§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 11.12 a.m.
§ Mr. Duncan Sandys (Streatham)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
After yesterday's heated argument over Vietnam it is to me a rather pleasant change to sail into the calmer waters of today's debate. I am particularly happy to introduce this Measure with the good will and the support of all parties.
In very broad terms, the Bill has three purposes: to preserve beauty, to create beauty and to remove ugliness. To be more precise, it seeks to protect the character not only of individual buildings of interest, but also of the area around them, it seeks to ensure that the planting of trees is given its due place in town planning and it seeks to remove eyesores such as abandoned motor cars and rubbish dumps.
In the framing of this Measure I have had much valuable help from different quarters. In particular, I wish to express my warm thanks to the Minister of Housing and Local Government and to the Minister of Land and Natural Resources and to their Parliamentary Secretaries and the officials of their Ministries, who have given me much assistance and splendid co-operation. I wish to thank the hon. Members who have agreed to sponsor the Bill not only for giving me the support of their names, but also for their valuable advice. Lastly, I wish to thank the Director and staff of the Civic Trust, who have put in so many long hours of study and devoted work.
Since the Bill closely affects local authorities in many ways, I would, naturally, have liked to be able to consult them before introducing it, but the shortness of time available has, unfortunately, made this impossible. I have, however, written to each of the local authorities associations and have invited them to let me have their reactions. Assuming that the Bill receives a Second Reading today, it is not my intention to ask for it to be taken in Committee until the autumn, my reason being that this 840 will give local authorities and interested bodies time to study its provisions and to suggest any amendments or additions.
The Bill deals with three distinct problems. Part I is concerned with the protection of areas and buildings of architectural or historic interest. It is not enough merely to preserve isolated buildings. We must also protect and improve their setting. There are many such areas, mostly in or near the centres of our older towns. The historic core of York, the Tuesday Market at King's Lynn, the Chequers at Salisbury and the Market Place at Blandford are the kind of areas which we have in mind. There is nothing at present to prevent a planning authority using its powers to ensure that new developments respect their surroundings, but these are only permissive powers of a general kind which may or may not be used for this purpose. The effect of Clause 1 will be to make this mandatory.
If the Bill becomes law, it will be the duty of local planning authorities to identify any areas which are of special architectural or historic interest. Thereafter, it will be their duty, when exercising their planning powers, to consider what should be done to preserve and enhance the character and appearance of these areas.
Clause 1(2) enables grants which are now payable in respect of individual buildings to be made in respect of these wider areas. Clause 2 increases the penalty for the contravention of a building preservation order. The need for this was emphasised recently by the scandalous case of Silhill Hall, near Birmingham, with which many hon. Members are familiar. In that instance a man deliberately demolished one of the most perfect fourteenth century half-timbered houses which was covered by a building preservation order. By clearing the site for development he increased the value of his property by about £15,000. He therefore gladly paid the fine of £100, which is the maximum that the court can at present impose.
To meet that problem, we propose that a person convicted in a higher court should be liable to a fine of unlimited amount or a term of imprisonment of up to one year, or both. The court will thus have complete discretion to fix the 841 fine at a level which will ensure that the offender secures no financial benefit from breaking the law.
Clause 3 extends the period during which provisional building preservation orders remain in effect. Clause 4 increases the penalties for causing willful damage to a listed building. Clause 5 extends the powers of compulsory acquisition, which are now limited to buildings covered by a preservation order, to include listed buildings and areas of special architectural or historic interest as defined in Clause 1 of the Bill. Clause 6 remedies certain other defects in the existing law.
Part II of the Bill is concerned with the preservation, planting and replacement of trees. Unless we take positive action now on a nationwide scale to preserve, plant and replace trees, we shall find ourselves living in increasingly treeless towns. The main purpose of this part of the Bill is to ensure that in all plans for new development, positive attention shall be given to the preservation of trees, whether by preserving the trees which already exist on the site or by planting new ones.
Our population is growing all the time and the demand for new building will grow with it. Our aim must be to plant trees at a corresponding rate. But that is a formidable task and rough estimates show that over the next two or three decades we shall have to plant tens of millions of trees in order just to keep pace with the rate of new building.
Clause 7(1), for the first time—and I attach great importance to this—places a specific duty on local authorities to concern themselves with the provision of trees and requires them, where appropriate, to make the preservation, planting and replacement of trees conditional for granting planning permission for new development. Clause 7(2), Clause 8 and Clause 9 ensure that any trees which a developer has been required to preserve or plant shall continue to be preserved thereafter and shall, when necessary, be replaced.
Clause 10 increases the penalty for felling or destroying a tree in contravention of a tree preservation order. Since the purpose of felling a tree may not be to sell the wood, but to clear the 842 site for building, we have provided in Clause 8 that where a tree covered by a preservation order has died, or has been destroyed, it shall be the duty of the owner, unless otherwise authorised, to plant another tree at the same place. This will remove any financial advantage which he might have in destroying a tree or deliberately allowing it to die.
Part III of the Bill deals with the disposal of old vehicles and other discarded material and rubbish. My hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) introduced a Bill on this subject under the Ten Minute Rule last February, but, unfortunately, it was killed by the dissolution of Parliament.
With a constantly growing and increasingly motorised population, the orderly disposal of cars and lorries is becoming a major problem. Over 1 million new motor vehicles come on to our roads each year and a similar number is likely to be discarded a few years later. The problem is to dispose of the bodies in a decent way. All too many people now abandon their unwanted cars on the roadside or in fields, where they become an obstruction to traffic or a danger to children and an eyesore to all. The Bill will give local authorities appropriate powers and duties to tackle this problem.
While unwanted vehicles pose greater difficulties, there is also the wider problem of disposing of other bulky rubbish. This includes discarded consumer goods of all kinds, such as outworn gas stoves, refrigerators, bedsteads, and other goods. We must also deal with the objectionable habit of tipping lorry loads of rubble and rubbish into ditches, on vacant sites or in fields, thereby creating ugly and insanitary conditions.
Clause 11 makes it an offence to abandon a vehicle or to deposit rubbish, and offenders will be fined up to £100 and may be made to meet the cost of removal. Clause 12 (1) places upon local authorities the duty to collect any such vehicles which are abandoned on the highway or within reasonable reach of it. The other subsections of Clause 12 empower local authorities to dispose of these vehicles, subject to certain safeguards for their owners. Clause 13 gives local authorities rather fuller powers than they at present 843 enjoy to collect rubbish, not only in public places but also on private land.
If it is to be made a serious offence, as we propose, to abandon vehicles or rubbish, it is only fair that there should be recognised places where these things can be taken and lawfully deposited. Clause 14 gives to local authorities the duty to provide suitable facilities. Clause 15 enables local authorities to club together to provide these services on a joint basis, if they so wish.
It may he asked how all this fits in with the Litter Act, 1958. The intention is that the Bill, with its heavier penalties, should deal with the bulkier type of rubbish which is deliberately transported to a place for the purpose of getting rid of it. The problem of minor litter, left behind or thrown away through thoughtlessness or negligence, would continue to be dealt with under the Litter Act as at present.
I think that I have said enough to indicate the general scope and purpose of the Bill. While it covers three separate subjects, it is inspired by a single theme; to improve the appearance of town and country, to preserve what is good from the past and to pass on to future generations something which they, in their turn, will think it worth while preserving—in short, to make Britain a pleasanter place in which to live and work for us and for our children.
§ 11.27 a.m.
§ Mr. Roland Moyle (Lewisham, North)
I support the Bill and welcome the fact that it is likely to get a Second Reading today. I am particularly keen to support the principle contained in Clause 1, which lays down that not only historic buildings and buildings of architectural interest should be protected but also the areas around them.
I have in my constituency an area which may possibly benefit considerably from the passage of the Bill. It consists of quite a large number of Georgian and Regency houses surrounding an open public place. Some of the buildings are even older. Many of them have been lived in by famous people and there is a large number of trees in the area, giving the whole area a most attractive appearance. I am anxious to see this area maintained, as it gives an example 844 to our planning staffs and committees of how it is possible to create a pleasant urban environment in which people may live, and it provides them with an example toward which to work.
This is beginning to happen. We have a number of council housing estates in the area, and whatever one may think of the architecture that some of them have adopted, there is little doubt that, as a result of the type of area in which they have been built, the architects of the local councils have gone out of their way to make them as attractive as possible. There is, therefore, a lot to be said for maintaining areas like this.
Following upon its normal enlightened planning policy, the L.C.C., as it then was, designated this area in my constituency as an amenity area. This was not a legal concept and one of the reasons why I welcome the Bill is because it may put teeth into the conception of the amenity area.
Blackheath was designated as one of the five amenity areas in the County of London and this meant that, to as large an extent as possible, through traffic was to be excluded. There was to be a lower housing density than normal and the general amenities of the area were to be maintained, and this also applied to Hampstead, Highgate, Dulwich and Richmond.
The trouble with the previous situation was that the L.C.C's. laudable aim did not stop that body at one stage from proposing that a large-scale roadway should be driven right through the area. At one stage the roadway was supposed to cross Blackheath Park, probably one of the most outstanding roads in South-East London. The argument used, among others, by the L.C.C. for that course was that because of the portion of Blackheath Park which the new roadway would cross, and which would entail very substantial civil engineering works, none of the houses of historic or architectural importance in Blackheath Park would be destroyed by the road's approach. I hope when the Bill becomes law, as I am sure it will, this sort of approach to environment and to houses of architectural interest will no longer hold sway.
Another point in the scheme I mentioned was that the roadway went straight through the village shopping centre. I 845 would be the first to say that the village shopping centre contained nothing of architectural importance, but I always likened the idea to driving a large road through Hampstead in the area of the Hampstead tube station; the effect would be very much the same. I hope that this Measure will preserve the buildings of interest that we have in our amenity areas, and will ensure that areas not of the highest architectural importance but essential to the service of the houses and buildings of interest are also preserved.
I am particularly glad to see Clause 3, which lays down the period of a provisional building preservation order as six months instead of two months. In my constituency we had a particularly distressing case involving a row of Georgian houses. A preservation order was sought, but before any of the local inhabitants really knew anything about it the public inquiry had been held and the budding preservation order had not been confirmed. It was only after the public inquiry that public opinion began to assert itself, and 5,000 signatures were collected for a petition.
One of the major arguments in that case was that the public inquiry was not fully publicised, but the extension of the period from two months to six months will be of considerable assistance, since there is much less likelihood of such a situation arising in the longer period. Many of the bodies which seek to mobilise local public opinion on issues of this kind are voluntary, and do not always work at the same speed at which professional organisations and full-time bodies such as local authorities and Ministries proceed. This is not because the voluntary organisations wish to cause delay, but because they lack the resources to take swift action.
I am very glad that a member of the Opposition who won a very high place in the Ballot has seen fit to introduce this type of Bill. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not consider it a slightly backhanded compliment, because in recent months many people in my constituency have said to me, "Of course, your people are always much better on these preservation issues than the other party", and they have quoted the late Hugh Dalton and Aneurin Bevan to me, and the encouraging reactions they feel 846 they get from my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I have always tried to encourage a bipartisan approach to these matters, and I am very happy to see that the balance has now been somewhat redressed by the introduction of this Bill by the right hon. Gentleman.
I think that the Bill probably has the right approach to motor car disposal. It recognises that the disposal of derelict cars is an increasingly serious problem, but I believe that this may possibly be the weakest part of the Bill. In the London Borough of Lewisham, about 1,200 cars are abandoned and deposited on the high roads annually, and the number is increasing with every month that passes. I appreciate that the provisions of the Bill will relieve local authorities of one of their major problems—the tracing of the owners of these apparently abandoned vehicles—but the very difficult decision will still have to be made of whether or not a car has been abandoned. I cannot see an easy way round that problem.
The Bill insists that a car that is towed away by a local authority must be kept in a storage place for six weeks in order to give an owner a chance to claim it, and possibly pay the local authority the costs. This question of storage is likely to prove a major obstacle in such a borough as my hown My complaint about the Bill at this stage is not that it would prove too drastic in dealing with this problem, but not drastic enough, although the rights of the individual citizen must be respected, and he should not have his car towed away without due reason, particularly nowadays when the vast majority of the population use the streets as their garages.
One borough engineer to whom I put the problem said that at least two or three acres of land would be needed for storage. In some parts of the country. that is not a very large slice of land, but in Lewisham, for instance, which is practically wholly built up, apart from public open spaces, and where in almost every case property has to be pulled down in order to build more houses, the battle to obtain two or three extra acres for the storage of the hulks of derelict cars would prove to be a major problem. Perhaps between now and the Committee 847 stage the right hon. Gentleman may think of some alternative solution which could be investigated.
The suggestion that I have had put to me by someone in a borough engineering department in South-East London was that a local authority should be empowered, when it came to the conclusion that a car had been abandoned, to put a notice on the vehicle saying, "In our view this car has been abandoned, and unless it is removed within seven or 14 days we shall remove it and destroy it." The local authority should then be relieved of the financial liabilities that might arise. That idea may appear to be drastic, and it may need further thought. On the other hand, the finding of storage space is a problem that boroughs in built-up areas will find very serious indeed.
§ 11.38 a.m.
§ Mr. Nicholas Ridley (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
The hon. Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle) gave some very vivid examples of how this Bill will greatly benefit boroughs such as Lewisham. We are indebted to him for what he said. Several of the points he made could well be followed up in Committee. In particular, much thought will have to be given to the problem of storing abandoned cars.
The beauty of our English towns and countryside is not fortuitous. It is not so much the result of Nature as of the foresight of our ancestors; and our wonderful houses and towns and trees and the countryside are the result of investment by people two or three hundred years ago.
My constituency contains two of the loveliest towns in England—Cirencester and Tewkesbury—as well as a very large number of small towns and villages of the utmost beauty and the highest standard. To me as one who has always tried to preserve these beautiful towns, this Bill will be a great weapon, and will help those of my many constituents who very much bear in mind the beauties of Gloucestershire and the Cotswolds. We have been living on someone else's aesthetic capital. Our own contribution has tended so much to be in bungalows, supermarkets, abandoned cars, barbed 848 wire, concrete and other forms of mess that it is time we seriously undertook to make a new investment for the future and for the generations which follow.
There are two easy ways of doing this contained in this Bill. One is simply not to make a mess. Part III of the Bill which gives powers to remove and tidy up rubbish which has been deposited is perhaps the simplest and least demanding way of preserving the beauty of our country. I welcome it very much; it is simplicity itself. Part II is very simple because no artistic effort is required about a tree.
A tree is a beautiful thing in itself. All we have to do is to plant it and there is no question of design or judgment involved. I fully endorse both those Parts of the Bill, but I hope that we shall plant the right trees, the big, beautiful idigenous trees of Britain. I do not want to see a great extension of what Mr. John Betjemen has called "park keeper's trees" being planted, but the oak, the ash, the beech and the elm which fit into the countryside and are indigenous to this country. We do not want to see an extension of monkey puzzles, spruce, exotic flowering shrubs and the like which do not really deserve the name of tree.
This legislation is extremely helpful, but in the end it is the public sense of taste and beauty and appreciation which will matter. I pay tribute to the Civic Trust which has done more than any other single organisation to make the public aware, not only on a national scale but in every town, village and city, of the importance of keeping our towns and countryside beautiful. Great credit is due to my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) for having founded that organisation when he was at the same time Minister responsible for housing and local government. Throughout the years whatever he has been doing for the public good he has kept a very close eye on and given great assistance to the Civic Trust. The country and this House owe him a great debt of tribute. This Bill is an extension of his undying concern for and interest in seeing that these things are not neglected in our country. It is not only his good fortune but our good fortune that he won a place in the Ballot for Private Members' Bills.
One popular misconception is that there is a conflict between the beauties at 849 the past and the need to develop and modernise our society. I do not believe that this is true. Whether it be lovely houses or towns versus development, whether it be the beauty of the countryside versus agricultural efficiency, whether it be our whole way of life versus the modern age in which we live, or our political institutions versus the need for modern efficient Government, I see no conflict whatever. I never believe that it is necessary to destroy the past for the sake of the future. With good sense both in planning and development and in industry and politics, all that needs to be done can be renewed without destroying the past. For this reason I am both a Conservative and a radical at once.
So it is with good buildings. Here I return to Part I of the Bill. Our heritage in buildings is probably richer than in any otter of the arts. Our towns have grown not by destroying but by adding through the centuries. I do not believe there is any necessary conflict in modernising and developing them and building new roads for them. The supermarket need not go on top of the good building and the new road need not follow the line of a famous high street. It must be made clear which parts of our towns are sacrosanct, because many people simply have lot bothered to think and do not know.
The extension of the principle of listing good buildings to the principle of listing good areas is of immense importance in this connection. I slightly wonder whether the words in Clause 1 are strong enough:Every local planning authority shall from time to time determine which parts of their area are areas … regard shall be had to the desirability".Those are not very strong phrases. When we look at the Bill in Committee I hope that we shall find ways of making it even more incumbent on local authorities to pay serious regard to the desired objects of the Bill. I think there must be some teeth put into area protection.
I should like to outline how I believe we should deal with the problem of redevelopment in ancient and beautiful towns. The first thing to do is to make a survey of good buildings and areas, to mark them on the map, declare that they are sacrosanct and then give teeth to provisions for their preservation. Secondly, road and development plans can be drawn on the maps avoiding the good areas. 850 Thirdly, it is necessary to make a detailed survey of each building within those good areas. We must find the owners and tenants, find to what use the buildings are put and also find in what condition they are. Armed with all that knowledge, it should be possible to have a flexible and useful system for protecting a town.
It is possible also to have what I call "Norwich-type" schemes such as the Civic Trust has sponsored to improve the facades and the amenities of existing buildings in existing streets. The difficulty comes when things start to go wrong, when buildings start to be threatened, when there is neglect or when evil and unscrupulous developers are at work. I welcome very much the provision in the Bill to extend the powers of local authorities for compulsory purchase of buildings which are neglected or threatened. The unlimited fine to which my right hon. Friend referred is a great improvement where wilful damage is threatened to a building but it will do nothing whatever where the building is threatened only by the neglect of the owner.
It is important that owners who take off one slate from a roof and allow dry rot to destroy the building should be curbed. The only way to do this and thereby to save the building is to put compulsory purchase into effect. Then the local authority, having obtained the building, should repair and renew it and maybe change its use. A dwelling house might then become an office or a shop might become a house. It need not necessarily be put to the same use provided that it is within the concept of an overall plan.
It is necessary to emphasise the importance of grants. I welcome the transfer of the Historic Buildings Councils from the Ministry of Public Building and Works to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. It is essential that the two sides of this problem, the negative side to prevent destruction and the positive side of rebuilding and repair, should be in the hands of the same Ministry. But it will be necessary to increase grants. I believe the Government are aware of this. I hope that as soon as possible they will make sure that further sums of money shall be available for this purpose.
851 One of the big hazards is that local authorities do not feel able to place more expenditure on the rates and thereby offend ratepayers further. I am certain that we shall not have the great cooperation which is necessary until this problem of finance is further solved. Buildings which have been acquired should be resold. It might be a good thing to write into the Bill that they should be sold back to the public, because there is no point in a local authority owning more and more of its town just for the sake of preservation. If it needs a building for the express purpose of local government, well and good, but I am certain that when it acquires buildings, repairs and resells them, it can often recover the cost of repair; and in the end no financial burden would be imposed on the local authority if the thing was done well. I hope that my right hon. Friend will consider the need for local authorities to be encouraged to resell buildings.
What I have been describing is very similar to what the French have done. The French have 12 pilot towns. The central government is empowered to impose schemes on the 12 pilot towns, with local co-operation and consultation. I believe that these schemes are working well.
In Britain the Minister has chosen four pilot towns and he is doing much the same thing. There is one difference between the French and the English schemes. In France there is a greater degree of State intervention, of central direction by the Ministry, and less is being left to local authorities. I believe that many lessons will be learned. I am certain that what is happening in these four towns will be a very good example to other towns.
Perhaps the central remaining problem in the overall solution of this matter is whether it should be completely under the local authority or whether it should be directed from the centre to a great extent. There will always be the problem of the bad local authority which does not care or which will not try to save its good buildings and develop its town properly. The example of Eldon Square in Newcastle is one which has shocked many of us who know and love that ancient and beautiful city. I have 852 often wondered whether local authorities should be entrusted with this vital and important work. This is a point well worth debating.
In the last analysis, we must leave it to the local people. The Bill seems to me to give local authorities and local planning committees another chance to do what so many of them have neglected to do in the past. I should like the Bill to provide that local authorities must obtain good professional advice about the drawing up of their development schemes. Many of them do not. Many of them have not yet got the necessary aesthetic and architectural expertise to draw up their plans. This is another point I should like to see raised in committee.
Local authorities will certainly need more financial help. It is important, as the Bill does, to include whole areas as eligible for grants from the Historic Buildings Councils. With this help local authorities might be able on a greater and better scale to undertake the work which I should like to see done.
It is noteworthy that the majority of towns have now got their own private individual amenity societies. There are over 550 such societies. It is they who are taking the lead in this work, and not local authorities. It is they who are drawing up lists of buildings, objecting to bad proposals, and encouraging good ones. They are now even buying houses themselves, repairing them and selling them back, raising enough capital to keep two or three threatened houses on the go all the time. I welcome this.
There is such a society in Tewkesbury, in my constituency. I very much hope we will now be able to get one started in Cirencester, the other town in my constituency, where it is vitally needed. I believe that these societies are a genuine counterpart to local authority work, and I am not saying that the local authority in Cirencester is anything but good. In default of a good attitude by local authorities this is the one thin line of defence between losing what is a desirable amenity in our ancient towns and the incursion of bad modern development.
I believe that the Bill goes to exactly the right extent in the right direction at this time. I end on a note of warning. 853 We cannot afford to lose many more of the centres of our towns. Time is running oat and the pressures of development are getting greater every day. If local authorities cannot make use of this Bill and of all the educative effects of what the Ministry is doing—I pay the greatest tribute to the Minister for the work he is doing here—I believe that we shall lose one of the greatest assets that the country has.
We have not got the sun. We have not got the charm of the Mediterranean. We have not got French food. We have not got good wine. The only thing that we have got to make this a beautiful island to which tourists from all over the world will want to come is our English countryside and our English towns. I therefore have the greatest pleasure in supporting this admirable Measure.
§ 11.55 a.m.
§ Mr. Peter M. Jackson (The High Peak)
I rise to support the Bill. Civic amenities is a subject about which I feel very strongly. I thank the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) for introducing the Bill and commend his work far the Civic Trust.
I represent the High Peak division of Derbyshire and claim the distinction of being its first Labour Member of Parliament. Like my predecessor, Mr. David Walder, I represent the radical wing of my party. In January, in defence of one of his colleagues, Mr. Walder went on record in these words:I am sure that the public prefers a party that can bear criticism, to the monolith of yes-men, sinking their own differences to hang on to power …These are sentiments which I entirely endorse. In conclusion on this note,
I wish Mr. Walder well in his future career.
I have said that I represent the High Peak division of Derbyshire. Within my constituency lies a considerable section of the Peak District National Park. This is an area of outstanding natural beauty. I hope that it will long remain so.
I am pleased to commend the Bill, which I believe will contribute to this. I could comment on all three parts of the Bill, but I wish to confine myself to Part III, which is concerned with the 854 disposal of vehicles and rubbish. This part of the Bill makes it an offence to abandon a vehicle or deposit rubbish, and it increased the fines which can be imposed on offenders.
This is a special problem in the Peak District. Moving cars are an intrusion in the countryside in any case. Cars are an even greater disfigurement when they are abandoned. I have seen figures which suggest that 1 million cars are abandoned each year. I think we all agree that this is a problem which is now with us. We should turn our minds to the problem which will be with us in the future.
I extract the following figures from the Buchanan Report. Buchanan suggests that the number of vehicles on the road at present is 10½ million. He projects that this number will increase to 18 million by 1970, to 27 million by 1980, and to 40 million by 2,010. This represents a doubling of numbers within 10 years and a trebling within 20. It is important to note that nearly half the total increase is expected within the next 10 years.
To date, this problem has been dealt with in a fairly haphazard way. I commend a recent article in The Times on the problem of abandoned vehicles. I learned from this article that there are certain periods in the year, depending on the price of non-ferrous and ferrous metals, when it just is not economically worthwhile to "scrap" a vehicle, so scrap dealers are very reluctant to take vehicles for scrap.
Local authorities, following the excellent circular published by the Minister in February, 1965, are also taking action. It appears from what I have read that their practices vary. Some local authorities charge. Some do not. Charging acts as a deterrent. I am glad that the circular suggests that the service should be provided gratis. I gather from figures which have been published by Liverpool that since that city provided a free service the number of cars passed over to the authority for destruction has increased eight-fold.
Clause 15 empowers local authorities to act jointly. This is a very important Clause, because it will allow local authorities, acting jointly, to make use of the new disposal techniques. I should like to refer to two of these. I gather that the 855 Bird Company has introduced into this country a mobile car crusher. I am told that it costs £65,000 and that after initial preparation it has a capacity of 30 cars an hour. It is obvious that it would not be economical for one local authority to buy one of these mobile car crushers. It would have to be done by a consortium of local authorities, and this would be possible under this Clause.
I understand that the Cohen 600 Group has introduced a revolutionary technique or is in the process of doing so, which is referred to as the Proler process. This is an even more expensive piece of machinery. I gather that one of these plants will be introduced into the South-East and that the cost will be £1 million. Clearly, it is doubtful whether an enterprise on this scale could be financed by local authorities, but, from what I read of this process, this is the most effective way of dealing with the problem. The capacity of this plant is 400,000 cars a year. I am told that the present rate of scrapping in the South-East is 175,000 a year. Therefore, when this plant is laid down it can obviously cope adequately with all the cars in the South-East which need to be scrapped now and in the next decade.
I should like local authorities and the Government to take this matter seriously. I should like encouragement to be given to local authorities to form a consortium in all parts of the country and to invest in this kind of plant. Probably they would require financial support from the Government. This would save land use. A previous speaker mentioned the problem that some authorities have of providing space for dumping cars. If we could have these central sites we could economise in land usage.
There are, of course, problems involved. If we had four or five of these plants in the country, local authorities would have the problem of getting the cars to the sites. Obviously, this would be fairly expensive. Some of the cars which are abandoned—I can think of several in my own constituency—are without wheels. One only has to consider the cost involved in taking an abandoned car without wheels a distance of 30 or 40 miles to realise that this can be a very expensive business.
856 I also gather that local authorities, when they deal with this problem, meet considerable administrative costs and I should like to draw the Minister's attention to a recent statement by a local authority spokesman who said:The real cost and major difficulty in dealing with abandoned cars is the vast administrative problem involved. We have to try to trace each car owner and check that no hire-purchase payments are still owing. One private agency does nothing but check on this sort of thing for us. There have been cases where councils were sued by hire-purchase dealers because they disposed of the car before full payments had been made.I should like an assurance that local authorities will not be required to undertake the kind of administrative work in which they have been involved in the past.
In conclusion, I should like to commend an idea which occurred to me independently but which I find has already been canvassed by Lord Redesdale. That is an additional tax for scrapping. He has proposed that each new car should carry a £5 surtax, and I think this would have much to commend it. A person buying a new car would pay £5, and when the car was due 'to be scrapped the person taking the car to the destructor unit would receive £5. This would provide a very considerable incentive to car owners to dispose of their vehicles. At the moment, they have no incentive; in fact, there is a positive deterrent. Some authorities charge; some do not.
If we were to provide this incentive to scrap cars, we would save a lot of expense which might otherwise be involved. For example, we would save the expense of taking cars long distances. They would be taken by the owners with the log book and they would receive £5. Many of these problems could be solved by this tax, and I commend the idea to the Minister.
§ 12.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Hornby (Tonbridge)
It is always a pleasure to follow a maiden speaker in the House and to have the opportunity of congratulating him on getting over that ordeal—if ordeal it is, for one detected no trace of nervousness in the speech of the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson).
Secondly, may I say what a singularly appropriate occasion it is for an hon. 857 Member representing The High Peak constituency to make such a speech. There can be few districts more beautiful in the whole of the British Isles than that. Because of its proximity to great centres of population, there can be few others that it is more necessary to preserve as a heritage for the future, and few others which are more threatened by the changing circumstances in which we live in this tightly-packed island. Therefore, I congratulate the hon. Member both on his speech and on his choice of the occasion. I very much hope that the House will have his constructive assistance in matters such as this throughout the rest of this Parliament.
My Intention in speaking in this debate is to be brief, because there are many others who wish to speak and because I do not want to do anything that will delay the passage of this Bill. I should not like the occasion to pass without paying tribute to the work involved in framing the Bill, to the Civic Trust and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) for the work which he has done in this connection. As others have already said, the House and the nation owe much to his energy and determination in seeing that these matters have been tackled.
One point that I should like to emphasise—and I do not want to go over the details which my right hon. Friend has already covered—is the urgency of the Bill. Things are changing very quickly in this country. Our population is growing fast. The mobility of the population changes the pattern of life and affects the centres of towns, the town surroundings, and the whole countryside. With the growth of the motorways there is virtually no part of the British Isles which is not within the reach of every person, wherever he may live, within a matter of hours. This affects much of the traditional appearance of our countryside.
This Measure will, no doubt, be labelled a preservation Bill. But it is much more than that. It is an attempt to be constructive in changing circumstances. As my right hon. Friend said, it deals with the improvement of the appearance of the land as well as with the removal of ugliness and the preservation of things of beauty. I believe that the 858 Bill contains valuable Clauses which can help to make these things possible.
The Bill serves yet another purpose. Not only does it put duties and responsibilities on to local authorities, which I believe are the right places to put those responsibilities, but it is also a reminder and a spur to the whole nation that we have got to take positive action now if our beautiful countryside and towns are not to disappear rapidly. Time is not on our side in a matter of this kind.
A great deal of constructive thought is being given to these problems. As examples, there are the work of the Civic Trust, the work of the Nature Conservancy, with such documents as its recent report on Broadland, and there have been the reports on the conferenes concerned with the countryside in 1970, which contained much valuable and constructive thought on these matters. One might add the work of some local authorities, such as the recent report of the Hampshire County Council on the changes in village life, which is an example of what individual authorities are finding it necessary to do on their own.
The Bill gives a spur to these activities. It gives very necessary powers to certain authorities and I wish it and all the supplementary work that is going on in other directions very rapid success, because unless we have this success and the constructive effort which my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham has pioneered we shall see a tragic deterioration in the whole appearance of Britain.
§ 12.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Tom Driberg (Barking)
All of us congratulate the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) both on his good fortune in the ballot and on his good judgment in bringing forward this civilised and civilising Measure. I agree with much that has already been said. I have only one reservation about one word used by the hon. Member who has the good fortune to represent those beautiful towns of Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley). He spoke about the historic centres of our cities, and I entirely agree, in general, with what he said. In January I attended a conference at Cambridge, which was arranged 859 by my right hon. Friend the Minister, on that specific subject.
But when the hon. Member used the word "sacrosanct", he was using a word that seems to me slightly unfortunate in this context, because although we want to preserve these historic centres, we do not want them to become simply frozen, artificial, museum-pieces. We want them to go on being lived in. The problem is that if we want them to be lived in, the housewives and others living in them are entitled to expect the ordinary contemporary conveniences of urban living within reasonable reach.
§ Mr. Ridley
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I wanted to tell him how much I agree with him, and I thank him for pointing out what I think was really a slip of the tongue on my part, which I am very grateful to him for correcting.
§ Mr. Driberg
I am much obliged to the hon. Gentleman. As I was saying, the residents of these historic centres will, naturally, expect to have supermarkets, chain stores, and whatever it may be, within walking distance.
Unfortunately, in many cases—although not in all—it is the chain stores which have destroyed the visual beauty of our urban streets. This matter needs extremely careful thought and, presumably, negotiation with the owners of some of the chains of retail shops. This does not mean that we want them to build sham-antique supermarkets. Nothing could be worse than a Tudoresque "Marks and Sparks", or a Woolworth's in banker's Georgian. There is a serious problem here, which I hope is being worked on by all concerned, including the architects and planners of the local authorities as well as the Ministry and private firms of architects.
The right hon. Gentleman gave a recent example of the destruction that can be caused by deliberate malice and avarice, the case that we all know about from the Midlands. There are many such cases, sometimes caused by ignorance and muddle rather than by deliberate malice.
One case is described in the last annual report of the Historic Buildings Council for England:On one or two occasions in the past year we have noted with concern that some build- 860 ing, worthy of preservation, has been demolished before all possible means of retaining it have been fully considered. In the case of the Old Grammar School at Thame, in Oxfordshire, the building had changed hands and the new owners had pulled it down before receiving permission to redevelop the site, and while the County Council and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government were considering making a building preservation order.That illustrates the importance of speed in such considerations by county councils and the Ministry. I do not know how long the Ministry and county council took to consider making a building preservation order in this case, but as the hon. Member for Tonbridge (Mr. Hornby) said, time is not on our side. This is just an illustration of that fact.
The Report of the Historic Buildings Council goes on to make a further important point. It says:A no less serious threat to an historic building is simple neglect. In this case there is no power to issue a preservation order and consequently no power of compulsory purchase, with the result that the owner can allow the building to deteriorate until demolition becomes inevitable.Probably where this happens it is usually due either to ignorance or to lack of means and inability to receive a grant. But occasionally neglect is also deliberate. One hears of cases where the surreptitious removal of one or two tiles has let in the rain and set up decay, quite deliberately, because the owner wants an excuse for saying that an ancient building which is no use to him must be pulled down because it is falling down anyway.
I am very much worried by one example in my own County of Essex, at Coggeshall—the ancient and very beautiful tithe barn. There is a serious risk that in a few years it may no longer be in existence. The view of it has already been ruined by the erection of a number of extremely unsightly bungalows and houses around it, which should not have been allowed to be built there.
There are also examples of what one might call calculated barbarous demolition. Sometimes Governments are to blame—I do not say of any particular party. A few years ago many of us on both sides of the House tried to save that extremely important and interesting building, the Coal Exchange. If it had been built only a year or two earlier it would probably have been possible to save it, and to have it preserved. But, 861 because of the accident that it was built a year or two after the artificial dividing line in time, and because only a few feet more were needed for a new road through the City, the remarkable building had to be demolished.
Then there was the case of the Doric screen or, as it was called, arch at Euston. I am still not convinced that a good modern architect could not have worked this into his general plan for the building of the new Euston Station, which may, when it is complete, be an interesting and notable example of contemporary architecture.
None of us, I hope, are preservationists at all costs, simply for the sake of preservation. We should encourage the building of good modern architecture just as much as we seek to preserve the best of the old. But it should be possible, in cases like that of Euston, to work an existing edifice of merit, as I believe the Doric screen was, into a new and completely modern setting.
There is another smaller and, perhaps, less important example of a building which is threatened, although steps are now being taken, I believe, to ensure that it is preserved. I refer to the building now known—I hope that this will not offend the political susceptibilities of any hon. Members opposite—as the Marx Memorial Library on Clerkenwell Green. At one time a view was taken that very little of the original early-18th century building survived. I think that this view has now been shown to be mistaken. Although the building is in an extremely shabby condition, and surrounded by a lot of complete rubbish, the trustees have given an undertaking to restore it to its original state if and when they can be assured that it can be preserved and the surrounding rubbish removed.
The local authority—I say this with respect to its good intentions—was mistaken, I believe, in seeking to remove this building, because it stands on what is proposed to be a fairly large open space. When a lot of more or less slum streets have been cleared away, there will be an open space there, and the local authority thought that it was desirable to demolish this building in order to make the open space still larger. In fact, however, this building occupies only between 1 and 2 per cent. of the total open space proposed, and its retention 862 would have a positive aesthetic advantage, since it would form the central element in a group of three Georgian buildings, the other two being the Sessions House on one side and the Church of St. James, with its pillared portico and tall steeple on the other, helping to give scale to those two buildings and to link them visually.
I have had a good deal of correspondence about this with the Minister, and I hope very much that we shall be told—perhaps not today, but at some time quite soon—that this Memorial Library is safe. Incidentally, it has associations of historic interest, not perhaps to all hon. Members of the House, but to students of the history of the Labour movement in this country.
In addition to what I call barbarous demolition, there is the perhaps even more difficult problem of barbarous development. I very much doubt whether this Bill can prevent people from putting up more and more of those characterless slabs which are disfiguring the City of London and so many other cities. Some of them, of course, are of great interest architecturally—I would not say that of the Shell Building, and I do not think that many would—but others really do destroy the skyline and with it much of the character of the centres of our cities.
In this connection, I quote an opinion of Mr. John Betjeman, who has already been referred to at least once, as is inevitable in a debate of this kind. He points out that there is a great risk in allowing very tall buildings immediately round our London parks. Regent's Park is relatively safe, because of the Nash terraces: I must say that a remarkably fine job has been done in the restoration and preservation of those terraces. But Hyde Park, the visual character of which is essentially rural, will no longer be as rural as it now looks if we have more Hilton Hotels, more tall blocks on Knightsbridge, and so on.
It will tend to seem to shrink in size and become rather more like Central Park in New York—which, though it has a certain beauty of its own, particularly at dusk when the windows in the skyscrapers round about are all lit up, has an entirely different kind of beauty from the quasi-rustic beauty of our London parks. I hope that this will be borne in mind, if not by the planning authorities 863 at least by the Royal Fine Art Commission.
The Royal Fine Art Commission, is however, handicapped by having on it rather too many eminent architects. There should be some architects on it, of course, but I do not think that they should be preponderant in the membership, because there is an inevitable tendency among architects, however, objective they may try to be, to approve one anothers' work. They are scrupulously careful not to do anything improper, but I think that they tend, quite naturally, to say, "Poor old Howard"—or whoever it may be—"I suppose we had better let him have it…. It's ghastly, of course, but there …". Also, of course, the Royal Fine Art Commission is advisory only. It has no real powers. It can only persuade, and sometimes, I think, it persuades unwisely. For example, that very interesting new building, New Zealand House, near Trafalgar Square, was reduced in height by one or two storeys, I think, as a result of the persuasions of the Royal Fine Art Commission. Looking at it now, I think that it would probably be better proportioned if it were a little taller, with those extra storeys on it.
This problem of barbarous development clearly cannot be completely covered by the Bill. Barbarous demolition, on the other hand, will be and I welcome it very strongly, therefore—not only for what the Bill itself may do but because the debates and the public discussion on it will help to make everyone, local authorities, the general public and all concerned, more aware of the real importance of this heritage.
§ 12.28 p.m.
§ Dame Joan Vickers (Plymouth, Devonport)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) on the Bill and welcome the further initiative he has taken to improve our countryside. I speak for a newly-built town, and I think that this Bill will be welcomed, by newly-constructed towns such as Plymouth. I am a member of the Old Plymouth Society which takes a great interest in trying to preserve the old buildings. Just looking across the road from here to the Jewel Tower, we see a good example of the tremendous advantage brought to a unique old build- 864 ing when the surroundings and amenities are so much improved.
The Bill will help to carry forward the suggestions made in the Gowers Report, and for this it is to be commended, as we have rather neglected that Report for too long.
I draw attention to one or two points arising on Clause 1. The Clause provides thatEvery local planning authority shall from time to time determine which parts of their areas …Not all local planning authorities, I regret to say, are experts. In Plymouth, for instance, we have some very good new estates which are quite beautiful and extremely well planned. On the other hand, there are some excellent old buildings, notably Foulston architecture, which could have been preserved but which have been allowed to get into such bad condition that one unfortunately fell down and a number now will have to be pulled down. What jurisdiction will the Minister have over the local planning authority. If individual organisations such as the Old Plymouth Society ask the local planning authority to preserve, for example, the Foulston buildings, will there be any form of appeal to the Minister, or will the planning authority have the arbitrary right to decide what shall be preserved in its area? That may make it a little difficult, because not all of its members are very expert on the subject.
Also, will there be any published notice in the national newspapers? The Bill says that a notice shall be placed in at least one local newspaper circulating in the area. I find that people are very lax at reading newspapers, even local newspapers, too, very often. As there is so much good in the Bill, and also because of the high penalties, I hope that plenty of notice will be given to local authorities and that they in turn will give plenty of notice to the people interested in their cities.
As an example, a year or two ago, when the Conservative Government were in power, the Mountbatten Tower, which is on R.A.F. land, was to be pulled down. It has appeared in all the prints and pictures for more than 300 years. Only by chance, the Old Plymouth Society called a meeting just outside the 865 City of Plymouth, when it was discovered that the Air Ministry was determined to pull the tower down. We managed to raise some money locally, and we took a deputation to the Parliamentary Secretary at that and we got the project changed. The tower stands there today. I wonder how far this Bill will go in controlling Government Departments in such cases.
There was a similar difficulty with the War Office in Wiltshire, which is my home. There was a beautiful tithe barn which was to be rethatched, and the War Office gat halfway through the job. Then I offered to rent the barn and finish the thatching, and the negotiations went on for some time. The War Office refused any offered rent. However, I am glad to say that after due pressure the War Office decided to keep the barn and it has been entirely rethatched.
Who will be able in future to look after such important points as this? It seems to me that, despite the excellent Bill, a number of these points will fall through if we are not certain that the local authorities will receive even more encouragement to take an interest in old buildings. In particular, will Government Departments realise the necessity for having amenities in connection with the building, such as barracks, which are apt to destroy the area in which they are placed? I think of one at Bickleigh on the edge of Dartmoor, occupied by the Royal Marines, and, I am glad to say, they have built more in keeping than usual, but there is a need to think particularly of the preservation of trees and other local amenities in their beautiful area.
The penalties proposed in the Bill are very severe. How are people to have knowledge of what they are up against if they do not know the details of the Bill? I think particularly of the cutting down of trees. This may be done by people without proper thought for the purposes of aiding in their construction. In future when a site is to be replanned, will the local planning authority have to ask the architect or whoever presents the plans to specify where the trees are? Otherwise, I can visualise the trees being pulled down or cut down because of the lack of knowledge of those concerned and people suffering the severe penalties as a result of lack of information. A 866 number of matters go through councils without the general public knowing about them.
I am very pleased to see the provision concerning cars in Part III. It is a major problem in blitzed cities. There one has many empty sites, and people are apt to dump not only cars but all sorts of rubbish. It is extremely helpful that in Clause 15 permission is given to act jointly with another authority. In built-up cities there is very little land for dumps. Plymouth, for instance, could co-operate with the Devon County Council in this regard, which might be an enormous help.
With those very few words, I welcome the fact that this matter will be brought to the attention of local authorities in the future, and I hope that they will be able to obtain advice from societies with real knowledge so that not only will the old towns be preserved but the new ones will be better built. We must think of the future as well as of the past. I hope, too, that a booklet will be produced drawing the attention of local authorities and the general public to the various provisions of the Bill, which might otherwise easily escape their notice, so that as a result of the Bill we may have the benefit of having a more beautiful land. as my right hon. Friend desires.
§ 12.36 p.m.
§ Mrs. Freda Corbet (Peckham)
The House has listened to a most informed set of speakers today, and I feel somewhat humble over the contribution that I am going to make. I would refer particularly to the speech by the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), who has done so much in this direction, and whose activities when he was at the Ministry I myself recall. I particularly recall his great interest in the St. Paul's Cathedral environment. He was not as successful as he hoped to be. I am not sure that time is not proving that he was right and that the others were wrong.
That speech was followed by one of very great interest from the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley). It taught me a great many things that I had not previously known, and I am much indebted to the hon. Member, as I am sure the House is. That speech was followed by others from hon. Members with special knowledge of various aspects.
867 I have a very great interest in all the Clauses of the Bill. I am a student of history. I explained to a young audience last night that I did not quite know why I always loved history so much, and that perhaps it was the costumes. I said that as they were returning to everyday life today I was experiencing great delight.
Buildings have always attracted me. I have a great horror about what may happen to some of our beautiful towns if measures are not taken to stop the great town developments sponsored by people who are trying to cash in and are encouraged to do so by towns who can find no other way of being rebuilt. I am glad to welcome the part of the Bill which will give local authorities opportunities to think about development and plan for it and ensure that what is of beauty in their towns will be preserved.
If there are any weaknesses in the Bill, I think that the hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury pointed them out, and so it is not necessary for me to do so. This is a Private Member's Bill, and private Members have to be very careful about what they try to get through the House of Commons. If they are wise, they will previously have consulted the Government Departments concerned. However, in regard to planning legislation they will know that any Measure which will go through the House will have to be sponsored by the Government. Therefore, we must congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on what he proposes to do in that part of the Bill.
Part II of the Bill is an ingenious idea. It would never have occurred to me that it would be possible to place on local authorities a duty to make it a condition in planning permission for development that provision has to be made for tree preservation and tree planting so that if trees die they have to be replaced. I welcome this provision. Like the right hon. Member, and I suppose many other people, I believe that there is perhaps nothing better than a tree. While I do not despise the little trees, I am sure that we all like the larger trees—the indigenous oaks, beeches, and so onto which we have grown accustomed and which make our countryside so beautiful.
I come to the provision in the Bill in which I have a constituency interest. I 868 cannot say that my constituency is an area of great natural beauty; I wish that I could. However, it adjoins such an area, namely, Dulwich. My area is Peckham, in which all buildings have to have piled foundations because of the proximity of the old boundaries of the river. However, there are some very beautiful houses there. We must have had many more. I can recall Mrs. Fitzherbert's cottage. Whether it would have been regarded as something to be preserved, I do not know, but I thought that it was exceedingly beautiful. Years ago I made representations about it, but the local authority allowed it to come down. It was a point of great interest in an area rather devoid of interest.
There are some Georgian houses in the road in which my office is situated. These are threatened, too. There are some beautiful two-storey houses which are wide and ample inside, with beautiful entrances and wide staircases. They always seem to me so delightful. In some roads they form quite an area. As my area has been largely redeveloped—in fact, most of it has been rebuilt—I have some fears that those houses may fall victim to redevelopment.
We have an intense interest in the Bill, because the overcrowded side streets where the density is so high are used as garages. If somebody abandons a car outside a house, there is not room for the owner of the house to park his own car. There is, therefore, a grouse on that ground as well as on the ground that it disfigures the neighbourhood. Abandoned cars constitute a great eyesore.
The authority in the Borough of Southwark tells me that it has had to remove and dispose of 2,000 cars and that the numbers are growing all the time. In April this year it disposed of 162, in May, 241, and in June, 270, making a total of 673, in three months. A large number of these cars are abandoned for some time before they can be removed and space made for the cars of the owners of houses outside which they are dumped.
In my constituency we have, even 20 years after the war, a large number of sites which have been cleared. But on many other sites houses are being pulled down to make room for redevelopment. I am continually getting complaints about 869 small areas used as rubbish dumps and on which are put every conceivable kind of article of unwanted furniture. Since nobody wants second-hand furniture these days, it is put on the sites or it lands in the canal. In addition, a great deal of unhygienic material is dumped. My constituents tell me that these areas soon become infested by rats. The medical officer of health, whose job it is to say whether the rubbish is unhygienic, can arrange for it to be cleared away. The authority repeatedly clears away other rubbish because it has become a nuisance to people in the area and a danger to children who play on it and set light to it. This disturbs the residents of the neighbourhood.
The law is not clear on this matter. I write letters about it but no sooner is the site cleared than it needs clearing again. I write more letters, and it is cleared again, and so it goes on. The continuous clearance of sites costs a great deal of money. I therefore welcome the provision in the Bill which empowers local authorities to remove, not only rubbish which is a danger to people's health, but rubbish which is an eyesore and a danger in other respects.
There is also the almost unbelieveable, incredible tipping of lorry loads of rubble wherever it is possible. I have in mind an area in my constituency which the L.C.C., as it then was, was preparing to be an open space. The authority has men chasing round to ensure that rubbish is not dumped on it. But literally mountains of rubble are deposited on it. This is a problem which the Bill may not be able to solve.
If it is made an offence to do this sort of thing, it will make people think a bit more. Discussions are going on between the local authorities on this problem. This matter was being discussed when I was Chairman of the General Purposes Committee on the L.C.C. before that council gave way to the Greater London Council. That would be about four or five years ago. I see now from the agenda of the Southwark Council that the local authority associations are getting together to try to do something about it.
In those days we tried to insert conditions in contracts with the builders to get them to dispose of their own rubbish. 870 One of the things that we could not do was to identify the tipper. I remember that one day a number of us were in a car, or perhaps it was a coach, travelling around looking at the various sights. As we approached one of them, we noticed a lorry drawn up, ready to tip its load. One of our officers went to the driver and asked what he was trying to do, who he was, and so on, but he could get no information from the driver.
The suggestion has been made that the owner of the vehicle from which rubbish is dumped should be required to give the identity of the driver. It is also suggested that there should be an increase in the amount of the fine which can be imposed in appropriate cases. Another suggestion is that the name and address of the registered owner of the vehicle should be displayed on each vehicle operating with a carrier's licence. It is also suggested that there should be power to withdraw or endorse the carrier's licence, and that there should be more enforcement of the legislation relating to the operation of the various types of licences. A great deal of consideration is being given to all these problems. I do not think that the Bill will solve them all, but I am certain that it will prove to be a very useful Measure.
I add my congratulations to those which have been offered to my hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson). It may seem rather remote from the dignified way in which this debate was conducted until I came on the scene to say this, but it seems to me that the kind of people with whom we have to deal are the people who are very much open to the prospects of receiving a little money. It is rather like someone taking back an empty bottle and getting 3d. on it. If someone pays for a good car, when he hands it over for disposal he wants to get perhaps £5 back. This sort of incentive might work, and it might be as well for it to be considered.
My authority not only disposes of cars free of charge, but offers people this service. It asks drivers to surrender their log books so that the cars can be disposed of. This scheme has operated only since March, but in these three months 196 vehicles have been offered to the council for disposal. The council is very keen on this idea, because it feels 871 that it is better to dispose of the cars than have them abandoned and be allowed to get into the terrible state that we have all seen. This scheme also means that the council does not have to wait for six weeks before disposing of the car.
My council tells me—and I have no doubt that other hon. Members have received similar information from their councils, from Lewisham, for instance—that it would be a problem to provide storage space if the cars had to be removed from the streets and kept for some time before being disposed of. In fact, my council just does not see how it could be done, and it therefore waits until it is able to dispose of a car before removing it from the street. This sometimes does not suit the residents, and I have to press the council to remove the abandoned cars in advance of the disposal time, but normally the council waits until it is ready to dispose of the vehicle.
This idea of getting people to ask the council to dispose of their cars is a great help because it does away with this delaying period which is so essential if ownership has to be proved, and the council has to ensure that they are indemnified against any action which they may take to dispose of a car.
Those are the main points that I wanted to make. I appreciate the work done by the right hon. Gentleman on introducing this Measure, and also his great work for the Civic Trust, and the work that it has done on this Bill.
§ The Second Clerk Assistant at the Table informed the House of the unavoidable absence of Mr. SPEAKER from the remainder of this day's Sitting.
§ Whereon Sir ERIC FLETCHER, The CHAIRMAN OF WAYS AND MEANS took the Chair as DEPUTY SPEAKER, pursuant to the Standing Order.
§ 12.56 p.m.
§ Mr. John Tilney (Liverpool, Wavertree)
I am particularly pleased to follow the hon. Lady the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbett), and I must apologise for not being able to be present for the succeeding part of this debate, owing to a long-standing engagement.
Like the hon. Lady, with her great knowledge of local government, but with 872 far less knowledge, I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) for his work when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government, for his work particularly in connection with the Civic Trust, which will be one of his memorials, and now for his introduction of the Bill.
It has been said that we have the most lovely countryside in the world and the most hideous towns. I regret to say that the bulk of the more ugly of these towns is in the North of England, and particularly in Lancashire, from where I come. It is the legacy, in large measure, of the Industrial Revolution, but it need not have happened. Liverpool stands on a magnificent site, facing south, with a river, and with a view of the Welsh hills in the distance. Unfortunately, it was developed when taste was deteriorating in England.
We are lucky to have certain good buildings, like our early 18th-century Blue-Coat School, the lovely 18th-century buildings in Rodney Street, with its fan lights, and across the river there is the ancient Birkenhead Abbey which, I am sorry to say, hardly anyone ever sees surrounded as it is by shipyards and Victorian terrace streets. But, as has been said by several hon. Gentlemen opposite, we have a number of very good but second class buildings of value dating from the late 18th century, and the early 19th century, and even quite a lot of really good Victoriana.
I agree with what the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) said about the Coal Exchange. I remember being taken by some American friends to New Orleans to see some mouldings, dating from about 1850, of which they were extremely proud. There are far more such mouldings in my city, but whether they will be there in a few years' time is open to doubt.
There are many such buildings which ought to be looked at and preserved for the future, but so often they are spoilt by rubbish being dumped on nearby waste ground, and I wonder whether the powers of local authorities are not too limited. I wonder whether the Bill could amend section 36 of the Town and Country Planning Act to include land forming the curtilage of a building, to prevent it from getting into an overgrown state, because quite often historical 873 buildings are spoilt by nearby waste land or other property which is derelict, and where the fencing has been damaged.
I would like to see power given to local authorities to make owners fence their land or, if they cannot find the owners, to do it themselves. By so doing tipping and unsightly car parking could be prevented, and the amenities of the area improved. I regret to say that parts of some cities are so ugly that advertisements actually improve them, but in respect of the areas that the House is discussing today, which are of special architectural or historic interest, power should be given to prevent unnecessary advertisements, say in the windows of upper levels, and local authorities should have power to control advertising in shops and outside supermarkets and especially to control the multiplicity of advertisements at petrol stations.
I should also like local authorities to have power to prevent traffic going down certain small streets. One has only to visit a city like Amsterdam to appreciate the immense pleasure of shopping in an old street during hours when no traffic is going up or down it. If local authorities had power to designate such streets the pedestrian, the shopper and amenities generally would benefit, and there might also be an increase in trade. People flock to the Ponte Vecchio, in Florence, because no vehicles are allowed there.
There is also a need to clean buildings and maintain some form of uniformity. I happen to be lucky enough to live in a London square, the occupants of which every three years, are obliged to paint their houses the same colour. It makes an enormous difference if all the people paint their buildings at the same time and in the same way. I should like to see a local authority given the power to clean a building if the owner refused to do so when all the rest of the buildings had been cleaned. One such buildinig can destroy the effect of all the cleaning done on the others.
Local authorities should also be given power to control noise. It would be very beneficial to introduce a statutory noise level because so often, in the quiet close of a cathedral, the roar of machines nearby utterly destroys the atmosphere. I am told that at present, in order to remedy the situation, it is necessary to 874 prove that noise is a nuisance at common law, and that this is very difficult to do.
I now turn to the question of trees. What a difference there is between this country and France. In almost every village and town in France one sees delightful avenues of trees, which make a great difference to the general amenities, but in many parts of the cities in the north of England street after street has nothing green in it at all. Even in the case of streets where the houses have only 20 or 30 years' more life in them I would like to see the local authority given power to plant trees for the benefit of the community.
I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley); some of our native trees, the planting of which he has urged, will not stand up to the smog and wind of Merseyside. A sycamore tree will grow there, but probably the toughest tree of the lot is the Japanese flowering cherry, which is not only tough but very beautiful. My hon. Friend may pour scorn on the idea of planting such a tree as being un-English, but I hope that many local authorities will consider doing so.
It is also important to forestall the feller of trees, by making an interim tree preservation order which can take effect at once on a resolution of the planning authority. I know that the Minister has power to do this in cases of urgency, but there is a time lag in that process, and I think that this power ought to be decentralised and given to the planning authorities. The power could elapse after two or three months if it was not confirmed by the Minister.
Next, I want to deal with vehicles. It is bad enough to have the streets cluttered up with good-looking vehicles—they make it difficult to clean the streets mechanically because many are parked in the streets nearly all the time—but the situation is very much worse when the vehicles have been abandoned and are in a derelict condition. Liverpool has done a magnificent job in creating a huge dump on what used to be known as the cast-iron shore.
The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) knows that area well. What was a useless area of the city is gradually becoming a first-class public park, the rubbish and motor cars being in due course covered by earth. But quite often there is a huge pall of smoke from the 875 seating and other parts of motor cars that have to be destroyed. I hope that the baling apparatus can be used without the need for destruction by fire of upholstery, and so on, before action is taken on the car body.
I am very pleased to have heard the maiden speech of the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson). He referred to the George Cohen group of companies. I believe that they are prepared to pay £5 per car, and this will at least provide an incentive to people to bring their cars for destruction rather than abandon them elsewhere.
I hope that some of the points I have made will be embodied in Amendments in Committee. Once again, I congratulate my right hon. Friend for what he has done to make it possible for the cities of the future to be more pleasant places for people to live in.
§ 1.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Alan Lee Williams (Hornchurch)
I want to refer to a question which has not been raised in the debate—which has been a very good one—but which has, naturally, concentrated on known or recognised areas of beauty and buildings of historic interest in and around the centre of London. But the Bill will also help areas which are less well known and where such beauty as there is needs encouraging. The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) represents a constituency which contains areas of fading suburban beauty, which, I hope, will receive attention from the local authority through the provisions of the Bill. I am always saddened when I drive my car, every Saturday, to my constituency down the Barking by-pass. Just before I enter my constituency of Horn-church I am deeply offended by the number of advertisements which appear unnecessarily at petrol stations and on hoardings.
Yet nobody, not even the most ardent supporter of the amenities of Hornchurch, would deny that there are areas in the town which are distinctly ugly. On the other hand, there are areas like the centre of Rainham which are of genuine beauty and have buildings which are completely hidden from view by buildings of lesser merit. These suburban areas can receive encouragement from the Bill, particularly 876 over the planting of trees which always helps to break the landscape and make an area more interesting.
However, our difficulty—one which the Bill will not easily relieve—is that large areas in the outer rings of the great towns were built in the latter part of the 1930s by speculative builders who built as quickly and as cheaply as possible. This is true of the right hon. Member's own constituency, Streatham. Rows and rows of houses were built for people of modest means in the 1930s which are so straight and so box-like in appearance that one feels that nothing, whether the planting of trees or anything else, can help.
One must look, therefore, to the future. Here one may be a little more optimistic. The new houses being built in my constituency conform to more imaginative standards. We should press for two things, which I see are encouraged by the Bill—first, the building of houses to imaginative standards and, second, the assurance that buildings of historic interest are not obscured by buildings of lesser merit. In both these respects, the Bill gives us hope.
I should like to congratulate the right hon. Member for Streatham on introducing the Bill, which, I hope, will also help the problems of my constituency, where there is a band of people—I hope that they count me as one of their friends—who are anxious to preserve the aesthetic beauty and get rid of the unnecessary ugliness which we suffer, apparently so easily. I strongly welcome the Bill.
§ 1.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Evelyn King (Dorset, South)
I should like to join in the almost universal mood of congratulation of my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) for introducing the Bill. Anything I say will be in complete sympathy with it, and, I hope, at the same time, constructive. I should declare three interests. First, I am the owner of a building which is listed as historic secondly, and more important, I was for three years Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning and was concerned with the administration of this part of the law, so that I am aware of the difficulties which pertain to that position—
§ Mr. King
I am still on my feet.
Thirdly, I represent—this is most important—South Dorset, which has, I think, more historic country houses to the acre than almost any other county.
Something which has struck me in listening to the debate is that so far almost every speaker has dealt with this matter in its urban context. I represent Corfe Castle, which is one of the most attractive small towns in Great Britain, and if I do not refer to its problems it is simply because they have already been dealt with. No one has yet touched on the problem of historic country houses. My constituency is dotted with them, so I would like to direct my right hon. Friend's attention to that problem, so far as he contemplates any Amendments.
Dorset is also fortunate in that the country houses there are mostly small. They are not the sort of mansion which cannot be maintained. Many of them are still maintained and lived in by the descendants of the original owners. I hope that hon. Members will follow me for believing that it is to the best aesthetic advantage that such manor houses should continue to be lived in by their owners. I hope that they will also follow me in believing that there is sufficient evidence that the profitability of a manor house surrounded by a few hundred or even a thousand acres is almost nil. To coin a word, they have a "lossability".
I should have thought that it would be in the general interest to do all that is possible to see that such houses are well-maintained and, as far as possible, lived in by those who inherited them. There must be a balance. Any Bill which diminishes the economic possibilites of maintaining such an estate must be balanced against the wish of the owner to live in it. This Bill clearly imposes some burdens, though not intolerable ones, upon such an owner. It is from that angle that I want to make a few observations.
I would distinguish between the powers which we seek to exercise, which are good ones, and the persons who exercise them. I confess that I was concerned when I was at the Ministry—many years ago: the position has greatly changed—by the capacity of the planning authorities to deal with these matters. One of the 878 changes in the 1947 Act was greatly to reduce the number of planning authorities. This, to some extent, has been reversed, for good reasons, by the tendency now to delegate to area planning authorities what a few years ago was carried out by country planning authorities.
Area planning authorities—I choose my words with care and do not seek to be critical—are mainly manned by builders, small estate agents, small tradesmen and trade unionists, some of them on the point of retirement. Admirable persons all of them, they scarcely could be claimed to be experts either upon aesthetics or upon the sort of problems which we are now considering. They are advised by area planning officers who are often clerks to rural district councils or of that sort of standing.
I was glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewksesbury (Mr. Ridley) point out the French example, where these powers are much more centralised. It is difficult to deal with this without straying into the whole gamut of planning procedure, but I should like my hon. Friend to consider whether the very strong powers which he wants to place in the hands of these authorities will be in the hands of the right authorities, or whether some guidance at least should not be given to them.
Part III of the Bill is wholly admirable and no one would complain about it. Part II deals with the reservation and planting of trees. Almost every hon. Member has spoken, at least by implication, of the desirability of some screen of trees for aesthetic reasons, perhaps in front of an urban building, but as the Clause reads there is no limitation of that kind upon it. What about a man engaged in forestry with 500 or 1,000 acres? Is such a person also to be subject to the control of a planning officer, who, however admirable his qualifications, has, frankly, no kind of knowledge of trees or forestry in the sense in which I am talking. His knowledge is often less than that of the advisers to the estate.
I want here to be practical. I can see a number of solutions to this. Possibly, such orders could be issued only after consultation with the Forestry Commission.
§ Mr. Sandys
My hon. Friend will see from Clause 7 thatIt shall be the duty of the local planning authority to ensure, wherever it is appropriate, that, in granting planning permission for any development …".This is directed towards the granting of planning permission for putting up new buildings. It is in that connection that we will be asking local authorities to ensure that adequate provision is made for the planting of trees.
The Clause is not concerned with forestry; I do not think that it could be brought within the Clause. If, however, it is thought to be excessively elastic, it will have to be amended in Committee. I do not think that it would be possible to apply this Clause for the restriction of forestry.
§ Mr. King
I am obliged. If what my right hon. Friend says is the case, it certainly removes one anxiety. It is part of a general anxiety.
On Part I of the Bill, which gives powers to designate an area surrounding a building of historic interest and to impose limitations on that area. I would have been happier if there were a limitation of the size of the area. I have in mind, for example, persons who own a country house with, perhaps, 500 or 1,000 acres around it. Many of them may develop, and rightly, part of the periphery of the estate. Only because they have been able to do this have they been able to get sufficient money in hand to maintain the house in which they live.
Those are the sort of points I have in mind. I know that my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham is about to go to Rhodesia; if I am not out of order, I wish him luck in that mission. I should like him on his return, when he proceeds with the Bill in October, to re-read it in the context of the sort of estate which I have tried to describe and to consider how far he may ease any restriction which might apply to such an estate owner.
§ 1.22 p.m.
§ Mr. George Wallace (Norwich, North)
I join the chorus of praise to the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), not only for his good and, I feel, exciting Bill, but because I represent part of the City of Norwich, which has a great 880 reputation in preserving its buildings and streets, including the Magdalen Street development, with which the right hon. Gentleman had a great deal to do and with which his name is still remembered. Although some of the buildings in the development have caused a certain amount of concern, we are now hopeful that a happy solution will be found.
I should add that the city council, which for a number of years has been Labour-controlled, is so conscious of its responsibilities, with a good Labour majority, that it actually refused the local Labour Party permission to pull down its wonderful Georgian offices and put up a modern building. The Minister upheld the city council's decision. It can, therefore, be seen how concerned we in Norwich are for our buildings.
I have another reason for speaking. Only two or three days ago I was being taken for a walk by my dog through the nearby copse, which has now been cleaned and preserved by the local authority after a bit of a battle on the part of one or two of us. To my horror and disgust, beside some of the trees which are now being cleaned and cleared were two great dumps of tiles, no doubt put there by a private householder who had probably redecorated his bathroom, taken out the rubbish at night with a barrow and dumped the lot under the trees.
This sort of anti-social behaviour cannot be tolerated. It is not only the big contractors, but private householders, owner-occupiers and others who do this sort of thing, too. Apart from this, streams can be made dangerous by the stuff that is dumped, which includes old prams and the rest.
I would like, incidentally, to see a widening of powers of local authorities, or greater compulsion being placed upon them, to collect other than household rubbish. The great majority of people often dump unwanted items on the nearest piece of land simply because they do not think that the dustmen will take them away. If only householders knew that they could apply to the local authority, there is no doubt that this and other refuse, including even unwanted furniture, could be taken away.
I have had great interest for many years in the preservation and planting of trees. Hon. Members have referred 881 this morning to the planting of trees, but or council estates in particular I would like to see far more flowering trees planted. Nothing is more delightful than to go to an estate or an area where one road is renowned for one type of flowering tree at a certain time of the year and another road may be renowned, perhaps, for flowering chestnuts.
I say this because an old friend of mine who has now passed away, a former civil servant who represented us on the local authority, managed in the case of a new speculative building estate to get the local authority to go in for the planting of lovely flowering trees, which the present generation is now enjoying to the full, and there has been very little vandalism. The local authority jibbed, incidentally, when we advocated the planting of fruit trees.
We talk of the Bill and its provisions for the preservation of trees in terms of preventing their being pulled down. There are, however, many great trees which need treatment and attention to preserve them and to continue their life. I am a member of the hospital management committee in the area in which I live and we have a considerable acreage of land on which are some beautiful and wonderful trees, including a magnificent oak, one of the finest in the country.
Those trees are in need of treatment and of a doctor. It is extremely difficult for the management committee to get authority and finance to look after the trees. We want to preserve them, but my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health will not help and all that we have been told is that the Forestry Commission cannot help. We have merely been passed on to experts and tree doctors. As a result of the Bill, I think that we need a "national health service" for trees if we are to preserve them, because there are many people in need of expert advice and help who probably could not manage to deal with the problem on their own.
The Bill does not deal to any great extent with litter. A little greater impetus in waste-paper collection on the part of local authorities would help to dispose of a great deal of litter. A number of authorities no longer collect waste paper for salvage, which is good for the national effort. If they were given greater powers 882 or incentives to collect waste paper, this would to some extent reduce the problem of litter.
I turn now to the reclamation of land. There are many waste sites in the country. some of them in industrial areas, including sites on which there has been excavation, which could be reclaimed—there is a poetic justice in this—by the dumping of refuse under a controlled system. During my previous membership of the House some years ago, I advocated controlled tipping of local authority refuse to save the land and bring it back into use for public open space and playing-field purposes. If we had a great deal more land reclamation by the controlled tipping of refuse, we should not only be preserving but adding to the amenities of the countryside.
In conclusion, I should like to say a brief word on the control of new development. Reference has been made to slab-like edifices, one of which is in Sidcup. This one is 16 or 17 storeys high and is certainly a monstrosity. The county council gave planning permission for it, and while I am not against new development—for dwellings, office accommodation, or whatever it might be—in this case one can see this building for miles around and this huge towering monstrosity completely spoils the skyline of the lovely countryside.
We must watch not only the immediate area in which new buildings are erected, but the view for a considerable distance around. My blood pressure gets to a dangerous level when I walk down a lovely road and look over the hills but then see one of these great monstrosities which, while it may add to the amenities of the district and provide employment, does not help to keep my blood pressure down.
§ 1.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Bernard Weatherill (Croydon, North-East)
The hon. Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Wallace) spoke of the beautiful City of Norwich. I agree that it is one of the most beautiful cities in Britain. I represent Croydon, North-East which is, perhaps, not quite such a beautiful place, although it has some really fine buildings.
The buildings comprising the headquarters of the old East India Company used to be in my constituency and some 883 of its buildings are well worth preserving, although others have served their usefulness and are of no further value. Because some are worth preserving, I support the Bill and join those who have congratulated my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) on having introduced it.
I remember hearing, as a boy, the rather bitter epigram:The British populace observe with frowns,That those who've gone before have spoiled the towns,This cannot be endured they loudly cried,And set to work to spoil the countryside.I support the Bill because it seeks to reverse this trend and to preserve not only the beautiful things of the countryside but the beautiful things of the town as well.
It is admirable to wish to preserve and protect trees, which are of themselves things of beauty. The present penalties for breaking tree preservation orders are inadequate and I applaud the fact that the Bill places on local authorities the duty to ensure that when planning permission for development is granted, adequate provision is made not only for the preservation of trees, but also for their replacement and replanting. This aspect of the Measure will be widely welcomed, not least in my constituency.
The hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) spoke of the societies which are doing wonderful work to help preserve the amenities in their areas. In my constituency, the Norwood Society has been most active, particularly to ensure the preservation of trees. The real ugliness in town and countryside is man-made. I exclude from my remarks some, but not all, modern buildings which are things of ugliness. The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) spoke about some modern buildings. I live in the Millbank Tower conurbation, which I believe to be one of the most beautiful modern buildings in London. I have especially noticed it in the last couple of weeks when driving home in the early morning, after all-night sittings of Parliament. The real ugliness to me is the dropping of litter, and it is to that part of the Bill that I wish to address my remarks.
884 Motor vehicles, stripped of all means of identification, their more saleable parts removed, abandoned on roads, in lay-bys and on waste ground, are a particularly objectionable form of refuse. They are not only unsightly, but are often dangerous. I speak with particular feeling on this aspect, because only a few weeks ago a small boy in my constituency was playing on or with one of these abandoned vehicles when he put a lighted match into the petrol tank and blew himself up.
The rate of abandonment, which is already too high, is likely to increase as more vehicles with shorter lives come on to our roads. As has been pointed out, over 1 million cars are abandoned each year in Britain. It is estimated that by 1970, if nothing is done, that figure will increase to 1½ million. In London alone, over 25,000 vehicles a year are left derelict and only a few councils—including Croydon and, I gather from the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet), her borough, too—have adequate equipment to deal with this wreckage.
I speak with practical knowledge of the crushing plant which Croydon Council has for dealing with unwanted vehicles. Between 1960 and 1962 the average number of cars collected from the highways was only 40. By 1964, the figure had reached 300. and that was the year in which the County Borough of Croydon, as it then was, decided to acquire a crushing plant. Despite these facilities which the council made available, the figure increased to 812 vehicles between April, 1965 and April. 1966. Croydon Council makes no charge to residents who take their cars to the crushing plant and charges only £1 if the vehicle has to be collected from premises within the borough. A modest charge. £3, is made to people who bring cars from outside the borough—very good terms indeed, yet the number of abandoned vehicles continues to increase and now stands at an average of 40 a week.
I therefore welcome the increased penalties proposed in the Bill for the abandonment of vehicles on the highways and in public places. However, it is one thing to lay down a penalty of £100, but quite another to catch the offender and bring him to justice. It is one thing 885 to say that a refuse collection authority shall have the duty to remove vehicles which appear to it to have been abandoned in contravention of Clause 11 of the Bill, but quite another to find a place to put the vehicles while inquiries are being made about their ownership.
The Bill lays down a period of six weeks for this to be done, and this is probably the minimum period during which such inquiries can be made. The real key to this problem is to tighten and enforce the law on vehicle licensing. This is quite another question, and outside the scope of the Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. Frederic Harris) has taken up this problem and, as the House well knows, he made some very cogent points about it in the Adjournment debate on 3rd March. The hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) has also taken up the matter. Until this problem has been tackled, I cannot see that the provisions of the Bill will be very effective. On the face of it, with the facilities provided by Croydon for disposing of vehicles at very modest charges, no one should have any reason for leaving vehicles on the highway, yet the numbers are increasing.
I am all in favour of municipal pounds for unwanted and abandoned cars. The pound for abandoned or straying animals is among the oldest of our municipal institutions, and the proposal in the Bill which would attach an ancient public service to a necessary modern use is admirable. But in view of the very large number of cars involved, and with the necessary waiting period, these pounds will be very full and will have to be very large. They will involve very serious planning problems. That apart, the actual problem of disposal is fairly well under control.
The hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson), in an admirable maiden speech this morning, drew attention to a revolutionary plant coming from the George Cohen group of companies which can convert 400,000 vehicles a year into high-grade scrap metal. As I understand that we now have to import about 60,000 tons of scrap annually, this conversion might well be a valuable feature in saving foreign exchange. This plant takes only 886 seconds to reduce the average family-size car into a piece of clean metal almost the size of a fist. At the same time, it can separate such impurities as paint, woodwork, glass, plastic and other substances. It can also deal with several forms of consumer durables, such as washing machines and 'fridges, to which my right hon. Friend referred. This may be one answer, and it may be a good one, but the pound is expensive and the problem of space still remains to be faced.
Another. British company, the Bird group of Stratford-on-Avon—also mentioned by the hon. Member for The High—Peak has produced Europe's first and only mobile car-crushing disposal service. I understand that this company will travel free of charge to any area where there are cars for disposal, and that because it will pay for the scrap that is extracted the "funeral expenses" of these old vehicles will not fall on the ratepayers.
I understand that Coventry and Portsmouth have already made use of its services. This may be a better idea, since it would make it possible for local authorities to have smaller pounds. When these pounds are set up, I hope that, be they large or small, arrangements will be made for them to be open at weekends so as to give the greatest possible encouragement to people to put in their cars.
I warmly welcome the Bill in all respects. I welcome it because of its provision for the protection and preservation of beautiful things, and I welcome it perhaps most of all for its provision for the disposal of ugly things. I commend my right hon. Friend for introducing the Bill, and I sincerely hope that the House will give it a Second Reading today.
§ 1.48 p.m.
§ Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody (Exeter)
If that riveting opening phrase, "I rise to make my maiden speech and to beg the indulgence of the House" causes you to sink a little lower in your august Chair, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I hope that you will forgive me.
I warmly welcome the Bill as a step in the right direction. With the greatest respect, I welcome it also since I rather feel that I might not always find myself in such wholehearted agreement with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for 887 Streatham (Mr. Sandys) during the rest of my Parliamentary career.
I represent a very beautiful city. It is one for which I have great affection. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet), I represent a city that has many historic associations and many beautiful buildings. To anyone who has the opportunity to sit, as I do, on a local authority planning committee, it is sometimes a little disheartening to discover how easy it is to destroy the beauty that men have left us over the years. Although we are able to preserve individual houses, it has in the past been only too easy to destroy the entire character of streets and cities by not considering an area as a whole.
I am delighted that a Clause is provided in the Bill to deal with that aspect. I have had the slightly disheartening experience of taking part in a discussion on how to preserve a very beautiful view on one of the most beautiful rivers in Devon. Had it not been so tragic to me, I should have been amused at the sort of solution arrived at. It was decided that it was possible to leave a gap between two large sheds; and that this would preserve a very beautiful amenity.
We have various other problems in Exeter on which I hope to have a chance to address the House on other occasions. We face the thorny problem of what is known as development. We desperately need to marry the best of the old with the best of the new. I always feel that beautiful cities, rather like beautiful women, require a certain amount of judicious preservation—I was about to say that they do better to be lived with; but perhaps that might be misinterpreted.
If we are to provide the sort of environment in which people can live their lives to the full, we must be able to preserve the best houses and the best architectural points of interest. We certainly must do something about the rage we sometimes seem to have in modern society only to destroy and not to preserve. I have been startled by the number of ways in which it is possible to, shall we say, evade some of the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Acts.
If it is true to say of peopleThou shalt not kill, but need not strive Officiously to keep alive888 it is also true of trees. I welcome the provisons for the preservation of trees because there is here one aspect that we have not considered. Trees are living things, and can be easily destroyed.
One can judiciously find that their branches are in need of lopping, one can destroy their roots, or find perhaps that they are a danger to new developments it is necessary to do away with them. In those circumstances, it is all the more important for local authorities to have the kind of provisions contained in this Measure to require developers or builders to replace trees in areas from which they have been removed.
Those of us who have served on local authorities want to see our cities made not merely utilitarian and as a sort of background against which can be produced better jobs and a better future for our children, but a warmer, livelier and more beautiful environment. As this island becomes more and more crowded it becomes more incumbent upon us to protect areas such as the South-West which have great natural beauty where cities have grown up in very pleasant juxtaposition one to another, but which, if they are to live and not merely to be developed, must be developed in such a way that they will provide even greater beauty than in the past.
I know that I do not need to draw the attention of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), to some of the problems we have in the South-West. I live in what is called a gem town. The problem for this particular gem is that the setting is one which we are very anxious to preserve. We look to the future to provide opportunities for better planning of growing towns. It is important that they should be the sort of towns which provide the environment we want for our children.
I most warmly welcome the Bill.
§ 1.52 p.m.
§ Mr. John Cordle (Bournemouth, East and Christchurch)
I count it a particular privilege and honour to follow the hon. Lady the Member for Exeter (Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody) who, I understand, has just made her maiden speech. I pay her a very warm tribute for her excellent speech and congratulate her on the subject that she chose. Hon. Members will 889 obviously be aware that the hon. Lady is the daughter of a very famous man whom we all respected and admired, Mr. Morgan Phillips. We particularly welcome her to the House and hope that she will take part in many debates, especially on the lines of today's debate, because I am sure that she can add much to the amenities of the country as a whole.
I also reiterate the remarks which have been made in respect of my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) who introduced this Bill today. The Bill's object is to improve the appearance of towns and the country. My right hon. Friend was kind enough to mention that in February this year I introduced a small Bill under the Ten Minutes Rule which sought to make provision for the disposal of abandoned motor cars. That is the particular part of this Bill in which I am especially interested.
May I say how much we owe to the Civic Trust, which my right hon. Friend founded, especially for its contribution at all levels to the general amenities of the wonderful country in which we live. Recently the Trust issued memoranda about trees stating that special agents have been sent into various towns and into rural districts to count the numbers of trees there in order that they should be increased in other areas so that there can be a better overall average of replanting trees when trees have been cut down to make way for development. Nothing could be more enhancing to the beauty of the countryside than to have more trees. As someone suggested on the radio the other day, what about a few rose trees being planted along the edges of main arterial roads? On lime free soils, could we not plant a few rhododendrons or conifers to enhance the beauty of the countryside?
Following the introduction of my small Bill I had a discussion with the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and we found ourselves at variance about the use of the word "compulsion". I am glad to think that in the Bill we are discussing there is a greater sense of the need for making it a vital part of a local authority's duties to compel the removal of offensive, derelict motor cars.
890 I am sorry that in the Bill as it stands there is no mention of beaches or the foreshore. I represent one of the most delightful areas of the country, Bournemouth. On certain stretches of beaches there are to be found old junk, debris from the sea and disused boats which have been idle for many years. I should like the Minister to have this problem considered when the Bill is drafted for final approval.
I am sure the whole country will welcome the Bill. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have welcomed it today and I do not think there has been one word of criticism. The hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson), in his maiden speech, made a very important point about the heavy expense caused to local authorities in setting up crushing plants. This is a real problem which will have to be faced. Whether or not money will be added to the general grant to deal with it is something for the Minister to say. If there could be regional areas where county authorities could combine in the setting up of disposal plants much expense could be avoided.
There is also the suggestion of a "retirement fund", although I know that this is not very popular among motorists. The idea is that on buying a car the purchaser would be requested to pay 10s. a year which would be added to his licence. This would be handed down to the second-hand and third-hand owner and eventually would offset the cost of removal.
The hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg) mentioned the problem of houses. What a pity it is that this Bill was not put into force before we saw the end of Tattersalls, the horse market in a wonderful old building in Brompton Road. As the bulldozers get going and developments take place in Victorian suburbs, one often finds dotted about the streets old cottages of the Regency period which are of considerable value. I hope that these will be safeguarded by the Bill.
On 6th July it was reported in the national Press that cars were being abandoned in the Borough of Camden at the rate of four a day and six or 12 weeks elapsed before the vehicles could 891 be towed away. The Council now proposes to remove such vehicles and dispose of them as dangerous litter after only one week. Because of doubts about the legality, the council is taking out an insurance scheme to protect itself against possible claims. I am glad that the Bill will afford protection to Camden and other local authorities which are trying to tackle this great problem. The hon. Member for Peckham (Mrs. Corbet) informed the House that in Camden 1,800 cars were abandoned in the last 14 months and only 176 owners were traced.
The question of the value of scrap has been referred to. It must be recognised that the Bill will impose a financial burden on local authorities. For rural districts the problem may not be so acute, but the cost of removing vehicles will be much higher. The scrap value of cleaned baled steel is about £12 per ton. The cost of reclaiming non-ferrous metals is usually too high to be economical. Under this Government, sponsored research bodies have been studying the feasibility of using baled vehicles as cones for concrete blocks on lines of research carried out by, in particular, Enefco of Poole. This firm can design individual plants to process old cars at the rate of 50,000 per annum.
When I sought leave to introduce my Bill in February of this year, I mentioned that Enefco's ideas were well worth considering, placing loosely-baled vehicles inside cement blocks which could be used for a multiple number of purposes—the construction of reservoirs, for coastal protection walls, in works of reclamation, and in filling in deep depressions when new roads are being made.
It is important that guidance should be given to local authorities and the general public on what is meant by the word "abandoned". Should not a minimum period be specified? One wants to guard against scrapping "scruffy" vehicles which are temporarily parked in a street but which are someone's transport and pride and joy. On the other hand, an abandoned vehicle quickly becomes an eyesore, a nuisance, and a source of danger to children. Could not any unlicensed vehicle left in a public place for a period of 24 hours be deemed to be abandoned and subject to this Bill 892 when enacted? There would be the desirable side effect of encouraging people to license vehicles, thus meeting the many cases cited by the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis). A person abandoning a car will usually remove the licence so as to obtain a refund from the local authority.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that in all probability the individual has not licensed the car for two or three years prior to his abandoning it?
§ Mr. Cordle
That is the point I am making. If he parked his car and if he had not got a licence, without 24 hours it could be removed because it had no licence; it could be treated as an abandoned vehicle.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
The hon. Gentleman does not understand. He mentions 24 hours. I emphasise that within a stone's throw of the Palace there are hundreds of cars which have not been licensed for two or three years. If the law is not now enforced after infringement lasting for two or three years, his suggestion that it should be enforced after 24 hours is unrealistic.
§ Mr. Cordle
The part of the excellent Bill which proposes to deal with abandoned vehicles and bulk rubbish represents the latest in a line of many attempts by Members of this House and by Members of another place to deal sensibly with a problem which is growing and getting worse day by day. Some of the more active local authorities have taken matters into their own hands, but because the legal position is so doubtful there must be many who are willing in principle but weak in practice. Figures are not available of the number of children killed or injured by these awful wrecks each year. I estimate that the number of casualties must be considerable, ranging from minor cuts from broken glass and jagged metal up to the occasional horrifying cases of explosion and fires in petrol tanks and fuel systems in which petrol vapour can remain for many months, with tragic results.
If the Bill is to work as we want it to work, both local authorities and the general public must be made aware of their responsibilities. Proper facilities exist for informing local authorities. I 893 am confident that they would carry out their side of the operation efficiently.
I am less happy about the general public understanding the problem and the solutions proposed in the Bill. First, we want to encourage public-spirited people to dispose of their cars and rubbish in a proper way at the properly appointed areas. This means that everybody must be told and reminded from time to time where those areas are.
Secondly, foolish or irresponsible people who dump their litter or vehicles in unauthorised places must be made aware of the penalties for so doing and the fact that the litter will be removed and they will be liable to pay the cost of removal.
I therefore suggest that local authorities should prepare an easily-read handbill listing the designated areas for dumping litter and outlining in easily understood English, and possibly in Hindi and Urdu in certain cities, the provisions and penalties outlined in the Bill. Such leaflets could be automatically included with vehicle licences and also accompany rate or council house rent demands once a year.
Given the maximum of good will on both sides, plus proper information being available to the public, the Bill will do much to make our country a cleaner tidier, healthier, and more beautiful place to live in. I warmly congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham and trust that no difficulties will be experienced in securing the passage of the Bill through its next stages.
§ 2.8 p.m.
§ Dr. Hugh Gray (Yarmouth)
I join other hon. Members in congratulating the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) on introducing this excellent Bill, excellent not only in its matter but in its manner. Of all the Bills which I have read since I became a Member of the House, this is one of the few that I have had pleasure in reading.
However much one may differ from the right hon. Gentleman on desirable economic and social arrangements in the society in which we live, we know that he is never on the side of the Philistines and that he is concerned with the quality of life from an aesthetic point of view in every sector of society. This exemplifies one of the cross-cutting loyalties 894 which exist in the House. It is noteworthy that everyone who has spoken today has spoken in support of the Bill and has wholeheartedly welcomed it. In a sense, hon. Members on both sides belong to this faction of which the right hon. Gentleman is such a prominent exponent.
The first part of the Bill deals with the preservation of ancient monuments. Preservation orders are made on ancient monuments and, unfortunately, maintenance is not invariably considered to be an essential part of preservation. Several hon. Members have referred to the present situation in France, to the admirable cleaning of buildings there and their proper maintenance. Of course, the French always give a lead in questions of taste and, as in many other fields, this is one in which we should certainly follow them.
I have criticised the Government for not appointing members to the East Anglian Planning Council and other councils with due regard to the territorial factor. I must confess that this may have certain advantages if the representatives of these councils are chosen with due care as to their professional qualifications. Hon. Members have observed that members of councils at different levels are not always conspicuous for their care of their aesthetic heritage and their desire to spend rates on aesthetic objectives. Let us hope that the East Anglian Planning Council and others will have such powers that they can take action in these important fields, that they will be concerned not only with drawing up integrated transport schemes, but also with drawing up schemes to preserve and protect our regional heritages which are, of course, our national heritage.
I rose chiefly to support Part II of the Bill, in which my constituency has a vital interest. Deforestation is taking place in Norfolk, and, in particular, on the Norfolk Broads. I cheered when I read the Clause which proposes increasing the fine to £250 or the value of the tree, whichever is the greatest, when trees are felled. There are businessmen in Norfolk today who are felling trees and gladly paying the £50 because they can make a large profit in doing so. Only a a few weeks ago I received a letter from a constituent, an architect, living in South Walsham, telling me that this had recently 895 happened in his area and that nothing could be done about it because the £50 was paid out cheerfully.
Obviously, this is a matter in which very urgent action is needed. We must stop this illegal felling of trees. Fortunately, preservation orders on ancient windmills seem to prevent their being knocked down and reassembled in other countries, but they are not so effective in protecting trees.
I am also concerned for the fate of many ancient churches in Norfolk. As many hon. Members who know this area will be aware, many of these ancient churches stand outside villages. It is said that they were built there as a result of the Black Death. They are extremely beautiful. The ecclesiastical authorities look after them as best they can. Churches seek donations from those who visit them towards the upkeep of the fabric. I hope that it will be possible for us to do something to help them to preserve and embellish these buildings still further.
One notices that the trees in churchyards are generally excellently looked after. One wishes that one could say the same thing of trees that are looked after by county councils. Because they are cheeseparing on the rates they seem to think that it is not necessary to spend sufficient on maintaining these trees, and one does not see sufficient reafforestation taking place.
The Broads are extremely beautiful in their starkness. It is aesthetically satisfying to look across these broad expanses, to see ruined windmills, to look across the marshes and to contemplate the scenes that we have also contemplated so often in pictures painted by Norfolk artists. But, at the same time, one notices that the trees on the sides of roads are gradually disappearing. As an hon. Member opposite said, it is absolutely essential that these roads should be planted with trees as avenues in France are planted. I am sorry constantly to return to the subject of France in this matter, but that country sets us a real example.
Part III of the ill relating to the disposal of hefty rubbish and consumer durables which are thrown away has 896 been adequately dealt with. Apart from motor cars, one sees many unsightly objects left around in the countryside, and, it seems, it is nobody's responsibility to remove them.
I wish to say to the right hon. Member for Streatham that all parts of this Bill are urgently needed by all the community, even though all the community may not realise it. I congratulate him on having acted in the interests of the whole community, in having introduced this Bill, and I hope it will pass through all its stages quickly and become the law of the land at the first possible moment.
§ 2.17 p.m.
§ Mr. John Smith (Cities of London and Westminster)
I am honoured to be one of the sponsors of this Bill because it deals with a subject to which I have devoted most of my spirit, if not most of my time, in many capacities both as a member of Government bodies and other bodies for the past 20 years.
We spend a lot of our time in this House improving, or at any rate altering, the circumstances of our people, but less in improving their surroundings. It is thought by some that amenity is to do with things and not with people, that preservation is a negative activity and that those engaged in it are a body of reluctant emigrants grouped on the poop of the ship of state—that adaptable vessel which I make no apology for dragging once again into this Chamber—gazing backwards at a fast-receding shore, making no contribution to the voyage, and occasionally getting in the way of the crew.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Preservation and amenity are part of the object and true aim of all politics and one of the true end-products of all industry—the making of England a more agreeable place to be in. With this Bill we are engaged in creating: in creating new opportunities for people, in making it possible for them to do, to learn, to see and enjoy things which otherwise they would not. Indeed, we are also engaged with the rarest of all Parliamentary subjects, the subject of pleasure, or rather of fulfilment, of which we are so terrified.
I am also pleased that this is not a Government Bill, but a Private Member's Bill. The first steps in public amenity were taken by private citizens in the great 897 age of self-help when people banded together and did it for themselves, instead of waiting for the State to do it for them.
The Commons, Open Spaces and Footpaths Preservation Society was, I think, the first of all amenity bodies, soon followed by the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association, the National Trust and many others. The world of amenity is still a world of individual achievement, such as that of Mr. Ivor Bulmer-Thomas, for churches, that of Mr. Leonard Hackett, for the cause of almshouses, or, above all, that of my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys), whom I am honoured to support.
By founding the Civic Trust, my right hon. Friend has shown that preservation and amenity need not be negative, need not be ineffectual, and need not be poor. He has changed the outlook of his own time: and in aesthetic matters most people influence the general public only when they are dead. It is one of his achievements that the Civic Trust has turned people's attention from single buildings to whole areas, and that is the main subject of Part I of the Bill.
I was delighted to hear the speech of the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson). One of his recent predecessors, Lord Molson, who was Minister of Works, would have been pleased, proud, and perhaps relieved, to hear what he said. As far as I remember, half of our entire population lives within 60 miles of Buxton, and if the hon. Member takes such an interest in that area he has a better chance than almost any of us to do what we are trying to do, particularly in regard to industrial monuments. An area on the edge of, or just outside, his constituency has the finest group of industrial monuments that we possess, and a union between Socialist principles and industry and the interest which the hon. Member has shown today could bear tremendous fruit there.
Hitherto, we have been far too apt to preserve buildings singly and to ignore their surroundings, so that as those surroundings are built up or get rebuilt, the buildings remain fine but seem uncomfortably out of place. They begin to have the bizarre effect, the embarrassing effect, of a diamond brooch in a plate of spaghetti.
898 Alternatively, we go to the other extreme; we clear away, or allow to fall down, all the buildings around a single fine one, so that it stands out, naked, self-conscious and shivering, as it was never meant to do. There are plenty of examples in my constituency. In amenity, indecent exposure is just as undesirable as suffocation.
The Bill gives a chance of curing all that, and I hope, also, that it will enable the converse to become true, that it will enable areas to be cared for where no building is first-class, but where all or most of them are good, such as many villages, minor high streets and squares all over the country. They posses a unity which is badly needed in the present age of disintegration. I do not wish to discuss whether disintegration is good or bad, but it is the keynote of our society. It is illustrated in standards and in behaviour, and consequently, as is always the case, it is reflected in art, architecture, painting and literature. Simply to be in such unified places is a part of education. They can be felt as well as seen.
We do not wish to embalm such places, to make no changes, but to control and slow down the rate of change. To care for them in this way means not that the present is dead, but that the past is alive. If we can give our children the benefit of such places, they will advance into the future not alone, but accompanied and supported by the friendly hosts of the past, and they will grow up not in the hen-battery but on the deep-litter of history, an environment which has so far proved more successful for the raising up of civilisation and genius than other, more clinical, systems. For this educational value alone, the financial implications of the Bill are a small price to pay.
The second part of the Bill deals with trees. Trees are victims not of change, but of the pace of change. Nowadays, many sites will be redeveloped several times during the life of a single tree, and if great care is not taken one of those redevelopments will remove the tree. Trees are now more important than ever, because they not only soften the inhumanity of some modern building but they preserve the human scale.
Part III deals with the disposal of vehicles and rubbish. The disposing of 899 rubbish is a project that must appeal to any Opposition. It is what we are trying to do all the week. The growth in the volume of rubbish is another aspect of a disintegrating society. Everything is made to be discarded, but, unfortunately, its materials do not disintegrate.
As for abandoned vehicles, I must declare here a non-interest. I am, it is true, a motor car manufacturer, but no one has ever yet abondoned one of the sort which I make. Age cannot wither them; very much the reverse. However, it seems that the products of some other manufacturers are less reliable, and they do get abandoned. If that is so, I am in favour of getting them out of sight as quickly as possible. This is a problem that everyone here has mentioned today and local authorities know that they must face it. The Bill will give them the arguments which they need to strengthen their hands.
I feel that there are one or two omissions in the Bill. I should like to see the list of scheduled buildings made under Section 32 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1962, publicised much more widely, so that ordinary people know and can keep an eye open and report on what is happening to them. I should also like to see the notices to be made under Part I of this Bill publicised more widely, and to see, as was mentioned just now, some—not all—ecclesiastical buildings brought within the scope of the ancient monuments and planning legislation, to their great benefit in terms of both protection and finance.
Further, I am not sure that it is fair to leave all aesthetic decisions entirely to local authorities: and more needs to be done about a host of minor impediments to what we are all trying to do, that is to say, clearance orders, closure and demolition orders, and dangerous structure notices—some people find it very difficult to tell the difference between a fine old building and a dangerous structure.
There are also the duties of trustees for sale in relation to historic buildings, the control of advertisements, and the care of industrial monuments, now to be the province of the hon. Member for The High Peak. Further, there is the question of historic buildings and Estate Duty. Our wish to put such buildings 900 on the same footing as the works of art which they contain needs attention.
Finally, noise. Noise is by far the biggest danger to amenity. It is the black ace of trumps which defeats all our visual efforts. No one can possibly appreciate a place, however fine my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham has made it, if he is shut up inside a box of noise. We should come to recognise noise as a form of atmospheric pollution. It bears exactly the same relationship to us as stenches did to the Middle Ages. We cannot now imagine how people put up with those, and our successors Will not be able to imagine how we put up with noise. Noise deserves a whole Bill to itself, a big, stiff, rather unpleasant Bill of the kind which the Chancellor of the Exchequer introduces.
But this Bill is a big step along the road. It must appeal to anyone of any party who has a sharp eye and a generous spirit. It has to do with the great business of life, that of keeping man on top, keeping him in control of his environment and on top of his circumstances, not letting him become, in the false name of progress, the creature of the machine.
Those of us here today have been given a chance which is offered to few, the chance to take an active part in a great work, the chance to leave our own mark for good on the map of England. I hope that we shall seize it by giving the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 2.32 p.m.
§ Mr. S. C. Silkin (Dulwich)
The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) is by now almost bored by hearing the congratulations given to him on the Bill, but I hope he will not mind my adding my own, and not merely to him but to the Civic Trust and its officers who have contributed very much to it and to the excellent work which is being done in other directions for the improvement of civic amenities.
The right hon. Gentleman's Bill touches three of the major elements in the urban scene, buildings, trees and the motor car, and does so in a valuable way, though I am sure he will not disagree if I say that, inevitably, the contribution which a Private Member's Measures can make to the improvement of civic amenities must be modest. I am sure that he would also, like me, wish to take the opportunity 901 to do something a great deal less modest for the improvement of those amenities. I hope that his Bill will point the way towards some of the much wider improvements which, in my belief, it is possible to make and which ought to be made.
I hope that, in expressing what I have in mind with reference to each Part of the Bill, I shall at least not encourage disagreement from the right hon. Gentleman. Part I deals with buildings and urban areas as such. It deals, in particular, with areas which contain specific classes of building, that is, those of special architectural or historic interest. I regard it as extremely valuable in extending the field so that one may look at the area in which such buildings stand, apart from just the buildings themselves.
But the right hon. Gentleman will, I know, agree that in any urban area it is not merely those parts which contain buildings of that character which contribute to the beauty of the urban scene. There are many areas which do not contain such buildings which either do or can contribute to the beauty, or, equally, which do or can contribute to the ugliness, of the urban scene.
For example, one has seen little streets in areas like Chelsea which are gems in themselves although they contain no buildings of that character, and other streets which could be gems but which are ruined because, perhaps, one or two of the householders there are not conscious of their civic obligations to the extent of being prepared, as others are, to do the kind of decoration and maintenance which would add to the general beauty of the scene. I for one would particularly like to give to local authorities the additional power to take positive steps by way of encouragement, by way of compulsion or by way of doing work themselves to ensure that the beauty of the urban scene in areas of that kind is enhanced and maintained.
Not only that, but there are areas of relatively nondescript character which are made even more nondescript by the Victorian fashion of dividing houses and the curtilage of houses into tiny little self-contained boxes with wooden fences and, it may be, a certain amount of foliage all grown to a particular pattern. This I believe to be quite out of tune with the modern development of opening up buildings to the gaze of the 902 passer-by, which very often makes an area far more attractive. There again, I hope that in time it will be possible for local authorities to compel that kind of treatment to be given to roads within their area. I accept that this would, of course, be an invasion of the rights of the private owner, but it is one which would be very much to the advantage of the urban scene and of the community as a whole.
Therefore, while I greatly applaud the limited extension of the powers of local authorities given by Part I, I hope that it will be possible in time to do a great deal more to give these positive powers of encouragement, compulsion and the carrying out of works by local authorities themselves wherever they see the opportunity to improve the urban scene.
The same is true, in my view, for the preservation and planting of trees. The right hon. Gentleman shares with me the advantage of representing a constituency with a wealth of trees. I do not know whether his constituency is divided, as mine is, into two parts, one of them with a remarkable wealth of trees and the other with a remarkable dearth. The difference between the two in my constituency is most evident and the difference in the beauty of the scene is very marked.
The part of my constituency in which there is a wealth of trees is a part which has been maintained as a single unit by the estates governors of the Dulwich College Estate, who have very much encouraged the preservation and maintenance of afforested areas. I have always applauded that action, whatever views one may have about the leasehold system as a whole. I hope that when the Government leasehold proposals come before the House this can be maintained and also encouraged in areas which have not had the advantage of unified control. Valuable as the right hon. Gentleman's proposals are in the way of preservation where development is proposed, I should like them to go a great deal further by imposing positive obligations and positive powers on local authorities to provide trees in areas that have a dearth, and, what is more, enabling local authorities to maintain and preserve trees themselves where the owners of the land on which they stand are not carrying out that function. In areas like the Dulwich 903 College Estate that function is being carried out, but there are many areas where, unfortunately, that is not done and where there are no suitable powers to compell it to be done or to enable the local authority to do it, unless one can invoke the tree preservation order procedure. I hope that the powers will be very much wider than that in future.
In Part III of the Bill we touch upon the third major element in the modern urban scene—the motor car. The Bill is concerned only with the droppings of a motor car age and not with the live vehicle which is a very much more potent force for destruction in the urban scene. I appreciate that, in a Private Members' Bill particularly, the right hon. Gentleman cannot seek to revolutionise our whole concepts of the urban scene, but I have no doubt—I am sure that I shall be supported by all hon. Members who represent urban constituencies—that the real danger to the urban scene lies not so much in the abandonments or droppings, important though that aspect may be, but rather more in the way in which the motor car is increasingly forcing its way through our residential and environmental areas and destroying their character. This is forcing highway authorities to extend the road systems and even to destroy the trees and buildings which the Bill seeks to preserve.
I have spoken about the great value of the part of my constituency where the trees are such a predominant feature. It is, unfortunately, true that in that very part one has the vast commuter traffic coming into London from the south in the morning and going out in the evening, and that in itself is undermining the beauty of the areas which the trees so largely create. I hope that it will be possible in time—the Bill will perhaps point the way—to create powers which will enable active steps to be taken by local authorities to create real environmental areas from which the motor car is excluded unless it is necessary for it to enter for the purposes of those who live there. Then we shall not have what we now have, an extension more and more of the motor car in streets which were once regarded as quite residential ones, where people went to live for that reason, but now they find themselves living in what are simply traffic high- 904 ways. Every motorist, no doubt,—including myself—is guilty of taking the ways that avoid the main arteries which are clogged up by traffic, thereby creating further clogged up roads elsewhere.
As to the content of Part III, I agree with the view expressed by one hon. Member that in urban areas like London the great difficulty in giving effect to the provisions will be not so much the actual process of collection of vehicles but finding somewhere to put them while the necessary inquiries are going on. However stringent the provisions of the Bill may be, inquiries will be necessary. We have heard that only a very small proportion of the owners of vehicles which are recovered are traced. Experience shows that many vehicles found without their number plates and other identification marks have been stolen from where they were left, taken perhaps some distance away and then simply abandoned. If I were the owner of such a vehicle and learnt a few weeks later that it had been taken away and sent to a crushing machine, I should not be altogether pleased. So there are certain difficulties about the question of collection and disposal which must be resolved for the protection of the ordinary person. One has to be rather careful about it.
In certain areas, such as the borough of which my constituency is part, it is simply impossible today, without detriment to the vast need for an accelerated housing programme, to find adequate land to support the very large number of cars which at any one time would have to be collected and held under the provisions of Clause 12. This leads me to the view that it is more than a local problem. It ought to be dealt with on a very much broader scale, possibly a national scale and certainly more on a regional scale. Judging by the speeches that we have heard from hon. Members acquainted with the problem, the process of disposal would be rendered very much easier if it were dealt with on a much bigger scale than that which the ordinary local authority can achieve. I hope that consideration will be given to that.
These are a few points showing the direction in which we may be able to go in the future. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman, in hearing what I have 905 had to say, has not taken it in any sense as criticism of his Bill. On the contrary, it is a most valuable and useful Bill. However, I hope that within the next year or two, with the assistance of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary and his colleagues, we may see something much broader and even more valuable which will play a very important part in the future urban scene.
§ 2.50 p.m.
§ Mr. John Rankin (Glasgow, Govan)
The right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) must be greatly heartened by the warm welcome which his Bill has had from both sides of the House. I do not want to enter into too much detail on the Bill, but I am sure that it was through an oversight that the right hon. Gentleman forgot to mention that his Bill applies to Scotland. There was no reference to that fact in those parts of his speech which I was fortunate to hear. During the debate there has been continual emphasis on the English scene, as though the Bill were purely an English Bill and not a Great Britain Bill. Nevertheless, I bear no grudge in that respect because I welcome the Bill very warmly indeed
The Scottish Grand Committee is dealing with the Committee stage of a Bill which is similar to many parts of this Bill. It seeks to give local authorities power to acquire land for public open spaces. It seeks to reclaim derelict land. It makes provision for a great comprehensive scheme of development and redevelopment in Scotland. Therefore, we in Scotland are not forgetful of the things which are dear to the heart of the right Iron. Gentleman.
Although I cannot speak for England, I think, also, that there is proceeding upstairs a Bill dealing with these matters from the English point of view. Therefore, the Government are very much alive to the issues dealt with in the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. In addition, I believe that there is in the offing the Countryside Bill, which will comprehend even more closely much of the work embodied in this Bill.
When I heard my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) dealing with Clause 3 and the motor car and linked what he was saying with what the hon. Member for 906 the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) said about noise, I recollected the time when the right hon. Member for Streatham was at the Ministry of Aviation, one of whose greatest problems is noise. The hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster tools pride in the fact that none of his firm's cars was ever found in the heaps of abandoned cars which disfigure the countryside. But he did not say, when he was protesting about noise, that his firm's cars travelled the streets of our cities without making any noise. Has he produced the noiseless car? Has he produced the car which does not emit rather malodorous smells from its rear? There is still a great future for the hon. Member in trying to produce a car which meets all the requirements which he says are lacking at the moment. Noise comes from aircraft; but it also comes from motor cars.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
The hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) would not mention it because he has a vested interest, but we all know that his firm has produced the almost silent car and we pay tribute to him and his firm for it, because we know that it is the best car in the world.
§ Mr. Rankin
When two hon. Members one from each side of the House, advertise a particular car, I had better keep to aircraft. I am glad to know that there are cars which are noiseless. I wish that they would use the streets near my home in the City of Glasgow, after eleven o'clock at night, because I have never yet heard a car horn which sounds without making a noise. If my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis) and the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster propose to unite to produce that type of car, the sooner they do it, the better.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Eric Fletcher)
I was about to say that that may well be, but the Bill deals with the disposal of vehicles and rubbish. We must not pursue the subject of noise.
§ Mr. Rankin
I agree completely, Mr. Deputy Speaker. All that I wanted to say was that I agreed with my hon. Friend. I was decoyed into saying one or two other things. He made a point which 907 must command general support when he referred to the destruction and disfiguration of local areas. My area is one of them. Living in it has been rendered less desirable than it used to be. The motor car is destroying the amenity of districts like the one in which I live by crowding the streets at night. The petrol stations, which are not ornaments to any neighbourhood, follow in the trail of the motor car. If I might adorn what I was saying with a parting remark, it is that we cannot have speed without noise.
§ Mr. Rankin
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish what I am saying.
One of the problems which confronts us is that the faster an aeroplane travels, the noisier it gets. If the hon. Gentleman has produced a car which travels at 120 miles an hour without anybody knowing about it because of its lack of noise, I am sure that it will help to have that information.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. We ought not, on this Bill, to pursue any further the question of speed or the noise of motor cars.
§ Mr. Rankin
I agree with you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, in which case the hon. Member for the Cities of London and Westminster is out of order.
§ Mr. John Smith
On a point of order. Is it in order for the hon. Member to attack me when all my children are half-Scottish?
§ Mr. Rankin
When I look at the hon. Gentleman, I wonder why.
Perhaps I might for a short time deal with the dumping of rubbish in the countryside. In the area where I spend part of my free time when in Glasgow there is a tremendous dump. It is at Loganswell, halfway between Glasgow and Kilmarnock, and is adjacent to Eastwood Golf Course, on which, tomorrow, I shall be trying to beat bogey on various parts of the course. The local authority, Renfrewshire County Council, is per- 908 mitting the dumping of waste material there. My hon. Friend the Member for Norwich, North (Mr. Wallace), said that he would like to see controlled dumping. So would I, but how can we achieve it? It is the local authorities who are responsible for this dumping. If a local authority violates the law of the land, what do we do? Do we fine that local authority? I tried to get this kind of provision into a Bill which was considered upstairs, but I am told that we cannot put a local authority in the position of being penalised, and perhaps the Minister will say whether this is right or not.
If a local authority violates the law, do we fine it? And, if we fine it, and it refuses to pay the fine, do we put the authority into gaol? A local authority seems a most difficult body to deal with when it comes to enforcing legislation passed by this House.
Assuredly, when it rains, and the rain runs into the streams near the dump into the wider rivers where people fish, everything is poisoned, and as a result of protests the local authority concerned seeks to purify this water. Yet local authorities are contaminating our streams in Scotland.
§ Mr. Wallace
My hon. Friend has referred to my comments. I was referring, not to controlled dumping, but controlled tipping. I was referring to a specialised process whereby the tip is controlled by the introduction of certain chemicals, and so on, to reclaim the land.
§ Mr. Rankin
I am glad to hear that. I hope that in that respect the provisions of the Bill can be tightened up in Committee.
Multi-storey flats, which are becoming of increasing importance to us, have been mentioned during the debate, and they are also referred to in the Bill. We know that in many cases local authorities particularly in our more crowded cities, have no option but to build multi-storey flats. But there have been attempts by local authorities to build multi-storey flats on the high land on the outskirts of their cities, thereby destroying the amenities This prevents the wind from getting into the city and obstructs the beams of the sun too early in the day. It has generally destroyed the amenities of the whole neighbourhood. I hope that in Committee something will be done to improve 909 amenities and to prevent this sort of action being carried out by certain local authorities.
§ Mr. S. C. Silkin
I hesitate to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) after he has agreed with me, but is not he putting the matter much too strongly? Has not he seen the high flats built at Roehampton, which are a model of civic design?
§ Mr. Rankin
I am sorry if I did not make myself clear to my hon. and learned Friend. I am not disputing the need for the multi-storey block of flats, or quarrelling with its architecture, although it is unfortunately terribly uniform. Its necessity I do not dispute; it is its position that I disagree with. I submit that we ought to try to ensure that no local authority is permitted to build multistorey flats other than as near the centre of the city as possible, and always on the flat and not on the high ground, which spoils the amenities for thousands of people who live round about.
I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to find time for the further stages of the Bill. If he cannot do that I trust he will study it very closely and incorporate it into whatever legislation is proposed either for England or Scotland, so that the benefits which we have all acclaimed will not be lost to the country.
§ 3.7 p.m.
§ Mr. H. P. G. Channon (Southend, West)
I hope that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin) will forgive me if I do not follow the peculiarly Scottish aspects of his speech.
§ Mr. Channon
I refer to those parts which were peculiarly Scottish. We were fortunate to have a Scottish Minister with us earlier in the day, and that was very courteous of him. My hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, East (Miss Harvie Anderson), who cannot be here because she has a public engagement in the North, very much welcomes the Bill. It is particularly welcomed by the Glasgow Tree Lovers' Society, which has done so much work in the field covered by the Bill.
On several occasions this morning my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) has been overloaded with compliments. He may have 910 been helped in his task of drafting the Bill by the fact that he is an ex-Minister of Housing and Local Government and an ex-Minister of Works. I suspect that one reason why an hon. Member said that this was the first Bill which had been a pleasure to read since he had been in the House is that it bears the imprint of my right hon. Friend's close attention, which was so typical of the Bills which he put through the House when he was a Minister.
I want to say a few words about the problem of motor cars. The hon. Member for Govan should realise that when my hon. Friend the Member for the Cities of London and Westminster (Mr. John Smith) was talking about cars he was referring to those cars of which the noisiest feature is the clock. The hon. Member for Govan does not appreciate how quiet those cars are. There is no doubt that the problem of the disposal of motor cars is becoming increasingly serious, and that it will be with us for a long time. This is a real menace in many parts of the countryside.
I do not agree with one hon. Member who thought that the penalty was too severe. My doubt is whether the penalty of £100 for someone who does this more than once is adequate, but perhaps my right hon. Friend might look at the penalties in Committee. The problem of disposal of motor cars is more likely to be difficult in this country than any other in the world. In the United States of America a good deal of action has been taken on this problem, but there is much more space there to put the cars. We have many cars per head of the population, and Britain is a very small island.
This problem must be dealt with not only in the short term, which my right hon. Friend's proposals will do, but in the long term. Perhaps it will be found in the wonderful machines which crush cars, like the one in the film "Gold-finger". The maiden speech of the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson) was fascinating and enjoyable. I agree with him and the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, about the possibility of a £2 charge being made when a car is bought and refunded when it is disposed of.
I was disappointed to hear from my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-East (Mr. Weatherill) that the 911 Croydon Council charge for disposal of cars. The Minister's circular recommended that local authorities should make no charge. Of course, if they do make even a modest charge, people will go to another area and leave their cars in the streets. Perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary will tell us what is the position of local authorities and whether many of them charge for this service or most are complying with the wishes of the Government that they should not charge.
I understood from my right hon. Friend that he thought that most litter would still come under the Litter Act and that the Bill will deal only with the problem of cars and very large litter like unwanted beds. I imagine that the prosecuting authority will have the discretion to prosecute under this Bill if it so chooses. That would be a good thing because the penalties under the Bill are greater.
Has the Government working party on the subject of litter yet reported? I understand that it has been sitting for some time. If it has, what was its conclusions? Perhaps they are enshrined in the Bill. If not, we ought to be told when it will report, since it has been sitting for some considerable time.
Part II of the Bill deals with trees, their preservation and planting. Until recently, we have planted far too few trees during the last century or so. My right hon. Friend's ingenious solution of the deemed tree preservation order will be of immense benefit to towns and city centres. It will now be the duty of local authorities to ensure adequate provision for the planting of trees when they give planning permission, and the duty of an owner to replace the trees if they die or are destroyed because they were planted under the terms of the Bill or an earlier tree preservation order.
We will now put a stop to the past "dodges" whereby people who wanted to get rid of their trees could treat them so that they died in two or three years. I wonder, however, whether the provision goes far enough and binds local authorities strictly enough. Local authorities have power under Clause 8 to authorise owners not to plant trees if they consider that desirable. If they have the power to excuse others, I imagine that they can excuse themselves. If possible, it should be made more mandatory on 912 local authorities to plant trees in cases of this kind.
These may be thought by most hon. Members to be the more secondary provisions of the Bill. The provisions concerning both motor cars and trees will, I think, prove to be far more important than any of us can realise. In his provision about trees, my right hon. Friend may, over the next half century or so, if the Bill becomes law, revolutionise the face of Britain. It is a great achievement and I hope that it will come into law.
There is no doubt, however, that the most important provisions are the earlier Clauses in the Bill, which include for the first time areas surrounding historic buildings. I had the honour of being, I think, the last Member of the House to put forward a successful Bill concerning historic buildings, with the support of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), who was then Minister of Housing and Local Government.
After considerable pressure in Standing Committee, we managed to extend grants to gardens attached to buildings, but we were not able at that time to make any further extension. Other hon. Members, notably my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, West (Mr. Robert Cooke), made a praiseworthy attempt, which I wish had got much further, to do something much more powerful.
I have refreshed by mind by referring again to those debates. I half thought that I might quote a speech from the Third reading debate, but perhaps you will recall it very well, Mr. Deputy Speaker, since you delivered it with great eloquence. Now that local authorities will have the duty to determine which parts of their areas are areas of special architectural or historical interest and to publish notices and will be able to make grants, this will be a tremendous step forward.
I want to be brief because I know that other hon. Members wish to speak. I was tremendously impressed by the Minister of Housing's pilot scheme for the five towns and his four criteria of what it is desirable to keep, what it is practicable to keep, how to do this and what factors should govern it. There is a great deal to be done in preservation legislation. Perhaps the Joint Parliamentary Secretary can tell us the timetable on 913 the pilot schemes in the five towns. I do not know how long it will be before we have a report on them.
I am also glad that my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham has taken up, in particular, the points mentioned by the hon. Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg), and which were covered in the Historic Buildings Council Report in 1965, about the two defects in the law at that time. It is a great step forward that for those who wilfully destroy buildings on which there are preservation orders the penalties should be considerably increased from the existing maximum of £100. My hon. Friend quoted a particularly scandalous case in the Midlands which spotlights the need for this.
I have been doing some research into what the French do in this direction, and my hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. Ridley) referred to this. Perhaps my right hon. Friend's Bill, although it does not go all this way, is a step along a road which the House should consider carefully.
The French go far further. They consult local authorities and they deal with the local authority and the central Government, but they have the system of the 14 pilot schemes in which they classify areas, after which the Ministries concerned have two years in which to prepare a plan for an area. During that period no new buildings may be erected or existing buildings altered or demolished.
The other feature of interest in the French scheme is their classification of monuments classés, the very important monuments, and monuments interessants, the interesting ones but those which are not quite so important. Not only do they classify the monuments, but the restrictions cover the buildings or the land designated and also the area of visibility around them to the extent of 500 yards. When they have designated these buildings, if they are in the monuments classés the owner cannot do any work of restoration, alteration or demolition without the Minister's consent. And if they are in the second category, four months' notice must be given to the Minister, and then the Minister can always transfer them into the monuments classés. While we might not be able to go that far in this Measure, it is a safeguard which should be kept in mind.
914 I enjoyed the maiden speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Exeter (Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody). I thought how peculiarly fitting it was for the hon. Lady, whose distinguished predecessor, Sir Rolf Dudley Williams, we saw so often in the House on Fridays, to have chosen a Private Member's Bill to make her maiden speech. Perhaps she will take an interest in Private Members' Bills, remembering the keen interest which her predecessor always took in them.
The Bill is a great step forward and is by no means a modest Measure. It is a remarkable achievement which probably only my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham could have made in a Private Member's Bill—in being able to produce a Measure which will have such far-reaching effects on our landscape and on the appearance of our towns.
My right hon. Friend has performed many deeds which are worthy of public commendation, but I suspect that when history comes to be written, this Measure and my right hon. Friend's activities concerning it may be those which posterity considers the most valuable. I hope that the House shares my view and will afford my right hon. Friend a Second Reading to his Bill, a Measure which will be of great value to our people and countryside.
§ 3.22 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. James MacColl)
This is not a Government Bill and it must therefore, not be thought that by my rising to speak now I am in any way wanting to reduce the time in which hon. Members have to speak.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
It may not be a Government Bill, but surely the Government Whips are interfering with the debate. Is that not so?
§ Mr. MacColl
I do not want to delay the House unnecessarily and I hope, therefore, that I will be able to avoid having to give way to too many interruptions. In general, the Government very much welcome the Bill and I hope that the House will give it a Second Reading.
915 Much has been said about the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) and the part that the Civic Trust has played in preserving amenities. While I do not wish to delay the House by adding to what has been said on that subject, I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman and the Civic Trust appreciate that we welcome all that they have done.
I enjoyed the two maiden speeches of my hon. Friends. It is a tribute to the Bill that, in a debate on a Private Member's Measure, both my hon. Friends felt impelled to make their maiden speeches. We listened with keen interest to my hon. Friend the Member for the High Peak (Mr. Peter M. Jackson), who comes from such an important part of the country from the amenities point of view. He made a useful and constructive speech and made some positive suggestions which I am sure the right hon. Member for Streatham will take into account before the next stage of the Bill.
My hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mrs. Gwyneth Dunwoody) made an equally interesting maiden speech. Both her parents have a special place in the hearts of members of the Labour Party. It is a tribute to them that my hon. Friend made such a good maiden speech arid is obviously beginning what will be a distinguished career. The best thing that I could wish her is that she and my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody) will be in the House to hear their children make their maiden speeches—when they carry on the family tradition. However, I should give my hon. Friend the solemn warning that the first hon. Member I congratulated on having made a maiden speech is now sitting on the Front Bench opposite. Terrible things can happen to one sometimes.
I was glad that the right hon. Gentleman said that he would give very full time for the Bill to be looked at before it went to Committee. It is important that there should be the full consultation with local authorities which the right hon. Gentleman said he has not yet had time to undertake before final decisions are taken. That also applies to Scotland, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin). My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State 916 will initiate discussions with the Scottish local authorities about it.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will look at the question of the date of the Bill's coming into force. My immediate feeling is that rather than say that it would come into operation within a year with power to advance some of the Clauses, I would prefer to see it come in immediately with power to postpone any Clauses that are not ready. However, that is a matter at which the right hon. Gentleman might like to look.
The Government accept the principle of group preservation, in which my right hon. Friend the Minister has shown a very special interest. We are glad to see these present proposals, but it would only be honest for me to say that we have some reservations about the extension of grant to non-listed buildings in groups. I should not like the right hon. Gentleman to think that I am misleading him, so I point out that I use the word "reservation" in its strict sense, and do not say that we feel one way or the other. It is obviously something we should have to look at.
A number of hon. Members have talked a good deal about the need for central control, but the other side of the coin is a very important one. I do not believe that one gets anywhere in preservation matters if one does not win local interest. One of the most valuable things in the Act put through by the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) was that it made local authorities accept responsibility for preservation. I do not believe that preservation which is merely a war by what are regarded as the long-haired preservationists against local people will ever get us anywhere. It is very important that we should have public opinion behind preservation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, North (Mr. Moyle) referred to the proposal to extend the notice period from two months to six months. I am all in favour of an extension, but I have some reservations about whether six months is not too long and will not unnecessarily hold up development in some cases where there is a fairly clear case for doing it. The Bill extends the proposals for compulsory purchase of listed buildings to those for which there is not a building preservation order. I welcome and accept 917 that, but, again, have some reservations about applying it to any group buildings, whether or not they are listed.
One or two hon. Members asked how one could supervise planning authorities and make sure that, often with the best will in the world, they did not make bad mistakes. It is perfectly true that we must be careful to keep up the quality of local planning. That is not easy because a shortage of planning officers and, very often, lack of skilled advice, but I think that the pilot studies that my right hon. Friend has started will help us to build up "know-how", and try out methods of control that might assist.
With regard to the timetables of the pilot schemes, I would say that my right hon. Friend is not a person who usually dallies about these matters. He has launched these schemes with the great enthusiasm he has for them, and we would hope to get results very quickly. On the other hand, the job will not be worth doing unless it is thorough. The idea of the pilot schemes is to do a thorough job and get valuable information.
I should like now to take up the two points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Barking (Mr. Driberg). First, if we are to make preservation effective, buildings must be lived in, and they must be fit to live in. Secondly, we must not be preservationists at all costs but must experiment with working old buildings into a modern setting. That is an important part of group preservation and something which we should look at in regard to pilot schemes.
On Part II and the subject of trees I have only one point to make. It was raised by the hon. Lady the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers), who asked if these penalties are not rather too swingeing and what will happen if someone cuts down a tree and finds himself in gaol or heavily fined. This applies only where there is a tree preservation order and such an order is registered as a land charge in the register of land charges. Any purchaser who has not had a tree preservation order made in his own time can always find by search whether there is one in existence. My right hon. Friend has in mind the great importance of tree preservation as a main part of the preservation of amenities and welcomes this part of the Bill, subject to 918 details which it would be more appropriate to deal with in Committee.
The final part of the Bill deals with the collection of heavy refuse and motor vehicles. We hope that the working party on refuse collection will report by the end of the year. As the hon. Member for Bournemouth, East and Christchurch (Mr. Cordle) pointed out, the Bill puts a duty on local authorities. Our attitude is that if local authorities welcome this duty we would not resist it very much. On the other hand, we are anxious that local authorities should be consulted before a final decision is taken.
We have had a fairly good response to the circular we sent out. A number of local authorities are already co-operating voluntarily and doing good work in this respect, but unless every local authority does its duty, areas of laggard local authorities can become bad areas. Some authorities make a charge and some do not. In the circular we made the point that not all of this operation need be an expense on the ratepayer. If authorities are skilful in disposal they can make some money because they will have a disposable asset.
My hon. Friend the Member for The High Peak raised the question of cutting down the administrative burden by speeding the process and reducing some of the time spent in searches to find owners. I think that Clause 12 will help a great deal in this respect particularly by subsections (3) and (4). It might be wise to look very carefully at the drafting of the Clause to make certain that the point about hire-purchase interest is taken up and that local authorities are protected.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Dulwich (Mr. S. C. Silkin) made a point to the opposite effect. It is important to remember that not every car which is dumped is a waste car, or that it is dumped because of the negligence or indifference of the owner. It may be that the car has been stolen. The owner should not be faced with the double problem of getting back his stolen car and finding that it has been squashed in some apparatus in another part of the country. We have to safeguard property, but Clause 15 will play a valuable part in providing joint activities so that efficient and space-saving machinery can be provided jointly by authorities. 919 That would be a great step forward in making methods of disposal more effective.
Subject to some Amendments in detail, in respect of which my hon. Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Dr. Gray) proposed looking in Committee at some of the drafting, I think that the House would be well advised to give the Bill a Second Reading.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
I had wanted to take part in this debate, but, in view of the interference of the Whips in private Members' time, I shall not have the opportunity. However, I want to tell the right hon. Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) that I support his Bill and hope to be able to give him some ideas and help with regard to Part III. I was particularly anxious to take part in this debate, because three children—constituents of mine—have recently been injured because of the nuisance which is sought to be dealt with by Part III of the Bill. I had wanted to go into this matter in some detail.
I wish to register my strong objection to the Whips interfering in private Members' time. I hope that this practice will cease. It is a farce that, after going through the procedure of having a ballot, after going through the procedure of Bills being allocated, and the Government allocating time for a democratic vote, the Whips then interfere with private Members' time.
I have made my objection. I sit down now so that the House may proceed to debate the other Bills which are on the Order Paper.
§ 3.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Cooke (Bristol, West)
I shall not detain the House for more than a few minutes, because it would appear that there is general agreement in favour of the Bill. Even the hon. Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Arthur Lewis), who is irritated by the activities of the Government Whips, is in favour of the Bill. There is no need for me to emphasise that everyone who has spoken has been in favour of it. We have heard two very fluent maiden speeches—a rare event on a Friday. It would seem that hon. Members regard 920 this as a vitally important matter, as we all do.
I wish to deal with only two of the things which have not been adequately covered. My hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dame Joan Vickers) said that many of the planning procedures and many of the procedures set out in the Bill will not work as well as they might unless the public are aware of their nature. I hope that in our detailed discussions we shall be able to persuade the appropriate Ministry to issue an explanatory booklet—the issue of such booklets is common procedure nowadays—explaining to those interested exactly what this is all about. Then things will work much more smoothly.
Secondly, I emphasise that the Bill would put into effect one of the most important recommendations of the Gowers Report, which is virtually the bible for the preservation of historic buildings and areas. The Gowers Report was made in 1948 to Sir Stafford Cripps. Much of the beneficial legislation which has taken place since has flowed from the recommendations in that Report. On the first page of the Report the point is made that the mere preservation of buildings on their own is not enough and that the settings of buildings must be protected. This has been left undone for far too long.
I am sure that the House is grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Mr. Sandys) for bringing the Bill forward, particularly Part I. Much of the debate has centred round the disposal of old cars, a matter which concerns us domestically and which we can see every day.
Our historic buildings and the great houses of England in their settings are enjoyed by millions every year, but they can continue to be enjoyed only if the settings are preserved. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary said that buildings must be kept alive. A building which has its surroundings threatened and its amenities destroyed dies. This is a matter which will be taken care of by the Bill. We have had favourable reactions from all over the country already, even in the limited time which has elapsed since the Bill was printed. My right hon. Friend was right to give interested parties plenty of time to study 921 his Bill before approaching the Committee stage. Sometimes we meet difficulties in the House because things are unduly rushed.
Here is a very important Measure which is being handled in the best Parliamentary way, with plenty of time for all those who wish to consider it to do so. I must pay my tribute to my right hon. Friend who, in his long Parliamentary career, has been concerned with many of the great issues of State. Some of us feel that what we are debating today is a great issue of State. Certainly, it is of vital significance for the future. I am sure that we are all grateful to my right hon. Friend, who is about to set off on a voyage across the world, for diverting his mind from the great issues on which he has been speaking to us recently, and for coming here to explain this Measure with such skill that the entire House is in favour of it.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 40 (Committal of Bills).