§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. J. R. Bevins)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.
The new towns are among the most audacious experiments of the post-war years. Although it is very easy to point to the problems and perhaps to the shortcomings, I am sure that it is the general view of the House that they have succeeded in giving vastly better living and working conditions to very many families, and especially young families, from the London area. By the mid-1960s about 150.000 new houses will have been constructed in the new towns and the total population of these towns in England and Wales alone will probably have exceeded the half-million mark.
The new towns not only represent an important and, on the whole, successful social experiment, but they are also very big business, although that business is as yet unremunerative. Up to the end of March this year there had been Exchequer advances to the new town corporations amounting to £200 million, and the average rate of interest on those loans was rather more than 4½ per cent. In the end, the total advances will reach £400 million, all of which, we hope, will be recovered eventually for the taxpayer.
The total accumulated deficit in the new towns is at present running at the rate of about £4½million. That is a big figure, of course, but it is not a surprising figure in view of the rapid rate of development and the need to provide costly main services before remunerative building could begin. This picture will change as expenditure bears fruit. I say this at the start, because I think it important that we should bear in mind, during the debate that all the development and building which is being carried out by the development corporations has been financed by the taxpayer and certainly so far the taxpayer is not within sight of recovering his outlay. 844 The House will remember that when the New Towns Act, 1946, was passed the intention was that in due time the assets of the corporations should be transferred to the local authorities in the towns, but in the light of experience many enlightened people—and they are not all members of the Conservative Party, by any means—have come to see that there are very cogent objections to this course.
In the first place, we had to ask ourselves what would be the practical result of transferring the assets of new towns to the local authorities. The practical result, as we see it, would be that in most of the towns the council will then own about three-quarters of all the properties in the district and perhaps even more. Yet property ownership, certainly on a scale like this, is quite outside the normal functions of local government in this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] I concede at once that many of our large city authorities are very large property owners, and they manage their large corporate estates sometimes quite well and sometimes, as the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) perhaps knows, less well. This has been going on in our cities for a long time, and, because of that, many of these local authorities possess wide experience in property management. This is certainly not the case with the local authorities in the new towns.
This question of how much a local authority can be expected to do in the way of property management is one which, I know, fascinates the minds of hon. and right hon. Members opposite even more than it does the mind of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, because he has not to address himself to the awful question of the municipalisation of all rented houses. But, in one sense, our problem is much simpler. We have to decide whether in the new towns it would be right to confer upon local authorities the management of rented house property and also of a great deal of industrial and commercial property.
I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree that that would be a very big undertaking indeed. In the Government's view, at any rate, it would not be a practicable undertaking. But apart altogether from its feasibility, the Government also take the view that for a local authority to own such a high 845 proportion of the properties in its area is undesirable both on social grounds and on general considerations of the proper functions of elected local authorities. I think that there would be general consent for the statement that estate management should be stable and that, generally speaking, it is unwise to mix it with politics.
There is, however, another reason why we are opposed to the transfer of the assets to the local authorities, at any rate, at this stage. The intention expressed in the 1946 Act was that each town should be wound up when the planned development stage had been substantially achieved. Those were the words of the Act. Now that some of the towns are nearing this point, we can see, as we certainly could not see in 1946, that this does not make a good moment for a financial settlement of transfer terms, whether it be to a local authority or to anyone else.
Some of the towns will certainly not be paying their way at this point. Of course, the towns will not stand still, they will continue to grow, and we hope that the values will continue to appreciate. I wish to emphasise, however, that it is the taxpayers' investment and we think we are wise to wait for some years until we can see at what level the value of the investment settles down. Meanwhile, the value of the taxpayers' investment is secure.
In July, 1957, my right hon. Friend announced the decision of the Government to legislate for a central agency to take over the assets of the development corporations as and when the towns became substantially complete. This proposal, which, of course, is the heart of the Bill now before the House, finds unanimous support on the benches behind me, whatever may be thought about it by those right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, in whose names the Amendment on the Order Paper stands.
Of course, the Bill is not universally beloved; we never thought that it would be. Our proposal has been criticised largely on two grounds. I will come to those criticisms right away. First, it is said that the original Act proposed a thoroughly democratic solution; that is to say, that the control of the new towns' affairs should be placed in the hands of the elected representatives of the people 846 by transferring the ownership of the estates of the development corporation to them. It is argued that, by contrast, our proposal is iniquitously undemocratic. I do not believe that it is anything of the kind. I believe that this criticism rests on a confusion of thought.
§ Mr. Bevins
After all, in all our big towns and cities the local authority is not the owner of most of the houses, the shops, the offices and the factories. The London County Council is not, the Manchester Corporation is not, the Liverpool Corporation is not, but does any hon. Gentleman opposite really suggest that this in itself frustrates democracy in London, in Manchester, in Liverpool or elsewhere? Indeed, in our view, local government would be far less democratic than it is now in those places if the local authority happened to be the major property owner. I submit to the House that ownership and government are not only two quite different things, but that, like oil and water, they do not mix.
There is a second way in which this argument is sometimes presented. The Government, it is said, are engaged in a swindle to cheat local authorities of something which they were intended to have and ought to have. That is the point of view commonly put by hon. Gentlemen opposite and, certainly, the 1946 Act intended them to have these properties. Of course it did.
§ Mr. Charles Doughty (Surrey, East)
There is an alternative. If my hon. Friend will look at Section 15 (2) of the Act he will find that one of the bodies to whom these new towns might be handed over was the local authority and the other was the statutory undertakers. There is no undertaking in the Bill to hand them over solely to the local authority.
§ Mr. Bevins
I agree with my hon. and learned Friend, but the point I was trying to put with firmness was the intention in the mind of the Minister who introduced the 1946 Act that in all probability these properties should be transferred to local authorities.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has looked at the debate that took 847 place in 1946, and that he will appreciate that both sides of the House agreed that it was the intention to hand them over to the local authorities.
§ Mr. Bevins
I have refreshed my mind about what was said by hon. Members on both sides of the House at the time and on my reading of those debates the Conservative Party, in opposition at that time, did not completely commit itself to that course.
§ Mr. Evans indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Bevins
If the hon. Gentleman will refresh his mind I think he will find that this is the case. My point is that whatever the 1946 Act said, and whatever the 1946 Act intended, does not settle this question in 1958.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but he said just now that he agreed with his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Surrey, East (Mr. Doughty), who said that the 1946 Act did not provide for transfer to local authorities and that the transfer could be made to statutory undertakers. I will only ask the hon. Gentleman one question at this stage: did he mean that he agreed with his hon. and learned Friend?
§ Mr. Bevins
I do not want to mislead the House. My reading of the 1946 Act was that it empowered the Minister at a certain point to transfer the assets to the local authorities, but there was certainly no obligation put on the Minister to take that course. I think that that is the right construction to put on the Act.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I am sorry to interrupt again, but we do not want to waste time on something which is quite "phoney," if I may say so. It was suggested that the 1946 Act empowered the Minister to transfer to statutory undertakers the assets of the development corporation. Is that the considered view of the Department?
§ Mr. Bevins
I do not dissent from what the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) says. When I said what I did say a moment or two ago I was on the point that there was not an obligation on the Minister to transfer the assets to the local authority concerned.
§ Mr. Bevins
The fact is that there is no good reason to hand over the assets to the local authorities at this stage. After all, what is the purpose of local government? Local government is there primarily to provide services. For that purpose it needs to own some property, some houses, offices, plant and all the rest, but it does not need to own shops and factories. We on this side of the House also do not think that local authorities need own all the houses in their districts into the bargain.
Indeed, during the last ten years or so the local authorities in the new towns have been efficiently providing most of the normal services. The only services which some of the development corporations have taken over from the local authorities are water and sewerage. Otherwise, the authorities have continued to exercise all their usual powers and, of course, they will continue to do so in the future.
I can well understand that some of the local authorities would like to own the properties which the corporations have created, because they believe that there is money to be made out of it. But expectations and realities, as hon. Members on both sides of the House know, are often different things and the fact that the local authorities had expectations to these properties in 1946 does not give them the right to them now, and there is nothing in the Bill which defrauds these local authorities of anything that they ought to have.
I beg hon. Gentlemen opposite to recognise the distinction between ownership and government because it is fundamental to what we are doing in this Bill. The functions of a development corporation and of a local authority are quite distinct and they have always been kept so. After all, the corporation is a building and development agency, and, inevitably, it is the main landowner in the locality. The local authority, on the other hand, provides the services. We think that this is a right and proper distinction, which Lord Silkin himself made when he started the new towns. As I have said, water and sewerage were the only local government services which he empowered the development corporations to provide when that proved necessary. That is why I say the Bill is a good one, because it maintains this distinction between government and ownership.
849 Next, it is argued that a central agency such as we are proposing to create is liable to be bureaucratic, unfeeling and remote. I have probably used those adjectives myself about central agencies of one kind and another in the past. I should like to assure the House that we are most anxious to avoid those dangers. It is the firm intention of my right hon. Friend that the Commission should decentralise a great deal of its business. I will come to the mechanics of that part of the Bill in a moment.
The sponsors of the 1946 Act foresaw two simple stages in the growth of the new towns: first, the stage of building arid development; and, secondly, the settlement of ultimate ownership. Foresight is a great quality if it happens to be right, but the empirical approach to these matters is sometimes much better. My right hon. Friend has given a great deal of thought to this question, and he takes the view that there are three stages in the evolution of the new towns: first, development such as we have seen in progress since 1947; secondly, consolidation while the new towns are settling down; and, thirdly, the settlement of ultimate ownership. My right hon. Friend is not alone in his wisdom in taking that view. Many people in the House and outside it support him in that.
I want to make it perfectly clear to the House that the Bill is strictly limited to the second stage, that of consolidation. How long this period will last it is impossible for me to say, although it may take a long time, because most of the towns will continue to grow and the value of the properties will continue to appreciate for many years to come. We believe that the question of ultimate ownership is one which it would be premature to try to settle at this stage. After all, in 1946 we could not tell what the new towns would be like in 1958. Remembering that, my right hon. Friend is sure that in 1958 we cannot tell what they will be like in 1970 or even later. We do not know what problems we shall have to face, and we take the view that it is better not to try to guess at them now.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
Are we now legislating for 1970? Is it not the Minister's intention to create the Commission within a reasonable period of time, or 850 does he intend to defer the matter until 1970?
§ Mr. Bevins
I have already said that nobody can sensibly forecast how long the period of consolidation is likely to take.
Clause 2 of the Bill, which sets out the functions and duties of the Commission, is drafted with the considerations in mind to which I have referred. It makes it clear that the object of establishing the Commission is to provide an instrument which will take over, hold, manage and turn to account the corporation's property. It is true that it has a power to sell, and I will come to that in a moment, but the selling of properties is certainly not one of the main purposes for which the Commission is set up.
Clause 2 goes on to say that the duty of the Commission, having taken over property from the respective corporations, is to maintain and enhance the value of the estate and the return which it gets from it, but in doing so it is to have regard to the general interests of the town and the convenience and welfare of the people. Therefore, I think that hon. Members will see that the objective is that the Commission should be a good landlord. It is not to be a disposals board. It is true that the Minister may issue directions to the Commission, but in doing so he is bound to have regard to the duties which are imposed on the Commission by the Bill. I am advised that it would be outside the scope of the Bill for any Minister to tell the Commission to sell its estate wholesale either to local authorities or to private interests. I am advised that that would require another Bill.
§ Mr. A. Evans
The Parliamentary Secretary is dealing with a rather important point. He is dealing with Clause 2 (4). The Commission is to act in accordance with paragraphs (a), (b), (c) and (d), subject to any direction given to it by the Minister. It seems to be an overriding provision that the Commission can act subject to any direction given to it by the Minister.
§ Mr. Bevins
If the hon. Gentleman will study carefully the wording of Clause 2, he will see that subsection (1) refers to the duties of the Commission as the holding, managing and turning to account of the property vested in the Commission.
851 Subsection (2) says that there shall be a general duty on the Commission to maintain and enhance the value of the land held by it and the return obtained from it, but in discharging its functions the Commission shall have regard to the convenience and welfare of the people living there. These general powers and definitions are the heart of the Clause, and in one sense the heart of the Bill. They are in no sense overridden, but only to some extent modified by the subsequent provisions.
Clause 2 also gives the Commission certain explicit powers, including the power to sell property, but these powers may be used only for carrying out the duties which are laid upon the Commission. For example, it could use these powers, if the Minister of the day so agreed, to encourage owner-occupation of houses, because that would be a desirable social objective and one which, to use the wording of the Bill, advances the convenience and welfare of the people living there. Again, it could sell land to a local authority if the local authority needed it for its own purposes. What I am seeking to stress it that the Commission could not go on a general selling spree. I hope that these provisions will satisfy hon. Gentlemen opposite that a Minister could not turn the Commission into a realisation agency by administrative action. There is no intention at all to do that.
I should like particularly to draw the attention of the House to subsection (4, b). There, we say that the Commission, with the approval of the Minister, may make contributions towards the cost of providing amenities for the towns. My right hon. Friend and I realise that there is a feeling in some quarters that in the past the corporations have not done enough to provide those amenities, although what they have done ought not to be underestimated. We envisage that the Commission should act as a good landlord, and so big a landlord as the Commission could be expected to help local authorities, or other organisations for that matter, in providing such things as playing fields and buildings for community centres.
§ Mr. Shinwell
Supposing that the Commission declines to provide the amenities which the local inhabitants require, what 852 happens then? If there is a grievance, does not that bring the whole matter into national politics?
§ Mr. Bevins
I do not think that that is a serious possibility. The right hon. Gentleman will see from Clause 2 (2) that the Commission is obliged for various purposes to have regard to the convenience and welfare of the people who live in the new towns. As time passes, the probability is that the Commission will be in an improved financial position and will be much better able than the present new town corporations may be to make contributions for amenity purposes to local authorities or other bodies.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The hon. Gentleman has not understood my right hon. Friend's point. Although the Commission has power to contribute towards amenities, if it does not exercise that power the Minister can give directions. Is not the matter then brought back into politics?
§ Mr. Bevins
The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) will see from the Bill that it remains the general duty of the Commission to do this sort of thing. Hon. Members may rest content that my right hon. Friend will see that the Commission is so composed that its members are men capable of discharging their duties in a proper social sense.
§ Mr. Frank Bowles (Nuneaton)
Will the Minister of Housing and Local Government be answerable in the House of Commons for the conduct of the Commission?
§ Mr. Bevins
Yes. My right hon. Friend will be responsible for the general conduct of the Commission, but not, of course, for its day-to-day administration.
§ Mr. Sparks
The hon. Gentleman said that amenities and welfare provisions for the inhabitants of a new town would be the responsibility of the Commission. Is not that now a responsibility of county and county district councils? In what way will the Bill regulate relations between the Commission and the local authority?
§ Mr. Speaker
I hope that we shall be able to proceed with fewer interventions. 853 It is better that we should have two set speeches setting out the main arguments. To have too many interventions is to waste time.
§ Mr. Hugh Dalton (Bishop Auckland)
We have all understood the questions which have been raised, but let me put a specific question. Supposing that in the new town of Peterlee—which several of us know very well—there were grave failure to provide amenities for the population, would it be possible to question the Minister himself in the House on that failure? Yes, or no?
§ Mr. Bevins
The position at the moment is perfectly well known. All that the Clause does is to authorise the Commission to make contributions towards the cost of providing amenities for a new town. I should have thought that in the circumstances that would be a provision generally welcomed by hon. Members.
There is now this express provision for the Commission to contribute towards amenities, and my right hon. Friend intends that the Commission should act as generously as it can in this matter, consistent with its responsibility towards the Government, whose investment, after all, is in its charge, and with the responsibilities of local authorities themselves to provide for the needs of their citizens.
The Commission's local organisation is mentioned in the second paragraph of the First Schedule to the Bill. We envisage that the Commission will set up a small committee in each town to deal with housing management. An obligation is set out quite clearly to compel the Commission to do that. The Commission may at its discretion give that committee power to deal with business other than housing, and no doubt in many cases that will be found convenient and sensible. Obviously, the Commission will have to feel its way and learn by experience.
What my right hon. Friend has in mind is that the chairman of the local committee should be a full member of the Commission, with the remaining members local people, perhaps some members of the former development corporation and some appointed after consultation with the local district council.
§ Mr. A. Evans
I have in mind what you said, Mr. Speaker, but this is a rather important matter. The Parliamentary Secretary said that the Commission would be obliged to set up a local committee for local management of a new town. However, the Schedule says:The Commission may make arrangements…The setting up of local committees is permissive, not obligatory.
§ Mr. Bevins
It is quite clear from the Schedule that the Commission is bound to appoint a local committee and to delegate responsibilities for housing management to that committee.
§ Mr. Dalton
The hon. Member is misleading the House. He has just said that, quite apart from the provisions of the Schedule, the Commission must appoint these bodies. I ask him in what Clause that provision is to be found and he refers me to the Schedule. He has not read the Bill himself.
§ Mr. Bevins
I will answer the right hon. Gentleman's question. Paragraph 2 of the First Schedule says:It shall be the duty of the Commission to make, in relation to the management of land held by them in any town for the purpose of being let for dwellings, arrangements under this paragraph approved by the Minister.I was asked where was the provision which compelled the setting up of a local committee. That is a straight answer to the right hon. Gentleman's question.
§ Mr. Dalton indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Bevins
Of course it is. I am sorry if the right hon. Gentleman cannot read it, but it is there in black and white. I am quite willing to give way if any hon. Member is in doubt.
§ Mr. Evans
This is very important, for we are concerned about local participation in the management of these new ventures. I draw the hon. Gentleman's 855 attention to paragraph 2 (1), on page 14, which says:The Commission may make arrangements for any part of their business in any town, or in two or more towns, to be conducted on behalf of the Commission… by a committee …It says that the Commission "may" do so. There is no obligation.
§ Mr. Bevins
The hon. Member must read the next part—I am sorry to have to bore hon. Members with this again—which says, quite clearly:It shall be the duty of the Commission to make, in relation to the management of land held by them in any town for the purpose of being let for dwellings, arrangements under this paragraph approved by the Minister.Nothing could be clearer than that.
One of the most important functions of the local committee will be to maintain good relations between the Commission and the townspeople and to see that local wishes and local needs are understood and respected by the Commission. For that reason, it is important that the local committee should work in close co-operation with the local authority and should include people who command local confidence.
I ought to emphasise that the Commission will be free to make whatever arrangements it thinks fit for the day-to-day administration of its industrial and commercial estates. It might well delegate responsibility for some of its business to the committee. It is not easy to envisage the scope of the business to be done at the outset, and, for that reason, my right hon. Friend has thought it right to leave this to the Commission to work out as it goes along and on the basis of its own experience.
I should like to say something very briefly about Part II of the Bill.
§ Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but this matter is important. I suggest that one of the most important parts of Clause 2 is subsection (7), which decides how the profits shall be shared out. It is up to the Minister to justify to the House and the country the taking away of the values, which he himself admits have been created by people in these localities, and handing them over to the Treasury for the benefit of rich taxpayers.
§ Mr. Bevins
I did not want to enter into too much detail at this stage of our discussion, but the purpose of that subsection is to deal with the case where the Commission has a surplus, in which case it shall, in certain circumstances, pay to the Minister a sum not exceeding a certain amount which, of course, will be passed on by my right hon. Friend to the Exchequer. That is a perfectly sensible proposal in the light of what I have said earlier.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I have tried not to interrupt more than I must but, on Clause 6, the hon. Gentleman said that some of the new towns were nearing that point at which the development corporation had completed, or would have completed, its job. Which new towns had he in mind?
§ Mr. Bevins
The outstanding case which comes to mind is that of Crawley. Speaking off the cuff, there is certainly Crawley and perhaps two others which are expected to be substantially completed during the next three years. I cannot be more definite than that at the moment. If the hon. and learned Gentleman will leave that with me, I will let him have a little later the most precise information that I can give him.
Part II of the Bill consists of three Clauses which have no relation to each other and, indeed, very remote relation to Part I of the Bill. They apply to Scotland, as well as to England and Wales. Clause 10 increases to £400 million the total of the amount which is authorised to be spent by the Corporations, and this includes provision for Scotland, as well as for England and Wales. At present, the limit is £300 million, and all this total will have been authorised by the end of 1959 or the spring of 1960. The figure of £200 million of advances issued to date, which I mentioned earlier, is actual expenditure, which obviously lags behind commitments.
Clause 11 simply remedies a drafting defect. In the housing Acts, the subsidy is paid on all local authority houses as long as they are let. If a house is sold or is let on a lease for more than seven years, the subsidy stops, and the same principles ought to have been applied to subsidised houses built by the development corporations. Existing law does not provide for this, and all that this Clause does is to place the corporations in the same position as local authorities.
857 Clause 12, as hon. Members may have noticed, is very similar to Clause 2 (4, b). It has the effect of extending the powers of development corporations, as distinct from the Commission, in a way which I am sure that the House will approve. At present, the corporations have power, if the Minister and the Treasury agree, to contribute: towards the expenditure of local authorities in providing services for the new towns. Some urban amenities, such as community centres and playing fields, are commonly provided by local authorities and, to that extent, the Clause is unnecessary. Where these amenities are provided by other people, such as local sports clubs and other voluntary organisations, we think it right that the corporations, as well as the Commission, should be placed in the position of being able to help bodies of this kind.
The primary aims of the Government are, by the Bill, to protect the interests of taxpayers and to safeguard the welfare and interests of those men and women who have had the courage and enterprise to go to the new towns, build them, live and work there and provide employment there in good conditions. The House, I know, recognises the achievement of all those people who have helped to make the new towns a success. They have earned the gratitude of this House and of Parliament. The Government are well content with their record in the new towns. When we took office in 1951 the new towns were mere infants, though I do not deny that they were very healthy ones. They have continued during the last seven years to grow in stature, and we are not now proposing to expose them to unnecessary risks. That is the reason for the Bill.
§ 4.1.7 p.m.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:this House, while accepting the need for additional finance for new towns, nevertheless declines to proceed further with a Bill, the principal object of which, as appears in Part I thereof, is to provide for the transfer of new towns in England and Wales to a central nominated body instead of to appropriate local authorities.This is a scandalous Bill. It plumbs the depths of doctrinaire reaction.
Perhaps I had better begin by dealing shortly with Part II of the Bill, to which 858 we should not have objected in principle if it had been by itself. What puzzles me about it is this. So far, by the spring of this year, about £200 million had been advanced, and £300 million is the permissible limit until this Bill is passed. Advances have been going, to take last year, at the rate of about £27 million or £28 million a year, or, to take the estimated amount for last year, which was larger, at the rate of £33 million a year. Therefore, without any provision of this sort, the Government could have gone on for about three years more.
The contemplated maximum—and I take this figure from the accounts published with the Comptroller and Auditor General's observations—is £375 million, and, therefore, what the Government are doing is to provide a final limit, so far as they can see now, and provide it some three years before it is likely to he needed. I can only see one likely reason for that, and it is that these financial arrangements are the occasion for criticism and examination of what is happening in the new towns, and the Government do not want that criticism and examination to take place when these changes are beginning to operate and when the results of them will be becoming clear. Otherwise, I can see no reason whatever for the introduction of that Clause at this time.
Hon. Members on this side of the House welcome the possibility of further money for the new towns, and we have good reason to do so. The estimated amount last year was £33½ million, and the spent amount was under £28 million. These figures include England, Scotland and Wales. In their annual reports practically all the new towns comment upon the restrictions put upon them by the Government. Aycliffe says:The continued need to restrict capital expenditure in the national economic interest again necessitated a reduction in the Corporation's capital works programme for the year.Crawley talks aboutthe curtailment of capital investment following rises in the interest rate and the national policy of credit restriction.Cwmbran speaks ofthe tempo of production slowed down in housing and civil engineering works in furtherance of the Government's financial policy of the Credit-Squeeze.They have had a rather difficult time this year, and we welcome the possibility that they may get some more money. If they 859 are to get more money it will involve a change in the Government's attitude corresponding to the complete change which the Government have made in their own financial policy.
We welcome the encouragement of contributions to amenities, but this is long overdue; the corporations have been complaining about it for some time. Stevenage says:The most serious threat to the well-being of the town at present lies in the comparative sparseness of its amenities.Hemel Hempstead gives the reason. It says:But whatever arrangements are made for the future of new town assets"—and it had this Bill in mind—the Corporation most sincerely hopes that the responsible authority will be given adequate powers and resources to complete the town"—I draw the Minister's attention to this—particularly by the provision of those amenities which successive Governments have not so far allowed the Corporation to build.There is no doubt that that reference is to successive Conservative Governments, for the question of providing amenities arose only at a later stage than 1951 in the development of the new towns.
I would mention that I will leave the other questions in Part II, as I shall leave many other matters in the Bill, for discussion in Committee—for if ever a Bill needed full discussion in Committee this one does.
Let us turn to the main point, as frankly admitted by the Parliamentary Secretary. There is no doubt that the 1946 Act provided for the transfer to local authorities—and, in the main, to no one else—not merely of local authority services but all new town undertakings as a whole, including the assets, those being the houses, the leased factories, the town centres, and all the things that we see now, and the things which those who brought in the Act quite clearly foresaw an intended. The new towns were not entirely a venture in the dark. Welwyn Garden City was there before, and Letchworth had been there for some time. I need not tell the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friend that there was such a person as Ebenezer Howard—and there have been others. The idea that this was a jump in the dark is exaggerated.
860 Moreover, that was not the attitude of the Opposition in 1946. The Tory Opposition did not divide against the 1946 Measure on Second Reading or Third Reading—nor did they divide against what is now Section 15 of the 1946 Act, which they are now repealing. On the contrary, they welcomed the proposed transfer of the new towns to local authorities. I make no point about the statutory undertakings. There is a quite minor provision about some small matters being capable of transfer to statutory undertakings, but I shall not waste the time of the House about that, and I earnestly hope that nobody else will.
The one anxiety of the Opposition was that the transfer should take place as soon as possible, that is to say, when the work of the development corporation was complete and without any intervening stage. That is what Section 15 provides. It begins:Where the Minister is satisfied that the purposes for which a development corporation was established under this Act have been substantially achieved, and is further satisfied, with the concurrence of the Treasury, that the circumstances are not such as to render it expedient on financial grounds to defer the disposal of the undertaking of the Corporation under this section, he shall by order provide for the winding up and dissolution of the Corporation.That is a mandatory section. When the Minister is so satisfied he must wind up the corporation.
Subsection (2) is permissive, because it contemplates some alternatives: but when the corporation is wound up, its assets must be disposed of to someone. It was the local authorities who were intended for that purpose, and that was quite clearly understood by everyone at the time. I read out Section 15 (1) because of the history of the matter. It was not put into the original Bill in its present form; it was redrafted, and it came up in its present form finally on Report. An Amendment was then moved by the Opposition, the object of which was to leave out the words which referred to the possibility of the Treasury holding the matter up because it might consider it inexperient on financial grounds.
When it was moved the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison), who was then speaking from the Opposition Front Bench—with experience of 861 this Ministry and a very great experience of town and country planning—said, after a short reference to some observations made by Mr. Dumpleton, the then Member for St. Albans:This Clause"—that is, the subsequent Section 15—and I agree it is a better one than that which appeared in the Bill—provides for the winding up of the development corporation not in the sense that one winds up a clock or watch in order to impart sufficient momentum to their activities, but for removing these bodies from the earthly sphere to a sleep from which they will never awake. On this side of the Committee we are anxious—and I believe, many hon. Members on the other side"—the Labour side—sympathise with us—that, when the purposes of these development corporations have been achieved, as little time as possible shall elapse in the handing over of the new community to a properly constituted democratic government.The right hon. Gentleman was talking about a Clause to hand over the assets, and not merely the local government functions.
The right hon. Gentleman went on:These development corporations differ from any existing form of local government. Their members are not elected but they are nominated by the Minister, and the people whom they have in charge have none of that continuing control over their operations which is characteristic of the ordinary town council in relation to the inhabitants of the borough. Tie consequence is that they must remain for the duration of their lives something of a novelty in the body politic. It may be, like the grain of sand in the oyster, they may become encrusted with some precious material which will make them of great value. It may be, on the other hand, that they may develop into an irritant.I pause for one moment to point out that the oyster gets irritated in the process of producing a pearl, and that is exactly what has happened in many cases it these new towns. The pearl has indeed been produced, but some people have found the development corporations rather irritating just for this reason.We agree on this side of the Committee"—that was the Tory Party of those days, progressive by comparison with what I see before me today—that it is necessary to have these development corporations for this particular job, but we do say, as I have already remarked, that there seems to be no excuse for interposing any period of delay between the achievement of the purpose, which renders their existence at all necessary in the first place, and their passing away into the limbo where are people who were useful but whose usefulness is now over.862 Then there is a reference to the Amendment.
The right hon. Gentleman continued:The words which my Amendment excised say that even although the purposes of the development corporation have been achieved, and the town is a fit and proper subject for ordinary local government control, nevertheless, the Treasury, for some financial purpose only, can prolong the existence of the development corporation beyond the period justified by the task which called it into being. We say that that should not be so. The Minister is taking powers, in this Clause, to write off capital which is irrecoverable. It would he far better to make a settlement of that sort with the development corporation, and let it pass out of existence, than to prolong its existence after the date when the place ought to he governed democratically by a local authority."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th July, 1946; Vol. 424. c. 2376–7.]I find not a single word in those wise, far-seeing observations from which I should wish to differ today, and the first question I ask the Government is this: what is it which has caused them and their party to change so completely? Has the right hon. Gentleman read The Times this morning? If he is acquainted with cricket—and the cricket correspondent of that paper seems to have some knowledge of politics—he will realise that, however bad the bowling may be. someone who shifts his place too constantly before the wicket gets out L.B.W.; and that is what may happen to him in connection with this Bill. It is better to keep to what was said by the party in former, more far-seeing, moments when this Bill was introduced.
Throughout the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary I listened to discover what it was that had caused the Government to change their mind and bring in this Bill. It is remarkably difficult to find any other reason than this one. They did not at that time in the least object to the public ownership—whether temporarily by the development corporations or permanently by local authorities—of the houses and other buildings in the new towns.
They have now come to the conclusion—perhaps because they think it their business to differ from anything that the Labour Party proposes—that that sort of ownership is incompatible with government. You cannot both own the Post Office and govern it. You must either own it or govern it. You cannot both own and govern any other piece of public 863 property. The new development of Tory democracy is that the two things are incompatible; that which you own you should not govern, and that which you govern you should not own.
This is a strange doctrine. This is, I suppose, the empirical test which the hon. Gentleman found so much more convincing than foresight, because foresight was no good unless it was right. By this time it has fructified into reality. What we are concerned with today is whether there has been any substantial change.
The hon. Gentleman had a peroration, in which he invited us to pay tribute—as I am sure we are all more than willing to do—to those who have made the new towns such a success; a success by coming to live in them; a success by managing them, by getting them built and by planning. There is no denial, none at all, that they have been a great success. It cannot be that which has changed the policy of the party opposite. Then what is it? There was perhaps another hint. This was to protect the interests of the taxpayer. But, really, right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who were members of the Opposition in 1946, members of the Tory Party, lacking though they may have been in foresight—lamentably lacking, according to the hon. Gentleman—must have known that to build a considerable number of new towns would mean, on any showing, a very considerable expenditure of money; and money, in the terms of the 1946 Act, to be advanced by the taxpayer, that is to say, by the Treasury.
Has it suddenly occurred to them that this is happening? Have not they noticed, year after year, that that which they foresaw and intended—and welcomed at the time—is actually happening? I wonder what has happened to make them change their minds. I am sorry, but I can come to no other conclusion than that they have become more doctrinaire than they were and more reactionary; and that their views on the essential character of democratic control and government have altered for the worse since 1946, when those wise words, and others to the like effect, were spoken.
I am tired of this Government time after time throwing overboard what they have done before. Usually, I agree, they 864 are remedying their mistakes, because they have done wrong more often than they have done right. But on this occasion they are upsetting one of the few things which they supported and to which they gave their assent and encouragement at the time; urging as they did urge—and this is the essential point of the matter—that these new towns, the whole of them, the undertaking, must be handed back to a democratically elected authority. Not so now. Now it is more important that a council should not own too many houses.
What have we been building council houses for in all these years since 1946? We have been building them for the councils to own and to manage to the satisfaction of the people who live in their districts. We have been building them in that way because it has been the best way to meet the needs of the people. Now we get right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite saying that we cannot have this; we must go back on what we intended. Councils really ought not to own so many houses and so many factories. It is not practicable, say hon. Gentlemen opposite. Did not they know in 1946 what they were building? Did not they know the character of the local authorities at that time? Were they so blind to the possibilities of what councils could do that they really thought the councils at that time could do something which now they say is wholly impracticable? I am tired of tergiversation, of this cowardice, of this running away from a great social venture which, as Government supporters themselves admitted, has been an outstanding success.
It has been said that the taxpayer might lose money, but he is not losing money. He is doing remarkably well out of the new towns. Who expects the new towns to start paying at once on buildings that are under construction and on matters which are now being planned and are in course of elaboration? The only test is what happens to the fructifying assets. Nobody disputes that the assets are fructifying. We find in the annual reports that they are paying about 6 per cent. as an average rate. No one suggests that these are unprofitable or bankrupt ventures. They are successes. It is not only the Parliamentary Secretary's peroration that might have led us to that conclusion; let us look at one or two other things.
865 Let us look at Harlow and at what are colloquially called the V.I.P.s who went there last year. They includedthe Crown Prince of the Yemen, the Prime Minister of Sweden and his wife, the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Mrs. Brooke and the Permanent Secretary, the Chief Architect of the New York Housing Authority, the editor of the Hindustani Times, the Chief Architect of Moscow and the Head of the Academy of Town Construction in the U.S.S.R.That is a pretty good list. We might think that the views of those people differed one from another, but Harlow and the other new towns are the things that people engaged in local government and housing in other countries want to see and what many of them come to see. The most passionate interest is taken in these new towns in countries which are looking forward. If we have doubts about the Yemen we can agree that Sweden and New York, or Moscow, are looking forward. It is absurd to treat these things as in a sense failures. If, in fact, they were—and they certainly are not—I would regard that as a light price to pay for such a remarkable performance in terms of social endeavour, the happiness of people, and of relief to our unhoused population in London.
The Minister himself went to Hemel Hempstead, as appears in its annual report. He pointed out, quite rightly,how few were the families who, having come out to the new towns and found jobs there, had made the return to London.This is a success story. Why should right hon. and hon. Members on the Government benches change their minds? I am sure that they hoped that these new towns would succeed, as succeed they certainly have. What is the clue? I looked at the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman and I see that later he said that he wanted to absorb these places into normal towns. One wants these to be places where people will live and work and be a community. We do not want them to be absorbed in normal towns in the sense that all the houses have to be handed over ultimately to private owners. A narrow majority of houses which are rented are owned by private owners, but that is no reason for turning a new town into a normal town in that sense.
I listened to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary and listened long. I thought that some conclusive, formidable 866 reason would appear, but nothing whatever like that was produced. Instead, he turned to criticisms which he anticipated, and rightly. I will not repeat them, but will make one comment. The hon. Gentleman went to a great deal of trouble to say that this handing over to a nominated central authority was not to be permanent, but was a second stage. The first had been development; this was consolidation. There would be ultimate ownership of an undefined character.
The hon. Gentleman did not say for how long, but the Bill has no limiting provision whatever. Until there is some other legislation the central nominated authority will stay in control of these towns quite indefinitely, subject to the direction of the Minister. They will be nominated bodies in the fullest sense of the word. We have no indication who they are to be or on what grounds they will be appointed. There is not a word about consulting local authorities or anybody. These bodies are just to be nominated.
So, it may be said, were the members of the development corporations. But they were nominated for a very different matter, to carry out particular development jobs. It was right that they should be nominated for that purpose, because those jobs were recognised to be special, requiring special knowledge, Government supporters objected to the continuance of those nominated authorities for a moment longer than was necessary. What is all this that we hear from Government supporters about devolution, of getting back to local bodies and favouring local government? The right hon. Gentleman calls himself the Minister of Local Government, but I do not know what the Bill does to justify that name. He is replacing what is intended for local government by a wholly arbitrary central body nominated by himself.
I come to the committees. How much is to be delegated to them is obscure. Local authorities have to be consulted, but what sort of housing authority will emerge as the result of consultation nobody knows. It is to these bodies that half a million human souls are to be entrusted for a period of years. There are to be committees for housing, but it is not true that there have to be committees for anything else. As the Parliamentary Secretary honestly stated, what is to be done with leased properties and 867 with the business and industrial sides of the matter may rest entirely and indefinitely with the central, nominated commission. That is indeed a remarkable separation of a man's house from his job. While the house is to some extent a matter for the local commission, his job may be entirely governed by the central Commission in London.
This is the very opposite of democracy. This is bureaucracy at heights to which I never expected the Tory Party even to aspire, let alone to attain. This is uncontrolled bureaucracy. The Tories are changing their minds. What is happening to them is remarkable. Where have their ideals gone? Democracy is down the drain and any local power, any scheme for allowing people to run their own affairs, has all gone.
We get this disposal of the new towns, the people in them and the assets. What is it they want? It is perfectly obvious that the local authorities do not want this. I and other hon. Members have had protests from these councils. A very good leaflet was circulated some time ago from Basildon and there have been letters from Harlow, Stevenage and others. I know the views of Corby very well. By the way, what is to be done with Corby, where about a quarter of the houses are already owned by the council? Is this strange body in London, or one of its local progeny of indefinite character, to own the rest while the council is allowed to retain those it already owns, governs, and manages?
What is it the people want in these places? Is there any reasonable doubt that to some extent they have already resented the nominated character of development corporations? There has been irritation in the oyster; they have not liked the remoteness of the corporations and their slightly bureaucratic character. I think that the people have been rather unfair to them, but it is human nature to prefer the council you know and elect to the corporation which comes from London and meets from time to time, in which you have had little say and which you often find rather difficult to approach. If they find that about the development corporations already, what are they going to find about this Commission and its local committees?
§ Mr. Martin Maddan (Hitchin)
The hon. and learned Member mentioned 868 Stevenage. Will he enlarge a little and say in what way Stevenage Development Corporation is difficult to approach?
§ Mr. Mitchison
I have a long letter from Stevenage with me. Perhaps it is sufficient for this purpose to say that, as the hon. Member knows perfectly well, there is acute friction in Stevenage between the people and the development corporation. I remember one complaint—which shows the character of the feeling about the development corporation that the corporation put 2d. stamps on letters when it did not need to do so. The very triviality of the complaint shows the bad feeling which then existed. I am not endorsing that feeling; I do not agree with it.
§ Mr. Maddan
The hon. and learned Member was talking about lack of approachability, but, if there is friction there must be contact, and if there is contact there must be an approach.
§ Mr. Mitchison
That depends on how one uses the word "approach". I am not going into a verbal discussion with the hon. Member about that. As Stevenage is in his constituency, surely he must know that there has been a great deal of friction there between the people and the development corporation. Further, Stevenage Council is very definitely against the proposals in this Bill. It thinks itself competent and knows itself willing to take over from the development corporation.
The councils concerned are mostly urban district councils. Seven out of 12 are urban district councils and three of them have been constituted for the express purpose of being the urban district councils covering new towns. Of the remainder one is a non-county borough and there are four rural districts. One cannot estimate which of these local authorities may find the task of taking over a development corporation undertaking rather difficult, but after all, there is the Local Government Act. County reviews will be going on shortly. Surely, if it is thought that a local authority is too small, or insufficiently staffed, to manage the undertaking of a particular new town, use can be made of the county review and the powers of the Minister under the Local Government Act—which he himself introduced—to see that there 869 is a local authority fully competent for the purpose.
As to the majority of these new towns, I think there can be no doubt that the local authorities are fully competent. Equally, there can be no doubt that year after year until the Minister made his announcement the other day those local authorities have been working with the development corporations in the full expectation that they would take over the undertakings. No one has said anything to disillusion them until the Minister started this hare a short time ago.
One thing new towns want more than anything else is cheap money. When we look at the Bill we come to the conclusion that its real object is a purely Treasury one. The object, as the Parliamentary Secretary politely put it, is to safeguard the taxpayer, but I should say that it is to milk the ratepayer and the inhabitants of the new towns. The primary purpose of this new body is to be a financial one, to enhance the value of the asset, while the comfort, the welfare and convenience of the inhabitants, which used to be the primary object of the new towns, is now relegated to second place. That is not to be the primary object, but merely something to which the Commission is to have regard. When I look for the nigger in the woodpile I find him, as I so often do, not just in the person of the right hon. Gentleman, but in the attitude of the Treasury to the whole of this business.
Tory Governments have persistently stinted the new towns. Financial policy has made the carrying out of the job of the new towns difficult, sometimes almost impossible. High rates of interest have cramped their work and disheartened some of them. Now, at last, we have a Measure which represents a complete reversal of what the Tory Party once said and once intended. It is a complete denial of democracy and no more likely to work well than the handing over to the local authorities would have worked.
As I see it, the Bill is being introduced not for any social purpose, but to sacrifice a social venture, the interests of the ratepayers and inhabitants of the new towns to the feelings of the Treasury that Government advances 870 must not only be recovered, but with them every social development which those advances have helped to finance.
This Bill is unworthy even of the Tory Party. I can think of nothing worse to say of it than that.
§ 4.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin Maddan (Hitchin)
The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) began his speech by commenting on the proposals in the Bill to raise to £400 million Government advances to the new towns. I also start with this point. I think it wise to recognise, now that so many of the new towns are nearing the end of the road of their development stage, that it is sensible to make final provision—that is what this Bill is doing—for the financing of the new towns. To me, the inclusion of Clause 10 in the Bill is a very marked signpost to the fact that this tremendous venture which was started after the war is now nearing a conclusion.
The hon. and learned Gentleman complained that many of the Government's advances had been at a high rate of interest. On another occasion in the House I said that I thought it would be quite wrong to exempt one section of the country and population from the general financial provisions which the Government were pursuing. If, in fact, these provisions have redounded to the benefit of the country as a whole—and I am sure that they have; we see that in the increased strength of the £ abroad, in the stability of prices at home and in many other ways—then it would have been quite wrong to exempt the new towns from that general policy.
I very much welcome the inclusion in the Bill of Clause 10 which brings up to a total of £400 million the advances made to the new towns. It is worth putting on record once again that £350 million of that £400 million has been made available under Bills introduced by various Tory Governments.
I thought that the best sections of the hon. arid learned Gentleman's speech—the most lively and the most literate—were those in which he quoted from the speeches of Tory Members. Any Opposition—and this was certainly true, I am sure, of the Conservative Opposition at 871 that time—naturally has a duty to probe the intentions of the Government in a matter such as the proposition of the new towns. I am quite certain that it is absolutely correct for the Opposition now to probe what the Government are doing, but I believe that the hon. and learned Gentleman would be tinged with a certain amount of regret if, in fact, his own eloquence were such that he found that the new towns were indeed handed over to the local authorities. The hon. and learned Gentleman included some remarks in his speech which indicated that it might not be quite such a simple matter to hand over to the local authorities the new towns as they exist at the present time.
He likened my right hon. Friend's scheme for a Commission to bureaucracy. But this is exactly the same system as at present exists for local hospital management committees and many other services, practically all of which were set up by the Socialist Government between 1945–50. I do not think it is at all seemly for the hon. and learned Gentleman to castigate my right hon. Friend's scheme as a scheme for bureaucracy.
The hon. and learned Gentleman then proceeded to make considerable play with the friction which he alleged exists between the residents of the new town of Stevenage and the Development Corporation. I can only say that if such friction is real and not stimulated, then it is strange that the Residents' Federation in Stevenage finds it so hard to gain support and membership. If, in fact, the grievances were real and if people felt that they could not get at the corporation and have dealings with it, a body the purpose of which, in the main, is to deal with complaints and suggestions, which is what the Federation is, would have far stronger support than it has. I say this not without some feeling of pity on my part that the Residents' Federation is not stronger. But there it is.
I now turn to Clause 12 of the Bill and its provision to enable the development corporations to help with amenities. I am bound to say that there have been occasions when local authorities have not been at all far-sighted in their consideration of the provision of amenities for the residents of the new towns in the areas which they serve. For that reason, I am quite certain that the residents in new towns will welcome the provision where- 872 by the development corporations can directly help various bodies in the provision of local amenities. The fact that this provision has had to be inserted in the Bill is again, I think, a measure of the wisdom of my right hon. Friend in entrusting for the time being the future of the new towns to the new Commission and not to the local authorities as hon. Gentlemen opposite propose.
I now turn to other views which have been expressed, not from the benches opposite, about the future of the new towns, and I propose to quote two principles set out in a statement issued by the Town and Country Planning Association. These principles were regarded as essential in any future set-up for the new towns. The first principle was:The unity of the freehold land-ownership in the public interest should be maintained in order to ensure first class estate management and the conservation of values created by public expenditure.The second principle was:While it is proper that the Exchequer should have a claim on surplus revenues to recoup its initial development grants, the local community should benefit from future surpluses. It will have endured shortages of facilities and amenities in the early years, and it is right that surplus revenues should be used to improve its social equipment. Moreover, it is important to enlist the interest and enthusiasm of the local community in the financial prosperity of the estate.It is interesting to note these two principles and to see how far my right hon. Friend's Bill meets them.
First, with regard to the unity of the freehold, the Bill provides—it is one of the things specifically under the Minister's direction, and I think rightly so—that any disposal of freehold or even of a long lease must be only with the Minister's consent. That is a strong safeguard for the unity of the freehold of the new towns.
§ Mr. Sparks
I believe that the Minister has, in fact, authorised new towns to sell some of their properties to private individuals.
§ Mr. Maddan
Yes, he has on certain occasions, and, of course, there would be no point in putting in a provision of this sort if it were not thought that it might sometimes be wise to do that. If, indeed, the price obtained is very favourable, or for some other reason, it might be wise for the new Commission—in the same 873 way as it would be for any land owner, for instance, First Garden City Ltd. of Letchworth, or the company at Welwyn—sometimes to dispose of freehold. I do not think that anybody would welcome a provision which forbade absolutely and on all occasions the disposal of freehold.
The point I am making is that, apart from the general duty laid upon the new Commission to adhere to the principles of good landlordship, there is a specific provision that the Minister's consent has to be obtained in these two cases, namely, the disposal of freehold and the granting of a long lease. Therefore, there is a further safeguard for the freehold.
The second point of the Town and Country Planning Association, that the new towns should be helped with amenities, is, I think, met by the provision that the Commission may spend part of its revenue in helping with amenities—which is in addition to the provisions in Clause 12, which I have mentioned, which enable the existing development corporations also to help.
The Town and Country Planning Association felt that the development corporations should remain in existence beyond what we might describe as the phase of forced development up to the initial targets. The natural increase which will follow that, due to the very young cross-section of population in the new towns and therefore the high birth rate, will cause a rapid natural expansion, carrying the towns perhaps to another 20,000 or 30,000 population in the succeeding generation, and it was the opinion of the Town and Country Planning Association that the development corporations should continue during this time. It is worth noting, however, that the statement said that if this new central body were free from direct Treasury control there would be some advantage in it, and, even by these criteria, I think we should set this advantage against any possible disadvantage arising from the fact that the development corporations will not remain in existence during the period of natural increase.
Obviously, a great deal will depend on the composition of the Commission and its local committees. This was mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Kettering. I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to secure the services 874 of the most skilled and the most expert people, as well as people of strong character and ability to argue forcefully with him and his successors and with the Treasury.
Another point which has been in the minds of people concerned with the future of the towns is: will the local committees have a good social development policy? This is very important, because we are not only creating bricks and mortar, and immigration of people, but we are also trying to build up living communities, and this requires particular help from the authorities in control. The local authorities are playing a part, but I believe that the landlord, whoever he may be, also has a distinctive part to play, and I therefore trust that the central Commission and its local committees will not be passive rent collectors but will be positive creators of a social policy.
Thirdly, I hope that the local committees will be imaginative. During the period of natural increase there will be a great deal to do, apart from the literal day-to-day management of the estates which already exist, and I trust that they will show great imagination in meeting the new problems which will arise as the days go by and as these great experiments reach maturity. Much will depend on the nature of the local co-options—the people asked to serve on the local committees for each town. My hope is that the Minister will succeed, here again, in finding first-class people. May I add that I hope that local authorities, whom he is bound to consult under the Bill, will recommend first-class people. That is worth saying because it is of great importance. The local authorities can play a great part, with their knowledge of local needs and local personalities, in seeing that the local committees have the imagination which I urge they should have.
§ Mr. Sparks
If the hon. Member is looking for people with those qualities, and believes they exist, why does he not let the local authority take the responsibility?
§ Mr. Maddan
Because they are not necessarily found among local councillors. I say that with great respect. The Stevenage Urban District Council, which is now a 100 per cent. Labour body—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—if hon. Members opposite will wait a minute they will 875 see that the laugh is on my side; the Stevenage Urban District Council, in its wisdom, has thought it right and best in the interests of the neighbourhood to recommend somebody who is not one of their number, and who happens to be a prominent Conservative, to the Minister to serve on the local development corporation. I am asking that this same large-mindedness, which seems to have come as a great surprise to hon. Members opposite but which has not come as a surprise to me, with my knowledge of local Labour people, should continue.
§ Mr. Charles Pannell (Leeds, West)
The hon. Member has surely given us our point, which is that the best upholders of the local point of view are the local people. The Conservative of whom he spoke has the support and presumably the good will of the local council. That is what we are arguing about. The Government have arbitrarily removed people of standing from the new towns' authorities. They did that when they came into power as a partisan piece of work. There is no indication in the Bill that the Government are likely to follow the illustrious example of the Socialists of Hitchin.
§ Mr. Maddan
The new town about which we are speaking is Stevenage. Hitchin is an old market town in another part of Hertfordshire. The point which I was making does not seem to have come home to hon. Members opposite.
§ Mr. Maddan
They did not remove them. It happened that the term of office of certain people expired, and there is no automatic succession in these matters, any more than there is in the case of hon. Members on either side of the House when we go to the electors; we do not always come back to the House.
§ Mr. Maddan
If the hon. Member thinks the electors are capricious, that is purely a matter for him.
§ Mr. Maddan
Perhaps I may return to my main theme, which was that while 876 local councillors are not necessarily the best people to serve on the local committees, I hope councils will continue, as at least one council has done in the past, to cast the net wide in finding the right people to serve on the local committees. That is the point I wish to make, and it is one in which I think, and believe, the hon. Member for Leeds, West (Mr. C. Pannell) will agree with me.
I have praised some local Labour people in my constituency but I do not disguise the fact that they oppose the Bill. They have said that the Commission will be the creature of the Minister. I suggest, however, that such particular directions as the Minister will give—and I quoted that on the unity of freehold—will be in both the public and the local interest. They provide safeguards for the new towns rather than the reverse.
It has been said by the Socialists that the houses of the new towns will become the Minister's tied cottages, which is a flamboyant phrase, and that the tenants will be subject to arbitrary rent increases and arbitrary eviction. I cannot see why this should be so. The Bill lays upon the Commission the duties of a good landlord in very specific terms. Any fears that the Commission or its local committees will behave in an arbitrary way towards residents are entirely unfounded. What has been proposed is to provide a good expert landlord to manage these huge estates.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said that the Commission would not necessarily continue indefinitely, and I welcome that statement, which shows an openness of mind quite opposed to the doctrinaire approach of which he was accused by hon. Members opposite. It shows a willingness to learn as we go along and to be prepared to learn again as events develop. I do not think any of us can claim to foresee fifteen to twenty years in the future and to tell what the problems of the new towns then will be.
I hope that in the meantime the residents will have a better landlord than they would have had if the local authority had taken over all the assets of the new towns. I say, with great respect for, and indeed admiration of, the local authorities, that with the best will in the world they would find it very difficult to manage the tremendous estates which have been created within their districts. My belief 877 is that the residents will welcome this Bill and will gain from the advantages of expertise and efficiency which will be brought to them by the new Commission.
My belief is that the local authorities, too, when they have had time to think the matter through, will welcome the Bill, because they have other tremendous tasks to undertake. I think that the change which my right hon. Friend is proposing to make from the development corporations to the new Commission at a fairly early stage is very wise. Here I wish to differ from the official view of the Town and Country Planning Association, which I quoted earlier. The Association wished the development corporations to continue, but it is not very easy for the local authorities to have a dynamic giant leering at them from close quarters in the form of a development corporation, and the change in structure and the change in terms of reference which the new Commission will have will help to get a better balance, as the towns are developed, between the landlord and the local authority. I believe that the local authorities will welcome this change and prefer it to the continuance into the far future of the development corporations.
I also believe that the ratepayers' interests are served by the Bill. The proportion of actual new town houses differs from town to town. In each case a proportion of them are not the property of the development corporation and there is always the danger, which it is sensible to acknowledge, that if the local authority took over the new town houses and if rents became embroiled in politics, it would be at the ratepayers' expense, with subsidies to the tenants of the council. If the council owned so many houses this danger would be increased. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and I believe that local authorities, with wisdom, will recognise the benefits of the arrangements proposed.
The hon. and learned Member for Kettering says that they get subsidies already, but of course they get them to nothing like the same extent. If a local authority were the landlord and were controlling the rents, it might find that it wished to give large subsidies to the tenants of these houses. It would have the extra temptation to do so because it would have that many more houses and, therefore, that many more votes would be at stake. I am not saying that 878 any local authority has so far indulged in such tactics, but I think it would be wrong of us to put such a temptation in the way of local authorities, which is what would happen if many houses, on a scale never before seen in proportion to the total number of houses in a town, were transferred to the local authority.
I believe that the Bill provides a proper balance between the interests of the taxpayer, the interests of the resident or the rent payer, the interests of the ratepayer, and the interests of the local authority.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Hugh Dalton (Bishop Auckland)
In 1950 and 1951 it so happened that I was the Minister responsible for the new towns then being built under the Labour Government, 1946 Act. I have, therefore, taken a continuous interest in this matter. I think that what my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said and illustrated with particular examples of the visiting list of the new town of Harlow, should be put on record and repeated—that the British new towns being built under this Act are of the most imaginative conception and greatest practical success in the post-war housing policy of this or any other country. More than that, they are of deep interest to many people in other parts of the world, such as the Soviet Union, Sweden, the United States and others that have been cited.
Therefore, regardless of party differences of view over this Bill, we should be very proud that these new towns have gone so far and are now housing 500,000 people in conditions vastly superior to those in which they were living before. There is more health and happiness, especially for the children, and more open air and elbow room in these new towns than in the old towns and overcrowded cities from which these people have moved into a new and better atmosphere. Let us, to begin with, be proud of that.
It is true that a few people drift back from the new towns to their old haunts, but there are long and eager waiting lists in every new town of people eager to get houses there. The whole thing has been a very great success, viewed as a housing project and as a planning project, drawing new factories into those 879 areas to provide employment near to their homes for the people who have moved.
A very striking feature of this whole development—if I may dwell upon it for one moment—is that for the majority—not for all, of course—of those living in these new towns the burden of travelling has been almost removed. People live within easy distance of their work, often within easy walking distance of their homes, and the burden of travelling long distances between home and work, taking up time, costing money and imposing strain has been tremendously alleviated. That is an enormous gain. It can very properly be set off against the complaint sometimes made that in the new towns the rents are somewhat high, but these are paid for very good modern houses by persons who incur very little expense for daily travel. So much by way of preliminary.
This Bill provides an additional authorisation of expenditure of £100 million for new towns. To that, without question, we assent, as we have indicated in our Amendment, but this money is contemplated to be be used only for completing towns already started. The Ministry or the Parliamentary Secretary will correct me if I am wrong. It does not, I think, include any new town, or even for any expanded town hereafter to be created. It is finishing off the job which the Labour Party so well began. That, too, is good and we welcome it.
May I, however, recall that in the 1951 General Election I was stopped by an elector close to one of the new towns. He stopped me in the street, in the dark, after a political meeting. Anxious not to be overheard and drawing me aside, he asked, "Do you think the Tories, if they get in, will pull down the new towns?" I said, "I have no idea at all, but this question should be addressed"— [Interruption.] What right had I to declare Tory policy? "This question," I said—and this was a perfectly correct and proper answer—"you should address to my Tory opponent."
The Tory Government did not go so far as to pull down the new towns started by the Labour Party, but they started no more of their own, and I make complaint of this tonight. What a chance there was. In 1946 the Act was passed, and some twelve new towns—Scottish new towns are 880 under a separate category—south of the Border were started in England and Wales under the Labour Government, but the Tories have started no new towns at all. All they can do is to continue to complete new towns started by the Labour Government.
I regret this very much. There are often disputes about who is or is not appointed to the development corporations, by the Minister, but let us get a bit above that. The general plan is that the Minister appoints a development corporation, well balanced as between persons with local knowledge—very often drawn from local authorities in the area—and persons from outside, who bring in, perhaps, special expertness in all sorts of matters that might be lacking in members of the local council.
The development corporation is, therefore, a body of combined talent. It is put in charge of building the new town, over an area designated by the Minister, and subject always to considerable ministerial control—and that is quite right. This has been a tremendous administrative success. Tory Governments have been very fortunate in finding, ready to their hand, these admirable mechanisms set up by their Labour predecessors.
Under this new régime, the new towns have advanced relatively close to substantial completion. The hon. Member for Crawley, if I may so describe him, although he sits, of course, for Horsham (Mr. Gough), is sitting in the Chamber, and I hope that he may get the chance later to tell us what is happening there. The Parliamentary Secretary had not got his case up very well, and could not tell us about the other new towns that were coming along. There are some that are relatively near to completion, while others are still a considerable distance from it.
I only wish that the Minister and his predecessors had gone further, and had designated other new towns all over the country—
§ Mr. Rupert Speir (Hexham)
From the point of view of areas in the North of England, such as that which the right hon. hon. Gentleman represents, would it not be better if, instead of creating further new towns, we sent the new industries to the old towns that are now crying out for new light industries?
§ Mr. Dalton
The hon. Member represents Hexham, and I am not so sure that it would not be a good idea to have a new town somewhere in the great State forests there.
§ Mr. Dalton
All that can be looked at, and it is the duty of the Minister to look at it, but as the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Speir) has interjected, I venture to say that it might be good to contemplate a new town in the Kielder Forest. Since the hon. Member has mentioned it, I do not think that it at all follows that the North of England should not have towns additional to those already created, to which I shall refer in a moment.
It might be that to concentrate a number of these villages—I have visited them quite often; it is one of my favourite stamping grounds—in the great State forests up there into a rather larger community, into which should be integrated wood-working and various subsequent stages of the State forest products, would be a very good investment for the Minister.
That is obviously a matter for debate, but I do not accept the view that in the North and the Midlands there is not great scope for the creation of more new towns. I am only sorry that the Minister makes no provision at all for that in this Bill—it is simply a treadwater Measure to complete the Labour Government's initiative.
I think of Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle—Birmingham, even—the Black Country, where there is a special situation about which I do not claim any local knowledge. I should have thought that there was a case for creating a large number of additional new towns in the North and in the Midlands; in the neighbourhood of these large conurbations—that hideous word that is now customarily used.
I am wedded to simple English. I should like to see my own party—this is an unofficial hint—since, lately, its English has shone so brightly in a new and glossy cover, issue a simple declaration, in just six monosyllabic words, "We shall build more new towns". I should like that to be put in, and I should like it to be done.
882 I do not know whether the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan) will survive the next General Election. There is a new town in his constituency, and there is a tendency for young people to come to live in the new towns. That is one of their attractions. Youth, as Disraeli said, is no doubt a great calamity—particularly to those who no longer possess it. These young communities will tend to support this side of the House, and it might, therefore, be that any hon. Member opposite who happens to have one of these explosive elements growing in his constituency will suffer the fate that the old politicians of the French Fourth Republic suffered only yesterday.
Let me not pursue that, however, beyond quoting one case that picks up with what the hon. Member for Hexham said. The new town that I know best is Newton Aycliffe. I am sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for Durham, North-West (Mr. Ainsley) is not now present, but I have often spoken to him, and he agrees with me that Newton Aycliffe is a new town planted in a very distressed area: and has undoubtedly done a great deal to bring new occupations and employment to that part of County Durham.
I have no doubt at all that Newton Aycliffe is capable of still further expansion. I hope that the authorities there will get a substantial fraction of the £100 million, because, as a result of recent road building that I have seen, there is no doubt that industry here can be still further developed. There are now some very attractive industrial sites available that could very well be occupied by wide-awake industrialists, and that are very well situated in relation to transport, markets, and so on.
That might make a very substantial contribution to impending—I say, impending—problems of heavy unemployment in County Durham. In north-west Durham, some pits are closing because they are worked out. Their closing is not due to any arbitrary act of authority, but to the fact that there is no longer any coal left there worth getting. The closing of those pits will present grave problems, and in that respect this new town may make a very valuable contribution towards the employment of teen-agers or school leavers who might, otherwise, be out of work or have to migrate from the area.
883 That is only one example, but I venture to suggest to the Minister that new towns could well be established in relation to future employment prospects. In many of the new towns, the problem up to now has not been so much that of increasing employment—the people who now live in them did not move from distressed areas of heavy unemployment—but of maintaining employment under better conditions, and tempting industrialists to set up new factories there, and encouraging people to move there and to live in the neighbourhood of the new factories.
In the case of Newton Aycliffe, the question has been rather one of increasing employment in the area—in this case, the Development Area of County Durham; of bringing in new factories that would otherwise have gone elsewhere. However this particular case may appear, the employment aspect of the creation of new towns is particularly important, especially at a time when the total of unemployment is grimly rising, week by week and month by month, as, regrettably, it is.
I turn now to the principal provision in the Bill—the handing over of the assets of the Development Corporation to bureaucratic bumbledom in Whitehall. That is all it is—a group of people set up by the Minister who have no living touch or contact with the new towns, who meet in Whitehall and who are wholly without knowledge of the special requirements of the new towns except what they may get from the local committees. The Parliamentary Secretary was very sketchy about these committees.
First, he said that it was laid, down in the Bill that they must be created. When I invited him to name the Clause in which that was stated he referred me to the Schedule. I know that they appear in the Schedule, but they are a very sketchy fifth wheel to the coach in this concept of the Commission in London. I do not think that that casual reference to groups of people living in the new towns when the whole central control has been shifted to Whitehall is sufficient.
The gibe that the gentlemen in Whitehall know best is sometimes quoted from the other side. Evidently, in this case that is the doctrine. The gentlemen in Whitehall, sitting next door to the Minister, know much more about Newton Aycliffe or Peterlee and the other new 884 towns than people who, until now, have conducted the work of the development corporations.
This is a most unsatisfactory arrangement and I return to the very simple proposition which has been already made. It was always thought before that the 1946 Act, which is associated with the name of Lord Silkin, intended that behind the creation of the new town was the idea that a local authority should take over the assets when the time came. That was never disputed. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering tentatively quoted, with great delicacy, what was said from the Tory Front Bench by the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison) in 1946. Following local usage, I pronounce Cirencester the way it is spelt, but I know that some people call it "Cicester". I should like to quote a few sentences, which I do not think my hon. and learned Friend quoted, towards the end of the speech of the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury, who was then leading for the Opposition. In moving an Amendment, he said that some people thought that…even although the purposes of the development corporation have been achieved, and the town is a fit and proper subject for ordinary local government control, nevertheless, the Treasury, for some financial purpose only."—The Parliamentary Secretary spoke about looking after the Treasury, or words to that effect; I think he used the word "taxpayer", but that is always an easy transition—can prolong the existence of the development corporation beyond the period justified by the task which called it into being. We say that that should not be so."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th July, 1946; Vol. 424, c. 2377]That is what we on these benches say. Unless the right hon. Gentleman has had a spasm of second thought and better feelings of democratic instinct and loyalty to predecessors, come! come!, that is why we shall go into the Lobby in support of the democratic doctrine pronounced by the right hon. Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury, twelve years ago.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederick Gough (Horsham)
I was wondering whether the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) had read The Times this morning. It did not take very long, even 885 before he mentioned it himself, to gather that he did. The article is on page 6 of The Times for those hon. Members who have not read it, and it is headed, "Mr. Brooke Silences Critics".
I noticed that the hon. and learned Gentleman started bowling at an even faster pace than he does normally. He used all the fire and verve that he had at his command. There was a series of no balls and near-wides. The only thing in which he succeeded was in bowling a maiden over. It certainly will not have bowled my right hon. Friend over, and I am certain that my right hon. Friend will have very little difficulty in dealing with what was purely a party partisan speech.
§ Mr. Gough
Mine is a statesmanlike oration.
I think that there are very few hon. Members who have practical experience of the new towns. I have the honour of being one, but two of my hon. Friends are precluded from speaking by the rules of the House. One is my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford (Lord Balniel) and the other my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Finlay), who is a Government Whip. I have discussed the paints that I propose to make with them and I am glad to say that they are both fully in accord with them.
I should like to deal with one point mentioned by the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), whose speeches I always find most interesting, agreeable and amusing. I agree with a great deal of what he has said, but I certainly do not agree with his premise that the Government should have immediately embarked on the building of more new towns. I say to him with the greatest respect that that is exactly where his own party fell down in its building programme. The Labour Party started too much too quickly and the result was that it was never able to achieve what it set out to achieve. That is why the right hon. Gentleman used to say that it was impossible to build more than 200,000 houses a year. If he takes that lesson to heart, perhaps one of these days, not after the next General Election, but in due course, he or his successor may have more success.
886 I submit that it would be wrong at this stage to embark on further new towns until we have consolidated—I like the term used by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary—the present new towns, in which those of us who represent them are tremendously interested. The new towns are a great national experiment. They are quite enough of an experiment. If we had built more at this stage we might easily have failed to gain the experience which has been gained in the twelve years since 1946.
I had hoped that party politics would not he brought into the debate. I was not a Member of the House in 1946, and I am quite prepared to say that both sides were wrong, including, with the greatest respect, my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury (Mr. W. S. Morrison). Incidentally, I always pronounce the word "Cicester". If it pleases right hon. and hon. Members opposite, I would say that I think both sides were wrong. But who is reactionary and who is doctrinaire—the person who is prepared to learn by his mistakes and look into the future, or right hon. and hon. Members opposite, who cannot do anything else but look back to the past and who appear to be absolutely ruled by the laws of the Medes and Persians?
It is said that my right hon. Friend the Member for Cirencester and Tewkesbury said this in 1946, when the Opposition did not divide against it, and, therefore, it must never be looked at again. I think that both sides of the House should have paid more attention at that time to the Reith Committee. I tried to get a copy of the Committee's second interim Report, Cmd. 6794, this morning, but it was out of print. I have read it, however, and I have notes from it. The Committee reported that there was no known case where the entire area of a town was municipally owned, and that a large majority of the Committee felt that it would he unwiseto combine the functions of land-owner and local authority in a single body".Lord Silkin, in his wisdom at that time, rejected that suggestion, and he was supported by the House of Commons.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
I do not mind we on this side being called reactionary because we believed that we were right in 1946. But the hon. Gentleman tries to prove his point by quoting 887 something which was even earlier, namely, the Reith Committee's Report. if the House, with the knowledge of the Reith Committee's Report, decided that the other proposal was the right one, why was it reactionary of us to prefer that to the earlier authority?
§ Mr. Gough
The hon. Gentleman really is very naïve. I believe that this is his first appearance on the Front Bench opposite. I congratulate him on that, so I will let him off lightly, but I am going to prove that.
I am saying to the hon. Gentleman that he believes in the laws of the Medes and Persians, and that, just because that was said twelve years ago, it does not matter to him what experience has proved. It does not matter that we have proved to him that there are many reasons, to which I shall refer as briefly as I can, to show that that decision of Parliament was wrong and not in the best interests of the inhabitants of the new towns, whom I put first, not in the interests of the Treasury—and I do not mind calling it the taxpayers, because if it were not for us, the taxpayers, there would be no Treasury, and perhaps that would be a good thing, too—and, thirdly, not in the interests of the nation as a whole. I put them out in that order.
Let us forget about this historical argument. If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to go into the Division Lobby over it, I expect that they will receive the same salutary treatment that they have been receiving quite recently.
I must, however, rub this in, although I was not going to make much of it, but the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering—I am sorry that he is not in his place at the moment—has been contradicting himself. He kept on saying what a wonderful achievement the new towns are; yet, at the same time, he said that the Government have been stinting. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland more or less admitted to us. I believe, that he told a prospective voter, "You might be right or you might not, but the Tories are pulling down the new towns."
During 1947 to 1951 the total number of houses built in the new towns was 3,447. I am quite sure that the majority 888 of those were built while the right hon. Gentleman was Minister, between 1950 and 1951. Nevertheless, the total under the Socialist Government in that period was 3,447 houses. In the period 1952 to 1957, during Tory "stinting" and "meanness," more than 60,000 houses were built, and the current house building in these new towns is at the rate of 10,000 houses a year. That is one house in 30 of the national product in a year, and that is confined to 15 new towns. So I hope that when the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering thinks things over he will use another term for the Tory Government's concern at the development of new towns than the expression that they have been "stingy" and "stinting."
§ Mr. A. Evans
Does the hon. Gentleman not think that he is rather unfair to quote those figures of the number of houses built since 1946? He must know what everyone who has examined this matter of the new towns knows, that between 1946 and 1947 and 1950 the main preparatory and most difficult work was done, and that the work during the early period was the most difficult part of the work. After 1950 the thing was running smoothly, and we were ready for more building.
§ Mr. Gough
I am very grateful to the hon. Gentleman, especially as he must be running the serious risk that, having made so many interventions so far in the debate, he may be treated as having made his speech. I would not have mentioned these things if the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering had not made such a partisan, party political speech.
I go from this to matters which, I believe, are of concern on both sides of the House. These are the facts which have emerged since this great experiment was begun. The first fact, which is exciting to any of us, whatever our age, is the fact of youth. These towns are full of youth, youth of all sorts of diametrically opposed ideas, youth with all sorts of hobbies and business; but mainly youth, and. coupled with youth, inexperience.
We must accept that. We remember that when we were young it was tiresome when our parents told us, "You are young and inexperienced". However, it does mean, when we are dealing with something of great, vital importance to these 889 people, that it should be borne in mind that not too much can be expected of them at once.
The next fact is that in most of these new towns there are no traditions, there are no elder statesmen. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) could spare enough time to lead the councillors in the new town in his constituency, or if other similar public figures with the necessary experience did so, it might be different, but these people are not available, and it is a very important matter for those hon. Members to bear in mind who do not represent new towns.
The next fact is—I speak only for Crawley, but I am certain that things are the same in many others—that they are developing a new community sense and a pride in their own individual town.
The next thing which, I think, is overlooked by many people, is that the people in the new towns have an intense desire that their towns should be what one might call normal. I hope that right hon. and hon. Gentlemen will not think I am dragging this into party politics. When I say "normal" I mean that most of them hate the word "new". I am coming back to that. Nevertheless, it is genuinely because of this newness, because of this inexperience, that they, all of them, the local councils have more than their need of responsibility, compared with the councils of more established townships all over the country.
Let us just review the facts which have raised. The first is youth and inexperience and lack of tradition. I say, and say with great respect, but still I say it, that there is a need for years of practice in the ordinary work of local government for the urban councils in all these new towns before they can think of accepting any other responsibilities. Furthermore, there is a need not only for years of learning but also a need to acquire a certain amount of experience in other directions.
The impact of party politics in the new town of Crawley may be splendid but, nevertheless, it is far, far more acute than it is anywhere else. Most of the time in the council chamber is taken up upon the assumption that that council is the younger brother of this House. 890 Sometimes I think that they think it is the elder brother. They discuss the H-bomb, they discuss national finance, they discuss almost everything but the local affairs of Crawley. They will grow out of it, but they have not grown out of it yet. It is all great fun, but it does show, to those who want to Rive a little thought to the real development of these new towns, that they can acquire more wisdom only if they are left alone to do their own job without having a great deal more planted on them.
I am not saying this applies more to one side or the other, but in that atmosphere there would be a tremendous temptation, which I do not believe that this House should put before them, at the time of local government elections, to make all sorts of promises about rents for private houses as against rents for factories, and so on, which might sway the electorate and put one section into power, and which, if they were implemented, might easily drive industry away from the new towns.
I put that thought forward quite calmly, without trying to make any party point about it, but industry today has come into the new towns and in these 15 new towns there are already 66,500 jobs. They are coming week by week. In spite of what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bishop Auckland said about unemployment, he will agree and rejoice with mc, I am sure, that the new towns are not so affected by it. They are a little bit, but not so much but it is a matter which I would ask hon. Members on both sides of the House to pause and think about before giving too much authority too quickly to these young communities and their elective bodies.
I mentioned pride in community and a desire to be normal. I really wish that we could amend the Title of the Bill and call these towns something else instead of new towns. Perhaps we might call them twentieth century towns, British towns, or even, in this new Elizabethan age, Elizabethan towns. We must do something fairly soon, otherwise it will get into the minds of everybody in the House and outside that these are freak towns or some sort of emigrant towns.
The hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) knows that I have many of his old constituents in Crawley, but he will understand that we do not want the town 891 called "Cockney Crawley". Neither, since we are not slow in Sussex, do we want it called "Creepy Crawley". The townspeople want it called Crawley—just an ordinary town name like that of Brighton or Hastings and other towns in Sussex.
The Bill is not a party matter in Crawley. There are many enlightened people who have grave doubts on this matter but who do not think in the same terms as those which the hon. and learned Member for Kettering put forward today. I submit that the best way to destroy all this growth would be now at this stage, just because Parliament thought it right in 1946, to saddle these new towns with these tremendous financial responsibilities.
I am sure that the words were not meant, but some rather unkind observations have been made today about the development corporations. I think that the Crawley Development Corporation has done a magnificent job of work. Tribute should be paid to Sir Thomas Bennett, and his Chief Executive, Colonel Turner, and all the staff. They were put in charge really for the one purpose of development, and it was manifestly obvious that something had to be done to change over from development into pure management. I can see that Crawley would be left out on a limb if right hon. and hon. Members opposite had their way. In other words, if at this interim stage we handed over affairs to Crawley. I assume that the urban district council would have to be in direct touch with the Treasury. That in itself is an argument in favour of having an interim commission to deal with all these new towns until. in turn, they have all reached the same development stage.
It will be years before that stage is reached. Scottish towns are not even mentioned in the Bill. As the Secretary of State for Scotland said, it is no good dealing with them yet, because they are nowhere near ready. If, therefore, the House accepts the Amendment we shall have all sorts of little piecemeal owners in the shape of urban district councils in the various new towns as they develop, whereas it stands out as most reasonable and practical that we should have this interim period under a Commission. Nobody can say how long that period will be.
892 One or two comments have been made in the debate about the provision of amenities. I do not think that it has been clearly enough stated that the difficulty which the development corporations have had to face is that they are not legally allowed to provide amenities. Perhaps it is wrong to say this in public, but I must confess that the corporations have been leaning over backwards to define various projects which they have carried out and which we all know to have been the provision of amenities. I therefore welcome the Clause which gives power to make financial contributions towards the provision of amenities. I am sure that when right hon. and hon. Members opposite consider the matter they will agree that there is nothing sinister in this provision.
The Bill has my wholehearted support. I am quite convinced that, with my hand on my heart, I can tell the House that the Bill also has the support of the majority of people in Crawley, I am sure of it; and I have not had a letter from the urban council. The Bill has my support because, first, it ensures continuity of the spirit to which I have tried to refer. It ensures efficiency, and I say with great respect to the local councils that I do not think that they are as yet anywhere near efficient or experienced enough to carry out these duties. It also ensures what is most important in these young and virile communities—a freedom from what could be very dangerous party politics. I am quite convinced that the Bill ensures a maximum of amenities and an ordered development of these towns into normal towns. If the Amendment were carried, none of these things would be brought about. Therefore, I have great pleasure in saying that I support the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ 6.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Emanuel Shinwell (Easington)
There is much which the hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) has said with which I am in cordial agreement, but it appears to me that his argument was directed less to a justification of this Measure than to the arguments adduced by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton), who urged the need for more new towns.
I should like to pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland for his idealism but, nevertheless, we must face the inescapable fact, 893 which, at any rate, is within my experience, that as yet many problems of a most formidable character beset the new towns. These towns are only in the infantile stage of development. In my judgment, they have not reached adolescence and are not likely to reach a state of maturity for some time to come. We have to face the fact that many problems have yet to be resolved.
My right hon. Friend is right to urge the provision of new towns because of the present squalor, particularly in industrial towns. One has only to visit Lancashire, Yorkshire, Durham, and particularly parts of Scotland, to witness the almost imperative need for the provision of a large measure of new housing, of council estates and, in particular, of new, growing and thriving communities. But what concerns me is the Government's behaviour in urging upon the House the acceptance of this Measure. It has been described by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) as scandalous. Other equally strong epithets have been used quite justifiably. Indeed, some abuse has been heaped upon the heads of the Ministers concerned.
I do not take that line at all, and I will tell the House why. I do not expect anything better from a Tory Government. If a Tory Government came forward with Bills of a truly democratic character, acceptable to us on this side of the House, they would no longer be a Tory Government. We expect this kind of behaviour, but why should the Government seek to cut their own throats by producing a Bill of this kind? We had another example the other day in the Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, which can do the Government no good. What earthly good can this Bill do for the local authorities concerned and throughout the country?
So we must ask ourselves the question: why do the Government produce a Measure of this kind? The answer was furnished by the Parliamentary Secretary, when he said that we must concern ourselves with the interests of the taxpayer. Of course we must concern ourselves with the interests of the taxpayer, but is that suggestion based on the assumption that local authorities throughout the country—particularly 894 those responsible for the administration of new towns, as in the case of Crawley or of the Easington Rural District Council, contiguous to Peterlee and responsible for much of the administration which is not on the shoulders of the development corporation—are not responsible and are unconcerned about the interests of the general taxpayer? It is just nonsense.
The hon. Member for Horsham spoke about the need for experience in these matters. I cannot speak about the Crawley Urban District Council. The hon. Gentleman said that it was inexperienced and that its members engaged in discussions about the H-bomb and national and international affairs. I have no doubt that there are queer goings-on on occasions, but there are queer goings-on in this House in the course of debate, particularly when the Government produce Measures of this kind. Therefore, we ought not to complain about the people of Crawley. I can speak about the local authority responsible in my part of the country and I want to say that we have first-class people. Of course, there is an overwhelming Labour majority. That is not due to the council, but to the electors; and if the electors decide to have an overwhelming Labour majority I attribute that to their wisdom and intelligence and leave it at that.
Now I come to the question of how the new towns are to be administered in future. Here I will address myself to the substance of what the hon. Gentleman said about the problems of the new towns, about the need for more experience, about the need for gaining time before we finally make up our minds about what should be done. I do not complain for a moment about the development corporations, but I detect a tendency, at least in my part of the country, for officialdom to be in complete control, in spite of the fact that there are committees operating under the development corporations. For one thing, the members of the committee are usually quite detached and remote from the electors. They are not responsible to the electorate. It is not as if the local authority nominated the members of the committees who are associated with the development corporations. They are appointed by the Minister, and, while the Minister may be wise in his appointments, 895 the fact remains that they are completely detached from the general body of electors.
The inevitable result is that officialdom gains complete control. Although I am far from criticising the officials responsible for the administration of Peterlee, I must say that friction often occurs, and the consequence is that grievances are brought to me. In turn, I have to ventilate those grievances to the Minister; and I am bound to say with very little success.
I come to the question of amenities. It is true that in the Bill provision is made, but a general and ambiguous provision, for the new commission and its various committees to have regard to the needs of the communities concerned. What does it mean, to have regard? They may or they may not provide the amenities. They may not have sufficient finance to enable them to provide the amenities. They may in their wisdom decide that they must put these new towns on to a sound financial basis before they provide the amenities for which the electors are asking. The result may be that Questions will be asked in the House and the Minister will say he has nothing to do with it because it is in the hands of the commission. The matter will rest there and more grievances will accumulate.
Now I want to address myself to the more positive part of this matter. It is the question whether the local authorities have the necessary experience to enable them to deal with the general administration of the new towns. I can speak out of my own experience as regards Peterlee. For one thing, the local authority manages a very large number of houses. I cannot give the exact number off the cuff, but I am certain that the local authority is responsible for the management and administration, the repair and maintenance of more houses than there are in the whole town of Peterleigh at present. Therefore, the local authority has all the necessary experience, accumulated over a long period. To suggest that such a local authority is without the experience required for the purpose of administering the town of Peterlee is absurd.
There is also the question of factory sites, the provision of factories, and so on. I am prepared to concede—I am speaking for myself in this—that it may be necessary 896 to hive off from the general housing power the provision of amenities and the general administration of housing and land, subject to the discretion of the Minister, and to leave the factory sites either to be administered by the Minister himself or, for that matter, to be leased to factory owners or sold outright.
In the town of Peterlee we have two factories. Here I would like to supplement the remarks of my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland about the need for new and developing industries in that part of the country. He spoke of Aycliffe, which is more fortunate than Peterlee. In spite of the progress and development during the last nine years we have as yet only two industries. These employ female labour to the extent of between 400 and 500 people, with a little male labour as well.
Only two factories in a community where there is a vast amount of female labour available and which has to go elsewhere to find gainful employment! In spite of all our efforts, in spite of my appeals to the President of the Board of Trade, in spite of submissions made by the local authority, in spite of the Peterlee Development Corporation itself having made representations over and over again for the provision of new industries, we still remain in this position. It is most unsatisfactory, for the simple reason that there exists an economic unbalance in the community.
There is a growing population of about 10,000 now. As the hon. Member for Horsham rightly said about these communities in general, it is a young population. I understand that the number of births in Peterlee far exceeds the number of births in any other part of the County of Durham apart from Aycliffe—
§ Mr. Shinwell
They are all fairly good. Young couples seem to gravitate towards the new towns. I do not know whether it is the air. It may be the change of circumstances, or the new geographical position. I cannot say, but evidently it leads to what some people think is excessive production. Certainly, there is no stagnation in that respect. Yet this creates new problems because more amenities are required.
What has been our position in Peterlee? We have a community hall of 897 sorts; there is nothing very exceptional about it and we only succeeded in obtaining it after many representations were made not only by the people of Peterlee, but by those outside, and by myself, over and over again. We still want a swimming bath for a community of 10,000. I had to write to the Minister about it the other day. I hope that he will accede to my request, particularly in view of the speech I am now making. Also, we want tennis courts. In short, we want the ordinary amenities which are available to almost every area where a good local authority is responsible for administration. We want other amenities, but we cannot get them.
What will be our position when the Commission comes along? It has been said that we must have first-class people on it. Who is to decide who are first-class? The Minister? Some of the appointments he has made in the past do not indicate that he has a knowledge of what is first-class or even third-class, or is it now second-class in railway parlance? Usually, the people appointed are of what I call academic distinction—sort of quasi-intellectuals or retired bank managers, not that there is anything wrong with bank managers, active or retired. We ought to have people who understand the nature of the problem, the character of the people and are in touch with them and not remote from them.
If we are to be defeated in a Division tonight, which I suspect, unhappily—it sometimes happens in this assembly, but we will put it all right in due course—I hope that the Minister will ensure that the right people are appointed to the committees, particularly local people. That is not to say that they will have much power—they will have very little—but, whatever power they have, let us have the right people and let the Minister consult the local authorities about who should be appointed.
I see nothing in the Bill about consultation. When the Parliamentary Secretary spoke he talked about democracy, and I interjected asking him to define it. He did not respond to my request. What do the Government mean by "democracy"? Is it "democracy" to appoint a Commission like the one referred to by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland, a kind of new Bumbledom?
§ Mr. Shinwell
A new Bumbledom for the new towns is the substance of the Bill. Is that what we are to have? We do not want that sort of thing. We want people who are ready to consult the local authorities, and there is no provision for that in the Bill. Where is the "democracy"?
It may be argued that when the Labour Government promoted the nationalisation Acts it appointed corporations, but if the right hon. Gentleman will look at those Acts he will find that provision was made in every one of them for consultation on every matter affecting the industries concerned. Why should there not be such a provision in this Bill? If the right hon. Gentleman will not accept our view that the new towns should be transferred to local authorities, why should he not introduce such a provision so that there may be consultation with local authorities on every matter concerned with the interests of the community? If that happened in the case of Peterlee we should have complete liaison and the right kind of cooperation. There might be friction from time to time, but the troubles could be smoothed out and probably the experiment would succeed.
If the experiment does not succeed, what are we left with? We are left with remote control, without proper contact with the Commission sitting in London, very little contact with the members of the committees appointed by the Minister and under the control of the Commission and without proper ventilation of grievances, and, in the long run, the concept of democracy is defeated. That sort of thing will not do.
The Parliamentary Secretary talked about three stages. What is the third stage that he was talking about? He said he did not know what was to happen. How can one talk about a third stage when one has no conception of a third stage and of what will happen in the course of time? Suppose the Commission did not carry out its duty satisfactorily and failed. Suppose the Commission is not effective and efficient. Suppose there are grievances all over the place. Suppose there is friction. Suppose we call for a debate in the House and lambast the Minister over it? What will happen then? Do we carry on with the present conception or do we proceed with another 899 conception? Does the Minister think that one day he may have to abandon the Commission conception and transfer all these properties to the local authorities? I am not sure, but I should like to know.
In the case of Peterlee—I suppose it happens with all the new towns—it is not only the local authority in the new town but local authorities outside them which are responsible for some of the administration. The county councils are also concerned. There are, for instance, the educational facilities. They represent a most important amenity, perhaps the most important of all. It is not the development corporation which is responsible for education, but the county council. Technical schools, modern schools and elementary schools are all provided by the county councils, and there we have injected a local authority interest.
What is proposed in the Bill? What is to be handed over to, for instance, the Easington Rural District Council? The only function to be handed over to the local authority is the control of sewers, and that is only at the discretion of the Minister. That is not the way to treat good local authorities, or to behave democratically in local affairs.
There is a warning that I must give the Minister. He has had a very easy passage today, having had only a little criticism of the Bill, but he will meet a great deal more criticism before the Bill passes through its various stages. I say this in the friendliest way to the right hon. Gentleman. I bear him no malice. Nor do any of us. We all have great regard for him. He certainly made a bit of a mess with the Rent Act, but this is far worse. The Rent Act did not interfere with democracy; it merely raised rents. But this Measure destroys democracy, and that is the last thing that this democratic Assembly should allow to be done. We shall be voting against this Bill in due course and I shall never cast a vote with more pleasure.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Frederic Harris (Croydon, North-West)
We have had a large proportion of speeches from right hon. Gentlemen opposite. My hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) has dealt very fully with what was said by the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton). I wish to make only one com- 900 ment upon that speech, and that is in regard to the amusing story of the person who asked him whether the Conservatives would pull down the new towns if they were returned to power. I did not, however, follow why he had to be taken into a dark corner to be so questioned. We in the Conservative Party are quite able to deal with questions in the normal way at public meetings and do not have to go outside into the dark and have them whispered to us. If the right hon. Gentleman's story was meant to be serious, it is the typical result of the fear which the Labour Party tries to instil into people to make them believe such nonsense as this.
The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) asked why the Bill was needed and said that it was so completely unsatisfactory that he would vote against it. I cannot see that the Labour Party's policy on how to handle this matter at the present time has any logic in it at all. I do not think it is a practical proposition, at any rate certainly not in the majority of instances, that everything should now be taken over by the local authorities. In a moment I shall refer specifically to Crawley, but my hon. Friend has dealt with the position of Crawley in relation to Horsham. I look upon these vast new town enterprises at the moment as very considerable trading estates, and I do not think that many of their functions are such as could soundly be taken over by local authorities, who are primarily administrative bodies and not property-owning bodies as such. I will deal with this point further in a moment.
The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) called the Bill scandalous. We are getting used to the extravagant words which he uses to describe almost every Government Bill nowadays. He summed up his attitude when he concluded by saying that he was "just tired" of the Government. It is that attitude which governs his approach to all present Government legislation. However reasonable a Bill may be, the hon. and learned Member is "just tired" of the Government, and he will therefore oppose it in the most extravagant language.
Insufficient credit has been paid to the Parliamentary Secretary for the very able way in which he presented the Bill and for the way in which he fully explained 901 the Government's intentions. I am sure that the Bill will be in the best interests of all those involved in this vast successful experiment. It is the next logical step in the development of our new towns. It may well be an interim proposal and it might be that it will have to be varied in a few years, but that is progress.
With my two other colleagues, I represent Croydon. Croydon is a very progressive borough and from the word "go" has been fully in support of the new towns development scheme, not just in a general way, but practically. It has given direct support to Crawley, so much so that it is second only to Wandsworth in the number of families it has sent there. Croydon has released possibly 300 families to Crawley, and Wandsworth may have sent about 500.
We can all agree that the Bill is complicated and that it is not easy to follow immediately all its implications. Some of it must he left in doubt, but it certainly should all be made clear in Committee. I am mainly interested in the Governments' intention to establish a central commission, which is one of the major proposals of the Bill.
No date is yet given for this Commission to come into operation, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to give us some information about his intentions later in this respect. My right hon. Friend did not say what type of people were to be chosen for the Commission, and there is no detailed reference to this in the Bill. Nor is there any mention of the remuneration which they are to receive. Any of the 15 members of the Commission may unfortunately subsequently prove unsatisfactory, and yet nothing is said about what kind of notice of dismissal there would be. These are matters of detail, but the Bill, after all, centres on the Commission. The Commission will have tremendous responsibility. It should be something like an extremely efficient board of directors in charge of a vast undertaking. Much will depend upon its efficiency.
Crawley has developed over twelve years and it has been well served by its development corporation, on which seven to nine members have served at varying times. I understand that four of the original members are still serving. It is vital that knowledge and experience of that sort should he retained for use by 902 the new central Commission and not wasted. Also some people with such experience could likewise be usefully employed on the new local land management committees.
Vast sums of money are involved in the Bill's provisions. As has been said, £300 million was provided in earlier legislation and that sum is now to be increased to £400 million. It will also he possible for up to £5 million to be borrowed under conditions laid down in Clause 3 and deficits on revenue accounts of up to £1 million may be incurred under conditions also laid down in the same Clause.
Huge sums of money are clearly involved and the assets which have been built up by expenditure of this kind require specialist handling. With such treatment, there is plenty of scope for the Treasury to recoup much of the money which has been spent. The Government's plan for a central control Commission is therefore excellent, but the future success will certainly depend on the ability of the members of that Commission.
The Crawley planners have been extremely successful, too, in their handling of their financial matters. Many people from south London have been absorbed into Crawley, and with all the good will in the world it was not easy to integrate newcomers with local people. Hon. Members who have been to see for themselves will know that a very good understanding has been achieved, and that the people in Crawley are undoubtedly in the main extremely happy and very contented.
There is also a very good spread of industrial activity. There is excellent diversification of industry and considerable variety of employment for people in all walks of life, both skilled and unskilled labour, male and female. All are virtually fully utilised. As my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham said, there is very little unemployment, fortunately, and the continued maintenance of that high level of employment must be ensured.
There is also an excellent shopping area established for the benefit of the whole surrounding countryside. Crawley, as a new town, is self-supporting. It has both water and sewerage schemes, educational facilities, sporting activities and so on, and all those things, at the moment, are handled by the Crawley Development 903 Corporation. They were mapped out by experts, and I must impress upon the Minister with as much emphasis as I can that such knowledge and experience should be retained if possible on this central Commission.
The new towns will, of course, during their progress go hand in hand with the local administration of the local authorities, but we all know that in local administration at the moment, whatever political party may hold a majority in that local authority, there is always, unfortunately, political bias. I feel, and I have always felt, that a local authority is best served really by a non-party administration. I have always felt that that is in the best interests of the citizens for local matters.
§ Mr. Harris
No, I am not. I have always thought that local authority representatives should, if possible, keep away from party bias, because I firmly believe that looking after the local interests of people is a job best done, as far as practicable, by keeping outside party political arguments, so that local authorities do not become small parliaments in themselves. I have always believed that, and under the provisions of the Bill, we shall, for the time being, anyhow, get the benefit of that type of ideal.
Therefore, quite naturally, I find myself in very full support of this central Commission principle, although I think that the ability of the members who serve on it is a most important criterion, because experience in this vast undertaking is so important, if this tremendous task is to succeed. For we must not forget that a considerable maintenance of property is involved, including many thousands of houses, as well as factories, and we must also ensure that the Exchequer gets a good return for this investment, because, after all, it is the taxpayers' money—for which we in this House are responsible.
I suppose that in Crawley at the moment there must already be 45,000 inhabitants, and I imagine that the ultimate aim will be to bring that figure up to about 60,000. On behalf of Croydon's ex-citizens who have gone to Crawley and those Croydonians who, I do not doubt, 904 will follow them, I want to support the continuance of this excellent management, but I certainly believe that the ability of the members of the central Commission will be a considerable key to its success.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
I am sure that the hon. Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the detailed points he raised about the new town of Crawley. I am glad to note that he finds that Crawley is going ahead well, and, like the other new towns, is proving a quite successful venture.
I was rather interested in what the hon. Gentleman said about non-party administration when he suggested that local politics should be without party bias. Of course, there has always been argument about that, but one would have thought that a Parliamentarian like the hon. Member would have realised that the very essence of good government lies in the clash of differences of opinion, because out of that clash comes the best service to the community. I can assure him that when party considerations are excluded from local government, things are not as good as they should be. In my own borough, we have every seat; we are 100 per cent. It is not good for politics or far the country. It is not good for a local community that there should not be in every council chamber some element of party discussion and party politics.
§ Mr. Evans
Most people, both in local and national government, will be sincere in their opinions, and, being sincere, will say what they think, and, inevitably, we shall come back to party politics.
I want to deal with Part I of the Bill. Part II deals mainly with matters which we have considered before—increases in the amount of the capital advances which the Treasury will make to the new towns. The vital part of the Bill is Part I, and, particularly, Clause 2 and the First Schedule, which set out the new national Commission which is to control all the new towns in England and Wales. I do 905 not intend to take up the time of the House in again going over the arguments we have had from the two front benches on what happened in 1946. To me, having read those debates, it is quite clear that the intention of Parliament then was that when the new town development corporation had finished its development, the new town should go to the local authorities. It is clear to me that, at that time, that was the intention of Parliament.
However that may be, the Government are intitled to say, We have thought it over, and, while we may have taken the view at that time that the local authority should assume responsibility, since then we have reconsidered the matter and have now come to a different decision. "The Government are entitled to say that. Therefore, it seems to me that the question which the Government had to consider was what they could do about the future of the new towns. They are a great national asset and a wonderful achievement, and are recognised and admired as such throughout the world. They are one of the post-war developments into the future of which this country can be proud. The Government, looking at these great national assets and this successful new venture, had to ask themselves what would be the best form of organisation for the new towns when their development was completed.
The Government, apparently, take the view that they should be nationalised, and they propose to put the whole of them under a national Commission. They take the view that a central national body is the best form of organisation for the new towns as they complete their development. They are in favour, in the new towns organisation of the future, of some form of national control, whereas we, on these benches take the view that the best form of organisation in future would be the municipal form. If hon. Members opposite prefer not to hear the word "municipalisation", shall I say that we take the view that the local authority is best fitted to manage these new towns after their development is complete? The Government and hon. Members opposite take the view that there should be a centralised, national form of organisation, whereas we say that each new town should be managed by the local authority concerned.
906 It is interesting to note that nobody has suggested that we should sell out these new towns to private owners. No hon. Members opposite have suggested that private enterprise could suitably step in and, in the best interests of the country, manage these new towns after their development is complete. The basic belief of the party opposite that private enterprise is ultimately the most beneficial way of working does not apply in the case of new towns. No hon. Member would dare suggest that new towns should be handed over to be run at a profit by private management.
§ Mr. Sparks
Does not my hon. Friend agree that that is precisely what the Minister has already done, in a small way, by requesting development corporations to sell land, and existing houses, factories and factory sites to private enterprise?
§ Mr. Evans
That is true. The Minister knows that he has taken a retrograde action in a small way in permitting the hiving off to private interests of certain parts of the new towns to be run for private profit.
We shall have to watch the position. If the Minister can sell off parts of the new towns he may be encouraged to try to dispose of the whole of them. We must watch the Commission, and the directions which the Minister gives it. It is possible, with a reactionary Minister, that the Commission might be instructed to undo the work done in the new towns since the war ended.
But we come back to the question of what is the best form of organisation—a national corporation or some form of local control. I have always understood that some industries and services are best managed by a central body. Some industries can run at their maximum efficiency only if there is central control. That is true of the electricity industry, which is highly technical and requires a national grid to obtain the optimum efficiency. The main transport system, too, has to be looked at from a national point of view. We cannot have local control of our main traffic arrangements.
But there are other services and industries which essentially should be cared for by the local community. They are generally personal services, and I should have thought that if the Government had 907 looked at this matter dispassionately, and with a primary concern for the best form of organisation, they would have taken note of the fact that the business of the new towns is largely a matter of personal services. It concerns men, women and families, who can most suitably be cared for within the local community and are not suited to be run by a central commission, board or whatever name we like to use.
Housing is obviously a personal matter, which needs a constant attention to individual cases. In all the new towns there is a population of about 500,000, representing about 250,000 families, These families are involved in the weekly payment of rent, weekly repairs, and various other detailed personal questions. In setting up this national Commission the Government have decided upon the wrong form of organisation.
The Minister may tell us that the Commission will be charged with the duty of setting up committees for the new towns, but I am not clear that it is obligatory upon the Commission to do so. The Parliamentary Secretary seemed to indicate that his interpretation of the First Schedule was that the Commission would be obliged to appoint a local committee in respect of each new town, but I shall be glad if the Minister can tell us exactly what the First Schedule intends in that respect. It is very important that the local people should be encouraged to play their part in developing their town's amenities and building up a community spirit. They should feel that they are part of the community, and not the tenants of some remote authority.
The Minister is building up an organisation which is far too centralised. The Commission will be the agent of the Minister, and almost every action it takes will be subject to his approval. The Minister will appoint the chairman and the vice-chairman. He can also remove any member of the Commission whom he thinks unsuitable. The Minister is also interested in remuneration. He has to decide the amount of expenses, pensions and allowances. He has to approve the personnel of any local committee which the Commission may set up. Under the Schedule he has power to give directions of that kind, even down to such details as the composition of a committee.
908 In such a highly centralised organisation there is no outlet for the views of the local people who have made their homes in these new towns. They cannot feel that they are taking any part in the running of the towns, and I think that the Minister would have acted with greater wisdom had he allowed local authorities to nominate at least one member to the central body. At present all the decisions seem to lead back to the right hon. Gentleman.
I will not repeat the arguments which have been advanced against the new towns being handed over to local authorities when their development is completed, but I have yet to hear a good argument for not making the local authorities responsible. The financial side is well cared for. Interest on loans will have to be paid to the Treasury, and there is no danger about that. It has been argued that councils will have a personal interest in many of the decisions which will have to be made, and, in a way, that is true. But the councils will have no greater interest than any person who lives in the towns. It is an interest which will be shared by all the inhabitants.
We should not forget that this is a new departure, that we have created a new form of community living, and we must adapt local government to meet this new creation. I feel sure that local councillors may be relied upon to safeguard the interests of their communities and not to consider their own interests and, in any case, the Minister always has the power to intervene. I hope that the Minister will produce more substantial arguments in support of his objection to the new towns enjoying a democratic form of local government.
§ 7.5 p.m.
§ Sir Colin Thornton-Kemsley (North Angus and Mearns)
All of us agree, and most hon. Members who have spoken have paid a tribute to it, that the new towns have proved a wonderful success. Of that there is no question. I have heard a number of people express this opinion, but no one has given higher praise than Mr. Lewis Mumford, the distinguished American town planning expert and author, who was in this country during the summer before last, and who visited a number of our new towns and witnessed their development. He said that the building of British new towns, as 909 a political and economic achievement, is a miracle of the age. That may be putting it rather high, but we may all gain satisfaction from the fact that these new towns are an imaginative experiment which is proving its success with every month that passes.
It is all the more important, therefore, that we should not put a foot wrong in what we do during the future stages in the development of these new towns, and, as I shall try to show, there will he more than one stage. We must be sure that what we propose is wise. I am not at all sure that those who advocate passing the assets of the new towns to local authorities have been well served by their supporters.
No hon. Member on this side of the House can deny that we supported the Now Towns Act of 1946, and that then it was our idea, just as much as it was the idea of the party opposite which framed the Measure, that, ultimately, the new towns should be managed and owned by local authorities. It is possible to quote speech after speech made in the House in support of that. But having said that, let me add that the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) was right in saying that there was not the slightest reason why the Government should not learn from their experience. This is a responsibility of government, and it is perfectly understandable if, during the intervening twelve years, they have had second thoughts on the matter. There are sound reasons for it, as was revealed by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. There are sound reasons why we should not consider the local authorities to be the right people upon whom the mantle of the new town development corporations should fall.
Those who intended the new town development corporations to fall into the hands of the local authorities have been badly served by the authors of proposals for the municipalisation of rented houses—if I may use that term which is now rightly objected to by hon. Members opposite. There is now a realisation of what it would mean in this country were the majority of rented houses to be owned by the local authorities. What a heavy hand would rest upon all the tenants of such houses were their dwellings under a monopoly ownership of that kind. We 910 may learn from the experience we have had of some local authorities which have consistently refused to put up the rents of their houses, despite every kind of justifiable argument advanced by the central Government.
Let me cite the case of the Glasgow Corporation. In Glasgow there are about 100,000 corporation houses with rents of only slightly over 5s. a week. The Socialist-controlled corporation has consistently refused to raise them and has now been forced to take such action, in the face of the strongest opposition from Socialist councillors, because of representations made by the Government. That kind of experience does not lead us to think that local authorities are the right people to have monopoly ownership of rented houses.
§ Mr. A. Evans
Surely Glasgow Corporation did nothing wrong in refusing to raise council rents and trying to keep its rents low? That showed consideration for the ratepayers and there was nothing inefficient or wrong about it. Is it not better to do that kind of thing than to have slums with exorbitant rents?
§ Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley
There are slums in Glasgow. One of the troubles of Glasgow Corporation was that its housing accounts were hopelessly unbalanced.
§ Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley
The corporation did not attempt to balance its accounts by raising rents until it was forced to do so. I have given that as an example of the unwisdom, which we see it now to be, twelve years since the passing of the 1946 Act, of allowing local authorities to have monopoly ownership of rented houses.
I should have thought there was nothing out of line with Socialist thought in having a semi-public corporation, such as the proposed Commission, to own assets like this. Such a body is in line with the kind of post-war development shown in the British Transport Commission, the Airways Corporations, the British Broadcasting Corporation, Cable and Wireless, and so on. A sort of semipublic, Government-appointed, locally representative organisation is not alien to Socialist thought and is a recognised development in these days.
911 There are different stages of development for new towns. There is general recognition that the growth of a new town to its planned limit of population involves two stages. First is the stage of immigration of the new population, the establishment of work for the people who live there, and the building of houses. The second stage is the period when the population is growing by natural increase and of the expansion of local employment. That increase will bring the town up to the level of the planned population mark. It would be wrong if we did not give sufficient thought to that fact in the making of these new towns.
Several hon. Members have already mentioned the tremendous attachment which this new, dynamic idea of new towns has for our young people. One sees an enormous number of perambulators in the new towns, young housewives and young men. These are the towns of youth, if ever there were any. That is the cause of the higher birth rate which has already been referred to, and will mean that the planned population will be reached sooner than might have been foreseen.
It will also mean that we shall have to stop immigration at some point earlier than the time at which we expect to arrive at the planned population. It is, therefore, important that the first phase of development should be discontinued at a population figure well short of the planned population level. That is what I understood my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to mean when he spoke of the period of consolidation.
What kind of development is likely to take place in the consolidation stage? First, there will be a continuation of the planning and provision of houses and of employment. Secondly, there must be increased emphasis upon communal development. We have not built quickly enough the communal centres, cinemas, swimming baths and playing fields. The consolidation stage is being reached already at Crawley, and is coming along in other new towns. More attention than ever will have to be paid to communal development and that will include redevelopment of the obsolete and unsatisfactory parts of the old towns around which some of the new towns centre.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The hon. Gentleman said that we had reached a very advanced 912 stage at Crawley, but I see that out of 6,000 acres in Crawley 2,000 are still uncommitted and that a new, comprehensive plan is to be prepared and discussed.
§ Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley
The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) may be right, but I am now looking ahead. I do not think we are quite ready to go on to the second stage at Crawley, but I do not think there will be much argument that of all the new towns Crawley has developed further than others. Let us put it no higher than that.
In the second stage, consolidation, it is desirable that there shall be local representation. The setting up of the local committees envisaged in paragraph 2 of the First Schedule seems to be exactly the kind of development that is required. I hope that it will be possible for local committees, with the approval of the Commission, to use the organisation and personnel of the existing development corporations. People who are serving the corporations have gathered a wealth of experience and unique knowledge of the towns which they have served, and they have personal association with the industrial and other organisations.
The hon. Member for Islington, South-West spoke of housing as a personal service and suggested that local authorities were the best bodies to deal with demands for repairs and changes of tenancy when rents were being collected. I envisage the local committees making arrangements on lines very much like those of the existing development corporations for those things to happen. Other things will be done by the local committee. The hon. and learned Member for Kettering said that management of these half a million souls was to be entrusted for an indefinite period to undemocratic local committees.
We are not suggesting that the normal local authority functions should be taken from local authorities. All local authority functions in new towns will operate as hitherto. Education, the fixing and levying of rates, town and country planning, street lighting, sewerage and refuse disposal, all these personal services of which the hon. Member for Islington, South-West spoke will still be carried on by the locally-elected representatives of the people.
913 My hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan) quoted a statement made by the Town and Country Planning Association, of which I have the 1-onour to be a member. We set up a sub-committee to investigate the problem of the future ownership of new towns. That sub-committee consulted a variety of people of great experience in local and central government on new town development and public and private estate management. One of the things it recommended, after reporting on the whole question very fully, was:in the view of the Association the decision as to the form and functions of the ultimate owning body of the new towns should not be rushed. Very important and complex questions of financial responsibility arise, which need further discussion. The financial outcome of the industrial and commercial investment cannot yet be clearly seen. The apportionment of loan charges on ancillary undertakings as between the state and the local authorities has not yet been settled. Though in a few years' time there will probably be a surplus on the accounts of most corporations, there is at present an annual deficit on the majority of these, and the date and the amount of future surpluses cannot yet he predicted.I think that is true.
It was clearly indicated to the House in the speech from the Government Front Bench opening the debate that this is not necessarily the final solution. These towns are still new towns. It will be a long time before they are fully completed and developed. In the meantime, the Government's proposals seem to me and to many on this side of the House to be very wise.
§ 7.23 p.m.
§ Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)
I have sat here for quite a long time today to hear whether anyone would attempt to give reasons for the Bill, but we have had very few of them. I do not propose, therefore, to spend any time recounting my personal experience, although I suppose I have had as much experience as anyone in this House—more perhaps—in building large agglomerations of houses and factories in the London district.
The Bill proposes to set up a Commission in place of the existing new town corporations. No one has suggested—indeed, time after time the very opposite has been suggested—that any of the present new town corporations is inefficient, not doing its job and not making 914 great efforts to produce for the country one of the grandest experiments in social living the world has seen. As no one has suggested that, why should we get rid of the new town corporations? The Parliamentary Secretary made all kinds of queer excuses. He thought that we ought to separate government and ownership. It would be a very curious sort of local government if we completely separated government and ownership. Half the local government organisation would go at once.
What is wrong with local authorities owning things? In these modern days it is widely admitted that to be effective and successful a local authority has to own more and more of the services which the people of the locality need and more and more of the land on which the town and those services are built. The idea that we can justify the ultimate abolition of new town corporations because there is something radically wrong and sinful in local authorities owning things has not been proved in any way.
If the whole idea with which we started on this experiment had failed and was obviously failing, one could understand the need for some other kind of organisation, but the whole thing has been a great success. The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. ThorntonKemsley) was quite right when he suggested that Mr. Lewis Mumford, one of the foremost critics in the world, has had some nice things to say about the experiments Britain has been making in new town corporations and in much of the rebuilding of old towns. Yet the Minister proposes to get rid of this organisation which has done such good work—not immediately, but to give it the death of a thousand cuts by taking them one by one and putting them under the control of a nationalised body to own these houses and factories.
The Labour Party suggested that the new towns created under its own Act would eventually be merged, Crawley with Crawley new town, Hemel Hempstead with Hemel Hempstead new town, and so on. The Parliamentary Secretary suggested that these authorities had no experience in running and controlling municipal property. That is completely untrue, as they have all had some experience of owning and controlling municipal property. Over the last twenty 915 years they have all had wide experience in owning, controlling and running house property and many of them in owning and letting factory space.
It seems a very poor compliment to pay those people—who, we have been told, have made such valiant efforts since the end of the war—to say, now that the new towns are reaching a stage where they might begin to make a profit in a few years' time, "You cannot have them any longer," in spite of the fact that between the time when the new town corporation started its work and now, inevitably, there must have been very large increases in the rate liabilities of those towns for all sorts of other services which the corporations do not supply.
One would have thought it ordinary common sense to allow them to take over the buildings when the building scheme was completed and, as a result, to take over the values created and offset that against the capital costs and higher rates they might otherwise have paid. One would have thought that an idea which the average Tory in this House might have accepted. But no.
Something seems to have been going on somewhere that has completely changed the support that the New Towns Bill had when it was introduced. I know that I am rather suspicious of the Treasury, but the Treasury has some responsibility for what is happening here because it knows, as we all do, that within a few years the new town corporations will be making big profits. As I said when I interrupted the Parliamentary Secretary's speech, the Treasury wants those profits for itself, to set them off against relief of taxation elsewhere. That is completely wrong.
It is true that it is the State that has lent the money necessary for the work, but the State gets it all back, plus a good rate of interest. The State makes a good thing out of the deal, and there is no reason why the increased values that the building of a new town and the coming together of 50,000, 60,000 or 70,000 people inevitably creates should be allowed to be spooned off into the Treasury's pocket to the disadvantage of those in the locality whose work and skill have created the increased values.
There is a wonderful argument here for the rating of land values, but I think that 916 I would be out of order were I to develop that—
§ Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley
Does the hon. Gentleman propose that the State should not receive the money that it has advanced, if these new towns do make a profit?
§ Mr. Gibson
As I have just said, the State will get back the whole of the capital it has lent, plus the rate of interest current at the time when the money was lent. Incidentally, I notice that the annual reports of all the new town corporations complain of difficulties caused by high interest charges and Treasury restrictions on capital expenditure. They all complain that their work is being held up by Treasury restrictions. I hope that those restrictions will go, and that we will be courageous enough to let the corporations have the capital they require at very much lower rates of interest than they have been charged during the last two or three years.
My main point is that the local government organisations affected have, for the past twelve years, not only been building on the idea that they would own all the properties around them, but preparing for it. Now, all that is to disappear, because the Tory Party has suddenly turned in favour of nationalisation, and is to nationalise the new town corporations. It is only a few months since the Minister of Housing and Local Government was himself justifying the conversion of the local government percentage grants into block grants, on the ground that that would give the local authorities more scope, more freedom and more opportunity to experiment. Now, apparently, we are to deny the new towns the right to expand, and to take from them even the promise contained in the 1946 Act that the local authority should take over when the new town corporations had done their work.
What is very wrong is that we should allow some other body to scoop the increased surpluses that are bound to accrue annually, not for the benefit of the local ratepayers who helped to create them but for the benefit of the taxpayers, who are affected by big Budget changes. We should let the local authorities have the opportunity, and encourage them to continue to experiment. Some of them might not make as good a job as others, 917 but they should all be given the opportunity, and the means to experiment in local government control and ownership of the properties around them, to keep the new towns decent places for the ordinary people to live in.
The Bill is an insult to the local authorities in the areas concerned. In effect, it is telling them that they are neither fit enough, able enough or efficient enough to take over the new towns when their building has been completed. Therefore, it proposes to hand things over to this national Commission which, as I read the Bill, will own all the properties, and scoop in all the profits that may accrue from the capital spent and the work done. Then the Minister may say, "We want so much of that for the Treasury."
The Parliamentary Secretary completely failed to justify Clause 2 (7), which provides that the Minister may take back, for the Treasury, surpluses whether on capital or revenue account. It is true that there will be some discussion before he does that, but, with the enormous power that the Minister has, he will get away with it. That is wrong. The local authorities should have the money to lighten the burden on the ratepayers, to improve the amenities, brighten the towns up a bit, and increase opportunities of employment. In that way we would really encourage local government to flourish in those towns.
If this change is made, what will happen to the staffs at present employed by the corporations? The Bill does not contain any reference to that. I remember very vividly that, in 1945, whenever a Bill to nationalise an industry was introduced, there was always a Clause dealing with men and women who might be displaced, whose opportunities of employment might be reduced, or whose position might be worsened. Provision was made for them. There is no such provision in this Bill. What does the Minister propose to do about that?
The new town corporations, as such, are, apparently, to disappear. The ownership of the property is to be taken over by the Commission, and the Commission will, of course, want a staff. There is to be some sort of local committee in each of the areas. What about 918 all the highly-skilled technicians whom the new town corporations have been able to attract and who, to a very large degree, have been responsible for the enormous success of the new towns? What about the surveyors, the engineers, the skilled local government officials, as well as the craftsmen who did the physical job of building brick upon brick? Are they not to be considered? What is to happen to them?
I suggest that when he replies to the debate the Minister, in fairness to men and women in the building industry and in local government, should say something about that. There should be guarantees in the Bill that their position will not be worsened; that if, in the end, there are no jobs for them, they will be adequately compensated. If that is not done, the Government will not be doing as good a job as the Labour Government did in similar circumstances in 1945.
I may have misread the Bill, but I cannot find any reference to these problems of staff organisation. To me, that is typical of the way in which the present Government approach this kind of problem. They are concerned not with the overall interests of ordinary, common people, but with holding them fast in the grip of financial power. For those reasons, I hope that we will vote against this proposed transfer of ownership.
§ 7.40 p.m.
§ Viscountess Davidson (Hemel Hempstead)
I must first apologise for being unavoidably absent during part of the debate, but I could not alter a previously arranged meeting.
As one of the few hon. Members who represent new towns I am glad of the opportunity to support the Bill. I represented my constituency for many years before a new town was thought of and, therefore, I have had the opportunity of watching the development of the Hemel Hempstead new town from the beginning. I have done everything in my power to help my new town corporation and the local authority to solve the many problems which have had to be solved.
It was the intention originally that, whenever possible, new towns should be built on virgin soil. The difficulties are much greater when new towns are built into existing towns, and certainly this was the case in Hemel Hempstead, which is 919 a very ancient borough. However, with co-operation and good will, we are succeeding and the experiment is working. I believe that happy, useful and secure lives lie ahead of the new inhabitants of Hemel Hempstead, but it is because we want the success story to continue that we consider it essential that the Bill should be passed.
I want to be frank with the House. I do not blame those responsible for the building of the first new town for believing that when the towns were completed they should be automatically handed over to local authorities. I thought the same during the first few years. In fact, I did not consider any other alternatives; but as the years passed and the towns developed and we gained fuller experience, I began to change my mind. I realised that there were many objections to the original suggestion and that it contained some very real dangers.
I have had the opportunity of discussing the matter with many who are closely connected with my own new town and with other new towns, and I admit that politically many of them opposed my way of thinking. However, I have found that gradually over the years their original views have changed and many of those people who directly opposed me politically have become very anxious and have come to the conclusion that some kind of new organisation should be set up.
I have never said anything about the efficiency or inefficiency of local authorities. I have the highest opinion of my own local authority, but that has nothing to do with the question. The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) spoke at great length about my party having changed its mind on the future of the new towns. In my opinion, it is sometimes wiser, and certainly often courageous, to change one's mind and to take different action if by so doing the national interests are better served. I believe that hon. Members opposite who are also sincerely anxious that the new towns should succeed know in their hearts that the original Bill contains certain provisions which experience has shown will not work. They realise that a commission or agency had to be set up, and I believe that if hon. Members opposite had been in power 920 today they would have introduced a Bill of this kind.
This should not be a political matter. I am only sorry that hon. Members opposite are treating it politically. I am sure that many of them know that the Government are right to introduce the Bill, and that to vote against it is not serving either the interests of the nation or the interests of those who live in the new towns. I hope that, even now, the Opposition will change their mind and will not vote against the Bill, which in my bumble opinion is essential if the new towns are to be a complete success and a real asset to the country.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
I have listened to most of the debate, except for a brief interval, and I have been astounded at the remarks made by hon. Members opposite, with the exception of the hon. Lady the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson), which have been directed to the competence of people who serve on local authorities in the areas in which the new towns are situated. From what some hon. Members opposite have said, I believe they think that it was proposed in the 1946 Act to hand over the new towns upon completion of their development to the administration of local parish councillors who would be general manager, deputy general manager, accountant, architect and treasurer of the new towns. Such a conception is really fantastic and absurd. I am sure that those who give their time, knowledge and ability to local government in the new town areas will not be flattered by the low standard of mentality which hon. Members opposite place upon their competence.
I do not believe the imputations which have been made on the personnel of local authorities in new town areas, nor do I believe that they would be bad landlords. In Part I of the Bill, however, the Government evidently agree with their supporters that the local authorities are not competent to take over the management of the new towns. But one thing that they think that local authorities are competent to do is to look after the sewers of new towns. The only thing that will be transferred to local authorities is the sewers and sewage systems of the new towns. That measures the standard of competence which Government supporters place upon local authorities.
921 We cannot blame the Government for failing to explain the intention of Section 15 of the New Towns Act, 1946. The proposals was not to hand over the new towns to 12 or more parish councillors, urban district councillors, or whatever they may be. The term "local authority" embraces the county council as well as the county district council. Section 15 of the New Towns Act, which authorises the Minister to make an order transferring the new town to a local authority, reads:…such local authority (being an authority within whose area the new town is situated)…As I have said, that embraces the county council and the district council. Some form of joint organisation was in the mind of the Government at the time, because there was a proviso in Section 15 (2, a) which reads as follows:before making any such order"—that is, to hand over a new town to the local authority—the Minister shall consult with the council of the county and of the county district in which the new town is situated …Therefore, it was proposed that the county council and the county district council should be consulted by the Minister with a view to drawing up proposals under which the administration of the new town would pass, and if there was something inimical in the powers and functions of the county council and the county district council which militated against their being able to carry out these responsibilities in an efficient and proper manner, the Minister was given power to make fundamental changes. Section 15 (5) says:An order under this section which provides for the transfer of the undertaking or any part of the undertaking of a development corporation to any local authority or statutory undertakers may contain such incidental, consequential and supplementary provisions as the Minister thinks necessary or expedient for the purposes of the order, and in particular, but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provision, may extend or modify the powers and duties of that authority or those undertakers so far as appears to the Minister to be necessary or expedient in consequence of the transfer.The Minister has the power to mould to his own purpose any form of organisation that he thinks fit to enable the local authorities to undertake this responsibility a competent and efficient manner. 922 Therefore, he really has no case for going beyond the conditions laid down in Section 15 because all the safeguards are there, and the Minister, if he wished, could exercise them.
If anybody were to believe that under such an arrangement it would be the elected councillors who were going to do the ordering of affairs, such a Member would be suffering under a delusion, because it is perfectly obvious that the actual administration and the technical responsibilities of such an undertaking would be vested in competent and skilled officers who, in turn, would need to report to and give an account to the form of authority which the Minister cared to set up. Such an authority would be either a county council or a county district council, or an authority composed jointly of each. I can think of no more competent body to exercise those functions than a body of that kind.
Instead, the Minister proposes to eliminate Section 15 and to set up a national Commission to take charge of the 12 new towns in England and Wales and the three. I think it is, in Scotland. These commissioners will have no idea whatsoever of the interests and the claims of the localities in which the new towns are situated. They are going to be a body of people without local knowledge or interest. I should like to know who they are to be, these co-called supermen who are so superior in intelligence to the local authorities and the skilled staff which they have at their disposal. Fifteen intellectual giants are to be introduced into this Commission to look after the affairs of 500,000 people scattered through 15 towns in England and Wales and Scotland. These are the bright people who are going to do something which nobody else can do.
I very much doubt whether the members of this Commission will have that amount of knowledge which some people think they may have. They will undoubtedly be advised by others, by paid servants who are skilled and experienced in the kind of work they undertake. All that those 15 can do is to consider and accept the advice and recommendations made to them by the skilled technical people who are in charge of the actual work.
That is precisely what the local authorities would do in the new town areas. They would do precisely the same thing. 923 They would be advised by men, perhaps women too, of skill and knowledge as to how the administration of the new towns should be proceeded with.
Then there is the very important factor mentioned in the very significant statement which the Parliamentary Secretary made when moving the Second Reading of the Bill. He said that this Commission will take over in some cases three-quarters of the houses in the district of the new town. I do not say in all cases, but in some, three-quarters of the houses of the local authority's district will go to this Commission. His argument was that he thought it a bad thing that the new towns should be transferred to the local authority because the local authority would then own three-quarters of the houses in the town within its district.
I wonder if the hon. Gentleman has looked at the reverse of the coin. Is it a good thing for the local authority and for the people in that area to be overshadowed and dominated by a remote Commission exercising considerable powers over three-quarters of the population of the district? I do not think that is a good thing at all. I think that sooner or later, when the new town develops, there must inevitably be a clash between the policies pursued by this far-off Commission and the needs and requirements of the district in which the new town is situated.
A new town is not a static body. The children will grow up; they will marry and they will want homes to live in. It is the general trend these days for newly-married couples to move as far away as they can from their mothers and fathers, and it is more than probable that they will not want to live in the new town but outside it, though, perhaps, in the area of the local authority. These new towns will grow and develop as the young people grow up and marry and require new homes for themselves and their children.
These developments give rise to a host of social services such as maternity clinics, dental clinics, schools and hospitals. A whole range of these services will be necessary to keep pace with the development of the new towns, and the county councils and county district councils are the authorities that are responsible for these forms of social services.
924 It is quite true that the Bill gives power in Clause 2 to the proposed Commission to give assistance towards the provision of amenities and welfare services. I emphasise that it is "to give assistance" and not "to provide." Here again, sooner or later, there is bound to be something of a clash, because, as I have said, the county council and the county district council are the authorities that provide amenities and welfare services in their own area. I do not suggest that those authorities will refuse any assistance that they can get from the Commission towards the provision of these services, but the responsibility is not with the Commission at all. It is with the other authorities. Therefore, differences must arise sooner or later over the extension of the services.
Clause 2 (4, a, b, c, d) sets out very wide powers in connection with the control of the development of new towns, but I think the Minister should tell us what he intends to do. I know that the Bill says that the Commission is not allowed to sell the freehold property which it takes over without the Minister's direction or consent, but the Minister has already compelled new towns to sell the freehold of land upon which houses and factories may stand. Many new towns have sold to private interests land and properties which have now passed out of their possession altogether.
It appears to me that the right hon. Gentleman may have at the back of his mind the intention also to give powers to or to direct the Commission at some later stage to pursue the policy which the new towns have had to pursue in this respect. When the Commission is selling off any of its properties, either by direction from the Minister or otherwise, will it consult the local authority? Will it sell its houses over the heads of the local authority? I believe that the Parliamentary Secretary suggested in his speech that the Commission would have power to sell its houses to owner-occupiers. It is bad policy to permit the Commission to alienate any of its properties, whether housing or industrial property, without consulting the county council or the county district council.
Will the Minister grant a priority to local authorities to acquire, if they think it desirable, any houses or industrial properties which the Commission may 925 wish to sell off? This idea of a local authority acquiring the ownership of houses and industrial undertakings is not new. Local authorities are quite capable of managing house property. Unless there is some means of co-operation between the Commission and the local authority we may well find the Commission pursuing a policy which is not in the best interests of the locality or the town, and which may even be against the wishes of the local authority and contrary to the needs of the people who live in the area.
Where local authorities own industrial sites, the right hon. Gentleman knows as well as I do that there is already power under existing Acts for them to acquire industrial land and permit development upon it, or even to acquire land on which industry is already sited. I hope in the Committee that the right hon. Gentleman will undertake, first of ail, to make it obligatory upon the Commission to consult the county council and the county district council on the disposal of any property which he may direct the Commission at any time to dispose of, and to give the local authority priority of acquisition if it desires to acquire anything that may be available for disposal.
If the right hon. Gentleman says that he has no intention of pursuing with the new Commission the policy which he pursued with the new towns, and that he will not direct or give powers to the Commission to alienate any land or any structure which is upon the land, I am prepared to give him full marks for that concession. But some of us are afraid that the Bill is the beginning of a rundown of these great enterprises of new towns. We fear that, as time passes, the Commission may be the instrument for disintegrating this great experiment and reverting to private control and private ownership.
The Bill provides for local committees—presumably one for each new town—and we understand that they are to be responsible for housing management only. As far as I can find, there is no indication in the Bill of who will comprise the personnel of the local committees. I want once again vigorously to oppose the idea which comes from the 926 Conservative benches that there is not a local councillor in the county or in the county district who is competent or able to serve on such a committee. We on this side of the House repudiate the idea that the standard of mentality of local councillors is so low that they cannot be expected to carry out the functions and duties of such a committtee.
I urge the Minister to have it clearly laid down that upon the local committees there shall be a reasonable proportion of local councillors. We may try to shut the door against the local authority but the local authority is there, comprised of the elected representatives of the people who live in the new town, as well as those who live just outside. As elected representatives of the people they are entitled to be represented on such a committee which is intimately concerned with the welfare of the district and of the people who live there.
Therefore, we want to know exactly what are the powers and duties of these local committees. Are they to be merely the instrument or agent of the Commission or are they to be delegated any powers in connection with housing management? Are they to have any initiative? Is the local authority to be given any standing in the work of the housing management committees?
The hon. Gentleman also referred to committees that may have purposes other than housing management. I want to impress upon him the need to encourage the local authorities and the local councils, no matter how low their mentality may seem to be to the Conservative benches. They are the elected representatives of the people, and they are intelligent enough to be brought into the local committees and to contribute what they have to give towards their duties and responsibilities.
My chief objection to this proposal is that the control of development in the area concerned will not be in the hands of the elected representatives of the people but in the hands of the Commission, which will sit far away and which may not wish to consult the local authorities from time to time. As I mentioned just now, as time passes changes are bound to arise, new needs are bound to be felt, and as far as I can see the Commission has considerable powers, if it wishes to use them, completely to change 927 the character of a neighbourhood without consulting the local authority in any way. To give the Commission such sweeping powers to decide the character of the development in the locality unilaterally is very bad, and it certainly is not a democratic process.
Therefore, it seems to me that the Commission will merely be the agent of the Minister, that it will not have sufficient regard for the needs and character of the district outside its own properties, that it will not be concerned with the needs and wants of the wider area in which it is but will be an island, and that, as time proceeds, the possibilities are that a serious conflict of policy will arise as between the Commission and the local authorities in the areas.
One other objection which I have is that the New Towns Act, by the creation of 15 new towns, by the expenditure of public money, has created immense potential land values. There is a lot, I will not say of money, but of value, involved in these new towns, and whilst the Minister might be anxious to grab it all for the Treasury, I think it is morally indefensible to deprive the local ratepayers and the local people of some of the advantages they have created. Without the people who live and work in the district the houses and factories we build would have no value. It is only the presence of men, women and their families, and the work they do, that create the potential land values of the new towns. We want to see some of that value returned to the local people in order that they may use it again to develop, expand and improve their own localities.
We shall vote against the Second Reading of the Bill not because we disagree with Part II, with which, of course, we are in agreement, but because we believe that Part I contains a bad principle. It cannot be said to be democracy. We believe that it deprives local authorities of the responsibility of looking after the affairs of their own people in their own town and in their own district, that it will shut the door upon them, and that it will appoint a body of people sitting far away without any local knowledge or local interest to direct and guide the affairs of a remote population in an area about which it does not know much. That principle is wrong—it is 928 certainly not democracy—and for that reason we shall vote against the Second Reading of the Bill tonight.
§ 8.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Body (Billericay)
If I correctly understood the argument of the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks), it is that the Government have suddenly adopted a fresh policy, have broken faith with the past and are intending to deprive local authorities of the assets of the new towns, and doing so on the ground that those who comprise the local authorities are not competent to undertake the task.
I have here the three Reports of the Reith Committee on new towns. On that Committee sat 12 of the foremost authorities on town planning, civil engineering and the social consequences of creating a new town. I would remind the hon. Member of the terms of reference of that Committee and its conclusion on this subject. Its terms of reference were to suggest the guiding principles on which such towns should be established and developed as self-contained and balanced communities for work and living.
In its second Report the Committee went with very great care into the question of who would have the assets afterwards. Far from this being some fresh policy on the part of the Government, this very matter was envisaged in 1946 as a problem which would arise twenty years hence. The Committee considered whether the functions of landowner and local authority could be combined and concluded, not that the local authorities would be incompetent, because no one so far in this debate has argued that—
§ Mr. Body
The hon. Gentleman has been here the whole time, because I have seen him, and that means that I have been in the Chamber the whole time. No one on this side of the House has seriously argued that those who comprise local authorities would be incompetent, but we echo the recommendation of the Reith Committee of 1946 and say that it would be unwise to combine the functions of landowner and local authority in a single body.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Do I understand that the hon. Member is echoing the recommendations of the Reith Committee or the subsequent speeches of those who spoke for his party on the 1946 Act?
§ Mr. Body
I am saying that there is nothing new in the policy enunciated by the Government and embodied in the Bill. We are certainly not breaking faith with the past. It is true that there was a time, in 1946, when, in passing, we considered the future ownership of the new town assets, but it was very much in passing and no final decision was intended there and then. On both sides of the House it was thought that the new towns would not be completed for very many years, and. having in mind the rate of progress being made under the Labour Government between 1946 and 1951, one was entitled to consider that the problem would not arise for thirty or forty years. However, so keen have the Government been on pushing on with the new towns that the problem has now suddenly arisen and must be considered.
The hon. Member for Acton is bound to attack the Bill, because he agrees with the principle of municipalisation, believing that the local authorities should own all rented houses. Without trying to bring in too much party politics, I would point out that that is a policy upon which hon. Members opposite seem a little more reticent than they were when it was enunciated some months ago. Indeed, there was remarkably little mention of the municipalisation of rented houses in their restatement of policy published last week. The case against municipalisation seems to be strong enough in the older towns where one already has a balanced community with a balanced ownership of property.
§ Mr. Sparks
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Is it in order to discuss the municipalisation of rented property? The property of the new towns is municipalised in those new towns. We are not concerned with the whole question of rented property.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir G. Touche)
On the Second Reading of a Bill one may discuss cognate matters. I do not think the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Body) has gone too wide, but I hope he will not pursue the matter too far.
§ Mr. Body
It is the alternative. We are faced with two alternatives. Either the houses and other assets of the new towns are to be vested in the local authority or they are to be vested in the Commission. That is the whole purpose of the debate, apart from giving the new towns another £100 million, which may be skimping things in the mind of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) but is none the less a fairly substantial sum. Other than that, out main purpose is to choose between municipalisation or the temporary ownership of these assets by the Commission.
The municipalisation of rented houses in the old towns is one thing, but to put into practice the same principle in the new towns is a very different thing. Monopoly ownership of a new town in the early stages of its development is an advantageous policy and one which all of us accept, but when it is completed there is one main difference between ownership going to a Commission and ownership going to a local authority. If ownership is vested in the Commission as envisaged by the Bill, the new towns will be subject to the control of the Minister, who in turn will be answerable to this House, and he will direct how the assets are to be disposed of. A Minister will be able to take steps to ensure that there is a healthy and balanced diversity of interest, part going to owner-occupiers and part to be handed over to the local authority, such as old people's housing, so that there will be true council houses and a proportion of other properties.
§ Mr. Sparks
I can find nothing in the Bill suggesting that. The only transfer to local authorities is the sewerage system.
§ Mr. Body
That is simply the first stage. It is not the end of the road. All hon. Members will agree that local authorities will be admirable bodies for taking over parts of housing estates, in particular, old people's homes. However, other parts should remain in the hands of the Commission. In other words, the new 931 towns should be able to grow up and become as other towns with their inhabitants leading ordinary lives.
§ Mr. Body
I assure the hon. Gentleman that there is no difference between my hon. Friend and myself on this matter. The Bill is simply the first stage. Ultimately, the new towns must become balanced communities with diversity of ownership. There ought then to be an opportunity for local councils to take over council estates. There is no reason why that should not be done, and in one new town it has already been agreed that the local council is to take over and develop part of the town.
If every house in a new town were in the hands of a local authority, instead of becoming a balanced community, a new town would become the plaything of the planners or a guinea pig for sociologists. It is true that eventually local authorities will have power to dispose of part of the assets—if the Labour Party's policy is followed—but is it in accordance with the policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite for local authorities to dispose of rented accommodation? As I understand it, it is the very opposite.
In any event, no individual or institution will voluntarily give up his own property. I can imagine no local councillor who would freely forsake his property. Monopoly ownership by a local authority would be perpetual. Monopoly ownership handed over to a Commission would be temporary. I prefer temporary to perpetual monopoly ownership.
Populations of the new towns will vary from about 30,000 to 100,000, as in the case of the one which I have the honour to represent. To vest in one authority the assets of so many people is something quite new in the western world. That is not an argument against it, since all new ideas are worth while, because without them progress would come to a standstill. However, monopoly ownership of a new town is scarcely a new idea. It is not a brave new invention. Any feeble-minded imbecile could have conceived such an idea in the past, but over the centuries no such idea has been executed. That very fact is something 932 which should put us on our guard against the dangers and disadvantages which are bound to arise.
There is one danger which has been scarcely mentioned, the political danger. Although of medium size, the new towns are likely to have all the facilities and amenities of our larger cities, all owned temporarily by the Commission, or permanently by the local authority.
The printing press and the newspaper will have as their landlords the local council. I am not suggesting that undesirable pressures would be brought to bear by their landlords, but certain prohibitions, or inhibitions, I should say, perhaps might follow, to put it no higher than that. Rather than have it leased, the town hall authorities might take it upon themselves to carry on the management of the local theatre, and control would then go to a committee of local councillors. Would the aldermen give the public what they want, or rather—
§ Mr. Sparks
Does not the hon. Gentleman know that precisely that sort of thing happens in all our seaside towns? Is he suggesting that that practice should be discontinued by the authorities?
§ Mr. Body
No. It is not quite right, as I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree, that practically all our local authorities, particularly if they have good, healthy, Conservative majorities on the councils, think of taking over and managing theatres. It is true that they may own them, but managing them is a very different thing from owning them, and I am more concerned at the moment with management rather than ownership.
I believe that that would give an excuse to the local councillors to manage these theatres rather than lease them, and, in doing so, they would give to the public not what the public wants, but what they felt it ought to have. That in itself is a matter of opinion, according to the thoughts of the local politicians.
The council would have a majority of the right or the left—[An HON. MEMBER: "Or the centre."]—yes, or the centre. The majority would have power to give preference to those plays and performances which had a slant to their way of thinking, and would exclude those with which they disagreed. Cushioned by the taxpayer, they could put the demands of the public second to their own thoughts. 933 There are times when all of us in this House forget that the great advantage of private enterprise is that it must provide the public with what it wants or become broke, and there are not very many business men who want to go broke.
The theatre, then, is one example of how a political slant might be brought to bear. Every shop will also have the same landlord, but will every shopkeeper have the same terms and treatment from his landlord? Lord Acton's dictum has been quoted already once, if not twice, this afternoon. If he was right, then here is an example of absolute power, but whether it would mean absolute corruption would depend on whether we agree with Lord Acton. Whether he was right or wrong, one thing is certain, and it is that the opportunities for corruption and all its attendant evils would be immense. There would be unlimited scope for a little bribery, or for largesse to an accommodating official, or for a suitable quid pro quo to a councillor yielding to temptation.
I have heard rumours, which have been disquieting enough, in the last few months in one new town about that kind of activity. This new town is only half completed, and I shudder to imagine what rumours might arise when that new town is built if all its assets were transferred to the local authority. It would mean that that local authority would own and control every house, with every man, woman and child who lived in them, every mill or factory, or other place in which people work. It would own every shop and store or other place where anyone buys any goods or services. It would own the theatres and cinemas, every playing field, stage and building or any other place where people go for recreation. Such an overwhelming concentration of power would be too much for any local authority.
§ Mr. Body
The hon. Member has only just come in. I have been trying to argue that if we are to have a balanced community in these new towns we want to diversify ownership so that not all its economic power is vested in any one corporation or in one local authority. In the short term, it must go to some Commission, but I hope that that Commission 934 will ensure that eventually there is a diversified ownership of all the assets of these new towns, so that they can grow up as ordinary towns.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson (Dundee, East)
I had better begin by declaring my interest in the debate. I am what the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Body) described as a guinea pig of the new town sociologists. I speak as an ordinary citizen of a new town. Having told the hon. Member my position in this debate, I think that it might be better if he were to clear up his position. He made a most interesting statement when he said that the Bill was merely an interim Measure, and the Commission merely an interim commission. We had no hint of this from the Minister.
§ Mr. Thomson
That is a little less high than the hon. Member put it during the course of his remarks.
The hon. Member quoted the Reith Report as the basis of his argument, but it was significant that the Minister did not mention that Report. Indeed, my objection to the Minister's speech was that it approached the question whether the assets of the new towns should be owned by local authorities or by the new Commission as if it were a new argument—something which we were all approaching for the first time with open minds, and in respect of which we had to take a decision on the merits of the case.
What has upset people in the new towns, especially those who are rendering public service there, is that they had regarded this matter as having already been decided by Parliament. They had taken the view that in 1946 both sides of the House turned down the recommendations of the Reith Committee and decided that the people who committed their lives or investments to the new towns would do so on the assumption that in due course, after the period of development, the new towns would pass to democratic local authority ownership. They fail to see that any new, compelling circumstances have arisen since then. The arguments of the Reith Committee are neither new nor compelling; they are old, and they 'have been turned down. The people of the new 935 towns have a certain justification for feeling that they have been badly misled and let down, in suddenly discovering that this change is being thrust upon them. I said that I wanted to speak primarily as somebody who lives in a new town and not as somebody with any responsibility as a member of a new town local authority. It happens that I began living in a new town several years ago, when there were in it only 7,000 citizens. Today, there are more than 40,000. I am one of the oldest inhabitants; indeed, I am in the happy position of being able to tell the newcomers all sorts of tall stories about the hardships of those of us Who were pioneers.
I spend a good deal of my spare time taking foreign visitors round my new town. As was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), they come from all over the world. Our new towns are one of the finest advertisements for this country. As one travels round, one hears stories that Britain is on the down grade, that we lack the vital energy which we once possessed. But when one takes Americans, Asians or Africans to see our new towns and to watch these dynamic and expanding communities full of young people, bright colours and new experiments, it does a tremendous amount of good for the reputation of Britain.
Above all, of course, they are children's towns. This presents great problems. I must join issue with my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell), who seemed to think that Aycliffe had the highest birth-rate—
§ Mr. Shinwell
I did not say the highest birth-rate in the United Kingdom. I said that I thought it had the highest birthrate of any part of the County of Durham.
§ Mr. Thomson
I hope not, because I was about to claim credit for Harlow, in 936 Essex, as having the highest birth-rate and to claim a modest share of that credit for my own little contribution—
§ Mr. Thomson
—because when I went to the new town I had no family at all. Now, one of my strongest possible reasons for remaining there and growing up with the new town is that it is the finest place in Britain in which to bring up a family.
It is infinitely touching to go round a new town and see the children playing and to see the facilities provided for them. Despite all the difficulties, I hope that when my right hon. Friend sits on the other side of the House he will take the advice offered by my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) and help other people to enjoy the good fortune which I have enjoyed for a few years. Let us have more of these towns, particularly in Scotland, where we are faced with the tremendous problem of the concentration of population in the Glasgow area where we need more new towns very quickly.
Of course, these new towns bring their own big problems. The real question is whether the machinery proposed in the Bill provides the best methods to deal with them. To create a new community almost from scratch is a terrific job. I may say, as a Socialist, that the new towns present a chastening training ground for the exponents of a modern Utopia. In building what one hopes is a better community in every sense, one discovers that new problems are created, and the question is how best to deal with them. In my view, they have no final solution. But I am sure that the only way to tackle such problems is by the normal way adopted in this country, democratic control.
The question is whether the development corporations or the proposed Commission will provide the best way. The fact is that the people themselves in these communities ought to run their own affairs and face their own problems. Unless they do so they will not be satisfied with any solution which is provided, whether it be good or bad. The hon. Member for Billericay quoted Lord Acton. I would say to him that irresponsibility corrupts as well as power. Lack of power can corrupt just as much, and 937 it is very important, in my opinion, that local authorities in the new towns should not be thrust into a position where they are increasingly frustrated.
The question has been asked whether local authorities are equipped to do the job which faces them. I say that here the Government are in great danger if they do not allow youthful authorities to make the decisions and accept the responsibility which we seek to encourage in these communities. In my new town the local authority is a youthful authority, where young men are facing the problems which we all wish them to tackle. The Government are saying what no British Government should say, that these local authorities would be too young to tackle their great responsibilities. It is unfortunate that the Government should have got themselves into this attitude of mind.
The hon. Member for Billericay spoke of the danger of local authorities exercising some sort of sinister censorship over culture, but I should have thought the problem was quite the reverse. We have to encourage local authorities to do all they can to patronise culture and to build concert halls, etc. The local authority at Harlow has been very good and helpful in this matter. Recently the council and the development corporation have joined together to bring the London Philharmonic Orchestra out there.
References have been made to the dangers of monopoly landlordism. We know that legal danger is here, but in the policy statement to which the hon. Member for Billericay referred there is particular emphasis on the need for legal safeguards for council tenants. If we had the local authority as the main landlord in the community the old argument whether or not the council had acted wisely over rents, in preferring to put the charges upon the rates, would not operate, because the same group of people would then be paying both rents and rates. The council would have to face that group of people at election times.
It is said that a local authority might be tempted to meet its rent problems by imposing burdens on the industrial undertakings in its locality, but experience does not bear out that suggestion. Factories are the source of employment for citizens and voters; any local authority that discouraged the creation of new jobs in the new towns would quickly find 938 itself defeated at the next election. We came to the heart of the hon. Member's argument when he spoke of the political dangers. If Government supporters were frank they would admit that the danger for them is that local authorities in the new towns would be predominantly Labour councils. That is probably much more in their minds than they have admitted in the argument which they have put forward tonight.
The provision in the Bill is incredibly backward. It is not merely that it carries on something which ought not to be carried on, but that it is actually turning the clock back. In most new towns there is a state of tension between the development corporation and the elected local authority. That state of cold war is natural and inevitable in present circumstances, and is, indeed, healthy. The Bill proposes that this should be changed by replacing the development corporation with a national Commission, which will inevitably be much more remote than is the development corporation and be a good deal less answerable in terms of the duties and functions of Members of the House.
In the early part of the debate the Minister was extremely vague about this aspect of the matter. I hope that whoever winds up for the Government tonight will give us an assurance on this point. Whenever I have had headaches in my new town I have been tempted to write to my Member of Parliament about it. I see the hon. Gentleman sitting on the Government benches opposite. Knowing what M.P.s get in their postbags, I have resisted the temptation. A Member of Parliament who receives a letter about something in a new town can, if he wishes to do so, raise the matter upon the Floor of the House. Will this still be possible when the new Commission is appointed? Can we be sure that hon. Members will be able to get Questions on the Order Paper? It is vital that we should have a clear and unequivocal answer to this question if we are to make up our minds about the merits of the Bill.
Furthermore, the Bill is contrary to the Conservative Party's own philosophy. Perhaps I ought to be beyond feeling shocked and surprised at anything the Conservative Party does, but it is that party which has always made the gibe 939 about the gentleman in Whitehall knowing best. Mention has been made of the interesting article in The Times today about the Minister of Housing and Local Government. I do not think that anybody has quoted the words which that newspaper's Political Correspondent attributes to the former Conservative leader of the London County Council. The Times has quoted them to show that he is an excellent person for the office that he now holds. The quotation, from the Minister of Housing and Local Government, is this:Councillors should frame their policy according to what the local people who have elected them want, and not according to what Cabinet Ministers in Whitehall want to impose on the locality.That statement is one of the strongest possible arguments for going into the Lobby against the Bill tonight. How the Minister who was responsible for that view only a year or two ago can put this Bill before us tonight, is beyond me. Therefore, my colleagues and I will go into the Division Lobby enthusiastically against a thoroughly bad, undemocratic Bill whose provisions ought to be changed as soon as possible.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Rupert Speir (Hexham)
Before we vote this large sum of money for additional expenditure on new towns, I wish to put in a brief plea for old towns. The hon. Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) and nearly all Socialist hon. Members speaking in the debate have taken it for granted that these new towns are eminently desirable. I regard them, and always have regarded them, as very questionable indeed.
I regret very much that hundreds of millions of pounds have been spent on these new towns. What could not the old towns have done with those millions of money? If £400 million of taxpayers' money is to be made available for rebuilding, especially for new towns, some of the industrial areas in the North of England and other parts of Britain which suffered so severely from the pre-war depression and mass unemployment should have first consideration. For that reason, I very much hope that the Government will not continue the policy, started by the Socialists, of creating new satellite towns.
The hon. Member for Dundee, East spoke eulogistically of the new town in 940 which he lived. I quite accept the fact that the new towns are extremely pleasant places in which to live. They are fine creations and are bright and cheerful—unlike many of the drab and dreary speeches we have had from hon. Members opposite this evening—I do not include the hon. Member for Dundee, East in that observation. What I particularly object to is that, for the most part, these new towns are being built and expanded in the London area. Is it really desirable on either social or strategic grounds to go on having an increase in the Metropolitan sprawl? I cannot believe that for either of those considerations it is desirable for more millions of pounds to be spent on extending and developing these new towns.
From the manufacturer's point of view it is, of course, extremely desirable to have a large and luscious market on one's doorstep, but from every other point of view, social or strategic, it is surely most ill-considered and inadvisable to encourage this Metropolitan sprawl. What is the need for these new towns to be extended? What can they provide which the old towns have not got to offer? There is scarcely an old town throughout the length and breadth of Britain which would not welcome new industry. That certainly is the case with old towns in the North of England, particularly smaller towns.
In my own constituency there are at least five towns with populations of fewer than 10,000 which would warmly welcome the introduction of the right type of new industry. Those old towns have not only an excellent labour force available—it is becoming more available every day owing to small mines and old quarries being closed down—but they have good existing services. They have water supplies, sewers, cinemas, hospitals, schools, pubs and clubs. They have much more than that to offer any new industry which comes along—they have the churches, the traditions and the community spirit already developed.
I welcome this opportunity of putting, very briefly, the reasons for my sincere hope that the Government will not encourage the extension of existing, nor the development of further, new towns because I believe that it is in the best interests of Britain as a whole that the old town should be encouraged to flourish, and in this case the new ones will not be necessary.
§ 9.0 p.m.
Mr. James MaeColl (Widnes)
It is a very great personal pleasure for me to appear as an embarrassed phantom at this Dispatch Box to speak on the subject of the new towns. In the first place, it is a success story—a triumphant success story, and I am very pleased that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton)—to whom I and so many of my generation owe such a tremendous amount—has been here today. He is one of three people with whom I had very close connection who can. I think look back on the part they have played in the history of this matter.
Another is Lord Silkin. This is the coping-stone of Lord Silkin's great work for town planning. Some of that work has been steadily dismantled recently, but it is an integral whole and, as this debate has shown, something that has left its mark. The third person is Lord Reith, Who suffered from one of Lord Silkin's few errors of judgment when I was placed on the Hemel Hempstead Corporation. I worked with Lord Reith for a few years, until coming here, in building up Hemel Hempstead. I have a great affection and admiration for him.
I am, therefore, delighted that it is under the shadow of these three great men that it should fall to my lot this evening to acknowledge the vision they showed in building up this great work. But, of course, this Bill has two parts. The second part deals with extension—the amount of money that is to be spent on the new towns—and I cannot understand the Government's attitude in refraining from starting some further new towns—
§ Mr. Speir rose—
§ Mr. MacColl
The hon. Gentleman had his opportunity—and some of it was in my time—to develop his point. However, I shall deal with it. The new towns are not in competition either with the over-spill from the great cities or with the extension of the old towns. As a Lancashire Member, I would be the last person not to realise the need to rebuild the old towns, but these are all facets of the same problem—the rehousing of industrial populations in decent conditions. That cannot be done at all unless it is realised that the implications go far beyohd physical planning, into economic planning.
942 I emphasise that because, as I say, we have today a success story. It is certain that Lord Silkin created the New Towns Act, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland is the great architect of industrial dispersion, and unless we are prepared to plan the movement of industry to places where it is socially needed, and unless we are prepared to keep the controls to plan it, that will fail.
As has been mentioned, not so much by my hon. Friends as by hon. Members opposite, the whole of this new towns experiment is liable to collapse unless we have full employment in them. The whole rather delicate framework is based on the assumption of full industrial employment there, and that can be achieved only by using the very instruments of economic planning that the Labour Government used when they launched this great experiment.
If there is no case for the extension of new towns, if there is no case for having further new towns, there is no case for Part I of the Bill, because that is based on the assumption that the existing new towns are reaching such a stage of maturity that they no longer need the corporations. If, on the other hand, they are not reaching that stage and still require great expenditure of capital on them, there is no place for Part I and no place for creating the Commission. The Government have to make up their minds upon which side they propose to fall in that dilemma.
One of the few things in which I can feel a very tiny personal pride is that, back in 1946 and 1947, I took part in building up the team which built Hemel Hempstead. That is a team, and that applies to all other new towns where people launched out in a new venture. They gave up safe jobs and had no idea what would happen. They did not know whether the result would be a miserable failure or a great success. They showed courage and vision in going forward with this great social experiment, and they succeeded. We now have teams of people who have worked together for many years in building the new towns. The effect of the Government's liquidation of the corporations and starting no more new towns will criminally break up those teams, so that those people will be scattered. When everybody realises that 943 we need some more new towns the teams will no longer be available.
I want to impress on the Minister that this is not purely a matter which can be looked at in terms of finance. It is a humane problem whether or not we are to keep that know-how which has been built up in ten years within the movement. As so many hon. Members have said, this is one of the most exciting and thrilling things that has happened in our history for many years.
I have had the opportunity of many encounters with the Parliamentary Secretary in Committee. I am beginning to learn the rather peculiar language which he speaks. He does not use words in the same sense as most of us. When he uses the word "obviously", for example, he always means, "I have lost the page in my brief on which the arguments are to be found". He used another phrase today which could go in his collection of rather curious semantics. He said, "I think hon. Members on both sides will agree", which means that we are about to scuttle from our principles for the sake of political expediency. That is precisely what the hon. Gentleman is inviting the House to do this evening.
As has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson), there is an overwhelming case for keeping Section 15 of the New Towns Act, unless there are strong reasons to the contrary. This Section is the basis upon which the new towns started and the basis upon which people went into them and took part in the public life of the new towns, looking forward to the time when they would take over the responsibility for them. As my hon. Friend said, this was not a proposal which was slipped through by a party majority in a snap division. It was not forced through the House against a reluctant opposition. It had the unanimous support of the House.
It was something which had been urged and encouraged by the leaders of the Conservative Party in opposition. Therefore, if people are to have any confidence in Parliamentary democracy, they are entitled to feel that a decision of that sort, taken after debate and deliberation and with the unanimous support of the House, is something upon which they can rely. Unless the situation has changed completely, I suggest that it is a breach of 944 confidence with the new towns to seek at this late stage to alter the basis upon which they started.
What is the case for departure? It is not a financial case. It is perfectly easy to ensure that Exchequer money which is sunk in the new towns is adequately secured on the rateable value of the local authorities. Everybody recognises that local authorities are a sound security. New town local authorities have more advantages than most in that they have modern new houses and new factory plant upon which the rateable value is secure, and, therefore, they are in an even stronger financial position than old towns which are in danger of losing some of their industries.
What I hope the right hon. Gentleman will explain is the timing of the Bill. The Parliamentary Secretary said that this was not a good moment for settling the transfer terms. What does he mean by a good moment? What moment does he mean? Is this to happen this Session? Is the work of liquidation to begin within the next few months?
All the evidence we have had, and which has been agreed by hon. Gentlemen opposite, is that the new town which the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned in particular, Crawley, has a great deal of work to do before the work of the Corporation will be finished. I believe that in Hemel Hempstead there has recently been an extension of the population which is to be taken into the town. That, presumably, again will mean more work for the Corporation. What is the explanation of the timing of the Bill? How urgent is it? Why is there this great necessity now to do something about it? I hope the Minister will tell us whether he is legislating for some immediate dissolution of some of the corporations or whether this is merely something which is to take place in the future.
I was a little hurt by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough) who tried to snub me for my inexperience, but I did not feel quite as uncharitably disposed as I might because it was quite clear that he has got a bit of a neurosis on the subject of experience and youth.
What, after all, is the situation in the new towns? Hon. Member after hon. Member has got up and paid the same tribute. Here are these new towns in 945 an environment planned on the most ideal terms; picked people, people who are chosen because they are full of the pioneer spirit and are prepared to go into a new venture in the new towns; with modern industries and highly skilled, trained technicians working in those industries; with young, vigorous families like that of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East. I can use the term the hon. Gentleman the Member for Horsham used—they have a keen sense of belonging to individual communities, with the qualities of vigorous and live citizenship.
What is the weakness of these settlers in these new towns? The weakness is that in all three cases, Crawley, Harlow and Hemel Hempstead, they have overwhelmingly returned Labour Councils. Therefore, this is not a good moment to give them any responsibilities. It would be premature at this stage to offer them these new opportunities in their youth. We must wait, wait until they are frustrated, disillusioned, disgruntled. Of course, the poor devils will be Tories by then, and then it will be all right to give them some self-government in their local councils. We shall not need then to worry about their showing too much impetuous enthusiasm. They will then be fit for government.
That is really what the right hon. Gentleman is doing. The right hon. Gentleman who is Minister for Local Government is presiding over something which will take away tremendous opportunity from local government. The right hon. Gentleman has the same kind of instinctive feel for local government as he has instinctive feel for Welsh affairs.
If it is true that these councils or some of them kick over the traces—maybe; I do not know; I have been on councils myself where I have kicked over the traces, and I know it happens from time to time—if it is true that some of the councillors are more concerned with the H-bomb than with the details of local government, what is the real, sound way to treat them? It is to stretch them, give them responsibility, put them really on trial, challenge them with power of doing this job for the community, and not simply of sitting back and criticising.
The Parliamentary Secretary talked a let about ownership and government, but 946 the trouble, of course, is that when he spoke of the danger of ownership and government being joined he left out the other equal danger when ownership and the power of ownership is in the hands of a vast, impersonal monopoly, and when young and vigorous people, wanting to be responsible for and to control their own communities, are all the time brought up against this State monopoly. That is the danger. That is the real risk. It is that we shall dissipate the energies of the new towns' citizens, making them feel they have not the chance which they were promised in the New Towns Act.
We all hear about the apathy in local government and the difficulty of getting people interested, but everybody has paid the tribute that the councils of the new towns, whatever their faults, are tremendously keen on their communities and anxious to make their contributions. Is it not right to try to make experiments in local government? Are we to have some sort of least-favoured-nation clause so that we can never give to the youngest members of the community something which the oldest and most fossilised Tory councillor did not want and would not be fit to have? That is precisely what the Minister is doing.
We on this side of the House, with perhaps a little more experience of local government than have hon. Members opposite—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—I am sorry but I was quoting The Times of this morning which has been quoted so often today. I thought that The Times was accepted as authoritative in these matters. It says that we have more experience. We think it right to give the younger people the opportunity to play a part in local government. We think it right to challenge them with responsibility, but not thinking that they will not make mistakes—which we all make—and have blazing rows with the Ministry. Of course they will have rows.
I remember once being asked about the provision of amenities in a new town. I said that the corporation should provide no more community amenities except enough shelter for the local residents to meet to pass a vote of censure on the corporation for not providing more. That, perhaps, would not be popular with the residents, but it is a point of view with much to commend it. We want to give local residents power to provide 947 these things for themselves and to get down to providing the amenities which they want. Therefore, I think that the Government's policy is psychologically wrong and dubious in its ethics. It is a breach of the trust which the new towns had and there is no justification for it at all.
The other argument advanced is the argument of monopoly. I seem to spend my life in quoting the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) when he is not in the House. I do not know why he is never here when I want to quote him, but the hon. Member spoke about the dangers of monopoly. How is it intended to overcome the dangers of monopoly? In place of twelve popularly elected councils, there is to be one appointed, irresponsible State bureaucracy. I do not want to quarrel with my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) by getting out of order and talking about the municipalisation of local houses, but if there is any message from the Government's policy about the control of rented properties it is that they ought not to be given over to the control of local authorities but to a State housing board.
I would deplore and regret that. That is the kind of job to which elected local authorities should rise. Local authorities have to learn the hard way that it is necessary to stand up to their tenants sometimes and to tell them that there is no Santa Claus. It is no way to run away from responsibility in local democracy by handing over the thing to people who are not subject to popular local accountability.
This State monopoly is bound to be removed from contact with local people. It will have all the disadvantages of a development corporation and none of the personal responsibility which such a corporation feels towards its own people. The corporation may get into trouble with local residents from time to time. It may be subjected to a certain amount of criticism and there may be clashes. It is admirable that that should be so. It is a sign of healthy democracy when there are clashes of this kind. It would be tragic if everybody was docile and sat down under what the corporation did, even if it were to their own good. But at least the development corporations 948 have one job, primarily, and that is to build a new town.
I remember, when I was a member of the new town corporation, how jealous we were of Harlow and how we desired to emphasise to everybody that Hemel Hempstead had so many advantages over Harlow, Crawley and Stevenage.
The corporations have that personal feeling but this State body will not have any of that personal responsibility. It will be a group of bumbles, as my right hon. Friend said, who are merely there to try to keep the peace and run things as calmly and quietly as possible, keeping out of trouble and trying to avoid criticism. It is bound to be weak, because it has no authority drawn from popular election.
Therefore, faced with that body on the one hand, faced on the other hand with a disgruntled local community annoyed at not being given the powers that were expected, bursting to carry them out, wanting to run their town, there will be a situation pregnant with most dangerous implications, implications infinitely more dangerous than that somebody might tip a local councillor in order to try to get a house, which worried the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Body). It is far more deadening, this disillusionment rotting the whole fabric of local councils and creating apathy and indifference. It is a far greater danger, and that is what the right hon. Gentleman knows it is liable to lead us into if he persists with this part of the Bill.
I should like to ask one or two questions of the hon. Gentleman about the proposed local committees. In the first place, will they be appointed by the Commission, as I gathered? The Commission will be composed of, or may be composed of, paid, professional people. Are members of the local committees, apart from the chairman who will be a member of the Commission, to receive expenses or emoluments? Can they be paid something towards the work they are to do? It is important that their standing and authority should be clear, because they are the people who will get all the rotten eggs thrown at them, whereas the Commission will be safely ensconced in Whitehall, not having to face disgruntled tenants and all the difficulties of the local situation. No, it will 949 be the unfortunate local committees, consisting of nominated people, not necessarily given great responsibilities but given the rotten job of standing up locally to what is going on, who will have to bear the brunt. We ought to know a lot more about their conditions of appointment and how much independence they will have.
The obvious danger is that when there is trouble the local committees, who will bear the brunt, will shrug their shoulders and say, "It is not a matter for us but the Commission. If we were left to ourselves we would help you but, unfortunately, the Commission will not allow us to do so." What will be the way out of that dilemma? Is the local committee really only a kind of face-saving body appointed to give an appearance of local administration in order to hide the fact that it is really a State monopoly, or will they have some more power than has yet appeared from what we were told by the Parliamentary Secretary? It is astonishing that these committees should be so vaguely outlined, and that we should know so little about them.
Here there is no comparison with hospital management committees and regional hospital boards, which one hon. Member mentioned as a reason why we should take this power away from local government. The difficulty with the hospitals was that the catchment areas for the hospitals were not the same as the local government areas, and so it was necessary to have an ad hoc body. That is not the situation here because housing is essentially a local service and a district service, not even a county service. The whole tradition and history of housing has been in the local areas, and there can be no conceivable reason why it should not be handed over to the local councils.
The Parliamentary Secretary will say, "But this is more than housing. It includes industry." Did the Parliamentary Secretary ever tell Alderman Shennan that he was unable to run the Kirkby trading estate? When he was on the Liverpool Council, did the Parliamentary Secretary intervene and say, "You are going beyond your powers. You are not qualified to do this. You want much more practice before you do it"?
§ Mr. Bevins
Perhaps I might be allowed to remind the hon. Member that there is a good deal more industry hi Liverpool than there is in Kirkby.
§ Mr. MacColl
Surely the point is that Kirkby was a trading estate, in what is virtually a new town, and it was run by the local authority. If one local authority can run a trading estate like Kirkby, why are we to assume that the local authorities in this case cannot run trading estates? It is not a question of whether or not there is more industry in Liverpool than in Kirkby. The question is the responsibility for a self-contained trading estate in Kirkby comparable with the trading estates in the new towns.
That is all I want to say about the Bill now. No doubt during the Committee stage we shall have plenty of opportunity to probe the ambiguities and complexities in it. The really important point, on which my hon. and right hon. Friends are right to divide the House, is whether we believe in the right of elected local councils to undertake the responsibilities already laid on them by Parliament, whether we are to give them the chance for which everybody agrees they are asking—there is no difference of opinion about that—whether we are to have confidence in them. Or are we to take from them this opportunity and hand it over to an appointed State hoard, a monopoly board, a board which is not subject to detailed control by any elected body, which is, like the nationalised industries, presumably, subject only to directions from the Minister and can be criticised in the House no more than the nationalised industries can?
Hon. Members have seen and criticised the disadvantages of the nationalised industries system. When there is here an alternative instrument to use in the form of the local authorities, why do they depart from the principles to which so many hon. Members have paid lip-service on so many occasions and break the hearts of people who merely ask for the opportunity of being trusted to show what they can do?
§ 9.28 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Henry Brooke)
The House is indebted to right hon. and hon. Gentlemen on both sides who have spoken today with personal knowledge 951 of new towns which are in or near their constituencies.
As, perhaps, one of the few hon. Members who can say that he has visited all the 12 new towns in England and Wales, I have seldom heard such unreal nonsense talked by the Opposition in support of any Amendment. Any practical man faced with the problem today would first examine the new towns as they are and would take into consideration the local authorities of those new towns as they are. He would then try to reach an unbiased opinion on whether it was better for the new towns that the 1946 Act should go unamended, because no solution will be satisfactory unless it serves the future of the new towns well. Let us not be misled by arguments about consistency, philosophy, or anything like that. The ultimate test will be whether Parliament so shapes its new towns policy that the new towns will flourish and that the thousands of people in the new towns will be able to enjoy the sort of life which we wish them to have.
Fortunately, there is one issue on which the House is united. Hon. Members on both sides have spoken with pleasure and admiration about the work of the development corporations, their chairmen, their members and their staffs over the last ten years. I see that at very close quarters. The House is indebted to all those people who have devoted themselves and given their great talents to making a success of the new towns and the new experiments—and they were new experiments whatever Ebenezer Howard and others of the pioneers may have done in past days.
I was especially impressed by the speeches of my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough), my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan), my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Viscountess Davidson)—I was sorry that I did not hear the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Billericay (Mr. Body). All three speeches were vitalised by close knowledge of the towns which those hon. Members represent. Their contributions were of genuine value to our debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Horsham said that Crawley was a new town which wanted to be a normal town. That is true of all the new towns, which 952 want to get rid of the appellation new town and as soon as possible to be regarded as normal towns. I noted my hon. Friend's suggestion that we should have an Amendment to get rid of the term "Commission for the New Towns". If, in Commitee, anyone can suggest a better term, I shall be very willing to consider it. However, for the moment they are new towns and we must address ourselves to them as such.
The speeches which we have heard from hon. Members opposite, even the lively contribution of the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), have been much less closely realistic than those of my hon. Friends. Until the hon. Member for Widnes spoke, not a single hon. Member opposite had dared to argue that in itself and of its own merits the 1946 plan was a good one. I listened hour after hour for a defence in 1958 terms of the proposition that local authorities were the right people to become the owners of all the new towns. Until the hon. Member for Widnes spoke—and I do him this credit—not one hon. Member opposite approached near to defending that proposition.
The Opposition case has been twofold: first, that this solution is undemocratic; and, secondly—and they appeared to think that this was wholly conclusive—that our proposals were inconsistent with what had been said in 1946. In reply to the second argument, I can tell them that Government policy will not be blindly determined in 1958 by what any political party said in 1946.
That is precisely the lesson which the Socialist Party will never learn, whereas we on our side are looking to the future and are constantly framing our policy in the light of the realities of today.
§ Mr. Brooke
What has changed is that twelve years have passed and we have gained twelve years' experience. The effect is seen in the Bill, which is a much more practical solution to our problem than to leave the 1946 Act unamended.
The other string to the Opposition bow was that the only democratic course would be to make the young local authorities of the new towns unique local authorities. That was how hon. Members opposite argued and the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) said that it was an insult to 953 individual councillors not to accept that view. Do the Opposition seriously want the Birmingham Corporation to own the whole of Birmingham?
§ Mr. Brooke
The Socialist State is coming out in its realities, despite all the shading of municipalisation which we found in the Opposition's glossy book.
§ Mr. Mitchison
There will be a misunderstanding here unless we are careful, and it is one which has been deliberately provoked by the Minister. The assets of a development corporation do not include owner-occupied houses.
§ Mr. Brooke
I think that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary made quite clear how extensive would be the assets of local authorities if the 1946 Act went unamended. Unless the case of the Opposition is that it is essential for the future of democratic local government that local councils should own all the property in the town, why is it, on their argument, that democracy demands more municipal ownership in Aycliffe than in Acton, in Bracknell than in Birmingham? The fact is that the Bill has received general approval and hardly any criticism from the public and the Press since it was published.
§ Mr. MacColl
I am sorry to interrupt the Minister, but the analogy with Acton is not a sensible one. There is no state ownership in Acton. If it were a question whether Acton was to be State-owned or municipally owned, the argument would be relevant, but it is not.
§ Mr. Brooke
It is entirely relevant. The Opposition have been arguing ever since half-past three that it is undemocratic that the local authorities for these new towns are not made the owners of all the assets which at present are held by the development corporations, which comprise three-quarters of the towns. Now, apparently, at this late hour, it is emerging that the Opposition do not believe in their own Amendment, and that they have a private solution of their own, and they resent it if the Minister, speaking for the Government, takes them 954 to task for meaning what they say. After all, is everything to be treated as undemocratic except that which tickles the palate of the Opposition? If that is the solution, then we are getting into the Russian interpretations of the word "democracy".
§ Mr. A. Evans
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not want to misrepresent what we have said, but his statement is a misrepresentation of what I said. What I said was undemocratic was that these many thousands of houses should be owned by a national corporation accountable to nobody.
§ Mr. Brooke
I should like to go on to explain exactly what will happen under the Bill, since there has been little attempt by hon. Members opposite to do anything except denigrate the Government's proposal, and, apparently, not commit themselves to an alternative of their own.
The fact which the House has to face is that some of these new towns are nearing completion. Crawley will he the first, and probably Hemel Hempstead the second. The development corporations were set up to develop, and that is inherent in their name and in their composition. It has always been taken for granted that, after the development stage was completed, some other structure would be required.
The next stage is a period of consolidating and maturing for the towns, and I believe that that is also common ground between both sides of the House. There may well be, thereafter, a third stage, when the towns are, so to speak, fully-grown, but the Government, in the Bill, are not seeking to legislate for this stage, because, just as in 1946 it was quite impossible to look ahead with certainty to 1958, so I believe that in 1958 it is equally impossible to look ahead with assurance to 1970.
There is a double objection to the plan of local authority ownership which is enshrined in the 1946 Act. It is not only that the local authorities are very young—Crawley, after all, was only a parish council a few years ago—but that we may he asking very young local authorities to shoulder what would be unparalleled responsibilities in the local government world. Hence the plan in the Bill.
955 One or two hon. Members asked why we could not carry on with the development corporations. The reason is that they are built up for the purpose of development, and a different kind of body is required when the stage of management is arrived at. I can assure my hon. Friend the Member for Croydon, North-West (Mr. F. Harris) that the Commission will be set up, when the Bill is through, in good time to be ready to take over the first of the new towns that reaches completion. There will be preparatory work to be done, and it would be unwise to wait until the last moment, but the development corporation is not to hand over until development is complete.
I entirely agree with my hon. Friend that a great deal of the success of the Bill will depend upon the skill with which the personnel of the new Commission is selected. What we shall need is experience in property management in the widest sense; experience in carrying great financial responsibilities, in housing management—which is a very personal task—and, above all, an understanding of the new town idea. We are going to ensure that one member of the Commission will normally be chairman of the local committee for each of the new towns, so that the central body will not be—as the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland (Mr. Dalton) said it would—a piece of bureaucratic Bumbledon, but will be kept very closely in touch by its individual members with what is happening in each of the new towns.
The Commission will recruit its own staff, but I will bear in mind what my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) said. I feel sure that the Commission will take into consideration recruitment from the staffs now with the development corporations. I would add that at the outset it should not simply consider the first development corporation which may pass out of existence. That would be unfair. It should be ready to recruit from all the development corporations. That does not mean to say that anybody in the development corporations can count upon a new job, but these people will have the sort of experience which will undoubtedly be of value to the new Commission. The existing staffs of the new development corporations are covered by pension 956 schemes which give them pension rights, which they can carry with them elsewhere.
The purposes of the new Commission are set out in Clause 2. We shall examine them further in Committee, but I can tell the House here and now that they are drawn so as to safeguard the welfare and interests of the people in the new towns. The nature of the local committees, to which a good deal of reference has been made, is indicated in paragraph 2 of the First Schedule. In reply to the hon. Member for Widnes, I would say that the members of the local committees will not be paid salaries but will qualify for expenses in the same way that members of local authorities and others do.
They will essentially be local people. By that I do not mean that we shall exclude people who do not live in the new towns, but have a keen interest in them. I would hope that some of those who have been devoting their activities for years to the development of a new town might care to be considered for the new local committee for that new town. As my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin said, the Commission will want each local committee to be vigorous and imaginative, because it will have an important job to do. The committee, by statute, will be entrusted with the management of the Commission's houses, and under paragraph 2 (1) of the First Schedule to the Bill it may be given further duties.
I was asked about the nominations to local committees from the local authorities. One cannot combine a system of direct nomination with a system where appointments to the local committee are subject to the Minister's approval. Having said that, I want to tell the House that I mean the consultations with the local authorities to be real consultations. It is definitely my hope that every local authority will normally include one or more of the people who have been suggested by the local authority in the process of consultation.
I was asked whether the Minister would be answerable to Parliament for the work of the Commission. Of course he will, just as he is answerable for the work of the development corporations. It is my expectation that the new Commission will do its work so successfully that Questions about its activity will be as few as, in my experience, have been Questions to the 957 Minister on the work of the development corporations.
I must here interpolate that I was appalled to hear the hon. Member for Acton suggest that the Commission should be debarred from selling any of its property unless it had first consulted the local authorities. Development corporations have certainly not been under arty such restriction, and I hope that, Wiere it is in accord with the convenience and welfare of persons residing in the new towns, the Commission will be willing to sell some of its houses for owner-occupation to tenants in the new towns without consulting the local authority, the Minister or anybody else. We must give these people a measure of freedom if they are to do valuable work.
§ Mr. Sparks
Will the Commission also be permitted to sell houses to local authorities if that is required?
§ Mr. Brooke
Certainly. I think that it may well be that some of the house property will be transferred to local authorities. All that will be subject to negotiation, but I can assure the hon. Member that there is nothing whatever in the Bill which debars that from happening.
Not quite so much as I expected has been said during this debate about the important question of finance. The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) was wrong when he said, of Exchequer advances, that we could have waited another two or three years for the Bill. The hon. and learned Gentleman said that only £200 million had been spent and, therefore, it must be a long time before the £300 million already authorised would be required. I think that the hon. and learned Gentleman is unaware of the fact that the Public Accounts Committee can rightly insist that a Minister cannot authorise any body to ever into financial commitments unless those commitments are already covered by the approval of Parliament.
We have, therefore, to consider not the amount of money spent, but the amount committed. The amount of money committed for new towns in England, Wales and Scotland at present is between £250 million and £260 million. So far as one can judge, the full £300 million at present authorised by Parliament to be advanced is likely to be committed before the end of the financial year starting on 1st April next. It would, therefore, be wrong were 958 we not to make further provision in this Session of Parliament.
There exists a wholly mistaken idea that the new towns are practically "out of the red" and on the point of piling up big profits. The hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) repeated that fallacy this evening. The facts are that last year the 12 new towns in England and Wales collectively showed a net deficit of £900,000. Their accumulated deficit, to 31st March last, was no less than £4½ million. That is, of course, without reckoning the very large subsidy from the taxpayer for the new town houses. The present subsidy is £32 per house per annum most—perhaps all—of it for sixty years.
I agree that a substantial part of the deficit consists of loan charges on the sewerage systems which in any ordinary town would fall on the rates. Even without counting this and without counting the housing subsidies, there was still a net deficit last year on the twelve new towns together. That disposes completely of the allegation that the new town system is already a profitable one and all we have to do is to decide how the profits are to be distributed.
§ Mr. Mitchison
This raises the difficult question on which the right hon. Gentleman and the development corporations disagree violently, of how to treat certain losses, and whether they are revenue or capital. I will not say more at the moment.
§ Mr. Brooke
I am responsible to Parliament and I am making my report to Parliament. My own provisional estimate—it can be no more than provisional—is that over the 60-year period of repayment of the Exchequer advances, the new towns as a whole will break even, if the Bill is passed and the Commission carries out its duties as herein set out. Any such estimate must be tentative. I have indicated how rash it is for anyone to look more than a dozen or so years ahead. In the end, some new towns will show a surplus and some a deficit, because some will have been more fortunate in attracting industries than others and some may be better placed geographically.
Neither I nor the Government will stand for the proposition that amenity expenditure among the new towns should be distributed strictly according to the 959 profitability of the town concerned. That would be wholly wrong. I am not going to say that Aycliffe and Peterlee should be starved of amenities because they have a harder task than, say, Crawley or Bracknell. Hon. Members who say that a new town should be perfectly free to spend its own surpluses seem to fail to face up to the great difference in profitability of the new towns. I am certain that it could not be defended to Parliament that one new town should be free to use its surpluses for all kinds of pleasant purposes while another, where the people were just as deserving, should be denied those amenities because the town was less well placed geographically.
Different new towns have had different experiences in attracting industry. I was anxious when the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland said that his policy for the Labour Party was, "We shall build more new towns". Other hon. Members said, quite rightly, that the existing new towns were based on the assumption of full employment, and that the more we built additional new towns the less easy it would be to attract employment to the existing new towns. The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) will be aware that Peterlee is one of the new towns which has had difficulty. I therefore cannot follow the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland in his plea that we should solve unemployment and housing problems by setting up a new town in the Kielder Forest.
That would make doubly hard the task on which the Government are set and on which they thought they had general support, of seeking to bring industries to areas where there is local unemployment, rather than dispersing it to further new towns which will have to be constructed. Let us aim at making the existing new towns a great success. They are vigorous places with a young population, as hon. Members have said.
The sole reason for the Bill is to enable Parliament to do its best for the future of the new towns. The hon. and learned Member for Kettering went back and
§ back with his claim that the Government's policy was worthy of condemnation because it could not be squared with what had been said in 1946. He said that we gave certain reasons then, but I would remind him that reasons that are valid in 1946 are not necessarily valid in 1958. That undermines practically every policy statement which the Socialist Party makes. I do not mind what the party puts out for the electorate, but I mind intensely if it is to undermine the future of the new towns by its outworn 1946 ideas. Apparently, the rule by which the Opposition says that we must be guided in our consideration of this Bill is that a political party must never learn by experience. We have learned by experience and have framed the Bill in the light of the conditions of the day.
The hon. and learned Member for Kettering, lapsing temporarily into sport, said in his speech that a batsman who shifts his ground too frequently gets out l.b.w. I must tell him that a batsman who never shifts his feet at all never scores any runs, except off the edge of his bat; and that sort of batsman gets dropped from the side quickly. We do not wish the hon. and learned Member to be dropped, because he is an embellishment to these debates, and he is always reasonable, even if he is seldom right. The hon. and learned Member and his colleagues have said to us repeatedly today, "Never mind whether the plan is foolish, at all costs be consistent". It was Emerson who said:
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen.…
§ We do not intend to be led into foolishness by any hobgoblin, not even by so benign and right honourable a hobgoblin as the right hon. Member for Bishop Auckland. We wish to see policy for the new towns and all their thousands of people framed with up-to-date realism and practical common sense.
§ Question put, That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 286, Noes 251.965
|Division No. 15.]||AYES||[9.58 p. m.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Arbuthnot, John||Balniel, Lord|
|Aitken, W.T.||Armstrong, C.W.||Banks, Col. C.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Astor, Hon. J. J.||Barber, Anthony|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Atkins, H. E.||Barlow, Sir John|
|Amery, Jullan (Preston, N.)||Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Barter, John|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major Sir William||Baldwin, Sir Archer||Botsford, Brian|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Bearish, Col. Tufton||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Marples, Rt. Hon. A E.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Marshall, Douglas|
|Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Mathew, R.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Hay, John||Mawby, R. L.|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Head, Rt. Han. A. H.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr, S. L. C.|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Bingham, R. M.||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hesketh, R. F.||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Black, C. W.||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Body, R. F.||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Bossom, Sir Alfred||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Neave, Airey|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Braine, B. R.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Hirst, Geoffrey||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Hobson,John(Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hope, Lord John||Orr-Ewing, C. Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Cralgten)||Hornby, R. P.||Page, R. G.|
|Bryan, P.||Horobin, Sir Ian||Partridge, E.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Peel, W. J.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Pilkington Capt. R. A.|
|Butler,Rt. Hn. R.A.(Saffron Walden)||Howard, John (Test)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Pott, H. P.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Cole, Norman||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Cooke, Robert||Hurd, A. R.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Cooper, A. E.||Hutchison, Michael Clark(E'b'gh,S.)||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark(E'b'gh,W.)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Corfield, F. V.||Hyde, Montgomery||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Redmayne, M.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Iremonger, T. L.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Cunn ngham, Knox||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Johnson, Eric (Blackiey)||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Robertson, Sir David|
|D'Avigdor-GOldsmid, Sir Henry||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Kaberry, D.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Kershaw, J. A.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Kimball, M.||Russell, R. S.|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Kirk, P. M.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Lagden, G. W.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Duncan, Sir James||Lambkin, Viscount||Shepherd, William|
|Duthie, W. S.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Elliott, R.W.(Ne'castleuponTyne,N.)||Leather, E. H. C.||Smyth, Brig. Sir John (Norwood)|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Leavey, J. A.||Soames, Rt. Hon. Christopher|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Leburn, W. G.||Spearman, Sir Alexander|
|Erroll, F. J.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Speir, R. M.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Fell, A.||Lennox-Boyd, Rt. Hon. A. T.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Forrest, C.||Llewellyn, D. T.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Fort, R.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G.(Sutton Coldfield)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm|
|Foster, John||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. Selwyn (Wirral)||Storey, S.|
|Fraser, Hon. Hugh (Stone)||Loveys. Walter H.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Freeth, Denzil||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Gammans, Lady||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford & Chiswick)||Teeling, W.|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Temple, John M.|
|Glover, D.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Glyn, Col. Richard H.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Gabber, J. B.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Thompson, R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Gough, C. F. H.||McLaughiin, Mrs. P.||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Gower, H. R.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Grant, Rt. Hon. W. (Woodside)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Macmillan, Rt. Hn. Harold(Bromley)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Macmillan, Maurice (Halifax)||Tweedsmulr, Lady|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Maddan, Martin||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K.|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W.(Horncastle)||Vickers, Miss Joan|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hon. Derek|
|Wall, Patrick||Whitelaw, W. S. I.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Ward, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Worcester)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Webbe, Sir H.||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick||Mr. Oakshott and|
|Webster, David||Wood, Hon. R.||Mr. Edward Wakefield.|
|Abse, Leo||Grey, C. F.||Moody, A. S.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mort, D. L.|
|Albu, A. H.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Moss, R|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Crimond, J.||Moyle, A.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Hale, Leslie||Mulley, F. W.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Hamilton, W. W.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Hannan, W.||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)|
|Baird, J.||Hastings, S.||Oliver, G. H.|
|Balfour, A.||Hayman, F. H.||Cram, A. E.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Healey, Denis||Orbach, M.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Padley, W. E.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Herbison, Miss M.||Paget, R. T.|
|Beswick, Frank||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Palmer, A. M. F.|
|Blackburn, F.||Holman, P.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Holmes, Horace||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Holt, A. F.||Parker, J.|
|Boardman, H.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Bonham Carter, Mark||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Paton, John|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hoy, J. H.||Peart, T. F.|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pentland, N.|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Popplewell, E.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Prentice, R. E.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Hunter, A. E.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Pride, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Probert, A. R.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Janner, B.||Randall, H. E.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jay, Rt. HON. D. P. T.||Rankin, John|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Jeger, George (Goole)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jeger, Mrs.Lena(Holbn & St.Pnes,S.)||Reeves, J.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jenkins, Roy (Stechford)||Reynolds, G. W.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Rhodes, H.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Clitfe, Michael||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Clunie, J.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Ross, William|
|Coldrick, W.||Kenyon, C.|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Royle, C.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||King, Dr. H. M.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Cove, W. G.||Lawson, G. M.||Short, E. W.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Ledger, R. J.||Shurmer, P. L. E.|
|Cronin, J. D.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Lever, Harold (Cheatham)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Lipton, Marcus||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Deer, G.||Logan, D. G.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Snow, J. W.|
|Diamond, John||McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Dodds, N. N.||McCann, J.||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Donnelly" D. L.||MacColl, J. E.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Dugdale, Rt.Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||MacDermot, Niall||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Dye, S.||McGhee, H. G.||Steele, T.|
|Edelman, M.||McGovern, J.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||McInnes, J.||Stonehouse, John|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||McLeavy, Frank||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Fernyhough, E.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Stross, Dr. Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)|
|Finch, H. J.||Mahon, Simon||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Fitch, Alan||Mainwaring, W. H.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Foot, D. M.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Forman, J. C.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Mason, Roy||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mayhew, C. P.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Gooch, E. G.||Mellish, R. J.||Thornton, E.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Messer, Sir F.||Timmons, J.|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mikardo, Ian||Tomney, F.|
|Grants% Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mitchison, G. R.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Usborne, H. C.||Wigg, George||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Viant, S. P.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Wade, D. W.||Wilkins, W. A.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon, A.|
|Warbey, W. N.||Willey, Frederick||Woof, R. E.|
|Watkins, T. E.||Williams, David (Neath)||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Waitzman, D.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Walls, Percy (Faversham)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Walls, William (Walsall, N.)||Williams, Richard (Openshaw)|
|Wheeldon, W. E.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons.|
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Bill committed to a Standing Committee pursuant to Standing Order No. 38 (Committal of Bill).