HC Deb 15 July 1980 vol 988 cc1291-341
Mr. Nigel Spearing (Newham, South)

I beg to move amendment No. 191, in page 87, line 32 after 'so', insert: and that the scale and complexity of development required is such that the local authorities for the area could not reasonably be expected to achieve its completion within a reasonable time. This amendment may be insignificant in terms of debate. The principal amendment relates to the Government's proposal for urban development corporations, and it is important for local government. There has been a great deal of debate, both in Committee and in other places, about whether the Bill seeks to destroy local government, give it freedom, or put it in chains. There can be no doubt that the Government's proposals will allow urban development corporations to be established in any urban area. However, it is intended that they should be established in the docklands of London and Liverpool. The proposals will replace the existing local government structure. There can be no debate about that. Nor can there be any debate about the fact that they will change the effective constitution of local government. Some would argue that they will change the constitution of our internal government.

The proposals are remarkable, because they conflict with almost everything that the Conservative Party stated in its election manifesto. They also conflict with much of the Bill. The proposals will not give freedom to local authorities, because they will take away a large proportion of their powers, in those areas of London and Liverpool that are to be designated urban development areas. They will replace local government. They will provide a good deal of initiative and a great deal of power to a ministerially appointed group of persons. Those persons are accountable to the Minister for many of the functions of local government.

The power of patronage of any Secretary of State will be extended. In addition, the degree to which Whitehall will maintain direct surveillance over former local government matters will be increased. Central Government will have their powers increased, despite the fact that the Government have pledged to diminish those powers. The proposals will extend the personal patronage of the Secretary of State. The powers of members of urban development corporations will be extended beyond those held by local government councillors.

Members of urban development corporations will be accountable not to the local electorate but to the Secretary of State. There has been a great deal of boasting and publicity about quango hunting and killing. We have been given lists of the quangos that have been killed as a matter of principle. Some of them were useful bodies, but there was no debate about them. I am glad that the Secretary of State is here, because he intends to create a new quango. There is some controversy about that quango, and the need for it has not been proved.

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If the Government are concerned about the regeneration of the docklands of London and Liverpool—a concern shared by both sides of the House—they might consider introducing an "Urban Development Corporation (Liverpool) Bill" and an "Urban Development Corporation (London) Bill". Perhaps the Minister will explain why they have not done so. If they had done that the merits of this proposal would have been given more consideration. In addition, private per sons, private interests and local authorities would have been given a proper opportunity to petition the House. The Bill's purposes would then have been particular, not general. The Bill would have become a Hybrid Bill.

The Secretary of State and the Minister have explained that they are not trampling on the rights of people to petition. There may be recourse to a hybrid order procedure in the other place. However, only the procedure of the other place enables the Minister and the Secretary of State to claim that individual persons and bodies corporate have recourse to Parliament. Their rights and privileges are prejudiced by the Bill.

There will be no public inquiry. In Committee, the Minister said that there would be no statutory consultation with the local authorities concerned. That is almost unknown in our British democratic tradition. At least, it is unknown in peace time. The Secretary of State will abrogate the power of central Government. People will be appointed who are accountable neither to the electorate nor direct to Parliament. They will be accountable only to the Secretary of State. That is new, and it sticks in the craw not only of many hon. Members but of the public. It should stick in the craw of Conservative Members. The Bill has a general application and may not be restricted to London and Liverpool. It could apply to Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, or any of the great conurbations. The Minister could threaten an urban development corporation if a recalcitrant authority did not do as he wished.

If someone were listening to the debate he might say that this was a terrible thing. He might ask why the Government were doing it. He might think that there must be an overriding reason for taking such drastic steps. The Government say that the needs of the docklands of Merseyside and of London are so great and so urgent that they can be solved only by urban development corporations. They might argue that to get the new machine going they must get rid of public inquiries, short-cut normal processes of statutory consultation, and introduce the measure by means of a series of orders, to be made at a later stage. That is a dictatorial procedure, which is contrary to our traditions.

In Committee the Minister admitted that the existing machinery was introduced by the former Secretary of State for the Environment—the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon). I am glad that he is sitting in his place. He was confronted with the disaster produced by his predecessor. The right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker), the present Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, had asked Messrs. Travers Morgan to look at the London docklands. The company took over 18 months to produce a report. During that time there was a complete stalemate. The Minister now points to the existing Dockland Joint Committee. When those proposals collapsed the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham said that we needed new machinery and that there should be a partnership of local and central government. He said that representatives from the dockland boroughs, from the Greater London Council and nominees of the Secretary of State—representing his national interest—should get together and get on with the job.

I am very pleased that that was done. They did get on with the job. They produced a plan after a great deal of consultation—the London dockland strategic plan—which was published widely and which, although it received some critical comment, was largely agreed by everyone. The dockland authorities have produced internal plans for the boroughs and recently they introduced a series of reports—"The Operational Programme, 1979–83"plus a technical appendix that shows that considerable progress has been made.

That was not good enough for the Secretary of State. The Minister of State, in wanting to change the present system, said in Committee: I said I did not dissociate myself from some of the criticism made that nothing was going on at the moment. I said I thought a considerable amount had been done, but at not at the pace and not on the scale that we feel is needed to meet the problem."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D, 1 May 1980; c. 743.] So the difference between us is narrow. It is not a question of objective. From what the Minister said in that passage it may not even be a matter of the machinery. It is a matter of pace and scale. According to the Minister, the present machinery cannot achieve the pace and cannot operate on the scale that he wishes, and therefore he wishes to dismantle it, put things back in the melting pot and start from scratch. I do not think that either in Committee or in the publications the Minister has yet demonstrated that the best means of changing the pace and scale is by dismantling one machine and putting another in its place. Surely the logic is to use the existing machinery and to adjust it where necessary.

At this point it would be quite proper to point out that problems of Merseyside and the London docks are rather different. I see that some hon. Members from Merseyside are here. No doubt they will say something about their area in a few moments. I make it clear that considerable progress has been made by the Dockland Joint Committee. Also, a report from a Select Committee of this House in 1974–75—the fifth report of the Expenditure Committee—said that at that time the Dockland Joint Committee should carry on. A parallel investigation by the similar committee in 1978–79 came to the same conclusion. Although it did not report it took a great deal of evidence that pointed to that conclusion.

In the technical appendix, to which I have already referred, there is evidence that more than 6,000 homes are planned in the programme. More than £400 million has either been spent or will be spent in the dockland area of London. That does not take account of the recent announcement about transport, in which another £300 million will be invested—alas, not much in public transport; mostly in roads.

More than £100 million either has been spent or will be spent in my constituency alone, which covers half the dockland area. The new Beckton district plan has not been called in by the Minister and there is every hope that that plan—which was a local one—will go ahead.

Therefore, I ask the Minister why there is such a hurry? Why is there to be a change? He has replied in terms of pace and powers. The biggest difference between the two forms of machinery before us is that while the Dockland Joint Committee has full control of the land owned by public authorities it has never had powers of acquisition of land owned by public statutory undertakers. The powers provided for the proposed urban development corporation are considerable. They are powers of compulsory purchase, not only on private land, not only on the lands of the statutory undertakers which overrides any other protection that they may have under any other Act, but over the very local authorities that the urban development corporation is supposed to assist. That could mean a great deal of friction.

In Committee I asked the junior Minister whether he could tell me whether there was any land owned by municipalities or local authorities in the area for which there was either no planning permission or for which no plans had been made. We must remember that the excuse for this proposal is pace and scale, and the argument that the local authorities are incapable of doing it. We hear a great deal about derelict land. In Committee I asked the Minister where that land was. He said: I cannot, off the top of my head, produce from the 1,900-odd acres one big landowning of a local authority that comes under the description of dereliction, but I shall be very happy to write to the hon. Gentleman if I find one."—[Official Report, Standing Committee D; 8 May 1980, c. 900.] Two days later I received a letter from the Minister in which he referred to the debate, and then he said: You also asked about land for which no development proposals had been made, or which had no outstanding planning permission. I am not in a position to answer that; it is essentially a matter for the local authorities. Therefore I do not believe that there is a case in relation to the local authorities or the land over which they have power of planning permission.

In conclusion, I believe that it would be right and proper for us, in protecting the rights of local authorities, their electorates and those who have a concern for the proper democratic development of areas of urban need, to write into the Bill the phrase that I have proposed in the amendment. That will put the onus on the Government to prove that the existing institutional arrangements are not sufficient. That wording was also used in the memorandum to the local authorities and the public at the time of the introduction of this proposal. The Government's case must rest on the inability of the existing public, democratically elected institutions to proceed with the pace and scale that everyone wants. I believe that the proper safeguard for those matters could be written into the Bill by this amendment.

The amendment does not attack a UDC; it does not even say there should not be one. All it says is that there should be a UDC where the scale and complexity of development required is such that the local authorities for the area could not reasonably be expected to achieve its completion within a reasonable time. That is reasonable. That is almost the same as the words—and if not the words, the intention—of the Minister, and I believe that he should include it in the Bill.

Mr. Geoffrey Rippon (Hexham)

As I said on Second Reading, I warmly welcome the possibility of creating new development corporations to regenerate the London docklands and Merseyside, but I am still firmly of the opinion that the Bill, as it stands, confers on the Secretary of State too much power. Like the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) I believe that it would have been right to face the consequences of having one Hybrid Bill or two Hybrid Bills, instead of seeking to avoid listening to local representations, as the Government have attempted to do.

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The amendment cuts the power to some extent, although not perhaps sufficiently. Together with the other amendments, it would result in an improvement in the drafting of the Bill. I hope, therefore, that the Government will give it favourable consideration, or at any rate undertake to consider more carefully the relevant matters before the Bill goes to another place.

It is important to spend a little time on this provision. The sweeping powers given to the Secretary of State enable him to set up urban development corporations in a way that is of concern not only to London docklands and Merseyside, as the hon. Gentleman rightly points out. I appreciate that the powers are intended for use only in metropolitan areas, but the clauses are widely drawn. They could have serious consequences for any part of local government, by transferring to a statutory corporation, which would be essentially a creature of the Minister and which would involve wide powers of patronage and control, many of the normal functions of local authorities. The only restriction on the Secretary of State is that he must be: of opinion that it is expedient in the national interest. The Secretary of State does not even have to consider the local or regional interest, except in so far as it may be thought to impinge on the national interest.

Those provisions have rightly been attacked by the North of England County Councils Association and the North East Regional Association of District Councils. The Secretary of State is taking virtually unlimited powers to designate any area of land as an urban development area. The associations point out: this is altogether too sweeping a power which could conceivably be used in future to replace local government by these 'Quangos' in substantial areas of the country. The phrase "any area of land" could involve any constituency of any hon. Member, be it Newcastle upon Tyne or Hexham. There is no limitation. The provision would apply not only to a metropolitan area. It could apply to a rural area if it happened to have a village in the middle of it.

I suggest that an obvious candidate for the attention of some future Government could well be the City of London. My right hon. and hon. Friends may for the moment view with equanimity giving to the Secretary of State power to designate any area of land as an urban development area, whenever he is of the opinion that it is expedient in the national interest to do so, when we are considering taking some 5,500 acres in the East End of London, where there are Socialist local authorities. However, would they feel the same about the square mile of the City of London? The only safeguard is that no order … shall have effect until approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament. From my experience, I do not consider that much of a safeguard. If the Government accept the amendment, it would perhaps be more difficult, but, as the clause stands, the City of London would not even be able to make representations before an order was made.

The Bill lays down no criteria for designating an urban development area or establishing an urban development corporation. All that we know from clause 11 is that the object of an urban development corporation is to secure the regeneration of its area". That concept of regeneration is meaningless. It could mean almost anything. It is meaningless even when considered in the light of the means by which it is supposed to be achieved. Perhaps the Minister can explain what is meant by bringing land and buildings into effective use". What is the difference between use and effective use? That is an object that could apply to the City of London. What is meant by encouraging the development of existing and new industry and commerce"? That could apply to the City of London. What is meant by "creating an attractive environment"? That could apply to the City of London. What is meant by ensuring that housing and social facilities are available to encourage people to live and work in the area"? That could apply to the City of London, which is underpopulated. One does not have to have regard to all those objectives. One is sufficient. The provision is not even limited. There can be an objective other than those four.

The width of the general power in the Bill is such that any City of London urban development corporation, as much as any docklands or Merseyside development corporation, can acquire, dispose of or manage any kind of property, not merely land but even stocks and shares. As the hon. Gentleman points out, the powers of land acquisition are very wide. Under the Bill the development corporation can become a channel of investment. One can conceive of, in effect, a City of London enterprise board as a local enterprise board. It would have power to carry on any business or undertaking for the purpose of regeneration. It could generally do anything necessary or expedient.

Those powers are far too wide for the purposes of any Act of Parliament. From what the hon. Gentleman said, the House will have noted that there would be no requirement for a public inquiry before, for instance, the City of London was designated an urban development area. There is no requirement for the Secretary of State to consult or listen to objections from anyone, even the Lord Mayor of London, the Court of Aldermen or the Court of Common Council. The only safeguard in the Bill, if such it can be called, is that there is a possibility that the various statutory instruments will be subject to the hybrid procedure in another place. We shall not have much control over the matter here.

In Committee my right hon. Friend said that the designation orders would be hybrid, and he explained the procedure. He understood that they would be subject to the hybrid affirmative procedure and that they would need to be laid in draft before each House and would not come into effect until they had been approved by means of a resolution of each House. The inital technical scrutiny would be done by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments. That would draw the attention of the House to any technical defects, but that would be as far as we could go. We could debate the order for an hour and a half, perhaps between 3 am and 4.30 am. That would be all the influence that we should have if a future Government decided to make the City of London into an urban development corporation.

Mr. Mikardo

We are gong to do it.

Mr. Rippon

The hon. Gentleman says that a Labour Government could and would do so under this Conservative measure.

As my right hon. Friend explained, the orders would be hybrid, and so subject to this further procedure in the other place. One must concede that if the City petitioned against an order the Hybrid Instruments Committee in another place could consider the grounds of the complaint and, if it thought fit, refer all or any to a Select Committee of five Lords proposed by the Committee of Selection. A future Government might rig the composition of the Committee of Selection, but I will not say anything about that. I hesitate to mention the possibility, but some Labour Members would like to abolish the House of Lords. If that happened, there would not even be the safeguard of the hybrid procedure.

I read carefully what the Minister said in Committee. He spoke of the problem of overlapping authorities and of the need for a single-minded agency to deal with areas of dereliction. I have a great deal of sympathy with the objectives of the proposal. We need to regenerate areas such as docklands and Merseyside, but it should be understood that the corporations will not exist in a vacuum, divorced from what is happening in adjoining areas. The most that we can hope for is that they will provide a more effective mechanism for resolving conflicts.

I am prepared to concede that the joint development committees, which were an interim solution because of the difficulties of introducing a hybrid measure, should be strengthened and that something needs to be done so that we can make further progress, but it is not just a question of the mechanism, whether it is a joint development committee or a development corporation. It is a matter of providing the necessary funds.

A few years ago, the docklands strategic plan estimated that the total cost of putting all the necessary transport infrastructure into docklands would be about £760 million over 15 years. The recent allocation of £100 million for the creation of an adequate transport network for docklands, however justified it may be in present economic circumstances, must put a substantial brake on progress—whichever mechanism is adopted—coupled, as it is, with the decision not to proceed with the extension of the Jubilee line. As the Estates Times—not exactly a revolutionary organ of opinion—put it, it is like buying a racehorse, chopping off its legs, and expecting it to win the Derby.

The theory must be that the value of regenerated urban areas outweighs the constitutional objections that may be made to the sweeping power in the Bill. However, I do not think that it is enough to say of any parliamentary measure, introduced by any Government, that the sole test should be expediency. It is not enough even to say that the sole test should be efficiency. After all, there are some advantages in living in a country where the trains do not run on time.

However, I am confident that my right hon. Friend the Minister will either accept the amendment or give a firm undertaking that the Government will tighten up the Bill in another place. I regret that it is almost too late to do it here.

Mr. Mikado

I agree with much of what the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) said and I fancy that he will agree with some of what I have to say, because we have at least one thing in common. We both care deeply about the autonomy of local government.

Autonomous local government is no less important a part of the democratic system in this country—which we all value so much—than is the House. The daily lives of many people are conditioned much more by decisions taken in their town halls than by decisions taken here. Those in the town halls are nearer and more accessible to the people than is even the most assiduous hon. Member.

Local government matters, and, aside from the practical implications of what is being done in the Bill, the basic damage that is being done to the autonomy of local government is something that the whole country will have occasion to regret for many years.

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I expect that the Minister thought that the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham was being a little fanciful when he talked about the danger of a spread of urban development corporations to other areas, including some highly sensitive areas such as the City of London, but there will be a change of Government and a change of Secretary of State, and unless the Bill is amended or repealed the new Secretary of State will be able to exercise all the powers that the present Secretary of State can exercise.

I have not yet had any firm approaches from my right hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Sparkbrook (Mr. Hattersley), but I have heard it whispered that if he is the next Secretary of State for the Environment there is a possibility that he will invite me to be chairman of the City of London urban development corporation and will invite my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) to be the vice-chairman. In that case, our first two projects will be to turn the Mansion House into a student hostel for the City of London Polytechnic and to turn the Guildhall into a training workshop for handicapped workers. That would be a good deal better than anything that is likely to be done by the urban development corporation for dockland.

The amendment does not oppose the principle of an urban development corporation; it merely argues that when a local authority is doing the necessary work, or can do it when it is needed, such a development corporation is not necessary.

The Secretary of State decided that the Dockland Joint Committee was not doing its job. What sort of study in depth did the right hon. Gentleman make of what was going on in dockland before reaching that conclusion? He began by taking a short flight over dockland in a helicopter and, looking down from the helicopter, he said that he could not see much going on. That was not a study in depth. It was a study in height.

I gather that the right hon. Gentleman's officials persuaded him to look at the site on the ground because if he did not do so there would be no credibility in what he was saying. The right hon. Gentleman spent 25 minutes driving round Tower Hamlets, 20 minutes driving round Newham and 15 minutes driving round Greenwich. That was his study in depth. He considered that that great experience enabled him to claim that he was a better authority on what was happening in dockland than were those who had lived and worked in the area all their lives.

The Secretary of State, aided and abetted by some of his friends and some of their newspapers, fostered the myth that progress in the development of dockland has been held up by sharp differences of opinion—I think the emotive and pejorative word, regularly used, is "squabblings"—among the members of the Dockland Joint Committee. The Minister of State has come to this matter only since his present appointment. I have followed the work of the joint committee closely throughout the whole of its history. In only one measure has a sharp division of opinion risen and incidentally, it also caused a sharp division of opinion in this House. That was the issue of the southern relief road, which, thank goodness, is now settled.

The Dockland Joint Committee has worked remarkably harmoniously. It has got through more work in the years of its existence than any new town corporation in the same period. It is true that there have been difficulties from time to time with one member. That member is the florid, upstaging actor, Sir Horace Cutler, who is not the easiest chap in the world to work with. As everyone knows, he is a past master at producing publicity for himself but he is not very good at producing anything else. He has made some contribution, but the committee has suffered a little from his habit of flitting like a butterfly from one enthusiasm to the next, starting a lot of initiatives, following through very few of them, and finalising none.

Aside from him, the joint committee has worked efficiently and unitedly. In contrast with the present Government, the committee has been able to work unitedly, because it has not been bedevilled by any wars and rows between hawks and wets. It has got on with the job. What will happen now? I recognise that the embryo organisation of the UDC has been working, and working hard. It employed some consultants. I recognise that those consultants have been working hard. However, it cannot get going until it is properly set up. There will inevitably be a period of delay and hold-up, however hard the UDC tries to avoid it. It has to get together an organisation and staff. It has to produce a new strategic plan and make all sorts of calculations and recalculations. It has to go through negotiations with the Department of the Environment, with the five boroughs, and with the GLC. This will take time.

The great curse of the East End ever since 1945 has been planning blight. It has been worse than the bombing blight inflicted by Hitler. Every time that anyone produces an idea, before it can be implemented, there is a call of "Hold on. Let's have another examination. We will bring out a fresh idea." That is how matters have proceeded. It will happen again. I am not saying that this time it will be like the Travis-Morgan blight, which was a couple of years of idiotic waste. On this occasion, Mr. Broackes and his team have got moving. But there will be some delay and blight. Progress will be interrupted.

I am happy for the present arrangements to be judged against the test and the criterion of what has been done and what is being done in dockland. I should like to confine my remarks to what has been done and what is being done in Tower Hamlets, which I know a good deal better than the other four boroughs. In Wapping and the Isle of Dogs there is contemplated and in train a project involving nearly 2,850 dwellings. They are houses with gardens, not flats. This has not happened in the East End in living memory, not even in the living memory of our grandfathers.

There are nearly 200,000 square metres of industrial space, with the creation of 7,000 jobs. That is being done without the UDC. There are 40 acres of open space for recreation. Wapping Wood is being replanted. There has not been a wood in Wapping for 300 years. All this has happened, notwithstanding, as the Minister knows, that there are several difficulties, because part of the land has to be dried out before it can be used. This is water being turned into land.

News International Limited is coming to the area in a multi-million pound enterprise that will create thousands of jobs. If anyone talks of the need for a go-getting UDC, with a buccaneer like Mr. Broackes in charge, in order to cut through the delays in planning, I should like the House to know that planning permission was given for that multi-million pound operation in 20 days from the application. This story about incompetence and delay caused by local authorities does not stand up when one looks at the facts.

The empty shed 35 in the West India dock has been turned into 15 units of small businesses. They were filled within four months. I am happy to say that those 15 small businesses are doing well. I wish them every success. In the next shed, Billingsgate market is in the course of erection. I do not wish to weary the House, but many similar projects are going ahead. We are trying to rescue our rundown clothing industry by introducing clothing workshops with training facilities. We have started a centre for small business, of which I have the honour to be chairman. I do not have to declare an interest, because it is a highly honorary office.

This shows a remarkable partnership between the public and the private sectors which should be, and is being, followed in many places. It was started jointly by the Greater London Council, the borough council, the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the City of London Polytechnic. It is now funded by the borough council. It is a company limited by guarantee, with a board consisting of three members of the borough council, top level representatives of the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Port of London Authority and the City of London Polytechnic and the directors of half a dozen important companies in the area.

It is a perfect example of a working partnership between the public and private sectors. That is how nearly 100 small businesses that were in difficulty about finding sites, receive advice about financial operations, management, marketing and exports.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)

Order. I hope that hon. Gentleman has not overlooked the fact that we are dealing with amendment No. 191.

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Mr. Mikardo

My argument involves amendment No. 191. That amendment suggests that an urban development corporation is not needed if the job is being done. In my borough the job is being done. Nothing could be more germane to the amendment.

Analogies have been drawn between the UDC and the new town corporations. There are some similarities and some differences. The Government have overlooked an important difference. It is relatively easy to do a Milton Keynes and go to a place where there are green fields and a small village and build a city. That has been done brilliantly at Milton Keynes. The only consultation is with the cows in the fields. The cows' interests are the only interests affected. The dockland area is not empty. It is full of people. Some parts are more densely populated than others. The part of the dockland area in Tower Hamlets is only one-quarter of the total area, but it contains more than half the population. In that riparian strip between Tower Bridge and the Blackwall tunnel—which is narrow except where it broadens out at the Isle of Dogs—are 30,000 people with their own interests. It contains 30,000 highly vocal people with clear ideas of what they want. They nag the guts out of the borough council when they do not agree with something that it is doing. At least they can get at the borough council, because the councillors are accessible. If they do not take as much notice as they should, the people can sling them out at the next election and choose others. The people will not be able to sling out the members of the urban development corporation.

The many pressure groups in the area are studious and well informed. I warn the Minister of the danger so that he can guard against it. I do not want rumpuses. The people of the area have taken a close look at what is to happen to the area. I have met Mr. Broackes only once, for a short time. I read his autobiography with great care. So did hoards of people in the dockland area of Tower Hamlets. The best thing that has happened to Mr. Broackes as a result of his appointment is that it has increased the sale of his autobiography. Everybody in the area wants to know what sort of geezer he is and they have bought his book.

They have discovered that when he examines a piece of land he does not ask "What can be done with it? How many people can live on it? What industry could we put on it and how many jobs can we make out of it?" He does not ask what recreational facilities can be provided on it, or how many people can gain pleasure from it. He asks "How much money can be made out of it?" The people of dockland do not think that that is a good way to deal with their problems.

The attitude of Mr. Boackes is not mitigated by the appointment as his deputy of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish). I use the term "Friend" in more than the conventional sense, because he and I are friends. I suppose that the Secretary of State said to himself "We are putting t[...]is private enterprise buccaneer into the five Labour boroughs, so we had better find a fig leaf of respectability; we had better find a Labour chap to make it sound acceptable and respectable."

That is so transparent that it is bound to be counter-productive, as are all such manoeuvres. People are insulted by the suggestion that they can be kidded by something as obvious as that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey, in a previous incarnation, had some relationships with the inner London boroughs. If all is to be believed, they stopped short of wildly enthusiastic mutual admiration. I dare say that not all the scars have healed.

I promise the Minister of State that there will be a lot of difficulty and trouble from the 30,000 people concerned. The area includes Cable Street. Years ago the people of that area stopped Oswald Mosley and his Fascists going through the area, even though they were protected by masses of policemen. East Enders do not easily allow people to ride roughshod over them. I beg the Minister of State to be warned.

Mr. Sydney Chapman (Chipping Barnet)

The House has heard three distinctive contributions—two from hon. Members who represent parts of one of the prospective UDC areas, the London docklands, and another from my right hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), who was a distinguished Secretary of State for the Environment and had responsibility for planning in the docklands and other areas.

I have a different interest. I am one of 92 hon. Members who have the privilege of representing a part of our great metropolis. I should prudently declare an interest as an architect and planner and as a non-executive director of a property company. To my knowledge, I have no financial interest in whether the amendment is accepted or rejected.

Development is taking place in the designated London docklands. I shall confine my remarks to that area rather than to Merseyside. We are incessantly reminded by Mr. Cliff Michelmore on commercial television that development is taking place. I know that many people live in London docklands. Many people live in some of the designated new town areas. Rights are being taken away in the sense that at least in some spheres local people will not have control over local decisions as they do in other local authority areas. I accept all that.

The Government have had to make an extremely difficult decision, but I believe that they have made the right one. I do not object fundamentally to amendment No. 191, but the interpretation of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) was that the amendment seeks to take away from the Secretary of State the power to designate a UDC. I believe that the hon. Member received a nod of assent on that point from his hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing).

I paid particular attention to the legal aspects raised by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham, and having heard him I am worried about one or two matters. There is no perfect parallel, but I believe that this matter should be judged in the light of the fact that if the Secretary of State is minded to bring forward a general development amendment order he must obtain the approval of Parliament. Any attempt to set up a UDC in any other part of the country will enjoy the same safeguards—inasmuch as they are safeguards—of having the orders approved by both Houses of Parliament.

Mr. Spearing

We must get this right. I cannot recall the exact words of my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo), but I was assenting to the idea, since it has been made abundantly clear in Committee and in various memoranda that the only reason why the Secretary of State is introducing the concept of the urban development corporation is that the present machinery is inadequate for the job that he sees has to be done. That should be written in to the Bill, since the onus is quite properly, placed on the Secretary of State concerned to make out a case and use the case that he himself has presented.

Mr. Chapman

I am trying to say that the Secretary of State has to make out a case to satisfy Parliament before Parliament will give him the power to designate a UDC.

Of course development is going on, but that activity must be measured against the broad areas of dereliction that exist, though not everywhere, in the 5,000 acres of designated dockland. By any criterion, substantial tracts of that land have remained undeveloped for far too long. There is a wider context in this case, though I do not wish to go beyond the rules of order of the House by going outside amendment No. 191. However, I say with great sincerity that we are a densely populated, closely-knit island and the way in which we use every acre of land is vital.

It is nothing less than shocking that, inexorably, over the years we have eaten into our rich agricultural farmland, while it is estimated that not less than 250,000 acres of urban land lie derelict and rotting in the centre of our great cities and conurbations.

I do not quibble with the decisions of individual London boroughs, or with the decisions of the GLC under successive political parties. I do not quarrel with certain decisions that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State had to make under the planning powers entrusted to him. We can agree or disagree, but the point is that there are far too many cases—I disagree here with the hon. Gentleman—where, for good or bad reasons, one London borough has disagreed with another. On many occasions the London boroughs have been unable to agree on what redevelopment should take place. On the occasions when they have all agreed, the chances are that the GLC has disagreed.

I pay tribute to the work done by the Dockland Joint Committee under the sterling chairmanship of Sir Hugh Wilson, but surely the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow will agree that the problem is that the joint committee has no executive power. Its role has been an advisory one for co-ordinating action or monitoring programmes. Though it has made some progress, because of the massive size of the area and its problems, the project needs a new initiative from the Government.

7.15 pm
Mr. Mikardo

With respect to the hon. Gentleman, what he says is not right. The proof of what I say is that the Government have been asked over and over again to name a single project that has been delayed by differences on the Dockland Joint Committee, but they have been unable to do so.

Mr. Chapman

I have not brought a file with me to enable me to give chapter and verse to support what I am saying. There is the example of the delay and frustration caused by Tower Hamlets and the GLC, which put back by no less than nine years one of the most brilliant redevelopment schemes that this country has seen, namely, the redevelopment of St. Katharine's dock.

Mr. Spearing

The hon. Gentleman has got it wrong.

Mr. Chapman

As a planning consultant and as an architect, I can give many instances of people approaching me with problems, though I am not saying that the problems are solely in the dockland area. Every local planning authority has problems, but, for one reason or another, there have been severe problems resulting in the inability to redevelop what, by any criterion, should be a prime site for redevelopment.

I concede that one of the problems is that the London boroughs feel that there is a lack of sufficient funds for redevelopment. However, I suspect that even if the Government were to triple investment in dockland those London boroughs would still say that that was not enough. I cannot pretend that the problems are created by one side only, but there have been prevarications, disputes and squabbling between London boroughs. There have been fundamental differences of opinion between the London boroughs and the GLC. There have been differences between the GLC and the London boroughs on the one hand and the Department of the Environment on the other.

A fresh initiative is overdue and, therefore, I consider carefully the remarks of my right hon. and learned Friend on the constitutional position. No doubt my right hon. Friend the Minister will say something about that. I can go one further. I had the privilege of representing part of an inner city in that mecca of municipal magnificence, Birmingham, for four years. I should like to see urban development corporations set up in other areas, not in order to snub the local authority—whether Conservative or Labour-controlled—but because I believe that the necessary scale of redevelopment is such that it cannot be handled without an initiative from the Government.

I have one objection in this context. The title "urban development corporation" is not particularly attractive. I have suggested to my right hon. Friend that the areas should be called SPAs or special priority areas. I hope that the House will give a fair wind to the concept. From a political as well as a professional point of view I believe that it is necessary. Such a measure is essential. It need not be permanent. It could run for a number of years. I believe that we should see these two UDCs set up—though I speak only for London dockland—because they could be successful and be the precursors of further UDCs, or special priority areas, where all the work could be co-ordinated. In those circumstances, representatives from local councils would be part of the corporation. They would have a say in what was being done and would have the chance to take executive powers.

I stand second to no one in my determination to preserve democracy. However, I believe that there are occasions when Government must lead and councils must have executive powers in order to be judged on their performance. If I have any doubt, it is because of the lack of redevelopment in the heart of our great metropolitan area.

Mr. Ted Graham (Edmonton)

If the House wishes to hear the voice of those who live and work in the areas about which we are talking, I commend the speeches of my hon. Friends the Members for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo). They spoke with sincerity and experience, and had at heart the interests of the people whom they represaid:

I begin by reminding the House of the Government's good intentions. The consultation document on the urban development corporations said something about which there can be no quibble. It said: The overall objective of urban development corporations would be to secure the development of the designated areas and to play a major part in creating thriving urban communities. I remind the Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services, if he needs reminding, that he spoke fairly about his ambitions and aspirations about what the urban development corporations would do when he said: Our concept is that we believe that there are areas of dereliction represented by the two sites for the urban development corporations which are of a scale, intensity and complication "— I emphasise that phrase— that are simply beyond the range of a number of local authorities working together. The Dockland Joint Committee has not been the most effective way in which to achieve the results. There is need for a single-minded agency working in this way if real results are to be achieved. Therefore, the House should be clear that in promoting the concept of urban development corporations the Government are condemning the progress of the the Dockland Joint Committee and of the partnership principle, and are instead elevating the single-minded agency as an instrument. They jettison democracy in favour of speed. The result is all-important, never mind the direction or the casualties. Their attitude is speed, speed and more speed, and flexibility.

For example, we have had the enunciation of an extraordinary doctrine, because while many references were made in Committee about the experience upon which we could draw in creating the new towns, in this case, a new town will virtually be created on top of an old town. Under new towns legislation a public inquiry is held, and everyone and anyone who wishes to object or to make a comment, constructive or otherwise, has the opportunity to do so. However, Government progress in this instance will deprive the community—which has a heart, mind and views—of the opportunity for public expression. Why consult and have appointees from the community for the new towns when the concept of the urban development corporation envisages nominees from the Secretary of State?

As my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow said, we are not dealing with green fields on which there may be only cows or a small village; we are dealing with real people and communities in the real world of emotion, heartache, pride, passion and, above all, tradition. How does the Minister choose to represent and measure progress in such a complex and intricate situation? He should do so not just by considering the speed with which land will be brought, with which sites will be cleared, or with which roads, house and factories will be built.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow said, if one measures the progress that has been made during the operation of the Dockland Joint Committee and contrasts it with what occurred when a new town corporation was in operation, there is virtually no comparison at all. By saying that, I do not denigrate by one iota the progress that has been made in the new towns. Favourable progress has been made in respect of land designation, dwellings, factories and jobs. When the right hon. Gentleman referred to lack of progress in Committee—I think that the word he used was "wrangling"—he received short shrift from the leaders of Greenwich, Lewisham, Newham, Southwark and Tower Hamlets, who were not only astonished at his remarks but resented what was said.

Present progress has been criticised and challenged. In fact, lack of progress has been used by the Government and the right hon. Gentleman as the justification for casting aside the Dockland Joint Committee. In Committee and elsewhere, the Minister has said, in as many words, that progress has been too slow and that the size of the problems is beyond the scope of the joint committee. He said that there had been constant wrangling. That infuriated the local authority leaders, and in my view revealed a woeful ignorance on the part of the Minister and the Government.

In this instance we are not dealing with comparable situations. The development of London dockland is unique, yet the way in which the Government have applied their criteria has been unfair in terms of the size of the problems that have been tackled by the council leaders, the committees and the joint committee.

The Minister talked about wrangling and differences. Did he really expect that there would be no arguments, differences or delays? Does he really believe that there will be no differences or arguments within a single-minded agency, if such were to be created? Will the members of such an agency be told "You will reach a conclusion, however bad it might be, unanimously and quickly, or else". The "or else" could well mean the sack, or something comparable.

What evidence did the right hon. Gentleman produce for the wrangling? In Committee, he was quick to point out that what he said were not his words but rather the views of The Economist, The Guardian and the South London Press. When we asked the right hon. Gentleman for more evidence, he said "Well, I can't give you that because it has been sent to me in confidence". There was not a shred of direct evidence produced in Committee. The Minister now has the opportunity to inform us of that evidence.

Mr. Mikardo

Of course, there have been delays similar to those referred to by the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman). If a developer tries to milk a local authority, of course they do not agree very quickly, but that cannot be used as evidence of dallying on the part of local authorities.

Mr. Graham

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. In the real world, the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) must acknowledge that a choice is often involved. One can make progress if one agrees to the other person's terms and if one agrees to drop one's own arguments. What my hon. Friend has said from his experience is that whenever there has been delay or difficulty it has been because the Dockland Joint Committee has wanted to fight its corner. I do not think that any hon. Member can take exception to that. The views of Labour Members about whether or not the present concept is right are not ours alone. We are not adopting a dog-in-the-manger attitude.

As the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet will know, the Royal Town Planning Institute is the professional body chartered to promote the art and science of town planning. It has said that its council, by a two-to-one majority, expressed its firm opposition to the Government's proposals on the ground that they are undemocratic in constitution and not accountable to local communities towards whose interests they should have primary regard, and that they are premised on a mistaken analysis of the nature of urban problems. I do not elevate that any higher than an opinion that should be reflected upon by the House and taken on board in the debate.

7.30 pm

Through establishing unelected bodies to run urban areas that already have well established local government, the Government have deliberately bastardised both the concept and the instrument of the new towns movement. The Town and Country Planning Association has made it clear that in its opinion the reason why the Government are not using the New Town Act 1965 is that it would require certain features about land acquisition, planning and public participation to be incorporated in the overall procedure, which it is not intended to include. By deliberately abandoning those safeguards the Bill, with its concept of the UDC, poses the greatest attack on the structure of local government yet seen in Britain. It provides further evidence of the hypocrisy and the lie that the Government are giving a greater say to local government. The Secretary of State will appoint all the members, the chairman and the vice-chairman. In so doing he will remove authority from the democratically elected local council.

Mr. Chapman

As the hon. Gentleman mentioned the RTPI, I wish to put it on record that I am a fellow of that institute. It is not the first time that I find myself in disagreement with its council. It is worth putting on record that at least 90 per cent. of its members are employees of local authorities.

Mr. Graham

That is the case of a fellow well met. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his observations. No doubt there is a democracy inside that organisation, and no doubt the strictures will remain.

The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) drew attention to the opinions that appeared in the Estates Times only this week under the heading Spending cuts will destroy UDC prospects". We see in that article evidence of the left and right hands of the Government not knowing precisely what they are doing. Tonight, the Minister will tell us that the reason why the existing machinery is not good enough, and that new machinery needs to be introduced, is that it will get the capital, the expertise and the powers that it requires. Yet the Estates Times states: Transport Minister Norman Fowler's decision to slash the money available for improvements in London's transport network makes a mockery of the Government's avowed intent to inject vitality into Docklands. Having set up the Urban Development Corporation and set aside £400m for the revitalisation of the area, one would have thought the Government would have provided the corporation with the infrastructure to attract industry and commerce—and most important, people … To allocate a mere £100m to the creation of an adequate transport network for Docklands is futile. The left and right hands of the Government do not know what they want to do in that vital area.

In our view the UDCs will be under severe pressure, because of the advance billing given to them by the Government, to live up to their claims. That will lead to unsuitable development taking place, the asset stripping of open, cleared space for quick returns to speculative builders, and the balanced and agreed programme produced by local authorities being set aside.

The Secretary of State has decided to neuter the local authorities, originally on the basis of a helicopter flight over London dockland. He did not see—he chose not to see—the slow, patient work on infrastructure, open space and industrial development that has taken place every day in those areas. Instead, he decided to establish unelected committees to rule in the stead of duly elected councils. When we have the opportunity tonight, the Opposition will press the amendment as our best means of showing our anger and contempt for this nasty, undemocratic little Bill.

If the Government refuse to recognise the ability of the local authorities who make up the Dockland Joint Committee to manage those matters it will be the intention of a future Labour Government radically to alter the Bill to enable the joint committee authorities to assume again their sovereignty in those matters in their own areas.

Mr. Stan Crowther (Rotherham)

I am convinced that whoever drafted the Bill had a good deal of experience as a greengrocer and fruiterer. He has put all the rosy apples at the front of the stall. The first part of the long title tells us that the Bill would relax controls over local government. Once past page 2 it becomes a Bill to impose new controls to restrict local government, to take away the powers of local authorities and to erode their long established democratic rights. The clause certainly continues that process.

It is fair to mention that before I became a Member of Parliament I spent more than 12 years as chairman of the planning and development committee in Rotherham—10 years before the reorganisation of local government, and slightly more than two years after reorganisation. I had the privilege of presiding over the considerable transformation of my town. I think that it is right to tell the House that I speak with some experience on that subject.

I listened with great interest to the earlier debate on the new towns. I have no doubt that the new town programme has been one of the success stories of the post-war years. I have no doubt also that if the older urban areas had been given the resources on a scale proportionate to those made available to the new towns, and if the local authorities responsible for those areas had been given the powers of the new town development corporations, especially the power to buy land at existing use value, a similar success—perhaps an even greater one—would have been achieved in the older towns and cities. It is unfortunate that those powers and resources have been constantly denied to those authorities, although the case for granting them has been clearly made out.

I am supporting the amendment. Although I am opposed to the whole concept of non-elected bodies taking over functions from elected bodies, if we are to have that foisted upon us the scope should be limited in the way proposed by the amendment. Both my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) and the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) have forcefully and properly pointed out that, whatever may be the present intention of the Secretary of State, once he has taken those powers they can be applied anywhere in Britain. All local authorities will be at risk. All will be threatened that extremely important functions will be taken away from them, especially in the areas of housing and planning. Why is it that the Secretary of State has so little faith in democracy? I hope that his right hon. Friend the Minister will tell us, if he knows the answer, when he replies.

Mr. Eric Ogden (Liverpool, West Derby)

The Minister's main experience has been trying to organise Tory Party conferences, and there is little democracy there.

Mr. Crowther

My hon. Friend has probably put his finger on the matter with that remark. There are certain questions that need to be answered. What circumstances would lead the Secretary of State to consider it to be in the national interest, under the terms of the Bill, to order the designation of an urban development area, and the establishment of a nonelected body to bring about its regeneration? We are entitled to be told what factors he has in mind if he will not accept my hon. Friend's amendment, which would clarify the position for all concerned.

Mr. Spearing

My hon. Friend may be interested to know that in Committee the Opposition moved amendments to add the words "local and regional" because the Government had made clear that all this was being done for the benefit of the people in the area or the people who might work there. However, for reasons that the Minister might best explain later, he declined to accept local and regional importance as also having a place in the Bill.

Mr. Crowther

I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for that explanation. I did not have the benefit of being on the Committee, and it is extremely interesting to learn that the Government took that attitude. We are entitled to an explanation.

What circumstances are there—other than those which are provided for in my hon. Friend's amendment—which the Secretary of State would consider as justifying the very drastic measures of imposing an urban development corporation? Up to now, no one has come up with any answer to that, and I am sure that the House is entitled to know what is in the Government's mind if they are to oppose the amendment.

If the Minister has in mind certain factors other than these which would lead him to deprive an authority of its powers in very important fields, surely we are entitled to know what these factors are. At the same time, he must tell us, if he can, why he thinks that a non-elected body, having been set up, could do the job better than an elected body if the elected body had the same powers and the same resources. That is the test. If the local authority were given the powers which the urban development corporations are to be given, why is it thought that the local authority could not do the job just as well?

I mention, in parenthesis, that whatever kind of body may be set up to bring about urban regeneration, it will not succeed in solving the problem properly unless the Government are prepared to tackle the question of site values, which has bedevilled every attempt at urban regeneration since the war. The problem gets worse and worse. The Government should look very seriously at that question.

I sometimes wonder whether the Secretary of State and his right hon. and hon. Friends in the Department ever go round the country and see what local authorities have achieved. Or do they spend most of their time sitting in Marsham Street working out ways to take more powers away from local government?

Despite all the handicaps, all the frustrations and all the obstructions, there have been very considerable advances to the credit of local government in this country since the war—and, indeed, there were before the war. I do not feel that local government is ever given proper credit by the Government Front Bench. Incidentally, I have never felt that we had proper credit from Labour Government Front Benches either. The position may be rather worse now.

I am not pretending that all local authorities have outstanding achievements to their credit, but neither have all Government Departments. I claim very seriously that in general the record of local government in this country has been very good indeed, and especially in the old county boroughs. It is a matter of great sadness to many of us that the county borough concept has been abolished. But, bearing in mind the way in which local authorities for years have been short of resources, tied hand and foot in many cases by bureaucratic red tape coming out of Whitehall, drowned in circulars and swung this way and that by succeeding pieces of legislation—each one contradicting the previous one—the achievements of many borough and city councils have been little short of miraculous.

I am sure that the case for the amendment has been very fully made out, but if the Secretary of State really feels that it is vital for him to have this power to set up undemocratic, unelected and unaccountable bodies, at least that power should be severely circumscribed and should be used very sparingly.

7.45 pm
Mr. Ogden

I came to the debate with a comparatively modest idea in mind. It was simply to ask the Minister to use the opportunity provided by my hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) to give the House as much information as he can about the progress, if any, of both the London area urban development corporation and the Merseyside urban development corporation. In spite of the temptation in the serious contributions made from each side of the House—I hope that the Secretary of State will take some time to read them—I in-end to keep to that point.

There was a time when I thought that perhaps my hon. Friend had not been quite as diligent and as careful as he might have been in wording the amendment, which refers to: local authorities for the area''. Apart from the contribution of the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon), the debate has been about the London dockland area. It was about the London urban development corporation until the contribution just now of my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther). But, of course, the amendment refers to local authorities—district councils, metropolitan councils, and so on—for the area. It does not apply only to London and to Merseyside. It applies to Stoke-on-Trent, to Manchester or to any other part. Good or bad, these are pathfinders.

I hope that the Minister will try to bring the House up to date with information. What has been said in Committee and what we can read of the Committee proceedings is useful, but it is not an alternative for things being said here on the Floor of the House. The Minister's privilege is absolutely secure. If he has information that he wants to give to rebut the charges that have been made, he can do it within the Palace of Westminster, as we all know, with complete impunity.

On Merseyside—my hon. Friends and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton) can confirm this—we recall that the chairman-designate and deputy chairman-designate were appointed, but since then there seems to have been a retreat behind an invisible wall. No one knows what is going on or what is not going on. The main difficulty is uncertainty—the unknown.

It might be that information coming from the London areas about what is or is not happening is more accurate than the information we have on Merseyside, but there are reports that in the London area consultants have been appointed and that schemes are being considered. There seems to be more openness there. Perhaps the Minister could encourage the chairman-designate and the deputy chairman-designate from the London area urban development corporation to engage in consultations with the chairman-designate and the deputy chairman-designate from the Merseyside area. They might have much to learn from each other.

I hope that the Minister will recognise that this is not merely a debate about London or about Merseyside, although we should like to have more information about those areas. We hope that he will give us information about other areas as well.

Mr. David Alton (Liverpool, Edge Hill)

In some ways I support the comments made by the hon. Member for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden), because the Bill is not just about the creation of urban development corporations in Merseyside or in London; it is about the whole approach to local government.

Throughout the Bill it is clear that the autonomy of local government is being threatened. I know that the Minister will deny that, and I accept that during the debate he has been sincere in trying to defend local democracy, but sadly, I do not necessarily subscribe to the view that that is the approach that his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State necessarily takes when he is looking at local government, because again and again it has been clear that the right hon. Gentleman has ridden roughshod over local government and would quite happily replace the concepts of democracy by those of dictatorship.

In looking at the concept of urban development corporations one is filled with a certain degree of alarm. As the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) said earlier today, urban development corporations could be set up anywhere in the country at the drop of a hat, whoever the Secretary of State might be. However much I might worry about the present incumbent, I could have even greater fears about his successors.

One wonders whether they might decide to set up urban development corporations regardless of local opinion or local need. The chairmen and deputy chairmen have been prematurely appointed, even before Parliament has decided whether it wants to establish urban development corporations. That is also endemic, and it demonstrates the arrogance of the Secretary of State in dealing with local government. It shows a contempt that is typical of the way in which the Secretary of State is treating local government.

Mr. Chapman

The hon. Gentleman has raised a crucial matter. He is talking about the ability of the Secretary of State to take away democratic powers at—as he says—the drop of a hat. Surely he realises that under clause 115 (2) any action has to be approved by a resolution of each House of Parliament. As I suggested before, this is equivalent to the Secretary of State seeking to change the general development order through an amendment. Surely he is not saying that if he seeks to do that it is a lack of democracy.

Mr. Alton

If I had the confidence that the hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) has, in the democratic system, and if I truly believed that the Government were elected by a mandate of the majority of the people, I would have sympathy with his view, but if the Whips are on there is little chance of that. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham warned—that warning should be heeded—that these powers could be used arbitrarily and could systematically undermine local government as we know it.

There is also a danger that we are duplicating too many layers and levels of local government. Let us consider the city of Liverpool. The Secretary of State's predecessor established the inner city partnership scheme, and I know that he has continued to visit the city and participated in meetings from time to time. I congratulate him on that. Together with the inner city partnership scheme there is the Merseyside county council, the Liverpool city council, a dock board in the area owned by the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board and many voluntary agencies. It is possible that in the city of Liverpool there will also be a free enterprise zone if other Government proposals are accepted by the House, and at the end of the day there could be so many different agencies, all meddling and all trying to be busybodies in sorting out the problems of the area, that the old adage of too many cooks spoiling the broth will apply.

I am convinced that the difficulty in local government on Merseyside arises from the conflict between the different agencies and the differences of opinion on how to iron out the problems. Sadly, many of those difficulties were created by the last reorganisation of local gov ernment in 1973, and I urge the Secretary of State to consider removing unnecessary layers of local government, in order to save money. He should also consider removing the Merseyside county council and restoring its powers to a one-tier borough council in the form of a city council, and give it the job of dealing with the redevelopment of the urban areas.

Mr. Eric S. Heffer (Liverpool, Walton)

I am delighted to hear the hon. Gentleman say that, because many years ago, on behalf of the Labour members on the city council, I moved a resolution against those who wanted to establish a county council. I believe in the concept of all-purpose, fairly large boroughs. That is a far more sensible and intelligent idea than metropolitan or county councils.

Mr. Alton

I agree with the hon. Member. One of the greatest disasters to befall local government was the reorganisation in 1973. That demonstrated the half-baked thinking that is endemic in these proposals. The reason why we need to place our trust in local government is that we live in a democracy, and local government should concern the election of democratic councillors who are accountable to communities. The urban development corporations will fail because they will not have that element of accountability. They will not be democratic, and they will not be related to local communities.

There have already been a number of misconceptions about the areas in which these development corporations are to be established. Anyone would think that some of those areas are dead. That is not the case in the South docks area. On Saturday I took the trouble to have discussions with the South Docks Tenants' Association. That group employs thousands of people in small businesses which honeycomb the whole of the south docks area. Those people are desperately worried about their future. They get one story from the county council, which wants to build the tallest building in the world and create a Disneyland park on the site of the south docks. They get another story from the planning officer in the city council. They get a different story from the Mersey Docks and Harbour Board, and at the end of the day they are told that they must wait until the new urban development corporation is established. That has created great anxiety and worry.

If the Secretary of State is truly concerned about small businesses, before embarking on the establishment of an urban development corporation he should consult as many people as possible in the area that he is attempting to municipalise. He is doing what he has so often accused Members on this side of the House of doing. In effect, he is nationalising a whole area of land and putting it into the control of people who will not be accountable or democratically answerable to the community. The urban development corporation will be able to take decisions without consulting the people who will be affected. That is a serious state of affairs.

Far more important to the people living in the heart of the city of Liverpool is the Government's economic approach. A 16 per cent. interest rate and a 22 per cent. inflation rate spell the end for many small businesses. But a 13 per cent. unemployment rate is far more of a worry than the establishment of an urban development corporation which so far has created only two jobs—a chairman and a deputy chairman.

These matters are of fundamental importance. How will local authorities be able to work with the development corporations? What accountability and democracy will there be? Until those safeguards are given, I shall have to advise my hon. Friends to support amendment No. 191.

The Minister for Local Government and Environmental Services (Mr. Tom King)

The hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) moved amendment No. 191 and made it clear that although the amendment appeared to accept urban development corporations—the amendment is only a qualification of the terms under which they may be set up—he maintained his basic opposition to the existence of UDCs. That is not a great secret, because the House recognises that this is a wrecking amendment. Even if the qualifications had been added, the amendment would have effectively prevented or seriously delayed the establishment of UDCs. Any hon. Member who is familiar with the wording of amendments in the House will recognise a lawyers' paradise when they see one, and the endless arguments about assessing the local authority's area could not reasonably be expected to be completed within a reasonable time.

I cannot recommend the House to accept the amendment. However, I should like to say a word about the question of criteria.

8 pm

I shall have to make some comments slightly out of sequence because I have replies to give to one right hon. and one hon. Gentleman, neither of whom is here. Therefore, looking around to see who is here, I shall comment on what was said by the hon. Member for Liverpool. Edge Hill (Mr. Alton). I shall start with my peroration, in which he was included. I am saved by the bell, because the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo) has arrived in time to get his punishment. I am grateful to him for returning.

Contrary to what was said, I paid tribute in Committee to what had been done. I am aware of the London Industrial Centre, of which the hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow is chairman, the part that he has played in it, the unique coincidence that that represents of the public and the private sector and the stimulus that it is giving to the development of small businesses. The hon. Gentleman used that as an illustration of what is happening in dockland.

A certain amount is happening, but as I made clear in Committee—the hon. Member for Edmonton (Mr. Graham) in a fair presentation of his side of the argument quoted my words regarding the scale, intensity and complication of the problem—whether one flies over, or walks or bicycles round dockland, one cannot be unaware of the massive scale of the problems. It is no disrespect to the local authorities. There is a peculiar problem here. The hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) asked why the local authority cannot be left to get on with it. One problem is that London's dockland covers the boundaries of five local authorities and one upper-tier authority. That adds to the peculiarity of the problem.

There is an enormous, expensive, job to be done. The hon. Member for Beth nal Green and Bow referred to News International Limited. He will know that site. He will know the costs involved in the filling in of docks. He will know about the cost per acre in the reclamation of derelict land involved in dockland. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) will also be aware of the scale of the problems involved.

It is against that background that the Government decided that exceptional steps were justified. We were concerned about the progress that had been made.

The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow referred to my use of the word "squabbling". He will find that I did not use the word "squabbling", except to quote his hon. Friend the Member for Newham, South who continually tried to put it ino my mouth.

In Committee I quoted from The Economist. It was suggested that this was some weird notion that my right hon. Friend had dreamt up and that nobody else could possibly agree with him, although my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham first initiated this approach to tackling what he recognised were exceptional problems.

The Economist stated: After 10 years of blight and wasted opportunities marked by constant wrangling between mostly Labour dominated local councils, near bankrupt dock boards and ineffective strategic authorities in Greater London and Merseyside, it was clear that enough was enough. I think that probably goes too far. I would not endorse it entirely. However, it shows that there is another point of view.

Mr. Mikardo

I did not go so far as to say that he was a good fellow.

Mr. King

The Guardian's view was: The last Labour Government should have moved much faster on the docklands but were deterred by the local Labour councils who wanted control over sites without having the expertise or enterprise to carry out the work. Again, that is too savage. I think that there was more progress than either The Economist or The Guardian concede.

There is the question whether there were delays. I have had certain information, the source of which I am not at liberty to disclose, but it is genuine and it is not partisan. It is clear that there were difficulties and squabbling—I am talking now about the dockland situation—which inhibited progress.

I should like to make a quotation from Hansard which I made in Committee when an hon. Member thought that he should declare an interest as a member of the original Dockland Joint Committee. The argument was whether there should be an urban development corporation. This debate took place in 1977. The hon. Member said: Perhaps because I was then involved in local government I took a different view from that taken by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) who, as he indicated today, is passionately in favour of a development corporation approach. On looking back, I am not sure that we should not have done better had we had a development corporation. I think it is fair to say that we would not have had quite the same degree of internecine warfare between the various members of the joint committee that we have had over the history of this development."—[Official Report, 14 March 1977; Vol. 928, c. 80–81.] That is a quotation from a speech by the hon. Member for Woolwich, East (Mr. Cartwright)—not a member of this Government but a member of the Dockland Joint Committee. He used a phrase considerably more extravagent than I would have used. He referred to "internecine warfare". I put him before the House as someone who has experience of the problems and as part only of the evidence to show that there were problems in that respect.

The hon. Member for Bethnal Green and Bow referred to the appointment of Mr. Nigel Broackes as chairman of the Dockland Joint Committee and to the substantial sales of his book, which is now required reading among all dockland politicians. He also prefaced his remarks by making clear what a close friend of his the right hon. Member for Bermondsey was. As I listened to his succeeding remarks, I must say he could have fooled me. His reference to his right hon. Friend as a "fig leaf for some political presentation" seemed to me to be about the most demeaning and diminishing remark that he could have made and showed his views of his right hon. Friend's qualities. Our appreciation is quite different. The right hon. Gentleman, who has represented dockland in the House with considerable vigour and determination for about 34 years, made clear his belief that a new approach to dockland was needed and his passionate belief that in fighting for it he was fighting for the real interests of the dockers, the people who live in dockland, and of his constituents. We certainly would not seek to dismiss him in that derisory way as merely a "fig leaf for some political presentation".

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham made it clear that he had considerable sympathy for our approach to the urban development corporations, but expressed concern about the procedures, the democratic issue of the powers that could be taken and the ways in which they might be exercised arbitrarily in less favourable circumstances and in a different political climate.

I thought that my right hon. and learned Friend in the earlier part of his speech was not aware of the Hybrid Bill procedure to which I referred in Committee, but it would have been grossly impertinent to suggest that because, as he made clear later, he had taken my remarks in Committee into account on that matter.

I understand that a Lords Hybrid Bill Select Committee is not appointed by the Government. It has a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary as chairman and the Chairman of Committees and three other Lords as members. This is the procedure under which any aggrieved party which has a standing in the matter is entitled to petition Parliament against the setting up of an urban development corporation. This is the standard Hybrid Bill procedure which is part of Parliament's procedure for scrutinising such matters. Then the designation orders have to be approved by both Houses of Parliament.

My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham and my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) made clear their concern about the criteria. We accept the point about the criteria and the point about the need to make it clear that there are rather more restrictive criteria and that quite perverse designations could not be made under this legislation. We had hoped to table the amendments at this stage. I am sorry that that has not been possible, but we intend to table such amendments in another place, so I hope that very largely the concerns expressed in that respect will be met.

The hon. Members for Bethnal Green and Bow and for Edmonton drew the analogy with the new towns. It was said that there was a great difference with new towns because they are all green fields, but many people live in dockland, and certainly very many more live in dockland than in the envisaged Liverpool UDC area. One understands that. However, I draw hon. Members' attention to Warrington and Central Lancashire new town, which would certainly not think that they were vacant green fields on which a new town has been imposed on an existing population.

I agree that certain rather greater powers are available to UDCs, but I think that the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Edmonton that this is the end of local government and is in some way a total abdication of democracy in these areas is a gross exaggeration. The implication is that somehow the UDCs will be running the whole of these urban areas. They will certainly have certain powers in the housing and planning fields, but the local authority remains fully responsible for the education service and social services and for environmental protection—the main functions of local authorities.

The hon. Members for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden) and for Edge Hill took us, at the end of our debate, to the other areas. Up to that point, Liverpool had been somewhat neglected. As they rightly say, the position is that the chairmen and deputy chairmen have been appointed, as have the chief executives—all designate appointments. Exception was taken to the fact that as soon as the Second Reading was obtained, those appointments were made. That is a standing practice of this House. It is intended to avoid exactly the problem which I think otherwise hon. Members would berate us about—the risk of hiatus and lack of progress. Complaint has been made about the uncertainty that would be caused. But how much greater would be the uncertainty if there were to be a six-month or nine-month time lag before the people could even start on the preparatory work?

As I think the hon. Member for West Derby knows, discussions are already taking place with the local authorities. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and I will be meeting both the chairmen and both the deputy chairmen together in our Department next week. The hon. Member's suggestion was that great minds thought alike. We also thought it a good idea to bring them together in that way.

The Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Michael Heseltine)

Not the deputy chairmen.

Mr. King

I am sorry—the chairmen only; not the deputy chairmen.

Mr. Ogden

Perhaps I may tell the Secretary of State, through the Minister, that both of the deputies have knowledge of this House and of local government in their own areas. Perhaps the Minister could extend that, or at least have one meeting with the chairmen, carve up what he wants, and then have a second meeting with the deputies, both of whom are either Members of this House of former Members and have knowledge of both parts. I think that that will be essential.

Mr. King

We shall be happy to see what is most convenient. We certainly wish to establish the closest communications that we can in that respect. There have been meetings with local authorities. For instance, Mr. Leslie Young, the chairman, has addressed public meetings, in, I think, South docks, and meetings of interested people in Liverpool. There is no intention to operate under wraps. We shall certainly want to encourage the closest collaboration with local authorities and with the public to make a success of this undertaking.

8.15 pm

These are not intended as some secret takeover by some outside body of these particularly derelict and rundown areas of both London and Liverpool. These are intended as vehicles through which these areas can be regenerated and can once again become places where people will want to live and work, and where there will not be an endless public sector subsidy as the permanent drip-feed to maintain any form of viable economic life. We want these to be areas which become self-sustaining, with private sector investment and housing, and with public sector housing and public investment as well. These are intended to bring back areas which have had in their history great success but which have, by their nature and for historical reasons fallen on much har der times. We want to give these areas an opportunity to become once more places which are of genuine value to their community and to the nation.

Mr. Crowther

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Mr. King

I think, if I may, I should like to say—

Mr. Crowther

I fear that the right hon. Gentleman is reaching the end of his speech without having answered the most important question that I put to him. It is a very simple question. Other than the circumstances set out in the amendment which he is opposing, what circumstances would lead the Secretary of State to deem it expedient in the national interest to set up an urban development corporation? That is a very simple question. If the Minister will not accept the amendment, he should say what are the circumstances that would result in that happening.

Mr. King

Clause 117 sets out the object of an urban development corporation. In the order, it will be necessary for the Secretary of State to make clear his reasons and to put his case before the House before any single urban development corporation could be set up.

We shall have a vote on this matter. I think that the Opposition will vote against it. The impression may be given that in some way it is a partisan policy, that the establishment of urban development corporations are the policy of one side of the House and not of the other. If that were so, it would be very unfortunate. If hon. Members care to reflect on this matter, they will realise that the value of this approach has been recognised on both sides of the House. The right hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish) has been one of the passionate advocates of this course of action for the docklands of London. It would be a very bold hon. Member who decided that he had a better understanding of that part of London and of this country than that particular right hon. Member.

We believe that this is an exceptional measure to tackle a quite exceptional problem. We believe—and this is a commitment of the Government—that it takes a single-minded agency with this approach to achieve the results that are necessary. I hope that the House will feel that our proposals for urban development corporations are worthy of support in the interests of securing the regeneration of two of the most depressed and derelict parts of this country. If successful, they can bring benefit to all who live and work there.

Mr. Spearing

I should like to reply to the debate. I thank my hon. Friends the Members for Bethnal Green and Bow (Mr. Mikardo), for Edmonton (Mr. Graham), for Rotherham (Mr. Crowther) and for Liverpool, West Derby (Mr. Ogden), and the hon. Member for Liverpool, Edge Hill (Mr. Alton), for their support for the amendment. I also have to thank the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) for his remarks.

The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham quite properly emphasised the dangerously unprecendented situation into which the House will, unfortunately, move in approving this part of the Bill and perhaps refusing the amendment. He referred to the fact that the areas of dockland are in five or six boroughs. They are not six pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, because each of the areas in the boroughs is attached socially and geographically to old urban centres. Perhaps they are connected more with them than with one another. These urban centres that are represented by the borough councils concerned.

The hon. Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman) was the only Back Bencher to support the Government. I listened to what he said with

great interest, just as I read with great interest what he said about dockland in the Estates Times. I presume that that was part of the interest that he declared at the beginning of his speech.

I must make a few comments on the Minister's speech. He said that this was a wrecking amendment because it would prevent, or seriously delay, the inception of an urban development corporation. He justified the considerable changes that will be made in the structure of local government by saying that there was an overwhelming case for the proposals. I submit that the amendment uses the Minister's own case. If he rejects the amendment, he will indict his own logic. If he does not accept his own case, we must question whether the reasons that the Government gave for urban development corporations are those that they claim. I think that many of my hon. Friends will agree with that.

With regard to the delays and so-called wrangling, Conservative Members have not quoted any specific instances. The southern relief road was a matter of legitimate disagreement. No specific examples have been given to back up the Government's charges. That reinforces my belief that if the Government reject the amendment their reasons for setting up urban development corporations must be other than those that have been put forward.

I therefore call on my hon. Friends and on all right hon. and hon. Gentlemen to vote in favour of the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 239, Noes 281.

Division No. 401] AYES [8.24 pm
Abse, Leo Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Cowans, Harry
Adams, Allen Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Cox, Tom (Wandsworth. Tooling)
Allaun, Frank Brown, Ron (Edinburgh, Leith) Crowther, J. S.
Alton, David Buchan, Norman Cryer, Bob
Anderson, Donald Callaghan, Rt Hon J. (Cardiff SE) Cunliffe, Lawrence
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P) Cunningham, George (Islington S)
Ashley, Rt Hon Jack Campbell, Ia[...] Dalyell, Tam
Ashton, Joe Campbell-Savours, Dale Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham) Canavan, Dennis Davles, Ifor (Gower)
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Cant, R. B. Davis, Clinton (Hackney Central)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Carmichael, Neil Davis, Terry (B'rm'ham, Stechford)
Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood) Carter-Jones, Lewis Deakins, Eric
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Cartwright, John Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)
Bidwell, Sydney Clark, David (South Shields) Dempsey, James
Booth, Rt Hon Albert Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Dewar Donald
Boothroyd, Miss Betty Cohen, Stanley Dixon, Donald
Bottomley, Rt Hon Arthur (M'brough) Coleman, Donald Dobson, Frank
Bradford, Rev. R. Concannon, Rt Hon J. D. Dormand, Jack
Bradley, Tom Conlan, Bernard Douglas, Dick
Bray, Dr Jeremy Cook, Robin F. Douglas-Mann, Bruce
Duffy, A. E. P. Jones, Dan (Burnley) Roberts, Allan (Bootle)
Dunlop, John Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)
Dunn, James A. (Liverpool, Kirkdale) Kerr, Russell Robertson, George
Dunnett, Jack Kilroy-Sllk, Robert Robinson, Geoffrey (Coventry NW)
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth Kinnock, Neil Rodgers, Rt Hon William
Eadie, Alex Lambie, David Rooker, J. W.
Eastham, Ken Lamond, James Roper, John
Edwards, Robert (Wolv SE) Lester, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough) Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Ellis, Raymond (NE Derbyshire) Lewis, Arthur (Newham North West) Rowlands, Ted
Ellis, Tom (Wrexham) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Ryman, John
English, Michael Litherland, Robert Sever, John
Ennals, Rt Hon David Lofthouse, Geoffrey Sheerman, Barry
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Lyon, Alexander (York) Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert (A'ton-u-L)
Evans, John (Newton) Lyons, Edward (Bradford West) Shore, Rt Hon Peter (Step and Pop)
Faulds, Andrew McCartney, Hugh Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)
Field, Frank McDonald, Dr Oonagh Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)
Fitch, Alan McElhone, Frank Skinner, Dennis
Fitt, Gerard McKay, Allen (Penistone) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Flannery, Martin McKelvey, William Smith, Rt Hon J. (North Lanarkshire)
Fletcher, L. R. (Ilkeston) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Snape, Peter
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Maclennan, Robert Soley, Clive
Foot, Rt Hon Michael McNally, Thomas Spearing, Nigel
Ford, Ben McNamara, Kevin Spriggs, Leslie
Forrester, John McTaggart, Robert Stallard, A. W.
Foster, Derek McWilliam, John Steel, Rt Hon David
Foulkes, George Magee, Bryan Stoddart, David
Fraser, John (Lambeth, Norwood) Marshall, David (Gl'sgow, Shettles'n) Stott, Roger
Freeson, Rt Hon Reginald Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Strang, Gavin
Garrett, John (Norwich S) Marshall, Jim (Leicester South) Straw, Jack
Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend) Martin, Michael (Gl'gow, Springb'rn) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
George, Bruce Mason, Rt Hon Roy Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton West)
Gilbert, Rt Hon Dr John Maynard, Miss Joan Thomas, Dafydd (Merioneth)
Gourlay, Harry Mikardo, Ian Thomas, Jeffrey (Abertillery)
Graham, Ted Millan, Rt Hon Bruce Thomas, Mike (Newcastle East)
Grant, George (Morpeth) Miller, Dr M. S. (East Kilbride) Thomas, Dr Roger (Carmarthen)
Grant, John (Islington C) Mitchell, R. C. (Soton, Itchen) Thorne, Stan (Preston South)
Grimond, Rt Hon J. Molyneaux, James Tilley, John
Hamilton, W. W. (Central Fife) Morris, Rt Hon Alfred (Wythenshawe) Tinn, James
Hardy, Peter Morris, Rt Hon Charles (Openshaw) Torney, Tom
Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Morris, Rt Hon John (Aberavon) Urwin, Rt Hon Tom
Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy Morton, George Varley, Rt Hon Eric G.
Haynes, Frank Moyle, Rt Hon Roland Walker, Rt Hon Harold (Doncaster)
Healey, Rt Hon Denis Newens, Stanley Watkins, David
Heffer, Eric S. Oakes, Rt Hon Gordon Weetch, Ken
Hogg, Norman (E Dunbartonshire) Ogden, Eric Welsh, Michael
Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall) O'Halloran, Michael White, Frank R. (Bury & Radcliffe)
Home Robertson, John O'Neill, Martin Whitlock, William
Homewood, William Orme, Rt Hon Stanley Wigley, Dafydd
Hooley, Frank Owen, Rt Hon Dr David Willey, Rt Hon Frederick
Horam, John Parry, Robert Williams, Rt Hon Alan (Swansea W)
Howell. Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H) Pavitt, Laurie Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)
Howells, Geraint Pendry, Tom Winnick, David
Huckfield, Les Penhaligon, David Woodall, Alec
Hughes, Mark (Durham) Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down) Woolmer, Kenneth
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North) Powell, Raymond (Ogmore) Wrigglesworth, Ian
Janner, Hon Greville Prescott, John Wright, Sheila
Jay, Rt Hon Douglas Price, Christopher (Lewisham West) Young, David (Bolton East)
John, Brynmor Race, Reg
Johnson, James (Hull West) Radice, Giles TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rhondda) Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds South) Mr. Austin Mitchell and
Jones, Barry (East Flint) Roberts, Albert (Normanton) Mr. James Hamilton.
Adley, Robert Body, Richard Carlisle, John (Luton West)
Aitken, Jonathan Bonsor, Sir Nicholas Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Alexander, Richard Bottomley, Peter (Woolwich West) Chalker, Mrs. Lynda
Amery, Rt Hon Julian Bowden, Andrew Chapman, Sydney
Ancram, Michael Boyson, Dr Rhodes Churchill, W. S.
Arnold, Tom Braine, Sir Bernard Clark, Hon Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)
Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne) Bright, Graham Clark, Sir William (Croydon South)
Atkins, Robert (Preston North) Brinton, Tim Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)
Atkinson, David (B'mouth, East) Brittan Leon Clegg, Sir Walter
Baker, Nicholas (North Dorset) Brocklebank-Fowler, Christopher Colvin, Michael
Banks, Robert Brooke, Hon Peter Cope, John
Beaumont-Dark, Anthony Brotherton, Michael Corrie, John
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torbay) Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe) Costain, A. P.
Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon) Bruce-Gardyne, John Cranborne, Viscount
Benyon, W. (Buckingham) Bryan, Sir Paul Critchley, Julian
Berry, Hon Anthony Buchanan-Smith, Hon Alick Crouch, David
Best, Keith Budgen, Nick Dean, Paul (North Somerset)
Bevan, David Gilroy Bulmer, Esmond Dickens, Geoffrey
Biffen, Rt Hon John Burden, F. A. Dorrell, Stephen
Biggs-Davison, John Butcher, John Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Blackburn, John Butler, Hon Adam Dover, Denshore
du Cann, Rt Hon Edward Knight, Mrs Jill Rees-Davies, W. R.
Dunn, Robert (Dartford) Knox, David Renton, Tim
Durant, Tony Lamont, Norman Rhodes James, Robert
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Lang, Ian Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Edwards, Rt Hon N. (Pembroke) Langford-Holt, Sir John Ridley, Hon Nicholas
Eggar, Timothy Latham, Michael Ridsdale, Julian
Elliott, Sir William Lawrence, Ivan Rifkind, Malcolm
Emery, Peter Lawson, Nigel Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Eyre, Reginald Lee, John Roberts, Wyn (Conway)
Fairbairn, Nicholas Le Merchant, Spencer Royle, Sir Anthony
Fairgrieve, Russell Lennox-Boyd, Hon Mark Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
Faith, Mrs Sheila Lester, Jim (Beeston) St. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
Farr, John Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland) Scott, Nicholas
Fell, Anthony Lloyd, Peter (Fareham) Shaw, Michael (Scarborough)
Fenner, Mrs Peggy Loveridge, John Shelton, William (Streatham)
Finsberg, Geoffrey Luce, Richard Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Fisher, Sir Nigel Lyell, Nicholas Shepherd, Richard(Aldridge-Br'hills)
Fletcher, Alexander (Edinburgh N) Macfarlane, Neil Shersby, Michael
Fletcher-Cooke, Charles MacKay, John (Argyll) Silvester, Fred
Fookes, Miss Janet McNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury) Sims, Roger
Forman, Nigel McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest) Speed, Keith
Fox, Marcus Major, John Spence, John
Fraser, Peter (South Angus) Marland, Paul Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)
Fry, Peter Marshall, Michael (Arundel) Spicer, Michael (S Worcestershire)
Galbraith, Hon T. G. D. Marten, Neil (Banbury) Sproat, Iain
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Mather, Carol Squire, Robin
Gardner, Edward (South Fylde) Maude, Rt Hon Angus Stainton, Keith
Garel-Jones, Tristan Mawby, Ray Stanbrook, Ivor
Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian Mawhinney, Dr Brian Stanley, John
Glyn, Dr Alan Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Steen, Anthony
Goodhart, Philip Mayhew, Patrick Stevens, Martin
Goodlad, Alastair Meyer, Sir Anthony Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)
Gow, Ian Mills, Iain (Meriden) Stewart, John (East Renfrewshire)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Mills, Peter (West Devon) Stokes, John
Gray, Hamish Miscampbell, Norman Stradling Thomas, J.
Greenway, Harry Moate, Roger Tapsell, Peter
Grieve, Percy Montgomery, Fergus Taylor, Robert (Croydon NW)
Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St Edmunds) Moore, John Taylor, Teddy (Southend East)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Morris, Michael (Northampton, Sth) Tebbit, Norman
Grist, Ian Morrison, Hon Charles (Devizes) Temple-Morris, Peter
Grylls, Michael Morrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester) Thomas, Rt Hon. Peter (Hendon S)
Gummer, John Selwyn Mudd, David Thornton, Malcolm
Hamilton, Hon Archie (Eps'm & Ew'll) Murphy, Christopher Townsend, Cyril D. (Bexleyheath)
Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury) Myles, David Trippier, David
Hampson, Dr Keith Neale, Gerrard Trotter, Neville
Hannam, John Needham, Richard van-Straubenzee, W. R.
Haselhurst, Alan Nelson, Anthony Vaughan, Dr Gerard
Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael Neubert, Michael Viggers, Peter
Hawkins, Paul Newton, Tony Waddington, David
Hawksley, Warren Normanton, Tom Wakeham, John
Hayhoe, Barney Nott, Rt Hon John Waldegrave, Hon William
Heddle, John Onslow, Cranley Walker, Bill (Perth & E Perthshire)
Henderson, Barry Oppenheim, Rt Hon Mrs Sally Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek
Heseltine, Rt Hon Michael Osborn, John Wall, Patrick
Hicks, Robert Page, John (Harrow, West) Waller, Gary
Higgins, Rt Hon Terence L. Page, Rt Hon Sir R. Graham Walters, Dennis
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham) Page, Richard (SW Hertfordshire) Ward, John
Holland, Philip (Carlton) Parkinson, Cecil Warren, Kenneth
Hooson, Tom Parris, Matthew Wells, John (Maidstone)
Hordern, Peter Patten, Christopher (Bath) Wells, Bowen (Hert'rd & Stev'nage)
Howell, Rt Hon David (Guildford) Patten, John (Oxford) Wheeler, John
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Pattie, Geoffrey Whitelaw, Rt Hon William
Hunt, David (Wirral) Pawsey, James Whitney, Raymond
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Percival, Sir Ian Wickenden, Keith
Irving, Charles (Cheltenham) Pink, R. Bonner Wiggin, Jerry
Jenkin, Rt Hon Patrick Pollock, Alexander Wilkinson, John
Jessel, Toby Porter, George Williams, Delwyn (Montgomery)
Johnson Smith, Geoffrey Prentice, Rt Hon Reg Winterton, Nicholas
Jopling, Rt Hon Michael Price, David (Eastleigh) Wolfson, Mark
Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith Prior, Rt Hon James Young, Sir George (Acton)
Kershaw, Anthony Proctor, K. Harvey
Kimball, Marcus Pym, Rt Hon Francis TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
King, Rt Hon Tom Raison, Timothy Mr. John MacGregor and
Kitson, Sir Timothy Rathbone, Tim Mr. Robert Boscawen.

Question accordingly negatived.

8.30 pm
Mr. Spearing

I beg to move amendment No. 192, in page 87, line 36, at end insert:—

  1. '3(a) Before making an order under section 121, section 127, section 128 or section 129 of this Act the Secretary of State shall give notice to every concerned local authority of his intention to make the Order and of its proposed contents;
  2. 1339
  3. (b) In the above subsection "concerned local authority" means any County Council, District Council or London Borough Council whose area or part of whose area lies within the area of the Urban Development Corporation or proposed Urban Development Corporation;
  4. (c) A body which receives a Notice under subsection (1) above may make representations as to why the proposed Order should not be made or as to its proposed contents;
  5. (d) If no representations are made within 42 days the Secretary of State may submit the order to Parliament as proposed;
  6. (e) If any concerned authority has made representations under subsection (3) above, the Secretary of State may modify the Order in the light of those representations;
  7. (f) If any representations duly made are not withdrawn the Secretary of State, when submitting the Order to Parliament, shall submit also a copy of those representations together with such report thereon as he shall think fit.'.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Richard Crawshaw)

With this we may take amendment No. 193 in page 87, line 36 at end insert:— (3) Before making an order under this section, the Secretary of State shall consult the relevant local authorities and shall take into account any representations made.'.

Mr. Spearing

I shall speak very briefly, because these are more in the nature of probing amendments. In the last debate we heard that urban development corporations could be set up without any public inquiry and without any statutory form of consultation whatsoever. In their consultation paper on urban development corporations, the Government said, in paragraph 2: In the case of new towns a consultant's report is commissioned, a draft designation order published, a public local inquiry held to hear objections, and eventually a final designation order made. This procedure can take as long as two years. Such arrangements are appropriate in the case of the new towns sited in a wholly undeveloped area, in urban areas, however, they are an unaffordable luxury, since so long a period of delay would lead to excessive uncertainty and blight. I concede that for the purposes that the Government have in mind the full procedure may be inappropriate. However, the parallel procedure set out in the amendment is desirable, practical and democratic, and would not take more than two months. If the Government were to accept the amendment and write in a time limit in another place they could have the consultation within two months. If the Government want to make the procedure open to the public and retain a shred of democratic respectability, statutory consultations with local authorities, whose powers are to be transferred to Whitehall, is right, proper and fair, and that provision should be in the Bill.

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

I support the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing). The provision in the Bill involves any new corporation that could be set up, which may take over certain functions of local authorities and will have to co-operate in exercising others. It will have to co-operate with other local authorities. We are talking about a possible urban development corporation, separate from that proposed for London and Liverpool. It is surely desirable that there should be proper discussion of the order in principle and in detail.

The hon. Gentleman's amendment is more detailed than mine and is very much on the right lines. It sets out provisions similar to those that already exist, under section 1 of the New Towns Act 1965, which seem to work pretty satisfactorily. I should have thought the provisions would appeal to the Government.

Mr. Fox

The only difference between the Government and the hon. Member for Newham, South (Mr. Spearing) is over the time scale. In Committee we said that we intended to consult local authorities before making designation orders. In addition, we promised to look at whether a formal early warning procedure could be written into the Bill. We are not yet ready with a Government amendment, but we still hope that it will be possible to do that.

We place considerable stress on speed. We cannot accept a delay of six weeks following Royal Assent. We hope that we can go some way towards meeting the hon. Gentleman's point. We have committed ourselves in regard to local authorities and other bodies, and we want the maximum time for comment. However, we cannot ignore the need for urgency.

We entirely accept the spirit of the amendment of the hon. Member for Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross) and the need to consult local authorities before designating urban development areas. These matters were covered in Committee. I trust that both hon. Gentlemen will accept that we are doing our best.

Mr. Spearing

This was a probing amendment. The Minister said that he is conceivably considering the matter. I was surprised that the hon. Gentleman felt that six weeks was too high a price to pay for democracy. I hope that the Official Report will be read in another place. For that alone this brief debate will have been worth while.

I therefore beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

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