§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. Speaker
It is probably convenient that I should say the Amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan) is not selected.
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. F. V. Corfield)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The primary purpose of the Bill is to provide authority for a further £150 million for the purposes of the new towns. The first New Towns Act of 1946 authorised a total of £50 million to be issued to meet the capital expenditure on the new towns of England and Wales as well as Scotland.
This limit has been raised from time to time to £300 million and was last increased to £400 million in 1959. The main purpose of the Bill is to increase the total to £550 million. The total commitments of the New Towns Commission and the corporations to 31st December of last year amounted to £394 million. We shall clearly be pressing against the present limit of £400 million by the end of the present Session. It is, therefore, prudent to seek authority for an increase now. That increase is £150 million.
This is a rather larger sum than the increases previously authorised, which have been in amounts of £50 million or £100 million at a time, but we are in a situation in which we have several more new towns which have been designated since the last increase and others are, so to speak, in the pipeline. Although a slight falling off in expenditure of the old towns nearing completion is to be expected, the overall rate of expenditure is likely to increase when the new ones get into their stride.
Allowing, therefore, for these increased costs and for the increase in costs of building, and so on, it is probable that the increase now asked for will cover the same sort of period as the last one. The amounts actually issued to the corporations are, naturally, less 722 than the commitments, because of the time taken to complete these large building contracts. The total advances to the end of 1963 were £339 million as against the commitments of £394 million.
The second purpose of the Bill is to simplify the financial procedure in connection with the New Towns Commission. The Act of 1959, which provided for the establishment of the Commission for the New Towns, required that advances made to the Commission to meet capital expenditure on uncompleted contracts taken over from a development corporation should count against the £400 million authorised by the 1959 Act, but advances required by the Commission to meet capital expenditure on its own contracts were to count against a separate £5 million authorised for that purpose. It has, however, proved impracticable to specify the precise purposes on which an advance will be spent at the time it is issued.
The Commission, naturally, employs all its financial resources whether derived from rents or loans to meet expenditure of all kinds so that its borrowings can be kept to the minimum and used only to make up the balance. It cannot conveniently keep its borrowings in watertight compartments and still make the most advantageous use of its resources. The distinction between these liabilities on contracts taken over and new contracts started under the Commission s own initiative is, in any event, not a very important one since, of course, both are for the same general new town purposes.
The Bill therefore provides that in future all advances to the Commission should count against the total authorised. Were it not for this provision the £5 million for the Commission authorised under the1959 Act would have had to be increased, if it were not being merged with the total of £550 million to which the new advance raises the figure.
So much for the outline of the purposes of the Bill. But Second Reading provides an opportunity to put before the House a brief account of how the money has been spent in the past, and how it will be spent, and to try to sum up the progress made. Taken as a whole, the "first-generation" new towns in England and Wales—that is. 723 those started between 1948 and the very early 1950s—are now about three-quarters of the way to the population level at which the corporations are expected to stop building.
That is what we generally refer to as the target population. But Crawley and Hemel Hempstead have already passed that landmark and the corporations' assets were transferred to the Commission in April last year. Others, including the Scottish towns, have still some way to go. We have, nevertheless, reached a point when it is possible to make a worth-while assessment of the success of the programme both in financial and in social terms.
Looking at the financial outcome, the encouraging aspect is that the new towns, taken as a whole, are beginning to show a small profit. On a total capital expenditure in England and Wales of £280 million to March, 1963, there was a net revenue surplus of £360,000. On the general revenue account there was a surplus of £730,000. But on the sewerage revenue account—sewerage is one of the most expensive items of initial overheads—there is still a deficit of £370,000, leaving a profit, as I have said, of £360,000.
Over the whole of the new towns and the whole period of their construction, however, there is still an accumulated deficit which last year's surplus reduced to £2½ million. There is, therefore, a considerable way to go to make good the accumulated deficits of the earlier years, and the current surplus of £360,000 is a very small return. But at least it is a beginning and there can be little doubt that, taken collectively, the towns may look forward to a prosperous future.
§ Mr. Corfield
I was coming to that. If any details are required, I will try to answer the questions that arise, if I have an opportunity later in the debate. In the four Scottish new towns the corporations are obtaining profit from industrial and commercial development. But because of the lower level of house rents obtaining in Scotland their deficits at 31st March, 1963—in this case the date is a little further back—totalled over £4½ million. These are heavier 724 than those in England and are likely to remain so for some time. But it is fair to say that the Scottish development corporations are charging rents which are somewhat more realistic than those of many Scottish local authorities.
We have to look at the finances of the new towns on a fairly long-term basis. In the early years capital investment is very heavy, and necessarily so, because of the expenditure on roads and sewerage and other services which cannot yield any immediate return, and the general revenue account is bound to show a loss in the earlier stages. In some cases it may be a number of years before losses can be turned into surpluses. But as the towns flourish industrially and commercially we may expect the surpluses to increase.
In asking the House for more money we are not asking for a subsidy. On the contrary, we are asking for authority to continue a policy which has been proved to be sound. And the future investment will be sound, in the form of these new towns. The House will appreciate that housing accounts for about 80 per cent. of the total capital investment and that on housing we do not aim to make a surplus. The policy laid down when the first corporations were established was that housing, with the aid of the Exchequer subsidies, should pay its way, and that remains the policy.
So, in effect, the surpluses achieved arise from successful commercial and industrial development. It will also be appreciated that this small return is an overall return and that some towns have no profitable industry. Aycliffe, Corby and Cwmbran were intended primarily to provide housing accommodation for people already in existing industry on various sites. These towns have little or no industry of their own.
A good deal of the capital expenditure remains unremunerative and some of it will never yield a return. I am thinking of such things as contributions to local authorities for services and amenities. But these are expenses which would not be incurred by an ordinary commercial developer. To this extent, therefore, the small overall rate of return is misleading and does less than justice to the financial position of the corporations. The tenants of factories, shop and office properties, of both the corporations and the Com- 725 mission, are expected to pay the normal market rents, although sometimes there are reductions which have to be made as a "pump priming" operation. Nevertheless, the net return which, inevitably, varies from town to town, is something between 2 per cent. and 4 per cent., which, in the circumstances, may, I think, be accepted as reasonable.
The important thing is that the figures show that the total investment is paying its way and the return may be expected to improve. I am sure that it is right that we should aim at a sound commercial return, as there can be no reason why the investment of the taxpayers should not reap a proper return and help to finance additional development which is demanded by the provision of the new towns which have been recently established or are contemplated. Much too much remains to be done to be able to forecast unvarying success in all sectors. But I think that the financial outlook may be described as fair at the moment.
Although this is a finance Bill exclusively, I should not like it to be thought that either I or the Government think for a moment that that is the sole or the main criterion on which we should judge the new towns. First and foremost, they are a great social experiment and an investment in a new concept of urban planning with the aim of providing greater human happiness. That is a matter on which, of course, it is much harder to pass judgment, if for no other reason than that there are no obvious criteria. It would be foolish to claim perfection or that there had been no mistakes or shortcomings, or that there are no problems ahead.
But despite our obvious financial difficulties, we are bringing together completely new communities with the emphasis on the younger age groups, and I think that we may claim that socially as well as financially these towns are a success. I shall be particularly interested in the views expressed by hon. Members during the debate. But as an example, in Stevenage over 70 per cent. of the population in 1961 was under 40, against the national average of just over 50 per cent. Clearly, the pattern of the population will change. In all the new towns greater provision is now being made for the accommodation of the elderly, and 726 I think that over the years we shall see the population pattern conforming more nearly to the national pattern.
But when all this is taken into account, we have over half-a-million people enjoying this new and, I think, very high standard of physical environment, living in bright and well-designed modern homes, with jobs nearly all close at hand, good schools, good shops and an increasingly wide range of social and amenity provision.
We have passed from the drawing board and the planner's dream to something which is alive and is there on the ground, and I think that we can claim considerable success—success which is acknowledged over a wide field overseas. One of the encouraging aspects is the very great interest and admiration which has been expressed by visitors from all parts of the world. We have had many thousands of them, and almost the unanimous expression of opinion has been one of admiration and in many cases of envy.
Looking to the future, the assessment relates only to the first 15 new towns in England, Wales and Scotland which are already going concerns—the first generation; but in assessing the likely financial requirements we have also to take into account the needs of the second generation towns which are now coming along. We already have the Skelmersdale and Dawley Corporations preparing their plans and making ready to receive overspill from North Merseyside and Birmingham respectively.
As the House knows, proposals have recently been published for an additional new town to serve each of those purposes—at Runcorn and Redditch—and public inquiries have been held very recently. My right hon. Friend hopes to reach a final decision within the next month or two. In addition, the Government have announced that development on the scale of a new town is necessary for the Manchester area, and, again, my right hon. Friend hopes to make an announcement about its proposed location very shortly.
In the North-East, following the recent White Paper, a new town is proposed at Washington to contribute to the housing and employment needs of the Tyneside and Wearside complex. In Newton Aycliffe, the corporation has 727 been asked to make proposals for the expansion of the town to accommodate an increased population of 45,000, and we are proposing to make more land available in Peterlee to enable better facilities to be offered to industry.
In the South-East, the Minister is considering similar proposals for the expansion of Harlow and Stevenage. Here I hope that I shall not be out of order, Mr. Speaker, if I refer to the Amendment on the Order Paper, even though it has not been called. I realise that it is the proposal to expand Stevenage which is causing concern to my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan) and his hon. Friends representing Hertfordshire constituencies, but at this stage I would confine myself to two short and very general points.
First, there seems to be an assumption underlying that Amendment that there is necessarily something sacred, something finite, in the originally designated area of a new town. Obviously, when a new town is designated, successive Ministers of Housing and Local Government make their decision on as long-term a basis as they can on the population and other data currently available to them, and the same applies to local planning authorities when they are preparing development plans and town maps. But none of these people, whether they be Ministers—not even Conservative Ministers—civil servants, or local planning officers, are prophets, and if planning is to work at all it must be on the basis of a considerable degree of flexibility—in other words, of changing plans to meet changing circumstances.
In passing, perhaps I could say, as I have said often before, that I believe that this problem of finding a balance between the certainty which is so important on a local basis and the flexibility which is vital on a national basis is one of the most difficult problems which planning poses. However that may be, I cannot see any fundamental difference in this context between a new town and a long-established town. After all, in many of the latter—ancient market towns, historic cathedral cities, and so on—there are strong arguments for leaving them much as they are, but 728 it is becoming increasingly clear that all such towns where there is land suitable for expansion will have to consider taking their share of the rising population and all that it demands.
§ Mr. John M. Temple(City of Chester)
Before my hon. Friend leaves that point, would he not agree that there is a fundamental difference between a new town which is planned with an infrastructure for a certain population against the future and an old town which never had its infrastructure planned for that purpose?
§ Mr. Corfield
I will go only part of the way with my hon. Friend, because I think that we make a mistake in imagining that our forefathers had no planning at all. Many of the ancient cities have very admirable planning which happens to fit a certain population. All these things must be looked at in the context of the individual case. There may be new towns which are so designed that an expansion will spoil the infrastructure, but it does not follow that because it is a new town, it is not possible to adjust what my hon. Friend referred to as the infrastructure for an increase in population.
My second point was that my hon. Friends who put down the Amendment firmly believe—and I accept their views—that Hertfordshire, in particular, has taken a full share, perhaps an over-full share, of the pressures which the post-war expansion has created. I do not for one moment deny the contributions which that county has made, but I question, as I think we must question, whether this is the appropriate way of looking at the problem. It is not a problem primarily of county boundaries but, first, of the south-eastern area as a whole and, secondly, of the nation as a whole.
In my view, we can make sense of the problems which face us only by looking at them in that context, bearing in mind that we have a greatly increased population throughout the country and particularly in the South-East. Moreover, it is one which is becoming increasingly mobile. I do not think that it makes any sense to look at this problem in small compartments or to be mesmerised by the accident of county or other local authority boundaries.
§ Mrs. Judith Hart (Lanark)
Will the Minister tell us what demographic research is carried out in the Ministry which gives him any assurance that present plans are based on a realistic future population development?
§ Mr. Corfield
We look at these things as carefully as we can, but this does not make us prophets. We rely on the Registrar General for the interpretation of the census and a projection of the figures which are available to him.
Finally, in Scotland we have Livingston, and a recent White Paper referred to the possibility of a further new town at Irvine, and this is being discussed with the authorities concerned.
If all these proposals go forward, we shall, therefore, have a programme to provide new town accommodation for an additional three quarters of a million people in eight second generation new towns and in expansions of three first generation new towns. This is not the end of the line, because we shall not have a full picture until the regional studies of the South-East, the North-East and the west Midlands and the proposed studies in Scotland are available. It is too early to predict the outcome of these studies, but even with the present projects it is already clear that new towns will be called upon to play probably an even greater part in solving the problems of the 'sixties and 'seventies than they have in the 'fifties.
We have gained a great deal of experience in the older new towns. Much progress has been made in planning thought and practice, and the new towns beginning to come on to the drawing board will certainly not be mere replicas of the old. This is the Buchanan era, and it goes without saying that the problem of the motor car in the future new towns has to be solved. But it is much more than that. Our whole social pattern is undergoing a change, and a more rapid one perhaps than at any time in our history. We have a population which is growing more rapidly than anybody could have predicted even a decade ago.
We have a continually rising standard of living, enormously increased mobility with the increased ownership of the motor car, new shopping habits, and a 730 technological revolution which promises more and more leisure and a different way in which people are encouraged or inclined to use their leisure. Even so, these are but a few of the problems which face us today in planning a new town of the second generation.
Future new towns are bound to be quite distinct, and even dramatically different, from anything that could have been foreseen in the early 'fifties. The next decade may well make even our present thinking out of date. We would certainly not wish to be complacent about either the quantity or quality of the various planning skills which are available. Nevertheless, our past achievements in new towns provide us with solid grounds for having every confidence that our planners of the future, and the new generation coming forward, will have the imagination and ability to meet this great challenge.
In commending the Bill to the House I emphasise that we believe that our second generation of new towns, like the first, will give a lead to the world.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
No one on this side of the House, would for one moment challenge either the urgent need for the money for which the Government are asking, or the strong desire to see it used wisely. We agree so much with the general object of the Bill that we would agree, if necessary, to provide more money for the purpose. I would not quarrel for one moment with that part of the speech of the Joint Parliamentary Secretary.
The Joint Parliamentary Secretary used a phrase which struck me very vividly. He said, "We must continue a policy which has been proved to be sound". With one alteration to that sentence—the substitution of the verb "resume" for the verb "continue"—I would accept the sentence without quarrel. It is nonsense for the Government to suggest that there has been a slow, steady, wise, far-sighted and prudent movement along the path of new town policy which is now beginning to fructify as a result of their wise husbandry.
The story is one of the Government's shocking failure to appreciate the importance of new towns, their failure to plan prudently ahead, their failure to get the 731 sites in time for them to come into the pipeline when they were required. The result is that there is now a sudden and convulsive urge towards providing a second generation of new towns, which will be worked out in the same atmosphere of haste which was necessary after the war.
It is a remarkable tribute to Lord Silkin and Lord Reith, who were, in their different fields, the architects of the new town policy, that in the years immediately after the war, as early as 1946, efforts were made to begin a number of new towns. There was blind groping, with very little precedent to go on, in getting together the staff, "know-how" and skill to begin building the new towns.
We now see the results of that foresight, because we now see the first generation of new towns coming one by one to maturity. I agree that they are displaying substantial social advantages. There are tensions, problems and difficulties. These are likely in any community which is developing quickly. They should not be ignored, but they are not crucial to the general social and human success of new towns. In addition, as those of us who have studied the accounts of the different corporations have already begun to appreciate the total investment is now paying its way.
The new towns are beginning to prove that not only are they a social advantage, but that they are also an economic and financial success. This is because the men who founded them—I suppose that at this point I should declare some interest, because I was one of the founder members of a new town corporation—did a good job in laying the general foundation which is now showing a profit.
What is the story after that which has led to our present position? We ought not to be having a second generation of new towns. What we ought to have had was a steady flow of new towns coming into the pipeline as the more mature ones reached completion. In the old days there was inevitably a rush in getting sites, in getting development plans approved, and in getting designers at work. The atmosphere was one of speed and urgency. There were, therefore, frictions and difficulties in 732 getting people moved in and in bringing about a good relationship between the old and the new citizens. These problems were the price of having to act quickly after the war. These problems should have been tackled by now. Over the last twelve years one by one more new towns should have been brought into the picture.
However, not only do we now have this atmosphere of breathless improvisation to meet the problems of the moment which ought to have been foreseen. There has also been the shocking waste of staff and "know-how" from the old corporations. We on this side have made this point time and again in debates on new towns. Teams worked together in an uncharted sea; they built up a great deal of experience and, in many cases, learned from their own mistakes. Because the Government gave the impression that they had abandoned new towns as an instrument for dealing with overspill, some of the people who had made their careers in new towns have left. The staffs of new town corporations have begun to break up and people have gone to other work because there were not the right jobs and opportunities for them in new towns.
We as politicians have said that, but we are not the only people who have said it. I should like to quote from the Architects' Journal of 27th February, 1963:There is no master plan, apparently— the new town nominations trickle out to no recognisable timetable or programme.…Long ago the Ministry was warned about the running down of the architects' department in the Mark 1 new towns, but it is not yet evident that this slow emergence…is sufficiently early and on a big enough scale to prevent the dispersal of town-building know-how. It conies uncomfortably close to the stop-start policy which the Government claims to have abandoned, and the morale-boosting effect of a phased, national town building programme is being missed.That is a very good technical condemnation of what we have been politically condemning during the past few years.
Let us consider the Lancashire situation. We have had the absolutely ludicrous performance over Skelmersdale. It was in, then out, and then in again and no one knew what was happening. The planning authority was left in a complete state of confusion about the Government's plans. Then a rapid decision was taken to include Runcorn as a new town.
733 I have a neighbourhood interest in Runcorn and I would certainly not quarrel with the selection of that place. It is desirable that there should be a new town in that part of the country, but there are grave criticisms of the choosing of the present site of Runcorn. It is not only across the river from the busy, prosperous and progressive town of Widnes, which is in itself a great challenge to Runcorn, but it is very near Liverpool; and the boundary between Runcorn and Liverpool will be a narrow one indeed.
We have already seen the Merseyside green belt eaten into. Halewood is in my constituency. There is the Ford factory and, with other new developments, overspill from Liverpool has eaten into the green belt between Liverpool and Widnes. The same will happen between Runcorn and Liverpool. The size of the population in a place like Runcorn is not an easy problem to resolve. The population of Runcorn is almost exactly that of Hemel Hempstead when that place was started as a new town. How much of the experience that was gained from Hemel Hempstead will be available when the Runcorn Development Corporation starts its job—although one should say "if" it starts its job because I think that the Minister's decision about an inquiry has not yet been announced. I suppose that the Minister is in a state of quasi-judicial detachment from these problems, but I hope that he will see his way to approving this one, because it will be a good thing.
Had there been any foresight at all steps would have been taken to see that the people who had the experience of Hemel Hempstead and its problems would have been available to look at the similar problems of Runcorn. However, there is no foresight or planning. Instead, the Government suddenly rush in and say, "We must get this new town quickly". I remember the breathless way in which the Minister made his announcement. It was done in a hurried way. We were suddenly told that we had to have a new town at Runcorn.
What is the situation in Manchester? Why have two new towns been announced for Liverpool while nothing has yet been announced for Manchester? Manchester City Corporation has been wanting to have a new town at Lymm for ages. The Government have still 734 not made up their mind about a site there and all we are told is that the Minister hopes to make an announcement. "Hopes to make an announcement" were the actual words used. To use words like that at this stage, when Manchester's overspill is bursting at the seams, is unforgivable. For years the city corporation has been begging for something to be done and now, in 1964, we have not had an announcement. Why cannot Lymm be chosen if Runcorn could be? What makes it impossible for Lymm to be chosen as a new town? Why hold up Manchester; that is, unless there is an alternative to offer?
These are the kind of problems that raise two difficulties. The first is the complete lack of policy of the Government over new towns. There is the uncertainty of whether or not they really believe in the concept of new towns. I can understand, to be charitable, why they should feel the way they do, since new towns were invented by Socialists and their assumption must be, I suppose, that they would be a failure. I suppose hon. Members opposite thought that nobody would want anything to do with them and that, therefore, they must find another method of dealing with the problem without just tagging along behind a Labour Government.
Although they have taken that view, the Government have suddenly found themselves in a desperate situation as a result of their failure to find any way of rehousing people in the great conurbations. They have, therefore, been forced to return to the idea of new towns. Last December we had the recommendations of the planning conference, presided over by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), for the Greater London planning region. That conference pointed to the vital importance of having new towns as a channel or outlet for the surplus population of the greater London conurbation. Thus the Government have been forced to do something about the problem. Reluctantly, they have been forced, as a result of their lack of planning and foresight, to go back to the idea of new towns.
The second difficulty is that the Department is woefully inadequate in the research and intelligence facilities it has available for planning new towns. It 735 messes about as far as it can with the census figures and tries to get some advice from the Registrar General as the basis of the decisions it takes. That is why its decisions are so bad and why it changes and vacillates the whole time. It is simply because the Department does not have adequate research and intelligence sections.
This shows that what is urgently required is for the Department to build up a well equipped and well qualified research staff who can provide information so that a population explosion does not suddenly hit the Minister in the midriff. This will enable the right hon. Gentleman to be aware of what is going on. This brings me to the policy of increasing the size of the older new towns—the Hertfordshire rebellion, if I may refer to it as such. I have some sympathy with this idea, but I have never thought it possible to draw a ring of, say, 60,000 people around a new town and then say that the place must never advance beyond that size of population.
Once a new town becomes a success and develops into a vibrant, organic thing it must automatically advance of its own impetus. It is wrong, therefore, artificially to say that it must not go beyond a population of 60,000. I have always thought that there must be room for expansion as a result of the natural impetus of a new town's own success. That is different from saying that because one is in a corner one must, because other sites cannot be found, artificially force an increase on the population of a new town.
The Minister mentioned the Buchanan Report. Surely one of the lessons of that Report—as far as I can grapple with it, because I do not pretend to be an expert on this subject—is that the people most successful in solving the problems of transport and traffic have been the middle sized towns. There may be something to be said for the Reith Committee's suggestion of the figure of 60,000. It became fashionable to say that that figure was too low and there should be larger towns, running into populations of 100,000 and even 200,000.
People are beginning to think again since the publication of the Buchanan Report. That Report suggested that the traffic and transportation problems of 736 very big towns were extremely difficult to deal with in comparison with the way they can be solved by the middle-sized towns. What co-operation is there between the Ministry of Transport and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in being certain that both Departments hold the same views on this problem?
It is of no use the Parliamentary Secretary striking attitudes, and saying, "We are aware of the problems of the new age", because it is obvious that he and his Department are not aware of them. I do not blame the hon. Gentleman—he is much too busy considering Amendments to the Housing Bill, the Rating (Interim Relief) Bill, and the rest, but the Department just does not have the quality of staff available, and is not working in sufficient touch with the Ministry of Transport and other Ministries to produce a sensible, comprehensive solution to these problems.
We have recently had the revolutionary declaration by the Minister about public ownership of land. What I understood the Minister to say was, "We can avoid the exploitation of the people's need for land by purchasing land well in advance of needs, we can then develop the area as a whole and, under the Town and Country Planning Act, can avoid allowing the land owner to swallow the betterment coming from the development. "That is all highly praiseworthy—but what is happening about it?
We have been told, with the grim monotony of some kind of preview of a film, that the south-eastern regional plan is to come out. Every time we debate the subject we are told that—it will be available next week—but it has still not been produced. But as soon as that report is out, the "vultures" will settle, and begin to acquire the land in the south-eastern region. The people concerned will rub their hands as they see what will happen. What steps are being taken to see that public authorities can acquire land to be developed under the south-eastern plan—
§ Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)
In Redditch, which is designated as a new town, a very large quantity of land towards the outskirts has been acquired by the local authority, and that may be happening elsewhere.
§ Mr. MacColl
I am glad to welcome the hon. Member to the campaign for public ownership. I see that we shall march shoulder to shoulder in that direction—and quite rightly, too—but I would be glad to understand that it is also happening in the South-East as a result of people anticipating this tremendous new campaign. The situation is so difficult when we have the Department completely uncommunicative about what is to happen; telling us to wait until that plan is published, when we can go ahead, plan our new towns, decide where they will be, and so on. The delay is just encouraging speculation. People are guessing where the new towns will be, and buying the land on the periphery in order to get the benefit in the other areas round about. What attempts are being made to acquire the land there before the plan is announced?
We welcome the fact that now, at last, the expenditure of this money shows a prudent step forward in the right direction for new towns. It is unfortunate that they have to be rushed in this way, and that we have had such poor planning in the past to get enough new towns in preparation, and the sites available. We should have had the site for the Manchester new town five or six years ago, so that it could be used now that we are ready for it. These things have not happened, and all we can do is to see that the Government vote them the money, hope that the Government will get on with the job and, even more important, hope that the Government will get out, so that someone else can handle the job.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin Maddan (Hitchin)
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) have been kind enough to refer; to my Amendment—which is not to be called—
§ [That this House regrets the decision of Her Majesty's Government, in respect of existing new towns, not to restrict the spending of the money to be advanced under the New Towns Bill (to development corporations and the Commission for the New Towns) to operations in connection with their currently designated areas.]
§ The Amendment has been signed by all the Hertfordshire back benchers with the exception of my hon. Friend the Member for St. Albans (Mr. Goodhew), who is in 738 the Middle East, but who, I know, has sympathy with what we have to say.
§ It is easy to say that we should include future new towns as well as existing ones, but the future new towns will get very wide attention and debate, and I am not worried about them to the same extent that I am worried about what happens to existing new towns. My fear is that in the existing new towns—because there is the vested interest of the Ministry, and of the development corporation and its present machinery—there will be creeping extensions.
§ It will be hard for Parliament to stop them, because by the time the matter comes to us for decision so many actions and related decisions will have been taken that it will be virtually impossible for Parliament to say "Nay". The existing new towns need further Parliamentary safeguard. Parliament's real power is the power of the purse, and I do not think that we should authorise the spending of money for purposes of which we are not aware. That is the purpose and sense behind our Amendment.
§ Stevenage, which has been mentioned by my hon. Friend, now has a population of 50,000. It started as a village of 6,000, and its population target was to be 60,000. The original purpose was to stop at below 50,000, and allow for natural increase to the target figure. It was then tacitly agreed, but not officially said, that it should extend under various plans to 60,000, rising by natural increase to 80,000. That is, as it were, the present plan. It may be said that it could, within the designated area, rise to 95,000 without in any way affecting open spaces, amenities, and places like Fairlands Valley, and the essential character of Stevenage within the designated area as it now exists is that of a town in the country.
§ Following a request made eighteen months ago by the Minister, the Stevenage Development Corporation has made a technical appraisal to see whether it can extend the town to a population of 150,000, as opposed to the 80,000 that might be described as the current limit. Twelve months ago, the corporation reported that this would be practicable only by going westward over the motorway bypass that had just been completed after twenty-five years' gestation.739
§ The corporation said, however, that to extend to 150,000 would be rather difficult, and that the increase should stop at 130,000 or 140,000. This required extending the town by two or three square miles over the bypass. For the record, it would start from Todds Green to Almshoe Bury, then to the Royal Oak and then—and this is important—southwards down the A.600 to just past Langley, and back to Watery Grove. That was what the corporation proposed, and it was said that the A.600 would be a natural western boundary for the expanded new town. That was a year ago.
§ Last week, I heard through quite unofficial sources that it was being proposed to take in yet a further two or three square miles—this time beyond the A.600, and with a boundary running from Chapel Foot to Hillend Farm, East-hall Farm, Graffridge Wood, Manor Farm, and back to Broadwater. It would, therefore, seem that even before the first proposals are approved we have further proposals to take in another two or three square miles of land. This proposal—indeed, any proposal to expand this town over the bypass—is wrong, including for the reasons mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple), and on regional planning grounds as well.
§ On the regional aspects, my hon. Friend almost under-rated the contribution which Hertfordshire has made to the expanding population needs of the region. The population of the county between 1948 and 1962 went up by 46 per cent., which is a great increase. Indeed, it is three times the average rate of increase in the south-east region, and much higher than the county with the next highest increase, Buckinghamshire, with 36 per cent. Some people say that Hertfordshire should expand faster because it is so under -populated compared with other counties, but this is not so. It may appear to be so to some people, but that is only because good planning has taken place and has been adhered to in the county.
§ The population per acre is just as great as in the Home Counties as a whole outside the Greater London area, and it is twice as great as that in the south-east region as a whole. I agree with my hon. Friend that we must think 740 of the region as a whole, and that is precisely what I am asking him to do. The county development plan for the period up to 1973 provides for a further 200,000 increase of population in Hertfordshire. This is without expanding Stevenage beyond the 80,000 limit, and of these 200,000, 59 per cent., or two-fifths, are planned to be immigrants from outside the county. This emphasises the contribution which Hertfordshire is already planning to make towards the solution of the regional problem.
§ At this rate Hertfordshire will be taking 7 per cent. of the whole of the 4½ million population increase foreseen in the next twenty years in the 18 counties of the south-east region. Yet we are told that this is not enough. It is interesting to note here, and I hope that it will be noted elsewhere, that 30 per cent. of those coming into Stevenage are from places outside Hertfordshire and London and are mostly from the North. I wonder whether this makes sense in the context of our national plans and hopes.
§ A further regional aspect is that Stevenage is only 28 miles from Charing Cross. The proposed western boundary of Stevenage now is less than five miles from the built-up area of Luton and Duns table, which itself has a population of about 150,000. We are told that this is rolling country, but everybody knows that Stevenage and Luton are both built on rolling country, so this will not stop them from meeting. If the expansion of Stevenage is allowed there will be irresistible pressure for a direct road link between Stevenage and Luton and this will provide the means for the final fusion of those towns. Therefore, the proposal to expand Stevenage will do nothing less than create a twentieth century south Lancashire or West Riding. This cannot be held to be good planning.
§ My hon. Friend says that we must not think about counties, but aboutwhole areas. Let me do that. It makes my case even stronger. Exceptionally heavy development is taking place in an are 20 to 30 miles north of London—in Bishops Stortford, Hoddesdon, Cheshunt, Harlow, Ware, Hertford, Hatfield, Welwyn, Stevenage, Hitchin, Letch-worth, Baldock, Luton, Dunstable, Harpenden, St. Albans. Heaven help them, 741 and Watford. [Laughter.] I mean Hemel Hempstead. Indeed, "Heaven help them" might well be the new name to be imposed on this area.
§ The more one looks at this matter and the wider the context in which one looks at it the greater is the case against wider expansion of Stevenage. It would be the means of fusing all into one great conurbation. There can be no case for saying that Stevenage is suitable to be one of the limited number of towns in the south-east region suitable for expansion to a population of 150,000.
§ Mr. Albert Evans(Islington, South-West)
The hon. Member said that a technical report was prepared by Stevenage Corporation about a year ago, yet to date no decision has been taken about the enlargement of the designated area of Stevenage. Can he tell us what has been happening during that period when the decision has been awaited? Is there not uncertainty for the local residents and industrialists which cannot be good for anybody? Can the hon. Member tell the House whether any attempts are being made in that part of Hertfordshire to secure options on the land for expansion of the designated area?
§ Mr. Maddan
As to what has been happening, Hertfordshire Members of Parliament have, of course, seen the Minister of Housing and Local Government. The county council and local district councils have been vigorously opposing the proposals which are being made. I hope that these arguments are receiving attention. As to speculation on the possible expansion of the designated area, one of the interesting things is that farmers in the square miles concerned are more interested in farming than in speculation. Contrary to what some cynics thought, there has been no rush to sell the land. They are very anxious to preserve it as farming land. Some people take the line that because Hertfordshire is close to London and the railway lines running through it have a fair commuting capacity it should achieve in the next ten years what might be thought would be its twenty-year contribution to the South-East, but, of course, this is impossible because such an immense forced rush of immigrants would bring a further 742 natural increase of population with it. It is impossible, secondly because the proposals already in hand involve the county in expansion of population from 1951 to 1973 of about 70 per cent. The administrative services, including education, could not keep pace with an expansion of double that rate.
I turn briefly to some of the local aspects of what is proposed for Stevenage. First, it is obvious that, once the motorway bypass is crossed, nothing will stop the creep of town development until Stevenage merges with Luton. Last February the A.600 was to be a natural boundary. Even now, before this amount of expansion is approved, the proposal is being made that the town should cross it. The layout of the town is such that West Stevenage will be separated from the rest of the residential area by a motorway, the industrial area, the main-line railway, the commercial area, the Great North Road, and, finally, the town centre. How can a town have any unity under such a plan? All that would be happening would be the creation of a new urban sprawl.
The hesitation and embarrassment of the Stevenage Development Corporation at its own proposals are obvious from one of its own comments:In order to minimise the effect of the feeling of a barrier caused by the by-pass and the industrial area the road communications between this new residential area and the town centre will need very careful planning.That is an understatement.
I should like to quote a further statement, this time from the observations on the arguments used for expanding the town over the bypass by Mr. Lewis Keeble, an eminent planning consultant. He said:Thus, with breathtaking brevity and simplicity, is advanced the most absurd proposition I have ever heard in the whole of my professional career.I am sure that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary must in his heart agree that the concept of turning a motorway bypass into an urban motor-road through a medium-sized town is, indeed, a novelty. The proponents of expanding Stevenage say it will only be like a railway or a canal, but students of town and country planning have long been deploring the way railways and canals broke up nineteenth century 743 towns and there can be no excuse for ignoring these lessons.
I have referred to spare commuting capacity on railway lines through Hertfordshire. I now hear it suggested that the West Stevenage part of the new town should be built largely for commuters, while the rest of the town is largely for those who work locally. This would finally kill any idea of the town having any community spirit, which it is hard enough to create anyway in a town which has expanded from 6,000 to 50,000 already during the last twelve years. There is enough of a problem without having this added to it.
The hon. Gentleman the Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) asked what were the effects ofall these discussions on the development of the town. I want to state another very bad effect which is the result of these proposals having been raised. It is that because of these absurd propositions for the future being entertained, decisions on the completion of projects like the town centre and many other current projects and proposals in Stevenage are being delayed while a decision is taken.
Already, eighteen months have elapsed since the Minister first made his request about the proposal of expansion. The argument whether to expand will be inevitably long drawn out and will be very harmful to the development of the town. It is said that a decision must be taken now because of the need to plan the town centre to an appropriate size. But I do not believe that the position is so irrevocable. Indeed, the corporation's own statement on the subject rather implies this, and I quote:The revised plan for Stevenage town centre has great merit, and,…even if a decision were made not to expand the town beyond 80,000, an amended plan on these lines would be an improvement.I take that as a hint that it might well be possible to create the town centre in such a way that further development could take place later if expansion were required in a decade's time. Talk about doubling the size of Stevenage should be dropped, and the construction of the town should continue to be untrammelled by this talk of expanding over the by-pass.
Of all the proposals made as a result of the technical appraisal, one of the 744 most interesting and novel was that there should be an industrial area on the eastern side of the town, and this was made following the study of the travel problem. But this proposal does not seem to be finding favour, which is one of the most curious aspects of the whole affair.
Before I leave the local aspects I want to turn to two technical problems. The first is sewerage and the second is roads. I want to ask my hon. Friend what sort of order of cost, capital-wise and revenue-wise, will be involved in the sewage disposal of this expanded population. With other expansion going on in the county, duplication of a very long trunk sewer will be required and an extension of the Rye Meads Works will also be required.
On the question of whether this is practical, the report of the joint consulting engineers, D. Balfour and Sons and J. D. and D. M. Watson, referring to the discharge from these works to the River Lee, which supplies one-sixth of London's water, says:
The conditions in the River Lee, particularly if it received increasing discharges of sewer effluent, appear to offer limited scope for the self-purification processes within the river to make any great contribution to the stabilisation of the relevant organic residues.'That is a nice phrase. What are the views of the Metropolitan Water Board? I ask this remembering the warning of the consulting engineers, who say:We have restricted ourselves to the implications of enlargement of the new towns"—that is Harlow and Stevenage—without reference to the effects of expansion in the population of other authorities beyond what was allowed for them in the original design of the Middle Lee Scheme.
§ Mr. Corfield
My hon. Friend will bear in mind that the land about which he is particularly complaining drains to the Ouse and not to the Lee.
§ Mr. Maddan
I am aware of that. It is suggested in the technical appraisal that the sewage should be pumped into the Lee catchment area. If it is now proposed that it should go to the Ouse, perhaps my hon. Friend will answer this question instead. What will be the cost of the trunk sewers to deal with that effluent and where will the sewerage be sited? I suppose that the water supply will now come from Ouse catchment 745 area. What will be the cost of bringing that supply to its very edge in Stevenage?
I want now to turn to roads. The expansion will require four bridges over the motorway and they will cost a total of about £½ million. The expansion of Stevenage will necessitate a three level road structure in the industrial area which will cost another £½ million. Is this the best way of using our resources to house our future population?
I mention all this to show what a drastic proposal the expansion of Stevenage is. The Registrar-General's forecasts, on the whole, have not been infallible in the past or so precise as to justify this proposal which would only contribute less than 1 per cent. to solving the problem of the 4½ million extra population in the South-East in the next twenty years. But I do not think that the Registrar-General's forecasts can be held to be accurate within 1 per cent. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development may do something to reverse the trend of emigration From the North allowed for in this figure of 4½ million.
The Hertfordshire County Council is against the proposal to expand Stevenage beyond 80,000. The Stevenage Urban District Council is against it and every district council concerned is against it. The Town and County Planning Association is against it and the Hertfordshire Members of Parliament are against it. I therefore ask that this proposal be deleted now from the southeast survey before publication, and that we stop the argument and let the expansion of Stevenage go ahead.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
I can well understand the concern of the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan) about the expansion of Stevenage. Although he knows more about it than I do, I think that one ought at least to give him cautious support in the matter. The Town and Country Planning Association in 1960 certainly felt that to expand the town as proposed would be unfortunate. In August, last year, the senior lecturer in town and country planning at London University said: 746With breathtaking brevity and simplicity is advanced the most absurd proposition that I have ever heard.…This would make Stevenage two separate towns, split by the bypass and the existing industrial area.I think that without far more evidence of the kind indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), and, indeed, by the intervention of another of my hon. Friends, we ought not to countenance the expansion of this sort of new town whereby the whole balance of the original proposition could be upset. I welcome the opportunity of saying something about the new towns. I also welcome the Bill as far as it goes. It is now just 17 years since the new town about which the hon. Member for Hitchin has been speaking was designated in 1946. It was the first, of course, of the new town corporations.
I like to recall that this imaginative step concerning new towns was taken by the Labour Government despite all the post-war difficulties which are sometimes forgotten by hon. Members opposite when they criticise some of the events which took place immediately after 1945. I think it is very greatly to the credit of the Labour Government that they embarked on this very imaginative concept despite, perhaps, many temptations to get quicker results in other directions. Looking back at the fact that five more new towns were designated in 1947 and eight before 1951, that is to say, 14 new towns created in this difficult period, this is a testimony to the statesmanship, courage and foresightedness of the Labour Government.
I believe that by every test, socially and financially, the 14 new towns which were started by the Labour Government are admitted on all sides today to be one of the most successful projects ever undertaken. More than 400,000 people are now living in those 14 new towns. More than 100,000 houses have been built by the new town corporations and more than 100,000 jobs have been created in the new towns where people are working in 21 million square feet of factories which have been built and leased by the new town corporations. The whole achievement is a triumph for the principle of collective ownership and good planning, and I am glad to see that, at any rate, we shall carry some hon. Members opposite some way in the tribute to what the new towns have done.
747 It is very difficult to think about the new towns without remembering the work of Lord Silkin and the opposition, incidentally, which we had to fight both inside and outside the House, some of it legal and some of it on a much more vulgar level. Nevertheless, he triumphed over both the legal and the other obstacles, and I believe that his efforts to achieve the wise use of land in Britain are among the most outstanding of those of any Minister of any Government in recent years.
I think that it is somewhat of a tragedy, as my hon. Friend said, that the magnificent momentum of the years of the Labour Government—14 new towns in five years—has been followed by this casual indifference, stop-and-go enthusiasm, or lack of enthusiasm, by the Government. In fact, in the first twelve years, in contrast with 14 new towns by the Labour Government, we have had three from the Conservatives—Skelmersdale in 1961, Dawley in 1963 and Cumbernauld in 1955. It is true that last year we had the suggested designation of two more—Redditch for Birmingham and Runcorn for Liverpool; but even if one includes these two new towns in the Conservative Government's record it is still pretty poor, and in point of fact these two new towns are not self-supporting towns as were the 14 which were planned by Lord Silkin.
For example, it is not proposed that all who work, or all who are of workable age, who live in the new towns of Redditch and Runcorn shall work locally. The fear is expressed that many of them will become merely commuters from their parent cities, because both are but 14 miles away from their parent cities, Redditch from Birmingham and Runcorn from Liverpool. So these towns are not self-supporting in the original sense and may become rather like the picture which has been painted for us by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan), large built-up suburbs of these parent towns.
I notice that the West Midlands New Towns Society said that "it feared that Redditch would become a satellite—not much more than a distant suburb of Birmingham. Commuting would turn the green belt into a mere parkway."Therefore, these two new towns do not come up to the kind of concept which we had originally.
748 I find it very difficult to understand why the Government have not shown more enthusiasm for a great new town programme. If they really want to deal with the rehousing, particularly of those who live in unsatisfactory housing conditions and at the same time do not want to turn either the home counties or the countryside remaining in Lancashire and Cheshire into a vast urban sprawl, and other areas as well, it seems to me that the only way in which they can achieve tolerable housing conditions for hundreds of thousands now living in bad conditions is by the principle of new and expanding towns. I cannot see any other way in which this can be done.
We know that in so far as the slum clearance programme is concerned, even though it was 123,000 short in 1958–62 of the figures that were hoped for, even with the progress that has been made there must still be something like—we do not really know—500,000 houses which are classified as slums and at this rate if we do not get some new town programme to cater for this kind of overspill the problems in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester will go on to the turn of the century and we shall have vast urban sprawl.
We know from the survey made in 1960 by the Office of Information that, in addition to the 500,000 slums that have been so recognised and classified, there are another 210,000 houses whose length of life is put at another five years and which ought to be counted as slums even if the have not, and rather more than 1 million houses whose life is put at between fifteen and twenty years. A practical rehousing policy surely means that one has to look at the rehousing of all the people in this type of property in the next ten to twenty years if the ambition of our society is to get a tolerable house for every family.
The chief planner at the right hon. Gentleman's own Ministry has said that if we take the four great cities of London, Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester, they alone will want 2 million houses, and we might by pushing people in get 1million of these houses built within the confines of the cities, but 1 million will have to go outside. It seems to me that on all these counts the Government will never be able to 749 deal with this problem unless they embark upon a very large new towns programme of towns built further away than the existing new towns from London and the other great urban centres. This view is held by others who have studied it. The Town and Country Planning Association sent a memorandum to the Minister in 1960 urging at that date 12 new towns.
My hon. Friend referred to the planning conference on London regional planning, which said that in December last year new towns beyond the green belt were absolutely essential if we were to prevent the kind of urban sprawl which the hon. Member for Hitchin painted so vividly in relation to the northern part of the Home Counties. I do not suppose that he needs me to tell him that exactly similar conditions are beginning to appear in Kent and in Surrey where development has been allowed, some of it on green belt and some on white land, so that it will be very difficult, unless someone calls a halt, to prevent an almost complete urban sprawl going right down to the Medway. Nearly every application now seems to be granted by the Minister not in concentrated development but very often by 300 houses here or 400 houses there, so that areas which were at one time open country are now almost continuously built up. One can see this if one goes from London by train into Kent, Dartford and Gravesend and through to the Medway Valley. If there is to be any balance of town and country this kind of policy must be reversed and in its place must be put comprehensive building in new towns and expanding towns.
It is my belief that even in the London area we shall have to have a certain number of these new towns, but they must be at a much greater distance than the original new towns. I expect that the Minister will have seen the book London Two Thousand by Mr. Peter Hall, who has picked out 25 new sites. Although I would not support all of them, he has carefully considered the nature of the soil and communications, local industries and so on, and a number of these places seem worth while looking at in helping to solve this very difficult problem of providing houses for those who are badly housed and to make pro- 750 vision for the expansion of the population.
There are two aspects of policy to which I should like to refer. Some while ago I was making a speech about the new towns and I said that we on this side of the House were in favour of winding up the New Towns Commission because we believed it to be bureaucratic. We agreed with the original concept of Lord Silkin, that the new towns when in a sufficient state of development should be handed over to the local authorities, though possibly increasing the status of the local authorities.
§ Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)
Could the hon. Gentleman tell us what he means by "increasing the status of the local authorities"?
§ Mr. Skeffington
If there were a new town in the area of a rural district council and it had insufficient powers to discharge the added functions due to the new town and all that goes with it, it would have to have an appropriate increased status. One should match the local authority with the new powers and new responsibilities which it would have when it took over a new town.
I know that in Scotland this is already a problem, where there has already been a redesignation, although the new town is not being actually administered by the local authority. It seems to us that to continue the present policy and to try to organise 100,000 houses and over 20 million sq. ft. of factory space from an office in Victoria Street is bureaucratic and undemocratic.
It is true that there are local committees, and before I made my statement I had had a discussion with representatives from the new towns, including those two whose functions have been handed over to the New Towns Commission. Some of the representatives to whom I spoke felt that they were little more than rubber stamps. They said that the important decisions were not taken by the local committees but by the New Towns Commission. I said this and repeated my views about the Commission.
I gather that the chairman of the New Towns Commission felt that this view was unfair and that this was not the picture of the situation that he had. I 751 made my original statement with great care. I went back to my informants and said, "This is the criticism that I have had of my speech. What do you feel about it?". They stick to everything they have said about the local committees. They told me:Last year the local committee were instructed by the Commission to review rents with a view to their being stabilised over the next five years, and if any immediate adjustment was necessary it should be put forward on 1st April, 1964. Without any prior discussion between members and the officers, the Committee were presented with a housing revenue account giving the barest information, with no detailed breakdown, and including an expenditure item which in the view of the Committee should not have been charged to that account. In addition, no credit was allowed in the account in respect of interest accruing from the balances on the revenue and repairs and maintenance accounts, although these very substantial sums were being used in the Commission's general financing. This, we are told, is the decision of the Commission which we must accept without demur. We know from our experience in local government that a five-year review is impossible without all the facts in relation to numbers of staff, overheads, methods of financing future building and land acquisition, the number and types of dwellings to be built and the phasing of this building. Not a scrap of vital information such as this was given to the local committee.My informants go on to say that they feel very much like rubber stamps. I am sorry if that has upset the chairman of the New Towns Commission, but that is how some members of the local committee feel. That is an additional reason why we on these benches believe that the Commission ought to be wound up and that in due course the assets of the new towns should go to the local authorities as Lord Silkin originally intended.
I hope that even on the local development corporation there will be local representation in order to make matters much more flexible, so that the ordinary local people feel they have some voice in decisions. There would be little sacrifice if this were done and it would lead to much better atmosphere and working.
I believe that the new towns were a risk but I believe they have been justified, as Lord Reith saw them in the committee's Report, asan essay in civilisation, an opportunity to design, evolve and carry into execution for the benefit of coming generations the means for a happy and gracious way of life.752 The new towns have achieved that. I hope that we shall soon be committed to a great new programme of many more new towns.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)
This Bill gives us an opportunity once again to hold what generally is a parish pump type of debate, since most hon. Members present represent constituencies containing new towns. The surprising thing is that the two speakers on the other side of the House have tried, rather whimsically, to introduce an element of party politics.
I am prepared to admit that the original Act was introduced by a Labour Government, but I would remind the hon. Members for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) and for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) of the famous prayer of Sir Francis Drake, who said—I hope I am paraphrasing it fairly accurately—that it is not the commencement but the continuance thereof which renders the true glory.
What gave me a temporary cold shiver down my back was the thought that hon. Members opposite have learned absolutely nothing from their colossal failure in housing when they were in office. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but we all remember when hon. Members opposite said that it was impossible to build more than 200,000 houses a year, merely because their idea of building a house was to make a plan and build the foundations. They built far more foundations than they ever completed. [Laughter.] This is history, and the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) knows it perfectly well. When we came into power we said that we would build 300,000 houses a year, and the hon. Member then laughed in the same inane manner.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
The hon. Gentleman is making a lot of this. The 300,000 houses were built and completed in one year on the basis that they were inherited from the previous Administration—that is to say, the foundations and the infrastructure.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
The hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) does not know what he is talking about. A former Under-Secretary 753 of State for Scotland said in the Scottish Grand Committee that they had reached a total of 35,000 in Scotland only because of the planning done by the Labour Government. It is now half that figure.
§ Mr. Gough
I seem to have raised a bit of a hornet's nest. I am not running away from the problem. Hon. Members opposite live in hope. They make a plan. This is what was said by the hon. Member for Widnes, who has a most charming disposition and puts things over most beautifully. He referred to "twelve wasted years". I thought my right hon. Friend the Leader of the House had disposed of that point. Twelve wasted years, my foot!
What the hon. Member for Widnes believes is that we should have rushed in and produced all sorts of plans for new towns. He proceeded completely to contradict himself by saying how dangerous it was to make a quick decision about Runcorn. It is a fact that the first new town that one plans is the easiest of the lot. The second is a little more difficult, the third is more difficult still, and so on. I give hon. Members opposite their due for bringing in the New Towns Act, but what must not be forgotten is that this is a completely new conception, and anyone who rushes into it and tries to push on too fast is in grave danger of making a colossal failure of everything. The new town project built itself up over a decade. All of us—this is where I take the element of party politics out of it—can congratulate ourselves on a very fine achievement. But it is an achievement in which the House of Commons has played little part.
This is probably the last opportunity I shall have in the House to talk about new towns. One of the things which gives me the greatest pride as a Member of Parliament is representing Crawley, the first of the new towns, the first to be taken out of the process of development and to be put under the New Towns Commission. Taking great pride in that, as I do, I now propose, unless hon. Members opposite want me to say more, to indulge no further in party politics.
I come now to the problems which we have in Crawley. Before I say more, I wish to add to the tribute I have 754 already paid to the development corporation and the New Towns Commission a tribute to the local government officers. This is seldom done in the House, and I am happy to have this opportunity to offer warm congratulations to the clerk to the council and the officers there who have had a tremendously difficult problem during the last decade in a town which has been built up from a small Sussex coaching town into a very large and busy industrial area of 50,000 or 60,000 people. They have done a magnificent job, and this should be recognised.
I also ask the question, "Whither Crawley?", but my outlook is different from that of my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan) in his concern for Stevenage. In Crawley, we do not have the same problem as do my hon. Friends in Hertfordshire. Crawley has grown well, and we believe that there probably is an opportunity for development and increase. We think that this could be achieved quite well, but it will present serious problems. It has been universally accepted on both sides of the House that any new town can be a real success only if it produces in the long run what is called a balanced community. This we have not got in Crawley yet. It is not too bad, but it is not really a balanced community.
Undoubtedly, Crawley can be considerably expanded, but this depends, in the first place, on the geographical direction of expansion. If it goes westwards, it will go towards Horsham. There is only a small green belt between Horsham and Crawley of 10 or 12 miles, and a move in that direction would be disastrous. Horsham itself is growing very much bigger. Crawley, therefore, if it is to expand, must expand in another direction.
I put it to the House—I expect that I shall get into serious trouble locally, though I am not sure—that the only way in which Crawley can be expanded is to the north, eventually taking in development with Horley, with Gatwick airfield in the middle. Everyone in Crawley is anxious to achieve county borough status, and I believe that this could be doneby an eventual combination of Horley and Crawley, with, as I say. Gatwick airfield in the middle.
755 My hon. Friend does not need me to tell him that this in itself will cause immediate trouble with regard to county boundaries. My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin said that this is not a problem of county boundaries. There certainly will be one in my area because Horley is in Surrey and, under the Greater London scheme, Surrey has been rather diminished in size. I can foresee a very big battle between Surrey and West Sussex if it ever came about.
I wish to put on record my belief, which, I think, is shared by very many people in the Crawley area, that Crawley may be different from Stevenage. If my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary wants to expand a new town, I think that I can make a notable suggestion to my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin and say that, along the lines I have suggested, we should be prepared to consider taking the people at present earmarked for Stevenage.
I wish now to put to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary a plan which I have advocated from time to time. I have actually burst into print in The Times on the subject. It is fun sometimes to write a letter to The Times. Indeed, if I may be allowed to prophesy, hon. Members who care to peruse its pages tomorrow morning may find that the editor has accepted another letter from me.
§ Mr. Gough
No; I do not send advance copies of my speeches to the editors of national newspapers. I do not set such high value on the remarks which I make.
Joking apart, I know very well that the siting of new towns is a tremendous problem. Hon. Members on both sides have referred to this. Is it not time, therefore, for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government to talk to his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations with a view to considering the establishment of a great new town project in Australia and another in New Zealand? We have made the great experiment of moving people 20, 30 or 40 miles from the middle of some conurbation—what a ghastly word—to a place 756 like Crawley. I believe that Australia could certainly take a new town. I know that I shall get out of order very soon, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if I take this point further, so I shall not pursue it, but I want my right hon. Friend, when looking for further sites, to consider whether it might be sensible to think in terms of going outside Britain.
I was glad that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington mentioned the ideas of his own party in regard to the future of new towns. Again, trying not to be party-partisan, if I may so put it, I hope that hon. and right hon. Members opposite will think this matter out again. It may well have been, when he was considering the scheme in the first place, that Lord Silkin had in mind that, eventually, the assets and holdings of the new towns should pass into the hands of the local authorities, but experience has shown that there are terrible dangers in this.
First, there is the party-political danger. The holding of all the assets, with the control which this involves—control over rents and control over leases not only of the houses but of the factories and everything else—is something which we should consider very seriously in the House. It represents a concentration of power not only in too few hands but—I mean no insult whatever—in very inexperienced hands. In addition, what will all the constituents of the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington, who are taxpayers, think about having their assets transferred to the taxpayers of Crawley? Equally, although my constituents in Crawley might be prepared to get away with that, what would they, as taxpayers who have a vested interest in other new towns, think of similar transfers elsewhere? This would apply throughout the country.
The bill for the capital expenditure of the new towns, for that is what it is, is now increasing to well over£500 million in all. This is the property of the taxpayer. One cannot divide up Crawley as one instance, Hemel Hempstead as another, and so on. To do so would be grossly unfair to Hayes and Harlington, Widnes and everywhere else. The Opposition have not considered this question. I give them due warning. If they go ahead, a large number of their own supporters in Crawley will be very dismayed indeed.
757 I have spoken longer than I meant to do. I finish as I started by saying that I am enormously proud of representing Crawley. It has been a very great success and I think that it is capable of wise and further development. I ask my right hon. Friend not to listen too much to the criticisms which we have heard from the benches opposite. The Government's record over the past ten years in the development of new towns has been magnificent. However, we are today considering a process which should go forward slowly and wisely and not precipitately and foolishly.
§ 5.40 p.m.
§ Mrs. Judith Hart (Lanark)
May I first take up the last point made by the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) about the eventual local authority ownership of the new towns. This has always been—and I am delighted that it continues to be—Labour Party policy. If he is so distrustful and doubtful of the capacity of a local authority to employ efficient officers, as it would have to do, and a large staff, as it would have to do, to manage the commercial assets and land constituting a new town, why is he not equally distrustful of some of the large private business monopolies which do precisely this in relation to their shareholders? I should have thought that it was far better that there should be local authority ownership of new towns in order that the management of them could be made responsible to those living in them. The lack of local democracy in new towns throughout the country, including Crawley, has been one of the most serious defects of new town development.
§ Mr. Gough
The hon. Lady asked me a question and then answered it at great length. Let me answer it in my own way. I did not say anything about the officials. I am not here referring to either party, but in local authority elections there would be the danger of someone saying independently of anyone else, "Vote for me and the rents will be reduced". It is obvious that there would be the danger of power being concentrated in too few hands.
§ Mrs. Hart
What the hon. Member has said reflects one factor which he does not sufficiently take into account, 758 and that is that the value of the new towns and of their assets would be as nothing were it not for the local authority money which has been poured into them in providing amenities to make them into towns as against mere collections of buildings.
§ Mrs. Hart
The hon. Member has made his speech. I do not propose to give way to him any more because there are many things that I want to say. He will find that much of what I say is relevant to his remarks.
I wish to refer briefly to two particular points which arise from Scottish new towns and then to turn to the more general issues involved in the questions raised by Members opposite representing Hertfordshire constituencies about the eventual size of new towns and how they should be planned to take into account population growth, and so on.
First, I regret that we are not having a separate debate on the subject of Scottish new towns. It is high time that we had one. It is a great pity that the Bill lumps together the English and Scottish new towns—the English ones with their Commission for the new towns and the Scottish ones without it—so that we have have this conglomeration of subjects. We must therefore discuss the Hertfordshire problem and many other very different Scottish problems on the one day. I made a point about this to the Leader of the House when the Bill was first mentioned, and I regret that he did not consider it advisable to change his mind about the way in which the Bill would be presented.
We have three new towns in Scotland. My constituency includes the new town of East Kilbride. The constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) includes the newest Scottish new town of Livingston and the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) includes the new town of Cumbernauld. These new towns are of different ages and are in different stages of development. The total achievement of the new towns in Scotland has been quite inadequate to meet the need of Scotland's overspill population.
759 My new town in East Kilbride has aimed for many years at building about 1,000 houses a year. It has failed to meet the target for each of the last three or four years. Last year it built only 571 houses. For reasons which I shall give later, I should be very happy with this rate of growth if at the same time there were more new towns achieving a similar rate of growth. But this is a totally inadequate scale of development of the new towns in Scotland in order to meet the needs of Glasgow, let alone other parts of Scotland, such as North Lanarkshire and areas in the east of Scotland, whose congested cities urgently need redevelopment and which therefore demand that some of their population shall be spilled over to new town developments elsewhere. It is most urgent that three, four or five more new towns are announced quickly for Scotland if we are to give any meaning to the redevelopment and rehousing which is so urgently needed.
My second point has particular relevance to East Kilbride, but it has a bearing on what happens in other new towns. It concerns the question of rents, which the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned. He said that it was necessary for the new towns to balance their deficits against their capital income in the long run. He stated that, fortunately, the new towns in Scotland had a more realistic approach to rents than some of the local authorities. We have just been told that in East Kilbride yet another substantial rent increase is to take place in the very near future. That follows an increase which took place last May which, in turn, followed other increases that have taken place throughout the history of the new town. I warn the Scottish Ministers, and particularly the Joint Under-Secretary of State, that they will not find this rent increase accepted with the same degree of resignation as the last one. The new town realises that the impact of high rents is likely to affect its development.
It is not just a question of the impact of rents on individuals. There is a rates rebate scheme, which has been introduced to minimise hardship. What will happen is that the new town council in East Kilbride will find that, because it at least takes into account the level of incomes in the new town—although the 760 Government and the development corporation may not do so—it will be prevented from raising enough money by rates to provide the amenities which the town so urgently needs which the Government and the development corporation fail to provide. Therefore, the central element of the new town—the difference between it being a collection of houses and a community—will continue to be lacking because the impact of high rents prevents the town council from imposing a rate burden which can provide it. This is a very serious matter.
It would be a different matter if the Government gave special help to development corporations or local authorities to provide the community facilities which are needed, but they do not. Local authorities in the areas of new towns are burdened by crippling expenditure on roads, schools and other needs which are none of their making. These problems arose from Government decisions to build new towns in their areas. On the other hand, there is an almost total lack of community facilities to supply the every-day social needs of the inhabitants of the new towns.
I hope—and this is another point on which my party feels that urgent action is needed—that it wilt be possible in the very near future, when we have a change of Government, for development corporations or local authorities to be specially assisted in providing the amenities which are essential in a new town if it is to be a community so that the burden does not fall on the rates of the local authority in whose area the new town is built. I hope that this will go part of the way towards solving the problem of high rents in new towns. If it is not, there will be bound to be a social class selection of tenants in new towns, as a consequence of a high rents policy. To the extent that rents in new towns are much higher than those imposed by local authorities in surrounding areas, new towns will tend to have tenants who can better afford to pay high rents than the inhabitants in surrounding areas. There will be more skilled workers and technicians, and fewer unskilled workers, and thus a special selection of tenants. Quite apart from not having a balanced community in terms of age, this means a lack of balance in terms of social class, which is not a good thing. At least, it should 761 not be something which emerges from a failure to appreciate the problems created by Government policy.
I hope, further, that we can have a low interest policy for money which is advanced to the development corporation for housing purposes. Although I welcome the Bill as providing money for additional new town development, I wish that along with it could have come a Government announcement that the capital advances to new towns for the provision of housing would be at a special low rate of interest, so that the problem of increasing deficits and, therefore, of raising the rents need not have arisen. A low interest policy is the only answer for housing at reasonable rents, in new towns as in other local authority building of all kinds. East Kilbride has paid out £1¼ million in interest to the Government over the years, and is now being asked to reduce that figure by imposing still further financial burdens upon the tenants.
Those are the two specifically East Kilbride and Scottish questions which I wanted to raise, and I pass now to the more general question and one which is not merely the concern of Members of Parliament in Hertfordshire: that is, how far the original target population of a new town should be increased. It would be a grave mistake if the Under-secretary of State for Scotland or anybody else regarded this as being specifically a Hertfordshire problem. It is a general problem of all new towns and their development. It arises from a basic failure of planning and research during the last ten years in which the new towns have developed so rapidly.
The lack of balance in age structure of the new towns in itself creates a problem of natural growth which, without adding additional immigrant population, will create problems of expanding the area of the new towns. Let me explain exactly what I mean. As everybody knows, the new towns have populations which are much younger than those of the country as a whole. This is mainly because those who tend to move out from the cities to the new towns are the younger ones who need the houses; they are the ones whom employers like to employ. The net result is that in Crawley, for example, although I do not have the up-to-date figure, in 1958 only 5.2 per cent. of the population was over 50 years 762 of age compared with the national figure of 35 per cent. Against that, 41 per cent. of the population of Crawley was between 20 and 40 years of age compared with only 26 per cent. in the nation as a whole.
§ Mrs. Hart
The consequence is that in the new towns there is a very high birth-rate, thus automatically creating a second generation which will need housing between 20 and 30 years after the new town has begun.
What kind of picture does that create? Let me take one hypothesis. I emphasise that I am not exaggerating and am pitching the calculation low. Let us assume a new town which has built about 11,000 houses. Ten thousand of those houses in the new town are probably for couples of child-bearing age. The 1,000 may be for single people or for parents of the tenants in the new town. Thus, 1,000 houses are allocated to people who will not be having more children and 10,000 to those who will be having more children. On that basis, the present population of the new town would be about 40,000. Its target population might well be about 80,000. So far, this is a typical new town.
On the basis, not of the average of new towns, but of the national average—this is why I am pitching the figure low, because the average size of family in the new town tends to be a little greater than the national average—the 10,000 couples will have 25,000 children, at the rate of 2.5 per family. The oldest of these children are now beginning to reach the age of marriage.
We have no statistics on migration away from towns, let alone new towns, according to age and social class. We do not know, when people move away from one area to another, how many of them are in one age group as against another, or how many of them are skilled as against professional workers.
For purposes of calculation, we can assume that about one-fifth of those children born in the new town are likely to want to move away from it as they grow up for career reasons. Perhaps they will take higher education, in which event, especially if they hold a scientific or technical qualification, they will be 763 less likely to find the jobs they want in the area where they were born and they must, therefore, move away.
For this purpose, we can assume that perhaps one-fifth of the second generation move away. That leaves 20,000 children—half of them boys and half of them girls. Let us assume that they marry each other. If not, if the boys bring in girls from outside and some of the girls want to stay in the new town and bring in boys from outside, the numbers will be larger. Let us assume, however, that they have the community facilities to meet and that they marry each other. Therefore, 10,000 new couples will want homes within the next 20 years. One sees immediately that, even on that minimum calculation, we must provide a 50 per cent. excess to cater for natural growth. If we start with a population of 80,000, it will go up to 120,000 simply by natural growth if the people who want to be housed in the area where they were born are to be accommodated.
There are two alternatives. We can allow for that degree of natural growth, or we can say that they have to be housed elsewhere, in which case there would be the absurd and wrong social pattern of moving people backwards and forwards from city to town, back to the city and out from the town. This would be a totally absurd picture. It would have the effect of completely distorting and breaking up the larger family. By the time that is done, nothing will be left of the family, the basic unit of our society.
On to that degree of natural growth might be grafted a further element of immigrant population, because it happens to suit the Government to extend a new town rather than to start building another. One knows why the Government prefer to do this. The Parliamentary Secretary gave part of the answer today. The most expensive items in creating a new town are sewerage and roads and the beginnings of the town. It is much cheaper to build on to a town which has been already started than to take all these expensive steps and begin another new town. That is why the Minister prefers this cheaper solution.
If that is done, however, we will have towns which, in the final outcome, bear 764 no relation to the number that was first thought of or to the kind of town centre that was first envisaged. Indeed, more problems will be created than are solved. The Ministry and the new towns simply have not faced this problem.
Last summer, I inquired what the various new towns were doing in relation to the percentage of dwellings which were allocated to second generation young couples and their thoughts about the numbers that would be needed for allocation to them on the basis of their future plans. The answers which I received ranged from 4.3 per cent. of houses being allocated to second generation young couples in Stevenage to 17.7 per cent. being allocated in Crawley. In between, we get 10 per cent. at Welwyn, 0.8per cent. in Cwmbran, 7.4 per cent. at Harlow, and all kinds of variations in policy. At Bracknell and Harlow, second generation couples were given houses only when the husbands happened to work in the town. In Crawley, houses are only provided for men working in the town, and the local authority are expected to provide for sons who do not work in the town, and married daughters.
Where there is a single waiting list it does not matter where the actual responsibility rests, whether with the new town corporation or with the local authority; the net result is the same in terms of growth, in terms of the number of houses and in terms of the growth of population, and its effect upon the size of the designated area.
I would point out that far from there being any kind of integrated policy or any Ministry research to enable new towns to arrange any common policy, the range was so varied and the figures so much lower than those which will exist in a few years' time that it indicates that either the Ministry has done wrong thinking about this or has done no thinking about it, and certainly has not provided itself with that demographic research which alone can give it the basis for thinking out policy. Therefore, I do think it necessary to do a lot of very serious thinking about this matter, and I would suggest that there are two or three possible ways to answer the problem.
The first way of approaching it would be this. Since we are going to see this kind of problem grow, as a result of moving a predominantly young population 765 into a new town, would it not be better if we tried to bring into new towns a more balanced immigrant population, more balanced in terms of age? Let us get more old people in and rather fewer young people. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary mentioned that efforts were being made now to balance the population by bringing in more old people. I inquired into this point some little time ago and I think I am right in saying that the top figure of allocation of new houses for older people coming into a new town is 7 per cent. I think the range is between 2 per cent. of allocations and 7 per cent. going to older people: certainly not enough to balance the present age structure. It is not enough to balance the 40 per cent. of 20's to 40's in Crawley. It could perhaps be achieved by encouraging whole factories to move into a new town. I think this has been tried in some of the London area new towns. It has succeeded up to a certain extent, but obviously it is very difficult to tackle in this way.
Another way we could do it has, I think, clear advantages from other points of view also, and it is to encourage immigration of the whole of the larger family, the whole of the kinship group. Here, a great many social tensions and real human problems are being caused in new towns all over the country. I could give to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland three examples of such problems which have come my way during the last three months in East Kilbride. I think the point has been reached when the Government should intervene to give some directive which would help.
§ Mr. Gough
I am intensely interested in what the hon. Lady is saying on this point. It is a very human matter. It may help her to know that in Crawley, along with others, we have discussed this, and there the older people are only now beginning to come along. When at first the young people went there—and it was the young people—they tended to go back to their old homes every weekend because they were lonely. Then after a time mum and dad began to come to see them. It is only recently that we are beginning to get the old people.
§ Mrs. Hart
I agree, and I know that exactly this sort of thing is happening in my new town. There is a general exodus back to Glasgow to see parents every weekend.
However, it is one thing encouraging the older parents to come when a man has already retired from work and is, therefore, more mobile, or when the mother is a widow. It is easy then to encourage them to come and settle near the son or daughter. What one ought also to do is to encourage a father and mother who are still middle-aged and still working to come out to the new town, at the same time as their young son or daughter, because it is in this context that the social problems arise—forexample, when the daughter is having a first baby, or her second or third baby, in the new town and misses that link with her mother which she had when they lived in the same town. Medical men have looked into this problem and discovered neurosis among young wives and mothers in the new towns. I do not want to exaggerate this; it has already, I think, been exaggerated to a considerable degree. Nevertheless, there is a problem here. It is a problem of loneliness, as the hon. Member for Horsham said, and it arises because people are cut off from their family links and ties, and lose that family interdependence which is normal in our society. This is wrong. If the result of Government policy is to break up those relationships which we regard as of real value in our society the Government are wrong. There is no denying that.
So we have to find a way to put Government policy right, and I think that one clear way is that the new towns should be less inflexible in their requirements that houses will be given only to men working in the new towns, apart from elderly, retired relatives. I think there is a strong case for insisting on this.
In the beginning of new town development we were concerned about getting a balanced community in terms of industry and homes, and we were anxious to avoid the garden city or dormitory suburb sort of development. There was a fear that a new town might develop in that way, and so in the new towns there was pretty rigorous enforcement of 767 the rule that people should both live and work in the new towns. However, it has become quite clear that this was a false fear, and there is now a need to have greater flexibility so that the larger family unit can settle in a new town. Of course, if they do not want to go we shall not solve the problem.
Therefore, the third thing I think we should do is to build the new towns more slowly and spread the immigration of the younger people over a longer period of time so that we do not have such a concentration of natural growth occurring as is happening at the moment. Let us build more slowly, and build more new towns at the same time. The one is the corollary of the other. In this way we can avoid many of the social problems which have arisen and at the same time give more scope to the architects and to good town planning, so that we can be sure that we can be pretty near the mark in providing all that is needed for the expected population, and able to plan on a sound basis a good town centre, and all the infrastructure.
That would be the answer, and it could have been given before if there had been people in the Ministry who were doing effective research and effective planning. I would stress to the Government that even now at this very late stage so acute are some of the problems which are arising at this moment in relation to the development of the new towns that the Government would do well in their last few months of office to take an emergency look at many of them. It should be done by a group of people who really know what they are about, and who could make a really valuable contribution to the solution of these problems. I do not think there is time left to the Government now to provide what ought to exist—a research unit in the Ministry continually feeding out to the new town corporations the kind of basic information they need and the results of the research which is carried out. We in this party would do it, I think. In my view it is an essential thing in every Ministry concerned with social planning.
Since there is not time for this Govern-to do this now in the two or three critical months which remain to them, during which many decisions have to be 768 made, they should call in people from outside to take a quick look at the matter.
The original proposals made at the end of the war for the immense development of new towns can be adequately achieved, and we can have the gracious living about which Lord Reith spoke, only if, in addition to the physical planning problem, we take into account the problems of social planning: if we face the fact that a new town exists for the people who live in it, not for the Government or the overspill authority, and if we are concerned to provide the context of a good life for the people who live in it, and if we regard this as the bedrock of planning. All else follows.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. James Dance (Bromsgrove)
During the debate on the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech I raised the question of new towns, and particularly Redditch, in my constituency. I then referred to the need for better amenities in new towns, the need to preserve the green belt and the need for us to have our own industry. This afternoon I wish to refer to an entirely different aspect—compensation, and, in particular, to compensation to farmers who are badly affected when new towns are opened up.
I have been very worried over the question of compensation for some time. I believe that on the whole owner-occupier compensation is fairly satisfactory. I am very much more worried about tenant farmers. It was with them in mind that on 2nd December last I asked the following Question of the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs:if he will seek powers to give tenant farmers a right of appeal to an independent tribunal or arbitrator for extra-statutory compensation, based upon such factors as the period of reasonable expectation of occupancy and the likely cost of finding and occupying another farm of the same productive value, where their land is compulsorily acquired.I received the following reply from the Parliamentary Secretary:No. Section 22 of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1963, empowers authorities possessing compulsory powers of acquisition to make discretionary allowances in respect of loss through disturbance, and in estimating such loss they are required to have regard to a tenant's expectation of occupancy and the availability of other land suitable for his 769 farming operations. In view of this recent amendment of the law, my right hon. Friend does not consider that any further amendment is necessary." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd December, 1963; Vol. 685, c. 135.]On the face of that, it may appear all right, but my farmers and my members of the National Farmers' Union are not in the least bit happy about that answer. While it mentions the requirement to have regard to the tenant's expectation, it is, in fact, entirely in the hands of the development corporation to decide whether it will even look at the matter under Section 22 of the Act.
We recently had a public inquiry into the whole question of Redditch New Town. I should be glad if my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary would be good enough to pass on a message from us saying how very grateful the people of Redditch were for the very excellent way Mr. Beddowe conducted the inquiry and the tremendous trouble that he took. It was first class, and all of us, on all sides, wish to convey our thanks.
Mr. Beddowe was asked at one time whether he felt that the provisions of Section 22 of the Act adequately covered the situations they were intended to cover. He could not give any reply to that question, but he said that there had been no case since the Act came into force. That does not get us very far. If we have had no case, we do not know what the answer might be. But Mr.Beddowe confirmed that the development corporation must give consideration to all claims made under Section 22.
However, he made it clear that the corporation had the right to decide whether or not the claims were reasonable, and it was entirely in its hands whether or not any payment would be made. This was, Mr. Beddowe thought, the only Act dealing with claims for compensation where there was no right of appeal. This is a very important matter; at the moment there is no right of appeal. Mr. Beddowe agreed with the suggestion of counsel that anomalies might easily arise in the payment of claims under Section 22.
When we consider the question of compensation, I think it is fair and relevant to compare the compensation for an agricultural tenant with that for 770 the tenant of an ordinary business, shop, office or factory held on a lease. By virtue of the Landlord and Tenant Act, 1954, a business tenant is entitled to a substantial degree of security. Upon compulsory acquisition, he will receive compensation to the value of his un-expired interest. Many businesses change hands, and this unexpired interest can easily be valued.
In the case of the tenant farmer, the tenancy is nearly always for one year. That does not sound very long. Nevertheless, although the tenancy may be on a yearly basis, most tenant farmers have the expectation of farming on that land for a very long period. Yet when we come to the compensation, it is a different matter. As far as I understand it, the tenant farmer will be given compensation only for the unexpired period of one year.
Another question which arises is that of a farmer whose land is cut entirely in half. It may be that part of his farm is in the designated area and the farmhouse and some other part of the land is outside it, or it may be the other way round. Great hardship can be caused by this also. The occupier can, I understand, under Section 22 of the Agricultural Holdings Act convert a notice to quit part of his farm into a notice to quit it in its entirety. But very few farmers are prepared to do this. It means that they will hang on if they possibly can to what little bit of land they are allowed.
Nevertheless, this creates very great complications. For example, they may have plant and machinery which was needed for farming the larger unit as a whole, and when their farms are cut down very substantially, they may find that a great deal of the plant and machinery—and buildings even—is not required.
I have many cases of farmers who have been or will be affected in this way, but I wish to quote two. I must go into a certain amount of detail, but I believe that this is important.
One farmer has been farming for forty years. He is 55 years of age, and has been farming his present farm for thirty years. The farm is 1¼ miles outside Redditch and comprises 88 acres. The whole of hi s land is to be acquired. He is a married man, and has three full-time 771 workers and one casual male worker. He is essentially a dairy farmer, and when he began there he also purchased the good will of a milk round covering a radius of approximately two miles, which had then been in existence for twenty years.
This farmer has now approximately 400 customers and produces over 50 gallons of milk per day. His capital investment is about £150 per acre, and he has a pedigree herd. He says that his income is exclusively derived from the retail sales of milk, eggs and associated products. Since he has taken the farm, about £2,800 has been invested by himself and the landlord in improvements.
This man has made no attempt to look for another farm because of the uncertainty of everything at the present time. He is sure that if he leaves this farm he will not find an equivalent one near it. If he leaves, it means that he will have to give up his milk round, which is his livelihood. One of the main difficulties is his age. I am informed that if a man of, say, only 25 were displaced from his farm, he would have some chance, perhaps moving further afield, such as to Wales, where he might start up again. But a man of 55 who has farmed the same farm for 30 years will never find anywhere else. Apart from the question of compensation there is the human side.
The other case concerns a man aged 28. He is married and has a daughter aged 9. He has been farming for two years on a farm which was purchased by him on a private mortgage. It is situated two miles south-east of Redditch and totals 72 acres. He specialises in rearing beef cattle and in fat lamb production. He has 50 cattle 70 ewes, and40 acres of corn and about 100 pigs. He himself has lived in the area for twenty-five years and certainly has no wish to leave.
His farm is within easy reach of his father's farm and, as a matter of convenience, he uses some of his father's equipment. This is a factor which, he says, is important to him in helping him to earn a decent living. At this stage he has not yet looked at another farm, but he says that he envisages considerable difficulty within the area around Redditch. He is not anxious to move 772 far away because he has lived in the district for twenty-five years. In any case, for example, if one is used to Warwickshire heavy clay it is difficult to get used to Wiltshire soil, which is light and quite different.
This man is an owner-occupier. He is concerned about the adequacy of compensation. He may be well dealt with—I hope so—but that still will not compensate him for the loss of the life he has been trained to lead and which he wants to continue. He is a young man who had hoped to spend many years on this farm and to bring it into much better fruition than it is at the moment.
Another point which rather alarms me is that I am informed that the annual loss of agricultural land is between 40,000 and 50,000 acres a year. It has been estimated that, over a period of seven years, this would equal all the agricultural land in Worcestershire, which is not a very small county. Whilst I have been rather parochial in giving figures relating to my constituency, this is, in fact, a nation-wide problem. Indeed, the problems of compensation to farmers for the loss of their land must be fairly widespread throughout the country.
On the land proposed to be taken over at Redditch there are 48 farms occupying 4,420 acres. Owner-occupiers have 2,076 acres and tenant farmers occupy 2,344 acres. This proposal does not, therefore, affect only one or two isolated cases. Indeed, the majority of the farms affected are occupied by tenant farmers. The average age of those affected is 49. There are nine tenant-farmers over the age of 50 and seven under that age. Twelve are over the age of 35, which it seems, is the dividing line after which a man is less likely to obtain a tenancy of another farm.
The main aspect on which they feel so strongly is the discretionary power of the corporation. They do not feel that it is right. They feel that if they have a claim it should be accepted. This covers ancillary costs like removal and other expenses relating to the disturbance of the family and compensation for losses which the farmer will naturally sustain by the disturbance of his business.
These farmers consider that the Act should be altered. They recommend that the phrase "as they think fit" should 773 be deleted from Section 22 and that the corporation should be instructed by the Minister to pay each farmer a reasonable allowance, depending upon particular circumstances. I think that would be fair enough. I am not insinuating that the corporation would do anything wrong, but, at the same time, why cannot we write such a provision into the Act and thus give the farmers the right to have these matters considered when compensation is being assessed?
I repeat, however, that this is not just a matter of compensation. There is the human side involved in a man being kicked out, through no fault of his own, of land which he may have been farming for a long time. We cannot do much to help in many cases, particularly if the man concerned is over a certain age, for there are not the farms for such men to go to. As I have said, between 40,000 and 50,000 acres a year are being lost to farming, so the situation will not be eased.
Therefore, the least we can do is to see that, when a man is turned out of his farm, we are very generous with the compensation which, I am convinced, he is entitled to have. At a later date, he can, with that compensation, perhaps buy himself a smallholding so that he can at least carry on with the work for which he has been trained and in which he has been happy.
This is very much a human question, and I hope that my hon. Friend, in reply, will be able to give some satisfaction which I can pass on to my farmers. They are, I assure him, extremely worried about what may happen to them in the fairly near future.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
I am sure that the House will share the sympathy expressed by the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) for the people disturbed from their occupations, whatever those occupations may be. I am sure that we all feel for the man who loses both home and land at the same time. It is difficult to see how we are to house our population in decent circumstances without taking farms over, however, and I am afraid that more farmers will be displaced in the future. The new town of Cumbernauld is in my constituencyand it gives one a pang to see a man aged 774 perhaps 50 or 60 displaced from a farm after 20 or 30 years. The land might give such a man a small income and a hard living, yet many men have great love for their farms.
Last Sunday I met a professional man who has a wife and two children. He is now 55 years old and has been practising as a dentist for 30 years in a practice which his father ran before him. Now, because of development, he is to be displaced from his practice, which is his home as well as his place of work. It is hard when a man of 55 is displaced from an area because of development but this is the sort of thing that happens.
The same situation arises in industry. Men are declared redundant and cast off from their jobs. I hope that the time will come when severance payments are made automatically and I agree that, when a farmer is displaced, we should ensure that the compensation is adequate to enable him to take another farm, difficult though that is. I hope that the provision permitted by the Government will not be too harsh on people displaced from their homes and livelihood.
I want to deal with Cumbernauld. The work being done there by the new town authority is really remarkable. The development of the shopping area is something which needs to be seen to be believed. It is a remarkable piece of work, and credit is due to the officials who carried out the corporation's plans. But there are many shortcomings regarding the situation at Cumbernauld, and one is the responsibility of the Department in Edinburgh. A child reaching the age of 5 after 31st March cannot be accepted into a primary school until the following September. This is a serious matter. I asked a Parliamentary Question recently about the number of children involved but I could not get that number and the Answer I received was very unsatisfactory. I hope I may be successful in getting the number tonight.
It is hurtful to people living in Cumbernauld because last year the Secretary of State for Scotland deliberately cut the county council's new school building programme from just over £2 million to a figure of just over £880,000. There is no secondary school at Cumbernauld and primary school children must go to Kirkintilloch where there are 775 two secondary schools, Lenzie Academy and St. Ninian's R.C. School. But there is an overspill agreement involving Kirkintilloch and Glasgow and Glasgow overspill also conies to Cumbernauld. There is not enough primary accommodation at Cumbernauld and at Kirkintilloch because of these overspill schemes. Educationally the situation is hopeless. The actions of two Ministries are unco-ordinated. Paragraph 30 of the Reports of the Scottish Development Corporations, including Cumbernauld, for the year ended 31st March, 1963, states:The Seafar Primary School commenced its intake of pupils after the Christmas vacation 1962…It continues:The Corporation and the County Education Committee continue to consult so as to secure that housing and primary schools provision are kept in step.But they are not kept in step because the Secretary of State cuts the school building programme. I am told by the Department in Edinburgh that the programme for the county has been nearly halved because the need for certain priorities to be maintained. Cumbernauld, the Burgh of Kirkintilloch and the Burgh of Clydebank suffer because of the need to establish these priorities. There are overspill agreements which affect Cumbernauld, Kirkintilloch and Milngavie, but there has been a cut in the school building programme. Such a cut is worse in respect of a new town because everyone wishes to paint a glowing picture of a new town and there is no doubt that Cumbernauld is becoming a beautiful town. A great deal of discontent is caused when people find that they cannot send their 5-year old children to school. Parents have asked me to communicate with the Glasgow Corporation with a view to their returning to live in Glasgow for that reason. It is not much use telling the parent of a child aged 5 that the problem will be solved in a few years' time. The education of children does not react to that kind of solution.
I understand that the district council will be responsible for the administration and equipping of playing field accommodation. I hope that the Minister will ensure that all the facilities are provided for the development corporation 776 to create a playing field which may be handed over for the council to operate at a minimum cost, because the burden of administering and equipping a playing field may prove too great for the council.
An excellent road system is being developed at Cumbernauld and I have no doubt that, when completed, its shopping centre—from which road traffic will be excluded—will prove to be one of the finest in Scotland. The Secretary of State has seen a model of the project. The railway station at Cumbernauld includes sidings. The site of this new town was decided partly because of the existence of the station and these facilities along the main line between Stirling and Glasgow. In paragraph 64 of the 1963 Report it states:The Corporation's view is that adequate rail communications are an important factor for the whole community and an element vital to its industrial and commercial success. In addition to the freight aspect many people living in the New Town make use of the passenger service from Cumbernauld Station.It was thought that the existence of these rail facilities would attract industrialists to the new town. But according to the Beeching Report Cumbernauld station is to be closed. This is an extraordinary situation. It would appear that one Minister does not know what another is doing. Are all Ministers unaware of what is going on in other Departments, or is this kind of thing limited to one or two Ministries? Dr. Beeching says that the railway at Cumbernauld is redundant and that he will close it.
The new town is being developed to avoid road congestion. The whole layout of the centre of the new town is designed on the principle that traffic will move easily and flow around and through the new town by underpasses and overpasses. But if the railway is closed, all movement between the new town and Glasgow will have to be by road, and measures taken to relieve congestion in the new town will be overwhelmed by the congestion outside on the road to Glasgow. When the traffic reaches the boundaries of Glasgow and meets the traffic from Edinburgh in the rush hour there will be chaos in Alexandra Parade, Glasgow.
I hope that the Secretary of State will get in touch with the Minister of Transport and make sure that he has read this 777 Report of Cumbernauld new town for the year ending 31st March, 1963, which is a brochure telling industrialists and Members of Parliament that the railway is an important asset for the town. I hope that he will see that Dr. Beeching does not implement his proposal in the Report that Cumbernauld Station should be closed.
Will the Secretary of State also get in touch with the Minister of Labour? In Cumbernauld we have an extraordinary situation, which I have already raised with the Minister of Labour, although I have received no satisfaction from his reply. Several cases have been brought to my notice of men applying for jobs with firms in the new town. I can give their names and the names of the firms. It is a good thing if a family group moves into a new town, and some groups have moved to Cumbernauld from Glasgow. We have elderly people and their grown-up and married children moving together to live in the new town.
But I know of several instances of men becoming unemployed, possibly having been made redundant by an industry in the new town. When there was some expansion again they applied for a job but were told by the Ministry and by the personnel manager to the firms that preference must be given to men coming from Glasgow under the overspill agreement. These men reply. "But I came on the overspill agreement 12 months ago," and they are told, "But you are now a native of Cumbernauld."I could send the Minister the names of these men who are being refused employment from the Kilsyth Employment Exchange because they live in Cumbernauld and are no longer regarded as part of the overspill. I have tried to probe this matter by Questions, but I have been fobbed off. People write to me from Cumbernauld asking me to get them on the housing lists in Glasgow so that they may go back to Glasgow to get a job. If this is a true description of what is happening, it is a hopeless situation.
At the week-end I was told of a lady who applied for a job and, after she had stated her age, was told that they do not employ women over 35. Are employers in the new town of Cumbernauld refusing to employ women over 35? I should have thought that a woman 778 between 35 and 45 was a most stable worker and a most desirable employee to have but I have been given the name of someone who was told that she was too old at 38.
These are very serious considerations, especially in view of the fact that the Ministry of Labour, whose function it is to place people in employment, sends men and women for jobs and this is the response they receive at the firms. The men are told that preference must be given to people from Glasgow—because when these applicants register as unemployed it is at Kilsyth in Stirlingshire, and the agreement is with Glasgow and not with Stirlingshire. This is a stupid situation. I can hardly credit it. But I have sufficient evidence to satisfy me that this is a fact. There is employment from the exchanges in Dunbartonshire and Glasgow but not from Kilsythfor those who are unemployed on the Cumbernauld register.
I promised to speak for no more than 15 minutes, and I wish to conclude with some comments about the money involved. Is the current amount being spent in Scotland on developing Cumbernauld, Glenrothes and Livingston included in the sum of capital expediture for the development of the central area of Scotland given in the Government White Paper? Cumbernauld has spent about £8 million over the last two years. The interest charged is £400,000 a year and hon. Members can see what a burden it is. Today we are proposing a sum of £550 million. What proportion of this vast sum is likely to be spent in Scotland? Whatever the proportion, is it included in the Government White Paper on investment in Central Scotland, or is it extra?
I want to make a few comments on a subject which I have often mentioned in the 12 years I have been here. This is a Bill to increase the amount of money to be distributed by the Treasury. It is partly to do more work but partly to meet the ever-increasing cost of doing anything. In the beginning of its Report Cumbernauld new town makes a serious complaint about the lack of competition in contracting. If I had more time I would read the passage to the House. It is very serious that all along the line we have Measure after Measure, Orders and Prayers, all involved in increasing the taxpapers' 779 contribution to chase ever-higher costs of doing everything we want to do. Whether it is to acquire land, to compensate farmers or to help industries, we are always chasing ever-rising prices. It is about time that we did something to stop prices rising so that we need not bring in these interminable Measures to increase the amount of money that taxpayers are called upon to pay for all sorts of services.
Lord Robens did a great service as chairman of the National Coal Board when he said that everyone is too prone to pass on higher prices on the excuse of having paid a few coppers an hour in extra wages. This is spreading through the whole community. The attitude is, "If you are faced with higher costs, put on higher charges. If everything becomes more expensive to the community, then put up taxation or increase the national debt, borrow more money from the moneylender". That is what is being done instead of adopting the courageous attitude of trying to stop the ramp of ever-rising prices.
§ 6.50 p.m.
§ Lord Balniel (Hertford)
Like every other hon. Member who has taken part in the debate, I extend a very warm welcome to the Bill, because it makes possible a further acceleration of the building programme in the new towns, which has been such a notable feature of the past few years. We have now had the opportunity of watching the new towns develop over fifteen years. As we embark upon the next generation of new towns, we want to see them not only echo the qualities which have been achieved so far, but also build on the experience gained during those fifteen years. We want to see the next generation of new towns avoid some of the pitfalls and weaknesses which have been exposed.
As we grant these very substantial sums for the further development of the new towns, all hon. Members who represent people living in them must look at the past development of the new towns and also at the future building programmes for the next few years as being one of the most exciting endeavours now being undertaken to raise living standards. Visitors to my constituency cannot fail to be impressed if they talk to 780 the young families who have come to make their homes in Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City, the two new towns which I represent, and see the decent housing accommodation being provided, the good quality of life being built there, and the fine conditions in which children are being brought up.
I want to take this opportunity, which is not often afforded to us, to pay a tribute to the work of the various development corporations and the officials who serve them. These corporations have to take many highly controversial and extremely difficult decisions. In the past, I have criticised certain specific decisions they have taken. However, I believe that members of the corporations are entitled to a full measure of a sense of pride in what they have created in the new towns. We should also take this opportunity to pay tribute to the young families who have uprooted themselves from the great cities and come to live in the new towns. They arrive often in circumstances of considerable difficulty. They come to the housing estates and find their houses surrounded by a sea of mud left by the builders. The garden areas are filled with bricks, rubble and mortar. Then there are all the difficulties of settling down in a new community. Over the years these young families have transformed these towns from being mere bricks and mortar into happy, living communities. We should pay them a considerable and well-deserved tribute.
If the debate is to serve a constructive purpose, we must try to see how the new towns can be improved. We must try to see how they can be developed to meet more closely than they do at the moment the wishes of those living in them. In spite of the many truly wonderful qualities possessed by these towns, there is something which the planners have not yet quite captured. This is something which is partially social and partially architectural. As it is intangible, it is difficult to find words to express what I mean.
In social terms, what I would like to see in the building of the towns is a much greater emphasis placed on giving local people an important say in the development of the towns. I would like to see such an atmosphere in these towns that the inhabitants feel that they are marching arm in arm with the planners and are not constantly engaged in a kind of 781 tug of war. I would like those living in the new towns to be able to look around where they live and say to themselves, "This is something which we, together with the planners, have built up". Instead, in the past too often one has found a quite unnecessary gap between "we, the people" and "they, the authority".
I would like to say here with what pleasure I now see in the two new towns which I represent—Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City—the development corporations trying to bridge this quite unnecessary gap. The efforts being made are undoubtedly proving successful and are removing many of the past antagonisms.
I fully realise that it is extremely difficult to achieve this sense of partnership. However, having represented people in the new towns for eight years, I am absolutely convinced that, if we are to make a resounding success of the new towns, the voluntary organisations, the tenants' associations, the women's organisations, the chambers of commerce, the churches and the local authorities must be given, not a dominating, but a key place in the early stages of policy making.
Of course, I realise that one must strike a balance between the need for quick decisions and the danger of costly delays through consultation, controversy and arguments between conflicting interests. I realize equally that, on the whole, planners do not like their plans being interfered with by laymen. I realise, also, that consultation with voluntary organisations and laymen does not lend itself to administrative tidiness or administrative convenience. But I am not in the least interested in administrative tidiness or administrative convenience.
I want to see new towns built in accord with the wishes of local people. I also want to see local people given an important part in the development of policy-making so that, as the years pass, they will develop that same sense of communal achievement which is such a noticeable and happy feature of Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth.
§ Lord Balniel
The hon. Member has made a good point, for by consulting the people in the new towns one can remove much of the antagonism which, on many occasions, unnecessarily delays a great deal of development which could go through by agreement instead of being fought against by the local people. I want to explain, though, that great efforts are now being made to achieve this co-operation.
We want to achieve in our new towns an ever-widening sense of personal involvement by the community in the success or failure of the town. I would, therefore, like to put forward one or two suggestions on how I think this sense of personal involvement can be created, over and above the importance of consultation, to which I have been referring. First, substantial sections of new towns could be developed within the master plan not by the development corporations but by voluntary housing associations. These associations, which my right hon. Friend is helping to create in other parts of the country, assist people to come together voluntarily to build houses to rent to themselves.
For instance, there should also be a far greater emphasis in all the new towns on the development of home ownership. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government rightly takes credit for the fact that today nearly 50 per cent. of the population own their own homes. Yet in the new towns the average is a mere 7 per cent. owning their own homes. In Welwyn Garden City the figure is 16.1 per cent. In Hatfield, it is 9.3 per cent. In Peterlee, it is 0.6 per cent. of the population owning their own homes, while in Aycliffe it is 6 per cent. and in Corby it is 2.4 per cent.
I have urged this on my right hon. Friend before, but to my certain knowledge there are many hundreds of people who are now renting accommodation from the development corporations, but who, given the chance to purchase at reasonable and economic prices, would be only too delighted to do so. I reiterate that the Minister should issue a general instruction to the development corpora- 783 tions urging them to meet this desire for home ownership in as full measure as they can.
I would also like to take up the point made by the hon. Lady the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) about the importance of encouraging families as units to go out from the great cities to live in the new towns. As she rightly said, it would be an immense social and humanitarian benefit if, when a young couple go to a new town, help could be given, if they so wish, to the parents also to go to live in the same neighbour-hood.
One of the most unhappy features of moving to a new town is that so often young couples leave behind in the cities elderly parents, or retired persons—creating the social problems of loneliness which are such a distressing feature of the lives of so many old people. I echo the hope that more thought will be given to the possibility not only of building more houses for elderly people in the new towns—and the present proportion is indeed low—but of encouraging parents who are not yet retired to accompany their younger children to the new towns.
I have said that in social terms something has not yet been captured in our new towns. This is also true in architectural terms. If one is speaking in architectural terms one is bound to express a purely personal, aesthetic judgment. We need not only ahoisting of architectural standards, which is desperately overdue in the country as a whole, but we must also try to find a new concept for town planning; try to find a new architectural philosophy.
When many people visit the new towns they find that the planners, perhaps through an excessive desire to compromise or because they lack a certain boldness of vision, have fallen between two concepts—between the concept of the garden cities and the concept of the more traditional spirit of really urban town planning. I would like to see some of the next generation of new towns developed as garden cities; with their low densities; with the trees overtopping the roof lines and the dominating atmosphere being one of trees, gardens and shrubs; the atmosphere which was created so beautifully 784 by those who came to build and live in Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth.
On the other hand, I feel that in some of the other new towns, particularly where the intensity of demand for land is very great, there should be a greater attempt to build in a totally modern idiom; to recapture the spirit of town planning of which we have such a fine heritage but which was so brutally shattered by the Industrial Revolution. One need only look at the Adam squares of Edinburgh, the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, the Nash terraces and squares of London, the market places of our provincial towns or the precincts of our cathedral cities to see the best of our long tradition of urban planning.
If we can achieve, in a completely modern idiom—and this has been achieved to some extent in Coventry—the quality of architectural thinking which inspired that kind of urban building, then surely we will be able to solve the greatest of all the problems which is facing the Minister now: the need to make really intensive use of land and, at the same time, to leave the country more beautiful than we ourselves inherited it.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan) mentioned the problem of Stevenage. I have heard, and I ask the Minister for information about this when he replies, that the Planning Techniques Branch of the New Towns Division of his Ministry is examining the possibility of extending Welwyn Garden City in the direction of Hertford. We in central Hertfordshire are concerned about the possibility of a gravely mistaken planning decision being reached. There is the possibility of that whole complex of new towns in central Hertfordshire—Stevenage merging ultimately with Luton, merging possibly with Welwyn Garden City and on into Hatfield and Welwyn Garden City itself—merging with the old county town of Hertford.
The point of the Amendment which we have tabled to the Bill is to call this grave problem to the personal attention of the Minister and to make sure that such a step could not take place without Parliament being aware of it. I am bound to echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin: that the decision to double the size of 785 Stevenage could well be an outrageously bad decision for central Hertfordshire. The importance of high quality urban planning needs emphasis, because even today, only a few years after the establishment of the green belts, we are talking about the possibility of the green belts in Hertfordshire bursting apart. When we project our minds forward, and take account not only of these pressures today, but also the fact that our present population of 52 million will increase by a further 20 million within thirty-five years, the danger to these fragile but exquisitely beautiful green belts is apparent. It emphasises the importance and urgency of turning our minds to a truly modern high-quality urban style of planning.
It is my hope, therefore, in welcoming the Bill, that my right hon. Friend will so guide the next generation of new towns as to pioneer yet higher standards of urban town planning than we have been able to achieve so far.
§ 7.11 p.m.
§ Mr. R. W. Sorensen (Leyton)
Although this Bill has the very narrow aim of increasing the amount of money the new towns can utilise for their purposes, I am glad that the opportunity has been seized to go far beyond that point. Most, if not all, of those who have spoken have talked about new towns in, or adjoining, their own constituencies, and the hon. Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) is obviously enthusiastic about their significance.
I am in a different position. I represent an old town in which there are about 16,000 or 17,000 old-age pensioners—more old-age pensioners than school children. That is why, when I visit some of the new towns, such as Basildon, Crawley, or Welwyn Garden City, I feel exhilarated to see more young people than old. This venture of which we are now speaking has no impact on my constituency except that it is a feeder of the new towns, as are some other constituencies. Numerically, my own borough is declining, partly because a good many younger folk have gone to the new towns—there is that link. When I go to a new town in Essex or Hertford, I try to imagine some of my former constituents living in the fresher atmosphere and greater space of their present surroundings.
786 The new towns have in many respects reached their numerical limit. In quite a short time, Harlow will be up to its original maximum. What then? Are we to set further limits so that these new towns can extend, or are we to start other new towns? One can understand the attraction of creating still more new towns, but I believe that it would be unwise. We should, instead, concentrate on the old towns as they stand, and not embark on further developments unless there is a very good reason to establish new towns in different parts of the country.
I want us to concentrate on the old towns in order to make them as attractive as the new ones, and to create in them some of the virtues possessed by the new towns. Rather than assume that we can throw out our older skilled population into a series of new centres all over the country, we should realise that the old towns are in need of rejuvenation and transformation.
Moreover, one cannot segregate this problem from a much larger one. I was alarmed to be reminded that within a relatively short space of time our population will be about 70 million. That obviously means that a great deal of our land will be needed for housing purposes, many of our rural amenities will be destroyed, and transport problems will become more acute. If, by some biological or other miracle, we were able to secure a stabilised population over the next 20 years, it would be of tremendous benefit and it would simplify our problems. I am alarmed at the prospect of agricultural land being destroyed. A population increase of some 20 million means that, in spite of all the modern devices by which we increase the productivity of the soil, we shall be hard pressed to maintain in the years to come even our present proportion of home-grown food.
Further, it is frightful to think of an outer urban sprawl beyond London, consisting of these new towns merging into one another and, in so doing, helping to destroy the amenities that should exist between them. Therefore, whilst we should welcome the development of the new towns, and develop them along sound lines for the enjoyment of the new populations, we should not assume that it is the way out of our problems. We 787 should counterbalance this vista of new towns, excellent and necessary as it is, by realising that old towns such as my own must be so transformed that they are as attractive as the new towns themselves.
Reference has been made to homes being broken up, and the former extended family being contracted to just the father, mother and one or two children. On the other hand, in many cases the young people are glad to get away from the old ones and make a new start. One must not assume, therefore, that this problem is as acute as some would think. If the younger people can look on going to new towns as a great venture, just as their forefathers did when they went overseas, and feel that they have a part to play in making those new towns, it will be some compensation for their domestic loss.
I very earnestly hope that this Bill will be given its Second Reading—I am sure that it will. We may also commend ourselves for not having indulged in a cut-and-thrust debate but from having had a vision of a rejuvenated England, not only in the new towns but in the old towns as well.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee (Wokingham)
The hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen), representing as he says an old town, was understandably anxious about the problem for this small island of a rising birthrate. It is a problem with which I would say to him, with respect, the House as a whole will have to live and cope as long as can be foreseen. I know that sociologists claim that a rising standard of living is not germane to a rising birthrate. I have always doubted that. I believe that there were in past years a substantial number of couples who dearly would have liked to have had a larger family but for the most honourable reasons felt that they could not give those children the kind of start in life which their then economic circumstances would allow.
If we have, as is acknowledged on both sides of the House, a rising prosperity, one of the by-products is likely to be a rising birthrate. That is coupled also with the younger marriage age 788 which has brought other problems that are outside the scope of this Bill. We shall be faced with the prospect of providing new housing for our population for as long as we can see ahead at the moment.
The hon. Member for Leyton, arguing very persuasively, came to the conclusion, as I understood, that this should not lead us to the establishment of further new towns but that rather we should build outwards from the existing towns. This, with respect, does not appeal to me. I should have thought that it would have resulted, if adhered to strictly, in precisely that link-up between town and town which he, equally persuasively, found abhorrent. I should have thought it was the policy on both sides of the House, particularly with the great centre of population of London, which is going down so slowly, that we must establish new towns but preferably a farther distance away from the centre than we have done so far.
I represent in the House one of London's overspill towns. I echo every word said about the adventurous nature of the experiment, and, on the whole, the success of the achievement. I have said in the House in the past, and I say it again, that if a tribute is to be paid and particularly to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, then, without any loss of party political face, I pay that tribute. It is equally fair to remember that by far the greater part of the operational life of the new towns has taken place under the aegis of a Conservative Government. This, as so much else in our public life, is a case where both sides of the House can have joint cause for satisfaction.
As my noble Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) has said, however, this clearly must not allow us to be lulled into complacency that all is well and that all we have to do is to go on as we have been doing in the past. A number of points which we have to watch have been raised in the debate and for that reason I do not propose to go over them again, but I am led to draw on my own experience in Berkshire in the new town of Bracknell to make one or two points and add a measure of support to my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan) who has so persuasively argued a particular case in Hertfordshire.
789 Bracknell is an example of a new town which has just been doubled in size—that is to say, land has been designated for it to be so doubled. It was this House which by legislation made it possible for the greater part of that extension not to take place over valuable agricultural land but instead to take place over common woodland and scrubland owned by the Crown Estates Commissioners who until that moment had said that they were legislatively prohibited from developing.
We in Bracknell held our breath at the time. I have no wish to revive old controversies, but we very nearly lost that Bill and lost the extension of the town in the area to which most people wanted to go because we were at that time subjected to delaying tactics. Eventually we got the matter through on a Thursday evening after Scottish Labour Members had left for their trains for the North. This has resulted in the extensive purchases of land, agricultural and otherwise. The development corporation in its last report said that by far the greater part of that land has been acquired by agreement. I say this because I should have liked to have been able to reassure my hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) on this point. He was anxious about the terms of compensation, which are not a matter for the development corporation in question but for the district valuer.
My experience has been that under the new terms of compensation—and this is why the matter is so directly relevant to the Bill—it has been possible to achieve agreement on a vast majority of the compulsory purchases which have had to be made. I hope particularly that hon. Members opposite, who are at times critical of the new terms of valuation, will think very hard, if it should turn out that they have the chance, before they vary those terms.
It is very easy to talk about pouring millions into the hands of property speculators and to use catch phrases of that kind, but more often than not the person for whom one is appealing is exactly the person on whose behalf the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) made such an eloquent plea. There isthe 80-year old man who does 790 not want to move. No money compensation can conceivably give him back what he loses, but at least if the purchase is at current valuation he has been given some opportunity to go elsewhere to get something approaching what he his lost, whereas under the old existing use valuation it was, in my opinion, nothing short of highway robbery on the part of the State.
If I am faced with a balance of the interest of only one person in this matter and the so-called interest of the State, I come down on behalf of the individual. I can think back to previous years, before the law was altered by my party, of some really egregious hardships to small men and women which I found most distasteful. But this has a corollary, and here I put a point to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary which is germane exactly to a point raised earlier in the debate. When an area is designated it sets up a chain reaction in the area of land immediately round it. It is perfectly true that property speculators move in, where they have the opportunity of speculating, on the chance that the new designated area will move over the land which they seek to buy.
We hear about it only when they are successful, but I can think of a substantial investment immediately adjoining Bracknell which was bought exactly for this purpose, but the purchaser miscalculated and he found that the designated area did not go in the direction that he had thought. One does not often hear about these burned fingers. I also notice that one of the most virulent contributors to my postbag who complains in the most trenchant terms of new towns was also the one who was most angry when he found that a new town was not to go over his own land.
If this is so, it is incumbent upon my hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend to come to a very clear decision on designated areas. I can understand that he cannot be a prophet. We are not asking impossibilities even of our Ministers, but we are asking that they should take a long look at an area and, even with rising populations, make a determination that a designated area shall not, for as long as they can possibly foresee—naturally a very long time—be added to or extended. If they do not, they are deliberately encouraging the unattrac- 791 tive side of property speculation, some of which at least is in fact valuable in a free society. Therefore, I have some sympathy with the plea put forward by the county Members for Hertfordshire.
I should like to feel in our case that the new town of Bracknell—expanding as it will to twice its original number, now 60,000 inhabitants, as, I think, quite rightly, in a county which has expanded more quickly than any other except Hertfordshire, and which, incidentally, has borne the heat and burden of the day in the provision of services such as education and the rest which are a very real burden on some county authorities, as my hon. Friends who sit for Hertfordshire have said—is now established as a designated area. It would help very much if my hon. Friend was able to say something on those lines. Therefore, for those reasons, I support the plea which has been made by my hon. Friends so cogently. It is not helpful and it is not good practice to allow uncertainty to prevail in this field.
The second point is where we learn by experience. The new town of Bracknell—I draw on personal experiences of something I know well, as has every other hon. Member who has spoken—is centred upon what used to be a very small country town. It would be true to say that in its old, very charming days it was not much more than a large village. It is now to be the centre of a modern town of 60,000 inhabitants. Quite rightly, and, indeed, with much enterprise, the corporation charged with its development has produced a plan for the comprehensive development of the new town centre. That has resulted in its serving compulsory purchase orders upon freeholders and leaseholders of a substantial acreage of this centre—one might almost say the entire centre.
Psychologically—this goes quite across party boundaries—I always wince when I see a compulsory purchase order in a free society like ours. But like all other hon. Members, I have long since had to accept that we have—I suppose since we developed the railways to any great extent—impinged upon the rights of individuals in this regard, and I have long since accepted that in an overcrowded State like ours a measure of compulsory purchase must be vested in the centre. I 792 have personally come to one other conclusion, more controversial—and which, indeed, is controversial within my own party. It is this. I am a great believer in learning by experience. I have no apology to make if a mistake is made somewhere, and I am prepared to learnby it.
I think that the development of the centres of some of our cities has shown that, at least initially, there has to be a measure of ownership vested in one person or unit. I am not being dogmatic about what that unit should be. Hon. Members will recall a very interesting article in The Times on the development of the centres of Lancashire towns and the way in which that is proceeding by a partnership between municipal enterprise and private ownership.
I have in my constituency an example shortly to come forward of a new town centre which will, so far as I can see, be wholly owned—certainly at the moment—and be developed and planned by enlightened private enterprise. But where we have a new town corporation, such as we have in places we are now discussing, and where we have to create in a small country town centre, a town centre fit and worthy for a modern town in the second half of the twentieth century and the next, one of 60,000 people, it seems to me that to attempt to do so on, for example, the same site lines as our predecessors did for a small country town is to run the grave risk of bequeathing to our successors a centre which they do not believe to be worthy of the town which it will become. I, therefore, accept that initially there must be a measure of ownership vested in the corporation.
But it will not be a matter of surprise to my hon. Friend to be told that that has created very considerable resentment. It is very understandable, particularly among those who are in trade and business of one sort and another, and particularly if they are small units, among whom we find some of the sturdiest people of this country. It is a very healthy trend and nothing that we should want for a moment to extinguish. Furthermore, for those sort of people there is a deep fundamental feeling that if they own the freehold of the land on which they trade they have a 793 security which nothing else can give—no benign approach by a development corporation, no assurance by the Minister, and so on. Yet I think that the harsh facts of modern life are that, with units growing larger, very few individuals can any longer afford to develop individual sites in a way which does credit to the area which they serve.
I have sought to explain my own very heartfelt belief that a good trading centre is good for trade and that it will, furthermore, be a magnet bringing in people from outside. But there are three things which would quite specifically help. This is a problem, I repeat, which will be or has been experienced in one form or another, to a lesser or greater exent, by nearly all new towns.
First, it seems to me that there is no earthly reason why a development corporation, merely because it is a development corporation, should not be receptive to a consortia of would-be freeholders. I quite accept that in the modern age it may be necessary for them to combine together in one or other of the legal forms. This would give a variety of freehold ownership. I am not suggesting for a moment that this would be more than a certain proportion. In practice, it would probably be only a small proportion. While I quite understand that it is essentially a matter for a development corporation, the fact is that in this, as in other new towns, the Minister will be the person to approve the plan and to make comments upon the plan, and much anxiety, much criticism, frankly, of a wholly non-political nature, would be allayed if he were to say that he was receptive, or hoped that a development corporation would be receptive, to this.
Secondly—and this would help greatly in the case of Bracknell, for the mention of which I make no apology; I have already mentioned it to my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary—there is great anxiety, I believe unfounded, that the Ministry proposes to lump together the public inquiries both into the new town centre proposals and into any subsequent compulsory purchase orders arising out of them. I put it to my hon. Friend, if he will imagine himself in the shoes of a small freeholder—and they are all predominantly small men—that it is impossible intelligently 794 to fight a case against a compulsory purchase order on one's business if one does not know whether or not the Minister is going to confirm the plan by which one's business is incorporated in an area to be redeveloped. The whole basis of one's argument on the first may depend upon the outcome of the second. If, not new but later, my hon. Friend could give me, perhaps by letter, some kind of assurance on that point it would help tremendously.
I make no apology for mentioning the word "compensation". Indeed, I do not need to, as this has been referred to by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and both sides have an equal care and concern for the small man. But, as far as Bracknell is concerned, we have as yet very little experience of purchasing businesses. We have had considerable experience of purchasing individual houses and agricultural land. But publicly there is very little by way of precedent in terms of purchasing commercial undertakings, which have got to be purchased in large quantities with money supplied by the Bill if the House approves.
The fear is that the terms of compensation relative to new towns are such that a business has to be valued as it would have been before the new town ever arrived there—that is to say, as if one were dealing with a small market or country town. I believe that to be quite wrong. I believe that the district valuer properly takes into account improvements in an area such as those which would have come about even if the new town had not materialised at all, which plainly would have come about over that period of years.
I appreciate that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary is not responsible for the district valuer, and he certainly cannot give instructions to him in any particular case, but if from his own personal past experience and present Ministerial responsibility he is able to say anything purely upon the basis of compensation, and if he is able to say that what I have said for once had a germ of truth about it, this too would do much to alleviate anxieties and fears.
I end where I began, with a trenchant reaffirmation of my belief in the new town principle; indeed, my belief in its 795 extension to other parts of the country, and, I am even prepared to say, to its extension to the centres of certain other towns, old towns as the hon. Member for Leyton called them. But I beg hon. Members opposite to remember that one of the successes of these new towns is that they are impervious to the inevitable and healthy swings of the tide of local political public opinion. I do not believe that they would be if their assets, on completion, were vested in the council in whose area they now find themselves or will find themselves.
Of course, I believe as strongly as any other hon. Member in the healthy spirit of local government. Of course, I should be aghast if the normal local government services of a town were not vested in the local council, as in fact many of them now are and as many of them will be. For example, play spaces in my town—a matter of considerable controversy—are not administered by the new town corporation once the land has been found for them. There are the detailed questions of the swings and so on which matter desperately to local people. These are handled, as they should be, by the elected representatives of the people. But to vest the ownership of virtually the entire town in one elected body in that town, and then to expect it to be able to maintain an estate management policy which is longsighted and detached, when one is asking a council to do that in respect of the whole of the town for all practical purposes, one is asking more than a local council can reasonably bear.
It is on those grounds particularly that I confess that I was delighted when the law was changed. Splendid references have been made to Lord Reith but it is no good paying those tributes to the noble Lord and then forgetting that it was his recommendation that the Commission for the New Towns should be the repository of the ownership of the towns when they were completed. It was not Lord Reith who made the change. It was Lord Silkin who did so, for reasons which he thought were persuasive. If one is to pay tribute to the far-sightedness of Lord Reith, for example, in fixing a figure of 60,000 for individual towns—and incidentally he played a notable part in this respect—it is equally fair for us on this 796 side of the House to say that his initial recommendation was the right one.
I echo what has already been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough), that this cuts right across party lines in the new towns. When one talks quietly to people, when in private one talks even to active and committed members of the party opposite in the new towns, one finds a very different feeling from that which is sometimes expressed on the benches opposite.
For those reasons, while I welcome this Bill, I hope that we shall not tamper with the Commission for the New Towns which, in due course, will have the task of carrying towns like Bracknell on to the second half of their lives.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Tam Dalyell (West Lothian)
The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, to whom we all offer a warm welcome on what is, I believe, his first appearance in that office on the Front Bench—
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gordon Campbell)
§ Mr. Dalyell
—would do well perhaps to pay some heed to his hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel), and particularly that part of his hon. Friend's speech which was on the theme "We the people, and they the authority", because this is perhaps the root of the troubles with which I wish to deal. In this Bill we are dealing with huge sums of public money and I believe it is important not only that all should be well, but that all should be clearly seen to be well concerning the finances of new towns.
Last summer, I was involved in a much publicised and, on occasion, rather distasteful public controversy with the Secretary of State for Scotland on certain aspects of the new town of Livingston, which I represent. This is neither the time nor the place to get bogged down into details of the Livingston dispute, but, on the other hand, there are some general conclusions arising out of this dispute that seem to have wide application and which may be instructive for the future.
First, I refer to the thorny question of negotiating contracts. I am prepared to agree that there are occasions when negotiated contracts may be necessary, 797 but what I was not prepared to accept during the controversy last summer, and what I am still not prepared to accept, is that, whereas negotiated contracts completed by local authorities are minuted and, therefore, open to public inspection, the terms of negotiated contracts completed by new towns are secret. Secrecy is neither logical nor desirable. It is not sufficient that a new town's dealings be above board; they must be clearly seen by all and sundry to be above board, especially when one is dealing with sums of the magnitude envisaged by such a Bill as this.
For example, I take what happened in Livingston. On 23rd August, the Secretary of State for Scotland, in his non-political capacity—quite how the Secretary of State achieves a non-political capacity I am not sure—gaily congratulated a Highland firm on gaining the first major contract for the central Scottish new town, and up went the notices on the site proclaiming that the contractors were Messrs. Pert & Co., of Montrose. I take this opportunity of saying that I have nothing against Messrs. Pert, of Montrose. But we in the Lothians are only human, and it was a bit of a slap in the belly with a wet spade for local contractors to find that our own new town's first contract had been placed with a Highland firm from rather a long way from us.
We do not complain if this firm is better and more efficient, but, at least, we think that we have the right to know the whys and wherefores of the situation. The Lothians people are generous and chivalrous. If someone else does something better, we are prepared to admit it. But Lothians people do not care for having insult by innuendo and having the facts hidden from them.
If a full explanation from the chairman of the Livingston New Town Development Corporation had been forthcoming, I and most other people would have been prepared to give the development corporation the benefit of any doubts which may have arisen. How were we treated? We were treated as though we were not supposed to be asking questions at all, and, on this occasion, the Scottish Office was equally insensitive.
798 The key sentence in this controversy, perhaps, can be found in my letter to the Secretary of State on 24th August:The 'irregularities' may or may not be justified. What is certain in that they have not been publicly explained.It took a massive correspondence, from 24th August till 28th November last, with return-of-post replies on my part, to extract an explanation, albeit an unsatisfactory one, of why it was that haste necessitated a negotiated contract for the office block of the development corporation.
The useful question to ask now is: what should have happened? How should this matter have been handled? Either a news sheet should have given a full explanation of any difficulties which Livingston may or may not have encountered before—I emphasise "before" for the Minister's benefit—Messrs. Pert's notice went up, or, alternatively, a full statement explaining the use and need for negotiated contracts should have been given to the Press before the successful firm was named. I emphasise that one or other of those alternative steps should have been taken beforehand.
If one wants to carry the community with one, ore does not present them with faits accompli. One brings them into one's confidence beforehand, taking trouble to explain any difficulties one may face. This is the way to carry people along, not to antagonise them.
In spite of the fact that, in somewhat discourteous terms, the chairman of the development corporation—I bear him no grudge—poured cold water on the idea of a monthly or quarterly news-sheet, I reiterate the suggestion that this should have been clone if participation is what is wanted. From both sides of the House today, from my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), from the noble Lord the Member for Hertford, and from others, there has been a plea for participation and for carrying the local community with one in one's plans.
Let us be clear about one thing. On this occasion, it was not just the hon. Member for West Lothian—myself—who was curious about the goings on in Livingston. Hundreds of my constituents and quite a number of our neighbours, for instance, in East Kilbride, in the constituency of my hon. Friend the 799 Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), were just as curious as I was, if not more so.
I turn now to the explanation offered in the Secretary of State's letter of 28th November last, which, I believe, reveals a basically unsatisfactory state of affairs with applications furth of Livingston and furth of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman said this:The point about the office block contract is that although the Corporation knew from July, 1962 that they would have to vacate their temporary Edinburgh offices by the spring of 1964, it was originally intended that Howden House would be adapted and extended for their use. During the autumn of last year, it became clear"—we are not told how it became clear; apparently, it just became clear—that Howden House would not be suitable; but the choice of a site for a new block could not be made until after the Chief Architect took up office in January of this year"—that is, 1963—and was able to go into the possibilities, This question was among the first referred to him, and by early March the site at Livingston village had been picked".He went on:The Corporation's limited technical staff at that time had to concentrate on basic planning work. The contract for the office block was urgent and they could not have coped in sufficient time with the preparatory work of putting a detailed scheme out to tender. The Corporation accordingly decided in the course of March to invite four large building firms to submit designs and costs.This will simply not do as an explanation of the difficulties of Scotland's fourth new town. As my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes said, it is understandable that there would be teething troubles in the first new town, but a great deal of experience of them has been gained. My argument is that the experience gained elsewhere is not being taken advantage of in Livingston. If it had been the first or second new town, I think that I should have accepted that these were the results of teething troubles. But what has happened in Livingston merely lends support to the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes and of the hon. Member for Hertford about exploiting new town experience. Here is a case in which that was not done.
It is also utter nonsense that the development of a new town—and, incidentally, its surrounding area and all the 800 employment possibilities which go with it—should depend on the arrival of one man, be he even as important as a chief architect. What happens to the timing of schedules if such a man should go sick, or—and this has happened, as the Minister knows—suddenly declines the job weeks after he has accepted it? Something as important to Scotland as a new town should not depend on the threat of an individual, however skilled he may be.
I return to my suggestion of the autumn of last year. There should be a regional new towns development service for Scotland. Perhaps it would be impertinent to tell our English colleagues how they should conduct their affairs, but there is a very strong argument for a regional new towns development service for Scotland so that rush and, perhaps, a little bit of flap can be eliminated, so that technical staff can be available as soon as an embryonic new town wants them and so that a lack of staff is never again given as an explanation for doubtful procedures. I realise full well that I may be taken up on the use of the phrase "doubtful procedures". I have been told by the leader writer of the Glasgow Herald that I do not know the procedures and that I have nothing to worry about.
First, I do not think that anybody who, as I do, attends every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon sitting of the Public Accounts Committee can be too happy about secretly negotiated contracts. Secondly, why did the Secretary of State refuse to insist, when asked, that time clauses with penalties be inserted into new town contracts? Are we sure that the taxpayer is not being taken for something of a ride? These are vast sums of money. I do not say that without having considered it pretty carefully. If my fears are groundless, and if I am exaggerating, will the Minister explain certain aspects of the situation arising in Cumbernauld? If my fears are groundless about the goings on in new towns, why is it that, although, as is stated in paragraph 30 of the Report, it was estimated in 1961–62 that Cumbernauld would in that year complete 750 houses, it completed 338 new houses? There may be good reasons for this, but it is a bit alarming when there is a completion rate of under 50 per cent.
801 on an estimate given in that very twelve months. If we are to have negotiated contracts, is there not an argument for the insertion of rather tough time clauses?
The purpose of my contribution to the debate is threefold. The first is to demand full information before new towns take controversial decisions so that people feel that they are being treated as adults and not as people to whom things are done. The Minister talked about the future new towns. I suggest that he pays attention to what the hon. Member for Hertford said about making people feel that they can participate, because that is important. Secondly, I suggest that embryo new towns such as Livingston would benefit from the existence of a regional new towns development service. Finally, if negotiated contracts are found to be desirable, their terms should be open for all to behold.
§ 8.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
It has been universally agreed during the debate that no one questions or challenges the Bill's purposes. Indeed, we all welcome it and take pride in the achievements of the new towns to date and the future achievement which we hope the Bill foreshadows. Tribute has very properly been paid to Lord Silkin, whose vision created what we are discussing today at a time when the concept was not as universally accepted and popular as it is now.
I am bound to admit, however, that I felt at times that the debate might be enlivened a little if the working of the Peerage Act and the choice of the electorate had brought the Earl of Sandwich back to this House. His descriptions of what would happen when the new towns got going are still worth reading. Apparently, people were to be imprisoned in soulless chromium-plated communities; the country would be deprived of vital crops; and the administration of the country would resemble that which prevailed in the days of the Star Chamber. All this is picturesque and charming and makes us feel that if we are to have Conservative Members in the House there would be some advantage in having the Earl of Sandwich with us.
There is no doubt that the new towns have been a successful venture in every 802 way. The Parliamentary Secretary pointed out that they had even been financially profitable, although on a very modest scale, and will be more profitable as time proceeds, despite the fact that that is not the main criterion by which one would judge them. If one tried to calculate the cost in various ways to which the community would have been put to deal with even worse problems of slumdon and congestion in great cities if there had been no new towns, that alone would be enough to make them a profitable venture. But they are profitable, and they are socially successful, and I am glad that the stories which used to be told about all the inhabitants of the new towns suffering from boredom and frustration have now gone out of fashion.
Whenever I heard stories of all the people in the new towns hurriedly leaving them, I was always prepared to say that for every person who had left a new town I could muster 10 constituents who would be glad to go and take his place. I am glad that that nonsense is no longer fashionable.
The new towns, therefore, can and will be a source of revenue to the public. I had hoped that the original intention would be fulfilled and that, ultimately, they would be not only a source of revenue to the local authority, but a source of scope for energy, enterprise and activity by the local authority, because as a result of the way that government is going it is bound to be necessary to reduce the functions of local authorities in certain directions. We are doing it in the Police Bill. For certain purposes, the central Government must encroach on fields that previously were largely local authority provinces.
Where we can find, as in the ultimate destiny of the new towns, opportunity for widening the activity and enterprise of local authorities, we ought to take it. I am very much of the view that the nation should have adhered to the original intention that when a new town had completed its process of growth, when it had ceased to be a new town and was simply a town, the powers, properties and responsibilities now exercised by the development corporation should go, as was originally intended, to the local authority.
803 The hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) said that new towns could not have achieved their successes had it been supposed that that was what was to happen to them ultimately. For twelve years, however, they all supposed that that was what would happen to them. The hon. Member surely will not maintain that the new towns scored no successes between 1947 and 1959, yet during the whole of that time it was clearly understood that the local authority was to be the final heir of the development commission.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
If that is what I said, I did not make the point clearly. The point which I sought to make, with which the hon. Member may or may not agree, is that the existing corporations would not have been as successful in their development and their estate management policies in particular—it is really their estate management policies in which one is interested—had they been under local authority control. I am thinking, of course, of the development and estate management sides of the Commission for the New Towns.
§ Mr. Stewart
That is not what the hon. Member said; I accept that it is what he meant to say. If that is the case, however, he is knocking down an Aunt Sally that nobody has put up. Nobody has ever suggested that from the start the development corporation of a new town could have been under local authority control.
Everyone agrees that when creating a new town, and for a considerable time during its problems of growth, there must be an agency other than the local authority. What is at issue, and the point which I am making, is the final destiny of the new town when the process of growth is complete, when one need no longer think of it as a town with special problems of a new town. It was regrettable that the Government departed from the original intention and have robbed local authorities of useful scope and enterprise and a useful source of revenue, and at a time when we are all looking for other possible sources of revenue for local authorities.
A further consequence flows from this. The Government have created the body called the Commission for the New 804 Towns to which, ultimately, the powers and responsibilities of the various development corporations are to go. Those of Hemel Hempstead and Crawley have gone already. What is the position of that Commission towards the local authority and the people in the area? It is the position of a squire, and not even a resident squire. The only thing that made squiredom tolerable was that at least the squire lived within sight of his inferiors. But to have a squire tucked away in Victoria Street and his tenantry and all the rest of it in towns all over the country is not a satisfactory arrangement from anybody's point of view.
The speech to which we have just listened from my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) is very much to the point, because one result of the creation of the Commission is that important duties that would have been carried out in the case of Hemel Hempstead and Crawley, and, ultimately, all the new towns, by the local authority are now to be carried out by the Commission and its local committees. If, however, they had been carried out by the local authority, they would have been subject to the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act and there would not have been the secrecy of the kind described by my hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian. This is something that the Minister could put right. He could make an Order under that Act making the proceedings of the Commission and of the local committees which operate under it in Hemel Hempstead and Crawley subject to the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act.
We are told that that is not necessary and that it is mainly estate management, and so on, with which those bodies will be dealing. If, on any occasion, their business was such that it should properly be done in private, they could, even if the Minister made such an order, quite properly use their powers and say that they would not admit the Press on that occasion. They ought, however, to be in the same position as a local authority so that it is up to them to state publicly, and to defend their position, that they will not allow the Press entry to certain deliberations.
We ought gradually to be preparing for the final taking over by the local authority, because I do not take the contemptuous view of the inhabitants of new 805 towns which, I gather, was taken by the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough). It may be true that the people now serving on those local authorities have not yet acquired the experience which might fit them for the much larger responsibility which would be theirs if the nation's original intention toward new towns had been fulfilled. If, however, that is so, there is a remedy. We could begin by having some local authority representation on the development corporations. We could bring the local authority and the development corporation closer together in preparation for the time when the local authority is the final heir of the development corporation.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am a little puzzled about this idea of concentration. The hon. Member does not want a dozen new towns, when they have ceased being new and are towns in the ordinary sense, to be administered each by its elected representatives. He wants them all administered by a single Commission sitting in Victoria Street. Then, he says that he objects to concentration of power. It does not make sense.
§ Mr. Gough
The hon. Member has got this quite wrong. All I say is that this is a very large financial and national proposition in which the taxpayers' money is invested to the tune of over £500 million, and I do not think it right for that to be parcelled out to various towns. It belongs to all the taxpayers.
§ Mr. Stewart
A moment ago, the hon. Member said that he objected to concentration of power. Now, he objects to having it parcelled out. He must decide what he objects to and what he wants. He objects to local authorities having power and things being done by the elected representatives of the people.
What I have just suggested—a gradual bringing in of the local authorities to the work of the development corporation as a preparation for its final inheritance—is in line with the interesting speech of the noble Lord the Member for Hertford 806 (Lord Balniel). I quite agree that we want to bridge any gap which there may be between the development corporation and the people of the locality which it is intended to serve.
I turn now from the question of the future destiny of the new towns when they have ceased to be new to the problem of what further new towns should be created. It must be admitted that the present Government have proceeded with a terrible slowness in this matter. When the Labour Government were in power 14 new towns were created; the present Government's record is three, and three more projected. We shall need those very badly. I hope that I shall be able to carry my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton (Mr. Sorensen) with me on this. If we are to deal with the slum clearance problem more new towns have got to be one of our weapons for dealing with it.
The Prime Minister informed us at the opening of this Session of Parliament that the rate of slum clearance had been doubled. He meant, as I ventured to point out later in the same debate, that if all went well it was the intention of the Government that it should be doubled. Well, if we take the rate of slum clearance between the years 1958 and 1962 and imagine that to be doubled, even so it will take Birmingham more than ten years to clear its slums, Manchester more than twenty, and Liverpool more than thirty.
If we really are to speed up this slum clearance—I quote only examples of three cities—it does mean that we have got to be able to house a great many people outside the big cities altogether. I accept the point of my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton that we ought not to think only of new towns: we ought to think, also, of making old towns more attractive; but to make certain old towns more attractive one of the things we have to do is to reduce the number of people now trying to live in them, and that does mean creating more new towns.
If we do nothing at all about future employment and population policy in this country, if we just leave economic trends to work, the probability is that after a time there will be a thick black oblong running up the country, roughly from London to Birmingham and then 807 straight on to the North-West Coast, and practically the whole of the population will be living in that coffin-shaped oblong and the rest of the country will be in a state of semi-dereliction. That is what is likely to happen if we do not decide that the location of industry, and, therefore, of where people live, and the deliberate creation of towns, is a real function of Government policy.
That is part of the case for creating more new towns, and it is pleasant to observe that the Goverment, in this field as in so many, are now realising the force of the argument, and the slowness which has characterised their new town policy over so many years is now being compensated for by a burst of activity at the last. We are told that very, very soon—indeed, I gather it may happen any time now—we shall be told where there is to be the new town for Manchester's overspill—and I will give way immediately if any of the occupants of the Government Front Bench will tell us once. We have been waiting quite a time.
The Guardian made the spiteful suggestion that the reason for the delay was that Cheshire Conservative Members did not want too many Manchester voters brought into their constituencies because of the upset of the political balance, and that this was the real objection to Lymm as the site, which would appear to have a good deal otherwise to commend it. But after all, we are determined to modernise Britain, and if, to deal with Manchester's overspill problem, this House has to forgo having in it either the present Leader of the House or the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Knutsford (Sir W. Bromley-Davenport) we must heriocally face in the mid-twentieth century that even those prices for modernisation must sometimes be paid.
§ Mr. van Straubenzee
I should like to add another consideration which will certainly appeal to the hon. Gentleman, and that is that the new towns for London's overspill have Conservative Members of Parliament.
§ Mr. Stewart
Yes, but they do not all have Conservative councils, as hon. Members opposite will know very well.
§ Mr. Stewart
Let us hope, then, that before long the town to accommodate Manchester's overspill will be designated.
This combination, first of slowness and then of rush, has some odd results, not only this peculiar delay over Manchester, but the fascinating case of Dawley, which is the twin of the case of Cumbernauld mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence). In both these cases, after profound cogitation, the Government told us we were to have a new town, and almost simultaneously we find that the railway services in the neighbourhood are to disappear.
In the case of Dawley I ventured to draw the attention of the Minister of Transport to the fact that, in the same week that the Government had announced that Dawley was to be the site of a new town, there were to be no train services in the neighbourhood. The Minister of Transport said, "Ah, but I told them not to pull up the tracks."I feel that the Minister of Transport is beginning to grasp some of the principles of planning. But, alas, since then I have had an opportunity to visit Dawley, and one of the tracks at least they have begun to pull up.
Seriously, this does seem to indicate a certain lack of contact between decisions taken by one Government Department and decisions taken by another. I think that the Stevenage case, which was so eloquently pleaded by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan), supported by his hon. Friends, is an example of this. At first sight, the proposition that we shall increase the size of a town in such a way that as a result the bypass runs through the middle of the town—which is not the normal function of a bypass—at first sight one would say such a proposition was ludicrous, and that is by no means the only objection which has been raised to it.
The Government will be aware that this project has no supporters at all, except possibly the Government themselves and the development corporation, if one can distinguish between those two 809 entities. But everybody with local interests and local knowledge regrets this project. As far as I can see, the only circumstances in which we can justify it is to say, "We have got to do something about the teeming population of the South-East, and they have got to be put somewhere." In other words, we have got to find a hurried, makeshift answer to a problem the Government ought to have been considering some eight or ten years ago.
I believe that the Government are also thinking of the expansion of Harlow. If there is expansion of the population of Harlow, will there be similar expansion of work for the people of Harlow there? Oddly enough, one of the sections of our railways on which travel is being made somewhat easier is the line between Harlow and London. If one expands Harlow. makes the rail travel easier and does not expand the facilities for employment in Harlow. one is deliberately creating an addition to the commuter population.
In general on the question of work in the new towns, we all know how very rapidly the kinds of work that people are doing are changing. We also know that, fortunately, the general development of modern invention is to create more and more jobs which require good intelligence and education, and there is very much more good intelligence in the country than we used to suppose in the past. The old idea that there were natural limits to the number of people who had good intelligence has now been blown to bits. We are still short of educational provision, but at a time when the new kind of job that is connected with new scientific invention is springing up in many parts of the country, we do not want the new towns to be behind hand. We do not want the new generation in the new towns to move away because there is not a sufficient diversity of employment there, and, in particular, because there is not enough of the employment for the people who have had the educational opportunities that we hope many of the younger people in the new towns will enjoy.
What all this means is that the new towns policy ought to be what was outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), that the Govern- 810 ment should have been developing during recent years more new towns despite the fact that that would have meant a rather slower progress with each one of them. Indeed, provided that one was developing enough of them, the fact that one made slower progress with each would be of positive benefit because it would come nearer to giving one a balanced age composition in each town.
In connection with the age composition, I should like to mention that one matter which the Government, the Commission and the development corporations must consider is the proper provision of amenities in new towns. When that has been discussed in the Press and elsewhere so far, it has generally been in terms of recreational and social activities for young people. As time goes by, it will have to be more diversified, and there will be need to provide for old people, particularly if we can get the kind of development which my hon. Friend was suggesting—to put it in homely fashion, where one takes grandma with one. The more that can be done, the more one gets a balanced community in the new town, but the more important it becomes for the new town to consider afresh what kind of amenities and social services it will have to develop
In conclusion, I want to make a general point. New towns, as I was suggesting in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Leyton, are part of the answer to the problem of lack of houses, overcrowding and congestion in the great cities. But when one comes to consider how many of them there should be and where they should go, one realises that they form part of a very much larger governmental problem. I do not think that we can stop short of this proposition, that it ought to be a function of Government today to have a picture in their mind broadly of what the employment and population map of the country will look like in ten years' time.
That picture must be the product of two things. It will be partly the product of necessity. If one looks at what industries are developing, one will know broadly that it will be no good trying to form an ideal picture based on the presumption that the population of 811 London will be one-tenth of what it is today. Necessity creates some of the factors.
The other thing should be one's ideal, what one wants. What the Government ought to be able to say is, "We believe that by resolute policy we could produce a given result in the distribution of employment for population over the country". Of course, with each successive year new facts would appear and one would have to revise one's estimate. One would be pursuing a moving target all the time. That is why it is so extremely complex and difficult a problem. But the very first step, and the step that I do not think the Government have taken yet, is to realise that this ought to be a function of Government today. I know that the Minister of Housing and Local Government has realised it, but he must get to work on his slower-witted colleagues.
If the Government could realise that this is a function of government, then there is, of course, the job of devising an appropriate governmental machinery to deal with it, because so many Ministries take decisions which affect the future of the whole housing programme, such as where the new towns are to go. Indeed, a single decision about a single new town must involve consultations with many Ministries. If it does not, one gets the absurdities of Dawley and Cumbernauld again. It means, also, the bringing together of central Government and local authorities in regional groups.
All this means a very big change in governmental machinery, something that a Government who have been in power for twelve years could have done and have missed a great opportunity in not doing already. One does not expect Conservative Governments to make major new changes in matters like social justice, but they should be capable of improving and making more appropriate to current needs the administrative machinery of Government. When we study this new towns problem we find that it reveals to us that here is a great need for change in the administrative machinery of Government which will have to be left to the present Government's successors, and one of the 812 things they will have to deal with is the vexed question of land ownership.
Two hon. Members—the hon. Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) and my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East—commented on the sometimes unhappy position of the elderly small farmer who does not want to go at all, but, as a result of a new town, has to go. I am quite prepared to accept that his position may often be difficult but I recall another example quoted a little while ago by my hon. Friend the Member for Salford, East (Mr. Frank Allaun).
The case was that of a small fanner in the Lea Valley—I will not mention his name, because I am making no personal attack on him. Whereas, before the Minister made a certain announcement about allowing building in the Lea Valley, the land this farmer owned was valued at about £4,500, a day or two after the announcement he received eight offers to buy that land—and none of them was for less than £72,000.
It seems to me that we are getting almost the worst of both worlds. I accept that we have a particular individual problem of the small man on whom our present arrangements for compensation may bear rather harshly. On the other hand, we have these quite fantastic pieces of luck going to particular people. I say this from no malice to particular persons. If the law is such that it throws a bit of unearned luck in a man's way, he would have to be of exceptional virtue to refuse it.
Bernard Shaw once told an audience, "I am a rich man. I do not apologise for that. It is not my fault, but your fault for allowing it to happen." So might that fortunate farmer say to the Government.
The Government really must try to find a more sensible answer to the problem of land ownership and compensation. Secretly, we know that if we could kidnap the Minister of Housing and Local Government he would join us in a very considerable programme of public purchase, well in advance, of land needed for new towns. The hon. Member for Bromsgrove said that the local authority in Redditch had done this on a considerable scale already. I only wish that that were generally true.
813 As my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) pointed out, the question of the future of new towns is connected with the publication of the south-eastern survey and if, when the survey is published, it tells all and sundry that certain pieces of land that it is not now expected are to be built on are in fact to be used for building, many people will get considerable sums of money for absolutely nothing. Unless we solve that kind of problem our whole job of redeveloping the country will be burdened with a chain of unnecessary gifts all the way along. None of us questions in any way the purpose for which the Bill is required. We do, however, suggest that the problem to which it draws attention—that of the new towns—presents a great opportunity but, at the same time, indicates how lacking in the imagination and leadership required for that opportunity are Her Majesty's present advisers.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Corfield
With the permission of the House, I will endeavour to reply to the many questions raised in this wide-ranging debate.
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said, in effect, that he was glad that one heard a lot less of the nonsense—as he called it—that we used to hear a few years ago, and which I think was termed the "new town blues". I am not certain whether his hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart) would have agreed with him, but I admit that the hon. Gentleman struck a sympathetic chord with me. Most of the points made by the hon. Member for Fulham had been raised earlier by other hon. Members and so I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not regard me as discourteous 814 if I try to answer them as I come to them rather than to do so straight away.
The hon. Member for Fulham made a number of points about the difference of opinion which divides the House about whether the future destiny of the new towns should be with the local authorities or the Commission for the New Towns. That matter was touched on by his hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington) and was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough.) I wish to stress that we believe that there is a real disadvantage about a local authority being, in effect, a monopoly landlord. There is another aspect which I do not think that hon. Gentlemen have adverted to. It is that the local authority would consist entirely of members and officers who were council house tenants. I very much doubt whether that would be a healthy thing for local democracy. It is certainly something which ought to be taken into account.
The hon. Member for Fulham said that there had been no dissent regarding the desirability of meeting the financial needs of the new towns and giving a Second Reading to this Bill. Nor has there been any dissent from the general proposition that the new towns have been a success in concept and in execution. A special tribute to the local government officers was paid by my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham. Clearly their difficulties have been increased by the existence of a new town in their district, or in the immediate neighbourhood. I wish to add my tribute to them, and to Lord Reith and Lord Silkin, and also to the corporations and their staffs.
We accept, of course, the proposition of the hon. Member for Lanark that the main concern of the corporations must be to build and develop in the interests of the people for whom the town is designed. But it would be wholly unfair to refer to Government interest about where the town should be built, or where it should be expanded, as a matter of Government convenience. Obviously, and as almost every hon. Member has said, including the hon. Member for Fulham, these new towns have an immensely important rôle to play in the national context, and it must be the duty of the Government to assess the whole broad planning problem in the 815 context of their rapidly increasing population.
Our debate has ranged over a wide field. There have been a number of specific points referring to the new towns individually. My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan) referred to Stevenage. Welwyn was referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel). The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) referred to Cumbernauld; my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) referred to Bracknell, and the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) referred to Livingston.
I cannot go into all the details but I will try to touch on the main points raised. In addition, we have ranged from the major policy of commission versus the local authority to matters about the balance of population within the new towns, the desirability of the sale of houses—raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford—compensation, and some rather light-hearted political jollity from the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) and even more light-hearted exchanges between my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham and the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East, who at one stage appeared to suggest that we had built 300,000 houses on 200,000 foundations. I will endeavour to check through the questions I have been unable to answer and to write to hon. Members as, I am sure, will my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland.
The hon. Member for Widnes said that we had wasted 11 years and that we should have had the towns coming on one by one. But let us remember that they were basically experimental concepts, and surely in that sense it was only prudent not only to take stock of the progress and to see how they developed but also to see how local authorities developed under the Town Development Act which, in many ways, was a parellel Act. Some very notable developments among the larger local authorities, particularly the L.C.C., have taken place under that Act.
There can be no question of the newer new towns being deprived in any way of the lessons which have been learned by the first generation. One gets a certain 816 reduction and loss of staff in any organisation, and one gets, with the new town corporations, a reduction of staff reflecting the slowing down of the building rate, but a number of more prominent people engaged in the development of new towns have gone on to higher jobs. Their knowledge remains available. In all cases, every effort is made to make use of the knowledge gained in one town for the benefit of the other corporations. The chairmen meet frequently and although rude remarks are made from time to time about the lack of research and co-ordination in my Department, I can assure hon. Members that there are a number of people in the Ministry with this task before them of ensuring that the lessons are condensed and put in a form in which they can most easily be made use of by other development corporations. This is very much the case with the lessons at Hemel Hempstead to which the hon. Member for Widnes referred, and similar problems may arise in Runcorn, which is a town with a considerable population, in its initial stages when the new town is first designated.
I am not in a position to make the announcement for which the hon. Member asks about the new town for Manchester. I am sure that hon. Members realise that in these matters it is important to find the right place in the context of all the other factors involved. Many places have been examined over the years, and although my right hon. Friend is not yet in a position to make a statement about the site, he hopes to do so very soon.
I turn to the problem of Stevenage raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin. I hope he will forgive me if I do not dwell at length on this, but he will admit that I gave him a considerable amount of time on this subject, and it would be unfair to the rest of the House if I spent a great part of my speech on Stevenage. I referred in my opening remarks to the contribution made by Hertfordshire. It is inevitable that Hertfordshire must expect a more rapid growth than other Home Counties because it had less pre-war growth and at the moment has more room than many of the other Home Counties, at any rate in the parts of the county nearest London.
817 The South-Hast study is concerned with the period to 1981. Hertfordshire obviously does not expect growth to stop in 1973, the date of the present projections of population allowed for in the development plan. If the population increases at the same rate as it is now and at the same rate as has been allowed for by the local planning authority, the growth by 1981 will be 333,000, as near as can be judged.
This is very close to the figure we are considering in relation to whether it is necessary or desirable to accommodate some of those people in an enlarged Stevenage. There is very little difference in total figures between my Department, the county planning authority and my hon. Friend. It is a question of whether one looks 5, 10 or 15 years ahead as to where one is to put them. No one would think it right, particularly in the light of past mistakes in forecasting, that we should not take the longer view rather than the shorter.
It is more appropriate that we should leave such questions as expansion beyond the so-called by-pass to the statutory processes laid down in the 1946 Act. There is a complicated procedure. The designated area first has to be discussed with the local authorities concerned. Then a draft Order is made. Then there are public inquiries, if there are objections, and from what my hon. Friend said I have no doubt there will be. The whole thing will be thrashed out in public. In any case, it would not be appropriate for me to gobs into the detailed arguments.
With regard to the A.1, which I think is of motorway standard, we must face the fact that Buchanan envisages, as indeed do most leading planning consultants in other highly developed countries, that we are likely to have motor roads of this sort through urban areas. As my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham, knows, there is a motorway through Crawley. I do not suggest that this is ideal, but it has not stopped or inhibited the expansion or development of Crawley.
§ Mr. Corfield
I do not think I can give a useful estimate of the likely cost 818 of the sewerage operation, although I have some figures here. I can assure my hon. Friend that, when the corporation was asked to prepare ideas as to how an increased population of this figure could be accommodated, it was satisfied that it could be done without insuperable difficulties with regard to sewerage. These are immensely expensive operations, but I have no reason to believe that the cost per head here will be in any way out of the general run experienced with very large schemes serving a very large number of people.
§ Mr. Maddan
Will my hon. Friend clarify two points? First, is it the idea that some of Hertfordshire's other proposals for expansion should be replaced by the expansion of Stevenage or that Stevenage should be added to them during the 10-year period? Secondly, whilst all the statutory processes are going on, I take it that work on the town centre, and so on, which is vital, will be completely stopped.
§ Mr. Corfield
I do not think that it will be much longer before the draft Order can be made. As I understand it, taking the period I have mentioned, it is not a question of deciding whether people go into Stevenage or somewhere else. The point is this: if they do not go to Stevenage, Hertfordshire itself is likely to have to find other places for the same number of people. Whether that comes from expanding the villages, other towns or other new towns, at the moment no proposition has been put forward because we are now dealing with a shorter period.
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington raised the general question of new town corporations versus local authorities, to which I briefly referred, and my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham made the observation that the vast expenditure and investment in new towns was a national expenditure. My hon. Friend has a valid point in saying that the proceeds should, at any rate initially, go back to the Exchequer for further new towns rather than that it should go to a particular local authority which, on the face of it, would appear to be an uneven distribution of a large amount of the taxpayer's money.
The hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington read a letter from a 819 member of a local committee of the Commission for the New Towns and I should like to have a word with him about that matter. We are anxious, as is everyone, that the committee should liaise as closely as possible with local interests. I am assured that we have been in touch with the Commission and the local committee and that that is their intention. But if things can be improved I have no doubt that my hon. Friend will make any suggestions he has known to me.
The hon. Lady the Member for Lanark produced a remarkably comprehensive speech showing a great knowledge of the many problems that are raised in new towns. I was not certain that she was in agreement with the hon. Member for Fulham and me that some of the stuff published in the newspapers some time ago was nonsense. With respect to the hon. Lady, I got the feeling at the end of her speech that she felt that as long as there was a committee of a sufficient number of experts, preferably sitting in London, all would be well. She will hardly be surprised to know that that is not something which immediately appeals to me; but I can assure her that there is a great deal of research going on into the problems of the new towns, although the majority of it is done by officers of the new town corporations.
§ Mr. Corfield
I was making the point that it is not really a question of centralised research as against none. I hope that she will agree that quite a lot of localised research is going on and that this has a good deal of merit, even if she will not go all the way with me and say that this would be preferable to something over-centralised.
In her specific Scottish questions the hon. Lady criticised the output record of the Scottish new towns and urged the need for a larger number of them. The existing corporations are admitting a certain disappointment at the efforts which have been made to step up output in 820 the last few years. However, they are now being reinforced by another new town at Livingston and the first houses will be built there this year. I will ask my right hon. Friend to look into her complaints and specific questions more fully than I can be expected to tonight as the English Minister responsible.
The hon. Lady also revived the old suggestion of a specifically low rate of interest for new towns, and not only I imagine for those in Scotland. The hon. Lady would hardly expect me to go into that in detail, or to argue whether this should be confined to new towns or other housing, or whether it should necessarily be confined to housing and not extended to education, hospitals, and the rest.
The plain fact is that a special rate of interest is a subsidy, and both administratively and financially there is a lot to be said for a subsidy in a round sum, so that the Treasury knows exactly to what it is committed. A special rate of interest, in which the subsidy will vary as the market rate varies, is a disguised subsidy and, as such, has very grave disadvantages—
§ Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
Is the Minister now attempting to reply to what my hon. Friends have said about the peculiar problems of new towns in Scotland, or are we to have a reply from a Scottish Minister?
§ Mr. Corfield
My noble Friend the Member for Hertford spoke about the sale of houses in new towns, but I cannot add anything to what I said when he had an Adjournment debate on this subject just before Christmas. He also raised the important matter of the future of Welwyn Garden City. The South-East study has involved the possibility of the expansion of any established town in the area—whether a new town, an old town, or a new new town—and no doubt the Minister's technical representatives in compiling the study have visited Welwyn, among other places. My present information is that there is no real scope for expansion there, though there may be some scope for reconsider- 821 ing the population that the present area could and should hold. I hope that I have reassured my noble Friend, even though I may not have been able to do the same for my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bromsgrove (Mr. Dance) devoted the whole of his speech to the difficult problem of compensation to the farmer—I think that he had the tenant farmer mainly in mind. I hope that he will not expect me to give a lot of time to this subject, although it was one about which I might be able to speak more easily than on some other matters. I would remind him that the security of tenure, which gives the farmer the expectation of a much longer occupancy of his farm than his strictly legal one, was granted to him for one reason, and one reason only—the desirability in the national agricultural interest of the continuity that is necessary for agricultural production.
The result is that the tenant farmer has only a short legal interest, but he has that interest derived from the common form of agricultural tenure in this country, and has it in a way for which he has never paid anything further. In other words, he was granted this security by a statutory provision which in no way affected his relationship with his landlord. It raises very great difficulties if one says that because of a change of landlord there is a legal claim for something not represented by a legal interest in the land. We realise, of course, that there are individual circumstances in which particular hardship is caused but where there is no actual legal interest that can be compensated. That was the whole purpose of the provision in Section 22, to which my hon. Friend referred, whereby local authorities or new town corporations acquiring land can make a discretionary payment.
It is only a year since that provision was inserted in an Act of Parliament. It was inserted at the express request of the N.F.U. to put farmers on the same basis as owners of houses and other property, and it is only fair to see how it works out. I recognise that there are difficulties, but I hope that my hon. Friend will also recognise that there is a duty on the House to consider what is fair to the taxpayer in relation to 822 what, when compensating a land-owner, they are purchasing.
§ Mr. Dance
I am most grateful to my hon. Friend, but I think that he has rather missed the point. It is not just a question of changing a landlord. It is a question of a man being kicked out of his farm and his livelihood. This is an entirely different matter. Surely my hon. Friend must realise that this is not a question of discretionary powers for one of these associations to inquire into the matter. They should be forced to look into these cases.
§ Mr. Corfield
The difficulty arises from the fact that a private landlord can himself give notice if the land has planning permission for development and he wishes to develop. Therefore, the real point that my hon. Friend raises is the question that arises when there is a change of landlord to the development corporation or the acquiring local authority. This is the crux of the problem.
The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East asked a specific question about the Scottish share of the additional money in the Bill. He asked whether it was included in the total of public investments mentioned in the White Paper on Central Scotland. The answer is, "Yes. "The hon. Member also asked what share of the extra money will be spent in Scotland. Scottish advances to the end of the last financial year totalled over £47 million and are at present increasing at the rate of more than £8 million a year. No fixed sum within the additional £150 million is earmarked for Scotland, but it is clear that the Scottish share will be substantial and will depend of course upon the speed with which the Scottish development corporations develop and will require further advances.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham, in addition to touching on the vexed problems of compensation, also asked specifically whether when the local inquiry was arranged with regard to extending a designated area or a planned town centre it could be separated from the compulsory purchase orders. This is a difficult problem. I will consider what he has said and anything further he might like to say to me. It is clear that the two issues are closely related. Whether one really saves the 823 landowner in the long run by making two separate inquiries is a moot point, but I should be glad to discuss it with him. Our endeavour is to find the fairest way of dealing with these matters and not necessarily the most convenient.
I am fully aware that I have sketched very briefly over many of the questions which have been asked in the debate and I apologise to Scottish Members for the sparsity of my information about matters North of the Border, but we have had a debate which clearly shows that the whole concept of new towns is accepted with enthusiasm on all sides. That being so, I feel that I can commend the Bill to the House with confidence that we shall not have to argue about it in the Division Lobbies.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
I rise to protest against the way in which Scottish contributions to the debate have been treated. It is becoming customary in United Kingdom debates in the House for the Government practically to ignore issues arising in Scotland. About three speeches out of the seven made on this side to the debate have been made by Scottish Members and I suggest to the Government that as a matter of courtesy, at the least, we ought to have had a Scottish Minister replying to some of the points raised.
I listened to some of these contributions. Many important matters were raised. I am sorry that I did not hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), but I know her sufficiently well to know that she would have had a great deal to say about East Kilbride. We have heard a great deal about Welwyn Garden City, Stevenage, Crawley, and the overspill in Hertfordshire, all of which is very important, but the Parliamentary Secretary said nothing about East Kilbride. Overspill from Glasgow to Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, and Dunbartonshire is just as important to the people there as is the overspill from London to people in the South.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) raised one question which has caused widespread concern in Scotland and that is the vicious manner in which the Secre- 824 tary of State for Scotland has slashed all the estimates for school building. This has affected the new towns. This is a problem at Glenrothes, where Fife has had to make a fresh approach to the Secretary of State to try to obtain permission—I am not certain whether it has been granted yet—to proceed with a school in Glenrothes. My hon. Friend also raised the question of Cumbernauld and other matters.
These are important issues in Scotland We ought to have had a public statement. The hole-in-the-corner business of writing a note to hon. Members is not good enough. This is a matter of widespread concern. What is the Scottish Office frightened about? We know that the Government are likely to have their already small minority in Scotland reduced even further at the General Election, but that should not inhibit the Parliamentary Secretary from at least treating the people of Scotland with courtesy and telling them something about these matters.
My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East raised the question of the railways. A new town is being built at Cumbernauld precisely at the moment when the railway is to be closed. Surely lunacy could go no further. We are building for a new community of, I suppose, 60,000 people, and it is proposed to close the railway. We ought to have been told something about this. This applies to other new towns in Scotland. Surely the Minister has something to say about some of these matters.
I suppose that my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East will be able to go through all the rigmarole before the transport users' consultative committee to show that hardship will be occasioned in Cumbernauld, but there will be no opportunity before the transport users consultative committee to point out that here is a new town with a potential increase in passenger traffic of between 50,000 and 60,000. We should be told what the Government intend to do. Are they going to point out to British Railways the stupidity of closing this line, with its station and sidings, just at the time when a new town is being developed? This is an important matter and we ought to be told.
825 My hon. Friend the Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) made a very detailed speech about the method of obtaining contracts in the new towns, based on much correspondence and the long fight that he has had with the Scottish Office in trying to obtain some satisfactory information. As I understood my hon. Friend's speech, he has not yet been able to obtain satisfactory answers to his questions.
Millions of pounds of public money are involved—£150 million under the Bill. Surely we are entitled to know the procedures by which this money is to be spent. It seems to me to be a matter of vital concern to the taxpayers. The Government ought to tell us how these contracts are drawn up, how they are called in, and what happens when a dispute arises such as that which has arisen in the case of Livingston.
There is also the whole question of overspill and new towns in Scotland. This important matter has been discussed by Scottish Members in the Scottish Grand Committee and the Scottish Standing Committee and has been the subject of widespread discussion in Scotland itself, namely, as to what extent the Government now expect to be able to meet the problems of Glasgow through the overspill policy and to what extent new towns will have to be embarked upon. This has been a matter of widespread controversy, and one would have thought that on an occasion like this, when we are authorising the expenditure of another £150 million, the Government would have taken the opportunity of telling us what their ideas are on the situation in Glasgow. Are they satisfied with the rate at which the overspill agreements are being drawn up and that they are absorbing the population which has to be spilled out of Glasgow?
My hon. Friend the Member for Lanark raised this point and the Parliamentary Secretary replied to it in a very cursory manner. I do not blame him. We could not expect him to know what the situation is in Scotland. He said that the new towns were disappointed at progress. That is putting it mildly. Everyone in Scotland is disappointed at the progress. One does not blame the corporation so much as the Government. It is no good hiding 826 behind the corporation; that is a cowardly thing to do. Let the Government take the blame for it, for the Government should have seen that things were speeded up in time.
We ought to have been told something of these matters by the responsible Minister. Instead, we have heard nothing. We have been told that he will write a few letters. This is not the kind of reply that one wants. We want it on the record, where Members can refer to it.
A number of other matters were raised during the debate by Scottish Members, to none of which have we had a reply. I commend the Parliamentary Secretary for at least having sat through the debate, but we expect much more of him than that. We expect at least to hear him replying to the matters that have been raised. There is plenty of time yet for the Scottish Minister to reply to the points that have been raised by Scottish Members. We still have 40 minutes before this debate need come to an end, and I am certain that he could answer most of these points within a much shorter time than that if he set his mind to it. In fairness to hon. Members, the Under-Secretary of State should take the opportunity given by the early ending of the debate to do that.
§ 9.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Archie Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
I, also, lodge the strongest possible protest at the failure of any Scottish Minister to reply to questions raised on the Scottish content of the Bill. The whole matter is of great importance to Scotland. By this short Bill, we are deciding that expenditure on new town corporations and the Commission combined is to be increased from £400 million to £550 million
In Scotland today, our great problems in this connection are inextricably linked with overspill from Glasgow because the housing problem in Glasgow is so intractable that the Government have decided that the only way to tackle it effectively in the foreseeable future is for other townships and areas in Scotland, along with the new towns themselves, to take overspill from the Glasgow area.
Since this is the kernel of the Scottish situation, the Minister responsible for Scotland should realise that Scottish 827 Members are actively interested in how much of the additional expenditure is to be allocated to the solution of these peculiarly Scottish problems in regard to housing. Housing presents the greatest social scourge, the greatest social menace, in Scotland, and all along we have declared that a great part of a permanent solution lies in the creation of new towns.
We have been told in glowing terms that there is to be another new town in Scotland, and possibly one after that. We do not know. The Under-Secretary of State should tell us more about some of the statements which have been made as to the future. Is part of the extra £150 million to be devoted to our future new towns? I declare a constituency interest here. There is to be a great new township in, or adjacent to, Irvine. We do not really know. Is it to be a new town? Is it to have a new town development corporation? What does the Scottish Office envisage for Irvine? Irvine is already a burgh and will need help in connection with burgh boundaries and agreements with neighbouring local authorities, Ayr County Council, the Burgh of Kilwinning and the Burgh of Troon. We are being kept in the dark.
This is all tied up with the plan for Central Scotland which has been getting such wide publicity. I do not wish to make a speech about the plan for development in Central Scotland, but I am keen to highlight that part of the development which is to come in my own constituency, in Irvine. What is the view of the Scottish Office about it? Is a development corporation to be set up, or is there to be a combination of local authorities? Or is this to be an entirely new conception about which we have not yet heard?
The burghs of Troon, Irvine and Kilwinning and the county council come into this. They are all in the air about what will happen. I understand that certain private letters are passing from the Scottish Office to town clerks in the area, but surely this is not good enough. Has not the Member of Parliament for the area a right to know what is happening about the formation of policy? Are the authorities to which I have just referred and the Member representing the area to be by-passed completely? We know that mistakes have been made in connection 828 with other new town development corporations. Are these mistakes to be repeated?
The Under-Secretary of State must understand that we want clear and adequate notice of what is intended. We are discussing the expenditure of millions of pounds on educational facilities, the provision of primary, secondary and, I hope, comprehensive school education, clinics, libraries, and so on. Not only do we want to know what the financial implications will be in Irvine but also we want to know how the Ayr County Council, which is responsible for education, the police and roads in the area, stands in this matter.
I should like to think that the authorities in Ayrshire which come within the ambit of this proposed new town development will harmoniously agree in every possible way. But this can happen only provided the Government tell us what the commitments are and how much they propose to put into the pool for the creation of this new development. The Burgh of Irvine is already doing an excellent job by taking overspill from Glasgow. These people are settling in very well and we welcome them. However, our information is that the population of the town of Irvine, or the new town—we do not know what to call it—will grow from 16,000 to about 50,000. That is a very large increase which will greatly strain the present resources, and we should have more information about it. The Bill involves an increased expenditure of £150 million. I am asking whether the Government have an agreed policy for the new town within this figure. If so, it means that there will be a cut back in the money available to Scotland for Glenrothes, Cumbernauld and East Kilbride.
Before we had this propaganda from the Tory Party and the Secretary of State for Scotland about the creation of a new town at Irvine in Central Scotland, unfortunately we had the Beeching Report, which envisages the withdrawal of all passenger services between Kilmarnock and Ardrossan. Irvine lies about midway between Kilmarnock and Ardrossan on that line. It is the direct line for the South connection. Passengers from London change at Kilmarnock and go down to Irvine. 829 It is interesting to see the kind of thing that is said in the reports of the development corporations for the new towns of Cumbernauld, Glenrothes and Livingston concerning rail transport. The following refers to Cumbernauld:The Corporation's view is that adequate rail communications are an important factor for the whole community and an element vital to its industrial and commercial success. In addition to the freight aspect many people living in the new town make use of the passenger services from Cumbernauld station.We have an even more glaring anomaly concerning the proposed Beeching cuts for the new town which is to be established at Irvine. There was a public hearing at which my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) made an eloquent and impassioned appeal, backed up with statistics that could not be confuted. With my knowledge of the situation, I aided and abetted when we spoke about the withdrawal of services from that line. My hon. Friend and I very much hoped that we had been successful.
Despite the fact that the Secretary of State tells us that we are to have this major development, Dr. Beeching tells us that there are to be no passenger services to the station connecting with London, Carlisle, the South or wherever it may be. We are still in the air with no word whether our plea was successful. Everything indicates that we were not, although I hope that we were. The decision is in the lap of the gods.
I hope that the Scottish Office now has a blueprint of its intentions for Scotland and the places that it means to develop. I should like to know what proportion of the extra £150 million for the new towns will go to the development of these areas and I hope that we do not have the ludicrous conception of a new town with no rail transport connecting with the South for the key men and the executives coming to the area.
The town council of Irvine has done a magnificent job in taking over the old Royal Ordnance factory and has already got between 20 and 30 industries into the area. These are to be deprived. Many of them are small industries needing quick and ready communications with suppliers, travellers and executives by train from the South. Is this facility to be denied them? Will not the local authority have any opportunity of con- 830 solidating the very good job which it has so successfully done in Irvine?
I hope that the Under-Secretary will avail himself of the opportunity which we have deliberately staged for him tonight, because it was utterly wrong to leave this matter to the Minister of Housing and Local Government and his Parliamentary Secretary, who knows next to nothing about Scotland. He knows the geography by looking at the map, but he could not say where Irvine was, or the Irvine Valley, which has nothing to do with Irvine. It is too bad that Scottish Members who have effectively spoken in the debate should be fobbed off in the way they have been tonight. I hope that we will have a clear explanation of the Scottish position.
§ 9.35 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Cordon Campbell)
I must say, first, that there was no discourtesy intended at all in the arrangements, and that this results in my appearance for the first time at this Dispatch Box. I would ask for a Rule indulgence.
I thank hon. Members for having given me this opportunity, but I think that my hon. Friend did cover most of the points which were raised both for England and Scotland—
§ Mr. Campbell
—although to have covered all the many points which were raised most efficiently by hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies would have taken an extremely long time. Even if I had till one o'clock I should not be able to give all the replies, but I will take this opportunity of replying to some of the questions which have been raised, in so far as I can.
First, the question of railways was raised by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) and it has been reiterated by other hon. Members. I would point out that there is no divergence here between two Government Departments. Paragraph 64 of the Report on Cumbernauld new town points to the possible use of the station facilities there. The hon. Member exploited skilfully the fact that there is a proposal in Dr. Beeching's Report that these facili- 831 ties might be withdrawn. Of course, that is a proposal by British Railways. So far as I know, it has not yet come to the Government, and cannot till the usual procedures, the seven-week period for objections by transport users, the opportunities to consider the objections, and so on, have been passed through. The Government cannot consider the question till then.
§ Mr. Manuel
The hon. Gentleman must be very careful in what he says on this. I was in the Standing Committee on the Bill in 1962, and I know that it lays down clearly that it is the Minister of Transport, and not the Secretary of State for Scotland, or anyone else, who makes the decision in the end.
§ Mr. Campbell
I am glad that that point has been raised, because although the Minister of Transport is the Minister responsible he has said that where Scotland is concerned he will regard it as normal to consult the Secretary of State on these points. The decisions are decisions of the Government, and the Government take responsibility for them when they are decisions made in the name of the Government.
What I wanted to say, before I was interrupted by the hon. Member, was that such a factor as a recommendation in the Report on Cumbernauld new town is one which will be very much taken into account in the making of such a decision, and there is no divergence between two Government Departments, because only one Government Department can possibly be said to have been involved so far in this question.
I now turn to another point which was raised by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East—the question of schooling for children who had reached the age of 5. The needs of overspill areas and new towns are taken into account when local allocations are made and the receiving areas obtain approvals in excess of present population. In the case of Dunbartonshire, special provision is proposed for Cumbernauld in next year's programme.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) asked whether the Secretary of State was satisfied with the progress on overspill. I would say, on behalf of my right hon. Friend, that he 832 is never satisfied with progress on desirable projects in Scotland, however well forward the progress may be. He will never be satisfied; he will always be wishing to make better progress.
§ Mr. Willis
The point that I was making—I think it is important—was this. The number of new towns required will to a great extent depend upon the success of the existing overspill arrangements in meeting the Glasgow problem. I asked whether the progress being made indicated that the four new towns would be sufficient.
§ Mr. Campbell
A question was also raised about the possibility of a new town at Irvine. That is under consideration with the local authorities. The whole question of the scope for large-scale expansion is being considered with them, and later a decision can be taken in consultation with the local authorities on whether a development under the New Towns Act is the best solution. I can assure the hon. Member that my right hon. Friend is watching the overspill situation and will bear that in mind.
The four Scottish new towns which at present exist serve the related purposes of providing for overspill population from Glasgow and acting as focal points for the new economic growth. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman agrees with this, because I think that it can be said that we have had certain successes in combining these two functions in the new towns, though it has been said on both sides of the House already today that it has not been as good as we would have hoped so far.
A question was asked about Living-ton, and the hon. Member for West Lothian (Mr. Dalyell) recapitulated in some detail matters with which he has been dealing in correspondence with the Secretary of State. I do not think that I can go into all those points now, but I assure him that I have noted everything that he has said. Again, I say that, having listened to the whole of the debate, I will not overlook any of the points which have been made; and there were many details in the speeches made by hon. Members representing Scottish constituencies.
§ Mr. Campbell
I listened to everything that the hon. Member said about that. He has received a letter about this from my right hon. Friend. I will pursue it with the hon. Member, but I do not think: that it can be pursued in detail in debate on the Floor of the House at this time.
The industrial success of the Scottish new towns was recognised in the recent White Paper on Central Scotland, which identified all four of these towns as major growth areas. However, effort is being made to expand housing output. At the end of 1963 a record total of 3,676 houses was under construction. December,1963, produced the high figure of 283 houses completed. The new towns are also playing a leading part in the introduction of industrialised building methods. They are members of the Scottish Local Authority Special Housing Group which is examining the scope for industrialised house building on a consortium basis with standardisation of dimensions and components and bulk orders.
In the industrial field the progress of East Kilbride, in particular, s one of the success stories of post-war Scotland. With reference to what the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East said, I am sorry that he did not hear the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mrs. Hart), because she dilated very effectively on general points and did not spend much of her time, if any, on the subject of the town of East Kilbride. Therefore, I take pleasure myself in saying that it has been a success story. Seventy-six firms, with a total payroll of 8,644, are now in production, and in 1963 11 firms entered into firm undertakings to settle in the new town. I meant no reflection on the hon. Lady. She has in the past herself said all these things.
§ Mr. Campbell
No. My hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary replied to the general points. I was explaining to the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East, who was not here when the hon. Lady spoke, that she dealt with other subjects and that was why East Kilbride was not 834 specifically mentioned by my hon. Friend.
There is one particular point which shows the buoyancy of East Kilbride. Recently, there was considerable publicity in Scotland for the fact that a firm, Holyrood Knitwear Ltd., had announced the impending closure of its factory at East Kilbride. When that happened, the development corporation was able to secure, from among many inquiries, a tenant which is not only a science-based industry, but has a greater potential for both employment and growth than the knitwear firm.
At Cumbernauld the architecture and planning success of the first of the second generation new towns has not yet been matched industrially, though recent months have seen considerable progress. Three new firms have decided to settle in the new town and the development corporation has, I understand, some very hopeful negotiations under way.
Finally, although the general development of Livingston has scarcely begun, the development corporation is starting on a 300.000 sq. ft. factory for a major American engineering firm with an employment potential of 2,000. It is also to build a smaller factory for an Edinburgh form and it, too, has other hopeful negotiations in progress.
I hope that hon. Members will realise from this general picture which I have spoken about, as well as answering points raised in the debate, that the new towns in Scotland have a bright prospect and are making a considerable contribution to both providing for overspill and economic growth in Scotland.
§ 9.47 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
It falls to me to congratulate the Undersecretary of State for Scotland on his first speech from the Dispatch Box. We ought to be grateful to him because he did it very well. He made a sincere effort to apply his mind to the problems raised. It makes me wonder why he was so reluctant to answer the debate.
We on this side of the House decided that it would be rather unsatisfactory to have a Scottish debate slung in the middle of today's business with the formality of a Front Bench speaker on each side. We decided, therefore, to leave it to our back benchers to speak 835 on the problems of the new towns from the constituency point of view, but we did expect the Government to address themselves to making an adequate reply and to take the opportunity to deal with all the important aspects of the new towns.
We read in the Press today that the decision has already been taken, at a meeting with the local authority in Ayrshire, to build a new town in Ayrshire but the Under-Secretary of State, judging by the speech he has just delivered, seems to think that there is some doubt about it. As far as I understand it—and the reports obviously came from the Scottish Office—the only doubt now is where exactly it is to be and what its size will be. What we complain about is that a decision of this character should be taken by the Government without any consultation with the local authorities concerned.
The Government must appreciate that they cannot suddenly come to an area and put down a new town without that having very considerable effects on all the planning of roads, water, education and housing that has gone on hitherto. This is not something to be dropped into a White Paper with the attitude, "Well, we might do this". All this makes us very doubtful indeed of the so-called planning emanating from the Government at present.
The hon. Gentleman talked about railways and said that it was not a question of two Government Departments being at cross-purposes. He said that so far only one Government Department was concerned. That is a shocking admission, a confession of complete failure in planning. Whether the hon. Gentleman likes it or not, the Scottish Development Department in its Report two years ago, decided that Livingston was the proper place to have a new town because the railway passed through there.
§ Mr. Ross
Meantime another Government Department sets up a Committee and authorises it to reshape British Railways, without consultation with anyone, and so for passengers this service is reshaped completely out. Here we have two authorities planning in isolation and 836 one counteracting the actions of the other. The point was made by my hon. Friend that the same thing has happened in Irvine. Here I have a constituency interest, because Kilmarnock is the link with the South and we are losing our links with certain areas, the seaside resorts of Irvine, Troon, Girvan, Ardrossan and Ayr. This is going on at the same time that the Government solemnly tell us that they are planning a new town in the area. Surely that affects the situation. But the hon. Gentleman says that they are not at cross-purposes. Why then does it state in the Beeching Report that the basis of that Report is that no assumption has been made of any novel change in relation to the economic development of Scotland, when in this one area an astounding change is being accepted by the Government, but no one tells anyone anything?
So far as this is concerned the Transport Users' Consultative Committee is quite irrelevant. I tried to point out the possibilities of development, but I was told that it did not affect the T.U.C.C. It was not within its terms of remit.
On the subject of overspill, the hon. Gentleman said that the Secretaryof State was never satisfied, however well forward the schemes might be. Does he not appreciate that the trouble in Scotland is that these schemes are not well forward? I know that there are not many new towns in the Highlands yet, although there will be a railway for a short time longer. I remember in 1957–58 that the present Minister of State, Lord Craigton, laid down a 10-year programme on overspill and gave a definite number of houses to be built in the new towns. Over five years have passed and we have not got half way. We have not reached a quarter of the distance to the target.
There has been stagnation during the last five or six years regarding accommodation in new towns in Scotland. The average annual figure has been only 1,400 to 1,500 and this has made no impact on the overspill from Glasgow. The Minister suggested today that allowances have been made in relation to development under the new White Paper on Central Scotland. He could not give any figures, but it would be easy to improve on the past figures for the new towns.
837 He made a point about focal points for new economic growth. It was no news to us that the new towns were focal points for new economic growth. We did not require a White Paper on Central Scotland to tell us that. What concerns us is that we are not getting enough growth or the right kind of growth. Reference was made to Holy-rood Knitwear Ltd., and the hon. Member said that it was not a growth industry. Two factories were closed in Kilmarnock in order to concentrate in East Kilbride. If the factories had been left under the good management which they already had, they might still be in Scotland at present.
This was an opportunity for the Secretary of State to make clear to Scotland his views on the development of new towns. Must all the new towns in Scotland be concentrated within already overcrowded Central Scotland? I am surprised that the Under-Secretary, who represents a Highlands constituency, has not some thoughts on the subject whether we should not take the opportunity of new town policy to spread economic development more evenly throughout Scotland. What about development at Fort William? Could we not have made an effort to build that into a much bigger town as a focal point for economic development and to have spread the central development further north? We are asking for the same kind of thing in South-West Scotland and on the Borders, too, but the Government are tied to this narrow band of Central Scotland. When we hear the replies about transport and economic development it becomes evident that the Government have no policy at all either about new towns or about anything else.
The hon. Member made a statement about Livingston and industrialised building methods. He terrifies me. One point about industrial building methods is that one can achieve speed but one does not get the quality in relation to architecture which I want to see in the new towns.
We also have all these changes of plan. East Kilbride started as a modest new town of about 45,000, but the target has been raised. This destroys the basic planning on roads and everything else, and we finish with something 838 which we regret. We should have done far better to think again on an entirely new aspect. I do not want to see a repetition of that experience.
Let us go easy on changing targets and on industrialised building and see exactly what can be done. We thank the Under-Secretary of State for his speech. I am sorry that it was given so reluctantly. We hope that we have an opportunity to hear him many times more.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Committee of the whole House.—[Mr. Peel.]
§ Committee Tomorrow.