HC Deb 29 May 1963 vol 678 cc1497-506

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

12.38 a.m.

Mr. James McInnes (Glasgow, Central)

I welcome the opportunity, even at this late hour of the morning, to deal with what I regard as one of the greatest social problems in this country, namely, that of Glasgow's overspill. At the outset may I briefly outline the problem which confronts the City of Glasgow and which has made overspill an absolute necessity? Although since 1919 Glasgow Corporation has built no fewer than 121,000 houses, there still remain 78,000 applications on the housing waiting list. Of the 329,000 houses in Glasgow, almost one-third are either sub-standard or totally unfit, while 34,000 people live more than four persons in one room and 19,000 more than three persons to one room. Almost half the houses in the city have only one or two rooms and more than 400,000 people are living in them. This is indeed a depressing picture and one which, in my submission, calls for drastic action.

I want to examine the action the Government have or propose to take to deal with this grave social problem. I do not propose to go through the whole history leading up to Glasgow's overspill problems, because it would mean my going back to 1943 and the setting up of the Clyde Valley Regional Planning Advisory Committee which, in turn, appointed the late Professor Abercrombie to undertake the preparation of a plan for the whole of the Clyde Valley region. That plan was completed in 1946, but I shall content myself by starting with the year 1952.

It was in that year that the then Secretary of State for Scotland invited the Clyde Valley Regional Planning Advisory Committee to undertake a study of Glasgow's overspill as a matter of extreme urgency. That Committee reported in 1954 and indicated that about 300,000 people would require to be overspilled outwith the City of Glasgow. That report resulted in the designation of the new town of Cumbernauld in 1956 and led eventually to the passing of the Housing and Town Development (Scotland) Act, 1957. That Act provided for Glasgow to export its 300,000 overspill to existing townships throughout Scotland and to the new towns then existing.

The Act of 1957 set out administrative and financial arrangements under which Glasgow, as the exporting authority, would pay to the receiving authorities £14 per year for ten years for each family rehoused either in a reception area or in a new town. It is interesting to note what the then Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, now Lord Craigton, said in Committee on the 1957 Act. He said: . we look upon this operation as a sort of first ten-year plan. Within that period the target is to provide 15,000 houses … in overspill areas of other local authorities; and another 20,000 houses in the two new towns." — [OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Standing Committee, 7th May, 1957; c. 811.] That is 35,000 houses, or an average of 3,500 a year for ten years. Exactly six years have elapsed since the passing of the 1957 Act. Under the target set by the Minister, of 3,500 a year, we should by now have built 21,000 houses, instead of which we have built only 6,923. In other words, we have achieved only one-third of the target.

That is an appalling and deplorable record, and one cannot ignore the tragic effect that this lamentable failure on the part of the Government to achieve even their own modest target has had, with 14,000 Glasgow families having to remain in the sordid and squalid conditions in which they live in the city. At the present rate of progress that has been achieved over the past six years, it will take 84 years before we are able to remove the overspill of 100,000 from the city.

The failure to overspill these families has created many other problems. For example, it has had the disastrous effect of retarding the redevelopment programme. Only by moving the population out of the city in large numbers will it be possible for Glasgow to proceed with its redevelopment policy within the city's 29 areas. Why have the Government failed so lamentably to deal with this problem? I think that the simple answer is that they are not prepared to face up to the expenditure involved. It is a simple matter of finance.

They are not even prepared to provide any form of inducement to industrialists to move. Admittedly, they give—

Mr. F. J. P. Lilley (Glasgow, Kelvin-grove)

But that is not so. The Government do offer industrialists inducements.

Mr. McInnes

I wish the hon. Member would let me finish my sentence. Admittedly, there is a measure of compensation for disturbance, but that is all, and that compensation is grossly inadequate, and not attractive enough to encourage industrialists to move farther afield. It is true that some of them have moved to Kirkintilloch, Cumbernauld and East Kilbride, but those places are on Glasgow's doorstep. Practically no industry has moved to such places as Stranraer, Wick or Dunbar, or the outlying places. Apart from the industrialists, what about the family that has to move? Apart from the disturbance caused by moving to, say, Wick, Stranraer or Dunbar, there is the cost of removal, but no compensation, no financial inducement, is given.

I want to compare Glasgow's overspill with that of London. Between December, 1946, and October, 1949, eight new towns were provided to deal with London's overspill. Those new towns did not cost the London County Council or the London boroughs a single penny, and today 85,000 families are located in them. Since then, however, London has had its Town Development Act, 1952. What do the London boroughs pay to overspill families into reception areas and into new towns? They pay £4 a year to the Minister of Housing and Local Government for each family overspilled to a new town, and when they overspill a family into a local authority reception area they pay £8 10s. per family for ten of fifteen years according to an arrangement made under a voluntary agreement. In Glasgow the city has to pay £14 a year for ten years in respect of each family overspilled either to a local authority reception area or to a new town. That amounts to £140, and when the whole overspill operation is completed it will cost Glasgow £14 million.

Why should Glasgow be saddled with this intolerable burden? What justification is there for this discriminatory and outrageous demand? Why should Glasgow ratepayers be asked to bear this burden? The dispersal of population and industry is a matter of Government policy, a policy based on strategic, economic and social considerations, and no Government should be allowed to evade their responsibilities on such a serious problem as overspill.

I conclude by dealing with the much-vaunted White Paper on Housing, issued by the Government yesterday. What are the proposals in this White Paper for dealing with this great social problem? One sentence, which reads: For Glasgow, the Scottish new towns and other overspill schemes will continue to play their part; within the period the Livingston new town will make a substantial contribution. There is one sentence, conveying absolutely nothing, and in essence it is a continuance of the negative policy that the Government have pursued ever since they tackled this problem. The Government stand condemned for their lamentable failure to deal with what I regard as the greatest social problem in the whole of this country.

12.53 a.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gilmour Leburn)

The hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInm;) has spoken with his usual clarity and forthrightness on this subject, on which we have heard him before, and he has made a number of criticisms of the Government's policy and programme concerning the question of Glasgow housing, with particular reference to overspill. I do not think the hon. Gentleman will expect me tonight, in the time that remains. to try to deal with our Government White Paper, but I will be very happy to discuss that with him in full on a later occasion.

Mr. William Hannan (Glasgow, Mary-hill)

It would not take very long.

Mr. Leburn

We all understand and admire the hon. Member's close personal knowledge and awareness of what the Glasgow housing problem means. I shall try to demonstrate that that awareness is shared by the Government, and to show how, by our actions, we are contributing substantially and progressively to a solution. We are on common ground in our concern at the size and seriousness of the Glasgow housing problem. The hon. Gentleman has given certain figures. In this respect, I think that precision is impossible, and I propose to say no more than that we accept what is stated in Glasgow Corporation's 1960 development plan survey report: The Corporation's redevelopment programme for the 1960–80 period is aimed at rehousing 100,000 families from the central areas, and the overspill which will be created by these operations will be approximately 60,000 families, involving in all probability at least 200,000 people". A redevelopment programme of that size is in itself an enormous undertaking, even if no overspill were involved.

Under the Development Plan, the Secretary of State has approved 29 areas for redevelopment, some of which are already under way. Alongside this programme of major redevelopment, the corporation has undertaken a very comprehensive review of existing smaller sites within the city capable of use, or of more intensive use, for housing in the shorter term. I think that there is plenty of evidence, if one looks around Glasgow, of the energetic way in which the Corporation is tackling this. I myself have seen one or two of these schemes, and I mention particularly the schemes on the sites of the old Maryhill Barracks and the Duke Street prison.

The number of houses actually under construction by the Corporation and the Scottish Special Housing Association in March this year was 6,430, as against 3,336 at the same time last year. There should be an output of well over 3,000 houses per year over the next few years.

Mr. McInnes

Utter nonsense.

Mr. Leburn

We hope also that the rate of output will be further increased by the adoption of new techniques of building which both the corporation and the association are considering. Even so, progress with redevelopment in the longer term—here I agree with the hon. Gentleman—must depend on the rate of overspill. This is an extremely complicated business, since we are entirely dependent on voluntary movement. No one can compel individual families to move from Glasgow; they must select themselves, so to speak. When families move out, the help which their departure gives to the corporation's redevelopment programme may be very indirect, and a lengthy chain of decanting may be necessary before families in the redevelopment areas can benefit. There is, however, really no other way of operating a fair and democratic overspill scheme.

There is no doubt as to the readiness of very many local authorities throughout Scotland to participate in the overspill programme. Overspill agreements have now been approved between 46 local authorities and Glasgow Corporation covering the provision of nearly 10,000 houses outside the new towns, apart from the further contribution which the Government are prepared to make in each case by way of houses built by the S.S.H.A.

It is, of course, a far cry from the completion of overspill agreements to the actual housing of Glasgow families. Since there is no purpose in committing houses until jobs are assured for Glasgow workers to come to, it may be a very long time before the agreements are implemented. Nevertheless, many local authorities are ready to make a small number of houses available as an earnest of their intentions, and varying numbers of Glasgow families have already been accommodated in as many as 18 receiving areas excluding the new towns.

The key to increased overspill movement is jobs in the reception areas, and filling as many of these as possible with workers from Glasgow.

The two industrial developments making the greatest contribution to overspill movement at present are the Rootes-Pressed Steel development at Linwood and the B.M.C. development at Bathgate. Already about 500 of the Glasgow workers recruited at these factories have been housed under the overspill arrangements. More than 2,800 further houses for overspill families are under construction or about to be started in the surrounding areas.

I know that when the Housing and Town Development (Scotland) Bill was before the House in 1957 an estimate was given that in a period of 10 years 20,000 houses would be built for overspill in the new towns and 15,000 in the other reception areas, an average, as the hon. Gentleman says, of 3,500 a year, and it is certainly true that that target has not yet been hit. I think that if the hon. Gentleman considers it for a moment he will see it would have been unrealistic to have expected houses to be started actually before 1959, after the passing of the 1957 Act.

If we take the period from the beginning of 1959 to the end of March this year the total number of overspill houses built was about 6,500. Of those 656 were completed in the first quarter of this year alone, by far the largest number in any quarter so far. Output is rising from all sources, and I believe that there is every prospect that at least 3,000 houses will be ready this year. This is not all. During the same period, January, 1959, to March, 1963, the Corporation and the S.S.H.A. built 11,852 houses within the city. Over the next year they should build 10,000 more, and this is a much larger continuing building programme within the city than we ever thought sites could be found for in 1957.

Mr. McInnes

Ten thousand a year? Surely not.

Mr. Leburn

I said or intended to say, in the next three years. If we add to this the output of the reception areas where 9,500 houses should be built in the next three years we have a total over the seven years from 1959 to 1965 of the order of 37,000 houses or well over 5,000 a year. I think this is no mean achievement.

The hon. Gentleman suggested, I think, that we were not giving Glasgow sufficient assistance in this matter of overspill. I think when he makes his criticism he really does not fully appreciate what in fact the Government are doing. The Government are playing a very major direct part in this programme in two ways—through the Scottish Special Housing Association, and through the new towns. Virtually the whole of the Association's activities are being directed at the Glasgow problem both by assisting the Corporation's housing effort within the city and by assisting the efforts of local receiving authorities. This, along with the special subsidy for overspill houses built by local authorities, represents a major contribution on the Government's part, and a form of Exchequer assistance which is not available to assist any other local housing programme. The Scottish new towns programme which in its present form represents a Government commitment of something like £170 million is also largely directed at assisting the Glasgow problem. At the present time 3,235 houses are under construction in the new towns and the vast majority of these will be let to Glasgow families.

I know that the hon. Gentleman feels that insufficient speed is being made with the building at Cumbernauld and the new town at Livingston. I would agree with him that up to date building at Cumbernauld has been disappointingly slow, but they are making headway now and they have been faced with formidable difficulties. I believe that Livingston can make a tremendous impact on this question of Glasgow overspill. But I think that it would be wrong to rush at Livingston before we have had time for it to be properly planned. Unless we do that we may regret later on having rushed the matter.

I agree with the hon. Member that we have a long way to go on this immense problem of Glasgow overspill, but I believe that a good deal has been done. I am confirmed in this view by a most comprehensive analysis of the whole subject of overspill made by the convenor of Glasgow Corporation's Overspill Commitlee, in a paper which he read in March to the Annual Scottish Conference of the Institute of Housing. The conclusions which he reached were: The progress made to date can be regarded as justifying the practicability of the plan to rehouse 60,000 Glasgow families in expanded and New Towns throughout Scotland. There has been an immediate and significant contribution to the city's housing need, Glasgow and non-Glasgow firms have provided the jobs necessary to achieve this and to facilitate the construction of many thousands. of new overspill houses over the next five years, Glasgow workers have made it possible for the Reception Areas to increase their attractiveness to expanding industries and the Receiving Authorities, Glasgow Corporation and central Government Departments have achieved a level of co-operation which promises well for the future I suggest to the hon. Member that those conclusions provide a fair representation of the overspill movement and the opportunities it presents, and acknowledges in a generous way the tremendous efforts which are being devoted in a wide range of local government to the solution of this major social problem which the hon. Member and myself have at heart.

Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)

The Under-Secretary of State said that we have still a long way to go. We can judge how long that way will be only by the promises given in the past and the performance we have so far seen. The hon. Gentleman was not in the House at the time, but I recall very well the occasion when the noble Lord Craigton, as he now is, made a speech on overspill. I can well remember, as no doubt you do Mr. Deputy-Speaker, the long debates we had, for one of which we sat all night.

The Question having been proposed after Ten o'clock on Wednesday evening and the debate having continued half an hour, Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at eight minutes past One o'clock.