§ Mr. Speaker
Before I call the Minister of Transport, it may be convenient if I say that the Amendment standing in the name of the Leader of the Liberal Party and other hon. Members is not selected.
§ 3.35 p.m.
§ The Minister of Transport (Mr. Ernest Marples)
I beg to move,That this House takes note of the Buchanan and Crowther Reports on the problem of Traffic in Towns, welcomes Her Majesty's Government's acceptance of the need for a balance to be struck between the growth of traffic and the quality of urban life, and accepts that the modernising and reshaping of our towns should proceed within the framework of the main planning concepts embodied in the Reports.I am glad that the Amendment which has been tabled by six members of the Liberal Party is not to be called. I am sure, however, that the House will be grateful that at least one of them has turned up for the debate.
On 10th December, 1959, six weeks after the Government returned to power, we had the first traffic debate in the life of this Parliament and the first censure debate. There have been many more censure debates since then, but that was the first. The debate was opened by the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn), in a most charming and agreeable way. It was obvious that he had done his homework in characteristic fashion. That debate was on the short-term problem of traffic in our towns. I divided the problem of traffic into two parts: first, the short-term and, secondly, the long-term.
On the short-term, I stressed that, whatever happened in future in rebuilding the cities, it was necessary to squeeze the maximum amount of traffic movement which we possibly could through the existing streets. That debate concentrated solely on that issue. At the time, we on this side were severely criticised for not taking effective measures, and, although I said in the debate that the long-term aspect was important, I think that it would be convenient if I first said what has happened in the short-term.
The speeds and flow of traffic on 40 miles of streets in Central London have 33 gone up since 1958. In 1962, the flow in the evening peak was up by 19 per cent. on 1958. In 1962, the journey speed was up by 14 per cent. on 1958. The casualties—and this is important—have come down. They were down by 6 per cent. in 1962 compared with 1959. This is because the regular flow of traffic in our towns means that pedestrians can cross only at controlled places. It means, therefore, that they have to have more discipline.
For example, in Tottenham Court Road, on the one-way system, the flow has increased by 17 per cent. at peak hours and the journey speed has increased by 60 per cent. [An HON. MEMBER "Frightening."] I am sorry that the hon. Member should say that this is frightening. That is not the case, because a comparison of accidents six months before and after shows that all injury accidents are down by 21 per cent. and pedestrian accidents are down by 33 per cent. I do not call that frightening; I call it encouraging. If traffic moves faster and the accidents go down, that is what we want.
I will not dwell on the short-term aspect. I wish to deal with the long-term aspect, which is what we are debating today. I have mentioned the short-term aspect, because at that time the Opposition were very sceptical about whether we could do anything with London's traffic. They have proved to be wholly wrong. On the long-term, the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East said at the end of his speech:I wish the right hon. Gentleman"—that was me—well in his task and I hope that when he performs it he will never forget that he is not working only for the woman on the bus tomorrow, although she is very important, not working only for the man with a car and a vote in the next election, although he is very important, too, but that he owes it to the future to hand on a heritage that is both useful and beautiful."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1959: Vol. 615, c. 767.]So it was clear that the Opposition at that time did have the long-term point of view in mind, even though we were talking about traffic in the short term.
I hope that the House will forgive me if I quote what I said during that debate. I said that the problem was best put in the long term by the Architects' Journal, which said: 34Is Motropolis, the motorised city, to be dominated and destroyed by the motor, or is it to be the city in which civilised man lives a civilised life, king the motor vehicle sensibly and economically as a tool for mobility?Then I went on to say:This is not merely a road engineering problem. It is not merely the construction of roads or o[...]street car parking. It is a design for living in the fourth quarter of this century. We must come to terms with the motor car without letting it destroy our way of life. We cannot allow it to grind the amenities out of existence. I Lave read a number of books on this subject. In one, which I consider to be the best, the author said that he was humbled by the size and scope of the problem. I am, too…Should we have a long-term study group, full-time, with no executive responsibility, to go not merely into the road programme, but to consist of architects and town planners, embracing both roads and amenities, to see which way we are going and how we can come to terms with this problem? I believe that something like; that should be set up before it is too late and disaster overtakes, as it has done some of the American cities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 10th December, 1959: Vol. 615, c. 771.]I mention that for this reason. I said that six weeks after the Government were returned to power, and the book I referred to was "Mixed Blessing", and the author I referred to was Colin Buchanan. That was a short time after the Government came back to power, and I appointed two groups to go into this very difficult problem which no Western civilised country has yet solved.
I appointed Colin Buchanan to lead a working group inside the Ministry, full-time, working with no executive responsibility, he himself to collect his own team—I did not collect them for him he was able to select whom he wanted—and to carry out what research he thought was necessary, and to work hard on this problem. I also appointed a second group a steering group, which was outside the Ministry of Transport, of people who had experience of town planning, civil engineering, land development, and finance, especially municipal finance, and Sir Geoffrey Crowther was the chairman.
Their duties were to help the working group, to give me their opinion of the work, and to go rather further in drawing conclusions for future policy than the group which was collected inside the Ministry could possibly go. It was different from the usual committee. Normally, when we have a committee, we 35 have representatives of all interested parties; they take evidence at length, and months are consumed in producing an elaborate report.
The result of this new method was that now an enormous field has been covered in a short time. The time of the steering group, all of whom were eminent men, was not wasted. They used it to the best advantage. One of the things which may interest the House was that the steering group acted in a way as a discipline on the working committee in the Ministry of Transport. A number of the early suggestions of the working committee produced a lot of theoretical considerations, which were first-class, but the steering group said, "Well, this is no good. At least, we shall have to apply them to four individual towns and cities of widely differing characteristics, and then people will believe that we have done something really worth while."
What has happened is that the two Reports, one from Sir Geoffrey Crowther's steering group, one from the Colin Buchanan working group, have been produced by the Stationery Office in a handsome volume, and I think that the congratulations of this House should go to the two groups and also to the Stationery Office for what I think is a remarkable job of work, because both Reports are full of meat, beautifully produced and written, and excellently illustrated.
This debate is about the long-term problem of reconciling civilised urban life and the benefits of the motor car. More and more people will want to enjoy the benefits of a car. What we now do will determine the sort of city life we can enjoy for many years to come. One cannot base long-term policies on hunches. We need to know the facts at present, and how they are likely to develop in the future. That has been my approach over the whole transport field. We have had Beeching on railways, Rochdale on ports, Worboys on road signs, and Sir Robert Hall's group on the long-term growth of road and rail traffic. Now the last Report—the latest Report, not the last—is Colin Buchanan's masterly analysis of traffic in towns. All these Reports together provide a solid and factual basis 36 to develop a transport system adapted to modern Britain.
The urban traffic problem has two roots: first, the growing population, secondly, our growing prosperity. Our population is 52 million. Three out of four live in towns. We have to combine historic cities and urban living and car ownership in a way which makes the problem more acute here than practically anywhere else in the world. By the end of the century we can expect that the present population of 52 million will have increased to 70 million, and that all the families who want a car will have one. This will mean about 35 million vehicles, between three and four times as many as today.
Our towns and cities simply cannot absorb that amount of traffic without radical replanning, but the danger is that in providing facilities for everybody, to motor freely in our city centres we might destroy the urban environment and dominate the urban scene with the roads and car parks, filling stations, and so on. And we must not forget the trucks and other commercial vehicles our society has become geared to. They certainly contribute to the congestion, but they provide services we would find it very difficult to do without. They are, in fact, an essential part of modern town life.
Colin Buchanan's case studies lead him to two conclusions. First, in the smaller towns it would be possible, at a cost, to reconcile good environment and maximum car usage. Secondly, in the large towns and cities and the great conurbations there is no prospect whatever of catering for all the cars which might ultimately want to go into them. I cannot stress that enough. The situation in our big cities simply cannot be dealt with by spending more and more money on bigger and better roads and motorways and providing more parking spaces.
I am very glad to see, from a Gallup poll in the Sunday Telegraph, that the motorist is really grasping this point. There were two questions, in particular, I should like to bring to the attention of the House. The first was, "Do you agree that some limitation on the use of cars in the larger towns will be necessary in the future?" The answer was "Yes" from 86 per cent. of the drivers. 37 The second question I should like to bring to the attention of the House was, "Would you accept some limitation on the use of cars if this meant that the congestion would be eased and you could use a car to full advantage at other times?" Again, it was 80 per cent. who answered "Yes".
So I think that if that is a true reflection—and I hope it is, and, certainly, the inquiry was conducted fairly—then the motorist has grasped the point, that in this small island of 52 million people now, and 70 million by the end of the century, we simply cannot, in the larger cities and conurbations, do what we want with the motor car.
The conclusion, obviously, of what I have just said, has far-reaching implications which are really inescapable. We cannot escape them. The forecast of vehicle growth cannot he seriously challenged. America is probably one or two generations ahead of us in the motor car and we can learn what has happened from experience there. The car is an essential part of everyday life and this is right. We will not discourage the understandable desire of nearly every family to have a car.
We cannot simply spread out our cities to accommodate the cars. To do so would mean sacrificing the virtues and the charms of compactness which are so characteristic of our towns. It would be an intolerable encroachment into our precious reserve of open space. The American experience of sprawling urban settlements is certainly not entirely a happy one. It is only America's low density of population that has made it possible. It we had the United States' density of population, the population of England and Wales would be only 2½ million.
Therefore, it is no use people trying to impress upon me that whatever solution has been provided, and may have been found successful, or partially successful, in America, can be applied to this country. The conditions are entirely different. In this country, therefore, we must have compact cities, keeping towns as towns and the country as country.
Could we make better use of private cars? There is absolutely no future in one-man one-car commuting in our big 38 cities. The average car load coming into London in the morning is less than one and a half persons. if there were more persons in each car, a lot more people could come in that way, but the potential demand will outweigh any saving that is practicable through a bigger load per car.
Again spreading the peak by staggering working hours might help in the short term, but it cannot provide a long-term answer. Would a different sort of personal transport be possible? Will it always need three-quarters of a ton of steel spread over 40 sq. ft., needing 30 ft. in which to turn, to move one individual? Perhaps the same sort of ingenuity which Buchanan and his team have shown could be directed to see whether we cannot adapt the cars to the cities. Size manœuvrability, safety, fumes, noise and so on, should all come into it, as well as anything that might make the motor car better for town use and allow more personal transport without destroying what we value in town life.
What benefits might come from some such developments as these I do not know, but Buchanan's analysis and forecast are, in the main, absolutely right. The Government accept his analysis. We accept the basic principle that a balance must be struck between the needs of traffic and the other needs of urban life. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Ministry of Transport hive explained this to all local authorities in a joint circular. We have outlined the immediate action that is needed.
Buchanan's picture of the future has captured the popular imagination: a two- or three-tier structure, spacious pedestrian precincts, urban motorways, flyovers, and so on. We shall need all these things to strike the right balance between traffic and environment. These things alone, however, do not constitute Buchanan. They may be the ultimate result of Buchanan's concept, but the choice behind them is just as important.
Buchanan's two basic planning concepts are, fist primary road network to receive End distribute traffic. Here traffic comes; first. The second concept is of environmental areas, commercial, industrial, civic or residential. Here quality of environment takes precedence 39 over traffic. The route network serves the environmental areas. The two are interdependent. They must be planned as a whole. With this must go the development of public transport, which has a vital rôle to play.
But there is still a choice to be made. Buchanan shows how land use and transport are interdependent, but he does not offer a ready-made solution for universal application. The cost will vary from place to place and it will raise different and difficult questions. For example, is the best solution worth the high cost? Would a cheaper solution with less benefit be preferable? Should the quality of environment be sacrificed to allow wider use of cars? Should traffic be restricted for the sake of environment?
Only the smaller towns will be able to allow full motorisation. The result for any particular place will depend upon its circumstances, on the choice it makes on the balance between traffic, on the one hand, and environment, on the other hand, and on costs. These decisions cannot be imposed by the Government. Each community will have to decide for itself. By "each community" I do not necessarily mean each local authority. I mean, perhaps each conurbation, but certainly each large community. York, for example, is different from Sheffield. Chester is different from Liverpool and the Merseyside conurbation, and Liverpool has satellite towns such as Bootle. I will not say that Wallasey is a satellite town, but it is certainly somewhere near. The traffic solution goes together as a complete whole.
The choice needs to be based upon proper factual information. Buchanan provides the key to this in stressing the complete interdependence of transport facilities and land use. The land use must be right. That means that land use and transport, especially the road network, must be looked at together.
That may sound ambitious, but this is where the new type of transport survey comes in. It involves a lot more than merely counting the number of cars that pass a particular place at a certain time. It means, first, examining the present use of land and the needs which it generates for transport of passengers and goods; secondly, looking at the possible and, perhaps, desirable changes in land use; 40 thirdly, looking at the consequential changes in transport; and fourthly, looking at the changes arising from increases in car ownership. This shows the implications of different sorts of redevelopment with their different needs for transport and different ways of providing for them by different combinations of private and public passenger transport.
We have gone some distance in this. About 18 months ago, we started a full, comprehensive survey in London. We are now on the last stage. Other surveys are well in hand in Tyneside and Merseyside and are about to begin in Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. Arranging these broad transport surveys and examining the alternative redevelopment possibilities is a responsibility of the local authorities. They must co-ordinate a wide variety of their responsibilities, such as land use, housing, public transport and traffic management, including especially their parking policies, because if a city allows a motorist to come to its centre and leave a car there all day as long as he likes without payment or consideration for the traffic that is moving, no matter how much money we spend we are doomed to failure. Also, the local authorities must get hold of not only the municipal bus undertakings, but the private bus undertakings in the area if this traffic survey is to be effective.
The local administrations must be the right size to have sufficient resources and powers. The reorganisation of local government, already well advanced in London and in hand for the rest of the country, will produce a structure that is better able to cope with major traffic and planning problems. Where, however, the transport problems overrun the boundaries of local authorities, those local authorities must work together or, again, we shall have failure.
In the larger towns, public transport will play a big part. In London and some very large conurbations—but not all of them—this includes the railways, but for most towns buses would be the mainstay, although not necessarily in quite the same form as we now know them. I do not rule out new technical developments such as travelators and mono-rails. The bus, however, will still be important. We must see that it offers an attractive service. This does not 41 necessarily mean subsidies or lower fares. The quality of service is more important, serving the right places at the right time and the right frequency, with proper provision for changing routes, and such like.
Also, I do not see that we shall be wedded to the buses as we now know them. There are many ways in which, technically, they could be altered to suit the needs of the travelling public much better. There is resistance to this in many quarters, but that resistance will have to be overcome. The needs of public transport, therefore, must be taken into account in redevelopment plans.
Meantime, however, it is up to the local authorities to do all they can to help improve the services which bus operators can provide. For example, they might give priority on certain routes to buses if they deem it necessary. We have gone some distance towards that in London. As an experiment, we allowed London Transport buses to go against the flow of traffic in Berkeley Street, which is a one-way street. Although many people forecast accidents, there were none, but there was a great amount of convenience to the travelling public. In future, we shall develop these tactical methods much more than in the past.
The railways are crucial in London and important in some other large conurbations. Dr. Beeching is not inconsistent with Professor Buchanan on the importance of public transport. Dr. Beeching deliberately restricted the Railways Board's closure proposals in urban areas. He knows that urban rail closures are much more than commercial issues.
I would like to draw the House's attention to what Dr. Beeching said on page 56 of his Report:It is not thought that any of the firm proposals put forward in this Report would he altered by the introduction of new factors for the purpose of judging overall social benefits. Only in the case of surburban services around some of the larger cities is there clear likelihood that a purely commercial decision within the existing framework of judgment would conflict with a decision based upon total social benefit.I emphasise that Dr. Beeching added:Therefore, in those instances, no firm proposals have been made but attention has been drawn to the necessity for study and decision.42 I agree with that. Of course, Dr. Beeching does not say that the Railways Board will not put forward any closure proposals affecting urban areas. He has put forward some, but they are a minority. The question of commuter services is one of the most important issues which I take into account when considering closure proposals.
I have said time and time again that before reaching any decision I take into account not only the T.U.C.C. report on hardship, bet any wider considerations which may be involved, and that, if there is any reasonable doubt, I do not hesitate to call for further study before I make a decision. If necessary, I wait for the results of the transport survey and when I think that closure is the wrong course to take I refuse consent, as I have done in more than one case recently.
Each closure proposal has its own characteristics. Each is different from the others. Closure proposals cannot be lumped together as if they all had precisely the same merits, for they do not. Each must be considered strictly on its own merits. This applies particularly to proposals for conurbations. Quite recently, I have refused consent to two urban closure proposals. These were the Woodside-Sanderstead service, in Croydon, and the Cardiff-Coryton service. Both are commuter services. These were Vie right decisions if we were to avoid severe inconvenience and hardship to those using these services to get to work and to avoid adding unduly to congestion on the roads.
If, in some cases, particular commuter services are not being used at the moment at all, or hardly at all, and it is proposed to close them, the House must remember that while I might consent to the service being closed now I can make it a condition that the line cannot be closed, or the rails taken up, pending a complete survey. Thus, it is not just a stark choice between complete closure or remaining open. There are a number of permutations and combinations between the two.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
Services can be reduced without the consent of the right hon. Gentleman provided that the line remains open. That happened it my constituency and it resulted in hardship.
§ Mr. Marples
That is true, but it is a minor point in relation to closures, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree. There was an awful row about the service in his constituency being cut. The Newspapers Proprietors' Association arranged for buses to carry large numbers of people home late at night. However, the buses had to be taken off after a short time because they were not being used.
§ Mr. Lubbock
My constituents have now bought cars where they did not have them before and are busy adding to the congestion in Central London.
§ Mr. Marples
I accept the tribute to the affluence which the Government have brought to the hon. Gentleman's constituents.
In applying the Buchanan principles it is not only the Government who must do something. Many other people must play their part. Local authorities have a part to play and must be able to make the best choices. The Government must, therefore, do all they can to provide them with information. This might mean further research by the Government and it may be that they should see that the lessons learned in one part of the country are quickly learned elsewhere.
For example, in London, purely by a freak of legislation passed by the House in 1924, the Minister of Transport is the responsible traffic authority. With the generous help of the Opposition, the House took the power away from 28 metropolitan boroughs to run traffic and centred it on the Minister. The London Traffic Management Unit has made a great improvement in London, but it has proved difficult to apply in the provinces because of the jealousies of local authorities and their reluctance to allow someone at the centre to take their powers away from them. There is a lesson to be learned from London which really should be passed on to the local authorities; and perhaps the House might think about that.
Several questions have to be asked about the future. First, what transport needs arise from the various activities in a city? The transport surveys will help on this and what we learn from them must quickly be passed on to other big cities—for instance, how to process information through computers. Secondly, how can we make 44 public transport more attractive? What does the traveller want and what is it feasible to provide? We are discussing this with the operators.
Thirdly, what are the implications, in costs and benefits, of different forms of transport and different combinations of public and private transport? It is combinations of the two which will be crucial. The costs of new roads, congestion and parking space go further than the costs to each individual road user.
Fourthly, how do different charges affect the demand for parking? We are getting some experience in London and elsewhere and we must pass this on to other local authorities.
Fifthly, and most important, we must develop quickly the techniques for these transport surveys, because they must be the basis for alternative plans for urban redevelopment. We want to get out detailed advice on how local authorities can set up these surveys. Practical cases are the best examples so my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government and I are seeing which urban areas would provide the most useful ones.
The object is to advise urban authorities on practical methods of coping with traffic and with the older areas that need renewing. We want to be able to tell them how to carry out land use transport surveys, how to plan and implement renewal and how this works in towns of different sorts and sizes.
I should tell the House that three Departments are working very closely together—the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Scottish Office and the Ministry of Transport. As a practical step, we have set up the Joint Urban Planning Group with officials from all three Departments. They provide the joint advice which will be sent to local authorities through bulletins and circulars.
Buchanan is long-term and I do not think that it is practicable to estimate the cost. Buchanan's own estimates—£90 million for the primary road network in Leeds and £4½ million in Newbury—do not really provide a basis for costing. But Buchanan's proposals are not a set of fresh building projects. They are a framework into which roads, homes, 45 offices, shops, schools, and so on, can be fitted. What the Government's acceptance of the Buchanan Report means is that the redevelopment that will take place will produce a more efficient and pleasant urban pattern.
Many of our city centres were built in 40 or 50 years during the nineteenth century. Surely in the same sort of time we can rebuild them to come to terms with the motor car. But, so far, public expenditure on urban roads has been modest. We have concentrated first on the roads between the towns. But in towns it is now rising steeply. This year it is about £50 million. By 1970, it will be nearly three times as much. Of course, priorities will be necessary. The most money must go to where the need is greatest, and that is the big towns and conurbations. But, however much money there is, rebuilding is long term.
I want now to deal with the part that local authorities have to play. They have to lay the foundation for long-term redevelopment, through these transport surveys. In the meantime I implore them to make the best use of their existing streets, and they are not doing that in some of the big provincial conurbations. They must do it because they have there the existing streets, and they ought to squeeze from them the maximum transport movement that they possibly can.
They must have—this is what some of them seem terrified of—a policy for parking. One has to have a certain amount of courage about parking. Otherwise one gets parking meters, with the stem, thrown through one's drawing room window, as I did. At the same time, it is only a small minority of motorists who really object to parking meters, and they are the noisy minority. The vast majority of motorists have come to accept parking meters as a method of rationing what space there is available on the streets fairly and equitably among motorists. It is wrong for local authorities to delay this just because later on they will have more comprehensive redevelopment plans. Many projects needed now can form part of a long-term comprehensive redevelopment.
§ Sir Barnet Stross (Stoke-on-Trent. Central)
Is it not fair to say that every 46 great local authority must now recast its plans in view of the work of Professor Buchanan, and, therefore, are not such authorities afraid of going on with their present short-term plans?
§ Mr. Marples
The two things are not irreconcilable. Of course, they have to go ahead acid plan on the basis of the Buchanan Report. I agree; but that is long-term. In the meantime, they have the existing streets, and if they ban right turns in a two-way street or make some two-way streets one-way streets and have a central authority for a big conurbation and get a traffic engineer, they can do some good in the immediate future as well as plan for the long term.
I now come to the most important contribution of all. It is not the Government, it is not the local authorities; it is all of u; as individuals. The traffic management measures that we must have to see us though the next 10 years will inevitably require some restriction of our freedom and individual self-discipline. How far such things are effective might well dictate how far we shall need more sophisticated restraints—like charging for the use of congested road space. Buchanan himself says:Conditions…in the next ten years or so, will demand an almost heroic act of self-discipline from the public. It is not only road safety that is involved but everything to do with the sane and civilised use of motor vehicles. Motor manufacturers, parents and teachers will have major parts to play but the main burden of responsibility will rest with drivers".He goes on say that we need a sixth sense, a sense of "motorised responsibility" appropriate to a society in the process of acquiring mobility on a scale unknown to previous generations.
Three out of four of us live in towns and cities. So what is at stake is the sort of environment the majority of us should have in the future. Buchanan's conclusion is the only way, if we are to exploit the motor car instead of allowing its unrestricted use to kill the things we value most.
The policy that I have so far set out has been the policy of traffic in towns. I have dealt with the short term and the long term. I do not think that we need to be despondent. There is a fantastic programme of new development and redevelopment which is necessary anyway, and if we use the opportunity boldly 47 and creatively we can reap a good deal more from the motor vehicle than we do now, and, incidentally, lead the world in the art and science of urban redevelopment.
Road traffic in towns is only a part of the inland transport problem. We have the roads between the towns where we are making great progress. We have the reshaping of the railways so that, technically, they are doing what they are best suited for. The 10-year contracts for carrying oil are a great step forward, taking enormous tankers off the roads and putting them on the rail. There is also the way the trains are shuttled between Halewood, Liverpool, and Fords, Dagenham, every night. This is the right method of dealing with the problem. In addition, our ports must be modernised.
The Government have tackled every major problem in inland transport. One of the most important parts of it is Buchanan, and it is with those words that I commend the Motion to the House.
§ 4.16 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Strauss (Vauxhall)
The whole House will endorse the expressions of congratulation by the Minister of Transport to the authors of the two Reports and also to the Stationery Office for its remarkable presentation of them. I think that the House, too, will endorse the Minister's speech in so far as it was a general approval of the principles embodied in the Reports. My complaint about it is that, although he dealt admirably with their general principles and gave a very good precis of them, he did not deal at all adequately with the practical and immediate problems that arise out of them and their application.
I want to deal with that in a moment, but I want, first, to make a general remark about the Reports. They are brilliant and exciting documents. They have changed the thinking on one of the burning social problems of the day. They have changed the thinking of those responsible for dealing with these problems, and by the dramatic presentation of their arguments they have made an immense impact on public opinion. That is even more important, for without public opinion it will be impossible to do 48 those things which the Reports show need to be done.
Like most important contributions to man's knowledge, few of the ideas contained in the Reports are, in fact, new. The concept of primary and access roads, of environment areas where people can live and shop and amuse themselves flee from the strain, noise and danger of motor traffic is not new. Such segregation has not only been advocated for many years by town planners, but has already been successfully incorporated in many cities abroad and in some of our own new towns.
Professor Buchanan's original contribution has been to relate those ideas in a practical form to the known inevitable increase in cars during the coming decades and to show how the problem can be tackled in our old cities and the awful consequences of not doing so. He has shown, too, how it can be tackled on a scientific instead of a guesswork basis. His approach to this problem is a refreshingly human one. He cares about people, all people, those who own cars and those who do not, and, while, his immediate purpose is the prosaic one of how to maximise the traffic flow through our cities, his primary concern is how to preserve the character of our cities and to secure the amenities of life of those who live and work in them.
Typical of Buchanan's approach is a sentence in paragraph 96 of the Report:It does not seem to be far from the truth that the freedom with which a person can walk about and look around is a very useful guide to the civilised quality of an urban area".His theme is that that freedom is now menaced, and the nation must now decide whether it is prepared to take steps to preserve it. Buchanan does not, as the Minister says, set out any simple solution, but he proves with irrefutable logic that the dilemma is an inescapable one that cannot be dodged and must be faced.
A staggering number of new cars will be coming on to the roads during the coming years. No one wants to stop this or, indeed, could do so if he wanted to. To do so would gravely damage our economy of which the motor industry is the largest element. Buchanan produces convincing evidence that if we do nothing more than is contemplated 49 by our present town planning practice, it will not be long before the essential traffic in our cities will be unable to flow and the lives of their inhabitants will become increasingly unpleasant.
But to the extent that we act along the lines that he proposes, all this can be avoided. We have to act with determination and speed. Unfortunately, there is little ground for believing that. in spite of the Minister of Transport's speech this afternoon and the general blessing which he gave to the Buchanan proposals on an earlier occasion, the Government are prepared to act with the determination and speed that is necessary.
We fear—I think with good reason—that the Government will let expressions of good will and good intentions be a substitute for action. We know the Government's bad record for dilatoriness in these matters. For example, the long delay before they launched their road building programme and their delay, extending over 10 years, before agreeing to the Walthamstow-Victoria Underground. My anxiety, was increased by the terms in which the Minister of Transport declared his attitude to the Buchanan Report in the House on 27th November. He concluded his statement of general approval by quoting a sentence from that Report, which is true, but which, standing by itself, implied there was no hurry.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted this sentence:It is"—that is, the increasing car ownership—…a social situation requiring to be dealt with by policies patiently applied over a period and revised from time to time in the light of events."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1963; Vol. 684, c. 283.]I would have been more sanguine about the Government's approach if the right hon. Gentleman had emphasised the sense of urgency which underlies the whole Report. It would have been more encouraging if he had quoted paragraph 67.
§ Mr. Marples
That is not quite fair. We did recognise the urgency inasmuch as before the Report was published I insisted on having a comprehensive transport survey of the new type for Greater London.
§ Mr. Strauss
I am not talking about what the Government recognise. I am concerned with what they are doing and it is on that point that I want to speak in a moment.
§ Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)
Does this not come ill from the Opposition when, in their last year of office, expenditure on roads was £7 million? Next year it will be £130 million, which is many times more.
§ Mr. Strauss
The hon. Member's contributions to the debate are usually more intelligent titan that. He cannot really believe that it was possible for a Government, in the few years following the war, to embark on a huge road building programme.
I would have been happier if the Minister hail quoted some of the other paragraphs of the Buchanan Report. I shall not wary the House with them, but I would mention paragraph 67, in particular, where Professor Buchanan talks about the urgency of doing things today and not waiting until tomorrow.
I find most alarming the Government's rejection of the one emphatic recommendation in the Report—the one step without which the Crowther Committee says no progress can be made. That recommendation is made in paragraph 52 in terms which could not be clearer or stronger. It is this:The only counsel on which we would insist is that, if the task is to be done at all and our cities an. to be saved from strangulation, a new executive agency of some sort will have to be created. We are convinced that it cannot be done by any existing agency or by any joint body formed from existing agencies.The Minister has told us that we must wait and see whether the local authorities can do the job. I wonder for how long? Presumably a fair trial would be at least five years. The next five years are the key to the whole operation. Unless effective; planning action is taken long before then, it will be too late. I find it difficult to understand why the Government have rejected the proposal to set up some form of new authority armed with the necessary powers to do the work. Is the Minister not aware of the interminable delays, spreading over many years, that characterise the present development plan procedure? The task of the proposed new organisations, 51 called by Sir Geoffrey Crowther's road development agencies, would not deprive the local authorities of their planning activities—
§ Mr. Strauss
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman.
The work of these regional development agencies would not deprive the local authorities of their present planning activities; but it would "oversee" them—that is Sir Geoffrey Crowther's word—co-ordinate them where more than one is concerned and co-operate with them to ensure that they are on a comprehensive enough scale; and then where necessary, but only where necessary, execute the work envisaged in the plans. I do not think that the Minister can have read the Report. He expresses doubts. I am telling him what is contained in the Report.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir Keith Joseph)
The right hon. Gentleman will also remember that Sir Geoffrey's Report refers to their acting like gigantic property or development companies. That is an active rôle that they would have to fill.
§ Mr. Strauss
Knowing that, I wonder why the right hon. Gentleman indicated doubt when I stated what was in the Report, that it is proposed that these bodies should execute plans.
The need for such new agencies is surely obvious at least in the conurbations involving many local authorities, some of them small ones. Such authorities are neither capable of planning over a wide area nor executing such plans. Adjusting area boundaries by the Minister, as the alternative suggests, is always a highly controversial and long-drawn-out process, as we know by experience. It offers no solution if quick action is required. Nor would setting up ad hoc bodies drawn from the authorities concerned. Such bodies could never have the strength required for such a difficult task.
The only solution is the setting up of expert regional bodies acting locally under the aegis of the Government. Through them the finance of the development plans 52 would be channelled. They would have the resources to employ the large and varied staffs needed for the job, the "wide spectrum of professional talents", in Sir Geoffrey Crowther's words. If the work is to be done, it can be done only in this way and it is regrettable and incomprehensible that the Government have decided to postpone indefinitely a decision on this cardinal point.
All important is the question whether the nation can afford the replanning of our cities on Buchanan lines. Obviously, it would be no good attempting to do so if that proved to be beyond our resources. The fear of the financial burden involved may well inhibit the public, local authorities and the Government from embarking on this task in the enthusiastic spirit necessary for its achievement. The authors of the Report do not hide the question of the cost involved. Indeed, they emphasise it over and over again. What we have to consider is the alternative. Would the social cost, reckoned in terms of traffic delays, damage to industrial efficiency and deterioration in the quality of life. be far greater? There is little doubt that it would.
There are two aspects of the cost problem which should be considered. One is that the coming huge increase in the number of cars, which is the basis of the whole exercise, will also provide a huge increase in tax revenue. If the number of cars on the road is to double in 10 years, so will the tax revenue which they generate. During the next six years alone, this will rise from £770 million to £1,100 million and there will be an even greater rise in the following six years. Even after taking into account the cost of the proposed road building programme as a whole, there will be many hundreds of millions of pounds over, a sum fully capable of founding a loan, if necessary, which would cover a large part, if not all, the capital requirements called for by the implementation of the Report.
Moreover, as the Buchanan Report points out, a nation prepared to spend £900 million a year on new vehicles must be prepared to spend whatever is necessary to enable those vehicles to use the roads, and to do so without inflicting intolerable damage on society. A further point to be borne in mind is that the physical work and cost of rebuilding 53 cities along the lines suggested would be spread over probably a quarter if not a half of a century. Comparatively little will have to be done in the first few years and it is ridiculous to make an arithmetical calculation, as some people have done, of the cost of fully implementing the proposals for all our towns and cities. In many of them, because of the cost and in others because it is already too late, that will be impossible and only a limited application of the proposals will be possible. Let us remember, too, that the redevelopment of the central areas of many of our towns will happen, and is happening, anyway. The long-term spread of the cost burden applies equally to the burden on our construction industries.
There is the question whether there are sufficient highly trained experts, especially town planners and traffic engineers, in the country capable of applying the Buchanan principles on the scale required. I very much doubt it and I believe that the Minister doubts it, too. 'The Government should envisage the establishment of new university courses for traffic engineering—there are only two at present—and one way or another spread the teaching of town planning and traffic engineering and encourage more first-class people to undertake this work. The Government should seek the help of American experts, for in America such work has been far more developed than here. They have done that already to some extent, but they should do much more.
The Government might also consider establishing a branch of the Ministry of Transport, consisting of town planning and traffic engineering experts, to act as a pool of advisers to the regional development agencies, or whatever bodies are set up to do the ground work planning. Trained personnel must also be recruited from our own or American sources to do the preliminary traffic surveys, such as is now being done in London, which are essential if the new development plans are to be scientifically based and not mere hunches. Such transportation studies are, in Professor Buchanan's words,The really striking feature of American town planning today.We have not been told whether the Government have given any thought to another important aspect of the Report. 54 This is the alteration of the present road grant system. At present, this is based on the principle that central funds should be wed primarily for the benefit of through traffic, but, as Professor Buchanan points out, the major problem in towns is that of terminating traffic. It is surely wrong to tie grants to the highway works and such minimum redevelopment outside the highway boundary as may be necessary. If road works in future are to be considered part of a comprehensive redevelopment scheme, they should be financed from central funds, not on a separate basis, but as an integral part of such schemes.
Do the Government propose taking any action on the comments in both Reports on the practice of many local authorities, including the L.C.C., of insisting that all large new buildings must contain a specified amount of parking space? Many of us have long regarded this as of doubtful wisdom, believing that the right thing is to confine parking to places which interfere least with traffic flow.
Do the Government propose taking early action on an even more important matter—the redevelopment of individual sites in city centres, which, under present legislation, when there is no change of user, local authorities are unable to prevent? Comprehensive development schemes, when finalised, might require the pulling down of such buildings for highway or other reasons. That would be not only a monstrous waste of money, but a monstrous waste of the resources of our construction industries. A change in the law to atop this happening all over the country is urgently needed, and there should be, too, the ruthless prohibition of all new office buildings in city centres.
Professor Buchanan shows that even if city roads are redesigned to take the maximum traffic flow, still nothing like the number of cars which would want to go into the towns would be able to do so. It follows that some form of positive restriction is inevitable. This has been generally accepted, as the Minister has said, even by many motorists. The question is what sort of restriction it is to be, By frustration?
That, surely, cannot be tolerated in a rational society. Is there merely to be a severe limitation of parking facilities with high parking charges, or must there 55 be some form of prohibition by the heavy taxation of cars which enter congested areas? There has been a great deal of talk about this matter in recent months and we ought to have some indication of the Government's thinking on it.
Perhaps the Government do not want to commit themselves for fear of an unpopular reaction prior to the General Election. That is no reason why the Minister of Transport should not publish the report on this matter by the experts who worked under the auspices of the Road Research Laboratory. The public should know what the case is for imposing a mileage tax by some mechanical means on cars entering congested areas of cities and should be allowed to judge how practical such a scheme would be and what would be its advantages and disadvantages. Why are we being kept in the dark about it? Why does not the Minister even give his reasons for not publishing this important study, as I have asked him to do on many occasions at Question Time?
Then there is the question of the rôle which public transport can make in reducing congestion. The Minister spoke about this, but only in general terms. In paragraph 457, Professor Buchanan says:In the long run the most potent factor in maintaining a 'ceiling' on private car traffic in busy areas is likely to be the provision of good, cheap public transport, coupled with the public's understanding of the position.That is a view which has long been advocated from this side of the House, but regarded sceptically, or at best with reluctant approval, by the Government.
The Government's attitude has been that the prime consideration in public transport is that it should pay its way. It was with that purpose in mind that Dr. Beeching was asked to submit his Report. It is for that reason that the Government have always rejected our concept of transport as a public service, to be run with the object of securing the maximum return, reckoned on the basis of social benefit, taking all relevant factors into account. Clearly, it is in this spirit that public transport will have to be run in future if our city thoroughfares are not to be completely clogged up.
The Government have accepted that principle, after 10 years of delay, in the Victoria to Walthamstow Underground 56 line, whose construction they have at last authorised. They have accepted the view that in its relief of road congestion the building of such a line, in spite of the heavy financial losses it will incur, is justified. But there are other underground schemes tucked away in the Ministry of Transport's pigeon holes which might make at least as large a contribution to solving London's Transport problem. There is the proposal for an underground in South-East London which would do very much to relieve the appalling and growing traffic delays in that area. Public opinion and local authorities have been pressing for this for years. I suggest that the Government should look at this proposal again and consider whether it is now desirable to accept it in the light of the general principles set out in Professor Buchanan's Report.
There is another line of approach which I think the Government might well consider—to what extent it might be possible to persuade car owners not to bring their cars to work in cities. If that could be done it would be better than restriction by regulation. But several things would first be necessary. First, it would be necessary to devise means of making public transport more attractive, more comfortable, more reliable, and cover more routes. Secondly, it would be necessary to establish on the periphery of large towns car parks at convenient places which would be served by public transport. Lastly, and possibly most important, it would be necessary to get the willing co-operation of car owners, and here I suggest that the motoring associations could play an important part, and that they should be invited and encouraged to do so.
There are signs nowadays that the motoring organisations are taking a less restricted and narrow view of their responsibilities, and a more public-spirited one. We all welcome that change. Their influence over the attitude of mind of their members is considerable. It might be worth while inviting their representatives to sit on local bodies set up by the Government and local authorities, together with local transport agencies, to consider what steps could usefully be taken to get the voluntary co-operation of car owners.
57 There are several essential requirements for tackling the problem of traffic in our cities along the lines about which we have been talking. One is the publication by the Government of a national plan for the location of industry. Only then will the regional planners know to what ex tent they must make arrangements for new industries in their area, and provide homes for the coming increase in population. Incidentally, it is fortunate that the principles in the Buchanan Report are particularly applicable to the North of England, for it is there that so many towns and conurbations are ripe for large scale redevelopment, and it is there that we are particularly anxious to make life more attractive and congenial.
Underestimating the growth of traffic has been a consistent fault of road planning for a long time. It is almost incredible, but true, that modern traffic arteries, built through green fields even during the last 10 years, have been constructed by the Ministry of Transport as single roads with three lanes of traffic. Already, some of them are being converted at considerable cost into double roads.
Then there is the need, which should not need emphasising, that town development plans should synthesise all the transport facilities in the area, and synthesise them with the amenity requirements of the town's inhabitants. The point deserves mention as at present that is not being done. Professor Buchanan comments that plans aboundwhich, if executed, would be fatally damaging to local environments.He adds:There has been virtually no consideration of the problems of transport as a whole—railways, for example, have been consistently regarded as undertakings quite removed from the sphere of statutory town planning.That presents a frightening picture.
An inescapable conclusion of all this is that existing development plans should be immediately revised, and many of them completely scrapped. The loss of time involved will be well worth while, for the plans that are made today will determine the conditions of our towns for a century.
Finally, all concerned with planning must be made to feel confident that the Government mean business. They must 58 feel confident that resources will be made available to carry out proposals which are designed on the right lines, and which are practical, however comprehensive they may be. The best way in which the Government of the day can show that they mean business is to set up immediately the necessary planning machinery and provide it with the necessary power. This is the one thing the Government refuse to do. Those new powers must envisage public ownership of land and property on a scale that has never been contemplated by the present Government.
We now have in our possession blueprints which, when translated into reality, will avoid the frightening prospect of our cities being swamped by the coming tremendous increase in car ownership. A condition of success is the support—the ardent and sustained support—of public opinion, and that will depend on the vision and leadership of those in public life who influence that opinion. It will depend, in particular, on Parliament and on the Government of the day to give that leadership so that for generations to come our people may dwell in cities where traffic moves and civilised life survives.
§ 4.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon Wingfield Digby (Dorset, West)
Until the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) worked round to public ownership, I agreed with a great deal of what he said and the close way in which he followed the interesting Buchanan Report. In particular, the right hon. Gentleman was right in saying that it was important to carry public opinion with us in anything that we do.
The right hon. Gentleman also spoke about the importance of making public transport more attractive. That is something about which a lot of us care, and those who have occasion to use it quite a lot wonder whether it has not ceased to be as attractive as it used to be, and I hope that some effort will be made to improve the present standard.
By the same token it is a little disappointing that Dr. Beeching always seems to place his emphasis on freight traffic, rather than on passenger traffic. I think that he ought to direct his attention—although he has much on his plate—back to the latter aspect.
59 We are discussing a problem which hon. Members are accustomed to observing and discussing with their constituents and others. My experience of it is in the West Country, in London, and on the outskirts of Birmingham. We all have definite ideas on the subject, and I think that we are, therefore, in a special position to make a contribution to this debate.
This House does not have a very clean record in its dealings with the problems of motor traffic. It began by passing a series of Acts, known as the red flag Acts, which were designed to bolster up the railways and which did much to retard the early stages of motor transport. I hope that we shall make a better showing today, not only in understanding the problems of the present but in trying to look to those of the future.
As the Report points out, in our present position we are undoubtedly suffering severe penalties. We are told that the cost of traffic congestion is now £275 million a year. In this connection, we have to think in terms of wasted time, and the impatience of the public. I believe that impatience is one of the chief causes of traffic accidents. Then there is the point that we are particularly concerned with today, namely, the frustration of town and country planning. So many of its assumptions can be upset by traffic chaos.
But the real importance of this Report lies not in its original ideas or conclusions, but in the fact that, at last, it enables us squarely to face the broad issues—and they are very challenging ones. Some of the suggested solutions are quite orthodox, such as pedestrian precincts. Many hon. Members have seen what is being done abroad in this respect. Most of the other ideas in the Report are not new. However, I hope that as a result of this debate we shall now be determined to face these problems. But they will be insoluble unless we sort out our priorities. It is for Parliament and the Government to get clearly in their heads what the priorities are to be. I thought that my right hon. Friend rode off a little on this point when he said that the question of priorities would be a matter to be decided by each locality—and not necessarily each local authority.
60 This House must give a lead on some of these questions. We are more preoccupied than other countries with the question of road accidents. Is the prevention of such 'accidents to be a top priority, or will one of the top priorities be amenity, or utility? Anyone who visits the United States now is very struck by the utility of the arrangements. In transport matters a person seems to be able to find what he wants where he wants it. Indeed, this process has been carried to an extreme. I suggest that the other extreme is to pay too much attention to the question of amenity.
The Report seems to lean towards the problems of pedestrians and the question of amenity. It advocates the placing of certain restrictions upon vehicles, although this view is partially corrdcted by the steering committee, which points out that in a car-owning democracy—as this country has become—there is a limit to what will be accepted by the public. The point made by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall is relevant here. He said that it is very important that we should carry the public with us in our transport provisions. I would certainly regard restrictions as, at the best, a necessary evil. As far as I know, they have not been applied in other countries, and I hope that we shall not be the first country to introduce them.
Ever since the war many people have been against the conception of what is called pleasure motoring. I do not regard all private motoring as being necessarily pleasure motoring, and as something wicked. I believe that it is a proper ambition for every family in this land to own its private motor car.
§ Mr. Digby
I can think of few things which have brought more pleasure and independence to people like my constituents, who live in rural areas, than the possession of a private motor car. It has given them a mobility in life that they have sadly lacked in the past.
To many a family its motor car is its pride and joy. That is why I say that it is important for every citizen to have the right to own a private motor car, and, secondly, for every possible opportunity to be given him for its 61 legitimate use. I do not regard commuting on a large scale as a legitimate use, but outside that it is important that the motor car driver should have every Opportunity of using his car as he wishes.
The Report expresses the idea that there is something very unsightly in private motor cars being parked in front of buildings. I do not entirely agree. On one occasion I saw a number of cars, taking part in a car rally, parked in front of a very attractive country house, and it did not seem to me that they detracted from the appearance of that house any more than would have a lot of old-fashioned carriages in front of the house 100 years ago.
§ Mr. Digby
As a matter of fact, it was mine.
Restrictions are retrograde, but it is clear to anyone who reads the Report that some must be accepted—and we may have to accept some fairly soon. But that is no excuse for not doing what we can to try to reduce the flow of traffic into the old city centres by other means. A lot can be done. Only the other day I read of an insurance company which had moved its headquarters to Horsham. I admit that it is difficult to hive off many of the activities that we associate with city centres such as London, but this should be possible in the smaller cities.
The planners should be thinking of this in the smaller towns. We must prevent this continuing concentration in the old areas. When there is a development on the periphery of a city I would like to see greater efforts made to spread the building and to create more new shopping centres, centring the new communities round them rather than always looking inwards, towards the original town centre and thereby increasing traffic problems.
It was very ambitious of the Buchanan Committee to consider the redevelopment of the Oxford Street area. The figures it produced are rather appalling. I wonder whether it would be practical politics completely to pull down and replan such a large area. The cost would be tremendous, as would the dislocation of traffic. I 62 am not sure that we shall not have to content ourselves with something rather less ambitious—perhaps making certain streets pedestrian precincts, as has been done in Lima, Peru. There, the main street is closed to traffic during daylight hours We must be prepared to compromise in these matters. The planners mast become much more car conscious. I am glad to hear that my right hon. Friend is to send them a definite instruction to consider the implications of the motor car rather more than they have done in the past.
The problem of traffic flow in and out of cities is a very special one. Hon. Members who have been to Brazilia, the new capital of Brazil, will know that the planners there have evolved a traffic system which, although taking a driver a longer way round, ensures that there is no delay in arriving at any point in that town. It may be said that this is only possible because there is so much room there, but I think that we can learn some lessons from it, especially when we develop a new area on the periphery of an existing town or city.
In America, this problem of getting in and out of cities is greater than in this country. But the Americans have succeeded in solving it to a large extent, perhaps by rather ruthless methods. They have refrained from building roundabout; and other things which impede the flow of traffic. In some photographs, of American freeways one can see more flyovers than probably exist in whole of this country at present.
I cannot accept the idea that flyovers have to be so expensive. I do not think that they should be regarded as things for the distant future. Some hon. Members have had the opportunity of seeing the flyovers at Mannheim, leading over the Rhine. The construction is attractive and comparatively cheap.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I hope that my hon. Friend will address himself to what I consider the real problem, which is extravagance in the amount of space needed for access to flyovers. If we wish to retain big towns and cities, we must bear in mind that these consume hundreds of acres.
§ Mr. Digby
Obviously, my right hon. Friend is got familiar with the case 63 which I quoted, otherwise he would not have made that comment. Mannheim is a city on the edge of the Rhine and there is no space to spare. The Germans have succeeded in solving the problem, and hon. Members will bear me out, so I do not think that there need be fear that some kind of solution cannot be reached.
Stockholm is another city where this question of getting in and out has been solved. The presence of lakes round the city creates a special problem, but by taking bold and imaginative steps the authorities have gone a long way to deal with it. I believe that by exercising imagination these problems can be solved. But it will be done only by planning on a large scale and not piecemeal. I hope that that is one of the results which will flow from this Report.
The Buchanan Report points out the need to redevelop a city centre in large syndicates and that planners will have to consider larger units when giving future planning permission. This is an excellent Report and I join in the congratulations to the Stationery Office on producing it in such a readable form. I believe that a lot of thinking about these problems will still have to be done. I hope that the Government will try to bring home to local planners the importance of transport problems and the need to think ahead, particularly in areas where expansion is taking place, so that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Finally, there is the question of money. Little has been said about that in the debate so far, but, clearly, we shall need more money. We are told that it may be self-generating to a large extent, but I do not know how far any Chancellor of the Exchequer could be convinced about that. The great thing is to avoid making the same mistakes as we made in the past. The extent to which we shall be able to rebuild, tear out and redevelop the centres of our cities is limited. We should be devoting a lot of attention to trying to move activities from existing city centres, which would make such expensive redevelopment unnecessary.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Philip Noel-Baker (Derby, South)
I follow the hon. Member for 64 Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) in that I join with him and others in congratulating the authors of the Report, and I join in the exhortation of the hon. Member that we should not repeat the manifold errors of the past. Today we are debating the social evils which motor vehicles have caused; the inevitable increase of those evils, whatever we do, over the next ten years; and the measures which can be taken to mitigate those evils. The Buchanan Report has brought us face to face with the real nature of these evils and of the terrible momentum of their growth. It is stated in the Crowther Report:Regarded in its collective aspect as the traffic problem, the motor car is clearly a menace that can spoil our civilisation.People who have travelled much in the United States, as I have, have been saying that for years. Let me start with what these evils mean in my constituency. Derby is an ancient town with large modern factories and works. As in other towns, there is traffic congestion at some points at most times during the day. In the centre of the town and at almost every major road junction there is congestion from half-past seven until nine o'clock in the morning and from half-past four until six o'clock at night. Citizens of Derby suffer frustration, as drivers or passengers in motor vehicles. The Derby Corporation suffers losses from the waste of petrol, wear and tear of tyres and loss of drivers' time. This has to be reflected in the fares charged on public vehicles and helps to put the accounts of the undertaking in the red.
But Derby has also special traffic problems. The East Midland coal used to be conveyed by rail. But now, very largely, it goes by road, and is carried in ten-ton lorries which travel at high speeds through Derby scattering coal and emitting diesel oil fumes. In December 1961, the average number of such vehicles passing through the town every working hour from Monday morning until Friday evening was 171. A little later that figure rose to 180. In the middle of last year there were 240 vehicles an hour—four a minute. Let hon. Members try to imagine what that is like. The Reports of the Buchanan and Crowther Committees talk about the scourge of noise. In some Derby streets it is extreme.
65 The Buchanan Report says that diesel fumes render urban streets extremely unpleasant and no street that carries traffic is free from this pollution. Even drivers and passengers in motor vehicles breathe the polluted air. In some parts, where the motor lorries have to go uphill, the fumes are greater and there is a heavy incidence of bronchial trouble. People think that the fumes from these lorries are partly to blame. The latest report states that the number of coal lorries per hour has fallen slightly, owing to the policy of the Government of switching power stations from coal to oil consumption, a policy which, on general grounds, I greatly deplore. But to compensate for the reduction in the number of coal lorries, there has been a great increase in the number of other heavy vehicles, especially those carrying steel, from the North to the West Midlands.
The number of abnormal loads carried through the borough has greatly increased. In 1962 there were 1,915 such loads. In 1963 there were 2,517, an increase of 602. Most of these loads cause extra congestion. In many cases a special police escort is needed, which causes policemen to be diverted from other duties and upsets the traffic. Every working day eight or more abnormal loads pass through Derby. In 1963 there were two more per day than in the previous year.
The number of deaths and injuries in road accidents in Derby declined in 1963, and I think that this was due to the strenuous efforts of the able chief constable and his colleagues. In 1962 there were 34 deaths and 888 people were injured. That is a total which reaches nearly 1,000. In 1963 17 people were killed and 688 were injured. But in his report the chief constable pointed out that there was an element of good fortune in that reduction. There was an actual increase of 201 accidents compared with 1962, and he said that it is largely luck if nobody is hurt in an accident. There are about 130,000 inhabitants in the county borough of Derby. A total number of 1,673 accidents is a staggering figure. If we assume that only two persons were involved per accident, something like one in every 38 were participants in a mishap which was reported to the police.
66 The increase in the number of motor vehicles, as every one recognises, will inevitably go on. For my part, I want it to do so. I want more people to own cars. But do we want the coach and lorry numbers to increase as they have been doing in such a devastating way since 1952? The Buchanan Report, and in some paces the Crowther Report, seems to assume that that is inevitable, if not desirable. In a recent article in the Observer, Professor Buchanan said:The motor vehicle for commercial purposes has already amply demonstrated its superiority over all other forms of transport…Whatever may be thought out for the railways, there will be no diminution of its industrial attractiveness.I utterly deny that proposition.
Let me go back to the problem of the coal lorries which harass Derby. A few months age, with my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Derby, North (Mr. MacDermot), I went down a coal mine near the borough. We were passed as we drove to the pithead by coal lorries streaming to the town. When we arrived at the pithead we found miles of railway sidings and hundreds of railway wagons rusting and rotting away. Almost all the points to which the lorries were going had rail connections. There was no need whatever fo[...] speedy delivery. So long as the coal arrives regularly when it is needed, the length of the journey matters not at all. The loading and unloading by rail can be at least as economical.
I inquired of a great publicly-owned coal-using undertaking what saving it was making by using the road. The answer was £50,000 in a year, a trifling sum in comparison with its turnover of many millions, not equal to a fraction of ld. per unit on the cost of the commodity it sells. I wondered how much of this tiny saving was due to the road hauliers paying drivers by the number of journeys they do—an utterly pernicious system, as every impartial person has agreed. I wondered if it equalled the annual loss, direct and indirect, which the citizens of Derby suffer from this heavy lorry traffic through the town.
Last year, if I am rightly informed, 40 million [...]ons of coal went by road, delivered from the pit. That is another staggering figure of which I believe most people are quite unaware. I am convinced that in the national interest every 67 ton of it should have gone by rail. If it had done so the nation would have made a vast economy in the real cost of the transport it had to pay.
Speaking of passenger urban transport, the Crowther Committee says thatthe case for expanded public transport…is provedand that this public transport can makea large contribution towards solving the problemwe are discussing. It hints at the unseen savings there would be, but neither it nor—more astonishingly—the Beeching Report made the slightest attempt to quantify the unseen costs which road transport involve. Beeching mentioned them but dismissed them as unimportant to his case. Yet the figures of the losses are very great. During the war, in 1943, I started the first estimate of the cost to the nation of road accidents. Two independent teams of experts calculated that it was then as large as £60 million to £70 million a year.
In July of 1962, the Minister gave in this House at Question Time the figure of £160 million, but the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, applying the methods used in 1943, made the figure for last year £230 million. Whether it is £160 million or £230 million, what does it matter? It is an immense figure, and it is growing every year.
Last year the Institute of Civil Engineers estimated that the cost of traffic congestion in 1963 was £630 million a year, and it suggested that it would grow to astronomical figures within a short period of years.
The heavy lorry traffic adds very greatly to the cost of road maintenance. The Minister received a letter from the County Councils Association urging that all possible traffic should be diverted from road to rail because of the heavy costs of road maintenance which heavy lorries involve. As the Minister contracts the railway system, his proposals for new road construction rise so fast that I can never keep track of them, Am I wrong, however, in suggesting that his latest figures run into thousands of millions of pounds over a short period of years? All this adds up to an argument that the nation pays an immense unseen 68 cost for the increase of road transport and, in particular, for the increase of heavy vehicles and abnormal loads. It surely suggests that instead of closing down two-fifths of our railway routes, instead of allowing the waterways to decay and die, there should be a very strenuous effort to improve the facilities by rail and water so that all possible traffics should be diverted from the roads.
Let me deal first with waterways and canals. There was a new report to the Minister published in January this year which mentions a canal 63 miles long which can take craft up to 250 tons and which carries 3 million tons of coal a year. The authors deplore that this coal traffic is declining; no doubt it's going on the roads. The Report mentions various earlier studies of the waterways, but it makes no mention of a plan prepared after four years of careful work by the Central Canal Committee of the Ministry of War Transport, over which I had the great privilege of presiding during the war. When I asked for a copy of this Report last November, the Ministry could not find it. Now, three months later, I have still not had it. That shows the kind of interest the Minister is taking in water transport.
The Report was written by General Mance, one of the greatest transport experts of our time. It was endorsed by every leading figure in the water transport world. It said that our waterways were potentially a most valuable asset. For an investment of a few tens of millions of pounds—I forget whether it was £20 million or £40 million, but that does not matter—the Trent Navigation could be extended to Birmingham, with locks which would allow loads of 500 tons towed by 70 horse-power engines to go right up to the Birmingham conurbation. It said that that navigation could be linked around Birmingham to the Severn and the Thames and the Port of Liverpool as well. They foresaw a great expansion of water transport, with very economical freight charges indeed. Faced by the Buchanan Report, I hope that the Minister will exhume this document and make a bold constructive effort to carry its proposals through.
I turn to the railways. I believe that the contribution which they could make 69 to the solution of Buchanan's problem is very great. I believe that they could greatly diminish the coach and the lorry traffic in our cities and our towns. It is an illusion to think that people like to travel by coach. An amazing fact is that, in spite of all that the Government have done to the railways, cutting off services and raising fares, the number of railway passengers has increased since 1952 and the passenger mileage has not fallen. People like trains. They like them because they give one restaurants, lavatories and bedrooms, because one can read or write or work or doze, because one arrives rested at one's destination and not exhausted as one does by road.
The Government tell us that by 1970 the average income of the British citizen will be £1,000 a year and that in twenty years the standard of living will double. If so, there will be far more personal travel. There are still millions of our fellow citizens in this country who never leave their homes, even for holidays. In ten years from now there will be none. With automation, increasing leisure and increasing holidays as the one quite certain fact of our economic future, what myopic madness it is to cut off the railways from the holiday centres and the seaside towns.
Our population is increasing. I do not believe that it will increase to 74 million by 2,000 A.D., as Buchanan suggests, but he says, in any case, that for a considerable period ahead—
§ Sir K. Joseph
The right hon. Member is being very temerarious. Every estimate so far has been on the low side.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am aware of that. I am well aware of the birth explosion which there has been since the end of the war. But we are all entitled to our opinions. I personally doubt whether it will continue so far as A.D. 2000, and I believe that a larger number of people will migrate to countries overseas. But, in any case, the population is increasing, and if the Minister thinks that it will reach 74 million by A.D. 2000 that only strengthens the argument which I am about to use. If it does increase, we shall need, as Buchanan tells us, 40 new cites as large as Bristol to house 70 the people. What madness to close branch lines in areas where the new towns and cities may have to be.
I believe that the railways may make an immense contribution to the problems of passenger traffic in the coming years. They can do so even more in freight. If our G.N.P. is doubled, there will be 500 million to 600 million more tons of goods to be transported every year. Is that all to be carried on the roads? If the Minister contracts our railway system, most the roads carry some of the present railway traffic as well? If he would do what other countries have done; if le would electrify the lines which have the suitable density of traffic; if he would modernise the system of freight and parcel loading, as the Japanese have done; if he would multiply double-purpose vehicles, which can travel both on road and on rail and which give a door-to-door service, with the same flexibility as road transport but which do tie major part of their journey on the railways; if he would greatly hasten the braking and the modernisation of the freight waggons, I believe that the railways could cope with the great increase of goods which we shall have, and could do so at competitive charges.
Last year I visited Japan. I had a long talk with the chairman of the Japanese National Railway Board. He had the charmingly onomatopæic name of Sogo. I was told that when Mr. Sogo was appointed to his present office he said, "I am a very happy man. I hope that when I die I shall have a railway sleeper for my pillow". I do not believe that that was Dr. Beeching's first observation when he was offered his job.
Mr. Sogo has not been closing lines and stations. He has added 3,000 route kilometres to the Japanese National Railways since 1945. He is building a completely new double track line from Tokyo to Osaka which will carry passenger trains during the day, at 125 m.p.h., and freight trains at night which will cover the 370 miles in 5½ hours. He has electrified thousands of kilometres—it will soon be 40 per cent.—of the route mileage. He has welded rails up to a length of one mile and more and has improved the track and rolling stock in many ways. His traffic has not gone down. The freight was 91 million tons in 1946 and 206 million in 1961—more 71 than doubled in fifteen years. In the same period the passenger kilometres rose from 55,000 million to 70,000 million. He has found that the operating cost on lines where there is enough traffic to justify electrification are only two-thirds of the operating costs of diesel traction—an enormous saving.
The head of the Soviet Union railways told me the same a few years ago; next year he will have electrified between 40 and 45 per cent. of his whole railway system. The head of the German railways told some of us in Committee upstairs the other day that he is electrifying up to 40 per cent. and has already electrified thousands of miles; and his operating costs are less than two-thirds of the cost of diesel traction. His traffics are expanding. Like Mr. Sogo's, his railways since 1961 have earned a surplus.
The French railways have had large-scale electrification and are carrying it further. They have found it a great economy. Their traffics have increased—the only useful comparison is with 1938—from 22,000 million passenger kilometres in 1938 to 32,000 million in 1960.
§ Mr. Webster
On a point of Order. Are not the problems of the Japanese railways a little beyond those which we are discussing today?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir William Anstruther-Gray)
I do not think so. If the hon. Member reads the Motion, I think that he will agree that the right hon. Member is in order.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I am obliged, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am only trying to suggest that what has been done in other countries as different as Japan, Russia, Germany and France can be done here. We can do it with very great advantage to our cities and our towns and to the great benefit of those who use our public transport systems.
The French railways have had a great increase in passenger and freight traffic and this is still going on.
Faced with this kind of railway progress in many countries, one of the great town planners of our time, Mr. Lewis Mumford, of the United States, said a year or two ago: 72I find it curious that England should be repeating all the mistakes we have made here, including the destruction of the railroad system by your public authorities at a time when the improvement and spread of rail transit is the desideratum of both saving our cities and preventing the spoliation of the countryside by reckless highway building.I have spoken primarily of the contribution which, in the long term, our railways, if properly expanded, and our waterways, if revived and modernised, could make to solving urban traffic problems.
Hon. Members may think that they understand why I have spoken thus when I tell them that, in Derby, South, 14,365 men and women work for British Railways. But I should have spoken just as I now have done, whatever my constituency had chanced to be. It is the vital interest of every British citizen in town or country that our railways and waterways should be saved, and should be given the new prosperity that could and should be theirs.
§ 5.30 p.m.
§ Sir Robert Cary (Manchester, Withington)
I am glad that the right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) devoted part of his speech to the problems surrounding the City of Derby, which he is privileged to represent. I know that city well. It is typical of the medium-sized provincial capital that must be completely recreated. Perhaps the greatest social need, not only in the years since the war but, perhaps, for the past thirty or forty years, has been the rebuilding of our provincial cities.
This Report sparks off a sense of urgency, a compelling sense of the need to provide even for the immediate years ahead by means of the regional development agencies, devoted to one task, which we discussed here on 4th December last, and which are indicated in the steering group's Report. These are necessary if this problem, which intensifies in all our cities almost every year, is to he solved, and this, as my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has said, requires the will, the purpose and the intention of each and everyone of our citizens.
I believe that the most important sentence in what we are today considering is to be found in these words in 73 the Report of Sir Geoffrey Crowther's steering group:…it is possible that a vigorous programme of modernising our cities, conceived as a whole and carried on in the public eye, would touch a chord of pride in the British people and help to give them that economic and spiritual lift of which they stand in need.I do not think that this task will be accomplished between now and the end of the century, except by a great, sweeping comprehensive planning of our resources. That is the challenge that faces this House, and as Government succeeds Government there is a continuity of obligation of intention and moral purpose that no party policy can contradict.
It is in those terms that we must look at these proposals. My hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) referred to the key word "priority", and that was the keyword in our debate on 4th December on regional development plans. Further, the House must remember that we have so far discussed only two of those plans; we await the plans for the North-West, for Wales and for the West Country. It is in terms of the right priorities that we will do this task.
Speaking, for a moment, in parenthesis—this has nothing to do with our present debate—I would point out that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport made an announcement last Thursday about the Channel Tunnel. As soon as he did so, I thought of Merseyside's need to expand the tunnel there. I thought of the time I spent as a member of the Joint Select Committee that considered the Dartford Tunnel—now so grossly inadequate. The Dartford Tunnel was planned in the twenties, the pilot head was constructed in the 'thirties, and today, with the enormous conurbation that has grown up on either side of the Thames, we still have just a two-lane tunnel. The same pilot head that was used to construct the Dartford Tunnel has been sent to the Tyne so that construction can start on the Tyne Tunnel.
Where do the priorities lie? The right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) indicated the immense financial problems inherent in the task that confronts us. Let us get our financial priorities right. Do not let us divert our attention to what has been on the stocks for many 74 decades as a great ideal from the urgent needs of communication indicated in this Report, which is a highly sighted rifle. To do that would be to give a taxpayer's guarantee for the investment of private capital while the requirements of those living on Thames-side. Tyneside and Merseyside would be ignored. I doubt whether any hon. Member would wish to contradict the sentence I have quoted from the steering group's Report, but would like to see it fulfilled. There cannot be an hon. Member who will see it fulfilled. Most of us will see its beginning, but it will be our children and our grandchildren who will see the fulfilment of any such plan. I beg Her Majesty's Government to concentrate on getting the priorities right, and to think of what it really means to capture the vital imagination of our people.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport referred to his traffic surveys. I attended the meeting in Manchester which my right hon. Friend attended, and I was amazed by the alacrity and readiness with which all those local authorities agreed, in the space of a few minutes, to a traffic survey that will take them two years to complete and will cost £250,000. I happen to be chairman of one of the great independent companies which have been invited to participate in the scheme. One does it willingly, but I ask the House not to underestimate the time factor.
The Minister spoke about public service transport. We must produce the right type of road vehicle. One of the big decisions taken by President Kennedy before his tragic death was that nearly £200 million should be spent in the United States on public service transport to bring it back to the pattern of the American traffic flow, and this in spite of what my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West has said about American engineering skills. We must design a completely new public service vehicle which will provide luggage space. Perhaps my right hon. Friend, in collaboration with the operators, would get one or two models made of the sort of vehicle he has in mind
I should like to highlight again some of the points which I and my hon. Friend 75 the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) made in the debate on 4th December about the appointment of regional industrial commissioners who would take command of the proposed new authorities and thread them all together. I am delighted to see that the Buchanan Report advocates, with the regional development agencies, the appointment of a general manager to do exactly what my hon. Friend and I had in mind on that occasion.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will not allow himself to be deterred or be diverted from the completion of his great plan for motorways. Above all, I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government to bear one thought in mind, and that is whether it would be possible to take one town and use it as an illustration of what is meant by a redeveloped and rebuilt city. With the permission of the hon. and learned Member for Crewe (Mr. Scholefield Allen), I should like to cite Crewe. It is perfect—
§ Sir R. Cary
I am sorry I paused there. It is perfect for this purpose. I travel through Crewe very frequently.
§ Sir R. Cary
Yes, I do sometimes. It is a focal point first of all for the great electrification plan from Euston to Crewe and Manchester. Therefore, in terms of rail transport, it will be one of the perfected cities of the future. Secondly, in terms of industrial development, it is a centre for the great motorway from Carlisle to Preston, Birmingham and Crewe and on to the M.1. I suggest that the co-operation of the local authority and the inhabitants of a medium-sized town like Crewe should be obtained so that we may find out what kind of city we shall have in this country at the end of the century.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Ernest Popplewell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)
I shall not follow in the debate all the observations of the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary). At one time in the course of 76 his speech I asked myself, "What in the world is the hon. Gentleman doing on that side of the House?" He preached the very things we on this side have been preaching all the time which hon. and right hon. Members opposite have regularly opposed. We have said that the only way is to deal with transport comprehensively, with full planning of all forms of transport interwoven into a given pattern. If the hon. Member continues to hold these views I shall look forward to his support in the Lobby in future.
I was surprised to hear the intervention of the Minister for Housing and Local Government on the question of flyovers. The right hon. Gentleman is supposed to be in charge of a Ministry to which we look for the future planning of our cities, but the only view he appears to have on transport is on flyovers occupying a great deal of land. Has the right hon. Gentleman never taken note of the tremendous development of flyovers and underpasses in other countries? Is he so insular that he takes no note of them? He will find that in Paris three and four-stage flyovers and underpasses are common.
I am sure that the House was extremely interested in the survey of the Buchanan Report given by the Minister of Transport. The right hon. Gentleman adopted for the first time a rôle which we do not expect from or understand in him. He attempted to maintain a non-controversial attitude in explaining the Buchanan Report. Adroit politician that he is, he was careful to keep quite clear of expressing the Government's line of thought on the Report as a whole. The right hon. Gentleman, of course, supports the Motion which welcomes the Buchanan and Crowther Reports, but the Motion is evasive. It says that it accepts the need for a plan and that…the modernising and reshaping of our towns should proceed within the framework of the main planning concepts embodied in the Reports.This is all very well on paper, but how is the Minister co-ordinating the various reports which he has been receiving on these matters from the numerous committees which he has set up to deal separately with individual aspects but with no co-ordination between them?
77 Herr Wolff Schneider, in his book Babylon is Everywhere, admirably outlines the world-wide nature of traffic problems in major cities when he says:If we hesitate or err we may condemn our grandchildren to life in chaotic city agglomeration; surrounded by unimaginable ugliness, in the midst of unbridled noise and sickening odours".The same sentiments have been expressed more than once in this debate. This is a world-wide problem and there are lessons to be learned from the way other nations are dealing with it. Professor Hall sums it up when he says that:The central planning problem of our age has became the motor vehicle, and our urban reconstruction must be based on that fact.Both Buchanan and Crowther have highlighted this fact. I would have hoped the Government could have given us, as the hon. Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) said, some idea of the priorities to which they would work in dealing with this problem. I agree with Mr. Durie, the vice-chairman of the British Road Federation in his recent speech at the Towns and Cities Conference. As the House knows, I do not usually support the British Road Federation, but Mr. Durie summed up the position very well when he said:It is true to say that as a nation we cannot afford not to undertake the vast redevelopment implied by Buchanan.These observations must be endorsed by all who give serious thought to transport development in this age. We look for much more than mere lip-service to this idea.
In Sir Geoffrey Crowther's steering committee and Professor Buchanan's working group Reports there is an assessment of the problem, and we look to the Government to implement their recommendations. This is a costly matter. The expenditure involved is on a scale which no authority has yet attempted to assess correctly. We are demanding automation and increased productivity. We are seeking an expanded economy and increased leisure. All parties agree about these objectives. In this ca se there cannot be any half-hearted measures in adjusting our transport services and in replanning and redeveloping our cities and towns in order to meet these needs. Failure to do this will have a most serious effect 78 upon the expansion that we desire. I would remind the House that in developing our transport facilities, costly as this may be, we shall not be up against any balance of payments difficulties. We could provide the finance ourselves. We can do this if we have the courage to face this tremendous expense.
If we do not do this, what is the alternative? Let us take the present situation. In December last, so far as can gather, there were about 11,400,000 motor vehicles on our roads, of which 7,400,000 ware private cars. It is expected that by 1970 there will be 17,800,000 motor vehicles on the roads, of which 11,900,000 will be private cars. According to the estimate of the Minister of Transport this afternoon, which is the highest I have yet heard, by the turn of the century there will be about 45 million vehicles on the roads. The nearest estimate that I can get is that by the year 2,000 33,100,000 vehicles will be on the roads, of which 24,300,000 will be private motor cars, and by the year 2,010 there will be 35,400,000 vehicles on the roads. Perhaps that is the figure that the Minister had in mind.
Let us remember that in October of last year one new motor vehicle was being registered every 32 seconds. With this envisaged increase, what do we imagine the future will hold if we do not embark upon a terrific expansion of towns and cities? Buchanan emphasises the need to live with the motor age. He says that the needs of the community must not be entirely subordinated to that of the moor vehicle. We have got to learn to live with it somehow. The size of the problem is revealed in figures which I have been checking through. We are told that about 16,400,000 families live in this country, of whom 7 million families own a motor car—37 per cent. Another 7 per cent. own a motor cycle. In addition, superimposed upon this terrific traffic problem there are 1,500,000 commercial vehicles. In other words, one vehicle in every nine on the roads today is a commercial motor vehicle.
I do not want to follow my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker) on the subject of the railways, but I agree with him when he emphasises the need to convert much of our road haulage traffic to rail. The 79 figures that I have given support his case. We face the problem of urban development; 37.7 per cent. of our population live on 2.7 per cent. of the land in the country. These are concentrated mainly in the seven conurbation areas of Greater London, the West Midlands, South-East Lancashire, Merseyside, South-East Yorkshire, Tyneside and Clydeside. These people operate 37 per cent. of the cars in this country. In other words, 2,500,000 cars are owned by people living on 2.7 per cent. of the land. By 1975 this conurbation population will be running 5,600,000 cars, still on about 2.7 per cent. of the land. Imagine the urban thrombosis that this will create.
If we take a wide picture, half the motor cars in use are running on about 6 per cent., or only 12,000 miles, of the 200,000 road mileage available in the country. This is a similar story to that of the railways—a heavy density of traffic in a small area—and the Government say to Dr. Beeching, "Your remedy is to close the branch lines." Does anyone suggest that roads should be closed likewise? The two things are identical.
Taking the matter a state further, what about traffic flow? According to the latest figures which I have, in 1961 the rate of flow in London was 10.7 m.p.h. In Glasgow it was 8 m.p.h., in Edinburgh 13 m.p.h., in Manchester 7 m.p.h., in Newcastle-upon-Tyne 9 m.p.h. Much of the slowness of traffic movement, of course, is due to the totally inadequate parking space provided. It is absolute nonsense to use our roads, built at very heavy expense, for the parking of vehicles. The object of local authorities in building or widening roads is to facilitate the flow of traffic, but we have been allowing our roads to be blocked by parked vehicles.
The Road Research Laboratory in its investigation of traffic congestion in urban areas estimated that in 1963 the cost of congestion was £275 million. That was the measure of the sheer waste of money in 1963. It had reached that level from £140 million in 1958. Unless there is a greater sense of urgency than was shown by the Minister's speech today, the figure will jump to astronomical proportions within the next decade.
80 Buchanan rightly recommends that there must be planned co-ordination of all transport systems, and he refers particularly to work journeys in the crowded centres of population. He suggests many ways of dealing with this problem. I do not want to take too long, and I shall for the moment concentrate on the parking side of it. I charge the Government with having a totally unrealistic approach to parking needs. It is no use the Minister of Transport telling us that, within a few weeks of the return of the Tory Government in 1959, he appointed a committee which ultimately led to the publication of the Buchanan Report. There were many more years of Tory rule before that. It is fashionable for this Government to forget everything that took place except what happened on the appointment of a particular Minister. The trouble is that Ministers have switched among so many different jobs that one cannot keep pace with them.
The Government's approach to vehicle parking has been ridiculous. It was a bit of cheek for the Minister of Transport today to tell local authorities what they should do to meet traffic needs in their areas. Every local councillor I know acknowledges the headache of dealing with traffic flow and traffic needs. All local authorities know what the remedy is, but not one can provide sufficient cash from its own resources to meet its particular remedy. For the Minister to take them to task and tell them what they ought to do without at the same time saying that he would help them with the cash was really a bit too much.
There is a great deal of talk about business and commercial premises providing their own parking space for customers and staff. This shows how little the Government really appreciate the broad conception of what parking really means. What business and commercial premises can do is only a very minor contribution. In any case, such methods are wasteful of land, of good shopping space and of business accommodation.
I agree with Buchanan when he lays down the principle that, when a motor vehicle stops on the highway, apart from when it stops for loading or unloading, it is the liability of the owner or driver 81 of the vehicle to dispose of it off the highway. That is an admirable principle which should be generally adopted, but how can it be adopted if there is nowhere reasonable to put the vehicles? The motor car has come to stay, it is part of our life, and we must make the necessary provision. As others have said, nobody suggests for a moment that there should be any curtailment of motor vehicle building or development. If we accept this, we must make the necessary provision, and parking presents one of the most urgent problems to be met.
How can we meet it? It is generally accepted that the parking provision must be divided into two categories. First, we need parking space for the commuter or long-term parker, and this should be provided at peripheral points linked with public service transport collecting points. No real effort is yet being made in this respect. There have been minor schemes here and there at some of the London suburban stations. Parking areas have not been deliberately provided; it has just beer a matter of having some space available and using it for car parks. There has been no full-scale development. and, of course, one can quite understand that the public transport services cannot afford to do it because they cannot undertake the expenditure necessary for land.
Multi-storey parks should be provided for the short-term parker within a very short distance of business and shopping areas. This is essential if we are to achieve any segregation of pedestrians and traffic in our towns. If we want to build education precincts and shopping precincts, if we want to develop our urban areas along the lines proposed by some of our most progressive town planners—as, for instance, in Coventry or in Newcastle where we are trying to convert an old industrial city into a fine new city with a modern outlook—we must have adequate parking space provided near the centre so that the motor car can be excluded altogether from certain areas. Let us face it. I think that the motorist is prepared to accept some restrictions—hon. Members on both sides have said this—provided that he is assured of something being done reasonably to meet his needs. In my view, he has a good case.
As far as I can gather, the yield to the Government from motor vehicle taxation 82 in 1958 was £501 million. In 1963, it was £743 million. By 1970, it is expected to be about £1,000 million. I disagree with my friends in the motoring associations who say that money that is provided from taxation on the roads should be ploughed back to provide better roads, and so on. I cannot subscribe to the view that a given tax should be utilised for a given purpose. However, I think that motorists have a real case. In view of the tremendous sum that is brought in from road taxation, motorists are entitled to more adequate provision, particularly since the motor car is utilised to tie degree it is by all sections of the community. As I say, it is part of our way of life. A number one priority for the Government should be to plough back more money to meet motorists' needs.
It is the Government's job to provide the cash to enable local authorities to buy land on which multi-storey car parks can be built. I sincerely hope that when we return to power, which we shall do after the next election, our Land Corn-mission will take over land and designate it for the most urgent needs, and I hope that parking will be one of them. The Government must consider the question of giving block grants to local authorities, because the cost of land is the greatest deterrent to local councils in providing parking space. They know what is wanted; it is no use the Minister of Transport telling them. They are anxious that the Minister should give them the cash to enable them to get on with the job.
Public services, both on the buses and the Underground, must be developed from town peripheries for the long-term parker. My right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) rightly pinpointed two cases in London. The Government's belief that rail transport must show a profit or it is not justifiable is totally wrong. Sir Geoffrey Crowther indicates in his steering committee's Report that the problem of meeting the transport needs is not just a question of profit and loss. A tremendous social need is involved. That is the angle from which the problem should be approached.
There hay been a delay of 10 years in extending the Victoria Tube at a cost of £55 million, nearly 10 times the 83 original estimate. The Roads Committee of the London County Council points out the desirability of extending the tube southwards from the Elephant and Castle to Camberwell Green. When the land of the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich becomes available for housing, there will be need for a further extension of the tube. As the Roads Committee of the London County Council rightly says:If a 75 per cent. grant can be given by the Government for new roads and urban development, at least 75 per cent., if not the whole, ought to be given by the Government towards these two extensions to fit in with the boxlike structure they visualise for their road development in London.We must take serious note of the accident toll. Here I pay tribute to the television authorities. They did a very useful job at Christmas when they televised some of the people coming out of the public houses and adopting a totally irresponsible approach to driving. I accept at once that they are a very small minority, but, in view of the large number of deaths and casualties on the roads, we must deal with them. I do not altogether agree with the Minister of Transport when he puts the main burden of bad driving on the individual. There is a conglomeration of reasons for road accidents. If a person has been consuming alcoholic liquor, there is a case for the breathalyser test. I do not say that a man should be convicted automatically if he has taken a certain amount of alcohol, but his alcoholic consumption should be taken into consideration in view of the fact that 7,000 people were killed and 348,000 injured on the roads last year. Much though we may dislike interfering with the freedom of the individual, these are figures which we cannot overlook.
We cannot ignore the fact that, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, it is estimated that in 1962 road accidents cost £227 million. We must note the article in the British Medical Association's Journal of 11th January by Professor Gissane and John Bull. They had made a study of the accidents on the motorway. We cannot overlook the increasing number of injuries that are caused through increasing speed. I am rather a speed merchant on the road. I admit that I like it, par 84 ticularly on the motorways. I was travelling on the motorway the other Sunday. When a car passed me, I said to my wife who was accompanying me, "What speed is that driver travelling?". She said, "You ought to look at your own speedometer". I found that I was doing 80 m.p.h., but here was this person whipping past me at well over 100 m.p.h.—perhaps 124 m.p.h. The evidence in the British Medical Association's Journal indicates that we should give consideration to what is happening on our motorways. Are not they being turned into nothing more or less than race tracks?
The incidence of danger on the motorways is increasing considerably. I suggest to the Minister that he should divide the three lanes by cat's eyes. or white paint, or some other means, and have a minimum and maximum speed on each line. If he talked this matter over with the Road Users' Association, the A.A., the R.A.C. and the British Road Federation with a view to defining reasonable speed limits, he would find a ready response. Common sense indicates that this must be the pattern for the future.
I would also suggest to the Minister of Transport that he should give serious consideration to the establishment of motor patrols, distinct from the police force, which ought to be concentrating on the prevention and detection of crime instead of being utilised for dealing with technical motoring offences. We already have traffic wardens, and partols for looking after the school children. To have specialist motor patrols would be only another step forward in dealing with technical motoring offences.
I want to make one further plea to the Minister on behalf of my own constituency. I want to suggest something to him that he can do at once. We in Newcastle-upon-Tyne have been pressing the Minister for a number of months with a view to allowing the linked road lighting system on our West Road, part of which runs in my constituency. Last weekend I was told that he had turned down this request. I wonder why. He will hear more about it, I can warn him. But I wonder why he has turned it down, and I sincerely hope that the Minister will look again at this question of the linked road lighting. We 85 have seen this in operation on the Continent, and those of us who have seen the experiment at Slough are, I am sure, ail convinced that this is a good thing not only for speeding up traffic to get normal flow instead of bottlenecks, each traffic light creating a jam, but also as helping the safety of pedestrians. I think there should be much more use of this system, and I hope that the Minister will have another look at this type of thing. It is something he himself can do.
After this debate the Minister will, I hope, lake note of what hon. Members on both sides of the House have said, and be determined, not just to pay lip-service to the beauties and the forward-thinking of the Buchanan Report, but to natter at the Cabinet, to natter at his colleagues, to insist that the cash is available so that these developments may be proceeded with with speed.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Clive Bossom (Leominster)
I agree with the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell). I also had hoped that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport might have been able to expand a little further one or two of the major priorities. I cannot, however, agree with the hon. Member that my right hon. Friend has done little about traffic flow, because he certainly made every local authority in the land conscious of its responsibility, and has sent the local authorities some excellent advice, the best advice available. Surely the Buchanan Report is the perfect example of this.
I should like to congratulate my right hon. Friend, as he has just walked in, on having had the vision to call for the Buchanan Report to be made. It is a most timely and unique report, and I think it will clear up in people's minds what the problems are. Basically, they are problems of planning. The Government have accepted this Report, but the public, who are increasingly the motoring public, still need much more reassurance that there will be a sense of urgency in implementing the Report.
Wherever possible, a start must be made from now on with land surveys, and all forms of transport surveys. The Minister today certainly gave us a very encouraging lead about expanding of the 86 Joint Urban Planning Group, but the local authorities still need much more guidance. They will want to know how far they are to go, and on what scale of motorisation they should plan to. They want to know how they can draw up "policy maps". Till they know what money they can assume they are to get, or whether the grant system will be recast, it will be very difficult for them to make Close plans. They want to know also who is to carry out and pay for the research, the surveys and the studies which are now all so essential. And when: are the trained planners coming from? These are just a few of the points I had hoped my right hon. Friend might have been able to expand a bit today.
First, I want to say a word about the planners, who include engineers and architects. I think that greater emphasis must be put on "mixed team working", not only in all future planning but right from the beginning of their training. Today, they are inclined to do all their training in watertight compartments, and they also often work in watertight compartments. To get the idea of working as a team they have got to start right from the beginning, when learning in the universities, being brought more and more together so that they all understand about architecture and design. Later, they will branch out and carry on in their different spheres. This is something which the new universities should plan when drawing up syllabuses for the future.
Over the past four years, my right hon. Friend, I think, will agree, I have continually pressed him about the urgency, first, of training highway traffic engineers, and secondly, of convincing the larger local authorities that these specialist engineers must not be looked upon as an expensive luxury, for today they are a real necessity and are part and parcel of all future redevelopment and planning.
How will my right hon. Friend encourage the application of traffic engineers outside of London? Last year, I believe, he sent a memorandum to all local authorities. What response did he get? Was it very encouraging? I would like to suggest that a grant be given to local authority officials who would greatly benefit by attending a year's 87 course in traffic engineering either at Birmingham or Newcastle Universities. Today, an assistant chief engineer could not be expected to lose a year's pay while doing a course. Here is where a grant is required.
One of the criticisms I have of the Buchanan Report is that, in my humble view, it underestimates what the traffic engineer could do at present. If more large local authorities had qualified traffic engineers on their staffs they could have much more energetic traffic management, who could bring in better parking schemes, more one-way systems; they could sort out intersections and run central computer control of signal lights; they could also indicate how a few tons of white paint properly used on traffic lanes, including reserve lanes for buses, and other carriageway markings, could go a long way towards helping "traffic flow".
I hope that my right hon. Friend will give much more guidance to small local authorities, especially in rural areas, about employing traffic engineers in view of the shortage and the expense. Local authorities must be told that they would get much better service if they had a high-powered team which could be employed by a county or even two counties and could go round the smaller authority areas and give advice on drawing up plans. Local authorities would then have the advantage of having a highly qualified team which they could not afford as a permanent part of their staff. The larger authorities, about which I have previously been talking, should also be asked to follow the example of London and create "traffic management units", which my right hon. Friend started three or four years ago and which have proved so successful.
This brings me to planning. The Minister gave the impression that he did not think regional planning was the ideal solution. Maybe it is too large, but I still believe that the best results will be achieved in the long term if we carry it out on a type of regional basis, because only a regional authority would be armed with sufficient power and financial resources and only it could succeed in getting large-scale redevelopment projects launched with the efficiency and speed required today. Surely we want to prevent any more piecemeal re 88 development. From now on we must allow only comprehensive redevelopment.
Another factor is the shortage of trained staff. Those available would surely be better employed in a pool of advisers. Other factors are urban sprawl and the boundary question, which always create difficulties. Lastly—this is very important—there is the human factor. Joint committees are often not satisfactory because small local authorities have vested interests and will not try to look at the broad picture.
I want to turn for a second to the architect. The R.I.B.A. is making a great effort to put its own house in order and is well aware of its responsibilities. A year ago it commissioned a report, which should be ready by early summer, about the kind of training and additional training which its architects and planners will need to met the present situation. A new kind of architect will have to be trained in "traffic architecture". I feel that better use could be made of architects with town planning experience. Today, only about one-third with this experience are being used on planning. This is something my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government might investigate.
I have never felt that there has been enough fresh thinking on alternative modes of public transport. Publications like Traffic Engineering and Control have often put forward some exciting ideas. But a great chance was, I feel, lost when we were building some of our new towns. Not enough experiments were tried out.
I very much welcome the news that a private consortium is forming under the name of "Speedover Transport". I understand it hopes to pioneer new forms of fast transport both for people and for goods in all our major towns and cities. I hope it will also study the best methods of moving air passengers to and from the centre of cities. That is something which this country lags behind. I have always fancied the monorail system; it has speed and safety and is economic in use of land. I have seen a model which could be used both on rail and on the road.
Of course, there are other forms, such as the tracked hovercraft, with its air cushion principle, and also as Professor 89 Buchanan writes in his Report, the travelator. All of these are worth much greater study and much greater development, because the time has come when an alternative mode of public transport for our cities must be found. Surely the life of the cumbersome and smelly bus is slowly drawing to a close.
No one has ever tackled the problem of refuse disposal in large cities. These noisy monster-like vehicles go round in the early mornings and most of the day. Someone must invent a form of suction pipe to take away refuse, for that is another form of vehicle which certainly gets in the way of the flow of traffic.
I must not let my imagination run wild with too many ideas on the style of H. G. Wells and Mr. Nevil Shute, as there are many more down-to-earth plans which both the Government and private enterprise can start on immediately.
I hope that more financial aid will be given to the Road Research Laboratory, which is doing an excellent job. It needs more money to help it explore new methods and new techniques of improving our roads, highways and freeways and not forgetting our system of lighting. Here is a body which would be able to provide teams for speedy, effective and comprehensive studies to be made in various parts of the country if only it were allowed to expand and were given a little more money.
Finally, I am confident that we can find a civilised answer to most of these pressing problems so that we can continue to live with the motor car and at the same time keep the present character of our beautiful old towns and cities. But when we are building new towns or doing major redevelopments, let us be bolder in our experiments and put into practice the Buchanan principles.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Wedgwood Benn (Bristol, South-East)
As the Minister of Transport knows very well, the subject of transport is a minefield of special interests. As every debate on transport, and particularly road construction, approaches in this House, hon. Members are submerged with documents sent in by special interests. I remember once before a debate receiving a very large and beautiful book printed in many 90 colours all about urban motorways, and thought that it was just what I needed for the debate. But then I looked at the back page and found that it was printed by the Cement Manufacturers' Association and immediately the suspicion was raised in my mind that this was not the presentation of an objective view but a special interest designed to get more cement used.
This does not apply only to the road hauliers and business firms. It applies also to what I consider to be the most hideous lobby of all—the motorists' lobby. I speak as a motorist. Very often lobbies which write about road safety and urban congestion seek to divide us into motorists and pedestrians when we are, in fact, all both motorists and pedestrians, for it is motorists' children who are killed by cars as much as the children of pedestrians.
It is very important that we should today look at the subject as far as we can from tile point of view of public interest as a whole. One reason why I am grateful to Professor Buchanan for his Report is that here is a Report. whether we agree with it altogether or not, which puts into the hands of the House material which has been accumulated with oily one interest in mind—the public interest. I am sure that will help the debate get off to a good start.
It is most important that we should see this not just in terms of an increase in car ownership, which has undoubtedly happened over recent years, but in much wider terms. We live in a technical society where the demand for more transport is evident everywhere. We must not fall into the mistake of thinking that because of the way things have happened, because the impact of the increased demand for transport has taken the form of private motor cars, this is the only problem that confronts us. Professor Buchanan makes some reference in the Report to the increase in vehicle ownership. He also refers briefly, in a very short passage, to the increase in road use. I suspect that it is the increase in road use rather than the increase in vehicle ownership which is really the explosive factor in the situation that is to say, it is not only the new cars that come on the roads but the fact that, for a variety of reasons, people use these cars more than they did before.
91 There are four reasons for this. First, as incomes rise and people have met their necessities and are, therefore, free to decide how they shall dispose of their surplus income, there is a growing demand for recreational travel, particularly if one has already invested in a car. That represents a bonus in road use over vehicle ownership.
Secondly, the road improvements make it possible for people to travel further afield. And when the Channel Tunnel has been built we shall find French motorists contributing to the London traffic jam and, no doubt, British motorists contributing to the Paris traffic jam, and there will be a far greater element of instability in the traffic congestion problem than there has been hitherto.
One of the first things that the Minister of Transport did when he came into office in 1959 was to introduce the pink zone into London at Christmas because London was a growing magnet at that time of year. People were drawn in and there had to be a greater degree of control.
The third reason for increased road use is the decline in public transport. Speaking as an individual user of the roads, I have found increasingly that I have to use my car because the public transport system is inadequate for my purposes. I would infinitely rather travel to my constituency by train than by car because I can work in the train, it is convenient and comfortable and represents the ideal in travel.
The fourth reason why road use is increasing more than vehicle ownership is that, as modern industry is constructed and there is more specialisation in production, the degree of transport required for production increases proportionately. When things are built in specialised factories and assembled in other factories, goods that might in the old days have only been moved to factories as raw materials once and moved out as finished goods at the end, now move in and out at different stages before they emerge as finished goods.
This is brought home very vividly by the increased consumption of petrol, which is the only real test of road use, although rough and ready, and I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman's 92 Department for furnishing me with a batch of figures from which it is possible to deduce some idea of the increase in road use.
I shall not weary the House with a lot of figures, but I want to take one column relating to diesel fuel and compare 1947 with 1962. We find that the diesel fuel consumed by goods vehicles in 1947 was 155,000 tons and in 1962 it was 2,100,000 tons, an increase far greater than the increase in the number of goods vehicles between those two years. All that I am saying is that the problem is even bigger, I suspect, than Professor Buchanan suggests in his Report.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
Between 1947 and 1962 a very much larger proportion of taxis and buses went over to derv, which were not formerly using it. Has he considered that?
§ Mr. Benn
Yes, I have not quoted all the figures, but I would submit to the House for the reasons that I have given—and I could give further figures—that it is not only the problem of the increased number of vehicles coming on to the roads that causes congestion but the increased use of the vehicles that come on to the roads, and this applies especially to private motorists. That is the only point that I am making. It would not be possible from the figure available to be statistically accurate about this beyond pointing out that Buchanan may have under-estimated the size of the problem.
The Buchanan Report and the Minister's speech suggest that there must be a large increase in the physical investment on roads. I do not dispute this, but, before we go ahead with the wholesale reconstruction of our cities along the lines that Buchanan indicates, I hope that we shall pause to ask ourselves whether it is right to try to reshape the future of our cities on the basis of the growing use of private vehicles.
The technological revolution in transport has arrived here. It is less than in other countries, but it has only half come and before we commit ourselves to enormous sums of money in reconstructing our cities on two levels to accommodate private cars we ought to ask ourselves one or two other questions. This is very important, since both 93 sides of the House are committed to an enormous increase in expenditure on housing, industrial expansion, university expansion and the rest over the next five years, and we should think very carefully before we accept uncritically that this is a problem primarily of money to be spent on urban roads. We could easily become outdated again if we made this investment without further investigation.
Whatever the answer to that problem, the short-term problem remains, and nothing that Buchanan has said has taken away from it—that it is the better use of existing roads that offers us the greatest immediate advantage that we may hope to gain for our convenience.
I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman in one respect where I think he has done very well. His control over the London Traffic Management Unit and the schemes which he has introduced in London have undoubtedly improved road use in London, and unquestionably the development of further traffic engineering studies and their application to other cities following the lead that London has given should be very useful.
We have to consider how to squeeze as many passenger miles of use out of every little piece of road that we possibly can. I hope that the House will forgive me for quoting a statistic which I first used three years ago—before I was put in an off-street garage—about the way in which one c`n actually measure the economical use of road space. It is a simple calculation based on the number of passenger miles travelled per sq. ft. of road space occupied. That is the basic statistic. In the case of a bus—if the House will take my figures—we get 500 times as great a use of road space as we do with the private car. That is an enormous gain, far bigger than might be suggested superficially.
I am, admittedly, taking an extreme case. I am thinking of the private owner who drives his car from one part of London to another and who leaves it on the street all day and travels back versus the bus which is more or less averagely full all clay. If the right hon. Gentleman will not accept 500 times, it is some hundreds of times more efficient in respect of road use. Yet the position is that people are moving from public transport to private transport which is 94 much more expensive in its use of the road and in terms of cost to the community.
Why? Because they want greater convenience. They are prepared to pay large sums of money for greater convenience. It is here that the lesson comes that we must learn when we look at this new conception of public transport about 'which the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Bossom) spoke. This is not an o[...]sion for a look into the future in terms of science fiction. But there can be no doubt that if we want to make public transport more successful, the first thing that we have to do is to think of it in terms of convenience and the very crowded, very smelly, very slow public bus in the middle of our cities represents the narrowest and most old-fashioned view of what public transport ought to be able to provide. That is why my right hon. Friend drew attention to the need for the new Victoria underground line which has been on the stocks for over 20 years and which, for the last 10 years, was the responsibility of the present Government.
We have to have feeder services for suburban railway lines and perhaps even feeder services for people who move inside our cities. I should like a much more detailed survey of where commuters come from and where they actually go. I know that it looks a very formidable problem, but the characteristic of commuters is their regularity of travel. If there were a survey of a particular area and if people were asked, "What train do you catch and can we pro vide a feeder service which will take you to the station and when you get to the other end can there be a bus waiting to take you specifically to the area of London to which you are going?" that would be a movement towards a very much higher quality public service than is now provided by the simple bus service.
There may be a case for large trailer buses without seats, a sort of mobile bus queue, which could move people to the main-line stations at night just at the time they want to go. In the winter, queues can be seen standing for hours—or so it sees if one is amongst them—in the rain and all they want is a bus to take them half-mile or so to the railway station. If there were electric tugs 95 pulling trailers of this kind, they could recharge their batteries in the daytime and they would be needed only in the rush hours and they could pull people about much more effectively.
§ Mr. Harold Steward (Stockport, South)
It sounds as though it is the human battery that needs recharging.
§ Mr. Benn
If the hon. Members wants to interrupt me, I shall be very glad to sit down, but if he is making what are generally called helpful suggestions I wish that he would make them audibly.
When we are considering public transport, we have also to consider the taxi and the hire car, because although privately owned, or mostly privately owned, the taxi and the hire car, like the bus, represent a very much more economical use of road space than the private car, because the proportion of their day spent parked is so much less. What is required from the Ministry of Transport—and I hope that this point is not missed by the Minister—is a great deal more sponsored research into the type of public service vehicle which we need to meet the sophisticated requirements of the urban traveller who is prepared to pay more for convenience.
There is another case for public transport which will appeal to the Minister. Moving from the ownership of a vehicle to become a man who rents a vehicle—and everybody who travels on a bus rents the bus in a sense for a certain period—one immediately begins to enjoy new economies. It is more convenient, because if one buys a vehicle one has to make a basic decision about what to buy and for most of the time it is the wrong sort of vehicle. When I drive here from home, I have a car which is too big, but when I take my children on holiday I have a vehicle which is too small. If only we could develop the idea that people rented a vehicle suited to their needs, that would be more convenient for their purposes.
The second thing about a rented vehicle—and this will appeal to the right hon. Gentleman—is that a rented vehicle is easier to maintain safely. The right hon. Gentleman himself, absolutely rightly—and I am entirely on his side in this matter—requires the regular testing of older vehicles. No doubt the time will come when we will have to 96 test almost new vehicles twice a year, and I wish that his Ministry would hurry up with regular tests for commercial vehicles. I know that that is on the way. Moreover, all rented vehicles, like the bus, are maintained properly in the bus garage and even the privately rented vehicle is maintained economically with many other vehicles. This guarantees a higher level of vehicle safety all the time, instead of relying on the local garage and the sense of responsibility of the motorist to have his car regularly checked.
The third thing about the rented vehicle is that, particularly as the economics of urban travel become more painful for the private motorist, it may be cheaper to rent, or even to go by taxi, than to own a private car. I will not weary the House with figures on this, but I once calculated that if I lived in a parking meter area and had to pay an all-day car park at the House when I came, it would cost me about £250 a year to own a car in London, and for that money I could afford a lot of taxis in London, and a chauffeur-driven Daimler to take my wife out on our anniversary, and Hire a station wagon to take my children out in the summer all by moving away from the private vehicle, the great status symbol, towards a rented public service vehicle.
The question is how this is to be done, and it is here that the right hon. Gentleman was at his most disappointing today. He hinted at the need for restriction and no Conservative can approach the problem of restriction other than very gingerly, particularly in an election year. I have some sympathy with him, looking at the world through his spectacles, for fear that anything might be published about his secret plans—not plans, but calculations—which we all know are being made in his Ministry. We all know that studies have been going on, including into what would be a most penal type of taxation on the urban use of a private motor car.
However, the right hon. Gentleman owes it to the House, in the interests of our full participation in his decision-making, to make these figures available to us. I for one would be quite prepared to defend the right hon. Gentleman were the figures to be published and to say 97 that all lie was doing was making available to us some of the things in store for us if we did not tackle the problem effectively.
However, if, later, we have to come to a congestion tax—and no one denies that it is possible—should we not beforehand look at the present financial structure as it applies to private car ownership to see whether it makes sense in the present day? The trouble with the structure of tax in Britain today is that people are taxed for vehicle ownership and not for road use. Let me give an example of the three aspects of this taxation. A man pays very considerable Purchase Tax on his car and he pays a road fund tax and he pays insurance, whether or not he uses his car throughout the course of the year.
I have done some very rough calculations. Taking the private motorist with a £600 car, his Purchase Tax is about £140 and, with a seven-year depreciation, that means about £20 a year. He pays insurance of perhaps £35 or £40, and road fund tax of £15. That is to say, to own a £600 car in Britain today one has to pay £75 a year, whether the car is used on the road or not. Does it make sense that there should be such a high degree of taxation on the non-using car owner?
Taken down to weekly terms, the man owning this car has to pay 30s. a week ownership charge whether he uses it or not. Let us consider the impact of this tax structure on his decision whether to go by bus. A man owning this car says that it costs him 6s. a working day whether he uses the car or not and he is, therefore, tempted by the structure of the tax to take his car into the cities. He is encouraged by the structure of the tax and the insurance payments. The cost of the petrol is purely marginal.
As we are discussing this subject so frankly and nobody is committing himself even to the views he is putting forward—[Laughter.] Hon. Members will see why I am being so cautious when I put this forward—let us suppose that we abolish Purchase Tax on cars and abolish road fund licences and absorb the insurance premiums, paying them another way with which I will deal later, making up the loss by an addition to the petrol tax. What would happen? Let me take the average case.
98 According to the A.A.—I do not think that it is right, but this is the figure—the average motorist does 10,000 miles a year in his car. To make up the loss of £75 which he now has to pay for not using his car, 5s. a gallon more would have to be put on the petrol tax. He could still use his car for exactly the same number of miles and not pay a penny more and the Chancellor would not lose a penny on the deal. In these circumstances, the motorist would then be paying the full cost of using his car, but nothing at all for leaving it at home.
l do not say for a moment that this is the right Nay to go about it, certainly not as extremely as this, but I am giving this example as forcefully as I can because one of the reasons why the private motorist uses his car in an uneconomic way is that the present structure of tax on private motoring encourages him to use his car and gives him no benefit for not using it. If it is decided to raise the revenue partly by a fuel tax a steeper kind, one can make full remission for public service vehicles ant in that way reflect in the price they ply for fuel the true measure of their extra economy, the lack of congestion their cause, and the relative freedom of movement in our cities that they make possible.
§ Mr. Marples
The hon. Gentleman has been very constructive, and certainly very statistic al. We need a human computer on this Bench to assess what he said. There is a great difference between the rural areas and the urban areas. His idea, which I accept was put forward in a constructive spirit, would be all right in rural areas, but would be difficult to apply in places like London.
§ Mr. Benn
I am surprised that the right hon. Gentleman put it that way. I thought that he would put it the other way, that it was a good scheme in London where it would discourage people from using cars because petrol would be so expensive, but unfair in rural areas where people have relatively long distances to go and, therefore, would be paying rather more.
At any rate, it is open to argument how one arranges it. The point is that once one starts building the tax structure on road use, revenue becomes available to the Chancellor of the Exchequer 99 which he can use to bring about the rearrangement of the pattern of transport without having to resort to the penal congestion tax which we know the right hon. Gentleman has in his hip pocket to produce should he by some mischance be in his present office after the next General Election.
The right hon. Gentleman rightly said, and quoted Buchanan, that transport cannot be looked at in isolation. It must be looked at as part of land use generally. But it has to be looked at far more than as part of land use. It has to be looked at in relationship to the economic development of different areas of the country, and particularly in relation to regional planning.
The right hon. Gentleman knows his Department very much better than I do, but I should be very surprised if he could tell me whether statistics are available for the regional transport requirements of the South-West over the next 25 years, based on the estimated industrial investment; on the estimated increase in holiday traffic; on the increase of private car ownership, as it has emerged; on the age ratio of the population; and on the new towns that are projected. Has all that been projected? I would be surprised to hear that it has, but if it has the right hon. Gentleman has kept it a great secret from the House.
When I went to Scotland a few months ago to attend a meeting on Beeching closures, I was told that there were no less than 17 districts which the Government had scheduled as development districts, but in which Dr. Beeching had decided to close the railway line—an astonishing example of a lack of coordination. Even Cumbernauld, a new town with a new station, is to lose its station, unless the plan has been altered and Beeching has gone into abeyance until the election is over. At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman has not been defending the closures quite so vigorously as polling day approaches. This is not a party point at all. I am non-political. I believe that everybody should be in the Labour Party. Indeed, listening to the debate, I am not sure that everybody has not become Labour.
If one is to make sense of transport, it has to be looked at in its widest 100 regional context. Indeed, we have to go further, and before we start rebuilding our cities on the Buchanan model, we have to ask ourselves what the functions of our cities are to be in the future. Is it worth generating more transport needs by putting big office blocks in the centre of the town, and new houses further and further out of it?
The right hon. Gentleman ought to be thinking about the problem of transport generation. When we had a debate last week about Green Shield stamps hon. Gentlemen opposite said that the makers of the stamps employed psychologists to study the habits of the housewife and her approach to stamps. Are any psychologists working on the problem of our cities in the future? Are any motivational studies being undertaken to discover why people want to live in cities; what they want in them; what one can provide in the centre of cities so that they are alive at night and how to stop them being cut off from the centres of population by urban motorways?
What we want is not an uncritical acceptance of the intrusion of motor cars in our cities, but a wider basis of cooperation between the architect, the transport engineer, the traffic engineer, the psychologist, and the sociologist. What we want is a mixture of disciplines widely drawn together to see whether we can create cities which meet the need for more transport, and not just the need to accommodate ourselves to the motor car. That means more facts. We have to be prepared to wait for major decisions, and the decision to wait may be made easier because we do not have the resources to undertake the reconstruction straight away.
I suspect that the internal combustion engine will have done more than revolutionise transport techniques. As has been made clear from the debate, it will have been shown to out-date the institutions by which we govern ourselves in terms of local government, departmental government at the centre, and even the way in which the House itself handles its affairs. But more than anything, the motor car has outdated the philosophy of laissez-faire for which many hon. Gentlemen opposite have a nostalgic affection. As I heard them speaking today, so soon after we were told that a nationalised Channel tunnel was to be built, and heard 101 them one after the other appealing for planning, for comprehensive development, which both sides of the House know to he necessary, I thought that this is really the great revolution which the motor car has produced.
This task cannot be carried out on the basis of the private ownership of urban land. During the short period when I had the privilege of speaking on this subject from the Front Bench, I went to Stockholm to study their system there. For about: 40 years the Stockholm Urban District Council has been buying every available bit of urban land. If the council wanted the land itself it used it, but if it did not it leased it to private development. If the council wanted to build a road, all that it had to do was to buy out the leaseholder and it then had the land.
In terms of money, that meant that out of every £100 spent on roads, £20 was spent on buying out the leasehold, and £80 was available for the physical task of construction. I have been told that in this country the figures are exactly the reverse. When we want to build a road, we have to pay as much as 80 per cent. of the total sum available to buy the land, and only 20 per cent. is available for construction. If one lesson comes out of Buchanan and the right hon. Gentleman's speech, it is that the motor car makes the control and public ownership of urban land absolutely inevitable.
§ 7.8 p.m.
§ Mr. David Webster (Weston-super-Mare)
I suspect that the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) has been reading an article in the Spectator. I hope that he has, because he wrote it. I welcome him back from his labours of the last two years. He returned at considerable speed, and I think that his course was somewhat erratic. Some of it was on air, but his return is welcome, and he has put forward some stimulating and interesting ideas.
The hon. Gentleman came out, as usual, with an undeserved crack at the Conservative Party who, he said would never, just prior to the election. impose restrictions on motor cars coming into a city. I am entitled to quote paragraph 31 of the Crowther Report which says: 102It is a difficult and dangerous thing, in a democracy, to try to prevent a substantial part of the population from doing things that they do not regard as wrong; black markets and corruption are the invariable fruits of such attempts at prohibition.Some hon. Members opposite will be aware of tin risk of the black market, and all the perils that might come from it.
The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell) uttered what might have seemed to some to be a sparkling platitude, or a glimpse of the obvicus, when he said that the motor car is here to stay. In fact, he was quoting Buchanan. Although it might appear to be a glimpse of the obvious it is something that has been accepted most reluctantly by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and only in recent history. We are all guilty.
Even Birmingham, replanned so majestically by Joseph Chamberlain, was replanned before the coming of the motor vehicle. Our great cities were all built before the coming of the motor vehicle, and upon a conception going back to the time of the horse-drawn chariot. In fact, that was the fastest mode of propulsion we then had. The motor car has come to stay, but the conception of city planning has remained very much the same, with all the traffic converging on the centre, and now congesting there.
Now that, Birmingham is being replanned by people like Sir Herbert Manzoni, we are at last adopting a new conception. This is something the House must consider today. At last, the street, which goes back to Biblical or prehistoric times, is now rapidly becoming redundant. Instead, we now have that horridly-named thing, the "environmental area". I hope that Professor Buchanan will be able to think of a slightly more attractive name. This concept means nothing to us until we have had the benefit of looking at places like Cumbernauld and some other great cities throughout the world.
In Stockholm there is a tremendous and majestic conception of planning, and in Dusseldorf and Cologne and in many other German and French cities environmental areas have been built up. This is a new and much more progressive concept. But what worries my hon. 103 Friends and me is the tremendous complication that modern transport provides, which makes it essential for us to accept a policy of planning that we could not possibly have accepted 10 or 15 years ago. However, the Conservative Party moves forward with the times. We are adopting this progressive conception of replanning our cities.
Stockholm is an example. It has its suburbs, with its railway stations and its park and ride system. Cars are driven into the suburbs, and I believe that there are subsidised parking arrangements. Incidentally, when I slipped out of the House today for one second I noticed that the newspaper placards announced that the lowest fare on London Transport is to be increased from 3d. to 4d. It seems an untopical development when we are discussing the prospect of subsidisation in these matters. In Stockholm the people park their cars by the railway stations, which run on radial lines into the city. The cars are left at the stations, so avoiding congestion in the centre.
The railway stations are adjacent to the shopping centres, which are completely without any form of motor transport, except feeder services—and even they run in another dimension, underneath. In such circumstances we find that that section of the community which does not wish to own motor cars, or does not wish to use them frequently, lives near the railway station, while that section which prefers to have motor cars, for commercial or other reasons, lives further out. This is a considerable advantage in the development of environmental planning.
To be able to plan effectively on these lines requires the use of immense powers, which we shall require to examine very closely if we give them to a planning authority of any sort. We must ask ourselves how much we are serving the individual in taking away some of his liberty. This is not a dialectical exercise; it is a matter of deep importance to our people. If we are to preserve a civilised existence in our cities but are also going to retain the rights of individuals for their property to be developed in the normal way, we are going to have to be very careful.
Having said that, however, I feel that there is a stronger case than has been accepted at present for a more positive form of planning, on a regional basis— 104 rather as suggested by the Crowther Report—instead of our present permissive and negative planning, although I accept that if it came to the point of my party putting through such planning I should feel a need to look at it very carefully.
The present problems demand some form of limitation in respect of cars. If we build our centres round our old small towns we may wish to keep original streets, like Northgate Street in Newbury and the streets in the centre of Chester. In such cases we should turn them into pedestrian precincts, or into what the Germans call "fussgangerstrassen," which I think is an equally bad word. They can have feeder roads, where commercial vehicles can load and unload. Near these precincts we can build multi-storey car parks, and right outside them the major feed roads. There we have a tremendously new concept.
I admit that it will be expensive. In Newbury it will cost £4½ million, and tremendous figures are involved in rebuilding Leeds, Norwich and other similar cities. But is £4½ million such a big sum, remembering that it is spread over the next 40 years? It is about £1 million every 10 years, or £100,000 a year. At the sort of expenditure that we are willing to envisage for other planning aspects involving the use of the motor car, expenditure of this size is not impossible. In fact, much of the capital will generate itself.
We would all say that there was a case for the central Government to contribute, through their agencies, and also for local government to contribute, and I do not see why private investors should not also take a hand. Recently the City of London contributed a handsome fee towards building a motorway in Italy. It is time that this capital was used for the benefit of our own people. These developments should not be ruled out.
Hon. Members today have said that money is not all. I entirely agree. The whole of our urban complex will have to be replanned according to the principles laid down by the wonderful and brilliant Buchanan Report. It is so wonderful that I feel that it will be referred to in an almost scriptural connotation in due course. I hope that more than mere lip-service is paid to it. It is a highly valuable document, laying down principles 105 for the replanning of our cities and towns. Many of our towns contain things of beauty, but they also contain much squalor. Replanning will do them no harm.
I wish the Report well. There are urgent priorities, one of which is finance and another regional development agencies. They will be essential in the end, and the Government should examine this question urgently. It is an essential part of development, which will have to fit in with many other development agencies now being used in regional and local government.
But the essence of the matter is civilisation. The motor car is our servant, and it must not become our master. If we go as far as they have done in America, and build vast motorways in and out of our cities, we shall take the cities so far away that they will cease to be entities. But if we fail to do anything we shall kill our cities by strangulation and thrombosis. A large part of our civilisation has been built on civic principles, with a civic cult.
For those reasons, I welcome the farseeing nature of the Report and the contribution that it will make to civilisation.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Holt (Bolton, West)
I am glad to follow in debate the hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster). I note the importance he attaches to the need to back up the ideas in the Buchanan Report with arrangements for regional planning, and the agreement that there should be consideration on the lines described in the Crowther Report. These two Reports have brought us up against something which many people were trying to avoid—namely, the growth of traffic, which will become so great that something must be done about it. The problem cannot be avoided.
In the North-West that is only part of the story. In the South and the South-East the problem may be literally one of traffic, but in the North-West we are faced with the task of coping with a total rehabilitation of the area. I like the Buchanan Report, because the Committee takes a wider view than just that of traffic, and we shall be given an opportunity to focus attention on the need for the total regional redevelopment of which the replanning of traffic 106 streams will be an important part. Because the Minister seemed so concerned with the traffic aspect, and avoided that of regional planning and redevelopment, I found his speech disappointing.
I wish to bring this matter from generalities to a particular case. In Bolton last week the local reconstruction committee appointed a planning consultant, Graeme Shankland, to carry out an economic and transport survey to ensure the proper use of land, and, ultimately, to produce the plan for town centre redevelopment. The framework within which the plan will be considered by the Corporation and other people in the town in 12 months' time is extremely important. I will give one example.
In Bury only five to six miles away, the authorities are carrying out a redevelopment plan. A great many people who live outside Bolton do their shopping in the borough. The present population of Bolton, which is 160,000, has gone down from a figure of 185,000 at the time of the First World War, but it is true to say that Bolton is the main shopping centre for about 250,000 people. The authorities at Bury may be planning with the idea of catering for some of the shoppers who now come to Bolton, and in the next few years we are likely to arrive at a situation in the eastern part of Lancashire in which plans are made for shopping centres in various places based on the idea of each area being able to "pinch" shoppers from other areas. This is because of the development plans for other towns, particularly Blackburn and Burnley. There could be an overdevelopment of shopping centres and this is an aspect which I think must have a bearing when we consider the need for regional co-ordination or planning.
The Bolton consultants are being asked to carry out a project which will look 25 years into the future. Are they to have in mind a state of growth based on the ideas of N. E.D.C.? Will this apply in the Bolton area? Must they plan against a background of the continual movement of people from the North to the South? Or is it to be Government policy to reverse that trend? Now that an announcement has been made about the Channel Tunnel, will it mean that more and more people will be sucked into the South-East? If the Channel Tunnel scheme is 107 proceeded with in the next few years, it will be more important than ever that the Government take discriminatory action by pumping more money into the North-West and the North-East, otherwise the flow of people to the South will gain impetus. It seems to me absolutely vital that consultants, such as those invited to produce a town centre plan for Bolton, should know what is the national and regional framework against which they are being asked to plan.
In these two Reports there seems to be a tendency to disparage the initiative and drive of local authorities. We have been talking about the reform of local authorities for a long time, and it is interesting to note that nearly always the main criticism has not been that they do not run the mother's help service well or the local transport undertaking. It has been that present local government arrangements are inadequate in respect of planning in relation to the development of industry, or roads, or housing. These charges seem to be made against the wrong people. The more one studies the Reports and takes account of local knowledge the more one realises that there is a void between local authorities with planning powers and the central Government. It is essential that this void be filled by a regional development authority of the type recommended by the Crowther Committee.
This is an urgent matter. The Minister has said that for the time being he will have nothing to do with it and we must await the reform of local government, but that may go on for a long time and we cannot wait to get our institutions right before taking action. I wish to draw attention to two sets of figures with which hon. Members will be familiar. One relates to the increase in population. The Report states that this will mean a new Bristol every year for 25 years. We cannot put a new Bristol within 10, 15 or 20 miles of Bolton without affecting Bolton. This will have a most important effect on the success or otherwise of the town development plan for Bolton which is now being considered.
The second reason for urgency is the scale at which the number of vehicles will increase on the roads, particularly in the next 8 or ten years. The Report 108 gives the figure of motor cars as increasing from 6.6 million to 12 million by 1970. The total number of vehicles on the roads will be doubled within the next 10 years. That is a formidable figure. I see no reason to think that in my constituency we shall be any exception to this general rule. If Bolton had at the moment double the number of vehicles the place would be choked and traffic would come to a standstill. We could have as many one-way streets as we liked and could keep parking off the main streets, but the number would still be doubled.
I have explained why we must fill this void in the regions because there is no central authority or nucleus which can join together the various plans and discuss regional development and get a unity, and secondly the urgency for it. This is not something that can be put off. It is a case for action this day. It is interesting to note that not only are Buchanan and Crowther in favour of something being done in the regions, but another authority in the North-West, Professor Kantarowich, now Professor of Town and Country Planning at Manchester University, who came there two years ago from South Africa with a great reputation, said some rude, unkind, but I think true, things about the state of the North-West when he came there.
I quote the Guardian for 18th March, 1963. He said that local authorities in the north-west region should set up a joint planning team to investigate the problems of the area. He told a convention of civic societies in the North-West that once the consultant team had studied the whole picture the local authorities should tackle the immense difficulties on a regional basis.
This is important to us. The Report refers to "urban regions", but at the moment these are not in being. It is just as important for people in Bolton to have the right things done, for instance, in the area between Bolton and Manchester as it is to have the right things done in Bolton itself. To make Bolton right or to make the centre of Manchester marvellous but to leave the Croal and the Irwell Valleys much as they are now—an eyesore—will do nothing to rehabilitate the life and ways of us all in the North-West. It is these little pockets of slag heaps and scars 109 which exist in central Lancashire where all the mining has been done which need to be taken care of as the town development plans go ahead.
I do not think we can even wait to get legislation passed in this House or to get agreement about the regional development agencies in the detail outlined by Crowther. Action this day is needed and can be achieved simply, with hardly any legislation at all. Certainly regional offices could be set up. They would be staffed by civil servants from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the Ministry of Transport and the Board of Trade who would be interested in their particular aspects of regional development. They should have as their head a general manager who, as Crowther says, should be taken from outside the Civil Service.
I hope he would be someone who already has experience in town planning and development. It may be that one of our leading planning architects in the country or someone from a big firm who has been involved in development and has the necessary qualifications should be appointed. This person, as Crowther says, would be carrying out the executive job, but he would also have to do much of the administration. It seems inevitable that many of the plans coming from local authorities to Ministries in London in relation to roads, housing and industrial development would have first to come to these offices which, I hope, would be given a large amount of discretion by the Minister.
I do not think it necessary to give this authority any special new legal powers to act as a great developer initially, this year. If he is sent there on the understanding that he is acting for the Ministries in the area in connection with development, he will have a great deal to say about whether local authorities get grants or not—and the Minister is going to listen to him. This will be sufficient for him to collect together the good will which already exists in so many local authority areas to work together. The idea that local authorities will not even speak to each other, is absolute nonsense.
Only just over a year ago a most searching and well-recommended report was produced by a group of engineers 110 and surveyors drawn from Cheshire and Lancashire. It produced a plan known as the Selnec plan—the South-East Lancashire and North-East Cheshire Road Plan—a most comprehensive document. Co-operation has gone on over that and is going on all the time. It is necessary only to produce a little change, to have someone there to bring the whole lot in to give some guidance. If this is done it is not necessary in the initial stages to give him the extra powers which would take some time to get through the House of Commons, but which Crowther recommends. We could do that later. My point is that it is essential to get same action now.
I have described what I think would do that. It would get the process working now when many towns are at the beginning of, or when some have not even started, their development plans. They are considering them. If we could have a central authority in the region checking one plan against another and seeing that ill regional factors are taken into consideration, we would all make far fewer mistakes. I hope that I am not out of order in suggesting that if we did it this way, as it were step by step building on a regional authority, it might be very helpful in deciding in the end what kind of reform of local government we want. We have never managed to deal with this. Although many people have produced different ideas and commissions have sat, we never make any progress.
The complaint all along has been that local authorities are unsuitable for modern planning. If we can support a modest agency which helps to link them together we can soon see whether under it they are capable of carrying out the kind of plaits they are required to devise.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Sir Colin Thornton-Kemsley (North Angus and Mearns)
I take at once the point made by the hon. Member for Bolton. West (Mr. Holt), and go very far with him in agreement with what he said about the regional development authority. My view about this has always been that we should approach the problem of planning the right use of our land at the three levels at which problems present themselves—at the national level, where Government priorities and policies ought to be laid down, 111 at the regional level, where the strategem of planning should be determined, and at the local level, where the tactics and day-to-day administration should be dealt with.
Crowther and his steering committee recommended a regional development agency for each urban region appointed by the Minister. That was supported, I thought strongly, by the right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss), in opening the debate from the Opposition Front Bench, and by the hon. Member for Bolton, West, for the Liberal Party. Where I take issue with both of them is over this claim that the agency which is to be interposed between the national and the local levels should be an appointed authority which should not be at any rate in part representative of or appointed by the local authority.
I believe in local government. I believe that in the main the men on the spot know most about the kind of planning which should be emerging in these regions. When the regional plans are produced in England and Wales by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and in Scotland by the Scottish Development Department I should like the opportunity to be taken to try out pilot schemes in which both local authorities and the Ministries concerned could co-operate in the exercise of regional planning in the area for which they are responsible.
The kind of body I should like to see—I apologise because I spoke about this also in the debate on 4th December last—should have as to about three-fifths of its members elected by and representing the local authorities in the area concerned and as to the remaining two-fifths independent members appointed by the Minister. I put the word "independent" in inverted commas, since they would be representing special interests in the regions concerned. The body would have, as my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) suggested, a technical staff headed by a general manager who would be a powerful man in the organisation getting the plan working. There is a great opportunity at present to try out one or two pilot schemes the object of which would be to show how a regional planning authority may be integrated in 112 due time with the reformed local government areas.
I pass to another matter. I wonder whether it would be unfair to the authors of the Report—the last thing I want to do is to be unfair to them, because I am such a great admirer both of Sir Geoffrey Crowther and Professor Colin Buchanan and those who worked with them in the studies—to generalise by saying that working on the existing pattern of urban agglomeration they have projected estimates of population and transport and warned us what this will mean unless we do something about it.
They say that what we have to do is to canalise all long-distance traffic and build environmental areas from which all through-traffic is excluded and in which only local traffic is allowed. Even so, we learn from the conclusions to the Buchanan Report that, in the cities, about three-quarters of the car-owning commuters and about one-third of shopping motorists will have to leave their cars behind or, at any rate, leave them at the city boundaries, before they visit the cities of the future.
Buchanan suggests that further research is needed into certain other aspects of the subject. Both he and his committee and Sir Geoffrey Crowther and his steering group, have so richly earned our gratitude that it would seem churlish to express regret that an examination was not made of the possibilities of the planned dispersal of jobs and people from our congested cities as, at least, part of the solution of the traffic problem in our towns. I suppose that it could be said that the need for dispersal has been underlined by Professor Buchanan and his committee, without actually going into details and examining the problem further.
Mr. Wyndham Thomas, the Director of the Town and Country Planning Association, said in an article about the Report in the January journal of the Association:If the case for planned dispersal had never before been made. Buchanan has made it now.I should make it clear that by "planned dispersal" I do not mean what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport called "sprawling urban 113 development" engulfing the whole countryside.
In the pressure areas—and these, as the House knows, are mainly in the south-east segment of England, and in the West Midlands—a phenomenon is observed that has been described across the Atlantic as the "exploding metropolis."
There has been a voluntary movement, to a very much greater degree than has been generally realised, from the centre of cities to their periphery, and out beyond the green belts At the same time, there has been a planned movement of overspill to new towns and town development schemes. We can go further—and I am sorry that this is where Buchanan stopped short—by providing carefully selected small towns and villages beyond the green belts, and here I speak not only of England and Wales, but of Scotland, themselves with a green background, where expansion can be allowed and to which light industry should be attracted by every possible means so that jobs and homes can be provided together.
The hon. Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) has called attention to the economics of car ownership, and I should like to mention another way in which the present tax structure encourages the use of more and bigger cars. I refer to the system of tax relief for cars purchased by companies and partnerships for professional and businessmen who, I am authoritatively informed, are responsible for the purchase of about two out of every five of the new cars bought in this country.
The time has come when the Treasury ought to look closely at this system. It would not be a bad idea, for a start, to insist that every car purchased in this way—with the help, let us not forget, of a subsidy from the rest of the taxpayers—should be marked clearly and conspicuously, rather as taxi-cabs are marked with a registration number at the back, with the name of the partnership or company that owns the car. I believe that if his single step were taken, the subsidised purchase of new cars would Show a striking decline.
Let us look at the implication of the staggering [...]st of implementing Buchanan, an all that goes with it. I have heard every speech today, but I 114 do not think that we have looked sufficiently into the implications, the almost frightening implications, of the cost of planning and implementing the Buchanan Report.
How are we to meet the cost? We shall meet it in part, by the increasing yield of taxation from motor vehicles which, as the motoring organisations have pointed out, and as has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West (Mr. Popplewell), now runs to £743 million a year. At current rates it is likely to amount to over £1,000 million in 1970, and, perhaps, to £1,500 million in 20 years' time. These are large figures, but they will not be enough.
The more I contemplate the cost of implementing in full the proposals of this far-sighted Report, and the more I consider, too the benefits conferred upon owners who secure planning permission for the development of their land, the more I am convinced that the solution does not lie, as some hon. Members opposite have suggested, in the nationalisation of urban land, but rather in our striving with real determination to find some simple—perhaps, even some rough and ready—solution to the problem of betterment. Where local authorities acquire and in advance of requirements they can themselves, in part, reap the benefit of subsequent betterment, but this cannot be done in all cases. I should like to cast the net wider.
During most of the time when I am not attending to my Parliamentary duties here and elsewhere, I am concerned in what, I suppose, might be called the property world. As a practising chartered surveyor, I spend a good deal of time dealing with these land problems. To declare an interest, I am a director of two property companies, so perhaps I may claim to know something about what I am new saying.
I say quite seriously that, in present circumstances, I know of few developers who would not gladly pay a price for planning permission for land they want to acquire, or which they own. In conditions of a limited land area and very tight land use planning, a planning permission can confer a tangible benefit of great material value on owners of land. I say seriously, too, and after long consideration, that I know of no reason, in ethics or in the philosophy of 115 the party I have the honour to support, why some part of this benefit should not be collected in the form of a betterment charge, as part of the cost of striking a balance between the enjoyment of the motor car and an acceptable urban environment.
If we could introduce a betterment charge of some kind that ensures, at any rate, rough justice—and I was very glad that my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government suggested this in a debate here before Christmas—I believe that it could be done without any real harm to anyone in present circumstances. But if such a tax were introduced it should be a graduated tax, because it could then be made to fall most heavily upon those who sell land and buildings in the pressure areas, where prices are highest and demand is greatest, and fall not at all, or only lightly, upon those who contribute to a planned dispersal policy by making land available in the development areas, in new and expanded towns, and in other approved reception areas.
If that were done, I believe that we could create an effective fiscal inducement, at present lacking, for encouraging positive planning.
§ 7.59 p.m.
§ Mr. W. T. Rodgers (Stockton-on-Tees)
I begin with the following quotation:Enormous efforts combined with great skill and ingenuity are continuously exercised by the transport and other authorities to mitigate congestion, but in spite of the great expenditure involved these measures result in little more than palliatives, and it seems impossible for effective action to keep pace with traffic requirements".That might have been written by Professor Buchanan, but it was not; it was written by Sir Anderson Montague-Barlow, in 1940, and whether we are dealing now with traffic problems in London, or with other aspects of the same subject, they are largely the problems of 25 years ago, enormously aggravated by the failure of Governments to take adequate action.
I give the House a further quotation:It is not a matter of building a few new roads. It is a matter of dealing with a new social situation. It is not traffic movement, but civilised town life that is at stake".That is Professor Buchanan, but not 116 Professor Buchanan in this Report. It is Professor Buchanan, six years ago, in his book Mixed Blessing: the Motor in Britain. There is a great deal in this Report that was in that book written six years ago.
The Minister today claimed to have discovered Buchanan hidden in an obscure post in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and to have discovered him by first reading his book, but there is very little in the Buchanan Report which was not in that book. If the Minister says that he is now going to take account of his views, why did he not take account of them six years ago? What assurances have we that he will act now on the basis of an analysis which was available some considerable time before he came into office?
The Minister said today that the Buchanan Report is not a report in the normal sense but an analysis. He went on to explain this very odd device by which we have the Report of one Committee, Professor Buchanan's, and another, Sir Geoffrey Crowther's, published in front of it. I should like to know the precedents for this and whether in future we are to have an additional committee with every main one appointed, presumably to act as a buffer between the first committee and the Government. Is it to be a means of avoiding responsibility? Professor Buchanan was not required to make recommendations for public policy. I would expect the Minister to determine policy, but instead we had the Crowther Steering Group to make recommendations for public policy.
It has been said several times already in the debate that the main recommendation for public policy of the Crowther Steering Group was one which was turned down flat at the time by the Minister of Transport acting on the instructions of the Minister of Housing and Local Government and that was the proposal for regional development agencies. I emphasise this point about the lack of originality and the extent to which this is an analysis not in any way to suggest that Professor Buchanan within his terms of reference has not done an excellent job.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) that 117 the Buchanan Report will have a great and good psychological impact, but we will judge the Report not on what we have before u[...] today but on what Governments do with it in the future whatever the complexion of those Governments may be.
The Ministe[...] skated over the question of cost and, of course, it is impossible to give a detailed account of what the implementation of these plans might cost. It depends upon the period over which they are sprea[...] The Minister suggested 50 years, and [...] hon. Member suggested 40 years. Anyway, 40 years or 50 years, it is a very long time, and much longer than most of those who were impressed by the Report when it was published expected it would be necessary to wait.
If we are not to be given detailed figures it is, nevertheless, fair to ask what provision within the next few years the Government are making for implementing the Buchanan Report. I sought the figures in the White Paper on Public Expenditure in 1963–64 and 1967–68 which the Government published in December. This was after the Buchanan Report was published. I looked up the figures for expenditure in the current year 1963 and also in the year 1967–68. It is perfectly true that by 1967–68 we shall see an increase of £110 million in expenditure on roads and £180 million in expenditure on housing and environmental services. But having obtained a combined figure of £290 million we then begin to take away.
We take away major improvements to motorways and trunk roads. We take away expenditure on road lighting and maintenance and minor improvements. We take away investment in new housing by local authorities and expenditure on water, sewerage, land drainage and coast protection. We take away expenditure on loans to local authorities for house purchase and improvement, and we take away Exchequer loans to housing associations. When we take all those away, we do not have very much of £290 million left.
It is fair to ask, and I hope the question will be answered today, what actual provision has been made for implementing the Buchanan Report in the coming four years. Is the White Paper out of date already because of the Minister's 118 intention to implement the Report? If it is not out of date, exactly where in the White Paper are to be found the figures for carrying out the Buchanan proposals?
I should like to turn to two aspects of the Report so to speak at either end—one on parking and one on regional development authorities. I would take as my text on parking paragraph 444 of the Buchanan Report, which says thatThe broad message of our report is that there are absolute limits to the amount of traffic that can be accepted in towns…I agree that in any major new construction, where we are building a new town or where there are unusual opportunities for redevelopment, the problem of dealing with traffic it towns up to a population of 60,000 or even 100,000 is not difficult. The question is how we apply the Buchanan Report to existing town centres.
First, I think that we all accept the key rôle of public transport. I shall not develop this further, although there are clearly differences of opinion on how the key rôle can best be realised. Secondly, it seems to me that no planning can be successful without a clear view of the aim of planning, and especially of minimum tolerable speeds at peak hours and street capacity. Unless we have decided these things, it will be impossible to make clearly our other decisions about parking. Thirdly, I would rule out, as I think most people would, any possibility of limiting traffic in towns by edict, by deciding that certain categories of persons are entitled to use cars at any time, say Ministers of the Crown, and others are not so entitled, say ministers of religion. Of course, we could make differences and decide that there were priorities, but in all the circumstances this is something which we cannot pursue in normal peacetime conditions.
The fourth point is the question of taxing vehicles which are moving in towns. This is a serious proposition which deserves consideration. I was most interested in the remarks of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) when he said that we all know that calculations are going on in the Ministry of Transport into the way in which this would be done. I am all the more interested in this subject 119 because on 5th February I asked the Minister what experiments were being undertaken and what further studies were going forward into the problem of charging moving vehicles. He replied:…I am at present considering what studies of these may be desirable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th February, 1964; Vol. 688, c. 161.]It is deplorable if my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East was right and the Minister in his reply was telling less than the truth. Equally, it is outrageous if no studies are being undertaken. The Buchanan Report says that this is something which ought to be examined.
We know that four years ago in the United States a viable plan was introduced. Are we now, only at the eleventh hour, considering whether any studies are worth undertaking at all? The Minister has boasted in the past few months of all the new studies he has begun, but all these studies have been behind the times. The cost-benefit analysis which resulted in the decision to build the Victoria Tube ought to have been carried out ten years or five years ago. It should not have been left to a late stage when techniques were more refined than was necessary as a basis to make a decision. This proposal of a means by which people are charged for moving their cars at certain peak hours has a great deal to recommend it. It is a flexible and sophisticated instrument which deserves investigation and I should like to hear today whether or not something is being done about it.
On the problem of restriction, we are left with parking. I should like simply to enumerate quickly what those principles should be, very largely confirming what Buchanan says now but what he also said six years ago. First of all, highways for movement and not as a warehouse for cars. Secondly, no subsidy at all for public parking. Here I think I might find myself in disagreement with some hon. Members who feel that this is the only way to enable local authorities to get on with the job. If local authorities are to build garages—and I favour this—I do not think they should be subsidised at any point at all. There is no justification, as Buchanan mentioned earlier, for subsidising car parking.
120 Thirdly, I agree that meters should be adjusted to take what the traffic will bear. There is no point in charging 6d. an hour in Berkeley Square when the demand for parking is exceedingly high. I should prefer to see a flexible arrangement, given one important proviso. We know that a lot of parking meters are used by commuters. They leave their cars for two hours, they then drive round the block and park them again. I should like to see, in the new flexibility which we want, very short parking periods to enable a shopper to park his car for 15 minutes and no more.
Next there is the extent and location of off-street car parks. I think it is a mistake to believe that the provision of street parks will solve the problem. We must know the tolerable speed at peak hours. We must also know the absolute street capacity. If we are going to build new off-street parks in the centre of new towns we shall generate more traffic and not solve the problem at all. This applies also to the problem of planning permission for new building. I was for four years a member of a local authority in Central London and I served on the planning committee. I know how the whole of the planning committee—it included me—was delighted when a new office developer offered to put in more parking places than the minimum required by the planning regulations. We were delighted but we were wrong.
In the centre of London if new office buildings are going to include parking space for all the commuting employees we shall be faced with the problem of street capacity. Buchanan mentions the point. He is not dogmatic about the solution. I am not being dogmatic, but I think instructions should go to local authorities with a severe town centre congestion problem indicating that there is a problem of generating more traffic by doing something which all local authorities have believed for years was in the best interests of solving the traffic problem.
On the subject of development agencies, there has been a good deal of discussion in this debate, and I think rightly. I was not quite sure where the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) stood. It seemed at times that he stood on both sides. He wanted regional development agencies, and he also wanted to say what excellent work 121 the local authorities did and, although they did excellent work, there was a need for regional development agencies.
§ Mr. Rodgers
I was about to say that it was a typical Liberal performance—smooth but in the end not adding up to a very strong commitment to anything at all. I feel a good deal more committed than the hon. Member for Bolton, West. I am sure that planning will fail if we do not get the machinery right.
I started with a quotation from the Barlow Report, and I have been looking during the last two days at a Report of the Standing Conference on London Regional Planning. This is a most interesting Report, and I should like to quote some figures from it. The interesting thing about the Report is this. We are concerned with the problem of traffic congestion which has been growing in the last few years, but whereas between 1952 and 1962 the number of commuters coming into the centre of London increased by 134,000, between 1962 and 1971 the present estimate is that the increase will be between 250,000 and 375,000. In other words, in the coming decade the rate of increase of commuters coming into Central London will be twice as great as it was in the last decade. I think that helps to put into perspective the sort of problem with which we are dealing.
The other significant fact which is contained in this interesting Report is that within the next decade the Standing Conference on London Regional Planning foresees an increase in office employment in the centre of London of 125,000. I put it to the Minister that we shall never solve the problem of traffic in towns, and certainly not the problem of traffic in London, if we do not really get to grips with the problem of the increase in the number of commuters and the increase in office accommodation. It makes nonsense of urban renewal and the massive reconstruction which we are discussing today. This illustrates the point of the interrelationship of all planning measures, whether we are planning housing development or industry or transport. All 122 these things knit together, and we cannot deal with one without at the same time dealing with others.
The other admirable feature of this Report is that it exists at all. The Report of the Standing Conference on London Regional Planning is quite unlike anything which is available to me at least, and certainly this Report makes the Report of Lord Hailsham, as he was, on the North-East rather like comparing a sixth-form essay with a graduate thesis, this being in the graduate thesis class. I hope very much that in the coming years we shall have more detailed reports of this sort without which planning cannot be done at all. It may be that information is available in the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, but I should like to see in available to a much wider audience so that we can see how decisions are being made and whether the right decisions are being made.
There was a reference by the Minister to the need to deal with planning in conurbations. I am glad he has now arrived in the Chamber, because I would prefer to say in his presence rather than in his absence, which seems to me to be pretty considerable today, that again he is out of data. He is now proposing to carry out what Buchanan said six years ago, and in talking of conurbations he is using the language of 10 years ago. We are dealing today not with conurbations but with urban regions, and these are the principles upon which the Report of the Standing Conference on London Regional planning is based.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to conurbations. We want urban regions as a basis for planning. In our planning we are not only concerned with urban renewal with all that is contained in Buchanan; we are also concerned with new towns. That is another aspect of the inter-relationship of planning. We cannot simply deal with transport planning in towns without dealing with the problems of land ownership. We cannot deal with our total transport problems without dealing with location decisions so far as industry is concerned. We cannot renew our existing towns without deciding where our new towns are going to be and how large they are to be.
123 I suggest five steps. First, we ought to have in all regions of the country comparable bodies to the Standing Conference on London Regional Planning, and they should produce reports which are as available and informative as this. Secondly, the Local Government Boundary Commission should be given a new remit, to go away with all the information that it has collected in the last few years and to come back with a new policy—not for these large authorities, which are again valuable in terms of what should have been done 10 years ago, but with plans for regional government in the future.
No Government likes dealing with problems of local government, If one reforms local government, one makes more enemies than friends. Perhaps it is too much to expect this Government to do anything now, but the incoming Government, of whatever complexion, will have to solve the problems of planning in another way. If the Minister would like to begin now, we should all be very delighted, but I am giving him the advantage of waiting until after the General Election. No Government will be successful in planning terms unless they tackle the scale of local government, and this is why I say that the Local Government Boundary Commissions should be asked to try again.
Next, there is a great deal to be said for a Ministry of Town and Country Planning which would look at the whole picture, whether urban renewal, new towns, transport or location of industry. It is easy to think of a new Ministry, of course, as the best way of getting out of a difficult problem. I am suggesting it not for that reason but because there is an inter-relationship here which none of the existing Ministries can adequately tackle alone.
Also, the new regional authorities should produce new regional advisory plans. The ones prepared after the war were, perhaps, rather amateur by present standards, but there was much in them, and I think that we should have new regional plans for today.
When we have passed these four stages, we shall, perhaps, be able to consider seriously the prospect of having democratically elected regional government. We certainly ought not to run away from 124 this or brush it aside as too difficult. We should not reject it because it might offend some people in local government today. It deserves to be examined on its merits, in the light of the Buchanan Report.
I was one of those who grew up to political awareness in the years of post-war reconstruction, the years immediately before the end of the war and immediately after. I hope I may be permitted to say that for me and, I think, for others of my generation it was a very exciting period, It was a period which made demands, which called for vision and which called for courageous decision. There is something to be said for the view that the right decisions in politics are those which, at the beginning, are unpopular. I do not criticise the Minister when he is unpopular, and I think that most of the reasons for his unpopularity are unjustified. I quarrel with him on other grounds.
I was excited 20 years ago by the prospect of reconstructing Britain. I shall judge the next Government, of whichever complexion it may be, by how far they really tackle the job of changing Britain in the light of the Buchanan Report and in the light of all the other planning aspects which we have been discussing today.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Geoffrey Wilson (Truro)
I shall not attempt to answer in detail the speech of the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. W. T. Rodgers). I agree with some of the points he made, but in other parts of his speech it seemed to me that he was taking a somewhat narrow and peevish view. I only comment that, on the question of financing the very large changes which will have to come about to implement the Buchanan Report, he overlooked the observations of my hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster), who pointed out that, if the City of London could finance the building of motorways in Italy, it could at least do something about helping any necessary redevelopment to carry out these plans.
The right hon. Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker), in speaking about the railways, made a remark 125 which, I believe, revealed a basic misunderstanding of the facts. If I understood him aright, he implied that road congestion was due to a diversion of traffic from the railways to road haulage and to buses. If that was his point, it is not supported by the facts.
Over the past 25 years, road haulage as such has increased the least of all. The increase in the number of A and B licences is only about 14 per cent. The increase in the number of contract A licences is, I think, 188 per cent., and the increase in C licences is 244 per cent. I hope that I have the figures right from memory. The number of buses, which did increase substantially during the same period, AS now declining and is only about 40 per cent. above what it was 25 years ago. The number of private cars, on the other hand, is 300 per cent. greater.
The figures show that the great congestion on the roads is caused by new traffic, by private cars, and not by an increase in road haulage or buses.
§ Mr. P. Noel-Baker
I am well aware that the most important single factor in congestion in both town and country is the private car. I was arguing that there had been a great increase in the number of commercial vehicles, a great increase in their capacity for carrying heavy loads of 10 tons or more and a great increase in the tonnage carried by road. I regard this as largely due to the disastrous legislation passed by the present Government in 1952 when they destroyed the plans of the British Transport Commission.
§ Mr. Wilson
The right hon. Gentleman is speaking of what happened in 1952. I have drawn attention to what has been going on during the past 25 years, and, of course, the railways have been declining over a considerable period. But this is not a railways debate. It is a debate on the Buchanan Report.
I join with those who have congratulated Professor Buchanan and Sir Geoffrey Crowther on Reports which are truly epoch-making in their content and which will leave their mark on transport history not only in this country, but in other countries, too. I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Clive Bossom), the only Member to do so. I think, who reminded us that we ought also to congratulate my right hon. 126 Friend the Minister of Transport for having found Professor Buchanan and given him the opportunity to produce his Report.
The Buchanan Report deals with long-term planning for the development of whole districts, and some of it is very long term. I shall not enter into the arguments which have been raised during the debate about exactly how the development should be done, or who should pay for it, whether it should be development by the central Government, by local government or by regional development agencies, as Sir Geoffrey Crowther suggested, but I am quite sure that the studies of the areas concerned ought to be starting now. I was very glad to hear from the Minister that several studies are now taking place.
There are the prototypes of studies in the Buchanan Report itself, and I have seen others. I have in my hand the report of an urban renewal study of Fulham which was produced by the Taylor Woodrow group at the invitation of the Minister of Housing and Local Government No doubt. it is studies of that kind which are now going on.
Not enough attention is being paid to the possibility of expanding public transport. Both the Crowther and the Buchanan Report mention the expanding of public transport as a means of persuading commuters in cars to leave their cars other than in town centres and thus reduce congestion. Both point out that it is not the complete solution, as is obviously the case. Sir Geoffrey Crowther points out that in a car-owning democracy the commuter must be persuaded to use public transport and cannot be forced to do so. No Government which tried to use too much force in that direction would survive.
After remarking that some degree of reliance on Hass transport was unavoidable, Professor Buchanan goes on, in paragraph 457 of his Report, to say:…given a different financial policy, travel by public transport could be made relatively cheap, and this may prove to be the key to the problem in the long term.That is a quite short sentence, but it contains a lot of implications, and I hope that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will note it, in connection with the pleas of the bus industry for a reduction in the tax on derv fuel, 127 when he makes his Budget speech. It might be that a reduction in tax would not do much to reduce the cost of transport, but it would certainly prevent it from going up. That is something we could do forthwith as a means of encouraging public transport and thereby reducing congestion in towns.
But even if public transport were made less expensive and restraint on traffic in congested areas were increased either by some of the elaborate methods of pricing the use of road space such as are suggested by M. E. Beesley and G. J. Roth, referred to in paragraph 451 of the Report, or more simply by varied parking charges, charging less on the perimeter and more as one approached the centre, there would still be very acute competition for the surface space between public vehicles and private cars. I do not think that we need consider the third possibility mentioned in the Buchanan Report, namely, the giving of permits or licences to control the entry of vehicles into certain areas, because, as is pointed out in the Report, such a policy is unlikely to be successful.
Many of these studies give particular attention to segregating various types of traffic in different areas. For instance, there is much talk in certain parts of these Reports of elevated footways for pedestrians, which is a popular idea, also underground service roads for delivery vans, and elevated through-ways for fast motor traffic in towns. However, to construct any road at a level other than surface level is extremely expensive. I do not know whether my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary can give an estimate of the average cost of constructing a motor road at other than surface level. I have heard some very high figures given. My impression is that it may cost about £8 million per mile to construct an elevated road. Is enough attention being given to getting more mass transport off the road altogether by some of the less conventional and less expensive means?
We must have buses, and they will continue to be used, but as I say, they will compete with other surface traffic even if one reserves a lane for their special use, as has been done in some countries—for example, in Sweden. When all is 128 said and done, buses will compete for space which is needed by private cars. Provided that they are fast and frequent enough, and that passengers can be given a reasonable chance of getting a seat, trains are still popular for commuters. Several hon. Members have said that there should be an extension of the underground railways.
I wrote recently to my right hon. Friend to inquire whether any consideration had been given to building underground railways in conurbations other than London, and I was told that some consideration was being given to that. I was very glad to hear that that was so, but again, the building of an underground line is very costly. The Victoria Line, which has been mentioned two or three times in this debate, is costing about £5½ million a mile, without the vehicles. If we put the pedestrian upstairs, as many people suggest, on an elevated pedestrian way alongside the buildings, then has anybody really considered whether it may be possible to put some of the public transport upstairs, too? There could be an elevated tram, in effect, by monorail alongside the pedestrian way.
As I think most hon. Members will know, there are two prototypes of monorail in Europe at present which are talked about quite a lot. One is the Swedish-German ALWEG, which straddles a concrete beam. The other is an Anglo-French SAFEGE system, developed by the French from a British invention, "the rail plane" which was constructed by George Benney before the war on a site near Glasgow. In it is a car suspended from a chassis which runs inside a box girder. Because it is inside a box girder, which has a slit at the bottom, holding the car underneath, it is a particularly silent form of vehicle. It also has particularly quick acceleration. It is silent because it has rubber tyres running on a wooden surface, which would not be possible if it were not inside the girder.
As my right hon. Friend knows, I have taken quite an interest in these unconventional forms of transport. I have ridden in both vehicles and I have driven the rail plane, the suspended one. Certainly, they are quite interesting vehicles to consider and fast, with very quick acceleration. I think that some sort of investigation ought to be made into them. I believe that London Transport has had a look at them, and the 129 L.C.C., too. I understand that Hawker Siddeley made some investigation into them and I am told that Taylor Woodrow have also had some look at them. If, as I am told, the line could be constructed at about £500,000 a mile, without the vehicles, or, for a double track, with stations and vehicles, £1½ compared with about £5½ a mile for an underground line, or something very much more costly for an elevated road, it would seem to be a matter which ought lo be much more thoroughly investigated.
Whatever authority undertakes the reshaping of our cities, whether it be the central Government or local government or a regional development agency, we ought to be certain that it includes all forms of transport, including the various suggestions I have made.
It seems to me that the key to Professor Buchanan's Report appears in the last paragraph but one, paragraph 481:We have concluded that the motor vehicle, or something like it, is here to stay; that numbers may increase three or four times by the end of the century; and that half the total increases likely to come within ten years.That is repeating very shortly and very firmly the whole theme of the Report, that there will be a very vast increase and that it will come quickly. That means that time is not on our side.
Because we are in a small, overcrowded island, we cannot adopt the American methods of unlimited road building, as my right hon. Friend pointed out, but we shall have to adopt every method we can to keep the situation under control, including various unconventional methods such as I have mentioned. I hope that we shall proceed in that direction as quickly as we can.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Marsh (Greenwich)
The speech by the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. G. Wilson) is typical of the problem which faces many of his colleagues. A number of hon. Members opposite have made extraordinarily Socialistic noises during the debate. They have talked about the need for planning, which is accepted on both sides of the House. There has been a great deal of talk about the need for more concentration on public forms of transport and the need for more local authority enterprise. Indeed, one hon. Member developed 130 such a revolutionary fervour that he insisted that cars owned by private companies should have labels on them so that one would know which cars were being subsidised by the taxpayers. The idea of Rolls-Royces and Bentleys outside the Savoy having on them "This car was stolen from the British taxpayer" is fascinating, if not too practical.
The problem raised is a real one. It is a party political issue. The problem arises because the very policies and fundamental beliefs of hon. Gentlemen opposite make it impossible for them to meet the situation which faces the country. The hon. Member for Truro commented, quite fairly, on the obvious need in these circumstances to transfer some of the load from private transport to public transport. No one would quarrel about that, but while he was speaking I looked up the basic road statistics for 1962 in which details are given about road freightage and rail freightage.
In 1951 the road freight in this country amounted to 18 billion ton/miles, and in 1961 it was 27.9 billion ton/miles. On the other hand, in 1951 the railways carried 23 billion ton/miles of freight and in 1961 17½ billion ton/miles. Turning this into proportions, in 1951 the railways took 56 per cent. of the total freight. and in 1961 the railway total had gone down to 39 per cent. Of course we agree with hon. Gentlemen opposite in their analysis of what has gone wrong and also with a great deal of what they say. The difference between us is that they are unable to implement the policies because their whole political philosophy is opposed to them.
§ Mr. G. Wilson
The transfer from the railways has been not to the hauliers but to the private enterprise man, because that has been found more convenient. Unless it is proposed that the use of a private car should not be allowed, one cannot overcome that problem.
§ Mr. Marsh
Passenger transport is a separate problem. In terms of freight, the transfer has been from the State-owned public service railway to the private haulier in direct competition with the publicly-owned transport system. This is exactly what we argued about in Committee on the Transport Bill, whether the Government should encourage the 131 private road haulier to compete against the publicly-owned railway system.
There is this fundamental difference between us. There is a straight party political difference between the two sides on every aspect of this problem.
This is not, in my view, primarily a traffic problem. This is primarily a problem of town planning. The traffic problem grows out of this. The problem of town planning again a problem of two very different and quite incompatible points of view as to how we should approach it. Hon. Members opposite have many ideas and have made them in the course of speeches this afternoon but the suggestions which they make are quite incompatible with their basic political philosophy.
The other thing that emerged from the debate is that no one seemed to be particularly enthusiastic about the speech made by the right hon. Gentleman, and no one gave him very much praise, not even some of his supporters behind him. He made it quite clear that he was opposed to sin, in terms of roads, but he did not have any specific proposals as to what should be done. We can all make a lot of small suggestions that would have an effect. There is no reason why we should permit vehicle deliveries in the centre of towns during daylight hours. There is no reason why we should not put on much more pressure, as the right hon. Gentleman has tried very hard to do, to persuade industrialists to stagger working hours. This would make an enormous contribution. There is no reason why more heavy traffic should not travel at night and avoid the town centres.
§ Sir Ronald Russell (Wembley, South)
It is not just the industrialists. Have not trade unions also made difficulties about staggering working hours?
§ Mr. Marsh
I accept that there are problems in this and that the right hon. Gentleman has done a very great deal. But I am saying that none of these points of themselves, or together, go to the basic problem.
The Government appear to be thinking all the time of a minimum programme. The one thing that is obvious is the need for a radical solution. There again, 132 we come up against the differences between the two parties. We cannot control development of city centres unless we have public control and public ownership of urban land. We cannot go on having a system whereby the development and rate of office building in many of our city centres is determined by the amount of profit to the private developer. Dozens of local authorities are giving up the redevelopment of their city centres to private entrepreneurs, because those authorities have not the financial resources to develop their centres. So long as that happens, the prime dynamic in the development will be the profitability of the development rather than its social value to future generations.
Of course, these private developers are having to be encouraged. In one we find that a bus centre is to be produced for the local authority. In another, a municipal car park is to be provided for the local authority. This is the sugar around the pill. We cannot have a right and proper development of these centres unless they are developed on behalf of the State for the benefit of the community as a whole. As long as private profit is one of the prime factors behind the planning and development of our city centres, the problem will get worse.
Another thing that worries me is that we should be regarding the Buchanan Report as something new. It is a very readable and brilliantly produced Report, but as the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. W. T. Rodgers) said earlier, these are views Professor Buchanan was putting forward six years ago. But no one needed Professor Buchanan to tell us that in nearly all the major urban areas our city centres have been coming to a steady standstill for years past. Obviously, a technical report is useful to the Minister, or to his civil servants, but the problem has been there a long time and we have done very little about it.
Hon. Members have mentioned South-East London and the need for the examination of transport problems there. I would make a brief constituency point because I believe that the problem in South-East London is symptomatic of what is happening to transport generally. For years past, commuters in South-East London have travelled in conditions 133 which would bring an immediate prosecution if they were applied to cattle instead of people. One could not transport cattle in the conditions under which people travel between five and six at night from Cannon Street Station or London Bridge Station without being prosecuted. This has gone on for years past.
I am sorry to eavesdrop on the right hon. Gentleman's conversation, but I understand him to be asking why they do not go at different hours. I would not have expected him to listen to the speeches of back benchers, but I was saying that one of the problems was the staggering of hours and that the right hon. Gentleman was making a contribution by trying to persuade employers to stagger hours. Nevertheless, the fact remains that at the moment they have to travel in these appalling conditions, and the Minister has to think of something to meet this position.
Greenwich is about eight miles from London by road, but it takes 40 minutes, crawling from one traffic jam to the next. To travel by rail, as I have said, is to travel in appalling conditions. Now we come to the point; there is to be massive development in South-East London. The Woolwich Arsenal is to be redeveloped for housing accommodation and so are the old Kidbrooke Aerodrome and parts of Belvedere Marshes. It is estimated that accommodation will be provided for about 85,000 more people. They are to have to travel on a line already working to full capacity and on which people travel in appalling conditions.
The right hon. Member for Bexley (Mr. Heath) recently made a speech—he must have had some prior knowledge—suggesting that the whole of this development was to be for domestic accommodation. This is typical of the sort of problem we face, because the problem of South-East London, as of many other parts of the country, is not that of new roads, but of the resiting of other development. Woolwich can be taken as a typical example. If Woolwich were made an area of intense office development, not only would there be social advantages to the local people, but there would be some reversal of the flow of traffic in the rush hours and some avoidance of the present uneconomic use of public transport.
134 The Report gives example after example to show that the problem is much bigger than roads. For instance, the peak flow in Leeds is 150,000 vehicles an hour and, according to the Report, that would need comprehensive redevelopment of 2,000 acres. But it is impossible to get 2,000 acres for redevelopment in one lump with the present set-up of local authorities. The great problem of the present situation is that local authorities can afford redevelopment only in penny packets. If it is to be redevelopment based purely on social needs, control and ownership must be in the hands of the Government.
The Central London study to explore the maximum volume of traffic which could be absorbed by the different forms of development—and as a Londoner I naturally found this the most fascinating part of the whole Report—is brilliantly done and, unlike most reports, it is easy to read. But maximum redevelopment in Central London would still permit only 20 per cent. of commuters to use their cars. All the technical studies all the way through the Report show that even with unlimited money it is not possible to cater for traffic potential in the year 2010 except in the smaller towns.
Equally important, the political power of the motorist is very real. I am doubtful about how far these revolutionary moves will be made against the motorist. I think that most of the pressure, inevitably, will be not to legislate the motorist out of the central areas, but to try to encourage him to keep away from them. But if we are to do that, there must be a different policy from that which the Government have produced. There must be a co-ordinated policy. It is no good saying that more people should use the railways, and then close 5,000 miles of track. There may be good reasons for doing the latter, but one cannot do the two at the same time.
The evening papers tell us that London Transport fares are to be increased. We are told by hon. Gentlemen opposite that it is wrong to subsidise public transport. They are fundamentally opposed to subsidisation of public transport, but, as we have argued time and again, it is often valuable to subsidise public transport to persuade people to use it. The purpose 135 of railways is not to make a profit. It is to transport people from A to B, and I think that that is one of the biggest difficulties that we have met all the way along the line.
Many of us bring our cars into the centre of London because the cost of travelling on public transport is so high that the difference between using one's own car and using public transport is marginal, and, secondly, because the public transport system is inadequate to enable one to travel in comfort. Many more people would use public transport if it were as efficient, or at least if it were as comfortable and as cheap, as one's own private transport.
To ensure that people use public transport, we must have a different approach from that adopted by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite in recent years. I make no apologies for coming back to the point that this is one of the fundamental political differences between the two sides of the House. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees, my political activity dates from the post-war period. The issues which aroused people politically before the war were not the same as those which have aroused people politically since the war. One reads about things that happened before the war and they sometimes affect one to a degree, but they are not the big issues. To me the burning issue of the twentieth century, the big argument about Socialism or the laissez-faire approach to these things, is the way in which we plan Britain; the way in which we are prepared to develop our national resources for the benefit of the community.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite make speeches and say, "Yes, we must do something about this", but when one tries to discover just what they are doing to prevent private development, they say, "No, we must not interfere with private development". When we try to make them see that public transport must be preferred to private transport because it is in the interests of the nation that that should be so, they say, "No, we must leave this to the free flow of the market". When we suggest that the railways should be subsidised because it is to the advantage of the Public that they should 136 be, hon. Gentlemen opposite reply that that would be unfair competition.
All those things are fundamental to us. I believe that there must be State control over urban land and its development. We must have a co-ordinated transport system which involves the public ownership of road haulage, not on doctrinaire grounds, but merely because—
§ Mr. Marsh
The hon. Gentleman knows that he cannot dismiss the effect of private road haulage on our transport system as lightly as that. We should take road haulage into public ownership, not for doctrinaire reasons, but because we cannot have a co-ordinated transport system in this country unless we are able to control the direction which the various forms follow.
The Minister should be able to decide the priorities between road and rail transport. The hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) said that it was all a question of priorities. That has a familiar ring, because "Nye" Bevan said that priorities were the language of Socialism. Of course they are. The Minister should be in a position to determine his transport priorities. But he cannot do so when he has very little control over major sectors of transport.
The other point that we must realise is that the purpose of transport undertakings is not to make a profit—[Interruption.] The right hon. Gentleman is rumbling like a traction engine.
§ Mr. Marsh
I am grateful for that. If the Minister starts listening to Labour speakers now he will not make as many mistakes in the future as he has made in the past.
The right hon. Gentleman must accept that we may not make a profit out of transporting people about the country. One of the greatest problems at the close of this debate is that the right hon. Gentleman is as convinced now as he always has been that he can talk in terms of planning and, at the same time, oppose on doctrinaire grounds every aspect of positive planning when it is put to him.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
What we have been discussing is how, inside a democratic society, one carries through a revolution. I use the word "revolution" advisedly, because what is in issue here is change in the structure of government, in the powers and duties of government, and in the balance between public and private ownership and public and private enterprise and activity.
The thing that has immediately sparked off this revolution is, as always, scientific invention. It is always the scientists who are the real revolutionaries. The politicians toil behind, trying to bring the political structure of mankind up to date with the needs which the scientists have created. Although it was the invention of the motor car which sparked off the problem that we are now discussing, its discussion takes us into wider areas than that of motor cars, or even transport as a whole.
In the past we have tried to solve this problem by starting on a small scale and working up. To begin with, as motor traffic slowly increased, one town after another tried to solve the problem by a certain regulation of its traffic. Then we began to realise the need for by-passes, and a national planning of roads. Now we realise that we have to look at the problem in exactly the reverse order—to try to get the national picture right first—because not until we do can we get the answers right for all the towns in the country. It is that revolution in thought for which we should be particularly grateful to the members of the Buchanan and Crowther committees.
I accept that a good deal of the Reports is not new, but many people who have attained fame as great discoverers in the history of mankind have not so much made the discoveries in the first place as, somehow or other, found out how to drive them home into the minds of the rest of the population. That, Buchanan, Crowther and the skill of the Stationery Office have succeeded in doing. That is the kind of problem that I want to look at—the fact that we have to start on a nation-wide scale and get the national and regional framework right if each town and city is to solve its problem.
138 I want to discuss this matter with particular reference to planning and local government problems. As my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich (Mr. Marsh) has pointed out, with particular reference to the problem of South-East London, we are concerned not so much with the making of roads—important as they are—as with the building of cities and the planning and use of land. For this purpose we must start—as my right hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) made clear—with a national policy affecting the location of employment and, consequently, the distribution of population over the whole country.
Indeed, the Crowther steering group makes it clear that that, in its view, is the first of the four stages that must be gone through if anything like the hopes of Professor Buchanan and his colleagues are to be realised: that is to say, we mutt recognise—as I said in a recent debate—that today it is a function of Government greatly to influence the decision where industry shall be located and, consequently, what shall be the distribution of population over the whole country.
I think it important to realise that that is necessary because no region and no town can get down to its own problem until certain national decisions have been made. Suppose that, either through a regional development agency such as the Crowther Report proposes, or through whatever machinery the Government have in mind, we are trying to decide what replanning of roads, what rebuilding of cities, should be carried out in a particular region. To make such a plan we have to have the answer to the question: in the coming decade is this region one where the population will expand faster than the national average, or is it one in which it is socially desirable that the population should not expand so fast because it is already a congested region? The answer to that kind of question must be decided as a matter of national policy.
The instruments for a national policy of development are well known to us. A more vigorous and effective use of the granting or withholding of industrial deevlopment certificates; the creation of a similar system to the I.D.C. system 139 to govern commercial and office development; the vigorous creation of a good many more new towns than we have in mind; the provision of port and transport facilities and maintenance, and opportunities for entertainment and the enjoyment of the arts in those regions of the country where we desire to see a greater population in future. Another instrument is the power of the Government, through the location of staffs of their own Departments, or even the planning of those industries under Government ownership and control. These could be levers to influence where industry and population is to be.
Another powerful lever is public transport policy. That has been the significance of the railways in this debate. The case was powerfully argued by my right hon. Friend the Member for Derby, South (Mr. P. Noel-Baker). The Minister made a remark which suggested that he understood only about one-fifth of this problem. He said that he could recognise that when we were considering urban commuter traffic we could not consider it only on a strictly commercial basis. That is very good so far as it goes. But the proposition that we cannot consider railway closures on a purely commercial basis does not only, or even mainly, apply to urban commuter traffic.
If, as a result of decisions made simply on the basis "Will this pay?", we close down railway lines in a region which is already threatened with decay, we kick that region a bit further down the stairs. The result of that is not perhaps so much that people move from the region into the London and Birmingham regions, although that happens, but, of the growing populations of London and Birmingham, more remain jammed in those conurbations and town centres and lose opportunities which may await them for better housing in the regions which the Government have allowed to fall into neglect. If that is done, and the railway lines in London are crammed, to say that there will not be further damage to commuter service is only playing with the problem. The Minister must grasp the relation which exists between railway policy and a national policy of dispersal.
140 A national policy of this kind, although it has to be a national policy, cannot be worked out in all its details only by the central Government in Whitehall, as now constructed. If it were so worked out, at the start—because someone has to make a start—we should have to make modifications in execution from time to time and do so in the light of knowledge acquired from people in the different regions.
That brings us to the second stage of the Crowther committee's argument, the importance of creating urban regions. We need the regional concept partly because we cannot do the whole thing from Whitehall. Although it has to be a national plan, we have to have regional knowledge and contacts to make it work properly, but it is a national plan and local authorities are too small for this job. That is another thing which the Government do not seem to have grasped. The Minister said that each local authority must decide how to implement the Buchanan principles in replanning its town. What the Minister has not grasped is that if we are asking town after town throughout the country to draw up and implement a plan for remodelling their town or city centres to meet the demands of the present age, a town cannot know how to do that until certain decisions that lie well outside the powers of that local authority have been taken.
The Ministry of Housing and Local Government, some time ago, produced a booklet about the development of city centres. It said, very properly, to the local authorities, "The first thing to decide before you plan your centre is how you see the future of your town. For instance, to what extent will its citizens do all their shopping in the town and to what extent will they travel to a larger centre?" I mention that as one of a host of questions which have to be answered.
Secondly, if we look at one example in the Buchanan Report, that of Newbury, it is clear that although there will be much for Newbury to do, by itself it cannot begin to do this until certain other decisions have been taken which will require powers well beyond the local authority itself. That is why we have to think in regional terms. The national plan needs greater local knowledge than is obtainable in Whitehall 141 alone. On the other hand, local authorities as we know them at present are too small for the job. What we are driven to is that somewhere in our structure of government there has to be something which there is not already—really effective operation of regional representatives of the central Government.
We can leave open the question whether they should be politicians or regional Ministers—comparable, say, with the Secretary of State for Scotland, or a Minister for Wales, if there were such a person as a separate person of the trinity which the Minister of Housing and Local Government comprises at the moment in his own person—or whether they ought to be highly placed regional officials. At any rate, the regional representatives of the central Government in each region would act in concert and under their direction actual executive work affecting the making of roads and planning of cities would go on.
Such an agency—I use that word for the present—would have among its functions, first, the making of a master plan for the region, a plan in the town planing sense determining land use and recognising what Buchanan has pointed out, that a transport plan is an essential part of a town planning plan.
Secondly, it would have the job of coordinating the building programmes and activities in the region. It would have to make decisions on priority. It would have to estimate how much building activity could actually be carried on within the scope of the industry carried on there. It would have to consider what economies and what opportunities for better methods of building could be obtained by co-ordinating and standardising building programmes.
They would have to deal with something to which I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Leominster (Mr. Clive Bossom) refer—the question of the expert staff needed for planning matters. This is a. point sometimes forgotten, but it could wreck the whole programme if we do not deal with it properly. One of the jobs of the regional agency would be to see that the most economical use was made of all the expert people in that field in the region and to take counsel with the local authorities in the recruitment and training of further staff of that 142 kind. Another of its very considerable functions would be either the buying of land or, in line with our general policy, the recommendation to the Crown Land Commission, which we would create, as to which land would need to be bought.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I must have missed a thread in the hon. Member's argument. He was talking about the regional arms of central Government and now he is talking about the acquisition of land. Would the regional arms of central Government acquire land?
§ Mr. Stewart
Either the regional arms might do it or, in line with our general programme, they would indicate to the Crown Land Commission that as part of their plan it was in the public interest that certain land should be acquired. I am deliberately leaving alternatives open because the vital point is to get hold of this concept of an active regional agency. If one gets hold of that concept there are a number of possible alternatives by which we may apply it.
The question of the public ownership of land will be of increasing importance. The Crowther steering group points out that the real cost of the work which needs to be done to implement Buchanan is not such as need frighten us; it is very considerable, but it is within our resources. The group pointed out that the money cost might very well frighten us, but that that need not happen because so much of the money cost will arise on the buying of land. I think that I heard the Minister say "transfer". That is a transfer payment, and "transfer" is a good word. What it means is that a certain amount of public wealth is transferred to private pockets. As the Minister recognises, one of our problems will be how to prevent that transfer or how to secure a way of transferring it back again, because if we do not, then we shall tag on to the whole job an enormous, unnecessary expense.
It was for this kind of work that there is proposed in the Reports which we are discussing a body called a regional development agency. I accept at once that the Government might be able to find fault with the particular form of 143 agency proposed in the Crowther recommendations. After all, they were dealing with one task of government, although a very great one, and it often happens that when people study a particular task of Government, if they are not politicians they do not always see how their recommendations will fit into the whole governmental framework. But the Government must not ride off this matter by picking holes in the details of the regional development agency proposals.
The essence of the matter is that it is essential to doing anything at all in this field that there must be a regional organ of Government of some kind. The most extraordinary thing about the speech of the Minister of Transport is that he did not refer to the Government's refusal to create the regional development agencies, much less attempt to justify that refusal. This is a refusal to contemplate the main instrument which Crowther believes is necessary to the implementation of the Buchanan ideas.
If the Government would change their minds on this they would have the support of hon. Members on both sides of the House. The hon. Member for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster), my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. W. T. Rodgers) and the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt), who represents the Liberal Party, all urged this. The only hon. Member who was pleased with the Government was the hon. Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary), who appeared to think that the regional development agencies had already been created. If he will study the papers concerned he will see that there is no connection at all between what he was talking about and the regional development agencies. If he speaks to him in private, the Minister will be able to explain this to him.
Immediately one speaks of regional activity of government like this, there is the danger of falling foul of the local authorities. It is quite clear that such a regional body as I have described, in whatever form, would have to be in very close consultation with the local authorities, but I do not believe that we can solve this problem of trying to build up the regional organisation by expanding 144 the size and powers of the existing local authorities. We must have a devolution from the central Government, not an attempt to enlarge the areas and powers of local authorities.
I have two reasons for saying that. The first is that—as pointed out, again, in the Crowther recommendations—the size of the urban region should be determined by what the authors call the "traffic watershed". That means a very considerable region—in my judgment, an area too large for any local government purposes other than traffic, planning and roads. It would be very difficult to run local government if we had to start off with these large units chosen for that one purpose.
That is the mistake the Government have made in London. They have there created a body too small for one of the regions—and, quite clearly, not determined by the traffic watershed—and yet too large for most of the other local authority functions other than traffic and roads. In consequence, the other purposes of local government in London are to be broken up amongst smaller authorities which are too small to do them properly. That is what happens if we try to stretch the concept of the local government to deal with our regional and national problems.
My other reason for rejecting building up from local authorities is that, in the region, we are executing national policy. However we regarded our regional body, what it did would still have to dovetail with what was done in other regions. I therefore do not think that what we are talking about could be done by directly-elected local government bodies on a regional scale, because we would not then have that dovetailing together of the regional plans that the whole thing needs. But it is important to notice that such a concept of regional agencies, making certain major decisions about roads, planning, land use, and the rest, is not a restriction of the sphere of local authorities but a liberation of it.
What happens now? We give local authorities town planning powers, and over and over again they try, with those powers, to deal with problems which, owing to their size, they cannot solve. When the Minister was discussing Manchester's overspill, how many local authorities came to argue with him? 145 There were about two dozen, I think. One cannot hope to get effective policy decisions by saying that in every case one can leave it ultimately to be resolved by getting agreement amongst some two dozen or so different local authorities.
That really means that large-scale planning is not today being done at all. The person who is supposed to do it is the Minister, but he has so clumsy an instrument—the power to reject or modify county development plans—that he cannot do it. The regional piece of government I propose would be able to do that job. Once that is done, the local authorities can get down to that part of planning that is really within their field—the third stage of the Crowther argument, which says that the making of the detailed plan for each town or city is something within the scope of the local authority.
When they get down to that, I hope that they will follow the advice of my hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, South-East (Mr. Benn) and remember that, important as traffic is, a city does not only exist to allow people to drive their cars about in it, or to allow people to walk about in it; it has very many social purposes as well.
In drawing up a plan for each city, although they have to give weight to traffic, they have to consider also the other pressing things that need to be done. Whenever they find that by the same stroke they can both solve some of the traffic problems and clear away some of their slums and twilight houses, good fortune go with them, because it would be easier to get public opinion behind us for the rebuilding of our cities in so far as we can show that it is not only a matter of helping the motorists and pedestrians, as such, but a matter of clearing away slums or twilight houses and replacing them with a decent environment. But if local authorities are to get on with that job the Government will have to follow some of the advice given to them in the debate.
The Government must increase their powers to declare a comprehensive development area and halt undesirable private development. They must look again at the question of planning grants, as suggested by my hon. Friend the 146 Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne West (Mr. Popplewell), and, as is suggested on a larger scale in the Buchanan Report. The whole structure of local authority grants may need to be reconsidered, because we have to think of rebuilding and road building as part of the general problem, and that idea must probably be reflected in the structure of grants from central government to local authorities.
I have talked mainly about machinery, but we shall not get any machinery to work unless throughout our people we can rouse a real belief in collective enterprise, in the pride of doing something that is worth doing not individually but together as a nation. Part of the tragedy of our civilisation today is that nearly always when nations do anything with pride, in the sense that we are now all in it together, it is usually a military adventure. We must discover how to get that same drive and spirit for the peaceful tasks that await us now.
It seems to me to be one of the demerits of the party opposite that so much of its propaganda consists in denigrating public ownership and public enterprise, because one cannot connect that way of thinking with the job that must be done as described by Professor Buchanan. Let hon. Members think of the honourable public work that must be done, from the man, in the employ of local authority or regional authority, digging up roads, the man building houses, to the expert, highly salaried planning official in an office. We must regard all these people as honourable public servants who are engaged in an enterprise of which we are all part.
Yet at this moment the Government are to facilitate the pushing through our letter boxes of propaganda intended to describe every public servant as a kind of malicious booby who cannot do anything right. Ministers ought to dissociate themselves from that contemptible propaganda, particularly the Ministers who will be responsible for one of the greatest fields of public enterprise that this country will see.
Particularly is such a concept of collective enterprise and pride in doing things together necessary if we want to create cities which are not only comfortable but beautiful. There has been some reference to the importance of 147 amenity. We might ask ourselves why it is that in some ages people have managed almost effortlessly, as far as we can see, to create beautiful cities, whereas we at the moment, in architecture and planning, count ourselves fortunate as a rule if we get away with it without creating something positively ugly. Something seems to be lacking at the moment which some earlier ages have had. The truth is that in the creation of anything beautiful—city, statue, painting, whatever it may be—the human spirit has always achieved its greatest success when the thing was done in the widest sense as an act of worship, that is to say when the person doing it thought that he was not only serving some purpose private to himself but that he was part of and serving some larger aim, be it the glory of his Church or the glory of his city.
It is that kind of feeling that we have got to re-create in the minds of our people if we are not only to solve the prosaic problem of preventing all the motor cars from coming to a standstill but to create cities and a countryside which we can hand on without shame to our descendants.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir Keith Joseph)
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) made, as he always does, a very interesting and stimulating speech and I shall deal with the points he made, or as many of them as I can manage, in the course of my argument.
We are all indebted, and many tributes have been paid, to Professor Buchanan and his team, and to Sir Geoffrey Crowther and his team, but I should like to pay some tribute also to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport for his wit in inviting so obviously the right men to tackle the job.
We have had an interesting series of speeches. There has been a certain amount of contradiction on the benches opposite. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall (Mr. Strauss) pressed the Government to be urgent but spoke of a period of 25 to 50 years for carrying out the Buchanan revolution, while his hon. Friend the Member for Bristol, 148 South-East (Mr. Benn) urged us at all costs not to start on the rebuilding until we knew that we had absolutely the right idea. I shall try to deal with both those aspects of the great desire to do the thing in the right way as I go through the other arguments.
I should like at the outset to sketch once again the basic background statistics, and a few more that have not been introduced today so far. We know that car ownership is likely to double in ten years, and treble in twenty years. We know that whereas the population of England, Scotland and Wales was 49 million in 1952, and 52 million in 1962, it is likely to be 60 million in 1982.
I want to introduce figures which are, alas, only too familiar to me, namely those of obsolescent houses. There are just over 500,000 slums still standing in England, Scotland and Wales. There are 2½ million houses in England, Scotland and Wales that are potentially decent houses but still need equipping with hot water, bath and internal lavatory, and 2 million houses which are not slums but are not improvable. Those are the three sets of statistics which are the background to this debate on the Buchanan Report.
Of course, to cope effectively with traffic in the towns is a vital issue. Nevertheless, it is only one aspect of the even larger theme of town and city modernisation. Urban renewal is wider than tackling the growth of traffic, but both can, to some extent, and in some cases, with the right policies be tackled simultaneously. The essence of Buchanan is that if we wish to keep our towns and cities reasonably compact—and I think we all do—there cannot be, in towns of any size, universal access by car and a civilised urban environment.
The lesson that Buchanan has rubbed home is that of balance. We have to balance the degree of accessibility by car against the degree of urban environment that we retain. Professor Buchanan's group—and Professor Buchanan himself in subsequent talks on his Report—emphasise again and again that the choice of this balance must lie in the hands of the citizens of each town concerned. Of course, that choice will be guided in various ways. It has got to take account of the regional environment—a matter I shall come to. But each town is faced 149 with the choice where the balance should lie.
It is true that even when we reach full motorisation—that is the possession by each household of at least one car for itself—there may still be some palliatives to reduce the use of those cars in our towns. Hon. Members on both sides have spoken about these various mitigations of the effect of motorisation, and I shall refer to them now. Many of them, as hon. Members will realise, were covered in the circular which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and I sent out on 7th January this year to all local authorities giving them guidance about action which they should now be taking in the light of the Buchanan Report.
First, there is the technique of environmental management—given that name by the Buchanan Report—the technique of isolating given residential areas and saying that in these areas we shall try to minimise the ill effects of pollution, noise, danger, and visual ugliness which the car can bring. With environmental management, of course, we have to make use of the second technique, traffic management. Traffic management is designed to maximise the traffic flow over a given network of streets. It has been brilliantly demonstrated by the London Traffic Management Unit which my right hon. Friend has been directing.
The third technique to which the Buchanan Report refers, and to which many hon. Members have referred, is the full use of parking policy. This is mentioned briefly in the circular to which I have referred, and my right hon. Friend and I will be sending out a further bulletin soon devoted entirely to advising local authorities on parking policy. I think that it was the right hon. Member for Vauxhall who asked what our view was of the past policy of encouraging private developers to provide garages within their own projects. This will be covered in the bulletin of guidance which we shall be issuing soon.
The fourth mitigation, a very important one, was one to which the hon. Member for Bristol South-East, in his most attractive speech, paid a great deal of attention, namely, the full use of public transport. The hon. Gentleman made several suggestions. I liked particularly his phrase about a 150 mobile bus queue. There are difficulties here, as I am sure he will recognise. There have been discussions between the London Transport Board and the unions about "standee" buses, and these and all other elements of efficiency in the use of buses in London, at least, are within the terms of reference of the Phelps Brown Committee which has productivity as well as wages in its remit.
The fifth possible mitigation, which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Dorset, West (Mr. Wingfield Digby) and my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) and, rightly, taken up by the hon. Member for Fulham in winding up, is the dispersal of population. Of course, it makes sense to disperse some land uses which generate heavy traffic within towns in some cases, but it would be a very serious step if we were to damage the viability of a town centre by too easily dispersing, for instance, shops out to the periphery of a town in which they are now sited. We want our town centres to be what they used to be, something much more than places where people go to shop. The more we disperse the commercial value of a town centre, particularly if we disperse it out of town, the more do we damage the purpose of the town centre itself as a town centre. But we have to ensure that town centre redevelopment must take lull account of the Buchanan concepts.
I come now to the next possible palliative in the short term. The right hon. Member for Vauxhall and the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East asked about restraints on traffic. My right hon. Friend has taken the consistent view that parking policy is the first weapon to be used and, until parking policies have been properly administered and applied, and until the results have been ascertained, it does not make sense to consider anything more sophisticated, let alone more drastic.
The hon. Member for Bristol, South-East and my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns made a number of references to fiscal measures to discourage the use of cars or, indeed—this cam from my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns—to discourage the purchase of cars. The 151 House will realise that I must simply say that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will, no doubt, read those passages in the debate.
But—this is what we come to at the end of the day—even if all these palliatives were used to the full, and even if all these mitigations were applied, there would still not be enough room in our compact towns and cities, if we are determined to preserve a decent urban environment, for universal access by car. Compact towns are our heritage and our charge. Each town and city must take a decision about where the balance shall lie. But if it is to take this decision I believe that each town and city must take a comprehensive look at its own area.
Of course, towns and their internal traffic problems—and here I pick up part of the argument of the hon. Member for Fulham—are vitally affected by the surrounding environment. The Government are now in the process of issuing a series of regional plans to provide a framework within which local authorities can plan to the Buchanan model. A national plan for the location of industry, for which hon. Members opposite hanker, in a free society and in a country as dependent as we are on overseas trade, has its inevitable limitations when it comes to predicting exactly how many jobs there will be in exactly what areas and in exactly what year.
But the Government can declare, and have declared, priorities for investment and the inducement of industry. Those priorities are in favour of Central Scotland and the North-East. These are areas which at the moment are most in need of stimulus. But other parts of the country are being studied for the preparation of regional plans, and, indeed, fairly shortly now the plan will emerge for the South-East, where the problem is one, not of a need of stimulus, but of congestion.
I agree with the hon. Member for Fulham that the central Government must keep themselves closely in touch with regional needs but when all is done in the way of mitigation, palliatives and regional awareness it still remains for the town itself, the democratic authority of the town itself, to make its own 152 Buchanan decision. When it comes to make that decision we all realise that road and parking policy within an urban community acts and reacts on all the other elements of the town. It acts and reacts on housing, schools, colleges, universities, recreation and places of work. Above all, it acts and reacts on the character of the town itself.
These surely must be local issues. Scarcely an aspect of the life of the town is not touched by traffic implications. Local government is required to take planning decisions on all these aspects. It has to take decisions on slum clearance, where it has no choice. Slum clearance is going ahead as fast as local government and central government can manage. Local government must take a decision on which parts of its town it shall designate as improvement areas under the Bill now going through Parliament. It has to decide which are the twilight areas—that is, the areas containing houses which are not slums but which are not improvable and which will have to be replaced. These necessities—slum clearance and twilight area renewal—may provide opportunities not only for the renewal of the town in the sense in which we thought of it in the past but also for the provision in each town of a proper traffic network.
May I say in reply to the hon. Member for Bristol, South-East that we cannot wait for a perfect answer. We must use the best knowledge we have. We must get on with slum clearance. We must get on with twilight area renewal as soon as the shortage in any town is overtaken. We are in the early stages of urban renewal with the period of acceleration ahead of us.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I am sorry; I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. I was on the wrong track. I agree with him.
I come to the question of timing. Before any town can embark on the building or even the design of its primary 153 road network and environmental area, it must carry out a transport survey. I am referring to the large city, the conurbation. This is bound to take several years.
This is, I fear, the answer to the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. W. T. Rodgers) who asked what building would be going on for the next four years. I think that was the question. For two of them, probably, the time will be taken by preparation of the transport surveys and the preparation thereafter of a plan based upon it. Meanwhile, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bristol, South-East quite rightly emphasises, the weapons of the local authority are parking policy, traffic management, and environmental management.
But parallel with the transport survey there is technical policy to be evolved and action to be taken on housing and slum clearance. Building to overtake the housing shortage is going on now, and will continue to go on now. So are improvements to improvable houses, so is town centre renewal. But we have to prepare for the time when, the shortage having been overtaken, and the slums having been replaced, the resources of each town can be turned on to twilight area renewal. Therefore, while transport surveys are launched and road network plans are being prepared for traffic, simultaneously we can be carrying out the research and, if necessary, the legislative preparation of the human, administrative, technical, legal, and financial aspects of twilght area renewal.
Research both on pilot studies and on policy techniques, both huge subjects, is going on simultaneously under the Joint Urban Planning Group. This group serves the Ministry of Transport, the Scottish Development Department, and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, and is staffed with officials from each Department. Planning bulletins produced by the group are issued jointly by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and myself, and it was we who produced the joint circular a few weeks ago on the Buchanan Report.
There is the closest co-operation between cur Departments. This is focused on this Group. There is close liaison between divisional road engineers of my 154 right hon. Friend and my planning officers, and both Departments are represented on the conurbation transport surveys. We are together developing a joint approach in dealing with the impact of traffic on towns.
While all this is going on—that is the major preparations on both traffic and housing plans—local authorities will be getting on with town centre redevelopment and planning the improvement of suitable houses area by area. As each town overtakes its housing shortage and finishes its slum clearance it can turn to road networks and the twilight areas. Some towns, we hope, will be ready to start their network before slums are down, but I hope that we shall minimise the pulling down of tolerable houses in any town till that town has completely overtaken any remaining housing shortage. In many cases towns will tackle their road network and their twilight area renewal simultaneously. The houses will have to come down anyway and the redevelopment which results can then be made in depth.
Then designs for the future development of town centres will be expected to be planned intelligently for the Buchanan age. Our planning bulletins have been drafted for some time now in the context of the Buchanan doctrine, and, of course, new towns can be designed from their very earliest stages on the drawing board to reconcile the maximum of urbanity and accessibility. But I fear the suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Manchester, Withington (Sir R. Cary) of a sample town really is not practicable, first, because we do not have time to wait to learn from the building of a new town, and, secondly, because in the plans for the next generation of new towns—Cumbernauld, Skelmersdale, Dawley—we do have window displays, so to speak, of what can be done.
I hope that I have said enough to convince the House that housing and traffic, particularly in urban areas, are interrelated and if ever there was a job for local government this must surely be it. It is of the essence of local government The effects of town modernisation and traffic policy together involve such a wide range of activities and impinge on nearly every aspect of 155 urban development and life that any town must be concerned, and it cannot be divorced from local issues, local activities and local responsibility.
That brings me to the highly respected figure of Sir Geoffrey Crowther, for whom I personally have the greatest admiration. He has suggested that there should be regional development agencies. The hon. Member for Fulham probably put his finger on an accurate diagnosis here, "Regional" is a word that we all favour these days. Sir Geoffrey Crowther was probably thinking on a wider theme when he suggested regional development agencies. The Freudian slip of the tongue of the right, hon. Member for Vauxhall describes much more nearly what these agencies would do in the context of the Buchanan Report—road development agencies.
Because they are called regional development agencies, a number of hon. hon. Members have made excellent speeches on regional development. But we are not discussing regional development in this debate. Regional development agencies would be an interesting subject for another debate. What we are discussing here are roads within towns and their repercussions on every other aspect of urban life.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I have not time to give way.
My hon. Friends the Members for Weston-super-Mare (Mr. Webster) and North Angus and Mearns and the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Holt) made some interesting comments on regional development. But the fact is that the debate is about traffic in towns, and the roads in towns are essentially integrated with other urban problems connected with housing and every other aspect of urban life.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I have explained that I accept that each town must make its own decision sensibly within a regional framework. There must be a regional balance.
As I have said, this debate is about traffic within towns. It does not make sense to divide the responsibility and leave the town with the huge task of replacing obsolescence in the town whilst the decision about the road and traffic layout in the town is taken by some authority not responsive to election and not aware, or even conscious, of local conditions and, thereby, doubling the task that should be done by the local authorities themselves.
To separate off from all these local decisions, as the Crowther Report would do, the traffic functions alone would destroy the local choice on the balance which is at the heart of the Buchanan Report; would shatter the integrated approach to land use and traffic planning which was preached by Buchanan throughout his Report; and would spoil the chances of tackling simultaneously, or at least in close relationship to each other, the twin problems of traffic and obsolescence. The Crowther agencies would be remote from local conditions, indirectly representative and impersonal and would deaden local government initiative—and there is plenty which Buchanan will focus. Meanwhile, local authorities would be faced with the huge task of redeveloping their obsolescent areas.
I do not think that anybody in the debate, least of all the hon. Member for Fulham, has produced a shred of evidence that local authorities cannot do this job if they are helped. The logic of what the hon. Member is suggesting is to put an extra tier on the top of existing local authorities and leave them unreformed. What the Government believe necessary is to reorganise local government into areas of a sufficient size and calibre that they can handle the major jobs of transport and planning over the whole built-up area effectively.
This is only one part of the help which must be given to local authorities if they 157 are to be able to discharge the responsibility we are discussing. First, there is local government reorganisation. This the Government are painfully seeking to achieve. As we all know, it has been done for London. We have had the recommendations for an urban county council on Tyneside and for a single county borough on Tees-side. A series of relatively few county boroughs has been proposed—and accepted by the Government—for the West Midlands, and other conurbations are under review. County borough areas are themselves being reviewed, and decisions have been taken about Stoke, Northampton and Coventry. We are, therefore, in mid-process of reorganising local government to enable it to tackle this and its other heavy tasks.
Secondly, there is the question of money and of grant. The Government accept the need to overhaul the existing system of planning and highway grants. This is being examined jointly by the Departments concerned, and there will be discussions with the local councils. As for costs, we must renew our towns. This work must be done anyway. Much of the work, the public part of the housing job, has already been taken into account in our investment programmes. As I say, we must renew our towns. The Buchanan Report is about how we shall do it.
There are further needs of local authorities if they are to discharge this responsibility. Several hon. Members have rightly pointed to the shortage of planning and engineering staff. Both the Government and the Town Planning Institute are very well aware of this and will be discussing it with the University Grants Committee and the colleges of advanced technology. Meanwhile, there are vacancies for traffic engineers in technical colleges, and I very much agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Leominster (Mr. Bossom) that local authorities would be wise to release some of their staff to profit by these courses.
The Crowther agencies might seem to be able to make fuller use of what staff there is. But local authorities need this staff, too, because renewal of their towns 158 and traffic management in their towns is not a once-for-all but a continuing process and they will require staff of the same sort.
Finally, critics might ask whether local authorities have the willpower and the drive, even if they are reorganised, even if they are given the grants and even if they are provided with sufficient staff. There is every sign that the conurbations and the larger towns have the will to tackle the task. Several already have first-cuss advisers and are at work on plans taking full account of the Buchanan Report. Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle, and, more recently, Manchester have shown themselves eager to prepare and push through ambitious, up-to-date development plans. The London Transport Survey will be available for the Greater London Council and the Government will be issuing guidance and planning bulletins from time to time. One such bulletin on parking will soon be issued.
I am confident that a reorganised local government with a revised grant structure, helped by guidance from the centre and by increased numbers of qualified staff, will be able to cope.
However we tackle this, there is the problem of buildings, put up ahead of the network, which are later found to be in the way. This is the penalty of all development of policy and must be handled by skilful planning control.
However, two points need to be made. Local authorities have much to do to fit themselves for this task. Buchanan does not mean taking from the pigeon hole a road plan designed ten years ago and simply saying to the Government, "Give us the money to build this and all will be solved". What local authorities have to do is to take a fresh and comprehensive look at their whole town in the light of Buchanan and in the light of their housing needs. In the joint circular we have invited them to do just this and to co-ordinate the work of their transport, planning and housing committees. Given this co-ordinated direction in each town, the existing housing tasks can in many cases be dovetailed into the transport needs.
It was this comprehensive approach which tired Sir Geoffrey Crowther who, 159 at the end of his Steering Group's Report, said that our great-grandfathers had matched the challenge of the railway age and asked whether we would be ready to meet the challenge of the car age. The Government are determined that we shall.
§ Question put and agreed to.
That this House takes note of the Buchanan and Crowther Reports on the problem of Traffic in Towns, welcomes Her Majesty's Government's acceptance of the need for a
balance to be struck between the growth of traffic and the quality of urban life, and accepts that the modernising and reshaping of our towns should proceed within the framework of the main planning concepts embodied in the Reports.