HL Deb 25 February 1959 vol 214 cc492-542


LORD BEVERIDGE rose to call attention to the social and economic evils of unplanned conurbation; to urge that Her Majesty's Government should take early steps to prevent any further growth of these evils; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, when I put down this Motion I was criticised by a number of friends to whom I usually pay attention for using such a hideous term as "conurbation." I am not going to apologise to-day in the least for using that term. In the first place, although the term may be hideous, it describes a still more hideous reality; and secondly, although it may once have been an improper word—it was invented by a professor in 1915—it has been made highly respectable by its official adoption in the Census of 1951.

That Census gives a list of six conurbations in England and another in Scotland, with all the figures (with which I shall not trouble your Lordship's to-day) of the enormous numbers of people who live in them. They run down from the 8,346,000, in what is called the London conurbation, to the smaller figures in all the others: the West Midlands, West Yorkshire, South East Lancashire, Merseyside, Tyneside and North Clyde-side. As I say, I am not going to trouble you with the figures: all I will say is that the broad effect is that in those seven aggregations of houses 42 per cent. of the British population live. That 42 per cent.—two out of every five of all our people—live crowded in an area about the size of the County of Norfolk; only, of course, they do not merely spoil one county; they spoil many counties all around these big towns. And presumably a good many more than 42 per cent. of our workers work in these conurbations, because many of them travel great distances from outside what the Census calls the conurbation to work in the heart of it. The Census, which is not at all afraid of the term "conurbation", goes on to describe a whole set of smaller conurbations, many of them growing larger and more repulsive in turn, like that around Bournemouth, or in many other places.

The chief feature of conurbation is that it means that travelling to and from work has become the major occupation of the British people. I myself lived in the largest of these conurbations, London, for thirty-five years, and at the end of that time I made a calculation that I had spent two years out of the thirty-five—two years of 365 days, each of twenty-four hours—travelling to and from my work, generally as a straphanger on a rather inefficient Underground. That took nearly one and a half hours every day from 1902 to 1937, before taxis, motor buses and the London Passenger Transport Board had been fully established. I did not travel far—I think only from Whitechapel, Poplar, Lambeth, Chelsea and Kensington, either to Whitehall, when I was unhappy enough to be a civil servant, or to Aldwych, when I was at the London School of Economics. The calculation which I made after those thirty-five years was one of my reasons for moving down from London to Oxford, so that I could walk straight into my workplace, instead of straphanging to it. I am bound to say that my move to Oxford did not save me from the main evil of conurbation. I shall come back to that evil before I have ended.

To-day, as compared with those thirty-five years of my personal experience, we have revolutionary progress in the means of travel—the mechanisation of travel, new railways, motor buses, cars and everything else. That revolutionary progress in means of travel is being used not to make shorter travel but to make more travel. All these facts are set out in the Census of 1951. Any of your Lordships can obtain that Census and study it, but if some of you, like myself, are shy of studying Census reports too fully, the whole gist of it can be obtained from two rather striking articles by Mrs. Ruth Glass printed by The Times in its issues of June 18 and 19, 1956.

The outstanding figures that she produces are as follows. In 1951, one-fifth of the working time of all the 1¼ million men and women employed in London was being wasted by travelling to and from work—not in producing anything useful by that work, not really enjoying themselves, but in travel to and from work. That waste is growing. From 1921 to 1951, thirty years, there was a 50 per cent. increase in the travelling time and a 30 per cent. increase in the travelling costs, rising from something like £16¼ million a year to £21½ million a year at the cheapest rates then available. Quite simply, that is a waste of human life and energy, and it is that which is the most obvious and general evil of conurbation—the way in which we have allowed our towns to grow as we have them in Britain to-day.

That, however, is far from being the only evil of unplanned conurbation. There are bad housing conditions, leading to bad health. There was an important Report made by a Royal Commission, the Barlow Commission, in 1940 which emphasised this evil of bad housing resulting from the way in which we allowed our towns to grow twenty years ago. There is a discouragement of real community life and an obstacle to family life. The obstacle to family life comes about because the worker spends most of his time away from anywhere near his home. The obstacle to community life lies in the fact that a dormitory suburb is not good soil for the growth of civic pride; and most of these people are living in dormitory suburbs. Finally, there is a third and minor evil of conurbation, the toll of road accidents through haste in overcrowded streets.

I have dealt only with London, but all these factors apply equally to all the other conurbations. The Clydeside conurbation is the most crowded of all from the point of view of population. Two out of every five of the population of Scotland live in the Clydeside conurbation. The Barlow Commission said that Glasgow, the most congested city in Britain, is one with the lowest expectation of life. In Manchester, one-third of the 414,000 workers arrive from places well outside the city boundaries. I am glad to say that one body in Manchester at least, the University of Manchester, is on the point of publishing our first comprehensive study of conurbation in Britain based on full research by its department of Economic Geography. Central Birmingham has what is probably the most horribly congested traffic of all our conurbations. The City Corporation and the Government have tried to move industry out of Birmingham, but the stumbling block has been (this also is information taken from The Times) the reluctance of Birmingham industrialists to move from cramped and overcrowded factories in the city to new sites that are readily offered to them.

Your Lordships will see from what I have said that some measures have been taken to deal with this evil, and I will name the measures taken hitherto. First, there were the new towns, which were started in 1946 and onwards to bring work, homes and shops together in new towns. I have nothing but praise for the new towns idea in itself. I had the pleasure of being chairman of a new town corporation for some time. But a new town is no cure for conurbation if, when a factory moves out from London, or Manchester or Birmingham or wherever it is, it is replaced by another factory moving in, or, as is more common in London, its place is taken by a new office building. In London during 1956 new offices were being built for as many as 70,000 workers—new people to work industry and to add to the travelling to and from London. The new town is an excellent idea but it cannot do anything until we prevent the further growth of employment in the heart of great cities. The creation of these new towns was a Labour Government measure.

Another measure was the Town Development Act, 1952, introduced by the Conservative Government of that time. This Act was intended to encourage existing towns of moderate size to grow larger and so relieve the great overgrown conurbations. That measure has been taken up by one or two towns. I think that a town which I used to know quite well, Swindon, is one of the most active of them, and I believe that another, Thetford, has also done a good deal. But this Act has not been taken up to any great extent for whatever reason. I think there is a financial reason.

Then, last of all, in 1958 there came into existence the Local Government Commission Regulations which are intended to enable neighbouring towns to adjust their boundaries. There may be a good reason for adjusting boundaries, but that does not make any difference to the conurbation problem; unless it is applied to do so, it has no direct bearing on the problem at all.

Finally, it is the practice of some of the big corporations—I will mention only the London County Council, in the London conurbation—to try to provide living accommodation for those in the County Council area by having housing estates for them outside. I believe the following facts show the situation that that movement produces. Up to 1955 the London County Council had found housing on their estates outside London for 138,000 people, but there was employment for only 6,500. This means simply that people in those estates have to carry on their wasteful travel to and from work somewhere else. Broadly, we have what seems to me the ridiculous state of affairs that, while in the London County itself there are more and more work-places without homes, shops or gardens, outside London County there are more and more homes—and possibly, though not necessarily, more shops—without work.

I suggest that there is some good in all these measures I have named, but we must recognise that, in the conditions in which they have been applied, their total effect in diminishing the evils of conurbation, as I have named them, has been pitifully small. We want an effective remedy, not these half-remedies under unsuitable conditions. A few days ago, long after I had put down this Motion, I happened to remember that one of my predecessors as Director of the London School of economics, Sir Harford Mackinder, in a book published as long ago as 1902, had emphasised the evils of conurbation in London and said all that I have said about the separation of homes from work, the limitation of family life and of civil life and all the rest. Sir Harford Mackinder was not only a most distinguished geographer but became, in due course, a very distinguished Member of Parliament, a Conservative Member, and a Member of the Privy Council. Had he lived to see the conurbation of London in 1958 what would he have said? Had he lived and, as I should have hoped, been a Member of your Lordships' House, he would, I know, have been here, speaking in the strongest terms as one of my warmest supporters.

None of these measures that I have named is producing any appreciable effect upon the problem of the evils of conurbation. To get that we need a major change of national policy, and what that should be I can suggest quite simply. But, to come back to those Times articles which I have quoted, the hours and pounds spent by millions in daily travel from work are, in Mrs. Glass's own words, "staggering". She goes on to ask: How can this huge Bill be reduced? There is still space for homes in London and near by, Should not the workers be brought close to their work? It is unlikely that the mountain will go to Mahomet. That means that Mrs. Glass does not see how we can move the places of employment. Here, with admiration and respect, I differ from Mrs. Glass, the author of those articles.

I am still radical and still young enough to believe that mountains can be moved—or perhaps that is the wrong way of putting it. I am old enough, in this context, to have seen mountains moved. In my working life I have seen Lloyd George's social insurance begin and grow to social security. In my working life I have seen mass unemployment destroying the life of the workers of this country; and I have seen mass unemployment replaced by full employment. Of course, that leaves other problems unsettled and unsolved—new problems like inflation; but that is a different issue. But we have cured unemployment, and I suggest that we can cure conurbation in the same way, by bringing the worker's home arid his work nearer together; and for that purpose we should be prepared to move either the worker or his place of work. The real cure for the waste of human life and energy in strap-hanging, travelling to and from work, is to make goods, rather than human beings, travel. That means bringing worker and work together, in healthy, pleasant surroundings, sometimes by moving Mahomet, sometimes by moving the mountain—whichever goes more easily.

The central thesis that I want to urge upon your Lordships to-day is that in a country as crowded and industrialised as Britain new places of employment, whether they are factories or offices, should be established only after consideration by adequate authority of where workers can be employed and their families can live, shop and play. I live in Oxford, and I cannot help thinking continually how happy Oxford would have been if my central thesis had been applied to Oxford forty years ago; if, in deciding to bring great industries to Oxford, the noble Viscount, Lord Nuffield, or someone else had made a new town for the new population east of Magdalen bridge, with the factories close to where the workers were to live, with perfect housing, shopping, and entertainment facilities, public offices and so on. Oxford could have been made one of the great wonders of the world: an academic city, utterly unspoiled in beauty, not congested by traffic; teeming with young life, and the whole of that young life in close touch with the realities of industrial life. That would have been a wonderful thing indeed; and had we done that, we should, curiously enough, only have repeated what was done in another town more than a hundred years ago by our ancestors in regard to the towns of Warwick and Leamington.

Warwick was a beautiful mediaeval town. A spa was discovered close to it, and the question arose: where and how should the people who wanted to use the spa for health reasons live? The answer was: "We will not rebuild Warwick. We will keep Warwick as it is, and will build a perfect new twin town by it." That was what the "foolish" nineteenth century did. What we have done in the twentieth century your Lordships can see for yourselves in Oxford on any day. We have not solved or touched the Oxford problem; and in Oxford, as elsewhere, its motor and pressed steel industries are drawing more and more workers from places anything from seven to fifteen miles away. How ridiculous!

Two years ago, on February 13, 1957, I raised in this House the question of Oxford's traffic. I believe I may say that I received overwhelming support from all the unofficial speakers. From the chief official speaker, the noble Marquess the then Leader of the House, I received what I and, I believe, most noble Lords regarded as a promise of an early comprehensive inquiry into the Oxford problem and how it should be solved. There has been no such inquiry yet. I am not complaining about that. My purpose today is not to complain, but rather to use Oxford as an example of the wonderful effect that could result from taking thought of this social problem and the evil that results from not taking thought of it. Oxford traffic congestion is uncured to-day; and it cannot be cured by any device of roads or transport. The waste of life, money and energy caused by our seven great conurbations to-day cannot be cured by more roads or better transport; it cannot be cured by green belts or by a revision of local boundaries. It can be cured only after we have learnt to look at the lives of our citizens as a whole.

The root cause of the evils I have described as conurbations is in allowing more and more places of employment to be created without any effective thought of where the people who work there, and their families, will live and shop and study and play. New towns were designed in 1946 as a cure. But, good as they are in themselves, they do not prevent old places of employment from continuing and new ones from being created in the heart of old towns. The vested interest of land owner and land exploiter in the centre of old towns is still at work. If your Lordships want to see that vested interest still at work, I would invite you to look at the advertisement columns on the back pages of The Times on almost any day. You need not, in fact, go further than last Monday and Tuesday.

Last Monday the back page of The Times contained offers, in London, E.C.3 and W.1 and in the City, totalling 269,000 square feet of additional office accom- modation. Additional people are to be brought by train, bus and by whatever means they can come, from far, far away. There are fewer people living in the heart of the City; more travelling to and from it for their work. There were 270,000 square feet offered—and more, if you look at the advertisements on other pages. If you look at Tuesday's Times you will find another advertisement for, I think, 84,000 square feet in still another part of London. There is that vested interest.

There are conflicting interests and responsibilities in dealing with a conurbation. There is the interest of the business man in getting his factory or office where he most wants to have it; there are the interests of local authorities of all kinds in getting properties of different kinds into their areas; there is the interest—and it is an important one—of the country-lover who does not want his part of the country to be spoilt by the overspill of a town.

The problem in Britain, my Lords, is difficult, and it is very urgent. The problem for Britain will become much more urgent in the next forty years through the growth of population. In 1949 (I think it was) a Royal Commission on Population estimated that a regular flow of 700,000 births a year would maintain cur population in Britain at just over 50 million. That figure was taken as the accepted figure for the planners. But by mid-1957 that total had already been reached, and the births are now over 800,000 a year. The lastest estimate of the Government Actuary is that the population of Britain will rise to over 56 million, perhaps to 57 million, by 1977. There will then be 57 million people, rather than 50 million, in Britain. Where are they to be housed? Let us begin to face that problem now.

How does one face a problem of that kind? Some people have thought that there should be another inquiry, on a national scale, into conurbation and its evils. The Barlow Commission of 1940 did admirable work, but that was under the abnormal conditions of war, and it is no longer up to date. I can see one good of a new formal inquiry. It might—indeed, it would—demonstrate the evils of conurbation beyond doubt, and possibly as a consequence, would give us agreement on the cure by showing how divergent interests and views could best be reconciled. But any such inquiry must be a very quick one. There is no time to waste. And pending any decision of the Government as to how they will explore or deal with the evils that I have tried to put before your Lordships' House, I must continue to urge my central thesis on this House and on the Government with all the force at my command.

I beg the Government to look at the lives of our citizens as a whole. They are not workers only or shoppers only; they are human beings with many different interests; and all of them need to be regarded when we consider where they should be employed. I beg of the Government to substitute national planning of the distribution of employment and homes in our beautiful but badly crowded Britain for the half-measures that have been attempted hitherto and the chaos which wastes so much of British life and energy. I beg of them, finally, to show the world that Britain has not lost the art of solving social problems while remaining free. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

3.18 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships will welcome the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, and congratulate him upon bringing to your Lordships' attention the problems—he has called them evils—that have resulted in the conurbation of towns and cities throughout the country. All of us must be aware of the problems of living in a great city, but I hope in the next few minutes to be able to show that not only problems, or even evils, result from living at the edge, or even in the middle, of a great city or a great town.

The noble Lord has mentioned the Barlow Report, and in that Report are listed all those evils which he has mentioned. One of them is overcrowding. The noble Lord has mentioned especially the distance of travelling. I am sure that your Lordships would wish me to say, and to congratulate the noble Lord on the fact, that he looks very well on the two years out of his great number that he has spent in various types of public transport on his goings and comings. I can only say, my Lords, that possibly the person who has taken the noble Lord's place to-day probably speeds to the outskirts of the city on a moped or motor bicycle, or by car or some form of conveyance of his own. Indeed, we could hope, if he must use public transport, that public transport efficiency has improved since that time.

I should like to add to the evils all of which are mentioned in the Barlow Report, the evil of smoke, the lack of playing fields, and the lack of community spirit, which it is alleged is an evil in a conurbation. But I think, my Lords, that the effects of some of those evils are being very much diminished by the policies that Her Majesty's Government are undertaking to-day. We must deplore the unplanned spread of the towns: in fact, that is the occupation of conurbating, which the noble Lord has mentioned. Nevertheless, those who live there are human beings, as the noble Lord has said; and a human being in a free country should be able to live where he wants to live—in practice probably where he is obliged to live, in the best circumstances that he is able to afford. And let it not be forgotten that many of those houses to which the noble Lord has referred in the lines of ribbon development, and on the outskirts of cities, are in fact owned by their occupiers, and that their occupiers—human beings—are indeed very proud of their homes, which represent their savings over a period of years. Those people cannot be planned overnight. It is difficult o move the mountain to Mahomet, as the noble Lord has said, but I imagine that it is even more difficult to move Mahomet—that is, the human being—to the mountain, which the noble Lord referred to as the industry in which he works.

My Lords, smokeless zones, which Her Majesty's Government hope will increase as local authorities take a greater interest in this problem, will go a long way towards cutting down an evil which undoubtedly exists, especially in the Midlands and in the Northern conurbations. Then there is better transport, which I have mentioned; the advent of more cars and motor-cycles; and local authority improvements in services—electric light and water—and better telephone services. In fact, the increase in the general standard of living of all the people who are living in these conurbations has tended to reduce the evils which undoubtedly exist still but which were so adversely commented on in the Barlow Report. It is hoped, that the standard of living will continue to go up, and that, as it does, so these evils will grow less.

The noble Lord has mentioned the birth rate. In 1947, the biggest bulge of population, the birth rate reached 1,025,000. From that time it slowly went down, until in 1955 it was 789,000. In 1957 an increase began to show which, admittedly, did not run according to the form that had been projected by the Registrar General. In 1957 the birth rate rose to 851,000; and in 1958, although the figures are not yet completed, the birth rate has obviously tended to increase still further. In consequence, the Government Actuary's Department and the Registrar General have had to revise their population projection three times in the last four years.

My Lords, this is a phenomenon which had not been predicted. I have been told that one reason is that the people of the country enjoy having families—though on that I am not yet in a position to express an opinion one way or the other. We shall be interested to hear what the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who is an expert in these problems, has to say upon this population increase. Nevertheless, my Lords, the Development Plan for England and Wales, to which I shall be referring later, is designed for a population of 46.5 million in 1971. This compares with the Registrar General's projecttion, made in 1949, of 45.3 million. The Registrar General was short. However, his new projection now gives a population of 46.6 million for 1972. Therefore I do want to assure the noble Lord who was criticising the Development Plan, that the Plan, so far as we can foresee—that is, twenty years from when it was designed—is, in fact, in hand on the present population birth rate and statistics.

Those figures were for England and Wales alone. The total United Kingdom projection of the Registrar General for 1997—still some way off, my Lords—is 57.8 million people, and for England and Wales alone it is 50.3 million. Every five years the Development Plan is revised accordingly; and so equally are the projections of the Registrar General; and if those projections have fallen short, or the Development Plan has fallen short, it is up to the local authorities concerned to revise their plans. It may interest your Lordships to know the net plus or minus of immigration and emigration. In 1951 the population was a net minus quantity of 90,000. In 1956 we were a net plus of 56,000, but the Plan allows for a plus or minus of 100,000.

My Lords, the short answer to the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, is that there can be no one planned growth development in a conurbation in city or town or anywhere else to-day. No building can take place except with the approval of the local planning authority. That is under the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, so well known to the noble Lords opposite. As noble Lords will well know, the Minister is the final arbiter of any further development: he must give his approval to any development. Equally, the person who is being developed has an appeal to the Minister. The specified period of the Development Plan, as I have mentioned, is twenty years, with a review in every five-year period. Local authorities must define their houses, their shops, their offices and their industry. All these areas must be clearly defined upon their map. One cannot just shift industry, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, was inclined to suggest, from here to there: that is the "mountain". Industry so often depends upon minerals—upon water Especially—upon seaports, fuel, power, and on the labour that is available. At this time no more land can be taken for any purpose whatsoever, be it industry or housing or some such other purpose, than the Plan allows, unless the Plan be amended, which needs the consent of my right honourable friend the Minister.

The noble Lord said—and we all agree—that this country is a small, overcrowded country; that it is up to the cities and the townships to make the best use of the land which is available to them and yet at the same time to bear in mind the factor of agricultural land, which as the noble Lord said is being used so rapidly. Her Majesty's Government hope that it will be possible to rehouse a great many, or the largest proportion of what is termed the "overspill"—and that is yet another word that I think we cannot be too proud of in planning circles. The overspill population will move to neighbouring local authority areas, which may be some distance away from the source of employment or close at hand. As the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has mentioned, action is already being taken by the London, Lancashire, and Cheshire local authorities to rehouse this overspill. But, even so, there is still room, according to the plans designed by the local authorities themselves, for what is termed (and here is another word that I should like your Lordships' advice on) peripheral building—in other words, building within the circumference of an existing built-up area. There is still room on the plans where housing should be put.

How are these plans working out? I hope that I shall not weary your Lordships if I give some figures to prove that a successful start has been made. In London, 58,000 dwellings (I cannot say houses) have already been established in the new towns which, as noble Lords opposite know, have proved such a great success; 24,000 dwellings have been established in what the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has called the out-country estates; 2,500 dwellings have been set up in expanded towns; and 300 new factories have been built giving employment for 47,000 workers, I am afraid that I have no note of the figure which the noble Lord gave, but I think that mine are somewhat higher than those he mentioned. Then there is the further development for dealing with overspill in eleven new development centres which have been approved and which will provide some 22,700 houses and 33 factories to give employmert in these areas. In spite of all this, there is still an overspill problem of 250,000 to be coped with under the Greater London Plan. Another example is in South East Lancashire, where the Manchester overspill is reckoned to be 100,000. Here, 46,000 people will be housed in planned development areas within the Manchester area—I could have said "periphery"—and 54,000 will be housed outside the green belt in communities that are already established.

The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, laid great stress on offices and factories being removed from congested areas. The local authority plan for a new area must be devoted to either industrial or housing purposes or such other purposes as they may state. If factories and offices leave a central area, no other purchaser may take that area for industrial or office use without the permission of the local planning authority. There is a stock clause which may be worked into all local authority plans. I have a copy here which noble Lords opposite may see if they wish, but I will not weary your Lordships by reading it out. If an office moves into a planned area for office buildings, I think your Lordships will agree that congestion, and its attendant evils, must be relieved somewhere. The authority will have made a gain of less net planned office space, which I think is another technical planning expression.


My Lords, will the noble Earl give the House same idea of what the stock clause is? He says it is well known, but I do not know it.


My Lords, I will read part of it out. It is with regard to land available for industrial and development purposes within a local authority's area, and it says: With regard to land available for development purposes in industrial zones, the intention is that such land shall be reserved for the reorganisation of existing industry which must remain in …"— a particular place is given— zone for the re-allocation of such industry now wrongly sited. It will therefore not normally be regarded as available for new industries or industries coming from outside the county borough and firms in industrial zones will not normally be given permission for further development in those zones if the nature of their business will enable them to move outside the county borough, particularly if the extension will involve any considerable increase in the labour force of the factory concerned. I think that that really means almost exactly what I am about to say: namely, that no industry can come into a particular industrial zone or area of planning unless it has the permission of the local planning authority. And this is the clause that is worked into local planning developments.

An instance of how this works in practice is in being in the West Midlands, to which the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, referred as one of our most serious conurbations. Already 12 million square feet of factory space have been diverted by such means as this stock clause to other areas where town and country planning permits such development. The noble Lord mentioned Oxford as an area where conurbation has taken place between the old city and the new, but I think the noble Lord and all your Lordships must agree that great benefits have been conferred on Oxford, and on the whole nation, by the industries developed by the noble Viscount, Lord Nuffield, of which this country is so proud. I can only say that when driving through Cambridge recently I saw that Cambridge has certainly not found any answer to the Cambridge problem where industry has newly come into this beautiful city; but no doubt Cambridge will learn from the wisdom of Oxford.

The operative method of controlling development is by the use of green belts. My right honourable friend has just issued a new map of green belt areas, which sets out the proposed green belt areas all round the cities and conurbations. In 1955, a circular (No. 42) was sent out to local authorities dealing with the establishment of these green belts and suggesting that they should be suitable for ultimate inclusion in the local authorities' development plans. The reasons for this circular were first to check the growth of large built-up areas, secondly to prevent towns from merging into one another (into conurbations), and thirdly to preserve the special characteristics, both historic and architectural, which our cities possess. The Home Counties already had a seven to ten mile green belt area, and other conurbations, in particular Manchester, Leeds and Tyneside, have followed suit and have indicated their green belt areas.

The effect of this planning is that, for instance, in Middlesex 400 applications, covering 10,000 acres of possible development land, have been refused. In Warwickshire 550 applications, covering 6,800 possible development acres, have been refused. Looked at in another way, this means 40,000 dwellings and 592 acres of factory space. I think your Lordships will agree that that is a beginning, and no doubt as local authorities put into effect their green belt plans the dangers of conurbation will grow less. I am sure that the measures which the Government are promoting in making a twenty-year plan for local authorities are being successful. I should like to put it in a different way. Looking first at the Metropolitan area, we find that the development plan aimed at a population of 8,270,000 by 1971. The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, mentioned that figure, but did not say that in 1958 it was already below that level. One reason is that 122,000 people have moved out into the eight new towns, 76,000 to the out-country estates, 8,000 to the expanded towns and 125,000 to various places of their own free will—the latter, no doubt because many people have decided that they do not wish to live any longer in a conurbation and have moved elsewhere, where they have new jobs or are content to travel long distances.

The 1952 Development Act has further encouraged local authorities to make use of housing in areas outside the conurbation areas which they possess. To this end, my right honourable friend is paying grants, first for the expansion of basic services, to the local authorities, as we have heard from the noble Lord, who will receive overspill population. A housing subsidy is paid for new houses, and, in particular, this subsidy is paid for housing to be provided by local authorities for schemes similar in purpose for which new towns were provided. I must mention now the success of the new towns, and your Lordships would wish me to express congratulations to all who have had anything to do with these great new projects, which there is no doubt are a remarkable feature of post-war planning in this country. Possibly their architecture and amenities may be open to debate, but there is no question about the advantages which they give to their inhabitants and the fact that they have gone a long way to cure for their inhabitants the evils referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge. I fancy that the pride and spirit in these new towns will grow as they themselves grow; and your Lordships will look forward to hearing from the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, upon this subject in which he is such an expert. Nevertheless, let it not be forgotten that the Government have spent between £25 million and £30 million a year since 1951 upon New Town projects.


It is a very good investment.


It is a very good investment indeed. Nevertheless, it is felt, the capital position being such as it is, that this scheme is receiving sufficient capital at the present time. The new towns were built for various reasons. That at Hatfield was not to take up new industry but to provide housing for industry already established, namely, the aeroplane industry. Corby provides housing for the steel industry. Peterlee, in County Durham, provides housing for the mining industry; Aycliffe has its own built-in trading estate which used to be a Royal Ordnance Factory; Cymbran in South Wales provides housing for new industries which are already at present in that area. Nevertheless, every new town has its planned industrial trading estate area. For instance, in London 10 million square feet of factories are in existence, tenanted by 300 firms, and 40,000 people work therein.

In conclusion I wish to give your Lordships an idea of the serious attention that the Government are giving to the special development areas, on which the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, touched only briefly. The noble Lord mentioned new towns and overspill but said little with regard to areas where old industries are already beginning to contract. It is difficult to provide exact figures, but I think this will be an indication of the steps that have been taken. With this special problem, so much depends on overseas trade and demand. Nevertheless, in 1958 277 development certificates were issued to these special development areas. By the middle of 1958 146 of these projects, mostly factories, were already completed and were employing 8,000 people, who no doubt would have been unemployed. Over the whole year of 1958, 8½ million square feet of factory space was issued with a plan to employ 13.000 in these development areas. Since July, 1958, to February of this year, 76 industrial certificates have been issued providing 2 million square feet and employing 8,700 people. I know that these figures overlap, but they show a trend which will increase as time goes on, and it is the Government's intention to encourage industry to move, where it is possible, to these special development areas.

The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, regretted that there was no plan. But I say that there is, as I have endeavoured to make clear, a development plan the success of which is and will be largely due to the initiative and drive that local authorities themselves put into it. Her Majesty's Government believe that there is a lot more to be considered than just a development plan. We are striving to establish conditions of confidence in which this plan may be brought to fruition, and at the same time endeavouring to drive away those evils mentioned in the Barlow Report to which the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, referred. We believe that before any development plan can work the confidence of industry is one of the first important matters that must be given consideration, as well as the confidence of our trading friends overseas; and that involves security. We need the confidence of the people—the taxpayer and the ratepayer; they must know that their money and their savings and not going to be lost or squandered. There is much left to do, but I hope that with this review I have been able to show that the Government are gaining that confidence of the people as a whole that will bring the development plan to fruition.

3.46 p.m.


My Lords, we are obliged to the noble Lord who introduced this Motion for giving us the opportunity of discussing what I regard as one of the greatest social evils to-day, but I regret that, while he gave us a good analysis of some of the evils (though not all of them) of conurbation, he never got down to describing to the House what is the real difficulty with which we are confronted; and still less, in my opinion, did he tell us satisfactorily how he would deal with it. If the House will permit me, I should like to give my view as to what is the trouble we have to face. It is not a simple problem. In the first place, the population is growing in the way in which both the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, and the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, have described. Looking ahead to the next twenty or twenty-five years, there is going to be a large increase in population; and people have to be housed. This increase in population is largely the result of increased longevity, and that will reflect itself in the type of accommodation which will be required. There will be more old people living and therefore in the years to come more accommodation will be wanted for old people than is needed to-day.

The next factor is that we are carrying on throughout the country a big scheme of slum clearance; we are getting rid of congested areas and replacing them with more up-to-date accommodation. But the difficulty is that where you displace one hundred people from a congested area you can put back only fifty or sixty or thereabouts and you have to find other accommodation for the remainder. This is true even when the accommodation that you are destroying is single family cottages and you put up in their place tall buildings. Your Lordships may be surprised to hear that there is a law of diminishing returns in the construction of high buildings. If you build five stories you can house a certain number of people; but you cannot house twice as many if you build ten stories. In fact, the experience I had on the London County Council was that, however high you built your flats, you could never get back anything like the population that you had displaced in your congested areas. These people who have to be displaced from the slum areas must be housed somewhere.

The other problem we are facing is that the towns, and particularly the conurbations, are becoming more and more attractive to people from the countryside. With the advent of mechanisation of the countryside, more and more people are drifting to the towns, and to-day I suppose that something like 80 per cent. of the population of this country is living in urban areas. If you add together all these factors—and I am not going to talk numbers—your Lordships will realise that there is a great trend, and an increasing trend, towards people living in the towns and towards towns spreading out.

I suppose I ought to add a further point, which is that with the increase in the standard of living people tend to spread themselves out and need more accommodation. That gives rise to a demand for more space. The effect is that there is great pressure for the towns to spread out, and spread out with all the attendant evils which have been described by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, and with which my noble friend Lord Taylor is going to deal. What are we doing about that? First of all, I would ask the Government whether they recognise that as an evil. I was not clear whether the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, thought that that was an evil or a good thing. He spoke about people coming in by cycles, mopeds, cars and scooters and the improved train services—which I have not noticed myself. I thought that that was one of the evils and not one of the good things. Indeed, there are a great many people who are preaching that we should prevent people from coming by car into London. However, I should like to hear from the Government—and I hope the noble Earl is taking note of what I say; at least a mental note—whether they regard the growth of these towns, and particularly the areas to which the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, referred as an evil, as something that must be dealt with.


My Lords, would the noble Lord give way for one moment? I think I made it quite clear that with regard to the green belts the plan will not allow indefinite sprawling of large areas, conurbations or the like. There is a definite limit to how far the plan will allow these populated areas to go.


I accept what the noble Earl says. I should still like to know whether it is regarded as an evil that towns should expand and spread, as they are doing, in spite of green belts and in spite of all the planning.

What is the answer? Noble Lords have referred to the various steps that are being taken to encourage people—we cannot do more than encourage them—to get out of these conurbations either into new towns or into expanding towns. I was rather shocked to hear the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, say that that was not really a solution. I thought it was, and the mere fact that some people tend to go back into the factories that are vacated is not a condemnation of the system. That is a matter for the local authority, and they have it in their power, if necessary by acquisition, to ensure that the factory which is vacated is not reused for the same purpose; equally that the housing accommodation which is unsatisfactory is not re-used. If local authorities are prepared to pay the bill, or if the Government are prepared to assist them, there is no inherent difficulty in ensuring that the policy of the new towns works in the way in which it was intended. The fact is that it is a gross exaggeration to say that these factories are immediately re-used for the same purpose. They are not, and planning control can be quite effective in ensuring that they are not. In a great many cases these factories are non-conforming—that is, they are not in accordance with the plan, and the local authority has strong powers to ensure that once a factory is vacated it does not continue to be non-conforming.

The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, referred to the fact that in his view it was better to bring people into the conurbations or into the centre of the town and to—I think he used the expression—"bring the workers and the place of work together within the town." If that is the solution, I am at a loss to understand how that can be brought about. In the first place, the existing towns are already congested. That is the basis upon which the noble Lord put forward his case: that the existing towns are congested. There is no room for any more people and the population has to spread all round the town to make room for them. If that is so, how do you ensure that people come into the towns and work close to the factories? It was to me a rather puzzling method of solving the problem. I cannot help thinking that the right solution undoubtedly is more new towns.

I think it was the noble Earl who expressed some doubts as to whether industry would be willing to go into the new towns. Of course, you have not to gel all industry into the new towns. If 20 per cent. of industry in a conurbation were prepared to move out, that itself would provide the solution of the whole problem. My experience is that, far from there being any difficulty about industry going out into the new towns, there is actually a long waiting list of industry wanting to come in. I am told that if you want to get a factory in Crawley or in Harlow to-day, you have to wait three years before you can get one, and it is not surprising that that should be the case. After all, the new towns offer much improved accommodation, both for the purpose of their own industry and for their workers. There is no difficulty whatever in getting workers to go out there with the factory, because people are close to their work; they do not spend years of their lives in travel; they bring up their children in healthy conditions, and they are much more fit when they get to work and when they come home.

One of the things that surprises me is that every Government speaker who has referred to the new towns has referred to them with great praise, paid many compliments to their success and has referred to them as things that we can feel proud of as one of our most satisfactory post-war achievements. And yet this Government have not built a single additional new town.


Is the noble Lord quite correct? Does he include in his remarks the country which lies to the North of the Border, because there we have now started another new town.


I believe that there is the little town of Cumbernauld.


Not so little.


It is little at the moment. I believe there is that one that was initiated, but I was speaking with reference to the conurbations, and certainly there is no new town in England and Wales. That is correct, is it not? There is this little new town which may become big one day in Scotland.


Will the noble Lord permit me to intervene? Manchester wishes to build a new town, but unfortunately decided to put it on the best agricultural land that was available. That would be bad planning, I think the noble Lord would agree, and therefore they did not receive the Minister's assent. London County Council wish to build two new towns, but again there is the difficulty of finding sites; that difficulty has nearly been resolved. I did mention them in my speech, but I did not refer to the Manchester scheme.


As a matter of fact those are two new towns which were to be erected by local authorities themselves, and not by the Government.

I recall that in introducing the New Towns Bill I visualised this difficulty of local authority new towns. I was pressed very much at that time (I hope the House will forgive my being reminiscent and personal, but it is a matter of interest) to include in the Bill powers for local authorities to build new towns themselves. I came to the conclusion, after a great deal of consideration, that it would be a mistake and that in practice we should not get the new towns, because there would always be the conflict between the exporting town and the area into which the new town was to go. That is proved by the experience of the London County Council, who have now explored fifty-eight different areas for a new town and have not yet been successful. They thought they had found two areas in Hampshire, but the Hampshire County Council has resolutely told them they will not have them.

I was satisfied, and the Opposition at that time were equally satisfied, at the end of the day, that it was far better that the Government themselves should undertake the provision of these new towns; and my criticism of the present Government is that they have not undertaken a single new town, with the exception of Cumbernauld. They introduced the Town Development Act, and I am bound to say that in intention it was a good measure. It provided for the expansion of existing towns. But it is just not working, as the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has said. There may be one or two towns—I think Swindon and Bletchley—where a certain amount of activity is going on, but nothing like what was intended, and the Town Development Act does not really provide a solution to the problem.

I realise that it is possible to do a great deal by planning. Up to a point you can prevent undesirable things. But I would ask the Government how they propose to deal with this increasing population which is bound to come. People have got to live somewhere. If conurbations are undesirable, what will the Government do with these people? Any Government with a sense of responsibility must be looking ahead. In view of the facts that have been stated, increasing population, slum clearance and so on, any Government must consider how this increasing population is to be provided for. It has either to be by way of conurbation or in some other way. If you take the view that conurbations are undesirable and should not be permitted, then some other way of doing it must be found. We cannot get more people into the centre of the conurbation—I think that is completely ruled out—and we have to provide a satisfactory way of living.

Where then are these people to go? I submit that the erection of new towns and the expansion of existing towns are the only solution. I hope that the Government accept this conclusion—they certainly accept it in part, because they themselves introduced the Town Development Act, and they do regard the new towns as a success. Why have they not carried this matter to its logical conclusion and provided for an increase in the number of new towns? I do not think I can usefully add further to this discussion, but I hope that the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, when he comes to reply, will tell us quite clearly what is the Government's policy in this matter and how they do propose to deal with the problems that are almost immediately facing us.

4.10 p.m.


My Lords, I address your Lordships for the first time, and in doing so I am very mindful of some words that were spoken in, I think, the first maiden speech I heard delivered in your Lordships' House, to the effect that if you had something difficult to do it did not get any easier if you did not do it but put it off; and in my own case I am rather conscious of having put it off. I did so because I was hoping that at some time a topic would present itself for debate upon which I might feel able to speak with some small authority, I have since decided that I had committed myself to a very long wait, if not perhaps to everlasting silence, and that a start had better be made some time. I therefore chose, with some misgivings, to address your Lordships upon this subject of conurbation.

Deciding that I had better start by having my facts right, I went to the Concise Oxford Dictionary and looked up "conurbation." I found that, for all its 1,100 pages, the Concise Oxford Dictionary does not know the word "conurbation." Of course it makes it more difficult on an occasion like this to find that one has put one's name down to speak on a subject for which there is apparently no known dictionary definition. However, I came to reflect that perhaps it was not a bad thing that this word was not yet in the dictionary. The chief justification perhaps for using it at all is that it is, as the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has said, a hideous word to describe a rather hideous business.

One seeks an alternative, and, for my part, I would humbly suggest "densely populated areas" as being an adequate expression to take the place of "conurbation". I know that that means using three words in the place of one, but I do not think that compression is everything, even in the world to-day. The use of the word "conurbation" may be appropriate, but even though we crowd several million people together in one place it does not seem altogether essential that we must at all costs have one single word to describe them. I should have thought that possibly "densely populated areas" was an expression that could be used instead.

With regard to the actual merits of this subject, surely it is true to say that man is not by nature a town-dweller. He is by nature a tiller of the soil and, left to himself, would not be living in crowded circumstances, cheek by jowl with his neighbour. It is true that in this highly industrialised country to-day agriculture is still by far the largest single industry, and I believe it is equally true to say—though this is less easily discovered by statistics—that agriculture is easily man's most popular leisure occupation in this country. Men banded together in closely knit communities originally only because of defence necessities, dating from the days when the Queen's peace did not extend over the length and breadth of this country. For defence purposes, for safety and security, men banded themselves together and established themselves as town-dwellers, building walls and ramparts around their habitations. So town dwelling began. Whilst in many respects it was an evil thing, because in the then state of knowledge of sanitation and the control of infectious diseases, and so on, great miseries occurred which were quite unavoidable, it had, on the other hand, great advantages. I need only mention that presumably such glories as the architecture of York Minster and Chichester Cathedral would not be there for us to admire had it not been for the existence of the ancient walled cities and the growth of urban population

But it was surely not until after the Industrial Revolution had got under way that the real evils of town dwelling manifested themselves. Despite the tremendous strides that have been made in slum clearance, there is still with us in many parts of the country a monument, in the shape of slums resulting from the lack of planning after the Industrial Revolution had got under way. It amazes me that an opportunity which presented itself to achieve dispersal and to get rid of these dense urban conditions was not taken when electric power became widely available and the national grid was established. When that happened it became possible to disperse industry over much wider areas than had been available to industry since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Those opportunities were not taken to the full, though they were taken to somec extent. There was, of course, a great deal of dispersal of industrial activity when electric power became freely available, but it seems to me that the opportunity was not fully taken.

Now we once more have an opportunity. We have, on the one hand, the transfer to oil power, and on the other hand we have atomic power upon the horizon. Oil, of course, becomes available at widely dispersed places round our coasts, and, once landed, is easily transportable to almost any locality inland where it is required. As for atomic energy, at present atomic power is available only in very isolated places because of lack of public confidence in the safety of atomic generation. But no doubt public confidence will improve, and before long it will be possible to have atomically generated power available within communities. So it seems to me, with respect, that we now have presented to us an opportunity, and one which should be seized with both hands, to achieve greater dispersal. A determined effort should be made to decentralise and to abolish the crowded conditions in which it is still necessary for a large number of the people of this country to live at the present time.

I know that inroads will have to be made upon agriculture, but surely it is true to say that mechanisation is now producing so much more per acre from agricultural land that it is quite possible to transfer some of this land—I would not say a large proportion—to industrial use. If agricultural acres were transferred to industrial use, and engineering industry moved into those areas, surely there would result in the end an advantage, because agriculture would reap benefits from the activities being carried on upon agricultural land, in as much as there would be a net increase in the production upon the remainder of the agricultural land still in use for agriculture. It seems, therefore, that there is every reason why the opportunity should be taken now, and vigorously pursued, to ensure that crowded living conditions, as they exist to-day over so much of this country, are alleviated, and that the people are housed and given work in smaller and more widely dispersed communities and small towns, in areas which are at the moment agricultural land. I entirely support the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, in the Motion he has put down to-day.

4.21 p.m.


My Lords, it is my very pleasant duty, first, to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, on a most interesting and informative maiden speech. It is only five months since I made my own maiden speech and I know what an ordeal it is. I am very glad that the noble Lord put off making his maiden speech until to-day, because he has emphasised two points of particular importance on the subject he has chosen. The first is that in any attempt to cope with the problem of conurbation it is unfortunately but absolutely inevitably essential to use up some agricultural land. That is something which has to be faced, and I do not see how with the increasing population of this country there can be any escape from it. I am glad that the noble Lord emphasised the point.

The second point in his speech to which I should draw attention was his love of small town life and his picture of the small town as a community. I am sure that he is right there and that in a small town one does achieve a very good social community. The noble Lord emphasised, too, that modern industry is to a large extent—and perhaps to a greater extent than was indicated by the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst—what is called, technically, "foot-loose". That is to say, it can be moved to almost any part of the country because its necessities are road transport and electric power, so that movement therefore no longer presents the great problem which it presented in the old days when water power, or steam power, near coal mines, was of so much importance. I am sure the noble Lord is right in what he has said, and that we all look forward to hearing him speak again on many occasions. I hope that he will not wait a long time before he does.

I must next make a short declaration of partial interest and private affection. I am a member of a new town develop- ment corporation, and therefore it would be quite wrong for me to say anything of the way in which new town corporations do their work. Nor can I express my views on Her Majesty's Government in their handling of new towns. I am one of their many agents. But I hope it would not be improper to say that all who work in new towns, whether as agents of the Government or in the industries of new towns, soon become enthusiasts. It seems almost inevitable that we should all become enthusiasts for the idea, the concept and the practice of new towns. I spend five-elevenths of my working time in a new town, apart from my work with the development corporation, and therefore I see a lot of that new town in a capacity other than as an agent of the Government; but I still do not propose to say very much on that subject.

I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, should have put down this Motion because, with him, I believe it is absolutely true that the problem of the great conurbations is now the greatest single problem which confronts not only this country but every country where there is a predominantly urban civilisation. Greater New York is increasing at the rate of 50 square miles a year, which is a perfectly staggering thought. The conurbation of the city of Los Angeles is now 50 miles across. Half Australia's population lives in four cities, and it seems that, if unchecked by powerful laws, great cities inevitably grow into greater conurbations, defeating the hopes of better living of those who come there seeking it. I propose to say nothing of the economic defects of unplanned conurbations but to concentrate on their social defects and the cost to a society which tolerates their growth.

First, I should like to emphasise that conurbations are not uniform, nor even uniformly evil. They are almost like gigantic curates' ostrich eggs with parts which are good and parts which are perfectly appalling. This is of considerable practical importance, because when we come to consider future remedial action it is essential to reproduce the good parts of them but not the bad parts— as has sometimes happened, inevitably, in the past. About six years ago, I participated in a survey of general medical practice in this country which involved going out with general practitioners on their rounds and sitting in surgeries in a great many parts of the country. The London conurbation was particularly interesting. One found, to one's surprise, a fact which I am sure is familiar to many Members of your Lordships' House: that the greatest amount of misery and failure in London is not to be found in the poorer East End where one might expect it would be, but in such places as Pimlico, St. Pancras, Paddington, North Kensington and Hammersmith.

A similar inquiry to that has been made by Dr. Peter Sainsbury in a very interesting Maudsley medical monograph on the distribution of suicide in London. He has made a careful analysis of the suicide rates of all the different boroughs in London. They have remained remarkably constant over the years. Each borough retains its same position in the suicide list. Those with the highest suicide rates are, first, the borough of Holborn which includes Bloomsbury and Soho; second, the City—but residentially that is such a small entity in terms of population that it is proper to exclude it; third, Hampstead, particularly Chalk Farm, the south part of Hampstead, where it adjoins Kentish Town and Camden Town; fourth, Chelsea, and then Paddington, Marylebone and Kensington. By contrast, the boroughs with the lowest suicide rates are Shoreditch, Battersea, Poplar, Deptford, Camberwell, Greenwich and Lewisham,

Suicide is one of the great indices of social failure. It is not related to poverty, as such, although sudden poverty may cause a person to commit suicide. Suicide is not related to overcrowding but to social isolation, to living alone, in rooms, flatlets or boarding houses; and it is also related to a drift from place to place. Poverty and overcrowding produce other evils—a high infant death rate, a high tuberculosis rate; but they also produce a life rich in social contacts, rich in friendship and good neighbourliness. People in overcrowded areas help each other and have to live, and indeed do live, with each other.

Areas of high suicide rate are also the areas of high crime rate. They are the areas with high mental disorder rates, high illegitimacy rates, high prostitution rates and high divorce rates. If, when your Lordships are considering crime, as you do from time to time, you concentrated your attention on a few areas of London, you would find most of the problem was to be found concentrated in these comparatively small areas of social failure. When one examines such an area physically, one finds that it is composed typically of rows of Victorian houses, terraced houses, which are all dilapidated and in multiple occupation. The houses have eight families, perhaps, living in twelve rooms, no proper bathrooms or kitchens, no proper sanitary arrangements—perhaps one lavatory for the whole lot; and the amazing thing is that about two-thirds of the families living in such conditions nevertheless succeed in making a very good job of it and manage to keep themselves clean and decent in spite of it. But these are the areas where one-third of the families—which is a very high proportion indeed—present social problems.

These folk have little sense of belonging to their areas as compared with those in the East London boroughs. Here there are many little houses, and, because there are many little houses, there are very few of them in multiple occupation. They are "two up and two down" and so they are family houses. They have been family houses and families have lived there for generations, very often, and there is a wonderful network of kinship and friendship in the East End boroughs" which has been well described recently by Michael Young and his colleagues in a very good book.

In a conurbation the areas of social decay tend to spread outwards. The reason is that, given a voluntary choice (as my noble friend Lord Silkin was saying), the great majority of people, especially if they have children, have tended since late Victorian times to move outwards from the city centres. The amount of this movement has been determined by the kind of transport they have had. In the 1850's, when the houses where I live, in Islington, were being built up, it was a good carriage journey from the City. The rich City folk used to have their carriages, and their poorer clerks had horse buses coming to Camden Road. There the rich foil built great rows of mansions, each with twenty or more rooms, and they had six servants in each house. Those houses are still there. Every one is now occupied by an enormous number of people or converted into a boarding house. When the steam train came, people moved on to Muswell Hill; and, with the coming of the electric train, on to Finchley and Barnet; and when the motor car came they moved still further into rural Hertfordshire or Totteridge and places of that sort.

Despite all the horrors of the journeys, if the people have a voluntary choice they tend to spread out from the centre of the conurbation. I do not minimise the horrors of the journey, to which my noble friend Lord Beveridge has so graphically referred. I saw a patient only this morning who has been spending two and a half hours each way on his journey to work, involving four trains and one bus, with the constant anxiety of turning up late at work. As a matter of fact, it had had physical effects on him; but now, thank goodness! he has changed his mode of life, cut down on his journey, and the physical effects have disappeared.

In all communities there are social failures. In a good, mixed, stable society they are quite easily carried; but if these failures are concentrated in certain areas, as they are in the areas of social decay in the great conurbations, they become infectious, and we get problems of crime and all the rest of it multiplied, and the cost to the community of dealing with these social failures goes up steadily. There is one other kind of social problem which arises in the conurbation, and that is in the areas of suburban development around the central development. Like the true urban areas, they vary enormously. Some have good communities. The constituency I used to represent in another place was a very good community with a high community sense. It was the old town of Barnet, where although the great majority were commuters, everybody, nevertheless had a full social life. But there are great tracts of suburban development where social isolation is far greater than in the East End of London. It used to show itself, particularly before the war, in a great incidence of anxiety states, particularly in the women who stayed at home with their one-child families, and who had an unhappy capacity of "keeping themselves to themselves" and regarding this as a good thing, to do.

Since the war the London County Council and other great councils have been forced to build a number of out-county estates. They did so because there was no other solution. But these estates soon showed in minor key some of the problems of the pre-war suburban areas. Their inhabitants have shown, at any rate in the initial years, a higher rate than might be expected of various kinds of nervous illness, even though their physical health has improved. In these out-county estates, there has been, as my noble friend Lord Silkin said, a problem of commuting, and no work.


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Lord for a moment? Although he is, if I may say so respectfully, an expert on this subject, other experts have taken a rather different view of the reasons for the increase of mental ill-health of the people in some of the towns outside London. It is thought, rightly or wrongly, that they have been uprooted from the life he has so vividly described—the social life of East London—uprooted from their homes and put in a place where they are altogether in a novel situation. No doubt the noble Lord has heard from the B.B.C. and from various articles that that aspect of the question has been given attention.


Yes, my Lords, I am sure that the noble Earl is right in what he says, and this is very important indeed. The separation and break up of families which has occurred is undoubtedly one of the factors. Nevertheless, as far as we know at present, the new towns have not shown this same phenomenon. We do not know this for certain. We shall know in a little while, because we are at the moment undertaking certain inquiries which will yield this information. There is a privately sponsored survey by the Mental Health Research and we hope to publish the results in about two years. So far as we know—and it is only on impressions—the new towns do not show this higher level of increases, whereas out-county estates do.

Now as to the remedies, I think we have most of the legislation that is needed, thanks largely to my noble friend Lord Silkin, to whom I think future generations will owe a great debt for what he achieved when he was Minister of Town and Country Planning between 1945 and 1950. First, on the subject of the prevention of the further growth of conurbations, to which the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, referred, I think the necessary legislation is in existence. I think it has to be administered very toughly indeed. It calls for unpleasant decisions by the Minister. He is bound to give arbitrary decisions and to destroy many people's legitimate expectations and hopes, but for the good of everyone he must exercise his power firmly; and I hope he will. Secondly, as to the reconstruction of the areas of social and physical decay inside the great cities, this is going on and the L.C.C. have set a very good example here. They have done a wonderful job and were very imaginative in the architects they employed; and, having made a good start with architects who were very good, this has had a snowball effect. So we are getting in London a first-class rebuilding of these areas of social decay.

There is one thing about which the L.C.C. could (and I hope will) do more, and that is in the provision of places of work in their areas of rebuilding. They have started to build flatted factories, as indeed has Birmingham; but in the areas of social decay there are thousands of small factories, scattered, as it were, with a pepper pot: highly undesirable, many of them; friendly places, and yet physically inefficient. One would like to see the building of new factories, flatted or otherwise, keeping in step with the rebuilding of these areas.

Thirdly, as my noble friend Lord Silkin has pointed out, reconstruction is impossible without decongestion. Whenever homes in slum areas, or in areas of social decay, are rebuilt, there is always population left over. The noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, indicated that if we added up the development plans of all the local authorities the sum came out not too badly. I think it comes out not too badly, my Lords, only if we allow for the overspill which the plans postulate; and this overspill is of the order of 2½ million. Taking the seven great conurbations, and the seven towns with a population of over 275,000—those are the main great cities of this coutnry—I think it is correct to say that, if they are to rebuild themselves properly, they have got to get rid of 21½ million people, which is an appalling task.

Then the problem arises of this dramatic increase in population. The noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, referred to the increase in the birth rate. As he said, it reached a peak in 1947, and, instead of slackening off, it has stayed up. It did slacken off a bit, then it went up again, and it has stayed up. Now that peak in 1947 will reflect itself in demands for homes some twenty to twenty-five years from that time, when these children will be getting married; that is to say, in 1967 or 1968. At that sort of time there will be enormous numbers of young people who will be getting married and requiring homes. As my noble friend Lord Silkin emphasised, old folk, thank goodness! are not dying at anything like the rate they were. In consequence, there is not the vacation of accommodation by death which might be expected, and I think that we shall get pretty near bursting point in some five to seven years if we do not make our plans and start our action now.

My Lords, I cannot see anything for it but a substantial development—and a far more substantial development than we have already achieved—outside the great cities and the great conurbations by the building of many more communities, whether they be called new towns or expanded towns. Here I should say that all the new towns except one are, in fact, expanded towns, although they have been built under the New Towns Act. It so happens that the New Towns Act has proved a very good way of expanding towns.

Her Majesty's Government have placed great hopes, as I think we all have, on the expanded town machinery, whereby local authorities were going to expand existing towns in order to accommodate their overspill. We have all heard the Minister's public pronouncements; and I know that he has worked very hard indeed to try to achieve this town expansion. The L.C.C., also, have worked very, very hard to try to achieve it; but, if I heard the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, aright, the result has been something like 8,000 families housed. In relation to the problem, this total is nothing, and I fear that this programme of attempting to get the local authorities to do it will fail; and it will fail because of the immense number of interests involved. It is an impossible problem, and it can be solved only by arbitrary decision; by decision on a national basis. As the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, has said, these have got to be national decisions.

I estimate that, if we are to cope with the situation ahead, in the next forty years one new town ought to be started every year by the Government, whatever kind of Government it is. If we were to do that, I believe that we should just be able to cope with the problem of the conurbations, and with the problem of the expanding population of this country. In so doing we should indeed be doing a wonderful job for the people of this country. We should be giving them not only a fine investment in health and in happiness, but also a very good economic and financial investment—for new communities, if they have new industries with them, prove wonderfully productive. Their contribution to the national productivity can be, and is, immense. Perhaps I should not be saying it, but I think that the new towns are already making a fine contribution, and it is a good financial investment as well. Whether we want to or not, we have got to take action; and the sooner we start to do it, my Lords, the better.

4.47 p.m.


My Lords, despite its spirited defence by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, I cannot help feeling that "conurbation" is not one of the daintiest of the neologisms with which the vocabularies of politics and of Government Departments are now so plentifully studded. In the dictionaries which I examined, I found that the definitions of it vary considerably. I should like to extend my warm congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Airedale, on his charming speech, but he really must not reflect so adversely on that admirable work the Concise Oxford Dictionary. I can assure him that if he refers to the Appendix to the latest edition he will find "conurbation", and I think (although here I am not so confident) he will find it defined somewhat thus: "The coalescence of one or more industrial areas". Now, etymologically, it could equally well mean "The growing together into an urbs or town of any two or more populated areas" And so, "conurbation" properly covers, I think, the coalescence, or growing together, not merely of town with town (which is all that we have heard about so far this evening) but, also, of town with village. My Lords, the coalescence of town with village is not merely a symptom, but an intimately associated aspect, of the same disease; an aspect, moreover, which nowadays is perhaps commoner, and no less disastrous, than the coalescence of town with town. And so it will be found that a study of the one process throws a flood of light on the other.

Now twentieth century Oxford, which the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, mentioned, is, of course, a classic, and tragic example of this secondary type of conurbation. Only the other day, as the historian counts time, Summertown, Botley, Littlemore, Cowley and Headington, were all separate villages, with their own village life and their own village personality Tuckwell's Reminiscences of Oxford recalls the day when there was no single building to be seen between Littlemore and Magdalen Bridge. I myself lived for a good while at Headington, when Headington was still a small ancient and characterful village. We escaped from it, like Lot from the doomed Cities of the Plain, in the nick of time, though fortunately without the episode of the pillar of salt. And Headington to-day is buried fathoms deep beneath a vast redbrick ocean of bungalows, council estates and "pre-fabs." It has ceased to be Headington and has not become Oxford. A community has disappeared, and nothing yet recognisable has taken its place. The widespread and irresistible process of ironing out individuality has achieved one more triumph.

However, we do not want another debate on the City of Lost Causeways. And happening for a good many years now to have lived in the extreme north of Oxfordshire, I have had to observe at close quarters the persistent efforts of more than one small town in that area to extend itself at any cost to its neighbourhood and, indeed, to itself. The illusion that growth is inevitably good to be pursued almost everywhere, at almost any time and at almost any cost, seems to be endemic in our age. Perhaps it may be partly attributed to our misguided habit of always measuring the advance of civilisation by purely material standards so that size inevitably becomes the yardstick: such-and-such an annual total of national income; so many exports and imports; and, nowadays, so many atom bombs and inter-continental missiles. But whatever the cause, the fact remains that somewhere about nine out of ten town councils seem bent upon extension.

The mania for growth is easier to understand in the council than in the public which it serves. For one thing, I understand that the status of the town clerk increases, and may be even his salary increases, with the rate of population.


My Lords, his salary increases as well.


That strengthens my argument. Your Lordships may remember the first four lines of Mr. John Betjeman's charming poem The Town Clerk's Views: Yes, the Town Clerk will see you.' In I went. He was, like all Town Clerks, from north of Trent; A man with bye-laws busy in his head Whose Mayor and Council followed where he led. And, of course, the Mayor and Council follow even more readily when what he leads towards is towards growth. For a sizeable: proportion of every town counil consists of tradesmen and persons with local commercial interests who, in the simplicity of their hearts, always seem to assume that more citizens in the town will mean more customers in their shops. It is only later that they discover that they are more likely to mean more chain stores to drive the local men out of business.

As for the ratepayers, if their council succeeds in bringing another light industry into what was once a market town, what they get out of it is more crowds and noise, a vast new ocean of red-brick villas and bungalows, less access to the countryside and, eventually, higher rates. And their home town, which once possessed a clear-cut individuality of its own, will have taken a long stride towards assimilation with the universal, homogeneous pattern of twentieth-century villadom. Let me read your Lordships another four lines from the same poem by Mr. Betjeman: Burford's broad High Street is descending still. Stone-roofed and golden-walled her elmy hill To meet the river Windrush. What a shame Her houses are not brick and all the same. As the towns creep out to meet, and eventually to absorb, the villages, and transform them into the suburban dormitories of one more minor conurbation, inevitably not only the appearance and the social life of the villages but their economic functions also are disastrously changed. After all, our basic industry, agriculture, has traditionally and necessarily always depended upon the village. If and when the market town succeeds in ringing itself round with light industry, the wages in the factories, higher wages with an annual rise, prove an almost irresistible magnet in the countryside and soon the factory buses are collecting workers from the villages for fifteen miles around. Economically, these secondary conurbations are hound to be bad for agriculture, which they have long been robbing both of land and of workers; and because they do economic harm to agriculture, they must in the long run do economic harm to the town on which the new conurbation centres, for it originally grew out of agriculture and still basically depends upon it.

I know that it is tea-time, and I do not want to divert your Lordships any longer from your grim exploration of purely industrial conurbation. I have been trying to suggest that the two types should be kept in view together. And if Lord Beveridge's Motion succeeds in inducing the Government to devote further meditation to the evils of industrial conurbation, I trust that they will spare some part of it to its counterpart in rural areas, where the same disease is producing somewhat different but no less deadly results.

5.0 p.m.


My Lords, I intervene for only a few moments, first of all to express my personal gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge—a gratitude which I am sure is shared by all noble Lords—for the opportunity he has given us of discussing this important subject. I believe that this debate, which I have found extremely interesting, will also be found to have been helpful. I also intervene because we have a very serious problem, to which the noble Lord referred in his opening speech, in the conurbation of Clydeside. I should like to say a few words on that subject, because it is one with which I have been closely connected during recent years.

It was said by the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, that Glasgow was the most congested city in Britain. I wish it were only that much congested. As a matter of fact, Glasgow provides a problem which is without precedent in the whole of the Western world. We have crowded in great parts of that city a density of population which is 400 persons to the acre and which, in some places, rises to 700 persons to the acre. I believe that a normal kind of density for a city of that kind to-day would be somewhere about 160 people to the acre. As has been said, and as is no doubt true, there is no possibility whatever of rehousing the population in the area of the city at the present time. Nor can that city—and perhaps it is as well—extend its boundaries, for it happens to be hemmed in to the north and the south by high land which is unsuitable for building and to the east and the west by communities which have long been in existence. So the fact is that that city has to decant an overspill of somewhere in the region of 300,000. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said that this was not a simple problem. Well, the Glasgow problem certainly is not simple.

I had hoped that the noble Lord who initiated this debate would have presented us with some solution to the problem of the conurbations. He said that the remedy was to bring the worker's home and his work closer together. That is not quite so simple. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said that the solution was to be found in new towns and in expanding towns. I thought he had not really a great deal of faith in expanding towns. He referred to the fact that the Town Development Act, 1952, had not been working very successfully, and I believe there is a good deal of justification for his holding that view. I do not know what has been happening in England, but in Scotland we have had a further Act, in the Housing and Town Development (Scotland) Act, 1957, which has made a great difference to this problem of overspill.

I understand that the Corporation of Glasgow at the present time have applications from some thirty local authorities throughout the length and breadth of Scotland who wish to take part in providing accommodation for overspill, and agreements have already been come to with a number of these different authorities. The reason, of course, is that it is a great help to some of these other lively authorities, because the Act provides them with considerable Government aid, not only in the provision of houses but also in the provision of water and drainage schemes, the acquisition of land and the clearing and preliminary development of that land, so long as it is concerned with town development connected with overspill. I thought the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, was not very generous to Her Majesty's present Government in relation to dealing with this matter of conurbations and overspill. He said that no new town had been started by this Government, and when I drew his attention to the fact that one had been started at Cumbernauld he said that it was a very small town. Of course, every town when it starts is a very small town; but I believe that the ultimate population of Cumbernauld is what is regarded as being the correct population for a new town—namely, in the region of 50,000 people.

The difficulty we are up against is this. We are all agreed that we want to get rid of conurbations and that people should live nearer to their work, whether it be done with new towns or expanded towns. The difficulty is to persuade industry to move there. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin. shakes his head. I was heartened to hear what he had to say in that connection when he told your Lordships that in England the new towns have found no difficulty in attracting industry to them and that at the present time they have a considerable waiting list.


My Lords, may I put that right? They had difficulty in the beginning, but now they have no difficulty at all. It has been a slow process. The success has been a growing one, and each success has brought along further successes.


I am glad to hear that, because it is what one would naturally expect: that the industrialist will begin to realise the great importance of conditions for his workpeople and that therefore he could expect higher efficiency from them. It is one of the things that one likes to think will happen. But there is this to consider. We have spoken to-day of slum clearance. As the authority clears the slums there are industries which have to go, too. Industry is situated in many places for natural reasons. We cannot move the Clyde shipbuilding or the marine engineering industry from the banks of the Clyde; and there are many ancillary businesses connected with those which cannot be moved. But where industries are in an area which is being redeveloped, they have got to go. The point is: can they afford to? What is the basis of compensation which they are to receive? This will have a considerable bearing on their attitude.

These are matters of great difficulty, because what we have to do is to get the industry moving out with the population so that when the people arrive in their new homes there is work not only for the menfolk but also for the womenfolk. I believe that this is a matter which requires the most thorough and constant investigation. I am glad to say for my native city that the council there are giving it that consideration, and I wish them every success in the great efforts they are making. This is no easy problem, but I feel that the debate we have had this afternoon will at least have drawn attention to a matter of great importance to our country, and I again thank the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, for having given us the opportunity to discuss it.

5.8 p.m.


My Lords, this has been a fairly short debate, but I think that all the speeches that have been made in it have been remarkable both for knowledge and for experience. Your Lordships have had the pleasure of hearing an extremely well-informed and acceptable maiden speech from the noble Lord, Lord Airedale. Among other things, like many other of your Lordships he objected to the term "conurbation" and would prefer to substitute the phrase "densely populated area", although I think in fact some of what we call "conurbations" are much less densely populated than the slum areas which it has been their purpose to clear. I always prefer the phrase which was used nearly 150 years ago by Cobbett to describe the growth of London, which was even then alarming a great many people. He called it "the Great Wen", and I still think of it now as an even greater wen which has been rivalled by a great many lesser wens all over the country.

The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, whose speech I think was a particularly valuable one, has, as your Lordships know, served for a long time as a member of the Corporation of the New Town of Harlow, in Essex. What perhaps all your Lordships do not know is that owing to the efforts of the noble Lord in negotiation, the Nuffield Foundation have set up no fewer than eight health centres in that new town. I think that that is a matter of great credit to the noble Lord, whose endeavours have done so much to bring them there.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, is perhaps the greatest authority of all in your Lordships' House on the whole subject of town planning, to which he has so successfully devoted a great part of his political life. The noble Lord pressed me repeatedly to answer what I could not help thinking was a slightly difficult question: whether or not the Government regarded conurbation as an evil. I myself am a countryman. I have always had an aversion to towns, and I am naturally tempted by instinct to reply that I hate all these sprawling modern towns which come and spoil the countryside. But it would not be quite fair to speak of them like that. After all, a great many of what we call these conurbations, densely populated areas, "wens" or whatever you like to describe them as, are the result of slum clearance schemes which have successfully removed far worse conditions in the densely overcrowded and shockingly un inhabitable centres of population. You cannot deal with a slum area where people are as they have been in some parts of Glasgow, at a density of 400 to the acre, and spread them out at a density of thirty or forty to the acre without a great deal of what is called conurbation.

As for the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, who moved the Motion, I could not help thinking that some of the evils which he attributed to conurbation were things which are really inevitable in any great metropolis in any country. The noble Lord interested us greatly in describing how much of his time he had spent in travelling from Whitechapel to Whitehall when he was a civil servant, how inconvenient this was, and how much time had been wasted. But I do not quite see what could have been done about it. The two obvious solutions are, first, that he should have moved his Government office from Whitehall to Whitechapel, so that he would not have had to travel from one place to another; but then the people who lived in Whitehall would have had to travel. On the other hand, if the noble Lord had come to live near Whitehall, then he would have added to the congestion there. Perhaps the only satisfactory solution of a problem like that is to become master of an Oxford College, although even there the noble Lord's sense of the fitness of things has not been entirely satisfied.

The Government could not regard every single example of what might be called conurbation as an evil. For example, in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham—to which I shall refer again in a moment—schemes are in progress for overspill to more distant areas. But that is not enough. In addition to that, their slum clearance and rehousing schemes still require a certain amount of rebuilding round the fringe of the city, which is expanding all the urban areas of these large cities. We do not want that to go on for ever; but for the time being it is inevitable to a certain extent.

The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, pointed out that in a free country your powers are limited in distributing the population. You can do a good deal to guide people to live and to work in the places where you want them to live and work. You can do a good deal to persuade them, by various inducements, financial or otherwise, to live and work where you want. But you cannot force them to live and work where you would like them to go. Compulsion does come into it to a certain extent on the negative side. For instance, under the Distribution of Industry Act you could prohibit an industry and not allow it to start, or to start a new branch, in an area which you think is already over-industrialised; and then, having refused permission for that industry to go where it wants, you can try to persuade it to go somewhere else instead. You may say, "You will have a licence to go into this area of high unemployment or into this new town", which would have certain inducements. The only compulsion you can exercise is to prevent them from going where they propose to go in the first place.

In the same way, in regard to the green belt you can prevent any kind of building in a green belt—and, indeed, any kind of building is now subject to planning control. When the noble Lord's Motion speaks of "unplanned conurbation", of course that is not applicable to modern conditions at all. Any of us may think that the planning is bad planning, but nothing that is being done now can really be unplanned, because it is all subject to the authority of the local planning authority and, finally, of the Minister. I do not suggest for a moment that it is all good planning, and although I do not often venture to make many prophecies I would say that I do not think all the planning in future, either in this or in any other country, will ever be as good as it ought to be.

What is it that we want to do? We certainly want to restrain the conurbation. We think it is (except in certain cases, where it is necessary to provide new houses for slum clearance schemes) a phenomenon which ought to be checked. Although we do not necessarily object to large numbers of people living together, we want to preserve and encourage individuality in communities. We do not want to see too much building without any form or character of its own, which the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, suggested might even lead to the extreme measure of suicide. We want to make it as easy as possible for people to have a change of scenery. That is one reason for the green belts. We do not want to have people too far removed from the possibility of seeing the country. We also want to preserve the historic and architectural character of old towns and to try to save them, so far as possible, from being swamped by the growth of conurbation.

In order to achieve these objects, we have, first of all, the Town Planning Acts, which is the authority to prevent building where we do not want it. We also have the Distribution of Industry Act, which helps us to guide industry where we want it to go. The first priority, of course, is given to areas of high unemployment, wherever they may happen to be. The next priority is given to expanding communities like the new towns, places where we want industry to grow up for the sake of better distribution.

The noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, looked forward to the better distribution of industry, and described it as a kind of two-way miracle in which Mahomet might be brought to the mountain, or the mountain to Mahomet. A good deal of this is being done in the case of the new towns. For instance, in the London new towns, so far, 10 million square feet of new factory space have been provided. In some of the other towns, those in Durham and Wales—in fact, all except the eight. London ones—it was rather the other way round, a case of bringing Mahomet to the mountain, because the new towns were built in order to bring the population to an area where new industry was already being established. It can work both ways; you can help by your town planning policy to bring new housing schemes to the places where industries are growing up, or you can help to guide new industries into the places where you want your new population to grow up.

As for the green belt policy, the noble Lord knows, I think, that under the circular of 1955 on this subject local authorities have been asked to submit green belt schemes, apart from the London Green Belt, which had already been planned in the time of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. All the other great conurbations in England were asked to submit schemes, and a number of other smaller conurbations too. All of them have done so. Some are in an advanced stage of development. Although none has yet been finally approved, approval for building in a great many of those provisional green belts has already been withheld, and there are a good many cases pending which have to be judged by the Minister.

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said at the conclusion of his speech that he was always given the credit for what he had done as a pioneer of our new town legislation, and he was not very satisfied with what had been done since his time to carry it on. I certainly think that he ought to be given credit for what was described in the other place a few months ago as a great success story which he started, the building of these new towns; and we do not want him to think that anybody would deprive him of any of the credit which is due to him on that account.


My Lords, I was not asking for credit. I was only saying that, if it is such a good thing, why do the Government not continue the good work.


My Lords, naturally that is what the noble Lord is bound to ask. I was only going to point out to him that although we may not have gone as far as he would like, we have not been entirely neglectful in carrying on the good work which he started.

The original amount granted was up to £50 million. In 1952, after the present Government had come in, that was increased to £100 million; a year later to £150 million; a year or two later to £250 million and early last year to £300 million. And now, as it is expected that the commitments to the amount of £300 million will have been reached by April this year, a new Bill has had to be introduced, which is now in its Committee stage in the other place and which will, no doubt, come before your Lordships in due course, extending the financial authority up to a limit of £400 million. So that a great deal has been done in carrying on the building work which the noble Lord started. In fact, the actual number of houses built in these new towns in 1951 had amounted only to about 3,000, and as the towns were only just beginning that was all one could expect. But they have now reached a total of 67,000, and anyone who visits those which have still not reached their final stages of development will be impressed to see how much building is being done.


No more building than was originally planned, I venture to suggest.


The noble Lord wanted to know what was being done under the Town Development Act. I have just one or two figures on that point. First of all, London, apart from the new towns, eleven town development schemes have been approved, involving the building of 22,700 houses. In. the West Midlands, agreements made by Birmingham and West Midland authorities have so far been limited to Staffordshire, covering a total of 7,700 dwellings, of which 450 had been completed by November, 1958. Birmingham has also signed agreements with other authorities outside the West Midlands. Wolverhampton and Walsall are also operating agreed schemes under the 1952 Act; 2,800 houses out of 6,400 have been built, for the former, and 450 out of 450 for the latter. In South-East Lancashire the total estimated overspill from Manchester is 100,000, of which 46.000 will probably be resettled on the edge of the conurbation and 54,000 in other communities beyond the green belt. On Merseyside, the total estimated overspill is 119,000, of which 77,000 will be rehoused beyond the green belt. Negotiations between Liverpool and the County Councils of Lancashire and Cheshire are expected to result in arrangements for the accommodation of these people by means of town development schemes at Skirmsdale, Widnes and Runcorn and Ellesmere Port, in Cheshire.

I am glad that my noble friend Lord Strathclyde intervened for a moment or two in this debate. As your Lordships will remember, he was responsible for piloting through this House the Scottish Bill which provided for the Glasgow overspill. Under that Act not only is a good deal being done in the building of the new towns, Cumbernauld and East Kilbride—there are three in Scotland, but only those two concerned with the Glasgow overspill—but in many different parts of Scotland arrangements are being made by local authorities under the Act, in agreement with the Glasgow Town Council, for the reception of emigrants from Glasgow, and it is expected that between two and three hundred thousand will have been resettled in other parts of Scotland during the next twenty years.

My Lords, we shall no doubt have further opportunities of discussing this subject when the New Towns Bill comes before your Lordships. In the meantime, I should like to say to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that, while we can well understand the feelings of impatience on his part with regard to the progress of the work which he did so much to begin, we would ask him to believe that the Government are not insensible of the gravity of this problem; and I would also ask your Lordships to believe that we are most grateful to the noble Lord. Lord Silkin, to the noble Lord, Lord Beveridge, who moved this Motion, and to all of your Lordships who have spoken in the debate, for their most valuable and well-informed advice.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, before asking permission to withdraw my Motion, I should like to express my great gratitude to the House for allowing me to initiate this debate, and to everyone, without exception, who has taken part in it. It has helped me, at any rate, to clear my mind as to what I meant by conurbation. I use that term because the census used it. I now realise that conurbation means the conditions in which about half our people live and work, and also that those conditions badly need improving. We all know that they involve the growing separation of home and work, which means an increasing waste of life and energy in travelling to and from work. Sometimes it means bad housing. It means less family life and less community life, and the cutting off of people from country air and beauty. If those conditions of life are planned, as the noble Earl who has just sat down has said, I can only say that the planning seems to be thoroughly bad in that it allows these things. The noble Earl said that they are planned, which means that somebody allows people to build more offices for employment in the heart of London, which in turn means more travel for somebody else. If this is so, nothing is being done to relate employment and population in this country. I hope that on full consideration of all the facts this Government, or any Government that follows it, will realise that some improvement is needed in the conditions of life of half of our people in relation particularly to the places where they work and the places where they and their families have to live.

I want to add only two particulars as to the nature of the measures which appear to me from this debate to be needed. The first is that improvement depends more upon the moving of employment than of homes. If I needed any further argument to strengthen that point, it would be the argument that was supplied by the noble Lord, Lord Strathclyde, in regard to Glasgow. Clearly, Glasgow has too many people working in a congested area. It will go on being congested, and life will continue under bad conditions until some really good new towns or something of that sort are built outside it. I want to emphasise that the improvement on the bad planning, to which to some extent the noble Earl who replied for the Government has given his assent, is essentially an improvement on the placing of employment rather than the placing of homes, although of course the placing of homes also comes into the question.

The second point is one which I take largely from the noble Lord. Lord Taylor. These policies are largely local policies, and what we want, as this matter affects roughly 50 per cent. of our population, is a national and not a purely local policy. Of course, you have to carry the local authorities with you, which may be the reason for having an inquiry and persuading them that they must go with you whether it is a national or a purely local policy. With those words, and with thanks to the House for allowing me to bring forward this Motion, and in the fervent hope that the Government will continue to consider this matter most seri- ously with a view to getting better planning of the lives of 50 per cent. of the population, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.