§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.40 p.m.
§ The Minister of Town and Country Planning(Mr. Silkin)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This Bill has been described as the most important for a century. I should not go as far as that, but I do say that it is the most comprehensive and farreaching planning Measure which has ever been placed before this House. I am very conscious of the great responsibility which falls on me in introducing a Bill of this magnitude and historic character.
The objects of town and country planning are becoming increasingly understood and accepted. Primarily, they are to secure a proper balance between the competing demands for land, so that all the land of the country is used in the best interests of the whole people. This is especially necessary in these small, densely populated islands. More than ever, there is today heavy pressure on our limited supply of land. And many of the demands on the use of our land are conflicting. Some must result in more land being brought into development; for example, the housing programme, including the clearance of slums and the rebuilding of blitzed areas, the redevelopment of obsolete and badly laid out areas; the dispersal of population and industry from our large, overcrowded cities to new towns under the New Towns Act. Then there are the re-equipment of industry, the expansion of the social services, particularly the new schools, on present day standards, the construction of new and wider roads and airfields. Again, the House is very familiar with the postwar needs of the Service Departments for land for training and experimental purposes. 948 All these involve the use of additional land. On the other hand, town and country plahning must preserve land from development. A high level of agricultural production is vital. More land must be kept for forestry. We have to see that our mineral resources—both surface and underground—are properly developed and are not unnecessarily sterilised by erecting buildings on the surface. And it is important to safeguard the beauty of the countryside and coast-line, especially now that holidays with pay will enable more people to enjoy them, and because we must develop the tourist industry as a source of foreign exchange.
All this involves sterilisation of land, and these conflicting demands for land must be dovetailed together. If each is considered in isolation, the common interest is bound to suffer. Housing must be so located in relation to industry that workers are not compelled to make long, tiring and expensive journeys to and from work. Nor must our already large towns be permitted to sprawl, and expand, so as to eat up the adjacent rural areas and make access to the countryside and to the amenities in the centre of the town more difficult. Green belts must be left round towns, and the most fertile land must be kept for food production. The continued drift from the countryside must be arrested. Today, four-fifths of our people live in towns, and the rural population is declining. We have, in the past, neglected the planning of our villages and allowed some of the most beautiful of them to be spoiled by wholly inappropriate development. Life in the countryside must be made more convenient, and its attractiveness maintained.
For town and country planning to undertake such a variety of tasks involves a conception of its functions quite different from that which prevailed before the war. This new conception of planning first found definite expression in the Barlow Report in January, 1940. This Report showed how, between the wars, industry tended to concentrate in the South of England, with the result that towns in the South, especially London, grew too large for health, efficiency and safety, while some of the older industrial areas suffered chronic unemployment. The Report demonstrated that this process, and the social evils which it produced, could not be corrected by localised and purely restrictive planning; it demanded 949 planning on a national scale, and planning that involved positive action—in selecting which towns should be allowed to expand and which should not, in creating entirely new towns, in providing land, factories, and services for industry where they were needed, as well as prohibiting them where they were not. It is because existing legislation cannot provide the instrument for planning the use of our land in accordance with these new conceptions that this Bill has become necessary.
I realise that the task confronting me of explaining, within a short space of time, the purpose and contents of this Bill is a formidable one. The Bill is comprehensive; it deals with the long-standing land problems of compensation and betterment. and the high cost of urban land, and revolutionises the nature of our existing system of land tenure; it simplifies and drastically leorganises the machinery of planning; it provides financial assistance to local authorities in rebuilding their war-damaged areas and redeveloping their obsolete, badly developed and derelict areas; it confers upon local authorities additional powers of acquisition of land for planning purposes and of positive planning; it introduces effective control over outdoor advertisements; it carries out a considerable measure of consolidation of existing Town Planning Acts; and generally, it is designed to make town and country planning a reality. The Bill is, therefore, long, technical and complex, and naturally, in some respects, controversial. I feel that I ought to ask the indulgence of the House in advance, if in these exceptional circumstances I take rather more time than is usual on the occasion of the introduction of a Bill.
Although the first Town Planning Act is now nearly 40 years old, and many further planning Measures have been passed during that period, it would be idle to pretend that effective planning control over development existed today. Indeed, I think it could be successfully contended that more damage has been done, both to our towns and to the countryside, through sporadic and ribbon development, and by the loss of good agricultural land, since 1909, the date of the first Town Planning Act, than in any period preceding it. For instance, between 1927 and 1939 about 60,000 acres of agricultural land was lost each year to buildings and other development. The relative 950 failure of town planning hitherto can be attributed to a number of causes, but the principal one is, undoubtedly, the obligation on local planning authorities to pay compensation to an owner of land who, in the public interest, is refused permission to develop. On account of this obligation, which in the case of smaller or poorer authorities may constitute a burden entirely beyond their resources, local authorities have been unable to prevent undesirable development, and land which should have remained unbuilt on, and reserved for agriculture, or open space, or playing fields, has been lost to the community for ever. Earlier town planning legislation has recognised the principle that profitable development by a private owner is only possible because of the efforts or activities of the community in the neighbourhood; that until the community builds roads, provides transport, makes sewers, provides water, and the other necessities of modern civilised life, development is not practicable. The Town and Country Planning Act, 1932—which re-enacted earlier similar provisions—provides for the payment of betterment by an owner whose land is increased in value in these circumstances. Unfortunately, the provisions regarding betterment are so circumscribed, and so difficult of application, that only in three cases has a local authority ever been successful in securing betterment, except as a set-off against a claim for compensation.
Sections 21 to 24 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, deal with betterment; they provide very' broadly that if as a result of the making of a planning scheme or the execution by a responsible authority of work under a scheme, any property is increased in value, the authority may recover from the perspn whose property is so increased in value anamount not exceeding 75 per cent. of that increase. Well, that is very nice but in general this amount is not payable until the property is sold or developed, if sold or developed within 14 years, and not at all after 14 years. So that all an owner has to do is to hold on to his property for 14 years, and he is saved from any betterment charge. Moreover, the difficulty of establishing that any particular owner has benefited from a planning scheme is almost insurmountable; and so the obligation on local authorities to pay compensation if they plan effectively is heavy and definite, though un- 951 limited in extent, whereas the chances of getting betterment are negligible. Moreover, land values are often increased fortuitously in consequence of planning by the operation of the doctrine of shifting values. Where permission to develop is refused on one site or in one area, the development is shifted and takes place on another site or in another area. The result is that the local authority refusing permission to develop becomes liable to pay compensation. But the site on which development actually takes place is increased in value, without any effort on the part of the owner. It may even be outside the area of the local authority refusing permission.
This problem of securing for the community the benefit from increases in land values created by the community is accentuated by the fact that when land has to be acquired for public purposes the price is increased against the local authority or the acquiring authority by the very improvements carried out at public expense. For example, land which is used for agricultural purposes in a rural area may be worth £50 an acre. But if an arterial road is built which gives the land a building frontage, its price may become £1,000 or £2,000 an acre. In the towns land values have steadily risen because of public expenditure; and local authorities acquiring land for housing or for other statutory purposes often feel compelled to go to a less desirable situation because of cost. That explains why so many housing sites are near to gas works or railway sidings or far away from where the people for whom the houses are being built have to Work. For instance, in Westminster, where a large number, of persons work late hours in hotels and restaurants, in theatres and cinemas, as policemen, and Members of Parliament, the cost of land for housing is practicably prohibitive—frequently £60,000 an acre and more—and very little new housing provision can be made in an area where above all it would be convenient for many people. Even where housing has been provided in Westminster and in similar areas, it is in the form of huge blocks of flats, either at very expensive rents, or heavily subsidised, and not the most suitable type of accommodation for families.
The existence of these problems has long been recognised and various proposals put forward for their solution. Writing in the 952 latter half of the 19th century, Henry George brought the problem into the political arena with his proposal for a single tax on land values. The Royal Commission on Housing of the Working Classes, reporting in 1885, recommended the rating of land values on the ground that increases in land values were brought about, not as a recompense for any industry or expenditure on the part of the landowner, but as the natural result of the industry and activity of the townspeople themselves. The question was also considered by Parliament nearly 40 years ago; Mr. Lloyd George dealt with it in his great Budget speech in 1909. He said:the growth in the value more especially of urban sites is due to no expenditure of capital or thought on the part of the ground owners, but entirely owing to the energy and enterprise of the community.… It is undoubtedly one of the worst evils of our present system of land tenure that instead of reaping the benefit of the common endeavour of its citizens, a community has always to pay a heavy penalty to its ground landlords for putting up the value of their land."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th April, 1909; Vol. IV; C. 532.]In the same Budget Debate, the present Leader of the Opposition, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), then President of the Board of Trade, also spoke in terms which are as true today as they were in 1909, in these picturesque words:Because the population is congested in the city, the price of land is high in the suburbs, and because the price of land is high in the suburbs, the population must remain congested in the city. That is the position which we are asked to believe is in accordance with the principles which have hitherto dominated civilised society."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1909; Vol. IV; c. 846.]The House will remember that the Budget of 1909 levied what was known as "increment value duty" of 20 per cent. on increases in the value of land from time to time. This relatively minor measure of restitution created a constitutional crisis, which resulted in the passing of the Parliament Act, but the duty was repealed in 1920, under the Government of Mr. Lloyd George, and the great battle was fought in vain. In fact the Act was extremely complicated. Four different valuations were required for every parcel of land, and the amount realised was small.
The last Labour Government, in spite of its short term of office, made another attempt to tackle this problem of unearned 953 increment in land value. The Finance Act of 1931 again set up the necessary machinery for taxing land values—this time a much simpler one than that of 1909—and the valuation work was started. One defect of that Act, as of Mr. Lloyd George's 1909 Act, was that several years' preliminary valuation work was necessary before the tax could become effective, and long before the date for collecting the tax the Tory Government, headed by Mr. Stanley Baldwin, as he then was, had repealed it.
§ Mr. Silkin
Right hon. Gentlemen opposite will not get the chance. It should be noted, however, that neither of these land taxation Acts made any fundamental change in the land system or in the rights of landowners. They left the system just as it was; they left values to accrue to land, irrespective of planning requirements, and then sought to tax land values for the benefit of the community. They were not intended to be measures of land reform or to further the process of planning. And so the problem still remains with us today. Owners of land are still reaping the benefit of the common endeavour of its citizens. Land costs are soaring, the population is still congested in the city because the price of land is high in the suburbs, and the state of affairs about which the right hon. Gentleman was so indignant in 1909 still obtains.
The existing system has been severely criticised in recent years by the Royal Commission on the Distribution of the Industrial Population, the Barlow Commission, which reported in 1940; by the expert Committee on Compensation and Betterment, the Uthwatt Committee, and by the Committee on Land Utilisation in Rural Areas, the Scott Committee, which both reported in 1942. Here I should like to repeat what has been said often before how greatly the nation is indebted to these three bodies for their exhaustive investigations into the subject of town and country planning, and for their extremely able and objective reports. Together, they are a mine of information, which has been of the greatest possible value to me and my advisers in preparing this Measure; they constitute what are probably the three most valuable and popular State papers ever produced and 954 no examination of the subject is possible without reference to them. Especially we are under the deepest possible obligation to their chairmen, Lord Justice Scott, Mr. Justice Uthwatt, now Lord Uthwatt, and Sir Anderson Montague-Barlow. The Barlow Commission, the earliest to be set up, were so impressed by the seriousness of the problems of compensation and betterment, that they recommended that an expert committee should be set up as a matter of urgency to study and make recommendations on this subject, and the Uthwatt Committee was set up in consequence.
In paragraph 25 of the Uthwatt Report it is stated thatunquestionably the greatest obstacle to really effective planning has been the fear on the part of planning authorities of incurring indefinite liabilities in the matter of compensation if the extreme step of forbidding development is taken.And again in paragraph 22:Action for ensuring that the best use is made of the nation's land resources is practically impossible under the existing planning legislation on account of the liability placed on the local planning authority for compensating all the land owners concerned for deprivation of land value.The Scott Report stated thatthe clear and unequivocal reservation of agricultural land against possible building use is still a form of planning which exposes the planning authority to unpredictable claims for compensation, and there can be no doubt that the fear of such claims being lodged has been one of the principal reasons for the unsatisfactory nature of many of the planning schemes which have been prepared in the past.I could multiply these quotations indefinitely. I am almost tempted to quote from some of my own speeches, both in the House and outside, made some years ago, and from things I have written, but I will resist that temptation, and instead, I will quote from the speech made by my predecessor the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) which he may remember on the Second Reading of the Town and Country Planning Bill, 1944. He said:We shall have to overhaul in due course the planning machinery proper in the light of experience, and in particular we shall have to deal with the question of compensation and betterment, which is such an important feature in the whole problem."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. nth July, 1944; Vol. 401, c. 1592.]Following the publication of the Uthwatt Report, the Coalition Government, amidst 955 its many other preoccupations, endeavoured to cope with this same problem. In June, 1944, after, I believe, an immense amount of discussion of many different schemes, the White Paper on the Control of Land Use was presented to Parliament. In the introduction to the White Paper the Coalition Government recognised that when the Town and Country Planning Act 1944 became law,there would still remain to be corrected what is generally agreed to be the defect which most of all prevented or distorted good planning before the war—namely the state of the law regarding the payment of compensation to landowners affected by planning schemes, and, the collection of betterment from those who benefit therefrom.A number of proposals were put forward in this way, upon which I will not at this stage comment. I merely refer to that White Paper as evidence that, even in the middle of a great war, the Government thought this problem of sufficient urgency to devote itself to the preparation and publication of such a Paper. Unfortunately, although the Government continued in office for a year after the publication, no time was ever given to discuss the Paper in the House of Commons—there was some discussion in another place—in spite of strong pressure by hon. Members of all political parties.
Even without the damage and dislocation caused by the war, a solution of the problem would have been essential and urgent, but the vast amount of damage caused by enemy action, the grave disrepair of so much property for lack of maintenance during the war, the gross overcrowding which today exists through our inability to build houses during the war, and the need for carrying out a planned policy of dispersal of industry and population from our congested towns, have all combined to make a solution of the problem desperately urgent. Although many of our towns and cities are making valiant efforts to use the powers conferred upon them by the Town and Country Planning Act of 1944, to carry out the redevelopment of their blitzed areas, many have hardly begun through fear of the burden of compensation, and hardly any have even begun to think about the problem of their areas of bad lay-out and obsolete development, or blight, for the same reason.
The Government, therefore, cannot be accused of precipitancy, as it has been in 956 the case of other Bills, in introducing this Measure. Indeed, I think the House will, by now, have been entirely convinced that the solution of this question of compensation and betterment cannot any longer be delayed. Parts IV and V of the Bill deal with this subject, and I will come back to it later in my speech.
Once the greatest single deterrent to effective planning is removed, an opportunity is afforded us of looking at the planning structure afresh. The Town and Country Planning Act of 1932 provides the planning machinery which is in operation today, and I have examined this machinery to see what are its defects, and what alterations are necessary in the new circumstances to make it effective for the carrying out of our new conception of positive planning. The Uthwatt Report summarises the most important of these general defects. The first is that the planning powers in the 1932 Act are permissive only, and there were at the time of the Report large areas of countryside, and certain important towns, in respect of which the local planning authority had not even taken the first step of passing a resolution to prepare a planning scheme. It is true that since the Report was published the Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) Act of 1943 has been passed in pursuance of which this first step of passing a resolution is deemed to have been taken, and so permission has now to be obtained of the Local Planning Authority for development. But relatively few local authorities have actually prepared even tentative plans to enable them to judge applications for development, and there is no effective means of requiring them to do so.
The second general defect is that planning schemes under the 1932 Act are necessarily local and not national in their outlook. Planning authorities have naturally regarded themselves as having a duty only to their own ratepayers, and in their planning operations have an eye on their own finances and the trade of their district, regardless of the interests of people outside their area. Authorities regard it as their main object to attract industry and population, and thus rateable value, to their area, irrespective of wider planning considerations. This inevitably leads to planning in isolated compartments. There are today 1,441 authorities with separate planning powers in England and Wales, and it is obvious that the 957 preparation of plans by so many authorities—even if they all did prepare plans— is not likely to produce anything in the way of comprehensive or co-ordinated planning. An attempt was made to remedy this in the 1932 Act by providing for the creation of joint planning committees. A number of planning authorities which have a community of interest are empowered to combine voluntarily for the purpose of making a plan, or are required to combine by my Ministry in default of agreement, after a public inquiry has been held. The carrying out of the plan and the giving of decisions on applications to develop, generally remain with the district councils. This system has, on the whole, not been found to be conducive to good planning. I do not for a moment wish to decry the good and effective work which has been carried out by many of them, but the disadvantages of joint planning committees must be obvious. They offer opportunities for log-rolling and bargaining by the representatives of the different planning authorities, and the resulting plan is often no better than, or different from, the combined plans of the separate authorities. Let me here quote from a report which I recently received:Members of joint planning committees are apt to concern themselves only with matters directly of interest to the district they represent, and do not look at problems on a regional basis. In the case of a joint planning committee whose meeting I have attended, there is a committee of some 50 members, but as items are dealt with under districts, members leave when items concerning their districts have been dealt with, and the meeting finished with about 12 present.That must be a very familiar picture. It may not be typical but it is fairly common. Moreover, many of the district councils are incapable of properly carrying out their planning functions through lack of financial resources. In particular they cannot afford to employ competent assistance, and they are, therefore, often unskilfully advised. Under the Act of 1932 it is contemplated that the various plans of the 1,441 planning authorities will somehow be co-ordinated and made to fit in with one another by the Minister, so as to make a national plan, that is, a plan taking account of national requirements such as the location of industry, of national roads, or the demands of strategy. This is, obviously, an impossible task under existing conditions.
I believe that there is now full acceptance of the principle that planning is a 958 function to be carried out over a wider area by a responsible authority, equipped with a fully qualified staff, and possessing the necessary financial resources. The Government have, therefore, had to consider the question whether the planning functions of existing authorities should be retained, or should be transferred in the case of the district councils to the county council. The view of the Scott Committee was that, normally, the primary local planning unit should be the county, or the county borough and its surrounding area, or a combination of local government units comparable in area, resources or importance with a county. The Barlow Report expresses a similar opinion. The Government have broadly accepted this view, and provision is made in the Bill accordingly. The result is that the number of planning authorities in England and Wales will be reduced from 1,441 to 145—roughly by nine-tenths. I want to make it clear that the removal of planning powers from the' Common Council of the City of London, and from the councils of county districts, is not to be regarded as, in any sense, a penal measure. It implies no reflection upon these bodies, many of whom have done most valuable pioneering work in the field of planning. It is simply that coordinated planning over wide areas cannot be adequately achieved with the present distribution of planning functions.
Here I should like to say a word or two about the special position of the Corporation of the City of London. Nobody —least of all one who, like myself, has earned his livelihood in the City of London for over 25 years—would wish to hurt the susceptibilities of this historic and important authority. The City holds, as I have told them, a unique position in the financial and commercial life of this country. Nevertheless, situated as it is in the centre of the County of London, and forming an integral part of its normal administration, its status as a separate and independent planning authority preparing a plan for its own square mile, is anomalous and indefensible. I hope the Corporation will, on reflection, recognise that in this matter the wider interests of London as a whole ought to prevail.
The third general defect to which the Uthwatt Report refers, is that powers of planning authorities under the 1932 Act are largely regulatory in character, and do not, except to a limited degree, enable 959 them to undertake or secure positive development. As the Report puts it:The planning scheme secures that if development takes place it shall take place only in certain ways. It does not secure that in any particular part of the area of the scheme, it shall in fact take place.So long as the functions of the local planning authority are purely regulatory, there is nothing they can do, as regards the implementing of their plan, but wait until a private person is willing to carry out the development provided in the plan. But often, particularly in the case of an enterprising plan, it may well be that the development which is required, and which is in the public interest, is one which no private person can carry out, because he can see no immediate profit in it, or because the landowner refuses to part with his land or demands an extortionate price, or for some other reason. The planning authority under existing legislation has no power itself to carry out such development, except such powers as are conferred on it by the Town and Country Planning Act of 1944. Nor have they power to require an unwilling owner to dispose of his land to some other person who, is willing to carry out development which it is in the public interest to have.
The Act of 1944 did for the first time confer upon local authorities powers to redevelop their blitzed areas as well as their areas of bad lay-out and obsolete development, and to acquire land for that purpose. Those powers were, however, severely circumscribed. Grants were provided for blitzed areas, but not for areas of blight, although the two types of area very often coalesced. The grant provisions under the 1944 Act are being very much criticised by the local authorities of the blitzed areas who are reluctant to proceed under them. They are regarded as uncertain in their application, and the grant terminates after from 10 to 15 years. Local authorities fear that they will then be left to face, without assistance, heavy losses, resulting from the redevelopment. As I have said, there is no grant at all for those areas which have not suffered blitz, but equally need redevelopment, areas such as Stoke-on-Trent or parts of Leeds, Birmingham or London. This Bill provides grant towards the redevelopment of areas of bad lay-out or obsolete development as well as blitz, and the 960 grant continues for the whole loan period of 60 years. There are other new grant provisions which I shall explain in more detail when I come to Part VII of the Bill. Local authorities are empowered under the Bill to acquire land for all planning purposes by compulsion if they cannot do so by agreement, and either to make the land available to private developers on reasonable terms, or to carry out the desired development themselves, free from the restrictions of the 1944 Act, which require the Minister first to be satisfied that no private person is ready and willing to carry out the proposed development at the time and in the manner requisite. The new grants and these additional powers will, I hope, enable local authorities to carry out their tasks of improving their area—a task which in so many cases is long overdue.
A further defect of the existing planning machinery is that the making of a planning scheme is a long, cumbersome and elaborate process, and that planning is regarded as static, rigid—a scheme once made can only be amended by revoking it and making an entirely fresh scheme. It normally takes some four to five years at the least, and involves a number of public local inquiries, before a scheme comes into operation, and to amend it involves a similar process. What is wanted, says the Uthwatt Report, issomething which is simple, more expeditious, and more positive in character.All these three defects are, I hope, remedied in the Bill before the House. Before coming on to an account of the Bill, I should like to draw the attention of the House to the considerable measure of simplification and consolidation which it brings about. There are, by now, quite a number of planning Acts. As the House will see from the Eighth Schedule, some of these are wholly repealed, including the 1932 Acts, and the Interim Development Act of 1943; and large sections of other Acts are likewise repealed, among them the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act, 1935. This Bill will, therefore, when passed, become a fairly comprehensive new planning code. Now I should like, as briefly as I can, to go through the provisions of the Bill more closely, and as quickly as possible. The Explanatory Memorandum which accompanies the Bill, and which I hope hon. Members have found reasonably clear, describes the 961 Clauses in more detail, and I do not propose to cover the same ground.
Part I deals with the administrative framework. The local planning authorities, as I have already explained, are to be the councils of counties and county boroughs, but where a larger planning unit is desirable, the Bill enables me to create joint planning boards. I propose to use this power fairly freely. Wherever there are county boroughs forming centres of population with rural areas around them, there appears to be a prima faciecase for planning the area as a whole, and for setting up a joint planning board, consisting of the county council, or a part of it, and the county boroughs. In some cases it might even be desirable to create a joint planning board over a wider area. The principle of joint planning over wide areas with a common interest is no longer new. We have had the Greater London Plan, consisting of 143 separate planning authorities, and plans have been prepared for a very wide area, including plans for Greater Birmingham, the Potteries district, the North-Eastern Development Area, South Wales and West Cumberland. There is no reason why this process should not be extended. It is essential, too, that the district councils, who are most familiar, in detail, with their areas, should have an effective voice in the preparation of plans. The Bill provides accordingly that the county councils or the joint planning boards must consult all county district councils in the area at the various stages in the preparation of the plan, and I intend to ensure that the consultations are real and not in any way perfunctory.
Part I also sets up the Central Land Board, to administer the provisions of the Bill dealing with compensation and betterment, to which I shall refer later. Although a separate Bill will be introduced for Scotland, this provision, establishing the Central Land Board, extends to Scotland, and the board will be appointed jointly by the Secretary of State and myself. It will be under the general directions of the Ministers in matters of policy, but will have full responsibility for individual cases. The board will, I hope, normally use the district valuers as agents for valuations and negotiations.
Part II creates the new planning machine. It places on all local planning authorities an express obligation to carry out a survey, and to submit to the 962 Minister a development plan within three years. The plan to be submitted in that period will show in broad outline how the development of the area will proceed. Detail will be added as and when development is about to take place in a part of the area, and the whole plan will be brought regularly under review, not less often than every five years. The preparation of plans will thus be a continuous process of addition and adaptation against a long-term framework that remains fairly firm, but by no means rigid. It will involve too the co-operation of central and local authorities, so that plans reflect both local needs and national policy on questions which have to be settled for the country as a whole.
How will the local planning authority set about preparing the plan? The first step is the survey. This will cover the physical features of the area, water supply, soil fertility, minerals, and so forth; the growth of population, the industries that are expanding and those that are declining; housing, open spaces, public buildings; the development projects of the transport authorities, of local industrialists, of statutory undertakers, and of Government Departments. I attach the greatest possible importance to this survey, which will present a reliable and detailed analysis of the community from every aspect, and an estimate of its future growth and needs. Without this survey no plan can be of any real value. It will need the co-operative effort of economists, geographers, sociologists and other professions to secure that all the facts about the area are known, including the characteristics and wishes of the people. Here there is room for considerable scientific research and the fullest possible collaboration with the universities. A new type of planner will have to be trained to carry out this broader conception of planning, and I am confident that the universities will recognise the importance and urgency of the matter, and fully play their part, both in research and in training.
On the basis of all this information, and after full consultation with all concerned with the county districts, public authorities, and regional representatives of Government Departments, the local planning authority will prepare their provisional plan. The greater part of this plan will be simply framework. It 963 will show the principal communications and the broad allocation of land among the main uses, such as agriculture, new towns to be established, existing communities to be enlarged, special areas to be preserved because of their scenic beauty, and so on. Over part of the area, the plan is likely to go into much more detail. Where large numbers of new houses are to be built soon—[Interruption] —there will be a good many of them—large-scale maps will show two or three neighbourhood units, each with its shopping centre, elementary school and open spaces. My regional officers will be available to help and advise at all stages of the preparation of the plan, and I hope they will be freely called upon.
Next, the provisional plan will be exhibited and submitted to public opinion, by such means as maps and pamphlets, travelling exhibitions, talks by planning technicians, and films and models of the more important parts of the area. The people whose surroundings are being planned must be given every chance to take an active part in the planning process, particularly when the stage of detail is reached. It is not merely landowners in the area who are affected, or even business interests. Too often in the past the objections of a noisy minority have been allowed to drown the voices of other people vitally affected. The housewife, who will use the new shops, and whose children will go to the new school, the trade union branch whose members will work on the new factory estate, the farmer, the motorist, the amenity society —these too must have their say, and when they have had it, the provisional plan may need a good deal of alteration, but it will be all the better for that since it will reflect actual needs, democratically expressed. In the past, plans have been too much the plans of officials and not the plans of individuals, but I hope we are going to stop that.
Part II of the Bill goes on to set up machinery for the control of development. The permission of the local planning authority must be obtained for all development, both before and after a development plan has been approved. The Bill enables me to direct that the function of dealing with applications shall be delegated to the district councils. I am anxious to give the district councils the maximum delegation, but, on the other 964 hand, there must be no possibility of the plans being frustrated by reckless grants of consent to development. This obviously means that in the last resort, the views of the plan-making authority must prevail, and I propose to consult with the authorities concerned on the machinery to achieve such delegation. Naturally the power of delegation will be used very sparingly during the stage when the plan is being prepared, but perhaps more extensively later.
There are, as under present law, various ways in which the Minister may control the grant of permissions in the interests of national policy. A new feature is the provision that applications for permission to erect certain types of industrial building will not be considered, unless accompanied by a certificate from the Board of Trade that the siting accords with national policy. This is an important provision, which will give the Board wider control than at present exists over the distribution of industry. There will, of course, be inter-departmental consultation on cases which affect more than one Department, and machinery for this already exists, at both regional and national levels. In particular my Department's views will be fully taken into account in considering an application for a Board of Trade certificate.
As regards development by local authorities themselves—and also by statutory undertakers—the Bill simplifies the procedure for obtaining permission, where such development requires the sanction of a Government Department— for example, a loan sanction, or approval of expenditure for grant—the sanction serves also as a planning permission, and it will be for the Department concerned to consult my own Department, so that planning considerations are taken into account, but only the one Department will have to be directly consulted in the future.
I now turn to a feature of the Bill which will be of particular interest to the House—the control of outdoor advertisement, which will include not only hoardings but electric signs. There will be no disagreement with me when I say that the present law relating to the control of advertisements is thoroughly unsatisfactory. Control exists partly in private Acts, partly under the two Advertisement Regulations Acts of 1907 and 1925, and, 965 in those relatively few areas in which planning schemes are in operation through the provisions of Section 47 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932. There is no uniformity of control, and its exercise has proved unsatisfactory alike to the local authorities, advertising interests and the, public. Whatever may be thought about the proposals in the Bill, it is common ground that outdoor advertisements are capable of doing much harm to amenity. Everyone of normal sensibility knows from his own daily experience, how the more blatant forms of outdoor advertising can spoil natural scenery or the character of a residential town. It would be quite unfair to oversimplify the issues by misrepresenting the situation as one in which the advertising industry as a whole is ranged on one side against enlightened public opinion on the other. On the contrary, I know from my own contacts with, and help received from, the industry that there is considerable awareness by the trade of the harm done by certain forms of advertising on particular types of sites, especially in rural surroundings. Naturally the advertising industry do not welcome legislation which they fear might restrict them, and I should like to pay tribute in this House to the reasonable attitude which their representatives have displayed whenever I have met them.
The House will wish me to give an outline of the course proposed under Clauses 28 and 29 of the Bill, which contain the main provisions in this matter. We must accept the display of advertisements as an established fact in modern commercial enterprise, and I would emphasise that the Bill is designed to control, not to repress. I know there may be hon. Members on both sides of the House who would like to abolish advertising altogether. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] If that is desired, it can be decided as a matter of policy, but that is not a matter which the Town and Country Planning Ministry can decide. All we desire to do is to ensure that advertisements do not interfere with amenity, and I accept the display of advertisements as an established fact in modern commercial enterprise. The control will be exercised by means of Regulations which will be laid before both Houses of Parliament. Regulations are really the only practical way of dealing with the peculiar problems and conditions of outdoor advertising, 966 since they are capable of relatively easy modification in the light of experience.
One of the most important features of the control will be the almost complete prohibition of all forms of outdoor advertising in certain specified areas. These areas, which are called "areas of special control" will be delineated by orders made or approved by the Minister or— perhaps less usually—by inclusion in development plans. Most rural areas will probably be protected in this way, but equally we ought not to tolerate the detraction from the appearance of our towns and cities. The elimination of advertisements must, therefore, extend also to urban areas where there is good reason-for imposing such a ban. There will, of course, be exemptions, even in those areas of total exclusion, for certain types of advertisement essential to the life of the community, for example, those which announce forthcoming events or shop signs indicating a man's calling, or perhaps even posters—I hope there will be no control over colour connected with elections. It will be for the Regulations to determine in detail what the exemptions shall be.
In areas other than areas of special control, the display of outdoor advertisements will, with some exemptions, be allowed only after permission has been obtained from the local planning authority. The machinery for obtaining permission will be similar to that which is proposed in the case of planning permission under Part II of the Bill. There will be an appeal from the decision of the local authority. At present an appeal lies to the court of summary jurisdiction and from there to quarter sessions. I have always felt, personally, that these were quite inappropriate tribunals for deciding questions of amenity, and provision will be made for the appeal to be either to a special tribunal to be constituted under the Regulations, if I can secure general agreement as to the character of such a tribunal, and if not, it will be, as in other cases, to me. I should mention that the Bill empowers me to control existing as well as new displays. In practically all areas, some existing advertisements will have to come down, but the Regulations will allow them a reasonable period of grace.
One aim is fundamental. We must getrid of the weakness which exists under 967 the present law, whereby action against an offending advertisement can be taken only after the damage has actually been done; and even then, if the owner appeals to the court, only after an onerous proof that amenity is seriously impaired. Under the new system every advertisement must conform with the Regulations; any not conforming will be liable to amendment or removal. Another improvement will be the codification in one Measure of all the law relating to advertisement control. This will involve the repeal of the enactments named in the Eighth Schedule to the Bill. Power is sought also to make any necessary adjustments in private legislation—several local authorities have advertisement control provisions in their local Acts—and these will be dealt with by means of Orders in Council. It is my determination to evolve a code which will be practical in its details, workable and effective. All interests will be invited to collaborate in producing this code, and I am convinced that by a reasonable and unprejudiced approach to the many problems involved, it will be possible to produce a fair and reasonable adjustment between the conflicting claims.
So far, I have dealt with the preparation of plans and with planning control. Part III is concerned with the implementation of plans; it provides the wider powers which I have already mentioned for purchase and development of land, the powers which distinguish the positive planning of today from the mainly negative planning of before the war. Let me say at this point that the function of buying and developing land remains with the authorities now responsible, the county boroughs and the county districts, as well as the Corporation of the City of London. The only change that the Bill makes is to give me power, if I think fit, to authorise some other local authority to buy the land. There might occasionally be a scheme which was too big or costly to be carried out by a small borough or district council, in which case I can authorise the county council to assume responsibility.
The main new feature of Part III is the power to designate land in a development plan as subject to compulsory purchase. This extends to land required for the exercise of their functions by Ministers, local authorities and statutory undertakers; to land required for comprehensive development; and any land which may 968 have to be acquired compulsorily to secure its use in accordance with the plan. Designation is important for two reasons. First, it indicates the short-term programme, or the first stages, for carrying out the plan or part of it. A plan will generally be a long-term document; it could, for example, indicate expansion or redevelopment of a town which might take 30 or more years to complete— the County of London plan was proposed to be carried out in a period of about 40 years. But the plan will also show, by designation, the land which is reasonably certain to be brought into development in a foreseeable period of, say, ten years.
Secondly, designation is in the interests of owners, because to a great extent it limits the amount of land placed under a threat of compulsory purchase. If a plan merely reserved land for the next 30 years' development, no owner of that land would be able to estimate whether or when he was likely to be disturbed. The designation helps him to know one way or the other, with reasonable certainty over a period of the next 10 years, and I feel sure that the House will welcome this provision. It does not, of course, follow that if land is designated, it will, in fact, be purchased compulsorily. Designation does not prevent the owner selling by private arrangement for development in' accordance with the plan, or from carrying out the development himself.
Part III also deals with the price to be paid when land is purchased compulsorily, whether under the Bill or under any other enactment. As development values in land will have to be taken out of private ownership, and compensation provided for, the purchasing authority will, in future, pay merely the value of the land for its existing use. It still remains true that under the terms of the Bill, the price to be paid will be—as is laid down in the 1944 Act—on the basis of the 1939 standard, together with the additional percentage for owner occupiers. It may be asked why this is so, when development value for the purpose of the Bill is to be calculated by reference to prices current immediately before 7th January, 1947, the date of introduction. My right hon. Friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, some months ago promised the House that this question would be further considered. Consideration has been proceeding, and I understand that 969 the Chancellor will indicate the stage that has been reached when he speaks later in this Debate.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
This is obviously a matter of very great importance. It we are to have an explanation of it, I think it ought to be brought out in the early stages of the Debate, so as to enable it to be dealt with adequately.
§ Mr. Silkin
I take note of what the hon. Member says, but this is a matter with which the Chancellor is to deal—
§ Mr. Silkin
There will be ample opportunity. [HON. MEMBERS:"NO."] I can assure hon. Members that there will be ample opportunity to discuss it. It is not proposed to impose a decision on them which they will not be able to discuss.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer this simple question? Under the present arrangements for the Debate, will anyone speak after the Chancellor of the Exchequer?
§ Mr. Silkin
That is a matter for the Chancellor of the Exchequer. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I should not be surprised if the answer were in the negative.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
The hon. Member cannot speak unless the Minister gives way.
§ Sir J. Mellor
Perhaps the Minister will say whether the Committee stage will be taken on the Floor of the House?
§ Mr. Silkin
In the last stages, in the House, every hon. Member will be able to discuss any proposals which may be made.
§ Mr. Silkin
—that no proposal shall be carried without free discussion, and the House will have it.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Combined English Universities)
The right hon. Gentleman will observe the terms of a reasoned Amendment which is on the Order Paper. This is a matter which very much affects the issue. Are we to understand that the right hon. Gentleman does not propose to give any justification of these provisions at this stage?
§ Mr. Silkin
I regret to say I may have to speak for a very long time and there are some matters which can be left to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I am prepared to go on all day—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on and tell us about it."] I could say quite a lot about it, but before going on to Parts IV and V, which contain the solution of the compensation-betterment problem, I propose to deal briefly with Parts VI and VII. Part VI applies the general machinery of the Bill to special classes of land and of development, only two of which I need mention. First, mineral workings. The application of the compensation-betterment provisions to existing mineral undertakings raises special and exceedingly difficult problems which do not lend themselves to a solution capable of satisfactory embodiment in a Statute and appropriate to all cases indiscriminately. That is why the details are left to be settled in Regulations. All future workings are dealt with in the same way as ordinary development. It will, of course, be one of the main positive objects of planning under the Bill to ensure that land is available for securing primary materials required for house-building and other reconstruction purposes. Next, local authorities, statutory undertakers, and charitable organisations, including schools, colleges and churches. Land which they hold when the Bill comes into effect, for, broadly, their own special functions, is outside the compcnsation-bettermcrit provisions altogether. When they develop it for the purpose of their functions, they pay no development charge, and, if they dispose of it, the price may include development value. As a corollary, this land is also excluded from payments under Part IV. But land held for investment purposes will be treated exactly like land held by other private owners.
§ Mr. Silkin
That is all I propose to say. Is there anything the right hon. Gentleman would like to know?
§ Mr. Silkin
I explained that existing mineral workings will be dealt with by Regulations, because there is such a variety of different circumstances and conditions, and it might be unfair to one type of undertaking or another, if we attempted to deal with that matter by Statute. Future workings will come under the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman will see the Regulations, of course, before they come into operation.
I now come to the subject of Exchequer grants dealt with in Part VII. The 1944 Act provided that Exchequer grants should be payable to local authorities equal to the annual loan charges on loans raised to meet the costs of acquisition and clearing of war-damaged land for two years. There was then to be a reducing grant for a further eight, or exceptionally, 13 years, according to the extent to which the land could not be brought into use for a substantial purpose. Land required for overspill qualified for grant for the first two years only. As I have said earlier, these grants have been criticised by local authorities as inadequate. They have also complained, and I myself severely criticised the 1944 Act on this ground, that there was no financial assistance at all for the redevelopment of blighted areas, or for areas of dereliction. The Bill meets these criticisms. The new grants will, in general, provide greater financial assistance to local authorities, and will cover not only blitz, but also blight and dereliction. Overspill areas will be eligible for grant on the same terms. In order not to penalise those authorities which have already undertaken commitments, the Bill provides that the grants scheme should have retrospective effect from the date of the 1944 Act. The new scheme will necessarily be rather complicated, and for this reason I have made no attempt to include the details in the Bill itself. These will be laid down in regulations, after discussion with the local authority associations.
972 A broad outline of the scheme proposed is as follows: Grant will be related to the loan charges on the capital cost of acquisition and clearing. During the initial period, when the land is being acquired to make it available for constructional work, the grant will be related to the whole cost of acquisition and clearing. When the land is cleared it will be transferred to the appropriate service of the local authority, such as housing or education, at the value of the land for the use to which it is to be put, and not its actual cost. For example, land required for housing will be transferred to the Housing Account at the value of the land in that area for residential purposes, while land required for an open space would be transferred at only one-quarter of that value. Where this transfer value is less than the actual cost, and it normally will be, the difference, that is, the capital loss, will attract grant for the remainder of the grant period.
§ Mr. Silkin
Perhaps my hon. Friend will wait a moment. This is a considerable advance on the grant provisions under the 1944 Act, and will assist local authorities in their efforts to make their areas better and healthier places to live in. Instead of fixing a rate of grant that would be applicable to all local authorities, it is considered that a higher rate of grant should be paid to poor authorities and a lower rate to rich authorities. For blight and dereliction, the maximum scale of grant will be 80 per cent. for an initial period, the duration of which I am discussing with the representatives of the local authorities. This will be followed by a maximum grant of 70 per cent. for a further short period, and by a maximum grant of 60 per cent. for the balance of the grant period of 60 years. The same scale will apply to the redevelopment of blitz areas with the important exception that all authorities will receive a 90 per cent. grant for the initial period. As I have said, the grants will vary according to the financial strength of the authority. The Regulations will fix the range of grant, and I am already discussing details with the local authority representatives. I am also considering the possibility of making an additional grant where the cost to an individual authority would result in 973 a heavily increased rate burden—that is, the cost in respect of planning and redevelopment.
There is a separate grant for cases arising outside an area which is to be redeveloped as a whole. What I have said so far applies to areas of blight or of blitz, but outside such cases, grant will be payable to local planning authorities towards the cost of compensation in respect of planning decisions, or where a local authority has acquired land on planning grounds with my approval, and has applied it to a use for which its value is less than the cost of acquisition. Grant will be payable in a lump sum in those cases up to a maximum of 60 per cent., according to the financial position of the authority. Here, also, details are being discussed with the local authorities associations. Provision has also been made to fulfil a pledge given by my predecessor during the Debate on the Town and Country Planning Bill in 1943."The mills of God grind slowly. "Local authorities who have incurred expenditure on compensation for planning restrictions since nth May, 1943, when the pledge was given, will be able to claim grant on that expenditure, in accordance with conditions to be prescribed by the regulations.
I now come to what are probably the most difficult and controversial sections of the Bill, Parts IV and V. Part IV provides for payments to owners in respect of the restriction of their land to its existing use. The provisions of this Part of the Bill are very clearly explained and summarised in paragraphs 24 to 29 of the Explanatory Memorandum. Part V, which is dealt with in paragraphs 30 to 34 of the Memorandum, provides for the payment of a betterment or development charge by developers who receive from the planning authority consent to develop or redevelop a site. Both compensation and betterment are to be centralised. Payment of compensation will be made by the Central Land Board, out of a fund, provided by the Exchequer, of £300 million, and this Board will determine, and receive payment of, the development charge. Local authorities will thus be relieved of the obligation to pay compensation, and as they have never been able to recover betterment, they are in no degree losing by the centralisation of the development charge.
974 The first question to be considered is whether the restriction on development or redevelopment entitles the owner of land as of right or equity to the payment of compensation. In the terms of the Explanatory Memorandumthe Government take the view that owners who lose development value as a result of the passing of the Bill are not on that account entitled to compensation,but a sum of £300 million is to be provided out of which payments will be made to meet cases of hardship, where land will be depreciated in value.
§ Mr. Silkin
—in consequence of the passing of this Bill. I recognise that this is a very generous ex gratia payment.
§ Mr. Silkin
Such payments are not regarded or described in the Bill as compensation, but as payments for depreciation. And although I will hereafter in my speech, for the sake of brevity, refer to them as compensation, I do not thereby mean to use the term in the ordinarily accepted sense. I would like to explain why the Government take that view. Under existing law, an owner of land who is prevented from developing becomes entitled to compensation in respect of the restriction, but the Minister is given power, when an authority makes a planning scheme, to exclude compensation in certain classes of cases. The cases in which he can exclude compensation are set out in Sections 19 and 20 of the Act of 1932. I wish to emphasise at this stage that the Act of 1932 is a Tory Measure, passed by a Tory Government, or a National Government, if hon. Members prefer that guise. They certainly approached the matter from a definitely Tory point of view.
A planning scheme may, for example, prescribe the space about buildings, or limit the number of buildings, or regulate the size, height, design, or external appearance of buildings; it may, in certain circumstances, entirely prohibit the erection of buildings, and it may restrict the manner in which buildings may be used, and it may do all these without the payment of compensation. It is, indeed, exceedingly difficult to understand on what principle distinction is drawn, in the 1932 Act, between cases in which compensation 975 is payable, and those in which compensation can be excluded. But there is, as I have said, nothing new in the idea that development can be prohibited without the payment of compensation. The Uthwatt Committee dealt with this question at considerable length, and they laid down a number of propositions; that ownership of land does not carry with it an unqualified right of user; that, therefore, restrictions based on the duties of neighbourliness may be imposed without involving the conception that the landowner is being deprived of any property or interest; and therefore, such restrictions may be imposed without liability to pay compensation.
They then go on to say that the point may be reached when the restrictions imposed extend beyond the obligations of neighbourliness, and, in these circumstances, restrictions become equivalent to an expropriation of a proprietary right or interest, and therefore can be claimed, they say, to carry a right to compensation as such. They admit that it is exceedingly difficult to draw the line with any satisfactory logic, and they do not, in fact, define what are the obligations of neighbourliness, or what kind of restriction they would regard as going beyond such obligations. I suggest to the House that the obligations of neighbourliness are identical with the obligations of good planning. The person who wants to put up a building on his land, which is contrary to the public interest, is guilty of the offence of un-neighbourliness and, on the test laid down by the Uthwatt Report, he would not be entitled to compensation.
§ Mr. Silkin
Let me continue and show that it does not. In paragraph 36 of their Report, the Committee say:The question is whether any kind of restriction at all imposed in the public interest on the use of land by private owners should carry a right to compensation. The mere regulation of the use of land in the interests of the community would not, if the common law were followed out. involve any such payment, and an owner could, therefore, consistently with the common law, be required to refrain from using his land for purposes specified by the State. Obedience to such a direction would not entitle him to compensationThey go on to say:but it must, we think, be recognised that the full application of such a policy would result in hardship in many cases. …976 That is what we say. Then the Report continues:…and moreover would involve inconsistent treatment as between individuals. The owner whose land was zoned for agriculture might suffer a loss of potential building value for which he had paid when purchasing the land. The owner whose land was earmarked for factory development might be able to secure a high price, and retain the proceeds for his own use.They go on to say:The question whether or not, in all the circumstances which will obtain after the war, compentsation should be paid in respect of the imposition of the restriction on development, is a matter of policy upon which it is not for us to express an opinion.It is a matter of policy because of the necessity, as they think, of dealing with cases of hardship. They made it quite plain that in their opinion there is no ground for payment of compensation except that of hardship. I have, therefore, the full authority of the Uthwatt Report for the statement in the Explanatory Memorandum relating to compensation.
Before dealing with the objections which have been raised in the Press and elsewhere to the compensation scheme in the Bill, perhaps I might explain, very briefly, some of the more important respects in which it differs both from the Uthwatt scheme and from that put forward by the Coalition Government in the White Paper on the Control of Land Use. The Uthwatt Report recommends the acquisition of development rights, but only of undeveloped land outside the towns. It recommends quite different treatment for land in urban areas, namely, a periodic levy of 75 per cent. on increases in annual value. The White Paper rejected this differentiation, and proposed that development and redevelopment inside urban areas should be treated in exactly the same way as outside, and that the restriction should be placed upon all development rights. The Government in this respect accept the views in the Coalition. White Paper. No distinction in principle is made between urban and rural land. Nor are development rights acquired under the Bill. There is a universal restriction.
Next as to compensation, the Uthwatt Committee recommend that if payment is made, it should be made to all owners of land with development value. They make no recommendation as to when the payment should be made, but obviously they 977 contemplate that a considerable period must elapse in making the necessary valuations, and probably five years is not too long a period. The Coalition White Paper, on the other hand, proposes that no compensation shall be paid for five years, and that the level at which compensation is to be assessed should not be decided until after the five years, and thereafter compensation should be paid only when permission to develop or redevelop for a different use has been refused. In this respect the Bill is broadly in line with the recommendation of the Uthwatt Committee, and is considerably more favourable to the owner of land than the proposals in the Coalition White Paper. Payments will be made within five years to such classes of persons as Parliament hereafter decides shall be entitled to participate in the Fund, and will not depend on whether their application to develop has been refused or not.
Then on the question of the total amount of compensation, the Uthwatt Committee recommended that a global sum should be fixed, and payment of compensation made out of this global sum. The Coalition White Paper makes no proposal at all on how the compensation is to be arrived at, or whether it is to be on a global basis or otherwise; it merely postpones the whole matter for five years, leaving owners completely in the dark as to what compensation, if any, they are to receive. Here again, the Bill follows broadly the Report of the Uthwatt Committee. I should like to explain why the Government decided to provide compensation out of a global sum. Assuming that payment is to be made to owners of development values, it can be done in one of two ways: either by fixing a global sum and distributing it in such manner as may be decided upon among the various classes of persons who establish that their land possessed development value on a certain day, or by paying a fraction of each claim so established—this fraction eliminating the estimated amount of floating value. Those who have studied the Uthwatt Report will find the case for a global sum very fully argued there. The main justification is that piecemeal valuation would not produce a fair sum—that is, a fair sum to the community—and the same view is expressed in the Coalition White Paper. In the Uthwatt view, by reason of floating value, between two and three times too much would be paid if piecemeal valuation formed the basis of 978 compensation. They do not explain how they arrive at this amount of float. The difficulty is that there is no way by which the true amount of float can be ascertained until long after the time for payment; that is, until we know how much development has actually taken place.
My own considered opinion is that it would be very much more than two or three times too much, and I want to give the House one reason, which I regard as conclusive, for saying so. Up to 1937, the amount of land zoned for housing in draft schemes in England and Wales, when considerably less than half the country was covered by draft schemes, provided accommodation for nearly 350 million people. Now I think it may be assumed that any land which has been zoned for housing development, that is, where development would be permitted by the planning authorities, has some development value. I admit that in many cases it will be small, but, clearly, land upon which the planning authority will permit development must have a higher market value than land upon which development will not be permitted. Therefore, the bulk of the land for housing the 350 million people will have some development value. But it is obvious that, in the next 20 or 30 years, only an infinitesimal proportion of this land possessing development value will, in fact, be developed for housing. The total number of people to be rehoused in this period will be a very small fraction of 350 million, which figure relates to less than half the country.
Moreover, a good deal of the housing will be on existing sites by way of replacement of existing bad houses and not on new sites at all. Allowing, then, for the fact that much of the development value to which I have referred will be small, and, therefore, excluded from payments under the Bill, the amount of land which will rank for compensation may well be some twenty times as great as will be actually developed. That is a measure of the possible amount of float that exists. In fact, it is, as I have explained, quite impossible at this stage to say how much development actually will take place, even in the relatively near future, to say nothing of development in 20 or 30 years' time. It is governed by so many unpredictable circumstances, which will not emerge for many years to come, that 979 we shall be in no better position to estimate the amount of float in five years' time than we are today. Any figures we may decide upon as float, therefore, can only be a guess which may be very wide of the mark. For these reasons, there is nothing to be gained by postponing a decision, as proposed in the Coalition White Paper. Nor would it be sound, prudent, or fair, arbitrarily and blindly, to fix the amount of float by which claims would be reduced. For these reasons the Government has accepted the principle of the global sum.
The House is, however, entitled to know why £300 million has been decided upon —why not £400 million or £200 million? Reference has been made in the Press to the sum of £400 million in the Barlow Report. It is stated that this sum was put forward as the development value of undeveloped land only, based upon 1937 values, that development values have increased like everything else since the war, and the sum of £300 million is intended to include redevelopment values in built-up areas as well.
§ Mr. Silkin
Why, it will be asked, only £300 million? And why arbitrarily fix upon a sum? Why not appoint an expert committee to determine the right amount? I am putting the questions which hon. Members have asked. These are perfectly understandable questions, and I will endeavour to answer them.
Those who have referred to the Barlow Report have evidently not taken the trouble to refresh their memories as to what the Report acually said. The Barlow Commission, in paragraph 256, were explaining, without comment, a suggestion which had been made to them for dealing with compensation and betterment by the acquisition of development rights in undeveloped land. In a footnote to the paragraph they stated that they had sought the views semi-offcially of the then chief valuer, Board of Inland Revenue, in order to get some idea of what this scheme would cost. The chief valuer informed them that preliminary 980 calculations led him to the conclusion that the cost of development rights might be in the region of £400 million; and this figure was to be regarded as an intelligent guess.
It was no part of the business of the Barlow Commission to work out what might be the right and actual sum, and they do not pretend that they did so. No one would be more surprised than the Barlow Commission themselves at this sum being quoted as in any way a reliable figure. The Uthwatt Committee, whose job it was to go into the matter in much more detail as an expert Committee, reject this intelligent guess, and they say that a better conception of the amount involved in their scheme may be obtained by taking the rate of development of undeveloped land outside towns at 45,000 acres per annum—the average rate of development in the immediate pre-war years—and the average development value at £200 per acre, which I think is rather high, and the resultant annual figure is £9,000,000.
To arrive at the present worth of these annual figures, it is necessary to make some assumptions as to future trends, and then to discount the results. That is the ordinary process by which you arrive at a figure representing a number of years' purchase. The Uthwatt Committee mentioned this, but did not suggest a figure of years' purchase. I do not think, on that, that anyone would suggest that you should take more than 15 to 16 years' purchase for a speculative security of this kind. On that basis, which is, I think, a generous one, the capital sum representing the true development value might be rounded up to something of the order of £150 million. To this should be added a further capital sum representing the development and "redevelopment value of land in built-up areas, which I estimate would run to about the same figure. These together make up £300 million, which is exactly the amount of the global sum. It should, however, be remembered that there will be much land at the appointed day which will be exempt from a betterment charge—most Crown land, land held for their purposes by local authorities, statutory undertakers and charitable trusts, land on which building has begun, and dead ripe land where development is to be permitted—no betterment charge and no compensation. Since, broadly, there is to be no charge when any of this land is developed, its owners will have 981 no claim to a payment in respect of its development value and can, therefore, be left out of the scheme of distribution. The result is that the £300 million is available in its entirety for distribution to the owners of other land with development value. That should take out a fair proportion of the 45,000 acres.
Moreover, it would in fact be unduly optimistic to assume that for the next few years 45,000 acres per annum will be developed in undeveloped areas, or that an equivalent amount of redevelopment will take place in built-up areas. A decline in population will affect the future demands for development and so will future economic conditions; the shortage of materials and labour must slow up development, and high building costs and their uncertainty will undoubtedly depress site values, and tend to postpone development until costs become lower and more settled. All these factors will either reduce or postpone development, and so the figure of £200 an acre which the Uthwatt Committee took as the average development value, is undoubtedly higher than the value today. And for this reason, and the others to which I have referred, the aggregate development values will almost certainly be less than the figure I have given.
The Government might well, therefore, have taken the view that something far less than £300 million could reasonably have been provided. They prefer, however, to keep to a round sum which, in their view, is big enough to allow for the wide margins of error, to which any calculation is liable. For instance, town land and built-up land may have, in total, a rather higher development value than unbuilt land outside towns. It is not likely, but it is possible. And, as I have said, the future trends cannot be estimated with any certainty. But I think we have a wide enough margin. No expert committee, therefore, could possibly carry the matter further than the Government have done—they would have no more data than the Government—either now or within any reasonable time. Therefore, they would not be in a position to submit a more accurate or reliable figure. To appoint an expert committee to determine the amount would merely increase and prolong the uncertainty. Such figures as I have given, I have mentioned merely to indicate that the £300 million was not 982 arbitrarily decided upon, that there is a fair basis upon which this figure is put forward; and that, taking account of all the circumstances, and making the best calculations possible, it can be accepted as a reasonable one.
Before passing from it, I ought to point out that this sum is intended to cover England, Wales and Scotland. The Bill does not determine who should participate in the global sum. It contemplates a scheme being made by the Treasury providing for its distribution, and, when payment is made, it will be by means of Government stock. The scheme will have to be approved by Resolution of each House of Parliament, and each House will, therefore, have an opportunity of discussing, and approving or rejecting it before it became operative. Interest will be paid in cash to those to whom stock is issued from the appointed day to the date of issue of the stock. So much for compensation.
I now come to Part V, the part of the Bill dealing with development charges. This provides for the payment by a developer who has received planning consent, of a development charge of such amount as may be determined by the Central Land Board. The Bill does not fix the amount of the charge, but it requires the Board to have regard to the increase in the values of the land as a result of the permission to develop. The Board will be subject to directions by the Minister by agreement with the Treasury. There has been some criticism of the additional complications caused to developers by the imposition of the development charge, and the uncertainty as to its amount. I recognise that any additional step which developers have to take before they may develop adds, in these days, to their difficulties. I hope that it will be administratively possible to simplify procedure for the intending developer. My objective, which I will do my best to achieve, is that there need be one application only for by-law consent, planning and development charge, that the application will automatically be referred to the proper quarters, and that the developer will receive, in due course, one decision, which will notify him whether consent is given, subject to what conditions, and of the amount of the development charge. I know that that would be very much appreciated, if it is practicable, 983 and I have reserved powers to make regulations for carrying out this unification if I possibly can.
It is, however, on the question of uncertainty that the more serious criticism is levelled. I will be asked why it is not possible to determine upon a fixed percentage of the increased value as the development charge. The Uthwatt Committee recommended 75 per cent., the Coalition White Paper 80 per cent.; why not choose one or the other, or split the difference? In my view, to have a fixed percentage in the Bill would be much too rigid. There will be cases where it would be right and practicable for the Central Land Board to impose a development charge of 100 per cent. On the other hand, there might be circumstances in which it would be important to encourage development by reducing the charge, either on account of economic conditions in the country generally, or in particular areas where unemployment is above the average. The importance of securing a particular piece of development on a particular site now, instead of in, say, 20 years, may also lead to a reduction in the development charge, well below full development value. The Board would be free, subject to directions from the Minister, with Treasury consent, to vary the development charge from time to time, according to circumstances.
§ Mr. Molson
Would the right hon. Gentleman indicate whether he contemplates having powers to issue directions himself, or whether it is to be done in the form of Regulations?
§ Mr. Silkin
There will be general Regulations. I do not propose to issue individual directions; that would become impossible, because, if I did, I might just as well do the job myself. The direction will be of a general nature.
I propose, in due course, to lay before the House a statement of the general principles upon which the Central Land Board will act, and it will be open to the House to discuss them. I regard the Board as in exactly the same position as an owner of land who is negotiating a building lease to an intending developer. The rent is fixed by agreement, according to the circumstances prevailing at the time. In a period of commercial and industrial activity, the rent which a developer will be prepared to pay will be higher; in a 984 period of inactivity, when it is desirable to encourage development, the rent will be lower. The same will apply to the development charge. It will be an instruction to the Board not to hinder development by the imposition of charges which are too high, nor, on the other hand, to surrender any part of the development charge which they can secure and which, ex hypothesi, belongs to the community. I am sure that this flexibility is right, and that it would be a great mistake to provide in the Bill for a fixed percentage applicable to all circumstances, which could only be varied by Act of Parliament.
I may also be told that the charge ought not to be left at large, because the Board will have a monopoly and can charge what it likes. But I would remind hon. Members that the Board will be working under the Minister's general directions, and that no Minister, and no Board, would ever fix the charges so high that development would be prevented. Such a policy would not only defeat the whole object of planning; it would, also kill the revenue from betterment. I shall be asked what will be the position of a builder who is desirous of acquiring land and building houses on it for sale, or of a person wishing to build a house for his own occupation. Will they not suffer, and will development, therefore, be discouraged? When the Bill becomes law, a developer will acquire his land at the existing use value. This will, of course, be lower than today's market price, which will include the development value. On getting consent from the local authority to build, he will then negotiate the development charge with the Central Land Board. As I have explained, this charge will be a sum which will not exceed the actual development value. In other words, for his land and for the right to build, he will pay an aggregate sum which will not exceed and may well be substantially less than today's market price. He cannot, therefore, be worse off; he may be better off.
Moreover, the reputable builder does not normally look for his profits to the sale of land. He expects to make a profit out of his building operations, and this he will be able to do when the Bill becomes law just as much as he could before. In so far as he does look to making his profits out of the sale of land, this is a practice which I regard as undesirable, and no harm will come to the community 985 if it is no longer possible. There will be cases where an owner of land upon which development is desirable, and even essential, in the public interest, will refuse either to develop because of the imposition of the development charge or to dispose of it for development. In such a case powers are conferred upon the local authority or upon the Board to acquire the land at its existing use value and to dispose of it, subject to the development charge, to a person who is prepared to carry out the desired developments. There will be certain types of development, set out in the Third Schedule to the Bill, which will not involve payment of a development charge. These include a fairly wide range of development within the existing use; for example, the rebuilding or enlargement of a house or other building, so long as the cubic content is not increased by more than one tenth. Other exemptions may be prescribed by regulation. Local authorities, statutory undertakers and charities, though exempt as regards much of the land they hold on the appointed day, will in general be liable to development charge when they develop land acquired afterwards, because they will have bought at existing use value. In the case of the local authorities, the amount of the development charge will have regard to the use to which the land is to be put.
Now, at long last, I have completed my task of describing and justifying the Bill. And yet, I realise that I have been able to deal with much of it only superficially. The Bill covers so many aspects of planning that its provisions might well have been distributed among a number of separate Bills, upon each of which a Second Reading speech would have been appropriate. I have, however, dealt with the main criticisms which have been levelled against it I observe that there is on the Order Paper today an Amendment under distinguished patronage for the rejection of the Bill. I have read the Amendment. It reminds me very much of an Old Bailey indictment. One makes quite sure that one has got every possible charge on it, in case the criminal escapes the net. Indeed it says nearly everything that could be said. What it does not say is that the Bill is a bad Bill, and I am very grateful to those who have put the Motion down for their unconscious honesty. I think I have dealt with every allegation in the Amendment except the 986 one that insufficient time has been given for the Second Reading. On that I would like to make two points. This allegation refers to the consultations which are necessary with local authorities and other bodies. I submit that the local authorities have no complaints whatever. Unlike the Act of 1944. whatever they may say about the merits of this Bill, they have no complaints at all about the discussions which have taken place, ranging over a period of about 12 months.
§ Mr. Silkin
Yes, but I thought the point was that local authorities had not had enough time for discussion. Local authorities have grown up with this Bill. They know the main provisions, and there is no complaint on their side. The second point is that the principles of the Bill, as regards compensation and betterment, are based upon perfectly well understood proposals which have been ventilated ever since 1942. Those proposals, if they are separated from the planning proposals, are pretty simple and easily understood. Whether or not hon. Members opposite like them is another matter, but they are pretty easy to follow and to understand, and, in my submission, the time that has been available has been quite adequate to enable local authorities to decide what line they wish to take in the matter. A good deal of the detail and the complexity to which I have referred relates to the planning code, which I recognise may well form the subject of a fairly lengthy Committee inquiry. Hon. Members will have an opportunity, as the Committee stage goes on, of familiarising themselves with the contents of the Bill and of expressing their views.
Of course, I am not optimistic enough to believe that the Bill is perfect. It has been an exceedingly difficult Bill to prepare, and I have no doubt that it is capable of considerable improvement. I look forward to the co-operation of the House in improving it within its main framework, and I believe that I shall have that co-operation because I know that all hon. and right hon. Gentlemen of good will are desirous, as I am, of creating the conditions which will make possible the building of a better Britain. The Bill affects the interests of many people, not merely financial interests but social and economic. 987 I have no doubt that the voices or those whose financial interests may be affected will be heard effectively. I wish the voices of others who will benefit might equally be heard. I am sure hon. Members will agree that the fundamental issue which is before the House today is whether we are likely to plan so as to secure the best use of our land, or to abandon any effective attempt at planning. Are we to go on accepting as inevitable the progressive congestion and deterioration of our towns and the spoiling of our beautiful villages in the countryside as we have done in the past, or are we to become masters of, and control the future of, our land? Either we must now make town and country planning a reality, as is provided for in this Bill, or we must abandon the attempt for ever. There is no middle course, and we shall never get another chance.
I beliéve that the vast majority of people in this country are prepared to face up to the implications of planning. We as a nation have led the world in our industrial revolution, but at what a price In human lives, misery and squalor. Now we have a great opportunity of leading the world once more in a better cause, of showing that we in these islands are in no sense decadent, but intend to assume the proud position which we have, in many respects, held in the past. Already the world is looking eagerly to this country to see how we intend to solve the problem of the rebuilding of our blitzed towns and cities and the redevelopment of our dreary, ugly, squalid industrial towns; how we are to decongest the overcrowded large towns, and how we intend to build our new towns; how we are going to reconcile the growth of great new industrial activity with desirable, convenient and attractive conditions of living. I am convinced that we can and that we shall do all these things. When this Bill becomes law, we shall have created an instrument of which we can be justly proud; we shall have begun a new era in the life of this country, an era in which human happiness, beauty, and culture will play a greater part in its social and economic life than they have ever done before.
§ 5.51 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
Before I pass to the' language of animadversion and criticism, to which I shall have to come later, I 988 hope the House will agree with me when I say I think the right hon. Gentleman has expounded his Bill with most praise-worthy lucidity and patience. I am sure the whole House would like to congratulate him on having survived a mental and physical ordeal of some magnitude. Perhaps I, as the first Minister of Town and Country Planning, might also say about this Bill that, though I have many points to which to draw attention on the policy of the Bill, having looked at the 'drafting and codification, so far as the merely formal work done by the officers of the Department is concerned, I think there is a great deal in it of real merit. I know it is very common always to kick the draftsmen if anything goes wrong; but even on a Bill, on many aspects of which I have the profoundest misgivings, I should like to say of those persons with whom I have been associated, it is evident they have put in a lot of very hard work.
I cannot find it in my heart to grumble at the time which the right hon. Gentleman has taken in expounding this Bill. It is a very important Bill, and a very long and complicated Bill. The fact that he has taken over two hours in his introductory speech, makes nonsense of the attitude adopted last Thursday by the acting Leader of the House in reply to the protest made by the Leader of the Opposition against the precipitate way in which this Bill was being thrust on the House for a Second Reading. Had it been as simple a matter as the Lord Privy Seal then indicated; had the controversy been one so familiar to men's bosoms as he seemed to infer, it would have been a matter of criticism had the right hon. Gentleman taken the time he has. But it is clear that this is not an easy Bill, and the way in which it has been taken for its Second Reading so soon after our reassembly shows a haste in dealing with business which is not fair to Parliament or to the public.
§ Mr. Beswick (Uxbridge)
Could the right hon. Gentleman say whether, had the Second Reading of this Bill been postponed for a fortnight, there would have been more than 40 Members of His Majesty's Opposition here to listen to the Minister propound it?
§ Mr. Morrison
The hon. Member must remember two things. First, it is not always easy to listen to a very long speech; secondly, at this hour there are 989 a number of very important committee meetings. In any case, it has nothing to do with the main point. I think that interest in this Bill would have been created and fanned had more people had an opportunity to read and study it. This Bill appeared during the Recess. Now, eight days after we have reassembled, we are asked to consider it on Second Reading. And that is not the whole story. Misfortunes never come as single spies; they come in battalions. This Bill is being thrust at us at a time when we have also had thrust at us the Electricity Bill, the Agriculture Bill, the Companies Bill, and many others. This Bill has taken the Government 18 months to bring to the light. Even so, in its policy of haste it shows evidence of divided counsels and inconsistency. The House and the public are given no adequate time in which to consider its provisions, and the Government must not be surprised if this attempt to stifle adequate discussion gives rise to sincerely felt and widespread resentment. We had no indication last Thursday, and we have had no verification today, of the Government's intentions with regard to the further stages of this Bill. If it is the intention of the Government to take the Bill to a Committee upstairs, from which eleven-twelfths of the Members of this House will be excluded, then I say that is adding to the difficulties of letting the House deal adequately with a Measure which, in his eloquent peroration, the Minister has just told us is of such great importance to the public and to the people.
I do not propose to take more than my share of the time that is left to us. Therefore, I will not follow the right hon. Gentleman in his detailed analysis of the Bill. If I did so I should take an equal length of time, and I am anxious to be as short as I can. I propose, therefore, to confine myself in what I say now to a few salients of criticism, trusting that even in this Parliament there may be some further opportunity when I can deal with matters which I leave untouched today. In the first place, I do not deny, and no one on this side of the House denies, that a further Measure of Town and Country Planning is necessary and desirable. The right use of our limited land in this country is the desire of hon. Members on all sides of the House. That there are defects in our planning code, which time has revealed, is certainly also true. I think, though, 990 when we look at the old Act of 1932, we must not forget that a great deal of useful work has, in fact, been done under it by enthusiastic persons in local planning authorities. People with the right spirit can very often use an imperfect instrument with greater success than people with the wrong spirit can use a better one. It may not be irrelevant to pose the general question whether, in this crisis of production which, by common consent, confronts us, this desirable Measure has not degenerated from a necessity to a luxury. Certainly no one will wish to complain of any answer to these problems of obtaining more commodities and more services which we so greatly need at the present time. The urgency and haste with which the Government are rushing this Measure would be relevant and justified if this Bill were purporting to deal with what is a grave and imminent crisis in our midst; but it cannot be justified at the present stage, when it has no effect, and does not purport to have any effect, upon the real position which must be in all our minds.
On the planning proposals in this Bill I see a great deal to comment, at least in intention. There is no doubt that the planning system of the Act of 1932 suffered, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, from two vices, its rigidity and the cumbersome nature of the provisions providing for Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman has sought to avoid this rigidity, and the object of avoiding it is certainly meritorious. My doubt is whether he has not gone too far in the other direction—too far, that is, for really good planning to result. He has gone too far, I think, in the direction of vagueness. There is a dilemma here which extends over the whole field of planning, and I will try to state it shortly.
If Government planning were the only activity we had to pursue, and if Government planning were the only sort of planning, the obvious course for us to adopt would be to surrender these problems to the wisdom and prevision of the Government and their agents and then do exactly what we were told, and hope for the best. That attitude of mind -as between the subject and the Government is not a true picture of this country, though it was true of the regimes with which we have just recently been in such deadly conflict. Here, though hon. Gentlemen opposite like to speak of the 991 chaos of our free system, an immense amount of planning has been done successfully in industry, in agriculture and on other lines, and the result is that we have survived a conflict, in fact, with those more modern and brittle regimes. Hitherto the State has confined itself to general direction, and the planning has been done by the whole community, with each man forseeing as best he could the future of his own vocation in which he was expert. Even, let it not be forgotten, in the more limited realm of town and country planning we owe a great deal to those who planned the London squares and parks, and such cities as Bath and Edinburgh, as well as the largely man-made beauty of our countryside. There is no doubt of it. If men had not taken care in the past of many of the beautiful spots we now have, they would not be with us today.
Free man, however, cannot plan unless the Government give him some degree of predictability, some guarantee that if he keeps the laws he will be established in the work of his hands, the creation of his mind, and it seems to me that in increasing the elasticity of the Government's planning powers the Bill goes too far in that it renders the future destiny of man too uncertain and makes it liable to so many unpredictable vicissitudes. I think the development plan of this Bill, as it is called, is an improvement on what was cabled the scheme in the 1932 Act, but there seems to be no adequate provision for giving the developer any status or security to go ahead with development in accordance with an approved plan. The only reference I can find is in Clause 12, Subsection (1), at the top of page 12 of the Bill, where the local planning authority is directed, on dealing with an application to develop, tohave regard to the provisions of the development plan, so far as material thereto, and to any other material considerations.The development plan, even when approved, seems to me to give so little security to the would-be developer that the resulting uncertainty will cloud his future and deprive him of the chance of playing his proper part in what is a task for the whole community.
The uncertainty is added to by the provisions for public acquisition which are contained in this Bill. The power of designating land for compulsory purchase 992 is now extended to any land which, in the opinion of the authority, is likely to require compulsory acquisition for the purpose of securing its use in a manner proposed by the plan. Those are the words in the Bill, in Clause 5. That means that land is now to be acquired for practically any use, for the old limits on local authority development to those purposes which private enterprise could not fulfil are now to be swept away, and this extension of the uses for which a local authority can acquire land means that a great and increasing part of the land of this country will be placed under the blighting shadow of designation. The right hon. Gentleman made a very ingenious attempt to show that this designation is really in favour of the owner, but the only argument with any appearance of cogency, as it appeared to me, was that concerned with the indication of a ten-year short-term view of what was proposed to be done with the land. The mere fact that the right hon. Gentleman, before he can give any short term view, has to threaten the area with compulsory purchase shows that the planning provisions and the particularity of the development plan are quite insufficient to give the would-be developer the information to which he is entitled. To threaten a man's land with compulsory acquisition is, surely, the wrong way to indicate your intention. The planning system should be of a sufficiently informative character so that it can be done without this. All this land being under the shadow of what is called designation means that the owners of the land and those who are interested in it will not have much inducement to improve or develop it so long as it is under that threat, and I think that agriculture, industry and housing will all be affected to their detriment by this wide extension of the powers of designation.
The two points then to which I am trying to draw attention in regard to the point of view of the man who wants to develop land and is willing to do his best with it are these. The provisions I have so far dealt with are such as to make the future use of the land uncertain, and the wide extension of designation make its ownership equally uncertain. In my view those two points are bound to work to the detriment of development. As to the proposed new authorities, I was very glad to see in the Bill that it is now 993 proposed to associate the county councils with the work of planning. Indeed, in many parts of England they have already been associated with it for a long time by means of voluntary joint planning arrangement. But I do not like the Minister tying himself in this Bill to deprive other local authorities of planning powers. He already possesses powers to combine them for planning purposes, and I remember that at the time when I was in his place we did effect large numbers of agreeable combinations of local authorities for the purpose of making a joint plan.
Though we have had today a criticism from the Minister of the constitution and working of the joint planning committees, I could tell him examples, and no doubt he would admit them himself, where they have done extremely good work, and I think there is something to be said for preserving the status of some of the smaller authorities on the joint planning committees. It is a matter on which there may be divided opinion, but I think the right hon. Gentleman might have seen what he could do by cooperation without rubbing these authorities out in this ruthless way. He has told us today about the meetings and the procedure of the joint planning committees, and read from a report that when the delegate from one of the districts found that his business had been completed he left the committee. That is not an uncommon thing, but at least while he was present there was someone on the joint planning committee who came from the district concerned, and he had discharged one part of his function even if he did not stay to take the wider view; at least while he was there he had looked after his own area and had spoken about it, presumably with more knowledge of its needs and necessities than a county councillor from some other district. This criticism I make of the rubbing out of local authorities applies with particular force to the non-county boroughs, some of which are communities of great size and with great individuality.
It applies, although I do not intend to develop this today, with particular force to the extreme case of the City of London, whose independence through the centuries has become part of our history.
I come now to that part of the Bill which deals with the vexed question of compensation and betterment. It is 994 common ground that a fair and satisfactory solution of this difficult question would be one of the most powerful acquisitions that a planning authority could have, and there has been a good deal of argument and discussion about it. To many people, the question is entirely identified with the Uthwatt Report, but the Uthwatt Report dealt with much more than compensation and betterment, and the Acts of 1943 and 1944 were largely based on the valuable recommendations of that Committee. It is broadly true to say that the compensation and betterment provisions of the Uthwatt Report were the only important recommendations to which legislative effect was not given by the Coalition Government. I remember many enthusiastic persons being greatly impatient that we did not at once implement the recommendations on this subject. I was frequently asked Questions in the House about it, and some people thought that all we had to do was to take this complicated scheme, dress it up in legal language, and the problem would be solved.
It does not surprise me that in this Bill the Government have not chosen to enact the Uthwatt recommendations. There were many grave objections of a practical kind to them, as the Government have apparently now found out. The right hon. Gentleman has expounded the nature of the problem to us, and without accepting every one of his arguments and conclusions on the history—I do not feel under any necessity now to go over that analysis again—I have these observations to make on the solution he has propounded. The sum set apart for compensation of development rights is fixed at £300 million. The right hon. Gentleman gave us some reasons which had made him come to the conclusion that this was about the right sum. I think it is rather a pity that he did not give us that elaborate analysis in the White Paper, because we could then have studied it in the way in which we should study a sudden shower of figures, such as he presented to us today. Certainly, as the matter stood, and as it still stands on the documents before us, there is really no attempt made to justify this as a correct figure. I will look more closely at what the right hon. Gentleman said, but I really think that this sum of £300 million was arrived at by a process of bargaining between the right hon. Gentleman and the Chancellor of the Exchequer; that process 995 may have given some occupation to both right hon. Gentlemen concerned, but I do not think we can take it as prima facie evidence of scientific accuracy of justice for the sum which emerges.
The facts, as they stand at the moment, are that the Barlow Commission gave an estimate based on the evidence of the Chief Valuer of the Board of Inland Revenue, of £400 million as the value, in 1937, of development rights in undeveloped land, whereas this Bill makes the £300 million pay for not only undeveloped, but development rights in developed land, and also adds the item of mineral rights in land. Listening to the right hon. Gentleman's exposition on the way he arrives at the figures, I have two main criticisms on their validity. Firstly, I think that he has seriously underestimated redevelopment rights in built-up land, and, secondly, he has failed to take any account of the depreciated purchasing power of the currency since 1937. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman that a committee of independent persons would not have made a better estimate, but, at any rate, they would have been able to hear evidence and give a figure founded on some judicial process. I do not say this in criticism of the right hon. Gentleman, but such a figure, brought out by an independent tribunal after hearing evidence, would have been more impressive to us all, than the mere insertion of a figure in the Bill with no explanation of how it is arrived at until the right hon. Gentleman spoke.
The £300 million, or whatever the global sum, is a total figure. What matters to the man who suffers loss of his development value, is how much he is likely to get out of the global figure. As to that, he is left completely in the dark under this Bill. Although the right hon. Gentleman has given some explanation today of what is in his mind, what he says in his speech is not what is in the Bill, and under our law it will not be judicially introduced. All we are told by the Bill is that at some time a scheme is to be prepared by the Treasury, and that this scheme is to come before the House under the affirmative Resolution Procedure, which means it cannot be amended, however unjust or faulty it may subsequently prove to be. The individual, therefore, cannot know, and can have no 996 idea what, if anything, he is to get as compensation for the lost value of his land, and the method by which this great sum is to be distributed among the claimants is taken out of the effective control of this House.
The same uncertainty surrounds the proposed collection of betterment or development charges, which are to be varying charges imposed by the Central Land Board. With the general principle of differing rates of charges for different types and circumstances of development, I am not in disagreement, but I think we should have had much more definition in the Bill of the principles of discrimination. Regulations about this are to be made, and presumably there must be in the mind of the Minister, and in the minds of those who advise him, some idea of what these future regulations are to contain. If that is so, why cannot we have them in the Bill for discussion? It must be remembered that this is a matter of taxation. We are invited here to assent to a method which puts a charge on some of His Majesty's subjects, and it seems to me that in this respect the Bill offends against two canons of taxation, which are constitutional in their importance. The first canon is that of uncertainty. The taxpayer should be clearly told by this House what his liabilities are. We would think very little of a Finance Bill which said that the Commissioners of Inland Revenue should act in the same way as the Central Land Board are being enjoined to act by Clause 63 (2) and (3) of this Bill. It would certainly be a simplification of the tortuous jungle of Income Tax laws, but it would be a very intolerable simplification. If the model of this Bill were to be followed, the whole matter of Income Tax could be disposed of, in the words of Clause 63 (2) by enacting that: "In determining whether any and if so what 'Income Tax' charge is to be paid … the 'Commissioners' shall have regard to any increase …which arises or is likely to arise 'in the income of the person to be taxed.' "If that were to pass into current practice I think that the long struggle with Parliament for control of taxation would have been in vain. Nor should we, in a Finance Bill, be much comforted if, in Subsection (3) of the same Clause, it said: "The Treasury may prescribe general 997 principles to be followed by the Commissioners in determining whether any and if so what Income Tax should be paid, "or if that Clause went on to say:" The regulations may in particular provide for securing that the amount of the said Income Tax shall be determined on different principles in relation to different operations."
Those words indicate the second canon against which the provisions of this Bill offend, namely, equality as between all the persons affected. This loose and vague power of charging which we are asked to yield makes possible that sort of discrimination against which Parliament rebelled in the 17th century. The Central Land Board is the creature of the Minister, and has to follow his directions. Again, local authorities are being allowed to acquire and develop land for all sorts of purposes in direct competition with the ratepayers, whose money they use for the purpose. The little we are told about this land, and about development charges, makes it clear that it would be possible for the Central Land Board to make different charges for public and private developers. This is an unfair possibility of discrimination, and the Bill should contain provisions designed to prevent anything of that kind. Those provisions are absent from it; indeed, the whole bias of the Bill is in favour of the public as against private development.
I do not deny that there is real difficulty here, and I agree that there is merit in having varying rates of development charge, but they should not vary according to the person who undertakes the development but with the kind of development and its circumstances. I agree that there is room for a good deal of elasticity. My objection is on constitutional grounds. I think it is wrong to hand over the power of tax fixing to the Executive, and to part with a Bill which does so without the House having enacted the principles on which such discrimination as is necessary shall be exercised.
The remedy seems to lie in two direc lions. First, we should have a Clause which lays down general principles so that people would have some idea of where they stand; second, those principles should be applied and administered by an independent body, and not by an organ of the Executive such as this Central Land Board. In this connection, I advise the 998 right hon. Gentleman to take a leaf out of the book of his colleague the Minister of Agriculture. In the Agriculture Bill, to which we gave a Second Reading last night, provision is made for the determination of matters in dispute by a tribunal, whose constitution is designed to make it both independent and expert. Having some knowledge of the farming community, I feel certain that the promise of this tribunal has done a great deal to make that Bill acceptable to many persons who, otherwise, would have contested it hotly.
I have only one more observation to make on the development charge. By this Bill the development charge is attracted to what is defined as development in Clause 10. But the definition in the Bill of what is and what is not development, remains vague and uncertain, and must fill the minds of potential developers with doubt. However, the Bill does take pains to avoid doubt in one small particular. Clause 10 (3) says:For the avoidance of doubt it is hereby declared that for the purposes of this Section(a) the use of two or more separate dwelling houses of any building previously used as a single dwelling house involves a material change in the use of the building and of each part thereof which is so used.We used to be told that the man who made two blades of grass grow where one grew before, was one of the great benefactors of humanity. Apparently, the man who houses two or more families in his house is not in the same category. This is nonsense, having regard to the present condition of our people. Such a man ought to be praised, and not fined. The idea behind this absurd and solitary clarification of the Bill is that the man who spends money on making one house a home for two families, may get increased rent and put up the value of the house to himself and the community. Surely, the right hon. Gentleman has forgotten the Title and the purpose of the Bill. What is the town planning relevance of the fact that two families live where only one could live before, or that the owner is remunerated for his outlay by an increased total rent? The house may be in an old terrace. Its facade may remain unaltered. A reorganisation of the interior makes it possible for homes to be found in it for two families, instead of one. The Government then say, in effect, by this Bill, to the man who has increased his 999 power to accommodate people, "You are a bad man, and we must fine you." But the man who retains his spacious house as a domicile for only one family is told by the Government, "Well done thou good and faithful servant." Surely, nothing could be more out of touch with our present needs.
I wish to offer some criticism about the restriction on charge-free improvements which, at present, clog the definition in the Third Schedule. It has long been a criticism of our rating system that it penalises improvements by increasing assessments. It can be said, however, for our rating system that its purpose is the sordid and necessary one of raising money. But this is a Town and Country Planning Bill. If improvement of property does no harm to the plan why should it be taxed in this Bill? Why should these fiscal considerations be imported into a Town and Country Planning BUI at all? I think that here the right hon. Gentleman has suffered himself to be deflected from planning into the occupation of tax gathering. In that inappropriate role he has been unable to resist the ideology which singles out property, either by way of land or a house, for peculiarly vindictive treatment.
There is another objectionable feature of this Bill. It purports to be a permanent planning code. I hope I have indicated that the work of codification is well done, and that it is a gain to all to have a code. Yet this code retains 1939 prices for land which is compulsorily taken over. I have already spoken in this House on this subject, and I do not propose to repeat myself, but 1939 prices were forced on us entirely by the circumstances of war. There was no free market. Now the war is over, the purchasing power of money has declined, and there is no longer any justification for giving a false price for land. There should be an immediate return to the method adopted under the Acquisition of Land Act, 1919. The injustice of 1939 prices in this Bill is made all the more glaring by the fact that the Bill purports to deal with betterment, and restricts the value of land to its existing use. In estimating development value, the Bill itself provides that 1947 prices should govern both restricted and unrestricted values in land. Then why not acquisition? We have been promised a statement at the end of the Debate on this matter, and we await it 1000 with interest; but, surely, if there is anything modifying what is in the Bill, it would have been for the convenience of the House if we had been given this information at the beginning and not at the end. I say that if the Government persist in this inequitable course they will intensify the rankling sense of injustice which is already growing as a result of the compensation provisions in the Transport and the Electricity Bills. I am sorry to see the good cause of town and county planning tinted with the same demerit.
I feel bound to make these observations on this Bill because I fear that the uncertainties and injustices to which I have referred will hinder development and postpone the delivery of the homes which are so badly needed. No true friend of town and country planning would desire such a result—such a conflict between planning, on the one hand, and the provision of homes, on the other. It must give rise to irritation with all planning, and render more unacceptable the object to which all good planning is directed. For these reasons, I regret that I cannot advise the House to give this Bill, which has been thrown at us, a Second Reading.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am not sure if the right hon. Gentleman moved the Amendment which is on the Order Paper.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
May I begin by paying a tribute to the Minister for his most excellent and capable exposition of this long and difficult Bill? We all realised this afternoon how difficult was his task. It is the culmination of 18 months of hard, conscientious work to which he has brought a long experience from which others, as well as we in this House, have benefited. I am sure that we are all grateful to him for the careful way in which he explained the Bill.
May I deal first with one or two matters which have been referred to by the right hon. Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison). He complained that the Second Reading of this Bill had been rather hurried, and that no time had been given to the local authorities fully to consider it. Well, the local authorities are really more concerned with the planning part than with any other part of it. It 1001 seems to me that they had a chance of knowing what were the general views from the White Paper, published as long ago as June, 1944, by the then Coalition Government, and headed, "The Control of the Use of Land." They must, therefore, all have been aware of the general nature of the planning which is essential, and which, I hope, will be agreed to by all.
I would point out that this Bill will affect all the land of this country. I should have thought, therefore, that the Committee stage would be taken on the Floor of the House and not upstairs. It is difficult, at any time, to draw a hard and fast line between Bills which should be taken on the Floor of the House and those which should be referred to a Committee. There has been a suggestion that those Bills which effect constitutional changes should be taken on the Floor of the House; but I think that those Bills should be taken on the Floor of the House which fundamentally affect the lives of all the people in this country, as this Bill certainly does.
Coming to the Bill itself, I am glad to see in the Explanatory Memorandum these words:The abject of town and country planning is to secure that all the land in the country is put to the use which is best from the point of view of the community.That, I believe, is the accepted view of all parties, and it is refreshing to note that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway adhere to that. In the past, the land has been so misused that industry has not been allowed to develop, and the livesof the people themselves have not been allowed to develop. Where can there be pride in the slums of the East End, or in the back-to-back houses in the Rhondda Valley? The communities which have lived in them have added to the wealth of this country, and this country is justly proud of them. But the people have had to suffer, because the land was not being put to the best use of the community.
The monetary consideration is only one thing, when deciding what is the best use to be made of the land for the community. It seems to me that the awakening came rather too late with regard to this, for it was not until after the 1914–18 war that we began to develop the idea of green belts, and open spaces round our industrial towns and cities. So we have to consider what is best from the point 1002 of view of the community as a whole. It is, therefore, right, when we come to consider what is best, that that matter should be referred to the people themselves, through their representatives, the local authorities. In the past development has been left to the free will of the local authorities. Gradually, the local authorities have linked themselves together to form joint planning authorities, but there has always been the danger with regard to the local authority, that it will take too narrow a view; very often too selfish a view, and forget its neighbours. What is worse, it may do something without any regard whatever to its neighbours. One of the most extraordinary things in this country is the jealousy which exists between one local authority and another. There has been a certain amount of development by joint planning authorities, but I do not think that it has been enough, and I, personally, welcome the improvement which the Minister is putting forward in this Bill—that there should now be a survey of the whole of the county areas. No sensible county council will act otherwise than in close co-operation and consultation with the local authorities. Their members will be coming from the very areas that will be affected, and they will be able to hear what are the views of the borough councils and district councils within the areas.
There is one other matter that pleases me in the planning part of the Bill. It is the power given in Clause 4 to enable even county councils to link up together and to consider what is best from the point of view of the whole of the area. That is very essential. There is the national view, there is the view of the local authority with regard to its own area, but there is also, between those two, a regional point of view which ought to be taken into consideration. It may very well be found that there is a town taking in a new development area, created under the recent Act, where assistance will be given to it by the Government and assistance will be given to industries to go there. There is a real danger that such a town, or its council or authority, would desire to extend and become of tremendous importance from the point of view of numbers. There is also a danger that the Board of Trade would encourage that in order to conquer some unemployment that might be in existence there. But that town, in adding to the, industries within its area 1003 and to the amenities, by creating new houses and so on, might draw into its area from the countryside people whom I personally would prefer to see remain in the countryside.' It is, therefore, right and proper that there should be a regional view.
What is to happen in regard to the most important area in this country' it is not for me to say, but I draw the attention of the House to the fact that all the local authorities in the immense area comprising the counties of Hertford, Middlesex, Surrey and the County of London have agreed upon one outline plan governing the whole area. How that plan will be carried out is another matter, but it shows, at any rate, that a wider area even than the county council has jurisdiction over may have to be considered. I hope—and I am sure it will be so—that, in making their plans, the county councils will not only allow for variety, but will allow for sufficient elasticity, so that there can be alterations in the main outline plan as circumstances show that they are required. From the planning point of view, therefore, I think the Bill deserves a full welcome from the House.
There are one or two other matters— I do not know whether they can be brought into the Bill—which deserve further consideration now that we are going in for planning, not merely of a negative sort, which consists of saying, "No, that will not fit into a plan," but planning throughout the whole country. It looks as if we may now get a survey of the whole country for the first time, but no provision is being made for further developments that may be necessary as a result of planning. Very often planning has not been as fruitful as it could have been because of the narrowness of the boundaries of the local authorities and difficulties in extending those boundaries. I remember one instance from the constituency of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of National Insurance. The town of Llanelly, with a very progressive council, was anxious to get rid of slums that existed in the anplanned area near it, but it had not sufficient space in which to build new houses. Therefore, the council had to plan for an extension outside its area and to go into the area of the Llanelly district council, thereby adding to the rateable value and wealth of the rural district council. In doing a service to its 1004 own people, in getting rid of slums, the council lowered its own rateable value. I think the time has come when further powers and easier methods should be devised to enable local authorities to extend their areas under the new planning system. Incidentally, when will there come a Government with sufficient courage to tackle our archaic, out-of-date rating system, which has done so much to thwart improvements of all kinds? However, on the planning side one welcomes the Bill.
I come now to the other parts of the Bill. What surprises me is not that there was on the Order Paper an Amendment from the Conservative Party for the rejection of this Bill, but that an Amendment was not moved by the friends of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Town and Country Planning, because this Bill, to a certain extent, adopts the Uthwatt Report. Personally, I was never very much enamoured of the Uthwatt Report. When one read it, one realised that Lord Justice Uthwatt, as he then was, and the very able men who assisted him on that Committee, had heard the evidence of the difficulties that everyone had encountered throughout the past and had been inevitably driven to one final conclusion, and that just as they were about to take that fence and leap it they turned back, and said, "We will not take the inevitable decision; what we will do is suggest that there is a thing called the 'development value '"—a development value created, not by the individual, but by the public, and the public is now to be called upon to pay for it. I quote some words that appeared today in the leading article of the "Manchester Guardian":Mr. Silkin 's party colleagues will doubtless remind him"—They are wrong in that one thing, for it is not Mr. Silkin 's party colleagues who are reminding him, but an old Radical—of the Uthwatt Committee's observation that 'some who reject land nationalisation as not required to cope with the compensation-betterment problem may find themselves forced to it by a positive planning policy '.I had expected that there would be much stronger criticism coming from Labour Members—
§ Mr. Davies
I hope the courage to do so will still remain. What is happening now? An effort has been made by various 1005 people to try to assess what has been the development value that has been created. There would be no need nowadays to assess that, but for the crime which was committed by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway. We fought this battle not only in 1906, but twice in 1910.
§ Mr. Davies
Under the compulsion of a Conservative majority and a Conservative Chancellor of the Exchequer. At that time, however, there had been made, at very great' expense, a complete site valuation of all land in this country, but we did not ascertain what was the development value over and above the bare site value; how much had been added by the public and how much was due to private enterprise. The system has been done away with, and it ill becomes right hon. and hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway to claim that it is now difficult to assess this valuation. The Minister of Town and Country Planning told us that what he has really taken are the figures in the Uthwatt Report and that as near as one can assess it is roughly £9 million a year. He takes, and very rightly in my opinion, the figure of 15 years' purchase. Even that is on the high side on such a speculative matter as this, and it falls short by less than half of the £300 million which has been mentioned. Even that figure is a great deal too high in my opinion.
As the Uthwatt Committee stated and as is acknowledged in this Bill, those values are contributed to by the public, but no legal right for them is being defined by the Bill. But what is now being given is a generous statement, putting aside for these people who own the land the sum of £300 million. I can well understand that being put on one side in respect of those who have already budgeted upon the assumption that this was an individual value which would come to a head, but there is a limit to that. The right hon. Gentleman would admit that that figure spread over England, Scotland and Wales would give far less than £150 million. I myself would like to know what regulation or what guidance are the values to receive, in trying to assess these values. It may be we shall have a new valuation technique. In the past we know that there were several techniques. There was one technique which came into being 1006 when an estate was valued for Death Duties. There was an entirely different one when, perchance, a local authority was in the market to try to buy it. There was another between a willing seller and a willing buyer. I wonder now if some new technique is to be developed, or whether the Minister is going to see that these values are regulated and guided in a certain way. Otherwise the public will again be paying for the wealth which they themselves have created.
I now come to the other part of the development charges. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester that too much is left to guesswork in regard to that and in regard to the charges made upon individuals in the form of taxation. They should be subject to very strict regulations, and, of course, subject always to this House. I do not know how the landlords are going to assess what these charges shall be. The Uthwatt Report suggested that 75 per cent. of the increase development value might be taken. The Coalition Government went one better by 5 per cent. and said, "We will take 80 per cent." The Minister of Town and Country Planning then said the Government might take 100 per cent. or they might take less. Why are they under this Bill going to allow again wealth to be acquired by individuals out of public improvements, because not only will they get the development value but also the present use of the land, the value of which will undoubtedly go up owing to the acts of the public? Can anyone deny that when we have guaranteed prices for our agricultural products, that will not affect the price of agricultural land? If, as I believe and hope, the new Transport Bill will make for cheaper transport—
§ Mr. Davies
If, on the other hand, the cost of transport decreases, it will be reflected in the first place on the value of land and especially agricultural land. Again, if electricity can be brought, as it should be brought, to every farmhouse, and if water can be brought to the farms and farm buildings, up will go the price of agricultural land. All this will be done 1007 by the public, and this so-called Socialist Government says: "Well done, thou good and faithful servant" to the man who happens to own that land. "You have done nothing to increase the value of that land but you have it. "It looks to me as if the Government's name is a misnomer. Then having given them the benefit of that value, the Government are also prepared to say to the owner," We will not take the whole 100 per cent. but in order to encourage you to develop we may take something far less. "Has the right hon. Gentleman forgotten that it is not necessary to take far less under this Bill? He has given power to local authorities if there is not sufficient quick development to encourage that development and they will not be required to give any rebate on that.
There is one feature in this Bill which I welcome above almost everything else and that is the power now to be given to local authorities to buy land for purposes other than their own immediate purposes. How much have communities in various parts of the country suffered because of the lack of that power in the past when buying land for their housing schemes or their own particular forms of development? How many small market towns, which have been centred in estates from the very earliest feudal times, have been kept from development by the selfishness of the owner of land? Now the power is given to local authorities to purchase land, and to hand it over to industrialists at a fair price, encouraging development within their own areas. So the question arises again why is it necessary to encourage someone else to profit by the wealth which the public has created. These then are the criticisms of the £300 million set on the one side, and of the development charges on the other.
Another point I would make is this. Power is taken now to ensure that every one who redevelops land must obtain permission from the local authority, and the local authority will decide, quite rightly, whether or not they will grant that permission, depending upon whether the project falls within the general plan for the benefit of the area. But no power is taken with regard to Government offices or statutory undertakings, and I feel that they also should come within this provision, especially when we know now that great demands are being made by the 1008 Services who are threatening to take land which is not only valuable but sacred in the eyes of the local people. Incidentally, while mentioning this, may I correct one thing that was said by the right hon. Member for Cirencester? He suggested that under this Bill agricultural interests might suffer. Under this Bill, for the first time, agricultural interests will be considered. Surely the right hon. Gentleman knows that there has been for a considerable time a great plan with regard to the whole area of London and that there has been a meeting of all the Departments. One of the things that had to be considered before permission would be given for any area to be developed for housing or industry was what was its value as agricultural and horticultural land.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me if I point out that that requirement to consider the agricultural value of land was not originated by this Bill. It was in force when I was Minister of Town and Country Planning.
§ Mr. Davies
Certainly, and that is why I could not understand the comment made in opposition to this Bill by the right hon Gentleman. He appeared to be using the fact in some way as a criticism. Having pointed out that Governments and standing authorities may act outside the local plans, there is one other matter which I should like to mention. The local authority, having decided upon their plan, should also have the last word on- what industries shall come within their area. At the present moment the allocation of industry is too much in the hands of the Board of Trade and there is too great a danger of that centralisation or totalitarianism deciding what shall be the fate of this area as compared with that. I believe so strongly in the local communities guiding their own affairs and their own future that I would ask the Minister to see to it that their powers shall be exercised not only over the individual, the firm or the company, but also over Government Departments wherever they may be.
I conclude by saying this. I do not like the £300 million and I do not like the way in which it is assessed; nor do I like the way in which the development charges are left too much undefined. But those are matters which I hope can be corrected on Committee Stage, and I welcome this Bill as a real contribution to 1009 the general planning for the benefit and welfare of the community of this country as a whole.
§ 7.5 P.m.
§ Mr. McAllister (Rutherglen)
I should like in a modest way to join with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison), and the Leader of the Liberal Party the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies), in congratulating the Minister on his tour de force this afternoon. It was certainly the most remarkable performance in point of duration in this Parliament but he managed to maintain the interest of the House in a very long, detailed, complicated, but most lucid speech. It is always a great pleasure to follow the Leader of the Liberal Party.
I can understand that the feeling of the Radicals—of the Henry Georges and of all of those who have fought for the restoration of the land to the people—are not fully satisfied by the Bill which is before us tonight. We did not have it in our election programme in 1945, and we did not go before the country and say that we were going to nationalise the land. We are not, in this Bill, planning to nationalise the land. What has been most remarkable in the Debate up to now is the fact that the Conservative Party, which last Thursday had a good deal to say about the speed with which this Bill was being thrown upon Parliament, has not for one moment of time since the Debate began been able to muster more than 25 hon. Members. The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate on their behalf, speaking as he always does with charm, a great deal of wisdom, and with conciliation, had no case to present. Yet here is the issue that really divides the two sides of the House—the issue of the land. I agree with what the right hon. Gentleman said with reference to the London squares, and the towns of Bath and Edinburgh, and what has taken place there under the private landowner system and under private enterprise. It is not necessary for those who support Socialism today to decry the achievement of a system that once had a certain great force, a certain dynamic, but that force has gone, dissipated in the course of two centuries. While one can look at the record of that system at its best we must also, as the right hon. and learned Gentleman below the Gangway said, look at the other legacies of that system—the Rhondda 1010 Valley and Lanarkshire, for example. When Cobbett was doing his rural rides round the United Kingdom 120 years ago he went to Lanarkshire and to Motherwell, and he said that of all the places in Great Britain Motherwell was the one where he would most like to live. This seems incredible, because Motherwell is now a blot on the landscape of Britain and is typical of the steel, iron and coal towns throughout the United Kingdom. That was private enterprise, that was the private landowner system and private industrialism scarring the countryside and then failing to make any restoration whatsoever.
Last night we were discussing the question of applying a top dressing of soil where some mineral workings had taken place. I am in favour of restoring the land in all those circumstances, but even if we plan and work for a hundred years we shall never be able fully to restore the land which has been desecrated and destroyed under a wicked and outrageous landlord system. We come back to the dictum of Carlyle when he describes the widow out gathering nettles for her children's dinner. "But the landlord," says Carlyle, "hath an alchemy whereby he extracts every fourth nettle and calls it rent". On everything we do and on every activity we perform, every minute of the 24 hours, we are paying our tribute and our debt to the landlord. I would say to the many hon. Members on this side of the House who have misgivings about the £300 million that we are to pay that it is truly an ex gratia payment on a scale never known in legislative history. We are not paying it as compensation but we are paying it out of our charity and out of the kindness of our hearts, because land has been, and is a marketable commodity. We are paying them, just as we shall pay the railway companies, the transport companies and presumably will pay the electricity companies. This other section of the community must also receive compensation.
§ Dr. Morgan
Surely, land is quite distinct from ordinary capital, or from a product of industry. We are compensating industries because there is capital in them, but the landlords did not make the land.
§ Mr. McAllister
I think I have already met that point. If we can pay this sum in the course of 20 years it will be a small 1011 price for the right to control the development of our towns and countryside in the right way. The right hon. Member for Cirencester said that the £300 million was the result of a bargain between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Minister, and that it did not represent equity and justice. I agree. I hope that no one will say that it represents equity or justice. But for hundreds of years we have paid gigantic tribute to the landlords, and that payment also represented neither equity nor justice. I think the Minister has found the practical solution of the problem of compensation and betterment that will make planning possible.
I think that the administrative scheme proposed in the Bill is excellent. The county as the planning authority is wise, although it is doubtful whether all the powers of the urban districts and the boroughs shall be taken away. That is a point we might look at in Committee. But generally the scheme is a good one. The idea of counties coming together and making a joint plan is excellent. I liked very much the Minister's suggestion that the new planning would demand a new type of planner. I could not agree more with him. Planning, from the practical and technical point of view, has been the preserve of the architect and the engineer. That is wrong. I have the greatest admiration for the technically trained planner and for members of the Town Planning Institute, but planning is not simply a matter of zoning, drawing plans or perspective. It is the formation and shaping of new communities and the re-shaping and improvement of old communities. The planner must be a member of a team, which includes the sociologist, the economist and the geographer and many others. Of them all, the sociologist is the most important. I hope the Minister will pursue this matter by cooperation with the universities and the Town Planning Institute and the R.I.B.A. and other interested organisations with a view to developing the new type of planning training.
I agree with what has been said about the Board of Trade. We have to watch the Board of Trade carefully in these planning matters, but during the last 15 months the Board of Trade have done terrific work in the development areas. I cannot say in detail what they have done in South Wales, Tyneside and Durham, 1012 but I know that they have brought new life to Scotland. They have provided work for 90,000 people, or 10,000 more than the existing number of unemployed. After that achievement, it seems almost ungracious to criticise. Yet, unless a close watch is kept by the Minister of Town and Country Planning and by the Secretary of State for Scotland we shall have trading estates and individual factories very badly sited indeed.
The Minister said that the Bill gave a lead to the world, which was looking to Britain for such a lead in these matters. I have been in contact recently with town planners, city architects, and Ministers responsible for these matters in other lands. I can tell the Minister that certainly in Europe, what he said is right. In Switzerland, in Sweden and in France, I have every reason to know, too, they are following our efforts here with the warmest admiration; that Americans are looking to the work that is going on in Great Britain, and doing so with deep interest and most profound admiration. Leading American planners preach the doctrines embodied in the Bill— decentralisation, the bringing of sunlight and fresh air into our cities—and they would be only too happy if America were halfway along the road that the Bill is now taking us.
The Minister has, I believe, raised the whole status and importance of his Department and brought great distinction to his office. When this Bill is passed neither he nor the community as a whole will have any reason to be dissatisfied.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
It is a privilege to speak after the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. McAllister), who has made such a great contribution to the study of these questions of town and country planning. I am glad that he is, on the whole, satisfied with the proposals of the Bill, which was introduced by the Minister in so long, but so interesting and so lucid a speech. I did not quite follow the criticism the Minister made of the reasoned Amendment which my hon. Friends and I have upon the Order Paper. I should have thought some satisfaction could have been derived from the fact that the Amendment deals only with particular points that we think deserve criticism, and that we do not oppose the general idea of a new Town and Country Planning Measure.
1013 Indeed, I think it has been common ground for a long time that there is urgent need for a new code of town and country planning. I welcome the fact that the right hon. Gentleman has had the courage to introduce a real code, and not merely to amend existing legislation. This Bill combines in large measure the advantages of the two systems in the 1932 Act, town and country planning procedure and the Interim Development procedure. I hope and believe that, as the result of combining those two systems, we shall have something in the future which is more flexible than the planning system that has existed in the past.
The right hon. Gentleman was abundantly justified in saying that the thought of the country as a whole—it certainly is not confined to one party—has moved a long way forward since 1932. The general principles of this legislation and the White Paper are based upon the statement made by Lord Reith in another place in 1941 on behalf of the Coalition Governmentthat the principle of planning would be accepted as national policy and that some central planning authority will be required.Most of us came to feel that it would be necessary to have planning dealt with at three levels—a central plan for the country as a whole, where there would be co-ordination of the different departments in London, then there would be large areas under a county council or more than one county council, and finally the actual execution of it would necessarily have to be left to the smaller local authorities. I trust that when this Bill emerges from the Committee stage the smaller local authorities will have their special interest and authority in their own particular districts amply safeguarded.
I turn now to the vexed and difficult question of compensation and betterment. I was interested to note a remark made by the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) that to so great an extent, the proposals for compensation and betterment in this Bill bear a remarkable resemblance, both in their merits and their defects, to the White Paper which was laid before the House in 1944 by my right hon. Friend. Unfortunately, in spite of agitation on the part of myself and some of my hon. Friends, it was never debated in the House. That White Paper, "The Control of Land Use," contained both a summary and a criticism of the Uthwatt Report. On the whole, it 1014 said that the Coalition Government accepted as accurate the Uthwatt Committee's analysis of the problem that had to be solved, but it gave a number of reasons why that Government was not prepared to accept in full the suggestions which the Uthwatt Committee made for solving those problems. It is interesting to note that the same considerations seem to have influenced this Government. Considering the things which have been said, especially over the air, during the General Election as to who had sabotaged the Uthwatt Report, it is interesting to note what a close resemblance there is between the constructive suggestions put forward by the right hon. Gentleman today, and those contained in the White Paper I have referred to. I am not wholly surprised to find that there is a certain difference of opinion among the Minister's backbench supporters as to whether he has not in some respects after a few months in office fallen a little short of the standard of Socialistic virtue which they expected of him and which they promised the country the Government would show.
The main proposals of the Uthwatt Committee were, in the first place, that in the case of undeveloped land outside towns, the development rights should be vested in the State immediately. In the second place, there should be payment of fair compensation. In the third place, there should be purchase by the State of all land at the time that development took place and there might then be leases either to a local authority or to a private developer. In the fourth place, in the case of towns, there should be a definite charge of 75 per cent. on the increase in value, which was to be assessed every five years.
In his White Paper, my right hon. Friend indicated that he and the Coalition Government felt there were two main defects in the Uthwatt proposals which made it impossible for them to accept them. The first was the threefold differentiation between land outside the towns, land undeveloped inside the towns and land developed inside the towns. They felt, and I think rightly, that distinctions of that kind must be arbitrary. If one accorded entirely different treatment to land which was arbitrarily put into these different categories, one would do a great injustice as between one owner of land and another. I hope it is common ground in this House that we want to do justice 1015 to everybody, even it some of us do particularly dislike the owners of land, just as some other people dislike the owners of racehorses and yet others the owners of brewery shares. I am sure we all want to do justice as between one individual and another. Moreover there is a point which was made by my right hon. Friend and it is one of very great importance to everybody who is keen on town and country planning. We must not have legislation which will inflict an injustice, because the English people are so constituted that they will not willingly put into operation legislation, if they think it is going to do injustice to an individual. That applies in many cases to Socialist local councillors as well as Conservative ones.
The other great defect of the Uthwatt proposals was the five-yearly system of assessing an increase in land values in towns. That would be an extremely difficult thing to do. In many cases an increase in value would have taken place without any actual cash coming into the hands of the owner of the land out of which it could be recovered. Therefore, I am not surprised to find that both Governments have come to the same conclusion as regards the practical proposals that were put forward by the Uthwatt Report, and that the things which appeared to be unacceptable to my right hon. Friend, also appear to be unacceptable to the Minister of Town and Country planning. In the White Paper, I have referred to, there is a summary under five headings of the alternative proposals which the late Coalition Government proposed to put forward. They were, first, universal requirement to obtain consent to development; secondly, a betterment charge; thirdly, compensation; fourthly, centralisation of finance; and, fifthly, reserve power of public acquisition. I am not surprised but I am gratified to find that the legislation which the right hon. Gentleman has introduced today is based upon the same five principles. It is for that reason that we put down a reasoned Amendment.
§ Mr. Molson
That is the reason why we did not wish to vote baldly against the Second Reading of the Bill as being a bad Bill, but why—in the words of the 1016 right hon. Gentleman which I thought most happily chosen—in our reasoned Amendment we have framed an indictment against him. There are certain defects. Two of the most important defects in the Bill are omissions of things which ought to be debated in this House, and which have been relegated to delegated legislation, which this House has no power to amend.
I pass from that to the special question of compensation, one of the indictments that we have framed. There, as in so much else, the right hon. Gentleman's Bill both follows the White Paper of my right hon. Friend and also shares in its demerits. I criticised the Coalition White Paper at the time, on the ground that it proposed to postpone for five years not only the assessment of compensation, but even the principles upon which it was to be based. What do we now find in this Bill? That also is relegated to be dealt with by delegated legislation. I make no complaint at all against the global sum. I am convinced, by the arguments of the Uthwatt Report, and by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman today that that is the right way to deal with it. I also accept, just as both Governments have done, the desirability of excluding from the total of compensation floating values. What was said by the Coalition Government in paragraph 16 was that they proposed to postpone the assessment of it for five years becausemore information would then be available to assist the Government in avoiding the payment of any excess over fair compensation due to the element of floating values.I thought that was a bad idea and I suggested, with an hon. Friend of mine, now the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. P. Thorneycroft), that the best way of dealing with it, as a rough and ready way of doing justice to the landowning community, was to take half the difference between the value of the land before the passing of the Bill, and the value of the land afterwards.
But if I criticised my right hon. Friend, I also criticise the right hon. Gentleman's alternative proposal. I accept the idea of a global sum but I wish that, instead of fixing a sum of £300 million which at best is an intelligent and partially informed guess, he had recourse to an, independent tribunal. The Uthwatt Committee said: 1017The amount should be fixed by the Government after taking expert advice.And they referred to the precedent of the Coal Act of 1938, under which the value of coal mining royalties, which had been nationalised, was referred to an independent tribunal. I would say to the right hon. Gentleman that he should not only seek to do justice, but also give the general impression that he is doing justice.
There is one Clause which I regard as being of outstanding merit—Clause 54. It says there that in assessing the compensation which is to be paid:…the restricted and the unrestricted values of interests in land shall be calculated by reference to prices current immediately before the seventh day of January.…Now why does he take for the assessment of compensation the day just before the publication of this Bill, when all the changes have taken place which have resulted from the war, whereas, in the case of the compulsory acquisition of the land itself, he still retains the 1939 value? It is really most extraordinary that he should take one basis of valuation of the development rights in land—if I may have the right hon. Gentleman's attention for one moment—and another basis of valuation for the acquisition of the land itself. We are at a great disadvantage that the explanation of this conundrum will be delayed until the winding up speech in this Debate. I do not like to believe the uncharitable explanation that in the case of the acquisition of land, if the higher basis of value is taken, it means that a higher value has to be paid, whereas, in the case of compensation, it only varies the proportions of the global sum of £300 million. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman would lend himself to a measure of partiality of that kind.
One word upon the betterment charge. I am somewhat impressed by the argument he put forward for not having any provisions that are too rigid. In this, as in so much else, he has followed the precedent of the wartime Coalition Government. He abandoned the Uthwatt proposals and took the very practical line of saying that every development must be licensed, and, when the licence is given, a charge will be made for it. I think we may be said to have accepted that proposal when it was put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester (Mr W. S. Morrison). Indeed, as 1018 the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, the idea of betterment was contained in the Act of 1932. However, he not only says in his explanatory White Paper that there is no statutory formula for assessing the development charge but, in his speech this afternoon, he indicated that it will be left extremely fluid and flexible. My mind is open on the subject. He rather indicated that he intends the Central Land Board to be in the same position as a large landowner of being able to haggle over prices with the potential developer; if they can get a little more, they will do so; if they cannot, they will accept less. At any rate, I hope he will accept this principle: that there must be no unfair discrimination as between one developer and another; there must be no unfair preference given to the local authority in comparison with the private individual who wishes to carry out the development. I hope, therefore, that while I am open to conviction that a large measure of flexibility must be preserved, at any rate he will not allow flexibility to be carried to the point at which there may be unfair discrimination.
I conclude by summarising the criticisms I have made of this Bill. While a Measure of this kind is necessary and the planning Clauses are, I believe, sound, I think at present that the betterment provisions are too vague and they give no guarantee against unfair discrimination; that the figure for compensation has not been justified; and that, above all, the continuation in a time of peace of the compulsory acquisition of land at the 1939 prices is both illogical and unfair.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Mr. McGhee (Penistone)
I wish to add my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman for his speech in moving the Second Reading of the Bill. It was a formidable task, and he carried it out very efficiently. I wish I could say a word of congratulation to the Leader of the Liberal Party—or, I should now say the Liberal group. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"] They have completely disappeared. I believe it is due to their unhappy treatment of the land question that they are in their present position in this House and the country. I noticed a disposition, even on the part of my hon. Friend the Member for Rutherglen (Mr. McAllister), and the Leader of the Liberal Party, to come up against the problem of 1019 land and the development of land values in general, and then suddenly to skid off, avoiding any reference to a really radical solution.
I welcome this Bill, but to me it is like the curate's egg—good in parts. I believe that if the powers in the Bill are used wisely and well by local authorities, the scars inflicted on this country by a mean-spirited industrialism over the last 100 years can be removed. I accept the idea of the widening of planning authorities, and a measure of central control, but I want to see a little more vision in the plans. I hope that when the Minister is approving plans, he will give special encouragement to those local planning authorities who show some enterprise and imagination. Maybe a little less delay within the Department would be helpful. I have no sympathy with those who protest against the whole idea of the Bill, and who say that those who deem that they own land have a perfect right to do what they wish with it. I am one of those who believe that land should not be the subject of private property at all.
I am in full sympathy with the Minister on the question of advertisements. I wish he would go a little further. He is planning in this part of the Bill to shut out advertisements from parks, and other amenities, but "Guinness is Good for You" in the centre of the City of Sheffield, is just as hateful as it would be in the Lake District. I think the Minister ought to reconsider this part of the Bill and possibly stiffen it by giving the advertisers a few months' notice to clear all the bad advertising off the hoardings.
I congratulate the Minister on having made part of my speech for me. He roundly condemned private property in land and all its results. But, in the next breath, he suggested that we owed these people something. I cannot understand why a Labour Government should set aside this huge sum of £300 million, to pay hard-up dukes and earls, and those poor little widows and orphans, who would be trotted out if the proposal to pay this sum were dropped. In the White Paper, the Government say that one of the main objects of the Bill isto produce a comprehensive solution of the problem of development values in land and there by remove one of the main obstacles to good planning.1020 In other words, to prevent these people stopping good planning up and down the country, we have to pay £300 million out of public funds. I was amazed to hear the Minister say that he arrived at the figure of £300 million by a process of rounding it off to a nice tidy round sum. I think that with all our difficulties, even the saving of the few millions needed to round the figure off would have been very useful to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What we are really paying for, is to induce these people to cease preventing good planning. The tuberculosis figures, and the disease figures in this country are, in a large measure, due to the fact that our people have been crowded into unhealthy slums, without air and sunlight. Who did that? The Minister says in the White Paper that the owners of development values have done it. But, for that they are to be paid this huge sum. Half the time of our local authorities, and half the time of the great medical profession is being spent in trying to cure the results of private monopoly in land, and the crowding of our people into unhealthy areas. The White Paper gives other instances and I am amazed that the Minister can come here and offer this huge sum so easily, and with such confidence. The White Paper says:Because local authorities have not been able to afford to pay heavy compensation for loss of development values, they have had to allow building to take place in too haphazard a manner. … When local authorities buy land they have had to pay prices swollen by 'floating value.' As a result there has been a tendency to site schools, clinics, libraries, wherever land was cheapest, often at great inconvenience to the people who use them.It really means that we are being asked to pay this £300 million to induce the owners of development values to cease making life inconvenient to the school children, and the sick population of this country. I suggest that that is not a very welcome proposal to come from a Socialist Government.
I quote an example from my own Division. There is a mining village there, built some 40 years ago by a kind colliery company. It has a row of "two up and two down," built so close to a slag-heap that the water runs down the heap right into the kitchens in bad weather. In the rooms upstairs, the windows do not open. If they did open, the people would be poisoned by sulphur fumes. That village is surrounded by some of the most 1021 beautiful parkland in this country. Only a few weeks ago, the Minister of Fuel and Power was attacked in this House, and in the country, for proposing to take some coal from that parkland. In 1937, after 40 years, the Tory local authority suddenly developed a conscience, and decided to rehouse these poor people. They approached the owner of the parkland, and that parkland, which had an "existing use value"—the term used in the Bill— of something like £40 an acre, suddenly acquired a development value of £360 when the local authority wanted it. In other words, they were asked £400 per acre for it. The local authority did not go on with that scheme, and those unfortunate creatures were left in that hell, and are still there today For having left the people there, and compelled the local authority to keep them there, it is proposed by the Government that that owner be paid that £360 per acre development value—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Hon. Members say "No." We shall see what happens when the money comes to be divided. If the Government are not going to pay, why do they not say so in the regulations: why do they not say it in the Bill? Up to now, they have given us no indication except that they are setting aside compensation for development value. I will come to the hardship side of it in a moment.
What they should really have done— and I intend to face the problem which my hon. Friend the Member for Ruther-glen and the Leader of the Liberal Party should have faced—was to apply a punitive rate on that £360 development value. That would have driven the owner of that land yelping to the local authority, asking them to use 'hat land at any price. That should have been done, and could have been done if this Bill had been properly divided into its planning and economic aspects, and the economic side left for another Bill that would have given some compensation to those unfortunate people for the misery which they have suffered over the last few years. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning has done a great job of work in the city of Sheffield in providing that city with a green belt. He has worked on it for a long time, and has, at last, achieved something well worth while. But he will agree with me that at every step he took in seeking that green 1022 belt, the landlords were lurking and waiting for him.
In addition to that, even though the area I am talking about, the Bents Green area of Sheffield, is on the edge of the already developed area, where the green belt is to be, land values in that area rocketed 100 per cent. overnight after the green belt scheme was decided upon. Under this Bill, not a single penny of that can be collected. I admit that maybe in the next 100 years, when these houses fall down, and the area is redeveloped, we may get something, but under this Bill as it now stands there is no hope of collecting any of that at present. There will be thousands of cases like that up and down the country, even when this Bill has been put into operation. My suggestion is that that money ought to have been collected and not allowed to flow into private pockets.
Over the last 30 years, in the Labour movement, I have been involved in many moral victories. The term "moral victory" frightens me now, because when I used it, I was generally seconding a vote of thanks to the returning officer. I had the moral victory and the other fellow had the votes. We have got another moral victory in this Bill. We get the moral victory of having said that the landlord has no right to compensation, and the landlord gets £300 million. I think I detect the Chancellor's hand in this. I can see him calling the landlords together, and saying, with a song in his heart, "Boys, you are not entitled to this £300 million, not a penny of it, but there you are. Off you go with it, and have a good time." In this mood, the Chancellor reminds me of Lord Byron's young maiden whowhispering 'I will ne'er consent'—consented.I turn to the question of hardship. In paragraph 26 of the Explanatory Memorandum, the Government take the view that the owners who lose development value as a result of the passing of the Bill, are not, on that account, entitled to compensation. But it is added:They recognise, however, that if no payments were made, hardship would be caused in many cases …and they have decided to set aside a capital sum for compensation. That is the Government's reason for providing compensation—loss of development value plus hardship. We have an almost exact parallel in the case of parents' pensions.
1023 An unfortunate mother or father in this country who has lost a son or a daughter in the war, fighting for this country, which is now to pay landowners £300 million for development value, can claim a parent's pension if they show financial loss. When they have shown financial loss, they are not thereby entitled to the pension. On top of showing financial loss, before they get the 22s. 6d. per week they have to show hardship—an almost exact parallel to what the Government are saying here. I want to know whether the landowners of this country are to be compelled to show loss and then hardship on the same lines as these unfortunate people, and whether, when they have done that, they will still get 22s. 6d. per week each out of it?
There is another hardship scheme which we administer. I would remind the Tory Party that they had some little part in the framing of the Regulations for supplementary old age pensions. Will the ascertainment of hardship under paragraph 26 be left to Assistance Board officers? I have vivid recollections of Assistance Board officers coming to old age pensioners in my division asking to see the bed linen and the blankets, even asking to see the poor old ladies' underclothing. I want to know whether these same tests of hardship are to be applied to the people who claim to have lost development value.
§ Mr. Stanley Prescott (Darwen)
On a point of Order. Is it relevant to discuss old age pensions on the Second Reading of a Bill which deals with town and country planning?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Mr. Hubert Beaumont)
I have listened closely to what the hon. Member has said, and, so far, he is quite in Order.
§ Mr. Prescott
I accept your Ruling, of course, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but if it be in Order for the hon. Member to discuss old age pensions, will he defend the present means test upon old age pensioners, instituted by this Government?
§ Mr. McGhee
I am rot here to defend it. I do not wish to defend it, I want it removed, but the Tory Party do not. The Government are applying these tests and I want to know why they should not be applied to the ground landlords as well as to our unfortunate people. The old people 1024 of this country to whom these tests have applied, have given good service to the nation in the industrial sphere, whereas landlords, as landlords, have always been a liability and an encumbrance on the nation. I see no reason why these hardship tests should not be applied to them as well as to the old people.
I intended to ask the Minister one or two questions about the application of this Measure to local authorities, but he has replied to them in advance. In discussing the collection of development value from local authorities, I would say, however, that the method of levying the development charge will be an additional burden upon the private developer. When I speak of a private developer I am not only talking about the private capitalist but also of the co-operative society and other institutions which are run on a co-operative basis in this country. They have to face already a huge burden of rates and a great deal of delay in the various departments when applying for licences and so on. This will be an additional outlay and burden for them to face. I regard this part of the Bill as sheer compensation for speculation. These people either held the land or bought it in the hope of a rise in value. If the rise does not come off, they have no more right to come to the country and ask for money than those who speculate in Littlewoods pools.
I think everyone — philosophers, economists, teachers, and even lawyers— will accept the view that there are special and radical differences between land and other commodities. I cannot go into a shop, put down my money, and buy a piece of land over the counter. Lawyers recognise that there are very great differences between buying a piece of land and buying a loaf of bread. Everybody realises that it is on and from land that the whole community must live. Land is fixed in quantity. We cannot add an acre to its size. It is as silly to claim that land should be private property as it would be to say that if I caught a fish, somebody could then say to me that they not only claimed the fish but the whole stream. There are radical and special differences between land and other commodities. The hon. Member for Ruther-glen says that we are paying compensation to the railway company owners, the transport and electricity owners. It should be remembered that we are getting 1025 an asset for our money there; here, we get nothing at all, not even a blade of grass. I could understand the Government being willing to pay this money if we were to get the whole of the land of Britain in return, but as I say we are not getting even one blade of grass that we can call our own.
These values are created by the enterprise of the people. Development values are the exact measure of the present needs of the community. The more the community presses outwards, the higher land and development values rise. I suggest that there is neither equity nor morality in the proposal to pay this huge sum of £300 million—
§ Colonel Wheatley (Dorset, Eastern)
The hon. Gentleman talks about the improved value being due to the enterprise of the people. What exactly does he mean by "the enterprise of the people"? Development was done by some individual. People generally did not develop it.
§ Mr. McGhee
I am surprised but gratified to know that all our road, gas, electricity and bus services and so on, arose in that way. Also I see that private land is being advertised every day "with a beautiful view." That adds to the value of the land, and I am very glad to know that some private individual put it there and not nature, as I understood in the past. I wish the Minister well in his attempt to heal the ravages of private land monopoly. They have been grievous and disgraceful. In doing it in this way, however, I think he may mar the success of the planning parts of his Bill. I wish this Measure had been divided into two parts. I want to vote for the planning proposals. I cannot vote for the Bill as it stands, because it is against my conscience to pay people for something they have not earned. I must abstain from voting, on that account. I hope that, before long, we will see produced by this Government a much more Socialist Bill which will solve the question of land monopoly for ever, and give the people a chance to enjoy the benefits to which they are entitled.
§ 8.9 p.m.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer (Worthing)
I wish to bring forward a few points in relation to local authorities as they are affected by this Bill. Before I do that, I 1026 want to add my protest to what has already been said about the indecent haste with which this Measure has been thrust upon us and the speed with which it is about to be rushed through the House. It affects local authorities very seriously in a large number of ways, and they and their planning committees have not been given an opportunity to study the Bill. I think the Minister will be the loser in that respect because I believe they would have been able to produce a great deal of constructive criticism which would have been of very great value. From that point of view, if from no other, it is a grievous mistake that we should be called upon to discuss this matter before these bodies have been able to study the Bill.
I want to place before the House and the Minister the case of certain non-county boroughs of a population of over 50,000. In particular, I wish to draw the attention of the Minister to those boroughs which are primarily health and pleasure resorts. In order to make my case clear I intend to quote a borough in my own constituency, not because I wish to make a constituency speech but because it just happens to fit exactly the argument I wish to put forward. Actually there are 44 other non-county boroughs which are in the same position.
This non-county borough of which I speak, Worthing, has a population of 70,000 people. Its rateable value produces nearly a million pounds, and a penny rate produces £3,800. Therefore, I suggest to the Minister that this is a case entirely different from the case he quoted from the Memorandum, on page 7, which was a case of a non-county borough whose penny rate produced only £500, and which would be unable to bear this rate of compensation. It is absolutely essential in the case of these places, which are health resorts around our coasts, that their plan is co-related to the cultural and recreative development. In fact, where their long-term policy is concerned, it is vital that their plans are related to the day-to-day work of the actual committee in the town council.
§ Mr. Stanley Prescott
While appreciating the force of the argument my hon. and gallant Friend is making about non-county boroughs, does he also appreciate that, not only are the non-county boroughs deprived of town planning powers, but even the great City of London?
§ Mr. House (St. Pancras, North)
The hon. Member for Darwen (Mr. Prescott) referred to "the great City of London." I take it that he means the "square mile?"
§ The Attorney-General (Sir Hartley Shawcross)
I wonder if the hon. and gallant Gentleman could help us by telling us when the non-county borough of Worthing passed a resolution to prepare a scheme?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
Passed a resolution to prepare a scheme of town planning? Is that what the right hon. and learned Gentleman means?
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I have not the date in mind. There is a scheme being held up by the Ministry of Agriculture, which, after all the plans were ready, has now awakened to the fact that it is agricultural land and refuses to allow any further work for the time being.
§ The Attorney-General
I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman is a little confused between the housing plans of Worthing and the town planning scheme. All that I asked him, in order that we may be informed about the matter, is whether he could tell me when the borough passed a resolution to prepare a town planning scheme—to prepare it, not to make it.
§ Brigadier Prior-Palmer
I really do not see what is the relevance of the interruption by the learned Attorney-General, except that this very enlightened borough has a town planning scheme, as the Minister of Town and Country Planning knows only too well himself, as the right hon. Gentleman, or one of his representatives, has admitted. There is a strong case for an exception to be made in the case of certain non-county boroughs of a population of over 50,000 which are also, at the same time, health resorts. The Minister is provided with a precedent in regard to education. Certain non-county 1028 borough authorities were allowed by the Education Act, owing to their size, to be excepted authorities and remain their own education authorities. I suggest that their number is 44, and I now suggest that those 44, or, at least, some of them, should be allowed to state their case to the Minister, and that that case should be considered. There should also be the possibility of allowing non-county boroughs of that size, which, owing to their staffs and their financial position, are well able to do it, to carry on with their own planning schemes.
I do not consider that the permissive Clause in the Bill, which states that the county councils may delegate authority to these non-county boroughs, is sufficient. With regard to the other non-county boroughs, may we have an assurance from the Minister that, pending the operation of the county development plan, they will be allowed to continue to deal with applications for development, as, otherwise, there is going to be a hold-up for a very long time in development? It may be a hold-up of probably two years. There is no mention of this anywhere in the Bill, and it is, I suggest, a very grave omission. It will be realised that I am dealing, mainly, with omissions from this Bill, rather than with what is contained in it. I would suggest that the further consultations mentioned in Clause 9 (1) should be real, and that there should be no doubt whatever in the matter. Further, that a count}' borough which is its own planning authority must be authorised to make application direct to the Minister at any stage of planning, rather than that it should have to wait until the end, in cases of disagreement with the higher authority, because, in that case, the whole of the plan would be placed before the Minister and the entire procedure would have to be repeated.
I hope these non-county boroughs, who have shown themselves in the past to be quite capable of running their own affairs, will be allowed to administer their plans once they have come to fruition. Finally, I would like to add my voice to those of hon. Members who have disapproved of certain of the financial provisions of this Bill. I am not going into all the details, as other hon. Members who speak in the Debate are a good deal more able to do so than I am. I would, however, reiterate what has been said about justice. In the law of this country, as it 1029 always has been, it must appear that justice is being done, but there are instances in this Bill which are open to grave suspicion unless they are to be rectified, and, unless they are, I feel that there will be an impression that justice is not being done, which would be bad, not only for the Bill itself, but also for this House in general.
I would like to remind the Minister of a case which occurred recently of a private Bill, which was sent to another place, concerning the redevelopment of a large area on the South coast. This Bill was rejected, and one of the main grounds for its rejection was that it was considered grossly unfair that those people whose land was being requisitioned were to be paid only the 1939 value. There is no justification whatever, at this juncture, for continuing what was, purely and simply, a wartime measure.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Pargiter (Spelthorne)
I am very glad to have the opportunity of following the hon. and gallant Member for Worthing (Brigadier Prior-Palmer), particularly on the question of the, relationship between authorities. I have been a member of a planning authority, and I have also been a member of a joint town planning committee, and one of the things that struck me in my experience there was the vast a mount of delay that took place between an application to the planning authority—who might desire to submit it to the joint town planning committee for their observations—and a decision being reached. What I am concerned about is the lack in this Bill of any definite direction, which will give more speed to any application made to, or by, an authority. I know that in other directions it is at times a matter of considerable exasperation when, as local authorities, we do not get replies from Government Departments as quickly as we would like. If we are going to multiply the sources of delay in this matter, the flexibility which this Bill provides and which is a very welcome part of it will, in effect, be destroyed because of the frustration that will be felt at failure to get decisions.
I should like to see something inserted in the Bill on the Committee stage which would ensure that, after a given time, unless the Minister had indicated his dissent, assent could be assumed to development plans which were submitted to him, 1030 and to parts of development which might, from time to time, have to be submitted. With regard to the area for planning, I take the view that nothing less than a county is suitable for planning. I am speaking as a member of a county council who has had experience of a very large built-up area. I am also of the opinion— and I would have applauded the Minister if he had had sufficient courage to say so—that very large numbers of small county boroughs ought not to be given these planning powers. They should be included in the county councils. Why should a small county borough with a population of 60,000 and with a very limited area of its own, which is bound to go outside for decent planning, have planning powers while a large non-county borough in my own county with a population of 200,000 has no such power? I see no reason why the 200,000, because they are part of an entity, should not have to be fitted into an integral whole. It would be better to have the courage to say that some of the county boroughs should not be given these powers.
I know that the Minister has taken powers to say that, in certain circumstances, there shall be joint planning. But I thought that joint planning was one of the things which we wished to do away with and that we wanted planning authorities for definite, wide, specific areas. I am not at all undemocratic in this matter. I want the county districts to have a full voice in the preparation of the development plans. I think that they should say, within the whole scheme, what sort of development they want, although I think it is equally true that, in the last analysis, the planning authority has got to give certain directions. For instance, let us take a simple thing such as housing development. There might be one area which would want to put into its plan, perhaps, housing development at the rate of four to the acre, whereas, in order to get a properly balanced population, it might be better in that area to have a housing density of eight to the acre. Therefore, the question of non-county boroughs and urban districts having authority in that particular part would not be good for the whole. The final word must be with the larger authorities.
After that, the carrying out of the plan can, to a very considerable extent, be left to the county districts. It seems to 1031 me that they will have sufficient work to do in carrying out the plan when it is effected and also that they will be able, from time to time, to submit amendments as these appear desirable, in accordance with the revision of the plan. As there will be some call from the non-county boroughs and the urban districts on this matter, it seems to me that it would be desirable that the Minister should stand firm on the point that this planning must, in the last analysis, rest in the authorities now designated by him.
I want to refer to another aspect of compensation and betterment. In the discussion of the last Finance Act, the Chancellor of the Exchequer threw out the suggestion that authorities might like to have a permissive right for the rating of site values as an alternative means of raising revenue. I should like to know how that statement stands in the light of the provisions in this Bill. The partial rating of site value would automatically increase the income received from the rating of sites with the increase of development value, faking away this particular development value and vesting it in the State will mean the loss of that increased value. Will the local authorities be able to obtain the increase in income from the State, which will own the increased development value? I am sure that local authorities will be interested to know that as so many authorities are developing plans on the lines suggested by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I hope that we shall get an answer on that point.
Another point I wish to raise is in connection with the proposal in the Bill, vaguely drawn—perhaps it must be vaguely drawn—as to the grants which may be made to local authorities as compensation on redevelopment, and which will depend upon the financial strength of those local authorities. We have had a lot of experience of the alleged financial strength of local authorities by the operation of the block grant and we do not want much more of it. The test of the financial strength of an authority should be the ability of its citizens to pay, and it should not be based on any fictitious rate value, high or low. I hope that we can get some clarity on this matter, and an assurance that we are not going to fall back on the fact that someone has a penny rate of £3,000 and another a penny rate 1032 of £5,000, and that the one with the £5,000 is better off than the one with the £3,000. That is no criterion. As I have said, I hope that we shall get some clear indication on this point.
There is another point which I should like to develop further. I cannot see the logic of a local authority, which has to carry out, under its own powers, certain extensive redevelopments, having to pay a charge in lieu of development values to the State. Obviously, we want the benefit of this Measure to go to the community, and not to remain centralised in the Exchequer. We want it to be distributed, but to collect it from the local authority, which has to do the development, does not appear to me to be at all logical. I hope that the Minister will have second thoughts on that aspect of the problem. I also wonder why there is need to assess for the purposes of compensation, any development value that has occurred since 3rd September, 1939. If we are fixing prices for local authority purposes at 1939 level, I would say that if a landlord wants compensation for his land, its value for compensation purposes should not be a penny beyond the 1939 prices. Very clear declarations have been made which should have prevented any further speculation on land beyond the September, 1939, price. If we give the landlord anything at all, there is no need, as far as I can see, to give him a penny beyond the 1939 value, and all subsequent increase in development value should accrue to the community.
Although some of the points which I have raised may appear to be critical they are points on which, I feel, the House would like some enlightenment and they do not detract from the general merits of the Bill. Finally, this Bill has put an end to speculation in land. Even if some people have got away with something they ought not to have, at least this Bill will stop it in the future. That may not be complete comfort to all of us but, at least, it is partial comfort that we have gone so far. With that spirit of compromise for which we are so noted, I suppose that is the most we can expect at present.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Assheton (City of London)
The House always listens with the greatest interest to the hon. Member for Spel-thorne (Mr. Pargiter) because we know 1033 how particularly well informed he is on these subjects. He was giving us his views in connection with the smaller county boroughs, and I wondered whether his views were tinged by the fact, which I think is so, that there are no county boroughs in the county which he is happy enough to represent.
I want to say a few words on the subject of the Clauses in the Bill dealing with the City of London. Before I do so, I want to refer very briefly to three matters which, so far as I am aware, have not been dealt with in this Debate. I do not think anyone has called attention to the inflationary character of the proposals to distribute the sum of £300 million. It is impossible to distribute £300 million, or even the interest upon it, in relation to undeveloped values without having some inflationary effect upon our financial structure. [Interruption.] I am making an observation of which I think the House should take note before coming to any sort of conclusion on these proposals.
The second point, which has not been mentioned so far, and which I think is worthy of attention, is the fact that the administration of this Bill, and particularly of the development charges, will present very great difficulties, and unless we watch it very carefully indeed there will be temptations to corruption of a kind which never before have been presented in the public service. I hope every possible care will be taken to avoid anything of that kind happening. The mere fact that this vast administration has to be carried out in this way through the Executive, means quite a new problem to be faced in this connection. The third point I wish to make, and which I do not think has been made hitherto, is that there is a very real shortage of valuers in the country, both on the Government side and on the side of private owners, and I hope that whoever is constructing the machinery of this administration will have that fact very clearly before him.
The Minister, who made such an extraordinarily comprehensive speech today—he spoke for two hours—did not find time to deal with the important question of how minerals are to be dealt with in the Bill. In the interests of those who work in mineral development, I hope the right hon. Gentleman opposite, who perhaps 1034 will speak later tonight, or the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is certainly going to speak tomorrow, will give some attention to this matter, so that at any rate, the minds of those at present engaged in mineral development will be set at rest by some exposition of the prospects which lie ahead of them. I say that because I am certain that every Member will agree the matter is not clear, as it is laid down in Clause 76. With regard to minerals at present in development, regulations will be made which may permit of certain things being done. There is no certainty in that Clause, and the Minister explained that it was not possible to put into the Bill the terms of the conditions which he wished to impose. That has created uncertainty, and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in summing up tomorrow night, can find a way of making this matter a little clearer, I am sure the House will be very much obliged to him.
The Minister was good enough to pay a very handsome tribute to the City of London, for whom I am now speaking. He told us that he had earned his living in the City for many years, and that he was anxious to do what he could to protect the legitimate interest of the City of London. I hope the Minister will do more than pay lip service to the very worthy notions which he expressed. The proposals in this Bill are really a little startling. The proposal is that the City of London which, after all, is the premier city of the Empire, should be deprived of its planning powers, whereas East Ham, West Ham and Croydon, because they are county boroughs, are still allowed to continue as planning authorities. The hon. Member for Spelthorne made a case for taking away the planning powers from county boroughs. Had that been the position in the Bill, I could have understood the Minister bringing forward proposals to take away planning powers from the City of London; but, since the county boroughs are to retain their planning powers, and since the cities of York and Canterbury, which are county boroughs, are to retain their planning powers, it seems hard that the City of London, which is the father and mother of all local government in this country, should be deprived of its planning powers. I find it puzzling to know why the Minister has made this change.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
I do not wish to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but he has referred to the cities of York and Canterbury. Surely, he knows that the City of London, unlike the other places he has mentioned, is in the heart of a vast urban area?
§ Mr. Assheton
I daresay the hon. Gentleman has not spent as much time in Lancashire as I have. If he would look at the City of Manchester, side by side with the county borough of Salford, he would realise that this problem is just as great in that case as it is in the City of London. I suggest that the City of London is being treated very unworthily in this respect. I was inquiring why the Minister had changed his mind, because it is not more than a year ago that he issued a circular to local authorities, and in the appendix to a memorandum it was specifically stated that local planning authorities would remain as under the present law. It went on to say that for the City of London the common council of the City was to be the planning authority. That is only about a year ago, and yet, for some reason or other, the Minister has changed his mind. When planning powers were first given to the City of London by the Act of 1932, it was done with the approval of the London County Council. In fact, the amendment was moved by those members of the committee representing the London County Council, and it was also done with the approval of the Metropolitan boroughs. The London County Council has not even now asked that these powers should be taken away from the City of London. If this is done great inconvenience and delays will ensue.
I am sure the House is aware that the plan for the City of London, which has been prepared at the Minister's request and suggestion by Professor Holford and Mr. Holden, who are two eminent planners of whom the Minister entirely approves, and one of whom he was good enough to spare from his own Department, is now nearly complete. It would be a tragedy if further delay were to ensue by reason of the City of London having to wait until this Bill becomes law, perhaps late in the year, and the planning powers being then taken over by the County of London. They would have to begin all over again. I do not know whether the County of London authorities would accept the plan which the planners have made for the 1036 City of London. It might mean going back to the start.
Those firms in the City who are very pressed by lack of accommodation have great anxiety in this matter. I am sure every hon. Member who goes to the City must observe that not a single stone has been altered since the bombing; there is no possibility open to anyone yet to rebuild anything. The plan for which we have been waiting is now just ready; I hope it will be endorsed, and I have every reason to think it will be endorsed by the Minister, and that it will fit in entirely with plans which may be in the minds of the London County Council. I have no reason to think there will be a difficulty on that account. However, we do want to proceed, and it must be admitted that there is an urgent need for more accommodation in the City. Every day I am pressed by my constituents about this matter. As the House is aware, a vast amount of property in the City was destroyed; some businesses are unable to get their requisitioned offices back, and the conditions of work in many City offices are very bad indeed at present. Merchants and exporters cannot develop their trade for lack of office accommodation. Therefore, I suggest the House should give this matter very earnest consideration.
The Lord Mayor led a deputation from the Corporation of the City to the Prime Minister, at which meeting the Minister of Town and Country Planning was present. Both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Town and Country Planning expressed their intention to do what they could to preserve the important position of the City of London in this matter. But I do not think the Clauses which are in this Bill implement the suggestions which were made at that meeting. I would ask the House again: Why is it that West Ham is fit to be a planning authority but the City of London is not fit to be a planning authority, with all its tradition? Is it to be said, as the Minister said with regard to some smaller authorities, that they cannot afford a qualified staff? Is that the reason why the City of London cannot be allowed to be a planning authority? No, I do not think that can be the reason. I do not press this issue on the grounds of prestige alone—though those are, I think, important in the premier city of this Empire. I do hope the Minister will realise that the relationship between 1037 the Government and the Corporation of the City of London has been, for many years, a happy relationship, and that is a relationship which we wish to preserve.
I beg the Minister to think about this matter again. I do not believe that the proposal to put planning in the City under the London County Council is a good proposal in itself. The detailed knowledge of how things work in the City—all the markets and all the interests which operate there—is in the mind of the Common Council of the City of London in a way in which it cannot be available to members of the London County Council. I suggest that if the Government really believe in true democracy they should leave to the City of London—who know the task which has to be performed, who know the needs of their own city—the task of doing their own planning. I beg the Minister most sincerely to reconsider in Committee this proposal which is so damaging to the interests of my constituents, and also to the greatest city in the Empire.
§ 8.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)
We listened to a very lengthy exposition of what I think is a very complicated Bill. The Minister has been a leading light in the London County Council, and has certainly been looked upon as an authority on town planning. I think he is very fortunate in having, as his assistant, a Parliamentary Secretary who knows the needs of Sheffield, and has always taken a keen interest in access to mountain and moor. The Minister, in opening the Debate, said the object of the Bill was that land should be used in the best interests of the people. I had hoped that, at long last, we were to deal effectively with the land question, but I am somewhat disappointed. I think this Bill merely skims the surface, and does not dig deep enough. In the days of my youth I saw only one type of landowner: the big estate owner who drove our forebears off the land to make way for sheep, and subsequently for deer. Happily the Crofters Act ended that era of tyranny by giving security of tenure and fixing fair rents.
It is as well to realise that nowhere is the evil of land monopoly so bad as it is in Great Britain. Private ownership is not universal. In the United States two-thirds of the land is state-owned, and in Queensland 95 per cent. of the land is 1038 state-owned. I contend that land, being necessary to life, should be held in common for the good of the community, and that the bounties of nature should be utilised for the good of humanity. We all know that an industrial population enhances the value of the land. The landowner sits tight, does nothing and reaps the benefit of industrial development. Thus, municipal enterprise has been handicapped by land monopoly; housing has been handicapped by a distortion of the price for land, thus effecting large rents. Some city fathers were wise in their day and generation. For instance, 100 years ago Newcastle bought land for £12,000. Today that land produces £12,000 a year. When I was on a local authority some years ago we wanted land for a fire station. That land was rated at 50s. an acre, but when we wanted to buy it the owner wanted £1,600 an acre. My contention at that time was, and still is, if the owner believed that was the real value of the land it should have been rated at that value, and not at 50s. That would have resulted in more revenue to the local authority, or else it would have forced that land into the market at a lower value.
Taxation of land value has been Labour' s policy for many a long year, but I want to know where it is shown in this Bill. Why is it absent from this Bill? The compensation to landowners amounts to an enormous sum—£300 million. I think that might well be called an ill-gotten gain. No shred of evidence has been given for such an immense figure. What is the basis of valuation for this compensation? The power given to county councils can, I think, be welcomed, and this is certainly essential for local authority purposes. Another good thing in the Bill is the provision for protecting the councils against inflated prices; that is certainly one safeguard against what in the past has been sheer robbery. For instance, Woolwich had to pay £5,563 for land the rateable value of which was only £9: that is equivalent to 618 years' purchase. Think what the Government had to pay for land for the erection of aerodromes during the war. I remember one case, known as Grange Farm, where the Government had to pay £90,000 for land bought by the owner in 1932 for £8,000. From that it can be seen how, in war or in peace, the landowner's exaction never ceases. 1039 May I remind the Upposihon of what Neville Chamberlain said in 1927? I think that everyone who followed his career would admit that Neville Chamberlain was a great authority on municipal enterprise, and this is what he said at Manchester on 18th October, 1927:Every one who has been concerned in the administration of a great town knows how, when you want to cut a little bit off the side of one of your busiest streets to give a little bit of ease to your congested traffic, you have to pour out money by the thousands of pounds for every yard you snatch for the need of the community.Neville Chamberlain knew what that meant for his city. The Minister of Town and Country Planning, I know, was a figure of importance on the London County Council. He is a man of outstanding ability, but has he forgotten the fact that the London County Council promoted a Bill for site values, so why is it not covered in this Bill? The taxation of land values is long overdue, and I hope this may find a place in the Bill before it finally passes to the Statute Book.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Digby (Dorset, Western)
We have had quite an interesting Debate so far on this Bill, which is one of very considerable complexity. I, like many others, am very sorry that insufficient time has been given to us to consult the interests affected in our constituencies, for I have been quite unable in the time that has been given to us, to get in touch with them as I should have wished. In a Bill of this nature, which has so many aspects, I think that this is particularly unfortunate. Indeed, even the Minister himself found it necessary—although it has been said to us that this was a Bill which could be hurried through—to speak for over two hours, a speech rather more suited to a marathon than to the sprint which we were told would be suitable for this Bill. Yesterday, we were discussing a Bill to give added security to farmers. Today we are discussing a Bill which cannot but have the result of detracting from that security. They receive one day, and the next day it is taken away again.
There is one aspect of this Bill to which I should like to draw attention right away. From these benches we have said more than once to the present Minister of Town and Country Planning that we could 1040 not help thinking that he attached more importance to the town side of the planning than to the country side, and indeed if we read the White Paper we find some words which would seem to support that theory. We read the rather astonishing statement on page 4 that "planning began as an offshoot of housing."[HON. MEMBERS: "So it did."] That is not my conception of planning at all. Planning went back a great deal further than that. Planning is not something new. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nor are houses."] Hon. Members opposite may have heard that there was once a Great Fire of London, and they may have heard of a gentleman called Sir Christopher Wren.
§ Mr. Digby
Sir Christopher Wren had a perfectly good planning scheme, and it is quite ridiculous to suggest that the idea of planning for town and countryside is something new invented by the party opposite, because that is very far from being the case. Generally, I wish to welcome the planning side of this Bill. It was quite obvious that some general planning Bill had to be introduced, and as regards the planning provisions of this one, although I shall have one or two criticisms to make, in general, as I say, I welcome them and I am grateful to the Minister for the very clear exposition he gave of a number of the more difficult points, as well as for the very real and sincere effort he made to justify this Bill —in contrast, I might say, to what we have sometimes had in the introduction of Bills by the present Government.
The first point with which I wish to deal, in connection with the general planning side of the Bill, is the alteration in the planning authorities. I must confess that even after the Minister's explanation, I am not absolutely clear as to what he has in mind, or as to how far he will go on using the present joint authorities. We are told that the planning authority is now to be the county council, or the county borough. But the Minister must know perfectly well that in a great many cases, the work has really been done by the joint committees, which have usually had a large proportion of the county to administer. The right hon. Gentleman gave us a description of a meeting of one of these joint committees which he 1041 attended and, I thought quite unnecessarily, used this one example to criticise the whole system. I happen to have sat on one of these committees for a great number of years, and I am quite sure that the work they have done has been very valuable. In my county, Dorset, we had put up our plans for approval to the Ministry before the last war started, and we are still waiting to hear the result. Indeed, we now know from this Bill that the result of our labours has been largely wasted, because we have to begin all over again.
I want to know what is to happen to these committees in future. Are they to be used to the same extent or are they not? If not, is a real attempt to be made to use the county committees to do all the work, because if that is the intention, I think they will come up against some difficulties. One of the things these committees will find is that it is absolutely essential that members of the committee in a country district should know the place in question. It may be quite different in the towns, but in country districts a member of a county council may live 50 or more miles away from the spot in question, so that he has no first-hand knowledge of the place or the circumstances, and is therefore not qualified to give a good opinion on it. I therefore,-hope very much that the joint committees will be kept in existence, because I am quite sure that they have a very valuable part to play.
There are one or two other minor details connected with this, such as how far the plans already prepared are to be scrapped. The first thing I want to know, and I should like to have an answer to this point, is on what maps are the plans being prepared? Large sums of money have already been spent on maps, and we hear rumours that maps of a different scale are to be used in future. I should like to ask whether that is the case, and whether the old maps are to be completely scrapped. In connection with these committees, the Minister would do well to remember that there are two completely different types of development. First, there is the normal development and planning of a district where urban or industrial expansion is unlikely.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
I have been listening with great attention to the hop. Member, and to his point 1042 about the maps. Would you explain exactly how you reconcile the fact that while you "crib" about expenditure on a new type of map, you swallow the provision of £300 million for the landlords?
§ Mr. Digby
The hon. Member has accused me of cribbing, but it is not so much a question of expenditure, as of the work which has been put into these maps over a large number of years by a great many public-spirited people, who should not be discouraged or deterred from taking an interest in planning in the future.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
Before the hon. Member leaves the subject of the maps, would he make clear what his point is?
§ Mr. Digby
The point is perfectly clear. I do not know whether the hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes) has had any experience of planning authorities, but if so, he will know that the work of planning is connected with maps. Maps in great detail are kept up to date, showing the entire provisional planning scheme, and these maps have been prepared by all planning authorities, and submitted with provisional schemes. If we are to start again on new maps of a different scale, the whole of that work will be lost. As I was saying, there are two types of development. First there is the type of development which envisages an expansion of industry or an increase in housing; second, there is the planning for the relatively static community. I had the impression, from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, that he was much more interested in the former, and had apparently little interest in the latter type of planning. I hope it is not so, because there are a great many districts in this country which do not anticipate increases in industry and urban development. It is just as important that those parts of the country should be looked after from the point of view of amenities, as it is to plan for the towns and districts around the great cities, and, in some cases, national parks are involved.
I should now like to refer to the national aspect. The White Paper contains such phrases as "what is best from the point 1043 of view of the community," and states thatplans will show which towns and villages are suitable for expansion, and which can best be kept at their present sizeI wish to know how many of these decisions will be taken as a result of deliberations in the Ministry in Whitehall, and what part is to be played by the regional planning officers. Not very long ago, the authority on which I serve had a visit from the regional planning officer, which was a very disappointing visit indeed. We were expecting a great deal of advice and assistance from him, but we did not receive it. That planning officer lives more than 100 miles from the headquarters or our authority and, therefore, is not in close touch, nor could he be, with our local conditions. I foresee very real difficulties if the Minister intends to hand over too much power to regional officers, who have no more knowledge of local conditions than have the officials in his Department in London.
On this question of Government Departments, we should like to be assured that the Minister will take a firm hand with them all when it comes to questions of planning. In the past many authorities have had difficulties with Government Departments, like the Ministry of Education, for instance, which have their own view as to what a building should be for educational purposes, quite regardless of the amenity aspect. We shall have trouble with authorities such as the Post Office, yet we read that under this very Bill, new compulsory powers for the compulsory acquisitioned of land are to be given to the Post Office and the Ministry of Works. One cannot but be a little anxious about how those powers are to be used.
I do not wish to speak long on the more controversial aspects of the Bill, but I would like to say a few words about 1939 values. Although we may hear something reassuring later in the Debate, at present we are in a slightly ridiculous position in regard to the purchase of land. There are no fewer than four different types of value which the same piece of land might fetch at any one time. First, there is the value by private sale with vacant possession; then the value by private sale with the tenant in occupation; then the value by compulsory sale for a non-occupier and, finally, there is the value of compulsory sale for owner-occupier, 1044 which gets 1939 value plus 60 per cent. That is a highly artificial state of affairs and, in the long run, is not in the interests of planning. Under the Bill, and other Measures which have come before us, we have had cases of land which can be acquired compulsorily by various bodies: by local authorities for themselves, by local authorities for private developers, by Government Departments and now, as under the Transport Bill, by nationalised industries. All this means that a large number of extra people will come into the market with compulsory powers, and cast covetous eyes on what is today good agricultural land. It means that we must have the interests of planning protected carefully, and with much more force than they have been in the past. I would, therefore, urge the Minister to remember the country side of his responsibilities, which are every bit as important as the town side. His colleagues yesterday were boasting about additional security on farms. That will mean very little if the farmer never knows when his land will be in danger, because some Government Department wishes to take it.
This Bill is necessary, although I do not like a good deal of it. It is not an entirely fortunate attempt, and not a very impartial attempt, to find a solution of the real problems connected with town and country planning. It will doubtlessly give rise to grievances, and I fear that, in some cases, it may hold up necessary development. The means employed may frustrate the end.
§ 9.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Medland (Plymouth, Drake)
As one who has been engaged in planning for a local authority for a considerable number of years, the first thing I should do is to say to the Minister how grateful we are for the magnificent exposition of the objects of planning which he has given us this afternoon. I think that his speech will go on record as one which will often be quoted by people who wish to plan for the benefit of the community. I express my gratitude to him for that magnificent contribution to our planning literature.
I wish also to thank him for the fact that he has departed from the usual practice of this Government to forget all about the local authorities and transfer powers to area boards. Here we have an exhibition of area boards and ad hoc authorities 1045 giving place to elected authorities. He has decided, in a true spirit of democracy, to make the instruments of his planning for the future the elected authorities in the various areas of the country. I say, "Thank you," to him for giving the county councils and the county boroughs an opportunity to take a wider view of planning generally. I personally do not think that this question of planning can go below a certain number of county boroughs and county councils. Planning, if it is to be successful, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite said in his speech in 1944, when introducing his Bill, must cover a wide area. Because of that fact, I am sure that the Minister is right in confining it to county councils and to some county borough councils. I would say to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison) that I was astonished to hear him say that in view of the fact that we are now not at war there was no immediate urgency for this Bill.
§ Mr. Medland
I do not wish to misinterpret the right hon. Gentleman, but he was complaining to the Minister about the haste with which this Bill was brought before the House, and that it had not been sufficiently discussed. The right hon. Gentleman found it possible, when the nation was fighting for its life in the war, to introduce a Bill, which was passed through the House in 1944. Ever since that time every local authority with planning problems has been discussing and thinking about planning. Moreover, I happen to know that for at least 12 months, much to my personal resentment, the Minister has been conducting negotiations with, the municipal corporations' associations on the very points which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned, so that there has been the fullest discussion with the representatievs of local authorities over a period of 12 months, and, indeed, ever since 1944.
The 1944 Act, for which the right hon. Member for Cirencester was responsible, was a good Act. It gave great hopes to those of us who were in devastated towns, for whose benefit it was brought into being. We thought we would be able to rebuild our cities. Before the right hon. Gentleman had got the Measure through Parliament, some of us had got our plans prepared. My own city had engaged Sir 1046 Patrick Abercrombie, and we had our now famous plan. Experience is worth an awful lot of theory in these matters. Let me tell the right hon. Gentleman that we have been pursuing the matter from that day to this, and we have only got past the fifth stage of the 19 stages in Section 1 of the right hon. Gentleman's Act. We gave notice of our intention, we got a declaratory order, we did all those things, but not a single sod has been turned in rebuilding our devastated city; and that is why I say, "Thank you," to the Minister for including in this Bill a provision to repeal the first 10 Sections of the 1944 Act and to substitute in their place the Land Acquisition Act, 1946, brought in by the Labour Government, who are speeding up this matter. I hope that I have given a reply to the right hon. Member for Cirencester.
All this is a prelude before I get down to what I really want to say. I know that the Minister will expect me to ask him one or two questions. I have been asking him questions ever since he has been Minister, and I have noticed that he takes particular care to dodge me in the corridors. I want to put to him one or two questions on this Bill. Will he tell me what is to be the interpretation which his Department gives to Clause 5 (3, a)? It reads:The Minister shall not approve a development plan which designates any land as subject to compulsory acquisition as aforesaid unless, in his opinion the land is likely to be required for the purpose for which it is so designated within 10 years from the date on which the plan is approved.We have designated the whole of the area of our city. We have heard a special plea on behalf of the City of London and I am sure no one will object to a special plea on behalf of the blitzed cities generally. We have a declaratory order and in that order we have indicated the use to which the land is to be put. No devastated city can say it will bring into being the object of that designation within 10 years. First we have to go on with our housing problem, but then we have to build schools and a shopping centre, because we have no shops. I was interested to hear the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the junior Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton), but I still find shops and business houses in the City of London. In our city we have none; they are all in houses. We have designated a certain section of this land 1047 for cultural purposes. Within 10 years we cannot afford to put down our cultural premises, and will the Minister please say whether we shall suffer any kind of loss as a result of the bringing of this new paragraph into Clause 5.
There is another point about which I should like to ask him. I notice that the first 10 Sections of the 1944 Act are repealed, and that a number are repealed under Section 30 of the 1944 Act. I want to know if Section 30 of the 1944 Act, which requires a local authority, which has acquired land for a new development purpose, to re-house the persons who are taken out of that area, applies to a Government Department in the same way as it does to a local authority? The reason I ask that question is that we have the Admiralty in our area, and they are acquiring very large sections of what previously was housing accommodation in which sailors, dockyard workers and other working class people lived. Where the local authority acquires premises in the same circumstances it has to re-house those people. It is not clear in this Bill nor is it clear in Section 30 of the 1944 Act whether a Government Department, exercising the same function as a local authority, is responsible for re-housing the displaced population. I shall be very much obliged if he would satisfy us on that point.
The other question I wish to ask has reference to Clause 87. Nobody could expect that I would get up in the House after having read this Bill without asking questions about that Clause. I understand that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to reply later in the Debate upon this very question, but before he does so there are a number of points I wish to put to him on the matter. This is the part of the Bill which shows the greatest improvement—if it means what it says; and I want to be convinced that it does mean what it says, because this Bill is a very clever business. I have read with very great interest the declaration made during the Debate on the Second Reading of the 1944 Act as to what was then the policy of the Labour Party with reference to blitzed cities, and I advise the Minister to read the speech on that occasion in which the present Lord Privy Seal stated in no uncertain terms that their policy was to "completely restore." The right hon. Gentleman then said that 1048 he saw no reason why a bombed site was in any different category from a destroyer which was sunk or an aircraft which crashed, and that we ought to pay every farthing for restoration.
That has been interpreted in Clause 87 not quite 100 per cent. The interpretation is 90 per cent. We are ten per cent. down upon the Lord Privy Seal's declaration, but we are a long way up on the Coalition Government's method of compensation for local authorities. There we were to have capital cost for two years; it might be for a further eight years, and finally, if we were good boys, for a full 15 years. They would pay interest and sinking fund charges on the cost of buying the land. That presented some problem to an authority like mine in which we had to acquire 167 acres, some of which, in the centre of the city—the values of which had never been created by the owners— cost as much as £534,000 an acre. The Coalition Government, under their Bill, offered us some 15 years' maximum payment. Under the present Bill 90 per cent. of the capital cost of acquisition is indicated, but it says in the Clause itself that, with the consent of the Treasury, provision "may" be made for the payment by the Minister of up to 90 per cent. But the curious part of it is that while he "may" make the regulations the Minister "shall" not exceed 90 per cent. I wonder why we cannot have included in the Bill a provision that the Treasury "shall" make the regulations so that we might receive payment up to at least 90 per cent in devastated areas where we can prove our case? We do not want it unless we can prove our case; we do not want to make a profit out of our wounds—that would be unpatriotic and is the last thing we wish to do. We do say, however, that this burden which has been imposed upon us by enemy action should be borne not by one particular locality, but by the country as a whole. I am sure the Minister will agree with me—and I believe that I have his good will in this matter—that at least 90 per cent. should be paid in cases which can be proved.
Another point is that we have, in our development plan, to provide for the acquisition of buildings to be destroyed in order to set up a new city on entirely new lines, and I should like the Minister to say, if he will, whether the cost of acquiring such buildings is included in the words "acquisition of land."
1049 I am rather unhappy about the absence of any indication in the Bill of the expenditure which will be included for the purposes of grant, in connection with the acquisition and clearance of land. Does the Bill include the cost of the acquisition of land for the construction of estate roads? I should be much obliged if I could have an answer. Does it include grants toward the construction of new sewers? We have to put in hand a brand new sewerage scheme, in connection with the reconstruction of a whole city. Does it include such things as street lighting? I know there is a modified grant for the purpose of open spaces.
If I might have some replies to those questions I can assure the Minister that the blitzed cities of this country will be everlastingly grateful to him. Those cities stood the brunt of enemy bombing in 1940 and 1941. They are now struggling with their plans to rebuild themselves. They have been hindered in many ways by the procedure of the 1944 Act. We hope to continue. We hope to get our towns rebuilt within the shortest possible time. Will the Minister tell us, sometime during this Debate, definitely how much assistance we are to get? Will he give us some reply to the questions which I have addressed to him? If he does so, I am sure that he will be regarded as one of the best friends the blitzed cities of this country ever had in the House of Commons.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
We have listened to a very robust speech from the hon. Member for the Drake Division of Plymouth (Mr. Medland). I found it a very welcome relief after the long and dreary series of speeches we have had from that side, harping on the landlord theme. Hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to me to live in the bogy world of demonology, in which the landlord haunts them by day, and frightens them by night. I suggest very seriously to hon. Members opposite that they might do what I did some months ago. I conducted a kind of Gallup poll in my borough to discover to whom it in fact belonged. If hon. Members would do the same it might surprise them. They would find what an enormous percentage of the land in their own boroughs is owned by a small number of people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am very 1050 grateful to hon. Members for laughing at me and correcting me. I meant to say "a number of small people." They will find what a large number of landlords there are, in fact, and what an enormous percentage of the people are in such positions by their own thrift and hard work. When hon. Members opposite take great pleasure, as so many of them do, in trying to "do down" the landlords, they had better find out exactly what section of the population they are doing down.
We were told by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. McGhee) that this was a good Bill in parts, like the curate's egg. I entirely agree with him. It is a good Bill with a worthy purpose, which will be ruined by political prejudice, spite and arrogance. After all Members of all parties are proud of their own country and our countryside. We are all in favour of regional planning on a large and bold scale. We all want wide roads, green belts and open spaces. We all deplore shacks and shanties ruining our countryside and we all want houses. What is more, we want them quickly. I judge the Bill by the extent to which it will produce the positive things in our countryside and not by the extent to which it will do down people to whom some hon. Gentlemen opposite have taken a dislike.
This Government, if they wished to do so, could have carried a very large part of the House with them. If the hon. Gentleman had been permitted, or had been prepared, to leave his prejudices outside in the cloakroom with his hat, he could have carried very many of us on this side of the House with him in this Bill, but I criticise this Bill as it stands because I consider that it is untimely, unfair and unworkable and that its results are unpredictable.
It is untimely for two reasons. Parts of it are untimely because at this moment, if we are to believe the President of the Board of Trade, this country is standing on the brink of financial disaster. If we were to assess our position today by the figures of a chartered accountant, we should say that this country is bank-rapt beyond all hope of recovery. We might have said that about the military position in 1940 but we got out of our difficulty because we had leadership and because we rallied the imponderables of the British character—initiative, courage, national unity and so on. Any Bill which 1051 comes before this House at this stage of our national affairs has to be judged by the extent to which it takes into account our financial and economic position and the extent to which it will rally the imponderables in our character today. Whatever may be the virtues of this Bill —and it has many—one thing is certain and that is that it will not encourage initiative. It will discourage enterprise, it will load up our governmental machine with more officials whose cost has to be borne by the decreasing percentage of our population which produces anything today, and it will certainly not help to produce a single house for the people who so sadly need them.
It is untimely in the sense that, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison) mentioned, this is one of the most complicated Bills ever brought before the House of Commons. Let me quote the Minister's own words He said: "This is long, technical and complex." The Government have had 18 months to consider it. This House has had exactly three weeks. The Bill affects every local authority in the land, every farmer and every property owner, and unless democracy is going to be a complete farce no hon. Member of this House should go into the Lobby tomorrow night and vote for this Bill unless he, can assure himself and his constituents that he understands it and that he has consulted those who are likely to be affected by it.
The Government have boasted in the past that they believe in streamlined legislation, which is a polite way of saying that they pass many Bills which a large percentage of their followers do not understand We have now gone in for jet-propelled legislation, which means that it whizzes through this Chamber so fast that most of the hon. Members opposite do not know it has passed at all. I wonder how many hon. Members opposite will be able to say honestly tomorrow night that they have fulfilled their obligations to their constituency by really consulting those who will be affected, especially those hon. Members who represent local authorities whose planning powers are going to be taken away by this Bill. Have they gone to their local authorities and heard what they think about this? The fact that three weeks have been given to this House and to the 1052 country to consider this most complex Measure, is the worst example of Government arrogance and complete disregard of Parliamentary procedure which we have had since this Government came into power.
My other criticism was that the Bill is unfair. It is unfair for the reason that almost every hon. Member on this side of the House has mentioned, and that is in regard to the compensation of £300 million. I listened very carefully to the right hon. Gentleman for I was hoping that he would put up a good case. Well, he went to great pains to say that this really did not represent compensation at all, but was merely to meet cases of hardship. He did not explain how the £300 million was computed, and he was not prepared and is still now not prepared, I gather, to allow any kind of impartial investigation into whether this sum is or is not right or whether it is just sheer robbery of people who will not be able to protest against it in the House of Commons. I think, too, it is unfair— again for the reason which has been mentioned by every hon. Member on this side of the House who has spoken—that it adheres to the 1939 standard of values. It was never envisaged during the war, when that was fixed as the basis for compensation, that years after the war, people should be paid at that rate, that property owners should be the one section of the population to be penalised in this way. We are promised some sort of statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer tomorrow night. Why cannot that statement not be made before tomorrow night? What is the object of waiting until then unless it is trickery, unless it is evasion? Why should we not be told, early on in the Debate, so that we can have some opportunity of considering it and some opportunity of debating it?
The truth is, of course, that the underlying policy of this Government—it is becoming perfectly obvious every day, not only from this Bill but from the Government's housing Measures—is to try to destroy the middleclass in this country, and the quickest way to do it is to destroy the institution of property owning It is quite clear now that the whole object of Government policy is to turn Great Britain into a land of a propertyless proletariat, depending upon the Government for its housing, its shelter, and its very right to live. The net effect of under- 1053 estimating the value of compensation and of adhering to 1939 values of property will depress the value of property in this country by many hundreds of millions of pounds. Hon. Members opposite may regard that as a very desirable thing to do; they may regard that as a very profitable thing to do, as it is always profitable, superficially, to put your hand in the till, but in the long run it will affect death duties, and in the long run it will affect enterprise and initiative in the building of houses. Those evils will far outweigh the temporary advantages they will get in this matter. It pays to be honest in the long run—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, Hear."] yes, it pays to be honest in the long run —even if you are the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I would also warn the Minister, as I warned the Government last year, that if he insists on doing injustice to property owners, he will do very great damage to the cause of town planning because what will happen—in fact, it is happening already—is that if a local authority is called upon to carry out a large-scale planning scheme and it means doing down some hundreds of their own fellow citizens, they will not carry out the scheme. And if it means that in order to plan a large area, a lot of people will be given only 1939 values, then he will find all over the country that big and desirable schemes of town planning simply will not be proceeded with at all.
My last two criticisms are these. I said that the scheme was unworkable and unpredictable. I believe it is unworkable if for no other reason than that the Government certainly will not be able to find the technical staff to operate it. It is no good pretending that valuers grow on trees, and can be picked up by advertisements in the newspaper. No valuer will be the slightest use for a job of this sort unless he has had at least 10 years' practical experience. When we consider the delays that have taken place in land valuation during the war and in regard to war damage, I believe this scheme is going to break down, if for no other reason than that the staff will not be available.
I believe there will be another result from this Bill. It will mean the complete cessation of all private development, because, in spite of what the hon. Gentleman said this afternoon, I do not honestly believe that any private developer can possibly open up an estate 1054 on these terms. It may be that the Government do not want them to do so. It may be that they want to drive all development into the hands of the State and local authorities. If that is so, why not say so, and have done with it? I cannot see how any private developer can operate under the scheme. Let me give two examples. I know an estate outside a provincial town which was developed between the two wars, and which most people regard as one of the finest examples in that area. It was built on agricultural land, which had been growing nothing but thistles for at least 10 years, and it was bought for £100 an acre, a price at which anyone could have bought it. The developer spent £3,000 an acre on it, on sewers, roads, lights and so on. He developed an asset there with a rateable value of over £20,000 without the slightest assistance from the State, or the local authority.
Hon. Members opposite always seem to assume that in any case of development it is the State, or the local authority, which has created the asset. But, if they take the trouble to go through the country, they will find that in an enormous percentage of cases between the two wars it was created by some private individual without local authority assistance. The developer was prepared to put that money into the estate, and to risk it. But what will happen when this Bill becomes law? It would mean that he would have to go to the Government and ask before he did anything, "What have I to pay in the way of betterment?" He has to haggle with them. Can anyone possibly say what is the true betterment of an estate where not a brick has been laid, and not a drain has been dug? No one can have the faintest idea whether the estate will be a financial success or not. The right hon. Gentleman talked about the number of technical people he is to have on his staff. I suggest he takes on the astrologers who write for the Sunday papers. I cannot see how anyone else can possibly know what the betterment is going to be. Besides if the developer has to put down the money there and then, before he has any income from the estate, in 99 cases out of 100 the developer would not get on with it at all.
I will give another example of what has happened in London between the two wars. A slum property was bought up, dismantled, and blocks of flats built. I 1055 wonder whether the Minister has the faintest idea of how that sort of transaction is carried out? Some man who can see that site, not in terms of slum property which exists, but of blocks of flats which are to be erected. He negotiates, perhaps, with 100 separate owners, and perhaps a number of mortgagees as well. Now before he starts to negotiate, he will have to find out what the betterment is likely to be. What hope is there with such delay of being able to buy that property, except at an exorbitant rate? What hope is there of being able to develop that desirable estate, except at figures which would never yield a decent return? If we relate the proposed procedure to what in fact happens, the whole thing must break down.
It is a very good thing that previous Governments did not place quite so much reliance on local authorities doing all the development for them, because one of the grim jokes is that at the time the Government are bringing in this Bill discouraging private development, they are relying on the private developer to house their expanding Government Departments all over London. It would indeed be a grim irony if the Minister were to publish side by side with this Bill, a list of all the properties which have been requisitoned all over London today, which were built by private enterprise in the past.
In conclusion, I say that the results of the Bill are unpredictable, but some things I will predict, and I shall be perfectly happy for hon. Gentlemen opposite to quote them against me in years to come, if I am wrong. I predict, first, that this Bill will be the end of large-scale private development. Secondly, it will mean that landlords will tend to patch up old buildings instead of doing what they ought to do—knock them down and put up new ones. Thirdly, this Bill will mean a rise in the price of houses—because so many developers between the wars, in spite of what the Minister said, did make part of their profit out of the land, and personally I see nothing wrong in it—if the Government take the profit on the land the extra cost must go on to the house. Fourthly, I think it will mean a destruction in land values, running into many hundreds of millions of pounds throughout the country. Fifthly, it will lead to a complete breakdown in the Land Valuation Department. Lastly, I think we shall see a 1056 reluctance on the part of local authorities to undertake wise and extensive schemes of town planning, because they will not incur the odium of doing so many people out of their just rights.
This Bill reveals all the evils of Socialist philosophy. It spoils itself, because a Socialist Government can never resist the temptation to "do down" those from whom it differs politically. It must always tinge its legislation with spite and envy. Like most Socialist Measures the cure is worse than the disease it is to tackle. We are to spend 20s. to try to prevent some man from making 10s. profit. A really wise Government would have tried to do two things. They would have tried to bring in a Bill which would have carried with it the maximum support of this House and the country as a whole. Secondly, instead of cribbing and confining enterprise, as this Bill will do, they would have tried to open up that great reservoir of initiative and enterprise, which got us through the war, and which alone will get us through the peace.
§ 9.53 P.m.
§ Mr. Viant (Willesden, West)
I feel sure the House will have listened with interest to the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), more especially to his predictions. He apparently desires nothing in the nature of planning. He has lived all these years in this country, and yet it is as if he had not seen sufficient to convince him of the haphazard manner in which this country of ours has grown up. He is apparently—I was about to say ignorant, but I will say apparently unconscious of the enormous amount of unnecessary disease which has been suffered by the community as the result of the haphazard manner in which housing has been permitted to take place.
§ Mr. Gammans
I am sure that the hon. Member would not wish to misquote me, but if he will cast his mind back to the beginning of my speech he will recollect that I said, on the contrary, that there was a tremendous amount of good in the Bill, that we all agree with its object, but that I did not see why we should "do down" a section of the community to achieve its object.
§ Mr. Viant
The hon. Member cannot have it both ways. One cannot have one's cake and eat it as well. If we are to improve the environment in which we live we must in some way or other work 1057 upon a plan, and there has to be some co-operation in regard thereto. I heard the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hornsey say that he had taken a Gallup poll in his constituency in regard to the number of people who own the land upon which their houses are built. He might have taken a Gallup poll and discovered the number who own their houses but I very much doubt whether they own the land upon which they are built. I suggest that the bulk of the property in his constituency is leasehold property. A number of people in his constituency who were bombed out are still paying the ground rent to the ground landlord in spite of the fact that there is no house there in which they can live. There is no more gross injustice prevalent today than the fact that large numbers of our people are paying ground rents to landowners when no house exists. If they happen to have had a house built prior to 1918, there is no possibility of having that house re-erected through the War Damage Commission. I invite the hon. Gentleman to be as charitable towards us in regard to our policy as he would like us to be towards his policy. Our motives are as honest as his.
We desire by this Bill to wipe out the anomalous position which has obtained in the past. I will give one instance. Immediately after the 1914–18 war, those of us who were members of local authorities were exhorted to plan the areas for which we were responsible. We did that as local authorities. We sat in the town hall and determined where our industrial and our residential areas should be located. We did that completely isolated from contiguous authorities, with the result that industrial and factory areas were invariably placed close to residential areas in an adjoining parish or borough. We cannot afford to allow that to happen again.
I congratulate the Minister on the admirable manner in which he explained this Measure today. Through the agency of this Bill, and because of the broad view taken by those who were responsible for its preparation, we can now advance in such a way as to escape the anomalies of the past. We shall no longer sit as members of local authorities in complete isolation from the neighbouring borough. The larger authority will become the planning authority. I welcome that and I 1058 hope that those of our local administrators who have been tempted in the past to be prejudiced in regard to the authority and power of the county authorities will allow those prejudices to die. I think they will, for we find today that many of those who are responsible for the administration of borough councils are invariably members also of the county council, so we get a much wider outlook today than obtained immediately after the war of 1914–18. So I welcome this Bill, and the manner in which the Minister introduced it, but I take exception—and here I think the hon. Member for Hornsey will join issue with me—to what I consider to be the enormous sum which has been allocated for payments to be made to the owners of land.
I take exception to it on these grounds. As I understand the Bill, the owner of land will receive the present-day use value of his land. At some time later, he is going to receive his proportion of the £300 million set aside for compensation. For what is he going to be paid that sum? For anything he has done to the land? Under present conditions, he is enabled to see the value of his land increase as a result of the exertions of the community residing around him. We are asked to be generous to the landlords, and we are prepared to pay them the present-day use value of their land, but this social value has been created by the community, and the landlord should have no claim on it. These are the values of the community, created by the community, and I take strong exception to any sum of money being put aside as compensation over and above the present-day use value of the land.
It comes to my mind very vividly that, in 1929, the Middlesex County Council developed about 70 miles of arterial road, and spent over £6 million. As a result of that improvement the adjoining land, on a very conservative estimate, was considered to be enhanced in value to the extent of £15 million. That was the result of the social activities of the community, and we should have done no wrong to the landlords and landowners of the country had we been content to pay them out on the present-day use value of their land, without giving them compensation, as we are doing in this Bill. On those grounds, I take strong exception to that procedure, and when I say that, it in no way detracts from the value of the 1059 Minister's proposals in regard to the purely planning aspects of the Bill.
§ 10.4 p.m.
§ Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)
I think that one of the most deplorable aspects of this Bill, from the Parliamentary point of view, is the very large scope which is left to be filled in under delegated powers. It is quite reasonable, and we have grown well accustomed to it, that matters of detail under Statutes should be dealt with by regulations, but I cannot recollect a Bill in which so many matters of far reaching, vital, and, indeed, controversial importance have been left to be dealt with under delegated powers. Two, at least, leap to the eye. I think that they are two of the most extraordinary provisions to be found in a Statute. They are that £300 million shall be left to be distributed under a scheme to be made by the Treasury and that, under Clause 63, with regard to the assessment of the development charge by the Central Land Board, power is to be given to the Minister, with the consent of the Treasury, to make regulations which may prescribe general principles to be followed by the Central Land Board in determining if any, and if so what, development charge is to be made. If it were a question of directing certain details of administration, that would be one thing, but for the Minister to be empowered to prescribe general principles to be followed in the very important question of the assessment of the development charge, that is something entirely different. I think that this aspect of the Bill needs very serious re-consideration.
It is perfectly true that Parliament will have an opportunity to consider the scheme made by the Treasury for the distribution of £300 million, on the one hand, and the regulations to be made under Clause 63, prescribing the general principles upon which the development charge is to be assessed, on the other. It is indeed perfectly true that neither the scheme nor the regulations will have effect until approved by Resolutions of both Houses of Parliament. But, although that does, in effect, give each House of Parliament an opportunity for discussing the scheme and the regulations, it is not comparable to the Parliamentary procedure which is inherent in legislation by Bill and Act of Parliament. It is an 1060 entirely different thing altogether, as anyone who has had experience in this Parliament knows only too well. First of all, we only consider a Resolution once. A regulation is brought before this House for affirmative Resolution. There is only one Debate, and I do not think it makes an awful lot of difference whether the procedure of affirmative Resolution or that of negative Resolution is adopted. I do not attach very much importance to that, because the fact remains that there is only one Debate, and, in neither case, can the regulation or the scheme be amended by this House.
Again, the following is a technical point, but, at the same time, a very serious point. These matters are always taken as the last Business of the day. We know quite well how difficult it has been to deal with the vast number of statutory orders which have been made by this Government and to get Parliamentary opinion really focussed upon them, however important they may be. These matters which are going to be dealt with by the Treasury scheme and those which are going to be dealt with by regulations under Clause 63, are matters that ought to have a two or three days' Debate each time, and should not be dealt with at the end of Government Business at, say, ten o'clock at night and be debated, perhaps, for a couple of hours until midnight. These are matters which ought to be debated for at least two days in each case. I would like to know what the Government intend. Are we to be allowed at least one full day for such a discussion? Are those matters going to be dealt with as the first Business of the day, or are they going to be brought up at the end of Business merely because they are exempted Business under the Rules of this House? I attach the greatest importance to that matter.
I will make only one further point. The Central Land Board is being given vast powers. It is being empowered virtually to impose taxation upon a large number of people in the country. The appointment and dismissal of the members of the Central Land Board are entirely in the hands of the Minister. The Minister can put anyone he likes on the Central Land Board. He can appoint the chairman and the deputy chairman, and they all must comply with his directions. In his open- 1061 ing speech today the Minister said that while the Central Land Board would be directed as to policy, they would be allowed independence as to administration. I cannot see how that can be if the Minister appoints them and may dismiss them, with their chairman and deputy chairman, and if they have to comply with his directions. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with the points which I have made when he replies.
§ 10.12 p.m.
§ Mr. H. D. Hughes (Wolverhampton, West)
I hope the hon. Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his detailed points concerning delegated legislation. It struck me as a little curious that such points should come from him, of all persons, and that he should complain of this business coming up at the end of the day, because we have looked forward on so many occasions to hearing him at such an hour.
My constituency is on the borders of one of the biggest monuments in this country to the work of the uncontrolled private developer, about whom we have heard so much from the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans). I refer, of course, to the area known as the Black Country. On two grounds in particular, I welcome this Bill from the point of view of a representative of that type of industrial area. In that big conurbation to the West of Birmingham, there are two million people living in 200 square miles. There are 24 local planning authorities and a regional advisory body. As a legacy of the unplanned days, there are 9,000 acres of derelict land, an area in which one-third of the houses badly need rebuilding and in which there are thousands of obsolete factories and foundries which need pulling down and reconstructing. Planners from that area have estimated that the population could be rehoused on a scale of 20 persons to an acre, in just over half of that conurbation, leaving 15 per cent. for industry, public buildings, transport and communications, and a quarter for green belts, parkways, and so forth, which are so badly needed in that depressing zone. Instead of that, we have, at the moment, a population naturally spilling over into an area which should be reserved as good agricultural land. In the centre of the conurbation, is the Black Country proper —an area of 53 square miles which, before this Bill was introduced, had 18 planning 1062 authorities with an average of just under three square miles each to plan. Nine of those square miles represented pre-1920 development. To quote an official report:The whole area is characterised by congested dwellings and shopping centres, cramped factorics and the more elegant but somewhat faded suburbs of the Victorian period. Ribbon development is common.Six square miles have been developed since 1920, and 14 square miles lie derelict. That is a monument to the uncontrolled private development which has taken place, when the landlords and the developers, over a period of centuries, ripped the coal and the ironstone out of the ground, without any thought of its restoration. Of course, over a period those who developed that land in that way have sold it to others, who are now selling it to public authorities who have the responsibility of restoring it.
The whole district is disfigured by banks from the old coal workings, underground fires from the wastage of the old coal mines, waste from the quarries, slag from old smelting furnaces, marl holes and the rest. That is a typical area, in which there is a vital need for the positive planning provisions of this Bill. Small local authorities have been attempting to deal with this problem piecemeal. They have shown that, at a cost which their ratepayers can ill afford, these areas can be levelled for housing and for industrial work; part can be used for farming, and part can be cleared for recreation grounds, open spaces and parks. But this Black Country, typical of so many industrial areas, can be replanned. We must have the powers in this Bill and we must have them quickly. When hon. Members opposite were paying lip-service to the planning powers of this Bill and saying at the same time that it was untimely, I thought that from the point of view of the Black Country, this Bill is long overdue. Those local authorities—with areas so poor and so desolate that the wealthy classes have very largely left them and gone elsewhere—have a rateable value varying from under £4 a head upwards.
This Bill will do two things. It will reduce the planning authorities in that conurbation from 18 to something like six. In the area about which I am speaking we are grateful that the Minister has already taken the initiative in appointing Sir Patrick Abercrombie to prepare a master plan for the whole region. How- 1063 ever, it is little use having a master plan for an area of that size, if there are 18 or more local authorities to deal with before the master plan can be turned into action. This Bill will go a great deal of the way, though it seems to me that giving authority to county boroughs and county councils does not in itself, go far enough. There are many areas in this country in which the county councils are not natural planning units. Staffordshire is not a natural planning unit; the areas of Wolverhampton and the other county boroughs in the Black Country are not natural planning units. Therefore, I was very glad to hear the Minister say he would use the powers for introducing joint planning boards liberally, because this planning will have to be on a much bigger scale if it is to be effective.
The second thing which this Bill will mean to the Black Country is that these impoverished local authorities will have much greater assistance from the Exchequer than they have ever had in the past. I am referring, of course, to Clause 87,and there are one or two detailed questions I should like to put to the Government on that Clause, which for the first time brings derelict land into the picture. Such land can now be acquired by local authorities for the purpose of bringing it into use, and grants of up to 80 per cent. can be made to local authorities who are going to tackle this problem of derelict land. As far as I can see, there is no definition in the Bill of what derelict land is meant to be, and I hope that the Government will interpret it liberally. If they only take land as derelict in the technical sense of being completely abandoned by the owners, I am afraid these powers will not be of much use to us, but if they take it in the broader sense of land which has been so damaged by extractive or other industrial processes that, in default of special action, it is unlikely to be effectively used again within a reasonable time, then these provisions will be of great value.
Even then, many local authorities with no other land available are in fact being forced now to take over this derelict land and develop it. I hope that the fact that the local authorities have been forced, faute de mieux, to take over this land and work on it does not mean that it will be excluded from the meaning of derelict 1064 land within the Bill. The other question I would like to put to the Minister is this. Derelict land is the only category in addition to those in the 1944 Act, which gave authority for compulsory purchase. Will the retrospective powers of grant to land taken over by local authorities under the 1944 Act be applied to derelict land to the same extent as they will be applied to other forms of land?
This Bill goes a great deal of the way to meet the points that we in the Black Country want. As a member of the Labour Party I regard it not as an end in itself, but as a step to a much wider ultimate end. I would like to quote what "The Economist" said in dealing with the Uthwatt Report in July of 1943:Faced with the difficult proposals on betterment and compensation, it will be very little 11 at all more difficult, and vastly more effective, to accept and act upon the full implications of the fact that national planning of the land requires national ownership.The Labour Party have never departed from that principle. This is an interim Measure which we intend shall in due course be followed up by the logical extension of land nationalisation, because even the measures in this Bill, far better though they are than anything in its predecessors, mean that private owners will continue to reap increases in land value where they accrue without development or change of use. I think the Minister is very wise in devising a flexible instrument, in not fixing the scale of payment of development charges. That will give the Government another weapon for their armoury of methods of economic planning, which they will need to help in the general task of planning for full employment, the location of industry and encouragement of development where it may well be required. We on this side of the House welcome this Bill.
One final point I should like to make is this. Is the Minister satisfied that the Bill as drafted gives the Ministry sufficient powers to co-ordinate the demands on the land of this country by different Government Departments? We know the difficulties at present being faced over the demands of the Service Departments. There is an interdepartmental committee sitting to deal with the claims of the Service Departments one by one, and that does not appear to me to be very satisfactory. We shall only get real planning 1065 of the land when the Minister, or an appropriate Government office, is given effective powers to estimate the needs of all the various users of the land of the country. I do not believe we have got such real planning powers at the present time, and I hope that the Minister is giving serious consideration to this proMcm of co-ordination.
§ 10.27 P.m.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
The speech of the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton (Mr. H. D. Hughes) contained certain references which suggested that hon. Members on this side of the House, and people who, generally speaking, belong to the Conservative Party, are accustomed to pay what he called "lip-service" to the principle of planning. He charged us with inconsistency, referring more especially to our attitude in regard to the restoration of land after the extraction of ironstone in the Midland areas, part of which he represents. I have heard many unfortunate and inapposite illustrations of a point in this House, but rarely have I heard one so mistimed and misconceived as that. Had the hon. Member been in his place last night when a matter vitally affecting this very problem, and affecting his own part of the country, was discussed, he would have heard my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. manningham-Buller), myself and other hon. Members putting this very point to the Minister, and taking the Minister of Town and Country Planning, who belongs to the same party as the hon. Member, to task for not insisting on the restoration of land after the extraction of ironstone.
§ Mr. Mitchison (Kettering)
Surely the hon. Member would not wish to mislead the House? The question which was raised last night did not concern the Black Country, but an area a very long way from there. I am sure that the hon. Member will recognise that the case put forward was found to be completely inaccurate, and the matter was not carried any further.
§ Mr. H. D. Hughes
If the party which the hon. Member opposite represents had carried out, over the last century, the principles which he claims to have advocated last night, the Black Country would be a very different place today.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I was not a very active member of the Conservative Party in the last century. With respect to the intervention of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), it is clear, although we cannot debate the subject again, that it did usefully refer to the very point which the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton has raised against us tonight. That is why I say that his illustration was a most unhappy one. Let me say this, however, in favour of the speech of the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton. Whatever may be said against it, it had the merit of making some attempt to relate the subject of town and country planning to what is known as"development"—that is to say, in ordinary parlance, building—and particularly to the building of houses for his constituency. That is all to the good, because to that extent it shows that he views the problem in a realistic light.
I cannot agree with him, however, when he seems to believe that the passage of this Bill will, in itself, materially help to cure the unsatisfactory housing conditions of his constituents. One has only to look at Appendix B of the monthly housing returns to see how unsatisfactory they must be. I cannot agree that their position will be materially altered for the better after the passage of this Bill. I am reminded of the story of the Duke of Wellington, who, when approached on one occasion by a man who said "Mr. Smith, I believe," replied "Sir, if you believe that, you would believe anything." If the hon. Member really believes that the housing problem of Wolverhampton is going to be altered for the better by the passage of this Bill, he will believe anything. As I am a good-natured person, and wish to see the people well and adequately housed wherever they may be, I hope the hon. Member will be proved right; but I do not think he will be.
Being as I say a good-natured person, I look for the best in everything and I do conscientiously look to see what is the best which can be said of this Bill. The best has been said by the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. McGhee), who spoke from the benches opposite and made the traditional comparison of this Bill to the curate's egg. I think that is a just comparison. But we should realise this 1067 important difference, in relation to the suggested comparison, that eggs, under the policy of the Minister of Food, are very difficult to come by, and therefore we put a gift egg in the mouth without too close inquiry as to its quality. With Bills, on the other hand, the position is surely far different. There is no scarcity of Bills. On the contrary, there is a glut of them, an everlasting stream, a pink and turgid stream, of legislation, issuing from the present Government. It clearly is a case where supply very much exceeds demand; and, therefore, we have the ancient right of the customer to scrutinise and reject, if in all particulars the supply is not up to specification and requirement. That, I think, is the standard by which we must judge this Bill. It is a Bill long awaited: a Bill long expected by the planners. It is a planners' Bill.
I accept that challenge and I will judge it as a planners' Bill from the point of view of planning. It is a long Bill; it had a lengthy baptism from the Minister of Town and Country Planning, who has spoken in this House longer than anyone else since Mr. Gladstone. Whether he has spoken to us with such good effect I leave to the historians to judge. I am content to judge this Bill by the standards of good planning. What is the test of good planning? I suggest it is this, that good planning should serve a worthy purpose; it should provide an economical and satisfactory machinery for the achievement of that purpose; and it should take care, while seeking to serve the ends of the community, to avoid injustice to individuals. Town and country planning is no exception to that test. Town and country planning must be at least as much positive as negative, though the minds of many people unhappily, when they consider town and country planning, concentrate on the negative and restrictive aspect. In these matters half a plan is worse than no plan, because the half plan will certainly be the negative and restrictive part of the plan.
The right hon. Gentleman in his speech referred to planning in isolated compartments under the 1932 Act. But, there is something worse than planning in isolated compartments, and that is to plan in a vacuum.
The background of this plan is a very real and a very tragic background. The 1068 background of town and country planning today is the deplorable shortage of houses in this country at the present time. I was glad to see that this fact received belated recognition by the arrival of the Minister of Health in this House after the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Town and Country Planning had been speaking only for an hour and three-quarters. It is against the background of that shortage that we must measure the adequacy of this Bill because the provision of houses and positive planning for sound development is at least as important as all those matters over which the right hon. Gentleman rightly waxed so lyrical in the opening passages of his speech. The preservation of amenities, the restriction of ribbon development, and the control of advertisements are all important; but they do belong to the negative and restrictive and, therefore, the easy side of planning. The difficult side of planning is the positive planning for sound development, and that, I suggest, is the ultimate test by which this Bill will be judged in the future, and the test by which it should be judged tomorrow in this House.
So far as its broad general purpose is concerned, I am certainly willing to endorse and approve it, at any rate upon conditions. I believe, as do my right hon. and hon. Friends, in the principle of town and country planning, but we believe in it so long as the end is not lost in the means, and so long as the positive aspects are not lost in the elaborate machinery for which the right hon. Gentleman has made himself responsible today. The purpose is sound if it is positive planning for sound development, and I would venture to suggest a short definition of what the aim of planning should be—and perhaps the right hon. Gentleman and even the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. McAllister) may agree. I suggest that what we should aim at is gracious living in a spacious setting. That, surely, is what we ultimately aim at—and for the right user of the land, which is the positive end of town and country planning.
So much for the purpose of the Bill. In regard to the machinery by which it seeks to ensure this purpose, there are many points about it that hon. Members on all sides of the House will approve. I would just refer very briefly to them 1069 to bear out my claim that I have tried to examine this Bill with objectivity and good nature. For one thing, as my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) has said, this Bill does give a comprehensive code of town and country planning. It concentrates in one measure what was previously scattered haphazard in a great many measures. Of course, if the Conservative Party had been returned to power we also would have produced a comprehensive measure of town and country planning. We should not have produced this particular Measure, but we should have provided a comprehensive code under the inspiration of my right hon. Friend who sits in front of me.
It is also a virtue that the five-yearly reviews of plans for which this Bill legislates gives a certain flexibility to the prospects of development and of planning and seeks to get away from the negative and restrictive aspect which I have previously criticised. That is all to the good. A considerable advance will, I hope, be made by the terms of Clause 15 of the Bill, which relate to the possibility of the centralisation of applications and permissions for development. The right hon. Gentleman has referred to this in his speech, and has said that he hopes that it will be possible to produce a simple unified system for applications and permissions in respect of development. If he can do that, it is all to the good. Lastly, the provisions for the control of outdoor advertisements will be welcomed by all on this side of the House who have the good fortune to represent constituencies in which there is still a good deal of unspoilt countryside.
Having referred to the good points of the Bill, I pass, reluctantly, to what I consider to be its defects. The first defect I find in the machinery of the Bill is this: I have a suspicion which, I am afraid, will ripen into an overwhelming certainty, that a good deal of what is in the Measure may turn out to be paper planning. The reason I say that is because, as has already been pointed out by my right hon. Friend the Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) and my hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey (Mr. Gammans), we have provisions in regard to survey and valuation, but have had no assurance from the Minister that there exists, or can be made available, staffs to do the surveys and valuations. If they 1070 are to be made available for these purposes where are they coming from? As my hon. Friend said, they do not grow on trees. Nor do they automatically spring into existence by the passage of a Bill. Are they to be attracted from some other employment into this work to the detriment of the housing programme, and the work of the War Damage Commission? These are questions' to which the right hon. Gentleman should address himself. A further possibility occurs to me. Under Clause 7 the Minister is able, in certain circumstances, to step into the shoes of, and take over the functions of, a local planning authority. If a local authority falls down on their duty under this Bill it will almost certainly be for lack of staff, and it may be that that lack of staff will be aggravated by the fact that the Minister is in competition with local authorities for getting these staffs.
That brings me to the position of the local planning authorities. It may be that there is a case for saying that you want a large authonty for the formulation of a plan. We have had very little time to consider this question from the point of view of the respective merits of the county councils and the joint planning committees, very little time indeed for local authorities to give their views to Members. But whatever the balance of argument about that, on this there can be no doubt at all: that in the administration of the plan, once it is formulated, the local authorities, that is to say, the county districts and the non-county boroughs, must have the powers to operate it. I find the Minister's speech most unsatisfactory on this point. What should happen is that the delegation of the powers, which are only permissive by the Minister's regulation under Clause 31, should be made a statutory obligation. If these powers of administering the plan, and especially of dealing with applications for permission to develop, are not delegated to the local authorities by the county councils we shall have a still further retarding of sound development by reason of the comparative inaccessibility of the county councils and their ignorance, in some cases, of the local conditions on which these matters so much depend.
With regard to the question of local authorities, I would also point out that Clause 34 seems to be a dangerous Clause 1071 in that it gives, in the interim period, powers of direction to the Minister which again lead one to believe that there is some intention of imposing planning from Whitehall instead of planning by the local authorities, which should be the principle of this Bill.
I would like to say a word as to the effect of this Bill in hampering sound development. The first instance of that is in connection with the designation of areas. There is little that I can add in this respect to what has already been said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison), who pointed out the effect on development of what he called with characteristic felicity of phrase, the "blighting shadow of designation." What will in practice happen is that the areas designated will be too wide and the period of ten years will be too long. The result of that will be a considerable hampering and sterilisation of sound development both by the landowners and those who wish to develop housing for the benefit of the people of this country.
The second and most important point in which I think that this Bill is likely to hamper sound development is in the operation of the development charges legislated for under Part V of the Bill. The provision made in Part V in regard to development charges ensures that these charges are paid, or security is given for payment before development is allowed to begin; and this of itself is likely to have a retarding effect on sound development at a time when we need it so much.
§ Mr. Silkin
May I ask the hon. Gentleman to enlarge on what he has said—that to designate a site would restrict development? One would have thought that it might encourage the owners to develop land in case it might be required.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I do not think that the effect of designation will be to encourage development in the sense that the right hon. Gentleman suggests. He may recall that in our discussions on the New Towns Bill, he took the contrary view—that designation would lead to sterilisation, for good reason, as he then suggested, of the land in question.
Returning to the question of development charges, a good deal has been said 1072 as to unsound principles on which it is proposed to assess these development charges. It is within the knowledge of hon. Members that both the Uthwatt Report and the Coalition White Paper wanted to make development charges, or betterment charges as they were then called, operate in such a way as to ensure that there was an incentive to good development. That most important consideration has, in my view, largely been lost sight of in the most unsatisfactory way in which development charges are to be assessed under Part V of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman has defended his method of assessment on the grounds of flexibility. I would remind him that there is a point when flexibility becomes form lessness, and that is the position at which we arrive in regard to development charges. He said in his speech that instructions would be given to the Board not to hinder development by their levying of development charges, but also not to surrender any part of the development charge which is recoverable. I suggest that those two principles will very probably be in collision, and that the second is the one which is likely to triumph. This particular part of the Bill has been condemned very freely by organs not unsympathetic to the present Government. "The Times," for example, said only this morning:But the idea behind the Bill seems rather to be that of a Land Board operating as a commercial enterprise with something to sell.I do not know whether that was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Town and Country Planning. The "Economist"—and I am more up-to-date in my quotation than was the hon. Member for West Wolverhampton—the "Economist" said, on nth January:The kind of individual haggling between the Government and private enterprise that may occur in which each side may be able to hold the other to ransom by a process of bluffing is more appropriate to an Arab market than a Western democracy, and carries palpable dangers of individual inequity and political pressure.I now come to the last of my reasons for thinking that this Bill will hamper sound development, namely, the provisions which discriminate against private enterprise. Private enterprise development is nampered and discriminated against in 1073 the method of assessment of development charges, and it is also hampered by the removal, by Clause 42 (2), of the safeguard which was embodied in the 1944 Act. The right hon. Gentleman may suggest that it is right that local authority development should be favoured as against private enterprise development. I believe that to be wrong, not on ideological grounds, but on practical grounds, because I believe that although local authorities may be good planning instruments, they are certainly not good agencies for development. To encourage the belief that they are is to perpetuate what we might call the Bevan heresy in regard to this matter. I believe that private enterprise is the right method of development if we are to get houses for the people of this country at the speed which is required, and I believe that under sound planning legislation the quality of those houses will not be in doubt on account of the operation of the House Builders' Registration Council, of which the right hon. Gentleman must be aware.
I have just a few minutes left in which to refer to the last of the three points that I made at the beginning of my speech, as a test of good planning, that, in seeking to serve the good of the community, good planning should avoid injustice to individuals. I am not going to attempt to deal tonight with the question of the global sum of £300 million for compensation. It has already been referred to, and it will be referred to tomorrow, I well know, by my hon. and learned Friends who are to speak. What I would like to refer to is the question of the acquisition of land by reference to the 1939 prices, because this is a subject to which I, like my right hon. Friend, have referred on previous occasions in the House. This principle which is now embodied in Clause 47 of the Bill and the Fourth Schedule is, in my view, an entirely improper and unjustified extension of the purely temporary provisions of the 1944 Act, as the circumstances in which we find ourselves now are quite different from those that moved my right hon. Friend to put that provision in the 1944 Act.
Those were the circumstances, of course, when there was no ordinary market in land. After all, what was the problem then? It was to adjust values in land 1074 as between different parts of the country in order to ensure that there was not an inflation of value in what were known as the safety areas and an undue depression in what were tailed, I believe, the defence areas. That was the principle on which the 1939 price provision was inserted in that Act. But that problem is no longer present. It is not now a problem of adjusting values in land between one part of the country and another. Now, if the right hon. Gentleman likes so to put it, all values in land are inflated; but they are not inflated in one part of the country as compared with another. If they are all inflated, then the right hon. Gentleman may say, "Why not depress them by some such measure as this?" The answer to that is that they are not inflated in isolation to any other commodities; all commodities are inflated in general under this Government. It is, therefore, entirely arbitrary and unjust to pick out one commodity and seek to depress its price by legislation when no effort is made to stem inflation in other commodities. There is no justice in regard to this matter; but I am at a disadvantage in referring to it because the Minister has abandoned this part of the battlefield and has left it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Nobody will have an opportunity of replying to the Chancellor's speech and, therefore, we are, as it were, debating with a question mark.
In conclusion, may I say that it seems to me that the Government had a great opportunity with this Bill? It was necessary that there should be a Measure bringing in a comprehensive code of town and country planning; but this is not the Bill which should have been brought in. The Government have missed their opportunity and, in my view, for these reasons. They have missed it because of their love of centralisation, their ideological prejudices, their scant respect for justice and, last, but not least, because of the haste with which they have assembled this Measure, thereby failing to make it as good a Measure as it could have been. The Government have not been able to produce the Bill that the country wants, and therefore we are entitled to say that we will not have this Bill though we would gladly have a better Bill. But at least we can take this consolation unto ourselves—if we cannot have 1075 a better Bill we may soon have the opportunity of having a better Government.
§ Debate adjourned.—[Mr. Pearson.]
§ Debate to be resumed Tomorrow.