Town and Country Planning (Interim Development) Bill

Part of Ways and Means – in the House of Commons on 25th May 1943.

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Photo of Mr Lewis Silkin Mr Lewis Silkin , Camberwell Peckham

I want to say one or two things about Clause r, and, in particular, I would like to give my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary the opportunity of repairing some omissions he made on the occasion of his speech on the Second Reading, when, possibly owing to the temptation to score debating points against my hon. Friend the Member for Maidstone (Mr. Bossom), he did not leave himself with sufficient time to deal with other equally important matters. I asked him then, realising the importance of bringing the whole of the country within the scope of town planning interim schemes, why it was that, in fact, local authorities were not deemed to be covered by resolutions until after three months from the passing of the Bill. He did not give the reason, but I presumed there must be a very good reason for that delay. Secondly, and possibly this may be one of the reasons for the delay, we are dealing with local authorities which have not so far seen fit to pass resolutions, and presumably therefore they will have no conception of how their area is to be developed. Is it the purpose of the three months to give them time to look around in order that they may gather their thoughts and be in a position to deal with applications to develop in some orderly manner? I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he proposes to give such local authorities any assistance or directions. If the purpose of the three months is what I imagine it to be, I respectfully suggest that even that period is not very long to enable a local authority, which has not previously been thinking very much about planning or planning a specific area, to get busy and to give some kind of standards by which they may measure applications to the Government. Unless they get considerable help from the Ministry, I imagine that they will not be in a position to discharge their duties very effectively.

The next point I want to mention is something which I mentioned to my right hon. Friend privately, and it is the application of this Clause to London. The effect of the Clause in London would be to bring into the scheme only land be- ' longing to the several Inns of Court, the Inner and Middle Temples, Lincoln's Inn and Gray's Inn. The whole of the rest of London is already covered by resolution. I take it that the effect of this Clause would be that these various Inns would become subject to town planning control by the London County Council. The whole of these areas, including the Inner and Middle Temples, are out of the administrative county of London, and no part of them is within the City. I personally feel that the London County Council is quite competent to deal with the redevelopment of the Inns of Court. The Benchers of the various Inns will be fully consulted, and I feel that they will not suffer at the hands of the London County Council, which will be the town planning authority. Therefore, if my interpretation of Clause 1 is what I think it is, I would welcome the Inns of Court coming within the jurisdiction of the London County Council. I thought it right to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend to the point, as I do not want this jurisdiction to come to the London County Council without all parties being fully conscious of the state of affairs.

I want to say a few words about the considerable distrust which is presently shown by hon. Members here, including, in part, my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, against local authorities. They are considered to be unfit to carry out this thing or that particular duty. They cannot be trusted to prepare lists of historic buildings and so on. If that is the feeling of hon. Members, how can local authori ties be entrusted to carry out these vast town planning schemes which are being imposed upon them, and which everyone in this country hopes they will discharge? We, in this country get the local authorities as well as the Government that we deserve. I respectfully submit that in the past the defects of local authorities, their blindness to beauty and their inefficiency in town planning, have been but a reflection of the blindness of people of this country. A local authority is no less a regarder of beauty than the ordinary member of the public. If you asked the ordinary member of the public to contribute sixpence towards the maintenance of a building of beauty, he would hesitate very much, and the local authority merely, reflects that view. But I believe that there is growing up a consciousness of the preservation of the countryside and beauty which is reflected in local authorities to-day. The hon. Member for Norwich (Mr. H: Strauss) has suffered in the past from the action of local authorities, and so have we all, but I believe that local authorities to-day reflect faithfully and truly the opinion of to-day, and I hope very much that they can be trusted to carry out the enormous tasks which it will be necessary for them to carry out after the war.