I beg to move, in page 2, line 8, at the end, to insert:
Provided that where an application is for permission to erect a new building on the site of a building destroyed by war damage or in respect of which the War Damage Commission have determined that a value payment shall be made under the War Damage Act, 1941, and such application is refused or conditions are imposed the effect of which refusal or of the imposition of which conditions -would be to render it impossible for the applicant to erect a building having a cubic content above the level of the ground as great as that of the previous building, or, in the case of a previous building used for business or industry, to erect a building having as great a cubic content above the level of the ground and as great 'a superficial area on the ground floor as those of the previous building, or to use such new building for any purpose of the same or similar character as that for which the previous building was last used before the destruction thereof, there shall be payable by the interim development authority to the applicant, provided he was the owner of the previous building, if he shall make a claim for the purpose within twelve months of the date of the refusal of the application or of the imposition of the conditions, such coi1pensation as would have been payable under Sub-section (1) of Section eighteen of the principal Act if a scheme under the
principal Act had been in force at the date of the refusal or of the imposition of the conditions and action had been taken by a responsible authority under paragraph (a) or paragraph (c) of Sub-section (1) of Section thirteen of the principal Act.
In moving this Amendment, I would like to apoligise for its inordinate length. In order to make compensation, however, I will cut my remarks as short as possible. The object of the Amendment is to see that fair treatment is given to those people who own a building as a shop or business premises, or use it for other purposes, which has been destroyed by enemy action, by a bomb, by one of our anti-aircraft shells, which do not always explode in the air, or which has been destroyed by any other means. This Clause will prevent the owner of such a building, in certain circumstances, from erecting a similar building if the original one is destroyed. I approve thoroughly of such power, because it is extremely unwise that a person should be allowed to erect a similar building if it offends against a planning scheme. But when we say to him, "You cannot erect a similar building," we ought to see that he is treated as fairly as his more fortunate neighbour whose property has not been damaged or destroyed.
I would like to put forward the sort of case I have in mind. Suppose there are two shops, one of which has not been hit by a bomb. The owner in that case will receive under the principal Act, under Section 18, Sub-Section (1), compensation for the decreased value and compensation for the injury to his trade. That compensation will be adequate to enable him to start a shop or business elsewhere. But the owner of the shop that has received a direct hit from a bomb or has been set on fire will only receive his value payment under the War Damage Act. The War Damage Act was intended to enable him. to re-erect his premises and recover his lost trade. Now we come along and say, "You cannot re-erect your shop because it will offend a planning scheme." It is quite right that we should be in that position, but I do not think that person should be put in any worse position where compensation is concerned than his fortunate next-door neighbour who has not received a direct hit. I hope the case I have put forward is not the correct interpretation of the various complicated Acts which apply in regard to compensation, but as I see it the man whose shop has not been destroyed will have sufficient compensation to open a business elsewhere, while the man whose shop has been destroyed by a bomb will get inadequate compensation and will not be in a position to open a shop elsewhere. As the Committee have already spent two hours on the first Clause, I do not intend to be-labour this point. I regret the length of my. Amendment, but I could not put it down in fewer words.
The Amendment which my hon. and gallant Friend has put down is a very complicated and technical one, and I have not had time to study it carefully. But so far as I understand his Amendment, the object which it seeks to bring about is, not to alter the compensation which a man who has a bombed house gets in respect of the town planning restriction, but to alter the time when he gets it.
I will tell my hon. and gallant Friend. He will get his compensation like any other owner of property when the scheme comes into force. My hon. and gallant Friend is asking for immediate payment, and that raises an issue which was debated very thoroughly in 1932 when the first Act was being discussed in this House.
I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. Friend, but it seems to me to be a real hardship that the man who has had his shop destroyed by a bomb will not have sufficient compensation to enable him to start elsewhere and will not be permitted to re-erect his shop until the scheme comes into force, which may mean that he will have to wait a long time before he is in a position to re-open his business.
Whether it is a works or value payment, he gets appropriate compensation like any other citizen. However, with that matter I am not concerned in this Bill. What I am concerned with, and what I desire to convince my hon. and gallant Friend is just, is that if application, by a man to rebuild his shop as a piece of interim development is refused, what compensation does he get for the refusal? That is the only point which is germane to this Bill. I will tell my hon. and gallant Friend what he gets. He gets his compensation when the scheme comes into force. My hon. and gallant Friend may say that the man will have a long time to wait, but, as I have said, this matter has been argued, and it has always been a question of controversy. It has been found impossible to assess damage for refusal of an application of interim development until the scheme comes into operation, and for these reasons: You cannot tell what the damage really is until the scheme is in force. The refusal of an application goes to the application itself, but the real damage to the property owner can only be assessed when the scheme is in operation. For instance, a man may desire to put up a factory on his land and may be refused by the interim development authority. You can say that this is an injury to the man. But what is the measure of his injury? If when the scheme is in operation there are houses of a high density on that land, he can get some advantage. On the other hand, if instead of houses of a high density or shops the land is finally devoted to an open space, there is an entirely different quantum of compensation to be assessed.
It is impossible adequately to arrive at what the compensation is and what com. pensation is appropriate to a particular refusal of an application until you can see the scheme as a whole. That is nothing new; that is the law as it stands. My hon. and gallant Friend is asking me by this Amendment to alter that and to say that in a case of a man suffering from bomb damage he will get compensation, not for his bomb damage, but for refusal of his application to rebuild, and that the compensation should be paid immediately. Whether the man's damage be through accidental fire or his house falls down of its own accord in peace-time, or whether goes out to him for his suffering, but from the point of view of assessing compensation the difficulty persists in the one case as in the other.
I am thinking particularly of the many shops which have been destroyed through war damage and which may not be allowed to reopen. When it comes to a question of compensation being paid, will the owner of such a shop receive compensation for loss of trade and injury to his trade which the owner of a shop not damaged by a bomb will receive?
The actual compensation a man receives is as follows: He gets it first of all when the scheme is in operation. Under Section 18 (1, a) of the principal Act he gets compensation for injurious affection by the coming into operation of any provisions contained in the scheme. He gets his full compensation under Section 18 (1, a).
In addition to the war damage compensation, with which I am not concerned. I have no jurisdiction over that at all. That is quite a different matter. Under Section i8 (2) he gets this further compensation. If he has been refused permission to develop during an interim period, that is covered by this Section, and then he can have that also taken into account. Under Section 10 (4) of the principal Act there is power given to interim development authorities to make immediate payment in certain circumstances. The whole thing is under the control of the Minister. The scheme must provide for reasonable compensation in proper cases, and I see no justification for a different basis of compensation upon people such as those to whom my hon. and gallant Friend has referred. It is equally impossible to assess it justly until the scheme comes into operation.
I would like to thank my right hon. Friend for his reply, but as this is a highly technical and complicated subject, I would like to ask him if he will go into it carefully in order to see that those people who have been unfortunate as the result of enemy action in this war are not unjustly treated. May I have that assurance?
I can only say that if is a matter of war damage compensation my hon. and gallant Friend ought to address it to the Treasury. As regards compensation for town planning restrictions, I will do what I can to see that people in that unfortunate position are not put in a worse position. I do not think they are in this Bill, and I hope that with that assurance my hon. and gallant Friend will withdraw his Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 17, to leave out paragraph (a).
This Amendment is connected with the later Amendments which stand in my name, to insert in Clause 2 (2, b), after "Minister" the words: "upon the representations of the applicant or otherwise" and, after "Act," to insert:
and if so required by the applicant or by the interim development authority after holding a local inquiry.
Paragraph (b) would then read:
If with respect to any interim development application it appears to the Minister, upon the representations of the, applicant or otherwise, that there are exceptional reasons requiring the immediate determination thereof, he may, without prejudice to his power to require the application to be referred to him for decision in accordance with the subsequent provisions of this Act, and if so required by the applicant or by the interim development authority, after holding a local inquiry give directions requiring the interim development authority to settle the application.
I propose to discuss these Amendments together. Under Sub-section (2) the interim development authority may, by a notice of postponement, postpone the consideration of an application for interim development unless the applicant satisfies them that the proposed development would be carried out immediately. If the interim development authority does postpone the application in that way, and the applicant is not satisfied with their decision, as the Clause stands he is entitled to appeal to the magistrates in' a court of summary jurisdiction and, if he satisfies them that the development will be carried out immediately, they can set aside the notice. The effect of my Amendments would be that the right of appeal to the court of summary jurisdiction would be taken away and in its place the applicant would have the right to appeal to the Minister and either the applicant or the interim development
authority could require him, before determining the appeal, to hold a local inquiry. The procedure which the Clause contemplates is of a somewhat complicated nature, and the purpose of the Amendment is to simplify it. Let me invite the Committee to consider what seems likely to happen under the Clause. If the interim development authority decides to serve a notice of postponement, the applicant will then appeal to the justices. Assuming that he is successful before the justices, the matter would then have to go back to the interim development authority for them to consider whether consent for the proposed development should be granted or not. Presumably, in a case where the interim development authority had in the first instance decided to serve a notice of postponement, the case would be one in which the interim development authority would feel some doubt as to whether consent ought or ought not to be given, and, therefore, when the case comes back to them from the justices, the probability is that they will refuse consent. If they refuse consent, the applicant has the right under the principal Act to appeal to the Minister, who may hold a local inquiry on the appeal. This procedure involves a considerable degree of unnecessary circumlocution. The effect of my Amendment would be that the question will go to the Minister in the first instance direct from the interim development authority. The rights of the applicant would be safeguarded, because he can require the Minister to hold a local inquiry before he gives a decision.
There is another reason why this appeal to the justices' court is not a very suitable procedure in town planning matters. The magistrates' court is a court of summary jurisdiction constituted for determining cases which are comparatively simple and can be disposed of in a comparatively short time. These town planning cases are not cases of that kind. They will very frequently involve the evidence of surveyors, perhaps of architects, and of the planning officers of the local authority. Technical witnesses of that sort would have to be called, plans have to be examined and so forth. Quite a considerable time may be spent in determining such applications. The arrangements in the justices' courts are not suited to cases of that sort. It very often means that a special court must be constituted. If the case lasts any length of time and has to be adjourned, difficulties arise about reconstituting the court on another day. Although the intention of the Bill is to provide a simple and expeditious mode of determining the question, the result would be exactly the opposite. It is not fair to the justices that, because their courts happen to be local courts and in some ways happen to be convenient, cases of this sort should be sent to them. Before the war there was a tendency growing up—I thought a bad tendency—to insert in private Acts Clauses of this sort under which appeals from decisions of local authorities went to a magistrates' court. Universal experience of that procedure shows that it was not satisfactory. There were delays due to the reasons that I have pointed out. The magistrates are not in many cases a court properly competent; by their experience and in other ways they are not a suitable tribunal to which cases of this nature should be sent. This Clause repeats that practice. The cases likely to go to the justices under this Clause are precisely the type of case for which that tribunal has been found unsuitable.
I suppose I should be the last person to take away from the courts and to give to a Departmental Minister the determination of any judicial matters which ought properly to be determined by the courts. But I do not regard this as a matter which ought properly to go to the courts. I feel that, as the work of my right hon. Friend's Department develops, it will become increasingly plain that some new form of Ministerial tribunal will have to be established for the purpose of determining questions which arise under the existing Town Planning Acts and this Bill and the new Bills which will no doubt be brought before this House. That being so, it seems to me that the best course for the Committee to take with this Bill, which in a sense is an interim Measure, is to retain in the hands of the Minister, subject to the safeguard of a semi-judicial local inquiry, the right to determine these different questions which will arise under the Bill. For that reason I suggest that my Amendments are not open to the objection that they seek to withdraw from the courts powers which ought properly to remain with them. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to give us some encouragement to think that, for the time being at least, till the time comes when he sets up a new Ministerial tribunal, he will retain these powers in his own hands.
I am in complete agreement with a good deal of what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said. A court of summary jurisdiction is not the most appropriate tribunal to deal 'with the question whether a postponement notice has been properly given or not. I believe the Minister has had two minds about this question whether an appeal should go to him or to a court of summary jurisdiction. Probably he has taken the view that the issue before the court of summary jurisdiction is a pure issue of fact, namely, whether the applicant is in a position to build now or not, and that that is a perfectly simple matter for a court of summary jurisdiction to deal with, and that they have no other extraneous matters to consider at all. That is a perfectly intelligible view, but I should like to put the opposite view. I believe all local authorities would very much prefer that these appeals should go to the Minister, and that is a factor which he cannot ignore. Secondly, it is possible to take differing views even on facts, and it is important to get uniformity of decision. I can well conceive that one court of summary jurisdiction might take one view on whether it is possible to build now and another court might take another view. I know that theoretically they ought not to take different views on the same set of facts, but my limited knowledge of the courts tells me, and my hon. and learned Friend with his much greater knowledge would agree, that there would not be uniformity of decision.
The facts which the court will have to consider will not be very simple. They will have to consider, for instance, whether a licence has been granted by the Ministry of Works or whether a licence is likely to be granted in the near future. They will have to consider the question of the availability of material and labour to carry out the building. They will have to consider the question of the ownership of land. Very often the applicant is not actually the owner of the land upon which he wishes to build; he may hold an option or have some other indefinite title. They will have to consider the question of finance. Many applications are put forward to develop a piece of land when the appli cant himself is not in possession of the necessary finance but he hopes to get it. All these questions which the court of summary jurisdiction will have to consider will tend to complicate the issue. It is vitally important that we should get uniformity throughout the country and a uniform basis for decisions on the question whether it is immediately possible to build or not. Therefore, I prefer, and all the local authorities would prefer, the tribunal to be the Minister himself. My hon. and learned Friend has referred to the possibility of delay and the overburdening of the court of summary jurisdiction. There is also the possibility of appeals. My hon. and learned Friend assumed that if the decision were given one way or another, that would be the end of it, but it might very well not be the end because the case might then go to sessions. I do not know whether it could go beyond sessions, but at any rate there is a question of appeal from the court of summary jurisdiction. It would, therefore, simplify matters if the Minister himself had the power.
If I may refer to certain Amendments which are down in my name, I would like to say that should the Parliamentary, Secretary find it impossible to accept this Amendment and should he press for the retention of the court of summary jurisdiction as the tribunal, I hope he will agree that the decision of that court should be final and that there should be no appeal to sessions. I hope, however, that he will see his way to accept my hon. and learned Friend's Amendment. It will be simpler; it will give the Minister a view of what is happening throughout the country and will please the local authorities. I would not agree with the suggestion of my hon. and learned Friend that where the appeal has been successful against the notice of postponement, the Minister should automatically consider the application. If the notice of postponement fails and the application has then to be considered, it should be considered by the local authority even though the applicant may then have to appeal for a second time to the Minister against the refusal of the local authority to consent to his application. The question of postponement and the question of the merits of the application are separate and should be dealt with separately.
I would not agree that such an application should form the subject of a local inquiry. The multiplicity of appeals which the Minister is likely to get will be so great, that to have a local inquiry for each would make administration impossible. The Minister may say that anyway he could not face up to the large number of appeals that would take place on the notice of postponement. If, coupled with that, he had to deal with the merits of applications and hold local inquiries, I can well believe it would be impossible for him to administer the Bill at all. If that be the case, the court of summary jurisdiction would be equally over-burdened with appeals, and that is a factor which has to be taken into account.
I would like to ask the hon. and learned Member for 1lford (Mr. Hutchinson) the meaning of his Amendment in line 29, page 2, after "Minister," to insert, "upon the representations of the applicant or otherwise." What particularly does "or otherwise" mean? Is this not an example of the unnecessary circumlocution about which the hon. and learned Member talked? Otherwise—if I may use the word myself in what I believe to be its ordinary sense—does not the Amendment bring us back, more or less, to the Clause as drafted?
In reply to the hon. Member for Southampton (Dr. Thomas), the purpose of my Amendment to insert the words "upon the representations of the applicant or otherwise" is to make it plain that the applicant has the right to make representations to the Minister. I agree that the expression I have used is not a very neat one but it is not uncommon. It makes it plain that the Minister is not precluded from acting in the absence of any representation.
I support the Amendment with which we are immediately dealing. I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) on the undesirability of having public, inquiries automatically into matters of this kind. I join with him in pressing the Minister to accept the substitution of the Minister as a court of appeal for what is proposed in the Clause. It has been assumed in the discussion on the Amendment that there may be something to be said for the court of summary jurisdiction because we are concerned with what is simply a matter of fact—the question whether construction is immediately possible. if we look more carefully at the words of the Sub-section we see it is not merely a question of immediate possibilities, with which we are concerned but the question of that being shown to the satisfaction of the interim development authority. In introducing words of that kind, it is clear that the draftsman envisaged the possibility of different policies being adopted by various interim development authorities. One authority might be more easily satisfied than another. They will have their different standards of satisfaction. There is, therefore, a scope for discretion. That that discretion should be kept in check or controlled from the national point of view is desirable. That would be achieved by making appeals to the Minister possible. That discretion should not get out of hand and there is nothing to be said for substituting the discretion of the court of summary jurisdiction for the discretion of an elected authority, which is the interim development authority. Whether the courts of summary jurisdiction possess any great merits, is not a matter to be discussed now, but it certainly cannot be claimed for them that they possess the merit of knowing better than the interim development authority what policy should be adopted. They are not elected; they can in many parts of the country he rather of one type of mind, and they are not in any sense an appropriate body to deal with this matter. Reference has been made to delays that may arise if this policy of taking matters to the court of summary jurisdiction were followed. Another element has not been mentioned. That is the appeal by way of case stated from a magistrate's court, and that involves far greater delay than the ordinary appeal 4zo a court. of quarter sessions.
I am put in an embarrassing position since my hon. and learned Friend the Member for 1lford (Mr. Hutchinson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), who have been very helpful on this Bill, agree about one section of the proposed Amendments and differ on the remaining points. They also put me in an "embarrassing position by saying that the tribunal they would like is not the tribunal in the Bill but my right hon. Friend the Minister. It is difficult for me to say at any time that my right hon. Friend is not a very excellent tribunal, but I would draw attention to a difference, to which, indeed, my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham drew attention. Let us keep, quite separate the two questions whether the decision on the merits of the application should be postponed and what should be the decision on the application on its merits. This Clause deals with postponement. In the view of my right hon. Friend and his advisers there should be two exceptions to the possibility of postponement, two cases in which the applicant could say, "No, I desire now to have a decision on the merits." The first case is where he can show that development would be carried out immediately if the application were granted. The other case is where the Minister is satisfied that there are exceptional reasons for requiring the immediate determination. The Minister might or might not think that the fact that it could be carried out immediately was an exceptional reason. In the first case, in the view we take, the applicant is entitled to have his application considered on its merits. If he is so entitled, and it is a matter upon which different views are possible, we have to consider what is the most convenient machinery for deciding that, and I think some sort of judicial procedure is desirable. The magistrates' court has been criticised on certain grounds, but, after all, it is the court that already considers still more difficult questions arising out of the principal Act, questions whether there have been contraventions of the scheme and so forth.
I find a certain contradiction in some of the arguments used against the machinery which we propose. It is said, on the one hand, that the facts are not simple and on the other that it would burden the Minister with comparatively little work if every appeal should go to him. If we did not have some Clause on the lines of that in the Bill, the Minister would be appealed to as a matter of course whenever an applicant failed, and if every such case were to involve a local inquiry the administration would become practically impossible. I do not think the number of cases which will come before the magistrates' court would be nearly as great if the matter were left as we propose. I should, perhaps, say that in our view the question which will come before the magistrate is a comparatively simple one of fact, to be decided on local evidence. It does not involve the merits of the application in its planning aspect. It is, only the question whether or not the development can be carried out forthwith, and therefore whether or not there should be a decision on the merits.
Since we are discussing these Amendments together, I would say there are some considerable difficulties in the further Amendments proposed by my hon. and learned Friend, and I do take the view that if we did accept the Amendment now under discussion some alternative procedure for hearing would have to be provided. It would not, in the view of my right hon. Friend, be fair to applicants to say, "Notwithstanding the fact that your application if granted could be carried out immediately; we can postpone indefinitely consideration of its merits." Although the question will not arise if, as I hope, the Committee reject this Amendment, I will turn for a moment to the Amendment of my hon. and learned Friend in Clause 2, page 2, line 33, where he proposes to insert the words:
and if so required by the applicant, or by the interim development authority, after holding a local inquiry.
I cannot think he has put those words in the right place to bring about the result which he must intend, because the Amendment would have the result that even if the Minister had decided that there are exceptional grounds for determining the application immediately he would be required to hold a local inquiry at the instance of either the applicant or the interim development authority before giving the necessary directions. Surely if there is to be an inquiry at all it should not be on the question whether the direction should be given, but whether there are exceptional reasons for requiring directions. I assume, therefore, what my hon. and learned Friend has in mind is that there should be an inquiry into whether there are exceptional reasons for requiring direction. Even so, there are very strong objections. The directions would enable any applicant who had failed to show that he was able to develop immediately to make
representations that there were exceptional reasons in his case. I find myself in agreement with the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin) that this would make the administration quite unworkable. For the other reasons I have given I suggest that the Government are right in their view that there is a case against postponement of consideration on the merits when 'the applicant can show that the application, if granted, would result in immediate development. If he can show that, he is entitled to a decision. If those facts are disputed he is entitled, I think, to some sort of judicial determination of the matter in dispute, Far more difficult matters under the principal Act are already deter' mined in the magistrates' court and I think this is not the occasion to recast the whole system. I am not going to say whether my hon. and learned Friend is right in thinking that ultimately, for various purposes of town planning, we may have to have different tribunals, but for the present purpose and for deciding this limited question of fact the machinery set up in the Bill is, I claim, correct, and I ask the Committee to reject the Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 21, after the second "on," to insert "the clerk of."
I rise with some expectation and hope that my Amendment will be accepted. I do so because, up to now, the Minister has steadfastly refused to accept any Amendments. He can accept my Amendment on many grounds. The first is that it deals with a very narrow point and gives the Minister an opportunity of saying how conciliatory he has been when other Amendments on more important matters, come to be submitted to him. It gives him the opportunity of saying, "At any rate, I have accepted some Amendments." Really, this is nothing more than a drafting Amendment. The proviso to the Sub-section we have been discussing gives the applicant a right of appeal. My Amendment deals with the way in which the notice shall be given. Under the Clause the applicant has a right of appeal against the decision of the local development authority to postpone the consideration of any application, and for purposes of an appeal, notice must be served on the clerk to the justices and on the interim development authority, but it does not say Whether service shall be effected on the clerk, the surveyor, the town planning officer or some other officer. The object of my Amendment is to make it plain that the person upon whom notice should be served, is the clerk. I cannot see that my Amendment is one to arouse any passionate resentment. It is a simple, clarifying Amendment.
I am sorry that I cannot make an exception here to the policy so far pursued, but I hope I shall be able to convince my hon. Friend that we had better leave the Clause as it is. One always hopes that a technical objection will not be taken to notices if they do, in fact, reach the proper quarter. The words used here follow the words used in Sub-section (4) of Section 13 of the original Act, which provides that the written notice must be served on the clerk of the court and on the authority, and it would be rather a pity to have two codes of notices in the same group of Acts. Another possible objection is that a joint committee may not have a clerk, and in that case we should be in great trouble if anybody wished to be technical, as the Amendment would have provided that notice must have been served on someone who did not exist. I think there is a certain variety of terminology in Acts of Parliament dealing with this matter. In some cases notice has to be served on the authority and in some cases on the clerk. I do not believe that any local authority has ever taken any technical objection, if the notice, although it has reached them, has not had a heading in exact accordance with the words of the Act. As the principal Act requires that notice be served on the authority, a4ld as there is the possibility that in some cases the authority might be a joint committee who would not have a clerk in the statutory sense, I hope my hon. Friend will realise that, while we have given his Amendment every sympathetic consideration, on the whole it will be better to leave things as they are.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman started by saying that it was his great desire that the notice should be served in the right quarter. Who is to receive it if there is no clerk?
I said there might not be a clerk in the statutory sense. The word, "clerk" in a statute would mean the person who is the clerk in the statutory sense. Although some joint committees may not have a cleric in the statutory sense they would have a secretary to deal with correspondence.
I can conceive that an authority may not have a clerk in the statutory sense, but I cannot conceive any authority set up under an Act of Parliament not having a clerk at all. But, as I said at the outset, I regard this Amendment as quite unimportant, and in view of the fact that I have other Amendments down I shall give my right hon. and learned Friend the pleasure of postponing his acceptance until we come to those other Amendments. I beg to ask leave to withdraw this Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 2, line 27, at the end, to insert:
the decision of the court under this proviso shall be final.
I am a little more hopeful than my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Sir A. Maitland), because I am seeking to reduce appeals on points of law and here questions of fact are mostly concerned. Under the Clause which provides for an appeal to quarter sessions against the decision of the court of summary jurisdiction, the Bill proposes that the decision of the first court is not to be final. I submit that that is an unnecessary duplication of machinery, as at present appeals of this nature are referred to in Clause 2, Subsection (2). The question to be decided will be one of fact—whether the applicant will be able to carry out the proposed development immediately the application is granted. Under those conditions, it seems unnecessary for more than one court to be concerned in the matter, and it is suggested that the Clause should provide that the decision of the first court. should be final. That seems so clear and reasonable that I cannot imagine I need say anything more, and I expect the learned Attorney-General to get up at once and say that he accepts it.
One sometimes finds Members wanting a right of appeal and the Government saying they think it is unnecessary; sometimes the Government say they think there ought to be an appeal and Members say they think it unnecessary. This Amendment falls into the second category. This, again, is a small point. The general procedure, the governing Clause, in regard to matters which come before courts of summary jurisdiction, provides for appeals to quarter sessions, which are of course appeals on questions of fact, and my right hon. Friend thinks it would be better not to make an exception in this class of case. Indeed, some of the arguments we heard just now could be used without any straining or unfairness in favour of a right of appeal. It was said, that though it might not be very frequent, a question might arise as to whether supplies, materials and labour and so on were sufficiently available to make out a case that development could take place at once, and that this might sometimes involve points of some difficulty. If so, it would be very reasonable that either party, if dissatisfied, should be entitled to a review.
In dealing with appeals I do not think it is so much a question of the men to whom you appeal being necessarily cleverer than those who first heard the case, as the probability that on a case being heard a second time, it will be better heard, because points will be brought out which were not realised in the first instance. You have a much better chance of getting down to the real issues. Another point was made with which I have considerable sympathy, that in dealing with the question of whether development can be carried out immediately, it is desirable, in so far as a question of principle might be involved, to have as much uniformity as possible. The suggestion then was to centralise the whole thing in London. I agree, if uniformity is the governing consideration, that that is the way to get it. On the other hand, to centralise everything in London would clog the machine. Local decisions are bound to show a certain amount of lack of uniformity. In so far as uniformity is desirable you would get a greater likelihood of it, or at any rate a possibility of correcting excessive diversity, in the courts of summary jurisdiction. Here again, though I am sorry to disappoint the Mover of the Amendment, we have considered this matter from what we. feel are the relevant angles, and we think it much better to leave the Bill as it is.
I beg to move, in page 4. line 3o, at the end, to insert:
except where the application in connection with which the period was fixed was determined by the Minister on appeal from the decision of the interim development authority.
This is a rather technical matter designed to save time and to simplify the machine. Clause 3 deals with the power of an authority to grant permission for the erection of buildings for a limited time only. An applicant who is dissatisfied, may appeal to the Minister. The Minister then decides the period for which the building should be erected. Sub-section (4) gives power to, the authority, at the end of a fixed period, to extend the period on the application of the owner. If the owner is dissatisfied, he can appeal to the Minister again. The object of the Amendment is that he should not have the right of further appeal to the Minister. There should be one appeal to the Minister, either at the beginning when the original application is made, or when the applicant is dissatisfied with the decision of the authority as to extending the time.
The reason why the provision exists in the Bill allowing the period to be extended on a further application to the local authority, is that when the application is originally made, both the applicant and the local authority have a certain view in their minds about the future. The local authority think that by the end of the to years there ought to be no further need of the building in question, because they will be able to get on with their positive, permanent reconstruction. The applicant at the same time, says that he is willing to have his building put up for 10 years. Frequently the future proves different from the expectation entertained at the time. The reason why the Sub-section is inserted is to give both applicant and local authority a chance to review the position again before the end of the period, so that, in the light of any changed circumstances, they may say whether the period originally agreed to was too short or too long.
One cannot imagine a man making an application for an extension of the period, unless there were circumstances, as he thought, in his favour, which had occurred between the two dates, altering the ground of the judgment which imposed upon the local authority and himself the period set in the first instance. It is precisely because things have changed before the end of the period and there may be a different set of facts on which to judge, that this provision is inserted. If a change of fact operates to enable the local authority to extend the period if necessary, and thus alter the view they formed at the beginning of the period, and if the local authority can be taught by the events that have occurred that a fresh extension is necessary, surely the Minister should be given the same opportunity of reviewing the whole circumstances and of coming, if necessary, to a fresh decision. The Minister is no more prone to make an absolutely accurate forecast of the future than is the local authority. I think it is reasonable, if we give a chance for the original time to be extended, to allow the same latitude to the Minister to hear an appeal. I know that the sole object of my hon. Friend in putting forward the Amendment is to remove obstruction and duplication of work and I am grateful to him for that help, but if we are dealing with a changed set of circumstances, both the local authority and the Minister should have a chance of reviewing the matter afresh.
I beg to move, in page 4, line 34, at the end, to insert:
or on or within a limited time after the giving of a notice and whether such conditions were included in the document granting the permission or in any agreement or other document.
The object of Clause 3 is to enable an interim development authority to remove a building or to require it to be discontinued. The question is, what is meant by "limited period"? I am informed that conditions prescribe the date of the removal or discontinuance and require it to take place on the giving of a notice, or on the expiration of. a limited time after the giving of the notice. It is a question whether that procedure is covered by the words "at some future time." I am further told that it sometimes happens that the condition is not actually included in the document giving the permission but is contained in a separate agreement or other document. The object of the Amendment is to make it clear that, in these cases, permission is deemed to be given for a limited time.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for having drawn attention to this matter. It is very important to get the matter absolutely straight as to what is the meaning of "temporary permission." I do not like the words suggested by my hon. Friend but I think he has drawn attention to a matter which needs clarification. If he will withdraw his Amendment at this stage, I should like time to consider the matter and possibly to put down an Amendment in another place, which would have the object of 'making clear what is perhaps a little vague. The words have puzzled my hon. Friend, and that is a sign that they require looking into.
I beg to move, in page 5, line 2, at the end, to insert:
Provided that, in giving such consent, the Minister shall by the terms thereof secure that any such order shall provide that in addition to any compensation payable under Sub-section (4) of this Section or under Sub-section (2) of Section seven of this Act any person whose property has been injuriously affected by the revocation or modification of the permission shall be entitled, if he makes a claim for the purpose within twelve months from the date when the order is made; to claim compensation for such injurious affection from such authority as may be specified in the order.
The object of this Amendment is to ensure that wherever possible when an interim development authority, having granted permission for development, change their mind, compensation' will be payable. I fully appreciate that from time to time it will be necessary for an interim development authority to change their plans, and my right hon. Friend has pointed out that the falling of bombs from the sky very often changes all ideas of how a particular area should be developed. One presumes that at the end of this war bombs will not continue to fall—at least one hopes not—and I do not see any reason why interim development authorities should go on constantly changing their plans when they have once made them unless the plan is, in fact, a rotten one or an ill-conceived one. When the Minister starts chasing interim development authorities they may not put forward carefully prepared plans but will want to please him by getting on the job and putting forward plans which may require to be altered subsequently.
This Amendment will cover certain cases of loss where an interim development authority change their minds which at present would not be given under the Bill. In particular I have in mind a man who has perfectly honestly been to the interim development authority and said, "Will you give me permission to develop on my land?" and the authority has said, ' Yes, you can." Then it is quite possible that through ill-health, or business losses, or having to go abroad, or for other reasons he may sell that land to another person, who buys it at a building value price, Pays full value for it, and that when it comes to a question of that land the plan is suddenly changed, and he is told that he cannot develop on the land for which he has paid a building value price because the interim development authority have changed their mind. Overnight he might find all his savings which have been invested in that land, or two-thirds or three-quarters, wiped out. I think that wherever it is possible, especially if an interim development authority have not a very good reason for changing their minds, they should compensate those people who suffer from their decisions or their wrong decisions. That is the object of this Amendment.
One additional reason I should like to point out in support of this Amendment is caused where the death may have occurred of the person who has been given this interim development order. Ft would be very hard on the estate of that person to lose those benefits which would have been carried into effect had the deceased person lived, and which it would be deprived of by the alteration of such an Order. Therefore I think the Minister should give serious consideration to this point.
I think the Amendment of my boil. and gallant Friend is based on a slight misapprehension of what the position would be in the absence of his Amendment. In fact, very similar considerations arise, he may not be surprised to hear, as in connection with his previous Amendment. The novelty he seeks to introduce into this present Amendment is the immediate payment of compensation. That, for the reasons given by my right hon. Friend in resisting his earlier Amendment, has been fully considered on other occasions, and would involve a very radical alteration of the principal Act which we are not proposing to make. The rights of an applicant in die case where there is a revocation of permission are generally the same as where a permission is refused; his rights to compensation for injurious affection under Section 18 of the principal Act will, of course, stand. My hon. and gallant Friend is proposing a change, for which I can find no logical justification, between the case where a permission has been given and has been cancelled and the case where permission is refused. There really is no distinction in logic between the two cases, except this one, that in the former case there may have been some abortive ex penditure. For that we make provision in a later Clause in this Bill, but apart from that difference in the two cases there is no more reason why he should not have to wait for his compensation until the scheme comes into force than there is for anyone else waiting for a similar period.
There is just this point. If a person says, "May I do this?" and the interim development authority take everything into consideration and say, "You may do it," one has some right to say, "This can be done." When they are quite definite one really assumes one may do it.
I think I ought to correct at once the impression my hon. and gallant Friend may have inadvertently given that in every case where a local authority or the Minister revokes or varies permission already given it means that the local authority originally made a mistake. That is not so. Subsequent events, particularly war damage, may radically alter the state of affairs and it may be in the public interest that permission, rightly given originally, should be changed in the light of subsequent circumstances. The main difference between the two cases is that the man may have acted on an earlier permission. If he has done so, and has incurred abortive expenditure, we make provision in a later Clause of the Bill. Apart from that, there is, in my submission to the Committee, no reason for giving him an earlier claim for compensation than if his application had been originally refused. I do not want to weary the Committee by repeating the arguments already used by my right hon. Friend on an earlier Clause, but the reasons that influenced Parliament over ten years ago not to give compensation for interim development refusals until the scheme came into operation still retain their validity, and I think the House, considering the question afresh, would be likely to come to the same conclusion. I would finally remind my hon. and gallant Friend and my hon. Friend the Member for South Battersea (Mr. Selley) that there are provisions—I think my right hon. Friend has already drawn the attention of the Committee to them—in Sub-section (2) of Section 18 of the principal Act.
In awarding any compensation payable in respect to property injuriously affected by the coming into operation of any provision contained in a scheme, account shall be taken
of any additional injurious affection of the property by reason that since the commencement of this Act the Minister has refused, on an appeal made to him under an interim development order, to grant an application for permission to develop the property, or that the Minister has imposed any conditions on the grant of such an application made since that date.
We have taken steps, in the Clause under discussion, to see that the same possibility of making an additional award under Sub-section (2) when the scheme comes into operation shall operate in the case of a revocation of a licence. Haring regard to the circumstances I have put before the Committee, I trust my hon. and gallant Friend will see fit to withdraw his Amendment.
I would like to thank my hon. Friend for the answer he has given. There are one or two points I should like to make. He asked what positive action there was. Positive action is provided by the person who says, "I am prepared to buy this land, because I have been told I may develop on it." There is a perfectly positive action there. The second point is, Why should it be a conclusive argument that the Act of 1932 is an absolutely perfect Act? I want to see further powers. I want to see goon planning as well as any Member in this Committee, but it seems to me that the Minister's final answer to any point he does not like is to say that those powers and provisions were in the 1932 Act. If there is something bad in the 1932 Act that we do not like, cannot we alter it? Must it stay there for ever? I do not see that that is progress at all. However, my hon. Friend has told me that at long last, when the scheme comes into operation, compensation will be paid. I thank him for that answer, and I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.
I beg to move, in page 5, line 3, to leave out "The Minister," and to insert:
If it appears to the Minister that it is expedient, having regard to considerations affecting the public interest, whether generally or in the locality concerned, that an order should be made under the foregoing subsection, he.
With your permission, Mr. Williams, may I take also the next Amendment standing in my name? This Clause gives power to an interim development authority
in certain circumstances to make an Order, with the consent of a Minister, to revoke or modify a permission to develop which has already been given. Sub-section (2) of the Clause, in effect, substitutes the Minister for the interim development authority, by enabling him to require an Order to be made for the revocation or modification of a consent to develop. The Minister himself was charged under the Minister of Town and Country Planning Act, 1943, with certain duties. There was enjoined upon him the responsibility of securing consistency and continuity in the framing and execution of a national policy with respect to the use and development of land, and in view of those powers it would seem that one could not successfully object to this power which he now seeks. But it is suggested that the power he seeks in this Sub-section should be operated only where it is necessary in conjunction with "national planning." To attain this, the Amendment introduces the same phraseology as is used at the beginning of Clause 6. I hope that the Minister will see his Way to accept the Amendment.
My hon. Friend referred to the fact that he was trying to import into this Clause the introductory words of Clause 6. He seemed to think that if those words were good enough for Clause 6, why were they not good enough here? The reason is that Clause 6 and this Clause do quite different things. I am bound to refer briefly to what Clause 6 does, in order to meet my hon. Friend's argument. Clause 6 decides who is to deal with the matter, whether the Minister or the interim development authority. In this Clause, the question is not who is to consider a proposal to revoke or vary, but what should be done about an individual application. In Clause 6 it is necessary to direct the Minister's attention to what he should have in his mind, namely, considerations of the public interest, before he takes the thing out of the hands of the interim development authority, but in this matter, the revocation and modification of permission, the Minister has been already told by Subsection (1) of Clause 4 to what he should direct his attention. He is to think that:
it is expedient, having regard to the provisions then proposed to be included in that scheme.
Not only are these words which stand in the Clause more appropriate than those proposed by my hon. Friend for this pur
pose, but in Sub-section (3) of the Clause there is, in effect, a right of appeal given to the Minister where the interim development authority, either of their own accord or instructed by the Minister, grant an application. If I were to adopt my hon. Friend's suggestion, such a right of appeal would be entirely nugatory. Before it came about as a result of a direction to make an Order, it would have to appear to the Minister that it was expedient, having regard to the public interest, that the Order should be made. I should in that case have decided the m4tter in advance. The purpose of this is to give the Minister a general right of review, either in his own interests or in the interests of applicants, having regard to the particular merits of each case. The words which my hon. Friend proposes, although admirable in Clause 6, are inapplicable in this Clause, having regard to the abject he has in view.
I want to refer to the provision, in lines 21 and 22 on page 5, that the authority may make a contribution to any person "whose property is injuriously affected." Does this phrase include the difference in the value of the land before revocation of the Order and the value of the land after such recovation? It seems to me that that difference, arising out of the revocation, may be rather serious in some instances.
The words used in this Sub-section have the same meaning as in the principal Ant. If my hon. Friend will turn to Section 18 of that Act and the definition Section which follows, he will find an exact definition. If he then has any point of difficulty, I shall be glad if he will put it to me.
I beg to move, in page 5, line 40, to leave out "is," and to insert "has been."
No doubt it will meet the desire of the Committee, Mr. Williams, if we discuss this with certain other Amendments which are consequential. These Amendments are regarded by local authorities as being important. I have less expectation of their being accepted than I had of the acceptance of my previous Amendment, so I do not approach my task with undue optimism. I will state at once one reason why I should myself object to the Amendment I am now proposing. I think it is as well to state that if the Amendment were carried, it would have a retrospective effect. The House is always jealous of passing legislation of that nature. I wish frankly to meet that charge, and to say that I recognise that this has the effect of retrospective legislation. It may be, however, that the case I have to put on behalf of the local authorities, resulting from their experience, may justify the Minister in taking a wider view on that general aversion to the introduction of retrospective legislation. I do not know. But I at once admit the validity of that argument which the Minister might use in opposing the Amendment.
The Clause deals with the power to enforce interim development control. Under the existing law, if permission to develop land, whether by building or by a change in the use of the land, is withheld, there is nothing to prevent the applicant disregarding the prohibition altogether, and erecting buildings or using his land as though the permission had been granted. That is the advice which has been given to me. Some of my legal friends on the Front Bench will perhaps tell me if that is wrong. When the scheme comes into operation later, however, such a person will not receive compensation for the removal of the building. It might have been thought that that sanction would be sufficient to deter persons from developing land when permission has been withheld, but, I am informed, the experience of local authorities shows that that has not been the case, and that many persons have gone on notwithstanding such prohibition. The Clause as printed goes far to remove this defect, but it applies only to buildings or development of land carried out after the commencement of the Act. The object of the Amendment is to give local authorities the right where the prohibition has been disregarded to remove buildings or require any development to be discontinued al though it was started before the present Measure came into operation.
I very much welcome this opportunity of supporting what my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Sir A. Maitland) has said on this Amendment. It is of great 'importance to some of our larger cities, particularly some of those which have suffered severe bombing. There are one or two points I should like to bring to the notice of my right hon. Friend. The purpose of Clause 5 is to enforce interim development control after the passing of the Act, but there is, as the Bill stands, no power of enforcement against improper development that has taken place during the period of the interim development order. I would remind my hon. Friend that at present there are two stages to these development orders. The first is that when the local planning authority desires to plan a certain area it has to get a resolution passed by the local authority. The second stage is that those plans have to be approved, and have to be prepared. Obviously, in the bigger cities there must be a considerable interval between stage one and stage two. If an individual decides to ignore the interim planning order he is able to do so, because the local authority has no power of enforcement until the order becomes operative, which may in the larger cities not be for one, two, or even three years. That, in my opinion, is a very serious omission. I would ask my right hon. Friend to accept this Amendment, because the Bill, although it deals with any new development, certainly does not deal with anything which an individual may have done during the interim planning order against the wishes of the local authority.
I put my name down to an Amendment which has the same object, so I should like to speak on this Amendment. I cannot understand the lack of enthusiasm with which the hon. Member for Faversham (Sir A. Maitland) moved this Amendment. I do not think that a person who put up a building with the knowledge that he was contravening a scheme and acting contrary to the order, and with a knowledge that one day at any rate he might be called upon to pull that building down, is deserving of very much sympathy. The purpose of the Amendment is not to do something to such a person which would not otherwise be done, but to do something a little earlier. In any event; when the scheme comes into effect, the person can be called upon to pull down the building. What is proposed in the Amendment is that if it is in the national interest that that process should be somewhat ante-dated, the authority may call upon such a person to pull down the building now. In any case, but for the war, the probability is that in many cases the scheme would already have come into operation and such building might very well have been required to be pulled down. These people, therefore, have had the benefit of the period of the war and probably will not be required to pull down the building during the war. I can see no injustice, hardship or anything improper in this provision being made retrospective, so that persons who put up buildings in defiance of the local authority in the past are put in exactly the same position as if the scheme had become operative and in the same position as persons who put up buildings in defiance of the local authority in the future. The Amendment is supported by all these local authorities concerned, including the London County Council, and I hope that the Minister will see his way to accept it.
The reason why my right hon. Friend is unable to accept the Amendment is largely the reason which was admittedly in the mind of my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Sir A. Maitland), who moved it. This would be retrospective legislation. Hon. Members have spoken as though any applicant whose application was rejected had no right to proceed with the development of his land. That was not so. He had every right to do it. He had a clear right and a definite legal right to do it. The only thing was that he ran the risk—not the certainty—that, if eventually when that scheme came into operation the building he put up was deemed to be a contravention of the scheme, he was under the liability to remove it without compensation. But if he chose to take that risk, he had every right to do it. It would be, in the view of my right hon. Friend, a rather serious thing to start retrospective legislation of this kind and to say, "Notwithstanding the fact that what you did was perfectly legal under the existing law, we are, nevertheless, going to treat it exactly as we should treat it if the law had been something quite different." The objection which the Committee has so ofen shown to retrospective legislation would apply in this case if we had taken that action.
Let me point out one perhaps slightly technical matter, which has not been mentioned by any of those who have taken part in this short discussion, but which has some application to what we are considering. Until the Act of 1932 was passed, there was no general power for planning authorities to prepare schemes for built areas. Planning authorities in a number of places did, nevertheless, pass resolutions for built areas which would have been "in force" for the purposes of the present Clause. The Minister of Health, in approving "preliminary statements" which formed part of the procedure before 1932, excluded such areas, and for practical purposes the resolution was dead, and, accordingly, much development was carried out without formal permission under the interim development order, because in view of the exclusion from the preliminary statement the local authorities told developers that application for permission was unnecessary. In law, however, the resolution is still in force, and, accordingly, although for the reasons stated, the development was carried out in all innocence, the development would be penalised if this Amendment were carried. I advise the Committee to reject the Amendment, but perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham, in all the circumstances, may wish to withdraw it.
Before I sit down I should like to mention one possible case which some Members of the Committee may have in mind and where they think great injury might be done unless we had something of this kind. There may possibly be a case where somebody is using a piece of land to dump refuse in and is continuing that without any permission. Obviously, no one wants anyone to continue to use land or further lands for dumping refuse, if it is a continuing nuisance and permission had been refused. There might be some legal question whether that could or could not be stopped under the Clause as it stands without any Amendment. The Committee will agree that if there is any doubt, it ought to be set at rest, and, in asking my hon. Friend to withdraw the Amendment, I will give an undertaking that that latter class of case that I have mentioned will be looked into, and if it is thought that it is doubtful whether we could stop such an action under the Clause as it now stands, an appropriate Amendment will be moved by the Government in another place.
Do I understand from my hon. Friend that the undertaking may be construed to mean that he is prepared to discuss the whole question with representatives of different local authorities? Am I to interpret it in that way?
I am sorry, but that would not be the right interpretation. The general proposition that enforcement of interim development control should be made retrospective is rejected by the Government. But it might be argued that under the Clause as drawn we should be unable even to prevent what would be in the minds of all of us really a new offence; that is to say, continuing to use ground for dumping and using more ground in the future. In so far as our Clause might have that effect, we shall look into it, and if the Clause as drawn, in the view of our advisers, is not considered enough to enable the local authority to stop such action, we will move an appropriate Clause in another place to deal with that type of case. But the, other announcement stands, that the Government reject the proposal for the enforcement of interim development control being made retrospective.
I. would like to insist upon the point that this is regarded as very important by the local authorities and that their experience has led them to seek to have the Bill drafted in the way suggested in the Amendment. I fully recognise my hon. Friend's argument with regard to the objection to retrospec tive legislation, but I ask him—I am not sure myself whether it covers all points—to consult the local authorities to see whether in fact what he has proposed more or less meets their view, and if he will do that, I am prepared to withdraw the Amendment.
I beg to move, n page 6, line 23, to leave out:
The Minister may give general or special directions for controlling.
and to insert:
If it appears to the Minister that it is expedient, having regard to the considerations affecting the public interest, whether generally or in the locality concerned, that he should control.
I formally move this Amendment for the purpose of giving the Minister an opportunity to tell me why my previous Amendment is not acceptable.
My purpose in rising is to answer the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Faversham (Sir A. Maitland) why we must adhere to the position that we cannot make retrospective legislation penalising people who acted legally in the 'past. We are prepared to examine the subject to see what we can do to prevent the continuing use of that which when it was inaugurated was legal. That is all we can- do. These questions are very much better argued with a concrete case before one than in abstractions and I should be very glad to hear from representatives of local authorities of the sort of concrete problem which is troubling them and then we could see what we could do. If my hon. Friend could make that fact known I would be very greatly obliged to him.
We have already, before introducing the Bill, had consultations with all local authorities including the rural district councils and the urban district councils. The purpose of my intervention at the moment is to try to get the assistance of hon. Members who know from their own knowledge or association with local bodies the sort of concrete prob lem troubling them so that we could see what to do, and that applies to all associations of local authorities.
I beg to move, in page 6, line 3o, at the end, to insert:
Provided that before giving any such directions the Minister shall consult where any particular interim development authority will be affected, with that authority, and, where interim development authorities generally will be affected, with such associations of local authorities as appear to him to be concerned and with any local authority with whom consultation appears to him to be desirable.
Under Sub-section (3) of the Clause the Minister is to be given powers to give general or special directions to local authorities on the way in which this Clause has to be carried out. These are very strong powers, which, it is stated, in Sub-section (3) shall be enforceable on the application of the Minister. The Amendment says that before the Minister exercises these very strong powers he shall consult where any particular interim development authority would be affected, with that authority, and where it is a general direction, that he should consult with the representatives of the various authorities which will be concerned. It is not the same kind of consultation the Minister felt hesitant in accepting on a previous Clause, but this is a much more serious affair, which involves the local authorities possibly in odium and in expense, and it would be only right that, in such a case, where large numbers of local authorities may be affected, there should be formal consultations. I see no difficulty in what the Minister stated on a previous Clause as to the exact meaning of consultations, but there should be no doubt that the consultations which I suggest should take place here should be proper consultations. The local authorities should be informed of what the Minister is proposing to do and should have an opportunity of making any representations they think fit. I hope that he will be prepared to accept the Amendment, which, as I have said, does not deal with consultations on the same footing as in a previous Clause, and that he will be prepared to allow the Amendment to be inserted in the Bill
I agree with the hon. Member that this is a little different from the last occasion when we had that point about consultation before us, but I think—and I hope he agrees—that it is not wise to put into a Statute words which have to be construed by the courts unless we are quite certain what they mean. In exercising powers one would consult the interim development authority concerned. There are two sorts of direction involved, one general and the other individual. In the case of individual directions, the authority would, of course, always be consulted and must in the very nature of things be consulted because no Minister would wish to go to the length of using these powers if he could obtain his object by consultation and persuasion. In the case of general directions, if such are necessary, it would be extremely important that a Minister should on every occasion consult the associations of local authorities, which could bring together the combined wisdom of their constituent bodies. I freely undertake to do that in every proper case. The only thing that occurs to me is that knowing something of the variety of problems with which we and local authorities will be confronted in the future, it may be necessary to act very quickly in a special case, and, the Minister may be embarrassed unduly if it is statutorily laid down that he must go into consultation. Any Minister who would not consult to the full with those with whom he works—the local authorities—would not only be discourteous, but would be foolish. Therefore, I give the strongest possible assurance that there will be consultation in all proper cases.
I want to raise a point with regard to the sanction which the Minister reserves to himself—that of going to the courts in an action for mandamus.The Minister has told us, in answering my hon. Friend the Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin), that it may be necessary in many cases to act speedily but it is well known that law actions are susceptible to delays which would prevent speedy action, and I therefore ask him why he has adopted this form of sanction rather than another, which is quite common in cases of this kind, namely, the taking of power unto himself to do things which he would seek by mandamus to compel an interim development authority to do?
I think the reason is because power is given to the Minister to give general or special directions for controlling the exercise by interim development authorities of their powers under Subsection (3) of this Clause and also to give directions requiring them to exercise the said powers as respects any development specified in the directions in such a manner as may be so specified. That envisages a set of general directions and not a specification of the work to be done. If it were a question of the pulling down of an offending building it would be more appropriate that the Minister ought to take, in default, his own power. Where it is a question of direction, where you have work to be done in the final and concrete form by the local authority itself this is the only way I can see of enforcing it. As a practical matter I think the number of occasions when I shall have to go to court and ask for a mandamus will be extremely few, if any.
I beg to move, in page 7, line 23, after "that," to insert:
(i) before giving any such directions the Minister shall consult, where any particular interim development authority will be affected, with that authority and, where interim development authorities generally will be affected, with such associations of local authorities as appear to him to be concerned and with any local authority with whom consultation appears to him to be desirable and(ii).
In moving this Amendment formally I assume that the Minister will be prepared to give an assurance regarding consultation in the same way as he has done previously, in which case I shall he happy to withdraw
Yes, Sir, I am prepared to give the assurance that all proper consultation will be carried out by me in dealing with these matters. The Clause we are dealing with now gives power to the Minister with respect to interim development applications. In these cases one would have to have regard mainly to the public interest and it would be a case of the public interest being affected by something which it was proposed to be done by an interim development authority. Before a Minister acts he would have to have made up his mind that the public interest demanded his intervention and, accordingly, that presumes at the outset that the parties have moved at arm's length from each other before his intervention became necessary. But again, in so far as is possible, there will be consultation and discussion in order to remove any cause of disagreement. That is the appropriate way to go about it, and I can give that assurance.
There is one point which may have escaped the attention of the Minister. Section 50 of the 1932 Act made special provision with regard to the administration of town planning m the county of London. By Sub-section (3) of that Section Metropolitan borough councils are entitled to be notified of certain applications that come before- the County Council. In the main, these are applications which deal with matters of principle and the Council are entitled to be notified not less than 14 days before the application is dealt with by the County Council. That affords a very useful measure of consultation, because borough councils are deemed to have local knowledge, particularly where the question of user is involved and that knowledge is very helpful to the County Council in arriving at a decision. The Minister, under this Clause, is seeking power to deal with certain classes of applications himself. Certain classes of cases may be taken out of the hands of the County Council and dealt with by the Minister in the national interest. In such cases it is right that the Minister should have the same advantage as the County Council of learning the views of the Metropolitan borough councils, and while it is too late to move an Amendment at this stage I w mild ask the Minister to con sider, at a later stage, incorporating some provision which will safeguard the position of the Metropolitan boroughs by enabling them to be consulted about applications where the Minister himself is dealing with those applications.
This Clause will be to the great advantage of good town planning. More harm can often be done by granting applications than by refusing them. But it is assumed that the only person whose application has been refused has the right of appeal. There is no right of appeal by the general public or by other persons who may be injuriously affected by the granting of an application. This Clause does not directly afford the right of appeal to such persons, but it gives such persons the right to make representations to the Minister. The Minister can then in proper cases—I presume that that is the way in which this Clause will work—deal with the application himself or, if it relates to a series of cases, may take them in hand and deal with them, presumably with a view to refusing them if he thinks the local authority may be disposed to grant them. That is not very strong; it does not give people likely to be injuriously affected the right of appeal. They have no power to make formal representations to him asking him to deal with these applications.
There is no machinery by which they can state their ca*e to him and the only remedy then is that the Minister himself, if he is sufficiently conversant with the facts—he is not obliged to listen, but I presume he will—can say, "I will deal with the application myself." But in a large number of cases the Minister may be too late. The application may have been granted before the persons who are affected have had an opportunity A making representations to him. The application may have been granted and the people have no right of,appeal. I know that the Minister can then invoke Clause 4, by means of which he may himself revoke the decision of the local authority, but I cannot help feeling that all that is rather cumbersome and that it is perhaps better to give certain classes of persons a direct right of appeal to the Minister. Of the two alternatives, I think the second is simpler and better and, while I do not wish to be dogmatic about it, I hope the Minister will give the matter his consideration. I am quite sure' that if this right of appeal had existed in the past, the nation would have been saved from many outrageous buildings and equally from outrageous users of buildings.
Finally, I want to raise the question of finance. The Minister under Clause 6 is assuming powers to deal with applications which would normally be dealt with by local authorities. Presumably he is doing that because the probabilities are that he will take a course of action which the local authority would not have taken. It is easy to see that in a number of cases his decision will impose on local authorities financial burdens which if left alone they would not have incurred. As I said on Second Reading, it may be quite right in many cases that the Minister should in a sense act in default of the local authority. He may take the right line where the local authority would have taken the wrong line. In such cases, and I am ready to admit they may be the majority of cases, it would be proper that the financial cost should fall on the local authority. But there may he other cases, possibly a considerable number, in which the Minister's outlook is one which the local authority cannot be expected and ought not to be expected to take.
The Minister has to look at the matter from the point of view of the national interest, whereas a local authority is only required and expected to look at planning in the interest of its own locality. National interest may require certain things to be done or not to be done which local interests would not require. The Minister may be quite right in looking at the wider interest but that may impose on the local authority additional cost which it ought not to bear. While I am on this subject, may I say that the same set of circumstances might apply under Clause 4 where the Minister may require a local authority to revoke the grant of an application—a scheme for which permission had already been granted—not because the local authority originally made a mistake, not even necessarily because conditions had changed in the area, but because it was decided that in the national interest it would be better that the application previously granted should be revoked. That, again, may involve a local authority in additional expense.
The question which local authorities are asking themselves is whether in these cases—I agree they may be limited—they can look for a contribution from the Minister.
We have been told that there may be.future Bills and it is a question which certainly will have to be dealt 'with. The question cannot be left where it is. It is not good government that the Minister should have power, without even consulting the local authority, to make decisions and that the local authority should then be called upon to bear the cost, when those decisions need not be decisions with which the local authority is concerned but decisions of national interest. I raised this point on Second Reading and I fully understood that the Parliamentary Secretary was not in a position then to give a final answer. I said then that I would raise the matter again in Committee, and I hope that the Minister is in a better position to-day to give some indication of what will be the policy of the Government on this very important matter.
I should like an opportunity of looking further into the case of the Metropolitan boroughs which the hon. Member for Peckham (Mr. Silkin),mentioned. It is a new case to me and I should like time to consider it. I agree that the procedure under Clause 6 might, perhaps, preferably have been couched in the form of an appeal but the difficulty was to define who could appeal and who could not. That was very difficult as a matter of drafting and we shall have to try td do the best we can with the Bill as drafted. I would like to say a few words upon the question of finance. That also is difficult and I can well understand local authorities being anxious to know what will happen to them.
In the first place, I would like to point out that the number of cases, whether under Clause 4 or under Clause 6, which will involve a charge on a local authority is very limited. That does not mean they should not be dealt with, but the. Minister's powers do not cover so wide an area as may at first appear. Moreover, not all acts of the Minister will attract compensation. That will shear off a certain number. Then, as the hon. Member for Peckham was candid enough to admit, there will be cases where the Minister will be doing something which a good local authority ought to have done. In that case the local authority could quite well be called upon to bear the cost. Then I apprehend that a good deal of action taken under these Clauses in the national interest, will be in respect of services which already attract Government grants. Roads, for example, may provide a very large part of the field in which central interference will be necessary. Roads attract grants. Then there are such matters as housing, which attracts very heavy grants, education—the provision of school premises, and so on. These also are matters in which Ministerial interference is likely and in those cases Ministerial action would be considered in determining what should be the proper rate of grant. There will be also the problem of the acquisition of land in reconstruction areas, that is to say areas which require reconstruction either because of enemy action or because for some other reason they require rebuilding.
That problem will also cover a good deal of the possible field, because it is quite possible that restrictive action will be taken by the local authority at the Minister's request as a preliminary to the acquisition of land for the purpose of reconstruction. If that were so, I have no doubt that costs of that character would be part of the problem to be covered by discussion. That leaves only I think a very small residuum of cases where the local authority can be affected by the operation of either Clause 4 or Clause 6. If there is subsequently imposed some general restriction on the use of land that also will involve discussion between the Government and local authorities as to how far they will be affected. I have no doubt we can discuss these matters on a basis of equity and arrive at a satisfactory conclusion.
We should have to see what was the exact proportion. If the matter concerned roads, for example, we should have to take into account the road grant. In other cases we shall have to discuss how the matter can be solved and I hope we shall arrive at a fair and just conclusion.
I beg to move, in page 8, line 24, after "has" to insert
after the date upon which the permission was granted and".
This Clause deals with compensation for abortive expenditure in certain cases and Sub-section (2) provides for cases where permission for the development of land is revoked or modified. In that case an amount equal to the expenditure incurred is payable as compensation. That, of course, is reasonable and no objection can be taken so long as "expenditure" is limited to expenditure incurred after the date upon which permission was granted. For example, an application might be made for permission to develop land by erecting new buildings. It is suggested that if permission has been granted and subsequently revoked the applicant shall be entitled to be repaid the expenditure incurred on the new buildings, but not the expenditure incurred in the demolition of buildings before the permission is granted. The object of my Amendment is to limit the compensation to expenditure incurred in pursuance of permission and to exclude expenditure before permission was granted. Where this is done, it is fair that an applicant should receive compensation in respect of the preparation of plans, although the plans were prepared before the date of permission. That is the object of the further Amendment which I have on the Paper to add to Sub-section (3), which deals with expenditure incurred in preparation of plans, a proviso that such expenditure may be included although it was incurred before permission was granted.
I think my hon. Friend has not given sufficient force to the words already in the Sub-section. The expenditure which the applicant is able to recover is expenditure incurred in carrying out any work that is rendered abortive by the Order. The Order is an Order canceling a permission. If a building has been taken down before the application for permission has been made at all, that is expenditure which has taken place in any event, and I should have thought that that would not be recoverable in the ordinary way under the terms of the Clause as it stands. I should have thought it right to leave it to the tribunal, before whom this would come, to consider what it is that has been rendered abortive by the Order. I should be very reluctant, without considering all conceivable cases, to amend these words so as to exclude from consideration of the tribunal what would, properly, come within those words. The particular case given by the hon. Member seems to be a case of expenditure which has taken place in demolishing a building before there was any application for permission to develop, and I cannot see that an, order to cancel a licence would render that particular expenditure abortive. For that reason I think it is better not to alter the Clause as suggested but to leave it as it stands. I am quite willing that we should further consider whether an improvement in language is desirable, but, as at present advised, I think that we are safer in leaving the words as they stand.
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether expenditure incurred in obtaining an option, and the option itself, on land affected by the revocation of the Order can be recovered?
It is difficult to answer about an option if it refers to work which is rendered abortive by the operation of the Order. I should have to look into that. I could not give an answer straight away.
I have previously dealt at some length with the relations between the Government and the interim development authority. This Clause does not refer to the Government at all. It refers only to the relations between the applicant and the local interim development authority.
I beg to move, in page 9, line 5, after "delegate" to insert:
to their constituent authorities or any of them or".
By Sub-section (2) a joint committee of local authorities are to be empowered to delegate any of their functions to a sub-committee. There may be cases where the functions should be delegated to one or more of the local authorities of which the joint committee is constituted. The object of the Amendment is to authorities delegation to constituent authorities in such cases.
The Clause provides for the creation of joint authorities for the purposes of surveying and planning a wider area than is comprised in their own districts. It also confers upon them executive powers to act instead of being merely advisory. That being the object of the Clause, it would to some extent be defeated if the joint authority, having been brought together, was permitted to delegate its functions to one of the constituent authorities. If the authority which is being created by delegation upwards from the constituent bodies then proceeded to delegate its functions downwards, it would defeat the object for which they were brought together. Where a joint committee has been formed under Section 4 of the Act of 1932, or an authority has been added to a joint committee by an Order under Section 5 of that Act, the delegation of planning powers to a constituent authority would defeat the whole purpose of Orders of that kind. As regards interim powers which rested in a joint committee under an Order of the Minister, the object of the Order would again be defeated if the joint committee were to hand back their powers to a constituent authority. The object of the Clause is to do the reverse of that. It is to bring people together so that they may take a conjoint view over a wide area, and to permit them to delegate their functions after they have been brought laboriously together would not be good administration.
Is it not possible for this Amendment to be accepted? If the delegates have been appointed by local authorities, there is nothing wrong in those delegates consulting their parent authorities.The governing authorities which appointed the delegates would then be able to know what was going on and they themselves could then if they cared delegate to a sub-committee. I think that the proposal in the Bill is going the wrong way about it, and that the Minister is wrong and I am right on this point.
I will try and convince the hon. Member why I think I am right. The joint committee is given powers to delegate its functions to sub-committees, but those sub-committees will still partake of the character of the joint authorities and still carry out the functions for which the authority was created, that is to say, to take a wide view of the area of more than one authority. If instead of delegating to a sub-committee representing all the authorities, the joint committee were to delegate to one of the constituent authorities, you would be losing the benefit of the whole operation and form of the joint body. There is no reason why consultation with the parent bodies should not be intimate and frequent, so that the members who are sitting on the joint authority will be well aware of the views of their parent authorities. If my hon. Friend will reflect, he will see that once we have created a joint body for the purpose of taking a joint and not a narrow view, it would be the height of folly to let that body split up again into the constituent authorities.
I appreciate what the Minister says, and I shall ask leave to withdraw the Amendment. The Amendment was not for the purpose of providing that there should be a large delegation on the lines suggested by my right hon. Friend, but there may be cases where the joint committee would feel that the best form of sub-committee was a constituent authority. This might apply only to a minority of cases, but I thought it would be wise to give this power in order to meet their circumstances. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will look at the matter again before the next stage 'of the Bill.
I beg to move, in page 9, line 1, to leave out Sub-section (3).
Section 4 of the 1932 Act provides:
If it appears to the Minister to be expedient that two or more authorities, being local authorities or county councils, should act
jointly in the preparation or adoption of a scheme, he may, at the request of any one or more of them by order provide for the constitution of a joint committee for the purpose and transfer to the committee any powers, other than the power to borrow money or levy a rate; and duties which any of the constituent authorities might exercise and discharge for the purpose: Provided that, before making any such order, the Minister shall, unless all the authorities affected thereby assent to the making thereof, cause a local inquiry to be held.
This Sub-section provides that the Minister can make an Order for a joint committee without consultation with the constituent authorities. I am at a loss to understand why there are not more Members present on the benches opposite, because they have been crying out for some time against the powers that are given to Departments in a kind of underhand way. They have moved Prayers. Indeed, there have been many prayer meetings on those benches, and I have seen some Members praying who, I thought, had never prayed in their lives. They have come here for hours and prayed. Yet they are not present when the Minister is seeking, as he is doing in this Sub-section, to appoint- joint committees without consulting the local authorities.
It is all right our making laws here, but we are not the people who carry out the laws. If we are going to curtail the powers of local authorities, they will be in future up against Parliament more than they have been in the past. The Minister has been, I will not say lenient, but very kind to the hon. Member for Peckham( Mr. Silkin). He argued in a nice, quiet, lucid way and captivated the Minister, who said they would consider the matter. I do not want the Miruster to run his head against local authorities. He will find they are bitterly opposed to the taking away of their powers. I ask that he should leave Section 4 of the Act of 1932 in this Bill. He must remember that he is the first town planning Minister, and the future will depend a great deal upon him. His sins will hang upon him and upon his children for ever. I am a bit older than he is, although I do not look it, and I would give him a little advice. I ask him to reconsider the position, Ere-cause the local authorities are against the withdrawal of the powers they had under the Acts of 1932 and 1933.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will not respond to the advice given him by the hon. Member for Hems-worth (Mr. G. Griffiths).I have no doubt that in the vast. majority of in- stances local authorities do join together of their own free will to form joint authorities, but I believe that this new power will be of very real value and is of the greatest importance in connection with planning. There will be instances where it will be essential to have this power if properly- constituted bodies are to be set up, and it will be impossible to act under existing legislation. While we all appreciate that local authorities have their feelings, there are interests which are even higher than those of local authorities.
I am sorry to disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Hemsworth (Mr. G. Griffiths), but I hope the Minister will not give way, because in my view this Sub-section is one of the most important things in this Bill. Earlier to-day pressure was being put upon the Minister to propose some rearrangement of the areas of local authorities for planning purposes. This provision gives him power to go a very long way in that direction. It happens that areas which are suitable for planning are very often unsuitable for other services, and this Clause gives the Minister power to constitute an area out of the areas of a number of different authorities if in his view such an area is suitable for planning purposes. The hon. Member for Hems-worth has said that the Minister ought not to do this unless he receives a request from one of the local authorities. There may be many reasons why that request is not made. One of the reasons may be that in a particular area which is suitable for planning under a joint committee of this nature there may be two or three authorities, one of whom desires that a joint committee should be constituted and would be prepared to make the request but refrains from doing so because it knows that the request would not be in accordance with the wishes of its neighbours. Local authorities are often unwilling to take a step of that kind if they think it will be regarded by neighbouring authorities as an attempt to trespass upon the rights of other authorities. That is very often the reason why a request is not made in a case where it really ought to be made. This Clause will, enable the Minister to get over that difficulty and, without reference to the authorities concerned, to constitute a number of authorities into a joint planning committee if he considers that the area comprised within their districts is suitable for joint planning purposes.
The Minister will still have that power after he has consulted them. My Amendment only asks that if one local authority objects to the combination of three or four authorities, it shall he allowed to appeal to the Minister. The Minister can then act as he chooses. All we ask is that the Minister, before he brings down the hammer, will allow us to open our mouths to put in a protest if we wish to do so.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford (Mr. Hutchinson) have given good reasons why my right hon. Friend is unable to accept the Amendment moved with such vigour by my. hon. Friend the Member for Hems worth (Mr. G. Griffiths), whose last intervention showed that he has not clearly in mind the effect of his Amendment. This has nothing to do with consultation.. It is not a question of a Minister consulting the local authorities, but of whether a request from an individual authority shall be a necessary condition precedent to the Minister's power to form joint committees. For the reasons given by my hon. and learned Friend, there are very good reasons why it should not be a. condition precedent. My hon. and learned Friend gave the case where one authority wanted to make a request and knew that it ought to be made, but hesitated to do so because they thought it would be resented by another authority concerned. The case is even stronger than my hon. and learned Friend's example. There are cases in which, we believe, all the authorities would welcome the formation of a joint committee, but for reasons of prestige or similar reasons, every one of them hesitates to make the first request.
Therefore my hon. Friend who moved the Amendment need not have any anxiety that we are going to do things which are liable to be resented by the people whom we are combining. It is obvious that unless there would be harmony inside the combination, we should not do much good by making the joint committee. In most cases we hope to get a useful, and even an enthusi astic, joint committee, and if the Minister exercised his power. he would get the support of the vast majority of the local authorities concerned. For those reasons, and the reasons given by those who have supported the action of the Government, I ask the hon. Member to consider withdrawing his Amendment.
I would ask the Minister to say something to satisfy the anxieties felt by some people who are anxious to know whether the Minister will interfere with authorities who are doing this work of planning in a manner generally approved by public opinion. I would ask for an assurance that it is not intended that the Minister should take over the direction of planning from those authorities but should rather encourage and stimulate them in the good work which they are doing. No doubt the Minister will 'act differently in the case of authorities who have not shown any desire to go in for town planning and will bring in his power from above. Another point about which there is some concern is whether, when the Minister is setting up a joint planning authority, the authorities concerned are likely to be consulted. There is some anxiety that before any action is taken by the Minister he should consult the local authorities that are likely to be involved. I imagine that there can be only one answer to the question, but I put the point because I know there is feeling on the matter, and in order that we may know the views of the Government.
I can reassure the hon. Member on both points. As regards consultation in forming a joint committee, we should be quite mad if we formed joint committees on paper without looking at the districts, areas and authorities concerned. Of course there will be consultation; in fact, there has been a good deal of consultation already. I imagine that a great amount will be done by agreement with all concerned. As to interference with local authorities, whatever I say will make me liable to attack from some quarter, but I believe that this Committee and public opinion will support me when I say that the Minister will interfere with local authorities so far and so far only as it is necessary for him to do so, in order that he shall discharge efficiently the functions that Parliament has given to him. He is responsible for securing consistency and continuity in the framing and execution of a national policy with respect to the development and use of land, and he cannot rid himself of that responsibility. One of the great advantages of the scheme of the Bill is that never again will it be possible, when some outrageous development is brought to the attention of the Government by a Member of this House, for the Minister to get up and say, "This has nothing to do with me, but is solely the concern of the local authority." Apart from his statutory duty the Minister 'wishes to use fully the knowledge and the enthusiasm and the work of the local authorities.