Temporary Shops, Plymouth

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 16th September 1948.

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Photo of Mr Hubert Medland Mr Hubert Medland , Plymouth Drake 12:00 am, 16th September 1948

I shall not infringe very much upon the time which the Parliamentary Secretary will require to answer the overwhelming case put before the House tonight by my colleague the Member for the Sutton Division of Plymouth (Mrs. Middleton). It only remains for him to see that the necessary sanctions are sent to the city immediately. I look forward with interest to hearing him, and I am sure his speech will be very short along that line.

I want to add only two points. Outside of London, the two cities which received most attention from the enemy aircraft who visited us in 1941 were the city of Hull and my own unfortunate city. Ever since that date I, as a member of the Reconstruction Committee of the city, have been actively engaged in planning its reconstruction. The only method by which we could plan the reconstruction of the city was by following the principles laid down by Act of Parliament, and the only principles laid down for planning a new city such as we have to plan are those laid down under the 1944 Town and Country Planning Act and now under the 1947 Act which has been substituted for it.

In order to rebuild the city, which is no small job, it is necessary to work in the closest co-operation with the Government Department responsible for rebuilding, the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. But what do we find in trying to rebuild the city? We have to deal not only with that Ministry, we have far too many Ministries to attend and to make representations to in this respect. I submit to the Parliamentary Secretary that he should inform his principals and the Ministries generally that if we are ever to rebuild Britain, and rebuild it quickly, we shall have to deal with one responsible Department. That responsible Department cannot possibly be the Ministry of Health, it cannot possibly be the Board of Trade, which issues the licences, but it ought to be the sponsoring Department for the rebuilding of blitzed and devastated cities. Surely that ought to be the Town and Country Planning Department.

Yet, when on 5th July this year the special sub-committee of my city council came to meet the representatives of the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, and the very question which my hon. Friend has raised tonight about the granting of sanctions to erect some temporary buildings for offices and shops was brought up at a meeting between our officials and those of us responsible for this business and we said to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, "Can we get on with the job?" they said they much regretted that, as they were not a sponsoring Department, they could not give us the approvals we required. I submit to my hon. Friend on the Front Bench that we cannot go on in that way trying to rebuild cities. If we are to get this job done with any efficiency, we must have one responsible Department which can give a sanction for a loan, can give us the licences to build, and can deal with us.

We have had refusal to allow us a capital expenditure of about £30,000 for building—a very small matter. All the accommodation would have been used by people who have lost their premises in the war and it would have helped us to go on with rebuilding. We have heard in today's Debate that there may be some chance of the burden of capital investment upon local authorities being eased. If so, let me tell the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade that we would infinitely prefer a definite promise from him that we can go on with permanent building and that the licences will be granted to us, than to be told that we can go on with temporary buildings.

We cannot understand why the mean and pettifogging amount of £30,000 is refused to us for temporary building while his Department gives to a city which has not had the blitz and devastation which we have had approval to build five blocks of permanent buildings costing £450,000 per block. We have been informed by officials of Coventry that they have approval to go on with building costing £2,500,000. I am sure that the injustice being done to the most historic city in the country, which I have the honour to represent in this House, will be put right by the Parliamentary Secretary.