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 William Morrison Mr William Morrison , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

I would like to say a few words in reply to the observations which have fallen from both hon. Members. The hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) is right in diagnosing the reason for the three months' period. About 250 local authorities are affected altogether by this resolution, which is deemed to have been passed by them, and they have in the past taken no planning action at all, so that they are devoid of staff and experience in the matter. The figure looks very formidable, but it is not so formidable if one analyses the position, because a number of the smaller authorities will, under the proviso to Clause r, find themselves taken in and co-operating with the larger existing authorities. Still, there will remain a few hard cases which will have to be met and given a chance to supply themselves with a proper staff for the purpose. There will certainly be decisions, and the regional planning officers in the various districts will give them all the help they can in putting their house in order to meet this new obligation which is upon them.

The other question my hon. Friend raised was that of the Inns of Court. I think he is right in his view that Clause r of the Bill applies to them, and we shall have to think about that in the future. There is no doubt at all that the Inns of Court are in rather a special position in that the use to which their buildings are put is not likely to change. In the past they Were excluded from schemes on the idea that they were static and no development was likely to take place in them, but alas, the war has changed that situation entirely and no doubt great reconstruction will be necessary in these ancient and beautiful buildings. All I would say at the moment is that there is power, if necessary, to deal with the matter by-revoking the provisions of the scheme and under the Bill one could possibly ask that the obligations of interim development concerning the Temple should be referred to the Minister. I put these things forward not as having made up my mind. It may not be necessary to deal with them at all, but if the difficulty to which my hon. Friend alluded arises, he can be sure that there are ways of easing it. I agree with what he said about local authorities. If you take any category of human beings, you can always abuse it as a category. Even politicians as a category have not been immune from that sort of abuse in the past from the general public. If there are a few such local authorities— and they vary as human beings do—it is true to say that the great services which they render far outweigh the defects which may exist. Therefore, from my point of view it is very necessary that local enthusiasm and knowledge should form the basis of good town and country planning. He was right in saying that the carelessness, if it has been so, in the past over many aspects of planning by local authorities was but a reflection of their constituents' views, and indeed, the same is true of Parliament in the past.

Our neglect of this aspect in the past has been entirely the reflection of the general view of the people of this country. I can assure the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Jewson) that this Clause in no way delays the provision of housing, when it becomes possible. It will keep step with any easement of the position with regard to materials and labour, which is the real stumbling block at the present moment. He can give assent to this Clause on that understanding, and I hope the Committee will now agree that it should stand part of the Bill.