HC Deb 14 February 1956 vol 548 cc2176-201
Mr. David Jones (The Hartlepools)

I beg to move, in page 4, line 24, after the second "area," to insert "either."

We have considered it necessary to bring forward this matter again because we regard it as of vital importance to local authorities. At an earlier stage of the Bill it was stated that, in dealing with a related matter, the Minister had, by Clause 3 (3, e,)said that houses …provided by the local authority of a congested or overpopulated area in some other area as part of a scheme of comprehensive development the general character of which is, in the opinion of the Minister, similar to the development for the purposes of a new town under the New Towns Act, 1946 would, in fact, qualify for the increased rate of subsidy. As I say, this Amendment is of vital importance to our municipal authorities. The Association of Municipal Corporations which speaks for all our borough and county borough councils has made it quite clear that for a number of reasons it regards this Amendment as of very great importance.

I am not clear—and I do not know whether we shall be able to get information from the Minister this afternoon—at what point the Minister would regard development by an authority in another area as being big enough to constitute a new town development. Would it be 200 houses? Would it be 300, 500, or 5,000? As far as I know, no one is at present in a position to say at what stage the Minister would consider such a development constituted a new town development.

It will be well known to the Committee that the local authorities vary in size. The designation of the authority is no indication of its size, either in area or in population. It is no indication of the availability of land for building in the authority's area. For instance, there are very small county boroughs, such as Canterbury, with a population of 23,000, whereas in the County of Durham there is a rural district council with a population of more than 60,000.

Very many of these small authorities, particularly borough authorities, are in considerable difficulty in finding suitable land within their boroughs to develop housing estates of reasonable size. This applies to a high degree to the London boroughs, but it also applies in the Provinces: quite a number of them are contemplating, and many are in the process of negotiating, the erection of groups of 200 to 300 houses in the areas of neighbouring authorities. I am not thinking, nor was the Association of Municipal Corporations, of just an overspill over the boundary. One can understand the Minister's reluctance to accept that aspect, because it might be a justification for an application for an extension of the boundaries in the not-too-distant future.

The Amendment, therefore, has been designed to provide for a distance of not less than five miles from the boundaries. It is quite clear; it reads: Not less than five miles from the boundary of their area for the relief of congestion or over-population within their area. Many of these medium-sized boroughs would find themselves in substantial difficulty if they had to proceed with the development of housing in these other areas at the lower rate of subsidy. This would place them at a disadvantage. There would, in fact, be more than one disadvantage to them, as I tried to draw from the Parliamentary Secretary in our earlier debates. One would be that the erection of these houses in the area of another authority would not create new rateable value for the authority responsible for erecting them. Indeed, it might have the consequence of a reduction in its population, with a detrimental effect on the grant which it would receive from the Exchequer equalisation fund.

If the local authority were under those two handicaps in any case, and if, in addition, it had to build these houses at a lower rate of subsidy, it would be placed at a distinct disadvantage compared with other authorities of approximately the same size, and would certainly be very much at a disadvantage by comparison with its bigger neighbours whose development in another area, because the problem in relation to the size of their areas was so much bigger, would constitute new town development and would attract the higher rate of subsidy. As I say, the smaller authority would find itself at a material disadvantage.

For those reasons we feel that this matter ought to merit the Minister's sympathetic consideration.

3.45 p.m.

Mr. Charles Royle (Salford, West)

My hon. Friend the Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) has made quite clear what are the purposes and the intentions of the Amendment. Perhaps I would put it in different words: when a city or town is compelled, because it has little or no building land left within its own confines, to purchase and develop land for housing in the area of some other authority, the houses so built should attract the £24 subsidy, just as though the development were similar to a new town under the New Towns Act, even though it were only a group of houses. The distance laid down is five miles from the authority's boundaries.

I return to the point which I tried to make in a previous debate on the subject. On that occasion the Minister tried to show a difference between purely housing sites and new towns. I think I am right in my interpretation of what he said. He argued that they had to be proved to be complete entities in themselves in order to receive the designation of a new town. Further to what was asked of him the other day and what has been asked of him by my hon. Friend today, I want to put another question to the Minister. How does he know how near in size these groups of houses will be to a new town ten years from now? Let hon. Members consider the case of Wythenshawe— Manchester's great satellite town—which has, I suppose, a population of 100,000. It is not a new town within the meaning of the Act, yet community centres, schools, churches and shopping centres have sprung up there and industry is fast growing in many parts of the Wythenshawe area.

Bearing in mind that 100,000 population, and all those amenities attached to it, are we advocating that a district is to be regarded as similar to a new town only if it has its own town hall? I suggest that that is a ridiculous anomaly. It means that 100,000 people can occupy a housing estate and 30,000 people can occupy a new town.

When we consider the values and rates of subsidy, is it not utterly crazy that the 100,000-populated town attracts only the lower subsidies whereas the smaller development, which happens to be called a new town, attracts the higher rate of subsidy when we are dealing with the question of moving population from one area to another?

I hesitate to mention the word "Salford" again after the way in which it was used during the early parts of the debate, but I feel that this city, part of which I have the honour to represent, is an illustration of what is taking place in this overspill problem. Salford has recently opened negotiations, as I have said previously, with the Urban District Council of Tyldesley, in Lancashire, and with Cheshire, and the areas of land which it has in mind are probably six to seven miles from the boundaries of the City of Salford.

I should like one point to be clear, and if the Minister would nod in agreement with me here I should be very happy. Am I right in understanding that under paragraph (c) houses built by Worsley in Worsley for Salford people will get the full £24 subsidy? Does the Minister agree that that is correct?

The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Duncan Sandys)indicated assent.

Mr. Royle

I am very much obliged. That satisfies me completely on that issue, and I am quite sure the corporations of Worsley and Salford will be very happy.

I go on from that and ask: why then, if Salford builds in someone else's area for people who have exactly the same needs, should the houses not have the same subsidy? If Farnworth is to get the full £24 for houses it builds for Salford, why does Salford get only £10 for the houses it builds for itself in another area? The situation seems to me quite ridiculous. If the houses are in a new town the sum is £24; if the houses are defined by the Town Development Act, 1952, the sum is £24; if they are built by the same hard-pressed authority and come under neither the 1946 nor the 1952 Acts, they get only £10. There is the same human problem, the same spoiled family life and the same anxieties on the part of the authorities and their constituents.

I say to the Minister, "You have given us nothing up to now during the Committee stage of this Bill. You have dug your heels in all the way through. At no point have you shown us that you are ready to do things to help the people in these difficult areas." All the municipal authorities are behind us on this Amendment. I would only repeat what has been said in the Committee before on this subject. Compared to the right hon. Gentleman, Mr. Molotov is a yes-man. I say to the Minister now, at this late stage, on this issue, "For the love of Mike say,' Yes'."

Mr. Sandys

It is an unusual procedure to have two debates in Committee on the same proposition. Hon. Members will not, therefore, expect me to be able to advance any very different arguments from the ones that were advanced on the previous occasion, but I think that there are still the same misunderstandings about the position and about the reasons why the Bill provides a £24 subsidy in certain cases and only £10 subsidy in others.

The hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) referred to two disadvantages which would result from the provision in the Bill as it now stands. The first disadvantage, he said, was that the building authority—that is to say, the exporting authority which builds and owns houses for its population outside its boundaries—would not receive any increase in rateable value, because the houses would be situated in the area of another local authority.

That is, of course, quite true. But he must remember, also, that the exporting authority will not have the burden of providing the services. What will happen is that the receiving authority, the authority in whose area the houses are built, will have the cost of building the services, and will also have the increased rateable value. It is not an unfair division of financial responsibility and of income.

The second point he made was that the reduction in the population of the exporting authority might affect their entitlement to equalisation grant. Again, that is true in theory. It is true in practice, but unless there is a wholesale exodus of population from these big cities the possible effect on the amount of equalisation grant they will receive is really so trifling as not to be an important factor.

Mr. D. Jones

We are not dealing with big cities; we are dealing with medium-sized authorities. The problem of having to build outside their area is not one confined to big cities. There are London boroughs which by no stretch of the imagination can be regarded as big cities who have to go outside their areas.

Mr. Sandys

The point is not so much the numbers as the proportion. I should be glad of the hon. Member's attention. He did intervene, and I should like him to listen to the answer I have to give him, which is that the issue is not really one of numbers but one of proportion. Unless the proportion of the population of a borough which leaves that borough to go and live outside is a very substantial one the effect upon the equalisation grant will really be quite trifling. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Gentleman will not be unduly alarmed on that score.

As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and I have explained on more than one occasion during our debates, the general objection to this Amendment is really best understood if we consider what is the justification for giving the higher subsidy of £24 for these expansion schemes. The £24 subsidy is payable under the Bill only to the authority of the receiving area which builds houses to accommodate population from a congested area elsewhere.

Now, the reason for that is that we do not consider it fair to expect a receiving authority, which is very often quite a small authority, and which may be engaged on a comparatively small housebuilding programme for its own people, to have to accept the very serious burden of building very large numbers of new houses for people coming in from outside—and to do it with a £10 subsidy or, before very long perhaps, with no subsidy at all.

To keep rents down to levels which the incoming tenants could afford, it would be necessary for the receiving authority to pool the rents and subsidies and to average the rents of its own population with the rents of the people coming in from outside. That is all right and we think it necessary and desirable. I think there is widespread agreement that it is a natural and desirable process for a local authority within its own area dealing with its own people.

We think, however, that it is asking altogether too much to expect some small receiving authority to agree—for their agreement is necessary—to put up the rents of its own population in order to keep down the rents of tenants coming in from outside. If that issue had to be put to a receiving authority in negotiations between the receiving authority and the exporting authority I have no doubt that all these town expansion schemes would come to a complete standstill.

4.0 p.m.

Mr. Royle

I think that most of us on this side of the Committee will agree with the Minister's analysis of the position of the small authorities and their right to the full subsidy, but it is up to him to justify why he should pay the smaller subsidy only to the authority which is exporting. We know about the justification for paying a high subsidy to the receiving authority.

Mr. Mitchison

I would ask the Minister whether he has really considered what this Amendment is about. It does not seem to raise any question as between an exporting authority and an importing authority. All it does is to allow a subsidy to be paid to an exporting authority when that authority is exporting rather less.

Mr. Sandys

I think the point made by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) is the same as that made by the hon. Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle). If the hon. and learned Member heard what I said, he would know that to understand our objection to this Amendment it is necessary to understand the purpose and justification for the payment of the higher £24 subsidy to the receiving authority.

Having explained that, I was going on to explain why the exporting authority, in our view, is in a quite different financial position from the receiving authority in these cases. The exporting authority is not faced with the problem of averaging up the rents of its own population for the benefit of some outsiders coming into the area. It is concerned with the housing of its own people and many larger authorities which do not have enough land to build the houses they require within their own boundaries decide to build houses for their people outside their boundaries.

So long as those houses are built and owned by the exporting authority, and so long as that authority has the full right of an owning authority to nominate the tenants to those houses in perpetuity it is quite clear that—except for the question of rateable value raised by the hon. Member for The Hartlepools, to which I have referred—those houses are in exactly the same position as any other houses owned by the exporting authority within its boundaries. There is no difference.

If it is proper for the exporting authority to pool the rents and generally to look upon all its houses within its boundaries as constituting a single housing pool for the purpose of finance, there is absolutely no reason why it should not also look upon those houses built outside its boundaries in exactly the same way. The authority can pool its subsidies and use them as it likes.

There is no reason why it should make the slightest distinction among houses in its subsidy pool as between those built within its boundaries and those outside its boundaries. There is no additional financial burden placed upon the exporting authority by reason of the fact that the houses it has built are just over the boundary and not just inside the boundary. That is the reason why we do not see the justification for giving houses built outside the boundary a larger subsidy than those built within the boundaries of the authority.

Mr. Mitchison

The fishing season is about to commence and the practice of fishing requires great patience. In the Committee stage of our proceedings we flung over the head of the Minister quite a collection of flies and this was one. It had peculiar advantages, to which I will refer in a moment. The Minister did not rise. We are now trying him with one fly only.

We hope that because he was a little frightened by the multiplicity of proposals last time, he will not turn down again a proposal which is excellent on its merits and which has the further advantage of being the identical proposal put forward by the Association of Municipal Corporations, the character or sponsoring of which led some hon. Friends of the Minister to be more than doubtful in supporting him in his refusal.

This Amendment does not seem to me to raise any question whatever as between an exporting and an importing authority. It relates entirely to subsidies to an exporting authority when the area of that authority is so congested or over-populated that it has to deal with its housing difficulties by building outside its area.

The right hon. Gentleman has made quite a good speech, if he will allow me to say so. It would be wholly appropriate if he were moving to delete from the Bill paragraph (c), because everything he said was as much an objection to an exporting authority getting an additional subsidy when the export was in the nature of a new town as it is to what we are proposing. We are proposing, by this Amendment, simply to take into the principle which the Minister has accepted by putting in paragraph (c) similar instances of an exporting authority which does not send out so much as to amount to a new town, but does send out an appreciable amount.

I ask the right hon. Gentleman once more to recollect why a local authority does that. No local authority will start exporting unless it is obliged to do so. If it has building room in its own area, of course, it will not do that. The existence of congestion or over-population in the area is the very best argument for giving that local authority some additional help. It still has to buy the land. it has still to build the houses and, if the houses are to be treated as the right hon. Gentleman would have them treated, as part of the proposition of that local authority—if I may use a general term— surely there ought to be some recognition of the fact that that part of the proposition is artificial. It is caused by particularly difficult conditions and involves the local authority in particular difficulties if only in the way of maintenance, administration and that sort of thing.

I suggest that I need not argue the principle. It is accepted when there is enough export. Is there any logical reason why it should not be accepted when there is rather less export? That is all we are asking. Surely, on a matter of this sort, the local authorities are fairly good, practical judges. They caused this Amendment to be put forward because they know perfectly well that the question is identical in the two cases—the relation between the importing and exporting authorities on matters like rates, costs, and the rest.

The only practical point is: ought we to give a special subsidy to the large towns, which may be in a position to export enough to amount to a new town development, and, at the same time, to refuse it either to the smaller ventures of those large towns, or to the ventures of the middle-sized towns?

We have heard one voice from Salford today. Salford could not be a better instance. If we took the whole of Salford and put it outside Salford it is still open to question whether it would really amount to a new town. Perhaps it would and perhaps it would not. Anything that is likely to be done by way of dealing with the congestion or overpopulation in Salford will clearly not amount to having a new town outside it. We are asking that these places which often have, as in that case, really acute housing difficulties should have the treatment for the same reason, and on the same principle, as those which do this on a much bigger scale.

This is really a sensible practicable proposal. I want to know what the Minister intends to do about it. If he does not accept this Amendment, what is the position? Even boroughs of middle size, such as Salford and quite a number of Metropolitan boroughs or boroughs around outer London, are in this position. How are they to deal with their difficulties? They have no decanting space inside, and they have to do something of this sort. They are, in the nature of the case, in difficulties. The mere fact of exporting increases their difficulties.

If ever there were a case for giving them something more, for retaining or slightly increasing the existing subsidies, this is that case, as a matter of horse-sense and fairness between the local authorities concerned. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not forget for one moment the human aspect of congestion and over-population. Bad houses are bad enough—we all agree about that—but congested houses, houses that are overcrowded and in an over-populated area as a whole cause a mountain of rising misery made up partly by the bad houses themselves and partly by the conditions under which people have to live and carry on their daily work.

Any Government which has a faintly progressive attitude towards housing problems surely ought not to refuse what we are asking in this Amendment. I beg the right hon. Gentleman, first, to read the Amendment—when he was speaking I was not certain whether he had read it—and, secondly, to consider the point as between the larger exports and the smaller ones. I hope that he will reconsider his decision on this matter.

Mr. Sandys

I have not risen to say that I am reconsidering my decision. I want to give an explanation to the hon. and learned Gentleman. I do not believe that he has quite understood the difference between this type of scheme which need only be just outside the boundary—five miles away—and need only consist of housing accommodation pure and simple, that is to say, purely a dormitory scheme, and the schemes envisaged in paragraph (e). The hon. and learned Gentleman said paragraph (c), but I think he meant paragraph (e)——

Mr. Mitchison


Mr. Sandys

What we are concerned with is comprehensive development, by which we mean development which consists not exclusively of housing but also of shops and industry, and perhaps offices, or something of that kind. I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman said that even if the whole of Salford went out it still would not constitute a new town. [HON. MEMBERS: "It would."] Salford has a population of about 170,000 and I should have thought that it would make quite a sizeable new town.

4.15 p.m.

If the hon. and learned Gentleman will read paragraph (e) he will see that we are concerned there—and this is what I want to emphasise—with the character of this development and not with the scale of the development. We are not saying that the £24 subsidy for the schemes under paragraph (e) will only be payable in the case of schemes which are on a scale comparable with a new town. We are also concerned with the comprehensive character. That is to say, that it will be some kind of neighbourhood or scheme, development or estate, where people will have an opportunity not only to sleep and then travel long distances—at least five miles under this Amendment—before they get to the outskirts of a big city where they may be working, but where they may have the opportunities to find work near their homes.

I think that hon. Members in all parts of the Committee will feel that it is desirable to do what we can to encourage comprehensive development and balanced communities where people can live and work and have their interests and recreation on the spot, and not merely to plan dormitory estates miles away so that they will have to travel still longer distances to their work in the big cities.

Mr. Mitchison

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question, because it seems to me, from what he has said, that this may be a matter of considerable practical importance? Is this the point? It does not matter what the size of the exported estate is, if I may use the word "estate," if, in fact, it contains a certain number of shops and amenities, and in that respect resembles a new town——

Mr. Sandys

And industry.

Mr. Mitchison

—it will qualify under this Clause. Even though it is only 500 or 1,000 people, if the character is right and there is some industry with it and some amenities, the right hon. Gentleman will not look at the number? I was not taking Salford as a serious arithmetical instance but as a new town; the smallest of them is about 25,000 to 30,000 population. The Minister would not debar those with populations of 1,000 or 2,000 if the character was right, I take it?

Mr. Sandys

I do not want to commit myself on precise numbers. Broadly speaking, what the hon. and learned Gentleman says is correct. The size of the operation is not what is important. In my view, what is important is that this is a community which is being set up, a balanced community, with employment as well as sleeping accommodation.

I say quite frankly to the Committee that I want to encourage local authorities which have an overspill problem to stimulate the export of industry as well as the export of population. Unless industry goes out with the population, all that will happen is that other people will come in and take the places of those who have gone out. Therefore, I think that as a matter of social and planning policy it is desirable that we should do everything we can to encourage local authorities to frame their overspill schemes on the basis of balanced communities rather than on the basis of dormitory estates. It is with that in mind, as well as with the financial aspects of the problem, and to give encouragement in that direction, which, I believe, is generally welcomed by all interested in town and country planning, that we have framed paragraph (e)of this subsection.

Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)

The local authorities attach importance to this matter from an entirely different point of view. No one in the Committee disagrees with the Minister when he says that in the main what we want to do is to cultivate new towns and comprehensive schemes of development of the kind he has described. As the right hon. Gentleman says, they will qualify for the higher rate of subsidy; that is quite clear.

The municipal authorities, however, are concerned with schemes of a more modest character but which, nevertheless, are still desirable for their own sake. Suppose, for example, that an exporting authority is aware that in a particular area there are sources of employment, either there or growing, and it wishes to put down a number of houses in a group near enough to be of access to those industries, not necessarily having to put up industries itself.

In other words, the industries being established there or growing there are exercising their own natural tug on congested population, but there is not sufficient living accommodation and so it comes to the knowledge of the exporting authority that that would be a desirable spot to which to export its overcrowded population. It would not, therefore, export industries from its own area at the same time, although those industries might be impelled to go there by the natural attractions of the area; but it would not be a purposeful and planned operation.

If the local authority which was exporting put down, say, a small community hall or something of that sort, it would not be a comprehensive development of the kind that qualifies under paragraph (e)but nevertheless, because of the contiguity of other social amenities, with the addition of one or two small amenities, the neighbourhood would be a perfectly suitable one. Would it not be desirable to encourage the exporting authority to do that? Is not the right way to let it have the higher rate of subsidy? This is what the local authorities have in mind. I should have thought it was the kind of development that the right hon. Gentleman should look at again. He is not really using his housing policy as an effective instrument of social planning unless he does this.

May I put a further point to the Minister? He has emphasised on several occasions, especially with regard to slum clearance, that the higher rate of subsidy would encourage the local authority to slum clear rather than to build houses for general accommodation; that is one of the main purposes of the Measure. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken at considerable length about the importing authority not being prepared to co-operate unless it had the additional attraction of the higher rate of subsidy. Is it not necessary also to encourage the exporting authority to carry out works of this sort by exporting these small communities?

The right hon. Gentleman used a highly artificial argument when he suggested that the exporting authority would be able to make use of the houses that it had established outside its own area for purposes of its own housing pool. Let us consider the situation. It will be hard enough for local authorities to pool the rents in areas where there is a sense of community. When the argument starts and meetings are held on the housing estates, as they are almost certain to be held, either by the local authority or by enraged tenants, the argument will go that, after all, they live together and are helping to support each other, and the rents of some of them are going up because others are in worse position to pay higher rents. That is the main argument.

If the scheme is to succeed at all—and there are many who think that it will not succeed, and ought not to succeed— it can only be because there will be a community sense and, therefore, a sense of responsibility to each other among people living in the same community in the same neighbourhood.

But suppose that the argument is advanced that the right hon. Gentleman has made the rents go up by quite substantial sums in a congested neighbourhood in order to keep down the rents of some people who have gone to more delectable areas outside. That is a highly artificial conception which can only begin and end in Whitehall and could never have reached the local authorities. To assume that these people on those housing estates in those less attractive areas will enthusiastically subscribe towards a rent pooling scheme because some people quite considerable distances away in better areas are tenants of the same authority, is something that will not work. It has nothing to do with social planning or with humanities. It only has something to do with the Treasury.

The Minister ought to look at this again if he is really to make his scheme work, or the worst alternative will arise that the exporting authorities will not export. After all, the addition of new rateable value is an important incentive to local authorities. But they will not have the new rateable value. It has been worked out over and over again that housing authorities have in the past not had the housing burden that some people have suggested, because once a new house is put up and it is rated, a very substantial addition to the rates is therefore made. The local authorities in this instance will not have that incentive. They will lose the rateable value entirely. Therefore, there will not be the same encouragement for local authorities in congested areas to take part in these exporting schemes.

The whole thing is in the Minister's own hands. He might, for example, take a more generous view of what would be the sort of schemes to qualify for the higher subsidy. In other words, if he is satisfied that there are amenities in the area and that additional amenities of a quite modest kind are provided by the exporting authority, he ought to tell the Committee that in circumstances of that sort he would allow them to qualify under paragraph (e.) The right hon. Gentleman has been far too resistant in this matter and ought to have given way more. It may be that we have been a little too amiable and have not given the Minister enough trouble, but we can easily alter; there is no difficulty about that. In fact, our amiability has been lying rather heavily on us recently and it is quite easy for us to change. The Minister should be a little more forthcoming than he has been so far.

Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)

I apologise to the Minister for not having heard the whole of his speech, but I have been engaged on the perhaps better duty of trying to influence the electors of Taunton as to how they should vote today.

I want to plead with the right hon. Gentleman on this matter. I quite agree with him that, in great communities like London, it is desirable that if the population is to move outside to other areas, industries should follow. But I ask his consideration for a problem with which he is familiar and about which I have made pleas before: that is, the problem of Slough, which is typical of other areas.

Because of its trading estate and its development of industry, Slough has attracted populations from all over the country. They came first from the distressed areas. Now, they are coming from London itself. I spent Saturday morning on the large new London County Council estate at Langley, in which 10,000 people from London will be accommodated and where already, within a few months, more than half of them have been found employment in the industries of Slough.

4.30 p.m.

In that town we have now reached a position where we cannot build another house. Every available yard of land has been used for building houses, or is planned for that purpose, and still we have between 1,000 and 2,000 vacancies for employment and people are coming from 20 and 30 miles away to obtain work in the town. How are we to deal with that problem? The only possible way is to provide accommodation in the neighbouring areas. The right hon. Gentleman knows the area very well. I am perfectly sure that he does not want to see factories established in the village of Eton. I am quite sure that he does not want the countryside of the Thames Valley, Thatchet, Wraysbury, Clivedon and Cookham spoiled by the development of factories and industries.

What are we to do? We have the factories and the industries in Slough. The people there should be accommodated, with reasonable planning, within an area which they can reach. I suggest to the Minister that the solution of the problem would be for the local authority in Slough, in conjunction with the authority for Eton urban area and with Eton Rural District Council, to come to agreement on some joint scheme by which communities might be developed.

Architectural planning is such now that it might easily be possible to have in the Thames Valley quite beautiful communities which would not imperil the loveliness of the valley. We could plan them together and they would be real communities. They would not only have houses but they would have schools, community centres, churches, and local cinemas.

The right hon. Gentleman is surely not going to ask that before a subsidy is placed on houses in those development areas we must have factories and industries. It would be much better to have the factories and industries in the trading estate of Slough where they are already —and they are not a pretty picture— rather than destroy the beauty and amenities of the Eton which the right hon. Gentleman knows and loves so much, and of the Thames Valley.

Is not that a sensible proposition? Will the Minister not agree that if Slough Borough Council, in agreement with the Eton rural and urban authorities, comes to the conclusion that we should have housing estates which can relieve over-populated Slough it should be entitled to a subsidy on the houses without being required to make the area ugly by the development of factories and industrial centres which are absolutely unnecessary?

There seems to be a more conciliatory atmosphere in the Committee today and I ask the right hon. Gentleman to say that in such circumstances as I have described, where there is a population which cannot be accommodated in an industrial centre and which goes outside to an unspoiled area, the beauty of that area should not be destroyed by insisting upon its industrial development.

I ask him to say that he will agree that in those areas there should be communities without industrial workshops, because those are easily accessible by transport, and that he will extend the subsidy to new houses in those areas.

Mr. Sandys

I imagine that the Committee will soon wish to reach a decision on the Amendment, and perhaps it would be useful if I replied now to the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) on the rather different point which he raised. Incidentally, the right hon. Gentleman said that perhaps he had been too amiable. I would only say that occasional amiability becomes him well.

The right hon. Gentleman raised the case where the population was exported —if we may use that term—to an area in which there was industry already, but where there was an insufficiency of labour and into which, therefore, it would not be reasonable or necessary for industry to be exported together with the population, and yet the area would not constitute a dormitory because the people would have work in the new place where they went to live. There are cases of that kind, though they are not very numerous. The best way of handling them is through a town expansion scheme. That, to a large extent, is the purpose of the Town Development Act, 1952.

Mr. Bevan

It does not always happen.

Mr. Sandys

That is the best and most effective way of doing it. A local authority in an area where there is shortage of labour and industry has every interest in carrying out an expansion on its own responsibility, financed through the Town Development Act and with the higher subsidies which are provided in this Bill. I recognise, however, that there may be cases, though I think that they will be exceptional, where an exporting authority builds houses for its people in some small or medium-sized town not very far away in which there is a shortage of labour.

Mr. Bevan

Or where there might be.

Mr. Sandys

And where the exported population will find work on the spot. Where those cases exist we would, naturally, welcome any scheme of that kind. 1 notice that the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) seems to disagree.

Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)

What the right hon. Gentleman is now saying does not apply to London and Greater London because they are such cosmopolitan areas. It is quite impossible to go outside these areas to a near vicinity and provide employment where the people go, because so much overlapping takes place.

Mr. Sandys

I said that there might be exceptional cases where this kind of solution was proposed by the authority, that we should wish to encourage it and that we should welcome it.

Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St Pancras, South)

With £24?

Mr. Sandys

Because we welcome it and wish to encourage it, it does not follow automatically that we are justified in paying a higher subsidy for that purpose. The purpose of the higher subsidy is to meet higher costs.

On more than one occasion I have made it clear that a local authority which builds outside its boundaries for its own people, retaining the ownership of those houses and disposing of them as part of its general housing pool, is not involved generally in higher costs than if it built those houses within its own boundaries. It may be that labour costs a little more and probably the land costs a little less, but there is no reason to suppose that in general it will cost the authority more to build those houses five miles away from its boundaries than it would cost to build them inside its boundaries.

Mr. Bevan

The right hon. Gentleman is not meeting my two points which, although not of major importance, are points of substance. One is that the local authority does not possess the rateable value and the other is that it does not effectually add to its own housing pool. Certainly, it does not do so psychologically.

Mr. Sandys

If the right hon. Gentleman had been here earlier he would know that in reply to the hon. Member for The Hartlepools (Mr. D. Jones) I explained that the receiving authority gets the additional rateable value——

Mr. Bevan


Mr. Sandys

At the same time the receiving authority has to bear the cost of providing the services. By and large, the one offsets the other. As to the question of pooling, the right hon. Gentleman said that it was not reasonable to expect the exporting authority to regard its houses outside as belonging to its general housing pool as regards the subsidies and general averaging of rents——

Mr. Bevan

I was not speaking about the landlord relationship. I was speaking about the tenant relationship to the landlord.

Mr. Sandys

I was talking about rents, in the main. The right hon. Gentleman said that it was not reasonable to expect them to pool their subsidies and to use them for the purpose of subsidising rents, as might be necessary with the whole of their housing property inside and outside the boundaries of the authority. I think I am right in saying that tie L.C.C., which goes in for these out-county estates in a big way, treats those which are outside the County of London as part of its general housing pool. The hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) will correct me if I am wrong——

Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)indicated assent.

Mr. Sandys

I see that the hon. Member for Clapham nods agreement. The L.C.C. regards the whole of its property, whether inside or outside its boundaries, as part of one housing pool——

Mr. Bevan


Mr. Sandys

—and I believe that local authorities generally will treat their houses in that way. Where it is necessary to provide subsidies, they will do so out of the common pool of subsidies which they receive. Therefore, while welcoming any schemes of this kind, I do not think that there is any financial justification for giving increased subsidy, because in general I believe that local authorities will be able to undertake any financial commitment involved in such schemes.

Mr. Bevan

The right hon. Gentleman does not argue fairly. He takes one segment of a case and treats it as the whole. I did not speak about pooling rents. I said in the last meeting of the Committee that I have always approved of local authorities pooling rents. I am well aware that exporting authorities such as the L.C.C. pool the rents of houses inside and outside their boundaries.

That was not the point I was making. I was dealing with the psychological difficulties that will arise when the major rent proposals of the right hon. Gentleman as to differential rents have been brought in. I was saying that there will be a considerable psychological resistance by tenants inside schemes of that kind to having their rents adjusted because of tenants living outside in somebody else's boundary. That point has not been met, but I do not press it further.

Mr. Sandys

The proportion of tenants outside is small compared with the total number of tenants of a local authority and it is inconceivable, on the scale on which we are operating even with the largest authorities, that the number of tenants living in estates outside the boundaries of an authority would have an appreciable effect upon the level of rents inside.

Mr. Gibson

To get this right on the record, may I make it clear that while it is true that the L.C.C. has a pooled rent account—indeed, the 1936 Act provides for a revenue account which pools all the estates—that does not result in the case of the L.C.C. in anything like a differential rent scheme or even a rent rebate scheme? It provides for varying rents, varying with the type, age, structure and value of the premises being let. However, there is nothing like this nonsensical attempt to divide over the whole of the estate the amount of the subsidy, producing a silly figure such as 7d.

Question put, That "either" be there inserted:—

The Committee divided: Ayes, 224, Noes 271.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Bill reported, without Amendment; as amended, considered.