§ Mr. MacColl
I beg to move, in page 14, line 7, at the end to insert:Provided that at least one-half in number of those members shall be appointed by the Minister after consultation with the councils of any counties and county districts comprising a substantial part of the area of any new town and from among persons having experience of local government or the administration of new towns.In the First Schedule we come to what must commonly be accepted as an important question, for whatever different views we may have about the whole policy of the Bill—as we have, for there is no question about our disagreement with at any rate Part I of the Bill—we have had that discussion and have now reached the stage where it is agreed by the House that the Commission shall be established. I am certain, however, that everybody on both sides of the House must recognise that there is a real danger of the Commission becoming a body remote from the problems of the new towns.
The new town is the home of people. It is the place of work, the centre of industries. It means a tremendous lot to the people who live and work in the place. By its very character the Commission is removed from each new town. It is the object of the Bill that to some extent the Commission should be slightly removed from day-to-day contact. That may be a bad thing. I think it is, but I am not arguing the point at the moment.
I am arguing that it is most important to ensure that, once the Commission is set up, it should be a body which is recognised as knowing something about each individual town, understanding its problems, and understanding particularly the problems of the various people concerned 344 in its administration. Therefore, we suggest—and I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary will agree that it is a constructive suggestion, and in no sense an attempt to wreck the Commission—that half of the members should be people brought in from outside who have no particular local contacts. The Minister is free to pick them from wherever he likes.
The other half should be people whom the Minister appoints after he has consulted a variety of bodies. He should first consult the county council, because what the Commission does very much affects its work. The Commission's management, manipulation and sale of land, its development of industry and so on create problems in the country, problems in education, welfare, even fire prevention, and the manifold services in which the county is involved. One is sometimes a little inclined to forget the interest which county councils have in new towns. One tends to think very much in terms of the county district of the area, but the county council has a very great interest in what happens in new towns and has some very difficult problems of competing priorities to settle.
We suggest that the consultations should embrace the county councils and also the county district councils, normally boroughs or urban districts. We say that the council concerned should cover a substantial part of the area, because there are some places where the area of the new town is not co-terminus with the area of the county district, which is probably unfortunate, but it is a fact. One must be reasonable and say that the county district which has a substantial say in the new town should be consulted.
Therefore, the first duty upon the Minister is to have these consultations. That does not mean nomination in the sense that he must accept any person suggested to him by one of the councils. It means that he must get from the councils their suggestions.
The second duty that the Minister has is to appoint members from among persons having experience of local government or the administration of new towns. I am certain that the Minister intends—he has said so—to draw on the resources of the corporations very much in choosing the people to serve on the Commission. He ought also to drawn upon people 345 who have experience of local government, because the local government side will be developing in the new towns. As the new towns mature, the part played by local government will increase and it will become more and more important that there should be on the Commission persons who look at the problems from the local government point of view.
I should like to make a historical contribution based on my experience at Hemel Hempstead. What struck me very much in that exceedingly happy corporation, of which I was for a short time a member, was that when we had differences of opinion, as we naturally did from time to time, they were never based on differences of party view. They were nearly always differences between members of the board who had local government experience, whether they were Conservatives or Socialists, and members of the board who had had business experience. It was fascinating to see how the different points of view had to be brought together and blended before a final decision was reached. Therefore, I believe that it is very important indeed that the Commission should have members with both types of experience.
I do not suppose there is much argument about that and I imagine that the Minister would accept that without very much debate, but it is important that it should be made clear in the proviso that this duty exists. One of the most disquieting things about the Commission as it appears at present is that there is no indication of the kind of person who will be appointed. This is, after all, a very important matter for the new towns. They will be handed over to the Commission, which will be a State body. We are not at the moment discussing the working of the local management committees; that will come later. What we are concerned about is the Commission, which is bound to be a centralised State body. We ought to know, and Parliament ought to make clear, the kind of people who will be appointed. It ought not to be left completely at large.
The danger is that the Commission will become a body which is not regarded by the new towns as having knowledge and understanding of and sympathy with their problems. After all, it will deal with the lives of the people who live in the towns, and its 346 decisions will have tremendous influence on the happiness and prosperity of the town. Therefore, it is reasonable that a substantial part of the Commission should be chosen after consultation with the elected bodies in the new towns and that it should consist of people who have special knowledge of the problems of new towns and the general problems of local government, which are not necessarily those of the new towns. There are problems to which an important contribution may be made by a member of the Commission who has had experience outside the new towns, possibly of some other type of development, such as big housing estates, but may not have lived in a new town. We want to be sure that at least half the members of the Commission are persons who will be recognised by the local inhabitants as having a special knowledge and experience of their problems.
There is a sop to the Minister. He has laid emphasis on keeping the Commission removed from the day-to-day difficulties of the new towns, which I think is a rather bad idea. However, the Minister can, if he wishes, appoint the other half of the members directly.
We think that our proposal makes a valuable contribution to the Bill because it will make clear to the persons concerned how the Commission is to be constituted. It will be a guarantee to the inhabitants that some respect will be paid to local democracy. That will make it easier for them to accept the Commission. Therefore, the Government ought to welcome and accept our proposal.
§ Mr. Gibson
I beg to second the Amendment.
We seek to ensure that the Commission shall be a body whose members have not only financial experience but experience of local government and housing on a large scale. During our discussions in Committee, the Minister said:It is not simply to be a financial operator, not by any means. It has to consider every aspect—social, industrial, everything concerned with the property for which for the time being it will be responsible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 14th May, 1959; c 623.]8.30 p.m.
With that definition of the general functions in mind, I should have thought that it would be essential for the Minister 347 to agree to have on the Commission people with local experience of the running of new towns, people with local government experience, people with trade union experience and people with cooperative experience, some of which is very large business in these days. Unless the Minister does that, while the Commission may theoretically depend on the reports which it receives from the local committees which, apparently, it will have in each of the new town areas to carry out certain functions—which I confess are not very clear to me at the moment—it will be a remote distant body.
If we are not to lose the wonderful impetus which the new town idea has created in this country, we must have on the Commission the kind of men and women referred to in the Amendment. Incidentally, there are many good men and women who have put years of work into the building up of these new towns. As some of us saw only a few weeks ago, they have done it very successfully.
It would be a pity to lose the value of the experience and knowledge which these men and women have acquired not only of the actual job of building a new town from scratch but of the problems of local government administration, and, what is equally important in these new towns, the problem of housing management.
It is gradually being accepted that the management of a housing estate is a skilled job. Unless the Commission has on it somebody who is not only skilled but enthusiastic about housing management, it will lose a great deal of the value which it otherwise might have, much as I dislike the idea of a Commission such as the Bill lays down.
We are saddled with the Bill and we want to make it as effective as we can. It may turn out all right. We might have a Minister who would have sense enough to appoint among the fifteen members people with local government experience and with co-operative, trade union and housing management experience in new towns. We are, however, not sure, and from the experience that some of us have had since 1945 of the appointment of people to both national and local committees with State responsibilities, one gets a bit doubtful.
I want us, if we can, to make sure that when the Commission is appointed it will 348 consist of people such as our Amendment envisages who have much local government and administrative experience in new towns. Unless we do that, we run the risk of the Commission being a purely financial organisation. I must confess that that is what most of us thought it was meant to be. It is true that it will not have large surpluses to handle for a few years, but as more new towns are completed surpluses running into many millions of pounds will become available.
We would like to see a great deal of the surplus money being used to improve the amenities and comforts of the new towns, but we have lost on that. We do not want to see the scheme run so that the only consideration which the Commission running the show from London has is a financial one. We are alarmed at the idea that one of the chief functions of the Commission is to increase the value of the land and not to provide good comfortable homes in perfect surroundings with work for people who badly need it. I hope that the Government will be a little more sympathetic about the composition of the Commission than they were in Committee.
The Minister admitted the necessity for at least half the Commission consisting of people who have proved themselves to have knowledge of local government, of the management of new towns, of the varied problems which housing management throws up in any case and of the problems which the political management of a town, whether it be large or small, inevitably throws up.
The new towns will become larger than was envisaged when they were started. The present tendency in new towns seems to be for them to have more children than there are in the normal towns, so there will be a big increase in population bringing greater problems. These cannot be dealt with successfully by a far away, remote Commission that does not know from personal experience the problems thrown up by these towns and which will only be concerned with the financial aspects of the matter.
I urge the Minister to be a little more forthcoming and to agree that these assets of at least £300 million to £400 million shall be managed by people of 349 knowledge and experience of the problems of large towns and housing estates. New towns can thus become the lovely pulsating centres of population that we all want to see.
§ Mr. Shinwell
The Minister of Housing and Local Government is either having something to eat or is endeavouring to escape our deliberations. Desirous of being generous, I suspect that the reason for his absence is the former. No one will begrudge the right hon. Gentleman some nourishment, particularly after the vicious attacks that we have made on him, which so far have elicited no satisfactory response.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman has heard that my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) has returned to the Chamber.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I at once deny the soft impeachment.
I dislike this conception of a Commission and rejected it absolutely and emphatically. However, the House decided against us—it was a mistake—and we cannot go over the ground again. That is unfortunate, because quite a number of new arguments have occurred to me in support of our original proposals. I will keep them in cold storage for use on a future occasion. We must accept the Commission for what it is worth.
If we have to accept the Commission, let us get one that is satisfactory, intelligent and human. Oh, that is very important. There is a great danger that we may have a Commission consisting of lawyers, or financiers, who will sit in a quasi-judicial capacity, or will exercise financial knowledge, in order to keep a Light rein on the activities of the local committees that are to be set up. There is a very valid reason for the acceptance of the proposal in the Amendment that half the number of the proposed Commission should consist of persons with local-authority knowledge and capable of administering what, after all, is a local authority of a grandiose character.
There is a very valid reason for this. It is that the Commission responsible for the administration and general activities associated with the new towns 350 under this Bill must seek the cooperation of the local authorities. Without the co-operation of the local authorities there is very great danger of serious trouble ensuing. It may well be that the kind of Commission that is envisaged by the Minister, with his somewhat peculiar ideas on these matters and his Tory idiosyncracies with which we are familiar, may appoint a Commission which will disregard the views of local authorities unless they happen to be Tory local authorities. That would be a horse of a different colour. and what a horse!
If there is one reason—there are several, of course—why the Minister should accept this proposition it is that co-operation is an essential sine qua non of effective co-operation and administration of the new towns. I should like to commend the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl). I say that in no condescending fashion. I commend his speech on this subject in contrast to the speeches we have heard from the Front Bench opposite. Comparisons, as we know, are odious.
When he was making the proposition on this subject, my hon. Friend said that we shall have to deal with committees later, but unfortunately we cannot as there is no Amendment on the Notice Paper dealing with committees. Why that is so I do not know. Perhaps it has been ruled out for some reason. Perhaps it is out of order, or perhaps my colleagues in the Standing Committee thought it inadvisable to press for it. I cannot say, but the committees are very important and they are to be appointed by the Commission with the approval of the Minister. What the Commission will recommend will be accepted by the Minister—that is, in the personnel of the local committees—but if on the main Commission there are people who are not acquainted with the activities of local authorities, who are not persona grata with local authorities and are unaware of the desires of local authorities, the persons appointed to these local committees will be those who are very likely to come into conflict with the local authorities of the area.
I have had some controversy with the Minister on an aspect of this subject. As hon. Members are aware, I represent a constituency in which there is the town 351 of Peterlee. As I said earlier it is a very fine town. It could be better if we had the right amenities and if the Minister were a little more forthcoming, but we cannot help that. We have to put up with this Minister so long as this Government lasts. The sooner we get rid of him the better. I say that with no offence at all. That is the desire of many of us. I should not be surprised to find that it is the desire of some on the benches opposite. Very often we are anxious to put a knife into each other's backs. That is not peculiar even to the Tory Party.
I have had some trouble with the Minister. I understood from what the Minister said on Second Reading that he was anxious to enter into consultation with local authorities about the personnel on these committees and on the Commission itself. It is therefore surprising to observe his two recent appointments on the Peterlee Development Board, because they are from outside the area. He asked for the views of the Easington Rural District Council, which is the second largest rural district council in the country. The council informed him that it would like the local authority to be associated in some way with the new town corporation. Was that too much to ask? After all, the local authority is responsible for sewerage, for the collection of rates, for the collection of dustbins and for a variety of other activities associated with local government. In effect it is the democratic handmaiden of the new town. That is recognised by the Minister.
Having heard what the council said about it one would have expected him to say, "What you say is right. I will appoint two persons to the development corporation who are in some way associated with the local authority or who are at any rate recognised by the local authority as desirable nominees." He said nothing of the sort, and I want the Parliamentary Secretary to tell me why. I insist on an answer. Why not? I represent the constituency. That is why I am here. Ministers must offer us explanations of their conduct. Why has the Minister rejected the local authority's advice? We ought to know.
The Minister is pitchforking into the new town corporation a lady from Dar- 352 lington, which is quite a pleasant town, but we have good people in our own area, highly intelligent people. In addition, he is importing another businessman from Newcastle. We have businessmen in our community.
Why must he do that sort of thing? Why is he playing ducks and drakes with us in this fashion? We do not intend to stand for that. Because of his conduct in this matter I am afraid that he will do much the same when appointing the Commission and that the Commission may do precisely the same when it carries out its duty of appointing the local committee. If that is democracy, it is not the kind of democracy in which I believe.
We must start with first things first. We must get the Commission right. The personnel of the Commission, the calibre of the members and the qualifications of the members of the Commission, are equally important with the question of finance associated with the activities of new towns. We can have the utmost correctness in the financial information in respect of the new towns, we can have excellent plans and blue-prints, but unless we have the right personnel, with the right ideas about their responsibilities and activities, all the financial finesse and all the fine blue-prints will come to very little. I think that I have the House with me on that at any rate.
It is therefore very important to have the right people. The first thing must be to get the right kind of Commission, and we shall not do that unless it is associated directly with people connected with the local authority. If that is obtained, we need not bother so much about what will happen in regard to the Committees. If the right people are appointed to the Commission, the right people will be appointed to the Committees. Then there will be effective co-operation between the Commission, the Committees and local authorities, and there will be a chance of this concept working out well. I hope that we shall get that.
I do not want to threaten the Minister, but undoubtedly there is a good deal of power in the hands of the Opposition. A good deal of power is vested in Members of Parliament. They are in touch with local authorities. I do not speak for myself only, but for Members of 353 Parliament generally. They have some influence with local authorities and people in the localities. We can make things difficult for the corporations.
What has been the position in connection with the Peterlee Corporation? I have had to come to its assistance many times. Many times I have had to make representations to the Ministry in a concealed fashion. Many times I have had to work behind the scenes, as has the hon. Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Slater). I do not know about my other hon. Friends who represent new towns, but I know what my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield and I have had to do.
Local authorities are our friends. There is an overwhelming Labour majority on my own local authority. If we sought to influence a local authority in the sphere of non-co-operation with a development corporation, that would have a detrimental effect, to say the very least, on the activities of that body and would render no service to the community or the local authority. We do not want that to happen, but the Minister, by his activities, is forcing us in the direction of non-co-operation. I do not know what the Easington Rural District Council may do. In view of the Minister's attitude, the council might say, "To blazes with the corporation. It can run its own affairs." The council can use better language than that. If it cannot, I can supplement it, if necessary. That is a possibility. It is no idle talk. I know what people are saying. We have had lots of trouble at Peterlee. The Parliamentary Secretary knows what is happening at South Hetton, Haswell, Thornley and Wheatley Hill, where the people have slogans all over the place saying, "Down with Peterlee. Have nothing to do with Peterlee". The slogans warn the local Member of Parliament that his majority might be reduced if he does not take it up with the Minister. I see the notices when I go round the district. The idea of having my majority reduced fills me with apprehension. That is the sort of thing which is happening in the constituency, and it is not idle talk.
Therefore, I beg the Minister to pay some attention to these matters and to realise that co-operation between local authorities and the Commission and its committees is essential. Unless the right hon. Gentleman can do something to 354 invoke it and, having invoked it, to maintain it by the correct machinery, he is in for a great deal of trouble.
§ Mr. Ede
I apologise to non-Privy Councillors for being the second Privy Councillor in succession to speak. I associate myself wholeheartedly with the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell). In the first two years of this century I devoted a great deal of time to the study of a book by Ebenezer Howard entitled Cities of Tomorrow, which was the beginning of the garden city idea and the idea of the new town to be designed from the beginning to provide an adequate home, both for the worker and the family; where people could carry on their ordinary avocations in close proximity to their homes.
In those far-off days I occasionally lectured on the advantages of this proposal. Of course, we were supposed to be complete visionaries—nothing would ever come like this. At that time one or two enlightened industrialists, such as the Cadbury's, and W. H. Lever at Port Sunlight, were actually carrying out our ideas to some extent, although the chief disadvantage of what they did was that they were really promoting one new industry per new town, which did not give much varied opportunity to the diverse skills that might be expected to be found in such an area.
I regret that this nation-wide Commission is to be appointed. As far as I can see from the discretion and the powers given to it, it will have far too great an influence over the individual new towns which come within its purview. I could have hoped that the ideas with which we started would remain; that each of these garden cities or new towns would have an individuality of its own, with a sense of its own corporate, individual existence, and managed under our usual local government orders.
It is highly to be desired that, as soon as possible, these new towns, no matter what their size, should not be under a national Commission. After all, the history of the last 130 years from 1834 is not one that makes one favourable to the idea of national commissions managing great social experiments of this kind—
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but this Amendment is about the composition of the Commission, and nothing else. He is dealing with rather wider issues.
§ Mr. Ede
I accept your suggestion that I may be going into rather too great detail, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I am trying to build up the case for what is left of that idea in this Amendment. We are now trying to save something from what I regard as the wreckage of our hopes. I want the Commission to be as representative as possible of the people who will be living under its control. My wish would be that consultation should take place with the county and county district councils which have the new towns within their areas, and that, in addition, the Minister should appoint a number of people who have intimate knowledge of local government affairs and, in particular, of the local government problems that confront the new areas that have been developed under the Act.
I was very glad to hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) had to say about the importance of consulting the county councils—which, in these days, are responsible for education and educational development for all sections of the community in a new town—so that there shall be appropriate opportunities for the further education of people who have left school and are becoming identified as workers with particular skilled industry, who ought to receive the encouragement and assistance that they can get from an enlightened policy of further education.
I hope there will be frequent consultations between this Commission and the county councils with a view to providing appropriate further education institutes in these areas. It will be a very great pity if the ideas with which these areas are developed do not take into account fully the aspirations of the people who are going to live in them. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington said, there is no Amendment dealing with committees, but one must hope that the Minister, in his appointments to the Commission, will have regard to the aspirations in this Amendment to encourage the Commission, when it 356 appoints the committees, to carry out the same ideas that have been advocated by my right hon. Friend and myself.
The position of the new towns in the future development of England will, I hope, influence the housing estates of the big cities. One can already see signs that this is happening, and I sincerely hope that this Amendment will be accepted—if not in the words in which it is phrased, at least in the same spirit—by the Minister when he deals with the appointment of this Commission, whose appointment I am bound to say I view with great disappointment. I hope however, that the Minister will make the best of what he has decided shall be a bad job.
I am delighted to think that my right hon. Friends the Members for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and for South Shields (Mr. Ede) have been able to express their views on how the Commission should be set up and from where appointments should come. We all know that as the development corporations have been set up in the past, unity of purpose has not been the prime object in the development of the new towns.
It is true to say, as I reminded the Minister in the Standing Committee, that we had a great amount of disunity in Durham county when people were being appointed to the new town corporations. These appointments had no affinity whatsoever with the county, nor even with local government administration. I was surprised to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Easington say that when a new appointment to the Peterlee Corporation was proposed the person concerned came from Darlington. On my corporation there are two persons who reside in the Darlington borough area. Durham County Council, as well as the Easington rural area, had reason to object at the time when these corporations were set up, in view of their composition.
I am convinced that if we are to have that progress which is desirable and in the interests of the people resident in the new towns, and if the new towns are to be provided in the interests of the nation, the people to serve on such a Commission should have experience of local government administration. I would remind the House that the excuse of the Minister in turning down the Amendments in the 357 Standing Committee was that if these appointments were made in the manner in which we think they ought to be made, these people would not know where their first loyalty really lay. That is a form of argument which does not carry very much weight. They are the people who have had local government experience.
I cannot understand why the Minister should not accept the argument which has been put time and time again about the kind of representation there should be on the Commission which is to be set up. Once the Bill becomes an Act, our people in the new towns and the county administrative areas will have little to say because they will not have the power or opportunity to express their views. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will accept the application which has been made and take into consideration the views which have been expressed by my right hon. Friends who have had greater experience in these matters than many of us present in the Chamber now.
§ Mr. G. M. Thomson
I join with my hon. and right hon. Friends in urging the Minister to accept the pleas which have been made to him. I urge him this time with, I hope, some possibility of success. It is quite clear that, in the Minister's own interests, if he wishes the Bill to succeed, he must accept the idea which is behind the Amendment. If he goes ahead and appoints the sort of Commission which has been conjured up to us by some of the arguments we have had from the Front Bench today, the working of the Bill will be hopelessly wrecked.
We regard it as a bad Bill. We tried, as best we could, to amend it, and we have not succeeded to any great extent. But, if it is to work at all, it will be absolutely vital that the Commission itself should be very strongly representative of the local authority people in the areas in which the new towns are situated. If the Commission is dominated by the kind of chartered accountants which the Minister seemed to have in mind when he was discussing some of the financial implications of the Bill, or if it is dominated by representatives of the Tory Institute of Directors and that kind of person, it will be impossible for the new towns to have any sort of progressive development.
358 The Minister really must recognise that his experience with the development corporations and the local authorities around them has not been particularly happy. My right hon. Friend the Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Sedgefield (Mr. Slater) have given instances. Relations between the Harlow Development Corporation and the local authority there have been a good deal worse than they need have been simply because the Minister has steadfastly refused to appoint to that development corporation people from the local authorities. Various people can now put up names to the Minister from which he can select members of the development corporation. As far as I know, he has, so far, completely refused to appoint to that development corporation anybody who comes from the local authority which democratically administers exactly the same area as the development corporation itself. The Bill will not work unless there is adequate local authority representation on the Commission.
The Amendment is extremely cautiously and moderately worded. It does not ask that local authorities should send their own people to the Commission. It does not even ask that the Minister should appoint people suggested by the local authorities. It merely asks that the Minister shall select from people who have local authority experience. More than that, it allows the Minister to make up his half of the Commission not only from people who have local authority experience but from people who have experience of serving on the existing new town development corporations. It is a moderately worded Amendment.
If the Minister wants his own Bill to succeed, he must ensure that, in making up his Commission, at least half of it is composed of people who have genuine roots in the local communities, from people who live in the new towns. If the right atmosphere of confidence is to be built up between people living in the new towns and those responsible for administering new towns, either at the level of local committees or at the level of the Commission, this must be done. It has been difficult enough to operate the present development corporation system smoothly. It will be infinitely more 359 difficult with this remote Whitehall Commission. Unless the right hon. Gentleman is willing to make sure that the composition of the Commission is democratically representative, he will run into a very great deal of trouble.
§ Mr. Bevins
We have been privileged to hear a number of very interesting speeches, including two from members of the Privy Council, one of whom was slightly frustrated by you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The right hon. Member for Easington (Mr. Shinwell) ranged, I thought, fairly widely, and in the course of what he had to say—a great deal of it, so far as I could judge, not connected with the Amendment—he asked my right hon. Friend, in fact, demanded to know of my right hon. Friend, an answer to a question which, I am sure, with great respect to him, is in no way connected with the Amendment.
§ Mr. Shinwell
On a point of order. May I ask for your guidance, Mr. Deputy-Speaker? Did you detect that I was out of order while you were in the Chair?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I did detect certain digressions, but I allowed the right hon. Gentleman a certain amount of latitude.
§ Mr. Shinwell
I should like a simple, direct, and fair answer to this question: was I out of order while I was speaking?
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think that the right hon. Gentleman made certain digressions and was out of order on certain occasions.
§ Mr. Bevins
Not wishing to he ungracious to the right hon. Gentleman, I was going on to give him a very short answer to the question which he addressed to my right hon. Friend. He objected to the fact that my right hon. Friend had seemingly rejected certain advice about the membership of the Peterlee Corporation. As I said to the right hon. Gentleman at Question Time, I think last week, my right hon. Friend is still considering the representations of the Easington Rural District Council, and that is why he has not yet replied to them.
I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the important thing here is to get the right kind of Commission and to get the right people to serve upon 360 it. I also agree with the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) that the Commission should include members with local government experience and people with experience of the working of the new towns. My right hon. Friend has already given an assurance that certain members of the Commission will possess qualifications and experience of that kind. I repeat that at this Box tonight. However, my right hon. Friend does not agree that more than half the membership of the Commission should be appointed in the way suggested by the Amendment, and I will explain why in a moment.
Before I do so, I should like to dismiss with all the emphasis of which I am capable the idea propounded by the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) that the Commission would be a financial body concerned only with financial considerations. That is wholly untrue, as I shall presently explain. Nor is it true to suggest, as has been suggested in the debate, that the Commission will be a remote and bureaucratic body without any real links with the localities in which the new towns are situated.
The main point before the House is, what sort of a Commission do we want? I agree that if it were right in principle that the Commission should be largely composed of people nominated by local authorities or appointed by my right hon. Friend as the Amendment suggests, after consultation with local authorities, then it would be right to examine the best way of securing that result. The Amendment suggests one way, which is a substantial advance on what was suggested in Standing Committee.
In the Government's view, however, it would be quite wrong that local government should have such a large say in the appointment of members. The development corporations were local bodies. The Commission is a national body with responsibilities in the twelve new towns throughout the country. For that reason, the connections of the Commission cannot, and should not, be as local as those of the development corporations which the Commission will replace.
The first and most important task of the Commission is to act as a management agency. Therefore, its day-to-day contacts with the local authorities will 361 not need to be as close as the contacts enjoyed by the development corporations. I agree, however, that one could make a good case for requiring the Minister to consult local authorities before appointing members to the development corporations, as the 1946 Act provided. But there certainly is not, in our view, the same case for giving new town local authorities a say in the membership of the national Commission.
During our discussion, there were several references to the possible remoteness of the Commission. Two right hon. Members opposite said that there were no Amendments about the composition of the Committees. That is not quite true. There are two Amendments on that very point which we shall shortly reach. I emphasise, however, that local authorities will be very interested, and rightly so, in some aspects of the Commission's work. It is for that reason that my right hon. Friend has written into the Bill the provision for the establishment of local committees; and in the membership of those local committees, the local authorities will certainly have a say.
When a not dissimiliar Amendment was being discussed in Standing Committee, my right hon. Friend went out of his way to say that he had it in mind that a member of the Commission itself should normally be the chairman of the local committee, with a view to creating the closest co-operation between the local people and the Commission. As I indicated earlier, my right hon. Friend hopes and expects to include on the Commission members whose experience of local government and new towns will enable them to play a valuable part on the Commission.
Experience in local government and in new towns alone, however, is not the main requirement for a Commission of this nature. As has been well said, in a few years' time the Commission will be responsible to my right hon. Friend for assets valued at at least £400 million. Therefore, we clearly must have on the Commission men with a sound and thorough grasp of financial matters. It is not only a question of the right management policy for looking after industrial areas and factories. It is a question also of using the most able and most influential people we can get to serve on the Commission in order to 362 attract new industry to the new towns to create the necessary employment for the younger generation as it comes along.
In all these things, we must have the best financial people, the people who are best qualified to take a prominent part in estate management, not only housing management, but industrial and commercial management also. Having said that, however, let no Member of the House think that my right hon. Friend is insensitive to the human side of the problems that arise in the new towns. That is not so. What he wants to do is to appoint a Commission—and he himself will take the responsibility for these appointments—which is best equipped to discharge its duty under the Bill.
§ Mr. MacColl
There is nothing to stop the Minister, if he so wishes, putting on the Commission any financier he can think of from Mr. Clore upwards or downwards. At the moment, we are dealing with only half of the Commission. As I said in moving the Amendment, the other half can be used for including precisely the people whom my hon. Friend the Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) mentioned, in whom the Minister was most interested, namely, the financiers who were to regard this as a profit-making, financial undertaking.
Our plea is that to balance those gentlemen, there should be on the Commission people who have local government experience, who carry the confidence of the local authorities in the areas and who know the workings of the new towns. The Minister, in fact, said that was a good idea. If it is a good idea, then it should be put in the Bill. If it is put in the Bill, we shall remove a great deal of fear and suspicion which people will have.
If it is clearly and specifically stated in the Bill that the Minister will consult local authorities and put people of experience on the Commission, there will be more confidence in the Commission, and in the Bill, and more chance of the scheme working. If, with characteristic obstinacy, the Government say that they will not make this concession—although they are going to do it, they do not want to have it in writing—the effect will be to cause trouble in the areas because everyone will be afraid that the Commission will consist entirely of people coming from the city and running this as a big take-over undertaking.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—364
§ The House divided: Ayes 176, Noes 212.365
|Division No. 156.]||AYES||[9.22 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Herbison, Miss M.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Hobson, C. R. (Keighley)||Popplewell, E.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Holman, P.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Holmes, Horace||Price, Phillps (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Howell Denis (All Saints)||Pursey, Cmdr, H.|
|Baird, J.||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Randall, H. E.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Rankin, John|
|Benson, Sir George||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Redhead, E. C.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hunter, A. E.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Ross, William|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Bowles, F. G.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Boyd, T. C.||Janner, B.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Jones, Rt. Hon. ACreech (Wakefield)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Snow, J. W.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Kenyon, C.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Caliaghan, L. J.||King, Dr. H. M.||Steele, T.|
|Carmichael, J.||Lawson, G. M.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Champion, A. J.||Ledger, R. J.||Stonehouse, John|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Clunie, J.||Lewis, Arthur||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Coldrick, W.||Lindgren, G. S.||Swingler, S. T.|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Logan, D. G.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Symonds, J. B.|
|Cronin, J. D.||McAlister, Mrs. Mary||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||MacColl, J. E.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||MacDermot, Niall||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Mcinnes, J.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Deer, G.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Delargy, H. J.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Thornton, E.|
|Diamond, John||Mahon, Simon||Timmons, J.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Usborne, H. C.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mason, Roy||Watkins, T. E.|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Mendelson, J. J.||Weitzman, D.|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mikardo, Ian||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Finch, H. J. (Bedwellty)||Mitchison, G. R.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Fitch, A. E. (Wigan)||Moody, A. S.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Foot, D. M.||Mort, D. L.||Willey, Frederick|
|Forman, J. C.||Moss, R.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Moyle, A.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then)||Mulley, F. W.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Oliver, G. H.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Owen, W. J.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Lianelly)||Paget, R. T.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Hale, Leslie||Palmer, A. M. F.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Parker, J.|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Paton, John||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hannan, W.||Peart, T. F.||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons|
|Hayman, F. H.||Pentland, N.|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Butcher, Sir Herbert|
|Aitken, W. T.||Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A.(Saffron Walden)|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bingham, R. M.||Carr, Robert|
|Arbuthnot, John||Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Chichester-Clark, R.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Bishop, F. P.||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)|
|Ashton, Sir Hubert||Black, Sir Cyril||Cole, Norman|
|Atkins, H. E.||Body, R. F.||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Cooke, Robert|
|Baldwin, Sir Archer||Boyle, Sir Edward||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.|
|Balniel, Lord||Brewis, John||Corfield, F. V.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Courtney, Cdr. Anthony|
|Batsford, Brian||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Brooman-White, R. C.||Cunningham, Knox|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Dance, J. C. G.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Deedes, W. F.|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Burden, F. F. A.||de Ferranti, Basil|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Pott, H. P.|
|du Cann, E. D. L.||Kirk, P. M.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Duthie, Sir William||Lambton, Viscount||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Elliott, R. W. (Ne'castle upon Tyne. N.)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Leburn, W. G.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Errol, F. J.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Fell, A.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Finlay, Graeme||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Redmayne, M.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Forrest, G.||Longden, Gilbert||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G, D.||Loveys, Walter H.||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Gammans, Lady||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Gibson-Watt, D.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Russell, R. S.|
|Glover, D.||Macdonald Sir Peter||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Godber, J. B.||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Sharples, R. C.|
|Goodhart, Philip||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Shepherd, William|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Smithers, Peter (Winchester)|
|Gower, H. R.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Speir, R. M.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Grant, Rt. Hon. W. (Woodside)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||McMaster, Stanley||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Green, A.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Storey, S.|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Maddan, Martin||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Grimond, J.||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Studholme, Sir Henry|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Teeling, W.|
|Gurden, Harold||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.||Temple, John M.|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Marshall, Douglas||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maidon)||Mathew, R.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Mawby, R. L.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Medllctt, Sir Frank||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.|
|Henderson-Stewart, Sir James||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Wade, D. W.|
|Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Nairn, D. L. S.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Holt, A. F.||Neave, Airey||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Hornby, R. P.||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)||Wall, Patrick|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Noble, Michael (Argyle)||Webster, David|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Nugent, Richard||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Howard, John (Test)||O'Neill, Hon. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Page, R. G.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Partridge, E.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Iremonger T. L.||Peel, W. J.|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Peyton, J, W. W.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth||Colonel J. H, Harrison and|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Mr. Chichester-Clark.|
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I beg to move, in page 15, line 34, after the first "the", to insert "allocation and".
§ Mr. Mitchison
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The object of the two Amendments is to deal with a question which I hope will not occupy the House for long but which we regard as of some importance.
The Commission is a nominated body without any restrictions on nomination. It is to have committees which will be local committees in the various new towns or possibly in a pair of new towns. They will consist of people nominated 366 after consultation with the district councils. Those committees may have powers delegated to them. They must have delegated to them the power of house management or arrangements about house management. They may have delegated to them other matters, but there is no provision in the Bill obliging anything but the one matter of house management.
It seems to us that this matter ought to be a local one, but that it cannot be separated from various other matters which equally in our view should be local ones. I call the attention of the House to the fact that the local powers are exercised under the general direction of the Commission. Therefore, as I see it, there is no risk in transferring quite a considerable power by way of delegation.
367 We propose to extend to the committees by delegation in this way the question of not only managing houses but also of managing premises for commercial and industrial use and, further, to give them power to deal not merely with questions of management but also with questions of allocation of land as between these residential, commercial and industrial purposes. That is the short effect of the Amendments. They appear to us to be matters which must be considered together and are predominantly local matters.
We take the view that if the arrangements in the Bill are to work at all, the extent of delegation to the committees should be as large as possible. If anything that can properly and adequately be dealt with by the committees is left to a nominated central Commission sitting in London, we believe it will make the operation of the Bill more difficult, less democratic, more inhuman, likely to meet with more opposition from the inhabitants of the new towns and from the general public. For those reasons I hope the right hon. Gentleman will realise that these things must go together and that he will accept the suggestion that they should be made an obligatory question of delegation to the committees, subject always to the general direction of the central commission.
§ Mr. Bevins
I am obliged to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) for speaking with such brevity. The idea behind the Amendments, as he explained, is that the Commission should be compelled to delegate to one local committee the responsibility not only for the management of houses, as is provided for in the Schedule, but for the management of its industrial and commerical properties. Although the Schedule obliges the Commission to set up a committee to deal with the housing in each town, it is nevertheless free to set up other committees for other purposes if it wants to do so. Therefore, with the exception of housing, the Commission has a free hand to delegate or not to delegate.
However, my right hon. Friend has already expressed himself as being in favour of delegation where it is suitable, 368 and at an earlier stage of our proceedings he said:I am anxious that we should not restrict the scope of delegation, and if the Bill has created an impression that the Government are out for maximum centralisation and minimum decentralisation, then I am anxious to correct any such feeling."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee D, 14th May, 1959; c. 640–1.]As members of the Standing Committee will recall, my right hon. Friend agreed to re-examine the wording of the Schedule so that it could be clear beyond all doubt that we should welcome the idea of delegation where it was suitable, and I am advised that the wording of the Schedule unaltered certainly allows that to be done.
It is my responsibility to advise the House against accepting the Amendment. I will, very briefly, give the reasons. First, what might suit one new town might well not suit another, and the Commission ought to have a free hand to work out the best arrangements it can in the light of both local circumstances and experience.
I should have thought that it was very doubtful whether a body of this sort would in any case want to give a single committee this crop of responsibilities. After all, housing management in itself is a very big job in many local authority areas, and, indeed, in many new towns. For example, at Harlow there will be more than 20,000 houses. Very often it is the case—this is the important consideration—that those who are best qualified to deal with housing management are not very knowledgeable about the management of industrial property, and the converse is very often true, as is well known by hon. Members with experience of local government.
I agree that local authority housing committees very often have under their wing the management of shops on local authority housing estates, but I should have thought from my limited experience that it was almost invariable in local government that the management of industrial and commercial properties as such was the responsibility of a separate committee. We take the view that it would be wrong to lump houses, shops, commercial premises and industrial premises under the management of one committee for the reasons that I have given.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The short answer to the last observation is that there is nothing whatever in the Amendment which obliges anything of the sort. It leaves it entirely at large to have any number of committees, any arrangements about sub-committees and any arrangements about common membership or the like. We stand by the simple proposition that in a new town one cannot expect to separate housing from questions of the job and the office and the allocation of land as between these various purposes. We think that those matters ought to be delegated and that there ought to be a provision in the Bill to that effect.
§ Mrs. Jean Mann (Coatbridge and Airdrie)
I am astonished at the reasons given by the Parliamentary Secretary for rejecting the Amendment. We are not asking for something that changes between one town and another. The hon. Gentleman said that the short answer was that what suited one town would not suit another.
I know that the Parliamentary Secretary has some experience of local government. Does he lay down that what would suit one town would not suit another in the acceptance of housing tenders? Does he not lay down that all tenders must have his approval? There are many towns which would gladly take refuge in his statement and say, "It
§ would not suit us but it may suit the town further along the railway line." Surely it is a principle that allocation as well as management matters.
§ Allocation is very important. The pioneer of new towns, Sir Ebenezer Howard, laid down as the sine qua non ownership and control of land. We are asking for allocation. Anyone who has worked in local government for any length of time knows the pressure that is brought to bear on members of local authorities in regard to allocation. Industrial and commercial local authorities in particular are subject to pressure in regard to the allocation of industrial and commercial patches of land.
§ There is nothing in what the hon. Gentleman said that weakens our Amendment. The Amendment is based on sound principles, on standard practice, on all dealings in land, in dwellings, and even in commercial undertakings up and down the length and breadth of the country. I do not know why the Parliamentary Secretary will not accept an important Amendment which surely is in line with the whole conception of new town policy.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted in the Bill:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 167, Noes 202.373
|Division No. 157.]||AYES||[9.43 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Howell, Denis (All Saints)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Davles, Harold (Leek)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Deer, G.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Delargy, H. S.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Diamond, John||Hunter, A. E.|
|Baird, J||Dodds, N. N.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Balfour, A.||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Irving, Sydney (Dartford)|
|Benson, Sir George||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.|
|Blackburn, F.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Janner, B.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. I.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Finch, H. J. (Bedwellty)||Johnson, James (Rugby)|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)||Fitch, A. E. (Wigan)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech (Wakefield)|
|Bowles, F. G.||Fletcher, Eric||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)|
|Boyd, T. C.||Foot, D. M.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Forman, J. C.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)|
|Brockway, A. F.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Kenyon, C.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||George, Lady Megan Lloyd (Car'then)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Gibson, C. W.||King, Dr. H. M.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Lawson, G. M.|
|Burke, W. A.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Ledger, R. J.|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hale, Leslie||Lewis, Arthur|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Carmichael, J.||Hamilton, W. W.||Logan, D. G.|
|Champion, A. J||Hannan, W.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Hayman, F. H.||McAlister, Mrs. Mary|
|Clunie, J.||Harbison, Miss M.||MacColl, J. E.|
|Coldrick, W.||Holman, P.||MacDermot, Niall|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Holmes, Horace||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Houghton, Douglas||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Mahon, Simon||Randall, H. E.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Mallalleu, E. L. (Brigg)||Rankin, John||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Mann, Mrs. Jean||Redhead, E. C.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.||Thornton, E.|
|Mason, Roy||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)||Timmons, J.|
|Mendelson, J. J.||Ross, William||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Mitchiton, G. R.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Moody, A. S.||Skeffington, A. M.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Moss, R.||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)||Weitzman, D.|
|Moyle, A.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)||Sorensen, R. W.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. (Derby, S.)||Soskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank||Willey, Frederick|
|Owen, W. J.||Sparks, J. A.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Paget, R. T.||Spriggs, Leslie||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Palmer, A. M. F.||Steele, T.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Parker, J.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Paton, John||Stonehouse, John||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh E.)|
|Pentland, N.||Stones, W. (Consett)||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Plummer, Sir Leslie||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Popplewell, E.||Swingler, S. T.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Price, Phillps (Gloucestershire, W.)||Symonds, J. B.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Proctor, W. T.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Simmons|
|Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Agnew, Sir Peter||Finlay, Graeme||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Aitken, W. T.||Fisher, Nigel||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Forrest, G.||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Arbuthnot, John||Gammans, Lady||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Garner-Evans, E. H.||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.|
|Ashton, H.||Gibson-Watt, D.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy (Lancaster)|
|Atkins, H. E.||Glover, D.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Godber, J. B.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Baldwin, Sir Archer||Goodhart, Philip||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)|
|Balniel, Lord||Gough, C. F. H.||McMaster, Stanley|
|Barlow, Sir John||Gower, H. R.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Batsford, Brian||Graham, Sir Fergus||Maddan, Martin|
|Baxter, Sir Beverley||Grant, Rt. Hon. W. (Woodside)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)|
|Beamish, Col. Tufton||Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Green, A.||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Gresham Cooke, R.||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Grimond, J.||Marples, Rt. Hon. A. E.|
|Bingham, R. M.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Marshall, Douglas|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Mathew, R.|
|Bishop, F. P.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Mawby, R. L.|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Gurden, Harold||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Body, R. F.||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Molson, Rt. Hon. Hugh|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Brewis, John||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Henderson-Stewart, sir James||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Neave, Airey|
|Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)||Hirst, Geoffrey||Nicholson, Sir Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Hobson, John (Warwick & Leam'gt'n)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Holt, A. F.||Noble, Michael (Argyll)|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hornby, R. P.||Nugent, Richard|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A. (Saffron Walden)||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||O'Neill, Hn. Phellm (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Carr, Robert||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Page, R. G.|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Panned, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Cole, Norman||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Partridge, E.|
|Conant, Maj. Sir Roger||Hutchison, Sir James (Scotstoun)||Peel, W. J.|
|Cooke, Robert||Hylton-Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Iremonger, T. L.||Pickthorn, Sir Kenneth|
|Corfleld, F. V.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Courtney, Cdr. Anthony||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Crosthwalte-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Pott, H. P.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Jennings, Sir Roland (Hallam)||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Joseph, Sir Keith||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|de Ferranti, Basil||Kerr, Sir Hamilton||Prior-Palmer, Brig. Sir Otho|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Kirk. P. M.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Lambton, Viscount||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Redmayne, M.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Leburn, W. G.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|du cann, E. D. L.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)|
|Duthie, Sir William||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Elliott, R. W. (Ne'castle upon Tyne. N.)||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Longden, Gilbert||Russell, R. S.|
|Erroll, F. J.||Loveys, Walter H.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Fell, A.||Low, Rt. Hon. Sir Toby||Sharples, R. C.|
|Shepherd, William||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)||Wall, Patrick|
|Smithers, Peter (Winchester)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard||Thornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin||Webster, David|
|Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)||Whitelaw, W. S. I.|
|Storey, S.||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||Tweedsmuir, Lady||Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)|
|Studholme, Sir Henry||Vane, W. M. F.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Summers, Sir Spencer||Vosper, Rt. Hon. D. F.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Taylor, William (Bradford N,)||Wade, D. W.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Teeling, W.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Temple, John M.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Legh and Mr. Bryan.|
§ 9.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Bevins
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
As my right hon. Friend said to the House on Second Reading, the ultimate test of this Bill will be whether itso shapes policy that the new towns will flourish and that the thousands of people living in them will be able to enjoy the sort of life which we all wish them to have."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1958; Vol. 596, c. 951.]The Government believe they will succeed in this.
We take the view that there are three stages in the growth of the new towns, first the development which has been in progress since 1947, next the consolidation period as the towns settle down and complete their expansion by natural growth, and thirdly, the settlement of ultimate ownership. The first part of this Bill concerns itself solely with the second stage, that is to say, consolidation. It in no way pretends to deal with the third stage when the towns have reached maturity, because that stage is still quite a long way off and we had better take our fences when we come to them.
I was very interested to read the recent Press statement on the future of the new towns issued by the National Executive Committee of the Labour party because, although it came to a different conclusion from the Government as to what ought to happen in the middle phase of the new towns, it did at least recognise that there are special and peculiar problems in the middle phase of development, that is when the influx of population from outside has more or less come to an end but when populations are still rising fairly rapidly.
I shall say a brief word or two about the main provisions of this Bill. Part I provides for the establishment of a Commission in the new townsfor the purpose of taking over, holding, managing and turning to account the property previously vested in the development corporation.374 Our general objective as regards the Commission is that it should be a good landlord. It should be businesslike, but its commercial sense should at all times be tempered by the knowledge that its decisions and its policies are liable to affect the happiness of hundreds of thousands of people who will come to live and work in the new towns. Clearly a great deal will depend on the care and judgment with which members of the Commission are selected and also on the extent to which the Commission succeeds in decentralising much of its business to the right kind of local committees. What my right hon. Friend wants to secure are men and women with wide experience of estate management in its broadest sense, people with experience of large-scale financial responsibilities, people who understand housing management and who see both its human and its financial aspects, and perhaps most important of all, people who are genuinely friendly to the conception of the new towns.
As for decentralisation, my right hon. Friend certainly does not want the Commission to be a distant or formal or bureaucratic body, and that is why we are giving the Commission power to set up local committees and obliging it to establish what amounts to a housing committee after consultation with the local council.
Part II of the Bill deals mainly with financial advances to development corporations. Clause 10 increases the limit of advances by £100 million to £400 million. These advances will largely be used to finance the house and factory building which is in progress in the new towns and which will continue there for many years, because many of these towns have not yet reached even the half-way stage.
We are, however, rather beyond the house-cum-industry stage in the new towns. Town centres have been commenced and in certain cases are well 375 advanced. At Stevenage there is an all-pedestrian shopping centre. Social amenities are also being developed. My right hon. Friend recently opened a new community centre at Hemel Hempstead which had been built by the borough council with large-scale financial help from the development corporation. Similar centres are on the way at Harlow and Basildon. At Harlow a start has been made on the central sports area, and the corporation is doing a great deal of preliminary work. At Welwyn Garden City the stadium is making progress. These financial advances will be devoted not only to the task of building more houses and providing more shops and industry but also to assisting local authorities and other agencies in the provision of amenities.
We on the Government side of the House believe that this is a worthwhile Bill and its purpose finds unanimous backing on this side of the House. In the country the Measure has been generally welcomed as providing a wise and realistic approach to the mid-term problems of the new towns.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Continuing what the Parliamentary Secretary was saying, "but in the new towns this Bill has been greeted with distrust, disapproval and dislike."
We should be voting against the Third Reading this evening if the Bill consisted solely of Part I. We indicated on Second Reading that it is to Part I, which deals with the Commission and similar matters, that we take objection. To the provision of more money for the new towns we take no objection whatever, and in those circumstances we do not propose to divide the House tonight against the Third Reading, since the Bill comprises the second part as well as the first.
I desire, however, to say one or two words. The circumstances in which the Bill is introduced are these: there are twelve new towns in England and Wales. they were started by the Labour Government and there has been no addition to them under any Tory Government. Into those twelve new towns have gone technicians and staffs very conscious of the importance of what they are doing and of the value of the social experiment to which they are contributing. They went there, as did the people who moved to 376 the new towns, with the confidence which they had at the time that the new towns would become democratic institutions and would be handed over to the local authorities in whose areas they are situated.
That was the view of the whole House, including the Conservative Party, then in Opposition, expressed in Section 15 of the 1946 Act, which is being repealed by the Bill. That matter is important, because throughout the long debates we have had on the Bill no one has ever adduced any real reason why Section 15 in principle should not remain effective, or indicated any substantial change between the position as foreseen in 1946 and the position as seen and foreseen today.
Accordingly, we start with the fact that this change is a complete reversal of attitude in a matter affecting the lives and beliefs of the people of these new towns and those who have been working for them. My right hon. and hon. Friends and I regret that.
We look, then, at the nature of the change which the Bill makes. We are prepared to recognise that there may well be a period of consolidation, and we should not have taken the same objection to the Bill if it had been a transitory Measure directed to that period, provided that the original handing over to the local authorities were to remain in it. That has been denied us. We have been given no indication—there is no indication in the Bill—of how long the state of affairs set up by it will continue. We have been given no indication that the new towns are to be ultimately handed over to the local authorities. Knowing the ways of this Government and of the party opposite, I do not put it past them to hand them over as a good bargain to private enterprise, if that happens to suit them at the time. A Government who have advanced the millions they have, on the terms they have, to private industry recently, and who are prepared to treat those advances in a far more generous spirit than the advances they have made for the purposes of the new towns, are certainly not to be trusted as to their ultimate disposal.
New towns are, at present, enterprises run by development corporations having an office on the spot, having their undertaking in the new town, often with people 377 closely connected with the locality, working in conjunction with the local authority. They are, as their function of development is fulfilled, to disappear. I do not complain of that. That was always intended.
What will come in their place? In their place, the whole undertaking, every new town in England and Wales, is to be handed over one after another to a single Commission nominated by the Minister with absolutely no control over the people he nominates. The Minister having nominated the Commission, the Commission is to be, we are told—these are the highest aspirations of the Government—a good landlord. In the very next sentence, the Parliamentary Secretary said that on its decisions, namely, on the decisions of the good landlord, depend the happiness of hundreds of thousands of people. The Tory Party is very much the same, whether it is talking about housing or new towns. It is its ideal, its supreme philosophy, that there should be a good landlord and within the control of "the good landlord" should be the happiness of hundreds of thousands of people.
What has happened to democracy? Are not the hundreds of thousands of people to have any elected authorities which are allowed to have control of these new towns? Are not the hundreds of thousands of people to have any voice in their own destinies, or are they to depend solely on one single "good landlord"? What is "the good landlord"? He is a State corporation, in a sense in which we in the Labour Party have never dared or wished to set up a State corporation, completely uncontrolled as to the membership, completely in the hands, not merely of the Minister, but of the Treasury, and set up for purposes which seem to me in the long run to be far more financial than social. A good landlord indeed!
The Tory Party is destroying some democratic institutions, for that is what these new towns would have become as soon as they passed into the hands of the local authorities. The Tory Party is destroying democratic institutions and nationalising a great deal of property under the harshest bureaucratic autocracy that the Tory Party or anybody else has ever succeeded in inventing.
378 That is the final effect of the Bill. What about all this philosophy of theirs? I thought that they did not like nationalisation. I thought that they did not like bureaucratic autocracy. I even thought that they did not like centralisation. Have they ever produced a Bill that has so many instances of everything to which they object as this particular effort? And they leave us with this thing—the thing that the Minister left on the doorstep—not merely for the moment but for an indefinite period.
Just as those who went to work in the new towns were told that this was only a temporary job, so, now, we are being told that this is only a temporary job, but no limit is set to its operation. For an indefinite period, I repeat, we are condemned by an ideological Tory Party to centralised, unrepresentative autocracy, and to the nationalisation of democratic institutions. Even worse than that, we certainly take one step towards the destruction of the social ideal and social adventure that these new towns, as originally conceived, represented in the minds, at that time, not merely of the Labour Party but of those who then occupied these benches.
§ 10.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Maddan
I do not want to spend: many minutes giving this Bill my best wishes as it goes on its way, but I would indeed like to do that. After the superlatives used by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) in its condemnation, I want to adopt a calmer note and to say that, completely contrary to his assertions, this Bill is welcomed not only by opinion at large but in the new towns themselves. Further, the people in the new towns are heartily glad that the Bill has been brought in and pressed through, because it will protect them from being made shuttlecocks in the party battles.
The Bill provides that the new Commission, which will take over the assets created by the development corporations when the phase of fast immigration comes to an end, will be under Parliamentary control, and its actions will be debatable in this House. Therefore, we are not in any way setting up an autocracy such as the hon. and learned Gentleman described. I have not found that people at all object to the ideal set out in the Measure that the Commission 379 should be a good landlord. On the contrary, I have found it welcomed.
Little, if anything has been said during the Committee and Report stages about Clause 12, which provides that the development corporations as they continue their work now can make contributions towards the amenities of the towns in the same way that the Commission will be empowered to do when it takes over. It has often been said that the provision of amenities has lagged behind the development of other sides of the new towns—housing, factories, shops and the like.
It has been said that not only is that so but it has had an ill effect on the building of a community spirit, because the structures and places in which to build it have not been there. However that may be, all the new towns, so far as I am aware—and certainly those that I know—have succeeded in developing the community spirit, and the people living there are proud to develop it. But it is certainly our duty in Parliament to ensure that further amenities are provided, because we do not want towns which are merely places to live and work in. We want towns in which people can develop to the very full their personalities and interests. I have no doubt that as the new towns settle down into the third and final phase in the years to come, it will be seen that they have been helped to become a success by the provisions proposed by my right hon. Friend.
§ 10.11 p.m.
§ Mr. Leo Abse (Pontypool)
As far as has been explained at all, we have heard at every stage of this Bill that one of the important reasons why the assets of the new towns are being vested in a central Commission is that otherwise we should be facing the danger of having all those assets vested in what the Minister has indicated again and again he regards as a dangerous monopoly. Concerned as he has been with the fact that, as a result of the development of the new towns, it is possible for local authorities to own, govern and control the assets of these new towns, he has made it abundantly clear that, apart from Treasury reasons, it is primarily because of this that he wishes to vest these assets in this bureaucratic centralised body in London.
380 However, if one looks at the realities and makes an empirical approach one finds that in many cases, as in the new town that I represent, there is no possibility of any of the hazards and dangers about which he speaks occurring. This is so not only because of the present situation but because of the manner in which is has developed. In the new town of Cwmbran which I represent, there is a diversity of ownership of industrial, commercial and residential properties. There we have 22 factories inside the designated area with 3 million square feet, and not a foot of them belongs to the Cwmbran Development Corporation. On the periphery of the designated area there are six other factories with 1¼ million square feet and not a foot belongs to the Cwmbran Development Corporation. There is certainly no danger in Cwmbran of the industrial undertakings being vested in a local authority monopoly. There is practically no factory footage vested in the development corporation.
Take the position of commercial undertakings and shops. There are scores of shops within the designated area which belong to private landlords or are owner occupied. There is no danger of a commercial undertaking becoming monopolised by one group in Cwmbran.
Let us take the housing situation. We have within the new town 2,700 houses which are privately owned. Of those 1,000 are let and 1,700 are owner occupied. We have all the diversity that we can possibly expect to have in such an area. If that is not enough, we have already seen that the development corporation itself makes ample provision by allowing large acreages to go, where literally hundreds of plots are available, for private individuals to erect their houses, and indeed it is now engaged in giving considerable acreages to private speculative development.
Apart from all the privately-owned houses, we have in existence a conscious plan for development to see that there will be owner-occupied houses within the designated area. The picture presenting itself is that we have every type of house ownership, including a housing association, which has 150 houses. If, as was once claimed, an empirical approach has been adopted by the Government and if, indeed, there have been some radical changes during 381 the years between 1946 and today which justify this reversal of policy, I cannot see them in Cwmbran, and neither can my constituents.
If one considers why it is that there is this hostility towards a publicly-owned body, through a local authority, having more and more assets, one realises that the reason is that the Minister has a nostalgia for the nineteenth century. He has a nostalgia for what were private enterprise, urban cities, those he calls normal cities—he used the terms many times—cities where, as we well know, private enterprise gave debased living conditions to the majority of the population and where, in fact, it was only State and local authority intervention that made it possible for the majority of people to live decent lives.
This Bill is a reactionary Bill in the full sense of that term. The Minister does not explain what is ultimately to happen to the assets. He does not say what will happen ultimately because, at the back of his mind, he is turning towards the nineteenth-century conception of a city, a city in which there is a large measure of private enterprise control of the bigger undertakings.
This conception brings with it not only difficult and unfortunate ideological trends but it brings with it a host of other problems also. For example, there will be serious complications in housing administration. Today, when I wish to examine a housing question in Cwmbran, I have to visit two sets of offices, the offices of the Cwmbran Development Corporation and the offices of the local authority. One at the moment controls 3,500 houses and the other controls 1,700. There are two sets of offices, two bodies side by side. I go into one and then into the other. We have there the same type of houses being administered, some on one side of the street and some on the other. Some, indeed, have different rents, but, by and large, it is exactly the same type of property occupied by the same sort of people. Perhaps, almost inevitably in the transitional phase, we have housing administration in duplicate. What is to happen under the Bill? Housing will be administered in London, by the local committee which, we learned in Committee, will have its own offices locally, 382 and also there will be the local authority offices. This is, indeed, a triumph for Whitehall. We shall have housing administration in triplicate. With it will come all manner of serious problems, problems, for instance, in the social services.
Cwmbran Development Corporation, like most development corporations, I suppose, does not regard its rent collectors merely as rent collectors; it recognises that they have a rôle as social workers to play. What is to happen when we have a centralised Commission? With the houses not being vested in the local authority, will there not be further lack of co-ordination in the social work which is so essential? Will the rent collectors, if they are acting as social workers, have to come to some understanding or liaison with the local authorities? The condemnation recently expressed about lack of co-ordination in our social services will be exacerbated so long as we have this enclave of a strange nationalised concern inside the designated area.
Beyond that, there will inevitably be administrative friction betwen the local authority and the Commission. We are already experiencing this in Cwmbran. Whereas, hitherto, the local authority has been ready to make land available which otherwise it would wish to husband for its own purposes, now, of course, the local authority digs in. It believes that it has no future interest in the land and it has no interest in the houses which may be put on it. Already, even before the Bill has become an Act, there is a tug-of-war going on. What we are seeing in Cwmbran is what is likely to happen all along the line. Administrative difficulties will arise because there will be considered to be by people on the urban district council a lack of coincidence of interest between the development corporation and the local authority.
Apart from administrative difficulties, I have already seen in the consequences of the Bill the psychological estrangement which is likely to result as a consequence of having this centralised nominated body to deal with houses within Cwmbran. Anyone who has had experience of housing management knows full well that it is more than a question of collecting rent. Anyone who 383 has been on an estates committee in a city knows full well that the handling and management of a large estate requires a great deal of tact and there should be constant and ever-regular channels of communication between tenant and landlord. Once one begins to interfere with those lines of communication, once it is felt that there is no communication between tenant and landlord, troubles begin.
What is even more likely to happen apart from the regular type of trouble which comes as a result of this type of structure is that there will be a feeling of lack of involvement. Most of the residents in Cwmbran come from nearby villages and townships and from places where they have a deep and profound sense, as we have in Wales, of locality and community. When they come to Cwmbran they want as far and as speedily as they can to become part of estrangement. What is being given to them is the knowledge that their assets will be controlled by a body 160 miles away. This will deal with their assets, houses, homes and amenities. Nothing is more likely to cause a feeling of estrangement than that knowledge.
We are constantly complaining that people lack responsibility, and that there is a certain malaise within the community where people will not shoulder what we regard as their own individual responsibility. The Bill creates conditions under which people begin to contract out, where the people governing them are remote. anonymous, unknown to them, whom they have no contact at all. This is a socially reactionary Bill because it isolates the individual still further instead of giving to him a greater sense of responsibility and community values.
Finally, we have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee, East (Mr. G. M. Thomson) talk of the Minister reverting to his previous position rather than facing up to the responsibilities which he has as Minister for Housing. The right hon. Gentleman is also Minister for Welsh Affairs. There was a time when there was a demand throughout the Principality for more devolution and there was a very deeply felt emotional and intellectual attitude that we needed to have more control in Wales. We regard the appointment of the right hon. Gentleman as a 384 dusty answer to that clamour. The Minister said that there should be time in order to see how he would be able to influence, in the Cabinet, the affairs of Wales and to look after the community interests of Wales. Today, Wales as well as Cwmbran will judge the Minister and will ask "Is this how we have devolution to Welsh authorities?" They will say that instead of vesting assets of the Welsh people in the local authorities of Wales what he has done is to snatch them away to London and has taken them from where they truly belong.
We in Wales regard the Bill as one more failure in our national aspirations. What the Government have done is to reduce Cwmbran to Colonial status, to see that it does not have its full and proper responsibilities. This is a Bill which we can only regard with considerable dismay.
§ 10.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Gough
I hope that the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse) will forgive me if I do not enter into an England versus Wales match. As the representative of the first town that will come within the orbit of the Bill when it becomes an Act of Parliament, I hope that at this late hour the House will allow me to say a few words.
I have been through all the stages of the Bill and I do not think that there is any hon. Member, on either side, who would say that it has not been thoroughly thrashed out. We have certainly had our differences of view, but my right hon. Friend is to be highly commended on giving every hon. Member, on both sides, every opportunity to put his point of view.
During this period, it has often seemed to me that it would have been a marvellous thing if these debates had taken place in another legislature within the Commonwealth. It might have been a wonderful thing if the legislators at Canberra were debating a New Towns Bill of this nature, so that we could transplant a whole community from this country to Australia, where people are very much needed. I cannot pursue that line much further, but I wanted to say it, because in the context of the Bill one of the greatest dangers to the new towns and to whatever enactments we have is that they will fail in that they do not 385 reduce the population of the great cities from which the people of the new towns come.
I was immensely surprised by the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison). Undoubtedly, he has not been backward in opposing the Government. I was surprised that he was not taking the fight to the death. I did not think a great deal of the hon. and learned Member's reasons. He began by saying that we were voting a certain amount of money and then he came in with a full-blooded attack which from the first was based utterly on fallacy.
The hon. and learned Member said that the people in the new towns looked upon the Bill with distrust and disapproval. I shall quote only my own new town of Crawley. In the recent local government elections, the people there had a magnificent opportunity to give their verdict on the Bill. It was not the fault of the hon. and learned Member's friends down there for not plugging it. It was the one issue before the electorate and there was a 4 per cent. swing in our favour. The result in other towns might be even more startling.
It was not, therefore, up to the normal high standards that the hon. and learned Gentleman pursues that he should have said that the Bill was greeted with distrust and approval. Nothing of the sort. I reassure the hon. and learned Gentleman that when the Bill, as an Act, really makes its impact in Crawley, there will be a further satisfactory swing in our direction.
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East), Wait and see.
§ Mr. Gough
The next point upon which the hon. and learned Member dilated was that of the good landlord. That is precisely what is in the minds of the ordinary men and women in Crawley. They do not believe at this stage that their local authority, as at present constituted, with the very small amount of experience that it has, will be a good landlord. They have a good deal of reason for this view, as I shall explain. After our recent local government elections, 60 per cent. of the electorate of Crawley voted for the friends of the hon. and learned Member. Forty per cent. voted for people who look upon political issues the same way as I do.
§ Mr. Gough
The majority of Socialists on the committees have hogged every single appointment there is. Forty per cent. of the electorate of Crawley are not represented on any hospital, school or any other of the various committees which normally have representation from minority views. In other words, they have done a "Lewisham". Will people who do that sort of thing be good landlords? It is not unreasonable for the people of Crawley at this moment to say that it would be far wiser to follow the line taken by my right hon. Friend the Minister in the Bill. That line is that there must still be a period of development. That is all we say. In Crawley we have passed, or are nearly passing, the first phase. We are now coming to the second. We in Crawley believe, and I think that it is much more generally believed than the hon. and learned Member for Kettering supposes, that it is still a wise thing to have these tremendous national investments in the hands of what will be the finest professional body to look after them.
It is on these lines that I believe the Bill will be a great success. It will take another step forward in the progress of one of the most exciting developments that we have made since the war—and in saying that I give the fullest credit to hon. and right hon. Members opposite.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Mr. Richard Body (Billericay)
I should like to cap what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough). We find the Bill even more popular in the new town of Basildon. That is one of the answers to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) when he says that the new towns disapprove of the Bill.
Before the Bill was introduced there was a Socialist council in Basildon. Reports of the debates in Standing Committee on the Bill were widely circulated before our local election in May. I did my best to circulate the views of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering and the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) and others who spoke against the Bill. I am glad to say that, thanks very largely to them, we captured control of that Labour council and now one new 387 town has a strongly entrenched Conservative majority after an election in which the main issue was this Bill.
I thank my right hon. Friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government for having introduced the Bill. I support it because it is a popular Bill in Basildon new town. I am certain that there is no one in Basildon who has thought carefully about it who does not agree with its principle. It should go through.
§ 10.33 p.m.
§ Mr. MacColl
I am sorry that my humble efforts in Standing Committee had such a disastrous electoral effect. If the hon. Member for Billericay (Mr. Body) had been able to circulate his own speeches they probably would have had a comparable effect, but unfortunately, as far as I can remember, there was none.
§ Mr. MacColl
The hon. Member's contributions to our discussions, though not altogether absent, were perhaps not particularly profound or relevant. Therefore, I am not surprised that he was able to avoid the embarrassment of circulating them. We are told that in Crawley 60 per cent. of the people, after examining these issues and having them debated and put before them, supported our side of the House. I should have thought that was a reasonable proportion of support to obtain.
§ Mr. MacColl
I was about to remark that if we got that, as I think we probably will get 60 per cent. at the next General Election, the right hon. Gentleman the present Minister of Housing and Local Government will be redundant. I get some satisfaction from thinking that he will not qualify for pension for loss of office.
I do not want to detain the House with an exhaustive analysis of the Bill. Our position on it on this side of the House is perfectly clear.
388 We believe that there is no case for having this middle stage of the Commission interposed between the ultimate ownership of the local authorities and the work of the corporations. We believe that the corporations and the local authorities can easily blend one into the other and have a smooth transfer by degrees as the work of the corporations finishes and the local councils grow in responsibility. We do not believe that there is any case for having this middle stage. We believe that it is a dangerous thing to have because it will divorce the management of the houses from the people and lead to profit and the exploitation of the land values predominant in the development of the new towns. Therefore, we are against this part of the Bill.
However, we are not voting against the Bill, as my hon. and learned Friend has said, simply because we want more money for new towns and we want more new towns and it would be rather silly to vote against giving what little money is proposed when we want more.
§ 10.37 p.m.
§ Mr. H. Brooke
There is little that I need or can add to the admirable speech with which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary moved the Third Reading of the Bill, except to express my thanks to my hon. Friends the Members for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan), Horsham (Mr. Gough) and Billericay (Mr. Body) for their contributions and for the close and sympathetic understanding of the new towns in their constituencies which has been shown throughout our debates.
I entirely agree with what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hitchin has said in rebutting the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) that the Bill had met with distrust, disapproval and dislike throughout the new towns. If there is any justification for those words, it can only be within small groups of party-minded people in the new towns, because, frankly, the people of the new towns as a whole are closely interested in one thing and one thing only about the future of the new towns, and that is that they shall be well administered. They do not greatly mind by whom they are administered provided that the administration is good, and the reason 389 for the Bill is that the Government believe that in the next stage good administration can be given to the new towns better through the Bill than by handing them over to the local authorities here and now or by any other agency that might be suggested. As to the hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. Abse), if anybody can turn the new town of Cwmbran into an unhappy place, he will.
I regard the new towns as one of the boldest and most important experiments which this country has carried through in the last 15 years. They are not nearly so well known within our own island as they are by visitors from overseas except for those who have the experience in living in or near them, but the Government are proud indeed to have been able during the past seven or eight years to make their contribution to their welfare, and so long as a Conservative Government remain in power that certainly will continue.
390 I invite the attention of the House to one curiosity. The hon. and learned Member for Kettering in his first words on the Second Reading of the Bill said:This is a scandalous Bill.He said later in his speech:It is a complete denial of democracy …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1958; Vol. 596, c. 857–69.]Now he says he will not divide the House against it. Can it be that the Government's arguments have persuaded him to see reason in the matter, or is it that his troops have gone home so that he is left powerless?
§ Mr. Mitchison
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that on Second Reading we divided not against the Bill but on a reasoned Amendment?
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.