§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
My Lords, this Bill is partly a Consolidation Bill and partly an amending Bill, and therefore escapes to some degree the objections that your Lordships have frequently made to legislation by reference. But the form in which the Bill is drawn, I think, makes it difficult to distinguish how much of it is old and how much is new. Actually there is a great deal in this Bill which is old. Your Lordships will remember that town planning legislation was passed in 1909 and 1919, and there was a Consolidation Bill in 1925, while further amendments were passed in 1929. And, although it is quite true that this Bill does extend and amplify those Acts in certain directions, a great deal of it is occupied with the definition in more precise terms of powers which have been exercised for some years, but the authority for which has been somewhat too general and unspecific. The immediate forerunner of this Bill was one introduced by the Labour Government in 1931. That Bill was supported by the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, and received a 948 Second Reading in another place without a Division but, owing to the events of last summer, it never reached this House.
The general objects of this Bill are set out in Clause 1, and are much the same as the objects of previous Bills—namely, to secure "proper sanitary conditions, amenity, and convenience," and to preserve "objects of architectural, historic or artistic interest and places of natural interest and beauty," and generally to protect the existing amenities. I feel that no member of your Lordships' House would wish to find fault with those objects in themselves; and, indeed, I feel that any opposition that there may be to this Bill is due to the fear that we may in some way or other be imposing or adding to expenditure and increasing what is usually called bureaucratic interference to an unwarrantable degree. It is no doubt important that we should carefully consider how far schemes made under this Bill will be adding to the burdens of the ratepayers, but I think that another matter of equal importance that we ought to consider is the question of how far the ratepayers' burdens will be increased by the absence of these schemes.
Perhaps to illustrate this point I might give some examples of the expense which has been imposed on certain localities by uncontrolled and unchecked development in the past. In a rural area on the coast a land company have been developing a large estate in a very scattered fashion. In some cases no proper access to houses has been provided, the drainage is by cesspool, and complaints have been made of its sanitary conditions. The council have been urged to provide sewers and sewage works, but they say that this would be enormously costly, not only because of the scattered development but also owing to the low level of the land. The council have urged that legislation should be passed to meet cases of this kind. Let me take another example, with which I am quite familiar myself. In a certain spot on the South Downs, not far from Brighton, a collection of bungalows was erected after the War, and in a few years it housed several thousands of people. It was developed as a series of individual plots, and the lay-out was of a very simple type. The local authority concerned is now being confronted with the problem of furnishing this town with roads, with sewers and other services, and it is computed that it will be necessary to 949 make up twenty miles of roads and to provide twenty-one miles of services, such as sewerage. It is further calculated that had the lay-out been efficient and according to the best standard, with the provision of open spaces and so forth, the same population could have been accommodated with four miles of roads and a corresponding length of services. The rateable value of the bungalows involved is very low, and the cost of providing these services could never be extracted from the local inhabitants.
I could give your Lordships other examples, but I think these two are sufficient to illustrate this point, that if people are to be allowed to erect collections of houses where they like and how they like circumstances may arise in which the provision of those services, which ratepayers certainly expect, will be very expensive, and the proper maintenance of the service of public sanitation will also be very expensive. It is true that under by-laws you have a certain protection, but you cannot control the lay-out of houses under by-laws, and you cannot prevent houses being built in very unsuitable places. At any rate the by-laws do not seem to have been very successful in preventing very many of the abuses which are so obvious to-day. Of course, it is true that much of this expense could have been avoided had the schemes which exist to-day been in operation at the time these houses were erected; but the whole point is that those schemes were not in operation.
To-day there are areas where similar disorderly building might at any time take place, but with which it is impossible to deal, anyhow in sufficient time, owing to the absence of powers. There are districts already planned where experience has shown that further powers are required. Parliament has already recognised this fact, for, since the passing of the 1925 Act, there have been no fewer than nineteen Private Acts of Parliament under which we have conferred on local authorities town planning powers additional to those contained in the Act of 1925; and in many cases there are none of the special safeguards which are provided for owners under this Bill. I suppose one might assume that, in the absence of a new general Bill, town planning would develop in that somewhat irregular way because the expense attaching to Private Acts of Parliament is considerable, 950 and not only would such a system lack uniformity, but in the poorer districts where town planning is most urgently required the authorities might not be able to take action because of this expense. The demand for new legislation is also strengthened by the fact that the London County Council, the Association of Municipal Corporations and numerous influential societies have all passed resolutions pressing for it.
The process of preparing a scheme under this Bill follows very closely on precedent. A resolution must be passed, notice must be given to those whose land would be affected, and a preliminary man must be prepared and exhibited. For the purposes of the scheme local authorities may act separately or jointly. They may act separately for some purposes and jointly for others. There may, for instance, be a joint scheme to deal with arterial roads and supplementary schemes to deal with other matters. The power of the county councils under this Bill is slightly enlarged, but, after considerable discussion in another place, it has been decided to leave the district councils with the same powers as they have enjoyed hitherto. But in Clause 1 and Clause 6 it will be seen that this power of planning may now be extended to new territories.
In the first place it will now be possible to make schemes for built-up areas. In theory there seems to be little reason why the redevelopment of built-up areas should not follow on approved lines. There seems to be little reason why, if offences have been perpetrated in a certain area in the past, there should be a sort of special charter given to them to enable owners to go on perpetrating the same offences indefinitely. There is actually at present a great deal of redevelopment going on, and it would be a gloomy prospect if we could only look forward to the redevelopment of some of these unfortunate places on the same lines on which they have developed hitherto. The term "existing buildings" is a very wide one, and it is most necessary we should ensure that powers in connection with them should only be exercised in appropriate cases. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the special safeguards and rights which owners of existing buildings are given under the Compensation Clauses 18 and 19, and under Clause 10, which deals with interim 951 development. I will deal with those clauses more specifically when I come to them.
I might point out in passing that not every one of the nineteen Private Acts which your Lordships have already approved appears to have been given to make schemes with respect to areas, notwithstanding that the land in those areas, or any part of them, is developed at the time of making the scheme. Again, schemes can be made for rural areas. There are those districts which are not exactly ripe for development but which, nevertheless, ought to be prepared for the possibility of it. I think we can divide these districts into two categories. First, we all know the beautiful and historic places which are not only a source of artistic enjoyment but also are a considerable financial asset to the countryside by reason of their attractions. In such localities a few misplaced or conspicuous bungalows may completely alter the character of the whole neighbourhood, whereas, properly constituted and properly constructed, quite a large number of houses might be concealed harmlessly. It seems wrong in such cases to wait until the damage has actually started. It seems wrong, if you are going to subject a certain area to control, not to let the owners know as far in advance as possible what you are going to do. If you wait until the land is just about to be developed you interfere with the owners' plans and you make your scheme, in all probability, unnecessarily expensive. Very much the same considerations apply to land which, without having any special artistic merits, is nevertheless sufficiently close to towns to make its inclusion desirable.
On the other hand, it can hardly be denied that there are certain parts of England where a building of the kind that is contemplated in this Bill is almost unthinkable, and where it would be rather ridiculous to subject owners to the laborious procedure of a scheme, and it is felt there ought to be some protection in case some over-zealous authority should misuse its discretion. It is no easy matter to say where the line ought to be drawn, but in the somewhat complicated wording of subsection (2) of Clause 6 the Minister believes that he has discovered the happy medium, and that under it no land that ought to be 952 planned, whether built-up or undeveloped, will remain uncovered, while there would be a definite obligation to withhold his approval in the case of those areas, either urban or rural, which he describes as "static." When, and if, the approval of the Minister is obtained the next step is the preparation of the scheme, and in Clauses 11 to 17 and in the Second Schedule are set out the various ways in which an authority can regulate development. They can schedule land for building, they can specify the number of houses per acre which can be built on a given area, and they can set aside land for industrial development and so forth. In most of these powers there is nothing new, and I need not refer to them in great detail. The chief thing is that they can now be applied to new areas.
But a new power is given in Clauses 15 and 16 which enables the authority to set a limitation to building not only of space but of time—that is to say, they can schedule land for development, but they can also specify that in certain areas this development shall not occur until an order has been issued by the authority. They have to reconsider at intervals of three years whether or not this embargo ought to be lifted. Actually the rights of individual owners are so protected by safeguards and exceptions that a reasonable application to build at any time could hardly be refused, but it does give the local authority some power to encourage orderly development and to check sporadic building of the speculative type. In Clause 17 a new power is given which is really designed to control the practice, of which we have had some flagrant examples in recent years, of the pulling down of buildings often of great historic interest and great beauty and removing them stone by stone to some foreign country. Your Lordships will observe that inhabited houses are entirely free from control unless their owners wish to demolish them or wish to convert them to something entirely different from their use as dwelling houses. It is only in regard to uninhabited houses that extensive alterations cannot be made without the consent of the authority; but here again substantial safeguards have been inserted, including the right of appeal to the Minister.
All these powers are undoubtedly comprehensive, as they must be if they are 953 to check in any way the serious and obvious evils that we all are aware of. I feel it is right they should be examined very closely, particularly in your Lordships' House, which is so familiar with the land and the problems arising from it, but, as I have said already, many of these powers have been exercised under existing Acts, and we have the experience of some years to guide us as to how they work in practice. Of course, it is difficult in a few words to comment on schemes which in various stages of completion already cover 7,000,000 acres, but I think that some conclusion may be drawn as to the attitude of owners from the number of appeals which they have made to the Minister. It is a somewhat remarkable fact that from the many thousands of owners concerned in this huge area, which is a third of the whole of England, the total number of appeals under interim development orders from 1924 to the present time is only 707, and of that number 464 have either been dropped by the owners or allowed or agreed between the Minister and the owners. I think these figures must indicate that landowners generally have accepted the principle of town planning, and indeed, experience has shown that in many parts of the country they are definitely leading the way. It is perhaps not unnatural that the larger landowners at any rate should feel sympathy with town planning.
I know it has been said before, and it may be said again, that local authorities are not the proper people to control development, but I will point out that, for better or worse, the trend of legislation in recent years has been in the direction of breaking up big estates, and in that process considerable tracts of country have been deprived of the skilled management of the owners and their agents. In their place has arisen a number of small owners who, whatever their merits may be, must act independently of each other, and there is really no method by which they can make an agreed plan for the development of the area. It is perhaps not too much to say that Parliament has taken away from those areas the power to develop in a co-ordinated fashion, and it is very difficult to see how that power can be given back to them except by these town-planning schemes.
Your Lordships will observe in Clause 8 some of the safeguards provided against 954 the misuse of these powers. No scheme can become law without the approval of the Minister, who is bound by various instructions. All schemes must be submitted to Parliament. There is also a right of appeal to the High Court on any question arising out of the validity of schemes. Some provision, of course, must be made also for the considerable time necessary for the proper preparation of a scheme, and Clause 10 sets out the limits of control during the interim period. Your Lordships will see that local authorities have no power during the interim period over existing buildings, but they may exercise control over new buildings subject to the payment of compensation with the same limitations as are provided for in the completed scheme. As it is impossible to foretell during the interim period the eventual form the scheme will take, so it is impossible to assess this compensation until the scheme is complete. Owners are, therefore, given the right to make retrospective claims for injurious affection during the interim period, and there is a further concession that where hard cases arise the authority may make a contribution even before the completion of the scheme.
I have to deal now with the question of compensation and betterment, and I think it is here that the real complexity of town-planning arises. Over the whole area of a planning scheme I think it can be maintained without fear of contradiction that values have a tendency to rise. Indeed I believe in America the rate of interest on mortgages in planned areas is lower than the rate in unplanned areas because the security is better. I think we can all call to mind towns the prosperity of which can be demonstrably shown to be due to careful planning measures by the landlord. It is also obvious that within a given area if the control is to come to anything at all—that is to say unless the properties involved are very large—building value may have to be taken from one owner and given to another. The drafting of the machinery by which this transfer is to be effected must necessarily present some difficulty to those not versed in the law, but I think I can state some simple principles by which the clauses dealing with these matters—Clauses 18 to 24—are governed.
955 The first principle is that all injurious affection resulting from a scheme must be paid for. The only exception to this rule is the case where it can be shown that an owner desires to do something which is definitely prejudicial to his neighbours. Loss caused by the alteration or demolition of existing buildings must be paid for in full. If an owner is not allowed to build a house on land which is reasonably suitable for development he must be compensated. Any dispute which may arise between the owner and the local authority as to value may be taken by the owner to arbitration. Subsection (1) of Clause 19 sets out the only cases in which the Minister may sanction control without compensation. Subsection (2) of Clause 19 sets out in detail the conditions under which the Minister may exercise this power of sanction. For the most part compensation may only be excluded in those cases in which it is excluded to-day. Such additions as are made to what I might perhaps describe as the free list—that is to say, the list of cases in which a local authority can exercise control without paying compensation—are, I think, of a very reasonable character. For instance, it will now be possible to prevent building on land which is subject to flooding without paying compensation.
Perhaps I may be allowed to give an example for the necessity of this power. A rural district council consented under the existing Town Planning Act to preserve from building about 215 acres of land which was frequently flooded by a river. The county council supported the proposal and the Ministry of Health confirmed the opinion of the local medical officer that it was dangerous to health for people to live in an area subject to such repeated flooding. As, however, the prevention of building would have involved paying compensation to the tune of £14,000 the local authority were unable to prevent building taking place. As a result the local sanitary authority may have to face one day an expenditure on a sewerage scheme which, owing to the nature of this land, it is estimated will cost £56,000. There are one or two other cases in which compensation is not necessarily payable, but they are minor cases.
With regard to betterment I do not think it is necessary for me to defend it in principle, because the principle has 956 already been admitted in Town Planning Acts since 1909. Certainly it seems that owners who have made sacrifices perhaps in their efforts to preserve amenities would have a legitimate cause of grievance if the only result of their efforts was to make a free gift to other owners not so well disposed towards town planning. This Bill will increase the amount of betterment that can be claimed from 50 per cent. to 75 per cent., but in return it affords to owners far more equitable terms than they have enjoyed hitherto. It is now provided that no betterment can be claimed in respect of increased value due to the scheme until it has been actually realised, cashed, and put, so to speak, in the owner's pocket. The one exception to that principle is that where owners have been given compensation in regard to what may be described as "potential damage"—namely, damage which they might conceivably suffer in future—there would be a sufficient fund out of which betterment could be paid. Some adaptation of this principle of deferred payment of betterment has to be made in the case of business premises such as garages and multiple shops where ownership does not change over long periods, because the position is different from that of other owners. It is, therefore, provided that after five years from the commencement of the scheme a claim may be made in respect of betterment due to improvements made by the scheme, such, for instance, as the construction of an arterial road.
I do not deny that the assessment of claims for betterment is a matter which requires great judgment. It is no doubt a difficult matter, but arbitrators under the Acquisition of Land Act are experienced people who frequently have knotty problems to decide. I do not suppose that claims for betterment in cash will be frequently made. As I said before, it has been possible to levy betterment for some years past, and in point of fact I believe there has been only one instance where cash payment has been made. The principal value of the power to claim betterment lies in negotiation, and I think your Lordships will agree that there ought to be some power to deal with the land speculator who makes a large profit out of the amenities provided for him by other people. The power to make claims for betterment lapses after a period of fourteen years from the commencement 957 of the scheme, so that if during that time an owner-occupier remains in possession of his home without any change of use and without disposing of his property he will escape altogether. Should a claim for betterment be passed an owner may be allowed to spread his payment over a period of thirty years. Another point is that no claim may be made in respect of agricultural land if its use is merely changed from one form of agriculture to another. I think the concession whereby value cannot be claimed until the value is realised may allay the fear that any mortgagees or trustees may have as to the security of their property.
All the principal innovations are contained in the clauses with which I have dealt. The remaining clauses either deal with machinery or are clauses agreed between the parties concerned or are clauses reproducing existing law. For example, Clauses 25 and 26, dealing with powers of compulsory purchase, fall within this latter category. The procedure in connection with this compulsory purchase follows, as before, the procedure required under existing law. Some uneasiness has, I believe, been caused by Clause 36, which gives the Minister residual powers to act in case of default, but here again this is taken from the Town Planning Act of 1925 and is intended to be used only in flagrant cases. Clause 47, which deals with advertisements, is agreed between the Department and the advertising interests. Clause 50, which deals with the special problems of London, is again a clause agreed between the Ministry, the London County Council, the City of London and the Metropolitan Boroughs. Clause 52 is an exact restatement of Clause 3 of the Act of 1925 and adds nothing to it in any particular whatever. Clause 56 and the Fifth Schedule apply the scheme to Scotland by adaptation of language. That concludes the summary of the clauses.
Perhaps I may say a word in conclusion. The main intention of this Bill is to put on a somewhat wider and on a somewhat more definite basis powers which have been exercised by the local authorities for years past. It is true, we think, that these authorities should be provided with efficient machinery for dealing in the first instance with the sort of buildings that must otherwise obviously become a serious liability on the rates in a few years' time. I do not think this 958 is a very extravagant claim when we remember that slum clearance orders have already been applied to buildings constructed since the War. I imagine that one of the most obvious causes of the degeneration of certain areas into slum areas is that it is worth nobody's while to keep them in proper condition. We do believe it is in the interests of owners no less than of local authorities that there should be some power to control the grossly unsuitable siteing of buildings whether by placing garages or factories in the middle of residential property or the wasting of valuable industrial sites.
We think there ought to be some power to prevent the destruction of amenities by such unattractive developments as refuse tips. But the Bill is designed to do just and reasonable things. It is not intended to keep England in a kind of arcadian or pastoral condition or to give local authorities power to indulge in wild building schemes. Owners are protected and safeguarded under the Bill to a far greater degree than before and it seems to me as a humble owner of property that there is very little in it that is revolutionary. In fact, unless town planning is wrong in principle altogether the only surprise I feel is that some such steps in the completion of existing machinery should not have been taken long ago. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Viscount Gage.)
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, after the extremely lucid and comprehensive account of the present measure that we have just heard from the noble Viscount there remains little for me to do but to sketch the attitude of the Opposition. I think we are all grateful to the noble Viscount for his lucid, detailed and, if I may say so, tactful exposition of the main provisions of an extremely complex and difficult piece of legislation. In the first place I would like to say that the Opposition welcomes very cordially the general principles behind the measure. Its avowed enemies—and though they are few in number they are distinctly influential—have stigmatised the Bill as a Socialist measure, as a piece of pure Socialist legislation. Perhaps they are not so very far from the mark if we interpret the epithet in rather a different sense from that in which they usually 959 use it, because it has never been a Party measure. A cursory glance at the antecedents, genesis and history of the present Bill is enough to convince anybody that it is the product of the effort of men of all Parties outside and inside the Houses of Parliament. It is the product of long effort and experience on the part of local authorities, of town-planning experts, and of all those inside and outside Parliament who have endeavoured to put their experience into a practicable form.
The principle—and it should be avowed—that inspires the present measure is certainly to extend public control of the economic resources of the nation in the interests of the community as a whole. This indeed is the principle behind all Socialist proposals and a principle that many would like to see applied to the whole realm of finance, industry and commerce. It is not the Conservative Party or even the Liberal Party, according to its defined policy, which stands in opposition to the present measure but rather the survivors of an almost extinct species, the supporters of the old nineteenth century Liberalism, of the principles of laissez faire and laissez aller, which, although admittedly they brought our country to a state of prosperity it has never experienced before, yet at the same time produced a condition of social injustice and of chronic unemployment which it is the object of Socialist legislation, in the sense of state interference and state control, to remedy. This principle of public control, of control by the accredited representatives of the people in the interests of the people, is not a merely utopian fancy or a figment of the poetic imagination, but has in fact found its embodiment in many practical schemes. The growth and development of the social services, the gradual but persistent handing over of public utility services to local authorities and even to the State itself, are ample evidence of the increase and expansion of the principles of Socialistic legislation in the era in which we are living at the moment.
Passing from the most general principle of the Bill, I should like to remind your Lordships that this measure was proposed in a very similar form by the late Labour Government, that it passed 960 its Committee stage in another place, and that it was only dropped on the Dissolution of the late Government in the summer of last year. The primary and original purpose of the present measure was, in brief, to extend public control to every corner of our country from Lands End to John o' Groats without any exceptions whatever. This was a very marked advance on previous legislation, which had limited the scope of local authorities to land which was empty but ready for development. It is obvious enough that the present extension of the ambit of the power of local administrators would include both rural areas and our densely populated cities and towns. Such is the main and outstanding difference between the Bill, as it appeared in its original form in another place, and existing legislation on the subject.
The noble Viscount has pointed out many advantages which would accrue to the community through the operation of the present measure. In urban areas it is obviously necessary for local authorities to be able to demolish and remove ancient and dilapidated dwellings, to be able to construct new thoroughfares, and to be able to provide open spaces for the health and happiness of town dwellers. But the main and fundamental provision of this new Bill is that local authorities will really be able to plan and scheme the development and extension of our great urban areas instead of allowing them to grow in a purely haphazard fashion, thanks to the sporadic and unco-ordinated enterprise of private companies and private individuals and even of pure speculators. In the case of the countryside it is obviously necessary for local authorities to be able to protect our beauty spots from defacement and disfigurement by the erection of ugly bungalows and vulgar advertisements and hoardings, and from all the other atrocities of modern commercial vandalism. These aims were furthered by an encouragement of the principle of regional planning; that is to say, by the creation of joint committees, on which a number of local authorities are represented, which can deal with such large areas as are indispensable for any comprehensive scheme of town planning. Again, local authorities will be able to cope with the evil of ribbon development. The straggling houses that line our great 961 highways are not merely an eyesore to the spectator but they actually cheek and detract from the utility of the high roads themselves. This is obviously the case if we consider that new side streets have to be made and that traffic stops in front of the houses on either side of the street and so causes congestion.
So far the Opposition has not uttered one word of criticism in regard to the provisions of the present measure. It is unfortunately unable to go any further hand in hand with the National Government, thanks to the introduction of an Amendment which to a very great extent defeats the purposes of the Bill as we have already heard them outlined. I refer, of course, to subsection (2) of Clause 6. This is the most important and far-reaching alteration in the nature of the Bill as a whole. Thanks to this subsection—and personally I find it difficult to follow from the wording the exact effect it will have if it reaches the Statute Book—certain areas in our country, the so-called static areas, will be altogether excluded from the purview of local administration. That is to say, the original and primary purpose of the Bill, which was to include all the land in the country, was, if not defeated, at all events to a very large extent altered and modified.
Immediately this Amendment had been accepted during the Committee stage in another place a meeting was held of the National Housing and Town Planning Council, at which the following resolution was passed; and, my Lords, I would draw your attention, if I might, to the considered opinion of people who have spent a large part of their lives in work of this kind, and who have the weight of experience behind them:The Conference, after careful consideration of the whole question, records the opinion that the Amendment made in Clause 6 of the Bill will seriously prejudice and in many cases render impossible the effective replanning of built-up areas, and the preservation of amenities in rural areas.It is this unanimous protest on the part of experts, and of those who are more thoroughly acquainted with the subject than any others, that has caused the severe distrust and anxiety experienced by the Opposition, and even for the layman and the outsider it appears that 962 there are ample grounds for gloomy forebodings of this kind.
In the first place, is it really possible to distinguish between so-called static and dynamic areas? Static areas are those in which no development for building purposes is likely to take place. Dynamic areas are those localities where such development is probable. In the event of large financial losses, in the event of necessity for the payment of Death Duties, it is clearly the case that many property owners will be suddenly obliged to dispose of their properties, and this, of course, could not have been foreseen before the eventuality arose. This naturally leads to disfigurement of the countryside owing to the inability of local authorities to protect it, to the dumping of refuse, and the building of bungalows, and to other forms of exploitation of the beauty of the country in the interests of commerce. Similar results are to be expected in those static rural areas where, according to this Amendment, local authorities will not be able to exercise their protective function. Are we indeed to discriminate between what is beautiful and what is æsthetically indifferent in the countryside? Is not every inch of the English countryside untouched and unspoiled by the march of our industrial civilisation a thing of beauty and loveliness and a precious part of our national heritage?
Finally, and perhaps this is the most important effect from the point of view of material welfare, it becomes impossible for local authorities to effect what is known as long-distance planning. It is clearly necessary, if our towns are to expand in an orderly and economical fashion, for local authorities to be able to predict this expansion and to take the steps necessary in order to cope with it. This Amendment puts long-distance planning completely out of court. There can be little doubt, for any one who has studied closely the proceedings during the Committee stage in another place, that the Amendment to Clause 6, which to a very great extent nullifies the utility of the Bill, was proposed and supported by a small group of individuals representing sectional and propertied interests, and that it has not behind it the voice of enlightened public opinion or of those who are best qualified to speak in the matter. May we not, as the 963 guardians and champions of the public welfare, acting in accordance with the whole body of enlightened public opinion, modify this Amendment considerably and restore the Bill to something approaching the original shape in which it was contemplated by the present Government?
§ LORD DYNEVOR
My Lords, this Bill has had a curious career. When it was first introduced in another place we were told that it was uncontroversial, but when it got upstairs to a Standing Committee it was subjected to a most detailed and excellent criticism, so much so that the Minister found when the Report stage came that it was necessary for him to move over a hundred Amendments. The Standing Committee lasted for weeks and months. The Minister must have realised that the criticism was good. Now I very much regret that so many Amendments were put off till the Report stage, and were not dealt and finished with in the Committee stage, because we know that the latitude for debate allowed in another place on Report is much less than that allowed on the Committee stage. This only shows how very necessary it is for your Lordships to have plenty of time to study the provisions of this Bill. I read the Bill when it was first introduced in another place, I began following the Committee stage, but I gave it up as hopeless, as so many questions were postponed and put off till the Report stage, and when the Report stage came the Bill was altered again and again. We have a Bill which consists of ninety pages, fifty-seven clauses, and twenty-three pages of Schedules. I very much doubt whether there is a single member of your Lordships' House who can honestly say that he understands every provision in this Bill. I therefore suggest that there should be no rushing of this Bill.
Now, it has been suggested that the critics of this Bill object to town planning. That is not the case. I myself am all in favour of orderly town planning, and I have written to the Press to say so. But that is a very different thing from saying that this Bill is the only way in which to deal with town planning. We all own that there are evils of unsightly development going on every day. I should have thought it would have been better to introduce some simpler 964 machinery, giving local authorities power to prevent these evils and at the same time to prepare a carefully considered scheme of town planning after consultation with all interests, including land owners and local authorities. A simpler system of control than that suggested by this Bill would be quite as effective and far less costly. This Bill is going to be very costly, both as regards public expenditure and the local authorities' expenditure. Let me suggest one item of expenditure the amount of which we cannot foresee. When you town-plan it will be absolutely necessary to have ordnance sheets, and I assume that the local authorities and the Minister will work on the 25-inch scale. We know that each map of the 25-inch scale contains 960 acres, hut there are 60,000,000 acres in this country, and each of these maps costs 6s. 8d. Is each local authority going to be satisfied with one copy of each ordnance sheet? Will not they order four, five, six, or a dozen? How much of this country is going to be town planned we do not know, but everybody can work out the sum for himself if he likes, but he will find it is going to amount to a very mighty sum in maps alone.
Everyone agrees that the amenity of the countryside should be preserved, and no one desires that more than the landowner. But what is the chief cause of the destruction of the countryside? It is the heavy taxation which is put on the landowners at the present time, in Income-tax, Surtax and Death Duties. When a landowner dies his successor is told to pay a sum up to 50 per cent. of the capital value of the estate. The State will not take land for Death Duties; it insists on cash. Therefore, the landowner is bound to sell, and he has to look about for a purchaser, and he very often is bound to sell a beautiful hill or a beautiful wood. The most likely person to buy is some speculator, who knows that he can easily sell again in small plots, both for bungalows and petrol filling stations. The desecration of the countryside is not due to the landowner; it is due to successive Governments for piling this huge taxation on the shoulders of the taxpayers.
The Bill is unfair to those who have invested their money in real property, and by the uncertainty of its provisions will make the future development a very 965 anxious one for builders and others, who will not know where they stand under the shadow of a town-planning scheme which may be pending over their heads. The power of the Minister under the Bill is too great. I have time after time objected to words in different Bills which say "and the decision of the Minister shall be final." You will find those words again in this Bill. Under Clause 6 schemes can be put forward and then revoked. Under Clause 8 a scheme may be revoked by a subsequent scheme. There seems to be no finality. As regards Clause 52, which was referred to by my noble friend Lord Gage, I say that that clause is far too arbitrary. It lays down that every town which has a population of 20,000 and over must formulate a scheme for all the land in its area—all the land. We have some very beautiful towns in this country, especially on the sea-coast. We have towns with plenty of open spaces between the backs of houses, plenty of recreation grounds, and beautiful sea fronts. What is the use of telling the local authority that it must replan the whole of the land in its area, including the sea front? It would be a sheer waste of money to do so. I hope that the Government will give ample consideration to Amendments which are moved in Committee, and allow as long an interval as possible before they take the Committee stage.
§ LORD BANBURY OF SOUTHAM
My Lords, I listened with much interest to the speech of the noble Earl opposite, and, if I understand him aright, he approves the Bill in nearly all its features. When I first went into the House of Commons I was warned by an old Member that if ever I found the two Front Benches in agreement I could be quite certain that there was something wrong, and I have found in an experience of thirty years in the House of Commons that that was absolutely correct, and that whenever the two Front Benches were in agreement the duty of every patriotic member of the House of Commons was to oppose them both. I feel I shall be doing my duty if in my small way I endeavour to oppose this Bill.
I saw my noble friend Lord Crawford here just now. He is very artistic and a great authority upon art, and I believe that one of the chief reasons advanced for this Bill is that we want to preserve 966 the beauties of the countryside, and that the new buildings which are put up should be artistic instead of ugly, as they are said to be at present. I am not an artistic person, and I do not very much believe in the sense of those people who are at present said to be artistic. I unfortunately can remember the years from 1860 to 1870. The things that were artistic then had ceased to be artistic in the years 1880 to 1900; and everything that was artistic between 1880 and 1900 was not artistic a few years ago. Now a new artistic development has arisen, and as far as I can see it has resulted in the destruction of Dorchester House and the erection of some awful thing in its place, which no doubt my noble friend Lord Crawford considers to be artistic.
But, assuming for the sake of argument that it is necessary to have artistic buildings, can we afford them? Can we at the present time afford to spend money, not on something which is useful and which will conduce to the health of the people, but on something which somebody thinks is artistic? I do not think we can. I think what we desire at present is that there should be no further expenditure, and not only that there should be no fresh expenditure but that there should be a reduction in expenditure. I regret to say that though the present Government have been in office for something like eight months I do not see any sign of any reduction either in expenditure or in taxation. I have not heard from my noble friend (Viscount Gage) any estimate of what this Bill is going to cost, and I am glad that he did not give any estimate, because I am quite certain it is beyond the wit of any man to give any estimate of what this Bill will cost. That it will cost an enormous sum I have no doubt.
We are told: "Oh you need not be frightened, because the Minister will control the expenditure." I observe that the Minister is mentioned 150 times in this Bill—118 times in the Bill itself and 32 in the Schedule. It is even worse than the Children and Young Persons Bill. In that Bill the Minister was only mentioned 43 or 45 times. In this Bill he is mentioned three times as often. I was always told that the great safeguard of this country was that we were governed by Parliament and that nothing could be clone except with the approval of Parliament 967 —in the old days of both Houses. The modern practice is to do away with all that, and to pass a Bill empowering a dictator in the form of a Minister to do certain things without any recourse whatever to Parliament, and without the sanction of the people. Reverting for a moment to the question of economy, I would ask what reason have we to suppose that a Minister is going to be economical? You must judge of the future by the past. From 1914 to 1922 was there any single Minister either in the Liberal Government or in the Coalition Government who was economical? I do not remember one. Perhaps in 1923, which was a very short Parliament, there may have been one, though I do not remember him. In 1924 and 1925 there was certainly no economical Minister, and I very much doubt if there were many economical Ministers from 1925 to 1929. From 1929 to 1931 there certainly was no economical Minister anywhere. There were a great many very extravagant ones, and some of them are now in the present Government. Therefore, I do not think we need place much reliance upon the economical Minister.
I took the trouble the other day to read the Act of 1925. I do not think it was a very good Act; I would much sooner it had not been passed; but it was not bad; it was more or less harmless. It was much smaller than this Bill, and did not go half so far. In that Act there is a provision that the Minister may, after consulting with four or five other Ministers, authorise an association to spend money if the association has that money. It also authorises the Local Loans Commissioners to advance the money. Clause 35 of this Bill goes very much further than that, because it authorises the Minister, without any consultation with any other Minister, to advance any money that he likes, with the consent of the Treasury. There is no limit of any sort, and that is in a very much larger Bill than the one which became the Act of 1925. Moreover, the fact that we did a foolish thing in 1925 is no reason why we should do it again. In 1925 we were not aware it was so necessary to be economical as it is at the present moment.
I will not go through all the clauses of the Bill. As my noble friend said, 968 there are 57 clauses and six schedules. In all my experience I do not think I ever saw a Bill which started with clauses stating you may do something, and then went on to provide that you might not do this and you might not do that. Each clause as a rule extends over three pages, and consists mostly of provisos saying you cannot do what the first part of the clause says you may do. Why waste time in that way? I ask my noble friend in charge of the Bill, will he in Committee move to omit all the clauses and to insert one clause which would give him much less trouble and which will have exactly the same effect? The clause I should like to see inserted is this:The Minister may acquire any land or buildings in the United Kingdom, with or without compensation, and use them for any purpose that seems good to him.That is a very simple clause which embodies everything that is in this Bill, and would save a great deal of trouble. I commend it to my noble friend.
THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
My Lords, I listened with some disappointment and surprise to the speech of the noble Lord who has just addressed us. He has spoken in the interests of economy, and I should support this Bill on the ground of economy if on no other ground, for if there is anything which is wasteful and causes extravagant expenditure to the nation and to the local authorities it is the evil results which have occurred again and again from bad planning in the past. I think, if the noble Lord enquired of the local authorities, they would tell him that again and again they have had to ask for an increase of the rates which would have been quite unnecessary if in the past more care and foresight had been shown in the planning of the town. Frequently districts are hurriedly built without any care, and they soon show that they are defective in their drainage, or a large building is put up which affects the whole of the neighbourhood for the worse and large sums of money have to be spent in the attempt to remedy an evil which ought never to have been allowed. Unless you are going to stop all building of every sort and kind, you must have town planning, and if you are to have town planning let that planning be as effective as possible.
969 I support and welcome this Bill. As the noble Viscount who introduced it said in an admirably clear speech, it is largely a consolidating Bill. A great deal it contains has for some time been on the Statute Book and has been worked quite smoothly in a number of localities. Eighteen or nineteen important county councils and local authorities have obtained Acts of Parliament which enable them to carry out in their own localities provisions which are now found in this Bill, and which will be of universal permissive application. You will also find that the local authorities of the country as a whole are most anxious that some measure of this kind should be passed. For a long time they have been asking for it, The demand has come not from one section of the community only, but it has come almost universally from those who are in any way concerned with town and country planning.
I welcome this Bill also for the new provisions which it contains. For instance—and I regard this as a vital matter—it allows planning in districts which are already built over. Very often we are apt to look upon a district which has been built over as completely finished. As a matter of fact in many of these districts changes are taking place. I can think of many districts in South London which have been changed and in some cases rebuilt during the last ten or twelve years. Sometimes changes in these districts are for the worse. There is put up some great factory in the midst of a residential district and the value of property comes down; or some individual owner carries through some change thinking only of his own interests and some scheme for the improvement of the whole district is ruined. Local authorities are powerless now. Local authorities will, in future, be able to plan so that if redevelopment takes place in any district—and in many town districts redevelopment is absolutely necessary—that redevelopment can proceed upon sound and wise lines.
I welcome this Bill also because it does something at any rate to protect the countryside. In other countries we can find often a stateliness and a grandeur and sometimes richness of colour not to be found in England, but nowhere in the whole world can we find such loveliness combined with peace as we have found in the past in so many 970 districts of England. But it is rapidly being destroyed—sometimes by the jerrybuilder and also by the invasion of the motor. In all directions we see the countryside losing its beauty before our very eyes. No doubt many members of your Lordships' House have often used the road to Folkestone and as it crosses the Downs have come to Wrotham where the hillside is disfigured by a number of tea shops, bungalows, petrol stations, all kinds of buildings put up absolutely haphazard, scattered here and there without any plan, so that what was once perfect beauty is spoiled. At Leith Hill, near Friday Street, there was a threat of the same kind, and there a, tract of beautiful country was only saved by the efforts of private individuals. All over the country this is happening. We shall lose our heritage in the countryside unless action is taken and taken at once. This Bill enables such action to be taken. If we delay until a more convenient season the jerrybuilder will not delay and the speculator will not delay. Ruin will be spread over many places which are now beautiful.
I do not, of course, suggest that this Bill is a perfect Bill. Changes have been made in it which I regret and the Bill is extremely complicated—so complicated and so full of safeguards that I think some difficulty may be found in working it. But I venture to prophesy that the Bill will be worked by local authorities who are keen to use it, and that within a few years another Bill will be introduced simplifying it and removing some of the safeguards which will have been found unnecessary. There is one very serious omission from the Bill as far as I understand it. It does not seem to me that sufficient protection is given to ancient buildings of historic interest. Clause 6 says that the Minister cannot approve of a resolution to prepare or adopt a scheme unless he is satisfiedin the case of land which is neither already built upon nor in course of development, nor likely to be developed, that the land is so situated in relation to land which is already built upon, or in course of development, or on which development is likely to take place as to make its inclusion in a scheme expedient, or that it comprises objects or places of natural interest or beauty.The question I should like to ask is whether the last few words of that paragraph refer only to a building which has 971 been scheduled as an ancient monument, or whether it refers also to the property which immediately surrounds it?
Let me give one illustration. One of the most hallowed places in England is Glastonbury. Some few years ago it was proposed to turn the field on which the Abbot's kitchen was situated into a parking place for motor cars. There was strong opposition to that and the proposal was withdrawn. But since then a parking station has been formed immediately outside the walls, actually touching the walls of the ruin. This parking station is hideous beyond words. I have here a report from a very competent authority. He says:No words can adequately describe the disreputable vulgarity of the motor park …. Along the roadway is a low wall occupying the centre of the frontage bedecked with large lamps at intervals advertising different motor spirits. Some five yards behind is a long row of motor pumps and oil containers painted scarlet, green, sienna, saffron, etc., as loud and offensive as such things can be at their worst. Behind these is a desert of clumsy earth forming the parking area, a broken-down shanty covered with fir bark its only occupant until the back—against the Abbey wall—is reached.He goes on to say:It would be very difficult to devise a more inappropriate or repulsive lay-out, as seen from the roadway by which the Abbey entrance is reached. Even if the Abbey ruins were not in the immediate vicinity, the sight might be expected to cause dismay in any self-respecting town or village.It is quite possible to preserve the actual building and yet to ruin it by allowing its surroundings to be marred by some unsightly structure. I am anxious to know if any kind of protection is given by this Bill against that sort of abuse. I doubt if that is the case as the Bill stands now, and I hope some opportunity may arise so that an Amendment can be moved and, I hope, accepted by the Government giving such protection. I welcome the Bill as a whole. I believe it will do something to protect the heritage of our countryside and the rich historic buildings which we have received as a legacy from the past.
THE MARQUESS OF LINLITHGOW
My Lords, I was glad to hear that my noble friend who spoke last but one related the cause of economy to the Second Reading of this Bill. I think it appropriate to remind your Lordships, though none of you are likely to forget, that the Govern- 972 ment at present in office was returned to effect economy in this country. I do not suggest that members of the Government themselves fail to bear that in mind; they read their newspapers in the morning and must realise that the subject interesting the people to-day more than any other is the cause of economy. At the same time I think it would be ungracious to fail to pay some tribute to those measures of economy which His Majesty's Government has already achieved, very often in face of great difficulty. There is a short passage in the May Report which ought to be printed at the head of every Bill which comes before Parliament to-day. It says:We fear that the country must face the disagreeable fact that its public expenditure, and in this we include local as well as national expenditure, is too high and that it must be brought down to a lower level.The noble Viscount in charge of this Bill, referring, I suppose, to the Act of 1925, told us a good deal of this Bill was old. I should like to remind him that in this matter Bills are not like port wine: they do not get any better as they get older. Local authorities, I suspect, are not yet sufficiently seized of the need for economy. Local authorities, it is true, are not in all respects masters in their own house in regard to expenditure. They are subject to the insidious system of grants in aid which has been directly responsible for much of their improvident spending, and in many Statutes of the Imperial Parliament, as in the Bill now before the House, they are liable at the behest of a Minister or his Department to undertake expenditure whether they like it or not; and in parenthesis it is worth pointing out that even in regard to those Statutes which on the face of them are permissive, it is true to say that by the time the local authority has been subjected to an endless stream of communications from the Department on behalf of the Minister the provisions of these measures become more peremptory than permissive.
I listened carefully to the noble Viscount's speech and I am not at all satisfied from what he said that this House would be doing its duty in giving a Second Reading to the Bill, for I am not convinced that in the present state of the national finances the country can afford the luxury which in great measure this Bill represents. I was reinforced in that view by hearing the Earl of Listowel, 973 in what I thought was a very excellent speech, say that as a Socialist he thoroughly approved of this Bill. I must rely on the noble Earl's sense of humour for I do not intend to spoil what is intended as a sincere compliment when I say that I thought it a touching tribute to the strength with which convictions are held on these Back Benches that his second speech in your Lordships' House should be his first on the Front Bench opposite.
It is not possible to tell us, I gather from the silence of the noble Viscount, what, exactly this Bill is going to cost the ratepayer and how heavy will be the new charges laid upon the public as a consequence of its operation. It does not so much surprise me that in another place this Bill was passed through all its stages, for not unnaturally hearts are more tender there towards a statesman new to high Ministerial rank and quite naturally anxious to leave his mark on the Statute Book. But I am a good deal astonished that the Department concerned managed to dodge the Treasury. I can only suppose that in their pre-occupation with international activities at Lausanne the stony-hearted denizens of that place failed to observe the heavy burdens which may be expected to fall on the ratepayer. But perhaps the Treasury does not take an interest in local expenditure or the control of measures which are liable to create burdens through the operation of the rates. If that is indeed the case the sooner the Treasury pay attention to that point the better. I am confirmed in the opinion that this House will have to use every endeavour on every opportunity to secure public economy if, as a nation, we are going to survive.
I desire for a very few moments to say a word or two about the application of this Bill to Scotland, and I commend this point to the close attention of the noble Viscount because the response which is made to it will in great measure influence my vote, if an opportunity is given to vote, on this stage of the Bill. Strong feeling obtains in Scotland that a separate Bill should have been passed applying to Scotland only. The local authorities of Scotland have passed a resolution condemning the Bill on the ground that legislation by adaptation is most inadvisable. They say:This method of legislation by adaptation is an unsatisfactory method of legislation 974 for Scotland. It does not give adequate opportunity for consideration of the provisions of the Bill as applied to Scotland and it involves risks of administrative difficulties and possible litigation,Again, the Convention of Royal Burghs, which now includes all the Burghs in Scotland, passed a resolution directing a committee to maintain a continuous endeavour to secure that Scottish legislation is supervised by Scottish Members of Parliament. I assure the noble Viscount that this Convention is a very important body in Scotland and they say:The Bill will be considered by Parliament primarily, if not entirely, from the point of view of English law and will be debated as an English measure, and will not, receive consideration from the point of view of Scottish law and Scottish conditions, nor will it come before the Scottish Grand Committee.And they concluded:This method of legislation is both prejudicial and disrespectful to Scotland. It is treated as a mere appendage of England.''The truth is that this is essentially a matter that should have been dealt with by a Scottish Committee in another place. The Scottish system of land tenure, the methods of conveyance, and the machine of local government are quite different in Scotland from those which obtain South of the Border.
There exists in Scotland—I do not know whether its echoes are heard as far south as this House—a movement for the legislative separation of that country from England and for the setting up of a Scottish Parliament. I have yet to learn that any considerable proportion of those who now advise the Crown favour that movement. I respect that opinion but I think it entirely misguided and unfortunate. The arrangement of business for this Bill in another place could not, if one had tried, been better designed to forward the cause of Home Rule for Scotland. I do not suggest for a moment that when he allowed that arrangement to stand, with or without protest, my right hon. friend the Secretary of State for Scotland intended to add fuel to the fire in the way he has done. It is more probable that he gave way to those whose duty it is to arrange the business of Parliament so as to get Bills through according to a programme and on this occasion during the period of an unusually short summer Session. I was sorry he did so. The right hon. gentleman made a grievous mistake 975 in acquiescing in the proposal and I hope that he will never again allow such a course to be taken.
There is one other matter to which I desire to draw the attention of your Lordships. The Bill lays upon the Clerk of the Parliaments the duty of embodying in a new Bill the substance of the Sixth Schedule, which contains the amendments which will have the effect of making the clauses to which those amendments apply applicable to Scottish conditions and in line with Scottish phraseology. Thereafter, the Royal Assent to the amended Bill is assumed and it automatically becomes a new Statute applying to Scotland and the principal Bill ceases to apply to Scotland. It is plain that, if the draftsman by any chance has made a mistake, the Clerk of the Parliaments will not be able to rectify it. He must obey the terms of the Bill as passed into an Act of Parliament line for line without any attempt to correct any errors that may have crept in. Any necessary amendments can only be made by a subsequent amending Statute. On consideration of these points, your Lordships will agree that the sooner that slipshod and lazy method of legislation is done away with and forgotten the better.
The same method applies in the case of the Children and Young Persons Bill, but that is not the first example of it. The first example was in the Air Force Constitution Act, 1917, which, I understand, was not strictly parallel to the other instances which I have given. I am quite confident that the House will expect a statement from the Government Bench to the effect that this procedure will never be repeated. As to those several considerations as they apply to Scotland, I ask the noble Viscount in charge of the Bill to take note that I shall put down Amendments having the effect of removing Scotland from the operation of the Bill. Unless I am deflected from my purpose by the observations that may fall from the lips of the noble Viscount or some of his colleagues, I shall press those Amendments to a Division.
As I made no secret a moment or two ago, I shall require rather less than a little encouragement to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill. It is the plain and urgent duty of the Government not merely to effect economy in the 976 national expenditure, but by precept and example to do all in their power to stimulate local authorities towards reducing expenditure and the rates. The conditions of public finance and of industry and commerce are deplorable, and at such a time it is not a question whether a scheme or an object imposing charges upon the public is or is not desirable or what such a scheme, if implemented, can do. The question should be whether we can do without it and, if the answer to that question is that we can do without it, then the project ought to be scrapped forthwith. Judged by that test, this Bill will stand condemned. I hope that in the period immediately before us this House will do all in its power to serve the Crown and the public by insisting on every proper opportunity upon public economy on a scale commensurate with the gravity of the economic crisis which surrounds us and through which we shall not pass without dire disaster unless adequate steps are taken in time to reduce local as well as national expenditure.
§ LORD STRACHIE
My Lords, before coming here I took the opportunity of consulting the President of the Central Landowners' Association and I asked him what his view was as to the action which those who represented the Central Landowners' Association ought to take in this House. He suggested that their line ought to be very much that taken in the House of Commons, to approve the general principles of the Bill but, on the other hand, to criticise it and try to improve it in the way it was improved to a great extent in the House of Commons. It still requires some improvement at your Lordships' hands. One of the great difficulties as regards this Bill, as the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Winchester said, is that it is a most complicated Bill and difficult to understand. It consists of fifty-seven clauses and six schedules. As introduced into another place it was rather an extreme Bill in many respects, no doubt for the reason that for all practical purposes it was the same Bill as that introduced by Mr. Greenwood when Minister of Health in the last Parliament.
As regards the question of expense, undoubtedly it is quite posisble that under this Bill there might be a great deal of expenditure, both national and local. What I understand was said in another 977 place against that argument was: "That is all very well, but the present Minister will take good care that there is practically no expenditure put upon the local authorities or upon the Imperial Exchequer." All Governments take the Line that they are going to exist for ever, but we know very well that they are often very short lived indeed. When we get another Government in power, perhaps with Mr. Greenwood at the Ministry of Health, I doubt whether he would call it extravagance to spend a large amount of money in making improvements which he thought very desirable.
Several clauses of the Bill seem very vague indeed. For instance, in subsection (2) of Clause 21 it says:Provided that no claim shall be made—(1) under paragraph (b). ….for orchards. … or for a plantation or a wood.Does that mean that, if an authority were to require an orchard to be cut down, there would be no compensation payable? If there was to be any compensation at all it would be very small indeed, and only at the discretion of the Minister. Those who are familiar with the West Country will agree that in many cases orchards are of great value and add greatly to the beauty of the countryside. There is also the question of the cutting of timber and the management of plantations. It seems to me that to a very large extent there is to be interference with the private management of plantations and woods, and it raises a very important question with regard to the sale of timber. Is there to be compensation paid when timber is thrown? On the other hand it seems possible under the Bill that the authority may object to timber being cut. That might be of considerable importance in the case of a succession to an estate, because in many cases the new successor looks to a large felling of timber as a means of trying to pay the Death Duties, and under this Bill he might not be allowed to do it. I only hope that I am mistaken in this matter, and that we may be told later on in Committee that it is not so. I think it is so, and that a man may be prevented from paying Death Duties by cutting down timber and selling it at the best price. I think that some restrictions should be put in the Bill.
Then as to the powers of the Minister. I notice that by Clause 36 the Minister 978 has power to require the preparation or adoption of schemes, and to enforce them, and by subsection (2) that if the local authority fails to prepare a scheme the Minister has power to do so at the expense of the local authority. It shows that there are certain cases where great expense might be incurred, because one knows that when a Government Department interferes it usually means that there is great expenditure.
§ LORD STRACHIE
It is rather remarkable that this was carried only by the casting vote of the Chairman, and the Chairman of Standing Committee, as we know, always gives his casting vote with the Government. I understand that in another place they were not allowed to move an Amendment on Report. I hope that something will be done in regard to that matter when we consider the Bill in Committee. Then Clause 52 deals with the duty of certain councils to prepare schemes. It is a very complicated clause, and there is no option given to the local authority as to whether they will put the schemes in force or not. As I said at the beginning, generally speaking I do not believe that any of us are prepared not to do everything we can to protect the amenities and beauty of the countryside, but on the other hand I think it should be done in the best way and by a less complicated way than in this Bill. I hope that in Committee we shall be able to improve the Bill without injuring the object which we all have at heart, which is to secure that the beauties of the countryside shall not be interfered with.
§ THE EARL OF HALSBURY
My Lords, this Bill, introduced at the end of the Session, is not likely to be able to claim that it is a popular favourite. We have to consider in this House the question that is before us to-day, and that is whether this Bill is to have a Second Reading or not. The arguments against giving it a Second Reading are in some ways attractive, but one has to remember that if this Bill does not get a Second Reading then the Act of 1925 continues in operation. If a proposition was put forward that we were going to reject this Bill and also repeal the Act of 1925, and get rid of town planning, your Lordships, I have no doubt, would consider it. That 979 is an impossible situation at this stage. Whether or not it would be advisable to raise that situation at another stage remains to be seen. We are, however, faced with one of two things. We have either to give this Bill a Second Reading, and then say what might be done with it in Committee, or we have to throw it out altogether and leave the Act of 1925 actually in operation to-day. To the best of my ability I have considered the position, and for my own part I consider that giving this Bill a Second Reading is the lesser of two evils. Then it would go into Committee and I hope we may be able to alter some matters in it.
I do not think it right on the Second Reading stage to go into the Bill clause by clause, but I think I am entitled to call your attention very generally to the sort of matters which I think we ought to consider. The first is that if this Bill is going through it is going to cost money, and if this money has to be paid I think we ought to consider what we are buying with it. A lot of people who have written, or have spoken in another place, seem rather to consider that this Bill is going to bring about a new heaven and a new earth. You cannot do it. People have said that if only we had started town planning much earlier how agreeable the country would be. Probably we should not have made some of the mistakes which we have made, but probably also we should have made mistakes which we have not made. You cannot look too far ahead. You see certain evils, and you now think that if only you had started thirty years ago you could have avoided those evils. True, but there comes a time limit. If we had started in the time of Harold we should probably now have nothing but old monuments, Norman castles, largely insanitary, all uncomfortable and full of nuisances. You have to look in perspective at the sort of thing we are likely to get before we take the responsibility of passing a Bill which is going to cost so much money.
Then, what may be a very good scheme for building on a town-planning scheme in a new country which has never been built upon before, may not be appropriate for what are known as built-up areas. Without saying that built-up areas should not be dealt with some way, I think you should consider whether sufficient attention has been paid in this Bill to the 980 difference between the treatment of built-up areas and the treatment of new areas which have never been built upon before.
Finally, there is the question of economy. If your Lordships look at the Bill you will see that there is no limit of any kind put on the expenditure, and when it comes to a question of amendment in Committee surely we ought to see that some limitation, at least, is put upon expenditure. That raises a question which I desire to suggest to your Lordships may be raised on the Committee stage. It is the question whether or not Parliament should keep in its own hands the ultimate decision when there is a dispute as to what is to be spent upon a scheme, what compensation is to be given under a scheme, and whether a scheme is a good one. At present your Lordships may think that there is not sufficient reason to take things out of the bureaucratic hands of a Department which, perhaps because it is more recent than some of the other Departments, would like, with its youthful exuberance, to expend considerably more money than the older Ministries would perhaps think proper; and it may be that when we come to Committee your Lordships would think it as well to leave rather fuller powers to Parliament than we find at present in this Bill, instead of leaving them in the autocratic hands of the Minister himself. I have to-day only been suggesting certain broad principles which your Lordships may consider before we come to the Committee stage. Much could be said against giving this Bill a Second Reading, but I do say as my considered opinion that I am quite certain it would be better to give this Bill a Second Reading now, and make any alterations which you may think fit at a later stage.
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
My Lords, I confess that there must be a large number of your Lordships who are rather suspicious of this Bill. And is that to be wondered at when you consider its political godfathers? The original Bill was brought in and carried as far as the Committee stage in another place by a Socialist Government. This Bill was fathered in another place by an ex-Liberal Minister, and we have now heard that those who sit on the Front Opposition Bench are going to support the Bill. Therefore it seems to me that from the 981 political point of view the past of this Bill is open to suspicion. But surely the way to approach a Bill is not to take its label or its political godfathers, not to imagine that certain things are in the Bill when they are not, but really to examine what the Bill contains and what the proposals are. After all, you do not always go by labels, you go by facts. If you went by labels you would not expect the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs in another place to be the pet of the stern unbending Tories; you would regard him as a person so imbued with Socialism that he could not receive the support of the majority of the House of Commons which he now enjoys. Therefore I would beg your Lordships before you criticise this Bill, certainly before you vote against the Second Reading, to consider what it really does seek to achieve.
The Bill to-day is a very different Bill from the Bill which was drawn up and introduced by Mr. Greenwood last year in the House of Commons. That Bill, in my opinion, although its ideals were excellent, was grossly unjust to the individual owner of land. It gave the Minister absurdly autocratic powers. It gave no appeal to Courts of Law and, in fact, it had every possible vice—and they are many—that a Socialist measure could possibly contain. And therefore if this Bill were the same as that introduced in 1931 it certainly should not, in my opinion, receive a second Reading. I have heard it said that the present Minister of Health is as bad as any of them because he introduced the Bill in the same terms as the Socialists did, and did not modify in any way its unjust provisions. I have made inquiries, and I find it is the constitutional practice for Ministers, when they revive a Bill, to bring it in in exactly the same form as Parliament left it when it was dropped in a previous Session or a previous Parliament. I have, of course, no means of knowing what the views of Sir Edward Hilton Young are, but it does not at all follow because he introduced the Bill in the form in which it was left in 1931 that he approved of all its various provisions. At any rate, I think everybody who has followed the proceedings in another place, in Committee and on Report, will agree that the Bill we are now discussing is infinitely better than the Bill of 1931, that it does give many 982 additional safeguards, and that the Minister showed himself very amenable to the discipline—if I may say so—of the Committee upstairs, and put in many additional safeguards to make the Bill workable and just.
I have heard some friends of mine say: "Oh, well, why do we want this innovation? Why have town planning at all?" As my noble friend Lord Gage pointed out, we already have the Act of 1925 in operation; but, in addition to that, we have nineteen local Acts now the law of the land, covering a large area of this country, which deal, as to eighteen of them, with urban areas. The nineteenth, a very far-reaching Act indeed, which deals with the County of Surrey, applies not only to urban areas but to the whole of the County of Surrey, whether built up or not, and gives power to all the local authorities—not only the County Council—to deal with town planning. That Act and the other eighteen Acts are all far less favourable to the landowners than the present Bill. I think I might even say the 1925 Act is less favourable to the landowner than the present Bill. And therefore, as far as innovation is concerned, I would point out that town planning has been in existence in this country for some time, and that this Bill provides safeguards and compensation, and provides for decrement which is an important thing, and which has never been done before.
The Bill should receive the support of all who are in favour of town planning, and who should bear in mind that all these nineteen Acts and the Act of 1925 are repealed, so that we start with a clean sheet. We have uniform provisions, uniform powers, and uniform regulations over the whole of Great Britain, instead of different Acts, with different powers, for different areas. It was mentioned by one noble Lord that all local authorities through their organisations have passed resolutions in favour of a measure of town planning. I am not pretending that they are all in favour of every single provision contained in this Bill, but what I do claim is that all the organisations representing the county councils, the county boroughs, the district councils, and the other various organisations connected with local government, have all passed resolutions urging that town planning should be proceeded with with- 983 out delay and that a comprehensive measure should be put through.
To-day no mention has been made of town planning in other countries, and I think we may learn something from what has happened overseas, where town planning has been in existence in some cases for almost fifty years. Perhaps it is a good thing that we have been rather dilatory about town planning. Perhaps it is a good thing that other people should get experience and we should be able to profit by it. As far back as 1874 Sweden started town planning, and anyone who has had the privilege of travelling in that country, visiting the suburbs of Stockholm and the municipal buildings of that city, will agree, I think, whether it is post hoc or propter hoc, that the town planning of Stockholm is excellent, and the town hall they have built is certainly the finest modern building in the world. Take Germany. There town planning has been in existence for thirty or forty years, during which time local authorities have had very extensive powers over both country and town areas, especially in Prussia, and it has been a very great success.
But the most outstanding country from the town planning point of view is undoubtedly the United States of America, and there has been a great extension there in recent years, especially in the formulation of definite programmes of public works for years ahead, based on a plan. Therefore they have been able over there to cut their coat to suit their cloth. They have made their plans ahead, they have tried to estimate what the expense is going to be, and have had a coherent plan for perhaps ten or twelve years ahead. I would draw your Lordships' attention to the wonderful increase of value which has followed on some public improvements in the States. Take the Michigan Avenue improvement in Chicago, and the park system of Kansas City. In the Michigan Avenue improvement the cost was 16,000,000 dollars, and it seems almost incredible, but I am informed it is a fact that the consequent increase in property values has been over 100,000,000 dollars for the 16,000,000 dollars spent. Part of the cost was assessed on the owners of the property, but for every dollar the owners paid in increment they made five more. Therefore I do not think it is to be wondered at, in view of these facts and others 984 which could be quoted, that owners of property in the United States—what they call real estate men—are in favour of town planning.
May I venture very respectfully to outline what the Bill does in my opinion? It really does three things. It enables planning schemes to be made for obtaining good and economical redevelopment in built areas. It enables schemes to be made for rural areas in order, inter alia, to reduce the risk of spoiling the countryside, to check sporadic development, and especially ribbon development. And last, but not least, it enables places of special architectural or historic interest to be preserved. It may be said, it has been said: "Well, why have all this great organisation, this expensive Bill, this State interference with the individual rights of property? We have got on very well, or in most cases we have got on very well, in the past: why cannot we go on in the future in the same way? "No one is more sensible than I am of the wonderful town planning which the Dukes of Devonshire have carried out at Eastbourne, or the extraordinarily good town planning which has been carried out in former days by the Grosvenor Estate in London. There are also many great county properties where the big landlord has, in his farm and cottage buildings, and in his planning and general development of an estate, carried out town planing as well as anybody could. But those estates are unfortunately passing away under the pressure of Death Duties. The small men have not the experience, possibly not the sense of responsibility, which these great landlords have. You have, therefore, to substitute someone for the great landlord, and we are obliged to fall back upon the local authority.
Who are these local authorities who are going to prepare the schemes for the approval of the Minister? You have the City of London, the London County Council, the county boroughs, the urban district councils, and the rural district councils. Taking it from the county point of view, I am frankly sorry that rural district councils are chosen as the movers in this matter. With all respect to the rural district councils, are they generally composed of individuals who are the best to take over the making of a scheme dealing with rural amenities and rural developments? I hardly think 985 so. I should much have preferred that the onus of making the scheme or schemes should rest on the county councils, no doubt with the help of the district councils. The county councils, from their personnel and their size and wealth, are far more competent to deal with this matter than the rural district councils.
Remember the powers of rural district councils have been greatly diminished in the last few years. In old days they dealt with the Poor Law, with public assistance, with the roads, and other matters. These powers were taken away from them by the Act of 1928, and they are only acting now as the agents of the county council. I hope to see some amalgamation of county councils, rural district councils and parish councils so as to diminish the number of people who hold sway in the counties, diminish the overhead charges and diminish the number of members that have to be found, leaving two bodies to rule the county instead of three. By giving to the rural district councils this new power you stereotype their activities for a good many years, and prevent what I think might have been very legitimate economy in local administration being carried into effect. However the rural district councils are to be the moving powers, and they are to have in certain cases the help of the county councils to carry them through.
What was so important in the deliberations in Committee and Report in another place was the large number of safeguards for the landowners and for the general public which were put in owing to the vigilance of certain Members of Parliament and the accommodating spirit in which the Minister met them. The first safeguard which I think is important is that the Minister's approval is required to every resolution to prepare or adopt a scheme. I know my noble friend Lord Banbury does not think much of Ministers and thinks less of their economy ideas.
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
In fact, spendthrifts. I know Lord Banbury does not think they are very economical, but I submit that a Minister, living next door to the Treasury, is more likely to work 986 for economy than a local body like a rural district council far away from the central Government and without anyone to keep it in order. Therefore I think it is a real safeguard that the Government of the day should be able to veto any scheme which is put forward and get some economy. The next safeguard which I think is of even greater importance is that no provision in the scheme shall have effect if either House of Parliament passes an annulling Resolution. This is an important safeguard which was introduced in Committee. Every scheme has to be laid before Parliament, instead of, as now under various Acts, becoming law after the Minister has given his approval, Parliament being unable to intervene. I know that for a scheme to lie on the Table for twenty-one days in another place is not a very great safeguard, for the simple reason that the Government will not give their own time for anything which is opposed to their ideas and the private member has no time. I speak perhaps with ignorance, but I should have thought that in your Lordships' House that procedure could be utilised. Though that procedure in the other House does not provide a safeguard of great value I should have thought that here, if anything was done by the Minister at the suggestion of a district council which was uneconomic or which violated some canon of honesty, your Lordships would be able to take some steps in the matter. It must be remembered that if one House passes an annulling Resolution the matter falls to the ground. It has not to be done by both Houses.
Another very important safeguard, which as far as I know does not exist in any previous town-planning legislation, not even in the Act of 1925, is that the validity of any scheme can be tested in the Courts, thus curtailing the power of the Minister and the bureaucracy. I think that is a vital safeguard. It has always seemed to me a perfect outrage that Parliament should pass an Act giving power to a Minister to do certain things and that then, when the Minister carried out, as he said, his duties under the Act, no one could appeal to the Courts to test whether the Minister had exceeded the powers given him by Parliament. Happily in this Bill it is laid down that, if the Minister does anything which anybody considers to be ultra vires the 987 matter can be brought before the Courts and the Courts can say that his order is null and void if he has overstepped the line.
Further, it has always seemed to me that in regard to these town-planning schemes in the past the ordinary landowner, whether large or small, was left in a fog as to what was going on. He really did not know what proposals were made. There might be an advertisement in the local newspaper or he might receive a visit from some kind official of the town-planning authority. Now there is laid down in this Bill ample procedure to ensure that everybody who is really interested in a scheme shall receive full notification of what is going on. When a scheme is proposed notice is to be served on all owners and occupiers under Schedule A assessment, and any owner can register free of charge and so make sure that he will receive notice of each stage of the scheme. Therefore anybody who takes the trouble to register will be warned of all the steps that are being taken to put the matter through.
There is still another safeguard which I welcome. It is that no proposal in the scheme can override any statutory enactment unless an affirmative Resolution has been passed by both Houses of Parliament. Further, the power to prepare a scheme is restricted to areas where there is a likelihood of fresh development and static areas are excluded. I think the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, if I recollect rightly, said that he very much regretted that the whole of England was not going to be town-planned and that the area of town planning was restricted. Surely on reflection he will agree with me. Why in the name of economy should you attempt to town-plan the Muir of Rannoch or the Cairngorms? Why waste public money in town-planning areas which cannot possibly develop for the next fifty years, if then?
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
On a point of personal explanation may I say that I think the noble Lord misunderstood what I said? What I intended to convey was that according to the original form of the Bill local authorities would have had protective and constructive powers throughout the whole country. Town planning, of course, would not apply to purely rural areas. We simply want to prevent any disfigurement of the countryside.
§ LORD MOUNT TEMPLE
I did not mean to misrepresent the noble Earl. Personally I would rather give the Minister power to decide what are static areas and what are not than leave it to the rural district council. I think even my noble friend Lord Banbury would agree that the Minister and his staff would probably have more wisdom than one rural district council. And there is a second reason, that you get uniformity of policy if it is left in the hands of the Minister. You have really reached what, I think, is a very sensible compromise. Just as in the country you do not want to town-plan a grouse moor, so in the town you probably will not want to town-plan a new suburb or a seaside watering place because it has just been town-planned and probably no improvements can be made there for the next fifty years. That, I think, is not only sensible but is also a measure of economy. You do not want to spend money on town-planning areas which are not coming into development in the near future. Another very great safeguard was introduced and a very sensible step taken when an Amendment was passed that agricultural land and agricultural development should be free from control. I regard with the greatest apprehension the possible town planning of arable land and grazing land. Surely it is quite right and proper to exclude those areas from town planning.
Another point which I think your Lordships ought to bear in mind is the matter of compensation. I do not think the question of compensation has been enough stressed during this debate. Full compensation may be called for in all cases of injurious affection by a scheme except in a few cases closely defined in the Bill. That means that if a scheme hurts your land or lessens its value you can claim and receive compensation for the injury done to your land, unless you are prohibited from using your land for a refuse tip or for some purpose which is injurious to your neighbour. Broadly speaking, if the scheme hurts development of your land then—for the first time, I think, in the history of the country—you can receive compensation. There is no exclusion of compensation possible without the consent of the Minister and if compensation is excluded by the Minister then the scheme can be questioned in Parliament.
989 Then I think I ought to draw your attention to the Bill as it affects built-up areas. I was very anxious to see what safeguards there were for the owners of existing buildings, and I looked with more anxiety that I should otherwise have done because in the nineteen Acts which are being repealed there are no safeguards of any sort for the owners of existing buildings. What does this Bill do? No existing building can be touched without compensation, and the owner is given a right to re-erect new buildings of at least equal size and use them for the same purpose unless that is seriously detrimental to the neighbourhood, or to claim compensation. I think that is only justice, but it is justice for which the landowner has had to wait a very long time, and I am sure it will be in accordance with the wishes of the majority of this House.
In regard to betterment, if your land is increased in value in consequence of a scheme you have to find 75 per cent. of the betterment. As a landowner I should have preferred 50 per cent., but as the man in the street I think 75 per cent. is not an unfair amount provided two things are done which are done in this Bill—namely, that you get decrement or compensation for damage done, and that you do not pay your betterment until you receive it. No owner is required to find money for betterment till the betterment is realised. It is in this respect that this Bill is so different from Mr. Lloyd George's taxes. You are not taxed on what you have not received. The reason why the Lloyd George taxes broke down was that the owner had to pay increment on something he did not receive, but was supposed to have received.
Summing up what, in my opinion, this Bill does it is, in spite of what my noble friend Lord Banbury has said, a definite measure of economy because the haphazard development of the past has caused needless expenditure. One must plan well ahead to get the best value for money. In the next place I regard the Bill as a bulwark of private enterprise. Private enterprise as such is not affected by the Bill, but it is regulated and assisted and coordinated with the programmes of public authorities. Further, planning helps industry and business by securing that when the site of a factory is chosen transport and other facilities 990 will be taken into consideration. In my opinion planning of the countryside does not mean interference. What is desired under the Bill is to preserve, not to interfere. Planning seeks to retain the beauty of our countryside, which is a valuable commercial asset.
We want no more ribbon development, no more Peacehavens, no more of those bungalow encampments in the Thames valley—monstrosities which are a disgrace to the twentieth century. In the Midlands and in the North and in some of the county towns in the South you can see what the absence of town planning has done—places where the working classes live in back-to-back houses, where they do not get the sun, where they have no garden, where nothing was done by our fathers and grandfathers to make their lives decent. We do not want the South of England when it is industrialised, as it will be shortly, to reproduce what now exists in parts of Scotland and in the North and Midlands. We want everybody to have a fair chance. I do not say we can ever under this Bill make this country a place fit for heroes to live in—that is perhaps too high an ideal; but if we pass this Bill the next generation will hold this Parliament in grateful remembrance.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
My Lords, I should like to refer in particular to an argument which has been mentioned by three or four of your Lordships that this Bill is too expensive to be adopted. Lord Dynevor thought the local authority would be bankrupt by having to expend the necessary amount of money on ordnance survey maps. I think the noble Lord exaggerates. I can quote a case of an authority which made a town-planning scheme at a cost in twelve months of one-twentieth of a penny rate. Lord Banbury of Southam asked: "Can we afford an artistic building?" Of all queer questions surely that is the most paradoxical. The noble Lord seems to think that an artistic building must be expensive. Let me assure him that he is wrong; in the case of many inartistic buildings nearly all the vulgarity is caused by spending too much money and not too little, and one of the effects of scrupulous attention to finance is to remove these eccentricities, to curtail extravagances and thus not only to improve the building but to save money in the process.
991 I beg your Lordships to believe that there is nothing in the world more costly than bad planning and nothing in this country more economical than good planning. Any money we can spend in improving the town-planning system whether in country or town will be repaid, not a hundredfold, but a thousandfold. I am glad my noble friend mentioned Peacehaven. That is a mean and ignoble township in a very beautiful part of the country which has grown up because local authorities did not have either the power or the desire to prevent a great public scandal. Measure it if you please in terms of money. Here is this colony of buildings erected in the most haphazard fashion, and in such a manner that to give that area the ordinary decencies of amenity which are enjoyed by any new dwelling scheme of a town council would absorb more than the total rateable value of the area itself. Yet they say, "How can Sussex do this sort of thing—how can Sussex afford the ordnance survey maps?" But money is being thrown away in the most scandalous manner by bad planning, and so far from saying that money has been wasted we ought to be ashamed of having spent so little in the past.
Take that new development which is extremely wasteful and profligate, which is called ribbon development. A great arterial road is run from one place to another. The frontages do not belong to a public authority or to the Ministry of Health, but are reserved to the proprietors of the adjacent land. Cottages, bungalows, small houses are strung out on either side of this road in such a manner that those who travel along this country road cease to be conscious of the fact that they are in the country, and can only look right and left on this long sequence of dull, ignominious one-storey buildings.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
Let us test the question of pace in relation to ribbon development. I did not mean to be provoked by my noble friend Lord Banbury. He says that people in motor cars travel so fast that they do not even realise the ugliness on the right and left of them. Is he aware that everyone who builds a bungalow on either side of the road, 992 say, from London to Southend, has a right of access to the high road; in other words, to have a road broad enough to take his car from his garage to the high road, and that, when not on the high road, he claims the right to park his car outside his own premises? The result is to discount the value of those roads made at an enormous public cost and it also discounts the speed at which people travel along them. Ribbon development is wasteful because it is bad planning and it is bad planning because it is wasteful. Those houses are run out in long lines instead of being grouped together with a sense of community life. All the public services have to go an increased distance to serve the minimum number of houses. Whenever a new extension is required for one of these houses, a new opening has to be made in the road and there is more waste and more money thrown away. Instead of the charming community life which is exemplified in the English village, we have this ribbon development, a wasteful system which involves needless lateral communication and reduces the value of the highway itself. It is wasteful and costly and results from bad town planning.
Whenever there is bad town planning to-day, one may rest assured it will injure us later on when that bad town planning has to be corrected, so that there is a cumulative cost to the community in this wastefulness of money. One of Lord Mount Temple's friends said to him: "Why have town planning at all?" Nobody has got any business to speak who asks that kind of question. It means that he has not given himself the trouble to study the elements of the subject; it means that he does not know what is being done in every other country in the world except Britain; it means that he has never travelled anywhere in the world except Britain; it means that he is heedless of the amount of waste that is going on. This is a necessity and not a luxury. I assure Lord Banbury that this is not a question of æsthetics, but of economics.
At this point let me refer to a subject which has not been dealt with so much by your Lordships here as it has been in another place but none the less I wish permission to speak about it. It is the very hostile and supercilious attitude adopted towards local authorities. I 993 suspect that the reason why local authorities have not been attacked here is that so many of your Lordships serve on local authorities and take so prominent a share in the local government of the country. Your Lordships know too well the futility of saying that local authorities are necessarily incompetent. It is urged that on this subject local authorities are not themselves authorities on questions of taste. I acknowledge that there have been two cases recently which give colour to that form of attack. In Scotland the local authority in the City of Dundee has allowed its town house to be destroyed, which I always thought effectively symbolised the staunchness and the strength of the citizens of that interesting town. Alas! it is gone. Here in London there has been a complacency by the greatest of our local authorities about the destruction of one of the greatest of our national buildings—namely, the attitude of the London County Council towards Waterloo bridge. That too I deplore, and I am bound to acknowledge that those who care to use the argument that local authorities are heedless or incompetent have been greatly and gravely fortified by the events of the last two months. I urge, however, that those cases are exceptional.
Lord Mount Temple and another member of your Lordships' House have mentioned that nearly twenty authorities in this country, including those of Edinburgh, Bath, Newcastle and the County of Surrey, have already come to Parliament and have secured from Parliament every right which it is proposed to grant in this Bill and in some cases rights in excess of those proposed in this Bill. It is said that this is tyrannical, but do we hear that these towns have been tyrannical? Not at all. They are interested in the beauty, the dignity, and the proper planning of their areas and they have used their powers with good sense. Again, when it is said that local authorities are so unfit for these powers, I would remind the House that in these matters to which the gravest objection is taken the local authorities are not the chief offenders. Who makes the ribbon development? Certainly not the local authorities. Who allows abuse of advertisements? Again, certainly not the local authorities. For every slum that exists in the area of a local authority there are ten that exist in the possession of private individuals. 994 Our business is to do everything we can to help and assist the local authorities in these matters.
Let me say here how much effort is being devoted in that direction. I do not know if your Lordships are aware that, at the instance of the Ministry of Health and of certain private movements in this country, the Royal Institute of British Architects has established a series of groups of experienced architects, who voluntarily are prepared to give technical and expect advice on town planning or on reconditioning old houses to a local authority which may ask for help. The movement is quite new but the whole country is covered by it, although I acknowledge that in certain parts of the country the staff and the grouping are still insufficient. In the areas of Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire, qualified men have been allotted to every urban and every rural district council in that part of England, where there is a large resident population of well qualified architects and where the local authorities are very much alive to the importance to their own areas of this expert advice, which is freely and voluntarily given. Again, in the Peak district, in the Lake district in the North, and in the Cotswold district in Gloucestershire, a special effort is being successfully made in the same direction, and these groups of architects have been already consulted on matters relating to town planning and building by the Forestry Commission and the Air Ministry. Great effort is being made and marked progress is being effected, and not only are local authorities entitled to every assistance that can be given to them, but they are themselves doing what lies in their power.
These local authorities are the permanent units in this country, and the landlords are not. Successive Parliaments and successive Governments have decided that the large landowner is to be abolished. I am very sorry for it, because the landowners of England have made rural England beautiful. They have done a great deal, by generations of care and love for the countryside, to give us the beauty of which the right rev. Prelate the Bishop of Winchester spoke. As the landlords go they have got to be replaced by somebody, and it seems to me that no body can replace the landlord except the local authority. At least the local authority will have one 995 advantage which the landlords never achieved, and that is of joint action in town and country planning on a large scale.
One of the most valuable things in this Bill is the assistance which it gives to the system of regional planning. These things may go badly at first. Experiments have to be made and mistakes may occur, but we have got to do it, and the longer we delay the less easy will it be to come to a conclusion. I look forward to great things from this Bill, to most valuable results from the co-operation not only of local authorities amongst themselves but of local authorities with qualified people, and with those whose properties are concerned, for the development of this country has, as I indicated in my earlier remarks, for long proceeded on bad lines. When on Clause 6 one talks about land ripe for development I read it with dismay, but I read it in connection with an interesting and valuable speech by my noble friend Lord Phillimore the other day. He protested that this phrase is being only construed as meaning land ripe for urban development or the building of houses. That is a profound misconception. This Bill is called the Town and Country Planning Bill, and you can develop the country just as you can the town, and in some ways the duty of developing agriculture is greater than the duty of developing urban property.
This Bill is going to provide us with a new start. It is a big Bill, because it includes the whole of the Act of 1925 and is therefore largely a Consolidation Bill. It is also a complicated Bill. But I hope your Lordships will pass it into law. There is really no time to waste. Every month which goes past brings more danger. Two rapid deaths in a family may throw a landed estate upon the market. It may be bought in the market by some butcher of the land, who will cut down the beautiful trees, wipe out every beautiful tradition of the past, and put up shacks and bungalows, and sometimes even devote sites to houses on wheels, which are a danger to the inhabitants and a scandal to the neighbourhood. Scotland requires this Bill just as much as England, and I profoundly regret that Lord Linlithgow took so strong a line against the inclusion of Scotland in this Bill. There is no difference in the problems of rural Scotland and 996 England, and many towns in Scotland, God knows, are pretty badly planned.
THE MARQUESS OF LINLITHGOW
May I interrupt for one moment? I would only like to say that I think there is ample time for a Bill in the autumn applying to Scotland, which will be better for the purpose in hand than the present Bill would prove to be.
THE EARL OF CRAWFORD
I will not at this time pursue that point, except to express my opinion that Scotland is equally injured by bad planning, and that in some ways Scotland requires a comprehensive Town Planning Bill more than England does, and there are some parts of Scotland which I would regret to see left until the autumn, on the very remote chance of the autumn being devoted to a Scottish Town Planning Bill. I beg your Lordships not to be deflected from passing this Bill into law by fears that the initial outlay may be serious. It will not be serious; but whatever it is it will repay itself a thousandfold, and I am confident will contribute to the dignity and efficiency of our towns, and also to the beauty and service of our countryside.
§ LORD BAYFORD
My Lords, I am sure that the great majority of us agree with my noble friend who has just sat down in feeling that this is not a Bill that we want to lose. We recognise that it is time when the law on the subject was put into a more intelligible shape, and we recognise the evils which the Bill is meant to cure. We do not want overcrowding, we do not want ugly houses, we do not want ribbon development. We are all agreed on these points. I might almost say it is easy to make a speech on the subject, although not a speech so eloquent and forcible as that of my noble friend who has just sat down; but it is not so easy and popular to point out the dangers that may lurk in this Bill.
I want to say a word or two on behalf of a class which sometimes comes in for rather harsh treatment in all debates on housing questions, I mean the professional builders. We are all agreed that houses are wanted. The man who provides them is not a criminal, and ought not to be treated as such. If you make it too difficult, too costly, or too risky for that man to carry on his trade, houses are not going to be provided at all, or else 997 they are only going to be provided by the local authorities, which is not a consummation that I think your Lordshops would wish to see brought about. Take the most commonplace case of all—namely, the case of the number of houses allowed to be built to an acre. No one wants overcrowding, but there is always a fear that a local housing authority may unduly restrict the number of houses that can be built in a given space.
§ LORD BAYFORD
The existing Act is repealed by this one, and this is put in its place. Quite irrespective of the cost of the land, you have the cost of the road and the sewers, and it really makes a great difference whether, say, six or ten houses are allowed per acre. That restriction of the number of houses most certainly and unavoidably increases the rent that has to be charged. That is a fact that we cannot get out of. Take another effect of restriction, or threatened restriction. Take the case of an owner who dies. Estate Duty is claimed on an estate as it stands. Then comes a scheme and restriction of the number of houses that may be built per acre. The value undoubtedly goes down in consequence. Does the owner get anything back? I should be very much surprised to hear that he did. And take another danger. Supposing land is scheduled but no scheme is made. There is a builder ready to develop. Under Clause 10 of this Bill he must get leave. Then the council may refuse his plan, and the council may be upheld by the Ministry. Or possibly the council may accept the plans, but still they may he refused by the Ministry. Building may be delayed for years.
§ LORD BAYFORD
I was just going to show a case in which it has done. I have a letter here which was put into my hands this morning on this very subject. Here are the details. On November 20, 1926, a certain urban district council passed a resolution to prepare a town planning scheme. This is written by a firm of solicitors, and they say:Clients of ours who are small builders submitted plans to the urban district 998 council for the development of a piece of land belonging to them. The urban district council refused to pass the plans on the ground that the county council proposed to make a by-pass road through the land. As delay meant ruin, our clients then submitted an application for a consent under the interim development order showing the proposed by-pass road on their plan, and the consent was duly granted. The urban district council applied to the Minister of Health for approval of their preliminary statement, which approval was refused. In September, 1930, the county council served a formal order of their intention to take the land for the by-pass road under the Public Works Facilities Act, 1930, and eventually an order was made by the Ministry of Transport, and the land was taken, and the road was made.Our clients claim that they have been damaged to the extent of £2,792, but the county council, supported by the Ministry of Health, state that, inasmuch as the site of the road was shown in the consent under the interim development order, they are entitled to no compensation for the land taken by them for the by-pass road, and offer the sum of £1. Our clients are poor men, and if they are not properly compensated it will mean virtual ruin for them. The urban district council appear to have taken no steps to proceed with their town-planning scheme, and it is now three years since the public inquiry was held as to their preliminary statement, and it is possible that they may not proceed with the scheme. Even if they do proceed, it will be many years before the approval to the final scheme is obtained, and in the meantime our clients have no rights to compensation under the Town Planning Act. This seems to be such as iniquitous proceeding that we think it right that your notice should be called to the facts in the hope that the present Bill may be so amended so as to prevent any such state of affairs arising in future.That is the sort of trouble which I want to see guarded against by any Bill of this sort. That is not the sort of law that encourages builders. I do not want to encourage jerry-building any more than my noble friend does, but I think we ought to realise that if we put these difficulties in the way of the ordinary builder it means what happened before the War after the Lloyd George Budget was passed: it means that builders will fight shy of developing land at all, and we shall have that shortage of houses that we had before the War and have not set right even yet. As far as I can see, the present Bill does nothing to remedy that.
May I interrupt? I should be grateful if my noble friend would furnish me with those particulars for the consideration of the Department, 999 because I am informed that the state of affairs represented in that document is unintelligible to them. I think there must be some misapprehension.
§ LORD BAYFORD
I should be only too glad to do that; in fact, that is the reason why I read the letter. I should like to ask for information on one or two smaller points in the Bill. Nearly all land, whether in town or country, is to be scheduled. A good deal has already been scheduled, even in remote country villages under the provisions of the old Act. What will be the result of that? Will the consequence be that no cottage, no garage even, may be put up without leave of the local authority? Another question I want to ask is whether there is any time limit for schemes. It is laid down in the Bill that they are to be prepared. How long are things to go on between the time when the town-planning authority has scheduled the land to be included in the scheme and the actual promulgation of the scheme? How long is everything to be hung up until the local council has prepared its scheme? There is another matter on a different point that I want to ask the noble Viscount about in the hope that it may be possible for him to meet me when we come into Committee, and that is in regard to Clause 38. Clause 38 relates to an inquiry that is to be held. What I want to ask is: May not the parties to the inquiry see the findings? That seems to me to be only just and reasonable, and I hope it is a point on which the noble Viscount will be ready to meet us when we come to the Committee stage.
My Lords, I am afraid, after the very kind reference which the noble Earl, Lord Crawford, made to me, you will expect an eloquent speech. You will not get it. I only rise because I have done a good deal of hard work at town planning for the last three years. I have also read this Bill, and I think I can bring a little cooling water to the aid of my noble friend Lord Banbury, and possibly to others who sit on the same Bench. I am shocked to see that the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor, has not yet appreciated the possibly of lithography. We do not buy quantities of the same 6 inch or 25 inch map. We get them lithographed, and they cost very much less. In my own little rural district the cost of town planning for the 1000 last three years has been met by a halfpenny rate; the cost of scavenging or picking up the tins dropped about by scattered cottages will cost us a threepenny rate. Now if the country had been properly planned in the beginning the cost of picking up those tins would probably have only been a penny rate. It is going to cost us a great deal more to pick up tins than to plan the country throughout. A halfpenny rate with us means something like £200 a year. For that exorbitant sum, I venture to say, we shall make economies far greater than anything we spend; in fact, I am prepared, in vulgar language, to eat my hat if we do not. I will go further than that, I will undertake to eat Lord Banbury's hat.
This Bill is not a Bill to make people do things which they do not want to do, and which a local council ought not to have the right or power to make them do. It is a restrictive Bill. It is not a Bill which forces people into a certain course of action. It is not even like the Agricultural Marketing Act which your Lordships, to my great regret, passed last year. It does not enable the majority of the inhabitants to force the rest of the inhabitants to do something which they do not like. Neither is this Bill, I venture to say, unfair to those who have invested their money in real property. Nearly the whole of my money is in real property, and I can say, for my part, that this Bill ought to improve, and will improve, the value of real property taken as a whole. Your Lordships will be very familiar with the working of the Licensing Act, which, put quite shortly, as you well know deals with licences in such a way that by reducing superabundant licences the value of the remaining licences is enhanced. So it will be with this Bill. By cutting down, if you will, the area of land over which buildings may straggle the value of the remaining land available for building purposes will be enhanced, so that, taking the countryside or the neighbourhood of a big town all over, undoubtedly proper town planning will enhance values.
I cannot understand my noble friend Lord Dynevor, to whom I look for light on these subjects, saying the Bill is unfair to those who have invested their money in real property. It may be unfair in isolated cases; it is, I think, unfair in the sort of case that my noble 1001 friend Lord Bayford put; but if he had studied it a little closer I think he would have found some consolation in this very Bill. As a matter of fact it is in this respect, amongst other respects, that the new Bill is better than the old one. If the noble Lord had looked up Clause 10, subsections (4) and (5), he would have found the very point dealt with. It may not be dealt with to his full satisfaction, but it is dealt with in a manner in which it was not dealt with under the old Bill.
It is getting late, and I do not wish to detain your Lordships longer, but there is one other important point I would like to make. As a practical town planner I can tell your Lordships this. It is impossible to work a town-planning scheme in the country except with the consent of the great majority of the land-owners. It is impossible because the cost of compensation is absolutely prohibitive unless you carry with you the landlords of the district, and if this Bill has a fault it is that it has in certain ways thrown compensation into the hands of the land speculator, where, perhaps, it is not wholly necessary that such compensation should be placed. I hope that at a later stage I shall be allowed to introduce an Amendment which will further carry out the principle of consent by the landlords, an Amendment which I do not think will be opposed on either side of the House. You may rest assured that it is impossible to work any country-planning scheme except by the general consent of the landowners who are concerned.
THE EARL OF KINNOULL
My Lords, I will not detain the House for more than a minute at this late hour, but I feel I must say this with regard to economy, about which we have heard so much in the course of this debate. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Mount Temple, who said that the Bill now before your Lordships is a very different Bill from the Bill introduced by Mr. Greenwood in the House of Commons last year. It is a totally different Bill. I think it is intolerable that the present Minister of Health should have allowed a small group of irresponsible people, who not only disagree with the provisions of this Bill but with anything intending towards progress, to interfere with what was au agreed measure in the Standing Committee last 1002 year, on which Committee there was a preponderance of Conservatives. The Bill was agreed and passed its Second Reading in the House of Commons, and I repeat that it is intolerable that the Minister of Health should have allowed a small group of irresponsible people to destroy the main objects of the Bill. I hope your Lordships will not only give a Second Reading to the Bill, but will, in Committee, reinsert its original provisions.
My Lords, it has already been pointed out that this Bill is a liability of the late Government which has been taken over and shouldered by its successors. Indeed, had it been presented to your Lordships in anything like the form in which it originally was introduced in another place, I should have felt it my duty to those on whose behalf I speak to ask your Lordships to refuse to give it a Second Reading. In its passage through another place, however, it has received a certain amount of modification, having been referred to a Select Committee, at whose hands it experienced critical scrutiny, emerging from that scrutiny a greatly improved Bill, although not a good one—it is impossible, in my opinion, to make it that—but less one-sided, though not, I fear, less expensive than when it was originally introduced. I am not convinced myself that even in its changed form there is such a widespread demand for the Bill as to justify your Lordships in inflicting immediately upon the country the extra expenditure which carrying out its provisions would entail.
Certain noble Lords have been inclined to ridicule those of us who object to the Bill on the ground of economy. I am not convinced myself and I think a great many noble Lords will want a great deal of convincing that there really is such a widespread demand for the Bill as to justify us in putting it into operation immediately. Therefore I hope in Committee there will be an Amendment to postpone its coming into operation certainly for three or four years, or until such time as the financial position has improved and the country is in a better position to bear the strain entailed by its carrying out the provisions of the Bill. As has been already remarked this Bill seeks to apply very wide powers of town planning to built-up areas in towns 1003 and cities, and in this way it is a departure from previous legislation. Previous Acts limited town planning to land ripe for development. The present Bill, I understand, is said to be the result of demands by municipal corporations for authority to apply town planning to the hearts of our towns and cities. When a Committee of your Lordships' House, presided over by the noble Marquess, Lord Bristol, considered the town-planning powers contained in the Birmingham Bill some valuable safeguards were inserted. It was realised then, and. I am sure it is realised now, that the application of town-planning powers to prevent ribbon development along roads is one thing but the application of such powers to areas already covered with buildings is another. Therefore I think your Lordships will agree with me when I say that such powers should only be given after the fullest investigation of how they work in practice.
The first move to be taken by town-planning authorities under this Bill is the passing of a resolution. I am glad to observe that that resolution is not to take effect until it has the approval of the Minister of Health. No owner within the area covered by a scheme can develop his property without obtaining an interim development order. That may in practice have very serious results, and it is important that an owner should be adequately safeguarded against any possible arbitrary exercise of bureaucratic powers. My own view is that no local authority should be permitted to pass such a resolution until it has prepared a preliminary statement and that the resolution should not take effect until that preliminary statement has received the approval of the Minister. It is most important that an authority should know its own mind before embarking on a scheme, and it cannot know its own mind unless it has some sort of preliminary statement prepared. The Committee of your Lordships' House in the case of the Birmingham Bill advanced the material date far beyond the date of the passing of the resolution. I do not propose that we should go as far as that, but I do think that what is described as the dead hand should not be allowed to fall until the preliminary statement has been approved by the Minister.
I know that this matter has been given very serious consideration by the Minister, 1004 and that he has introduced additional compensation provisions covering what I may call the interim development period and providing that all schemes in future shall be submitted to Parliament. Here, however, we come to the question of Parliamentary procedure. As the Bill stands at present the scheme has merely to be laid on the Table and becomes operative if there is no Motion to the contrary. The Committee which recently sat to consider the question of Ministerial powers reported that this procedure is not satisfactory in practice. I hope, therefore, that when the Bill reaches the Committee stage it will be amended by the substitution of the affirmative Resolution procedure so that the decision upon schemes to which objection is taken shall be referred to a Select Committee. That procedure works well in your Lordships' House and if it is incorporated in this Bill you will do something to meet the demand advocated by large sections of property owners for setting up some technical tribunal.
I should like also to say a few words with regard to betterment. The betterment figure of 50 per cent. in the 1925 Act has been increased to 75 per cent. in this Bill. I know that the present figure is said to be the result of a compromise between the late Government and the Opposition during the Committee stage of the 1931 Bill in another place, but that Bill was never considered in your Lordships' House and we at any rate can review the whole question of betterment without feeling that we are tied in any way by anything done in the past. Betterment is a purely hypothetical value and it is most difficult to assess. The owner-occupier of a small house may be suddenly faced with a heavy betterment charge because of a scheme which he never wanted. It is true that the scheme may open up the neighbourhood and so increase the market value of his property, but from his point of view it may decrease the value of his property to him by depriving him of amenities such as peace and quietness and solitude which attracted him to the locality. He cannot pay this charge out of a small fixed income and so he must fall into the hands of a mortgagee or sell the property. I am not overlooking the provision that betterment need not be paid until there is a change of user or disposition of the property, but the fact remains 1005 that there will be a betterment charge and that it will be in the nature of a mortgage upon the property.
I am sorry to see that there is a special repayment rule to apply to businesses by which owners will be liable to pay five years after the property has been valued for betterment. I honestly consider that this principle of betterment will act as a deterrent to development. In these times of unemployment we ought to give serious consideration to the question whether the betterment figure of 50 per cent. in the 1925 Act should not be reinstated in preference to the figure of 75 per cent. now in the Bill. Those are the main lines on which I should like to see the improved and I hope that in Committee the Government will see fit to accept Amendments that will enable these alterations to be made because I think they would result in making it a considerably better Bill.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, I rise to refer chiefly to the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Phillimore, that land values would be increased by the operation of this Bill. I cannot see the force of that. Lord Bayford quoted a case of great hardship under the operation of the existing Act and there were also the remarks of the Earl of Crawford concerning estates which on the death of the owner were broken up and where the speculator came in to buy the land and spoil the amenities for the mere sake of money. If the owner or trustee cannot, obtain what is the market value of the land that land is bound to be depreciated in value, and if the Act becomes operative all over the country general uncertainty as to the value of land is bound to lead to a lessened value. With regard to ribbon development nothing is more hideous than the existence of arterial roads and therefore any houses built along them are a pleasure to look at. Moreover, why should not people be allowed to build houses where they desire to live?
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT SANKEY)
My Lords, at this late hour and after a debate which has been a helpful and valuable contribution to the solution of a difficult subject, I should not be justified in detaining the House by going over the whole of the ground covered or by calling attention at any length to the general principles on which the Bill is founded. Town planning is no new thing. 1006 It found its way on to the Statute Book as far back as 1909. By an Act of 1925 the law relating to it was consolidated and the Bill now under discussion repeals and re-enacts that Act with certain additional provisions and certain additional safeguards. On a Bill of so complicated a character as the present one it is difficult to make a statement which is at once brief and accurate, but it is sufficiently correct to say that the additional powers in this Bill are those which enable townplanning schemes to be made for securing that if and when redevelopment takes place in built-up areas, it shall be on good and economical lines and, further, for enabling certain schemes to be made for rural areas in order, among other matters, to reduce the risk of spoiling the amenities of the countryside. The additional safeguards are those which ensure an extended right of appeal from the decision of local authorities and enhanced control by Parliament of schemes which have been sanctioned by the Minister.
It is obvious from the discussion we have had that the theory and ideas of town planning command the sympathy of this House. It could not be otherwise. No one here wants to create or to perpetuate slum areas. No one here desires to see land wastefully or selfishly used. Everyone here would wish that land should be administered and developed to the best advantage. All that goes without saying. Many of the difficulties and troubles which have arisen have been due not to the action of the old-fashioned landlord of the countryside, but to that of the speculative builder and the speculative land-jobber. Comparisons are odious, but anyone who desires to make them can easily pay a visit to a delightfully developed town like Eastbourne and to a less delightfully developed area occupied by one or other of the bungalow towns which are Eastbourne's neighbours on the south coast. I do not underrate the difficulties of cases where land is in the dead hand or is in a strict settlement and where the owner has not capital to develop it.
While, however, it is clear that the general sense of the House is in favour of some scheme of town planning, it is not unnatural that there should be a difference of opinion as to the propriety of certain of the provisions in this Bill and as to the machinery by which it is proposed to carry them out. Men have and 1007 are entitled to have different opinions. I would, however, venture to suggest to your Lordships that in legislation of this character, which is made in response to the views of a considerable volume of public opinion, the main things to consider and to ensure are, firstly, economy and, secondly, the adequacy of the safeguards which it is intended to set up. What we all desire is what is best for Great Britain and a law which presses hardly on any particular class without a remedy or a right of appeal is not a good thing. It seems clear that in this field of legislation a great deal of wheat has been sown. There may be some tares as well, but it is undoubtedly wise for your Lordships to let the wheat and the tares, if there be tares, grow together till the Committee stage is reached. It must be obvious to any impartial listener to our debate that the knowledge and experience of many members of this House will be of great value when we come to that stage.
Let me now endeavour to deal quite briefly with some of the points raised this afternoon and the general attitude of the Government towards them. I recognise the weight and the importance of many of the arguments which have been advanced. We are certainly not going to say here and now that we cannot admit them and will never give way to them. They are worthy of and will receive careful and detailed consideration. In my view no Minister of the Crown ought to persevere in an obstinate and unreasoning refusal to consider the views of others, but equally you will not expect me to-night to say at once that we will agree with your suggestions. Too little time and attention are given to thought nowadays and you will, I am sure, allow us the short interval between this and the Committee stage to think over what has been said. When we debate these matters rather more in detail we shall hope to be able either to adopt your suggestions or to tell you why we cannot do so, and I trust in that event to be able to allay your apprehensions.
The main criticism of this Bill is on the question of economy. If I may say so, with all deference to the noble Lords who have advanced that plea, it seems to me that in discussing the question of economy they have only looked at one side of the account. Wise expenditure 1008 may be the best form of economy and there are many old proverbs in our country which are homely ones but none the less true. "A stitch in time saves nine." I dare say many of your Lordships in the coming months, October and November, will plough the land, scatter the seed, pay your workmen, pay for provender for your horses. Why? Because you hope for a good harvest. Are there any of your Lordships who are going to say: "We are going to economise in every way, we are not going to sow the seed, we are not going to have any workmen, we are going to cut down our horses, and we are not going to think about the future"? This Bill is really an economy Bill. It is one of those Bills where you will not see the economy at the moment any more than you will see the harvest from the seed you sow next November before Christmas.
I shall come to the question of economy again later but, first of all, let me deal only with the question of expenditure. The cost of preparing a scheme varies very much with the nature of the scheme and the amount of detail that may be necessary in preparing the scheme. Permit me to give one example only. I will give the example of a developing area, partly industrial, of over 11,000 acres with a county borough and some neighbouring districts. The cost of preparing a scheme is £1,600, equivalent to a rate of less than a tenth of a penny in the pound if spread over five years. The cost would, of course, be spread over the years during which the scheme was being prepared, and that would rest with the local authority to determine when it undertook to prepare the scheme. That is one side—£1,600. I do not want to adopt slang language but it is not much even to put on an outsider. What are you going to get for it in the ordinary course of events? You may say that we do not always get a harvest. Some of us do not, but in the chances and trials of this mortal life we must put up with some risk if we are to gain anything.
Against this expenditure is set the saving in planning which results from this relatively small initial amount and the saving in expenditure on public improvements. Large sums have to be spent because of the want of planning in the past. My noble friend Lord Crawford 1009 gave some instances from his experience. The widening of roads along which development has taken place is often extremely costly. Expenditure on services may be reduced if development is ordered. That is obtaining better value for public expenditure. I need not go into the various items at this late hour but others will suggest themselves on a few moments reflection. So much with regard to expense. This is not a Bill in which you can really fear that the expense will be large. It is a Bill from which really true economy will be made.
One or two of your Lordships, no doubt from a feeling of plaisanterie, said that this Bill was a Bill of the Socialist Government. I know your Lordships well enough to know that your Lordships will vote for a Bill according to what you think best for the country, no matter whether it is introduced by a Liberal, a Labour or a Conservative Government. I will not say whether this is a Socialist Bill by parentage. I remember that in 1921 there was a slum area inquiry over which the present Chancellor of the Exchequer presided. I remember that in 1924 the present Minister of Health was able by the luck of the private members' ballot to introduce a Bill for the preservation of local amenities, which was very much on the lines of this Bill. I cannot, help thinking that, if we look back a few years, the parentage of this Bill has a very strong Conservative strain in it. I quite agree that, when Mr. Greenwood took it up, it became Socialist by adoption and grace. Now it comes before your Lordships because the National Government has become its nurse. It has come to you for treatment but I hope only medical treatment and not surgical treatment. I do not think that this Bill can stand many more operations. What is left of it is the minimum which is required for its good health.
Let me deal with another matter, Ministers' powers. Reference has been made by the noble Viscount, Lord Hereford, to the Report which has been recently issued by the Committee which was appointed to consider them. I only want to make one or two general remarks in regard to Ministers' powers and they are these. Having regard to the great amount of social legislation nowadays and its intricate character, it is impossible for Parliament to deal fully and accurately with the details of social legislation. 1010 A great deal of such legislation must necessarily be done and is better done by delegation. I quite agree that the risks of delegation are obvious and safeguards have to be provided. What are the safeguards which we propose to provide? When we come to the Committee stage and we have more time to consider them, I shall be able, to convince your Lordships without any shadow of doubt that these safeguards are safeguards preserving the supremacy of Parliament and respecting the liberty of this country. One of your Lordships was a little in error in thinking that these schemes could be passed if there was no negative Resolution of Parliament against them. Some of the schemes, as I shall point out in Committee, have to have an affirmative Resolution before they become law.
I will deal very briefly with the various questions which the noble Lords have raised. I would like first of all to be permitted to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, on the speech he made. On the whole he was a little disappointed with the Bill and wished it had gone further. Like Oliver Twist he was asking for more, but I assure him that half a loaf is better than no bread. Governments do not last for ever and no doubt the Opposition, of which the noble Lord is a distinguished member, will some day occupy the opposite side of this House. Then we shall be glad to hear from him what further changes he will make in this Bill in order to get what he wants.
Let me come to the noble Lord, Lord Dynevor. With one thing he said I entirely agree. I always think that this House suffers very greatly from Bills being brought up to it too late in the Session, when it is impossible to give adequate consideration to them. There should, above all, be ample time for consideration. The noble Lord said he was in favour of ordinary town planning, and I think the noble Lord, Lord Phillimore, has already given him his answer with regard to the terrible expense of producing the ordnance maps to which he referred. I would also remind the noble Lord that it is not proposed to plan the whole of England. He objected to one particular clause, Clause 52, which, he said quite rightly, applied obligatory powers to urban authorities of 20,000 population. The answer is that it simply repeats existing powers. There is no 1011 extension whatsoever. It does not apply to all land in the town, but only to land which is likely to be developed; that is, the kind of land which can be planned under the existing Act.
Then I come to the noble Lord, Lord Banbury. I must say that I sympathise very much with him, because he is in that difficult position where he finds the two Front Benches in agreement and therefore thinks it is his patriotic duty to oppose. The noble Lord is always patriotic, and generally in opposition. We are very much indebted to the noble Lord, because it really is useful that some one should always remind us of the question of economy. I think with him it is the salt which savours our debates and I am always glad for the noble Lord to remind us of it. One thing I want to ask him. He spoke of drafting a one-clause Bill giving the Minister full power—a clause which seemed to me to go too far. I want to ask him this. If we bring it up in Committee, will he support it? With regard to the Bishop of Winchester, the point of his question was this: What extent of land can be included in a scheme where the scheme is for land comprising buildings of special interest or objects or places of natural interest or beauty? The answer is that such land can be included as may be reasonably regarded as desirable to include in the scheme in order to safeguard the buildings or other objects or places of natural interest or beauty.
Then, with regard to the questions of Lord Linlithgow. I have dealt with the economy point which the noble Marquess first of all mentioned. I quite appreciate his reference to old age. I agree that Bills are not like port, which improves with age, but you have to wear new clothes and in time they become quite comfortable. As to his objection to the Schedule applying the Bill to Scotland I should be extremely sorry if anything we did in this House were to offend the susceptibilities of our Scottish friends or make it difficult to enforce the Act. It is a very technical matter, which I do not want to go into at this late hour, but I will very briefly state what the answer appears to be. I think the answer is this. Having regard to that Schedule which applies all the words used in Scotland to the particular English words in the Act, I think that is a matter which can be dealt with on 1012 its merits in Committee. Without going into its merits, it might be said incidentally that there is very much to be urged for the procedure adopted in the Bill where the points of principle which arise in the two countries are the same and the only difference is in some minor matters of application to them. I think the noble Marquess will find that this is the case in the present Bill, and probably on further reflection it will be found the most convenient to all interests. In any event the matter can be considered on the Committee stage. As I have said it is a very complicated Bill and I do not want to pledge myself, but I think we shall be able to persuade him that this method of dealing with it, although I confess not usual, will be found to be convenient. I believe an Amendment to omit Scotland was moved in another place by Scottish Members, but was withdrawn after explanation took place.
With regard to the noble Marquess's reference to Clause 36, which enables the Minister to act in default of a local authority, the noble Marquess said he thought it was likely to be costly. I am not going to say that that is wrong, but my answer is that this is purely a power to be used in the last resort. It is in quite common form, but it is not likely to be used except in wholly overwhelming circumstances. Indeed I doubt whether it is ever likely to be used in the next ten years.
With regard to Lord Strachie, I see that that noble Lord has gone, and therefore I will not detain your Lordships by endeavouring to reply to his numerous questions. I only want to say one thing. Clause 21 (2) exempts land used for orchards, etc., from claims for betterment. It does not affect the right of the owner to claim compensation. The noble Earl, Lord Halsbury, I think, said it was the lesser of two evils to give the Bill a Second Reading. If he liked to put it that way I am content that it should be so. With regard to Lord Bay-ford's observations on Clause 8, I am very sorry that I cannot follow him. It seems to me that there must be some misunderstanding, although I will promise to look into the matter. With regard to his question as to the time limit, the Minister has power to extend the time for preparing schemes in exceptional cases. I should not feel justified after 1013 your Lordships' expression of opinion in detaining you any longer. I think this is a Bill which you would be well advised to read a second time. I do not say that there are not matters you can raise which ought to be carefully considered in great detail in Committee, and I hope that there will be time between now and Committee not only for your Lordships to prepare Amendments but also for us, as is our duty, to consider them.
§ On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.