelligent guess, if it be intelligent, should be contrasted with the actual ascertainment of facts, and that as soon as maybe after the development values of interests in respect of which claims have been made have been determined, the aggregate amount of the development values so determined shall be communicated to the public. Then we shall know to what extent the right hon. Gentleman's guess is intelligent or unintelligent, accurate or inaccurate. If it be the case that £300 million is an excessive sum, that would appear on the return being made. I should think that the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) would have been only too glad to have the facts made public to show that he is right in saying that £300 million is too much.
I am sure that the hon. and learned Gentleman has made a slip. Is he seriously suggesting that when we know the aggregate amount of the development values we shall know whether or not the £300 million is right?
I wish to say that I have sufficient facts in my possession, and I am prepared to show them to the hon. and learned Member, to satisfy him that £300 million is robbery of the people.
I hope that the hon. Member for West Fife will be able to convince the people of Scotland of the soundness of his views, though I think it will be a very prolonged task. I come back to the point mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman. Surely when we have the aggregate of the claims as determined by the Central Land Board we will be in a far better position to judge of the correctness or otherwise of the right hon. Gentleman's guess. If we do not have these figures, the right hon. Gentleman can go on saying that it was a very intelligent guess, without any possibility of being challenged. We are entitled to know at some time the total amount of these claims. I am dealing with the first part of the Clause. Indeed, I thought from one part of what he said that he was willing to give us that information.
Division No. 204.]
|Aitken, Hon. Max||Challen, C.||Eccles, D. M.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Armagh)||Channon, H.||Eden, Rt. Hon. A|
|Amory, D. Heathcote||Clarke, Col. R. S.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R||Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Fleming, Sqn.-Ldr. E. L.|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Cooper-Key, E. M.||Gage, C.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon H. F C.||Ganimans, L. D.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E||Grimston, R. V.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Crowder, Capt. John E||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)|
|Bower, N.||Davidson, Viscountess||Harvey, Air-Comdre, A. V.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Digby, S. W.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon Sir C|
|Braithwaite Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Dodds-Parker, A. D||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P W||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S (Southport)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Drayson, G. B.||Jarvis, Sir J.|
|Carson, E||Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Jeffreys, General Sir G|
in that case, I will pursue the right hon. Gentleman a little further and ask that it should be broken up so that we can see to what extent the aggregate amount of the claims relate to claims in respect of minerals. We should have that information given to us in view of statements that he has made on earlier occasions. With regard to the second part of the Clause, the Minister tried to avoid acceding to it by making particular reference to determination on a single claim. I agree that those words may have difficulties about them, but surely the Central Land Board, who will be concerned with assessing the development values, will have to go into this matter in very great detail and will be in a position to exercise judgment in determining that factor rather than making the guess which the Minister admits he is making, apparently not based on any mathematical calculations or any process of reasoning. If it is on any process of reasoning, it has not yet been disclosed to us.He made one other very surprising statement. He said that no development value could be determined until the development had taken place. I thought that was one of the tasks that the Central Land Board had to do, because they have to levy the development charge before the development itself takes place. I am really surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should say that he is not prepared to accept this Clause so that the public shall know how the matter is progressing, and unless he can go further to meet us, I am afraid that we shall have no alternative but to divide against it.
Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
The House divided: Ayes, mg; Noes, 281.
|Jennings, R.||Neven-Spence, Sir B||Stanley, Rt Hon. O|
|Keeling, E. H||Nicholson, G.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M|
|Kingsmill, Lt.-Col. W H||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P||Strauss, H G (English Universities)|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Nutting, Anthony||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)|
|Law, Rt. Hon. R. K||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H||Studholme, H. G.|
|Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A H||Orr-Ewing, I. L||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Linstead, H. N.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O||Thorneycroft G E. P (Monmouth)|
|Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M||Thornton-Kemsley, C N|
|Low, Brig. A. R W.||Pickthorn, K.||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R A F|
|Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Mackeson, Brig. H. R||Poole, O. B- S. (Oswestry)||Walker-Smith, D|
|McKie, J. H. (Galloway)||Price-White, Lt.-Col. D||Ward, Hon. G. R|
|MacLeod, J.||Raikes, H. V.||Wheatley, Colonel M. J|
|Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)||Rayner, Brig. R.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Maitland, Comdr. J W||Reid, Rt. Hon. J S. C. (Hillhead)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Manningham-Buller, R. E||Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Marlowe, A. A. H||Robertson, Sir D. (Streatham)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Marsden, Capt. A.||Ropner, Col. L||York, C.|
|Marshall, D (Bodmin)||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)|
|Medlicott, F.||Sanderson, Sir F.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mellor, Sir J.||Savory, Prof. D. L||Mr. Drewe and|
|Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Scott, Lord W||Commander Agnew|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. W S. (C'nc'ster)||Spearman, A. C M|
|Adams, Richard (Bantam)||Dames, P||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Adams, W T. (Hammersmith. South)||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Hynd, H. (Hackney C.)|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Irving, W. J|
|Allen, Scholefield Crewe)||Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Janner, B|
|Allighan, Garry||Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Jay, D. P. T|
|Alpass, J. H.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jeger, G. (Winchester)|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Jeger, Dr. S W (St. Pancras, S.E.)|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||John, W.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Deer, G.||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Delargy, H J||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)|
|Awbery, S. S||Diamond, J||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)|
|Ayles, W. H.||Dodds, N. N.||Keenan, W|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Driberg, T E. N||Kenyon, C.|
|Bacon, Miss A||Dumpleton, C. W||Key, C. W.|
|Balfour, A.||Durbin, E. F. M.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E|
|Barstow, P G||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C||Kinley, J|
|Barton, C||Edelman, M.||Kirby, B. V|
|Batt||Edwards, A (Middlesbrough, E.)||Kirkwood, D|
|Bechervaise, A E||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||Lang, G|
|Benson, G.||Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||Lavers, S|
|Bing, G. H C||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Leslie, J. R|
|Binns, J||Evans, John (Ogmore)||Lever, N. H.|
|Blenkinsop, A||Evans, S N (Wednesbury)||Levy, B. W|
|Blyton, W. R||Fairhurst, F.||Lewis, A W. J (Upton)|
|Boardman, H||Farthing, W. J||Lewis, T. (Southampton)|
|Bottomley, A G.||Field, Capt W J||Lipson, D. L.|
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W||Foot, M. M||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M|
|Braddock, Mrs. E M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Forman, J C||Logan, D. G|
|Braddock, T. (Mitcham)||Foster, W. (Wigan)||Lyne, A. W.|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Freeman, Peter (Newport)||McAdam, W|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Gallacher, W.||McAllister, C.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Ganley, Mrs. C S||McEntee, V. La T|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Gibbins, J||McKay, J. (Wallsend)|
|Bruce, Major D W T||Gilzean, A||Mackay, R. W. G (Hull. N W)|
|Buchanan, G.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||McKinley, A S.|
|Burden, T. W||Goodrich, H. E.||Maclean, N. (Govan|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Gordon-Walker, P. C||McLeavy. F|
|Byers, Frank||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A (Wakefield)||Macpherson, T. (Romford)|
|Callaghan, James||Greenwood, A W J (Heywood)||Mainwaring, W H|
|Carmichael, James||Grenfell, D. R||Mallalieu, J P W|
|Castle, Mrs. B A||Grey, C F||Mann, Mrs. J|
|Chamberlain, R A||Grierson E||Manning, C (Camberwell, N.)|
|Champion, A J||Griffiths, D. (Rather Valley)||Manning, Mrs. L (Epping)|
|Chater, D.||Griffiths, RI. Hon. J. (Llanelly)||Marshall, F (Brightside)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Griffiths, W D (Moss Side)||Martin, J H.|
|Clitherow, Dr. R||Gruffydd, Prof. W. J||Medland, H M|
|Cobb, F. A.||Guest, Dr. L. Hader||Mellish, R. J|
|Cocks, F. S||Hale, Leslie||Messer, F|
|Coldrick, W||Hall, W. G.||Middleton, Mrs. |
|Collindridge, F.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R||Mitchison, G R|
|Collins, V. J||Hardy, E. A.||Monslow, W.|
|Colman, Miss G. M||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Montague, F|
|Cook, T. F.||Herbison, Miss M||Moody, A S|
|Cooper, Wing-Comdr. G||Hobson, C. R.||Morley, R|
|Corvedale, Viscount||Holman, P||Morris, Lt.-Col H (Sheffeld, C)|
|Cove, W. G.||Holmes, H. E (Hemsworth)||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)|
|Crawley, A.||Hoy, J.||Morrison, Rt Hon H (L'wish'm, E.)|
|Grossman, R H G||Hubbard, T||Mort, D L|
|Daggat, G.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, W.)||Moyle, A|
|Nally, W.||Scott-Elliot, W||Tolley, L.|
|Naylor, T. E.||Shackleton, E. A. A||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Neal, H. (Claycross)||Sharp, Granville||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Nichol, Mrs. M. E. (Bradford, N.)||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)||Vernon, Maj. W. F|
|Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)||Viant, S. P|
|Noel-Baker, Cap,. F. E. (Brentford)||Shurmer, P.||Wadsworth, G.|
|Noel-Buxton, Lady||Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.||Walkden, E.|
|Oldfield, W. H.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)||Walker, G. H.|
|Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Pargiter, G. A.||Simmons, C. J.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Parkin, B. T.||Skeffington, A. M.||Watson, W. M.|
|Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Paton, J. (Norwich)||Skinnard, F. W.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Pearson, A.||Smith, C, (Colchester)||West, D G.|
|Pearson, A.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Popplewell, E.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S)||While, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Porter, E. (Warrington)||Snow, Capt. J. W.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W|
|Porter, G. (Leeds)||Sorensen, R. W.||Wigg, Col. G. E|
|Price, M. Philips||Soskice, Maj. Sir F||Wilkes, L.|
|Proctor, W. T.||Stamford, W.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Pryde, D. J.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Stross, Dr. B||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Ranger, J.||Stubbs, A. E.||Williams, J. L. (Kelvingrove)|
|Rankin, J.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Rees-Williams, D. R||Swingler, S.||Williamson, T|
|Reeves, J.||Sylvester, G. O.||Wise, Major F. J|
|Reid, T. (Swindon)||Symonds, A. L.||Woods, G S|
|Rhodes, H.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)||Wyatt, W.|
|Ridealgh, Mrs. M||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)||Yates, V. F.|
|Roberts, A.||Taylor, Dr. S. (Barnet)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Roberts, W (Cumberland, N.)||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Thomson, Rt. Hn. C. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)|
|Rogers, G. H. R.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Thurtle, Ernest||Mr. Joseph Henderson and|
|Scollan, T.||Tiffany, S||Mr Hannan.|
New Clause—(Provisions As To Building Land)
Where any person engaged in the business of developing land shows to the satisfaction of the Minister that during the period of five years ending on the thirty-first day of March nineteen hundred and thirty-nine he was 90 engaged, and that on the seventh day of January, nineteen hundred and forty-seven he had an interest in land (not being land to which Section seventy-four of this Act applies) sufficient to enable him to carry out development of the kind carried out by him in the said period, the Minister may direct that no payment shall be made to that person under Part V of this Act in respect of an extent of such land not exceeding the extent of the land on which he has carried out development during the said period, and may direct that no development charge under Part VI of this Act shall be payable in respect of development of that kind carried out on any land in respect of which no payment under the said Part V has been made as aforesaid.— [ Mr. Walker-Smith.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time."This proposed new Clause has a somewhat complicated history; but the Minister will acknowledge its respectable origins since it is partly, though not wholly, derived from the Minister's own suggestion made upstairs in the Standing Committee. This Clause is not designed to deal with what is known as dead ripe land. Dead ripe land is legislated for in Clause 74, which exempts dead ripe land from development charge and consequently denies it a claim to compensation. We take the view that the definition of dead ripe land contained in Clause 74 is too narrow. I am glad to see that the Minister has on the Order Paper an Amendment designed to widen Subsection (1, b) of Clause 74. I went into this point in some detail in the Standing Committee and I refer to it here because, though it is not precisely the subject matter of this new Clause, I greatly fear that owing to the time-table to which the House has been subjected, we shall not be able to discuss Clause 74 on the Report stage. That would appear to be almsot inevitable from the short time given for the discussion of this Bill. 6.45 p.m. This new Clause does not deal with the same type of land as Clause 74, which deals with dead ripe land. This Clause deals with what the Minister has christened "near ripe land." This is a new and rather reprehensible addition to a vocabulary of jargon on the subject which has already grown to a considerable extent. May I say in parenthesis that I think it a pity that this subject of town and country planning should have lent itself to this peculiar excrescence of a technical vocabulary or jargon all its own. We have terms like "overspill" and "floating value" about which we have been talking this afternoon and which are the sort of liquid metaphors associated with it. We also have the fruity metaphors of "near ripe land" and "dead ripe land." It is a serious point that the use of all this jargon has a rather deterrent effect on the non-specialist in these matters, and makes him feel that the subject of town and country planning is a closed book except for the select few who understand this peculiar jargon. The Clause I am moving has an importance extending far beyond merely those who choose to specialise in these matters and those who choose to employ this somewhat degraded jargon which I am sure my hon. and learned Friend the Member for the Combined English Universities (Mr. H. Strauss) would join me in deploring. May I say, therefore, that dead ripe land is understood to be land ready in all respects for immediate development. My right hon. and learned Friend defined it in the Committee upstairs as land on which the floating value defined by the Uthwatt Report has already settled: but that is, if I may say so, an interpretation of a jargon word by introducing another jargon word to define it. Near ripe land, which is the name that the Minister gave to the category of land we are providing for in this Clause, is really a reserve of land bought by builders and estate developers for the purpose of development but not so far developed, nor yet immediately capable of development, because of the peculiar circumstances of the time; that is to say, because of the unfavourable circumstances of the war, and of the present housing policy which is restrictive of private enterprise development. The land then that we seek to deal with in this Clause is that strategic reserve of land held at present by builders and estate developers which they are unable to deploy for reasons not within their own control, and this strategic reserve of land has a very big importance in the future of house building in this country. That is why I made the point earlier on that this Clause, and the principle embodied in it, has an importance far beyond the mere specialised importance of town and country planning law. In the Standing Committee the Minister agreed that we must decide the important question as to how this particular category of land is to be treated. What this Clause proposes is that builders should get what I would call a five-year ration of this near ripe land free from development charge and, of course, consequently denied the benefit of claim to compensation for loss of development value out of the £300 million global sum. The five-year ration of building land thus given under the terms of this Clause would then fall to be dealt with in precisely the same way as the dead ripe land already legislated for under Clause 74 of the Bill. That is to say, it will be exempt from the whole machinery of development charge, and of compensation. It will be free from the one, and will not attract the other. Under the proposed Clause, three conditions must be satisfied before the builders can get the advantage of this five-year ration of land in the way I have described. In the first place, they must show to the satisfaction of the Minister that they were bona fide builders or estate developers in the five-year period preceding the war or, to be more precise, in the period March, 1934, to March, 1939. That is the first condition they must satisfy. The second condition that they must satisfy is that they must be in possession of sufficient land in January, 1947, to enable them to carry out development of the kind specified. The third condition they must satisfy is that the amount of land to be exempted from development charge under the provisions of this Clause must not exceed the land actually developed by the builder or estate developer in the five-year period, March, 1934, to March, 1939. That is the proposal as put forward in this Clause wan the object of giving builders a five-year ration of building land free from development charge. It is enabling them, in other words, to develop that land. Develop, again, is a jargon word which has arisen. In this context it really means to enable them to build houses and other useful buildings upon that land without the payment of development charge. The reason why they have not been able to build on that land before, as quite specifically admitted by the Minister in Committee upstairs, is due to the difficult circumstances of the time, over which they had no control. The reason why we want to enable them to build, is that the buildings they would put up would be of value to the community not only in regard to the house building programme, but in regard to the requirements of planning itself. Some of these reserves of land may possibly contain the beginnings of partly developed estates. It is extremely bad planning to have isolated houses or buildings on what should be a finished building estate. I pointed out in the beginning of my speech that the remedy which I am proposing to assist builders in this position had its origin partly in the remedy proposed by the Minister to meet the same problem, the existence of which he has freely acknowledged. But the remedy in this Clause differs in one fundamental respect from the remedy proposed by the Minister for dealing with the problem of near ripe land. The Minister's remedy, as indicated to the Standing Committee, is to give to builders in respect of near ripe land a preferential claim for compensation from the £300 million global sum. In the Minister's suggestion that preferential claim on the amounts drawn from the compensation fund, will of course serve as a set-off against the development charges which they must pay. In our view that remedy is a bad remedy, for one simple and sufficient reason. The concession the Minister proposes to give, in respect of this land, is a preferential claim on the compensation fund. If he gives to certain parties or persons preferential claims on the compensation fund, the inevitable consequence is that he diminishes the claims of other and deserving parties in respect of their compensation to be paid out of the same £300 million. In other words, what the Minister is proposing to do in respect of this land is to give to those builders a larger slice of a cake of fixed size, with the inevitable corollary that the size of the cake remaining for distribution is diminished to that extent. That is a remedy we feel it necessary to repudiate. We do not seek concessions along the lines of preferential claims upon the £300 million, but rather along the lines of taking this particular category of land out of the whole combined machinery of the levy of development charge, and the right to compensation. I must also repudiate the suggestion made by the Minister in Standing Committee that the right way to deal with this question would be by regulation. I do not think so. I think the principle as embodied in this Clause is quite clear and simple enough to take its place in the statute. Any principle which can be incorporated in the body of a statute, should be so incorporated, and not left to the machinery of regulations. The proposed Clause has the virtues of clarity and simplicity. The only defect I see in it—and I commend it to the Minister for his consideration—is that we have not made proper provision for the case of the builder who had not started operations until after the beginning of the five-year period in 1934. But, if the Minister adopts the principle, it will be quite easy for him to insert the necessary words in another place in order to cover the case of the new builder. This Clause is designed to stimulate building, and especially to stimulate house building. It is, therefore, a very practical suggestion. We on this side of the House believe that ultimately it will be necessary for the Minister of Health, in support of his housing programme, to say to these private enterprise builders;
The right hon. Gentleman upstairs in Committee very nearly took that view. I think he was only restrained at the last moment by a sudden recollection of the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility, from giving to the sentiments to which giving I have just referred. This Clause would help the cause of house building in this country and, therefore, I think it has a good claim on the goodwill of the House."Come over into Macedonia and help us."
I beg to second the Motion.In Committee, the Minister gave some assurance about this. If I may read his words, he said;
He then went on to read his statement about near ripe land, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) has reminded the House, was almost identical. with one exception, with the new Clause. We therefore anticipated that he would come to the House on Report stage with Amendments which would incorporate in the Bill the statement which he made in Committee. It is only because he has not done so that we have put down this new Clause. Many of us think that it does not go far enough. I would like to see it go a good deal further, because we are not here really dealing with the problem of dead ripe land, which I would like to see dealt with. But in so far as this new Clause is an attempt to incorporate the intention of the Minister, as clearly expressed in the Committee stage, I am sure that it ought to commend itself to all sides of the House. We are not legislating for detail. My hon. Friend the Member for Hertford reminded the House of one point of detail, that of the builder who started operations recently, and who would not qualify for the five-year ration. Those matters could be dealt with by regulations. It is the principle which we want to see incorporated in the place where it should be incorporated, namely, in the Bill."I recognise that this Clause may need some widening … I think that the case one wants to meet is that of the person who bought land before the war with the bona-fide intention of developing it as part of his business, but was prevented from doing so by the war, and has since been prevented from doing so by a combination of reasons which are well known to Members of this Committee."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D. 26th Marco, 1947; c. 804.]
This new Clause has been moved on the basis that it is reasonably identical with the offer I made on the Committee stage. This Clause goes very much further than the proposal that I made.
I had hoped that I had made it clear that though, in origin, it owed something to the Minister's suggestion upstairs, it had what I described as one very important fundamental difference. I then explained that the difference arises from the relationship of this Clause to the whole question of compensation and 'development charge. I did not suggest that it was identical. Of course, it is not.
Then we have cleared that misconception out of the way, because the hon. Member for West Aberdeen (Mr. Thornton-Kemsley) rather made the point that I might accept this Clause because it was similar to the offer which I made in Committee. One point on which I should like to agree with the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) is that we shall not reach Clause 74, on the assumption that we proceed in the leisurely way in which we have dealt with the last two or three Clauses.I am not able to accept this new Clause. I thought I had gone as far as it was reasonable to go in dealing with the type of land which I described as near ripe land, a term which the hon. Gentleman does not like. I hope he will find a better one for it, if not during the Report stage of this Bill. After all, Clause 74, as it will be amended, does bring in all the land which ought to be exempted from the operations of compensation and development charge. I should remind the House of what the conditions are. They are easily satisfied. There has to be a building contract in existence on the appointed day, made at any time within 10 years previous to 7th January, 1947, or a by-law submission, or, if my Amendment is accepted, a building application. Those are conditions which are easily satisfied. If the owner of land has a bona fide intention of developing his land, and a possibility of developing it—both are needed to make land dead ripe—at any time within to years, he will have complied with one or other of those requirements. We are here dealing with an owner of land who has not satisfied any of these requirements, but who may be in possession of land which he had some intention, at some time, of developing. Why did he not develop? I admit there may be causes, such as that he could not develop because of the difficulties arising out of the war, but there was a great deal of land in the possession of developers at the outbreak of war, and before that, which they did not develop for quite different reasons. They did not develop because the demand was slowing down, because there was the competition of other sites, and possibly for a variety of other reasons. Many developers bought land with the deliberate intention of holding that land for some years, knowing quite well that they were not proposing to develop for a long time to come, knowing that the land was not ripe for development, possibly waiting for services to be provided at the expense of the community, possibly waiting for new means of transport, for a new station. Land which was not ripe for development was bought for a great variety of reasons. The effect of the proposed new Clause would be to make all types of land of that kind available for the treatment which is provided in Clause 74, so long as the owner had carried on business as a builder for five years. I thought that the proposal I made as regards near ripe land was generally acceptable to the Committee. If the hon. Member repudiates that offer, and he speaks with authority on behalf of those who would have benefited by the offer, I am quite willing to accept his repudiation.
I think the Minister is involving himself in a misunderstanding on two points, the first being in regard to the acceptance of the proposal which he made to the Standing Committee. He came there, without notice, and read a long and detailed statement, and said most expressly that if we on our side wished to reserve judgment, he would fully appreciate our position. Secondly, he was kind enough to say that I spoke with authority. When I say that we repudiate this particular method of going about the matter, I am speaking of my hon. Friends in this House. What would be the views of those who were designed to benefit by it, he would be able to find out from them. I am only speaking for those in this House, who will not benefit, but who are interested from the point of view of the community.
I put that question advisedly. The hon. Member asked me whether I had had consultations on this matter. I told him that I had, and that the people I had consulted expressed themselves as being satisfied with the proposals. Knowing the hon. Gentleman's associations I wondered whether he was speaking with authority in repudiating these proposals.
I gathered not. I think they go as far as is reasonable. They take care of the bona fide owner of land who carries on business as a builder, and who bought land in anticipation of being able to develop at some time, but who realised, in the years immediately before the war, that he was not going to develop at that time, and that it would be some years before he would develop; in other words, that his land was not dead ripe. I felt there was some difficulty in saying land was dead ripe and so became liable for the benefits provided in Clause 75, or was not dead ripe, and got nothing at all. There may be a stage when land is nearly dead ripe. I have tried to indicate what I had in mind in classifying such land as available for the benefits I set out before the Committee. I hope the House will recognise that this is reasonable treatment for people who were in possession of such land at the outbreak of war, and that they ought not to receive the same treatment as if that land were actually ripe for development.The only other point is whether this should have been put in the Bill or left to be done by regulations. I felt it was better, on the whole, to do it by regulations. If the House will look at the proposals that I actually made, hon. Members will see that they do mean some flexibility. I ought to leave some elbow room for modifications in the light of experience of how the thing works. To have put the thing into the Bill would have involved rigidity, not to be altered without another Act of Parliament. But if hon. Gentlemen, after consideration, would really prefer to have the proposal that I made in Committee in the Bill, then, as it is not a thing on which I feel at all strongly, I should be quite prepared to put it in; but they, and those who would benefit by it, must take the consequences. I think it would be wiser to have the thing in regulations.
Would not the way to do it in the Bill be to follow the precedent which is set in so many other Clauses, and say the regulation may prescribe so and so? That would allow the right hon. Gentleman the flexibility, I think, all of us want.
That is a point which merits consideration, and if hon. Members opposite are prepared to withdraw the Amendment, subject to my undertaking to do something of that sort, I shall be willing to do it.
The right hon. Gentleman explained his new proposals in Committee on Clause 75, as it then was; and I think that fact is significant, because at that time, of course, we had already disposed of the Clauses dealing with compensation payable out of the £300 million fund. We disposed of that aspect of the matter, but we came on to the particular scheme which he indicated to the Committee. I imagine that his reason for deferring that statement was that, in fact, it was only at that stage that the scheme had taken proper form in his mind. In the course of his remarks in the Committee the right hon. Gentleman said:
that is, the builder—"If the payment he"—
It is perfectly plain from those words that the right hon. Gentleman contemplates that there will be a good deal of land, at any rate, which is fully ripe, in every ordinary use of that term, that is to say, which has been paid for at its full development value, which is to be brought within the £300 million fund, and not excluded under Section 74 of the Bill. It is in respect of that land that I, for my own part, take exception to the Minister's scheme, and desire to see it amended in the sense proposed in this new Clause moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith). 7.15 p.m. It may be that the particular wording of this Clause is not altogether appropriate to cover what we have in mind. That may easily be so with an Opposition new Clause. But the principle which I wish to see established is the principle that where land on the appointed day is fully ripe there should be no call on the £300 million fund in order to make good the amount of the development charge which will be raised upon it. I think that is the shortest way to put it. It is certainly a principle on which I shall be prepared to go into the Lobby, in the event of this new Clause being taken to a Division. The right hon. Gentleman presumably found his particular plan a novel idea when he propounded it in the Committee upstairs, but I would remind him that, during the Debate on Second Reading of the Bill, he defended the sum of £300 million, not only as adequate, but as being not more than adequate: He was attacked both from above and below, and he had to contend with his own followers on the other side of the House, and argue that under the distribution of the £300 million fund those who were to receive compensation were not getting too much. I venture to say that, at that time, he must, presumably, have had some sort of an idea in his mind as to how that fund was to be distributed, and that that idea did not include any notion of giving the lion's share to one particular section of the community. So that his new plan, by which he must inevitably take a large amount out of that global sum, must result in taking something from those who are already, in accordance with his own arguments, merely getting a barely adequate amount. In other words, his argument on Second Reading and his argument in Committee upstairs clearly mean he contemplates doing a grave injustice to those who are not going to take the direct benefit of his scheme. There is another aspect of this matter which should be brought out at this stage. If a builder's land is to receive—or some of it—full compensation—and by that I mean, the full amount of any development value which he is called upon to pay—it will be a matter of indifference to that builder whether he claims in respect of that land against the £300 million fund whether he claims outside that fund; in other words, be exempt from development value under Clause 74 of the Bill. In one case, he will get no compensation and pay no charge; in the other case, no will pay a charge but he will receive precisely an equal amount of compensation: it will not make any difference to him under which heading he falls. It is true, of course, that in the case of some builders holding a large amount of land, perhaps an excessive amount of land, they will have residual interest which they cannot bring within the right hon. Gentleman's scheme. But I have been at some pains in the matter to ascertain what the position is, and I gather that, in the case of a very high proportion, virtually the whole of their land would be included in the right hon. Gentleman's scheme. Quite rightly, of course. I do not blame them, and, indeed, I wish to see them treated in precisely the way m which the right hon. Gentleman is proposing to treat them, but it is altogether unfair that they should get fair treatment at the expense of the rest of the community. When they are going to be faced with this alternative, the tendency, on the whole, will be for them to take the easier course, and so, in the ordinary way, to make a claim by virtue of being builders instead of covering the whole of their land. They will not go through the difficulties and complications of claiming to be exempt from the whole scheme under Clause 74. If that is not universally so. I am sure there will be quite a large number of such cases. We are providing that owners of land which should have been exempt altogether, and correctly, under Clause 74 of the Bill, will tend not to be brought in under that Clause, but to seek the equivalent of exemption in the right hon. Gentleman's scheme, and, in so doing, will be benefiting at the expense of less fortunate persons. They will be claiming a position which will be more favourable as against all others who are not able to bring their land under this scheme. I think that will lead to bad administration, and I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman will make such a scheme at all. He has said that he is willing to put the scheme within the Bill, instead of leaving it to regulations. If he does so, there will be an opportunity on the Floor of the House of discussing whatever is proposed. I welcome the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion, although it would certainly not satisfy me that the scheme is a good one, but I am glad to hear that it will, at some time, come before this House."receives is less than the charge he has to pay, then an additional item is being added to his costs, over and above the price he paid for the land in the first place—a price that may. perhaps, have included the full development value."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 26th March, 1947; c. 806.]
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me? I want him to be quite fair. I said that, if hon. Gentlemen pressed me to put it into the Bill, I would be willing to consider it.
I take it that the suggestion is that it would be introduced in another place, and would come to us after some discussion. Owing to the difficulties which we have to meet through the curtailment of the discussion, there have been enormous difficulties, and here is a typical example. If we had had an opportunity of discussing it properly in Committee upstairs, we should have been able to go into it fully and adequately, but, as it is, we must take what we can get, and I hope that, if the right hon. Gentleman cannot accept the Amendment, he will bring before us what he is proposing so that we can give him our views on that matter.
The right hon. Gentleman will remember the circumstances in which this proposal of his was discussed on the Committee stage. It was after he had been pressed with regard to the claims of builders owning land required to be purchased for development purposes, and after he had been impressed by the force of the arguments put forward in their favour. When he had announced his proposals at the next sitting, after giving them careful consideration, we expressed the view that, while they were satisfactory in some degree, we did not welcome the suggestion that there should be a priority charge on the £300 million fund. As said then, and as is the case now, when the right hon. Gentleman recognises this category of near-ripe land, that is, land which is so ripe it ought to be taken out of the operation of the development charge, his argument really is that the individual owning this land should not have to pay anything out of his pocket for development. If that be the gist of his argument, why is it necessary to deplete the £300 million fund notionally by making false entries? The only effect of operating it that way is to diminish the fund for those claiming benefit on account of hardship.The hon. Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) put, I thought, an extremely cogent argument as to the relationship between Clauses 74 and 75, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to think again on that point. There is not much difference between his scheme as outlined in Committee and this new Clause now under discussion. The material difference is whether this land is treated as dead ripe land—as being so ripe that it ought not to be put on a development charge—or whether for purposes of book entries and reducing the amount available in cases of hardship and compensation for minerals, we should include it as a charge upon that development fund. I should like the Minister to say that he will look at it again. We have not had much discussion of this matter, for the simple reason that it was announced one morning and we gave our first thoughts about it. This new Clause has enabled us to have some discussion on the question now. In regard to the second point, whether the scheme should be put into the Bill or dealt with by regulations, I do not think that it falls upon us to express any view upon that, except to say that, where possible, we prefer to have schemes of this character put into a Bill when the Bill first comes before the House for Second Reading. We could then have opportunities for discussing and considering it, and tabling Amendments where need be. If one is asked whether we should prefer to have this scheme now put into the Bill in another place, with, it may be, limited opportunities for consideration in this House, or whether it would be preferable to have it put into regulations, I do not think that is a question on which I am called upon to express an opinion, particularly as one is ignorant of the details of the scheme which is in the Minister's mind. As the right hon. Gentleman really recognises this near-ripe land, which should not be burdened with a development charge, in the sense in which the person owning the land has to pay out of his own pocket, I suggest that he should go a stage further and free the £300 million fund from an obligation to meet such claims when that process merely amounts to a cross-entry in a ledger for compensation received.
Division No. 205.]
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Peto, Brig. C. H. M|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W (Armagh)||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Pickthorn, K.|
|Amory, D. Heathcote||Harvey, Air-Comdre, A. V.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C||Prescott, Stanley|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Hollis, M. C.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O.|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Howard, Hon. A.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Hutchison, Col. J. R. (Glasgow. C.)||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Beechman, N. A.||Jarvis, Sir J.||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Jeffreys, General Sir G||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Bower, N.||Jennings, R.||Roberts, Maj. P. G. (Ecclesall)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Keeling, E. H.||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Braithwaite Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Savory, Prof. D. L.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P G. T.||Langford-Holt, J.||Scott, Lord W.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Challen, C.||Linstead, H. N.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Strauss, H. G. (English Universities)|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Teeling, William|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Walker-Smith, D.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Manningham-Buller, R. E||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|Digby, S. W.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Marsden, Capt. A.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P. W||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Drayson, G B.||Mellor, Sir J.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Drewe, C.||Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W S. (C'nc'ster)||York, C.|
|Foster, J. G. (Northwich)||Neven-Spence, Sir B.|
|Gage, C.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Gammans, L. D||Nutting, Anthony||Major Conant and|
|Gridley, Sir A.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Mr. Studholme.|
|Grimston, R V||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Ayres, W. H.||Benson, G.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Bacon, Miss A.||Bing, G. H C|
|Alpass, J. H.||Balfour, A.||Binns, J.|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Barstow, P. G||Blenkinsop, A|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Barton, C.||Blyton, W. R.|
|Attewell, H. C.||Battley, J. R.||Boardman, H|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Bechervaise, A. E||Bottomley, A G.|
I would urge upon the Minister to reconsider the difficulty concerning this near-ripe land. The difficulties under Clause 74, in spite of what the Minister claimed for it, are very sweeping. I suggest that the Minister should accept a Clause which lays down a simple method of dealing with the matter satisfactorily, namely, a five year period when the land can be used for purposes of building without paying this development charge and without any compensation system at all, there being no floating value to speak of, which is the justification for the right hon. Gentleman's complicated system of compensation. I do press upon the Minister that he should realise the importance of this new Clause.
Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
The House divided: Ayes. 97; Noes, 296.
|Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W.||Hamilton, Lieut.-Col. R.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)||Hannan, W. (Maryhill)||Paton, Mrs. F. (Rushcliffe)|
|Bramall, E. A.||Hardy, E. A||Paton, J. (Norwich)|
|Brook, D (Halifax)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville||Pearson, A.|
|Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)||Herbison, Miss M.||Pearl, Capt. T. F.|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Hewitson, Captain M.||Popplewell, E.|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Hobson, C. R.||Porter, E. (Warrington)|
|Bruce, Maj. D. W. T||Holman, P.||Porter, G. (Leeds)|
|Buchanan, G.||Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Price, M. Philips|
|Burden, T. W||Hoy, J.||Pritt, D. N.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Hubbard, T.||Proctor, W. T|
|Byers, Frank||Hudson, J. H, (Ealing, W.)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Callaghan, James||Hughes, H. D. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Carmichael, James||Hynd, H. (Hackney. C.)||Ranger, J.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Irving, W. J.||Rankin, J.|
|Chamberlain, R. A.||Janner, B.||Rees-Williams, D. R|
|Champion, A. J||Jay, D. P. T.||Reeves, J.|
|Chaser, D.||Jeger, G. (Winchester)||Reid, T. (Swindon)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.E.)||Rhodes, H.|
|Clitherow, Dr. R.||John, W.||Ridealgh, Mrs. M.|
|Cobb, F. A.||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. C. (Shipley)||Robens, A.|
|Cocks, F. S||Jones, D. T. (Hartlepools)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)|
|Coldrick, W.||Jones, Elwyn (Plaistow)||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Colman, Miss G. M||Jones, P. Asterley (Hitchin)||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)|
|Comyns, Dr. L.||Keenan, W.||Rogers, G. H. R.|
|Cook, T. F.||Kenyon, C.||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)|
|Corvedale, Viscount||Key, C. W.||Scollan, T.|
|Cove, W. G.||King, E. M.||Scott-Elliot, W.|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||Kinghorn, Sqn.-Ldr. E||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Daggar, G.||Kinley, J.||Sharp, Granville|
|Daines, P.||Kirby, B. V.||Shawcross, C. N. (Widnes)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Kirkwood, D||Shawcross, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (St. Helens)|
|Davies, Clement (Montgomery)||Lang, G.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Davies, Edward (Burslem)||Lavers, S.||Shurmer, P.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield)||Lawson, Rt. Hon. J. J||Silkin, Rt. Hon. L.|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lee, F. (Hulme)||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Davies, Hadyn (St. Pancras, S.W.)||Leslie, J. R.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Lever, N. H.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Deer, G.||Levy, B. W.||Skeffington-Lodge, T. C.|
|Delargy, H. J||Lewis, A. W. J. (Upton)||Skinnard, F. W.|
|Diamond, J.||Lewis, T. (Southampton)||Smith, C. (Colchester)|
|Dobbie, W||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Logan, D. G.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Driberg, T. E. N.||Lyne, A. W.||Snow, Capt. J. W.|
|Dugdale, J. (W. Bromwich)||McAdam, W.||Solley, L. J|
|Dumpleton, C. W.||McAllister, G.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Durbin, E. F. M.||McEntee, V. La T.||Soskice, Maj. Sir F|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||McGhee, H G.||Stamford, W.|
|Edelman, M.||McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Edwards, A. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Mackay, R. W. G (Hull, N.W.)||Strachey, J.|
|Edwards, John (Blackburn)||McKinley, A S.||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)||McLeavy, F.||Stubbs, A. E.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Whitechapel)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Macpherson, T. (Rumford)||Swingler, S.|
|Evans, John (Ogmore)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Symonds, A L.|
|Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Ewart, R.||Mann, Mrs. J.||Taylor, R.J. (Morpeth)|
|Fairhurst, F.||Manning, C. (Camberwell, N.)||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Farthing, W. J.||Manning, Mrs. L, (Epping)||Thomas, Ivor (Keighley)|
|Field, Capt. W. J.||Marshall, F. (Brightside)||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Fletcher, E. G. M. (Islington, E.)||Medland, H. M.||Thomson, Rt. Hn. G. R. (Ed'b'gh, E.)|
|Foot, M. M.||Mellish, R. J.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Forman, J. C.||Middleton, Mrs. L||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Foster, W. (Wigan)||Mitchison, G. R||Tiffany, S.|
|Fraser, T. (Hamilton)||Monslow, W.||Titterington, M. F.|
|Freeman, Peter (Newport)||Montague, F.||Tolley, L.|
|Gallacher, W.||Moody, A. S.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Ganley, Mrs. C. S.||Morley, R.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Gibbins, J||Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (Sheffield, C.)||Ungoed-Thomas, L.|
|Gilzean, A.||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Vernon, Maj. W. F|
|Glanville, J. E. (Consett)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (L'wish'm, E.)||Viant, S. P.|
|Gooch, E. G.||Mort, D. L.||Wadsworth, G.|
|Goodrich, H. E.||Moyle, A.||Walkden, E.|
|Gordon-Walker, P. C.||Nally, W.||Walker, G. H.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)||Naylor, T. E.||Wallace, G. D. (Chislehurst)|
|Greenwood, A. W. J. (Heywood)||Neal, H, (Claycross)||Watson, W. M.|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Nicholls, H. R. (Stratford)||Webb, M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Grey, C. F||Noel-Baker, Cap.. F. E (Brentford)||Weitzman, D.|
|Grierson E.||Noel-Buxton, Lady||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)||O'Brien, T.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon, J. (Llanelly)||Oldfield, W. H.||West, D. G.|
|Griffiths, W. D. (Moss Side)||Oliver, G. H.||Westwood, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Gruffydd, Prof. W. J.||Paling, Rt. Hon, Wilfred (Wentworth)||White, C. F. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Guest, Dr. L. Haden||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||White, H. (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Hale, Leslie||Pargiter, G. A.||Whiteley, Rt. Hon. W.|
|Hall, W. G.||Wigg, Col. G. E.|
|Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)||Young, Sir R. (Newton)|
|Wilkes, L.||Wise, Major F. J.||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|Wilkins, W. A.||Woodburn, A||Zilliacus, K.|
|Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)||Woods, G. S|
|Williams, D. J. (Neath)||Wyatt, W.|
TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
|Williams, J L, (Kelvingrove)||Yates, V. F||Mr. Joseph Henderson and|
Clause 2—(The Central Land Board)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 33, at the end, to insert:
This and the next two Amendments are submitted in compliance with an undertaking which I gave in the Standing Committee to insert these words. They are self-explanatory, and I shall not detain the House by offering any further explanation."(6) The Board shall, as soon as possible after the end of each financial year of the Board, make to the Ministers a report on the exercise and performance by them of their functions under this Act during that year; and the Ministers shall lay a copy of every such report before each House of Parliament.
I would like to say that we on this side of the House are obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his consideration.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause 3—(General Provisions As To Functions Of Central Land Board)
Amendment made: In page 2, line 38, at end, insert "of a general character."— [ Mr. Silkin.]
I beg to move, in page 2, line 39, at the end, to insert:
This Amendment also gives effect to the undertaking which I gave that the Board's annual report should set out the directions given by the Minister."(2) The report made for any year under Subsection (6) of the last foregoing Section shall set out any direction given by the Minister to the Board during that year unless the Minister has notified to the Board his opinion that it is against the national interest so to do."
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the proposed Amendment, in line 4, at the end, to add:
I suggest that this is one of the most important Amendments which we shall discuss on the Report stage of this Bill. Unfortunately, the most important matters with which this Bill deals are couched in highly technical and alarming language, and, although, in fact, they deal with matters which ultimately affect the individual citizen very closely, he is, nevertheless, at the moment entirely unaware of how the Bill will apply to him in due course. During the Committee stage upstairs there was considerable argument as to whether a development charge was really a tax or a commercial price which the Central Land Board would be charging for the development value which they had to sell. In order that I should deal properly with this Amendment, I think it is necessary that I should appear to go rather wide in explaining the purposes for which we have put this Amendment on the Order Paper. Under the Bill as it is drafted, and as it has been, and will be, amended, if all the Government Amendments are agreed to, the development charge may still be either a tax or a commercial price. The Bill leaves that question open. It is a question which ultimately will have to be settled for the regulations which are to be made under the Bill, and the policy of the Central Land Board in carrying out those regulations. 7·45 P.m. But a most important question of policy, in fact, turns upon the issue as to whether this charge is to be a tax or a price. Upon that issue turns the question of how the development charge is to be assessed, and also the question of whether or not there is to be, for the developer against whom the charge is levied, some right of appeal against what he may regard as an unfair decision of the Central Land Board. The Opposition were gently taken to task by "The Times" in a leading article the other day for arguing upstairs in Committee that this charge was a tax. I think it is right and proper that I should attempt' to correct that impression. Speaking for myself—and I think, perhaps, I argued it a little more strongly than did other hon. Members in the Committee upstairs—my intention was twofold. In the first place, I desired to point out that whatever might be the intention of the Government, this charge would inevitably come to be regarded as a tax on development, quite apart from the intentions of those who are creating such a charge under the Bill. In the second place, I desired to ascertain the Government's intentions in this respect. We ascertained them quite clearly, and the Minister said that he was in favour of a development charge being in the nature of a commercial price. He wanted the charge to be upon the commercial price basis. I think he will agree with that."and shall include a statement of the total amount by which sums paid or secured by way of development charges under Part VI of this Act are less than the amounts to be assessed under Subsection (2) of Section sixty-three of this Act in relation to those operations or uses in respect of the carrying out or institution of which the said charges were paid or secured."
I see the right hon. Gentleman is indicating his assent. I, too, am in favour of that view, and so I believe is "The Times" newspaper. There is, therefore, complete agreement between all those who commented on this matter that it is desirable that a development charge should be made on the basis of the value of what is being sold, and not on the basis of trying to recover from the citizen something for the swelling of the national revenue. On that footing, we have tabled certain Amendments to Clause 63 to which this Amendment refers. I must refer briefly to those Amendments in order to explain the purpose of the Amendment which I am moving. There is an Amendment to page 68, line 2, to insert:
So far as it is relevant for the present purpose, the Amendment seeks to do two things. It seeks, in the first place, to require the Central Land Board to assess development charges on a commercial basis. I am putting the matter shortly. It is not quite so simple as that, but that is the purpose for which we put down the Amendment. The Central Land Board are to take a commercial basis upon which to fix their charge in the first place; and, subject to that, they are to be allowed to depart from that basis only in accordance with definite and published principles to be laid down by regulation. In other words, if a developer comes to the Board and asks to have a development charge fixed, he will know how that charge is to be fixed; the Board will be selling an article, the value of which can be determined by appropriate means, and then they can only charge a different amount from the value determined in accordance with definite published rules. I believe that is, broadly speaking, the intention of the Minister. From what he has said in the course of the Committee proceedings, I think that is the sort of plan he has in mind regarding the fixing of these charges. Put in another way, there are really three choices open to us on how to arrive at development charges. First, the full commercial value can be charged; in other words, the Board would simply sell what they have to sell at the highest price they could get. Secondly, they could make a charge on some arbitrary assessment; in other words, they could levy a tax. Thirdly, they could charge the commercial value less some amount which would be arrived at in accordance with rules; in other words, they would charge a commercial value less an element which would be a subsidy. It does not matter how the ultimate amount is varied from the true commercial value, if there is a variation the concern which gets the benefit of that variation will be having a subsidy paid to it. As the Bill is drafted, the subsidy element in the development charge may be entirely concealed. The Board are simply authorised to levy development charges, and there is nothing to say how those charges are to be arrived at, and nothing to compel the Board to give any sort of particulars, either to the individual charged or to the public, as to what they are doing in this respect. The purpose of the Amendment is to require the total amount of subsidy given away in this fashion each year to be disclosed to the public. The Amendment provides that the Board shall say what is the difference between the amount which they, in fact, get in in development charges, and the total amount which they could have got in on a purely commercial basis. As always occurs we have had some difficulty in framing an Amendment in reasonably simple terms to give effect to our precise intention. There is a peculiar difficulty in this case because, of course, we have no idea at all what sort of scheme the Government have in their minds for giving precise directions as to how the subsidy element in the development charges is to be arrived at. The Amendment only requires the Board to give grand totals; in other words, a simple figure would, in fact, comply with our Amendment. However, I think we should have something considerably wider than that. Presumably, when, in due course, the regulation for leaving a development charge comes to be made, we shall find that it provides for specially favourable treatment for certain classes of undertakings' activities and certain individuals. For instance, we should probably find that new industries acquiring land in the development areas are only to pay, say, 50 per cent. of the rate which they would have to pay if they were elsewhere; or it might be a fixed sum, by which the charge in that type of case would differ from the amount of charge they would have to pay if they were setting up in, say, Middlesex or elsewhere Again, it may be that the Government would use this scheme in order to favour certain industries. I do not want to cite examples, but clearly there are certain industries which, at any given moment, are generally regarded as necessary and desirable in the public interest. It may he the Government would make a Regulation favouring those industries in acquiring the land which they would require for their purpose. Again, it may be that certain other activities— for instance, housing, the building of schools, and so on—would receive more favourable treatment than other activities generally. I am not putting forward these examples as my idea of what is desirable. On the contrary, my own view in this matter is that this subsidy element is generally undesirable as a whole. I think the great and lasting malice of this Bill is, that it will enable the Government of the day to sub-sidise industries in accordance with what the Government think right instead of allowing the natural development of industries. Further, I think it is entirely wrong that by means of a planning Bill, and through the Minister of Town and Country Planning, there should be a power which will enable the Government to pay very large subsidies to industries which have nothing whatever to do with town and country planning. My purpose is to point out to the House how it seems to me this scheme must ultimately work. I think it is necessary to speculate to this extent, and I hope the Minister will give some indication of what is in his mind It is essential, if we are to understand the wider implications of this matter, that he should do so. Having said that, assuming that the Government have something of this sort in mind, we must then ask them to provide the machinery by which the method under which this policy is being carried out will be fairly and adequately disclosed to the House of Commons and to the country. In other words, I do not think a mere sum total of the amount being lost to the Revenue by way of subsidy under the development charge provisions of this Bill would he enough There should be more than that. The Board should be bound to report on how far they have subsidised, either sets of industries or particular industries and particular activities. If we are to allow a considerable drain from the national resources through this particular channel, then we must know how that money is being applied, and, in addition, the method by which it should be applied, which will be contained in the regulation. I hope very much that the right hon. Gentleman will be able to indicate that what I have suggested in moving the Amendment is in the Government's mind. If so, I think he should agree that it is necessary that this should be expressly provided for in the Bill."(4) In determining whether any and if so what development charge is to be paid under this Part of this Act in respect of any operations or any use of land, the Board shall—
(a) consider any statement submitted by the person applying for the determination of the development charge setting out particulars of, and any facts calculations and contentions in regard to, his application; (b) assess the amount by which the value of the land with the benefit of planning permission for those operations or that use exceeds the value which it would have without the benefit of such permission; and such assessment shall be notified to the person applying for the determination; and (c) have regard in making their determination to the amount assessed under the last foregoing paragraph, and to the principles prescribed by the Treasury in regulations made under the last foregoing Subsection; and the Board shall furnish to the person applying for the determination a statement setting out particulars of the calculations and contentions of the Board in relation thereto:Provided that any person aggrieved by such assessment or determination may appeal to the tribunal constituted under the War Damage (Valuation Appeals) Act, 1945, and the provisions of that Act and of any rules made thereunder shall apply to appeals under this Section."
I beg to second the Amendment to the proposed Amendment.
I am sure the House is very much obliged for the very clear way in which the hon. Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) has stated a very difficult and technical problem. I assure him that I found no difficulty in following the points he made. What he is asking would be of very great difficulty administratively. I know that he says one figure would be sufficient to comply with the Amendment, but, of course, no one knows better than does the hon. Member that the Board would have to work out a very large number of figures in order to get the one figure which would go into the report, and it would mean a very heavy burden. I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member has moved the Amendment on the assumption that the figures which will be necessary in order to arrive at that total—that is, the second figure—will be readily available, and that in each case the Board will make a calculation as to what is the actual amount they could accept and then make a deduction fro n that as to what they will, in fact, be prepared to accept; but they are not called upon to do that, and in the vast majority of cases they will not, in fact, make these calculations. What Clause 63 (2) requires them to do is to make a judgment as to what the permission to develop or the permission for the change of usage is worth, and in assessing that they will carry out all valuations which are usual and proper in such cases, but they will not necessarily make the calculations which the hon. Gentleman contemplates they will make in every case, and unless they made those calculations, the task that would be put upon them would be almost impossible to comply with.I would not, however, entirely reject this Amendment, as I propose to ask the House to do, merely on the grounds of its administrative difficulty. If a thing is difficult, it is done; if it is impossible, then we must consider it. I do not base my case merely on the difficulty, great as it is, but the House ought to be satisfied that if the administrative difficulties are really great, there is some benefit to be gained in attempting to surmount those difficulties. The hon. Gentleman has explained to the House what is the benefit which he thinks will flow in making the calculation contemplated in the Amendment. He thinks that by that means it would be possible to establish what is the concealed subsidy which the State is providing for industry. I respectfully suggest that it would disclose nothing of the kind. The hon. Gentleman said, in the earlier part of his remarks, that he and I were in agreement in saying that the Board would be actuated by commercial principles. I say tempered by the public interest. By commercial principles I imagine he contemplates that it would get the best price possible, and if the best price possible is obtained, there is no subsidy. The hon. Gentleman possibly has in mind cases where the Central Land Board will deliberately accept a lower development charge than it might otherwise do for some public purpose, such as the attraction of industry to a Development Area; but even if that were so—and I will deal with that in a moment—how would it be possible to distinguish, having got the total, between such cases—which I agree would be in the nature of a subsidy —and other cases where the Board did its best and got the best possible price, but where owing to lack of demand, lack of labour and other circumstances it was not able to get the figure which it thought it should do? If the Board made the sort of calculation which the hon. Gentleman has in mind and arrived at the figure, I submit that that figure would be wholly misleading and would give the impression that the subsidy which was being granted was, in fact, very much greater than it really would be. There are all sorts of considerations that might make it necessary or desirable that the Central Land Board should accept a lower development charge than it might have had in mind. Even from a commercial point of view it is not always good business to accept the highest offer. Suppose the Central Land Board had a number of offers in respect of development value in a particular area; suppose the best offer was from a concern which the Board did not regard as being altogether reliable—and the best offer might well come from such a concern—suppose a really reliable firm, or a firm which the Board wanted to attract to the area because it might have the effect of attracting other industries, possibly dependent upon it, made a lower offer, and the Board, as a wise and prudent body, accepted the lower offer— according to the hon. Gentleman's calculations that would be regarded as a subsidy. But it would be nothing of the kind. It would not be subsidising a concern whose lower offer the Board had accepted. It would be a simple act of prudence. I was for many years a member of the London County Council and Chairman of its Housing Committee, and, as such, I was concerned with the letting of sites for industry on a number of housing estates. The London County Council is a public spirited body, but it is also, I hope, an efficient body, and in the management of its housing estates it is out to get the best possible terms for the people of London. We had to consider, in letting sites, whether a particular firm would employ a particular type of labour for whom there was a lack of employment in the area, and we considered that not necessarily from the point of view of a local authority but as prudent landowners, as prudent estate developers, and we might very well have accepted a lower offer on that score merely to provide the right kind of employment in the area. I deny entirely the suggestion that that would have been regarded as a subsidy. I do not want to elaborate this, I think I have made my point clear. Even if the right hon. Gentleman got his figures, even if it were practicable and would not involve serious administrative difficulties, the result he would get from those figures would be entirely misleading and would not give him any idea as to the amount of sub-sidy, if any, being given to industry. Finally, the right hon. Gentleman said that he would be interested to know our policy on the administration of the development charge, and I said in the course of my remarks that it would be the business of the Central Land Board to get the best possible development charge subject to carrying out the requirements of Clause 63 of the Bill and having regard to the general public interest. Even there, I submit that when they are having regard to the general public interest they are taking a long view, and are acting as prudent and good estate managers. I believe that the most successful private estate managers are those who really do take a long and public-spirited view; it is my own experience, and I am sure it must be the experience of a large number of hon. Members in this House who are acquainted with the subject, that they are the people who do best. In this particular case, taking a long and public spirited view really pays. I hope and believe that the Central Land Board will act in that spirit. It is the intention in the Bill that at a very early stage the Central Land Board should be given directions, and that regulations should be made. These will be placed before the House, which will be informed not only of the regulations but of the spirit in which the Central Land Board will be required to act, and I believe it will be found to give general satisfaction. I have not the same objections in individual, limited and proper cases to a subsidy, but I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that if a subsidy is given it should be given on wide grounds of public interest having regard to the good principles of estate management rather than merely as a contribution—
I am not clear whether it will be left to the Board to decide whether or not to ask a lower price than could be obtained, or whether the right hon. Gentleman contemplates giving directions to the Board which, under the Amendment he has just moved, would have to be published. Does he contemplate that directions would be given requiring the Board to give preferential treatment in certain classes of case?
Mr. Silkin The point I was trying to make was that though in form, and technically, the Central Land Board might be giving a subsidy, from the point of view of good estate management I would suggest that it may be good business in the long run to accept a lower development charge in order to attract the right kind of concern. In answer to the specific point, I would not contemplate directing the Central Land Board to accept a particular firm. That, of course, must be a matter for the Board, but I do contemplate, possibly, saying to the Central Land Board that such and such an area badly needs redevelopment, and will they please encourage development in that area. For those reasons, I hope I have satisfied the hon. Gentleman that I have taken his Amendment quite seriously. I hope I have also satisfied him that he would not be justified in pressing it any further.
I rather regret that the counter-attractions of nourishment have given such a small audience to a most interesting discussion, originated by my hon. Friend in a speech of wonderful clarity for the complications of the subject, and to the considered reply which the Minister has given. We are met with a very difficult and crucial aspect of this complicated 11, arising in its broadest form in this way. All quarters of the House would, I think, agree that the Board which has to levy these charges should have power and discretion to vary them according to circumstances, and once you start varying the charges for development you do influence the destination of different pieces of land and you do by that means affect the policy of the whole community. What my hon. Friend was seeking to emphasise, in principle, was that any policy-making body or policy-influencing body of a public character ought to disclose the extent to which it is acting in various directions, because it is of the essence of Parliamentary government that what public boards are doing should he done in the light, so that we may say what we think about their policy and express ourselves favourably or critically about it. It is clear that if these transactions take place in a hugger-mugger sort of way the Board conceivably might be influenced by motives of policy with which we should disagree.All we want to elicit, in principle, is what line of policy the Board is following in using this power to vary the development charge. I think the Minister's reply showed that with the principle he was in some sympathy, and I think it is a true argument to say that there might be causes of the variation of the development charges which had really nothing to do with policy matters but which were more concerned with estate management. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, who has gone a good way to meet us in the matter of the reports we have asked for from the Board, to see whether at a later stage he cannot meet us on the principle desired by this Amendment. I am perfectly sure that he would find the Board strengthened in its operations if it had behind it that public confidence which can only be ensured by proper disclosure of what it is doing. If, at the present moment, we do not press this to a Division, I would ask him to bear in mind that we on this side of the House are anxious about the point, and that we want to make sure that what is done to influence industrial and social policy through this immense power of varying charges for the development of land is done in the open.
With the leave of the House, I will say that I am quite prepared to look again at the information which the Central Land Board is required to publish, and the form of its report. I, like the right hon. Gentleman. am most anxious that the activities of the Central Land Board shall receive the widest publicity. If it would meet the right hon. Gentleman's point I would look at it again and see whether, either by making the words more general or by adding something, we can add to the information which they will he required to submit in their annual reports. While for the reasons which I have given I do not think this would be either practicable or valuable. I will see what can be done.
In view of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.Amendment to the proposed Amendment, by leave, withdrawn. Proposed words there inserted in the Bill. Further Amendments made: In page 2 line 39, at the end, insert:
In line 42, at the end, insert:"(2) The report made for any year under Subsection (6) of the last foregoing Section shall set out any direction given by the Minister to the Board during that year unless the Minister has notified to the Board his opinion that it is against the national interest so to do."
"(3) Regulations made for the purposes of the last foregoing Section shall provide for requiring members of the Board who are interested in any land the subject of a claim or application made to the Board under this Act to disclose to the Board the nature of their interest, and may for that purpose apply any of the provisions of Section one hundred and forty-nine of the Companies Act, 1929. subject to such modifications as may be prescribed by the regulations."—[Mr. Silkin.]
CLAUSE 4.—( Local planning authorities.)
I beg to move, in page 3, line 7, to leave out "two," and to insert "one."The purpose of the Amendment is to facilitate the setting up of a joint board. As the Clause now stands, this can be done for areas of any two or more councils or parts of two or more councils. The Amendment enables the setting up of separate planning authorities for parts of the area of one council only. The Amendment is applicable only to a few counties in the country. It applies to counties such as the one in which my constituency is situated, Middlesex, and to counties like Lancashire and the West Riding of Yorkshire. Its purpose is merely to empower. It does not require the right hon. Gentleman to do anything, but gives him power in appropriate cases to constitute as a planning authority parts of the county of say, Middlesex, taking three, four or more county districts, all situated in Middlesex. He is precluded by the Clause from making them into separate planning authorities. I do not press the right hon. Gentleman to indicate exactly what lines of demarcation he has in mind, but I do not want him to rule out the possibility of subdividing these great counties into smaller planning districts. Obviously, a county such as Rutland should, for planning purposes, be included with one of its neighbours. On the other hand, I gather that the intention of the right hon. Gentleman is that a county council area shall be a planning area, taking the average county throughout England. I assume that the right hon. Gentleman is taking such an area because it is an optimum area, the best sort of area he can find. If it were better to have larger areas there would be no great difficulty about throwing counties together, as it were in blobs of two or three at a time. Middlesex cannot possibly be the optimum area. It has millions of inhabitants. At the present time the total number is something of the order of 4· million, enormously greater than any other county. I suggest that it would be better to obtain the power to subdivide those large counties, if, when the right hon. Gentleman comes to work out his ultimate scale, he finds it desirable to do so. I can say that for planning purposes, Middlesex, like Gaul, has been divided into three parts. Those three parts have been among the most progressive planning authorities in the country. They have worked exceedingly well. It would be a pity at this stage to interfere with them. I do not press the right hon. Gentleman to commit himself on the question. I do ask him that he will not reject this proposal altogether but will at any rate retain power to keep the joint planning committees or the areas corresponding with those committees, as planning areas in Middlesex and similar counties.
I beg to second the Amendment.
I have been in close touch with a joint planning committee in the extreme West of Cornwall, in a national park area. St. Ives and Penzance have joined together and have been working out the planning of that particularly beautiful locality. It is felt very strongly that they should be allowed to continue their work. Indeed, it would be very difficult for the county authorities to deal with all the applications which come before them over that very large county or Duchy of Cornwall. There is a great deal of feeling that since a great deal of work has already been carried on, the body which has worked so successfully should not now be done away with. I hope that the Minister will give favourable consideration to the proposal.
I imagine that this Amendment is by way of a last fling, because efforts have been made throughout the passage of the Bill to retain the status quo. I think that the House as a whole appreciate the very good work done by a number of joint planning committees and I gladly pay tribute to the one in Cornwall to which reference has been made. While excellent work has been done, nevertheless I think that it is in the interests of planning, that the preparation of plans should be carried out by larger and self-contained administrative areas. The scheme of the Bill provides that the county councils and the county boroughs should be the new planning authorities. To accept the Amendment would frustrate the main purpose of the Bill. The hon. Member for South Hendon (Sir H. Lucas-Tooth) is right in saying that the county has been chosen partly because it is a larger area though not too large, and also because it is a self-contained responsible administrative area. I have much more confidence in the County of Middlesex than the hon. Gentleman himself.
That is not possible.
I prove it by adhering to the provisions of the Bill. I want to make Middlesex a planning authority. I am convinced that they will carry out the task with efficiency and distinction. The hon. Gentleman wants to divide Middlesex into three. In the case of Cornwall, I do not think that the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman) need fear that the work of the joint planning committee will be wasted. If they have made surveys and planned a part of Cornwall, those will be taken into account by the county council in the preparation of a plan for the county of Cornwall as a whole. I submit to the House that it is of the greatest importance that counties like Middlesex, Cornwall and others should be planned as a whole rather than planned in bits, however well the joint planning committees have functioned in the past.I am prepared to agree that the three joint planning committees in Middlesex have done an exceedingly good job of work, but we do not want to find that we have three plans which somehow must be co-ordinated, one into the other. A joint planning committee has not necessarily taken account of what is going on outside its area. In many cases it would have been difficult for it to do so, and it strikes at the root of the whole new conception of planning, which is to prepare the major plan and to break it down, if necessary, rather than to start from the bottom and work up. In an Amendment on the Order Paper which I hope that the House will accept, it is proposed to empower the county councils to set up sub-committees. In pursuance of the Amendment on the Paper, those subcommittees, while they have to contain a majority of elected members, need not contain a majority of members of the county council. It will be quite open to, say, the Cornwall County Council to appoint a number of sub-committees of their planning committee, of which one may very well comprise the area of the existing joint planning committee, and to put on that sub-committee members of the county council and of some of the district councils. That sub-committee will be in a position to study the plan for the county and to make representations to the county and generally to provide necessary and useful information to the county council for the making of the plan. I think that is the best way of carrying out the duties the Bill entrusts to the county council. This point was discussed a great deal on Second Reading and in Committee and I would only add that I do not think that the language of the Amendment would really carry out the purpose the hon. Gentleman has in mind. I do not know what leaving out "two" and inserting "one" will give him, but it will not give him what he wants, judging by what he says.
Far from it being, as the Minister said, the last fling of most hon. Members, it is the first fling of the great majority of this House. Therefore, when those of us who represent non-county boroughs and district planning authorities come to a point of the Bill like this, we rather naturally feel somewhat dismayed when the Government take it that the whole principle has already been put on one side and finished with. I certainly do not take that view.As to the point the Minister made when he said he believed in larger and self-contained units, I want to draw the attention of the House and of the Minister to my own particular constituency because it fulfils exactly the definition the Minister has given. It is self-contained and it is a large unit. As the Parliamentary Secretary may be aware, the Harrogate and District Joint Planning Authority is part of the West Riding, but it is almost totally different from the greater part of the West Riding. First of all, it is entirely agricultural and residential, whereas the major part of the remaining areas of the West Riding is industrial. Consequently there is always a battle between the two interests in the county council, and as the urban and industrial areas carry all the voting strength, not unnaturally the urban and industrial interests always win. The agricultural and residential areas outside the industrial ring are consequently always made to follow the dictates of the other parts. Hon. Members in all parts of the House will realise that that is an unfortunate state of affairs. The Harrogate and District Joint Planning Authority—
The hon. Gentleman cannot go into details such as that. The point of this discussion is a quite simple one. I hope the hon. Gentleman will confine himself to it.
I will not question your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."] What is the matter? I daresay you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, will call me to Order if it is necessary. [An HON. MEMBER: "He has called you to Order."] I do not question your Ruling, Sir, but I would like to point out that I understood the scope of the Amendment to be that, if the Amendment were carried, the regional planning authorities as at present constituted would be given very nearly as much scope as at the present time. In any case I will leave that point because, obviously, you have ruled it out of Order, but may I take up again the question of a self-contained unit which was one of the arguments which the Minister used? I think I am entitled, subject to your Ruling, Sir, to press that argument to its logical conclusion. My conclusion to that argument is that if the Minister is prepared to admit that the unit should be self-contained, then there are, in the words of the Clause "parts of those areas" which are at the present time regional planning authorities, and which are self-contained and should, therefore, be continued. The Minister made a point about consultation, saying that the authorities in the wide areas would be consulted adequately.I want to put to the House a parallel case to prove that that will not be so. I would take as my comparison the administration of education which, under the Education Act, 1944, was placed, against the wishes of a large number of hon. Members, in the hands of the county councils instead of in the hands of the smaller units of local government. We pointed out at the time that the result of this inevitably would be that the county councils would exercise dictatorial powers, and would override the suggestions and the wishes of the smaller local authorities. To prove my case, I need only cite the West Riding County Council v. the Harrogate Corporation, where the local education executive of that area had certain alternative proposals put before it—
The hon. Gentleman is certainly going far beyond the terms of the Amendment. I cannot allow him to continue on those lines. He must confine himself to the simple question of the Amendment. It is true that other hon. Members have transgressed a little, but the hon. Gentleman is certainly going far too much into detail and on to matters which do not in any way relate to this Amendment.
I was merely illustrating one point by what I thought—I must be wrong —was a reasonable example of how, by retaining the words in the Clause without amendment, the wishes of the local people in the local authorities below that of county councils would be entirely swept aside. I was illustrating my point by what had happened under the Education Act, and I had hoped you would allow me to finish that illustration.
The hon. Gentleman is perfectly entitled to mention the matter in passing, but he is not entitled to carry it through into all these multifarious details, which is what he appeared to be doing.
I am sorry, Sir, but I thought that I could not illustrate the point at all unless I did go into details. However, as you rule me out of Order, I must not pursue the subject any further. I would say, however, that the fact that we have been given no chance—at any rate the great majority of us in the House —of discussing this vital point whether the unit of administration for planning should be large or small, should be the county boroughs or the non-county boroughs or the present planning authority, has, caused a great deal of unnecessary perturbation in the hearts and minds of many people. I believe that this Government are doing a great disservice. They are hurrying on with the destruction of local government as quickly as they possibly can, and this Bill is another example of that bad work.
I wish to have it put on record that the fact that we are discussing this Amendment makes nonsense of the claim of the Opposition that sufficient time has not been allowed for discussion of the Bill. If hon. Members will make long speeches—
The question of time has nothing to do with the Amend- ment, which relates to whether the planning authority should consist of one or two counties.
If it is a question of whether they are in favour of one against two, they cannot complain if more important Amendments have their heads cut off by the Guillotine.
I beg to move, in page 3, line 15, at the end, to insert:
This Amendment stands on the Paper in the names of two West Country Members, the hon. Member for Sutton (Mrs. Middleton) and the hon. Member for Drake (Mr. Medland), who are not present. I have studied it with very great care. The proviso says"Provided also that unless all the councils concerned have consented to the making of the Order the Order shall be of no effect unless approved by resolution of the Commons House of Parliament."
unless the parties agree. This Amendment meets with our approval to a certain extent, although it goes much further than I should have gone, in laying it down that this Government are not to be trusted. The hon. Members who were to have moved and seconded this Amendment are not here, but I move it, because there cannot be too much publicity in matters of this kind, and local authorities should have every chance of bringing such matters before Parliament. I regret that the hon. Members who were to have moved and seconded the Amendment are unable to do so, and I entirely dissociate myself from the wholehearted distrust of the Government envisaged in the Amendment, although I think that 'all Governments should have Clauses of this type in a Bill of this kind, to ensure that the House of Commons has some say in these matters."that the Minister shall not make such an order except after holding a local inquiry,"
I beg to second the Amendment.During the progress of the Bill in Standing Committee very vigorous and eloquent pleas were made by both the hon. Member for Sutton (Mrs. Middleton) and the hon. Member for Drake (Mr. Medland) that this matter should be dealt with after consultation with the local authorities, and that the Orders should be placed before the House of Commons. During the time this Bill has been undergoing prolonged examination in Standing Committee, constant appeals have been made to the Minister to give the House of Commons an opportunity for a final examination of certain aspects of the Bill, which will only commend itself to the country if it has Parliamentary sanction. In this case I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), but I very much regret the absence of the two hon. Members for Plymouth, who were most eloquent advocates of this proposal in Standing Committee upstairs. It is a great pity that they are not here to support the Amendment to which they committed themselves so completely in Standing Committee. This Amendment embodies a far-reaching principle, affecting the whole structure of the Bill. It provides that the councils concerned have to consent to the making of an Order, that consultations shall take place, and that finally the Order shall be of no effect unless it is placed before the House of Commons for final determination. I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning is in his place. I am sure he was impressed by the case made out in Standing Committee by the two hon. Members for Plymouth. It would be a great pity if, in their absence, the Minister of Town and Country Planning or the Attorney-General were to turn down this Amendment which follows up the touching and eloquent plea they made in Committee. What a scandal it would be for the Plymouth people whose representatives made such a plea in Standing Committee, if, when the proposal came to the House of Commons it was received by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General, that distinguished personality of His Majesty's Administration—
I have been trying to ascertain the relationship between what the hon. Gentleman is saying and what the Amendment proposes.
I was seconding the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay. The text of the Amendment says:
I am trying to get the Government Front Bench to treat that proposal with respect and to embody it in this Bill. What is the use of the two hon. Members representing Plymouth coming up from that city and pleading for the inclusion, of a provision of this sort, if it is turned down. I am astonished at the treatment that has been accorded to it by the two hon. Members."unless all the councils concerned have consented to the making of the Order the Order shall be of no effect unless approved by resolution of the Commons House of Parliament."
There is little need for me to add anything to what the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) has said, but as the next door neighbour to the constituency represented by the hon. Lady the Member for Sutton (Mrs. Middleton) and the hon. Member for Drake (Mr. Medland) I warmly support this Amendment in their absence.
At the very outset I must express the gratification which all of us on this side of the House feel at the support given by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) and the hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) to my hon. Friends the Member for Sutton (Mrs. Middleton) and the Member for Drake (Mr. Medland). I hope that this will not be the only occasion on which the two hon. Members will support hon. Members on this side of the House. I am glad to see the move to the Left, indicated by the publication of recent report, taken so much to heart by the two hon. Members. No doubt, before long, we shall find them and welcome them on this the proper side of the House. In spite of the support which the two hon. Members have given to this Amendment, and in spite of the very careful consideration we have given to the proposal since it was first raised in the Committee upstairs, we are, I a m sorry to say, unable to accept it.
That is what I propose now to indicate to the House, if the hon. and learned Gentleman has no objection to my doing so. The object of having the power to establish the joint boards is to ensure that the development plans under the Bill, which have to be submitted to the Minister for approval, are prepared over, and in respect of, suitable planning units, suitable areas of territory for planning purposes, having regard to all relevant circumstances, some of which may be local, and others of a national kind. A decision to establish a joint board in place of single planning authorities is really part of the machinery by which the Minister carries out the statutory functions imposed on him by the Act which constituted the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, namely, the duty of securing consistency and continuity in the framing and execution of a national policy with respect to the use and development of land. It would be an impossible brake upon the Minister's administrative functions under that Act if machinery matters of this sort were to be subject to constant Parliamentary Debate, weighted, perhaps —as our Debates occasionally are weighted—by political considerations, rather than by administrative reasons and administrative considerations, arrived at in the light of adequate technical advice as to the most appropriate areas for planning purposes.Hon. Gentlemen opposite will realise that the Clause already contains the not unimportant safeguard that before the boards are established the Minister is informed of all points of view in regard to the matter by the holding of a public inquiry. One might add, that the Minister has already indicated that he contemplates establishing a number of these joint planning authorities; and, for that reason alone, a provision making a decision to establish a joint board in each case subject to Prayer procedure in this House is impracticable. It would impose a heavy burden on Parliamentary time. To have, possibly, scores of Orders of this sort waiting until the opportunity could be found to debate them in the House would slow up public business. It would slow up public business in the House itself, and in the Department which was dealing with these matters and seeking to bring these bodies together in the operation of the clear development of their plans; and it would slow up work at the local authority level. The Minister is, of course, and will remain fully responsible to the House for any decision he takes, and any action he takes, in regard to the establishment of a joint board. Opportunities can always be found of challenging his decisions in these matters in particular cases, if it is thought desirable to do so. But my right hon. Friend is unable to accept the view that each case ought to be subject to Prayer procedure.
In Standing Committee, the hon. Member for Drake (Mr. Medland) made a passionate plea, and said he had the full influence and support of the Plymouth city council behind him. He dealt entirely with the administrative point of view.
The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to make a second speech.
I feel that the House will have heard with disappointment the comments of the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General, and I am sure that the two hon. and absent Members for the Sutton and Drake Divisions of Plymouth, had they been here, would have shared that disappointment at this death knell to the hopes which they must have held of a more favourable outcome of the Amendment, which they placed on the Order Paper, but did not see fit to move in this House. What particularly disappointed me in the answer of the right hon. and learned Gentleman was his placid assumption that the Minister would be handicapped in the exercise of his duties by any machinery of Parliamentary review. Surely, that is an unduly bureaucratic view to take of the Minister. It would be more in accordance with our constitutional traditions to assume that Parliamentary scrutiny of these matters would assist the Minister in coming to the right decision, because, if that is not so, it is difficult to understand what function the right hon. and learned Gentleman would leave to Parliament to do. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nothing."] My hon. Friend says "Nothing," and no doubt that is a correct assumption. [Interruption.] We are now reinforced by the appearance of the two absentees. I am glad to think that they were only absentees without leave and did not fall into the military definition of being deserters, as we on this side of the House had begun to suspect.The second, and equally threadbare argument put forward by the right hon. and learned Gentleman was that there was no need for this Parliamentary scrutiny because of the provision for a local inquiry. I think that that, perhaps, came very ill from the right hon. and learned Gentleman. I should have thought that he, of all Ministers, would have been a little careful about advancing the existence of provision for local inquiry as a reason for not having Parliamentary scrutiny, because we know the considered view of the right hon. and learned Gentleman of the efficacy and validity and purpose of a local inquiry. He made that clear in the Stevenage case, not in this House, but in the courts, as being an opportunity for blowing off steam—
Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to take the opportunity, which I have taken on previous occasions, of correcting that statement? I enumerated a number of purposes which I thought were important purposes, which these local inquiries served, and one of them was that they enabled objectors to let off steam in public. The learned judge, in giving judgment—and I commented on this matter in the Court of Appeal—said that I had said that that was the only purpose of an inquiry. I said no such thing, and it is a little unfortunate that so much publicity was given to that remark.
We are getting very far away from the Amendment, which has nothing to do with local inquiries.
It is true that the right hon. and learned Gentleman, in his intervention, trespassed a little beyond the bounds of Order, but it is not right to say—
That is no reason why the hon. Member should go further along that path.
I have no desire to follow the right hon. and learned Gentleman in this or any other of his trespasses, but I must point out that the proviso already in the Bill, at line 13, provides for the holding of a local inquiry. The Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Drake (Mr. Medland) would add to that the necessity of a Parliamentary Resolution. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that it is not necessary to have a Resolution in the House because a local inquiry is already provided for in the Bill. That being so, I conceive it to be almost impossible to argue the merits of this Amendment one way or the other without referring to the machinery for a local inquiry. All I wanted to say was that the provision for a local inquiry is not of itself enough, not only because of the view that the right hon. and learned Gentleman expressed in the courts, but also because no action necessarily follows from a local inquiry except that it is given consideration by the Minister; in other words, the executive decision after a local inquiry still remains with the Minister, and what the hon. Member for the Drake Division, who is a democrat, wants is that that decision shall rest with Parliament. That is what he wants, and that I consider to be the better constitutional approach.The right hon. and learned Gentleman deprecated the introduction of Prayer procedure on this matter. With great respect, I think he is mistaken. The Resolution here suggested is an affirmative Resolution and not a negative Resolution subject to annulment by Prayer of the House, that is to say, the House will have to pass an affirmative Resolution before these Orders can be made. I think it is right that where there is disagreement between two local authorities which cannot be resolved—which is the case envisaged in the Amendment—it is right that Parliament should be the arbiter, because disagreement between two elected bodies is a matter of high importance, and disagreement between two democratically elected bodies is not a matter for arbitrary decision by the Minister, but is a matter for reference to the higher democratic body, which is Parliament. That being so, all the arguments advanced by the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General against this proposition fall to the ground, and I have great pleasure in supporting the Amendment which was moved by my hon. Friend on behalf of hon. Members opposite.
Adversity makes strange bedfellows, and I find myself in somewhat embarrassing circumstances tonight. I would, however, like to express my thanks to those hon. Members who, while I was out getting something to eat, moved and supported this Amendment on my behalf. I do not think any hon. Member can charge me with having neglected this Debate, for I have spent many hours here during the discussion on various Clauses. The Amendment on the Order Paper in my name is one that I attempted to move in Standing Committee, and it asks that after there has been a public inquiry and the Minister has decided that he will make a county council, a county borough council and another county council into a joint planning board, he must first have the assent of the House.Two of the bodies which I have enumerated, the county council and the county borough council, are probably the most responsible forms of local government in our local government set-up, and certainly they carry the greatest powers of any local government bodies. Where there is disagreement, the Bill provides that the Minister shall hold a local inquiry. If a county council do not want to join with a county borough council, the Minister holds a public inquiry; the county council state their objections and their requirements; they put their views before the public inquiry; the inspector, who is an official of the Minister, makes his report to the Minister; what is in the report they do not know, and then the Minister makes a decision. In other words, he has taken from them their rights in town planning, and he has done so administratively. I am advised that there is not even power to pray against an Order which he might make. This is an administrative action, and is a power which I do not think should rest with the Minister in such circumstances. We may not always have the same Minister of Town and Country Planning. For that reason I have put down this Amendment to ensure that the powers of a county council or a county borough council with respect to its planning authority shall not be taken away at the instigation of any Minister of the Crown without the approval of this House. I think this is something more than administrative action. Where by Act of Parliament we give powers to county councils and county borough councils, we ought not at the same moment to give the same powers to a Minister to take away those powers from them and put them into a joint planning authority. Such a matter ought to be decided in this House, and it is upon those grounds that I move this Amendment. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] At any rate, I support this Amendment, as I am too late to move it. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear."] The Tories will not always cheer me. There will be many occasions when they will want to do something else. Even Ministers, and good Town and Country Planning Ministers, sometimes make mistakes. It is because I think the Minister has made a mistake in this case, and because I am quite sure the local authorities are behind me in this matter that I support this Amendment.
We have had the unusual experienceof hearing two hon. Members moving the same Amendment, and of the two I think the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) was perhaps not so loud but at any rate more persuasive. The right hon. and learned Gentleman the Attorney-General, whose answer to the Amendment I regret the hon. Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Mr. Medland) did not hear, stated that the fact that we on this side supported this most reasonable Amendment was a sign that we were moving to the Left. I am sure the hon. Member for the Drake Division would agree that it really is a sign that the Government have not adopted the right attitude to a reasonable proposal. I do not wish to repeat the cogent arguments which have been put forward, except to say that it is clear that without any consent of the councils concerned, at the whim of the Minister, Lancashire can be made to work with Yorkshire, and Plymouth city with Devon county. What are the remedies if they protest, and the Minister makes a wrong marriage between local authorities? There is no possibility of divorce under this Bill, so far as one can see. All we are told is that there can be a local inquiry in advance.What does the right hon. and learned Gentleman answer? He says that if this Amendment is accepted it will delay the Business of this House. Is that an argument to which much attention should be paid, when the course proposed is one that is depriving responsible local authorities of an important part of their functions at the direction of the Minister? When county councils or city councils object to an amalgamation proposed by the Minister, is it not right that the matter should come before this House and be ventilated? The only answer to that is that it would take up time in this House. Of course, I quite understand that the right hon. Gentleman, with his ideas, does not want proper debate on matters of this sort. He then said that if the Minister made a wrong amalgamation there were opportunities of challenge. He did not go on to define what those opportunities were. This Amendment does give an opportunity of challenge if a wrong decision is made. If there ought to be an opportunity for challenge, as I think there ought to be, then I hope hon. Members opposite, in addition to the hon. Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth and the hon. Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Mrs. Middleton) will join us in the Lobby to preserve some of the democratic rights which they were sent here to maintain.
I feel sure I can say, on behalf of all the Liberals in the House, that if the hon. Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Mr. Medland) takes the Amendment on the Order Paper in his name, which was moved by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), to a Division, we shall support it. Nothing so fortifies liberty as the work of local authorities, and it will be a very sad day when we suffer local authorities to be prejudiced without hon. Members of this House having an opportunity to say something about it.
I rise for a few moments in support of the Amendment, moved by my hon. Friend the. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), which is on the Order Paper in the name of, and was supported by, the hon. Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Mr. Medland). I am always glad to see hon. Members opposite, at any time, put down an Amendment such as this, which carries out such truly democratic principles. After all, when any Member of the Government on the Treasury Bench comes to this House and suggests that such an Amendment as this is not proper and would only delay the business of the House if it were accepted, it is only right and proper that such a statement should be refuted, because this Amendment definitely states that any decision the Minister may have to make will have to be passed by Resolution of this House. It is for that reason that I support this Amendment.
I wish to ask the Attorney-·General one question on the subject of the Order being exposed to Parliamentary challenge. Clearly, it is only exposed to Parliamentary challenge after the event, and, presumably, could only be challenged either at Question time or on the Adjournment, in which case nothing effective could be done. In the event of it being evident that Parliamentary opinion was very strong against the Order, is it then competent for the Minister to revoke the Order? Unless it is competent for him to do so, obviously the Parliamentary challenge is completely worthless. Could I have an answer?
I think my question calls for an answer.
Division No. 206.]
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col Rt. Hon. Sir C||Orr-Ewing, I. L|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir W (Armagh)||Hollis, M. C.||Peto, Brig. C. H. M|
|Amory, D. Heathcote||Howard, Hon. A.||Pickthorn, K.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S (Southport)||Ponsonby, Col. C. E|
|Barlow, Sir J.||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr. N. J.||Prescott, Stanley|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V H||Hutchison, Col. J R. (Glasgow C.)||Prior-Palmer, Brig O|
|Beechman, N. A.||Jarvis, Sir J.||Raikes, H. V.|
|Bennett, Sir P.||Jennings, R.||Ramsay, Maj. S.|
|Birch, Nigel||Keeling, E. H.||Rayner, Brig. R.|
|Bower, N.||Lambert, Hon. G.||Reed, Sir S. (Aylesbury)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A||Langford-Holt, J.||Reid, Rt. Hon. J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Braithwaite Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Lindsay, M. (Solihull)||Renton. D|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W||Linstead, H. N.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Brown, W. J. (Rugby)||Lipson, D. L.||Ropner, Col. L.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)||Sanderson, Sir F.|
|Bullock, Capt. M||Low, Brig. A. R. W.||Scott, Lord W.|
|Byers, Frank||Lucas, Major Sir J.||Shepherd, W. S. (Bucklow)|
|Challen, C.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W|
|Channon, H.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R.||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S.||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)||Strauss, H. C. (English Universities)|
|Clifton-Brown, Lt.-Col. G.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Manningham-Buller, R. E||Teeling, William|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Cot. U. (Ludlow)||Marsden, Capt. A.||Thorp, Lt.-Col. R. A. F.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)||Wadsworth, G.|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Maude, J. C.||Walker-Smith, D|
|Digby, S. W.||Medland, H. M||Wheatley, Colonel M. J.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D||Mellor, Sir J.||White, Sir D. (Fareham)|
|Donner, Sqn.-Ldr. P W||Middleton, Mrs. L.||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Morris, Hopkin (Carmarthen)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Foot, M. M.||Morrison, Maj. J G. (Salisbury)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (C'nc'ster)||Winterton, Rt. Hon Earl|
|Gage, C.||Mott-Radclyffe, Maj. C E||York, C.|
|Hannon, Sir P. (Moseley)||Neven-Spence, Sir B.|
|Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Harvey, Air-Comdre. A. V.||O'Neill. Rt. Hon. Sir H||Mr. Studholme and Mr. Drewe.|
|Adams, Richard (Balham)||Bard, J||Braddock, Mrs. E M. (L'pl, Exch'ge)|
|Adams, W. T. (Hammersmith, South)||Balfour, A.||Bramall, E. A.|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V.||Barstow, P. G||Brook, D. (Halifax)|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Barton, C.||Brooks, T. J. (Rothwell)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Battley, J. R.||Brown, George (Belper)|
|Alpass, J. H.||Bechervaise, A. E.||Buchanan, C.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Benson, G.||Burden, T. W|
|Attewell, H. C.||Binns, J||Burke, W. A.|
|Austin, H. Lewis||Blenkinsop, A||Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Blyton, W. R.||Carmichael, James|
|Ayles, W. H.||Boardman. H||Castle, Mrs. B. A.|
|Ayrton Gould, Mrs. B||Bottomley, A. G.||Chamberlain, R. A|
|Bacon, Miss A||Bowden, Flg.-Offr. H. W||Champion, A. J|