§ 3.39 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE DUCHY OF LANCASTER (VISCOUNT BLAKENHAM)
My Lords, we listened with the greatest possible interest to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor. This is the second time within seven days that I have had the pleasure of following him. Of course he speaks with immense knowledge from his own experience of one of the most successful of our New Towns. I had the pleasure of being taken round Harlow (which is so dear to him) by him, and I shall always remember the enthusiasm and the great interest which he showed in all that had been achieved in Harlow. I will forgive the noble Lord for starting off somewhat politically and, in his last few sentences, ending 470 somewhat politically. Otherwise, I would certainly say that he spoke with knowledge, and that he covered a great deal of ground which was of interest to all who listened to him. I hope he will forgive me if I do not follow him in detail on all the comments he made. I should like to take up some of his points, and my noble friend who is winding up the debate will certainly deal with those which I do not cover myself.
The noble Lord indicated that, of course, the South-East is but one part, a very important part, of this island. I would point out, to begin with, that White Papers have already been published for Central Scotland and the North-East of England, in addition to the White Paper and the Study for the South-East of England which we are discussing this afternoon. Your Lordships should know that five more studies are, in fact, in progress; two covering the rest of Scotland and the others covering Wales, North-West England and the West Midlands. These investigations are not all of the same kind, because different parts of the country do not present the same problems. The first two programmes published were those for Central Scotland and North-East England, and those two have a great deal in common. In both these regions the problem is to get a greater diversification of industry and to ensure the provision of jobs to replace those which have been lost in the declining industries in these regions. I am not going to enlarge upon that at this moment.
In the South-East conditions are different. As your Lordships know full well this area is one of strong prosperity and growth and, as the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, pointed out, contains the unique problem of London itself. The main problem in the region is to find room for its increasing population. The basic aim of the South-East Study is to make a realistic long-term assessment of land requirements in South-East England and thereby to assure the well-being of all those who live there.
Population and employment have been increasing a good deal faster than the post-war plans envisaged. The pressures that these increases have set up have been at the root of several of the problems which this House has discussed over the past few years—the growth of 471 office employment in central London; the increase in commuting, which was mentioned by the noble Lord; the demand on the Green Belt; rising land prices; and the growing number of planning appeals. These are all subjects which have been discussed in your Lordships' House.
Let us look first at the population problem. National trends have changed strikingly in the last decade. In 1948 it was thought that the population of England and Wales would increase by about 2 million during the two decades 1951 to 1971. In fact, natural increase in the first decade alone came to almost 2 million people. It is now expected that this rising trend which we have seen over the last ten years will continue. The present forecast is that by the end of the century the birth-rate in England and Wales will be running at the rate of over 1,100,000 births a year, almost double the birth-rate in the 'thirties, on which a great deal of our immediate post-war planning was based.
There has also been a change in the pattern of migration. In the early 1950s this country was experiencing a net emigration—more people going out than were coming in. In the middle 'fifties there began to be a reversal of this trend; and it is now expected that we shall continue to experience a net annual gain by migration, although at a reduced level. As a result of all this the population of England and Wales in 1981 is likely to be 7 million more than it was in 1961. I do not think we can blame the experts for getting their figures wrong. There was no reason why, when making their forecast, they should expect the boom in babies—no one else did. I think instead we should take a warning of the difficulties faced by all those who try to plan as far ahead as twenty years. I think we should also take a lesson that we must constantly review trends to see that, as factors change, policies should be reviewed. It was because of these emerging national trends that the Government decided in 1961 that the land requirements of the whole South-East over the next twenty years should be re-assessed, and I think the noble Lord was a little inclined to be less charitable than he is normally when he talked about this "painfully amateur production" and said that it 472 was rushed out to get something on paper. It was set in motion some years ago as a result of very considerable and detailed investigation and work by experts who know their jobs.
The Study deduces, as the noble Lord made clear, that the South-East's share of the national increase in population in the period 1961–81 is likely to he 3½ million. I should like to say more later about this figure, and also to comment on some of the things the noble Lord said on this. But I would straight away emphasise that this figure is a conservative estimate and not a projection of recent trends. Just for the moment, enough about the size and total population increase in the South-East.
Equally important—and here I know the noble Lord is with me—is the distribution of this growth; and it is here, of course, that employment becomes a crucial factor. Much of the growing employment in the South-East is concentrated in and around London. In London itself, as was said, the important factor is office growth, and outside there is strong growth in manufacturing industry. This concentration of jobs brings with it these formidable problems of housing and transport which have been giving us so much food for thought. The Study considers how these problems can be tackled in and around London, how more land for housing can be found in London itself; and how the commuter railway services can be improved. But I hope your Lordships will agree with me that the only long-term solution must lie in getting at the root of the problem—namely, the dominance of London in the field of employment; and this solution must cover not only London itself but the ring of country around it—what the Study calls the "outer metropolitan region".
A great deal of this region is covered by the metropolitan Green Belt, and the extensions to it which the local planning authorities have proposed. Some critics—and this was not said by the noble Lord—have suggested that the Study simply accepts the outward spread of London, and is the end of the Green Belt. As the noble Lord realises, this could not be further from the truth. The Study, in fact, starts from the assumption that there should be no 473 general extension of the built-up area of London, and it is based on the Government's intention to preserve the Green Belt as a vital part of planning policy.
The essential questions, my Lords, are how can the dominance of London be reduced and how can the distribution of growth be changed? Part of the answer lies in the Studies for the other regions which I have already mentioned. But, whatever is done elsewhere, there is still the problem of getting a better distribution within the South-East. This, of course, is the main aim of the proposals in the Study.
At first sight, the Study's proposals, it could be said, do riot look very novel: more New Towns, welcomed by the noble Lord, and expansion of existing towns, again, I think, welcomed, with some reservation, by the noble Lord. It was said that we lave had these over the last fifteen years, yet the problems that are with us have certainly grown no less. What, in fact, the Study proposes is on a much larger scale than anything attempted before. Your Lordships will remember that in the ten years 1951–61 planned expansion schemes for the South-East, which included New Towns and town expansions, housed 265,000 people. The Study suggests a new programme to accommodate 1 million to 1¼ million people by 1981. I think this difference in the scales of the operation goes with an important difference in function. The present expansion schemes have been designed up till now simply to take London's overspill population. I am not saying this was not an important function. It was a very vital function, but it is in itself a limited one. The Study proposes that the new expansion schemes should have a wider rôle, that they should be centres of self-generating growth with lives of their own. They should not be merely satellites of London, but independent centres in their own right.
This concept of self-generating growth centres independent of London has important implications when it comes to choosing places for expansion. The first essential is economic potential. The Study's proposals are based on finding places that offer a firm prospect of sound and prosperous growth and on finding places where there is physical scope for really large-scale growth. I 474 was interested in the reservations which the noble Lord had about the possible water supply difficulties at Newbury; those are certainly matters which will have to be gone into in far greater detail than has been possible up till now. Only places that can compete with the attractions of London, especially for commercial employment and offices, can in fact meet the need, and only large growth centres can develop an independent existence.
It is these factors that underlie the proposed new cities, each, as your Lordships realise, looking to an eventual population increase of about 250,000. The Study, as the noble Lord indicated, suggests three possible sites for expansions of this order: the Southampton-Portsmouth area, where the economic potential centres on the port and on the two towns themselves, which are the largest in the South-East outside Greater London. Then there is the Newbury-Hungerford area which I have just mentioned. This has the advantage of being strategically sited on the route of the M.4 motorway, halfway between London and Bristol. Then there is the Bletchley area. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, mentioned this; I do not know whether the inhabitants of Bletchley will welcome his remarks. It is on the main lines of communication, including the M.1 motorway, between London and the great industrial centres of the West Midlands.
There are two other proposals. One the noble Lord mentioned—the third international airport for London at Stansted—and the other proposal, which is again linked with a development of great economic significance, is the Channel Tunnel, if that goes ahead. It is essential to the strategy of the Study that the places chosen should be as far as reasonably possible from London. There are many places in the outer metropolitan region which, on purely economic grounds, could be said to be good choices. But as far as possible suggested expansion schemes have been kept out of this area of the outer metropolitan region, and I think this is right. They have as far as possible been kept out of this area or confined to its outer fringes, so that most of the big expansion schemes proposed are well away from London. Three—Swindon, Northampton and Peterborough—are in fact 475 outside the South-East as defined in the Study.
These then are the Study's chief conclusions and proposals. The Government's initial conclusions are stated in the White Paper. We have accepted the figure of 3½ million for the population increase for the South-East by 1981 as the basis for planning to meet the future land need. We have accepted the need for new and expanded towns to accommodate 1 to 1¼ million people in ways which would provide effective relief for the pressures on London and the need to achieve a redistribution of the population growth to preserve the Green Belt which would otherwise be subject to the most intense pressures.
There are two important points to bear in mind. The first is that the Government have yet to reach final conclusions. The noble Lord was rather critical, saying that we were wrong to produce these tentative proposals. But there is a great deal to be said for consulting public opinion, consulting planning authorities and those affected; therefore I think the Government were right not to come to final conclusions before publishing the Study. Decisions of this magnitude affect many people—and I believe the noble Lord, when he thinks about it, will agree—and require full public discussion, as well as consideration with local authorities. The Study is therefore published as a basis for consultation and discussion. Secondly, we shall keep a close watch to see how things work out in practice. Twenty-year population forecasts will need, and will in fact be given, as I indicated earlier, frequent review. If the trends change we must be ready to change our own plans.
The noble Lord suggested that the South-East survey would trigger off a new round of land speculation, and this has been said by others who have criticised the plan. But I do not believe this to be true and I think it is disproved by the facts. In the case of land release, of course, there is no sudden accretion of value as a result of the Study. The local authorities and the public always knew they faced a growth of population; all the Survey has done is to put the figures to this. It remains for the local authorities to decide where their local growth 476 is going to be, and it is no easier now than it was before for speculators to know in advance where the growth will be. It is the planned expansion schemes that have hit the headlines. Again the noble Lord is very fair in pointing this out. The land required for these will be bought up in advance by public authorities as necessary, and, as under existing law, the price paid will not include any additional value attributable to the expansion scheme or even to the prospect of it. So anyone who buys land at any of these towns at a fancy price, hoping he will in the end get a still fancier price, is likely to find he has made a bad bargain.
Two-thirds of the additional 3½ million people will be catered for in a less dramatic way, by reviewing the local development plans. Here the noble Lord criticised strongly that such a large proportion should be dealt with in this way. I think again he did less than credit to the local planning authorities and to the planning machinery for which they are responsible, which was set up by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. Therefore I think that that again is a point which the noble Lord exaggerated. What the Study aims to do is to show to the local authorities the scale on which they need to plan and to encourage them to allocate enough land in their development plans. Allocation of more land will not make the price of building land rocket.
The only practicable way to restrain house prices is to meet the pressure of demand by building more houses, and that means seeing that enough land is available for houses in the right places. That, again, is the responsibility of the local planning authorities. The main purpose of the Study, as I have said, is to show the authorities the size of their problem so that they will approach it with an adequate idea of the amount of land that will have to be released to meet foreseeable demands. Surely this is the realistic, practical way to look at this question. I think that to talk about "doing something" about land prices in isolation does not make sense.
§ VISCOUNT BLAKENHAM
Perhaps I may finish this point, because it is 477 dealing with what I think the noble Lord wants to say. He and the Labour Party, I believe, have always felt that you can deal with land prices by administrative gimmicks, and it was the noble Lord—and I will give way to him in a moment—who introduced the development charge in 1947. With respect to the noble Lord, the effect of that again was to make land more expensive, to keep land off the market and in fact to hold up house building.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I am tempted to intervene in this debate for the sole purpose of dealing with this last interjection, but I am most interested to hear what the noble Viscount is saying about land costs not rising. Is it not a fact that, if you designate an area as a New Town, you can then acquire the land at its existing use value, but apart from designation as a New Town, you cannot? The noble Viscount was assuming that whatever land a local authority requires for building can be acquired at existing use value; but that is not the case.
§ VISCOUNT BLAKENHAM
No, I did not say that, and I hope nobody thinks I did. I said that land for New Towns and for new expansions of towns, under the same arrangement as New Towns, would in fact be dealt with in the way that New Towns deal with it now. I said that, so far as the rest are concerned—I was speaking of the 3½ million whom we shall not be dealing with under the special arrangements—the local planning authorities, by being given the size of the problem which they have to cope with, will be encouraged to release more land, and by the provision of more houses and more land there will not be these rocketing prices which many of the critics of the Study have in fact suggested. Also on this point, I will say that the Land Commission that is now advocated by the Labour Party would in fact be no better, unless of course they intend to have a massive use of compulsory purchase powers. As I see it, the delay, the confusion and the immense bureaucratic machine necessary to make such a Commission work really hardly bears thinking about.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount 478 whether it is not the case that, directly the local authority ceases to paint green on the map by way of prohibiting building development and releases land for building, the land value will move up, it may be dramatically? What is he going to do about that?
§ VISCOUNT BLAKENHAM
My Lords, I was countering this accusation that land prices will rocket. I maintain, and I believe it to be true, that by the release of more land this will in fact stabilise land prices rather than make them rocket. This, I think, is a sound point, and although noble Lords—
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, if that is so, will the noble Viscount say how it was that in 1951 the average paid by the L.C.C. for land was £8,800, and in 1963 it was £61,800, per acre?
§ VISCOUNT BLAKENHAM
That is hardly relevant. I am talking about the future. I would say that, now local authorities will have a far sounder idea of what the likely requirements for future building are likely to be, they will be in a position to release more land. This is a point which is perfectly simple and straightforward.
I should now like to relate this South-East Study and the White Paper to their wider context. It has been argued, for example, that it is an admission of defeat to plan for the growth of 34 million people in the South-East; and also that the creation of new and expanded towns would increase the attractiveness of the South-East at the expense of other regions. I know that noble Lords who come from further North feel this acutely. I should like to deal first with the figure of 3½ million. The Study explains at some length how this figure was arrived at. There are two elements: natural increase, estimated at about 2½ million, and net immigration, forecast at about 1 million. The noble Lord, in his introductory speech, accepted the fact that natural growth of people from within the region would be about 2½ million. What he quarrelled with was the net increase of about 1 million.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, I also quarrelled with the fact that it was an expression of birthrate, and not of the family production rate.
§ VISCOUNT BLAKENHAM
My Lords, that is quite right; the noble Lord did. So it will be seen that over two-thirds of the population increase will be people who are born in the South-East. Almost one-third would be caused by immigration. And here, I think, is the main point of criticism.
The first thing we have to ask ourselves is, how does this figure compare with past experience? The Study starts from the Government Actuary's official estimate of future migration into England and Wales. If past trends continue, this would lead to a migration gain in the South-East, not of 1 million, but of nearer 1½ million. This is a continuing expansion trend. But, of course, the measures which the Government have put in train elsewhere, particularly in Scotland and the North-East, are aimed at securing a more even development of economic activity throughout the country. These measures will have their effect in reducing the total of migration from those areas; and of that smaller total, the South-East's share will therefore fall, too. But the figure cannot be reduced beyond a certain point. People change the place where they live for more than one reason—and, incidentally, they come from more than one direction. Some of the migrants are not easily influenced. For instance, many people, when they retire, are attracted by the warmer climate of the South—and the Study indicates as many as a quarter of a million by 1981. In addition, the South-East must expect its share of the migrants coming into this country from overseas.
But the fact remains that the population forecast does envisage some continuing migration for work from elsewhere in the United Kingdom—here the noble Lord is quite right. It is this migration which, some have argued (the noble Lord did not go quite so far as arguing this wholeheartedly), the Government should seek to stop altogether. But the Government do not believe that this is a realistic approach. Strong and long-established trends in our national economy have led to a faster rate of growth of employment in the South-East, and this, in turn, has fostered migration into that area. These trends can be influenced, and we are influencing them; but they just cannot 480 be stopped or reversed overnight. Indeed, I think it is right to say that economic strength in the South-East makes a substantial contribution to the national total. It is not suddenly to be cut back to fit into an arbitrary pattern. It would not help other parts of the country to stifle that growth in the South-East which must take place there, or not at all. To plan on a basis of the figures in the Study is not, as has been suggested, an admission of defeat: it is based on the belief that our efforts to help other regions will succeed.
There is the criticism, too, that the new expansion schemes in the South-East will draw people and jobs from other parts of the country. But the schemes will be taking the people moving out of London. They will also take some of the people who would otherwise gravitate inevitably towards London. The schemes will help to ensure that the growth that is going to take place is dispersed and spread more evenly within the South-East as a whole, and not just squeezed into one particular part of it.
The Board of Trade keep a tight control on industrial employment in the South-East. New industry cannot hope for industrial development certificates there. Not even existing factories are permitted to expand if they can possibly carry out the expansion elsewhere. Indeed, the South-East has provided an important source of industry for moving to the development districts. Our rigorous examination of future expansion proposals will therefore continue, and if a factory can move to help in a development district, it will not be allowed to set up in one of the New Town expansions in the South-East. There will be work enough in the South-East without that. In this way we shall carry out our policy: we shall help relieve pressure in the South by expansion in the North.
Where does this booming, prosperous South-East fit into the national framework? A prosperous South-East helps to make other regions prosperous too. Do not let us be ashamed of its prosperity. Our purpose must be to make this prosperity nationwide. There is no advantage in growth outstripping the resources in one part of the country, while resources are under-used in other 481 parts. Here I strongly disagree with the theories expounded by a distinguished ex-colleague of mine. We intend to remedy the situation where employers are hunting for labour in one place while workers are looking for jobs only a few hundred miles away. This problem has preoccupied this Government and the Labour Government before it for many decades past. Many different remedies have been tried. Some of them have worked out well. I am thinking, for instance, of the transformation of South Wales, as a typical example. But some problems, in some areas, have not yet been solved. So we decided on a fresh approach. We shall certainly not take our eye off the ball in the North. Central Scotland and North-East England have a flying start, and we shall ensure that they forge ahead.
Noble Lords will be interested in what my noble friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer said yesterday, in his Budget speech, when he stated that seven times as many applications for assistance under the Local Employment Act have been made this year as were made in 1962–63. I can assure noble Lords who may have doubts on this point that the programme in Central Scotland is being vigorously implemented by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. Two-thirds of these applications for assistance under the Local Employment Act are for Central Scotland and for the North-East.
In Scotland there are a number of examples of recent progress for all to see. Abbotsinch Airport terminal building will now be going ahead. The first road scheme has been approved for Livingstone New Town. Development of the important growth point at Irvine is under discussion. My right honourable friend the Minister of Labour is arranging for training facilities to be improved, and to increase his existing plans here. New technical colleges are coming along. Thirteen new local authority factories are to be built, in four different centres. So it will be seen that the Central Scottish programme has made a good start, and, what is more important, is being pushed ahead.
Similar progress is being made in North-East England. There has been a great deal of improvement there lately. Since the White Paper was published in 482 November, some fifteen more firms have either decided to open up in the North-East or are, we believe, on the point of doing so. Over 5,500 more jobs are estimated to flow from this. The stress which the White Paper laid on better roads in the North-East, is being followed through by detailed route planning with local authorities. In my opinion, some of these instances in Scotland and the North-East show that progress is being made and will continue to be made. In other regions these studies are now under way. I have tried to show your Lordships' House that the Government's resolve is to spread prosperity to all regions, and that this is, in fact, being implemented. I can give an assurance that this will continue.
Meanwhile, in the South-East the Government intend to discuss fully with those concerned the proposals suggested in the Study, and, though this will be pressed ahead it is bound to take some time. Thereafter it must, in any event, take some years before approved schemes can be got going on the ground. The Study involves a dynamic new approach to the whole of the South-East, with the virtual creation of three major new cities, six big new expansions and twelve other schemes on a substantial scale. The new city concept, in particular, reveals the radical nature of the Study. These are not designed just to take London overspill and provide employment for the newcomers: the idea is that they would be major new centres of growth in themselves, acting as counterweights to London and thus accommodating some of the newcomers before they even get to London.
Whatever the merits of some of the arguments of those who try to say that nothing should be done, or think that we should rely purely on economic trends, such arguments fail on social grounds. The Government have therefore rejected that sort of approach. We believe that growth in the South-East is inevitable, but that the pressures on London must be relieved and that action must be taken to secure a better distribution of this growth. We believe that the basic strategy of the South East Study is the right one to achieve the radical change in the pattern of development that is required. As the terms of Lord Taylor's Motion remind us, we have to think of the 18 million people living in this area. 483 We have set the process going, but we must do this without prejudicing the welfare of the nation as a whole. I believe that we shall be able to achieve this only in the sort of way I have outlined this afternoon.
§ 4.15 p.m.
§ LORD TANGLEY
My Lords, in a debate about South-East England, of which Greater London forms so important a part, it would be idle for me to hold myself out to your Lordships as an uncontroversial person. None the less, I feel that there are things in this Study which are so wide in their scope, and have so many aspects, that I can, without any breach of the decorum becoming to someone who is addressing your Lordships for the first time, lay certain suggestions before you for your consideration.
I should like to start by congratulating the anonymous authors of this Study for having expressed their ideas in clear and plain English, without any technical fads and without any jargon. There must be a tremendous amount of technical material behind this Report, but I am glad to see that they have kept it out of the Report, so that the ordinary man can read and understand what is being proposed. I find this Study in many respects a heartening and, indeed, in some senses, historic piece of work. This Study looks to the future. It contemplates a generation of abounding and vigorous life. Population will grow; trade and industry will grow; the standard of living will grow; and so will the demand for education and a fuller life for all. The declared object of this Study is not to cramp or stifle that growth, but to find ways and means by which that growth can take place within the framework of a civilised social life.
I believe that that is a true picture of the state of our nation to-day. There are no doubt many ways in which we fail or fall short of our chances of envisaging the opportunities which lie before us. In an extremely interesting debate last week, initiated by the noble Viscount, Lord Hanworth, we examined some of the ways in which we are falling short of our industrial opportunities in the field of automation. But when one has made allowance for all that, ought we not also to recognize and rejoice 484 in the undoubted vitality of our people and of our institutions? What a contrast between the spirit of this Study and the scene and the spirit contemplated by the planners of a generation ago! I have no doubt that many of your Lordships have on your study shelves, as I have, books written a generation ago. They were full of gloom: the great days were over; the population would become static and aged, or even dwindle; it would be impossible to maintain our export trade at a level which would maintain even the then existing standard of life for the then existing population. I used to find that very gloomy reading; but to-day I find it most cheerful reading. It is always cheering to read about disasters that did not happen.
It was inevitable that the planners of those days should have been influenced by the then prevailing mood and outlook. They planned for stagnation. They were inevitably affected by the failure, as I believe it to have been, of the national spirit during the 'thirties, and I think your Lordships will agree with me, that the planners now feel bound to provide for the vital consequences of our resurgence as a people. When one makes all the allowances one should make, for failures of vision and moral lapses, for short-sightedness and human selfishness, surely this resurgence is a fact; and it is to me a very heartening thing that the planners should feel bound to take account of it.
I suggest to your Lordships, also, that this is an historic document. It shows that we are capable of learning the lessons of history. Would that we had had such a study as this in the days of the first Industrial Revolution, when this land was being transformed from a rural into an industrial country! Then we had just such an upsurge of industry, of population, of growth, as we are experiencing now. What would Lancashire and Yorkshire and Tyneside and the Black Country have been like to-day, if the growth of industry based upon steam power had been foreseen and provided for, as this Study seeks to foresee and provide for the phenomena of the Second Industrial Revolution?
I believe, also, that this Study is historic in another sense. It explicitly recognises that the location of industry has been, is, and must mainly always 485 be the result of economic forces. Industry has always been located where production and distribution are cheap. That is inevitable, my Lords, and it is right. Cheap production is essential if we are to maintain our export trade and so provide and sustain all the benefits to which we are looking forward. Is it not the case that tie economic factors which cause industry to settle in one place rather than another are these four—access to raw materials, access to markets, access to labour and access to power supplies? Sometimes one of those factors seems to outweigh another, but at all times all four of them exert their force.
If one goes back in history, one finds that industry was concentrated in South-East England. Cloth weaving—the greatest industry—found its raw material near at hand on the Downs and in the Cotswolds. It was conveniently transported and it found itself near to the ports that gave access to the great Continental market. The same four factors caused the iron working industry to be found in the Weald of Sussex. Then, with the invention of steam, which enormously increased the productive power of industry, proximity to the source of power—that is to say, coal—became the overriding consideration, and the great manufacturing towns grew up close to the coalfields. The adaption of steam to transport in the form of railways made it possible for raw materials to come to the new manufacturing towns and for the finished products to be sent to the ports of export.
I recall that the original main line of the old Midland Railway was from Birmingham to Bristol, and the original main line of what subsequently became the Great Central Railway was intended to link Lancashire and Yorkshire with the Humber ports; and that the extension for passenger services to St. Marylebone, London, was a late afterthought. There was no drift of industry to the North in those days, but the number of jobs available and, consequently, the population which could be supported increased in the North and Midlands at a far greater rate.
During our own day we have seen the same factors working in exactly the opposite direction. During my own adult lifetime I have seen electric power 486 become available almost everywhere, at prices which vary very little as between one part of the country and another. I have seen the internal combustion engine revolutionise the transport of both raw materials and finished products. Industry is no longer anchored to the coalfields but, so far as power supplies are concerned, can settle anywhere. It is access to labour, to the ports and the markets which are now the decisive factors. In consequence, we are seeing exactly what happened in the first Industrial Revolution happening in reverse. The number of jobs and the level of population are not falling in the industrial North; they are rising faster in the South-East. I believe it is a great merit of this Study, that it recognises the existence of these historical forces and seeks not to obstruct their effects, but to provide for them in an orderly civilised manner.
My Lords, I am taking, I know, rather a broad view of this South-East Study. May I conclude by asking your Lordships to consider how effect is to be given to this Study or, indeed, to any other study of the kind? In particular, may I inquire whether our machinery of government is adequate for the purpose? As to this, my Lords, I confess that I feel much less happy. The South-East Study, or any other similar Study, will not, of course, have any direct legal effect, but it will have a strong persuasive effect upon the development plans presented by the planning authorities for the approval of the Minister. This persuasive influence derives from the fact that every planning authority will know that it has no hope of getting its development plan approved unless it conforms to the general ideas of the Study as finally accepted.
The initiative in producing development plans and in many other matters will lie with the local government bodies. It is therefore essential, first, that local government should properly be organised to carry that burden. That is the primary requirement, I suggest. I believe that the work which has been done in London, and is being done in the provinces, is producing a local authority organisation capable of bearing the burdens. I hope that there will be no thought of establishing yet another sort of government, under the guise of 487 regional government. Regional government is, to me, a very tempting sounding phrase; but when one looks at it, in my submission it has no meaning at all. It is the duty of the Central Government, is it not, having regard to national considerations to lay down the general conception of what a region should be? It is for the local authorities, properly organised, to take the initiative in fitting their own parts of the region into the conception of the Central Government. The regional authority, if there were one, would either be yet a third tier of local government, or be an arm of Central Government. Neither of them, I suggest, is necessary, and either would be confusing.
Nevertheless, my Lords, I believe that the Central Government itself faces a serious problem in the machinery of government. Local authorities will be the initiators in regard to town and country planning, and also in respect of the provision of schools and roads, sewerage and many other essential services. They will have to provide for parks, concert halls and theatres, and for all sorts of other amenities. For some of those activities they will pay entirely themselves, though they will have to get loan sanction from one Minister or another. For some, services grants will be available from one Minister or another. The Minister of Housing and Local Government must approve the development plans. For the schools the local authorities will be dealing with the Minister of Education; for roads, they will be dealing with the Minister of Transport; for the police, they will be dealing with the Home Office; and in other matters they will be dealing with other Government Departments. They will be asking for loan sanction, and in some cases for grants, and each of the Ministers concerned will have to satisfy himself about the policy of the local authorities making the application.
Then, outside the local government world, the construction, extension and maintenance of ports will be the responsibility of the Committee under the chairmanship of the noble Viscount, Lord Rochdale, which will deal with the Minister of Transport; and the supervision of road transport services is a matter for the Minister of Transport. 488 The provision of railway services will be the responsibility of the Railways Board, and the Minister will have to decide the extent and scope of the railway services to be provided, and whether or not they are to be dealt with purely on an accountancy basis. Then, for hospital and medical services, there is the Minister of Health.
My point, my Lords, is that there is a multiplicity of Government Departments, a whole series of them, each with the responsibility of providing or sanctioning the provision of money for one or other of the various projects which are essential parts of the implementation of such a Study. I suppose that each Minister would do his best for his own protégé, so to speak, and ultimately the Treasury would have to come to some reconciliation of conflicting claims upon the national resources. I gravely doubt whether such a system is adequate to weld into a whole the innumerable individual projects which, between them, will go to implement the principles of this or any other study. I hope very much that the Government are giving serious attention to this problem, and perhaps the noble Lord who winds up this debate will be able to give us some reassurance. For it would be a tragedy if such a scheme as this, or any other scheme taking its place, were to be held up, postponed or impeded because of the inadequacy of the machinery of government. I do not wish to keep your Lordships any longer. I trust that I have not been misled into becoming controversial in any way, or misled into a breach of any other tradition of your Lordships' House; and I offer your Lordships my most sincere thanks for the patience with which you have listened to my first effort.
§ 4.33 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ALBANS
My Lords, I welcome the opportunity of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, on his maiden speech. I am grateful to him for setting this South East Study in an historical perspective, and for his carefully-weighed words about the dangers of regional government and the responsibilities of the central Government. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, will often address us again and that we shall have the advantage of further speeches from him. I share his view in thinking well 489 of this South East Study, and I want to pay my tribute to the author, if there is a particular individual who is largely responsible for it. I could have wished that it had taken its place in the line of succession, following the Beeching, Buchanan, Robbins and Newsom Reports, with the author's name attached, for then that person would have the opportunity in the Press, on TV and on the radio of developing his views and of clarifying our thinking. If this Report be largely the work of one mind, then may the debate in your Lordships' House convey to that author our appreciation of his work, which is not the less sincere because it is blended with criticism.
As I read the Report and considered the chart of live births from 1946 to 1962, and the sharp increase in birth trends in 1955, I specially noted the soaring birthrate in the outer metropolitan region, and it is because I live in that region that I put my name down for the debate this afternoon. I welcome the Report, for I do not believe, in the light of post-war experience, that it is prudent to let things take their course. We want a larger and a fresh programme, both of new and of expanded towns, and, I would add, villages: but must they be within relatively close range of London? I endorse what the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has said, and plead that consideration be given to siting towns in North Bedfordshire or East Anglia.
I am particularly concerned about the outer metropolitan region. The Study admits that there are strong arguments for keeping further planned expansion schemes out of this area, but it goes on to say that in practice this is not likely to be possible. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, has reminded us of the debate on New Towns earlier this year, when the proposal to expand the New Town of Stevenage to a figure of 140,000 was heavily criticised by many of your Lordships. Since then, I am thankful to note that the Minister of Housing and Local Government has modified his proposals, and I gather that the gap between Stevenage and Luton is no longer threatened by expansion.
Chapter 11 of this Study statesthat places should be chosen for expansion which will have a firm prospect of rapid, sound and prosperous growth …";490 but the same chapter goes on to support the arguments we put forward in your Lordships' House two months ago:A rapid build-up produces an unbalanced structure, with too many families of the same age and background, leading to a series of bulges that may take several generations to even out.My Lords, I fear that this is the position in our New Towns, but they do not look as though they are going, to be allowed several generations in which to even out.
I turn to certain factors which concern all the New Towns in Hertfordshire and, I have no doubt, elsewhere. The proportion of young people in New Towns is more than twice the national proportion of young people in an ordinary community. For example, some years ago a survey was taken at Hemel Hempstead, when it was found that over 45 per cent. of the population of the town at that time was under the age of 19 years, as against just over the normal 20 per cent. of an average population. To provide facilities in New Towns is so expensive a business that we ought to look at both the existing towns and certain villages. The expansion of facilities in older towns would, I submit, be a cheaper, easier and, in many ways, a better provision to make.
The Green Belt has come under fire, and doubtless it will continue to come under fire. Here is a lung stretching into the country, and the countryside helps a man to accept his roots and his location. The restoration of natural ways of living, it has been said, is perhaps a first condition of the recovery of a Christian Britain. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government seem a little inclined to encroach on the Green Belt, and it is much to be desired that this tendency should be resisted.
I want to say a word or two about conditions in Bedfordshire, for shortly before the South East Study was published much interest was aroused in Bedfordshire by an interim report to the Bedforshire County Council on ways and means of providing an addition of 117,000 to the population of that county by 1981. The South East Study is concerned with large numbers, and with an extra 30,000 population for Bedford; but I hope that, in the years before us, there will be closer consultation so that 491 relatively small increases in village population may receive more attention. Therefore I welcome the assurance of the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham, that the White Paper will be a basis for discussion and contains only tentative conclusions.
A number of villages, not only in Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire but elsewhere in this region, would, I am certain, benefit by some modest increase of population. The increase of artisans, rather than commuters, can bring new life to many villages, and yet too large an influx can, and does, unsettle the roots of a community and spoils its growth. If growth comes, it should come with employment—industry if at all possible, but, if not, offices and service industries. I have in mind several villages where there is a more balanced community life because of such development.
My Lords, there are two or three concluding observations that I would offer. The first concerns our homes. We are debating the need for urgent action in the interests of the welfare of the people in South-East England. Our homes need kitchens large enough to contain labour saving and modern food storage requirements; our homes should have appropriate room space for looking at and listening to television. This month the B.B.C. starts its Channel 2 programme. It is a programme launched in the interests of further education, and there should be the opportunity of listening to the programme in a setting where there is a tolerable amount of quiet.
In this House last week automation was debated and the forecast was made that we might be in sight of a working day of two hours only. More leisure gives more chances of study. But few young people find it easy to study at home, and few old people find room enough for them to live in their children's homes. If we are to have contented people in well-designed homes in South-East England, I plead for a closer relationship between the housing and planning authorities and the families who are to live in the houses, which are often rather ill-designed, and ill-advisedly designed, for us.
492 I would say one word about migration. This has already been referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham. Migration is to be faced; but how are we to face it? Should provision be made for West Indians, Pakistanis and Italians to be integrated in the South-East, with our standards? Do we expect them always to adapt their ways to our ways, or should we give further thought to adapting both cultures so that there is a new synthesis? I feel we are in the debt of a number of these people and that we should give thought to these considerations. When I say that we are in debt, I have in mind the courteous and cheerful services that so many West Indians offer us in London Transport. I hope that this Study will lead us to a richer community life in South-East England, a life which the Channel Tunnel may help us to share with increased numbers of nationals from other countries. Community life in the South-East should be such that we are sensitive, appreciative and imaginative in our understanding of others. Christians need to be alive to these responsibilities.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, the House will have been pleased to hear an expression of opinion about this debate from the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans. It is right that the view of the Church, or, at any rate, a Bishop of the Church, should be heard on such an important matter as this. I cordially agree with him that the Green Belt, in whose creation I played a part, is really a testimony to Christian doctrine that we should not be cut off from the countryside for too great a distance; and I think the implication of what he said was that anybody who damaged the Green Belt, or nibbled at it, cut it about or ruined it, would be guilty of an un-Christian act; and with that I entirely associate myself.
The noble Viscount the Deputy Leader of the House said that, in addition to this Report, the Government had produced Reports on Central Scotland and on North-East England, and that is true. But he said the conditions in the South-East were entirely different from conditions in those places. That also is true because in Central 493 Scotland and in the North-East of England, in Merseyside and in Northern Ireland there is a danger of industrial decay, and I do not want to see them decaying. But what I complain about is that this Report on the future distribution of population, industry and services in Britain should have been confined to South-East England. I do not like this regional approach, separate and ad hoc, to a problem which in many respects is a national one—namely, the question of the distribution of industry, of population and of housing.
I think that in this matter the Government have made a mistake similar to the mistakes they made in respect of the Buchanan Report on roads and of the Beeching Report on railways. They were both ordered separately, both produced separately, both published separately, although they were complementary to a common problem of British transport. Now we have separate examinations of the industrial problem of Central Scotland, of North-East England and of the South-East; and I think it would have been better if there had been, at any rate, either first of all or in addition to these publications, a Report on the future distribution of industry, of our economic resources, our population and housing for the whole of Great Britain.
It is exceedingly difficult to judge this Report on South-East England without having in mind the problems of the North-East of Scotland, of Merseyside and of Northern Ireland. I have read all this Report. It takes a bit of doing; there is a lot of it; but I have read it all. I am glad that I have done so and I am therefore able to make a few observations about it. May I say straight away that I think the whole House is indebted for the speech of my noble friend Lord Taylor in opening this debate? It was a masterly exposition by a man of acute intelligence who has some practical, on-the-ground experience of New Town development in South-East England. I listened with great pleasure and with general agreement, and I think we are indebted to him for the speech which he made.
There are, of course, two problems of immigration here. One is the immigration into the South-East (even though it may be argued it is limited, it is noticeable) from the North, from Scotland, 494 Wales and Ireland. In principle I am not complaining about it. It is the economic consequence of it to the other parts that I am anxious about. As a matter of fact, half the population of London are perhaps not of London origin at all: they may be Scottish, Welsh, Irish or perhaps of other origin. They have settled down in London, and in the course of a generation or two they become Londoners. And we Londoners do not feel jealous of the fact that they have a different accent from ours. On the contrary, we find it charming. But what arises is that the problem of the population in London is accentuated by the migration of folk from the North, from Scotland, Wales and Ireland, and the problems of those countries are accentuated because under economic pressure, people have found it difficult not to leave then countries or the neighbourhood of their birth.
Taking our country as a whole, migration from overseas has to be limited. I do not think there is any doubt that there has to be some limitation of the number of people who can come into this country. This is a small island, with a population of about 50 million, and we cannot stand an unlimited immigration, not, at any rate until we have solved the housing problem. We have a long way to go before that is done, and this is a factor which has to be kept in mind. I should like to see some of our people emigrating to the Commonwealth and doing good work there, and some of them are doing so.
The Green Belt was established for the purpose of putting a physical Green Belt between built-up Greater London and possible built-up areas beyond, and also to enable people living in London and in the built-up areas outside to reach the countryside, without spending too much time and trouble in travelling, to enjoy natural scenery. It did not follow that it would be made up of public open space, although some of it is. Much of it is farm land. When the Green Belt was proposed the L.C.C. suggested that there should be a joint committee with the Outer London authorities to run it collectively, but the outer authorities did not like that, and I do not blame them. Instead the L.C.0 gave them a grant of up to £2 million towards acquiring land, on the condi- 495 tion that they would preserve it as Green Belt, and then they had to run it themselves, which I think was the easiest and simplest way of doing it.
It is a little difficult to decide whether this Study regards the Green Belt as substantially sacred or not. It speaks with two voices. It says that the Green Belt should be preserved, but we must not be too sticky about it. And it says that the Green Belt must be enlarged, there must be an outer Green Belt added to the existing one, but we must not be too sticky about that. I think that the Minister is speaking with two voices about this. I regret to say this—I would sooner say something else—but I have the fear that he is not as wedded to the Green Belt as he ought to be. It is vital that this should be so, otherwise these vast populations will be cut off from God's countryside, or will get there only by long journeys by car, poor things, and probably end in a queue at Dorking and have a job to get back home. That would be a great misfortune. I invite the Minister to "come clean" about this, and not to be edgy and a little bit "dodgy" in his approach, as are the terms of this Report.
My noble friend Lord Taylor raised the question of land values, and my noble friend Lord Silkin intervened. He has had great experience of this matter in handling the Town and Country Planning Act, under which the Labour Government sought to prevent land values from being exploited by private speculators and to see that the public interest was defended. The noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham, said that the Government were taking care of this problem. Unfortunately, he did not tell the House how. It may be that he did not know, in which case we must have a certain degree of sympathy with him. I always sympathise with a Minister who has not the facts to argue a case. But, at any rate, he did not tell us.
After my noble friend Lord Silkin had got through Parliament legislation which held out a reasonable prospect of putting a curb on inflated land values, the Conservative Government, when they came in, promptly changed that legislation; and since then there has been this shocking increase in land values, to which my noble friend Lord Stonham also has referred. It really is a serious 496 matter that land values should soar up without limit. Not only is it a bad thing for local authorities, who are landed with inflated capital costs in respect of housing schemes and schemes for open spaces, but it is a dreadful thing for young people of the lower middle class who want to buy a house and get married—many of whom probably vote Conservative, though I imagine that they will begin to think again about doing that. I put it to the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham, whose main occupation is that of Chairman of the Conservative Party organisation, that he had better keep in mind those young people about to get married, who are landed with these shockingly inflated costs, not only if they are buying a house but also if they are called upon to pay high rents. They are nice people, even if they vote Tory—misguided, but nice—and it is a dreadful thing that this Government should punish these supporters of theirs by landing them with these enormous payments, which burden them for many years to come.
Some of these inflated land values are terrible, dramatic, brutal. I would invite the Government to say what they are going to do to end this state of affairs, which is doing such injury all over the country. The noble Viscount said that they are going to take care of this matter, but he has not told us how; and in so far as he tried to show how, he was promptly knocked over by my noble friends Lord Silkin and Lord Taylor. The only people who are benefiting are the speculators, the parasites; the people who do nothing in return for these inflated prices; who buy land for the purpose of selling it at a much bigger price. They are not useful citizens. The Government ought not to worry about them, and should deal with this problem of inflated land values as soon as they can.
The Study deprecates the amount of commuter travel, and I agree with it in this respect. I am a commuter, but within the London County area. When I first lived down at Eltham Well Hall, I could join a train at rush hour and there was plenty of room; but join a train at rush hour now and you are lucky if you get a scat. It is not the fault of British Railways, except in so far as, when they electrified the railway, that development stimulated building; but that was bound to happen. 497 I would praise the Southern Railway for what it did. Sir Herbert Walker, the manager of the Southern Railway under private ownership, was a great railwayman. He did it, and he never asked for a penny of State subsidy. I like a chap like that: enterprise without any State money. Now, when I go down at night, sometimes in the peak hour, many people are standing—and, what is much worse, sometimes I am standing. But if you can hang on, although you get a bit tired, you survive.
But whereas people used to get out in substantial numbers at St. John's, Lewisham and Kidbrooke, whereupon the straphangers could sit down, they nowadays do not materially depart until they get to Eltham Well Hall, Eltham Park and Falconwood, where a great number get out. So the population is moving out, and the problem of commuting is becoming increasingly difficult, both for the travellers themselves and for the transport undertakings: because the poor transport undertakings, whether the main-line railways or London Transport—whether it was the old companies or the new public concerns—have to run those railways all day, even though the only fully occupied period is at the peak hours, morning and evening. Consequently, it is difficult for them to pay their way. This situation is partly brought about by the past wrong development of London and Greater London, which, so far as I can see, this Report, far from discouraging, is, if anything, at any rate up to a point, encouraging.
It is true that it is proposed to start some new cities—Portsmouth—Southampton, Bletchley and Newbury—but that still means an increase in the population of south-east England. And they are all to be built within accessible distance of London. It is significant that in the Report the accessibility to London is spelt out in terms of roads, rather than railways, which indicates that my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport, about whom I had a few harmless observations to utter the other day, has had a hand in the compilation of this Report. It is not the railways which are going to connect these towns with London, but the roads, and especially motor roads.
Another problem is that of offices. Here I understand that the London 498 County Council have done their best to diminish—they could not abolish—the rate of expansion of office building in Central London. I shall be corrected about this if I am wrong, but I understand that if there is a building, especially if it contains offices up to a limited height and the owners or purchasers propose to pull it down and put up another building twice, or even three times, the height of the original one, if the London County Council say: "No, you cannot because we are not having any more offices built in Central London", the London County Council, as the planning authority, may be involved in compensation payments of a substantial order. As I say, if I am wrong about this I shall be glad to be corrected, but I understand this to be the case, and that the compensation payable may be considerable.
There is a suggestion that additional transport will have to be provided. Here we come to another problem. If the additional transport is by private car, it is bound to lead to the additional congestion of the highways of London and the approaches to London. Even to-day we are getting to the limit of that sort of thing, and, as some of us said in the debate on the Buchanan Report, something will have to be done about it. The Buchanan Report, or the Report of the Working Party under Sir Geoffrey Crowther, urged that possibly it would be well to subsidise public transport—buses and Tubes—in order to encourage the private motorist to give up travelling into Central London by private car and to go by Underground, suburban railway or bus.
My Lords, this really is no solution. If anybody thinks that knocking off 2d, or 3d., or even 6d., off the fare to London is going to stop a man with a private car from driving into Central London, he is living in a fool's paradise: it just will not do it. The real answer is to say to the private motorist that, unless he can show good cause why he should come into Central London by private car, he will not be allowed to do so. We shall have to come to this. It sounds dreadful, and I admit that, at a time when we are within sizeable distance of a General Election, the Government cannot be expected to do it. I do not blame them; they have enough trouble with their Conservative waverers 499 at the moment, without adding to it. But it is right that this will have to come. And when it comes, that is the way to make public transport increase its traffic, its receipts and its commercial viability. We cannot have the best of two worlds that are mutually killing each other. We cannot have a steady growth in private motor transport and flourishing public transport at the same time. That is the situation we must face, and it is bound up with this whole problem of commuters in London traffic.
When it comes to building Tubes, with which this Report flirts, as well as railway improvements, I must point out that Tubes are very expensive to build. It is highly probable that the new Victoria Tube will not pay on its own—I do not know; but I should think it unlikely. If it could be carried by a prosperous London Transport, as a whole, that would be desirable. I do not ask that every section of London Transport should pay on its own; I like the "show" to pay as a whole, if it can be done. It is therefore probably right that the Victoria Tube should be built; and it may be socially right that some other Tubes and Underground railways should be built, as well. But let there be no under-estimate of the cost involved, and of the difficulty of making these undertakings pay, so long as public transport is made the victim of a free-for-all of other forms of transport. This cannot be done.
I used to drive to Parliament in my little car—it was even smaller then than it is now, and it is not big now—and it used to take half-an-hour from Eltham to the House of Commons. But now, according to the degree of congested traffic, it would take probably an hour or more to do that journey. As I have never learned to drive a car and read blue books at the same time, I have given up driving and I come more quickly by public transport. I am a good customer of the Southern Electric: I am better off and I can read. These are the things that are happening, and the poor commuter who drives up on his own every day, foolishly, as I think, if he is not compelled to, is fatigued and tired out when he gets to work; and probably fatigued, tired out and bad-tempered when he gets home to his wife—poor 500 thing! All this is wrong, because we are not thinking enough about the social consequences of this kind of thing.
There is another consideration which must be kept in mind and with which the Report deals, and that is water supply. I often marvel, as the world's population grows, that somehow water is provided—not in all countries, because some are short of it, and it is a terrible thing for them when that is so. But look how the population of our own country has grown! Somehow the water is still there. Whether it will always be so I do not know, but up to now we have survived. The Report says that there must be more water supplied for this growing South-Eastern region, but it does not tell us anything about the public machinery of administration or organisation whereby the water is to be obtained.
When the London Government Act, of unhappy memory—notwithstanding the last election—was passed, the Government intended to bring in a Bill to make the Metropolitan Water Board area the same as the Greater London area, but they found that it needed a Hybrid Bill and they dropped it. I hope that, if this legislation goes on—which I trust it will not—that that will not be forgotten. It will be necessary that the Metropolitan Water Board should become part of the Greater London Council, if the Council remains, and that its area should be correspondingly increased, especially in the light of these proposals.
There is one other point I wish to mention, and that is on agriculture. This is not easy of solution, but the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham, is a former Minister of Agriculture. I remember that when the Labour Government was in office I was instrumental in requiring that there should be an annual report on the degree and places of encroachment on agricultural land, including the quality of the land. I hope that that still goes on—I do not know whether it does or not—because it was a check on Ministers being indifferent about encroaching on agricultural land. I know the difficulties of not doing so, but this South East Study does not pay enough attention to this question.
After all, apart from the interests of the farmers—and their interests are entitled to be taken into account—it is a question of amenity, because farm land is 501 land which contributes to amenity. Apart from that, the growth of British agricultural production from the war onwards, including the, period of the Labour Government, when my noble friend Lord Williams of Barnburgh was Minister of Agriculture—and here I think the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham, will agree with me—has afforded not a solution, but a contribution towards rectifying the balance-or-payments problem, because before this growth of productivity we had to import more food than we do now. The consequence of being able to import less food and still get the people fed was a contribution to the balance of trade and the balance-of-payments problems. Therefore this problem of agriculture is a factor in this Report.
I am glad that we are having this debate. It is one of the advantages of your Lordships' House that we are able, through the usual channels, to arrange at short notice these debates on matters of current and important public interest. That was how my noble friend Lord Taylor was able to get in. I congratulate him on having got in, and on his speech, and I congratulate your Lordships' House on having been able to grant facilities for what I think has been a useful debate.
§ 5.15 p.m.
My Lords, I think the factual situation has been fairly stated. To-day 18 million people—that is to say, 35 per cent. of the population—live in South-East England. It is anticipated that during the next 20 years the population in the South-East is likely to increase by another 3½ million. I venture to think—and I am quite prepared to be corrected if I am wrong—that of that figure some 2 million at least will further congest the area of London and the area immediately surrounding London. Of course, Her Majesty's Government and their successors in title can do nothing about the increased population in itself. What the Government can do is, in effect, to arrange in what areas that increase may find accommodation and employment.
In my view, the situation to-day in the South-East is almost alarming. If I were a dictator, which unfortunately I am not, I would draw a line from London to Bristol and prohibit any new building 502 South of that line, and also within a radius of 50 miles from Charing Cross in all directions, for at least the next five years. There would be an exception in favour of continuing the building of existing New Towns and upon work which has been commenced, and there would also be an exception in favour of building on the sites of demolished slum property. Subject to those exceptions, there could be no new building within the areas I have indicated for at least the next five years.
But people must be housed, and as quickly as possible. In this connection, the policy of the Government should be not to draw people towards London but to draw people as far away from London as possible. This is best done by the construction of New Towns. I would suggest commencing work on at least twelve more New Towns, at least 150 miles from London. The South-West of England comprises some very beautiful country, but there is no evidence that the inhabitants of that part of the country would object to at least one New Town being constructed in the South-West. Then there are the Midlands. Some rural towns could carry two or three New Towns. Speaking for myself, I would sooner see horses and hounds in the countryside than New Towns, but unless people are going to live in the sea some of the countryside must be dedicated to the sites of New Towns.
Then there is the North of England. I should imagine that three New Towns would be welcomed in the North-East of England, especially in Durham, from which all the best people come. As for the North-West of England, the position may be slightly different. It may be that the rebuilding and extension of Manchester and the surrounding district will be inconsistent with the creation of more New Towns in that area. What about Scotland? I have not heard anybody mention Scotland.
I am not suggesting any further extension of Glasgow and the county of Renfrew. But is it beyond the bounds of reason to build a couple of New Towns on the East 503 coast of Scotland? Perhaps some of your Lordships who know that part of the world in modern times will have some views on the matter.
§ LORD MORRISON OF LAMBETH
My Lords, I hesitate to interrupt the noble Lord, but there are at least two New Towns, if not three, in the North-East, and there are at least two New Towns, if not three, in Scotland. My noble friend says four. Anyway, there are a number in Scotland, all built under the Act which was brought in by my noble friend Lord Silkin.
I am glad to hear that, but what I am suggesting is this. If we are to have an increase of 3½ million in the population of South-East England, before that increase becomes effective or difficult, we should have accommodation for them in twelve more New Towns in other parts of the country. I only ask that you do not put a New Town in Aberdeenshire. I know that when I go there and walk along Deeside and Donside I bellow like a bison's delight. I can walk 20 miles from Deeside and Donside without running into anybody, or without seeing a motor car.
My Lords, in conclusion I would make only one observation of a somewhat personal nature, because an inquiry was made of me in connection with the Channel Tunnel and I hope I may be permitted to pass it on to Her Majesty's Government. I am asked to urge that a decision should be taken at the earliest possible moment to ensure that the planning operations for Kent will take fully into account all the requirements of the Channel Tunnel terminal. I have no doubt that that point will be taken up by many other speakers in your Lordships' House, and I am delighted to sit down now and hear them.
§ 5.21 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I am very glad that both the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, on whose excellent maiden speech I congratulate him, and the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans gave some praise to this South East Study. I say that because I think that all of us who have read it realise that it deals with some 504 very important matters and gives us some very important information. Having said that, I must add that I join most heartily with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, to whom the House is indebted for initiating this debate, in requesting the House not to give any exaggerated respect to this anonymous Report, and to realise that nothing could do more good than to subject it to fairly vigorous criticism.
I think this Report, though in many ways useful, certainly begs many questions. It makes some unproved assumptions; it contains some very obscure passages; and, above all, it contemplates, without being apparently too much worried, that the Government will carry out, or allow the carrying out of, some developments of quite preposterous folly.
I agree, of course, that some of these regional Studies can be very useful indeed as a source of information and as a basis for the subsequent making of policy. Nevertheless, we should not forget that the definition of the region itself is arbitrary. Some of us who have long been concerned with the problems of town and country planning can remember when the local planning authority was the county district. It fell to me, as Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, to introduce in another place the first Act of Parliament that made the county the planning authority. Now, in course of time, we have found that for many purposes the county itself is too small in considering the whole problem, and Her Majesty's Government have discovered the region. But for many of these problems the region, too, is too small. The real unit is these islands.
I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, and others, in not suggesting for one moment the setting up of a regional authority, but I wish to remind the House that there are some assumptions made in this Study of the South-East which, though they may be correct, should not be assumed without proof to be correct; and certainly it is very much to be regretted that certain alternatives were not even considered.
The authors of this Report assume, in general, that the South-East region must provide for a natural increase of 505 population of 2½ million between 1961 and 1981, and also for a net inward migration of one million. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, rightly, in my opinion, challenged that last figure. I am inclined to go further than he did, because I challenge the assumption that it is wholly obvious, without any proof whatever, that more or less the whole of the natural increase must be provided for in this region. I wonder whether I might quote, and adopt as part of my argument, what wa3 said, in a letter in The Times of April 3, by my noble friend Lord Esher. I am delighted to see that he took his seat this afternoon, and I hope it will not be long before he enriches our debates on these topics. This is what he said in his last paragraph:This is not to say that we should be content with the South East Study's defeatism about emigration out of the region. Its failure to state the arguments for and against such emigration is far more serious than any assumptions it or other people may make about residential densities".With that proposition I cordially agree.
Perhaps I might mention, although it is a slightly different topic, the other matter with which this admirable letter deals. He is entering a little discussion on densities that followed Sir Geoffrey Crowther's letters in The Times. He very rightly did not wish to get involved in these discussions on densities, but he reminded all concerned of this, I think, very important truth:Sir Geoffrey Crowther … writes that 'the problem is not 3,500,000 more people in 20 years; it is something like seven or eight million people in 40 years.' This may or may not be so, but we must remember that in the eighties the economic life of miles and miles of inter-war suburbia will reach its end, and we shall for the first time be able to redevelop a great part of the conurbation at a considerably higher density than at present.Then come the important words which I wish to commend to the attention of the House:Thus the next 20 years are essentially a great holding operation; and it would be a pity during this critical but short phase to rebuild at higher densities than future generations will find tolerable.With that proposition I have no doubt that both Her Majesty's Government and the authors of the Report will agree; but it does mean that it is extraordinarily important that we do not 506 make any major mistakes in planning now.
I have frequently addressed this House on the appalling consequences for our future that must result from the further increase of office accommodation in Central London, if we allow it. I did so very recently, in our debate of March 4. It would be wrong for me to repeat what I then said. I abide by every word of it.
Because there are many other speakers I wish to confine myself to a few topics; therefore, I now come to the two chapters which I think contain the greatest folly in the whole of this document. They are Chapters 7 and 8, "London employment and the office problem" and "Travel to work in London". It is mainly Chapter 8 with which I wish to deal. As I think noble Lords have already reminded the House, it is stated that there will be a further 170,000 office jobs, additional to those that we have now, in London—something that will enormously increase the daily travel into and out of London. Chapter 8, as I say, deals with this problem of travel to work in London. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, quite rightly drew our attention to some of the conditions at present obtaining on the railways and on the roads. But, of course, the main cause of this increase is the proposed further increase of office accommodation in London. That is the whole cause.
What is so fantastic about Chapter 8 of this Report is that it assumes that this must happen; it assumes that there will be this immense increase of commuter traffic, and then proceeds to deal with possible methods of carrying it both by the main-line railways and by the Underground railway system of London. I am not going to repeat all that chapter. I ask anybody to read Chapter 8, and he will find that the authors are not in the least confident that that problem can be solved, even if we indulge in what the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, quite rightly said would be extremely expensive schemes. Even if enormously expensive schemes are indulged in, both by the main-line railways and by the Underground railways of London, there is no proof whatsoever that it will be physically possible to deal with the com- 507 muter traffic which these two chapters contemplate coming into existence.
My Lords, why have we to face these appalling problems, which will do intolerable injury to London and create problems of travel that can be solved, if at all, only at enormous cost? What are the reasons? Let me tell your Lordships what the reasons are, in the words of the Report itself. It is because of "new offices in the pipe-line". I am not trying to be funny. It is because of "new offices in the pipe-line". For certain purposes "the pipe-line" may be a useful metaphor, but sometimes the indulgence in a metaphor conceals a singular absence of thought. And if it is really suggested that offices are in the pipe-line—meaning that it is essential that they should all come out as offices in Central London—that seems to me to be an absolute denial of the use of the human reason. If there are these offices in the pipe-line, let the Government blast them out of the pipeline. That is the only remedy that will suit the future of London and the future of this country, and provide tolerable conditions in the capital.
It is sometimes supposed that those of us who point out these horrors—which seem scarcely to alarm civil servants at all, and alarm Her Majesty's Government very little, except when they have to answer debates in this House—fail to realise that London is a great commercial and trading city. Of course we realise it; of course we glory in it, and of course we realise that London must have up-to-date offices to conduct the enormous trade and commerce which it does for itself and for the whole world. Of course, all that is true. Nevertheless, the reputation of London as a commercial city will not be well served if it grinds itself to a standstill by its own stupidity over offices.
§ LORD GLADWYN
My Lords, I am a child in these matters, but will not these offices of which the noble Lord complains mostly take the place of existing rabbit warrens?
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, if the noble Lord will read the chapters concerned he will find that that is not so. Their replacement has been provided for, and most of this is something 508 very much greater. I repeat, it will not add to the reputation of the City of London, or to the commerce of this country, if London grinds itself to a standstill. The Government themselves say that they wish to divert offices elsewhere. One of the objects of this Report, the claimed objects, is to provide rival centres to attract people who wish to build offices. I say they will be attracted to build offices elsewhere if, but only if, you stop building them in London. To entertain the idea that you can go on building in London to this fantastic extent and that people will still at some distant future be attracted to go elsewhere, is really to live in Cloud Cuckoo Land.
Before I leave this topic, I must come to one of the points on which I disagree with the distinguished maiden speech which we heard earlier. I do not find the language of the Study uniformly clear, and I am going to give, as an example, something that I am going to ask my noble friend, when he comes to wind up, to explain. He will find on page 45, in a discussion of how this immensely increased commuter traffic would be dealt with, these wonderful words. It will be dealt with by ageneral reshaping of the pattern of train movement".I have not the remotest idea what those words mean. No other commentator who has written to the Press seems to have the remotest idea. They completely defeated the Guardian. My noble friend may have his own ingenious ideas, or it may be that he has one of the authors of the phrase readily available to tell him what it means. But I honestly think that we ought to be told how you reshape the pattern of train movement.
§ LORD CONESFORD
There is another point to which I would invite the attention of noble Lords who are interested. The immense alterations and developments in the London Underground that will be required to cope with the increase of employment in Central London, if we are mad enough to allow it, will not, I gather, be expected to produce an economic return for the railways. This point was briefly dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth. But, 509 in this connection, I wonder whether I might read a couple of sentences of Professor Peter Self, published in the Economist of April 4 this year:Indirect relief to the roads may be the principal justification for the Victoria Line, but a subsidised underground would amount to a general subsidy for access to central London. Such a notion sits strangely indeed with a desire to entice London offices to new cities, for it suggests that central area employers may be simultaneously bribed to leave and subsidised to stay".I cannot improve on that comment.
If I may revert for a moment to the point on which I disagree with my noble friend Lord Tangley, although there is a great deal in this Report that reads quite agreeably, there was the phrase which I have already asked the Minister to explain, and I should like to make the plea to the Government—though I am certain it will be ignored—that, before documents of this kind are published, some civil servant should read them through and remove the more obvious illiteracies. We start off with one under the map of London which faces the opening of the first chapter. It say:These divisions are comprised of standard regions.It does not mean that. It may mean they comprise standard regions, or are composed of standard regions. What it cannot possibly mean is that they are comprised of standard regions. That is one of the elementary howlers that is dealt with in one of the admirable works of my friend Sir Ernest Gowers. I think that Sir Ernest Gowers ought to be compulsory reading for those who compile these documents.
Needless to say, the adjective "overall" is spread over the face of nearly every page. Any Minister who was tough enough to give an order that the adjective "overall" was to be struck out of every document before it was submitted to him would achieve two admirable results: it would be omitted in those cases where it meant nothing, which constitute nine-tenths of the cases, and in the remaining one-tenth the right word would be substituted and obscurity would be avoided. I once pointed out that the Treasury uses "overall" to mean "average", "maximum" and "total". That does not lead to clearheadedness at the Treasury; nor does the 510 use of the word "overall" throughout this Report lead to clear-headedness in the document.
The expression "commuter overspill" is, I understand, part of our celebration of the four-hundredth anniversary of the birth of Shakespeare. I do not particularly complain of that, because the writers of this Report are good enough to refer to it as "jargon" and provide a definition. They have also invented—it is the first official document in which I have seen it—a rather charming new expression, namely, "pepperpotting" which your Lordships will find on page 57. That, I think, is a really constructive invention.
The only other topic that I should mention is one that many others have mentioned—namely, the Green Belt. There are words in this document about the Green Belt which really rather alarm me, as showing the sort of approach that some people have to this problem. At page 89, which is at the beginning of the chapter dealing with the Green Belt, they say:Critics argue (with some force) that the popular idea of the Green Belt as a playground for Londoners is belied by the facts; that much of it consists of airfields, hospital grounds, water reservoirs and agricultural land, to which the public have no access.The conception of the Green Belt was always a far better and nobler thing than the idea of providing a playground for Londoners. It was that the countryside had a life of its own which was of value, and it was good for people in cities to be not too far from it and to see it. The conception of a playground is not the conception of the Green Belt entertained by those who care for it most. If that is not the right conception of the Green Belt, still less is it right to suggest that it is any derogation from the usefulness of the Green Belt or from the benefit that the public derive from it that part of it is devoted to agriculture. I always thought, in the days when I was responsible for town planning, that one of the most extraordinary things in the whole jargon of town planning was that when you devoted land to the most productive of all uses—namely, farming—that was described as sterilising the land. I have no doubt that the lunacy of that jargon, which really marked the lunacy of a great deal that was done and is still 511 continuing to be done, must have struck all those who have been concerned.
My Lords, I apologise if I have detained you too long. The main point I want to urge is that we need not adopt the extraordinarily pessimistic conclusions of this Study. I agree entirely that it contains things of great value. I am inclined to think that the authors are right in thinking that some of the new cities they choose must be bigger than many of the New Towns we have hitherto considered. On all those points I think that they have valuable suggestions. There is a great deal that is good. But the criterion whether or not the Government wish to save London will be what they intend to do about the threatened increase in office accommodation in Central London, with the demonstrably certain consequence of creating a commuter problem which cannot be dealt with by any tolerable means and which it is the duty of Parliament to stop.
§ Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed.