HC Deb 15 June 1977 vol 933 cc466-84


7.13 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Guy Barnett)

I beg to move Amendment No. 1, in page 1, line 12, leave out 'fourteen' and insert 'seventeen'.

The principle of the Bill was approved by the House on Second Reading, when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State explained why the continuation of the office development control system was required. It will be noted that the amendment reverses the amendment that was secured in Committee by the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg) to prolong the control for two years rather than five years as the Government proposed.

I am in no doubt that the extension of the office development control powers should be for five years. When the control was first introduced, it was given a life of seven years—that is, from 1965 to 1972. When that period had elapsed, it fell to a Government supported by hon. Members on the Opposition Benches to decide whether to renew the control, and the period they chose was five years. That seems a very reasonable one to choose and I am quite content to adopt it on this occasion.

By contrast, two years would be quite unsuitable. As I said in Committee, it would lead to uncertainty in the office property world and among local authorities in the area in which the control applied. People would very soon find that within the time scale of development they were planning they could not tell whether office development control would be in operation.

From the point of view of Parliament, I am sure that two years is an unreasonably short time to have to go through the process of promoting fresh legislation, if the control is still required. Nor am I attracted by the suggestion made by the hon. Member for Hampstead in Committee—namely, that at the end of two years the powers should be continued on an annual basis, subject to affirmative resolution of both Houses. Although that would take up less time than legislation, I am sure that it would be wrong to ask the House to reconsider this question so frequently. I believe that it is quite unnecessary to get into that position when Section 86(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 enables the control to be brought to an end by Order in Council at any time before the end of the specified period.

Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)

The hon. Gentleman said that in Committee, but if he looks at Section 86(1) he will see that it provides "unless Parliament otherwise determines". As far as I know, that cannot be interpreted as meaning by Order in Council. An Order in Council is when Her Majesty determines. It should surely be by resolution of both Houses—an affirmative resolution—rather than by Order in Council.

Mr. Barnett

I cannot answer the right hon. Gentleman immediately. I have put before the House the advice that I have been given—namely, that office development control can be varied, as indeed it has recently been varied, by Order in Council. That seems to be the correct process. If the right hon. Gentleman wishes, I shall check the point that he has made.

Everything points to renewing the control, if it is to be renewed—and that was the decision of the House—for a reasonable period. I contend that five years is a reasonable period. If circumstances change within that time, the control can be terminated if that course seems appropriate.

Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg (Hampstead)

I think that the Minister is being a little too ingenuous. He is saying that, among other things, uncertainty would be caused if the Bill were passed with a two-year life. He might be right if we were starting from scratch. However, the Bill is continuing existing powers for a further two years. That is what the Bill would be doing if the Government were prepared to accept the will of the Committee.

I suggest that the hon. Gentleman is not being quite open with the House in the way in which he has put forward his argument. This is an extension of existing powers, subject to the fast ball that my right hon. Friend the Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) bowled, which I hope can be answered before the end of the debate. The Committee took the view that the period should be changed. There have been many changes of policy, and they are all to be welcomed—for example, relaxations in industrial development certificates, the reversal concerning the Location of Offices Bureau and the changes announced in respect of office development permits.

Life should not always be made too easy for the civil servants. It is so easy for civil servants to say to Ministers that they should have a Bill that will run for five years because otherwise they would have to go to the trouble of preparing another Bill within a shorter period, parliamentary time would have to be found and it would be difficult to get parliamentary time. I do not think that the House should accept what the hon. Gentleman has said. A simple Bill could be introduced if necessary and if the Government of the day felt that they wanted a further Bill. That would be the time for a fresh Bill.

As I said in Committee, we would not oppose the Bill if it merely had to be extended on an annual basis by affirmative resolution. I am not certain that the Minister has answered that point especially effectively. At least a Minister could obtain time for an affirmative resolution, which is rather different from obtaining premium time from a busy House in normal circumstances.

On Second Reading the hon. Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson) was a trifle confused and there was not time to correct him. He said, as reported at column 354 of the Official Report, that the Bill was being opposed by the new GLC and by the Conservatives. I tried to make it clear, as I made clear earlier in the debate when the hon. Gentleman was not with us, that the old GLC and the new GLC both wanted to get rid of office development permits. I told the hon. Gentleman that I would clarify that matter. There has been a bipartisan approach all the way through.

The hon. Member for Ealing, North (Mr. Molloy) was unhappy in Committee, although on Second Reading he was clear that he liked the principle of the Bill. He said: I have some apprehensions about the Bill and am not entirely happy with it. However, there is enough in it to tempt me to support it."—[Official Report, 17th May 1977, Vol. 932, c. 340.] I hope he will feel, therefore, that he can support the principle of the Bill without going along with the amendment.

I see that the hon. Member for Swansea, East has now come in. I referred to him, but in a kind way, so I hope that he is not too upset to have missed it.

In Committee, the hon. Member for Ealing, North said something which was not accurate. Following a comment to the effect that the GLC wanted this relaxation, he said: But that was not the view of the London boroughs, whether Tory or Labour."—[Official Report, Standing Committee A, 24th May 1977; c. 10.] Speaking as one of the parliamentary panel of the London Boroughs Association, I know that they do not want a continuation of ODPs. They said so in evidence to the Department when they submitted their paper on inner cities. That is still their view, and I wanted to place that fact on record. The hon. Member is a good local government man and I do not want an inaccuracy to stay on the record.

There is no justification for the Government's attempt to reverse the amendment on which the Committee decided after a long and interesting debate. As I said, two years is just as good as five when we remember that we are not starting from scratch but are renewing existing powers. The right way of proceeding is by affirmative resolution or a new Bill if necessary but not, at this stage, by a five-year extension which allows the things to stay on the statute book for too long.

Mr. Stephen Ross (Isle of Wight)

I rise to speak with some trepidation, because I intend to advise my hon. Friends to vote differently from the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) voted in Committee after having heard the persuasive words of the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg). In fairness, I must say that the hon. Member misled my hon. Friend somewhat, although, of course, not deliberately. My hon. Friend was under the impression that this was a matter on which we had supported the Opposition on Second Reading, when that was not so.

The matter arose from the statement of the hon. Member for Hampstead that all parties in the previous GLC, which had two Liberal members, favoured the lifting of office development permits. I accept that, but the Government have gone a long way in raising the figure in the Bill to 30,000 sq. ft.

The commercial and industrial property page of the Evening Standard on Monday 30th May contained the statement: The sun is beginning to shine brightly for a change on the beleagured property world; a new Tory administration at County Hall, a new role for the Location of Offices Bureau and no need for office development permits for buildings of below 30,000 square feet. The article went on to describe the improved activity in the property world in London, and concluded: Figures just published by Richard Sanders and Partners in April show that the amount of office space let within the City was 115,820 square feet—half the amount of the previous month. Overall, the amount of space available for letting in that area is a record 3,387,721 square feet. I should have thought that this House was opposed to further vast office building at this time. A big area is already permitted without an ODP.

Four or five years ago, many people felt strongly about the vast number of office blocks that were being built when we should have been building houses and factories. Much of this space will not be taken up in the next couple of years. One has only to walk down Tottenham Court Road to see the number of offices which are vacant. I am sure that the property world would prefer the controls maintained so that some of these buildings can be taken up. The same is true in the provinces. Portsmouth, for example, is full of empty office blocks. Five years is a fair compromise.

Let us concentrate on getting the available finance into the right areas and not give another boom to office building. The Opposition more than anyone—I support them on this—want to cut back bureaucracy.

The local authority at Richmond, I understand, intends to build an office block of 36,000 sq. ft. Apparently, the local MP and many local people are completely opposed to the project, which is connected with a car park. The development was to have been done by a Government Department, which, fortunately, no longer intends to do so. But the local council has an ODP and apparently intends to go ahead with this speculative building, despite indignation in the borough.

The Government are right to bring in [his legislation, and I shall support them tonight.

Mr. Hugh Rossi (Hornsey)

It is an interesting admission by the Liberal spokesman, the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross), that his party places on Committee people who do not understand what they are doing. That is the import of his speech. But he is less than fair to his hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells), who followed the arguments closely, intervened several times and was convinced of the necessity for the abolition of ODPs. One notes with interest the difficulties that the Liberal Party has in deciding exactly how to vote at any given time.

As for the argument of the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight about surplus accommodation, if his figures are accurate he should be arguing for the abolition of ODPs. What is the point of keeping controls if they are not needed? Who will build if there is a surplus of accommodation? The more the hon. Gentleman talks, the more ridiculous a posture he gets himself and his party into.

We have argued this matter at length and researched it carefully. On Second Reading we gave abundant evidence that the ODP system was completely unnecessary and damaging to inner London rents and that it affected our competitiveness in insurance, commerce, banking and mercantile shipping. There is no need for it to be retained. The only justification is to maintain the present bureaucracy for longer than is necessary. I hope that my hon. Friends will adhere to our view and oppose the amendment.

Mr. Guy Barnett

I must first give the right hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) the answer to the fast one he bowled at me. He will be surprised to learn that Section 86(1) to which I referred was amended by Section 5 of the 1972 Act. That is the justification for what I was saying.

It will not do for the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. Finsberg) to say that to extend the control by a couple of years, even though it is only an extension and not a new control, will not bring uncertainty to the property market. That is precisely what it will do. The hon. Member said that all parties on the GLC are opposed to office development control. That matter was aired in Committee. No doubt the hon. Gentleman and office developers know that his party on the GLC is opposed to control and that the Government have deliberately produced a reappraisal of policy which implies some flexibility in the operation of that policy. If one were to add a reduction of the length of control from five to two years, property developers and local authorities would gain the firm impression that the days of office control were numbered. That would certainly be a dangerous situation.

That is my answer to the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi), who, echoing the interesting information given by the hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Mr. Ross)—that interest in office development is at a low ebb at the moment— said that that proved that there was no need for office development control. Admittedly there may not be much at the moment, because there is not much mobile office development in the current year, but with the upturn in the economy there almost certainly will be

The Opposition's amendment which was made in Committee would have had the effect of maintaining office development control during the period when little office development was likely to take place, and when the upturn in the economy came the whole question would be in doubt. Whatever office development might be taking place now, however little, could well be delayed in the expectation that after a couple of years control might be lifted. This could create massive uncertainty in the property market and among local authorities.

As I said on Second Reading and in Committee, the Government are firm about the need for office development control The Opposition have been critical, but, although we have tried to make it clear to them, they have failed to realise that office development permit control must be seen as part of the policy which includes new terms of reference for the Location of Offices Bureau and the regional grants provided by my right hon. Friend the

Secretary of State for Industry as an encouragement for offices to move to the assisted areas, where office jobs are badly needed.

Therefore, I am not convinced by the arguments advanced in this debate. The argument, which has been put again, that all parties in the GLC are against ODP control does not move me, even though I am a London Member, because the purpose of office development control is a regional purpose, to help constituencies such as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea, East (Mr. Anderson), where, as in many other parts of Wales, there is a considerable lack of employment opportunity and offices, a matter which we want to redress.

We believe that by the Government's new policy, of which the Bill is a part, we can move towards a fairer balance of employment opportunities in different parts of the country. Therefore, I must ask my hon. Friends to support the amendment.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 119, Noes 94.

Division No. 152] AYES [7.33 p.m.
Abse, Leo Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Miller, Mrs Millie (llford N)
Anderson Donald Forrester, John Molloy, William
Ashton, Joe Garrett, W.E. (Wallsend) Moonman, Eric
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) George, Bruce Moyle, Roland
Atkinson, Norman Ginsburg, David O'Halloran, Michael
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Gould, Bryan Ovenden, John
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Grant, George (Morpeth) Padley, Walter
Beith, A. J. Grocott, Bruce Parker, John
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Harper, Joseph Parry, Robert
Blenkinsop, Arthur Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Pavitt, Laurie
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hatton, Frank Penhaligon, David
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Heffer, Eric S. Phipps, Dr Colin
Campbell, Ian Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) price, William (Rugby)
Cant, R. B. Hughes, Roy (Newport) Radice, Giles
Carson, John Jeger, Mrs Lena Roderick, Caerwyn
Cartwright, John Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Rooker, J. W.
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) John, Brynmor Ross Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Cohen, Stanley Johnson Walter (Derby S) Ross, Rt Hon. (kilmarnock)
Coleman, Donald Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Sandelson Neville
Conlan, Bernard Jones, Dan (Burnley) Sedgemore Brian
Cowans, Harry Kilroy-Silk Robert Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Crawshaw, Richard Lamborn, Harry Skinner Dennis
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Lamond, James Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Davidson, Arthur Lee, John Spearing, Nigel
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) Lewis, Arthur (Newham N)
Davies, Ifor (Gower) Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Spriggs, Leslie
Deakins, Eric Loyden, Eddle Stallard, A.W.
Dempsey, James Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Steel, Rt Hon David
Doig, Peter McCartney, Hugh Stoddart, David
Dormand, J. D. McDonald, Dr Oonagh Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Douglas-Mann, Bruce MacKenzle, Rt Hon Gregor Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Duffy, A. E. P. Maclennan, Robert Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Edge, Geoff McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
English, Michael Madden, Max Watkins, David
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Magee, Bryan Weetch, Ken
Evans, loan (Aberdare) Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) White, Frank R. (Bury)
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. Meacher, Michael White, James (Pollok)
Fitch, Alan (Wigan Mendelson, John Whitehead, Phillip
Wigley, Dafydd Woof, Robert TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Wise, Mrs Audrey Wrigglesworth, Ian Mr. James Hamilton and
Woodall, Alec Young, David (Bolton E) Mr. Peter Snape.
Adley, Robert Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Arnold, Tom Hodgson, Robin Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Holland, Philip Rhodes James, R.
Biffen, John Hordern, Peter Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Body, Richard Howell, David (Guildford) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hunt, David (Wirral) Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Brooke, Peter Hurd, Douglas Sainsbury, Tim
Brotherton, Michael Hutchison, Michael Clark Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Buck, Antony Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd&W'df'd) Shelton, William (Streatham)
Budgen, Nick Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Shepherd, Colin
Bulmer, Esmond Kimball, Marcus Silvester, Fred
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Sims, Roger
Clark, William (Croydon S) Langford-Holt, Sir John Skeet, T. H. H.
Cope, John Lawrence, Ivan Smith, Timothy John (Ashfleld)
Costain, A. P. Lawson, Nigel Speed, Keith
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) Le Marchant, Spencer Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Dodsworth, Geoffrey Loyden, Eddie Stainton, Keith
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James McCrindle, Robert Stanbrook, Ivor
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John MacKay, Andrew James Stradling Thomas, J.
Elliott, Sir William Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Eyre, Reginald Mills, Peter Tebbit, Norman
Finsberg, Geoffrey Miscampbell, Norman Viggers, Peter
Fookes, Miss Janet Moate, Roger Wakeham, John
Forman, Nigel Moore, John (Croydon C) Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Nelson, Anthony Warren, Kenneth
Goodhew, Victor Neubert, Michael Weatherill, Bernard
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Newion, Tony Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Page, Richard (Workington)
Grieve, Percy Percival, Ian TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Hall, Sir John Price, David (Eastleigh) Mr. Peter Morrison and
Hampson, Dr Keith Raison, Timothy Mr. Carol Mather.
Hannam, John Rathbone, Tim

Question accordingly agreed to.

Order for Third Reading read— [Queen's Consent, on behalf of the Crown, and Prince of Wales's Consent, on behalf of the Duchy of Cornwall, signified.]

7.44 p.m.

Mr. Guy Barnett

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

If any points are raised, I should like to have the opportunity to reply to them after the debate.

7.45 p.m.

Mr. Rossi

I do not wish to detain the House, because we have already rehearsed the arguments for and against the Bill very fully on Second Reading and again in Committee. Although I am sure that the House would be fascinated to hear me rehearse the arguments once more, I would be bored having to listen to myself say the same thing for the third time of asking.

The old canard was raised that these ODPs are necessary in order to help the development areas, and that this is the need for office control. We have adduced the evidence on Second Reading and again in Committee that not one office of 10,000 sq. ft. or more for which ODPs were refused found its way out of the South-East. They stayed where they were, suffering the inconvenience of cramped conditions, or the firms concerned persuaded the Department to grant them the ODP eventually, or they moved to some other place within the South-East.

No benefit of the kind that is the justification for the Bill in the eyes of the Minister exists on the evidence that we have seen and argued about and which he has accepted. All I can say to him is that none is so deaf as he who will not hear, and none is so blind as he who will not see.

The arguments are on the record in Hansard for Tuesday 17th May 1977, commencing at column 320. Having read that into the record, I beg the House to reject the Bill.

7.47 p.m.

Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)

I express my total regret concerning this Bill. I well remember the time when the system of office permits came into being. It was because the whole House—I say advisedly "the whole House", including the right hon. Member for Worcester (Mr. Walker), who had ministerial responsibility for the period—was completely outraged at the continuing emptiness of blocks of offices in the centre of London—blocks such as Centre Point and the acres of nearby offices which were unoccupied. These continuing vacancies were an outrage to us all. They seemed to me to symbolise a measure of speculative cupidity and bad planning which has hardly been equalled this century.

I am amazed that my right hon. and hon. Friends are bringing forward this Bill at a time when Centre Point is still empty and when there are still thousands of square feet of empty office buildings in the centre of London. It is no help for the Minister to say, as he did on Second Reading, that he was only changing the limit from 30,000 sq. ft. to 15,000 sq. ft. because several small blocks, particularly if they are built close together, have the same deadening effect on a neighbourhood as one large block.

My right hon. Friend said on Second Reading: The fact that the office sector continues to expand makes it an obvious contributor to the regeneration of urban areas".—[Official Report, 17th May, 1977; Vol. 932, c. 315.] What regeneration has been brought to Camden by the continuing emptiness of Centre Point, which is merely a provocation to the people who lost their homes in order that that site could be cleared for office building?

There are many more office blocks in the pipeline. There are many more that have not yet been built and for which permits have been granted. It is not as though most of the time these offices are to be built on virgin land; they are being built on land which in central London is precious indeed. I cannot tell the House—no one has kept the figures with sufficient care—of the number of people who have lost their homes in order that great blocks such as Euston Tower could be built.

I know that one of the arguments for this change of policy is that there are fewer jobs in central London, but it is a pity that sometimes Ministers do not have to try to catch a bus down Tottenham Court Road in the rush hour. If they did they might not feel that central London was becoming an empty desert during working hours. I know all about the difficulties of this situation, but office building has practically nothing to do with regeneration. Regeneration can be brought about only by people, and without people there is no community.

The crying need in central London is for places in which people can live. There are very many special needs which can best be met in that way. I am thinking particularly of students and young single people, for whom there is an alarming lack of provision. Anything that this House does to tilt the balance away from meeting the needs of people in terms of their homes, with the shops that will serve them, and with the pubs in which I hope they will enjoy themselves, cannot be for the social good of our inner cities.

We have an example of this in Covent Garden, where local people, largely through the work of the Covent Garden Community Association, have been fighting for years to preserve something of the community life of that area, and not without some success. But the shame is— and this is one of the things that puzzles me about this Bill and makes it impossible to vote for the Third Reading—that there are acres of derelict land in Covent Garden which my constituents have to look at and for which office permits have already been given, so that the land cannot be used for any other purpose such as recreation for the community, for shops, or, above all, for homes.

Developers are leaving the sites unused even though they have their permits. They do this for their own commercial reasons. That is their business, and I do not blame them for that. But I do not know what a Labour Government are doing adopting similar yardsticks when introducing legislation. I am not convinced that there is any need to relax the rules when so many permits are not being acted upon.

The hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) said on Second Reading that at the moment there is a surplus of office accommodation in the London area. I have read all the debates, including the Committee stage, carefully and I can find not a single Member who has denied that this surplus exists in central London. What are we getting, therefore? People are having to leave their homes and communities are being destroyed. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State talks of regeneration. I do not know what regeneration there is in areas that die at 6 o'clock in the evening and are dead at weekends.

We used to say that the only inhabitants of this area at the weekend were a cat and a caretaker. Times have changed, and it is now more likely to be a fierce dog and a security guard populating the concrete deserts in the heart of London. We have too many offices already, and until those that are already built and those that are in the course of planning are occupied I cannot accept this easing of control.

I still believe, as the whole House believed a few years ago, that Centre Point and the fact that it continues to be unoccupied is offensive. I am sorry if I tend to talk often about Centre Point, but for me it has become a symbol of the kind of speculative building that no one supports but which the Bill will make easier for future developers to perpetrate. No one else in this House may share that view, but representing as I do a constituency that has suffered grievously in its community life from an excess of office building, I know that most of my constituents, supporters of all parties, would say that there has been enough and that they want no more.

I end on a lighter note. All of our constituencies have been the scenes of street parties recently. We had a splendid party —I am sure it was the best of all—in Charlotte Street, in an area that we call Fitzrovia. Many people who came from other areas were amazed at the number of children present. They had not realised that all of these families lived in the area between Tottenham Court Road and Charlotte Street. The only pity about all these families—and bonny splendid children they were, living happily in the centre of our city—is that most of them are under threat of losing their homes and of having to move away, breaking off with their schools and losing touch with their neighbourhood, because of the number of applications, some of which have already been accepted, in this, one of the last living lungs of neighbourhood life in that part of my constituency.

There seems to be some idea among many people that offices are more regenerative than a lot of families having a party in Charlotte Street. Surely nothing can be further from the truth.

This is a subject which I am not glad to say I know a lot about but on which, because of my constituency, a great deal of information has come my way. I am very sorry about the Bill. There are places where it will be useful, but I do not see why it should apply to central London, and we do not want it in Camden.

7.56 p.m.

Mr. Tim Sainsbury (Hove)

I do not want to detain the House for long, if for no other reason than that I want to find the source of the strong smoked-fish smell that permeates the Chamber. I hope that it has nothing to do with the Bill.

I understand that among the constituents of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Jeger) who do not follow her view about the Bill are the councillors of the London borough of Camden who are opposed, I understand, to the retention of office development permits. So perhaps the borough is not as united in its view as the hon. Lady seems to think.

We have put into Clause 2 a certain amount of information about areas. I appreciate that the Minister has been intensely busy with drafting the Government's amendment and with his lengthy peroration on the Bill. Perhaps I may remind him, however, that he undertook to write to me about a matter and I still await his letter. Now that he has finished his arduous work on behalf of the Government, he might find time to put pen to paper.

7.59 p.m.

Mr. Guy Barnett

I can inform the hon. Member for Hove (Mr. Sainsbury) that I have written to him and I have signed a letter concerned with the issues he raised in Committee. I am sure he will receive that letter very shortly.

A number of us have covered the arguments on the Bill on a number of occasions and we do not want to go over them yet again. Perhaps I may refer, however, to the point raised by the hon. Member for Hornsey (Mr. Rossi) concerning the evidence contained in the office location review. That review indicates that, in the particular period examined, large firms that were refused ODPs did not move to the assisted areas. The period concerned ended in 1972. In the following year the Government introduced a system of incentives to the service industries in order to attract mobile non-manufacturing employment to the assisted areas.

I underline that point, and I also underline the point that the incentives were increased in October last year, in order to repeat and emphasise to the House that in my view office development control is unlikely to be fully successful unless accompanied by grants of assistance to firms prepared to move to the regions and also accompanied by the Location of Offices Bureau with its new terms of reference. That is the policy that the Government are putting before the House, and that is the policy that the Government wish the House to support this evening.

I admit that to some degree ODP control in the previous period before that aspect of policy was not pursued may not have been as successful as many of us would have hoped. That is my answer to the point made by the hon. Member for Hornsey.

Mr. Rossi

All that the hon. Gentleman is arguing is that the carrot is more effective than the stick and that people obviously refused to move when there was an element of compulsion in the attitude of the Government. But at the moment when the Government introduced incentives of a positive nature they took them up. That is a very human reaction. What we are arguing is that there is no need to have the stick because what has succeeded is the carrot. We are not arguing about the carrot today. Now, the Minister is to give the carrot to certain firms to come back to central London to help regeneration there. Is not that a bit of nonsense?

Mr. Barnett

Not at all. One aspect is that where a firm is refused an ODP, or where it asks for one and is told that it is unlikely to get it, it comes in contact with my officials, who discuss the possibility of perhaps being moved to an area where office employment is badly needed. The firm is put in touch with the Location of Offices Bureau. The opinion of the Government is that the best forms of dispersal policy are those in which both a little bit of the carrot and a little bit of the stick are involved, as well as a little bit of information. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give the policy a chance to work, because I have a strong feeling that on the basis on which it was designed it will work.

I listened with close interest to the speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. Jeger). Representing a London constituency, although not one facing the sort of problems that my hon. Friend has described, I know of the appalling problems created in her constituency by office development of one kind or another. I remember that Centre Point was planned and built largely—indeeed, wholly— before office development control was introduced. The kinds of problems that my hon. Friend described and the effects which office development may have on certain sorts of communities are surely issues related to planning control rather than to ODP control. I see ODP control as a regional control to try to disperse office development to areas where it is needed.

In my hon. Friend's constituency there is too much office development, but there are other parts of London—indeed, other parts of the country—where there is too little and where the balance of employment for youngsters does not exist. The sense in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State speaks of offices being able to regenerate communities is the sense in which they are able to offer to young people in certain districts opportunities for employment which they might not have and for which they might be well suited and qualified.

My hon. Friend said that she cannot support the Bill because it will raise the exemption limits. In fact, the Bill itself will not do that. All that the Bill will do is continue to control, and I am sure that my hon. Friend agrees with that. She criticised my right hon. Friend's decision to raise the exemption limits, and she is entitled to do that in view of what she has told the House. But that is done under an order-making power and not as a consequence of the extension of legislation. In view of that, I hope that my hon. Friend will feel able to support us in the Lobby.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time: —

Question accordingly agreed to.

The House divided: Ayes 119; Noes 93.

Division No. 1531 AYES [8.5 p.m.
Abse, Leo Garrelt, W. E. (Wallsend) Parker, John
Anderson, Donald George, Bruce Parry, Robert
Ashton, Joe Ginsburg, David Pavitt, Laurie
Atkins, Ronald (Preston N) Gould, Bryan Penhaligon, David
Atkinson, Norman Grant, George (Morpeth) Phipps, Dr Colin
Bagier, Gordon A. T. Grocott, Bruce Price, William (Rugby)
Barnett, Guy (Greenwich) Hamilton, James (Bothwell) Radice, Giles
Beith, A. J. Harrison, Rt Hon Walter Roderick, Caerwyn
Bennett, Andrew (Stockport N) Hatton, Frank Rooker, J. W.
Blenkinsop, Arthur Heffer, Eric S. Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
Brown, Hugh D. (Provan) Hoyle, Doug (Nelson) Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)
Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W) Hughes, Roy (Newport) Sandelson, Neville
Campbell, Ian Jenkins, Hugh (Putney) Sedgemore, Brian
Canavan, Dennis John, Brynmor Shore, Rt Hon Peter
Cant, R. B. Johnson, Waller (Derby S) Skinner, Dennis
Carson, John Jones, Alec (Rhondda) Smith, Cyril (Rochdale)
Cartwright, John Jones, Dan (Burnley) Snape, Peter
Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S) Kilroy-Silk, Robert Spearing, Nigel
Cohen, Stanley Lamborn, Harry Spriggs, Leslie
Coleman, Donald Lamond, James Stallard, A. W.
Conlan, Bernard Lewis, Arthur (Newham N) Stoddart, David
Cowans, Harry Lewis, Ron (Carlisle) Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley
Crawshaw, Richard Lyons, Edward (Bradford W) Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)
Crowther, Stan (Rotherham) Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)
Davidson, Arthur McDonald, Dr Oonagh Thorpe, Rt Hon Jeremy (N Devon)
Davies, Denzil (Llanelli) MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor Walker, Terry (Kingswood)
Deakins, Eric Maclennan, Robert Watkins, David
Dempsey, James McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C) Weetch, Ken
Doig, Peter Madden, Max White, Frank R. (Bury)
Dormand, J. D. Magee, Bryan White, James (Pollok)
Douglas-Mann, Bruce Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole) Whitehead, Phillip
Duffy, A. E. P. Meacher, Michael Wigley, Dafydd
Dunnett, Jack Mendelson, John Wise, Mrs Audrey
Edge, Geoff Miller, Mrs Millie (llford N) Woodall, Alec
English, Michael Molloy, William Woof, Robert
Evans, Fred (Caerphilly) Moonman, Eric Wrigglesworth, Ian
Evans, Ioan (Aberdare) Moyle, Roland Young, David (Bolton E)
Fernyhough, Rt Hon E. O'Halloran, Michael
Fitch, Alan (Wigan) Ovenden, John TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Fletcher, Ted (Darlington) Padley, Walter Mr. Joseph Harper and
Forrester, John Pardoe, John Mr. Alf Bates.
Adley, Robert Hodgson, Robin Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)
Arnold, Tom Holland, Philip Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)
Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham) Hordern, Peter Rhodes James, R.
Biffen, John Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey Roberts, Michael (Cardiff NW)
Body, Richard Hunt, David (Wirral) Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Boscawen, Hon Robert Hurd, Douglas Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)
Brooke. Peter Hutchison, Michael Clark Sainsbury, Tim
Brotherton, Michael Jenkin, Rt Hon P. (Wanst'd & W'df'd) Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)
Buck, Antony Jones, Arthur (Daventry) Shelton, William (Streatham)
Bulmer, Esmond Kimball, Marcus Shepherd, Colin
Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton) King, Evelyn (South Dorset) Silvester, Fred
Clark, William (Croydon S) Langford-Holt, Sir John Sims, Roger
Cope, John Lawrence, Ivan Skeet, T. H. H.
Costain, A. P. Lawson, Nigel Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)
Dean, Paul (N Somerset) McCrindle, Robert Speed, Keith
Dodsworth, Geoffrey MacKay, Andrew James Spicer, Michael (S Worcester)
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Mather, Carol Stainton, Keith
Drayson, Burnaby Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin Stanbrook, Ivor
Eden, Rt Hon Sir John Mills, Peter Stradling Thomas, J.
Elliott, Sir William Miscampbell, Norman Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)
Eyre. Reginald Moate, Roger Tebbit, Norman
Finsberg, Geoffrey Moore, John (Croydon C) Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)
Fookes, Miss Janet Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester) Viggers, Peter
Gardiner, George (Reigate) Nelson, Anthony Wakeham, John
Goodhew, Victor Neubert, Michael Walder, David (Clitheroe)
Gow, Ian (Eastbourne) Newton, Tony Warren,Kenneth
Gower, Sir Raymond (Barry) Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby) Wealherill, Bernard
Grant, Anthony (Harrow C) Page, Richard (Workington) Wood, Rt Hon Richard
Grieve, Percy Percival, Ian
Hall, Sir John Price, David (Eastleigh) TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Hampson, Dr Keith Raison, Timothy Sir George Young and
Hannam, John Rathbone, Tim Mr. Spencer Le Marchant
Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss

Bill read the Third time and passed