§ Considered in Committee. [Major MILNER in the Chair]
§ Clause 1.—(ACQUISITION OF LAND AND CREATION OF EASEMENTS.)
§ 4.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Lyttelton (Aldershot)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 4, to leave out "Board," and to insert:Lands Tribunal established under the Lands Tribunal Act, 1949.I am glad that we have now reached calmer waters. During the Second Reading of this Bill I said we should not trouble the Government very far except in matters of detail, but I am not sure that 978 that was a correct statement on my part, because I think a very considerable principle is involved in this Amendment.
§ The Chairman
Before the right hon. Gentleman continues, I suggest that it would, perhaps, be for the general convenience, if this Amendment were discussed with the following Amendment: In page 2, line 11, leave out "to the Board reasonable," and insert "reasonable to the said Tribunal."
§ Mr. Lyttelton
That is entirely agreeable to us. Major Milner. I was, in fact, addressing my remarks to both Amendments.
The powers under the Clause, as it exists, especially subsection (1, a and b), make the Board of Trade sole judge of the criteria. I think there is a great tendency—and I have frequently had occasion to draw attention to it in Committee on Bills such as this—in modern legislation to give Departments far wider powers than are necessary for the purpose of a particular Measure, and to draft Bills so as to protect at all costs Departments from any administrative mistakes. We want to see—there is no party difference about this Bill—the minimum powers necessary to fulfil the objects of the Bill conferred on the Government, but not more.
I do suggest that it is the duty of this Committee to see that not more than the necessary powers are given. After all, all legislation limits the liberty of the subject in some respects or limits the liberty of some subjects; and if we have any primary duty in this Committee it is surely to see that those limits are protected. The tendency to which I have referred is very marked in this Clause. I think it wrong that the requisitioning authority—if that is the right phrase—should be judge, jury, advocate, and court of appeal in its own suit.
We wish to put in substitution for the word "Board" the words "Lands Tribunal established under the Lands Tribunal Act, 1949." It seems to us that that would be a convenient body, and if our Amendment were accepted it would substitute an independent authority for the Board of Trade. I do not think that cases are likely to be frequent, but where they do occur, and due notice has been given under the Acquisition of Land 979 (Authorisation Procedure) Act, then the citizen whose property is to be requisitioned or bought will have the satisfaction of an appeal to an independent tribunal.
Quite frankly we are not indissolubly wedded to the suggestion of using the Lands Tribunal. We are anxious to establish a principle, and we should not press the Amendment to a Division if we could get some assurance from the Government that they accept the principle we have in mind, which we think would mean an improvement of the Bill. There are two other ways of achieving it which suggest themselves at once to hon. Members on this side of the Committee. One would be to allow the ordinary processes of law to operate—which does not happen under the Clause as now drafted—by which the citizen who thought himself aggrieved could move for an injunction to prevent the happening of what he thought unjust. Or, alternatively, the Government could set up an ad hoc body to consider this sort of appeal.
I do not wish to be dogmatic about which of these three methods would be the best. The simplest form in which we could put our Amendment was to suggest the Lands Tribunal set up in 1949. At the same time, we do not necessarily say that that is the best way of securing the object which we have in mind. We hope very much that the Government will share that tenderness which we feel for the rights of the citizen, and I hope the Committee will regard this as one of its primary duties, and will see that the liberties of the subject are not curtailed more than is absolutely necessary within the limits of this Bill. The objects of the Bill are not the subject of party controversy. They have the support of Members in every part of the Committee. We do think, however, that it is wrong that the primary authority in this case should also be the only one which has to be satisfied about the conditions contained in subsection (1, a and b).
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Harold Wilson)
I am quite prepared, I think, to indicate the agreement of the Government to the general principle the right hon. Gentleman has in mind. I am quite sure that he has sufficient confidence in the Board of Trade to know 980 that those powers would never have been misused. He has raised this matter as a point of principle; and I am sure that, apart from that, he would feel that there would have been no danger that the Board of Trade would be likely to have taken over factories which were being to some extent worked for industrial processes; and I think he can feel that the Board of Trade would have been unlikely to be harsh in a case where there was some evidence produced that the premises were going to be used for industrial purposes within a reasonably short lime. I am quite prepared to recommend the Committee to agree with the general principle that there should be some right of appeal, and that we, no less than the owner of the premises, should have the duty and the right to satisfy an independent body or judicial body that what we propose is right.
The only point where I do not think I agree with the right hon. Gentleman is this. He indicated that his mind was not rigid on the point. It is the question of matters being left to the Lands Tribunal. In the view of the Government the Lands Tribunal would not be the best body for dealing with this, because it is set up principally for dealing with valuation matters; and this is not principally, of course, a valuation matter. However, we do agree with the suggestion that there should be an independent body, and I am quite sure that the Committee could not do better than leave this matter to the courts to decide.
Therefore, we would be quite prepared to consider, between now and a later stage in the proceedings, working out a formula, and discussing it with the right hon. Gentleman if he so desired, which would enable the courts that have already power to deal with other questions under the Acquisition of Land Act to deal with this one. If the right hon. Gentleman would be agreeable to withdraw his Amendment, or not to press it, I should be prepared certainly to give him the assurance that we should be willing to put forward an Amendment which would have the effect of giving the courts jurisdiction to deal with these cases.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Northants, South)
I am sure the Committee welcomes the announcement that the right hon. Gentleman has just made. However, there is a question I should like 981 to ask him. When he says he will consider the matter at a "later stage in the proceedings" does he mean a later stage in the discussion of this Bill in the House of Commons?
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I do not want to criticise what he said because we welcome it, but I think that recourse to the courts will necessitate, obviously, considerable redrafting, and I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, in view of his acceptance of the principle here, whether it should not be accepted and applied in all other cases where similar considerations apply.
§ Mr. Wilson
I am not sure whether the hon. and learned Gentleman means that I should apply this principle to other cases outside this Bill. He will realise that that is not possible. My intention was that a change in the Bill should be made at a later stage in the proceedings in the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Henry Strauss (Norwich, South)
I am very glad that the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to meet the suggestion and the principle contained in our Amendment in the manner he has suggested. There are only two points I should like to put to him. I am inclined to agree, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller) has just done, that the court he has in mind may be the more appropriate to the purpose contemplated, but I hope that the form of the Amendment which he has in mind will put on the Board of Trade the onus of proving, where objection is taken, their right to compulsory acquisition. As the thing stands at present the proviso that starts at line 12 on page 1—the proviso limiting the power of the Board of Trade —is wholly meaningless, because the Board of Trade can avoid entirely the restriction put upon them because of the defects to which my right hon. Friend drew attention. I think the form that is adopted should be a form that puts on the Board of Trade the onus of proving, in cases where objection is taken, that they are entitled to proceed with the compulsory acquisition.
The other matter that I should like to put to the right hon. Gentleman—it may be that his introductory remarks were of 982 a playful nature—is that, while it is, of course, no part of the contention of anybody here that the Board of Trade, under whoever is in charge, have any intention of doing what is wrong, that is not what we have to consider when legislation comes before this Committee. The mere assertion that a Government Department will not abuse greatly excessive powers which could be abused is not a ground for looking upon these things uncritically. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman differs from me in that, and I only hope that when he comes to meet our purposes in the way he has described he will see that the onus in a disputed case is placed upon the Board of Trade.
§ Mr, Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
The Committee will have heard with considerable gratification the speech of the President of the Board of Trade this afternoon in answer to this Amendment, which raises principles of very considerable constitutional importance. It raises the principle of how far a Government Department should be allowed to be an exception to the old constitutional doctrine that no man shall be judge in his own cause. Like my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller), I venture to hope that by his concession this afternoon the right hon. Gentleman has established a precedent which may be of considerable value in the future constitutional development of this country, because, as is well known to the Committee, this is far from being a unique occasion. There are a number of powers of compulsory acquisition in which the acquiring authority is also the confirming authority, and is therefore judge in its own cause.
I think that that is relevant when one comes to look at what sort of an appeal tribunal should be set up under this Clause. I quite agree that the Lands Tribunal would be an unsuitable tribunal for the hearing of these appeals. The Lands Tribunal is, of course, the successor in title to the old official arbitrators; it is concerned solely with the question of valuation, and was constituted to take care of appeals on questions of this sort. At the same time, I venture to wonder whether the appeal to the courts will be quite as simple as the right hon. Gentleman suggests. He says that there is also provision under the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act for appeal 983 to the courts. If my recollection is right, under that Act a question can only go to the courts on a case stated, on a point of law, whereas this is a clear appeal on a point of fact.
I am the last person to wish to oust the jurisdiction of the courts, but I should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider, having in mind the possibility that he is helping to create a precedent which may be of considerable value much beyond the limited bounds of this Bill, whether it is not possible to refer these appeals to some form of appeal tribunal to which ultimately could be given the jurisdiction of bearing appeals in other cases where Ministers acquire land and are themselves the confirming authority. If that can be done, it will very greatly assist to get away from the anomalous position which now exists under the large number of statutes where Ministers are empowered compulsorily to acquire land. It is, therefore, a question of principle of the first order and of a wider ramification than merely in this Clause, and I hope that the Minister will have those wider aspects in mind when he finally considers the form in which he puts down his own Amendment.
I am quite satisfied with what the President of the Board of Trade has said. Though I realise that it has application to other matters, I want to confine myself strictly to thanking him for this concession upon this Bill, and to saying that we are gratified to have received that concession. I hope that the form of words in which it is to be couched will not be too difficult to accept. On that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Captain Duncan (South Angus)
On a point of Order. I have risen to speak on more than one occasion, and I should like to make this one point. Unless the right hon. Gentleman moves the proposed Amendment in page 2, line 22, to leave out "each of the said Acts" and to insert "the said Act of 1946," there will be no Report stage, in which case there would be no opportunity for dealing with this matter in this House. If I can have the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman that that Amendment will be moved—and I hope then carried—there will then be a Report stage, and my point does not arise.
984 Perhaps I might make just one further point. In referring the matter to the courts—a concession for which I am grateful—I hope the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind that, except in one subsection, there is at present no reference in the Bill to Scotland, and that in referring the matter to the courts, there will have to be special reference to the Scottish courts.
§ The Chairman
I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman is going rather beyond his original point, which I thought was a point of Order.
§ Captain Duncan
I was objecting to the withdrawal of the Amendment without an assurance that there would be a Report stage.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
It is not, of course, in my power to say whether there will be a Report stage. The only assurance I can give the hon. and gallant Gentleman is that I hope to move the Amendment to which he referred, and I hope the Committee will accept it. If that is done there will be a Report stage, but I cannot go further than that.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I beg to move, in page 2, line 12, at the end, to insert:Provided also that the Board of Trade shall not by virtue of this section or of the principal Act acquire compulsorily any land adjoining or adjacent to an industrial building in any case where on an objection made as aforesaid it is shown to the satisfaction of the said Tribunal that such land is reasonably required or likely to be required in connection with the use or extension of that building, being a building occupied as aforesaid.This Amendment raises a different point, and is put down with a view to considering whether the two exceptions set out in paragraphs (a) and (b) are sufficient, or whether they ought not to be extended by the addition of the proviso suggested in the Amendment. There might arise the case where the Board of Trade were seeking to acquire an open piece of land for the purpose of building on it a factory, or some extension of one of their factories, when that piece of land had been acquired by another factory, which was in occupation and carrying on production, with a view, as that factory developed, to extending the factory upon that open land.
985 I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that, when new factories are established, it is quite common for more ground to be purchased than is at that moment required, with a view to possible expansion. All we seek to provide for in this Amendment is that where an existing factory has acquired land adjoining it with a view to expansion and building on it in the future, then that land ought not to be taken away compulsorily by the Board of Trade. This Amendment seeks to ensure that that could not happen. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will be in agreement, in principle, that that ought not to happen, and it will make it safer if we put something of this kind into the Bill to act as a signpost to those concerned on both sides.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilson
I am sure that the whole Committee is agreed that it would be extremely foolish and unprofitable to contemplate taking over idle land which had been bought with a view to development or extension either in the near future or perhaps in the long-term future by the company owning the land which is adjacent to it. I think that if he asked his right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), who, I believe. has rather more intimate knowledge of the way in which the whole development area legislation has been worked out, his right hon. Friend could tell him that in all cases in the development areas the Board of Trade and the industrial estate companies have been most scrupulous about preserving a sufficient amount of land for development by the firms established there, and in many cases have pressed firms to see that land was available or might be available for them.
§ Mr. Wilson
I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman was not suggesting the contrary, but he was, I understand, wanting to add certainty to the point to make quite sure that we could not slip up in any case.
As the hon. and learned Gentleman will be aware, the point raised is one which goes much wider than this Bill. It is a point which has been raised before in connection with other compulsory acquisition orders. He will be aware that if the owner of the land in question, as in the 986 example given by the hon. and learned Gentleman, is in fact the owner of the factory next door, and may at some stage wish to extend, he is fully entitled to raise objection to the making of an order and to be heard at any public inquiry which relates to the making of the order.
I understand that the hon. and learned Gentleman—he gave only one example —had in mind the question of land which might be next door to a factory but which was owned by a third party. Even if one contemplates this more extreme example of the third party owning the land, there is still nothing to prevent such a landowner from raising objections to the making of a compulsory purchase order, and certainly he can be heard at any public inquiry. He, too, if he lost, would be entitled to compensation in respect of the loss of any interest in this land or damage to it, provided it was a case of compulsory purchase.
The hon. and learned Gentleman will realise also, of course, that the Amendment which he has moved relates to the acquisition of land on which there are factory premises, and that rather weakens the force of his argument, but quite apart from that, I am sure he will agree that his point, which is a sound one in terms of economic practice, is fully covered by existing legislation, and there is provision for the owner of that land to have his case heard at a public inquiry.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman has done justice to the strength of the argument of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. ManninghamBuller). He says that there is no need for this Amendment because any person affected by the proposed acquisition could object under the procedure of the 1946 Act. In that case, there is no need for the proviso in the subsection as it stands, because equally the owner of the factory which it was proposed to acquire could use the procedure of objection under the 1946 Act.
Our point is that there is a proviso in this subsection which covers the industrial building in use and its prospects, whereas there is no corresponding proviso which covers the question of land adjacent to the industrial building. In the subsection the right is given to acquire 987 land, including the industrial building which may comprise land well outside the curtilage of that building, whereas the proviso in the subsection relates only to the industrial building itself, and it seems to me that there is real force in the contention that a similar proviso, covering the land as opposed to the building, should cover the prospects of industrial expansion of land adjacent to it.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I should like to reinforce what has been said by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell). I think that the right hon. Gentleman is a little optimistic in expecting the Committee to accept the argument that there is no difference between a proviso in an Act and merely having the same set of facts to present at a public local inquiry for the consideration of the Board of Trade.
The Committee will appreciate that if this proviso is not inserted in the subsection, anybody appearing at the public local inquiry can argue on the merits of such a situation that an order should not be confirmed, but if it were confirmed they would, of course, have no remedy which would enable them to upset the decision of the President of the Board of Trade. If, on the other hand, a proviso were inserted and the President of the Board of Trade then insisted on confirming the order, the order could nevertheless, be quashed as being an order which could not properly be made under the Act. If the principle as put forward by my hon. and learned Friend is right, which I think it is, it is clear in my view that it ought to be in the Act and not left merely as a matter of argument and representation at the public local inquiry, as suggested by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I should like the right hon. Gentleman to say, as this Clause is to be reconsidered before the Report stage, that he will have a further look at this point. I put the arguments rather shortly, but I must say that I regard his reply as most unsatisfactory, because he did not deal with the substantial points in support of this Amendment. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wolverhampton, South - West (Mr. Powell) pointed out, this is only carrying paragraphs (a) and (b) a little further 988 by adding to the building referred to in paragraphs (a) and (b) the land adjacent thereto.
I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman, when he reconsiders the matter, will see that the reassurance that he hopes to give us by pointing to the right of appearing at a public inquiry really does not go far enough to meet the case, which is a valid case and one which, in our opinion, should be met. I do not want to take up more time now by arguing these points, but I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say that he will give that assurance.
§ The Solicitor-General (Sir Frank Soskice)
I think I may say that my right hon. Friend did appreciate quite distinctly the difference between the result of the proviso and the result of an objection. Certainly, the proviso applies only in the case where an industrial building is sought to be acquired, and it does not apply in the case where land adjacent to the building is sought to be acquired. I think that my right hon. Friend made that clear in his answer to the arguments in support of the Amendment.
The question which has to be taken into account on the Amendment is that this problem of adjacent land, that is to say, land which is adjacent to a building used for an industrial, commercial or profitable purpose, is not one which arises on this Bill alone. It arises in regard to every conceivable piece of legislation which deals with the compulsory acquisition of land. In the case of a housing authority which wants to acquire land for the purpose of housing, exactly the same Amendment could be moved to any of the powers vested in the housing authority compulsorily to acquire land. Therefore, we feel that there is no case for differentiating this type of compulsory acquisition from other types.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
Clearly there was a provision which prevented private gardens and such like from being compulsorily acquired.
§ The Solicitor-General
Certainly gardens; but the Amendment here is a far wider one. It is an Amendment drawn in general terms to include land which may at some time or other, reasonably I agree, be required for the purpose of an extension. Suppose that a factory owner erects a factory, acquiring land 989 for that purpose in excess of his immediate requirements; it is practically impossible in many cases, if not in most cases, to say whether he will want at some time or other to extend his enterprise to that adjacent land. This is far wider than any qualification, as far as I am aware, to any other power to acquire land compulsorily. If this is a problem, then it arises in relation to all compulsory acquisitioning of land.
Therefore, we feel that a special case cannot be made in regard to this Bill. If it is a problem which gives rise to real difficulties—and as far as we know it has not done so—it will have to be considered as a matter of general principle. Meanwhile, my right hon. Friend feels that the situation is as satisfactory as it can be under the Bill in its present form. Where industrial buildings are being acquired, the proviso prevents the Board of Trade from acquiring them under certain circumstances. The position is that the owner, or the person claiming an interest, is left to raise his objections at a public hearing or inquiry instituted under the proceedings of the Acquisition of Land Act. Experience has not shown any reason to depart from that system we are seeking to embody in the Bill.
I hope it will be agreed that that is as far as we can be reasonably expected to go in connection with this Bill. If the question has to be considered as a general matter of principle on some future occasion, it will no doubt be considered, but my right hon. Friend feels he cannot give an undertaking in this case to make an exception on the very general lines indicated by this Amendment.
§ Mr. Erroll (Altrincham and Sale)
The Solicitor-General has made a cogent and lucid argument in favour of rejecting this Amendment. I suppose it would be inappropriate to congratulate him on his first speech made as a refugee Member for a new division. It is, nevertheless, nice to have the benefit of his explanations. Surely he is placing the argument the wrong way round in this case. He is making the case that in the body of the law we have a general system of compulsory acquisition and that this Amendment would constitute an exception to that principle. The point is that this Bill extends the general principle of compulsory acquisition. It authorises 990 compulsory acquisition for very novel and special reasons, namely, the non-utilisation of factory premises and industrial land in development areas.
Our Amendment merely seeks to restrain the exceptional use of compulsory powers to within limits which we believe to be right. It is very important that these exceptional powers of compulsory acquisition should not be used, for example, in a trading estate which has become congested, where an owner may be covetously desiring some land held by an adjacent owner for future development. We feel it is important that this Amendment should be written into the Bill so that the general principle of compulsory acquisition of land is not further complicated by the even wider extension proposed in the Bill in its present form.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I beg to move, in page 2, line 12, at the end, to insert:Provided also that this section shall not apply to any land which in any development plan approved or made under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, and in force for the time being is allocated for use for any purpose or purposes other than industrial purposes.I think that the addition of these words will improve the Bill. The Amendment is designed for the simple purpose of preventing what are known as jurisdictional disputes between the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. This is not a fanciful Amendment, because it is known that these troubles have occurred between the British Transport Commission and the Ministry of Town and Country Planning.
§ The Solicitor-General
While I can appreciate the object behind this Amendment, which is obviously designed to improve the Bill, I think the case put forward is proceeding under a slight misconception. We think that the Amendment is not really necessary. The position is that the local planning authority makes its plan which provides for the zoning of particular parts of the area for particular purposes. Suppose that an undertaking acquires a factory from the Board of Trade which the Board of Trade have acquired under Clause 1 of the Bill. The undertaker is still subject to the pro 991 visions of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. It follows that the Board of Trade would not be so foolish as to acquire a factory and proceed to use it for industrial purposes in an area zoned for residential purposes.
Suppose that the Board of Trade acquired the building and then proceeded to let it to an undertaker who wanted to use it for industrial purposes; all that would happen would be that the local planning authority, under the terms of the 1947 Act, would say to the undertaker, "We are sorry, but you can use it only for the specific purposes within the four walls of the plan, unless the planning authority decides to make an exception." Therefore, no undertaker would dream of acquiring a factory from the Board of Trade in a zoned area for the purpose of using it contrary to the terms of the plan made by the planning authority. It would be nonsensical to do so. Equally, the Board of Trade would not be so foolish as to acquire a factory in an area zoned for residential purposes and try to sell it to an undertaker who would not dream of taking it if he had to comply with the provisions of the development scheme of the planning authority.
Therefore, I do not think it is necessary to have these additional words. Indeed, their presence would introduce some confusion in a picture which ought to be reasonably clear, namely, the picture that any undertaker proceeding to acquire a factory from the Board of Trade must acquire it knowing that he has to comply with the planning authority scheme and can use it only consistently with the provisions of that scheme. It stands to reason that the Board of Trade will not try to palm off a factory to an undertaker in circumstances in which he would have to close it down, and that the undertaker would not try to acquire a factory from the Board of Trade in such circumstances. I think that the position is satisfactory, because the person acquiring a factory from the Board of Trade knows that be comes under the terms of the planning authority's scheme.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has given a very clear explanation of the position on the assumption that the Town and Country Planning Act will be of greater 992 legal effect than the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945. What I am wondering is whether he is quite right in that, because express power of compulsory purchase is given by the 1945 Act, which would be retained, after slight amendment, by this Bill, for the provision of premises for meeting requirements of industrial undertakings.
If the Board of Trade exercised that power, it would be possible to argue that Parliament had given the Board of Trade power to acquire a particular building for the purpose of carrying on an industry in that building. The person to whom they had let the building would come under the cloak or protection of the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945, and, therefore, could say, notwithstanding the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act "I am entitled to carry on this industry, because the Board of Trade are entitled to acquire the premises compulsorily to enable this business to be carried on."
While I would agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman's argument on the assumption that the Town and Country Planning Act, where it might be in conflict with the Distribution of Industry Act, would override that Act, I am not at all clear that that is certain to be the case, and that is the point on which I should like to have further information. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not absolutely satisfied about that, then I suggest that this needs looking into a little further. I know that my right hon. Friend, in moving this Amendment, did so with a view to exploring the position.
§ The Solicitor-General
I had considered the particular argument which the hon. and learned Gentleman has just advanced, and having considered it, I thought that I was right in saying what I did. In view of the doubt which he feels I will look into it again, but it was considered carefully and we formed a clear view as to what was the result of the legislation.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
With great respect to the Solicitor-General, I am not sure the argument is quite as simple—I am referring to his previous speech sas he made it appear. He took the case that there would not be compulsory acquisition or the setting up of industrial undertakings within an area zoned as residential under a development plan under the 993 Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. It may be that there are within a residential zone that is zoned under a development plan under the 1947 Act certain industrial uses which are authorised or permitted on the appointed day, albeit non-conforming uses.
One of two things may happen according to whether or not the factory use is an authorised nse or a non-conforming use in the residential area for the purposes of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947. If it is not an authorised use, it is possible to serve an enforcement notice under Section 23 of the 1947 Act. If, on the other hand, it is an authorised use albeit a non-conforming use, then the only remedy is to serve a discontinuance order involving compensation under Section 26 of the 1947 Act.
May it not be that it will take longer to get rid of industrial uses and nonconforming uses in residential zoned areas if the Board of Trade have the power to be interested in them because of the delay it may involve in the serving of either an enforcement notice or a discontinuance notice to get rid of the nonconforming use? Surely, that is the danger which arises, and which is not at all disposed of by the fact that there will be residential zoning under the 1947 Act.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I quite accept what the Solicitor-General has said. He has assured us that he will look into the matter, and in those circumstances I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
I beg to move, in page 2, line 22, to leave out "each of the said Acts" and to insert "the said Act of 1946."
This is a drafting Amendment and I apologise to the Committee for the fact that they have been troubled with it. When the Bill was being drafted, reference was made to "the said Acts" because at that time we were also referring to the corresponding Scottish Act. Since that time, however, there have been other changes, and it is now necessary here to refer only to one Act.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ Mr. John Hay (Henley)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 25, at the end, to insert: 994and the Board shall in respect of such compulsory purchase pay and discharge the proper scale costs of any solicitor acting for and: engaged by the vendor of any land so. acquired for the purposes of the principal Act or this Act.This Amendment is one which I hope will commend itself to the Government, since to my mind it carries out an act of nothing more nor less than justice to the people who will be required to surrender their property under the provisions of the principal Act and also under this Bill. I must declare my interest in the matter at this early stage. I am a practising solicitor, but I hasten to assure the Committee that so far asI and my professional brethren are concerned, we do not benefit at all from this particular provision.
As the Committee will see, the Amendment is intended to provide that on acquisition of land, the Board of Trade shall, in respect of compulsory purchase, pay the vendor's full scale costs. As I understand it, the position at present is that in acquisition of this kind under the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation. Procedure) Act, 1946, by reason of the incorporation in that Act of a Section of the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act,. 1845, the normal solicitor's charges for the vendor's property acquired—
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
On a point of Order. Will this Amendment involve an additional charge, and if so will it be in order to discuss it?
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Charles. MacAndrew)
Yes, because the Money Resolution authorises expenditure on the acquisition of land.
§ Mr. Hay
The position at present is that when any public body goes to acquire land compulsorily under similar circumstances to those effected by this Bill, the customary scale charge which the vendor of the property is charged by his solicitors does not always apply. As Members of the Committee will know, between a willing purchaser and a willing vendor there is a consideration fixed, and that consideration has direct relation to the amount of the solicitor's charges.
The purpose of my Amendment therefore, is to make it clear that in relation to the sort of acquisition we have here, it shall be the rule that the Board of Trade, when they acquire it, shall pay the full scale vendor's costs. The only 995 person who is going to benefit here is the vendor, because in any event he would be obliged to pay the same costs. He is merely getting reimbursement from the Board of Trade for his costs.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Joynson-Hicks (Chichester)
I support the principle of this Amendment very wholeheartedly indeed, and like my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) I must declare my indirect interest in the matter, because I am a solicitor. It is indirect, because we cannot benefit by this proposal, inasmuch as we can always get the costs out of our clients or we hope to get them.
If the Solicitor-General, who I hope will reply, resists our Amendment on the ground that the drafting will not achieve the result which we have in mind, I shall not rebut that argument. We wish to establish the principle of the thing. I doubt very much whether even the Solicitor-General, let alone the Committee, appreciates the incredible chaos there is in our stautory procedure and throughout the legislation with regard to the payment of solicitors' charges in all forms of compulsory purchase and acquisition of land. It is high time that the Government looked to the matter and arrived at the simple solution which all solicitors desire and which I believe all local authorities, all Government Departments, and all persons responsible for compulsory acquisition, would also like to see arrived at.
That principle is simply that the vendor's solicitor shall be entitled to be paid by the body which is compulsorily acquiring the land the same costs as he would be entitled to from his own client in the event of a private deal. Surely that is simple enough. The situation has become exceedingly complicated as the years have gone by. I am glad that I took the opportunity of writing to the Attorney-General that we intended to raise the point. I hope that he has passed the message on to the Solicitor-General. I should like to warn the Solicitor-General that should this Government introduce any other Bill for compulsory acquisition of land and fail to provide satisfactory provisions for the payment of a vendor's solicitors, I shall raise the matter again. Should any other Government introduce such a Bill while I am a Member of this House I shall still raise the matter.
996 I have no doubt that the answer which we shall get from the Solicitor-General will be that as this Amendment merely repeats provisions which are in the principal Act, he is not prepared to introduce it into the Bill. If he puts forward that argument I would point out that the whole purpose of the Bill is to amend the principal Act, and that therefore he can perfectly well, if he accepts the principle of our Amendment, introduce an Amendment himself which will put right the error which has crept into this Bill as a result of the error in the principal Act. I hope that he will do so.
If I may do so without wearying the Committee, I should like to amplify briefly, by way of illustrating the mess we are in, the serious point which my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment has made. There are some 15 varieties of compulsory purchase, carrying a variety of methods of remuneration of the vendor's solicitor. The Committee should appreciate that the whole matter springs from the Section which, by reference, is incorporated into the Bill, namely Section 82 of the Land Clauses (Consolidation) Act, 1842. We are really dealing with ancient history.
The Government, in going back some 108 years for their precedent, are very reactionary indeed. They might well have brought the matter a little more up to date. If there is compulsory acquisition of registered land, the situation is all right. The vendor's solicitors are entitled to be paid by the acquiring body as they would be entitled in a private deal. It is where we are dealing with unregistered land that the majority of the cases of compulsory acquisition arise and where the whole thing gets into a most complicated state.
I will not burden the Committee with a mass of detail, but I should like to make reference to one aspect of the matter which illustrates the chaos of the situation. In cases in which land is compulsorily acquired by local authorities there is great doubt about the law. The opinions of two separate legal advisers have been taken in order to try to elucidate it. I feel sure that the Committee will not be surprised to learn that the opinions of those two eminent Gentlemen were diametrically opposed. In one case the opinion was to the effect that a local authority was entitled to come to 997 an agreement with the vendor that the local authority would bear the full-scale charges of the vendor. In view of that opinion some local authorities have accepted the principle and pay the full-scale charges. Other authorities follow the contrary opinion that it is not legally right for them to enter into such an agreement and that they do so at the peril of being surcharged with the money that they pay out in that way. Consequently they do not take the risk. They pay the lower scale charges only.
There is a further subsidiary point which is introduced into the Measure, that even on the lower scale charges, the authority do not pay all the vendor's solicitors' charges but only costs from the time of the preparation of the abstract of title. There is no reason why they should not pay the earlier costs. There is a third line of local authorities who say, "One legal authority says we should pay the full scale, and the other legal authority says that we should pay the smaller scale. We will compromise. If we think it is right and fair we will pay one scale or the other, but we will make our own minds up about it."
What a chaotic situation that is. It all derives from the principle which is included and repeated in the Clause now before us,which we are seeking to amend. Therefore we ask the Solicitor-General to look favourably on our Amendment even though it might not be of maximum importance in this Bill. He has an opportunity of very usefully correcting an error in the original Measure. I say with all respect to my hon. and learned Friend that unfortunately he did not ask me in 1944 when he was preparing his Bill. I wish we had then taken the opportunity of putting the matter right. Now the Government have the opportunity of doing so, and I sincerely hope that they will take it.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
In case the Committee should think that this is a professional matter which my hon. Friends the hon. Members for Henley (Mr. Hay) and Chichester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) have brought forward on professional grounds, I hasten to add my support as a person with no professional standing. I am a member of the ordinary public. It seems that this Amendment has the sole support on the Order Paper of my hon. Friend the Member for 998 Henley, but that must be an inadvertence. I should have been glad to put my name to it, if I had had the opportunity. This seems a very valuable Amendment.
The private person now is a defenceless creature. As my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester said, as far as the law is concerned, he lives in an atmosphere of incredible chaos.I thank thee, Roderick, for the word!It describes the attitude of mind of any person who has the good, or bad, fortune to possess property in these days. He is the subject of unexpected, and even brutal, attacks from all sorts of Government Departments, and, in the main, he is quite defenceless against them. He is innocent of any desire to dispose of his land. He is the possesor of Naboth's Vineyard, but that does not prevent the cupidity or the planning passions of Government Departments desiring to obtain his property.
He is sitting innocently and, perhaps, idly, in possession of his property when a Government Department comes along armed with good intentions and primed with great authority and says to him, "Willy nilly, your property is to be purchased." He resists the temptation and says that he prefers to be left alone, but he is prevented from remaining in that passive situation and is compulsorily induced to enter negotiation. The costs are a great deal. They are uninvited, and the purpose of the Amendment is to see that those costs, which are not sought, and this approach, which he does not desire, shall not end in his defeat.
There are very few defences left for the private individual and the Government should pay reasonable costs for the defence of his right. Last evening I heard hon. Members pleading for the owner-occupier of mining houses in areas affected by subsidence. There seems little essential difference here. Here an owner-occupier in possession of property is being challenged, perhaps quite rightly, by a Government Department and placed in a position where he has to defend himself. This Amendment entitles such persons to reimbursement of these charges.
§ The Solicitor-General
In the course of his argument, the hon. Member for Chichester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) gave the answer to the plea put forward on behalf 999 of this Amendment. As he said, there are many different powers relating to the acquisition of land, compulsorily and by agreement. I am not saying that the situation is satisfactory as it stands. It has been the subject of negotiation. There have been negotiations between the Treasury Solicitor and the Law Society and, as a result of those negotiations, an agreement was arrived at that in the case of voluntary acquisitions—that is to say, acquisitions other than compulsory acquisitions—the Government Department would pay the full-scale costs of the vendors' solicitors, whether they were charged under schedule 1, or schedule 2. So far those agreements relate only to the case of voluntary acquisitions.
§ Mr. Joynson-Hicks
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman leaves voluntary acquisitions, may I ask if he appreciates that the Treasury Solicitors' writ does not run throughout? For instance, in the case of the Ministry of Health, for whom the Treasury Solicitors do not act in that capacity, it is invalid and useless.
§ The Solicitor-General
I quite appreciate that and it will lead to the point I want to make. I was stating the history and the present position. That is the arrangement arrived at at the moment. The Board of Trade are parties to that agreement. They have come into the scheme whereby they pay full-scale costs whether on schedule 1, or schedule 2. This Amendment will go further and say that full scale costs on schedule 1 or schedule 2 should be paid on compulsory acquisitions as well. Whether or not that is the right basis of payment, it would be quite impossible to incorporate it in this Bill.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ The hon. Member for Chichester foreshadowed that I would say it was impossible to include it in this Bill because this Bill was only an amendment of the Distribution of Industry Act, 1945. That is not the reason. The reason is, as he said, that it would affect a whole number of Departments. It would affect all those different methods of acquiring land compulsorily, which he estimated as about 15. This is a matter which affects a general principle which, if it is right and ought to be embodied in our statutory code, ought to be the subject of legislation in 1000 the proper type of Measure. But it would be impossible in this Bill, with its limited objective, to amend the previous Act and not to deal with any other class of transaction, to affect any other far-reaching claim in the payment of solicitors' costs when land is acquired compulsorily. The hon. Member for Henley said that the position now is covered by the Land Clauses Consolidation Act of 1842 and that only provides for the payment of vendors' costs from the point at which deducing and verifying evidence of title begins.
§ I hope that hon. Members who support the Amendment and, obviously from their speeches, feel strongly about it, will agree that it would be impossible to include this Amendment in this Bill, with its very limited objective. I hope that with that explanation they will agree that it would be unreasonable to expect us to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The right hon. and learned Gentleman said it would be impossible to ask that the Amendment should be incorporated in this Bill. That impossibility does not exist. My hon. Friends have not only moved that it should be included, but have done so in most eloquent and persuasive speeches. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has not put forward any justification for the principle that where there is voluntary acquisition, full charges are paid, but where there is compulsory acquisition, less than full charges are paid. It seems very difficult to justify that distinction.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman gave no indication of his opinion on the matter, and I am sure it would assist my hon. Friends very much in determining what attitude they take if the right hon. and learned Gentleman would say that he thinks an alteration should be made and that full charges should be paid in cases of compulsory acquisition, just as they are paid in cases of voluntary acquisition. I find it difficult to understand why, just because in one case it is compulsory, whereas in the other it is voluntary, it should make such a difference to the solicitors for the vendors who, presumably, have to do the same amount of work.
I should like the right hon. and learned Gentleman to express his view upon that. All he has said is that it is impossible to 1001 do it in this Bill. I am not quite sure whether that is right. He said it must be done by legislation in its proper place. But compulsory acquisition powers are contained in a vast number of Bills, and if we are to wait before making this change until we get one grand consolidated compulsory acquisition Bill, I do not suppose we shall see this alteration in our lifetime.
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman thinks that this is the wrong Bill in which to make this change and to create a precedent which would apparently be based upon justice, I ask him to indicate what type of Bill he had in mind when he said, "the right kind of legislation." A Bill dealing with the code of conduct of solicitors would not strike me as the right kind of Bill in which to amend the Lands Clauses Consolidation Act. As we are bound to have a Report stage, I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to go so far as to say that he will give further consideration to this point to see whether a start cannot be made in this Measure to iron out an anomaly for which there appears to be no justification, and which the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not in any way seek to justify in his speech.
§ Mr. Joynson-Hicks
I have risen because I was hopeful that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was coming to the Despatch Box again to reply to my hon. and learned Friend. Although we had his sympathy, we had little satisfaction from his speech. Cannot the right hon. and learned Gentleman at least give us some assurance that the negotiations to which he was referring will proceed forthwith on the wider scale? The impression has been left in my mind from what he said that, having decided the question of the vendor's solicitors' charges in voluntary acquisition, the matter had been completed. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman will give us an assurance that he will endeavour to proceed without delay in cleaning up the position with regard to compulsory acquisition, we might be more amenable with regard to this Amendment.
Unless the right hon. and learned Centleman does something of that sort, the Committee will appreciate that there 1002 is no reason whatever why in this Bill he should not amend the provisions for the compulsory acquisition in the principal Measure, and then at least we should have the precedent of a satisfactory block of legislation dealing with the compulsory acquisition by the Board of Trade for this purpose. That can be an isolated unit without interfering with the Town and Country Planning Act, or any of the other methods of compulsory acquisition which have been passed from time to time. I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to carry the matter some way further because, although his answer was sympathetic, we had hoped that it would have been more satisfactory.
§ The Solicitor-General
I am sorry that I cannot give any undertaking such as is asked. The hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. ManninghamBuller) asked me what was my personal view. So far as it is relevant for the purpose of this Debate, my view is that there is no case made out for making a special exception of solicitors' costs in connection with this type of acquisition. That being so, it is hardly relevant for me to go on to say what I think should be the general answer given to the question of costs. What I said, and what I repeat respectfully, is that if a change is desirable it should be made in the appropriate type of Bill. That I described as a Bill dealing generally with solicitors' costs or with the acquisition of land, but not this limited Bill. That is, I think, a reasonable and proper approach.
With regard to the negotiations that have taken place, I referred to them simply to point out that they had left the matter as I described. They began some years back, and the result of negotiations which were carried on was that the full payment of scale costs should be applicable only in the case of non-compulsory acquisition. The complete answer to this Amendment is that it could not be logically and sensibly incorporated in this limited Bill, and that if at any time hereafter the matter has to be reconsidered, it should be reconsidered in connection with the entire code of compulsory acquisition and should be dealt with accordingly in the appropriate type of general Bill dealing with it.
§ Mr. Hay
I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me if I do not find his sympathy convincing in this instance. I hope I am not being rude in saying so. I want to urge upon him and the Government that this is an act of justice, not to solicitors alone, but to the people whose property is being acquired under this Bill and the statute which it amends. That is why I put down this Amendment, and I hope that even at this stage, we shall have an assurance that the Government will think again about this matter and, if possible, do something to amend this Bill in the way I have suggested.
The Solicitor-General suggested that this was an inappropriate moment and an inappropriate Bill in which to affect a far-reaching change. Yet we must start somewhere and I think this is an appropriate moment to start. The views of the Law Society are probably known to the Solicitor-General because they have been in communication with the Government over the Bill and the point which I have raised. Their views are of some importance, and we should bear in mind that what they have particularly to consider is not only the welfare of the solicitor members of the profession, but also the clients for whom those solicitors act Supposing, by way of illustration, the President of the Board of Trade or his Department wish to acquire some industrial undertaking in one of the development areas under the provisions of the Act and this Bill. It may easily happen, as my hon. Friend the Member for Chichester (Mr. Joynson-Hicks) said, that there will be prolonged negotiations for which the unfortunate vendor whose property has been compulsorily acquired will have to pay out of his own pocket without the slightest prospect of reimbursement from the Board of Trade who are taking the land away from him.
Because this is a matter of justice, I again urge the right hon. and learned Gentleman to consider whether he cannot give us this assurance, that between now and the later stage of the Bill he will see whether those negotiations can be reopened with the Law Society with a view to the eventual promulgation of legislation in this House to remedy this extremely unsatisfactory position, to which my hon. Friend has referred.
§ Mr. Joynson-Hicks
If I may add one word to that plea, it is not only a question of justice but of morality. If the negotiators in the instance which my hon. Friend has given, carry the matter on so that the vendor is put to a lot of expense and trouble—not the surveyors because they are paid in any event since the Board of Trade covers them completely—the point will be reached where the negotiators for the Government say, "Do not forget that if you agree with us and let us have a voluntary acquisition, we pay all your expenses. If, on the other hand, you force us into a compulsory acquisition, you get only a small charge."
§ Mr. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
I hope the Solicitor-General will resist this Amendment. I can see certain solicitors with a vested interest in long drawn-out negotiations. This Amendment is being brought forward to expedite the provision of work for men who are in want of work, and I am quite sure that it would not be helpful to give any encouragement to protracted negotiations being carried on for which the lawyers are so well paid.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
If the right hon. and learned Gentleman does not intend to say anything more about this, could he not at least hold out hope of further consideration? This is a point of great importance, and I am sure that the Solicitor-General has been carried a long way towards agreement by the speeches of my hon. Friends—indeed, by the speech of the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough), because any solicitor who acted in the way he suggested would soon lose his practice.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ I should like to press the right hon. and learned Gentleman just to say that he will give further consideration to this before the Report stage to see whether something could not be done. After all, an Amendment made in the Bill on this point could affect only compulsory acquisitions made by the Board of Trade within development areas. There is something to be said even for trying it as an experiment in a limited area. If the proposal is incorporated in the Bill, that would be its effect. The right hon. Gentleman would be giving away nothing if he would say that be will apply his mind to this question between now and the Report stage to see whether or not 1005 something could be done. I ask him to go as far as that, because it does not seem to me that by saying that he would be in any way compromising his position
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
I feel like craving the indulgence of the Committee for delivering a speech as a back bench Member and I hope, therefore, that I shall have the tolerance of the Committee if I am not able to exercise all the usual arts and wiles of the skilled back bencher. I am in a little doubt as to the meaning of the Clause and what it empowers the Minister to do. I put down two Amendments with a view to elucidating what were his powers. I am a little doubtful whether my Amendments will be within the scope of the Bill and it will help me very greatly, therefore, if by asking my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade some questions I am able to find out exactly what the Bill does.
The first point is that line 9, on page 1, uses the description ofland including industrial buildings.The fact that land includes industrial buildings suggests that it includes also other types of buildings. So far as my knowledge goes, land includes all buildings which happen to be upon it. My particular interest is in regard to three areas in Scotland and, probably, the same problem arises also for areas in England and Wales. The first of the three areas in Scotland which are particularly affected is the Highland area. The second is the Greenock area, and the third is the area south of the Edinburgh—Glasgow railway line—Slamannan—taking in the Uplands of b Stirlinoshire, and from south of Falkirk to Linlithgow. I am not clear whether under the Bill the Minister has power to take such steps in these areas as would accomplish the objects which are set out in the Bill.
Perhaps my difficulty would be better illustrated if I stated the problem as I see it. For some years we have had development areas established in Stirling-shire and Greenock and, in more recent times, in a Highland area. So far, however, it has proved impossible to get any private industry to go to these areas. I 1006 should like the President to say what powers he has in the Bill which he can use, if private enterprise is not able or he cannot persuade it to do so, to set up such establishments and undertakings in these areas as are likely to make the wellbeing of the community effective and successful
We have all been greatly concerned whether the Highland population is to be retained in the Highlands, and one of the purposes of a development area is to provide in the Bill inducements to industries or to undertakings to go into that area. No one in the Government or anywhere else—and I think there is a great misunderstanding about this—who knows anything of the facts ever expected a "Black Country" to be set up in the area of the Cromarty Firth. It is clear that in the Highlands industries can only be successful if they have some connection with the life of the area—that is to say, if they are connected with fish, timber or tourism.
§ Mr. Woodburn
That is a successful industry already and we need not worry about it; it can finance itself. The natural industry for that area would be timber, which is grown there and will continue to be grown, or an industry using timber—for example, furniture, or undertakings and factories of that kind. On the other hand, there might be factories which are capable of using the wool of the Highlands. My idea has been the possibility of getting carpet factories, which could be spread out even into the villages in that area, and smaller industries of that kind which could make an economic life in the Highlands, in addition to agriculture.
The third great industry which is likely to develop, and which ought to be developed, in the Highlands is tourist traffic, which, I understand is now our biggest single dollar earner. No place in the country has a better attraction for Americans, Canadians and others than the Highlands of Scotland.
Mr. McKie (Galloway)
And the Lowlands, too.
§ Mr. Woodburn
And the Lowlands, too, and the Galloway Highlands. I am sorry that I cannot mention them, for 1007 they are not mentioned in the Bill; they are such a prosperous area already.
I should like my right hon. Friend to tell us, if tourist traffic cannot be accommodated in the existing hotels in the Highlands, whether the termland including … buildingsincludes the power to erect, purchase or to establish hotels in the Highlands to provide for the tourist traffic.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
On a point of Order, Sir Charles. I do not want to interrupt the familiar and very agreeable tones in which the right hon. Gentleman is addressing the Committee, but does the matter of tourist traffic and hotels really fall within the purview of the Bill?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I understood that the right hon. Gentleman was seeking elucidation upon the Clause and was putting his points in the form of questions. He is quite within his rights.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The term "land" includes all buildings. Hotels are buildings. Since industrial undertakings are mentioned separately here, other land presumably may include some other kind of building, and I want to know whether it includes hotels and whether the President of the Board of Trade has power under the Bill to establish that kind of industry in the Highlands. I should like to be assured that he has that power. If he has not, I should have liked to ask him what he is going to do about it, but that might be outside the scope of the Bill.
Another question is whether under the Bill the President of the Board of Trade has power to take any action in co-operation with private enterprise or independent of private enterprise to acquire these buildings and to use them to carry on industry of any kind or any other undertakings if private enterprise is unable or unwilling to do it. So far, private enterprise has failed to go to the Greenock, Slamannan and Highland Development Areas. If he has not that power, the Bill will fail in its major purpose for those three areas and the other develop. ment areas in the country.
I suggest very seriously that he should consider the matter and inquire closer into 1008 the powers which he has under the Bill. I should like an assurance now or at a later stage that he has these powers. If he has them, no further action will be necessary, but if he has not I hope he will taken an early opportunity to see that such powers are provided. The purpose of the Bill will otherwise be frustrated by the economic inability Qf industries to set up in these areas to do the job which is required to be done for the well-being of the people there and the well-being of the country as a whole.
§ Mr. Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
Was my right hon. Friend also arguing for areas outside the existing development areas?
§ Mr. Woodburn
No, on this Bill I can only discuss the development areas. It all depends on what is meant by "development areas." I think that is the point which my hon. Friend has in mind. Perhaps we can have an explanation on that point later.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The right hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) has been able to raise upon the Question "that the Clause stand part of the Bill" not only most of the matters apparently covered by his Amendment which was not in order, but also some other matters which would perhaps be more appropriate for Second Reading discussion. He particularly asked whether hotels came within the purview of the Bill and could be compulsorily acquired. He could have answered that question very easily if he had looked at Clause 1 in which he would have seen that the only extension of a power of acquisition was to " land including industrial buildings," and if he had looked at the 1945 Act he would have seen a definition of " industrial buildings " which obviously would not include an hotel. I therefore hope that we can dispose of that point.
As the Clause is going to be reconsidered, I rose to draw attention to a matter of drafting which requires attention. Section 1 of the 1945 Act gave authority compulsorily to acquireland for the provision thereon … of such premises or means of access.Subsection (5) of the Clause removes those words from the 1945 Act. It follows that under the 1945 Act as amended by the Bill the Board of Trade has an unfettered 1009 power compulsorily to acquire land. If one has a power to acquire land. that in itself includes the power to acquire the buildings upon that land. It seems to me Vint in view of the alteration made by subsection (5) a great deal of subsection (1) is superfluous. I am not talking about the proviso and the two exceptions, but about subsection (1), but I should have thought that a great deal of the rest of it is unnecessary in view of the amendment of the principal Act. As the Clause is to be considered again from a drafting point of view, I hope that the drafting of this portion may be improved.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Lord Dunglass (Lanark)
I did not intend to intervene in the discussion but I may have misunderstood the right hon. Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn). Is he suggesting that the Board of Trade should be able to set up, say, a furniture factory in Slamannan, which would then be in active competition with a furniture factory in a development area in Lanarkshire which is at present being run by private enterprise? If so, I very much hope that the President of the Board of Trade will resist it, and if he does not do so I shall be very much inclined to vote against the Bill because it seems to me to be giving the President powers which he ought not to have.
§ Mr. John Grimston (St. Albans)
This Clause seems to contain the heart of the Bill from which the President in his Second Reading speech evidently expects a very great deal. He pointed out in that speech that one of the principal difficulties facing the Development Areas at the moment is the provision of work for men. He is right. Many of us who have been interested in this problem over a number of years know that the type of industry which is being attracted to the Development Areas is not really an industry at all in many cases. The Clause empowers him to purchase existing factories which in his view will no doubt be found to be more suitable to the type of industry which he wishes to attract.
In my view many of the factories which he has already built—standard factories—not at all suitable to the type of industry which should employ men. I feel that the purpose of the Clause will be doubly reinforced if the Minister learns that factories must be built for the particular 1010 industries which they are intended to serve he must not put up a factory and then hope to attract to the area an industry to which the factory will be suited.
I should like to know whether the President feels that he has power under the Clause to purchase the buildings of an industry which is proposing to leave a development area. He will know that one of the tragedies of development areas at the moment, apart from the fact that a number of refugee and frivolous industries are entering them, is that the new and basic industries are not entering them in great numbers and that some which have gone to those areas have since left. Take the case of the Blaenavon factory which was engaged in making railway tyres and wheels. It was thoroughly suited to the development area in which it was placed, and it was the only industry in a very large town. It was provided before the war with money under the special areas arrangement. Yet that industry left the development area, and also left the country.
I was very interested at the time, and I am quite convinced that had the Board of Trade had powers to take over the buildings which were housing that plant sufficient finance would have been forthcoming to enable that heavy and very satisfactory industry, which moreover was one employing men, to remain in the development area, and consequently have strengthened the point which, on the Minister's own admission, is weak. I feel it is not so much powers he needs but the will to persuade people, and to back that up, as I think he will be able, under Clause 1, to do, with the power of taking over buildings which will be highly satisfactory and suitable for other purposes.
§ Mr. John MacLeod (Ross and Cromarty)
I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will resist the sugestions made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn). I represent a Highland area, part of which was scheduled as a development area, into which no new industry has come since it was designated a development area. I do not wish to repeat the speech I made on the Second Reading of this Bill, when I put some specific questions which I think I could now raise, and to which no reply was given by the Secretary for Overseas Trade when he replied on that occasion.
1011 I intervened at the end of his speech and asked him why I had not received any reply. He said that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland had intervened and that had I been in my place I would have received a reply to my questions. I looked through the report of that Debate and found that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland had not made a speech. Therefore, I thought that some statement of policy must have been prepared or contemplated by the Government in view of the fact that the Secretary for Overseas Trade thought that the Minister had spoken. Perhaps he was not in his place throughout the Debate.
I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will now tell us why no new industries have been set up in this development area. If private enterprise does not go into that area, there must be a very good reason. I do not think that the Government will have any greater success than would private enterprise by going into the area. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will resist the suggestions made by the right hon. Member for East Stirling.
§ Mr. Woodburn
The hon. Member points out that private enterprise has not gone into the area, and then says that the Government ought not to go there. If neither private nor public enterprise is to do anything about it would he tell us who is to do so?
§ Mr. MacLeod
I was coming to that point. I believe the reason to be that the Government are treating the Highland development area in a similar manner to other development areas. That is absolutely wrong. The Measure should be interpreted in a much less harsh way than it is at present. Housing is one of the greatest difficulties in the area, as in all areas. No industry will ever be persuaded to go into the Highlands when the industry that already exists there cannot expand because of lack of housing. There is also the question of power. Have the Government made any plans for industrialists who set up industrial concerns to use power near the source of its production? The Government must improve the basic services—the foundations—in the Highland area. Private enterprise will go into the area if the foundations are soundly laid. That should be the only 1012 work which the Government should undertake in that area.
§ Mr. D. J. Williams (Neath)
I wish to put some questions'to the President of the Board of Trade on how this Bill will affect us in South Wales. We in South Wales have been seriously perturbed for some time by the serious problem of unemployment. It is true that a great deal has been done under the original Act, but I am stating the views of myself and my colleagues from South Wales when I express my disappointment that this Bill does not meet the fundamentals of our problem.
I wish to know from the President of the Board of Trade whether he has powers, either in this Bill or outside this Bill, to tenant the idle factories which we now have in that development area. They were built by the Board of Trade or by the Government a number of years ago, and, so far, private enterprise has not been persuaded to take them over, use them for productive purposes and employ people who have been unemployed for many years. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will be able to give us in South Wales some indication that he has the power, inside or outside that Bill, to tackle that very grave problem.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (Ayrshire, South)
I am rather surprised that the ideological obsessions of Members representing Highland constituencies are preventing them from giving what I believe would be perfectly reasonable support to the view expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn). I know that it would be quite out of order to discuss his Amendment at this stage, but I, too, would like to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he is satisfied that he has powers under Clause 1 to say that public enterprise will step in where private enterprise obviously fears to tread? One would think that the example already quoted of the Scottish Hydro-Electric Corporation would have encouraged the Minister to give satisfactory assurances on this point.
I wish to stress the point of view put forward by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling, and to say that he represents a considerable body of opinion in Scotland in asking that the full powers of public enterprise shall be used 1013 in the development of the Highlands. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade is not under the misapprehension under which the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) appears to be in thinking that whisky is the main dollar earner of Scotland. It was recently pointed out by the Chairman of the Scottish Tourist Board that tourism is a far bigger dollar earner than is whisky. I should prefer to see the tourist industry encouraged rather than the whisky industry. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will assure us that he will not be in any way deflected by the obsessions of those who think that out-of-date private enterprise may possibly galvanise the Highlands into economic recovery.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
I hope that the Minister will be able to look seriously at the question my right hon. Friend has put to him. I am rather amazed at some of the observations made by hon. Members opposite. I understood that they were committed to a policy of whole employment exactly as we are. This Bill is an endeavour to provide employment for men who are out of work. Men who are out of work will not " care two hoots " whether they are employed by private enterprise or by the Government; they seek employment, and they will make no discrimination whether that employment is provided by the Government or by private enterprise.
Let us assume that in a certain development area there are factories which can be taken over. Let us assume also that no employer is prepared to provide employment, and yet in certain circumstances there may be bottlenecks which in specific industries need to be overcome if our economic difficulties are to be surmounted. Why should not the Minister consider taking the necessary powers to set up whatever particular industry may be necessary to provide work and also to help us over our economic difficulties? I would say to hon. Members opposite that it would be a very dangerous thing for a party trying to improve its chances at the next election—
§ Mr. Lyttelton
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough) in order in raising a number of things which, by no process of the imagination can be contained in Clause 1, and in indulging in a number of electoral forecasts which at any other time might be highly exhilarating, but are entirely irrelevant to the matter now before the Committee?
§ The Deputy-Chairman
That is true. The Debate on the Question, " That the Clause stand part of the Bill," is very narrow.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
The Clause really deals with the acquisition of necessary buildings. I was pointing out that the power is not sufficient, and what I want the President to have is not only power to secure factories, but power to man the factories if that is necessary. I assure him that if he could think of bringing in the necessary Amendment at a later stage to give him that power, it would be much appreciated, particularly in the development areas.
§ Sir Herbert Williams (Croydon, East)
I understood from the concluding words of the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough)—I hope I did not mis-hear him—that he said something about the power to man factories. Very fortunately, some little time ago His Majesty's Government abandoned direction of labour. I wish to know clearly whether the hon. Member means that he proposes to restore direction of labour? I think we ought to have that made clear.
§ Mr. Fernyhough
If the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) had been in the last Parliament, he would know where I stood on that matter.
§ Mr. Wilson
On a point of Order. Is it in order on Clause 1 to go into the question of the direction of labour?
§ Sir H. Williams
The hon. Member for Jarrow mentioned it. I expressed great surprise. Then the hon. Member rose, and I naturally gave way, as I always do, because it pays handsomely. Then the hon. Member said that I knew where he stood last time. I am not concerned with that. All I am concerned with is where he stood three minutes ago. He made a proposal that the President of the Board of Trade should provide for the manning of factories. I understood that the whole object of this Bill was to provide factories in districts where there was a surplus of labour; and therefore it does not seem necessary in those circumstances to direct labour to places where there is already a surplus.
§ Sir H. Williams
If that is not what the hon. Member meant, I do not know what he meant, and I do not know why he spoke at all.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
I do not think that the contribution of the hon. Member for Croydon, East (Sir H. Williams) has carried us very much further. My hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow was referring to the use of these factories. A number of hon. Members have discussed the possible use of these factories by private enterprise or by public enterprise. I think that was before the hon. Member for Croydon, East came into the Chamber.
§ Mr. Wilson
I certainly think that the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Jarrow were quite appropriate; and I suggest that he can use the phrase " manning up " these factories, without bringing into consideration the question of direction of labour.
I find it a little difficult to answer all the questions put to me without getting very wide of this Clause. My right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn) asked what powers the Government had under this Clause to provide factories when private enterprise failed to provide employment. This point was taken up by a number of hon. Members opposite. As my right hon. 1016 Friend will realise, this Clause gives me no power whatsoever in that direction. He also knows that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Supply has certain limited powers for the operation of factories and there is nothing to stop the operation of this Clause in handing over these factories to him within those powers. The hon. Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) was somewhat insensed at the suggestion of my right hon. Friend. If I understood him rightly, he said that he would be very much opposed to the Board of Trade taking the power to manufacture under this Clause; and he hoped that I would resist, or else he might feel very much like voting against the Bill.
§ Lord Dunglass
What I am concerned about is that in Lanarkshire we have been very successful in attracting private enterprise in many small industries; but the right hon. Member for East Stirling is close by, and if the Government come barging along and put some factories in Slamannan, it will absorb into Slamannan the labour at present in Lanarkshire.
§ Mr. Wilson
I am glad to have from the noble Lord that tribute to the success of the policy of attracting industry to Lanarkshire during the four or five years of operation of this Government. It certainly is a revolutionary situation in Lanark, as I think he would be the first to admit.
§ Mr. Wilson
I have no doubt that the noble Lord is perfectly capable of making speeches, as does the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton), claiming something of the success under those Measures.
§ Mr. Wilson
I was on Clause 1, answering points raised by the noble Lord, who developed his points for several minutes without the right hon. Member for Aldershot objecting. I was surprised to hear the noble Lord arguing in that way, because it sounded to me, as the hon. Member for Ayrshire, South (Mr. Emrys Hughes) said, as if he was prepared to let his doctrinaire views stand in the way of providing employment for the people in the development areas when private enterprise had manifestly failed to man 1017 up the factories which we have obtained under the powers given under Clause 1.
My right hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling dealt with the question of the tourist trade and the hon. and learned Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham-Buller) dealt with that point when he followed him. Of course, under Clause 1 we have no powers to deal with hotel premises but only with industrial premises. The hon. and learned Member for Northants, South, also raised the question of the drafting of this Clause. Between now and the next stage I will look into the point he raised and see whether I can give effect to it, along with the other redrafting which I have undertaken shall be done.
The hon. Member for St. Albans (Mr. Grimston) raised the question of the building of factories for particular uses Here again, it is very difficult to follow him very far without getting out of order. Of course, Clause 1 gives the Board of Trade powers only to take over factories which have already been built, whether for particular uses or not. I think that what he was trying to do was to bring in in some way, under the question before the Committee, some amount of criticism of the fact that factories have been built not for particular uses but following a standardised pattern. I do not think I need tell him that by far the larger number of factories built in the development areas have been built to meet the needs of particular clients, and have had very many developments of certain types in order to meet the needs of the industry or the industrialist concerned.
There have been a number of Government advance factories. Most of them have been very happily tenanted by people who have come along afterwards, though my hon. Friend who raised the point about South Wales correctly said that there are now a small number of advance factories which have still not been let. A good number of them have been let in recent months, particularly some of the so-called Remploy factories which we have discussed previously.
§ Mr. J. Grimston
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not want to bypass my point. He has himself admitted that the principal difficulty in the 1018 development areas is to get employment for men. My point was that, if we are to employ men, generally speaking we need factories with heavy equipment. That is not provided in the small, what I call, " box " factories. If the right hon. Gentleman is trying to employ men, he must go in for the other type of factory.
§ Mr. Wilson
Some of what the hon. Gentleman calls " box " factories are very successful now in providing employment for men, as many of my hon. Friends can testify from experience in their own constituencies. We cannot in every case wait for years for private industrialists to come along. Some of these advance factories have been specially designed for the needs of heavy industry as opposed to the light industries which, as the hon. Gentleman said, very often employ women to a considerable extent rather than men; but of course, so far as concerns new developments to employ men, undoubtedly it will be by the building of factories to meet the needs of particular industries rather than by advance factories that the problem will be solved. As the hon. Gentleman is no doubt aware, we have not put in hand the building of any advance factories for a year or two, with, I think, the exception of one or two very small factories indeed in isolated areas of North Wales to meet a particular local problem there.
§ Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 2.—(PROVISION BY AGREEMENT OF FACILITIES ON LAND NOT OWNED BY BOARD.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, " That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
I believe that this Clause goes too far in a policy of the appeasement of landlords. In line 45 the Clause states:… with the agreement of all persons interested in that land.I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman why compulsory powers have not been taken under this Clause to make absolutely sure that no landlord may have the power to cripple the development undertakings contemplated. I believe that in all these developments the community 1019 should have the final say; but when we say:… with the agreement of all persons interested in that land.that means that we shall allow the matter to depend upon the whim of the landlord. Our experience is that landlords frequently hold up undertakings for antisocial reasons. In Ayrshire, for example, we have found that recently a large housing scheme has been held up because a local landlord has gone to the expense of entering into litigation to prevent a sewer being laid across land adjacent to the housing site.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Gentleman is giving an example of why this Clause should not stand part of the Bill, but I think that perhaps he is going a little further than he need.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Hughes
Hon. Gentlemen opposite missed the point entirely. It has not permeated to the understanding of the Anglo-Saxons on the Front Bench opposite. I am surprised that the intervention came from the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton). I do not know whether he assumes that development works can be carried out without sewerage schemes. That was an illustration.
Hovering round the fringes of these development areas, will be the usual rapacious, greedy landlords, supported by unscrupulous End money-making lawyers. Therefore, I suggest that, if this Bill is to be successful, the President of the Board of Trade should take under this Clause the absolute compulsory powers that so often have been found essential in connection with other public utility schemes. We must not start at this stage with a policy of appeasement of the landlord class just to conciliate hon. Gentlemen opposite.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
The reason why we have not sought powers under this Clause to be able to move compulsorily in this matter is that, in all our experience in the development areas, such powers have not been found necessary. They are not necessary today and, as far as we can see, they are not likely to prove 1020 necessary in the future. I refer only to Clause 2. I do not refer to other matters in connection with which compulsory powers may often be required. We have required powers for the acquisition of land. Hon. Members gave us those powers. We have required powers for the acquisition of land with factories already built on the land. We are asking the Committee this afternoon to give us those powers.
But we have not at any stage found it necessary, nor do we now find it necessary, to ask for compulsory powers in this matter of easements and the provision of facilities on land which we do not own. If we did find it necessary, we should not hesitate to ask for those powers. Had we asked for them now, their use would have been purely hypothetical. I can tell my hon. Friend that when we looked at the drafting of the Bill we found that the provision of compulsory powers would have added tremendously to its complexity. For various technical reasons which I do not want to discuss now, it would have required the provision of lengthy and extensive Schedules which, as I have said, so far as we can see, we should not need.
Under the previous Acts which this Bill seeks to amend, the Board of Trade had power to carry out work on land owned by the Board of Trade. We had no powers to carry out work—or it was doubtful whether we had powers to carry out work on land not owned by the Board of Trade. For instance, I refer to land owned by some private landowner, land perhaps belonging to a factory which was in the possession of the Board of Trade and which has been handed over to the factory owner but on which some work still required to be done. It is doubtful whether we would have been strictly within the law in doing that work, even though we might have contracted to do so.
It might be necessary to do work on railway sidings on land owned by British Railways. There is some doubt whether we have the power. This Clause makes it clear that we shall have the power, but I assure my hon. Friend that we have not needed the compulsory powers he mentioned. Our failure to ask for them is not in any sense a matter of appeasement of the kind of persons he described in such colourful language.
1021 It is simply because we do not need them, and we did not want to make the Bill far more complicated by asking for powers which we did not think we needed.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 3.—(FURTHER PROVISION FOR GRANTS AND LOANS.)
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, " That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I wish to raise.a point which is strictly within the terms of this Clause. During the Second Reading Debate, the President used words which caused me some anxiety. He said this:It deals with circumstances resulting from the physical removal of plant and stock,and we all agree about that, as that is the payment by the Board of Trade to cover the physical removal of plant and stock, as set out in Clause 3. But the right hon. Gentleman went on:There may be three, four, six or perhaps even more months during which the ' green ' labour involved brings a loss to the firm in question, and one of the ways in which the facilities under this Clause might be used would be to provide some financial recompense to an employer who is faced with a period of low productivity from the labour he recruits locally.I think that is going a little far, and it seems to me to conflict with something which the right hon. Gentleman said himself and which was reiterated by the Secretary for Overseas Trade, who wound up the Debate. Later on in the same column from which I have quoted, the President said:If I may coin a phrase well-known to hon. Gentleman opposite, this is intended to be a ' once for all ' arrangement."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th April, 1950; Vol. 473, c. 1038.]Later, the Secretary for Overseas Trade said this:We regard the Bill as clearly indicating the exceptional nature of cases and provision of limited scope to cover the removal and incidental cost—a once-for-all payment, as my right hon. Friend put it."-[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th April, 1950; Vol. 473, c. 1132.]I think we are opening up a much wider vista if this Clause is to be invoked to carry on what is, in fact, a subsidy to the new producer in his current costs.
I am satisfied that, when an industry transfers from a non-development area to 1022 a development area, it is perfectly proper that the State should provide the money to cover the removal, and even possibly the loss of profits while there is no production taking place during the transfer, but I am frankly doubtful whether, where an employer has been persuaded to go into a development area, there is a case for asking that the period of low productivity in the development area should be subsidised by the State. Of course, the hon. Member for Ayrshire South (Mr. Emrys Hughes) regards all employers. landlords and lawyers as thieves we have just heard so.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
The hon. Gentleman understands the Anglo-Saxon language, and I would say that I was merely dealing with an illustration taken from the rather conciliatory remarks of the hon. Member below the Gangway. I do not think that the State should be in the position of having to subsidise a loss of productivity due to " green " labour, which is extremely difficult to establish, and which, in the words of the President of the Board of Trade, may take three,. four, six or even more months. I would like some assurance on the matter before we part with the Clause.
§ Miss Irene Ward (Tynemouth)
I want to raise one point in connection with subsection (2) of this Clause in relation to housing. It has been the policy of the Government, through the Housing Associations, to provide money for the building of houses for key workers, and, if I may say so on this occasion, I think that has been a very wise and very helpful policy for the development areas. It has been brought to my notice from my own part of the country on more than one occasion that some of the houses for key workers which are being provided are being built at a cost of some £4,000 per house and over.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman what is the purpose of allowing the expenditure of considerable sums of money on these houses—far in excess of any sum allowed to any other person in the community. I am not saying that from the point of view of being parsimonious or of not wanting key workers to have good houses in the development areas. The 1023 difficulty arising from the building of these houses is that some of the key workers who have been pursuaded to go to development areas—and they have not always wanted to go—to help in the establishment and running of the new factories, are finding that the rents which they are charged for by the Housing Association are really far more than they can afford to pay out of the wages which they receive.
I know of one firm in which the employer—and I do not take the same view of employers as the hon. Gentleman opposite—has been obliged to pay the rates on highly-rented houses in order to help some of his key workers to meet the cost of living. I think the President and hon. Members opposite would take the view that we do not want to increase the cost of living to those people who go there to man our factories, and I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman could give me an assurance on this point. This matter has, in fact, been suggested to me through various people in my constituency, and I would say right away that my own local authority, the Tynemouth 'Corporation, has been instrumental in developing a very good development area, assisted by the legislation which was started by the National Government and continued by the Coalition and Conservative Governments in 1945.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
The hon. Lady has had a great deal of latitude, but we are dealing only with Clause 3 of this Bill.
§ Miss Ward
I will not pursue that subject further, but I did want to point out that my local authority had helped in that development.
It has been suggested that, if houses for key workers are to cost these large sums of money, the Government should find some means of allowing them to live at an economic rent in relation to their own salaries. I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would explain the high cost of these houses, and would say what he proposes to do to help these key workers in their difficulties.
§ Mr. Wilson
Your ruling the hon. Lady out of Order in the middle of one of her more eloquent sentences, Sir Charles, prevents me following her on that point and attempting to put her historical sense into 1024 correct perspective. I should like to reply to the point raised by the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) on the apparent incompatibility of two of my remarks during the Second Reading Debate, in one of which I said that this was to be a " once for all " payment.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
I am not so much concerned about the incompatibility as about the remark concerning " green " labour.
§ Mr. Wilson
Secondly, I had said that it might take three, four or even six months, and it would appear to be something of a continuing subsidy, about which the right hon. Gentleman opposite was very concerned. I hope I can satisfy him on this matter.
The point is that, in the kind of transfer envisaged in this Clause, one might imagine the Board of Trade discussing with particular industrialists the possible transfer of industrial plant and equipment from some area to a development area. The industrialist might feel that it was desirable, in his own interest, in the national interest and in the interests of a full employment policy, that he should go, but he might point out certain special additional costs of the transfer in the physical uprooting and removal of plant and so on, with which we have full powers to deal in this Clause. But, among other things, he might point out that for the first few months of the operation of the factory in the development area, he might be running at a temporary loss because of the recruitment of green labour which, perhaps, in time will become just as efficient as the labour in the area in which his factory was originally sited
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ What we had in mind here was that, in the negotiations with him and in the payment of a lump sum to cover the actual cost of removal, account could be taken of the probable additional loss resulting from the use of untrained labour during that period. There is certainly no question of looking at his books and costs month by month, and paying him a subsidy to make up for such loss, but an allowance might be made in appropriate cases for the estimate of the loss in productivity and for spoilt material and other things which very often, as the right hon. Gentleman well knows, add to the cost of a firm transferring a factory to a development area.1025
I am not quite happy about this, although the right hon. Gentleman has said something to reassure me. Perhaps some of my hon. Friends have greater experience of this matter than I, but certainly no hon. Member present has, and I can only say that it is necessary to start training the so-called " green " labour long before the transfer takes place. I think I have transferred production to a greater number of development areas than any other hon. Member present. If the President of the Board of Trade doubts that, I think I could prove it.
I have found in every case that the labour in the development area is quite sufficiently adaptable and takes very readily to these new jobs, and I do not believe that if the industry is properly conducted, there is any need to make a loss, except in very unusual circumstances over a period when so-called green labour is being used. The labour ought to begin to be trained before the transfer takes place, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will make very exceptional use of these powers. I think that when it is proposed to make good the loss of production for five or six months because of the presence of the so-called green labour, that is going outside this Clause. The right hon. Gentleman has not reassured me, but I shall not speak further on the matter.
§ Mr. Kinley (Bootle)
To my mind, the point about " green " labour is one of the most important provisions in the Bill from the viewpoint of my own constituency. which is in the development area of Merseyside. Our unemployment problem is where it was before I was born, and that was a long time ago. One of our difficulties is that we have the highest measure of employment which Merseyside has ever had, except during the war. Our unemployment problem has been a most difficult one to deal with because most employers in established industries have been unable to make use of our unemployed men and women owing to the fact that an overwhelming majority of those who were out of work, and had been out of work for long periods, were what I would term semi-skilled or unskilled.
When men have been unemployed for many years, I do not think we have the right when we encourage an employer to 1026 bring a factory from outside into that area—thus benefiting us by such transfer —to expect him to undertake any further financial responsibility in the training of those who, from our point of view, have hitherto been untrainable. They are " green " in every sense of the term. It may take a long time before many of them are able to make any useful contribution to the new industry. Therefore, I think that the Government ought, through the Board of Trade, to accept responsibility for assisting employers in such cases.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I wish to raise one small point, though an important one, with regard to some of the development areas. Under Clause 3, the financing of these changes raises the question of what is the most economic way of accomplishing what is set out in the Clause. I want to ask the President of the Board of Trade a question related to the Amendment which I put down— what guarantee has he that within the terms of this Clause, the transfer of a works to a place strictly within a development area might not be much more extravagant than if it could be sited just outside the borders of that development area? For example, a railway line is frequently taken as the boundary of a development area, and I have a specific case in mind. When a site is found, it is a matter of chance as to which side of the railway line is most suitable. It seems to me quite fantastic that where, under the terms of the Development Area Act, a railway line represents the boundary, a transferred works must go to a site quite unsuited for its purpose when a perfectly suitable site exists on the other side of the line. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to say whether there is any way in which he can get round that difficulty.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
Might I suggest that on this occasion the President of the Board of Trade might use the same ingenuity about the two sides of the railway line as the right hon. Gentleman has himself used in trying to keep in Order on this Clause.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I am sorry that the noble Lord the Member for Lanark (Lord Dunglass) seemed to suggest that I was going to establish forest factories in Slamannan, which is in that development area. Unfortunately, no trees will grow there, so there would be no point in having a factory in such a place. I 1027 referred to the Highlands in that connection, and I was sorry to hear an hon. Member say that unless private enterprise could set up a factory in the Highlands, he would rather not have it.
§ Mr. John MacLeod
I did not say that; I said that if private enterprise did not go into the area, there was a good reason for it not doing so, and that I did not think a nationalised industry going into the area would make a greater success of it than would private enterprise.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The right hon. Gentleman has very ably asked the President of the Board of Trade a question which really amounts to the question, when is a development area not a development area? I wish to put another question to the President to which I think I ought to get an answer, because I am sure he can give it. Presumably, of course, there will be some item in the Votes for grants for this purpose, but what information will this House have at any time of the way in which that money is expended by the Board of Trade?
I am not asking for a report from the Development Corporations but, if these grants are going to be made by the Board of Trade with the consent of the Treasury, information ought to be given to this House as to what money is expended. It is not sufficient to say it can be ascertained from the Public Accounts Committee or the Estimates Committee in advance, because that depends upon whether there is an opportunity of doing so. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to state in what form information as to the grants that are made will be made available. If he adheres to his view that grants should be made in respect of green labour it would be important that the information supplied should distinguish between the particular items in respect of which it is given. Thus people should be enabled to learn how much has been spent in subsidising the industry during the first few months in its new location.
§ Mr.Mainwaring (Rhondda, East)
I fail to see what is new in the proposal made in this Clause. In my experience, employers in the development areas have been assisted for years in training " green " labour to become efficient employees. This Clause is far from saying that grants will be made in every case.
1028 The proposal is that it should be done where it is considered wise and economically necessary to encourage employment. That is what is required in South Wales.
§ Mr. Lyttelton
If the hon. Gentleman will allow me to intervene, he is on an important aspect of something which I may have misunderstood. Of course, facilities are given for training labour, but what worries me is that under this Clause the Board of Trade may contribute a subsidy for several months to the employers because the labour is not yet fully trained. There are the two separate points, first the training and then the subsidisation.
The one arises from the other. We have empty factories now in my division constructed for the Board of Trade by the Wesh estate. If an employer is encouraged sufficiently to come there, his labour is obviously going to be " green " in that area. There is no trained labour for whatever process he decides to embark upon, apart from some key workers. If it is a necessary condition to have a factory suitably employed in a certain place, it is necessary that the potential employer should be encouraged for six months if need be. It is all to the good of the nation and of the unemployed in that area.
§ Sir W. Darling
I should not have taken part in this Debate had it not been for the observation made by the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Kinley). I hope I have not misunderstood him, but he seemed to envisage that the Clause would be greatly extended. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Manningham.Buller) that under Clause 3 the Board of Trade can make grants in exceptional circumstances. I hope it is quite clear that there will be the severest restriction on such grants as the Board of Trade will propose. I hope the Treasury will perform its duty, otherwise we may have the greatest distortion and the sacrificing of successful industry in assisting cases where, through inadequate management,. an industry employing " green " labour falls into the sere and yellow leaf without having gone into production.
It would be deplorable if skill and production had to make undue provision indefinitely for the unskilled and unproductive. I enter a caveat that any grant 1029 should be very limited. The temptation to take the new large factories which exist, as the Board of Trade do not often tell us, in considerable abundance empty in Scotland and elsewhere is already a measure of the failure or semi-failure of this policy. A further subsidy for this development is a very doubtful weapon and should be used most charily. The successful man cannot indefinitely carry the unsuccessful, and the competent cannot indefinitely prop up the incompetent. There is no market in the export field where buyers say We prefer to take goods and services from factories in British development areas."
I am glad that the President makes it clear that this exceptional assistance will be limited to the preparatory stages of training and that it is not an extension of permanent subsidy to these development areas if the proposed experiment proves unsuccessful. I fully agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward) regarding the housing question. In my experience quite important industries would have gone to the development areas but for the insuperable difficulties of local authorities in providing housing for as few as 60 workers transferred to those areas. Unless this Bill is backed by strong support, in the form of grants and loans to the housing associations, for the provision of dwellings for transferred workers, I see very little in this Clause with which we are not already familiar.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Manuel (Ayrshire, Central)
I should like to have clarification from the President of Clause 3 (2), line 12, which states:The Board of Trade may with the consent of the Treasury make grants or loans to housing associations …to the end. Throughout Scotland, wherever the Board of Trade have attempted location of industry, housing has given rise to difficulties. I foresee greater difficulties arising if the provisions of this Clause go through in their present form.
I am thinking of one industrial estate still to be developed, with only one factory site yet, right in the heart of a small borough area. I am quite certain the small borough would be most antagonistic if the Board of Trade agreed, by grant or otherwise, to authorise the coming into the area of a housing asso 1030 ciation to provide houses for key workers or any other workers in that industry. I feel certain that the local authority would be only too pleased to build the houses for the Board of Trade or any other Government Department provided they had the same facilities as the housing association. The difficulty that the local authority have been in is that they have been asked to meet this commitment for key workers out of their current allocation.
I am sure that, as far as the provision of houses is concerned, local authorities could build the houses cheaper and let them at a rent which the normal type of worker would find more easy to pay. We have had experience throughout Scotland of our Scottish Special Housing Association being utilised to provide houses. Their rents have proved to be completely outside the means of the people who were to occupy them ultimately. I hope that I shall have an assurance that, under this Measure, the local authorities in my constituency will be the medium for providing houses for any industrial development there. I am sure that they will be delighted to do it and that they can do it at a cost which will ensure that the houses will be within the means of those who are to occupy them.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Carlton)
I did not quite understand the right hon. Gentleman's explanation about " green " labour, and I fully admit that, of course, that may be my fault. On the face of the subsection,Where it is proposed to establish an industrial undertaking … and … the Board of Trade are satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances … the Board may.. make such a grant.But it does not appear that " green " labour could be an exceptional circumstance because, upon the face of it, the labour would always be " green." Is it not the case that the labour that is going to be employed is not brought there for the purpose, but is secured from the previously settled population and therefore must be " green "? Therefore, it did not seem to me easy to follow how it could come under the category of an exceptional circumstance that in any given case it should be " green." I wonder if we could have that point clarified beyond any doubt.
§ Mr. H. Wilson
The point raised by the hon. Member for Carlton (Mr. Pick-thorn) has been to a large extent already answered by the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton). The right hon. Member for Aldershot spoke just after I did some minutes ago, and said that his experience—he undoubtedly has great experience of transferring factories to the development areas—has been that the new labour he has employed there has been fully productive in a very short time and that no question of the cost of " green " labour arose.
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that in very many cases that is so; but if the right hon. Gentleman had been operating, not factories connected with electrical engineering and associated industries, but, shall we say, a tannery, and if he had been in the position of the hon. Member for Beverley (Mr. Odey), he would have found that to have transferred his factory to a development area would have involved him in pretty considerable costs for two or three months, particularly with respect to spoilt materials, quite apart from the low productivity of the labour that was being trained. The point is that it is exceptional in a transferred factory to find that the labour costs are high for a period sufficient to involve the factory management making a case to us and to the Treasury for such a grant. I think that is the answer to the hon. Member for Carlton.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Kinley)
raised a question about Merseyside. I share his concern about the unemployment position there, in spite of all that has been done to improve it, as compared with pre-war days; but I assure him that the question of training men to be skilled craftsmen is already dealt with under existing powers possessed by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. Perhaps I have stirred up too much interest in this point about " green " labour, because it is very exceptional indeed and is only one of the things that might be taken into account when deciding how much cost was involved in a transfer. I was not trying to suggest that all labour costs will be covered, because my right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour already has powers to deal with that point. That is also the answer to my hon. Friend 1032 the Member for Rhondda, East (Mr Mainwaring).
My hon. Friend the Member for East Stirling (Mr. Woodburn)
raised a very interesting question about the definition of a development area, and showed great ingenuity in bringing it in on this Clause. What he sought to do, although prevented from doing so by the rules of order, was to amend the principal Act in respect of the definition of a development area. It is, of course, out of order to do that. It would be out of order for me to follow him very far on the point that he raised, but I think I could answer him by saying that the point he has in mind—it might apply in other areas, too, and it is not always a question of a railway line causing difficulty—could be dealt with by Motions being put down for the Board of Trade to alter the boundaries of the development area, which would enable us to bring in the little bit of land on the other side of the railway line to which my hon. Friend referred, if a strong case were made for that to be done. If it were going to be more expensive to build on the other side of the railway line, we should want to consider the suggestion.
I was asked how the House would be informed of the special payments under this Clause. This is a difficult question, and I should like to have more time in which to consider it. We have given a little thought to it, but I am afraid that I am not yet in a position to say anything about it to the Committee. I think hon. Members opposite will agree that for me to give an undertaking now and publish details of all special grants might be extremely difficult and embarrassing for some of the firms concerned, because it might involve the particulars of transactions being made available to the public and to their competitors, and perhaps to their foreign buyers. On the other hand, I agree that to give the Board of Trade powers to make expenditure of this kind is a very special act on the part of the House, and therefore when it comes to consider this matter the House will need to be satisfied that this money is properly used.
Reference was also made to the Public Accounts Committee. That is a rather long-dated means of following up what has been done. If I could readily think of a quick answer as to how the matter could be dealt with, without causing embarrassment to the firms concerned, 1033 whom we are all asking to go to the development areas, I should certainly give an answer; but we do not want to subject those firms to any undue inquisition into their affairs.
§ Mr. Wilson
If I can find an answer, I will certainly do that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ayrshire, Central (Mr. Manuel) raised a question of the local authority houses, and said that he hoped the local authorities would be given special help in this matter such as may be given to the housing associations. He referred particularly to the question of granting of houses to key workers outside the existing allocations. I would be out of order in following him on that point, because this Clause gives me power to deal with the associations only. Any question on the point he has raised would have to be put to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland outside the scope of this Measure.
§ Mr. Wilson
Again, I should be a long way out of order if I tried to follow the hon. Lady on that point. This Clause now gives us powers to use the housing associations for this purpose. The point she raised referred to houses already built before we had these powers. She knows why it is necessary to build rather special houses in these cases. If she has in mind particular cases of houses costing more than would be reasonable having regard to the type of house, and perhaps having regard to the remote areas where they are built, I should be glad to look into 1034 them, and so would my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health; but I should be out of order in dealing with housing associations if I were to follow her very far.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Could a spokesman from the Scottish Office give us some further elucidation of subsection (2) of the Clause? It is a matter in which we in Scotland are vitally concerned. In fact, we have to meet the very same problems as those which were referred to by the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Miss Ward). Could we have some explanation about the financial provisions of Clause 3 (2)? Will the Board of Trade be empowered to give further grants for the housing of key workers in areas where there is likely to be a great deal of difference in the rents of the houses of the key workers and the houses owned by the local authority in the area?
I hope the Board of Trade are not going to make the same mistake as is being made by the National Coal Board, where the rents of houses on one side of the road are 10s. a week cheaper than those on the other side of the road. This causes a good deal of heartburn. I should like to know whether under that subsection an attempt will be made to solve this financial problem. Could we have some assurance that the mistakes made by the Coal Board will not be perpetuated by the Board of Trade and that there will be some attempt at financial provision which will lead to an equalisation of rent in those areas?
It being Seven o'Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair, further Proceeding standing postponed until after the consideration of Private Business set down by direction of The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS under Standing Order No. 7 (Time for taking Private Business).
§ Mr. SPEAKER resumed the Chair.