HC Deb 11 November 1966 vol 735 cc1704-44

11.7 a.m.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

I beg to move Amendment No. 3, in page 1, line 10, at the end to insert: Provided that no part of the sum of £250,000,000 by which the said aggregate amount is increased by virtue of this section shall be advanced to a development corporation which shall have been established after the date of the coming into operation of this Act unless the Order under section 1 of the New Towns Act 1965 designating the site of the new town for the purpose of which such development corporation is established shall have been approved by resolution of each House of Parliament. This Amendment comes as a proviso to the Clause, which is the most important one in the Bill because it asks the Committee at this stage to approve an advance of another £250 million to the development corporations and the Commission for the New Towns. It increases the present advances from £550 million to £800 million.

Before the Committee approves of that further advance, which we understood from the Second Reading debate would probably cover about three years of the expenses of the development corporations and the Commission, we should consider how many new development corporations will be coming in to share these extra advances, and the Committee ought perhaps to know more about the Government's intentions for additional new towns, before consenting to the extra advance.

As the Bill stands, the money can be advanced not only to existing development corporations but to any new development corporations that may be formed in the next two years. We know from reports of the development corporations the financial state and the state of development of the existing new towns, but at the moment we know nothing of the new towns in contemplation.

I am exaggerating perhaps when I say "nothing", because those of us who are interested in any particular area have taken an interest in new towns which may be coming into that area. But at the moment the information is somewhat scattered and there is no overall picture of what the Government intend by way of the establishment of new towns over the next few years.

A development corporation comes into being by Section 2 of the New Towns Act, 1965. The Minister has power under that Section to establish a corporation for the purposes of a new town, the site of which has been designated under Section 1. I am endeavouring to follow this through to see what information the House receives before a site is designated as a new town and a corporation appointed to look after it.

Under Section 1 of the New Towns Act, 1965, a site is designated by an order and any such order must be made in accordance with Section 53(5) of that Act. That Section states that an order must be made by a Statutory Instrument which is … subject to annulment in pursuance of a resolution of either House of Parliament … if, but only if, two conditions apply: first, if … the order is one designating an area as the site of a proposed new town, or designating an additional area of not less than 500 acres… and, secondly, if … an objection to the order was duly made by a local planning authority and had not been withdrawn at the time the order was made". We see that the order never comes before the House unless there has been an objection from a local authority. I do not believe that Parliament should be left in the dark about the provision of new towns at this stage of their development. It is important that Parliament should know in any case why a particular site has been chosen for a new town, what size that new town will take and the general character of it before approving of it coming within the group which will benefit from the £250 million authorised to be advanced under this Bill.

The Parliamentary Secretary said on Second Reading that we were starting another chapter in planning. That is true. Originally, we perhaps thought of new towns as either on virgin soil, and completely new structures, or attached to small towns and, to that extent, completely new towns. We are now thinking of the attachment of new towns to much larger towns placed on the fringes.

I hope that we can go further than that in our new ideas of new towns and start the development of satellite areas of the larger towns by means of the new town procedure or in connection with industrial developments which need residential areas around them. We should, therefore, consider, each time a new town is designated, whether it is the sort of advance we want to make and, therefore, whether the Committee wishes to support it financially out of the £250 million fund which is now being authorised.

There are major considerations when a site is designated; for example, when it is designated on agricultural land. In that event there is always dispute because the owners of the land consider it far more valuable for agriculture than as a new town and plead for it to be left in its agricultural state. Indeed, more Departments than the Ministry of Housing and Local Government should consider a project for a new town which takes a substantial part of our agricultural land. I will leave my hon. Friends to develop this point, because there is very little agricultural land in my constituency. There are two farms in my area, but as their employees live outside my constituency I have never thought it incumbent on me to know much about the technique of agriculture.

11.15 a.m.

I give a different example; the development of an industrial project which needs a residential area attached to it. In this example a new town and a new development corporation might be extremely valuable. I have in my constituency about to start a big docks project costing about £39 million to develop the northern end of the Liverpool Docks, what we call the Seaforth project. Hon. Members who represent similar constituencies will appreciate that the docker wants to live near his work. It is important, therefore, to build blocks of flats with nice amenities near to the docks.

When a development of this sort is in hand there should be a residential, commercial and shopping development in depth inland from the dock area. It is almost impossible for existing local authorities to undertake a big project of that sort, and this is a good example of what might come into the other chapter of planning, about which the Parliamentary Secretary spoke. We might well think in terms of the new town procedure for an industrial plus residential development of that nature when considering a sufficiently large major development.

There are many areas of old cities which the local authorities find it extremely difficult to re-develop, starting first with the acquisition of the many plots of land into the one ownership of the local authority to carry out the development and then the professional work and services required to start that development. A development corporation could be of the greatest assistance if an area of that sort were designated as a new town.

With all these possible future uses of development corporations and the designation of areas as new towns, the House should be well informed of any site which is newly designated for a new town. The Parliamentary Secretary may be able to give a sufficient programme today for the next three years to show almost exactly how the £250 million will be spent. This might satisfy my hon. Friends and I, but, as the Bill stands, we do not know to whom the money will be advanced and although we know that existing development corporations may have a call on the money, we do not know what other development corporations may be formed in the next few years and have a call on it. By this means of bringing an Order before the House, so that hon. Members may consider it and, if necessary, debate it, we can be informed of how the money is to be spent.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill (Norfolk, South)

The Clause provides very large sums of money for the cost of new towns, but the agricultural land which will be consumed is irreplaceable. The Committee knows that I am a fanner and interested in farming, but fanners are realistic in the sense that they fully appreciate that new towns have to be built. The burning issue is that as far as possible they should be built on land which is inferior agricultural land. That view is axiomatic in all the history of town planning. I think that there is a firm statement to that effect in one of the first debates in the House of Commons on town planning by Sir John Burns, President of the Local Government Board, as long ago as 1908, when he expressed honor at the consumption for building purposes of 500,000 acres during the 15 years previous to 1908.

Throughout the chain of White Papers, it has been emphasised that agricultural land should be chosen with careful regard for its quality. Equally, there is a chain of decisions showing that previous Ministers have rejected proposals because of the high quality of the land involved. I am not certain that in the new chapter to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred there is the same active consideration. The principles are there, but it seems that the Government are paying little more than lip service to them.

I say this because my attention has been drawn to some of the new town designation proposals which have come out this year. In general, their treatment of the agricultural problem is perfunctory. My first question, therefore, is what instructions the Government give to the planning consultants about this matter of agricultural land. I have in mind one of the latest Reports—this concerns the new town in Mid-Wales which will be entirely outside the Parliamentary Secretary's knowledge—when in the terms of reference is the statement that the consultant is asked to keep this among other objectives in mind— to have regard among other things to the information which will be made available to him about the agricultural value of the land and the water supply and drainage situation in the upper Severn Valley. In the Report there are only two paragraphs on land use and only two sentences are worth quoting. The first sentence is in paragraph 620. The greater part of the area is at present devoted to agricultural activity. The next paragraph starts: We have not been able to obtain details of present land ownership for the whole area. The other reference to agriculture in this very important Report is the usual map of the graded land and a table giving the amount of subsidy and grant which have gone into the four counties concerned in the last few years. Yet the Report is stiff with statistics and the results of obviously detailed consultations with industries and all the other factors concerned in the consideration of a new town.

Agriculture seems to get very light treatment. Apparently, those who would have a lot of knowledge of the subject and who could have assisted the consultants with information were never approached. The National Farmers' Union and the Country Landowners' Association, who, after all, have a great deal of knowledge of both the actual facts of the land and its potential, have not contributed their information at an early stage. This seems to be a mistake and we can see the same kind of failure to consult at an early stage in the other designations for new towns under the Bill. The agricultural interests are not consulted at the earliest stages.

So much for the agricultural interests. What about the Ministry of Agriculture? I know that Departments consult, but I wonder how detailed and realistic that consultation is. In the report dealing with the area near where I live and farm, the expansion of Ipswich in the County of Suffolk, there is a great change in the general outlook, a change which came as a complete surprise to the county in the new proposals for the expansion of Ipswich. It has been realised and accepted that Ipswich must expand, but hitherto the various possibilities in the earlier plan, which was published in 1963, seemed to make it probable that the expansion of Ipswich would take place, broadly speaking, to the east of the town where the land is relatively poor.

It so happens that in the Ipswich area and up the Suffolk coast there is a marked change in the quality and character of the land between the first few miles from the coast inland and the land further inland. The first coastal land is sandy and light and gravelly, but further inland there is the benefit of the stronger clay and there is some highly productive farmland.

The county was very surprised to find that the new proposals were to expand Ipswich on much the better land. The Report gives very sketchy treatment to the land problem. Admittedly, there is a small paragraph saying that agriculture is an important interest and in the summary of proposals it is said that the factor——

The Chairman

Order. I must warn the hon. Gentleman that he is getting rather wide of the Amendment.

Mr. Hill

I am trying to show how important it is that Parliament should have a chance of considering the principles on which this money is to be paid out. I am trying to illustrate my case. I agree that it is undesirable to go into detail at this stage, but it seems that the principles are not being carried through. They might be being observed formally, but I do not think that they are being observed effectively.

Without pursuing the detail, I would like to know what strategic consideration is given to a matter which is so fundamental. The difference between taking the best land and using the less satisfactory land is very great. There seems to have been no consultation in the past with the Country Landowners' Association or with the National Farmers' Union who have so much knowledge and who might have suggested factors which the consultants themselves ought to have taken into consideration.

11.30 a.m.

When the Departments concerned, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Ministry of Agriculture, discuss these matters. May I be told how deeply such considerations are examined? Is there any evaluation of the potential economic loss to agriculture and the long-term relative economic costs of say, incurring higher communication development costs in the new town in order to build on poorer land, which is an issue in the case of Ipswich?

One point which does not seem to have been considered and which is equally vital deals with the question of irrigation and the water shortage. It is said that there is likely to be a water shortage in this area. One can maintain food production on the lighter ground with modern techniques, but one essential element is the large use which has to be made of irrigation. If one decides to put the new town on the best land, one is automatically building up a very much larger demand for water than if one kept the new town on the poor land, simply because the good land is productive without the need for a great deal of irrigation.

It seems to be more satisfactory to go into such big issues of land use at the outset so that we could have a decision after full consultation, and before these other very elaborate consultations take place.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Robert Mellish)

I would like to put on record my appreciation of the courtesy of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) in letting me have, this morning, advance notice of some of the points that he was seeking to raise. I am obliged, because it makes life easier, when dealing with a difficult Bill of this kind, when Amendments are put down very late, as they sometimes have to be. This enables us to have a reasonably intelligent discussion.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) raised some very important and fundamental problems concerning agriculture. It is recognised that whenever a new town is designated, there is invariably a clash between those with farming interests on the one hand, and those who want the new town because of the enormous population explosion facing the country.

The hon. Gentleman asked for a number of assurances and I must be careful that I do not go too wide because they might be more appropriate on Clause stand part or Third Reading. I can give the formal assurance in that when the area is designated there is a detailed procedure to be followed very closely by this Government, and all Governments, ensuring that the interests of all concerned are protected. Farmers, industrialists, shopkeepers and the rest within this area will be able to say, long before there is any confirmation of designation, what they think and to make their views known.

After the inquiry has been held and the designation confirmed, a master plan is made. The consultants responsible for this plan are kept in close touch with the Ministry of Agriculture. They know the views expressed at the inquiry and it is our experience that they bear them in mind. Quite properly the hon. Gentleman put the farmers' case. This is a tremendous problem. We have said this so often that it is getting boring but it is worth repeating—the figures are alarming: we have to find homes for 1 million Londoners alone outside the conurbation by 1980. This is assuming that the drift to the South is stopped and that all regions are built up and standing on their own feet.

In this tiny island of ours, whatever we do and wherever we go in search of land we are faced with this problem. Understandably there are objections, and within the limits of our democracy we consult all the way down the line, where practicable. In every case those who have points of view on a particular area have every chance and right to impress those objections upon the inspector at the public inquiry.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Crosby said that the purpose of the Amendment was to enable Parliament to consider the proposed new town. He wants to make certain that we in this House and in the other place have the chance of debating the proposals. He wanted to know how the figure of £250 million was to be spent. At the moment, there are 21 new towns in England, Scotland and Wales. There are proposals for six more in England, those at North Bucks, Ipswich, Northampton, Peterborough, Warrington-Risley and Leyland-Chorley. Designation processes have been started—I think that they are being concluded—for Irvine, in Scotland. In Wales, there will be another new town, although I do not know exactly where. The figure of £250 million will be used almost entirely on these existing and specified projects.

The hon. Gentleman's argument was a good democratic one. He wanted Parliament to have the opportunity of discussing the proposals. He will know that under Section 53(5) of the New Towns Act, 1965 a designation Order by the Minister is subject to annulment by either House if the Order is opposed by the local planning authority. This is a reasonable provision, because in a new town the planning functions of the county council are virtually taken over by the Minister. It seems right that if a senior authority opposes the loss of its planning jurisdiction to the Minister and a dispute on this exists, there should be a reference to this House.

Planning stands alone among senior local authority functions when it comes to wholesale take-over. Schools, roads, health services, continue to remain a local responsibility. If this Amendment were accepted a situation could arise when the local planning authority, the county, did not oppose the Order but welcomed it. It would be asking too much to say that in spite of that, although there were no objections, not even from the farmers, we should have to bring proposals before this House for debate. I am in favour of democracy but we have a situation which we must leave in the hands of the responsible Minister, no matter what Government are in power. The Government must be conscious of public feeling. The Conservative Government introduced the 1964 Act, legislation the form of which we are confirming. So the procedures which the Conservative Government implemented are merely being reaffirmed by us.

While I appreciate that the Amendment was tabled merely as a probing one to find out exactly what were our intentions, I hope that the hon. Member for Crosby will be satisfied about the £250 million now that I have given the list of the towns involved. I assure the hon. Gentleman that, if the local planning authority objects, we shall follow procedure and this will come before the House for annulment, if the House so decides. The hon. Gentleman will agree that, on the assumption that no such objection is made by a local planning authority, the House ought to leave it in the hands of the responsible Minister concerned. I therefore hope that the Amendment will be withdrawn.

Mr. Graham Page

I am grateful to the Joint Parliamentary Secretary for what he has said and for his explanation. He said, in effect, that the procedure at present ensures that all those concerned with the area to be designated, and, indeed, the county in which it lies, have full opportunity of making their voices heard, of consultation with the Minister, and of generally working it out between themselves.

That is only the voice of the particular area. What I had in mind in tabling the Amendment was that Parliament should see how any one scheme fits into the whole picture. After all, we are dealing with the development of new towns in England, Scotland and Wales, and it is Parliament's job to get the overall picture, whatever the local authorities may think.

One phrase which the hon. Gentleman used rather confirmed some of my fears. He said that we must realise that there are 1 million Londoners who must have homes. I commend the hon. Gentleman for thinking of the Londoners. We all do. We are now developing new towns for the benefit of the other cities. It may be right to push Londoners beyond the commuter belt so that they do not travel back to their work into London. However, this may not be the right policy for other cities. It may be right to rehouse close to those cities, with the new towns on the fringe of the older cities.

It is this policy which Parliament should consider in the next few years. It is true that the present procedure was laid down by a Conservative Government and operated satisfactorily under the first generation of new towns, but we are now coming to the second generation. It is a policy which Parliament should consider as it develops.

I do not think that, if the county council does not object. Parliament should be deprived of considering a new town order. This is an extraordinary argument. So is the argument that we must leave it to the Minister's discretion. I, too, would use that argument if I were a Minister, but it is our job as the Opposition to see what the Minister is doing and to bring him to account before Parliament, if we can.

I feel a little more confident about this matter since the Parliamentary Secretary's speech. My only assurance is the hon. Gentleman's statement that there are 21 new towns and six new projects, and that almost the whole of the £250 million will go to those. Therefore, we know from that assurance how the £250 million is to be spent.

In taking a certain course on the Amendment, I am relying on that assurance. If any site is designated for a new town in future, I personally shall ensure that some objection is made and that it is sustained, so that the order can come before the House for consideration. It is absolutely essential for Parliament to consider the new projects to see how they fit into the picture as a whole. On that assurance, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

11.45 a.m.

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move Amendment No. 4, in page 1, line 10, at the end to insert: Provided that no advance shall be made out of the £250,000,000 (by which the said aggregate amount is increased by virtue of this section) to any development corporation or to the said Commission unless the Minister shall have prescribed by regulations made in accordance with subsections (1) and (2) of section 53 of the New Towns Act 1965 the minimum contribution which shall be made by that development corporation or by the Commission (as the case may be) towards expenditure incurred or to be incurred by any local authority or statutory undertakers in the performance, in relation to the new town, of any of their statutory functions. This Amendment again, is a proviso to the Clause for the purpose of Parliament's being able to consider the use of the £250 million before it is distributed to development corporations. This proviso deals with a matter which is of deep concern now to local authorities which have new towns grafted on to them. I say frankly that the arrangements which Conservative Governments made are not in present circumstances working satis-actorily to the old local authorities, to those authorities which have to support the social services and the welfare and health services for the new towns which have been grafted on to them.

The Amendment is a well-known device to avoid drafting what we mean by the Amendment. We seek to impose a duty on the Minister to produce regulations before he agrees to an advance. Before any part of the £250 million is advanced to any development corporation, we should be satisfied that the new town corporation, whether it be the Commission itself or a development corporation, is prepared to make a proper contribution to the social and welfare services which have to be provided by the local authority.

In many cases this is proving to be a very heavy burden on the rates. The Parliamentary Secretary gave an example the other way round on Second Reading. He scoffed at the local authority which, when asked to contribute to a £50,000 project of a new town, offered £100. It works the other way, too. That local authority might well have been thinking of the burden on its own rates that the presence of the new town had caused.

The result of having a new town in the neighbourhood of the old local authority is that the old local authority must provide schools, welfare and health services, and all the other local authority services before any real return is received from the increased rateable value. The local authority has to finance these social services for several years before it sees the return. That is a heavy burden on the rates.

Under town development, the normal procedure is an agreement between the exporting authority and the receiving authority which sets out clearly how the scheme is to be financed, both by subsidies from the Ministry on certain subjects, such as housing, and by finance and support from the exporting authority. There, before the project is started on, the contribution which is to be made from the Exchequer and from the exporting authority is known. But there does not seem to be anything so certain in the case of the development corporation and the local authority. It all seems to be left to the discretion of the development corporation and what good will it feels towards the local authority whether it will make that contribution.

I would like to have seen the duty imposed on the development corporation in a specific form of regulations by the Minister making certain that there is a substantial contribution towards the rates and that this burden on the rates, which many local authorities feel heavily, is relieved for certain, so that we can see that it is so relieved by regulations coming before the House.

Mr. James Allason (Hemel Hempstead)

I imagine that the Parliamentary Secretary will read from his Ministerial brief that all this is taken care of by the future expansion of rateable value and that there is no need to worry because at some stage the town will be that much richer and will have caught up with its backlog of expenditure. I want to inform the Committee that that simply does not happen.

That was the argument used by the Conservative Government back in 1958, when the general grant system was introduced. They assured Hertfordshire, which was the outstanding county, which has a number of new towns and has extreme experience of what happens when new towns are introduced into an area and of the expense which falls on the rates, that everything would be all right because experience would prove that there would be no great call on the rates. This is a fallacy. It is not possible to give proof by any system of logic. One can prove it only by the actual facts.

The facts are that in 1959–60, when the general grants started, Hertfordshire was receiving its proportion of sums from the Treasury as a contribution to relevant expenditure on which rates are paid. At that stage of relevant expenditure, about 55.5 per cent. of national relevant expenditure was paid for by the Treasury. Hertfordshire received 55.7 per cent. Every year thereafter, however, the proportion has dropped to 54 per cent. in one year, 53 per cent. another year, and so on, downwards until now, in 1966–67, Hertfordshire receives only 49.5 per cent. Treasury grant for rele- vant expenditure. This is directly as a consequence of the heavy cost of an expanding population.

My hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) has described the many calls which come on a local authority to provide services ahead of the time when there is an increase in rate-borne expenditure. One would certainly think that after two or three years matters would catch up, but where there is a steady expansion they never do catch up. It is necessary, therefore, for the Government to make a substantial contribution when there is an expansion of population by way of a new town. I sincerely hope that the Government will accept the Amendment.

Mr. Oscar Murton (Poole)

I strongly support the Amendment. I am alarmed when I hear what my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) says about new towns and the effect upon ratepayers. My hon. Friend is in a position to know, because he has had experience, and the Committee should listen carefully to his warnings on this matter.

On Second Reading, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary spoke of a new town being added on to an existing town and said: it would not be right to insulate ratepayers from any general rise in rate levels; moreover, if they were to enjoy a wider range of facilities than at present, it would be only fair that they should make a contribution to the cost of providing those facilities. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that the ratepayers will not be asked to bear more than their fair share of the cost of the expansion."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1966; Vol. 734, c. 1582.] I would like to know from the Parliamentary Secretary whether, in the case of an expanded town, it is right that the existing ratepayers should have to bear any part of this cost. By their good will, and from a sense of public duty, they are simply taking in overspill from great cities and it seems wrong that the established ratepayers should have to bear from their own pockets any part of the burden, which rightly should come from the Exchequer. I make that point forcibly to the Parliamentary Secretary and I would like to know whether he does not agree with what I have said. The Parliamentary Secretary referred particularly on Second Reading to facilities and he talked about "new town blues". It is true that a grant of £4 per head is made for facilities for new towns. The hon. Gentleman has even said that he would increase that amount. One must, however, remember that in the case of new towns being grafted on to existing towns, the existing facilities are probably perfectly adequate for those who already live there. If extra facilities are to be provided it is essential, and it is the Government's duty, to grant the extra money to provide the extra facilities for the new population. To my mind, it would be quite immoral to expect the existing ratepayers to bear any part of that burden.

On the wider aspect, we have also to remember the enormous problem which arises, as my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) has mentioned, concerning social services, welfare and health, schools, sewage works and everything which has to be built. One knows, of course, that housing is a social service and is non-profitable, and no one would expect it to be otherwise, but one hopes that the other concomitants which are promised when a town expands will become profitable. It is alarming, from what we have heard this morning, to think that those services will very likely not become profitable and that the rate burden will continue to grow year by year.

In many ways one understands the reason for this, because in the very nature of things an elected council feels that it must do the best it can for its ratepayers by the provision of extra facilities, services, community centres, new town centres and all the other things that go to make life pleasant. These councils must, however, put a brake on their ideas, because, if this expansion is to be accepted by many towns which are prepared to consider the problem, the assurance must be given that this rate burden will not fall upon the existing ratepayers. Nothing that has been said so far has denied that this happens and it looks to me as though it will continue to happen. The Government must do something about this.

Mr. Mellish

The hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) chided me with my remarks on Second Reading, when I referred to an idea for a £50,000 amenity which was promoted by the development corporation and the local authority offered £100. The hon. Member for Crosby said that this happens the other way round, and I do not deny this; it is perfectly true. I ought, however, to put it on record that as a consequence of the development corporation's activities, the local authority concerned, which I will not name, is receiving £450,000 a year in rates.

It really must not go out from this Committee that we think what anyone listening to the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) might think, for listening to him one does get a very jaundiced view of some of these matters. To listen to him one would think that these areas do not get any money at all and that the whole burden of new town development falls on the backs of the ratepayers and that there is an immediate, tremendous increase in rates. In view of this Press publicity I saw last week I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is speaking for Hemel Hempstead in these matters. Frankly, I can only say to him that if he is speaking for the local authorities I am very surprised representations have not been made at an official level.

12 noon.

Mr. Allason

May I assure the hon. Gentleman that in speaking on this question of rates I am speaking for the whole of Hertfordshire? I have the warm support of Hertfordshire County Council for what I have said on this and past occasions.

Mr. Mellish

Of course, when anyone speaks against rate increases he gets the warm support of anyone who is paying rates. That is very logical and very obvious, and it has been so from time immemorial, but rates have not suddenly gone up under this Labour Government; they have been going up for the last decade or so. Let us get it clear. The real question is whether people are getting value for their money. That is the real test.

I understand why the hon. Member for Crosby put forward his Amendment. He has put it forward as a probing Amendment, and I see his point. He wants something on the Statute Book to allow for a minimum contribution to be made by the development corporation in exercise of functions which it is necessary for the local authority to perform; he wants a minimum contribution laid down so that the local authority can be certain of getting at least a minimum sum of money.

The problem about an Amendment of this kind and what he is asking for is the practicality of applying it, because the functions normally carried out by local authorities must vary considerably as between one service and another and as between one new town and another. It is just not possible to accept the Amendment, I must tell the hon. Gentleman. We have looked very carefully at this, and it is just not possible to lay down any standard, not even a minimum one, as he proposes in the Amendment.

The New Towns Act, 1965, empowers development corporations and the Commission to make contributions to local authorities subject to the approval of my right hon. Friend and with the concurrence of the Treasury. There is also power under the Act for my right hon. Friend to make an order authorising a development corporation to exercise powers normally vested in the local authority in the provision of sewers and sewage disposal works; in other words, to take complete responsibility away, and the cost. In some areas local authorities welcome this; in others they do not.

So, in the case of sewerage, we can have a situation where the development corporation can make a contribution to the local authority or it can do the job entirely on its own, and receive a contribution from the local authority for doing it.

In practice, this is one field where the corporations have generally had to exercise what are normally local authority functions. In most new towns the previously existing sewage disposal facilities were inadequate at the outset and the capital expenditure involved in providing facilities suitable for major development was usually far beyond the means of local authorities. Successive Ministers, Conservative Ministers and the present holder of this office, have had to make the necessary orders to give the development corporations power to carry out the works, and in all cases we have had the agreement of the local authorities concerned.

If we were to accept this Amendment we really would be in an impossible situation. The question of which way contributions should go is always very difficult. Take the case of Skelmersdale There are four local authorities involved. About the whole of the Skelmersdale urban district is in the designated area, about 1,700 acres; 1,400 acres of the designated area are in Upholland urban district; 380 acres are in Ormskirk urban district; and 480 acres are in Wigan rural district. I put it to the hon. Gentleman that he really must accept it from me that on a matter of this kind the decision he wants about minima cannot be written into the Statute Book. These must be decided as a result of consultation between the local authorities and the development corporation in the area concerned.

The hon. Gentleman the Member for Poole (Mr. Murton) raised the question of amenities. He will know that I have been paying special attention to this. I think it is quite futile to build a new town without, at the same time as we are building the houses, paying special attention to amenities. I think that this is generally accepted on both sides of the Committee. In fact a contribution for amenities can be made from the development corporation. I think we are all generally agreed on this, that at some stage in the future all these new towns will normally be run by the local authorities concerned, and that it is right that they should play their part in building up the new towns. I have been going around trying desperately hard to get local authorities to understand this very problem.

It is true, of course, that they must be helped. The present provision is that £4 per head of incoming population is available for amenities—that is laid down by Statute. My personal view is that this is not enough. I believe this has to be increased. By how much and when are matters for future judgment, but I do not quarrel with hon. Members on either side of the Committee who say we have to try to increase it if we can, to enable local authorities to do a bigger and better job.

Mr. David Mitchell (Basingstoke)

Could the Minister clarify whether that applies to expanded towns or to new towns? I think that my hon. Friend was referring to expanded towns. Could he also answer the point which has been made and which he has not yet come to, that there is a severe financial burden which can fall on the ratepayers and the local authorities? The Minister said there was the difference in the rules, no matter which party was in office. I would remind him that we have seen a longer period of high Bank Rate under the present Administration than ever before, and that this is having a very severe effect in prognosticating rate burdens falling on ratepayers in areas of expansion such as Basingstoke. I should be grateful for his comments on this matter.

Mr. Mellish

There is, of course, a difference between an expanded town and a new town. There is a later Amendment which may enable us to develop this point of view, whether the finance available, and the principles of financing, should be applicable and parallel in new town development and expanded towns. There is an argument about this. But on the amenities of which I am talking, I think that there is a case for looking at this point, and at the money involved, because I recognise that these amenities are an essential part of the future of any new town.

I have talked earlier about the attitude of the local authorities concerned here. The hon. Member opposite seemed to convey the impression that there was almost overnight an enormous burden on the rates in consequence of a new town. I do not accept that. In fact, the provision of new towns in these areas is welcomed by the towns themselves. In many instances millions of pounds of Government money have been poured in, in bringing in new industry to the area, and in improving the life of the whole area. For that, there must be payment. No decent person would expect not to have some increase in his rates for that. What we must consider, as I said before, is whether he gets value for his money in the increased and improved services which are put in.

Mr. Allason

Would the hon. Gentleman consider, for example, the extreme case of the new town in Wales—I do not know where it is to be—and of putting it in an agricultural county, with a very low rateable value? The effect, in the early years of the new town, will be that the rates will go sky high in that county. That is the extreme case, I agree. In a fairly prosperous county like Hertfordshire the effect is not so large, but my point is that the effect is very noticeable indeed, even in Hertfordshire.

Mr. Arthur Jones (Northants, South)

Would the Parliamentary Secretary agree with me that there is no net benefit to an authority from a new domestic hereditament? Each one is likely to be a debit against the rate fund, and that can only be balanced by incoming industrial and commercial development.

Mr. Mellish

On the point about our friends in Wales, it is not for me to speak for them. I would assume that, when the new town is designated, that would be one of the factors to be taken into account, but I can only say to the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead that the views which he has expressed will be read by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of Stale for Wales.

The point raised by the hon. Member for Northants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones) is a fact which we recognise. It might be a good thing that even the industrial element of a new town should go over to the local authority at the end of the life of the new town. That would be the ideal. But the other side of the coin is that the industrial element of new towns is an enormous profit-making element. It should not be forgotten that these industrial concerns are bringing in money not only to past Governments, but to this Government.

We are headed for further expansion, with more new towns costing the nation millions of pounds, and that means the taxpayer. In my opinion, it is only right that, where there are commercial profits made in existing new towns, the profit should go into a total pool to help ratepayers as a whole rather than one specific area where a new town has to be sited. That is a matter of opinion, of course. However, I shall be ruled out of order if we pursue this topic too far. It has been an interesting discussion on an Amendment which was put down to probe whether we should lay down any minimum for local authorities.

I am quite convinced that the range of services involved and the range of different circumstances that there are make it essential that we should continue to look at each particular case on its merits, and not even try to lay down a maximum or a minimum. Flexibility is desirable in all these fields.

I hope that the hon. Member for Crosby will agree with that and, in the light of what I have said, be good enough to withdraw his Amendment.

Mr. Murton

The hon. Gentleman admitted that in all cases there will be an increase in rates, and he suggested that everyone should accept that. I am not in a position to know whether anything can be done to minimise that, but every effort should be made to mitigate increases in rates on existing ratepayers living in an expanded town, otherwise it is grossly unfair to them.

12.15 p.m.

Mr. Graham Page

I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary has not been a little more sympathetic towards this Amendment. As I understand it, his attitude is that it will cause an increase in rates and on the rate burden of a local authority, but the local authority will see its return in the end.

The hon. Gentleman has heard the facts put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) in connection with an existing new town. He has heard the fears of my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Murton) about a possible new town, although it may be that in his case it will be under town development; but it could be a new town. They are fears which I have heard voiced by my hon. Friend the Member for Peterborough (Sir Harmar Nicholls), where they are concerned about the expenses on the rates as a result of the new town being grafted on to Peterborough. The Parliamentary Secretary came back on the example which he gave in Second Reading and said that that local authority had received £450,000 a year in rates. That may be. It may be that it is one of the well-developed new towns and that at this stage the local authority is receiving that amount of money.

My understanding of the figures is that there is no profit out of the rateable value of new properties for very many years. Although it looks good on paper—a new house has been built with a rateable value of so much, and so much is coming in in rates—set against the services which have to be provided, there is no profit out of new residential buildings. My hon. Friend the Member for Northants, South (Mr. Arthur Jones) said that there is no net benefit, and that is true. I am sorry that the Parliamentary Secretary does not accept that.

In due course, there will be a return from new industries, but it will be in due course, and that may be some years hence. In the meantime, a local authority is suffering a heavy burden, possibly having to borrow money at higher rates than that at which the development corporation or Commission get their money. That is where there is a certain amount of unfairness.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that the right thing is to look at each particular case, and that is what I suggest in my Amendment. I propose regulations for each particular case so that Parliament may know that this or that development corporation which seeks to obtain an advance out of the £250 million will contribute in some real form towards the rates.

While the hon. Gentleman was speaking, I looked at some of the accounts of the existing development corporations to see whether I could discover from the revenue account whether they made any contributions to local authorities. I opened the accounts at random. Starting with Skelmersdale, I see on the revenue side that, even at the present stage, there is quite a substantial amount coming in from property rents and other income—£99,000. Then there are housing subsidies of £12,000, and other income of £21,000. On the expenditure side of the account, I see no contribution at all to the local authority. It is not contributing a penny, despite the income coming in, and the local authority concerned is already having to provide services.

Whether I am looking at the right accounts, I do not know. They are the only ones I have, and they are the revenue and expenditure accounts of the development corporations.

If I look at an old-established one such as Basildon, I see that that has an income from rents and other income of over £2 million. It has housing subsidies of £622,000, and it has other income of £70,000. On the expenditure side, I cannot find a penny paid in contributions to the local authorities. It is true that the rates may be coming in from those properties; Basildon is an old-established one.

Let me take one more. In the case of Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield, there is a substantial income of about £1 million. On the other side, in this case, I find a contribution to the local authorities. However, out of an income of £1 million or so, the contribution is only £97,000.

I find that in the case of the revenue account of Welwyn Garden City, so that I do not think that I am looking at the wrong accounts in relation to the other development corporations. In many of them, there is no contribution at all towards the services provided by the local authorities. The corporations are washing their hands of this, rather like the Parliamentary Secretary has, saying that the local authorities will get their rates, and that is all that they deserve. In this new chapter of development, I do not think that that is sufficient.

The Parliamentary Secretary says, "We look at each case individually." I hope that he will do that in future and realise that there is high feeling on this.

I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Mr. Graham Page

I beg to move Amendment No. 5, in page 1, line 10, at the end to insert: (2) The preceding subsection shall come into operation one month after the Minister shall have laid before Parliament a statement of the results of a review by him of all existing or presently proposed town development within the meaning of the Town Development Act 1932 and of his consequent intentions of designating and not designating (as the case may be) under section 1 of the New Towns Act 1965 the site of such existing or presently proposed town development as the site of a new town. This, again, is in the nature of a proviso to Clause 1, and sets out some conditions precedent to advances under this Clause. In fact, it goes a little further than the provisos which we have been discussing so far. In this case it is desired to say that Clause 1 shall not come into operation until the Minister has carried out a certain exercise, as set out in the Amendment. Owing to my bad handwriting, there is a misprint in the Amendment. It should be 1952, and not 1932, but I am sure that the Parliamentary Secretary was not misled by that. He has too great a knowledge of town development to be misled. I meant the Town Development Act, 1952.

On the Amendment we seek to ensure that before the Minister starts distributing the £250 million under this Clause he will review the existing provisions for providing for population pressure. There are two ways of doing it, either by new towns, or by town development. At the moment they are running alongside one another, and, until we get an overall picture of what is happening, Parliament cannot say whether it is right to advance £250 million to development corporations of new towns, as opposed to advancing money for town development.

As I said on an earlier Amendment, the first concept of new towns was either on completely undeveloped land, or attached to small towns. In the second generation we are now grafting some of the new towns on to the large towns, and this process is indistinguishable from town development, except in finance and government.

Perhaps there is the distinction that the new town is financed by the Exchequer. It is developed by an appointed corporation, and its properties are allocated according to that development corporation's selection. In the case of town development, it is financed by the exporting and receiving authorities, with a certain amount of subsidy from the Exchequer. It is developed by the receiving authority, or perhaps by the exporting authority as agent for the receiving authority, and the properties when built are allocated according to the exporting authority's housing waiting list, speaking generally, but sometimes, of course, according to the industrial needs.

During the Second Reading debate the Parliamentary Secretary said that there were 20 town development schemes for the relief of London, and I think that it is essential to try to see how these fit into the general scheme of both new towns and town development. In dealing with this subject, the Parliamentary Secretary, when he had explained that there were these 20 town development schemes, set out the rate of house building, and said: In addition, discussions are going on for further agency schemes, and the Greater London Council hopes to reach a total agency programme building at a rate of 5,000 houses a year. Furthermore, and as a separate major project, the Greater London Council is in consultation with the Wiltshire County Council and the Swindon Borough Council on the possibility of carrying out the further expansion of Swindon under the Town Development Act. This follows the Llewellyn Davies report on development in Swindon-Newbury-Didcot area. There are, therefore, a substantial number of projects for town development having the same purpose as new towns. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that, unfortunately, he could not report such success outside the London relief scheme, that is to say, from areas in the Midlands and in the North, and that he had certain propositions for trying to make a success of schemes there.

In relation to the new towns, may I again quote what the hon. Gentleman said, because I wish to bring this into my argument on the Amendment. He said: To my mind, one of the most interesting and exciting of our ideas is the use of the machinery of the New Towns Act to expand large existing towns. Pausing there, up to the present we have thought more of using the town development procedures for expanding large existing towns.

The hon. Gentleman then said: Already, in the so-called second generation new towns like Redditch and Runcorn, we are integrating existing towns of substantial population with new development and incoming population from big cities on a substantial scale."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th October, 1966; Vol. 734, c. 1580–1.] and he then mentioned Ipswich, Northampton, Warrington and Peterborough.

In all those cases in the past one would have thought of development by means of town development under the 1952 Act. Now we are starting on a new idea of new town development for the expansion of the cities. I do not wish, by any tone in my voice, in any way to deprecate this. It may be the right thing to do. In fact I have advocated this type of development for many years. All that I want is that the House should have an overall picture of a development as it proceeds.

During his Second Reading speech the Parliamentary Secretary tabulated the advantages which could be obtained from using this new town procedure in expanding the old towns. He set out several advantages, which might well have been a statement of the advantages of town development. In fact, in new town schemes, we are moving towards the principle of town development, and one wonders whether it is right to keep the two types of scheme running parallel, or whether one ought in future to use the new towns scheme entirely and abandon town development.

Perhaps I ought to explain a little more what I understand by town development, as distinct from new towns. Section 1 of the Town Development Act, 1952, in describing "town development", said that it means development in a county district … which will have the effect, and is undertaken primarily for the purpose, of providing accommodation for residential purposes … the provision whereof will relieve congestion or overpopulation elsewhere". That is exactly what the new towns and, indeed, the old new towns are intended to do.

This development is carried out by contributions from the Ministry in the form of enhanced housing subsidies, assistance with land acquisition, contributions towards the cost of site works, water supplies, sewerage, drainage, and so on. But those Ministry contributions are very small compared to the support given by the Exchequer to new towns. The exporting authority generally has to bear the lion's share. It may act as agent and carry out the planning and building, or advise and support a receiving authority's planning and building.

12.30 p.m.

The exporting authority will certainly help to meet housing losses for the first few years, and for a period guarantee a loss in the receiving authority's rate income, or guarantee the receiving authority against unduly heavy rates. In short, the exporting authority underwrites the scheme until the receiving authority is getting benefit by rate revenue from the whole scheme.

That is what the taxpayer is doing in respect of new towns. We have these two schemes running parallel. Some local authorities would prefer a new town project rather than town development, but others would prefer town development rather than a new town. Parliament should be given the overall picture. We should know how much is to be done by new town procedure and how much by town development.

I will quote yet again from the Parliamentary Secretary's Second Reading speech. He said: The purpose of the London new towns is to accommodate overspill from London and, more particularly to believe London's housing problems."—[OFFICIAL RLPORT, 28th October. 1966; Vol. 734, c. 1587.] That is exactly what town development has been doing for some years. London finds the industry for the receiving authority and sends people there who are appropriate to that industry—and in this connection I was a little disturbed by what the Parliamentary Secretary said about the future selection of those from London to go to the new towns. Up to the present, in town development schemes priority has been given to the employees of the industries which are moving to the town development area.

After that, as I understand, houses are allotted to persons on the industrial selection list of London if they have said that they are willing to go out of London and work out of London and they are suitable for the industries which are moving to the area. I understand from what the Parliamentary Secretary said that this practice will be altered in future, and that priority will not necessarily be given to the employees of the new industries moving into a town development area, but to unskilled and semi-skilled workers who are in desperate need of housing or rehousing and are moving out of London for that purpose.

I may be giving a wrong emphasis to what the Minister said, but it seems to me that a logical reading of his remarks in the Second Reading debate indicates a change in emphasis or priorities, and that concentration will not in future be on the need to get industries to these areas together with the proper employees for those industries. If I have misinterepreted the Minister's remarks, I hope that he will correct me. Here again, there should be a clear policy both for new towns and for town development. We should not have different priorities for the different schemes. Parliament should know on what basis both town development and the creation of new towns are being pursued. The other vitally important reason for looking at the problem as a whole and then deciding whether the development should take the form of a new town or a town development, is finance. The Exchequer contributes but the lion's share is borne by the exporting authority, with the assistance of the receiving authority.

Even in London, where the exporting authority is prepared to put a substantial sum into town development projects, there have been bitter complaints from receiving authorities that the burden placed upon them was too great. In other cities in the North, less able than London to provide the support for town development, where Government wish to develop the system of town development, or overspill—I have tried to avoid that word all the way through because I hate it; town development describes much more accurately what we are trying to do—there may be even more bitter complaints that receiving authorities are bearing a heavy burden. This again makes us ask whether there should be more new town schemes in the place of the town development schemes which are at present being considered.

Already this morning we have heard from my hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Murton), who represents a constituency faced with substantial town development, that the local authority is very worried about the financial results. My hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Marten) represents a constituency where, I understand, substantial town development is in project and where, again, the local authority has expressed concern as to the burden which may be placed upon it.

Under the Bill Parliament is asked to approve the use of £250 million for new town schemes. We have heard that this is mainly for the existing new towns and the half dozen which are now in prospect. They will be doing, in many cases, the same job as is done by town development. We ought to have information before us so that the Committee and Parliament as a whole can judge the right balance to be struck between new town projects and town development.

In moving the Amendment I have tried not to come down on the side of either form of development. We have not enough information to enable us to judge at present. That is why the Amendment asks the Minister to pause before distributing any of this money and to report to the House after he has reviewed the proposed and existing town developments and put them alongside the new town projects so that the picture can be looked at as a whole.

Mr. Murton

I should like to expand on the latter part of what my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) said, about the type of man and family who are to be moved from London to the expanded and new towns. I sympathise with the Parliamentary Secretary in his problem. In his speech on Second Reading, he said that as the scheme is working at present, it is not necessarily those whose housing need is greatest who are having top priority in being rehoused. He added that everybody concerned should keep clearly in mind that it was the Government's intention that those Londoners who had a housing need should become the top priority.

I can understand this problem, but he should be aware, if he is not already, that, in the overtures which the G.L.C. is making to some existing local authorities, this point is not made clear, and the "bait"—I do not mean that satirically—is that movement will be by way of the industrial selection scheme, whereby trained workers will move in with the industry.

That would be fine if it worked, but the hon. Gentleman will agree, I am sure—he has personal and practical experience of this and mine is only theoretical, through reading—that, in the last two or three years this has not been the case. Instead of the skilled men coming into the expanded or new towns, there has been a higher proportion of semiskilled and unskilled. I cannot contribute a satisfactory solution to the problem: this must be left to the Parliamentary Secretary and his Department, but it is important that the problem should be looked squarely in the eye.

Two grave difficulties arise for an expanding town in understanding the social needs of moving unskilled population out of London. We must be careful that, when they come into a new area, they do not compete for a limited number of jobs with the unskilled or semi-skilled population already there, who obviously have a prior right for consideration. That is one important point.

The other concerns the suggestion by the Parliamentary Secretary on Second Reading that retraining should take place on arrival of the unskilled labour. This is a Government responsibility, firmly and flatly, and I do not think that existing industry in a town which is accepting expansion should be called upon to play a part in this. To do so would cause increased overheads which would have a bad short-term effect on that industry. If the unskilled labour is to come into a town, its training or retraining to a higher skill should be the Government's responsibility.

The Parliamentary Secretary should give us some more information, if he can, about the extent to which unskilled labour is being moved into new and expanded towns, how he sees this problem in relation to the great social need and whether something can be done to ensure that before people are moved, if practicable, they should be upgraded so that they do not compete in a new area with the already considerable core—as there is in every town—of the lower grades of skilled men.

12.45 p.m.

Mr. J. E. B. Hill

I like the conception in the Amendment of having a review of the present state of town development. As far as I know, no such review exists. I inquired about this a week or two ago and found that even the Greater London Council does not have a comprehensive annual report—or at least not one which is published—of progress in the 20 or more schemes which are presently in existence.

I also like the suggestion that an expanded town could, if necessary, move over to the new town procedure, If it thought fit. I do not know whether that is in the Minister's mind, but I should like to enter a caveat. I hope that, if this becomes the procedure, it will not take place except with the consent and preferably at the request, of the existing local authority.

I was interested in an earlier remark of the Parliamentary Secretary, his suggestion that he might like to increase the amount of £4 a head for amenity given to the new towns. I would stress that one of the difficulties in providing amenities in town development is shortfall of finance, apart from purely physical capacity. I disagree slightly with my hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page). I do not think that it is harder to provide these things in a new town. If anything, it is somewhat harder in the existing towns, where the capacity for amenities—from the town hall to the playing fields—is limited and quickly overfilled.

In the normal way, there is little or no help to provide these facilities. Help, as has been said, is mainly for advance projects of land for construction of houses and the very important grants for water supplies and sewerage. But the expanding town is usually left with a very large loan indebtedness. This reflects the town council's investment, it is true, in the industrial area. It all depends on the particular situation.

The Borough of Thetford, in my constituency, was one of the earliest boroughs to take part—at its own request—in such a scheme. We can congratulate Thetford and the G.L.C. on the great success of that scheme, but there are difficulties. One of the worst is that of phasing the different ingredients which are essential if a new home is to be provided for families leaving London. It is not only a house and a job which are important, although those are difficult enough to keep in phase, but also the provision of school and hospital services and the rest.

I know that this has been mentioned before, but I would impress on the hon. Gentleman the desirability of getting more co-operation. It is a weary job, as a Member of Parliament, going round different Departments and making the same case that the industrialists will not be willing to come to the expanded town if the new school is not provided in time for the completion of the factory and the houses. It is very difficult to expect a local education authority to make provision in its own programme—it has the allocations—for some intervening town expansion, when its own problem of providing roofs over heads is very acute. I have always hoped that the Government would provide a separate educational allocation and, I would say, a road allocation for those features in town development schemes which are essential for their success.

We do not know enough about the relative costs from the national point of view of town development schemes and new town schemes. I have often wondered what, on balance, paid the nation best, and I am very interested to find a report—it has just come into my possession—which the Minister presumably put in hand, investigating the costs of town development with particular reference to Thetford. I have not had a chance to study it in detail, but the right hon. Gentleman issued a Press notice about it some two days ago and it appears to be a most interesting study—in fact, precisely the sort of study that should be carried out.

It emerges, in so far as I have just looked at the summary, that if all goes well, according to the author of the report, Mr. S. W. Hill, the burden on the rates should be comparatively modest. He says that with a population of 18,500 the cost on the rates should be 2d. and that if the population is expanded to 50,000 the cost should be 4d. That is, provided that full grants are available for sewage disposal and water supplies.

There is also the burden on the county rate which is Id. for a population of 18,500 and 2.6d. for a population of 50,000. The only point there is that when a town expands a little, it puts a rate burden on the county ratepayers as a whole, so that it cannot be said that the movement of population into the county benefits the county ratepayers.

One of the most interesting points emerging from this report is that the capital cost per head of population moving out, with the lower population at present projected of 18,500, is £817. With a population of 50,000 the capital cost goes up to £859 a head. That is not a great difference, but the trend is interesting in that further expansion appears to be relatively more expensive than moderate expansion. These are the sorts of things that ought to be looked into nationally. I would welcome a survey and an annual report by the Minister. To that extent I support the Amendment.

Mr. Mellish

First, may I thank those hon. Members who have spoken on this Amendment, particularly the hon. Members for Poole (Mr. Murton) and for Norfolk. South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill), with their proper concern about the words which I used in the Second Reading debate when I referred to what I called the sort of Londoners who ought to go to the new towns and to the town development areas. I should like to take this opportunity—indeed, the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Graham Page) invited me to do so—to clarify the position.

During the past year, given the task I had of visiting the new towns—and I am dealing now only with the new towns which are responsible for London overspill—I discovered that less than 40 per cent. of those who were entering the new towns from the London area came off the London waiting lists. This means that 60 per cent.—many of them Londoners and first-class people—had no housing need so far as one could judge. At least, such a need was not registered. The industrial selection scheme—and the hon. Member for Poole was fair about this—is designed basically to help the employer to get the best type of labour for his work.

It was, therefore, obvious to all of us that the weakness of the industrial selection scheme as we saw it was that the unskilled Londoner, who invariably was the man with the most vicious housing need, hardly got a chance of being considered. Therefore, it was a question of looking to see how one could amend the situation.

I want to get put on the record. Whether it be a town development scheme or a new town, no one could ever hope to achieve anything like 100 per cent. success. What I would hope and aim for is that between 60 and 70 per cent. of those who go into these areas will be dealt with by what I call the new arrangement whereby there will be a much closer check on the housing needs of the persons going into the new areas. Between 30 per cent. and 40 per cent. will have nothing to do with housing need.

I accept the argument that when a firm starts up in a new area, in the first instance it may have to take many of its own people with it to maintain continuity. Many of the people who go probably have no housing need. I accept at once, too, that the executives and special personnel may not be in housing need when they go to a factory or a business of that kind. Therefore, I agree that it would be quite impossible for us on this side of the Committee, advancing as we do the humane argument of housing need being the over-riding factor, to say that that was the only factor.

What I say—I tried to say it on Second Reading—is that I aim for a much bigger intake than ever before into the new towns and the town development areas of those who have a genuine housing need in London. On that point, I think that I carry everybody with me. These towns are not built for fun, as a planner's paradise or architects' gimmicks. They are built for one specific purpose. Those towns are built to relieve London of its housing needs. That is the prime object. Let us see whether we can achieve it.

In going around and talking to industrialists—and I made no comment until I had discussed it with industry first—I found a genuinely sincere wish on their part to help us. Local firms are most anxious to have their own training schemes. Indeed, they would prefer this. With respect to the argument that this training should be carried out at some training centre—I am speaking personally here—I favour the idea of a Londoner who is unskilled going to the firm where he is to be employed and being trained there in that firm's techniques on the floor level. This idea has been welcomed by many industrialists, and if we pursue this course I am sure that we shall get all the good will that we need. I am obliged for your courtesy, Mr. Irving, in allowing me to speak at some length on that subject in replying to the Amendment.

The Town Development Act gives much better results for what I would call the right type of Londoner going into the area, than does the New Towns Act. It is able to deal with the problem in the detail of which I have spoken. As I understand the Amendment, the intention is to make the Minister reconsider whether some town expansions should become new towns. I beg of the hon. Member to believe that this is going on now. We are all united in wanting more new towns. I think there is a genuine desire also to have more town development schemes where practicable.

The one key to town development must always be that the receiving authority wants town development. It must extend the hand of friendship and say, "We need you. Will you come in and help us to develop?" This is why the relationship in town development areas is extremely good and, in comparison with new towns, it is very much better. One can quote instances all over the country where this has gone on extremely well. If the Amendment is asking us whether we might consider town expansion schemes becoming new town schemes or vice versa, I assure the Committee that this is already done.

1.0 p.m.

Concern is expressed about financial arrangements for town development schemes, and, understandably, comparisons are made between what new towns and town development schemes get. Receiving authorities in town development schemes get certain grants for services, and will continue to get grants, in addition to the greatly increased subsidies, which we shall promote in a few weeks' time, and from which town development schemes will benefit considerably in respect of each house occupied by an overspill family, and new towns will be substantially in the same position—but I am sure that the Committee will not expect me to develop that argument now.

It is true that town development schemes do not get their capital advances in the same way as new towns. But I often wonder whether this is such a disadvantage because of the way in which the Greater London Council has been helping receiving authorities. I must put it on record that this is highly appreciated and considered extremely generous by the receiving authorities.

I want to put to the Opposition a fair proposition which I hope will enable the hon. Member for Crosby to withdraw his Amendment. If any hon. Member considers that a certain scheme, for any particular reasons, ought to be designated either a new town or a town development scheme, we shall be very willing to discuss it with him and the appropriate local authority. I would make clear that there is no prejudice on our part. Both types of scheme are successful, and they are complementary to each other. The situation is that the new town scheme is for the very large authority and the town development scheme is for the very much smaller one. I hope that on that basis, and on the understanding that I have just given, the hon. Gentleman will withdraw his Amendment.

There is another point that I want to clarify. Earlier the hon. Gentleman asked me about the spending of the £250 million, and he also asked for certain assurances, which I gave. I should like him to know that we reserve the right on the expenditure of the £250 million, on the schemes I have already mentioned, for my right hon. Friend to have the right, understandably, to come before the House and indicate any further scheme that he had in mind for further expansion. If he had that intention he would announce it to the House.

Mr. Graham Page

The Parliamentary Secretary has cleared up a number of very important points. For example, he has made it clear, I think, that both in new town schemes and in town development schemes it will be genuine housing needs which will take priority. One has to satisfy the industries that are moving there and have to take their essential employees and executives that it will be genuine housing needs that he and the Ministry wish to see met by both new town and town development schemes.

My hon. Friend the Member for Poole (Mr. Murton) put two very important points in connection with the expanded towns and the population going into them, one concerning the competition for the limited number of jobs there, and the other concerning the cost of retraining on arrival. In this connection, the Parliamentary Secretary said in his Second Reading speech that he was setting up the London Overspill Liaison Group to get an overall picture of the needs of the expanded town districts and ascertain to how best to deal with the industrial selection scheme. To that extent he recognised that more information is necessary, at any rate on the population side—for instance, as to how one is to populate the new town or town development area—and recognised the point that we are trying to make this morning.

I want to set two statements of his one against the other. In c. 1580 of HANSARD he told the House what was happening in connection with the 20 town development scheme and the new ones in comtemplation, such as at Swindon, with the cooperation of the Wiltshire County Council. There are obviously a number of town development schemes in contemplation at the same time. The hon. Gentleman also mentioned, in c. 1589, the consideration of new town schemes, such as South Hampshire, Humberside, Severn-side and Dundee.

We want to see co-ordination between these two sets of schemes, and we feel that Parliament ought to have an opportunity of full discussions before consenting to advances amounting to £250 million. After all, to put before us a prospectus of this sort merely saying, "We are thinking of several new town schemes here and several new town development schemes there. For this purpose we want £250 million, and for that purpose the money will come in various odd ways through present grants, and perhaps in a week's time we shall produce a Bill which will increase those grants", is treating us in a rather cavalier fashion when we are dealing with such a large sum. We are being asked to subscribe this money without sufficient information.

Mr. Mellish

I think that the hon. Gentleman is really having a bit of fun with the Committee. We are asking for £250 million for the future. The Opposition have Supply days and it is open to them to discuss any of these matters on those occasions. There are also the annual reports not only of my Ministry, but of the development corporations. But to let it go out from the House of Commons that we are about to spend £250 million in a disastrous fashion and that the House is denied information about it, is a bit much.

Mr. Graham Page

The hon. Gentleman is probably exaggerating as much as I did. There is not the information before the Committee that one would expect when it is asked to advance £250 million. We do not know what co-ordination there will be between the schemes. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) asked, "What pays the nation best—a new town or town development?" I understand that by "pays" he meant not only economically, but socially as well.

Some receiving authorities would have more control over town development and, therefore, would prefer it, than a local authority might have over a new town grafted on to it. But things of this sort have not been put before the Committee or the House as a whole, and I still feel that that ought to be done. We are most grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary for his statement that this sort of thing is being considered in the Department all the time. However, if it is being considered there, let us have it out in the open by means of a White Paper, or in some other form, so that the House can consider and perhaps debate it.

I agree that both types of scheme are successful and that they are complementary. But one wants to know on which emphasis should be put in a certain area. As for saying that we can discuss this matter on Supply days, the hon. Gentleman well knows the competition for subjects on those occasions. I think that we should have great difficulty if we tried to get a Supply day to discuss new towns. We must deal with the matter here and now, while there is an opportunity. I would urge the Parliamentary Secretary to think about this very carefully and see whether something can be produced for the information of hon. Members showing the intentions in regard to the future balancing of the two types of project.

Mr. Mellish

I assure the hon. Gentleman that we will seriously consider that. I give that undertaking because it is a reasonable request and I am as anxious as he is to see that Parliament is kept informed of our intentions.

Mr. Graham Page

I am grateful for that assurance and, on that basis, T beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

Mr. Allason rose——

The Chairman


Mr. Allason

On a point of order. Before you rule, Sir Eric, as I believe you are about to, that the Clause has been adequately discussed, may I point out that we have not discussed the subject of housing, and that the discussion that has occurred has been on a strictly limited basis? I appreciate that you have not been in the Chamber for the whole of the discussion, but I assure you that the question of housing policy has not been discussed.

The Chairman

I was going to rule, under Standing Order No. 47, that we have had more than two hours in which to discuss this matter and that I have deliberately allowed the discussion on the various Amendments to travel very much wider than the narrow scope of each Amendment. My view is that the whole principle of Clause 1 has been adequately discussed. After all, there will be an opportunity on Third Reading of discussing the entire Bill and I therefore believe that I must apply the provisions of Standing Order No. 47.

Mr. Graham Page

With respect, Sir Eric, there is one subject on which we have not touched in discussing any of the Amendments so far. In the Clause authority is given to advance money to the Commission. Throughout our discussion the Commission has not been mentioned, although this may be a subject which it might be convenient to discuss on the Question, That the Clause stand part of the Bill.

The Chairman

I must adhere to my view that we have had a very wide discussion which has roamed over the whole policy, not only of the amount involved but of the policy involved in regard to new towns. As I said, there will be an opportunity of discussing the entire Bill on Third Reading.

Mr. Mark Carlisle (Runcorn)

On a point of order. May I seek your guidance concerning a matter which I wished to raise and thought proper to refrain from raising until we got to the Clause stand part? It is the whole question of the rate of payment of compensation. It appears that the Clause is the part of the Bill which raises the amount of money which will be generally available to new town development corporations. Do I take it that it will be in order for me to raise that matter on Third Reading, rather than now?

The Chairman

It would. Indeed, I think that it might be possible to raise it when we come to the Question that Clause 2 stand part, although I will have to consider that.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill