The Special Areas (Development and Improvement) Act, 1935 (25 Geo 5, cl) was the first of three Acts of Parliament which were designed to develop and improve certain areas which had been specially affected by industrial depression.
This Act provided for the appointment of two Commissioners (one for England and Wales, the other for Scotland) whose functions were to assist and co-operate with Government Departments, local authorities, voluntary organisations, etc. in improving the areas, particularly by providing work for those hitherto unemployed. The Commissioners were not empowered to assist in any undertaking carried on for the purpose of gain, nor to make any grant or loan to a local authority in cases where a specific grant was already payable by a Government Department.
The Commissioner for England and Wales was appointed by the Ministry of Labour with the consent of the Treasury. He was assisted by Deputy Commissioners. The Ministry of Health worked closely with the commissioner's staff to secure the provision of adequate medical services, to encourage hospital building and to alleviate problems of local administration. A Special Areas Fund was established under the control and management of the Treasury, and there was paid into the Fund, for the financial year ending 31 March 1935, the sum of two million pounds "out of moneys provided by Parliament".
The remaining sections of the Act dealt with the powers of Commissioners as to acquisition of land; supplementary provisions as to small holdings and allotments; the application of the Act to Scotland and the power to transfer the Commissioner's functions to other Government Departments on expiry of the Act. The Act was to continue in force until 31 March 1937.
The First Schedule listed the Special Areas. In brief, they were the Tyneside area of Northumberland; practically all the administrative county of Durham; certain districts in Cumberland and most of South Wales. Other schedules dealt with points of procedure to be observed by the Commissioners and their staff, and with the making of Compulsory Purchase Orders. The Expiring Laws Continuance Act, 1936 (1 Ed 8 c4), extended this Act until 31 May 1937.
The Special Areas Reconstruction (Agreement) Act, 1936 (26 Geo 5 and 1 Edw 8. c19) authorised the Treasury to make an agreement with a company to be incorporated by the name of the Special Areas Reconstruction Association Limited, and to make payments to the company in accordance with that agreement. The object of the company was to provide financial facilities to persons setting up or carrying on business in the special areas as specified in the First Schedule to the 1934 Special Areas Act.
The Act is a very short one and consists entirely of financial provisions. The chief matters to be covered by the agreement between the company and the Treasury are listed in the Schedule to the Act.
The Special Areas (Amendment) Act, 1937 (1 Edw 8 and 1 Geo 6, c31) extended the Special Areas (Development and Improvement) Act, 1934 to enable further assistance to be given to the Special Areas and continued the principal act until 31 March 1939. This new Act empowered the Commissioners to let factories in the depressed areas and to give financial aid to new industrial undertakings there. The Commissioners were also empowered to contribute to expenses incurred by local authorities on the repair and improvement of roads in the special areas, and by owners or occupiers of agricultural land who undertook drainage work. They could also give financial assistance for provision of factories in certain other areas. The Treasury was also given power to make loans to new industrial undertakings, provided that the sums so paid did not exceed an aggregate of two million pounds.