§ 2.48 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON rose to call attention to the Government's declared policy of encouraging the proper location of population, industries, factories and offices; to the need for the redevelopment of the centres of towns, particularly of London; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the problems to which to-day I invite the attention of your Lordships and of Her Majesty's Government are more suitable for debate in this House than in another place These problems need not arouse Party animosity; they do not excite the electors; they do not admit of sensational treatment in the popular Press—although I am glad that the Sunday Times, the Observer and the Financial Times have all recently had articles dealing with this matter. But these problems, my Lords, do concern the health, the wellbeing and the environment of the worker, particularly of the young and rising generation, and they have much to do with the preservation of the amenities of Britain. It is necessary that they should receive wise treatment, as well as be met with resolute action if something is to be done to remedy the evils from which we are suffering.
§ I am glad to be rising on this matter in your Lordships' House for another 1209 reason. Twice within the last eighteen months your Lordship have inflicted a defeat upon Her Majesty's Government because you felt they were not sufficiently alive to the importance of these considerations. I shall have more to say on that subject before I sit down. I was first interested in this matter in the days of unemployment, some thirty years ago, when I was as new a Member of another place as I now am of your Lordships' House. In 1932 I called a meeting of those who were likely to be interested in this matter and the only Front Bencher who attended my meeting was the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, whom I am very glad to see here to-day.
§ My Lords, this is a wide Motion and falls into three separate but connected parts; first, the shift of population from North to South and East to West; secondly, overspill from the large provincial cities as slum clearance gets further under way; and, thirdly, the lack of planning for the redevelopment of the centres of our cities. One might call the general drift of industry the strategic problem, and the decay of the inside of our cities the tactical problem. But both tend to cause the unplanned development in the South-Eastern counties of England. The areas which are losing are Scotland, Wales, the North of England, the North West, the East and the West Ridings of Yorkshire. Those areas have, in fact, in the last ten years or so gained in population some 427,000, but there should have been, if it had not been for this drift, an increase of 1,039,000. There has been, therefore, an emigration from what one might call the old industrial areas to the South-East of some 612,000 people.
§ I suppose the first and main cause of that is the decline of the old heavy industries like coal, and of the textile industry in Lancashire. Steel has greatly developed but it has not taken the place of those heavy industries. It is interesting that the system of quoting the price without the cost of transport has done a great deal to encourage new manufacturers to set up in the South East of England near to their markets instead of near their raw material. There has also been a tendency for light industries, and those which provide in one form or another a service to consumers, to settle in the South East. Again, the success of trade unions in 1210 establishing the same level of wages over the whole of the United Kingdom, means that there has not been the ordinary automatic encouragement for industries to go to the more remote areas, as would have been the case if wages there had been lower than they are near the metropolis.
§ My Lords, these problems have been treated recently by a number of authoritative bodies, which have produced extremely valuable publications on the subject. The first was A Plan to Combat Congestion in Central London, which was an official statement by the London County Council. The second, which is of considerable political importance, was Change and Challenge, published by a Conservative Party Committee which had been appointed by Mr. R. A. Butler and which reported in February, 1962. Then there was The Paper Metropolis, published in March, 1962, by the Town and Country Planning Association. The fourth was the publication, Urban Redevelopment, issued by the Civic Trust, and I much regret, as he does, that my noble friend Lord Mancroft, who was Chairman of the Committee, is unable to be present to take part in your Lordships' debate to-day. Fifthly, just recently in October, 1962, P.E.P. produced a most valuable broadsheet on the Location of Industry. This summer the Alfred Bossom Lecture given by Miss Drew described the city of the future, and the importance of seeing that proper consideration is given to traffic and similar problems.
§ The Government have attempted to deal with this general problem. Under the Distribution of Industry Act passed by the Caretaker Government, I think in 1945, followed by the Town and Country Planning Act, which will always be associated with the name of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, planning permission is not sufficient to enable an industry to build a factory of more than a certain size wherever it wants. It is necessary also to obtain an Industrial Development Certificate. That, with the need to secure planning permission, enables a local authority to prohibit or limit industrial building, but it does not give it any power to attract industry or to reduce employment, except in one way; that is, by the purchase of premises, which, of course, is extremely costly. London, I believe, provides £500,000 a year in 1211 order to buy up industrial sites which are not then allowed to be redeveloped; and Birmingham, up to July, 1959, had acquired fourteen such sites for the same purpose.
§ My Lords, the system of the industrial development certificates worked extremely well in the early post-war years. The system was then helped by the existence of building licences and by the general shortage of housing. It has been less successful lately, and recently the Chancellor of the Exchequer explained in another place that when he was President of the Board of Trade he had found on occasions that if he refused to allow an industry to establish itself where it wished, it said that it would not establish itself anywhere. He felt that in circumstances like that it would not be to the national advantage to refuse to allow development to take place merely because it was not in the place where it would be best suited to the general interest.
§ According to the Political and Economic Planning broadsheet issued last month, the control of industry was effective in preventing much additional industry going to London and the South-East region, and to the Midland region. But this did not result in its being retained in Scotland, Wales or the North; rather was it diverted to the Eastern and Southern regions of England. The same sort of control was reasonably effectual in the centre of London and in the centre of Birmingham, but it did little to prevent the drift of industry to the areas around those two large towns. What in fact happened was, that the area which has been called the subtopia around those large towns was increased in size. While the amount of new industry that was established in Wales, Scotland and the Northern region declined until 1960, it did in fact go to those areas that I have described. Since the passing of the Local Employment Act, 1960, Scotland has benefited to a considerable extent. That legislation, together with the Distribution of Industry Acts of 1945, 1950 and 1958, has, by means of subsidies, loans and the provision of buildings, given great assistance, first of all to development areas, and then later, under, I think, the Act of 1960, to development districts. I am very glad to think that my noble 1212 friend Lord Eccles, who has a very close and specialised knowledge of this matter, will be speaking later in this debate.
The broad picture can be given by two figures. The London region has 27 per cent. of the population of Britain, and in the eight years from 1952 to 1960 40 per cent. of the new jobs arose in that area: 27 per cent. of the population live in that region, but in eight years that region obtained 40 per cent. of the new jobs. Now that is all that I need say with regard to the drift of industry, except to quote the Barlow Committee of before the war, when they said that they could not believe that it was to the national advantage that there should be this drift to London of
the best industrial, financial, commercial and general ability".
§ My Lords, I come to the second point, very briefly. We are all most anxious that slum clearance shall continue at an ever-increasing rate. As this takes place in Manchester, Birmingham (where I believe it is estimated that the number of slums is 40,000), and Liverpool, so it will be necessary for there to be new and expanded towns like Dawley, in Shropshire, which is to take some of the overspill from Birmingham, and Skelmers-dale, in Lancashire, to take some of the overspill from Liverpool. It is of the utmost importance, as I am sure your Lordships will agree, that when overspill is dealt with it shall not be at the expense of the green belts.
§ I now come to the third problem: the need for the wise redevelopment for the centre of our towns—and here, of course, London is the outstanding example. In the general area, between 1957 and 1961, what with the drift of people from the North-West, the North and the West, and the increase in the population, that population has increased by 2½ million, and it is estimated that between 1962 and 1977, in fifteen years, there may well be a further increase of 3 million. That will be equivalent to no fewer than 50 new towns, and would be likely to require 10,000 additional acres each year.
§ My Lords, the City of London occupies 1 square mile; Central London occupies 10 square miles; the London conurbation 720 square miles; then there is the Metropolitan Green Belt, and the London region occupies 4,600 square miles. The jobs in the conurbation, outside Central 1213 London, are increasing at the rate of 25,000 a year. Employment in Central London, which is almost entirely office employment, is increasing at the rate of 15,000 jobs a year. While the number of jobs is increasing, the resident population of inner London has been declining for the last forty years. In 1931, the County of London had a population of 4.4 million. By 1961, it had fallen from 4.4 to 3.2 million. My Lords, there is no need for any further statistics, and I do not intend to weary your Lordships with them.
§ There is this problem of the great tide of commuters flowing in during the morning and flowing out in the afternoon. These are, I think, the disadvantages and evils associated with that. First, there is the physical strain of long hours on the workers. Perhaps it is not so bad to get up early in the morning and have a long and wearing journey into your job, but to have the same journey back in the evening must be extremely wearying and very bad for one's health. I am sure that is the time when many illnesses are caught: when people are tired and then are exposed to all the elements in a long and tedious journey home. Secondly, this is very costly: every one of the commuters has to pay for travelling in and out. Thirdly, from the point of view of public transport, there is the financial burden of the rolling stock which has to be provided in order to deal with this peak traffic for only a short time in the morning and in the evening. That is one of the great financial problems that public transport in the cities has to deal with.
§ Fourthly, there is the problem of privarte transport: the problem of one man, one car. My noble friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport mentioned to my noble friend Lord Conesford on the 8th of this month that 1⅓ million commuters come into Central London every morning and go out. every evening, and that he thought 10 per cent. of them used their own vehices. Only fairly recently the figure was 7 per cent. It may have increased; but let us consider what an appalling problem may well be presented if, as we all hope, the standard of living of the people of this country continues to rise. If all the congestion and the parking problems that we have 1214 in London at the present time are due to only 7 or 10 per cent. of the commuters coming into London in their own vehicles, what would be the problem if. as cars become cheaper and the standard of living rises, that 7 per cent. rose to 17 or 27 per cent.? And the imagination boggles at what would happen if it ever rose to 70 per cent. of those travelling in. It is a matter of the roads on which they travel during movement; it is a matter of the parking space during the time that they are in London.
§ Fifthly, the effect of this concentration of offices in the middle of London is that fantastically high rents have to be paid for the use of these offices. Sixthly, the effect of it is the ever-increasing spread of subtopia on the periphery of London. My Lords, the ugly and formless word "subtopia", recently invented, is intended to describe something which is equally ugly and formless in the way of development. It is that area around towns which is neither town nor country but unplanned sprawl which defaces the landscape. Seventhly, there is the question of the cost to the taxpayer of all that has to be done in order to enable the people who work in the middle of towns to live a long way away from their work. Now, bad as it is at the present time, there is every reason to suppose that if something is not done the situation must get much worse. The population in the belt around the conurbation of London is increasing at the rate of 110,000 a year; and while that population, in 1962, is 4.3 million, by 1982 it may very well be 6.5 million.
These facts can be easily discovered by anyone who looks at any of the publications upon the subject. I am glad to think that there is a very large measure of agreement among all those concerned as to the nature of these evils. It was Mr. Duncan Sandys, when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government, who criticised the London Development Plan in 1955. He said:
It is the enormous number of offices and office workers which constitutes the greatest single cause of congestion.
It was as a result of Mr. Sandys' criticism that the London County Council, who I think were most anxious to take action, published a new Plan, to which I have already referred. In the foreword
the Leader of the London County Council defined their policy as follows:
1. To reduce the area in which large office buildings are permitted in Central London and so stem the tide of increasing employment in the centre.
2. With the co-operation of Government Departments and other local authorities to encourage office development nearer to where office workers live.
3. To encourage 'mixed' development on many sites where the maximum limits to office development are reduced."—
This should make it possible for more people to live near their work in the centre—
4. To preserve the character of Central London.
Since then, Mr. Henry Brooke, when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government, sent out a letter to 200 firms appealing to them to decentralise their offices from London as much as possible.
§ My Lords, what can be done? First, it is essential to reduce the number of planning permissions given for the erection of offices. I believe that, within the scope of the present law and having regard to the question of compensation, the London County Council are doing all they can in that respect. When we see new offices going up it is often as a result of planning permissions given before the new Plan, to which I have referred, was introduced in 1957. I do not wish to dilate on details, but let me give an example of the kind of problem. The other day I walked past the Carlton Club and Annex and I found that they are being replaced by large offices. When one thinks of the arrangement of the streets around there, this must result in a quite appalling traffic problem in Pall Mall.
§ Secondly—and I shall revert to this point in a few moments—the 10 per cent. margin allowed under the Third Schedule to the 1947 Act for the rebuilding of premises should be abolished. Thirdly, there must be some inducement to firms to build their offices in the suburbs. This should be something broadly analogous to what is being done in the development areas to encourage industry to bring their factories where they are required. Fourthly, I think it will be necessary to extend to all employment something analogous to the industrial 1216 development certificate procedure and to make it operate directly on the number employed and not on the buildings erected. In the broadsheet issued by P.E.P. there is a most interesting suggestion: that we should exercise control directly over employment instead of indirectly through the control of buildings. Industrial development certificates could stipulate the maximum number of employed persons permitted, and a check could be kept through the existing machinery whereby insurance cards of employees are exchanged once a year.
§ I will now revert to the extremely important matter of the Third Schedule to the 1947 Act. As it is, where rebuilding takes place with the 10 per cent. margin, and having regard to modern designs of buildings, it often results in there being an increase in the number of office employees—not of 10 per cent. but of something like 40 per cent. or even 50 per cent. Obviously, the important question that arises is, would it be necessary to pay compensation if the Third Schedule to the 1947 Act were amended? Speaking as a Conservative, I am satisfied in my own mind that there is no need for any such compensation to be paid.
§ I need not go into the history of the Third Schedule. Originally it was part of the machinery of what I might call the Uthwatt system, which has now been done away with. But the general principle of Conservative philosophy in the matter of compensation is, I think, this. If an individual is deprived of property he possesses, he is entitled to compensation; if a new law imposes restrictions on the use of this property he is not entitled to compensation, even though it may reduce the profit he would have made had he been free to use the property in a way which was lawful before. This principle was established in the 1932 Town and Country Planning Act by the Conservative Party who had then a large majority in the House of Commons. It was reiterated in express terms by Section 20 of the 1954 Act. There is, I understand, in the United States of America an exactly parallel doctrine couched in American jargon. Taking property by exercise of the State's right is called "eminent domain" and gives rise to compensation. Regulation or restriction of the use of that property is 1217 called by the Americans "police power" and does not give rise to compensation.
This is a matter of such importance that I thought I should look up some of the authorities in order to see whether my interpretation of Conservative principle was sound. In the White Paper of 1953, it was said in paragraph 35 that the Government
consider it reasonable to exclude compensation in respect of restrictions based on the principle of good neighbourliness, and there is precedence for doing so in the 'Planning Acts of 1932'.
The Minister introducing the 1954 Town and Country Planning Bill said, when describing what would not merit compensation [OFFICIAL REPORT, Commons, Vol. 525, col. 55]:
The line we have taken is to set out a number of types of restrictions commonly in planning use which have the effect of limiting, controlling or postponing the development which may take place, but not, generally speaking, of preventing building development altogether.
§ I am therefore fortified in my view that there need not be compensation if an amendment of this kind were made, by the words of the Prime Minister spoken when introducing the Town and Country Planning Bill in 1954. I think that we should go further and not deal merely with the 10 per cent., but that permitted rebuilding should be on the basis of area of floor space and not of cubic content.
§ It is sometimes said that the Government have not set a good example in this way. I think that they might have done more, but at any rate they have done quite a lot Certainly the Ministry of Works have done so. Over 26,000 civil servants from headquarters are now working in the Provinces. The great office of the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance is, and always has been, at Newcastle-on-Tyne. The Admiralty have large establishments in Bath, the Premium Bonds organisation is at Lytham St. Anne's and it is intended shortly to move the 270,000 employees of the Post Office Accountant General's branch to Chesterfield. In fact, very soon about one-quarter of the Government's civil servants will be working outside the London area.
§ A good deal has been done to move headquarters staffs outside to the suburbs, to Northwood Hills, Stanmore and Chessington. And what interested me very 1218 much, because I was responsible for it, the Ministry of Transport was moved from Berkeley Square House to S.E.I. That move involved me in great unpopularity because of the unfashionable postal area, but that move was estimated to save £66,000 in rent alone as well as bring the whole Department under a single roof. I am extremely glad to know that the day before yesterday the Minister of Health moved from his old headquarters in Savile Row—far more suitable for occupation by tailors than by Ministers of the Crown—to the Elephant and Castle. The Ministry of Works have done a very great deal in these matters.
§ I now revert to two cases in which I think Her Majesty's Government did not show themselves sufficiently alert in this matter. The first was the site of Covent Garden. I would remind your Lordships that when the Covent Garden Bill was in another place, all that the Minister of Agriculture was prepared to undertake was that, if the Market Authority came to the conclusion that Seven Dials was not the proper place for the new market, he would consider any representations the Market Authority might make. After your Lordships had inflicted a defeat upon the Government, the then Lord Chancellor, my noble and learned friend Lord Kilmuir, announced that if the Market Authority thought it desirable to go outside that area the Government would not object to their promoting a Private Bill to give effect to it.
§ The second case was with regard to the disposal of surplus transport land. The area involved was probably about 1,000 acres, considerably more than the whole of the area of the City of London. Your Lordships again inflicted a defeat upon the Government, because the House wanted an assurance that the whole of that area should not be used merely in the most financially profitable way for building more offices, but in accordance with sound town planning principles; that part of it, at any rate, should be used for additional residential accommodation. I understand that negotiations are taking place at the present time between the London County Council and the Transport Commission. I think it only right to say that if the outcome of those negotiations is not satisfactory, it could hardly be regarded as a proper carrying out of 1219 the undertakings given by the then Lord Chancellor on behalf of the Government. It might be necessary to raise the matter again here in order to ensure that the clause inserted in the Bill, in order to give effect to your Lordships' wishes, has in fact been properly carried out in the outcome of the negotiations that are now being carried on. I only say that by way of a word of warning, in the hope thereby that it will not be necessary for us to revert to this painful subject again.
The redevelopment of the centre of towns is, of course, very largely conditioned by the existence of the motor car. It was in the Bossom Lecture last summer that Miss Drew described what has been done in Philadelphia to replan the centre of that city in accordance with the new principles. I think that it is of sufficient interest for me to describe to your Lordships what the centre of the new city is like.
What is the balanced transport system Philadelphia has adopted? … It consists of good car-parking over stations, Jinking all internal stations within the city centre by transit buses and electric trolleys and arranging transfer tickets so that one ticket takes a passenger from his station to his destination … arranging extensive garage accommodation round the city centre and the city centre itself becoming entirely pedestrian although certain roads are served by electric trolley buses. There is a special low level goods delivery system.
§ And the initial success has been such that, within a year. 36 per cent. of car commuters have changed over to the balanced public transport system.
§ When I ask the Government to give this matter consideration, I am sure that it will be necessary for them to alter the system of town planning powers. It will also be necessary for them to alter the present machinery. I find myself in disagreement with a proposal of the Civic Trust that a new Ministry should be set up, more or less a re-creation of the old Ministry of Town and Country Planning. I am quite sure that, if this planning is to be successful, it is necessary that the Ministers responsible for all the activities associated and connected with planning should continue to exercise their powers, but to do so in consultation with each other and in accordance with a plan agreed upon between them.
§ For example, the Minister of Housing and Local Government would, in any 1220 case, continue to be responsible for the general supervision of finance, which has a great deal to do with this, with the provision of houses, with the provision of water and with the development of sewage. No planning can be effective unless all those activities are in harmony with the plan. Secondly, the Minister of Transport would continue to be responsible for roads and railways. Obviously, it is essential that in considering the planned development around towns, all that should be done, and that not only access roads but arterial and trunk roads as well should be in the right place. And perhaps above all, if this planning is to be successful, the Board of Trade should be able to exercise influence upon the location of industry.
§ I apologise for speaking at such length. This is a vast subject. It is one upon which there is general agreement that it is a serious problem, and that it is going to become far more serious in the next twenty or thirty years. It is essential that something wise and farseeing should be done and it is important that it should be done soon. I believe that the Government have the intention of taking action in this matter, but I am sure it is desirable that we should all urge upon Her Majesty's Government to act soon, to act resolutely and to act wisely. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.30 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I am sure the House will be most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, for having brought before it this vital subject, and for having done so with that thoroughness, accuracy and skill which he is well known to possess. In one respect, I might accuse him of lack of thoroughness. He gave us a list of publications on this subject, all of which are admirable, but I am afraid he left out the most important of all; that is, a publication by the Labour Party on the subject of the future of our towns. In case the noble Lord has overlooked this, I recommend it to him for reading this week-end, because I am sure he will find it interesting and informative.
The noble Lord refers in his Motion to "the declared policy" of the Government. I listened with great expectancy for a statement of what is the 1221 declared policy of the Government; but I found very little. I realise that they have moved certain offices to S.E.1, and the noble Lord, with that optimism for which he is so well known, assumed that the old offices would be occupied by tailors; but I think they will be occupied by other people looking for offices, and the result is going to be much worse than when it started. But all that is by the way.
I entirely accept the criticism which the noble Lord has given us of the existing state of affairs. I think his diagnosis is accurate and by no means exaggerated. I do not think there will be any controversy at all. The noble Lord was quite right to say that there is general acceptance in every publication, including the one to which I have just referred, as to the evils that he has mentioned. But it is one thing to agree about the diagnosis; it is a much more difficult thing to find a cure, and especially an agreed cure. That is what I was waiting for. The noble Lord did make a few suggestions, and I will deal with them.
First of all, we have to appreciate that this is not entirely a British problem, but is one that exists all over the world. We find it in the Scandinavian countries, in France, Italy, the United States, Australia, and even in Japan—and Tokyo has now become the largest conurbation in the world. This problem is common to every industrialised country in the world. It is interesting to consider and have regard to this, and it would be a great mistake to imagine that there is something peculiar about our own system which brings about these evils.
What are the causes? The noble Lord has referred to some of them. Some, of course, are economic. The noble Lord mentioned the fact that certain areas in this country which formerly depended on one industry are no longer able to maintain themselves because of the decline in the particular industry and the fact that there has not been sufficient replacement. My own view (and I think perhaps the noble Lord did not quite give sufficient weight to this aspect) is that there axe important social causes for the decline of certain areas. Let me tell the noble Lord one of them: it is the influence of the wife. It is often the 1222 wife—indeed, am a well-conducted home it is the wife—who decides where a business is to be carried on and where she and her husband are going to live. I do not think we have paid sufficient attention to this psychology. If we are going to direct, or try to divert, industry to certain places, we must see that those places meet with the approval of the families of those who are going there.
I had a personal experience of this not long ago when I was professionally concerned with the development of a certain town and attracting an industry there. The key workers were invited to go to the town to see what they thought of it. They went, and they took along their wives. The workers themselves were quite content, but the wives decided that the shopping facilities were inadequate and that they would not go there. Their attitude is going to determine the policy of the particular firm that was interested in this town. It is an important factor in the social considerations which have influenced the depopulation of certain areas and our failure to re-populate.
I need hardly say that many of the towns in the North and in other parts which are suffering from a decline in population and in employment are drab, dreary and badly in need of revivi-cation. There are better cultural opportunities in the South. Families ask—not only wives, but husbands as well—what are the prospects for their children if they go up North. One must admit that little consideration has been given to the educational opportunities of young people in those areas to which we want to bring fresh life. Then the large areas of slums do not add to the interest or charm of the place. Generally speaking, there is little to induce the industrialist and those who are going to live and work in the area to go there. There is one other factor, and it is, I am afraid, even beyond the power of the noble Earl who is going to reply to deal with, and it is that the climatic conditions in the South are much better than those in the North. It is undoubtedly a factor that we have to counter, and we must counterbalance that by giving people compensating advantages in other places. These are some of the causes, though by no means all, of the difficulties from which we are suffering.
1223 What are the remedies? The noble Lord having given the evils, I think we ought to concentrate on what we have to do to remedy those evils. The first thing I would say is that there must be a fairly rigorous control over the distribution of new industry and commercial employment and the dispersal of excessive employment from our conurbations. Although London is the biggest of them, there are, I think, some six altogether in Great Britain. Indeed, as far as London is concerned, the noble Lord perhaps under-stated the problem, because it has been said that even to-day the size of the conurbation is about a hundred miles wide, although it is not completely filled in. But if we go on as we are, within the next twenty years there will be a solid mass of development a hundred miles wide around London, apart, of course, from the Green Belt. I was proposing to ask the noble Lord to-morrow about the Green Belt and whether it really is safe, in view of recent pronouncements, but I will restrain myself this afternoon and wait until to-morrow. Apart from the Green Belt—that is. what has been stated by a number of authorities on the subject—already there is a mass one hundred miles wide which is gradually being filled in. As I say, we must exercise far more rigorous control on the new development which is proposed in these conurbations
The noble Lord has referred to the use of the industrial development certificate, and I think his suggestion was that there should be a much greater number of refusals to grant these certificates. I think he referred to a case where a certificate had been refused, and the particular industry then said that if they could not get the certificate they would not go elsewhere. I think we must be courageous and be prepared for a certain amount of brinkmanship. It is by no means certain that statements of that kind should be taken at their face value; but even if it is so, we must be prepared to face up to the consequences of our action if our action is right. But I would suggest that we cannot merely take a negative view. We shall not achieve what we want merely by refusing permission. We must do far more than that. We have to advise industry and commerce 1224 where they can go, and the Board of Trade must come to the assistance of industry.
I imagine that in the particular case quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, it might have been possible to persuade the particular concern to go if the loss which they assumed would take place—if that loss had been established had been made good to them by way of a grant or a loan from the Board of Trade. I think we must be fully prepared, in order to enable us to carry out this policy of dispersal of industry, to make far greater use of our power to give grants or loans to industry than we have done in the past. I realise, of course, that we have a certain amount of power to give grants, but only in the case of industries going to scheduled development areas. I think we must be prepared to extend this to cases where we want industry who are prepared to go, and it is desirable that they should go, to areas which are not scheduled development areas.
Then here is the case of industries who are prepared to move out of conurbations. I have dealt so far with new industries, but there are industries which desire to move out of conurbations to another more suitable area. There again, we should be prepared to give them financial assistance, where necessary, to pay their removal expenses, and even to make grants and loans in proper cases. But there is, of course, in the case of industry, commercial buildings which are evacuated, and we must be quite sure that they are not being used again for the same purpose.
I was glad the noble Lord, Lord Molson, referred to this matter and explained that, in the case of the London County Council and Birmingham, a certain sum of money had been set aside to meet those particular contingencies. But, of course, we are not doing it on a big enough scale. I think we must be prepared to do it on a far larger scale than has been done up to now. For instance, the provision of £500,000—I think that was the figure the noble Lord mentioned in the case of the London County Council—is derisory. In comparison with the problem which confronts them, with the enormous cost of land and 1225 buildings in London, £500,000 will not go very far in carrying out this policy.
Local authorities and the Government must be prepared to face up to far greater expenditure if this policy of removal foam conurbations is to be effective. You will not get removal on a big enough scale unless you can provide adequate housing, at any rate for the key workers, the skilled staff and management. Up to now, this has been a serious deterrent fact. In some cases the nearest housing has been seven or eight miles away, and it is not an attractive proposition to ask people to uproot themselves in order to go and live in a town where they have to travel seven or eight miles every day to and from their work.
The noble Lord made one suggestion, and that is that there should be some kind of penalisation of industries and offices who operate in an area which is already congested. Various suggestions of this kind have been made. One is a levy of, say, £1 a year for every insured employee in certain parts of conurbations. The Economist recently made the suggestion of a levy of 2s. a week in areas like Greater London and the Midlands, which is they thought might produce £30 million a year and which might go some way towards the provision of compensation. I do not know how far the Government are prepared to implement these suggestions, tout it seems to me they are well worth consideration. It may be that the practical difficulties will be too great.
The noble Lord referred several times to the Third Schedule to the 1947 Act, and I think he was right in suggesting that that is one of the important causes for the proliferation of offices in the centres of towns. It is a fact that, by permitting the same cubic content as existed in a building which is being demolished, plus 10 per cent., you can get in, I think the noble Lord said, as much as 40 per cent. more workers. I would agree with him that probably the right answer is to enable people to rebuild on the existing floor space, and I would not deprive them in that case of the additional 10 per cent., because we have to recognise that to-day the standards, and certainly the standards we are proposing to impose on office managements, are going to be much higher than 1226 in the past and a 10 per cent. addition to existing floor space would not be extravagant.
But I think you will achieve your object if we dealt with it in terms of floor space rather than cubic content and I hope very much that the Government may be able to give us some encouragement. I was very interested to hear the Conservative doctrine on compensation; I think there is some hope for the noble Lord. We may induce him in time to go just a little further and accept some of the views we put forward from this part of the House. But at any rate I agree with him that we could achieve this purpose, the purpose of amending the Third Schedule, without anybody having complaint that his rights are being confiscated. Indeed, in the case of planning we are able to refuse planning permission without payment of compensation at all except in a very limited number of cases.
I have so far dealt with industry and commerce, but, as I said at the beginning of my remarks, that is not sufficient. We must do a great dead to revive our decaying towns. One of the things we should do is to require the local planning authority to review their town plans and to provide in those plans, as Mr. Duncan Sandys did in the case of London, for less industry and commerce in conurbations. That has certainly been dome in the case of London and I think all plans should be looked at again in the light of this new outlook. Of course, under the Town and Country Planning Act all local authorities were required to review their plans and submit the revised plans to the Minister every five years, but I doubt whether in fact that is being done at all on any considerable scale, and I think that the Minister of Housing and Local Government should speed up the review of plans along those lines.
There is a great need for the rebuilt towns to be well designed, good to live in, with adequate amenities, shops, places of entertainment, meeting places and open spaces; indeed, everything that makes for an agreeable life—and we have a very long way to go to achieve that—and short journeys to work and easy access to the countryside. This will involve, in some cases, the redevelopment of town centres and often of large parts of existing towns in order to remove drabness and decay. It is necessary in 1227 order to achieve this that the local planning authorities should be provided with a simplified procedure enabling them to designate areas for comprehensive planning. They can indeed designate areas to-day, but the procedure is exceedingly lengthy and cumbersome and there is a need in the case of towns of these particular types for a very much simplified procedure. And where an area has been designated for comprehensive planning no piecemeal development should be allowed in that area which might prejudice the comprehensive redevelopment of the area.
This will involve large-scale acquisitions of land; and I hope that it will not be contrary to Conservative doctrine that this large-scale acquisition of land should be permitted for the purpose of this comprehensive redevelopment. I am not suggesting that in all cases the local planning authority or the appropriate local authority will be able to carry out by itself the comprehensive redevelopment. I should be perfectly prepared for private enterprise to join in, in proper cases, but I think the Government might well consider an entirely new method of carrying out large-scale comprehensive redevelopment in these towns, and that is by the method which has been generally accepted, of setting up a development corporation to acquire the land and carry out the whole task in the way in which the New Towns have been built. I think that it would be found that in many cases that would be the most advantageous method of all. It would, I think, prevent the exceedingly high cost of land in some of the redevelopment areas where a number of well-known concerns have refused to go because of the very high rents.
Such an authority could adjust the rents and at the same time ensure that the profits in the redevelopment would be available for the local authority or, at any rate, for the community as a whole which has created these values. Perhaps I should say in connection with this redevelopment that this has already been carried out in many places on the Continent and I think if one wants to see what has been done by way of redevelopment of centres one need only look at places such as Hamburg and Rotterdam to see that this can be achieved, and achieved profitably.
1228 I think also that we need many more New Towns. The present Government have been very backward in contemplating New Towns and I could well understand it in the early days of them. I remember when I introduced the New Towns Bill in 1946. It was not opposed by the Conservative Party; it was just ridiculed. They thought, "Well, this chap is a little mad, let him have his Bill; nothing can come of it." But to-day—and I do not say this at all boastfully, although I have a natural sense of pride in the New Towns—they are recognised as a British achievement and that is how I should like it to be. All Parties have played their part in building up the success of the New Towns and they are undoubtedly to-day a success; there is no doubt about that. One has only to read the Annual Report of the New Towns to see that practically every one of them to-day is making a profit, is flourishing and is giving its people a happy life.
I cannot understand to-day the hesitation in going out for New Towns on a much larger scale than the two or three which the Government are very gingerly and tentatively looking at. I would hope, now that we have had the experience, that they would be rather larger than the existing ones. I think we originally limited ourselves to a population of about 60,000. In one or two cases the number has been increased, but I would say that to-day we might try out another type of New Town with a population of 150,000 or more; and if we could do that I think that would go a long way towards helping to deal with the congestion in our conurbations.
There was, and is, no reluctance on the part of industrialists and others to go and live in the New Towns that are now being created, and I am sure there will be no difficulty in the future in getting industrialists to move out of London, Birmingham and Manchester, and so on. But of course you have to ensure that the premises that they vacate are not being used again for similar purposes, otherwise your troubles merely start all over again.
Then we could do very much more by expansion of existing towns. I know that there is an Act which the present Government introduced for the purpose 1229 of enabling us to expand existing towns, and it is going along, but very slowly and with great difficulties. One of the main difficulties is that you have to persuade the existing town to bear the cost, to a large extent, of increasing its own size, and I would suggest to the Government that they might consider the desirability, even in the case of the expanding towns, particularly where you are expanding a town on a large scale, of using again the machinery of the development corporation. There have been a great many suggestions which are available to the noble Earl if he has the spare time to read them, and he will find a surprising amount of agreement among them and not necessarily entirely along Party lines.
For instance, the noble Lord, Lord Molson, referred to the Report of the Urban Development Committee of the Civic Trust, of which the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, was the Chairman. I found myself in surprising agreement with most of the recommendations. I do not flatter myself that the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, has recently become converted to my Party, not even since he left the Government Benches. It is that when you begin thinking about these problems there is a surprising amount of agreement as to what should be done—it would not surprise me if I found myself in some agreement with the pamphlet of the Conservative Party or that the Conservative Party found themselves in a great measure of agreement with the document which the noble Lord forgot to mention.
§ LORD SILKIN
Yes, I have, and I was very interested and found myself in a considerable measure of agreement with it—not with everything. This is an entirely new venture. That is the way we have to look at it, and we shall need hard and courageous and imaginative thinking and action, if we are to revive our country. We must not be afraid to accept methods which to some might be ideologically strange. And we shall have to spend a great deal of money. We cannot and must not try to rebuild Great Britain on the cheap. If we do, we shall merely get what we pay for 1230 and nothing else. I think this country is worth a great expenditure to bring it to life again, and it needs it.
I think also that what we have to do is to stir up the enthusiasm and imagination of our people. They must not come to regard this as something which a local authority or some remote development corporation does. You must bring in the public as a whole. When one goes to some of the new pioneer countries, whether it is on this side of the Iron Curtain or the other, one is amazed at the way in which the people themselves respond to what is taking place. It is because they have been brought into the thing, they know what is going on and they feel they are party to it. That is what we want to do. It is not a case of preparing remote plans and hanging them up in some room at the town hall which you can visit between four o'clock and five o'clock on some afternoons a week. (It must be something which the public themselves have an interest in; in which you hear what they have to say; you have exhibitions and so on, to make quite sure you have the public behind you. But if we do this, I am sure we shall get the full return for our efforts and see a Britain full of energy, determination and enthusiasm, and, above all, a happier and a healthier Britain.
§ 4.5 p.m.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, the Motion covers very wide ground, and it is already clear that in this debate we shall not be overlooking those human factors in this problem which are sometimes apt to be overlooked in matters of economic planning. It has sometimes been all too easy to think that if plant, factory or office is set up in some agreeable place and there are houses to live in workers can be brought there away from the places in which they have laid their roots. It may involve breaking up families temporarily or even permanently, grievous breaks in school life for the children, and sometimes loneliness, whether for those who move or for those who are left behind. It is with some of these human factors in mind that I wish to speak, especially about a particular area of the country, namely the North-East.
1231 I no longer five in the Nortlh-East, but I lived in County Dunham for a good many years, and no one can live there without coming to have a great love for its people and an awareness of the tragedy and the heroism which belong to their history. Only the other day a party of forty of my old friends from the Wear-side shipyards came to visit me to keep me in touch with the North-East, and just now there is great anxiety in County Durham about the industrial future. I believe your Lordships will feel it appropriate that mention of this should have its place within the present debate upon location of industry and population in the widest reference.
The North-East has for sixty years been cruelly at the mercy of cycles, boom in times of war and slump in times of peace. After the terrible years between the wars, the North-East found itself for a time in full work and apparent security. This lasted for some years after the last war. Shipbuilding was doing well. New trading estates like the Aycliffe, West Auckland and the Team Valley, were bringing a greater diversity of employment. There was a mood in the people and an impression about the North-East in the rest of the country very different from the days of distress. But partly through the decline of coal mining and partly through the signs of uncertainty about shipbuilding anxiety revived a few years ago. There has been anxiety even Where employment has been full.
Let me give one instance of that which bears upon population and location. There are a good many young married men in County Durham earning a good monthly salary as draughtsmen and technicians. They live in newly built houses which they are buying through a building society. They are heavily mortgaged and owe money on their furniture, and their total commitments may be £5 a week before they begin their weekly housekeeping. Such people are a great local asset to any community. But things have so worked out for them, owing to sudden economic changes in their own area, that they now find themselves often led to move South.
But it is, of course, the rise in unemployment that gives most concern in the North East. I was grieved that in 1232 the town of Bishop Auckland, where I used to live, the number of unemployed men and boys rose from 631 last year to 796 last month. Take Sunderland, a most significant town for all the problems that your Lordships are discussing this afternoon. In Sunderland in 1957 the unemployment figures were 2,500; in January, 1960, they rose to 6,075. In that year a strong plea was made for designating Sunderland as a development area. The plea was rejected, on the ground that new provision for employment was expected during the coming month. So indeed it happened, and in July, 1961, the Sunderland unemployment figures had fallen to 3,300. But since then they have risen again; and last month saw them at 5,960. It is good news for the North East that a few days ago the Government announced that the Sunderland area is now designated for assistance under the Local Employment Act. It has also made good news for Tyneside that a new contract for building two tankers, totalling 140,000 tons, is about to come there.
But, my Lords, these bits of good news do not remove anxiety. For there is also the news that Thorn-A.E.I. have decided to close the factory which has been producing fans in Sunderland, and has employed 700 men, and to move it to Kent. There is also the frequent drift from the North East which a recent correspondent in the Guardian has been discussing with a great deal of information. I notice that it is often said that the future in the North East depends largely upon the fortunes of shipbuilding in general, and that this is a world problem bound up with the world's demand for what the shipyards can produce. Yet in the North East there are other factors, potential factors for the life of a whole industrial community—not only its shipbuilding, but also its coalmining, its new trading estates and its potentiality for new work in industries, in roads and building. Just because Durham is so much a community which has achieved much and suffered much, its problem falls to be looked at comprehensively by the Government, so far as the Government can help, and by all who in one way or another can help.
One factor is publicity and the image of the North East which exists in the country. As the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has just said, there is reluctance 1233 among industrialists to choose to go and live in the North East because it is thought to be an unattractive country, cold, unhealthy and lacking in cultural amenities. In fact, it includes some of the loveliest countryside in the world; it has two fine universities, and though the climate is cold it remains healthy and has helped to produce a sturdy people such as my noble friend Lord Lawson has known throughout his whole long life there.
Lately, the North East has been doing its utmost to make known its own possibilities. For instance, in Sunderland there is a most capable industrial development officer who spares no pains to create sites for industry and to use publicity about them far and wide; and there are in the town a good many areas of factory premises available for new heavy industry. Unfortunately, a rather unfair image of the North East gets fixed in the public mind. It is regarded as a land of industrial disputes, and not sufficiently as the land which led the way to many great developments; the first railway, the first turbine and the first miner's lamp. I think it is a pity that sometimes, when there are local strikes in shipbuilding—strikes inconsiderable in extent and soon settled—they are given a rather exaggerated publicity in the Press, spreading through the world an unnecessarily gloomy picture; and sometimes, indeed, omitting to record the early settlement of the strike. In this matter of publicity the North East does its best, and badly needs help from the rest of the country. I would ask: are there any ways in which Her Majesty's Government might help it?
Yet the great need, of course, is not just for publicity but is also for industry and work. I have mentioned the trading estates. These have come to the North in encouraging numbers since the war, and factories built on them have helped to diversify the local industrial pattern. The snag is that when a trade recession occurs it is the parent factory in the South that stays open, and the branch factory in the North that is liable to be closed. This snag can be overcome only if, along with the branch factories in the North, there are also development and research departments established with them at the same time. So I ask: can the Government do more than it has up to now been doing to encourage industry 1234 to the North East—for instance, by such means as the placing of contracts for Government purchases, the building of roads, the reconstruction of schools, and by its own help with the cause of publicity?
It may be that only a more comprehensive policy shared by Government, by industry and the country, may avert the decline of the North East and the tragedy that that might mean. Concern about employment is common to the whole nation, and so are the economic problems to be solved. Yet I need not, and I do not, apologise for speaking of a part of the country which was a pioneer in our industrial development, which is a closely knit community with a character of its own and great space that still might be used to play its part in the total economy and the total cultural life of our country. So far as action by a Government goes, piecemeal methods may not avail to avert tragedy; and so far as action by industry is concerned, there needs to be a well-informed vision of the use which might be made of the North East and its splendid people. I am sure that in this field other noble Lords will speak from knowledge and from the heart, as I have done, about other parts of the United Kingdom, and that they will show that, however important London and the South East undoubtedly are, it is only by taking the widest view, and by providing elsewhere the facilities enjoyed by favoured regions, that the best use can be made of resources and the best chances given to the people as a whole.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ LORD ECCLES
My Lords, in rising for the first time to address your Lordships, I ask for the customary kindness of this House. I am all the more conscious that J need it having, in the short time I have been a Member of your Lordships' House, come to appreciate the level of the debates. Many years ago, after making a maiden speech in another place, I received a piece of shrewd advice from that lovable and great Parliamentarian, Mr. James Maxton. Mr. Maxton seized me in the Lobby and said, "Young man, dinna put too much meat in your pie!" My Lords, that is a very good piece of advice, and on a topic so large and engrossing as that which has been opened this afternoon by the noble 1235 Lord, Lord Molson, with his great plea for more thought and more resources to be put into a good policy for the development of employment, I see every chance of putting too much meat in my pie.
I could not help remembering, as my noble friend was speaking, how comparatively modern is the doctrine that work should be brought to the worker, rather than the worker move to his work. It is not long ago that it was taken for granted that the ambitious and the unemployed would leave home in search of a better job. And even to-day the Scots still come down from the North to remove the jam from our English bread; not that I think this is anything to be sorry about because these able emigrants do much good to the countries they invade.
But now my noble friend, Lord Polwarth, and his friends are asking Parliament to reverse the marching habits of centuries. In terms of the ingrained character of his countrymen, they set us a very hard task. The Welsh, too, have rendered great services outside the Principality. To-morrow morning many children in the Midlands would have to go to school in shifts were it not for the thousands of fine Welsh teachers in the service of the English local authorities. Indeed, my Lords, if past Governments had always been active with money or with threats in encouraging everybody to stay where they were born there would have been no Industrial Revolution and no British Empire. The lesson, I take it, from that is that even in our day it is still often the brave, sensible, public-spirited thing to do to leave home in search of a job. Therefore, in this great matter of better distribution of the population we ought to have a double policy: one which offers help to industry to move where labour is available, and the other which offers help to families to move where work is available.
Such a policy could be effective only if full account were taken of the peculiar affection of the British people for their own homes, with their possessions around them, and perhaps a bit of a garden or an allotment. This is something which, with great respect to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is much more strongly felt in our country than in foreign parts, where, I suppose, the sun shines more often and 1236 people are more ready to spend money on food rather than on the comforts of a well-kept house.
On the other hand, I do not believe that the British love of their home means that they always want to live in the same building or in the same district. There is plenty of evidence to the contrary. What every woman does want is to have a really good place to live somewhere near where her man's work is, wherever that may be. Thus the provision of adequate housing is an integral part of any effective policy for the better distribution of the population, and I know that my right honourable friend, the energetic Minister of Housing and Local Government fully appreciates this fact. Important as it would be to discuss how to help families to move to their work—retraining schemes, grants towards the cost of moving, and housing where housing is needed—this does not seem to be the occasion. I would instead submit to your Lordships a few observations on the wisdom and the art of persuading industry to go where, if lift to its own judgment, industry would not choose to go.
In a country as dependent as we are upon exports and as vulnerable as we are to any comparative rise in manufacturing costs, one ought always to think twice before pushing a firm to go where it does not want to go. Of course, the move can be engineered by subsidies. But that means more taxation, an added burden upon industry, and as often as not taxing one firm to help its rival in the same business. Alternatively, it can be done by compulsion. However, that means preferring Whitehall's judgment to that of the firm as to where the new factory should go, and I would not handicap industry very often in that manner.
Here I think the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, would be with me, because last Thursday in the debate about water he told us [OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 244 (No. 12) col. 1006.]:At a time when we want industry encouraged, and when we are talking so much about the need for a prosperous export trade we do not want to put an unfair burden on industry itself.My Lords, I am not yet accustomed to hearing such admirable reflections coming from the Front Opposition 1237 Bench. Anyway, whether we use the carrot of subsidies or the stick of Industrial Development Certificates we ought in every case to make as certain as we can that the (result will be a net gain to the British economy.
This is by no means simple. Those of your Lordships who have had the handling of these matters will know how difficult it is to construct a balance sheet in Which economic factors have to be weighed against social factors. It is not comparing like with like. If, for example, a firm in a congested area expands, the congestion in that district must get worse; the whole district suffers. If the firm moves away, its capacity to compete either in home or foreign markets is weakened; it is then the firm which suffers. We do not yet possess the techniques (by which to compare one such loss with another. Nevertheless a more vigorous and comprehensive attempt ought to be made to assess all the direct and indirect consequences of applying particular remedies to particular cases of local unemployment.
I was glad to see that the Government have appointed representatives from some nine Departments to look into all these matters and to give them fresh advice. I am sure that that will be very interesting when it comes. But having myself had some experience of this through a number of practical cases my view would be that, unless the economic arguments for inducing a firm to move are something more than evenly balanced—indeed, unless they are thoroughly sound in themselves—then the social benefits which it is desired to secure in the receiving area are almost always unattainable.
My Lords, we are often told that social capital which has once been created in a particular area is itself a justification for bribing or compelling industry to go into that area. I do not think much of that argument: it is really to put the cart before the horse. Social capital does not generate employment: it is the other way round. Employment has to come first. That is a fact, my Lords, which is always brought home to me in East Anglia, when I wonder at the number and size of the (beautiful churches and I am told that they were built when the wool trade was flourishing. Yes, my Lords, when the sheep went the pews soon began to 1238 empty. To make that point, which is one of the rules of political economy that we cannot escape, I call in aid Sir Winston Churchill. During the war he told us that our domestic aims should be Food, Work and Homes, in that order; and he was very particular about the order. There is logic in it, my Lords, for if you cannot eat you cannot work, and if you cannot work you cannot maintain a good home or any other kind of social capital. These are priorities of life, and we shall come to grief unless we stick very close to them in shaping our response to technical change in the field of employment.
What then should be the long-term policy? My Lords, I have a confession to make. I have changed my mind since I had in the Board of Trade to do with the Local Employment Bill: I used then to think that we should develop a kind of rescue service which would deal with all the persistent patches of local unemployment, large or small, wherever they occurred. I now see that the time has passed for encouraging minor developments which put a district more or less at the mercy of one method of production, or of the demand for one kind of goods. Technical change has become too rapid and too rough for us to take risks of that kind with small communities. We need something more radical and something more longsighted.
I should like the Government, first of all, to decide how much capital investment they are prepared to allocate over the next few years for the purpose of simultaneous development in a few areas selected for economic expansion. If they could put aside, out of the whole of the public investment programme, let us say, £200 million a year for ten years, we could break the back of this problem once and for all. Having fixed such a sum, I think it should be remitted to a body of experts, presumably to N.E.D.C.—because, obviously, the use of all our idle resources is part and parcel of their campaign to raise the rate of national growth—and these experts should then advise Ministers on which areas offered greatest promise of permanent growth and expansion. I should think it very likely that within that investment total, even the sort of figures I mentioned, the experts would say that not more than three, four or 1239 at the most five areas could be satisfactorily developed all at the same time. I would say, also, that with the possible exception of Plymouth they all ought to be in the North.
When such an area had been designated it would take some time before steady expansion could be assured, and there is much to be done straight away. The public authorities, the local inhabitants and the incoming employers ought to combine together to prime the pump. I should like to say just a word about each.
The first and obvious duty of the public authorities is to provide in advance the basic services which industry will require—power, transport, water, housing, education and so on. I would put forward a very special plea for the clearance of derelict sites and of those other evidences of decay which I know from experience at the Board of Trade, so discourage a firm from going in for the first time to one of the old industrial areas. Your Lordships may think that this kind of comprehensive or basic investment has lagged since the war precisely in those areas about which we are most concerned on account of the unemployment rates to-day. If this is so, the chief reason is that the strong movement of population South-East-wards forced us to build more houses, more schools, shopping centres and so on, where the pressure of the numbers was greatest. If there were children who would have had no school to go to in Essex, and there were enough school places on the North-East coast for the children there, any Government was bound to build the new schools in Essex first. But having built so much in the last ten years of both schools and houses in the South, it is now possible, in my judgment, to reverse the disparity. That change of policy, my Lords, is absolutely essential if we wish to deal with the worst problems of local unemployment. If we do wish that, we must discriminate now in favour of the North.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has just discriminated in the matter of the purchase tax in favour of the motor car industry, and I think he is very right to have abandoned fair shares for all—not a doctrine for a strong nation. Now we need discrimination in favour of the North, in respect of the basic services 1240 required in those areas where it is both possible and desirable that the rate of expansion should be higher than the national average. If the inhabitants of the selected areas could see the public authorities tidying up and developing their neighbourhood, they might be willing to make a contribution in the field of wages and salaries.
I have in mind that any employer calculating the costs of production in a new and unfamiliar area always finds that some of them are higher than he was used to and that some are quite outside his control. His raw material may cost him more in Belfast than in Birmingham. In a new area he is sure to find it difficult, and probably expensive, to keep his eye on his sub-contractors. The cost of transport of his goods to their main market may well be his most important consideration, and so he does not want to leave London. If he is an exporter, access to a suitable port could make just the difference between winning and losing foreign orders. My Lords, if we were to build a Channel tunnel the attractions of the South-East would be very, very seriously increased. If we were considering a project of that kind, from the point of view of the good distribution of the work and homes of our people, we should spend all those millions on improving the sea routes between our East Coast ports and those of Holland, Belgium and Germany.
Be that as it may, if I may return to my employer who has been forced or persuaded to move, he finds some extra costs, and the obvious way to adjust those extra costs is through wages and salaries. This is nothing new between two separate countries. Wages and salaries have always been the balancing factor between the industries of two countries. We should export nothing if our wages were as high as American wages, and if our wages were as low as Indian wages we should capture every market in the world. But, my Lords, the difficulty is this: this balancing factor cannot easily operate inside a country where national wage agreements prescribe that a man be paid the same rate for the same job wherever his place of work is. This, of course, has been the difficulty with Northern Ireland all along. Fortunately, there are exceptions to this rule.
1241 The motor-car industry was persuaded to move only because at Mersey-side the rates were to be the local rates and not the Midland rates. This example is one which we must follow, because it is essential to the stability of any new area. I believe that many men and their wives, if it were put to them that it was necessary, in order that the prospects in their area should be really good, and continue to be good, might take something a little less in pay than the Midland or the London rates. They would see that it was worth while.
But if we did ask that of labour, what do we ask of the employers?—and here I agree very much with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. His experience is the same as mine; that is to say, that the personal preferences of managers and their wives can often defeat a decision to move which, on all other grounds, has been accepted as sound and sensible. My Lords, I do not see anything unnatural or wrong in such preferences. We should all prefer to live in a district where we have friends, or where we had confidence that we could make new friends. We should probably like a district where there was plenty going on at the weekends; where there were schools of the kind to which we should like our children to go, and where (and this is something I find very much in the minds of the medium-sized firms) we should not feel out of sight of those on whom our promotion depended. I noticed, too, that when the whole firm moved, top management and all, these personal preferences were very much easier to settle. But, of course, we have to face it: management will not get all that it wants when it goes into one of these new areas. I hope very much that the directors and their staff would have these difficulties out in the open and would be prepared to make certain sacrifices in amenities to match what I am sure are necessary financial sacrifices in the field of wages and salaries. If they were both to do that, if they were to make contributions of that kind, then I think it would be only a short time before both would be enjoying a level of prosperity equal to any in the country.
My Lords, I see that I have put too much meat in my pie, and I will sum up as quickly as I can. What I am 1242 asking of the Government is that they should adopt a courageous, long-term policy by developing only a few large areas of diversified employment, and that they should make a massive and concentrated drive on the basic services in those areas; and that at the same time they should give generous help to families to move away from areas of local unemployment which are either too small or to remote to become new centres of economic growth. Let us agree, my Lords, that in our day and age no country can respond with vigour and success to the inventions of science and yet freeze the pattern of its population as it was at some arbitary moment in its history. Let us therefore welcome technical change and make the best of it, marrying our robust old tradition of moving to get a better job with a modern policy of developing large new areas of growth—not forgeting that in our British Mes good housing must underpin expansion wherever it is planned to take place. This will require considerable fresh thinking and much bold discrimination in investment, and I have the fullest confidence that my right honourable friends are capable of both.
§ 4.46 p.m.
My Lords, it falls to me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Ecoles, on his maiden speech. I cannot believe that it happens very often in your Lordships' House that one makes a maiden speech one day and then, virtually the day after, congratulates another noble Lord on his. That, I should say, was rare enough; but when the maiden speech that one is congratulating is that of so distinguished a person as the noble Lord, then I think it is doubly remarkable. I cannot help feeling that he has not followed the precept that was given him in another place, because the pie seemed to me very full of meat, and not only very full of meat but of very juicy meat, too, if I may say so.
My Lords, as I cultivated the geraniums in my windowbox—I think the noble Lord will know what I am referring to—I wondered in what way I should best congratulate him. I felt that it could not be because of his eloquence; that would be an impertinence. I could not very well congratulate him, either, on his knowledge of the subject, because your 1243 Lordships all know that his knowledge of the subject is as great as anyone's in your Lordships' House. So, as I was cultivating those geraniums, I felt that the only thing I could very well congratulate him on, in the circumstances, was his knowledge of agriculture; and as that is an office he has not yet held, I can only hope he is going to start a new career in your Lordships' House and hold the presidency, shall we say, of the Geranium Board.
Although I consider myself almost an old hand, as it were, in your Lordships' House in relation to the noble Lord, Lord Ecoles (I even saw him introduced and take his seat), I feel, nevertheless, that I must apologise to your Lordships for speaking yet again, as I said before, so soon after making my maiden speech the sitting day before yesterday. In mitigation of my offence I would say this: that I had originally intended to speak on this subject, which is one in which I am particularly interested and to which, as a chartered surveyor with a certain knowledge of land use, I felt I might be able to make some contribution, and then the Water Resources Bill came upon us rather unexpectedly. Now it so happens that the location of noble Lords in my development district, as it were, is such that noble Lords are very few on the ground, and it fell to me at rather short notice to have to make a maiden speech on the Water Resources Bill and not to speak to-day, as I wanted to, about this extremely interesting subject—a subject which I think is probably the most important domestic issue of our time.
We have had a picture drawn by other speakers, which is a picture that has been growing for a very large number of years. Reports have been coming out for 25 years. Two noble Lords, one on either side of the House, reviewed the various papers, pamphlets articles and so on which have been written about it. Indeed, a broad picture is emerging, but I cannot help feeling that statistically we are still very much in the dark in many respects. I do not know whether something in the nature of Resources Boards might not be a help in this respect—something rather on the lines of what your Lordships were discussing last week in connection with the Water Resources Bill—as statistics seem to be the essence of the 1244 whole of this matter. There could be something on the lines of the development councils, which virtually only the North East has had up to now. The noble Lord, Lord Eccles, made a plea for an amount of money for this, but we simply do not know what the cost, socially and economically, is likely to be. There are certain matters in which change is desirable, yet for which the cost would be out of proportion. For example, changing our driving from left-hand to right-hand on the roads might be desirable, but the cost of doing so would be literally out of proportion to the benefits.
But this, clearly, is not the case here. Whatever the cost from the social or economic point of view, whatever the private gain or loss, or whatever private fortunes are engendered by Government action in this respect, all these things must fall down before the vital overriding need of doing something now. The awkward position is that we are getting into chaos in the South, and the North is drifting towards stagnation. We must have a long-term flexible plan. Here I possibly take issue with the noble Lord who has just spoken. We must do more than have a purely negative outlook. I am not saying that what was said was negative—it was far from it—but what I feel very strongly is that we must stop any kind of improvision and exploitation. We must get down to something long-term and yet flexible, definite objectives. Tinkering is no good—perhaps "tinkering" is the wrong word, because many of the things suggested are of immense value. But I feel that just new towns are not enough. There are many other things with it—rate deficiency grants, loans for factory building, and pre-war extra payment grants to teachers and doctors.
Even all these things are subsidiary to the main issue. It seems to me we need to get a completely new concept— not so much new towns but new urban complexes, or groups of towns. It seems to me that as high development areas are the areas which are necessary to supply all the amenities, cultural, commercial and industrial, then we should try to develop the growth of these regions on the basis of this new urban complex, a series of linked cities and urban groups interdependent and not 1245 mutually self-sufficient though sufficient in size to be culturally and industrially viable—a modern city complex of linked towns and communities distinctive in character and life and sharing in organisation, as Greater London once was and might well still be now if we had been alive to this problem and got out some central planning earlier.
I am not sure how this can be done. We have to get the population moving back to the dwindling areas and prevent the South becoming chaotic. Can we not do it by making new magnet areas, a popular new phrase, which seems to me probably quite a good idea? One area that immediately comes to my mind's eye is something like, not the North East, but the North West. Suppose you took the area in which I live. Suppose you took Carlisle and, say, one of the towns of industrial West Cumberland, say, Workington, and one in South Scotland, like Dumfries. Suppose you group them together in an entirely new idea—not just one new town which has everything and is self-sufficient but a group of towns, mutually interdependent. They would not all have universities, theatres, orchestras, and so on, but each would supply something towards making that pattern of urban complex, making them viable commercially and artistically and from the amenities angle.
Suppose you take half a dozen or a dozen similar areas—for example, Plymouth as one (which one noble Lord mentioned) and Carlisle, as another. There are certain others. They would have to be in the North, because the North is the area we have to try to get people into to relieve pressure in the South. If we did this we should be able to keep the National Parks sacrosanct. We could probably have ten or twelve of them as well. In agricultural areas we should cut out the sub-topia which is strangling them. We might have to adapt a policy of high cost building in favour of land saving. Urban areas, it seems to me, could still fit into these four central types of area—a certain number of smaller towns and a certain amount of agriculture.
All this needs a degree of co-ordination of transport, roads, railways, development councils and all the rest of it, which is so great that you must have some kind of central planning authority. 1246 I feel that by no other means can you inject new life life this reorientation of the population and industry. I do not see why one should not have resources boards co-ordinating the resources of land, communications and anything you like. There is no reason why one should not expand the ideas of Professor Dudley Stamp's survey of land utilisation. Butt some sort of central authority must come over these resources boards. I think that they might co-ordinate and assess land use and development, try to keep these different types of areas distinct, try to avoid what was called "outrage" in the admirable pamphlet which I think Lord Molson mentioned earlier on (this was an architectural journal's review of this situation), and try to make proper use of water gathering areas, mineral extraction, et cetera. I think it must have a positive, not a negative duty. It must have a duty and it must have overriding power to do this before it is not too late, because we are getting into a state of absolute chaos in the South and East, and in the North we are beginning to feel we are in danger of stagnation.
§ 4.58 p.m.
§ LORD WALSTON
My Lords, it is undoubtedly a pleasure for me to be able from these Benches to be the first to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, on his maiden speech. As your Lordships did, I listened to it with pleasure, with interest, and with profit: but also, I must confess, with a cortain amount of puzzlement. When he started I thought: Here is the arch-type of Conservative intellectual at its best, standing up for private enterprise; "Down with the men in Whitehall" and all the rest of it. When he finished, while rejoicing that he had joined your Lordships' House, I was sad about his great and imaginative plan for the development of (these unfortunate areas—his words were, I think, "more radical and more long-sighted"—at a cost of £200 million a year for ten years. Well, if the Man, in Whitehall does not know best, surely he has no right to dispense £200 million a year. So I am a little puzzled. For all that, I am full of gratitude, as other noble Lords are, and we look forward with great pleasure to many more contributions on the many subjects on which the noble Lord knows so much.
1247 We are also grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Molson, for introducing this highly important subject, a subject which I must say is to me essentiality a political one rather than a technical one. I hope that your Lordships will not accuse me of being unduly partisan in this matter, but it puzzles me when so many noble Lords on the opposite Benches are so highly critical, rightly in my view, of the state of affairs obtaining to-day in many parts of this country, are so rightly concerned about them and have so many concrete and sound ideas about what should toe done, tout still seem to support the policies, or at any rate the people who have been responsible for the policies, which have landed us precisely in the state of affairs which we have to-day.
I do not think that we should mince words or deceive ourselves in this. What is happening in the location of industry in (as the noble Lord, Lord Henley, said) the chaos in the South and stagnation in the North is something which is due, not solely but to a very large extent, to the inaction rather than action of the present Government. Just let us look at one or two things which have been happening since 1945. Then we had to take a decision on whether the economic future of this country should be determined in the main by the free play of economic forces or by a definite long-term plan as recommended by the famous Barlow Report and as endorsed by many people of political and of non-political views.
In 1945, the Labour Government of that time very firmly took the view that it was not possible to leave the development of this country to economic forces and that the Man in Whitehall, Minister or civil servant, did not necessarily know all that was to be done although he had an important part to play, because it was not only the economic future of the country that was at stake but also what one can roughly group under the term of "amenities"—the way of life, the happiness of life, the whole future orientation and distribution of people. Many things were done in that period and I shall not weary your Lordships with a recital of them, but I think that it is worth remembering that during the five years of the Labour Government—my noble friend Lord Silkin was too modest to refer to this in detail—twelve 1248 New Towns were started. In the subsequent (c) leven years, only two New Towns have been started. One might say that one does not like New Towns and does not want any more. That is all right. But if you are not satisfied with the existing conurbations and urban developments, you cannot say that something must be done about it and at the same time say that you do not want any more New Towns. If we think that New Towns is one of the ways of tackling this problem, surely the blame must lie on the Government, which in eleven years of office have created only two New Towns, when the previous Government, in only five years of office, created twelve. That is the type of thing we must remember in dealing with this problem.
Let us look also at what has been happening in the creation of new factories and new factory space. If we divide the country into two groups, the first comprising the North, the East and West Ridings, the North-West, Wales and Scotland, which in 1954 had 43 per cent. of the entire population, we find that from 1945 to 1952, a period roughly synonymous with that of the Labour Government, the proportion of industrial buildings completed in that area was 59.5 per cent., a figure somewhat in excess of its share of the population, whereas in the area of London, the South and South-East there was only 40.5 per cent. of new buildings. In the period of the Conservative Government from 1953 to 1958, that picture is reversed. The figure for the Northern group has fallen from 59.5 to 47.5 per cent. and that for the other group, the very group we are worrying about to-day, has risen from 40.5 to 52.5 per cent. If we look at industrial development certificates issued, which is partly the same thing, we see that between 1945 and 1952, 156 million cubic feet of factory space was erected in the Northern group compared with 140 million cubic feet in the London and Southern area, but when we come to the period of the Government of which the noble Earl is such a distinguished member, the figures are entirely different. In the Northern area, they dropped right back to 138 million cubic feet compared with 238 million cubic feet in the Southern area.
So the present state of affairs is not something which has just arisen by bad 1249 luck. It is something which must have followed inevitably, as anyone could have foreseen, from the actual policy and actions of the present Government. I would give only one more point on this matter of Government responsibility and quote a short sentence from a book by a distinguished town planner, Mr. McCullough, entitled Land Use in an Urban Environment. On page 22 he states:Probably the most disastrous political achievement of our time has been the re-entry of anarchy into land sales.I think that that should be sufficient evidence to show that this matter cannot be treated purely in an academic manner, as an interesting exercise of high intellectuality, but as an actual political argument between two groups of people who have different ideas about what should be done. I also suggest to your Lordships that the experience of fifteen years, during which time we have had five years of one policy and eleven years of another, shows conclusively that the policy pursued during the last eleven years has been entirely wrong and one which is blatantly and patently responsible for the state we are in to-day.
My only consolation in this is that there are signs that the Government are seeing a little bit of light. In the last two or three years they have slightly modified their views, and I hope that this debate will enable the noble Earl to tell us that he himself is convinced and will shortly convince his colleagues, with his well-known powers of persuasion, that there should be a drastic rethinking of the entire policy governing this problem. We have heard (and I am glad that we have heard from so many speakers who have so far taken part in the debate) that this is not simply a matter of jobs. Jobs, of course, are important. But the most reverend Primate and my noble friend Lord Silkin also very properly pointed out that it was the type of life which people in these areas are enabled to live that must also be borne in mind. There is, as my noble friend Lord Silkin said, the question of climate. Even the present Government cannot deal with that, and we do not expect them to. But there are many other things, some of them higher in degree of importance than others.
There are, for instance, the cultural requirements of people. There is un- 1250 doubtedly a draw towards the South, because there are better theatres, better music (with the noble exception of the Halle Orchestra in Manchester), better art galleries and things of that kind which attract people to an increasing extent to come in search of them and to live in an area where they are available. I believe that if we are going to have any form of comprehensive plan for the location of industry we must not forget matters of this sort.
There is, as many noble Lords have said, including the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, the matter of education. We have up till now—probably quite rightly—concentrated to a greater extent on those areas where the population is thickest in improving the schools. But that has meant that the unfortunate areas have been neglected. If we are to encourage people to go to these areas, to get people to remain there and even to return there, we must offer them, not inferior chances for their children to have a good education, but even better chances than they have in the South. That would be one incentive which would go a certain way towards outweighing the disincentive of climate and other things of that kind.
There is not only the matter of schools, but also colleges of advanced technology and the universities. There one finds something that is rather disturbing. We find that, before new universities came into our ambit and we existed with the older ones, in the area North of the Trent, with approximately 50 per cent. of the population of the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland—about 24 million plus—there were 51,000 university places; and in the area South of the Trent, with slightly over 50 per cent. of the population—about 26 million—there were 57,000 university places: far too few university places in both cases, but at least the proportion was about equal, and somebody living in the North was not at a disadvantage; there were not far fewer university places for him than if he were living An the South.
But the new university programme, admirable so far as it goes, is disturbing in this respect, in that in the South there are planned or already in existence five universities—the universities of Sussex, East Anglia, Kent, Essex and Warwick—whereas in the North there are only two, York and Lancaster, and 1251 those are in their actual stage of development behind those of (the South. Surely any young parents thinking of a job, thinking of moving South and having a child whom they hope will eventually achieve a university would quite sensibly look around to see where the mew universities were feeing developed and where there were most university places, and say: "There are more in the South. Let us go South. If we stay in this backwater there will be nowhere for our child to get the education that we wish him to have".
I should like to move from universities to another point raised by the most reverend Primate—namely, shipbuilding in the North. This is not something on which I wish to speak at great length, but to a certain extent it follows on from this question of education and particularly university education. Many of your Lordships will have seen a letter in The Times to-day by Lord Aberconway and many of his distinguished colleagues making a plea for more shipbuilding. I certainly do not wish to enter into a long discussion as to why our shipbuilding is so depressed at the present time. I would fully endorse those who say that we ought at the moment to be building more ships, not only because of the unemployment in the North but also because of our need as a maritime Power to have a prosperous building industry and a prosperous shipping industry. There are many reasons why it is in this state to-day, and it is partly the direct fault of the Government.
At the time, not many years ago, when the shipyards of the world were busy building ships, because of the credit squeeze and the inability of the shipbuilders in this country to offer favourable terms to builders of ships, both British and foreign, orders were placed in foreign shipyards where the credit terms were easier. So far as that affects unemployment in the North and the drift of industry from the North, the Government are directly responsible. The Unions, too, have some responsibility, because demarcation disputes and things of that kind cannot be dismissed lightly. The industry itself, the shipbuilders themselves, must also bear a very direct responsibility.
There are signs to-day that they are beginning to become somewhat more 1252 modern. But I think it is significant that if we look at page 40 of the Government publication Scientific and Engineering Manpower in Great Britain 1959 we see that, among the estimated number of scientists employed in 1962 in the shipbuilding industry, there are only 7 chemists, 13 metallurgists (and I understand that metal is a fairly important component of shipbuilding), 18 physicists, 11 mathematicians and 5 chemical engineers. That is a lamentably small number of qualified scientists for what should be one of our greatest industries. Another significant figure is that the total qualified manpower—and the great bulk of this is made up by the mechanical and other engineers, very few of whom, in fact, have university degrees—has doubled from the figure for 1956 to the estimated number for 1962. I am not passing judgment at this stage as to whether there are too few now, but I am certain there are not too many at the present time; and if that be so, it means that only six years ago there were half as many as there should have been. That is a serious reflection on one of the major industries of this country, and even more so when it is one of the greatest industries of this particular area which is suffering so much.
However, slowly we are beginning to wake up to what is happening. Even to-day in the Daily Express there is an interesting and important article by George Gale entitled "The line that divides Britain". He writes:One nation. Once it was the Tories' cry. 'You have never had it so good,' said Mr. Macmillan. Now, again, there is talk of two nations. The haves and the have nots, the privileged and the underprivileged, the rich and the poor, the South and the North.People are waking up to that. I am afraid they will become increasingly aware of it as the rising tide of unemployment impinges more and more on the conscience, not only of those who are suffering directly but of those who are still enjoying the benefit of an affluent society. One of the things we must bear in mind is that although the differentiation between North and South is moving slowly, it is gathering pace. The migration which has been taking place was slow to start, but it is rising fast; and it will be very slow indeed to stop. It will not be reversed in a matter of a year or so by a sudden minor switch in Government policy.
1253 What makes this migration all the more difficult to control is the fact that it is a selective migration. It is not as if an exact proportion of every age group and every type of person moved from the North to the South. The people who are moving are the young people, the young married couples, the young craftsmen; those who wish to get married and who think they can earn more for their married life down South. Those are not only the people who are needed up North, but they are the parents of the coming generation. We shall find in the next ten or fifteen years that not only have we more people in the South than in the North, but that we have a higher birthrate in the South than in the North. It is going to be even harder than it is to-day to get the young people, whose parents came from the North but who themselves have been born and brought up in the South, to return to those areas. So we have very little time left in which to undo the immeasurable harm that has been done in the past eleven years.
As many noble Lords have said, this is a matter which cannot be dealt with piecemeal. It is absolutely useless to think that this type of trouble can be cured in the way referred to in The Times this morning, which said of a £1 million road scheme for the North East:To relieve local unemployment and encourage industrial development, authority has now been given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for new road schemes in the North East costing £1 million.That is ludicrous. It is an insult to the problem to think that it can be cured by something of this sort: by doling out £1 million there, £500,000 there; building a school somewhere and enlarging a bridge somewhere else. It cannot be dealt with in this way. The curse of this problem hitherto, in so far as it has been dealt with at all, is that it has been dealt with in this manner. It must be dealt with on a comprehensive basis by all the Government Departments concerned.
I do not know whether I would go all the way with the noble Lord, Lord Henley, in his proposal for a National Development Corporation. I myself am chary of such things, because it is so often a way of shifting responsibility from the shoulders on which they should 1254 rest—in other words, the Government. Whenever the Government set up a Committee or Corporation, they so often think they have solved the problem. It must be the responsibility of the Government, through those very Ministers who are charged with the various functions which are affected by this whole development scheme. It is not enough to leave it to the Board of Trade. It is not enough to leave it to the Ministry of Labour, if it is a question of unemployment. You must bring in the Ministry of Transport. Are you going to close down the railways? Are you going to build new roads? There is no point in saying that that is to be done, unless you have a comprehensive plan, knowing what type of transport will be needed in that area.
You must bring in the Ministry of Education. If you are going to have people there, you must plan for your schoolbuilding programme. You must bring in the Ministry for Science and those concerned with advanced technology. You must bring in the Ministry of Agriculture to say how much land should be sacrificed and how much should be retained. You must have centres for training redundant workers, not necessarily (and I think what the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, said was quite true) moving them from one area, one town to another, because it may be important at times to re-train them for the jobs in the area where they already have their homes, environment, friends and relations.
You must also bring in the Treasury, because, in addition to any form of licensing restriction and the rest of it which may be necessary—and I believe that in certain cases it is—you need incentives; and you cannot have incentives without the Treasury. I would suggest, (briefly, two possible forms of incentives. One would be to have a differential form of depreciation and investment allowance. It is weld known that if we want to encourage investment in this country, the investment allowance can be increased, as the Government have recently done. Why stolid they not say: "Because we wish to encourage industry on the Tyne, on Merseyside, in Glasgow or in Belfast, we will grant them, for a period of years, a depreciation allowance of 150 per cent., whereas those who still wish to come to the South 1255 and develop their factories in that area will have to be content with the existing 100 or 110 per cent. depreciation allowance "? That, I suggest, is one way in which direct financial incentive could be given, at no very great cost, to attract industry into the areas Where you wish to have it. Another method, which has been suggested elsewhere, would be, if you ever bring in a payroll tax, to give incentive by having a differential payroll tax. There might be no payroll tax in the Northern parts, and a payroll tax of 5 or 10 per cent. in the more congested areas. It could even be varied from time to time, depending on the density of employment and the congestion in those areas.
My Lords, those are two suggestions of ways in which the Treasury could help in this matter. To sum up the two main points that I wish to make to your Lordships, the first is that this is not a problem which can be dealt with piecemeal. It must be regarded comprehensively, culturally and educationally from the point of view of the people living in it, as well as from the purely economic point of view. The second point is that this is a matter of direct Government responsibility. They cannot shrug it off lightly and say that it is the fault of unforeseen circumstances and of things over which they have no control. They must shoulder the full responsibility for this disastrous move, which started to take place six or seven years ago, and the momentum of which is only just beginning—already too late—to impinge itself on the consciences of people. The Government must shoulder their responsibility; they must admit the error of their political thinking, and they must be courageous enough to take the steps necessary to prevent this disaster from swamping us entirely.
§ 5.28 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF LONDON
My Lords, I was encouraged to make a brief contribution to this debate by the reference in the Motion which the noble Lord has introduced of the special needs and concerns of the great City of London. I must apologise in advance if I am not able to remain to the end of the debate, as I had already made an engagement before I knew the date of the discussion.
1256 I cannot hope to rival the knowledge and skill with which the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, made his first contribution in your Lordships' House, which certainly makes us hope that we shall hear him speak on many occasions with the same facility and knowledge as he has done this afternoon. So far as anything I may know about London is concerned, it is from the fact that, perhaps as much as most people, I travel, or try to travel, about all parts of London pretty well every day. I also hear from my parochial clergy a great deal of what Londoners in different parts think and feel about their unique part of England.
There is, my Lords, increasingly a fear that the whole nature and character of London itself is in danger and is being consistently endangered by this constant growth. Not only does our traffic problem increase month by month, not only does the problem of homelessness continue to baffle any attempts at a temporary solution, but something is in danger of happening to the heart of our capital city; and there are a good many people who feel that the size of London has increased, is increasing and, if I may complete the quotation, ought to be diminished. I think it is also common ground on both sides of the House that the problems of London can be solved only by bold and imaginative planning and control at the national level; and the needs of the North-East, to which the most reverend Primate referred, coincide with the needs of London. Neither can be solved without reference to the other, for, indeed, it cannot be good for the nation that one city within it should so dominate the national economy that as a result of prosperity it should have grown economically in a disproportionate way. It cannot be good for the nation that the number of jobs, for instance, in the London area should during the last ten years have increased by something like 200,000 while jobs elsewhere have been difficult to find.
We have heard a great deal—much with which I think we were all in agreement—about the dangers and the un-suitability of the drift of population—though perhaps "drift" is not the right word; as the noble Lord, Lord Walston, said, it is a selective movement of the population to the London area from the North. But there is another aspect which 1257 has not yet been mentioned: that there is, partly as a result of this drift, inside London itself a movement and a turmoil of people which is socially bad. There are areas of London, I am told, where the population turns over completely every two years. The parochial clergy, who are perhaps in the best position to know, as they go about their business find that they call on a family, make a contact, and in six months they go back and another family is in that house or flat. The constant movement within London itself is something which stems from the fact that London has ceased to be at home with itself, and I think there is a real disaster that fewer and fewer people seem to have (their roots in a particular place or have any sense of a local loyalty or local sense of community. Those of us who have seen what is happening to the centres of some of the new English cities as a result of an indiscriminate, uncontrolled movement to the outer suburbs which has destroyed the life of the city centre would not wish to see that happening in the city of London.
I understand that the Minister of Housing has already declared his intention to publish a comprehensive statement on housing and related problems, with special reference to London, in the very near future and we shall await this statement with very great interest. But I think what has been said in your Lordships' House this afternoon shows also that we shall hope to see in it a clear sense of urgency and intention to meet the present needs which this complex question presents.
I should have wished to say something in this debate on the scandal of home-lessness in the area of London which is increasing steadily, but the problem of homelessness is only part of this much larger problem. It is, in a sense, a disaster of affluence, the result of movement of population, and though we may make temporary alleviation by all the emergency measures which have been suggested they will not solve the problem; they will only transfer it from one section of the population to another small section of the population, and it is only in comprehensive and bold planning that homelessness, this particular blot upon the escutcheon of London, can be removed.
1258 But there is also another aspect to which perhaps not sufficient attention has yet been given in the speeches made this afternoon, and that is how we are going to develop and change the centre of our cities. I am one of those who view with some alarm the tentative proposals of which we read to erect yet more and larger towers of offices within the square mile of the City of London and in the central areas of Westminster. Is it really true that we need more office space there? And is it necessary to build towers which will not only put our City churches out of scale but will even risk dwarfing the dome of St. Paul's, which has for so long stood as a symbol of the City? And some plans which I have seen would certainly endanger, at least from one aspect, that balance between St. Paul's and the ancient buildings of the new City which is rising up. We have to ask ourselves all the time: have we not reached the state when, if we cannot give adequate attention to both, homes must now have priority over offices?
I know it is both dangerous and foolish to over-simplify complex issues, but, basically, all these inter-related problems, planning, housing, slum clearance and homelessness, are questions of human happiness and human satisfaction. As the most reverend Primate and others have mentioned, it is what the wife wants which sometimes determines what the husband will do or where he will go. It is the desire for a home which actuates the retention of a job. But we need to have, in order to produce this, a sense of belonging to a place which is an attraction for us; and a city or a town which can evoke a loyalty or a city or town in which the continuity of history is not sacrificed to the claims of an immediate and perhaps transient development is a more satisfying place in which people will live and will want to live.
We have heard this afternoon something of the reasons why people move away from the North, because they find their life not only more difficult economically but less satisfying in other ways; and I do not think we are in danger of overestimating the influence upon people of the place where they live and work. London has meant so much throughout the centuries in just this way that we must not let this character be destroyed: 1259 and in all our considerations and planning of the location of industry and the direction of people, may we keep in mind that here, in London itself, is something which must foe preserved, not for its own sake but for the sake of the human persons who live and work within it.
§ 5.38 p.m.
§ LORD POLWARTH
My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Molson, has done a great service in drawing our attention to this subject to-day. For many years a number of us who live in the parts of the country farthest from the centre have been drawing attention to the effects of the drift of population and the need for increased measures to deal with it; and at least I am glad to say there are signs of real concern in the places of influence and power, as witness the many newspaper articles and pamphlets that have been published, the number and variety of speakers in our debate this afternoon, and, not least, may I say the stirring spectacle of the right reverend Primate so vigorously upholding the virtues and attractions of his former See; the northeast can surely have no better public relations officer.
There is a growing realisation that it is not just a case of tinkering with the problem of unemployment on the fringes but that something new and drastic is required to deal with the other side of the problem, namely, the increasing congestion in the south-east corner of Britain and all the problems that flow from it. I need not elaborate on some of the consequences of the shift of population. On the one hand there is the waste of resources, anxiety of uncertainty, the misery of unemployment; and, on the other, the ever-increasing congestion and discomfort, of which those who either live or have to go to this City are so vividly aware; blockages on the roads, problems of parking, the stress and strain of conveying one and one-third of a million people in and out of the centre of London daily, what I thought was well described by the noble Lord as the subtopian sprawl that threatens to engulf so much of the south and south-east of England. It largely arises from the desire of industry and commerce and other institutions, quite understandably, to be as near as possible to the mass markets, centres of research, 1260 head offices and official bodies that are responsible for so many big orders in industry to-day. It arises from the desire for easy and quick communication and it is in part due undoubtedly to ingrained habit and ignorance of the real opportunities which exist in other parts of the country.
The noble Lord, Lord Eccles, whose speech I am sure we all enjoyed greatly and whose knowledge and experience we welcome here, quoted the desirability of steering industry to population on the grounds that we must not handicap the competitive power of industry by sending it to uneconomic places. I think this question of uneconomic location is apt to be greatly exaggerated, as witness the striking success of some of the new industries which have taken root in the Northern part of this country since the end of the war once they have been persuaded to take a big step into the unknown. His other point was the need to maintain the flow of brains and leadership from the North; on that point I think there is little fear it will entirely dry up. But there is, after all, a limit to the amount of cream that you can skim off the milk to add to your porridge.
These decisions on location are taken in the honest belief that they are the most economic for the particular concern, but what they do not take account of, quite naturally, is the additional costs created by the agglomeration of industry, which must be borne not by the individuals concerned but by the community at large and therefore by industry and individuals alike through taxation and through addition to general cost. It is not the cost of roads, housing, schools and other social capital services alone. One of the worst consequences has been the inflationary effect of the fierce competition for resources at times of booming demand; land prices, as we know, have shot up; rents and rates have gone up, and labour has been sought eagerly at a time when it has been in short supply. The result is that firms have bid against each other recklessly for labour, resulting in increased costs, and I think to some extent in the sort of indiscipline and disruption of labour that we have witnessed all too frequently in the last few years.
A further effect has been that the additional spending power released, however much we applaud increased standards of living, tends to find its way into 1261 the consumer industries, those industries which by their very nature must largely be centred round the big centres of population, and to that extent the prosperity of those areas has tended to increase more than in the other areas which inevitably must be more dependent on capital goods industry.
What then should be done between the policies, on the one hand, of laissez-faire and, on the other, of direction of industry, neither of which is accepted, and I think quite rightly, by any political Party. For control of industrial development we have had a succession of instruments starting with the prewar special areas legislation, continuing with the 1945 and 1950 Distribution of Industry Acts, and finally, to-day, the Local Employment Act of 1960. A great deal has undoubtedly been achieved, but much more would have been achieved had they been implemented consistently and not subjected to the "stop and go" policy. Here I think all Governments have had responsibility. The results are to be seen to-day, for despite the broadening of the base and variety of industry in the older places, the magnet of the South is undoubtedly just as strong as ever.
As I see it, the real fault lies in the basic approach to the problem. All along it has been based on a policy of mopping up pools of local unemployment, as witness the title of the latest Act, Local Employment Act. That of course must be done if humanly possible; it is a human problem. But if you mop up a pool on the floor you do not leave it at that; you try to mend the leaky roof that caused it. That was the essential basis of the Toothill Report on the Scottish economy: the need for a positive policy to encourage regional growth in the places of the kind which have prospects for success.
I was very glad to hear the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, who was after all the architect of the 1960 Act, admit that to-day he sees the answer as lying in somewhat similar terms. This is not a new idea. More than ten years ago the Scottish Council commissioned another Report on this very same problem, and it too came out in favour of the concept of encouraging regional growth. The Committee was under the chairmanship of one Professor 1262 Cairncross. The Professor has now been embraced by the Government as its economic adviser, so let us hope that his concept equally may soon find favour with them.
There is a great deal that can be done under existing legislation given imagination and drive. The White Paper on Government Capital Expenditure is encouraging as far as it goes, providing as it does for a concentration of new capital investment in just those less prosperous areas. But that is just a start. The Government could set a better example themselves, as other noble Lords have said, if they showed a real will to move more of their offices and other organisations out of the centre of London. We have just had the proud announcement of this great move of two Ministries from the North Bank of the Thames to the South Bank of the Thames, with, I understand, considerable saving in rent. How much better if large sections had been moved right out of London, and I cannot believe the whole of these operations really need to remain in such a central position. We have also had the spectacle of the Admiralty occupying a new skyscraper near Earls Court, many of the people concerned moving back into it from outside London. This seems to border on lunacy in the light of the traffic problem in London. Why not put them a little nearer where they could get a whiff of fresh sea air?
Under the heading of capital works the Government should completely rethink the scale of their plans for road building and improvement in the North and West. Communications are our life blood and the further from the centre the more important they become. The building of the M.1 motorway was desirable in many ways, but after all it ran directly contrary to the Board of Trade's policy of trying to check further industrial growth in the Birmingham and London areas, by bringing those areas closer together. Yet now when we have an equally vital new road link under construction to join the Lothians and Fife, both of them of great potential development value, just because it happens to involve the crossing of a new bridge the traffic is going to be obliged to pay for this road link in tolls. There is no such obstacle on the M.1, and I 1263 cannot help wondering what the position would have been if the Firth of Forth had happened to lie geographically between London and Birmingham. The noble Lord, Lord Molson, spoke of some of the benefits Scotland had gained from the Local Employment Act. These are very real, but the fact is that in the last year the gain has been inconsiderable because no longer have we had times of boom but slackness in the economy.
I believe a great deal more could still be achieved under that Act if it were administered both more generously and more speedily, and if we could bait the hook for the prospective customer for a development district with some sort of idea of the help he may expect from his negotiations with the Government. I would agree entirely with what the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, said about the desirability of attracting whole concerns lock, stock and barrel and not merely branches and extensions. I believe that in these cases the Government should be prepared to offer particularly generous terms. Looking at the long term, however, I believe we have to have a complete reappraisal by the Government of their policy and measures for the distribution of industry, and I hope that N.E.D.C. will give this matter their urgent attention. I believe that if we are to achieve that 4 per cent. per annum increase in production which is sought we shall need to use the resources of the entire country.
The Common Market also has been referred to. Undoubtedly, this will make the pressures on the South and South-East still greater. Possibly generous aid should, in addition, be given to the development of other links with the Continent, particularly the ports and their surroundings and approaches in the North-East and in Scotland. I was reflecting that one possible way of achieving results in this field might be to move the Treasury and the Board of Trade to Scotland and the North-East—I personally do not mind which of us has which—and tell them that they would have to stay there until the drift is halted and prosperity is more evenly distributed over the country. I have no doubt that a Solution would be speedily forthcoming, though, on reflection, I realise that by that time they would be so happy 1264 in their new surroundings that in fact they would not want to come back.
But, seriously, the problem is a pressing one for us all, whether we live in London or in Scotland alike. We are indeed grateful to the noble Lord for putting the problem to us so cogently and so clearly, and the least we can expect of the noble Earl who is to reply for the Government is that he should acknowledge the Government's real concern and their intention to take early action.
§ 5.52 p.m.
My Lords, this has been a most interesting debate. In listening to it I was reminded of something that was said by my noble Leader, Lord Hailsham, last spring when we were debating housing. He said—or I thought he said—that when people are greatly disturbed about their living conditions and so forth it is difficult to persuade them that the solution depends on something quite technical and complicated. I am sure that that is true. If I lived in a derelict house in a derelict area, with nothing to look upon but gasholders, other houses, washing and so on, I doubt that I should be greatly comforted by reading the Journal of the Town Planning Institute, with its curious jargon about nucleated settlements, percentages of voids and so forth. Nor do I think that I should find much comfort from listening to this debate. I should probably fall an easy prey to the agitator who would persuade me that it was all due to the boss, to the landlord, or to the present Prime Minister.
Yet I have been greatly struck by the approach of all your Lordships to the fact that conditions of this kind can be remedied only by the scientific approach. I have always felt that that was so. As I have said before in this House, I shall never forget the extraordinary effect which the scientific approach had on (another aspect of our economy—agriculture. There again was an industry which was dominated by Party slogans and emotionalism. Then, suddenly, the whole climate of thought changed. The late Lord Hudson, and the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Barn-burgh, will never be forgotten in agricultural circles, for they were able to produce a scientific scheme with absolutely miraculous effect. Again, I have 1265 always paid tribute to the application of this scientific method by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. So far as I can see from my own inspection, it is perfectly true that the New Towns have been a great success. They have forestalled a great deal of human distress. But while I have paid tribute to two noble Lords opposite, I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that all Labour publications on these subjects are worthy of being treated as highly scientific documents, particularly when they are dropped like hot potatoes at the next Party Conference. But I do not withdraw anything I have said about the achievements of those two noble Lords.
I believe that there is still too much whipping up of hatred and emotions in regard to this matter of housing. Nevertheless, I think that there is a growing realisation that many of the social evils of our time—unemployment; the housing shortage; slums; congestion of traffic and lack of amenities—are largely local phenomena. What is true of one part of the country is not true of another; and if only we could bring the standards of the worst part up to those of the better part we should be much better off. I think that realisation of this fact has produced certain support for measures to disperse populations, for more new towns, more expanded towns and for measures to control and locate industries. That, I think, is as far as popular feeling goes. I think it is a great advance on what was the position. But it is not surprising that it should stop there, because we seem now to be coming up against certain social problems, which have been illustrated in this debate.
On this matter of the location of industry there are two distinct schools of thought. Put in the simplest terms, one school seems to believe that the drift of industry to the South East which has been going on since the war ought to be arrested at all costs, and that all statutory powers should be used to encourage the return or development of industry in the North, or in Scotland or in Northern Ireland, where unemployment exists. The other school of thought, which is supported by some authoritative thinking, seems to believe that competitive power and capacity in industry is all-important, particularly 1266 if we join the Common Market; and that if any industry can put up a good case for establishing or expanding itself in the South East or anywhere else, it should not be stopped from doing so. We had one speech, that from the most reverend Primate, setting out most eloquently one point of view, and another most cogent speech from my noble friend Lord Eccles, setting out the other point of view. They may at a point overlap but they are not really saying the same thing.
Although I have tried to keep abreast of the literature on the subject, I confess that I do not know where the Government stand in this matter. There does not seem to be much contact between the Board of Trade and the planning authorities. My noble friend Lord Molson said that there was not much contact between the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. That may be so.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, I hope that the noble Viscount will forgive me for interrupting, but I did not mean to say that. What I said was that it is most important that there should be close connection between the two. I did not mean to criticise the present state of affairs. I think it is a great deal better than it was a few years ago.
My Lords, I apologise. At any rate, I am glad that the noble Lord is satisfied that things are better than they were. But so far as the lower ranks of the planning hierarchy go, I do not think that any knowledge exists of the policy of the Board of Trade; and all that we in the local authorities can do is to put forward development plans and see in what form they emerge after the many months, if not years, during which they are retained in Whitehall. This question of the location of industry is obviously one that will affect the siting of new towns and the situation in relation to expanding towns; and it may also affect a large number of development plans, and even town maps. I feel that there is a case for asking the Government for a more explicit statement of their intentions—not only the Minister of Housing and Local Government, but also the Minister of Transport and the President of the Board of Trade.
My Lords, I should like to add just a few words about the other part of the 1267 noble Lord s Motion, dealing with the redevelopment of town centres. This covers a wide field of discussion, which may range from Piccadilly Circus to the obsolescent areas of quite small towns. On this matter I suppose that, theoretically, we are all on the same side. We all agree that there is an immense amount of redevelopment necessary to deal with slums, obsolescence, amenities, traffic bottlenecks and so on. What we are all up against, equally, is the question of mechanics: how best to get the job done.
I do not know how many of your Lordships have ever been concerned with the redevelopment of a town centre, or indeed of any part of a town. Those who have will probably agree that it is not exactly an easy task. It demands a great deal of drive, skill and knowledge, a great deal of initial capital, and certainly a good deal of time. I will not weary your Lordships by going through all the stages necessary before you can begin the redevelopment of an area of comprehensive redevelopment; but I think you would be lucky if you found that you could get through the mere preliminaries in under five years—that is before any actual work is done. I think one would be lucky if, five years after the inception of the idea, one started the actual demolishing or rebuilding of the area. Going on as we are, I have no doubt that we shall make slow, steady progress. But if we hope to see some real impact made on this problem during the lifetime of even the more junior of your Lordships, I feel that some new thinking will have to be introduced.
I wish that I could make some more constructive suggestion as to how that should be done. Many noble Lords have given good advice to the Government. I really want advice. I can only say that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that one of the reasons why the New Towns were a success was because their organisations were entrusted to hand-picked development corporations, and were equipped with whole-time officials doing nothing else. Schemes of redevelopment, on the other hand (and, though I have no experience of it, I imagine that this applies also to town development schemes under the Town Development Act), are a part-time exercise carried out by officials and council- 1268 lors who have plenty of other things to think about. Moreover, some of the knowledge required—for example, the knowledge of how to assess the commercial viability of a scheme in a given project—is not usually found in local government, except perhaps in the largest boroughs.
I was very interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, had to say on this subject. I agree that something should be done, whether on those lines or on others, if it is considered desirable to expedite this redevelopment. I am speaking from the South of England, which, according to the noble Lord, Lord Walston, has been a pampered area, and I am convinced that the problems of redevelopment in the North are much more difficult than our own—and they are difficult enough. I do not believe that the solution of these problems lies merely in having larger areas of planning. That would create great upheavals, without necessarily remedying the defects of the present situation. That is all I have to say, my Lords. I believe that the answer to my noble friend's Motion lies in a few basic decisions by Her Majesty's Government and, in very large measure, in straightforward administrative efficiency. We are all greatly obliged to the noble Lord for having stimulated thought on these matters to-day.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ LORD FORBES
My Lords, the evil of disproportionate growth in London and the Midlands has bean going on for a great many years; and I think it is a natural evil which is likely to go on until the Government take further action. Just as administrators and office workers like being under one roof, so do industrialists like being in each other's pockets. The only way industrialists can live apart and function properly is for them to be able to reach each other in a very short space of time. The noble Lord, Lord Polwarth, mentioned the importance of communication. To my mind the so far untried key to this problem of the spread of industry and offices is a highly efficient internal air service. I should like to return to that later.
My Lords, the concentration of administrative and industrial power in the South-East of England and in the Midlands is snowballing. It is true to say that at present it is almost essential for 1269 anyone wishing permanently to influence the affairs of the nation, whether in the administrative field or in the commercial field, to live in the South-East of England or in the Midlands. Furthermore, it cannot be denied that the largest mass of opinion in Parliament comes from the congested areas, so that opinion tends to be weighted towards these areas. In my experience in Scotland I have found that some industries would be very willing to set up outside the present industrial areas so as to make use of the abundant and excellent labour that exists in the outlying areas. But, my Lords, there is one big stumbling-block which prevents this. It is the knowledge that executives would feel out of touch with the business world if they were out of the main industrial areas. If it were not for this main stumbling block, and some others I will mention, there would to-day be a far better distribution of industry.
Of course, my Lords, each particular industry must choose its own area, the area most suited to its own requirements. A pulp-mill and a Whisky distillery both need water, but a different kind of water. It is for reasons such as this that industry must be left to choose its own sites. It cannot be told where to go. But that does not mean it should not be told where it must not go.
As the standard of living rises so does the minimum community level. I have seen small communities of under 50 people which twenty years ago were flourishing, but they are now lifeless, containing only the old people, because the community level has not risen with the standard of living of the rest of the country. Unless we watch out, this creeping evil will suck the life-blood from many of our remoter parts of the country. This country would then consist of a top-heavy head, London and the South-East, with an inflated body in the Midlands, while the remainder of the country would become bloodless and lifeless limbs. Without more even distribution of industry the outlook for many cities and towns, apart from London and those in the industrial belts, is far from rosy. They must advance or they will founder like several villages have already done.
As I have said, I believe the key to the dispersion of industry and offices is air travel. Executives must be able to meet each other easily. If the coun- 1270 try is to advance in this competitive world, we must all become air minded. I know that distances in this country are small, but they are still great barriers. It is quite ridiculous that it takes longer to get to London from many parts of this country than it does to cross the Atlantic or for a spaceman to go round the world. We cannot wait until people become air minded, until air companies concerned with internal air flight think that additional routes and services will pay. The Government must step in and subsidise internal air travel until such time as the population is air minded and extra routes and services, which I am quite certain will be provided by the air companies, become a paying proposition
Apart from efficient air travel, how else are we to encourage the spread of industrial growth? I agree entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. Besides attracting industries to certain areas, the Government must be more ruthless in stopping industry from setting up in already congested areas. It is essential that new industries should continually replace old and out-dated ones. This will involve redundancy and the movement of workers. Here we must overcome the present rigidity of our labour force. I believe that rigidity of labour is due mainly to lack of training facilities for other employment, and also to other factors not really appreciated. These are, first of all, ridiculously low local authority rents, especially in some places in Scotland. These low rents create a disincentive for workers to move from these areas.
Then—and I again agree with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin—we must remember at all times the female sex, the wives, for they have a very considerable say these days. Few of them wish to go out of an area of high amenity into an area of low amenity. The beauty of parts of our countryside may appeal to country-lovers, but it means little to the average housewife, who is far more interested in the nearest supermarket or community centre. In this connection it is important that industry and offices should become dispersed, so that there is not only a reasonably even distribution of employment, but also a reasonable distribution of social wealth. The present congestion, such as there is in the Midlands, is working like a magnet. 1271 Over-full employment leads to high wages, which in their turn add to the congestion by attracting labour from other areas. The Government roust prescribe a remedy for this unhealthy state of affairs.
To sum up, my Lords, to reverse the present trend of congestion, and to revitalise the many limbs of our country, industrialists wishing to take advantage of the labour which exists in the limbs of the country must, first of all, not be at a disadvantage with those living in the industrial areas. For this a really efficient internal air service will be necessary, and it is quite possible that in the initial stages the Government will have to subsidise the fares. Secondly, the movement of workers must be more flexible. To achieve this, local authority rents must be must uniform; the Government must take a more active part in the resettlement of workers; they must take a more active part in the training of workers for other jobs; and they must show more sympathy over rehousing of workers who have to move.
Proper location of population, industry, factories and offices is a very long-term project, my Lords. There will be no change overnight, and the Government who really tackle this problem are not going to get votes to-day by doing so, but rather a vote of thanks from all citizens when history comes to be written in many years to come. It is essential that our country should not be a top-heavy, Frankenstein monster with decayed, frost-bitten toes and fingers, but a well-balanced body with blood flowing vigorously throughout its arteries and veins; not only between its head and body, but also out to its extremities, its toes and its fingers.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF COURTOWN
My Lords, I shall take the hint of the noble Lord, Lord Eccles, in the advice he received from Mr. Maxton many years ago, and I will keep down the amount of meat in my pie. As a result, I propose to concentrate on one part of this subject; that is, the location of offices. There are a number of points which have not yet been made in this debate, but which I think are relevant.
The first is that there is a continual growth of the office population of the 1272 country as a whole, and not merely in London. In 1931, office workers, clerical workers, were 6.7 per cent. of the working population; in 1951 they were 10.3 per cent.; and to-day I believe they are something like 12 per cent. Also, the fact that industry is growing on a larger scale means that there is a greater demand for offices in large conurbations—in towns such as London, Manchester and so on. As a result, the rôle of the head office has to be kept under review. The head office, both of a Ministry and of an industry, is the place where policy is formed, where the planning, direction and control of the business are carried out. And policy is formed not only by the meeting of people within head office, but also through their contacts with people outside, people whose work is relevant to their own. If head office puts itself away in a part of the country where it will not get those outside contacts, it runs into danger of in-growing, of looking inward the whole time. One of the main criticisms of British industry has been that we have not been sufficiently inclined to change our habits, and it is very important that we continue to get those outside contacts.
There are various ways in which we can help people to move elsewhere. For instance, we can draw attention rather more firmly to the fact that it costs very much more to employ an office worker in, say, the centre of London than it does elsewhere in the country. The report which has been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Molson, The Paper Metropolis, gave a figure of £140 per annum. I believe that in fact it is rather higher than that, and that it costs about £200 per annum more to employ a person in the middle of London than in a more distant part. I believe that this fact requires greater advertisement, so that people realise that when they put their offices in the middle of a town, though it may be necessary to do so, they are incurring much greater expense. There is also the point that in the centre of a town, particularly in London, it is going to become more and more difficult to get clerical workers. We have been told, and I believe it is true, that the price of commuter travel is likely to go up; and if that is so clerical workers will not come into the centres of cities if they can get jobs 1273 in the suburbs or in the town outside, where they live.
Another point that I would mention is the question of telecommunications. The question of communications, roads and air services has been mentioned by previous speakers, but the question of telecommunications is, I think, extremely important if we are to be able to move our offices out of the centres of cities. The types of departments which one can move out are those concerned with the processing of paper. The contacts made with those at the top, who are developing the policy of the enterprise, are largely made by presenting information on paper. If that is so, then the improvement of telecommunications by the Post Office is an important factor. For instance, if at present you place an office in some small town somewhere inside the North of England, it may take you a matter of years before you can get private telephone lines to other parts of the country, and you may find considerable difficulties with your local exchanges in getting proper telecommunications. This may be inevitable, but I believe that some priority should be given by the Post Office to these cases where offices have been placed in places in towns where it is socially important that they should be placed.
There is also development of new telecommunication techniques. Banks, for instance, and many other types of businesses—and also, I expect, Ministries—require to inspect records of various sorts; and senior people require to have information regarding customers, clients and so on, presented to them. Through television and new television techniques it is possible to present that information at the centre, so that the people at the centre can see records which are kept possibly 50 or 100 miles away. With ordinary television the cost of the lines, the co-axial cables required, is much too expensive, but to-day, with the development of slow-scan television over telephone lines, there are new techniques which enable this to be done much more easily and much more cheaply than at present. I believe that the Post Office should push ahead with the development of these techniques.
Then there is a point that I should like to make about the development districts. At present, the regulations 1274 governing the designation of a development district are somewhat rigid. One has to go to a particular area; one cannot go out to anywhere else in the neighbourhood of that area; one has to be within fairly rigid lines. Surely, what really matters is to get offices, and even factories, to go to that part of the country: it does not matter from the social point of view exactly where they are placed. Therefore, I recommend that, in the application of these development districts, the lines around them should not be too rigidly drawn. It is also a fact that the social capital invested in some of these towns is obsolete. It does not matter—in fact, it may be preferable—if the new town or new factory is not rebuilt in exactly the same place as the old one, so long as there are easy means of communication between the two.
Finally, my Lords, I should like just to refer to the social effects of moving people up and down the country. The most reverend Primate referred to the North East of England. I myself lived and worked there for a number of years. I thought when I was going there (I did not know the area before), that I was going to the back of beyond. But I had there some of the happiest years of my life, and I support everything he said about that part of England, and also about the people who live and work there. But these moves, both those into London from outside and those from the North of England down to the South, inevitably involve very considerable social upset, and I think much of this social upset can be got over if the moves are planned sufficiently far ahead. If, for instance, it is decided to move a part of a Ministry or a department of a firm from, say, London to another part of the country, if it is planned long enough ahead it is usually possible to move parts of it at a time to ensure that people who cannot move for some reason or other are transferred to other jobs in the place where they are working now. In that way, I think it is possible to get over some of these social difficulties. In all this problem one also cannot overemphasise the importance of housing. It is essential that, if one is going to move people to these development districts, or into an area of these development districts, proper housing facilities should be given to them.
§ 6.28 p.m.
My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend Lord Molson for putting down this Motion. I wish, however, he had made it a little narrower, because the discussion has strayed in two related but rather different directions: first of all, the problem of unemployment in the North; and, secondly, the redistribution of population generally, which I think was rather more the burden of the Motion he meant to put down. We could profitably have had a separate debate on unemployment in the North. I am very glad the most reverend Primate took part, and I feel sure the people of Durham Will be greatly heartened to hear that he is on the tails of the Government in this particular matter.
I agree with practically all that my noble friend Lord Molson said—I think everything, in fact. I was very pleased to reflect that I was able to assist him, by speech and vote, in calling attention to the great problem of Covent Garden and the railway properties in London, both of which questions have now became topics of burning public interest and which, but for the vote in this House, would have sunk into obscurity. I took down the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. There were ten; and I agree with practically every one of the Points of Silkin.
It was clear, however, from both the first two speakers, that this is essentially a financial problem. The fact that a commercial or industrial site in a large town is worth more than a residential site is the key to the whole situation. Unless we can do something about this there is absolutely nothing that will stop London from gradually becoming grossly over-officed, even if the older offices are uninhabited. The only thing that would stop the process in a system of laissez faire would be the law of supply and demand creating such a surplus of office space as to stop any new creation of it. But it is very difficult to visualise a situation that would cause the price of office space to fall to the same level as residential space. In other words, we cannot wait for the law of supply and demand in this matter; we must do something in advance.
Clearly, Schedule 3, with its cubic capacity versus floor space and its 10 1276 per cent. extra space permission, is the millstone round our necks. Nothing we can do in the near future is likely to reduce the office space in London. With the planning permission already granted we can only try to halt the rate of increase; and unless the Government have a better remedy I feel certain that one of the courses must be to amend Schedule 3 and buy up the development rights.
Meanwhile we have another problem, hardly mentioned here to-night—that of London surburban transport, because not only is it almost intolerable for very large numbers of people to-day but nothing we can do is going to stop it from becoming more intolerable. Therefore we must try to ameliorate that position in the transport field rather than in the planning field. After years and years of badgering the Government, we have at last got a decision on the Victoria-Walthamstow Tube, and trial borings are believed to be going on. But that is a small matter. There are far bigger things that have to be tackled. How are we going to increase the capacity of the London Bridge railway line? If any of your Lordships would like to stand on the old South-Eastern station at London Bridge any evening between 5.0 and 5.30 o'clock you would have your eyes opened. I once recommended a Minister of Transport to go there. Whether he did or not I do not know, but that was years ago. The line is being used to an intolerable extent, and still further building goes on in the district it serves.
There is some talk of the development on stilts of a large residential housing estate in the Thames marshes. We want the housing by all means, but let us see that the people have some hope of getting to their work when the houses are built. There is nothing more urgent than to try to increase the capacity of that London Bridge line. It can be done, but at great cost. Is the Victoria-Walthamstow Tube the limit of our imagination? Are there no other plans in the pigeon-holes of the Ministry of Transport?—because the building of new Underground Tubes takes many years to accomplish, and though they add up to a formidable cost not very much of that cost can be spent in any one year. Therefore we ought to start as many of the 1277 schemes as we have the physical capacity to carry out.
The doctrine that each new traffic route must pay for itself immediately I regard as most pernicious. If such a doctrine had been carried à outrance throughout the world there would be remarkably few railways in the world, and there would probably be no Tubes in London. We must agree that the level of fares over the whole London suburban system must be sufficient to balance the expenses, even though an individual new limb may not immediately pay. And, of course, though the suburban building in the South of London is pretty well up to the capacity of transport into London, there is still a certain amount of spare capacity on the North side, particularly in the area of the more backward railway that runs from King's Cross in the Cambridge direction. If some attempt could be made to knock ten or fifteen minutes off the time of the journey there, which the railway appears to waste, then certainly population would spread out there. But, generally speaking, the increasing population in the South (and it is going to increase even if we stopped anything coming in from the North) requires to spread more, and I think we need to take more account of the motor age and harness it to our needs.
We have not yet spread enough into the villages. To-day there is a village population, with motor cars, who spend a certain amount of their leisure in the towns; but the converse is also true. The television in every home, and motor car in every garage, have made it much easier to live in the villages and work in a nearby town. The consequence of inflation and the modern form of life is that it takes a large village population to-day to support the traditional amenities. The church, the village hall, the football and cricket teams, the village pub and the bus services all need a larger population to support them to-day than they did ten or fifteen years ago.
In a large number of villages the population is quite inadequate to keep these amenities going. In most cases it is not due to lack of demand but to lack of housing and planning permission to build. Villages tend to suffer on the planning front from the deep-rooted instinct in many people that population spoils the countryside. I suggest that this view is completely outdated.
1278 Nothing can spoil the countryside more than decaying village life—decaying because there are not enough people to support the traditional amenities in modern style. England is full of communities of a few hundred who often have to keep in repair a vast church, who are not enough to support village activities and who, for that reason, are likely soon to lose their exiguous bus services, but who are not too far from one or more town centres to be able to live in the village and work there.
I am not an advocate of Morris dancing, arts and crafts and all that sort of thing. I am merely suggesting that if people want to live in a village we must try to make it possible. It will lead to a healthy countryside and a more-spread-out population in the South. To those who say people spoil the countryside, I may repeat the words of my own tutor at King's forty years ago who, lecturing on English economic history, used to say that the Elizabethan age was an era of great change and bustle and conservative-minded men were saying that the countryside was being ruined by a rash of little black and white houses springing up everywhere. Well, of course, those black and white houses are worth £10,000 to most business men to-day.
When we come to New Towns, I go practically ail the way with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. I must confess that I was very doubtful about them at one time, but I have been converted by the great success of Crawley, where there has been an active church and social life and the amenities are very good. Are we doing enough on these New Towns? I understand that Birmingham is to have one somewhere in Shropshire. But I have always believed that the Minister of Transport should drive a big trunk road from the Wash to Cardigan Bay via Birmingham, and I feel that if we had a new town located on that road, over the Welsh Border, it could well be married to the Black Country.
However, none of this is really relevant to stopping the drift South. In the North it is a problem of not enough diversity of industry in the industrial areas and lack of industry at all in the more remote areas. These problems are not insoluble. Personally I cannot accept the laissez-faire solution of doing 1279 nothing, allowing the whole population to congregate in (the South-East corner of England until that becomes intolerable and letting it proceed until the next century, when, they can all go back the other way. Light industry in remote villages is the rule An Central Europe—for instance, in the Swiss and Austrian valleys. And I have been shown over a factory in Plymouth making smart dresses for ladies. These dresses are marketed in Oxford Street. Plymouth is quite a long way from London, just as far away as the North East, and they seem to do it quite comfortably.
We talk about our remote areas, but compared with most of the countries of the world, the distances in this country are ridicuously small. We have just got into the habit of thinking that 200 miles is a long way. I am glad that my noble friend Lord Polwarth came down to speak on Scotland, because I have had more than once the temerity to suggest self-help for Scotland. My noble friend and many others in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen control hundreds of millions of pounds of investors' funds (some of mine among them) and I would not object in the least if a small proportion of those funds was applied by the managers to try to develop the industries of Scotland.
But I have said enough. Over the whole field, Government money is required, and Whenever Government money is required one is up against the traditional Treasury attitude of laissez faire. But we cannot do anything to try to ameliorate the position of London and Londoners or stop the drift from North to South unless somebody is prepared to loosen up the strings in the Treasury.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I have listened to most of the debate this afternoon with great interest and would like to make two or three brief observations before the noble Earl replies. The astonishing outbursts of Socialism from the Benches opposite have been heartening and I only hope that noble Lords will stick to their guns and really insist on the Government's taking a lead about these things, as so many of them have suggested.
My Lords, may I correct the noble Lord's assumption? We have never been laissez-faire Liberals on this side of the House.
§ LORD CHORLEY
You may never have been laissez-faire Liberals, but you have very often not been far off. I was going to say that it must have been gratifying to my noble friend Lord Silkin to hear the encomium passed upon him by noble Lords this afternoon. I am sorry that he was not in the House when the noble Lord who has just sat down said that he accepted the Ten Points of Silkin. I am sure that my noble friend would have been gratified to hear that. The difficulty is, of course, that my noble friend's great planning Act has been emasculated by successive Acts which noble Lords opposite insist upon putting in the Statute Book. If my noble friend's planning Act had only been effectively put into operation, the situation would have been very much better than it is to-day. It has taken noble Lords opposite and members of the Conservative Party in the House of Commons something like twelve years to realise that what they were doing was leading to an unholy mess; and now they are realising that I hope that they will insist on the Government's turning about and putting the Silkin Act effectively into force.
The first of the two observations which occurred to me during the course of the debate was that of the number of noble Lords who have said that one of the difficulties is that businessmen take the view that they must be where other businessmen are. I believe that this has become a sort of shibboleth and the sooner they are disabused of that idea the better. The speech of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, showed that this is not really true, and numerous instances could be put forward. I would take just one example, that of one of the leading insurance companies in the country which started in a small way in my native town immediately after the First World War and developed into a great national company. This shows what can be done by employing local labour in a small town and developing on a national scale, and this can be shown to have been done in other parts of the country as well.
My second observation is on the speech of the right reverend Prelate the 1281 Lord Bishop of London, who said that we in London were in great danger of sacrificing London if a stop was not put to What has been going on over the years since the end of the war. He instanced how his pastoral clergy had repeatedly brought these matters to his attention. I believe that that is a very true observation. This summer I had the opportunity of talking about this to an old Oxford friend of mine from Vienna, a man prominent in the life of that city, who has extensive knowledge of all the capitals of Europe. Having known London since the years before the First World War, he told me that he had always regarded London as one of the outstanding cities of Europe, in many ways the finest capital city of this Continent. Of course, that was a great compliment to an Englishman, but when he went on to say that more damage had been done to London during the past twelve years than to any other capital city of Europe and that he could not understand how Londoners and the people of England were allowing this great city to be destroyed before their eyes, I felt very guilty. That was exactly the feeling which the right reverend Prelate had. I think that there is still time for us to save London, but if we do not go about it very quickly, then it will be too late.
§ 6.50 p.m.
THE MINISTER OF STATE, HOME OFFICE (EARL JELLICOE)
My Lords, I think it is true to say that the main subject of our debate to-day, the problem of the location of population and employment, has attracted more attention in the last year or so in this country than ever before. In view of its importance, that is not surprising. It is right, therefore, that your Lordships should have debated this subject early in this Session, and we are all much indebted to my noble friend Lord Molson for his Motion and for the wide-ranging and deeply informed speech with which he moved it. I am glad, too, that this debate has been a vehicle for so admirable and, indeed, formidable a maiden speech from my noble friend Lord Eccles. I am sure all the noble Lords will agree that for a debutant he had a very firm grip on the wheel.
The noble Lord, Lord Molson, has cast his net fairly wide and projected it pretty far. I propose, in the main, to try to 1282 follow his good example. This means that I must necessarily by-pass some specific suggestions which have been made in the course of the debate covering shorter-term difficulties with which we are faced in this field, acute though those difficulties may be, and also some of the particular regional problems which have been brought to light, important though they undoubtedly are—and I am thinking here of the moving plea for the North East made by the most reverend Primate, and also of the able speech made by my noble friend Lord Polwarth regarding Scotland. I have, however, noted their suggestions and I will see that they are conveyed to the proper quarters.
If we are right to look forward to try to discern the nature of the new problems as or before they develop, by the same token I suggest that it would be wrong totally to ignore the achievements of existing policies: because, my Lords, since the war successive Governments have, in fact, managed to bring much employment to places where employment was needed most. They have met with much success in discouraging industrial growth where it was least needed. They have succeeded, too, in lifting many people out of our congested towns and cities to better living conditions outside.
We have had notable successes in our policy of building up employment in the developed areas. Some of the most notable are, of course, very recent and their effect has yet to be fully felt. The great new motor factories in Scotland and at Merseyside, and the giant new steel rolling mills in Scotland and in South Wales, are some of the major examples. But I think it would be wrong to regard those major examples as isolated phenomena. Looking at the picture of the growth of industrial employment since the war, we find in fact that a very large proportion has gone to the development areas. Thus, the total employment covered by industrial development location approvals issued up to the end of last year was 517,000—about one-third of the total for the whole of the country. Besides this physical control of the location of new industrial development there are incentives for manufacturers to channel their new production into development districts. The powerful weapon here has been the Board of 1283 Trade's policy of running training estates in the less favoured areas of the country. Almost £100 million has been spent on providing factory premises on these estates, and they provide employment for well over 200,000 men and women.
Again, since 1960 we have had the additional weapon of the Local Employment Act, to which a number of your Lordships have referred. Under this Act, in only just over two years some £48 million has been made available in loans and grants, and the expenditure of £26 million on factory building has been approved. Taken together, these measures have done much to underpin the economies of these areas.
My Lords, the other important element in the existing policy for securing a better distribution for full employment and population has been the reduction of congestion in our great conurbations. The most striking successes here have been the new towns—successes whether in financial, economic or social terms; and I would agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said in that respect, which has, I think, been widely echoed in the debate this afternoon. The population of the eight new towns which now circle London has already grown to 350,000 people, and we look forward to an ultimate population for those towns alone of something over 550,000. The planned population of the four Scottish new towns is due to reach something like 250,000.
The noble Lord, Lord Walston, was inclined, I thought, to take an extremely critical view of the Government's backwardness in this respect. But there is one point that he perhaps overlooked. It is not only the creation of new towns which is important (although this is important, and I would certainly not wish to decry the achievement of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin here) but also their development; and the development of these new towns has been extremely fast and vigorous. Again, there are two further new towns. Skelmersdale has been designated to relieve Merseyside congestion; and it is also hoped, as my noble friend Lord Hawke mentioned, to relieve Birmingham congestion by a new town at Dawley—an admirable example of killing two birds with one stone, because not only would this new 1284 town help to relieve the appalling congestion of Birmingham, but it would also serve to recreate an area ravaged by the industrial revolution.
In addition, there is the growing success of town expansion schemes under the Town Development Act, 1952. Up to the end of last year my right honourable friend had approved 48 such schemes, involving the construction of 80,000 houses, a not inconsiderable total, and there are already 18 more schemes in the pipe-line and these, if approved, would lead to the housing of a further 250,000 people.
My Lords, this brief recital amounts, I would claim, to a substantial post-Barlow achievement. Nevertheless, it would be quite idle to pretend that we have solved these problems. Much of the trouble, as many noble Lords have pointed out, is due to the fact that our present phenomenal increase in population is very unevenly spread. Over the last 20 years the rate of population increase in the South East and in the West Midlands has been about twice as fast as in the North, the North East, Scotland and Wales; and as things look at present, of the 6 million extra inhabitants of the United Kingdom whom we are likely to welcome over the next 20 years over three-quarters—about 4,250,000—are likely to be seeking homes and employment in the South East.
Two general points stand out here. The first is that the national pattern will be one of overall growth. Every major part of the country, taken as a whole, is expected to gain population in that period. But in some parts the growth will be strong and in others it will be much weaker. Secondly, we should not regard the greater growth in the South as simply due to the migration of our Northerners, as due to Lord Montgomery of Alamein's tribesmen moving South in search of Southern sun and wine, women and culture. By far the largest single element, as was pointed out by my noble friend Lord Hawke, is natural growth—there are more births than deaths. These population changes, of course, are largely a reflection of the changing economic structure, and that, I thought, was very lucidly diagnosed by very many speakers in our debate. I will not repeat the diagnosis; but whatever diagnosis we make, the fact remains that the older and declining industries, the 1285 basic industries of our first Industrial Revolution, are for the most part to be found in the North, and the younger and dynamic industries—the sophisticated industries of the Second Industrial Revolution—are, for the most part, to be found in the South.
All this finds its reflection in a relative scarcity of labour in the South and the Midlands, and in a relative glut elsewhere. It is nonsense to talk of unemployment on Merseyside, in. West South Wales, in the North East or in Scotland in 1930 terms—alarmist and quite unrealistic. I am glad that no voice was heard in this House this afternoon speaking in those terms. Yet the obstinate differential between the employment rates in the North and those in the more favoured regions snows that the malaise with which we are dealing is structural and not superficial.
All this, of course, leads to that growing congestion in the South and the Midlands with which all those of us who are straphangers or motorists are only too familiar, and the evils and problems of which have been vividly illustrated by many speakers this afternoon. In crude terms, it means that we shall need to plan over the next 20 years to find room in the South East, outside the London conurbation, for something over 3 million people. There is, too, the special problem of urban congestion, particularly in London, aggravated as it is by the dramatic increase in the number of offices. I would not dissent from the figures which my noble friend Lord Molson gave to us. Each year, as I understand it, the office population of London is increased by some 15,000—the equivalent of an infantry division—and this growth, coupled with the growth of other forms of employment in the London area, has its dark reflection in the problem of London homelessness and, I suppose, in that increase of restlessness and rootlessness to which the right reverend Prelate referred.
These pressures, my Lords, are not likely to diminish; the reverse could very well be the case. Growth breeds growth. Once a new industry finds its feet in a particular region, it tends to spread there and to throw out its offshoots. We see this quite clearly in the new towns in the" London area*, where only ten years ago or so their 1286 problem was to attract industry. Now one of their main problems is in fact to contain industry. Decline, by the same token, breeds decline. The younge and more enterprising tend to leave the more stagnant areas, and the labour force there may grow discontented. These cumulative tendencies seem bound to be reinforced by the Common Market. If we enter—in fact, even if we do no—there will inevitably be a tendency rightly or wrongly, for the industrialis to think increasingly in terms of the South East.
Although I might disagree on some points of emphasis, I would not dissent from those speakers who have underlined the importance, and indeed the gravity of this whole problem. In the light of that, I would accept, and the Government would accept, that it is right for us to look critically at our current policies, as the noble Lord, Lord Walston, suggested we should. In what spirit should we conduct that critical examination? To what extent, in fact, is it possible for the Government to influence this trend of events? And how far is it right for the Government to seek to do so? We must, of course recognise that much of the anticipated population growth in the South is governed by the size and structure of the existing population. We cannot stop the Southerner breeding, and we cannot force his progeny to move North. We cannot control our climate, and more and more people will, I suppose, continue to come to the South coast to play Canasta when they retire.
Again, we must plan for much further economic expansion in the South and the Midlands, based on the existing dynamic industries there. Economic growth alone demands that.
Thus the effective field for action would seem to lie in keeping more of the natural growth that belongs to the North and to Scotland in those parts of the United Kingdom. Essentially, it means more jobs and better living conditions in those regions. None of this can be done with a stroke of the pen, and it is, I suggest, quite unrealistic to imagine that the present pattern of population can be reversed, or even halted, within a year or so. In the medium term, the most we can hope to do is to mitigate and moderate the trend. This means, among other things, 1287 that we must continue to plan in the Midlands and the South for very great population increases.
But although we must be realistic and ride, as it were, with the economic punch, this does not mean that we can or should wash our hands of this whole affair. We cannot simply drift in a spirit of laissez-faire resignation down the economic tide. We cannot accept a situation in which important parts of the country are steadily weakened by the migration of the younger and brighter people, and also by increasing unemployment. We should not allow a situation to develop in which whole areas might become, in the end, industrial slums. To permit this would be bad economics, because as a nation we cannot afford such a waste of unused or underused resources, as well as rank bad humanity. Nor can we accept an uncontrolled flow of population to the already over-congested parts of this country aggravating the present land, housing and transport shortages there. No, my Lords, the Government have a duty to see to it that, within the limits of what is practicable, the forces controlling economic and demographic growth are influenced and channelled to produce, on the one hand, the greatest economic benefit for the nation, and to reduce, on the other, the social strains.
That is our basic approach. What do we propose to do about it? First of all, I think I can reassure the noble Lord, Lord Walston, that the Government accept and will continue to discharge their responsibility in this field. Next, we recognise that this is not a problem which can be solved by any one Ministry, or by a number of Ministries working in semi-isolation. We fully accept that if these problems are to be dealt with effectively, and on a national scale, they demand not only vigorous, but also fully co-ordinated action from all the Departments of Government concerned. I would not claim that the present arrangements in this field could not be improved. Of course present arrangements can always be improved. But I would claim—and I think that here I echo the feeling to which my noble friend Lord Molson gave expression—that in this sphere, thanks to the new working links established during the last few years, the 1288 work of the Departments concerned is now fully and effectively co-ordinated.
Our re-examination of these problems has disclosed a pressing need for more information as the essential basis for firm planning, whether at the national or the regional level. The noble Lord, Lord Henley, suggested that we were statistically in the dark here. I would not dissent entirely from what he said. The broad outlines of the problem are, of course, perfectly easy to give, but every region of the country has its own particular problems and they require searching analysis. Much work in this field has already been commissioned. May I cite just a few examples?
First, there are the regional planning studies now being made under the ægis of my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government—studies, to begin with, of the South-East Region, the West Midlands Region and the South Lancashire Region. Basically, these studies are concerned with land use, the selection of areas where the expected population growth can best be catered for. But the choice of such an area poses, of course, a whole host of associated and linked problems. For example, is the area one which will attract employment? What about the availability of markets and the local labour position? Are new enterprises likely to flourish there? Can we provide sufficient housing in time?—and here I would, if I may, say how much I agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and my noble friend Lord Eccles said about housing. It is the essential prerequisite to industrial and economic mobility and growth.
What other sort of questions should be asked in this type of survey? One is: what are the present communications like? More important: what will the pattern of communications be like in five, ten or fifteen years time? What about rail and port developments as well as road developments? Then there are all the local physical limitations. Are there any big natural obstacles to expansion? Is there sufficient water? Does it involve the rape of good agricultural land? These are the sort of questions which the Ministry are tackling in these studies and that is why Housing, Transport, Labour, the Board of Trade, Agriculture, the Treasury, and, of course, in the case 1289 of Scotland—similar studies are going on in the Scottish arena—the Scottish Office are working together very closely in these studies. I understand that the Lancashire and West Midlands studies should be completed next year. We are well forward with the study of the South-East, the most difficult, the most taxing and the most congested area. A two-day conference is due to be held early in the New Year with the local planning authorities most closely concerned to consider the study of the South-East.
There is much other work of this sort of fundamental kind alls(c) in hand. We now have a carpus of knowledge about the New Towns, but we know rather less about the art of town expansion, possibly the more difficult art of town expansion. That is why my [right honourable friend has commissioned three detailed studies of what is involved in the major expansion by 50 per cent. or 100 per cent. of a really large town. These studies are being made for Ipswich, Peterborough and Worcester, not necessarily because these towns have been selected—they have not been—or are to foe selected for major town expansion schemes, but as specimens.
Research and study, my Lords, is really only valuable in this sort of field if they serve as a spring-board for action; and these studies are, of course, designed as a prelude to action. We must recognise, for example, that New Town and town expansion schemes do not only relieve congestion, they also serve, as experience of the London New Towns shows us, to Stimulate growth, and they can therefore serve a twofold purpose in whatever region of the country such schemes are undertaken.
The regional studies may wall throw up the need for more New Towns or for larger New Towns as favoured by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and I must confess that I share that prejudice of his. Or they may throw up a need for more town expansion schemes, or disclose weaknesses in our present machinery for New Town creation or town expansion. If so, these problems will be quickly and squarely faced.
Could I turn now to the other subject of our debate, the renewal of our town and city centres? In the context of this debate I attach much importance to the fact that there are something like 350 1290 town centre regional schemes now hatching in the machine. Moreover—and this is the really important point—they are not merely centred in the prosperous and affluent South East or the West Midlands. Perhaps the North has been a bit slow off the mark here. If it is to hold the best and brightest of its population we must see to it that our northern towns and cities become effective counter-magnets to Birmingham and to London. Well, my Lords, things are moving here; Sheffield, in my opinion at least, is already on (the way to becoming one of the most impressive industrial cities in the world; the other great provincial centres in the North are stirring, and what is perhaps even more important there are plans for the central redevelopment of at least fifty smaller towns in the North-West. There are, in fact, many examples of old industrial towns in the North which are seeing or about to see a renaissance of their centres; Jarrow, Bradford, Barrow, Salford and Oldham, Wigan and Bolton are random examples.
I would entirely agree with what I think the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said here, that this can be a very important element in the policy of counter-drift, certainly one which the Government will encourage to the fullest possible extent. But if we wish to put a real momentum behind this policy of counter-drift, it is not only the town centres of the North which need to be improved; it is rather the whole physical environment of the industrial North which all too often bears the stigmata of the first Industrial Revolution. I sometimes think that if Frederick Engels, for example, were to be reincarnated to-day and were to take a stroll a mile from the city centre of modern Manchester he would see some of the slum streets Which he would find only too drearily familiar.
Most of these slums are in the North. If my right honourable friend's accelerated drive for slum clearance is successful—as it will be—this will powerfully reinforce our general policy here of counter-drift. But in the long term the chronic obsolescence of our older residential areas—and much of them are again in the North—is an even greater problem than that of the slums. It is vital to stop this slow decline from obsolescence to unfitness; and thus, 1291 while slum clearance must be the priority in the early 'sixties, slum prevention will be the massive task of the later sixties and seventies. I believe, my Lords, and the Government believe, that if we can successfully discharge those tasks, and if at the same time we can accelerate our attack on all the other forms of industrial dereliction—for example, on the pollution of the Northern atmosphere—we shall make the industrial North a far pleasanter place to live in and to work in and thus help to arrest this seepage South. Of course, I am not only referring here to physical environment. I have just as much in mind social and cultural environments—schools, higher educational facilities and the universities, of which noble Lords have spoken.
May I just touch for a moment on one crucial aspect of congestion of the South, especially in London? That is, the growth of offices. As all your Lordships know, London has many functions, but perhaps its most important function is that of a great commercial and financial centre. Just as we cannot have industry without factories, so we cannot have a commerce without offices. It is essential for our future, particularly if we wish to play a leading part in Europe, that British insurance, banking and trade should not stagnate. It is important that international companies wishing to establish offices in London should not have to divert to other European capitals. Again, as we know, some offices in London are little better than rabbit warrens. These worn-out office buildings need to be replaced, if only to provide decent working conditions. For all those reasons we need more and more modern offices. That is quite essential for national growth and fully recognised by the Government. But, by the same token, we need a better distribution of our new office building to relieve all the problems and evils of which noble Lords have spoken created by over-growth in a very restricted area.
Many firms and institutions must have their head offices in London, but this cannot be true of all those who do so at present, and even if it is there is no reason why much of the routine work of many firms should not be handled outside London. In fact more and more firms are now moving their offices out- 1292 side London or decentralising to outside London. Whereas in 1955 80 per cent. of office planning permissions in the London region were for the central area, in 1960 nearly two-thirds were issued for the outer areas stretching right out into metropolitan Surrey. Firms are increasingly seeking offices on the periphery of the London area in old and new towns, and this is a trend which the Government welcome and will certainly seek to encourage.
If more positive incentives are required than at present available, we shall certainly not dismiss that possibility. I myself doubt whether a direct financial carrot is required. It already exists in reduced rents, wages and operating costs, the cheaper cost to which my noble friend Lord Courtown referred. But if there are other ways in which we can stimulate this process of office decentralisation outside London, we shall certainly be very willing indeed to look at them. Again, the Government themselves have given something of a lead, and an increasing number of Government Departments have moved their outposts to outside London, as my noble friend Lord Molson said. We fully accept the need for the Government to continue to show the way here.
Finally, several noble Lords have asked about the possibility of new controls or restrictive legislation in this sphere. I listened with very great attention to what my noble friend Lord Molson and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, among others, said on this particular point, with particular reference to the vexed question of the Third Schedule. I think, however, that I must confine myself to saying that my right honourable friend is now actively considering what should be done about this whole office problem, particularly in London; and he has said that he hopes to make a statement on it in the near future.
Perhaps I may now turn more specifically—and your Lordships will be glad to hear that it is in semi-conclusion—to employment policy and to the economic means by which the stagnation of parts of the country can. in our view, be avoided, or at least mitigated. I can straight away assure noble Lords that the Government as a whole will 1293 continue to pay special attention to the needs not only of the development districts but also of those other regions where the economy shows or may show signs of slackness. Your Lordships will recall that investment in the public sector is expcted to rise by some 7 per cent. in the next financial year. This includes an additional £70 million of works which was put into the programme in the summer and which will be spread out over the coming eighteen months. In announcing this additional programme, my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was intended that as much as possible of this work, which is mainly for housing and for education, should be placed in the North East and in Scotland.
The noble Lord, Lord Walston, referred, somewhat contemptuously, to the decision announced, yesterday I think it was, by my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport authorising an additional expenditure of £1 million on road construction in the North East. I think the noble Lord got the point wrong, if I may say so. The point is not this £1 million which he was so contemptuous about; the point is that this extra £1 million will bring the total expenditure on road construction and major road improvements in the North East next year to about £12 million.—that is to say, almost double this year's total. I need not, I think—certainly after what has been said in your Lordships' House this afternoon—remind you of the significance of this sort of expenditure. Good communications are one of the essential sinews of economic growth, and I entirely agree with what my noble friend Lord Polwarth said on that score.
Also in line with this general policy are the new arrangements by which the Ministry of Public Building and Works will be associated more closely and earlier than at present in the planning of the forward public sector investment programme. This will not only ensure that the construction work in the programme will be kept more closely in general line with the capacity of the construction industry, but it will also benefit those regions where those particular industries are slack at present. In view of what I have said, I do not 1294 think it will surprise your Lordships to learn that the Government will continue to adopt a firm policy, so far as the more favoured South is concerned, over the issue of industrial development certificates and will continue to make vigorous use of the Local Employment Act, 1960.
Several noble Lords have been inclined to question whether this double mechanism of the I.D.C. procedure and the Local Employment Act is, in fact, working very well. Earlier in my speech I pointed to the very large number of new jobs created in Scotland and the North East as a result of this double mechanism. Yet I think it is true to say that its effectiveness is almost directly related to the rate of growth of the economy as a whole. Broadly speaking, it is only in boom conditions that industry is footloose, and therefore susceptible to direction to development districts. When those boom conditions have their deflationary consequences, not only do they tend to hit the more stagnant areas of the economy the hardest, but they deprive them at the same time, just when they need help most, of possible injections of new industrial blood.
My noble friend Lord Eccles in his maiden speech suggested, perhaps—I do not think there was much "perhaps" about it; he suggested it most forcefully—that we should now be thinking in rather wider and more radical terms about this aspect of the matter. Several noble Lords have echoed his views. As I understood it, he suggested that instead of thinking of bringing work to those districts which, for one reason or another, might find themselves in something of an economic backwater, we Should rather be seeking to identify potential growth points, of course outside the congested regions, where the general environment is, or could be made, propitious for economic growth following the necessary initial injection of public capital. Noble Lords will appreciate that such a policy would mark, or might be thought to mark, a sufficient departure from the existing policy of trying primarily to bring work to those who are out of employment. The existing policy has showed that it has certain limitations. It is in any event quite obvious that this is the time 1295 to take a good, hard look at all the possibilities open to us, and I can assure my noble friend that the Government will wish to consider most carefully the views which he has expressed on that matter in our debate to-day.
My Lords, you have borne with me quite long enough. May I now, in total conclusion, try to summarise the main themes underlying the general approach which I have tried to outline to you this evening? First, in attacking this problem we believe that the prime essential is not to stifle economic growth. Growth is a matter of national survival, and any solution must fail straightaway if it is likely seriously to restrict economic growth. It does not help a branch to survive if the treatment for it kills the tree. Second, we recognise that unemployment, however local, is a gross social evil and a gross economic waste. It cannot, and must not, be disregarded. Third, therefore, the areas of decline or stagnation must be helped to grow. However, we must think increasingly in terms of full and organic growth. Simply pushing employment into the black spots does not go nearly far enough. Fourth, we must continue to alleviate congestion by providing for the overspill of our major conurbations, and by trying to find methods of diverting some of their growth to other places where it can flourish. Fifth, as an integral part of this policy we must seek to improve, by every means, the environment—physical, social and cultural—of our industrial areas, especially in the North. Sixth, and finally, we must recognise—indeed, we do recognise—the importance and urgency of this challenge.
But although we must accept this challenge, we should not "kid" ourselves into thinking that there are any easy answers to be found here. We are, in fact, grappling at one and the same time with two revolutions—the backlog, the bills coming home, as it were, to roost, of our first Industrial Revolution, and the dynamic pressures of our second industrial revolution. However, if we are wise, and if we are determined, we should be able to call in aid this second industrial revolution to redress the heritage of the 1296 first. If, in fact, we can achieve sustained and balanced growth, then I believe that the fruits of that growth should enable us to revitalise, remodernise, rebuild and indeed rebeautify, much of our older industrial heritage; and that is a national task well worth doing.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ LORD MOLSON
My Lords, I think we have had an extremely interesting and useful debate to-day. I am sure we have all been immensely pleased at the representative speeches that we have had from many parts of the country. Perhaps outstanding was the speech of the most reverend Primate recalling the time when he was a Bishop in the North-East of England. I am sure we were all immensely pleased to have from my noble friend Lord Eccles a speech, as always, weighty and balanced and informed by his recent experiences of administration in the Government.
On the whole, I think that this has been a most useful debate. I should like to thank my noble friend the Minister of State at the Home Office for his concluding speech on behalf of the Government. It was nicely balanced. Every argument in favour of taking a certain course of action was immediately followed by another argument warning of the dangers of taking that action. Anyone who sought from his speech to derive any clue as to what was to be the policy for dealing with these problems—shortly, I understand, to be announced by the Government—would, I think, find himself completely defeated. If at one moment he thought he had a clue, he had only to listen a little longer to be quite convinced that it was not indeed a reliable clue at all. There is one thing, however, that in his full and comprehensive speech he did make clear: that he and the Government recognise that this is a problem of great and increasing importance, and he undertook that the Government would deal with it. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at twenty-three minutes before eight o'clock.