HL Deb 09 November 1967 vol 286 cc500-58

3.44 p.m.

LORD PEDDIE rose to draw attention to the Yorkshire and Humberside Economic Planning Council Report and the special problems and significance of Humberside development; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have pleasure in moving the Motion that stands in my name on the Order Paper, which draws attention to the problems of Yorkshire and Humberside. I am glad to make the comment that the Report of the Yorkshire Council is the first economic Report of its kind to be discussed in either House of Parliament. I hope that most noble Lords will have read the Report, and that, if they have not, they will do so.

Quite shortly, the Report itself was published a year ago, but it has lost none of its significance and importance. It presents evidence that indicates the tremendous economic potential of Yorkshire and Humberside. The region the Council covers is the East and West Riding of Yorkshire and Parts of Lindsey, in Lincolnshire. The inclusion of Lindsey is important because it reflects a recognition of the economic unity of Humberside.

There is no need for me to argue the case in favour of regional development: that is recognised to-day as being the only rational basis for orderly national progress. I believe that its recognition has been forced upon us by this country's desperate need to develop its industrial capacity. I may say that the last few decades have witnessed a serious imbalance in our country, with the undue concentration in the South-East. This has created circumstances that tend to choke the economy and add to costs.

Yorkshire is noted for its broad acres and its agriculture. But its industrial activity goes back to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. It brought wealth to this nation, but it left many scars upon some of Yorkshire's industrial areas which to-day present serious planning problems and obstacles to more rapid economic and industrial progress. There is no doubt that the region has many natural economic advantages. It is geographically well situated, and there is easy access to overseas markets through major ports. The region produces a quarter of the nation's steel and two-thirds of its special steel; half the coal mined in Great Britain comes from the rich East Pennine seam, and more than half of that is from the Yorkshire Division of the National Coal Board. Over past years the region has developed a massive electricity generating capacity. Then offshore, we have witnessed in recent months the gas strikes that give an exciting prospect of a new source of power and energy.

Here then is a wide range of industries, with expertise that is drawn from a long industrial experience. But the Report identifies many serious problems in the region, most of them born out of foolish neglect and selfish exploitation during the early industrial days. The main economic problem to which the Report refers is to find the manpower to support the vast industrial effort which the region can mount, and which the nation desperately needs. The population in 1965 was 4,700,000, but since 1955 the rate of increase has been little more than half of that of the country as a whole. The reason for this is the consistent loss of population from the region.

I am the first to admit that this mobility of labour of itself is not bad—it may be good—but it is bad when it occurs in an area that offers opportunities for considerable economic expansion, as does the Yorkshire and Humberside area to-day.

The second major problem is to tackle the bad housing, the inadequate social facilities and amenities that are again a legacy of waste from the early industrial development. In the Report itself will be seen an indication that the social and educational services are, in some areas, inadequate. The standard of school buildings and the teacher-to-pupil ratio are in some districts, though not all, among the lowest in the country. These are among the factors which to some extent affect the living environment that influences the flow of population from the district.

However, I want to speak this after-noon of one particular area in this region, and that is Humberside. I want to concentrate upon this area because I believe it is the most significant spot in the region, and possibly in all Britain. I believe that on both banks of the Humber Estuary lie enormous opportunities for expansion, and to-day Humberside is the largest underdeveloped estuary in Britain, despite the fact that the Humber ports are ideally situated for trade with Europe and capable of expansion and development.

What do we find? We find ample space for industrial development. There is a deep-water estuary, and it is situated between Britain's chief coalfields and the rich North Sea gas field. Its hinterland, as your Lordships know quite well, embraces the textile industry of West Yorkshire and the steel industry of South Yorkshire. Its exports are coal, steel, machinery, and many other products. It imports petroleum, timber, wool and foodstuffs—a wonderful picture. But I want to emphasise to this House that it is the bad communications in that area that have become an intolerable impediment to progress on Humberside. Delay in dealing with this problem can have serious repercussions, not only for Humberside but for the nation as a whole. The district needs better roads; it also needs a bridge across the Humber. And the one is not an alternative to the other. Here I will quote from the Yorkshire Planning Council Report, which identified the Humber Bridge as necessary for the region's development within a few months of beginning its work". It saw the bridge linking North and South Humberside and its associated road network connecting the area to major roads to the west of the region as essential elements in the region's development.

The Humber is the only main river in Britain without a bridge or a tunnel, and it is a formidable barrier between North and South.

I remember, as a small boy, standing on the pier at Hull and looking across the Humber towards the Lincolnshire shore; and Lincolnshire might have been a far distant country, so far as contact between one side of the Humber and the other was concerned. One side hardly knew the other and had no contact with it. That was the situation then, and if I may illustrate this point, I would do so by indicating that the journey from Hull to the South or the Midlands, other than by ferry, must be preceded by a 30-mile journey to the West before turning South. At the moment the only means of crossing the Humber is by ferry. There are twelve crossings a day, and services for only passengers, cars and light vans. The number carried is between seventeen and twenty, as a maximum, and the conditions are frequently of a character that cause the service to be suspended entirely.

The road system I have already described as being appallingly bad. The roads have to be experienced to be believed, and I will give a few illustrations. The traffic to the West on the North bank passes through Selby, and crosses a single-carriageway toll bridge, where toll is exacted for passage over a dilapidated wooden structure—and this in 1967. Here are disastrous hold-ups, as one can imagine there would be. The traffic to the South is similarly held up by a single carriageway over another wooden bridge at Thorne, on the A.614, which has a 9 ft. wide carriageway over a canal—a major road leading into a major industrial and port city—and here one can frequently find queues of cars a mile long. I can give other such illustrations. Take a main outlet to the North from the port of Hull: there has hardly been any development on the road from Hull to York since before the war. The A.18 between Doncaster and Thorne is a road which carries 19,000 car units a day, and it was designed for a capacity of 6,000 car units. The roads on the South bank to the West and South are almost as bad. There is no major trunk road to cope with heavy traffic from the developing areas of Immingham and Grimsby, and this despite the development of new oil installations, which will inevitably mean an increase in road oil tankers. Furthermore, there is no adequate road into the Hull dock areas, and this necessitates going from the congested City centre.

I know that the local authority of Hull has performed wonders. It has dealt with a difficult situation, but it needs help. It already has in hand two major road schemes, at a total cost of £1½ million; and I hope they will be followed by a new East—West road. I know there is to-day general agreement by the Government themselves that there is need for better roads in that area, but there is necessity for much faster progress to develop the new roads than we are getting to-day. It is amazing that Hull and Humberside ports have made the progress they have in spite of these appalling handicaps.

Hull maintains its position as the third port of the land, a position it has had for hundreds of years. The Humber estuary trade had a total tonnage amounting to 19 million tons in 1965. Your Lordships will be interested to know, in these days of developing exports, that the outward tonnage handled by Hull port increased by more than 44 per cent between 1959 and 1965. I need not mention that, of course, in Hull and Grimsby we have the two largest fishing ports in Britain, and possibly in the world.

At this point I want to emphasise the case for the Humber Bridge. Humberside, in my opinion, and in the opinion of almost all living in that area, must develop as a single economic unit, and that is not possible without a bridge. I believe that bridging the Humber would be a bold and imaginative step and would influence the modernisation of almost a quarter of Britain. I would take this opportunity of pointing out that in the past, in the long discussions that have taken place over this bridge, consideration has been bedevilled by so-called national factors. Those national factors, often expressed by Governments in the past, had but one interpretation, and that was to judge the value of a Humber bridge solely as a link in the road from London to the far North. Such a function is the least important consideration—I repeat, the least. The real case for the bridge rests on the contribution it can make towards development of the Humberside region. That in itself is a matter of immense national significance in these days when we seek to develop our economy.

The bridge would unite the Hull area, with a population of 420,000, with Scunthorpe and Grimsby, with populations of 120,000 and 170,000 respectively. The advantage would be in the ability to deploy a labour force of over 300,000, with better opportunities for communication, and for workers a wider field of potential employment; and the regional services of education, entertainment and trade on the North side would be more easily available for something like 300,000 people in North Lincolnshire.

Any noble Lords who have ever visited that district will know that within Humberside there are important differences between the industrial structure of the two banks. On the North, the proportions engaged in primary industries, in manufacturing and construction, are below the national average, while in service industries the average is above the national. The opposite is the case in the South bank, where primary manufacturing and construction industries are above the national average but the proportion engaged in the service industries is well below that for Great Britain as a whole.

The difference in structure between the North and the South would give a basis for a much more powerful and complementary industrial structure if they were physically merged into a more integrated Humberside economy, and only a bridge or a tunnel (but a bridge certainly) would do that. The North and the South complement each other; what one lacks the other possesses, and together they make a balanced whole. The river at present divides, but it could be made to unite. Perhaps I may quote one illustration that came to my notice a couple of days ago. In the refineries which are being built on the South side there is the need for 300 or 400 specialist workers to make the irksome, tedious journey by ferry each day, there and back. They have to make the trip to Lincolnshire in order to construct these refineries. How much easier it would be if they did not have to make this double journey by ferry, and what an improvement it would be, and an aid to development, if easier movement were possible!

The struggle for the Humber bridge has gone on for a hundred years or so. Your Lordships will be interested to know that in 1872 a Bill to provide for a tunnel under the Humber was rejected by one vote in the House of Lords. I am sure the volume of sympathy for the development of Humberside will be greater in this Chamber to-day than it was almost a hundred years ago. In 1930–31 the Hull Corporation and the Lindsey County Council promoted a Bill for a bridge which was to cost £1,789,000. A Ministry grant of 75 per cent. was offered, but unfortunately along came a financial crisis (we have had a few in our time) and the whole thing was dropped. From 1935 onwards there have been efforts to revive this scheme, and Sir Edwin Lutyens and Sir Patrick Abercrombie were commissioned by Hull during the war, and during the time of the bombing, to plan a new Hull; and the authorities in Hull referred to the bridge as being vital to the development of the area.

In 1955 there was a new report from the consulting engineers, and in the 1958–59 Session of Parliament I am glad to say that a Bill was deposited for the construction of a suspension bridge. This was passed as the Humber Bridge Act 1959 and provided for the constitution of a Humber Bridge Board upon which representatives of the area sit. By this time the estimated cost had risen to £15,750,000. However, I would emphasise to your Lordships that the passing of that Act caused Parliament to recognise that a bridge was essential. I know that since that Act was passed there have been approaches to Government for aid. Time and again Ministers have said that they did not consider the scheme to be of national importance.

I should like to refer to what I said earlier in my speech: it is essential to understand precisely what is meant by "national importance". I believe, and I am sure your Lordships would believe, that the development of the economy of that area would be of enormous benefit to Britain. Since 1964 there have been further revised estimates arising out of the enormous experience created by the new bridge consortium that built the Severn Bridge. It is now possible to build a bridge more cheaply, and it would be a great tragedy if all the expertise vested in this consortium were wasted and not employed in the development of the Humber Bridge. Incidentally I might point out, as has been reported, that estimates of the possible vehicular traffic over such a bridge is 9,800 vehicles a day, of which approximately 3,200 would be considered national in character, in terms of moving further South to London.

Hull and the North bank (as indeed the South bank) could develop without a bridge, but it would develop faster with it. It was for sound economic reasons that the original industrial development took place on the North bank. It has a 20-mile river frontage; at Spurn there is the deepest water on the East Coast. The deepest channel in the Humber goes towards the northern shore, to the East of Hull. All the facilities for the creation of a mighty port development, which will be so essential if we go into Europe, are there, and I am pleased to say that the British Transport Docks Board is investing a tremendous amount of money in the development of the Hull Docks. The Rochdale Committee on Ports had much to say in support of Hull, and joined in urging that the bridge should be constructed and that there should be better roads.

Hull has suffered many setbacks in its time. Some of your Lordships may remember the heavy bombing of Hull, when it suffered the most formidable and powerful bombing of any city in Britain, and all that time it had to remain under a cloak of anonymity when it was described as "a North-East town". Hull and Humberside have become used to being neglected or ignored over the years. Possibly the city's geographical situation has brought this about, but Hull itself, in spite of those drawbacks, has built one of the most attractive city centres of any town of its size. It cost £1½ million, expended by the people of Hull. Hull has the most enlightened social welfare programme of any town in Britain, and experience in the realm of education, which some of your Lordships may have seen depicted on television last night.

But Hull is not classified as a "development area"; and your Lordships will appreciate the definition of a "a development area". In those terms Hull does not want to be a development area. Support for development areas may be justified for a variety of reasons, but such support needs to be used with discretion, because there may be development areas with high unemployment due to the inevitable decline of industry that cannot and should not be resuscitated. I think there is need in the long term to ensure that areas of great potential, such as Hull and Humberside, are not starved because of the real need to give aid to development areas.

A blood transfusion for ailing development areas is essential, but it would be unfortunate if it were given at the expense of adequate sustenance for developing areas. We have seen, for instance, the discriminatory effect of regional economic planning in the Humberside shipyards, where because of the exercise of certain activities difficulty is imposed upon the shipyards as a whole.

Another point which I should like to draw to the attention of my noble friend on the Front Bench, and to which I hope to receive a reply, is that Government policy on expenditure by local authorities is at the moment extremely disturbing to Hull. The Minister has indicated that he is restricting loan sanction to authorities outside development areas. I agree that there is some justification for that; but if this policy is rigorously imposed it will present further difficulties for Hull. For example, 250 acres of land in Hull are earmarked for industrial use and need to be developed with Toads and sewers. If the present attitude of the Ministry is maintained, this development will be halted. But I am confident that the Minister will recognise the special circumstances and justifiable claims of Hull and will meet that situation by giving his approval.

My last point is on the subject of university education and Hull as an educational focal point for Humberside development. We all know Hull University. I remember it when it started as a University College in 1927. When I was a young boy one of my first jobs was working at that site, and it was a proud day indeed for me when, years later, it became a university and I had the privilege of lecturing to the students. I should like to think that I had made my small contribution towards building the university. Because of limited funds in its early days, it had no resources for teaching medicine or technology. Since 1945, when it was recognised by the University Grants Committee, it has grown. In 1945–46 it had 174 students. In 1967–68 the minimum will be 3,500 undergraduate and post-graduate students in residence. With numbers of that sort, Hull University will be twice as large as Leeds University and five times as large as Sheffield University as they were in 1939. Before the war both those universities had medical schools. I sincerely hope, as do many others associated with the University of Hull, that an opportunity will be given to provide the means to correct that omission. North and South of the Humber, with the western hinterland, with the City of Hull as a focal point, there is at present a population of over one million people. They could be served by a new medical school at Hull University.

My Lords, I could say a good deal more in support of my case, but I will end at that point. I recognise the difficulties that the Government have to face. I recognise the need to stimulate the creation of capital to provide all the means to re-equip Britain. I recognise the claims, on economic and humanitarian grounds, for giving special attention to areas of high unemployment. But I should hope, and indeed I am confident, that the Government will recognise that in the development of the new Britain one must approach the matter with some imagination. One must give a fillip to the economic community; one must build things like bridges, and one must recognise that in the area which I have spoken about this afternoon lies an enormous potential. It would indeed be criminal if we wasted it. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.

4.13 p.m.


My Lords, I cannot remember an occasion when I have spoken in your Lordships' House and have not remained until the end of the debate. I have told the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, that this afternoon, for the first time, I have to break my rule, as I must be away just before seven o'clock, and should this debate not be over by then, may I take this opportunity of apologising to the House.

We are all extremely grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, for introducing this Motion. We are not dealing in Yorkshire and Humberside with something parochial. I would remind your Lordships that the area we are talking about, which of course includes part of Lincolnshire, is one-eighth of the total area of England and contains one-tenth of the total population of England. Therefore it is of vital interest even to people who do not live and do not trade in that part of the world, if we are to have economic prosperity. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, that the key to this problem lies on Humberside. The West Riding needs in very large measure redeveloping and Humberside needs developing. The reason why Humberside is so important is that that is where the ports for this area are situated; and they are becoming increasingly important by reason of the fact that they are opposite—quite a short distance—a large part of Europe, to which we are looking more and more for trade.

May I say a word about the ports? As early as the 14th century Hull was the third largest port in the country, and Hull is still the third largest port, if one calculates it by the value of goods passing through it. We then have the port of Goole, which is at the head of the Humber. This port is being modernised fairly rapidly; a great deal of money is being spent. We then have, to the South of the Humber, the ports of Immingham and Grimsby. Hull and Grimsby handle between them half the fish landings of this country. At Immingham, exciting new things are happening, with new industries developing; they are building new quays and will continue to develop. I shall have something more to say in detail about that later.

I want to deal not with this enormous Report, which is the first of several—and there are other investigations going on: there will be reports by other bodies, such as the British Road Federation—but also with communications in the Humberside area, dotting a few "i's" and crossing a few "t's", following on the noble Lord, Peddie. We start by saying that the road system is totally inadequate—and I hope to prove that to your Lordships in one moment. Historically, for nearly 2,000 years, all the main roads—or most of them—have run North and South. First of all, in Roman times, it was for strategic reasons, followed by trade; and then, of course, from the necessity from their bases in the South to protect their North-East coastline against Scandinavian raiders. And that went on for exactly the same reasons, trade following it, in Norman times.

In Stuart times the North—South routes became even more important because of this strange new country joined with us, called Scotland. Later, when the Industrial Revolution came, because the great population was already in London and the South-East and the discoveries were further to the North—new coal and factories and so on—the main roads continued to run North and South. When the railways came they followed the lines of the roads, and I regret to say that more recently the internal airlines have largely followed the line of the roads and the railways. And so we have this corner which has always been an important shipping area, Humberside, by-passed by some of the main communications in the country. This is not good enough because, as I say, the trade East and West in increasing so rapidly.

May I say a word, and not go back to the subject, on internal airlines? In the whole of this area, I think partly because of the shortness of the distance from London, there is only one proper airport of any size, the airport of Yeadon which is now being enlarged and is the Leeds-Bradford airport. There is no airport in Hull—or, indeed, on Humberside. If a businessman from the Continent wants to fly there he cannot do so, unless he takes a small aircraft or helicopter. He has to go to Yeadon, and from there he has to start a journey which will take very much longer than coming from Europe.

I would say only one thing about railways, because I want to talk mostly about roads. The railways are under used in this area. Of that there is no doubt. And reason is partly, I think, that the track is not modernised, in that there are innumerable level-crossings all over the area. I shall have a word or two to say about one or two of those in a moment.

When we come to roads, the planning of the new roads starts well back inland. They run, of course, from Doncaster, Sheffield, Leeds, and so on. But then we come to this difficulty of the Humber, because it divides this area, and the question arises of where the roads ought to go. May I say something about the words of the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, about the inadequacy of the roads? There are in this area three so-called trunk roads; that is, roads for which the Ministry are responsible. If you motor along them you may think that the Ministry are responsible because, on the whole, the surface is quite good. But the roads were obviously built for farm carts with horses, with twisting and turning and level crossings—the lot. But there are only three of these trunk roads.

Let us take those to the North. There is a trunk road that runs from York to Hull, through Beverley—a main road! I wish all your Lordships who do not know it could go along it. It really is "the end". Except at holiday times it is not too bad for private cars; but when it comes to heavy commercial vehicles it just does not begin to measure up to the needs. Then there is a road from Leeds, through Selby, to Hull, the southern road to Hull. I always miscount the number of level crossings on the Selby road. All I can tell your Lordships is that they are always shut when one comes to them. It is a most extraordinary thing. On this road is this wonderful bridge that the noble Lord, Lord Peddle, was talking about, which I think will fall into the river one day with luck. To the South there is one trunk road, the road that runs from Doncaster, through Scunthorpe and then goes on to Grimsby. It does not go to Immingham. To get there it is necessary to go off that road and on to what are virtually little country roads. Even that road to Grimsby is a reasonably good one in winter for a spin in a private car when there is not much traffic. But for commercial traffic in the summer it makes complete and absolute nonsense.

There is another road, the A.15, which some people think is a trunk road, and which runs South from the Humber to Lincoln. It is not a trunk road at all but a principal road; and it is a Roman road. It goes up and down, dead straight; it is rather narrow, and unless you are in a powerful car passing a slow lorry, it is extremely dangerous to attempt to pass a lorry because you cannot see over the bump in front. It means that if you get a fastish lorry it cannot pass a slow lorry without having an accident. As the main road South, that is not particularly good.

New roads are planned. Some of them may be of motorway standards. There is one going from Pontefract eastwards, and running just North-East of Goole. That is going to be the new road. Beyond that there is apparently to be nothing new: all that long distance to Hull, and no improvement, so far as we can find out. There is another road which runs from Doncaster to West of Scunthorpe. It does not go anywhere near Grimsby or Immingham. It stops before you get to Scunthorpe with its heavy steelworks, and then there is a link road between the two.

All these plans may sound nice. But no dates have been given for these roads and, so far as I know, the lines have not yet been settled. The Minister has said that the road complex (I think this is the technical phrase) for Humberside will be built in the 1970s. I think I am quoting her correctly. My Lords, that just is not good enough. May I prove it? Let us take the Immingham area. In the Immingham area there are two large oil refineries, not to mention other storage space. Of course, because of the oil refineries there are big new petrochemical works, as well as other works.

I have some figures from just one of the two refineries. They show the position as it will be—not may be—not in the 1970s but in 1970, only two and a half years off. By that date the output of this one refinery will be 6 million tons a year, of which 1½ million tons will have to go by road. Most of the rest will go by rail, some by sea. But they tell me that they will have to send 1½ million tons by road. This means that 285 road tankers per day will each do two trips. That means that, quite apart from all the other traffic, a tanker will be passing along what are virtually country roads every two minutes. I hope your Lordships will agree with me that to plan for new roads in the 1970s is not good enough. Something has got to be done within the next two years; and there is no reason why it should not be done.

So much, my Lords, for the roads. May I say just one word about the Humber Bridge. There are Parliamentary powers for it, but there is no starting date; there is no money. I think the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, said that the estimated cost is £16½ million. But costs are going up—let us put it at £20 million. I agree with the Report and with the Minister that in fact the new roads, preferably extended, are more urgent than the Humber Bridge. But if this area is going to be developed any road system will be complete nonsense without a Humber Bridge. Putting it on the high side, this would cost £20 million. I know that we are all trying to economise, but still I ask, "What is £20 million? "We are fighting an economic war. The Government are spending increasing amounts to help overseas countries, in many cases with but little chance of any return on their money. If we had plenty of money, I should be on their side. But cannot we spend £20 million for our own benefit? It is of vital importance. I am afraid that the Ministry of Transport—I am not saying the Minister, but successive Ministers, have used, and will continue to use, this argument that the roads are more urgent than the Humber Bridge as an excuse for doing nothing further about the Humber Bridge, although, as I have said, the two ought to go on together.

I think it is of the utmost importance that the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, has to-day raised this question, because this is not something for the future; it is essential, if West Yorkshire is to be developed and Humberside is to get all the help it can, that new communications must start now and not in four or five years' time, which is quite useless.

4.29 p.m.


My Lords, I was going to start this afternoon with a tirade addressed to non-Yorkshire Members of your Lordships' House on the importance of Yorkshire. Looking around, I can see so many Yorkshire faces that I feel I should possibly be preaching to the converted if I started to give a lecture on the backbone of England; so I will skip that and I will start by reminding your Lordships of some words of the late Aneurin Bevan. When talking about the natural resources of this country, he once said that England was "a lump of coal entirely surrounded by fish." This surely is more true of Yorkshire than of any other part of the country. When Yorkshire prospers England prospers and vice versa.

Before coming on to the other points I want to make, I should like briefly to mention a matter which has already been touched upon by the noble Lord, Lord Peddie; that is, the question of scars on the Yorkshire countryside. There are many of us who feel that England owes a blood debt to Yorkshire. These scars are on the Yorkshire countryside because industry came to Yorkshire before most other places. England prospered, and in fact became one of the leading Powers in the world, and some of us feel that this was done on Yorkshire's back. It is now time that this blood debt was repaid.

I welcome this excellent review, and I specially welcome what the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, has had to say about it. We in the Liberal Party are always happy when members of other Parties get up, either in your Lordships' House or in another place, and make speeches which could very easily have been taken out of Liberal Party manifestos. This is very much the case this afternoon since for a considerable period of time the Liberal Party has been urging very nearly everything which was said by Lord Peddie.

The only thing I would say about this review is that we are unable to tolerate the leisurely attitude of all concerned to what we in Yorkshire regard as a matter of extreme urgency. The Report was written in August, 1966. The Minister for Economic Affairs wrote back to them with comments in August, 1967, and this reply was kept private until October 12, 1967. If we agree that this is a matter of urgency, then surely we must agree that this is disgraceful. We in Yorkshire would like to know a good deal more about this faceless Council. There is not one person on the Council who is well known in the regions concerned, and there is not one local "character" on the Council at all. We cannot tolerate the non-elected Council. The meetings are held in private and all one gets is a handout afterwards. This really is not good enough.

The Government's concept of regionalism is all wrong. I should like, if your Lordships will permit me, to read a quotation from a leader in the Sheffield Telegraph on October 13, 1967, which said: … it is difficult for us to avoid the conclusion that the Government has no concept of regionalism with any meaning for the people in the regions. This we have suspected all along, and we would maintain that the Government has yet to prove that it has any belief in regionalism at all, and that the regional councils it has established are anything more than a façade and a political confidence trick. Liberals want elected Regional Councils with executive powers to get on with the necessary job. The present Whitehall-run system means that much time, effort and money goes into producing regional reports which are so much waste paper. The Bradford Telegraph and Argus on October 12 this year described the Government's reply to the Yorkshire and Humberside Report as, "The no, no, no Report", because there is to be: No increase in the investment grants for the region; no relaxation in the control of industrial development certificates; no increase in the grant for clearing derelict areas"— the blood debt to which I referred earlier. Does anyone believe that an elected authority with adequate powers would not take an entirely opposite positive line? The Conservatives, too, are quite opposed to a full regional policy. Indeed the Conservative Yorkshire Post on October 10 agreed with the Government's rejection of the Report's appeal for specific help and said: There need be no particular surprise that the Government has rejected the proposal of the Yorkshire and Humberside Economic Planning Council that there should be a special investment allowance for firms in the region. In the first place Whitehall's funds are limited at present. In the second place the case for this special aid to Yorkshire and Humberside is, quite simply, not strong enough. However, Government commentary admits: There are undoubtedly grounds for disquiet concerning the long-term economic growth of the region. I should like now to turn to the absence of new industry in the area. Because this is not a development area—and, as the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, says, we do not want it to be a development area—it has suffered considerably from changes in the industrial development policies of the Government over the past twenty years. These not only have encouraged such industries to establish themselves in development areas, but have actively discouraged their development in this region. The Government must take a broader look at local matters. It is just not possible to have a system where a whole area is "in" or "out", or "on" or "not on". This just does not work.

If I may turn to industrial building, the reference to the issue of industrial development certificates is totally meaningless. This system has been going on for years. Firms have a clear idea of the position and do not make applications which they know will be refused, because it is a waste of time. What is of importance is the number that were not applied for because the firms were advised that they would not be granted, and that number is unknown.

I should like now to come to a question which has been fully dealt with already by both noble Lords who have spoken, and over which there is total unanimity in the Liberal Party, that is, the question of roads in the area. The arguments for a Humber bridge have already been put far better by the two noble Lords who have spoken than I could possibly have put them. However, when browsing through some old books on the subject—and I have no means of establishing this, but I thought it might amuse your Lordships—I found that apparently in Roman times a General or officer by the name of Sextus Optimus reached the banks of the Humber and expressed a desire that in future there should be an easier way of crossing it. That is quite a long time ago. His name, as I say, was Optimus—and I am afraid he has been proved to be rather optimistic.

The arguments for a Humber bridge are so conclusive and have been aired so thoroughly and eloquently this afternoon that little remains to be said which has not been said already. I would, however, point out that a Humber bridge has been proposed and accepted twice by Parliament, in 1931 and in 1959. Ministers and Government have often underrated the value of major regional developments. A 1959 Act, as the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, said, constituted a Humber Bridge Board with powers to construct the bridge and approach roads, to purchase land, borrow moneys and charge tolls. The Board's consulting engineers, Messrs. Freeman, Fox and Partners, estimated the cost of construction at £11½ million, exclusive of lands, in 1964, and further estimated that in the first year of use, which was to be 1969, 3.6 million vehicles would use the bridge. There has been no financial assistance at all from the central Government, and I would put the case so strongly as to say that no real development can take place in the Humber area until the Humber bridge has first been built—and I repeat "first"—before anything else. Before anybody worries about improving the disgustingly bad roads, the Humber bridge is the first thing on the list.

After the Humber bridge, of course, come not so much the North-South roads which, as has been said already are not really so bad, but the East-West roads. The East-West roads are really not as good per capita of the population as were the Roman roads. It is an interesting observation that Adolf Hitler had 2,000 miles of motorways in Germany in 1938, and we do not seem to have caught up with him yet. I would say only one thing about the toll bridge at Selby, which I cross fairly frequently, and that is that I disagree with both noble Lords who have just spoken. I hope that this bridge does not fall into the river, and that when it is eventually replaced it will be preserved as a monument to Government incompetence.

I think it is necessary to mention something which was not mentioned by either of the previous speakers, the question of the extension of the M.1 further North. It seems to be very much the feeling of Government in London that England ends at Yorkshire—a quite natural feeling to which many Yorkshiremen might subscribe. But it so happens that that is not the case, and that there is North of Yorkshire an enormous area which needs to have a major road in a North-South direction. At the place where the motorway is at present scheduled to end, it will disgorge at a very fast rate an ever-increasing number of vehicles into an absolutely third-class road. That will obviously result in complete chaos, and a bottle-neck will be established at the end of the M.1. It is of paramount importance to the development of the country that the M.1 should be continued right to the North—indeed into Scotland.

This is not a debate on regional government, and it is not my concern to turn it into one. But before I sit down I should like to say that in working out a regional plan visions of the future need long-term research and expenditure. Until now it has been left to national Governments to encourage investigation, and to accept or reject schemes such as the Morecambe Bay barrage or the Solway Firth scheme. All cities, even large ones like Manchester, have found it difficult to get acceptance of new town proposals. In the view of the Liberal Party, Regional Councils should make such ideas their own concern and use all their powers to get favourable decisions from London. I would close with this one thought, that unless there is more Government action and Government consideration of our problems in Yorkshire, I cannot guarantee that we shall not in a few years' time see people sitting in another place under the Party banner of Yorkshire Nationalists.

4.44 p.m.


My Lords, I should like, if I may, to join with the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, in congratulating my noble friend Lord Peddie on initiating this debate, thus giving the House an opportunity to discuss this very important matter, and also on his eloquent and most able speech which I think moved us all. I should also like to congratulate the Yorkshire and Humberside Economic Planning Council, and its Chairman, Sir Roger Stevens, on their most admirable, lucid and very easily assimilated Report. Also, I think a tribute should be paid to the Central Office of Information for the presentation of it. Many official publications are very dull, but this one is absolutely first-class throughout.

The foreword of this Report says: There must be room for debate when the livelihood and happiness of over four million people are involved. I am sure that from this there can be no dissent. The review covers almost every aspect of life, and there is time to refer to only one or two of them. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, and my noble friend Lord Peddie mentioned population. Of course, we are glad to see that the migration losses have been reduced from 9,000 a year between 1951 and 1956, to 4,000 a year since 1962. With the estimated natural increase of 650,000, the total population of the region in 1981 will be 5.3 million. But the Report points out that, in common with the rest of the country, most of this expected increase will be in the dependent age groups; that is, children and older people.

The effect will be more marked if migration continues. It may mean that there will be a serious decrease in the proportion of the population that is of working age, especially skilled labour. The Report therefore concludes that it is essential to make the fullest use of manpower resources, to reverse the loss from migration, to encourage a fast rate of growth in production by the region's traditional industries, and to stimulate the development of new industries. I agree fully with these conclusions, and especially that a more positive attitude to industry in the area is required from the Government, which the review says earlier.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, mentioned the question of industry on Humberside and in Yorkshire, and my noble friend Lord Peddie also touched on the matter of the development areas. I agree fully with the efforts of the Government to try to help the development areas, but, like so many efforts, when one gives subsidies to all concerned in a particular area rather than to an industry, it sets up unfortunate repercussions in other directions. I happen to know that the Humberside shipbuilders are at a particular disadvantage, as, being outside the development areas, they can be under-cut by their rivals in those areas by as much as 2 or 3 per cent. of costs. That is the equivalent of 10 per cent. of labour costs. Three per cent. may not seem very much, and if one is thinking of something costing £5 it is only 3s. But when it comes to something costing several hundred thousand pounds, it is a very large sum of money, and this can, of course, make all the difference between being successful in a tender or not, particularly in a field where competition, and competition from foreign yards, is especially keen.

I believe the Government consider that the effect of the R.E.P. will be to make a yard in a development area more competitive. That theory is all right if the yard was not competitive before, but if it was—and many of those yards were competitive—it makes it even more competitive, and makes the yard which is not in a development area much less competitive. That is one of the difficulties when one gives subsidies to all and sundry, and in order to help the poor the rich get richer still, and the people in the middle get squeezed out altogether.

The shipbuilders on Humberside, and indeed in other parts of the country, are for the most part building vessels of under 5,000 tons. They have an excellent record for exports, but they were not large enough to come within the Geddes Committee's terms of reference. I understand that during the last three years one of those companies on Humberside has built 25 ships for overseas countries. I should particularly like to bring to the attention of the Government the fact that a very strong home market is essential. When you have large overheads you must be able to spread those overheads over your home orders, so that the cost of your export orders is correspondingly lower. That is what happens when the overheads are spread over the whole field. I am sure we all want to see the Humber continue as a shipbuilding centre, as it has been for centuries, but it will not be able to do so until the matter is reviewed. There is a case for the Government to consider the whole of the British shipbuilding industry on an equal basis, irrespective of where the yards are, of the geographical accident of their location.

I should now like to say a few words about ports. As other noble Lords have said, Hull is the third most important port in the Kingdom, and I believe that it handled 9 million tons of traffic, worth £500 million, in 1965. Immingham, the port mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, handled 5 million tons, and Goole 2 million tons. It is encouraging to know that North and South Humberside are to be studied by the Government as an area for major development; and only two days ago I saw in Lloyd's Shipping News that the Minister of Transport has confirmed a scheme, submitted to her by the National Ports Council, to reorganise Humber harbour.

Then there is the question of communications. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, has just mentioned airports. I should like to develop that subject in a few more words, if I may. The noble Lord told us that Yeadon is the only civil airport of any size. Between 1959 and 1965 the number of passengers at this airport increased from 45,000 to 274,000 a year, and freight increased from 350 tons to 1,310 tons a year. There are, I realise, physical limitations to the expansion of Yeadon, but I think there s a strong case for two further airports to be built, as the review recognised—one at Todwick, near Sheffield, and the other on Humberside. I shall be glad to hear from my noble friend Lord Winterbottom what plans, if any, the Government have for these further airports.

There is also the matter of the Humber bridge. As my noble friend said, it has been discussed for over a hundred years. I agree with everything the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, and the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, have said, but I am bound to point out that this is a matter which has been neglected not just by this Government but by successive Governments—Liberal, Conservative and Labour—for nearly a century. I only wish that the Government to which the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, belonged for so many years had done something about it. After all, they were in power for 13 years. I do not blame the Liberals—they have not been in power for nearly half a century—but the Conservatives have been in power several times since the end of the First World War, and I only wish that they had done something.

However, the present Government have their chance, and let us hope that they will get on with it so that they can be the first Government to take some credit for it. If this bridge is built, it should be linked with the equally essential road network plan linking the area with the major roads to the West of it, and eventually with the M.1 and the M.62. As was said previously, we should like to have some news as to when it is intended to complete these motorways, and how long they are going to remain as hatching on the map. The Council stressed that the region's poor communications are impeding economic growth.

In conclusion, I should like, if I may, to quote from the Preface of the Report. It says: It is necessary … to state a basic premise of this review—that it does not attempt to produce a regional plan, either economic or physical". The Report does, however, pose many questions about the future in Yorkshire and on Humberside. These are matters of the greatest importance and urgency, and I hope that the Government will give them their utmost consideration.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, it would appear as though I am next on the list of speakers. Although three noble Lords were down to speak before me, they do not appear to be here, and I have been told that their names have been withdrawn. I would open my remarks by joining in the general congratulation to my noble friend Lord Peddie for moving this Motion and thereby allowing this House to discuss the general problems of Humberside and Yorkshire, arising from the Report we have before us. I welcome very much this Yorkshire and Humberside Economic Planning Council's Report as presented by Sir Roger Stevens and published last August. The Report is the result of a careful examination of the problems of the area covered by his Council, and the Economic Planning Board (the second string, as it were, of this planning organisation) have collaborated to the full. Its object has been to assess the needs and potential of the area, and to put them forward as a basis for discussion, seeking a balanced development of the region. I think this is often overlooked.

We have now established Economic Planning Boards for the nine regions in England and Wales, and the Scottish Board. These Boards, and the Councils above them, are giving considerable thought to the needs of their particular regions, and ultimately the presentation of these Reports will enable the Government to give consideration to planning the economic and social development of the regions on more realistic lines. This, as has already been pointed out, is the first debate in either House that has taken place on one of these Reports, and it is to the credit of this House that we have provided the facilities for this discussion.

As I have indicated, the Report itself highlights many of the problems of the area, and one that attracts me particularly (and it is one which, apart from a reference by my noble friend Lord Strabolgi, has not been mentioned up till now) is the problem of the migration which is taking place from this area. The country as a whole may be divided up into migration and immigration areas. I think there are five of the former regions. Scotland, the North-East, the North-West, Wales and Yorkshire and Humberside are migration areas, as it were—


My Lords, will my noble friend include the South-Western area?


My Lords, I apologise, but I did bring in the Welsh area.


The South-Western area—Cornwall and Devon.


That is not classed as a migration area, according to the plans that I have seen. I have mentioned those which show a big decrease in population. Naturally, my noble friend has a much better acquaintance with that area than I have, and if I was wrong in omitting it, it was unintentional. In this Yorkshire area we have seen the loss of over 100,000 people since 1951. This averages out at the rate of 7,300 people each year. This is a serious position, and it is some adjustment of that position that we seek. When we relate it to the general national increase in population, it highlights how serious the problem really is. The loss in the Yorkshire and Humberside areas would have been much greater but for the very large influx of Commonwealth immigrants into the area.

A very real factor that has not so far been mentioned is that some 22,000 to 35,000 of these people came into the area during the years 1951 to 1961. The Commonwealth Immigrants Act 1962 reduced this inflow, which at one period just before its passing turned this from a migrating area into an emigrating one. The influx of Commonwealth immigrants increased the population by some 12,000 in the year before the passing of the Act; but now that it has become effective the net total migration figure is running at about 4,000 a year. If the present trend continues, the elderly and dependant age groups (referred to by my noble friend Lord Strabolgi) will form a much higher percentage of its population than is the case nationally. These are important factors in the minds of those who are studying the needs of the area. The review highlights the decrease taking place in the working-age group. This is a serious matter for the future well-being of the area, and more active measures should be taken to arrest this trend. I suggest that this is very important.

The area has much to offer the country, both in its industrial potential and in the skill and adaptability of its work people, and it has much to offer as far as the beauty of the countryside is concerned. When fully developed, the moors, the fells, the dales, the coastline and the rivers of Yorkshire will make it an ideal tourist area. These are part of the attractions that can be put forward with a view to developing them still further. The Economic Planning Committee, in its effort to stop this drift, in its careful analysis of the needs of this very large area of the country, has divided the area into some seven sub-divisions. Three of them—West Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Coalfield, and South Yorkshire—form the chief industrial and urban belt in the area. It is interesting that 72 per cent. of the population of Yorkshire live in these three sub-divisions which together occupy some 39 per cent. of the land of the region.

Another sub-division, the Mid-Yorkshire belt, is defined as being more residential and as an area suitable for occupation by people who have retired. This illustrates the difficulty of defining the economic needs of the area. As was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Peddie, 7.7 per cent. of the population in the region is engaged in the primary industries, as against the national average of 4.8 per cent. The manufacturing industries employ 43.1 per cent. as against the national average of 38 per cent.—so one can see the concentration on primary and manufacturing industries in the area.

In the construction industries—and this illustrates the imbalance of the region's economy—only 6.7 per cent. are employed, as against the national average of 7.2 per cent. This indicates a need for further industrial development in the area. Again, we see a weakness in the service industries. The percentage of population engaged in these industries (I shall not attempt to define them), is 42.5 per cent., as against the national average of 49.8. Here again we see where the weakness is, in so far as it spreads out of the various types of industrial development that is necessary. Thus these statistics indicate where the weakness lies and where a correct economic balance is required.

My noble friend Lord Peddie said that the Yorkshire coalmines produce about half the country's coal. My information is that the figure is about one-quarter. But in spite of the modernisation that has taken place in the coalfields there is still migration, or at any rate a reduction in manpower in the Yorkshire coalfields—and this also in spite of an influx of some 2,000 miners from other parts of the country. Textiles also form an important part of the industry in the area, and here again it is an industry with a considerably reducing labour force. Although metal manufacturing, food and drink and some chemicals have shown development, a much higher investment rate of the newer industries is required to meet the needs.

I am not going to put Yorkshire and Humberside in a category of such dire need as Scotland, the North-East and Wales. As your Lordships will know, I have been too long associated with the great North-East—with Newcastle in particular—to denigrate the claim, first, of the North-East for development. But Yorkshire and Humberside present a problem which, if not solved, will lead to a somewhat similar situation there. As has already been suggested, transport is one of the crucial factors in the area. At present the transport arrangements are very much below requirements. The noble Lord, Lord Derwent, referred to the fact that there is a good rail network, but it is considerably under-used while road congestion is, to say the least, very great.

Various roads have been mentioned, and I should like to refer to some others. The A.1 road is, in theory, capable of carrying 25,000 vehicles per day in the Yorkshire area. It now takes over 30,000 vehicles a day, which is an indication of the gross overcrowding on that road, despite the improvements that have been made. There are three main roads over the Pennines and they are equally overloaded, particularly with heavy goods vehicles. The M.62, the Yorkshire—Lancashire motorway, will, when it is completed, ease the West Riding traffic to South Lancashire and will be a big improvement.

The A.18, the Doncaster—Thorne road has been referred to. It is a narrow road, with one lane of traffic each way and carries 19,000 vehicles a day; although, as was pointed out by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, its carrying capacity is really only 6,000. It joins that narrow nine-foot wide wooden bridge at Thorne, where only single-line traffic is possible. That is a great deterent and affects the economic expansion of the area. Over one-third of the traffic on the A.18 has a carrying capacity of over one and a half tons, and your Lordships will appreciate the effect of these heavy lorries travelling along the totally inadequate and overcrowded roads. This causes expense and is a deterrent to industrial expansion. The additional cost ought not to have to be borne.

The A.63, leading to Hull, is over-congested, and two-fifths of the traffic on this road consists of heavy goods vehicles. There is an adequate but under-used rail service between Hull and Leeds, which would have been capable of great development had the correct planning been undertaken. The planned new motorway link from the West Riding to Humberside will provide a considerable easement, but it is important that this project should be proceeded with as soon as possible. I would echo the words of the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, and ask whether we may have from the Ministry a date when this project will be commenced, and also a completion date. The road is essential. It has been talked about for a considerable period, but it appears that we may lose it if we do not keep prodding.

The Economic Council urged the greater use of rail and inland waterways, and in this part of the country there are some splendid canals and waterways, which link the West Riding with various parts. At present they are under-used, but they could play an important part in the economy. The Humber ports, Hull, Grimsby and Immingham, have a great potential, and development visualised will require a considerable improvement in transport services of all kinds.

The railways and the docks have been referred to. The National Coal Board is constantly pressing to be allowed to embark on a big expansion scheme at Immingham Docks, in order to make our coal prices more competitive in the world, and particularly in the European markets. Lower down the river is Goole, which is expanding as a port and is capable of considerable further expansion. These ports will be of paramount importance when we enter the Common Market. The vast industrial potential of the West Riding includes the provision of steel manufactures, metal goods and chemical goods, but it cannot be utilised to the full unless there are more adequate communications with the Humber ports.

The Humber Bridge has been referred to by other noble Lords and I do not intend to spend much time on that subject. Like the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, I remember as a child standing on the pier and looking across to the Lincolnshire coast as though it were a foreign land. There has been talk, talk, talk, for many decades about building a means of crossing the Humber. First a tunnel was discussed, and then there were various bridging projects, which Parliament approved. But still the talk continues; and all the time the expense of building such projects rises rapidly. That is a fact which we appear to neglect. As the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, pointed out, it is of paramount importance that there should be a Humber Bridge which would be not simply a linking-up of North and South, but a real economic link with the ports on each side of the estuary. It is essential that traffic on the West Riding and the Lincolnshire sides should not have to travel, as it sometimes has to now, some 70-odd miles to get to a port. The present arrangements are antediluvian.

My Lords, it is important that there should be a new river crossing, to do away with that antique and miserable structure, the Selby toll bridge. As your Lordships know, I am a Yorkshireman, and in Yorkshire we have peculiar characteristics. I live quite near the Selby toll bridge but I would rather use a gallon of petrol in my car, at a cost of 5s. 8d., in order to travel on a route which would avoid the payment of a 9d. toll to go over that bridge. This matter has been referred to on several occasions, and the elimination of the bridge has been discussed. But the income from it is entirely tax-free and the compensation demanded is so great that successive Governments have not been able to tackle the problem.

Car registrations are increasing in Yorkshire at a fantastic rate. From 1962 to 1964 the number rose from 499,000 to 623,500, an increase of 24.8 per cent. With that increase the average of cars per person works out at one to 7.8 persons, compared with the national average of 6.4. Those of us who know the tremendous congestion in Yorkshire, in the towns and on the overcrowded roads, realise the extent of this additional nightmare.

In conclusion, my Lords, I would refer to a pet point of mine which is mentioned in this Report. We have some wonderful streams in our county, but some of them are the foulest of open sewers in the country, equal to those on Tyneside. Rivers like the Don, the Aire and the Calder, that flow through so wonderful a countryside, are so dirty that fishing is impossible, and there is no pleasure in wandering along their banks. I hope that there will be an urgent inquiry into this, both by local authorities and by the central Government, to see what can be done about cleaning these rivers and allowing them to be enjoyed like other rivers in Yorkshire. I think that this first debate on this Report has served a useful purpose and I hope that, arising from it, the Government will be able to collect the necessary information to allow them to plan the economic expansion of the region on correct lines.

5.21 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise for not being here when the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, sat down. I was only in the Tea Room, but I did not hear his name announced. We are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, for having presented this debate. I will be brief, and will deal with only one point, though I must lead up to it. In North Humberside, some 15 miles inland from the mouth of the Humber, is an area where there are one or two industrial plants. One of these plants is devoted to highly scientific extractive metallurgy, to getting pure, virgin metals out of drosses, industrial residues and complex ores which come into Hull from all over the world. I declare the interest of having been a director of this business for the last 30 years.

This plant is on the North side of the Humber, right at the edge of the river, and slightly further to the West of it is the aerodrome which is called Brough, and now belongs to Hawker-Siddeley, who took over the factory and still make aeroplanes there. Various speakers have talked about the communications in the district. I hope that the Government will read this Report. I am sure that if they do they will want to do something to try to help this area, in which I and others have been interested for so long.

Little reference has been made in this debate to the air, but one or two speakers have said that it is impossible to get direct to Hull from the Continent by air. That is not surprising. It is unlikely that an aerodrome could be built that could serve at the same time the North and the South of the River Humber, because we shall have to wait probably another ten or twenty years—or perhaps ten centuries !—before the river is crossed by a bridge. But an aerodrome will be required in the North Humber area, and on this subject I want to say a few words. A Government Inquiry has recently been held, and the Report is now in the hands of the Minister. When he makes his decision, he will no doubt also be looking at this regional Report and taking into account some of its recommendations. Its major recommendations seem to be that more investment is required on Humberside, and more employment.

The Minister will be asked to decide whether this aerodrome at Brough should be let by the company which now operates it to the Hull Corporation and should become a municipal aerodrome. There is hardly anything to be said in favour of this proposal, except that it is easy for the Hull Corporation to obtain the aerodrome relatively cheaply because the people now operating it only half want it. The aerodrome has some great disadvantages. One is that it is rather dangerous to land at Brough. I have flown there many times in the last 20 years, especially during the last five, in a private aeroplane, and my pilot does his best not to take me into Brough, if he can help it. He does not mind coming out of it so much. Those who fly will know that it is better to fly out than to come in, especially in bad Humber weather.

My pilot likes to take me to Leconfield, an R.A.F. aerodrome only a few miles away, and within five minutes of the same time from the centre of Hull. Leconfield has to a large extent been given up by the R.A.F. The fighter aircraft based there for many years have all left, and I believe that it is now just a small maintenance ground. I am hoping that the Minister will take all this into account and will tell the people in Hull that he does not approve the suggestion that the Brough aerodrome should be used. I will tell your Lordships briefly why.

If the Brough aerodrome is used as a public aerodrome, then the plant of my firm, which stands next door just East of it will be unable to develop, because a 600-foot chimney will be needed. It already has one chimney, but that is set back, and it now needs another one, which will be within the danger area for an aerodrome. The runway at Brough is not long enough and would have to be extended almost to the edge of the property with which I am concerned. If this chimney stack cannot be put up, then the firm cannot develop. Your Lordships may ask: what is the importance of this except to private shareholders? I am not concerned with a private interest, though I have declared one: I am concerned here with the public interest.

We took over that site of some 300 acres thirty years ago, believing it to be in a good position, near Doncaster coal and with good transport. We have put down £7 million worth of the most complicated and sophisticated chemical plant. We are the only firm in the world doing some processes for the production of pure metals. We are in competition with the Germans and the Americans. We even bring thousands of tons of materials across the Atlantic, from North America to Hull, treat them and sell back to the United States some hundreds of tons of virgin metal. Last year this brought in £2½ million worth of dollars, and if we are allowed to develop as we plan, it will bring in some £2½ million worth of dollars a year.

The plant also, of course, provides employment. If we cannot develop, we shall have to amalgamate with some other firm or go to Holland, or somewhere else where we are allowed to operate. I declare that the public interest requires the employment provided by this firm. Small as it is, it is nevertheless very important to this small district, which needs both investment and employment. I declare that that is more important than to allow Hull which is wanting an aerodrome, not for any very substantial use (because at present there is not much use for it, although of course it will grow) but mainly, I think, for prestige. And in any event, Leconfield is just as near, and infinitely superior, and is being vacated by the Royal Air Force. I think the Minister ought to listen to this. I should not be "sticking my neck out" and intervening in this debate in a way in which some of your Lordships may consider trivial if I had not thought that this Report will be going to the Minister and the Minister will be making up his mind in the next week or two. I hope that the lesson he will learn from this is that the first thing this district requires is investment and employment.

5.31 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that all of us who have read this Report must be deeply impressed with the value of the work which this Regional Council is doing. We are much indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, for having introduced this debate this afternoon, because it gives us an opportunity not only to consider conditions in Yorkshire and on Humberside, but to consider the work being done by these Regional Planning Councils and Regional Planning Boards in general. I hope that the Minister, who will speak later in the debate, will be able to give us some indication of the intentions of the Government with regard to their future.

These Planning Councils and Planning Boards have now been in existence for some years. As so frequently happens when a new body is brought into being, they are beginning to develop ambitions. It is said that there should be elected members, or that there should be at least a proportion of elected members. Again, it is said that they should be vested with some executive powers, and that their functions should not be restricted, as they are at present, to giving advice. Both of these claims seem to me to be based upon a complete misapprehension of the purpose for which these Councils were brought into existence. They are not part of the local government structure. They are essentially a part of the central administrative machinery of the Government.

Unless one keeps that clearly in mind it is easy to fall into an error about what the true function of these Councils should be. Their purpose is to advise Ministers, and for that reason it seems to me to be essential that the members should be nominated and not elected persons. If they were elected, it is by no means certain that the sort of persons upon whose advice the Minister could rely would necessarily be chosen. They would be elected, of course, for wholly different reasons. Therefore, it seems to me to be an essential factor for the success of these Boards that their members should be persons selected by the Minister, as were the members of the Board we are discussing this afternoon, because they are able to give the advice which Ministers need in the performance of their economic policy.

If they were given executive powers it would be essential that some, at least, of their members should be elected, or at any rate should be appointed by persons who themselves have been elected. If that was done, they would in effect become a third tier of local government. At this time, when the whole field of the structure of local government is being investigated by the Royal Commission, I think it would be most inappropriate to take any steps such as the vesting of executive authority in these Councils, which would clearly impinge upon the field of the Royal Commission. For these reasons, I hope that the Minister will be able to assure us that there is no intention to alter the functions of these Economic Advisory Councils and Economic Advisory Boards, and that there is no intention to alter their composition by introducing, as some of them would like, elected representatives or persons selected by those who have been elected. I hope that they will continue to be manned by persons nominated by the Minister as individuals with the necessary knowledge and experience to advise him about the economic requirements of their districts. I am sure that this is essential.

I hope, therefore, that the Minister will be able to assure us that these Boards and Councils will continue to discharge the functions for which they were formed, and that the Government would not welcome an extension of their functions or an alteration in their composition; and, above all, that they will not be encouraged to enter the field of local government. These Boards were not intended to be executive authorities, and I hope the Government will be able to assure us that nothing will be done to convert them from their advisory character into the character of elected bodies.

5.37 p.m.


My Lords, it is with a sense of gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, that I address a few remarks to the House on this subject. Had he not put down this Motion, it could well be that I would have been on a train to Yorkshire, expecting roast beef and a certain pudding that is famous throughout the world. We are discussing a county large in acreage—the character of the people who live in it is wellknown—and the Report which has been produced about it. I am a product of this area, too. I come from an area so partisan that when I was a little boy if Yorkshire lost at cricket my father used to draw the blinds, as though somebody had passed away in the house—and, by Jove! more often than not they had. That was in the day of the great Lord Hawke, a man very much honoured and loved in our district, who used to rule over the destinies of the Yorkshire team in those days.

I hope that inaction—if there is inaction—by the Government on some of the urgent problems so vividly set out in this Report will not revive that partisan spirit, because I can assure the Government that it will be reflected in the ballot box at the right time.

From the earnestness of the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, I thought that he was going to finish up by launching a new Party, the Yorkshire Nationalist Party. If he had, I should have been one of his—I very nearly said "able lieutenants", but I will say one of his enthusiastic lieutenants, because as an entity Yorkshire is quite sizeable, in population and in trade and in constitution.

What has been dealt with in this debate up to now has been mainly Humberside, transport, the bridge, and things on the East side of Yorkshire. I want to deal with the West side, the textile area. We have heard, and we know, that the roots are deep—in the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th century; and we know that families who live in our part of the world have been described in the church registers as "Clothiers" for several hundred years. The Minister who is to reply to this debate is in that category. During the Recess I took him to the house, on a hillside, of one of his progenitors, a great product of our district, with the weaving room upstairs where the hand loom used to be. Mechanisation was slow in coming to our area. It was not as fast as in the cotton area, because ours was a home craft, and the craftsmen kept to themselves; they were a hit "clannish", like those who want their independence further North. Mechanisation did not get under way until after the Napoleonic wars. Thereafter, it grew apace.

The population explosion made it possible for Australia to supply the demand of the wool trade in the way of raw materials. In our part of Yorkshire the home-based industry died hard. I can say that in my own family the hand loom weaving went on until 1916. There is some grim history written on tombstones in our parts, recording the death of small children bitten to death by fleas while their parents were at the looms. With the growth of factory life came factory housing, back to back, with a route march to the "privy". It has taken a long time to make any impact on this legacy. In a few localities the local authorities set to in the inter-war years to do something about it. I sat on one of them. We had no powers in that laissez-faire time to do anything about the factories, but we had to do something about the houses, and we did it. We "swiped" nearly all the sub-standard houses in our district through demolition orders, and built houses which are highly desirable dwellings to-day.

I want to point out that this foresight has something to do with the importance of this Report in terms of the desire, and the urgent need, for environmental changes which are referred to on practically every page of the Report. Many noble Lords will remember the furore when Tomlinson of Leeds started his revolutionary housing programme. Now, the houses I have referred to are exceptions. I want to draw attention to paragraph 15 of the Report which says: Since the second world war some progress has been made towards redevelopment and re-housing in the county boroughs and some of the country districts, but by and large the position remains appalling". Strong words. In housing there is tremendous need. It took the Second World War, Keynes and "Clem" Attlee to put a spark to the dry timber of desire for better things. It has been carried on by Government since.

What about where these folk work? The wool and worsted industries complex is the stronghold of the family business. Public companies are responsible for about half its output. They represent 150 out of 800 mills. Private family businesses are admirable. Make no mistake about it; I have nothing to say against them. But I draw attention to this. If they are in a craft industry and they have the know-how and the expertise, and the brains and hands of really first-class workpeople, it means that in difficult times they are not setting away the amount of reserves they should be; they are drawing them out. Half the wool and worsted trade of Yorkshire at the moment is working on written-down machinery on account of difficult times in the past. It is a very small item in their balance sheets. They have relied very often upon their expertise in being able to buy wool at the right time, at the right price; upon the expertise which has been handed down from generation to generation about the marks to buy in wool in Australia and throughout the world. They have been able to make a go of it. Businesses have gone from generation to generation, and now any number of these factories are really unable to house the machines that should be going into them.

I do not want to generalise, and I do not want to give a picture of gloom. It is one of the finest industries in this country or in any other country in the world. It still helps this country through to the extent of £150 million in exports every year, which is a colossal job, and the industry has done it well. But we are at the parting of the ways, and this is what I say in support of those people who have drawn a distinction between development areas and "grey" areas. Where is the money coming from to reequip, as we should in modern times? Never mind about the past, or as to whether the money has been pocketed by the families or not, or whether it has been dissipated. Let us face up to the present. The problem is there, and unless we are able to house and to put in those factories the machines which will do the job, having in mind the competition coming from all over the world, particularly from Japan, a problem will remain.

We have to revive this industry with an infusion of assistance, and it will have to be in the form of money. We do not ask for the same sort of grants as are being given in the development areas. There was a modicum of truth in what a noble Lord was talking about yesterday when he said that some of the assistance was going to firms that did not need it at all. But in this area assistance is needed to rejuvenate and to refresh, and if it is not forthcoming we shall be in a difficult situation. I believe that we are still the finest makers of woollens and worsteds in the world, and that we can still compete with any nation in the world. But we want this consideration by Government.

I will not keep your Lordships long, but I should like to conclude on this note. This Report talks about environment as being one of the important facets in keeping people there. The noble Lord, Lord Popplewell, talked about migration: he said that some were going out and others were coming in. Pakistanis were coming in while Yorkshire people were going out. Let me relate the experience of talking over this problem with one workman who is a friend of mine, close to where I live. There was a reduction in hours coming along, and we had been discussing the importance of time for leisure, and all the rest of it, and then he came out with a startling remark. He said, "If we have these reductions in hours, tha' knows, we'll be needing some Pakistanis to fill vacancies oop". A very shrewd but, my word! what a poignant remark. Does that not light up the whole facet of the productivity drive that we have been after? If the factories had been there, if the machines were in the factories, and if they were working in modern ways, we should not need the Pakistanis at all.

Now as to environment. People have been talking about the rivers. Not enough effort is made by the citizens in those valleys to do things for themselves. What they want to do is to set up societies and associations, either under the Civic Trust or some other body, and really set about cleaning up the rivers. They can do it, because I have done it in the district where I live. It was a stinking brute when I built my house near it, but today it has trout in it, and that is because I have set my spies on it, with a little bottle. Under the 1963 Act one can go a long way, and people who do not do things for themselves do not deserve support. It is about time the citizens of this country did something about it for themselves.

In the last chapter the Report talks about the amenities and the environment in a cultural sense. Wales is not the only place where they find choirs. We have them in Yorkshire, too—magnificent male voice choirs, mixed voice choirs and festivals of all sorts. Here is a striking thing. If you have mill-based societies and family businesses, with no science-based industries coming in, in the new world where there is universal university education, and in every row of houses in our district there is either a distinguished scientist or graduate of some sort, he has to go somewhere else. You lose him as a son. But the others come into districts like ours, and it is knowing and appreciating those people who come in that can be a considerable strength to an area. I am not despondent about this because we have broken a lot of new ground. Seven urban villages in the valleys, with glorious moorland behind, have this year had a festival to which the English Chamber Orchestra came one night; John Ogden the next; the work of a young composer was commissioned on the next night, and a Stratford on Avon Festival on two nights, and we then finished up with the Amadeus Quartet. It can be done in a district of our sort—and we made a profit of over £1,000. There is some strength there. If a lot of people, instead of sitting on their bottoms and waiting for the Government to do something about it, had set about it and organised and enthused about these things, they would have put something into the hearts and minds of people who are eager and willing and keen—and they are there. It makes me sick to hear all about "What the Government should do. Come and hand it to us on a plate".

I will finish, my Lords. This country is a great country. It has some great people in it. It has come to the end of an era of craft industry and there is a slackness to be taken up by intelligent administration in government in time. There is in the hearts and minds of the people the will to get on with the environment, and if this Report serves no other purpose, at least it has brought these problems to the attention of a wider public, and for that we are grateful.

5.57 p.m.


My Lords, after hearing the persuasive introductory speech of my noble friend Lord Peddie, and being overawed by the strength of the speeches of the following sons of the regions, I was rather surprised to hear from the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, that this accounted for only one-eighth of the United Kingdom.


My Lords, if the noble Lord will permit me to interrupt, I think it would be one-eighth of England.


I am sorry, my Lords. Far be it from me, as a Welshman, with no relationship with the region at all, to make any additional comment, other than perhaps some general points which may be of value in connection with the Report. All of us who read economic reviews of problems of development in the field either at home or abroad (my particular sphere is development abroad) must, I feel sure, be ready to compliment the Yorkshire Economic Planning Council on the width and depth and relevance of their inquiry. I only hope that their Report will serve as a model, or at least as a basis, for an exchange of views in regard to the reports which I hope will flow from the other regions.

In the meantime, I should like to join in the congratulations to the Council on having their review debated in Parliament before any of the other reviews. Certainly for my part I hope that we can look forward to some more quality reviews such as this from the other nine regions here at home, the wellbeing of which is of at least equal national importance to the sponsored development projects in the field of aid abroad, and indeed in my view much more important. The purpose of the inquiry, under the hand of Sir Roger Stevens, was to stimulate criticisms before plans were formulated. May I say that one of the side issues, and a very minor criticism, is the size of the Review. It does not fit any bookshelf, and I would suggest that future reviews be of a more practical size.

The Report gave me the distinct satisfaction that it is an ideal piece of detective work. Maybe its writers, by design, decided to cut it off there, but it leaves the reader well in the air in trying to focus the economic guilt. According to the Review, all the characters in this book are guilty, in environment, transport, central Government, and even the medical profession for extending expectation of life. A summation of the degrees of economic guilt I should have thought to have been an essential part of this work by way of at least a provisional list of the priorities in order to crystallise and focus the discussion, not so much on what is, but what can be. This is crucial, for until the local leaders themselves, in any region, become firmly committed personally, openly and unreservedly to specific projects in that region, then the people themselves can hardly be expected to show much interest in talks, surveys and inquiries.

Economic development covers a vast variety of factors, which is difficult, if not well-nigh impossible, to comprise into a simple formula. But the keystone of development anywhere, and particularly in this country, lies four square on the very site, on the ground, of a well-planned individual industrial project. My warning to any planner is that planners tend to concentrate more than is healthy or necessary on collective or regional planning, and fail to recognise that the urgent need, and indeed the weakness, in most developing regions is not the lack of a sophisticated, integrated plan, but the lack of well thought out and depth-appraised individual projects that can be carried out, and almost in the context of what my noble friend Lord Rhodes has just been talking about.

The core of the Review, to my mind, lies in paragraphs 479 and 244, in which the Council says that it places special emphasis on the need for re-generating existing industry and broadening its industrial structure. The second paragraph says that there is ample space in the region for existing industry to rehouse itself and for new industry to become established and to expand. I do not subscribe to the view that a great outpouring of investment expenditure in the industrial field is the first steps in an even spread development of the region. Investment, as such, is not enough to ensure growth or to encourage local private participation and the consequent savings of the resultant new earnings. For we may take it as basic that unless pre-investment and investment studies of individual projects in the implementation of a comprehensive plan are sufficiently realistic and advanced it does little good to prepare such a plan, and all too often that is precisely what occurs. Therefore, I would in all seriousness proffer the thought and the suggestion to my noble friend who is to reply that experts skilled in the field of investment, and brought up in the hard school of investing for profit, should be encouraged to work in some form of liaison with Regional Economic Planning Councils towards the end of developing local capital markets for local inhabitants and investors. What I have in mind, in this instance, is a kind of Yorkshire and Humberside Investment for Development Corporation to perform its duties as a day-to-day investment medium in the region of that Planning Council, and subsequently to develop others in the other nine developing regions.

We have already an institution in this country which defends its non-partisan nature and is astute. It is a thorough organisation; it is well-versed in profitable private project investment in all parts of the country, and indeed has already six regional offices. I refer to the Industrial and Commercial Finance Corporation. Nowadays, and par ticularly in these days, the larger industrial groups are reluctant to carry out large capital investment in the developing or the "grey" areas. In my view, therefore, there would be no detraction, but rather an acceleration and a tightening of I.C.F.C. work in the small business field if it could be suggested that I.C.F.C. might care to set up, together with the Regional Economic Councils, local corporations for investment in development, and geographically coincidental with the Regional Development Councils. There is reason to suppose that this kind of finding of money for local projects has already worked over many years in many parts of the world and in this country. I suggest that such a local investment medium would clearly demonstrate a practical path through the individual regional industrial idiosyncrasies and towards benefits to be won locally by both the small and large investors. It would certainly make the work of the Regional Economic Planning Councils more stimulating for themselves, and certainly more immediately constructive.

6.10 p.m.


My Lords, I, following a Welshman like my noble friend Lord Hall, rise with some diffidence as a Scotsman behind the formidable Yorkshire batting we have seen this afternoon. But, after all, as my noble friend Lord Hughes, the Minister of State, pointed out last week, Scotland is not a region, it is a nation, which was emphasised the following day in terms which he did not entirely anticipate. But I hope my noble friend Lord Peddie will not get ideas from my noble friend Lord Rhodes and start a new Humberside National Party. My reason for intervening is that this is the first of the reviews, and I think it is impressive. I think it is a model for the reviews that are to follow. Any constructive thinking in regard to regional planning will always have my interest and concern, because my deepest concern is to stop this ridiculous and dangerous drift of population, and indeed of industry, to the South-East, when, as I have said before in this House, we can foresee the M.1 as the High Street of a Greater London, with Birmingham as N.W.129. Therefore we look to Yorkshire and Humberside to form a sort of Hadrian's Wall to protect us from the South.

The other point, and the only one I want to emphasise specifically here, is the importance, which has been mentioned and reinforced by many speakers, of the need for the Humber Bridge. As one who has seen the benefits of the development of the Forth Bridge and the Tay Bridge in opening up the East of Scotland and giving us better prospects, I think that the least we Scots can do is to wish as well for the Humber. Looking at the map, it has always struck me how utterly ridiculous it is, as has been emphasised again this afternoon, that there is this great estuary with no proper road crossing.

Last night I was speaking in Cambridge. I had with me on that occasion one of the members of the staff of the University of Hull. As Lord Peddie has said, the University of Hull is a most distinguished institution, and among other things it likes to be visited. It is the university which I visit least because I am always intimidated by the difficulty of getting there. Last night he had to get from Hull to Cambridge; and he told me then that, as always happens with academics—it is one of the industrial hazards of academics now; you are always being called to London for Government or other consultations—one of his colleagues found that he had to be in London for a consultation and to be back to lecture on the same evening, and the only way he could do this was by flying in a small aircraft from Brough Airport to Luton Airport, going from Luton to his appointment, and then going to London Airport, catching a plane for Amsterdam, where he got another light plane to take him to Hull. He swears that that is true, and I quite believe it.

That is the kind of thing which we see in the failure of road communications as represented by the Humber estuary, and that in an age when he could have lunched in Cambridge, England, flown to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and given a lecture, as I myself have done, at 7 o'clock in the evening, with a little advantage from the five hours' difference in time. It is the importance of opening up the communication on the eastern side of the country which is paramount. Apart from emphasising that, I want to say how heartily I recommend and endorse the Report itself.

6.14 p.m.


My Lords, I too am not a Yorkshireman, but I should like to take the opportunity to say a few words to welcome this excellent Report. We have already waited far too long to have local planning reports of this sort drawing the whole region together across the absolute kaleidescope of our local authorities, and I warmly congratulate the distinguished chairman of the local Economic Planning Council, Sir Roger Stevens. We hope to see this work carried forward and to have something really done in this region.

I should like to draw attention to one or two paragraphs in this Report. Paragraph 246, for instance, says: All these factors suggest that the region's rate of economic advance is slower than it could be, and any complacent assumption that the region's natural advantages which have served it so well in the past will see it through in the future, would be mistaken and dangerous. Paragraph 258 says: What is needed is a positive policy of encouraging industrial developments which are of such a kind and in such places as will meet regional needs. There is also a most interesting passage in paragraph 438 where it says: In the Council's view, however, a more positive attitude at both national and, often, at local government level is needed to secure more rapid industrial development in growth areas, based on the expansion needs of existing firms as well as on the need for new faster growth industries in places where labour is available or would become available as a result of more efficient use of manpower. I quote this because it is strong confirmation of a point which I tried to emphasise in the debate on November 7; namely, that we need a more positive attitude by the Administration, both local and national, to press economic development forward. I believe that this requires a new attitude by civil servants, both local and national, and that this is a major task where the Prime Minister himself has to give a lead if anything effective is to be done. I am sure it is essential that the Government themselves should take a lead in any case in providing the economic infrastructure which is needed for the development or redevelopment of a region such as this. For some years I was a member of the Development Aid Committee of the O.E.C.D., and this sort of need is commonly recognised. The Government themselves have to take a part in pressing these major developments forward.

I should like warmly to support what the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, said in his excellent speech (if I may pay a humble tribute to him) as to the need for proper approach roads to the ports, for a proper bridge to enable this region to live as a region, as it obviously is, and essentially for means of decongesting the approaches to the ports through which our exports have to pass.

It is necessary to look at this on a national scale as well as a local scale. We can no longer always rely, it seems, on the Port of London, because it is so often cluttered up with strikes and ships held up waiting, and the turn-round is bad. I happen to know the Scandinavian shipowners well and I can assure your Lordships that they would give anything to have really effective communications with other ports in the United Kingdom, and it happens that the Humber is well-placed for the Scandinavian ports. But if we cannot get our exports to the ports or get the imports away from them, what is the point of it? It has to be dealt with.

I should like also to draw attention to the passages in this Report which deplore the general amount of derelict land and uncleared-up mess in the area. It so happens that I was visiting friends in the North this summer and I met some young people who said that they really could not wait to go South. This is just the point that the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, was making. I said to them, "Surely you ought to be developing the part of the country where you come from". They said, "Well, there is so much mess, and there is such a lack of amenity and lack of proper clearing-up in the area". I would say that a great deal can be done which has not yet been done in this area, and if you want go-ahead young people to run go-ahead young industries you have to put them in reasonably designed surroundings so that they are not pining to get out of the whole place.

I once visited a factory overseas kept by an old Yorkshireman and he took me down the back stairs. As we went down I could see that the whole place was littered with paper and old rags and was a complete mess. I must have looked very astonished, because the Scandinavians keep everything as clean as a whistle. My friend saw my surprise and said, "Aye, I'm from Yorkshire, and there we say, 'Where there's muck there's brass'." At the moment some parts of this area which we are debating to-night seem to have "more muck than brass", and I believe it is essential to clear it up.

It is all very well for us on all sides of this House, and indeed for the Report self, to say how necessary it is to develop the area, but the difficulty is to find the capital for investment there at a time when investment funds are short. It is essential that we should invest more in this country—and when I say "more" I mean much more. The O.E.C.D. figure for investment per head in this country is 320 dollars per annum. If countries like Sweden and Germany and the other really go-ahead economies invest 650, 600 and 625 dollars per head per year, how can one be surprised that they have a more go-ahead and more expansive economy and a better export position than exists here?

I am sure that this is an argument why we should keep down our consumption figures: I do not know that the Government have done so very much in this regard. They are always distributing more on the social side, but they deserve much credit for their incomes policy, which tends to keep down consumption figures, except, of course, so far as productivity rises. I would draw attention to the fact that we are exporting capital on an immense scale all over the world. I do not know whether it is really correct that we get more advantage from a high return on capital in Zambia or Argentina, in places where experience shows it is at considerable risk, than we should do by developing areas such as those we are discussing to-day, where our own countrymen are not as profitably employed as, in my opinion, they really deserve to be.

I look in vain in the Report for any reference to exports. I would refer again to the point I made on November 7. If firms are going to be established in this area I am sure it is essential that our authorities give preference and extra help to those which will produce extra exports. What happens when one starts to develop such an area as this? One puts up more factories; one has to pay the workpeople to put up the factories; one buys the raw materials and one pays the people who have produced the raw materials. All of this expenditure results in greater imports. What are we doing to relate a better rate of export to the investment expenditure which we are undertaking? There is not a chance of balancing our delicately marginal economy unless something like this gets done. This is another thing which I really urge should be done. I am very sorry that there is no mention in the Report of exports, so far as I can see, and I feel that the Board of Trade ought to draw the attention of Sir Roger Stevens and the Planning Council to the absolute necessity to bear this consideration in mind as work is carried forward.

6.25 p.m.


My Lords, I hope that if I make a very short speech I may be excused for my absence earlier in the debate. I have given the reason to my noble friend on the Front Bench. This is an economic report by a planning council. It makes only tentative suggestions, and its object is to assemble the facts. Therefore, it is not the kind of report which tells the Government what to do. In the Report's preface it is made quite clear that what action is to be taken depends upon the central Government; and this is something which involves a great many other factors than those surveyed in this Report.

I should like to ask the Government one question. What machinery exists at present, and if it does exist how is it going to be used, for examining any action which is to be taken, not only on this Report but on other similar reports? I was rather sorry when the Ministry of Land and Natural Resources disappeared—not for personal reasons, but it at least had the advantage of trying to look at the country as a whole, and not local authority by local authority, or even region by region.

I agree that Yorkshire is a bit of a mess in a great many ways. I am glad to see my noble friend Lord Rhodes has disappeared, because he might think that I was being rude to him or to Yorkshire, which after all is much the same thing. On the other hand, Yorkshire is a place with very great potentialities, as has been shown in the past. It is a great pity that in an important industry such as the wool industry, when scientific knowledge about wool is required Yorkshire has to ask Manchester for it—and this is in fact what happens. The wool and textile trades in Yorkshire have probably had to meet more technical changes than any other major trade in the country, and I am not saying that they have not been good at it. Consequently, if one is looking for an area where technical advance is of immediate and obvious importance to the people who live in the area, one could find it in Yorkshire. It is quite right that for that sort of reason Humberside has been selected as a national growth area.

I should like my noble friend in his reply to tell the House whether anything is to be done about the proposal, not so much to have a new town as a new city on Humberside. This proposal was made a little time ago and the matter was examined, but I should like to know what has happened to it. I feel that there are very great opportunities here in the field of the technical and the scientific. Possibly the right answer to those who complain that there are too many unfilled scientific places in universities today is that some university in the North of England should work on the lines of the work done at Imperial College in the South of England, so as to foster that side of education. This would enable the industry of Yorkshire to develop to the full possibilities of dealing with new materials, materials which in the past have been in the form of wool or cotton.

I suggest that if there is to be a new city on Humberside, as I hope there will be, it should be linked with education and with technical and social advances. I regard the joining of those advances to the purely economic questions with which this Report mainly deals as something about which, as the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, rightly said, we could learn a great deal from Scandinavia and from other countries. Such countries realise that in these days the development of a country is not just a question of housing or communication or factories, but depends on being able to adapt to the use of the industrial man the advances which scientific and technical knowledge is putting before us nowadays.

I was very glad to see that the Prime Minister, speaking to the last Party Conference, stressed again the point which he had first made at Scarborough about the importance of scientific and technical advance. It seems to me possible that a new city or a new centre (call it what you will) on Humberside, where anyhow there is going to be an area of national growth, might give a focus for that which is a little lacking in the North of England already. I have nothing but admiration for the existing universities at Hull, for instance, and at York and Leeds. But that is not quite what I have in mind, and I hope that my noble friend may be able to give me a little encouragement on this.

6.32 p.m.


My Lords, all speakers in the House have paid their tribute to the initiative of my noble friend Lord Peddie in introducing this debate to-day, and I should like to join them. I would also underline what has already been said: that this is the first debate in either House on a Report of one of these Regional Planning Councils. I think that this is a matter of significance, because these Reports—and this is only one of many, as my noble friends have pointed out—which are coming out from the regions will form part of the overall planning review which has been initiated by the Department of Economic Affairs.

I think noble Lords were right when they recognised the fact that, at this stage, these Reports cannot lay down hard plans for the future, and I do not think anybody really concerned with them is expecting that. I know that the Yorkshire and Humberside Regional Council are aware of the fact that this Report is not as concrete as many people would like, but they had to balance the advantage of getting discussions started on its contents against the delay that would have been caused if they had tried to produce a better, more detailed and firmer Report. They were afraid that the best might be the enemy of the good. So they have published this Report early; the Government have considered it and given a formal reply. The Council, in their turn, have replied to the Government, and a lively local discussion in the Yorkshire Press has started as a result.

The noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, may say that we are moving slowly, but, to be honest, what is happening is that we have to look at the picture of this country as a whole, existing as it does to-day after the Industrial Revolution and after the longest period of industrial development of any country in the world. The very fascinating and inspiring history of our industrial past has, in fact, left us with great problems; and immediate solutions, as I think every fair-minded man must recognise, are not easy to achieve. If they were easy to achieve, we should have found the answers by now.

I am certain, therefore, that since the Yorkshire and Humberside Council wished to get their Report published as a medium for starting discussion, they would equally wish to see that this discussion acts as a catalyst to action. I think the Council, also, will be grateful to my noble friend Lord Peddie, because he has given an impetus to this discussion. And here I should like to express my own gratitude to the Council, as did my noble friend Lord Strabolgi, for the self-sacrificing work which they are doing in an unpaid capacity in their attempt to get the Yorkshire region back to the fading place which we Yorkshiremen believe it should hold in the country. I regretted that the noble Lord, Lord Moynihan, had to describe them as "faceless men". They may wish to work quietly behind the scenes, but their work is starting to bear fruit, and we should thank them for it.

It may be convenient if I reply briefly at this moment to the noble Lord, Lord Ilford, who made a very wise interjection. I think none of us outside the Liberal Party wishes at this stage to see the function of these regional advisory councils altered. As the noble Lord rightly said, local government is under consideration by a Royal Commission at the moment, and it would be entirely improper now to try to add executive powers or an elected feature to these particular bodies. They are consultative, deliberative and advisory, and it is the view of Her Majesty's Government at this moment that they should remain so. This does not mean that they are ineffective, but they do provide the precise knowledge which is necessary for action.

In my view, the region is to a certain extent an artificial one. It is chosen for administrative convenience and lies between Lancashire, the North and the East Midlands, and it breaks down into three main areas. The area which is of the greatest interest to me is, of course, the great conurbation around Leeds and Bradford, and that is the region where the problem of urban renewal is one of the more serious that we have to face. South of that lies the Yorkshire Coalfield with very special problems of its own, which hardly any speaker to-day mentioned.

I was glad that the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, touched on the problem of dereliction, because it is in the Yorkshire Coalfield area that the main problems in this field lie. As my noble friends have said, the Yorkshire Coalfield is still an extremely important one, producing, I think, a quarter of the country's coal, and in the Coal Board's view it will continue to perform an important service. But the result of this industrial activity is that something like 10,000 acres of land in the region are sterilised by dereliction. As a second problem there are specialised communities, isolated from other areas of the region, where there is insufficient work for the womenfolk of the miners in the area. The Yorkshire Coalfield area has two special problems, under-employment of women—or, rather, lack of facilities for the employment of women—and the very great problem of dereliction. I should just like to highlight that to-night. I am not producing any solutions, but I feel that it is one of the matters which should receive public discussion in the country.

The Government are willing to provide 50 per cent. grants for the improvement and clearing of derelict land; the other 50 per cent. coming from local authorities. But in this special area of the Yorkshire Coalfield the local authorities are not large, and for this reason the burden of asking them to clear these great areas of waste from the coalfields may well be beyond them. I hope that on some future occasion it will be possible to give further consideration to this very special problem. Perhaps it should be considered in relation to the view ex- pressed by many of my noble friends, that areas which are not development areas should not for that reason be penalised. The fear expressed in this Report is that, although the Yorkshire region is at the moment prosperous with a lower unemployment rate than the average for the rest of the country, nevertheless, unless adequate steps are taken now partly to remove the disincentives to staying in Yorkshire, and partly to develop the facilities that exist, in due course this region may itself become a development area because it will be deserted by the people living and working there. This line of argument, again, is something that we must carefully consider.

Then, my Lords, we have of course the tremendously exciting possibility of the Humberside area, where we have natural gas coming ashore and where we have modern industry lying south of the Humber. It is very pleasant to dream dreams of creating some vast, new, modern, technologically based city in that area. My noble friend Lord Mitchison has asked what the Government are doing about it. Indeed, a whole series of questions has been asked, some of which I will answer in detail in a moment, but all of which really lead up to the question: why have the Government not come out with proposals for this exciting growth area earlier? I think the short and simple answer is that, because the potential here is so great and the problems are so great, this whole area needs special study.

This study is being undertaken by a rather terrifyingly-named body, the Central Unit for Environmental Planning. This body is part of the machinery of central Government, and in spite of its formidable name it is doing a job of intricacy and importance—and it hopes to have made up its own mind by the end of the year. At what point the Government will be able to consider its proposals I am not able to say this evening, but what I can say is that the importance of this region is recognised, and in due course a considered plan will be put before the local authorities for this great area. This is not going to happen to-morrow—it cannot happen to-morrow; we have to peer into the future—but I think everybody recognises that it will happen; and we are hoping that we shall not have made a mess of it when the times comes to start building and laying out this great new area.

Having said this, and having declared, with various of my noble friends, my interest in Yorkshire, I have to point out that the claim for urban renewal, for better roads and for all the good things that everybody wants, is not, of course, exclusively one for Yorkshire. It is one for the country as a whole; and for this reason the Government have to take a balanced view. But they will be able to take a balanced view with greater ease when all these Reports are in and they are able to balance the claims of one region against another. However, I should like now to answer the particular points made by various speakers who to-day concentrated upon Humberside as an area of growth, and the impediments which it suffers through being at the edge of an imperfect road network. That, I think, is really the subject which interested the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, and I will try to give him a limited amount of satisfaction and a reasonable amount of hope.

There is one firm decision to report, and that is that the Minister of Transport has announced in the Commons—it was announced, in fact, early this year—that she has decided to maintain the proposals for the extension of the M.62 from Ferry-bridge towards Humberside on the line announced by her predecessor, and I understand that this stretch of motorway is now programmed. I do not know exactly what this means, but I know that the line is firm and that the procedures of land acquisition and of technical planning are now proceeding. This road will run from Ferrybridge through Goole, and it is shown on the map enclosed in the Planning Council's Report. This, of course, is south of the road that runs through Selby—and here we come to the famous bridge that has been so much discussed, the toll bridge. Since that announcement, my right honourable friend has said that she would be prepared to consider proposals for a relief road at Selby, in addition to the approved network. So the bridge at Selby may, I hope, be replaced at an appropriate time; and, as someone who is interested in ancient monuments, I hope that it will be retained to record a troubled period of our past history.

Turning again to the A.18, I would point out that the Planning Council have emphasised the very serious congestion on the A.18 road, providing the main access from the A.1 to Scunthorpe and Grimsby, on which Thorne is a particularly serious bottleneck. A motorway is already planned to relieve this road, and work on a Thorne by-pass is planned to start in 1969. My right honourable friend has said that she is ready to consider proposals for a temporary bridge to relieve the present wooden structure at Thorne during the interim period; so that, too, is a bottleneck which we are hoping to remove.

Then, of course, there is the question of access to the Hull docks. My noble friend has pointed out what the city has done in the way of self-help in this field. Plans have been made for the construction of a southern orbital road inside the city for the specific purpose of enabling traffic from the docks to by-pass the centre of the town on its way to the trunk roads to the West. The work will proceed in three stages. The first, from Hessle Road to Myton Place, has been given a place in the 1969–70 programme; the second, from Myton Place to the Market Place, is in the programme for 1971; and the third, from Myton Place to Hedon Road, including a bridge over the River Hull, is in the pool of schemes for the '70s. So work will start on this particular by-pass road in the year after next.

That brings us finally to the question of the Humber bridge.


My Lords, before the noble Lord goes on, may I say that I am very interested in what he has been saving, but is nothing to be done about the cart tracks that lead to Immingham? Because Immingham is expanding on its own, without help, very quickly.


If the noble Lord will permit me, I should like to write to him on that point. I cannot give him a precise answer this evening, but I will write to him and tell him the present state of play on this problem. I know this particular road, because I drive on it myself. The noble Lord is correct: that whole area is completely empty of good roads. In fact, they may well not have improved since the time of the Roman General, Sextus Optimus, who, we were told, came to this point and built the only decent road in the area.

There is power to build a bridge under the Humber Bridge Act 1959, but no more. It is one of the very important factors being considered by the Central Unit for Environmental Planning. But even if it is approved, a great deal of time will be needed before the bridge is planned and built, and I would suggest to noble Lords that there may be other means of crossing this wide stretch of water than the present antiquated ferry. After all, short-haul aircraft and hovercraft exist, and if there is local initiative this broad estuary may be crossed by means other than a bridge before the day when the new bridge may be built. There is no need to continue lumbering backwards and forwards over the river on the present Victorian relics.

My Lords, I have tried to give as detailed replies to noble Lords as I can. The Council's Report covers a very wide field and it has led to a general debate; but I do not think, because the debate is general, it has been the less useful for that. The problems of this great region—which are common to many other parts of Britain—have been aired and a dialogue has started between the region and the central Government. I should like to make one comment to the noble Lord, Lord Hankey, on the point he made about an administrative infrastructure. This does exist—because next to every Economic Planning Council there is a Regional Planning Board, consisting of able civil servants seconded from the central Government, to work and plan within the regions—not in the "glasshouse" at Whitehall, but out in the regions themselves. The infrastructure is there and is gathering information and establishing itself.


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves that point, could he give the House any assurance that the need for exports will be borne in mind by this administration?—because I believe this is a primary and essential need of our economy.


My Lords, I think that is something with which no-one would argue. But is this the function of an Economic Planning Council? I think that the Planning Council, when it argues for improvement in the dock facilities in the region, when it argues for the improvement of communications for the great industrial conurbations of Leeds and Bradford, is, by implication, improving the chance of our exports' success. I think this is a problem for the central Government and not one for the regions.


My Lords, I am sorry to beat this point home so hard; it really is not a dead horse. I feel it is essential that the central Administration should emphasise to the local authorities who are actually carrying out the economic development the essential need for ensuring that exporting firms do receive special help. I urge that this should be done with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and with the Board of Trade. I do not see how else the Chancellor can be expected to make the grade with the balance of payments.


My Lords, I am certain that all Planning Councils and Planning Boards will read tonight's debate and will note the remarks of the noble Lord. At the same time I should like to say I was attracted by the remarks of my noble friend Lord Hall when he suggested that the Regional Boards and the Regional Planning Councils should gather to themselves local investment councils and should try to create a local capital market—because, at the end of the day, whatever the Government do, it is local self-help that will bring these great areas into the 21st century. There is no substitute for self-help. The Government may point the way; they may give special assistance in special areas; but unless the people help themselves nothing whatever will happen. I will give the noble Lord an extraordinary example of this. The Government, as your Lordships know, have provided an incentive to increased investment by investment grants. The noble Lord himself mentioned this. Yet over half the firms entitled to these investment grants have been too idle to collect them. At times, it almost makes one weep. They have gone so far into idleness that they cannot even lift a hand to get the capital that is offered them.

I know from a close and long personal friendship with my noble friend Lord Rhodes what he and his neighbours in the Colne Valley area have done to bring a very old industrial area back to life. The Festival of Arts held there, the vitality of its people, the creation of a very interesting museum of industrial archaeology in a remote part of the Pennines—these are things which could be copied in areas with greater resources than exist there. May I close with the thought put to us by my noble friend: whatever the Government do, self-salvation will come from the regions. That is why I welcome the devoted work done by this Economic Planning Council which we have debated to-day and for which we express our thanks.


My Lords, before the noble Lord resumes his seat, I should be glad if he would give us some indication of the Government's attitude towards loan sanctions, particularly with regard to Hull, and the development of the 240 acres?


My noble friend was good enough to give me notice of this Question and I am afraid I have to give him a somewhat guarded but not totally unsatisfactory reply. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government issued a circular letter on May 16 this year. The aim of this circular was to restrict lending by local authorities for industrial development because such lending had been increasing so quickly that in 1966–67 it accounted for more than a quarter of total loan sanction capacity available to local authorities in England for all planning purposes. However, outside development areas the circular said: Regard will be had to the existence of special needs in particular places … including places where planned expansion and relocation is taking place. This gives the Ministry of Housing and Local Government discretion to deal with applications from authorities outside development areas in the light of local difficulties according to the special circumstances of each case. Hull would certainly not be excluded from consideration.


My Lords, I will certainly resist the temptation to make a further speech, but I will take this opportunity of sincerely thanking my noble friend, Lord Winterbottom, for the considerate way in which he has dealt with the questions. I am sure that when I have studied his replies more closely I shall be quite convinced that they will support the points made that he and the Government recognise the tremendous potentialities of Yorkshire and Humberside. I would also express my deep appreciation to all noble Lords who have supported me in this debate, in full recognition of the points that I and other speakers tried to make of the great resources of our own Yorkshire area and their great potentialities. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

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