§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
On these Estimates the particular question to which I shall hope to direct the attention of the House is the subject-matter of the South-East Study, published in March, and it is appropriate, therefore, to begin by expressing our gratitude and congratulations to the authors of this study.
I hope that it is not mere churlishness which makes me withhold a similar message of congratulation to the Government's White Paper which accompanies the Study. My reasons for refraining from doing so will, I think, become clear during what I have to say.
The South-East Study begins with a basic assumption that in South-East England as defined for the purposes of the Study—which includes not far short of half the country—between 1961 and 1981 there will be an increase of population of 3½ million. Of that, 2.4 million is due to an excess of births over deaths, and 1.1 million to net immigration.
920 We must understand that of the excess of births over deaths—the 2.4 million—not all will remain for all their lives in the South-East. Some will seek homes elsewhere. The gross immigration from other parts of the country and from overseas into the South-East, therefore, will be greater than 1.1 million. The 1.1 million will be the net immigration, giving us the total of 3½ million increase in population in 20 years. It is a formidable and sobering figure.
It would be idle to dispute the proposition that the excess of births over deaths in the South-East will be at least the 2.4 million estimated in the Report. Estimates of population over a long distance ahead have always been tricky. It is notorious that people refuse to take the best statistical advice before deciding the size of their families. I notice that the Registrar-General has recently made a prophecy that by 1983 the population of England and Wales will be 54½ million.
The Study worked on the assumption that the population will be 53 million in 1981. Clearly, if the latest prophecy is right—that we shall have 54½ million in 1983—we shall certainly have more than 53 million in 1981. We must, therefore, start with the possibility that if this estimate of mere natural growth of population errs at all it errs on the side of being too little, and that increases the seriousness and urgency of the matter.
But if we cannot dispute that, the proposition that there should be just over 1 million net immigration into the South-East either from other parts of the country or from overseas during the next twenty years is not necessarily one that we are bound to accept, because this is to a certain extent within the ambit of Government policy. It depends on what the Government's policy is regarding employment opportunities in the other parts of the kingdom. In so far as part of this increase is caused by immigrants coming from overseas, it is all the more true that the matter comes within the field of Government policy, for the immigrant population coming from overseas is, by definition, more mobile and capable of making a decision to go to one place rather than another, and it will go to those parts of the country where it feels that there are opportunities for employment.
921 We have here an exceptionally fluid stream of migration, on which Government policy can be influential. My right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) and other of my hon. and right hon. Friends will want to develop more fully this aspect of the matter—that we can appreciate the South-East Study properly only in the light of Government policy concerning the distribution of industry and, therefore, of population for the whole country. In the main, I shall be concerned with problems within the South-East, but at this stage I want to add a few words to this central point.
We notice some rather surprising discrepancies that have appeared in official figures. The South-East Study bases its estimate of growth of 3½ million population on the other assumption that there will be an increase of about 2 million jobs in the South-East during these 20 years. The Registrar-General's assumption is that the working population of England and Wales will increase by 2⅔ million during these 20 years. Does not that leave rather a small proportion for the rest of the country, other than the South-East?
Further, the Registrar-General's estimate was that during the relevant period the number of jobs in Great Britain would increase by 1.8 million. That leaves minus 200,000 jobs for Great Britain outside the South-East during the next 20 years.
§ Mr. Stewart
I see the Minister nodding wisely at me. I think that I can guess what he will say. He will tell me that these figures are calculated on different bases and are not strictly comparable, and that if the right correction is made they can be reconciled. I dare say that he can make the correction.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I was going to ask the hon. Gentleman later—but perhaps he will do so now—to validate the reference that he made about the South-East Study. I do not think that he can point to a 922 single paragraph which states that the figure of 2 million jobs is the basis of its expected 3½ million population increase. They are two different streams of reasoning, and I do not think that the hon. Member can validate the reference that he made.
§ Mr. Stewart
If the Minister will refer to a shorter but just as reliable document—the Report of the Standing Conference on London Regional Planning—he will see that it says:The Study draws the conclusion from its analysis of employment that the economic growth of the South-East is likely to continue unabated with no sudden decrease in the rate at which new jobs are being created there. It indicates that the South-East can expect an employment increase between 1961 and 1981 of about 2 million, but warns that, on the basis of the trends of recent years, a higher increase of up to 3 million could not be discounted.I know that one of the difficult things here is that if we assume a growth of population of 3½ million it may mean a varying number of jobs, according to what proportion of population is gainfully employed. My point is that various official documents seem to be proceeding on different assumptions about how many jobs there will be in the country 20 years from now. This is rather disquieting.
§ Mr. William Hamilton (Fife, West)
If my hon. Friend will allow me, I should like to give him a little help. In page 17, paragraph 9, of the Study, the figure of 2 million—and, indeed, 3 million—is contemplated.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am obliged to my hon. Friend. [HON. MEMBERS: "If."] Yes—the whole thing is an "if". What I am talking about now is the question of certain assumptions which are being made for the South-East. All I say is that certain assumptions are made by different sections of the Government which do not add up to the same thing, and that this seems to indicate that the Government have not looked at the problem as, a national whole.
I want to develop the argument that we cannot study this problem of the South-East satisfactorily until we know a little more about the Government's policy on the distribution of employment and its influence upon the distribution of population. Let us consider one reason why that is so. We were told in 923 the original Study for the North-East that over a short period of years into the future the proportion of total national public investment that was to go to the North-East would be so much.
But if the local authorities in the South act on the suggestions contained in the South-East Study, that will increase the volume of public investment in the South-East, and upset the proportion that was arranged to be directed to the North-East, unless the absolute amount of public investment in the North-East is to be proportionately increased. A very considerable volume of public investment will be needed in the South-East if these 3½ million people are to be housed.
Is that what the Government propose to do? If they say "Yes" to that it really means that they are going round, region by region, saying to each one, "The proportion of public investment you get will be so much"—without knowing until they come to the end what the total of public investment will be—in order to carry out the policies involved in the regional studies. This, I think, emphasises the fact that what ought to have preceded the southern study was at least a sketch plan by the Government of how they see the distribution of employment and population in the next 20 years.
We cannot say whether this 1.1 million net immigration is a good assumption to go on until we have created something like a general picture. As the Chief Planning Officer of the City of Liverpool remarked, there is simply no escaping the fact that, first and foremost, we must have a national physical development plan for the whole country, at least in broad outline, before we can hope to plan sensibly at regional levels.
The Minister may say that we could not foresee this population explosion and that it is only since about 1957 that we have had to consider it, but in 1954 or 1955 the right hon. Gentleman now Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations was commenting, in his remarks on the London County Council Development Plan, on the evil of congestion in the Metropolitan area. This problem has been foreseen by the shrewder members of the Government for some considerable time.
924 There has been a good deal of time since 1955 during which the Government could at least have made the broad sketch of how they think that national development should go as a whole and so enable the dilligent people, to whom we are grateful, who piloted the South-East Study to do their work with more force and relevance. But a national policy involves certain items of policy which the Government have been very reluctant to accept. It involves a more stringent use of industrial development certificates. It involves a closer acquaintance by one Department with what another Department of Government is doing. We do not want the situation, which has arisen, in which the right hon. Gentleman's Ministry have given consent for town expansion schemes, and when industrialists have sought industrial development certificates in the towns concerned they have had to tell the Board of Trade that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government had approved town expansion in these places because the Board of Trade did not know it through any contact within the Government.
It would also involve a co-ordination of decisions about transport with the rest of policy affecting the location of industry. It is notorious that, having received the Beeching Report, the Government proceeded to certain pronouncements and decisions about the railway system without correlating them with what the effects would be on the distribution of industry and population and on the housing problems which would result. Dr. Beeching provided us with one set of facts, and one set of facts only, which are useful in determining railway policy. It should have been the Government's job to relate these to the other sets of facts which ought to be considered before we determine railway policy.
It would also have involved a proper review of local government finance. This Study will require very considerable expenditure by the county councils and by other local authorities. I think that it will be impossible for them to meet it unless there is a thorough-going review of the structure of Government grants. The Government are now engaged on that, but back in 1958 they were pottering about with the block grant, a change which we 925 now see as totally irrelevant to the needs of local government finance.
I think that we must conclude, therefore, that the value of this Study is limited by a dereliction of duty in no way due to the authors of the Study but due to the Government's failure in time to grasp the implications of the problems which have been building up for us throughout the whole of the last decade
I want to turn from this general consideration to the South-East in particular. Let us assume for a moment—I assume it only for the sake of the argument—that we shall have to face something like this net immigration, and that on any assumption we shall have to provide in the South-East for a much larger number of people over the next 20 years. Let us look at the recommendations of the Study and the Government's reactions as to how they are to be provided for
In the first place, two-thirds of the whole—a bit more than 1 million—are to be provided for by planning action taken by the central Government—the creation of new cities at Southampton-Portsmouth, Bletchley and Newbury, with new towns at Ashford and Stansted and major expansions at Ipswich, Northampton, Peterborough and Swindon. It is very likely that hon. Members who know this region intimately will have their particular contributions to make to the debate, and I do not want to argue in detail the pros and cons of particular locations, but we should notice that Southampton-Portsmouth, Bletchley and Newbury, all recommended to be large new cities, have all had their rail communications severely cut in recent years as a result of the Government's policy, in particular the communications from the Southampton area via Newbury towards the Midlands. This is an indication of continually being unable to relate one set of facts and one piece of policy to another.
The other comment which I want to make on this part of the Report is the reference to Swindon as a place for a large expansion. Swindon is just over the border of the south-eastern area—and, now I think of it, so is Peterborough just over the border. That raises the question why we need to stick rigidly to this area and whether we should not be considering the possibilities of accommodating some of this growing 926 population further towards the southwest of England. A good deal is said, rightly, abut the spectacular dereliction of certain parts of the country, but we do not always notice the rather quieter form of decay which besets some of the small towns in the south-west of England, where, hon. Members will tell us, none of the young people will stay because there is not the employment and there are not the prospects.
I believe that there is a possibility of remedying that situation and of finding room for some of the 3½ million of the South-East at the same time.
§ Mr. Martin Maddan (Hitchin)
I was interested in the point which the hon. Member made about the train services, which he said have deteriorated in those four towns. I cannot say in every case about the local services, which may be better replaced by road services, but the main-line services in each case, as far as I am aware, have been improved in respect of Southampton-Portsmouth, Newbury, Bletchley and Peterborough. All have improved main-line train services.
§ Mr. Stewart
The Southampton-Newbury line has recently been cut out altogether. What is in issue is not necessarily communications with London, but with one another and with other parts of the country. If they are to be developed as centres which are counter-magnets to London, that is probably more important. In any case, I do not think that anyone will dispute that all the decisions which have been taken about their railways have been taken in innocence of the fact that before long the Government would make a proposal that they should be turned into new cities. The point which I make is that we cannot get on well if we dissociate one set of decisions from another in this manner.
I turn to the 2 million or so for whom the county councils, the ordinary local planning authorities, are to find room. I notice that the Study proposes—and I think that the Government accept the idea—that we allocate a certain number out of the 2 million to each county and say to them. "Provide room for so many".
927 This is an interesting new principle, but it means that the central Government are now laying down one of the major co-ordinates for planning to the planning authority. I have the feeling that this will be the beginning of a process which will have to be carried further and that there are certain major decisions, not only affecting how many people will be in the county but also land used within the county, which will have to be made by the central Government on a regional basis to give to the counties the framework within which they can do the job that properly belongs to them.
Are the counties being enabled to do it? I am glad to see the right hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) in his place. At a conference last week he was expressing considerable concern whether the counties would have the resources to meet the problems which were being placed upon them. These, it seems to me, may occur in two ways. First, there is the problem of planning staffs. The Buchanan Report recommended regional development agencies. I will not go into the whole argument whether or not that was a good recommendation, but one of the functions which the Buchanan Report saw for them was that they would have a regional pool of expert staff on which the local authorities within the region could draw. It seems to me that the Government ought at least to pursue that idea, though I do not find anything in the White Paper about it.
The other doubt whether the counties can solve the problems is a financial one. It will mean a considerable strain on public services of all kinds for the local authorities. I repeat that it will involve a complete recasting of the financial relationships between central and local government and that the time spent some years ago in doing that, simply to introduce the block grant, was time and energy wasted and that the Government will now have to get down to the realities of the matter, if they have the time.
A further problem arises with regard to the 2 million for whom land is to be found by the counties. The White Paper speaks, as the Government always do, of the local authorities making the land available, but nothing whatever is done 928 about the price of it. There is some safeguard for the public, though a limited one, in the land that will be found for the 1 million in new cities and towns, because that is a special procedure.
This knowledge that on land to be made available by the county planning authorities 2 million more people have to be housed in the next 20 years will inflate the price of land, and the Government are doing nothing whatever to see that any of that increased value goes into the public purse. It is an increased value created by the growth in the numbers and in the wealth of the community. It is an increased value that will go to one landowner and not to another, not through any merit or demerit of theirs but by the communal decision of the county planning authority. Yet the gain is to go entirely to the private owner of the land.
We are able to form some estimate of what the size of that gain may be. To house and accommodate those 2 million people will require perhaps 100,000 acres of land, and with the price of land for development varying from £3,000 to £15,000 an acre one can only strike a rough average. It seems to me extremely likely that on average people stand to make an unearned gain of something like £5,000 an acre. That would give unearned gains, as a result of the execution of the South-East Study, totalling £500 million in the course of the next 20 years, and all that time the present Government, if they are in office, will undoubtedly be still talking about the merits of an incomes policy and the virtues of restraint.
Further, on the question of the accommodation of the 2 million, it is pictured that the commuter population in the outer metropolitan area will be increased by 400,000. Anyone who travels up from the suburbs to his work, and particularly if he lives in South-East London, picturing the effect of that increase in commuter population, will despair of human wit and ingenuity if we allow this to happen. If it does happen, the position of the commuter will become intolerable. The House will be familiar with the story of the man journeying from Blackheath to Hong Kong who, when he arrived at Charing Cross, said, "Thank God, the worst part of my journey is over". The White Paper seems placidly enough to accept this.
929 A further problem aligned with it is what is to happen to the London green belt. The White Paper walks carefully round this in paragraph 20, where it is said that the Government…consider, nevertheless, that, in their search for more housing land, the local planning authorities should consider the possibilities offered by such land as there is in the green belt which in itself contributes little of value to the purpose of the belt.That sounds very sensible, but it puts a premium on an owner of land in the green belt treating it in a manner so that people will say of it after a time that it contributes little of value to the purpose of the belt. If it is to be said, "This is nominally a bit of the belt, but it is an eyesore. Let it go" we make it pay people to let their land become an eyesore.
The White Paper reaches its high-water mark in paragraph 21, in the words:The Government endorse the view expressed in the Study that high quality agricultural land should not be taken for urban development wherever there is a practical alternative.I have thought that sentence over and over carefully. I believe that what it means is that the Government do not take high quality agricultural land for the positive pleasure of doing so. This kind of thing is a sign of a tired and exhausted Government.
The answer to this commuter problem and the green belt problem and many of the problems of the South-East is to be found by looking at London. It is about London, if the subject is not too painful to the Government, that I want to say a few words. It is the growth of employment, and particularly of office employment, in London that produces the commuter population and the desire to live round London, which threatens the green belt and makes it difficult to establish anything like counter-magnets to London throughout the whole of the south-east region.
This situation of office employment in London is not getting easier. The Report of the Location of Offices Bureau indicates the extent to which firms still like to have offices in London for nothing that could be said to be sound or necessary economic reasons. I trust that the right hon. Member for 930 Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) will notice that this indicates that if we leave these matters to the individual decisions of economic man it does not necessarily follow that he will always do what is monetarily most profitable to him. He may decide to do something which is socially undesirable for what are popularly called prestige reasons. It is because of that kind of fact that we cannot leave this sort of thing just to work itself out in the play of the market.
To understand what one needs to do about London now one must look a little at the history of this matter. After the war the London County Council drew up a plan for the uses of various parts of London. At the time when that plan was drawn up, building licensing was in existence and it was a reasonable assumption that permissions given for offices could not be taken up for a very long time into the future because those permissions stood well towards the end of the queue for building licences.
It was also true that the compensation which had to be paid if it was decided to revoke planning permission was not anything like as high then as it is now. What happened after a change of Government in 1951? Building licensing was abolished. That meant that planning permissions given leapt forward into activity and shortly after the law was altered so that the compensation which had to be paid for revoking planning permission became very much greater. Those two facts set off the trend of excessive office building in London which has been worrying us ever since.
This was known to the Government. This was the situation when the right hon. Gentleman who is now Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations had to decide whether to approve the L.C.C. plan. He did approve it, with modifications, though commenting on the evil of congestion. Surely the Government ought to have seen that when, for reasons solely concerned with the building industry, it became possible to abolish the building licensing, there would be repercussions on office development in London, and at that stage they should have decided on what policy to adopt to prevent office building from becoming excessive.
931 What follows from that is that it will be necessary in London—possibly only in London—to apply some kind of phasing to the building of offices. It will be necessary to say to people, "You may have got planning permission, but you will have to wait." I trust that the Minister will be prepared to go as far as that. I think that he went a little further. When talking to the Town and Country Planning Association last week he was determined that this excessive office development was to be checked. But the White Paper does not tell us what positive measures the Government will take to check it. Another positive measure that the Government will need to take will be to establish that when an office is vacated, when it is possible to persuade a firm to move out, the right to use the premises as an office is extinguished. Otherwise, I do not believe that we shall ever find a solution to the London problem.
More cheerfully, I think that we must try to tackle this problem by making other office centres more attractive. Here is something which I do not think the Government have yet considered. If we want another city to become a real rival to London in respect of office accommodation, it will have to be a kind of regional centre and have round it a number of small towns which are nearer to it than to any other big town. That is what creates a sufficient amount of regional business to make it worth while for a firm to put its offices in that regional centre. The Government ought to look again at the places proposed for expansion in the South-East Study, to see whether the expansion could be carried through on that pattern.
Another thing to look at—I put this forward quite tentatively, but I think it worth study—is whether we should try to build some sort of office city second to London somewhere in the country. There are a great many organisations, including some public corporations, which have offices in London when there is no absolute necessity, with modern methods of communication, for them to do so. I do not propose to follow the fascinating suggestion which has been made that the capital itself should be moved somewhere else; though, of 932 course, we now sit at Westminster because originally Parliament sat there in order to avoid commercial London being cluttered up with governmental business. Time and the passage of events has overtaken that transfer. The Government should consider whether some sort of secondary centre for offices should be built up.
When one reviews the matter as a whole one sees that this is a survey not only of the South-East, but, by implication, of the errors and omissions of the Government during many years of office. As I have emphasised, although we did not know the exact population figure, the broad outline of the problem established by the congestion of the South-East and the Metropolitan region has been known for a considerable time. It has been known to the Government that the present situation permits outrageous profiteering in land and at one time the Minister got as far as wanting to do something about it, but his colleagues in the Government came down on the other side.
Similarly, I think that the Minister understands the importance of correlating economic decisions, housing decisions and transport decisions. The trouble is that the Minister of Transport does not seem to understand that. The Minister has now set going a review of the grants made to local authorities to take account of the kind of problem raised in this Study and in the Buchanan Report. But when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government, the present Home Secretary approached local government finance on a totally different and quite irrelevant tack. The trouble is that for every member of the Government, who, like the Minister of Housing and Local Government, wants a modernised approach and to keep in touch with the times, there is another Minister ready to do something to rock the boat.
On this issue, and perhaps not on this issue alone, the Government—if I may borrow the language of the younger generation—seem to be almost evenly divided between "mods" and "rockers". That is natural, because Governments are the creatures of the party which supports them.
Further apart, and further to the right, there are those who do not want us to 933 have this kind of thing at all and regard such a study as this as a grand motherly piece bureaucracy. We are grateful to the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, West for having put forward his views so clearly in the Sunday Telegraph. I do not wish to misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman, but, if I understood him rightly, he takes the view that if they can cease to do what he calls subsidising living in London by unduly low rents and fares, people who live there would have to have higher wages; and the dislike of paying higher wages would force employers out of London.
That, I think, is the view of the right hon. Gentleman. It is the laissez-faire view. It is the alternative to effective planning and growing public ownership of land and to the other measures of public policy which go too far in our direction to be really welcome to this Government.
The basic objection to that approach is, first, that capitalism in this country is not as strictly competitive as all that. It does not always do all the things which economic forces might have liked it to do. It does very often what is more comfortable and convenient to the people at the top. The next objection to that policy is that it uses the weakest and most defenceless as a lever through whose suffering the necessary changes are to be made. It will come as news to most Londoners that rents and fares are low in London. But if we did pursue that line and allowed them to increase there would be a long period of agony and suffering for many poor people before it produced the slightest economic result in relation to the distribution of industry. By the time that it began to produce any economic result further industrial changes and new inventions would have altered the character of the whole problem.
It may be asked why I spend so much time on the views of the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, West. It is because they represent the real, fundamental beliefs of the Conservative Party——
§ Mr. Stewart
The intellectual leadership of the party opposite is not in the hands of the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Dudley Williams
The intellectual leadership of the party may not be in my hands, but at least I know more 934 about political history than does the hon. Member. The policy of laissez-faire was the child of the Left-wing intellectuals of the last century.
§ Mr. Stewart
I think that the hon. Member has stopped his history short somewhere in the last century. In the latter part of the last century and the early years of this one it was the Conservative Party which became emphatically laissez-faire—[HON. MEMBERS: "When?"]—and, basically, still is. If hon. Members ask "When", let them read the White Paper and see, for all their protestations of modernising, what practical proposals there are in it. The reason for this is that there is this cleavage of will.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Dudley Williams) wants to be a "mod", but the Government work always with a split mind. All through the Government's handling of this matter there is this schizophrenia, because the full measure of increased public ownership and increased planning that will be needed if we are to solve the problem go beyond what the Government are prepared to do. They do not grasp the real change which has come over government in recent years. It used to be said thatThe price of liberty is eternal vigilancebut the price of liberty, like the price of everything else, has gone up. When we were told that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, what was meant—and it was very true—was that we must watch that Governments do not try to do things which are lot properly in their province because things could be invaded in that way.
That is still true, but something else is true now. There is the liberty of the individual to be able to do his work in happiness, able to get from his home to work and from his work to play and to have a chance of planning and choosing his own life. We cannot get that kind of liberty by a negative approach alone. It has to be done by positive and constructive planning. Government activity today is an instrument through which liberty can be created and must be created. It is the incapacity of the Conservative Party to meet that situation which is steadily turning the country against them.
§ 4.33 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government and Minister for Welsh Affairs (Sir Keith Joseph)
I was glad to note that the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) seemed to accept in his speech both the need for action and the general strategy proposed by the Government to deal with the problems of the South-East. He did not challenge either the main purposes or the main strategy of the plan, but welcomed them.
The hon. Member made a number of criticisms and comments and I shall try, in speaking both of the purpose and the method lying behind the plan, to deal with each of those criticisms and comments. Under the hon. Member's general acceptance of the need and of the strategy I was glad to see that there still lies a deep gulf between the views of the two parties. The gulf lies between the identification by the Opposition, on the one hand, and the Government, on the other, of what the real problems are. Even deeper lies the gulf on how it is practicable to cope with the problems of a prospering, growing population in an intensely competitive world. Although the hon. Member did not deal at any length or with any seriousness with these gulfs, I shall have pleasure in pointing them out as I go through what I have to say.
There are three major purposes in the South-East Study and the White Paper and they need to be stated at the outset. They are: first, to provide for the inescapable growth of population in the South-East region; secondly, to relieve the pressure on London; and, thirdly, by making enough land available, to enable the housing shortage in the South-East to be ended. I pause at this stage to say what a relief it is to all people who know about housing conditions in London to have now prospects which enable us to say that the London housing situation will be cured by the strategy we propose. I think that all hon. Members on both sides of the Committee, though they may criticise and comment on individual parts of the proposals, will welcome that.
The South-East Study owes its origin to the initiative of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. It was his reaction to the confirmed growth of population 936 that began in the late 1950s, and to the then confirmed acceleration in the rate of household formation, which led him to set in hand this Study. Of course it is true, as the hon. Member for Fulham pointed out, that my right hon. Friend the present Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations drew attention in 1955 to the danger of office congestion in London.
But at that time we still faced a static, indeed an ageing population. It was not until 1957 that the population prospects fully emerged; and it was not until even later in that decade that it became obvious that the prosperous population was throwing up an increasing household formation. We face an increase in population not only in the South-East, but in all regions of Britain. For the South-East, the Registrar-General's prediction is that between now and 1981 the increase will be 2.4 million.
The hon. Member pointed out that some of the population born in the South-East would no doubt move somewhere else. That may be true, but it is equally true that some born in other regions will unpredictably move to the South-East. We cannot isolate these growth movements; all we can attempt to assess is the net growth. We have to allow for the changes of net migration. The hon. Member did not mention that there will probably be a continuation of the stream of migrants into the south-east region for retirement. At present, there is a considerable stream of movement, not only to the South-East but also to the South-West, for retirement purposes.
Some critics have said, "Why not divert those retiring to the South from the South-East to the South-West?" The answer is that we are a free society and if people want to come to the South-East to retire, who are the Government to stop them? Secondly, many people already do move to the South-West, which attracts a number of people for retirement.
The larger component of the net movement of migrants to the South-East will no doubt be attracted there by jobs.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
Does the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the retired migrating to the South-East are included in the figure of net 937 migration given in the Report for the 10 years 1951–61?
§ Sir K. Joseph
Yes, and also in the figure of 1.1 million for net migrants to the South-East for all purposes from other parts of this country and from overseas.
I was explaining that the largest component in the net migration figure is, of course, due to jobs. What is relevant here is to decide whether there will be more jobs created in the South-East up to 1981 than there will be extra workers born in the South-East available to fill those jobs. I think that we can categorically and dogmatically say that there certainly will be an excess of jobs created over indigenous workers to fill them, but it is beyond the possibility of man to predict precisely what that excess will be.
The hon. Member for Fife, West (Mr. W. Hamilton) pointed out to his hon. Friend the Member for Fulham paragraph 9 on page 17 of the Study as if that based the figures in the South-East Study on a prediction of the additional jobs which would be created in the South-East during the Study period. But, if the hon. Member looks more closely, he will see that all this paragraph does is to extrapolate certain assumptions of what the population might be in that period. The assumption is not the assumption taken for the White Paper. I shall explain what our assumption is. We can assess the factors of the rate of migration into the regions. We then have to balance the factors and arrive at the best judgment we can.
On the one hand, there is the undoubted prosperity of the South-East region, which breeds, and will continue to breed, service jobs, most of which are anchored to the population which they serve and which cannot be moved by any Government decision outside the population which they exist to serve.
§ Dr. Jeremy Bray (Middlesbrough, West)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say why there should not be a corresponding increase of service jobs in other parts of the country if their prosperity is to increase proportionately more as it must do to redress the balance in the country?
§ Sir K. Joseph
Certainly, there will be. All that I am considering at the 938 moment is the growth of jobs in the South-East itself and not the relation of that growth, which I shall come to in a moment, to other regions. I take it that the hon. Gentleman will agree that the prosperity of the South-East, which has already created a higher proportion of service jobs per head of the population than regions in other parts of the country, will continue as a trend. I shall come to the other regions in a moment.
There is also the factor in the South-East that it has at the moment a disproportionate share of the growth industries, and these will tend to continue to generate a demand for products and services generally in units too small to be moved to other parts of the country and, indeed, in many cases, below the threshold of I.D.C. control. The third factor that we have to take into account on this side of the balance sheet is the national capital in the South-East, with all that that involves.
On the other hand, there are trends that offset these factors generating an increase in jobs. First, the tough I.D.C. policy of the Board of Trade, which will continue. Secondly, we may soon begin to see effects on office work by way of automation similar to that which we have already begun to see in factories. The impact of automation on offices has scarcely begun. It is likely to have a considerable effect. There is also, on this side of the balance sheet, the determination of the Government to move out of the capital as many as possible of headquarters civil servants. The decision to move the Post Office Savings Bank to Scotland is the latest, large example.
Fourthly, there is the determination of the Government, which I shall be discussing in detail, to persuade firms that as much office work as possible should be moved out of London, and, if possible, out of the region. No one can possibly be sure of the quantitative figures to be attached to each one of these factors, and that is also true of the net figure of inward migration.
The hon. Member for Fulham spoke as if it should have been possible, if a national study had been undertaken first, to give a realistic, precise figure of the number of jobs to be created in each region. But the hon. Gentleman 939 also recognised the rapid change in inventions and techniques which we have to face in the world today. Products change, techniques change, services change, competitive situations and markets change. It is impossible to try to set an accurate figure on how many jobs there will be in each part of the country in 17 or 18 years from now.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I am sorry, but I cannot give way. I have a lot of ground to cover.
All that we can do is to try to set a scale of importance against each one of the factors, and we can for this purpose look for some guidance from the past. In the immediate past, the number of migrants who would have come into the south-east region over a 20-year period—since we are dealing with a 20-year period—including migrants for retirement and migrants for work, plus their families, would, if projected for that 20 years, have given us a figure of about 1.5 million; not the 1.1 million which we are assuming in the Study and the White Paper. But we do not need to accept these lessons of the past because we have adopted a far more constructive regional development policy than was in force during the time to which these figures relate.
We had to assume, in making the assumptions on which the Study and the White Paper were based, that the Government's policy of development in Scotland, the North-East and all other development districts will have success. And it is on the basis of that assumed success that, balancing all these factors together and taking into account the Government's determination to increase the prosperity and the full employment of all the regions which, at the moment, do not have full employment, that we have decided to accept the figure of 1.1 million total net migration into the South-East by 1981, including both the retirement stream and the families and dependants of the workers.
We accept that the 1.1 million will be made up roughly as follows: about one-quarter will be accounted for by 940 retirement, about one-quarter by migrants for work, and their families, coming into the South-East from all other parts of Great Britain, not—I repeat "not"—just from Scotland and the North-East, and the remaining part from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and from the Commonwealth. I would emphasise that this assumption represents a lower rate of migration than in the past, and at a lower pace than in the immediate past from Scotland and the North.
The Government are not choosing the figure of 1.1 million migrants. What we are trying to assess is what will happen in the light of our determination to improve the prosperity of other parts of the country.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
I have a note of the figure of 413,000 net migration into the South-East between 1951 and 1961. Could the right hon. Gentleman say where he gets this 1.5 million from?
§ Sir K. Joseph
The 1.5 million would be for a 20-year period, not a 10-year period, on the basis of the immediate past. If the hon. Gentleman relies on the last 10 years, then of course, he is failing to take into account two factors which really made their impact only in the last part of the last decade, namely, the rising rate of Commonwealth immigrants—a dramatic increase in the last few years—and, sadly, a rising rate of movement from Scotland and the North for the last few years only. It is those factors which the hon. Gentleman has not taken into account.
I hope that I have given enough information for the Committee to understand that what we are trying to prepare for is the inescapable growth of population in the region. But because our figures are bound to be conjectural when dealing with migrants we shall, of course, have regular frequent reviews of our assumptions to check how they are working out and to check what phasing of the programme is necessary to cope with them.
§ Mr. Mendelson
The Minister said that my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) suggested that we ought to have precise figures for the rest of the country; but, of course, he did nothing of the kind. The Minister said that he accepted the figure of 1.1 million 941 increase into the area, but how can he arrive at a figure if he has not previously worked out an overall plan for industrial development for the North and other parts of the country?
§ Sir K. Joseph
I cannot understand how the hon. Gentleman has failed to follow what I said. We have assumed the success of our policies in Scotland, the North-East and the development districts. We have assumed that we shall approach to full employment in those regions. That is the assumption we are making. We could have spent man-years of computer time trying to find the figures in those regions, but we could not, in the competitive and rapidly changing world of today, have been more precise. That is why we have had to take a broad, conjectural figure which we shall have to check as frequently as is practicable as we go.
I come now to the objectives of the Study and the White Paper and perhaps I should spell them out briefly again. Having decided that there is likely to be this growth, we must provide for it in an orderly way so as to improve life for all in the South-East. In particular, we must so arrange things that all those horn or already living in London can be decently housed, either in London or elsewhere. We must relieve the pressure on London; we must hold the green belt; and we must provide enough land to meet the housing shortage while preserving the maximum possible amount of undeveloped land in the South-East.
We must achieve all these objectives without harming the rest of the country and without damaging the investment priorities which, for some years, have been promised to Scotland and the North-East. Since the South-East makes a great contribution to the national prosperity, we must also achieve all this without in any way hampering or crippling the prosperity of the South-East, which is a national asset.
These are our objectives, and in seeking to achieve them we have to recognise a number of difficult problems. The first is the fact that London and the outer metropolitan regions are generating most of the extra jobs in the South-East and that in London there is very little undeveloped land left, while in the 942 outer Metropolitan regions there is the green belt.
We are determined that London shall not grow geographically in size—and I take it that everyone in the Committee will accept that, both because a further extension of the Metropolitan sprawl would be a tragedy in every way, and also because Professor Buchanan has taught us that to increase the population, or, indeed, the geographical extent of a city, compounds geometrically its traffic problems.
In the light of these objectives and of these problems, what is the strategy which the Study sets out and which the Government White Paper accepts? We accept the need to relieve the pressure on London and we accept the need to break the vicious circle of growth generating more growth. This means that we must aim at achieving a shift in the economic balance of the South-East. The population in London has been falling for some years and is falling now, but that smaller population generates every year an increasing number of households, due to prosperity, younger marriages, and greater survival in old age.
This greater generation of households, plus the jobs which are being created by the prosperity and the pull of London, are at the heart of our problems. At the moment, with the new towns, and the expanded towns which are being built in co-operation with the L.C.C., what we are doing is no more than baling London out whilst leaving its overwhelming magnetic pull unaffected.
Our strategy now is to provide attractive, vigorous, big communities well outside London and well outside the green belt on a scale to cope with the overspill foreseen, which is about one-third of the 3½ million extra population. The purpose of these new communities will be to house those who cannot decently be housed in London for lack of land, as well as to provide homes for migrants who would otherwise gravitate to London, plus the jobs which would otherwise be in London.
I must make it clear that the new communities which we intend to create will not consist of one section of the population alone. There are people of very nearly every income group who 943 cannot find in London decent accommodation at a price which they can afford. We expect that the new communities which will be set up as a result of the plan will be all-income communities, drawing in people from London for the decent housing and working conditions which they will provide.
There remains the other two-thirds of the growth of population, for whom we propose that housing and jobs should be provided by the normal release of land through the county planning authorities and their development plans. The hon. Member for Fulham is right in saying that a new departure is set by this Study, which gives to each planning authority guidance as to the number of extra people it will probably have to house in the Study period.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot (Ipswich)
When the right hon. Gentleman speaks of the new communities, is he also referring to the big new extensions?
§ Sir K. Joseph
Yes, I am.
Perhaps at this stage I should give a word of comfort to those who fear that the large population increase which has to be faced will seriously damage the amount of undeveloped land in the South-East. These two figures are comforting. At the moment, over 85 per cent. of the acreage in the South-East is undeveloped. At the end of the Study period, by 1981, if all the proposals or their equivalent were accepted, over 83 per cent. of the acreage of the South-East would remain undeveloped.
§ Sir Anthony Hurd (Newbury)
What does my right hon. Friend mean by "undeveloped"? Does he mean covered in gorse or bracken—or what?
§ Sir K. Joseph
Town development and urban population are not responsible for gorse and bracken, as my hon. Friend knows. What I mean by "development" is the term used for communities, large or small, or roads, or installations, as they are euphemistically called, such as defence works, hospitals and cemeteries. In other words, as a result of these plans there might be a net loss of under 2 per cent. of the acreage in the South-East of what the townsman calls country to cope with an increase of population of over 20 per cent.
944 I think that the general reaction to the plan in the White Paper shows that those who are interested accept that the general strategy is sensible. It is generally realised that the Government accept the proposals in the Study as a basis for consultation and discussion. This is not a diktat. There will be careful consultations with all the planning authorities and local authorities concerned, and the Government are anxious to consider all the advice and comments offered before taking a final decision. We hope to reach the stage of final decision, after these consultations, at about the turn of the year.
§ Sir K. Joseph
It is made abundantly plain in the White Paper that the individual projects within the total are not yet firmly decided, but that the total to be provided for has been firmly decided as a working assumption. We hope to reach this stage of decision by about the turn of the year, after all the necessary consultations.
I come to the methods which we propose to use. Here, as the hon. Member rightly said, the essence of the problem is the distribution of employment. There is the Board of Trade's tough I.D.C. policy and the policy for industrial employment, and there is the large ingredient of jobs in the South-East which are service jobs in education, commerce, entertainment, the professions, finance, local government—jobs which follow the population which they serve.
But there is also the large ingredient of office work. Office work in itself is desirable. It is the national trend in all advanced countries that, as the amount of manual labour declines owing to the mechanisation and automation of manufacturing processes, office work increases in importance. What is wrong very often with the offices is their location. We know of the number already in Central London, but there are also a large number of existing planning approvals which could possibly increase the number of office jobs in Central London by as many as 170,000, with about the same number in outer London, in addition.
§ Sir K. Joseph
When the Study was in preparation planning control over offices in London was being tightened and the Government had accepted the Fleming Report dealing with the dispersal of headquarters civil servants. But when the Study was being prepared the Location of Offices Bureau, which the Government intended to set up to persuade private employers that it made economic sense to move offices out of London in whole or in part, had not begun its task, nor had it then been announced that attractive alternative office centres would be set up in the South-East.
Consequently, it seemed right at the time that the Study was being prepared very seriously to consider the prospects of increasing the commuter facilities. From this study of commuter facilities it emerged that there was some prospect of matching the increase in capacity in London with land outside the green belt. It still seems right for the Government to pursue these inquiries to be ready to make further transport investment if need be.
Now that we have had six months experience of the working of L.O.B. it is possible to take a slightly more encouraging view of the situation. The first six months of L.O.B. give us reason to have some sober hope that in the next few months, and over the short period of years ahead, L.O.B. may manage to offset by persuasion—that is, by persuading individual offices and parts of offices to move voluntarily outside London—a large part, if not all, of the increase of office work in London presaged by the planning permissions which I have mentioned.
I repeat that no Government could accept the continued growth of office jobs to continue at its present pace. By the time the technical studies on commuter possibilities are complete we will know more about L.O.B.'s prospects to the extent that it succeeds in its work of slowing down the demand for office space and jobs in Central London. It obviously makes more sense in a competitive world that we should try to persuade business men, in their own interests, to move, rather than that we 946 should get them to do that by some necessarily blunt instrument of Government policy. Some people may, for their business purposes, need to be in London. We must, therefore, try to the full the voluntary methods which, in the first few months of L.O.B., have shown some prospects of success.
I should also mention that if offices are moved from the centre to the periphery of London, provided they are in the right places, some help is thereby given to reduce the commuter problem. These peripheral offices, it should be remembered, often employ married women who would otherwise not work, and this helps to improve the imbalance between jobs and workers.
The hon. Member for Fulham teased the Government about the Beeching plan and its effect on the South-East Study. It is the case that the main lines between the towns he mentioned and London have not been affected. The only other line that has been, is that between Southampton and Newbury, where the track still remains and where the freight service is still running. Unless the Government were to put a stop to the whole of the Beeching Plan it would not make sense to hold up all proposed closures because of the possibility that, at the end of the consultation period, one or more towns might be picked out for expansion. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Transport has power to consider the prospects for a particular line before making a decision, and that is a safeguard and reconciliation of Government policy in this direction.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I gather that that is only a marginal case. I am saying that the main thing to bear in mind is that the track remains and is being used, and that if at a later stage more services appear to be necessary there is no reason why they should not be begun.
The hon. Member for Fulham also wrongly interpreted the part in the White Paper about the green belt. Mere neglect of land will not be a passport to planning permission. The sort of brown spot in the green belt which the 947 Government have in mind is the Lea Valley glasshouse area; but from now on the initiative is with the planning authorities and I know that they will take all steps before granting planning permission to ensure that there is no question of encouraging the deliberate neglect of land.
If the dispersal strategy generally is accepted, then I must accept that there have been two main criticisms. The first is that we could have made dispersal even further—reaching out into the South-West, East Anglia and so on. But if we are to succeed in relieving the pressure on London, we must pick towns because of their transport position and character for inherent prospects of growth and vitality. We must also respect the investment priority which has been given to Scotland and the North-East and not, therefore, increase the motorway network purely to make areas available for dispersal, such as East Anglia and the South-West, which are not as accessible now as the more central parts.
On the other hand, we must consider the clustering of schemes to reinforce each other so that groups of schemes will support each other and enable the attractions of a big city to be provided by the central development in the group. That makes sense and this the Government will be seriously considering in the period which we have provided for consultation.
I turn to the machinery which will be involved. Two-thirds of the population increase will be housed and provided for by the normal release and rezoning of land in the review of the development plans, and there should be no particular difficulties in counties having enough planning staff during the period to cope with this. When we come to the planned expansion schemes, there are three different sorts that might be involved. The first is the substantial expansion of the small town—where, obviously, the new town procedure, using Treasury money and the relevant machinery, must be adopted. Secondly, we have the small expansion of a substantial town, representing an acceleration of normal growth, where no special organisation or money will probably be needed. Thirdly, we have the major expansion 948 of an already substantial town, where some problems about the right machinery need to be solved.
New development cannot be planned alongside an existing sizable town without there inevitably being implications for the existing town.
Perhaps a new town type of corporation would be the right answer to adopt to enable a local authority to participate with the new corporation more than it is able at present to do. In such circumstances, the new corporation might be able to tackle several schemes. If adopted, this would not be inconsistent with the Government's rejection of the Crowther Committee's idea of regional development agencies. Those agencies, as proposed, would have inserted a new tier between the central and local government and would have crippled local authorities by taking away a substantial part of their normal responsibilities. Our idea, if we adopt it at the end of the consultations, would be to help and reinforce local authorities in the tackling of rapid planned growth, which is not a normal local authority responsibility. The ideas of this machinery are now being discussed with local authorities.
I wish to emphasise at this stage that the essence of this job of planned expansion will be to get the highest possible quality in to the planning, architecture and traffic engineering involved. We do not think that it is suitable any longer to plan the expansion of an existing community simply by adding peripheral layers. We will have to adopt entirely new forms of urban shape and make a completely new approach to the handling of employ, ment, shopping and traffic. The question of quality, design and architecture is vital to the success of the whole plan, We do not propose to proliferate a subtopia. We propose to mobilise in the service of these new planned communities the best brains and skills that the architects and planners can offer.
This will be a splendid opportunity for officials, professionals, consultants and, where appropriate, elected representatives.
However, I will now deal with the question about which there appears to be a deep gulf between the two sides of 949 the Committee—land and its price. For planned expansions it will be necessary to have agencies to bring those expansions into existence. In most cases there is no large local authority standing ready and equipped to bring about the major new expansion. We need an agency which will acquire the land, make the plan, provide the services and then dispose of the land according to the plan, either by selling or letting it to private or public enterprise. It is a by-product of this necessity that produces betterment; that is, the increase in the value of the land as it is brought into development will be either a total or partial compensation to the public for the expenditure on the services which these public agencies will have to put in. But apart from these new communities that will provide for about one-third of the expected growth of population, there is no need for new agencies or new special measures at all.
The zoning of land for development—and enough land for the entire period should be rezoned—will suffice to give public and private authorities the confidence that the land will be available to enable them to get up speed. Communities exist in each of these places. Many of these communities are already expanding and this may involve a greater or lesser pace in their expansion than at the moment.
The hon. Member for Fulham did not pause long on this part of his speech, but he implied frequently that land prices were a restriction on development. I rebut that with all the force at my command. Prices of land are not restricting house building at the moment. The industry is building to the limit of its capacity.
What hon. and right hon. Members opposite still will not accept is that the only workable way in a free society to bring land on to the market, and to settle its disposal, is the price mechanism. Under the price mechanism we are now in a surge of building which will top all records. Under the price mechanism the proportion of our stock of owner-occupied houses has jumped in 12 years from 29 per cent. to 44 per cent. But if we are to rely upon the price mechanism outside the planned expansion schemes then it is essential to ensure 950 an adequate supply of land. That is why this Study end the White Paper are an indication that the land will be made available for the population growth and to enable the housing shortage to be ended.
§ Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)
Has the right hon. Gentleman overlooked the fact that under the Land Compensation Act, 1961, local authorities acquiring land in advance of requirements and then developing it within five years will be liable to pay compensation for the increased value of the land due to the changed conditions? Will not this be a crippling burden on them?
§ Sir K. Joseph
I was explaining that I do not accept in general that public acquisition of land in advance will be necessary, outside the planned expansion schemes. What I was going to say to the Committee was that no system has yet been evolved in a free society to cheapen land and the houses on it without drying up the supply of land, with the risk of increasing the price, or involving so large and complex a bureaucracy, and so tight a network of controls as to be unacceptable and unworkable.
The Committee will have noted today a rather significant omission. It is the case of the dog that did not bark. The hon. Member for Fulham went round the course amiably pointing out in many cases the sort of things that he thought should have been done—I.D.C. controls, extinguishing the use of offices that had been vacated, for instance, and a number of other points. The one panacea he did mention—we are very familiar with it from his past speeches—was the Land Commission. Could it be that the hon. Gentleman is less enamoured than he was of his Land Commission or was he just omitting it for some other reason?
§ Mr. M. Stewart
I am not a member of the Government or under obligation to make the same speech every time. If I did not refer to the Land Commission I made it quite clear that I believed in the need for increasing the public ownership of land. The House knows perfectly well that the Land Commission is the instrument for that. The right hon. Gentleman is playing with words. I am bound to say, after listening to his last few sentences, that my views are exactly the same as they were.
§ Sir K. Joseph
The hon. Gentleman encourages me to point out the terrible errors into which he will fall if he thinks that the Land Commission or the public acquisition of land could make any helpful contribution towards solving the problem with which we are faced. Land prices are not restricting house building. The figures of house building are rising rapidly. The price of houses reflects the buyers' willingness and ability to pay. The vendor normally asks what he thinks the market will bear. It is bound to be a sellers' market until we have beaten the shortage. The cost of a house is not the cost of the land plus the cost of building plus the profit—but the market price. If, in these circumstances, the Government managed somehow to cheapen land and did not control the price of houses then all that would happen would be that the house developer would make a larger profit.
If any Government tried to control the price of houses they would be forced deep into the private lives of citizens. I doubt whether it would be possible in a free society to ensure that the price of houses would be controlled. There would be under-the-counter dealings and we should be back to the development charge days. People would become informers. The Ministry would receive information that Mr. So-and-So was evading control in some way. And all to what purpose?
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
Will the right hon. Gentleman explain how it is that the system which he is now criticising so enjoyably operates so successfully in the new towns?
§ Sir K. Joseph
Indeed, no. In the new towns market prices prevail when land is disposed of. And to what purpose would this vast paraphernalia be erected in the country when houses are being built as fast as the industry can complete them? To stimulate demand by cheapening the article, would not lead to an increase in supply but the market price would rise as demand exceeded supply even more than now. The end result would be worse than the present position.
Our idea is to increase the supply of land. The Study and the White Paper Will lead to a great increase of land in suitable places, coupled with more jobs. It is an essential ingredient to solve the housing shortage.
952 Now a progress report of where we are. It is six weeks since the publication of the Study and the White Paper. On the day of publication a letter went to all local and planning authorities concerned inviting them to make their comments by 30th June and telling them of our willingness to discuss with them. Consultation is already in full swing. We are now considering the joint appointment of consultants to advise us on the implications of some of the larger expansions.
The picture is of natural population increases in all the regions of the country, and the Government are determined to increase prosperity in all those regions. Here we are dealing with the largest region, involving about 20 million people and one of the most important regions in the whole world—a region which has a high rate of population growth and job growth and a high rate of household formation growth. It is a region which is throbbing with prosperity but which is without enough land to house the people needing to be housed in it.
The Study and the White Paper show how the Government propose, without damage to any other region, to deal with the inescapable growth of population, to solve the housing needs of London and the South-East in an orderly, sensible way, whilst preserving the green belt and the overwhelming bulk of the existing undeveloped part of the region. I hope that the Committee will accept this as a most constructive step forward.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Dingle Foot (Ipswich)
There was one observation in the speech to which we have just listened with which my hon. Friends and I entirely agree. That was when the right hon. Gentleman said that on these issues there is a deep gulf between the Government and the Opposition. The right hon. Gentleman told us that the London housing problem will be cured by the present proposals. I could not help casting my mind back about seven years to the time when we were told by the right hon. Gentleman now the Home Secretary that the housing shortage would be cured by the Rent Act.
The Minister told us about the agencies which are to acquire land. He told us nothing about the land which lies outside the area of the agencies, the 953 price of which is certain to be affected. He went on to say that the price of land has not prevented development. Of course, it has not. But he knows perfectly well, and everybody knows, that it has affected the price of development. He went on to say that in these days of acute housing shortage the price of homes simply reflects ability to pay. The price of homes today reflects what people have to pay. The speech to which we have just listened is one which would have won the full approval of the late Mr. Rachman.
I want to come to some of the problems that arise, particularly as they affect my constituents in Ipswich and East Anglia generally. Obviously, this debate is of particular interest to the people whom I have the honour to represent because, in this Study, Ipswich is selected for one of the six big new expansions of the order of 50,000 to 100,000 over and above its natural growth. The total population of Ipswich now is about 120,000. It is estimated that the natural increase of population over the next 20 years will bring the figure up to 140,000. What is now suggested—and similar increases are suggested in relation to the other expansions as well, so this is not merely a local problem—is that the town should expand by 1981 to a figure which may be well over 200,000.
If that is to be pursued there are a number of questions which call for an answer. For example, at page 79 the Study says:Peterborough and Ipswich would also have a head start because of the detailed surveys that have been carried out at these towns.So far as Ipswich is concerned, that is plainly a reference to the Vincent Report, and my first question is in relation to that Report. It was issued at the same time as the South-East Study. It is a most detailed and careful examination carried out over a period of about 18 months, and it suggests four possible ways of expanding the town. But undoubtedly the author's preference—he gives many reasons for it—is for the fourth solution, and that is a proposal for a linear town stretching along the north bank of the River Orwell from Ipswich to Felixstowe. That proposal has aroused the greatest interest in all the areas concerned.
954 The first question I want to put to the Government concerns the attitude of the Ministry to that Report. What does it mean, and how much importance do they attach to it? At the present time anybody who wants to obtain the Report—and it is quite a formidable document—must pay £1 2s. 6d. On 7th April last I asked the Minister whether the Report could be printed as a Stationery Office publication or otherwise made available to the public at a reasonable price. In a supplementary answer the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said:The hon. and learned Member will appreciate that this Report and the other two which go with it are reports of a theoretical study.Those are the words that I want to emphasise—"a theoretical study". He went on to say:Its publication does not imply either that Ipswich will be expanded or, if it is, that it will necessarily be done in this particular way. It has, therefore, no significance for the general public in Ipswich, but it is of value to those professionally concerned and in local government. I see no reason why they should not pay an economic price for its production."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th April, 1964; Vol. 692, c. 790–1.]That was the answer that I received a few weeks ago. I feel bound to say that I find that answer a little difficult to understand. I appreciate that the Department cannot, within a short space of time, declare its attitude either towards the proposed volume of expansion or to the form of expansion which is proposed. But surely this Report was not just an academic exercise.
I would like to say a word about the proposal for a linear town. The Ipswich-Felixstowe proposal was based on a 100 per cent. expansion. If, as now appears to be contemplated in the South-East Study, there is only to be a 50 per cent. expansion it might, in effect, mean not a new or a large town but simply an intensified form of ribbon development.
Secondly, the question has been raised—and it is a matter of great local interest—whether, if there is to be a linear town, it should necessarily run along the line of the River Orwell between Ipswich and Felixstowe. Might it not be better if it were sited on the road between Ipswich and Martlesham?
Arising out of these considerations, I want to put three questions to the Minister. First, what conclusions, if any, has 955 his Department drawn from the Vincent Report? Secondly, is the Department, as at present advised, disposed to favour the proposal for a linear town? Thirdly, if so, are they prepared to consider alternatives to the Ipswich-Felixstowe project suggested in the Vincent Report?
Now I come to a more practical question, that of industry and employment. I assume for the purposes of my argument that expansion will take place to the extent envisaged in the South-East Study. What sort of community is going to emerge? I myself would regard it as a tragedy if this ancient town, with its special character, whose origins go back to the beginnings of English history, were to become merely a glorified suburb. The new citizens, wherever they may come from, should not be drawn merely from the ranks of office workers and commuters. If we are to increase our size to anything like the extent that is envisaged, it is essential that there should be an expansion of industry.
I would commend to the Minister one passage in the Vincent Report, where Mr. Vincent says:The present Board of Trade policy not to grant Industrial Development Certificates for new industry in Ipswich will have to be reversed if expansion on any scale is to take place. It is desirable that overspill or increased population is not encouraged to commute; the principles of self-contained communities should be observed as far as possible.I commend that expression of view to the Government.
In view of that, I listened with some dismay to the answer given on Thursday last by the Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development and to the announcement made today by the right hon. Gentleman that the tough I.D.C. policy of the Board of Trade will continue. I am not quarrelling with the general policy of the Government, the aim of which is to steer new industry towards the areas where the need is greatest. It has been absolutely right that the Government should have adopted the measures they have adopted in order to try to bring employment to areas where there is unemployment at the present time. It was right that a preference should be given to those areas, and I make no complaint about that at all. But if the proposals 956 contained in this Study are carried out, then different considerations arise.
It is, of course, right to prevent new industry being set up in the centre of London; but if it is proposed to create new artificial towns, creating either new towns altogether or adding 50 per cent. or 100 per cent. to the size of existing towns, then industry must be allowed to expand at the same time. In other words, it will be essential as a corollary to this plan to modify in some degree the present I.D.C. policy.
I come to a matter with which not only the area I represent but other areas are specially concerned. I refer to transport. My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) drew attention to the discrepancy between this Study and the proposals which are approved in the White Paper, on the one hand, and the Beeching proposals on the other. There is this very guarded passage on page 6 of the White Paper:Where passenger closure proposals are concerned, the Government, before reaching decisions, will in each case take full account of the possible developments put forward in the Study. In particular, they will consider whether the possibilities of future development make it desirable that a line should remain available for future use if required".That is all very well, but merely to halt the closures which are proposed under the Beeching Plan would certainly not be enough. If there is to be expansion on anything like the scale envisaged in the Study, we must remodel our communications entirely, and in the Eastern Counties they must be improved between east and west. At present, far too much of the traffic has to be routed either through London or through the approaches to London. The deficiency we have is in communications and transport from the Midlands. On the map attached to the South-East Study only one road is shown running from the Midlands to East Anglia—that is the road which goes by Bedford, Cambridge, Bury St. Edmunds and Ipswich.
Can the right hon. Gentleman persuade the Minister of Transport to bring that road or the A.604 up to modern trunk road standards? That would be an essential corollary of the proposal contained in the Study. Can he in some other way preserve and improve the rail communications between east and west?
957 The White Paper says this about consultation:The Study as a whole, and the particular proposals contained in it, raise many important issues. Public opinion within and outside the South-East must have an opportunity to express itself before final decisions are taken in particular as regards the location and size of individual expansions. The Minister of Housing and Local Government will now consult all the local planning authorities affected and any other local authorities who may be concerned. They will be invited to give their views as soon as possible and discussions will be arranged with them.That envisages simply consultation with planning and local authorities. Before the end of the year, or at some time in the not-too-distant future, will there also be consultation with both sides of industry, because that seems to me to be equally essential?
I have put a large number of questions. I hope that I shall receive answers to them. However, I am satisfied in my own mind that I shall not receive complete or satisfactory answers until I receive them from different Ministers after October of this year.
§ 5.33 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Nugent (Guildford)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on publishing the South-East Study and the White Paper. It includes the proposition referred to by the hon. and learned Member for Ipswich (Mr. D. Foot), but I hope that the hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me if I do not follow him into that. I was very interested in what he said about the problems involved in that regard. I well understand the special transport problems that handicap the development of East Anglia generally.
I revert to my opening comment. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on publishing the Study, which puts before us an assessment of what is likely to happen between now and 1981, the problems we must face in the South-East area, and some imaginative proposals for meeting these problems in the form of new growth centres, new cities, and new and expanded towns.
My first point concerns the problem of regional planning. All of us who have read the Study will have seen the huge population increases that my right hon. Friend thinks the counties ought to face. These figures have very far-reaching 958 implications, not just for houses and jobs, but for schools, hospitals, roads, sewers, water supplies, and all the other services which go to make up modern life. They therefore pose very large problems for counties.
One of the problems which must be faced today, both in Parliament and in the counties, is how county authorities—county councils and county borough councils—can effectively plan in the world of today, when county boundaries are no longer big enough for looking at the whole scene, Particularly in the South-East region, where such a large part of the population travels to London every day across county boundaries, and indeed over the country as a whole, where modern transport facilities make daily travel to work relatively easy—I emphasise "relatively", because there is a good deal of human wear and tear; at any rate it is possible—it is not enough to look at the county area alone. It is necessary to look at a bigger area, a region, if planning is to make sense. It is of absolute importance—it is what we would all wish to see—that local people should continue to have an effective voice in what happens, in how their county or county borough develops, and in what sort of life they are to have in the future.
There are broadly three approaches to regional planning. One would be for the Government to set up machinery themselves and perform these functions from Whitehall, presumably with greater powers over the county authorities to direct them as to what they should do and how they should do it. I do not believe that would commend itself to us. I am sure that it would not commend itself to local authorities. I do not believe anybody here would advocate it as a solution this week, when many people are about to vote at the polls in local government.
The second alternative, which has been discussed lately, is to elect a new tier of regional government. I believe that this would present enormous difficulties. I rather fancy that we shall hear something from the Liberal Party as to how it might be done.
There is a third alternative which I commend to the Committee, because the experiment is now being carried out in practice. It is the alternative of a 959 joint planning conference of the counties of a region, or of a substantial part of the counties of a region, coming together in a joint planning conference so that these autonomous authorities come together in the conference and set up the machinery to look at their county problems in the perspective of the region as a whole.
This is what the counties of London and the surrounding counties and county boroughs have done in the London Regional Planning Conference. I take no credit for the fact that I am its chairman, because they invited me to be chairman after they had had the wisdom to decide to hold such a conference. It covers about two-thirds of the population of the South-East region, nine counties and six county boroughs, and is about to have another four county authorities added to it. Broadly speaking, it covers the whole area of the South-East of England which commutes, or is affected by commuting, to London.
The method by which the counties are working is to meet as a conference of autonomous authorities about two or three times a year and to use a panel of the planning officer of each county authority as their technical panel, the clerk of each county authority as their administrative panel, and to have sub-panels for transport, industry, and so on, to deal with particular problems. By using these two panels of their principal county officers—the county planning officers and county clerks—they can make sure that as they bring the problem under consideration they will make recommendations broadly acceptable to the conference as a whole.
Their method of working has been, first, to assemble all the development plans of each county and county borough and, at the same time, to make a forward forecast to 1971, for the first decade, as to what the realities will be. By this method we have seen the picture come up—and the conference has been in action for 18 months—that the development plans of these counties provide for a population increase up to 1971 of about 800,000 to 850,000 and a probable increase of the bodies on the ground, so to speak, of about 1¼ million.
Through certain other factors, we estimate that the net deficit, on the present 960 development plans, will be about 500,000. In other words, if these counties are to deal with the increased population expected in these areas by 1971 the development plans must be expanded by about 500,000. The problem is extremely urgent because in some areas the supply of land will be running out by 1967 or 1968. Therefore, no time must be lost in revising and expanding the development plans to meet the needs of this increased population.
Right hon. and hon. Members will recognise the problem involved. Each county is being asked to do things which it did not expect to have to do. It is being asked to make expansions which it did not wish to make. Difficult decisions must be taken. Nevertheless, the conference has been effective enough to bring the whole picture before these counties and for the conference as a whole and every county individually to accept the implications and solutions that we have suggested as to how the extra 500,000 should be provided for. I will not bother the Committee with the details, but by this machinery we have been able to persuade all these counties to face up to the difficult decision which they must take to expand their development plans to meet the problems of this first decade. As a start, it is a great credit to the county that they have had the wisdom and courage to face the problem in this fashion. I am hopeful that when we come to the next stage, 1971–81, we will continue to act with equal realism and imagination.
Naturally, we do not entirely agree with everything that the Minister has put forward. In particular, the counties do not agree with the Minister's suggestion that even a limited amount of the green belt should be subtracted. I hope that my right hon. Friend will agree to what the counties will suggest in our detailed proposals in the autumn this year as to how we should find the extra land needed for this increase in population in these counties without encroaching on the green belt. These counties passionately believe that they cannot afford to shift one inch on the inner ring of the green belt, because that would start them on a slippery slope which they will never be able to stop slipping on. They have to fight for the green belt every day in order to hold it. Any 961 uncertainty will create a situation in which all the time developers will be trying by devious means—some of them not too creditable—to bust this ring.
I therefore ask my right hon. Friend to consider sympathetically the proposals both of the conference and of individual counties. We believe that we can meet what my right hon. Friend wants us to meet in terms of the increased population without making any encroachment on the green belt. I leave out the Lea Valley, which is a special case. That is called green belt land, but really it is a large series of glasshouses. Many of them are derelict, and, in my opinion, it will be a very good thing if a certain amount of development takes place there. However, that is a separate case.
I mention this matter because it is of interest and value, not only to the South-East, but to the country as a whole. We have already had some inquiries from the North-East and elsewhere. It may be a way for the counties to continue to plan as counties where they can see the picture on the ground and know all the county services involved. They can look at the regional picture, which they must do if they are to understand the realities of the situation.
I wish to put one other point to my right hon. Friend and, particularly, to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. Since planning authorities have come together in a regional organisation, I hope that the Board of Trade will be willing to bring this conference, as a regional conference, into consultation on industrial development certificates. This is basic to all planning in order to try to get control of the employment situation
The second point that I should like to make briefly concerns population. While we accept my right hon. Friend's estimate of population increase in the South-East, we are alarmed by the immigration figures. I accept the retirement figure. One might even accept the 250,000 people who will come in from the rest of the country. However, the figure of 500,000 people who will come in from overseas is alarmingly high in a region which is already very crowded. I will not dispute it with my right hon. Friend. All that I say is that this is a measure of the problem.
§ Sir K. Joseph
My right hon. Friend is aware that it would represent a substantially lower rate of migration than in the immediate past.
§ Sir R. Nugent
Yes. To that extent, I congratulate my right hon. Friend. Nevertheless, it is unacceptably high. We are anxious as a conference to study these figures with my right hon. Friend's officials to see whit they represent and to see whether there is any way in which we can check the employment growth in the region, particularly in London.
My right hon. Friend suggests in his Study the creation of new cities. We had already thought of Bletchley and Ashford. The proposal concerning Southampton is very attractive and, I am sure, is right. We are doubtful about Newbury. These are details. The broad idea is right—to create large new attractive growth centres which will be counter-attractions to the super-magnetism of London. We as a conference entirely agree with this broad approach, but, naturally, we wish to discuss the details.
The point that I mentioned that the counties might lack the resources to deal with the 2¼ million people whom they are expected to accommodate referred particularly to expanded towns. If they are big town expansions, they will be involved in expenses comparable with the new towns. The new town expenditure is very heavy indeed. I saw the figure last week. I think that it was £770 million for 18 towns. It is evident that it will be very hard for the ratepayers to stand all this expense themselves.
I come to my third point, namely, jobs and places of employment. My right hon. Friend referred to the points made by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart), about the danger of the increase in the number of jobs in the next 20 years exceeding or, at least, equalling the total working population increase in the nation. It is true that in our conference report we referred to this implication in a rather guarded fashion by saying that we would like to study it further. It is, however, the fact that if the working population in the South-East of England continued to increase in the current 20 years to 1981 at the same rate as it did in the 10 years from 1951 to 1961, it would take up the increase in the working population of 963 the whole country. This indicates the size of the problem.
That would be a totally unacceptable situation. It would mean the frustration of developments in other parts of the country, in the North-East, in Scotland and elsewhere. What is more, it would mean that within the South-East region we would frustrate the development of the new cities and towns, because most of the increase would take place in London and the surrounding counties. In particular, this problem centres upon London as the magnet.
Offices are by far the most difficult part of the picture. There are either consents or potential consents for 400,000 more office places in the whole London conurbation. The South-East Study indicates that in the London conurbation as a whole, the total working population increase by 1981 might be of the order of ¾ million. If we take into account that almost all that population would have to live outside London, beyond the green belt, and commute and, therefore, would be living in the surrounding counties and making a big population increase in those counties, there would consequently be a big increase in service employment at least equal to this working population increase in London. We would, therefore, get a total working population increase inside London and in the surrounding area of the order of 1½ million, which would be three-quarters of the total national working population increase in the next 20 years. This gives the measure of the problem.
Somehow, we have to check the increase of jobs in London without checking the great and ever-growing prosperity of London and, somehow, find sufficient margin of development which will take place in the new cities and the new towns to create the new growth centres there.
My right hon. Friend has started the organisation called L.O.B., which is very good. From the précis of its report which I read in the Economist, I understand that it hopes by the year after next to be able to move out 15,000 office places per annum. That is very good. If that can be done, it will be just under the expected annual increase. 964 I should like to see the figure of removals put up to 20,000 office places a year.
The L.O.B. was not entirely clear, however, whether the jobs were being moved out from the centre to the periphery of the conurbation or out from the whole of the London conurbation to the other side of the green belt, because that is the only thing that would be any good. It is no good moving them about inside London, because one would still have to bring in the additional commuters from the other side of the green belt to fill the new jobs. These, then, are the two points for L.O.B. Let it get the number of office place removals up to 20,000 a year, in which case we shall not get any net increase. Secondly, we want the movement out to go beyond the green belt.
I agree with the point made by the hon. Member for Fulham that the best chance of achieving this is to concentrate on two or three—quite a small number—towns as new office centres. I believe that we would have a better prospect of attracting the offices to go out to them rather than scattering them around all over the place. I noted with interest the suggestion by L.O.B. that the potential might be to move out one-fifth to one-third of all office jobs. Let us hope that it succeeds.
At the town and country planning conference last week, my right hon. Friend said that if L.O.B. was not able to succeed on a voluntary basis, he was prepared to reinforce it with the necessary powers to make it succeed. This, I am sure, is right, because it must succeed if we are to make any sense of the South-East plan as a whole and of the plans for the other regions.
I have thought, as the hon. Member for Fulham obviously has done, about the possibility of extinguishing the existing use right, but the London County Council has done some studies which show the cost. The result worked out at a net cost of £1,000 per office place even allowing for the compensating residential value if residential properties are built in place of the offices. This is clearly an astronomical figure and one which cannot be faced by the London County Council and which should not be faced by the remainder of the taxpayers. That really is not the answer.
965 The suggestion has been put to us that there should be a London employment levy, and that is an idea. As a conference, we shall study the problem to try to find, with the Ministry, a practical answer to it, because a way must be found to check the continuing increase in employment in London. It not only upsets development elsewhere, but it makes the very reverse of good planning to have hundreds of thousands or millions of people travelling these huge distances every day, with all the wear and tear involved, coming in from dormitory towns which cannot have proper development unless they can have their own places of employment. The answer must be found. If L.O.B. is not able to provide it single-handed, I look to my right hon. Friend to implement what he has said and to see that L.O.B. has the necessary powers to do it.
It is most urgent to get on with the transportation studies which will be needed for the region as a whole. Big changes are taking place with the ever-growing private motor car population, and with these developments there will be all kinds of changes in the different movements of freight, and so on. All these need to be studied and the consequences worked out. Alongside them, there needs to be a study—and my right hon. Friend is, I think, sympathetic to this—of the sociological and industrial changes which will be coming as the population becomes more affluent, as automation gradually increases, as leisure increases and as the pattern of our life tends to change significantly over the coming years. These are all factors that we should have in mind when considering how this great planning scheme should develop.
I conclude by thanking my right hon. Friend for coming forward with his study and saying that it is a most valuable document for us as a conference to work upon.
§ 5.59 p.m.
§ Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)
It is a great pleasure to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent), more particularly because I have always felt that the standing conference about which he was speaking could very well have taken over, if it had been developed, some of the planning functions in the 966 London area without the vast reorganisation to which we are being subjected in the reorganisation of London government.
I welcome this Study, as other Members have done. I am very glad that at last we have some grounds and some research on which to base the planning and the housing developments of the next 20 years, but I am, quite frankly, appalled at what can only call the supine acceptance by the Government of this enormous population growth in the South-East. Having listened very carefully to all the Minister said this afternoon, I am still not satisfied that anything is being done other than what I would call trend planning. The Government are accepting the trend. They are not mastering the trend. It seems quite wrong that a part of the country which at present has less than 39 per cent. of the country's population should have to continue to take growth which means about half the total growth of the whole country's population. That is my estimate of the figures in the South-East Study.
I should like to know where is the "proper national balance" to which it refers and to which the White Paper also refers. Where is this national balance in the plans which the Government are basing on the Study? Until the national framework of the study is clear, the growth of the South-East which is envisaged could prejudice the future in other parts of the country, unless some drastic steps are taken to thwart it. I will not again go over the discrepancy in the figures to which my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) referred; nevertheless, I am particularly concerned about London.
Already in London there are existing approvals for office buildings for some 170,000 office workers—the figure may well be more, but that is the minimum—and these approvals are likely to go ahead before the end of the decade. The Minister has told us what he plans to do by way of expanding housing outside the London area, but if his plans, taking into account the best architecture and other advice which he mentioned this afternoon and all that involves, are to come to fruition, the best expectation we can have is that nothing very much 967 will be done in providing actual houses until well into the next decade, well into the 'seventies. This means an increase in office jobs taking place here and now, and the people taking up these office jobs will probably be looking for homes in the London area, because the new and expanding towns planned will not have come into being, or will be only in the early stages.
This is a really frightening prospect. These office jobs will go on increasing on the basis of existing approvals and homes will not be available for the office workers outside the metropolitan area. Already the transport problem, the atmospheric pollution from the increased traffic, the social effects of overcrowding, the ever higher densities which are having to be imposed in the London area, the fact that there are seldom fewer than 1,000 homeless families in London all the time—all these things make any increase in the actual population of London a really frightening prospect. We have no right to condemn people living in London to a life becoming increasingly void of graciousness and the decent living standards to which they are entitled.
Of course, all this is associated with the increase in the cost of living due to this pressure on the capital. In my constituency I have many of the service workers to whom reference has been made. They are not the more grandiloquent university service personnel and other personnel to whom the Minister referred. They are Post Office workers, transport workers, people of that income, many of them with a wage of no more than £11 or £12 a week, and in my constituency a three-bodroom terraced house is now selling at £4,200. What chance have these essential service workers of finding decent housing accommodation in London? And the pressure is growing all the time, and will grow unless drastic measures are taken.
I entirely agree with the Minister that in order to reduce this pressure it is desirable that voluntary measures should be used wherever possible. One of the figures which have been quoted is that there will be 250,000 more elderly people coming into the south-east region in the next 20 years. There was general agreement that nothing should 968 be done to deter people from coming to retire in this area. I entirely agree that we cannot force people—that it would be undesirable to force people—to go to certain parts, but why not encourage them by some incentive to go somewhere else? There is the whole coastline of South Wales, there are pleasant towns in the north of England—seaside and country towns—to which the elderly people would willingly retire if they were encouraged to go.
I believe that it was round about 1924 that a subsidy called the "Wheatley subsidy" was given to people—it was a subsidy of about £100—to build houses of a certain type. Quite a number of people are living today in those houses for which they had that very welcome subsidy. Why should not something like that be given to all the retired people who are willing to build homes in parts of the country outside the south-east region. There are many retired people who would welcome, not £100, but a sum suitably enhanced to meet the increased cost of living today, and would go outside London and the south-east region if given with such encouragement.
With regard to office approvals, the Minister has said that L.O.B. is working much better than he expected. If I am putting these words into his mouth, I still think that that was what he was really saying. Many of us had doubts about the effectiveness of L.O.B. when it first came into operation. However well it works, there is general agreement in the House that something more needs to be done and that some drastic measures must be taken to get offices out of London. Middlesex encouraged offices on the periphery of the metropolitan area and found that that scheme did not work because there is no means of moving office uses from the centre of London to the periphery of the Metropolitan region. Something of that kind must be instituted.
Then there is the question of those office uses for which approval has already been given. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Guildford said that it was an unfair burden on the taxpayer that these should be extinguished because the compensation would be so heavy. I still feel that the Government could extinguish at 969 least some of them, in co-operation with London County Council. They should foot part of the bill and not leave it to the L.C.C. itself.
As for moving offices out of the South-East, I have made a note of the fact that it was on 6th March, 1962, that I asked the then Minister of Housing and Local Government if he would consider moving the Civil Service personnel outside the congested area of the south-east of England to a new administrative centre. There were at that time some 50,000 civil servants not engaged in day-to-day Government work, and their transfer to another part of the country would have released—these were the figures at that time—11½ million sq. ft. of office accommodation in London for other uses. The Minister's reply then was that he would not like to send them to a specially created new town because this would be unbalanced.
There is a very serious ground for study here, and I think that the Minister has dismissed much too lightly the idea of a new administrative centre outside London for some Government offices and for other offices, and for a variety of other industries, trades and professions. This is where we do so much lack a study of the country as a whole, because if we had a study of, say, Yorkshire in our hands at the same time we should probably find that there is a town there which, if it were developed imaginatively would be ideal for this purpose, from the point of view of communications and attracting people from the London area.
There is no reason why such a new centre should not have the best architectural and other talents in its development in order to make it a magnet which would attract firms and commercial houses to its area. It is not only the building of a big city which can make a magnet; it is the imaginative development of a town as well.
§ Mr. John Wells (Maidstone)
Is the hon. Lady advocating a single new civil service town or sending different departments to different towns, like the Admiralty to Bath and the Foreign Office to Cheltenham?
§ Mrs. Butler
I am advocating a single new administrative centre to which many 970 civil servants should be encouraged to go. Here again, one does not want to repeat the ham-handed manner in which the Post Office Savings Bank is being moved to Glasgow. But this idea obviously needs very careful thought and discussion. There is the germ of a good idea in it which the Government should explore. They should tell us why they do not adopt it if, in the end, they decide not to. I think that it would have to be one centre and not many, because one would have to make it a focal point and one cannot make many focal points equally effective.
All that I have said about London underlines the need to preserve every iota of the green belt. Such factors as the increasing density in London and the building on the gardens of old Victorian houses, which are advocated by the Government, reduce our lung space further and emphasise the need for the green belt to act as London's lungs. It is important that we preserve the green belt.
The Minister says that he is not nibbling at the green belt, but I have here the letter which has been sent to local authorities about the need for them to re-examine their policies towards the green belt in their areas. Local planning authorities year after year receive applications from owners of land in the green belt applying for permission to develop. Year after year those applications have been turned down.
Now, however, with the Government's expressed desire that the green belt should be re-examined, many local planning authorities will feel that they ought to agree to development of such parcels of land. If they do not agree they will not know what attitude the Minister will take if the matter goes to appeal. They will feel that this is the beginning of a relaxation of our tight hold on the green belt instead of the instruction, "Fasten your green belts", which is needed.
Relaxing the control will mean that many parcels of land will be built on and, whatever the right hon. Gentleman may say, encouragement will be given to unscrupulous people to make their land less valuable agriculturally in order to get building planning permission and the enormously enhanced value which that land will have.
971 Special reference has been made to the Lea Valley, and I mention it for only one reason. I do not accept that because glass houses have gone out of use this is ideal land for housing development. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary will know that the Civic Trust and the local authorities concerned are now considering how to develop the Lea Valley's recreational facilities, because it is a very valuable area for recreational provision for crowded north and east London. If we accept the principle that immediately buildings go out of use this land is ripe for housing development, we are opening the door to unlimited opportunities for unscrupulous people to take advantage.
This is a typical example of the kind of misplaced thinking that is going on. We need positive encouragement to planning authorities to make land like this of greater amenity value and to plan in that sense and not to relax their hold on it.
The question of land profits has also been mentioned, and I do not want to say very much about that because it is already clear that the Ministry not only does not intend to curb the enormous profits which will be made on land in the South-East outside the new and expanding towns but has, in fact, glorified the market.
It seems very curious that in a study of planning and planning needs, the market in the sale of land should be the determining factor. The Government are handing on a plate to unscrupulous people enormous profits by making, on the one hand, a plan for the South-East and, on the other, refusing to curb land prices. For years, land speculators have been buying up land in the green belt and adjacent to towns in the hope that it will become scheduled for housing development. Although the right hon. Gentleman said today that he was trying to get away from the old plan and not use land adjacent to towns necessarily for development, nevertheless wherever any kind of development takes place land values rise enormously.
For example, in the Brimsdown area of Enfield, there is industrial land which has never been very much used because 972 three level crossings have had to be crossed in order to gain access to it. It was worth only £10,000 an acre—ridiculously low for industrial land. Now a new road has been built and, last month, a parcel of that land was sold at £20,000 an acre and the value of the rest is expected to soar immediately other industrialists become aware that access has now improved.
One factor not mentioned so far is water supply in the region. This is an extremely complex factor, and much of what we are saying today will depend on water being available in particular areas. Reference is made in the Study to some of the difficulties and special problems.
One aspect is that there are now methods of sewage treatment which the best local authorities are putting into operation and which the Ministry should very carefully consider and insist on being used by all local authorities which develop their towns in the South-East. These methods are not only desirable from the point of view of the health of the community but, incredible though it may seem, the water used during such sewage treatment can be used again as water supply lower down the rivers to which the treated sewage is transferred and can, therefore, add to the water available to other towns in the region. This is a somewhat technical point, but it is on matters like that that much of the future of the South-East will depend.
I am grateful for the opportunity of saying something as a London Member, but having heard the Minister on several occasions talk about this subject, I am still left with the sad feeling that we are getting from the Government only a great deal of talk, window dressing and flurry. I wonder how much will have been achieved in ten years to lessen the congestion in London and the South-East. I am afraid that very little will be done on the basis of what we have heard from the Minister today.
§ 6.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Martin Maddan (Hitchin)
I should like to start by welcoming my right hon. Friend's publication of the South-East Study, because in this area we have been aware for some time of the impending population increase and within the area, as my right hon. Friend 973 the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) has said, local authorities have got together themselves in the form of a standing conference to try to study the problem and propose solutions.
One of my impressions—and I have been surprised—is that councils have been willing to modify their own plans to suit the needs of the greater whole. That is something which should enable us to build in future on the co-operation of the different local planning authorities and not rely too exclusively on the diktat of Whitehall.
I want to make some remarks about five matters which arise from the South-East Study. I will touch on some of the comments of the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler), especially in relation to the green belt and office employment. The five points which I want to make are, first, about the green belt; secondly, about office jobs; thirdly, the procedure under which the South-East Study was compiled, which does not seem to have been much discussed this afternoon; fourthly, a matter which affects my constituency, Stevenage and its extension, about which I have spoken before; and, fifthly, rates in the expanding counties.
In the South-East Study, my right hon. Friend has spoken about the manoeuvrability of boundaries of urban communities which have not yet been fixed and he has suggested that there should not be a green belt drawn immediately around these urban areas, but that there should be a cushion or girdle, between the urban community and the green belt, which would be white land not specified for any particular purpose. This is a recipe for disaster, a recipe for the speculator. This is the old white area policy which has been rejected by county council after county council.
I accept that it is right not to decide upon extensions of the present green belt until the location of new major and other developments has been decided, but that is quite different from saying that when these have been decided there should be this cushion between the areas zoned for development and the green belt around them. The first reason why this is undesirable is that everybody would know that white land was vulnerable for development. Any speculator 974 knows that if he buys that land, he will be likely to get permission to develop it, though refused by the local planning authority, because on appeal to the Minister, the local planning authority will not be able to argue that to grant permission would be in contravention of the green belt. This, therefore, opens the door to speculation. Perhaps even more serious, white land opens the door to unplanned development
Within the development plans any development which takes place must be consistent with the general plan of urban, housing, school, industrial and office development, but in the white area, by definition, it would be all higgledy-piggledy and the very reverse of what we all mean by planning. I hope that that element in the Study will be reconsidered and rejected.
The second point is that I hope that while we are awaiting decisions about the location of major developments and the ultimate fixing of the extended green belts the Minister will refuse appeals against the decision of local planning authorities not to develop in such areas. If he does not, he will be selling the pass in advance of his own decisions.
I turn now to the subject of office jobs with which the hon. Lady dealt. I agree with her and my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford about the importance of this subject in the whole concept of the South-East Study. In the Study it is said that London is the heart of the problem. Office jobs are the heart of the London problem. Until we get this right, we cannot get the South-East solution correct.
In the Study it is said that towns must be of a certain size and character before office jobs and office workers are attracted to them. I entirely agree, but there may well turn out to be a need for some sort of I.D.C. policy for office jobs in the same way as for factory jobs. It is true that office jobs are different from factory jobs, but they are not in themselves service jobs that must follow factory employment. My right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford said that to a large degree, certainly in the South-East, office jobs dictated the number of service jobs following them.
I wonder whether the Location of Offices Bureau will in itself be enough to tackle the heart of the heart of the 975 problem. The attraction of the centre of London for office jobs is greatly overrated. People who need to be and who can benefit from being in the heart of London are the people who personally have to meet other people who have to meet other people. When all are added up, the number is not very great. It may be that every one is supported by a secretary who fixes appointments and does letters and so on, but there is no need for the presence of the support of a whole team of record offices, account offices, ordering offices, and invoicing offices.
If I may add a personal note, my experience of decentralisation is that it makes life easier for the people doing the more routine jobs not having other people breathing down their necks all the time and changing instructions, and so on, and it makes life easier for those who have to carry out the negotiations and the meetings not to have the routine people breathing down their necks. There is a positive advantage in separating these functions.
The hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) rather jeered at the suggestion that fiscal policies should run hand in hand with planning policy; that is, that if we wanted to decentralise office jobs from London he thought that it was beyond consideration that fiscal and Government expenditure policies should be designed to the same end. I do not take that view. I take the view that decentralising London is so important that it is absurd to continue subsidising, any longer than is essential as a transition, the transport of people into and out of London every day, and equally absurd to subsidise the housing of people in London for a minute longer than is necessary to achieve the transition. If we are to tackle this job, it must be tackled all round, not only by the I.D.C. method, but by these other methods, too. Then, at last, we may have some chance of making progress.
The third point is the procedure under which the South-East Study was compiled. In compiling it the Ministry did not co-operate with the Standing Conference of the local authorities who were mostly concerned. The Standing Conference invited the Ministry to nominate members or observers to that conference, but I think that the Ministry refused to do so. I hope now that the Government 976 will co-operate much more closely with that Standing Conference, because on it there are the people with the practical experience, practical ability and practical knowledge of problems on the ground which have to be solved.
I hope, I was going to say the gentleman, but perhaps I should say the dame, in Whitehall does not imagine that the people who are in charge of planning in these local planning authorities are incapable of seeing the problems and the need for solving them and putting forward solutions. I was struck by what my right hon. Friend the Member for Guildford said, that within a fairly narrow margin they have themselves anticipated the size and the scale of the problems which the South-East Study outlines.
On the question of procedure, within the South-East Study allusion is made to the suggestion that the target for Stevenage should be doubled. The figure is now about 50,000. The target is accepted as about 80,000—though there is some doubt about whether that is final—and now it is suggested that the target should be 140,000. My right hon. Friend has not until this stage, that is until after publishing the Study, entered into consultations with the local authorities about this problem, but since the middle of 1962 negotiations have been going on and suggestions have been promulgated by the local development corporation at the suggestion of the Ministry.
It rather looks to some—although I accept my right hon. Friend's assurance that his mind is open—as though my right hon. Friend has made up his mind on this, and that the consultations are a mere formality. Whether his mind is open or not—and I am sure it is—one thing that is certain is that the development corporation at Stevenage is taking this as a more or less foregone conclusion. I sent my right hon. Friend an advertisement for staff which the Stevenage Development Corporation put in the papers. It read:Following publication of the South-East Study, 1961–1981, and in connection with it, the Minister of Housing and Local Government has begun consultations with a view to the expansion of Stevenage…I agree that every word is literally accurate, but the impression given is 977 that this expansion is a foregone conclusion.
My right hon. Friend replied saying that the recruitment of staff was entirely the responsibility of the development corporation, that the advertisement was put in by the corporation, and that, quite properly, it was drafted without reference to him. I accept that, but I hope that he has made it clear to the development corporation—as it is under his control—that it is most improper for it to have done this. If the corporation thinks that this is a foregone conclusion it is inconsistent with my right hon. Friend's assurance—which I accept—that his mind is open on the subject.
I turn from that to the substantive question of Stevenage itself. It is proposed that the town should be expanded by development westward over the bypass which has been completed. In the opinion of every independent planner of repute this would be very bad physical and social planning. It is not a matter of bridging the motorway, like bridging the canal. Apart from the fact that the motorway is very much wider than any canal, there are other factors to be considered. It is not just the motorway. It is the motorway, then the industrial area, then the main line railway from King's Cross, then the commercial area, and, finally, the Great North Road. It is an area of non-residential land varying between 1 mile and ½ mile in width, and it is more like developing a town crossing an estuary, and having to bridge that estuary. Allusions to bridging canals are entirely beside the point.
We all think locally that this proposal is bad, but we accept—and I say this with all the emphasis that I can—that the extra population envisaged by my right hon. Friend, including what he envisages for the expanded Stevenage, must go somewhere in this general direction and distance from London. I do not dispute that. We also accept that there is need for this development to take place quickly, because, as the Study says, the great developments at Southampton, Portsmouth, Bletchley and elsewhere cannot get under way until the 1970s. Secondly, we accept that there is need for development of a character which will attract office jobs. Thirdly, we accept the desirability of 978 using the extremely able development corporation and all its experience and skill.
Having said all that, and accepting all those points and implementing them, there are far better alternatives which are apparent to those who are familiar with the locality, but which are not so apparent to those in Whitehall. They are better also with regard to the expense and practicability of water supplies and sewerage, to which the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green referred. I hope, therefore, that when proposals are made by the local authorities concerned, my right hon. Friend will consider them practically, and will not dismiss them as mere argumentation.
There are practical suggestions which we can put forward, but, before we do so, in view of the nature of the consultation, or the lack of it so far, I would want an assurance that these alternatives will be fairly considered and put in the balance together with the Stevenage proposal. We all know that expansion schemes may cause trouble in the locality where they are suggested, and it would be foolish of local authorities to put them forward unless they knew that they were going to be seriously considered.
My last point concerns the rates in expanding counties. Most of the counties in the South-East will expand, and if it is of interest to hon. Members representing those counties, perhaps I might tell the Committee that, wholly as a result of the expansion in Hertfordshire's population, the proportion of the county's expenditure that is borne by general grant has declined since the inception of the block grant from 55 per cent. to 49 per cent., or 6d. in the £. We will not for long go on being enthusiastic for expansion unless the block grant formula is amended. It cannot be amended at nobody's expense, but, nevertheless, this trend must be halted, if not reversed.
To sum up, we want an assurance about the green belt policy, and about the white area policy. We want an office job policy in which direct, fiscal, and economic measures are made to work hand in hand. We want to reinstitute a close and constructive relationship between the local planning authorities 979 and Whitehall. With regard to Stevenage, we want the local authorities not only to be brought into consultation, but their local knowledge to be given full account; we want the Ministry and the local authorities to be in a relationship of co-operation to solve problems which we all acknowledge. Finally, the block grant formula must be reviewed.
Having said all that, I welcome the philosophy behind the Study, which I am sure hon. Members will agree is a great step forward. It has been welcomed by planning authorities as giving them an indication of bench marks on which to work.
§ 6.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Lubbock (Orpington)
I agree with the hon. Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan) that it is deplorable that the Government did not see fit to consult the Standing Conference on London Regional Planning while it was in the course of preparing its report. Its views would have been of great value to the Government, and the immense experience of the local authorities which make up the conference could have been brought to bear on the problems involved.
I listened with interest to the remarks of the right hon. Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) on this subject with respect, because he is the chairman of that conference. I would not be justified in accepting his invitation to develop Liberal ideas of regional government, but he made a strong case for it himself. This Standing Conference is a first step towards such an idea, although it is concerned only with planning. I would like it to be concerned with a much wider range of functions, such as the detailed allocations of I.D.Cs. within regions, the allocation of funds for school building programmes, and so on. However, I should be out of order if I tried to develop that theme.
I found the report of the Standing Conference on the South-East Study a most interesting and instructive document. Hon Members will find it of great value. I hope that the conference can send us copies of future documents, and at least have them placed automatically in the Library. When I went there last week, after I had seen a report of this document in a newspaper, I was told that the Library had not received it. They 980 asked specially for it, however, and it was obtained. If the right hon. Gentleman will see that these documents are available in future, especially before important debates such as this, it will be of great value.
The Study was summed up well by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) in reply to an intervention by the Minister, when he said that the whole thing is an "if". It is a very big "if", and the figures of population increase are the biggest "if" of the lot. Looking at the graphs in the study one sees that the natural increase of population predicted is a straight line extrapolation of existing trends. But the Registrar-General has warned us that there may be further increases over and above that.
But only two-thirds of the increase of 3½ million people in the South-East during the period covered by the Study is accounted for by a natural increase of births over deaths. The balance is accounted for by immigration. I agree with other hon. Members who have said that we should not necessarily accept the figure of 1.1 million as not being susceptible to any Government action to correct it. Part of the natural increase of 2.4 million is accounted for by births to parents who are part of the 1.1 million. Therefore, to the extent that we could slow down immigration from other regions and from overseas into the South-East we could reduce the figure for natural increase which is provided for.
I, too, am in some difficulty in understanding some of the arithmetic. During the Minister's speech I pointed out that the actual net immigration into the South-East from 1951–61 was 413,000. If that rate is maintained we can expect a figure of 826,000 during the 20-year period covered by the Study, instead of the 1.1 million provided for. The Minister passed this off lightly by saying that I had not taken into account the increased migration from Scotland and other regions during the latter half of the decade 1951–61, and also the increased emigration from overseas countries. But I had taken that into account. I had imagined that the development plans which are currently being formulated for the other regions were designed to slow down and even to halt the rate of migration from those regions.
§ Mr. Lubbock
I had noticed that. I was going on to refer to the figures given in the White Paper on Central Scotland. It says that the aim is to reduce the net emigration to half its present level in the period 1966–71 and to one-sixth of its present level for the decade following 1971. The White Paper for the North-East does not give any figures, but I would have expected similar considerations to apply. The Republic of Ireland has been responsible for about half the net immigration from overseas. There again, I would expect the rate to fall very rapidly in the next few years.
I do not know whether the Minister has referred to the latest economic development plan of the Republic of Ireland, which was laid before the Dail last year and which shows an expansion rate of Ireland's economy which is about 10 per cent. higher than our own. It follows that most of the labour which would otherwise be coming into this country for employment will be required for the additional jobs created in Ireland.
Further, whatever one may say about the Commonwealth Immigrants Act, I would have thought that the high rate of immigration in the year immediately before that Act was passed was a special phenomenon which could not be expected to continue throughout the 20-year period. But we are arguing in a slight vacuum here, because the Study makes no attempt to substantiate the figure of 1.1 million by a detailed breakdown giving the country or region of origin. Such a breakdown would be valuable.
I do not accept the Minister's lighthearted remark that such an operation would take several man-years of computer time. It would be interesting to know whether a computer has been employed on this work. I very much doubt it. These estimates smack of a "back-of-an-envelope" sort of calculation. All I would say about the figure of 1.1 million is that in considering the whole plan we must bear in mind that its basic assumption may be wrong. If 982 it were to be proved conclusively that the figurer were correct I would say that the Government have not yet taken firm enough steps to equalise the attractiveness of the different regions.
It would not be open to me, this afternoon, to argue what further financial incentives should be given to industry to go to development districts, or whether the development districts policy itself should be widened to embrace whole regions, but these are the kind of things that we shall be talking about on other occasions.
§ Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)
Why is this so? Has it not been reiterated time after time that this Study, and the Government's acceptance of it, hinges upon the statement that the plans for the North and for Scotland will be successful?
§ Mr. Lubbock
Yes. There seems to be something that cannot be reconciled between the two statements. Nobody can understand the arithmetic. That applies to hon. Members opposite as well as to this side of the House.
§ Mr. Edward Gardner (Billericay)
Paragraph 14 of the Study, on page 23, refers to this point. It says:The creation of new jobs in the North is not expected to have much effect on retirement migration.If we have development in the North and in Scotland we still may not solve the continuing increase in the South-East.
§ Mr. Lubbock
Migration for retirement purposes is only 250,000 out of the total of 1.1 million, and we cannot account for the discrepancy in the figure purely on that basis. When one considers the number of jobs which are expected to be created in the South-East, as opposed to the number forecast by the Minister of Labour for England and Wales as a whole, one encounters the same discrepancy. I shall deal with that point in a few minutes, if I may.
Before leaving this point altogether, I wish to say that the migration figure for the South-East of 1.1 million is larger than the total immigration for England and Wales as a whole, which, earlier, is given as 1 million. I do not think, therefore, that it can be said with any 983 justification that the plan is based on the equalisation of the attractiveness of different regions in England and Wales alone.
I agree with the hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) and the hon. Member for Hitchin that the heart of the problem of the South-East—in fact, it says so in the Study—lies in London and the ring surrounding it. What has caused London to swell like a great cancer is the enormous and unprecedented growth of office employment which has taken place all over the conurbation in the last few years. If, somehow, we could manage to halt this frenzied race to put up glass and concrete palaces on every square foot within 20 miles of Charing Cross, we should solve the problem of London and hence the problem of the South-East as well.
I cannot agree with the conventional wisdom approach of the South-East Study and of some hon. Members who have spoken, that the office development which has been taking place in the last few years in London has been meeting a so-called economic demand. I think that that is completely refuted by the report prepared by the Economic Intelligence Unit for the Location of Offices Bureau, a copy of which is available in the Library. It is an immensely thorough and acceptable work and it shows that 40 per cent. of the firms located in Central London remain there partly for the simple reason that they have always been there.
Another 37 per cent. do so for reasons of prestige. This was only one of a number of reasons given in response to this question. Tradition and prestige were given as the main reason for remaining in London by 15.8 per cent. of the respondents to the questionnaire, and so I do not think it can be said truthfully that this proliferation of offices in London is meeting an economic demand.
We have heard the figure given by the London County Council for the amount of extra office space to which they were already committed in 1963 and which would mean about 170,000 extra office jobs in Central London. What the Study did not mention, and what the Report of the Standing Conference was at pains to emphasise, is that one must consider 984 the problem of office employment in London in relation to the whole of the conurbation and not the central area alone; and that in the outer areas of the conurbation planning permissions already granted amount to another 35 million square feet which represents a further potential employment increase of 230,000 workers. The Minister said 200,000, but I am referring to the figure given by the Standing Conference. As that body is composed of the local authorities which actually granted the planning permissions I should think that it is likely to be a reliable figure.
Even if there were a complete freeze of planning applications from this moment onwards, we should already be committed to an extra 400,000 office jobs within the conurbation and this rise would be likely to happen largely during the first half of the twenty-year period we are considering. In fact, one could get confirmation of this by considering the three years, 1959–62, when total employment in the conurbation rose by 200,000 jobs, of which about four-fifths were in service employment. If that rate were continued—I think that this piece of arithmetic is worth doing—it would mean that by 1980 another 1¼ million would be travelling into the conurbation to work every day—accepting for the moment the assumption made in the South-East Study that there would be no change over this period in the size of the Greater London population. In my view, that situation, or anything approaching it, would be absolutely intolerable and the Government have a duty to take every possible step to prevent it.
I believed a long time before the Town and Country Planning Act last year that Third Schedule rights should be completely repealed. We supported the Measure when it came before the House, but we were disappointed that those rights were not completely removed. We have always said that it would be a good idea to levy rates on vacant property because this would ensure that the best use was made of existing office accommodation. The kind of case to which attention has been drawn in the House should be prevented, in which speculators put up enormous blocks and allow them to stand empty for perhaps 18 months while rents catch up with their inflated demands. Incidentally—this is particularly germane to 985 what we are now discussing—it would also help local authority revenues in the Greater London area.
Most important of all, I believe, and as some hon. Members opposite are coming round to believing, that office development should be subject to the same kind of I.D.C. control as manufacturing industry. I am not certain whether this should not also apply in cases where planning permission has already been granted, but not taken up. If the figures given by the Standing Conference are correct, and we are already committed to 400,000 extra office jobs within the conurbation, I am wondering whether this licensing procedure should apply in those cases where planning permission has been granted but construction has not yet started.
I think it utterly illogical to make a distinction between office construction and manufacturing construction for this purpose. It is particularly so because as industry becomes more and more automated, the proportion of employment in manufacturing will steadily decline and, conversely, employment in service industry will increase. That applies with greater force in the South-East than in England and Wales as a whole. As we know, service employment has accounted for nearly all the growth in the South-East over the last few years.
I am not sure that I can accept the idea put forward by the Minister that the Location of Offices Bureau can make much of an impact on this problem. No doubt it is true that the bureau has received many inquiries as a result of which some firms have been persuaded to move out who would not otherwise have done so. The test is, how many jobs have actually been taken outside the conurbation, as a result of this, which otherwise would not have gone, and how many is that in comparison with the number of new jobs created over the same period?
The movement outwards within the conurbation should not be counted in this connection, as was said by the right hon. Member for Guildford. I would much sooner consider office employment throughout the whole conurbation. I should be interested in the result of 986 splitting the figures between the movement out within the conurbation and the movement to new centres outside the green belt. I do not think that the figures would be likely to prove very impressive because the Minister did not give them in his speech.
I want to deal with what have been the indications of this South-East Study particularly as they affect commuters. We have these measures to slow up growth in employment in Central London and partially in outer London as a whole, but whatever is done in that connection employment in London will continue to increase and it will not be balanced by an increase in the population
One has this picture of a steadily increasing number of people coming into London to work every day. I find it difficult to talk about this constructively in the absence of the London Traffic Survey, which is in the possession of the Government but has not been published, or of a breakdown of the 1981 population of Greater London figures between the 32 boroughs and the City. The London Traffic Survey, giving a comprehensive picture of the travel in London at present, how it arises and will develop in future, will not be published until later in the summer. It is of immense importance in relation to this South-East Study.
One would have thought that the population estimates for the 32 boroughs and the City would have been available somewhere, but I asked the Minister as long ago as 8th February and only this morning I received a letter from the Parliamentary Secretary saying that, unfortunately, they could not be given at the moment and that it is an immensely complicated matter to differentiate between one borough and another. Surely if those who compiled the South-East Study can show that the population of Greater London as a whole will remain stationary over the thirty year period, that conclusion can be reached only by building up a picture from the separate authorities which constitute the Greater London area. I do not see how else they could arrive at the overall conclusion. It leaves one to doubt whether the conclusion has any value at all.
Paragraph 17 of the White Paper says:Local planning authorities will need to bring the land allocations in their development plans into line with up-to-date population estimates, and the Study will enable them to do so.987 How will it enable them to do so in Greater London unless this breakdown of the figures is given?
In this connection, I refer principally to transport. Any sensible planning for future transport requirements in the Greater London Area will be impossible until we get that breakdown. The Study says that, given the necessary capital investment, which amounts to about £100 million—one of the few figures given in the Study—British Railways would be able to cater for another 450,000 extra commuters, of whom 200,000 would be on the Southern Region.
Without the type of measures for discouraging office employment in London about which I have spoken, this provision will be grossly inadequate long before 1980. Even if the increase in the overall demand for British Railway's facilities can be kept within that 450,000, there will still be a tremendous problem in matching the extra facilities to the places where the demand is likely to arise. I have very little faith in the machinery for ensuring that this will happen. British Railways have no better means than we have of finding where population changes will be concentrated in London.
So far as I can make out there is not nearly enough contact between British Railways and local planning authorities to discover what immediate changes will take place within the framework of development plans which are already decided upon. I understand that in the Southern Region the timetable is to be recast in the summer of 1965 to allow for another five trains per day to come into Charing Cross and Cannon Street in the rush hour. This means one extra train on each of the main lines. There has been no consultation with local authorities in the area concerned to ascertain how those trains can best be deployed.
To give a constituency example, I understand that the train on the Orpington line is to have a last stop at Seven-oaks. I have not the faintest idea what reasoning led to this decision. It may be that pressures are stronger there than in my constituency, but if the railways took the trouble to consult the local 988 authorities concerned they would have found that we have a far higher rate of population growth than has Sevenoaks.
At present, we have 786 houses under construction in Orpington and in the next two years the council hopes to build a further 500. This is apart from the substantial private developments for which planning permission has been granted, in one case—at Crofton Place Farm—for 550 houses to be built over the period. There should be a continuous review by British Railways of developments taking place in outer London and beyond to decide where the extra facilities to be provided are most needed. It would not be at all difficult for them to consult local planning authorities and to get the information, say, twice a year on a regular basis.
There has been no attempt to assess the public investment implications which the plan demands. I have mentioned the £100 million which British Railways say they would need to cater for the 450,000 extra commuters. Another figure given in the Report is £65 million to be spent on water resources. If we add the cost of roads, gas, electricity and sewerage, and so on, obviously, the total will be very substantial. Having spent all this money, as the Standing Conference on London Regional Planning puts it, we may arrive at a situation which is not reconcilable with our present ideas of civilised living.
I hope that the Minister and his colleagues will think again about the population targets which the plan involves with a view to a better equalising of the growth between different regions.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Sir Derek Walker-Smith (Hertfordshire, East)
In my view, the South-East Study is a document of high quality. People may differ as to some of its actual proposals, but the lucidity of its analyses and the practicality of its approach are clear beyond challenge. Nevertheless, the high merit of the document should not blind us to the situation which it reveals, which in summary is that local planning authorities have so far got a good deal of their planning wrong, and that they have got their planning wrong because of inadequate or incorrect data and assumptions. This becomes clear from three short passages in the Study showing, respectively, the 989 assumption, the reality and the effect. The assumption is on page 7:Until recently, land use planning was based on the belief that the population level of England and Wales would be static or nearly so and, indeed, that there might even be a fall in population towards the end of the century.The reality is on page 9:between 1951 and 1961, natural increase in England and Wales, only marginally…came to just under 2 million, or virtually the 20-year expected increase in the first 10. In other words, the volume of natural growth during the decade 1951–61 proved almost twice as large as had been originally expected".The consequence of this is set out on page 24:Similarly with land allocations. Through no fault of the planning authorities, the current development plans fall well short of real needs, and many of them have not yet been revised to meet the requirements of the 'seventies. If these deficiencies are not corrected—and corrected with a good margin of tolerance for the future—artificial land shortages are likely to be created, land prices driven up higher, and the planning machine overwhelmed.That being the situation, we have clearly to revise and correct our town planning in regard to the real facts and the correct projections. There are three basic prerequisites to this task: first, practicality of approach having due regard to the economic aspect; secondly, reliability of statistical estimates; and thirdly, greater speed and adaptability in our machinery of planning.
In regard to the first of these matters, it must be about fifteen years since I put to Sir William Holford as the object of good town planning: the highest common factor of what is socially and aesthetically desirable and what is economically practicable. He was good enough to say that it was an admirable definition, and I have never since found anybody to dissent from it. Although it is unanimously accepted as an axiom, it does not necessarily follow it is always as effectively implemented in practice.
It is a fact that the economic aspect is insufficiently integrated with the present procedures for town planning. The pattern of legislation contributes to that, because it puts industrial development certificates outside the ambit of the ordinary planning procedures and into a quite different and departmentalised procedure within the Board of Trade. That being so, local planning authorities are encouraged to think of the economic 990 aspect as being something outwith their consideration in their town planning duties.
As pointed out in the Study, the I.D.C.s are only related to manufacturing industry, with the result that we get something like a vacuum on the other economic aspects, including the vital aspects of the service industries. I say "vital" because they include not only retail trade and administrative services, but also banking and insurance which contribute so much to our invisible exports on which our balance of payments so largely depends.
We see that in London, in the period 1955–62, 250,000 out of the 300,000 additional jobs were service industry jobs in this category. I was glad to see in the White Paper Cmnd. 1952 last year this statement:London is overwhelmingly the centre for these"—that is, banking insurance, and so on—and will go on being so. More offices will be needed in London if these services are to function efficiently and under modern conditions.These offices must, therefore, be sited where their economic requirements and those of the nation demand it. But it creates, as we know, very great town planning problems. I think that the Minister rightly apprehends that the key to the solution of this is a decentralisation policy based on retaining the essential executive head office administration in London and dispersing the clerical "body and tail" into the outer regions.
Logic is overwhelmingly in favour of that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hitchin (Mr. Maddan) has pointed out; but, unfortunately, in human affairs logic is never the only consideration and by no means always the decisive one. One has to have regard to the human element involved, and offices must go to some extent where office workers want them to go. Here we have something of a paradox. It is difficult for people, certainly like myself, for whom shopping and strap hanging are almost equally unwelcome, to appreciate that for many people the charms of the former more than compensate for the rigours of the latter; and this is especially so among the younger femi- 991 nine element of office workers who constitute such a preponderant element.
It is, therefore, vitally necessary as part of town planning to see that these outer centres are fully equipped with the amenities of shopping and town centre redevelopment. This is an essential part of the success of an office decentralisation policy and illustrates the indivisibility of town planning.
My other two prerequisites are the reliability of assumptions and the acceleration of town planning procedures. I can conveniently take them together, because they are obviously and closely interdependent. The reliability of statistical assumption is clearly something which has to be judged in the context of time. There is nothing wrong with last year's Bradshaw so long as one does not rely on it too closely for this year's or next year's trains. But there are two bad bases for town planning, one the use of last year's Bradshaw and the other the use of Old Moore's Almanack; and probably the worst thing is the combination of the two.
What, in fact, has to be done is to combine up-to-date information with long-term planning. That requires flexibility and obviously opens the door to error if planning for a 20-year period, as the Study frankly confesses. Our problem, therefore, is to minimise the chance of error and to maximise the chance of correction where error is inevitably made. That requires an acceleration of the processes and procedures of town planning.
In that context, I should like to refer to what is said in page 10 of the Study.Inevitably there is a considerable time-lag between revising the projections and incorporating the revisions in development plans. Consequently most current plans do not yet provide adequately for the likely natural growth of population.That is to say, in substance most development plans are still based on last year's out-of-date Bradshaw and the development plan processes, although conscientious, have so far been too slow and run the risk of reflecting the past rather than the future.
I think that clearly emerges from the time table of what has happened. Since the appointed day, 1st July, 1948, planning authorities have been under the duty of getting out a development plan and 992 revising it at least once every five years. So far, none has got as far as a second quinquennial review. Only 65 out of about 145 had by the end of 1963 submitted their first quinquennial review, and of those 65 fewer than one-half had so far got them approved by the Minister, That is to say, most local planning authorities are working on out-of-date development plans based on surveys which are still more out-of-date.
The acceleration of procedures could bring about necessary allocations of land in time and thereby greatly alleviate the problem of housing shortage and save a good deal of abortive administrative endeavour. It is, however, true that however well we plan we still have the formidable task of finding accommodation for these 3½ million people in the South-East, because I think that the Study makes out its case on this. But I do not think that we ought to set about it in a melancholy or defeatist mood. An expanding population is a good thing. I quite admit that most of us while we agree with that in general principle greet its particular manifestations with some doubt. It is an unhappy truth that, although we are enjoined on the highest authority to love our neighbours as ourselves, our affection for them generally grows in relation to the distance by which they are removed from us. Nevertheless, an expanding population is a manifestation of a thriving and vigorous community, and a declining population is a symptom of a nation's decline. We should therefore be glad of the facts which are thrown up in the South-East Study.
We have to question where precisely the land is to be found, and on that I want to say that there are several counties which have already made a contribution far beyond the average to the housing of Britain's growing population. Over the decade, 1951–61, Hertfordshire had an increase of 36½ per cent., and from 1961 to 1965 it has an estimated increase of a further 9.9 per cent. Berkshire, which comes second in the decade ending 1961, with an increase of 32.7 per cent., overtakes Hertfordshire in the following quinquennium with an increase of no less than 14.2 per cent. estimated for 1961–65.
These factors place considerable financial burdens on the ratepayers of those counties and a strain on their services, with congested transport, crowded 993 schools and the like. If those counties are to go on receiving a population on anything like this scale and beyond their average share, there must be consideration by the central Government of ways of alleviating their position by a revision of the grant formula or otherwise. I do not want to detain the Committee on that. I hope quite soon to have the pleasure of introducing to my right hon. Friend a deputation from the six counties primarily affected, and I am sure that he looks forward to that as keenly as I do.
I come, therefore, to my last point, which is on the green belt and on the financial aspects of land values. These points to me have both constituency and national significance. I agree, in the main, with the approach of the Study to the green belt; the green belt must be permanent and it must be known to be so, because on that its efficacy depends. This does not mean that it cannot be changed in detail, because, clearly, town planning is not a sufficiently exact science to admit of such a suggestion. But I agree with what is written on page 93 of the Study:Any changes that may be necessary in the green belt will be small, and should be planned as a whole with regard to the final result".But it is right to say that the Study seems to contemplate a rather substantial nibbling, with the possibility of the accommodation of 150,000 people in the green belt. Again, it reiterates, in particular, the possibility of invading it in a major way in the Lea Valley. On that I must repeat what I said to my right hon. Friend when he first referred to this last year. First, if there is to be housing in the Lea Valley, there must be a clear priority for local needs. Secondly, it must not be on a scale which detracts from the principle or the reality of the green belt.
Today I would simply add that there appears to be a suggested justification for an invasion of the green belt in derelict glasshouses and their unsightly appearance. My right hon. Friend will appreciate that, with residential land values at their present level, we must be very careful about giving, or appearing to give, a bonus in respect of derelict glasshouses or unsightly areas. While we have this wide discrepancy in values, that would be putting a premium on horticultural inefficiency and imposing a 994 penalty on efficiency. Further, if there is to be a collective alienation to residential use of green belt land, then people will see no logic or equity in widely different values for similar land, more particularly if the advantage goes to that which has been conducted with less efficiency.
I therefore ask my right hon. Friend—and suggest to the Committee whether the time has not come for a fresh appraisal of the old complex problem of development value, compensation and betterment. More than 20 years ago this was authoritatively dealt with in the Report of Lord Justice Uthwatt. In fact, the solution was bedevilled by the doctrinaire obstinacy of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, when in office, in imposing a 100 per cent. development charge. We from these benches warned them of the consequences—the frustration of development, the distortion of the market and the administrative breakdown.
All those things happened sooner rather than later; and when, by an early Act, the Conservative Government abolished the 100 per cent. development charges, no voice was raised in opposition. My recollection is that there was not even a single solitary tear moistening a single Socialist eye to salute their passing. No one has ever suggested resurrecting the 100 per cent. development charges, but, unfortunately, the blunder of imposing them has not removed the problem. It has only delayed its solution. The problem is accentuated by the pressure on building land of a rising population.
The country does not want to see people's development value confiscated 100 per cent. and still less does it want to see people's land taken away from them. But the country does want to see whether we cannot devise a fair method of reasonable recoupment of betterment by the community in proper cases. That, of course, is orthodox Conservative doctrine, although the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) appears to have forgotten it. It is enshrined, as he ought to know, in the Conservative Town and Country Planning Act 1932, which was abolished by the Socialist Act of 1947. I therefore think that my right hon. Friend should give consideration to whether we should 995 again initiate a contemporary assessment of the problem as independent, as authoritative and as objective as that of Lord Justice Uthwatt in his day.
I conclude by joining those who have expressed their appreciation of the Study. My right hon. Friend will be fully justified in conveying to the anonymous authors the appreciation of the House for their diligent labours and for the interesting results which they have produced.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Skeffington (Hayes and Harlington)
I am sure that the Committee was intrigued and interested by the last part of the speech of the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith), particularly when he emphasised the need for the community to become possessed of some part of the betterment of the value of land which is due to the community's effort and not the landowner. His history of what happened in 1952 with the repealing Act by the Conservative Government is not entirely accurate. Although I was not a Member of the House between 1950 and 1953, I know that the repealing Measure was opposed from this side of the House, although there was always a case for suggesting that the 100 per cent. development charge ought to have been at a rate of 75 per cent. Many hon. Members maintained that view, including some on these benches. Even there, the right hon. and learned Gentleman is not quite right.
The principle that the community should take back to itself some of the enhanced value of land which its own activities have created is highly respectable and was approved in the House of Lords as early as 1894. The remarkable feature is that, apart from the very bold experiment of the 1947 Act—which was an imaginative Act in many respects, and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have paid tribute to it—no Government has yet been able to tackle the land betterment problem with sufficient courage and sufficient foresight. I hope that that stage in history will shortly be reached. If I have time—I do not want to take too long—I propose to say something about Labour's land proposals at the end of my speech.
996 The subject of this Study is so important and covers so many complex social and economic problems that the difficulty is to know where to start and what to leave out. If I do not draw attention to all the weaknesses which I conceive to be in the Government's position, it is not that I have become acclimatised to any of them, but merely out of consideration for other hon. Members who want to take part in the debate. I repeat what has been said about the Report; the able way in which it has been prepared and the fine work of those who prepared it. Our criticisms are very much more fundamental and centre on the Government's muddled policy.
It is a fundamental criticism that I do not believe it possible to make forecasts about the development of a region, still less to guide development in all its complex manifestations, if we attempt to do so only in one corner—although it is an extremely important corner—in this narrow and congested island. This was one of the most important matters which was raised at the Standing Conference on London Regional Planning. As it was pointed out there, there is no guarantee that the assumptions and proposals in this Survey will fit into the proposals and assumptions of other surveys for other parts of the country. It is very much as though the Government are attempting, heaven forbid, to manufacture a car—concentrating on the details and dimensions, the measurements of the front off-side wheel without knowing the size of the rear wheels and how far they are from the front wheels. It would be a peculiar machine. So here we have concentrated on only one part.
Many people fear, and authoritative technical opinion outside Parliament tends to confirm, that the proposals are unlikely to be realistically accepted until one knows how the South-East Study will fit in with the other studies in other parts of the country. I should have thought that the proper way to go about this kind of exercise—an exercise which is essential for regional, land planning and development in general—was to start with a national employment policy. In its slow, plodding way, N.E.D.C. is following a more realistic approach. It wants to find out all about 997 the declining industries, the consequences on the areas in which those industries are situated in 10 to 20 years' time, the places where there is a hard core of unemployment and where a national policy is the only way to bring beneficial change. This is the only approach to adopt and until we have a national employment policy I do not see how any study can be assumed relevant in relation to the country as a whole.
Many other parts of the country are highly suspicious of the Study because not sufficient consideration is given in it to parts other than the South-East. I understand that, while studies are going on in some parts of the country, no Study teams have been formed in some areas. This is bound to cause distrust and will go on while the Government concentrate on the South-East and until we have an effective national employment policy.
We cannot expect the present Government, with their philosophy, to do very much about this problem. There are tinkerings at times with such things as industrial locations, and during the last three or fours years the Board of Trade has been less ready to grant certificates for industrial development in the South-East, but if one looks at the Government's policy—whether it is the period to which the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East mentioned or not—one sees that either they have shown very little interest in location problems facing us or, when they have shown some interest, that their policies have been largely ineffective.
I have taken the trouble to look up the figures of new factory building over the years. In 1939, one-half of all new factory development took place in London or the South-East—the present area of the Study. Between 1945 and 1950 that policy was reversed—I was going to say by a rather tough Administration, but perhaps it was not so much a question of toughness as of a better and national policy. However, instead of it being one-half, only 12 per cent. of factory building took place between those years in London and the South-East. Thirty per cent. of it went to the North, bringing about 300,000 new jobs to that area. This shows what a positive employment policy can mean 998 and it is obvious that we should now proceed that way.
As there was failure in 1939, so there has been failure since 1951 in the Government's location of factory building policy. One-half of new jobs in the last 10 years, more than 1 million of them, have been in London and the South-East. Only 4 per cent. of new jobs, about 240,000, have gone to the old development areas. By allowing development—and this is one sector of industry which is controllable even under Conservative administration—imbalance has been caused; it is obvious that this imbalance has contributed greatly to the congestion and confusion in the South-East. The Study reveals the failure of Government policies to control factory building and its location.
I do not accept the figure of 3½ million population expansion as the requisite figure for the South-East. However, it is right to assume a very high figure indeed, because the Government are so often wrong in their figures relating to population expansion. Although I do not object to the figure being stated in the Study, I regret that the Government have accepted it in a so entirely defeatist way.
In addition to controlling the location of industrial premises, much more could have been done about the office buildings. My hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) has already referred to this subject and I will add to her remarks by only pointing out that by mid-1962 in Central London there were already being used 115 million sq. ft. of office space. This was a considerable addition to the pre-war figure of 87 million sq. ft. in 1939. By mid-1963—when we were dealing with the Government's modest Measure to take off a little of the effect of the 10 per cent. of the Third Schedule—we knew that 25 million additional sq. ft. had already been approved, which means that offices are now being prepared for 170,000 additional workers—or about 15,000 a year for the next six or seven years Trafalgar Square, filled with people, equals the number of additional office workers who will be provided with places each year in London.
The Government must call a halt to this trend by one of various methods. One method, as my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) pointed out, 999 would be to delay existing permissions. This would be right in the national interest. The Minister should not go on allowing 15,000 more people each year to pour into the centre of London and adding to the congestion and to the social expense and the expense and difficulty to individuals.
One might say that if additional office building is to be allowed, those exercising the privilege of having their offices in London—and with the present pressure on the City it is a great privilege—should be prepared to pay more heavily for that privilege by one means or another. The Government might consider some form of payroll tax. Whatever method is adopted, the I.D.C. procedure for industrial buildings should in future apply to offices as well. Something must be done to lessen the cataract of new office employment being created in the heart of London.
The Economist Intelligence Unit made a study some time ago. It showed that at least one in every five of the firms investigated could conduct its business equally effectively outside London. In a study made some years ago by the Town and Country Planning Association it was shown that 60 firms which had gone all reported that their working conditions were better and their costs less for being outside London. It is to be hoped that, by the use of inducements of all kinds, the present pressure on the centre will be reversed, even beyond the green belt, for it is not much use sending office building and industrial premises merely to the periphery of the built-up area.
When one considers the part of the study dealing with transport one sees the sort of Alice in Wonderland atmosphere in which the Government have been working for the last few years. Dr. Beeching was given his remit, although it was quite unrealistic because he was concerned purely with the railways and not with other forms of transport. Now it appears from the Study that we are to reverse, certainly for this region, a great deal of the work Dr. Beeching and his staff put in. Expenditure of £100 million is now envisaged for building up the railways, enlarging them and replacing much of the track that has been torn up. This is an extraordinary commentary on the way 1000 in which the Government have managed their affairs. I suppose that it is a classic example of Conservative planning.
It is interesting to note that there is not one of the new or expanded towns where rail services have not been cut or severely curtailed. I shall not mention them all but, to name a few, there is Newbury, with a curtailed service between Newbury and Didcot, and I understand that the whole line is threatened with closure. The line which used to connect Birmingham and Cheltenham with Winchester and Southampton was closed some time ago. In the Portsmouth area there is excessive curtailment. Bletchley is losing its rail link with Buckingham.
The line between Oxford and Cambridge running through Bletchley is now threatened. The Cheltenham-Marlborough-Andover service, a useful north-to-south line, is already threatened. Ashford due for expansion is losing its link with Hastings, another town which is due for expansion under the Study. The New Romney-Ashford link is to be cut. Ipswich is to lose its connection with Norwich. The Bedford link with Northampton, Hitchin and Stratford-on-Avon has been severed. I could go on, but I will not mention any more examples because of lack of the time.
This is a fantastic situation. Dr. Beeching was appointed to do the job four years ago. He has carried out loyally and effectively the remit which was given to him, and now the whole plan is to be reconsidered. We are now told that we can expect another 400,000 commuters on the railways, coming into and crossing London, at an additional expenditure of £100 million. There is a curious passage on page 45 of the Study which states:It might be necessary to eliminate some stopping services, perhaps even to close certain inner suburban stations on the critical approaches to the London termini…How are the people who live there to get about? I know that there is to be a much more detailed study but, for what it is worth, this shows the curious way in which the Government have failed to grasp the problem for a very long time.
My last substantial point relates to the acquisition of the land for these various schemes. Undoubtedly, there is 1001 going to be a good deal of development in the South-East, and I want, first, to consider the pure town planning procedures. The local authorities said the Minister will release land in accordance with normal town and country planning procedures. In some parts of the Home Counties this means nothing at all. In a debate a few weeks ago I gave a number of examples in Kent and Middlesex where the planned population for 1970–78 had, in a number of cases, already been exceeded, with consequent overstrain on all the social services. There is no point in having planning if it does not bear some relation to the consequences. Planned populations have been exceeded without some of the authorities concerned even being conscious of the fact. Some planning officers have been surprised to hear that their population figures have already exceeded those laid down in their development plans.
I should like to know how it is thought that even on the office administration side this development is going to be under practical and administrative control. Take, for example, the County of Kent. No attempt is made to integrate the town maps. Indeed, some very important places have not got a town map. Maidstone, 17 years after the Act authorised it to get its town map, still has not got such a map. I hope that somebody will be able to tell us how, on the purely administrative side, the land is to be released and how there is to be some relationship between development and the social services, so that we can avoid large classes in schools, six months waiting before admission to hospitals, and so on.
I now want to deal with the Minister's suggestion for acquiring the land. We had a short intervention from the Minister, when he was rather clearer than he has been today, on 20th March in a rating debate, when he said:Let me repeat the assurance in the Government's undertaking in the White Paper to acquire through public agencies, in advance, as necessary, all the land needed in the communities that in due course, after consultation, are established as new towns or expanded towns. The existing new town procedure, by which the Government have already established 19 new towns, will remove altogether the chance of speculation in these designated new communities."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th March, 1964; Vol. 691, c. 1938.]1002 That statement does not deal with land which has to be found for the 2¼ million who will not be in new towns or expanded towns. No wonder The Times, the following morning, said that the Minister's answer as to how the land was to be found was not wholly satisfactory. I regard it as completely unsatisfactory.
Let us deal with the Minister's suggestion that the new town procedure will remove the chance of speculation in these designated new communities. Even using the procedure under the 1961 provisions, where comprehensive development of this kind is carried out, the local authority acquiring the land will still pay the market value of the land as land required for house building. It means that in Kent, where I made some inquiries, land valued at £250 or £300 per acre as agricultural land is valued by the district valuers for building purposes at at least £4,000 or more. Here is speculative value at least sixteen times the actual existing use value. Similar figures apply in the investigations which I have made in Middlesex.
It is quite clear that the Minister's statement that this procedure will remove speculation altogether is not true. It is high time that this was known throughout the country. The price of land for the 2¼ million people who will not be in the new or extended towns will, of course, be the ceiling. It will be the maximum speculators value. We shall have all over again the situation to which the right hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East referred, in the Lea Valley where nine acres had an existing use value of £4,000 which became £80,000 overnight. This is the kind of speculators' paradise to which the Government are subjecting land in the South-East. The Government underestimate the seriousness of public resentment. The only people who support the Government are the land owners. Factory developers and local authorities do not want to pay these astronomical prices; neither do owner occupiers. The Minister's brazen defence of the market value for the great proportion of this land will not be forgotten by the public in the months to come.
This sort of thing has been going on for a long time. In January of this year in the Estates Gazette of 25th January 1003 a very respectable firm, Hillier Parker May & Rowden were offering 89½ acres, and in big type appeared the words:Green belt land… Possibility of future development.This is the sort of thing that is happening, and the Minister treats us as though we were a lot of children who knew nothing about it. There is a vast speculative ramp going on, and I hope it will not be long before the people sweep away the present Government who are prepared to permit this sort of thing to continue.
§ 7.49 p.m.
§ Sir Anthony Hurd (Newbury)
I agree with some of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington). It is a pity that we have not got a fuller picture of the present situation and prospects in all the regions. The problems of the South-East are obviously the most pressing and, the Government having given us this Study, I think we ought to get on as best we can with the information that is available to us.
We have all become obsessed with the thought of another 3½ million people having to be crammed into the South-East in the next 20 years. We ought to keep in our minds the fact that there are other areas where the opposite conditions prevail. I have heard my hon. Friends from Lincolnshire, East Anglia and Dorset telling the House of shrinking populations in their market towns. I am by no means convinced that there is not scope for industrial and business development in Lincolnshire, East Anglia and Dorset, just as much as there is in the South-East. Today communications can be made as good for Norfolk and Dorset as they can for Newbury, or indeed for Southampton or Portsmouth. We surely want to try in planning ahead to keep a balance in population, prosperity and activity between one part of the country and another.
I want to refer particularly to my part of the south-east region, Berkshire. We in Berkshire do not want to be greedy. My right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) has already given us credit for being the fastest growing county in the kingdom, with a population increase of 34.8 per cent. in 1004 the past ten years. That fertility is with us today, and it will no doubt continue.
Bracknell has its new town. The county borough of Reading is growing fast. So is Didcot. Not far over the Berkshire border Swindon has ambitious schemes for expansion going ahead, as has Basingstoke. Newbury will go on growing; so will Thatcham, which adjoins it. We are generating our own urban expansion quite fast enough.
It is not until west of Newbury on the Bath Road—the A.4—that open farming country is reached and one gets away from the London commuter belt. This is a good 60 miles west of London. There is spasmodic urbanisation nearly all the way along that road until one gets west of Newbury. Yet it is just west of Newbury, between Newbury and Hungerford, that the Study Group suggests that the new city should be built, the new centre of growth established, to provide work and houses for 150,000 at first, and then for a quarter of a million. The Study Group suggests a model city, to be a magnet which would draw in yet more people from other parts of the country.
The Study Group seems to have sketched on a map where it thinks the much disputed M.4 motorway—the South Wales Motorway—will run. There is a great argument about the route it should take. The Study Group assumes that the Minister of Transport will decide that it should take the south route. The Study Group has also imagined where another motorway will run from Southampton up to the Midlands. The Study Group says that these two motorways will cross, possibly just west of Newbury, and so that is where this great new city should be established.
This is all pie in the sky. We have not settled the line of the motorway. In any event, I doubt whether that is a good reason for siting a new city at that point. It is misconceived siting if the purpose is to relieve concentration in the London area, because Newbury is less than 60 minutes by fast train from London. Surely this is much too close for a new city intended to spread the population load which is now pressing on the London area.
1005 I emphasise that this is unspoiled country and it is well farmed, thanks to the good sense of landowners and farmers in the past, now backed up by the local planning committees. It is highly developed in the agricultural sense, not in the sense in which my right hon. Friend used the word "developed" at the start of the debate. It is fully developed farming land; land which is not alienated from agriculture to urban use.
In the White Paper the Government confirm that high quality agricultural land should not be taken for urban development wherever there is a practical alternative. I agree with the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) that that is not a very firm undertaking. I trust that this will be more than a passing acknowledgement of the significance of taking 12,000 acres of good farming land in the Newbury-Hungerford district and, moreover, the effect of intensive urban development there on the character and use of a considerably greater area of farming land in the immediate neighbourhood.
I cannot believe that the Ministry of Agriculture was consulted before the Ministry of Housing and Local Government let this plan loose for a new city there. It is first-class land which is well farmed and productive. I should like to ask my right hon. Friend at what stage the Minister of Agriculture will be consulted. Will the Berkshire Agricultural Committee, which knows the position even better than the Minister of Agriculture, also be consulted, as it would have been if it had been an ordinary case of farming land being alienated for another purpose, say for a road or a school? It is all the more desirable in this major case that full weight should be given to the agricultural considerations. That is what the White Paper says will be done and what the Minister says will be done. The House of Commons must ensure that it is done. I hope that we shall get the opinion of the Ministry of Agriculture on that without delay and that it will be decisive as to land use.
I note that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government has called a meeting in Newbury on 22nd May at ten o'clock in the morning, which is not a very convenient time for my constituents who have to work, but that is the time 1006 fixed. It has called together representatives of the local councils which have responsibility in the area, who will hear an address from one of the Ministry officials who knows all about the Study proposals.
I welcome that, because, as the Study said—the success of any expansion scheme must owe a great deal to the co-operation of the local authorities and the good will of the local inhabitants, and this implies full discussion and consultation before final decisions are taken.This is very true.
I should warn the Minister that, whatever other feelings have been aroused so far—the good will of the local inhabitants"—has not been kindled and he must expect some fireworks at the Newbury meeting later this month. We want an early decision so that we can get on with our ordinary lives and business without meeting this new city bogey at every turn. Every local development is being held up until a decision is reached.
My right hon. Friend said that he hoped to reach a decision by the turn of the year. I hope that means the autumn rather than the end of the year. The sooner the better. I will give the Committee three instances of what is held up. Berkshire Education Committee now tells the parents of Kintbury that their children cannot have the new school needed there until we know whether the village is to be submerged in a city. Newbury Rural District Council is holding its hand on housing development in the villages.
Newbury Borough Council also feels that it should not move ahead with its plans for the redevelopment of the town centre or for the possible use of part of Greenham Common Air Base for housing until we know if there is to be this new city. While the new city phantasy rests on us, no local authority will go ahead with the developments which are urgently needed in the area.
I conclude with my own advice to the Minister, if I may tender it. As the case for forcing the growth of a new city in the Newbury-Hungerford area is the most improbable and least acceptable of the proposals made by this Study Group, I hope that for the sake of the rest of the proposals my right 1007 hon. Friend will let this one be buried and become forgotten with all decent haste.
§ 8.0 p.m.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
I am too good a local government man to take part in the third battle of Newbury. From my experience of contact with the Ministry, I would only say that in this project it is concerned that everything should be done with the co-operation of the local authorities. I hope that when it carries out its pledge and meets the Berkshire authorities there will be good will on both sides and that the case will be thrashed out in a friendly way.
The proposals concerning Hampshire comprise the largest single venture in the whole plan. I serve on a small committee of the Hampshire County Council which has been examining the Study in detail for quite a time. However, I do not propose to deal with the Hampshire details. They will be worked out between the Minister and the three major local authorities concerned—Hampshire, Southampton and Portsmouth. Indeed, my county council has not yet made up its mind on its attitude to this tremendous proposal that there should be two or three new cities between Southampton and Portsmouth. I want to address myself to the broader issues raised by the Study.
The Study can be summed up very briefly, indeed almost factually. Only one contention probably of those I am giving in the summary may be questioned as to whether or not it is a fact. The first is that the population of the South-East will increase by 3½ million by 1981, and this increase will be more than the national average because there is an inevitable drift to the South. The Study says that, despite all that the Government can do, that drift may be checked, but that it will not be entirely stopped. Indeed, part of it—the drift to the South of retired people—cannot be prevented in a free society.
As its share in the national increase of population, the South-East has to take 2½ million people. The Study says that, in addition, we must take another 1.1 million immigrants from outside the region. It says, further—and this is a very serious point which we must argue 1008 about—the growth in jobs in the South is now proceeding at such a rate that even if we check it we shall have to provide more workers from outside to cope with the growth which will take place in the next 10 to 20 years.
One other general point is really factual. In this affluent society people are marrying earlier and are demanding homes earlier. The demand for houses increases every year at a greater rate than the population increases. London needs 550,000 houses in the next decade and can find the land for only 200,000. Therefore, the South-East, outside London, must provide for its own natural growth and build 350,000 houses to take inside the South-East, but outside London, 1 million people who would otherwise be in London and homeless.
Another bald fact is that, although the population of London has decreased by 189,000 in the last 10 years, the number of jobs in London has increased by 400,000. In other words, there has already been an outward migration from London along the lines which the plan would want of 580,000 people, of whom 250,000 went to new towns and town development. The rest went to live on the outskirts of London and added to the commuter problem.
Despite what the hon. and learned Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. Walker-Smith) said, local planners have managed to cope up to now with certain aspects of this problem—some of them very successfully. For instance, in Hampshire we have something new in local government—the very happy cooperation of the county council, which is not a housing authority, with the London County Council and minor authorities in the expansion of Basingstoke and Andover.
But the gigantic size of the problem postulated by the South-East Study must be measured nationally and planned nationally, or, at least, regionally, because it is beyond the capacity of any local planning committee. At the same time—and I hope that this debate will play a part in this, as the great conference of the Town and Country Planning Association did last week—we must make Britain aware of the gigantic nature, not only of the South-East Study, but of the population 1009 explosion of 7 million people which will occur during the next 10 years, of which this is only one feature, and of the need for urgent action because, as the Study says, we must start on this task by 1971.
I would, therefore, first offer my very sincere congratulations to those who drew up the plan. I thought that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) was rather finnicky in his attitude to the authors. A tremendous amount of careful study and an enormous amount of work has gone into this plan which is of a scale and a nature never seen in this country before. I congratulate the Home Secretary on initiating the Study when he was Minister of Housing and Local Government. Most of its contentions can be accepted broadly. I think that local authorities will modify some details of it, I believe, also, that Parliament and the next Government will fundamentally modify certain other more important features. I therefore wish to speak about my reservations, which I think I share with all my hon. Friends, and to make certain fundamental criticisms of the Study.
The first and obvious criticism is that there should be a national plan. I am one of those who think that we should have a national Minister of Planning who will link together the various Ministries tackling all the different aspects of forward planning. We have had the Beeching and Rochdale Reports. We now have the plan for the North-East. We have had the Buchanan Report on towns. The Ministry of Transport is planning the roads more or less successfully. We have the great Hospital Plan. At Question Time today an hon. Member raised the obvious point that the forward planning of hospitals must be modified as we add to the population of this part of the country.
Yet all these matters are at present in separate compartments. The reason I think is the fundamental one that the Conservative Party must, in the nature of things, be opposed to planning. We still have a group under the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) who has formed a new Cave of Adullam—those who do not believe in planning and who think that we must leave it to the blind forces of the profit motive. It is probably literally true to say that this Government have moved 1010 into planning only when they had to do so. They have come to it late.
They have always underestimated the population growth. I never indulge in hindsight, but the records of the House will show that 12 years ago we were pointing out in education debates that the first infant bulge would not be followed by a slump and that when the child population slipped it would not go back to the pre-war annual number of child births. We then began to say five or six years ago that the first bulge, which was followed by a second, would produce a third bulge when the children of the first bulge had children.
The ominous thing about the whole question of population is that it follows, as night follows day, that the children of these high infant birth rates each year will themselves have children and that the third infant bulge will surely be followed by a fourth infant bulge. When we attempt to cope with the problem of 1981, looming behind it is the equally serious problem of the year 2001.
Britain cannot afford to plan in sections. I said that I would not speak of my own part of the country, except to illustrate, and that is what I wish to do. Lord Rochdale aims at making Southampton one of the two major ports of the South, yet Dr. Beeching is cutting the railway communications to this major port. One of my hon. Friends has given a list of some of the railways which have been cut. One of those which have been abolished, against the wishes of the citizens of Andover, is a railway serving Andover, although it is to be one of the expanded towns.
When the Minister referred to this in reply to an intervention, he suggested that Beeching could be modified, but the county council and everybody in Hampshire have already been protesting against the cutting of the railway communication to Andover and telling Dr. Beeching that Andover already is an expanding town. Yet the line in question is one of those through to the Midlands which both Lord Rochdale and the South-Eastern plan say will be part of the vital communications with the expanded South-East.
I have said that Southampton is to be a major port. During the last nine months, however, British Railways has 1011 ended the Southampton-Le Havre boat service. The Government have even granted a concession to a foreign company to come into Southampton and run a car ferry service to Cherbourg, a concession which was granted even while we were pleading before the transport users' consultative committee and urging British Railways to run its own motor car ferry service. If the South-East is important for many reasons, one of them is its connections with Europe and if the port of Southampton is one of the country's major ports, one of the reasons is its proximity to Europe. What we ask is that the Government should not speak with two voices. They should not speak with the voice of Rochdale and the voice of Beeching, each speaking a different language.
My second serious criticism, and I make it, perhaps, more emotionally than I would have done 24 hours ago, is the fear on the part of the rest of Britain that the plan for the South-East will weaken the plan to re-energise the North, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is possible to be unfair to the plan. I emphasise that its basic assumption is that vigorous efforts will continue to be made to expand industry and to redevelop the North and Scotland. What the plan doubts is whether the drift South can be completely checked.
I will not weary the Committee with figures, but those responsible for the Study point out, for example, that if it were not for that assumption, the figure with which we would be coping in the South would not be 3½ million, but either 4 million or 6 million. The assumption behind the plan is that a vigorous policy will be pursued in the North to check the drift south. Yesterday, however, I was in Sunderland, a fine city with a great civic record. I had the privilege of visiting its fine schools, including a great comprehensive school and seeing its excellent housing estates. Overhanging Sunderland, however, is the shadow of 5 or 6 per cent. unemployment. Sunderland is characteristic of town after town and area after area in the North-East and in Scotland. We must therefore give one weight to the fears of the North.
One of the arguments behind the Study is that if a new city or large 1012 town is built it will act as a magnet to draw people from London. That is the heart of the proposal concerning, for example, Newbury, Bletchley and the new city group between Southampton and Portsmouth. The fear of some of the planners in the South, let alone the people of the North-East, is that if such new towns or cities act as a magnet to draw people out from London, they can also act as a magnet to draw people from the North-East, thus contradicting and undermining all that the North-East is doing and vitiating the planning for the other development regions. If that is true of the planning of a new city, it is even more true of the number of jobs available in the South.
The remarkable feature of the South, and the reason almost for the Study, is that the explosion of population into the South has been matched by an explosion during the last three years in the number of new jobs in the South. Therefore, the carrying out of a vigorous South-Eastern plan might mean that the drift of workers from the North, which we hope to succeed in arresting, will start again because of the very success of what we do in the South-East.
Now, a word about the 1.1 million immigrants to the South. Some of them are old folk and some are from the rest of England. I hope that we can arrest the drift of workers from the North, but I do not see how we can stop old folk from coming. The southern climate is more pleasant. I doubt whether, as a nation, we could afford to adopt the suggestion of my hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) and subsidise people to go and spend their retirement years elsewhere.
Sooner or later, however, we must ask ourselves whether we can afford to take into the country in the next 10 or 20 years the ½ million immigrants who are assumed in the Study to be coming. I say this as the last man in the world who has any idea of colour distinction between one human being and another. To me, however, in a country whose population is growing, there is a mathematical limit to the amount of immigration which we can cope with. None of these criticisms which I have made, however, militates against the basic feature of the plan. To put it crudely, 1013 even if we check all immigration into the South and not one old person comes, we will still have to cope with an extra 2½ minim people in the South-East by 1981. They have to be provided for. My grave criticism of the Government in planning is that they have not planned enough and they have not planned early enough or widely enough.
I have mentioned the effort that Hampshire has made to take in 80,000 of London's overspill. It was a great new venture, and there has been a lot of work in it, but during the same period as we have been coping with this new problem in town development, 400,000 new office jobs have been provided in London. We could have solved the problem by four or five times the extent that we were able to do by developing Basingstoke and Andover had there been a clamping down on office accommodation in London. And yet the Study gives us a picture of 170,000 new jobs already to be provided by new office accommodation in London to add to the commuter problem. I must say, as one who commuted only when I was doing research in the British Museum, years ago, that I wonder how the London citizen manages to endure the hardship of adding two or three hours of very uncomfortable travelling to his day's work which he does in London.
The Government first ignored the office problem. Since then they have fiddled with it. Behind the office problem is this terrible fact of money control in Britain so that it is more profitable to build offices than houses or schools. There was the financier who was mentioned in the debate we had—on the Bank Tribunal—and who was quoted as saying, "It may be bad for Britain but it makes sense to me." So the growth of office building may be bad for the commuters, but not for those who make so much money out of building these expensive offices.
I believe that we shall have to insist on industrial certificates for offices. I cannot see the logic of drawing a distinction between checking the incoming of an industry and checking the incoming of an office. I believe, too, that we have got to create a second capital in the North.
§ Mr. Lawson
Does my hon. Friend think that industrial development certificates have been very successful in check- 1014 ing the incoming of industry and particularly offices?
§ Dr. King
I am not saying they have been completely successful, but anyone who has had any experience in the South knows that it is quite difficult to get an industrial development certificate, and it certainly succeeded in reducing the number of people who would otherwise have come to the South.
With the Town and Country Planning Association, I believe that we have got to set up some new administrative centre somewhere in the North. It does not mean changing the political structure of Britain at all, but it could mean moving whole departments of the administrative machinery. Unless we really do something radical in this way then all we may do in the South will be as effective as a disincentive to the growth of London as taxation is to cigarette smoking.
The major defect of this plan, as of most of Government policy, in my opinion, is what it does about land. It is extraordinary that in this document there is no mention of the cost of land. This is Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. The plan, if it is carried out, will do one of two things. It can provide for homes and jobs and schools and factories at a colossally high price to tenants, ratepayers, industrialists, taxpayers; and at the same time it can hand over a mass of unearned tribute of millions of pounds to those who merely own the bits of land which the planners decide out of the 85 per cent. of undeveloped land are the 3 per cent. they will need under the scheme.
I was at the great conference we had of southern local authorities last week. There were the Minister himself, and representatives of the local authorities, and the planners, all thinking about one thing, what is good for the South-East and what is good for Britain? Even while we were meeting, outside the land speculators were wandering up and clown the south of England, the representatives of that group to whom elections mean merely another financial gamble, to whom foreign policy is merely another financial gamble, and to whom what Britain does under the South-East plan is merely a financial speculation—the real caterpillars of the Commonwealth who are preying on Britain.
1015 They burned their fingers in my county, at Hook, when London was thinking of having a new town at Hook, and we persuaded London to change its mind, but they made a great pile out of Basingstoke in spite of the fact that the land was caught under the town development scheme.
This South-East plan, unless we do something about it, opens a harvest to the landowner and speculator, compared with which all they have made in the last ten years will be chicken feed. This weekend's Press—and not the Socialist Press—tells us that Essex land prices have gone up in two years from £5,000 an acre to £14,000, which, the builders say, must add to the cost of any house from £500 to £750. This inflationary price is nothing to the inflation which can take place in the south-eastern area.
The other method of carrying out the plan is to achieve it without enriching a few people, to give to those people who have the land which Britain needs for this great plan a reasonable profit and not a racket profit, and to ensure that the betterment we are making by the industry and energy of the British people comes back to Britain rather than to a few people.
The Minister is quite clear about what he is going to do. One-third of the development is to take place—he is not quite sure yet whether under the new town scheme or the town development scheme. When we built Basingstoke up we begged the Minister then, "Let us have at least the virtue of the new town scheme" by which the local authority or new town corporation could buy up land and sell it out later. Even so, it was paying the market price, a quite fancy price. In Basingstoke we paid, so to speak, the next rate up, a fantastic price, for land on which we are housing the people of Basingstoke. One-third of the land will be semi-protected in this way, but two-thirds of the land involved in this scheme will be sold at the market price and the market price will be an inflated price, because the valuers, doing an honest job, and a great disservice to Britatin at the same time, will put on the value of the land the fact that it is part of one of the great new, well-built, architecturally developed, well-planned communities.
1016 We had an interesting speech this afternoon from the right hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Hertfordshire, East, who suggested that the Conservative Party had always been in favour of Uthwatt. In the summary in which the Town and Country Planning Association has given of the rival party's political views of the price of land, however, the Conservative Party's research department is quoted as saying, "Let the market work." If the market is allowed to work under the South-East development plan, the most ominous drift to the South will not be a drift of workers from the North but a drift of land speculators from the North taking out of the community £100 million which ought to belong to the community.
I hope that when the Labour party comes into power it will carry out much of the Study's proposals, but this plan stands or falls by the fair and honest treatment of the question of land values.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee (Wokingham)
It must be my misfortune—and I say this without disrespect—to follow the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King), for he is a very difficult person to follow if one wants to have anybody listening to one's own speech. I am bound to say that I do not think that he spoke with that precision of argument normally associated with him when he talked about the vexed problem of the purchase price of land. I put this consideration to him: it is very easy to equate all landowners with speculators from outside, people who deal in large quantities. It is true that there are such people. It is also true that such people have burnt, and continue to burn, their fingers when they miscalculate. The hon. Member quoted a good example. I can give others.
I put it to the hon. Member that, in the purchase of so much of this land, the vendors will be small people. I quote the experience of the new town of Bracknell, in my constituency. Unfortunately, I cannot produce statistics, much as I would like to. Yet I have a strong suspicion that the greater part of the land purchased under the new town procedure for the existing new town and its extension was probably 1017 bought from men and women whom both the hon. Member and I would regard as small people.
Under the law as it was, these persons received existing use value, which was nothing short of highway robbery. I can think of small people, often elderly, whose closing years were absolutely ruined by the derisory compensation they received for building which the district valuer, acting perfectly in accord with his professional duties, valued for only a few pounds. Admittedly, the standard is now market value, but many of the people with whom the hon. Member is concerned really had no compensation whatever, particularly in their closing years.
The difficulty of right hon. and hon. Members opposite and those of my hon. Friends who wish to devise some amendment to the system is to find something that is reasonably fair to the kind of person I have in mind. I believe that such people are far larger in number than we sometimes admit, and they are people on whom, quite frankly, we are to impose absolute displacement of their lives. We owe them at least reasonable and proper compensation.
The hon. Member said that he wished to see purchase prices with reasonable profits. It is when it comes to the definition of "reasonable profit" that it becomes so extremely hard to find a formula which is not grossly unfair to the small man whom I know he does not wish to penalise and which yet does not give an unreasonable profit to the large man. I still believe, as one who deals with these things in my professional life, that the only long-term solution is the provision of more land and that it is scarcity value which is pushing up prices unreasonably in certain places.
Like the hon. Member, I make no apology for drawing on constituency experience to illustrate some of the problems which this very good Study poses, for, like my hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir A. Hurd), I come from a county which has already contributed substantially to the growth of population in the South-East. Berkshire had a 32.7 per cent. increase of population in the 10 years up to 1961 and, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hertfordshire, East (Sir D. 1018 Walker-Smith) reminded us, Berkshire, so it is estimated, will show an increase in population of 14.2 per cent. in the short period between 1961 and 1965—the largest projected growth of any county in England, although I gladly concede that Hertfordshire has in previous years made a bigger contribution.
I wonder whether the Committee quite appreciates the sort of strains which such a growth imposes upon a county authority. For example, 9 per cent. of the population consists of children of the age of 5 and under, whereas the national average is 8 per cent. Our compulsory school age population of children from 5 to 15 totals 16 per cent. of the population compared with the national average of 14 per cent. It follows, of course, that the population of the elderly—people aged 65 and over—is lower than the national average.
This pressure upon the county is not adequately reflected at present in the financial arrangements between the central Government and the local authorities. My first plea centres on an argument which, as was indicated earlier, is to be pressed upon the Minister strongly. My plea is that as part of the thought going into the South-East Study we should, in fairness to the immensely quickly expanding communities, give thought to the financial adjustments, by way of the general grant, between the Government and the local authorities concerned.
Education is a very good example. Clearly, one cannot wait until the increased rate income is in one's pocket to provide schooling for the people moving in. It must clearly be ahead, but it must expand at a sharply increased rate. The very fact that it has to increase the proportion so very much faster imposes in itself both a financial and physical strain on the authority providing the services. I can illustrate this briefly and shortly by quoting the debt charges in Berkshire relative to education. In 1959–60 they were £1,393 per 1,000 of the population, whereas in 1962–63 they were £2,292 per 1,000 of the population. The average figure in the English counties is £1,623.
It is seen again in health, for reasons which are perfectly obvious from the statistics which I have given. For example, the pressures on maternity and 1019 child services in a county like Berkshire are proportionately the more pressing, yet I am not at all satisfied that in our dealings with the regional hospital boards we are sufficiently allowing a weighting factor for this sharply increased burden of population. I very much hope that it will be possible for my right hon. Friend when he receives this deputation to give serious consideration to assisting local authorities in this way. They have already done a considerable task and there is a fund of good will to do more.
While speaking about local authorities, I turn now to the subject of boundaries. I very much hope that, in so far as he has power to do so, the Minister will co-ordinate his thought and planning on the South-East Study with the Local Government Boundary Commission. Of course, I appreciate his limitations in this connection. Quite rightly, he has no direct control over a quasi-judicial body, and the House would not wish any Minister to have such control. But the fact is that if local government in an expanding area is to play its effective part, many cherished beliefs have to go out through the window.
The Local Government Boundary Commission will be reviewing major county and county borough boundaries in Berkshire and thereabouts in about a year or eighteen months. I have noticed a tendency in the county to look upon it as an occasion when there will be minimal adjustments, a little adjustment between Berkshire and Hampshire, a little adjustment between Berkshire and Surrey, the exchange of a village or two here and there, the tidying up of a boundary.
Something far more fundamental will be required. If the previous work of the Commission is to be believed, its recommendations are likely to be very much more fundamental than that, and the reform which it will propose, as in the Midlands and the North, will be fundamental and will unquestionably put strains on ancient and often valuable loyalties. I hope that it will be our genius that we can still preserve many of those ancient loyalties while streamlining local government for present needs and particularly present populations.
1020 I turn briefly to the vexed question of migration. We read that through work and retirement 1½ million are coming into the area during the period until 1981. I have three modest suggestions to make, one highly controversial.
Like the hon. Member for lichen, I, too, was in the North over the weekend. I was at Jarrow, at a most enthusiastic Conservative meeting. I also went to Whitehaven, which unquestionably will change its Member at the next General Election if the enthusiastic welcome that I was given there is anything to go by. At both places I was enormously impressed with the vitality which has been engendered by the plans for developing those areas.
My constituency in Berkshire is a typical area where from time to time irate industrialists and equally irate trade unionists come to me because the Government, through their I.D.C. policy, have refused to grant an I.D.C. for expansion. I am asked, "What in heaven's name are the Government, whom you support, doing?". I am told, "This business is mobile, it is close to its markets, it is close to new electronic welding and other new methods of manufacture in light industry, it is whipping export orders from under the very noses of foreign competitors who previosly held the market, and yet my right hon. and hon. Friends at the Board of Trade refuse to let it expand in this area and ask why it is not expanding in the North-East or Scotland?". They then say, "Why on earth should we go to such places, when they themselves say that they are dying areas?".
With all sincerity, I say to hon. Gentlemen opposite who represent Scotland, the North-East and the North-West, that one never sells a failure, and that, perhaps without always realising it, the constant running down of the work that is being put into those areas creates an impression in the South, among people on both sides of industry, that they are being invited to go to one large dump, and the B.B.C. does not help in this respect.
I strongly urge hon. Members who represent areas which have contributed enormously to the vitality and health of the whole nation to lose no opportunity for saying what is true, namely, that far 1021 from being in the doldrums and being places of the past, those areas are, if anything, places of the future.
I deal next with migration through retirement. The hon. Member for Itchen—and I accept his view—was gloomy about this. He said that he did not think that we could stop people from coming to the South because the climate here is so much better. But that is not so. It is one of the most cherished beliefs of the Southerner that the climate in the South is better than it is in the North, but if one considers the winter of the year before last, as people told me over the weekend, they were very much better off in the North than we were in the South, and, what is more, they are regularly so.
I want to make what I know must at first sound a hilarious suggestion, but I make it in all sincerity. One of the greatest difficulties in getting people to go to the North is the belief about the weather. The Meteorological Office is now well housed, beautifully centralised, efficiently run, and, funnily enough, is in the Wokingham constituency.
I urge that it should have put on it a study of weather conditions in the North, and these should be as widely publicised as any Government service can allow, because it is not natural for elderly people whose families are in the North to retire to the South, often miles away from their families, and miles away from the grandchildren whom they like to see. Such a study would show that there was every reason for staying in the places where they have lived all their lives, and where their families are living.
During my weekend visit I talked to both industrialists and men and women on the shop floor who had moved from the South to the North. I went round and talked to the members of one large firm in Newcastle. I do not propose to name it, but it is one of the biggest employers of labour in that part of the world. A large number of the technical and qualified staff had moved there from the South. I found not one who regretted the move. Why cannot we take into very short-term Government service—Purely for a month or two—some of those who themselves have made the move successfully, and who do not 1022 want to come back from the North or from Scotland? They speak with a far more effective voice than all the Government pamphlets ever published. I should like to see such people employed in constituencies like mine, in order to reverse the present trend.
Furthermore, a person who lives in that part of the world can, on Sundays, reach lovely country by travelling along roads on which, for many miles, there is hardly anybody else. He will not have to drive bumper to bumper in order to sit deck chair to deck chair on Brighton beach. It is in those sorts of ways that vie shall gradually arrest the present drift. I make these suggestions in all seriousness, adding, as other hon. Members have done, a warm tribute to the officials who have placed before us a very thought-provoking report.
§ 8.45 p.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Mendelson (Penistone)
I do not intend to follow the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) into a detailed discussion on the weather in two parts of the country. I wish him luck in getting his inquiry. I shall look forward with great interest to the results. But it would not be very safe to make that one of the pillars of future policy that he would recommend to Her Majesty's Government.
I was interested in the touch of simulated irritation shown by the Minister when I interrupted him to ask about the possibilities of general economic development and future population trends in all parts of the country, and whether they had been investigated before the Minister presented this plan to Parliament. He said that he did not quite understand how I could possibly have failed to see what he was doing. However, the point that I made has been repeated by a number of my hon. Friends, and the Minister should know that the point has also been discussed a great deal in the North—and not only in development districts there.
My first point, which is of great importance to my area, is that if the Government put forward for approval a development plan dealing with the main growth area in recent years without any general guidance being provided as to the economic policy which they have in mind—not only for development 1023 districts but for the country as a whole—they are presenting an incomplete picture, upon which no proper judgment can be made by the representatives of the people in this House.
In reply to another intervention the Minister said that he was clearly determined, as were the Government, to continue with the policy of encouraging industry to go into areas of high unemployment and short-time working which are scheduled areas. But he said nothing about those northern areas which are not development districts. It must be remembered that the essential task of any Government's economic policy is to provide a balanced economic development over the next 10 to 15 years. It is putting the cart before the horse to present Parliament with a series of detailed documents which, excellent though they may be in themselves—and this development plan, although good in certain parts is not so good in others—deal each with only part of the country, without also putting on the table the general economic development plan for the whole nation. To fail to do this is to fail in one's duty as a responsible Government.
The Minister has been peculiarly reluctant to enter into a discussion on this problem, but before the debate concludes I think that the Committee is entitled to receive a serious answer to it. It is not only a question of allowing for the migration of people who wish to retire. It is not only a question of saying that a number of people would prefer to work in the South-East. There has to be a concerted Government policy taking account of the future planning of our economy and social life in which a whole range of Government Departments have to co-operate. The Minister made light play with the question about the Beeching Plan which was put to him during his speech. I cannot quote him verbatim from memory, but he said something to the effect that the Minister of Transport has, of course, to approve any closures and that is the place where reconciliation takes place.
What an absurd reply. If we have economic development plans which are moving in one direction, and the Minister of Transport is provided with plans which move in another and altogether 1024 different direction—as has been proved conclusively by several of my hon. Friends and by hon. Members opposite, who have serious "Beeching problems" of their own—we shall waste valuable years if only after a great deal of protest and argument we begin to correct some of the wrong decisions which the Minister of Transport has before him. That is not planning, it is piecemeal advancement of policies and we have here a Minister calling that the place for reconciliation.
The right hon. Gentleman vastly exaggerated the possibilities. As was proved by my hon. Friend the Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington), there are a whole range of closures contemplated in precisely those areas which, according to this plan, are destined to become the main development areas for new towns and cities in the South-East. The argument about development districts in Scotland, the North-East and in other parts needs special attention. It is not good enough to say that the policy will be continued without saying anything about the economic policy which would encourage the growth of new industries and the development of existing growth industries in South Yorkshire and the West Riding generally and all the other parts of the country in the North which are not scheduled as development districts.
Many hon. Members who represent constituencies in Yorkshire have put questions to the Minister of Industry, Trade—and all the rest of it. He has given an indication that the Government may be getting round to some serious thinking about these areas. If they have decided to have development plans for those areas which are in no way coordinated with what the Government planners have in mind for the area we are discussing today, it will be a cockeyed sort of planning. It will be a sort of policy which looks all right when applied separately for each area, but which does not make sense for the country as a whole.
The Minister is a pastmaster in addressing himself to questions which have not been put to him and in avoiding answering those questions which have been put to him. He was equally evasive about the problem of land prices and land development. In his whole 1025 statement he showed no recognition whatsoever of the potential level of speculative prices which will be reached in the area. I was sorry that the Minister missed one speech by one of his hon. Friends who severely criticised the four major aspects of Government policy and then felt it necessary to say to hon. Members on this side of the Committee, in conclusion, that he thought it an excellent plan which he fully supported after having criticised the four decisive aspects of the plan. Several other hon. Members, including a former Minister of Health—who made a very interesting speech—demanded that there must be some new consideration of what is happening to the allocation of additional profit for development land which comes on to the market.
The Minister made a great deal of fun about the proposals which we have put forward from time to time, and because he spoke in that manner, I wish to put on record an experience which I had recently. It so happened that I was attending a social function at which 11 others were seated round the table. As soon as they discovered that some who were taking part in conversation were interested in property development, it turned out that some of those present were property developers. They expressed themselves in glowing terms about the policy of the Minister, which they fully supported. If he were here now I would offer to give him the names of those attending the social function. They then expressed their horror and fear about the possible return of a Labour Government later this year.
Whenever the Minister makes a speech as he did this afternoon, completely denying that there is a problem and talking in general terms about people having to pay for their houses as much as they do have to pay, he is doing very good work for the Labour Party. Property developers and speculators will fully support him, but there is not a single other section of the community which will be with him in this policy. He repeated this afternoon the bland phrase that, of course, the increased price of land is not in any way stopping the building of additional houses. There is a hidden mis-statement even in that simple pronouncement. We have to examine the kind of houses and the kind of flats which have been built.
1026 In an area I know very well in North Finchley, during the period of administration by this Government a block of luxury flats has been built. This is some of the additional housing about which the Minister boasts in his statistics. The lowest rent for a flat there is £22 a week, unfurnished. When the Minister talks about the amount of housing and additional accommodation which he says has not been interfered with by the prices charged he does not tell the Committee that a great deal of building material and of space is misdirected to the kind of luxury building of which I have spoken. For the people we consider—those who need homes in the London area and other parts of the country—a luxury flat with a rent of £22 a week is worse than useless; it is a mockery.
When the Minister talks like this he appears to forget the hidden heartbreak behind the reality of the situation, how much of the total income has to be paid by young couples for some of the additional accommodation he boasts about. When he brushes aside any possibility of additional speculative profit-making in the implementation of the South-East Study, he deliberately ignores the warnings from all sides. Some statements have appeared in reputable newspapers about people who have bought properties in areas scheduled under the plan for new development and openly boast that they acquired the land at very reasonable prices and will make tremendous profits. One developer said that he would make £100,000. A big property company spoke of making £5 million to £6 million.
The Minister is brushing aside all the evidence which is offered to him. He is brushing aside warnings given from both sides of the Committee that the policy which he is pursuing and allowing to be pursued is hound to lead to speculative profits, some of which will be on a big scale. The right hon. Gentleman can make as many bland statements as he wishes, but the people will pass judgment later this year and will give him the verdict that he deserves.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Sir Richard Thompson (Croydon, South)
At this late hour I shall not seek to detain the Committee for more than a few minutes, but I have three 1027 points which I want to make and which I think are relevant to the long and interesting debate that we have had on this subject. It is very difficult, in my judgment, in dealing with this matter, ever to get away from the population explosion which is at the root of the trouble. I do not believe that this survey would ever have come to pass had it not been for the single fact that the growth of the population and the migration of population to the South-East outstripped all predictions and the local capacity to absorb it and deal with it.
I do not think that we, certainly on this side of the Committee, should accept the sort of very drastic controls on freedom of movement which would be necessary to prevent that. It must always be accepted that people will flock to places where there are good jobs, plenty of them, high wages and a high standard of living. We may try to dam up that process but we shall never be wholly successful, and our job is to try to so shape our institutions that we can take care of those people without too much trouble.
My main interest in this matter is the question of commuter transport. With a constituency 11 miles from London, closely involved in all this, it is paramount in my mind. I find the Study rather disappointing. It envisages an increase of 20,000 people a year having jobs in London and, therefore, being added to the number of people who will have to be carried there every day. The Study makes it quite clear that this burden will fall mainly on the surface railways, and it does not foresee road improvements or surface traffic improvements which could possibly make much impact on all these new commuters. It will, therefore, be a railway problem.
All the survey has to say is that it hopes that there will be a complete reshaping of services, possibly the introduction of higher capacity coaches, and so forth. I do not think that that goes nearly far enough. First, we have obviously to keep those feeder lines going into the Metropolis which are perhaps lightly used now but which will be necessary to play their part in carrying additional people. I have found the Ministry 1028 of Transport very co-operative in this, because our own branch feeder line, the Woodside-Sanderstead line, has been reprieved after a year's struggle, and I am certain that, in view of this survey, it will prove its worth.
I think, however, that we have to go further than that and remember the experience of other countries. In the United States, for instance, it has been found that the commuter problem in several major cities is absolutely insoluble except on the basis of a revived suburban system. If hon. Members will consider the position of Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco, they will find that in a country where there is about twelve times as much land per inhabitant as there is here, a far greater ownership of motor cars, and a far greater investment in motorways, it is to the surface railways that these big cities have had to turn to solve their commuter problem.
I say to my hon. Friend that I think that he will have to extend the Victoria tube south of the river, possibly down to Croydon or somewhere like that. I know that the expense will be shattering, but with present land prices it will become almost cheaper to bore through the ground than to buy up the land on the surface, and I think that in the end he will have to do this to cope with the problem.
The other point in the Report which I want to emphasise and which is of interest to my constituents is that of fully utilising the land which we already have. On page 33 of the Study, referring to land which would become available for development, the Report states:Valuable additions can be expected from the development of Croydon Airport the Government depôts at Kidbrooke and Woolwich Arsenal, from the London County Council's plans for Erith marshes…While it may be a fine thing to talk of building new cities and new areas on the periphery to take people who otherwise would work in London, if there is one thing more than another which drives people mad it is to see unused and semi-derelict land in or near city centres which no one seems to get round to using. Only a week ago in the House I raised the question of Croydon Airport, where there are 400 acres of land scheduled for redevelopment, carefully planned out. It is four-and-a-half years since there was 1029 any flying from the airport, and still the area has not been redeveloped. I urge my right hon. Friend to recognise the importance of using the admittedly dwindling stock of free land assets which we have in the Metropolis.
I share the view expressed by a number of hon. Members that the whole problem of the concentration of offices in London could be eased if the Location of Offices Bureau were given greater powers than it has. Much of this commuting is a fundamentally inefficient way to live but many employers have not caught up with the devices which would enable them to maintain quite a small staff in London and still be in regular and almost instant communication with any other branch of their activities.
Those are three things about which I hope my right hon. Friend will speak in his reply: the importance of suburban transport and perhaps extending the Tube; the importance of using the remaining land which is handy to London before we move out to submerge acres and acres of countryside in the new towns; and, finally, putting some teeth in the Location of Offices Bureau.
§ 9.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Douglas Jay (Battersea, North)
On one point at least we are delighted to agree with right hon. Gentlemen opposite—that it is at any rate necessary to have some plan for the geographical spread of employment and population in this country. At least we have converted right hon. Gentlemen opposite on their death bed to take this modest step forward.
But because it is better to have a plan than to leave everything to anarchy, it does not follow that any plan is a good plan—and in our opinion in many respects this is not a good plan at all. In my view it is faulty, because it accepts defeat from the beginning in assuming that we must resign ourselves to an increase in population of 3½ million in South-East England over the twenty years ending in 1981. This assumption rests, I believe, on a faulty argument, and the whole subsequent structure of argument and of practical proposals is based on this weak foundation.
1030 First, let us agree at any rate on one other thing with right hon. Gentlemen opposite: clearly there must be a substantial natural increase in the population of the South-East over the twenty years. I accept that. It is wise, however, to remember that statisticians have been repeatedly wrong over the last forty years in estimating just what would happen. In the early 'thirties they thought that the population in the United Kingdom would fall. The Royal Commission in 1945–46 thought that it would flatten out. Now the statisticians tell us that it will increase rather steeply. Those errors are not made because they have been bad statisticians. It is simply that human beings do not always behave in the way in which the calculators predict—and that is likely to go on happening. I therefore hope that we shall treat this 2½ million as no more than a working assumption, subject to revision from time to time.
My main quarrel with the Government's calculation is that we must add to that figure another 1.1 million net immigration into the South-East in these 20 years. The method of argument, which has not been much examined today, determining how this figure of 1.1 million is calculated is a peculiar method. I perhaps should first point out that the figures in the Study and White Paper are related to England and Wales. Scotland is treated as a far away country about which we know nothing and from which people mysteriously migrate to the South and London. This represents a rather eloquent comment on the decision to place the main responsibility for the Study on a Department which has no responsibility at all for Scotland.
The argument then runs like this. The Study takes the rate of net immigration to the South-East in the 10 years from 1951 to 1961 and deduces from this a planned, proposed or expected—I do not know which—rate of immigration for 1961 to 1981. In making this step in the argument, an extraordinary assumption is made. It is assumed that no more will be or can be done to check office employment in the South-East than has been done in the last 10 years. Nowhere in the Study do we find even a mention of the possibility of such a check, even though we have had an hon. 1031 Member opposite advocating some control of office employment such as my hon. Friends and I have been advocating for the last 10 crucial years. The Study merely states that the Board of Trade has tried to control factory expansion in the South-East. Then it calmly adds:…the Board of Trade's control covers only manufacturing employment, and much of the growth is in the service trades. A good deal of this employment is tied to the population it serves.It is implied—without any discussion or mention of the possibility of applying I.D.C.'s to offices or, perhaps, applying building licences in the congested areas—that we must accept this and that nothing can be done about it. It must be remembered that this is in a situation in which we know that there are 170,000 office jobs, with permits already given, not yet built in the central area.
If we had followed that argument in 1945 about factory development, Scotland, Wales and the North-East would have been practically de-populated by now. All the more surprising is this assumption because the Study also shows—with more appalling clarity than anything else—that the torrent of new office employment in Central London, which has caused so much trouble in the Metropolis and dereliction in the North, broke loose not over the 10 years 1951 to 1961 but largely in the last five years, from 1958 to 1963. The Study states:Over the last decade"—I think 1952 to 1962 is meant—150,000 more office jobs have been created in the central area alone. Over the three years 1959–62, nearly 200,000 new jobs were created in the conurbation as a whole, and over four-fifths of these were in service employment (which includes office jobs)".The fact is that during the last five years, when we have been repeatedly protesting about this and when the Government were introducing their Local Employment Act and boasting about what they were doing, Ministers have been conniving at a runaway record inflation of office employment in the South-East. As the Study states:The turning point came in the mid 'fifties, which saw the beginning of the office building boom in Central London".1032 Now the rate of immigration, stimulated by that, is taken as the basis of the inward flow to be expected in the future.
The final figure of 1.1 million is reached by another rather peculiar step in the argument. The Study takes the estimated immigration in 1961 to 1981 for England and Wales—not Great Britain—as a whole and then says that if the ratios were the same in future as in the past the net immigration into the South-East will be 1.4 million. That is a hypothetical figure. Then, in an effort to allow for at least the protestations of Ministers that they have some sort of distribution of industry policy, it writes this down to 1.1 million. That is how this crucial figure is arrived at.
Today the Minister tried to take credit for the fact that the 1.1 million is less than the 1.4 million which, he thinks, would have occurred on certain other assumptions. But what he tried to gloss over today, and what the President of the Board of Trade obviously did not understand at Question Time last week, is that this 1 million represents a faster annual immigration into the South-East over the next 20 years than the rate which has caused all the trouble during the record uncontrolled office boom of the last 10 years.
§ Mr. Jay
It is no use the Minister shaking his head. If he has read the Report he will see that the figures are on page 23. The net migration into the South-East in the years 1951–61 was 413,000, as the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) pointed out. The proposed migration into the South-East in 1961–81 is to be 1.1 million. The rate of immigration is to rise from 413,000 in 10 years in the past to a rate of 550,000 in 10 years in the future.
What alarms me about this is that the President of the Board of Trade, who incidentally is the main Minister responsible for presenting this Report and is to be mainly responsible for the whole policy, obviously did not understand this basic point when we questioned him last Thursday at Question Time. He replied that the 1.1 million includes people retiring to the South-East and Commonwealth immigrants. Of course it does, but so does the 413,000 for 1951–61. At least, if the 413,000 does not include them, the Report is highly misleading and, indeed, 1033 almost meaningless in saying on page 22 that the South-East gained 413,000 by migration over the 10-year period. If it does include them, as I think it must, the Report is proposing an increased rate of immigration over the next 20 years. I ask the Minister to make it quite clear that that figure does include all forms of immigrants and that, therefore, an increase is proposed.
I think it is at this point that the inconsistencies between this Report on the South-East and the Reports of last autumn on Scotland and the North-East become most glaring. Ministers keep affirming verbally that they are consistent without giving any figures, but let us look at the figures. The Report that we are now discussing assumes an increased rate of immigration into the South-East in the next 20 years. But the Reports on Scotland and the North-East assume a decreased rate of immigration from those regions over the same period. The Scottish White Paper, in paragraph 39, assumes that the level of net immigration from Scotland will fall to an average of half its present level between 1966 and 1971 and one-sixth of its present level between 1971 and 1981. The North-East White Paper is somewhat more vague, but it tells us that there will be a drop in the net outward migration of male workers from 4,000 to 2,500 a year.
The immigration from Scotland and the North-East, on the Government plans, is to go down, but the immigration into the South-East is to go up. Where are all the extra immigrants coming from—from the rest of England and Wales, or Ireland, or the Commonwealth? Why should there be an extra flow from those areas? It is possible that there may be an answer to that question. The Government may know what the answer is, but they certainly have not yet given it to the House, and if they do know it, I wish they would tell us.
§ Sir K. Joseph
I tried to explain at some length that what has to be taken into account is the excess of jobs in the South-East of one sort or another over the number of indigenous people available to fill them. If fewer come from Scotland and the North-East because the success of the Government's policies 1034 there has reduced the flow, more will come from other parts of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland, Eire and the Commonwealth.
§ Mr. Jay
The Minister must surely realise that the number of jobs in the South-East depends on Government policy. If he is telling us that their policy will demand this extra flow of immigrants, that is exactly what we are protesting against. The argument may be that what the Minister is expecting—he said this today—is an inflow from the Commonwealth and from those retiring to the South-East. I do not think that is a very satisfactory answer. First, as I have said, they are included in the figures for the past, as well as for the future. Secondly, if it is true that we must expect 25,000 a year retiring to the South-East—and, of course, if they wish to come they must he free to do so—this is an added argument for not attracting any more people who come here against their will because they have to find jobs.
If the Minister argues that he expects a great increase in Commonwealth immigrants—[HON. MEMBERS: "Fewer."] He is expecting an increase in immigrants from elsewhere. The Minister must realise that West Indians do not come to London and Birmingham because they like the look of the place. They come because there are more jobs, and that depends on Government policy. If the labour shortage was greater in Scotland, they would go to Scotland and not to London.
What we are confronted with in the Report is the following logic. First, it is assumed that we cannot control office or factory employment better now than in the past. It is inferred from that that immigrations will move quicker and not more slowly. Then it is inferred that we must provide jobs and the services for the expected immigrants, and by providing them we make it absolutely certain that they are bound to come. The Minister comes before us with a proposal for spending many hundreds of millions of £s.
§ Mr. Jay
It is no good the Minister shaking his head, because that, right or wrong, is the logic of his argument. He accepts it in his White Paper in the most blithe fashion, without any serious 1035 criticism. The White Paper calmly says this:…the government are satisfied that these population estimates provide a realistic basis for planning to meet future land needs.I believe that to base the decision on an argument of that frailty is a misguided and cowardly procedure. We on this side of the Committee cannot accept the prospect of an extra 1 million immigrants over the period, or the various quantitative estimates and proposals based on them. However, we agree with the Minister—I am glad to agree about something—that, whatever happens, there is bound to be a large natural increase in the population in the South-East and a large overspill from London. There certainly will have to be new towns and expanded towns to take care of that, though not necessarily of the number or size that the Government propose.
I am glad that the Minister told us today that he has not made up his mind finally on the individual schemes, because I think that the choices proposed in the Report—they have been a good deal criticised today—could be faulted in a good many respects. Here it is necessary to take a few examples quickly to illustrate the point. The main proposal is for three new cities at Bletchley, Portsmouth and Southampton, and Newbury. I have no objection to Bletchley. I think that it is a queer choice, however, to place a large new city on top of Portsmouth and Southampton, whose combined population is already 400,000, and create a new conurbation sprawling along the South coast even larger than Brighton, Hove, Shoreham and Worthing already—and incidentally not favoured with local railway services, as those are, because, in spite of what the Minister said, Dr. Beeching proposes to close down the local services between Southampton and Portsmouth.
However, I agree with the hon. Member for Newbury (Sir A. Hurd) that one of the oddest choices is the choice of Newbury for a major new city. I ask the Minister to consider this one again. Why does the Study choose Newbury rather than, for instance, Andover? Newbury is less than 20 miles from Reading and barely 20 miles from 1036 Oxford and Swindon. If we create a huge new town there, four large industrial cities will be within 20 miles of one another. I should have thought that Andover, which is in much more open country and is further from all those big cities, was obviously a better choice. Incidentally, it has equally good communications.
I looked with care and curiosity at the Study to see what the reason was for choosing Newbury in spite of all those disadvantages. I think that the answer is rather surprising. We are informed that this is the point at which the road from Southampton to Birmingham crosses the road from Bristol to London. This is a somewhat frivolous method of argument. It is, however, one which illustrates a fallacy running through a lot of planning opinion on this issue. It arose in the Minister's speech today. It is the belief that it is so hard to get industry to go to the new towns in the South that all sorts of juicy inducements must be held out to industrialists, the chief one of which is nearness to a main road and a main railway. I believe that that is a false assumption. The truth is that to be located in a new town in the South of England is most industrialists' dream. We do not have to give all sorts of incentives to induce them to come here. The difficulty is to induce them to go anywhere else.
I therefore believe that the right principle is to choose the best location on all the general grounds, permit the new employment that is needed and then add the extra road links so far as they are required. It was the other method of reasoning which led us into the unfortunate error—I freely admit that the Labour Government were responsible for this—of creating the strip of new towns comprising Hatfield, Welwyn, Stevenage, Hitchin and Letchworth, all almost on top of one another. This was based on the rather puerile idea that firms had to be within sight of the A.1 and the King's Cross line. It was the same mistake which put Crawley slap on the Brighton road with damage to both of them and created a strip almost the whole way from Brighton to London.
I should have thought that, with all that experience, we need not make this 1037 mistake again. Yet it seems that this study tends to do it, not merely in the case of Newbury, but also by wishing to put Stansted right on top of Bishop's Stortford and Harlow, which will create another conurbation unless we are extremely careful to avoid it.
But this is not the only rather odd consequence of the method of argument used in this Report, and I should like to give the Minister a further example of the way that it works. This is the direct result of taking one arbitrarily selected section of the country. We draw an arbitrary line from King's Lynn to Lyme Regis. I know that it is based on the regions, but it is, nonetheless, equally arbitrary. Room must he found for 3½ million people within the area. We then look for places within it and seize on, among others, Swindon. Even so, we cheat slightly because we push Swindon from one side of the line to the other. However, we will neglect this.
As a result of this curious method of attacking the problem, we build factories and offices on a large scale at Swindon, and employment and population will go there. But it is equally true that if we built these places of employment at, say, Yeovil, Taunton or Axminster, employment and population would have gone there. It might be better—I am inclined to think that it would be—that Yeovil or Axminster and not Swindon should be expanded. On this method of argument, however, with one regional examination, that choice is never considered, purely because an arbitrary line has been drawn on the map. We should not allow ourselves to reach conclusions in that way. Again, I doubt whether Ministers, when they so blindly, as it seems, approved the Report, realised that that was the way in which they were taking decisions.
When these decisions are taken, all the rest follows—housing, factories, employment, roads and the enormous capital expenditure, including the rise in land values and the huge transfer of population and employment. In effect, by deciding on these rather shaky premises that something may happen, one inevitably makes it certain that it does happen.
1038 In this case, I believe that what will happen will be an unnecessary transfer of population from Scotland, the North-East, Northern Ireland, Wales and the exporting areas to the South-East and a considerable aggravation of the problem of land congestion in the South-East. The Minister said today that only 2 per cent. of the land is involved, but as one drives out of London in any direction it is difficult to see where the green belt is. If the Minister would try this exercise, that is what he would find. Consequently, there will be a forcing up of land values in the South-East.
Therefore, although Ministers may at long last be paying lip service to the idea of planning, I am afraid that at heart they are too cowardly to face the unpopularity of saying, "No" when it is necessary to do so to make planning really effective. There is too much evidence in the White Paper and in the Minister's speech today of the same sort of weakness of will which has connived at the London office boom over the last five years and still permits this kind of thing to continue.
I notice that the right hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) is with us. Although Ministers verbally repudiate him, I am afraid that his ex-colleagues in their heart of hearts are not really so out of touch with his belief that the vested interests should be allowed to do what they please and make what profit they can. The right hon. Member says what a lot of them really believe. I feel inclined to congratulate him with the wordsThou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey with thy breath".If I may put it into other words, when I look at the White Paper I am inclined to say that the voice may be the voice of Joseph, but the hand is the hand of Enoch.
§ 9.33 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. David Price)
In following the right hon. Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay), I should like, first, to say how disappointed my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Industry and Trade is at not being able to attend this debate. As I believe the Committee knows, my right hon. Friend 1039 is at Geneva for the opening session of the Kennedy Round in the G.A.T.T.
The Committee will agree that this has been an interesting debate. If from time to time obvious party points have intruded themselves into hon. Members' speeches, I do not think that the debate has been any the less constructive for that. After all, it is over matters of national importance that the parties divide.
Having listened carefully to the debate, I must begin my comments by reminding the Committee that regional development, whether in the South-East or in any other region, has to be set in its proper context, which is the context of national economic development. Our aim is the 4 per cent. a year growth rate. That growth rate therefore establishes both the opportunities and the limitations of all our forward thinking. That is my quick answer to the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Mendelson), but I will say more presently about some of the points that he raised.
I must also remind the Committee of the obvious fact that the 4 per cent. growth rate will not be easy of achievement and that it involves continual improvement over a wide number of activities, not least of which is trying to achieve and maintain a growth rate of 5 per cent. in our exports. This is the background to regional development. It is also, I believe, a relevant background, because if we do not achieve that 4 per cent. growth rate, regional development, no matter in what part of the country, will be hamstrung. I have to stress this to the Committee because in public controversy there has been some unrealistic talk about drastic measures to lever growth out of the South-East irrespective of the possible damage to the national economy.
As the Study makes clear, the South-East makes a vast contribution towards the prosperity of Britain. In our desire to deal with the problems of the South-East we should be wary of pursuing economically masochistic policies towards the South-East such as a blanket refusal to grant any more I.D.C.s in the South-East irrespective of the merits of the individual application.
1040 Just as it is true that we cannot have proper regional development without national economic growth, so it is equally true that we cannot hope to optimise our national rate of growth unless every region is itself optimising its economic potential. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman has giggled at my use of "optimising". I used it rather than "maximising". His knowledge of the classics will give him the subtlety of the distinction. That is why the Government have reinforced their distribution of industry policy by adopting programmes for the North-East and Central Scotland and have set in hand studies of other parts of the country including the South-East. I shall say more about those studies later.
The Study which we are discussing today is not budgeting for millions of people being irresistibly attracted to the South-East in spite of the steps to develop other parts of the country. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government explained, with his usual lucidity and in great detail, how the estimate of an increase of another 3½ million in the South-East by 1981 was built up. The assumption of the Study is that migration trends of recent years will be markedly reduced but will not be eliminated.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Battersea, North seemed to have difficulty in understanding how those figures were explained. I must apologise for detaining the Committee on this point which my right hon. Friend explained so well. As he explained, Ü million of the 1 million or 1.1 million will consist of the retired and ½ million will come from overseas immigrants. I would emphasise here the point which no hon. Member has mentioned, that many of the overseas immigrants who have come into the South-East, particularly in the Greater London area, in the last few years have been filling jobs in service industries; if they were not filled the services would break down.
This is an inescapable conclusion and one familiar to hon. Members who know this part of the country. The figure for migration into the South-East from the remainder of the kingdom is ¼ million. The right hon. Gentleman made some play with the fact that the figure of 1041 250,000, that is, ¼ million—[Interruption.] We are talking broadly of 1 million.
§ Mr. Price
Yes, 1.1 million.
We have to make our calculations in fairly broad terms. The right hon. Gentleman himself, rightly, pointed out that one can do these sorts of estimates only in broad terms when dealing with 20 years ahead. The point which I do not think the right hon. Gentleman got quite right when he quoted the figures of the total net migration in the previous decade was when he then said that the calculation of 1.1 million suggested a faster rate of migration. What I think he has not taken into account is that during the latter part of the decade the rate was very much higher than it was in the first part of the decade.
I would quote to the right hon. Gentleman from page 23 of the Study these words:The rate of employment growth in the South East has always been faster than in the rest of the country; in the last three years, the rate of increase was double that in the preceding three years.
§ Mr. Price
There is not only that. There has also been, as my right hon. Friend has said, the big increase of Commonwealth immigration into the greater London area and the South-East generally during this period, for reasons that I have indicated.
The Survey goes on:If nothing were to change these, factors would point to a sharp increase in the rate of net migration into the South-East over the next 20 years.If we had taken a straight extrapolation, the figure would be not 1.1 million, but somewhere between 1.4 and 1.5 million, so we have calculated for a reduction.
The right hon. Member asked about offices. Surely, if one looks at the whole picture, one must realise that although my right hon. Friend, through the Location of Offices Bureau, is trying to 1042 get offices out of Central London, it is unrealistic to think that we will get a substantial number not only out of Central London and the Metropolitan Region, but out of the South-East as a whole. It will in itself be a great gain if we can get a substantial move of offices from Central London to anywhere else in the South-East.
As the Study makes clear, and as the right hon. Gentleman recognised, we are prepared, and will continue to be prepared, to re-examine the basic assumptions in the Study. I entirely reject his suggestion that the Study is an acknowledgment of failure in our regional plans. We are planning, on the contrary, for the success of our measures in other regions. The Study is evidence of the Government's courage, foresight and energy. Of course, I recognise that hon. Members from developing regions are concerned that decisions should not be taken in the South-East as a result of the Study which might reduce their own regions' prospects of getting further industry. Naturally, they are particularly concerned lest the provision of jobs for the new towns in the South-East might attract projects which would otherwise have gone to their regions.
I assure the House that it is not the Government's intention that this should happen. In support of my assurance I remind the House of at least five factors which, we believe, will safeguard the position of the developing regions. Indeed, let us call them the safeguards for developing regions.
The first is that the developing regions where the needs are greatest will have had a long start. Programmes for Central Scotland and the north-east of England are already being implemented. By contrast, the major schemes in the South-East will not make their full demands for capital investment and jobs until the 1970s. This was made clear in the White Paper.
§ Mr. Lawson
There is less industrial building going on in Scotland now than in 1960 and in that year Scotland had only about 7.5 per cent. of industrial building being undertaken in Great Britain.
§ Mr. Price
I am endeavouring to answer the hon. Gentleman. I am explaining that there are more projects in the pipeline for Scotland today than there were in 1960.
It follows that industrial requirements for the new towns in the South-East will not arise until the 1970s. This will leave the field clear for Central Scotland, the North-East, Northern Ireland, Merseyside and the development districts generally during the current decade. The greater the speed and energy with which the programmes for Central Scotland and the North-East are implemented, the greater the advantage to be gained from this time lag.
The second safeguard is that the Government have no intention of relaxing their I.D.C. policy in the South-East. Our I.D.C. policy will remain as at present, with our first priority for the development districts; our second, subject to this overriding first priority, is to use the I.D.C. control to get industry out of the main conurbations into new and expanded towns which are receiving their populations. Only projects in the South-East which are clearly incapable of being moved are considered for I.D.C.s, and even then they are not necessarily granted. I will say more about I.D.C.s in the South-East in a moment. I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) for his independent testament to the toughness of our current I.D.C. policy.
§ Mr. Lubbock
Can the hon. Gentleman say what is the point of having a tough and strict policy with I.D.C.s when they cover only one-fifth of the employment increase in the South-East region?
§ Mr. Price
The hon. Gentleman is wrong if he is suggesting that of the manufacturing industry.
Currently, the North-East and Central Scotland are getting priority in their public investment programmes. These regions, with 13 per cent. of the population, are getting 18 per cent. of the public investment programme. Both these regions have been assured that this priority will be maintained, in the language of the White Paper, for "some years". I refer right hon. and hon. Members to paragraph 144 of the Central Scottish Programme and to paragraph 124 of the North-Eastern Programme respectively.
§ Mr. Price
I said Central Scottish.
As my right hon. Friend said on 3rd December, 1963:…even if it were necessary to moderate the growth of public service investment in the country as a whole, exceptions would be made for these growth areas where the programme will be maintained so long as the necessary resources are available. Local authorities, the construction industries and those who live in the regions can look forward with confidence to continued backing from the Government for the development and modernisation of the basic public services for which the investment is being used. This, I suggest to those who are asking whether enough is being done, is a commitment of no mean order. It is a unique commitment of a Government to the regions."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 3rd December, 1963; Vol. 685, c. 992.]The fourth safeguard is that the current inducements to attract industry to development districts remain. Furthermore, the growth zone in the North-East and the growth areas in Central Scotland have both received assurances of a "sustained and continued effort". I quote from paragraph 41 of the North-East Programme:The Board of Trade will accordingly not regard a fall in the local unemployment rate in any part of the growth zone as sufficient in itself to justify the removal of that locality from the list of development districts; any such removal will require strong evidence of a general and sustained improvement in employment in the region as a whole.1045 Paragraph 121 of the Central Scottish Programme is similarly worded.
The fifth safeguard lies in the extent to which the town expansions in the South-East will generate their own employment. Outside London, almost half the employment in the South-East is service employment, mainly related to local needs and tied to local population.
I trust that these five safeguards will help to reassure right hon. and hon. Gentlemen that Central Scotland and the North-East will not be worse off because of the strategy which the Government have adopted for the South-East. I reaffirm to the Committee that the South-East Study and the accompanying White Paper have in no way diverted us from our purpose in other parts of the country. I was delighted to have the support in that respect of my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham.
Time does not allow me to recount to the House this evening the progress being made in the North-East and Central Scotland. Suffice it to say that it is full steam ahead for both these programmes. Meanwhile, the study teams for Wales, the West Midlands and the North-West have now reached the stage of detailed local consultations. There will be comprehensive studies of the regions concerned covering population change, industrial structure and employment, land use and urban renewal and communications.
I can repeat to the hon. Member for Penistone that my right hon. Friend is considering the position of a study for the East and West Ridings.
Through the machinery established by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, all these groups are keeping in close touch both with each other and with developments in the national economy. A good deal of the research and statistical work is being handled centrally, and I assure the Committee that the views of the various Government Departments are co-ordinated.
The hon. Members for Fulham (Mr. M, Stewart), Wood Green (Mrs. Butler), Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Skeffington), Southampton, Itchen (Dr. King) and Penistone asked why we did not draw up a national plan for regional development before attempting individual regional programmes. The quick answer 1046 is that we are working to a national target in all our forward thinking—the 4 per cent. growth rate and the 5 per cent. annual increase in our exports. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) can laugh, but we happen to have achieved it.
Where national plans are called for, we have drawn them up and are getting ahead with them. We have a national plan for roads, for railway modernisation, for ports, for education and universities, for hospitals, for investment in electricity, coal, nuclear energy, and so on. In our regional programmes and studies we are looking at the regional impact of these plans and at contributions which the regions can make to them as well as what the regions can expect to get out of them.
We are examining systematically and in depth how each part of the country can make its full contribution. We have set teams of experts on to examining the different regions, taking first those with the most pressing problems. They are being studied in detail from every aspect: economic and related social characteristics and trends; and, in particular, population change, employment, land use and communications. They are also being looked at broadly in relation to each other and to national policies for development and growth. Regional plans based on these surveys must be related to the needs of the country as a whole.
A national plan for regional development, to make any sense, would have to be based en the sum of all these individual regional studies. Are right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite suggesting that we should have refrained from creating and effecting programmes for Central Scotland and the North-East until some master plan had been drawn up?
I should like now to develop in more detail what I said about our I.D.C. policy in the South-East. As I made clear, development districts have priority when I.D.C. applications are considered. Few certificates are granted in the industrially overcrowded part of the country for new ventures or for major expansion of existing factories.
On the other hand, it is quite unrealistic to suppose that all industrial development can be prevented in the South-East, or that areas of high unemployment would benefit if it were. There 1047 are, for example, efficiency schemes which can reduce employment; local service industries which exploit strictly local markets: expansions which cannot be separated from existing factories, and others which, although not requiring adjacent premises, need to be within a relatively short distance of the parent plant or parent suppliers. It would be unrealistic and unsound to try to prevent such industrial development, although it has to be controlled.
No decisions have yet been taken on the places suggested in the Study for expansion. As my right hon. Friend explained in his speech, before such decisions are taken detailed examination of all possible places will be undertaken, and at the same time there will be full consideration with local authorities and other bodies concerned.
When the places finally selected for expansion are ready to take new industrial developments, development districts will continue to receive first priority. We are determined that the problem of growth in the South-East shall be solved without prejudicing the growth of other parts of the country, particularly those which need increased employment. This means that before granting an I.D.C. in the South-East the Board of Trade will continue to need to be satisfied that the project could not go to a development district.
Industrialists who may be thinking of moving out of the London conurbation, or of expanding in the South-East, would be well advised not to assume that the places suggested in the Study will finally be those chosen, or that if they wait a little while they will be able to set up in one of the chosen places.
§ Mr. Price
I will not give a flat undertaking, but I give an undertaking in the spirit of the right hon. Gentleman's intervention.
I go on to say that any firm which adopted the policies that I have outlined might well be disappointed and at a grave disadvantage against competitors who had meanwhile established themselves on satisfactory sites in develop- 1048 ment districts, and, incidentally, enjoyed the financial benefits open to them under the Local Employment Acts.
The area covered by the South-East Study coincides approximately with those of three standard regions—eastern, southern, and London and south-eastern. Indeed, seven of London's eight new towns, together with a number of expanded towns, to provide for London's overspill population, are sited in the eastern region, and not the London and south-eastern region. This accounts for a good deal of the increased industrial floor space in the South-East in recent years.
It is in London and the South-Eastern Region, where there is the largest existing industrial concentration, about 25 per cent. of the total insured population, and most pressure for expansion, where there is the greatest need for a restrictive I.D.C. policy. It is, therefore, the figures for the London and southeastern region which demonstrate best the effectiveness of our current I.D.C. policy. In the four years of the operation of the Local Employment Act, to 31st March this year, the additional employment estimated to flow from the granting of I.D.C.s in this region was 2.1 per cent. of the estimated number of employees in manufacturing industry at the date when the Act came into operation. The relative figures for the North-East and for Scotland were 10.2 per cent. and 6.5 per cent. respectively.
Some indication of the general effectiveness of the two instruments of financial incentive and I.D.C. control in influencing the location of industry can be gained from the figures of I.D.C, approvals. Since the Local Employment Act came into force in 1960, the proportion of new industrial building approved going to the development districts has been rising steadily, as a percentage of the total approvals for the whole country. In 1961, it was 14.8 per cent.; in 1962, it was 15.3 per cent.; in 1963, it was 25.3 per cent., and in the first quarter of this year it was 33.5 per cent.
I would remind the right hon. Member for Battersea, North that between 1st July, 1948, when his Government introduced I.D.C. control, and 31st December, 1951, factory building approvals in development areas—as they then were—represented 19 per cent. of the 1049 national total and that in his day development areas covered about 18 per cent. of the total working population, whereas in the four years of the operation of the Local Employment Act they have covered between 11 per cent. and 15 per cent. of the total population. It ill becomes the right hon. Gentleman to accuse us of being weak on I.D.C. policy in the South East of England.
§ Mr. Price
The right hon. Gentleman knows the answer to that point as well as I do.
My hon. Friend the Member for Guildford (Sir R. Nugent) asked whether the Board of Trade would consult his Standing Conference on I.D.C. applications. I have to tell him that we cannot agree to discuss I.D.C. applications with his Conference, or with anyone other than the applicant, since it would usually involve a disclosure of information given in confidence. But I should be happy at any time to discuss with his Conference the broad lines of our distribution of industry policy, if he would like me to do so.
Time is passing. There are many other things that I would have liked to discuss with the Committee. My hon. Friend the Member for Newbury (Sir A. Hurd), my hon. Friend the Member for Guildford and my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North raised the question of the choice of Newbury as one of the three major town expansions. I can tell them that discussions are to be held within the next three weeks with Berkshire and the Newbury authorities about possible sites for a new town in the neighbourhood of Newbury. It is impossible to say which would be the optimum place for development. Some sites would be separate from the present town of Newbury. Some would be so close that they could not in fairness be described as being entirely distinct from the present town. The strategic situation of the Newbury area is so important that it would be difficult to drive the idea of development——
§ It being Ten o'clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to report Progress and ask leave to sit again.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.