Control of Office and Industrial Development Bill

Part of Ballot for Notices of Motions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th April 1965.

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Photo of Mr James MacColl Mr James MacColl , Widnes 12:00 am, 14th April 1965

This problem is one with which everyone will be in a great deal of sympathy. We considered it carefully in Committee and I do not think anyone can deny the reality of the problem which faces many local authorities, particularly in London.

Dealing first with the technical point of Amendment No. 11—the question of loan consent—this was raised in Committee, although, if I remember rightly, it was not put down in the form of an Amendment. The point is that the Ministry, in looking at loan consents, is considering primarily financial issues, the question of the allocation of capital resources, whether value is obtained for the ratepayers' money, and so on. This is primarily a financial test, and many people in local government complain that the temptation to go a little beyond the purely financial test is not always resisted.

To suggest that loan consent should be regarded as a substitute for permission for office development would not only challenge the responsibility of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and of the Board of Trade, but it would also place a considerable administrative burden on the people responsible for giving loan consent in first of all checking up whether or not this was a case in which office development permission would have been given had it not been a problem of a local authority requiring loan consent. There is also the special difficulty of the backlog of cases where loan consent has been given but a contract has not been signed, and where there would be an automatic by-passing of the retrospective provisions of the Bill. That is the particular point.

I now want to look at the general point and, without being unduly controversial, I would only say that the Government have found themselves saddled with two crises for neither of which can they in any way be held responsible. One crisis is the tremendous overloading involved on the building industry in London— something which is generally accepted—and, a situation which the last Government tried in other ways to check, the growth of development inside London.

The second crisis is the fact that we are faced with a fundamental reorganisation of London government—something which the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple), in bold and vigorous language, described as a considerable administrative upheaval. We have the problem, on the one hand, of the administrative upheaval of the inheritance of London government reorganisation and, on the other hand, the congestion and the crisis arising from office development with which this Bill has to deal. We have to cope with them both together.

One way of not trying to cope with the problem would be by contracting out of the responsibility for considering local authority building in the context of the other crisis with which we are faced. It would not look just, and I do not think it would be just, to give this special privilege to local authorities. It is true that local authorities are in one sense often immobile. They cannot move to another area because they must provide services within their own area. But it was said in Committee that there are central government services which are in the same position. Not all central government services can move, either to other parts of the region or out of the region altogether. There are many local services which have to be provided at a local level.

There are many central government buildings which are in a poor condition and where better facilities are required. Therefore, it would be extremely difficult to defend excluding local government from the Bill without abandoning the, I think, brilliant diplomatic achievement of my right hon. Friend in getting the Crown to agree to be bound by the controls of this Bill. That we have got both groups of public bodies to accept control is, on the whole, of great advantgae.