§ 1. Mr. Gardner
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will make a statement about the proposed increase in the population of Basildon new town; and what is his policy regarding the final figure of population.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Richard Crossman)
I have asked the development corporation to prepare a technical study showing whether and to what extent the population could be increased beyond the present planned figure of 106,000. I can make no statement until I have received and considered its report.
§ Mr. Gardner
Can the Minister say whether it is his intention, if there is to be an increase in the population of the new town, that this increase of population should be achieved by an invasion of the green belt areas surrounding the new town of Basildon and the adjoining towns of Wickford and Billericay? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is a considerable fear that any dramatic expansion will inevitably be accompanied by such an invasion, and can he assure the House that no such invasion will take place?
§ Mr. Crossman
I am aware of the anxiety felt, and the corporation has been asked to indicate to me how the present designated area could be replanned to take more people. I have asked the corporation also to consult with the local authorities and statutory undertakers in preparing its report, and these consultations will take place.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis
Is the Minister aware that many of the east London boroughs, particularly East and West Ham, would like to expand into Basildon because it would politically help the hon. arid learned Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) to lose his seat?
§ 2. Mr. Gardner
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he will make a statement about the steps he proposes to take in order to transfer all the assets, including houses, shops, offices and land, in the new town of Basildon to the Basildon Urban District Council.
§ Mr. Crossman
Basildon new town is still a long way from completion and the question what should ultimately happen to the assets does not yet arise. But I am prepared to consider whether any change should be made in the respective responsibilities of the local authority and the development corporation as the town grows bigger, and I have asked both bodies to give me their views.
§ Mr. Gardner
Is the Minister aware that when the Prime Minister was Leader of the Opposition in July last year he wrote a letter to the Socialist leader of the Basildon Urban District Council promising that a Labour Government would honour the pledge given in the New Towns Act, 1946, by providing for the transfer of each new town to the ownership and control of the appropriate local authority? Can the Minister give an assurance that no such transfer will take place?
I doubt whether the hon. and learned Member listened carefully to my reply. There is no prospect in the immediate future of the completion of this town, and so of the problem of turnover arising. I have suggested, however, that as the town grows consultations should take place between the Corporation and the local authority as to what form of devolution is possible and practical between the two.