Oral Answers to Questions — Uthwatt Committee (Interim Report).

– in the House of Commons on 17th July 1941.

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Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

asked the Minister without Portfolio when it is proposed to present to the House the Interim Report of the committee sitting under the chairmanship of Mr. Justice Uthwatt; and whether he has any statement to make on the report?

Photo of Mr Arthur Greenwood Mr Arthur Greenwood , Wakefield

Copies of the report are available to-day in the Vote Office. As the statement on the committee's recommendations is somewhat long, I will, with my hon. Friend's permission, circulate it in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Following is the statement:

The Government much appreciates the contribution which Mr. Justice Uthwatt's Committee makes towards the solution of difficult problems. It is of great value.

The committee recommends that the compensation payable in public acquisition or control of land should not exceed sums based on the standard of values at 31st March, 1939. The Government accepts this principle, and legislation to give effect to it will be 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 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 agrees with the committee that these "reconstruction areas" must be planned as a whole. The committee advises 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 is anxious to prevent bad development while broad lines of reconstruction are being settled by planning authorities. The committee recommends 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 thinks 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 accepts the committee's view that all necessary preliminary steps towards the working out of a 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 has made the following arrangements:

1. Within the framework of the general study of post-war problems which is being undertaken by the Minister without Portfolio, the Minister of Works and Buildings retains special responsibility for long-term planning policy in the sphere of physical reconstruction.

Lord Reith will be in charge of this work, not as Minister of Works, but in pursuance of the special responsibility assigned to him 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.

2. To co-ordinate this work of forward planning with the current administration of existing Statutes, a Council of Ministers is appointed consisting of—

  • The Rt. Hon. Lord Reith (Chairman).
  • The Secretary of State for Scotland.
  • The Minister of Health.

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.

3. 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 Ministers to ensure that no action is taken under existing powers which would tend to prejudice the course of future reconstruction.