HC Deb 12 June 1974 vol 874 cc1610-1
18. Mr. Arthur Jones

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he is considering further financial support for new and expanded towns.

Mr. John Silkin

My right hon. Friend is considering the problems of local authorities in this field—though without commitment at this stage.

Mr. Jones

I know that the right hon. Gentleman recognises the burden which falls on ratepayers in those counties with town expansion schemes, such as Northampton shire, which has no fewer than four. Does he recognise the particular circumstances for Northampton shire and is he prepared to consider some special grant from central funds in recognition of these difficulties, in the second half of the current financial year?

Mr. Silkin

The hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I have a great deal of sympathy for new and expanded towns. I know of the difficulties that they are under. The trouble is that with things as they are in the present system the giving of funds to one authority must be done at the expense of another. That is the way it goes. Having said that, however, I can tell the hon. Gentleman that I am looking closely into the question whether any help can be given in the special circumstances of expanded towns.

Mr. Ronald Atkins

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if Government funds are available for local government purposes they are needed even more in the older towns in support of the rates, in connection with the housing programmes which the Government have urged us to carry out? I raise this point as a Member from a new town.

Mr. Silkin

My hon. Friend has clearly and eloquently put the other side of the equation which I was trying to suggest a moment ago. I think we shall have to get local authorities to see themselves what is the best and most reasonable way to answer the problem.

Sir Harmar Nicholls

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his first answer was the best? Its tone and approach gave much encouragement. In areas of new towns, such as Peterborough, where there is a doubling of the population of an old-established, traditional city, the influx of people from London has undermined the hospital and education services. Does he agree that the only way this can be remedied is by having a direct grant to take this into account, as distinct from the normal regional channels?

Mr. Silkin

I am aware that all my answers, all the time, are always the best and are always reasonable. I am trying to put the facts as they seem to be to me. I understand the necessity of helping those towns which are taking in increases in population and which have greater services to deal with. I also understand the problems of those towns which are old and decaying, and which must be helped. The trouble is that all are to be helped from the same fund of money.