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I think when we have the opportunity to read tomorrow's HANSARD we shall all realise that certain aspects of the Bill have been the subject of formidable challenge and I believe that this Bill has been criticised a little more than any individual hon. Member has been willing to admit. I am sorry to inject a slightly jarring note into this consensus debate, but I suggest that in one or two major respects the Bill has been under a considerable attack tonight.
The basic new statutory obligation placed upon local authorities by Clause 18 does not go to the heart of the matter in respect of planning blight. The real need is for the individual householder to have a statutory right to be able to serve a notice on the local authority if there is a planning blight problem. The individual should be able to serve that notice at the earliest possible stage.
I remember in my earlier days in this House joining with the Minister for Local Government and Development upstairs in Committee in an all-party revolt against the Government to try to obtain that sort of provision. However, I do not now see anything of that nature in this legislation introduced by a Government of which the right hon. Gentleman is now a member.
The second aspect of the Bill with which I should like to deal concerns home loss payments. If the House believes that such payments will solve both financial and social problems faced by those who are displaced by motorways and the like, it is in for a rude shock. I believe that the home loss payment is hopelessly inadequate.
One hon. Gentleman said, first, that the Bill was generous, and then proceeded to prove effectively that for low-paid people living in modest homes—like most of those in my constituency, where rateable values may be £24 or £25—seven times the rateable value is next to nothing, and will not help to compensate those on modest incomes for the loss of their homes.
Regarding the use of the Lands Tribunal, I recall my sympathy for the Minister for Local Government and Development whenever we debated this issue in the last Parliament. The Lands Tribunal is not the place to take disputes of the kind that will be involved in the Bill. We must have rating or valuation tribunals at local level which are cheap and effective. This is especially important where people seek compensation in slum clearance orders. There are often disputes about the amounts required, and the solicitors acting for householders cannot advise their clients to go to the Lands Tribunal in order to resolve those disputes. Many times in the past the Minister has joined us in expressing sympathy for the idea of establishing a local form of machinery to resolve such disputes. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will take the view that this work should be undertaken not by the Lands Tribunal but by some form of local valuation court or small claims court. In many cases of slum clearance orders and in compensation cases arising from these new provisions people will be scared to go before the tribunal. What is more, they may be blackmailed into accepting lower figures than they should because of the formidable situation in which they find themselves.
The Bill has arisen as much as anything from the fact that urban motorways are proposed for many of our cities, with the blight and danger to homes that they cause. I believe that it was Professor Peter Hall who said that the Luftwaffe would have been greatly surprised by the amount of damage which is now proposed by planners in most of our cities. I should not like the message to go from this House that the proposals in the Bill, many of which are welcome, will sweeten the sour pill created by building urban motorways into the fabric of our towns and cities. I hope that we shall see to it that whatever decisions are made to assist those who are affected by proposals about which there can be no argument, when it comes to major controversies about how we solve our transport problems in cities and towns, it is not argued that somehow this Bill will solve all the problems. They will not be solved by these or any other proposals. They are not the answer to many of our problems.
I hope that we shall do a constructive job in Committee and be able to improve the Bill. Any improvement will have to be rather more fundamental than many right hon. and hon. Members have admitted if we are to make it effective. However, unlike many other Bills which have come before this House recently, I hope there is to be no guillotine to stop the constructive debate continuing.