§ 6.15 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD WISE
My Lords, it is obvious from what the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and subsequent speakers have said that the problems of the future in regard to the proper planning of London and the South-East are perplexing and difficult. Some have already arisen, and more will follow. This generation is on trial, and the solution of these problems will test our ingenuity, imagination and confidence in our own ability. Our task in setting into motion the necessary operations is not impossible of achievement. We must act with care and, above everything else, must not lay ourselves open to any charge of vandalism by subsequent inhabitants, not only of London but of our fair lands outside its boundaries.
Amidst the needs of development and conversion for residential and industrial purposes, amenity and respect for what is good and pleasant are of equal importance. We do not want to become a country of skyscrapers or of towering tiers of glass-fronted, balconied flats and offices. In the same way, vast colonies of caravans and bungalows, although each serves its purpose, may jar a bit if they become too prevalent. We must endeavour to strike a happy medium and bring to our aid, use and service those buildings, appurtenances, materials and modern appliances which will serve our purpose to the advantage of the whole community—and I should like to put particular stress on the words, "the whole community".
I want to speak mainly about East Anglia. My interests lie in the two counties Norfolk and Suffolk. East Anglia has been grouped with other counties and included in the South-East. Why, I do not know, except possibly because of its proximity to London and the suburbs in Essex. We certainly do not want to become a satellite of London. As the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, said, it has received sparce reference in the Study and White Paper. That is why I am going to say something about the two counties I know so well, and I make no apology for doing this. We apparently come into the picture without much comment, 513 praise or criticism, and it is as well that those who compiled the Study or the White Paper should be told something about us.
In past centuries our area was considered to be one of the most prosperous and productive regions in this country. It may have been the foremost. It can again be so. Our people have always been industrious, dour, determined, level-headed and loyal. They tilled the land, tended the livestock, fished the seas, worked the ports and docks, manned the ships, formed the militia, and always answered the call to service; and have been willing and ready to help when and where needed. These are, of course, activities which have also been found in the decent folks of other counties, and really throughout Britain there are comparatively few who are of no credit to themselves or others, and whom we could well do without.
If developments have to take place within the next ten years or so, we in East Anglia, as part, for that purpose. of the South-East, have a contribution to make and merit consideration. Neglect by successive Governments—and that of the last twelve years has not been blameless—has made our progress difficult in many directions. We have pleaded for much, but received very little; and, to add to our troubles, we are at this moment being divested of most of our rail services. One Minister calls for expansion, and another closes down our ma in means of communication in the rural areas, and thus helps to defeat any possibilities for immediate local expansion.
The folly of this is really unbelievable. Have those who are responsible no foresight or intelligence to set the present in a proper perspective with the future? It is a blunder of the greatest magnitude and must be remedied if and when East Anglia is called upon to play a part in schemes which must be evolved. It has been said that our roads do not lead to the industrial Midlands and the North-but only to the sea; that the country roads are not conducive to the speedy traffic of goods. But they have the great advantage of slowing down the dangerous driving of some impatient and selfish motorists. Congestion in our cities and town centres increases day by day, but we have waited in vain for 514 by-pass roads to be constructed to ease the flow of through traffic. Our needs have been set upon one side for the limelight of constructing motorways, fly-overs and suchlike.
In spite of pending and actual rail closures, East Anglia has real and great advantages to offer to those whose task it will be between now and the 1970s to plan our future national developments. Already there are four expanding towns, each for over 2,000 persons, under construction, and two others have been agreed upon. Several more small towns are suitable for overspill development. We have acres and acres of heath land and low-priced land available for New Town development and, naturally, for the saving of good productive land there and elsewhere. Norwich and Ipswich are growing industrial and residential cities, and Ipswich and King's Lynn provide excellent dock and port facilities. Trade in these two East Coast ports is increasing. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, mentioned the rivers and included the Broads in his reference to water supplies in East Anglia. Our main rivers also receive mention in the Study, and water supplies and their reserves throughout the counties would create no difficulties. In fact it is suggested that water from East Anglia might be acceptable for the development of North Essex.
The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, also spoke of new schools. In siting some of our new secondary modern schools in the counties the question of adequate playing-field space has found a foremost place. I know of two new schools in Norwich which share an adjacent playing field of over 30 acres—a wonderful advantage to any school. Unfortunately, we still have to tolerate small playgrounds for some village and other schools. The noble Lord spoke also of the universities. The university of East Anglia is already functioning, and another is in contemplation just over the southern boundary of Suffolk. Both would serve as a useful adjunct to industrial and residential developments around them. More mechanisation in agriculture may mean less manual work for farmers and their workers. This will release labour for small industrial units which are now commencing operations in several of the small towns and around. 515 For the benefit of all it is hoped that this process will extend.
Here is a problem which the Government will soon have to tackle. What is to be done with the American base at Sculthorpe? What non-military future has it? Apparently it is closing down so far as the Americans are concerned and, if so, here is the ready-made nucleus of a small New Town. The future industrial buildings, the houses and all the services are already there. It must not be allowed to fall into decay and disuse. That could easily happen, and it could happen through a conflict of views and intentions of two or more Ministers. One may wish to retain it for the R.A.F. or for civil aviation purposes; another may wish to occupy it for residential and industrial purposes to fit it into developments in the South-East; but a third Minister will be able to say, "You cannot do that because there are no rail facilities". One station at Fakenham, the prosperous small country town which adjoins Sculthorpe, has already been closed and the track removed; and the Government in their wisdom are about to close the other. There will thus be no means for anyone at Fakenham or Sculthorpe to travel by rail. Can any noble Lord find words suitable for such an ironical but possible situation?—and it is arising throughout Norfolk and Suffolk.
East Anglia has its fair share of seaside towns and villages, which would provide relaxation and pleasure for the families of the newcomers to the area. This is an important aspect of our problem as, with shortening working hours and days, provision must be made for the enjoyment of the time when we are not at work. We can also provide recreational and sporting facilities in variety and interest. I have tried to remedy some of the shortcomings of the Study and White Paper in a brief manner, but I wanted to add to the knowledge of those responsible. Although the timing of what may be a great experiment in national development may not be now, what we have been able to say in this discussion may be read and studied later at the appropriate time.
§ 6.28 p.m.
My Lords, this Report is a very interesting survey of the 516 possible needs of the future of South-East England. It is based, of course, on guesses as to the future population of England, and of that area in particular. These guesses may be right; they may be wrong. In the past, as we know, we have been led astray because guesses were wrong. On the other hand, I think it is fair to say that there is every indication that the figures put forward may be minimum, rather than maximum. But when we get to a period beyond the immediate 20 years with which this Survey is dealing, when we get 50 years ahead, as the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham, said, and have a projected birthrate of 1,100,000 a year—if, indeed, those figures are realised—it is difficult to visualise such a population being comprised within these islands; and emigration on a much larger scale will undoubtedly take place.
Another difficulty, of course, is that of taking the South-East in isolation. One cannot just draw a line across a map and say, "This is the development for this particular part of the country". We are trying to turn industry to Scotland and to the North-East. Also, I submit that we should try to return the population to the under-populated areas of the country, which are mid-Wales and East Anglia. But, until the Minister of Transport gives more attention to lateral communications, we shall not make such headway. All communications in this island tend to run to and from London. When the Minister gets down to building a motorway from Cardigan Bay to Yarmouth, then we shall begin to see small towns and villages springing up along that route and the population of the Midlands spreading out sideways, and possibly the South-East area will spread in that direction. But, of course, London is the main topic of this survey and the assumption in the survey appears to be that population must be decanted out of London, that office employment must be encouraged to leave London in order to make way for other office employment to come in to fill its place. That seems to me to be a curious conception.
Are these assumptions sound? I do not think so. Architects and fashion have made it possible for space to go much further than it used to. We know that anything up to 70 per cent. More 517 office floor space can be created when an old Victorian building is pulled down. In the case of dwelling accommodation, we know that the modern trend is towards the small flat and maisonette, and the house in which Edwardians and Victorians were brought up is practically out as a dwelling in London. This applies to very large areas in London and to large sections of society.
We know that the population of London fell by 189,000 in the decade 1951–61. We know that the existing transport facilities were severely taxed two years ago. And we know that office building in sight totals 154 million square feet, as compared with 87 million square feet before the war, and it is conceivable (I am not technically informed) that there are also large areas which may have claims for redevelopment as office areas over and above that 154 million square feet. I submit, from all these symptoms, that there are too few people living in London and too many people commuting in. The Study would have us believe that there is little hope of more housing accommodation in London itself.
I prefer to turn back to what I call a more workmanlike document, Command 1952 of February, 1963, London—Employment: Housing: Land. In paragraph 51, the target is set:If half a million houses can be built for London, this should during the next ten years do away with the present housing shortage, enable the slums to be cleared, and provide for its additional households.In paragraph 53 it is said:As many additional houses as possible must be built inside London".Then, in paragraphs 55, 56 and 57, are listed the possible sources of supply. In paragraph 55 it is said that… about 250,000 dwellings (including 100,000 extra dwellings) could be provided in London itself by using such building land as there is, by re-allocation of land at present used for non-residential purposes, by increased densities (as provided for in the recent review of the County of London development plan), and by conversions.Then the document goes on to point out the additional sites which are coming into sight—Croydon Airport, Erith Marshes and Woolwich Arsenal, and British Railways' surplus land—and, I would add, Covent Garden. Out of that 518 long list of possible sources, I should think that it was not unreasonable to expect that the major portion of the half million housing target which the Ministry gave could be met over the next ten years.
I agree that the real obstacle is finance, particularly for land to carry houses to rent. When one reads the Study, one is conscious that the authors are well aware of this background, and to my mind they wash their hands of the whole financial problem because they thought it was insoluble. At the moment the dice are loaded against renters of dwellings. If you rent an office, you charge the rent against your tax. If you want to buy a dwelling and borrow the money, you can charge the interest on that money against your tax. But the renter has to pay his rent out of his taxed income. The bulk of people who want accommodation in London want to rent. The consist of two major classes: those who would look to local authority subsidised housing, and the other large class, who would regard themselves as independent of that type of housing, but could not afford to pay rents of more than £200 to £400 a year out of their modest incomes. This means that if anybody planned to put up flats to rent within that range anywhere in the more central parts of London, there would be so small a margin left to pay for the site cost that, without some form of subsidy, such rented accommodation just could not be provided. Yet the same site, if developed for those purposes for which the Exchequer already gives a subsidy in the shape of tax relief—either on the purchase of a dwelling with borrowed money or on the renting of office accommodation—will be profitable. That is the problem.
As the result of not being able to solve this problem, the renter has to move out of London, buy a house and commute. The Government have to provide capital for transport to enable him to commute. The Government have to provide tax relief on the money he will borrow to buy, and the richer man who replaces him in buying in the centre of London will get tax relief on his borrowed capital. Any schemes for dealing with those pushed out of London will be desperately expensive in building costs, water supply, communications and amenities in general.
519 I do not think that we should commit ourselves to vast new schemes outside London until we have seen what can be done in London, where we have one of the most attractive cities in the world and where an increase in living population would save us money to set off against the cost of solving the land value problem in London. Unfortunately, what we lose on the financial swings cannot easily be offset by what we gain on the roundabouts, for they are nebulous and not easily calculable. Nevertheless, if it is correct that huge areas of inner suburban London will come up for renewal at higher densities within the next twenty years, it is obvious that we must do all we can, as a holding operation, to re-house in London itself those people for whom the problem is an immediate one. If in so doing we can manage to solve this financial problem in London, we may not require to do much in the way of new cities and towns.
In any case, I am rather dubious about starting new cities from scratch. They have to grow and acquire a soul. It is difficult enough in New Towns of 50,000 inhabitants; but when we are to have 150,000 people grafted on to Newbury, I do not think it will be easy. It would be better if there were some basic attraction there already. The sea is a great attraction, and for that reason I should regard Southampton as a much better starter as a nucleus for a larger population than places such as Newbury and Bletchley, to which I think people would have to be dragooned to go. It is rather a pity that some more prominent role cannot be found for Hastings. Hastings is rather the Cinderella of the South Coast towns. Brighton and Eastbourne are immensely popular for dwellings, offices and everything else, but Hastings appears to be in a slight degree of decline. No doubt my noble friend will be able to explain exactly why Hastings feels like this.
The communications in the South-East are not what they should be. North and South they are not too bad, but East and West they want improving. I presume that the Government will scrap the Beeching plan to close the Reading—Tonbridge railway line, in view of the Channel Tunnel, because this seems the obvious goods route to the Channel 520 Tunnel. But they still seem set on closing the other Sussex commuter lines, which carry a lot of commuters and school children and, indeed, Dr. Beeching himself at times.
One noble Lord mentioned London Tubes. This question of Tubes in London has been crying out for solution for years and years. I am only one of many who have pressed for a solution of this problem, and all the time one is up against the Treasury mentality that it is no good building a Tube unless that particular Tube can be shown to be going to pay. Apart from the more enlightened theory which seems suddenly to have struck the Treasury, that the Victoria Line receipts can be pooled with the whole of London Transport's, I should have thought it was by now fairly obvious to the financial brains of the Treasury that any capital sunk into the London Tube—and presumably there are other projects, besides this one, in the pigeon-hole—will certainly be written off to a considerable degree by inflation in the course of the next ten years. In other words, we pay now, and although it may not pay to-day, it will certainly pay in ten years' time.
§ 6.45 p.m.
§ LORD HUGHES
My Lords, I must apologise for not being here until after four o'clock. I was in the process of attending a Committee considering an unopposed Private Bill, and thus deprived myself of the pleasure of hearing my noble friend Lord Taylor initiating this debate. I will remedy that by reading to-morrow what he had to say, and I hope to find that among his remarks he will have said something which will allay some of the fears I have in relation to this Survey, and which have not by any means been dispelled by the Government's White Paper (Cmnd. 2308) on South-East England.
I think it is quite true to say that in Scotland this survey on South-East England—and I should imagine the same applies to North-East England—is looked upon as potentially the greatest danger to the development and redevelopment of those areas that has emerged at any time during the last decade. I may say that this feeling is not a political one. It is felt by all the bodies who were so gratified a year ago when, in the Budget, the Government put into operation a number 521 of the proposals which had been pressed on them for some years by so many organisations, and which as the Government have stated—and they are entitled to state it—are beginning to show substantial results. But my fears in relation to this document have not by any means been dispelled by certain references in one or two parts of the Government's White Paper.
For instance, in paragraph 5 it says:The Government have already shown by their development programmes for North-East England and Central Scotland their determination to build up the prosperity of other parts of the country.Then, in paragraph 15 it says:… in the meantime development of Central London and North-East England, to which the Government have given priority in public investment, will be going ahead.Lastly, in paragraph 26 it says:In particular, there will continue to be a rigorous examination of individual firms' proposals for industrial expansion in the South-East.These statements, reiterated in this document, if they were all we had to consider, would be encouraging to Scotland and North-East England. But there are other things in the White Paper which are much less satisfactory.
I must admit that I have been tremendously encouraged on hearing the speech of my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth, who emphasised the need to consider the problems of the country not region by region but nationally, and to fit them into a pattern—I hesitate to use that word, but the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, is not in the Chamber at the moment, and provided I do not attach a lot of other things to it, he probably will not object. I was also encouraged by the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Meston, and the noble Lord, Lord Conesford—particularly the latter. I was extremely pleased to hear him challenge the assumption that the 2½ million of natural growth of population must, of necessity, be accommodated in south-east England; and I was particularly pleased that he poured scorn on the suggestion that the 1 million of migration must also be accommodated in this area.
The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, had something to say bout the rather less intelligible phrases that appear in part of the Report. But there is one to which 522 even he could take no exception in the simplicity of its language, yet it conveys just as little, in real information, as some of the more abstruse phrases of the document. In a reference to the Government's acceptance of the need for new and expanded towns to accommodate the 1 million to 1¼ million people, the authors of the Survey go on, at the beginning of paragraph 15, to say:The processes necessary to bring about this development will take some years.There is not a difficult word in that sentence. But what is meant by the words, "will take some years"? Do they mean two years, three years, five years or twenty years? If the more logical explanation is taken, that the phrase "some years" has relation to the period 1971 to 1981, then the fears of Scotland and north-east England are by no means groundless.
The noble Lord, Lord Meston, in speaking of the desirability of adding still more (I think he mentioned another twelve) New Towns to the expanded programme, spoke of the desirability of having them in Scotland. He was not aware that in Scotland there are four New Towns which are being created at the present time: East Kilbride, Glenrothes, Cumbernauld, and Livingstone. The last-mentioned is just beginning; East Kilbride is about halfway to its target, and by 1970 it will still not have reached its completion. Glenrothes has a population now of 15,000, and by 1970 it will only be halfway to its target. Cumbernauld has a population of about 10,000, and by 1970 it will be only halfway to its target population. Livingstone will be only one-third of the way.
I mentioned the success which had attended the Government's activities since the new measures stemming from the Budget of last year. The success which has attended these efforts has in a large measure been the encouragement which industries in the South have received to locate themselves in these New Towns. It was not that every one of these industries wanted to locate itself either in Scotland or the North-East of England; but one of the difficulties about expanding factories, even if they had room on which to build, was in getting labour. Added to that, the financial inducements offered have persuaded a number of firms to come to 523 areas which they would not otherwise have considered. If they see the possibility that within three or four years' time they may be able to expand in some area within 100 or 150 miles of London, the prospect of their going to one of the New Towns of Scotland or the North-East of England is to that extent diminished.
It was therefore encouraging to hear the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, say so definitely that the Government ought not to accept the premise that the 2+ million natural growth of population must be accommodated in the South-East. And unless the conception put forward by my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth—that there must be a national solution to what is a national problem—is accepted, the Government must inevitably go from one set of difficulties to another. We have seen how easy it is for one region to be played off against another. The decision of the Government to transfer the Post Office Savings Bank Department to Glasgow has provoked violent reactions in the North-East. They felt that, for political reasons, they had been deprived of a "plum". I must say that I admired the answer which the Postmaster General gave in another place yesterday, when he said that if he had been thinking of political reasons he could not have done better than to locate the department in his own constituency, where he has a majority of some 3,000. So I think we can discount the suggestion that he has put it in Glasgow for electoral reasons, and accept that the real reason is the fact that Glasgow has an unemployment figure in excess of 5 per cent.
The North-East and Scotland, both of which need so much to be done, ought not in any circumstances to start fighting between themselves for what is done. I was glad to read a speech made the other day by the Secretary of State for Scotland in which he announced that the North-East had no occasion to be displeased, because two other projects of Government Departments would be transferred to the North-East in place of the one which got away. A great deal more positive action of this kind must be carried on by the Government. But if it is to be done region by region, then we have this pattern of the North-East 524 and Central Scotland fighting for a particular development.
We have the feeling in Scotland, in the Highlands and the Borders, that we are being sacrificed to the centre. If this proposal for the South-East is adopted, the rest of the country must inevitably feel that they are being sacrificed to the South-East. The Government say in this Command Paper that much of our national prosperity depends upon the prosperity of South-East England, and the distribution of its population and employment must therefore be planned so as to promote its maximum efficiency. I accept that the country depends upon the prosperity in the South-East of England, but I challenge the implication in this White Paper that the prosperity of South-East England must necessarily take priority over every other part of the country.
The Survey on the growth of employment shows how the country is divided into two sections. In the Midlands, the South-West and the South-East the figures for the proportions of employment are appreciably in excess of the average in the North of England and in Wales, where employment is substantially below the average. The writ of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, who are the anonymous authors of this document, does not extend North of the Border, so there was no occasion for them to quote the figures of unemployment in Scotland. Suffice it to say that the employment figures in Scotland are very much lower than even the least satisfactory of the English figures.
So if the national prosperity relies on the distribution of South-East England's population and employment, and it must therefore be planned so as to promote its maximum efficiency, the Government will fail if they accept this Survey but act on this White Paper on the basis that they are going to carry it out inside this triangle of ground in the South-East. They will fail for many reasons, but particularly because by doing so they beg the point to which the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, referred: that the 2½ million of natural growth of population to be accommodated in this area is only the 2½ million to 1981, and the period from 1981 to 2001 will produce another 3 million. If 525 it is essential that the growth during this 20 years should be accepted, it would be equally logical that the succeeding 3 million in the next 20 years, and the succeeding 4 million in the 20 years after, should all be accommodated in that area.
Now that is obviously an impossibility. If, therefore, it is impossible that these people can be accommodated in the succeeding 20 or 40 years, it is quite reasonable to say that now is the time to start on the process of getting them to go elsewhere. The first and greatest difficulty which will confront the Board of Trade, the Government, or any authority concerned, when they seek to move people from one area to another, is getting them to move. I mentioned that I had been prevented from being here by sitting on a Committee. The Committee were considering proposals for some road works, among other things in Wandsworth. One of the difficulties which face the Government is the fact that people do not want to move out of Wandsworth to some of the surrounding areas in order to live.
It is a real problem, when added to some of the things which have been said by the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, on this subject of London housing; because what is a comparatively minor scheme of road improvement in connection with Wandsworth Bridge will cost £5 million or £6 million and in the process will destroy some 450 houses which will not be replaced at all in that area because the ground will be taken up entirely by road works. This is going on all the time. So we spend a great deal more money, we have fewer houses, and the problem becomes worse.
As my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth pointed out, the document implies that the moving of the increased population will be a movement by road. It will be no kindness to the people presently living in the South-East of England, and to those who might live there in the next 20 years, to get them to accept that this pattern must continue. Once they accept the decision that they have to move from their area, whether it be a particular street, a particular London borough or a particular part of the country, it matters fundamentally not one iota whether they move 50 miles or 450 miles, 526 provided that they get a job with proper wages, good working conditions, a good house in which to live, proper facilities for the education of their children, and reasonable recreational and cultural facilities for themselves and their families. These conditions can be created anywhere where New Towns are to be built or the expansion of existing towns is to be carried out.
One of the first of the attempts in Scotland to deal with such difficulties concerned the Glasgow overspill, and obviously I should not have a leg to stand on if, having made some attempt to help deal with the Glasgow overspill, I objected to equivalent measures for the London overspill. Obviously some of these people must be reasonably accommodated within this area, and I would not for one moment suggest—although perhaps I should like to do so—that none of the 2½ or 3½ million people should in fact be accommodated in this area. But the whole project will fail unless the Government attack it in a much more fundamental way.
While I think the noble Lord, Lord Meston, was perhaps going to extremes when he said that he would prohibit all building, except for slum clearance and one or two other comparatively minor reasons, within the next five years, something along these lines is very definitely necessary. There should be definite moves to cut down office building in London; and there should be not just negative discouragement of the expansion of industry in certain areas, but positive encouragement of its expansion in the under-developed parts of the country, because the prosperity of the United Kingdom must in the end depend on the extent to which we make the best use of our resources. I suggest that the most effective way of making sure that we get the best results out of South-East England is by working it in as part of a development of the United Kingdom as a whole.
§ 7.3 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF PERTH
My Lords, I am particularly happy to follow my noble friend Lord Hughes, who has just spoken, because not only do I find myself in agreement with almost everything he said, but I, too, want to speak on this Report from the angle which may appear to be only that of Scotland but 527 is perhaps the angle of the rest of Britain. Frankly, I am dismayed at The South East Study and the White Paper and the Government's acceptance of it. I am dismayed not because the Study itself may or may not be a good Study (I am a little mistrustful of it because of its glossy cover; I am with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, on that) but because of the readiness to accept the basic assumption—I know I am going to repeat what other noble Lords have said, but it is so important that it has to be said again and again—that not only is there going to be the suggested natural growth of the area over the next twenty years but there will be the migration of a million people from other areas in the country.
There can be only one reason why the million other people will be coming to the South-East from other areas in the country, and that is that the South-East is more prosperous, has better conditions and is more attractive to them. If that is right, surely it means that the whole of the Government's policy, which has been to try to achieve overall prosperity throughout the country, has failed. I know no greater confession of failure than accepting this assumption. Once we accept this assumption, let us see what is to happen.
We see in paragraph 10 of the White Paper that there must be fresh and much larger programmes, and more and expanded towns, bigger than those of to-day—and all of this to get away from London. Incidentally, I am not even sure that it is right to get people away from London. I do not want to argue it now, but I think that many eminent people, Sir Geoffrey Crowther among them, argue the other way. I do not think we should just assume this is a right policy.
I know that at this moment the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) are studying the Report most carefully. Indeed, one of the reasons why my noble friend Lord Polwarth is not here to-day to speak on this subject is that he is, in fact, taking a Council meeting on the Report itself. They will undoubtedly make their representations about it, and I am equally sure that those representations will not be what 528 I would call "dog in the manger" representations.
However, my Lords, the two things do not hang together. Despite the arguments of my noble friend Lord Blakenham, we cannot have the development of the South-East, with all its dangers of over-boom which may affect the rest of the country, when at the same time we are trying, or say we are trying, to get the rest of the country going better. Either one part goes better and we do not have people running into the other, or it does not go so well and does not attract them. I appreciate what my noble friend Lord Blakenham said, that the Government are determined to press on with what is being done in Scotland and in the North-East, but if that is really carried out there is not room for doing the other thing at the same time.
It is not for me to try to anticipate what may be the recommendations of the Scottish Council, but I have two points which I should like to make which I think illustrate how one can perhaps get round this problem or help to avoid a million people flowing into the South-East. Let us take the question of scientific knowledge. In this day and age nothing is more important for new industries than scientific knowledge. What do we find? We find that almost all the laboratories in whose location the Government have some say are in the South. Whether these laboratories are for the Defence Ministry, for the Atomic Energy Authority, the D.S.I.R., the Post Office or nationalised industries, almost all of them have their main base in the South—very convenient for Whitehall, but very difficult for those who want to keep in close touch with them for the development of new industries.
Then we have the second leg of that factor: 60 per cent. of research expenditure is dictated from Whitehall. When that is the case, can noble Lords be surprised that we find the constant wish of people or industry to stay around Whitehall, like bees round a honey pot? I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, who said he thought there were four reasons why industry might over the years have developed in different places. I believe, in this day and age, there is a fifth: Whitehall and all that 529 it stands for. The Government try to stop industrial firms from developing in the South, but when it comes to some of their new Departments which they are themselves creating, I am afraid one has quite a different experience.
I recall to your Lordships that about six months ago the Government announced that they were going to form the National Building Agency, and we tried very hard to persuade the Government to put that Agency, which was a new Government department, in Scotland or, at any rate, in the North-East. We failed, and I think it is of interest to your Lordships to know the reply and the reason I was given, because I think it is symptomatic of much that is dangerous in this connection. The reply says:The Minister … appreciates the importance of this Agency for Scotland. … He points out, however, that there is even greater scope for its work in England and Wales … there are some 1,200 local housing authorities in England and Wales which seem to need the Agency's help, whereas the corresponding number in Scotland is much smaller. And the other groups with whom the Agency will have to work—private building clients, architects, building contractors, component manufacturers and development groups in Government Departments—are also much more numerous South of the Border. The location of the Agency's central office must be chosen to facilitate ready contact with all these groups, and only a location South of the Border meets this requirement.It seems to me that the Government's policy is perhaps one law for industry and quite another for its own affairs, and this is not good enough.
The second point I want to touch on is the importance of a study of what makes industrial growth. I do not think this subject has really been studied. So far we have had regional studies for one reason or another. I feel very much with the noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, that what we want is an overall study, and I suggest a study of the cause of industrial growth. I think we might find some very interesting things. We certainly should not necessarily find that the South is more attractive to new industry than, say, Scotland. I believe my figures are right when I say that in the years 1959 to 1561 there was a 6½ per cent. increase of new industries in the South-East and there was a 6 per cent. increase in Scotland. The reason Scotland did not do better overall was because some of the older industries 530 were running down. I suggest that a study like this is of great urgency. We know what otherwise is going to happen—there is going to be this snowball effect of population increase in the South-East which cannot be stopped.
There are already signs of an inclination to go down this slippery slope. If your Lordships look at page 99 of the Study you will see the words:… if a handful of attractive schemes can be got going quickly it will ease the pressure on London".There we are, my Lords, "Let us start it all now, not even in a few years; let us ease the pressures now". I feel very strongly that if the basic assumptions of this Study are accepted and if one starts now to do this, to follow it up, to build New Towns, with new industries and all that goes with it, nothing could be more effective as a policy to stimulate further growth in the South-East. I beg the Government to think, and think again, to dwell on what has been said in your Lordships' House to-day, to await the representations of bodies such as the Scottish Council and then to study the whole situation again; and not to act on the defeatist basis that is represented in this Study and this White Paper.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF HUNTINGDON
My Lords, while we accept, I suppose, the advantages, and the great advantages, of democracy, it has one possible drawback: that it does lead to delay; in other words, we have usually to wait till the crisis arises before the Government can face it and take the necessary measures to defeat it. An obvious example is the traffic problem, which should have been dealt with many years ago. I must confess that this Paper entitled South East England (Cmnd. 2308) is to me a very frightening and alarming document when it says, in the Foreword, that we are going to have this enormous increase of 3½ million in the population in the South; that this is all going to drift into the South-East of the country; and a large part of it is due to the increase in the birth-rate but that another large proportion is due to infiltration from other areas. To one who has connections with the South-East of England this is a very alarming situation, and, as I think has been expressed in this debate, it is a sad situation for the rest of the country that 531 this matter is looked at in isolation, as this Report does.
One point which has not been mentioned in this debate, so far as I know, is a very fundamental matter, and that is the rise in population in this country. That, as we know, is one of the great problems of the world to-day: the enormous rise in population in relation to the production of food to feed them. In the days of Queen Elizabeth I when the population of England was something like 6 million, and when we were faced with gigantic enemies on the Continent, we could produce all our own food, and then there was a very good case for every encouragement to be given to increase our population and for people to have larger families. It was a policy of survival. Now, with this Island staying the same size, with this huge explosion of population, instead of a climate of opinion which, one might say, encourages large families and looks on a mother of ten as almost a heroine, the climate of opinion should now turn towards discounting large families; and people having more than, say, two children should be looked on as indulging themselves in a luxury which is possibly to the interests of neither the children nor the country.
Probably it will be said that the Government can have no control of this. That, I submit, is nonsense, because if the Government give a lead on these matters it will have a very big effect indeed. For instance, one of the major steps which should be taken is the actual encouragement, rather than discouragement, of family limitation and birth control. For years this has been fought for hard, with every official discouragement. It is now being slightly allowed, but more or less with an atmosphere of "under-the-counter". The new English invention, the Volidan, one of the greatest oral anti-conception devices, which is safe and effective, is practically unknown. I suggest that if the Government could go behind this climate of opinion, as the Government of India has done, to try to get people to limit their families, we should not have what ultimately may be a disastrous situation with an enormous growth going on and on; and even sterilisation, I think, should be allowed and not necessarily discouraged.
532 The second point is that, however much that idea may go forward, there will be a very big increase in population in the near future. That we have to face. There is one line in the Report with which I thoroughly agree, where it says:At the same time a balance must be kept between the growth of the South East and the needs of other parts of the country.I wish the rest of the Report had better carried out that feeling and opinion. The trouble in the last few years has been almost entirely due to allowing industry to expand in London at a time when we needed houses. Instead of houses we saw these office blocks rising everywhere. Office blocks mean more people working in them, which means more homes, more commuting, more congestion on the roads, more discomfort and more waste; because there is nothing more wasteful than our system of commuting. It is wasteful of energy, of people's health, and, above all, in economics and money. I suggest to Her Majesty's Government that they should now take all steps they can, not only to encourage industry to go to the places we have heard of in the debate—East Anglia and Scotland—which really need them, but to take a very firm hand in controlling any further construction of office blocks in Central London.
The point which does not seem to have been stressed in the White Paper is that if there is to be this enormous increase in population, inevitably it will need an enormous increase in food. There will be more people; they must eat. The alternative is to cut down the standard of living, something that I hope none of us wants to do. We have seen in two world wars how we were nearly starved out. I suppose I am right in saying that we are the only country in the world in the extraordinary situation of depending so much on the import of food, for which we have to pay with our goods; and if the terms of trade go against us and we cannot sell our goods sufficiently, or if other nations have not enough spare food to supply us, we shall be in a most serious situation.
The Minister who is to reply to the debate can perhaps give the figure of how much agricultural land now is going out of production every year. I have been told that it is around 50,000 533 acres. I do not know whether or not that is an accurate figure.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, with the noble Earl's permission, may I say that Professor Dudley Stamp recently stated that between 50,000 and 75,000 acres are going out of agricultural production every year.
§ THE EARL OF HUNTINGDON
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl. The figure is even greater than I thought. That is a terrible situation, when we are getting this increasing population; when the whole prospect of the outside world is not one in which food is going to become more plentiful and in which we can all the time cut down on our areas of good food-growing land. The trouble is, I think, that when an ordinary planner wants to develop something or to build a new city, he realises that it is much easier, pleasanter and cheaper to take a nice flat area of virgin land and to build on that. He can much more easily plan his roads, his drainage system and everything than if rocky or derelict land is used. It is so often the case in many towns of England that there are large areas of slum land which ought to be cleared. There are some areas where rubble ought to be cleared away from the middle of the towns, and the area rebuilt. But again that is much more trouble and more expensive.
In view of our situation, I would suggest that we must try to keep our good agricultural land at whatever price. It will be a disastrous thing if we allow that land gradually to go for use as airfields, playing fields or whatever it may be. I have some support for Sir Geoffrey Crowther's thesis, that in our towns we should build upwards much more than we do. I know that, on the whole, the English character likes the development of small houses, with their own gardens, semi-detached houses of one or two storeys. These are certainly very nice, but I do not think that, in the situation to which we are coming, we can afford such places on the scale that we have had in the past. In any event, I see no reason why building up should not be quite pleasant and why, in time, people should not only tolerate it but even get to like it.
One of the great examples of this kind of thing, done well, is the Roehampton 534 building estate, which was an L.C.C. building estate. There they have built up, and the advantages are that many more people are accommodated in the area and they have quite a large green space all around them. If our towns were planned more on these lines, it would have the great advantage that people could be near their work. In other words, we ought to have big areas of green space, building going upwards, and the factories or offices fairly near, so as to do away with this chronic waste that is involved in commuting which I regard as one of the greatest diseases of this age. I rather suspect that many industries are moving South because, as has been mentioned in this debate, the directors and managers like to live in the South, near London and adjacent places, and, if possible, the industry comes nearer to where they live. However, that is a minor point which I do not want to stress.
To come to a criticism of detail, one thing I rather deplore is the idea of the development of the South coast. I think I should declare an interest here, which I have done before in this House. I am the President of the Solent Protection Society and, as such, have an interest in this area. In the first place, it seems to me unfortunate to think of the idea of a town between Portsmouth and Southampton. I do not know the exact situation of the town: I do not know whether it is yet known. But a great deal of the land there is good land, some of it good market garden land, some of the best we have, and it would be sad if it were taken.
But, more than that, my Lords, I think we must try a little more not to give the economic interest the final predominance. We must provide a little for people's leisure. As time goes on, and as automation comes, there will be more and more leisure, and people will want to find things to do with that leisure. Water is one of the great vehicles by which one can deploy oneself and enjoy leisure—whether in swimming, sailing, fishing, bathing or whatever it may be. For all those hobbies, of course, water is needed. In the Solent area of the South coast we have perhaps the only unspoiled piece of sheltered water in the South of England where people can sail. It has lovely beaches. There is the Isle of 535 Wight; there are good camping and holiday grounds. It would be a thousand pities if this area is to be completely industrialised.
It is tragic to realise how much of our coast has already been built up and how little is left. Our Society aims to keep this area of the New Forest and around the Solent intact. Sailing is no longer just a rich man's sport; it is an activity that everyone enjoys nowadays. This is an area much frequented by hikers, bird-watchers and campers. The great threat to the area comes in the Rochdale Report, where the aim is to develop Southampton into a far bigger port. The Report goes on to say that to do that, to make the enlarged port viable, there must be much better communications and a large industrial area to feed it. In practice that would mean that the whole of Southampton Water would become a second Merseyside. That seems to me tragic when this is one part of the New Forest where we have some chance of allowing people to take their holidays, to amuse themselves and to enjoy their leisure. Should this become an absolutely industrial area none of that would be possible. For this reason, I urge the Government to consider long before they develop the Southampton area.
I do not wish to keep the House any longer. I should like Her Majesty's Government to consider the problem as a whole, and not to be stampeded into allowing this huge explosion into the South-East when there are other areas which badly need industry; and, above all, I urge them to keep London from growing even bigger.
§ 7.29 p.m.
THE EARL OF GOSFORD
My Lords, it is most encouraging that in the course of the last month or so your Lordships have been able to discuss transport, urban renewal, and to-day the South-East Study and the White Paper that goes with it. Like the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, to whom I would add my congratulations on his excellent maiden speech, I thank the Government for publishing what I think are excellent documents, and also for saying that they provide a basis for discussion and are by no means sacrosanct. I am going to confine my remarks to transport, and to 536 two particular points at which I hope the Government will look again.
Paragraph 14, on page 30 of the Study, draws attention to the importance of the motor car and the future need for more roads, more parking spaces and more garages. In view of these factors, it is disappointing that the urgency does not seem to spill over into the section on "Communications in the South-East". This section appears to be entirely concerned with the present, both as to facilities and plans. If I have read the Report correctly, the authors are saying that we have known road achievements and known road plans for the future, including motorways. But hardly anything is said of the new planning, which will obviously be called for—the only exception being the welcome call for a first-class road, probably a motorway, from Southampton to the Midlands. Incidentally, such a road was suggested by the County Surveyors' Society over two years ago. But even on this matter there is no call for a study to be started now.
An earlier paragraph in the Study demonstrates on what an inadequate base the authors—and, I am afraid, the Government—hope to build in future. Road communications for such a great population in the South-East surely require plans to be made now. Paragraph 19, on page 60 of the Report, tells us that there are over 1,500 miles of trunk road in the Study area, and further—and here I am quoting:Since 1955, nearly 80 miles have been completely reconstructed or been improved ….Only 80 miles in over eight years! Furthermore, the limit of the present Government road programme—this applies only to motorways: we know less about other roads—is the early 1970's. But The South-East Study extends up to 1981. Furthermore, Professor Buchanan, in his excellent Report, Traffic in Towns, and the Road Research Laboratory have extended their forecasts up to the end of the century. I beg the Government to bear in mind the fantastic time that elapses from the conception of a road scheme to its final appearance on the ground. We cannot wait till the opening day of the last motorway before starting plans on the motorways and roads which will be needed beyond the 1970's. Forward 537 planning of these roads must at least coincide with the 1981 of the Study paper and should, in fact, go on to the end of the century.
That brings me to my second point, which concerns what I regard as a serious omission from the Study. There is one particular future need which is not matched by any recommendation in the Study—I refer to the road access to the Channel Tunnel. In paragraph 18, on page 59, the Report says:In the present climate, it is not realistic to expect major new railway developments in the South-East. An exception to this is, however, the proposed Channel Tunnel, which offers prospects of improved communications with the Continent, not only from the South-East, but from the country as a whole.I entirely agree with that—but why leave out the roads? The volume of total traffic in 1980 is expected to be double what it was in 1960, and perhaps nearly three times as great. Yet there is not one word in the Study about a road link to the Channel Tunnel. The authors may have assumed that there would naturally he a link-up with Maidstone by-pass or the Medway motorway, but they have not said so. Even if there is a link, then, unless there are substantial motorway links from the Channel around London to the North-East, any advantage, from the road transport point of view, which the Channel Tunnel may have will he confined to the South-East.
In view of the growth of our trade with the Continent of Europe, efficient road and rail links will have to be provided, if the Government are to promote a high rate of growth in the North of England and in Scotland. There must be a plan to take the best possible advantage of the link across the Channel, and this link must include road and rail access from the North. I would ask the Government to look at these two points before finalising their plan.
§ 7.36 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF IDDESLEIGH
My Lords, I have had the pleasure of hearing all the speeches delivered this afternoon, with one exception. Of those speeches, only one—the excellent maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, who spoke with that moderation that the House expects in a maiden speech—could be considered favourable to the White Paper and the Study that are under discussion—apart, of course, from 538 the speech of the Government spokesman. I have prepared a speech on very much the same lines as those which I have heard from other noble Lords. Your Lordships will be relieved to hear that I am not going to deliver it; it would be otiose to do so. I wonder what difference these debates in your Lordships' House make. Are we really going to effect any indent at all on the monolithic departmental policy? Will the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, when he comes to reply, promise us at least consideration, and perhaps some reconsideration by the Government of their hasty acceptance of this regrettable document?
There is one part of my prepared speech which I feel justified in inflicting on your Lordships. It concerns the question of the taking of agricultural land, and in this matter (though not in other parts of his speech) I gladly follow the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon. The noble Earl told us that the country around Southampton is fertile. I do not know this, but the Study itself tells us of the fertility of the land around Newbury, where it is still proposed to establish a New Town; and I would draw attention, as illustrating the attitude taken by departmental planners to the agricultural question, to the form of words in which this fertility of the soil is recognised. The planner goes down to these glorious Berkshire Downs, where the valleys stand so thick with corn that they do "laugh and sing", and observes—these are his words:One drawback is that much of the surrounding area contains farmland of high quality.One drawback, my Lords! Instead of praising the bountiful Jehovah for his gifts to a world which is yearly more and more in need of food, it is discarded as a "drawback".
It is natural that that attitude should be adopted. Since the war we have had it very easy in the matter of food. If we want more milk, we pay the farmers 2d. extra. If we want more meat, we order it from Australia. New Zealand or the Argentine. If we want more wheat, the granaries of North America are bursting. All this we can obtain and more, at a price we are well able to pay. So we have accepted steady erosion of British agricultural land and that erosion will continue at an in- 539 creased pace. Consider the demands that the new universities are making and will make on our agricultural land. Last week The Times newspaper published a photograph of the layout of the new Warwick University, and in a subtle and Times-like comment published underneath it a photograph of the site as it is at present, with green fields and well-trimmed hedges. That building is to be begun. Year by year the amount that is taken will rise and rise.
What about the position of our overseas suppliers? I have been reading a publication of the Stationery Office under the title of Meat, a very valuable publication. Are your Lordships aware that the United States and North America are becoming large-scale importers of meat? In 1954 the United States took 0.2 per cent. of Australia's beef and veal. In 1962 they took 81.4 per cent. of Australia's beef and veal, 77.2 per cent. of New Zealand's beef and veal, and in addition 40.8 per cent. of Australia's mutton and lamb. We are within sight of a time when there will be competition for the world's supply of meat, and what means shall we have to compete with these North American carnivores with their insatiable appetites and bottomless purses?
As for wheat, last year we saw Russia relieving those bursting granaries on a large scale, and Mr. Khrushchev, who at least realises the complete failure of his country's agricultural policies, has given up, and no doubt very wisely given up, his attempt to plough the Steppes. Is it not very likely that the U.S.S.R., which has a large and, it is believed, very rapidly rising population, will increasingly compete with us for North American wheat? We can increase, and we have increased, the home supplies of meat, and no doubt the dairy farmer, though he is becoming a little tired of changing his method of farming year in year out, will respond to the extra 2d. on milk. But these things are grown on land. They are not to any great extent, thank heaven!, broiler-house produced, and I am wondering whether our children twenty years hence will not greatly blame the improvidence with which we are casting away our heritage of agricultural land.
540 As for Newbury, it has almost every other disadvantage. It is, as the London County Council Planning Department—that very experienced body—has pointed out, much too close to London. One can get from Newbury to London by train in something like 80 or 85 minutes. It will inevitably become the home of commuters, and what effect is that going to have on Paddington station? It has been decided to put all the West Country expresses on the old Western line. Paddington station is already overstrained, and is totally unfitted to take the large commuter traffic which will, I fear, be quite inevitable if Newbury is taken for this purpose.
I believe, in view of the agricultural situation, that we shall really be compelled to think in terms of high density housing. I know the disadvantage. I know that it is bad for children and bad for family life. It increases immensely the traffic difficulties. I know it is un-English. We as a nation insist on the right to compromise between town and country, to live in a town and have a garden, and to have the best of both worlds, and high density housing is hateful to us for that very reason. Like other countries, we must live as we can afford to live, and cut our coat according to our cloth. I fear that the spacious and expansive planning in new towns, beautiful though it is, satisfactory though it must be to the eyes of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, will have to give way to agricultural necessities, for of what value will his green fingers be when the towns are filled with bread queues?
§ 7.48 p.m.
LORD ST. JUST
My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships for more than a few moments as there are only one or two points that I wish to raise. I should like to say just a few words about the question of roads and road transport. I think the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, mentioned the time it takes from the moment of planning for roads to be built. I think a very big problem comes up, especially South of London, on the whole of this point. We have a series of good arterial roads from the coast up towards London, but it strikes me that one of the great problems is going to be travelling from East to West. I do not know whether any of your Lordships have travelled from an area 541 such as Rye across the country towards Petersfield, but it is almost a nightmare journey. You cross over a series of main roads the entire way and I think, with the development that goes on in the South, that this situation is going to get worse and worse. If the Government could keep this situation in the front of their minds, and have some form of plan for getting a motorway operating across the South of England, it would relieve the problem a great deal.
The only other point I want to deal with in the few minutes I wish to speak for is the question of access to the sea. This area is really from the Wash down to Lyme Bay, and to most of the area North-East of London the coast is easily accessible. I think it is now becoming a general fact in this country that one of the great sports of the young is sailing in every type of craft, or swimming from beaches. Now we are going to be faced with the problem of this big New Town in the area of Southampton and Portsmouth. This is a development that may have to come. All one can ask is that the Government keep in the forefront of their mind that available access, al least, towards the Solent area should always exist.
I think it is very important, from every angle, that people should be able to get down easily to the coast. Whether it be for sailing or whether it be merely to get on to the beaches, it is of the utmost importance to have free access. In fact, the same thing applies when one wants to travel across country. Gliding has now become one of the great sports in the country; and if the whole of this area, which is already fairly festooned with towns in all directions, is going to be sealed by New Towns in the area around Southampton and Portsmouth, there is a grave chance you are going to have great difficulty in getting down to one of the best sailing areas of the country.
Another point I should like to make before I sit down is to ask whether there is a possibility that something can be done about commuters. I know the whole idea of this survey and Study is that, in a sense, commuting should be stopped, but, as several of your Lordships know, there are already a great many people who commute from the 542 South of England, working right round from the Winchester area eastwards. If one goes to any of these stations on any day, one finds lines of cars stretching for miles down the road. It should not mean a great expense for, say, waste land to be turned into a car park, so that middle-aged executives, and so on, would not find themselves having to hare towards trains after being compelled to park their cars possibly half a mile or a mile away from the station. It is not a big point, but I think it is one that local authorities and the railways could look into: because this problem is not going to recede; if anything, it is going to increase.
I should like to say just one more thing. I agreed entirely with the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, who I know is a great expert on these matters, about the desirability of not expanding too greatly towns that are already in existence. May I quote one example abroad?—because I think it is a very good example. I do not know whether many of your Lordships have been to Munich recently but Munich is a city whose population has expanded by 1½ million, since the war. It was nearly flattened. The Germans had great chances to widen the streets—in fact to build an entire new centre to the city of Munich. This was not done, and buildings just grew up, really in a sort of higgledy-piggledy state. If any of your Lordships were to go to Munich now, you would find it quite impossible to move about in any part of the centre of the city in a car between seven and nine o'clock in the morning and between five and eight o'clock in the evening. And yet half a mile outside the centre of Munich, there are these superb new housing estates. That, I think provides a very good example of the sort of thing we must try to avoid in this country.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ LORD SOMERS
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, for allowing me to speak for a moment or two before he winds up. I had not intended to speak in this debate, but I have been asked to say a few words by the London and Counties Tenants' Federation, who are very concerned, as I am, about the immense growth of population in the South-Eastern counties. I have now lived in Surrey since before the war, with a short 543 break, and I have seen it grow more and more crowded. Indeed, the northern part of Surrey is rapidly ceasing to be a rural area at all. Incidentally the commuter traffic is becoming heavier and heavier.
The trouble is that so much industry, whether it be factories or whether it be office blocks, is centred in London that those who work there have to live in the adjoining counties because the prices of houses or rents in London are so terrific that nobody but practically a millionaire can afford them. There have been many times when I have thought to myself that I should like to live in London, but when I have looked at the prices of houses I have realised how impossible it is. So this commuter traffic will go on; we do not want it to get any larger.
Why must we develop an area which is already over-developed? It seems to me that there are many other possibilities. After all, we have other major cities in this country besides London—Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester; all sorts of places—which might be developed and where communication would be a great deal easier. My noble friend Lord Perth pointed out that much of our business is centred in London, and considered it a mistake that we do not spread our business over the country much more widely. I entirely agree with him. As the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, pointed out, office blocks are going up all over London, and activity is gradually becoming greater and greater.
I think it is time that the Government took very firm steps to put a stop to that. After all, when one lives even in the North of England one is not isolated now, owing to the rapidity of communication, either by telephone or by railway or even by aeroplane. There is no isolation about living 100 or even 200 miles from London. Indeed, there is no necessity for a great many firms even to be in touch with London at all. Possibly very suitable places would be the major ports, such as Southampton, Liverpool, the Clyde and other places like that, which could be developed on a large scale. The noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, spoke about the clearing of rubble from various possible areas as being a factor which holds back development. My Lords, in this House serious 544 strictures have often been passed on the Government on the question of unemployment. I am not in a position to quote many figures or to say whether those strictures are justified; but if there is unemployment surely here is a very good way of alleviating it. I sincerely hope that the Government will think twice before developing an overdeveloped area.
§ 8.1 p.m.
§ LORD BOSSOM
My Lords, I did not intend to break in on this debate, but no speaker has so far touched on a point which I feel is of tremendous importance. That is, when work starts on the vital roads that they intend to build, will the Government consider the work being done for 24 hours a day? Though no doubt the cost will probably be double, by so doing we should get the results that are so vitally needed. If they could do that I am sure the country would gain by it. Let the work proceed for 24 hours a day and not just for 8 hours a day as we so often see to-day. I should like to put that suggestion to the Minister.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will agree that we are deeply indebted to my noble friend Lord Taylor for giving us the opportunity of having what was an absorbing debate of high quality, in which there have been so many notable speeches that I find it almost impossible to particularise. But we are particularly indebted to my noble friend for what I thought was a masterly summary of the whole South-East Study and of the White Paper. The noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, ventured to ask whether it might be possible that we could dent what he called the Whitehall monolithic mind.
This debate has been remarkable for a number of things. One of them is that we started with eighteen speakers. While it is true there was one scratching, we have had two late entries which, according to my count, made the total number of speakers nineteen. Of these, apart from the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham, who can be forgiven for his opinions, and the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, for whom we were indebted for a very interesting maiden speech, and to whom we extend our congratulations while hoping that we shall hear him frequently 545 and have the benefit of his advice, every speech we have listened to has been either highly critical of the plan, or has been devastatingly so.
It seemed to me very early in the debate that the anonymous civil servants who, so we are told, produced the Report, came in for rather more than their share of what has been a pretty hefty "shellacking"; but, having heard the whole debate, I think that that perhaps would be quite an unfair summary. It is true that my noble friend Lord Taylor referred to the Report as a painfully amateur production; and the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, almost out-devastated my noble friend by his caustic, penetrating and even sometimes hilarious references to the Report, and especially to the "pepperpotting" of small schemes which he found so undesirable. I think my noble friend Lord Taylor showed that even the cities and major extensions which have been planned seemed to have been done on the "pepperpotting" process or by the throwing of a dart at random in different parts of the country.
Despite those criticisms, addressed as it were to the unnamed gentlemen who produced or were responsible for the technical production of this Report, the real and basic criticisms have been addressed by every noble Lord to Her Majesty's Government. Because the first and basic criticism of this Report is that we are once more presented with a partial, piecemeal piece of reasoning which might be the basis eventually of very important action and even of legislation. It is obvious that no thought has been given to the fact that this is, as my noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth said, a national problem that can be dealt with only on a national basis. That same theme has been echoed time and again by many noble Lords who have taken part in the debate—not always in the same way, but on the same theme.
My noble friend Lord Hughes said that the plan for the South-East is regarded in Scotland and the North-East as the greatest threat of the last ten years to the development of those areas; and he went on to prove his point. He was followed by the, noble Earl, Lord Perth, who said that he agreed with almost everything my noble friend had 546 said; that he was frankly dismayed by the South-East plan and by the Government's ready acceptance of it and its basic assumptions. He added that you just cannot have over-boom in the South-East and the necessary development in other areas. He agreed with my noble friend that what is needed is a comprehensive national study. In different terms, the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, was on the same point when he said it was difficult to deal with the South-East in isolation, and that we should try to encourage the flow of population to East Anglia, and to the West Country, including Wales. He and the noble Lord, Lord St. Just, drew attention to the immense difficulties in what I think the noble Lord called, "lateral travel", or East—West travel, with which we are so familiar but on which this Report says not a single word.
Over and over again we have had the points which my noble friend Lord Taylor first made: that there has been this haphazard selection of places for expansion; that the Government have tamely accepted this extraordinarily pessimistic conclusion of the Report, as the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, called it. Indeed, what has appeared from this debate (and I hope the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, will have recovered from his depression by the time he gets to his feet, and will deal with this particular point) is that the overwhelming opinion of noble Lords is that we utterly and completely reject the basic assumption in the Report that there must inevitably be in the South-East in the next twenty years a population expansion of some 3½ million, of which one million or more would be a net import into the area from other areas of the country.
That, indeed, is the most dangerous assumption made in this Report, and the one which has been clearly rejected by almost every noble Lord who has spoken in the debate. Indeed, even some of the lesser assumptions of the Report have been rejected, including this "pepperpotting" of small schemes. I thought that the right reverend Prelate the Lord Bishop of St. Albans made an extremely valid point in his plea urging relatively small increases of population in the villages. I think that is a very sound idea, particularly if, as he put it, the increases can be of artisans, so that 547 we can complete and maintain these invaluable communities which are really, whatever we say about the towns, the essence of the British way of life.
I feel that this South-East Study which has been so constantly referred to in the Press (not in this debate) as the long-range plan which will be needed to accommodate an estimated growth of 3½ million population in the South-East is not, in fact, planning at all, but only a device to dispose of the appalling situation created by the absence of planning over the last thirteen years. It is unplanning which has meant deprivation for the North and strangulation for the South. I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Maudling, boasting last night on television of a sevenfold increase in industrial inquiries in Scotland. He did not say how many—and seven times one is still only seven. But the Government helplessly accept this further net migration to the South-East of over 1 million. The A.73 from Scotland is called by some "Heartbreak Highway", because thousands still travel South with one-way tickets in search of jobs and many thousands of Scots still living in the North come down to visit their relatives in places like Birmingham, Corby, Stevenage and London.
Real planning, as my noble friend Lord Taylor and the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, demonstrated so clearly, would create conditions to induce a net migration away from the South-East to other parts of the country. My noble friend Lord Wise, in what I thought was an extremely notable speech, said that there could be a New Town in East Anglia, where conditions of water supply are satisfactory and where heathland would not be expensive. And the noble Lord, Lord Meston, pleaded for twelve New Towns in the West Country and other parts of the country. As has been generally agreed during the debate, that would be a much better way of dealing with the problem than some of the ideas put forward in the plan. Indeed, it would be vastly less costly to the nation, because the White Paper admits that the essence of the problem is the provision of more land.
I very much agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, said about 548 the practability of building more dwellings in London. We should utilise more land in central London, because land is the one commodity we cannot manufacture in the South-East and which is to be found elsewhere in the country. In the White Paper, the Government talk of finding land for building houses in an area of such land famine that prices have increased more than sevenfold in twelve years. I thought that the noble Viscount, Lord Blakenham, made an extraordinary hash of this business, when he was interrupted by my noble friend Lord Silkin.
It is the case that in 1951 the average price paid for building land by the L.C.C. was £8,800 an acre. In 1963, the average price was £61,800 an acre, and most of the increase, some £40,000, has been in the last five years. This means that the tempo is increasing and the whole of the plan we are considering today seems to be expressly intended to increase this at an ever faster rate for the benefit of the speculator. Think of the effect on our whole economy of the increase in land values during successive Conservative Governments. In 1951, the average cost of land per dwelling house provided by the L.C.C. was £270, and in 1963 it was £1,550. Imagine the effect of this on those who would qualify for an L.C.C. house or flat. Imagine the effect on the demands for wage increases.
And all the time the impetus was the failure of the Government to take any steps whatsoever to control or keep down the prices of land, except, of course, in the one case of the New Towns, where in fact they did not disturb the arrangements made by my noble friend Lord Silkin under the Labour Government. But only one-third of the total housing required is planned to be provided in the New Towns, so that only one-third of the land which will be required for houses will have existing use value taken as the value of the land. In the other two-thirds, the play of the market, the huckster value, will be the deciding factor.
Last Saturday I was delighted to read in my local newspaper, the Somerset County Herald, that my former milkman, who used to deliver milk in Taunton, had received the thanks and congratulations of Taunton Borough Council for 549 his kind co-operation. He owns a rather small farm, with a few cows, and runs a milk round. I felt a glow because of this commendation of my former milkman. But in addition to the commendation, he received £140,000 from Taunton Borough Council. Even when I was there a few years ago, that land could have been bought for a couple of thousand pounds. These are the kind of things we are putting up with now.
Of all the failures of the present Government this is the most disastrous, this is the most vicious. This is the greatest failure of all. This has the most far-reaching consequences. And there is not a word in this White Paper which suggests that anything should be done about it. I do not blame the compilers of the White Paper. The blame rests on the Benches opposite. On the ground of enormous increases in land values alone, the proposals in the White Paper which we are considering are impossible of acceptance. Even if we look within the proposals, there is a complete absence of comprehensive planning. The proposed new cities and expanded towns will all need vastly improved transport facilities. The noble Earl, Lord Gosford, who sent me a note to say that he unavoidably had to go and could not wait to hear what I had to say, drew attention to the need for more road facilities. He said that in the last eight years there had been only 80 miles of road reconstructed, and he pointed to the enormous time it takes between the conception of a motorway and the time when it is ready for use. The noble Lord, Lord St. Just, also mentioned this problem. And we fully support them from these Benches.
But there is a further respect in which there is need for improved transport and to which reference has been made in this debate—I refer to railway facilities. My noble friend Lord Morrison of Lambeth said that keeping non-essential traffic off the road will push business back into public transport. But in all the towns mentioned in this White Paper as new cities, or those planned for major expansion, and even medium expansion, there would not be any railways; because in every case, except two, in all the long list, the railways have either gone, are on the Minister's desk for withdrawal or are still threatened under the Beeching 550 Plan. My noble friend Lord Wise spoke about Scunthorpe and the possibility of a New Town there, but as the station has been closed that is virtually impossible.
My Lords, surely the noble Lord is being carried away a little by his own enthusiasm. In the list of these towns I see Ashford, Kent. There is no closing of the railway there. Then there are Ipswich, Northampton, Peterborough, Swindon, Aylesbury, Banbury, Bedford, Chelmsford, Colchester, Hastings, Maidstone, the Medway Towns, Norwich, Poole, Reading and Southend. There may be some local closures, but surely they have their main railway.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am delighted to have the noble Lord's intervention, because it enables me to go through the whole list. I was even pleased to hear him put in a plea, during his own speech, for his own local branch line. He said: "Surely the Government will not now shut down this line"—the Tonbridge-Ashford-Redhill line, in which he apparently has a commuter's interest.
Let me deal with the list, since the noble Lord challenges me; and let me take the new cities. First of all, there is Newbury. That is a town of 20,000 people which was specially considered in the Buchanan Report, and in this Report it is expected to increase to 170,000. As it stands, it is in a key position for development because it is at the intersection of two main roads. But the Newbury-Lambourn and the Didcot-Newbury-Southampton lines are already closed.
I give the noble Lord his branch lines. But these places are not being cut off from their main communications. He said that they would have no railways. That is an exaggeration.
§ LORD STONHAM
In some cases they are not going to have railways, and it is not an exaggeration. If the noble Lord will allow me, I will tell the House. The other North-South link which used to connect Newbury with Birmingham, Cheltenham, Winchester and Southampton was withdrawn three years ago, and much of the track has been torn up. Another is the Southampton-Portsmouth 551 link, which has been highly commended, except by my noble friend Lord Huntingdon, who fears that the Solent may be turned into another Merseyside. In my view, this is a sound suggestion. But Dr. Beeching wants to close all the local railway services between Southampton and Portsmouth, Southampton and Winchester, as well as the whole of the Isle of Wight railways, which are invaluable for residential purposes and can, and do, carry 100,000 passengers every summer Saturday.
It is no use saying that you "plonk" down a station; that it is on a main line and that is enough, if you are going to have an expanded town. People do not live just outside the main-line station. They want communications and transport over distances of five, ten and fifteen miles in order to get to their work or into the town. It seems to me (I think my noble friend Lord Wise said this) that the left hand of the Government does not let the right hand know what it is doing. I wonder whether they know—or even whether the noble Lord, Lord Hawke, knows—that the two direct routes from Southampton to the Midlands, via Swindon and via Newbury are already closed.
Bletchley came in for some adverse comment. I have a great affection for Bletchley, because it is a railway junction at which I always had to change when I was a small boy going to a farm in Buckinghamshire, where I used to spend about four months out of every twelve. Bletchley I have always thought of as a wonderful place. But, in any case, it has been chosen in this Report for expansion to a town of 167,000 people. Of course, it lies on the main railway between London the West Midlands and the North West, and the Report declares:It would be difficult to find an area which would be more attractive to industrialists.But here again, the Bletchley—Buckingham line has been all but closed—it is not yet quite closed. That serves Banbury, which is earmarked for expansion to 30,000. The Oxford—Cambridge line is up for closure. That is a line of some 47 miles, which runs through Bedford, another town mentioned in this Report for increase. In the words of the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, it 552 seems an absolute denial of the use of human reason to close these lines now, or to take further action to close them down before we know if they are needed.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, on this particular point the noble Lord is being slightly unfair to the Government. He does not seem to have read paragraph 22 of the White Paper, which deals specifically with this subject.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am coming to paragraph 22 of the White Paper. I will miss out some of the other lines I was going to quote, and I will summarise it in this way. There is no town that is proposed for a new city or for major expansion, and only two among those proposed for, shall I call it, minor expansion, that will not have a number of railway facilities, either stations or whole branch lines, removed. Peterborough, Northampton, Welling-borough—all those towns will. And over the whole of East Anglia the railway closures will have a most important impact, because 20 whole railway lines and over 50 stations are to be closed in the area. I feel that to do this now is an absolute denial of human reason.
But the point I think the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, was on was the statement by the Government that all these matters would be carefully considered before any railway lines were closed in the areas affected. That is not an actual quotation, but it is the gist of the assurance given by the Government. I would particularly draw the attention of the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, to the fact that a month or six weeks ago the Minister of Transport announced his approval of 21 railway closures. Most of those will take effect next month, and several of them on May 4. One, for example, is the line from Colchester to Brightlingsea. Colchester is one of the towns marked down in the list for expansion, and many local stations in the area are to be closed. If the Government give an assurance that there will be no closures until these points have been carefully considered, surely they should take action now to stop closures which the Minister has already approved. I ask that that should be done.
553 Secondly, there are quite a number which have been considered and are on the Minister's desk, where he has not yet given a decision. It is surely reasonable to ask that the Government should carry out their assurance given in this White Paper by making a statement that the closures being considered which are in the areas affected will not at present take place.
Finally, there are a number of other railway lines mentioned for closure in the Beeching Report, where there has as yet been no public hearing. In all these cases, local authorities are put to an immense amount of trouble in opposing these closures. If the same authorities are being asked to plan expansion of their population and to prepare a whole plan which must include transport, surely in those areas the Government will immediately say that they will suspend the closure procedure until the whsle matter has been considered. Some of these lines may at present be losing money, but their losses are insignificant compared with the enormous future losses to which their closure will give rise. I ask the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, when he comes to reply to-night, to deal with this point if he possibly can, or, if not, to give an assurance that he will approach his right honourable friend on this point so that a statement may be made as soon as possible. If the Government really mean to plan the development of the South-East in a sane and comprehensive way, the question of transport facilities and communications is of paramount importance, and I think they will have to give an immediate "Yes" to the three questions I have asked.
§ 8.32 p.m.
§ THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD HASTINGS)
My Lords, even if it were not obvious before, it is quite clear from this debate that we have been discussing a problem of immense interest and of vital importance to the whole of Great Britain. We are most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, for introducing this Motion and for giving us all an opportunity to discuss and criticise, either constructively or destructively, the 554 South East Study. The solution of the problems set before us by this Study will undoubtedly affect prosperity, health and general welfare, and the whole way of life, not only of those living in the South-East, but also of many other people throughout the country.
Such is the importance of this matter, and such is its nature—economic, technical and social—that I was hoping at the beginning of this debate that it would be treated in as objective a manner as possible, and without undue political bias. I think on the whole I can say that my wishes have been realised, although I suppose it was inevitable that the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat felt it his duty to launch a particular attack upon the Government for their failings. But, apart from that, I think we have discussed this matter pretty objectively, and I shall endeavour to do so myself.
During the debate we had a most welcome intervention and distinguished maiden speech by the noble Lord Lord Tangley, whom, on behalf of the Government, I should certainly like to welcome to our debates in the hope that we shall hear him very many times. I much enjoyed the robust common sense he brought to bear upon this subject; his speech was like a breath of fresh air amongst the gloom of the Jeremiahs whom we have heard this afternoon. As the right reverend Prelate, the Lord Bishop of St. Albans, said, he set the problem in its historical perspective, and I think that was very valuable. At the same time, he put his finger unerringly on the fundamental importance of industry to any national or regional exercise in planning, and, indeed, upon its limiting factors—and I shall have a good deal more to say about that during the course of my speech.
I said that the solutions to these prolems will affect the whole country. The Government are very much aware of the national implications of this South East Study, and of the other studies which have been made or are to be made. This brings me straight to one of the two main criticisms that have been made during the debate—namely, that there is no national plan and that this Study in particular, therefore, lacks the necessary imagination and is even in many respects 555 irrelevant. The noble Lords, Lord Taylor and Lord Morrison of Lambeth, in particular, made this point, and it has been reinforced by the noble Lord, Lord Stonham. In the first place, I wish to make it perfectly clear that the South East Study is not a plan. It is, as my noble friend said, a basis for discussion and consultation, as a result of which a firm plan will eventually be produced. This Study is designed to present us with the facts of the present situation and to force us in Parliament, and in particular the public at large, to face these facts. In this respect it has succeeded quite admirably. The noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon, even described it as very frightening and alarming, but it has forced everybody to face the facts.
It was not the duty of the authors of this Study to make a national plan: that is the job of the Government, and I will deal with that now. Before I do, however, I would refer to what the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, said. He asked how much use is this debate in your Lordships House? Is it really going to affect planners or the civil servants who produced this Report? My Lords, this is a study, and the purpose is to have a thoroughly good discussion, such as we have had this evening, and then the Government and the planners can go away and think more about it, at the same time as getting on with the necessary discussions and consultations. That is the purpose of this debate, and I think it has served that purpose very well. I can assure the noble Earl that this Study, as produced, is by no means a final plan, and that all your Lordships have said will be read most carefully by those who will have to deal with this matter.
I am glad indeed that the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, and the right reverend Prelate, gave a special welcome to this Study—and other noble Lords have remarked upon it favourably, too—as it has, as the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, said, received a great deal of criticism. I think it would be unreasonable to let noble Lords have the idea that many of their criticisms have not already been foreseen or thought of, and I propose to apply the rest of my speech to answering those criticisms in such a way that noble Lords who have made them will themselves be obliged to think the subject 556 through rather further, and perhaps more deeply, than they have at the moment.
The South East Study itself is highly relevant to any consideration of a national plan or pattern. Nevertheless, our critics contend that the various studies, reports and plans produced by the Government, or under Government auspices, do not amount to a national plan. We are told that we must start with a national plan and develop regional plans from that; that we must consider all forms of transport as a whole before considering any part of it separately; that we must determine the location of population and industry and mould everything to fit in with that predetermined design.
How would our critics produce such a plan? Would they arbitrarily decide a plan, in order to save time, and produce a pattern perfect in theory, no doubt (which is not, after all, a very difficult proposition) but unworkable in practice? I hardly think they would do that. More likely they would appoint a large Commission, perhaps a Royal Commission, to find out the facts upon which to base the plan. This Commission would almost certainly ask for a series of regional studies, for reports on railways, roads, ports, airfields, water resources and power, upon population and employment trends, upon land and land use, and upon the construction industries. In other words, they would do what the Government have already done, or are in the process of doing. But there is this important difference: that all these studies and reports would remain private to the Commission and would not be published; not, at any rate, until the master plan was produced. Such a process would take many years and, in the meantime, no action whatever would have been taken in any of the fields of activity which I have mentioned.
The Government have produced plans for Central Scotland and the North-East, and these plans have been in operation for some months. So far as the North-East is concerned, a professional man in the field of planning and administration in that area, a man whom I would describe as non-political, told me a few days ago that the "Hailsham Plan", as it is known up there, will become recognised as the turning point in the history of the North-East. Plans for reorganisation and modernisation of the ports and 557 railways are in operation. A Report for a third London airport has just been produced and has been linked with the South-East Study. The Water Resources Act was passed last year in readiness for the massive development expected over the next twenty years. It would not be surprising if the passing of the Water Resources Act were regarded in days to come as one of the major achievements of this Government.
Now we see the South-East Study as a basis for another major plan, all the aspects of which will be co-ordinated with the requirements in mind not only of the South-East itself, but also of the other regions; and these will, of course, include transport, communications and water supplies. There is no justification for suggesting that these plans are not being, and will not be, co-ordinated. The Government approach is pragmatic and workable, based on facts and realities. Above all, the Government are getting a move on with all these things; they are taking action, and not merely talking about it.
The noble Lord, Lord Tangley, asked me about the machinery of government. How will all these things be co-ordinated? Is something really effective being done? How can such multifarious activities be controlled when they represent the responsibilities of so many different Departments? The Secretary of State for Industry, Trade and Regional Development is specially charged with responsibility for regional development. As part of his general responsibility he is in close touch with his colleagues to ensure that development is co-ordinated in the South-East, and that it is not allowed to prejudice growth in other parts of the country. To assist him, as he told another place on December 3, he has established an inter-departmental steering group, under Board of Trade chairmanship, composed of senior officials from the other Departments concerned. One of the tasks being undertaken by this group is to maintain oversight of the implementation of regional plans—and that would include the South-East Plan when the Government have taken their decisions.
So there is a co-ordinating steering group; there is a political Minister in charge of this development. That is really the answer to the questions put 558 to me by the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, about road links with the Channel tunnel. There will be not merely rail links, which are mentioned in the Study and White Paper, but road links as well. It is also all the answer I can give at the moment to the noble Lord, Lord Stonham, in respect of railway closures, apart from what is said in paragraph 22 (I think it is) of the White Paper. I will, of course, bring his remarks to the special attention of my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport. But these matters are to be co-ordinated, and there is very close co-operation between the Departments concerned and also the Minister responsible for this co-ordination. So much, I hope, for the question of an overall national plan.
It seems to me that the next major criticism—in fact, the greatest criticism of all—has been that it is not desirable or necessary to plan for the reception of 3½ million people in the next 20 years in the South-East. This contention. I admit, may seem at first sight to be borne out by the figures in the Study. The Study says that we must expect a natural increase of 2½, million, and at the same time suggests that most of this number can be accommodated by the ordinary processes of planning, through local authorities making more land available. But an extra million or more will be migrants into the area. Why, it is asked, cannot these people be kept out and located in their own regions? If this were done, perhaps then new cities and expanded towns in the South-East would not be needed, and more of the countryside would be preserved. Some noble Lords have gone so far as to say that even some of the natural increase could be pushed out of the South-East into other regions. This point was strongly nut by the noble Lords, Lord Taylor, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, Lord Meston, Lord Hughes, Lord Conesford, Lord Perth, and perhaps others as well.
In the first place, I think this criticism partly misunderstands the nature of the problem. We are not dealing with a temporary problem, requiring only a temporary expedient for its solution. We have to face a problem of growth not only over the next 20 years, as the noble Lord, Lord Hughes, pointed out, but as far as one can foresee, up until 559 the turn of the next century. If we build no New Towns now, where, then, will the natural increase of the future in the South-East go? It is essentially right now to create new centres of growth generating their own prosperity and way of life which will build up into centres of attraction and countervail the natural null of London which the capital city is always bound to have. We shall have to do this in the South-East, whatever else may be planned for the rest of the country, and we must begin with this task now; otherwise it will be too late.
In the second place this criticism oversimplifies, I think, the economic problem. No doubt it sounds very simple and very attractive to decree that Newcastle-upon-Tyne, for instance, should be built up into a city, not of some 330,000 as proposed in the Local Government Commission Report on the Special Review Area after certain amalgamations, but of 1 million; and that cities of a similar size should be created in the North-West, the Midlands, the West and the South-West and even in Scotland; or to decree that a particular number of people should live in a particular region and that many more towns should be built in each region. It is no use building houses if people are not there to occupy them. They will not be there, as many noble Lords pointed out, if there are no jobs.
Such a plan would entail the enforced direction of industry, irrespective of economic benefit to the industry itself—I put this forward for consideration by noble Lords who made this form of criticism—irrespective of efficiency and of the economics of production either for the home market or, more important still, for our export markets. The prosperity of our country depends upon getting this problem right, and the Government believe that industry should be guided in certain directions by a process of incentives but not given arbitrary instructions. Furthermore, enforced direction of industry—I think this must be thought of seriously—would, in my opinion, inevitably lead in the long run to a system of work permits. People would not be allowed to move freely from one region to another, and 1 suggest that that is a proposition which the people of this country would never be likely to tolerate.
560 The other day I tried out this idea on some prominent businessmen in the North-East, thinking that the prospect of Newcastle-on-Tyne becoming a metropolitan city of 1 million would appeal to them. But not a bit of it. They were convinced it would be madness and that London would always exert a pull to the South-East, whatever was done in the North; that there would always be a drift of population to the South; but that that would not inhibit the growth of prosperity in the North-East provided the Government programme is carried through.
I think I must come now, before linking up at the very end of my speech those two major criticisms I have dealt with, to one or two points of obvious major interest and major difficulty. The outstanding one is that of offices in London and commuting. The noble Lord, Lord Conesford, was very confident that office building should be stopped in the future in Central London and that even what is now in the pipeline should be pushed out of the pipe—backwards, I think, to the other end and should not come forward.
§ LORD HASTINGS
Blast it out. The noble Lord, Lord Morrison of Lambeth, of course, treated this subject with a great deal more caution, realising that any such action would let in the L.C.C., and its successor the G.L.C., for a great deal of compensation; and that is a thing that has to be faced. The noble Lord, Lord Taylor, was the only noble Lord who faced it and actually suggested that, in order to prevent this future office development and the problems of commuting it brings with it, compensation should be given. No estimate has been made of what the total compensation bill might come to, but it is clear from examination of only a few selected examples that it would quickly run into millions of pounds, a great many millions of pounds. Really, the Government do not feel that this is a realistic solution, but that we have to accept that, for good or ill, permissions which have already been granted are beyond recall. It has been suggested that we should be tougher about forcing existing offices out. Well, it is all very well to say that, but the 561 people who say it are not usually very specific about the way in which they think it should, or could, be done.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, before my noble friend passes from this question of cost, can he give us this figure? He said it would cost many millions in compensation. Can he give any comparable figure of the cost in millions that will he necessary for alterations to the Tube railways in London and the mainline railways if these permissions go through?
§ LORD HASTINGS
No, I cannot give the sort of figure my noble friend is asking for, but the likely, or suggested, costs of railway extensions and alterations on London Transport and so on have been put in, as a guess, in the South East Study. I think a good many of these costs will have to be incurred for the railways and London Transport in any case, although perhaps not to the same extent. Twenty-five million square feet extra of office floor space is the net figure. Much of this, we must remember, is due to redevelopment; the gross figure would be more. I cannot say exactly what it is, including space redeveloped for offices. Noble Lords know the difficulties created by the Third Schedule to the Town and Country Planning Act. After amendment, these provisions now refer to a 10 per cent. increase in floor space, instead of to an increase of cubic capacity. In spite of that, we are saddled with this extra 25 million square feet, and the compensation for revoking the relevant permissions would, I believe, heavily outweigh the extra costs of improvements to railways in London, many of which, I am sure, as the future development of this country goes ahead, will have to be modernised in any case. So this problem is by no means so easy as it seems.
My Lords, before my noble friend leaves that point, he has been talking, presumably, of millions of pounds for pushing out a certain proportion of the permissions which are already "in the pipeline". Does this apply also to future demands for development?—because the whole of London is cluttered with old-fashioned little offices. Must very heavy compensation be paid to all those people before they can be made to develop these 562 offices as housing; or, with the amount in the pipe-line at the moment, does he come to a full stop?
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I do not think it will come altogether to a full stop. There are zoning plans for each area: setting out what is allowed for commercial development and for housing. I should like to confirm it, but I believe that a person who at present owns an office building has the right to build the same thing again on redevelopment, with the extra 10 per cent. floor space. I think we shall come, in due course, to a time when the trend will reverse itself; but that is not likely to occur for a number of years. But when, as a result of creating these New Towns and expanded towns, many more offices go up, and when the same thing occurs in the outer suburbs of Greater London, we shall expect a reversal of the trend. But until then I think it would be very difficult to force offices now here out of London and interfere in that way with private business. Certainly that has never been suggested; it has not been done in the past.
There is just one point in regard to commuting. Of course not all the 450,000 (I think it is) mentioned in the Study as the number which could possibly be carried as a result of improving the railways are actually concerned in this. I think we foresee some 200,000 extra commuters, if our forecasts are accurate, in the next 20 years. But by reorganisation and improvements the rail capacity would be double that.
Perhaps I might now say one word about agricultural land. Of course it is said very clearly in the South East Study that it is fully recognised that there may be cases where the agricultural land is so good that development should not be carried out at all, or must be deferred for as long as possible while some alternative place is found.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, if my noble friend is passing to the different subject of agricultural land, I should like to ask whether he is going to answer one question I put. If all these offices described as "in the pipeline" are to be permitted then, in the words of the Report itself, this can be catered for only by ageneral reshaping of the pattern of train movement".563 Can he throw any light on what is meant by that phrase?
§ LORD HASTINGS
My Lords, I did not wish to go into all the details of the noble Lord's criticism of English literature and language. But in this case I think I can perhaps cast a ray of light on the gloom which surrounds the noble Lord. I think that sentence means a reorganisation of schedules, and a different use of starting points and terminal points for the trains—in fact it is what we might call traffic management—which would bring about a substantial improvement. I hope that will clarify the point for the noble Lord. May I return to the point of agricultural land, which, of course, is very important? The South-East Study recognises the difficulties—it appears on page 68 of the Report.
In reply to the noble Earl, Lord Huntingdon and the noble Earl, Lord Iddesleigh, among others, who referred to the question of densities, I would say that it is estimated that if these proposals in the South East Study were agreed to in toto—and there is absolutely no guarantee that they will be—only 2 per cent. more of the land in the South-East would be built on by 1981. So, although there will be a loss of agricultural land, it will be only 2 per cent. That, I believe, makes it sound rather less frightening.
Then, I must refer once again to the question of land values. We well recognise that noble Lords opposite and we on this side are not agreed, and will never agree, upon this subject, but I am tempted to ask how noble Lords really think they can deal with this matter. The complaint is that two-thirds of the land is left to the so-called free market, although of course there is no absolutely free market owing to town and country planning which produces the scarcity of land. Our contention is that, by making far more land available, we are materially affecting the price. Noble Lords talk about speculators. Do they really mean the developer who ultimately builds on that land, and whose profits as a result are readily taxable? Does the noble Lord opposite mean the original owner of the land who has, in a way of speaking, come in for a windfall? Because whatever he does he is not a speculator, he is the original owner of the land. I 564 would say that the speculator is the man who, in between, buys from the original owner, and sits on the land and does nothing, and then sells to a developer. He, I agree, is a speculator. But I think that the number of times that that happens is small in comparison to all the land sales in this country.
I would say in regard to the original owners, the farmer or the landowner, that the farmer has to set himself up again, and that money is not going to be wasted. He has to set himself up again, probably at much greater expense than when he originally started, and if he has any balance, presumably that goes into investment and into the productive capacity of the country. Then, if the landowner gets a good profit on the land, it is going back into the modernisation and improvement of his farms and into investment as well. I do not think it is right for noble Lords to speak as though anything paid was so much money wasted down the drain.
I do not think they have proved yet, excepting in certain cases—and one admits there are some—that the price of land really much affects the price of the house. That is what noble Lords want to tackle. They believe they can affect the price of the house by controlling land. But the only way they can really do it is to control the whole process.
Noble Lords talk about present use value. They want people to have only present use value, or very little indeed above it—probably not enough to compensate them even for disturbance. In that case they have got to control the prices which are paid to the men who build, to the developer, and to the owner afterwards if he ever wants to sell it. That, we contend, is not practicable or reasonable, and we feel that noble Lords and their Party opposite are more interested in preventing private profit simply because they are against private profit. Their Leader only a week or two ago talked of the Conservatives as the Party of private profiteering and landlords—coming back to the old, boring class warfare slogan. They are really more keen on preventing private profit than on getting the houses built, because if they do the one, they will not do the other.
§ LORD STONHAM
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. What we complain about is the enormous difference in twelve years between the £8,000 and the £60,000 per acre paid by the L.C.C. You cannot treat the fact that land, which ten years ago was worth £2,000 for agricultural purposes, is now sold for housing for £140,000, because of the needs of the community, as just a matter of profit. It is exploitation, and of course it affects the cost of rent of the houses.
§ LORD HASTINGS
We have had our argument on this and, if I may, I will pass to my final words. We were talking previously about these two main criticisms: that there was no national plan, and that we must place far more of these people outside the South-East. I hope that I have dealt with that in such a manner that noble Lords will think more about this. It is suggested, on the one hand, that more should and could be done, both in the South-East and in other regions—the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, refers to the urgency of the matter—while, on the other hand, it is said that the proposals of the South East Study, if implemented, will inevitably ruin the chances of those areas where unemployment is highest. The noble Lord, Lord Hughes, and my noble friend Lord Perth were much concerned about the position in Scotland.
In answer to the first point, there are limitations other than purely financial ones to the speed at which New Towns or large expansions can be carried out. The South East Study tells us that experience has shown that it is difficult to sustain a building rate of more than 1,500 houses a year in any one place. There is not only the question of building capacity and availability of labour, but also the equally vital matter of achieving a balanced programme of all kinds, not only housing but jobs as well, not to mention the provision of social services and amenities; and, of course, water, which is dealt with in Appendix I of the Study, is not the least of these. These matters affect the time factor, as I have said, and they also have a considerable bearing upon the question of whether we should attempt to create a few super-cities or a larger number of reasonably large or middle-sized ones.
566 May I deal for a moment with the question of my noble friend Lord Bossom, about building techniques and a 24-hour working day? We hope that by this method we should be able to improve quite substantially on the figures I have given. This is being studied, as my noble friend knows well, by my right honourable friend the Minister of Public Buildings and Works, by the National Building Agency, and by the Secretary of State for Regional Development himself, not to mention my own right honourable friend the Minister of Housing. In answer to the second point, I would say that it is perhaps not enough merely to point out that the North-East and Scotland have a head start over the South-East, although others have said that this start should be reduced substantially owing to the urgency of the problems of the South-East.
The real answer lies in the realm of investment, both private and public investment, and especially the latter. There will be no public investment in the South-East additional to the normal needs of the population for housing and the usual social services which go with those needs. Indeed, by having a properly thought out plan for the South-East, we shall get better value for the investment that will be needed. So far from demanding additional investment which could be avoided, the plan which will follow the Study will help to keep investment within reasonable limits.
In the North-East and Scotland large amounts of additional public investment by way of improvement and modernisation in order to raise standards generally are being pumped in, and private investment in industry in those regions is also being encouraged by various fiscal measures, whereas it is being discouraged in the South-East. The Government have control over these matters, and they have control over the timing and synchronisation of the various regional programmes. They will exercise their control in such a way that regional development is coordinated so as to form a national design for the benefit of the country as a whole, and in particular they will carry out public investment and development in accordance with priorities and within the national re- 567 sources of the nation. It is no use at all decreeing that development shall take place irrespective of the national resources which are available to pay for it.
That really brings me back to the starting point, and that is the inescapable fact that all development plans, whether national or regional, must depend to a large extent upon the location of industry and population. Only thus can the nation produce the wealth which is necessary for the implementation of the ambitious plans which the Government have in mind and which evidently the people of this country so urgently wish to see come to fruition.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ LORD TAYLOR
My Lords, my noble friend Lord Stonham reminded me of one thing that I must say, and that is a word of apology to Bletchley. It so happened that he stopped at Bletchley for a nice reason. He stopped there as a young boy on his way to visit a farm. I stopped at Bletchley on the way to school, and perhaps this gave me a jaundiced view of Bletchley. I do not really want to upset the inhabitants of Bletchley. I know they have battled manfully to improve themselves and it is a better place than it was. They have done remarkably well in very difficult circumstances, and I hope that one day it will be a lovely city.
I should like to thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate for making it a very good and interesting 568 one. I should particularly like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Tangley, for his excellent maiden speech and for sitting through to the end—which is more than some maiden speakers and other speakers sometimes do. We are very grateful to him and look forward to hearing him again on many subjects. I should like to thank the two Government spokesmen. They will not expect us to agree with them, but I thought they deployed their case very well, though I did not agree with it a bit. As the noble Lord, Lord Hastings said, there are lots of things on which we shall never agree, and it depends upon who is in power as to what happens. We can go on arguing about land values until the cows come home.
However, we have certainly succeeded in having a most interesting debate, and I should like to thank all my colleagues on this side of the House for their helpful contributions, particularly my noble friend Lord Stonham for winding up so vigorously. I asked him to hit all round the wicket, and he did. I should like also to thank the noble Lords, Lord Conesford and Lord Hawke, and all the other noble Lords who have helped to make this such a stimulating debate. My Lords, I beg leave to withdrawn my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.