HC Deb 09 July 1953 vol 517 cc1537-46

Considered in Committee, and reported, without Amendment.

5.57 p.m.

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

I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."

I should not like the Third Reading stage of this Bill to go by without saying a few words, and giving the House some account of the progress made last month, because, in this Bill, we are asking for a large sum of money, and I think the House would be interested to know of the progress made. Since I spoke on Tuesday last week, the results for last month have come in, and they show that 626 more houses have been completed, one further factory of 12,580 square feet at Harlow, and one more church at Hemel Hempstead.

Since the previous occasion on which I spoke, I have also taken the opportunity to visit Newton Aycliffe, one of the new towns in the North-East, where a very charming and enthusiastic band of people who are running the new town showed me what they had done. I am now able to answer a query by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) which I could not answer on the occasion of the Second Reading debate. The right hon. Gentleman asked me how the supply of public houses was progressing in Newton Aycliffe and Peterlee. I cannot tell him about Peterlee, because I did not visit it, but in Newton Aycliffe they have got up to ground floor level with a public-house which they are erecting there. The cellarage was complete, and I inspected it most carefully, because I am anxious to see that the alcohol sold there is of a reasonably high standard.

Mr. James Hudson (Ealing, North)

What does the hon. Gentleman mean by a high standard?

Mr. Marples

A standard which would be approved by most hon. Members of this House, excepting, of course, the hon. Gentleman.

They have also decided what they will call the public house, and I was told that it is to be named "The Iron Horse." I wondered why this name was chosen, and I asked if it was possibly named after the very determined character of the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland, but apparently that is not so. It has been called after the second locomotive which pulled the first passenger train past the site of the new town, and a model of the original engine is being placed on top of the building. The site, in fact, is a rather unfortunate place, but I will not go into that now, though we may take the matter up with the Corporation. It is certainly not in the best of places.

In addition, there are 666 more houses under construction, four more factories—

Mr. J. Hudson

May I ask the hon. Gentleman a further question about "The Iron Horse "? Did he see any of the arrangements that were decided upon by this House that there should be places where there would be no alcoholic liquor sold at all?

Mr. Marples

No, I did not make that inquiry.

Mr. Hudson

What a pity.

Mr. Marples

There are four more factories, covering 55,600 square feet, under construction, five more shops and one community centre also under construction at Harlow. Since the House is interested in schools, I can say that three more schools and one technical college have been begun—one school at Harlow, two at Peterlee and the technical college at Peterlee as well. As we were making good progress I thought the House would pardon a short intervention by me to give them a report.

6.1 p.m.

Mr. Hugh Dalton (Bishop Auckland)

We are very much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for telling us the position up to the minute. I hope that his Department will press on with the construction of community buildings of all kinds. We are glad to hear of progress that has been made here and there, but there is great danger to the contentment of the people in the new towns unless they get a much larger number of community buildings of one sort or another established very soon. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman can assure us that his Department will have that point well in mind.

Mr. Marples

indicated assent.

6.3 p.m.

Mr. Patrick Maitland (Lanark)

A question which I put to my right hon. and gallant Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland in an earlier debate did not receive a complete answer, and I should like to raise the point again at this stage. The Government made it clear in the opening debate on the Bill that they were determined to develop the new towns as balanced communities.

I put to my right hon. and gallant Friend the question what the Government would do if they were unable to get all the industry to the new towns that they would like, and whether, when housebuilding had reached the extent required by the available industry, it would stop, and the effort would be concentrated in the expanding towns.

By way of reply I was advised by my right hon. and gallant Friend not to be too despondent about the prospect of the new town in which I was particularly interested, namely East Kilbride. But I have since found, in conversation with other hon. Members who also represent constituencies with new towns in them, that the failure to give me a reply has caused anxiety. Without wishing to delay the House unduly I would repeat my question, in the confidence that in due course a full and satisfactory answer will be forthcoming.

6.4 p.m.

Mr. Græme Finlay (Epping)

Another issue was also raised in the Second Reading debate to which we have not yet had a satisfactory reply. In speeches by hon. Members who are associated with new towns I thought there was a great deal of doubt whether the principal object of the new towns, that is to say the decongestion of the Metropolis, was being effected. It emerged that a kind of Box-and-Cox game takes place, and that when industries are evacuated to the new towns they are immediately replaced by other industries. That affects directly the principle of the new towns, and I am certain that the Parliamentary Secretary and my right hon. Friend are considering the matter very deeply. We should like to have an indication of the steps which are to be taken to deal with this very serious matter.

Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)

Are we to have a progress report for Scotland, similar to that given for England? Why should we not have a similar report about the number of churches, public houses and buildings going up in Scotland? Two Ministers present are responsible for Scottish affairs. Housing is just as important in Scotland as it is in England, and I hope that we shall have a progress report.

6.6 p.m.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Commander T. D. Galbraith)

If the hon. Gentleman will consult the latest returns in relation to Scottish housing he will find all the figures enumerated there. To my hon. Friend the Member for Lanark (Mr. Patrick Maitland) I have already given a full answer to the question which he raised. Matters are proceeding very satisfactorily at the moment, and we need not look upon the prospect with dismal forebodings.

Mr. W. R. Williams (Droylsden)

Before the Joint Under-Secretary of State sits down, will he say whether the figures to which he referred make a distinction between the new towns and other towns? Is the distinction made in that way about housing development?

Commander Galbraith

The figures for various towns are given.

Mr. Williams

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman reminded my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) that if he would look in a certain direction we would get the information. Can my hon. Friend get the information that he wants, which is the development of housing in the new towns in Scotland?

Mr. Patrick Maitland

Further to what my right hon. and gallant Friend has said, may I ask him, since I may not have explained my question clearly, whether it is Government policy, in pursuance of the aim of an evenly-balanced community, to keep housebuilding equal with factory building?

The Deputy-Speaker (Sir Charles MacAndrew)

That point does not arise on the Bill, which simply asks for an increase in the amount of the money advanced.

Mr. Maitland

Is this not a debate on new towns, and is one not entitled to ask a question about new towns?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The Bill only asks for an increased amount of money. It was the original Act which gave the authority for the new towns.

6.7 p.m.

Mr. James H. Hoy (Leith)

It is true that the Bill only asks for more money, but the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, who represents the English side of this matter, gave a pretty comprehensive report about what was happening. My hon. Friend asked whether we could have a similar statement in regard to the new towns in Scotland. The Parliamentary Secretary must be aware that there has been criticism of the building taking place in these areas and that only this week, in evidence before the Royal Commission on Scottish Affairs, a witness raised points with regard to the building of churches in the Scottish new towns.

The Minister might take advantage of this occasion to say something about development in the new areas. The point has been raised acutely in connection with the problem of providing employment in the new towns for the families of miners who go there to work. I hope it is not asking the Minister too much for him to say whether it is the Government's intention to link up the Scottish new towns with the other side of the Forth by means of a Forth road bridge.

6.9 p.m.

Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)

I am sure that the House will welcome the passing of the Bill and the granting of an additional £50 million for the development work carried on by the development corporations. This money is not to be used wholly for housing development. It will be largely used for that purpose, but it is intended to cover industrial development as well. Probably the Parliamentary Secretary will not be able to give us the information now, but it would be useful if he could at some time indicate the probable proportioning of the £50 million between housing development and industrial development. We have not had the information, and we are left in the dark to some extent as to what division is being made between housing construction and industrial construction.

I ask him to consider another matter. This additional £50 million, indeed the whole of the money granted to the development corporations, will be advanced at a rate of interest paid by the corporations. In recent months, a great deal of confusion has arisen from variation in the interest rates charged. The corporations, in the middle of partially developed draft schemes, before even they have sought approval for the development scheme, must take into consideration the financial implications of the development of that scheme and the rate of interest chargeable, which is a very important matter.

If half way through the development of the scheme they find that the rate of interest goes up, it completely throws out of balance the financing of the whole scheme. An industrialist may be prepared to come to a new town and take a factory at an agreed rent, and then the development corporation may find itself faced with increased interest charges and financially deficient to develop its scheme, in which case it would have to go to the industrialist and say, "When we started, we thought that the figure quoted to you as the rent of the factory was the correct figure, but now that the interest rates have gone up we shall have to ask you to pay a higher rent."

I am quite sure that a number of developments have fallen through because of the change in the financing of them as a result of unexpected changes in the interest rate. I suggest to the Parliamentary Secretary that his Department should consider this very important principle, and that when a development corporation submits a development scheme to the Minister and he approves it—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

This is a very simple Bill asking for an increase of £50 million. The principle has already been agreed to.

Mr. Sparks

Yes, but if I may say so, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, before this £50 million can be spent it has to be submitted in the form of development schemes to the Minister for his approval. It is not automatically handed to the development corporations with instructions to spend it. Before it can be spent, the Minister has to approve development schemes incurring the expenditure of the money.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is done under the New Towns Act, 1946, as amended by the New Towns Act, 1952, but that has already been agreed to by the House.

Mr. Sparks

I must, of course, be guided by your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and I shall not enlarge on the point any further. However, I can assure the House and the Parliamentary Secretary that this is a matter which is causing some difficulty to the development corporations in carrying out their work. If it is possible for the Minister, under existing legislation, to fix the rate of interest to be charged for the loan to be advanced when he approves the development scheme, it would greatly assist the development corporations in carrying out their work and in spending this extra money to the best advantage of all concerned.

6.14 p.m.

Mr. W. R. Williams

On a point of order. I must try and get the Scottish position clear. I am assuming, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that some of this money will go to Scotland and Wales as well as to England. The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland said something about the North-East, but he was very uncommunicative even about that. There is a new town in South Wales, but we have had nobody from the office of the Home Department and Welsh Affairs to say a word about it.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has refused point blank to give any information to this House today. Indeed, he was rather rude to this House when he suggested that we should look elsewhere for information which, in our opinion, we are entitled to have when a matter of this sort is placed before us. I think, therefore, that we should have an explanation both from the office of the Home Department and Welsh Affairs and from the Scottish Office as to why they have not given the House more information.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

The hon. Gentleman has raised questions as a point of order, and my answer to him is that if anybody tried to answer his points they would be out of order.

6.16 p.m.

Mr. A. C. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

The material point in the Bill with which we have to deal is that the sum is being increased from £100 million to £150 million. Of course, as Scotsmen, we immediately want to know what proportion we are going to get of that £150 million. How is it to be apportioned? Are we going to have the Goschen formula again, or is the division of the money to be in the same ratio as the Exchequer equalisation grant as between Wales and Scotland, and so on? I join with my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and with my hon. Friend the Member for Droylsden (Mr. W. R. Williams) in asking that we may have a fuller statement from the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland.

A second point that requires clarification is the relation of the Government's policy to increased costs to local authorities generally, and to new towns in particular, where there has been a special urge to build new houses, etc. If the Government's policy has increased interest charges, is it because of that policy that they are now having to bring in this Bill and to ask for more money in order to keep the work turning over in these new towns? That is a most material point.

I want to know whether, in connection with the development of these new towns, the Government have been giving any advice to the corporations in regard to, say, East Kilbride. Can the Minister say what proportion of the building operations there have been carried out by direct labour as against contract work?

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is completely out of order on this Motion. I really will not allow the Minister to answer that question. This is a very simple Bill, and we cannot go into these details.

Mr. Manuel

I accept your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, in every way, but I thought that, as we were dealing with an increase in the sum from £100 million to £150 million, I should be in order if I could prove that if this building operation were done by direct labour the extra money would not be needed.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

Yes, I think that would have been in order when we were passing Section 12 of the New Towns Act, 1946, but it is not in order now.

Mr. Manuel

I am sorry that I cannot pursue the matter further, but I hope that, while keeping in order, the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will voluntarily give us all the help he can concerning the questions which we are posing to him.

6.19 p.m.

Commander Galbraith

With permission, and in view of the great interest displayed not only by Scottish, but by English and Welsh Members also, in the manner in which we are going ahead with our new towns in Scotland, perhaps I may be allowed to give the House the latest information available to me and which, fortunately, I have beside me. In East Kilbride, the expenditure has amounted to £3,132,000, and in Glenrothes to £1,302,000, a total expenditure of £4,434,000. In addition to that, money committed but not actually spent on East Kilbride amounts to £1,829,000, and on Glenrothes to £947,000, a total of £2,776,000, so that the total, both planned and committed, is £7,210,000. I hope that that is satisfactory.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

That is not what we asked for.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

I understand that the hon. Member has already spoken on this point.

Mr. Hughes

If I may have the leave of the House, Mr. Speaker, might I ask whether the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland could not have made a similar statement with respect to Scotland? In the first place he gave us certain statistics, and then he decided that we were entitled to a further explanation, but he did not give us anything like the graphic explanation which was given by the Minister responsible for the English Department.

Bill accordingly read the Third time, and passed.