§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.37 P.m.
§ The Minister of Town and Country Planning (Mr. Silkin)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
My first observation is on the Title of the Bill. The House will observe that it is not called a "Satellite Towns Bill," or a "Garden Cities Bill," and for reasons which I will give later I hope we may regard the term "satellite," or "garden city," as applied to a town, henceforth as having been interred decently. If the towns to be built under this Bill are new, neither the need for them, nor the idea, is in any sense new. My researches on new towns go back to the time of Sir Thomas More. He was the first person I have discovered to deplore the "suburban sprawl," and in his "Utopia" there are 54 new towns, each 23 miles apart. Each town is divided into four neighbourhoods, each neighbourhood being laid out with its local centre and community feed centre. Incidentally, Sir Thomas More was beheaded, but that must not be regarded as a precedent for the treatment of town planners——
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir Thomas Moore (Ayr Burghs)
On a point of Order. May I claim your protection, Mr. Speaker? It has just been announced by the right hon. Gentleman that I have been beheaded. I want to know whether there is any confirmation of that.
§ Mr. Silkin
I was referring to the past, and not to the future. It is a long cry from More's "Utopia," to the New Towns Bill, but it is not unreasonable to expect that that "Utopia" of 1515 should be translated into practical reality in 1946. There have been many other warnings about the ill effects of the growth of London and other large towns. Queen Elizabeth was very much disturbed about it. London then had a population of 120,000. In 1593, a Statute was passed—"an Act against new building"—which made it an offence to erect any dwelling house within the City of London, or the City of Westminster, or within three miles of any of the gates of those cities. The penalty 1073 was £5. It was quite ineffective, and soon became a dead letter, but remained on the Statute Book until 1888, when it was repealed. By that time London had a population of some four millions. The House will remember Cobbett's description, in the early 19th century, of London as "the Great Wen."
More recently, Sir Ebenezer Howard, in 1898, wrote his book "Garden Cities of Tomorrow," in which he advocated the principle of building new self-contained towns surrounded by an agricultural or rural protective belt. His main object was to assist in relieving the congestion of large cities by redistributing the population in new and well-balanced towns of limited size. The towns were to be planned as a whole and to provide for industry and residence. There were to be adequate cultural and recreational facilities. He regarded it as essential that the whole area, including the protective belt, was to be under a single ownership. Sir Ebenezer Howard was himself responsible for the creation of Letchworth, in 1903, which was planned for a population of about 35,000, but which, at the outbreak of the war, had a population of under 18,000. He was also the founder of Welwyn Garden City, which was started in 1920, for an ultimate population of 50,000, but which, in 1939, had a population of about 15,000. Both these towns were started and have continued to be privately owned undertakings.
At the end of the last war, when the great housing drive began in 1919, there were many warnings of the danger of permitting unplanned and uncontrolled development to take place on the outskirts of our towns. Unfortunately, these warnings were not heeded, with the result that we have all over the country a continuation of the suburban sprawl, and frequently miles of ribbon development, eating up more and more of the countryside and making the centre of the town more and more remote from the country. In fact, between the wars, the population of Greater London increased by two millions, while other areas, such as those of the Midlands and the Manchester regions, have increased proportionately. While these increases in urban development were going on, committees were reporting on the evil and on its remedy. For instance, a Committee under the chairmanship of the late Mr. Neville 1074 Chamberlain, appointed by the Minister of Health at that time, Sir Alfred Mond, was appointed to advise the Minister on the best method of dealing with slum areas. They recommended, in June, 1921, the development of self-contained garden cities, and that these should be hastened by State assistance. In 1931, my right hon. Friend the Lord Privy Seal and the then Secretary of State for Scotland set up a Departmental Committee on garden cities and satellite towns, under the chairmanship of Lord Marley. They reported in 1934, and drew attention to the dangers and evils, economic and social, of haphazard, scattered and ribbon development. They also deplored the tendency to demand higher buildings and greater density which, they said, was based upon existing concentrations and lack of planning in the past, accentuated by badly planned suburban development of recent years. They recommended that the time was ripe for the development of garden cities and that this development should be regarded as a national and not a local problem.
Again, in 1939, a Royal Commission on the Distribution of the Industrial Population, under the chairmanship of Sir Montague Barlow, was set up to consider what were the disadvantages arising from the concentration of industries or of the industrial population in large towns, and to report what remedial measures, if any, should be taken in the national interest. This Commission reported in 1940 that the continued drift of the industrial population to London and the Home Counties constituted a social, economic and strategical problem which demanded immediate attention. It is somewhat ironical that, within a few months of the publication of this Report, enemy action drove home forcibly the strategical problem of London. The Report recommended that urgent consideration should be given to the decentralisation or dispersal both of industries and of industrial population from congested urban areas by means of garden cities or garden suburbs, satellite towns, or the development of existing small towns. During the war it was not possible to take concrete action on this Report. Lord Portal, however, I believe following a decision which had already been made by his predecessor, Lord Reith, when Minister of Works and Planning, by agreement with the local authorities in the Greater London area, 1075 appointed Sir Patrick Abercrombie to prepare a plan for the redevelopment of Greater London. This plan was published in 1944, and recommendations were made as to the creation of some ten new towns within about 30 miles of London, and of the enlargement of a number of existing towns so as to redistribute a population of some 1,250,000, mainly from the County of London and the immediately surrounding congested areas, like East Ham, West Ham, Waltham-stow, Tottenham, and a number of others. These new towns were each to have a population ranging from 30,000 to 60,000. They were to be self-contained so that their inhabitants would not have to leave the town for their work, and each town should be provided with all the necessary amenities of life
One of my first acts as Minister of Town and Country Planning was to set up a Committee under the chairmanship of Lord Reith to advise me on the general questions of the establishment, development, organisation and administration that will arise in the promotion of new towns in furtherance of a policy of planned decentralisation from congested areas, and to suggest guiding principles upon which such towns should be developed as self-contained and balanced communities for working and living. I have now had the advantage of two interim reports from this Committee, and this Bill has been prepared with due regard to their recommendations, though in certain respects I have not altogether accepted them. These reports have been unanimous. I am now awaiting the final report of this Committee which will advise me on the second part of their terms of reference. I should like here to express my thanks to Lord Reith and to his Committee for the thorough and energetic manner in which they are applying themselves to their task.
The need to build new towns was recognised by Parliament in 1919 when, in Section 10 of the Housing (Additional Powers) Act of that year, powers were given to local authorities or a combination of them, to purchase land and develop it as a garden city. These powers were reenacted in the Town Planning Act of 1925, and again in Section 35 of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1932. This provision—it was prac- 1076 tically the same in all the Measures—has had two major defects. It does not provide adequate powers to build a self-contained and balanced town, nor does it provide adequate finance, and it is not surprising that no projects for new towns have been initiated under these Acts.
I think the House will agree from what I have said, that our failure in the past has not been due to any lack of writings, warnings, investigations, diagnoses, commissions, reports, or recommendations. Meanwhile, the demand for the erection of large numbers of houses and the need to rebuild war damaged towns are pressing. Between the wars some 5 million houses were built, and the effect on the countryside and on our towns has been almost calamitous. Enormous areas of agricultural and market gardening land have been lost to these islands for ever. Large numbers of people in the towns are living in grossly congested and overcrowded conditions, and there is almost always a serious lack of open space, particularly in the poorer parts of our towns. The majority of the population being more and more divorced from the countryside, many people are forced to live at a considerable distance from their work, and are involved in long, tiring, and expensive daily journeys.
Many towns have built new housing estates on the outskirts. These have largely failed in their purpose of providing a better life for their people, and have almost invariably become dormitories consisting of members of one income group, with no community life or civic sense. Today there is a need for additional houses, possibly equal in number again to those built between the wars. Are these to be built on the outskirts of our towns, with the same lack of planning and ill consequences as before? If so, I dread to think what sort of place this still fair land of ours will be in 10 or 15 years time. This is our last chance. Many of the houses now to be built must be carefully located in new self-contained communities, if the existing evils are not to be aggravated.
On 5th March last I announced in this House that the Government intend to carry out a programme for the planned dispersal of a substantial proportion of the population of London to areas situated 20 to 50 miles away, and there to create homes and work for the people so moved, in new towns, or by the substantial enlargement of existing towns. The evil, of 1077 course, is not confined to London; it applies almost equally to such places as Liverpool, Manchester, Glasgow, Leeds, Portsmouth and Plymouth, each with a population for which it cannot provide housing within its own boundaries ranging from 40,000 to 250,000 people. In many of these cases, the building of new towns is the only satisfactory method of providing accommodation for the overspill population. Apart from the problem of congestion with which I have just dealt there is also in various parts of the country the case of scattered villages whose inhabitants depend on natural local resources for their living, and where these sources have declined, where, for instance, local mines have been worked out, the inhabitants are left high and dry. The only solution to permit of their living near to employment is also the creation of a new self-contained town. The House will, I am sure, by this time be satisfied that an effective policy for the creation of new towns must be an essential part of our postwar replanning. The Bill before the House provides, I hope, a satisfactory instrument for the carrying out of that policy, and one which will, at long last, enable us to cope with one of the most pressing problems which faces this small island. I propose to confine myself to England and Wales, but the Bill also applies to Scotland; beyond making that statement, I think I had better leave Scotland to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.
The Explanatory Memorandum printed with the Bill contains notes on the 23 Clauses, and a White Paper has been prepared which I hope will facilitate an understanding of the Sections of the 1944 Act which have been attracted to this Bill. I recognise that some of the Clauses are somewhat technical; so is the 1944 Act, as my right hon. Friend opposite will readily admit. We have done the best we could to enable hon. and right hon. Gentlemen to understand the Bill by publishing this White Paper, which I hope will facilitate very much the understanding of the Measure. I believe the Explanatory Memorandum is in sufficiently clear and simple terms, and in the circumstances I do not think it necessary to go through the Clauses one by one.
§ Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)
Could the Minister indicate how Scotland will be dealt with? Is the Secretary of State 1078 for Scotland to wind up the Debate, or will he make an intervention?
§ Mr. Silkin
I hope the Secretary of State for Scotland will intervene if necessary. Perhaps I might explain in broad terms the general framework of the Bill. It provides, generally speaking, that the Minister who is defined in the Bill as the Minister of Town and Country Planning will appoint a development corporation to be responsible for the building of each new town. In this connection I ought to explain that when I speak of a new town, I include also the substantial enlargement of an existing town. There may be exceptional cases in which it may be expedient for a development corporation to be responsible for more than one town, and provision is made accordingly. I have in mind the possibility of the development of two new towns which may be not a very great distance apart, one of them almost at the end of its development, and the other about to be developed. The commonsense arrangement would be for the one corporation to be responsible for the two, but that would be exceptional. The corporation will consist of a chairman, a vice chairman, and up to seven additional members who will be appointed by the Minister after consultation with the appropriate local authorities. Normally they will be appointed for a set period and the remuneration will be fixed with the consent of the Treasury. They are given the widest possible powers of estate management, but will not have any of the ordinary local government functions of a democratically elected authority. These will remain vested in the local authority. The powers conferred upon the corporation will be exercised in accordance with such directions as may from time to time, be given by the Minister.
The site of a new town will be determined by the Minister, after consultation with the local authorities whose inhabitants will be accommodated in the proposed new town, as well as the local authorities who are directly concerned with the new town area. They will all be consulted. Once the site has been settled, that area together with any adjacent land which might be necessary, will be designated as the site of the proposed new town. The Bill provides machinery for the compulsory acquisition of land in the designated area. 1079 This land will, in due course, vest in the development corporation. It will then be the business of the corporation to prepare a plan for the development of the area. The corporation will be authorised to employ the necessary administrative and technical staff. I hope they will get as good a staff as possible. The plan will be submitted to the Minister, who will consult the local authorities upon it, and in due course approve it, with or without modification. It will not be essential for the corporation to submit fully detailed proposals for the development of the whole town at once. It will generally be sufficient if an outline plan for the whole area is agreed, showing, broadly, the location of the individual zones—commercial zone, residential zone and industrial zone—main roads, railways, etc., and accompanied by a detailed plan of the development which is first to take place. That will, of course, be a matter for the corporation to determine.
Once the plan has been approved, it will be the duty of the corporation to secure that the necessary services are provided. This is, in the first instance, the duty of the local authority or group of local authorities, and of the statutory undertakers in the area, but the corporations are empowered to provide those services or any of them if the statutory undertakers or the local authority are unable or unwilling to do so. The services having been provided, the land is ripe for development. The corporations are empowered to carry out all the development of the towns themselves, and in particular to build houses as a housing association. Frequently, the local authorities who desire to rehouse in the new town their overcrowded population will be prepared to take a lease of the necessary land, and to build appropriate houses themselves, in accordance with a plan. There will be every encouragement to them to do so. One or more housing associations may be prepared to undertake some proportion of this task. Private enterprise will be invited to participate in the building of houses by taking leases of parts of the area. The small builder will not be shut out, nor will the person desiring to build a single house.
§ Mr. Silkin
So much so, that my right hon. Friend has, as the right hon. and gallant Member will notice, put his name on the back of the Bill.
Similarly, land will be leased for the building of factories, shops, cinemas, theatres and other necessary buildings. Land required for schools and other public buildings will be disposed of to the county council, or to the appropriate local authority. The Bill contemplates that the corporation will remain the freeholder of the land, and may dispose of the land by way of leasehold only for a term not exceeding 99 years, unless there are exceptional circumstances justifying disposal by way of freehold. Disposals will be subject to the approval of the Minister and there, the right hon. Gentleman my predecessor will be glad to know, I have followed the admirable precedent set out in Section 19 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944. There will be cases where a corporation will not be able to secure at the appropriate time the erection of suitable buildings in this way. In the case of Welwyn Garden City, the development company was unable, at the outset, to induce private enterprise to build shops. They were compelled to build a store themselves and a very fine store it is. The Bill gives the corporations power to carry out any necessary development. Power is conferred upon the Minister at any time to wind up a corporation. In particular it is the intention when the development of a new town is substantially complete, to wind up the corporation, and, by agreement with the local authorities, to transfer the assets and liabilities of the corporation to the local authority.
§ Mrs. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)
Would my right hon. Friend explain a little more fully the position in regard to the local authority? This is one of the difficulties which some of us will have to meet. Some of the proposed new towns will be situated in the jurisdiction of rural district authorities; are they to be the democratic bodies to govern these towns?
§ Mr. Silkin
Perhaps I had better explain this matter now. The designated area will 1081 often be within the boundaries of several local authorities. There might be an urban district and two rural districts. Let us take the case of Stevenage, of which most hon. Members will now have heard. In that case, possibly four-fifths of the area of the new town will be in the jurisdiction of the Stevenage urban district council. Of the remaining fifth, perhaps one-half —one-tenth of the whole—is in the area of the Hertford rural district council and the other half is in the area of the Hitchin rural district council. The intention would be to go to the Boundary Commission as soon as possible, and ensure that the whole area is within the jurisdiction of one local authority. In this case it will probably be the Stevenage urban district council, but it is not for me to prejudge that matter. The other authorities will be entitled to make out their case. Assuming that the Stevenage urban district council becomes the local authority of the area for the proposed new town, it will be open to that authority as the population increases to make application, in the usual way, to become a municipal borough. It might, although I do not contemplate that it ever will, become even large enough to be a county borough—but that is in the future. That is the way in which these local authority functions will be worked out.
§ Mr. Orr-Ewing (Weston-super-Mare)
Does the Minister mean that the selected local authority will be established before the new town is built, or afterwards?
§ Mr. Silkin
That is something which experience will dictate. I imagine that it will take place at a fairly early stage, in order to remove complications arising from having perhaps three different local authorities responsible for the provision of services. It might be found convenient to go to the Boundary Commission and get one local authority to answer for it. We shall live and learn.
The financial provisions of the Bill are described and explained in paragraphs 12, 13 and 14 of the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum printed with the Bill. I refer hon. Members to those paragraphs. Broadly speaking, capital moneys required for development will be provided by way of loans from the Consolidated Fund, up to a sum of £50 million. When that has been spent, it will be necessary to seek further Parliamentary authority for the continuation of 1082 the programme. It is estimated that this may take about five years, so that we may be coming back for more money in the year 1951. Parliament will then have the opportunity of taking stock of the progress which will have been made and of expressing its opinion, and indeed it will have such opportunities in the meantime. There will be a careful check on capital expenditure, but the Minister and the Treasury must be satisfied that the expenditure is likely to produce for the corporation a reasonable annual return. The Exchequer will also pay to the corporation the appropriate housing subsidy in respect of working-class houses built by or for the corporation. It will also provide by way of subsidy the expenses of the corporation, which might amount to between £30,000 and £40,000 a year for each new town, in the early years of development, as well as certain other minor expenses.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point may I ask a question? Under the Housing Act, half the subsidy is provided by the Exchequer and half by the rates. How is he going to provide for the subsidy in this case? Is the full contribution to be made by the Exchequer, as well as the ordinary Treasury one?
§ Mr. Silkin
Yes. The housing subsidy will, of course, have to be provided. Let me make that clear. Whoever builds a working-class house will be entitled to an Exchequer subsidy, and therefore the payment to the corporation of the Exchequer subsidy involves no additional expenditure. The hon. Gentleman's question is what happens to the rate subsidy. In many cases—I hope in the vast majority of cases—working-class houses will be built by the corporation when it does build on behalf of or for the benefit of certain overcrowded towns, who are desirous of rehousing their population in the new towns. I contemplate an agreement between the exporting authority and the corporation, under which the exporting authority will pay to the corporation, the whole or part of the rate subsidy. That is an arrangement which in my experience as an ex-chairman of the housing committee of the London County Council, was often made. The London County Council often paid to other authorities the rate subsidy or a portion of the rate subsidy in consideration of being provided 1083 with accommodation for its inhabitants, and I imagine that in a great many cases, perhaps in the majority of cases, such an arrangement will be feasible. But where a corporation is not able to secure a rate contribution from any local authority, that rate contribution will have to be made good by the Exchequer.
It is estimated that the capital cost to public funds of the development of each new town will be about £19 million, on the assumption that most of the middle-class houses, the shops and the factories will be built by private enterprise. The corporation will spend £15½ million and the local authorities £3½ million in building houses, but none of this is really additional expenditure. Wherever the houses are built, the cost will be the same. Even if no new houses are built, the middle-class houses, shops and the factories would have to be provided somewhere, in part out of public monies. It is true that perhaps 10 to 20 per cent. of the capital cost may be incurred for the provision of new services in a new town which would not be incurred if the development took place on the fringes of existing towns, but this excess expenditure is more than offset by the fact that there is a great saving in land costs by building at a distance from the town. For instance, the cost of the land at Stevenage may be of the order of £500,000, whereas if the proposed population were housed on the outskirts of London, the land might cost £2 million to £3 million, or if in the centre of London, in flats, many times that figure with the higher Exchequer and rate contribution. I would say, therefore, with confidence, that it is no more expensive to build a new town, than to build in the old bad way. I have described as briefly as I can the structure and the finances of the Bill——
§ Mr. McAllister (Rutherglen)
Before the Minister leaves that point, would he indicate what percentage the £19 million would be of the total expenditure on one completed town?
§ Mr. Silkin
It is impossible for me to say what would be the cost of providing the factories, the shops and so on by private enterprise. I cannot possibly say that. I can only make a guess. The House would like to be informed on the way in which this legislative structure will be used, and the kind of town that it is 1084 intended to build. First, as to the corporation and its relationship with the Minister. I intend to appoint to the corporation those whom I consider to be best equipped for this most important and responsible task. Since a permanent and adequately qualified technical staff will be employed, I do not think it essential that any of the members should, necessarily, have any special technical qualifications, but administrative experience and capacity are indispensable. Moreover, I hope it will be possible to find suitable women and younger people with drive and imagination. They will be appointed in the first instance for three years. They will have a task which will require the expenditure of a good deal of time and energy, and I think it essential that they should be paid. It will be my policy to interfere as little as possible with the detailed administration, and to give these bodies the maximum freedom. Of course, I should expect to determine main questions of policy. It must be remembered that the Minister will be responsible to Parliament for the proper and efficient administration of the Measure, and a considerable amount of public money will be involved. I must, therefore, be in a position to satisfy myself from time to time, that things are going as they should.
The House will see that the Bill provides only for a Government sponsored corporation. The Reith Committee in their first interim report regarded such a corporation as, generally, the most suitable agency; they, nevertheless, recommended that provision should be made for two other types of corporation, namely, a local authority sponsored corporation and, in certain cases, an authorised association. Perhaps the House would like me to explain why I did not see my way to accept those recommendations. I examined carefully the case for the local authority sponsored corporation. It seemed to me to differ very little from the Government sponsored corporation. There was to be a proportion of members nominated by the local authorities concerned, but the necessary finances would be provided, in either case, out of moneys raised nationally. I can see no real justification for complicating the Bill by providing for two types of corporations, which do not seem to me to differ very much in essentials.
I came to the conclusion that there were two fundamental objections to the 1085 local authority sponsored corporations—and here I know that I am treading on rather delicate ground. I do not think this is a task which can satisfactorily be undertaken by local authorities at all. I think that it must be carried out nationally and with national responsibility. This was a matter which was frequently discussed in the London County Council when I was a member. When ever we, as a council, were urged to take responsibility for a new town, our answer—and it was given quite irrespective of party—always was that this was a national task and not a local authority one, and almost every other local authority has taken the same view. Moreover, I can see no hope of a speedy agreement being arrived at between an authority which desires to build a new town, and the authority in whose area this town is to be built. The case of Manchester and the county councils of Lancashire and Cheshire is a very good example.
There is always suspicion on the part of the receiving authorities that the exporting authority is desirous of absorbing the area of the new town, and the suspicion is, I am afraid, not always without some justification. Indeed, I have never known any authority which contemplated the building of a new town, and which did not take it for granted that it was essential that their boundaries should be expanded to take in the new town. But, if this were to happen, the whole purpose of the new town would be defeated. It must be self-contained and self-governing; it must not be run as a distant colony from a remote control 20 miles or so distant. It could not possibly have any life of its own. or any civic or democratic sense, if the inhabitants always had to look to a distant town hall as their centre of government. My second objection is that I do not think it desirable that new towns should be constituted from congested parts of another single existing town. It is essential that there should be an admixture of population from a number of different places, and the chances of a number of local authorities combining and agreeing on terms for the erection of a new town is so remote, that I can properly rule it out. For these reasons I have not provided for a local authority sponsored corporation.
Now as to the authorised undertaking. I realise it may be argued that the only 1086 real new towns—Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City—that have been built in this country, have, in fact, been created by what might be described as authorised associations. I do not count Wythenshawe or Speke as new towns because, excellent as they are in many respects, I regard them not as self-contained communities, but as suburbs of Manchester and Liverpool respectively, with many of the characteristics of suburbia. There is also the fact that the earlier legislation, as well as Section 35 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, provided for authorised undertakings associations. As experiments, both Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City are admirable, but neither of them has developed as anticipated, even though they are now some 43 and 25 years old respectively. Letchworth had rather more than half the planned population in 1939; Welwyn Garden City under one-third. To a considerable extent they are both dormitory towns. There is much that we can learn from each of them as to what to do and what not to do. They have not wholly succeeded, partly because of lack of money and partly because of lack of powers for compulsory purchase of land. The cost of a new town, on the assumption that I have stated earlier is, as I have said, about £19 million. No authorised association is in a position to provide such a sum of money. Inevitably, the Exchequer would be called upon to provide a very large proportion of that money, and the provision of public money must involve public accountability, and substantial representation on the board.
Since the location of the site of a new town would have to be approved by the Minister, after consultation with the appropriate local authority, and he would have to use powers of compulsory acquisition—because the possibility of acquiring a sufficiently large area entirely by agreement can be almost eliminated—and since the plan must be approved by the Minister, I can see no really valuable function that an authorised association can perform. This is far too big a job for an authorised association. It is a job for the nation. I have, however, already explained that private enterprise and authorised associations will have a great part to play in the building of these towns, and, so far as I am concerned, they will have every encouragement. For these reasons, I have provided for a single form 1087 of corporation, the Government sponsored corporation.
I said earlier that certain powers for the creation of garden cities were conferred upon local authorities under the 1932 Act. In order to lose no time, I have, in agreement with the Hertfordshire county council, taken the initial steps for the acquisition of land in the planning of a new town at Stevenage. Individual notices have been sent to owners, in and around the town, inquiring if they are willing to sell their land by agreement, and asking that the information be supplied within 28 days. When this Bill becomes law, as I hope it will quickly, all further steps in connection with Stevenage can be taken under the powers in the Bill. While on the subject of Stevenage, may I say there is a natural anxiety on the part of owners of houses which may have to be acquired, and in due course demolished, in order that the plan may be carried out. Provision is made in this Bill that it shall be the duty of the corporation to make available other accommodation on reasonable terms, in advance of the displacements, and it is my intention that the accommodation so provided shall be a reasonable alternative to that which is acquired.
So far as can at present be foreseen, the immediate programme contemplates the creation of some 20 new towns, which includes major extensions of existing towns, in England and Wales; my right hon. Friend will speak for Scotland. The population in these towns will range between 30,000 and 60,000. In all, this programme will provide for the housing of just over a million people. It may well turn out hereafter, if the new towns are successful, that a much greater number of new towns will later on have to be provided Many smallish towns, towns of the size of Oxford, are already grossly overcrowded, and can only be made to function satisfactorily by a considerable amount of dispersal. Everyone who knows Oxford or Cambridge will agree with me that those towns are already quite unworkable. There is an equally strong, though perhaps not quite so urgent case for new towns, or the enlargement of existing towns, to relieve congestion in such areas as these, but at present we must tackle the more urgent cases of London, Manchester, and the other towns I have mentioned, as well as the scat- 1088 tered villages to which I have referred in places like Durham and South Wales.
It is essential that a sufficient amount of industry shall be available to enable every worker living in the town to find his work there. The new towns will have much to offer to industry. The industrial zone will be carefully located to provide the maximum convenience for industrygood roads and rail facilities and sidings, and plenty of room for expansion. Many industrialists who at present have factories in congested surroundings in large towns, without proper convenience or room for expansion, will welcome the opportunity of moving and of carrying on their industry in new, modern, up to date, clean, light, airy factories where they can expand, and where their workers will be within walking distance and can enjoy the opportunity of living healthy and contented lives. Already, from inquiries which have been made through the Board of Trade, I am satisfied that there are sufficient industrialists ready and willing to go to Stevenage, and to as many more new towns as can quickly be got ready. There may be some industrialists who would prefer to rent a factory, rather than build one for themselves. The corporation have the power to build standard factories or flatted factories to make it possible for such industrialists to come to the new towns.
It is most important that the new towns in the programme should be built as quickly as possible. They constitute an important part of the housing programme. There are natural limitations on the speed with which it will be possible to proceed, but, within those limitations, it is proposed to go as fast as we can. If I, or my successor, can spend that 5o million in less than five years we shall feel we have been more successful than we anticipated. The new towns must provide accommodation for people of all income limits. We must not make them towns inhabited by people of one income level, and that the lowest. A new series of Becontrees would be fatal. We want to see in these new towns the directors, managers and technical staffs all find their homes and playing their full part in the life of the town, and so it will be necessary to provide all types of houses.
§ Mr. Bossom (Maidstone)
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how he ex- 1089 pects to get people from all income classes, to come to the new towns?
§ Mr. Silkin
By the provision of houses suitable for them. I believe that if the homes are provided people of all classes will come. I have spoken to many industrialists who would be delighted to come to a town of this sort. I should like to see representatives of other sections of the community, the administration of banks or insurance companies, or large commercial concerns, with their staffs, living in the new towns. I shall endeavour to persuade some Government Departments to decentralise a proper amount of their work to these towns and I hope my own Department will take the lead and set an example. The need for large numbers of additional schools will enable the local education authorities to provide the best modern buildings up to the very high standards laid down in the Education Act of 1944. That is often impossible in the older areas. The primary schools will be so situated that no child need travel more than a quarter of a mile to school. A much higher proportion of the land in the new town can be made available for public open spaces and playing fields, close to the homes instead of many miles away. There will be many opportunities of interesting experience in working out the most suitable arrangement of housing to get the best results from mixed development.
Naturally, we shall seek to preserve what is best in the existing parts of the town, its charm, tradition, and character. The Bill puts me under an obligation to give directions to the corporation for the purpose of securing the preservation of features of special architectural or historic interest, but I hope to go even further than that. The towns will be divided into neighbourhood units, each unit with its own shops, schools, open spaces, community halls and other amenities. But it is possible to be lonely even in a neighbourhood unit of 10,000. I am most anxious that the planning should be such that the different income groups living in the new towns will not be segregated. No doubt they may enjoy common recreational facilities and take part in amateur theatricals, or each play their part in a health centre or community centre. But, when they leave to go home I do not want the better off people to go to the right and the less well off to go to the left. I want them to ask 1090 each other, "Are you going my way?" I am sure a greater amount of comradeship is assured by a quarter of an hour spent in going home together, than by an hour spent in an institution. I have known people to sit together on a committee for years without ever getting on speaking terms. I do not want to repeat the experience of Welwyn Garden City, where the town is divided into two by the railway, the workers on one side, and the middle class on the other and "never the twain do meet," except at the railway station. I should like to encourage the corporations to be daring and courageous in their efforts to discover the best way of living.
I want to see the new towns gay and bright, with plenty of theatres, concert halls, and meeting places. I should like to see cricket and football played by the youth of the town instead of being watched by them. I want to see them producing first-class amateur teams and I should like to see golf courses made available for all. Golf is not a rich man's game in Scotland; why should it be so in England? The new town should provide valuable experience in the best use of leisure, a commodity which is, and should become, more and more plentiful.
Hon. Members have no doubt read about the Reilly Plan for the development of Birkenhead. It is not new, in fact it has a considerable similarity to the proposals in Thomas More's "Utopia," but it is none the worse for that. It is a proposal for breaking up the neighbourhood units into smaller units of 40 to 50 families living around a green, each with a nursery school, communal kitchen, and restaurant in the centre. In the communal kitchen food will be prepared, in turn, by a rota of women living in the unit, and either delivered to the home or consumed at the restaurant. I think it is an idea worth trying out. Obviously it depends on whether the women in the various households can cooperate to make it a success, and there may be varying opinions about that. I believe they can, but one can only make sure by trying. The experiment of the Reilly Plan is about to be tried out in Bilston, Staffordshire, and I shall watch it with great interest.
It is a remarkable thing that friendliness, neighbourliness, comradeship, and the spirit of helpfulness—all these things are only seen in the villages and in the 1091 slums. The spirit of the slums is indeed remarkable. If there is trouble, ill health or any of the many misfortunes that befall people living in those conditions, the neighbours are eager to come to the rescue, to take charge of a child or look after the household while the mother is in hospital. A hundred and one neighbourly jobs that need to be done, are done. But when the slums are cleared, and the people transferred to a new housing estate, all this friendliness and neighbourliness seems to disappear, and families become isolated units, each contained within the fortress of the new council house, and nothing seems to get them closer together. Our aim must be to combine in the new town this friendly spirit of the former slum, with the vastly improved health conditions of the new estate but it must be a broadened spirit embracing all classes of society. The former slum dweller, or dweller in the poorer part of a town, has a good deal to learn from those better off, and vice versa.
Our towns must be beautiful. Here is a grand chance for the revival or creation of a new architecture. The monotony of the interwar housing estate must not be repeated. We must develop in those who live in the towns, an appreciation of beauty. I am a firm believer in the cultural and spiritual interest of beauty. The new towns can be experiments in design as well as in living. They must be so laid out that there is ready access to the countryside for all. This combination of town and country is vital. Lack of it is perhaps the biggest curse of the present-day town dweller. I believe that if all these conditions are satisfied, we may well produce in the new towns a new type of citizen, a healthy, self-respecting, dignified person with a sense of beauty, culture and civic pride. Cicero said:A man's dignity is enhanced by the home he lives in.
I say, even more by the town he lives in. In the long run, the new towns will be judged by the kind of citizens they produce, by whether they create this spirit of friendship, neighbourliness and comradeship. That will be the real test, and that will be my objective so long as I have any responsibility for these new towns. This Bill is the first step towards the attainment of this objective, but it is a big, important and long-awaited step. 1092 It is to me a great personal satisfaction, and a high honour, that this should be the first Bill to be introduced by me and that I should be charged with the responsibility for the conduct in this House of so vital a Measure affecting, as it does, the lives of so many members of the community. I commend the Bill to this House with the utmost confidence.
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)
I would like to ask the Minister one question. From his great experience of local government, he will be aware that such a great change in regard to one local authority will be bound to impose considerable expense on neighbouring authorities, in this case the county council. For example, the county roads will have to be greatly extended when a town of 18,000 to 20,000 inhabitants is created in what was a purely country area previously. Is provision being made to help these other local authorities in the early days? Later, increases in rates will even out matters.
§ Mr. Silkin
The Bill makes provision for necessary roads to the new towns, not only in the area of the new towns but outside them as well. So far as the other services are concerned, I cannot see exactly what would be the repercussion on outside authorities, but I shall be very happy to discuss the matter with the hon. and gallant Member at a later stage.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. W. S. Morrison (Cirencester and Tewkesbury)
The House will agree that the right hon. Gentleman has commended this Bill to us in a speech of great clarity and eloquence. In addition to those very desirable qualities, I was pleased to observe that on this matter, which concerns the welfare of the whole country, there was a welcome absence of any doctrinal persuasions or attempts to divide the House on party lines. After the right hon. Gentleman's description of the sort of new towns which he projected, one could not help feeling that they would be very pleasing places in which to live, and it was a little disappointing, when the spell of his eloquence had faded, to realise that all these new towns are still in a place which he himself mentioned two or three times in his speech, namely, Utopia. The right hon. Gentleman gave an interesting, and, to me, informative account of the history of this question, 1093 and he mentioned two famous Elizabethans as having concerned themselves with it. He mentioned Sir Thomas More and his Utopia, and no doubt he cherishes the hope—and many people in the House will agree with him—of translating some measure of the speculations and projections of Sir Thomas More into reality. In that endeavour he may be comforted, and perhaps a little encouraged, when he considers the aim of that other great Elizabethan, Queen Elizabeth herself. She tried to prevent people from building houses in London. The right hon. Gentleman can take comfort from the fact that the Minister of Health has now succeeded in that task.
The subject of the "suburban sprawl, this sort of middle-aged spread, which seems to affect all urban communities when they get to a certain age, has long been a question which has concerned those who are interested in the proper development of urban life. I have myself made some researches into this question of the new towns and suburban sprawl, which I hope the right hon. Gentleman did not find entirely useless in his further endeavours. We have, therefore, to consider this Bill, with all that it implies, as providing, if it can succeed in so doing, an alternative for a process which has been destructive of urban amenity in the past, and not only urban amenity, but agricultural production, because the unregulated spread of our great cities has often taken the bricks and mortar to, and sealed up for ever, land which was capable of high-class agricultural production in the form of market gardens and high cultivation farms. So, if it is possible to dispose of some of our surplus population by putting them on to places which can be selected because of their comparative lack of agricultural value and fertility, so much the better for agriculture and for the preservation of our agricultural land in this country.
We all know how a suburb grows. It starts, perhaps, with Acacia Road spreading out a tentacle into the green and pleasant land surrounding it, but it has numerous and prolific progeny. In turn, it brings forth Acacia Grove, Acacia Street, Acacia Avenue, Acacia Crescent and Acacia Court, until the whole country is engulfed by these tentacles in one uniform mass of undistinguished bricks and mortar. The human spirit is capable of 1094 flowering in adverse circumstances, and in these formless suburbs of ours have lived, and are living, many excellent, intelligent, public spirited and brave men and women. They have brought forth in their time great writers, artisans of great skill, great public administrators. When the hour of danger came, they brought forth gallant soldiers, sailors and airmen. Though we may regard the outward appearance of suburban sprawl as something distasteful, the people who live in those suburbs by no means deserve the sort of scorn which is sometimes heaped upon them by highbrow Bloomsbury novelists and others.
The sprawl itself should be arrested, if that can be done. Of that there is no doubt, and the new town certainly offers a method towards that end which should be explored. But the House and the right hon. Gentleman will forgive me if I ask here a pertinent question. We are discussing new towns. What about the old towns? After all is said and done, at the end of a long period of time the projected new towns will house only a small fragment of the population. It remains the fact that it is in the old towns that the bulk of our people will have to live, and I should oppose this Bill if I thought that the creation of these new towns was to be at the expense of re-beautifying and reconstructing the old towns, which, in the main, are the homes of our people.
The House will recollect a book that seems to be much quoted in both Houses of Parliament, namely, "Alice in Wonderland," in which there is described a tea party at the Mad Hatter's establishment. One cannot be too careful in these quotations and I have not had time to verify it, but I think it was the Dormouse who upset the teapot. When the teapot had been upset and the tablecloth irretrievably stained, they all moved round to a clean place on the tablecloth. I would not like the whole of this planning conception, which is much greater than new towns alone, to be dominated by a sort of Mad Hatter complex of urban decay and change. I would not like our local authorities to be deluded by this Bill into thinking that they can let decay crumble away the interiors of their own towns and then walk out on to more and more clear land to rehouse the population, which ought to have been housed in decency 1095 and dignity inside the old town. For that reason it is important for us to consider carefully the scale of the operations which the right hon. Gentleman has immediately in prospect. There are in London sites already chosen and approved, on planning and other grounds, for a very large building programme. Over the whole country there is certainly land chosen and sited for two years' building. Some of the land is already serviced. I hope that this new towns project at this moment of our housing needs will not be permitted to divert from these sites, which are already prepared, labour and materials which, applied to these approved sites, would yield the speediest return in homes for our homeless people. I hope the hon. Gentleman who, I understand, is to wind up this Debate will give us an assurance on the point that, however desirable this long term project may be, it will not be at the expense of an immediate grappling with the housing problem on sites that will yield a quicker return in actual homes for our people.
The scale of these operations is important from another point of view. I am not at all convinced in my own mind, from such study as I have given to this problem, that the full social implications of creating a new town are yet understood. There are factors of an obscure character in all these operations which are not properly displayed in any book that I have seen and they are not readily apparent to the eye. The old town takes time to mature. It grows up gradually, being moulded in its passage through time by the impress of economic and social factors which have surrounded it in its history. Here there is suddenly to be created a new community. The Government should not disguise from themselves the fact that it will be, in the first instance, a synthetic community. The inhabitants of the new town will have nothing in common but the fact that they come from places where houses are in short supply. They will have none of that intimately woven texture of community life which exists in an old town where generations have succeeded each other, where marriage, it may be, has united the destinies and fortunes of several families, and where a long history of communal interest in athletics and cultural matters 1096 has cemented the people together. There one has a true community——
§ Mr. Morrison
I could tell the hon. Lady of many towns where that is true. I am aware that in some of the larger towns the mere scale of them causes difficulty but there are in parts of London quite well knit suburbs with community lives. My point remains perfectly valid that in an old town of some history one can count upon a gradually built up community of interest which it would be wrong and foolish to expect to find in a synthetic community suddenly created. That being the case, we ought to proceed with some caution in this matter. I welcome an experiment in the most favourable circumstances with this new towns idea. I think we would learn much from it. There is a great deal we do not know about what makes community spirit and community life. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the necessity which undoubtedly exists for a proper balance in a community. I agree wholeheartedly. It should be a matter of national interest to secure that our communities contain persons of all the income levels. A great many of our artificial differences in this country arise from the fact that the various income groups never get to know each other. If people all with the same income are segregated in large estates they begin to imagine people of different income levels, whom they never see, as unknown and, therefore, terrible. To take the other extreme, in the country village of any antiquity, where there are people of every income level living cheek by jowl, one gets into a spirit of realisation of the fact that human beings have much more in common with each other than they have points of difference and dispute and, on the whole, there is a more helpful organic society. I agree that the new community must be balanced also as between residence and employment. Every community, even a new town, must have an economic basis for its subsistence. We have to do our best to secure that each new town has a proper balance.
The reason why I ask the right hon. Gentlemen to pause to experiment and to see where he is going in this matter is so that he shall be on firm ground on these economic and social problems. This is the 1097 sort of thing that might happen. Suppose a town is planned for 60,000 inhabitants. It is launched, a corporation acquires the land and the affair is brought into being. Suppose in the course of experiment it is found that the population reaches 40,000 and refuses to budge because of some obscure factor which one has not been able to detect by prevision, and the process is arrested, and people prefer to go elsewhere. Then it is obvious that the objective could not be reached except by compulsion, by forcible transference of people into the new town, and of industry to go with them. That is a prospect which would go very ill with the character and independence of our people. Therefore, I urge the right hon. Gentleman and the Government, if they proceed with this Bill, to use its powers in an exploratory and experimental character, pushing on with all necessary boldness into the field of experiment, but realising that there is a great deal in the hidden social and economic factors which we have not properly understood. The right hon. Gentleman himself reminded us that Letchworth and Welwyn had not, in fact, developed as they were projected, and that is due, of course, to the existence of surrounding factors not observed by the keen and prophetic Ebenezer Howard, and it may be so with the new towns of which we are hearing today.
I turn to other matters in the Bill itself. I want to say a word or two about procedure. This is, of course, a very long and complicated Bill. It has, in this White Paper, which I see for the first time today, attached itself very firmly to the code contained in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944, and, of course, a great deal of the procedural matters of difference between us are proper for Committee and not for discussion on Second Reading, but I would like just to indicate one or two of the broader matters into which we may have to go more fully so that they may receive consideration.
I heard the right hon. Gentleman's explanation of his reason for not accepting the Reith Committee's proposal to enable three sorts of corporation to be used for this purpose. I am bound to say that there is a great deal of weight in what the right hon. Gentleman says as to the difficulties and troubles which arise between local authorities adjacent to each 1098 other if the population of one is transported into the area of the other. I have had some experience of that myself. But this is an enabling Bill, and I am not convinced, though I recognise the weight of the argument, that it would not have been wiser to take powers to form local authority sponsored corporations and authorised associations in case a proper opportunity arises in the future free from the difficulties which the right hon. Gentleman expatiated upon and where he could, at the same time, take advantage of the fund of local experience and knowledge which goes to build up this country of ours, whose variety is one of the sources of its greatest strength. I think that all of us would like, if it could be achieved, to secure that the towns of the future, besides being all the good things that we are told they are to be, possessed some local character and dignity, and smacked something of the counties and latitudes in which they are situated. One would not like to see new towns all turned out machine made from some Whitehall office and looking as like each other as first-class hotels look in every capital in the world.
Therefore, for that reason, I would have seen no objection to the right hon. Gentleman including powers to make use of the other two forms of corporation should the future disclose that which it at present hides from him—the proper case for their employment. Of course, these corporations are given very wide power, and some of the language in which that power is expressed seems to go a good deal further than is really necessary, but these are matters which we can discuss when we come to them in Committee. I can conceive that the main ground of difference between the two sides of the House on this matter is the old question of compulsory purchase, of the procedure and the terms on which this sometimes necessary evil is conducted, and I have suspected, from earlier discussions on this topic, that there may be a fundamental difference between us on the matter which we must do our best to remove with civility in order to reach a conclusion upon it. I sometimes suspect, and I hope I am not harbouring an unworthy suspicion, that hon. Members opposite regard planning as an excuse for the public acquisition of land, but I myself take the other view of being prepared to acquire land publicly, where it is necessary in the 1099 interests of planning, but to regard it as a necessary evil, and I hope we shall manage to reach some balance of opinion on this matter for the reasons which I am about to state.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned Stevenage, and I read in the newspapers that he went there and that his meeting was not unattended, that certain questions were asked him, to all of which he appears to have given answers, some of which were, perhaps, agreeable to those who asked the questions and to others less so. I hope he will not, in any way, be moved by that experience to decry, or to fail to appreciate, the spirit of those who object to being turned out of their homes. This same insistence on their individual rights is, after all, the emotion which helps this country to preserve its freedom—this idea of "I am here, and, as long as I keep the law and do my duty as a citizen, you should not take my home from me, and no one has the right to do so." That is really one of the fundamental bulwarks of liberty in this country. It has been found in the past to be the only safe bulwark against tyranny.
It is very awkward, no doubt, for a bureaucrat in a hurry; it was very awkward for Hitler in the last war, but a man's love for his home and his farm and garden is an element in our national temperament which any Government ignores at its peril. So I think that, in general, viewed from my angle, which I do not claim to be the only one, much of the procedure here seems to be unnecessarily harsh and abrupt, and I hope that, in our discussions of this question, we shall not allow the matter to be obscured by prejudice about big landlords. It is not the big landlords who matter, but the man whose house is being taken from him.
To return to specific points in the general procedure in this Bill, it follows that laid down in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944, and all its provisions for designating the area, with one inquiry, and, thereafter, entry by compulsory order with speedy process. I question whether the circumstances of the Town and Country Planning Act and the purpose for which it was designed entitle the right hon. Gentleman to take it wholesale, as he has done here, and apply it to this entirely different purpose. In the first place, it must be recognised that the 1100 main object of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944, was to deal with the bombed areas of our cities. The land there that was the subject-matter of the procedure designed for those areas was dead land. There were bricks, rubble, mortar, twisted girders, houses destroyed and wreck and ruin. It was dead land, yielding no revenue at all. The sites of the new towns comprise land that is alive and is in beneficial occupation, yielding homes and work to the people who are on it now. So I think that, in dealing with the sites for the new towns, the Minister ought to proceed with every possible consideration and with every provision for inquiry, so as to ensure that those whose land is to be taken are convinced that it is taken after a just and fair hearing of both sides of the question, and that he will not take more land than is necessary for his purpose.
When I read of the Stevenage matter, I wonder whether it is really necessary to take all that land from people now living in Stevenage, for a project so distant. In his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) yesterday, the right hon. Gentleman said that he had taken certain preparatory steps under existing legislation towards this end. I cannot understand what all the fuss is about, and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that much of the trouble could be avoided if he held a public inquiry into the whole project, and allowed people to state their case. They would then be convinced that their case was being heard by some independent person, and they could confront each other with their arguments across the table. That is the way to get cooperation. But if they feel that they are being pounced upon in the dark, they may take an entirely different view of the situation, and may resist.
I mention, for special note, the odious provision in Clause 4 (3) of this Bill where there are imported into the process of taking land for the purposes of a new town, the provisions of Section 2 of the recently passed Acquisition of Land Act, which enables that land to be taken by an authorisation in writing without an inquiry of any sort. Apart from the hardship to the individuals, I believe it to be a bad policy to give powers which make it possible to hustle people out of their homes and farms, even if that is not intended. We must remember, too, that 1101 in the Town and Country Planning Act, on which this Bill is founded, the power of purchase was given to the local planning authority which was a democratically elected body. Though the powers given by that Act were wide and sweeping, I felt, when I had it drafted, that there was a certain safeguard in the fact that it was being wielded by the democratically elected representatives of the local people and that those who might be affected by it would have this safeguard against arbitrary injustice and could go to their local councillor and ask him what about it. But, here, the acquiring body is not a democratically elected one, but a corporation nominated by the Minister and subject to his direction alone.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned, with truth, the causes of friction which may arise from local government sponsored corporations. But there is an equal danger of friction between the local citizens and a nominated body, sitting remote from the locality and receiving its authority from Whitehall, a danger which does not exist in the democratically elected bodies. It has often been said that corporations have "neither bodies to kick nor souls to condemn." That may be only partly true. I have often heard corporations condemned body and soul. As we all know, they can acquire a reputation either for justice or injustice, for dilatoriness or speed, and, in fact, it is the habit of the human mind and a trick of thought to treat these abstractions—as they are to the law—with all the attributes good and bad of the ordinary human being. I would impress upon the right hon. Gentleman and those with him, with the utmost seriousness that I can, that it would be well to see that the procedure for acquiring land, which he is going to entrust to these corporations, is so manifestly fair and gives such a clear exhibition of fair play that his new corporations will come into existence, not in an atmosphere clouded and poisoned by rancour and a sense of injustice, but in such a way that they will be regarded as beneficent organisations working for the public good. There is plenty of time to be just in this matter; there is not the great urgency that exists in reconstructing our bombed cities. Even Rome was not built in a day, and a new town will not be built very much quicker than Rome was. Therefore, we could well afford to spend a little time in order to 1102 give an impression of fairness and consideration so that the corporations will be launched in the proper atmosphere.
There is only one other matter I would like to mention about procedure, and that is the compensation for land compulsorily acquired. I acknowledge with gratitude that two good provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944, are included in this Bill. One is Clause 5 (2) where it is made obligatory upon the corporation, as I remember it roughly, to make sure that when people have had their land acquired and the place has been reconstructed, they shall be given an opportunity to occupy the premises, when reopened, at a fair rent. The other provision is, I think, Section 30 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944, which imposes upon the acquiring authority the obligation to prepare, in advance, accommodation of a reasonable character for persons ejected from their land. These two things I willingly acknowledge, but I want to say a word or two upon the money side.
I presume that all these acquisitions will be governed by Section 57 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944, which imposed what has been called the "1939 ceiling." It will be recollected by hon. Members who were in the House at the time that, when this Section was being considered during the war, it gave rise to a situation of considerable difficulty for the Minister in charge of it and to some lively and entertaining debate. It was a difficult corner to turn because there were so many different views on the topic of how much should be given. Finally, rather than have the whole scheme for the reconstruction of the old towns lost through this trouble, we arrived at the best compromise we could, which was based, roughly, on 1939 prices, with a supplement up to 30 per cent. for the owner-occupier of premises who was ejected. The idea was that, when a man's home, workshop or farm is taken, more than the money value of the asset is taken from him—the base of his operation and the ground on which he and his wife and family live are taken from him—and that, therefore, he ought to receive more generous and considerate treatment.
The normal price paid on compulsory acquisition used to be current market value, but, at that time, current market value was not available to 1103 us. In some parts of the country remote from the danger of bombs, the value had gone sky high, whereas in others normally of high value, the values were artificially low because of war damage and the long prospect of reconstruction ahead. Therefore, we made the best deal we could. I have never pretended that it was a final assessment of the true value. If the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues will look at Section 60 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944, they will find that in the case of changed circumstances an Order can be made for varying, up or down, the allowance which can be given to an owner-occupier. Now that the market in farmland is settling down, and many farmers are going to be dispossessed by this Bill, the Government in order to give them a chance to reinstate themselves in other farms—which is all we are asking—ought to consider carefully whether the time has not come to operate the Section of the 1944 Act to which I have alluded, to make sure that the sum given by way of compensation for compulsory acquisition is nearer the figure which would enable these men to set themselves up again in their valuable occupations.
There is another point to be remembered in connection with this aspect of the problem. Normally, when agricultural land on the outskirts of a city is acquired, that land already possesses some development value, and the price paid for it is generally a little more than the agricultural value. But here it is proposed to jump over many miles of green territory, taking land of nothing but agricultural value, and the farmer is not in the position of the man on the outskirts of a city who will get a decent sum. Therefore, I ask the Minister to review this matter and to be just if not generous to the dispossessed farmer. The Government can well afford to do it. There is no excuse for meanness. The Minister is taking land of agricultural value, and by putting the taxpayers' money behind the project, he is going to transform it into urban land of very much greater value than the amount given for it. A generous payment to these men who are dispossessed, generous treatment for the citizens involved in this compulsory acquisition, would repay the right hon. Gentleman a dividend of a thousandfold in good feeling and in the success of the enterprise. 1104 These are the only matters connected with this large topic with which I propose to trouble the House now. To sum up, I hope that the scheme of these operations will not be permitted to interfere with, or divert from the immediate housing problem, the labour and materials which they require. I hope also that they will not be made in any way an excuse for not getting on with the reconstruction and rehabilitation of our old cities and towns as a first priority. Let us remember the old ones when we talk about the new ones. I hope also that the procedure will be just and the compensation adequate. We shall discuss this matter further in Committee. Because the principle of obviating the urban sprawl is so necessary, I would not, at the moment, advise my hon. Friends to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill, but I make the stipulation that that will not prevent a critical attitude on our part to the Third Reading, unless we get from the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends that measure of cooperation for which I look to make this a workable, just and desirable Measure.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ Mr. Irving (Tottenham, North)
I recently heard the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. W. J. Brown) say in this House that every speech made here demands great nervous strain, but that the first is the worst. I cannot speak from experience with regard to the first part of that statement, but with the second part I find myself in complete agreement. I welcome the Bill because, without it, it would be impossible to rehouse decently hundreds of thousands of people in the country and particularly in London and Greater London. It is a great pity that the Bill was not introduced immediately after the last war. It would have prevented such sprawls as Becontree, for instance; it would have prevented the building of dormitory constituencies and the existence of sleeping quarters without any regard to civic life. But it appeared to be nobody's business, and the duty of no Government Department to prevent this condition of affairs arising.
It has been the tendency of industry in the last 15 or 20 years to move from the North to the South of the country. That, in itself, has created or at any rate aggravated the problem. There has been 1105 no control of the migration of population or of industry, and the result is that nearly a quarter of the population of England resides within something like 15 miles of this House. That is all wrong, and I welcome this Bill because it gives an opportunity to disperse population, and to provide throughout the country decent housing conditions for the great mass of the people. I regret, however, that in introducing this Bill the Minister made no alternative provision to that of the corporation. I dislike the idea of the corporation, principally because it is not really democratic. It has been proved conclusively that the alternative of a corporation of local government authorities, recommended by the Reith Committee, is a possibility; indeed, it has been worked out. The Minister will remember that the Tottenham borough council, in association with other local authorities, worked out a scheme, which was presented to the Minister, in which the local authorities found themselves in complete agreement. Indeed, the only thing they required was the sanction of the Minister to proceed. I hope that in Committee the Minister will reconsider this alternative. It is true that the Minister has conceded to the Tottenham borough council a number of houses at Stevenage, but I hope that will not preclude the development of the scheme at Harlow by the local authorities instead of by the corporation.
This Bill is very vital to my constituency, in which there are no less than 7,000 registered applicants for houses. Of these, 2,000 are living three and four to one room. We have land available in the borough for building 400 houses. We require ten times that amount of land, and the only hope at Tottenham as well as in many other London constituencies and boroughs is that there will be land outside for overspill. I welcome this Bill because it will provide an opportunity for the population to be overspilled into the new towns. With regard to the size of the town, I am not sure that 50,000 is a good figure. Years ago, as the Minister informed us this afternoon, Sir Ebenezer Howard recommended a town with a population of from 30,000 to 40,000. Neither of the towns mentioned has reached that figure. As the Minister reminded us, they are both dormitory towns. I notice, incidentally, that an increasing number of Members of this House live in one of those garden cities. 1106 They used to sleep there, but in these days they both work and sleep here.
I hope the Minister will consider the question of the size of the new towns, because of the possibility of creating anomalies later on. He has advised us that the new towns will eventually apply for borough status, or for a charter of incorporation, I presume. Is that not likely to create an anomaly with regard to the future of local government? Is it not obvious that the future of local government provides for two types, probably on the basis of the county council and the county borough? If we are immediately to create new difficulties with regard to boroughs, it seems that we are not looking far enough ahead. The other problem is that the Boundary Commissioners dealing with redistribution are asked to take as a mean average 54,000 electors. I agree, because there are margins of coloration. If we are to have 50,000 electors it means, if we are not to interfere with borough boundaries, we need a population of something like 70,000. I hope the Minister will keep that in mind I welcome this Bill because it provides the only hope for decently housing a very large percentage of the population of this country, particularly in London and Greater London. I wish the Bill bon voyage, and I say to the Minister, "That thou doest, do quickly."
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
It is my privilege to congratulate the hon. Member for North Tottenham (Mr. Irving) upon the maiden speech which he has just made. We all recollect our own ordeal on that occasion, and many of us must wish we had come through it with the same distinction that he has done. If I may say so, he has done well to choose a subject of this kind, which does so intimately affect the future welfare and happiness of the country. After hearing his speech all hon. Members will look forward to future occasions when he intervenes in our Debates.
I should like to congratulate the Minister both upon the substance of his Bill and upon the way in which he has introduced it. I think he was wise, when he went to the Ministry, to appoint a committee to deal with this matter, and especially wise in the choice that he made of the Chairman. It was Lord Reith who, on 17th July, 1941, made, on behalf of 1107 the late Coalition Government, a statement in another place which was really the foundation upon which all town and country planning for the future must be based. Speaking on behalf of the Coalition Government he said:I have been authorised to proceed with preliminary work on certain assumptions. The first of those was that the principle of planning will be accepted as national policy and that some central planning authority would be required.
Some of us have been disappointed in the intervening time that the policy which he laid down on that occasion has not so far been actually realised. Some of us also have a feeling that his departure from office at a later time was due to anxiety in some quarters that that policy should not be effectively put into operation. Therefore, I am glad that the present Minister selected Lord Reith as chairman of the committee upon whose reports this Bill has been generally based.
I agree that there is urgent need for the rebuilding of this country to be planned. It was accepted by the late Government, and it is accepted, I understand, by this Government, that there is need for dispersal. Indeed, there was set up an unofficial committee under the chairmanship of Colonel Walter Elliot. I think hon. Members on all sides of the House who knew him regret that he is no longer in the House. That committee went into the whole question of the desirability of dispersal. When one considers the present density of population in the London area, it is obviously essential that there shall be a development of new towns outside. At the present time, in many parts, the density is 200 to the acre. Under the Abercrombie scheme it is intended to reduce that to 136 to the acre, plus four acres of open space for every 1,000 of the population. In order that that may be made effective it will be necessary for one million of the present inhabitants of Greater London to be moved outside. Under those proposals it is intended that half a million shall be provided for in new towns, and a quarter of a million in large scale extensions of the towns which are outside. There remains a further quarter of a million who, apparently, are to go out to towns which are to have smaller extensions. I have an uneasy feeling with regard to that last quarter of a million that it will turn out to be something not very far removed from a further extension 1108 of the suburban sprawl. That is why I particularly welcome this Bill and the assurance we have been given today of priority for the building of these towns. Already there are signs that the London County Council, in its general extension, is at the present time proposing to encroach upon the green belt.
As regards these new towns, I feel there are three principal planning considerations which justify them. First, we are all agreed that we do not want dormitory towns. It will only be if new towns are built, and if steps are taken to induce new industries to establish themselves there that both the recreation and the work of the inhabitants of those towns will be performed in the towns. I think there is complete agreement that it is, from every point of view, undesirable that people should live in one place and work in another. Secondly, I welcome what the Minister said, and what was emphasised again by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison), with regard to the great importance of having all the income levels mixed in a town, and not having the rich in one part and the poor segregated in another part. Thirdly, I have never been happy about the provision in the recent Housing Act for large subsidies being paid out of public funds for the purpose of subsidising flats which were to be built on urban sites and in the middle of London at very great expense.
While I fully support all that the Minister is doing in the way of building new towns, I would ask him not to overlook what is happening in the case of London, which, in point of fact, is like a rotten pear that is going bad from the middle. There was a very interesting and remarkable survey made for the Gas Light and Coke Company by Mr. W. A. Abrams. It is quite remarkable to see what has been happening to the inside of London during the last 30 years. The first point to be noted is the way in which the population was declining. Between 1911 and 1939 it declined, in Finsbury by 33 per cent., in Holborn by 30 per cent. and in Westminster by 22 per cent. The second point is that not only was the population very rapidly declining, but the size of families in London was much smaller than in the country as a whole. As compared with 3.61 in the country as 1109 a whole, in the centre of London it was only 3.43. The third point was perhaps the most remarkable—the age of the population in the centre of London. Of all the housewives 77 per cent., and of the principal wage earners 69 per cent., were over 35 years of age. Of the housewives two out of every five had been born before 1887 and had left school before 1901; the great majority were already married before 1914. That was a survey made in 1937. Quite obviously, if that was so in 1937 those tendencies will be increased very greatly by 1947. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to see that his Department does observe carefully what is happening in the centre of London, because it is most important that we should know something about the age-structure of London when dealing with the town and country planning of the country in the future.
While all that is true, there is still, of course, a need for a great dispersal of the population of London. That was made abundantly clear in the Montague Barlow Report, where it was pointed out how the effect of a great urban centre like London was to bring new industry in, and the fact that new industry came in made the market larger than it had been before. Therefore, even now after the war, and after all the lessons we ought to have learned, we are still confronted with the problem of increasing concentration. As I have said, the London County Council, in its present housing proposals, is proposing to encroach upon the green belt which had previously been intended to be kept open. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will use the passage of this Bill as an argument with the London County Council to preserve the green belt.
Is the method that the right hon. Gentleman is using in this case right? Broadly speaking, it is. If I may quote "The Economist," he is using the method of the magnet instead of the method of the bellows. The magnet is the use of Government money and Government-sponsored organisations in order to draw population out from the great existing centres. The bellows method would have consisted of trying to get the local authorities to squeeze the population out into the new areas. I had been intending to argue that the right hon. Gentleman would have been wise to follow the Reith Committee 1110 in adopting at any rate three possible ways of dealing with the matter, but I think I was convinced by the arguments that he advanced. Probably this method, which the Reith Committee thought was the best and most promising, is all that is required under this Bill.
Then, is the machinery he is proposing to use right? I very well remember the Debates upon the 1944 Act, and I remember the Minister's own speech on the subject. I also remember the speech made by the present Lord Privy Seal, and I do not think that either of them at that time contemplated that they would be in office and would be extremely glad to avail themselves of a very large number of the Sections of that Act. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and I am glad to think that now they are in office and have experience they find greater value in my right hon. Friend's Measure than they were inclined to think there was in it when they were on the Opposition benches. I would like to congratulate the Minister in all sincerity on what is, as far as I know, a completely new precedent in publishing a memorandum setting out all the Sections of the earlier Act which are incorporated and are really applied by this Bill. I do not recollect ever having seen this done before, and the objections which have been raised in all parts of the House to legislation by reference would lose a great deal of their force if this precedent were more generally followed.
I do not intend to go into a lot of Committee points, but there are several matters which I think require further consideration. I interrupted the right hon. Gentleman to ask him a question about how the subsidy will be made available, and I shall study in HANSARD exactly what he has said upon the subject. I do not find so far in the Bill that adequate provision is made to enable the rate portion of the subsidy to be paid, but that is a matter which we can go into in Committee.
I hope that the powers of the Corporation to borrow will not be too narrowly restricted. I hope, in particular, that the stranglehold of the Treasury will not be too stifling of imagination and enterprise on the part of the Corporation. There is a special Clause, to which the right hon. Gentleman referred with satisfaction, which I shall want to discuss further in 1111 Committee. It is laid down, apparently, that no planning will receive approval by the Treasury unless it is calculated to bring in a financial return. I beg and implore the Minister of Town and Country Planning to take a long view as to what ought to be done in the way of planning, and he will not get a long view taken by the Treasury. It is absolutely vital, if we are to have good planning, that the country shall be prepared to spend money lavishly at the moment in order to obtain a good return in the years to come. I warn him that we on this side shall criticise severely any provisions of this Bill which will enable a shortsighted, narrow and purely financial view to be taken by the Treasury, which would make impossible broadminded and imaginative planning for the future. Finally, and this is the last detailed criticism, the Minister said nothing about the Central Advisory Commission which the Reith Committee proposed should be set up, and I hope that we shall have something of that sort.
My major criticism is that the Minister is putting the cart before the horse when he introduces a Bill to build new towns in the country and does nothing to deal with the problem of compensation and betterment. We have had town and country planning Bills for the last quarter of a century, and not one of them has been effective. Why? Because the problem of compensation and betterment has never been faced. I very well remember what the Lord Privy Seal said on 15th March, 1944. He said:One does not want to mention the names of Uthwatt, Scott, and Barlow. … They scar the souls of right hon. Gentlemen on the other side.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th March. 1944: Vol. 398, c. 279.]
Other hon. Gentlemen are now sitting on the Government benches and I do not find any great alacrity on their part to tackle the problem of compensation and betterment, and we have not heard a word about Uthwatt from the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. But really this is vital. As my right hon. Friend said, we are going to leapfrog over the green belt, take agricultural land and develop it as urban land, and that will bring about an immense increase in land values. The Socialist Government, while being prepared to spend public money upon this development, have done nothing to ensure 1112 that there is a fair and adequate return to the nation for the expenditure which is being incurred. The recommendation of the Reith Committee upon this matter is quite inadequate.
The right hon. Gentleman will be responsible for an increase in land values in a great area all round, and not only in the green belt referred to by the Reith Committee. On the contrary, some of the greatest increases in land values are to be found where land is sold outside the green belt, those who developed that land having the advantage of a Government guarantee that the green belt will be preserved. The green belt, which is available for those inside it, is equally available for those outside. Here, the right hon. Gentleman is proposing that we should pass this Bill involving an expenditure of £50 million, but nothing has been done to ensure that this expenditure of public money will bring in any return in the way of the collection of betterment. I say, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman and this Government are once more showing themselves to be what some of us on these benches said that they were. They have talked a very great deal about planning, but when they find themselves in office they have neither the ability nor the faith to carry their planning into effect.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Braddock (Mitcham)
I count myself fortunate to have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, on the occasion of the introduction of this Bill. Its introduction comes not a day too soon, things being as they are. In saying that, I make no criticism of the Government or of the Minister. In my opinion, it is greatly to the credit of the Government that, just after nine months of office, they have found the Parliamentary time, despite the vast number of duties that they have had imposed upon them, to deal with this very important matter. I think the House and the country can congratulate themselves on the fact that we have found a Minister who has the knowledge and the energy to prepare in such a short time a Bill of this character, a Bill which, as we have already been told by hon. Members on the other side of the House, contains a vast amount of technical matter of a very intricate description. The Government, I repeat, and the Minister are to be congratulated on bringing this Bill so rapidly before the House. 1113 I was a little disappointed with the reception it got from the right hon. Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison). It seemed to me that he was attempting to damn this Measure with faint praise. For one thing, he said, "If the Government intend to go on with this Measure." I could scarcely believe my ears when I heard that remark. Why "if"? What does he think the Government are here for? Why has this majority been returned to this House?
§ Mr. Braddock
I can assure the Opposition that this Bill will be proceeded with, with all its implications. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester then attempted to suggest we were going, perhaps, rather fast. The Minister was warned to be very careful. I was in the House on Friday of last week when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) was speaking, and he said:The problem of the location of industry cannot be solved by a merely restrictive power to stop somebody doing something. There must be concentration upon the positive aspect of causing something to be done."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd May, 1946; Vol. 422, C. 528.]
Which way do the Opposition want it? If we want to get on with the job, if we introduce a Bill of this sort, we are told that we must not be too hasty; but when the Minister of Labour is dealing with the day-to-day actual household problems of the people of this country, Members of the Opposition come along and say "Let us have something of a greater constructive nature." I suggest it is about time the Opposition made up their mind exactly where they stand in these matters. If they cannot, then they should decide to follow the lead of the Government on matters of this description.
Upon this question of new towns, the subject of housing has been mentioned more than once in this Debate. I think we should do well to remember that people live, generally, where they can get a living. That is the basis on which we should consider problems of this particular character. I think it is greatly to the prestige of this country that we had that report, which has already been mentioned on both sides of the House, of the Royal Commission on the Distribution of the Industrial Population, better known as the 1114 Barlow Report. It is interesting to note a comment on this Report by Mr. Lewis Mumford, the great American sociologist. He called it:The most fundamental contribution to planning that has been made by any public body.
That was his description of that Report. We do not often have compliments from our American cousins. Apart from our fighting qualities in battle, they seem to have a very poor opinion of us, generally, and I think it very significant that this great report should have been commented upon in this way by an American citizen. I venture to suggest that this very important Bill on which we are starting today has its foundations in the proposals in that Report. While we rebuild houses and spread out the population, unless we also move the factories and the workshops with them, we shall not be able to persuade people to live in the new towns. The Minister suggested that decentralisation to the extent of something over a million people was to be required in this country. I think that that was rather an underestimate, even with regard to London In his report, Professor Abercrombie has not been overgenerous about the number of people that he expects to be decentralised from London. I think we shall find as time goes on that vastly greater numbers of people will want to get out of what has rightly been called this "Great Wen." Its wenlike character is not to be removed by simply moving something like a million people from London.
But if that is done, and if we are to carry out the necessary implications of the Barlow Report, we shall have to erect some 2,500 factories of various sizes. I suggest that we must give serious consideration to this problem of building new factories. Although the Minister specially mentioned this he did suggest that, possibly, this matter could be left to private enterprise. Perhaps it can; but that may not be the case, and if we find that private enterprise does not face up to this problem and get these factories built the Government, and the organisations the Minister is setting up, ought to be prepared to take on this job. In my opinion there is a definite reason why the erection of these factories, offices and workshops should receive early and careful consideration. To start with, I ask the House to imagine the position of a workman in the 1115 suburbs of London who is living there, because he can be reasonably near his work and has transport to get to it. At the present time he is travelling to workshop, factory or office, which, in all probability, is badly situated in bad conditions, old fashioned and out of date. It would be easy to persuade that man to travel in the opposite direction if we could build factories for him on the sites where the new towns are to be built. I agree there will be in the early stages a transport problem, but motor transport has shown us how we can overcome these difficulties.
In the early days of the war, I was employed by the Ministry of Labour as an inspector of building labour supplies. As I went around the country and saw the great installations which the Government were building, I noticed that the workers who manned these factories were being brought by motor coach from long distances, sometimes as much as 50, 60 of 70 miles. They were taken these distances, to and from the factories, morning and night. Therefore, there is no problem which we cannot overcome in regard to transport difficulties. I think it speaks well for the Government, and for their sense of timing, that just before the introduction of this Bill we had a very important statement from the Minister of Transport, telling the House and the country that he was taking necessary steps to deal with the roads which will be required to meet these new conditions.
There is another reason why we should get on with the immediate building of the industrial areas of these towns. It will enable us vastly to increase the productive capacity of the workers of this country. We are suffering, as we all know, from being an old country. We started our industrial development many years ago. But we have had a great political revival in recent months and new life has been pumped into the country by the upsurge of new political beliefs. I suggest that we have to follow these up, by seeing that not only do we apply these new political ideas, but that we have the instruments, the factories and the machinery, which will enable us to obtain results from the ideas behind our new proposals. The erection of these factories will enable the productive capacity of the people of this country to be vastly increased. That is the second reason why 1116 we should give great attention to the erection of these factory areas. Thirdly, they will be, and can be, of definite use in the development of the towns themselves. We all know that in regard to house building and the building of schools, great problems are facing us, and that production of prefabricated component parts are necessary for this building. It will be much better if, on the building sites of these great new towns, we had the work people brought in, and the production plants set up, so that the materials required would be there on the spot where they are to be used.
There is yet another reason why these areas should have first consideration. These industrial parts of the towns lend themselves to rapid production. We have had recent experience, and we have gained knowledge in recent times, of how to deal with problems of this nature. During the stress of war we were forced, in order to defeat the onslaught of Fascism, to erect great new industrial plants. We produced in this country, as we are always able to produce when we have to, the necessary technical skill, the necessary work people and the necessary engineering ability to get these great plants built rapidly. These industrial areas for our new towns are minor operations compared with the great ordnance factories we were able to develop during the war. I suggest that the knowledge which is still alive among the technicians and professional people, should be put to immediate use in proceeding with this part of our work.
It is often suggested that we might have difficulties in this direction, but I suggest that so far as ability is concerned, either on the part of technicians or on the part of work people, there is no need to hesitate in setting on foot these plants, because of any possibility of lack of necessary technical skill. In this country we have an enormous number of trained young men and women anxiously waiting to get on with this job. I hope, once the decision has been made to proceed with this work, there will be no hesitation in selecting the sites. There can be a great deal of argument on this point, but I suggest that the only Minister who really needs to be consulted is the Minister of Agriculture. I say that because I believe that, important as new towns and housing are, the provision of proper food and proper nutrition is even more important. 1117 With that one provision, there is no reason why we should have any delay in selecting the necessary sites. Once the sites are selected, we can easily plant on them any necessary temporary offices for the technical skill and ability which is required to proceed with the planning and staffing of the job. Those are the two reasons why this Bill should be welcomed, and why it should pass through its various stages in this House as rapidly as possible. There is a shortage of labour and material at present, but I suggest that the best possible way of making use of the labour and material available is to employ them on projects of this description. In that way they can be more economically used, and used to better effect, helping to provide greater benefits to the population as a whole, than by wasting them to a great extent, in rebuilding damaged parts of existing towns. That is a practical reason why we should immediately proceed with the utmost speed.
I suggest that there is another and greater reason why we should proceed with these projects. I believe that the spectacle of the building of these new towns will invigorate the people of this country. It will give them a practical example of what can be done, and what are the possibilities. If these towns are started, and people go out from the overcrowded centres of population and see the technicians, the work people and the building trade operatives of all descriptions at work in the countryside, it will show them that such things are possible; it will invigorate and improve their spirit in facing the difficulties we have to meet at the present time. For these reasons, the practical reason and what I call the spiritual reason, I hope that this House will not waste any more time than is absolutely necessary in putting this Bill through. We have the land, the skill and the material, and we are not, generally speaking, dependent upon imports from foreign countries. It is a job which can be got on with, and which will be invigorating for the country. It is right that it should be done at once.
§ 6.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilfrid Roberts (Cumberland, Northern)
I join with almost every other Member who has spoken in congratulating the Minister of Town and Country Planning on his Bill and on the way in which he introduced it. I agree with the 1118 hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock), that the idea of these new towns is inspiring and invigorating. I come from that part of the world from which families have drifted to London and the South. The right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) suggested that there might be a difficulty in getting the population for these new towns. I can assure him that if we have a really good looking and efficient new town in the North of England, there will be no hesitation on the part of Cumberland or Northumberland or Durham workers to live in that new town, rather than remain in their old, bad surroundings, the legacy of the last century. There will have to be work there; but, with modern houses and modern layout, I am sure that there will be no difficulty in finding people who want to live in these new towns—quite apart from the fact that people want to live somewhere, and, if houses were available, they would go to them.
I would like to ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, when he comes to reply, if he would come "a little over the border" and give us some information, which the Minister of Town and Country Planning did not give. I understand that ten of these towns are to be built to take the population of London. Where are the other ten to be built? The Minister referred to the problems of Manchester and Liverpool. They have big housing problems. In some ways, if Scotland is to have new towns, it will also help us in the extreme North of England. I shall be interested to hear from the Secretary of State for Scotland what he is proposing to do. I suppose that my constituency is not very typical of constituencies in many other parts of England. Carlisle is the largest town in Cumberland, but there is no other big town apart from those towns on the North East coast, 56 miles away, nearer than about 100 miles. Edinburgh and Glasgow are zoo miles away, and the Lancashire towns are also about 100 miles away. There is something to be said for building new towns in those areas.
Inside Scotland, there are many medium size towns which might be extended into bigger towns because they are not at present big enough to have the diversity of industries which are needed to give all sections of the community employment, 1119 and to ensure resilience when trade is not good in one industry. I hope we are to have some of these new towns in the North of England or in the South of Scotland, I would like to join with other hon. Members in querying whether one system is really the best way of dealing with all these problems. I look forward to seeing good looking towns in which it is possible to live a good life; towns which are well planned for children and young people. Appallingly little thought has been given in the past to the development of town life to meet the needs of children and young people.
I agree with everything that the Minister said towards the end of his speech. He mentioned the Reilly scheme. We want variety of towns—and everyone's idea of good architecture is not the same. We want variety of architecture, and we want variety of ideas on layout. The Reilly plan may work, or it may not, but let us, by all means, try it. We might get that variety through a system of separate corporations for each town, but the final decision will come back very definitely to one centralised point—the Minister and his advisers in the Ministry. The local authorities, with their experience of administering and developing their own towns, could, if they had more responsibility, as they would have under one of the procedures suggested in the Reith Report, give that variety which is so important.
The other matter to which I want to refer was dealt with by the hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson)—the question of land values. It is an astonishing thing that the Government have not yet been able to make up their minds how they propose to deal with this vital, long standing problem of betterment. They are taking, in this Bill, the easy way-for the Minister—compulsory purchase, if necessary, but that is not necessarily the fairest way for the individuals concerned who own the property, and it is not necessarily, as the hon. Member for The High Peak pointed out, the way that will be most economical in the end for the State. It still leaves the big problem which affects all these developments: to whom should go the value for betterment? I take this opportunity of urging the Government to make up their minds on this subject and to deal with it in a compre- 1120 hensive way. The Minister made some remarks about derelict mining towns in England. I hope that he will later on develop what he means by that, because most of these mining towns are small towns. It would take a lot of them to add up to a town of the size proposed under this Bill. I think that there is a great deal to be said for having some towns with a smaller population than 50,000. I think a town of 25,000 is a very nice town in which to live. It does give a large enough population for a variety of industries, it is big enough for the services to be provided like health and education, and in some ways the civic pride of a town of that size is greater and keener than in a town of 50,000. I think under this Bill some smaller towns of that sort will be developed.
There is a problem which interests me and which I think wants to be dealt with at some time, though it cannot be dealt with under this Bill. It is the problem of the decaying, small market towns spread over the whole of England. What happens today is that the large towns get larger, and the little towns get left more and more in the backwater, with little development of any sort or kind. Their industries are dying out, they are becoming places to which people retire and they have no life and vigour. I do not think these little towns will be affected by this Bill. It may be they can be dealt with under the main Town and Country Planning Act, but they are a problem. They can be used more as towns which would provide dormitory facilities for the larger towns while having industries of their own. That would not come under this Bill. We on this Bench welcome this Bill very much but we should like to have seen adopted the recommendations of the Reith Committee about other methods besides corporations. We do want to see this whole question of land values put on a sound basis. We wish the Minister good luck with his new towns, and we are only too anxious to do all we can to help him to get them as fast as possible. It is a disaster that this was not done after the last war.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge)
I feel that it is an understatement to say that I welcome this Bill. It is II years this month since I asked my colleagues, when I was convener of housing in Glasgow, to consider the building on a new area of 1121 a satellite town. Since that time I have in newspapers and on the platform strongly urged that this thing should take shape. Sometimes it would appear there was hope of something emanating. The Barlow Commission was set up, and after it had presented its report we had the Uthwatt and the Scott Commissions, but nothing whatever was done and hon. Members opposite knew who was to blame for that ineptitude and that inertia. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hitler was to blame."] That is a common excuse for doing nothing.
§ Mrs. Mann
It would not be unreasonable for me to retort that Hitler had nothing to do with the disappearance of Lord Reith from the scene, and quite a number of other things happened as well when hon. Members opposite were in power. It may be that the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) struck something when he said that we on this side of the House regard planning as an excuse for the compulsory acquisition of land. Probably that was the real reason why no steps whatever were taken while Members opposite had the power to take such steps. I feel that the Minister performed a great piece of work in introducing this Bill with its message of hope to the new generation and to the men and women who have come from the Forces. What could Members opposite offer? New towns abroad, but this Government offers them hope of a new life in new towns in their own country Stay here and see the improvements They do not need to go abroad.
We on these Benches have been accused of introducing something utopian. The Minister in introducing the Bill stated that he had been chairman of the London County Council. At the same time as he was appointed chairman of the first city of the Empire I was appointed chairman of the housing committee of the second city. I think both of us have real practical experience of what the extension of housing schemes means where there is no real planning behind them. I do not think 1122 either of us could be accused following that harrowing experience of being utopian. The Minister approaches it from the stark reality which faces him. Between the two wars we built the equivalent of 17 towns. I mean that we built the houses. Now we are faced with the housing problem of 4,000,000, some people say. Are we really suggesting that we should proceed to build 4,000,000 houses in this country on the old laissez faire lines? If so it can only mean a suburban sprawl or skyscraper flats. There are no other alternatives without radically tackling this problem in the way the Minister is doing. I referred to the Barlow Report, which was issued in 1940; paragraph 123 of it reads:The Registrar-General for England and Wales comes to the conclusion after an examination of the mortality statistics, that the factors most important in enhancing the death rates of residents in towns would appear to be: (1) the crowding together of houses; 2) the crowding together of people into houses too small for them.
I submit that unless we take the radical steps such as we now propose we will merely repeat those errors. In paragraph 130 the position is well summed up in an extract from the evidence of the Ministry of Health. It is very important in view of the fact that we have just given a Second Reading to the Health Services Bill. The extract is as follows:Hitherto the health services have been preoccupied in mitigating the grosser evils of uncontrolled urban development, in curing ills rather than preventing them, and little time or thought or money could be spared to the promotion of positive health and to the consideration of what constitutes an ideal urban environment. The great need of a town population is access to the country or the equivalent of what the country means—fresh air, sunlight, facilities for exercise and recreation and means for the harmless and profitable employment of leisure. These things are essential for young and old and particularly the young.
What are the objections which have come from Members opposite? One is the old worn out objection, "We do not oppose the creation of new towns, but we urge you to do something for the old towns." If Members will forgive me for quoting an example as a housewife, I would like to tell them that when a woman spring cleans she usually gets rid of old furniture and old lumber, if she is doing it thoroughly. Her house, when it is rid of that, has more space, more light, and 1123 often more sunlight. I know a man whose daughter got married. The daughter and her husband asked my friend to go and see them. Afterwards, they said they hoped he had enjoyed his visit, and had felt at home, and he said, "Yes, I felt very much at home; in fact, when I looked around your house everything I saw belonged to my home." We move our furniture sometimes by giving it to our sons and daughters, and it leaves us with more space.
In this new development, by these proposals for new towns, why cannot we move out some of the old and derelict industries, and erect new buildings to give them a chance to set up branches or move together? I hope that in moving slum houses we shall remember, also, to remove slum industries and rebuild them on more modern lines, and that we shall also move many of our population and give our young people a chance in the new towns. That, surely, would help the old towns, because the old towns cannot get more space, more open spaces, until they get rid of a great many of their older industries, slum houses and population. I think this is a two-way traffic, that in building new towns we should move out the old and enable the old to open up new spaces.
Another of the objections which have come from Members opposite is that the town may not develop, that its population may stop at a figure of 40,000. We were asked, "Are you going to compel people to go to the new towns? "I ask Members opposite why, hitherto, they never raised their voices when their Government forced local authorities into compulsion by withdrawing the Wheatley Act, which left local authorities with only two Acts, both of which were compulsory, namely, the Act dealing with overcrowding, and the 1930 Act. That meant that local authorities could only build for, and could only move, people who were either overcrowded or who had been cleared from the slums. The result was colonies of those who had been slum cleared and overcrowded. Surely we should now be able to direct certain people to new towns, in which there will be mixed communities. This is a historic occasion. It will be the first time in the history of Britain that the value accruing from the effort of the people will go back 1124 to the people. The increase in land values will belong to the people. I have heard objections about the transfer of land values, about the transfer of valuation, or, rather, the loss of valuation. There will be no loss in valuation; there will merely be a transfer. For the first time, the people of this country will be given, by this Bill, all the increases in land values.
I think there are, however, some dangers against which the Minister will have to guard. I notice that in Clause 3 he is required to consult the local authorities concerned, and that before he appoints his corporation he will also be required to consult them. It may be that many local authorities will view with very grave concern a move on the part of the Minister to set up new towns. They will say that their valuation will drop, and they may put all manner of obstacles in the way of the development of that new town because they fear a decrease in their valuation. I think we shall require to see that local authorities are not further penalised by any loss of valuation. As I have said, there will not be a loss, but merely a transfer. Undoubtedly, legislation for compensation and betterment is overdue. In the direction of industry there will, I fear, be competition between the old local authorities and the new corporations for new industries. We find in Glasgow, for example, that they are talking of building skyscrapers, and excusing themselves for doing so on the ground that people must be near their work, while at the same time, complaining that there is not enough work, and these are asking for more industries to go inside the City boundaries. Therefore, I rather fear that the Minister may be up against that sort of competition from existing local authorities. I think it is in the interests of the people themselves that industries should be tempted into the new towns, rather than into the old, so that people will follow those industries by going into garden homes.
I was interested to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tewkesbury refer to Stevenage, and speak of a man's love for his home and his garden. I think we all respect that, but we want more people to have homes with gardens, and surely, if one or two are merely to be transferred to a space across the road and still to have a home and a garden, they should not object too much if, in so doing, 1125 they are making it possible to provide many more people with homes and gardens. I welcome the Bill, and I think it will mean new homes and new lives to many of the people of this country. No longer will we hear the excuse that we must build skyscrapers because we do not want to have suburban expansion. Here is the reply in this Bill.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and Kinross, Perth)
I do not propose at this stage to go into the merits or demerits of the Bill, but on behalf of hon. Members on this side of the House who represent Scottish constituencies, I wish to make a few observations which I hope will be found worthy of careful consideration and acceptance by the Government. The allocation of time for the discussion of Scottish Measures is a matter about which there is frequently heated argument, not only in Scotland, but in the House and in the Lobbies. The Englishmen say that we get too much time and we say we do not get enough. That is a matter of indefinite argument. In the case of the Civil Aviation Bill on Monday last, the Chair was most generous in enabling us to state fully the case for Scotland and Scottish interests. We on this side wish that the Government would follow the example set in that respect and arrange more satisfactorily the time for Scottish business. An example of the failure to do this is provided by today's business and that proposed for tomorrow. Tomorrow we shall take the closing stages of a Bill which will certainly take a very short time, and the remainder of the day, as far as Scotland is concerned, will be wasted; but today we have before us this Bill which very deeply concerns Scotland.
It is a Bill that requires very full discussion, thorough investigation, and possibly amendment, as far as it affects Scotland. It is a glaring example of the very bad system which has grown up whereby an important Bill affecting the whole of the United Kingdom has been drafted with an almost exclusively English legal background, from an exclusively English point of view, and with purely English considerations in mind. The House will appreciate that Scotland has an entirely different legal system. Land tenure, the provision of water, power and other undertakings are on a different footing from England, and yet, in a case where it is 1126 obvious that a separate Bill is desperately badly needed for Scotland this complicated Measure which we are now considering has been drafted purely from an English point of view. I do not know the secrets of the Cabinet, but I presume that when the Measure was completed, it was thrown across to the Lord Advocate, who was told to get on with it, to translate it as far as possible into the terms of Scottish law, and to make the best job he could of it. That is a thoroughly bad way of treating the interests of Scottish legislation. It is a monstrous thing that this Bill in its main provisions should be unsuitable for Scotland that it has to have a Clause—Clause 22—covering seven pages and containing 23 Subsections, to make it in any way possible for the Bill to apply to Scotland. That Clause is a Bill in itself, and it proves conclusively that the Bill is quite unsuited to carry both Scotland and England.
Why should there not be a separate Bill for Scotland? It would not delay matters to any extent. It has been done in the case of education and water, and I understand it has been promised that it shall be done in the matter of the National Health Service. Why should it not be done in the case of this complicated Measure, which affects Scotland so deeply? Presumably, this Measure owes its very existence to the necesity for improving and dealing with conditions which we find respectively in Scotland and in England. What chance, if there is one Bill for the two countries, will there be of discussing on the Floor of the House matters which affect Scotland vitally? Still more, when the Bill goes to a Standing Committee—for I cannot believe that the Government will give time for a discussion of it in a Committee of the Whole House—what chance will there be to have an adequate examination by Scottish Members of these things which are so vital to their constituents? What chance will there be of our hearing the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland? I understand the right hon. Gentleman is to intervene this evening, but after that, we shall never hear him again on this Measure. It will be looked after by other Members of the Government Front Bench. The Scottish Grand Committee exists expressly to deal with this type of legislation in the interests of Scotland. I say without hesita- 1127 tion and without fear of contradiction that this Bill cannot possibly work as a single Measure for both England and Scotland if Scotland is to have proper representation of her interests.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan
I will not take the extreme course advocated by my hon. and gallant Friend, but I urge most strongly and with all reasonableness that Clause 22 of the Bill and all references to Scotland should be deleted, and that a concise, clear and brief Bill on the same lines should be introduced by the Secretary of State for Scotland. In asking for that, I claim that I am not being unreasonable.
Clause 23 (5) states:This Bill shall not extend to Northern Ireland.
Why? Is it not obvious that it does not extend to Ireland because it is quite unsuitable to the conditions existing in Ireland? In Scotland we have in addition, a separate legal system which makes it doubly unreasonable that the Bill should apply to Scotland. I very much hope that, after the Minister. who is to reply has had an opportunity of consulting his colleagues, he will be able to give us an assurance, to which I think Scotland is entitled, that the Bill will be redrafted, and that a Bill on the same lines will be introduced by the Secretary of State for Scotland, so that we may discuss it from the point of view of conditions existing in Scotland. This would give much encouragement to Scottish opinion in the House and in Scotland.
§ 6.49 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Westwood)
After that very polite invitation from the hon. and gallant Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) and with your approval, Mr. Speaker, I would like at this stage to intervene with a view to explaining to the House the part that the Bill will play in helping us in Scotland to deal with the whole problem of rehousing and industrial rehabilitation, and to explain the special provisions that have been incorporated in the Bill to make it suitable in its application to Scottish conditions. I have no apology to make to my Scottish colleagues for taking my part in the framing of a United Kingdom Bill. 1128 There will be no difficulty whatever in its interpretation, and in fact the hon. and gallant Member for Perth has already cancelled out his complaint that we have not a separate Bill for Scotland. If I understood him aright he said that Clause 22 of the present Bill is a Bill in itself. That is quite true—it is.
§ Mr. Westwood
The hon. and gallant Member must not now add to his remarks and make qualifications. That was his statement and it is indeed a Bill for Scotland because it deals with the differences that arise between the English system and the Scottish system as regards the land tenure position in Scotland and that in England.
§ Mr. Westwood
If English Members are wise, they will deal with the Clauses concerning England and leave reasonable and adequate time for my colleagues in Scotland, on both sides, to deal with those subjects in Clause 22 of the Bill which they understand.
§ Lieut.-Commander Clark Hutchison (Edinburgh, West)
Is the Minister aware that there will be only two or three Scottish Members on that Standing Committee?
§ Major Ramsay (Forfar)
It really is a most unsatisfactory position if we do not know what the position of this Committee is going to be. It is extremely important that this vital matter for Scotland should be referred to the Scottish Grand Committee, and I appeal to the Minister at this juncture, when he can go back on his word, to reconsider the matter. He would go up in our estimation if he did.
§ Mr. Westwood
The hon. and gallant Member may rest assured that I am not going back on my word and I would not be a great man in the interests of Scotland if I did. I am going to try to explain to the House 1129 exactly what the Bill will do to help Scotland. I am sure that Scottish Members will agree with me that nowhere will this first instalment—and I want hon. Members to know that it is only a first instalment—of the present Government's planning legislation be of more immediate practical application than in Scotland. We in Scotland know—and our knowledge is based on the bitter and disillusioning experiences of the inter-war years—that our two big priority problems are jobs and homes for our people. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to get agreement from my colleagues from Scotland. A positive planning policy must aim at the solution of those two vital problems as its primary objective, and I should like to explain just how the present Measure will help us to tackle these fundamental questions.
The vital priority area for the application of the powers to be conferred by this Bill is undoubtedly the area of North Lanarkshire, and the Clyde basin—which, for the purposes of this Bill, I will call the Clyde Valley region—in which about one half of the total population of Scotland live and work, and in which about 75 per cent of Scotland's industries are located. There is no area in Great Britain in which positive planning is more urgently required than this Clyde Valley region. The problems of the area can be enumerated quite briefly. They are, appalling housing congestion, inadequate and out-of-date factory accommodation, and an undue dependence on the heavy engineering and interrelated industries. About two years ago, as part of his comprehensive policy of surveying the whole field of post-war reconstruction in Scotland, my predecessor in the Coalition Government, with that foresight which is characteristic of him, enlisted the cooperation of all the local planning authorities in the area in the setting up of a regional planning advisory committee under the chairmanship of Bailie MacCalman, of the corporation of Glasgow, and with Sir Patrick Abercrombie as its chief planning consultant. Incidentally, I think I should also mention that whilst there are repeated references to the Barlow and Scott committees, there are very few references to a committee set up by my predecessor in office, to the Westwood Committee which was charged with ascertaining the best way to distribute, in the interests of Scotland, the 500,000 houses that we needed. A sub- 1130 committee was set up and made its report on how best to distribute these houses, allocating them in the right places and helping other new towns, and I would advise my Scottish colleagues on both sides of the House to give careful study to this report, which is available to hon. Members.
The remit to the Clyde Valley planning advisory committee was to survey the planning position throughout the whole region and to prepare for the consideration of the local planning authority, and for the Secretary of State as planning Minister, an advisory report on all aspects of replanning and redevelopment in the area. I have recently received an advance copy of the committee's report which will, I hope, be published in the Autumn in final form complete with photographs and plans. The committee have done a magnificent fact-finding job and have prepared a comprehensive and detailed plan for the future. The report emphasises that the root of the problem of replanning and rehabilitation in the Clyde Valley is the appalling congestion and overcrowding, both housing and industrial—it does not apply merely to housing—in the city of Glasgow. The committee made a survey of the city of Glasgow which showed that 700,000 people are huddled together within an area of three square miles round and about the city centre. Housing densities in those gaunt tenement blocks, which are a relic of the worst manifestations of unplanned enterprise of the 19th century, are as high in some districts as 127 houses, or 700 persons, to the acre. In the Dalmarnock ward of Glasgow, for instance—and I am sure that English Members of this House will not be pleased to hear this but will sympathise with me in the heritage I have had to take over so far as housing conditions in Scotland and particularly in Glasgow are concerned—93 per cent. of all the houses are of two apartments or less. And when I say "two apartments" in its application to Scottish housing it means two apartments and nothing more. Further, 56 per cent. of all the houses are overcrowded, even by reference to the comparatively low standards set by the Housing Act of 1935.
I am repeatedly complaining, in this House and in the country, that the standards that were set for Scotland are far lower than those set for England. In 1131 England, calculations are made in accordance with English Acts, and to a standard based upon persons and bedrooms. We have to take into calculation, under existing Acts, all rooms, including living rooms. We are not counted as persons in Scotland, but as units and half units. Hon. Members must not blame me for that. It was a Tory Secretary of State for Scotland that got "units" in. That is another heritage which has come my way.
§ Mr. Westwood
I am pleased to know that there is something for which the Tory Party in Scotland do not blame me.
Industrial congestion in these areas is no less acute than the housing congestion to which I have referred. Housing and industry are inextricably mixed together, and the industrial accommodation and facilities are outmoded and antiquated. It is essential that many existing industrial establishments should be re-sited in better surroundings, and that substantial numbers of new industries should be introduced into the area to provide a properly balanced industrial structure; but only a small proportion of the land required for those purposes could possibly be found within the present city boundaries of Glasgow. Similar problems of housing and industrial congestion, and a similar need for housing and industrial overspill, arise in other towns in the region, such as Greenock and Clydebank. The immediate question with which the Clyde Valley committee were faced was: How can we best secure that the plans for meeting this tremendous need for redevelopment can be coordinated and integrated as a proper plan for the region as a whole? [An HON. MEMBER: "How will the right hon. Gentleman secure it under the Bill? "] I will get it by this dual Bill. I can assure hon. Members that there will be a most lively competition between the Minister of Town and Country Planning in England, and the Secretary of State for Scotland, as to who will get the best out of the Measure and make the best of it. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Evidently I have secured complete agreement.
The solution at which the Committee finally arrived, and with which I am in broad agreement in principle, was that 1132 provision must be made at an early date for the development of communities providing ample facilities for new types of industrial development, for the resettlement of overspill industries, and for houses and other services. The sites of the new towns actually recommended by the committee are at—my Scottish colleagues will know these places as well as I know them—East Kilbride, Bishopton, Houston and Cumbernauld. I am not in a position, without considering the matter further and in more detail, to commit myself today to a definite decision on one or all of these sites, but I am arranging to discuss the whole matter with the local planning and housing authorities concerned, and I hope that it will be possible to make early progress with the planning of at least one of these new communities as a priority project.
Before I leave the Clyde Valley I should like to make one point absolutely clear. These new communities are, I am satisfied, essential to the proper industrial rehabilitation of the region as well as to provide urgently needed housing accommodation planned in direct relation to the new industries which are going to be established. There is no question here of one local authority robbing another of its population. The communities and the local authorities belong to the people and not the people to the local authorities. The whole concept behind this Bill is that public enterprise should, in the national interest, carry out, in accordance with the best planning principles, essentially the same kind of operations as were carried out, on no principles at all and with the minimum regard for human welfare and happiness, in the late nineteenth century as part of the backwash of the industrial revolution. There is really nothing new about the idea of new towns. Several of our best-known communities in the Clyde Valley area are themselves new towns. The burgh of Clydebank, for instance, grew from a small village of 816 people in 1871 to a large urban community of 30,000 people at the beginning of the present century. This rapid growth was uncoordinated and unplanned and was dependent almost entirely on the three undertakings in the area, with the result that, in the slump of the 1920's and the early 1930's, Clydebank had one of the highest unemployment records in the whole of Great Britain. Again, 67 per cent. of all the houses built in the burgh 1133 were of two apartments or less, and in the black list of overcrowding it ranked third in Scotland, with 44 per cent. of its houses overcrowded. It is uncoordinated and unplanned development of this kind which the present Bill is designed to avoid.
I now turn from the Clyde Valley region to another area in central Scotland where I hope that the powers provided by this Bill will be capable of early application to deal with one of the most important urgent developments connected with the industrial future of Scotland. I refer, of course, to the development of entirely new coalfields in the county of Fife and in the Lothians around Edinburgh. As Hon. Members are aware from the report of the Scottish Coalfields Committee, this area contains tremendous reserves of coal amounting to hundreds of millions of tons and the urgent development of these coalfields on the best modern principles of mining technique has already begun. In the next decade or so it will become the most important coal getting area in Scotland and, indeed, one of the richest sources of this vital raw material in Great Britain. The Ministry of Fuel and Power and myself are already working in the closest association to make the necessary provision for the purpose of these new developments. The most immediate need is, of course, the provision of housing accommodation as such for the mine workers, but I am most anxious to secure—and I am sure all Scottish Members will agree with me on this point, irrespective of Party—that the houses should be provided in the right places and, most important of all, that communities will be created of a balanced character providing entirely new social standards for the men and women who will live in them, and constituting a complete break with the outmoded and the depressing conception of what we in Scotland call the "mining village" or the "mining town." I for one am determined to get rid of them.
There was always a suspicion directed against the miners by the outside population. One of the reasons for this was that what I consider to be one of the bravest and finest bodies of men were, at times, misunderstood by the country, at large. One of the greatest characteristics of the mining community—and I am proud to belong to it—is the fact that it has a loyalty unsurpassed by any other section 1134 of the community, so much so that the miners are, as I say, very often misunderstood. The best way of overcoming these difficulties is to see that we have well balanced communities. In the development of our new towns, so far as the development of mining is concerned, given the power which we shall get when this Bill receives the assent of Parliament, I for one if I am still in office will see that the building up of these new communities is well balanced, and without anything in the shape of the mining villages or the mining towns we have known in the past.
For this purpose the powers available under this Bill will be most important and I propose to use these powers as a flexible instrument to give effect to the policy which I have just outlined. In dealing with the problem we do not propose to work within narrow and rigid principles. In some cases, for example, we will secure the best results by expanding some of the existing towns. That is a recommendation of the Westwood Committee if I may, without using that name in vain, say so from this Box. In other cases it will be necessary to plan entirely new communities of medium size ranging from 10,000 to 15,000 of a population. The necessary details will be worked out in consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Fuel and Power and, of course, I will carry the local authorities concerned with me at every stage.
I should like for a moment to develop this latter point. Quite clearly, the provision of new communities cannot be secured without the closest teamwork between all the Government Departments concerned, and especially between central and local government. The principle behind this Bill is that, at all stages, the local authorities will be brought fully into the picture. They will be consulted, for example, before any decision is taken to designate a particular area as the site of a new town under Clause I of the Bill; they will be kept fully informed of all the details and of the plan of the town; and they will be consulted about the appointment of members to the Development Corporation. Then again, when the stage has been reached for building operations to begin, the Development Corporation will work in partnership with the local authority responsible for providing essential services. 1135 We propose in Scotland to rely largely on the local authorities for the provision of these services in new towns but the machinery in the Bill is quite flexible and in appropriate cases the development corporation themselves will be empowered to provide these services. Where they do so the expenditure incurred by them, or such part of that expenditure as the Secretary of State may think proper will be repayable by the responsible local authority. The Bill also provides that the development corporation may act as agents for the local authority in the provision of services in appropriate cases and the local authorities will have power to act as agents for the corporation in carrying out work if this is found to be convenient in any particular area.
I should like to refer very briefly to one or two special points which are dealt with by the Scottish application Clause. The general application of the provisions of the Bill to Scotland is contained in Clause 22, to which I have already referred and to which reference has already been made, and under this Clause all the powers conferred on the Minister of Town and Country Planning as regards England and Wales are given to the Secretary of State as regards Scotland, and the provisions of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1945, are incorporated in the Bill to the extent required to equip the Secretary of State and the development corporations with the necessary powers to ensure the planned development of new towns. It will be seen that, following the precedent of Clause 18 (10) of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1945, the development corporation for any new town will have power to dispose of land by way of feu or lease. It would not be appropriate in Scotland to provide, as is being done for England and Wales, that the development corporations should normally be restricted to the disposal of land by way of lease only. Long leases are not a feature of our Scottish law and the traditional form of land tenure is the feu. Normally the development corporation will dispose of land by feuing it but in appropriate cases, for instance where they have built, say, shops and wish to let them for comparatively short periods, the disposal can be provided for by way of lease. In the case of land needed for the building of churches, disposal will 1136 always be by way of feu unless the parties otherwise agree.
To enable a county council, within whose area the site of a new town is established, to cooperate fully in the provision of the necessary services, the Bill empowers the Secretary of State after consulting the council to form the area of the new town into a special district—that is, during its development—for any purpose for which special districts, under our system of administration in Scotland, may be formed. The advantage of this provision is that it will be possible to go right ahead with the provision of the necessary services without having to go through the usual rather cumbrous procedure for the creation of special districts and their subsequent expansion stage by stage as the new town develops. Provision is also made enabling the county council to exempt from any special district rate any particular land or property within the special district during any period in which the land or property cannot derive benefit from any services in respect of which that rate is being levied.
Another point of detail to which I should like to refer relates to the provisions in the Bill dealing with the taking over of streets in the area of the new town in so far as it lies within the landward part of a county. Under the existing law county councils are under no obligation to take over and maintain new streets even after they have been made up to the county councils satisfaction. In burghs, on the other hand, according to our law in Scotland, a town council can be required to take over and maintain streets which have been completed to the required standard. I think there will be general agreement—irrespective of Party, I am hoping—relating to the taking over of streets in the new towns should be assimilated to the existing law in burghs and the Bill makes the necessary provision in this respect.
I feel sure that Scottish Members will extend a general welcome to this Bill. Nowhere in Great Britain are we in greater need of positive planning with a direct aim and purpose than in Scotland. Our experience of uncoordinated enterprise, and of the lack of any enterprise at all in the development of towns has been most unfortunate. For the first time, it is proposed to confer on the Secretary of State full powers to secure the develop- 1137 ment of new and well planned communities which will fit into the fabric of Scottish industrial and social economy. I hope to use these powers to full effect and I am confident that public opinion and the local authorities will cooperate wholeheartedly with me to that end.
§ Sir T. Moore
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman one question ? A specific charge was made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Perth (Colonel Gomme-Duncan) in which he clearly demonstrated that the interests of Scotland were being grossly neglected, through Scotland being lumped into this Bill instead of having a separate Bill. Last Monday we had the same thing in connection with civil aviation, when Scotland was included in the English Bill. Today, we have Scottish interests lumped together with England. Is it a new policy of the Government to trail Scotland behind England? Why should we not have our own Bills dealing with our own affairs?
§ Mr. Westwood
I cannot understand that last point at all. The hon. and gallant Gentleman is suggesting that I am trailing behind England, whereas I am marching step by step with England in this Bill.
§ 7.21 p.m.
§ Mr. Maclay (Montrose Burghs)
Taking up this very interesting controversy where it stands, I, too, while welcoming a Bill of this kind, regret that we have not our own Scottish Bill. I will not repeat the arguments, but the Secretary of State has very kindly said that those Scots who are fortunate enough to get on to the Committee can have lots of fun with Clause 22. Clause 22 is almost entirely a legal Clause. I am sure my hon. and learned colleagues from Scotland will have great fun, but to those who are not learned, even Scottish law is difficult, and what we want to discuss is whether an English Bill is suited to the very peculiar circumstances of Scotland.
§ Mr. Westwood
May I point out again that this is not an English Bill; this is a United Kingdom Bill.
§ Lieut.-Commander Clark Hutchison
Hitherto on these matters there has always been a separate Bill for Scotland. There have always been separate Housing Bills and separate Town and Country Planning Bills for Scotland. 1138 This is quite revolutionary practice as the land tenure and legal systems are different in Scotland from England.
§ Mr. Maclay
I will not detain the House for long but, as far as Scotland is concerned, most of us agree, I think, with what the Secretary of State has said about the need for dealing with the Clyde Valley area and the great importance of the new Fife coalfield developments. But what many of us are still worried about is what has been happening for the last 50 years further North in Angus and Perth, and right into the full Highland area, where we have seen for years the towns declining and the populations moving South. In the last Parliament we had the Distribution of Industry Bill which, among other things, created the development areas. In it there are provisions for building factories and correcting the wrong application of industry in those areas, thus generally helping the industrial situation. At that time a number of us tried to get similar provisions included for the erection of factories in the towns further North, for the smaller country towns suffering from a decline in population. We did not succeed. We had an Amendment down to the Bill, but the Dissolution of Parliament stopped it.
Today the Minister in his opening remarks sketched the very ideal conditions under which people could live in the towns envisaged by this Bill. I think we all agree entirely with him. We think he put it admirably, but what he said was extraordinarily reminiscent of what was said before the end of the last Parliament, when we were talking about the desirability of getting people back into the smaller country towns in England, Scotland and Wales, those which have been declining for many years. Now we find ourselves in this position, that the development areas have a Bill of their own—because that is all that the Distribution of Industry Bill is—and now we have the New Towns Bill.
I want to come down to detail because it makes my point, that the Distribution of Industry Bill enabled factories to be built in development areas, and that this 1139 Bill will enable factories to be built by the corporations in the Minister's new towns, if I understood the Minister aright, and let out to firms who do not want themselves to build in the new towns. But what is to happen to the smaller country towns which are not covered either by the Distribution of Industry Bill or by this Bill? There must be many of them, but as far as I can understand they are not covered by this Bill which is really an overspill Bill, intended to deal with the populations of great towns like London, Glasgow, and other industrial areas, rehousing the people and giving them better conditions. I repeat, that we are all in sympathy with that, but it does not deal with our particularly Scottish problem, which is the Highlands problem, the Angus problem, the Perth problem, and all these counties in Scotland. I would like to know whether it is considered that, in the Committee stage, there will be any hope of covering these.
The position is very serious because, to take towns in my own constituency, some have been declining steadily for 50 years. I am bound to mention my constituency because it is a good example. The population of one town has gone down from 15,000 to about 8,000; another one has an even bigger decline, and so on, through the five towns. We have been pressing very hard for new industries for certain towns in that area. We cannot get them, because we cannot provide buildings. There are no existing buildings, and we are not a developing area, so we can get no help from the Government to build factories. We cannot even get licences. I understand that if a firm came along, in the present shortage of labour and material we could not get licences. The development areas get them and, under this Bill, the new towns will get them. The new town corporations will be encouraged to provide factories if necessary, and I understood the Minister to say that he was hoping to get rid of his cash as quickly as possible and make a very good show within five years. Well, during the first two of those five years, if not longer, I am afraid there will still be shortages of materials and labour.
What about the smaller country towns which do not come under either Bill and will be right out of this altogether? If 1140 somebody wants to build a new factory, will he be helped? Will he be able to get material and labour, and will he be given any encouragement at all? He certainly cannot get financial assistance at the moment from either Bill. I would ask, Is there enough labour and material to go round during this period and to leave anything over for the towns I am discussing?
If we had had a Scottish Bill, we could have gone much more seriously into the whole balanced economy of Scotland, but I would like to put an idea to the Secretary of State which I hope we shall be able to develop together later. We have in Glasgow the Hillington Trading Estate. Why not develop the theory of the trading estate on a much bigger scale? The Hillington Estate is tidily put together, and is one block of factories, really adding to the congestion of that part of Glasgow. Why not think of the same theory on a county basis, going further North and into the Highlands and the East coast, having the factories preferably interrelated, working in four or five or six or seven towns say 10 or 15 miles apart. If we cannot provide buildings under this Bill, let us get another one, but this one may be capable of Amendment to do that. In Angus, we already have certain very good factories, labour is interchangeable, and there is adequate fluidity because distances are not great. But there are not enough factories. We want to help some of these towns which have been declining to grow again, and if we could find other factories, get help from the Government, and give encouragement to industrialists to come into these towns, we would gradually build up on a county basis a trading estate where industries are interrelated, and people in that district would not have to leave magnificent country in order to find employment in Dundee or Glasgow. I cannot imagine any greater heresy than that our Angus people should go to Fife when the Minister gets his new towns there.
§ Mr. Maclay
I have made my point and I will not develop it, because this is not the appropriate moment to develop the idea of a trading estate on a county basis. If, however, during the Committee stage some Amendments are put down to make it a conceivable possibility under this Bill, I hope the Minister will consider them.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Nally (Bilston)
I know it is the custom of the House for an hon. Member to try to follow in Debate the arguments of the hon. Member who has preceded him. I hope I shall be forgiven if I do not follow the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Maclay). I remember once coming into the House rather late at night under a complete misapprehension about the business to be discussed, and finding a Scottish Debate in progress. I sat down with that timidity with which an English Member ought to sit down in those circumstances and attempted to translate one or two of the speeches which were being made. I happened to half-rise from my seat to leave and all sorts of odd looks were given me from all sides of the House by Scottish Members because apparently some were under the impression that I, an alien from their point of view, wanted to speak. Therefore, I do not propose to speak on the problems of Scotland.
§ Mr. Nally
On these problems Scottish Members are usually much better informed than we English Members and I would not dare engage upon them in any detail.
This is only my second speech in the House. I rise now because I cannot imagine a more auspicious occasion on which to support His Majesty's Government. I am particularly interested in the subject for three reasons. The first is that my division of Bilston in Staffordshire is a supreme example of the tragedy that comes from lack of past planning in house and other building development. There we have an industrial community, a municipality with some courage and enterprise and with less than 60 acres of land within its own boundaries upon which to build. It has young and able municipal officials faced with heartbreaking tasks of trying, in a comparatively short space of time, to bring order out of the chaos created by something like 75 years to a century of completely unorganised development. The second reason is that for many years, as a humble assistant to my father, who is chairman of the Manchester and District regional planning committee, I have been closely associated with problems of this kind. Manchester is deeply concerned in the Bill. The third reason is that I live in Manchester myself and, therefore, have a citizen's 1142 interest in everything that affects Manchester.
I think it important to begin by saying a word about the opposition to the Bill. We had an extremely reasonable and most impressive speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison)—I am sorry not to see him in his place. It was a most reasonable speech. We got the idea from it that the Opposition, with that sweet reasonableness which has always distinguished them in their view, of course, from those on this side of the House, were prepared after the admirable introduction by the Minister to treat this matter on its merits. But there are forces outside this House which even the right hon. Member for Cirencester cannot control. A good deal of completely artificial and unscrupulous opposition to the Bill and misunderstanding about it has been deliberately created by sections of the Press with which many hon. Members opposite are associated.
Instructions were given a few days ago to certain reporters in two London offices of national newspapers, that their reporters should go down to Stevenage. There are some newspaper offices where a reporter will receive instructions from his news editor to go out and see if there is a story in such a matter. There are other newspaper offices where, if the story has any political content whatever, the reporter is told precisely what sort of story he has to bring back. I speak with some authority on this. Instructions were given in the case of Stevenage that a story must be built up preferably based upon ex-Servicemen and their wives and upon aged people who were, so the stories were to run, in danger of being flung out into the street by a wicked, bureaucratic, Socialist Government. That is, of course, a caricature, but it is the way a section of the Press is run today. Those who have regard for the honour of British journalism believe that the public ought to know the way in which Members of the Opposition such as the right hon. Member for Cirencester stand up in this place and talk about widespread anxiety about a given situation when, in fact, much of the anxiety has been deliberately created by complete and deliberate misrepresentation of the Bill by large sections of the Opposition Press in the country.
There is also some genuine opposition which I think has to be treated with great 1143 respect and great regard. I refer, to the disappointment felt by many people in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and other great cities, that the Minister has, in effect, in this Bill by-passed the right of the great municipalities with a great overspill problem in order to set up his development corporations who will themselves be responsible for new towns taking over a large proportion of such overspill. There are vested interests of many kinds. There are vested interests which the Government, quite rightly, proposes to take by their dirty necks and throttle, more or less humanly, but there are other vested interests which have to be approached with some sympathy and understanding. There is no great instrument of social good, no method devised by men for the benefit of their fellow, men, that does not sooner or later create a vested interest of some kind. We have seen it in the municipalities, we see it in the voluntary hospitals, and in all kinds of social organisations.
§ Mr. Nally
Trade unions, sometimes, I agree. These are vested interests which have to be approached with sympathy because they are based on a desire to do the maximum good. But sometimes they believe that the only agency by which that good can be done is by the vested interest concerned.
The views of these vested interests, I mean the municipal interests concerned, about this Bill are expressed by Alderman Sir Miles Mitchell, one of the most distinguished figures in municipal life in the country. As chairman of the Association of Municipal Corporations, as a leading figure in Manchester and Lancashire, he is entitled to be heard with respect. Sir Miles has criticised, in rather strong and bitter terms, the proposal of the Minister in regard to new towns. He had hoped that Mobberley, which is nine or ten miles into the Cheshire plain would, so to speak, be handed over to Manchester, which has an overspill population of something like 43,000 families and with space in Manchester for only 28,000 families to be re-housed. Manchester has already done preparatory work in regard to Mobberley and has built up a most distinguished staff of technicians who were, I know, looking forward to this opportunity of practising their great technical skill in 1144 the new town unhampered by some of the ancient legacies from more evil days which afflict Manchester itself.
It is important that we should seriously consider what exactly is the position of the development corporations in relation to the municipalities. It seems to me implicit in this Bill that while the development corporations will be responsible for the development of the new towns, it will be their desire, and the desire of the Minister, that at the very earliest possible date, the new towns shall not only be new towns under a development corporation, but shall constitute a new independent democracy, so far as local government is independent, wherever these 10, 15 or 20 new towns are properly established. I agree that this, to some extent, cuts across understandable big city ambitions. At the age of 12 or 13 I attended classes in local government organised by one whose name will be familiar to many hon. Members, Mr. Charles Brown, who was later M.P. for Mansfield, and whose death was a loss to our present distinguished Front Bench. He sat with my father on the same county council. They were closely associated in all kinds of municipal work, and I have studied, watched and loved local government work ever since that time. What has worried me more than anything else during the past few years—I speak as a big city man, with close associations with many big cities apart from Manchester—is the tendency of big local authorities, irrespective of which party controlled or controls them—there was and is very often agreement between the parties on this point—in places like Liverpool, Leeds and Sheffield, towards cannibalism. I was and am worried about the desire of the big city going out with the idea that if it developed its acres it developed its quality. I was and am frightened at the tendency of a section of opinion—it exists in Manchester—to assume that all the smaller urban district councils and smaller places outside are legitimate prey for a big city seeking to expand. There will be agreement among Members on both sides of the House that that is a tendency we all ought to avoid.
I believe that the Minister of Town and Country Planning has done a magnificent job in avoiding that, at least as far as these new towns are concerned. If some sections of Manchester municipal leadership had had their way, Mobberley 1145 would presumably have become simply a ward or wards of Manchester and would have elected councillors in Mobberley as members of Manchester City Council. As the Minister, or someone who spoke subsequently, rightly said, that would have meant that a citizen of the new town would have had to take a bus or train, pass through other municipal authority areas of various kinds between Mobberley and Manchester, before arriving at his own town hall. That seems to me an incredible and quite indefensible position. I congratulate the Minister on the fact that despite that pressure brought to bear upon him, pressure all the greater because those who brought it to bear were often some of the best, most worthy and finest people in our municipal life, he resisted it
A big city would and could be a good mother to a place outside, but I suggest that the last thing which good mothers of a certain type do is to consent to give the key of the house to a beloved offspring when it reaches the stage at which it wants to stand on its own feet, and does not want to have to come in always at 10.30 p.m. It would be far more difficult in such circumstances for these new towns to establish a functioning democratic life of their own, if they were brought up as part of a big city, than it will be for them to attain hill and democratic status on the lines proposed by the Minister of Town and Country Planning. When the Committee stage is reached we might, I think, have a look at Clause 14, which deals with the position of the development corporations getting rid of their responsibilities. We ought to see if we cannot in a clearer way make it quite certain that the development corporations intend; and will, at the earliest possible moment, to get out of the life of the new town and leave it to develop on its own.
We see in this Bill a massive, magnificent enterprise in which the State, the municipalities and all men and women of good will can combine to create towns with a life, personality and democracy of their own. I include, among those of good will technicians and private enterprise, far sighted industrialists, as well as workers.
There is much eloquence in this House. I have heard a good deal of it in my life as a reporter, but there is nothing more eloquent, Mr.' Speaker, 1146 than your right hand when it goes down as a signal that a Member has nearly reached his time limit. I know I may be trespassing on the indulgence of the House. I can plead in mitigation that I made the shortest maiden speech on record in this Parliament in six minutes or so—and if I had not sat down then I should probably have collapsed from sheer fright. Therefore I hope, Sir, you forgive me if I go on for two or three minutes more. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester speaks with great authority on this subject, but he made one point which revealed how little he knows, not through any fault of his own, about the majority of the people who will live in the new towns. He said, as one reason for what seemed to me to be a suggestion for delay in getting on with the new towns, that the people who will go to a new town will have nothing in common except that they will have come from areas where there is a housing shortage. Nothing could be more preposterous. Trade unionists who are members of the same trade union will have a joint interest; members of the same co-operative society will have similar interests, a member of a Conservative club or an active worker for the Conservative Party will have en interest in common with his, neighbours.
§ Mr. Nally
It is true that local Conservative voluntary workers are in a minority, but after all they are God's creatures. It is not suggested that in the new towns we should impose any political bar. On the contrary, in pleasant surroundings, it may be that these few Tory working men left or even the other Tories, will be converted, and the process will be simplified because there will be better accommodation for meetings and education in these new towns.
It may be true that above the age level of say 50, to take a rough and ready age level, we shall find many people who would be unhappy away from their life in the community where they have long lived, sometimes in slums under the worst possible conditions, but where there was warm feeling and long established fellowship with their neighbours. It is, in essence, the case that, broadly speaking, the populations of the new towns will tend to be of a slightly lower average age than 1147 the populations of our old cities. Younger people today have a quality of adjustment, and at the same time a faculty for building up team and community spirit over a short space of time much greater, for a variety of reasons, than was possessed by their parents. That is not because that they are any better or more intelligent than their parents; they are sometimes the reverse. That is certainly true in my case. It is rather because life these days is different. They—the younger people—can read and write more speedily and they can and do go about more. For that reason this new community life will be created more quickly than is sometimes thought. I think the word "statesman" is often as rightly used in connection with some of the people who lead our municipalities as it is in connection with people who lead in great affairs of state in this House. In every statesman, whether he be local or a national statesman, there is a rightful and proper desire to create something by which he or she will be remembered. People like Alderman Jackson, of Manchester, Watkins, of Sheffield, Fred Jowett, of Bradford, Margaret Macmillan, and the Sidney Webbs—and there were many others—did create monuments for themselves in local government. I believe the Minister and his most able and experienced assistant, the Parliamentary Secretary, have in this Bill created for themselves something which will constitute a lasting landmark, not only in their political lives, but in the life of the British people in their march along the path of progress.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
The Minister of Town and Country Planning commended this Bill to the House in a felicitous speech to which tribute has been paid by hon. Members on all sides. It was a graceful and eloquent speech. The Minister drew upon history. He established himself in direct line to Sir Thomas More, as any good Utopian Socialist should. We have had experience of his amiability in this House for a great many years, but the strange thing is that when the Minister goes outside into the country in order to prosecute his aims he finds the Englishman unaccountably in opposition to him. He paid a visit to Stevenage not long ago and, no doubt, he will pay further visits to Ongar 1148 and Meopham, and the rest. I do not doubt that wherever he goes he will find there is a great deal of hostility to his desires. What is the reason for that? The fact that hostility has been displayed, and is likely to be displayed, has given me food for thought on the whole question of strategic planning embodied in this Government's policy and the Bill with which we are confronted.
I have put several questions to myself. First of all, "Does the population trend justify these large extensions of built-up areas?" We have heard nothing at all about population. In the course of the next few months I suppose we are to have the report of the Simon Commission. It would have been a valuable aid to us in determining our policy today if that report had been published earlier. Statistics show that the population of this country will drastically decline over the course of the next generation or two. In fact, some prophets go so far as to say that the population will be halved in 60 or 70 years time. If that is the case, what is the need from a long term planning point of view, of great extension of built-up areas? That is a very powerful argument against the planning of new towns, when one takes into account the fact that a great deal of rebuilding is to be done in existing towns and also in the countryside. My second question is, "Do current attempts to redistribute the population between the town and the country justify the establishment of these new towns?" There again everybody is agreed that there has been far too great an extension of urbanisation in the last few years. We are doing everything we can to bring life and vigour back to the countryside. We talk of village amenities, of water supplies, and we are about to confer higher wages on agricultural workers. The whole trend of policy is to reduce this difference between the town and countryside to which the Minister himself referred in his speech. The fact that that conception is to be established would indicate a general sweep of population out of the towns, even some of the smaller towns, into the villages and hamlets of this country. We want to get men back on the land. We cannot get them back on the land unless we establish good rural housing conditions.
The third question is, "Can we afford the loss of agricultural land which will 1149 result from the establishment of these new towns? " I am told Stevenage is in the middle of good market garden country. The other towns surrounding London that are contemplated will inevitably cover an area which could, with modern technique, be used to produce a valuable agricultural crop of some kind or another. We cannot get away from the fact that by designating an area and establishing a town upon it we are depriving the Ministry of Agriculture of vital crops. Who can say we can afford to go back to the old days when we brought a large amount of foodstuffs from foreign countries and paid for them with our exports? We do not know whether we can return to that system. The whole endeavour has been to establish a strong and continuous agricultural policy for the benefit of the workers in agriculture and in order to guarantee in war and peace food for our people.
Then I ask myself, "What is the extent of the public demand for these new towns?" I have referred to Stevenage. It has been reported in the newspapers that the people of Meopham are also extremely distressed that their land should be taken. It will be the same in the other towns as they come forward. There is no demand in the places themselves that these towns should be established, except perhaps on the part of a few officials and professional men who will benefit from the greater aggregation of property. Where does the demand come from the public who are to be decanted? During the war when the blitz descended upon London hundreds of thousands of people were sent into the country. What did they do? They returned again at the first opportunity even while the blitz was in progress. Why did they do that? They did it because they did not like being out of London.
§ Mr. Asterley Jones (Hitchin)
Is it not true that they did not like it, because they had to live in other people's houses?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
There were many reasons why they did not like it. The prime reason was because the social circumstances were not to their advantage. How do we know what will be the social circumstances in the great new towns which it is proposed to build, mausoleums as I think many of them will be? People will find their outlook is dispirited 1150 in consequence of having to move into them.
§ Mr. Sparks (Acton)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in my constituency nearly 2,000 families have declared to the local authority that they are ready to go outside of our area at least 20 miles distant, to any place where we can provide them with decent homes?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
Quite so. No doubt their work is in London. But 20 miles from Acton is not, under the conditions of modern travel, too far for the "daily breader." Who is going to be prepared to go to these new towns? Where are the large numbers of people who are saying "We are prepared to leave London, or Birmingham, Manchester or Leeds, in order to live in a new town in a different part of the countryside miles from our work." Some of them may go, and that may include returning ex-Servicemen, and people who have not yet established themselves in their homes. A few technical people may go. The Minister can send his civil servants there, and no doubt they will be delighted to go into the new surroundings under his direction.
§ Mr. Jack Jones (Bolton)
Would not the noble Lord agree that the people who were evacuated from London returned for exactly the same reason as that for which the people of my constituency, the biggest in Britain, returned after taking a holiday—the economic reason that they cannot afford to live away from it?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I think there are many reasons, but I do not see the evidence of a great public demand necessary to justify a policy of this kind. The right hon. Gentleman was asked in Stevenage the other night whether he would hold a referendum of the people, and he declined to do so, saying that the referendum which justified his policy was the mandate which the Socialist Party received at the Election. That is the substance of my complaint. The Party now in power are using the mandate they have got in order to impose a planning policy on the public, and exercise restraint upon the very individuals who brought them into power.
§ Mr: Nally
The noble Lord is aware, of course, that, when the Minister of Town and Country Planning visited Stevenage, he was, asked if he would take a referendum. From the reports I have seen, and I saw practically all that appeared in the national dailies, what the. Minister said was -that a referendum ought to be conducted at the same time for those people who were desirous of living in the new town. The Minister said that, if he conducted a referendum for the local people, he ought, at the same time, to conduct one for the people who want to live in the new town.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
The Minister said—I quote from the "Daily Herald":We have already had an admirable referendum which gave us the mandate to do these things and upon which I am working.
What the Minister was referring to was the General Election. But let him have a proper referendum. Let him arrange that the people of London can give expression to their desires. If his policy is backed up by the natural desires of the people, when they know the circumstances and can judge what that policy will be, I would be content.
The next question I ask myself is whether the sprawling urbanisation, which we all detest, can be prevented otherwise than by this Bill, because a great many people seem to think that this Bill is the answer to it and that there is no other. I believe that, without going into technicalities, a series of negative controls, combining the Town and Country Planning Act, 1943, which stopped interim development, with the Distribution of Industry Bill passed earlier in this session, and introducing into it a Clause which was in the last Bill but was left out because of the General Election, could, by that combination, introduce the powers which the Government need in order to prevent urbanisation and sporadic growth.
I would like to refer to what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison) said about putting the old towns in order, and I would also like to take up a point made by the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Nally) about the danger of cannibalism. Surely, what we want to do is to remodel our old towns and prevent the gradual invasion of the Countryside by the exten- 1152 sion of these towns, leaving behind great masses of derelict property. I am afraid that we may be only too easily exchanging that policy of unplanned ribbon development for a policy of planned cannibalism. What ought to be done is to go to the full extent in remodelling existing towns. Many of my hon. Friends represent London constituencies, as do hon. Members opposite, and we know that their problem is appalling. They are faced with the most acute housing shortage, and they sense the admirable desire of the people for better conditions. Cannot it be done within the framework of the Greater London Plan by developing blitzed sites, by moving the people from the houses they now inhabit to the blitzed sites while remodelling their own houses, leaving the parkways and open spaces proposed by Professor Abercrombie? My point is that the whole thing can be done by remodelling the Greater London area without any extensions of the number of new towns.
§ Mr. Sparks
Is the Noble Lord aware that, in the Greater London Plan, provision is made for eight new towns such as are proposed in the Bill, in order to deal with the congested areas of London?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I know there has been a certain amount of talk about these million persons proposed to be taken out of London, but that came originally from the first plan of Professor Abercrombie. Since that date, there have been two estimates made which, to my mind, deal with the greater part of those million persons. There was the estimate made in the second Greater London Plan, in paragraph 106, that, on the basis of such sites as have full services laid on, 400,000 persons could be accommodated on existing estates. The second estimate which I think was made by a housing committee of the London County Council, or by a body analogous to it, was for an approximate number of 400,000 persons who could be accommodated in new housing on existing sites within the London region. If these two estimates are correct, and they are additive, they rather dispose of the original estimate in the first London plan.
Then I ask myself whether the built-up areas can spare the builders for the new towns. There is a tremendous work in progress today, both in rural development, the building of rural cottages, housing in large and small towns and housing in the 1153 great cities. Every builder is at work upon reconditioning and rehousing. I fear that, under this new Government corporation, powers will be taken to move builders from their present vital work in the existing towns and villages of the country.
My final question is: What is to be the social life in the new towns? The Minister spoke today about friendship, neighbourliness and comradeship, but is he so sure that he is going to get it? A thing of this kind has never been attempted before in the whole history of this country. It has been attempted in Russia, but we do not know about the sociological results of the establishment of these great towns in the Ural Mountains. It has never happened before in the history of any Western European country or the United States for a Government to come forward and designate an area, to plan the town, to put up the buildings and then for the people, by some pressure, negative, positive, economic, or by dictation to be pushed into the area. Sir Ebenezer Howard was responsible for the planning of Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth, but he never dreamed of powers of this kind. Various factors were operating in those days which induced people to go to Welwyn Garden City and Letchworth. They had their businesses in London. A house was built and, after contacting some agency in London, they moved into it. They went to join a friend, perhaps, and the whole thing happened slowly over a long period of time and, gradually, the place was developed.
But to come along and to say in 10 years time that the houses are up, and the people are to be put into them, means, to my mind, that a great deal of direction and control will have to take place which will have violent sociological repercussions. The Minister spoke about factory managements and industrialists who have agreed to go to Stevenage. Do these industrialists speak on behalf of every single one of their existing workers and are they certain that they can take a factory and put down the people in Stevenage? Are they certain that they can take the whole of their workers with them and all their raw materials? Have they planned the whole thing out? I do not believe that for a moment. If the Minister were to say that the industrialists whom he has contacted have assured him that they are satisfied that 1154 their problem is settled on the basis of a factory at Stevenage, then, of course, I would believe him, but I do not think he can produce any such evidence. Then there are the residents of the new Stevenage. Are they to be there with their friends or without them? They will have come from other areas and will have left people behind whom they went to in time of trouble—doctors, friends, counsellors, bankers and lawyers. Are they going to take such people with them? Who are the new people they are going to mix with? Who is to form the club life of Stevenage, and who will work on social committees and on the town council? It is the speed of this thing which appals me. The fact that it has got to be done within 10 years will result in serious social dislocation.
I now come to the Bill. My approach to it, as hon. Members can see, is one of alarm and despondency. It must be admitted that the Bill, despite the character of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced it, is frankly totalitarian in form. What a profound pity it is that this Ministry of Town and Country Planning, which until a few weeks ago was a spacious and gracious Ministry dealing with the essential social and economic problems of relations between town and country, should suddenly take on the character of the Ministry of Works and resort to monstrous powers and a very great degree of ruthless direction. In Clause I we find the terrible phrase:Expedient in the national interest.
What is the national interest. Can any hon. or right hon. Gentleman tell me what the national interest is in peacetime?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
There was once a philosopher named Plato who said that justice was what is in the interest of the Government. It is clear that under National Socialism the national interest is what is expedient to the Minister. After a phrase of that kind in Clause I, it is a mere bagatelle to find the Minister designating an area as the site of a town—poor wretched Stevenage which has never done any harm to anyone and through whose spacious streets many thousands of people have passed to their great delight. In Clause 2 we come immediately to the 1155 rotund phrase, every word of which reeks of arrogance and pomposity:The Minister shall by order establish a corporation.
Who are the corporation? They are an oligarchy of nine men who are going to rule the roost at Stevenage and in other towns. They are the creatures of the Minister. They are appointed by the Minister. They are responsible to no one but the Minister, and are given enormous powers. It scarcely needs the acquisition of pistols to turn these gentlemen into the bosses of Wild West towns of gold rush times.
In Clause 4 the oligarchy proceeds to acquire compulsorily any land, inside or outside the designated area, for any purpose whatsoever without the obligation to hold a local inquiry. That is where 78 year old Mrs. Ellen Gray, of Stevenage, who has lived in her house for 45 years, comes in, or rather goes out. I was very glad that the Minister's tyres were deflated. I hope they will be deflated again when he goes to Ongar and all the other places. One day the spirit of independence of the Englishmen will rouse itself to a fever pitch and will wake the planners out of their dreams. Clause 8 ensures that no one—no one at all—in new towns shall own his own house or plot of land. What is the intention there? Clearly it is to proliferate the creatures of the Minister and assure him of a goodly supply of Socialist tenants in the national interest. There follows power after power, and provision after provision, all centralised in the Minister. Clause 22 is a poignant Clause and deals with the application of the Bill to Scotland. Alas, poor Scotland. Another deadly blow; another mighty Empire overthrown!
In conclusion, may I say a word about the financial provisions? When the Minister was in Stevenage the other day he said "Stevenage will, in a short time, become world famous. People will come from all over the world to see how we in this country are building for the new way of life" Yet only £19 million is to be provided for each of these new towns. If we take four persons to a house, that gives 12,000 houses. Divide that into £19 million, and we get a figure of just over £1,500 per house, which has to include land. What quality of house is that to provide? A good second class quality house. Where is the money in that sum 1156 of £19 million for the open spaces, the larger houses, public buildings and churches? There is not a penny. Is that the quality of town that the Minister is going to build? The Minister spoke about private enterprise providing its own factories. What about public buildings and the creation of open spaces to give the towns life and vigour? Either the sum must be considerably stepped up, or else the Minister's claim to pride and beauty for the new town is absolutely groundless.
On all those grounds, therefore, I think the case is not proven either for the new towns or for this Bill. I believe that unsightliness and sprawl can be stopped by negative control, and that the bad location of industry can be remedied by the same process. In their whole policy of strategic planning the Government make the altogether intolerable presumption that the people shall bow to the planners. They arrogate to themselves dictatorial powers. They propose to use an electoral vote given for social progress as authority for popular constraint. In the name of a minority of electors they intend compulsion for the majority That, I believe, is a programme which, as many a nation has found to its cost, destroys in time the Government which sponsored it. Fortunately in a democracy the speed of destruction is great and the harm done is diminished. The right hon. Gentleman's policy will be on the scrap heap before very long. He spoke of Sir Thomas More having lost his head. Let us hope the Minister, in a few years' time, will lose his office.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Asterley Jones (Hitchin)
The Noble Lord has made a speech which has covered a large number of subjects, and I trust that in the few minutes at my disposal I may be able to reply to one or two of the points, at any rate, which he has made. I suggest that if he is right when he says that a Bill of this sort will bring down the Ministry, he ought to give it his wholehearted support, and I hope he will do so for that reason, although, of course, we on this side of the House support it for other reasons. I am very grateful for the opportunity of intervening in this Debate, for three reasons in particular. In the first place, I have in my constituency the first garden city of Letchworth. Years ago that was a very 1157 notable experiment which only today is bearing full fruit. I can assure hon. Members that people really do like living in Letchworth. It is a very good place in which to live. There have been defects in its development. For instance, many people regard as one of its major defects the fact that there are no public houses in the centre of the town. That is regarded as a very serious defect. However, the fact remains that it is a very much better place in which to live than places in which large numbers of our people have to live today.
The second reason why I am particulary interested is because I live just outside my constituency in a second garden city, Welwyn, and although I have been a resident there for only a short time, I can truthfully say that the people who are living there would not go back to the densely populated urban areas from which many of them came. The third reason why I am particularly interested is, of course, that in my constituency, almost mid-way between Letchworth and Welwyn, lies Stevenage—the town of which we have heard so much. So that it is true that although we have heard the word experiment—in many cases it has been referred to as "untried experiment"—in Stevenage we are not experimenting. My right hon. Friend is building, quite rightly, on the experience which has been gained over a period of years in Letchworth and Welwyn, and although as Mr. Shaw said about our parents, those two places should be used rather as a warning than as an example, in many ways their experience will be most valuable.
The question is, Are the people to continue living in densely, overcrowded urban areas such as exist in London? If not, they will have to be dispersed over a wider area. Putting the question perhaps more closely, are we to resign ourselves to a situation in which large numbers of people live in flats? I was living in a flat for some time until I moved out to Welwyn, and I can truthfully say that living in a flat is not the best form of life. I believe only a very small proportion of people wish to live in a flat. In that case, if we get rid of the idea of flats, further dispersal and the use of more land is necessary. The question is, where is that new building and the setting aside of gardens to go?
The alternative to this Bill is sprawl into the Green Belt around London; not only 1158 that, but sprawl from other towns in the neighbourhood of London, including Stevenage. Stevenage is within a distance from London in which people can travel. They can commute, as the Americans say. If Stevenage is not scheduled as a satellite town the land round Stevenage will, surely, be used for building in one way or another. If we accept the principle, which most of us, at any rate, do accept, that dispersal is necessary, surely it is right that that dispersal should be planned and canalised, and new communities should be built up rather than that indiscriminate development should be allowed such as took place between the wars at places like Hatfield, Boreham Wood, Brookmans Park and the various other rather half-baked places—if the people who live there will not mind my saying so—which grew up without any centre or any plan at all.
Therefore, I suggest that this House will be right to give this Bill a unanimous Second Reading on the ground that it is the only way in which we can properly solve this problem of housing the people. That is not to say that there are not one or two points on which some of us feel some concern. The difficulty, of course, is that much as all of us approve in normal circumstances the use of the democratic machinery of local government for the carrying out of public works of many kinds, the fact remains that there is no machine which usually can be used for this purpose. There is no local government machinery which could be used at Stevenage for the creation of this new town. The same applies probably to the majority of others. It is, of course, possible for a borough such as Tottenham to set up its own organisation and transfer a large amount of its population from Tottenham to its new town. But, of course, a very large number of other people will go there. I use Tottenham merely as an example. I believe it is the better solution, and I am glad the Minister has adopted it, to appoint a corporation which will be, in the sense of the word, a trustee for the people who are to live there.
Ample provision is made in the Bill for the transference of that corporation and all its effects to the local authority when the local authority has grown up to a sufficient size to take it over. To my mind this corporation is in danger from two sides. The noble Lord the Member for 1159 Southern Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), in spite of the exaggerations in which he indulged, did say something in which there was at any rate a grain of truth, when he implied that there was a danger that this corporation will tend, if the Minister is not careful, to become too much under the domination of the Ministry, and not only that, but under the domination of the Treasury, which would be far worse. If this corporation is to work properly it must be given a very large measure of independence, financially and otherwise.
I join with hon. Members who have questioned the wisdom of Clause 12 (7) of the Bill, which apparently makes it necessary for some financial justification to be presented to the Treasury before money can be advanced. I think I can carry hon. Members with me when I say that it will be quite impossible, quite impracticable and quite unreal for the members of this corporation to go to the Treasury and say they want an advance of so many millions of pounds, and that over the next 20 years they think the return will be so much. At the best it will be guesswork. I do not believe that Subsection will be able to stand the test of time. Similarly, I think it is unsound to deprive the corporation of its right to borrow elsewhere than by advances made by the Minister. In the early stages the corporation should be given a float, something to start with, something to set it going in life. We should not be too particular about a financial return for that float. After that it could carry on borrowing money against security as the place developed. The danger of this domination of the corporation by the Ministry and by the Treasury is that we shall not get the best men possible to be members of the corporation. If they are to be told at every turn what to do and how to do it we shall not get men of vigour and enterprise to organise these new towns, and they are the sort of men who will undoubtedly be needed.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Minister, anxious as he is to father these new towns—and that is perfectly right—will not wish to impose control in every detail. After all, he has the right to appoint the members of the corporation, and in proper cases he has the right to dismiss them. I think he should confine himself to the right of hire and fire 1160 and leave them very largely to carry on their work in their own way. He should give them freedom to experiment and freedom to make mistakes, because nobody can pretend that mistakes will not be made. Mistakes will be made, and if these men are to be hamstrung at every turn by the Ministry and the Treasury we shall not get men of courage and initiative to take the job on.
I turn to the danger which the corporation faces from the other side. On the one side there is the danger of domination by the Ministry, and on the other side there is the danger of being out of touch with local opinion. I have already indicated what I regard as sound views for appointing corporation agencies for this. We must face the fact that the corporation will have to deal with the most intimate human details of people's lives. It is essential that it should evolve some machinery whereby public opinion may be kept in touch. I would suggest that some statutory provision should be made for the setting up of a local advisory body.
I do not suggest that the corporation should be formed entirely of local people elected for the purpose, because an executive body appointed to do a job should be composed of the best people to do it, but I do believe that there is room for the appointment of a local advisory committee to form a channel for opinion. I consider that that body could be formed round the local council, or councils if there are more than one, and it should be composed of representatives of all sections of opinion, drawn not only from those who are already in the place if we are building up round a nucleus, but also from the people who are to come in as well. We shall know, sometime ahead, which factories will move in and which workers will come; let us include on this advisory committee representatives of the manufacturers, the trade union branches and members, and clubs of all kinds which may be going to move in. Let us try to have an organised body of opinion which could form a contact between the corporation appointed to develop the town and the public at large, whether already living there or about to come in.
There are one or two other points on the subject of cooperation with the local authority on which there is a certain amount of doubt. The question of how far the 1161 existing local authorities will be able to control development is one, and there are others, but these I consider are matters for the Committee and I pass over them. The really essential point, apart from that of effective contact between the corporation and the public, is to have good publicity in the running of this plan. Many of the Minister's problems, and many of the events which took place at the meeting last Monday evening, at which I was present, were in my view due to the fact that there had not been quite enough preparation of the ground beforehand. It would have been better had the Minister gone to Stevenage and made the admirable speech he did, not last Monday, but two months ago, before the notices were served on the people inviting them to sell their property by agreement. That, I think, is an augury for the future. No great damage has been done, but at all stages in the development of this great new town—as I hope it will be—the fullest possible disclosure must be made to everybody concerned. It involves peoples' ordinary lives, and I ask that it should be done.
One final point. Hon. Members have mentioned this question of leasehold tenure. I myself live, as I have said, in a garden city where all the property is leasehold. There is no objection to leasehold tenure at all. I am not a tenant in the sense that I pay a weekly or monthly rent; I pay a large price down for the lease and then there is a small ground rent which is paid annually, but I am not, in the ordinary sense of the word, a tenant. I can say definitely that there is no disadvantage in being a leaseholder on a long lease, but there is clearly, in the minds of many people, a very considerable prejudice against the 99-year lease. My right hon. Friend is perfectly right when he says that the object of the 99-year lease is to give a lease for the approximate life of the building. That may be so, but the difficulty is to persuade a person at the present time that that is the life of a building. I can quote an instance in Letchworth. There are many houses which are running on to about 40 years; they are getting to the "hump" of the lease, and after they have got past the "hump" there will be a growing disinclination to do repairs.
Already there is a certain amount of dissatisfaction and unrest in Letchworth because they realise that time is getting 1162 on and that these leases will fall in in due course. I suggest as a possible alternative to the 99-year lease that there should be a 999-year lease, which will give the corporation all the planning powers that are available to a freeholder who lets out his land under lease, but which are not available to those who lease plots out freehold. There should be an option to re-buy that lease at certain periods, every 50 years, say, or at such other period as the corporation in its discretion decides, on payment of the residual value. That, I think, would achieve the same result as the 99-year lease, though it would avoid the prejudice that the 99-year lease undoubtedly incurs, and the real disadvantages the 99-year lease has in many cases. Above all things, in starting this great new project, what we want to avoid is unnecessary prejudice. If we do things it is not absolutely necessary to do, we run the risk of antagonising people unnecessarily, and for the future, not only of these towns, but of the rehousing of the people as a whole, I do ask the Minister to reconsider that point to see if he cannot benefit from the experience which has been gained in other places, modified to some extent on the lines I have suggested.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
I am glad to have the opportunity of following the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Asterley Jones), who is my political neighbour in Hertfordshire, the county most immediately affected by these proposals. I am not opposed to the principle of this Bill. I am certainly not opposed to the principle of new towns. I appreciate that a plan and machinery are required to bring into effect the principle of creating self-sufficient and balanced communities. I, also, as much anybody deprecate the continuance of "suburban sprawl."
After all, towns are more than a mere multiplication of dwelling places or a collection of persons. They require a sense of common effort, common interests, a common point of view and associations, in order to make of the lifeless parts, a living whole; and that, I hope, is what this Bill seeks to do. But no Act of Parliament can do more than provide the framework, and all that we can do in this House this evening is to consider whether or not this is the best framework possible. 1163 In some ways it falls short of my expectations. I regret that the right hon. Gentleman has chosen to restrict the operation of the proposals to the sole agency of a Government corporation. Here I am on the side of the angels, because I am in agreement with the recommendation of the Reith Committee. The right hon Gentleman directed his heavy artillery against the local authority corporation, which, I think, finds less support than the authorised association, in regard to which he fought only a light skirmish. It seemed to me he did rather less than justice to the authorised associations which built the garden cities of Welwyn and Letchworth. It may be he will do better than they. I hope he will. But he must also take into account that he may do less well, because Welwyn and Letchworth had the great advantage of the stimulus of enthuiasm. They were set up by enthusiasts, and behind them was that spontaneous drive of good will which one can get from an authorised association. It seems to me that the Minister is wrong in eschewing the benefit of their vigorous spontaneity and dynamic force. He has confined himself to the Government corporation.
In my view, the Bill makes the Government corporations too dependent upon the Minister. There is no security of tenure, nor fixed period of service for those serving on the corporations. This limits their independence of thought and action. There is no provision for representation of the inhabitants of the new town areas on the corporations. In these, as in other respects, the recommendations of the Reith Committee have been omitted from the Bill. There is no central advisory commission which can survey these problems as a whole, and, in some measure, detached from the official view of Whitehall. All these valuable recommendations of the Reith Committee find no place in the right hon. Gentleman's Bill. He explained the Clause which permits one corporation to deal with more than one town. I hope that he will abide by the strict limitation of his explanation, and not yield to the temptation to make a single corporation responsible for a large number of towns. That is possible under the Bill, but I hope, as he says, that it is not his intention.
I feel also that the undue centralisation of this Bill has one other possible unfor- 1164 tunate effect. It links the success or failure of a Government corporation too closely with the reputation of the Minister, and even of the Government themselves. It has this disadvantage. It may be, faced with failure, and with that failure being linked so closely with the Government's reputation, that they might seek powers to direct industry into these areas, for which no powers at present exist. It is not a question of directing factories and machines, but of flesh and blood. There are negative powers under the 1943 Act, and inducements under the Distribution of Industries Act, but there are no powers of compulsion at the moment. I hope that the Minister will not be tempted, by the realisation that his reputation may be linked with the performance of the corporations, to seek these powers in the event of a possible failure. I consider that these new towns must have behind them spontaneous unconscripted goodwill, if they are to succeed.
In the few moments remaining to me. I want to consider where these towns should be set up. It seems to me that five short principles apply. The first is that they should he set up sufficiently far from London, or any big city, to exclude the possibility of their becoming a dormitory town. Secondly, they should not be set up on the nucleus of existing old towns, if it involves blotting out the individual life of that town. Thirdly, they should not be set up on valuable agricultural land. Fourthly, regard should be had in setting them up to causing the minimum of hardship to the people already resident there, and all possible regard should be paid to their convenience. Fifthly, the designation of an area should be preceded by a public local inquiry. I should have thought that these were self-evident propositions. I bring them to the attention of the House, because it seems to me that the case of Stevenage defies all five of these principles. I have no time to deal with the question of Stevenage in detail, but I should like to say this. As I see it, the dispossessed people of Stevenage at the moment have only two consolations. They have the restricted right of monetary compensation, and the qualified right of reinstatement, which I do not consider to be completely satisfactory. Compensation fixed at the 1939 value, plus a maximum of 30 per cent. of the owner-occupier's interest, is often insufficient to meet the cost of 1165 rehousing today. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider the possibility of substituting what I call a portable cost of works payment. It is a point with which I hope we can proceed on Committee, because I am sure it is the just solution for the unfortunate people dispossessed under this scheme. I am also sure that in these cases public local inquiries should always be held; and, perhaps, after the experience of Stevenage, the Minister will also see the advantage of a public local inquiry being held, so that the people of an existing town can be sure that full attention is paid to their point of view, before a new town of any kind is set up in their area.
In conclusion, I would refer to a point made by my right hon. Friend. This Bill is not, in any way in satisfaction of or substitution for the immediate task of housing the people. For instance, it will take three years to provide the sewerage at Stevenage, and so that project is in no way a solution of the immediate problem. Nor must resources be unfairly diverted from other needs for these new towns. In rural Hertfordshire, the people have waited a long time for better housing, for amenities for piped water, sewerage, and so on [An HON. MEMBER: "Too long."] I agree with the hon. Gentleman—too long. And, therefore, it is vital that to long expectation the right hon. Gentleman does not add exasperation by giving away these long deferred amenities to new residents in the county while they are still denied to those now living there. If that is done, he will find that he has sowed the tares of ill will, which will make it extremely difficult for any new town satisfactorily to settle in the constellation of its county.
There is a personal responsibility on the right hon. Gentleman to see that he so comports himself in this first experiment and in regard to this Bill as not to put in jeopardy the whole principle of new towns and I hope that, during the passage of this Bill through Committee, he will listen to the advice offered, so that when we come to the Third Reading we may give it to him with less criticism and less reservation than we have felt obliged to express and to feel tonight.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. McAllister (Rutherglen)
I think that the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) has presented his point of 1166 view With a lucidity and logic which were, unfortunately, completely lacking in the speech of the Noble Lord who preceded him. The Noble Lord showed a lack of logic which was only equalled by his complete ignorance of almost every aspect of the subject on which he touched. He asked, for example—and one might have expected that a Noble Lord, a member of a great landed family, would know something about agriculture—Could we afford the agricultural land for these new towns? This Bill proposes a modest decentralisation of population from our overcrowded cities. If it proposed to decentralise 6,000,000 people into the new towns, we should lose only one per cent. of the land of Britain, and that need not be the best agricultural land—indeed, it not only need not, but should not be the best agricultural land. The Noble Lord asked if the people wanted these new towns. Some one else, in the Debate, observed that people wanted to move where there was work for them to do. I think that that is the profound and simple truth. When Messrs. Stewart and Lloyd decided to move from Lanarkshire to Northamptonshire, they shifted a large village population, not only from one county to another, but from one country to another, and the people went there, not because they wanted to go to Northampton, but because there was work there for them to do. The people of this country have not got the privilege of choosing between a seat in the Home Counties, or in the Highlands of Scotland, like the Noble Lord. They have to choose their houses where their work is.
It would be a pity, however, to allow a Debate of this kind, on a Bill of this kind, to develop into a mere argument between those of us, on this side, who are Socialists, and those, on the other side, who are Conservatives. This is a very great occasion. This Bill represents a new departure in town planning history, and I should like to congratulate the Minister of Town and Country Planning on having lifted town and country planning on to a new level. Until now, and from the introduction of town planning as a legislative factor in the 1909 Town Planning Act, sponsored by the late John Burns, planning in Great Britain has been entirely permissive, restrictive and negative. It was always a case of "Thou shalt not do this" or "Thou shalt not do that." Now, for the first time, a Bill is 1167 introduced into this House which not only coordinates housing with industry, and both with agriculture and with the unspoiled countryside, but a Bill which accepts for the first time, the principle of three dimensional planning.
I should like to say there is no other kind of planning than three dimensional planning. It is not a question of saying this zone must be used for that purpose, and that zone must be used for this purpose. We must, by our planning, build up a new environment for the people of this country. In this Bill the Labour Government are returning to one of the great initial impulses that belonged to the movement in its earlier days. Indeed, it goes further back than the origins of the British Labour Movement. It goes back to the attempt by Robert Owen to establish communities at New Lanark and Orbiston to provide decent living conditions for the mill workers, which was one of the things that gave birth to the whole idea of Socialism. Thomas More has been mentioned. But there were others. There was William Morris, with his sketch of an ideal London in "News from Nowhere." Even more important was Edward Bellamy's "Looking Backward," with its picture of an ideal community which caused many people to turn their eyes towards Socialism.
In this country Sir Raymond Unwin, Mr. Barry Parker, Dr. Thomas Adams and Sir Patrick Abercrombie have made enormous contributions to the idea of the limitation of town growth and the development of new towns. In Scotland, Sir William E. White has done a similar work to that performed by Sir John Tudor Walters for both England and Wales while Mr. Alwyn Lloyd was one of the pioneers of the movement in Wales. We owe a debt to people like Lewis Mumford, the greatest sociologist in town planning of them all. Above all, there is the new town movement which for almost 50 years has owed its inspiration to Sir Ebenezer Howard and his decisive "Garden Cities of Tomorrow", and Mr. F. J. Osborn, who with the Town and Country Planning Association, has carried on the long fight which reaches its legislative culmination this evening.
I was a little disappointed that the Minister, in putting forward this Bill so admirably, in a most effective speech, 1168 should have chosen to make one or two slightly sneering remarks about Welwyn and Letchworth. Welwyn stands out as the one note of harmony and integration in a chaos of disorderly development. If the Minister would look at Welwyn again and contrast it with other towns and particularly with the shocking development at Hatfield he would get it in its true perspective, and I do not think that he would say again of Welwyn what he said today. He said that Welwyn and Letchworth were dormitory towns. I have heard the Minister make that statement before, and I have heard him contradicted, but apparently he has to be contradicted again. It is not true; Letchworth is decidedly not a dormitory town by any standard. Welwyn Garden City has no more than 600 season ticket holders travelling between Welwyn Garden and King's Cross, and both towns offer employment, not only for the people who live in them, but also for people from the surrounding villages.
I know the Minister is deserving much more of my praise than of my criticism, and I think that it is a remarkable thing that, with his extraordinary experience as the chairman of the London County Council planning committee and with a natural predilection in favour of the large town and the large city, the Minister should have been able, during the short time he has been in office, to raise his gunsights from the more limited view of London, and take in the great national picture. I think he has done that admirably and that he deserves all praise. I agree with the hon. Member for Hertford that there is one serious point of difference—the rejection in the Bill of the authorised association as a method of establishing these towns. I think that this is strange since the Minister has the example of Welwyn and Letchworth before him, and the knowledge that these towns were created, by private enterprise perhaps, but certainly by private enterprise directed to a high social objective. As the Minister knows, there are groups of people in this country who have for several years, even during the war, been planning to create new towns when hostilities finally came to an end. It boils down to this: the Minister says that only if he chooses the team, can it be a good one. I think that that is an untenable proposition and that it is quite 1169 possible for a group of people to get together and decide that they will build a new town, and that if they get the right technicians, the right architects, the right town planners, and the right business men, they can make a great success of this. I hope that before the Bill goes through Committee, the Minister himself may see fit to amend it in this way, and to accept the further recommendations of the Reith Committee on that point.
We are looking forward to the establishment of these new towns, not only in England and Wales but in Scotland, because it is not possible to separate this problem from the problem of the development areas. These new towns will not only bring opportunities of new industries to Lanarkshire and the West of Scotland, to Durham, Tyneside, and South Wales, but will themselves create a new opportunity to provide an environment better than the people in these areas have ever known before. The late President Roosevelt regarded it as one of the great jewels in the crown of achievement of his New Deal administration that it had been responsible for the creation of three new green belt cities. I think it was a very great achievement indeed but those green belt cities were not so great as the towns that my right hon. Friend is proposing to bring into being by this new Bill. They were in fact mere dormitory settlements; they were excellent in some ways, for they provided a spacious, sunlit environment for many thousands of American families. The new towns we are going to build will not only provide decent houses and factories in a spacious and palatial layout, but will give all the men, women and children who live in them, the opportunity for a happier and certainly a healthier life than they have known in our crowded cities. When we are trying to assess the place of Welwyn and Letchworth in this regard we must remember that they have the best health statistics in Britain today. The infant mortality rate in those two towns can be compared only with the infant mortality rate of New Zealand, which is the lowest in the world. We, through this Bill, hope to build new towns in order to provide the kind of environment which will produce health, and may lead to a great increase in human happiness.
§ 9.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter (Kingston-upon-Thames)
I am inclined to agree with the 1170 hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. McAllister) that the Bill does not of itself raise any profound question of party principle. Not unnaturally he dwelt at some, but not excessive, length upon his own party's interest in this question. I hope, therefore, that he will not regard it as unnatural, if I, equally, emphasise that the practical provision of decent accommodation for all classes of the community is an ideal and an objective for which the Conservative Party has fought, not without success, for a very considerable period of time.
If there were anything calculated to smooth the passage of the Bill it would certainly be the manner in which the Minister introduced it. I hope that I shall not be ruled out of Order on the basis of tedious repetition if I say how much I appreciated that tone, and, in particular, the complete absence of that vindictive element of partisan recrimination which sometimes disfigures the speeches of certain of his colleagues. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to say that his most eloquent and effective denunciation of the consequences of uncontrolled development struck me as an extraordinarily powerful argument for his case.
Hon. Members cannot get away from one difficulty. There is a perfectly clear cut choice before this country. The big towns must expand, and their population must, to some extent, be rehoused. There are only two ways, really, in which that can be done. One way is something on the lines, broadly, of the principles of the Bill. The other is by that tendency to suburban sprawl and ribbon development, and its concomitant horrors to which reference has been made. I do not believe for one moment, as did the Noble Lord who spoke from in front of me, that negative restrictions will effect any useful purpose whatever. I feel that we cannot get away from the alternative between to some extent planned and organised development of rehousing in this country, or completely disorganised chaos. That being so, I cannot but feel that the general principle and the general approach of the Bill are right.
Despite the manner in which my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison) has been taken to task by the hon. Member for Mitcham (Mr. Braddock) for daring to criticise the terms of the Bill, that fact does not prevent one from submitting 1171 to the House a number of detailed criticisms of the Bill as it stands. The House of Commons is still entitled to debate Government Measures. We have not yet been reduced to indulging in the unanimous applause of the Reichstag at every Government pronunciamiento. I very much regret that the hon. Member who made that criticism is not now in his place. We are quite entitled to accept the general principle of the Measure and then to say that certain aspects of it are unfortunate and imperfect. I will not weary the House with what is, to some extent, a Committee matter, but none the less it is a fact that Clause 2 (2) and Clause 4 (1b) are extraordinarily widely drafted. I do not believe that the right hon. Gentleman himself, when he comes to consider them at a later stage, will regard it as necessary to the success of the Bill, to take these extraordinarily wide powers, and I am perfectly certain from what I know of the right hon. Gentleman, that he will not persist obstinately in insisting on powers that are not really necessary. I am certain that a Minister who could make the reasonable speech that the right hon. Gentleman made this afternoon will not, at any stage, advance the argument that he is taking wide powers and does not propose to exercise them.
Again, it is a matter of profound regret, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) has said, that the right hon. Gentleman has concentrated on one kind of authority for development. After all, as the right hon. Gentleman admitted, the scheme in this Bill is, in some degree, an experiment. The right hon. Gentleman himself very frankly admitted in another context that he must wait to see how things developed in order to decide what measures it might be necessary to take. That being so, what objection is there to including in this experiment the three separate and different types of development corporation—the Government-controlled one set out in the Bill, the local authority controlled one, and the authorised association. If the right hon. Gentleman is right in his view that what the Government want is the best, that would no doubt be proved by events, but why not set up three corporations, each of a different kind, and try them out in free experiment? The result could not but be valuable. If the right hon. Gentleman is right, he could be in a posi- 1172 tion to tell the House and the Opposition that he was right and they were wrong, and if, on the other hand, either of the other forms of corporation works effectively, I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman would be only too willing to avail himself of this information.
Therefore, I regret very much that the right hon. Gentleman, in his otherwise broadminded approach to this problem, has not faced more courageously the fact that this is an experiment and that experiments are very profitably conducted by trying out all the different varieties and variations available. Those are criticisms which will no doubt be adumbrated later, but on the general principle of the Bill and on the general principle of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, one is tempted to comment, not upon its introduction this afternoon, but upon the delay in introducing it. After all, this Government have now had command, as hon. Members on the back benches know only too well, of the time of the House of Commons for some nine months. I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that this Measure is much more valuable than many that have been brought in here, that the problem is urgent and important, and that it is somewhat inconsistent with the right hon. Gentleman's own arguments as to the importance of this matter—which I accept—that the Bill was not introduced before. Indeed, I can only speculate that the reason which impelled the right hon. Gentleman not to bring in the Bill before, was that he knew the Minister of Health had been so successful in inhibiting the building of houses that the problem was not perhaps as urgent as it might otherwise have been. No doubt the Parliamentary Secretary, when replying, will confirm that.
There are points in this Bill—and it is fair and right that it should be said—which illustrate a very practical and broadminded approach to the problem. I much appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's tribute to the value of private enterprise in assisting him to establish these new towns. Not only did he go out of his way in his speech to point that out, but he has put in the Explanatory and Financial Memorandum, which is printed with the Bill, a very significant passage:It is assumed that a large part of the construction of commercial buildings, shops, factories and middle-class houses will be undertaken by private developers.1173 A few moments ago the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health was sitting alongside the right hon. Gentleman. I can only hope that the Minister of Health caught a few bacilli from so broadminded a spirit, and that he has gone out to devise a broader approach to the housing problem. But it is significant that we should today have a Minister of the Crown coming to this House with a Bill and in the Memorandum attached to the Bill, and in his speech, expressing his reliance, for a most important part of his scheme, upon the work of private enterprise. That is a matter of congratulation, not only to the right hon. Gentleman for his width of vision, but also to the Government. A little light seems to be creeping in somewhere, if the right hon. Gentleman will permit the metaphor.
If, as an hon. Member opposite said a few moments ago, this problem is not handled at once and vigorously, it will be too late, in this small and overcrowded island, to prevent large tracts of country from being spoiled by the erection of vast, unsuitable, inappropriate, inconvenient and badly designed dormitory communities. To illustrate the urgency of this problem, I invite the attention of the House to a particular and specific example, which happens to affect my own constituency. On 17th April of this year, it was learned through the Press, since no official communication had been made to any of the local authorities concerned, that the L.C.C. intended to erect a vast dormitory for the housing of between 20,000 and 30,000 people from the East End of London at a place called Chessington in the Green Belt in the County of Surrey.
§ Mr. Gibson (Kennington)
As a member of the L.C.C. who is very familiar with the housing side of its work, I would inform the hon. Member that what he has just said is completely wrong.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
I shall be delighted, should the hon. Member be fortunate enough to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, if he will tell me the precise particulars in which I am wrong. But anticipating the possibility that some hon. Member might be so rash as to challenge this statement, I have armed myself with a not inconsiderable quantity of material from all the relevant authorities, including the Surrey county council and the borough council of Surbiton, 1174 which I shall be happy to show to the hon. Member at any stage, to make it quite clear to him that what I have stated and am about to state is a matter which I am in a position accurately and fully to prove. As I was saying when the hon. Member attempted to assist me, on 17th April, no communication of any sort having been sent to the Surrey county council or to the borough council of Surbiton, it was learned that it was proposed to erect at Chessington this large dormitory community. I may comment in passing that the refusal, even informally, to communicate an intention of this nature to the local authorities concerned, suggests a diplomatic technique which could almost have been borrowed from Herr von Ribbentrop.
I put this particular Chessington example to the Minister, because every fact connected with it is characterised by just these features of development which he condemned in his speech. I will draw those facts to his attention. In this area there is practically no work available. Again, the right hon. Gentleman very properly emphasised that there should be work available for the population in these new towns. Consequently, it will be necessary if this scheme goes through for all these people, or a vast majority of them, to proceed to work in the London area. To do so, they will have to proceed by an already overstrained railway service. The right hon. Gentleman, rightly, to my mind, condemned any policy which resulted in a further increase in the congestion caused by increasing the daily rush on the main line railways. All the people concerned in this vast move of population are people of the same income group. The right hon. Gentleman, again rightly, condemned the segregation of people of one income group. That is a view which I share with him. The right hon. Gentleman said that these new communities should be 20 to 50 miles from London. This site is 11 miles from London. Finally, this site occupies valuable agricultural land. Above all, this proposal at Chessington is entirely contrary to the whole planned scheme for the development of the London area.
Members are no doubt more than familiar with the massive volume which enshrines the lucubrations of Professor Abercrombie. In the Greater London Plan he dealt with the specific area to which I have referred. It would 1175 seem almost more than a coincidence that he invited the attention of the L.C.C. to it. In order to make it clear what a challenge this proposal is to the whole scheme of planned development of the London area, I quote Professor Abercrombie:The southern part of the borough into which the new railway line has penetrated is almost entirely undeveloped at present and forms a most important part of London's regional open land to which the railway will provide convenient access. No further extensions of the built up perimeter south of the Mansfield Road area should be allowed. There is adequate room to the north of this road for considerable infilling in partially built up estates. The important wedge running southwards has already been referred to under 'Cobham.' When it reaches Chessington it divides with an additional branch which runs up the Hogsmill River, and this again looks eastwards into Ewell. All this land should be kept unbuilt on as shown on the map.
I have quoted that example as showing the urgency of this matter. There, by the greatest local authority in the country, is a direct challenge to the whole principle of planned extension in the London area. There is a defiance of every principle which the Minister enunciated this afternoon. There is a direct challenge to the recommendations of the Greater London plan. There is an illustration which, in my submission, is as vivid as possible of the urgency of this matter. The only matter for consolation is that the local authorities concerned have already announced that they will oppose this scheme tooth and nail. In parenthesis, I may add that the borough of Surbiton, the local authority concerned, has always adopted a view which the Parliamentary Secretary has himself expressed. The local authority has always adopted an attitude of loyalty to the Greater London plan and has refused to build on that area for that reason. I notice the Minister nods his head. I am obliged to him. The one consolation in this matter is that by reason of that opposition this matter will come, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, to him for decision. Obviously, it would not be in order for me to ask him tonight for any assurance on the matter.
But I would say to him, and I do not think he is entitled to disagree, that his action in this matter will be the clearest possible illustration of his real attitude of mind towards this question of the planned development of our urban areas. There is here a clear challenge to his ideas and his 1176 proposals, and it is proper that this matter should be discussed upon this Bill tonight, because the House is discussing—and it is no party matter—a great proposal for planned development, a proposal which is threatened almost at birth by the action of the most powerful local authority in the country. It is, as I may without overemphasis describe it, really a test case. That is an illustration, and I have no doubt that other hon. Members, had they been fortunate to catch your eye, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, would have given further illustrations of the urgency of the problem.
Under this Bill and other Measures, the Minister is arming himself with sufficient powers if he is prepared to use them, and use them properly. Under this Bill, as perhaps under all Bills, it all depends on how the powers are used. If they are used as the Minister has indicated he intends to use them, with a clear determination to assert his authority and at the same time to allow no question of party or partisan bias to interfere with him in the exercise of those functions, there are certain grounds for optimism. I hope I may say to the right hon. Gentleman that, in presenting this Bill to this House he has been much more usefully occupied than most of his colleagues have been during recent months. It is said in Holy Writ that when the question of the destruction of the Cities of the Plain, which perhaps have certain similarities to the present Government, was under consideration, it was arranged that if ten just men could be found the cities would be saved. If that test were applied to the present Government they would be nine short.
§ 9.27 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning (Mr. Fred Marshall)
The hon. Member for Kingston-upon-Thames (Mr. Boyd-Carpenter) seems to have a wonderful facility for mixing rather uncharitable expressions with quotations from Holy Writ. While I am referring to the hon. Gentleman, perhaps I may deal with the question that he has so ably put before the House, that is, the matter of Chessington. I congratulate him on achieving a good bit of publicity with regard to this proposed development, but I am sure he will not expect me to anticipate the Minister's decision on a matter which is going through the ordinary procedure of town planning legislation.
§ Mr. Marshall
We, of course, understand all the factors relative to the matter and we shall ultimately come to a decision. In the meantime, the hon. Gentleman is to be congratulated on having raised a matter which will ultimately come before this House. He complained that this Bill had been so long delayed. Frankly, I do not think he has much cause for complaint there. If I have heard any view from the other side about the legislation that has been proposed from this side of the House, it is that the Conservative Party is in very great danger of getting legislative indigestion, and they have asked us to go slow, in order that they may recover from this rather difficult complaint. I am inclined to think that the hon. Gentleman has no cause for complaint there.
§ Mr. Boyd-Carpenter
The point I was trying to put was not that this Government should introduce more legislation but that they should be more discriminating in their choice of legislation, and introduce Bills of this sort earlier than Measures such as the Trade Disputes Bill.
§ Mr. Marshall
I hope the hon. Gentleman is satisfied with the Bill that is now before the House, as I rather gather he is. In some of his remarks, of course, he gave it scant praise, but on the whole I think he gave it general approval. I was interested in his reference to the Minister of Health. He suggested that the very short stay in the House of the Minister of Health by the side of my right hon. Friend had infected him with a strange bacillus, and that he is rather pleased about it. Both my right hon. Friend and myself have been in close contact with the Minister for several hours today, and if the hon. Gentleman is right I am afraid he may have been given rather a strong dose of the bacillus.
My right hon. Friend introduced this Measure in a speech of great understanding and considerable force. In a very interesting survey he traced the efforts which have been made to create new living communities in the country, and he placed his Bill at the end of a long and interesting evolution in these very fascinating social experiments. It is a story of trial and error, in which valuable experience has been gained and many lessons have been learned. If the present venture succeeds, as we con- 1178 fidently believe it will, it will be because it has been blessed by many public spirited men and enlightened local authorities, who have provided us with a very rich accumulation of experience on which to build, and also because we now know a great deal more about the vital things, both physical and social, which go to make real living communities. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, there is a considerable amount of literature on the subject, from the Barlow Report to numerous books, essays and pamphlets, all dealing with various aspects of this problem. Therefore, this Bill is no leap in the dark, as the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) rather suggested. It is a proposed piece of legislation based on a century of accumulated experience and knowledge, on wide and varied research, and fitted against a background of urgency and necessity. It is really something of very great significance in the way of the national planning of the creation of ideal living communities.
My right hon. Friend expressed his feelings of pride that it has fallen to his lot to introduce such a Measure, and I may say that I am happy in that this, my maiden speech from this Box, should be associated with this important Bill. It may be that in my remarks I shall disclose many shortcomings; if I do, I can only ask for the tolerance of the House, and I know from past experience that it will be forthcoming. The Debate has been a very good one, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend has every reason to be gratified by the reception his Bill has received. Doubts have been expressed, criticisms made and questions asked about the various Clauses, and I will now proceed to give what answers I can to the many points that have been raised.
I will first of all refer to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cirencester (Mr. W. S. Morrison). We have learned to expect from him in his speeches, charm, wit and courtesy, and on this occasion he did not fail us. I think I can say truly that he gave general support to the Bill. He made reservations on one or two matters, but I think the right hon. Gentleman can be said to have given general support to the main purposes and principles of the Bill. I very much enjoyed his reference to Acacia Road, and his wonderful description of 1179 how this one road bred a great progeny of Acacias, until the whole thing in my estimation became something like a sunflower. I also enjoyed his reference to the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll's great masterpiece. Thinking of the right hon. Gentleman's description—the House will recollect that he said that every time someone overturned a teapot or a teacup he moved on to a cleaner part of the cloth, they all moved round—I could not help but compare it with what I consider to be the position of planning during the last 30 years. It seemed to me that someone had been trying to tear the cloth up altogether. The inter-war trends of the last 30 years have made this Bill, and other Bills that will come along later, absolutely imperative, and have invested them with a quality of urgency that must sooner or later—very soon in my estimation—be satisfied. One has only to consider what these trends are today; great masses of population have been moving and concentrating towards several great centres in this country. My right hon. Friend mentioned what those centres were. Furthermore, in Durham great areas have almost become derelict owing to the failure of the mineral resources upon which men have relied for their livelihood, and these two facts together have created a very tragic lack of balance in the industry of this country. The consequence is that development areas or distressed areas have been created on the one hand, and vast conurbations have grown up on the other. That is the national aspect of this problem, and planning hitherto has done very little to arrest that tendency. This Bill is the first effort to do anything towards arresting it. It is not only a planning Bill, it is not only a New Towns Bill, it is a Bill which makes the first efforts towards a balanced distribution of the industry of this country, and from that point of view it is exceedingly valuable and urgent.
I want the House to get that background against which to judge this Bill. In some of the right hon. Gentleman's remarks he said he feared that this Bill may—he did not make the assertion that it would—prevent us from dealing with the old towns as we should. I want to pay my tribute to the right hon. Gentleman's Act of 1944. It was a tremendous piece of planning legislation. Its powers, if they are used properly, will, I believe, do a very great work, as far as our old towns are concerned. 1180 But I think the right hon. Gentleman must regard this Bill as the supplement to the 1944 Act. After all is said and done, the 1944 Act really dealt with the overspill population of the blitzed towns and of other towns.
It dealt with these matters and provided for powers of acquisition in order that land could be bought so that the overspill populations of the blitzed towns, and the blitzed towns mainly, could be housed. Where are these people to be housed? If they are housed on the fringes of the towns already existing we shall simply perpetuate the suburban sprawl we are so anxious to avoid. The alternative to that is that they must be housed in the new towns. Therefore, there is urgency about this Bill. It is supplementary to the Act of 1944, and since it is, we are justified in using the powers of the Act that the right hon. Gentleman himself piloted through this House, the powers of acquisition in the 1944 Act. I thought the right hon. Gentleman did less than justice to his own Bill. I think that, really, in order to get planning we have to take these two Measures together. My own view is that this Bill, when it becomes an Act, will not prevent the reconstruction of any town. The two things must be taken together. They complement each other. I feel sure the right hon. Gentleman, when he comes to reflect, will see it in that way.
We cannot go forward in that leisurely way the right hon. Gentleman visualised. I was very interested, of course, in his description of a sympathetic community." It is a new one on me, but I think I can understand what the right hon. Gentleman meant. It is true, of course, that there are certain old towns in this country where a wonderful spirit of intimacy has grown up. It is compounded of their history, of their failures and their successes, their achievements, and even of their buildings. It is what one of the greatest planners in the country calls "the intimacy of the towns." Today many of these large towns are in danger of losing that intimacy. They have lost it I think it should be the aim of the planners and of this House once more to restore to those towns that sense of local civic pride, which goes under many names, but which I like to call intimacy, that warmth of fellowship that can grow up only in living communities. One of the tragedies of the old towns, especially in the north, is that they have grown to 1181 such an extent that they have lost that intimacy. The trend of modern planning has been to accelerate that process, and I feel that this Bill should rectify that trend. I do not think there is anything obscure about this. As I said in my opening remark, we know so much today about the main factors that go to make living communities that we can almost guarantee success in this great venture.
The right hon. Gentleman then talked about the powers of acquisition that, he said, we were attracting to this Bill, the powers under the Acquisition of Land Act, 1946. I suppose that the right hon. Gentleman felt that, having taken up this attitude on the Second Reading of the Acquisition of Land Bill at that time, he ought to protest against our attracting those powers. I can assure him, and I can give him this undertaking, that these powers will only be used in very exceptional circumstances. It is no part of my right hon. Friend's purpose to use such powers. We must not forget that this Bill will make a considerable contribution to the housing needs of this country. If the acquisition of land powers are necessary as far as housing is concerned—I am not going to enter into an argument with the right hon. Gentleman about the acquisition of land powers, because that was argued at the time, and this Bill will make a considerable contribution to the housing needs—I think we should be justified in attracting these powers to the Bill. I know that this argument will not suit the right hon. Gentleman, but I think that I shall have to leave it there, with the assurance that, unless we get a very intractable owner who takes advantage of the law to delay and hold up vital development, then these powers will not be used.
A good deal has been said about the corporations, and the fact that the Minister has confined the development corporations to Government sponsored corporations. The arguments have been for and against. The hon. Member for The High Peak (Mr. Molson) made a very interesting speech, and he pretty well confessed the Minister had convinced him that in the circumstances the limitation to a Government sponsored corporation was possibly a wise course. I am bound to confess I thought the arguments of my right hon. Friend the Minister were very convincing. Whatever a local authority sponsored corporation 1182 can do a Government sponsored corporation can do a lot better. I think that the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. WalkerSmith) mentioned this matter, and pointed out the necessity for maintaining or securing variety in the various designs of the new towns. He seemed to imply that unless there were local authority sponsored corporations——
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
If the Parliamentary Secretary is dealing with my observations, I would point out that I addressed myself primarily to the case of the authorised associations from the point of view of getting spontaneous good will and enthusiasm, rather than to the local authorities.
§ Mr. Marshall
I was going to deal with both aspects. May I finish what I have to say with regard to local authority sponsored corporations? I have already said that the Government sponsored corporations can do the job much better. I have spent 20 years on a great county borough council, and I think I know pretty well as much as anyone about these matters, and my right hon. Friend's work is well known on the London County Council. Therefore, all that we say about this matter is thoroughly unbiassed, and the decision of limitation to a Government sponsored corporation is made on the highest national consideration. The local authority sponsored corporations would find it rather difficult to get away from the local outlook. If they did get away from the local outlook, they would be on the same level as a Government sponsored corporation. The fact is that local authorities are not concerned with the building of entirely independent new towns. When they want to build new towns, they look forward with anticipation to collecting the rates. They want to own the freehold and link up to the parent town with finances, rates and services, and all sorts of other connections. I have yet to learn that the local authorities have expressed any desire to become local authority sponsored corporations on this matter, and I express the opinion that if local authorities were invited, under the terms of this Bill, to become the corporations of these new authorities, they would decline to do so. Obviously, it is a vast undertaking; it is a national undertaking, and it can only be carried out by nationally sponsored corporations.
With regard to what I might call the "authorised association," here you get 1183 rather a different set up. I want to pay my tribute to the Ebenezer Howards, the Cadburys, and many other people, who with fine public spirit have blazed the trail with the experiments which they have made. I should say that three parts of their motives have been philanthropic, and, probably, one part financial. Is there anything to prevent these fine gentlemen coming into a Government sponsored corporation and giving it the benefit of their advice and experience? The door is open to them, and there is wonderful scope for their philanthropic activities. There is nothing in this Bill that prevents the services of these men being utilised to the utmost. From that point of view, I can see some very fine corporations being set up. I cannot imagine that anyone would want to vest in these people the powers of compulsory purchase which are involved. I know that there is a good deal of doubt and anxiety whenever these powers are exercised, but I have never yet heard anyone in this House, not even hon. Members on this side, advocate that a very small accumulation of private individuals should be vested with powers of compulsory purchase in the way which they would be under the powers of this Bill.
§ Mr. McAllister
While I agree with what my hon. Friend has just said, would he not think it reasonable if the State compulsorily acquired the site and then handed it over to an authorised association?
§ Mr. Marshall
That would bring about no end of complications. I want to say, as a final argument on this matter, that the scheme which the Minister has put forward has the virtue of simplicity, and that, I believe, is a very great virtue when we are embarking on a great undertaking like this.
I intended to deal with many other matters. I wanted to refer to Stevenage, and to many speeches made from this side of the House, but I see that my time is practically up. I have, however, this consolation, that many of the points made were Committee points, and they can be thrashed out in Committee. I am quite sure my right hon. Friend will deal with every one fairly during the Committee stage, to which I look forward 1184 very hopefully. There is happily in this House, and always has been a desire to make this country worthy of its people. It is a gigantic task, and it will test the sincerity and courage of everybody in this House and everyone in the country. I should like to think of it as a great effort of regeneration in which the errors of a century will be rectified, the unspeakable ugliness left by the 19th century revolution swept away, and among the smiling landscapes of the country these people will find a habitation and a home. I commend this Bill to the House.
§ Major Ramsay
May I ask one question? I did not want to interrupt the Parliamentary Secretary when he was dealing with this matter, because it was his first speech on such an occasion. I want to ask, Will he, when encouraging industries into the new towns, and when the new towns are country towns, consider particularly encouraging industries which are allied to agriculture?
§ Mr. Marshall
I have no doubt these considerations will be taken note of, and I cannot think the Minister of Town and Country Planning or even the corporations will invite and encourage industries not suitable to a locality.
§ Mr. Driberg (Maldon)
There is some difficulty in the case of towns such as Witham. They do not know whether they have to plan for 6,000 or 40,000, and, therefore, their housing plans and industrial development are, to some extent, in suspense. Can the Parliamentary Secretary say how soon a decision can be announced about which are the 20 towns? Can that be fairly soon?
§ Mr. Marshall
We shall have to consider these cases as soon as the Bill becomes an Act, but I cannot at this stage tell the hon. Member where these towns are to be.
§ Mr. Marshall
I could not say.
Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," put, and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time.
Bill committed to a Standing Committee.