§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Debate resumed.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD SHACKLETON)
My Lords, perhaps we may return from the tragic events which my noble friend has just been describing to the more peaceful areas of the new towns. I must make apologies to your Lordships' House. First of all, my noble friend Lord Kennet is extremely sorry that he should have missed this debate, rather as we were sorry that my noble friend Lord Silkin had to miss the debate last autumn. I appreciate the reference by the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, to the fact that I am as industrious as my noble friend Lord Kennet. Unfortunately, I am nothing like as knowledgeable; nor, indeed, am I as eloquent. I shall not be able to follow him along the historic lines to Constantinople, but I am sure that your Lordships will at least note that, although before there was one Minister, now there are two to reply. I was about to say we are anxious to make up in quantity what we lack in quality, and I could say that, were it not for the fact that it is my noble friend Lord Sorensen who is winding up the debate. Perhaps I may also apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, because, having been "fielded" at the last moment to take part in this debate, I have had to try to rearrange my timetable and I may not be able to hear the whole of the debate.
It is of course a very interesting experience to participate in a debate on a subject which I have always followed with interest and in which I have felt a particular admiration for the initiative and achievements of my noble friend who introduced this Motion. No one has more right than the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, to take a pride in all that has been achieved in our new towns. It certainly is an achievement which not only is acclaimed on all sides at home, but is looked on, I believe, with real admiration throughout the world. My noble friend Lord Silkin was careful to take a strictly non-Party line. I thought that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, was just beginning to embark on a bit of Conservative credit-taking. I can only say—and this will be my only Party remark—that we are always glad to see Conserva- 1106 tives building on the foundations which we had the forethought to put in. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, will not regard those remarks as provocation, because, as I say, it is one small reply to the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe.
My Lords, it is true that there is very great and wide interest in out new towns. We have had many visitors from overseas. As noble Lords are no doubt aware, there have been visits recently from senior officials from the Public Development Authority in Holland, where they are engaged in a very exciting project of building a large town, Lelystad, in the area of Polders reclaimed from the Zuyder Zee. I think that my noble friend Lord Silkin can feel that his achievements and the initiative he gave have been followed, not only in this country, admirably, by successive Governments, but also by other countries, to the benefit of their people. Indeed, the legislation is very much the same as that in the Act he pioneered in 1946 when he was Minister of Town and Country Planning. I am only sorry that certain other aspects of his work were not continued, but in this the work has gone on; there have been important new developments resulting from greater experience in our approach to new towns. The noble Lord himself referred to some of these. The fact is that the instrument that was given us in the 1946 Act, when my noble friend was entering entirely new territory, still provides the machinery for the different projects we are now starting twenty years later. This is one piece of legislation that has played a proud and important part in creating the country we all want to see.
It is encouraging to find in what the noble Lord said—and no one is in a better position than he is to look critically at later developments—a great measure of support for the way our new towns thinking has developed. His constructive criticism is something we shall certainly consider, and this afternoon I will do my best to comment on some of his points. My noble friend asked directly whether we were creating enough, and big enough, new towns to deal with population growth, which the experts tell us will amount to 20 million by the end of the century. My noble friend referred to 6 million new homes being necessary. The Government's plan for half a million new 1107 homes every year, if we achieve that target, is ample for this purpose although, as the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, rightly indicated, what seems to be enough at any one time is so often shown by events to be inadequate, especially as standards rise higher. But I am confident that the Government's plans, particularly in the field of new towns, are realistic and capable of meeting future needs.
§ THE MARQUESS OF SALISBURY
My Lords, is the noble Lord not forgetting the houses having to be destroyed at the present time because they are slums or obsolete or obsolescent? These produce very different results.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
My Lords, I have them very much in mind. If the noble Marquess will multiply half a million by 23 he will find that it comes to vastly more than 6 million homes. I think he is embarking on unfamiliar territory. I am delighted to have the noble Marquess joining in. He is, after all, another amateur like myself moving into this field, but I am just a little better briefed at the moment. I was saying, if he will allow me to go on, that standards develop all the time and houses which to-day are regarded as of suitable standard (apart from those which are substandard) will become substandard in future. This is something which needs continuous attention.
The New Towns Act of 1946 followed the report of the New Towns Committee, which was chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Reith. That Committee thought that a range from 20,000 to about 60,000 population was about right, and that was how we started off with the first new towns. The problems of congestion and out-dated housing which faced us then were formidable enough, but as we moved through the 'fifties it became clear that, because of unprecedented and previously unpredicted population growth, even larger tasks lay ahead in dealing with this growth and with the congested housing conditions in the conurbations.
I remember that after the war we talked about "blitz" and "blight", in which the Government of the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, had some part to play. Thus the second round of new town designations of the first half of this decade, like Redditch and Runcorn, were 1108 planned for much bigger populations, approaching 100,000 people. At the same time, planned populations of some of the earlier new towns have been raised. Bracknell, Corby and Aycliffe have all had their designated areas extended, and in Basildon and Stevenage we are hoping to get bigger towns within the same designated areas to contribute further to meeting London's urgent housing needs. I appreciate that here we had a word of caution from my noble friend, and that he has some reservations about this, but I am sure that this can be done by skilful planning and different conceptions both of the nature of the community and of housing. My noble friend had some interesting things to say on the subject of flats, and here I would not go all the way with him, although I agree with the purpose behind his remarks.
We are planning on an even larger scale. Milton Keynes, in North Buckinghamshire, is, I think, the place the noble Lord had in mind when referring to South-East England. I find it difficult to appreciate that North Buckinghamshire is in the South-East, though noble Lords from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government are more familiar with this concept. Here we envisage a population of 250,000. Is my noble friend Lord Mitchison wishing to help here?
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I was aware of that. I find it helpful that my noble friend should enable me to say so, but many people think South-East England to be Kent and Sussex. Did my noble friend want to help me again? I may tell him that I have read the South-East Survey, long before this debate. Milton Keynes is an exciting and major enterprise—to build virtually a new city rather than a new town, and yet preserve the strong sense of local community in existing towns like Bletchley, Wolverton and Stony Stratford, which will become part of this new urban complex.
Then there are the proposed large expansions of Peterborough. Ipswich and Northampton. The Leyland/Chorley project, to which the noble Earl referred, is for virtually a new city in the North-West, and there is the expansion of Warrington. In the Midlands it is proposed 1109 to double the size of Dawley New Town. I am afraid that I cannot give the noble Lord the exact state of all these projects. Some are still the subject of study. The possibility of major urban growth in the Southampton—Portsmouth area, for instance, is still being studied. As one who lives not far from this district, I know that this is a matter of considerable controversy. Looking farther ahead, the Government have commissioned studies in other parts of the country—Humberside, Severn side and Tayside—which could lead to even bigger schemes for urban complexes (perhaps we can find some better words than these) of up to one million people.
However, it is not just because the need in terms of population is so great that we are planning these larger new towns and cities. They reflect wider and evolving regional strategies. The need to think strategically was the burden of the speeches of my noble friend Lord Silkin and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe. The Peterborough, Ipswich and Northampton proposals are part of the general strategy for the South-East. They are not only a major contribution to London's housing problems; they are located well away from the Metropolitan area, at points of first-class communications, with in-built potential for economic growth, to help policies designed to shift the economic balance within the South-East and, as we hope, moderate the dominance of London.
The Leyland/Chorley project in Central Lancashire also has to be seen in a regional context. It has the twofold objective of developing a new urban complex to strengthen the economy of that part of the North-West as well as to provide accommodation for some 150,000 people from Manchester and Liverpool. Warrington/Risley too is a regional development to provide for overspill. In Scotland, the latest new town, Irvine, is conceived as a centre for sub-regional development. Thus, new towns can become the focus for the development of policies for new growth areas: in short, a vital part of our evolving national and regional strategies.
I hope that what I have said suggests to the noble Lord that we are thinking along the lines that he would wish. We must recognise that it is not possible or desirable to deal with all our population growth and the overspill problems 1110 of the conurbations solely through the agency of new town development corporations set up under the new town legislation. These problems are too vast—we face population growth throughout the country, in all regions—in most towns and villages. We face major problems of overspill in the big conurbations—houses, for example, for 1 million people from London by 1981; and equally pressing problems in the West Midlands conurbation, Merseyside, Glasgow and so on. We need to use all approaches and all agencies: new towns; town expansions carried out by mutual agreement between the exporting and the receiving authorities—and the statutory instrument here is the Town Development Corporation Act—and carefully thought out policies to cope with indigenous growth, and renewal of the fabric of our existing towns and villages operated by the local planning authorities through their development plans and planning control.
My noble friend Lord Silk in, in particular, referred to the problem of places such as Cambridge. I think we all agree that we do not want to see Cambridge go the way of Oxford. The tragedies that could occur if there is not careful thinking and planning could be very great. But it is a most intractable problem. No definite solution has been found. There are many groups. There is one which was set up under the chairmanship of the Ministry in 1965, with officers of the County Council, City Council and University taking part; and, as my noble friend pointed out, the variety of solutions, especially those emanating from university sources, are comparable, at least in intensity, to the advice that has been given on the Oxfordroads. But the fact is that Cambridge will grow, and the choice, I think, is either to allow it to expand or to try to ensure that the increased population is housed in new villages outside the city. There is, of course, a Green Belt around Cambridge. It sums up again in an interesting way the very specialised and complex problem of one area; and so many areas have different problems.
My noble friend Lord Silkin and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, are rightly concerned that in the new projects we should do our utmost to avoid the criticism of uniformity of planning and design. Noble Lords will recall a rather notable speech 1111 which my noble friend Lord Kennet made last November, when he made a plea for variety and for greater use by development corporations of outside architects. We certainly do not want new towns to be classified in one single category of planning and architecture. We should like each to be known by its own character and identity.
It is true, also, that the neighbourhood concept has been applied widely, perhaps too widely, in our earlier new towns. We have to remember the greatness of the need and the importance of providing housing accommodation, and to that extent there may not have been the variety of freedom of experimentation. This concept had much support in those days. It was in itself an improvement, a reaction to the haphazard sprawl of towns and the stereotype housing estates of the interwar years, with identical houses lining estate roads. But, as I have said, the provision of a house was the first, and often the only, consideration. There are, of course, different forms and sizes of neighbourhood unit, and I think we should be wrong to accept, even in the early days, despite this tendency, that the charge of uniformity which is levelled should be attributed to the planning principle.
Neighbourhoods range from populations of about 4,000 to 25,000, and there is sometimes a district centre between the neighbourhood and the town centre. Monotony, therefore, in the architectural sense, does not automatically follow from its application. It can be overcome by the skilful use of contours, the introduction of higher buildings at particular points, variation in grouping and building design. There have been notable architectural and planning achievements in our new towns, and those responsible can with justice take pride in them. Of course, the towns are still very young, and yet they have matured and developed, perhaps, a different sort of personality.
It is interesting sometimes to hear people—and I have listened-in on conversations in which I have not been competent to participate—debating the merits of the different new towns. I wish my noble friend Lord Taylor were here to talk about Harlow. Some boast about the layout of the housing areas in Bracknell, with their careful preservation of 1112 fine trees—is my noble friend helping me again?
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, I rather deprecate this type of thing. The noble Lord might be a little more careful about the facts. I said he might remember that I am a member of the Harlow Development Corporation, too.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I was unable to remember it, because I confess that I did not know. I regret this deeply. Others will pick out the Stevenage town centre, the nursery factories at Crawley or the rather unusual and attractive housing at Peterlee. But it is on Cumbernauld that there are extreme views, some of great admiration of design and others, to which I believe the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, subscribed, in regard to certain deficiencies; and there are critics.
My Lords, may I make it clear that I personally have a great admiration for the Cumbernauld design, but I think it went too far towards high density.
§ LORD SHACKLETON
I was asked something about future plans. These are now evolving for the second generation of new towns—Skelmersdale, Runcorn, Redditch, Dawley, Washington—and much thought is already going into the planning of these bigger towns. Foremost in the minds of the planners must be the enormous problems posed by the huge increase in traffic generally, and car ownership in particular. This, together with the massive population increase facing us, calls for a reappraisal of our ideas on town structure.
Here, I scarcely need to refer to the Buchanan Report, because this has been discussed so many times; indeed, so many noble Lords have themselves studied it. But what I believe is called "motorisation"(I almost hesitate to use the word in the presence of the noble Lord, Lord Conesford) creates a most acute problem. I would make one point to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin: that at least Redditch and Runcorn both plan rapid transit systems, at any rate for public service vehicles. To these problems we have to add those of limiting or dispersing the central area uses. There is the problem of segregation of pedestrians from vehicles; of the creation of road networks compatible with the 1113 highest possible standards of urban environment. Above all, we need to produce urban plans which are both realistic and, as noble Lords have already expressed, flexible, rather than inflexible, so that unforeseen factors and new thinking and new demands can later be reflected in further developments without undue difficulty.
The problems which confront the planners of our latest new towns are immense, but they are extremely challenging to those who will tackle them—and this seems to be an area of activity which produces these qualities—with energy, skill, ingenuity and enthusiasm, and this is apparent in the various reports produced by the consultants on the new projects. I am sure that the different solutions which are produced will reflect the differing local and regional situations in which the planners are working.
My noble friend and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, also dealt with the form of local government in the new towns. The latest proposed large expansions are designed to take place where there is already a strong local authority, and it is fundamental to the Government's ideas of developing and administering these projects that the existing local authority and a new town development corporation should act in partnership. I accept that there has often been in our earlier new towns an imbalance between, on the one hand, a relatively small local authority and, on the other, a powerful development corporation. But in a partnership arrangement there would be not only more balance, but a common aim, and even, so far as possible, a sharing of staff.
I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, would agree that the special powers of the development corporation under the New Towns Act and all the powers of the county borough council, used together, will provide adequate strength for the common purpose which the two authorities will be following. But saying that they have adequate strength does not mean that problems cannot arise, and we certainly see advantages—indeed, overwhelming advantages—in the field of housing management, which would be jointly run by the two authorities to encourage interchangeability of tenancies; new immigrants could take 1114 older houses, and old residents could take new houses. Thus we should have a healthy mixture.
Now perhaps I may turn to the one point which I believe was controversial in the speeches of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe; namely, the subject of the disposal of assets. I appreciate that in this matter there are strong arguments on both sides. In order to get a new town built it is necessary to entrust the task to a body appropriately staffed and equipped with exceptional powers. As the town grows, this body—the development corporation—controls a large body of assets, houses, shops, factories and so on. But when the period of intensive build-up is over, and the town begins to settle down into normality, different arrangements are necessary. So far we are in agreement. The special powers with which the Corporation were equipped can, and must, now be dispensed with. Moreover, the local authority, which may have been small in the earlier years but has grown up with the town, and which during this time has had to live under the shadow of the corporation, now expects, and in my view rightly expects, to take its proper place as the natural leader of the local community.
In this situation, the question of the management and ownership of the corporation's assets clearly takes on great importance. I was a little surprised that the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, should at least imply, as I thought, that there were doubts as to the capability of a local authority to take on the management of housing and shops. He may not directly have made this imputation, but he raised it as a question. As noble Lords are aware, under the New Towns Act 1959 (now consolidated in the New Towns Act 1965) when a development corporation's task is substantially completed its assets are transferred to the Commission for the New Towns. So far as is possible within the terms of the law as it stands, the present Government have done what they can to strengthen the role of the local authorities in the Commission's towns, and with some success. It is clear, however, that the local authorities will not be able to achieve that primacy in the collective life of the town which is normal in this country unless the law is changed. 1115 The Government have therefore committed themselves to introduce new legislation under which the Commission would in due course be wound up and other arrangements made.
I fear that I cannot promise my noble friend that this legislation will find an early place in the Parliamentary timetable; nor would it be right to be precipitate about this. There are many complex and conflicting consideration to be taken into account, and it is obviously most important that we should, this time, get the right solution. Therefore I do not propose to speculate on the form which the eventual legislation might take; nor would I necessarily correlate it with the Report of the Royal Commission. However, it is clear that the Royal Commission is likely to report before the legislation appears. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked me when this Report is expected. We hope to receive it within two years.
The considerations which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, have put forward will be carefully examined. But there is one point I should like to make. In a completed new town there is no doubt whatever of the need to have one housing list, one housing policy and one unified management for all housing which is to remain in public ownership. If this is accepted, there is obviously a strong case for saying that these should be provided by the local authority in its capacity as the statutory housing authority for the town.
In his interesting and enjoyable speech the noble Earl raised the question and suggested the possibility of providing a fifty-fifty split between rented and private accommodation in new towns. The Government have already said that they intend to raise the level of owner-occupation in the new towns and that they would like to give private enterprise a bigger share in the provision of new town housing. There are obvious problems about balancing the need for a substantial increase in owner-occupation during the period of the planned intake of population while still providing badly needed rented accommodation for the people coming from the congested conurbations. The details of the new policy are being 1116 worked out by my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing, and he will issue the appropriate instructions to development corporations.
I hope I have dealt with most of the points that have been raised. I think the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, also referred directly to amenities and social facilities. Here again, in the new towns there is a much wider provision for them, and I am sure his point has therefore been fully taken and will be considered in the future. The noble Earl asked about the nature of the Government's strategic plan. I always think that these terms—and all political parties are to blame, including my own, for using such phrases—are not always wholly appropriate to the realities of the situation. There is no question of giving a particular strategic plan by a particular date. There is, however, constant and continuous consideration of planning strategy, both at the centre and in the regions, and as the solutions are reached they are announced; and from time to time such announcements involve very large areas, such as the South-East; and the South-East Plan is being fully considered and a lot of work is proceeding on this. The Minister does not seek—and I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, did not—to exercise detailed control all the time. The fact remains that he is the planning authority for new towns and must be able to satisfy Parliament that the very large sums of money are properly and wisely invested.
In summing up, I would emphasise three things. First, our large and expanding programme of new towns plays a vital part in dealing with the huge overspill problems of the crowded areas. Secondly, it is already clear that the new towns will be very different from those of the past and will play an increasingly important part in implementing national, economic and population policies through the medium of these major urban growth areas. Thirdly, in dealing with the different problems in a different period we have the advantage and the experience of those who pioneered this great scheme of new towns, and we acknowledge our debt to them. I apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, if I have not answered a number of the very interesting points he has raised, but I think he will find the debate which he has initiated will, like the debate we had last week, 1117 be a notable debate, and I only regret that my own knowledge is so limited that I have not been able to make more effective replies to the points both noble Lords have raised.
§ 4.24 p.m.
THE LORD BISHOP OF ST. ALBANS
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for again taking the lead in your Lordships' House in speaking about matters relating to new towns, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, for the interesting and valuable information he has given us about the Government's thinking and intentions. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has referred to principles to be observed in future planning, but I wish to particularise and call attention to certain matters in specific towns. There are four new towns in the diocese of St. Albans: Stevenage, Hemel Hempstead, Hatfield and Welwyn. I have worked in that diocese for 17 years, and throughout that period I have watched these towns develop. To prepare for this debate, I wrote to some of the clergy of these new towns and asked them if there were any subjects they wished me to raise. I did this because I know your Lordships wish to have facts and first-hand information presented to you. It would be unjust to say nothing about the exacting and hard work that has been put into the foundation of the new towns by clergy and laity of the Christian community, and also by so many individuals, men and women in the professions and the social services, who have given outstanding service. The clergy in these new towns, whom I know well, I believe have served Church and community with faith and vigour, with courage and imagination.
The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has referred to a possibly too cautious policy when new towns of the first generation were planned. I certainly question whether sufficient care has been given to the optimum size of new towns. During the last twenty years much thought has been given to town planning. It is now argued that the most economical and imaginative way to tackle the outstanding needs for planned urban development is to designate and build larger new towns, each having regard to local circumstances and each enabling planners and others to experiment with new insights and technology.
The noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, has referred to the review that has had to be 1118 made of Stevenage and other towns, and this constant revision of the size of a new town has been unsettling. Many bodies, including the Church, have made their plans and have then had to revise them. I am sure that in order to provide good shopping, recreational and transport facilities the population should not fall below 50,000, but I am still to be persuaded that it is wise to aim at a new city and think in terms of a quarter of a million. I believe that attention should be paid to the provision of a green belt between new towns, to prevent one area from becoming too dependent on another. And when a green belt is mentioned, let us keep in mind the desirability of parks in relation to the number of young wives and children in these new areas. To the end of good development we need to watch that there is sufficient variety of employment, and we need frequently to be reminded of the words of the New Towns Act 1946, where it was stated that the development corporations' task was the development in each place ofa balanced community enjoying a full social, industrial and commercial life.The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, has referred to the importance of research and of studying the needs of those who are actually living in these communities. I am not satisfied that the amenities provided are adequate to the needs of the community. I am informed, for example, that in the Pin Green neighbourhood of Stevenage and in the Pans-hanger area of Welwyn, it would have helped the people very much if more children's play spaces had been provided in the early days. I understand, too, that in both these districts the community has suffered from the lack of a community hall put up when the first houses were being built.
Delay in providing amenities has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. He mentioned a neighbourhood that is centred on a primary school and some 12 shops. But, my Lords, if I take note of the Panshanger area of Welwyn, I find there are about 140 families living there with no shop of any kind. Further, I understand the site of the neighbourhood shop is on the edge of the area, and at a distance from the development expected in the next three years. A vicar has written to me about the very high number of neurotics, the high element of 1119 neurosis, particularly among women in the 30 to 40 age group, and I think this is related to the absence of shopping and other facilities I have mentioned. I shall be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Sorensen, will consider these matters and reply to them when he winds up the debate. May I apologise to the House if I am not able to stay until the end of the debate? Before I knew I should be speaking here I had undertaken an important engagement in the diocese, and if I have to leave before the debate closes I will, of course, read Hansard carefully.
I shall be grateful if the noble Lord, Lord Sorensen, will consider one other matter which especially concerns the Churches. There is evidence that each week the separated Churches are drawing together, and we have reached the stage when we should welcome cooperation of a particular kind from development corporations. I know of a positive approach to the development corporation in a new town where the local council of churches has put forward a project to the corporation and asked them to consider, when they are building the community centre, the erection of a building set apart for worship, which the churches would rent at an economic figure. Given such an offer in my diocese, I should want to make every effort to take full advantage of it. I consider this experiment would be well worth making. The building might later revert to the corporation, but if the churches could rent it for the earlier years of the life of the young community, in certain areas where church relations were close and good, this scheme could lay the foundation for a better community.
My Lords, new towns have very much to commend them, and I am thankful that we have four in Hertford shire. They offer new life and hope for thousands of young couples, and those who first sponsored the project and who have worked so hard and patiently to carry through the schemes have earned our praise. Now we want a good thing to be better; we want those who come to make roots in their new homes and we want all groups to settle in new towns. We suffer from monochrome development. Something more should be done to make it possible for young people resident in the town and about to marry to be eligible for a 1120 house. One of our clergy in Hatfield made a social survey of the position in 1964, and in that year there were 90 marriages in Hatfield churches. Of the 90 couples surveyed, 23.3 per cent. asked to live in Hatfield but could not. Of the 54 couples who moved away, 39.1 per cent. wished to move back when they could find a home. These replies make me insist that we must make efforts to house in a new town the second generation upon whom the future must largely depend.
Noble Lords have referred to the second generation of new towns, but not enough attention is being paid at the present time to the second generation growing up in new towns. At present, too many young people who work in new towns have to move away from them to be eligible for a house in a new town when they marry. I am thankful to know from the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that the balance between the owner-occupiers and those who rent accommodation is being improved. Finally, my Lords, until more is done to hold the second generation in a new town, and to provide for grandmothers, too, we shall find that these new towns suffer from too high a mobility rate for healthy development. We need the variety and the depth, and we need our new towns to include a wider range of people. At present in certain areas we are too short of natural leaders. My Lords, I am glad to support the Motion of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin.
§ 4.45 p.m.
§ LORD RITCHIE-CALDER
My Lords, like the noble Lords who have spoken before me, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend Lord Silkin for introducing this Motion. I add to all the other tributes my own tribute to Lord Silkin, who was the founder-father of the new towns idea. He belonged to a very great tradition which is more respected, I think, in other parts of the world than here.
In the revolt against our "dark satanic mills", Ebenezer Howard led the world with his ideas about garden cities. Sir Patrick Geddes led the world with his ideas about town and country planning. In the 1930s we led the world with our ideas about trading estates to counter the drift and decay of the depression. After the Second World War, we led the 1121 world with our concepts of the new towns, largely due to the inspiration and experience of people like Lord Silkin. Our conception of the new towns redeemed the mistakes made between the wars when rehousing meant decanting people from overcrowded slums into meaningless, soulless housing estates.
I remember once, during the 1930s, doing a serious of articles on "The New London", and it was a depressing experience: the great sprawl, like Cobbett's Great Wen gone ulcerous, spreading as a confluence of bricks and mortar or rolling along the main roads in ribbon development. I discovered then what the city villages of the slums had meant to people. At least they had been "chummy". There were the local pub, the working men's club, the parish hall, all very squalid but friendly—even if all the people had to share was poverty.
To the right reverend Prelate I would point out that we shipped them out to the suburban neuroses of the new housing estates, not to the new towns at that time, but to new housing estates spreading endlessly over the countryside, with trim houses, even gardens, but with no proper communal centres, and no streets where the women could go "window-shopping"—which happens to be a rather good protection for some forms of suburban neurosis. They could go "window-shopping", even if they had no money in their purses with which to buy things.
The pre-war housing estates, resettlement areas, displaced person areas, with no character and little neighbourliness, were unsociable places. I said then: "Just as you can build a house but never a home—people make a house a home—so you can build a housing estate but not a neighbourhood". A neighbourhood which in post-war terms began to assume a different connotation, in my sense, in the 1930s meant that the neighbourliness which in many cases, even in the slums, they had had was destroyed in the soulless housing estates. I think that, basically, I agree with many of the criticisms that have been pointed out to-day. I think we have tried to put them right in the concept of the new towns, which were at least conceived to have a character of their own, not just architecturally but in the community sense.
1122 One of the biggest mistakes we made, it seems to me, was terminological: we called them "satellite towns". Satellites stay in orbit by force of gravity, but gravitational forces also pull, and the implication written into the very concept of the new towns was that the draw was towards the parent cities. It has taken them a long time—and they have not completely succeeded, even now, judging by the suburban trains—to assert their social viability and their true cultural identity, and to evolve personalities of their own. We also made the mistake of thinking of them basically as "spill-over" towns, with the further implication that they are places for superfluous people. I know that the development corporations have done their best to attract self-sustaining employment and a cross-section of interest, and to make them adventurous places and an experiment in living.
We have not done badly, but I want to draw your Lordships'attention—to follow, and even go beyond Lord Silkin and Lord Kennet, in his previous speech—to, not the third generation, but the fourth generation of new towns. These should not be satellites, but should be an imaginative and imperative breakaway from our present patterns, not only in terms of the architecture and the town planning of new towns, but also in terms of the geography of their distribution. The greatest imperative is that we must stop the drift to the South. This is not just the lament of a Scot bewailing, "Lochaber No More" in sympathy with the exiled Welsh sobbing "Land of my Fathers". This is, in fact, sense and not sentiment. We must stop the drift to the South-East.
Consider the present situation, and consider the trends, which planners seem to regard as irreversible but which are socially intolerable and must be reversed. To-day, one-fifth of the population of Great Britain is in Greater London. Thirty-five out of every 100 Britons—18 million—live in the South-East of England. The London of the season-ticket holder is a hundred miles across. In the next twenty years, by natural increase, the excess of births over deaths, another 2,500,000will be added, and another 1 million will have moved in from other parts of the country. Unless the trend is reversed—and it can be done 1123 by a clear-headed policy—London will go on oozing bricks and mortar over the countryside as a fusion and confusion of built-up areas that will overrun the new towns and the satellite towns, and will create traffic jams from the Wash to Southampton, from the Trent to the Severn. Birmingham will become N.W.149, and Bristol S.W.124. The M.1 will become the High Street of Megalopolis.
As Lord Silkin has pointed out, on present trends Britain's population forty years from now will be over 74 million, and five-sixths of them will be in the South-East. The rest of the country will be a backyard, and Scotland, of course, will be the wide-open spaces. There will be ghost towns in Britain like those in the abandoned goldfields of California. There will be boroughs as desolate as the roofless shielings in the glens of the Highland clearances—and this in spite of all the points that have been made to-day about the need for housing people. My Lords, this process is not inevitable, and we must stop it.
While the rest of the country makes most of the products on which our industrial future depends, 10 million people—civil servants, head office staffs, bankers and so on—who look after them, in terms of service, congregate in London. They travel across London. They work in the skyscrapers which we see around us and which have been built without any regard to how to get to them or away from them. The result is traffic congestion to the point of paralysis. No Buchanan will be able to solve this problem if it goes on in the way it is going now.
London is a big market for goods, so within or around it there are factories for cosmetics, for headache pills, for transistor sets, and so on. You must have the headache pills because you have the transistor sets. Firms pay high site values and rates so that they can be within van-delivery distance of the millions; and then their vans cannot get through to deliver. Shops purvey for those millions and attract millions of shoppers, to add to the congestion. They have to be fed, and so there are the wholesale markets tangling up the traffic and restaurants proliferating, mainly with Chinese names, in Central London. We have to be amused, so London becomes 1124 the centre of entertainment—the "Swinging City".
Then there is ahead of us the Channel Tunnel. We are told that the Common Market will provide us with 240 million customers in Western Europe. If that is the case then, on past record, we shall seek to "get near to our customers", like the firms along the Great West Road planning van delivery of goods. With the opening of the Channel Tunnel there will be another argument for the greater concentration of industries and people in South-East England—and the sump of South-East England will have a drainpipe through the Channel Tunnel.
My Lords, something must be done. The drift must be checked by imaginative plans for the redistribution of population. Even now the pattern may be being frozen, because we have the Royal Commission on Local Government which has been referred to by many noble Lords. Your Lordships' House has been repeatedly reminded recently of the tendency to aggregation—a point which I have not seen much reflected to-day—and deep misgiving has been voiced about this kind of aggregation: the sort of thing illustrated by the schemes concerning Torbay, Plymouth, and the others which are now in the hopper.
I hope that the Royal Commission will not be content with a make-do-and-mend job, with extrapolation of the present trends and with the enthusiastic pessimism of planners who accept those trends. One of the great despairing things, to me, is that we have predictions, and we accept what is predicted. The object of making a prediction, if it means anything in social planning, is to try to avoid the worst aspects of what is predicted. Mostly we start to plan beforehand: to accept these worst aspects, including, I may say, the population increase about which we could do something.
To face the problem of the fourth generation, not only in terms of new towns but of the generation two ahead of us, we must multiply the new towns and make them viable, so that they will not be satellites of London, or of any other city. There must be a continuous redistribution of industry, and, indeed, of commercial headquarters. We must make the new towns just big enough—and here I follow the right reverend Prelate—to 1125 make them wholesome and to make them culturally alive, so that the managing director's wife cannot have the excuse of saying, "I'm not going there. I should die of boredom." We must give them the best schools and colleges—yes, and new universities. We must make them, as the right reverend Prelate has said, young people's towns, and we must not discourage people from getting married there, as has been indicated; so that the best of the young and the vigorous will, when they get married, see these new towns as satisfying places, places of opportunity.
One could go on debating what the size of a new town should be. I believe that a figure of 60,000 is too small. I believe that 250,000 in given circumstances is in fact satisfactory, and here I would qualify what I said in response to the right reverend Prelate. A quarter of a million can in given circumstances be a regional centre, and not just a new town in the sense in which we have been using the term to-day. My own city of Edinburgh has a population of 500,000. Anyone who lives in Edinburgh will realise that that is an extremely acceptable figure for Edinburgh, and I hope it will never be any greater. But it means that on that basis we have the capacity to provide the kind of entertainment, interest, and cultural setting, and so on, in which people can find satisfaction.
With foot-loose power—electricity—you can site your new towns anywhere—on the moors, in the dales, in the mountains of Wales, and the Highlands of Scotland, with Telex and computers and a proper transport system; I say "proper" because in this relatively small island no place need be inaccessible—except Edinburgh because we cannot get a second runway at Turn house. If we are to make this idea work we shall have to have a system of flat-rate freightage, treating goods as we treat Post Office parcels, so that by pooling the costs no place should be at a disadvantage because of distance. I think particularly here of my own country, Scotland, and of the Highlands. Transport should be a system of veins and arteries as vital and as common to the whole country as the blood supply is to the human body. The trends can be reversed.
1126 We in Scotland are encouraged by the vigorous and far-seeing efforts of Professor Robert Grieve and his Highland Development Board. A new town or a series of new towns—even a linear town, or something I recently heard called an "annular town"—should be built on the Moray and Cromarty Firths, with excellent prospects, judging by present negotiations, for substantial industrial development. Some people think that Inverness is just five miles south of the North Pole, but I assure your Lordships that the Moray Firth is practically in the banana belt. It is excellent, salubrious—here I pause for a commercial! I would remind your Lordships who are looking to the Common Market that in the years before Culloden there was a substantial trade with regular sailings five and six times a week between the Moray Firth and the Continent of Europe, part of the Auld Alliance by which Scotland long ago anticipated the Common Market.
While I do not grudge North-West England its development and its prospects of a Morecambe Bay barrage, I would repeat what the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said to your Lordships a short time ago. There are relative priorities, and a feasibility study of Morecambe Bay should not preclude an equally attractive proposition for the Solway Firth. This sea-inlet could be converted into a freshwater lake fed by rivers of which the Eden, the Esk and the Annan supply between two and three million gallons a day. It would represent a figure of 22,000 million gallons of fresh water in Scotland. This, to me, has great attractions because we are now looking at the geography of Britain in an entirely different way. The Solway, apart from being on the borders of Scotland and England, is precisely in the centre of the United Kingdom. I know that many of your Lordships are anxious about what is going to happen to your Lordships' House, and I do not want to add to your anxieties by suggesting that the Solway, bang in the middle of the United Kingdom, should become a Canberra or a Washington by actually moving the House of Lords and the other place there. But it is an idea.
I seriously suggest to my noble friends on the Front Bench that they should pro-nose to the Government that they set an 1127 example by initiating a redistribution by executive decision to push everything governmental away from the Metropolis. I make that suggestion in all seriousness, and I would go further and say that every Minister should have his own capital. The Fleming Report, which has moved the National Insurance organisation to Tyneside and the Post Office Savings Bank to Clydeside, has shown us the way. But these are the workshops of the Ministries. Why not the Ministries themselves? If it is suggested that distance is an objection, I may remind your Lordships that St. Andrew's House, Edinburgh, is 400 miles from the Scottish Office in Whitehall—and that is a long way to push a tea-trolley.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
My Lords, since I have been a Member of your Lordships' House I have recalled that the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has enabled your Lordships to discuss new towns on several occasions; we are as grateful to him on this occasion as previously. I lived for a number of year just a few miles from Stevenage New Town, in the town of Baldock, which I believe was at one time contemplated as the site of this particular new town in place of Stevenage. However, Stevenage was chosen. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has himself admitted that mistakes were made, and I think it is fair to say that mistakes would have been made at that time under any Government. I do not think one can reasonably bring politics into this; certainly the noble Lord pioneered a very important piece of progress.
I think we must consider why we need the new towns. I remember that one of the arguments against new towns in the period at the end of the 1940s was that the people in the old, existing towns would object; and the noble Lord will himself be aware of the feelings of the people of Stevenage. I must admit that in those days I had some sympathy with them, knowing as I did the area and the people who lived there. But I think it is fair to say that now the relationship between the people in the old town of Stevenage and the people in the new town has become a lot more cordial. I believe that from the point of view of planning Stevenage has much to show. As I have 1128 recalled to your Lordships before, the shops and the houses are on one side of the Great North Road and the factory area is on the other. I remember the erection of the Bailey bridge by which one can cross from one side to the other. The ony criticism which, with hindsight, I would make is that the Bailey bridge was not contructed earlier than it was, but one call always find faults of that kind.
The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St. Albans talked about the community aspect of the new towns in Hertfordshire. In Stevenage there is now Bowes Lyon House where the youth of the town can meet, and it has been an enormous success. There are, however, two difficulties which confront Stevenage especially. One is the totally inadequate railway station there, and if in the future there is to be an increase in terms of population to the West of the town, or in any other direction, it is quite obvious that a new station will be needed quite soon. Admittedly many of the people there work locally in Letchworth, Baldock, Hitchin and in the factories in Stevenage itself, but a number of them work in London. The length of the platform at Stevenage station alone is a major problem. I know that this is a parochial matter, but it is relevant when we are discussing the all-embracing subject of new towns.
The other difficulty is with regard to the new hospital. The Lister Hospital at Hitchin has to cater for a very wide area, including Stevenage New Town, although the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital at Welwyn Garden City has somewhat improved the situation here. But I hope the Government pay due regard to the urgency of the proposed new hospital on the Corey's Mill site at Stevenage. I should also like to ask them to bear in mind very carefully the importance of providing adequate hospitals and social centres in the proposed new towns. While I believe that Milton Keynes is still very much at the drawing board stage and is not in any way yet a reality, this is the time to think of how the 500,000-plus people who, we are told, are going to be moved there are going to be looked after as regards education, hospitals, maternity services and so on. As has been said by various noble Lords, new towns cater primarily for the young. Most of the people who move there are young married 1129 couples who start a family fairly quickly, and as the years go on we have the problems of the first and, eventually, the second generations.
There is one other matter which I believe the Government should consider, and that is the provision of accommodation for the elderly. We rather look at new towns as centres for young people, but there are a number of young people who like to have their parents living near them, if not with them, particularly if their parents are elderly and in any way crippled, so that they are not completely separated. I believe that one of the problems of Stevenage is that there are young people living there whose parents still live in North London. Although quite a number of these people have cars, not all have them and the public transport is only adequate.
Various locations have been proposed for new towns, one of which is in the West Country—Barnstaple in North Devon—but your Lordships will be aware that the main railway line there has been closed. In South Devon the area around Exeter has been considered, but while Exeter itself has services to two main line stations a number of the towns around there have no main line services. This is surely a vital consideration when we are discussing new towns, since many of the roads in the areas of new towns still need developing.
Surely, the most vital thing which we must think of when we consider new towns is the human element. We must not think merely in terms of houses for 50,000, 100,000 or 200.000 people. There are all the considerations which go with them, such as employment; and here we have the vital point that we may have to provide employment for skilled and unskilled labour. At the moment, as I understand it, the new towns are providing largely for unskilled labour; but the time may well come, particularly if we are trying to move people out of the cities, when we shall have to provide for skilled labour as well.
So far as the design of houses is concerned, this is an important aspect from the point of view of morale. One of the problems which faced the community when new towns started was depression because of the sameness of the houses. I should like to stress upon the Government the need for a large proportion of 1130 owner-occupied houses. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government mentioned in another place the figure of 50 per cent. I hope that in the future, when conditions allow, this figure will be increased, because it will make budgeting much easier for the corporations. Therefore, when the Government consider further the possibility of other new towns, or consider the new towns such as Dawley which are at present at the blueprint stage, I hope they will think not only about housing but also about the provision of proper social welfare, and thus learn from the problems of the earlier new towns where those matters tended rather to come second.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, I am a member of the Harlow Development Corporation and I do not propose to mention Harlow. I have listened with great interest to this debate and I should like to join, if I may, in congratulating my noble friend Lord Silkin, not only on introducing it in the interesting fashion in which he did, but also, once again, on his record as the man who really made new towns a practical proposition in this country through the legislation he introduced in 1946. New towns were quite an old idea. They derive, certainly from Renaissance Italy, and perhaps in a country so devoted to classical education as this has been in the past, we might find it a little strange that we never applied the idea of the Greek City State in a way suitable to an industrial civilisation. Possibly there is something in that. I think one must look for a moment at the history of what has happened about the new towns, as I do not believe that one can really understand something without at any rate glancing at it.
New towns were started in this country as a relief for the overcrowded population of London directly after the war, and the first run of new towns—there were eight of them—were in a ring around London. I think we might now conclude that they were too close, but there they were and there they are. At the same time, there were two small new towns started up in the North of England and two in Scotland, one of them in relief of Glasgow in the same way as for London. That was the position up to and including the nomination of the Development Corporation for Bracknell in October, 1949. It 1131 was roughly three years after the end of the war.
The next stage was a rather sporadic one. Corby and Cwmbran were started in 1949 and 1950, and then we had the 1951 Election. I think that noble Lords opposite must remember the 1951 Election. They were prepared at one time to drop the whole idea of any more new towns at all in England and Wales, as I understand it. I see that on November 28, 1957, I asked Mr. Nixon Browne, who was then a Parliamentary Secretary in the Government:Does that mean that it is the intention of the Government to rule out any further new towns in England and Wales?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT Commons, col. 1309.]The answer I received was:Yes, that is the intention of the Government. On this point, the Government feel that if any of the large towns in England and Wales think it necessary at this time to deal with their overspill problem by means of a new town, they should build one for themselves.This was not merely a passing attitude: it continued for some considerable time. And though a small new town had been started in Scotland in February, 1956 (and Mr. Browne had mentioned this earlier in that same debate), in fact nothing was done until 1962. That is to say, there were ten years or more during which the Government, I do not say completely, but virtually, ceased building new towns because they thought that they were not the appropriate way of dealing with the question of overcrowded or over-large towns, and that there were alternatives. One of the alternatives put forward was that the large cities, the conurbations, should themselves provide for new towns; and that has in fact happened in one or two cases. Another alternative was town development. That also went on, although on a much smaller scale than the building of new towns. So it has not been a clear progress, with everybody in support, wondering only exactly what to do and where to do it: there has been (and the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, who I understand is to speak later, will agree on this point) a quite considerable period of interruption in the development of new towns.
§ LORD AUCKLAND
But would not the noble Lord agree that a considerable 1132 amount of consolidation, by way of building more houses in the existing new towns, took place during that time, and that priority was given to that?
§ LORD MITCHISON
Of course they went on with the existing new towns. The point is that they did not start any more—yet there was need for it. The reason no more were started was that other methods were being sought. One was the creation of new towns financed by the conurbations themselves—I have mentioned that—and another method was town overspill development, which made a contribution but on a much smaller scale and in a rather different way.
That was the position at that time, and when one looks at the contribution which the new towns have made to, for instance, the relief of the over-population of London one sees that it is not particularly large. The proposed increase in population in what is usually called the London ring—that is to say, the eight new towns I mentioned first—was just over 600,000, of whom about 400,000 had arrived by the end of last year. The population of Greater London is, I suppose, somewhere between 10 million and 12 million, according to how it is reckoned; and although I do not for one minute diminish the importance of new towns—in fact, I do not think their importance has been sufficiently recognised—I say that their contribution up to date is certainly no excuse whatever for not at the same time developing other methods of relieving the housing situation. This is so, I think, not only in the case of London but in the case of other great towns. It cannot be pretended that new towns at present have gone anywhere near solving the London housing problem. Nor have they solved the problems of the other large towns in the neighbourhood of which one or two of the new towns have been built. Therefore, what one is considering is simply one method of coping with the housing problem.
The next question I come to is this. I think we all agree now that more can and should be done about new towns. What it seems to me the Government are doing at the minute is to put outside the inner ring of new towns which was put around London immediately after the war a further ring of rather more distant and larger new towns—Peter-borough, Milton Keynes, and one or two 1133 others that are in various stages of contemplation or performance. This seems to me to be quite right, so far as it goes: I would not for a moment dispute it. But it shows the difficulty of regarding new towns in the way we first thought of them—as a method of relieving congestion or over-population in the Great Wen and other places.
We have come to realise, as the new towns have come into existence and begun to function, that there was also a highly important economic and industrial side to them. One may say that the industrial estate in Crawley is very fine. So it is; but far too many people from Crawley still travel up to London and back again every day; and, in so far as they are doing that, one is not giving all the help one ought to give to solving the overspill problem of the whole South-East Region. My noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder, who mentioned this point, put it in very vivid terms; and other noble Lords also have referred to it. There is no doubt, my Lords, that this is one of the major problems that we as a country have to face. We are not going to face it, I think, simply by using new towns as a method of relieving over-population in centres, or occasionally (as, for instance, at Corby, which I knew well for 19 years; and in other places) as providing accommodation for an interesting industrial development.
We have to look at the whole question of where we are going to put our new towns from another point of view; and it is one which seems to me, on the whole, to be the predominant one. I believe that in an industrial country, if you can arrange the location of your industry, and particularly the location of your new industry, on the best possible lines, the problem of then locating the new towns is a much simpler one; whereas, if you merely take the country as it is peopled at present, accepting the predominance of large conurbations, and try to cope with the question of overpopulation by this among other comparatively minor expedients, you are not doing enough with a very grand idea, and you are not doing enough, I think, to get your country to move forward and develop on sensible lines.
My Lords, one must have some imagination over this. We had a National Plan which was greeted with hoots of 1134 contempt and amusement by all kinds of people who had not bothered to sit down and think whether there should be a National Plan at all. I think that nowadays we have to have something of the sort, and I think that most noble Lords in this House recognise that. I suggest, therefore, that in the location of further new towns the primary matter to be considered is the economic development that is anticipated and hoped for in the country as a whole.
That leads me on to the question of size. There is little doubt, I think, that the first new towns were too small. They proved to be too small in fact, and most of them have been expanded in consequence. The difficulty about having a place that is too small is that it leads to people moping and feeling disconsolate because there is not a theatre or a cinema around the corner, but it also means a certain lack of community life which takes a little time to overcome. I think that a new town of, say, 40,000 to 60,000 inhabitants takes longer to grow up, oddly enough, than a rather larger place; and I think that if one looks at the new towns—and I am not naming names—one sees that some of the most successful have been the larger ones. Therefore, I am not with those who believe that one ought to stop at a comparatively low limit.
About a year ago I was fascinated by an extremely interesting article about the possibilities of Humberside. I am taking Humberside only as an instance. It may well be that there are other places with possibilities; indeed, I think there are. But what was contemplated there was something of the order of a quarter of a million at least, probably more, and not merely an industrial and accommodation centre but also a cultural centre, a serious cultural centre; that is to say, one with a university and with other developments that anybody can fill in for himself. I think that that is the right way to look at this. A great many people come to London nowadays because of the lack of educational or cultural activities further North. I speak with great care; I have known Manchester, and one must be careful about what one says about this kind of thing in relation to Manchester; but, all the same, I think there is room for another cultural centre in the North of England. That is not the only one.
1135 I was interested to hear from, I think, my noble friend Lord Shackleton—who sat on me a little heavily to-day, I thought —that the Government were considering one or two alternatives. It is clear that those centres ought to be in the parts of England from which there is a big migration southwards going on all the time; whether they be in the North-East or the North-West—and, incidentally, the West Country has really serious problems of its own.
I have taken these things as instances only; but I feel that the most hopeful line of development for this or for any Government is in remembering that we are necessarily an industrial country, that we are necessarily a highly intelligent race of people, but that our educational facilities, possibly our higher educational facilities, are not always quite up to date. I hope that the new towns will be regarded as a possibility of an expansion of industrial and cultural life in this country and something which goes beyond a mere question of relieving overcrowding and of the housing situation in the large towns.
My Lords, I cannot sit down without associating myself with something that the right reverend Prelate said. I think it is perfectly true that the Churches have done very good work in this connection—they are not the only people who have—but I am sure that, were the right reverend Prelate here, he would not mind my adding that I mean the Churches of various denominations. In Corby we had a fine variety of religions, everything from Roman Catholic to foursquare go spellers, and it was all the better for that. They had a Council of Churches that helped a great deal over educational questions, which is always one of the major difficulties of all new towns. To them and to others, to many people who have never had experience of this kind of thing before, no local government experience or anything of the kind, who faced up to this in a spirit of adventure and courage, I feel the whole country owes a debt—as it does to my noble friend Lord Silkin.
§ 5.34 p.m.
§ LORD GRIDLEY
My Lords, I am sure we are all most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for having pro- 1136 posed this Motion this afternoon. I listened with the greatest fascination to all that the noble Lord had to say as, indeed, I have listened to the arguments deployed by my noble friend Lord Jellicoe and to all that the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, had to say on behalf of the Government. There can be few subjects of debate in the social sphere which call for nobler conceptions than new towns. Here we are concerned with the welfare and happiness of our own countrymen; and the homes that are built in the new towns must be of the kind that a man wants; and, ideally, they will not be far away from where he works. In 1967, and even more so in the years ahead, as a result of better education, there will be greater demands for cultural and physical pursuits. Great attention, therefore, will have to be given to the design and construction of the right kind of homes; to the building of schools, of theatres, of halls for cultural activities, and so on; and to the provision of open spaces, swimming pools and golf clubs.
When one reads the Report of the Commission for New Towns and the Report of the development corporations it is obvious that a great many of these things are being done by many devoted people, by public servants and by voluntary associations; but very little is known of this throughout the country. I believe it to be of great importance that the good work being done by the development associations should be known more generally by our people. But very little is known. There is a great deal of ignorance about the new towns and what is going on about them; there is even some hostility to them.
My Lords, I live on the borders of Dorset and Somerset. There has been almost a war there recently over a proposal that Gillingham should increase its present population from 3,500 to 15,000 over a period of 10 years. This seems to me to be quite a reasonable proposition; but the feelings there have run extremely high. A "Dorset in Danger" group has been formed by those who are opposed to the proposal, and this has been followed by the formation of a Gillingham Society by those in favour of the expansion. There have been certain resignations on the council and people with opposing views will not even speak to one another. The Dorset 1137 County Council are solidly in favour of the proposal, as is Gillingham, which of course is directly involved and would benefit by the expansion proposed. But at a meeting of the Shaftesbury Rural District Council, where the parish council vote was predominant, the proposal was defeated by 19 votes to 14. As I live only six miles away from where all this is happening, I dare not take sides over this question. Probably it would be inappropriate for me to do so; but, of course, I have my own opinion. I am not a member of any council and, as I have said, I do not live in Gillingham.
Many people retire to the West Country to live away from large numbers of their fellow countrymen. They go there because it is comparatively peaceful. But when one does so, one is a foreigner for some years; it takes a long time before one is accepted. If it is difficult for one person to be accepted, it is going to be almost impossible for 15,000 people. And in this respect, the West Country may well remain difficult, whatever Government is in power. I do not know whether the Minister has any answer to that problem, which seems to be a social one. As I have said, Gillingham was quite happy with the expansion proposals, and, of course, useful prospective trade has been denied to the town in consequence of what has happened. I can only emphasise that since the beginning of this debate, having listened with the greatest respect and interest to what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, about the increase of population by 20 million by the year 2000, and having experienced this situation in the West Country, I do not think the solutions arrived at there are particularly sensible.
My Lords, I now proceed to one or two other matters which I consider of immense social importance to those who purchase houses. There is provision for private development in the Report mentioned at the beginning of my speech. First industrial housing. Will the Minister let us know what success has been obtained with the sale of the industrial type house as opposed to the traditional or conventional type house? My experience indicates that British people are by and large individualists with their own ideas of the kind of building they wish to live in and what house they are prepared to buy. It is by 1138 this method that private enterprise asserts what type of house or property they will build. If they build the wrong type of house it will not be purchased. Is not this in the circumstances the best method to determine what the public desires?—because the more intelligent people become, the less inclined they will be to allow themselves to be regimented into buying something which they do not want.
On this question, may I refer to what the Report has to say about a desire to build industrial houses. I quote from the Reports of the Development Corporaporations up to March 31, 1966. Under the heading "Housing" it is said:As indicated in the introduction to this Report, the Corporation"—this refers to the Basildon Development Corporation—are doing everything possible to carry out your wishes to use industrialised housing methods for large-scale housing projects. It is necessary, however, to keep a very close scrutiny of costs and for the next two or three years a very careful comparison will be made with the costs of other methods. It is too soon to say that industrialised methods show any financial advantage.Another matter which has been covered in the two Reports I have mentioned is the question of house purchase, and, if I may, I will comment for a moment upon this. The Building Societies' Association, in consultation with the former Minister of Housing, recommended to its members that mortgage facilities should be refused unless the house the subject of an application for a mortgage was covered by the National House Builders' registration certificate. No one will quarrel with the general procedure laid down to protect a house purchaser against the possibility of buying a house which might be structurally unsound, and no one will disagree with the protection of the purchaser. It is National House Builders' Registration Council. There is, however, another organisation in existence concerned with the recognition already accorded to the known as the Housing Development Association, and so far it has failed to obtain recognition from the Minister, though I understand that at the present time there are interesting developments behind the scenes in this Association.
Surely there are overwhelming grounds for recognising both these bodies. The 1139 Housing Development Association was formed as a non-profit-making organisation by builders and developers to maintain a high standard of production and to protect the purchaser against faulty workmanship. Membership of the Association is restricted to those who employ or retain architects and surveyors to design and supervise the construction of houses. The difference between the Association and the National House Builders' Registration Council is that the Council relies on travelling inspectors who pay periodic visits of inspection to houses, whereas the Association relies on the continuous supervision of houses under construction by professional people engaged for that purpose. The Housing Development Association does not believe in periodic inspections because it believes that it would be possible for unscrupulous builders to cover up deficiencies in construction between inspections.
In a period when there is bound to be a grave shortage of surveyors and architects, when we do not wish to delay the completion of houses under construction, and when in any case with the number of houses being built it must be nearly impossible for inspectors of the N.H.B.R.C. to cover them adequately, is there not a case for the recognition of both bodies? I am not a member of the Housing Development Association and have no interest in it. I ask the Minister to consider the case for recognising the Association, as I do not look upon this as a Party or political matter but as a social issue. We all want more houses built and the purchasers protected, and recognition of the H.B.A. and the N.H.B.R.C. will help in the production of houses at a vastly increasing rate.
I am sure that all your Lordships are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for having introduced this debate. Let us give our people the opportunities for cultural development, good housing, good social environment, social planning with pleasant amenities, and all that this will bring to them. Let them live near to where they can achieve these things. These attributes are so necessary in our new towns, which it should be our constant endeavour to improve.
§ 5.50 p.m.
My Lords, this debate is specifically about new towns, of which 1140 I have little experience, except that I have visited Harlow, Welwyn and Letchworth. I have been mayor and I am a councillor of the small expanding borough of Thetford in Norfolk, and I have experienced the difficulties, delays and dilemmas of planning for the future. Our expansion at the moment is limited to 25,000 people, but it is proposed that this be raised to 75,000 and that a further 100,000 be housed in a new town six miles away. So I have some interest in what we are discussing, and as a citizen I agree with and welcome the chance of building a new town and new houses.
Being 100 miles from London, we do not experience the great pressure of population that is pushing out into the Home Counties, so we are fortunate in that we have time to consider problems and work out a solution unhampered by expediency. But also, living in a predominantly rural area, I do not look upon the countryside as limitless and land as a thing to be squandered. I ask your Lordships whether the present density of 10 persons to the acre in new towns is not rather low. Heaven forbid that we should crowd people into slums; but we are a gregarious species and, in my opinion, a closer grouping of dwellings in the residential parts of new towns might solve a number of problems besides preventing this terrible sprawl. The presently accepted sort of figures are about 50 persons to the acre in the residential areas, whereas this can be raised to 75, without building above three storeys and involving that extra expense. Architecturally, I should like to see some high buildings to draw people to the focal points of these new towns, but my specific point is a greater density in both the publicly and the privately-owned residential areas.
In the extended areas of two-storey houses, people have taken great pride in separating pedestrians from cars so that housewives can safely walk to the shops in the town centre—provided they are strong enough to make the distance and robust enough to return laden with their purchases. Greater density would mean more custom and better neighbourhood shops. Greater density and more inhabitants would mean improved amenities in the town centre. Amenities implies more than buses and cinemas, shops and medical facilities, and for this reason I 1141 feel that an existing town which is expanded has the advantage of starting with a system of local government and a framework of several dozen clubs and groups for recreation. It is more than likely that the area has some existing natural advantage, such as being a road centre. We hear a lot about the inhabitants of new towns being lonely and unneighbourly, and the existence of these organisations would surely help to bring people together. People must be led to join these organisations and not have the amenities forced upon them.
The problem is to find an area willing to take on such an expansion. We have just heard what happens where people are not willing. Up to now, a blunt announcement from Whitehall has brought the first news to the locals of what their future role will be. Could there not be a great deal closer consultation between officials of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the elected councils in the areas that appear to be favourably poised for expansion? Councillors are only too ready to hear evidence and seek advice. When proposals are put to them, it is up to them to decide, and not for officials to discuss and present a fait accompli. As Tom Paine said nearly 200 years ago:They do an exceeding wrong thing by not publishing because they subject the whole affair to suspicion.This heavy-handed imposition from above might just be tolerable if the faceless ones acted in concert and produced a flow of decisions and permissions. But no such luck. The Ministries concerned, such as Health, Housing, Education and Transport, seem to have no knowledge of what one or the other is doing. To sneak up on Education with a disproportionately high number of children to adults will throw them into screams of rage. The Ministry of Transport have a better system. When they tumble to what is going on, they put a veto on planning, and such is their control that everyone seems to stand still in awe of them.
We once had a co-ordinator appointed in our borough to smooth the way for us, but he did not last very long and I would welcome the reappointment of such a mediator. For instance, our bypass is scheduled to be built in 15 years' time, diverting the A.11 road round the borough, but long before then the 1142 cross traffic will be so tied-up by the internal traffic from our new industries that a nightmare situation will be created. The great thing in the case of these vicissitudes is to keep a clear head and a straight course. It is only decisions tested and tempered by these trials and tribulations that will stand up to the future and build our new cities to plans of which our children will be proud and of which our grandchildren, I hope, will say, "How did those Elizabethans have such foresight?".
Planning is a wide subject, and it is only the aspect of density to which I should like to draw your Lordships' attention. I ask those who are connected with all these expansions of new and all this replanning of old cities to consider carefully the implications of spreading carelessly out over the landscape. A city should be defined and limited by a rigid boundary, beyond which there is an open landscape, with areas accessible to the people for their recreation.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
My Lords, I should like to add my voice in support of the congratulations of other noble Lords to my noble friend Lord Silkin for giving us the opportunity of debating this interesting topic. As my noble friend has pointed out, the growth of the population which is likely to take place by the turn of the century requires some forward thinking about new towns and housing. The first stage of new towns provided for those just outside the periphery of London to deal with London's population problem. The second stage went further, and we are now at the stage when there must be a link-up between new housing developments and the economic needs of the whole country.
In this sphere I cannot help feeling that the siting of new towns is still cast a little too near the present centres of population. As my noble friend Lord Mitchison rightly said, we have to link up the construction of the new towns of the future with arresting the migration from other parts of the country to the Midlands, to London and to the South-East, which has become one complex sprawl. On the other hand, we see the migration is still continuing at much too rapid a pace from the valleys in Wales and Scotland, and also from the North-East. One knows of the developments that are now taking 1143 place under the Northumberland County Council and of their efforts to develop the new town at Killingworth. We know of the lack of real progress in so far as the new town in the Washington area of the County of Durham is concerned. One looks to Peterlee, an area that I know quite well, and realises the mistakes made there by merely building houses without amenities, without attracting industries to the area and providing the community services that are so necessary; one understands the feelings of the people there.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, rightly pointed out the change that has taken place since the inception of the first new town, with its wide open spaces, when compared, for instance, with Cumbernauld in Scotland. In the Cumbernauld development there is a real effort to link up the motoring age with new town development. I share the view of the noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, that the grouping in that case is a little too squashed up, as it were. This is probably a Scottish reaction, due to the type of development that has taken place there down the ages. But I think the principle involved is an excellent one, and should be the criterion for this line of approach to new towns.
I suggest that in the development of new towns consultation must take place with the economic development boards and councils that have been established. It should not be merely a question of deciding in Whitehall where the new town should be. The economic boards and councils, which in the development areas are trying to forecast the trends in the future, must be brought into consultation. It is they who will be able to make recommendations for the siting of the towns so that they are capable of attracting industrial development, of dealing with the cultural needs of the area, and, above all, of linking up with adequate road and railway transport.
In some of the new town developments not enough attention has been given to the various forms of transport. Reference has been made to the difficulties experienced at Stevenage due to the lack of rail facilities. I think this is a case where the utmost co-operation must take place between Whitehall and the people on the spot who are thinking of the economic development of the area. I sug- 1144 gest, as I have already indicated, that these new towns should be sited further away from the areas of dense population, because with modern methods of transport, the difficulty of industrialists in getting their goods to market is not nearly so acute as it was two decades ago.
My noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder referred to the Channel Tunnel, and I hope that this development will go ahead quickly. If we get the correct type of development, linked up with adequate transport, it will mean that these development areas (as we loosely call them) will be able to link up with the markets in Europe, and we shall get a much better balance of population. If the Channel Tunnel is ultimately developed, one does not like to think that there will be any great concentration at the entry to the tunnel, in the Ashford area or wherever it may be sited, of warehouse establishments or anything of that description, thus adding industry to the area, which will be a nuisance to everyone concerned.
The general idea should be that industry should be able to develop where it is essential to our economic needs, to spread the load throughout the nation, as a whole, linked up with an adequate transport system, including the docks, in order to facilitate exports. I think that in this new type of thinking for new towns, for this third bite of the cherry, as it were, the Government will be well advised to give serious consideration to this matter.
§ 6.8 p.m.
§ LORD FERRIER
My Lords, I had not intended to speak in this debate but, like most Members of your Lordships' House, I am deeply interested in the question of new towns, and I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for having again initiated a debate of this nature. I should like to mention a few points that have occurred to me during the course of the debate.
Nearly every speaker has emphasised the importance of foresight in planning, and having had some experience of this I know how easy it is to say this and how difficult it is to face the fact that you have to get on with it. On the problem of planning, I would urge the authorities always to bear in mind the necessity of ensuring that the very first plans of a new town contain adequate 1145 provision for the services of electricity, gas, telephones and the like, and of remembering that as the years go on these services will probably have to be increased beyond the imagination of anybody at the time of the first plan. Let the plans be for adequate ducting, trunking (call it what you will), for services, so that we do not have the great difficulties which we all know arise when existing services are found to be inadequate, and more digging has to be carried out in an already living community.
I heard a lovely story only yesterday of an electrician in Scotland who said to his boss: "The fact is that we shall have to start breeding electricians like worms." This, I thought, was rather an apt reference to some of the antics performed by some of the men in sorting out services. The noble Lord, Lord Fisher, has referred to the other important service, roads, and he mentioned a particular bee that I have in my bonnet—the question of by-passing. Surely, from the very start, even with the siting of a new town, it is of the utmost importance that the main routing of traffic in the neighbourhood should be by-passed, around the town, so that the problems of cross-traffic with through-traffic will not arise.
Not only the noble Lord, Lord Popple well, but also the noble Lord, Lord Auckland, mentioned the problem of railway facilities, and the two new towns of which I have most knowledge, East Kilbride and Living stone, have both had their difficulties, from which I think lessons can be learned. In the case of East Kilbride, already a thriving new town, the branch line to it was at one time to be closed altogether. In the case of Livingstone, I think I am right in saying that even at this moment of time the commuter rail services are inadequate. I am one who believes that the time is not far off when the railways will come back into their own, when passengers are driven off the roads by traffic congestion, and when improved services, higher speed and the like, on our railways will mean that commuting from longer distances will be possible. And as I said in the case of services, so in the case of railways, in the years to comelet there be adequate space to put in railway services for the fast electrified traffic with which the railways will then be able to cope.
1146 There is another point, which was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison; namely, the importance of using current developments to prevent the drift of population down to the South-East corner of the country. Here we have at the present moment a real possibility of doing something in this matter. I refer to the Agriculture Bill which is now in your Lordships' House and under which it is proposed to set up a Meat and Livestock Commission. Here, if ever, there is an opportunity to set up such a Commission near one of the new towns in the North of England or in Scotland. Stirling comes to mind as being a suitable location for something of the sort.
My last point was brought to my mind by the right reverend Prelate, who told us that unfortunately he had to leave early. It is about the question of the Ecumenical movement in the Churches and in connection with which a remarkable manifestation is taking place in Livingstone. I am speaking "without the book", but there all the Churches have joined together, and it is worth taking note of the fact that they are jointly financing a joint place of worship, with halls and facilities, and, I think I am right in saying, with the full co-operation of the development corporation, who are supplying the architectural and planning facilities and other such assistance. This seems to me to be a most interesting development, and whether, as the right reverend Prelate said, it is better that churches should rent or, as in Living-stone, should themselves finance such a development, remains to be seen. My Lords, we are feeling our way in this matter. We shall always make mistakes, but let us risk those mistakes boldly.
§ 6.14 p.m.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, I, too, am sorry indeed that the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, is not well enough to attend this debate. We should have enjoyed his speech, and I hope we shall see him back here very soon. I thought the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, the Deputy Leader of the House, showed his versatility as an understudy to anybody. No one would have thought that he had been asked to take on the debate at short notice.
First and foremost, I want to pay an unqualified tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, for his initiation of all this, and when I say "all this" I am thinking 1147 of the new towns concept. We owe it to him. I am sure he would say that he was greatly helped by Lord Reith and the preparatory Committee, and I think he would say also that his own concept could never have been brought to so successful fruition had it not been for the devoted work of members of the development corporations and their staffs. Until my noble friend Lord Gridley spoke in this debate, it seemed to me we were in danger of overlooking the enormous contribution that they made, and particularly their chairmen.
A new town needs nurturing, and above all it is essential for it to succeed in getting sufficient industry. The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, said that one could site a new town anywhere. I do not believe that. I believe that now one could site new towns in places where, twenty years ago, they would have been unlikely to prosper, but the ultimate test of a site is whether it is likely to attract sufficient industry to provide a variety of suitable occupations for the people who are coming to live there.
I must say in answer to the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, that when I became Minister of Housing and Local Government in the year 1957, the year he mentioned in connection with a Parliamentary Question, it was quite clear to me that my first duty was to nurture existing towns and to make sure that they succeeded, before thinking of starting any new ones. Some were already successful, but some—and I think particularly of Peterlee and Basildon—were still in that stage of uncertainty where one could not be sure that sufficient industry of the right sort was going to be attracted to them. It was only a year or two later (I think about the year 1959) that it appeared to me it would be wise to start thinking about establishing new towns. The noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, said that in fact nothing was done until 1962. I designated Skelmersdale in 1961 and, as he knows, designation has to be preceded by a long period of examination and preparation, and that was the beginning of the second generation of new towns.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, for the sake of accuracy, I should like to say that I was taking the dates of the appointment of the Development Corporations. There is nothing between us.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
My Lords, I hope there is nothing between us, because it is historically true that round about the year 1959 it appeared to me that the problems of the existing towns were being solved, that the economic soundness of the new town concept had been amply proved, and also that the future population of this country was likely to be considerably higher than had hitherto been forecast. That was an additional reason for thinking afresh in big terms.
I mentioned Basildon. It was a bold decision at the time (I am not sure whether it was actually Lord Silkin's decision) to use the new town technique for reclaiming spoilt land. Much of the land around Basildon had been spoilt by inferior development, and it was clearly going to be more expensive to mop that up and make it good within a new town than to build the town on virgin land. But I am sure it was right; and that was one of my reasons for taking Dawley as a new town site. I know Dawley was actually designated by one of my successors, but I was always especially keen to get Dawley chosen as a new town site because that area of land had been greatly spoilt by eighteenth and nineteenth century industry, and it seemed tome to be already sufficiently proved that, although it would be more expensive, the new town technique could be applied in such a case, not only to build a good new town, but to remove an eyesore which was a national disgrace.
When the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, said that he would like to see a complete survey of the whole country made in the course of the preparation of the choice of sites of further new towns, I should in that survey like to see every large area of land that had been spoilt by old industry particularly considered for its suitability, because it is now sufficiently established that one can transform land of that character, even though it is more expensive than building a new town on a virgin site.
As it is St. David's Day, perhaps I may be forgiven for letting my mind go to Wales. Scotland has been amply mentioned already in this debate. When Cwmbran is finished, I hope it will not be extended greatly, because the site is too near Newport to make any great enlargement of the new town suitable; 1149 I would guess that one day there may well be a new town built somewhere near the Heads of the Valleys road. I do not want to see all that valley population in South Wales drained off to the South. I think we should consider north-west Monmouthshire. I have in mind particularly that area of badly spoilt land between Brynmawr and Blaenavon, land which can now be brought into the field of consideration for this purpose by the construction of the Heads of the Valleys road; its economic potential is enhanced by the completion of the Severn Bridge, if only a modern road can be constructed to link the bridge with Abergavenny. One is aware—and it has been mentioned to-day—of the extreme importance of road communications and new town sites being considered together, and if, as my noble friend Lord Fisher said, there is still failure of co-ordination between different Government Departments let that be overcome as quickly as possible. I continue to think that road communications are more important to new towns than rail communications can ever be. But all these aspects must be considered together and handled together.
For myself, I now think that a new town in mid-Wales would be premature. It would anglicise mid-Wales; and it would kill the hopes of strengthening the existing small towns. I have had the depopulation of mid-Wales on my mind ever since I became Minister for Welsh Affairs. I know a noble Lord has a Question down about the proposed new town, which has been very much a matter of discussion in Wales for the past three years or so. I think that there may come a time, perhaps when Dawley has been completed and has attracted all the industry it needs, when it might be suitable to site a new focus for industry somewhere in mid-Wales. I hope that by that time my noble friend Lord Brecon may be Minister of State for Welsh Affairs again, or in some such post, so that he will be able to foster once more the economy of Wales.
The right reverend Prelate, in his interesting speech, and other noble Lords, have referred to the size of new towns. The original concept was for a new town of, say, 50,000 to 80,000 population. We now seem to be embarking on new towns of 250,000 and even 500,000 population. The success of these new towns of that 1150 large size, we must accept, is not yet proved. We have proved we can make a success, and a great success, of new towns of 60,000, 80,000, 100,000. There is no evidence that we cannot make a success of Milton Keynes at 250,000 or Leyland-Chorley at 500,000, but we must not go ahead complacently as though all the' problems would be just the same.
I believe a new town needs to produce its own leadership; that is to say, people qualified and willing to take responsibility and with big minds. The older towns and cities of our country have grown slowly, and have thereby furnished themselves with a fascinating variety both of buildings and of potential leaders. It is still touch and go whether the new towns of the first generation will, to a sufficient extent, produce leaders of the requisite breadth of mind. There are a number of men, and I know some of them personally myself, who have been brought to the fore by the new towns and have made a great contribution to the community in which they live. But if the first generation of new towns is short of anything still, it is short of leadership, and one has to ask oneself whether new towns of a quarter or half a millon, which will need a still higher quality of leadership, can be sure of getting it.
The big cities used to get it fifty to a hundred years ago, but in the last half-century they have been denuded of many of their best potential leaders through their living outside. I am sure the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, with his experience of Tyneside, would confirm that. It is intensely important that men who have, by their own efforts, come to the fore in a new town should want to stay in that town and should not think of moving away as fast as they can. This means, among other things, trying to make each new town more and more a town of house-owners, getting right away from the concept of its being wholly a town for tenants. The way to foster pride in one's town is to give scope for pride in one's own home—I am sure of that. We have had an assurance from the Government to-day about the importance they attach to home ownership in the new towns. I am sure that this spread of home ownership is essential to what I understand is the Government's policy of eventually transferring all development corporation house property to the local authorities. 1151 I hope that the Government are not going to pre-judge the outcome of Mr. Culling-worth's inquiry, which the Government themselves have asked him to carry out on this, because the whole question of the ownership and management of the future assets of the new towns is a much more difficult one than the Labour Party were prepared to concede it to be in years gone by.
There is much to be said in favour of transferring the housing assets of the development corporation, or it may be of the New Town Commission later on, to the local authority. But the argument against it—one argument, at any rate—is that unless home ownership has spread widely by then the whole electorate will be council tenants, and then the dominant issue in future council elections will be low rents. That is not the way to run a go-ahead town. One needs to try to eliminate that sort of rather selfish issue from local government elections, and to put in power the people really most fit to run a progressive town.
The reason for the 1959 Act was that it seemed to me (I was responsible at the time) that we should need another fifteen or twenty years' experience before we could see what form the eventual ownership of the towns could best take. The Party opposite opposed my Bill on the ground that Lord Silkin's plan of complete transfer to the local authority was right, although of course we have no experience anywhere of a local council owning the whole town, and it certainly is not what local government was set up to do.
I understand that the Government are now seeing the sense of giving much more thought to the future ownership of at any rate the industrial and commercial assets. It is a very difficult question, and I trust that the solution will be sought in terms of merit and not in terms of Party politics. I do not take amiss at all the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, that further legislation would be required. I have never imagined that the 1959 Act was a final solution to the problem. The New Towns Commission was always in my mind meant to be a transitional body. The noble Lord said it is important that we should this time get the right solution. I thoroughly agree with him. I believe that the New Towns Commission was the 1152 right solution in 1959. I hope there will not be further legislation to supersede the New Towns Commission until there is widespread agreement as to what form that new legislation should take. I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Jellicoe when he spoke of the relevance to this question of whatever may be the findings of the Royal Commission on Local Government as to the future patterns of local government.
One reason why we should not have a development corporation or a New Towns Commission, or anything like that, for ever is that people must be allowed to feel that it is their town and not somebody else's town. First of all, it is not natural for a town to be controlled for ever by an external body, however well supported and well-intentioned. Over and above that, it is important that the people of the town should more and more realise that if they want some additional amenity it is up to them to make an extra effort to get that amenity, just as it would be in an ordinary town or village, and that it is not simply a case of going on expecting some outside body to do it for them.
I am very much concerned—I always have been—that the growth of amenities in the new towns should keep pace with the growth of housing and of industry. Sometimes it has lagged behind; sometimes, in some towns, one has felt that the problem was being solved. I am made anxious by the present situation. The report of the Commission for the New Towns is now nearly twelve months out of date, but in their Report for the year ended March, 1966,they said that the Commission in 1965 were asked to slow down the expenditure on capital projects other than housing and industrial development. They went on to give several examples of the disadvantages which were already flowing from that in the two towns only for which they were then responsible.
Could the noble Lord, Lord Sorensen, in his reply, give us an assurance that we are no longer in a state in the new towns where housing and industrial development are going ahead but the provision of necessary amenities is being held back? For it is a most dangerous situation when that happens. We were promised, of course, that that kind of thing never would be done under this 1153 Government. I can only say that if there has been a "Stop—Go" process there, the sooner we cease stopping and start going in the sanctioning of the amenities which a big town requires, the better it will be.
May I give my strong support to the plea made by my noble friends Lord Jellicoe and Lord Auckland for the need for more housing for old people in new towns? When I was responsible, I urged development corporations to do more of this, but at first they felt they must give priority to housing the labour force which was coming in to support the industries. One cannot help knowing that in big cities there are so many old people living in utterly unworthy, and sometimes disgraceful, conditions, very often in an attic at the top of the house, being able to go out only with great difficulty, because of all the stairs. It is tragic if people of that kind, who would like to go near their married children in a new town, cannot be given bungalows or flatlets.
§ LORD MITCHISON
My Lords, I hope the noble Lord will forgive me for interrupting. I am sure he will remember that Corby have been particularly good about this.
§ LORD BROOKE OF CUMNOR
I am glad to hear that this is going well in Corby. The new towns generally have something to catch up there. Of course, every new town starts with a quite artificial age range, but it is utterly certain that it will work through to a normal age range in due course, and it is, therefore, all the more necessary to start building for old people at an early stage.
I wonder whether the noble Lord, Lord Sorensen, can tell us anything about how successfully development corporations and local councils are working in partnership in some of the existing towns which are being expanded by new town methods. In the first generation of new towns, Hemel Hempstead was the one large pre-existing community, a considerable borough already. Most of the others were tiny places. But now we have Redditch and Runcorn being expanded by new town methods with the necessity of the development corporation and the local council hitting it off together. We are going on to Ipswich. Northampton. Peterborough and Warrington, and it is going to be 1154 essential for the success of those schemes that there should be good relations between the development corporation and the local council.
Those of us who know some of the first generation of new towns remember only too well that relations between development corporations and local councils often were not too good. I should like to pay tribute to the London County Council—it shows how non-Party a debate this is—for the work they did in fostering development under the Town Development Act. They managed to establish mutual confidence with many towns with which they entered into agreements. I think frankly it was because they were wise enough always to proceed on an all-Party basis. I was interested in what my noble friend Lord Fisher said about Thetford. I remember going there with pleasure myself in the early days, and heard tributes from the local authorities to the co-operative attitude of the London County Council.
My Lords, as was said, the new towns started largely as a modern method of draining off surplus population from the cities. We must now think of them with a positive purpose. We must think of them partly as instruments in a successful regional policy for the whole country; but we must never forget to think of them as potentially very good things in themselves.
Much of this debate has been based on a forecast of an increase of 20 million in the population by the end of the century. Let us certainly take this into account as a possibility, but let us remember that no forecast of such long range as that is likely to be precisely correct. I so well remember, less than 33 years ago, before I held any public office, working on some of the implications of the sharp fall in the population of Britain that authoritative forecasters then estimated was likely to take place in the 1970s. So we are really working in the dark. We cannot forecast the birthrate. It will always, to some extent, be a function of public confidence in future prosperity at the time. We must do our planning ahead, but we must do it flexibly if we are to be safe.
The new towns have a great part to play in that future planning. But do not let us think of them ultimately in terms of their being a solution to political or 1155 economic or geographical problems. The right reverend Prelate was quite right. These towns matter because they contain people. One of the pictures which I treasure in my mind from my term of responsibility for them was of a Royal visit to one of the new towns, and of Her Majesty walking along the road literally surrounded by swarms of children obviously bounding with good health. These children would not have had such rosy cheeks, these children would not have had the same opportunities in front of them had they remained in dingy rooms in old cities. There is much to be said for the chumminess of the old cities; but the cities are overcrowded and they cannot be transformed as they are to meet all modern needs. These new towns are a new conception, largely Lord Silkin's conception, and their greatest value of all is the health and the opportunity they are giving to children.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ LORD SORENSEN
My Lords, we have had a most civilised debate this afternoon, and I am sure that all noble Lords who have spoken have contributed to our knowledge and understanding of the value of the new towns development in the last few years. I want to thank, as other noble Lords have thanked, Lord Silkin, in particular, for his great service to the House and to the country in introducing this debate to-day. He must feel particularly gratified, I think, looking back, to realise that the foundations he laid some years ago have now upon them a most noble and impressive superstructure through the whole of the country. One understands, therefore, why he was desirous of having this debate, so that he might, with others, consider the development of what he helped to initiate in those days.
Reference has been made, too, to the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, who I thought (if it is not too presumptuous of me to say so) performed the task of opening the Government's side of the debate in a masterly style. But when he suggested that if we lacked quality we at least had quantity, there being two of us speaking from these Benches, I wanted to assure him that we had both quality and quantity—referring, of course, to Lord Shackleton. His speech was 1156 filled to the brim, and flowing over: so much so, indeed, that it reminded me of Mr. Wackford Squeers, when he passed the thin gruel to Nicholas Nickleby, sayingThere's richness for you.However, we have now passed on, and I must say that in the ensuing hours I often wished that I could have a little physical nourishment as well as the ample mental nourishment that I have imbibed. Indeed, I have so many portions of manna that have fallen from Heaven to me that I greatly doubt whether I can consume more than a small portion of them in the time at my disposal. Therefore, I apologise to noble Lords if I find not only that am I physically weary of the task, but that it is impossible, within a short period, to do justice to all the points they have raised. I can assure noble Lords, however, that every one of their important points, if I cannot deal with them this afternoon, will be dealt with by correspondence. When I say "important points" I mean, of course, with some discrimination between one category of points and others.
One important thing that every noble Lord here has noticed, in this the atmosphere of urbanity, if not fraternity, is that we have all subscribed most heartily to this splendid piece of public enterprise. Everyone has agreed that here, at least, in this sphere, whatever our political theories may be, this form of public enterprise has come to stay, it is good, and should be encouraged. This suggests to me that often ideas which we at one time resisted, if not bitterly resented, nevertheless gradually permeate and percolate into the public mind, so that in the course of time even those who may have been hostile to, orcritical of, them have absorbed them.
Reference was made by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, to the splendid venture of Basildon which, being in Essex, I know fairly well. I travelled down there only a fortnight ago. I well remember that district, for at one time I lived at Stanford-le-Hope, and nearby there were a number of shanty shambles. Through public enterprise, humble persons had seized little plots of land and put up their tumble-down dwellings, until the whole area was a scandal and a disgrace—not to those who had actually sought this way out of long years of 1157 toil, but to those who permitted this to occur.
May I just remind the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, that this was an expression of private enterprise? I do not say, of course, that private enterprise is not expressed in much nobler ways—of course it is. I merely suggest that here in Basildon is a contrast between the niggling, pettifogging private enterprise, which led to a scandal, and, on the other hand, imaginative public enterprise—to which, indeed, the noble Lord opposite has given great service—which now is one of the examples of what can be done by people working together in no competitive spirit of rivalry. This is all to the good.
The original conception of new towns goes much further back even than that of the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, indebted as we are to him. It goes back to Ebenezer Howard. I remember in my youth having sent to me a book called, I think, Garden Cities for All. This gentleman, a humble and obscure law clerk, there foreshadowed the possibility of new types of towns and cities being built, according to plan. But they were not only planned; they were planned with a view to incorporating the advantages of urban and rural life. Heit was who, in those distant days, dreamed this dream. He did not actually bring to birth the conception which he began, but when Letchworth Garden City was born that was the first time the embodiment of this idea could be registered. Later on, there was Welwyn Garden City; and, still later, of course, there were other projects. There were the garden villages that sprung up all over the country; and then the garden suburbs, in which the late Canon Barnett played so active a part. I just mention this, in passing, because it is heartening to realise that from such a small beginning have proliferated these many new towns of to-day.
Of course, they have had to be adapted to new circumstances, and they contain new elements and exist in a new context. Nevertheless, they found their original inception way back in those distant days of sixty years or so ago. I have referred to the original purpose; and we all know that modern new towns have a secondary purpose, which is that of trying to drain away the excessive populations of big conurbations like the metropolis. But I submit that that is not the only purpose, 1158 and I will not say that one is more important than the other. The concept of planning a new type of city or town imaginatively has its own value and significance, as well as the more utilitarian aim of trying to demagnetise the great conurbations of our country. In both cases there is that principle of imaginative planning which has now been incorporated into our thinking.
We all now accept the principle of the public planning of new towns, and this is not a partisan matter. It is as well for us to appreciate what has been achieved. I have certain figures that I should like to give the House, which I think are extremely heartening. It is estimated at present that 830,000 human beings are living in the new towns—a considerable and encouraging number. I entirely agree with the moving words of the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, towards the end of his speech, when he referred to the bright, bonny and healthy children he had seen as a result of a better environment. As one who knows Letchworth Garden City fairly well, as one who has relatives living there and who has known that city from its beginnings, I have noticed in the past the striking contrast between the healthy and vibrant children there compared with children in my own district, what is now called Waltham Forest. This is all to the good, for a large proportion of the human beings in these new towns are children. There are 146,564 school places, which again indicates that the new towns are young towns, towns which look to the future.
In addition to the population, which I think is very impressive, there have been built in the new towns since designation something like 140,000 new houses and flats, 829 new factories employing 126,183, altogether involving a capital expenditure of £464,764,000. This is a remarkable feat and achievement and it is a very great encouragement showing what can be done, particularly as these new towns now receive the wholehearted support of every Member of your Lordships' House.
Inevitably, there are many human difficulties—and I stress the word "human", because one thinks of those who have been uprooted from their old environment from the town that I know so well and similar towns, and then have to 1159 travel some 30 or 40 miles to Basildon or to Harlow, and then live in strange new surroundings away from their old associations, their friends and relatives. All these matters cause great nervous strain, particularly for the women. Nevertheless, I am assured by many of the people who live in these new towns that many of these earlier cases of neurosis are now being overcome. There is a friendliness and a neighbourliness there which is extremely encouraging.
What is more, I believe I am right in saying that in Harlow there are over 400 voluntary societies of one kind and the other, which are all expressions of the spontaneous creativity of the people themselves; as well as many other amenities and services, such as libraries, community centres, schools and churches. Therefore it would seem that the heart of the new towns is fairly healthy. One agrees that there are difficulties and strains, and we learn from experience. As I see it, the figure of over half a million people who have gone into the new towns represents the new emigrants—not emigrants overseas, but emigrants to the new towns. They are embarking on a great enterprise, a great venture—one that is equal to ventures made by those who went overseas to distant lands in bygone days. They are helping to build up new cities, new towns and new corporate life.
I shall in a moment turn to one or two of the points which have been raised by noble Lords, but, meanwhile, I would remind your Lordships that there are two categories of new towns which are related but quite distinct, to cope with the need for housing expansion. On the one hand, there are the new towns, which were initiated and established under the machinery of the New Towns Acts; on the other, there are the other towns, arising from the town development schemes under the Town Development Act. These are quite different, because in one case the Exchequer makes substantial loan contributions, and in the other case it does not, although it does give assistance through substantial housing subsidies. I mention this merely to suggest that in our appreciation of the future housing problems of the country we need to employ a variety of methods. We must not be inflexible, and we have never suggested that simply one kind of 1160 new town is suitable. Indeed, among the new towns which operate under the New Towns Acts there are those which are, in fact, expansions of existing towns, and there are the quite separate autonomous independent new towns. There are two different methods of advance, and they are not the only ones. All I am suggesting is that we should recognise that the setting up of separate new towns is one method which can be complementary and supplementary to other methods.
I should like to touch briefly on the question of what should be the optimum or desirable size of a new town. It is quite true that at one time it was thought that 60,000 or 70,000 should form the standard. In many cases, it may still be so. On the other hand, it has been suggested that it might be desirable the figure should be as high as 250,000, possibly rising to a million. It all depends on what is involved. Again, we have no need to be rigid or doctrinaire in the matter. In some cases it would be well for us to try to envisage a fairly large town or city of half a million. In other cases it might be much more desirable, for the sake of preserving the amenities of the countryside and for other reasons, to keep to a smaller figure, although a figure rather larger than the 60,000 or 70,000 which was originally envisaged.
The noble Earl, Lord Jellicoe, made certain points with which I should like to deal. The Government agree that a programme of research is needed into the planning and design of the physical environment. As the noble Earl knows, the Centre for Environmental Studies has been set up, financed by the Government and the Ford Foundation, to assess research needs and to look into how and where they can most expediently be met. That, I hope, will satisfy the noble Earl in some measure, although, of course, much more than that also needs to be done.
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I was, of course, aware of the Centre—I am a Governor of it.
§ LORD SORENSEN
We should have appreciated it all the more if the noble Earl had given that as an example when he spoke; then we should have known that we were advancing on the way. I 1161 am sure he will not mind my bringing out into the open this point which he kept so secret. At any rate, there was no malice aforethought, I assure the noble Earl.
The Government also appreciate, as does everybody, the very great need for providing accommodation for elderly people, partly because some of us are in that category, but also because owing to the greater expectation of life, the proportion of the population over 65 steadily increases. In some parts of the country there is a much larger population over 65 years of age than people of school age. That again is so in my own district. In the Borough of Waltham Forest I believe there are between 36,000 and 37,000 old-age pensioners, and the school child population is considerably less than that. That being so, we have to provide particularly for this category of our fellow human beings—the "elder citizens", as the Canadians call them. Here, again, I can give some encouragement, because the New Town Corporations have been advised to try to provide at least 15 per cent. of their housing either purpose-built for old people or at least suitable for their needs. I do not say, of course, that they have achieved that end, but at least it is as well for us to know what is taking place in that direction. Here may I say that my noble friend Lady Phillips reminded me that only last Saturday she opened the first old people's flats built by the Hemel Hempstead local authority in the new town.
The noble Lord, Lord Auckland, also made some observations to which I shall make a very brief and scanty reference. The new towns are, in fact, attracting far too much skilled labour, and it is the Government's hope that industrialists operating in the new towns will go out of their way to take unskilled labour from the exporting areas and train them. This will mean more direct relief to housing lists and the problems of redeveloping old areas, which has some relevance to what the noble Lord was saying.
One listened to the remarks of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St. Albans with very great interest, and one knows that he and the clergy and ministers generally are doing their utmost 1162 to serve the human beings, the souls, in these new towns. His suggestion that there should be agreement on the part of new town corporations to build property suitable for worship and for other religious purposes, and then let it or rent it out to those of various denominations who desire it, is one which the Minister will, of course, consider. It has some difficulties and dangers, one being the question of how one is going to discriminate between a number of applicants for the use of a given building on the same day; as between the Methodists, on the one hand, and the Jehovah's Witnesses on the other, with all the other denominations between. Although I mention those two, it is not because I belong to either—I am quite detached theologically. But certainly it is an interesting idea. Here I would just say that the new towns with which I am familiar—Crawley, Basildon, Hemel Hempstead, Harlow and one or two others, mostly in the South of England—seem to me to have quite an adequate number of churches, modern in type and very attractive. But, at the same time, if in other new towns or in existing new towns anything can be done to help in that direction, it will certainly receive sympathetic consideration from the Minister.
The noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, made a very interesting excursion into the wilds of Scotland. I found it, as I always find his speeches, most interesting; much of it was, of course, quite irrelevant, but very fascinating all the same. But I am sure that the points he raised will also receive the attention they deserve.
In regard to the plea of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of St. Albans, it is normal for the local authority to house the second generation in which, quite rightly, he was so interested and about which he was so concerned. It is the local authorities' responsibility, though I would assure him in his absence—telepathically, so to speak—that the development corporations are in some places helping out. They are also helping out with grandmothers, though I feel very sorry indeed that in emphasising the value of grandmothers he omitted to refer to grandfathers, but I suppose he means both. Let there be no division between the sexes in this respect.
1163 If I may revert again to the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, a Land Commission headquarters is being set up at Newcastle. This deals with his plea for dispersion and his criticism—more than criticism—of the drift to the South. It will hearten him to know that a Land Commission headquarters is being set up in Newcastle, far away from London. The Ministry of Social Security is at Newcastle; the Post Office credit system is at Bootle; ERNIE (I do not refer to a politician in another place) is active at Lytham St. Annes, and the Post Office Savings Bank is at Harrogate. All of that suggests, does it not, that the apprehension which he had is not quite so serious or depressing as he suggested?
Further, perhaps these statistics are of some interest. The population projection for the years ahead indicates that between 1964 and 1981 the probable population increase in Great Britain will be 7 million; from 1981 to 2000 it will be 13 million, making an estimated population increase of 20 million. But the interesting fact is that it is estimated that, by the end of the century, the proportion of those living in what is broadly called the South-East will have dropped—maybe not very substantially, and only by one point. But that, at least, indicates that the noble Lord's forebodings are really baseless, in so far as the share of the population of the South-East will drop slightly and not be anything like five-sixths of the population, as he suggests. That point is, perhaps, a little way from the subject, but the noble Lord raised it and I hope I have dealt with it in a fairly helpful manner.
The noble Lord, Lord Gridley, referred to the enmity which exists in some parts of the country between the old dwellers and the new dwellers, and this is very true. Very often a man is a foreigner in any village in which he settles down unless he has been there for 25 years. But when the noble Lord asks that someone should help him, I would simply say that, even as he has exercised discretion as the better part of valour, I shall do the same. I am afraid that all I can do is to wish him good luck in his attempt at conciliation between enemies, which should not exist in this country. He made a very interesting remark regarding the sale of houses, and made a reference to 1164 the Housing Development Association, which has been taken note of. But I would suggest, before I pass on, that the Housing Development Association and the House Builders' Registration Council hardly apply to homes built by development corporations for their construction is closely supervised by the corporations themselves. Nevertheless, whatever may be of value in his reflections will be taken note of.
The noble Lord, Lord Fisher, referred to Thetford, and certainly I shall read to-morrow what he said with very great interest, as I am sure the Minister will. But, if I may say so, quite irrelevantly, I was greatly impressed by the fact that he took inspiration from Tom Paine whose statue I know is in Thetford itself, and for whom I have a very great admiration in some respects. But it is singular and very encouraging that he, a Conservative, should take inspiration from so radical and revolutionary a figure. Be that as it may, the interesting remarks he made on density—
§ LORD SORENSEN
In that respect, my Lords, we share the same outlook. So you see how pacific we are this afternoon.
The noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, complained of the lack of progress in new towns and said that there was too much concentration in the South-East. I would refer him to what I said just now, about the fact that things are not so bad as he seems to assume. But all his remarks will be taken into consideration, and certainly, wherever necessary, he will be communicated with on the points he raised.
Washington, which I believe is a new town under the New Towns Act, has been progressing very fast. Their master plan was submitted within two years of designation and they are already building houses, roads and factories and all of that is, indeed, encouraging. But I would say this to the noble Lord, Lord Popplewell. He suggested that the new towns should be more remote from the old conurbations than frequently they are. But, of course, in many respects they are already fairly far away. After all, there is no city, town or village in England that is more than 70 miles from 1165 the coast, so that it is impossible to have the vast distances such as are found in the mighty United States of America. Milton Keynes is 50 miles from London; Peterborough is 72, Northampton 60 and Ipswich about 65—fairly long distances. One cannot go further than that; otherwise, they come into new conurbations.
§ LORD POPPLEWELL
My Lords, my noble friend seems to have missed the point. I give him at once, as I did during certain of my observations, that the new towns are somewhat nearer to London than the Midlands. The point I am making is that, whilst Washington is going ahead there, very little help is being given to Kinnermouth, which the Northumberland County Council are developing themselves. Then there is Peterlee. It is the new towns in that part of the world, rather more than those which are being built, that I am asking the Government to have a look at with a view to assisting in the prevention of the drift from the North-East down to the Midlands and the London area.
§ LORD SORENSEN
I am sure the noble Lord appreciates that something is being done on those lines to try to attract people to, or to retain people in, the North, and certainly his remarks in that respect will be very seriously considered.
The noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, pleaded for a more generous railway service, and pointed out that in some cases railway services had been suspended or abolished. I sympathise with him, because I remember travelling through certain Eastern counties about two years ago and hearing many complaints about this. It was about the time that Lord Beeching's proposals were being implemented. Possibly the noble Lord, Lord Ferrier, indicated to Lord Beeching at the time that he must not go too far in that direction. Be that as it may, I myself hope—and my noble friend Lord Popplewell, who sits behind me, is also, I believe, interested in this particular service—that the railway service of this country will be called into action to link up the new towns; for, without that linking up, of course, there may be a measure of isolation.
My Lords, there is much else I could say, because I see so much manna here. But, as I said earlier, I do not think I could consume it all even if I remained 1166 here until midnight, in which case there would be no noble Lords to share it with me. Therefore, may I merely assure noble Lords again that, to me, this has been a most encouraging debate. I say that, first, because we have all joined in, because we have taken it as our common responsibility; secondly, because, whatever we may say of some forms of public enterprise, the subject of the debate is an imaginative form which we can all support; and, thirdly, because it has given my noble friend Lord Silkin an opportunity to give us his reflections and some criticisms on a subject which has certainly and obviously lain very near to his heart. For these and other reasons, I want again to thank all noble Lords for this valuable service to this great development in our country.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, I hope your Lordships will feel that this debate has been worth while. I think that every single noble Lord who has spoken this evening has spoken with knowledge and experience, and has had a special contribution to make towards the pool of ideas which the Government will badly need in proceeding with their vast programme in the future. While accepting that no person replying for the Government could possibly deal with everything that has been raised, I only hope that the suggestions that have been made will not be lost sight of; that the Government will read them, and re-read them. I hope they will note carefully those which they think are worth while, and will act on them.
We have had very few controversial remarks to-day. There are only two matters on which I find myself in disagreement with noble Lords opposite, but I am certainly not going to take them up now. Perhaps I might have the opportunity to do that at some time in the Tea Room or elsewhere. Certainly I make no complaints about their being raised. I wish there had been more controversy about new towns. The clash of ideas might have been very helpful. I would only say to the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, that, for better or worse, I take full responsibility for Basildon. It was an extremely difficult decision to make and at that time I was very conscious of all the things he has mentioned to-day. I nearly came to the conclusion 1167 that we ought not to go ahead with it, but we did. I am bound to say that all my officials came very loyally to my support and agreed with me, particularly a noble Lady who is now a Member of this House. Finally, I should like to compliment the noble Lord, Lord Shackleton, and his noble friend on their speeches in support of the Government. Both of them came unexpectedly, I think, to the rescue; and they did extremely well. I do not think anyone could have done better.
I should be less than human, my Lords, if I were not moved by the very kind expressions that have come from all parts of the House about my own part in new towns. I am very sensible of the fact, as the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Cumnor, said, that no one could have achieved success without the help of the development corporations. It was a remarkable thing to find so many dedicated men and women willing to take part in the arduous work, as it was at the very beginning, and prepared to risk their reputations, as some of them might have thought, in undertaking this work and in carrying it out with such great success. I would remind your Lordships that the people who were chosen for and undertook this work came from all sections of the community: busy industrialists, busy professional people, people from all Parties, people from no particular Party. They all played their part, and I readily accept the fact that the new towns would not have been a success without them. Having said that, my Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.