HC Deb 08 April 1965 vol 710 cc652-5
34. Mr. Boston

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs what progress he is making with his review of the South East Study; and when he expects to complete it.

14. Mr. Chataway

asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he has yet completed his review of the South East Study.

Mr. George Brown

The review of the South East Study is a difficult and complex matter, and must be based on the information on both population and economic trends now becoming available. I shall announce our proposals as soon as possible, but it is too early to say when that will be.

Mr. Boston

Does my right hon. Friend realise that many of us on this side of the House, and in the South-East generally, are very glad that very thorough consideration is being given to this review? Can he give any indication when the review is likely to be ready? Can he also say what form the report to Parliament will take and whether he has envisaged some sort of replacement of the former South East Study?

Mr. Brown

That indeed could be so. It is too early yet to say how we shall do it and in what form, but I assure my hon. Friend that we give a great deal of attention to this. It is a tremendously important issue. I assure him that we shall make a statement in the form most convenient to Members of Parliament and to people in the region as a whole.

Mr. Deedes

Apart from Members of Parliament, is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a great number of public authorities and other interests are holding back their plans in expectation of hearing from him what the main plan is to be and that much material towards this plan has been available for a long time?

Mr. Brown

I am well aware that they were holding up their plans for a long time before we came to power. We have had only six months yet but we shall do this much faster than what happened before.

Miss Quennell

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in the debate yesterday he indicated that he proposed to instruct the regional planning bodies to concern themselves with the redeployment of human resources in the regions? Does he appreciate that he now appears to be unable to indicate whether a planning body for the South-Eastern Region will be available? Could the right hon. Gentleman tell us what planning machinery he proposes to construct?

Mr. Brown

The remark, which the hon. Lady misquoted, referred to redeployment on the TSR2 question. As long as there is not a new regional planning machinery for the South-East we shall have to try to do that centrally with as much consultation as we can manage with the authorities in the area. I promise the hon. Lady that the consultation will be as much as we can possibly manage.

Mr. Costain

What consultation is the right hon. Gentleman having with county councils in general and Kent County Council in particular on this matter?

Mr. Brown

A great deal of consultation is going on with everybody concerned, but first we had better ourselves begin to make some general appreciation of how it looks to us and then we can have more fruitful talks with them.

Sir D. Renton

In view of the fact that the South-East Region at present runs all the way from the Wash down to Southampton Waters and that East Anglia has special problems of its own, would the right hon. Gentleman consider the possibility of making a separate region of East Anglia?

Mr. Brown

I at least know this region at first hand. This is something which I have very much in mind. The East Anglian requirements are one of the reasons why I shall not be rushed and I shall make a very full and considered decision at the end and announce it to the House.

Mr. Heath

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there was absolutely no hold-up by the last Government in announcing their views on the South East Study? Is he aware that the review itself was carried out very speedily by the officials concerned in a total of two years? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his right hon. Friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government has already implemented half of the South-East Plan as formulated by the last Government but that he, the First Secretary, announced during the election that the whole South-East Plan would be abolished by the Labour Government when they came to power? Is he aware that the reason why he is holding it up now is in order somehow to get himself off the hook he caught himself on during the election? Is he also aware that meantime the whole of the plans for the people of the south-eastern area are being delayed and that he is responsible for that delay?

Mr. Brown

The right hon. Gentleman is still trying too hard. In part he was inaccurate, in part he misquoted, and as far as the last Government were concerned it was very easy to express views if one did not intend to be responsible for them afterwards.

Mr. Deedes

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment at the earliest opportunity.