HC Deb 20 December 1963 vol 686 cc1696-711

3.16 p.m.

Dr. Barnett Stross (Stoke-on-Trent, Central)

I should, first, express my appreciation to the Minister for coming to the House to answer the problem which I propose to raise during the last Adjournment debate before Christmas. I refer to the problem of the redevelopment of Piccadilly Circus. The right hon. Gentleman's presence gives significance to the fact that this subject is of wide interest and that, if we can achieve a satisfactory solution of the complex problems associated with it, it will be of benefit to every other great city, not only in this country but in the world. If we can get our techniques right for Piccadilly Circus, it should help everywhere.

In the argument which I propose to deploy I will rely almost entirely on the work of Professor Colin Buchanan, which was published recently and which. I think, is commanding very great attention.

May I refer to the background to this problem? We all remember that there was a spontaneous outburst by the public when they objected to the design of a building which it was proposed to erect some years ago on the Monico site. The feeling then shown by the public demonstrated clearly the unique position which Piccadilly Circus holds in the public esteem and affection. I thought that two things emerged from the hearing, which lasted 17 days. One was that the Civic Trust, which took the initiative, became rather better known than it was, and the other was that a very great servant of the Department, Mr. Colin Buchanan as he was then, sat as inspector. I think that his great reputation has grown from that time.

There were then two aspects uppermost in everyone's mind. We all felt, first, that we must have good architecture in this area, and, secondly, that we needed a comprehensive and not a patchwork, piecemeal plan. Fundamental to all this is the fact that everyone, I think, considers that Piccadilly Circus is an essential hub or centre of the West End—one might almost say that it is the climax of the West End—and that when it is reconstructed it should be a place for people and should express gaiety.

I propose to make only one quotation from Professor Buchanan's work. In putting forward his point of view, he dsecribed what he meant by the "environmental objectives", which he declared should come first. He said in paragraph 136, on page 52: Attention is first turned to the environment, to delineating the areas within which life is led and activities conducted. At the bottom under subsection (3) it says: Traffic is seen as part of the comprehensive problem of town planning. The importance of this for the redevelopment of urban areas, for administration, and for collaboration between the professions can hardly be exaggerated. As I continue my argument I shall make references to the paragraphs, but I will quote no more. Sir William Holford's scheme was produced for the London County Council, and they have accepted it. It was based quite clearly on defined design principles as a place for the public to resort to and into, and it allowed for a 20 per cent. improvement in traffic flow to the Circus. Now the two Ministers ask us for a 50 per cent. improvement in traffic flow, and one must say to oneself, "What has gone wrong? There is some misunderstanding".

On 2nd September, 1963, while we were in recess, the Ministers of Transport and Housing and Local Government made a statement that in 1960 the traffic flow in 12 hours of daylight through the Circus was about 56,000 and that by 1962it had risen to about 62,000. In asking for a 50 per cent. increase on the 1960 figures they declared that they must allow for 85,000 in 12 hours of daylight. When pressed, the Minister of Transport at least has been prepared to say that this is logical because the approach roads to the Circus can carry this amount of traffic and therefore it is logical that the Circus should be able to receive it.

This is what Buchanan finds most objectionable. It means that these great thoroughfares, which include Regent Street, for example, the greatest shopping street perhaps in the world, are to pour all their crude capacity for carrying traffic into the Circus. This is not traffic planning or urban development. This is more like sewers, and a sewerage farm, where it is a case of getting the sewerage through as quickly as possible, dealing with it as soon as it gets there and balancing what comes in with what can be treated.

We have two warring concepts. I am sure that the Minister agrees. There is the concepts of the Circus as Holford originally offered it—a place of human gaiety, joy and pleasure; and there is the concept that streets such as Regent Street and Piccadilly are not great shopping streets but merely great conduits for the passage of wheeled traffic. These two concepts must inevitably be at war.

We should put to ourselves some questions. First, on what criterion did the Minister reach this figure of 50 per cent, increase? Has the London County Council agreed with it? We shall soon be getting the London Traffic Survey, and we have the Buchanan Report. The Survey will give us all the data probably that we shall require in order to carry out the essential principles which underline the Buchanan Report and the Buchanan thesis on physical planning. Have we not therefore reached the point at which we must demand a radically new road plan for the whole of London, and certainly for the centre of London? Obviously, therefore, we must avoid ad hoc improvements, especially in an area of this kind where, if we make a mistake, we shall always be ashamed of it. I am not here to make an attack; I am simply saying that we shall be considered to be vandals and barbarians by those who come after us if we make a mistake.

I wonder whether the Minister has considered what would be the financial cost of moving away from the Holford plan and increasing the flow of traffic through Piccadilly Circus in this way. The Criterion, I am told, would have to disappear. The Holford plan shows that quite clearly, the plan which was published in The Times I have a copy of it here. It is very difficult to say what the cost would be, but it would run to millions of pounds extra, because of the land and buildings which would be sacrificed to increase the traffic which could go through the Circus.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir Keith Joseph)

Is the hon. Gentleman saying that to allow a relatively small increase of traffic in the Circus, to accommodate the traffic which is already likely to emerge from the improvements in the approach roads, would involve demolishing the Criterion?

Dr. Stross

That is what Holford says, that if we are to have 85,000 vehicles in 12 hours' daylight in the way which was asked for—that is, a 50 per cent, increase—the Criterion would be demolished.

It has been put to me by one of the greatest planners— certainly in this country or in Europe— that we should look at this very carefully. It has been put to me that if we are to spend money of this order it would be better spent in improving the public transport— for example, the Underground concourse, by enlarging it— by providing direct access to all the surrounding buildings, or the provision of first-floor pedestrian ways. That is how it has been put to me, and the information given to me on this point came from a source which I think very highly of indeed.

To return to Buchanan again, what does his work say about shopping streets? It refers to the growing evidence from all over the world, not only Britain, of the advantages of shopping and business being undertaken in a completely traffic-free atmosphere. That is in paragraph 135. It goes on to say in another part that it is, unfortunately, true that traffic has killed the concept of the street as a form of urban layout. It admits that some mixture of pedestrians and vehicles is bound to be a feature of towns for a long time ahead.

Therefore, the whole of the work that I am referring to, "Traffic in Towns", attaches great importance to distinguishing between what I mentioned, the crude capacity, the full capacity, of the street and the environmental capacity. I apologise for using technical phrases I have culled from the book, but it is better, and the Minister will understand them perfectly well. The yardstick for planning must be environmental capacity if we are dealing with an area where environment is of consequence.

Now, if this be true, what we should be doing is not trying to increase the traffic flowing along Regent Street, for example, or the other streets which empty into the Circus. We should be making plans substantially to reduce it, not to increase it. I therefore ask the Minister to be quite resolute and firm about this, and not to lend himself to what we feel may be the ultimate destruction of the amenities in this place which our citizens have a right to expect and can have if we plan properly.

If we reduce the traffic and say that we will not have any more than we have now, we have to plan what to do with the traffic that is displaced. Here, Professor Buchanan makes his plea for the creation of proper networks and environmental areas which can both handle the traffic and give opportunities of a civilised life for our citizens. There is nothing novel in what he pleads and illustrates so profusely in his book.

Anyone who is a medical student, or has read physiology and understands how human beings live, or any form of advanced life exists without gangrene setting in, and why it is possible for the flesh to function under stress, knows that we have a primary and secondary circulation, that the heart itself has its primary circulation through which the blood is conducted and that if anything goes wrong there is the secondary circulation, the cellular network, such as Professor Buchanan describes, which given the opportunity, expands, dilates and can take over the stress if anything goes wrong with the primary circulation. So we are on excellent ground if we accept this as a philosophy for action. I am sure that Professor Buchanan would agree if he were here to listen to us.

I therefore ask the Minister: would he do some simple things? First, would he join with the L.C.C. and give approval to the principle of the Holford plan. If he does that we can get on straight away and redevelop the Monico site, because Professor Holford has made it quite clear that this could be done at once without any injury to the future of the plan as a whole.

Secondly, I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to set up two working parties. One to consider the progress of the Piccadilly scheme. It will take a very long time. This should be a working party of the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry, the Ministry of Transport, the London County Council, the Westminster City Council, the London Transport Executive, the principal freeholders and the owners of the buildings. On that phrase, "the owners of the buildings", I must ask the Minister and the House to remember them sometimes. They may be kept waiting so long before we can make our minds up about what should be done that when we tell them they will say, "As far as we are concerned, we are not interested. We have long since given this up as a bad job. The capital that we have available has been spent. Therefore, we are not interested."

The second working party should be to consider ways and means by means by which not only this area, but the whole of the London area can be adequately served not only for transport but for amenity. If the Minister could help us by taking this back and reconsidering the whole matter and giving us some hope, ultimately translating that hope into practice, then he will have done something which will please not only all of us, but himself, too.

3.34 p.m.

Sir Hamilton Kerr (Cambridge)

On this last day of the sitting before the Christmas Recess, the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) has performed a service by raising the question of Piccadilly Circus. The presence of the Minister, which we greatly appreciate, shows the importance he attaches to the subject.

When we talk of Piccadilly Circus we talk of a spot which many of us feel is the heart of London. We cannot pretend that in terms of architectural merit or natural beauty it is anything but undistinguished. It cannot compare with that glittering canyon of lights we call Broadway, New York. It cannot compare with the space and vistas of the Place de la Concorde, Paris. It cannot compare with the mosaics and marbles of the Piazza of St. Marks, Venice.

It is a place of memory and association. It has woven itself into the lives of men and women of London for many generations. When we think of Piccadilly Circus we think of it not merely in terms of the Edwardian period, with Edwardian dandies wearing opera hats, cloaks and gardenias in their buttonholes, on their way to the Promenade at the Empire. We do not think of it solely in respect of the flower girls sitting round Eros, or of Boat Race night with the people singing and cheering with their light and dark blue favours. We think of it on the dramatic occasions and on the ends of the wars in 1918 and 1939 when the people of London flocked to Piccadilly Circus to express their feelings at relief from horror and suffering.

The Holford Plan maintains this tradition of it as a meeting place of joy and light. We realise, as the hon. Gentleman so vividly said, that this conception is now challenged by the menace of the motor car. We have no fewer than 1 million cars a year coming on the roads. By 1970 we shall have 17 million can on the roads. Perhaps by the year 2,000 we shall have more than 30 million cars. Families which now pride themselves on having two cars each will perhaps, be having six or seven cars.

What will life in this country be like? Surely our country, viewed from the air, will look like a series of writhing, intertwined snakes. As aircraft land, passengers will realise that the snakes are millions of cars travelling bumper to bumper. The only opportunities for peace in this country will be in sound-conditioned houses. Otherwise there will be sound everywhere, from motor cars or helicopters: sound not only in the bleakest vales of Derbyshire and Yorkshire; sound on the remotest shores of the Hebrides; and perhaps even the ice cap of the North Pole, we will not be able to escape this torture of sound. Something must be done now to recognise this menace.

One hopes that the question of Piccadilly Circus will illustrate in a dramatic form the growing man menace of the motor-car and that it may suggest possible speedy remedies for its cure.

3.38 p.m.

Mr. Kenneth Robinson (St. Pancras. North)

I add my gratitude to my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) for giving us this opportunity at this very late stage before we rise for the Christmas Recess to discuss the Piccadilly Circus scheme.

I think he was right in stressing that the arguments of those of us who have opposed the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport in this matter have been overwhelmingly supported by the conclusions of the Buchanan Report which has been so recently published.

I spoke on this matter in the general debate on the Address at the beginning of this Session. It was a somewhat unprofitable enterprise, because as it was a general debate there was no Minister to give a reply. But I did it because I wanted at the earliest opportunity to express my protest at what I thought was the disastrous action by the two Ministers taken in the quiet of the long Recess.

Nevertheless, a good deal has happened since then. During the course of that speech I expressed the opinion that the only hope of saving the centres of our cities from strangulation by the motor vehicle was the artificial restriction of the volume of traffic in city centres. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman knows, but during the war those of us who were Socialists and found ourselves in the Armed Forces were apt to be reported upon by the security authorities as "premature anti-Fascists." It was a phrase intended to be derogatory, but we were rather proud of it. In this connection I think that I can claim to be a premature Buchananite, because I expressed his doctrines before the publication of his Report.

I expressed my views at some length on that occasion and I shall not weary the House by repeating them, but I want to ask one or two questions. The first arises out of Parliamentary Questions and Answers on 6th December. I asked the Minister of Transport upon what basis of calculation he required provision for the circulation of 7,000 vehicles per daylight hour—I rounded off the figures for the sake of simplicity— and he replied: The basis was the general agreement between the London County Council as planning and road improvement authority and myself that major junctions in London should provide for a capacity of either 60 per cent. over the level of traffic in 1960, or the foreseeable capacity of the approach roads, whichever is the less."—[Official Report, 4th December, 1962; Vol. 685, c. 1131.] Naturally, we accepted this as an explanation, although it did not seem very satisfactory. But some days later, on 9th December, a letter appeared in The Times Stating that it was untrue that there was any general agreement of the kind described by the Minister. The letter was signed by the chairmen of the Roads and the Town Planning Committees of the L.C.C. Presumably, the Minister of Housing and Local Government is replying to this debate on behalf of himself and of the Minister of Transport and I ask him: who was telling the truth and who was not? Was there such an agreement, or was there not?

The second question which arises from the exchange is: who was responsible for the mistake? We have asked this three times of the Minister of Transport and each time he has evaded it completely, but not very skilfully. Why was Sir William Holford asked, in his original remit, to provide for only 5,000 vehicles per hour of daylight? In the light of what the Minister of Transport said subsequently, an error occurred. Whose error was it? This is a perfectly simple question. Someone must have given Sir William Holford his terms of reference and must have included a figure for circulation of traffic. What was that figure and who made the mistake if it was too low?

I want to tell the House what I think is the logic of the attitude taken by the two right hon. Gentlemen. Sir William Holford says— and, after all, he is the best authority on his own plan— that to make the amendments necessary for extra traffic provision would, in effect, wreck his whole plan. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central that the two superimposed plans published in The Times a week or two ago bear out that view very forcibly.

Sir William says that if he is asked to do it, or the request to do it is persisted in, he will resign from the project; and I think that no one will blame him. But supposing the plan were amended in this way, and instead of Piccadilly Circus being planned as a place of amenity and pleasure mainly for people on foot, it became, as inevitably it would, a mere major traffic interception? What would happen when the circulation of traffic inevitably reached and exceeded the figure of 7,000 vehicles per daylight hour for which it was planned?

Of course, some artificial restriction of traffic would have to be imposed, and the only question I ask on that is: why not impose it in the first place and save Sir William's plan rather than have to impose it in the second place in order to prevent the strangulation of a Circus which was allowed to be a mere traffic intersection?

If the right hon. Gentleman is fair, I think that he will agree that he and the Minister of Transport now remain completely isolated on this matter and that no one agrees with their stand. Sir William Holford disagrees profoundly. London County Council has made it quite clear that it disagrees and backs Sir William. The Press is unanimous, as are architectural and planning opinion. I think that opinion in the House, in so far as it has been expressed, is also wholly opposed to the Ministers.

I say to the right hon. Gentleman merely what I said to the Minister of Transport— that surely the time has come to beat a graceful retreat, for him and his right hon. Friend to save their faces while they still have faces to save in this matter. As there has been too much delay already, will the right hon. Gentleman allow a brilliant architectural plan, which is, in all ways, worthy of the centre of the Commonwealth, to come forward at last?

3.46 p.m.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir Keith Joseph)

I am grateful to the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) for the opportunity that he has given me to explain to the House somewhat more of the background of the Piccadilly position and to take the matter as far forward as the Government can at this stage. I am also grateful to him for the moderate yet passionate way in which he put forward his point of view.

The whole House must have enjoyed the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge (Sir H. Kerr), a speech at once lyrical and yet ominous, a speech in which, like Caliban, he spoke of an isle fall of strange noises. I know that he spoke from a sense of deep feeling and I was much impressed by what he said.

I was sorry that the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson), who normally brings such diligent study to the problems he raises, should have spoken as though there could be only one side to the argument about Piccadilly. I hope that he will give sufficient credit to my right hon. Friend and to me to appreciate that, on the whole, we are faced with many problems and that they are generally rather more complex thin they appear at first sight. I hope that when I have finished saying what I have to say, it will be clear that this matter is not quite as simple as the hon. Gentleman made it appear.

I am delighted that hon. Members have quoted so freely and with such approval from the Buchanan Report. It is a masterly document, of course, and the more it is quoted and the more its principles axe ventilated, the better for the country. I hope that no hon. Member will misunderstand me if I say that quoting the Buchanan Report does not solve specific problems. It enables us to approach the problems with clear minds, but we still have to take active decisions, bearing in mind all the factors. Piccadilly Circus, at present, is a major traffic intersection and road improvement schemes which have been carried out, or which are being carried out, around Piccadilly will inevitably increase local traffic flow. It must follow that any solution for the Circus which is to allow increased pedestrian access must solve the traffic problem. It cannot be wished away. The traffic cannot be ignored.

If hon. Members anywhere in the House think that the traffic which goes through Piccadilly is entirely, as it were, discretionary traffic, I hope that they will absorb this figure: only just over one-third of the traffic using Piccadilly Circus is made up of cars. Most of the cars which use Piccadilly Circus do so, at the moment, because they must. Some are discretionary, but nearly two-thirds of the traffic passing through the Circus is in the form of buses or service vehicles for local needs which, as things are at the moment, have to go through Piccadilly Circus.

But, as we all only too sharply realise, the Circus is also a place for pedestrian concourse and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge so eloquently said, no one would wish it to be anything otherwise. The lesson of Buchanan is that the two purposes— traffic flow, on the one hand, and pedestrian use, on the other, are, ideally, incompatible; ideally, I repeat, incompatible. The lesson of Buchanan is that we must distinguish as quickly as we can in practice between on the one hand, environmental areas where traffic is subordinate, and, on the other, the primary and distributor road network which takes the main traffic flow and distributes it.

The principles of Buchanan— that is, the division of towns and cities into environmental areas served by primary and distributor road networks— have been accepted by the Government and, over the years, the consequences will follow. As my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has said, there will have to be traffic surveys in the conurbations, and a number of these surveys is already in hand. Guidance will have to be issued by my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State and the Ministry of Transport, and myself, and the House may like to know that the first guidance is shortly to be issued, and then the local authorities will, as soon as is practicable, make their decisions.

The local authorities will not only be making their decisions about the networks, but will also be making interim decisions about environmental area traffic management, which is the immediate palliative which Buchanan offers, until, over the years, the network can be achieved. In London, of course, the creation of the Greater London Council, with its own metropolitan highway, traffic and planning powers, will be the instrument by which, for London, the Buchanan principles may be put into effect.

Obviously, the Government appreciate that London cannot remain a civilised city if all, or anything like all, of the potential car traffic of which my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge spoke is to be allowed to have free access to every part of the Metropolis. That is understood. That is accepted. I think that critics go very far when they assume that because my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport and I want to see some increase in the capacity through or, in any alternative way, around Piccadilly Circus, we are in favour of all traffic that potentially can arise in the future being given free rein in London. But surely, it makes sense to allow what moderate increase is practicable to pass through London; though it will be nothing like the full flow that will be implied when each household, as we have been warned, owns its own car.

What can be accommodated within a civilised London by way of traffic within the Buchanan concept cannot be laid down by the Government at this stage, and the hon. Member for St. Pancras, North, who asked me for a categoric figure, and for reasons why certain targets were adopted by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport, must appreciate that the decisions about the balance between accessibility and urban amenity will only emerge gradually from the traffic surveys and the decisions made by the local authorities concerned over the years. This is not something, as Buchanan has clearly shown, that can be decided by diktat of the Government; it will emerge, first, from study and then by a series of local decisions taken by each community. In London, the community is a very large one, and there will, for the first time, be a metropolitan authority able to take that decision.

To return to the Piccadilly problem, we all agree that there are these two concepts—the network and the environmental area. Ideally, these two structural elements should be kept quite distinct; the whole gist of Buchanan is that one wrecks urban amenity if one allows a major shopping thoroughfare to become a conduit for traffic.

The lesson of Buchanan is that networks and environmental areas must be kept distinct. Sir William Holford's scheme is a distinguished attempt to reconcile both, because in his scheme he allows for some increase in the traffic flow—although not enough, in the view of my right hon. Friend and myself—and he provides a substantial increase in the scope for pedestrians. He is trying to reconcile the two concepts which we are all agreed, in an imperfect world, cannot be reconciled—network and environmental area.

Dr. Stross

The Minister is very clear on this point, and I follow him. But I was speaking of what I had taken from the Buchanan Report when I said that for years to come this attempt to reconcile is inevitable.

Sir K. Joseph

Yes. For years to come it will be inevitable, but when we are setting in hand a major reconstruction of a key traffic intersection we have to provide for scores of years, and this is our opportunity to try to get it right.

Therefore, let us be sure that we are adopting, so far as is practicable, either the full Buchanan concept or the best practicable compromise. It is the view of my right hon. Friend and myself— and we say this in all humility, because we recognise the great distinction and dedication of Sir William Holford— that not only does his scheme not make the sensible: extra allowance for traffic that correlates with the approved approach roads, but it will leave the pedestrians, on their much enlarged concourse, hemmed in by an almost solid, noisy and smelly traffic jam.

If it is the wish of the public that there should be a greatly increased access for pedestrians in Piccadilly Circus, the only way to get it in tolerable conditions is to move a good deal of the traffic away from the Circus. The question is whether this can be done. It raises great problems of road engineering, traffic management, and so on. But my right hon. Friend and I think that these alternatives should be examined. After discussions with the L.C.C. and Sir William Holford, we have suggested that a working party should be set up, including representatives of both Ministries and the Council, to look at the possibilities for relief outside the Circus and to consider how far it is possible to accept the traffic assumptions underlying Sir William's plan. The working party will take account of the London Traffic Survey, now in progress, and we hope that it will be in a position to report in some months. I cannot give an actual date.

This has not yet been put to the L.C.C. in formal terms— and it has been impossible to put the plan to the L.C.C. formally only because of the time of the year; there has been no discourtesy— but if, as we hope, the L.C.C. is willing to join in we shall agree the membership and detailed terms of reference with it. I propose that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport or I should make another statement as soon as the details are agreed, if the L.C.C. falls in with our ideas.

Until it is clear that the traffic, or a substantial part of it, can be accommodated by some other means, I fear that my right hon. Friend and I cannot give the go-ahead to the Holford scheme. We can regret that the analysis for which we are now asking has not already been made, but the House will probably agree that in terms of traffic we are now living in a much more car-conscious world than even two or three years ago. The London Traffic Survey was started only in 1960, Buchanan has just reported, and the full implication of the torrent of cars is only now being absorbed by the public.

I take the point made by the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central, and I am deeply concerned about the delay involved in coming to a decision on Piccadilly Circus. It is only justified by the fact that we have here an opportunity to make sense of a part of London which is vitally important to all of us, and we must try to get it right. The fact is that the Piccadilly Circus redevelopment project—

It being Four o'clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Pym.]

Sir K. Joseph

I was saying, the fact is that the Piccadilly Circus redevelopment project comes at a time when traffic policy is taking a sudden and self-conscious change, and that is the only excuse I have for the delay involved. I hope that the L.C.C. will find it possible to accept the proposal for the working party and that the working party will report before too long.

Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)

Before the right hon. Gentleman sits down, there were one or two questions which my hon. Friend the Member for St. Pancras, North (Mr. K. Robinson) asked and with which I do not think he has dealt.

Sir K. Joseph

No, I did not try to deal with them because they lend themselves, I think, to answers that must be vague until the London Traffic Survey has reported. We have been at a stage of working without a full analysis, which we need for a full answer.

Mr. Stewart

I only wish to add that what the Minister has said will be of considerable interest, and though he has not yet been able to put the matter in formal terms to the L.C.C. we are pleased with the idea that the new announcement is made first in the House, which does not always happen. Obviously, it is something that we shall want to consider, and it would not be sensible to comment on it until we have all had time to do so. I feel that, as far as it goes, what the Minister has said has been helpful, and I think that my hon. Friends will be of that opinion.