§ Amendments made: In page 36, line 14, after the word "any," insert the word "such."
§ Leave out the words "so comprised."— [Mr. E. Brown.]
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
I beg to move, in page 37, line 9, at the end, to insert the words:Provided that they shall not be authorised to purchase compulsorily any land abutting on a new street or an existing street as proposed to be widened under the scheme for the purpose of securing the development or redevelopment of such land, but nothing in this Section shall prejudice or affect the operation of the Public Health Acts.6.30 p.m.
This Clause has two distinct parts. The first part deals with the power of a local authority to purchase land by agreement, and to that provision of course nobody 1657 will offer any objection. The second part however gives compulsory power to a local authority, for the acquisition of land where agreement cannot be reached and it seems to me that the House ought to be very careful in handing out new, large and expensive powers of this kind to local authorities at a time like the present. Under the various Public Health Acts local authorities have ample powers to buy what lands are necessary, contiguous to streets which are being developed. I think they can buy land up to 200 feet of the crown of the road, but in this Bill powers are being conferred which will enable them to buy almost any land they like in any part of a town or city. The first Sub-section of the Clause lays down that a responsible authority may purchase by agreement any land to which a scheme applies which they require for the purposes of the scheme. The second Sub-section gives them power to buy that same land compulsorily and not by agreement. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) referred a short time ago to the dangers of speculators in land. Speculators may, possibly, be a danger inherent in this dreadful capitalist system under which we live, but can my hon. and learned Friend suggest anything more horrible and vicious than a local authority which starts speculating? The ordinary speculator speculates with his own money or with the money which somebody has been foolish enough to lend him. The local authority on the other hand is speculating with money which has been sucked from the vitals of industry. If it loses on its speculation the loss goes on the rates. If it gains, the profit does not go to the relief of rates, but is merely loosed off in fresh and extravagant expenditure. Such a vista is not one which can encourage any hon. Member of this House in this year of grace to support such a proposal, and I earnestly hope that my right hon. Friend will see his way to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. M. BEAUMONT
I beg to second the Amendment.
I agree most strongly that every word of my hon. and gallant Friend is worthy of the Minister's earnest attention, in view of the possibility that among the other crimes certain to be committed 1658 under this Bill will be added the new one of municipal gambling, and that by a Parliament that is refusing even to allow the open form of municipal lotteries. To sanction local government gambling through a Town Planning Bill is so awful that even the right hon. Gentleman opposite, I should think, would be loath to agree to it. I suggest in all seriousness that these local authorities, of whose praises we hear so much, need a very strong curbing hand in this matter of the compulsory acquisition of land. Their powers have not been used justly in all cases in the past, and I have no reason to suppose that they will be used any more justly in the future, and if you give them power, in the so-called interests of so-called planning, to gamble in land, you are doing something which is not desired by the Government or even by the Opposition. I ask the Minister to safeguard the position by accepting the Amendment.
Sir H. YOUNG
Certainly, if I thought there was any real possibility of the dangers so eloquently referred to by the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment, I should be, in the popular phrase, "shaken to the core" by the prospect, but they will remember that this matter was discussed a good deal in Committee, and I think that on that occasion we were able to remove misapprehensions as to the scope and possibilities of the use of this Clause. It is quite impossible that under this Clause municipalities should do other than pick up bits of land here and there which are necessary for them in order to carry out their planning schemes. In the first place, they are doing it tinder the strict control in this matter of the Ministry, which still counts for something, and, secondly, they could not, of course, indulge in large operations of the sort without borrowing, and they would not be able to acquire loans for the purpose. This provision is really in line with the general law. There are many precedents for it, and I hope the House will come to the conclusion that it is a useful little provision. It enables a local authority to acquire land for the purposes of town planning schemes on a frontage otherwise than by agreement, and the effect of the Amendment would be to confine it only to acquisition by agreement, It is essential to wage warfare on the worst of the abuses upon 1659 which planning is designed to make war—of which one of the worst is ribbon development—and without some such power there would be no effective method of dealing with the matter. It is necessary, in order to get full value out of the great highways, to give local authorities adequate power of control over frontage development, and indeed it is necessary in order to protect owners from unfair depreciation, owing to the dog-in-the-manger who stands out and will not go in for a sensible, reasonable development. For all these reasons I think the House will probably be prepared to confirm the view taken by the Committee, which would involve not accepting the Amendment.
§ Amendment negatived.