§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Skelton)
I beg to move, in page 75, line 10, to leave out 1853 from the word "words," to the word "there," in line 11, and to insert instead thereof the words:the Common Council of the City of London as respects the City of London, or the London County Council as respects the county of London, or the council of any other county, or the council of any county borough or county district.This is purely a drafting Amendment. We have just put in to Clause 17 a reference to the Common Council of the City of London in relation to the preservation of buildings. Any reference to the Common Council is unnecessary, and this Amendment is to remove it.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I beg to move, in page 75, to leave out lines 21 to 26, and to insert instead thereof the words:Section 21.—For Sub-section (11) there shall be substituted the following Subsection:(11) In this Section the expression 'disposition' means a disposition by way of feu or sale (including a sale in consideration of a ground, annual, or other similar periodical payment) or the grant of a lease or tack for a period of not less than three years, and references to the person who gives a notice under Sub-section (1) of this Section shall, where the property to which the notice relates has, since the notice was given, been the subject of transmission otherwise than by disposition, be construed as references to the person to whom the property was last so transmitted before the date on which a disposition takes effect or a change of use takes place.This is little more than a drafting Amendment, and I want to say one word Upon it. The Committee will remember that Clause 21 now includes with regard to betterment the use of the word "disposition." It is necessary in regard to that word to have the Scottish definition of the word in the Scottish Act instead of the English definition, which is in Clause 21. The words which I now wish to insert are the proper Scottish definition of the word "disposition."
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Further Amendment made: In page 75, line 42, after the word "words," insert the words "the Common Council of the City of London or."—[Mr. Skelton.]
§ Mr. SKELTON
I beg to move, in page 76, line 14, to leave out from the word "words," to the end of line 22, and to insert instead thereof the words: 1854and if the agreement shall have been recorded in the appropriate register of sasines, it shall be enforceable at the instance of the authority against persons deriving title to the land from the person with whom it was entered into:Provided that no such agreement shall at any time be enforceable against a third party who shall have in bona fide onerously acquired right (whether completed by infeftment or not) to the land prior to the agreement being recorded as aforesaid or against any person deriving title from such third party.The question at issue here is the proper inspection of purchase of land which has been subjected to previous agreements between the owner and the local authority. It is wholly unnecessary for me to say that to have kept this particular provision in complete consonance with the law of Scotland has been a matter of some difficulty. The form of words originally used in the Bill of last Session was this Session thought to be unsatisfactory. I suggested an alteration in the Committee stage, and from that alteration further improvements are now made.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I beg to move, in page 78, to leave out lines 27 to 36, and to insert instead thereof the words:(3) The provisions of the Second Schedule to the Rating (Scotland) Act, 1926, and of paragraph (i) of Sub-section (1) of Section seven of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1929, shall apply in relation to claims for compensation under this Act as they apply in relation to claims for compensation under those Acts subject to such modifications as the Secretary of State may by order provide for the purpose of adapting those provisions to cases arising under this Act.This Amendment refers to Clause 46, which deals with the compensation to officers who may be displaced under the provisions of this Bill. I moved an Amendment in the Committee stage which the hon. Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir H. Jackson) thought was excessively wide, and discussion on the subject followed. I promised that I would reconsider the matter and put it in a different form. I am glad to say that he and I have come to an agreement, and I think that the form is now satisfactory.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. SKELTON
I beg to move, in page 79, column 2, to leave out lines 27 to 29, and to insert instead thereof the words: 1855For sub-paragraph (2) (a), (b), and (d) of paragraph 2 of Part I there shall be substituted respectively the following paragraphs:(a) Sub-section (1) of section thirty-two of the Public Health (Scotland) Act, 1897; (b) Section one hundred and fifty-eight of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1892, as extended by Sub-section (2) (h) of Section one hundred and four of the Burgh Police (Scotland) Act, 1903;(d) Section five of the Roads Improvement Act, 1925, as applied to Scotland by Section twelve of that Act; and sub-paragraph (2) (c) shall be omitted.In paragraph 2 of Part II, and in paragraph 2 of Part III, after the words 'for the purpose,' there shall be inserted the words 'by summary petition.'This Amendment is necessary in order to adapt the new form of the First Schedule. The Committee will recollect that a new First Schedule has been passed, and the passage of it has made it necessary for me to move certain drafting Amendments in regard to its application to Scotland.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Bill reported; as amended, on recommittal, considered.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. GREENWOOD
We have now arrived at the stage when we part company with this Bill, and I should like to congratulate hon. Gentlemen opposite on the success of their efforts; I am sorry that more of them are not here now. They have fought a very determined fight to make the Bill what it is. It is not the Bill that I should have liked to see myself, but at least they are to be congratulated on the success of their efforts. I do not myself, after to-day's decision in the House, recognise this emaciated child as the lusty infant that I introduced into the House only 15 months ago. It is perfectly true that it might have died altogether in the hands of those baby farmers to whom it was entrusted for so long by the right hon. Gentleman. The infant has survived, but at least it has suffered a certain measure of ill-treatment. Nor can I recognise, in the harsh 1856 foster-parent of the little infant that I brought into the House, the sponsor of the Rural Amenities Bill, twice introduced by him into the House at a time when he enjoyed greater freedom and less responsibility than he does now.
That Bill was the Bill of a wild revolutionary. I remember that, when I read it, shivers ran down my spine at the terrific possibilities that that Bill held out of trouble in the House of Commons, trouble in another place, trouble in the Law Courts, trouble everywhere; but at least it was the Bill of a bold visionary, who on two occasions made most eloquent speeches in the House in defence of the beauties of the countryside and in defence of rural England. I had hoped that, at the hands of a successor with such a history in this matter, the Town and Country Planning Bill might have passed from here to another place as strong as it was when it was left by the Labour Government.
Unfortunately, it has been weakened during its rather hectic passage through Committee. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that I objected because the Bill had been amended, and he pointed out, quite rightly, that I in my turn had accepted a very large number of Amendments to the Bill last year as it was passing through its Committee stage. But the difficulty that I find with the Bill now is that, as one looks at it leaving us now for another place, it bears the marks of those destructive forces who, from its Second Reading down to this moment, have done their best to weaken and enfeeble it and to destroy its possibilities, with the result—I do not want to go into details—that in one way after another the Bill has been impaired. I feel—and this, I may say, is a great tribute to hon. Gentlemen on the third bench opposite—that, so far from the Bill ever having been strengthened in any particular as regards town planning powers, it has been weakened, and concessions have been made.
I am prepared to admit—I must admit—that, although the right hon. Gentleman has ill-treated the infant, it is still there, and the Bill, of course, is in many respects an advance on the existing law. That is where hon. Gentlemen on the third bench opposite have met their defeat. They wanted no Bill at all. They would have liked to sweep from the 1857 Statute Book every law that touches town planning, as no doubt they would wish to sweep from the Statute Book every piece of legislation dealing with our local authorities. But, while it is true that the Bill does lead us some way along the road that we hoped to travel, it is idle to deny that, as it leaves us now for another place, a very large number of people—indeed, I can say all people who are actually working at the practical job of town planning—are left with a very deep sense of disappointment.
Here was a real opportunity for what is called a National Government. Here was a Bill which had already been sifted and examined and amended and approved by all responsible sections of the House in the last Parliament—a Measure on which a National Government might have set its seal and said, "Viewing our responsibilities as a National Government, rising"—as has been said so often—"above the mere filth of party politics, we will take this Bill, examined as it was last Session and agreed to by all responsible Members of all political parties, and we will put it on the Statute Book as it was left by the late Government." That would have been a proof of the national character of the Government. Unfortunately, that is not what has happened. All the objections to the Bill, all the efforts which have been made to weaken the Bill, have come from one quarter; they have come from that quarter of recalcitrant, unrepentent, diehard Tories so ably led by hon. Members who sit on the third bench opposite—a bench that will become immortal in the history of Parliament; a bench of men who, in the days of a National Government, thought it their duty to oppose a Bill which was supported by all national parties at the time.
If anybody wants proof that the diehard tail is wagging the national dog, they need only look at the restricted character of the Bill as it now stands, and compare it with the Bill as it was when it was introduced by the present Minister of Health. With the new limitations, with the new vexatious handicaps which have been introduced, with the efforts to put a brake upon the wheel of local authorities' endeavours, the greatest defect of the Bill, as I see it now, is with respect to the question, which has already been argued and which I cannot re-argue at this stage of the 1858 Bill, of its curtailed powers. It is interesting to note that most of the speakers who followed the Minister after he had made his defence explained that they were not satisfied with his statement, that they felt that he had not removed the doubts from their minds; and there remains the great blot upon the Bill, which everyone connected with town planning would have liked to see removed, that planning powers have been curtailed.
The view of the right hon. Gentleman is that, as the Bill now stands, all conceivable cases where town planning is necessary will be covered. In that view he stands practically alone in the world. I have never had a letter—and I have had large numbers within the last two or three weeks—from anybody concerned directly or indirectly with local Government or town planning who does not feel that, as the Bill now stands, the Government have lost a great opportunity, and that the curtailment of powers and the curtailment of the scope of the Bill will prove to be a serious injury to the cause of town planning. The Bill, in fact, does not really embody the experience of people who have been engaged on this work, and it does not give the powers which are generally desired. If the right hon. Gentleman is right, and there is really nothing left to be desired in the way of further extension, why does he not say, "We will make it cover all land"? If it be true that all the land that is likely to be needed for development purposes, all the land that ought to be planned, is in the Bill, why does he not remove the suspicions of all the people who are engaged on this work by saying that the Act shall apply to all land? The answer can only be that he has made a real concession in the Bill as it leaves us now—a concession which has been due to the guerilla warfare of hon. Members who are assumed to be his supporters, but who have used their position to snipe him from behind.
The Bill, as I have said, misses a great opportunity. Town Planning Bills rarely come to this House. A Town Planning Bill is a complicated Measure. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman realises—I realise it fully—that there is not going to be another Town Planning Bill for many years now. [Interruption.] I expected approval from hon Gentlemen opposite; I should 1859 have been surprised if they had not approved of that statement. It is perfectly natural that they should not want another one. But there are large numbers of people who do want another one, and whose hopes are now deferred.
I am bound to admit that this Bill is a considerable advance, but I am bound to confess, as one who introduced this Bill originally into the House, and who had hoped to see it put on the Statute Book last year—I am bound to confess, and I think I am entitled to confess, a certain disappointment because a Bill which was approved so whole-heartedly by the Leaders of every party, and by all responsible people in every party, has been, I do not say destroyed, but substantially-weakened. I do not know whether it may come back with further Amendments; the chances are that it may; but we part with it now so far as serious argument is concerned, and I think I am speaking for the whole of our local authorities and their organisations, for the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, for the Royal Institute of British Architects, for all bodies who are associated with this work, when I say that, although they will welcome this Bill as an instalment, they are profoundly disappointed because the opportunity so magnificently given to the right hon. Gentleman has not been grasped by him, and they will have to look forward in some distant future for the day when their dreams will be realised.
§ Sir J. WALKER SMITH
When this Bill came before the House for its Second Reading, I considered that there were many provisions in it which were contrary to the public interest. It has been modified a good deal in its passage through Committee. As qualified, it is more cumbersome and somewhat more confusing, but I must admit that it is somewhat less objectionable than it was before. Even so, I am a little disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) should have felt so ungrateful with regard to the Bill as it has come up for its Third Reading. I should have thought if there was anyone who should have been satisfied with it, that it was one who is perfervidly Socialistic in his outlook. To such a person I consider that the Bill should appear very satis- 1860 factory and very desirable. Launched by the Government, precipitately, in the misguided belief that it would be mistaken for an innocuous Measure, I have no doubt that it will find its way on to the Statute Book. Nevertheless, I still think that the Bill as it stands has some fundamentally unsatisfactory features.
I propose to divide my observations on it into four categories. Firstly, there are those provisions which are typical of unwarrantable expenditure, not to say extravagance. Secondly, there are provisions which reveal the impossibility of the Measure effecting the desired purpose. Thirdly, there are provisions which constitute a very serious brake upon industry. Fourthly, there are provisions which tend to undue domination by the Government Department concerned as to the determination of questions affecting very vital and important interests by methods which are at the same time secret and arbitrary, and there are typical Clauses which provide means and methods for the use of a Government Department which are contrary to the principles of natural justice.
I propose to deal with the provisions within these four categories as succinctly and unobjectionably as I can. The first provision that involves unwarrantable expenditure and, I think, extravagance, is very appropriately the first Clause of the Bill, under which a town planning scheme may be made with respect to any land, whether there are or are not buildings thereon, with the general object of controlling development. This constitutes an enormous extension of the powers and duties of those responsible. It is a very considerable extension of the town planning powers already available in. respect of undeveloped land, now to be extended to the whole of the developed land in the country. The duties that are at present laid on the responsible authorities have involved the employment of very considerable and expensive staffs, which are now to be increased and multiplied. This controlling of the development of land built upon and unbuilt upon will most certainly require very considerable staffs, and these staffs will be engaged on what is termed controlling development. Controlling is, in my opinion, a euphemistic term which really means restricting, pro- 1861 hibiting, and generally making it extremely difficult for anyone to build upon vacant land or to improve existing buildings or to build bigger and improved buildings upon vacant and Cleared sites.
Let us see who are the authorities charged with this very important and all-embracing work. The first executive authority mentioned in Clause 2 is the local authorities of the country. They do not need very much encouragement to cause them to appoint very considerable and expensive staffs, and, once appointed, they are never got rid of. Their partners in this matter are revealed in Clause 6. This is the beginning of the partnership between local authorities and the Ministry of Health, which the Minister termed a complex of planning authorities, who will be charged with these duties, which, I think, will consist in controlling the property of others and considerably restricting development. In Clause 7 one gets the first taste of the sort of thing that is going to happen. It provides for enormous numbers of notices, forms, registers, and all the paraphernalia of expensive local authority and governmental administration. Under Clause 10, the Minister of Health, according to this arrangement, gets busy with the making of general Orders and special Orders for the purpose of controlling, which is restricting, development. Under the same Clause, when such Orders have been made, they will provide that applications for the gracious permission of local authorities to permit the owner to build upon his own land will receive the consideration of the staff of the local authority, which may grant the application of the owner to build upon his own land with or without any such conditions as they may wish to impose, and so on, all involving very expensive administrative machinery.
Clause 11 involves the greatest amount of administrative costs in the preparation of the schemes themselves. Every scheme is to contain provisions for prohibiting or regulating development, and, in particular, for dealing with any of the matters mentioned in the Second Schedule. The Second Schedule contains elaborate provisions dealing with 21 items, and every scheme must contain provisions dealing with those items. I do not think there can be many in the House 1862 who have ever seen a town-planning scheme. It is a most complicated measure. Each scheme is almost as long as this Bill and, in addition, there are a great number of maps and plans of all kinds. The amount of work involved in the preparation of these schemes will be considerable and the amount of staff required will be very great indeed, as great as it will be expensive. I believe in the Ministry of Health there are engaged on this work of town planning a staff of about 20. The cost of that, when one takes into consideration the proportional cost of the secretaries, the Accountant-General, solicitors, counsel, and the many charges of a large administrative Department, must be at least £1,000 per annum for each member. So far as the Ministry of Health is concerned, that represents a cost of about £20,000.
That is not so bad, except that there is a nucleus for galvanising into activity the local authorities throughout the country. One has had experience of the net result of the combination of a Government Department and the local authorities in the matter of education. One has Been that the education complex of the Government Department and the local authorities has resulted in an expenditure of something like £100,000,000 per annum. One has seen what I may term the road complex and what that has involved. The complex between the Minister of Transport and the local authorities in recent years has involved a capital expenditure of £500,000,000. These complexes of Government Departments and local authorities are not for the good of either the ratepayer or the taxpayer. There will be galvanised into existence large staffs in the large local authorities and smaller staffs in the smaller local authorities. One might very well say that there will be 500 local authorities engaged in town-planning operations. There will be about four members in each staff and they will involve an average cost of, say, £500 a year. The administrative costs of local authorities in respect of these operations is going to be £1,000,000 per annum. Then there will be similar expenses which will need to be incurred by owners of land in dealing with the local authorities, considering and preparing plans, entering into negotiations, legal costs, architects' costs and engineers' costs—no doubt, another £1,000,000.
1863 It really is too bad at this time if we have any regard at all for economy. I have heard the Minister of Health castigate Members of the Opposition for their inappreciation of the economic necessities of the day, and yet he imposes these provisions upon us whereby the administrative costs of local authorities and the Government Department will be considerably increased. Should he not have consideration to the increase of Government administration and local authority administration in the last 40 years? The cost of national Government has increased from £79,000,000 to £890,000,000—nine-fold—and the cost of local government has increased from £66,000,000 to £420,000,000—seven-fold—and yet this Measure, which will involve us in considerable additional administrative costs to be borne by the rates and taxes, is foisted upon us.
I pass to my next point. My second category includes those provisions which reveal, in my opinion, the impossibility of the Measure effecting its desired purpose. One has to consider again who are the parties to be charged with these particular duties. The local authorities will become the executive authorities for the purpose, while the Minister of Health, the partner in this concern, will be the approving autocracy. That is the partnership. If it were not very serious, it would be almost farcical to believe that this partnership can deal with the question of planning and re-planning the whole of the country. These are the bodies to be charged with the preservation of the amenities of this country which the private owners have created and which no one has done more to spoil than Government Departments and local authorities. The so-called ribbon development which is an objectionable feature, was caused and induced almost solely by the lack of imagination, forethought and ability of the Government Department concerned. The partnership of the Minister of Health and local authorities for the purpose of preserving and creating amenities is almost humorous. One Department of the Ministry of Health in the prescribing of most rigid by-laws, and the local authorities in their rigid administration of the by-laws have done more to prevent the creation of amenities in the country than 1864 anything else I can possibly imagine. Local authorities have been compelled to comply with the by-laws and regulations prescribed by the Minister of Health. It has left them with no possibility of doing other than that which the rigorously applied by-laws permit, and that is the reason why the development of our cities and towns has been so unfortunate during the last 50 or 60 years.
This partnership will never be able to do the job which is set for them as it requires considerable imagination, initiative and forethought. These are qualities which neither of these partners possess. Indeed, they possess qualities which are quite the reverse. They will both be slaves to precedent. They will flog the garden suburb idea to death. Dull, tame and uninspiring—we shall have these piffling little garden suburbs all over the countryside. Those particular bodies—the Minister of Health and the: local authority—are possessed of what I might call a dual mentality, rigid and entirely inelastic. Is it conceivably possible that matters of this kind requiring imagination and a certain amount of enlightenment in regard to ideas can safely be left to the Ministry of Health? This is the particular body who, on account of their reactionary and unimaginative attitude towards new methods of construction, such as steel-frame buildings and reinforced concrete, have set back the hands of the clock for years and years. They would not modify their by-laws and regulations and realise that entirely new methods were required. That is the dominant body of the partnership set to re-plan the whole of the countryside. If it were not a very serious matter, it would be farcical.
I come to my third point, which is a reference to provisions which constitute a serious drag upon industry. I have already referred to the provisions which are required in town-planning schemes, but I have not referred yet to those which are required under Clause 12 of the Bill. The provisions required in a scheme may include provisions prescribing the space about buildings, limiting the number of buildings, regulating the size, height, design and elevation of buildings, imposing restrictions upon the manner in which buildings are to be used, and prohibiting building operations. There you have the 1865 whole thing in a nut shell. These schemes are for prohibiting, limiting and restricting. It does not need very much imagination to see where that sort of thing is going to lead us.
I wonder if the Minister does not know—he certainly should know—that there are at the present time about 300,000 unemployed in the building industry. Nearly 30 per cent. of the total number engaged in this vast and important industry are unemployed. If ever there was a time when the brakes should be taken off the wheels of industry, this is the time. What do we get? We get this Bill which is to complex that it would baffle the astutest of brains. It will destroy the confidence of those who otherwise might, in due course, be tempted to commence more building operations. I do not speak for the building industry, but it must be obvious that all these restrictive measures will very seriously cripple an industry which has already been very severely dealt with.
My fourth and last duty is to refer to two or three provisions which typify the proposed undue domination of the Government Department concerned and the methods secret and autocratic by which the Minister determines questions affecting very great and vital interests. They are provisions which give, for the use of the Department concerned, certain methods and means which are contrary to the principles of natural justice. The first typical provision of the kind appears in Clause 4:If it appears to the Minister to be expedient that two or more authorities, being local authorities or county councils, should act jointly.… he may,.… by order provide for the constitution of a joint committee for the purpose and transfer to the Committee any power..… for the purpose.The object of the provision is to permit the county councils and larger local authorities to embrace the smaller local authorities when it is convenient for them to do so. That is the principle one will find a little further on in the Bill. Under Clause 32, Sub-section (2), the Minister may transfer to the county council powers to town plan the areas of all the local authorities with populations of less than 20,000. In this respect, the Minister reveals his policy. I observe that the Parliamentary Secretary shakes his head. But this does reveal the policy of the Minister, which is that of securing the 1866 appointment of the chief administrative officers of county councils and large local authorities.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being present—
§ Sir J. WALKER SMITH
I was remarking that it was well to remember that the policy of the Minister was to secure the appointment of the chief administrative officers of the local authorities upon the lines and the standards of the Civil Service, thus showing that in time the appointment of the administrative officers of the large local authorities is to be based upon the Civil Service. I find in Clause 5, Subsection (1), a further sample of the power which the Minister reserves to himself under the Bill. It reads in this way:If at any time it appears to the Minister to be expedient that any such council or local authority who have not claimed to be represented on the joint committee—he may by order.…transfer to the committee such of the powers.… and duties of the said council or local authority as he thinks fit.It is entirely in his discretion, and in that respect he has full arbitrary powers. Similarly, under Clause 6 which requires the Minister to be satisfied with regard to certain matters upon a resolution being passed by the local authority. But in this particular case, as in all other cases, it does not specify by what means, by what steps, and to what extent the Minister has to satisfy himself, and it certainly does not provide how the Minister is to satisfy anyone else. Is he to be satisfied by means of the local authority 2 It does not so say. Will he satisfy the public by some pronouncement of the grounds upon which he has been satisfied? Not at all. The whole proceedings savour of secrecy and autocracy. Also in Clause 6, Sub-section (4), the Ministermay, in giving his approval, vary the extent of the land to be included in the area to which the resolution is to apply.That means to say, that he can increase the area or he can decrease the area to any extent he may think fit without giving any reasons or explanations to anyone whatever. Similarly, in Clause 8:The Minister may approve any scheme either with or without modifications.He can modify a scheme in any way he likes with certain reservations. There is 1867 no reservation with regard to his power of modification as far as the owners' interest is concerned, but a little modification with regard to his arbitrary attitude towards his partner in this matter, the local authority. He reflects his arbitrary powers a little in relation to his partners, but not towards the public generally. So you find throughout the whole of the proposals instances of the enormous powers of the Ministry of Health and their methods of administration which are couched in terms of secrecy and studiously avoid any possibility of power of appeal. I think that I am entitled, in dealing with the powers of the Minister of Health, to take a look at the record of the Ministry of Health in matters of this kind, and for that purpose I refer to the Committee on Ministers' Powers, a report of which has just been issued. The Committee were dealing at one stage of their report with the Clauses of enactments that have acquired the nickname of Henry VIII Clauses, because that monarch is regarded popularly as an impersonation of executive autocracy. On page 123 of the report the Committee give some examples of the exercise of executive autocracy by that Tudor monarch. They found a considerable difficulty in discovering instances of that executive autocracy, but they seem to have managed to find 11 of them, and it is peculiar that of the 11 Henry VIII Clauses—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I am unaware that Henry VIII is mentioned in this Bill. The hon. Member must only discuss what is in the Bill.
§ Sir J. WALKER SMITH
I was discussing the Minister of Health in regard to the Bill and I was about to say that it appears to me that the mantle of Henry VIII seems to have fallen upon the shoulders of the present Minister of Health. At that I will leave it. The method of the Ministry of Health in regard to these matters under this Bill are the very reverse from those that apply in a court of justice. In these particular matters one never gets face to face with one's judge. One does not even get an opportunity of considering the report of the inspector who holds the inquiry, with whom one does come face to face. There 1868 is no power of appeal. The Minister gives no reasoned judgment, no grounds on which he has satisfied himself or on which he has given any order, judgment, decision or whatever he may be called upon to give. I submit that I have established the fact that the provisions of the Bill involve unwarrantable extravagance, that they will not affect the purposes desired, that they constitute a brake upon industry at a time when that is extremely undesirable, that they tend to undue domination by the Government Department concerned and that they give them powers which are certainly not in accord with the principles of natural justice.
§ Mr. TRAIN
I have listened with great interest to the hon. Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Sir J. Walker Smith), but I am not going to attempt to go over all the Clauses as he did. I should, however, like to mention one or two features of the Bill that appeal to me and one or two that do not appeal to me. I am very grateful and gratified that the Bill is in its present form. It is an entirely different Bill from that which was presented to us on Second Reading. It has been very much amended, and I must congratulate the Minister on his earnest desire to meet the Committee and to give confidence to those who ultimately will have the working of the Measure when it gets on to the Statute Book. He has had a very difficult and complicated task. There have been many conflicting interests at work. There have been the people who have been town planning all their lifetime in a practical way and have had to find the wages of the town planners and those who develop the land. There have been those who have great ideas about town planning, who have never had to pay one penny of wages to those who were developing the land and who would like to develop everybody's land in the way that they think fit and proper. There have been those who would like to protect historic monuments, and rightly so, and those with some sentiment about them. They have been talking as if nobody ever took an interest in such a question before. Apart from the great historic buildings, we have some very small and sentimental buildings. We Scotsmen are very proud of the cottage of Rabbie Burns.
§ Mr. TRAIN
Rabbie Burns. We are proud of Carlyle's house at Craigenputten and his birthplace at Ecclefechan. We are proud of Livingstone's home in Blantyre. When we cross the border and come down to the Lake District we are proud to go in and have a look at Wordsworth's cottage and, further along, at Coniston we are proud of Ruskin's home. These places have been preserved long before town planning was ever spoken about by these theorists and sentimentalists. People have been thinking of, and taking a great interest in these things. In this Bill all these interests have had to be considered. There have been local authorities who, clad in a little brief authority, are jealous of the powers that they had had in the past and frightened that they will lose touch with those powers. We have had the small burghs, the big burghs and the county councils, some of them objecting to the Bill and some of them asking for greater powers under it. The Minister has met each one of these units. He knows more about their conflicting opinions than any single Member of the Committee could possibly know and, having considered all these interests, he has produced a Bill that I think will be workable.
It is not the Bill that I would like to see. As I said years ago in this House when the last Town Planning Bill was before us, the only proper way to town plan is by a watershed. I would ignore present boundaries. Having secured the watershed and got the contour of the land and the flow of the water, you get your water service and then you have the public health of the people secured and you get rid of all these small conflicting influences. We have had the optimists who tell us that they have great faith in this Bill and that it is going to bring works to the places that are town planned. They have told us that the places that have been town planned in the past are getting the new industries, and they have held out hopes to those who are going to town plan in the future that they will get a share of the new industries. I would like us to look at these things from a proper perspective. I do not see that by putting a few lines on a paper we are going to bring industries to those places that have not been town planned in the past. If we can be 1870 shown the people who want to build factories, there will be no difficulty in getting the land agents or the factors to show them the proper places. Indeed, the Trade Development Board of Scotland will I am sure present them with works within 24 hours.
I hold out no hope that town planning is going to bring trade and industry to any part of the country. At the same time I am grateful that the Minister of Health has considered all these interests, although I think that the Government have missed a splendid opportunity of tackling town planning in a big way as a National Government; and that is the only right way in which it should be tackled, in a broad comprehensive way. The betterment Clause has given rise to much discussion. Having admitted the principle of betterment up to 50 per cent. in the 1929 Act, which in my opinion has some justification for it, I cannot see how you can justify a charge of 75 per cent. betterment, and I am wondering what effect it will have on the building trade. There is much unemployment in the building trade. There was a boom when houses were built by local authorities, and when they were being built by private enterprise for the owner-occupier, who was aided by building societies.
In Scotland our land system, our feuing system, and ground rents, is entirely different from anything on this side of the Border. The developer when he got his land made use of it as part of his scheme and financed it accordingly. If he put 10 houses to the acre at a cost of £5 it meant 10s. per house per annum. But supposing he says that as he is putting in a security worth £700 in these houses he will put a feu duty on each house of £6. That means that each of the houses costing £700 he can sell for £600, but that £5 feu duty is there in perpetuity. He can sell this to the investor and it is regarded as trustee stock in our country. The Church of Scotland is endowed by this system as well as benevolent institutions of all kinds. It is a great investment for the country in this way, that hundreds and thousands of these feu duties and ground rents in Scotland are the means by which the Chancellor of the Exchequer gets his Income Tax, to some extent, every year. It does not fluctuate as do profits in trade and industry; and it is the backbone of the 1871 investor in our country. The purchaser gets into the house by the aid of a building society.
What is going to be the effect of betterment? If a man is feuing it at its original price of £5 and he gets within a town planning area, as he is bound to do when development comes along, the local authority comes along and says, "We want 75 per cent. of the betterment." He is only left with 25 per cent. The developer will say that he is not going to put any more into it and will fix the price at the amount he paid for it. The purchaser of the house cannot afford to pay this, and consequently it will be only the moderately wealthy people who will be able to awn houses. It will have the effect of putting a brake on that class of building. It is not going to help the building trade at all, and I think the Minister would be well advised to look into this point. What is going to happen to the 75 per cent.? What is a local authority going to do? Is it going to be something from which the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to get some Income Tax every year; is it going to be anything which will benefit the purchaser of the house, or which will help the building trade? What good is going to come of it? I admit that we do not want to see speculation in land for building purposes, but this is a legitimate business built up for the benefit of the trade and the occupier and owner of the house, and you will interfere with it and paralyse the industry. I am optimistic and probably the trade will adapt itself to circumstances, but in the meantime you are going to paralyse the industry. What happened in the old days? There is not a man in Scotland to-day who is building houses to let unless he is subsidised to the extent of £9 per house for a period of 40 years. Since 1909 no one has built a house to let except local authorities, and they have got the local builder to build houses for them instead of for himself; but at what a cost to the country. We were told the other day that the Government is paying £12,750,000 in subsidies and that we are bound to do this for 40 years, over and above what local authorities are paying. If you take the Addison scheme and the 1d. in the £, and the other schemes, the £3 scheme 1872 and the £4 10s., it is at least £20,000,000 if it is a penny which is going towards the subsidising of these houses, which before were built by private enterprise, and may I say which were must better houses than the houses which are being built to-day. It comes to this that you are interfering with the houses built by the owner-occupier and doing no good for the building trade. That is the part of this Bill which wants examination. We have heard a tremendous lot about the bungaloid growth. Who is to blame for that? Most of it has been done by local authorities—
§ Mr. TRAIN
The slums of to-day are nothing like the slums which you will get from the houses that are being built under the subsidised schemes. I say that the older houses were better houses. The hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) knows that round about Glasgow there are tenements built within the last 30 to 40 years, and that people prefer living in them to living in the houses that are being built to-day, good three- and four-apartment houses, with bathroom, and up-to-date in every way. If we had been left alone to go on with these houses it would have been better for the country. Our City Improvement Trust in Glasgow, which built these houses, pulled down the slums, and the houses are giving a return to Glasgow of 1½ per cent., whereas all the other houses are costing £3 10s. to the city and £9 to the State. I deprecate any interference with private enterprise. I am all for town planning on sound and sane lines. I congratulate the Minister of Health on his honest attempt to make the best of this Bill, and to meet the various conflicting interests that have been put up against him. He is the man who should be the judge, because he gets in writing and in representation information as to these interests, and information that the private Members cannot get. The Bill 1873 is not the Bill that I would like to see, but we shall have other Bills, as we have had other Housing Acts from time to time. No doubt the next Minister of Health in a new Government will have another Town Planning Bill. I hope that I shall not be a Member of the Standing Committee that considers it, because we have had plenty of trouble with this Bill. I wish the Minister luck.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I would not have taken part in the Debate but for the remarks that have fallen from the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. Train), who undoubtedly has sage experience as far as the building trade is concerned. The hon. Member has made a fortune out of the building trade, in his own day and generation, and he has made it all himself. He is one of the self-made men. You cannot make tens of thousands out of building houses without having "swanking" somewhere. But that is not what brought me to my feet. I have to pay the hon. Member the tribute that he understands the subject from his point of view, but certainly not from the point of view of the people who live in the houses that he built. The houses that private enterprise built were not built for people to live in; they were built by private enterprise in order that men like the hon. Member for Cathcart could make money out of them.
The hon. Member said something that he knows to be absolutely untrue, that is that the houses that were built by private enterprise for the working class in Scotland were better as built 30, 40 and 50 years ago. Has the hon. Member forgotten the hellish conditions in which the people, particularly the miners in the county of Lanark, have to live—single apartments and no sanitary conveniences at all? No one knows better than the hon. Member, the miners' row, back to back, 200 houses on either side, with no sanitary conveniences, not even a water-tap. He has seen them. His class of individuals built that type of house. Of course it is true that in Glasgow, as in other parts of Scotland, there are tenements that are three and four-apartment houses, but they are not for my class, they are not for the engineer, they were not for the hon. Member for Cathcart when he started as a stonemason. No stonemason and no engineer could live in a three-apartment tenement, never 1874 mind a four-apartment tenement in Glasgow. No one knows better than the hon. Member that they were very very lucky if they were able to get a two-apartment house.
Like others, the hon. Member boasts of how many in family they were, how his mother brought up seven on such a small wage. They should think shame on themselves. Their mothers were murdered, never had a ghost of a chance. And we are going back to that. No. The houses that are being built to-day, and by the hon. Member for Cathcart by the way, are not as well built, he said. That does not say very much for him. One of the biggest contractors that we have in the West Scotland for building these selfsame houses for us is the hon. Member for Cathcart. He tells us that the houses that are being built to-day are not as well built. If they are shoddy it can be taken from me that that is not the workers' fault; it is the fault of the hon. Member's class for having built these shoddy houses. That is proof of what I have said over and over again. I would have forgiven them had they not known how to build good houses for my class. But they knew always how to build good houses. But the single apartment, the brick rows, no pantiles, simply 'an old wagon roof, good enough for a collier but not good enough for the hon. Member for Cathcart. He must get a great mansion away out in the country. And he built these houses in his time, made all that money in his time out of working-class houses. Now he tells the world how he has managed to make a fortune in his day and generation out of building working-class houses. He says that the houses being built to-day are shoddy houses compared with what his father built before him. If ever there was an indictment of the whole system, here we have it. "Oh that mine enemy would write a book."
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
My hon. Friend reminds that it will be in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow, and will be used as evidence against the hon. Member. I do not want to irritate the hon. Member in any way, but I am not going to sit silently here and listen to men who are in comfortable circumstances. It is one of the terrible evils abroad to-day that 1875 men who started life hard up against it are now in comfortable circumstances. Their outlook changes because they are comfortable and because they have 20-apartment or 30-apartment houses. The hon. Member for Cathcart views everything from that standpoint. I remember when Dr. Addison as Minister of Health, after the War, set out to raise the standard of housing in this country. He gave my country a new outlook in life because our standard in Scotland up to then was a two-apartment standard. The vast majority of houses in Scotland—65 per cent. of them—were of that standard. This is what the hon. Member for Cathcart boasts about. When Dr. Addison came on the scene he got an Act of Parliament passed providing that the smallest house in this country—which included Scotland, thank God—must have three apartments. What happened? The ruling class of this country recognised that if Scotland was going to get a three-apartment standard of housing, it meant a three-apartment standard of life. It meant that our women folk would demand—
Sir H. YOUNG
On a point of Order. For the guidance of the House in this Debate, I should be glad of your assistance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in finding out whether we shall be in order in discussing general housing policy on this occasion. The application to the Bill seems very remote if there be any application at all, and it opens up a very wide question.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) is getting rather wide of the issue before the House. In Clause 12 (1, c) of the Bill there is a provision that the responsible authority has certain powers as to regulating the size, height, design and elevation of buildings, and the materials to be used in their construction. If the hon. Member confines his argument to pointing out what Scottish authorities may do to comply with that Sub-section, I think he is in order. I do not think that any general discussion of housing would be in order.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I have no desire to fall foul of the Chair, but the very fact that the Minister has had to draw your attention to this matter, Mr. Deputy- 1876 Speaker, shows that I was making it awkward for him, never mind the hon. Member for Cathcart, to reply to me. What I was saying was God's truth, and "truth cutteth keener than a two-edged sword."
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I was replying to the hon. Member for Cathcart without deviation either to the right or to the left—although I am supposed to be very far on the left. The hon. Member referred to the houses which were being built now and said that they were not as good as the houses which were built previously, and I wished to take hon. Members back to the inception of the type of house now being built. It was Dr. Addison who introduced that higher standard of housing particularly in Scotland. We were down to the level of single apartment houses—single apartment houses for the working class, and 30-apartment houses for the Cathcart class, and the ruling class recognised that the new standard meant a three-apartment standard of dress, a three-apartment type of education for the children, as against a single apartment standard. But it was found by the ruling class that they could not give that standard of life and at the same time meet the interest on the War debt.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think the hon. Member is now going beyond my Ruling. If he will point out what the Scottish town planning authorities can do to assist in the production of a particular type of house, I think he will be in order.
§ Mr. KIRKWOOD
I do not want to use too much time and I leave, that point, but before I conclude there is another point on which I wish to correct the hon. Member for Cathcart. He is my fellow-countryman and he is in the habit of addressing meetings, and I hope that he will not again use the phrase which he used when he called our national bard "Rabbie" Burns. Robert Burns was never by anybody connected with him called "Rabbie." He was always designated Robert Burns. "Rabbie" in Scotland is a term that is used to the "half-daft" fellow about the village or 1877 the colliery. With that, I think I have corrected the hon. Member for Cathcart sufficiently for one sitting.
Captain WATER HOUSE
As a mere Anglo-Saxon, it is not for me to interfere in a perfectly good Celtic row, and I do not propose to pursue the subjects either of murdered mothers or of the building of shoddy houses, beyond saying that if the late friend of the hon. Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) had long had control of the department over which he ruled for a couple of years there would be no houses at all for anybody to live in, in any part of this country, either England or Scotland. I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) is not in his place. I was not surprised that in the two speeches which he made this afternoon he hardly referred to the pith of this Bill at all, but dealt largely with those of us who happen to be sitting on this bench at the moment. He spoke of us as "twittering sparrows." He said we had not had the courage to vote against the Second Reading. He described us as a Diehard tail wagging a National dog, and made various other remarks of that sort. It occurred to me when he referred to us as "twittering sparrows" that it was possibly better to be associated with that small and rather light variety of bird than with the croaking raven, like the right hon. Gentleman who comes round occasionally to make remarks which do not help in the Debate or the elucidation of a difficult subject like this. As for having the courage of our convictions, surely anybody sitting on the Front Opposition Bench at present is in a rather doubtful position in talking about the courage of convictions, and most of all the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield. If he had had the courage of his convictions, and the courage to carry out his job as he should have done, his place would not have been empty, and he might have been able to carry through this Measure which he introduced into the House last year.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
I was not thinking of the right hon. Gentleman's position as Minister of Health, but of his position as the representative of Nelson 1878 and Colne. I wondered at the time how he came to lose that constituency, and why there was such a turnover of votes against him.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
It is difficult to associate the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) and his last constituency with anything contained in this Bill.
§ Captain WATERHOUSE
I bow to your Ruling. I should have thought it equally difficult to associate us with twittering sparrows, and Mr. Speaker took that as a perfectly orderly and correct remark, but, in deference to your Ruling, I will leave that point. The right hon. Member for Wakefield told us that he represented the architects, the local authorities, and practically all bodies interested in all things good for all people, and I am not surprised, therefore, that the electors of his late constituency thought he represented enough people without them. I am only pained that he is not in the House now to put me right if, in any remark that I am about to make, I may at all overstep the mark. He said with truth that it was a very different Bill that we are now discussing from the Bill which left the Committee in 1931.
There were inserted in the Bill upstairs some 86 Amendments and a new Schedule. I have not counted the Amendments put in on the Floor of this House on the Report stage, but they are certainly largely over 100, and another new Schedule. We had upstairs a good many disagreements. We did not see eye to eye from the start, but I believe that my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend below me will agree that we put up no factious opposition and no dilatory Amendments, and that we were able in some material directions to persuade the Minister that our contentions were well founded. The right hon. Member for Wakefield charged the Minister with making concessions out of fear, or words to that effect. It does not seem to have occurred to him that the Minister may have made them from arguments put to him which carried weight. Members opposite are not used to bending to argument. They are only used to bending to the mailed fist of those who hunt them along from outside this House, so we for- 1879 give the right hon. Member for Wakefield for his little mistake in my right hon. Friend's attitude.
I would remind the House that the Prime Minister, when he sat here leading the Socialist party, appealed, not once, but many times, to the House of Commons to become a Council of State, and I think that on this Bill we have come nearer to following his advice than on any other Measure that I have known since I have been in this House, but I find it rather hard when, on this occasion, we made that effort, that we were chided by those in authority. The Bill has been materially altered, but I still think that it is ill-timed and that it has a very great many imperfections in it. Yet real results have been achieved in Committee, and I should like to take this opportunity of expressing my thanks to the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary for the way in which they went out of their way to understand the points which we put. Where they could, they made a real endeavour to meet us; where they could not, they gave us a courteous and a reasoned refusal; and, with all humility, I should like sincerely to congratulate them both on the way in which the Bill was handled upstairs.
The right hon. Member for Wakefield said that there was no doubt that the Bill as it is now is a considerable advance on the existing law. I think it is a very material advance, and an advance in many ways in the right direction. When the Bill was first brought down, it was a moot question whether or not we should oppose it root and branch, and we decided not to do so. The Bill repeals the Act of 1925, and we believed we could make it a better Measure than that of 1925. I suggest that in material directions we have succeeded in gaining that objective. The Bill today covers a far wider scope than the 1925 Act, which is to be repealed. That has been fully discussed already, and I will not enter into the merits or demerits of Clause 6 at this stage, but there are other and no less important directions in which the 1925 Act has been modified. For example, the sanction of a Minister to a scheme under that Act made it operative; to-day a scheme has to be laid on the Table of this House. We might not think the lying on the Table sufficient, but it 1880 is an advance. We would have preferred an affirmative Resolution, but failing that, it is a real advance to have schemes laid on the Table of the House rather than made operative by a Government Department.
Under the 1925 Act it was laid down that the Minister might make regulations; in this Bill we have got inserted provisions as to the sort of regulations which he shall make. We have a skeleton of procedure, a minimum of procedure. We have also got laid down certain stipulations. They were not new ones at all; they were stipulations already enforced, but we had in view a Minister not so well grounded in constitutional matters as he who now presides over that Department, and we think it is a real advantage to the country and to town planning that we should have a skeleton procedure incorporated in this Bill. We have dealt too with the compensation Clauses and, I think, dealt with them in a way which should help and not hinder real planning. Under the 1925 Act it was impossible to get any compensation for injurious affection during the interim period; to-day such compensation can be paid, and I believe that the fact that such compensation is payable will make local authorities very chary of refusing interim development orders and, therefore, will tend to promote and not retard development. Again, no compensation was payable in respect of schemes under resolutions subsequently revoked; to-day, compensation is there payable. Finally, various alterations rather in the other direction have been made in the categories of injurious affection which could be excluded from compensation under Clause 19. For example, in the 1925 Act it was laid down that the character of the building might be excluded as a matter proper for compensation; that has been modified to external appearance.
I do not wish to weary the House with any comparison of the Measure as it is to-day with the Measure as it was introduced, but I want most definitely to refute the suggestion that has been made and repeated that the 1931 Bill as it left Committee was in any sense an agreed Measure. Anyone who says that was completely misinformed as to the whole attitude of mind of a very large section of Members who sat on that side of the House in that Parliament, and I assure my right hon. Friend, though I think he 1881 needs no assurance, and any doubters that had this Measure as it was introduced at the beginning of this Session been put to a free vote of the House, and had the Members of this House had an opportunity of studying its provisions then as they have had to-day, it would have been refused a Second Reading by a very substantial majority. This Bill leaves the House to-day a far better Measure than when it was introduced. It will now go to another place, and there are a good many Amendments, which we think are desirable, which we hope may be inserted there. It is in the hope and the belief that we shall have on the Statute Book a better Measure than we have had in regard to town planning for the last seven years, that I do not propose to divide the House against the Bill on the Third Reading this evening.
§ Major MUIRHEAD
As one who sat on the Committee on this Bill last year, but not this year, I have naturally watched with a good deal of interest the somewhat heavy anxiety in this Measure, and particularly the efforts of the Noble Lord the Member for West Derbyshire (Marquess of Hartington) and his associates. Their avowed intention, I believe—and I have been confirmed in that by the speech which we have just heard—was to improve the Bill. There was a danger at one time that it might resolve itself into killing the Bill by kindness, but luckily the Bill escaped that fate, and I am glad of it. I will not say that I agree altogether with the entire conduct of the Noble Lord and his associates, but I think that it has been an undoubted advantage that there should have been such a body of people watchful in a particular direction over the various provisions of this Measure. There is a slight danger that the Bill as we have it now is somewhat overloaded. I agree that a certain number of Amendments and additions to the 1925 Act were needed, but even under the 1925 Act in country districts, for which the Act was admittedly not designed, and where my interest in planning chiefly lies, it was possible to achieve great things provided there were people in the locality of a right disposition to administer the Act.
When we take the new Clause 1 in this Bill coupled with Clause 6, I am bound to say that the case was well put by the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset 1882 (Viscount Cranborne) when he said that all the talk about it was really much ado about nothing. When I see the elaborate wording and the detailed way in which the objects for which a town-planning scheme should be undertaken are set out, I cannot help regretting the simpler and the more direct language of the 1925 Act. Undoubtedly, we wanted an addition to deal with the new conditions, but the verbiage in this Bill is a little excessive. There is a danger in a Bill of this description that it may become rather like the White Knight in "Alice Through the Looking-Glass." He provided against every possible eventuality, even to having mouse-traps on the toes of his boots, not, as he said, that any mice had ever been there, but one never knew. The trouble was that, having provided himself with that elaborate equipment, every time his horse moved he fell off. In other words, when it came to the main function, the personal factor was somewhat deficient. I do not want to be platitudinous, but I want, when a comprehensive Measure like this is going through the House, to stress as strongly as I can, from a certain amount of practical experience, the value and importance of what we may call the personal factor in matters of planning.
This Measure with all its failings was undoubtedly asked for, and has been anxiously awaited by a large volume of expert planning opinion in the country; and in the hands of those expert planners I am convinced that good use will be made of it. There is a class of person, however, who is responsible for a large amount of the fear of, and consequently of the opposition to, anything in the nature of planning legislation. That is the class of person who treats, and by his words openly indicates, that he means to treat planning legislation as a sort of stick with which to beat somebody or something he personally does not like. Everybody who has been connected with planning matters must know the kind of people who say: "Look at that appalling bungalow, or that bungaloid development with pink roofs. Why do not the Government introduce legislation to make such a thing impossible?" Or he sees some rather unfortunate development, and perhaps he writes to the papers saying: "Why do the Government allow this?" and clamouring for extended legislation. 1883 In point of fact, he probably has not made the least effort or tried to use his influence in his own locality to get the thing improved or put right on the spot. He simply asks for increased legislation so as to make it easier for him, as he thinks, to get his objects achieved without putting forward his best efforts locally in a practical way to get the thing settled in the front line.
I could not help thinking when I heard the hon. Member for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone) speaking earlier in the afternoon and asking for all sorts of committees to be set up, that it is perfectly clear that you cannot by the multiplication of the machinery make up for the shortcomings of individuals. That is the point in planning matters which has to be borne in mind. On the other hand, we come to the attitude of the Noble Lord the Member for West Derbyshire. He says: "Why are we giving so much power to the local authorities?" He has, I think, a low opinion of local authorities generally, and in fact he says: "I, the Noble Lord, am a better planner than any local authority." That may be so.
§ Major MUIRHEAD
I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member opposite applauds because he really thinks that the Noble Lord is a better planner.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS indicated dissent.
§ Major MUIRHEAD
It is clear that, if the Noble Lord says that, he must answer the corollary question: "Is every landowner, great or small, as good a planner as the Noble Lord?" Unless he can answer that equally satisfactorily, there is a case for something to be done. I am sorry that the Noble Lord is not here, but one of his lieutenants is, and he will no doubt, if he thinks it worth while, report my remarks to him. The Noble Lord overlooked in one respect the value of the local authority. It is the value which the local authority has when it comes to the planning of rural areas. A great deal that is ugly, inconvenient and uneconomical is often done by people who have no particular desire to do an ugly or an inconvenient or an uneconomical thing, but they do it on their 1884 own, and very often they have had no other point of view put before them before the matter is completed. It gets done. Very likely there is a storm of protest all round. People say that it is ugly, in the wrong place, or that it is beginning a wrong type of development, and there is a good deal of personal recrimination. Often the man who does the thing wishes that instead of there being all this protest after the event he might have had the benefit of a little advice before it. In the end there is the maximum of recrimination with, possibly, the minimum of efficiency.
When, however, such a proposal comes to a local authority which has a planning scheme, though it may not be a particularly enlightened authority, there is a sort of point fixe on which the various interests can concentrate. There may be slight delay before the matter is settled, but various points of view can be expressed, and the chances are that in the end you get a very much better result. The planning committee has the advantage of providing a rallying point for a great deal of the disinterested service and advice which one knows is so characteristic of public life in our country and in our urban districts. You get people coming in with offers of money or advice or service in one direction or another, because the local authority has become a rallying point for those offers of service. To make my point plain, I might quote a case with which I had a certain distant connection, and that is the planning scheme which is being undertaken in Oxfordshire by the Witney and District Town Planning Committee. That is probably about as typical an instance of county planning as one could get.
Witney is a small market town, with a small industry in it as well, and all round there is the perfectly rural country of the Cotswolds and the Thames Valley. There can hardly be a more typical instance of country planning done under the 1925 Act, incomplete as that may have been. One of the things the committee benefited from was that a local architect, with a great deal of architectural and planning experience, placed his services voluntarily at the disposal of the committee, and looked over the plans which had been submitted to the committee from a planning point of view. Without a 1885 planning committee those plans would merely have been considered from the ordinary sanitary by-law point of view. Between the time when that scheme was started, in June, 1929, and the present month, under the Interim Development Order, 242 plans of buildings have been put before that committee. In 191 cases various alterations, either in siting or design, have been recommended, and in no less than 180 of those cases the recommendations have been readily, and in a great many cases gladly, accepted by those who submitted the plans. Only in 11 cases has there been any difficulty at all. Without any annoyance or inconvenience to anyone there are 180 instances in that area where things are better than they would have been otherwise. To show that there is no great measure of dissatisfaction, when the preliminary inquiry was held there were only four objections, and all those have been settled.
It is because the local authority, even though it may not be particularly enlightened in itself, forms a basis for a discussion in the public interest that I think the local authority is so valuable an element in our planning structure. This Bill, if it becomes law, will place a very comprehensive piece of legislation in the hands of the public. By itself the Bill will not work magic or wonders, although a certain class of person thinks it will. It is only by personal effort in each person's locality that the Bill will ever be made effective, and I hope that when it becomes an Act it will obtain in many localities throughout the length and breadth of England personal effort and assistance of a very high order.
§ Mr. M. BEAUMONT
The speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Wells (Major Muirhead) only confirms the opinion I already hold that the Standing Committee lost considerably through not having the hon. Member as one of its number. My first acquaintance with the hon. and gallant Member was when I was successful in getting my own local authority to turn down a planning scheme which he was urging upon it. Ever since I have been aware of his knowledge and ability on this subject. He quoted a case where county planning had been extremely successful, and I can confirm every word of what he said, but that case is not 1886 typical of town planning generally, but of the best type of planning, and it depends, as he himself has said, on the personal influence and service given to it. It is because we do not believe that in the country as a whole local authorities are capable of obtaining such service—and I could give instances where planning scheme have lowered values, disorganised industry and created great injustice—and because we believe there will be as-many, if not more, of those than there-will be of the type described by the hon. and gallant Member, that we are opposing this Bill. The right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) who, after having said many unpleasant things in the course of the afternoon, has not seen fit to be in his place to hear the reply—
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
Perhaps I may say that the right hon. Gentleman asked me to state that unfortunately he has had to leave to speak at a meeting outside which he had promised to address, and was unable to remain here.
§ Mr. BEAUMONT
Then I should like to be allowed to withdraw any aspersion I was casting upon the right hon. Gentleman. But he paid to those of us who have been associated in this matter what I consider to be a very high tribute. If we have succeeded in doing something that is disliked by him, by the hon. Member for Central Southwark (Mr. Horobin) and by the hon. Lady who sits for the English Universities (Miss Rathbone), I feel that we may justly be proud of our work. One thing he said which is perfectly true, and that is that we are un-repentent. When this Bill was first introduced it was, in my opinion, vicious in principle, unnecessary, ineffective, extravagant and tyrannous. Well, it is a better Bill now, because it is no longer tyrannous, though I think it merits all the other remarks. I am not going to labour the point now, but we discussed last night the question of extravagance. We believe it is going to put a charge upon the rates at a time when no such charge ought to be laid upon them. Our view was voiced by an hon. Member for one of the Scottish divisions who said that at the last election we never thought we should be called upon to support such a Measure as this. We believe that it will be ineffective, because we think that the local authorities, who by their council houses have disgraced the Cotswold 1887 villages to which the right hon. Gentleman referred. I see that the right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, and in that case I ask him to believe that I must know his own district better than he does, because I can take him to a village which has been spoiled by council houses—
§ Mr. BEAUMONT
I am sure the hon. and learned Gentleman keeps safe ward over his own village, a safer ward than he will allow any of us to keep over our villages, because under this legislation the local authority is a sort of tyrant over anyone who has his own ideas as to what is best. We think that the powers of local authorities, particularly small local authorities, in this matter should be diminished instead of being increased, because we believe that the era of taking the ratepayers' money in order to spend it on curtailing their liberty has passed. That is what this Bill will do. We do not think it is possible, so far as country planning is concerned, to stop the development of the countryside, even if it were desirable. It is impossible to prevent such instances as were given by the hon. Member for Central Southwark, because, as building grows and industries develop, so the countryside will undoubtedly grow less and less. It may be well, and it is well, that it should do so in an orderly and a reasoned fashion, but the local authorities, and certainly the rural district councils, are not capable, we believe, even if they were willing, to arrest that development. We think that if planning is to be done, it must be done on an entirely different principle.
We regard this Bill as ineffective, as tyrannous, because it gives an essentially petty body extended powers over private property, and extravagant because it gives more money to be spent in this way. Finally, I wish to rebut the suggestion that public opinion as a whole is on the side of the Bill. It is certainly true that some town planners and local authorities, and some of those people who seek to gain, and some who merely have a passion for putting their noses into other people's business, demand this Bill. In a sense it has been a contest between the town planner 'and town planning. Those 1888 with whom I have been associated in this matter are not ashamed to have taken up the side of town planning.
Sir H. YOUNG
The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. M. Beaumont) exhausted his vocabulary of abusive epithets on the Bill, and reserved the single word tyrannous for his repetition of the catalogue. I note, therefore, from his observations, what I have had some reason to suspect throughout the proceedings, that he has not a very high opinion of the Bill. At this stage of the proceedings there are very few words which it is useful for me to add. I should like to say I was immensely encouraged by the speech of the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood). I feel quite sure that, with his close association with the previous Measure of this sort, if there is anything solid to be said against this Measure as an effective Measure of town planning, he would have said it; but, as a matter of fact, he did nothing of the sort. Instead, he indulged only in vague generalities of abuse of it which are of no great assistance to the House. We could have desired him to have given the Measure rather closer study and to have justified, by some reference to it, the terms of opprobium which he used. The greater part of his speech consisted of a series of self-congratulations on the preceding Measure.
I am, indeed, sorry in any way to prick so brilliant a bubble of self-esteem. I can but say—and this is the appropriate occasion to say it—that the Measure in the form in which he left it and in the form in which I introduced it had imperfections. Why was it introduced in that form? For the reason that it was in that form that it had been passed by the House. I should have considered it as implying disrespect, if after the House had passed the Measure in a certain form, I had taken it upon myself to alter the form before it was re-introduced. What is it that has been done in Committee? The right hon. Gentleman said the Bill had been weakened. I waited for the analysis of his argument in support of that, but I found none at all. The account given by the hon. and gallant Member for South Leicester (Captain Waterhouse) was perfectly accurate. The subsequent changes made in the Bill are these: There has been a. change in the 1889 areas that may be planned, a matter which has been so fully discussed that it would be disrespectful to the House for me to repeat the arguments now. There has been a change in the provisions as to compensation in the interim period. That is a refinement which has emerged from argument and criticism in Committee. It is, I think, a matter for congratulation that the proceedings in this respect have resulted in improving the Bill. Then there has been the change in respect of the Clause regarding betterment, by which payment of betterment is now made, in substance, to be coincident only with realisation of betterment. I have no hesitation in saying that the change will make the Bill easier and smoother to work, and is for the better.
Finally, there have been important changes in procedure which secure to this House the power of vigilantly watching the schemes made under the Bill and of securing the ultimate right of appeal to the High Court of Parliament to any persons who feel themselves so aggrieved as to bring their grievance here. I make no apology for securing that right. In all these matters I believe we have strengthened the Bill as a practical Measure of town planning, and I think it is a matter for congratulation that this has been achieved by the sensible process of putting our heads together so that we have succeeded in making improvements in a very difficult matter. This particular region of legislation is a new region in which nobody can hope, without consultation, to arrive at the best solution. That is what the House exists for—to bring the confluent streams of experience, knowledge and thought to bear upon a Measure, and particularly upon a Measure which covers a new region of legislation. And when we find that we gain advantage from our proceedings in Committee, I think that is a matter which should make us proud of the House of Commons, and not ashamed of any of our procedure.
I have only one other word to say on the Bill before it leaves us. The House is, most naturally, gravely preoccupied with economic considerations in present conditions. It feels itself deeply concerned to make sure that no Measure is passed which involves extravagance, waste or even unnecessary expenditure at present; at the same time, I believe it is pro- 1890 foundly conscious that expenditure is necessary where it will have the direct effect of increasing the actual national wealth. It is because I am sure that the powers of this Bill, wisely exercised and properly controlled, will have the effect of increasing the national wealth, that I believe this to be a Measure appropriate to the present time.
Let me put what I have finally to say in the form of a simple comparison. Who that is about to build a house but knows that it is a prudent and wise thing to employ some skilled person, called an architect, to make the plans for his house before he builds it? He knows that if he does not, he is liable to get the cellarage mixed up with the attics, and to get the windows opening indoors instead of out. He employs a skilled person to make the plans. Well he knows that the small percentage of the total cost which he pays in fees to that man for his house, is really the greatest possible insurance of economy that he can effect. The great structure of our national home is a building which is strictly analogous to that lesser building to which I have referred, in this circumstance, that here we have a great structure whose planning requires expert knowledge. The experience of all who are practically concerned in this sort of administration teaches that the small percentage of the total cost of development that we should pay, and that we will pay, in the form of charges for planning ahead, will be the greatest possible insurance of economy and the best development of our national assets in the future. On all these grounds, I commend this Measure to the House. It has received very full discussion, in Committee and on the Floor of the House during the Report stage, and now in this Third Reading Debate, I think the House is ready to come to a decision on the Bill.