HC Deb 25 July 1979 vol 971 cc596-8
17. Mr. Murphy

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what plans he has for the future of the Commission for the New Towns; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Stanley

The future of the Commission for the New Towns is being considered.

Mr. Murphy

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Can I draw his attention to the large number of factories, shops and offices that are sited on land which is owned by the Commission for the New Towns? Can he give any indication as to the possibility of their being able to purchase the freeholds?

Mr. Stanley

The decisions on individual properties are, of course, a matter for the Commission. As to the principle, the Government favour the policy of sales to existing lessees, which I assume is what my hon. Friend was referring to. That can certainly include the freehold.

Mr. Newens

Is the Minister aware—as was his predecessor—of the necessity of ensuring that the Commission for the New Towns provides local offices, with adequate powers to take local decisions when it takes over new towns at present in the hands of development corporations? Is he aware that unless strict instructions and pressure are brought to bear on this issue, we may find a state of affairs in which decision-making is much more remote than at the present time, with more bureaucratic interference in the affairs of local authorities than prevails even with new town corporations?

Mr. Stanley

The number of new town dissolutions that will take place in the near future is relatively small, but the plans for the dissolution of Corby, Harlow and Stevenage development corporations in 1980 remain unchanged.

Mr. Hal Miller

When considering the future of the Commission for the New Towns, and contrary to the last question, will my hon. Friend ensure that the Commission for the New Towns does not get hold of the assets of those towns given up by the development corporations? Will he ensure that they are either realised by sale, or that arrangements are made for their transfer to the district councils?

Mr. Stanley

I can assure my hon. Friend that the Commission for the New Towns and the development corporations are engaged in discussions with the Department about the possibility of disposals in the course of the current financial year.

Mr. Hattersley

The Minister talked about discussions. Can he tell us what instructions the Secretary of State gave to the chairmen of the new town corporations about the disposal of assets when he met them last week?

Mr. Stanley

My right hon. Friend stressed to the members of the development corporations that it would be beneficial to the taxpayers, in meeting the burden of indebtedness which the previous Government left us with, if there were a programme of asset disposal in the course of the current year.

Mr. Hattersley rose

Mr. Speaker

Mr. Osborn, to ask question 18.