With this Amendment I think that it would be convenient to discuss Amendment No. 7, in page 2, line 6, after "metropolitan", to insert "office", and Amendment No. 65, in page 2, line 1, at the end to insert "office".
Yes, Mr. Speaker, that will be convenient.
I remind the House that at this stage we are coming back to Part I of the Bill, which deals specifically with office development permits. It would be pleasant, in moving an Amendment of this nature, to be able to say that this matter had had a fairly full ventilation in Standing Committee. In fact, that was the case, but there are a good many Members on both sides of the House today who did not serve on that Standing Committee.
This is a comparatively modest, though important, Amendment. The object of the Amendment is to make the terminology of "the metropolitan region" read "the metropolitan office region". Regional government and administration in this country have become much more important in the last few years. Indeed, during the lifetime of the present Government we have seen some further developments. I referred to this matter in Standing Committee. on the Question "That the Clause stand part of the Bill" and deployed the argument fairly fully, although there was no Amendment then before the Committee, at column 268 on 2nd March. Briefly, the argument in favour of this Amendment is that it would be wise to make the terminology of "the metropolitan region" more definitive. It will be within the recollection of the House that the President of the Board of Trade, when moving new Clause No. 1, emphasised that this was a Bill of limited duration. Therefore, I would have thought that it is most unfortunate to have such wide terminology to describe a particular region as "the metropolitan region" purely for a Measure that will be effective for a period of seven years.
This is a very strange region indeed. It is a region which is laid down in the Bill. It may be diminished in size by order, but it cannot be increased in size. That was carefully set out by the President of the Board of Trade during the Committee stage. If one were choosing to define a metropolitan region it would be much wiser to have some region defined for that purpose which was going to be in the same form for a very long time. For statistical reasons that region could be referred to and it would be comparatively useful. In the Standing Committee, I sought to make areas which were contiguous to the metropolitan region part of the metropolitan region for all purposes. Unfortunately, that Amendment was not accepted, though there were good reasons for its non-acceptance.
I would remind the House that we already have in the south-east of England a great many regions defined. All these other regions, so far as I know, are not regions which are capable by order of having their areas altered. I would refer to the new region which has been created by the First Secretary of State, an important region which I should imagine for statistical purposes will be used very widely indeed. Then we have a wider region, the region of the South-East Study. We have another region which is very often used in legislation—in fact, it is being used for the purposes of the Rent Bill now—the Metropolitan Police District. We have the standard statistical region which is normally used by the Board of Trade for statistics, and then we have the area of the Greater London Council, which is the area of Greater London to which we normally refer at present.
I believe that we are in a very grave danger of over-using these words "area" and "region" particularly in the South-East, because I think there may well be a great deal of confusion in years to come. That is why I have sought in this Amendment to be much more definitive about the word "region" in the Bill and to confine it to the specific purposes to which Part I of the Bill is directed, namely the control of offices.
It was significant that on both sides of the Committee there was great support for the Amendment which I am now moving. I was disappointed, therefore, that at a comparatively late stage the Minister of State seemed to say that there were reasons—I would not say that he called them insuperable reasons—why he could not contemplate accepting an Amendment of this nature. I should like to quote, therefore, from the Committee proceedings in order that hon. Members who did not serve on the Committee may appreciate the course of the debates which we had on this subject.
I am now about to quote exclusively from the Minister of State, Board of Trade. At column 291, on 2nd March, the Minister of State said:
The hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) raised a most important point, and he could have taken it further. There is some confusion among people as to what is the Metropolitan Police District and what is a region, such as the transport regions and the postal regions. Now, as he quite rightly says, we have an office region.
The Minister of State at that stage seemed to support the point that I was
making and admitted that there could be very considerable confusion. He went on to say, in column 294:
… we ought to reconsider the use of the word 'region' here.
Later in the same column he said:
I give an assurance to the hon. Member that we will try to meet him in the way he has suggested."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 2nd March, 1965; c. 291–4.]
I may say that at that stage I was comparatively optimistic of success. I had succeeded with one Amendment to the Bill prior to that stage, and I was optimistic about bringing about a double. Nevertheless, one's optimism in this House is occasionally dashed to the ground. On 25th March at columns 637 and 638 the Minister of State made a statement on this subject.
… But there are difficulities, and when I attempted to carry out the promise which I gave at an earlier sitting of the Committee, I discovered that they were very real.
First of all, the concept of the metropolitan region for this purpose was first used by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in 1958; … There is, for example, the population growth as revealed by the census figures. and a study was made of the difficulties of travelling to work, and other information taken from employment figures. Out of all these studies this area was defined, and it is an area which was accepted in the South-East Study …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 25th March, 1965; c. 637–8.]
I have studied that statement extremely carefully. I appreciate that there are difficulties in accepting the Amendment, but I do not believe that they are insuperable. One of my reasons for this belief is that the President of the Board of Trade told us that this area can be diminished in size by order. Therefore, the point made by the Minister of State about the importance of statistics in the region falls to the ground. If the region is to be studied for statistical purposes then, indeed, it must be a region which is not only defined but which is set out as being a region which, for statistical purposes, can be looked at as an entity and not as a region which can be diminished or altered in size.
Again, the Minister of State said that this was a region which was looked at by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in 1958. But I do not think that, just because it was looked at by a Ministry in 1958, we should say that at that time it may have been described as the metropolitan region but only for internal departmental purposes. Surely we can move with the times and realise that, since 1958, a great many more regions have been defined. It is all the more important, therefore, that we should have this region described specifically as an office region. It is significant that the Metropolitan Police District is not merely called the "Metropolitan District". Everyone knows, therefore, when referring to that district that it is the area of administration of the Metropolitan Police.
I want to call attention to the fact that for this purpose other areas may well be defined by order and which will become either areas or regions. We may have the Manchester region or the Glasgow region or the Birmingham region, for instance. It will be most confusing if we start defining regions all over the country without the prefix "office" attached to the names. We might well confuse the planners. It would be a serious indictment of this House if it succeeded, in legislation, in confusing the planners, for then the country might be in a disastrous state.
I have no wish by this Amendment to sabotage anything. I certainly do not want to sabotage decisions made by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in 1958. I do not believe that the reasons the Minister of State gave for rejecting this suggestion in Committee were powerful ones. He might well say—and I am glad to see him now returning to the Front Bench—that he has been able to look at this matter once again. If he accepted the Amendment he would be praised by both sides of the House and by many bodies which are extremely interested in regional planning outside this House.
The last thing we want to do is to cause confusion in people's minds, but that may well come about if we define this area merely as the "metropolitan region", use it for statistical purposes for one function only and have it used very little for other purposes by various other organisations. As I have said, the Bill is temporary legislation and therefore I hope very much that we shall be much more definitive and use the words "metropolitan office region" rather than "metropolitan region" throughout the Bill.
We approach Amendments from the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) with particular sympathy. I think that all that is between us in this case is a matter of words and not of substance. I agree that there is danger of confusion with all these "areas", "regions" and different definitions and names, and so on. It would, indeed, be simpler if we had in the South-East one region to which all our legislation and discussion could apply. The difficulty is that the metropolitan region, as he said, existed for planning purposes and was commonly used in discussion on these matters and in the South-East Study before this Bill was formulated or even conceived.
The geographical area was already in existence. It may be that it would have been more convenient, for the purpose of discussing legislation, if we could have selected for the Bill the London and south-east region as defined for the purpose of administration of the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Labour, and so on, but that would have been contrary to the intention of the Bill because it would not have represented the area which the House wishes to take for the purpose of restricting office development.
We are bound, therefore, to select the metropolitan region which was already in existence and which had already been given that name. What the hon. Gentleman wants is to preserve that region but give it a different name—to call it the "metropolitan office region" instead. I would willingly do that if, on balance, I thought it would remove confusion from people's minds but I do not feel sure that it would. This region is described in common discussions by planners, local authorities and others as the "metropolitan region". If we gave it a different name it is likely that we would promote more confusion and not less. Apart from that, we should be adding another word to the description and, other things being equal, the fewer words we use the better. The region is known as the metropolitan region to those who discuss these things, and, therefore, it seems to us, on balance, that there is a straightforward case for leaving things as they are.
The hon. Gentleman used the argument—and I saw its force—that there is power in the Bill to diminish the size of the present metropolitan region to which these restrictions apply. If we were to do so—and it is a purely hypothetical situation at the moment—we would be detracting from some parts of the region some areas which, from a certain date, would not be covered by the powers under this Bill. No doubt, if that were to happen, it would be a further complication of the situation. I am not at all sure that it would make for less ambiguity in people's minds if there were then to be two regions—one called the "metropolitan office region" and the other the "metropolitan region". For statistical purposes, the metropolitan region is already in use. If, therefore, we were to detract certain areas from the region, the metropolitan region would still exist for other purposes. I am very doubtful whether we would clarify the situation by giving two names to the slightly different areas. I think that this is a matter of words and that on the whole, as this description is now in use, we are not persuaded that any advantage would be served by altering it.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he approached an Amendment moved by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) with sympathy. I hope that that sympathy extends to Amendments supported by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry). I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is in some doubt about whether to accept the Amendment and perhaps when some of us have made our short contributions we will have him on our side.
There is something more than a matter of words in the Amendment. Under a Labour Administration, with its devotion to more and more central planning, we have to get used to a whole string of measures by which some sort of control is set up. It is clearly the attitude of the Government, and I do not think that I would necessarily disagree with that attitude, that these various controls should be introduced in various parts of the country, one part at a time. The Bill's proposals are to apply only to certain areas. The Rent Bill is to apply rent control to parts of England, but not to others. It will, therefore, be necessary, with this gradual increase of Government control, to designate the regions in which the control is to apply.
The right hon. Gentleman agrees that the metropolitan region may be decreased, but it will be decreased only for the purposes of the Bill. That is why it is only common sense to refer throughout the Bill and for all the purposes of the Bill to the "metropolitan office region". When it decreases, we shall know that the area which has decreased is that to which the Bill applies, and everyone will know where he stands.
I have some experience of local government regions. Chippenham, for example, is part of the south-west region for all purposes connected with the Board of Trade, but part of the southeast region for all housing matters. This always creates a certain confusion. It would be extremely helpful in future if, when talking about the control of offices, we could discuss the "metropolitan office region", and everybody in the House and outside would know exactly what we meant. For those reasons of common sense, I ask the right hon. Gentleman to think again and help us with this Amendment.
The arguments which have been deployed by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Awdry) have been very impressive, and I think that there is a good deal of sympathy for them among hon. Members opposite. Replying to the arguments, the President of the Board of Trade said that to add the word "office" as another regional description would add still further to the confusion rather than clarify the issue.
Personally, I think that it would make very much clearer the region to which the powers of the Bill are to apply. It would also make it clear, because the regions covered by the Bill may change, that the area covered by the expression "metropolitan region", as it is now described, would not coincide exactly with the metropolitan region as we now know it. It is not unusual to have other names inserted between the words "metropolitan" and "region". As the Minister of State pointed out in Committee, there is the Metropolitan Police District, for example, and there are other definitions of that kind.
A further advantage would be that it would keep constantly in our minds the existence of this metropolitan office region. That is of value because this is supposed to be a temporary Bill. It is supposed to last for a period of not more than seven years. In Committee, unfortunately without success, we tried to reduce the period of the Bill, and we put forward an Amendment, to be considered on Report, with the same end, an Amendment which was not selected. Although the Bill is supposed to have a life of seven years and we have had constantly reiterated assurances from the Government that it is a temporary Bill, we should constantly have in mind that there exists a metropolitan office region. We should never lose sight of that and we should not allow it to become lost in the general planning concept of the metropolitan region.
I sincerely believe that the amount of sympathy which the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members opposite have for the Amendment will tempt them into supporting it. I was very impressed by the sympathetic attitude of the Minister of State to a proposal on these lines advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester in Committee. I thought at one time that he
I do not think that those difficulties are insurmountable. I am of the view that the Government would like us to put them in a position where they might have to accept the Amendment, and the only way in which one can put them into such a position is by putting the Amendment to the test of a Division. If we do, I am certain that hon. Members opposite will be reluctant to go into the Lobby against the Amendment, for the simple reason that their hearts are with it and that they believe, as we do, that it is important that we should distinguish between the metropolitan region and the metropolitan office region.
I do not want to go through the arguments again, because the case has been clearly put by my hon. Friends. But because I believe that the Government themselves are really with us, but have perhaps been over-persuaded by those who advise them, and that they would like the word "office" to be inserted, I advise my hon. Friends to divide the House on the Amendment.
|Division No. 93.]||AYES||[6.47 p.m.|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. Sir Oliver||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Rt. Hn. Sir W.||Cunningham, Sir Knox||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)|
|Atkins, Humphrey||Curran, Charles||Jopling, Michael|
|Awdry, Daniel||Dalkeith, Earl of||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith|
|Batsford, Brian||Dance, James||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Davies, Dr. Wyndham (Perry Barr)||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)|
|Bell, Ronald||Dean, Paul||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||McAdden, Sir Stephen|
|Biffen, John||Elliott, R.W.(N'c'tle-upon-Tyne,N.)||McLaren, Martin|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Emery, Peter||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Errington, Sir Eric||McNair-Wilson, Patrick|
|Blaker, Peter||Fletcher-Cooke, Charles (Darwen)||Marten, Neil|
|Bossom, Hn. Clive||Fraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)||Maude, Angus|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. J.||Gammans, Lady||Meyer, Sir Anthony|
|Brewis, John||Goodhart, Philip||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)|
|Bromley-Davenport,Lt.-Col.Sir Walter||Grant, Anthony||Monro, Hector|
|Brooke, Rt. Hn. Henry||Griffiths, Peter (Smethwick)||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Buck, Antony||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Page, R. Graham (Crosby)|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Peel, John|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Pickthorn, Rt. Hn. Sir Kenneth|
|Clark, William (Nottingham, S.)||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Cordle, John||Hawkins, Paul||Pym, Francis|
|Corfield, F. V.||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Redmayne, Rt. Hn. Sir Martin|
|Costain, A. P.||Hordern, Peter||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hunt, John (Bromley)||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Sinclair, Sir George||Thompson, Sir Richard (Croydon,S.)||Woodhouse, Hn. Christopher|
|Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'd & Chiswick)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)||Wylie, N. R.|
|Stanley, Hn. Richard||Walder, David (High Peak)||Younger, Hn. George|
|Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow,Cathcart)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)||Ward, Dame Irene||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Temple, John M.||Whitelaw, William||Mr. Jasper More and|
|Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)||Mr. Geoffrey Johnson Smith.|
|Thomas, Rt. Hn. Peter (Conway)||Wise, A. R.|
|Albu, Austen||Hughes, Emrye (S. Ayrshire)||Oswald, Thomas|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hughes Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Owen, Will|
|Atkinson, Norman||Hunter, Adam (Dunfermline)||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hunter, A. E. (Feltham)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Beaney, Alan||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Bessell, Peter||Hynd, John (Attercliffe)||Parker, John|
|Bishop, E. S.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Blackburn, F.||Jackson, Colin||Pentland, Norman|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Janner, Sir Barnett||Prentice, R. E.|
|Bowden, Rt. Hn. H. W. (Leics S.W,)||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Jenkins, Hugh, (Putney)||Pursey, Cmdr. Harry|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & Fbury)||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Redhead, Edward|
|Buchanan, Richard||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Richard, Ivor|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Johnson, James(K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. R. H. S.||Johnston, Russell (Inverness)||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Dalyell, Tam||Kerr' Mrs.Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Rose, Paul B.|
|Darling, George||Kerr, Dr. David (w'worth, Central)||Short, Rt.Hn.E.(N'c'tle-on-Tyne,C.)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Lawson, George||Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton,N.E.)|
|Dempsey, James||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Silkin, S. C. (Camberwell, Dulwich)|
|Diamond, John||Loughlin, Charles||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Dodds, Norman||Lubbock, Eric||Snow, Julian|
|Doig, Peter||McCann, J.||Solomons, Henry|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||MacColl, James||Soskice, Rt. Hn. Sir Frank|
|English, Michael||Mclnnes, James||Steel, David|
|Fletcher, Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Manuel Archie||Steele, Thomas|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mason, Roy||Summerskill, Dr. Shirley|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Mellish, Robert||Swingler, Stephen|
|Ford, Ben||Mendelson, J. J.||Taverne, Dick|
|Grey, Charles||Millan, Bruce||Thornton, Ernest|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Thorpe, Jeremy|
|Griffiths, Will (M'chester Exchange)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Wainwright, Edwin|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Molloy, William||Wallace, George|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Warbey, William|
|Hamilton, William (West Fife)||Morris, Charles (Openshaw)||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hamling, William (Woolwich, W.)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Hayman, F. H.||Murray, Albert||Willis, George (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Newens, Stan||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Norwood, Christopher||Woof, Robert|
|Holman, Percy||Ogden, Eric|
|Hooson, H. E.||Orbach, Maurice||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hoy, James||Orme, Stanley||Mr. William Howie and|
|Mr. Joseph Harper.|
I beg to move, in page 1, line 17, at the end to add:
except the Greater London Borough of Bromley".
A few weeks ago a private secretary walked into the office of a friend of mine in Beckenham and resigned. My friend was very upset, because good secretaries are not all that easy to find, as many of us know. "Why do you want to go?" he said. "Oh", she said, "because I like working in the City". He tried to reason with her and pointed out that if she went to London to work she would every year spend a fortnight of her working life in the train. She said, "I do not mind that. I like the journey". The vast majority of my constituents do
not share that view. It is estimated that 14,000 of my constituents travel every day to the centre of London to work in offices.
It is possible to travel from Beckenham Junction to Victoria in 21 minutes, but usually the time taken from the constituency is at least 30 minutes. Therefore, if one is employed in an office in Central London and one works a five day week for, say, 49 weeks in the year, counting Bank Holidays one spends not less than 240 hours, or a full 10 days, or a full month of eight-hour working days, travelling to and from the Greater London Borough of Bromley and the centre of London. Perhaps this would be tolerable if conditions were comfortable, but one has only to look at a selection of the letters which I receive every month to realise that conditions on the trains, particularly during the rush hour, are extremely uncomfortable.
Obviously, there is a strong case from the point of view of easing congestion on our overcrowded roads and railway system, and of easing the wear and tear on my 14,000 constituents who travel to Central London every day, for providing a substantial proportion of office accommodation locally so that this journey does not have to be undertaken.
As my hon. Friend will know, representing a not too dissimilar constituency, the costs are very heavy. When the Finance Bill comes up for discussion, there will be constant pressure for allowances for the fares which have to be paid. Therefore, from the viewpoint of expense and wear and tear, there is a considerable case for spreading some of the office building from the centre of London to areas such as the Borough of Bromley. I readily concede that in certain circumstances a strong case car be made for restricting office building in the centre of London, but it is much more difficult to sustain this case the further away one gets.
The effect of the Bill within the Borough of Bromley will be a damping down. My hon. Friend the Member for Bromley (Mr. Hunt), who hopes to be able to speak on the Amendment, knows a good deal about the effect that this ban on office building has had on the imaginative and large-scale development schemes for the centre of Bromley. Certainly, our largest project in the constituency of Beckenham, involving almost 100,000 sq. ft. of office space, is not affected, but it escaped the ban only because of a technicality—it might be said by pure chance—the signing of the contract having been completed at a certain time. Had there been a delay of a week or two, this highly desirable large-scale local development would have been stopped.
I hope, therefore, although without much optimism, that the Amendment will be accepted. Certainly, the Bill as it stands will do no good for my constituency or for the Borough of Bromley and, like so much that the Government have done during the few months they have been in office, it will be a damping clown of desirable development.
Whether or not the constituents of the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart), or, indeed, the hon. Member himself, enjoy travelling from Bromley to Victoria is not the issue raised by the Amendment. The hon. Member seems to imagine that if the Bill remains in its present shape, all office development in Bromley, or in other areas which come under the Bill, will be banned by it. That is not at all the case.
All that the Bill does is to enact that anybody wishing to pursue an office development scheme must obtain permission. If there are good grounds such as those advanced by the hon. Member, as there might well be in parts of the metropolitan region, for office development, the permission would, of course, be given and I should certainly take into account everything that the hon. Member has said to me.
If, however, the Amendment was accepted, a quite different situation would arise. We would except from the control this one island in the metropolitan region while leaving High Wycombe, Southend and Reading, for example, and other important areas, still covered by it.
I am pleased to give some moral and a little vocal support to the plea which my hon. Friend the Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) has made for the exclusion of the Greater London Borough of Bromley from the provisions of the Bill. I do this because Bromley is a borough of outstanding character, individuality and distinction. We in Bromley feel that one of the most undesirable features of the Bill is that it is essentially dictatorial in character. Once again, we seem to be returning to the era of that know-all of Whitehall with which we were so sadly familiar during the years of the first post-war Labour Government.
Surely, it is typical of the contradictions and absurdities which have epitomised this first six months of Socialism since October that having given increased planning power and responsibility to the new London boroughs such as Bromley through the London Government Act, which in their wisdom the new Government decided not to repeal, they should now seek substantially to undermine those increased local powers by the operation of the Bill.
The old Bromley Borough Council, of which I was a member, drew up, as my hon. Friend has mentioned, an imaginative, comprehensive town centre plan based upon the fact that Bromley was to become, as it now has done, the geographical and administrative centre of the vast new Greater London Borough of Bromley of 300,000 people. In the course of preparing that plan, the old Bromley Council consulted the Location of Offices Bureau, which at that time expressed itself fully in favour of the provision of more office accommodation in Bromley. The House can, therefore. imagine the frustration and exasperation now felt within my borough at finding itself included within the provisions of the Bill.
While the President of the Board of Trade has said that he is not urging a total ban on office building in Bromley, he will at least agree, however, that a great deal of uncertainty has been created. My local council took the view, which I strongly support and which, I hope, the Government will in time support, that a modest increase of office accommodation in Bromley would help to ensure the balanced development of our town and would bring increased trade and prosperity to the whole area, as well as substantially increasing its rateable value, in addition to assisting in the general commuter problem, to which my hon. Friend has so aptly referred, and which I understood from the White Paper to be one of the main purposes of the Bill. Therefore, we in Bromley strongly resent the fact that the President of the Board of Trade, who, so far as I know, has never been to Bromley—
If the right hon. Gentleman knows that station, he will know that we have a very large office block planned near that site. If he knows Bromley as he says he does, he should know better than to have included my borough in his legislation.
What we resent is that the right hon. Gentleman and his Government are able to override and stultify the policies which had been decided by the local borough council after several years of careful planning and preparation. It has been done by the aldermen and councillors and officials of the borough who know from their day-to-day experience the local needs and the local problems.
We in Bromley do not want to be centrally planned and regimented, and I hope, therefore, that the Government will be able to accept this Amendment as an earnest of their intention to administer the Bill in a fair and flexible way.
I do not live in Bromley but I know people who do, and I venture to suggest to hon. Gentlemen opposite that if they were successful in the venture on which they have embarked with this Amendment no one would be more horrified than the people of Bromley. The hon. Members themselves must be rather grateful to think that the Amendment is unlikely to be carried. I hope indeed that they will not press it, because I urge them to contemplate the consequences, supposing the Amendment were to be accepted and Bromley were to be created an island in which the special protections which this Bill aims to create over the rest of London against excessive building of offices did not apply to that area.
Certainly not, but as a member of London County Council's Town Planning Committee, which is one of the most efficient town planning committees there are, I know that the powers of control by such committees are inadequate, and that is the reason for this Bill. I have no doubt that the town planning committee of Bromley does its best within the powers and possibilities at its disposal, but it is precisely because these committees have been found to be incapable of providing the necessary protection that this Bill has had to be introduced.
Let me give the hon. Gentleman an example. In Putney an area was allocated, under the existing legislation, for the purpose of providing some offices for use by local people, solicitors, bankers, and so on, but in the present situation when an area is zoned for office use there is no power to lay down precisely what sort of office use it is to be. The consequence in this case was that an area designed for use by local people was taken over by large corporations which built upon this office area substantial offices so that now we see that the skyline of Putney is owned by I.C.T., though that area occupied by I.C.T. was, in the minds of the local people, to be occupied by local people having small local offices. That is only one example of one sort of inadequacy of the present town planning legislation which has shown this new legislation to be necessary.
I hope it is not true, as I think was said, that we are to have a series of Amendments to select areas here, there and everywhere for exemption, for then this Amendment would be revealed for what I suspected it to be, not a serious Amendment at all but purely a factious, delaying opposition—[HoN. MEMBERS: "No."]—and I rather suspect that it would be seen as that by people outside if not inside this House.
I rather suspect that the hon. Gentlemen would indeed by horrified if the Amendment were carried and the consequence were what it would be—a general move in the direction of Bromley, so that the people of Bromley found themselves in an increasingly nonresidential area rather than in the salubrious residential urban area which it is at present, and they found themselves with more and more offices coming into Bromley and more and more people coming into Bromley for the purpose of working in that borough.
If that were to happen I could see one possible beneficial result for the consequential change in the nature of Bromley, the result that hon. Members opposite would lose their seats to people of the party on this side of the House. That is the only beneficial result I could foresee coming from the success of this Amendment, which I hope will be resoundingly defeated, unless the hon. Member for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) feels persuaded by me to withdraw it.
I am a little sorry that the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) has introduced into this debate a note which was always absent from our debates in the Standing Committee. I do not think that throughout the whole of the 15 days, which is quite a long time in which to sit in a Committee, any serious accusation was made against Members on this side of delaying tactics or of putting down Amendments purely for the sake of filibustering or delaying. Indeed, from time to time we were complimented by Members of the Government party in the Committee for helping them to get their Bill through, and for helping them to keep a quorum on two or three occasions. It escapes my memory how many occasions there were exactly, but there were certainly two or three when we kept the quorum. If we had wanted to filibuster we could have made it also impossible for the Committee to continue, but there was no accusation that any Amendments proposed from our side were for any delaying or filibustering purpose, and I would hope that the hon. Member might withdraw that accusation.
What I said, if the hon. Gentleman would recall, was that if, as was said by one hon. Member opposite, this were to be the first of a series of Amendments designed to exempt certain areas, that would be factious opposition. If indeed it is Bromley only which it is sought to exempt, and there is no attempt to make any further of these islands, I would willingly withdraw—if we can indeed be given an assurance that it is not the intention to go round the whole of London picking out London boroughs for the purpose of isolating them.
I do not think the hon. Member has quite got the point. There are a very large number of areas listed in this Schedule. A few of them have been picked out. Some were picked out in Committee, because it was fortunate that there were on the Committee certain Members representing areas affected by the Bill. Others have been or are to be brought to the attention of the House this afternoon. But let me assure the hon. Member that those hon. Members who have put down Amendments are not moved by any desire to hold up the business of the House. They are moved by the desire to represent the interests of their constituencies.
If I may mention my own case, I was asked by my own borough council to table an Amendment in Committee to delete High Wycombe from the Bill for very good and proper reasons, because the council; and indeed the citizens, of High Wycombe were very much concerned about the possible effects of the Bill upon them and upon their future development plans of a very far-reaching character. When later I had to tell them that unfortunately I had not been able to carry the Committee with me and High Wycombe was not to be deleted I can assure the hon. Member that they were very disappointed indeed.
It was said in Committee by the Minister of State, replying to my address on that occasion, and after he had been kind enough to say that he had admired the zeal with which I looked after the interests of my constituency, that perhaps it was not quite fair to everybody in a similar position because not everybody who would like to work for the exclusion of an area on the outskirts of the metropolitan region was a member of the Committee at the time. I pointed out at the time:
The hon. Gentleman also said that perhaps it was a little unfair that other areas which might wish to be excluded from the Schedule cannot have their cases argued in this Committee because they are not represented here by their Members of Parliament. Those areas, if they felt aggrieved … could have made representations to any Member of the Committee.
Then my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) said:
It can be done before Report."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 30th March, 1965; c. 681.]
I thank my hon. Friend for confirming what I was saying.
Several hon. Members have taken advantage of the Report stage to move the deletion from the control of the Bill the areas which they represent. Even if High Wycombe was not deleted, I would not on that score alone wish to see the Amendment turned down by the Committee. I do not subscribe to the theory that there should be an equal sharing of misery. Even if High Wycombe could not be excluded, I should welcome Bromley being excluded. If the Government were prepared to accept other Amendments later in the debate, I should welcome that, too, although I should regret that I had not had the foresight to put down another Amendment relating to High Wycombe.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the Bill would not put a complete stop to all office building. In certain cases, and in certain circumstances, that statement is literally true, but what we fear is that the Bill will be used to put a stop to all office building for a long time. This is what worries the constituents of my hon. Friends the Members for Beckenham (Mr. Goodhart) and Bromley (Mr. Hunt). I thought that they made a plea as a cri de coeur which would have moved even the flinty heart of the President of the Board of Trade, and I was disturbed to find that his heart was so hard that it could not be moved even by the eloquence of my hon. Friends.
I cannot think that the arguments for the Amendment could have been deployed more eloquently. Perhaps that is not fair to my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West, who is to deploy his own arguments about Southend later. It may well be that he will surpass even the standards of eloquence which we have had so far, in which case, if his eloquence is such as to move the President of the Board of Trade, we might come back to this Amendment, because obviously it would be unfair—
I am sure that many hon. Members would like to go to Southend-on-Sea now. My hon. Friend's constituency is a most salubrious and healthy one, and I am sure that we would be better off enjoying the sea breezes there, than the less breezy atmosphere here.
I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman is not prepared to accept the Amendment. I appreciate that it is not easy to take certain selected places out of the Schedule and leave others in, because it creates a feeling of unfairness on the part of those left in, but I think that my hon. Friends have made a good case for the Amendment, and I hope that applications for O.D.P.s, not only from Bromley, but from High Wycombe, will be given sympathetic consideration, and that advantage will not be taken of the Bill to put a stop to all building.
I hope that local circumstances will be taken fully into account, and that if good and sound development schemes have been evolved by borough councils to improve the facilities in their districts, and to provide better office accommodation, where it is often sadly needed, the President of the Board of Trade will give sympathetic consideration to the applications, and that O.D.P.s will be granted rather more freely than we fear under the Bill.
Throughout the Committee stage of the Bill the main purpose of the Opposition was to cut out as much red tape as we possibly could. Our desire was to cut down work, not make it, and the Amendment is put forward in the confident belief that it will reduce the work of the Board of Trade.
The Amendment is directed to deleting development areas from any possible restrictions under the Bill. I was hoping that as the Amendment was announced in other parts of the House Members representing development areas would come into the Chamber. I congratulate the hon. Members for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) and Morpeth (Mr. Owen) on being present, because this is a matter of real consequence to their areas, and I hope that as the debate proceeds hon. Members representing other important areas will come in to support us.
The Amendment can be opposed for only two reasons. I cannot believe the first one, that Members do not want to support the idea of development areas and the method of helping the unemployment situation in those areas. The only other reason for opposing the Amendment is that the Government want control for control's sake.
I hope that the President of the Board of Trade, or the Minister of State, will not give us the story that we have heard so often, and so ineffectively, that the Board of Trade will give permission anyway, and that, therefore, the Amendments are unnecessary, because it is a fallacious argument.
Perhaps I might tell the House what is meant by a development area, because this is important in the context of these Amendments. The Fourth Annual Report by the Board of Trade, House of Commons Paper 314, published on 30th July, 1964, sets out a list of development areas. I wish that I had time to enumerate them all. For the sake of brevity, I shall list only the overall areas, because it is important, in discussing the Amendment, to realise the scope of the areas with which we are concerned. The north-eastern area has a group of districts accepted as development districts. Cumberland has three such districts. Yorkshire and Lincolnshire have one. The south-western area has a group. The north-western area has a group, particularly Barrow-in-Furness and Merseyside. Wales has a group, and Scotland has an even larger group.
The total number of those areas is of great importance, because it shows the areas in which it would be unnecessary to introduce this legislation. I say that because the whole basis of development areas is to get development to go there. I wish that the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Dan Jones) was present. He intervened on several occasions during our proceedings in Committee, and he intervened again today, without appreciating what many of the Amendments are about.
Development areas represent 75 different parts of the country. According to the last Board of Trade census, the unemployment figure in those areas was 157,405 as against 219,047 in March of the previous year. That is, I think, a tribute to the success of the Conservative Government's efforts to overcome the burden of unemployment, and we are trying to carry on the work done by the previous Government in expanding those areas.
During the discussions on new Clause 2 we developed at length the argument about getting factories built to encourage firms to move into them. It was a valid argument for the whole country and it is even more valid for development areas. I cannot overstress the fact that if we want to get development areas going and cut down employment in them it is essential to give every encouragement for factory and office building there. I pleaded time and time again in favour of office building in Folkestone, although that is outside the scope of the Amendment. I am now putting a national case to the House.
One of the great problems of the export trade is to make factories ready for the manufacture of export orders. I cannot believe that any hon. Member opposite or anyone in the Cabinet could put forward any argument why we should not build factories in these areas so that orders could quickly be put in hand there. So long as we have this tight Socialist legislation, the way in which to get factories built is completely to release development areas from the terms of the Bill. That would give those people who are willing to expand the economy and get on with the job an opportunity of building precisely where the Government, in their wisdom or otherwise, want them to build.
One of the problems confronting a firm which decides to expand, or which is considering a new export order, is the question of how quickly the work can be put in hand. The firm wants to know what the delay will be in tooling up and in getting factory extensions. I warn any industrialist who expects to get a factory extension built quickly under this legislation that he has not a hope and is not being realistic, because the Government are trying to tie down development to a ridiculous figure, as we proved in Committee when we showed that the limitation meant that an extension could not be bigger than the Committee room in which we were sitting.
It is not possible to over-emphasise the need to increase facilities for the manufacture of exports. An opportunity is here provided for the Board of Trade to take some progressive measures without in any way altering the Government's doctrinaire policy in this matter. When an industrialist wants to move a factory, many factors have to be taken into account. They range over a wide area. The management and the senior foremen do not want to leave their friends, and the ladies do not want to leave their hairdressers or their tradesmen. Every possible argument is put up in order that the move should not be made. I speak with experience, because my company is building factories all over the world. It is a general pattern for industrialists, whatever their nationality, to say, "We have been here a long time. Why should we not stay? If we move it will take much too long, and we will not know what our orders are in four or five years' time".
If the Amendment is accepted, as I am sure it will be, it will provide an answer to directors who say, "We would gladly move if the orders which we can now obtain could be put in hand right away." By releasing development districts from all controls we would provide opportunities for this to be done. It is no argument for the Government to say that they always give I.D.C.s without much trouble. This is the problem of advance factories. The Amendment will bring the greatest benefit to them.
I have made my points about advance factories, and in Committee the President of the Board of Trade agreed that an Amendment of mine was unnecessary only because the Government already had the necessary powers. In saying that, he gave me a most powerful argument for this Amendment. If it were accepted, the Board of Trade could tell these people, "If you can get this order there is an advance factory in the North-East, or the North-West, into which you can move within the next few weeks." That is the way to stimulate British industry.
The difficulty arises not only in connection with manufacture, but with selling. Salesmen are operating all over the world in an ever more competitive market and if, when they go out with their samples and their tenders they have a doubt whether their firm will be able to carry out the orders they get because a long rigmarole will have to be gone through in order to obtain the permission of the Board of Trade to build an extension, they will not be very enthusiastic. The rigmarole involved amounts to a three-year operation. When one is selling in world markets one has to think in months, not years. If a salesman cannot go abroad with confidence he cannot sell with confidence. If, in the development districts, we had advance factories, ready built, so that the salesman could go out into world markets with the knowledge that their firms could move into those factories, it would help our exports enormously.
We are not asking in any way for any preference to be given to any part of the country except those parts which both parties agree need help. We are trying to put some private enterprise stimulus into the Labour Government. We are becoming more and more worried as we become tied up with Socialism. We now have a chance to release ourselves to some extent. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will accept the Amendment.
I am sorry to have to start by raising a drafting point, but I am relieved to see that the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) has not put his name to the Amendment. In the absence of his imprimatur I have more confidence in making these comments. The hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) demanded that we should remove development areas from the scope of the Bill. Parliament has already done that in a previous Act. The words "development areas" no longer appear in our legislation. These areas are now known as "development districts", and have been so known since 1960, under the Local Employment Act of that year. It is no use hon. Members opposite tossing their heads and saying that I am being niggling. That is the real objection to the Amendment. It would be meaningless.
I want to look at the merits of the position. In spite of what the hon. Member said, he is tilting at windmills. Nobody is likely to want to extend the Bill to development districts, so there is not much point in removing them from the terms of the Bill. Another practical difficulty arises in that the Local Employment Act expires in 1967. This Measure, which is also a short-term Measure—a seven year short-term Bill—will overlap that Act. It might, therefore, lead to difficulties. We do not know what legislation will replace the 1960 Act. There might be difficulties in having this exclusion in this form in the Bill.
May I say, also, in view of all the thunder there has been about this matter, that my right hon. Friend does not want to include the development districts and to start refusing office development in those districts. If I though that he was likely to do so I should not be speaking on this Amendment, because I represent a development district. My right hon. Friend is quite happy in his desire to meet the Opposition. He is happy to say that he would be prepared to look at the point and to consider whether anything can be done. It would have to be done in another place but there is no use in blaming us for that. Had hon. Members opposite consulted the hon. Member for Crosby, this would not have happened.
On the question of Amendment No. 55, I must take a different point of view. Again, the difficulty is that it is quite unlikely that any President of the Board of Trade would want to lower the exemption limits in development districts, but the point is that the Bill gives power to raise, as well as lower. So we get the rather odd situation that in an area which had no heavy unemployment, and was not a development district, there might be no power to raise the exemption level and allow more factory development, as the hon. Gentleman wants, because there would be no power to alter, but in a competing town there would be power to raise the level if that were desired.
If we adopted the same attitude to Amendment No. 55 as to Amendment No. 4 we should be discriminating against development districts and, as I said, I should not have spoken to the first Amendment, as a representative of a development district had I thought it was likely that the provisions would be applied to development districts. I certainly should not agree to this discrimination against development districts.
So I say to the House that so far as we can manage with the present drafting situation, we are prepared to look at the first Amendment and discuss whether something may be done in another place. With regard to Amendment No. 55, we think that the situation is better left as it is.
I am sorry that the hon. Member for Putney (Mr. Hugh Jenkins) has left the Chamber. The hon. Gentleman made some pretty severe strictures against hon. Members on this side of the House. He went so far—I thought in the circumstances somewhat rather rashly—as to accuse us of filibustering on this Bill in respect of a previous Amendment. Then in respect of the very next Amendment, moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), we find, and we are delighted—I should like to express my pleasure—that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government accepts the Amendment, undertaking, at any rate, to look again at the matter, with a view possibly to bringing forward an Amendment in another place. There could be no greater justification for the time and effort spent on attempting to improve the Bill than that we should have achieved this at this stage of the discussions.
I warmly support what the Parliamentary Secretary has said regarding the Amendment to Clause 1. One of the things which puzzles businessmen about the existing I.D.C. procedure is that after officers of the Board of Trade have spent weeks, months, it may be years, attempting to persuade them to move their factories or build an extension in a development district—I know something of this problem from both points of view, because I have a distinguished relative who was a senior official at the Board of Trade engaged on just this sort of work in the North-East—and the businessman finally says that he thinks a case has been made out and it would be worthwhile to establish a factory in the development district, the first thing he is asked to do is apply for permission to do so.
This causes intense irritation and gives rise to the oft-repeated accusation by those concerned with practical affairs in industry that the Government Department does not know what it is doing. One thing is said and something quite different is done. This results not only in irritation, but in a breakdown of communications between industry and Government and gives rise to cynicism and to a lack of sympathy with the very objectives which the Government are trying to achieve.
It seems to me that one of the functions of this House is to try to resist a tendency, which inevitably will be exhibited by the executive, to aim all the time at administrative tidiness. If an I.D.C. procedure has been applied reasonably effectively where clearly it is needed, it must be extended over the whole sphere and applied and complied with even in areas where, as the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has said, nobody would have the slightest intention of ever refusing permission. What is the point of establishing a procedure whereby people must seek permission to carry out development if there is never any intention of refusing the permission?
This is the sort of thing which annoys and irritates those who have to deal with these matters at a practical level. It is one of the things which Governments of all complexions should do their utmost to try to eliminate. I appreciate the force of the arguments addressed by the Parliamentary Secretary to Amendment No. 55. I did not take part in the Committee stage discussions, though I have tried to read the OFFICIAL REPORT of some of the debate. Hitherto, I have construed the effect of Clause 16 as being that the intention was that orders could be made to reduce the limit from 5,000 to 1,000 sq. ft. But in the light of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary's observations, it is clear that the figure could go upwards as well.
Perhaps the Minister of State may give some indication whether it is the intention of the Board of Trade to raise the limit for I.D.C. procedure in development districts or in any part of the country. It would be a valuable move, which might well encourage firms of the size and nature likely to be interested, to recognise that here is one more inducement, although perhaps only a minor one, for them to settle in an area to which they are being encouraged to go. "Come to the North-East and fill in fewer forms", might be a valuable slogan to use. If the restrictions, controls and procedures, which are perhaps rightly in being in the present state of economic imbalance in the congested areas, could be progressively removed from the development districts, this would be an added inducement to firms to move.
I end by emphasising my main reason for intervening, that where these things are unnecessary they should be eliminated because they give rise to irritation and a lack of understanding between the Government and the governed.
As the Bill affects Scotland so much, it is surprising that so little interest has up to now been shown in it from Scotland. After all, it may well mean a great deal of employment for Scotland.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary said in connection with this Amendment that he was not in the least likely to want to extend the subsection to any of the development districts. I should be very pleased if the Minister of State could give me some information about the position in Glasgow. To begin with, Glasgow is a development district. At the same time, it has a very difficult problem of central redevelopment which involves overspilling hundreds of thousands of people out of the centre of the City. Therefore, it might well be rather sensible to restrict the development of offices in the centre of Glasgow, although it is a development district. I should like to hear what the Government's policy will be on that point. The Minister said that he was not in the least likely to want to restrict offices there. Will he try to press on with the overspill agreements, the overspill of the Glasgow population and development of the centre, or not? I should be very grateful if the Minister would reply particularly to this point.
Also, if the Minister is trying to redeploy offices away from the metropolitan area, would it not be sensible to build advance offices, which he has the power to do under the Local Employment Act? I am sure that by that means he could help Glasgow—by building offices in the towns surrounding the city. Has the Minister come to any decision on that? Similarly, we ought to have many more Government offices in Scotland—for example, the Forestry Commission has its offices in Savile Row and yet most of the forests in Great Britain are situated in Scotland. Will the hon. Gentleman take action to get more office building in Scotland? I should be glad if the hon. Gentleman would, in the absence of all the Scottish Ministers, give me some idea of what he intends in regard to the development of Glasgow.
I will respond, very briefly, to that request. If the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) would read the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Standing Committee proceedings he would know that I gave Glasgow as an example of the need to have office control extended to Scotland, so that if the local authority and the people in Scotland generally decided that there ought not to be any further office development in the centre of Glasgow, but that office development should be steered somewhere else in Scotland, we should have this flexible control to help us achieve that.
I did not extend that remark of mine in any way. I was dealing with the proposition that the control ought not to apply to Scotland, and I was using Glasgow as an example to show why it should. As soon as that remark of mine was known, I received letters and notes from hon. Members who represent constituencies near Glasgow, and particularly the overspill areas, insisting that we should make sure that offices were moved out from Glasgow into their constituencies.
Obviously, I cannot answer in detail the points which the hon. Member for Galloway has raised, but I can assure him that we have retained this flexible control in the Bill, instead of giving way to the representations made to us to remove Scotland from the control, because possession of the control means that we shall be able to look at the problems and find for them solutions which I hope the hon. Member and everybody else in Scotland will consider to be satisfactory.
I am sure that we were very grateful to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary when he announced that his right hon. Friend would be prepared to consider an Amendment such as appears on the Notice Paper as Amendment No. 4. However, it really is astonishing that at this late hour we should at last get something out of the Government. We plodded through sitting after sitting of the Committee, and the only concession that we got from the Government was one relating to a single word. We are grateful, of course, for what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, but it is a very late hour to come forward with a concession, and even that grudgingly in that the Amendment was said to be not in the right wording. I entirely agree that it is not in the right wording, but the intention was perfectly clear.
One thing has astonished me about the debate on the Amendment. This is a debate on development districts. At the moment, there are only four hon. Members on the Government benches. Earlier, there was not a single hon. Member opposite except for the Parliamentary Secretary, who had to reply to the debate. Do hon. Members opposite take no interest in the development districts at all? Are they not concerned that there will be restrictions on development in those districts? Clause 1(2,b) contains a blanket provision covering the whole country, and the very day after the Bill became law the President of the Board of Trade could bring in an order applying this provision from Land's End to John o' Groat's, covering development districts which are in every other sense in the law distinct from other parts of the country.
Once an area is brought into the procedure of the Bill, whether it be the office development permit procedure or the industrial development certificate procedure, there is, as the Bill stands, no direction to the Board of Trade to give any consideration at all to the fact that it is in a development district.
We had the I.D.C. procedure quoted to us throughout the Committee stage as being the sort of procedure which will be adopted in giving office development permits. But in giving I.D.C.s there is a direction in the Act for the President of the Board of Trade to have consideration for development districts. In Section 38 of the 1962 Act the President of the Board of Trade is directed to give consideration to the fact that the application is for a development in a development district. As the Bill stood, there was nothing of that sort.
I hope that when the right hon. Gentleman comes to consider an Amendment and to carry out the undertaking which has been given he will put that Amendment in the position in the Bill to which we have directed ours, and will allow Parliament to preclude him from making an order covering a development district. It is not sufficient that he should be called upon to consider the fact that an application refers to development in a development district. It will be satisfactory only if development districts are taken right out of the ambit of the first part of the Bill and out of the procedure for applying for office development permits.
This leads me to Amendment No. 55, which deals with the industrial development certificates. The intention of the Amendment is to exclude applications from development districts from the provisions which preclude them from developing more than 1,000 sq. ft. If we are to understand that the right hon. Gentleman intends to make an order reducing the figure from 5,000 sq. ft. to 1,000 sq. ft., then the intention of the Amendment is to allow industrial development in development districts to be free up to 5,000 sq. ft. as at present. That is the only intention of the Amendment. Nothing in the Bill gives us the assurance that the development districts will be allowed freedom to develop even up to the level of 1,000 sq. ft. We are told that they must go through the I.D.C. procedure even if they want to develop up to 1,000 sq. ft.
We are asking the right hon. Gentleman to say that definitely. If he does not say it definitely, we want it in the Bill. We want to be certain that if an application is made from a development district to develop up to 5,000 sq. ft. it will not be thrown out. As the Bill stands, it can be thrown out. For many other purposes in industrial development and local authority affairs, there is a clear distinction between development districts and every other type of district in the country. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does not want in any way to restrict small developments in the development districts.
I am glad to hear that. Would he have brought forward a Bill merely to restrict industrial development in development districts for areas between 1,000 and 5,000 sq. ft.? Obviously not. Why, then, should it not be excluded from the Bill which he has brought forward? Why does he wart this blanket provision, putting on control for the sake of control? I am sure that he knows in his heart that he would not have brought in a Bill for that small purpose and that, therefore, the purpose should be excluded from the Bill. It is quite unnecessary to restrict small developments in any way in development districts, but without Amendment No. 55 development districts will be restricted to these very small developments of about 1,000 sq. ft. or under. It seems nonsense that the Bill should put those who want to develop in a development district through the whole elaborate procedure of applying to the Board of Trade for an I.D.C. in those circumstances.
The Minister always wins these battles. I apologise for putting down an Amendment which was wrongly worded, but I am sure that hon. Members on the back benches appreciate the difficulty which faces private Members who have not the facilities of a Government Department. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page), who is the mainstay for hon. Members on these back benches, was not present on this occasion and was not advised of the Amendment. It is a great pity that back benchers are not given special facilities in such matters. It might have been sporting on the part of the President of the Board of Trade—for this has been a happy Committee—to bear in mind that a word in the right ear might well have been welcome.
Could a manuscript Amendment be accepted at this stage? We have had an assurance from the President of the Board of Trade that he accepts the principle of the Amendment. May I move a manuscript Amendment to leave out "area" and to insert "district"?
I put down these Amendments with only one purpose—to enable the President of the Board of Trade to give his reasons to justify the inclusion of Scotland in the Bill. This is a very important Bill which could have a very important effect on Scotland. Scottish Members on both sides of the House must have a justification for including Scotland in the Bill. We are also entitled to an explanation of the effects of the Bill on Scotland and the policy which the Government have in mind in this connection.
It is very unfortunate that the case has not been put forward so far. I listened very carefully to the Second Reading debate and read the proceedings in the OFFICIAL REPORT. To my surprise the only reference to the position in Scotland was at column 736 when the President of the Board of Trade said that there were not many offices in Edinburgh. As far as I can see, that was the only reference to the situation in Scotland.
We had only short interjections from hon. Members who represent Scotland. There were two short interjections from the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) and one of those was of only two words. The only other reference I could find on Second Reading was a very good interjection—as we always have good interjections—from the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), who I am glad to see again in the House showing his interest in the Bill.
There were no fewer than 15 sittings of the Committee. A great deal was said and a great deal of ground was covered but it is surprising and alarming that on Clause 14, relating to the position in Scotland, there was a discussion reported in only one-and-a-half columns in the OFFICIAL REPORT Out of those 15 OFFICIAL REPORTS.
This is a very important point. But had Clause 14 not been in the Bill there would have been about two dozen pages in HANSARD reporting hon. Members who wondered why Clause 14 was not in the Bill and was not giving the same protection in Scotland against the extravagant waste of building materials and labour.
That is an unusual point for the hon. Member to make. I should like to go into the point in some detail. He suggests that if the Bill had not included Scotland there would have been far more discussion. I fail to see how this would have been the case, because there was not one Scottish Member serving on the Committee—a surprising and alarming fact. I have no wish to criticise in any way the Committee of Selection, but it seems very strange that in a Bill of this nature, which is of great significance to Scotland, not one Scottish Member was on the Committee. There may be many reasons for this.
I am coming to the Amendment, but I must make this point as part of my argument. The case for the inclusion of Scotland has not yet been put or discussed. Perhaps the absence from those proceedings of hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies had some relationship to the fact that a Scottish Law Officer—
On a point of order. You have ruled, quite properly, of course, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that my hon. Friend must address himself to the Amendment. While I agree that it is right that he should do that, in advancing his arguments on this point is it not right that he should draw attention to the problem which faced the Committee in dealing with these Scottish points because of the absence of Scottish hon. Members?
While I would normally be brief when moving an Amendment of this nature, I have had to take somewhat longer to explain why this matter has not so far been fully discussed. We had no opportunity to discuss it, there being no Scottish Minister present in Committee. I have read the OFFICIAL REPORT of the discussion in Committee on Clause 14 relating to the position in Scotland. I was surprised to read that at the 13th sitting, on 25th March, in a short intervention by the President of the Board of Trade—there may have been some misinterpretation of his words, but since he made the remark a considerable time ago and since the right hon. Gentleman has no doubt read his comments, he would have had time to correct them if he wished to do so—we were told:
I visualise real difficulty arising from the fact that soon there will not be any hon. Members in the House representing Scotland."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 25th March, 1965; c. 613.]
I now come to the detailed arguments I wish to advance in support of the Amendment. There exists an unusual situation here when we are considering applying certain matters to Scotland. It should be remembered just what Clause 14 states. It says:
Any order made under this Part of this Act which designates an area in Scotland for the purposes of section 1(2)(b) of this Act may contain such provisions as appear to the Board of Trade to be requisite for the purposes of substituting in this Part of this Act, in its application to that area, for references therein to provisions of the Act of 1962"—
and there follow the vital words:
references to the corresponding provisions of the enactments for the time being in force in Scotland relating to town and country planning, and otherwise for adapting this Part of this Act to those enactments.
This is a particularly unusual situation, for the Bill does not state categorically which Acts are involved. There is no specific reference at all, merely the general statement about
… the corresponding provisions of the enactments for the time being in force in Scotland …
This is an outrageous situation and I suggest that if there had been hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies examining the Bill carefully in Committee and if they had had adequate opportunity to speak on Second Reading they would have wanted an indication of which Acts the Government have in
mind in this wide-sweeping statement in the Clause. I have not been a Member of Parliament for very long, but I have examined a number of Measures and at no time have I seen such a wide-sweeping statement as
… enactments for the time being in force …
Laws can change, in Scotland and elsewhere, and it is unsatisfactory that the Scottish Acts involved are not specified. We are entitled to ask why the Government want to apply the Bill, or parts of it, to Scotland and, in asking this question, there are two considerations to be borne in mind. First, if the Bill is to relate to Scotland, then there should be a separate Bill for Scotland. The people of Scotland should know the precise legal position and the phrase
… references to the corresponding provisions of the enactments for the time being in force in Scotland …
is not satisfactory.
The second, more vital, point is that if this is going to apply to Scotland—either in this or in a separate Measure—then the person who should have the power to enforce it in particular districts should not be the President of the Board of Trade, although I have a high personal opinion of him, but the Secretary of State for Scotland
Hon. Members may not be fully aware of the special position of the Secretary of State Perhaps some hon. Members do not have a clear idea of the scope of his activities. He has very wide-ranging functions affecting planning, housing, education and health—many functions that are covered by separate Ministries in England and Wales. While it might be appropriate for the President of the Board of Trade to exercise these functions throughout the country, certain powers which might be exercised in Scotland—powers which have perhaps proved successful in England and Wales—might be more advantageous to Scotland if exercised by the Secretary of State. In other words, the Secretary of State might be brought into conflict with the President of the Board of Trade in exercising the functions which Parliament has laid upon him.
I do not want to signify that the Bill will not bring benefits, but if we have a situation in which the Bill is successful in England and Wales, the same functions put into effect by the President of the Board of Trade in Scotland might bring him into conflict with many of the policies being followed by the Secretary of State.
We recently appointed the Scottish Planning Board, and local authorities in Scotland are putting forward development plans for the way they consider their areas should be developed. These are longterm plans covering such things as which areas should be commercial, industrial or residential. All this is going on through the Scottish Office, through the Secretary of State.
The President of the Board of Trade might say that there will always be full consultation with the Secretary of State, and I am sure that with the present President and Secretary of State in office there will be such consultation, but it is not good enough to justify a Bill of this nature on temporary circumstances. We do not know whether there will always be this friendly co-operation between two Ministers, but, without that spirit of tolerance between them, a most dangerous and serious situation could develop. That being so, there is a clear case for saying that the powers, if exercised at all, should be exercised by the Secretary of State by means of a Scottish Measure. We could take care that the provisions of a separate Scottish Measure related to the special circumstances of Scotland. It is well known that the Scottish Standing Committee goes into such Bills carefully, and we could make quite sure that the Bill applied precisely to the situation in Scotland.
I need to be persuaded that there are here benefits that would accrue to the Scottish nation. The Government first have to show that there is at present any area with too many offices in it, or the prospect of having too many in the future. As a Glasgow Member I can appreciate that the Government may think that we have a special situation there, as there are enormous problems of housing, replanning and development. If they think that, we should be told, and given some details.
I was a member of the Glasgow Town Council for five years, and I know that in our development plan the development committee was keeping a tight con- trol of the situation and ensuring for the future a proper balance between industrial, commercial and residential development. The President of the Board of Trade may have more information on that subject than I have—
Can my hon. Friend tell the House whether, during his period of service on the council, there were any signs of over-development of office building in Glasgow, and whether he would have thought that there was any need for such control as is envisaged in this Bill?
There was disagreement, of course, but my personal opinion then was that there was not an urgent problem. There were one or two empty offices in certain new office blocks, but that was more a question of rentals than anything else. But we are not concerned with whether there are too many offices but whether there is over-development of commercial premises. The question is whether there will be any transport problem, for instance, resulting from a concentration of workers. We need a detailed discussion of the position in Glasgow, Edinburgh and other Scottish towns and cities.
We were told by the President of the Board of Trade on Second Reading that there was an enormous concentration of offices in London, but that the concentration was not nearly so great in Edinburgh and in several towns he mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman should tell us whether he thinks there is an urgent problem in Edinburgh, Dundee or Aberdeen, or the near prospect of one.
If the Secretary of State had the exercise of these powers the proper course would be for him to consult the local authorities concerned. That would be nothing new, because that consultation goes on all the time, so what other purpose is there for putting forward in development plans our ideas for residential, commercial or industrial development? If there were to be a sudden alteration in the situation, perhaps in five years' time, there would be no time completely to revise our development plans, but in such circumstances, on the initiative of the local authority—or even, in special circumstances, perhaps on the initiative of the Secretary of State himself—the zonings of particular areas in the city could be changed.
As much control as is necessary can be exercised by normal democratic means, and there is a very real danger of this legislation bringing in an element of confusion whereby local authorities will not be entirely convinced that the Secretary of State has the final word. They may put forward their detailed development plans for the Secretary of State, only to find that the President of the Board of Trade has a different idea.
There may be some dubiety about there being too many offices in some parts of Scotland, but in many parts there is still need for more. Without proper argument, I would be very reluctant to agree to any proposition that might in some way, at some time and in certain circumstances restrict office development. It is pot long since this House passed the Offices, Shops and Railway Premises Act, which was primarily concerned with ensuring that office workers had proper working facilities. I know that in Glasgow, Edinburgh and many other Scottish cities, office workers still do not have proper facilities or adequate space. I therefore feel that these Amendments are worthy of further discussion.
In Glasgow, in particular, we look forward to new office development. For one thing, the Post Office Savings Bank is coming to Glasgow. We have a special situation, and although these Amendments relate to the situation in Scotland as a whole, it might not be inappropriate if, as a Glasgow Member, I make special reference to that city. Glasgow has 29 redevelopment areas. Some of them, particularly Anderston, have substantial areas set aside for commercial premises. If we are to encourage new industry to go there, we must provide the offices.
Another point which could be argued on the need for additional offices is that generally in Scotland, although I do not criticise hon. Members who represent constituencies in England and Wales, we tend to treat education a little more seriously and give it more significance in our way of life. Over the years a far larger proportion of university graduates have come from Scotland in relation to the population—
The point is that generally we have a high concentration of people engaged in commercial and professional jobs. If we have a high concentration of graduates in Scotland they will tend to work in offices. We should have a proper development of the area.
I can appreciate that there is some doubt whether this is very relevant to the argument, but another matter I emphasise is that office development has a direct relationship to rating potential. The rating position in Scotland is quite different from the situation in England. When we bear in mind such office premises as the one along the road from here which pays £200,000 in rates, we see that office development has a direct relationship to the whole question of local government finance.
I have no wish to do so and I certainly will not. But I think it a fair point, directly related to this argument, that in Glasgow the average rate per head is about £27.
I was hoping to put forward more arguments, but, as they were in a similar vein, perhaps it might not be appropriate to do so and I will not press them. We want a clear indication from the President of the Board of Trade of why he thinks the Bill should apply to Scotland. That argument has not been advanced. If we are to pass a Bill which has such direct relevance to the situation in Scotland, we want to know why that is so.
It may be that in certain arguments I have put forward I have given the impression, without intending to do so, that the Amendments should be pressed to Divisions. I wish to emphasise that I have no fixed opinion on this situation. I am not either for or against the Bill applying to Scotland at present. I put forward the Amendments essentially for the purpose of hearing an argument from the President of the Board of Trade on why the Bill should apply to Scotland. I should like to have a detailed explanation on these points. More importantly, I should like the President of the Board of Trade to give his opinion, and the opinion of the Government, on whether there is justification for the Bill applying to Scotland.
If the problems in Scotland are the same, does he not think that we should have a separate Bill for Scotland and not a situation such as that comprised by the legal interpretations in Clause 14? It is a ludicrous procedure to apply the Bill to Scotland in such a strange way without referring specifically to certain Acts. I should like the President of the Board of Trade to say, at this late stage, why there should not be a separate Bill. If the Bill is to apply to Scotland, or if we are to have a separate Bill for Scotland, does he not think that the situation would be far more properly dealt with if these powers were exercised by the Secretary of State for Scotland? The Minister of State for Scotland is sitting beside the President of the Board of Trade. In the circumstances, I shall understand if he does not want to give a clear answer, "Yes" or "No," now. It may be that he wants to investigate the matter further.
If the right hon. Gentleman says that he will look into the situation and decide at a later stage I shall understand and will not press the Amendment. It is d difficult matter to decide. I should like to think that the powers in the Bill, when applied to Scotland, would be exercised by the Secretary of State for Scotland. Consultation could take place with the President of the Board of Trade. Just as he consults the Secretary of State, the Secretary of State could consult the President of the Board of Trade. We would then remove the real danger of a conflict of policy, a conflict in direction between the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State for Scotland. I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will look at this question very seriously and give it careful thought. If, at this stage, he cannot give a clear, decisive answer, I shall understand.
I apologise for speaking at greater length than I otherwise would have done, but this question has not been discussed up to date. It was not discussed on Second Reading or in Committee, in detail. I hope that we shall have a detailed explanation such as we should have had some time ago. I have not covered the whole ground, but many or my hon. Friends may add other points of detail to the arguments I have advanced.
I want to reinforce some of the arguments advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor), who is concerned, as I am, about the powers of the Board of Trade. Already, there is a multiplicity of bodies in Scotland with power to deal with industrial and office development. There is the Board of Trade. There is the Scottish Development Department, under the control of the Secretary of State. We now have the Scottish Planning Board. Later this year we hope to have the Highland Development Board.
There are the county and burgh councils and all the local authorities which spend so much of their time trying to attract industry and office development to their own areas. It is not only industry that we are trying to bring to Scotland. Industry may be a prime creator of employment, but we are also concerned about the constructive employment which can be provided by offices.
It is outrageous that the Board of Trade should have powers superior to those of the Secretary of State in Scotland. I am sure that we shall be told that there is the greatest co-operation between the Board of Trade and the Secretary of State. This is true. My constituency has a development district and, under the Local Employment Act, an advance factory. This has been provided by co-operation between the Board of Trade and the Scottish Office. The Board of Trade is in Glasgow and the Development Department is in Edinburgh.
This does not make for ease of consultation for industrialists, who must travel from one city to another. I know from my own personal experience that this puts industrialists who come up from England to Scotland to a great deal of trouble. It is important that we create a good impression. It would be a great help if, in one building, there were the Board of Trade, the Development Department and, now, the Planning Board.
Local authorities have been working on their development plans for years. Most of them have had them passed during the last 10 years or so. I have been a member of a local authority for 15 years. We tell local authorities that delegation is all-important, that this will give real power to local authorities and instil enthusiasm into local authority members when they know that they have something to do. We are told that delegation is of prime importance. Under the Bill, much of the work put into development plans may be rendered nugatory because the President of the Board of Trade will have superior control over decisions to be made in respect of buildings which come under the Bill. The Board of Trade will be working from a central headquarters, sometimes many miles from the county council building or municipal chambers, which may be 50, 100, or 200 miles from Edinburgh or Glasgow. This lack of local control will be a great hindrance to local authorities which are spending so much time on constructive planning.
The Bill is closely connected with planning. It is very important that local authorities should plan constructively. The reverse of what we want would be for local authorities to plan destructively, just saying "No" to this, that, or the other. We want local planning authorities to consider what they can do to improve the position, how they can bring new buildings, new industries and new office blocks to their areas, and how they can improve the design and quality of those buildings. Never should we sit back and receive a plan, merely saying "Yes". Constructive planning is so important, and if the authorities feel that the Board of Trade may have superior control over their decisions it will remove a great deal of the enthusiasm and incentive from their deliberations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) referred to the tremendous financial inducements to local authorities to have fine new office buildings. If in- creased rateable value can be brought into a burgh or a county it will help the rate burden which, as we heard earlier this afternoon, is rising quickly in Scotland. Any attraction that local authorities can bring by way of new offices and new industries to their areas should he encouraged, and I am certain that the local authorities feel, as they have felt for many years, that it is far better to work through the Scottish Office and not to have to deal with an additional office in the form of the Board of Trade.
I strongly support my hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart in seeking to keep the control under the Secretary of State for Scotland instead of adding this further responsibility to the Board of Trade.
I had no intention of speaking in this debate, but I have been forced into doing so by some of the nonsense which I have heard. The crime is particularly reprehensible on the part of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor), aided by other hon. Members on the Opposition Front Bench who have added their names to the Amendment, and who do not even know Glasgow, let alone Scotland.
If Amendment No. 48 were carried, all new office building would be wiped out entirely in Scotland. If the hon. Gentleman had wanted a probing Amendment he would not have asked for the removal of Clause 14 in its entirety. The hon. Member has not been here very long. He is a brash young Tory who wants to lead the Scottish Tories as soon as possible. His hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) is a steady farmer-type who is doing very well. They are both ambitious.
The hon. Member for Cathcart—in those parts of his speech which were in order, for I must not refer to those parts which were out of order—was speaking like a brash Scottish Nationalist. He spoke about Glasgow's plans. He said that he was a member of the Glasgow authority for five years. The hon. Member for Dumfries was in local government for a similar period. I, too, have been engaged in local government, and I have been concerned with planning. But the hon. Gentleman was not concerned with planning. He knows that the Secretary of State for Scotland must endorse all these planning permits, but he did not say so. That is one of his sins of omission. He should have acknowledged that the Secretary of State for Scotland has overall planning control, for planning is under the complete control of the Scottish Office.
The hon. Gentleman is anticipating my speech. I was about to come to that matter. Both the hon. Member for Cathcart and the hon. Member for Dumfries indicated that this power should rest with the Secretary of State. We have never advocated this in connection with advance factories. Neither my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State nor his predecessors have had anything to do with advance factories. But Scotland has done very well with the Board of Trade. We have had every consideration from it. When deputations have visited Board of Trade offices in Edinburgh and Glasgow they have been treated very well. That has contrasted with the attitude of some local authorities I have been in contact with.
The crime of the hon. Member for Cathcart is that, knowing the housing problem in Glasgow and how many multi-storey blocks are unoccupied, he wants to omit control of office building in Scotland from this Bill. That is a heinous crime. Office building is at present disposing of scarce material and skilled building labour on monstrous blocks when that material and labour should be going into the building of home for his constituents. It is the object of the Bill to bring about this switch.
I will give way but let me get a few sentences out first.
If this provision for Scotland had not been in the Bill the Scottish Labour Members would have argued long to have it included but we did not need to. The hon. Member accused us of not speaking on Second Reading but, of course, we did not need to. We were unanimous in the Scottish Labour group in our welcome for this provision, which will help relieve Scotland's tragic housing problem, especially in the larger towns and cities.
Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that I did state that there are one or two empty offices in Glasgow? Does not he recall that I also mentioned the appalling housing problem? The point I was trying to make was that working conditions in offices have a degree of priority, though admittedly not as great as that of housing. Does not he share my concern not only for homeless families but also for those working in inadequate offices?
Let us not get away from the main issue, which is the fact that there are empty offices in Glasgow—not just one or two but multi-storey blocks. The building of offices is taking valuable materials and labour which should be released in order to help reduce the long waiting list for housing that is Glasgow's tragedy. Many Glasgow families are living in housing conditions which are the most deplorable in Europe for gross overcrowding and unfitness. We shall have such conditions for another 25 years unless we maintain the impetus created by the Government, who really mean to cure the problem, which was getting worse under the last Administration.
The kernel of the case of the hon. Member for Cathcart and the hon. Member for Dumfries was that the Secretary of State should come into this. They spoke like Scottish Nationalists. Yet, when one praises the Board of Trade, they apparently agree. Where does one get a grip on their argument? Will not the hon. Member for Cathcart withdraw the brash remarks he made and join in our welcome to this initiative by the Board of Trade on the control of office building? Since, in addition to that control, the Secretary of State for Scotland exercises complete control on the planning side, the whole situation is as safe as houses.
Hon. Members opposite have talked about the powers of the Board of Trade and about interference with the planning of local authorities, and yet we have heard them say a hundred times that they are against planning of any kind, do not believe in planning, believe that we should leave planning to this, that and everyone, private enterprise especially. "Give people their heads"—
I do not want to use any argument in support of not applying the Bill to Scotland. My argument has been that it should apply to Scotland, and I do not wish to be led away from that view.
Like every hon. Member on this side of the House, I am all in favour of retaining these powers in the Bill and applying them wherever they need to be applied, so that we get better planning and more houses and alleviate the misery of many working-class people who cannot get homes.
The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel) has spoken with such exuberance that I am not sure that he has completely understood what the Bill is about. It puts an extra obstacle in the way of those creating developments such as offices mainly in the south of England. The planning power still remains. The hon. Member spoke of monstrous office blocks being allowed to be built in Glasgow, but that is the fault of the local planning authority. Adding another obstacle in the way of an office development certificate will not affect that matter one way or the other. I do not think that the hon. Gentleman appreciates what the Bill is about.
Does the hon. Gentleman appreciate what Clause 14 is about and what the Amendment is about? He was too frightened to sign the Amendment. Clause 14 does the opposite of what he has said. I have taken an intense interest in the Bill, as I do in all Bills which apply to Scotland. We want to retain Clause 14.
I do not want to discuss Clause 14. I want to speak about Amendment No. 56. This adds the need to obtain an I.D.C. in Scotland when an existing building is to be extended by more than 1,000 sq. ft. In Scotland, 80 per cent. of new employment, I believe, is created by existing industry. I cannot conceive of a case, except possibly the City of Glasgow, and then only possibly, where one would want to put impediments in the way of small businesses wishing to expand. A small business, someone who has started making textiles, or something of the sort, in a small factory, might want to expand in a development district, or even outside such a district. I cannot conceive of a case in which we would want to put this extra obstacle in the way of an expansion of that kind.
What is now proposed is that not only should a person in those circumstances get planning permission, but that he should also go to the Board of Trade for an I.D.C. Applying for an I.D.C. is not simple. One has to fill up a long form and say how many people one intends to employ, and so on. All this is quite unnecessary. I do not mind if the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire calls me a nationalist, but it seems to me that in this case Scotland is just being dragged behind England and that the Bill is being unnecessarily applied to Scotland. I hope that my hon. Friends will divide against the inclusion of Scotland.
The Bill intends to apply a fairly strict office control to the metropolitan region in the south-east of England. We are, at the same time, taking power, with the agreement of Parliament, to extend the control to other parts of Great Britain, for this reason. I do not think that any of us could say that at no time in the next seven years is it likely that we should wish to extend the control to any other part of Great Britain other than the metropolitan region as defined. However, at present, we have no intention of extending office control to Scotland.
The only issue raised by the Amendment is not whether we should exclude Scotland from the control—because there is no present intention of applying it—but whether we should exclude it from any possibility of control in quite different circumstances which might arise in the next seven years. Looking at the matter from that point of view, which is the relevant point of view, I do not think that there is a case for simply excluding the whole of Scotland even from the possibility of control and maintaining the control in thef rest of Britain.
If we were to take a unit, excluding Scotland, for the possible scope of control, it could perhaps be argued that Wales should also be excluded. Very similar arguments could be advanced. I do not think, however, that we should exclude the possibility of extending the control to Scotland for as long as seven years, for the very reasons advanced by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor), who made a considerable contribution to this discussion. He said that we are legislating, not just for the present situation, but for seven years ahead and for unforeseen circumstances. For those reasons, I think that it would be unwise to exclude Scotland from the possibility of control.
At present, the I.D.C. procedure applies to Scotland. That does not mean that in practically every case an I.D.C. is refused. I think that in practically no case has one been refused.
If an I.D.C. is never to be refused—and it is difficult to envisage circumstances in which one would be refused what is the point of making people go through the rigmarole of applying for one?
I was about to explain that. It is perfectly possible that there might be a proposal for a large industrial expansion scheme in one of the parts of Scotland which are, happily, very fully employed at present, notably Edinburgh, It might be worth the firm concerned and the Board of Trade pausing for discussion to decide whether it might not be more desirable if the scheme were located, not in Edinburgh, but in another part of Scotland—say Lanarkshire or Clydeside—which was more in need of that form of employment. For that reason, it has proved wise to maintain the I.D.C. system in Scotland, even though a certificate is very seldom refused.
Could the right hon. Gentleman conceive a case in which 5,000 sq. ft. of industrial development in Edinburgh would be relevant at all? At the moment, one does not need an I.D.C. for under 5,000 sq. ft., and that is what the right hon. Gentleman is bringing under control.
There is no intention of lowering the 5,000 sq. ft. to 1,000 sq. ft. in any part of Scotland. The hon. Gentleman seems to think that the Bill does that. It does not, and there is no intention of doing it.
As I was saying, if there were a proposal for a large expansion scheme, there might be a case for arguing that it should be located in one part of Scotland rather than another. We cannot exclude the possibility that that situation might arise with offices. I do not think that it is likely.
We hope to do better. At present, unemployment is, happily, falling in Scotland quite rapidly. A number of industrial development schemes are going forward. We hope and intend that this should continue. It may well be that when the Government have been in office for five years there will be such office congestion in some parts of Scotland that it is desirable to have control.
I do not despair of that at all. The fact is that we do not know. As long as we do not know for certain the sensible course is to give ourselves these possible powers over Great Britain as a whole. As I say, however, there is not the slightest present intention on the part of the Government either to extend the office control to Scotland or to lower the 5,000 sq. ft. limit for I.D.C.s to 1,000 sq. ft. in any part of Scotland.
The House will agree that, despite some mutterings from the benches opposite, this has been an interesting debate. I congratulate my hon, Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Edward M. Taylor) on moving the Amendment and deploying his arguments so eloquently and forcefully. I was a little distressed to hear the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire (Mr. Manuel), who will perhaps allow me to call him my hon. Friend, get quite so hot under the collar about this. I was even more distressed to hear him refer to my hon. Friend as brash. What the hon. Member probably really means is that if a man of his experience is stung to his feet, he will be stung to his feet not by mere brashness on anybody's part, but because of the telling points that were made by my hon. Friend. There is no question of brashness about this.
The hon. Member referred to my hon. Friend's Amendment as a wrecking Amendment. The hon. Member is an expert on that type of Amendment. Perhaps he was thinking of what he might have done in similar circumstances. We on this side recall sitting on the benches opposite when the hon. Member was on this side of the House and we were kept up until a late hour whilst he deployed various arguments—perhaps they were not even arguments, but he deployed—at considerable length for a long time. He should not take it amiss if somebody on this side, with that usual brevity which it so noticeable among Scottish Members, deploys arguments which the hon. Member does not like and which take up a little more time than he would like to be given to the debate.
During part of the debate, we have heard reference to the fact that Scottish Members have not, until now, played much part in the proceedings, either on Second Reading or in Committee or, until almost this moment, on Report. You, Mr. Speaker, quite properly said that that could not be followed up to any great length. Nevertheless, it is interesting to notice from what the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire said that the Scottish Members opposite apparently have been so satisfied with the Bill that had these Clauses not been included, they would have pressed for their insertion. I understand that; I understand hon. Members opposite taking that view. The interesting thing is that they presumably thought that the Bill was absoluely perfect, because they took no part in the debates and made no speeches for the Bill's improvement.
The Bill clearly needed improvement, however, because the Government themselves have produced Amendments designed to improve it. Not only that, but from time to time—although not very often, I admit they have accepted Amendments moved from this side.
If the hon. Gentleman allows me, I will deploy my argument in my own way. It will take me much longer if I am interrupted.
We have tried to improve the Bill and one would have thought that Scottish Members, with their known love of argument and debate, would have taken part in this. We know how much they want to take part in perfecting legislation, generally English legislation, which goes through this House and I am surprised that until now they have not taken much part in our debates.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cathcart—I mention this with trepidation—raised the likely effect of the Bill upon the rateable value of certain Scottish cities. The point was relevant because, obviously, the Bill is bound to have an effect upon the rateable value of Scottish cities. If at some time within the next seven years the President of the Board of Trade envisaged the possibility that he might have to apply the Bill to Scotland, or if office development or I.D.C.s are made much more difficult to obtain, this will have a profound effect upon the rateable value of Scottish cities. I think that this was relevant to the argument which my hon. Friend deplored.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro), who spoke with all the experience of 15 years on a local authority, and to whom tribute was paid by the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire—a very well deserved tribute, if I may say so—deployed a point made time and time again by hon. Members opposite when they sat on this side of the House, and that was the fear of remoteness of control. Frequently we have been told that Edinburgh is out of touch and that certainly London is completely out of touch with the needs of Scotland. This argument has been threshed out time and time again by Scottish Members on the other side of the House when they sat on this side. It is a very real fear, and I think my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries was quite right to draw attention to it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis), in a brief but very telling intervention, referred to the dangers of imposing extra obstacles in the way of industrial expansion. I thought he was right to draw attention to that.
I think that the President of the Board of Trade is not really very serious in the argument he advances. He produced the usual argument, and that is that this power in the Bill is one which the Government may wish to use some time or another in the future. That argument is rather like coming to the House with a Finance Bill and saying, "We are only going to impose a tax of 8s. 3d. in the £ for the current year, but nevertheless we want to write into the Finance Bill the power to increase the tax to 18s. 3d. because it is possible that at some time during the next 12 months we may wish to have the additional revenue which the increase in the tax would yield."
Whether we did it or not, the argument is precisely the same, that the Government want the power in case at some time or another they may wish to use it, and it is not an argument we wish to have used too often.
The President of the Board of Trade pointed out, quite rightly of course, with regard to the building of factories under Clause 16 that there is no intention at the present time to reduce in Scotland the area of 5,000 sq. ft., but the point is that the fear is there, the power is there to do this in Scotland, while the whole emphasis in industrial activity in the last few years has been to try to get industrial expansion in Scotland. The hon. Member for Central Ayrshire has this very much at heart; he has been among the foremost exponents of industrial expansion in Scotland and has done all he could to encourage it. Though the expressed intention is not at present to make the Bill apply to Scotland it nevertheless has the effect of introducing an element of doubt, and I would have thought that the President of the Board of Trade would not have wished to have done this.
It is very hard to envisage circumstances in which the restrictive provisions of this Bill would have to be applied to Scotland, but because it is possible for the President of the Board of Trade to come to the House and ask that Scotland, or other areas, should be included, anybody who wishes to develop there, any English industrialist who may be encouraged to expand his business in Scotland, has a subconscious feeling that perhaps if he does he may at some time in the future be restricted by this Bill. We are told about Glasgow, for example. We were told of problems in Glasgow which may make it necessary, so one gathers, to use the powers of this Bill there. It is, of course, no encouragement to industrialists in the South to put up factories or offices in or near that city.
I think that it is dangerous to do anything which, in any way, however slight, discourages what we all want to see, and that is the development of industrial activity in Scotland.
I have not started to make it yet. I am trying to get my breath back because I am a little surprised at the hon. Member giving way to me. These may be valuable powers with regard to I.D.Cs. in relation to Glasgow. Glasgow is making overspill agreements with areas to get people and industry moved out of Glasgow. It seems odd that we should try to bring it in. At the same time the hon. Member for Galloway (Mr. Brewis) wants industry at Stranraer. His forces there are becoming depleted. Tory voters are getting out because they cannot find work there.
That was a very interesting intervention, but I do not think that it dealt with the point I was making.
I was interested in the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman that unemployment in Scotland was falling. We are delighted to hear this, and to know that it arises out of the new opportunities for employment being developed in Scotland. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will admit that it arises out of the action taken by the previous Government. It is not possible to provide opportunities for employment in a few months. The present situation arises out of ideas and schemes developed by the previous Government bearing fruit, just as we said they would. I cannot speak for my hon. Friends. but I do not mind who takes the credit. The main thing is to achieve the result, and if unemployment is falling in Scotland I am the first to cheer. I do not mind whether hon. Gentlemen opposite say that this is due to them, or whether we say, and say rightly, that it is due to us. All that we want to know is that it is happening.
I think that my hon. Friends were right to table the Amendment to find out what the Government had in mind. In view of the assurance that we have had, that there is no intention of applying the provisions of the Bill to Scotland within the foreseeable future—and we are delighted to hear this, because we want to remove from the mind of anybody who is thinking of developing in Scotland a fear which will discourage him from so doing—I would advise my hon. Friends not to press the Amendment to a Division.
I beg to move Amendment No. 6, in page 2, line 2, after "being" to insert:
contiguous to that region and".
The effects of the Amendment with regard to Scotland are minimal, but they are, however, significant, and I hope that my hon. Friends who represent Scottish constituencies will feel able to support the Amendment, even though it is not anything like as far-reaching as the previous one.
The effects of the Amendment are rather complex, but it has no connection with a new Clause which referred to areas contiguous to the metropolitan region which was rejected by the Government during the Committee stage. The purpose of the Amendment is to exclude from the provisions of Part I of the Bill, namely, the effect of office development permits, all those areas of Great Britain which are not contiguous to the metropolitan region.
I would inform my hon. Friend the Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) that one of the effects of the Amendment would be to bring in areas which are now contiguous to the metropolitan area, but it would in no way have the effect, by creeping across the country, of bringing in areas that were contiguous to areas that had been added to the metropolitan region.
This is a complex and difficult problem. At an earlier stage the President of the Board of Trade told us what the position was with respect to the metropolitan region. He said that it could be subtracted from but it could not be added to. Therefore, under the terms of the Bill, if an area contiguous to the metropolitan region were added under my Amendment, no further peripheral areas could be added to that area just because it had been added to an area described as the metropolitan region. I hope that I have made myself reasonably clear. I began by saying that the Amendment looked simple, but that its effect was fairly complex.
My hon. Friends and I have always taken the view that the extension of office development permits to what I term provincial Britain is largely unnecessary, and it is certainly unnecessary in Scotland. But we have not taken the view that there may not be a case for the extension of office development permits to areas in south-east England which may not at the moment be designated as part of the metropolitan region. The broad effect of the Amendment would be to leave the Board of Trade with power to add areas which are specifically in the South-East and which are adjacent to the metropolitan region, as defined in the Bill. I believe that for a period of seven years, which will be the operative time of this legislation, my suggestion should be acceptable to all hon. Members.
In his reply to the last Amendment the President of the Board of Trade said that he could barely foresee circumstances in which it would be necessary to extend the provisions of the Bill to Scotland. I accept that as a statement of fact, as all hon. Members will. I would add that I can barely envisage a situation arising within seven years in which it would be necessary to bring in the whole of this office development procedure for any part of provincial Britain—and I include Wales within that term.
If I have made my case, I have shown that this is a limited approach to the problem of differentiating between the position in the south-east of England and the position which obtains throughout the rest of the country. This is a very sensible and reasonable approach. It will set a line of demarcation which is comprehensible, and it will give the President of the Board of Trade all the power that he could reasonably expect to exercise within the period of seven years. I hope that the Government will see the logic of the Amendment and be able to advise the House that it is a constructive one.
We require from my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple)—for whose motives I have a great deal of sympathy—a little more clarification of the Amendment. The term "contiguous" is easy enough to understand, but all Great Britain is really contiguous to the metropolitan area, if one really comes down to it. Does my hon. Friend mean the nearest county that touches the metropolitan area, or the nearest urban district, or the nearest rural district?
This is an important question, because as far as I can see contiguity with the metropolitan area will shortly reach Warwickshire. I should not mind sacrificing one or two rural districts in the south of Warwickshire, provided that I could retain my own constituency outside this hideous octopus. If, on the other hand, as soon as the sprawl has reached the southernmost tip of the county and the rural districts of Stratford on Avon are threatened by the Bill I should hate to think that the whole county was going in as part of the contiguity. We must have some limitation.
I hope that the Government will agree to the Amendment, which I think a good one, and, in another place, introduce the necessary closer definition of contiguity. The Government should think themselves lucky that they have not been in office long enough to remove another place, and that they have somewhere to put these things right.
I apologise, Mr. Speaker, and thank you for permitting me to be in order.
I should like to reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby (Mr. Wise) on this point of contiguity. I explained in the passage in which I tried to make the matter clear to the House that I was using almost incomprehensible terms and that it was a very complicated passage. May I make another attempt to explain what is meant by a contiguous area and its extent, as I see it?
Of course, I accept that if the President of the Board of Trade designated the whole of Britain in one order, the whole of Britain could, indeed, be taken to be an area contiguous to the metropolitan region. Nevertheless, in the Bill as it stands there are powers for the Board of Trade to designate areas of Great Britain, so it is presumed that the Government have in mind that there will be areas they can designate of somewhat lesser size than the whole of Britain.
During the Committee stage it was taken that an area would be either the area of a local authority or a combination of areas of local authorities. In that case, under the Bill, the Government, the President of the Board of Trade, would seek to add either an area of a local authority to the metropolitan area or a series of local authority areas to that area. Having done that—this is really the point of the Amendment—it would be impossible for the President of the Board of Trade to add peripherally to the area thus designated as an addition to the metropolitan area.
This is a very difficult point to understand, because when an area is added to the metropolitan region it does not become part of the metropolitan region. Had the Government accepted an Amendment which I moved during the Committee stage, which had logic on its side, although I will admit a certain number of defects as well; if the Governmen had accepted the logic of my Amendment, areas contiguous to the metropolitan region would have been taken to be areas of that region. It has always struck me as being quaint in this legislation that we can detract from an area but not add to it. That is the position under the Bill. That is the reason why I have sought to add these areas.
During the Committee stage, when the question of a contiguous area was raised no difficulties about definition were raised by Government spokesmen, so it was clear that at that time what was meant by a contiguous area. I hope that it is clear to the House what I mean by a contiguous area and that it is clear what the Government mean by a contiguous area, and what is, in fact, an area contiguous to the metropolitan region. I can reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Rugby that I would under no circumstances reckon that either the Borough of Rugby or the rural district would be an area that I would deem to be contiguous to the metropolitan region. With these assurances and explanations I hope that we can proceed with the discussion on this Amendment.
To get the meaning of "contiguous" in its context as we had it in Committee, I should explain that I deployed such forceful arguments against the Amendment of the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple), which he said was quite logical in the sense of dealing with the metropolitan region, that I was able to get the Committee to agree that what he was proposing was not exactly what the Opposition wanted. It would have made the contiguous areas that would be brought into the metropolitan region subject to the retrospective provisions of the Bill, which none of us wanted. We did not proceed to argue the meaning of "contiguous", because the other arguments deployed more or less finished the operation.
But I accept what the hon. Member for the City of Chester said about this. I do not want to argue whether "contiguous" would take us up to the boundaries of Scotland, perhaps, if one designated the whole of the area from the metropolitan region to there because, of course, there is no intention of doing that. If the area of control is extended from the metropolitan region, because we are dealing with congestion in the South-East, on a purely practical basis it is likely that the extension will be into areas contiguous to the metropolitan region. We accept that, and I do not think that, unless there are arguments about the drafting, we should argue any more about the meaning of the word.
I draw the attention of the House to how this part of the Bill would read if we accepted the Amendment. Clause 1(2) would read:
The areas to which this Part of this Act applies are—
This may be all right so far as the metropolitan region goes, but the effect would be that if we were under great pressure to extend the control to, for example, Birmingham, we should be unable to do so. If this is what hon. Members opposite want, obviously we cannot accept it.
I do not want to go over all the arguments we had on this in Committee. I believe that it was on this Amendment, or a group of Amendments containing this one, that I pointed out that in previous legislation dealing with town and country planning and the alteration in the cubic content—Section 3 tolerances, and so on—the previous Government applied their controls to the whole of Great Britain in order to have freedom and flexibility to designate other areas if there was need to do so.
We would say that it is necessary that we should have power to designate other areas of the country if there is over-congestion where it is necessary to get a redistribution of office employment. Therefore, we must stick to the terms of the Bill and reject the Amendment.
I would remind hon. Members that the whole purpose of the Bill is to deal with office employment. We are trying to get a redistribution of it. The purpose of this part of the Bill is to enable us to deal with congestion, overloading, transport difficulties and social problems which have arisen particularly in the metropolitan area as a result of the overbuilding of offices. This situation can apply in other parts of the country. We have already had representations, as I mentioned during the Committee stage, in regard to Birmingham. Unless we have authority to extend control by permission of the House, by order, to other parts of the country where the same pressures and circumstances of congestion apply, then I do not think that the Bill will be as satisfactory as it ought to be.
For those reasons, I ask the House to reject the Amendment.
I had hoped that it would not be necessary for me to speak in the debate, because it seemed to me that after the persuasive manner in which my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) moved the Amendment there was every reason to expect the Government to accept it. None of us wishes to go into the semantics which seem to have developed out of the meaning of the word "contiguous", but it is clear from the way in which the Amendment affects the subsection that my hon. Friend is trying to ensure that people know clearly the areas which can or cannot be affected by the extension of the Bill.
This is one way in which the Opposition have been able to try to make clear that we are not willing to see powers taken in the Bill simply for the sake of taking powers—powers which could be used anywhere and at any time. We believe that there is reason for saying that we should try to keen the extension of industries and offices from the South-East because of the congestion. The previous Government did this and the present Government are continuing to do it. To that extent the Opposition wish to give every possible support. But we are not convinced that there is a need for some of these powers to be left in the hands of the President of the Board of Trade to be used anywhere and everywhere.
We understood the logic of the argument about contiguity to the Metropolitan region, but we find it strange that the Government are not willing to accept the Amendment in order to clear up a doubt which is left in people's minds. There will be a limitation in the desire for this form of office and industrial development throughout the country if people fear that the Bill may be extended, say, to Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham. We have had assurances in Committee from the President of the Board of Trade that at this moment he does not envisage this extension. But how long does "at this moment" last? For how long can anyone considering development accept that sort of assurance? Such an assurance is worthless after a month or two months. We are trying hard by the Amendment to make it clear that the Government will not hold unnecessary controls in their hands, when in Committee the right hon. Gentleman said that they did not think this extension necessary at the moment.
If they wished to insist on retaining this power they might have done it in an entirely different way. I am certain that hon. Members can envisage a manner in which it could have been done, but if I went into that I should be out of order. I must ask the Minister to be a little clearer so that people outside the House know the Government's intention in Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds and Glasgow—because these are possible areas of control. If he says something more definite than the President of the Board of Trade said in Committee on similar matters, we might feel more disposed to accept the controls. I hope that the Minister will be more specific in his reply about these areas.
I hope that I made the position perfectly clear about my having understood the effect of the Amendment. I realised that if it was accepted it would eliminate the powers of the Board of Trade to extend O.D.P.s to what I would call provincial Britain—Man- chester, Birmingham and Glasgow for example. We have made it clear that South-East England is a pressure area, not only for office development purposes but for rent control as well. I made exactly this point when we debated the Rent Bill recently.
I am extremely disappointed that the Government are so wedded to the policy of controls—I would say for control's sake—that they feel they must envisage the possibility, within this limited period of years, of extending the whole of these controls to the whole of provincial Britain. It will be an expensive procedure if these controls are extended. Indeed, I pointed out in Committee that all the enforcement procedures would be carried out by local authorities, and that this would be a considerable expense to ratepayers. I hope, therefore, that before the President of the Board of Trade considers extending these powers he will give careful consideration to the effect on local government and enterprise which would be brought about.
I believe that negative controls of this sort, exercised through planning and through the Board of Trade, are not the controls which encourage initiative. We need positive encouragement and, knowing what I do about provincial businessmen, I assure hon. Members that they are loath to go to any Government Department and fill in the forms which will be necessary for a modest extension of office development.
I recognise the outlook of provincial Britain, an outlook which is different from that of the South-East. While the South-East may be more sophisticated, it is not more hard-headed, because in the provincial parts of Britain there are a great many hard-headed businessmen, many of them in a relatively small way of business, who are not familiar with all the forms which the Board of Trade provides. They do not like filling out forms. I admit to not liking doing that myself. We are positively frightened by all the buff forms from the Board of Trade.
I had these things in mind. [Interruption.] I am not withdrawing the Amendment. As I drafted it myself, I was extremely gratified to find that there was no drafting error in it. It is reasonable and, in the circumstances, entirely in conformity with the outlook of the Conservative Party. I trust that even at this late stage there may be second thoughts about the Government's approach to the Amendment.
I intervene briefly because when my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) was absent from the Committee proceedings one morning owing to an important engagement I had the honour of moving a new Clause which had been drafted with his usual expertise. That new Clause related to areas contiguous to the metropolitan region. While the debate has been proceeding I have been re-reading the short debate which took place on that occasion and to which the Minister of State referred. It could be said that in that debate there was a technical knockout that might not have occurred had my hon. Friend been present.
The Minister of State based his case against that new Clause on the ground that it would retrospectively have affected areas contiguous to the metropolitan region, because they would then be considered as part of that region. Though my constituency is not affected in this case, as we are not inside the metropolitan region, I confess that I am confused—
I wonder whether my hon. Friend observed that the hon. Member for Walton (Mr. Heifer), who represents a development district, was not in the Chamber when we discussed development districts?
That is true. I did not observe the hon. Gentleman present earlier when that important debate took place.
In Standing Committee, the President of the Board of Trade said that he did not think that circumstances would arise in the foreseeable future in which it would be necessary to extend the control that was to be applied to the metropolitan region to anywhere else in the country. He made —the one proviso that it might be necessary to extend the control to areas just on the fringe of the metropolitan region. I think that proviso is sensible, because wherever we draw the line there may be an anomaly on the edge of it. This evening, if I understood him aright, the Minister of State referred to Birmingham, and it seemed to me that what was meant was that circumstances might arise in which it might be necessary to extend the control to the Birmingham area. It is important that one or other statement should be cleared up.
This is said to be a temporary Bill. We on this side argued in Committee that its period of operation of the Bill is too long, and that "temporary" should mean less than seven years. If the President of the Board of Trade does not think that in this temporary Bill it will be necessary to extend control elsewhere in England and Wales, I should have thought that there was a case for accepting my hon. Friend's Amendment. If the control is not to be extended in the foreseeable future and the Bill is only temporary but such provisions are necessary at the end of seven years, the Government of the day will no doubt have to produce a new Measure to deal with that situation.
I should have been happier in accepting the Bill as now drafted if the Minister of State had been prepared to accept the Amendment we moved in Standing Committee suggesting that the control would not be extended outside the metropolitan region unless the local authority itself had proposed this by a resolution.
My hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) told the Committee at that time:
It will be within the recollection of my hon. Friend that the Minister of State, in referring to Glasgow and other places,said that if the local authorities asked for them, the Government would bring in controls. Would not my hon. Friend agree that if the Government accepted that control would only be introduced if the local authorities asked for it, we would be satisfied?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 18th February, 1965; c. 124.]
That sums up in a nutshell the doubts some hon. Members have about the extension of the Bill to provincial Britain as a whole. First, we are told that in the foreseeable future it does not seem necessary to extend the control and, secondly, we are told that the Bill is temporary, yet we cannot obtain any assurance that this control will not be introduced if local authorities do not wish it to be introduced.
I hope that the Minister of State will feel able to give a further reply to my hon. Friend's very powerful argument for the Amendment. I have no interest in this in my constituency; I hope later in our discussions this evening to deal with points affecting my constituency. There is very little understanding outside the House, or among hon. Members who were not on the Standing Committee, that the Government have these powers. On Second Reading hardly any reference was made to the fact that the Government can take powers outside the Metropolitan area should they wish to do so. The only hon. Member who referred specifically to this was the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson). For a number of good reasons I wish that he were present so that we could question him about this and also about a number of inaccuracies related to that occasion.
My hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Dame Edith Pitt) made a powerful speech on Second Reading. She said that since the Bill was largely designed to deal with the situation in London she would concentrate on Clause 16, dealing with I.D.C.s, a part of the Bill which was particularly relevant to Birmingham. Many people outside do not realise the very wide powers the Government are to take under this temporary provision. I hope that the Government later in our consideration of the Bill will look at this matter again and say whether they need these powers outside the metropolitan region. If they cannot produce an Amendment tonight, or cannot accept our Amendment, they can think about the matter and produce an Amendment in another place. The present Amendment is an important and a modest one. It would not defeat the purpose of the Government when introducing the Bill. I ask the Minister of State to reconsider the matter.
I again refer to the first bite at this cherry, which was taken by the previous Government. Hon. Members will remember the White Paper dealing with employment, housing and land in London. The previous Government then produced a rather inadequate Bill—everyone agreed that it was inadequate—which dealt with the Schedule 3 tolerances, changing the amount of cubic feet which could be added when offices were being rebuilt. The previous Government said that that Bill would apply to the whole country, because the provisions being clarified were part of the general planning law. Hon. Members may remember that in discussion of the Bill the point was brought out again that it might be necessary in certain circumstances, if the employment situation became intolerable in certain areas, for the control to be applied there. Hon. Members must bear in mind that before the control can be extended we have to come to the House and ask permission to extend control. The House does have authority and control over this provision.
I am sure that on reflection hon. Members would consider that it is wrong to tie the hands of the Government in this way and to make it impossible for them, even by order and permission of the House, to ask for the extenson of these provisions when clearly extensions are needed in the interests of a better distribution of employment. We went over the whole matter very thoroughly in Committee and have gone over it again. For the reasons advanced then and tonight, we cannot accept the Amendment, although I pay tribute to the way in which it was introduced by the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) with forceful and good arguments. I wish I had been in a position to accept them in order to cheer up the hon. Member. We dealt rather savagely with him in Committee by not accepting a number of other Amendments he advanced in the same charming way. I regret that in spite of the arguments put forward in that way we cannot accept the Amendment.
I am sure that the House aprpeciates the way in which the Minister of State responded to the invitation of my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) to have another look at this matter. I would like to be associated with the Minister of State in paying tribute to my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple). We always listen to my hon. Friend with the greatest respect when he speaks on this subject. Indeed, we on this side are indebted to my hon. Friend for a great deal of guidance on the matters we have been debating over the last few weeks.
The only thing which worried me a little about the Minister of State's previous answer was his reference to the possibility of extending the Bill when enacted to such areas as Birmingham and places outside the metropolitan area. The justification for the Bill originally was that it was designed to relieve pressure on the south-east area, particularly on the Greater London arid metropolitan region. We all appreciated the need—to some extent the urgent need—for this. I do not think that any of us, when first considering the Bill, envisaged it being applied outside that area of great pressure.
The Minister of State has argued that it is necessary to be able to do this because the time may come when the same situation will arise in other cities or areas. Whether one can envisage that happening over a period of seven years, which is supposed to be the life of the Bill, is a matter of opinion. I should have thought possibly not. Indeed, I would hope that the Bill would not last as long as seven years. Seven years is meant to be the maximum life of the Bill. Hon. Members on both sides would no doubt hope that it would be possible to dispense with the provisions of the Bill in a much shorter time than that. For that reason, I am rather sorry that the Minister of State has found it possible to accept the Amendment moved so eloquently and forcibly by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester.
However, I would not at this stage advise my hon. Friends to divide on this Amendment, although I must say that we are not getting very much cooperation. We managed to persuade the Government to go part of the way on a previous Amendment, but we are not getting on as well as I had hoped. Nor have the Government been quite so receptive as I had felt sure that they would be. Perhaps, now that the Patronage Secretary has joined us, we may be able to get a more receptive frame of mind on the part of the Government. It is interesting to note that for the first time a little more interest is being taken in the proceedings by hon. Members opposite. Up to now they have been content to let us carry the heat and burden of the debate. They have been content to allow us to do our best, poor as it may be, to improve the Bill, without very much help from hon. Members opposite. This is rather regrettable.
I hope that even at this late stage, on some of the equally important Amendments still to be discussed, the House may benefit from the forceful contributions of hon. Members opposite. Speaking for myself, and I am sure for my hon. Friends, we would not mind to what hour we sat if we were to have the effect of improving the Bill.
My remarks were contiguous to the remarks which went before. This is why I fell into a little error. Nevertheless, I accept your implied rebuke, Mr. Speaker.
I will content myself with saying that, although we regret very much that the Minister of State has not accepted the Amendment, we appreciate the very courteous and sympathetic way in which he dealt with it. Therefore, I would not advise my hon. Friend to press it.
I think that it will be convenient to consider at the same time Amendment No. 9, in page 2, line 21, after "for", insert:
providing adequate office space to meet the requirements of the commercial, industrial and professional life of the country and the modernisation of industry and for".
I am very sorry that the Minister felt unable to cheer up my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) on the last Amendment. I am certain that if we had made progress on that Amendment we would have made more progress on this one.
These are very important Amendments, because they relate to the Clause which sets out the purpose and intention of the Bill. We feel that it is vital that everybody inside and outside the House should fully understand the criteria upon which the Board of Trade will operate when it decides whether to grant permission or not. I have naturally read the whole of the debate in Standing Committee on this Clause and I appreciate that the Minister of State gave certain
assurances. May I remind him of what he said at column 138 during the third sitting? He said:
Quite clearly, we shall take everything into consideration. The job of spelling out the criteria in legal form in the Bill, however, is a formidable one."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 18th February, 1965; c. 138.]
It is a formidable one, but it does not daunt us on this side of the House. We have plenty of help and we shall be glad to help the Government in surmounting this difficulty of drafting a suitable Clause. Our Amendments Nos. 8 and 9 are an honest attempt to help the Government to clarify the purposes of the Bill.
I am certain that the Minister would take into account all the considerations, in any case. We know the Minister and we know that if he says that, that is what he will do. But that is not good enough for the future. The place for these assurances is not in Standing Committee. The place is in the Bill itself. We can hardly expects a developer who is intending to put in an application to find out what was said during the third sitting of the Standing Committee or, indeed, in the Second Reading of the Bill. He looks at the Act of Parliament, and that is where we on this side of the House think these assurances should go. Nor do we think that a developer should have to get expensive legal advice to understand what the Bill is all about. In saying that, I am acting against my own interests, as I am a solicitor, but we on this side of the House feel that it is our duty to help the Government to make this a better and clearer Bill.
I should like to develop my argument under three heads. First, I should like to explain why we feel that the word "particular" should be deleted. Secondly, I should like to say something about the general question of the social and commercial life of an area which should be considered. Thirdly, I wish to say something about the theme of modernisation which I am sure every hon. Member feels is quite close to his heart.
On the question of the word "particular", the Minister will see that the Bill directs the President of the Board of Trade to one particular point, namely, the distribution of employment. We feel that this is far too narrow. I agree that it is an important consideration; it is one of the main considerations of the Bill, but it is not the only one. The President of the Board of Trade should judge each case against a considerably wider background than that one issue.
The inclusion of the word "particular" may well cause difficulty to the Minister. My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) in Standing Committee gave an extremely interesting example of this difficulty. He told us that in his constituency there was unemployment. This word "particular" might well focus the attention of the Minister on the wrong issue. Take my hon. Friend's case. It might be considered that an easy way to mop up unemployment in his constituency would be by bringing in a lot of pools promoters. It might well be a mistake to mop up unemployment in that way. There might be other industries—he quoted shipping and insurance—which it would be better to bring into the area.
It would be wrong of the President of the Board of Trade to focus his attention purely on the question of employment. We feel that if our Amendments are accepted, the difficulty of the President of the Board of Trade will be avoided because his attention will be directed to other considerations. What does the word "particular" mean? I ask the hon. Gentleman to explain. Does it mean that the President of the Board of Trade should give priority to the one consideration of employment? If it does, we think it misleading and unhelpful. Is it unnecessary? If it is, it should be deleted.