HC Deb 25 February 1952 vol 496 cc837-87

Postponed Proceeding on Question, "That the Bill be now read a Second time," resumed.

Question again proposed.

10.10 p.m.

Mr. Sparks

Before the debate was interrupted—

Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)

On a point of order Mr. Speaker. Do I understand that we are continuing the debate on the Town Development Bill, although it is not included in the Motion suspending the Standing Order?

Mr. Speaker

In answer to that question, Standing Order No. 9, under which we have recently been operating, provides that the time taken up by discussing the Motion for the Adjournment shall be added on to the time for discussion of the Bill and so the Bill will be open to discussion for another three hours.

Mr. Sparks

Before the interruption of the debate on this Bill, I attempted to explain to the House one or two weaknesses which appeared to exist in the Bill. I wanted to give some idea of the problems of London and of those localities known as congested areas where there is serious over-population. I said that I believed there were two principal weaknesses in the Bill; first, there was no provision for decentralisation of industrial concentrations, and secondly, there were no powers given to local authorities to control the accommodation vacated by an exported population. I said it was important for us to realise the causes of congestion and over-population if we are to remedy that state of affairs, for the Bill is put before the House as a major contribution to the relief of congestion in built-up areas and for the relief of over-population.

What are the causes of congestion and over-population? I think it will be realised that congestion in built-up areas is due very largely to intense industrial concentration or over-industrialisation, and wherever we have heavy industrial concentration we have overcrowding and congestion, one of the problems to which this Bill seeks to provide a solution. It is my contention that the Bill does not deal with the main essential causes of congestion and over-population in so far that it makes no contribution whatever to the decentralisation of industry in those areas where congestion and over-population arise.

My constituency has had experience of this. It is one of the most heavily industrialised constituencies in the southern part of England. In my constituency there are more than 500 factories of one kind or another; the area is built up, with a serious housing problem, and there is no possibility of dealing adequately with it unless there is power to export our surplus population to other regions, as provided in the Bill.

I want the House to realise the problem. Thousands of people might be sent to these expanded towns from areas which are congested and yet congestion would remain for the simple reason that we have found it almost impossible by voluntary means to persuade industrial enterprises to leave the congested areas and go to the new and expanded towns and there provide employment for the exported population.

Consequently, everyone who has had experience of this problem will agree that there is no way of effecting industrial concentration which causes congestion except by more compulsory power exerted by the Government and by the payment of adequate compensation to terms which may be displaced. The position is that many thousands of people may be exported from the congested areas, but if the industrial concentrations remain as they were, the places of those people will promptly be taken by immigrants coming into the area to take employment in the various factories in which the vacancies arise.

Therefore, it does not matter what these industrial areas do in the way of exporting their population, their problem remains the same because emigration is followed by the immigration of people taking the places in the factories of those who have already moved away. So this is a never-ending problem.

When we discuss this question of industrial decentralisation and the export of population, and when one talks to industrialists about decentralising their industries and going into the new towns or elsewhere, they say, "Take your population there first so that when our factories come we shall have a labour force available." Yet when one goes to the population concerned they say "Take your industries there first so that when we go there there will be a job for us." It is like the ancient problem, which came first, the hen or the egg?

Unless we have some power, either within this Bill or by some other means to bring about industrial decentralisation from the congested areas so that as the population migrate to other parts industry goes with them, we cannot hope effectively to reduce the congestion and densities in the built-up areas.

There is a second very important point. There is no power in this Bill for local authorities to control the accommodation made vacant by an exported population. Population can be exported and the accommodation they previously occupied will be re-occupied by outsiders coming into the areas to take the places and jobs in the factories of those who have gone.

We have to face the essence of the problem, and it is no use the right hon. Gentleman thinking that the Government will persuade the industrialists that they really ought to move in the national interest because the industrialists have their own problems and difficulties. Unless the Government are prepared to undertake something more than mere persuasion, I am afraid we shall leave untouched the real and essential cause of congestion and over-population in many of the areas concerned.

I wish to say a few words about the problem in London. Although my constituency is in Acton, a suburban part of London, I would emphasise that London is something very much more than the geographical area of the County Council. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) said earlier that he has been interested in two important committees which have been studying this problem of London. It has been pointed out that a quarter of the population of our country is centred within a 30-mile radius of Charing Cross, and within that area alone there are 1,250,000 people who have to be exported to the areas specified in this Bill. I want the right hon. Gentleman to indicate where the proposals of his own Department are co-ordinated and linked to the provisions of this Bill.

First, we have the Greater London Plan by Professor Abercrombie. Then there is another Committee of which the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery was the chairman. They coordinated the Greater London Plan proposals with the wishes of 145 local authorities embraced within its geographical area and submitted their findings to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. That Ministry arranged to publish its policy in regard thereto. In 1941 a document was issued from the Ministry known as the Greater London Plan Memorandum by the Ministry of Town and Country Planning on the Report of the Advisory Committee for London Regional Planning. That is the policy of the right hon. Gentleman's Department, and, so far as I can gather, he said nothing about it when he moved the Second Reading of this Bill.

We should expect the principles of that memorandum to find a place in this Bill. The memorandum lays down the necessity for decentralising approximately 1¼ million people from the London County Council area and from what are known as the inner ring towns in the circumference of the London County Council. There are supposed to be 618,000 people decanted from London, and 415,000 from the inner ring towns. It is expected that 233,000 people will find a solution to their problem by voluntary means and that leaves the Ministry with a responsibility for decanting 1,033,000 people into the outlying areas, and this problem the Bill is intended to cater.

That is a very great problem to face. It is suggested in the Ministry's policy 672,000 of these people should be accommodated by the expansion of existing towns 194,000 in the new towns and 101,000 in quasi-satellite areas. I wish to know whether the policy of the memorandum is to be carried out. It is important that we should know, because it is an excellent proposal, although it will be difficult to carry out and is one which it must be admitted will create quite a problem.

The policy provides for decentralising these 1,033,000 people into 89 towns within the Greater London Plan area, and 11 towns outside that area. In other words, they are to be dispersed to 100 reception authorities. What about the exporting authorities? There are 22 authorities concerned with the export of this population, plus the London County Council, and they are to effect some means of exporting these 1,033,000 people to 100 reception authorities. These reception authorities vary in status and size from 750, in the little village of Rain-ham, to 69,000 at Watford. Most of these authorities are very small, and they are quite incapable themselves of taking the initiative on any scale to put into effect the principles of that memorandum. Until the right hon. Gentleman does something about it, the memorandum and its proposals are likely to remain a dead letter.

Again, my hon. Friend the Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) raised the question of schools. Of course, in all these expanding towns, if new populations are to go there, there must be other things besides houses. Amongst other things, there must be schools, and I think the House would like to know exactly where the policy of the Ministry of Education on school building fits into these proposals in the expanded towns. How can we run down the building of schools throughout the country, including these reception areas, and, at the same time, hope to accommodate the children who are to be exported from other parts quite soon?

It is obvious that either the existing schools are going to be overcrowded or that the Government must have a policy of priority for school building in the reception areas, where this increase in the population is to take place.

Further, what about health clinics, libraries and other facilities of that kind? The local authorities in the reception areas, or the majority of them, are themselves in no position to carry out the provision of such amenities and social services, and we would like to know from the Minister whether there are to be priorities in the provision of health clinics and other such services in these areas.

The right hon. Gentleman has told us nothing about how this policy is to be co-ordinated, but has merely said that something is going to be included in the Bill to permit authorities to do certain things, that I assume that he will then sit back in his chair and watch the thing go on, as if by magic. It will not work out like that at all. I have some little experience in my own constituency, as have some of my hon. Friends, of trying to achieve this policy of developing housing estates in other parts, because we have not got the land within our own boundaries to do it. It is quite true that the majority of these reception authorities will not willingly consent to have decanted upon them 1,033,000 people from the London area.

From my own experience I can say that an authority like my own has found great difficulty, even where land was available, in persuading the other authority to consent to the acquisition of land to build houses for people on our own housing list. We would not grumble so much about that if the authority itself would do it with our help. We would not complain, but the great majority of them decline to provide housing schemes in their own areas, because they do not want this overspill population, and have declined to give their consent to any other authority buying land there for housing developments. I know that there are exceptions here and there, but they are few and far between.

If the right hon. Gentleman expects this Bill to be carried out and be a success, he himself must do something about this, and he ought to tell us exactly what he thinks he should do, Speaking for the London area, I say that we just cannot leave 23 authorities who are to export their population to engage in a wrangle with 100 reception authorities outside as to which reception authority is to take whose surplus population, and, unless there is some co-ordinating scheme to give effect to these principles, they will remain a dead letter. It just will not work unless there is some plan; if it is left merely to the exporting authorities and the reception authorities to indulge in a dog fight which may last for years on end, we shall not get very far with the proposals in the Bill.

It is essential for the Minister to devise ways and means of co-ordinating this plan of decentralisation of industry and population so that the whole thing can be done in a satisfactory way on a proper basis. We must have that so that the bottle-necks can be ironed out and the exporting authorities can be put in touch with the reception authorities and the whole matter determined without the interminable wrangles about whose population shall go to which areas.

There are many Government Departments concerned with this problem. One hon. Member mentioned the Board of Trade. Well, it really is, to some extent, their responsibility to effect industrial decentralisation; but the Board of Trade has other problems apart from this, and I should like to know what the Minister proposes to do in regard to the many Government Departments which are concerned. The Board of Trade is concerned with industry; the Ministry of Housing and Local Government with housing; the Ministry of Education with education and schools; the Ministry of Health with clinics and day nurseries. How are all these functions to be co-ordinated between all the Departments?

There is another important point. When we talk of houses being built in reception areas, does one understand that it is Government policy for one house to be built to let while one is built for sale? That is very important. If the policy of the Government is to apply in this case that for every house built in a reception area to let there is to be one built for sale, then the whole thing falls down. That is not meant to imply that there should not be houses for sale, but the fifty-fifty basis really jeopardises the success of this Bill, because the great majority of the people in need of better accommodation—people who want, and need better housing—cannot afford to buy. I am sure hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree with me. Therefore, it is important that the Government's policy in regard to these expanded reception areas should be modified to provide a preponderance of houses to let rather than houses for sale.

I should like to conclude with one or two other points. I think that it is vitally important, if congestion is to be reduced, and if our overcrowded towns and cities are to be eased, that there must be power given to prevent immigration into these areas as the populations are exported to other expanded towns. Could the Minister clear up some doubts about the operation of this Bill, for it might be used to bolster up the present structure of local Government and delay a full consideration of local government reform. Is the Bill designed to delay the reform of our local government? We all know that it is sadly overdue, and it is time the matter was taken in hand. An assurance from the Minister that there is no intention to delay this necessary reform would, I think, be helpful.

The Bill does not provide for Exchequer contribution to be made in respect of development in a county district to relieve congestion or over-population in another county district within the same administrative county. This restriction appears to operate to the detriment of an overcrowded non-county borough seeking accommodation for some of its surplus population in another district of the same county. That applies to my own authority in Middlesex, where the county council's draft development plan provides that a constituency like mine can nominate from its housing lists persons to be accommodated in the outer districts of the county.

The Bill does not permit of that being done, and I think it is a great mistake that a county district shall not be allowed to develop in another part of the county although a county borough can. If there was a county borough in Middlesex, as, of course there is not, nor can there be by law, it could develop in any part of its own county, but a county district cannot.

We have to recognise that there are many county districts, and indeed there are quite a few urban districts, in Middlesex that are far bigger in population than half the county boroughs, and this policy of preventing county districts within a county from developing housing schemes in conjunction with other districts in the same county is wrong and ought to be changed. I trust the Minister will take into consideration this serious objection to this Clause in the Bill.

I should also like an assurance from the Minister that nothing in the Bill will be used to prevent development by housing authorities of land outside their areas, or adjacent, or near, to their boundaries where suitable land is available: that the Bill though temporary in character will not be used to delay local government reform, but where a receiving authority is unable to carry through the full scheme of development then the exporting authority will be permitted to carry out development in preference to the county council, and that the power to make Exchequer contribution shall be extended to enable contribution to be made in respect of development within the county district to relieve overcrowding in another county district in the same administrative county.

I have, I think, exhausted all the points I wanted to make, and I think I have made up for the time lost in the discussion. As we have until one o'clock to debate this Bill—and it is an important Bill to all of us who are interested in solving our housing difficulties let there be no mistake about it—I hope we shall be able to produce a Bill that is workable, and which can make a substantial contribution to the rehousing of thousands of people who are miserably penned up in one or two rooms in our towns and cities.

10.40 p.m.

Squadron Leader A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)

There are one or two things said by the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) with which I agree, especially the last few sentences in which he commented on the fact that he was exhausted. I think many hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House felt at one stage that he would use up the entire three hours left to us.

In so far as this Bill makes a contribution towards the solution of our serious housing difficulties, it will have the support of the majority of all hon. Members of this House, but we must say to the Government that there are certain aspects of it which some of us severely criticise. Not least of them is the point made by the hon. Gentleman in connection with the position of county districts. Frankly, I was not impressed with the argument of the Minister. Indeed, I do not think any argument can be adduced which can support the position which the Government have taken up on this aspect of the matter.

I was particularly impressed, when listening to the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan), when he called for some reform of local government as being the one way in which many of our problems could be solved. It really comes hard for the right hon. Gentleman to criticise this Government for any lack of action in that field, when he himself had ample opportunity over six years to do something positive about it. Indeed, he went so far as to say that the position was now such that it was very serious and that something ought to be done quickly. I want to call the attention of the House to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman during the Second Reading of the Ilford Corporation Bill. Inviting the House to reject both the Ilford Bill and the Luton Bill, the then Minister of Health said: Ilford and Luton are not having inefficient services as a consequence of their present position. Local government on the whole is, as it were, ticking over, not as satisfactorily as we would like,"— And this is the important part of his statement: but nevertheless there is no urgent, overwhelming reason why we should change it radically at this stage."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th April, 1950; Vol. 474, c. 1060.] The only reason I can see why the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman has changed is the purely geographical one, that he has now changed from one side of the Chamber to the other.

Mr. A. J. Champion (Derbyshire, South-East)

Two years later.

Squadron Leader Cooper

May I point out to the House that if the right hon. Gentleman had dealt with local government in this country, as indeed it was his duty to do, the position of the authority represented by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Ilford, North (Mr. G. Hutchinson) and myself would not be so seriously prejudiced as it is under this Bill. By all standards Ilford, with a population of 187,000, should have been a county borough a long time ago. Also in the County of Essex there are a number of other authorities which should have county borough status and which would then have received the benefit of this Bill.

Mr. Mulley

I think the hon. and gallant Member is wrong in ascribing all the blame to my right hon. Friend. If he consults the Division lists of which he complains he will find that a large number of his hon. Friends voted against that proposal.

Squadron Leader Cooper

That is not a particularly apposite intervention, because the Minister was speaking on the reform of local government as a whole, whereas the Division lists are concerned primarily and solely with the question of the Second Reading of the Ilford Corporation Bill.

Mr. Mulley

I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I understood him to complain that Ilford was not now a county borough, and that was the decision which the House took on that date.

Squadron Leader Cooper

I certainly complained that Ilford is not a county borough. I have been complaining about it for many years. The point I have made is that when hon. Gentlemen opposite were sitting where we are now and had a substantial majority, they had it within their power to carry out some reform of local government and, had they succeeded in doing their duty, many of the problems which now affect the country would never have arisen. The fact is there are no votes in local government and, consequently, the Labour Government would not get bogged down in this difficult problem.

The Government will have to look most seriously at this question of the contribution to be made available to the county districts. It is really an invidious and impossible position that faces the very large authorities if this Bill goes through in this form.

I want to make one other point, and it is one I think of substance. It concerns the conditions which exist in certain parts of the country, particularly in areas which are served by the London County Council. In the county of Essex and around London there are a number of L.C.C. housing estates. These estates are in a sense expanded towns. They are estates built within the area of a particular local authority. The landlord is, of course, the L.C.C., and they fit into these estates people from London, as is quite proper. But having done that, they then cease to have any responsibility for the sons and daughters of the people in those estates. The result is that sons and daughters become the responsibility of the local housing authorities, which themselves may not have any additional land on which to build. So their own housing position can never be solved. Indeed, it can only get worse because, as they house the sons and daughters, all that happens is that the L.C.C. feed in more and more families.

We must ask that provision is made to secure that the position of the local authorities who are the receiving authorities and who have to take in under this Bill large numbers of people from outside is secured, and that in the subsequent letting of the property recognition of the sons and daughters must be taken into consideration, otherwise in years to come these local authorities will have as serious a problem as we have today.

Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)

I appreciate the point the hon. and gallant Gentleman is making about the L.C.C. estates outside the county of London, and that the local authorities are made responsible for the services for the sons and daughters, but is it not also the fact that the rateable values of the local authority are greatly increased as a result of these estates? Also, if the hon. and gallant Member wants to have a right to a say in the filling of vacancies on the estate, is he prepared to agree that the L.C.C. should have some right to draw from the estate some of the rate income, because an enormous amount of rate money is going to the local authorities through these estates?

Squadron Leader Cooper

The hon. Gentleman is very astute, and the Labour controlled L.C.C.—

Mr. Gibson

Answer the question.

Squadron Leader Cooper

I will answer it, but in my own way. The L.C.C. have been endeavouring to secure from local authorities some concession along those lines.

Mr. Gibson


Squadron Leader Cooper

On the contrary, I have not been present at the meetings but I have seen the minutes of the discussions which took place between the L.C.C. and the various authorities in Essex, and so the hon. Gentleman must allow me to say that I know what I am talking about on this point.

It is not a fact that the rateable value which accrues to the local authority in consequence of having an L.C.C. estate on one's doorstep is a profit. On the contrary, the amount required for education for the L.C.C. houses is far greater than the rate income from these particular houses. However, that is not the point I am seeking to make at all. In my own division of Ilford, we have this large Becontree estate on which some 2,000 L.C.C. houses have been built. We have a waiting list of our own of something like 3,000.

Our problem must of necessity get progressively worse by the very fact that we have an L.C.C. estate within our borders. We can only build less than 1,000 houses in the area, so we are going to have some 2,000 families we can never house still on our own list. The sons and daughters of the existing L.C.C. tenants become the responsibility of the Ilford authority, while further families are fed into the area. It is to safeguard local authorities from this difficult and impossible situation that I am asking the Government to consider the matter.

10.51 p.m.

Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)

I am glad to have an opportunity to come into this debate because, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) mentioned, I had the privilege of announcing in this House that this Bill would be presented. I must congratulate the Government on bringing it forward. But, since it has been brought forward, and excellent though the Minister's speech was, I have been very frightened while listening to the speeches of hon. Members opposite. Apart from the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke), not a single Member from the Government benches has really understood the problem of this Bill.

I did wish that hon. Members had been present or, if they were, bad listened to their own Minister making his statement today. This problem is a part of a whole national decentralisation problem which arises from the policy of the late Government and the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, and the New Towns Act, 1946. These dealt with the matter in two ways. First, the New Towns Act provided for a Development Corporation and Treasury support, because the general local government machine in the area in which the new town is to be developed is not strong enough to carry the cost of the development to be carried on.

Secondly, there was the development of expanded towns which had a healthy local government machine capable of handling extraordinary local government development in its area. The importance of this expanded towns Bill, or of this Town Development Bill, is that in the London area alone we have eight new towns being developed, but they will take only 370,000 people, which is only one-quarter of London's overspill. Three-quarters will be by expanded towns.

The conception of this Bill has no relationship to local government reform. It is a Bill conceived as a necessary second instrument to the new towns developed for London's overspill. It recognises that there is a large number of smaller towns which cannot carry adequate services for their own areas and would be better for being a little larger. A Minister in a Government with a majority of 25 dare not bring in local government reform any more than the last Labour Government could. True, it was a possibility in the 1945–50 Parliament, but we had not the time because of the many other problems we had to deal with. It was a question of what was most important.

The question of local government reform transcends all party loyalties. The right hon. Member for Mid-Bedfordshire (Mr. Lennox-Boyd) and the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill), were seen fighting over Luton having county borough status. Members on this side of the House and some Members opposite from Sheffield were asking for boundary extension, and Labour Members on the periphery of Sheffield were fighting against it. I believe that local Government reform is a fundamental necessity and that most of the problems that we face today in the general services of this country cannot really be tackled until we tackle local government reform. But local government is controlled by local councillors and local councillors are, in the main, those who are most active in the various political parties—and they, of course, have their effect upon hon. Members of this House. We can tell in the Division Lobby whether an hon. Member is a county borough or county area member.

We must deal with this, not on the basis of party politics, but as services which can be handled as an economic unit, always remembering that local government does not exist for the glorification of councillors or for the existence of any particular authority, but to render service to the people; and the last who seem to be considered are those consuming local government services, the ordinary citizen.

I want some assurance from the Parliamentary Secretary, because unless there is a very different conception in the application of this Bill by the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary compared with hon. Members behind them then, as my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) said, this Bill is a dead-letter.

The first urgent necessity for expanded towns is that industry and the social services in the area should go along together. A great deal of consultation has already taken place. There has been consultation with the planning authorities and the old Ministry of Local Government and Planning; and while there was a Labour Government in control, and even though there were Tory authorities in the periphery of London, because of the confidence they had in a Government that really knew what it wanted, those Tory local authorities were prepared to play ball and to work in conjunction with the L.C.C. and the Ministry in dealing with this problem of overspill.

But if there is to be a half-hearted attitude, then I can quite easily see that this Bill will get no further than the Statute Book and will never really be implemented. Unless industry goes with housing, then these estates will become nothing more or less than dormitories, adding to the traffic chaos, making for a lower standard of living for the people transferred there. One must realise that from the point of view of the worker the bus, rail or tube fare is something additional to his rent—and what he spends on fares he cannot spend on food, clothing and all the other necessities of life. We must move industry, but industry cannot move unless the workers are sure than in the areas to which they are going the social amenities will be waiting for them.

Do not forget that these are mainly Londoners or town people with whom we are dealing. They will not go into country areas unless social services and amenities are available for them. These people are the younger workers, with the younger families, and they will not go into the areas unless they are assured of educational facilities for their children. The aim of every worker is to give his children a better chance in life than he had, and he sees in the educational machine the opportunity for that better chance.

The Minister of Education and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have tended to cramp the Bill, and the activities of the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary, before it came to the House. Without a complete assurance that there will be no slackening up of the school building programme in the expanded towns, we will not get industry and the workers to go there. All that we shall get to go to any of these areas will be, perhaps, the clerical and professional types, who will use it as a dormitory, with the result that the Bill will not become effective in any way. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, therefore, for an assurance in regard to educational facilities.

I have not said all this without good reason. The Minister himself—I was delighted to hear him do so—praised the activities of the new towns, and their progress has been very good. They have gathered such momentum that their progress in the next few years will be quite effective. But there is already a slackening of activity within some of the new towns, because there is an indication of the slowing up of education as a result of the cuts imposed by the Minister of Education. The expanded towns must have these facilities.

I hope that the Minister will make it clear beyond all doubt that he believes in well balanced development. The right hon. Gentleman said as much in his speech today, but we should like some effective assurance at the winding up of the debate so that his statements in the House—I say this quite boldly and frankly—can be used with the local authorities in the areas for which the expanded towns are likely to deal.

I should like to raise two points rather than to continue on generalities. One is a constituency point. I represent the Wellingborough Division of Northamptonshire, and to that urban district is to be moved the Government Ordnance Survey Department. That move, which was arranged during the lifetime of the previous Government, is to take place over the next 10 years. It means the movement of 3,500 Government employees, representing a total of 8,800 people, to settle within the urban district of Wellingborough.

That will mean 2,500 extra houses, and additional hostel accommodation to meet the needs of the single workers who are moved. To give an example of the extent of the expansion it will involve to the Wellingborough U.D.C., it means an additional annual expenditure of £42,000, and a capital cost of about £450,000.

This major development—an increase of one-third over the present population —is not covered directly by the Bill, because it is not the movement of an overcrowded population from any of the towns that are overcrowded. In magnitude, however, it is a major expansion of the area, a much larger expansion than will take place in many of the expanded towns. Representations have been made to the right hon. Gentleman's Department by the Urban District Councils' Association, and I hope that these representations will receive consideration, because I believe that this type of expansion in Wellingborough, which is one that comes about through Government action—the dispersal of Government Departments—is one that should be recognised under the Bill.

The last point I want to make is to return to the plea for the Home Counties. My hon. Friends the Members for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Tomney) and Acton (Mr. Sparks) touched upon it. The Minister justified in his speech the fact that there should be no grant to county councils in the Home Counties for educational development in particular. I have been associated with local government in Hertfordshire for many years.

In Hertfordshire we are to receive 200,000 people from the London area, 120,000 of whom will go to the new towns and 80,000 into the expanded towns. Already for development in the new towns additional capital costs of education are very heavy indeed. The hon. and gallant Member for Ilford, South (Squadron Leader Cooper) mentioned that in the early days, in particular, the rateable value that is created, including the industries which move with the population, the shops, the service industries and cinemas, is not a rateable value which meets the heavy capital costs of the initial stages in school building.

Hertfordshire has been a very active authority in the provision of school facilities for the expansion within the area. They have already shown they are prepared to co-operate with the L.C.C. and with the Department in receiving people into Hertfordshire and into many towns, including St. Albans, Ware, Baldock and others.

If this dispersal policy is really to be effective, people who are to be moved ought to feel they will be welcomed in the area to which they are going. They should have "welcome" on the mat in a big way. It is not very nice to go into a new area and see in the local Press a report of a local council meeting saying every person coming into the area is a burden on the area. I know Hertfordshire is not the only county in this difficulty—Essex and Kent have their problems too. Unless there is some real approach to the problems of county councils, I feel there may be a slackening of this policy.

When I was at the Ministry, Hertfordshire presented a memorandum of the problems created by new towns which, I think, had considerable force. It was under discussion with the Treasury, but I am afraid the previous Minister did not get very far with the Treasury on this problem. Because it was not done then is no reason why it should not be started now.

We have this Bill, which is a good Bill and makes an opportunity for a real transfer of population, an opportunity for these people to have a new start in life, to be received by an authority which is willing to co-operate, and I feel it is a job in which there should be the fullest co-operation between those within the councils and the Government of the day. If we can get that, and the Minister and his Department will show the enthusiasm for it, which would have been shown by the previous Government, and of which there was an indication in the Minister's speech, then I am certain this Bill can really be effective in making London a more reasonable place for the Londoners to remain in, and giving an opportunity for those going outside London to have the life they ought to have.

Brigadier Terence Clarke (Portsmouth, West)

The hon. Gentleman has made two points. One was a constituency point, the other not quite so important. What did he do about his constituency point when his party were in power? I never heard a word from him on that subject.

Mr. Lindgren

The hon. and gallant Gentleman would not have done. The local authority took the correct channels of approach—and so correct that the hon. and gallant Gentleman would not even know them. They went through the Local Authorities' Association—the Urban District Councils Association, and the latter has presented a memorandum to the right hon. Gentleman's Department. That is the method of negotiation, and I should have thought by now, although the hon. and gallant Gentleman's experience of this House is not very great, that he would know that Members when they sit on the Treasury Bench as Ministers or junior Ministers do not concern themselves with constituency matters in relation to their own Department.

11.11 p.m.

Mr. Geoffrey Hutchinson (Ilford, North)

This Bill is evidently going to receive a welcome from.both sides of the House. I hope nothing that I shall say will disturb the harmony which has hitherto prevailed. The Bill will undoubtedly make a valuable contribution to the difficult and perplexing problem of the dispersal of congested urban populations; but I am bound to say that I think that it has come too late. It would have made a much more valuable contribution in the year immediately after the end of the war.

Everyone is agreed that the congested populations of our towns and urban centres must be dispersed. The obstacle to dispersal since the war has hitherto been the difficulty, as the hon Member for Acton (Mr. Sparkes) pointed out, of dispersing industry. The principal obstacle to the dispersal of industry has been the policy of the Government. My experience of industry has been that it is very ready to move out to new towns and to the new urban communities which the London County Council and other great authorities have created, provided that the necessary assent from the appropriate Government Department is forthcoming. But that is just the thing they have not been able to get. I make no complaint about that because the policy of the Government—and it may well have been right—has been that the movement of industry should take place first into the Development Areas.

That has been the policy, and I am not going to discuss the wisdom of it now. But it has had this result. It has made the new urban communities which the L.C.C. and the other great urban authorities have created indistinguishable in their character from those dormitory authorities which everyone condemns. In my own consituency, the Hainault Estate is indistinguishable from the type of estate developed between the wars. The bulk of the population is engaged in industry in other parts of London. There is the daily journey backwards and forwards; there is the problem of local amenities, and perhaps even more difficult, the problem of the great change in the life which they live in those new suburbs; there is, too, the no less important change in the relative cost of living in these new urban communities compared with those parts of London from which they come.

So we have really re-created in these post-war estates exactly the conditions which everybody is united in condemning. That has been brought about by this difficulty in securing the dispersal of industry into the new areas. The L.C.C., when they undertook the development of what are called "quasi-satellite areas" around London, recognised this problem and set aside adjacent areas for the development of industry. But they have only just begun to succeed in getting any industry because the policy of the Government has been to disperse industry, not to the new housing areas or the new towns, but to the Development Areas in other parts.

At the conclusion of the war, when it became evident that the Government's policy was, first, to disperse industry to the Development Areas, if the dispersal of population to what are called the "expanded towns" had then been encouraged, I believe that many of the difficulties of dispersal would not now exist.

The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) spoke of the Advisory Committee on London Regional Planning. That body was set up by the then Minister of Town and Country Planning for the purpose of making recommendations as to the manner in which the Greater London Plan was to be carried out. One of the things which the Committee recommended was that there should be a much greater degree of dispersal of population, not to new communities, but to "expanded towns." That advice was, to a very large extent, rejected by the then Minister. How unfortunate that was is something which we can all now see.

The then Minister did not accept the recommendation made by the Advisory Committee, although he did agree to increased dispersal to the expanded towns, in excess of the dispersal recommended in the Greater London Plan. But nothing was done at that time to facilitate the dispersal of population into the "expanded towns." If this Bill had been passed then, it would have made a much greater contribution to the problem of the de-congestion of the urban population than it is likely to make today. Now, to some extent, at least, dispersal of industry into the Development Areas is over and industry can more readily go to the new towns and the new urban communi- ties created around London and Manchester and other great centres of population. I see that the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Nally) shakes his head; well, I except Manchester, but it is true of London.

Industry, to an important extent, has always existed in most of the towns to which expansion is directed, and there was always the possibility that established industry there can expand and could absorb the additional population dispersed from central areas. There is, too, as the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) has pointed out, a great difference between dispersing population into entirely new communities and into established areas. The amenities to which people are accustomed, and for which they look, exist more readily in an established area than in an entirely new community.

Nevertheless, this Bill should be welcomed, late as it is, for it will make a useful contribution to this very complex and obstinate problem of the dispersal of the congested population by the central areas into the towns around London and other great centres of population which are able to take them.

I desire to direct the attention of the House to two other points, both of which have been made during this debate. The first is that made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Squadron Leader Cooper), and a number of other hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to say that he will reconsider the question of the application of this Bill to the movement of population between county districts in the same administrative county.

The example my hon. and gallant Friend gave of the borough which he and I have the honour to represent is the best example one could choose of the limitation which the absence of this provision in the Bill puts upon them. Here we have a great town, indistinguishable in size and character from the adjoining county boroughs of East Ham and West Ham. When Ilford Corporation has built a few more houses we shall have no more sites available in the town. What are we to do? East Ham and West Ham, when their space is absorbed, will be able to take advantage of this Bill and disperse their surplus population into other districts in the county of Essex. We cannot do it in Ilford, although our problem is as acute and of the same character as theirs. I hope my right hon. Friend will be able to give some assurance that he will examine this matter again and extend the provisions of this Bill to movement between districts within the same administrative county.

The other matter is that raised by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford (Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport) and relates to the position that arises under Clause 9. As my hon. and gallant Friend pointed out, if a dispute arises between two local authorities as to which shall carry out a particular development, that dispute is determined by the Minister without any obligation to hold first a public inquiry. My right hon. Friend said, "Well, this Clause will not affect normal town planning procedure." As I understood him, he means that if the planning authority—which will be the county council of the county in which development is proposed—objects to this proposed development upon planning grounds, the normal planning procedure will have to be followed. Objections will have to be submitted to the Minister and the Minister will have to determine them after holding a local enquiry in the ordinary way.

That is perfectly true, but supposing there are no objections on planning grounds to the proposal for development in a county. Supposing that the objection is that an outside authority and not the county council wants to carry out development. There is no provision in the Bill that there should be any public inquiry into that matter. Therefore, in some cases, which may well be the most acute cases of controversy between local authorities, the Minister will give his decision without the safeguard of first holding a public local inquiry.

I am quite sure that on reflection my right hon. Friend will see the difficulties. If disputes of this nature arise, it is desirable that the Minister should come out into the open and hear the views of everybody first at a public local inquiry before he makes up his mind. I hope that he will be able to give us some assurance on this point too, that during the Committee stage, Clause 9 will be amended so as to provide that there will be afforded to those local authorities who desire to take objection—it may be a perfectly reasonable objection—to what is proposed, an opportunity of stating their case in public before the Minister determines the issue between them and those with whom they are in conflict.

Those are the only two matters dealing with details of the Bill to which I want to draw the attention of my right hon. Friend. I am glad that he has brought forward this Bill. Even at this late stage I think it will make a valuable contribution to this difficult, perplexing and stubborn problem of the dispersal of our overcrowded urban population.

11.27 p.m.

Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)

In giving general support to this Bill, may I first take up a point made by the hon. and gallant Member for Ilford, South (Squadron Leader Cooper) so that the record may be right. It is not correct to say that the London County Council on any of its county estates around London has asked for a share of the new rateable value which those estates create. I say that with some knowledge as, until recently, I have had seven years of chairmanship of the Housing Committee of the London County Council and have met all the local authorities around London to discuss these matters. It would be a pity if the idea went around that that sort of thing has been done by the county council. In fact, the L.C.C. has given considerable sums of money in capital grants to the many local authorities in the years in which its county estates have been built.

Squadron Leader Cooper

Is it not the fact that the L.C.C. subsidises its own houses to a much greater extent than do other authorities, where the rate subsidy is of the order of £5 10s. per house per annum, whereas the L.C.C.'s rate subsidy is about £26 per annum? It is this greater sum—the difference between £5 10s. and £26—which the L.C.C. has been endeavouring to secure from those authorities where they have at present some of their estates.

Mr. Gibson

If it has happened it has been during the last 12 months. It certainly did not happen during the seven years when I was chairman of the Housing Committee, and I do not think it is happening now. It is true that there is a considerable rate charge on every house which the London County Council builds outside the county, but it is the L.C.C. ratepayer who pays that and not the ratepayer in the district where the houses are built. The L.C.C. accepts housing liability in all these estates for the sons and daughters of the tenants they put into those houses, and many thousands have been rehoused by the county council.

My hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) spoke of the way in which the county authorities around London have co-operated fully with the L.C.C. in its terrific problem. Hertfordshire is one of those counties. Although they have been faced with a large number of additional difficulties and a great deal of additional cost as a result of the work done by the London County Council in that county, nevertheless they have done their best to co-operate with the L.C.C., and the L.C.C. is very grateful. That also applies to Essex and Kent, who have been also burdened with the overflow from London.

In these days everybody says that London is too big and, while they do not say that London should be depopulated, they think that about one million or more of its people should be sent outside the county. Having said that however, they object to any of them coming into their particular areas. I can understand that, but they must not keep on grumbling about the large size of the population of London if they object to one of the remedies.

This Bill will help us. I do not think, however, that even the Minister would claim that the Bill will do very much more than help us to a comparatively small degree, because the number of people who can be housed in expanded towns in comparison with the enormous number of families in the L.C.C. area must be very small. It would be wrong to expect too much from this Bill.

While it will not solve our problem, it will be of very considerable help, as I know from experience when I tried to get the co-operation of local authorities, in whose area I was trying to arrange for the L.C.C. to build, not to raise too many difficulties when we started development.

Mr. G. Hutchinson

Has the hon. Member not overlooked the fact that his hon. Friend the Member for Welling- borough said that three-quarters of the overspill from London would have to be taken by the expanded towns?

Mr. Gibson

I have not checked the figure that my hon. Friend gave, but as we have a waiting list of nearly 2,000, as the hon. and learned Member knows full well, it is very doubtful if 25 per cent. of those will find themselves in expanded towns during the next five, six or even 10 years. The only point I wanted to make was that it would be wrong to expect from this Bill much in the way of solving our housing problem.

At the same time, I should say that the Bill will make a very considerable contribution towards smooth working between the receiving authorities and the exporting authorities, and will, to some extent, provide the oil which will grease the machine in the shape of a little extra financial aid from the State.

One of my greatest troubles every time I met local authorities outside London was their complaint about the very great extra cost. They seldom referred to the increased rateable values and the rates they got as a result, which over the period of life of the buildings more than repaid them for any capital expenditure they were put to in the early years of the building of the estate. Nevertheless, it was a very serious difficulty with many of them, and if this Bill assists in that direction it will be very helpful in the housing problem. The Memorandum talks about congestion and over-population, and refers to the need for creating machinery which will help to solve that problem, and this is done by providing means whereby the receiving and exporting authorities can co-operate. If this is done in the early days of these schemes this will be extremely useful.

The London County Council area has an enormous problem. We have on our waiting list more than 70,000 urgent cases, namely, cases of families which are either over-crowded or among which there are members in bad health, or where three families are living in a house built to accommodate one family. This last-mentioned predicament is creating enormous family and social difficulties.

The London housing authorities have done well since the war. Looking at the housing summary for the end of December, I saw that in the L.C.C. area no less than 187,000 homes have been provided by the L.C.C. and the Metropolitan boroughs since the end of the war. That is a great effort. But he would be a fool who said that that effort by any means solved the housing problem. Many of those on our waiting list will have to go outside the county if we are to solve not merely their housing problem, but develop fully the Greater London Plan. Therefore, the L.C.C., which I suppose has the biggest problem of the whole country, is very interested in this effort to smooth the way for out-county housing.

Although London's population is about 750,000 fewer than it was before the war, and we have built many houses since the war, we still have an enormous housing problem. We have also the problem of houses that are 100 or more years old, having reached the limit of their useful life and are now becoming slums of the worst kind. These must he pulled down if we are to rebuild London, as everyone want to see it rebuilt. Therefore, I welcome any assistance which this Bill may give in providing a larger amount of housing outside the county.

I must refer to the question of decanting employment. As the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. H. Brooke) said, he and other members of the London County Council have on several occasions during the period of the last Government visited the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Town and Country Planning regarding the need for bringing into what have been called the "quasi-satellite towns" the London County Council is building, and the other pre-war out-county towns, employers willing to go to them. Many large manufacturers in London were willing to go to them but were not willing to go to a depressed area.

I have in mind a large works in Bermondsey that wanted to go out on the east side of London. It made preliminary inquiries to discover whether it could get a large enough site. But we were told by the Board of Trade that they must go to the old depressed areas. They said, quite understandably, "We cannot do that. To begin with, we cannot take our skilled and key men to those areas. They won't go, and in any case, as a pure matter of economics, it is wrong to take our factory too far away from the London docks." So the possibility of doing a piece of good town planning in London completely died out.

I think the trouble has been that while the idea has been there—and sometimes the will has been there too—the machine set up to tackle the question was much too involved and complicated. It took so long to work—something like 12 or more Departments had to be consulted before a firm could get a permit to transfer to another site; arguments went on and it was all a heart-breaking business —that nothing occurred and the firm stayed where they were.

Even if they move there is still the problem of what to do with the factory they vacate. If they are to be re-let to some other firm to produce goods, then they do not solve the problem but only repeat it over and over again. Under the Town and Country Planning Act the local authority could of course deal with it, but they would have to buy it and pay compensation to the owners. I do not know one authority in London which was prepared to do it, because of the enormous burden on their finances.

Very few factory sites have been bought by the L.C.C. since the end of the war under the Town and Country Planning Act, and works which should be moved are still there in some cases. Firms which have moved their works to another part of the country have had their factories let to other firms producing that kind of goods, but those old factories are still in the wrong area and they are still overcrowding the district very much.

This Bill does not touch that problem at all, and unless some method can be found and some amendment is made to the Town and Country Planning Act to make it possible for the local authorities to meet these tremendous costs, I am afraid that nothing will happen, because even the so-called rich London County Council could not meet the enormous cost of paying out to the owners of these factories and sites; but unless we do something about it we shall never solve the problem.

Even if this Bill works and there is the fullest co-operation between the receiving authorities and the exporting authorities and We get houses built, as I believe the L.C.C. could, there is the problem of making sure that the rents charged for the houses are such as the workman coming from London with his family can afford. This is becoming more and more of a problem. I know of one London borough council which, in order to balance its housing accounts, is charging £1 1s. rent for a one-room flat. That is an absolutely impossible rent, not only for the old people and old-age pensioners for whom the flats were meant, but also for the small family. By the time they have added the rate charge, it becomes a matter of at least 30s. or more for rent alone.

Recently I saw a list of rents for one of the new towns, where £3 a week was asked for a two-bedroom flat. That is how rents are developing in the new towns. When one adds the cost of travel and the social inconvenience, for a time at any rate, with which a family would have to contend, it is easy to understand why there is difficulty in the letting of houses and flats. This problem of rents, therefore, seriously affects the possibility of a successful drive to build houses in the expanded towns.

I know that additional State rate assistance is to be provided in the Bill, but this is a matter which will crash the scheme unless a way is found of keeping rents down to a level which the average workman can meet. The other method, of course, is to increase wages, which is what I would do, to meet these extra charges; but that would raise all the old arguments about inflation, rising prices, and so on.

We are driven back, therefore, to the necessity of some form of subsidy to keep the rents down. Unless this problem is tackled, even with the best will in the world and with all the co-operation which the Bill will bring about, we shall still be faced with the problem of letting the houses at rents that people can afford. This would put another difficulty in the way of building up our new cities, which will be fresh and better in every way than those in which past generations have lived.

I wish the Bill a smooth passage. No doubt, when it reaches the Committee stage, a large number of Amendments will be moved. I hope that the House will now proceed to give it a Second Reading.

11.47 p.m.

Mr. W. F. Deedes (Ashford)

Those of us who have taken part in the debate have represented either the exporting or the importing areas. I am not quite clear for whose interests the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) was speaking, but I think it was the exporting areas.

Mr. Gibson

indicated assent.

Mr. Deedes

It is important that one should declare one's interest, and therefore I say that I represent an area which is importing the population who are to be assisted under the Bill—the division of Ashford, which is not a new town but is one of the towns scheduled for expansion, whose population is roughly to be doubled, from 20,000 to 40,000. I want, therefore, briefly to touch on one or two points affecting, not the new town, but the expanding town, in relation to the Bill, on which we have not yet received all the assurances that I should like.

There is a disposition to believe that the financial terms of the Bill are generous. We do not know the sum involved. I do not think the Minister himself knows, because the estimates returned by the local authorities concerned were made some time ago. The sum involved, however, probably will be considerable.

The only point which, I think, should be made on behalf of the reception areas is that if the contribution is generous, it is not over-generous, since the areas affected did not ask to undertake the work which has been imposed upon them. Despite the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), all the reception areas within my knowledge have gone on with their job and have received their populations and have written "Welcome" on the mat. I do not think their contribution should be under-rated. I do not think there is anyone from the exporting areas who would wish to controvert that.

Mr. W. Nally (Bilston)

The hon. Gentleman is talking about the Home Counties. He will agree that this is a national Bill, applying nationally, and I wonder if he would agree to accept the proposition that it is a great mistake to make the generalisations we have had in the last two or three speeches, that what is capable of application to the problems, shall we say of London and the Home Counties, is necessarily true for the whole of the country where, more or less, in relation to the big cities, the same problems exist?

Mr. Deedes

I only wish to speak within my knowledge about Kent, which plays a big part like the other Home Counties in this reception. In my experience the terms of reception have been uniformly good, and there is concern at getting on with the job which, without this Bill, has not been easy. It has been tackled with considerable efficiency and promptitude.

The next point—and perhaps it is a minor point—will rise, I think, on the negotiation of the sums of money which will be given in each case. The Minister did mention this, and it is quite obvious that a different basis of the estimate must be arrived at in each area. There will probably be no difficulty over this, but it would be unfortunate if any haggling over the financial terms led to any delay in the work which should go forward. I am sure it will not, but I should like to hear a little more about the basis of the negotiations in each particular case with the local authorities. There is bound to be wide variation in costs according to the policy which the reception authority has taken. There is a maximum density laid down in reception areas, but there is no minimum density laid down. A good many local authorities are naturally concerned to Use as much ground as they can. That seems to me to be likely to have a considerable effect on the cost involved.

Arising out of that, there is the time limit of these local schemes. At the moment the schemes go in terms of five years and I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that that could be a handicap to the surveyors concerned. A longer term view, if that were possible, might, in the end, under the terms of this Bill, save much cost in respect, say, of duplication of the utilities. Five years seems a long time, but it is not necessarily a long time in planned development spread over 25 years. It does also seem that the question of boundaries and the use of boundaries may arise, and it seems possible that the Minister's power to extend boundaries will arise out of this measure.

I have only one other important point to make. First it is natural that some local authorities should wonder whether or not there are any strings attached to the proposals in the Bill. I do not think this is being unduly suspicious. Within my experience nothing of this kind is free. Many local authorities are tackling this in different ways. Some are being independent. I think there are five ways in all in which an authority can carry out this scheme. My own area of Ashford is being as independent as it can.

I hope we shall get an assurance that none or the generous financial provisions under this Bill will in any way make it less possible for a local authority to be as independent as it can, and it can rest assured that no pressure will be brought to bear on it from any new direction. With this Bill too, the Minister should review the relations of the Ministry with the Board of Trade, with particular respect to the siting of industry.

I have always held the view that from the social and economic development point of view it is vital that industry and housing march together in these reception areas. If the housing grows too fast then there is unemployment: if the industry grows too fast then there is overcrowding. It is by no means easy to co-ordinate the two and there is evidence at the moment that the machinery between the Board of Trade and the Ministry is not working as it should. That difficult problem must be tackled in particular relation to this Bill because, if we get unbalance as between the arrival of industry and the building of houses, then a lot of money is going to be wasted. There is a temptation always to allow the immediate and urgent demands of industry to get priority over the longer term planning which is envisaged in the next 25 years under most of these schemes. That should be more closely knit, and then we shall get from this Bill proper value for money.

11.57 p.m.

Mr. Desmond Donnelly (Pembroke)

I am glad the hon. Member for Ashford (Mr. Deedes) finished by talking about the need for housing and industry to march side by side, if only for the reason that I had some difficulty in following the rest of his speech. At one stage I felt he might have been dictating an article to his local newspaper rather than addressing the House of Commons. He is quite right, however, about the im- perative need to see that Ashford does not have a large housing estate dumped on it without the industry with it.

During the debate the Minister has heard from both sides of the House speeches expressing extreme disquiet about the present machinery for the distribution of industry from the main conurbations. I am not one to say that the Development Areas have had enough industry. I represent a Development Area, and have seen the pitiful unemployment of those areas. There is still a hard core of unemployment. It will take another 20 years to tackle the problem, and I have never taken the view that the Development Areas should not have industry steered to them. At the same time, we feel there is a comparable problem, in an inverted sense, as far as the big cities are concerned.

We are saying that there is still too much industry allowed to grow in London and other big industrial centres. Far too many industrial certificates are being issued by the Board of Trade in the London, Manchester, and Birmingham regions. I would urge the right hon. Gentleman to look at some of the figures for the licences which have been issued for factories in these regions to see whether or not the situation is not far more disquieting than may appear from casual observation.

I hope I may be excused if I speak at some length at this hour, but I have spent a good deal of my life dealing with town planning. I hope the right hon. Gentlemen on the Treasury Bench, thinking of their legislative programme in the next few months, will not think too hardly of me if I take up some of their time in dealing with the Bill. It is not often we have a debate on town planning.

A great deal has been said about the relief of congestion of the big cities. That is very important indeed. Really, that is the basis of all town planning legislation in this country. It began many years ago, one stage of it being the revolt against bad housing conditions created by the industrial revolution. But there is another very real and valid reason for supporting this Bill, and that is the help which it will give to the countryside.

One hon. Member opposite spoke about the rural areas in a rather condescending sort of way; I represent a rural area and would tell him that we welcome it wholeheartedly because the declining population problem will never be arrested unless proper industry is available to those who cannot find work on the land. It has been said that the Bill might draw away labour from the agricultural industry, and that is a point of view. But is it thought that the women of the villages should not be considered? Where are they going to find employment, for they cannot all work on the land? If there are expanded country towns, with small, light industries, there will be opportunities for these women and girls who cannot work in agriculture. That is something which could be done by a Bill of this nature.

The history of the last hundred years, with the drift from the villages to the big towns, and the writings of men like William Morris and Ebenezer Howard, show that the whole problem is that there has been far too much centralization of industry in the big cities and far too little promotion of industry in the country towns. If we look at this problem as it is in our own time and with the will to reverse that trend, we may get somewhere in helping the countryside.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) spoke of the imperative necessity for bringing new amenities to the countryside, and this Bill has a real and important benefit for the countryside; it can play a part in helping those towns to be places where people can live full and useful lives—happy and industrious lives; and I hope that the Minister will resist the blandishments of some of the "squirearchy" behind him who are afraid that they will lose people who might give cheap labour on their land. There are other people of the countryside in addition to the "squirearchy" who would like to see the opportunity of a productive life, not merely for their own benefit.

Mr. Bernard Braine (Billericay)

Could I make this one point? The hon. Member implied that those of us who represent receiving areas have an objection, for some ulterior motive, to the transfer of population from the crowded towns. There is no such objection, except on the grounds that the New Towns Act, as administered by the late Govern- ment completely ignored the feelings and susceptibilities of the people in the receiving areas. It is that which has created antagonisms difficult to remove.

Mr. Donnelly

The hon. Gentleman has strayed into the wrong debate. We are not dealing with the New Towns Act.

Mr. Braine

The hon. Gentleman persists in misunderstanding. So far there are no expanded towns. So far, the only development of this kind has been the new towns.

Mr. Donnelly

I feel that the hon. Gentleman has for too long made political capital out of the unfortunate fears of the people living in his constituency and in trying to incite them purely for political purposes. Let me come back to the reasons for the Bill.

A great deal has been said about the need for relieving congestion in the big cities. I do not know whether anyone in the House has read the "Evening Standard" survey of traffic in London, which appeared recently. It discloses a most appalling state of affairs in London. I do not drive a car very much in the city because I live in Wales, but when I do come up I see the changes which have taken place in the traffic problem. I take my car back to Wales and do not bring it back again for three or four months, when I can see that the problem has become even more appalling. There is a colossal waste of petrol, time and manpower, and unless something is done quickly about decentralising London traffic congestion will strangle this great city.

The tragedy is that London is becoming more and more a great invalid and can be helped only by operations and blood transfusions. If anyone wishes to take this diagnosis to its logical conclusion, the only thing to do would be to extinguish it as an effective industrial city by some lethal chamber. We have now to look at the problem as it is now, and say that not one more industry and not one more person will be brought to London but that the population will be reduced as speedily and as effectively as possible.

A great deal of the success of this Bill will depend on the way in which it is administered, and a great deal of that depends on the way in which the right hon. Gentleman wins his battle, not with the Chancellor of the Exchequer this time, but with his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, in obtaining a new orientation of the policy of issuing industrial certificates for factories in the London region.

My hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) will go down in history as one who has played a large part in the housing of the population of this great city. He has been the most distinguished chairman the housing committee has had for a long time, and he has spoken about the problem of rents which is tied up with this matter. He was recently a member of a committee which published a report on the conditions of life in flats, and it is a report which should be on the table of every housing official of every local authority in the country. It gives an idea of the social problems created by living conditions and life in the modern blocks of flats: cliff dwellers of the 20th Century. It raises a financial problem too.

The right hon. Gentleman may be looking for money soon. If he does not get it from the Exchequer he might consider altering the differential in the subsidy between houses and flats. There have been about 26,000 flats built in London since 1945 and the subsidy on each of them is about £1,000 more than on a dwelling house. If we go on building at this rate, say 10,000 flats in the next five years in the London region, we shall find that we shall be spending £10 million more of public money which might well be utilised for the benefit of the country towns and receiving areas in different parts of the country.

If the right hon. Gentleman wants to provide decent living conditions for those in London, then one thing he must insist does not happen—and it is within the orbit of his Department to see that it does not—is a repetition of any monstrosities such as the great block of flats being built at Stevenage at the moment. They are useless, because rents there are in the region of £4 a week. That is a preposterous rent to ask anyone coming off the local authority housing list to pay. The right hon. Gentleman should ask his Department to look at this situation to see how it ever came to arise. If he does not do that, it will lead to serious problems in the new towns and in the ex- panding country towns in different parts of the country. It is disgraceful.

Having said so much for the reasons for the Bill, perhaps I may say something about the contents of the Bill. I join my hon. Friends in giving it a warm welcome. It is a relatively small Measure, but it can be a very important one. I agree, however, with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) that it can only be a temporary Measure if we are to have effective local government reform in the next few years. Nevertheless, within the context of the existing machinery, it is a vitally essential Measure in order to get something done about decentralising people from the big cities and in addition to the New Towns Act.

In the Bill there are one or two points which seem to be disturbing. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman himself touched upon one in the course of his admirable speech today. In passing, may I say that his speech might well be distributed in the form of a White Paper to some of his colleagues on the back benches, because it would teach them something about the town planning legislation which we have. I would give a special copy to the hon. Member for Billericay.

I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look again at the limitation imposed in Clause 2 of grants to transfers within the boundaries of one county. It seems to me that it is not just a problem for Essex or for any other part of the London region. It can well apply to the periphery of any of the big conurbations. It applies to Lancashire and Cheshire as well. I see here the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) who is so jealous of the rights of Salford. The hon. Member will appreciate full well that on the boundaries of the Lancashire conurbations within one county there is a great deal of overcrowding which can only be decentralised to another area in the same county. I am sure that if he brings that to the notice of the Minister it will have added force to the objections which have been made from both sides of this House, and which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will look at in detail in the course of the Committee stage of this Bill.

There is another point about which I am a little disturbed. It is difficult to go into detail, but no scale of grants is shown in the Bill. We want to know what we are doing. It is all very well to come down to this House and ask us to give this Bill a Second Reading. The right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues would be the first to complain if a Labour Government came down and asked for a blank cheque. I hope he will ask for a substantial sum of money, but we do not want to discuss this Bill at length and then find we have voted nothing to help the decentralisation of the big cities.

We want to have some idea from the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies to the Debate, of how much this will involve in the way of expenditure. The whole basis of Parliament is that it controls expenditure, and we want to know what control we have. What is likely to be involved? How much will be spent? We want to know that for a number of reasons. Not only because we are jealous of our rights, but because we realise that there is only a limited amount to be distributed and we want to see how it is to be distributed.

I see my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot) present. He has a Motion on the Order Paper dealing with the problem of the blitzed towns. It is quite right that he should feel very strongly about this matter. Why should he not get some money for the blitzed areas? I hope he will receive some satisfaction before he is asked to support the Second Reading of this Bill and will know how the money is allocated between one priority and another. In this way I am not detracting in any way from the importance of the Bill, but my hon. Friend should know where he stands.

I should like now to touch on one or two other problems, which are not in this Bill but which will have to be dealt with later by the Government, or by some subsequent Government, because they have not, as yet, been more than cursorily glanced at. My right hon. Friends the Members for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) and Ebbw Vale mentioned the question of vacant factories. It is all very well to talk about this problem in the abstract, and to some extent I disagree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale when he talked about extinguishing all property rights in this respect, not because I disagree with him in theory, but because I can see the practical difficulties of dealing with this matter at the moment.

If an industrialist is going to move from London to St. Albans or some other such town, he is dependent on the finances to undertake the move from the sale of the factory he now occupies in London. The transfer depends on his getting the best possible price for his old premises. The same problem exists in moving a dwelling from one place to another. The occupant has got to sell one before he can buy another. This is a problem to which the Government have got to apply their minds. I am not proposing to offer any solution. I leave it to them, and I very much hope that they are going to look at this problem quickly; otherwise it makes nonsense of the whole problem of decentralisation, which is the policy we understand the Government are attempting to pursue. It is essential in the implementation of any great major town planning report, such as the Abercrombie Report for Greater London.

An equally parallel problem existing to some extent in housing is the amount of grants available for slum clearance. That involves a big problem, which I do not think we can go into in sufficient detail at the moment.

There are one or two other questions which have been mentioned at various times in the course of this debate. The right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) referred to the set up of the planning machinery. The right hon. and learned Gentleman presided over a committee which produced reports on this question. I should like to know what happened to the Clement Davies reports, and in particular what has happened to the minority report which my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) and Professor W. A. Robson signed.

It seemed to me that the majority report was a pale affair, and that the minority report had some real proposals. If something could be done on the lines suggested in that minority report we might get somewhere, but I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us tonight what has happened to the Clement Davies' reports. Several hon. Members have spoken about this, so the Parliamentary Secretary will realise the disquiet which exists on both sides of the House.

There is another question which I want to put and which has not been mentioned in the course of the debate. Would the right hon. Gentleman the Minister and his Parliamenary Secretary look into the possibility of setting up as an additional agency to help the local authorities in country towns, a housing agency on the same lines as the Scottish Housing Association or the Northern Ireland Housing Trust, with the powers of a mobile new towns corporation.

Many arguments could be advanced in favour of these bodies. I am not suggesting that they should actually build the houses, but that they should be additional agencies for the promotion of building. The Minister will appreciate the importance and necessity of getting on with the house building programme, because to some extent not only is his own fate tied up with this, but the future of his Government also. For his own good, and in the hope of promoting his successful future, he ought to consider setting up yet another building agency to get the houses built for the advantage of himself, the Government, and the people.

In conclusion, and dealing with matters which are not in the Bill, perhaps I may ask the Parliamentary Secretary when he replies to say what the Government are doing about local government reform. We want to know what is going to happen. If the Government are to stay there for five years, is it proposing to do anything about this? Uncertainty is bound to exist until we get some pronouncement from the Government. If they find the circumstances too difficult to be tackled in view of their small majority, it may be that the present Government will leave over the matter to be dealt with next time when we have a larger majority. But we should like to be told what is happening.

I see that time is slipping by and the Parliamentary Secretary is anxious to reply. One or two of my hon. Friends are also anxious to speak, and the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Nally) has been here a long time. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite are mainly concerned with local points, but the hon. Member for Bilston speaks for the nation.

One or two administrative problems remain. There is, for instance, the ques- tion of building allocations. Much of the success or failure of any decentralisation policy is tied up closely with housing allocations. I hope the Minister will remember that it is no good talking of decentralisation and giving allocations on the old basis to local authorities which before the war may have built large numbers of houses and used up all their land while not giving them to expanding authorities which could use these allocations more effectively.

We ought to see that in future houses are built in the county areas, and not in the built up urban areas. It is important to remember, in dealing with town planning legislation, that it is a social development, and not necessarily an architectural one. Too many people see town planning as the icing on the cake of amenity. In point of fact it is the recipe which goes to make the ingredients of the cake.

Industrialists, and goodness knows there are enough of them opposite, will appreciate that planning a factory production line does not stop at the factory gate, but takes into account the way raw materials reach the factory, the cost of carrying them and the way in which the finished article is distributed. A great deal also depends on communications, on how the workers get to and from the factory, their efficiency in working, their wage demands and standards of life, and their whole philosophy of life. It is that problem which is really tied up with changes in town planning in this country.

The whole basis of town planning legislation in this country has been due to a revolt against the housing conditions created in the 19th Century, and it is not in any way connected with the Continental town planning methods which have grown up in association with Le Corbusier and other crack-pots in other parts of the world. Therefore, I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will deal with some of these problems raised tonight. He has seen our great concern and interest in these questions; it springs from our desire to further the Bill. I hope he will give us a satisfactory answer and that during the Committee stage he will be prepared to give consideration to one or two of the problems we have mentioned.

12.26 a.m.

Mr. C. N. Thornton-Kemsley (Angus, North and Mearns)

At this very late hour I shall be very brief. Let me say, at the outset, that I warmly welcome this Bill. I believe that in Committee there are certain improvements that we will want to suggest—for example to support my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford (Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport) in his plea that in considering Clause 9 we should ask that there shall be a public local inquiry and that if the Minister still has to bring his powers of dictation into play, that his directions should be subject to an affirmative Resolution procedure of both Houses instead of to the present negative Resolution procedure.

There is another matter that is giving me concern and that is that the Bill—if I understand it correctly—can in certain circumstances over-ride the local authority's development plans. These development plans had to be submitted by the end of last July. Some of them have had an extension of time, but most of them are at present under consideration by the Ministry. I think it is of the greatest possible importance that they should be respected by the people. I think they should be regarded as sacrosanct, once they are approved.

The excellent booklet which has been published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office called "Development Plans Explained" and which was written by Mr. B. J. Collins, the County Planning Officer for Middlesex, says: The approval of a development plan will crystallize the answers to many contested questions. Arguments of long standing may be resolved. A formal pronouncement is at last made in a Statutory document that such-and-such is the manner in which the county or city should be encouraged to develop. It must be a reassurance to public authorities, to business men, to farmers and to all other residents with private plans. When a development plan is passed hope it will be sacrosanct; that as far as possible the expanded towns which are selected shall be those which are marked in the development plans as being scheduled for extension and that expansion will be confined to those towns which have already provided for it.

Some of my hon. Friends have been critical of some of the provisions of the Bill, as much, I think, because of its origin as because of its contents. But what is the alternative? The new towns will not solve the problem. The 15 which have been designated will absorb less than half a million people from areas whose overspill population by any reasonable standard of density must be something of the order of 3 million. At the end of 1951, less than 3,000 houses, capable of taking about 10,000 people, had been built in those new towns.

But that is not all. For many of our overcrowded cities—Leeds, Liverpool and for Tyneside, for example—no new towns whatever have been so much as projected. The alternative which we have seen is the undesirable alternative to which the London County Council has had recourse, of building in out-country estates and building in their own Green Belt, of which none of us can approve. It would be far better to expand county towns than to go on building at increased densities on expensive sites in already overcrowded towns.

It is madness to go on increasing the size of our cities. For defence reasons alone, we ought to concentrate on dispersal. It is much cheaper, as the hon. Member for Pembroke (Mr. Donnelly) pointed out, to build houses with gardens in the expanded towns, and when that is done there will be enough over to assist in the provision of public services. Dispersal is the official policy of this Government, as it was of the last. Let us back it up for all we are worth.

The 1951 progress report of the Ministry refers to expanded towns as likely ultimately to be major contributors to the relief of over-crowding. It is something of an achievement that this Government has at this time been able, for the "ultimately" of its predecessors, to substitute the "action this day" of the present Administration.

12.32 a.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Ernest Marples)

I hope that the many hon. Members who have been disappointed in not catching your eye, Mr. Speaker, will forgive my intervention at this stage, but at 1 o'clock we shall have completed a full Parliamentary day of discussion on the Bill, and we have had the advantage, as far as the time fac- tor is concerned, of not having a winding-up speech from the Opposition.

We have also had a maiden speech, and I congratulate the hon. Member for Petersfield (Mr. Legh) on a very able and lucid exposition which showed clearly his great grasp of local government affairs. I belong to the 1945 vintage of politicians —or, at any rate, of Members of the House. I do not know whether it was the shattering effects of the war which left us in a rather nervous condition, but certainly we did not seem to have the confidence and poise of the 1951 vintage. Nothing seems to terrify them. The hon. Member made a splendid maiden speech, and the points to which he referred will be looked into carefully. I hope that the House will listen to him on many more occasions.

It is gratifying that the House has approved the intention of the Bill, although doubts have been expressed in some quarters as to the adequacy of the machinery and, in some cases, hon. Members have said that the machinery is too severe. Even the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) displayed his enthusiasm, and with such vigour that I began to doubt whether it was a good Bill, but only for a moment, because I saw that behind his intentions he was seeking to attract to himself most of the credit for the Bill.

Then we had another former Minister, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) who, like the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, has not been with us since the steel debate ended. He rose and indicated that he would speak for a few minutes. There was a subdued opening, which was followed by 23 minutes—longer than the three succeeding speeches put together. That Celtic fervour, which we associate with him, led him, instead of referring to it as a good Bill, to speak of it contemptuously and call it a niggling Bill and window dressing. I do not wish to introduce party politics into this happy gathering—[An HON. MEMBER: "Obviously not."]—but the diversity of opinion between the two right hon. Gentlemen does illustrate how harmonious relations must have been in the last Socialist Cabinet.

Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)

They were not both in the Cabinet.

Mr. Marples

They were both in the Cabinet.

The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale took even more credit to himself. He said that he produced more major Measures than any Minister in the last 50 years. Thus we had the edifying spectacle of two Socialist Ministers in competition as to who could slap his own back hardest. The right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland asked for an assurance that nothing in the Bill would delay local government reform. The answer is that there is nothing in the Bill which would delay local government reform. In my opinion this Bill may even accelerate local government reform, which would be a very good thing.

The second assurance for which he asked was on whether ordinary housing would go ahead. The answer to that is a categorical, "Yes." In the third question he asked he used there a phrase of the Fabian party for the first time in this debate, "conurbation," and asked if town expansion which would relieve conurbation would be nation wide and not confined to London. The answer is, "Yes." Development should take place all over the country where it is required, not merely in London.

The right hon. Gentleman asked one more question which I would like to answer. He asked for an assurance that the Bill would not prevent municipal corporations acquiring land adjacent to their boundaries. Nothing is further from my right hon. Friend's intention. Housing authorities have their responsibilities and where it is appropriate—I emphasise the word appropriate —that houses should be built as a physical extension, it ought to be done. My right hon. Friend asked me to stress his hope that neighbouring authorities would reach agreement between themselves in such cases, if it was at all possible.

I would like to deal with other points. On the question of industry, which was raised by a number of speakers including the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland and the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Brooke), the difficulty is that unless industry is decentralised and goes into the expanded towns the scheme will not succeed. The difficulty with decentralisation is that it is superb in theory and extremely difficult in practice. It is difficult because of the heavy initial investment on sewerage and services which sometimes, in winter, can be dishearteningly slow from the technical point of view.

There are many men who are not willing to leave the town where they have many roots; and so it is not easy, but there are two ways in which we hope to do it. The first is by giving the factories the necessary facilities, the services, and perhaps the industrial estates. The industries which will move into the expanded towns will be expanding industries, those that are constantly enlarging. They will rarely include an industry not wanting to enlarge. The new towns have attracted industrialists because of the attractiveness of the layout which enables them to take advantage of modern technique in each particular industry.

Our second method is the attraction of the younger people by the offer of housing. It is the younger people who generally tend to come into the new or expanded towns, and they will assist in the employment of the industries that move.

Mr. Ernest Popplewell (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, West)

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that point will he give an assurance that there will be no question of taking away or transferring the direction of new industries from the Development Areas into the expanding towns? The Development Areas can still do with a great many new industries to meet any possible recession of trade.

Mr. Marples

Some development areas can, and some cannot do with more industries. It depends on the area. I should like to make this point, as the hon. Gentleman used the word "direction" in his intervention, that we do not intend to direct industry. The idea is to induce them.

The hon. Member for Hampstead asked a number of questions about finance. Since I came into my present position I have realised the competing pressures brought to bear on the Minister of Housing and Local Government when it comes to finance. When I was listening to the case for a county council put by one Member, and then to the case for a county borough put by another hon. Gentleman I was reminded of that story told of Louis XIV who, when presenting a medal to the most successful of 12 competitors in an archery contest, was heard to say, "By doing this I have made one man ungrateful and eleven men discontented." Rather like this Bill, the pressure on the Minister by the local authorities is difficult to cope with, and I hope hon. Gentlemen will assist us in this respects.

The hon. Member for Hampstead said that the Bill gave practical help for water and sewerage, and asked about street lighting. This would come under site preparation. Then he asked what would happen to grants in aid now given to a local authority when it builds outside its area. The answer is that nothing in the Bill takes away existing financial benefits from a county borough which decides to build under this Bill. Thirdly, he asked how the exporting and receiving authorities stood in relation to the development charge. The answer is that they stand in exactly the same position as the new towns do. Under Section 83 of the Town and Country Planning Act there is a certain method of computing development charge which is advantageous to the new towns, and the same section will apply to the expanded towns.

The question of financial help for county services was raised by the hon. Member for Hammersmith, North (Mr. Towney) and the hon. Member for Petersfield, in his maiden speech. The criticism is that there is no financial help for county services in this Bill. By county services I mean mostly schools, and in some cases, highways. But county services are really consequential upon the expansion of a town. The difficulty in expanding an existing town will be in the initial stages when the amounts of money expended will be heavy and there is no return; that is, expenditure on water, sewerage, and so on. Once houses have been erected, then rates will flow in and, therefore, the county services are consequential on the development and flow from it. If we have only a limited amount of money available it is better to use it in the early stages rather than in the later.

One thing I would say to the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) is that the Lancashire County Council has undertaken a great measure of responsibility in the matter of providing county services for the overspill from Salford and Manchester.

Mr. W. Nally (Bilston)

In relation to Manchester and Salford, although he is perfectly right about the magnificent way in which the Lancashire County Council has helped both cities, does the hon. Gentleman think that Cheshire has cooperated with the readiness and the same good will?

Mr. Marples

The Cheshire development plan has shown a remarkable breadth of view in making sure that the population of the congested areas of Lancashire have been looked after. The Government do not in this Bill propose to find all the money; the burden should be shared, as partners, with the county council and the district councils. In the case of a really poor county, the Exchequer Equalisation Grant will help, and the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), who spoke today, when in opposition, asked for help. But the last government had power under the New Towns Act of 1946 —and had it for five years—and he and his hon. Friends did not apparently give that assistance. Now, in opposition, they ask for that assistance and that perhaps is not as fair as we all know the hon. Gentleman likes to be in these matters.

There is the thorny question of an "in-county" move not being helped financially. The right hon. Member for Epsom (Mr. McCorquodale), the hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Parker) the hon. and gallant Member for Ilford, South (Squadron Leader Cooper) complained that in-county moves were not helped. This Bill provides for out- county moves—that is, movements between one county and another—and I think there has grown up a misunderstanding, "County," in this sense, means the administrative county; that is, the geographical area as known by the man in the street, less those county boroughs which are their own planning authorities. Salford is a city, and if it moved to Worsley, which is an urban district, it would qualify for the grant, but Lancashire always does things in the early stages before the rest of the country, and Salford has already made arrangements to build in Worsley.

Let me say a word about in-county moves; there are three types. First, there is the in-county move where an urban district has land of its own on which it can build. If it decides, for planning reasons not to build on its own ground, but jump two miles away, then if we included in-county moves, it would actually receive an Exchequer grant. The purpose of the Bill is not to assist a move of that nature.

The second type would be where an urban district or district council has no land, but is surrounded by a green belt or open country for many miles and leaps two or three for convenience' sake within its own planning authority area. These two types form the bulk of the in-county move, and it is no good altering the rule to create more anomalies. My hon. Friends and hon Gentlemen opposite made a powerful appeal about the necessity for helping certain of the in-county moves. Only in certain of them, and without promising anything, my right hon. Friend will certainly be examining the question again very seriously indeed.

We now come to the Clause which has given rise to contentious feeling among my hon. Friends especially, and that is Clause 9. It was started by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Knutsford (Lieut.-Colonel Bromley-Davenport), who had strong feelings about the matter as we all could hear. Incidentally, he said he got advice from three lawyers and they all agreed. My experience is that if three lawyers agree it is highly probable that they are not right. I would like to explain that Clause if I can. On the planning side it does not deal with the use of land. This is not a planning Bill, and has nothing whatever to do with how land shall be used.

The future planning of land will be the same as it has been in the past. It will be governed by the Town and Country Planning Act and existing legislation still holds good unless specifically repealed. In planning, that Act, with the safeguards of the public inquiry, will decide what takes place. This Bill does not decide what is built: it does not decide where it is built. It only decides who shall build, and, therefore, if I may say so with respect, a great number of the points raised in this debate are irrelevant, because planning comes under the Town and Country Planning Act, which is not superseded by the Bill.

The purpose of the public inquiry which has been urged by my hon. Friends behind me is to see that any one individual who has a grouse and whose property is affected can voice his objection, and voice it publicly. Where land is developed, people can object, and where a compulsory purchase order is served there is also a public inquiry. Under Clause 9 where we decide who shall build, the real question which the Minister has to decide is which authority is best equipped to do the job and that depends on the technical efficiency of the organisation, and no public inquiry is necessary, because I doubt whether the average member of the public has a contribution to make or has his interests affected so far as that point is concerned.

Mr. Leslie Hale (Oldham, West)

Will the Parliamentary Secretary allow me. I am not anxious to detain the House at this hour, but there were at least eight Members on that side of the House and three on this side who were anxious to talk about the Bill which raises for each and everyone of us a supremely constituency problem. I hope he is not suggesting that they will have to move the Closure but the last two speeches have been made from his side of the House and hon. Members on this side were waiting to speak.

Mr. Marples

We are all obliged for the contributions which the hon. Gentleman makes in this House from time to time. I am glad to see him here for the latter part of our debate if not for the earlier part. I am sure, if he had leapt to his feet earlier instead of preparing his speech for the previous debate, he would have caught Mr. Speaker's eye.

We must get this Bill tonight in order that the legislative programme can be dealt with. I believe I am voicing the opinion of most hon. Members when I say that they want to get the Bill to the Committee stage. This Bill was on the stocks before this Government took office. It has been improved by the originality and the fertility of my right hon. Friend's mind. Normally when a question is put by you, Mr. Speaker, to this House, the Opposition indicate their agreement by a rather gloomy and surly silence. But on this occasion I ask the Opposition in general—I cannot ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland to use his powerful voice, as he is not here—not only to pass this silently, but to pass it noisily and acclaim it with a loud and joyous shout of "Aye". I hope that when it comes to the Committee stage, many of the hon. Gentlemen who had not taken part in this discussion will give us the benefit of their advice which on this occasion we are not able to have.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. P. G. T. Buchan-Hepburn)

rose in his place and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."

Bill accordingly read a Second time.

Committed to a Standing Committee.