Clause 1. — (Functions of Minister of Works and Planning.)

Orders of the Day — Minister of Works and Planning Bill. – in the House of Commons on 2nd June 1942.

Alert me about debates like this

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Mr Robert Tasker Mr Robert Tasker , Holborn

I wish to invite the attention of the Committee to the real meaning of this Clause. It means setting up a staff. What does this alteration really mean to the practical people of this country? It is merely an alteration in name, the transference of one Department of State to a new Minister and a portion to another Department of State, but it does add to the number of officials employed. It takes something away from the Minister of Health. What is to be gained by agreeing to this Clause? This Bill, we read, has been presented by Mr. Henry Strauss, supported by Sir John Anderson, Mr. Ernest Brown, Sir William Jowitt and Mr. Attorney-General —a formidable team. At the same time this Bill carries with it the support of some 160 Ministers, Under-Ministers, and Parliamentary Private Secretaries, none of whom seem to be particularly well informed on this subject. The Bill also carries with it the support of certain Members of the House to whom anything which emanates from the Front Bench is agreeable. Nobody who has had long experience of town planning regards this proposal with favour. There was only one exception as far as I can gather. Everybody else who has worked on town planning, not only since 1932 but for a much longer period, desires a bigger and more comprehensive Measure than this. Neither Clause 1 nor any other part of the Bill for that matter, will improve town planning.

The Deputy-Chairman:

I must point out to the hon. Member that he cannot discuss what is not in the Bill and that he cannot on this occasion make a Second Reading speech.

Photo of Mr Robert Tasker Mr Robert Tasker , Holborn

Paragraph (c) of Subsection (1) deals with the functions of the Minister of Health which it is proposed to transfer. Are we not, then, entitled on Clause 1 to discuss those functions? If not, surely it reduces these proceedings to a farce. I submit that the functions exercised by the Minister of Health under the Act of 1932 and the functions proposed to be exercised by the new Minister are open to discussion. That changing name will not lead to greater efficiency.

The Deputy-Chairman:

No, I think not. That would involve an Amendment of the Town and Country Planning Act. The hon. Member cannot, on this occasion, propose to amend another Measure.

Photo of Mr Robert Tasker Mr Robert Tasker , Holborn

I am not seeking to amend it. My point is that we should be permitted to discuss what is actually in Clause 1 of this Bill. I do not want to go over all the proposals of the Bill or to make a Second Reading speech, but surely this Committee is free to consider whether it would be wise and prudent to agree to Clause 1, as it is here presented to us. That is the point that I wish to make. Is it not in Order to do so?

The Deputy-Chairman:

If the hon. Member proceeds, I will stop him when I think he is out of Order.

Photo of Mr Robert Tasker Mr Robert Tasker , Holborn

All I wish to point out is that the Ministry is really confined in its operation to town planning as now exercised by one department of the Minister of Health. I submit that hon. Members on both sides of the Committee who have had experience on' this matter are satisfied with the manner in which the Ministry of Health has carried out its duties and that no satisfactory reason has been advanced for a departure such as is proposed here. Clause 1 really means creating groups of officials whose actions are governed by rules and regulations which become so obscure that reference is made from one Department to another, each declining to accept responsibility.

Photo of Mr John Davidson Mr John Davidson , Glasgow Maryhill

I wish to make one or two inquiries from the representative of the Govt. Clause I definitely proposes to transfer certain powers to the Minister of Works and Planning. I wish to know, first, whether, in order to exercise those new powers and to cope with the new work involved, there is to be any change within the Department itself. In the past there has been considerable criticism of the Ministry of Works and Buildings. We know that representatives of private firms—big, powerful, privately-owned building organisations—are in key administrative posts in this Ministry. We have had examples, for instance, of important officials from private firms such as Sir Lindsay Parkinson & Company, Wimpey's and other organisations, men in fact who have been convicted in the courts of serious petrol offences, taking part in the administrative tasks of the Ministry of Works and Buildings. I suggest that unless a considerable change is to be made with regard to the personnel and the organisation within the Ministry itself, if would be very unwise to transfer these important powers to the Minister.

I would point out, for instance, that one organisation which has sent representatives to this Ministry—to whom these powers are being conferred—is Sir Lindsay Parkinson & Co. This organisation owns in London a big hotel, cafe and dining establishment known as Oddenino's. I would like to ask the Minister whether, when these powers have been transferred, meetings or functions arranged between various representatives with regard to planning all over the country, are still to take place at Oddenino's which is under the control of this organisation. Those are questions to which I would be interested to have an answer. I feel very seriously that in the transfer of these powers and in connection with this great work of planning for the future of the country, there should not be the slightest breath of suspicion on the personnel of the bodies to be entrusted with this important task.

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich

With regard to the point raised by the hon. Member for Holborn (Sir R. Tasker), I think it touches the general principle of this Bill, which was fully discussed on the Second Reading. Clause 1 states the general effect of the Bill, and the remaining Clauses are consequential or consist of machinery. The hon. Member will, therefore, forgive me if I do not on this occasion repeat what was said in the Debate on the Second Reading.

Photo of Mr Robert Tasker Mr Robert Tasker , Holborn

Does the hon. Gentleman allege that a change in name will lead to greater efficiency?

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich

I never made any such allegation during the previous Debate, nor do I make it to-day, but I think that the Committee would be unwilling to embark on a consideration of matters which were fully dealt with on that occasion. I would remind the Committee that the hon. Member for Holborn then had a Motion on the Paper for the rejection of the Bill, which was logically in accord with his speech to-day, but at the conclusion of the Debate he withdrew that Motion. The matter of internal organisation raised by the hon. Member for Maryhill (Mr. Davidson) concerns mainly, I think, that branch of the Ministry for which my hon. Friend the other Joint Parliamentary Secretary answers, and he made a speech on the Second Reading. I cannot see that the mere transfer of powers by this Bill in itself involves any change in the organisation of the Ministry. There are many who are already working and have worked in the planning section, and there will be certain transfers of staff from the Ministry of Health, but I hope the hon. Member will forgive me if I do not give any detailed answer on the other section of the Ministry with which I am not directly concerned, and which is not, indeed, directly affected by this Clause.

Photo of Mr John Davidson Mr John Davidson , Glasgow Maryhill

The people to whom I refer are in administrative posts within the Ministry dealing with building materials and many other such matters that must arise under these new powers. All I am asking is that, whoever takes over this particular department, the personnel will be very carefully inspected and that the past mistakes of the Ministry of Works and Buildings with regard to the employment of people of such dubious character will not be repeated. That is all I ask.

Photo of Mr Henry Strauss Mr Henry Strauss , Norwich

I am certain that the closest examination will be made of those who are employed by the Ministry. I think that if the hon. Member wishes for any further reply on the matter about which he has raised a question, it will be more appropriately given by my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Works and Buildings, who has just entered the Committee.

Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.

Clause 2 ordered to stand part of the Bill.