§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 4.10 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. J. Nixon Browne) rose—
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I apologise to the hon. Gentleman and will not keep him long, but I wanted to inquire, Mr. Speaker, whether it was your intention at some point in the proceedings—not necessarily at once—to call the Amendment in the name of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mrs. Castle) and myself? The Amendment reads:That this House, while fully accepting the principle of the New Towns Act, 1946, cannot consent to adding a further fifty million pounds to the existing aggregate of two hundred and fifty million pounds until satisfactory measures have been taken to bring new industries to the North-East Lancashire Development Area, and thus stop the wastage of social capital and the flow of population form that area.
§ Mr. Speaker
I have read the Amendment to which the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) refers, but I do not think it is sufficiently relevant to the Bill to be in order as an Amendment. If the hon. Member catches my eye and is called, he may speak on some aspects of it, but he must relate it to the Bill whose Second Reading is the Order of the Day.
§ Mr. J. N. Browne
I beg to move. That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The immediate purposes of the Bill are very straightforward and can be explained in few words. The occasion of its Second Reading does, however, provide an opportunity, as the House would wish, to put before the House a general account of how the money authorised by Parliament to be spent on new towns is being used.
This is the fourth Bill which has been put forward to raise the limit of advances which may be made from the Consolidated Fund to the new town development corporations in Great Britain to enable them to meet capital expenditure. The limit which was set in the original Act of 1946 at £50 million has already been raised to its present level of £250 million. The main proposal in Clause 1 of the 1300 Bill now before the House is that the limit should be further raised to £300 million.
Commitments have already been undertaken for expenditure totalling about £225 million of the £250 million now available, and it is evident that by the end of the present financial year much of the remaining £25 million will have been committed, Now is therefore the right time for the Government to bring forward this proposal to raise the limit by a further £50 million. This £50 million should carry us on until about the middle of 1959. It is too early to predict whether the fifth New Towns Bill will be the last, but we are certainly nearing the end of our journey in England and Wales, though not yet in Scotland.
The second purpose in Clause 2 is to avoid some unnecessary printing. At present the annual accounts of the development corporations are presented to Parliament twice, once as part of the corporations' annual reports which are made to the Secretary of State and Minister of Housing and Local Government and laid by them before Parliament; and again as an appendix to the Report in which the Comptroller and Auditor-General lays before Parliament the Ministers' account of issues from the Consolidated Fund and the advances to the corporations. Both submissions are governed by the statutory requirements of Section 13 of the New Towns Act, 1946.
The Public Accounts Committee suggested this year that measures be taken to avoid this duplication, running to some 300 pages of print. Clause 2 of the Bill does so by relieving the Comptroller and Auditor General of his obligation to lay the accounts with his Report. The opportunity is being taken in subsection (1) of Clause 2 to require that the corporations' annual reports shall include their accounts; they always have done this, but it has not so far been a statutory obligation. There is no change in the respective accounting responsibilities; it is only the duplication of printing which will be saved. The Comptroller and Auditor General will, of course, still be sent copies of the corporations' accounts by the Ministers with their own account, as the 1946 Act requires.
Let me turn now to Clause 1 of the Bill and its main purpose. The figure of £300 million is, of course, a large sum is the 1301 taxpayer securing value for his money? In asking the House to approve this Bill, I must, I think, satisfy hon. Members on that point. I will quote the fewest possible figures. If hon. Members want any figures that I have not given, my right hon. Friend will provide them when he winds up the debate. I know, too, that the House will understand if I deal rather more fully than would my right hon. Friend, if he were making this speech, with Scottish affairs—though, of course. I shall cover the whole ground.
I will not seek to analyse the corporations' accounts in detail, but I must give the House a broad picture of the financial position of the corporations. In England and Wales, up to 31st March, 1957, the total capital advances made was about £155 million—£16.7 million in Scotland—of which £1.8 million—£0.2 million in Scotland—had been repaid. Of the total capital expenditure, land and buildings accounted for £137 million—£15.6 million in Scotland—and sewerage, water and main roads for £13.5 million—£137,000 in Scotland; the balance has been spent on such items as furniture, plant and equipment.
Hon. Members will be aware, from the published accounts of the corporations, that there are two main accounts, a general revenue account and an ancillary services revenue account. Seven out of the twelve English and Welsh corporations made a surplus and the remaining five a loss on general revenue account in 1956–57; with an overall net surplus of approximately £36,000. On ancillary services revenue account nine of the twelve corporations showed losses which, where there was any profit on general revenue account, more than offset that profit. Of the remaining three, two—Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield—showed an overall profit as their surplus on general revenue was greater than their loss on ancillary services. The latest English new town, Corby, which shows a surplus on general revenue, is rather like Scottish new towns, in that it does not operate an ordinary ancillary services account. The overall loss for all twelve corporations, reckoning both accounts together, for the year was approximately £710,000. The accumulated deficits from previous years bring the overall accumulated deficit at 31st March, 1957, to £3.6 million.
1302 It was inevitable from the start that the heavy expenditure required for roads and main services in advance of housing and other development, a policy essential if rapid development was to be carried out, would involve losses in the early years. The position should steadily improve. Seven corporations, as I have said, are making surpluses on general revenue account and this progress should continue.
The losses on sewerage are a heavy burden, but in some part at least these losses ought properly to be borne by the sewerage authorities and met from the district council rates. It is hoped that negotiations to transfer sewerage installations to the appropriate sewerage authorities may shortly be begun by the individual corporations. Given some such relief from this burden, and as the initial expenditure on services increasingly bears fruit with further housing and commercial development, the corporations should, in the end, be able to cover their expenditure on both accounts and thereafter begin to overtake the accumulated deficits.
In Scotland, the position is rather different. East Kilbride and Glenrothes are showing substantial losses on general revenue account; at Cumbernauld development is only now starting. The aggregate deficit for 1956–57 was over £300,000. There are two main reasons why the Scottish new towns show less satisfactory results on general revenue account than the English. Firstly, they have not progressed so far, and, secondly, the level of house rents in Scottish new towns has never been satisfactory. I will refer to rents later on.
The fact that new towns in Scotland are such substantial county ratepayers as compared with the rest of the county area has benefited their ancillary services expenditure perhaps more than has been the case in England and Wales. The development corporations have received excellent co-operation from the local authorities concerned who have borne a considerable proportion of the capital burden of providing main services such as water, sewerage and highways. There is, therefore, no substantial deficit on the corporation accounts for these services in Scotland.
That, briefly, is the financial situation of the development corporations. How are we to assess progress, and are we getting value for the money spent? The 1303 first, and most obvious, criterion is, of course, the scale of physical development and the number of people for whom new houses in better surroundings have been provided. Taking as a whole the new towns in England and Wales, the halfway mark in terms of size has now been passed. Some of the towns, such as Crawley and Hemel Hempstead, are within three to four years of the point at which the corporations will cease to build houses. Others have further to go but the rate of growth, again taking the new towns as a whole, has probably passed its peak.
Over 55,000 dwellings in England and Wales had been completed at the end of September this year, 53,500 built for the corporations themselves and the remainder by private builders building for sale. This is a very big achievement, and a great social experiment, from which historians will learn much. It means that, in the last ten years, about 150,000 people have been established in the London new towns, almost all from greater London, and over 40,000 in the provincial new towns in England and Wales. In Scotland, we are approaching the 7,000 mark in terms of houses completed, 5,000 of these being in East Kilbride. We still have far to go. Even in East Kilbride it will be seven years at least before building approaches completion.
It was fundamental to the original conception that the new towns should he largely self-contained. I think they are. The four provincial new towns in England and Wales—Corby, Peterlee, Aycliffe and Cwmbran—and Glenrothes in Scotland are being built up on the basis of existing industry; our main anxiety on these is to secure some additional industry to provide a good variety of employment, particularly for women.
In the new towns round London, industry has been established to match the population—though there have been times when the supply of jobs has fallen short of the housing programme, and vice versa. Such difficulties are acute while they last, but they have always been overcome. There seems no way of avoiding them altogether, since a housing programme has to be planned a long way ahead and there is time for much to happen, including changes of mind on the 1304 part of industrialists, by the time the houses are built. In East Kilbride, likewise, industry and housing have marched reasonably well in step, and there is every prospect of the same thing happening at Cumbernauld. These two new towns will play for Glasgow a rôle somewhat similar to that played for greater London by the London new towns.
One of the principal functions of East Kilbride and the primary purpose of Cumbernauld is to provide houses for overspill population from Glasgow. Glasgow's ultimate overspill is estimated at 300,000 people; building sites in the City are rapidly being exhausted, and after about two years' time Glasgow Corporation's building programme will be confined almost entirely to central redevelopment. Of all the houses completed at East Kilbride to date, about half have been let to families from Glasgow. The proportion of houses currently completed which are being let to Glaswegians is steadily increasing and rose from 51 per cent. in the six months ended March, 1956, to 69 per cent. in the three months ended June, 1957. Building has commenced at Cumbernauld where it is intended that some 12,000 of the 14,000 houses which are to be built will be let to Glasgow families. It is estimated that over the next few years East Kilbride and Cumbernauld will jointly provide about 2,000 houses annually for Glasgow's needs: and if a programme of 5,000 houses a year for Glaswegians is to be maintained, this will leave about 1,500 houses to be built each year on redeveloped sites in the City of Glasgow and 1,500 in overspill and town development schemes carried out by local receiving authorities.
As has been said on a number of occasions, a third new town for the relief of overspill is not ruled out, but Cumbernauld has only just started and town development schemes are still under discussion and we consider we should, at present, turn all our resources and energies towards making these a success.
I now turn to the vexed question of commuting. All those who work in the new towns do not actually live there; nor do all those who live in the new towns actually work there. I do not think that some commuting is objectionable in principle. No one would want to see the towns entirely self-contained if men are to seek to improve their position or to 1305 acquire skills not catered for by their own town. But it is plainly undesirable in practice if this daily flow of workers in and out of the towns is carried to excess in any one town. I do not think this has happened. Much could be, and has been done by the careful selection of tenants and by influencing industry to establish itself where it is most needed.
I say, therefore, that the difficult job done by the Corporations in pursuance of their main task has been well done.
What is there to report about amenities? Are the towns "good places to live in", architecturally and socially? That is much more difficult to answer. The right answer—if there is one—varies so very much from town to town. Furthermore, what right hon. or hon. Gentleman can say with certainty what are the requisites of "a good place to live in"?
The Government have been criticised for not ensuring that corporations can spend money on the provision of amenities of one kind and another. So far as entertainment is concerned, I quite agree that the new towns are lacking in various forms of entertainment to which their citizens may formerly have been accustomed. But one must regard the provision of cinemas, dance halls and similar enterprises as a job for commercial people, who cannot always be expected to provide them in advance of an assured market. That market is gradually being firmly established. The lively growth of town centres is one clear indication of it, and I am confident that provision for entertainment will quickly follow.
Other forms of amenity are generally the business of local authorities or voluntary bodies rather than of the development corporations. But the corporations do assist in the provision of community centres and have been mainly responsible for some very fine buildings for community purposes. They are permitted to dispose of land very cheaply for various forms of local authority provision, such as playing fields. But there is obviously a long way to go, in these and other respects, before the new towns are equipped with meeting places and recreational facilities of all kinds which are comparable with those to be found elsewhere.
That must be so. The new towns are being created over a very short period of years. Indeed, the surprising thing to 1306 me, on the visits I have made to them, is that they have come so close to what one would expect to find in a balanced and long-established town.
Both architecturally and otherwise, the new towns have attracted the interest and respect of authoritative visitors from nearly every country in the world. Expert and inexpert opinions differ strongly as to their architectural quality. I greatly admire much of what I have seen. Personally, I have been a little worried about such things as the maintenance cost if the towns are to be kept spick-and-span, about adequate garage facilities and unnecessary side roads.
No doubt hon. Members will have their own criticisms and praise to bestow. What is interesting—here I can speak only for Scotland—is the lively public interest shown in the architecture and planning of our New Towns as compared with the public acceptance, with less demur, of new building elsewhere, building that certainly does not match the quality of the New Town developments.
Now I will turn to the difficulties brought about by the present economic conditions. The last ten years have indeed been difficult throughout, but never more than at present.
The interest rates which corporations have to pay to the Exchequer necessarily affect the scale and planning of their own building programmes and all the corporations have been reviewing their commitments and deferring any expenditure which can be deferred. This is sensible. But some corporations—particularly Bracknell and Stevenage—are compelled to maintain a high rate of building by the rate of industrial expansion. Others, such as Cumbernauld and East Kilbride, have, as I have said, a very large part to play in the dispersal of industry and population from the City of Glasgow. Here we do not intend to abate our programme of maximum possible building even in the present climate of economic difficulty.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
Can the Minister say precisely how that is going to be done? We should all like to know.
§ Mr. Browne
We have slightly different responsibilities in Glenrothes from the ones we have in East Kilbride and Cumbernauld.
Much has been heard, in the recent debate on the Address and otherwise, about the high level of rents for new town houses. For the English new towns it has always been the established policy that, after allowing for subsidies, development corporations must charge enough rent to keep their housing accounts solvent. This was laid down by Lord Silkin when he started the towns, and all his succsssors have maintained it.
The result, in a time of rising costs and interest rates, has inevitably been that new town house rents are high by comparison with the rents charged by most local authorities. Local authorities have, in general, a good many pre-war houses, built at much less cost, and by pooling their rents they can let the post-war houses at rents substantially less than would be warranted by the cost, even allowing for the subsidies. New town corporations also pool their rents, but having virtually no pre-war houses derive materially less benefit.
The real question is whether the new town rents are too high. The fact is that tenants, appreciating the immense benefit to themselves and, in particular, to their children, from living in the new towns, are willing to pay these rents. The taxpayer is already contributing very large sums to the development of the new towns. In addition to bearing the present losses, to which I have already referred, he contributes a subsidy of £32 per annum in England and Wales, for every house the corporations build to let.
I do not think that it would be fair to ask the taxpayer to contribute still more, provided that the rents are within the capacity of the tenants to pay—as they clearly are.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
What kind of standard is used to judge whether rents are within the compass of ordinary people?
§ Mr. Browne
The hon. Member would not disagree that the people of the new towns are prepared to pay the rents, and appear to be glad to do so.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
Surely the hon. Member ought to deal 1308 with the sort of comments which are made in the new town corporation reports. The Report for Cwmbran says that these conditions, that is to say, the high rates of interest and the rising costs of building,make it difficult to build houses which can he let at rents within the means of the lower paid workers within the area.The Report develops that point at some length and, with the other corporation reports, says that for this reason it cannot carry out its job.
§ Mr. Browne
I am advised that the English new towns have waiting lists for their houses, so there must be some people who are prepared to pay this level of rent.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
To what extent are the new town waiting lists made up of lower-paid workers and to what extent by higher-paid workers?
§ Mr. Browne
I am afraid that I could not answer that question without notice, but I think that the Scottish new towns are achieving what we most want to see, namely, a balanced community. Secondly, I have not yet come to the question of Scottish new towns, which I shall now deal with.
In Scotland, the effect of the old system of rating which this Government can be proud to have done away with, or altered—has always made it impossible for the new towns to balance their housing accounts, even with the higher rate of contribution of £56 per house, which the development corporation receives as a start. There is, I am afraid, no early prospect of bringing the Scottish accounts into balance, certainly not before 1961, when the completion of revaluation should relieve the tenants of part of the disproportionately high rate burdens resting upon them at present.
On the other hand, net rents in Scottish new towns are admittedly low—a four-apartment house in East Kilbride has a net rent of 5s. a week—and this is a matter which is now under preliminary discussion with the corporations.
§ Mr. Thomas Fraser (Hamilton)
What the Minister is saying will create a very false impression in East Kilbride and all over Scotland. Can he tell us what is the gross amount in rent and rates paid weekly by those same people?
§ Mr. Browne
I do not think I can say that without notice, but I think I am right—my right hon. Friend will tell the House if I am wrong—in saying that the gross amount compares very well indeed with the gross amount paid by people in the English new towns.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
Is it not a condition that, generally speaking, especially in the case of houses built by the Scottish Special Housing Association, rents must be in accordance with the rents in the district? Is it not the case that in East Kilbride the rents are very much higher than outside in the County of Lanark?
§ Mr. Browne
Yes, that is the difficulty which we have to face, without question.
Finally, whether or not hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree with what I have said, I am sure that all hon. Members will join with me in thanking and congratulating the Chairmen, members, and all the staffs of the new town corporations for the magnificent work they have performed for the nation. I am sure also that the House and the corporations would wish me to add a word of appreciation of the splendid co-operation which the corporations have received from the local authorities.
I have tried to cover all the main points justifying the need for the Bill, the financial implications and difficulties, the effects of the present economic conditions, and the extent of the achievement in terms of building and the movement of population. I hope that in so doing I have convinced the House that the new towns are something of which this country can properly be proud and that the Bill should be given a Second Reading.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Will the hon. Gentleman make one point clear before he sits down? He will, I am sure, realise that it ought to be made clear, at the beginning of the debate and not at the end. At the beginning of his speech he said that we were nearing the end of our journey in England and Wales, not necessarily in Scotland. Then, in reference to Scotland, he said that a third new town is not ruled out. Does that mean that it is the intention of the Government to rule out any further new towns in England and Wales?
§ Mr. Browne
Yes, that is the intention of the Government. On this point, the Government feel that if any of the large towns in England and Wales think it necessary at this time to deal with their overspill problem by means of a new town, they should build one for themselves. In fact, the London County Council and Manchester Corporation have already made proposals for so doing. As the House knows, there is provision for a special subsidy for approved schemes of this kind in Section 3 (3,e) of the Housing Subsidies Act, 1956.
§ Mr. Sparks
The Minister has just spoken about local authorities in future having power to develop their own new towns, and he mentioned the London County Council. London is not actually confined to the area of the London County Council. What about authorities surrounding the boundary of the County of London whose housing problem is just as acute as that in any part of London? Are they to develop a new town to cater for their overspill?
§ Mr. Browne
I think that that is up to the town concerned, to consider doing so in just the same way.
§ 4.43 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Woodburn (Clackmannan and East Stirlingshire)
We all welcome the Bill which has been presented today, and I am quite sure that the Minister of Housing and Local Government is very pleased to appear, for once, in a rôle welcomed by hon. Members. In recent times, he has, I am afraid, been given a rather frosty reception upon many of his appearances, and we can congratulate him today on coming forward with one proposal which the House is willing to accept.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I hope that my right hon. Friend will forgive me, but on this occasion I think it necessary to say, with my apologies to him for intervening in his speech, that he is going a little beyond the facts in suggesting that the Bill is welcomed by all hon. Members in the House. I am quite certain that in other circumstances it would be, but in existing circumstances all hon. Members representing constituencies within the North-East Lancashire Development Area will look on it as, at any rate, a little premature.
§ Mr. Woodburn
My hon. Friend, with his usual enthusiasm for having a whole loaf and rejecting the half loaf, is anticipating. I take it that what he wants is a little more loaf for his particular district.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I did not say that we were completely satisfied with what has been put before us, and I share with my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) some regret that the Bill does not provide a bigger meal, and that the job has not progressed even more speedily in order to make bigger advances.
In introducing the Bill, the Minister spoke about £300 million as though it were an enormous sum of money being thrown down the well. I wish this Government, and all Governments, would get out of the habit of thinking, when they are building up this country, its wellbeing and its capital value, that that is a loss. It is an investment, and what greater investment could a country have than homes for its people and healthy people coming from them? There is no more profitable investment for any country. Therefore, if we looked upon these things as investments and not as expenditures, we should have a different approach to many of the problems.
On behalf of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I join in the Minister's tribute to the chairmen and managers of the corporations. I should imagine that there is no more satisfying job in public service than the creation of these new towns. The work is really creative and those engaged upon it actually see the thing growing around them, witnessing the benefit derived from the efforts they have put in. The only regret they may have is the feeling that things are not going quickly enough and everything is not, perhaps, satisfactory at once. But these new towns are growing communities, and, in most cases, they are reasonably happy communities.
No social experiment in our recent history has been so successful as this experiment of building new towns. In twelve years, these new communities have already taken root and, as the Minister exemplified in his speech, they have taken root successfully, producing good citizens, and they are already building up 1312 homes and communities of which this country can be reasonably proud.
Transplanting people is not easy. To take people from one town to another or from one part of the country to another causes a great deal of dislocation and, sometimes, a great deal of heartburning. We found in Scotland, when trying to shift the mining population from Lanarkshire to Clackmannanshire, that a great many people drift back. It says a good deal for the new towns that they have held so many of the people who have been shifted. Older people, like trees, are not easily transplanted; they usually have families which have become rooted in a district as well. The break-up of families makes for difficulty. Therefore, the greatest success comes when the people who are transplanted are young people beginning new families in the new areas.
One of the satisfactory aspects of the reports of all the corporations is that so many of the new towns are being established with young people. East Kilbride, for example, has 90 per cent. of its people under 40 years of age. That is a quite remarkable figure. Our problems in the way we treat old-age pensioners would be much simpler if 90 per cent. of our population consisted of those under 40. East Kilbride and other new towns with their younger populations are making a very fortunate start.
We would willingly support more money for more new towns. I would even go so far as to lend encouragement to my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne; if he can persuade the Minister to grant a new town, there will be no objection from anybody on this side.
§ Mr. Silverman
It really is rather a pity that this question should not be better understood. In the towns of Lancashire of which I am speaking, we are not looking for new towns. We have perfectly good towns. But the population is drifting away from them to conurbations in the South and the new towns my right hon. Friend is talking about. We are not asking for new towns; we are asking for new industries and the possibility of living in the towns that we have created already.
§ Mr. Woodburn
I am going to deliver only one speech. My hon. Friend has 1313 managed two or three already. If he will permit me to finish mine, I shall perhaps be able to do so more tidily. Even now, I am not quite clear about what my hon. Friend is asking, but he is evidently getting in his propaganda very effectively, whatever it may convey to his constituents.
Glasgow presents a problem not only for Scotland, but for all Great Britain. London will be able to solve its problem fairly well, but in Glasgow the congestion is greater than in any other city in the United Kingdom. It is difficult for people to realise that 700,000 people are crammed into three square miles, according to my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes)—400 to the acre. In one part there are 12,000 people living over 600 to the acre. Nearly 50 per cent. of the people in Glasgow live in either one or two-room apartments. There is no problem in Britain that compares with that, and, therefore, if we use that as an example for facing this problem of new towns with a little more hope than the Minister has given us in his suggestion to close the books very shortly, I think that we shall have a better appreciation of what is necessary.
There are 300,000 people to displace from the City of Glasgow. That is nearly as many as London has to displace from its enormous city. London is not suffering from the same congestion as Glasgow. Two new towns are very valuable, but even from the Minister's figures they will merely scratch the surface of this problem. The overspill arrangements made by the recent Bill will also only tinker with the problem.
I wish the Government would get down to the question of what will happen. It is not a question of what will happen in the next two years. Merely to transfer people from Glasgow to a town next door is simply shifting the problem, not solving it. To crush half the population of Scotland into the Clyde area is simply to make trouble for the future. It is no solution. We must think in broader terms than simply to relieve Glasgow of its surplus population. It is merely transferring the problem, not solving it.
We welcome the success of East Kilbride, Glenrothes and the already promising start Cumbernauld is making. We are pleased that industry is starting so soon 1314 in Cumbernauld. Glenrothes, which, it first appeared, would not succeed in getting variety of industry, is now looking much more hopefully to the future. East Kilbride is already a thriving town. I feel satisfaction, having been in at the beginning of these new towns, that they `have developed so quickly and well. Should not the Government be encouraged by this success in good living to go on to extend the process? Should not the Government get down to the question of what will be the future of these towns and especially the future of the people coming from Glasgow?
The Minister made reference to amenities. I was very glad that he did, because I think that this is one of the main problems of the new towns in Scotland and England. In Harlow, Crawley, and other towns, there is a tendency for a great number of people to drift back to their old centres because they feel they are missing the things which made society and social life possible. There is a danger of not attaining complete success because of the lack of adequate amenities.
I know that cinemas, and such like, are supposed to be provided by private enterprise, but with the development of television this is becoming a much more risky business for cinemas, and they are threatening to close down all over the country. Therefore, there is a very little likelihood of private enterprise developing cinemas and other public entertainments in these new towns.
Where private enterprise breaks down—and it does not always succeed then public enterprise has to take its place. I hope that the Minister will not be averse to some sort of public enterprise and so make possible the kind of amenities that are required in these areas. I recollect being in church in one of the new towns where the religious services took place from an altar at one end of the hall and throughout the rest of the week the same hall—it was a Church hall—had a stage at the other end to be used for other purposes. In the Middle Ages the church was used for everything—markets and all sorts of public gatherings—and was not used only for divine services. I think in economy, especially at the beginning, the church itself might make some arrangements of this kind.
1315 I note that some churches are now having cinema shows in connection with their religious services. There might be some common purpose for many of these buildings in the early stages until the town grows big enough to accommodate the lot. The importance of these social services was brought home to me during the war, because in East London, where the houses were blitzed and were to be rebuilt, the two places built first were the banks and "locals"; the "pubs" had to be built first. People want some place to meet socially and in these new towns it is necessary to provide that kind of social life.
I am happy to see from the reports that in East Kilbride there are already 50 cultural organisations which have developed spontaneously. In Harlow, there are 12 repertory companies. A great deal of activity is arising from the people themselves, which is most satisfactory. I am a great believer in self-help in such matters. Television has probably saved the situation and has prevented a great deal of drifting back which might have taken place, because it brings something into the home and prevents the feeling of loss of the old attractions.
The case for new towns is proved. We gladly give great credit to the pioneers and to the people who thought out this method of developing life in a more happy and congenial fashion. We cannot look back with any great happiness on the days when towns grew up like Topsy, especially in Lancashire and some of the towns in the North. New towns are growing up where children can go to school without crossing roads. Intelligent planning should convert the Government from their theory that there should not be any planning. Planning has been proved and it has succeeded. Unless we plan we will not get very far. New towns in Scotland are not in themselves enough. New towns should be used as part of a great comprehensive remaking of Scotland.
There are desirable places in Scotland where we could redistribute the population. There is a lovely place at Cromarty Firth, which we made a Development Area, where we could take a new town. Many people would like 1316 to live there. English people flock to Scotland during the summer time. They realise that it is a beautiful place. They do not realise that the weather is sometimes better up there than in England in the winter time. In any case, it is a very desirable place to live. Is there any reason why the people of Scotland should be cluttered on the Clyde? There is no reason at all why a new town should not be built at Cromarty. Many people who came from that area may willingly go back from Glasgow and develop their own countryside.
We must break up this Clyde conglomeration of houses. There could be a site at Loch Ryan, where wonderful docks were built during the war and left almost desolate. Aberdeen is said to be one of the finest towns to live in in the United. Kingdom—the right size and all the facilities for good living. Around Aberdeen there is plenty of room for more development. We will welcome a new town if London wants to send some of its people to the North. We will be willing to provide land for a new town from England. That may sound curious, but Corby has been described as an English new town. I was under the impression that it was a new town from Scotland. There is no reason why we should not reciprocate and allow England to have a new town in the north of Scotland.
The Government should approach this question from the point of view of the location of industry and population. They should do it with vision. Scotland has been suffering from this grievance of a drift of population to the huge magnets of London and Birmingham. During our time in office, we stopped development on factories in these places. We induced them to go out into other parts of the country and that is what is necessary today.
If we establish growing points—places where populations and industry can grow—the problem would gradually solve itself. When a gardener plants his plants, he puts them in the right place and gives them a chance to establish themselves and they are then able to continue to grow. That is the way to cultivate our land and our population. The fear of war is the one thing that induces Governments to spend money without any other thoughts to hold them back. If vital projects were dispersed, industries could 1317 come up among the Scottish and Welsh hills, where they would be perfectly safe from bombs or other disasters of that kind.
These matters are not all separate issues, but that is how they appear to be treated. They should be considered, in addition to town planning, as part of national planning. The siting of industry, the dispersal of the population and the planning of the community should all be considered as one great comprehensive object. That is what we call making a community and building a land fit for heroes to live in.