Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Orders of the Day — Land Compensation Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 27th November 1972.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Denis Howell Mr Denis Howell , Birmingham Small Heath 12:00 am, 27th November 1972

The hon. Gentleman is right to draw attention to the terrible noise, particularly on the Beeches Estate in his constituency, which I know is a tremendous hazard to the people living there.

The noise level that the Secretary of State has fixed is too high. I think that he agrees, because he said that he would keep it under constant review. I hope that it can be reviewed before we reach the Committee stage.

We need a much greater degree of transport co-ordination. We must transfer a great deal of traffic, particularly goods traffic, from the roads to the railways. I am delighted that only yesterday at the first meeting of the Labour group of the new West Midlands Metropolitan Area its first policy decision was to have absolutely free public transport in that area. That was a very courageous decision, and I am glad that it was supported in the editorial in the Birmingham Post this morning. We must have such incentives to get people off the road and on to public transport where possible.

I turn to the question of land prices, about which very little has been said in the debate. When it was mentioned in an intervention, the Secretary of State brushed it off, saying that in the Bill we are concerned only with land compensation and not with land values. Local authorities in the Midlands are paying £20,000 and £40,000 an acre for what is virtually scrub land on which to build houses. The Government have totally failed to do anything to control land prices.

If the Government cannot control land prices, if land prices continue to spiral, that will make nonsense of the financial provisions of the Bill as well as of the prospects of home ownership for so many people. The £65 million in a full year that the Secretary of State believes will be needed to pay the compensation to which people are entitled under the Bill will prove to be chicken feed unless the Government can keep land prices in check. Local authorities and their associations in particular are extremely concerned on this count.

The Bill is a useful but small measure, one that will give relief to many people and should therefore be welcomed. It will be supported on both sides of the House, but this is not an occasion for a general expectation and belief that once it has been passed we shall have solved all the problems that face so many hundreds of thousands of our citizens.

In many respects the Bill begs some of the major questions of our time—land values, spiralling prices and land exploitation. It also begs many of the questions of the co-ordination of transport policy.

The Bill will not stop thousands of our citizens having their peace of mind and the peace of their homes shattered, and indeed having their homes destroyed, which we know to be inevitable in a modern society if we are to build the major public works that are so necessary.

There is a great deal more work to be done. I hope that in giving general support to the Bill the House will regard it as only a beginning in the attempt to solve those questions, and not the end.