§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.
§ THE POSTMASTER-GENERAL (THE EARL OF LISTOWEL)
My Lords, when I recall the debates that have taken place in your Lordships' House over quite a long period of years, initiated sometimes by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, sometimes by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, and sometimes by less indefatigable planners, always asking in one voice the Government of the day for effective action to check the haphazard growth of our great industrial cities, I am sure that a Bill designed to arrest this disastrous process by the planned control of urban development will be welcomed in all quarters of the House. There is so much common ground about the evils resulting to town and country alike from uncontrolled development, and about the need for fresh statutory powers as the only hope for their prevention and cure; that the proposals in this Bill will, I am sure, be accepted in principle and placed outside Party controversy by your Lordships, as they were during the discussion in another place.
322 I will not weary the House with a long catalogue of the bad urban conditions with which we are all familiar, and to which many noble Lords with long experience on local authorities have directed our attention at different times. I would only remind your Lordships that it was as long ago as 1940, six years ago, that the Barlow Report quoted impressive figures showing that infantile mortality and general death rates were substantially higher in the large towns of England and Scotland than they were in the countryside, and gave as the main reason for this difference the disadvantages of growing up and earning a living in a densely populated area as compared with a relatively thinly populated area. London of course is the classical example of urban hypertrophy. Every Londoner of recognises and deplores the effects of congested housing, lack of open spaces, and the long distances between homes and places of employment, upon the health and happiness of the great majority of the population. Those who have served on the London County Council, as I have done, and as the noble Earl, Lord Munster, has done, have been painfully aware of these conditions for a very large number of years.
But the really encouraging thing about the Barlow Report was that it did not conclude that a drift of population, which had been going on right through the nineteenth century, into the great cities with the worst health records, was an uncontrollable and quite inevitable consequence of industrial advance. On the contrary, this Royal Commission said that what was needed for the future was Parliamentary authority for a planned and controlled development of town and country, which would guarantee that industrial progress would not continue to be divorced from decent living conditions for the employed population. It urged the Government to consider promptly a decentralisation and dispersal of industry and population from congested urban areas by means of garden cities, satellite towns, or the further development of existing small towns. The war postponed Government action upon these recommendations, but it did not prevent the preparation of plans to give shape to the possibilities of future action. Your Lordships will remember the Abercrombie Plan for the development of Greater London which was published in 1944, and which envisages the creation of ten new towns within 30 miles of London 323 and the resettlement of some 1,250,000 Londoners living in seriously congested districts.
So far I have been dealing with some actions of past Governments of all Party colours and complexions which have prepared the ground for the present Bill. I do not think it can be said that the present Government have been dilatory in making up their minds about planning policy, or in drawing up legislative proposals based on this policy for submission to Parliament. Having decided that a policy of new towns was the only practicable way to relieve urban congestion, we then had to work out the administrative requirements for carrying this policy into effect. My right honourable friend the Minister of Town and Country Planning therefore appointed, in October, 1945 (not so very long after we took office), the Reith Committee, to advise him, inter alia, about the administrative machinery for establishing new towns in furtherance of this policy of planned decentralization. After receiving two interim reports from this Committee, which gave him the essential data, my right honourable friend was able to proceed with the present Bill. I should like to say now how much my right honourable friend is indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Reith, who was Chairman of the Committee, and to his colleagues, for the invaluable assistance provided by the work they did for him.
In this matter the time factor is obviously of supreme importance. Owing to the cessation of building during the war, and the damage done to our cities by air attack, we are now on the threshold of a national building programme to supply something like 5,000,000 new houses. If we are not to repeat the disastrous mistakes we made after the 1914–1918 war, these houses must be sited from the start in the right places. But I do not think anyone will say that we have lost sight of this consideration, or that we are not tackling this tremendous problem with a sense of urgency. Let me tell your Lordships exactly what my right honourable friend has in mind. He has already decided upon the first instalment of a long-range programme for the establishment of new towns, of moderate size, where people can live and work in healthy and pleasant surroundings. His immediate programme aims 324 at the creation of some twenty new towns, which will include large extensions of existing small towns, in different places in England and Wales. The population of these towns will vary from 30,000 to 60,000 and they will provide homes for just over 1,000,000 people. The dispersal of population from the most densely inhabited areas will not only affect London (which is, of course, clearly the worst case) but other cities such as Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Portsmouth and Plymouth, which all have a surplus population they cannot house within their own boundaries.
Now let me turn to the outstanding feature in the machinery proposed by the Bill, namely, the creation of an appropriate agency to finance and develop these new towns. My right honourable friend the Minister takes the view that the scale and cost of the operations of such a development agency will necessitate appointment by the Government and responsibility through the Minister to Parliament. The Reith Committee in its first Report recommended—and I quote its words—"a Government-sponsored public corporation, financed by the Exchequer" as, in general, the most suitable type of agency for the purpose. But it did not exclude the usefulness, under special and exceptional circumstances, of two other types of agency, the public corporation sponsored by local authorities, and the authorized association promoted by private enterprise and sanctioned by the Government.
When this Bill was under discussion the Members in another place were convinced by the Minister's argument that these alternatives were not in fact desirable, and that the work could be done most efficiently in every case by a public corporation appointed by the Government. I hope we shall hear the opinion of the noble Lord, Lord Reith, on this matter, and I am sure it will carry great weight with your Lordships. Some noble Lords may doubt the wisdom of our decision to use the one type of agency, but, to avoid repetition, I will leave the arguments in its favour, if they are required by any noble Lord, to my noble friend Lord Henderson. I will now pass on to some of the salient features of the Bill itself. Clause 1 gives the Minister power to choose the site of a new town, whether or not it includes an existing town, but alwavs—and this is an important point— 325 after full consultation with the local authorities affected. My right honourable friend is most anxious to secure the co-operation from the outset of all the local authorities concerned.
Clause 2 empowers the Minister to appoint a development corporation, and gives this corporation the wide powers of estate management that are essential to a prosperous and well-planned town. Let me underline the fact that the development corporation is not taking over any of the functions of the local authorities. It would be entirely wrong for a nominated body to supplant or supersede an elected body. What the corporation will do is to supplement, reinforce, and assist the activities of local authorities in or adjacent to a designated area. The further powers conferred in subsequent clauses upon these corporations, and the proposed financial arrangements, are simply the various means of enabling them to discharge their primary responsibility for the rapid and efficient development of new towns.
A different and no less important issue is raised in Clause 25, which applies the provisions of this Bill to Scotland. Your Lordships are aware that, as a rule, there are separate Bills dealing with town planning for England and Wales, on the one hand, and for Scotland on the other. But this is a dual purpose Bill, and my noble friend, Lord Westwood, who will speak immediately after me, will explain to your Lordships the reason for this departure from precedent, and the great importance and extreme urgency of the Bill for the people of Scotland.
I will conclude by describing to your Lordships what sort of places we hope these new towns will become, and what ideas and ideals will inspire the work of those appointed as members of the future development corporations. First, we want to see them grow into adult and independent towns, not into garden cities or satellite towns. They must not become dormitories for workers in a neighbouring city, or a salubrious suburban settlement governed by remote control from a distant town hall. The process of democratic local government and the fact of living together in close proximity, will create in time a sense of civic pride, and a tradition of mutual helpfulness and public service, that: will be handed down by parents to their children. Secondly, the supervision of an enlightened public authority should 326 ensure a fine and spacious layout of streets and buildings, and a harmonious and distinctive architectural style. There will be no excuse, under these auspices, as there might have been in the past, for drab ugliness or chaotic jumble. Thirdly, we want prosperous communities with a good average standard of life, and immunity from recurrent bouts of large-scale unemployment. This means building up a balanced and varied economy. The corporations can do this by the deliberate use of their powers to attract to their areas the right type of industry and commercial enterprise.
Finally, we want a community free from the occupational and income snobberies of town life to-day. There must be no West Ends and East Ends, no suburban villas for the professional and black-coated workers, and central tenements for the factory hands. Each of the neighbourhoods into which the new towns will be divided, will be planned as a cross-section of every occupational and income group in the population. Neighbourly contacts will thus help to prevent the growth of social barriers based on money or class. This Bill represents a great social experiment, and, in a sense, an act of atonement and reparation for our collective wrongdoing in the past. It gives the opportunity of making some amends. It is the biggest and most ambitious attempt at positive planning of environment that this country has ever made. I am sure your Lordships will support our efforts to make this experiment a success, and to give the town dwellers of to-morrow a better chance than those of to-day and yesterday. I beg to move.
Moved, That the Bill be now read 2ª.—(The Earl of Listowel.)
§ 2.55 p.m.
§ LORD WESTWOOD
My Lords, it may be convenient to your Lordships if I explain at this point the effect which this important measure will have in relation to the problems of rehousing and economic and industrial rehabilitation in Scotland. I should like to make it clear at once that the Secretary of State for Scotland appreciates that the Scottish Application Clause (Clause 25) in the present Bill is a little more intricate than that in some other measures with which. Your Lordships' House has recently been familiar, and he would have been glad for this reason, and for other reasons, 327 to have been able to proceed on the basis of a separate Scottish measure. It is, however, the case that nowhere in the country is the need of the powers conferred by this measure more urgent than in Scotland.
My right honourable friend therefore decided, and, I am sure your Lordships will agree, decided rightly, that we could not afford the delay that would inevitably occur if we proceeded with a separate Bill for Scotland on this occasion. I think, therefore, that I can assure your Lordships that the disadvantages attaching to the incorporation of special Scottish provisions in this Bill will be more than outweighed by the very tangible advantages which we shall obtain by being in a position to proceed immediately with practical steps for new town development in Scotland as soon as the present measure receives the Royal Assent. At the same time, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has already taken special steps to make available to members of your Lordships' House a reproduction of the Bill, in the form of a White Paper, as it is applied to Scotland by the Scottish Application Clause.
This White Paper, which has now been brought up to date to incorporate for your Lordships' convenience all the amendments made in the Bill as it was brought from the Commons, will be circulated in the course of the next few days, and my right honourable friend sincerely hopes that it will facilitate examination of the Bill, particularly during the Committee stage. As your Lordships are well aware, the problems of overcrowding, congestion and slumdom, both in housing and industry in Scotland, are probably without parallel anywhere else in the United Kingdom. So much has been said in so many debates in this House about the total housing picture in Scotland that I should like this afternoon to ask your Lordships to permit me to limit what I have to say on this subject to two or three main areas in which the Bill is likely to be of most immediate practical effect.
The vital area in Scotland, indeed it might be called the industrial heart of Scotland, is, of course, the huge conurbation in the Clyde Valley in and around the great city of Glasgow. For 328 this region the Secretary of State for Scotland has recently received a most comprehensive report prepared under the auspices of the Clyde Valley Regional Planning Advisory Committee by the Committee's consultant, Sir Patrick Abercrombie. This report, which contains a detailed survey of every aspect of the Clyde Valley region, is expected to be published towards the end of the year, and from a preliminary print of the report which I have seen I can assure your Lordships that the Committee and their consultant and his staff have produced one of the most remarkable fact-finding documents which has ever been prepared in Scotland, and their conclusions will have a far-reaching effect on the economic replanning and physical rehabilitation which this area of Scotland so urgently requires.
A few facts from the Committee's report will illustrate the vital part to be played by the provisions of the present Bill in giving effect to the measures so urgently required for rehousing and industrial relocation in the Clyde Valley area. The report points out that the population of the Clyde Valley region, including the city of Glasgow, increased during the industrial revolution more rapidly than in any area in Great Britain, not excluding the London region. For example, the population of Glasgow, which was only 30,000 in 1770, increased to over half a million in 1861 and to a million at the turn of the century. Broadly, the same story can be told of all the other towns in the immediate neighbourhood of Glasgow—such towns as Clydebank, Motherwell and Coatbridge, which were all household words in the shipbuilding, heavy engineering, steel and coal industries before the first world war but which, in the inter-war years, suffered more from industrial depression than any comparable area in the United Kingdom.
This tremendous expansion of the population resulted in the most appalling overcrowding and the huddling together of housing and industry, producing conditions which even to-day have to be seen to be believed. In the city of Glasgow, for instance, over one house in every three is overcrowded, and in some wards over 90 per cent. of all the houses in the ward have only two rooms or less. It is quite clear that in conditions like these neither the provision of new housing nor the provision of new industrial facilities, which are of 329 paramount and urgent necessity in this area, can be secured unless the overall density of development throughout the region, and particularly in the city of Glasgow, is substantially thinned out.
This conclusion is fundamental to the Clyde Valley Regional Planning Committee's report. Indeed, they point out that the process of industrial emigration from the congested central areas of Glasgow, on the part of industrialists seeking new factory buildings with modern equipment and better working conditions for their employees, is already beginning. The Committee's report, taking account of this natural trend, recommends that four new towns should be established in the Clyde Valley area to provide for industrial and housing overspill from the congested districts of Glasgow and the other towns in the Clyde Valley region, and the industrial areas of North Lanarkshire. The actual sites of the four new towns recommended by the Committee are East Kilbride, Bishopton, Houston and Cumbernauld and they contemplate that these four new towns should provide ultimately for a total population of about 200,000 to 250,000 people.
The Secretary of State has already announced that he has accepted the Committee's recommendation as regards East Kilbride and proposes to proceed with the development of a new town there as a priority project. He has already discussed the proposal with all the local authorities concerned, who have welcomed it in principle, and further discussions will take place on the details of the development at a later stage. It is important to note that this part of Scotland is a development area and is therefore entitled to the special facilities available under the Distribution of Industry Act. The Secretary of State for Scotland and the President of the Board of Trade are working together to ensure that development area policy and the powers conferred by this New Towns Bill are closely interlinked.
I can assure your Lordships that plans are now being worked out for the expansion and development of the new coalfields in the East of Scotland, in the counties of Fife and the Lothians. These new coalfields will require, and will provide employment for, thousands of additional miners and their families. In fact, there is every expectation that this area will become one of the most industrially prosperous 330 areas in Scotland. The Secretary of State for Scotland is, however, determined that the mistakes—we might even say the atrocities—of the past will not be repeated in the future. He is looking forward to new communities and new conditions providing a wide range of industrial opportunity, and not deriving their character and livelihood solely from mining.
We want to see a properly planned industrial pattern in these districts, and it is proposed, in collaboration with the President of the Board of Trade, to use this New Towns Bill to plan and equip these new communities on these principles. We fully appreciate that in this part of Scotland particularly we cannot dogmatize about the sizes of the new towns which must inevitably be provided. The Scottish population pattern and the character of Scottish community life is a varied one and we shall endeavour, by some variety in administration of the powers of this Bill, to recreate all that is best in the Scottish scene. In some cases, for example, it may be desirable to use the powers in the Bill to secure a planned expansion of existing communities. In others, two or three separate new towns, perhaps administered by a single corporation, may secure the best results. My right honourable friend has an open mind on all these issues and he will naturally have the greatest regard throughout for the views of local opinion as expressed through the representative local authorities, all of whom he is required to consult by the terms of the Bill.
In conclusion I should like to refer in a few words to the new standards which my right honourable friend the Secretary of State hopes the new towns will set—new standards of amenity, especially in the design and layout of housing estates as properly planned neighborhood units, and in providing the highest possible standards of community and other forms of public buildings in Scotland. A great deal has been heard about the dreary drabness of so much of the housing and other development carried out in Scotland in the inter-war years. There can be no doubt that in this and in many other spheres we are witnessing a real Scottish renaissance and that our young architects and designers have standards of performance and achievement as high as those of any other area in the Kingdom. My right honourable friend is determined that in this new 331 and exciting adventure Scottish skill and Scottish craftsmanship will have the widest opportunity to play its part in fulfilling the vital purpose of creating new standards of community life in the new towns established under this Bill.
§ 3.10 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, I feel that it would be the wish of your Lordships that I should congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, on the manner in which they have presented this Bill to the House to-day. It is a measure which is far from easy to understand, and it is made even more complicated by references to no fewer than twenty other Acts of Parliament. In spite of the White Paper which was circulated with the Bill, which has simplified the meaning of some of the schedules, I would invite your Lordships to take one glance at the more important schedules, which in themselves are hardly an illustration of Parliamentary clarity. Nevertheless, I hope that the noble Earl and the noble Lord will be fully acquainted with this massive Bill, which legislates almost entirely by reference, and that on the further stages they will be able to explain to the House the complicated clauses and schedules as easily as they have expounded the general principles this afternoon.
Although there are parts of the Bill that we on this side of the House dislike, we shall place no obstacles in the way of its being read a second time. We may find it necessary to move a number of important Amendments on the future stages of the Bill, and I trust that the noble Earl will ensure that these are carefully considered by the Minister and his advisers, for quite clearly the crucial matters for discussion on this Bill will arise on the Committee stage. It is true to say, as I think was said by the noble Earl in the course of his speech, that the proposal for the building of fully self-contained towns is no new theory. It has been suggested on numerous occasions in the past, and perhaps if more heed had been given to the advice which was then offered many of the problems, such as slums and overcrowding, which exist in the great towns and cities of England and Scotland to-day might well have been avoided. As we all know, over a period of many years there has 332 been a constant and continual flow of people from the country areas to the towns. And in nearly every case that has resulted in the towns being developed in a shapeless and hopeless mass, in higgledy-piggledy fashion. There is, therefore, much to be said for housing the population in units large enough to give permanent and constant employment to the inhabitants and to sustain and encourage a full civic life, a full civic sense, amongst the community. I would recommend those members of this House who are interested in the layout of new towns to study closely the scheme that is being undertaken at Jamshedpur, in India, the home of the great Tata steel works.
New towns, like new port, take many years to mature, and it must be some considerable time before any new town contemplated under this Bill will be provided with all the essential modern requirements which will be agreeable to the taste of the multitudes for whom it is to be provided. But I would make this plea: that these corporations should endeavour to maintain in the new towns some of the beauty and some of the charms which are to be found in our old county towns, and that the corporations will not be led astray by any ultra-modern architectural features. I am anxious, as I think we all are, in whatever part of the House we may sit, that we should keep in these new towns, and indeed in the old towns, that which is good and slightly and abolish completely that which is ugly and inconvenient. We have been told by the Minister in another place, and it was repeated by the noble Earl in the course of his remarks this afternoon, that the immediate programme contemplates the creation of some twenty new towns. These twenty new towns, at a reasonable estimate, cannot be expected to house more than a million people of this country, and in any case they cannot be ready for habitation in less than a period of years.
If your Lordships will observe Clause 12 of this Bill, which refers to finance provisions, and read it in conjunction with the finance memorandum printed when the measure was circulated in another place, you will note that the Bill appears to cover a much more limited proposal, starting with not more than six towns in the next five years. Whether it is intended to start by developing twenty towns or six towns, we are concerned 333 lest, in their preoccupation for building these new towns, the Government should neglect and forget many of our older cities and our older towns which were badly damaged during the war, or which are suffering from obsolescence. There can be no doubt that the large majority of people in this country to-day who are hungry for homes will wish to live in the older towns, because it is here, in many cases, that their former homes have been situated, and here, probably, that employment and the amenities of life are already provided. It seems to me, at any rate in the first stage of rehousing, that the wisest course for the Government to adopt would be to rebuild on the sites which have already been developed in our older towns, rather than to transfer the labour and the materials to a distant and virgin site which some years hence may be quite ready to take on the obligations of a town and be able to provide all the requirements necessary for a normal, modern, up-to-date population.
What we require to-day, urgently and rapidly, is quick building of new homes for the people to live in. However desirable it may be to plan and develop new towns, it is far more essential, in our judgment, to arrange for the early housing of our people, many of whose homes were destroyed during the war years. I would beg the Government that they will not prejudice the chances and opportunities of rebuilding in these old towns where sites are now available. I foresee another danger to which I attach the very greatest importance. I foresee danger arising from the competition between the needs of the new towns and other existing social needs.
As many of your Lordships will realize, I have in mind the depressed areas of this country. I am sure that it will be agreed on all sides to-day that the attraction to these areas of thriving light industries is the first and best hope of rehabilitation. I challenge anybody to assert that this rehabilitation should not have the very highest priority. The industries which we desire to see established are exactly the kind which the new towns will desire, and I cannot help feeling that the Minister of Town and Country Planning will, quite clearly, be under a very strong temptation to use his influence to see that the new towns obtain these light industries, to the detriment of the depressed areas. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, 334 when he comes to reply, will be able to give us an assurance that this matter will be very closely watched, and that he will go so far as to tell us that the depressed areas will always have the preference over the new towns.
I would stress one further warning to the Government. There will be, I think, quite naturally, a certain amount of enthusiasm for this new social experiment, and the Minister and the Government as a whole will clearly want to see the new towns rise up and flourish. But they must not blind themselves to the fact that communities grow by natural laws of very slow operation, and if they want these new towns to be free communities, in the full sense of the word, then they must be prepared to give them time to grow. I feel that if any attempt is made to force or drive the pace, all manner of frictions can easily arise, and the Government may then be tempted to resort to powers of direction. I am certain that your Lordships will agree with me that that would be a most undesirable position.
I would ask the House to consider for a few moments the development corporations which are set up under this Bill, and whose powers of direction are contained in one of the clauses to the Bill. This State development corporation is something entirely new in the history of our country. It is a completely autocratic body which is enabled by Act of Parliament to ride roughshod over all and sundry. The corporations become, in fact, under the terms of the Bill, the chosen instrument of the Minister, who can dictate and who can instruct them to carry out any orders which he sees fit to issue from Whitehall. I do not want to refer to-day to the Reith Committee's proposals to enable three sorts of corporations to be set up. The noble Lord is here himself and no doubt will deal with the matter in the course of his speech. But I do frankly regret that insufficient use is to be made of the local authorities in whose areas these new towns are to be built. It is true that members of the corporation will be appointed by the Minister after he has had consultation with the local authorities who are most intimately concerned, but there need be no other discussion whatever between the corporation and the local authorities.
The Minister of Town and Country Planning only yesterday, in the Crawley and Three Bridges area, again referred to 335 the fact that before appointing members of the corporation, who would be responsible for the proposed town, he would get in touch with each of the local authorities concerned. Desirable as that is, we do feel that there should be an obligation on the development corporation to co-opt, even if only in an advisory capacity, representatives of the local authorities in the particular area in which the town is being built and also representatives from the more important neighbouring authorities. Indeed, the noble Earl said to-day, in the course of his speech, that the Minister was anxious to secure the co-operation of the local authorities, and I can think of no better way of ensuring their co-operation than to make quite certain that the development corporations should co-opt at least on to their council and on to their Board the representatives of the local authorities.
I frankly believe that, unless arrangements of this sort can be made, the representatives of the people, who should be freely and often consulted, will otherwise feel a strong sense of injustice, and a very bad atmosphere of suspicion will undoubtedly be created. In any case, it seems to me that it is highly desirable that these development corporations should be wound up at the earliest possible moment and that the new town should be taken in hand by a proper democratically elected body, and I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, when he comes to reply, will give us some indication of the length of period it is intended that these development corporations should function before being superseded by a proper democratic body.
I now pass on to deal very briefly with a matter which causes us some anxiety in this House, and that is the manner in which, under this Bill, the State is to be enabled to acquire property. I think it may be within the recollection of members of your Lordships' House that, by virtue of Part II of the Town and Country Planning Act of 1944, the State is placed in a peculiarly favourable position for acquiring property, in that it can so acquire it at the 1939 prices, subject to a supplement in some cases, whereas everybody else who goes on to the market to-day must pay the full market price. Here, in my belief, is a grave injustice. What I am concerned with here is that the prospects of these new 336 towns should not suffer from the resentment which is bound to be aroused by the application of the 1944 Act in their case. I believe, even at this stage of the Bill, after it has passed another place, that it is possible for your Lordship's House, in conjunction with the support of His Majesty's Government, to devise some means of avoiding what is quite clearly a manifest injustice.
I mentioned a few moments ago the matter of the supplement of 30 per cent. which was given under the previous Act. I understand that an undertaking was given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in another place the other day that this supplement would be raised to 60 per cent. I should like to ask the noble Lord who is to reply whether, in point of fact, that order has yet been made. The Town and Country Planning Act of 1944, and the Acquisition of Laud Act, 1946, have made it possible for public authorities in cases of certified urgency to be authorized to acquire land and to take possession by a much more summary procedure than is normal, and I regret that these provisions have been incorporated in this Bill, although the new towns which it is clearly the object of the measure to set up are a long-term project, which in any event must be very carefully and very fully planned as a whole. In those circumstances I quite frankly fail to see the reasons which caused the Government to believe that there was this urgency to acquire the land so rapidly, when the ordinary procedure could not possibly take more than an extra month or two. If there are—there may be—reasons for this draconian procedure, I hope that the noble Lord who is going to reply will give us some concrete instances.
I cannot help thinking that there is an all too slavish adherence in this Bill to the terms of the 1944 Act which was accepted by your Lordships and by Parliament to meet a very different case, namely the redevelopment of the blitzed and blighted areas of the old towns. Surely, the Government are aware to-day of the growing impatience at the continued existence in towns of these areas upon which little or no reconstruction has begun. I feel it is hardly necessary for me to draw a distinction between this redevelopment of the old towns and the plans for new communities, but it is essen- 337 tial that the Government should not forget. I think I have said sufficient to indicate the genuine fears of the people towards this new experiment It is a new experiment which clearly will be a marked contribution to re-housing, but it cannot possibly, with the best will in the world, take the place of a well-considered scheme for building the homes of the people which are still so urgently required. In point of fact, there cannot be an alternative to a national building programme, a programme which at the moment is very far distant. That we were led to expect from the present Government.
§ THE EARL OF ROSEBERY
My Lords, I am going to say only a few words. Naturally, I agree with my friend the noble Earl who has just spoken, that we accept this Bill with qualifications; but we certainly do accept it, and I am going to make only one or two generalizations. The first thing I would like to know arises out of Clause I. It says:If the Minister is satisfied, after consultation with any local authorities who appear to him to be concerned. …All depends on what is meant by "consultation." Not so long ago a Minister sent for an authority for consultation, and started by saying: "I think I had better let you know that I have absolutely made up my mind that whatever you say at this meeting will not have the slightest effect. Now I have told you that, I do not mind going on with the consultation." That is one way of having a consultation, but I trust it will not be the way under this Bill. The way to avoid it in this Bill is by avoiding secrecy, by having these consultations publicly, and letting it be known who is being consulted. Only to-day I read in the paper that the head of a local authority in the South—I think it was the Mayor—had been consulting with the Minister on the question of a new town at some place in Sussex. He said: "I was enjoined to absolute secrecy. I could not even tell my local people anything about it."
Why should there be this secrecy? During the war there was any amount of secrecy for obvious reasons, but this Government seem to think that secrecy must still go on, even in times of peace. Secrecy, as we all know, covers a multitude of errors, and it is errors we want to avoid. I should like to have an assurance 338 from the noble Lord who is going to answer, that there shall be no more secrecy about this town planning. If you are thinking of building a town in a certain place, there can be no conceivable reason why the inhabitants of that place, some of whom will be dispossessed, and the local authority, should not know. There is no question of profiteering. As the noble Earl has said, you have draconian powers to buy any land at any price you think fit. Why should there be this secrecy? Why not let the public and the Press know, so that everybody can be aware of what is going to happen? By that means you would very likely find out not only any snags there may be where you want to build but perhaps another place with superior facilities within a short distance.
There is another point I should like to make. There is no mention whatever that I can see—and I read this Bill through very carefully—of the Minister of Agriculture. He is a very important man when you come to dealing with land. We have had many acres of land spoilt by the Royal Air Force and the Army during the war. Agriculture is very valuable and precious to us. I think the Minister of Agriculture should before-most in the consultations when there is any question of building a town. I have—and I am sure many of your Lordships have also—had experience of people wanting to build cottages and seizing the best agricultural land in the place, when they could perfectly well have built within few hundred yards on land which was not nearly so good for agricultural purposes. I do not think I want to make many more comments except to touch, so far as the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, has touched, on Scotland. Here I would like to say that if there ever was a scheme which should have a separate Bill for Scotland, this is one. Instead of that, we are tagged by the tail to an English Bill at the end of the Session. The noble Lord has explained this by saying that time is very scarce. Of course time is very scarce at the end of the Session, but if the Government had only taken first things first, and taken town planning, which is a vital matter to the nation, before some of the theoretical Bills we have had to thrash out in this House and in another place, I think we would have had plenty of time to consider not only an English Bill but a Bill for Scotland. 339 We have seen already the result of hurried legislation. We saw it only yesterday in another place when the Government had to thank this House most cordially for having improved an otherwise impossible Bill. I think if the Government had introduced this Bill, which is vital to the country, earlier in the Session, it would have been very much better all round.
Lastly, as regards Scotland, several Ministers are mentioned in this Bill. So far as Scotland is concerned, with the exception of the Minister of Transport and the Minister of Labour, every single one of these Ministers is engulfed in the person of Mr. Westwood. I know perfectly well that no-one, not even Mr. Westwood, is capable of doing everything that the Secretary of State for Scotland should do as well as attend to his duties in another place. Every section of political opinion in Scotland is anxious that these Bills should be thrashed out in some way in Scotland before they come here. I am certain if that was done now it would save time, and make more efficient any Scottish Bill, or any appendage to an English Bill for Scotland, that may come here. I do not suppose this change will come in this Government's term of office, because in this Government's estimation Scotland does not stand very high; but in a future Government I am certain we shall have some such legislation. I do not suppose there is any authority in Scotland which does not think that we should have some such legislation so that we can look after local affairs and a Bill such as this before it comes to this House.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I would offer to this Bill a very cordial welcome. This is the second Bill the Government have introduced during their tenure of office, at present comparatively short, dealing with the question of town planning. The first was a Bill to expedite the procedure for re-planning and reconstructing "blitzed" and so-called blighted towns. The second is this measure to enable the building of completely new towns. Both are useful, as the noble Earl who has just spoken has said, but still, we have not got the main planning Bill, which this House and the country are awaiting and have long been awaiting—the Bill to decide the fundamental question of development rights and compensation. The 340 Coalition Government, although urged again and again, year after year, from all quarters of this House and elsewhere, failed completely even to approach any treatment of that question. The noble Earl who introduced this Bill said that this Government could not be said to be dilatory in making up their minds and in taking action. I would not go so far yet as to use the word "dilatory," but I can assure the noble Earl that we cannot be satisfied with these two preliminary Bills, and that, unless the main measure makes its appearance before very long, "dilatory" will be a mild word compared with those which will in fact be used.
The only other thing to which I take exception in the noble Earl's speech is the remark that the construction of new towns is the only way of relieving urban congestion. If that is so, it is a most lamentable state of things, for this Bill proposes only to undertake the building of some twenty new towns in England and Wales in a comparatively short number of years to house a total of about 1,000,000 people. The population of the whole of Great Britain is in the neighbourhood of 45,000,000, and half of that number certainly will be in the larger cities. If that is so, a measure which only provides for 1,000,000 is obviously no remedy for the abuses that afflict such a very much larger number. Undoubtedly the principal ways of dealing with this problem must be the replanning and expansion of existing towns, and the creation of garden suburbs or satellite towns. Nevertheless this measure is valuable so far as it goes, and it goes some considerable way. For one thing, it is a piece of positive constructive planning.
Town planning in the early days, from the time when the first Bill was introduced by John Burns in 1908, was a matter of restriction, of imposing limitations and of trying to prevent the repetition of the old abuses. It was always a case of "Thou shalt not." I am reminded of the little girl who said she did not think very much of the Ten Commandments because they did not tell you what to do, and only put ideas into your head! This, however, is a Bill which is essentially positive and constructive, and it is time that a great democracy like this country should show that it is capable of undertaking tasks of this kind. In earlier centuries, the building of the gracious, spacious and 341 dignified towns that were built from time to time was very often due to the initiative and to the enlightened control of some Sovereign or Grand Duke, or some great land-owning family. Several of the most beautiful cities in the Rhineland have their origin in the progressive and artistic characteristics of some of the Electors or Grand Dukes.
When we show London to foreigners and we look for features which will to some extent redeem it from the evil reputation given to it by the miles and miles of squalid, dingy and depressing areas of working-class houses, unrelieved by parks or open spaces, we say: "At all events, look at the Royal Parks of London, which are unmatched elsewhere." We point to the splendid range of well-planned streets starting from this neighbourhood and going through Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street, including Regents Park. Those were constructed largely upon Crown Lands and to some extent under the impulse of the Prince Regent himself, marking the principal outward characteristic of the Regency Period. Then again, the London squares are a mitigation of the general appearance of London, and they are due to the enlightenment of great landowning families. The same applies to the planning of towns such as Buxton, Eastbourne, Folkestone or Bexhill, with regard to which members of your Lordships' House have a highly creditable record. Industry, too, has occasionally, deliberately and of set purpose, provided good living places for its workers, as in the case of Bournville, Port Sunlight and one or two other examples. But we cannot rely upon initiative of that kind; the influence of monarchs, princes and great land owners is passing away, and we cannot rely upon great industry to take its place. Now democracy, self-governing, must itself perform these tasks. I welcome this Bill especially because it is the first effective sign that that duty is being realized in a fully self-governing country.
The work of replanning generally will be done partly by the State and partly by local authorities, but this specific task of creating entirely new towns on sites on which only small towns exist, or which are virgin sites, must be performed by the State through corporations intended for that particular purpose. Looking through this Bill, I am glad to see that its authors have realized that it is essential 342 to bring in, in one form or another, the whole of the living forces of the nation. For instance, it is not intended that any Government Department should undertake the construction of these towns. Corporations are to be appointed, and the members of those corporations (some of us have heard the names of one or two of those who have been thought of) are men who, outside the sphere of the State altogether, have won fame and distinction for the parts which they have played in the planning movement, as architects or in other spheres of private life. That corporation will be a link between the State and private enterprise. When it comes to the development of the towns themselves, there is no question of that being done by direct State action. On the Second Reading of the Bill in another place, the Minister for Town and Country Planning said:Private enterprise will be invited to participate in the building of houses by taking leases of parts of the area. The small builder will not be shut out; nor will the person desiring to build a single house.He went on to say that, similarly, land would be leased for the building of factories, shops, cinemas theatres and other necessary buildings, and that the land required for schools and other public buildings would be disposed of to the county council or to the appropriate authority. He pointed cut that the corporation, while it would retain in its own hands the freehold of the land, would be free, subject to approval, to dispose of the land by way of ninety-nine year leases, whenever it was thought desirable, and, in extreme and exceptional cases, even to part with the freehold.
The community that is to be established in a new town is expected to run on its own legs, to be self-governing, as other communities are, with its own elected local authorities, and in the end, when the work of building up has reached a sufficient stage and the community is well established, the local authority, in the name of that community, will take over the whole enterprise from the corporation which has been responsible for its initiation and early development. All that is excellent, and in conclusion I only wish to sound a warning note on two matters.
These towns are expected to be object lessons. One of their main purposes is not only to provide for the actual populations which will be attracted there at 343 the beginning, but also to provide a pattern which, if successful, may be imitated elsewhere in this country and other countries as well. I can well believe that Stevenage—and we are now told that Crawley will be another—may in the course of time be an object lesson, visited by experts from all over the world to see in what way they can best cope with problems in their own countries which are similar in many respects to those we have around us.
I see two dangers in the execution of this plan which might conceivably turn them into an object lesson, not of what should be imitated, but of what should be avoided. One, is the question of finance. The layout of towns such as these is an expensive matter. The large proportion of open spaces, the building of community centres, and the working of the corporation itself may, from the outset, involve very considerable overhead charges, and also at the present time building is exceptionally expensive. We hope that that will be changed after a time, but in these years, when this new enterprise is being initiated, building is exceptionally costly. On the other hand the new towns as contemplated in this Bill will have certain advantages. They will be able to get capital at a very low rate of interest. There will be no private profit to be paid on land improvement or development and there will be a large scale supply of materials.
Still the fact remains that it might possibly prove that the houses, in order to pay their way, may be so expensive that people who are wanting a place to settle—whether for industrial or residential purposes—may find that these towns are too expensive to live in, and that, attractive as they may be in many directions and having all possible amenities available within them, it may still be found that they do not grow in population with the speed that is desired and expected. It might be that after five or ten years it will be found that very large capital expenditure has been undertaken which will make living in those places even more expensive.
During the war, of course, we have been accustomed to deal with finance in terms of a thousand millions at a time. Every few months we voted in Parliament a thousand millions and then another thousand millions, and a mere expenditure 344 of £50,000,000 for twenty towns seems, as some orator said, "a mere fleabite in the ocean." But £50,000,000 is £50,000,000, and if after a few years it is found that there has been a very heavy loss on the whole enterprise, it may be some future Government will say, "It is a pity to waste all this which has been done. We must write all this off as a bad debt and give a subsidy to these corporations to enable them to escape from their difficulties and to prevent all this money from being wasted." I do not say that danger is bound to come, and I do not think myself that it is probable, but it cannot be denied that it is possible. Therefore, those who are now planning these towns, and undertaking and presiding over their beginnings, should have a very careful eye to finance and not be too much under the influence of the exceedingly lavish expenditure during the years of war.
The other danger is one that has been hinted at by the noble Earl, Lord Munster—the style of architecture that will be adopted. Naturally when any new city is being built the style of architecture predominant at the time will be adopted in its construction. To-day we are living in an age of steel and concrete, which has just taken the place of the old primeval materials of stone, brick and timber. There has developed, and rightly and properly developed, a completely new style of architecture which has frequently produced admirable buildings such as theatres, halls, institutes of all kinds, departmental stores and the like. All that is admirable. Under the influence of foreign architects like Corbusier, Gropius, and Mendelsohn, very admirable work has been done in this country and other countries. In these new towns we are not only thinking of public buildings but of homes to live in, and there is a danger that the influence of steel and concrete may produce dwellings that are somewhat austere, grim, and one might say unfriendly.
I remember when I was a young man in and out a good deal of the East End of London, that there were what were called model dwellings built by the Peabody Trust and other such institutions. They were great blocks of barrack-like buildings with concrete staircases, iron railings and the like, which no doubt were models in comparison with the squalid and infested slums they replaced 345 but which nobody to-day, in a later generation would describe in the least as models for general adoption. I think of the great buildings that one sees in all Continental cities, largely based on Vienna with its Marxian blocks of flats. I have heard them described as man-heaps. That is not a bad term—mere man-heaps. There are enormous masses of people living in far too close contact, with no proper accommodation for children and no catering for the individual as an individual or for the family as a family. I do hope that this country will not be misled by those Continental examples. Britain has been often blamed for being insular but she has often gained by her insularity. The characteristic dwellings for the people who carry on the English way of life are the Tudor village or the Georgian manor or villa. Those are the models which should be taken, if we need models in this country, and not the man-heaps of the Continental cities which spring from the idea of a proletariat—a proletariat which has risen out of being a proletariat but still keeps to some extent the proletarian mind.
I think the worst thing that has been said by any Member of the present Government during the last year was said by the Minister of Health, who declared that one way of solving the rural housing problem was to build tall blocks of flats in the country districts. That would be an abomination. The solution of the dilemma of either accommodating people near their work in a great block of flats, or else letting them live some distance away from their work in a separate private house, with all the disadvantages of travel to and fro, is to be found in transport. That has hardly ever been dealt with by town planners, and I think never by members of the Government, so far as I can remember. If your underground railways were doubled or trebled, if your motor roads were doubled, if your buses were doubled or trebled, and if instead of a man having to stand three-quarters of an hour in extreme discomfort, coming from his home to the place where he works, he could do the journey easily, comfortably, swiftly and cheaply in a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes, then the whole of this controvery between flats and houses would disappear. Let me recommend that to His Majesty's Government. When they are building these 346 new towns I beg them not to contribute to making the English people into a race of flat dwellers, but to give them suitable homes to live in. The Minister of Town and Country Planning, I am glad to see, in one of his speeches on the Bill, said that he wished to see these towns "gay and bright." Yes, "gay and bright," that is what they should be—not grim and forbidding. If we are to build Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land, let us have also green and pleasant towns.
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ LORD REITH
My Lords, I thought you might care to near something of the deliberations of the committee of which I was chairman; to be informed of some of the respects in which its recommendations have been accepted and of some in which they have not. I shall however, be much shorter than I had intended, for the hour is getting late, and there are several others who wish to speak. The committee over which I presided have worked very hard; they took great interest in the work. They put their minds thoroughly into the consideration of the complicated and controversial problems with which they were faced. Your Lordships will soon see a final report from them. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has already explained why there have been two interim reports. We would rather have had everything in one report, but the final report will be with the Minister of Town and Country Planning and the Secretary of State for Scotland in a few days. We hope it will be useful to them and to those upon whom responsibility will fall, in other words, the corporations, and of interest to your Lordships. We have gone into great detail about methods and procedure in the establishing of new towns, and all that is thereby involved. We hope that the Final Report will really prove a useful document.
The attitudes of Ministers and officials to committees vary. Sometimes committees are appointed merely to endorse what is going to happen anyhow. There are other occasions when a committee is genuinely wanted, but its recommendations may be or may not be accepted. I am satisfied in this case that the Ministers genuinely wished for the advice of a committee. It was in that belief that we addressed ourselves to our work.
There may be differences of opinion—there probably are; there certainly were in another place—as to the extent to 347 Which the Committee's recommendations are accepted. The Bill came to me, as to anyone else, without prior intimation as to its contents. That was quite natural. But I wondered whether the chairman of a Government committee was, on considerations of decency, subject to any sort of limitation in the observations he made on a Bill which, to an extent, anyhow, derived from the committee over which he presided. Happening to meet the Minister of Town and Country Planning, I said to him: "What about this? Do you feel that considerations of decency put a limit on what I may say, if in fact I feel disposed to criticize the Bill. "He replied: "Not at all. There is no limitation upon you whatsoever." The more I tried to indicate that I might have some criticism to offer, the more he encouraged me to take part in your Lordships' debate and freely to voice that criticism, if I had any.
I think it would help your Lordships if I indicate one or two respects in which the Bill differs from the Committee's recommendations, as well as those in which it is in line with them. There are many respects in which the Bill is, in fact, in line with the Committee's recommendations; and there are some in which it differs from them. There are, moreover, a good many matters as to which we really shall not know whether the Ministers will act on the recommendations of the Committee or not, because the Bill, as it stands, is capable of a wide range of interpretation and application. I think that your Lordships will realize that if you read it carefully.
Apart from being chairman of the Committee, I am a civil engineer, with experience of public works; I have had ministerial experience and experience of departmental methods; of public corporations; and also of the relationship between public corporations and Ministers. I think, therefore, that I can bring an informed and critical interest to bear on the Bill, quite apart from having been chairman of the committee.
My view is that it is a good Bill. I recommend your Lordships to accept it. On two major points I would be glad if Lord Henderson could enlighten us. First, I should like to know something about the amount and degree of supervision which the Minister intends to give these corporations, or conversely, the amount of freedom 348 he proposes to give them. Secondly, I should like some information as to the amount and degree of Treasury intervention. As to the former, the Committee recommended that the corporations should be subject to direction on matters of major policy, but otherwise that they should have freedom of action comparable with that of an ordinary commercial concern. It was recommended that they should have powers to undertake development as wide as those of any ordinary land owner. To the satisfaction of my committee, all that is conveyed in Cause 2 (2). But in Clause 2 (3) it is all made subject to ministerial direction. Hence my point as to interpretation and application.
As to the influence of the Treasury, the Bill is strewn, as from a pepper-pot, with references to "Treasury approval," "Treasury agreement," "Treasury consent," "Treasury concurrence," and even "Treasury direction." Some of it is necessary, but some of it, I believe, is unnecessary. We all know that close financial intervention and control affect intervention and control in almost every sphere of the activities of any organization. For instance, if the Treasury are to say that the salary of a chief executive must not exceed so much, that automatically, I submit, conditions a great deal of the organisation's efficiency and its speed of operation. One would be interested to hear something about that. Treasury intervention and control is justified, I suppose to almost any extent, where the body concerned is to be permanently subsidized, where it cannot possibly pay its own way.
These corporations should, in due course, be able to pay their own way. They cannot do so to start with; they must run on borrowed money for a time. But in due course they should pay their own way. We made various recommendations that would put them on a more definitely self-supporting basis. We were very anxious that they should ultimately be self-supporting and we made certain recommendations to that end. We suggested that they should pay interest on Exchequer loans from the date of advances, when able to do so. We thought they should not be asked to do so in the first five years or so, but that they should regard Treasury loans as permanent. When able to, we thought that they should pay interest from the dates of advances—and why not? We thought, too, that they ought to have borrowing powers 349 apart from the Exchequer. We thought that houses built by a corporation, not to the order of a local authority, should receive from the Exchequer the appropriate rate contribution. All this was with a view, as I have said, to making them more self-respecting and self-supporting, and so avoiding dependence on the Treasury, for from that dependence comes undue supervision and control. We will see how that works out in operation.
There is only one other point I want to mention where the Bill differs from the New Towns Committee recommendations. Your Lordships may think it is a Committee point. Quite likely it will be, but although it is a particular it is also a general point, and it is an indication of fundamental principle. The New Towns Committee were at some pains to explain why they did not think that the audit of these corporations should be conducted by the district auditor. The Committee's view was that the methods which these corporations mast adopt if they are to do their work properly and quickly, are quite outwith the experience, the regulations and the sympathy of district auditors. A proviso in Clause 13 (2) specifically permits the Minister to appoint the district auditor. There is a question of principle there. I do not believe the Minister will ever consider appointing a district auditor. Why therefore is the proviso there? Is it there at the instance of the Treasury?
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, and the noble Earl, Lord Munster, asked me specifically to say what I thought about the Government rejection of the two alternative forms of agency which the New Towns Committee proposed. Those alternatives were local authority-sponsored corporations and authorized associations. As I am asked for my view, I will give it. I accept the Minister's reasons for turning down these alternatives. I support this Bill, however, because I think it is a good Bill. And I support it because I trust the Minister of Town and Country Planning, and I have still to learn, even in these days, that one is not sometimes justified in taking a little on trust in terms of the chief personality involved. I will ask the noble Lord, Lord Henderson if he will be good enough to give your Lordships as categorical an assurance as he can on three points. I ask for this assurance, hoping 350 and believing that he will be able to give it.
In the first place, I ask for an assurance that, notwithstanding the power of absolute direction, the Minister hopes and intends to give the corporations the greatest possible amount and degree of freedom. The second point is one about which there may be inure difficulty. But I think it would be helpful if some time or other the Minister and the Secretary of State for Scotland would indicate the matters on which the corporations will be subject to direction, leaving us and the corporations to assume that otherwise they will have freedom, and that normally the Ministers will not intervene. In asking for this assurance, I want to make it quite clear that it would be without prejudice to Ministerial right to intervene anywhere. The third point is concerned with the Treasury. I should be glad to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, that Treasury intervention and control, both direct and indirect, will be on the basis that I have indicated; namely that the corporations will be self-supporting and therefore entitled to the maximum freedom.
A great deal will depend on the members of the corporations chosen by the Ministers; and a great deal will depend on the senior executives whom the members choose. In the choosing and payment of these senior executives I imagine that the corporations will have a relatively free hand. In their First interim Report, the New Towns Committee made this observation:Our task far exceeds the devising of machinery for the ordered laying of bricks and mortar. It is not enough to avoid the mistakes of the past. The responsibility, as we see it, is to conduct an essay in civilization by seizing an opportunity to design, evolve, and carry into effect, for the benefit of coming generations, the means for a happy and gracious way of life.If an ephemeral committee were animated and inspired by such sentiments one would expect and hope that they would be shared and endorsed by the Ministers and by those on whom these high responsibilities will fall. There is no doubt whatever—and I have read the reports of all the proceedings in another place—that the Minister of Town and Country Planning is so animated and inspired. At the end of the Third Reading he said:I undertake the task with great hmility, but with high hopes with enthusiasm and with determination.351 I believe that to be true. He added:In this tremendous task I shall welcome support from whomever and from wherever it may come. Whoever is ready to help will be welcome, and will be regarded by me as a friend.I submit to your Lordships that we should support and encourage the Minister; that we should be ready to help him; and that we should treat him with that friendliness which he has invited from us.
§ 4.17 p.m.
My Lords, this Bill has been presented as a measure to relieve congestion in London and the big towns by scientific methods. In so far as it is likely to do that, I cordially welcome it. I also think that the methods by which the Minister proposes to build these new towns are well justified. I am afraid that unless the corporations when set up are backed by the Ministers with somewhat oligarchical powers, many of the problems that will arise will never be solved. For example, how is it proposed to bring in the maximum population which the Minister and my noble frend the Earl of Listowel desire in these new towns while the present building restrictions are in force? I think this is a question in which the neighbouring local authorities will be very much interested. If nothing but houses of the lowest rateable value may be built for the first few years, neighbouring authorities may experience a burden on their rates. Equally, what safeguard is there that the labour required for building these new towns will not be diverted from the building of agricultural cottages and other houses which are under construction by neighbouring authorities at the present time? Only the Minister can ensure that a proper balance is kept. Although we may put amendments into the Bill in Committee, it will be found, I think, that for better or worse the Ministers have so much power already that they are the only people who can solve many of these problems.
What I am principally concerned with to-day is whether this Bill will produce the results claimed for it by the noble Earl. Will it relieve the congestion of London permanently? Will the reception areas get the new towns, and the new towns only, or will they get the new towns and the suburban sprawl as well? I think it is very difficult to judge of this without knowing more than we know at present 352 about the whole Government programme of town planning, towards which this Bill is only a contribtuion—although, I agree, a very important contribution.
Before the war it was a well-known fact that there was a great drift of the population towards London and the south-east. I believe it was calculated that at least a million people arrived in the neighbourhood of London between the wars. In my own county of Sussex this drift manifested itself by the appearance of large numbers of housing estates and hundreds of little bungalows. In fact, the town-planning authorities could probably more correctly be described as anti-town-planning authorities, because their main concern was to save the amenities of the countryside and the best agricultural land from what was then termed the depredations of the developer.
In Sussex this drift appears to be still going on. Practically all the towns in Sussex have long lists of applicants for the new council houses; the demand for bungalows seems as brisk as ever, and I am sure that as soon as conditions permit the speculative builder will re-emerge. A further fact of some significance is that this demand for housing is now for the first time accompanied by a general demand for the establishment of light industries. Although it cannot be proved statistically, I certainly believe—and I think most of the planning officers in Sussex believe—that only a small proportion of this demand comes from people who were resident in Sussex before the war. Many of them are people who were evacuated from London during the war. Some have left London since the war to live in somewhat uncomfortable conditions with relations and friends, and others are simply people who have made up their minds to come and live in Sussex. Therefore, I am sure that if, as we are told, we are to have a new town in Sussex, and if nothing is done to stop this drift, the only effect will be that we shall import into Sussex another fifty thousand people by this scientific and officially sponsored method of a new town.
All the time we shall be continuing to import by unscientific and unsponsored methods a great many more people as well. I think that the result will be that, although we shall no doubt have a number of open spaces and green belts, and although we may manage to arrange this development in neighbourhood units furnished with civic 353 centres and shopping areas and so forth, we nevertheless shall have a form of suburban sprawl, in which this new town will only form one item. I wonder very much if this process will serve any very useful purpose. I know, of course, that there are many thousands of people in London to-day who would be glad of a house within reach of London but outside London, and I know, too, there are certain boroughs and urban councils which would be glad of the extra rateable value, but it is equally obvious that if these movements of the population go beyond a certain point, they give rise to very difficult problems of local government, both in the areas in which they arrive, and in the areas which they leave behind. Moreover, although I know very little about the administration of London, the fact that many thousands of people left London between the wars, and established themselves in the Home Counties, does not seem to have produced a very permanent effect on the de-congestion of London. Since they left others seem to have arrived, and I presume this may happen again.
For this reason I welcome the efforts now being made by the Government to shepherd industry back to what were called the depressed areas and are now called the development areas. This will go to the root of the problem, which is to prevent the drift, and I can only echo the hope expressed by a previous speaker that the new industries, which the Government contemplate establishing in the new towns will not undo the good work of shepherding industries back to the development areas. I submit that these long term measures should be supported by very clear, very definite and very drastic town planning schemes. Let us have new towns by all means, but let us also have large areas of land permanently reserved for agriculture as recommended in the Scott Report. I hope that we shall not harp too much on the impossibility of foreseeing the future, or the importance of town planning being regarded as a continuous process. So often this is merely another way of saying that the primary purpose of agricultural land is not for agriculture but to provide potential sites for new towns, and for the extension of old ones as soon as any kind of case is made out.
Surely we must aim at some finally of town planning, anyhow in and around London and in the Home Counties. Unfortunately 354 town planning at the moment is at a low ebb, as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, very truly hinted. I am a member of four committees which are euphemistically called joint planning executive committees, although for the time being we can neither plan nor execute anything. We do not know the Government's plan for compensation, nor do we know in what form the Ministry of Town and Country Planning wishes us to submit our schemes. Until we know all we can do is to suggest the lines on which interim development consents should be given or withheld. It is a very difficult thing to do that without appearing to be capricious and unfair and creating uncertainty and difficulty for private enterprise. The Minister has been quoted very freely in this debate, but I wish to quote one more extract from his speeches. Speaking at the Town and Country Planning Institute last year, he said:If sound and swift decisions are to be made for individual cases, local authorities must be forearmed with some clear conception of the pattern which future development in the area ought to take.That is exactly what I am asking should happen, but it is very far from being the case at present. I hope that as soon as this Bill becomes law, which I am sure it will do, the Minister will devote his attention to the remainder of his town and country planning programme which was, in any event, promised for this session. Unless that is done, and unless this clear pattern is evolved, I am afraid that this Bill may well fail in some of its most important objectives.
§ 4.29 p.m.
My Lords, I rise to discuss the Bill very briefly from the Scottish point of view and to support my noble friend the Earl of Rosebery. Unfortunately the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, has had to leave the House, and he expressed his regret to me. Of course I quite understand he had to leave. I can only hope that to-morrow he will read in Hansard such remarks as I have to make and will pay some respect to them. Perhaps in the course of the Committee stage he may go further. As one who at one time was Member for one of the Glasgow divisions (the St. Rollox Division of Glasgow) I do know a good deal about the housing question, particularly in the West of Scotland. From that point of view I welcome this Bill. 355 There is no town in the kingdom so overcrowded or so badly housed as is Glasgow. If from Glasgow you go down the Clyde, you find a succession of straggling so-called towns and villages, always meeting each other, never knowing exactly where one begins and where one ends, a mass of tram-lines and uncomfortable roads to travel over in any conditions. There are people living in good houses, small houses, hovels and otherwise, and a population which I agree deserves to be looked after under a Bill of this kind. Glasgow and the West of Scotland contain practically half the population of Scotland. I think the population of Scotland to-day is about 4,500,000, and there is something like 2,250,000 of that located in Glasgow and the Clyde.
I feel, like some other members of your Lordships' House who have spoken, that too much stress must not be placed on the application of this Bill immediately. I think there are many ways in which housing in Glasgow and in other places could be dealt with more quickly than by concentrating all efforts on a Bill of this kind. I venture to suggest to the Government, as other noble Lords have done, that they should take that particular aspect into account and not relax their efforts to re-house where they can, how they can, and as quickly as they can the people who must and will continue to live in that area.
There is one factor of which I suggest sufficient use has not been made, and that is the assistance of the private builder. My mind goes back to 1918, 1919 and 1920, when the Government of the day started with a very similar policy to that of the present Government of utilizing only the local authorities for building houses. Very soon they found they were not making great progress, but, as is the case with all Governments, they did not like to change their policy suddenly. It took a year or two before they enlisted the services of private enterprise in order to augment their efforts and really to get a move on in the building of houses. I recommend to the Government that they should adopt that policy, in spite of Mr. Aneurin Bevan or his political prejudices.
What I have said so far has reference to the west of Scotland. I agree that the east of Scotland presents quite a different 356 case from the west of Scotland. In the east of Scotland you are going, so to speak, into raw ground on which to place towns. You will have an easier task in the east of Scotland, especially in East Lothian and in Fife, than you will have in Glasgow and along the Clyde.
This question of creating new townships or re-creating particular townships in Scotland is a peculiarly Scottish question, and it is one which ought to be handled from a Scottish point of view after full discussion in Scotland of all the particular questions arising out of it. What do we find in this Bill? Section 25, a section covering three full pages, says:The provisions of this Section shall have effect for the purpose of the application of this Act to Scotland.It then goes on to set out a large number of subsections which are quite incomprehensible without their references, and always will be incomprehensible to any layman who reads this Bill. It is not fair to Scotland to place her, as my noble friend has said, at the tag end of an English Bill in this fashion. There are many English Bills which have been adopted for Scotland by the simple phrase, "This Bill will apply to Scotland."
It is very difficult for any layman to understand what is meant in this Bill. We were told by the noble Lord, Lord Westwood, that there would be an explanatory memorandum, but an explanatory memorandum ought not to be the document by which a Bill has to be interpreted. I can foresee in the future, with this sort of section attached to it, unfortunate town clerks and county clerks, the county councillors and the town councillors who wish to understand what is in this Bill tearing their hair and saying: "This is all nonsense, so far as we are concerned, and we cannot understand it." I suggest that the Government have no right to ask Scotland to accept this Bill with this provision in it. If your Lordships go through Section 25 you will see that no less than six or seven principal Scottish Acts are referred to in it. There are the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Acts, 1932 and 1943, the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944 and the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1945. There is also the Local Government (Scotland) Act, 1929; I think further on there is the Local 357 Government (Scotland) Act, 1937, and there is even another one somewhere else of 1925.
All those Acts were principal Scottish Acts and the subjects with which they dealt were considered to be of sufficient importance to be embodied in individual and separate Acts. I submit to your Lordships, just as my noble friend the Earl of Rosebery has done, that this is a subject of tremendous importance so far as it applies to Scotland, and that we ought not to have been treated in this way. The Bill should not have been brought down here with this thing tagged on to it and it should not have been said to us: "Take this; we have a good Act in England." Obviously nobody can understand this, with all its references. It would take even a good lawyer a fortnight to work it out and to understand it; yet you ask us to accept this as an Act which applies to Scotland. I, for one, object very strongly- to it. I support my noble friend in what he has said, and if he puts down an Amendment to eliminate Section 25 I shall be very glad to support him. I do not think we should lose anything by it. I see the noble Earl smiles, but I repeat that I do not think we should lose anything.
We have a tremendous amount of work to do as it is in relation to housing in Scotland at the present moment. If, having passed this Bill for England, you pass in the autumn a similar one for Scotland (I do not say an identical one, because there may be conditions in Scotland which will necessitate some alterations in the wording), you will have done something which will not only be a reasonable and a practical thing to do, but something that will be very acceptable to Scotland itself.
§ 4.42 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON
My Lords, I hope the noble Viscount who has just addressed your Lordships will forgive me if, although I am of Scottish parentage, I do not attempt to support him in the latest injustice which has been perpetrated upon Scotland. Having lived in the South, I am more concerned with other phases of the problem, and in any case I think Scotland will be able to look after itself. The debates on this Bill, both in your Lordships' House and in another place, are an example of Parliament 358 at its best. I have read all the speeches that were made in Committee and in the debates in another place and I have followed the statements made here, but the subject is so complex that one finds, even in this debate, that one noble Lord is looking at the matter from one angle and another noble Lord is looking at it from an entirely different angle.
One of the noble Lords who addressed your Lordships this afternoon was concerned with the fact that the Government ought not to let up on the general rebuilding of towns by dissipating their energies in building new ones. But the question is not quite so simple as that. In the district which I represented in another place for a matter of twenty years, and in which I still reside (I am saying this to give your Lordships an idea of the different angles from which one must look at this problem) we had before the war a population of 165,000, and, when the war had finished, a population of 100,000. We also had some 20,000 houses either completely demolished or rendered uninhabitable, due to bombing.
What is the problem? Are we to attempt to go full speed ahead and try to get back to our pre-war population of 165,000? We ought never to have had that population; there was not room enough for anything like that number ever to have lived there. To use a hackneyed phrase, they were not housed but warehoused. Consequently the local authority, after much deliberation before the end of the war, came to the conclusion that a population of 100,000 was all that could be adequately and decently housed in the area available, and is now proceeding on that assumption. Where are the other people to go? Many of them are clamouring to come back. Indeed some have managed to come back and there is gross over-crowding. I am perfectly sure that your Lordships would not desire that in an area like that (and I am speaking of a typical area in London; there are many of them) which has been notoriously overcrowded and over-populated for a very long time, we should, having now the opportunity of rebuilding, attempt to squeeze in as many people as we had before.
I think this House is greatly indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Reith, not only for the two excellent Reports but for the speech he delivered this afternoon. I 359 am perfectly sure that all your Lordships are looking forward with considerable interest to the final Report of his Committee in the assurance that it will provide some of that further knowledge which many of us are seeking in regard to this problem. I have a good deal of sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Reith, in his—if he will forgive my using the word—suspicion as to the activities of the Treasury, but, without endeavouring at all to oppose the view he expressed, I would point out to him that the public corporation which it is proposed should be set up by the Minister will not be, as far as I can see, any more under the thumb of the Treasury than is an ordinary local authority to-day.
I speak as one who has been an Urban District Councillor, a County Councillor and an Alderman of a Borough Council for a very long time, and perhaps I may say that the average local authority, whether it be an Urban District Council, a Borough Council or a County Council, has very little freedom of movement but has to get the consent of the Treasury almost before it can move in any direction whatever. The noble Lord's point, as far as I could follow it, was that the public corporations should not at any rate be crippled and cramped in their freedom to expand; but the fact remains, that as the Treasury are finding public money they will therefore claim that they ought to have some say as to how that money is to be expended. I would like, if I may, to add a word or two about the views I hold on one or two matters. I think success in the building of these new towns will depend mainly upon the efficiency, sound judgment, imagination and knowledge of human nature of those who are made responsible for it by the Minister, and, I might add, also on the degree of co-operation they will receive and on the civic pride which they can arouse and develop amongst the citizens of the towns.
A good deal has been said by the Minister, and also in the Reports of the Committee of the noble Lord, Lord Reith, about the question of not making these towns dormitory towns. I hope they will not be dormitory towns, but it is not an easy problem, and no one who has been into this question closely can possibly be under the impression that it is. I speak as one who has lived for a long time in a constituency in which 60 per 360 cent. of its inhabitants only sleep; they work elsewhere. I hope the public corporations which will be set up will give their close attention to the problem of how to avoid making these towns dormitory towns. It is said, of course, that employers of labour will be invited to open up factories in these new towns, and my own experience leads me to believe that many employers will be anxious and willing to do so, because many of them are men of high ideals and great imagination. But in order that they may do so successfully, I hope the public corporation to be set up will take an early opportunity of consulting those employers of labour who propose to establish factories in the new towns, in order to find out what their views are. It is obvious that an employer of labour would require a number of things, and one thing in particular, which is that there should be some provision made, either by the public corporation or by someone connected with the new town, to see that not only are facilities given for him to have a factory but that also certain houses are placed at the disposal of his employees so that his key men can come and live in that town. No employer that I know with any reasonable common sense and business efficiency is going to open up a firm unless he has a guarantee for the housing in that area for the special people he wants to bring in to carry on his business.
The noble Earl, Lord Munster, I think gave two or three warnings to the Minister about things that might possibly happen. I would like to add two other warnings if I may. One is that the Minister, in appointing his public corporation to organize these towns, should beware of two sets of people in a community. First of all, there are the cranks. They are very difficult to distinguish, and they often succeed in carrying on for a long time without being discovered; but at the same time they are a menace. They are the people who think the town should be organized and run in order to suit their particular requirements, irrespective of what the general habits of the community may be. I hope, therefore, that the Minister will keep in mind this warning to beware of cranks. The other class are what I call the step brothers of cranks—experts. My public life has taught me that the expert frequently has a tremendous amount of knowledge but not quite so much common sense. There is a type 361 of expert who thinks that because he knows all the technicalities and all the technical answers, everybody ought to believe everything he says without any question at all, and all that the ordinary person has to do is to listen to the expert and carry out what he says.
The Minister has repeatedly said that there will be mistakes made in building up these towns. I hope he will remember the old dictum—I forget who said it—that those who succeed are not those who never make mistakes, but those who never make the same mistake twice. That will be the advantage of having a number of towns like Stevenage making the pace. With the mistakes made at Stevenage kept in mind it will be possible for the other authorities to avoid making the same mistakes again. Finally I want to raise this point with the Minister, and I do not ask for a reply to-day. One of the matters that interest me very much is who is to own the houses in these towns? Are the houses to be owned by the State, by the corporation, by the housing association or by the local authority when it is set up? I am bound to say that if I had my choice I should try to have the houses largely owned by the people who live in them. I think that the ideal person to live in a house is the person who owns it. To be a council tenant or a tenant of a housing association may be very good, but it is not so good as being the owner of one's own house, even if one has not paid for it or is still trying to pay for it. It makes all the difference in the way in which the house is looked after.
I know there may be a difficulty in this because things happen in working-class life which are unforeseen. A family may be living in a certain town, and something happens to the occupation of the man necessitating a change of town; therefore it becomes necessary for him to dispose of his house. I think that steps could be taken by the corporation or housing associations in the new towns to see that the house was disposed of back to the corporation or to the housing association, in order to prevent any profiteering or property speculation. I do hope that the Government, and the public corporation when it is appointed, will consider what is obvious to many of us who have had a long experience, namely, that when a man is living in his own house or what he hopes to be his own 362 house he is a really good occupier. He spends much of his spare time in trying to make the house look as nice as possible, whereas a tenant is not so much interested.
§ VISCOUNT MAUGHAM
My Lords, for my part I look upon this Bill as an endeavour, and a very valuable endeavour, to implement that great State paper, the Barlow Report. Those who have read that Report—and there is no time for me to give you a resume of it to-day—will be perfectly convinced that the Bill before us is one to remove an existing and a growing evil and that we cannot burke the matter. It is idle to show that the Bill is not perfect. The Bill, in everybody's opinion, has a fair chance, if it is well administered, of removing some at least of the terrible dangers of overcrowding and congestion. I lock upon the object of this measure only as a large scale experiment in the matter of new towns. It has been properly pointed out to the House that it will help only about 1000,000 people in this country out of some 45,000,000 or 46,000,000, and accordingly it obviously does not attempt to settle all the difficulties of congestion and provide for all the new housing in this country. But it is none the less as much as can be done at the present time. It is I believe, with proper administration, a most valuable effort in the direction of removing the evils to which I have referred.
The method of working out this matter of new towns by development corporations is, in my opinion, as good a method as could be devized. I understand it is due to the efforts of one of the Reith Committees, and I see no objection to it as it is embodied in this Bill. I do want to suggest to the Government, however, that in some respects it would be advisable if a little more detail was given in the Bill as regards the way in which the corporations will carry out their duties. Those of your Lordships who have been able to give some hours of time in studying this rather complex measure will know that Clause 13 of the Bill deals mainly with the matter of the accounts to be kept by the new corporations, and that in the Second Schedule there is something about the constitution of the development corporations. We know that there is to be a chairman and a vice-chairman appointed by the Minister, and not more than seven other members.
363 So we shall have this comparatively small body of people sitting round a table to carry out these very important duties. What I should like to see would be some addition to paragraph 8 of the Second Schedule which would tell us how the Corporation is to carry on its business. It is quite true that it refers to the fact that "the arrangements relating to their meetings shall, subject to any directions given by the Minister, be such as the Corporation may determine," but I, who have had a large experience in matters somewhat similar to this, think it would be very much better if some directions were given as to what they shall do. For instance, we do not know if their work is to be wholly carried out in secret. We do not know if the people are ever to be admitted to any of their meetings. We do not know whether they are bound to keep minutes of all their proceedings and to preserve those minutes as a permanent record of their various operations. All these things should, I think, be stated in an Amendment to the Schedule and should not be left to the determination of the Minister under the paragraph I have mentioned. I do urge upon the Government the desirability of being a little more explicit on those matters.
I will not, at this late hour, repeat a number of things which have already been admirably stated by some of your Lordships, but I would like to say that I fully agree with all that my noble friend, Viscount Samuel, said about the architectural schemes which are to be embodied in these new towns. I fully share his view that to make these towns simply of steel and concrete would be to set a disastrous example for the future, and would tend to make these towns very unpopular. It would be far better if the Minister would think over the very strong desirability of making these towns accord with the wishes of the people. The last speaker referred to experts. Experts are not the kind of people who should tell us what sort of houses the new houses should be. That is a question for ordinary educated people who have an interest in architecture to determine. I hope that we shall not have too many of the sort of buildings that are found abroad, to which reference has already been made. I mean buildings which I would describe as being in the style of modern Russian architecture.
364 I should like, also, to say that it seems to me—and I believe this is felt by many people in this country in their hearts—that the provisions as to compensation are most unfair, and will lead to a very great deal of heart-burning. I do not think that it will be reasonable to adhere to the 1939 ceiling in present circumstances. The situation has been getting worse and worse ever since the appearance of the Uthwatt Report or indeed since some time before that. There was a time when that ceiling was perfectly fair. Now many young people who have bought houses will be practically ruined, if they have to submit to the terms of compensation in the Act of 1944, which, I understand, is, by some rather obscure clause, embodied and incorporated in the present Bill. I do not believe that that would be entirely just, and I think that Sections 57 and 58 of the Act of 1944 ought to be carefully considered; if they can be amended in Committee, it is exceedingly desirable that that should be done.
I am very desirous of supporting the last speaker in what he said with regard to the persons who are going to own the new land which will be bought by the corporation. Clause 5 of the Bill before, us provides specifically "that a development corporation shall not have power, except with the consent of the Minister, to transfer the freehold in any land or to grant a lease of any land for a term of more than ninety-nine years." I hope that somebody on the Benches opposite will be able to tell us why the Government are so obsessed with the notion that there is something iniquitous in freehold tenancy. I am completely unable to understand it. I thoroughly endorse the expression of his views on this point by the last speaker, who said that no occupier of land is likely to be a better occupier and a better citizen than somebody who has managed, by the use of his savings, or by some other method, to pay for the house in which he lives.
Why should there be this hatred for a man, or for a company, for that matter, getting freehold of land, or the hatred for an individual buying a small house? I would add that I have knowledge of small factories, the proprietors of which are unwilling to set up their business on land of which they are only leasehold tenants. They want certainty of tenure. They do not want the possibility of being turned out at the end of some period or other— 365 just, it may be, when business is at its very best. I do not believe that it can be in the interests of the Government or of the country to preserve the proviso which is put in Clause 5 (1) of the Bill. I agree with a great deal that has been said by Lord Reith. I think he is perfectly right to point out how detrimental it will be to the powers and the operations of the corporations if they have continuously to be getting the consent of Ministers and the consent of the Treasury as well. I think the Government ought to make up their minds that although some Government supervision is called for, it ought to be as little as possible, having regard to the circumstances of the case.
I do not think that, for the moment, I will trouble your Lordships with any further observations. I would, however, like to join in the tribute that has been paid to the Minister of Town and Country Planning by Lord Reith. I, who have read, if not everything he has said, at any rate a good many of his speeches in another place, would like—without being presumptuous, I hope—to say how convinced I am of his fairness, his candour and his common-sense. His concluding remarks on the Third Reading of the Bill have inspired me with a feeling that so long as he is in charge of the Bill, we need not fear some of the worst perils that may beset a measure of this sort.
§ 5.10 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF SELKIRK
My Lords, I would like to support what the noble Viscount, Lord Elibank, and the noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, said as regards the Scottish application of this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Westwood—I am sorry to see that he has gone, although I knew he could not stay, and I am fully aware of the reason—said, by a charming understatement, that the Bill is intricate. If he had applied that to the English sphere, it would have been nearer the truth. It is virtually impossible for a layman to understand the Scottish application of this particularly difficult Bill. It could be a harvest of very rich reward to a great lawyer. It is a pity that it has been drawn up in this way. When I came to analyze my thoughts I found that almost all my remarks would be in favour of delay. I can see no very strong reason why this measure should go forward at the present time.
366 We heard just now something about the ownership of houses. There is a different method in Scotland, a method which in practice has proved the most effective Way of town planning. That is the method of felling. The whole of the New Town of Edinburgh, as it is still called although it is 150 years old, was all laid out by feu, by which the maximum independence can be given to the proprietor of the land while the conditions laid down by the feuer are absolute. I am very glad to see that that has been encouraged in the Bill and that the Minister proposes to use the powers of felling in the development of new towns.
I do not wish to oppose the principle of this Bill, but I want to comment on the way in which it has been introduced and the development which it is proposed to make. We have been told that there is great hurry to carry the measure through. I am very doubtful whether that hurry will bring any benefit or whether there is any chance of the proposals being put into operation with such haste. During the last twelve months not twenty-five per cent. of the houses which were being built in July, 1945, have been finished. It is extremely improbable that there will be any building labour or materials available to do any extensive work on a new town for a period of at least two years. I think the whole scheme which the Secretary of State for Scotland has announced as a result of the Abercrombie Report should receive much more consideration than it has up to now. The Report itself has not been made public and there are few of us who have seen it. It deals with a very long-term policy which will affect great areas for a considerable period, and it deserves the most minute and careful attention. The noble Lord, Lord Westwood, emphasized the congestion of Glasgow but he has not emphasized, as the obverse of that, that large parts of Scotland are grossly under-populated. We have a unique opportunity, which may well not occur again, of distributing the population on a much better balanced basis than it has been up to the present time.
Under the Bill, it is proposed to constitute four satellites of Glasgow. I regret very much that the Minister has accepted so willingly these proposals. Particularly, I deplore the development of East Kilbride. Those who know the district know 367 that it is the easiest exit from Glasgow, and in effect you are stopping up one of the avenues by the which the people of Glasgow can get out into the country. Is there any reason why development should take place around the Clyde Valley? That valley developed in the past through the juxtaposition of coal and iron ore. These are no longer the basis of the type of industry which is likely to develop. What are the bases of those industries? They are entirely different and can be found in a great variety of different places, not in the Clyde Valley at all. The bases of those industries are water, electricity and communications. Where all those factors are present, there is no reason why industry should not be developed. In particular I would emphasize the area of the new hydro-electric board as possessing peculiar facilities which I think should be developed to the maximum possible extent.
I hope very much that the Secretary of State for Scotland will consider this plan carefully before carrying it into operation. There are a large number of factors which have to be borne in mind. In the immediate vicinity of areas to be developed there are large districts which urgently require re-development. I refer particularly to the areas in Lanarkshire of Coatbridge, Airdrie, Motherwell and Hamilton. In these places development of industry is taking place fairly successfully. If you place, in areas alongside, other industries, it may be that they will prevent the re-development of the existing area. Therefore, before starting new towns, I hope that the maximum action will be taken to develop existing towns where some form of community already exists. I will end by quoting Masefield:States are not made nor patched; they grow— Grow slow through centuries of pain And grow correctly in the main.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, like other noble Lords who have addressed your Lordships this afternoon, I welcome this Bill. And I welcome not only the Bill but the exposition of the Bill by my noble friend the Earl of Listowel, in what I thought was a model of what such a speech should be. He told us that the object of his Bill is to 368 produce towns which would be adult or independent towns with a spacious layout and with balanced communities. We all accept those ideals. In passing, I should like to ask the Government how they hope to get balanced communities with a proper cross-section of income groups with the present restrictions on building. That is a point which they must look at, because this idea of cross-sections of all income groups is the very essence of the success of this scheme. If we are to have nothing but small working class houses owned by the local authorities, we shall not begin to have a cross-section of the population.
It seems to be a great pity that this great idea was not enshrined in legislation twenty-five years ago. What a difference it would have made to the face of the countryside if that had been done! How much damage would have been prevented in stopping the growth of the big towns! It is interesting to see how long it takes a good idea to get across. I was interested in what the noble Lord, Lord Morrison, said about cranks. He gave a definition which I shall read in Hansard to-morrow and perhaps shall agree with. But nobody could have been regarded as more a crank in his day than Ebenezer Howard, whose ideas are being expressed in legislation to-day. An alternative definition of a crank, which I offer the noble Lord, is "A man who is fifty years ahead of his time and his generation." The trouble is that it is not always easy to pick the winner or the loser in current days and there are many to-day who will not turn out to be right in fifty years. But if you accept my definition, I do not mind if you call me a crank, as I think some of you sometimes do. I have no doubt whatever that Ebenezer Howard and Raymond Unwin were derided as cranks by a great number of people who are paying tribute to their memory to-day by praising this Bill.
The biggest question for consideration on Second Reading is the kind of agency to be used in the development of these new towns. That is a big question of principle. I was greatly interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Reith, said on that subject, and I think that the Government's decision about corporations is right. But I would like to see the machinery a little more flexible. I quite agree that local authorities, as a whole, would not make a suitable agency. Some 369 of the largest local authorities are not yet converted to this policy of dispersal, and I do not think some of them realize that under their powers as landowners, without boundary extension, they could exercise sufficient influence. At the same time I think that some local authorities would qualify, and I should have liked to see power given to the Minister to allow local authorities to set up such corporations in suitable cases. I am sorry, also, to note the omission of authorized associations. I would welcome their inclusion if it could be achieved on the Committee stage. After all, Welwyn and Letchworth, prototypes of these satellite towns, were set up by private enterprise, and I do not see why that particular type of private enterprise should be excluded from this Bill.
The great thing is to keep the machinery flexible and to take long views. I hope we can persuade the Minister to do that. Long views are perhaps more important in finance than anywhere else. Because that is so important, I await the answer of the Minister who is to reply with great apprehension on the Treasury point. I must remind your Lordships that while it is obviously essential for the Treasury to have financial control, the Treasury do not always take long views. The recent painful experience under the Ribbon Development Acts comes to my mind. Your Lordships will recall that, under the Ribbon Development Act, local authorities were given power to acquire, I think it was, a space of 220 yards on either side of the new highway. The whole idea was to sterilise the area from building. . What did the Treasury do? It is on record that the Treasury refused to give local authorities borrowing power to buy the land unless they could produce plans for the immediate redevelopment of the land they were going to buy. That was taking the shortest of short views and we must somehow be protected from those short views.
On the question of these satellite towns, there is an omission in the Bill which I regret, and that is that there is no mention of the Central Advisory Commission which my noble friend Lord Reith in his interim report suggested should be set up. The report says:We consider that some measure of central co-ordination and advice will be required both by the appropriate Ministers and by the agencies themselves.They recommended the setting up of a Central Advisory Commission by the 370 Minister of Town and Country Planning and the Secretary of State for Scotland, and detailed recommendations were promised in a later report which I understand has not yet been published. The objects would be: to provide a central pool of information and experience; to advise the appropriate Minister on any point referred by him, or on its own initiative to offer advice; to deal with matters referred to by the several agencies and generally to advise the agencies; and to receive annual reports from the agencies and so on. I am quite certain that would be a most valuable part of the machinery. I should like to see that put in. Possibly we might be able to ask the Government to consider that on the Committee stage.
There is one other matter to which I would make reference. I must say a word about the 1939 price ceiling, because I have always felt wrongly that that was a thing which ought to be maintained, but now I am free to admit that much water has flowed under the bridges since the idea was announced and I think the matter has to be looked at again. I was tremendously in favour of it, and at one time in your Lordships' House secured acceptance of a Motion in favour of the maintenance of the 1939 ceiling because I thought it would be a potent weapon against inflation. I thought if we could hold land values, that might be of great help in preventing the rise of prices generally. But everything else has gone up, and it is obviously so unfair to keep land for public acquisition down to the 1939 value to-day that I think really that must be looked at again. This is especially so in view of the difference between value payment and the cost of work payment under the War Damage Act. It seems to me that it is not logical to maintain any longer the principle of the 1939 ceiling. In fact, I do not think it will do any good. It saves only a little public money at the cost of inflicting a great private injustice, and nobody can justify that.
In conclusion, I should like to say that the dispersal policy is the right one. The Government have quite clearly to balance immediate needs against long term policy. However difficult the conditions of housing at the present time may be, I hope that the Government will not sacrifice too much of the future to present needs. This Bill is belated. I suppose we can all take a share of the 371 responsibility for that. It ought to have been brought in by the Coalition Government, but the Coalition Government ought also to have brought in a Compensation and Betterment Bill. Those were the two necessary preliminaries, and it is because those things were not done that building has got started on the wrong track. It is because so many of the local authorities are not fully alive to the dangers of peripheral development that I am afraid this Bill comes rather late. I wish it well. I trust that it will realise the great hopes which the Government are setting on it. I, for one, should like to give it every support in my power. I only wish that it had been brought in along with the other measure for land legislation before the end of the war, so that it would have been given a better chance.
§ LORD HENDERSON
My Lords, I think the discussion we have heard this afternoon has been, if I may presume to say so, in keeping with the high traditions of this House when dealing with large social issues. There has been a fine spirit of sympathy displayed by all speakers and a measure of general agreement which I am sure will enhearten the Minister when he reads the debate. I should like, on his behalf, to express thanks for the very kind personal references to him that have been made by several noble Lords. My right honourable friend is not here himself to do it, and I feel that he would wish me to express thanks in his name. I was very much struck by a remark made in the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. I am not sure that I have his exact words, but it was something to the effect that democracy itself must take in hand the responsibilities which hitherto have been exercised by others. This duty is being accepted in self-governing communities, and we are being given an example of that by the Bill which is under discussion today.
We are starting upon a great social experiment, upon the success of which the work, homes and happiness of large numbers of people will depend, and I am sure, as has been indicated so frequently in the debate, that there will be every hope in your Lordships' House that the Bill should succeed. Many valuable suggestions have been made in 372 the course of the discussion, which have dealt with the problem of town and country planning in its wider setting. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me [...]f I do not refer to them but confine myself to some of the specific points that were raised in connexion with the Bill.
I am sure there will be agreement in all parts of the House, and that my right honourable friend the Minister will also be in full agreement with the hope expressed, first by the noble Earl, Lord Munster, afterwards by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and later on, by the noble Viscount, Lord Maugham, with regard to the architectural qualities of the new towns which are to be built. It was said that we ought to avoid the ugly and the inconvenient, and we should aim at beauty and charm. I am sure that expresses the desire of all of us in relation to the creation of these new towns.
The noble Earl, Lord Munster, expressed some fear that under this Bill, with the building of the new towns that is to be undertaken, there might be a danger of neglecting the older towns and cities. He was also afraid that the depressed areas might be harmed in the sense that they would not now be able to receive the supply of new light industries which they had been hoping to get. I feel that the noble Earl's apprehensions are not altogether well founded. The needs of the old distressed areas, of the existing towns and cities, of bomb damaged towns, and others will in fact receive proper treatment whatever may happen under this Bill. It has been said, I think by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, that we ought not to sacrifice the future too much to the present. I think it is on that point that the justification can be founded for seeing that the development work in connexion with the new towns shall not be deferred. I would suggest that unless we are able to make substantial progress during the next few years with the building of new towns there will be a grave danger of giving a new lease of life to the evil of overcrowding in the already congested cities and towns which it is one of the main purposes of the Bill to relieve by means of creating the proposed new towns.
Dispersal of population and of industry is a national need, and it is an accepted national policy. The success of a new town 373 as a balanced community, both socially and economically, was recognized by the committee over which the noble Lord, Lord Reith, presided, as depending very much upon the introduction and development of adequate and suitable industries simultaneously with housing and other forms of building. That is the Minister's view. I will add only that I think it is difficult to conceive of any decision more likely to frustrate the great social and economic purposes, of which this Bill is an essential instrument, than to relegate the creation of new towns to a subordinate place in the list of national priorities.
The noble Earl expressed the hope that the corporations would be wound up as soon as possible, and the new cities put under democratic self-government. I am sure there will be agreement in all parts of the House on that. It certainly represents the desire of the Minister. Noble Lords will have noted the new Clause 15 which was inserted in the Bill on re-committal in another place. This clause deals with the winding-up of a corporation when the Minister is satisfied that its purposes have been substantially achieved; handing over to a local authority will then take place. The decision on that is with the Minister. It is true that no time is fixed, but a test is provided. It will take place when the corporation's work has been substantially achieved. It may be wondered what is meant by "substantially achieved." I do not think I can do better than give the Minister's own working definition. He said that it would be when the new town has got all its services going, its shopping centre, its community facilities, its churches, its cinemas, and its public houses. I am not sure that I ought not to protect the Minister against any future criticism by pointing out that he said nothing about the public houses being supplied with beer.
A further point raised by the noble Earl had reference to consultations with the local authorities and opportunities for them to render advisory assistance to the corporation. The noble Earl appeared to be apprehensive that the local authorities would not be brought sufficiently into the picture and he urged that they should be given advisory representation on the board by co-option. As has been pointed out during the course of the debate, the Second Schedule lays it down that first of all the Minister must consult the local authorities about the appointment of the 374 members of the board; and its goes on to say that in appointing members of the corporation the Minister should have regard to the desirability of securing the services of one or more persons resident in or having special knowledge of the locality in which the new town will be situated. It is of the first importance that members of the board should be men and women who are the most suitable, competent and experienced persons who can be obtained. While it is not mandatory on the Minister to appoint an experienced member of one of the local authorities, it is hardly likely that any corporation would be constituted without such a member. Such a person would, however, not be appointed as the agent or delegate of the local authority, but solely on the ground of his ability to make his own contribution to the work of the corporation.
As regards the suggestion that advisory members should be co-opted, the Act—when this Bill becomes an Act—will lay down the size of the corporation, and I do not think that the suggestion which the noble Lord put forward need be given effect to in the particular way that he himself suggested. There is nothing to prevent the local authority concerned with a particular town itself taking the initiative in forming an advisory committee which would be able to make representations to the corporation; or the corporation itself could take the initiative (it is not precluded from doing so) and set up an advisory committee representing exclusively or largely the local authorities interested in the project. Finally, it is within the discretion of the Minister either to recommend such a course to a corporation or himself to appoint such an advisory committee which would be able to make representations either to him or to the corporation, or to both.
There was one point with regard to compensation which was raised by the noble Earl, and referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Maugham, and also, I think, by the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh. As your Lordships have been reminded, it is true that on June 6 the Chancellor of the Exchequer indicated that the Government had decided that the maximum supplementary payment to owner-occupiers, which was then 30 per cent., should be in future 60 per cent. He said that an Order which would re- 375 quire an affirmative Resolution by each House of Parliament would be laid before Parliament as soon as possible.
§ LORD HENDERSON
I am afraid I cannot answer that; it will depend upon what the Order itself contains. All I am able to tell the House is that I understand the necessary instruments have been prepared and that it is likely that they will be laid before Parliament in the course of the next few days. The noble Earl, Lord Rosebery, raised the question of publicity and cited a particular case. I am afraid I am not aware of the details of the case.
§ LORD HENDERSON
I am not aware either officially or personally of the details of the case, but I will see that the matter is brought to the notice of the Department. There were two or three points which the noble Lord, Lord Reith, made and to which he asked me, if possible, to give some reply. I will deal with those in a moment, but I would first like to pay my tribute to him, as chairman of what is now known as the Reith Committee, for the two interim reports which it has produced. I read them both and, if I may be permitted to express an opinion, I found them most readable, informative and instructive. I am surprised that the noble Lord does not claim, as I think he could claim with justice, that the present Bill is largely founded on his reports and goes far to implement their recommendations. I think the noble Lord should feel considerable pride and satisfaction in that, despite the fact that on this or that recommendation the Bill does not follow the reports. In respect to two of them, local authority corporations and authorized associations, I am sure the Minister will be glad to know that the noble Lord accepts the reasons given as to why they could not be adopted in the Bill.
376 On the particular points which the noble Lord made, so far as the corporations and the amount of freedom they will enjoy are concerned, I would say that the Minister made it quite clear in another place that, subject only to his responsibility to Parliament, he wanted the corporations to have the maximum freedom in carrying out their duties and that he had no desire to interfere except in so far as might be necessary on grounds of public policy or public interest. With regard to the second point, the issuing of some indication of the matters upon which the Minister will direct the corporations, I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Reith, and indeed all of your Lordships, will appreciate that the Minister is not in a position at this early stage to indicate the matters on which in practice the corporations will be subject to his direction. Obviously he must be guided by experience, but he hopes to be able to build up a practical working indication of the sort of matters on which he would normally give directions to the corporations.
With regard to the provisions which may involve Treasury intervention, I would say that the Minister naturally desires that the corporations should reach the stage where they will be self-supporting. The more efficient they prove themselves to be, the less occasion there should be for any interference; but the Treasury will be responsible for providing large capital sums to the corporations and it is only right that both the Minister and the Treasury should ensure that such sums are properly expended. That is a duty which Parliament will require to be carried out, but that does not mean that the corporations will be kept in leading strings. Nothing is further from the Minister's mind, and I think in view of the expressions of confidence in the Minister which we have had during the debate this afternoon, we may rely upon him to see that the corporations are not unduly hampered or fettered and that intervention will be limited to what is absolutely necessary in the public interest.
§ LORD HENDERSON
I will only say this, that it is the Minister who is responsible for the success of the corporations. If the corporations were to fail in their undertakings it would be the Minister who would be answerable to Parliament. That is his official responsibility. On the other 377 hand, the Minister, as every member of this House recognizes, has a very deep and very sincere feeling for the success of this great experiment and I think on both grounds we may rely upon the Minister to, shall I say, keep his end up with the Treasury.
There were many other points which were raised, but I think they were Committee points and therefore I will not delay your Lordships any longer, excepting to say this. The Minister appealed in his final speech on the Third Reading for the Bill to proceed as rapidly as possible through its remaining stages. He attached to his appeal words which the noble Viscount, Lord Maugham, read to the House and I will not repeat them. It was the sort of appeal which I am perfectly confident this House would never resist. To-day we are getting a Second Reading without a Division. I hope that during the remaining stages through which the Bill must yet pass there may be equal speed so that the signal may go up that another road to progress has been opened by the Government for national and local creative effort.
§ On Question, Bill read 2ª, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.