§ THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER rose to ask His Majesty's Government what progress has been made towards the establishment of the central planning authority foreshadowed in several recent Government pronouncements, and to move for Papers. The right reverend Prelate said: My Lords, the original form in which this question was put on the Paper included an inquiry about the date when the Uthwatt Report would be published, but as that Report has now been published the Notice has been amended accordingly. The Report is now on the Table of your Lordships' House, and I think your Lord-ships will find it as valuable as it is brief. I have no doubt considerable references will be made to it in the course of this debate. My question is to ask His Majesty's Government what progress has been made towards the establishment of a central planning authority. I feel that it is hardly necessary to spend much time in arguing the principle for the establishment of a central planning authority. That is now generally recognised.
§ We all realise that at the end of the war there will be a quite unprecedented demand for building. Houses will have to be built which in ordinary circumstances would have been built during the last two years. A very large number of houses will have to be built in those towns and cities which have been bombed, and in addition demobilised men who have been married and whose 845 wives are in most cases living in their parents' homes will require homes of their own at the end of the war. There will be an unprecedented demand for building, but I am bound to add that I think also there may be unprecedented muddle unless there is a central planning authority controlling and directing the building which will take place. Unless you have some such authority you will find local authorities all proceeding on their own lines regardless of the wishes and interests of their neighbours. You will find towns which were already too large becoming much larger; you will find housing estates dumped in inaccessible places. You will find new industries started in most inconvenient spots, land which ought to be reserved for agriculture used for other purposes, and a great deal of our countryside ruined by the growth of an increasing number of bungalows.
It is quite essential, therefore, that there should be some central planning authority to control and to advise. That has been recognised by His Majesty's Government, for on February 26, the noble Lord, Lord Reith, speaking for the Government,' said he was authorised to Proceed on the assumption
that the principle of planning will be accepted as national policy and that some central planning authority will be required.
I am not sure, however, if the urgency of this question is generally recognised. There has been considerable delay. We have not yet had any announcement made of the constitution and formation of this central planning authority. The noble Lord made this statement on February 26; this is the middle of July. Notice also that the Uthwatt Report was signed on April 25, and here we are in the middle of July. There has been delay somewhere. I am not in the least criticising the noble Lord. I know that if the noble Lord has a mandate he with his enthusiastic energy will at once carry it out; but he has no doubt had to deal with others who perhaps do not fully realise the urgency of this matter. He has possibly had to deal with some who are preoccupied with the most urgent claims of the war, and also, no doubt, he may have had some rather delicate negotiations with Departments which at the moment are responsible for housing and transport. It is well known that sitting hens are difficult to dislodge, and need delicacy as well as
firmness of approach, and it is possible that there have been various difficulties.
I think there is an inadequate recognition of the urgency of the matter. Let me give your Lordships quite briefly three reasons why I regard the setting up of the central planning authority as a most urgent matter. In the first place, if peace came at once we should be quite unable to deal with the demand for new houses. In the evidence put by the London County Council before the Uthwatt Committee it was stated that
The complete town-planning scheme for the whole of the county would under present powers take several years to reach the stage for submission of the plan to the Minister.
Later on they said:
It is found, for instance, that the time which elapses between the initial stage of a slum-clearance scheme and the clearance of the site ready for rebuilding is normally about two years. Comparable delay is experienced in dealing with redevelopment areas.
Further they said:
Reconstruction in war-damaged areas cannot be achieved under the provisions of the Housing Act, 1936, with the speed requisite to meet this demand.
That is to say, if we had peace next year it would be impossible for quite a considerable period under existing procedure to build the necessary houses. There would be a tide of indignation throughout the country. You must begin planning at once, if we arc to be ready for this demand which will come at the end of the war.
§ The next reason is that various local authorities, especially those in districts which have been bombed, are already beginning to form their views as to the kind of reconstruction they require. Some of the suggestions they are making no doubt are admirable; some of them are less than admirable. If local authorities have formed definite views of the kind of town they desire to see in the future, the central planning authority will find it very much more difficult to induce them to accept a scheme more in harmony which national demands. If local authorities once begin hatching their own eggs—I must apologise for again referring to the poultry yard, but the noble Lord, Lord Woolton, is making us an egg-conscious nation—it will be extremely difficult for the noble Lord, Lord Reith, to dislodge these various local authorities from the plans on which they have set their hearts.847
The third reason is that the longer you delay the greater danger there is of an artificial increase in the value of land. There is a real danger of inflation. That danger will increase, and if the value of land goes up seriously all our hopes of replanning will be ruined and the cost will be something which the nation could not meet. For these reasons I would press upon the Government the urgency of setting up a central planning authority at once. And here I would like to quote some sentences from the Uthwatt Report. That Report says that the Committee had
at an early stage in our inquiry become firmly convinced that a central planning authority with a positive policy for such matters as town and country planning, agriculture, industrial development and transport is essential to an effective physical reconstruction of this country after the war.… Our recommendations in this Report are based on the assumptions that a central planning authority will be established without delay and will proceed with the working out of a national plan.
§ With those preliminary remarks I want to ask the noble Lord three definite questions. First of all, what arrangements have been made for the creation of a central planning authority? When he answers that question I hope he will be able to tell us what will be the composition of this Committee. I assume that the noble Lord will be Chairman. It would be a grievous disappointment if he were not. I hope that he will be able to tell us that this planning authority will be brought into existence at once. Secondly, I wish to ask him, what powers will be given to this authority? It is essential that it should have considerable powers of control and powers, also, for advising and for actual, positive construction. I hope that such powers, though extensive, will not be irreconcilable with freedom and initiative on the part of local authorities. I should be very sorry indeed if we had standardised houses, standardised streets, standardised churches and standardised town halls throughout the whole country. But guiding authority is required.
If I may embody in my question terms taken from this Report, I would ask the noble Lord if power will be given to the authority for "controlling building and all other developments throughout the whole country by reference to national planning considerations, and with a view to preventing work being undertaken
which might be prejudicial to reconstruction; such power to come into operation forthwith"? Thirdly, I would ask him what steps are the Government proposing to take against the danger of inflation of property values. I understand that there has been very little speculation so far in connection with developed land, but there has been a certain amount of speculation in the case of undeveloped land. There is a greater risk of this when we draw near the time of peace and if once speculation starts in this matter all planning will be most prejudiced. The Uthwatt Committee make a very important recommendation and I should like to know if the Government have been able to form their views on this. They recommend:
that the Government should now announce as a general principle, that compensation ultimately payable in respect of public acquisition of land or of the public control of land will not exceed sums based on the standard of 'pre-war values.' By 'pre-war value' we mean value at March 31, 1939.
These are the three questions which I wish to ask the noble Lord.
§ There is one general consideration to which I wish to refer. There is very widespread interest in the whole of this question of planning. The position in this respect is quite different from what it was in 1919. In 1919 many of us were greatly interested in housing, but only a very tiny section of the population was interested in planning. Most of us felt that the planners were a rather small body of enthusiastic experts. But to-day, I think, all of us recognise that planning should precede housing, and this desire for a planned England is not felt merely by a few but is discussed by every local authority throughout the country. You see it discussed frequently, also, in the provincial Press. There is a real desire for planning, and I believe it comes from the wish that the best use should be made of space.
§ I read an interesting remark in a book written by an American who is a great authority on questions of planning and housing, approaching these matters from a somewhat philosophical point of view I refer to Mr. Lewis Mumford. He says that not the least of every family's basic needs is the need for space—garden space and house space. Nothing will really take the place of that demand. No sanitary arrangements, no scientific cooking ranges, no other conveniences will really take the place of the demand for space—more 849 space for privacy and quiet, more space for sunshine and fresh air, more space for gardens in which a man can work and for playgrounds in which children can play, more space so that people can easily get out of crowded towns into meadows and fields, more space for national parks and great grounds for recreation. We shall not get this space reserved in our over-crowded island unless there is some central comprehensive planning. That is why I urge that the Government should form, as quickly as possible, a really powerful and efficient central planning authority.
§ THE MINISTER OF WORKS AND BUILDINGS (LORD REITH)
My Lords, it may suit your Lordships' convenience if I make a considered statement now and, if it pleases your Lordships, I might, by leave of the House, try at the end to reply to some of the points raised in the course of the debate. None of your Lordships, least of all myself, could fail to be impressed by the sincerity and cogency of the remarks which have fallen from the light reverend Prelate. I hope to satisfy him, to some extent, anyhow; how far I do so remains to be seen. I will not follow him into the somewhat dangerous analogy of the poultry yard, but I happen to keep some hens—forty-eight actually, which is within the specified number—and, on occasion, I have dealt with sitting hens. But the problems with which we are faced here are rather more difficult. I wish, in fact, that they could be dealt with altogether as one deals with refractory chickens.
The right reverend Prelate referred to the delay that has occurred since the Uthwatt Preliminary Report was handed to me. For that I apologise. It is an indication, as I think the right reverend Prelate suggested, of the complexity of the subject, on which there is a considerable divergence of view. However, the Report has now been published, and I will make the Government statement thereon. The Government much appreciate the contribution Mr. Justice Uthwatt's Committee make towards the solution of difficult problems. It is of great value. The Committee recommend that the compensation payable in public acquisition or control of land should not exceed sums based on the standard of values at March 31, 1939. The Government accept this principle, and legislation to give effect to it will be 850 introduced in due course. The detailed application of the principle requires consideration. Adjustments may be needed to meet particular cases, and the principle must be open to review if circumstances arise which make its application inequitable. It is contemplated that the principle will remain in force for a limited period during which long-term policy for the reconstruction of town and country after the war is being settled.
A subject on which the Committee's advice was urgently needed was action to be taken now or anyhow before the end of the war to secure the orderly planning of areas, which include areas of substantial devastation and such other areas, developed or undeveloped, as are likely to be involved in consequent schemes of redevelopment. The Government agree with the Committee that these "reconstruction areas" must be planned as a whole. The Committee advise that provision should be made for defining these areas and that planning authorities should have adequate powers to acquire land in order to secure that planning schemes for them shall be effectively carried out. These recommendations are also accepted. Their application is being worked out and legislation to put them into effect will be introduced as soon as war circumstances permit. The Government are anxious to prevent bad development while broad lines of reconstruction are being settled by planning authorities. The Committee recommend that the control of building operations imposed for war purposes should be reinforced by controls specifically designed to prevent work being undertaken prejudicial to reconstruction, and that a central authority be set up to control building developments by licence. Emergency powers over building are already stringent, and have recently been reinforced by the War Damage Commission's control of the application of payments under the War Damage Act. The Government think that any further safeguards necessary for the time being can be provided by strengthening the provisions of the Planning Acts, and it is proposed in the legislation to be introduced to deal with reconstruction areas, to make provision for this purpose.
The Government accept the Committee's view that all necessary preliminary steps towards the working out of a 851 national plan should be taken as soon as possible, to secure that local development and redevelopment may proceed in conformity with national requirements with the least possible delay after the war, and that, as to works or developments sought to be carried out meantime, clear guidance should be available whether or not they will be in accord with national interests. In order to ensure that current administration of Town and Country Planning Statutes shall conform as closely as possible with developing long-term plans for reconstruction of town and country after the war, the Government have made the following arrangements: First, within the framework of the general study of post-war problems which is being undertaken by the Minister without Portfolio, I retain special responsibility for long-term planning policy in the sphere of physical reconstruction. I shall be in charge of this work, not as Minister of Works, but in pursuance of the special responsibility assigned to me personally for the guidance and supervision of the preparatory work of formulating the methods and machinery required for physical reconstruction of town and country after the war.
Secondly, to co-ordinate this work of forward planning with the current administration of existing Statutes, a Council of Ministers is appointed consisting of the Secretary of State for Scotland, the Minister of Health, and myself as Chairman. The purpose and terms of reference of this Council are:To ensure that the administration of the Town and Country Planning Acts and of any legislation implementing the recommendations made in the First Report of the Uthwatt Committee shall proceed in conformity with long-term planning policy, as it is progressively developed.Thirdly, pending the more complete formulation of long-term policy and the establishment of the central planning authority in its final form, the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland will continue to be responsible for the current administration of the existing Statutes and of any new legislation implementing the First Report of the Uthwatt Committee. These statutory powers will, however, be exercised in conformity with long-term planning policy as it is progressively developed; and it will be the function of the new Council of 852 Ministers to ensure that no action is taken under existing powers which would tend to prejudice the course of future reconstruction.
That is the official statement of the Government's immediate decisions on Mr. Justice Uthwatt's Interim Report, and I hope that it is clear. I wish to express my personal gratitude to Mr. Justice Uthwatt, whom I invited, with the concurrence and approval of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, to undertake this work, and to his colleagues, for the heavy work which they have done with such valuable results, and for the heavy work upon which they are now engaged, to the completion of which we now look forward, on the vexed problems of compensation and betterment, land ownership and values generally in relation to planning.
There are four main points in both the Interim Report and the Government statement. The first is a standard of maximum values; the second, a definition and appropriate special treatment of reconstruction areas; the third, a general strengthening of planning control to safeguard the future while plans and the full post-war planning system are being worked out; the fourth, a central planning authority. On the first, a standard of maximum values, the Government have made the "announcement of intentions" which the Committee recommended as sufficient for present purposes. The announcement of the principle—that is, that values for public acquisition or control of land should not exceed those of March, 1939—should not and does not prevent legitimate dealings in land meantime, but it should and does give us sufficient warning to prevent undesirable speculation and speculative dealings of any sort. Caveat emptor! If there be any of the vampire breed who expect to profit in this particular direction from the war, they will have cause to regret their action and they will find themselves in error.
On the second point also—the definition and appropriate special treatment of reconstruction areas—the Government have endorsed the findings of the Committee. It is obvious that special needs of great urgency and importance attach to the reconstruction of the central war-damaged areas of large towns and to the consequential development or redevelopment 853 of other related areas. The needs and the opportunities are so unprecedented that a special technique, complex and mostly new, will be required, based on the special legislative provisions which, as I have said, are now being worked out. That the areas should be appropriately defined and that adequate land acquisition powers should be available to the authorities are first essentials for such legislation.
On the third point—the general strengthening of planning control to safeguard the future—the Government agree with the Committee that strengthening is needed now, but they feel that the best way to meet the need, at least for the period during which the permanent post-war planning system is being worked out—and this will depend to a considerable extent on the final Report of the Uthwatt Committee—is rather by amending and strengthening the existing method of control under the Planning Acts than by setting up a new control system at this stage, when it is still too early to see what the final shape of the new system should be. The necessary proposals for legislation are being prepared and will be laid before Parliament as soon as possible. These will be of general application to all planning authorities, and not, like the reconstruction area proposals, confined to certain special and defined areas. Their purpose will be to ensure—as far as legislation can ensure it—that future plans, national or local, shall not be prejudiced by uncontrolled or insufficiently controlled developments during the war and the immediate post-war period. The present planning control has many weaknesses, as the right reverend Prelate mentioned, which must as far as possible be eliminated.
On the fourth and last main question—that of a central planning authority—your Lordships may remember an earlier statement I made, that I was authorised to proceed with preparatory work for postwar planning on certain assumptions, of which the first and most important was that "the principle of planning will be accepted as national policy and that some central planning authority will be required." The Uthwatt Committee naturally took this assumption as the basis for their recommendations, and they assumed that a central planning authority would be set up at an early date.
854 I most cordially agree with what the right reverend Prelate said about preparedness for peace. The end of the war will release a flood of demand and effort for physical reconstruction—for the rebuilding of battered cities and for developments of all kinds in town and country—which, unless adequate channels and controls are fixed and set in advance, will overflow into confusion and all manner of ills. Planning system and plans must be ready. We know what unpreparedness for war has meant. Some of us feel that to be unprepared for peace may be far more serious. We cannot count on the almost instinctive heroic energy which war evokes, the readiness for sacrifice, the subordination of personal prejudices and possessions, the community of nation and individual in one mind and one heart for one single obvious purpose—there will be little of that in the common ways of peace. Not only must local planning authorities have their powers strengthened now and proceed with provisional plans, but central machinery and powers must be correspondingly established, strengthened, settled and applied to the task.
Planning must be a partnership between central and local authorities, the centre responsible for the application of national policies, as I indicated last February, on such matters as agriculture, industrial development and transport, and local authorities in regional groups conforming thereto with all the detail of local requirements and local character. There is much new and hard thinking to be done before the right permanent form of positive central planning machinery in detail can be determined, and war conditions obviously restrict the speed and scope of operations. So, although the Government believe it to be too early to set up the new central planning authority in its final form, the appointment of the Council of Ministers ensures that, until long-term policy is more clearly defined, administration of the present statutory powers—strengthened by the legislation to which I have referred—will be in harmony with forward planning policy as progressively developed. This will help me in the discharge of my personal responsibility for a fully planned reconstruction of town and country after the war. The foundations are laid.
§ LORD ADDISON
My Lords, we shall all agree with the Minister, I am sure, that the right reverend Prelate has rendered us a notable service by introducing this Motion to-day. I think that every one of us who has given any consideration to the matters which lie behind it will agree entirely with his description of the disorder and confusion and dislocation which will envitably arrive at the conclusion of the war unless these matters which affect planning and reconstruction are well in order beforehand, and unless the machinery already exists for dealing with them. I was particularly impressed, I should like to say, with the concluding part of the Minister's statement. He stated, almost passionately, his apprehension of what might well occur at the end of the war, and that the problems of peace arising out of the wholesale destruction of homes, the scattering of population, the cessation of war industries and the struggle for others, might be, and would be, perhaps, even more difficult than the problems of war itself. All the more reason, therefore, that we should be prepared beforehand to deal with them.
I listened with close attention to the statement which the Minister made at the beginning and which I am sure he described as a considered statement. There has been time to consider it, as the right reverend Prelate said. The Committee's Report was dated April 25, and it is now the middle of July. I did not quite keep up with him in his attractive reference to the simile of the sitting hen, but he did refer, somehow or other, in connection with this interval which has elapsed between the presentation of the Committee's Report and the statement today, to "refractory chickens." I do not know how the simile arose, but never mind. It occurred to me that if, instead of "chickens," he had said "Ministers," we might be nearer an explanation, because the statement of the Government, as I followed it, seemed to have departmental compromise written all over it. I am not going to profess an enthusiasm for it which I do not feel. The Uthwatt Committee, as the Minister very properly reminded us, based their recommendations on the assumption that a central planning authority would be established without delay. I hate to revert to the simile of the sitting hen, but the sitting hen was justifiably anticipating that she 856 was sitting on a fertile egg, while after three months we are presented with a pot egg in the shape of a Council of Ministers which has no power.
I confess I am disappointed. But let me welcome the announcement of the Minister that the Government propose to introduce legislation to give effective recognition to the recommendation of the Committee as to the definition of values—a highly important step. We shall all look for that legislation with anxiety. I dare say it will be in the hands of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, and we shall have it, therefore, expounded to us with his accustomed lucidity. If it does prevent the scramble and speculation to which the Minister referred, it will, at all events, have laid the foundation stone of future orderly development. When I pass from that I am bound to express a little further disappointment. The Minister said that provision was to be made whereby the planning authorities would have adequate powers to acquire land, and legislation to this end would be introduced at an early date. I do not find that attractive, this vision of large numbers of planning authorities as they exist at present—because I take it it is on the basis of existing planning authorities—being given wide powers to acquire what land they think they would like to acquire or not. We may well have a very considerable disorder. Some authorities will be enthusiastic, and some will lag behind. Some will be over-zealous, and some will not be zealous enough. If we had a central planning authority in being, having considered the extent to which acquisition was necessary for these purposes, one would feel more assurance as to what will take place.
This misgiving is rather reinforced by what the Government proposes to substitute for the central planning authority. I hope I am not misrepresenting it, but, as I understood the Minister's statement, it was this. Instead of setting up a central planning authority, which the Government agreed to do six months ago, and regarded as essential in February, I gather that the proposal is to do two things—to make further safeguards by amending the provisions of existing Planning Acts, and to give further powers to existing planning authorities. That is the first alternative or substitute. If there is anything 857 certain at all in our past experience, it is that our existing Town and Country Planning Acts are exceedingly inefficient. They are clumsy, tedious, costly, and inoperative, and they have been so for nearly twenty years. The more they are reinforced, the worse it is going to be for the central planning authority. Why should not the Government adopt the sensible procedure of setting up a central planning authority which will then make recommendations as to the type of planning powers the regional planning authorities ought to possess, instead of strengthening the existing, scattered, uncoordinated planning authorities and thereby creating all over the country greater obstacles than now exist to the creation of a central planning authority? It is a most unfortunate decision, and when the time comes for us to see the Bill I hope the House will criticise it from that point of view.
The second part of the substitute for the central planning authority is the Council of Ministers, of which the noble Lord is to be Chairman. The only good thing about that Council is that the noble Lord is to be Chairman. I am glad he is the Chairman. It makes me have a little bit of confidence in the Council. It is the only thing that does. If you look at this Council of Ministers, you must regard its terms of reference. Those of us who are old hands in the machinery of government are accustomed to pay attention to terms of reference, and I would remind your Lordships of what they are in this case. What this Council can do will be governed by the terms of reference, and they are these:To ensure that the administration of the Town and Country Planning Acts and of any legislation implementing the recommendations made in the First Report of the Uthwatt Committee shall proceed in conformity with long-term planning policy, as it is progressively developed.That sounds lovely, but it means nothing. "As it is progressively developed"—that is to say, something or other which is arising in the mind of the Minister. It is not an effective power of any sort or kind.
Every one of us in our turn, when we have had to answer questions in the other place, have objected to hypothetical questions. The Committee, except that they will deal with the administration of Town and Country Planning Acts, as to 858 which I will say a word in a moment, will deal entirely with hypothetical matters, visionary matters. That is no good. We want a body of persons with power to secure that plans will be made with thought for the replanning of damaged areas, and to see that powers are provided for making proper roads and for preventing the reconstruction of slums. Unless there is adequate power, that is certainly what is going to happen. There will be a scramble back to the desolated places, because people will want to get back to the districts they know and in which they lived for so long. What is wanted is not a body of persons with authority over conjectural questions but a body of Ministers with power to require that something shall be done.
I hark back to my simile of the chickens. I can see the Department having a shot at these terms of reference. I can see the Town Planning Department, for example, at the Ministry of Health skilfully assisting to provide this form and other Departments doing the same. I wish the Minister well. As I say, the only good thing about the Council of Ministers is that he is Chairman of the Council, and if he is able to do what is required I shall be very ready in the future to pay a tribute to him, but I hope he does not expect much from these terms of reference. We shall not get a central planning authority out of it. We shall not get anything businesslike done. I refer to the first part of the terms of reference—to secure the administration of the Town and Country Planning Acts. Really, Ministers have become dizzy for twenty years, going up and down trying to administer all these Acts, and local authorities and town clerks all over the country have been in the same state of confusion. I would like to see the whole lot scrapped and a rational Planning Act, such as has been proposed more than once, introduced, and I would like to give the supervision of its administration to a competent central planning authority. But I do hope that the Minister will not endeavour to perpetuate several of the principles, which are destructive of progress, that are inherent in the existing Town and Country Planning Acts because as long as that machinery of appeal, of objection, of hearing, of arbitration over every possible 859 piece of land that happens to be affected by a scheme is permitted to continue, we shall make no progress at all. Therefore, I hope that we shall not have the spirit of these Acts projected into the future any-longer than we can possibly avoid.
I have refrained from going further into the machinery for controlling the use of land, because I do not want to introduce any political controversy at this time. I think our attention at the moment should be fixed on the overwhelming need, which has been recognised by the Government for many months, for the establishment of a central planning authority with adequate powers, and I hope the Minister will be the Chairman of it. Then I shall have more confidence in it, and in the hope that other steps particularly recommended in this valuable Report will be given effect to. I do hope that as the result of debates in this House and in the other House the Minister will be strengthened in his loyalty to the principles which he himself stated with such eloquence and force, and will go back to his colleagues and say that Parliament is not satisfied with this suggestion, but wants a body of men who can do things. I am sorry to be so critical, but I am intensely disappointed, and I should not wonder if my disappointment is very largely shared by others far away from these Benches.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, the very important statement by the noble Lord, the Minister of Works and Buildings, falls into two heads. In the first place he has dealt with specific recommendations of the Uthwatt Report and the views of the Government with regard to them, and in the second place with the suggestion of a central planning authority. So far as the first matter is concerned I think the declaration of the Government is to be cordially welcomed. The Committee have given us an excellent Report, and I rejoice that the Government should now have declared their acceptance of the specific recommendations, three especially. Measures are to be taken to prevent land values being raised on account of public action for the improvement of the planning of town and country. It would indeed have been intolerable if vast fortunes were made through this new movement for the betterment of our country, and if the error that was committed by the nation a hundred years ago or more 860 during the construction of the railways were to be repeated, and if those who happened to be the owners of land needed for public purposes were to reap vast fortunes at the expense of the community as a whole. The proposal that values should not exceed those at March 31, 1939, is to be cordially approved, and I am certain that public opinion in general will welcome it.
Secondly, that reconstruction should be planned as a whole, and there there should be adequate powers of control over that planning is again an admirable proposal. Thirdly, I think it is a very valuable measure that local authorities should be given ample powers to purchase land in order that they should have a free hand in carrying out the necessary measures of planning. That is perhaps the most valuable of all these proposals. As to the relations between the local authorities and the central authority, and the power that the central authority should have in determining the special measures to be taken in any locality, that is another matter, but the general principle that the powers of local authorities should be greatly enlarged is one to be endorsed, in my view, and I trust the new powers that are being conferred will be broad and general and not hampered by a number of irritating restrictions. The Report of the Uthwatt Committee has only just been presented to the public, and your Lordships will naturally require time for its consideration in order that the details may be carefully scrutinised. I believe myself that the principles laid down by the Committee and now accepted by the Government deserve, and will receive, a warm welcome and support.
When I turn to the second subject of our discussion to-day, I regret that I must speak in very different terms. I have been throughout anxious to give all support to the Government that I can, and noble Lords will do me justice in saying that my support has been constant and my criticism has been exceptional; but to-day I am bound to express the view that the proposals of the Government fall far short of the necessities of the case and ought not to be approved by Parliament. I have been in touch for many years with this subject of town and country planning, and for several months past I have been almost daily dealing with various aspects of this question as chairman of a committee of inquiry established by the 861 Oxford Preservation Trust, whose purview, however, is by no means limited to the position as affecting Oxford. I find, after conferences with many experts, that opinion is unanimous that a central planning authority is absolutely essential.
Local authorities now are hampered at every turn. They have to deal with the Ministry of Health, which is mainly a controlling, criticising, negative authority; but on matters relating to the ribboning of roads, which is of vital importance, they have to deal with an entirely different Ministry, the Ministry of Transport, which deals also with the alignment of the highways, essential to all questions of long-range planning; and now they have also to look in certain matters to the Ministry of Works and Buildings. I had the honour to bring this matter before your Lordships' House on February 26 last and from all quarters of the House the opinion was that one Ministry was of vital importance. The noble Lord, Lord Addison, used these words:The vital thing, I am quite sure, is a central planning authority with powers.At the end of the debate the noble Lord, Lord Keith, used these words:The noble Lord, Lord Harmsworth, made an urgent plea" for one Ministry, with one Minister possessing plenary and comprehensive powers. The advocacy by so many noble Lords of this one Ministry with real authority cannot fail to be noted by, and to impress the Government.Then there comes the Uthwatt Report. The right reverend Prelate quoted from that Report the statement that they assumed that a central planning authority would be set up without delay.
What has been the course of events? At the end of October, the Ministry of Works and Buildings was set up with the noble Lord as its head. Very promptly he set up the Uthwatt Committee which was appointed at the end of January last. On February 26 he made the announcement in your Lordships' House that the principle of planning would be accepted and that some central planning authority would be required. That declaration was received throughout the country with may say unanimous approval, and even with enthusiasm, and great expectations were raised that we had now a Government and a Ministry alive to the importance of this question, which would take drastic measures to deal with it 862 effectively. Then the Uthwatt Committee presented their Report with great promptitude on April 25. Nothing happened for three months. Nothing, that is to say, happened on the stage, but what may have happened behind the scenes we have not been told. There may have been "alarums and excursions off." Now comes the statement of the Minister as the result of deliberations, and it is not too much to say that the statement of the Minister is in effect that there is to be at the present time no central planning authority established. I heard with some regret some words from the right reverend Prelate in moving this Motion. He said he hoped the Committee to be set up would be of a representative character.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I am glad to hear that. I noted the word at the time and I heard it with some dismay because the purpose of my observations is to urge the House that what is needed is not yet another co-ordinating Committee of the kind to which this Government are so passionately devoted but an individual Minister, and a Minister with effective powers, to whom local authorities will be able to look for guidance and stimulation. When local authorities read to-morrow that they are to be thrown back on the present planning authorities and on the present Planning Acts with some Amendments, and that all that is to be set up is a new Committee of Ministers to co-ordinate the work of various Departments, the statement will, I am certain, be received with the deepest disappointment. The noble Lord, Lord Reith, has been given by this formula, which has been announced today, the appearance of some authority, but no substance of authority whatsoever. It was hoped that he or some other Minister would be appointed to supersede and replace the present complication of authorities. Instead of that we have yet another body to deal with.
I cannot see any reason whatever why a Ministry should not be set up at once, in the present year, by immediate legislation—not the Ministry of Works and Buildings, but a new Ministry holding 863 the status of one of the major Departments which should absorb the whole of the Ministry of Works and Buildings. I hope the present Minister will be the head of the new Ministry, to which should be transferred all the planning powers of the Ministry of Health and also the relevant powers of the Ministry of Transport. I have said nothing with regard to Scotland because the Scottish Office already to a great extent is a co-ordinating authority and Scottish national feelings are to some extent involved. I should not like to express any view until Scottish public opinion has been declared. But so far as England and Wales are concerned I can see no reason why this step should not be taken at once.
If it is said that the Ministry of Health has acquired experience, my answer would be that those men still in the Ministry dealing with this subject should be transferred to the new Ministry, whatever its title may be, taking with them their experience. The Ministry of Health has immense functions in other matters and its functions with regard to health will probably be greatly extended after the war. There will be a movement also for unification of our national insurance schemes which will impose new responsibilities on the Minister. That Ministry could not possibly carry out the great new duties involved by the setting up of a new planning authority. As for the Ministry of Transport, it has now been combined with the Ministry of Shipping. How is it possible in the present war conditions for the Minister to give even an hour's attention to this question of ribboning along main roads? In the debate on February 26 I ventured to make this observation at the end:With respect to the future central authority, I did not expect that he would to-day be able to make a specific statement, but I only hope that in the interval the present Departments concerned will not dig themselves in and make claims on the ground of vested interests.I am sure the Departments would indignantly repudiate any such motive, but the fact remains that vested interests have prevailed and that existing Departments have dug themselves in, and it appears to me that the Government have arrived at a most unfortunate decision.
We are, in this House, now, in very much the same situation as we were a 864 year or two before the war, when many of us were, again arid again, actively advocating the creation of a Ministry of Supply. The Government said: "Oh no, it is quite unnecessary. The existing Departments, the War Office and the Air Ministry, are carrying out their work very effectively, and to introduce a new Ministry will cause further complication and involve more delay than it would save. In general, it is inadvisable. The Committee of Imperial Defence is there to co-ordinate all these matters. It has a Sub-Committee for this and for that and it is working very satisfactorily." Then we had that famous formula from that Bench: "Sooner or later, perhaps." Now again we have that formula, "Sooner or later, perhaps." Again we have that same plea that no drastic definite action is required, and the fatal results which followed from the refusal of the Government to establish a Ministry of Supply, as the world recognises, are going to be repeated again. This is the prospect because of the decision which has been announced to-day.
I urge upon the Government that they would be wise to withdraw these proposals for further consideration. Some may say: "Why raise these matters of controversy, why trouble about these things now? Let us get on with the job of winning the war." As has been pointed out by two previous speakers in the debate, it is easy to foresee the situation that is certain to arise when the war ends. Not merely will there be this demand for new houses, for the various reasons mentioned by the right reverend Prelate and other speakers, but while there is this demand from the consumption side, from the production side there will be an enormous unemployment problem. There will be millions of men discharged from the Army, hundreds of thousands of men discharged from the munition factories, and the nation will be compelled at once to give the utmost amount of employment that it can possibly give. Therefore from both sides there will be most urgent pressure for wholesale building throughout the country. Unless measures are taken beforehand we shall have a repetition of the muddle and confusion that has so often occurred in our national affairs through lack of foresight. Not only for these reasons is preparation called for, but the whole British people are keen that, at the 865 end of the war, opportunity shall be taken to create a better Britain, a Britain more worthy of her people and worthy of the sacrifices made for her sake in this Great War.
If there should be no preparation beforehand, if we continue to say "These are matters of controversy, let's get on with the war," we shall find ourselves, when the war ends, faced by a nation impatient and angry, and all the old evils will recur. Houses will be built where they can be built most quickly, that is to say along main roads, and opportunities for replanning our cities will once more be lost. If, therefore, in this important sphere of social action, we again have unpreparedness and confusion, all the world will ask why steps were not taken in 1941 to prepare for these circumstances which everyone could have foreseen. Should these circumstances occur and that be the position the answer that would have to be given would be: "It is because the Government of that day did not show sufficient vision, foresight and courage and announced the wrong decision in the House of Lords on the 17th of July."
§ LORD TEVIOT
My Lords, I desire to intervene for a few moments only, and I propose to lead your Lordships, if I can, away from business and away from the subject of the machinery to be used in carrying out the scheme that my noble friend has outlined. History has been made in civilian courage in these last few years. I feel so strongly—and I hope that my noble friend will bear it in mind—that in all the schemes all over the country when this planning is being carried out, the spirit which has been shown by the civilians in combating the murderous efforts of our enemies, should be recognised in the building of a gigantic memorial to them. I feel that this is possible. I feel that instead of doing as we did after the last war, when we erected a lot of memorials which were not very practicable, we should recognise that we have here an opportunity to make this country a far more comfortable place to live in for many hundreds of thousands of people. We should do all we can to improve everything, always having in mind that we are raising a memorial to the great spirit of courage that our civilians have shown in the terrible time through which the whole nation is passing.
866 Perhaps I have brought a little sentiment rather early into the debate, but I feel very strongly on this matter. I cannot help thinking that if, after the war, we can go into these towns which have been so terribly "blitzed," and see in them something lovely, something quite beautiful—and it is quite as easy to set up something beautiful as something ugly—to commemorate those I have just mentioned, we shall not only have done a service to our country but we shall uplift everybody living in these areas.
My Lords, I understood that there was a considerable degree of agreement on this question, and so I think there was until the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Addison, and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, emphasized the differences rather than the agreements. So far as I can tell, the whole nation is agreed on certain points, including the setting up of a national authority for town planning. But if we are going to be rushed into this without proper consideration, we shall come to grief. It must be borne in mind that we are now dealing with a Report which only became available at 10 a.m. to-day. The right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of Winchester, was in a hurry. He marshalled his backyard forces and asked the Minister of Works to count chickens before they were hatched. So here we are, landed in a very contentious debate when we ought merely to be taking home the first Report of the Uthwatt Committee and considering it at our leisure.
I wish to point out that I am not in such a desperate hurry as the Lord Bishop seems to be. I do not know what evidence he has got, but the Chartered Surveyors' Institution, a body as likely as any to know the true facts of the case, appointed a sub-committee which reported that there is no evidence that dealings of the sinister type alleged in the newspapers are taking place in bombed sites at the present time. If there is a hurry, and a desperate hurry, a whole number of town-planning authorities long ago reached the stage when they are only waiting for the consent of the Minister of Health to complete their scheme and the authority of Parliament for putting it into force. I could have brought with me a letter from the clerk of my town-planning council asking me to use any influence I might possess to push through 867 the Department of the Ministry of Health a town-planning scheme which has been through every stage and is now being deliberately held up by that Ministry.
I venture to think that very few people have gone into these details of town planning with quite the thoroughness that I have. I am largely responsible in my own district for town planning, and I had something to do with the Town Planning Act of 1932. If you try to press the Minister to make a sweeping Act, carrying out sweeping changes with an entire disregard of most of the factors of the situation, as the noble Lord, Lord Addison, wishes, town planning will fall into fragments; you will have disrupted sentiment about it in the countryside and throughout the nation, and you will have done far more harm than good. You have now, as a matter of fact, a very valuable body of knowledge gathered together in the local town-planning authorities. If you are going to scrap all that you are going to scrap the best work of the local authorities for years and years. They have spent much time and given devoted attention to it. Nothing would rejoice me more than to find that the Minister of Works was disposed at any rate to use some of this work and to use some of the help which the local authorities could give him. You have got to build on the foundations that exist. It does not matter whether you are going to have five million men released tomorrow or next year or the year after; you have to build on the foundations that exist, and there is not this overwhelming hurry, which deprives us of giving proper attention to all the considerations involved in town planning.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, the two noble Lords opposite who have made speeches this afternoon both condemned the proposals which the Minister has laid before the House root and branch.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
We will deal with the two noble Lords separately. The noble Lord opposite, Lord Addison, whom I may perhaps describe as Cassandra No. 1, did not, I think, exempt anything that had been said. I am not talking about the Uthwatt 868 Report, but of what the noble Lord said about the Government's proposals. Lord Addison said they never ought to have been brought before the House.
§ LORD ADDISON
No. I do not wish to be misrepresented, and I am sure the noble Lord would not wish to misrepresent me. I gave an unmitigated approval to the first declaration of the Minister with regard to the fixation of land value, and the adoption of the recommendation of the Uthwatt Report, which is fundamental.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
I accept the correction of the noble Lord. What the two noble Lords condemned were the proposals-of the Minister tending towards the establishment of a central planning authority. Now I think we are agreed. Well, I think it would have been very wise if the central planning authority could have been created at this stage, in the shape which I hope it will assume, and perhaps before very long. One is reminded that in the days of mythology Pallas Athene, I believe, sprang fully armed from the head of Jove. It is reasonable to suppose that before that interesting event took place Jove had rather a bad headache. I conceive that before these proposals had been produced the Government had a considerable headache, and it is a pity Pallas Athene has not sprung equally fully armed. That does not prevent me from welcoming what is proposed, for reasons which I will tell your Lordships.
I think the noble Lord opposite was a little bit unfair to the proposal. He said that this Council was going to deal with hypothetical matters and would not have any power. I do not think that is quite fair. One cannot tell till one reads the Minister's speech in the Official Report, but I cherish the belief that this Council will have very considerable power. Moreover, the noble Lord opposite said that these powers of compulsory purchase were to be exercised by the planning authorities on the existing basis. I clearly understood from my noble friend's remarks made in February and now that there is to be reconsideration of the regional arrangements, and, if that is not certain, what is certain is that there are to be drastic amendments of the existing town-planning law. That, I thought, emerged quite clearly. The noble Lord said that Ministers have become dizzy trying to 869 administer the Acts, and he said—I made a note of his words—that Town-Planning Acts are inefficient, clumsy, tedious, costly and inoperative. I agree, but the one thing that emerged from my noble friend's statement was that these Acts are going to be amended so as to make them work. The noble Lord opposite did not give the Minister any credit for that. However, I think perhaps one must not stress that too much, because I agree with the noble Lord that ultimately we do hope to see the planning authority clothed with more definite powers, and that the planning powers of the Ministry of Health and of the Ministry of Transport will be combined. Because we have not obtained all that we want at this stage I do not think that it is quite fair to condemn so completely the central planning authority which we have got, and I think it does emerge that we have got the establishment of a central planning authority.
I should like to say a word about planning in general, because I think that a great deal of the difficulty which arises about planning is due to the fact that people often mean different things when they use the word "planning." What I understand by that word is best described, I think, as organisation. Just as a great business has to have its departments organise3 so that they do not cut across one another's paths, so the greatest business in the country—that is, the Government of the country—has to organise its Departments so that they work on lines which will not conflict. I do not need to remind your Lordships that one of the greatest examples which we have had of lack of planning was the occasion, five or six years ago, when on successive days we were addressed by representatives of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Transport. On the first day the noble Lord representing the Ministry of Health told us of the thousands of new houses which they were having built, and next day the noble Lord who spoke for the Ministry of Transport referred to the horrible new houses which were being built, and which were ruining his new trunk roads. There could be no better example than that of the need for planning—that is, for organisation.
Planning simply means seeing to it that the different Departments pay some regard to one another's point of view; that is all. 870 It is a pity that, in discussions on planning, people who support planning do not always make it clear what they mean, because there is undoubtedly a good deal of prejudice. When one talks of the need for planning, the need for co-ordinating policies on the location of industry, on transport, and on agriculture, those who dislike planning say, "You are going to erect a dictator who will settle everybody's business." That, of course, is not the idea at all. The idea is that the central planning authority will ultimately subserve those policies when they have been decided by the Departments concerned in co-ordination one with another.
There is also confusion, in talking of planning, between the planning of an industry itself and the planning of an industry with other industries. Let me take the case of agriculture. In advocating a policy of planning there is not an assembly in the world to which one could appeal with more confidence when talking of agriculture than to your Lordships' House. Agriculture needs a long-term plan of its own. We have discussed this in your Lordships' House on several occasions recently, and I do not want to go over the ground again, except to illustrate the two kinds of planning to which I refer. Agriculture needs a long-term plan of its own from the agricultural aspect, and it also needs a plan of co-ordination with manufacturing industry and with agricultural interests in the Dominions. There are quite definitely two aspects of planning there, and I think that a great deal of confusion arises from failure to distinguish between them. One other example which will appeal to your Lordships, and which will illustrate the need for planning, is the preservation of amenities. Many of your Lordships have done a tremendous amount of work in preserving amenities, such as a stretch of coast line or downs or some other valuable possession of the country, and it must be, I think, a source of satisfaction to those of your Lordships who are interested in that aspect of the matter that there is now a prospect of guidance from a national and central point of view rather than that these matters should continue to be dealt with on a local basis.
I welcome both the Uthwatt Report and the statement which has just been made by my noble friend, for all the reasons given by my noble friend as covering the 871 decisions of the Government. I shall not discuss them in detail, but the first decision deals with values and has, I gather, been received with universal approval on the other side of the House. Then there is the decision to see to the replanning of reconstruction areas, which is important. There is also the amendment of the Town Planning Acts, to which I attach enormous importance, and to which I think enormous importance will be attached by the noble Lord. There is the definite statement that preliminary steps are to be taken to work out a national plan, and there is the co-ordination of current planning with that more distant plan. All those things are of prime value from a planning point of view, and I do greatly regret the suggestion that this should be withdrawn for further consideration. To have achieved the establishment of a central planning authority is important.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
As to that, I disagree entirely with the noble Viscount. We have had the word of the Minister that we have got the establishment of a central planning authority.
§ LORD ADDISON
No. With great respect, we have had the word of the Minister that instead of a central planning authority, for which it is said the time is not ripe, the Government propose that the Town Planning Acts should be amended and strengthened and that, instead of this central planning authority being brought into existence forthwith, there should be this Council of Ministers.
LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, I shall leave it to my noble friend to deal with the matter in his reply, and perhaps we shall then see which of us is right. There are just three points on which I should like to comment. The first is the proposal, which I think is admirable, that increased powers of compulsory purchase should be given to 872 planning authorities. I do want, however, to strike this note of warning, that large-scale compulsory purchase by local authorities or planning authorities does open up the need for comprehensive study of an entirely new technique. We have had some experience of Statutes giving powers of compulsory purchase, and in particular when the Ministry of Transport was empowered to authorise local authorities to purchase large tracts of land in connection with arterial roads. That turned out a disastrous failure. My recollection is that the attitude of the Treasury—not using official language, but putting it in a current way—was that they said they did not approve of local authorities becoming land speculators, and consequently they were inclined to authorise the purchase of this frontage land only where rapid development would secure a return On the money. That, to my way of thinking, is precisely what they ought not to have done.
Instead of preventing local authorities from becoming land speculators, they were doing precisely the opposite, and were allowing the local authorities to buy the land only where it could be rapidly turned over. I see no safeguard of the public interest in the fact that land belongs to a local authority or to some other public body; and, if the local authorities are to be assisted by some State grant or other to buy land by compulsory purchase—that is not specifically stated, but it seems likely—we shall have to think out a technique for preventing undesirable development with the object of getting a quick return on the money. That is something which we have not yet done successfully, and I hope that my noble friend will take steps to have that matter very fully thought out in the very near future.
The second question which I wish to ask my noble friend—and this is one where I think that noble Lords opposite will share my anxiety as to the answer, because a good deal hinges on it—is what is the position of this new planning authority (because I still maintain that it is a planning authority) with regard to staff. Unless adequate provision is made for staff, I agree that the proposal is no good. My belief is, however, that this is the definite establishment of a central planning authority; and, as there is no determined 873 and specified establishment, what is the position with regard to staff? Can my noble friend go to the Treasury and say, "I must have an adequate staff, and I want to appoint so many people at such and such a salary"? I think that that is rather a critical test. If the noble Lord is reasonably assured that he can get the staff to carry out the work which he is authorised to do, then I hope that some of the fears of the noble Lords opposite may be allayed.
Thirdly, I should like to say a word about Scotland. The noble Viscount opposite referred to Scotland and to public opinion in Scotland. I am bound to agree that it is possible that the establishment of a central planning authority in London, with jurisdiction over Scotland, is a sort of proposal which might be calculated to arouse some apprehension north of the Border. Scotland is a very important part of the British Isles, if I may say so, and Scots are accustomed to a very large measure of independence in managing their own affairs. It is most fortunate that the Minister who has been entrusted with this work is himself a Scot. That should tend to reconcile my compatriots to the proposals, but there are other considerations which will, perhaps, be even more potent in that respect. While Scotland is, relatively, a small part of the country, there are reasons why it is very important that it should be comprehensively planned as much as any other part of the country, and in relation to other parts of the country.
I give your Lordships only two examples of what is in my mind—I have no doubt there are many others. One of the duties of this central planning authority will be, quite certainly, and most particularly, to look after amenities, national parks, and so on. There can be no dispute that the Highlands of Scotland are one of the greatest natural playgrounds in the country. Those of us with personal knowledge can hardly think of the Highlands, and let me include the Islands—take Skye—without a thrill of pleasure and of pride. We think of Skye in the month of June, with its sparkling blue waters and green fields, and the solemn grandeur of the Coolins. That is a possession, not of Scotland, but of the whole Kingdom, and it is a playground for more than the people of Scotland. From all over the Kingdom and all over 874 the world people come to Scotland, and it is important that, in planning, that consideration should be given the importance it deserves. I think it will mean—and perhaps this is an aspect of the matter which may appeal to some of my compatriots—that if it is a question of developing such resources, a very substantial portion of whatever national funds are required for this purpose will be allocated to the development of that great national playground.
The other consideration is with regard to industry. Presumably, that will not be subject to the central planning authority as at present set up, but will form part of the national plan when that is developed later on. Industry in Scotland is largely heavy industry. The heavy industries—iron and steel and shipbuilding—in Scotland are, as your Lord-ships know, second to none. It may well be that the industry of Scotland is not so well balanced as it might be. It may be that Scotland has not her proper share of light industry, and if industry is to be planned, and a balanced industry is to be achieved, as the Barlow Commission Report suggests, then again comprehensive planning carries with it implications which are of vital importance to Scotland, and should do much to reconcile Scottish opinion, both official and lay, to the prospect of a central planning authority in London. If my noble friend could say a word which would tend to allay any apprehension which may be felt in Scotland on this point, it would be worth his while.
The noble Viscount opposite seemed to think that July 17 is going to be a very poor sort of date from the point of view of the central planning authority. I am bound to say I differ absolutely. The central planning authority has got to walk before it can run, and the vision which rises in my mind is much more that of a nursery with an infant toddler just taking its first steps from the loving arms of its mother to its nurse, which the C.P.A. is doing to-day. In the years to come, when some historian comes to say what were the vital dates in the career of this infant, July 17 will be an historical date, and it will be found that it marked a very important date in the career of what I believe, in spite of what the noble Lord opposite has said, will become an 875 institution which will effectively serve the national interest.
§ VISCOUNT STONEHAVEN
My Lords, before the noble Lord rises to reply, may I remind him of the analogy of the Fine Art Commission, which is part, no doubt, of the Department he has taken over—the old Office of Works. I remember this well because the Fine Art Commission was created during my tenure of that office. Scotland then came in, and it was understood that Scotland would object to having her fine arts dealt with by Englishmen. Therefore, a very distinguished Scotsman was appointed as the Scottish branch of the Fine Art Commission. I suggest that that might be of some use in connection with what my noble friend has just said.
§ LORD REITH
My Lords, opinion seems to be that the egg is only good in parts. I wish I were able to convince noble Lords particularly interested that it really is good all through, however small. If the noble Lord from the North chooses to regard the central planning authority as having been established, I will not gainsay him. I, as an individual, personally regard that as having been accomplished in embryo. I was encouraged by the remarks that fell from the noble Lord, Lord Addison, and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and nothing other than encouraged. Certainly to their remarks the Government will give the attention which is obviously their due. I, and I would also say those other Ministers associated with me, will be encouraged. It is up to me as an individual, to my colleagues on this Committee, and all concerned, to show that when the Government come, admittedly after a considerable delay for reasons which I have indicated, to a considered decision—it is up to all of us to show that we mean what we say, and in fact things will happen.
I was interested to find that the noble Viscount differed from the noble Lord on the question of the local authorities, and I was glad that he pointed out, what I need only now refer to very briefly, that a great deal of the troubles which local authorities and those interested in them anticipate, which now to some extent we are finding, is due to the fact that they 876 have not enough power to control the developments which are bound to happen during the war. We shall give them power to do that. I would be glad if the noble Lord, Lord Addison, felt happier on this, but apart from that, extra powers would be given to local authorities as a result of the legislation following the Committee's recommendations. A great deal of work has indeed already been done which will in fact preserve us against any prejudice to long-term planning, rather than have the effect which the noble Lord anticipated. The Council is not going to deal with hypothetical cases. A good deal of what the noble Lord, Lord Addison, thought the Council could not do or would not do it is quite likely that it will not do, because it is my job, as an individual, as I have already described.
I hope I made it clear that I myself have certain heavy responsibilities for the formation of a national plan, methods and machinery—myself, not the Council, but I am working with the Council, and the two Ministers in the administration of their existing power and their strengthened powers will keep in touch with me so that we shall be working together, and things will happen. The appeal machinery, the awful appeal machinery—like your Lordships, I wait to see what comes of Mr. Justice Uthwatt's final Report. There may be, as a result of that, a solution of this matter—I hope and expect there will be—which will make unnecessary the cumbersome appeal machinery to which the noble Lord opposite referred. I really would like to pay a tribute to those other two Ministers particularly concerned. They are not dug in as was suggested. They have their own point of view and their own responsibilities. I do not consider them to be antagonistic to central planning. I have had assistance from them, and I am expecting every sort of co-operation and encouragement from them in the future. I shall work with them and they with me—the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland.
May I refer here to what the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, and the noble Viscount, Lord Stonehaven, said about Scotland? Obviously there are different problems there because conditions vary. As the noble Viscount 877 mentioned, there is already a good deal of correlation under the Secretary of State and I am in close touch with him. When I talk to local authorities it is my business to encourage them to plan. That responsibility has been given to me. The other two Ministers have to administer the existing Statutes and the strengthened Statutes. It is my business to encourage the local authorities to plan ahead and to keep in touch with my two colleagues. I have already done a good deal with the local authorities in England in consultation with the Minister of Health and I shall continue to work generally in agreement with him, but in Scotland the Secretary of State proposes at no distant date to set up an advisory council to advise him on many post-war problems in which Scotland will be particularly interested, including this one of town planning, so that whatever I may do in Scotland will be under the aegis and with the approval of the Secretary of State for Scotland.
Reference has been made to agriculture. The Minister of Agriculture has been closely in consultation throughout and quite clearly a central planning authority has to subserve—that term has been used this afternoon—national policy in agriculture which he, I believe, is in the process, the urgent process, of formulating. Therefore, do not let us think of other Departments as being dug in. The Ministries of Health, Scotland, Agriculture and Transport have to be consulted because they have their own specific interests, but they are all in this venture with us and all anxious to co-operate. I have very little more to say.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
Is the noble Lord proposing to reply to the question of Lord Balfour of Burleigh as to whether he has any staff?
§ LORD REITH
Yes, I will do that, but I was going to say this first. Before a central planning authority in its final form can be established a vast amount of work has to be done on agriculture, industrial development and transport. Meanwhile, the Government believe that they are securing by the measures which I have announced this afternoon that nothing shall happen which will be prejudicial to long-term planning and reconstruction of town and country. The 878 noble Viscount, I think, said nothing more definite than I myself have said about the awful need to be prepared for peace. The noble Lord, Lord Addison, said, I think, that I spoke with passion. Maybe I did, and if I did not I well might have done, because I feel strongly in this matter; but on what the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, said as to the Treasury, I may say that very important conversations have taken place with that Department. I cannot answer as to the past on this particular point, but I do not believe that in the future local authorities will act as has been suggested. I believe they will be amenable to suggestions. It is all involved in what I have said about reconstruction areas, where you cannot deal with a devastated area without dealing with the area round about it. I believe it will be found that the Treasury are prepared sympathetically to consider requests from local authorities, and I do not think there is any question of their being speculators in land. That is an invidious way to put it. A better way is to say that they are guardians for the future. As to the other point the noble Viscount has just questioned me about, I have no doubt at all that I shall be able to secure such staff as I wish for my responsibilities. I have no doubt the Treasury will give that.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
Will the noble Lord forgive me for interrupting him again? He said he had already been in communication with local authorities to encourage them to adopt planning schemes. Does that mean he has a staff that goes round to see them, and that there is a link between himself and local authorities, and that he is able to act upon the local authorities apart from the Ministry of Health?
§ LORD REITH
With the concurrence of the Minister of Health, at the request of a great many corporations, town councils and other bodies in places where there has been considerable devastation, I have received deputations, or more often have gone to the places myself and have met the building or the planning committee or whatever commtitee was responsible and have answered questions. Almost invariably I have had Mr. Pepler, of the Ministry of Health, with me. The people have said to me: "You see how we are placed. There is all this devastation. Here is a rough idea of what we should like to 879 be done. What about it?" I have said this: "If you are asking me what I would do if I were in your place, I would plan boldly and comprehensively." They then ask, "What about our boundaries and the land outside?" I reply: "If you plan boldly and comprehensively it means you will plan for conditions as you would wish them to be. Further, if you want help on planning the Ministry of Health are prepared to send down one of their town-planning experts to help you." Quite a large amount of that kind of thing is being done, quietly, if you like, but more will be done in the future.
I said earlier, my Lords, that the foundations were laid. I would ask the noble Viscount and the noble Lord opposite to believe that I say that not because I hope it to be true, but because I know it to be true. I may be a newcomer in politics, but as an engineer I can judge foundations, especially when I have had a hand in laying them, whether they be according to plans and specifications, whether they be able to bear the superstructure of our ideals. As an engineer I know, too, the difficulties which generally attend the clearing of the site. The work of the superstructure is to come. I will do my part, my colleagues to whom reference has been made will do theirs, and the Government will do all they can so that the edifice may be broad and fair and splendid, a memorial as the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, suggested to endurance and monstrous trial. The site is cleared, the foundations are laid, and it will not be grass that grows upon them.
THE LORD BISHOP OF WINCHESTER
My Lords, I will reply very briefly to the debate with very short reference to the speeches made by the noble Lord, Lord Reith. I am very grateful to him for his replies. I especially welcome his acceptance on behalf of the Government of so much of the Uthwatt Report. The noble Lord, Lord Phillimore, incidentally asked me whether I had any knowledge of speculation in land. In my speech I said as far as I knew there was no speculation in developed land, but that there was some speculation in undeveloped land, and I see that that statement is borne out by the Uthwatt Report. I welcome very much the statement which the noble Lord, Lord Reith, made about the introduction almost at once of legislation to amend 880 the Planning Acts. That is quite essential. The present procedure is destructively slow.
With somewhat modified approval I welcome his statement about the creation of a planning authority, for certainly from his statement I feel that such an authority has been called into existence. I know quite well that every social reformer expects a great deal more than he will get, and although I should have welcomed the statement of the establishment at once of a most powerful comprehensive authority, I am not unduly disappointed at the statement that he has made, for he made it quite plain that this was a beginning. I noticed he repeated twice the statement "pending the establishment of the central planning authority in its final form" and the noble Lord evidently looked upon this as a beginning. I am indifferent whether it is an authority or a Ministry or a council, so long as it is an authority which is able to carry out planning work both on the controlling and positive side. I have every hope that with the noble Lord as Chairman of this Council very great results will follow.
I wonder if the noble Lord will forgive me if I make a personal reference. I entirely agree with what he said about the matter of a staff, and I do not think this will be a real planning authority unless the noble Lord has a staff of experts at his disposal. I was in contact with him in very early days at the B.B.C. As far as I recall he then had two rooms at his disposal and a staff of half a dozen. When he left I dare not say how many rooms he had at his disposal or how many people were on his staff. I do not for a moment suggest that he should have such a large staff at this Ministry as he had at his command at the B.B.C., but I am quite convinced that with support and co-operation and his energy he will be able as Chairman of this Council to build up a very strong central authority. I therefore welcome this as a beginning and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.