HC Deb 06 March 1962 vol 655 cc180-1
6. Mrs. Butler

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs what consideration he has given to the building of a new town outside the congested area of south-east England to house Government Departments not directly engaged in the day-to-day work of Parliament.

Mr. Rippon

Excluding the Post Office, about one-third of the civil servants in London area work in local offices and therefore cannot be moved away. As regards headquarters staff, a substantial proportion is already working outside London and further moves are planned. My right hon. Friend will certainly see what might be done in any further New Towns, bearing in mind the need to provide reasonable diversification of employment.

Mrs. Butler

Would not it greatly ease congestion in London if some of the prestige value of a London office address were transferred to a new administrative centre by moving out some of the 50,000 civil servants not engaged in day-to-day Government work, and thus releasing for other uses part of the 11½ million square feet of office accommodation which they occupy? For the life of me, I cannot see how the Minister expects private firms to move out unless he is prepared to give a lead.

Mr. Rippon

I do not think that we should like to see all civil servants moved into a new administrative centre. That would provide a totally unbalanced community—I use the expression "unbalanced" in no derogatory sense. I am advised, surprising as it may seem, that there would not be enough to constitute a new centre. It is Government policy to disperse from London wherever possible, and 24,000 headquarters staffs have been moved out of London. There are proposals affecting a good number of others.