[Sir CYRIL COBB in the Chair.]
[OFFICIAL REPORT.]NEW CLAUSE.
(1) Every local authority or joint committee of local authorities preparing a town-planning scheme in pursuance of the Town Planning Act, 1926, shall, in preparing such scheme, consider what, if any, provision ought to be included therein for the reservation of land for allotments.
Before determining whether provision shall be included as aforesaid, the local authority or joint committee shall consult the council of any borough or urban district, any part of whose district is within the area of the proposed scheme, and consider any recommendations which the council of the borough or urban district make.
Every local authority or joint committee submitting a town-planning scheme to the Minister of Health for his approval shall furnish therewith a statement under the hand of their clerk or other competent officer certifying that the requirements of this Sub-section have been complied with.
(2) The Minister of Health shall notify the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries of the submission to him of any resolution passed by a local authority or joint committee deciding to prepare a town-planning scheme in pursuance of the Town Planning Act, 1925.
(3) The council of every borough or urban district, any part of whose district is within the area of a town-planning scheme, shall take into consideration from time to time, but at least once in every year, the question whether any and, if so, what lands within the area of the scheme are needed for allotments, whether reserved for the purpose or not, and ought to be acquired under and in accordance with the provisions of the Allotment Acts, 1908 to 1922, as amended by this Act.
(4) In the case of any borough or urban district for which an allotments committee is appointed under the Allotments Act, 1922, as amended by this Act, the council of the borough or urban district shall refer to their allotment committee any matter which they are required to consider under Sub-sections (1) and (3) of this Section, or which 276 is referred to them for their consideration by any other local authority under Sub-section (1) of this Section, and shall consider the report of the allotments committee thereon.—[Captain Bourne.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Captain BOURNE: I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time." I move this new Clause to take the place of Clause 3 in the Bill. When drafting the Clause in the Bill as to provision for allotments in town-planning schemes, I fear that I was under a misapprehension as to the existing position under the Town-Planning Acts. I am informed by the Department responsible for the administration of those Acts that the reservation of land for allotments is already one of the objects of a town-planning scheme, and that, in considering schemes submitted for their approval, the Ministry of Health already have power to require modifications in the proposals submitted to them, and can therefore require amendment of the proposals so as to include provision for allotments, as well as other matters. All that appears to be necessary, therefore, is a Clause ensuring that local authorities shall give proper consideration to the question of reserving land for allotments, in preparing their town-planning schemes, and consult the committee or committees engaged in the administration of allotments within their area. It also seems desirable to ensure that the Minister of Agriculture is notified of the preparation of schemes, so that he may be in a position to make representations to the Minister of Health on the subject where necessary. This is the object of the first two sub-clauses of the new Clause. The Ministry of Health must, in dealing with town-planning schemes, take into account all the aspects of a sound plan (roads, open spaces, industrial and residential areas, etc.), and all the various ownership and other interests involved. I understand that it is found in practice that considerable latitude is needed for making adjustments and agreements in order to obtain a generally acceptable and workable scheme. It is manifestly necessary also to consider the financial liability for compensation in which a local authority might be involved by enforced reservation of land. I am assured that the Ministry of Health will do everything possible and 277 reasonable to secure the reservation of land for allotments in town-planning schemes where the local allotment interests or the Minister of Agriculture make representations to them. The third sub-clause requires Local Authorities in town-planning areas to consider annually the question of acquiring allotment land in those areas. A town-planning scheme limits the number of houses to the acre, without requiring that all the land concerned should be absorbed in the curtilages of houses. There may always therefore be surplus land available without a building value, as development proceeds in town-planning areas, and it is appropriate that Local Authorities in those areas should review the matter frequently, so as to take advantage of the opportunities that arise. The object of the sub-clause (5) is to enable Local Authorities to acquire land in advance for allotments, where it may reasonably be expected that the need will arise. This power is peculiarly desirable in town-planning areas, where the land is being planned in advance, but I believe it may be of great use in other areas as well, and it has been made of general application.
Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I beg to move, as an Amendment, to leave out the words "consider what, if any, provision ought to be included therein for the reservation of" and to insert instead thereof the word "reserve." I want to know from the promoter of the Bill why he is suggesting this change. Under Clause 3 of the Bill it was mandatory upon all local authorities now preparing town-planning schemes to see that their schemes included provision for allotments. The new Clause drops out that provision altogether and leaves the law practically as it is to-day. As a matter of fact the whole of this Clause fulfils no particularly useful purpose at all. It is at present incumbent on those authorities to make provision under town-planning schemes for other purposes, and their attention is directed not particularly to the allotment question. Many of us who voted for the Second Reading did so on account of Clause 3, because we believed that local authorities would have to provide allotments when making town- 278 planning schemes, just as they had to make provision for other purposes. That provision has now come out of the Bill altogether, and we have not had any explanation of why this change is proposed. For myself, I think that if we are to expect any good at all from this Bill it must be made mandatory on the local authorities. Let me explain to the Committee what the town-planning scheme actually does. The whole area around the town is laid out by the local authority, after frequent consultations with all the interests concerned, in such a manner as to prevent the horrible extensions of our towns which have occurred in the past. The idea came from Germany, and like many other ideas which came from that country before the War, it was welcomed here very readily. The fact is that under the town-planning scheme the Minister of Health is able to impose upon the owners of the land in the suburbs certain restrictions as to how they shall use their property, and instead of a man being able to do what he likes with his own and putting up big houses or small houses just as he likes, as soon as a town-planning scheme has been adopted that man can only use his land for the purpose shown on the scheme. Of course, the landowner has been consulted at every stage of the preparation of the scheme, and he has accepted the position that his land has to be used in a certain way. They have to make streets for example of a certain width, with kerbs inside the streets, and there may be a condition that not more than a certain number of houses shall be put on the land. It may be provided that suburban residences shall be confined to a certain part of the scheme, and business premises may be erected in another part. What we were asking for in the original Bill was that when that plan is made, a certain proportion of the prospective developments of the town in that area shall be reserved for allotments for the prospective workers in that town. I cannot see any argument against that proposal which will hold water. The arguments I have heard against it privately during the course of this Bill are that it is not fair upon the landlords to say to him, "Your land shall only be used for allotments," and that it is imposing too heavy a burden upon the landlords to restrict the use of their land for allotments. Exactly 279 the same argument has been and could obviously be used against every other form of town planning, because every form has a restricted covenant which restricts the selling value of a man's land. If you say to a man who could put 40 houses per acre on his land that he shall only be allowed to put 20 houses per acre then you are depriving him of some of the value of his land and of his privilege, and you are reducing the selling value of his land. If this is justified in the case of houses and town-planning and in byelaws, I think we ought to say that it is equally justified in the case of allotments. The need for allotments to-day and for educating our industrial workers, who are more or less permanently out of work, in new forms of production should to my mind outweigh this fetish of property. In the past we have deprived landlords of a great deal of their powers where town-planning schemes were adopted, and in the same way we should now take some of their land in order that we may, after consultation with all the interests concerned, see that sacrifices are made equally among all suburban landlords, in order that we may get an opportunity of acquiring these open spaces not for playgrounds but for allotments, which are as essential for the health of the people as playgrounds. The real point is that unless you make this Bill mandatory it will be of no value at all, and no local authority will be able to carry through a town-planning scheme which involves allotments, because naturally the opposition of the landlords will be enormous. First of all you would have to square the vested interest, and if the local authority find, when they are anxious to get a town-planning scheme that they must not include allotments, there will be far stronger opposition and more claims for compensation than there otherwise would be. If you make this power voluntary you might just as well leave the Clause out altogether. That is why we want to make it mandatory, and stick to the Bill as originally introduced. That is why we urge the Committee to stand by the principle in the Bill as originally drafted, and that the interests of the landlords ought to be sacrificed to the possibility of the development of allotments.
Captain BOURNE: I hope the Committee will not accept this Amendment. 280 I should like to point out in the first place that the objection to the Clause as originally drafted in its mandatory form has come from the town-planning authority, and not a word has been urged against it by one of the associations who represent the landlords' interest. The real objection to making this Clause mandatory is that you are bound to be putting on the town-planning authority a very difficult task if it has to reserve land for a scheme which perhaps does not come into force for 20 years. We want the local authorities to take an interest in this question, and report to the Minister concerned, and see what they are doing so that anybody interested in the question can bring pressure upon the authorities to take action. We do not want to say that they shall reserve field A and declare that it is an unsuitable area. I very much hope that the Committee will not accept this Amendment. This Clause has been very carefully discussed by the Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture, on which the allotment holders are fully represented, and the Clause as drafted is the result of that consideration and has been agreed to by all parties interested in the matter.
Mr. LOOKER: I do not think it would be wise, for many reasons, to agree to this Amendment. If we make this compulsory, it would mean that no town-planning scheme could be carried out unless land were reserved for allotments. I know one or two districts in my division which have just got, or are about to get, town-planning powers, and I think I am justified in saying that there is no demand for allotments there at all. None of the inhabitants are of the character that would ever think of using allotments. It seems to me that to impose this obligation would be to run great risk of wrecking a town-planning scheme, and town planning, I think, is for the benefit, broadly speaking, of possibly a greater number of people than allotment holders. I think we ought to leave this matter entirely to the discretion of the local authorities, though I quite agree that we ought to direct their minds, as is done in the present Clause, to the fact that it is desirable to provide for allotments if it can be done.
Colonel APPLIN: I think we might come to the sweet spirit of compromise 281 in this matter. It might be acceptable to both the promoter of the Bill and the right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) if in sub-section (1) we left out the words "if any" ["what, if any, provision ought to be included."] I think, while that would read not quite as a mandatory provision, it would strengthen it very much, and it would be a very bold local authority that would refuse to provide such land if it were reasonably possible to do so.
Mr. LAWSON: One interesting piece of information that has come to an ordinary dweller in something like semi-slums in a great industrial area is, that you cannot have a town-planning scheme unless the landlord is absolutely satisfied; and the hon. Member for South East Essex (Mr. Looker) says that to make allotments compulsory along with town-planning schemes would practically make town-planning schemes impossible.
Mr. LOOKER: I said that it may.
Mr. LAWSON: That is a piece of very interesting information. The position is this: The average industrial worker is urged to work allotments, and provision is being made here to encourage him along those lines. That is the motive behind the Bill of the hon. and gallant Member for Oxford (Captain Bourne). The worker is urged to be industrious and all the rest of it, but the very respectable people who go into town-planning schemes are, I gather, the very people who are not likely to ask for allotments. I come from a mining district, and in mining districts we are always fairly industrious down below and on the surface too. But it is information this morning to discover that we are really far more respectable than the people who go into town-planning schemes. I think we should not only make this Clause compulsory, but that it should be made compulsory upon people who want to live in town-planning areas to work allotments too. [Laughter.] Yes. As a matter of fact, I would say to the hon. Gentleman that under the individualist capitalist system which is operating in the mining areas of this country, where the owner helps a man to get a house, there is sometimes an allot- 282 ment or a little bit of garden connected with it, and he is compelled to work that or he has to leave the house. The hon. Gentleman knows a lot about our social system, about Socialism and all the rest of it, but here we have the industrial population compelled to work a piece of land, but in the case of the people who live in towns and villages under a system of town planning for the area it is said that, if it is insisted that they should have a piece of land, it may hinder the development of town-planning schemes. This is the second Bill with which I have been connected that has been largely recast in Committee. In this case the hon. and gallant Member is practically taking out the whole inside of his Bill and replacing it by a very questionable Amendment of Clause 3, which is the really working part of the Bill. On the last occasion of this kind the hon. and gallant Member who was responsible for the Bill—it was the Fire men's Pensions Bill—had a number of Amendments to practically every Clause. Now the hon. and gallant Gentleman is taking the same course, and practically recasting the whole Bill. I trust the Committee will allow the matter to stand as it is, namely, in a compulsory form.
Mr. TREVELYAN THOMSON: I am sorry that the promoter of the Bill has again given way. The House gave a Second Reading to this Bill, with its stronger powers, and no great criticism was then made, and I have not heard, up to date, any serious objection to the Clause as it was originally framed. It seems to me that, if allotments are to be of any use, they must be made mandatory so far as town planning is concerned, and I cannot see how, in industrial areas at any rate, any town-planning scheme is going to be wrecked because of this provision. Towns have suffered tremendously in the past for want of this provision, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman has not, to my mind, given any satisfactory reason for the turn-about which he has made. If it was a good thing when the Bill was introduced and on the Second Reading, we have had no adequate reason why it should be practically reversed now. I hope the Committee will stand by the Bill in its original form.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: If there is any one else who will support the hon. and 283 gallant Member for Enfield (Colonel Applin) in his suggestion to leave out the words "if any,' I am prepared to withdraw my Amendment in order to accept his, but it is no good if merely the hon. and gallant Member and nobody else supports his proposal.
Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY: I should be glad to support the hon. and gallant Member for Enfield (Colonel Applin).
The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Edward Wood): I am sorry that, through no fault of my own, I was unable to be here at the commencement of the proceedings, but I understand it is proposed to move to leave out the words "if any." I should be quite prepared to accept that, if the right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme will withdraw his Amendment on that understanding.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: In the circumstances, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment, and I am very much obliged to hon. Members for accepting this alternative Amendment, which I think will be more workable.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment made: In Sub-section (1) leave out the words "if any" ("what, if any, provision ought to be included").—[Colonel Applin.]
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I beg to move, in Sub-section (1), after the word "allotments" ("for the reservation of land for allotments"), to insert the words "without being required to pay compensation in respect of the reservation of such land for such purpose." I do not propose to argue this Amendment at length, but I want to protest against a local authority having to pay
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I do not propose to move any further Amendments to the proposed new Clause.
Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.284
compensation under a town-planning scheme for saying that land has definitely to be used for allotments. It is perfectly monstrous that, when the landlord, owing to a town-planning scheme, sees that 40 or 50 years hence he may have to use his land for allotments instead of for building any local authority should be called upon to pay compensation here and now for interfering with the prospective value. A town-planning scheme must be laid out several decades ahead. The land will continue to be used as agricultural land year after year, and yet the very fact that it is marked down on the town-planning scheme as ultimately to be used for allotments is going to give that landlord power to hold up the scheme unless he is awarded compensation for the ultimate use of that land in a way contrary to his present desire. It is against that principle that we protest, and I think the Liberal and Labour parties will be united against the demand for compensation in such circumstances.
Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS: I rise to oppose the Amendment. In moving it, the right hon. Gentleman referred to what might happen 50 years hence, or several decades hence, but it is quite conceivable that the reservation will lead to something happening, not in 50 years, but in three or four years, and an individual who might have obtained possession of the land for a very specific and proper purpose might, as I understand it, find himself deprived of the use of the land for the proper purpose for which he got it, without any compensation whatever. I think that that would be grossly unfair.
Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
The Committee divided: Ayes, 7; Noes, 16.
|Division No. 7.]||AYES.|
|Connolly, Mr.||Lawson, Mr.||Thomson, Mr. Trevelyan|
|Fenby, Mr.||Lee, Mr. Frank||Wedgwood, Colonel|
|Allen, Mr. Sandeman||Cayzer, Sir Charles||Hurd, Mr.|
|Applin, Colonel||Churchman, Sir Arthur||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander||Davies, Sir Thomas||Looker, Mr.|
|Balniel, Lord||Dean, Mr.||Moreing, Captain|
|Bourne, Captain||Harland, Mr.||Williams, Mr. Herbert|
|Wood, Mr. Edward|
The council of a borough or urban district may acquire land by agreement for allot- 285 ments, notwithstanding that the land or any part of it cannot immediately be let in allotments, provided that the Minister of Health is satisfied, after consultation with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, that there is a reasonable expectation that the land will eventually be required for allotments.—[Captain Bourne.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Captain BOURNE: I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time." This Clause was originally Sub-section (5) of the Clause which we have just added to the Bill. It is moved as a new Clause in order that it may be of general application, and not be limited to town-planning schemes. The effect of the Clause is to give power to local authorities to acquire land for allotments, although the demand does not exist at the moment of acquisition, if there is a reasonable probability that it will arise in the future. It is thought that by granting this power it will enable local authorities to acquire land which they will ultimately want at a very much cheaper rate.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: We have now ruled out the idea of putting a restricted covenant upon landlords in order to force them to provide allotments. We have provided instead that the State shall have to buy them out. Under this new Sub-section we get round the town planning difficulty, and the local authority is able to buy land which will ultimately be included in the town without paying the exaggerated price they have paid in the past, instead of the principle of saying to a man "you must use your land for allotments." This is typical of the way our land legislation works. I daresay it is well that there should be this Clause, though I doubt whether it will serve any useful purpose. At any rate it is an admirable example of how landlordism works. Where there is a danger of the landlord suffering, out it comes as soon as the powers that be come to inspect it. But this substitute, where compensation on the full scale will be allowed to the landlord, goes beautifully into the Bill.
Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I beg to move to leave out the words "by agreement" ["may acquire land by agreement"]. 286 Originally I proposed to insert the word "compulsorily" in place of the words "by agreement," but I understand that an Amendment simply to leave out the words "by agreement" will be accepted by the Government. [Interruption.] The Government speaks with so many different voices. If I have made a mistake, I am sorry, but it is obvious that if land can be acquired only by agreement, you will not only have to pay a bigger price for it, but you are also altering the existing law as to the acquirement of land for allotments. Under the existing law land can be acquired compulsorily—at least the drafting of the Act is so complicated that half the authorities think you can acquire it compulsorily and the other half think you cannot. That, I understand, is the position to-day. If you leave out these words "by agreement," at any rate you leave the law as it is. You do not state how it will be acquired. But if you put in the words "by agreement" you tie them down in future to a reading of the original Act which prevents land being acquired compulsorily. But I cannot see why that should be—why we should actually alter the law in a retrograde direction by this new Bill. If you leave out these words, the Acts of 1908 and 1922 remain as they are, though with an obscure reading, I admit. If we put the words in, we alter it backwards. If you put in my original proposition, which I do not propose to move if we can get agreement on leaving out this words, we should certainly give them the power of meeting that difficulty so far as the Acts of 1908 and 1922 are concerned.
Mr. HURD: Will the Minister tell us whether the words are really necessary there at all?
Mr. WOOD: I should like first to clear up a misunderstanding which perhaps exists in the mind of the right hon. Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. I do not want him to think I speak with more voices than one, if I can help it. I think one thing that may have confused his mind is that it was pointed out to him, on my instructions, that if his Amendment was moved, to insert "compulsorily" instead of "by agreement," that would deny to local allotment authorities the power of acquisition by agreement. It would limit their power to cases where 287 they wished to use compulsion. That was not probably what he had in his mind, and it was for that reason that it was suggested to him that he should move it in its present form. But on the general principle to which the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hurd) has drawn our attention, it is a little difficult. It is true there is some obscurity in the wording of the 1908 Act. Sections 23 and 24 deal with obligations which are laid on borough, urban district, parish and county councils, to ascertain the extent to which there is a demand for allotments. Section 25 deals with the powers these councils have, and the wording there is that a council may, for the purpose of providing allotments by agreement, purchase or take on lease, and if they are unable to acquire by agreement land on reasonable terms, they may acquire it compulsorily. I am advised by those learned in the law that there is nothing in that Act which debars them at present from proceeding to meet, under the last Section I read, a demand that they anticipate. I believe, therefore, it is probably true that the difficulty which has arisen in the mind of councils who might wish to meet antecedent and at present inarticulate demand has been rather of the nature of an administrative difficulty, that when they have come along and asked for loans and so on from the appropriate authority, the demand has been contested, and if it was non-existent they may have been, denied the privilege of raising a loan for the purpose, and they may have thought they would not get the land and may not have gone to the trouble of surveying it. It was to meet that that my hon. and gallant Friend decided to put down the Clause. I have devoted a good deal of attention to this question of agreement or compulsion, and I think there is a good deal to be said on both sides. I always conclude, when I have difficulty in making up my mind on a point, that there is a great deal to be said on both sides. I think two alternatives are really present for our choice. One is to leave the Clause as it has been moved, that is to say that the council may acquire land by agreement, which would not, I am advised, prejudice any powers they may possess under Clause 25 of the 1908 288 Act, but would definitely place on record on the Statute Book that they were intended by Parliament to have the power of meeting an antecedent demand, the other powers under Clause 25 remaining unaffected. The other alternative is that the Committee should accept this Amendment, but I should not think it reasonable to do that unless they are also prepared to support the next Amendment on the Paper. On balance, between the two alternatives, I am disposed on the whole to leave the Clause as it stands. I think the powers that are required exist under the 1908 Act, and I believe really, except for the purpose of drawing the attention of local authorities to their powers, the whole Clause is unnecessary. I should be disposed to advise the Committee to leave it as it stands, but I do not feel very strongly about it, and if the Committee have a strong view I hope they will express it. I do not really think it affects the situation very much either way, but to keen the balance approximately correct, if the Committee decide to support the right hon. Gentleman they should also decide to support the subsequent Amendment.
Mr. FENBY: I entirely agree with the Minister that if a committee was courageous enough, it has sufficient power under the Act of 1908 to acquire land in advance, either by agreement or compulsorily, for the purpose of providing allotments. But when the Act of 1908 was passed there was no question whatever of allotments being provided for in a town planning scheme. This Bill brings rather a new view and gives additional facilities to local authorities, but I agree with the Minister that while there is nothing in the Act of 1908 which says you may or shall acquire land for allotments in advance of the demand, there is nothing in the Act which says "You shall not acquire land in advance of the demand." Therefore, a courageous authority when in doubt would risk it. But if in this new Clause you leave the words "by agreement," you are creating a fear in the mind of the authority that you can only acquire land in advance of the demand by agreement. If you leave these two words out, you are in the position created by the Act of 1908, and I would not in any way like to complicate the matter further by leaving those two words in. I should like to make an urgent appeal to 289 the Minister that at the earliest opportunity he will co-ordinate the law with regard to the provision and administration of allotments. That really is what is wanted. It is legislation by reference, and if we could have something consolidating the whole thing it would simplify the matter. I hope the words "by agreement" will be taken out.
Mr. HURD: I cannot help feeling that that is right. After what the Minister has said, if we leave these two words in we are implying somehow or other that we are curtailing a right that exists under the 1908 Act, and I shall vote for the Amendment.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I think, after all, it will be best to leave these words out, but it is really very difficult to conduct a Committee like this without a law officer of the Crown. We have not present even a lawyer of any shape or kind who has studied the matter. Really Members of Parliament do want some sort of legal advice as to the interpretation of old Acts of Parliament like that of 1908. I think it is clear in that Act that the local authority can acquire land compulsorily for allotments. As I understand it, the difficulty is to define whether they can acquire land for allotments, and not use it for allotments for a few years. That is undecided. The lawyers have not made up their minds. The Department has not made up its mind. The allotment people have not made up their minds whether or not, under the Act of 1908, the local authority can buy land in advance of the time. Therefore, I think all ought to agree to leave the words out in order to leave the law as it is at present, and till somebody can make up their minds. If these words are left out we consider hereafter the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cirencester (Sir T. Davies) which I think introduces a new and a very vicious principle which we shall have to discuss.
Amendment agreed to.
Sir THOMAS DAVIES: I beg to move to leave out the words "there is a reasonable expectation that the land will eventually be required for allotments," and to insert instead thereof the words "the land will be required within a reasonable period for use as allotments and, in the case of compulsory acquisition, that 290 the use of the land for allotments will not materially affect the amenity of any adjoining land." Seeing that the words "by agreement" have been left out, it follows, almost as a corollary, that the words I wish to insert should be inserted, and this will give fair play to everybody all round. If the land is to be acquired for future use it is essential that there should be some limitation to the meaning of the word "eventually" which appears in the Clause, and I. therefore, propose to leave out the words stated. I do not think 60 years or four or five decades would be a reasonable period; therefore, my proposed words modify it to that extent. Seeing the words, "by agreement" have been omitted, the effect will be to enable a local authority to exercise any powers it possesses, whether they be by compulsion or voluntarily. The safeguard as to the amenities of adjoining land will only be necessary in the case of a compulsory purchase or hiring, as if a person chooses voluntarily to sell his land for the purpose of allotment, it may be that the adjoining owners may not like it, but they cannot prevent it, and, therefore, there is no reason why this safeguard should be inserted in such a case.
Mr. WILLIAMS: Who is to decide whether the period is reasonable or not? If you insert words after the words "Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries," then you will leave the authority to make the decision. But if you insert them earlier there is no one except a court of law that will decide whether it is reasonable or not.
Sir T. DAVIES: I can agree to that at once.
Mr. SANDEMAN ALLEN: What is the object of leaving out the last words in this Clause? We want it perfectly clearly laid down what is and what is not reasonable. We are rather tying up the matter. If you say the land is required for a reasonable period that will be better and simpler for the local authorities.
Mr. T. THOMSON: I hope the word "eventually" may stand. In regard to the question of "not materially affecting the amenity of any adjoining land," that is introducing a very vicious principle which will lead to very considerable complications. Land is taken, say, for allotments, and harm is done to the adjoining 291 owner. Of course, it is impossible to compensate if the sale is made voluntarily, and, therefore, it should be equally so if the sale is compulsory.
Sir T. DAVIES: May I explain the mistake in the wording? I took the third line instead of the fourth line of the new Clause. If you leave out the third line and put in the fourth line, then the point made by the hon. Member for Reading (Mr. Williams) comes in, and who decides then will have to decide after the Minister of Health is satisfied and after consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: Does the hon. Member really draw a distinction between the rights of the riparian adjoining owner in the case of land required compulsorily or by agreement? They are equally damnified if the council purchases land by agreement: the people who own the land adjoining are equally injured—or benefited—by the acquisition of that land, whether the purchase is compulsory or voluntary. You are saying that an owner of adjoining land which is bought by a local authority ought to be able to put in a claim for compensation for whatever use the local authority puts the land to. It is opening the door to enormous claims and enormous fresh difficulty. It really ought not to be introduced into an Allotment Bill. It is an entirely new principle which is apparently to apply the land compulsorily acquired by any local authority. I dare say it will apply in the case of the railway companies. Wherever you acquire land compulsorily, then the owners of the adjoining land, or the land all round, not touched or bought, shall have the right to come forward and claim compensation, because it happens to be used for a railway, a tramway, or something of the kind. It is a monstrous proposition. We ought not to put this in without consultation. We should be very ill-advised in supporting a new and thoroughly reactionary idea, that in the case of land acquired by agreement the local authority shall not have to compensate the adjoining landowner, but where the land is acquired by compulsion they shall be compelled to compensate the adjoining landowner. I thought at first we should accept the Amendment, to leave out the words from allotments ["to be let in allotments'] to the end of the 292 paragraph, but now we have discovered exactly where the Amendment fits in there is no difference. In the one place it reads: "there is a reasonable expectation," and now we are suggesting that the land will be required "within a reasonable period." Really, there is not much difference between the two.
Sir T. DAVIES: In the one case it is voluntary, and in the other compulsory.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I suggest that this is importing into the matter an entirely new principle.
Mr. HURD: May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that it is not a question of compensation; it is a question of the power of acquisition.
Mr. LEE: If you get the land by agreement, well and good; if by compulsion you are going to compensate.
Mr. WOOD: I hope the Committee have been more impressed by the very relevant interruption of my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes. The burden of the argument of the right hon. Gentleman (Colonel Wedgwood), or the greater part of it, was an attack upon the vice of giving compensation to owners. There is not a word about compensation in this Clause. It is purely concerned with the conditions under which this very novel power on the Statute Book—whatever it may be in practice, whatever may be the interpretation of the 1908 Act—is to become operative. My hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester (Sir T. Davies) suggests that where compulsion is used for a demand which has not yet matured the Minister of Health or Agriculture shall be satisfied that the land will be required within a reasonable period for use as allotments. Incidentally, as to the point put by my hon. Friend opposite, he will observe that there is a difference in the case of the land required within a reasonable period and a reasonable expectation that the land will eventually be required. On that point my hon. Friend in front of me is clearly right. The other safeguard the Mover of the Amendment introduces is that the use of the land shall not materially affect the amenity of any adjoining land. I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman the 293 Member for Newcastle - under - Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) is slightly deflected from a calm judgment by his old obsession. I really cannot see, in the case of this new Clause going on the Statute Book, that it is unreasonable to adopt the words suggested by my hon. Friend. I would further draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong as to this. The 1908 Act is not entirely relevant, but I will read what it says, and the Committee can judge for themselves. It carefully lays down the restrictions on the acquisition of land for the purposes of that Act, but on much wider grounds. It says: "No land shall be authorised to be acquired compulsorily which at the date of the order forms a part of any park, garden, pleasure ground, or part of the home farm … Or is otherwise required for the amenity or convenience of a dwelling house." That is to say, under that Act a certain individual was able to claim that his amenities were interfered with. All my hon. Friend suggests is that the general amenity of the district, from the point of view of town planning, shall be considered. I beg the Committee to keep in mind the general interests of town planning and housing. I am satisfied that if the right hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Wedgwood) resists this Amendment and succeeds, he will be upsetting the balance of things wholly in one direction.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I altogether object to the tone of the Minister's speech, because he does not seem to understand the new principle which is involved. If a local authority requires land for a housing scheme it may have to acquire that land compulsorily. The right hon. Gentleman has been connected with the London County Council. Suppose they wish to acquire land compulsorily. They might be prevented because the owner said he did not like county council houses near his land. Therefore, by this proposal you are enabling fresh obstruction to be put forward. The right hon. Gentleman gave as an illustration the original Act, but I would like to point out that that means the amenity of the owner of that land and not somebody living two or three miles away. Supposing the site is near a public park and it is claimed that it may injure the amenity of that park. Are you going to 294 say that you should be allowed to protest against the compulsory purchase of that land on the ground that it would spoil the amenity of the park? What you mean ought to be stated very clearly. I am sure there is not a member of this Committee who would admit that where land is acquired compulsorily for a housing scheme, or other purposes, that you would say that the owners of the adjoining land should have a right to prevent that land from being acquired. You say that this proposal is not compensation, but it almost amounts to that, and if it is not compensation, you are going to leave it perfectly vague that the owners of the land can stop the scheme because it affects the amenities of their land. Of course, allotments must affect the amenities of the adjoining land, but you have not up to the present been able to stop the purchase of land for this purpose because the landlord objects in this way. If you require land for gas works, or any of the other multifarious public purposes, or even for a chemical manure works, are you going to say that compulsion is out of the question? I know you can do it by agreement. In the case of one of these works someone might say: "We do not like the smell, we have to be compensated, and if you will not compensate us, we will stop the scheme and hold up the whole thing because the hon. Member for Cirencester (Sir T. Davies) has introduced this new and erroneous principle in our land laws."
Mr. WILLIAMS: It would be an advantage if the right hon. and gallant Member would read this proposal as a whole instead of picking out bits of it that suit him. This is not a Measure to build gas works, and as long as the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture are satisfied that the use of the land is required for allotments and not gas works, and will not materially affect the amenity of any adjoining land, the thing is all right. The right hon. and gallant Member speaks as if the adjoining owners have only to say "No," and that ends the matter. As a matter of fact, the decision lies with persons who are presumed to be as reasonable and independent as the present distinguished holders of those two offices.295
Mr. THOMSON: I think this is a very serious point, because we all know that allotments, much as we admire them, do not add to the amenities of a district. I submit that under this Clause, if carried, the adjoining owners, whether they own residential estates or housing estates, will have the right to say to the Minister of Agriculture, "These allotments will depreciate the surrounding property." I know allotments are not things of beauty, and do not add to the general residential value of a district. Therefore, by putting in this provision it seems to me you are preventing the compulsory purchase of lands for allotments in the future. For this reason, I hope that the Committee will pause before they put in a Clause which is bound to be interpreted adversely to the interests of allotment holders. The illustration which has been given is a very sound one, and we all know that under the Town Planning Acts owners in the neighbourhood of the new colonies have objected to cottages being erected near to their residential buildings, and they are quite right in saying that the building of these cottages affects the amenities of their own property. I would like to point out that if this Clause had been in the Town Planning Act it would have stopped all land being bought for housing schemes, and I submit that it will have the same effect in regard to the purchase of land for allotments. I hope this question will be deferred until the Report stage, because this is a very important principle which is being introduced for the first time.
Mr. WOOD: May I add a word or two on this Amendment. I am rather impressed by one or two of the arguments used as to the danger of cutting across town-planning arrangements by implication or by an indirect effect. I do not want to do that, and I recognise that in dealing with this matter the Committee is rather hampered by the absence of a Law Officer, which is inevitable, and also the absence of one who could speak for the Ministry of Health, which I am unable to do. As far as I am advised, I think these words are all right, but I do not want to press the Committee unfairly, having regard to the danger to the town-planning side of the Town Planning Acts. If it meets with the approval of the 296 Mover of this Amendment and my hon. Friends on this Committee, and even those who object to this Amendment, I should be prepared to advise the Committee not to come to a decision on this point this morning, and I wish to state clearly that between now and the Report stage I will consider the question with the Minister of Health in order to see if words of this sort are necessary, and if they are, I will put them down after full consideration on the Report stage.
Mr. FENBY: I think it will be well to leave out the latter part of this Amendment until the Report stage in order to allow an opportunity of consulting the Minister of Health. I would, however, like to urge the right hon. Gentleman to consider the alternative in the Amendment to the words in the new Clause. There is a reasonable expectation that land will eventually be required. To my mind that is quite right, but to substitute for these words a provision that the land will be required within a reasonable period is a direct indication to nervous authorities not to acquire land for the purpose in advance of providing allotmetns. I do not think we should introduce politics too much in regard to this question, and I am looking at the matter from an administrative point of view.
Mr. WOOD: I am grateful to the hon. Member for what he has said. I am not sure whether he is under a misapprehension as to what I have suggested. I did not suggest that my hon. Friend should withdraw the whole of the Amendment. I asked him to give us an opportunity of reconsidering the matter, but I referred only to the last part of the Amendment.
The CHAIRMAN: I think the whole Amendment had better be withdrawn, and then the Clause will stand as amended by the words which have been added by agreement.
Sir T. DAVIES: I ask leave to withdraw my Amendment.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Clause, as amended, added to the Bill.
Notwithstanding the provisions of Section sixteen of the Act of 1922 the council of any borough or urban district may take proceedings under the provisions of the Allotments Act relating to allotments if, in the 297 opinion of the council, the expenses referred to in such Section may reasonably be expected, after the proceedings are taken, to exceed the receipts of the council under those provisions by no greater amount than would be produced by a rate of one penny in the pound.—[Captain Bourne.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Captain BOURNE: I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time." I move this Clause in place of Clause 4 of the Bill. The only reason for this Clause is that, under the Allotments Act of 1922, there are expenses that may fall on the rates and expenses which must be borne by the allotment holder, and they are very much intermingled. This new Clause puts them into the form of existing legislation. The point is to enable the local authority to raise such an amount as can be raised by a penny rate and spend it on acquiring allotments. This proposal of mine brings that matter within the definition of expenses. As an example, I might mention that sinking Fund is not an expense, but the interest is an expense, and it is difficult to define that accurately.
Question, "That the Clause be read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
Mr. LOOKER: I beg to move after the word "may" ["the council of any borough or urban district may take proceedings"], to insert the words "with the sanction of the Minister of Health." The principle regarding expenditure in relation to allotments has always been that the receipts should equal the expenses; in other words, that they should pay their way, and this proposed new Clause, for the first time, recognises a departure from that principle by throwing certain expenses upon the rates. The chief objection to doing that without the control of the Minister of Health is that the effect of a penny rate varies enormously in different parts of the country. In Manchester, for instance, I am told that a penny rate produces £10,000; in Hull it is £7,200, and in some smaller districts the amount is infinitesimal. If you confer upon a council power to impose a penny rate which may involve an expenditure of £10,000, you may subject them to influences from which it is very desirable to exclude them. I suggest to the Committee that it is desirable that such expenditure, which is a novel 298 principle, should be generally under the control of the Minister of Health, so that he can exercise a co-ordinating influence on councils throughout the country.
Mr. WOOD: I have not had an opportunity of considering this Amendment in detail, but I hope my hon. Friend will not press it. I have had occasion, unfortunately, once or twice to find myself in opposition to my hon. Friend the Member for Devizes (Mr. Hurd) on the question of bringing local authorities up and submitting them, as he thinks unnecessarily, to Departmental control in London. I think that this is just such another case which, as I see it, is unnecessary. As far as I can see, there is no advantage in making the Clause operative only after an Order of the Ministry of Health. I am advised that there are predecents already for giving similar power to help up to the amount of a penny rate within the absolute discretion of the local authority. There are precedents in education, in public health, and, more relevant to our purpose, in the very field of small holdings and allotments under Section 17. Perhaps my hon. Friend would imagine himself to be in the position of the Minister of Health who is invited to apply his mind to such an application. On what basis can he decide? It is true that a penny rate produces different sums of money in different places, and I presume my hon. Friend would think it will enable one authority to be extravagant and another only just to scrape through. But that, unfortunately, is incidental to the comparitive wealth and poverty of different districts of the country. I would plead with my hon. Friend that he should not—as far as I can judge without overwhelming cause—override the sense of local responsibility that must, I think, be our main guiding principle in the matter.
Mr. HURD: I hope my hon. Friend will not press this Amendment. He talks about the different produce of a penny rate in different places, but in my own area it would create enormous difficulty if there were to be an attempt to co-ordinate a district where a penny rate produces £120 and another where it produces £240. You cannot throw on to the Ministry of Health, the central authority, a power of co-ordination of that kind. I 299 sympathise with the view that the Minister has expressed. We shall be acting in a way that is derogatory to public dignity and the growth of autonomy if we continually have this procession to the Ministry of Health in London with all manner of petty things. There is no local knowledge of them here in London, but there is in the districts concerned. I have not a word to say against the officials. My experience of the officials at the Ministry of Health is that they are as helpful as officials can ever hope to be in this vale of tears, but we really must try to help the local authorities to realise the mission which Parliament had for them when it created them.
The CHAIRMAN: Does the hon. Member wish to press the Amendment?
Mr. LOOKER: I should like it to be put to the Committee, but I will not press it to a Division.
Clause added to the Bill.
Where a local authority has purchased land for use as allotments the local authority shall not sell, appropriate, use, or dispose of the land for any purpose other than use for allotments without the consent of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, and such consent shall not be given unless the Minister is satisfied that adequate provision will be made for allotment holders displaced by the action of the local authority or that such provision is unnecessary or impracticable.
The provisions of Sub-section (1) of Section seventeen of the Act of 1922, relating to the assessment of a council to rates shall apply to an approved society providing land for allotments in the same manner as it applies to a council, and Sub-section (2) of that Section is hereby repealed.—[Captain Bourne.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Captain BOURNE: I beg to move, "That the Clause be read a Second time." The object of this Clause, which is an agreed Clause, is to provide that where a local authority has purchased land for the purpose of allotments—and it applies only to land purchased for that purpose—it shall not alienate that land without the interests of the allotment holders being carefully considered; in other words, that they shall be provided with alternative 300 accommodation if in the opinion of the Minister of Agriculture that is reasonable. The reason for bringing up this Clause in this form instead of as originally drafted is that the original draft provided that it should be competent for the local authority to resume possession. I am advised legally that that would give them power to resume where land had been let to an allotment society on lease, which power they have not got at present. It is in order to prevent that misapprehension occurring, which was not in accordance with my intention, that the proposed new Clause is brought forward.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: May I ask whether this proposed new Clause has the approval of the Minister, and whether it is now in its final form? Are we quite certain that this is not what the promoter wants, but what the Minister wants?
Mr. WOOD: As the right hon. Gentleman knows, nothing is final on this earth, but as far as I can reasonably foresee the Clause is in its final form.
Mr. WILLIAMS: The local authority in my area are looking with some distress on this proposal. They seem to think it means too much control from headquarters, and on this occasion I am definitely in sympathy with the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hurd). If the land has been bought for a certain purpose, and that purpose does not materialise, you cannot use it for any other purpose without having the procession to London, and I am wondering whether we are being quite wise in making the conditions as rigid as they are in this Clause.
Mr. HURD: Why should we repeatedly regard local authorities with so much suspicion? After all, they are under the public opinion in their own districts, they know the purpose for which the land was acquired, and, personally, I would leave it to them to decide under the survey of their own public opinion, exactly what should be done with the land. It seems to me to be perfectly unnecessary to drag in a London Department to tell them their own business.
Mr. LOOKER: I only rise to ask for some assurance on what I think is possibly clear, namely, whether the effect of this Clause will be to apply it to cases where land has been bought for other 301 purposes and temporarily used as allotments. Is it clear that such land is excluded?
Captain BOURNE: I am advised that that is the case. In reply to the hon. Member for Devizes (Mr. Hurd), I would point out that there have been cases where local authorities have very much abused their powers by purchasing land for allotments and selling it at a vast profit to the town and an entire loss to the allotment holders. It is to prevent such scandals that this proposal is brought forward.
Mr. HURD: It is desirable that those scandals should be left, so that public opinion may wake up and prevent their repetition.
Mr. FENBY: I think the hon. and gallant Member has put only one side of the case. I am not in favour of any arbitrary control by any Government Department over the local authority, if it is against the considered opinion of the majority in the district: but you may have a case, such as I have myself known, where, for a temporary financial advantage, things have been rushed through and pressure has been brought to bear on a public authority to do certain things which on a long view are not wise, and in a matter of that kind I think, if the consent of the Department were required, it would take the long view as against rushed-up public opinion which for the moment might be detrimental to the locality.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: Before we proceed further, may I ask for an understanding that we shall have another day for this Bill? The new Clause standing later on the Paper in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson)—(Provision for allotments in absence of town-planning scheme)—is a very important one—
The CHAIRMAN: That Clause is out of order
Colonel WEDGWOOD: It is being ruled out of order because there is a wish to rush the Bill through to-day?302
The CHAIRMAN: No; it is ruled out of order because it is beyond the scope of the Bill, and introduces a new principle.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: You have not been in a position to hear the arguments.
The CHAIRMAN: I think I know the arguments, and I rule it out of order.
Colonel WEDGWOOD: If it is going to be ruled out by the Chair, we certainly shall not get the Bill through to-day. Then there is the new Clause in the name of the hon. Member for Cirencester (Sir T. Davies), which provides that the gross assessable value of land hereafter to be used as allotments shall not be increased during the first three years. That is a proposal which we shall have to discuss at considerable length, and I do resent the rushing through of the Bill in this way. Our opposition has been conducted with the greatest possible consideration for the Committee, and without any sign of obstruction, and I think we might have been treated by the Government with more consideration on this last day, when these most important Amendments are put forward. I do not think the Committee has any right to break the arrangement which was made, and which has been adhered to by both sides, that we should rise at One o'Clock on each day. If we are going to try to squeeze in this Bill now in order to set the Minister free, I think we are quite right in making the best protest that we can manage. After all, the House was sitting this morning until Six o'Clock, and it is extremely difficult for us to be here in Committee from Eleven to One when many of us have been sitting up till Six o'Clock the same morning. We had to wait for 35 minutes before we began because there was no quorum, although the usual understanding is that after the Committee has waited for half-an-hour and there is no quorum it does not sit on that morning.
Mr. WILLIAMS: On a point of Order. May I ask what Motion we are discussing?
Colonel WEDGWOOD: I was about to propose that the Committee should now adjourn. The Opposition were perfectly entitled, at Half-past Eleven this morning, to move the Adjournment of the Com- 303 mittee, and now, as I observe that there is not a quorum present, I have to call your attention, Mr. Chairman, to that fact, and ask that the Committee do now adjourn.304
The CHAIRMAN: We must adjourn now, as there is not a quorum present.
Committee adjourned at One Minute before One o'Clock until Tuesday morning next (26th May) at Eleven o'Clock.
The FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:—
Cobb, Sir Cyril (Chairman)
Allen, Mr. Sandeman
Cautley, Sir Henry
Cayzer, Sir Charles
Churchman, Sir Arthur
Davies, Sir Thomas
Knox, Sir Alfred
Lee, Mr. Frank
Sanderson, Sir Frank
Thomson, Mr. Trevelyan
Williams, Mr. Herbert
Wood, Mr. Edward