§ 3.40 p.m.
§ Mrs. Judith Hart (Lanark)
I beg to move, in page 4, line 4, after "Board", to insert:(whether on the representation of the council of any county, county borough, or county district, or the development corporation of any new town in which the land or a part thereof is situated or otherwise)".With this Amendment I want also to move the Amendment in page 4, line 32, at the end to add:(5) This section shall apply to the development corporation of a new town as it applies in England to the council of a county and in Scotland to a local authority, as defined for the purposes of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947.
§ The Chairman
Order. The hon. Lady cannot move the second Amendment now, although it can be discussed with the first.
§ Mrs. Hart
The intention of the first Amendment is perfectly clear. It is a very important, if minor, Amendment and I hope that it will be accepted. Its intention is to give some initiative to local authorities in localities where there is high unemployment to make representations to the Board of Trade. Without such permission, the position will be very difficult. The implication of the Clause as now drafted is that, on its own knowledge of derelict or unsightly land in localities all over the country, the Board of Trade will exercise its powers in those localities where there is high unemployment.
Two points emerge. The first is that the Board will not know where all such land is. The Bill implies that the Board will have available the staff to carry out wide-scale surveys of every locality with 526 high unemployment, in Scotland, Wales, Northern England, or anywhere else.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
On a point of order. I do not know whether you can hear my hon. Friend, Sir Gordon, but I cannot hear her because of the noise which is coming from hon. Members opposite. We know that hon. Members opposite think that this Amendment is a nuisance, but they need not make it quite so obvious.
§ The Chairman
I could hear what the hon. Lady was saying, but there was some noise and I hope that hon. Members will be quiet.
§ Mrs. Hart
The implication of the Clause as it stands is that through wide-scale surveys of every locality where unemployment is threatened, imminent, or already excessive, the Board will know where derelict or unsightly land is and whether it could be brought into use or improved. That means that the Board would need a considerable increase in staff to tackle the job adequately.
Another implication is that in all these cases the Board will act on its own initiative. It seems to me, as it must seem to many hon. Members in whose constituencies there is unemployment, that there are sites known to local people and local authorities which could be used for industrial purposes and where something needs to be done. Unless the Amendment is accepted, local people will have to wait patiently for the Board to send one of its officials to survey the land and make recommendations and then wait a very long time before the task is tackled effectively.
The Amendment permits local authorities to inform the Board that such land is available, that there is an unemployment problem in the locality, that the locality is covered by the Bill, and that the land could usefully be improved and perhaps put to industrial purposes. That is all the Amendment says. It is very important that local authorities should be given the power to make those representations to the Board.
I refer the Minister of State to the words of one of his colleagues, the Minister of Housing and Local Government, who, on 23rd October, when speaking outside the House about the general issue 527 of overspill, deployment and planning, said:For all its difficulties, I believe in this idea of seeking to attract industry and people to smaller towns which find themselves in danger of losing their young people and dying in a backwater unless they rouse themselves to a big step forward.Unless the Amendment is accepted it will not be possible for such small towns to rise to the challenge put to them by the right hon. Gentleman. Some right of making representations to the Board must be given to local authorities.
The Amendments also seek to include development corporations. I have three brief comments to make about this issue. First, it is quite possible for there to be derelict and unsightly land within the areas covered by a new town development corporation, particularly when, as usually happens, a new town is built around the nucleus of an old village. Such land could be suitably used for industrial purposes.
Secondly, since that is so and since development corporations are in many respects quasi-local authorities which have taken over many of the more important planning functions of local authorities, it is particularly important that they should not be excluded from the Bill. That is why we seek to include them in these Amendments.
The Secretary of State for Scotland may have already received representations from new town development corporations in Scotland. It may be that his Department in St. Andrew's House has had discussions with them. I think that they would be very grateful for a clear statement of the Minister's intentions and even more grateful for an assurance that they will not be left out of the Bill, especially since—and this is the third comment—the employment problem in new towns, not only in Scotland but all over the country, will be very acute in the years to come.
We are inclined to think of the new towns as ideal communities in which there are not only houses, but jobs for everybody. Until now, that has been largely true in most new towns, but we must remember that the unique age structure of the populations of all our new towns makes it inevitable that there will be an acute crisis in employment as the years go on. In almost all the new 528 towns between 60 and 70 per cent. of the population are less than forty years of age, which means that it will be twenty or twenty-five years before most men in the new towns consider retirement. Long before then, the new generation of children, of whom there are now thousands in the new towns, will have grown up and be demanding jobs.
We can estimate that between half and three-fifths of the populations of all new towns are now children or teen-agers. I have worked out a rough estimate of what the figure is likely to be over the next ten to fifteen years in all the new towns. I estimate that about 120,000 new jobs will he needed for the young people in the new towns during the next ten to fifteen years.
This is an immense problem and it is, therefore, all the more important that new towns should not be excluded from the Bill, perhaps by an unwitting omission to mention development corporations in the Clause. For those reasons, I ask the Government to give careful consideration to the Amendment and to accept it and its implications.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith (Stoke-on-Trent, South)
I am pleased to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), who comes from Lancashire and knows how we suffer from the problem which she has raised. I am glad that the Minister of State is sitting on the Front Bench today, because no area in the country has more derelict sites than the area from Stoke-on-Trent to Kids-grove along the main railway line between Euston and London Road, Manchester. On the right hand side of the line there are miles of derelict land. The land was used before I was born and has been left derelict for thirty years. It is a disgraceful eyesore and no one is prepared to do anything about it.
For more than twenty years I have been pleading for that land to be tidied up. When I read in the Bill that the Board of Trade proposed to clear all derelict land I was delighted. I join my hon. Friend in pleading with the Minister, "Do not let us stonewall on this like we did yesterday. Let us try to make quicker progress by the Minister being prepared to give way on reasonable Amendments." This proposal is a reasonable one. I think that we have 529 already won the good will of the Secretary of State. Perhaps he would be prepared to ask the officials who advise him whether the Amendment would mean very much to him. The bottom has been knocked out of the ultimatum on the timetable and good will now prevails in the Committee. We are all working together to improve the Bill. Let us continue to work that way.
My hon. Friend made a most reasoned speech. She pleaded for the maximum co-operation between all local authorities and we must have the Amendment in the Bill to guarantee that. I am very pleased to associate myself with the Amendment and I hope that it will be accepted.
§ Mr. Dan Jones (Burnley)
I support the Amendment. In my constituency there are unsightly rubbish tips that have been created by rubbish from the mines. Not only are they unsightly, but they smell horribly.
Citizens in the vicinity of those tips are complaining about the discolouration of their skins and the discolouration of metals in their homes. We hope that engineering will be among the new industries that will come to Burnley. If it is, it may be that industrialists will object to stabilising their industries in areas where the smell is almost overpowering and metals become discoloured. They will not take very kindly to that. I have to admit that I have no concrete medical evidence of the effect of those pits on health, but it is reasonable to suppose that if discolouration of the skin takes place it can be of little assistance in maintaining or improving health.
It ought to be possible to level out those unsightly pits. Equally, it should be possible to neutralise the vicious smells. If that were done Burnley could breathe more freely and sites would be available for both industrial and recreational purposes.
If the Amendment was not accepted it would mean that before these necessary reforms could be carried out there would have to be a high level of employment. At the moment, that would not affect Burnley. On previous occasions I have referred to depopulation in Burnley and to the anxiety about the closure of mills. I have also mentioned the tremendous contribution that the people of Burnley 530 have made to the industrial and economic well being of our nation for about 150 years. Surely it is not asking too much that those unsightly and horrid smelling tips should be removed.
For those reasons I endorse all that my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) has said, and I support the Amendment.
§ Mr. Raymond Gower (Barry)
The hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) hoped that my right hon. Friend would not stonewall. There is no need for my right hon. Friend to do that. There is no need for any circumlocution. I do not think that the Amendment is necessary. I appreciate the clear way in which the hon. Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) put forward the reason for the Amendment, but the Clause as it stands provides what the Opposition are asking for. Clause 5 says:…where it appears to the board …All that the hon. Lady is asking for is:whether on the representation of the council …or otherwise.
The Board can make such a decision whether on representation from local authorities or otherwise, which is what the hon. Lady is asking for. The Amendment is, therefore, unnecessary. Where there is high unemployment local authorities are not slow in coming forward with their representations. At the present, there are no legal restrictions which would prevent local authorities from making their representations to the Board.
For those reasons, I do not think that the Amendment is necessary.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Rhodes (Ashton-under-Lyne)
When the Cotton Industry Bill was being discussed, I supported an Amendment to do what the Bill now proposes to do. The then President of the Board of Trade said that the Cotton Industry Bill was not a suitable Bill for the kind of Amendment that we proposed. He sympathised with us and gave us an undertaking that he would seriously consider the point that we put forward.
When the right hon. Gentleman went to Manchester during the General Election he promised that there would be 531 provision in a new Bill for the removal of derelict buildings. At that time it was pointed out that under the old Distribution of Industry Acts and what has become known as the D.A.T.A.C. Act powers existed to enable local authorities to remove derelict buildings and clear sites.
The criterion was always one of employment, just as it is in Clause 1 (2). The only concession we have here is the insertion of one or two words, such as "imminent". At that time I brought forward evidence of the situation in my constituency, consisting of a series of photographs taken along a stretch of canal and railway. Anyone looking at them would realise that they represent a history of the nineteenth century philosophy, "Where there's muck there's brass", but as generation has succeeded generation, and new properties have been needed for modern industries, these buildings, which are quite substantial—some having been put up before the Crimean war and many others before the turn of the century—have become mere shells cluttering up the landscape. They should be removed.
Not all the factors which affect a constituency like mine have been explored in this debate or the previous ones. In a constituency like mine, which has many old buildings which have been relinquished or cannot be used because of Government action, it is impossible to present a true picture of the difficulties simply by using the criterion of the number of people unemployed. Perhaps I can give an illustration. The iniquitous Cotton Act, passed last Session, had the effect of closing 22 factories in the area served by the unemployment exchange in my constituency.
The factories have been closed, the machinery has been removed or scrapped, but the shells remain. Very few of those buildings are of any use for modern industry. The lay-out was designed specially to suit a particular industry, and it is not suitable for the newer industries, such as those growing up in the new towns. That means there is a drift away from these areas, and they are becoming neglected. People have to move out of the district or travel long distances to find employment. The figures for the period between 1954 and 1958—and they are the only ones avail- 532 able—show that 5,000 people have gone off the books of the employment exchange in my constituency to find work elsewhere.
§ Mr. Rhodes
If that is so I will bring my argument back to it by saying that if representations can be made by a local authority to the powers that be concerning the conditions existing in constituencies like mine, attention must be paid to the consequences, social and otherwise. The former President of the Board of Trade failed to honour his promise that action would be taken in some Bill or other, and to some extent the Amendment will help in this direction.
If it is true that to achieve maximum productivity we must make best use of the amount of floor space—and I am bang on the Amendment here—the neglect of such conditions as I have described means that insufficient capital investment is going into industry at present.
§ Mr. Rhodes
All right, Sir Gordon.
The derelict buildings mentioned in the Amendment can be seen by the Board of Trade if it will look at these photographs, which I now hand across the Table. There are about 20 photographs, and to any intelligent person they tell their own story of neglect by previous Governments to clean up an economic scandal in this generation. If we cannot have clean workshops, and cannot utilise floor space in the best possible way, how can we tolerate the misuse of land the continued existence of the kind of buildings shown in the photographs?
I appeal to the Government to give us a chance, or the population will continue to drift away. If, instead of money being poured out on projects like that provided for in the Cotton Act, a few million pounds were devoted to this job it would give heart and hope to the people living in these areas.
§ Mr. James Dempsey (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
There are certain reasons for the wording of the Amendment. One 533 of the main ones is that owing to the lack of assistance from the Board of Trade since 1951 some local authorities have made efforts to induce industrialists to come to their localities. They felt that if some sites were tidied up arid reasonable services were provided they would have a better chance of attracting industrialists than if they merely tried to get them to build on empty fields.
I do not think that the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower) was correct in saying that the provisions already contained in the Bill are sufficient to meet the point of the Amendment. Perhaps the Minister will be good enough to satisfy our curiosity on this point. Under the Distribution of Industry Act provision was made for local authorities to receive grants, but no fixed percentages were laid down.
§ Mr. Dempsey
I understand that we are dealing with the question of putting land into use and granting powers to local authorities.
§ Mr. Dempsey
I understand that we are dealing with the Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), which would add to the Clause references to local authorities in new towns. I am trying to confine myself to the earlier part of the Amendment, referring to local authorities.
§ Mr. Dempsey
When we make representations as local authorities we expect sympathetic consideration and, indeed, that we shall receive aid. That is my point. Grant aid exists under existing legislation and I am wondering whether it is the intention of the Minister to continue that practice under the new legislation. If the Minister would say that it is, it might have the effect of shortening discussion on this matter.
The Minister should tell us that local authorities can make representations and that when they do they will receive the same consideration as they have received 534 under the previous legislation. I have in my hand a letter indicating that one local authority received such consideration. As the result of representations made to the Board of Trade, it received a 75 per cent. grant to bring disused land into service. If other local authorities make representations under the provisions contained in this Bill, will they receive the same consideration? I should like the Minister to clarify that point.
If it is intended by the word "grant" that such consideration will be given to local authority representations by the Board of Trade, that would go a long way to satisfy some hon. Members in whose constituencies there are eyesores on sites which, otherwise, would have good prospects of development.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
The Committee will agree that Clause 5 is of great importance. Its purpose is to deal with the industrial excesses over the last 200 years which have resulted in industrial excrescences being spewed over many areas of our countryside, destroying many of their natural beauties. We believe that attempts to rid the countryside of such eyesores and to reclaim derelict or neglected land would be more successful if the Board of Trade could receive direct representations from county councils, and from large and small burghs and district councils in Scotland. These organisations are trying to alleviate such eyesores in response to representations from local councillors, and, consequently, they are well equipped to assist in this matter. The Amendment seeks to provide this opportunity for local authorities.
In my constituency there are many pit bings which are eyesores and in my opinion local authorities could make important representations about their abolition. I am sure that the Secretary of State for Scotland would agree that where there is a colliery district in which coal is no longer being won, as is the case in many parts of Lanarkshire, rescue operations in the area should include not only the infiltration of new industry, but also a "face-lift" by the removal of eyesores of the kind which I have mentioned, excrescences which have been poured out over the last couple of centuries by mining undertakings. 535 It does not stop at that. Local authority representatives could provide valuable information concerning the reclamation of flooded land in their areas. There are places in my constituency which have become derelict because of the lack of adequate drainage facilities. This Clause makes provision for grants to local authorities through the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, but would it not be much better if, in connection with grants for the clearing of sites and for dealing with derelict land, the local authorities who will receive the grants could make representations directly to the Board, so that matters might be cleared up more quickly than otherwise might be the case?
There are areas of foreshore which are at present unsuitable for industrial development because of flooding. In some areas the preventive measures against flooding have been hampered because local authorities have not the necessary powers and in some cases because of the lack of money. I think that it would be advisable for the Minister to have a look at this matter, if he does not intend to inform the Committee that he proposes to accept this Amendment, for which a superb case was made out by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), assisted by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith). I hope that the Minister will depart from the immovable position which he adopted early this morning and yesterday. I hope that he will be a little more forthcoming and so bring this debate to a speedy conclusion instead of continuing it at such an interminable length as to weary the whole Committee.
§ Mr. Ede (South Shields)
I regret that the hon. Member for Barry (Mr. Gower), who reproved my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) for circumlocution, has now put himself into circulation elsewhere by leaving the Chamber. At any rate, those of us who know him of old recognise him as an expert on circumlocution, and I suggest to the Government that, after so typical an Under-Secretary's speech delivered from the third bench below the Gangway, they ought to think whether they could not withdraw the hon. Member from circulation in debate and at least make him a junior Whip.
536 The difficulty in many of the areas that will come within the scope of the Bill, and that must be on any list compiled even by this Government, is that when people go to look at a place with the idea of starting a new industry or taking over some existing works, they say to the town clerk or to the chairman of the town development committee that they could not think of starting an industry in a place which so obviously looked as if it were sorry for itself, and had not been able to do anything about it.
That is very true of some parts of Tyneside, and I hope that these words will be included in the Bill, so as to encourage local authorities which are hampered by this derelict land and by old disused buildings like those of which my hon. Friend the Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes) showed us some photographs in the last Parliament, which photographs, I now understand, he has generously placed at the disposal of the Government. I hope that the Government will be encouraged to take their part in helping the Board to get on with the job of making industrial England the kind of place which it ought and would have been if there had been some concern for local amenities during the first industrial revolution.
The people of this country have suffered so much by the degradation of great national resources that we ought, in the second industrial revolution, to make certain that all the organisations that can be relied upon to try to make modern industry healthy and reasonably enjoyable shall have their chance of making their views known to those people who are to be placed in charge of the redevelopment of these areas. At the moment, these areas must discourage anyone who goes there from believing that he would be able to get key workers and other people to go there to achieve the purpose which we understand is behind this Bill.
I would ask the hon. Gentleman not to be disturbed by the fact that he will incur the wrath of the hon. Member for Barry by putting a few more words into the Bill, but to have the courage for once to say that he is willing to meet the case that has been so convincingly put forward from this side of the Committee.
§ Several Hon. Members rose—
§ The Minister of State, Board of Trade (Mr. F. J. Erroll)
I think that it is the wish of the Committee that I should rise at this stage, and I am sorry for preventing from speaking now other hon. Gentlemen who rose at the same time as I did. I rise now because I have been, quite wrongly, accused of adopting a stonewalling attitude.
§ Mr. Erroll
That is what the hon. Gentleman may think, but I am quite sure that I am not.
The point about the two Amendments now before the Committee is that, if they were necessary, we would certainly include them in the Bill. There is no question of my being a stonewalling Minister at the Dispatch Box just now, because the Bill in its present form covers all the points which are proposed in the two Amendments. The Clause does not, however, necessarily cover all the suggestions made by hon. Members in their interesting speeches, which have tended to include matters which are not relevant to this Bill, and which I will explain in detail in a moment.
§ Mr. Erroll
Of course: it would be out of order.
On the Amendment, which was so ably proposed by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), she might quite well have argued that, if it made no difference, why not put it in? But, of course, it would make a difference, and a difference in a way which, I think, hon. Gentlemen opposite would not necessarily appreciate. If we were to put in the words of the Amendment it would have the effect of restricting the representations which could be made only to those listed in the phrase within the brackets, whereas we do not wish to restrict in any way those bodies which might wish to make representations to the Board. It would obviously be impracticable to list all the possible bodies which might wish to make representations. 538 We are always receiving representations, and we are glad to do so. The reason why we do not wish to accept the Amendment is that we do not wish to restrict, or appear to restrict, in any way the representations which may be made to us.
§ Mr. Erroll
I do not think that it is for me to comment on the exact details of the proposed Amendment. I have pointed out that the result of accepting the Amendment would have an effect different from that which is proposed. I do not think that the words "or otherwise" would, in fact, cover properly organised bodies other than those actually listed in the phrase in brackets.
The hon. Lady suggested that her other Amendment which we are also discussing, should apply specifically, by the terms of her Amendment, to the development corporations of new towns. Here again, this is not necessary, because new towns are within the jurisdiction of the appropriate local authorities, who are responsible for the exercise of their normal functions. These authorities are in a position to carry out the works qualifying for grant under this Clause. The hon. Lady might have said that, nevertheless, a new town corporation might wish to do a job for itself. In the unlikely event of this being so, that is, of the development corporation wishing to reclaim derelict land and improve local amenities, the case would be met under the existing legislation, which is the New Towns Act, 1946, which enables the Minister of Housing and Local Government to make loans to development corporations for capital expenditure.
The same arguments apply to the second point mentioned in her Amendment, but there is the additional point that in the existing new towns, there are virtually no derelict sites. For these reasons, I cannot accept the two Amendments, not because I think they are wrong, but simply because they are unnecessary, and would do nothing to clarify the Clause of the Bill which we are now discussing.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
Once again, it is half-past four, and once 539 again the Minister is saying "No". He is now even refusing to comment on the details of the Amendment, which, I should have thought, was his primary job.
The hon. Gentleman has told us that these Amendments are unnecessary, though I cannot myself see what possible harm would be done if they were inserted in the Bill. He tried to argue, not very convincingly, that they were restrictive, because, if they were accepted, the Minister could not listen to the representations of any other body than those actually named in the Amendment. So far as I understand the English language, the words "or otherwise" appear to me to cover the point, but the hon. Gentleman did not attempt to argue that it was not so.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Jay
It may well be that before we reach the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill", he will do that. I think what my hon. Friends have in mind is not so much whether these precise words, which perhaps might be open to criticism, should be inserted in the Bill, but whether the Board of Trade will actually listen to representations from these organisations and, secondly, and mare important, whether the Board of Trade will use its powers under this Clause decisively.
I think that the Minister of State might shorten the proceedings if he could give us an unqualified assurance that the Board of Trade will listen sympathetically to representations from the organisations mentioned as well, no doubt, as others and, secondly, if he would say it is the intention now to make vigorous use of these powers. Yesterday, the Minister of State gave me a Written Answer, which, incidentally, admits that no projects for clearance of derelict sites were approved by the Government in 1958. That is yet another point that the Government were not using their powers which they claim to need.
After the prolonged agitation which my hon. Friends made on this matter last winter, we stirred the Government into some activity. We are now told that during the present year 38 projects 540 by local authorities have been approved at an estimated cost of £210,000. Three schemes have been completed and a start made on eight others. Thanks to the efforts of hon. Members on this side of the Committee in pushing the Government along, that is some improvement on last year.
I ask the Minister of State whether he can tell us in which areas those 38 projects are. That would be of great interest to many of my hon. Friends but, more important, can he assure us that this change of heart is to continue and that the Government will really press on with the clearing of these sites in all suitable areas all over the country?
§ The Rev. Llywelyn Williams (Abertillery)
I am not at all convinced by the argument of the Minister of State that this Amendment would necessarily be a limiting one and that if it were inserted in the Bill it would exclude other organisations.
County borough and county district councils are elected bodies. As such, they already represent all conceivable interests in their areas which are likely to be affected by the Bill. I believe that the Amendment would considerably strengthen the Bill. Although the Board of Trade might be motivated by the best will in the world, and might have the most nearly perfect civil servants in an imperfect world, they cannot see these problems of derelict land, slag heaps, pits and pit heaps as sharply as do local representatives who live in the areas and are answerable to the people who live there. I think that that is a very valid point to make about the Amendment.
I am glad to see the Minister for Welsh Affairs present in the Committee. He will know that on every day when we discuss Welsh affairs there are at least three speeches on the theme of derelict land in the South Wales mining valleys. This is a very urgent problem in Monmouthshire, where there are 4,000 acres of derelict or waste land as a result of the spoliation of the past. In Glamorganshire, there would be a correspondingly high figure.
One can understand why the story is going round in South Wales about an essay competition in a grammar school for which the first prize offered was a week's holiday in Dowlais and the 541 second prize was a fortnight's holiday there. We can appreciate that type of story in South Wales, because we know what Dowlais is and the price which the people of Dowlais have paid for industrialisation in the past.
Potentially, this is a very valuable Clause. If it is implemented when the Bill becomes an Act, it will bring much joy and evoke much enthusiasm all over the country. I cannot for the life of me see why the Minister of State does not readily accept this Amendment. I speak on behalf of the county council and the urban district councils of Monmouthshire. On more than one occasion we have met to discuss this problem, but representations we have made have borne no fruit whatever. If the Amendment were inserted, and we knew that as of right we could make representations to the Board of Trade, that would help generally in the achievement of the purpose of this Bill.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
It is not a coincidence that every hon. Member who has taken part in this debate comes from an industrial area. There is imprisoned in Egypt at present Mr. Zarb, who is paying the price for Suez, a continuing bill that we are paying for Suez. We are now discussing the price of a continuing bill of eighteenth and nineteenth century capitalism.
I was surprised that the Minister of State said that this was a restrictive Amendment in that it would deprive authorities other than elected local authorities from making representations to the Board of Trade. I can well imagine many church organisations and others wanting to make representations which. the Minister presumes, would be excluded if this Amendment were inserted in the Bill. I make this suggestion to him. Would he be prepared, on the Report stage, to introduce another Amendment, if he does not accept this one, and to put in the brackets the words, "on the representation of any interested body"? That would include local authorities and all the other bodies which he said would be precluded if the Amendment were accepted.
The right hon. Gentleman will recall that some time ago the Government introduced legislation the alleged purpose of which was to enhance the freedom and prestige of local authorities. 542 That was the purpose of the general grant proposals, and so on. Here is an opportunity for the Government to give evidence of their good faith by bringing local authorities more into the picture. Who knows better than the local authorities the problems in their areas? Less than an hour ago I received a deputation from Fife County Council, which neither the President of the Board of Trade nor the Scottish Office thought fit to meet. The county council representatives came to make representations on this problem.
They have taken the trouble to make a survey of one part of the Lochgelly district. My hon. Friend the Member for Abertillery (The Rev. Ll. Williams) spoke of 4,000 acres of derelict land in Wales, but in this case, in a small portion of Fife, there are 3,500 acres of derelict land. One acre in seven—14 per cent. of the land—is derelict. There are 733 acres of colliery bings, pit heaps as we call them in Durham, in that one part of Fife. There ate 303 acres of flooded area that normally goes with the bings. More than 1,000 acres in one small part of Central Fife with pit bings are flooded. These cause risks to health and very often loss of life, because when it is covered with ice children skate on it.
Who knows about these problems better than the local authorities? I remember having a meeting with the present Minister of Defence, who was then Minister of Labour, about this problem in Fife. I met him in Edinburgh, and he and his advisers said to us, "Looking at the Cowdenbeath and Central West Fife areas, industrialists will immediately say, 'It is not very inviting'." Of course it is not, and the industrialists are to blame. They have torn wealth from the ground, which is now writhing, upturning and subsiding, with houses looking as if they had been out on the spree.
§ Mr. H. Rhodes
Not only industry, but the Government are responsible, too. ill become derelict in the next few years. Whose responsibility is it to clean those up?
§ Mr. Hamilton
I have not mentioned this point, but there are 73 acres with derelict buildings in this small area of Fife.
The Minister of State says. "The Board of Trade will take account of 543 this". But local authorities know more about this problem than any board. They should have rights, and the rights ought to be in the Bill. It is no good the Minister saying, "You can trust us". We do not trust them. That is the whole point. That is why we want the Amendment in the Bill. We want it in black and white in the Bill. Assurances from the Government Front Bench do not count.
I suggest to the hon. Member that he should give an undertaking that he will bring forward an Amendment on Report which will ensure, as a legislative right, that local authorities and other interested bodies shall be entitled to make representations to the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. S. O. Davies (Merthyr Tydvil)
The pseudo reply which we have had from the Minister of State is but a part of the farce that is involved and implied in the Bill. I have sat for several hours in this Chamber, but I have never heard such insincerity oozing out of speeches from the Government Front Bench as I have over this Bill.
The Minister knows very well that the Distribution of Industry Act goes. The special areas reconstruction associations, which have done such tremendous work in one-time derelict areas like my own, also will go for all practical purposes. Where is the initiative to rest? If the hon. Member disagreed with the Amendment, why did not he give a single reason to justify his disagreement? He said that the Amendment would be restrictive, but he gave no reason to justify his belief. He did not enlighten us in the least about why he should make such a statement, but he knows very well that this is the kind of Amendment which is needed having regard to the fact that the Distribution of Industry Act goes and the special areas reconstruction associations are being killed.
Why should the Minister deprive the authorities mentioned in the Amendment of initiative and responsibility? Are he and the Government afraid that if an Amendment such as this were made local authorities will be given some dynamic power under the Bill? One of my hon. Friends referred to Dowlais, a part of my constituency. What he said was perfectly justified, but he could have gone a 544 little further and quoted a predecessor of mine in the House many years ago, who described Dowlais as hell with the lid off. That is a measure of the utter desecration which was perpetrated, not only in my own constituency but in the industrial valleys of South Wales and elsewhere in the early days of large-scale industry.
Why does not the Minister do one or two things—either tell the House that the Government have no intention of putting anything that is good, helpful, or dynamic in the Bill, or that the Bill is a farcical approach to the tragedies of unemployment in our country? The hon. Member should be ashamed of himself, if he is capable of such a virtue.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
I shall not detain the Committee long, because I am as anxious as the Minister to facilitate the proceedings of the Bill. I wish to speed up its progress, but the hon. Gentleman has not been very helpful. His reply was simply knocked over by the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Mr. Ede), who drew attention to the last two words of the Amendment and practically destroyed the whole of the Minister's argument.
As I understand, it is not the Government's intention to deprive the local authorities mentioned in the Amendment from making representations to the Board of Trade. I quite understand that the hon. Gentleman is not mentally alert today, because he had a rather strenuous night and probably is not seized of all the aspects of the Amendment. That is why I should like to put this to him. The Government argue that they are anxious to display their desire to do something about the matters with which the Bill deals. We have heard that over and over again from the President of the Board of Trade. He says, "I accept the challenge." If the Government accept the challenge, would it not be a very good thing to make clear to the local authorities mentioned in the Amendment that they have a right to make representations to the Board of Trade about areas in their localities? That point is worth considering.
If the Amendment is not put in the Bill, what will be the position of a county clerk in a small area? He will 545 not know the legal facilities available to him and, therefore, will read the Bill when it is an Act. If the Amendment were inserted in the Bill it will be made clear to such a county clerk that the local authority can go to the Board of Trade and say, "We have an area which we should like to use for industrial development. It is within our development plan, but we require assistance." It would be a guide to local authority officials.
When we pass legislation we should try to assist the people who have to administer it. We would assist them by making it clear what are their powers and what they are expected to do. If for no other reason it would be a good thing to insert these words, especially as my right hon. Friend effectively demolished the arguments advanced by the Minister of State.
§ Mr. F. H. Hayman (Falmouth and Camborne)
I rise to support the Amendment. There are unsightly areas not only in Scotland and Wales but also in Cornwall, and, indeed, in the Urban District of Camborne Redruth where I live. It has particular force here, because the unemployment figures just announced show that in Camborne Redruth unemployment is now above 6 per cent. Since the war, the local authority has cleared areas of derelict mining land. The firm with which the Chancellor of the Exchequer was associated built a factory on a cleared site some years ago. Another factory is now going up.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) said, it is advisable that the words should appear in the Statute. Derelict land causes loss of life. Yesterday, I asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government about responsibility for derelict or open mine shafts, of which there are hundreds in West Cornwall and in one of which a lad aged 16 was drowned only a fortnight ago. I beg the Minister of State to reconsider the Amendment and to agree that it should be written into the Statute.
§ Mr. Erroll
Perhaps the Committee would wish me to clear up two small points. There is very little between us. We all want to ensure that local authorities and other bodies have the opportunity to make representations freely to the Board of Trade. The Government 546 want them to do so, and we shall be glad to receive such representations. I fully take the point put to me by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), but the reason against including the words is this. If we put them into the Bill, an inquiring town clerk or local official, having found that in this case he could make representations, might when he came to look at another Clause in which it was not specifically stated that he could make representations, think that he was prevented from doing so because it was not specified. Therefore, it is much better not to include the words. Local authorities and other bodies are at liberty to make representations on this Clause or any other appropriate Clause.
The point made about the words "or otherwise" does not knock my argument sideways, but rather reinforces it. I am informed that "or otherwise" legally would mean "otherwise than by making representations," not "other types of bodies." The words "or otherwise" would not meet the point of including other bodies not specified in the Amendment.
For these reasons, I hope that the Committee will not press for the inclusion of the Amendment.
§ Mrs. Hart
I wish to put two questions to the Minister of State about development corporations, which were very inadequately covered in his reply. First, does he realise that with the creation of new towns there are 14 or 15 quasi-local authorities all of which will have a severe unemployment problem? It is time that the Government legislated specifically for them instead of hoping that they will be covered by circuitous methods not related to the problem.
Secondly, can the Minister of State tell me of any provisions of the New Towns Act, 1946, which could specifically empower the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Minister of Housing and Local Government in England to give grants for acquiring land, which is a function of development corporations and planning authorities, or for clearing and improving sites, not for the purpose 547 of improving the amenities of a neighbourhood for the local inhabitants, but for attracting new industry, which is a function of the Board of Trade?
§ Amendment negatived.
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. Arbuthnot)
The next Amendment to be selected is in page 4, line 18, at the end to insert:or to any company the constitution of which prohibits the distribution of the profits of the company to its members",with which may be discussed the Amendments in page 4, line 20, at the end to insert:or of the acquisition of the land by the company",and in page 4, line 21, after "council" to insert "or the company".
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
I beg to move, in page 4, line 23, at the end to insert:(4) In this section "amenities" includes facilities for recreation.It may be for the convenience of the Committee if, together with this Amendment, we discuss the Amendment in page 5, line 26, at the end to insert:including, but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, the provision of amenities and facilities for recreation.It is provided in Clause 5 that derelict sites may be cleared for industrial and other purposes, including amenities. My hon. Friends wish to be assured that "amenities" includes facilities for recreation, because many derelict sites in industrial areas where industry was built right into the centre of the community are not sites which it would normally be desirable to clear for industrial purposes, but sites in many cases, which when cleared would better be used for recreation.
We feel that if the definition of "amenities" can be so extended, the communities concerned will become more attractive to industries and more 548 attractive to those who might come to work in those industries, including the key workers who might need to be brought in from more attractive parts of the country. I therefore hope that the Amendment will appeal to the Minister of State and to the President of the Board of Trade.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Tudor Watkins (Brecon and Radnor)
I regret that I was not in my place when the Amendment was called, Mr. Arbuthnot, but I was seeking to do my duty by voting on the last Amendment. However, I am very grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) for moving the Amendment in my place in such very careful words. This Amendment, and the one that we are taking with it, seeks clarification of what is meant by "facilities for recreation" in relation to amenities.
I think I see the President of the Board of Trade nodding his head, so there is probably little need for me to prolong this discussion. We have been talking a great deal on Amendments intended to bring employment to these areas, but the intention of this one is to provide something that will keep people in the districts once the industries have come. If I can get an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman, we will be able to pass on.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Reginald Maudling)
I can assure the hon. Members for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. T. Watkins) and Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) that the provision of recreational facilities is already within the scope of the Clause. Frankly, I am not quite certain about the effect of including these proposed words, but perhaps I may be allowed to look at them between now and the Report stage in case there are any snags. However, I entirely accept the purpose of the Amendment—it is also the purpose of the Bill—and if we can include these words conveniently so as to make that clearer, we will do so.
§ Mr. Fraser
In view of that assurance, Mr. Arbuthnot, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.549
§ Mr. Ross
As would be apparent from our discussion on the first Amendment taken today, this is a very important Clause. The information that has come from Fife, from Wales and from other parts of the country indicates that this problem extends much beyond what many people might imagine in reading the Clause and in listening to the Ministers. Acres and acres of industrial slum heritage are out of use to the nation, and this Clause endeavours to bring some of them back into use.
The Clause itself is printed rather differently from the rest. We get the italicised warning that it has something to do with what the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) has so felicitously described as "State lolly"—[An HON. MEMBER: "He gets his share."] I do not know about that, but the noble Lord has shown himself to be very jealous and concerned about what is to happen to "State lolly" here. So am I.
From what has been said by my colleagues, Britain undoubtedly needs an industrial cleaning-up, and I want to know to what extent this Clause can be used for that purpose. I would like the Minister to tell us how much it is proposed to spend annually on this task of getting rid of these eyesores, these areas—because it is not a matter of localities—of neglect. To what extent is he to be free properly to tackle this job, whether on the representations of the local authorities or anyone else?
I spent a lot of time studying this Clause last night. I sat here until a late hour waiting for it to be called, but we did not reach it. To what extent will the Minister be free to do as much as, obviously, the Committee would like him to do under the Bill? I hope he will correct me if I am wrong, but to me there seems to be two ways of tackling the problem. According to subsections (1) and (2) it can be done by the Board, and according to subsections (3) and (4) it can be done by the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Minister of Housing and Local Government—acting, I presume, as agents through the medium of the local authorities.
It is noticeable that we have this constant phrase "with the consent of the Treasury" in relation to anything that is to be done for local authorities under 550 this Clause by the Minister of Housing and Local Government and by the Secretary of State for Scotland, but in relation to what is done directly under subsection (1) by the Board, as so designated, there is no question of the consent of the Treasury being needed.
Is that all disguised by the use of the words "if so authorised"? And what on earth are those words doing there at all? Who authorises the Board of Trade? Who authorises the President of the Board of Trade? If it is Parliament, the authorisation will be this Bill when it is enacted, and there would be no need for the words. The existence of the Statute, or of some other Statute, would be authorisation enough. I find it very difficult to justify the inclusion of these words, though I take it that there is some reason for them—
§ Mr. Erroll
The authorisation relates to the adverb "compulsorily". The Board of Trade would be authorised by the appropriate legislation, which is, I think, the Acquisition of Land (Authorisation Procedure) Act.
§ Mr. Ross
The Board of Trade would find it very difficult to do this if it were not authorised, so what is the use of these words? The Board of Trade must be authorised by legislation. We have been told that the Government do not wish to adorn this Bill, and particularly this Clause, with unnecessary words, but here are unnecessary words—
§ Mr. Willis
Does not my hon. Friend think that the words "if so authorised" might be rather restrictive on activities?
§ Mr. Ross
Where does the Treasury come in. in relation to the Board of Trade acting directly? If the explanation is right, if "authorised" relates purely to an authorisation under previous legislation, is the right hon. Gentleman going to be free to do as he likes 551 in making grants in respect of "derelict, neglected or unsightly" areas? That is a very important point and we ought to have an idea of the extent to which the President of the Board of Trade is prepared to act in advance of anything that arises immediately in any area. In relation to the whole country where the clearance of areas will be of industrial and development benefit, this should be tackled right away as a specific part of the operation, instead of waiting until the question arises of a factory going into a particular area.
Has any limit been placed by the Treasury on how much money will be forthcoming? The right hon. Gentleman will recollect that there is no limit stated in the Money Resolution, which must be of interest to the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South. Are we to take it that the annual provision will be decided by the President of the Board of Trade and that he is being given a free hand by the Treasury? Will the Treasury say "Here is a job which must be done. This is the legislation. Now go ahead and do it"?
I want to discuss the Clause in relation to other aspects—probably less important aspects from some points of view, but they are equally important to one who likes to read and understand legislation. The first point arises from these words:The following provisions of this section shall have effect as respects land …Does "land" in this context include buildings? In this part of the Bill there is no definition of "land." There are differing interpretations of the word in various Statutes. I hope that in this case it includes buildings. In another Clause the Bill goes out of its way to say that "land" includes buildings, and I was wondering why it had not been defined specifically here. It is important to know whether buildings are included, as my hon. Friends the Members for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Rhodes) and for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) have said that powers will be required to deal not only with land but with buildings on land as well.
I should like to know how the President of the Board of Trade intends to come to a decision in relation to the delightful phrase "derelict, neglected or unsightly"—rather an apt description, I 552 think, of the Government Front Bench last night. I want to know whether all these qualifications have to be fulfilled or whether only one of them need be fulfilled. Must the land and the buildings be derelict and neglected and unsightly, or does the absence of one of these qualifications rule it out from help?
§ Mr. Ross
The hon. Gentleman should not be ready to pick me up before I fall. I am only asking a simple question. If the hon. Gentleman had been in the Scottish Grand Committee as often as I have, for my sins, he would have discovered that very often the legal opinion is that the word "or" means "and". He will appreciate that this applies equally to Scotland as it does to England and Wales, and will be construed by Scottish as well as by English lawyers.
We now have the opinion of the President of the Board of Trade that any one of these considerations alone will make the land eligible for help under this Clause. By the way, I wonder whether the hon. Gentleman could give me a definition of "derelict"?
§ Mr. Errollrose—
§ Mr. Ross
No, not just now. I do not want to lose my train of thought. The problem is that the land is some times ownerless. Until one can trace the owner it is very difficult to purchase the land by agreement, and therefore we get the prolonged aspect of compulsory purchase.
As to the phrase "neglected or unsightly", I raise this point because I asked whether this reference to land included buildings. Who is to decide whether or not a building is unsightly? This is a matter for the President of the Board of Trade. How does one decide whether a building is unsightly? As I read the Bill, an unsightly building could be in use. I asked whether all these considerations had to apply and the hon. Gentleman said that was not necessary and that only one or the other need apply. In that case, does that mean that an unsightly building can be treated under this Bill because of its unsightliness? The land has got to be brought into usefor improving the amenities of the neighbourhood.553 Here we have the position that unsightly buildings, even if they are in use, can be taken over either by agreement or compulsorily if the taking over of the land and buildings and the removal of the unsightly structure leads to the redevelopment of the area for the purposes of employment.
Quite apart from derelict areas, there are in certain places unsightly buildings whose presence inhibits the bringing of new industry to those places. I want to know whether, when this delightful piece of poetic legal jargon was inserted, "derelict, neglected or unsightly", it was the intention of the right hon. Gentleman to deal with this problem. If so, he will probably appreciate that the land may cost him a lot more. In fact, I am coming on to the question of cost, because it is very important.
I want to know what will be the cost in relation to an Act which we passed not very long ago. I am glad to see the Minister of Housing and Local Government in his place. He will remember that not long ago he inflicted upon the country a new Town and Country Planning Act dealing with this very matter of compulsory purchase.
Here it is already stated that the purpose of compulsory purchase is related to industrial development. What effect does that have on the value of the land? What effect does the Act for which the right hon. Gentleman was responsible have on the actual cost to the Board of Trade or to the local authority in respect of this land? We all remember the question raised by one of the right hon. Gentleman's hon. Friends about the tremendous amount of money paid by, I think, a local authority in order to buy back a piece of ground which the right hon. Gentleman himself purchased not so very long ago. The difference was, however, that the right hon. Gentleman purchased it under one Town and Country Planning Act and sold it back under the latest Act.
What is going to be the increased cost to the country, in "State lolly" as the noble Lord described it, as a result of the application of that Act to the purchase of derelict land required for industrial development? I hope the noble Lord will appreciate that the land superior comes into this. It may well be that in 554 this case he has a personal interest in "State lolly", because the land superior has got to get his cut out of this compensation and any continuing compensation for compulsory acquisition.
There are one or two other points I wish to raise. I would like the Minister, who has been concerned about the purity of the language of the Clause as demonstrated by his attitude to the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), to tell me just exactly what this is all about. Clause 5 (3) states:The Minister of Housing and Local Government may, with the consent of the Treasury, make grants, in such manner …What does that mean? It conjures up a delightful picture of the Minister dealing out money in various way and in various moods of generosity in relation to the occasion. I do not suppose that that is what is meant. The subsection goes on to state:in such manner as appears to him to be requisite …Therefore, in relation to each grant the right hon. Gentleman has to make up his mind how he is to behave when he hands over the money.
I am all for simplicity of language when it comes to legislation. I am also for uniformity of language and for that language being grammatical. Clause 7 (1) states that when other grants are being handed out the right hon. Gentlemanmay with the consent of the Treasury make grants or loans … in such manner as appear to him appropriate …Why the change of phrase in these two cases which seem to be dealing with exactly the same thing, and why, indeed, the change of verbal ending? In one case we have the wordsmake grants, in such manner as appearsand in the other case the wordsmake grants … in such manner as appearWhy in one case should the words beappears to him to be requisiteand in the otherappear to him appropriate"?What is the difference? This is the kind of thing that leads to the suspicion that there is more in this than meets the layman's eye. There is something to be 555 explained, because I remember the discussion on this last night—not so very long ago.
§ Mr. Ross
Yes, this morning.
We see that when the Board of Trade, with the consent of the Treasury and on the advice of the advisory committee, is going to make a partial grant to some industry it makes the grant "towards the cost." The word "cost" appears in paragraphs (a) and (b) of Clause 5 (3). What is the grant going to be? Is it going to be 100 per cent., 95 per cent., 90 per cent., 75 per cent. or 70 per cent. of the cost?
I think that these words are chosen deliberately to ensure that the matter is left entirely to the President of the Board of Trade. They give no indication to the Committee that the proportion of grant is going to be such as to meet the need. I think we are entitled to ask the Government what they have in mind and whether they are going to make a 100 per cent. grant. I presume that the Board of Trade will pay 100 per cent. of the cost. If it is going to be done by the local authority acting as the agent of the Board of Trade then that local authority ought to get 100 per cent. of the cost. It should not have to incur any financial responsibility for doing the work for the Board of Trade. As drafted the subsection reads:The Minister of Housing and Local Government may, with the consent of the Treasury make grants, in such manner as appears to him to be requisite for the purposes of this section … towards the cost …"—not to meet the cost, but towards it. That is what it means. I want to know what is in the mind of the President of the Board of Trade and whether I am right or wrong about this.
One other point. It is not a very important point, but I would remind the Minister of State of a suggestion that he made when he spoke—it was not the worst of the speeches made at that time —in the Scottish industrial debate in July. The hon. Gentleman put forward the suggestion that what we required in Scotland were not just factories but also new office accommodation. We wanted, I presume, to attract departments of big business and Departments of State. I want to know whether the Minister is 556 prepared to use this Clause in order to clear the sites which would permit the local authority, or someone acting as the agent for the Board of Trade, to effect not industrial development in the sense of factory development but in the sense in which the hon. Gentleman spoke as being desirable from the point of view of Scotland of putting up factories. Will that be covered by this Clause?
§ Mr. Ross
I am, indeed, glad that we have received one satisfactory answer from the Minister of State. I sincerely hope that he will be able to answer the points I have put to him. I am sure he does not want me to go over them again. I could do so, and very quickly indeed. I sincerely hope that the hon. Gentleman will use the powers that are in the Clause.
The Clause is tremendously important from the point of view of the old, historic industrial areas of Scotland. We are in need of cleaning up and have been in need of that for centuries in relation to our slum heritages. Here is the chance to do it. I hope the Minister will say in his reply that he is determined that this shall be done and that he will not be put off by the noble Lord's reference to this squandering of "State lolly" but will realise that he has here the ability to bring much needed help by way of employment to areas at present suffering from high unemployment.
Viscount Rinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
Surveying hon. Members of the Committee at the moment and imagining what I myself look like, I suppose that most of us present here today qualify for Government assistance under the definition of this Clause—" derelict, neglected or unsightly." If the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) is allowed to carry on with another series of speeches like the ones he delivered in the small hours of this morning and the one he delivered a few moments ago, we shall have to claim twice or three times the amount of Government assistance to which we would seem to be entitled under the Clause. If my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade can think of any way of giving immediate Government assistance so as to prevent the hon. Gentleman producing 557 this unsavoury situation during the next two or three days, I am sure that we shall all be very grateful.
My opposition to the Bill, as I think the Committee knows, is confined to the giving of Government assistance to private enterprise for the sake of carrying out a particular current theme of the moment, namely, moving enterprises from one situation to another in order, it would seem, to fill up a temporary pocket of local unemployment. I am opposed to that principle, but I am by no means opposed, as I sought to make clear on Second Reading, to Government assistance—if necessary, quite lavish—through other channels for the same social purpose of maintaining full employment. This Clause is an admirable vehicle for this purpose. I should he very grateful if my right hon. Friend, in responding to this debate, will indicate in a general way how far it is the intention of the Government to use this Clause to operate a substantially new policy.
As hon. Members have pointed out, and as I am sure we all know, the House as a whole sees the grave danger of turning this country into an over-urbanised and industrialised community, derelict or not. If there are industrial sites in various parts of the country, as we know there are, which could be cleared up, employment being provided thereby, surely this would be an admirable way of improving the appearance of the country side and elevating the whole way of life of the community. I sometimes wonder whether the spirit of this country will ever rise again as high as it is at present or it has been in the past if we do not take control of some of the grossly over-urbanised industrialised locations and carry out some process of decentralisation in town and country planning more purposefully and more relentlessly than we have hitherto.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I would be quite prepared to see a considerable amount of resources used for this purpose. In this Clause, we have the right vehicle for the purpose, the local authority, which is traditionally the Government's vehicle for the spending of 558 money for social purposes. I have no quarrel with this Clause or with the next or the one after that. If the Government will shed all the other aspects of the Bill and enshrine these three Clauses in an Act—
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Major Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I hope the noble Lord will restrict his remarks to the Clause we are now discussing, Clause 5, and not discuss the other two.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
Thank you, Sir William. If the Government will enshrine this Clause in an Act—when we come to Clause 6 and Clause 7, perhaps I may make the same speech again—the net result will be very satisfactory.
There is one matter which grieves me. I see that there appears in this Clause what appeared in a previous Clause to which, 1 think, we may be able to revert on Report because it was passed yesterday by agreement, namely, the subject of compulsory purchase. The country now dislikes compulsory purchase very much indeed. I should have thought that, for the purpose of clearing industrial sites which are derelict, neglected or unsightly, it would hardly be necessary to invoke this power at all. There may be the odd industrialist who is allowing a site to remain unused and, to some appearances, the site may appear unsightly or neglected; but he may have an ultimate purpose for it. He may be calculating that, in three or four years, work which he is now doing in another part of the country could be transferred to this site, workpeople brought in, and new processes for which he is, shall we say, preparing a patent or something like that, set going there. I should not like to think that the State would walk in on this situation and take the land and his factory by compulsory purchase. We should have some assurance before we pass the Clause that that kind of thing will be considered.
On the other hand, the great majority of owners of land and property included in this category will be extremely glad if the State or the local authority is prepared to come along and purchase it, restore it and make it satisfactory again. There is no other bidder for it.
§ Mr. James Griffiths (Llanelly)
I am very interested in what the noble Lord is saying. I agree entirely with the Clause, 559 and I accept, of course, that there is a great deal of work to be done. The noble Lord has spoken with some emphasis already about "State lolly," but what he is now speaking about will require public money being spent to clear up the muck left by private industrialists.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
It would certainly mean the use of public money to purchase an industrialist's site. The only point I seek to make at the moment is that the price is bound to be rock bottom. Nobody has made a bid at all. Presumably, such an industrialist has, for years, except in the one case I instanced just now, been trying to sell the land and has been unable to sell it because there has been no bidder. The price must, therefore, be rock bottom at the finish. I should have thought that, without these words, the State could acquire the land relatively cheaply. I am, nonetheless, glad to hear the point debated.
If the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) wishes to drag me back on to my old ground again and make me rear my King Charles's head about "State lolly" once more, I am with him there. I do not want the State to be called upon to pay vast sums for land which is no use to anybody. That is the kind of problem with which we are faced. I feel that my right hon. Friend ought, even if the Bill is somewhat delayed, and particularly since it is supposed to be the major Bill of this Session, to be in a position now to expatiate at some length on whether the Government intend to use this Clause and the next two to initiate a large new social purpose. I am quite sure that the country wants that, particularly if it is to be associated with reducing local unemployment.
§ Miss Margaret Herbison (Lanarkshire, North)
For once, I agree with some of the points made by the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), although, of course, on other matters I disagree with him very strongly. During the course of my short speech, I hope to take up certain of the comments which he made.
Clause 5 seems to be a very important part of the Bill. The Government are to take powers in order to acquire sites for industrial purposes and, also, to make 560 the amenities of certain areas much better than they are now. But, of course, I expect that money will be spent on improving amenities only if the improving of the amenities helps to bring industry to an area.
By subsections (1) and (2), the Board of Trade is taking powers to purchase land and to carry out works to improve amenities.
In subsection (3), powers are given to the local authorities to do the same kind of work. It is important to know at this stage how much money the Government expect to spend on this great project in Britain. I hope that the Minister will tell me in what circumstances he envisages that the Board of Trade will carry out this work and in what circumstances he envisages that the local authority will carry it out. It is important that we should know that, because this is linked closely with the financial provisions which may be made under the Clause.
If we look at the provisions by which the Board of Trade may carry out this work, we presume that 100 per cent. of the cost will be met by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What percentage will be given to the local authority through the Secretary of State for Scotland? It is important that local authorities should know the answer to that question. I understand that my local authority has been informed that it will be given a 75 per cent. grant for the clearance and preparation of a site in Lanarkshire for industrial purposes. If local authorities take the initiative and have the energy to do the work, why should they have to find 25 per cent. of the cost?
Under what circumstances will there be this division of labour in this important work? I understand that the Lanarkshire local authority some time ago decided that it would prepare a site in each of its nine district councils. The President of the Board of Trade knows that Lanarkshire, particularly the huge area of North Lanarkshire, has the very heavy rate of unemployment of 6.5 per cent. He also knows from his visit that it has many derelict and unsightly places to be cleared. Will it be necessary for the right hon. Gentleman to have drawn to his notice by the Lanarkshire local authority these nine sites which it would like to clear? Alternatively, how is he to find out in each area what site he 561 wishes to clear with a 100 per cent. grant from the Treasury?
If, after this Measure is on the Statute Book, the Lanarkshire authority makes such a proposal, what rate of grant will the authority be given? We should like an answer to that question before we part wan the Clause. I make a special plea that the rate of grant should be 100 per cent., because I cannot for the life of me see why 100 per cent. of the cost should be borne by the Treasury if the Board of Trade decides to do the work, but only a proportion of the cost should be borne by the Treasury for the very same type of work if the local authority decides to carry it out.
l want to ask a question about the word "ultimately". I know that the noble Lord has very tender feelings about land, landlords and landowners. I have just as tender feelings about all the thousands of men and women who are unemployed in my constituency. I have experience in my constituency of the reluctance of the Board of Trade to institute compulsory purchase in an area with 6.5 per cent. unemployed. A firm had the agreement of the Board of Trade to build an extension. This is a firm which is looking to the future and which has planned three extensions. A year ago last month, it made an application for the extension to which I refer, and only this week, I understand, has agreement been reached on the purchase of the land. It seems to me that if we had taken into account the desperate need for employment in that area, in every circumstance such compulsory powers would be used in order to provide work for these people. Perhaps the noble Lord's values and my values are very different, but I feel great concern for those men and women who art denied what I consider is the first right of any man or woman—the right to work.
Another important point which I want to raise is that in Clause 1 we are giving very important powers to the Board of Trade. In Clause 1 (3) we read:In determining whether and in what manner to exercise their powers under this Part of this Act for the benefit of any such locality as aforesaid the Board shall have regard—(a) to the relationship between the expenditure involved and the employment likely to be provided;562 Do the powers in Clause 5 (1) also depend on the relationship between the expenditure involved and the employment likely to be provided? That is very important, particularly when we consider all the amenities and recreational facilities necessary. How soon after the passage of the Bill do the Government intend to implement the provisions of the Clause?
The President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State for Scotland are aware of the unsightly, ugly pit heaps around one factory in the area about which I am speaking. Knowing these circumstances, will the right hon. Gentleman immediately and on his own initiative set about clearing these unsightly areas, or will this be left to the local authority's initiative, with a grant which will not be 100 per cent.? These are important matters which I am sure that the Minister of State would like to have clear before we pass the Clause.
The noble Lord said that he was against any provisions in the Bill which would deal with what he called a temporary pocket of unemployment. I expect that he meant a pocket of temporary local unemployment. From all the conditions hedging almost every Clause of the Bill, it seems that it will not deal with temporary unemployment.
I have raised these points because I consider them important, because I am glad that this provision is in the Bill and because not only hon. Members but also local authorities are most anxious to have the answers.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
I join with both the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) in calling this a tremendously important Clause and with my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) in describing it as admirable. I do not, however, want to develop that theme at such length as did the hon. Member for Kilmarnock because my purpose is a narrow one of elucidation concerning the phrase at the end of subsection (1) which reads:… for the purpose of enabling any of the land to be brought into use or of improving the amenities of the neighbourhood.Is it intended to use those powers merely for the purpose of providing commercial and industrial premises which will house an undertaking that will itself provide employment, or will they be used 563 more extensively to provide employment merely in the execution of the work—in the carrying out of the building—on the land so taken over?
Following what my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South was saying, I hope that the Clause will be used much more widely than merely to provide industrial premises that will house an undertaking to employ people and that it might be used even if it only produces some building which itself will not create employment.
In particular, I think of housing, housing for those who may be needed in the area for the employment which is created there. The use of the Clause for that purpose would not be for the creation of a building which itself was housing people at work, but for the creation of houses in which would live those people who would be employed in the industrial undertakings being developed in the area.
I should like my hon. Friend the Minister of State to say whether the Clause can be used for housing purposes in that way, housing either connected with an industrial undertaking in the district or quite separate from it, because the building of the houses would provide temporary employment during the time that that was done. I am sure that if the Clause is used in that way it will be of great help, certainly to some of the smaller local authorities which are having the utmost difficulty in getting started on the development of their areas purely and simply because of difficulty on the professional side, by which 1 mean the surveying, legal or architectural aspects.
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock touched upon this subject when he asked for a definition of "derelict". He understood it to mean something that was ownerless. Many of the sites which local authorities wish to clear and develop appear to be owner-less. The employment of professional men to carry out the taking over of the sites deters the smaller type of local authority from even starting the job. It may be that under subsection (1) of the Clause the Board of Trade, or under subsection (3) the Minister of Housing an] Local Government, could help in that initial stage of starting a development or a clearance.
564 Concerning the use of these powers for housing, I notice that in the Third Schedule the Distribution of Industry Act, 1950, will be entirely repealed. I am wondering whether a Section in that Act is covered by this Clause. The Committee may remember that in Section 3 (2) of the Distribution of Industry Act, 1950, power was given to the Board of Trade to make grants or loans to housing associations. That power seems to have been lost in the Bill and I am wondering whether it is thought that it is covered by the powers included in the Clause. If not, I am sorry. I would regret it if the Clause did not cover that sort of power. It was given to meet cases in which the Board of Trade was satisfied that any such grant or loan to a housing association would further the provision in a Development Area of dwellings for persons employed or to be employed there. If that power has gone I would like my hon. Friend the Minister of State to consider carefully whether it ought not to be introduced into the Clause.
§ Mr. Page
If that is so I am obliged. If I could have an assurance about this I should be happy.
The question of compulsory purchase has been raised and the question of compensation arises from it. My hon. Friend the Minister of State ought to make it clear how compulsory purchase and compensation under the Clause tie up with the rights concerning compulsory purchase and clearance of unfit houses, because the compensation for taking over unfit dwelling houses is very different from that which, apparently, will be paid under the Clause. We ought to know how those two aspects tie up. It is an important matter and I hope that we shall have an explanation.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I regret that I was not present when the Minister of State replied to the previous Amendment. I had been called out and for a short time I had to look after some visitors. This prevented me from being present. It enabled me, however, to see a number of my hon. Friends leaving the Chamber with a feeling of indignation because they were not satisfied with the Minister's answer. They felt that we should have 565 proceeded to a Division to express our difference with the Minister of State because his reply was not satisfactory. I make that eplanation because this is our place, especially when we take an interest in the Committee, if we are to get the best results from pooling our ideas and experiences in the way that we should to make the Bill a better one before we part with it.
I welcome this discussion because the area with which I am familiar has suffered probably as much as, if not more than, any other part of the country from the kind of thing that we are discussing. In my view, there is a great responsibility upon the Minister of State in replying to this debate. I was impressed by the speeches of the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) and my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross). The noble Lord is present together with a number of other hon. Members. Therefore, on this issue democracy should prevail. Even if the Minister of State has not yet made up his mind to deal with the Clause in as broad and generous a way as possible, surely he has been impressed by the contributions which have been made? When we consider the fundamental differences between the noble Lord and myself on the Bill as a whole, surely we have reached so much common agreement in the Committee that the Minister of State will take action that reflects the ideas contained in most of the speeches which have been made?
I will explain why I said that a great responsibility rests upon the Minister of State. For some time it was my privilege to work with the people who were administering these matters at the Board of Trade. I have never worked with more loyal and conscientious men and women. For months they would have worked night and day in co-operation with me.
I hope I am forgiven for saying this. It is not often that I speak about anything with which I am connected as an individual. The world suffers so much from egotism—these personal references expressed in the first person singular, "I" all the time. Therefore, I have always been on guard against it, but I believe in giving credit where it is due, 566 and it is a real treat to see the way in which that Department administers Clauses like this.
Where we go wrong is this. If a Minister is really determined, if he really means business, if he means to administer a Measure 100 per cent. in accordance with the desires of this Committee, the officials of the Board of Trade can be relied upon to carry it out. Therefore, I appeal to the Minister of State to reply to the debate in harmony with the atmosphere prevailing in this Committee. If he does that I have complete confidence that those behind the scenes will carry out the Bill 100 per cent. I have had sufficient experience to enable me to say without any hesitation that if a Minister knows his own mind, if he can say "Yes" and if he can say "No", then, in the main, the civil servants do what he says and carry out the provisions of the Measure. The difficulties arise when we have so much vacillation and when so many do not know their own business. If a Minister shows that he is determined to carry out a Measure when it becomes an Act of Parliament we can rely on it being carried out.
I come now to some concrete examples on the need for the Bill. The Minister of State knows the old Irwell Valley; he knows the River Irwell. Instead of it being talked about and sung about like the blue Danube, it is looked upon now as the blackest river in the world, and all my life in the whole of the valley through which it runs there have been derelict land and mountains of waste. Children play there, but the environment is really disgraceful. I ask that this Clause should be administered 100 per cent. so that after 100 years during which there has been derelict land, which is really disgraceful, a change may be brought about. [Interruption.] This is no joke. No one living there would joke about it. Right along this valley, from the very top, mountains of wealth have been poured out for years. All my life men have worked almost night and day pouring out mountains of wealth which has gone to other parts of the country and other parts of the world while land in the valley has been left derelict.
I come to my own division. I have pleaded for my own division with every 567 Government Department. The municipality has a magnanimous and generous outlook upon these things, and it, too, has pleaded, yet not one atom of good has been done. I have seen Bill after Bill introduced that might have helped. They raised hopes in me which were all dashed to the ground because, in the end, nothing was done.
On this occasion I hope that the Minister of State will at least say that the Government mean business and mean to transfer these theoretical ideas expressed in the Bill into concrete reality by dealing with these derelict sites which are such a waste and which have been a disgrace to Britain for 150 years.
I come to my final point. We have the Civic Trust. Many opposed fundamentally to me politically are engaged in the Civic Trust, but within the narrow limits of their aims and objects those men all know what they want to do. There are Members on both sides of the Committee associated with the Civic Trust. There are some who have been generous in their contributions. They are doing noble work. Let us encourage them. Let the Minister of State say, "We accept the aims and objects of the Civic Trust. We mean to apply this 100 per cent. in order, first of all, to deal with the derelict land and to use it for any industrial development which is required and, at the same time, to improve the environment, the surroundings where people have been working so hard for so long."
So I make my modest contribution within these very narrow limits, having been impressed by the noble Lord and all others who have made their contributions. I hope the Minister of State is going to reply in complete harmony with the atmosphere now prevailing in this Committee.
§ Mr. Robert Carr (Mitcham)
There is one point which I want to raise very briefly and which I hope my hon. Friend the Minister of State will be able to answer when he replies to the debate. This Clause, as also does Clause 2, gives my right hon. Friend power to acquire land compulsorily. There may be rare occasions when after compulsory acquisition it is found that all or at least part of the land acquired is no longer required and has to be disposed of. The question I want to put to my hon. Friend is 568 whether when such land is disposed of it will be offered back to the original owner and at the price at which it was purchased.
§ Mr. Erroll
I am sorry that by intervening now I delay a further contribution on this subject by the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. McCann) but I thought it would be helpful to the Committee if I were to intervene now and give some answers to points raised in the discussion which we have had.
Of course, it is quite clear that the whole Committee is at one in deploring the unsightly pockmarks of derelict land which there are throughout the country at different places. A number of them I know myself, particularly the one referred to by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) in his earlier speech, as well as the River Irwell referred to in his speech just now, and I have seen some of the unsightly parts of the rest of Britain. However, what we have to remember is that this is a Bill to create employment. That is its primary purpose. The clearing of derelict areas is only a subordinate purpose, and must be subordinate to the main purpose of providing additional employment in an area of high unemployment.
What we have done is to take the corresponding Section from the 1945 Act, which is also Section 5, and reproduce it substantially unchanged in the present Bill, with three important improvements. The powers are now to be exercisable in relation to neglected and unsightly land as well as to derelict land. Secondly, whereas grants could be made under the 1945 Act only in respect of site clearance, grants are now to be made in regard to the acquisition of the land as well. Thirdly, the grant-making power is transferred from the Board of Trade to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and in Scotland to the Secretary of State.
§ Mr. Erroll
Because it makes for more convenient operating procedure.
It must be remembered, in considering whether any derelict site can be rescued, so to speak, by this Bill, that one must consider as a paramount and overriding 569 question whether site clearance will materially contribute to the relief of unemployment in the locality.
§ Mr. John McCann (Rochdale)
In view of the change in the administration of the grant. may we have an assurance that it will not be included in the block grant at any future date?
§ Mr. Erroll
I do not think it would be included in the grant, otherwise it would not he necessary to put it down in this Bill, but I should like to look at that point and correct it if necessary. I shall be very glad to look at it.
Another consideration in the question of the clearing of derelict sites is that the cost has to be reasonable in relation to the amount of employment created—
§ Mr. Erroll
—and I refer the Committee to Clause 1 (3), where it will be seen that we can acquire and the Minister of Housing and Local Government can make grants only where these conditions are satisfied.
It is only right that I should draw the Committee's attention to this point because it will circumscribe the amount of clearance which can be done under the Clause; and it would not be fair for the proceedings of the Committee to go out to the country and for the impression to be created that derelict sites wherever situated would qualify for treatment under the Clause.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I do not think that Clause 1 (3) is caught up in the present Clause. It will have to be put in.
§ Mr. Erroll
It means essentially the second, but one would take into account the work created during site clearance. It means employment created by an industrial establishment or the like set 570 up as a result of clearing the site. My hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) asked about compulsory purchase and what the procedure would be if it was found necessary to dispose of the land so acquired. I am glad to give the assurance that we would adopt the procedure which he outlined, that is what has come to be called the postCrichel Down procedure, namely, offering the land back to the original owner at the right and appropriate price.
§ Mr. E. Fernyhough (Jarrow)
The actual words used by the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. R. Carr) were "at the price at which it was purchased." If the Board of Trade spent a great deal of money clearing land, would not the land be sold back not at the purchase price but at its proper value?
§ Mr. Erroll
I think that when the hon. Member comes to look at what I have said he will find that I have covered that point adequately.
The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and the hon. Lady the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison) asked how much will he spent. As the hon. Member for Kilmarnock pointed out, it is clearly stated in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum that it is not possible to form an estimate of any increase in expenditure that is likely to occur as a result of the Bill. Therefore, it is not possible for me to give any estimate.
§ Mr. Erroll
I am giving the answer. I am sorry if it is not good enough but I find that when I try to be helpful the hon. Member says it is no use and he goes on and on, and when he thinks I am not helpful he gets up again. He has had a fair run, so I shall continue.
Hon. Members have asked about the percentage grants which would be made to the local authorities and whether they would be 100 per cent., 75 per cent. or some lower percentage. The amount of the grants would vary according to circumstances, and they would be a matter for discussion between the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the local authority concerned. They certainly will not be 100 per cent. grants. 571 My noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) referred to the policy behind the Clause. I hope that my explanation will have proved satisfactory to him. I should like to tie up one other loose end and refer to the question asked by the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay). The information is that of the 38 schemes mentioned, which are all necessarily in Development Areas, 18 are in England, 7 in Wales and 13 in Scotland. These are covered by about 30 different local authorities. The right hon. Gentleman will see from that reply that quite substantial use is made of this provision, and now that the extended powers in the new Clause are going through I do not see why we should not be able to make satisfactory use of these provisions in the future. I hope therefore that the Committee will now approve the Clause.
§ Mr. Jay
As a supplementary to my earlier question, may I ask whether among these approved schemes there is one affecting the Llandore area near Swansea? The dereliction there is not only the most hideous and extensive in the British Isles but this is eminently a case where the spectacle of it, which is bound to be seen by industrialists travelling by road and rail, must have an exceedingly discouraging effect. If there is no scheme in train, will the right hon. Gentleman look at this matter?
§ Mr. Erroll
I will look into it and report to the right hon. Gentleman and to the hon. Member who represents the constituency concerned.
§ Mr. J. Griffiths
All who live west of that area know perfectly well that the area and others adjoining it inhibit industrialists coming there because they are so unsightly. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will direct his attention to the matter and pay a visit there.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Dempsey
I should like to elicit information from the Minister on two important points. He has referred to the grants which have already been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) and my hon. 572 Friend the Member for Lanarkshire, North (Miss Herbison). While 1 recognise that the right hon. Gentleman may have difficult in naming the exact percentage of the grant, I should like to draw his attention to the fact that Clause 5 (3) states that the Secretary of State for Scotland, for example, may make grantsin such manner as appears to him to be requisite for the purpose of this section …Then subsection (3, b) states:towards the cost of the carrying out by the council of work on the land for enabling any of it to be brought into use, or for improving amenities, as aforesaid.I can see the Secretary of State for Scotland getting into difficulties here, because when local authorities act as agents for him in the road programme they will find one Department of the Government meeting the cost 100 per cent., whereas when they act on behalf of the Board of Trade there is no saying what grant will be received.
It may be that there are very good reasons why the Minister cannot say what the percentage of grant will be, but could he not indicate what the minimum percentage would be, so that local authorities could prepare their balance sheets accordingly? They should have some idea of the amount of rate-borne expenditure for projects of this nature, for budgetary administrative purposes, when they are dealing with this function on behalf of the Board of Trade. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider that, although I recognise his possible difficulties in arriving at a fixed percentage.
I am also concerned about the carrying out by the councilof work on the land for enabling any of it to be brought into use …Is it possible to have a further elaboration of this passage? This is very important. During the past fourteen years I served as a member of a committee of the Board of Trade, one of whose functions was to advise the Board of Trade on matters affecting industrial development. There were representatives of the trade unions and employers and members of local authorities on that Committee. Indeed, last week the Minister met some of the employers from Scotland. These employers are the very people who insist, with the local authorities, that they themselves could take 573 great steps to try to induce other industrialists to enter this part of the country which is afflicted by unemployment. Among the steps which they suggest is the servicing of sites.
I am anxious to be clear on the wording of this provision. Does it mean that bringing land into use is a question of excavating undulating land and leaving it flat for development, or is it sufficiently wide to make provision for the roads, the water services, the drainage services and all the other services essential for industrial development on these sites?
§ Mr. Erroll indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Dempsey
The right hon. Gentleman shakes his head. 1 am asking for information, because I recognise the difficulties in tackling a problem of this immensity. In loyalty to those on the Board of Industry on which I have served for the past fourteen years, we are entitled to give them an explanation of the implications of subsection (3, b). I shall be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman will clarify this point for me: is it the case that this provision is sufficiently wide to include all services or is it restricted only to the acquisition of land and perhaps the levelling of land for the purpose of inducing industries to go into the localities?
If the right hon. Gentleman can answer this question I am convinced that it will clarify the minds of the local authorities and all interested persons who so loyally give up their time voluntarily to assist in promoting employment in these areas.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
I regret being a little unkind to the Minister who hoped I was not suffering from insomnia after last night by responding with yet another speech. It is perhaps an ungrateful way of responding to his rather dubiously kindly inquiries; but this is the kind of discussion that matters, whether it is four o'clock in the morning or four o'clock in the afternoon.
As I have listened to the Minister on each of the occasions on which he replied to us last night and today, I have become more and more alarmed by the way in which he was fencing in and restricting and narrowing down the scope and value of the Bill. The Minister went out of his way just now to refer to the Clause 1 574 financial restrictions. They were emphasised and underlined heavily by him when we were discussing that Clause. I will not go into them now, but I shall talk about his emphasis on the relation of expenditure to the amount of employment created.
In saying all these things the Minister did not have any regard to the percentage or the degree or the severity or the persistance of unemployment in one area as compared with another. For example. if it costs £4,000 in grant or loan to employ 20 or 30 people, as it might in the City of Perth where there is small unemployment, it will obviously cost anything up to twice that amount to relieve the same amount of unemployment in the Islands. Yet unemployment is far more serious and involves far more people and is far more longstanding and persistent in my constituency or in that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson). Is that greater consideration to be ignored?
Yet immediately we come up against the question of having to spend more to achieve the same amount of employment, regardless of the total unemployment in the area, the Minister says, "Cut it out. Cut the difficult area out." As soon as it becomes a more difficult or a more expensive matter, it is obviously ruled out in the mind of the Minister from the very start. Before the Bill comes into operation, even before it has come to the Treasury and the Committee for examination, the Minister has said that these areas are out because they need more help than others. It is a strange doctrine and one which I should have thought would not be acceptable to the President of the Board of Trade from his own earlier statement on Second Reading.
§ Mr. Maudling
It is obvious that in some areas it costs more to create jobs than in other areas. That, of course, will be taken into account. I covered the point.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I appreciate that it will be taken into account; but, unfortunately, the way in which it has been taken into account in the speech of the Minister of State is in the light of the strict need to limit expenditure of national resources. Of course there is a 575 broad and overall limitation of what we can command for almost any purpose in our national resources and limits as to how they can be applied, but running away from the problem because there are special difficulties is a cowardly retreat from what we thought was the bold, enterprising purpose of the Bill of aiding areas in special difficulty.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Order. I am reluctant to interrupt the hon. Member, but we are discussing Clause 5, which deals largely with derelict land and not with the main purpose of the Bill.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I would not be so disrespectful as to argue with you on that point, Sir William, but the Clause involves finance, which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned a few moments ago. I shall apply this directly to the question of acquisition of land by agreement or by compulsion, which in both cases involves the expenditure of money under this Bill. When I listened to the right hon. Gentleman I became more and more alarmed by what he said about the way in which the money, whatever amount it is—and this we shall not know for some time—will be applied. The Minister obviously meant to say that under Clause 5 he would pay the strictest regard to the restrictive financial considerations to which he referred, mentioning Clause 1 in passing.
I want to underline the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Coat-bridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey), namely, how widely will this provision be applied to the basic services? I ask this question because I am speaking for one of the many areas in Scotland which suffer most from the lack of the basic services which are essential before any industry will come into the area. It is fundamental that the most generous assistance be given for the provision of adequate basic services. It is part of the inducement for all industry that there shall be available good roads, transport —by air, land, or sea—adequate water supplies for industrial purposes, electricity, the assurance of housing and accommodation generally. How widely will the Minister interpret the application of this Clause in relation to the basic services?
576 This is important to the industrial areas. It is important to the whole of the United Kingdom; but it is particularly vital to those areas which do not have a chance of getting industries and development unless the basic services they lack are provided. If part of the objection is that it will cost more to provide those services, the Government must remember that it is costing more every year because of the legacy of neglect of the provision of those services. The longer they deny us the basic services on which to base industrial development, the more it will cost and the less we shall presumably get out of the Bill as costs go on rising.
The noble Lord made a touching appeal on the issue of the acquisition of sterile and neglected land by agreement and compulsion. The noble Lord made a great point of avoiding compulsion. Nobody wants to do injustice to anybody in the acquisition of their property. But the assumption on which the noble Lord works is a curious one. It does not always seem to work in our experience of landlords; least of all in the Highlands. As soon as a local authority, a public body or indeed a private firm wants to acquire land, in the middle of the most neglected and sterile wastes of the Highlands, we find leaping out of every Highland bog hordes of lolly-lapping landlords, some of whom had never been heard of before in their lives, even in another place.
There was an interesting example of this to which I gave some publicity here, and which illustrates my point. When the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board wanted to develop land for the purpose of providing electricity, on which all industrial development whether under this or any other Bill must be founded, what happened? Suddenly, Lord Lovat, Sir John Stirling and Sir Robert Spencer-Nairn, one after another, discovered that there was gold in the sterile bogs—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Order. We are discussing Clause 5 which has particular regard to derelict land.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. MacMillan
If I may say so, without disrespect to large parts of my constituency and great spaces in the whole of the Highland counties, most of the area there is derelict land—largely as a 577 result of the conduct of the very people whom the noble Lord was defending a few minutes ago against the operation of the compulsory acquisition provisions of Clause 5.
The Hydro-Electric Board, the Forestry Commission, the local authority and other public agencies and departments are almost alone in providing any considerable employment there is in this area where there is apparently so little inducement for private firms. Immediately they need land for development they become the prey of the very people who have created that sterility and neglect of the land and have failed signally to make any contribution towards its development. I fail to see why we should be so tender about the application of this provision to people like Lord Lovat, and Sir Robert Spencer-Nairn. Why be tender to them about the compulsory acquisition for development of land which either they have neglected or proved unable to improve.
§ Mr. MacMillan
No. The noble Lord's objection was to the use of compulsory powers where difficulties arise in negotiations for the acquisition of sites on certain neglected land. I am arguing against that view. I do not think that the Minister should be encouraged to be too tender on this point. The noble Lord then said that those sites, by the very fact of their being neglected and having hitherto been unsold and unsaleable, would automatically become available at rock-bottom prices. That is an assumption which people may have a right to make; but it does not work out in practice.
I have quoted one or two examples where a public agency wants to develop its electricity services to the community for domestic purposes, for industry, for agriculture, for local authorities' needs and everything else, and suddenly those rock-bottom priced assets of various kind become gilt-edged. They become really valuable properties for the first time.
§ Mr. MacMillan
They do not need any help from the Stock Exchange who are these people with whom we are asked to deal so tenderly. They are the very people who in Lanarkshire and elsewhere have left these great offensive sores of pit heaps on the countryside. They have come from the exploitation of the mineral wealth of Central Scotland and the industrial belt. These gentlemen with the money made there have taken themselves to their Highland estates and have opposed the Hydro-Electric Board, the Forestry Commission, and other development on grounds, very often, of amenity and of the threat to spoil the natural beauty. It is a strange contradiction between the way in which they have made their money and the way in which they are now enjoying the peace and privilege which that money has created for them. Some of them are the very coal owners who are now objectors to the hydro-electric developments and who rob the Hydro-Electric Board and the public purse when we are trying to get basic services and industrial development in that Highland area.
I hope that we can have some answer to the questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie about the percentage grants in industrial areas which have special difficulties—and in areas with difficulties of distance and past neglect—which caused mounting costs that will be further increased by any further neglect which they may suffer.
I hope that we may have some assurance from the President of the Board of Trade that he will be a little more generous than he was yesterday and than his hon. Friend was a few minutes ago. We demand to be a little more reassured that we shall not see the complete exclusion of these vast areas which have these long-standing and neglected difficulties. I know that there are hon. Members opposite who represent places like the Highlands and Islands who agree with me. To know that we have only to live in those places where the people have a grave sense of being neglected or of being dealt with by remote control by the Government. It is not only the hon. Member for 579 Caithness and Sutherland (Sir D. Robertson) who shares these feelings. Other hon. Members opopsite share the same view, because in these matters political barriers disappear in many respects. I hope that those hon. Members will say the things that I have been saying and that the Government will also share our views.
§ Mr. Tom Brown (Ince)
I apologise for not having been present when the discussion on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" started. I have been otherwise occupied.
Yesterday, I had some critical words to address to the President of the Board of Trade. I now propose to address one or two words of praise to him. I hope that he is not proposing to leave the Chamber when he is being praised, but perhaps he cannot stand it after the criticism yesterday.
My praise to the President of the Board of Trade is for incorporating this Clause in the Bill. We have been longing and hoping that one day the Government Department responsible would set itself the task of enabling the local authorities to clear up some of the ugly sites which private enterprise created long ago. It is not my intention to incriminate the old colliery owners. I did that years ago.
It was in 1928, thirty-one years ago, when we started a campaign in the district in which I live. At that time a friend of mine who was a Member of this House—not a member of the Labour Party but a member of the then very strong Liberal Party—Alderman Robert Alstead, whose memory I revere, who was also a member of the Wigan Town Council, was obsessed with the idea that the county council and the Government should set themselves the task of clearing up the ugly sites in the River Douglas valley.
The President of the Board of Trade and his Department have now afforded an opportunity for us and those members of the local authorities in the mining areas who are now face to face with a situation such as they have never faced before of doing something to clear up the ugly sites. I have in my mind's eye at the present moment the site which I look upon every day when I am at home. 580 Opposite my front window is a vast expanse of water covering many acres and just beyond on the horizon is a vast pit heap two and a half miles long, to which the National Coal Board is adding every day. The situation is now becoming aggravated. Consequently, I feel that Clause 5, which deals with derelict land, gives us a chance to do something to clear up ugly sites which are legacies of the past.
I have taken the opportunity in days gone by of calling the attention of the Board of Trade and various other Government Departments to the importance of clearing up derelict land. A few months ago, before the last Parliament was dissolved, I discussed the matter with the then President of the Board of Trade, who has now gone to the Ministry of Education, and I submitted to him the suggestion that it would be a good thing and in the interests of amenity value if he would make a survey of the north-west area of Lancashire with the object of subsequently putting before the House a proposal to clear up some of the ugly sites. He said it was worth while considering the suggestion. The Department may have considered it. Perhaps this is the result of its consideration of the suggestion which I made in all honesty and with profound sincerity and a profound desire to see our industrial areas cleared up.
In my area we have been busily engaged—not with the assistance of the Government, because they have no power to help—and have just cleared 31 acres.
§ Mr. Brown
The only assistance that the local council got towards clearing up the 31 acres was a grant of £1,750 from the Ministry of Education because we decided to turn the land into playing fields. 1 have in my possession a plan of what has been done. I hope that next April a member of the Royal Family will open the playing fields. I feel that if we can clear up 31 acres of ugly land we are accomplishing something for the benefit of the present generation and future generations.
It may amaze hon. Members to know that there is a mining area in my constituency which has four and a half acres per head of the population either under 581 water or devoted to pit heaps. Let hon. Members visualise that—four and a half acres per head of the population of pit heaps and flashes.
§ Mr. Brown
The Minister may know. Past Ministers may have known because Ministers in the present Government and preceding Governments have been made fully aware from time to time of our desire that these sites should be cleared up.
In another area there was not a square yard of land upon which to build houses. In the light of the housing situation in industrial areas, let hon. Members imagine a local authority which desires to meet the housing needs of the people but cannot find a square yard of ground upon which to build. Happily, reclamation carried out in the last few years has provided a site which has made it possible to build 82 houses. Is that not an accomplishment? Is it not something which ought to inspire and encourage the Government to go forward with the operation of Clause 5?
I beg the Government to move with greater speed in the future than they have done in the past. It is speed that we want. It has taken us four and a half years to reclaim 31 acres. We ought to move quicker than that. We ought to have more go, more determination and more courage. If former mine owners and land owners stand in the way of the provision of additional amenities for the people they ought to be moved away as quickly as possible.
I have the greatest pleasure in the world in supporting the Clause. I profoundly hope that when the Bill becomes an Act the Board of Trade will not introduce red tape and hold up the operation of the Section, but will give all the encouragement and inspiration that is required so the local authorities will go forward full steam ahead to clear up the ugly sites. Anyone who has lived in a mining area surrounded by pit heaps and devastation knows that these things have a tendency to destroy the souls of the people living there. Consequently, I hope that we shall go forward with all speed so that we shall be rid of the legacy of derelict land 582 and devastation left by the people who extracted the wealth from the ground in the county in which I live.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Willis
I profoundly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) that we should act urgently to do something about the situation. I also agree with what was said by my hon. Friends the Members for the Western Isles (Mr. Malcolm Macmillan) and Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mr. Dempsey). I hope answers will be given to the questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie.
I wish to raise a matter which is peculiar to Scotland. I have waited an hour and a half to do so because there was no Scottish Minister on the Government Front Bench earlier. I understand from one of my local authorities—this view has been confirmed by my hon. Friend the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. Baxter)—that the objects of the Clause will not be fully achieved as it is at present drafted. I tabled an Amendment to remedy this, but it was not selected. The Clause provides for grants to local authorities towards the acquisition and improvement of derelict land.
In the case of Scotland, the authorities concerned are the local authorities for the purposes of the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947. Subsection (3) provides for the payment of grants:towards the cost of the exercise of any power of the council to acquiresuch land. I am informed that this would restrict the exercise of the power to such land as might be used by the authority for the purpose of one of the authority's own function. For instance, I am informed that, as the Clause stands, the power could be used by a planning authority, a county council, within the landward area of the county but not within any of the burghs. In other words, the work which is supposed to be done under the Clause could not be done in those localities.
It has been suggested that at the end of the Clause should be added the words:and the local planning authority under the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1947".I understand that without those words what the Government seek to do in the 583 case of the small burghs could not be done. It is conceivable that a small burgh might be one of the specified localities. I am informed that the only way to get the work done is to put the words which I have suggested at the end of the Clause.
I do not want to occupy the time of the Committee, but this is an important matter which concerns the whole of Scotland. We want the Bill to be effective, and the Government have said they want it to be effective. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary will be able to give us a satisfactory answer. Does the Clause mean what I have suggested it means and, if so, will the hon. Gentleman take the opportunity on Report of correcting the position? We should like some guidance and to hear from the hon. Gentleman about it.
§ Mr. Ross
In replying to the first part of the debate, the hon. Gentleman seemed to expect that I should be overjoyed and that I should be prepared to cover him with profuse congratulations when in answer to one of my questions about the costs involved in the Clause he said that he could not tell me. I would not have been at all surprised if he had left it at that, but he went on to tell me that I should have appreciated that and he referred me to the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, which says that the Government do not know what the whole cost of the Bill will be. I thought that that was a little much on the part of the hon. Gentleman.
I asked not for the cost of the whole Bill, but whether any estimate had been made of the cost of dealing with derelict sites. That is a much simpler demand. I asked how much the Treasury was prepared to pay to meet the cost of these provisions in one year. I should have thought that such calculations would have been made before the Bill was presented. Last night the hon. Gentleman was able to tell us about the cost of allowances for the advisory committees and was able to say that a couple of thousand £s had been paid to a firm in respect of the services of one of its members. He should not now be surprised that we ask him to tell us the cost of operating the Clause.
It is one of the most amazing things about the Bill, which is claimed to be 584 a major Bill well considered and thought out, that the Government proclaim their ignorance and expect us to thank them for it. They expect us to be satisfied with such replies. They cannot tell us what the areas are and they cannot tell us which areas are to be covered. They cannot tell us the cost of the whole Bill and they cannot tell us the cost of dealing with derelict sites. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) did not hear the speech of the Minister of State, because my hon. Friend would not then have been proclaiming that at last there was a hope of some great sweeping Measure to clear Britain of its sad industrial heritage of neglected property, decaying and unsightly land. The hon. Gentleman was quite frank and told us that the provisions were restricted by Clause 1. He said that there was a further restriction in that it was a question not of the employment which would be provided in clearing up the sites, but of the prospect of employment following directly from the fact that a site had been cleared. We cannot look for any great, sweeping Measure.
He cannot tell us what local authorities which are faced with this grave problem will be given to help them to pursue this task. He must know something. He has told us that the grant is not to be 100 per cent., so it is clear that the Government have made up their minds on something. If it is not to be 100 per cent., what is the grant to be? The hon. Gentleman told us that it would vary according to circumstances. I shall not press him to explain what he means by that, but he ought to be able to tell us the level of the ceiling of the grant. 1 am sure that he has a list of areas and I am sure that he has a good idea of what the grant will be, but the Government will not be frank about what is involved.
The Government are treating the House of Commons with discourtesy and I am surprised that hon. Members opposite, who for weeks proclaimed that the Labour Party should know to the last farthing what legislation cost, should be prepared to adopt their present attitude towards what they claim to be a major Measure and which, according to the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), who appears to have inside information, is 585 the only major Measure to be put forward in this Parliament. When the right hon. Gentleman and the hon. Gentleman say that they do not know what the cost of these provisions will be, hon. Members opposite silently accept the position. I wonder what the Minister of Pensions and National Insurance would have said if he had been in Opposition with such a Measure before the House of Commons. Hon. Members opposite are annoyed about being kept up for one night, but we can remember the right hon. Gentleman speaking from these benches day after day and night after night.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
Can my hon. Friend imagine what the Minister of Pensions would have said if the Labour Government had introduced proposals to rebuild No. 10 Downing Street at a cost of £1,250,000?
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. James FL Hoy)
Order. The hon. Gentleman is going just a little too far.
§ Mr. Ross
It is going a little too far. It is the Government who are going far too far in their failure to satisfy the natural right of the House of Commons to information about the cost of legislation.
We should have been given a figure, albeit that it varied between 50 per cent. to, say, 85 per cent. The Government should have given an estimate of the cost in the first year, for instance. A target must have been set and the Treasury must have said how much it was prepared to set aside for these purposes. These are queries which need replies and I hope that the Minister of State will try again. If he does not give us the information we want, he will not expect us to go on our knees and touch the ground in praise of his efforts.
I asked him a number of questions and I do not think that he answered half of them. I shall not repeat them, but some were questions of considerable importance. He volunteered the information that if a piece of land was unsightly, that was enough to make it eligible for treatment under the Bill. I asked him whether "land" included "buildings". He did not answer. I asked whether, if that were the case, unsightly buildings could be treated, even if they were 586 occupied, because of the way that subsection (1) was drawn, but again he did not answer.
We are entitled to answers because the information is important to hon. Members who have to advise local authorities who are interested in these matters. If the Minister does not give us the required information, are we to leave it to the courts to interpret these provisions?
It is not good enough. We have not had the help of the Lord Advocate or any other Minister during our discussions. I asked why the Clause was worded in an ungrammatical way. My question was ignored. Point after point was not dealt with. If the Minister has decided not to deal with the minor points that we have put to him, I hope that he will at least deal with the major ones. What grant can a local authority expect? What is the lowest grant, and what is the maximum grant that it can expect to receive? Can the Minister satisfy the people behind him about what it will cost?
§ Mr. Ross
I asked that question too. The Treasury is not mentioned in subsections (1) and (2). I referred to the words "if so authorised". The Minister replied that that was because the grants would be authorised under other legislation. If the grant is to be authorised under other legislation, those words are unnecessary. The Government would not be allowed to do what was not authorised. We hear tautologous phrases and a lot of unnecessary verbiage. Cannot we get reasonable assistance from the Minister? We are anxious for information.
§ Mr. Manuel
Earlier, I appealed to the Minister of State to be a little more forthcoming and earn the gratitude of the Committee. We would then be able to proceed somewhat faster with our consideration of the Bill. After hearing the Minister of State, the restrictions against the clearance of these eyesores are more evident than ever.
Many of the areas in which these conditions are to be found were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for 587 Ince (Mr. T. Brown). Persistent unemployment exists in those areas and the Minister appears to be tying himself to the principle that there must be continuing unemployment before these eyesores are removed. I want to put this to him straight and I want a straight answer. In some areas where there is high and persistent unemployment there are colliery bings and derelict sites. There is no hope of attracting industry to those areas. Is the Minister saying that because there will not be continuing unemployment after these sites are cleared the men and women in those areas are to remain permanently unemployed? Is he creating the condition that before these people get any hope for the future there is to be complete depopulation of the area?
The Minister cannot have it both ways. If there is no work available after the collieries close and he is not prepared to give a little injection of assistance to clear these sites, by the time he takes such measures as are necessary to attract industries the people will have left the area. Depopulation will occur and we will again face the spectacle that some of us are acquainted with in areas which once had a community and a life of their own but are now slowly dying.
If that is the line that the Minister is taking with these dying areas—if he regards depopulation as the only cure—he is, in effect, saying that he wants to add to the problems of congestion in our already over-populated areas. That will be the result. People from those areas will go into our larger towns and cities and kill the very thing that the Government say they are trying to do under the Bill. The Bill could be a real measure of succour for the areas where collieries are closing.
One area in need of the help that could be provided under the Clause is the Highland area. My hon. Friend the Member for Western Isles (Mr Malcolm MacMillan) has been most eloquent in advocating help for the Highlands. I too, have appealed for help for the Highlands, and at the same time have dealt with problems affecting my own constituency. Surely the President of the Board of Trade has evidence about the steady decline and depopulation of the Highland areas that were once 588 populous and prosperous. Why is the right hon. Gentleman so reluctant to give us information?
I remember reading about a play which ran for a couple of years in London.
§ Mr. Manuel
It was called "Reluctant Heroes". The Minister of State is a very reluctant hero so far as the Bill is concerned, because he is giving away nothing that could be of benefit to the areas I am talking about.
I do not want to be out of order. I am directly on the target in discussing the Highland areas. Clause 5 (2) says:… for improving the amenities of the neighbourhood.In Scotland, we had high hopes about the Tourist Board and its activities. Our tourism—
§ Mr. Manuel
There have been allocations of money to improve the amenities and facilities for the tourist industry in Scotland.
§ Mr. Manuel
The money has been provided to improve the amenities, and subsection (2) contains the words, "for improving the amenities." That is what the Tourist Board is doing.
§ The Chairman
That may be so, but amenities for the Tourist Board are not dealt with under the Clause that we are discussing.
§ Mr. Willis
On a point of order, Sir Gordon. Surely it is in order to argue that the Tourist Board, or the local authority, might acquire a derelict site in the Highlands for the purpose of erecting an hotel? As I understand the Clause, it would be in order for the local authority or the Board to do that.
§ Mr. Manuel
I understand that grants have been made for the purpose of improving amenities— additions to hotels, and things of that kind. I do not want to get out of order, Sir Gordon, and I shall depart from the point when I have 589 given two figures. The grant in the current year in connection with improving amenities in respect of tourism is £15,000.
§ Mr. Manuel
Dealing with the words in subsection (2)—sticking definitely to the definition of "amenities" under the Clause—there has been an allocation of £15,000 towards improving amenities in Scotland.
§ The Chairman
That has nothing to do with the Clause. I must ask the hon. Member to keep to the Clause.
§ Mr. Manuel
Then I must go a much longer way about it. I must now deal with all the derelict land in the Highland counties in order to get my point over. In the seven Highland counties, many areas are having extreme difficulty in attracting tourists because of the eyesores caused by derelict property and dying villages. There used to be pretty fishing villages and a nice coastline, but they are falling into neglect and decay. I hope the Minister of State can throw some kind of lifeline to them. He turned down a similar suggestion to help the Highland counties under Clause 1; can they now be given help in connection with amenities, as laid down in subsection (2) of this Clause?
Money could be made available—under what auspices I do not know. I hope that some solution can be found to these problems, which are so evident throughout Scotland, especially in areas suffering from depopulation owing to colliery closures and so on.
§ Mr. Willis rose—
§ Mr. Willis
I raised a serious point in connection with local authorities in Scotland which I thought would be of help to the Government. My question was whether, as the Clause was worded, it would do what the Board of Trade 590 wanted to do in Scotland. It was not a propaganda speech or a delaying tactic. It was a serious inquiry. I saw the Joint Under-Secretary seek some information about the point, but I do not know whether he found the answer. This is an important question to all the small burghs in the county concerned, and also to the county council. Before we leave the Clause, we should at least be told whether it will operate in the way I suggested without being amended, or whether it requires amendment, and the Amendment will be made on Report. Will the Joint Under-Secretary reply?
It seems that the hon. Member will not reply. This is a discourteous way to treat Scottish local authorities. This problem is serious to Scotland. I was making the point in an endeavour to help the Government. The point cannot be dealt with by the Minister of State because he does not know anything about Scottish law, and nobody expects him to. This is a question which should be answered by the Scottish Office, and it is not good enough to try to push the Clause through without answering questions on it. Some of the questions we have asked might perhaps be ignored, but not this serious one, which affects local authorities in Scotland and determines whether the Clause can be made properly effective there. I should like to know what the answer is.
§ 7.15 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Home Department (Mr. R. A. Butler)
As a Minister I am entitled to take part in a discussion on the Clause. As I apprehend it, the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) wishes to have a reply on the question he has raised with regard to local authorities. I think it would be right for my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to reply to the hon. Member. That is reasonable, and it shall be done.
I merely want to say a few words on the passage of the Clause, and the Bill. There was an understanding between both sides that the Bill would be finished in four days. We sat very late last night, and I would remind hon. Members that the people who suffer more than we do are the staff of the House—the policemen and all those who have to attend. That is undoubtedly the position, and every hon. Member knows it 591 in his heart. The Government have several courses open to them. They can again put the House to great inconvenience by having a late night sitting, which is a distinct possibility and which might prejudice business for the coming day, if we are to get the Bill through as we must do and intend to do.
An alternative would be to take extra time for the Bill. This cannot be taken out of Government time, because we have already allocated all the Government time for the rest of the period before Christmas. Therefore, the only logical process would be for it to come out of the time allocated to the Opposition.
§ Mr. Butler
No, it is not a threat. I am merely putting forward the physical possibilities, subject only to the statement that we must get the Bill through. I have agreed that the Joint Under-Secretary shall reply to the hon. Member. I should like hon. Members to realise that if the present situation continues the Government will have no alternative but to adopt one or other of the courses that I have put before hon. Members in order that the Committee stage of the Bill can be completed before Christmas. There is absolutely no alternative, and we should realise that with a little give and take—
§ Mr. Manuel
On a point of order. I was repeatedly pulled up by you, Sir Gordon—and quite correctly so—for not keeping strictly to the scope of the Clause. Do I take it that the Leader of the House is completely immune from the rules and orders which apply to ordinary back benchers?
§ The Chairman
Technically the right hon. Member's speech should have been made on the Motion, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again".
§ Mr. Hamilton
Will hon. Members on this side of the Committee be entitled to reply to the very provocative statement made by the Home Secretary? We can make a very devastating reply, and if we are in order we shall do so.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
Surely the Home Secretary will respond to the very direct suggestion made to him that he should put himself in order by moving to report Progress. He made a speech which was undoubtedly directed to the question of the way in which we should continue with the further consideration of the Bill, and he posed various alternatives, including the possibility of continuing all night or allocating an extra day next week. Surely it is impossible for anybody on this side of the Committee to pursue the line of thought suggested to us by the Home Secretary in his intervention unless the whole matter is now regularised either by the Home Secretary moving to report Progress, as I suggest, or by one of my right hon. Friends moving a similar Motion.
§ Mr. Jay
I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
I do this simply in order to make a few brief comments on what the Leader of the House has said. The best way to have saved time would have been for the Joint Under-Secretary to respond at once to the question put to him, but in view of what the right hon. Gentleman has said I would merely make the comment that although we all agree that the debates on the Bill should proceed in a reasonable but thorough manner the Leader of the House—who is naturally not present as frequently as the rest of us—should be reminded of the fact that a number of speeches have been made, especially today, by hon. Members opposite as well as by hon. Members on this side of the Committee.
I must also remind the right hon. Gentleman—the President of the Board of Trade will confirm this—that both today and yesterday we on this side of the Committee have refrained from moving quite a number of important Amendments in order to help the discussion, on the understanding—but of course with no assurance—that these Amendments would be taken on Report. I think the right hon. Gentleman should bear that in mind. However, I agree with him, and I hope that we shall proceed in a reasonable but a thorough manner, and that, if it is in order, the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will be allowed to give the reply 593 which, had he given it ten minutes ago, would have saved a lot of time.
§ Mr. Hamilton
On a point of order, Sir Gordon. May I have an answer to the question which I asked, whether we have the right to answer the points made by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House in the speech which he made?
§ The Chairman
A Motion has been moved, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again." I thought that the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) moved it.
§ Mr. Manuel
Are you putting the Question, Sir Gordon, "That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again", and not the Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill"?
§ Mr. Manuel
I wish to repudiate the insinuations made by the Leader of the House that we on this side of the Committee caused great disturbance, trouble and difficulty to the staff of this House. We were doing our job here last night—those of us who are faced with great unemployment difficulties in their constituencies—in discussing this Bill and we were in order and under the control of the Chair during the whole time.
I would draw the attention of the Leader of the House to what happened in the 1950 Parliament when we on this side of the House were in Office with a narrow majority and when the House was kept up night after night with the connivance of the right hon. Gentleman—and possibly by his direction—and we had to go to St. Thomas's Hospital and bring out hon. Members who were patients there and convey them through the Lobbies in order to keep the then Government in being. I think it ill becomes the right hon. Gentleman to came into the Chamber and take part in the debate at this stage when we have been doing our best to get this Bill through—[Laughter.] The "chaff" which was blown into the House during the last election does not know when it is in order or out of order. Hon. Members opposite do not even know what this Bill is about, and many of them are not concerned.
I wish to repudiate what was said by the Leader of the House. If it were possible to take a plebiscite of the staff of the House, it would be found that the majority of the support would be for us, and the opinion would be that we have not been deliberately creating difficulty and inconvenience for the staff. I challenge any hon. Member to say that that was our intention.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
I will respond at once to the intervention of the hon. Member for Central Ayreshire (Mr. Manuel). I was not criticising him in any way. It was perfectly normal that we should sit late last night. I was saying that if we have to sit late again tonight, and perhaps right through the night, in order to dispose of the Committee stage of this Bill, it will mean that for the second night running there will be a late sitting. Many of us who have been kept late on other occasions have had such an experience. I hasten to say 595 that I escaped last night and so I am free from the fatigue which may be felt by other hon. Members who have been doing their duty so manfully. But I meant, and I said, that I think it would create strain were we to go on for a second late sitting, especially as there was an understanding between the two sides of the Committee that we should finish the discussions on this Bill in four days.
The intervention of the right hon. Member for Batersea, North (Mr. Jay) was quite in tune with my own, that we should get on with the debate, and that my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland should reply to the questions of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis). I simply wanted to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that if we have to sit perhaps right through the night again, we run a risk of prejudicing the business for tomorrow, or some of the debates arranged for next week, which in my view would not be in the interests of the House.
The one constant factor is that we intend to get the Bill and I do not want the Committee, by spending too long on it, to prejudice the business which hon. Members might want to take next week. I think that is a reasonable proposition. I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for moving his Motion. I hope he will now seek to withdraw it so that we may continue with the business in as reasonable an atmosphere as we can.
§ Mr. Hamilton
The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House simply cannot treat the Committee in this way. If he wished the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to reply to my hon. Friend, he himself need not have spoken. He could have said to his hon. Friend, "Get up and reply to the reasonable points which were made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis)." It is humbug for the right hon. Gentleman, in the guise of throwing out a compromise suggestion to hon. Members on this side of the Committee who represent Scottish con- 596 stituencies, to place us in the position of being thought to be prejudicing the health of every member of the staff of this House.
The right hon. Gentleman has told us that he is determined to get the Bill. One would think that the House of Commons was under great pressure, and that there was a shortage of time. We are proposing to rise for the Christmas Recess a week earlier than is normal. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to deal with the Bill, let us sit for an extra week before rising for the Christmas Recess. I should have no objection, and I do not think that many hon. Members on this side of the Committee who have unemployment problems in their constituencies would mind either.
I suggest to the Leader of the House that if he wants to proceed with the discussions on this Bill, he might advise the representatives of the Board of Trade to be more forthcoming in their replies. My hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) asked several pointed questions about the cost of provisions contained in Clause 5. He asked during the discussion of detailed Amendments to the Clause and he put the same question on the Motion, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill." He recalled the General Election campaign, when every item in the Labour Party's programme was analysed and we were asked for specific costs of projects, and, indeed, we provided them.
Now, when we ask what will be the cost of the provisions contained in Clause 5, we receive no reply from the Minister. Therefore. the Leader of the House should not be surprised when we take exception to him coming in and asking how we are getting on and saying, "I will threaten them"—because that is what the right hon. Gentleman has done.
§ Mr. R. A. Butler
The actual effect of my intervention was to invite my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State to respond to the difficulties of hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies, and my hon. Friend was very ready to do so. I suggest that we proceed because that would be the best way of answering the questions relating to Scotland. If hon. Members will allow th[...] Motion to be withdrawn I think we can proceed, and my hon. Friend the 597 Joint Under-Secretary of State can reply to the hon. Members who referred to problems relating to Scotland.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Hamilton
I have not finished yet. I would remind him that an one occasion last week we made the same kind of appeal to the Secretary of State for Scotland himself. After two or three speeches from this side, the Government Chief Whip passed a message along the Bench. He did not get up at the Box, but passed a message along the Bench, saying to the Secretary of State that, in view of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), he had better say something. The Secretary of State got up and made a speech of about two minutes, which was quite a long speech on this Bill for the Secretary of State for Scotland.
The Leader of the House could have made the same indication to the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotalnd, without making the kind of speech he did. Undoubtedly, he was threatening this side of the Committee, saying how undesirable it was to have two all-night sittings consecutively. But this Parliament is young, and we have any amount of time in which to recover from the ill effects of two late nights. If we are not prepared to sit for two nights in succession, we can sit for the extra week before Christmas which the right hon. Gentleman has thought fit to give to the House. I hope that my hon. and right hon. Friends will not be browbeaten into allowing the important provisions of this Bill that are yet to come to go through by default.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I am surprised that this situation has arisen. I have known the Leader of the House and the Patronage Secretary for many years, and they both know that provided that Commitees of this character are treated in a reasonable manner they usually respond.
The way in which this arose is due to the fact that yesterday we were presented with an ultimatum. [HON. MEMBERS "No."] I am speaking for my hon. Friends and for myself in particular, because the difference between me and a number of other hon. Members is that for many years I have worked for my living. Where I worked for my living, we were subject to more ruthless driving—I am not complaining of that 598 —but those concerned all knew that we could be reasoned with but would never be bullied.
Therefore, today, the atmosphere has been as reasonable, decent and harmonious as it was possible for it to be, and had the Leader of the House been present all day today he would have been very pleased with the way we were all getting on together. A delay arose, and I admit that, and I saw the annoyance expressing itself in the indignant look on the face of the Patronage Secretary. I saw him look at the Chair and speak several times—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]
I have seen the running about that has gone on on both sides of the Committee, and, so far as we are concerned, we are prepared to be reasoned with but not to be bullied. We have been present doing our duty, but other people who have not been seen for weeks have been patted on the back. We shall have to wait until television comes; then we shall see all that is going on, and the whole country will see what is going on. They will see who is who and who is doing his duty. I wish we could have it now, because people would then see the difference between the dilettantes who appear in "Panorama" occasionally and the right hon. and hon. men and women who do their duty in this House. That is what my hon. Friends have been doing for the last day or two, and I assure the Leader of the House that that is so.
The right hon. Gentleman need not become indignant on a matter like this. If he could only maintain his usual reasonable manner and approach to the problem, he will see what the trouble is here. We are as much concerned for the staff as anyone else. They are our close friends. We could not be better treated than we are by the police and the staff of this House. Therefore, we have to regret the inconvenience, but we were not responsible for the late sitting.
My hon. Friend the Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown) has been suffering for weeks and ought not to be here. If he had been acting on his doctor's advice, he would not have been here, but he has made a special effort to make his contribution on this Bill because the area which he represents has been blighted by industrial development for 599 a hundred and fifty years. He has made several contributions, as other hon. Friends of mine have done. Some of them will be in the Tea Room now, or in the "Coalition" Smoke Room. If they were here, they would be joining us in making a plea to the Leader of the House to let us carry on in the way we have done in the past.
There is no reason for us to get indignant about this. I admit that the new Patronage Secretary has had great experience, but his experence is not the same as that of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. When he has a little more experience of these debates, he may be more generous in his approach to the problem than by bringing in the Leader of the House.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
I am not sure, but I should think he would have done. I have been long enough in the House to have complete confidence that he would not have done it on his own. Therefore, I appeal to the Government to accept what I am saying as being right and reasonable, and so make allowances for my hon. Friends, and for myself as well, and let us carry on with the business.
§ Mr. Ede
As usual, the Leader of the House has made a speech of the utmost sweet reasonableness, but I wish he had been here during the day when the discussion was going on. Quite rightly, he pleaded that there should be some give and take. I have listened to a great many of these debates, and certainly there has been nothing given by the Government on this Bill so far. Therefore, we have been unable to take anything. I am in favour of voluntary time-tables, but these can only work in the atmosphere which the right hon. Gentleman has attempted to create. I wish him well in his efforts to do so, but I can assure him that the cause of our present difficulties does not rest with this side of the Committee.
§ Question, That the Chairman do report Progress and ask leave to sit again, put, and negatived.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Niall Macpherson)
Perhaps I may now reply in a reasonable 600 way to the hon. Member for Edinburgh. East (Mr. Willis). The point he raises is a highly technical one, but I think I can give him a reasonably satisfactory answer. I will say straight away to him that he has raised a point which we will look at again, but as I am advised, what he is worried about is that the powers in Clause 3 will not apply to small burghs. For example, I am advised that it would allow a planning authority to acquire land in its area as planning authority. If the hon. Gentleman will look at line 31, he will see the words—within whose area the land in question is situated.It is not the area that is defined for the purposes of the local Government (Scotland) Act, 1947, but it is the local authority that is defined for this purpose. Therefore, as I understand it, a local planning authority would be able to acquire land in any part of its area as the local planning authority. I will, however, look at the matter again, and I hope that we will be able to satisfy the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
If a local planning area is under the control of a county council and a small burgh is designated as a Development Area in the county council area, the proper functioning may be prohibited if there is not more clarification.
§ Mr. Macpherson
In a small burgh, it would be competent, in so far as it has powers under 3 (a), for it to receive grants for the exercise of those powers in its area.
§ Mr. Willis
I think the hon. Gentleman realises that there is a certain amount of confusion owing to the different powers possessed by different authorities and over-lapping. If he goes into that and perhaps lets me know the answer later, I will, if necessary, put down an Amendment.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.
§ Clause 6 ordered to stand part of the Bill.