HL Deb 27 November 1968 vol 297 cc1223-96

3.40 p.m.

Debate resumed.


My Lords, may I perhaps now remind you again of the problems of the North West of England to which our attention has been drawn this afternoon by the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, who is the first Yorkshireman ever to become Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, thereby finishing for all time any trace of bitterness over the Wars of the Roses.

I feel that the problems with which we are concerned this afternoon have a great significance, not only for the North West itself but, by implication, for the rest of the country. Let us remind ourselves yet again of the area with which we are dealing. It has a larger population than Scotland; it has a population about twice as great as Wales. It has in its time done some of the most remarkable things which Englishmen have ever done. Let us not hesitate for a moment, perhaps in nostalgia, to remind ourselves of the situation sixty or seventy years ago when Lancashire bestrode the world like a Colossus. In 1913 it made 80 per cent. of all the textiles in the world, 7,000 million yards of cloth. It was the most extraordinary concentration of industry at that time the world had ever seen, and it was the profits it made which helped us to pay for such things as the Argentine railways and accumulate the overseas investments which paid for the First World War and in large measure paid for the second.

The North West has done a tremendous amount for this country and in the process it has, I think, acquired a hold on the generosity of its fellow countrymen which I think it is right to voice because it paid a most bitter and desperate price for some of its achievements, and it is they, these relics of a bygone age, to which I wish to draw your Lordships' attention.

Many of them have already been mentioned to your Lordships by the Lord Lieutenant and the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale. It is still one of the most heavily industrialised areas in the world. It is still the area whose exports are essential to the welfare of the community at large, and it has shown a quite extraordinary measure of self-help, as the two noble Lords have told us to-day, in re-equipping itself, revitalising its industries and changing over the whole of its working force from a total reliance on two basic industries to the enormous diversification we see to-day. There can never have been in the industry of this country so dramatic a change in an industrial pattern, so remarkable a change in the whole employment of a vast number of skilled workers, which has been carried through almost entirely by the efforts of the people themselves. No one in Lancashire feels either that he needs pity or that he needs help in doing the jobs he can do himself. But there are whole areas of human activity beyond the powers of individual areas such as the North West; and the real problem with which we are struggling is the decay of the total infrastructure of the community, and for this reason I think it is perfectly sensible that we should expect the central Government to take a greater initiative than they have vet done in helping us.

The noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, has already mentioned the fact that we have more than 10,000 acres of derelict land. It is an enormous amount of country, some of it hideous, derelict and disfigured almost beyond imagination, vast areas of slag heaps, vast areas of old disused coal tips, vast areas of derelict buildings, inadequately lit houses, badly built mills, all falling into decay. It is a total problem quite beyond the powers of any individual district to solve on its own. Let us remember that it is from this area that the wealth of the country derived in the last century to an extraordinary degree.

The curious situation which the noble Lord, Lord Erroll, mentioned briefly is that in certain areas, which are specially defined, the Government make a grant of 85 per cent. towards the clearance of the general squalor, but this grant is cut to less than 50 per cent. over the greater part of the area of the North West where the need is in fact greatest. This is an extraordinary administrative anomaly. It could be removed by a stroke of the pen. Were it so removed, the initiative of the populace would, I think, dramatically surge forward and insist that these huge areas, some of the most hideous now on the face of the whole earth, would be cleared up and made fit for ordinary use again and able to house some of the cities which have already been mentioned as necessary, cities which otherwise it might be impossible to accommodate.

So I plead with the noble Lord who is to reply for the Government that some reconsideration should be given to this very curious anomaly which deprives large parts of the North West of the help which, were it not for what seems to be a curious administrative process, would already be at its disposal. Were this possible, I can assure your Lordships that it would have a dramatic effect on a very large part of the whole district.

The two noble Lords who have spoken both referred to the inadequacy of communications. This is quite extraordinary. Remember that it was 150 or so years ago that Liverpool and Manchester began the railway age by constructing the first railway in the world, and now communications between them are deplorably inadequate because there is no decent road between the two. The East Lancashire road, built thirty to forty years ago, is wholly inadequate to carry the traffic which tries to get through it to-day.


My Lords, if I may interrupt the noble Lord, I would point out that the first passenger-carrying railway was built in the North East and not the North West, between Stockton and Darlington, and I have interests there as well as in the North West.


Well, my Lords, the Lancashire railway was one of the first, and it was, so far as I know, the first on which a Minister of the Crown was killed on the opening day. But it is deplorable that, having created one of the first railways in the country, certainly the first and still the only major inland waterway, we should find these two great cities severed by an inadequate road system. I would add my plea to those already voiced to the Minister that he should try to advance the date for the starting of the work and give some idea when we can expect a reasonable answer.

The basic problems with which we are wrestling seem to me to be common to the problems of all regions. They are fundamentally the extreme difficulty of maintaining a sensible dialogue between communities such as the North West and the central Government in Whitehall. There are at this minute in the region 180 local authorities, and 24 of them are planning authorities. Each of them is concerned with the extremely complex problems of a small district and each of them has to maintain negotiation; with anything up to half a dozen separate Ministries in Whitehall. Negotiation between Ministries concerned with similar problems in a large number of districts on the one hand, and individual districts each concerned with a large number of problems which involve half a dozen Ministries on the other hand is extremely and frustratingly difficult.

Noble Lords have referred to a new central Lancashire city. This is not only the most important single recommendation which emerges from this very splendid plan to which our attention is drawn this afternoon, but it impinges on every single part of the work of the region: smoke clearance, new roads, new sewers, new industrial deployment. Every single part of the work of the district is in some way at stake in this, and half a dozen Ministries have to be coordinated if a solution is to be found. Another very good example is the Morecambe Bay barrage. It has been bandied about for years. If it is to be built, it will be because it will provide water, perhap; for the North West, perhaps for the whole of the Midlands, maybe even half the country. It would make a dramatic difference to the water supply of a very large part of the total area of Great Britain. It would, furthermore, provide a road which would make it possible to open up the whole of Barrow and the derelict area around it. It would provide, probably, new agricultural land which might reclaimed as a result of draining part of the lake which would be created by the barrage. It might provide cooling water for half a dozen nuclear power stations. It might provide a quite dramatic and effective amenity for holidaymakers in the area. It might well, therefore, be the concern of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries as well because of the changes it may make in, let us say, the sands which flow into Liverpool Bay.

Hitherto it has proved quite impossible to discover any mechanism by which the totality of the plan can be considered and its economic benefit assessed in the whole. There are Ministries which will answer any one individual part of the problem, saying, "So far as we are concerned, it would not pay". But there is nobody who can decide how all these things can be combined and the total benefit assessed.

I have a similar problem in my own university. Obviously, it is on a much smaller scale, but the problem which we have to wrestle with is made greater for the same administrative reason. I would remind your Lordships that the University of Manchester is now the largest in the country after London, which may perhaps be regarded as a special case. It is one of the three universities in the district which has grown dramatically, and between them they have accepted an extraordinarily large part of the growing undergraduate population. In fact, their contribution to education has been numerically much more significant than that of most of the small new universities which have had a greater amount of publicity.

But the problem with which we in the City of Manchester are struggling is this: we are trying to combine the growth of the university with the process of urban renewal. When we began the clearance of some of the slums we had to demolish houses which had been built in the early part of the 19th century. They had been condemned as uninhabitable nearly 100 years after they were built, but were still in use when we came to inspect them thirty or forty years later. They were places in which the infantile mortality rate was nearly three times as great as the national average. They were in-sanitary, foul and filthy and we were able to get them condemned. This was part of one of the largest slum clearance schemes in Europe, and so the first problem we had was with the Ministry of Health.

We are now trying to create in one and the same area a combination of the teaching hospitals, which are the concern of the Ministry of Health; a series of ordinary faculties of the University, the concern of the Department of Education as well as the particular U.G.C.; a series of teaching colleges such as, for instance, the North West College of Music, which is the responsibility of half a dozen local authorities as well as the Department of Education and with the B.B.C., whose administerial connections are a little obscure to me. We are now negotiating with the City of Manchester in its capacity both as a planning agent and also as an organisation needing more colleges of various kinds.

The whole complex of ideas has been described by the planning architects as the most remarkable piece of town planning now under way anywhere in Europe. But it is made vexatiously complicated because nowhere in London is there any single authority through whom we can negotiate. One finds this particular problem in all individual areas in almost everything that they do. A series of Ministries in London, each with vast experience in a limited field and responsible for the same problems wherever they arise anywhere in the country, are trying to negotiate with individual groups of people in the regions each of them concerned with a totality of twenty different kinds of problems. I feel that many of these administrative problems are at the source of much of the unrest and the sense of dissatisfaction in the country at large which has led at least in part to the movement for Scottish Nationalism and the move to separatism in Wales.

I doubt whether it is going to be sufficient dissatisfaction to move the people of Lancashire to separate themselves from the rest of England. But certainly there is a grave disquiet in all regions about the extraordinary complexity and difficulty and frustration and ineffectiveness of negotiations between the regions and the central Government in Whitehall. We await with some impatience the reforms which will be initiated in local government in the country as a whole. We feel, furthermore, that we have to await some reorganisation of the central Government to make regional planning more efficient than it can be at the moment.

As I have said, our basic problems are those of an old, run-down area, an area which in its day was wealthy and made an immense contribution to the wealth and the amenities of the country at large. As noble Lords have said, we are suffering now from the fact that we are getting much less than our fair share of Government investment—20 per cent. less than the average over the country at large. Were we to get 20 per cent. more, I do not think it would be more than our reasonable due. There are some things, indeed, in which the disparity is even greater than 20 per cent., and this is peculiarly in relation to the problem of the arts. I believe that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, is to speak later to-day. I wonder whether perhaps he can tell us if there is any prospect that the Arts Council will take seriously, more seriously than it has done, the relative starvation of the arts in the Provinces.

The Region has two of the best orchestras in the world. It has, on the other hand, a quite inadequate subvention from the Arts Council. The disparity is so startling as to be almost unbelievable. The museums of the district have to struggle with all the museums in the rest of the Provinces, for their share of about £100,000, which is the total allowance made for museums in the country at large. The museums of London alone get the better part of £3 million among them. I have never been satisfied with arguments which suggest that the arts, music, the museums, and so on, are necessary in London on such an enormously greater scale than they can possibly be made available in the North West. The noble Lord, the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, has himself made a great contribution towards the development of the arts in the villages and towns near which he lives. There is no doubt at all of the interest of people in this kind of activity, and I would plead with the Minister who is to reply, and other people who have influence with the Arts Council, that we should get not only our fair share of the roads, the railways, clearance schemes for tips and so on, but a reasonable share, too, of the contribution which the central Government is now making towards the development of the arts and of culture in general.

Lancashire is an extraordinary place, my Lords, and I sometimes wonder why any man living, as some of them do, within sight of a coal pit, knowing that the local roads are poor and potholed, that his prospects of a job are not too good and that the pay he earns is several per cent. less than the national average, that the district is squalid, should stay there and make the goods which we have to export in order to live. It is a difficult question. There is no doubt in my mind that it is the air of squalor and neglect that is driving people away from Lancashire, and depriving one of the potentially most useful parts of the whole of England of its most valuable raw resources, those young able enterprising people who would stay were there any prospect that the amenities to which other people have become accustomed could be provided for them.

4.0 p.m.


My Lords, I add my gratitude to the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, for having introduced this subject in such an eloquent arid forthright speech. I also add my congratulations to him personally. When I am next on the borders of the River Mersey—for practical purposes not at Birkenhead but perhaps at Stockton Heath—I shall call across to my friends in Lancashire and tell them how fortunate they are in Her Majesty's representative in their county.

I should also like to thank those who have produced this remarkable document Strategy II. It is not a blueprint for the future of this area, a complicated document with a great deal of detail and of technical jargon, but it is, as we are reminded in paragraph 8, "a collective hunch …" on the part of "a nonprofessional but reasonably well-informed group of people—". Therefore, it is a document which is eminently easy to understand, and, for that reason, all the more valuable for those of us who live in this area and all those who want to see it advancing in the future.

It is, I think, natural that most attention should be concentrated on the central and the northern part of the North West area which is under consideration by us to-day. It is that area which contains the great conurbations of Liverpool and Manchester; it is that area which is having to wrestle with the problems of the shrinking of its two main industries, coal and cotton; it is that area which is having to deal with the tremendous problem of the slums within its borders. This debate has illustrated the way in which our thoughts naturally go to that area, for the noble Lord who has just spoken made the generalisation that we are talking about an area which is derelict. But, with great respect to him, I say we are not talking about an area that is completely derelict, because we are also talking about the southern part of the North West area, and that is not in any way an area that is derelict. It is an area that is prosperous, that is very busy; and it is important that if we are to think of the North West area we should think of every part of it lest, in our planning for the future, we allow the assets to be whittled away piecemeal rather than introduced to the totality and to the benefit of all.

My Lords, I am not here to deliver a eulogy of the County of Cheshire, which constitutes the main part of the southern area of the North West complex. I should very readily have done so with any encouragement. But I think it is important that we should understand the facts about the southern part of the North West area so that we can relate them to the whole problem about which we are thinking. The first thing to remember is that the River Mersey is an extraordinarily strong division, and Cheshire people are very different from Lancashire people. They speak differently, they behave differently. The County of Cheshire has its own very marked characteristics, its own great history and its own very proper pride as a County Palatine.

Moreover, it has many assets of which it is very conscious. It has not had to deal with the tensions which have come so forcibly upon the central and northern part of the area. It has been extremely well governed and it has great natural assets. The minerals under its soil have been the foundation of the fortunes built upon the initiative of Brunner Mond; its splendid pasture land has been the basis of its great agriculture. It has many old industries that are still thriving: the building of locomotives at Crewe; the building of ships at Birkenhead; the manufacture of silk at Macclesfield—indeed, the felt hats that your Lordships wear were almost certainly made in Stockport, or somewhere near to it.

Moreover, it has had a flood of great new industries in recent years. It is some years since the first Lord Lever had the imaginative insight to build that model village, so many years before its time, at Port Sunlight, the foundation of the work of Unilever. We have in very considerable strength in the county; we have many oil industries based upon Ellesmere Port and Bromborough. We have Petro-chemicals; Vauxhall now employ 10,000 people at Ellesmere Port; Rolls Royce at Crewe; Bowaters, Chester Barrie, the distinguished clothing manufacturers in Crewe; Cerebos Salt; Fodens Motor Works and Simon Engineering. There are very few counties in this kingdom which have so many great companies in their rateable value. Together with this, we have our great agricultural areas, and we have thriving residential areas. This is a formidable totality, and it must not be disrupted by unplanned development which may be prompted just by expediency.

From the point of view of the southern part of this North West area I would make some brief comments upon three of the matters that are raised in the Report. First of all, in the general development Cheshire must play its part, and I am sure is ready and willing to do so; but it is not prepared to do that at the price of its great assets, and especially at the price of its agricultural assets. Indeed, I think it can well be claimed that Cheshire has already played a very considerable part in the development of the area. It has received a quarter of a million people into its boundaries during the last ten years. The big new housing estate at Hattersley in the North, the building of the Runcorn New Town, the developments at Ellesmere Port and Winsford in the middle of the county have all made provision and done much, I hope, to help the centre and the North of the area to solve their housing problems.

It is quite clear, as the Report points out, that there are other places that should be developed. There are Congleton and Macclesfield, although I hope that it will be remembered that nearby there is one of our great national assets, the Radio Telescope at Jodrell Bank, which, if it is to do its work, must be protected from electrical interference which might come if houses were built too close to it. Crewe is especially suited for development by reason of its many industries—light industries as well as the railway works—and its excellent communications. No doubt your Lordships saw that yesterday Her Majesty the Queen Mother opened a College of Further Education, which has cost £600,000 and which will be offering a great variety of commercial subjects. British Railways have, I believe, installed a computer there. These are all signs of the kind of development which Crewe is capable of receiving. At a longer distance there is the project of building what I think is called a linear city, Weaver City, between Winsford and Crewe. That perhaps may not be within the lives of noble Lords who are present here, but is a feasible proposition if it is necessary to find accommodation, since I believe it would receive as many as 250,000 people.

May I turn to the problems of communication? This is a matter with which we in the County of Cheshire are very familiar, because ours is a county through which so much heavy and light traffic is constantly passing. Of course, we have been relieved a great deal by the building of the M6 and indeed the Ml. I reckon that in the last 14 years the journey from Chester to London by road has been reduced by as much as two hours, and we look forward with great hopefulness to the time when the M6 and the M1 have been joined together. But that road runs along the East side of the county and there are still very great difficulties with which we have to contend. Very heavy traffic travels South on roads which are totally incapable of carrying it, and the situation is extremely dangerous.

If your Lordships will look at Plate 2 in the Report, you will see in the background of the picture showing the railway train the beautiful new Widnes Bridge. I rather wish that the old transporter bridge, which the new bridge has replaced, could have been kept as a museum-piece, along with the Anderton Canal lift, as a great monument to the Victorian engineering skill of our forefathers. A great volume of traffic crosses that beautiful new bridge and decants itself on to very narrow roads in Cheshire which simply cannot carry it. Something will be done to ease the situation when the East/West Cheshire road has been built, and I must stake a claim for a priority for that road, as well as for the East/West road that is claimed further North in Lancashire.

I must also say something about the problem of the City of Chester itself. Noble Lords will see from the first map in the Report that the City of Chester is a bottleneck. Not only does traffic travel from North to South, but if the whole of the North of England wants to get into Wales it somehow has to get round or through Chester. Plate 7 of the Report, showing Eastgate and Foregate Street in Chester, is extremely optimistic; for it is many a long year since I was able to look down Foregate from West to the East and see the road as clear as it is shown there. We have an excellent inner ring road, but it is a vital necessity that the outer ring road should be completed. I am sorry to see in the Report that this is given a low priority, with the hope that it may be "completed fairly soon".

I should like to make a plea also for the ancillary communications of the southern part of the area about which we are talking. We have splendid trains running from London, through Crewe, to Manchester and Liverpool, but they are not much use for those of us who live on the eastern side of the county—and there are a great many people who do—and in North Wales, if we cannot get to those trains. I therefore hope that British Railways will always remember the need for providing an ancillary service so that we can take advantage of the new communications now working so efficiently.

I wish now to say something about the question of culture, leisure and recreation, which is so intimately related to the other problems of health, dirt and dereliction. So long as Cheshire is not spoilt in the future, it has a great deal to offer by way of recreation for the vast numbers of people who live in the North West. We have the foothills of the Peaks, we have very lovely countryside and we have many great houses which have been used to provide recreation, such as Tatton Park, Lyme Hall and Walton Hall on the outskirts of Warrington. It is notable that the County of Cheshire is, I believe, the first to have set up a Countryside Committee with a countryside officer to see that these facilities are put to the best possible use.

We have not a great deal of dereliction in the County of Cheshire except in so far as we are concerned with our canals. The County of Cheshire is laced by canals which again are a monument to the engineering genius of our forefathers. They are still used quite considerably for commercial purposes, but are a great source of joy and pleasure in recreation and leisure time. Yet it is here that dereliction is most marked. I think, for instance, of the remarkable complex of locks and pools on the outskirts of Ellesmere Port, whereby barges, and nowadays pleasure boats, can be lifted from the Manchester Ship Canal up to the canal which runs into the City of Chester. At present it is almost unnavigable. It is clogged with old motor car tyres, old bedsteads, old bicycles and weeds. Yet the buildings of Ellesmere Port are a great example of the genius of Telford. It would be a thousand pities if the canal were not restored so as to become a great asset to the area and to those who want to use it.

We in the southern part of the County of Cheshire are not free of the problem of dirt. I live in the City of Chester, which your Lordships might think is a quiet, peaceable, cathedral city, free from these things. But during my married life I have lived in Portsmouth and London, and my wife tells me that Chester is far and away the dirtiest place where we have ever lived and where she has ever had to try to keep a house clean. The reason is that there is no wind that blows from any quarter which does not come from a dirty area. Therefore, I would make a strong plea that the policy of clean air should be prosecuted with great energy, because dirt must have its effect not only on the patience and temper of people but also upon their health.

Finally, I wholeheartedly support the plea made by the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, for a fuller understanding of the cultural possibilities of the North West and for the encouragement which it needs. I look forward to hearing the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, who is to speak later in the debate, for it is only in the last few days that he has said, on behalf of the Arts Council, that he believes it would be very valuable that there should be a wider spread of the assets which the Arts Council gives out to parts other than London and the South East. The North West has a very marked culture of its own and is not being given full opportunity to express it.

Perhaps this indifference is most clearly marked by the kind of problems with which some of us have had to deal over broadcasting. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, and I sat for many years on the Northern Advisory Council of the B.B.C., and throughout the whole of our period of service we were conscious of the constant battle to try to get the B.B.C. to recognise what the North West had to offer and to give it the proper facilities for doing so.

The B.B.C. in the North serves the largest number of people in any of the B.B.C. areas. It serves 15 million people, whereas the Midlands, I think, serves only 7 million. I suppose, therefore, that the North is the largest source of income for the B.B.C. Yet over the last 15 years there has been a constant battle on behalf of those in the North to get greater resources, so that the B.B.C. can give expression to the cultural life of the North West—better studios, more film units and more outside broadcast units. One of the improvements to which we looked forward, and were constantly being frustrated about, was the provision of a proper B.B.C. centre in Manchester, for the B.B.C. there has been doing its work with quite ludicrously inadequate facilities. I am sure it will be a great disappointment to those in the North to read that the money available for the new radio centre has been slashed by £1,500,000. One can only hope that this will not lead to a great diminution of what the B.B.C. can do. This is only one illustration of the ways in which those who want to give full opportunity to the cultural achievements and potentiality of the North are constantly being frustrated.

In closing, I return to the more limited perspective which I have purposely sought to present to your Lordships. The South of this area—namely, the County of Cheshire—forms a very fortunate and prosperous part of the North West. It ought, and I am sure it will, to take its part in bearing the burden and in solving the problems which must be overcome, if we are to bring prosperity and happiness to the people of the North West. But Cheshire will not be able to do so if it is thought of merely as an appendage to the great built-up areas; as a reception area for overspill. Cheshire can, I am sure, best make its contribution by being itself, by drawing upon its heritage and its resources, and by developing them to the full for the benefit of the whole area. It can do this by careful planning in such a way that its great assets are not dissipated or destroyed.

4.23 p.m.


My Lords, last week in this House and in another place so much was said about the prospects for regional Peers that I thought perhaps this afternoon I could reasonably take time by the forelock and speak as a regional Peer from the North West, and particularly from Lancashire, from whence I come.

A report published last year by the Lancashire and Merseyside Industrial Development Association drew attention to the drastic loss of employment in the coal and cotton industries of Lancashire—a contraction of unparalleled magnitude in the industrial history of this country. There have been 200,000 jobs lost in cotton over the past fifteen years, and some 30,000 in coalmining. Even over the past four years 131 cotton mills have closed down; and the trend is likely to continue into 1969. The contraction of the mining industry has led the Government to apply special measures to aid colliery towns in development areas, but the Lancashire coalfields have been ignored. In Lancashire there have been two industries geographically side by side—coal and cotton—and both have suffered severe contraction. The impact upon these areas, and upon the people who live in them has been traumatic, yet it has not been considered worth while to schedule them as development areas.

I suppose your Lordships will have surmised that, coming from Lancashire, I should probably want to say something about the textile industry—indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, forecast that I should. It would seem that in the minds of most the textile industry has long ago been written off as of little account and as contributing little—if not indeed being a liability—to the economy of the country. In fact, if one includes everything from fibre production to clothing the British textile industry is the fourth largest industry in the country: it employs one million people and has an annual turnover of over £2,000 million. The Lancashire textile industry is part of this great enterprise, and its sections are becoming increasingly interdependent.

Lancashire, for example, has been processing man-made fibres for more than forty years, and is in the forefront of development in the textile growth areas, such as tufted carpets, warp knitting, fabric laminating and fibre bonding. In these days it is not merely a cotton industry; it is a textile industry, an industry which has led the way in many directions, since followed by many other industries. It was, for instance, one of the first industries to establish its own research station in 1919. It was the first industry to set up its own productivity centre, and was a pioneer in the field of management training, productivity and inter-firm comparisons. In fact, productivity in the industry has shown a 30 per cent. increase since 1959, and many expect it to be doubled by 1970. It was also the first industry to set up its own design and colour centre in 1940, which had much to do with the setting up of the Council of Industrial Design in London some years later.

Another important point to remember about Lancashire, and particularly about the textile industry, is that industrial relations, at least in the part of Lancashire from which I come, are excellent. There have been no major strikes for over forty years and the number of days lost per year through stoppages has been, and still is, remarkably low compared with almost any other industry in the country.

Again, since the reorganisation schemes of 1959, more than £200 million has been invested in new plant and machinery and in new techniques, and recent schemes of further development will account for another £50 million. Your Lordships may be interested to know that some 70 per cent. of the textile industry is at present operating on two-shift or three-shift systems, and a recent agreement within the industry provides, under certain conditions, for round-the-clock working of seven days a week.

Why, then, one may ask, with a record of pioneer work and initiative which compares so favourably with most other British industries, should the Lancashire textile industry have suffered such severe contraction? Whatever weighting may be given to other factors, it is inescapable that cotton textiles stand out like a sore thumb in the tariff structure of this country; and, indeed, in the international tariff structure. More than one-third of the textile requirements of this country are imported tax-free, and this year imports look like being higher than in the record year of 1964, then they reached 748 million square yards. I will not quote a list of other industries in the country that have been quite heavily protected from the onslaught of overseas competitors, but I would point out that the exclusion of the textile industry from this list of protected industries was an accident of history, as a result of the Ottawa Agreement of 1932. The textile industry has suffered severely ever since that accident. Indeed, what has happened since was once described by someone as "watching a motor accident in slow motion", and this is the way it has gone.

But what worries those many people in the textile industry who are indeed trying to pull themselves up by their own bootlaces is that by 1970 the global quota arrangements introduced by this Government—for which we were most grateful——will have run out, and no one knows whether the industry is then going to be subject to competition from the four corners of the earth. If it is, then the industry will most certainly be killed. No other nation in the world would permit its textile industry to be killed off in this way; and the industry, understandably, is anxious to know what is going to happen in 1970. Indeed, it is one of the oddities of our industry that while people are wondering whether the flooding of this country by foreign imports of textiles is likely to continue they still have the nerve and the courage to invest in new machinery, new plant, in the hope, at least, that the worst may not happen and that the doors of these Islands will not be flung open to every type of textile from wherever it may come. Given parity of treatment with other industries, the textile industry can improve its value to the community. In the first nine months of this year, exports of cotton and man-made fibres, woven cloth and knitted fabrics, totalled £86 million in this narrow part of the Lancashire textile industry, compared with £74 million in the corresponding period last year. This represents an increase of 16 per cent., and it needs to be encouraged.

But, my Lords, the problems of the coal and cotton towns of the North West have been largely ignored by successive Governments. Through the industrial development certificate control and financial inducements in development areas the Government have steered new industrial development away from the old industrial towns and out of Lancashire, and many firms have been exhorted to divert their expansion to a development area rather than to expand in their own locality. During his speech the noble Lord, Lord Erroll of Hale, mentioned Bolton. It is not more than a month or two ago that a firm employing 600 workers in Bolton—an old textile and mining community—contemplated moving out of that town, which could ill-afford to do without such a firm, because of the advantages and financial inducements offered if they were to leave the town where they were needed and move off into a development area. Fortunately, the Bolton local authorities were able to persuade this particular firm (perhaps out of a sense of duty, but how it was done I do not know) to stay; and so those 600 jobs were saved.

Another curious phenomenon arising from the development area principle is the Gilbertian situation that because textile mills have been closing by the hundred (or, if one takes it further back, by the thousand) and new textile factories have been leaving the traditional Lancashire weaving belt and going to the development areas, textile operatives in the Lancashire towns are losing their jobs and are having to be trained for new jobs, whereas in the development areas people who have jobs are being seduced out of them and are being trained to be textile operatives. What a waste of skills, it seems to me, occurs in such a situation!

Now the main purpose of the industrial development certificates was to steer industry from the swiftly expanding areas such as the South East towards areas where more industry was needed, and one might have thought that the old coal and cotton towns, which have had such drastic reductions in the number of jobs available in them, needed more industry. But instead of steering industry into those towns, these certificates are more likely to steer it out.

Towns in the North are likely to find themselves taking in each other's washing. The South East is still expanding. The figures of unemployed are not much more than accounting for the normal labour turnover through the changing of jobs; and there is not much evidence of a huge shift of industry, or even a small one, from the South East to the North. The movement of industry, it seems to me, is likely to be between development areas and the "grey" areas—a new version of, "It's the poor what helps the poor." My Lords, the traditional coal and textile areas of Lancashire should be granted full development area status, and it is to be hoped that the Hunt Committee will at least reach the conclusion that inducements should not be offered to firms in the "grey" areas to move out to development areas, for this can surely serve only to turn the "grey" areas a deep black.

There is one other point that I should like to mention. The work of the Lancashire and Merseyside Development Association has been very successful in persuading a number of firms to come to Lancashire, but, paradoxically enough, their success has largely served only to change the figures on the unemployment register, and has not served to create a reasonably paid, happy labour force. Because, my Lords, employment is not the whole answer. It is the quality of employment that matters, as much as anything. And the quality of employment in the old coal and cotton towns is becoming lower year by year. Companies which come to Lancashire more often than not establish a project of less technical quality because they are taking advantage of cheap buildings in areas where derelict cotton mills remain. They tend to reserve the more sophisticated techniques for the areas for which they receive such substantial grants—and who shall blame them?

So, my Lords, what is happening under development area legislation is that, while jobs may be coming into Lancashire, they are poorly paid and not the sort of jobs that will attract people from the South to come to that part of the country. They are using ex-cotton mills for warehouses, for stores and for the sort of industry that pays very badly indeed. But, I repeat, the more sophisticated industries are inevitably drawn away from areas such as Lancashire because, while the money is available for the setting up of these sophisticated industries, it is not available in areas like Lancashire which need them so much. The result—and it is a queer result of the development area policy—is that the older Lancashire areas which so very badly need refurbishing (in their infrastructure as well as industrially) are doomed to become the Cinderellas of the industrial world, a role they are going to be compelled to play for a second time in a generation. Whatever may be the findings of the Hunt Committee, I trust that the Government will not be content to let a proud and resilient people die of shame but will remember that Britain is one country and that Lancashire is part of it.

My Lords, this is the end of my self-projection as a regional Peer; but if this show of Chauvinism helps at all—and Chauvinism seems to be a popular philosophy these days—and if it serves to bring to the attention of your Lordships the very real and painful problem of the old cotton and coal towns in Lancashire then it may yet be proved to have been worth while.

4.42 p.m.


My Lords, as a fellow trade unionist it is a pleasure for me to congratulate my noble friend on his maiden speech. I made my maiden speech to your Lordships in 1945 and I know the ordeal that one has in facing the House. As a trade unionist, my noble friend has a wonderful knowledge of working class life and of our economic and political affairs, and he knows Lancashire's problems. He was chairman of the T.U.C. and has to-day expressed his views with clarity and knowledge of the issues involved. I therefore compliment him. With his wisdom and knowledge and his power to impart that knowledge to the House, I hope to hear him again on many future occasions. I think he came through to-day in splendid style.

My Lords, I speak in this debate with some temerity because I speak as a Tynesider; but do so because I recognise that the problems of the North West are similar to ours in the North East. Therefore in the course of my remarks I shall have to relate the plans for the worth East as a development area to the Strategy II plan for the North West. In support of my noble friend Lord Rhodes and the excellent case that he put for Lancashire, I shall deal particularly with the rapid closure of coal mines and its effects on the unemployment situation in areas where this problem is acute. I say to my own Front Bench that this hasty policy of colliery closures with contraction taking place with such momentum means that the areas involved suffer an unwelcome loss or stagnation of job opportunities. Fewer new jobs have been introduced than have been lost in the declining industries and we find difficulties particularly in Lancashire and in the North West where the momentum of the closures has affected both cotton and my particular industry, coal.

The level of unemployment in the development areas—and for this region to be classified as a development area is all that my noble friend Lord Rhodes is asking for—is particularly high; and it would be higher both in Lancashire and the North East if people in the mines had not given up work at 55 years of age and therefore had not registered for employment, and if many had not left the area to seek jobs elsewhere. From my area alone 10,000 men each year have left to seek more secure employment elsewhere. In areas like Lancashire and the North East the situation is bad because an unrequited loss of employment opportunity in an area means economic decline unless jobs are found which are within reasonable travel distance.

At the root of the Lancashire problem is the coalmining and cotton rundown; while we in the North East face a coalmining run-down and a decline in ship-repairing. Since December, 1965, the number of coal-mining wage-earners in the North has dropped from 87,000 to 60,000, while further closures which are to take place next year will reduce the coalmining wage-earners much further. We are now facing what Lancashire has faced over the last 15 years. The number of coalmining wage-earners in 1960 was 126,000 and this figure had dropped to 90,000 by 1965—


My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to interrupt? I am not quite clear whether the figures he is quoting refer to the North West or to the North East or nationally.


My Lords, I am referring to the North East at the present time. Afterwards I will go on to the North West. I am giving the similarities between the two districts.

The number of Lancashire coalmining wage-earners fell from 44,218 in 1959 to about 21,000 in 1968, a drop of 50 per cent. Areas like the North and the North West are dependent upon a few basic industries which are sensitive to the general economic climate and particularly susceptible to technological change. From all this arises the question of social consequences and the diversified economic base which is necessary for Lancashire and for ourselves. It is not my intention to deal with the fuel and power policy from which, both in Lancashire and elsewhere, these difficulties arise. I have often in this House expressed my disagreement with it; for what has arisen from this policy in Lancashire and elsewhere is that there is now no confidence in the industry. When week after week parents hear about the decline in mining; when the threat of closure hovers over the collieries that are working, and when people read that there are 30 million tons of coal lying on the ground which cannot be sold, it is no wonder that young people coming out of school will not choose mining as a career.

Then again, when you close a colliery in present circumstances what does the redundancy scheme provide? No man over 55 years of age is needed. There is not much chance of his being trained under an industrial training scheme. He would be paid 90 per cent. of his wages for three years, and as he would then be 58 it would not be much use training him, at that expense, for the remaining seven years of his working life. As a result of all this I predict that in a few years' time in Lancashire and elsewhere the manpower problem will have turned full circle and there will not be sufficient men in the mines to get the coal that the nation needs.

My Lords, the awful effect of this policy, in Lancashire as elsewhere, is evidenced by the existence of villages near pits which have been closed. All I the young men have left those villages and only the elderly remain. These are "twilight villages" which I hope the Government will do all they can to help. It is only by planning ahead and by the provision of plans like the one we are discussing that this state of affairs can be avoided; and that is why I speak to-day in support of the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes.

I pose the problem to the Government: can our present development plans for areas like Lancashire and elsewhere keep pace with the numbers of miners and cotton workers made redundant? Are the Government's regional policy and fuel policy getting badly out of step? How can we meet the rising unemployment in the areas which will be affected in Lancashire and the North East? Will the recent statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer about the new squeeze increase our already large figure of unemployed; and will his squeeze affect not only the regional strategy and policies in my own area but the plan put forward for Lancashire? My area is a development area—and to be declared a development area is all that Lancashire is asking for—but to-day we have 65,000 unemployed, of whom 53,000 are men. The problem in Lancashire is not as great as ours. Therefore, regardless of what the Government have done—and they have done wonderful things in the North East—the problem there is getting larger. Like Oliver Twist, we must ask for more.

I appreciate and commend the Government for what they have done in the North East. But although I want to see a development plan for Lancashire as well, it must be recognised by the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, and those who speak for Lancashire that if a development area is made there, it will not solve all the problems; because our problem is getting worse every day. Speaking as an ex-miner, I would say that we are terribly worried about the policy which has created redundancies and where job availability is not meeting the situation. I ask the Minister to support the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, and to think of the tragedies lying behind these unemployment figures. I hope that the Government will give the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, that for which he asks, remember what he has said, and watch closely the question of colliery closures.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, I, too, offer my very warm congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Ashton under Lyne, upon a notable and very clear maiden speech. It is valuable to this House to have a voice from Lancashire and from the textile industry. I join with others in expressing the hope that we shall hear him again at frequent intervals.

I was Member of Parliament for some twenty years for a constituency called Morecambe and Lonsdale, which is in the most northerly part of Lancashire and therefore in the North West. It is to say a few brief words about the people who live there, who are still my friends, that I have intervened in this debate. The man who took my place there as the Member of Parliament is Mr. Alfred Hall-Davis, a very good local Member of Parliament and a good Parliamentarian at Westminster. I do not believe that anything I shall say will be inconsistent with anything that he would wish to say, though I have not exchanged notes with him. He and I think alike; but just in case there is any possibility of misunderstanding I should like to say that for anything which I do say I, alone, am responsible.

My Lords, I will not repeat what has been said by so many in praise of Lancashire except to recall that it way the pioneer of and at one time the heart of England's exports, and that a great deal of the latent inherent wealth of this country and the inventions which made this country famous came out of Lancashire. It is remarkable that Lancashire has withstood for so long the depletion of its resources by fierce competition from overseas, especially in the textile industry. Much has been said lately in criticism of the use of the prerogative, or of patronage. I much prefer the word "appointment" because there is no implication in it. But an example of patronage, if you like, or of appointment, is the appointment of the noble Lard, Lord Rhodes (I much prefer to call him "my honourable friend", which he was for so long in another place) as Lord Lieutenant. I think that was an imaginative appointment and, as we have heard to-day, Lancashire could not have a more agreeable and eloquent spokesman.

I want to say a word about agriculture, which in Lancashire is an industry not to be ignored. It is the primary industry in the Lonsdale Division in the most northern part of the county. Here, too, the people have been able to help themselves—along with the help which successive Governments have given them—in farming. In recent years there has been a considerable accretion to the extent of automation on farms; automatic methods of feeding cows in byres; automatic milking methods and modern developments of that kind. A great deal of capital has gone into the business and Lancashire as a whole, and Lonsdale in particular, with its rich and beautiful valleys, makes a rich contribution to the feeding of our people. But here, as in the country generally, much more could be grown if the opportunity were afforded, and the certainty of a reasonable market for years to come were provided. Nothing can make a more certain contribution to our balance of payments than that we should grow another 10 per cent. or 20 per cent. of our own food.

Just as the plea for some protection for the textile industry, which was so correctly made by the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Ashton under Lyne, should be listened to, so I think the plea for some kind of protection (I do not use the word in the old connotation) for horticulture and for certain aspects of agriculture would most surely pay us in dealing with our balance-of-payments problem. I can go into a restaurant in London or in Lancashire and eat any one of half a dozen French and Danish cheeses at a price which is competitive—and I am sorry that this is so. I think that it would be much better if we were to eat 10 or 20 per cent. more of our own cheeses and make those who insist on Camembert and Bel Paese, and the like, paying an extra 10 or 20 per cent. for them. It would not do them any harm at all and it would do the cheese people much good. I commend that thought to the Government.

The second most important activity in Morecambe and Lonsdale is the tourist industry, especially in Morecambe. The Labour Party has some knowledge of Morecambe, because it has held conferences there from time to time, and I commend the town to anyone who wants to organise a conference. It is a welcoming and warm-hearted place. The Gov- ernment have declared in the Queen's Speech that they will do something for the tourist industry because of the valuable contribution which dollars and other hard currencies that come here with the tourists make to our balance of payments. Well and good. I do not know what they are going to do because they have not told us, but the intention is one to be praised. One thing they should do is to reduce or modify or take off the selective employment tax from the hotel industry, especially from the smaller hotels in rural or seaside districts, such as the ones I am talking about. That would help the hotel industry in the most convenient and economic way, and it would also help the small shopkeeper and landlady.

Next door to Morecambe and Lonsdale is Barrow-in-Furness. Unemployment there is a point or two higher than the national average, and at this moment it is twice the average, aggravated by a demarcation dispute, of all the crazy things. Some plumbers—two, I think—who used to undertake certain work were put off the work for some time because it was more convenient to use the members of another union, the fitters, for a particular activity in a particular yard. Then, more recently, it was found convenient for two plumbers to come and put two pipes in two places. Now 2,000 men are on strike and have been on strike for three months. This is about as crazy as the much-criticised job reservation in South Africa, and is as little to be commended on the grounds of equity or good sense.

Many thousands of my old constituents work in Barrow, and unemployment there, together with that in Millom, across Duddon Valley, and a little arising from the shutting down of small industries, is a great grief; and it is well that Barrow-in-Furness is a development area. I would make a plea that where nationalised industries are knocking the small men out of business, they should see to it, quality for quality and price for price, that they still continue to pass some orders to the small industries that have been left, so that they may stay in being, because they make a real contribution to the variety and life of the countryside. It is not a good thing that all industries should be aggregated in one place, unless that is compulsory. There are small industries which can make steel ingots and iron moulds, and so on, competitively; and if only they could get some orders, instead of the big firms being quite so greedy in this respect, they could manage to carry on.

Turning from Barrow, I should like to say a word or two about water. During the time of a previous Government this House was very much concerned with the Water Resources Act. I remember taking part in the discussions when I sat on the other side of the House, on the Government Benches. We—the Conservatives—who might have been expected to oppose the nationalisation of water resources, were the Government who brought it in, following the Jellicoe Committee's Report. I thought it right and supported it, though in Committee I spoke on many clauses. I think it is right that water, so scarce a commodity in our country, and one which knows nothing of county or regional boundaries but is concerned only with geography and geology, should be properly coordinated and properly husbanded. A duty was placed on the authorities concerned to preserve rural amenities, and much was said about the Lake District. This North West, or at least my own part of Morecambe and Lonsdale, is at the southern end of the Lake District and contains the famous lakes of Windermere and Coniston Water, both in Lancashire.


My Lords, would the noble Lord allow me to interrupt him? Windermere is wholly in Westmorland.


My Lords, that is perhaps true, de jure, but de facto it is in Lancashire; and three-quarters of the people who live round the edge of it voted for me. So I think it is fifty-fifty. These beautiful areas in the Lake District are already being threatened, and I would make a plea to this Government and to any future Government to try to see how they can get the water for the nation without robbing these lakes of water, especially at a time when the water level is low. Let them take it from the bottom of the river, even if it costs them a little more, because if they take it from the bottom of the river it does not harm the lake and it does not harm the river. Therefore, it is manifestly the right thing to do. When I say "from the bottom of the river", my Lords, I do not mean the bottom three feet down, but the bottom 3f the river where it goes into the sea.

I should like to say something else about water. Some authorities are charging a high price for water. That can be justified where it is being used for certain purposes, but where it is being used for the purpose of making electricity and then the water goes back into the river from which it was taken, the river has lost nothing at all, nor has the natural resource been wasted in any way. There ought therefore to be a modest charge, even a token charge, for the use of such water. But if you go on charging this high price for water used so economically and effectively, you will drive out of business another manufacture; namely, the manufacture of small water turbines, which is quite a valuable export trade.

Water leads me down to the famous Morecambe Sands, where the shrimps come from, and the proposed Barrage. This was referred to most sensibly, if I may say so with respect, by the Vice-Chancellor of Manchester University, Lord Bowden. He pointed out that there was no single authority in London which could look to all the advantages and disadvantages of this Barrage (I think there are many advantages) and bring the matter to a head. This is very true. There is at present a Feasibility Study progressing, and this will take account of many aspects of the matter, but not all the wider aspects of local amenity, transportation and other factors. It is such an important project that it seems to me that it ought to receive high priority, and it should be the aim of the Government to try to bring this enormous benefit to the area, and to England, into being with the least possible delay. This enormous area of 400 to 500 square miles could become a beautiful lake, and could supply water not merely to the North West and to Manchester, but possibly also to large parts of England. Incidentally, it could be used in connection with electricity, too, as long as we do not drive the makers of turbines out of business.

I wonder, my Lords, what the people in Lancashire are thinking about to day. I suppose they are thinking about the squeezes, to which we have become accustomed (three this year, and too many in the last twenty or thirty years), and especially the Chancellor's grave statement last Friday, which seeks to take another £250 million out of the private pocket by taxation. I am particularly sorry for the pensioners and war pensioners, for the old people and retired people who live on fixed incomes. It is not within their capacity now, in their older age, to replace the money or to add to their incomes; they just have to put up with it and "lump it" until, late in the day—and it nearly always is late in the day—some amendment is made by one Parliament or another. They cannot go on strike; they cannot demand even restricted rises in wages, and they suffer. Their buying power not being so great, I suppose that many of them have to manage with less this next few weeks, but it seems to me that the people as a whole will not spend less. In fact, I confidently believe the people will go on spending just as much; and if they cannot find it in the wage packet they will take it out of savings. So I do not think the Chancellor will succeed in reducing consumption—though I hope he will get his £250 million, which will at least be some benefit to the Treasury. I cannot help thinking that my friends in Lancashire, and all over the land, must be feeling that a change of method and a change of means, if not a change of ends, and perhaps a change of Government, is desirable.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer's statement has been vigorously criticised in the other place, and by the newspapers, collecting opinions from trade associations, trade unions and so on, but I have seen it stated by a Labour speaker elsewhere that, while criticisms were made of the Chancellor, nobody has made any constructive suggestions. Let me, therefore, end up with four briefly stated suggestions. First of all, let us remember that for more than half of the last hundred years we have had free exchanges as between the pound, franc, mark and dollar. It is only in the last thirty or forty years, and particularly since the Bretton Woods Agreement, that we have had fixed exchange rates, and it is only since then that these crises have occurred, under all Governments but notably under this one. If the price of gold was freed, if the exchanges were freed, I have not the slightest doubt that we should be rid of these recurrent crises for good and all. There will be other troubles besetting all Chancellors and Governments, but that one, at least, will be out of the way. There, then, my Lords, is a constructive suggestion.

My next note, made before this morning's newspapers were published, was that the Government should take a leaf out of the Conservative Party's suggestion about savings and give people an incentive to save. Until this morning there was no incentive to save, because every pound put away lost its value from the moment it was put in the bank. Now an incentive scheme has come out, but as it was put forward only to-day I have not had time to study it fully. That note, therefore, is one of thanks to the Government, rather than a constructive suggestion. Thirdly, as to incentive, not merely is there no incentive to save, but there is no incentive to earn the little extra, because you are not allowed to keep the larger part of it yourself. So there is much gloom and depression in the country.

My last word, my Lords, is to say that however we may disagree about ways and means and policies, however much the great majority of the people may wish for a change of Government and leadership, we have to live with this Government for another year or two. It would therefore be as well if Britain were to pull up her socks, lift up her heart, and not be so gloomy. We are a people with a great history, and a great capacity, if need be, to stand alone; and we have been very successful in finding our way out of difficulties. Let us try to remember, notwithstanding our political differences, a line from an old, favourite hymn of mine: We are not divided, all one body we. Let us hope that Britain will have as happy a Christmas as may be possible in all the circumstances, and very much better luck in the coming year.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, it is indeed a privilege to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Ashton under Lyne, on a very striking maiden speech and one full of information, particularly about the other part of Lancashire. It is a special pleasure for me, since for alphabetical reasons I just managed to scrape into your Lordships' House five minutes ahead of him. So I can feel a suitable sense of superiority. Moreover, since then I have had the great honour of conferring upon him a well-earned degree of Doctor of Technology. I have long thought of him as a friend, have long known him as an indefatigable worker and a statesman of the trade union movement. His wisdom can, I think, be of great service to your Lordships' House, and I venture to hope that now he may feel himself free enough of other entanglements (and that will not he easy) to become a regular attender and a frequent contributor here.

I want also to join in the generally expressed thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, for initiating this very interesting debate on a most important subject, about the most important of the Regions of this country, and to congratulate him on becoming Lord Lieutenant of our County. I know that that appointment gave pleasure at the lime it was announced, and that the pleasure has since been greatly increased by the vigour that he has already shown.

This is an interesting and important Report that has been produced—Strategy II—and I do not think that too high praise can possibly be showered upon it. It is a very wise Report and also a moderate one. It is moderate, as the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, said, by an indication that ours is still the county or Region that wishes to help itself, much more than it wishes to go to anybody else for help. I am quite sure that Lancashire still is enterprising and pioneering. I speak perhaps with a certain special place here so far, because I think I am the first of those who have spoken to-day who actually lives and works in a development area in Lancashire. After some of the things that have been said about development areas, I want to say that they are certainly not necessarily run-down areas, but opportunities are given to them to attract new industry and to progress as they are intended to do.

I want first to make a general point. Regional planning councils take a lot of the time of many very busy and public-spirited people. They make many recommendations, and obviously not all can he adopted at once. But if such bodies are to continue to serve the community with enthusiasm and to carry confidence even among themselves, then some action must quickly follow their reports. And if there is any one matter to which they attach real priority, it would seem to me that any Government owes them action on that one matter. In this case we are given a priority. Paragraph 19 of the Report (if I were to read out all the parts of this Report that I have underlined as being particularly interesting I should never finish) says: Though the renewal of social capital is urgent, we regard it as even more urgent that the industrial environment should be renewed. Unless industry flourishes, the wealth for social renewal will not be created". Therefore it is to industrial environment that, I think rightly, the Report gives first priority. Within this, we are given another priority, which is transport. We are given that priority in some considerable detail. Some of us would perhaps have chosen different priorities, but this Council have transport as priorities No. 1. Therefore, I join with others who have spoken in hoping that the most important of the detailed actions on land transport will be accepted for very early action.

Linked in the Report with land transport is air transport, in paragraph 45, but it is dealt with with rather less emphasis, and I want to add emphasis. We in the North West are a business community. We need frequent and direct and rapid access to many places both here and abroad. We now have this access to London by train, and it is a splendid and improving service; no praise could be too high for it. Many other parts of the country either are or will soon be very well served either by train or by road, or both. There is in fact little need now for much direct air transport to and from London, and there will be little also for direct air transport between most centres in this country But there is great need for an infinitely better service than we now have from the North West—which means Manchester—to Paris, Brussels, Zurich, Amsterdam or to Copenhagen, to name just some of the places that we really need to reach direct at businessmen's times, each way, every weekday. The service via a crowded London Airport is no answer. Almost invariably changing at London involves a waste of at least two hours, and often much more; and, for contacts with Europe from industrial Regions of Britain, to be channelled through London shows a complete lack of understanding of regional development and of regional needs for industry. Certainly it is a handicap to speed and to productivity in marketing.

I do not want to weary your Lordships with figures, but I have extracted a few from the British European Airways winter time-table that I picked up when I was waiting at London Airport last week. These figures are for this year, at this time. I think they are right, but at any rate they are approximately right. There are at the moment eight destinations overseas served directly from Manchester. First among these foreign parts is Dublin, for which we have 26 services a week, compared with 62 from London Airport. This seems to me to be entirely reasonable and it is clear that even B.E.A. do not think that the natural way from Manchester to Dublin is via London. But that is the only place in Europe which is served even remotely satisfactorily.

For Paris we have 6 flights a week, compared with 119 from London. For Brussels there are 7, compared with 44 from London. For Holland there are 7, compared with 89. For Scandinavia there are 7, all to Copenhagen, compared with 66. For Germany there are only 3 a week, all to Düsseldorf, compared with a total of 161 from London Airport to Germany. To other destinations in Europe—Rome, Vienna, Madrid or any other—there is no single service direct from the North West. Surely, that is rather an indictment of the present position in relation to regional industry and its markets. Further afield, we have in addition daily services to New York and to Montreal and Toronto respectively, although even here passengers are usually expected to call, though not to change planes, at Prestwick. I am not suggesting that there is justification yet for more of these intercontinental services. It is Europe that matters, in respect of which opportunity is being lost and regional development stultified.

While on the subject of air transport, I must mention Liverpool, especially since I think I am the first person to speak from the South Western part of our county. Liverpool is the centre for a very large part of the Region. The closing of British Eagle was indeed a very great loss; I hear it on all sides. It has gone, but that gap must be filled, either by a regular and frequent direct service to Manchester by helicopter or, if necessary, by a direct air service to London for transfer to other destinations. There is one other possible alleviation of the hardship to the South West of this Region. Some of the present access roads both to Speke, the Liverpool airport, and to Ringway in Manchester, are just about the worst and the most winding I know of to any airport anywhere. One is called Hasty Lane, and it clearly means "More hasty, less speedy". Good access to both the airports, and between them, might be high on any road improvement objectives. Here might I add one other linking road to which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester almost made reference; that is, the connection between Crewe, a centre of rail transport for so many in the southern part of the Region, and the M.6, the link with the rest of the Region. That road is one continuous succession of small villages with a winding road going through them. This clearly needs better access.

To return for a moment to air transport, I was delighted to see that B.E.A. are now basing their fleet of eight B.A.C. 1–-11s(which are splendid aircraft) on Manchester. I hope they will be encouraged, and if necessary assisted, to fly them direct to foreign parts and to show an interest in South West Lancashire, and the Wirral and Speke airport.

I turn now to the second of the priorities I have mentioned, housing, and, with it, urban development. I want to urge the need for really speedy redevelopment of the older towns, and particularly of their central areas. In my opinion this redevelopment of existing towns is as important as the building of new towns, necessary and urgent though the latter certainly is. It can almost certainly become much more rapidly productive, but I would join in everything that the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, said about the attachment of people to a district and a neighbourhood. It is hard to convey to your Lordships just what it means when that is disrupted and people who have lived there for generations are moved away—no doubt temporarily—and lose contact.

These central areas of our towns must come down and must be rebuilt. I live in one and I know. But this is normally at least a four-phase process—compulsory purchase, demolition, rebuilding and reoccupation—and it must be a continuous four-stage process. The process should not start until the end can clearly be seen, because in that way we shall have this "social capital" left unused for the shortest possible time. In industry we know that if we want to rebuild we have to do it quickly; we cannot afford to have idle land, idle plant or idle buildings. We get the rebuilding done quickly and get back again into production. I am quite sure that the same thing is necessary in the social change in the towns. I do not believe that anybody disagrees with this, and I do not believe that any Ministry has ever tried to obstruct it. But I am sure that it is not happening at present, and that it needs to happen.

In the company in which I serve we could long ago have chosen to move to London when we knew we had outgrown our offices and had to build vast, expensive fresh ones. Thank goodness we decided to stay where we were! I have absolutely no regret about that at all. But how many other companies, faced with this difficulty, have moved South; moved their administrative headquarters, with all their vast wealth of talent that goes with it, away from the North West, and how much poorer are they? We do not want this to happen in our towns as a result of unnecessary delay in the rebuilding. We in industry know well that distant fields are green, and that a green field site beckons invitingly; but we really do know that it costs more to industry, and much more in personal and community terms, if we go elsewhere and start completely afresh without the existing environment, infrastructure and services.

We must not take the heart out of our towns and transplant it far away; but, equally, we must not take it out and let the patient die because the fresh life is not immediately instilled. Our towns have a real community sense, and the easiest way to lose this irreplaceable asset is to ignore the realities of sentiment and of traditional attachment to a neighbourhood. The way to retain it is to keep unbroken continuity and to make these four stages of redevelopment really continuous and really rapid.

When industries die out, as with coal-mining (and in my own town, where there have been coalmines for many years, I think the last pit closed within the last six months, though I am glad to say we are still a prosperous and lively town), a mess is left. Dereliction grants are payable within these areas, but dereliction extends beyond these areas, and I associate myself completely with those who have spoken on this matter. The whole tone of a region can be affected for good if one loses sight of this fact, and I hope that the grants can be extended to cover this remedial action anywhere that it may be needed.

The Report refers to culture and to the arts, and rightly so. To attract men, as we always wish to do, from elsewhere to a particular region requires attractive amenities. Many people are not prepared to believe how many of these amenities already exist in the North (and this particularly refers to those who come from the South), but we need more. We do not do ourselves justice, and I believe that we could reverse the trend of movement to the South. In this question of the arts the North West certainly has it3 own characteristics, and one of them is the great commitment to widespread, high-class local amateur involvement in the arts, in the theatre, in drama, in the art societies and in music. In all of this there is real involvement, and with it goes the need and the desire to learn from the best professionals how to do things better.

Therefore, my Lords, I hope it will be recognised that these are growing points on which to build—healthy growing points—and that in anything the Arts Council may do in our Region they will spread a large part of whatever money they allocate to us—the seed corn, as it were—widely, if thinly, giving direct or indirect encouragement to this sprit of participation in our art societies, our operatic and dramatic societies, and our music. What people most need as a rule is somewhere to do all these things. think I am right in saying that more theatres have been built or put to use in the North West than in any other part of the country in recent years; but most of them are struggling, and most of them—and rightly so—are to some extent subsidised by local authorities or by private enterprise. However, the Arts Council I can do a great deal to foster this spirit and to improve the amenities that will attract others to the area.

My Lords, in my view, Strategy II is a wide-ranging Report. Its recommendations, as a whole and individually, are good, but the North West can play its full part in the affairs of our nation only if its internal strength and attractions and its external communications, in fact the whole of its external environment, match up to the character of its people.

5.39 p.m.


My Lords, I am particularly glad to follow the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, to whom the North West owes so much for the progressive employment that his firm is providing for so many people. I tremble to think what might be happening in St. Helens today if it were not for Pilkington Brothers.

My particular concern in this Report is with the proposed new town—or, as it has been referred to, new city—of Leyland-Chorley-Preston, which lies at the heart of the diocese of Blackburn. With certain safeguards, I believe that this new city can give new heart to the people of central Lancashire. With those safeguards I should like to deal later; but without them it must be confessed that some of those, particularly in the North East, will be in danger of losing heart.

Let me say that I thoroughly welcome this important Report of the North West Economic Planning Council, and the terms in which it was presented by the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes. It is comprehensive, challenging and constructive. But I am sorry that it does not bear more witness, as the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, did, to the sterling worth of the people of Lancashire. There is always a danger that planners become so preoccupied with their planning that they ignore or forget the kind of people for whom they are planning. Those in the North are a sturdy, hardworking people, many of whom have been brought up in the hard school of adversity. We are God-fearing people. I think it is true to say that a higher proportion attend their place of worship in the North than in the South, and it is in no small measure due to the preservation of our church schools and Sunday schools. We are conserva- tive, not in the Party political sense, for I think the majority vote Labour, but in the sense that we like to hold fast to what we believe is right and good and of lasting worth. We are proud of our heritage and we are proud to help ourselves. I have been in the North for only 22 years, and I hope that in three years' time I may be accepted as belonging to Lancashire. But I have gained an immense respect for those who live and work there.

Let it not be forgotten how much this nation owes to the people of Lancashire, where the Industrial Revolution was cradled, when people were herded together in squalid towns, victims of bad conditions in their homes as well as at work. In no small measure, as has already been referred to, the prosperity of our nation has been built upon the sweat, the toil and the devotion of these Lancashire lads and lassies. Later they were to suffer cruelly in the years of depression, particularly in the dreadful times of unemployment which are still not forgotten. Now as we face the future these people to whom we owe so much deserve to be treated fairly and decently and also handsomely. They are people with hearts of gold and they should be recognised as such.

The way forward is not easy. The recession in the cotton industry, to which the noble Lord, Lord Wright of Ashton under Lyne, referred—and I should like to congratulate him on his maiden speech—the closure of pits, the migration of younger men and women to the South and indeed overseas, the failure to promote and secure a sufficient capital investment in industry, the orders for new construction as revealed in the Report being the lowest per head of all regions when they ought probably to be amongst the highest, are all matters which constitute a challenge that must be answered. What we need is a strategy for the whole area. This is the end to which we are moving and this is why we are so grateful for this Report, Strategy II. But I do not think we have yet achieved this end, because I am deeply concerned about the future of the area we call North East.

We are told that the cornerstone of the proposals outlined in the present Report is the proposed new central town of Leyland-Chorley-Preston, which by 1991 will have a population of 500,000. Basically this new town offers a great opportunity for the North West and, with certain safeguards, it is to be welcomed. Whether a linear town stretching some 15 miles is good planning I do not know. Admittedly the communications dictate the form, and they are good—the M.6, the main Glasgow-Euston railway with easy access to the docks at Liverpool, and also the growing volume of trade in the docks at Preston. There is much that can be said in favour of this new town; but I want to insist with all the power that I can command that it should not and must not be planned in isolation.

Nor should the final area be designated until further and fuller consideration has been given to its effect upon North-East Lancashire, and we here think particularly of the towns of Blackburn, Burnley—to which reference has already been made— Nelson, Colne and indeed what is termed the Calder Valley. These towns are struggling with problems that arise from recession and migration; a high proportion of older people; a low wage structure with inferior housing, which is steadily being replaced with new housing; a poor environment which they are making a valiant effort to improve. These towns are putting up a good fight for the sake of their people, who have a great affection, as all Lancastrians have, for their own home town. My plea is that the area as a whole must continue to be reviewed from the coast to Colne, including the new town which lies roughly in the centre.

Your Lordships will probably know that a study of the impact of the new town has been ordered by the Minister, and now has been received, but after the publication of this Report. This impact has a threefold objective; first, to improve the social wellbeing of the region as a whole; secondly, to contribute to the renewal of the older towns; and, thirdly, to improve the economic wellbeing of the region as a whole. Those three aims are thoroughly good and some important recommendations come from them: first, and most important of all, to which reference has already been made, to improve communications, to provide in this area a new road giving fast and direct access from the towns of the Calder Valley to the M.6 and the new town. I am sure that top priority is required for this road if the new city of which we are thinking is to be of benefit to this area and not to detract from it. This is something which I hope may be set in hand at once. I believe that the whole problem linked with Strategy II revolves round the question of roads. We have had a number of references to this, and it seems to me absolutely essential that we should get these roads planned so as to provide for the future.

The second recommendation has regard to environmental improvement. This, thank God! is already taking place, but it will need additional financial assistance. The third recommendation is industrial development, which of course is essential, through the reservation of land capable of industrial use (there is still much to be found, and not only in the new town area) and a substantial widening of facilities for industrial trading.

The proposal to inject 750,000 extra people into the North West area, of whom 150,000 will come to the new town, of course demands more housing and more industry and involves a considerable expenditure of money. It is suggested that the new town calls for an expenditure of £.400 million. It is not clear from my studies from where this money will come. To get it started, is the new town to he declared a development area? If so, this would be a shocking blow to other towns which do not receive development area financial assistance. We await with interest the Report of the Hunt Committee upon how such towns can be assisted. There are many in Lancashire which lie in what is termed in this Rep ort the "intermediate area". There are many such towns which need assistance, but which are not classed as development areas. I hope that notice will be taken of this and of what other noble Lords have said. Let the Leyland-Chorley development proceed, but before the new town is finally designated further attention should be given and action taken as to how the North East Lancashire area can best be served, for under the existing proposals the bad could become worse if nothing is done to help these towns.

I know that the problem of town planning is vitiated by the fact that in the North East area there are no fewer than 22 local authorities. This is quite ridiculous, and it is the kind of situation with which it is hoped that the Royal Commission on Local Government will deal. But in this case these local authorities are already there. They are responsible; they are deeply and understandably troubled; they are not wreckers. They want to be openly and fully consulted. They want to share in the planning, and not be dictated to by others or passed by and ignored.

This new town, which can mean so much to the whole North West, must not be started in the face of hostility arising from what may be regarded as unfair competition by some of its immediate neighbours. North East Lancashire is an area which has suffered from mass under-investment in the immediate past. This must not happen again in our strategy for the future. It can play its part in the overall development of the whole area provided it is given its rightful opportunity to do so.

Before I conclude, may I ask your Lordships' indulgence, and particularly that of Lord Rhodes, that a long-standing engagement at an important conference which I am attending this week may, am afraid, prevent my being present at the end of this debate. I shall try to be here, but if that is not possible I offer my apologies. This new city is a good conception provided that it is planned in sympathetic relationship to the whole area which it is designed to serve and to stimulate.

5.55 p.m.


My Lords, it is a responsible position that I have to fill this afternoon as I am bound now to follow two other Lancashire men. I think the best thing I can do is not to endeavour to go over the same ground as they have traversed, but perhaps to adopt the point of view of a typical Lancashire man; namely, to say that I feel most grateful to Lord Rhodes for initiating this debate and for having called our attention to this Report; but I think there are a number of things which must be added which have not yet been said, to put it in perspective. This I shall now endeavour to do.

First of all, we have heard, over and over again, about the woes of Lancashire. Indeed, Lancashire has had some ex- tremely troubled times to pass through in the last few years, particularly after the First World War. We have just had to face a situation in which the coal and cotton industries have been shaken to their foundations. "Woe, woe unto us!", say my colleagues. But is this really necessary? I recognise, of course, that colleagues of mine who represent the interests of miners have an extremely troubled story to tell; but in the long run, is it a cause for optimism or pessimism, even for the noble Lord, Lord Blyton, that the coal industry is passing out, as is cotton? From my point of view as a Lancashire citizen, I say that it is a cause for great optimism that these industries have been shaken to their foundations and have been successfully replaced by other industries. I think this is an achievement for Lancashire for which Lancashire does not get half enough credit. It is mainly the achievement of the small manufacturer and the Lancashire working man. It is, I think, a magnificent achievement, and I am glad indeed to see it.

We now have to turn our attention away from the past. We have to forget the past, which embodies the ruination of these two industries, and we have to turn our attention towards the future. This we have not done anything like enough. These two industries are, or were, low-productivity industries. Nobody is going to take employment in either of them willingly. So far as coal is concerned, with all its danger and hardship, which I recognise from the bottom of my heart, I am extremely glad that a much smaller proportion of my fellow citizens are going in future to be employed in the industry. We have to look forward to a future in which our power will not come from coal. Coal, with its shallow seams and its geological faults, is far too arduous and unsafe an industry to rely upon. We have to look towards atomic power; and, thank God! atomic power is now available to us. Let us now make use of it.

I do not find enough in this Report. with all its merits, which looks forward to the future with the imagination and courage which this task requires from us. I symbolise the shortcomings in this Report with one thing, and that is the Dee crossing. The Report tells us in various places that the Dee crossing is possible, and that it could be done. Well, why does it not recommend that it should be done as soon as possible? Why does it not produce a detailed scheme, supported by adequate estimates, of the cost of the crossing? Why does it suggest that large new towns should be built in the middle of congested Lancashire and allow the waste land of North Wales to go scot-free? North Wales is an excellent area for urban development; it does not involve laying waste good agricultural land. It is waiting for us now, as soon as we can do something imaginative to make it feasible, like a Dee crossing.

The present state of affairs amounts to strangulation. Developments in Lancashire are far too often forced to face strangulation where they now are. My own City of Liverpool is on the coast and on the river to such an extent that we cannot develop any more. All the land has gone. All we can do now is to re-use old land, and that is what we must now start to do. The reconstitution of the Liverpool dock system must be undertaken in areas where it is not advantageous to build modern docks, owing to the difficulties of access that are now on us. We now have the one imaginative scheme for the rebuilding of the Albert Dock. It is high time, therefore, that we embodied that scheme and others in an imaginative and comprehensive plan.

My next point concerns urban redevelopment. First of all, I approach it from the point of view of traffic and communications. I am a Liverpool citizen, possessing a car which I drive with greater and greater infrequency as the years go by, owing to the difficulties with which I am confronted. I am now, I discover on looking back on my life for the last year or two, much more apt to use the railway system which has been reconstructed, or internal air traffic or air traffic to Ireland, as a means of getting out of the place; but I am now made very much more immobile than I should be. Most of my life is now lived in the central area of [iverpool, and when I escape I escape to North Wales or I escape to a London appointment, as I have to-day to your Lordships' House. But this state of affairs must again be attended to, and attended to with considerable urgency. We cannot allow Liverpool to be "gummed up" as it is. We cannot allow people to conduct virtually all their affairs on the Liverpool/London axis, or in the central area of Liverpool, when the central area of Liverpool is satisfying their needs with greater and greater inefficiency as the years go by.

My family life is lived with my wife in the central area of Liverpool, and she is the city councillor representing the most congested, the most worn-out area of central Liverpool. The two of us together hear a great deal about this problem. I suggest that the next Strategy Report which is produced should be much more forward looking, and one of the things which needs to be dealt with in considerable detail is the precise way in which we are going to reconstruct the central areas. At the moment we have a scheme in Liverpool which has been put before the rational housing agency, Shelter, which appears to be about to use the Liverpool Housing Trust as its chosen instrument for carrying out its programme. It is a large and imaginative scheme, and I know a great deal about it as I happen to be President of the latter body. It will operate on the edge of Princes Avenue, which is a large highway leading away from the central area. The Liverpool Housing Trust will, I hope, establish a co-operative which will associate the common people in that region with re-housing, involving the reconstruction of the houses themselves.

Far too many schemes have been carried through in the name of housing in the last few years which, in my opinion, have been entrusted either to a housing authority—and often a large and remote one—or a London Ministry. It is quite time the responsibility for these things was concentrated locally. It seems to me to be the main advantage of the present scheme that we shall get that in this particular case. We shall be able, I hope, to administer it in such a manner that we can reconstruct in a way which people locally want and can see carried out week by week. That may mean that Lancashire may get more control over its own destiny than it has had before. Heaven knows!, it has had little enough. It now needs to develop a great deal more, and to develop it quickly.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord would mind my interrupting. I am a little puzzled. Is he suggesting that control of house building in Liverpool is not controlled from Liverpool? I do not understand that.


My Lords, I am not suggesting anything of the kind. A large amount of housing is now done in Liverpool by the Liverpool Housing Committee, and it is almost wholly in the shape of housing estates mainly in the suburbs. We have done very little so far in the central area, and the reconstruction of the central area is what we must now start doing. If we do that through the existing housing committee it will, I am afraid, choke the committee with work administratively, and, secondly, it will lead to a loss of contact between the ordinary person living in those areas and the scheme as a whole. That point was made earlier in this debate, and I think it was a wholly proper one. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, himself who made this point in regard to the kind of humane principles or policies which can be developed in a scheme or which can be wholly destroyed and frustrated, if they are not fostered and protected. I have seen schemes carried out in the central area by the housing department of the local authority—I am sorry to digress on this, but it is extremely important. I have seen it done out of context, and I have seen the result: the fouling, the bad housekeeping developed or allowed to continue in the blocks of flats that have been built, with the most deplorable consequences. I hope we shall never see that sort of thing again.

In conclusion, may I say that we also need to operate most energetically on the front of the arts, and I am glad to see the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, in his place. The story is told in Lancashire that there was once a competition held for local people in which the first prize was a week's holiday in a Lancashire town and the second prize was a month's holiday in a Lancashire town. I feel that that typifies a great deal of Lancashire life at the moment. Not only is transport and traffic extremely difficult but there is far too much squalor around us.

My wife and I live in the central area of Liverpool. We are virtually the only members of the university staff now living in the central area. There is one other member of the staff living in the centre and he lodges with us. I shall not rest content until we develop a lively social life in and around the university, which establishes an evening social life. This can form a very important part of the educational facilities which we provide: the social and the educational can be closely keyed together. We have achieved a certain amount at the moment, but we do not profess to be anything like as successful as we think we ought to be. If we could create more housing units of one kind or another to house our staff and our senior students on the university precinct or nearby, it would have a great influence on the development of the arts, because the people would be there to participate and I am sure they would participate.

Mere geographical separation into social life, carried on in little ghettoes all over Lancashire, seems to be the sort of thing we are allowing to develop. Round about four o'clock in the afternoon people pack up and go, and if one tries to provide cultural amenities one has an extremely tough job. Supposing we did something of the kind, we should revive much of the social life that used to be lived in those areas at the beginning of the century. So far as the social life centred on our existing amenities is concerned we have a good deal of success. Our Philharmonic Orchestra, and our theatres in Liverpool cater for large sections of the population.

I am most grateful for the amount of support given us by the Arts Council for these cultural amenities. With this support, both our musical life and in recent years our theatrical activities have developed. We have suffered badly on one front, and this is in relation to museums and art galleries. To a large extent our failure has been due and I say this knowing the struggles of the staffs of museums and art galleries in Liverpool—to the fact that we have been starved of funds for these purposes. The money for the museums and art world in England is pumped into London, and London ought to be able to look after itself much more fully than it does. London's own cultural institutions should play a much more active part in making provision of this kind.

The figures are appalling. To take the figures for London, Scotland and Wales, we find that the amounts which are made available, largely from the Government, are £3 million, £2 million and £600,000. In Liverpool and Manchester all we can scrape together from local sources is £100,000, a trifling sum. I am sure that the museums and art galleries staffs with whom I am personally friendly would be able to make their services much more readily available and much more sought after by the ordinary person. I hope that in this Report next year schemes will have been produced and ways and means found to start developments of this kind which are so desperately needed.

6.16 p.m.


My Lords, may I begin by a declaration of interest, or rather an excuse, as a born Cockney, and now again a London resident, for intervening in this debate; but in fact the most active years of my life were lived in the North West between the wars, during the great depressions of the 1920s and 1930s. My activities as an adult education tutor ranged from Macclesfield, in the South, to Burnley, in the North. I got to know the people, their stresses and strains. As a driver I got to know their roads, through the various phases of North-Country winter weather. That is my excuse for taking part in this debate.

I grew to love the area so well that I now constantly go back to it. Indeed, I think I might have remained in it, because at one time before I left I was being considered for a job which would have kept me there. Fortunately for the North West, I did not get the job: but the noble Lord, Lord Simey, did. However, having left the area, I constantly return to it. The one area to which I have not returned is Northwich, in Cheshire. When last I knew it it was sinking into the ground, presumably owing to the burrowing underground by Brunner Mond, to which the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester called attention. I can only suppose that by now the town has been either jacked up or re-established on its former foundations. But the rest of the area, as I knew it then and have seen it since, offers a very different life to its inhabitants.

I should like briefly to refer to three sections of the Report. The first appears on page 16, relating to offices. It is headed "Commercial, Professional and Office Work", and the Report says, very rightly: The prosperity of industry … is of vital importance … But so is commercial, professional and office work. There is growing evidence that relatively swifter growth in this sector … is a measure of the maturity and modernity of a civilisation. My Lords, we know what civilisation has brought to London. The tendency in past years for undertakings of many kinds—not only commercial and industrial but also organisations such as trade unions …—to locate their hew' offices in London has led to many of the ablest and most energetic young people … moving to the capital. We know that that is true, and it was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, who has set a very good example by not moving his central office to London.

Unfortunately, a less good example has been set by the Manchester Guardian, not, I suppose., out of a desire to live up to the Joneses, but perhaps because of a desire to live up to the Thomsons and the Beaverbrooks. To some extent I think this movement of offices to London is motivated by a sort of snobbism desire to live up to the Joneses—"Other people have central offices in London, so we must have a central office in London." I think there is a lot of that feeling, and there is nothing that Governments can do about it. I can only suggest that the tycoons of the area should get together and pass a sort of self-denying ordinance to ensure that none of them shall do it, and then the competition will cease. But that is perhaps a dream.

It has been mentioned by several speakers that more money could be spent on the amenities in this area that we are discussing. If your Lordships w 11 look at page 18 of the Report, you will see, I am afraid, that the Arts Council has been a little mean to the area, in proportion to the benefits it has conferred on the galleries in London, for instance other than the British Museum. That is indeed true; but I am very much afraid that the kind of amenities offered by picture galleries, or even by tae cultural activities described by the noble Lord, Lord Simey, may not be the sort of cultural activities that are desired by visiting executives after a hard day's work in their offices—activities which I believe could still be financed from tax-free expense allowances by their host organisations.

Another part of the Report to which I should like to refer deals with housing. This is dealt with on page 24, and several speakers have already referred to it. The noble Lords, Lord Rhodes and Lord Pilkington, have dealt with it, and both noble Lords backed up what is said in the Report about the importance of rehabilitating shabby areas while the basic structure of the houses remains reasonably sound and where the external environment is capable of improvement. I have observed some very odd housing developments of recent years in this area. In my youth I was modest, and I used to believe that if eminent persons or responsible organisations committed acts which appeared to me to savour of lunacy it must be that they knew more than I did, or that they had knowledge of facts to which I did not have access. But as the years roll by I find it more and more difficult to believe that, and particularly when I observe certain features of housing policy in the North West.

For example, if one drives to Rochdale from the South, one finds that there is a beautifully reconstituted, remodelled centre, worthy of the birthplace of the Co-operative pioneers or of Gracie Fields. But one also observes rising in the centre a group of tower blocks. I know that tower blocks are regarded as necessary in the congested area which surrounds the Surrey Docks, but certain social and psychological problems are presented in connection with women and children who live on the top floors. We also know now that in the event of an abnormally strong gale or a minor explosion there is a calculated probability that these tower blocks will fall down. We know that they are there for a reason, but why should they be there in the middle of Rochdale?


My Lords, may I interrupt the noble Baroness? Is she seriously suggesting that in certain circumstances all flats are likely to fall down?


No, my Lords; I am suggesting that it is a characteristic of tower blocks to which attention has recently been drawn. But I do not want to argue the case for or against London tower blocks. I want to argue the case against Rochdale tower blocks, because to the north of Rochdale there are illimitable miles of unbuilt on, uncultivable moor. So why, oh why, should there be tower blocks in Rochdale?

There is another feature of North country housing which I have observed in Manchester, and this really contravenes something that has been said about the importance of reconditioning. Of late years, I have observed a very large clearance area—acres of it—on the Hulme side of the Oxford Road; very reminiscent of what the centre of Rotterdam looked like after the Germans had left it, but larger. I wondered why part of it had not been rebuilt before the whole place was cleared, and I was told—and it seemed to me sensible—that it was desirable to develop the whole site as one, so to speak, section of neighbourhood, and that it was necessary to clear it all in order to get the various services of gas, water and so on, properly planned. So far so good.

I then observed on the other side of the Oxford Road another vast clearance area of similar acreage, or indeed mileage, so far as I know. Now I know that some of those areas, although by no means all of them, are cleared with a view to the future predatory prospects of the University, which is so ably represented by the noble Lord, Lord Bowden. If you drive to Rochdale, you will go past, I think, four large clearance areas, not to mention rows of derelict houses with boarded-up windows. Why, oh why, can you not build up as you pull down? And what is the result? The result is that in Cheshire, to the South of Hulme and Stockport, the Manchester housing authorities, I imagine, are building up—and indeed have built—an enormous town of very nicely-planned small houses and little streets, but with no shopping centre. I am trying to believe that there is a reason for these strange policies of which I know not, and that those who have compiled them have access to facts to which I do not have access. I shall think the best I can.

The third section of the Report on which I should like to offer one comment is at page 30, and is headed "Dirt and Dereliction". We all know, as the noble Lord, Lord Simey, has pointed out, that the area is full of rather derelict streets, drab and ill-planned, lacking in architectural amenity. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn has drawn attention to the quality of the people, but here I think that the Report has gone a little wrong. It says: This pollution decreases the efficiency of man,"— it is speaking of air pollution and the resulting dirt— of most other products of nature, and of man's own creations. Nothing could be more true, though as a matter of fact I observe that the air is less polluted than it was in the old days between the wars.

The Report goes on: People are less healthy than they should be … That is true. I used to observe if I went into a school—I do not know whether it is still the case—that the smaller children were well grown but the older children were stunted. They did not grow so tall as, for instance, school-children in Devonshire or Cornwall. I remember Ellen Wilkinson, who was herself stunted, saying to me, "Look at me—I am the product of the generations of the Manchester industrial revolution". So that is true. The Report goes on to say that this means that people need to spend more time, usually to less effect, on cleaning and maintenance …. More time, doubtless; but anyone who knows what the doorstep and inside of a Lancashire house look like would not say "to less effect". You may come from a drab and dirty street, but you walk across a shining, hearth-stoned doorstep into a house which is far cleaner, I think, than you would expect to walk into in many parts of London.

The Report continues: The dirty, gloomy atmosphere also has a depressing and de-energising effect". I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, who asked the question: Why do people go there? Perhaps I may end by providing a partial answer to that question—and this bears out what was said by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn. My grandson has recently been appointed a schoolmaster in a very large co-educational county grammar school in the middle of the industrial area between Manchester and Bolton. He writes: I teach all age groups, but it is much less tiring than I expected because all the children are so well behaved and so eager to learn My granddaughter-in-law, who is a Southerner, writes: I have never known such nice people—so friendly". That, I think, is part of the answer to the question why people go there and why people stay there, and I am delighted to think that my great-granddaughter is being brought up there.

6.32 p.m.


My Lords, I have two apologies to make: one for intervening in a debate without having had the opportunity to hear the earlier speakers, and particularly the speech of my noble friend Lord Rhodes; and the other for intervening in a debate about an area where it may seem that I might properly be regarded as a total foreigner. My justification for both these faults is that I was commanded to speak in this debate by my noble friend Lord Rhodes, and anyone who knows Lord Rhodes will realise that no one would incur the risk of disobeying a command from him.

May I also say that I intervene in this debate with great pleasure. I do not regard myself as a foreigner in these northern parts; and I should like very much to endorse what the noble Baroness, Lady Stocks, said about the warmth and friendliness of the people, because I had an opportunity to learn this when I was in the Army. I was for a time a member of a mobile anti-aircraft battery which travelled all over the country. We were stationed in various parts of the country, and nowhere did we receive a reception which was so cordial, so friendly and so happy as that which we received in Lancashire; and nowhere did we find people who took us to their hearts as did the people of Lancashire. So if, in any way, I have an opportunity to repay that kindness now, it is a debt which I feel a very keen anxiety to discharge.

My Lords, I am here in my capacity as Chairman of the Arts Council. It would be quite wrong if at this late hour I delayed your Lordships with the lengthy observations that I might make on the theme of regional supports for the arts. Both the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, and the noble Lord, Lord Simey, have spoken on this subject during the short time I have been able to be present at this debate. Both of them have said words which I would echo and with which I have no quarrel at all. And as to the highly-imaginative plan that we are now discussing—the plan for considering the scientific and orderly development of a very large and important part of this country—it would be absolute folly not to incorporate into it notions and schemes for giving intellectual and spiritual content to the quality of life in the area. That is what the Arts Council exist to do. It may sound a high claim, but that is our purpose; and, if I may say so, we do it unashamedly.

The other day I had sent to me a cutting from a journal which made rather scornful and sneering complaint of some observations I had dropped in your Lordships' House about a year or two ago, when I said that one of the purposes of the Arts Council was, I hoped, to make it possible for young people to become acquainted with the higher products of the human mind, with the greater works of art and literature which had been created over the years, and thereby, perhaps, to have more certain standards of behaviour for later life. I was told by this supercilious journal that these were notions not appropriate to the Arts Council but appropriate to the Boy Scouts. My Lords, I have never had the opportunity of being a member of the Boy Scouts, but may I say that I would not speak scornfully of the Boy Scouts. I regard the Scouting movement as an organisation of the highest social value; and if the Arts Council and the Boy Scouts could join forces in achieving this result, then I should not in the slightest degree be ashamed at finding the Boy Scouts as partners. This is the answer, and the only answer that I should want to make, to this particular journal on this particular theme.

But this is rather a distance from the question of the arts in the North West. One side comment I should like to make is that we are not to be blamed for the allocation of monies for museums and galleries about which complaint is made, because that is not an Arts Council func- tion. I think there is some validity in the complaint that the North West and other regional areas do not get enough money for this purpose, but may I venture a quiet plea on this subject? I am not sure that a great deal of benefit is to be derived by arousing a competitive spirit between London and the regions in relation to artistic organisations and artistic institutions. I think the quality of the artistic life of our country requires an integration of artistic activity throughout the country. First and foremost, the establishment of a few great artistic institutions is, I believe, indispensable. It happens that most of them have been established in London. This is something we cannot undo, or seek to undo, to-day. This is something we must recognise.

But the fact that we have a National Theatre in London, that we have the National Gallery and the Tate Gallery in London, that we have great orchestras and the Opera House in London, means, I think, that if these are of the quality that we want them to be, and believe them to be, we are, through them, fertilising the whole of the country. There would be absolutely no benefit in spliting up the small sum of money we have—and at the moment, despite the Government's increasing generosity in this matter, and their very far-sighted and wise recognition of the needs of the arts since they came into power, it is still a totally inadequate sum of money. We should find, if we divided it up arithmetically between the various regions, and bestowed it in the regions on a completely egalitarian basis that they would have little or nothing.

What we must endeavour to do is to see that some of these great artistic institutions are not established in London—and, happily, not all of them are. The region of which we are now speaking has at least two great orchestras. It has the Hallé Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. Very substantial subsidies are made available from the Arts Council, which gives to each of these orchestras £75,000 per annum. The local authority, I think, gives a comparable sum. No one could regard these as derisory subsidies, even for very large orchestras.

Unhappily, at this moment of time the regional musicians do not get pay which is entirely comparable with the pay given to London musicians. This creates a situation where the best of the regional musicians are attracted to come to London. It is my belief, having spent a period of time in London, that very large sums of money would be needed to compensate for the discomforts and inconveniences of living in this great city; and I gather that a large number of these musicians would willingly go back to the places from which they came. But the fact remains that this is something that we must equal out. We must not leave this dis-equilibrium in payment of musicians so that the great provincial orchestras can be drained of their best talent. This is, if I may say so, a very important matter.

Also if I may say so, we must not, as an Arts Council and as a Government (if I may venture to speak on their behalf on this matter), seek to impose a cultural pattern on any region. Nothing can happen unless it happens by dint of a local demand. I have said this many times since I have been the Chairman of the Arts Council, and the more often I say it the more convinced I am that it is right. It is absolutely useless for the Arts Council to seek to survey an area and say, "There is a cultural lack there—we must create an orchestra; we must create some cultural institution that they need". Unless there are people in that area who want it, people who are prepared to run it, people who are prepared to do the necessary dedicated work to maintain it, it will never flourish. You can sow the seed; but the seed will die.

It is therefore a case of the Arts Council and the Government giving central support to regional needs and to local requirements. That is how the pattern has worked throughout the regions in this country. It produces a plan that is not consistent. Areas where there has been the greatest concentration of people, where there happens to have been people interested in the arts who have created a local demand, have been catered for. Large areas are arid. In the area of which we are now speaking, North West England, there is no live theatre between Oldham and the Scottish Border. That is wrong, but the reason is a simple one: no town in the area concerned has asked for one, and until they ask for it it is impossible to give it. You cannot meet a need which is not expressed. The Arts Council are no more able to meet it than anybody else. But when the need is expressed I will pledge the Arts Council's urgent support to provide the amenity if, in fact, it is established that Mere will he sufficient a public for it and that it can be sustained. But without the local demand nothing of any kind can be established.

This brings me to my concluding words. Although important as a subject, this is a very narrow point in relation to the whole scheme. The ideal arrangement is to marshal all the local resources. And this brings me—even to his embarrassmcnt—to the noble Lord who introduced the Motion to-day. I had the privilege about two years ago to be invited by him to attend the Saddleworth Arts Festival. Saddleworth is a very small town—I am sure the noble Lord will not take umbrage at that—if it is a town at alt. It is a very small township. I do not know who had organised the festival, but it seemed to me to be a model of what such things ought to be. There was mobilised and enlisted every conceivable amenity in the area for the purposes of the festival. Whether this was due to the personality, the dominance or the terror inculcated by the noble Lard I do not know, but the schools had been brought in, the factories had been brought in, there were cooks, there was a competition for making cakes. The largest cake I have ever seen was presented by or won by the Duke of Devonshire.

It was a model of what a local festival ought to be. There was nothing precious about it; nothing sought to purvey to people a quality of entertainment or a quality of culture they could not understand. But things were of good quality. Music was newly composed and commissioned. It was a model festival; but what to the Arts Council made it totally model was that it paid for itself and there was no call made on the guarantee that we had given them of some few hundred pounds for the purpose of the festival. The point is simply this: that if artistic amenities are to be supplied they must be at the behest of the people in the locality; they must conform to the requirements of the people of the locality and they must then enlist the aid and support of central Government, of the Arts Council and of every other organisation concerned, to the greatest extent to which it is made available.

I will end with a plea to the Government. They will have heard from several speakers what importance they attach to the arts. The Government cannot know the enormous local and regional demand existing for artistic amenities of all kinds which is growing daily throughout the country. I hope, however dire our economic situation, that we shall not put into reverse the progress that we have made in the last few years. I hope that this will be the very last economy that we shall contemplate, however much it may be necessary to economise in other directions.

6.44 p.m.


My Lords, the first thing I should like to do is to congratulate my noble friend Lord Wright of Ashton under Lyne on the speech he made. He and I have travelled round the world telling different countries how they should run their economies to be successful. We are brought together to-night to talk in this House, not of how the country should be made successful but of how the North West Region should be made successful. So does the truth come home to those who wander round advising other people! I am sorry that I missed the speech of my noble friend Lord Rhodes. I wanted to be present to hear it. I have watched his career, starting from humble beginnings to very successful endings—and now to Lord Lieutenant of the county. I am proud to be called his friend. Indeed, I am proud to be associated with him in an endeavour to get the North West back on to its industrial feet. Perhaps I should have said "on to better industrial feet" because it was never off its feet.

My experience in the North West was over a decade. I was an immigrant, and if I may make a comment on the people I met, it is that they put the kettle on when you go into the house and not when you go out. That shows the warmth and spirit there. And this is important, because it develops into team spirit, and without that team spirit nobody, no industry, no country, is going to succeed. I was impressed by the team spirit and the friendliness that I met in Lancashire. I was impressed, too, with the humility, about which I am a little sorry. I could wish that the people of the North West were not quite so humble. I remember when I first looked at that great waterway coming inland, the Manchester Ship Canal, and I do not think anything in the world compares with it. It was dug by men with spades a hundred years ago. There is vision in that part of the country that bodes well for its future. We have to find out just where that vision is going to lead.

I was impressed in Strategy II by one paragraph. It was paragraph 19. I shall read it: it is worth reading and re-reading. It says: Though the renewal of social capital is urgent, we regard it as even more urgent that the industrial environment should be renewed. Unless industry flourishes the wealth for social renewal will not be created. That is a simple truth which many people lose sight of when they are dealing with cultural and social problems. If I may dismiss that rather briefly, I do not believe—and here I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Goodman—that progress in the cultural world depends on wealth. It depends on interest. While I lived in that area I was a member of a choir, and because of that my interests took me into Manchester, where we had an opera house, the Free Trade Hall, the theatres; where one could listen to political speeches, to great orchestras and great operas, all those places lying within a very short distance—a quarter of a mile. So do not let us say, so far as Manchester is concerned, that it is short of cultural interest. Neither is Liverpool. Your Lordships who know Liverpool will know that the same amenities are there.

The problem is not to bring people into that part of the world; the problem is to cater for them while they are there. This document surprises me when it says that 750,000 more people will be there by the normal process of procreation in the next thirteen years—that is, over the fifteen years it covers. We are not asking people to go into that part of the world; we are saying that those people should have the necessary industries to create all the cultural things that they want. I believe that they can have them. The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington—my old friend Harry; dare I say it here?—showed team spirit. He has been an employer over the years and I have been a trade union official. He dealt with the development of industry. One of the most interesting aspects was when he talked about adding to the industry which is there and whether a green field site is advisable. Five years ago I should have agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, that it is better to expand than to have a green field site, because all my knowledge of costs told me that it was more expensive to start on a green field site than to develop. But when I was in Russia I learned one thing among others. They had a short-term outlook and a long-term outlook. They decided what they would do in ten years, but they saw the effect of it in two years' time. I think we could do worse than look round the world for examples, so far as development is concerned.

Most of us have seen what has happened in Germany. Many of us have been there and watched it happening. I have been there a number of times. The first time was in 1945, when I saw the blitzed cities and the blitzed industries. Shortly after that I visited the country, and talked with industrialists about development; and I heard their bitter denunciations of dismantling. Remembering history I said that this was a matter for congratulation and not for condemnation. I can remember taking a dismantled steel mill away from Germany and into this country as part of reparations, as part of the punishment and the law. I saw it stand on the dockside in this country until it rusted; and we gave them a new plant. This is what was being condemned, and this is the thing I want to bring out when I am talking about green field sites.

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Blyton spoke of the coal industry, and certainly my sympathy is with them when they have an industry like that to deal with. But we shall not bring prosperity anywhere in this country, and particularly in the North West, on a decaying fuel industry. One of the great economic weaknesses of this country has been the cost of its fuel compared with the cost of fuel in other parts of Europe. We have supported coal, so far as possible, out of sympathy. In the steel industry I had to deal with the closing down of obsolete tinplate mills. It was a very difficult job, The mills were all situated in Wales, and all in one geographical area such as we are now discussing. I had to go and meet the men who would be made redundant and to talk to them. I had to argue not only an economic case but a human problem.

My opinion was that unless the se mills were closed rapidly, the men would be left on the scrapheap. They would not be transferred and have the benefits of the redundancy agreements that we had. Welshmen, my Lords, are pretty quick on the uptake when it comes to dealing with Welsh problems. I got agreement with them, and we had the closing down of 300 tinplate mills inside a year with hardly a complaint. We had the transfer of these men to other parts of the steel industry and to new industries which we took into that part of the country. So I have not too much sympathy with those who want to hang on to the old. I want to see the new come in, the new created. And, God knows! that is what is needed in the part of the world we are talking about to-day.

As a member of "Neddy", over the years I have had something to do with getting out plans for dealing with redundancy. These plans were not only the plans of this Government; they were put into operation by this Government. We discussed these plans on the basis of employers; of Government and of Opposition; and of universities—all the people that you could think of who would know what was going to be needed. In those days, I was not so sure that we would have a continuing high bank rate as we have to-day, because nobody can invest money in this country with a bank rate of 71 per cent. and compete with Germany with a bank rate of 51 per cent. That is one of those economic realities which has nothing to do with politics. It is a sheer fact and not a matter of opinion. So the Government decided—it is all in the documents—that there would be grants for new buildings concerned with industry and that there would be grants towards the use of old buildings—something which I am not quite sure was right because we have too many old buildings and sites continuing to exist to-day. However, the grant was there for those who wanted to use it.

If people wanted to rent a building they were allowed to do so cheaply; certainly not at an economic rent. Then when the plant came along—and some plant is very expensive—there were loans for this new plant at low interest rates. It is no good having plant unless you have capital, so capital assistance was there at low interest rates. It is no good having plant and capital unless you have the workers, and so we introduced our training schemes. We demanded that industry pay for some of the training, and I think that was quite right. But where industry would not pay, the training was absolutely free and paid for by the Government. The training was not only for workers, it was also for management and for supervision.

Here was a rock on which any community could build. I wish to pay tribute to this Government, because too much has been said about the evils of the Government to-day. It is not my job to defend them in other fields, but I think it should be said that at least they put down the rock on which this industry could build itself. I do not wish to offend the Opposition, because they were in with us when we discussed these plans and they agreed with them, so that it was not one-sided. I am pleased that speakers from the Cross-Benches have taken part in this debate, and that there have been speakers from the Government Benches. But there has been a singular lack of support from the Opposition Benches regarding this great economic problem. There has been a lot of criticism about what the Government are doing and have done, but there has not been very much support when the North West asks, "What can we do to deal with this particular difficulty?"

My Lords, Germany went ahead on the green field sites and was successful. Japan was rather different. She had nothing; no indigenous resources, no skills—she had to come here to learn the skills. She had no money, but she got that from America, and she built with regard to economies of scale. In the industry which I know well, iron ore came in at one end and ships came out at the other. This was very profitable, but it would not do for the North West where you want something more flexible than that.

My Lords, I want to be brief. What has the North West got? I am glad that the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, said that the Lake District was within this Scheme. I was hoping that I should get some verification of that, because I had my doubts. If I were going to develop the North West, I should want water, water, water—gallons of it. No industry to-day can carry on successfully without adequate supplies of water. The power of the future is, I think, bound to be nuclear power; and nuclear power is one of the thirstiest industries I know.

Perhaps here I should declare an interest, although it is only a small one. I am a member of the Electricity Council. If I were in the North West now, I should be going for cheap power. I decided yesterday that I would say this. I bought the Financial Times this morning—I am getting wealthy now and I can afford a Financial Times instead of the Sun—and I saw the headline "Break-through towards cheaper nuclear power". So the Financial Times has helped me with my speech. I also have a good friend concerned with this in the noble Lord, Lord Carron, who is on the Atomic Energy Authority. I do not know what this means, but I shall ask Lord Carron to-morrow so that I shall understand it fully, and then I may be able to help the electricity industry to develop. If those two things happen, the North West will get all the benefit. Water will come in from the North and will give the power, and the Manchester Ship Canal will take out the goods that we make with that power. It is what happens in between that we are bothered about now.

I have no interest in the steel industry now, though I lived in the steel industry for fifty years and learned something. But I am declaring no interest here. There is a new process now for making steel. Hitherto we had imported ores, of which at least 20 per cent. was waste and went on to the slag tips. Yet this 80 per cent. yield was pretty good. But we have been transporting all this waste into the country, using coal and power to melt it down and then throwing it away. The new process of pelletising, gives a 95 per cent. yield of pure iron—no sulphur, no phosphorus. My information is that a 200-ton electric furnace will compete economically with the new oxygen process. So quickly do the techniques in steelmaking move, my Lords.

When we think about this area, we think about textiles, and my noble friend Lord Wright of Ashton under Lyne talked about the textile industry. It was a pity that the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, did not talk about glass because he has been very successful. Every undeveloped country in the world that wants to develop first wants a steel industry. That is the first demand they make. Yet we have two big steel plants in Lancashire and they have not been mentioned this afternoon. We have the Lancashire Steel Corporation plant, on the Manchester Ship Canal, which produces steel wire and steel for the engineering and construction industries. These tall flats will not fall down, even if a bomb is dropped on them, if they are built with steel. Then there is the English Steel Plant, making all kinds of high-quality steels, from which big profits can be made. Not all of these concerns were nationalised. I do not know why, because there is more profit in them than in some of the concerns that were nationalised. We talk about the textile industry, which is failing; but I want to talk about the steel industry, which is already there—a base on which to build up something. Italy built a special steel works in Taranto to attract industries around it. This has been very successful. It has lifted that part of Southern Italy, which was a desolate area—a slave area, if you like—into one of prosperity to-day. And though we have these two plants in Lancashire, not one mention has been made of them in all our debate.

I should like to say a lot more about this subject, my Lords, but I will close. Do not let us forget that in Lancashire we have many industries, steel and chemicals, and all those which can be fostered by electric power. That electric power can be made cheaper and cheaper, if the Financial Times is right—though I do not always agree with it. What we need is not just this Committee, although it is a good one. Sir Donald Stokes, a great friend of mine and a man who can manage big issues, is on it; and he is not the only one. The Committee is full of good men. This Committee should "get cracking" straight away and get more industries round existing centres, because people would be willing to invest in this, for the simple reason that there is money in the North West. And I cannot finish on a better note than that.

7.4 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships will appreciate that in the last analysis it is for my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs to reply to the North West Economic Planning Council on their Strategy II and to take up with them the extremely interesting recommendations they have made. I understand that together with the other Ministers concerned he will be meeting the Council soon. But he has a further problem—I am glad that it is not my personal problem—in that at the moment Her Majesty's Government are awaiting the results of the deliberations of the Hunt Committee, which are due early in 1969, the results of the Maud Commission on Local Government and the result of the Edwards Committee on Air Services. All these, to a lesser or greater extent, have some bearing on the subjects which have been aired in the debate this afternoon. I am making no apologies for this plethora of commissions and committees, because I believe that this is the form of participation which this country wants. It is right that people at various levels of life should express their views through these commissions to the Government, and though it may at times tend to delay matters at least we can act in the light of a much greater and deeper knowledge of what is required than would be the case if the Government acted alone.

In this sense, the work of the North West Economic Planning Council is something which is very welcome to the Government, and I am sure that its chairman Sir William Mather and his colleagues on that Council are to be most heartily congratulated. If I do not follow up all the suggestions, it is became a debate of this kind is an open invitation to discuss almost any subject. The fact that it is a debate about a part of the country leaves it open to saying almost as much as could be said about the nation as a whole. It is for that reason that I will not follow the lead given, for example, by the noble Lord, Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, when he raised the questions of further protection for agriculture and cheese, and of selective employment tax. Nor, with respect, am I going to get involved with my noble friend Lord Blyton in a discussion of the national fuel and energy policy, which would take me too far from the real focus of this debate. I would say that a great deal of what has been said sounds to me like a cry for more and better governmental and local planning, for more authority locally and for more Government expenditure. It is interesting to note that it is often the same people who deplore the loss of freedom for the individual and for local authorities. All Governments have to face this. They get different demands according to the subject under discussion.

I could reply to the whole of the debate by saying that I have noted all that has been said and that it will be duly reported to the respective Ministers who are concerned. But that would be too peremptory, and I will run briefly through some of the comments made. Before doing so, I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Wright of Ashton under Lyne on a really excellent maiden speech, based on deep experience of industry and of the area which we are discussing. With other noble Lords, I join in hoping that we shall hear many more speeches from him. I shall take up some of the points he made as I come to them. I should also like to say that I do not have many notes against the speech of my noble friend Lord Douglass of Cleveland, but I like an enthusiast and he is certainly an enthusiast on the subject of steel. I noted his comments with great interest.

Turning first to the question of employment, the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes (I suppose I am not allowed to call him "my noble friend" now that he is sitting on the Cross-Benches) called attention to the fact that the North West was exporting one-fifth of the country's exports. This may be the result of some of the euphoria created by the adoption of a Yorkshire-man by Lancashire, but my figures for exports are 15 to 16 per cent. I do not know who is right, but I have a shrewd suspicion that I am.

It has been argued that unemployment should not be the criterion for the designation of a development area. But I think that the most crucial suffering, apart from physical pain, which can be inflicted on people is loss of employment. I think this is the major criterion, though it may well be that at the moment it is not a very satisfactory one in the North West, which is not suffering substantially from unemployment. Indeed, the figures are below the national average—2.3 per cent. as against 2.4 per cent. for the United Kingdom. I do not think I could agree with that comment. In this connection of employment, it was a surprise to me, because I confess ignorance of the North West area, to find that in that area, which I have always thought of as a textile area, the percentage of those employed in textiles is under 7 per cent. and the percentage engaged in the coal industry is under 1 per cent. This struck me as a surprising thing, and I have learned a lot by studying preparatory for this debate. And the percentage of people employed in the metal-using industries in the area is now rising to 18 per cent. In this connection, I should like to challenge my noble friend Lord Wright on his suggestion that the industries coming into the area are the unsophisticated industries. I do not want to start a debate on this subject at this time of night, but there is a great divergence of opinion between my noble friend and myself on this issue, because I believe the industries coming in, to a large extent, have been highly sophisticated.

My noble friend Lord Blyton suggested that Government policy is keeping industry which could substitute for the coal and textile industries out of this area. Again, I do not understand the figures on which he has based his argument, because if one takes, for example, South Lancashire (and I exclude the St. Helens development area) one finds that between 1961 and 1966 coal lost 7,000 jobs and textiles lost 4,000 jobs; yet total employment in the area has risen by 1,500. In North East Lancashire there has been great loss of employment to the extent of 12,000 in textiles and 1,000 in coal, but the net loss has been only 1,200. So I think that Government's policy, allied with local initiatives and the self-help to which the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, referred, has been very successful in replacing the gradually diminishing textiles and coal by other industries. It is a matter for congratulation that for the first time in the history of this country in the era since the war one has been able to see the decline of certain industries and to plan for their substitution. We may be at an early stage of doing this, but at least we have started, and here is a successful area where unemployment, which would have been rife by now, has been prevented from becoming a serious issue.

There has not been much mention of training this afternoon, and I was a little surprised. I had prepared some massive details to show how much has been done on this front, but I will not put them before the House at this late stage of the debate. However, I want to mention one matter that has not come up in the debate, and I turn to my noble friends on the Benches behind me, the noble Lords, Lord Blyton, Lord Douglass and Lord Carron, and make an appeal to them to do something about the opposition that persists to the granting of proper status in industry to Government trainees in the Manchester area. This is a terrible need. It is something that puzzles me exceedingly. I have in my day been in charge of a firm which employed a number of people in Manchester, and I found them most level-headed and sensible people. It has always struck me as most extraordinary that the manifestation of this sort of selfishness should appear in Manchester in the ranks of the Amalgamated Union of Engineering and Foundry Workers. I mention it here as being something that is extremely distressing. It will hold up training which could increase the supply of trained men in the North West area, which is badly needed. If this attitude were to spread, it would be a disaster.

I come now to the question of roads, railways, ports, transport and so on. The noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, if I understood him aright, appealed for the electrification of the line not only from London to Manchester, which exists already, but from Manchester North to Glasgow. As a Scot, I welcome this suggestion, but he knows as well as I do that the Government have a pretty tight hand on the purse strings at the moment, and I do not think that British Rail will be able to go ahead with this sort of scheme in the near future.

Then we come to the South Lancashire Motorway. I had considerable difficulty in getting to grips with these motorways in the North West area, because they are so complex. But I am asked a straight question: when is a starting date going to be given for the South Lancashire Motorway? I am afraid I cannot give as definite an answer as I am sure the noble Lord is hoping for. The portion of road from Eccles to Tarbuck, which represents three-quarters of the length of the South Lancashire Motorway, is now being considered on the basis of a report from the Road Unit. No decision has yet been made, but it might start in 1970–71. It is very doubtful whether it will start before then. On the other hand, the Eccles By-Pass, which continues East from Eccles round Manchester and links up with the M62, which is now being built, will start next year. I do not know whether the noble Lord is aware of this, but if he is not, it will perhaps cheer him up a little.

I do not want to go into further detail on the roads, but I would comment to this extent: that in 1967 the amount of money spent on roads in the area—main trunk roads and the like—was £14 million; and in 1968 the estimate for the total year is £32 million. I do not think that this amount will necessarily be kept up but it is a very high expenditure on roads, and although the demands are great, this should make a substantial contribution.


My Lords, before the noble Lord leaves the question of transport, can he tell us anything about the East/West Cheshire Road and the outer ring road to the City of Chester?


I am sorry, but the preparation of this debate involved me in more detail than any debate which I have attended to in this House, but it did not go so far as that road. However, I will gladly give the right reverend Pi elate the answer in a letter.

I move to the subject of air transport. The noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, has made an examination of this matter with great care. There is a problem here. There is no doubt that British European Airways, being a very commercially oriented Corporation, are as anxious as the noble Lord to develop as frequent a service from Manchester, and even from Liverpool, as is required by the traffic, but I am informed that at the moment the services to Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Paris and, in the summer, to Malta, Brussels, Copenhagen, Zurich, Barcelona and Palma are, largely speaking, being subsidised by B.E.A. because there are not sufficient passengers to make them a paying proposition.

What is one to do about this? Is one to say that the needs of the North West are sufficient to warrant further subsidies being paid to B.E.A. in order to stimulate a growth of traffic to enable them to become viable on their own ground, and increase Government expenditure, or is one to accept what I think is the view of the country at the moment, that Government expenditure must be curtailed, and leave it to B.E.A. to do the best they can until this traffic builds up?—because there is no doubt that it is not building up at the rate that B.E.A. themselves expected. It has to be remembered that, whatever the emotions about this matter, it is a fact that four-fifths of all the air traffic in this country originates in London. I am not saying that it originates from people who fly from Manchester to London, but from people who dwell in London. This is also true for the traffic assigned to this country; I think the same proportion lands and stays in London. I, myself, as somebody from North of the Border, have always felt that the basing of so much in London is bad; but when it comes to air transport it is at present, so far as I can see, a matter of subsidising it out of London. We shall merely have to hope that greater use is made of existing services and that the resulting pressure will not only give B.E.A. profits but will also lead to an extension of these services.

To turn now to the matter of housing (not much mention has been made of schools and hospitals), the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, claims that the North West in general has received 20 per cent. less resources than other regions have. I should like to look at those figures one day. Going through the detailed figures which I have collected in the course of preparing for this debate, I notice that under Local Employment Act grants the North West gets about 18.1 per cent. They are going to get £33 million spent on the Seaforth Dock alone at Liverpool. Investment grants in the North \Vest, generating by industrial investment there, amount to 18.4 per cent. of the national total, at £54 million. I have already quoted a figure for roads for this year—£32 million. And so on. I wondered whether the figure of being a fifth down is correct. However, I am not going to argue it out to-night. But the noble Lord has referred to the fact that in regard to certain conditions the North West is undoubtedly worse off than others, and a visit to the towns of the North West leads one to that conviction. One is very often faced with a smoky, grimy, dirty series of towns, with a quarter of the slums in the country.

Here we come to the question of the allowances which are provided by the Government for the reconditioning of old housing and for the provision of new houses. I have noted the plea that the grant for the restitution of houses should be increased. I can only put this to my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing. I, myself, should be inclined to feel that this is one of the most serious problems of all, together with the provision of new houses in the North West area. When one comes to the question of new housing, I have again noted the figures. In the period 1958–60, 96,000 houses were built in the North West area; in the period 1961–63, the figure was 106,000, and in the period 1964–67, 180,000. This is a very impressive rate of growth. I am not suggesting that it is adequate for the needs of that area, which seem to me to be enormous, but at least there are signs of things getting better in that respect. If that rate of growth were to go on it would really begin to make an impression on the problem itself.

I did not altogether understand my noble friend Lord Simey in the discussion of the amenities and housing. I am with him entirely, and with the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, in agreeing that when new housing estates are put up it is a foolish authority that does not regard them as a place of living, rather than as places where one gets shelter at night and food during the day. But surely this is a matter for the wisdom of the local authority and those associated with it, rather than something which should be put at the door of the Government themselves. When the noble Lord, Lord Simey, made some reference to control of these matters from London, frankly I did not understand him. That is why I rather rudely broke in. I did not like to pursue the subject.

When we come to the question of cultural problems, I often think that what is missed out of the equation is the effect of the motor car to-day. This is really the enemy of the old-fashioned type of amenitiy, of a time when people lived together and shared their griefs and their pleasures, their artistic amusements and all the rest of it. I think we shall never go back, as we do nostalgically, to the sort of social life of our forefathers, to which the noble Lord, Lord Simey, referred. We are going on to something different, and I do not think we know enough about it yet.

Reference has been made in the debate to new towns. I think a record of what is happening in that connection should be made during this debate. It is not a bad record. The Minister of Housing has agreed with the North West Economic Planning Council and the local authorities regarding a five-year programme for town centre development. This involves Birkenhead, Blackburn, Bootle, Burnley, Liverpool, Rawtenstall and Salford. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Pilkington, is aware that St. Helens, his own home town, is at the moment the subject of a very serious study by the Ministry of Housing in connection with the proposal made to them for the redevelopment of the centre of St. Helens. I hope that a decision will he made over the next few months. As to new towns, in Skelmersdale building is now proceeding to house 50,000 people; in Runcorn there is building now to house 40,000; Warrington has been designated this year to start building, we hope soon.

As to the central Lancashire new town, this debate has disclosed opposite opinions on this matter. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Blackburn has, I think, spoken in approving terms of this new town, but others in the North West are of the opinion, "There is going to be all this money spent on a new large city. Why not spend the money, alternatively, upon making happy and prosperous places of some of the towns that are now becoming derelict?". Well, it is problems like this that are causing the Government to consider the whole matter very seriously.

There has been an Impact Study on the whole question of the impact of new towns on the surrounding towns and countryside, and the matter is now under very serious consideration. But I do not think that the Government can possibly win over this. Whichever way they move on this matter there is bound to be plenty of criticism from the other side. I think it is a question of Solomon's judgment. Then, town expansions are going on, or planned, in Winsford, Ellesmere Port and Widnes, to house people from Merseyside. So things are waking up and a great deal is being done in this area of which the area itself can be proud, and I think the Government can be proud of the part they are taking in the movement in the area.

There are just one or two final matters to which I would refer. The noble Lord, Lord Bowden, and the noble Lord. Lord Fraser of Lonsdale, both made reference to the Morecambe Bay Barrage. I think there is a little misunderstanding about this matter Lord Bowden has called attention to the need for a co-ordinating committee. But there is in existence an Economic Study Group, under the chairmanship of the Chairman of the North West Economic Planning Board, which is now looking at the benefits that could accrue, particularly to Furness, from a barrage scheme incorporating a road which would reduce the present distance from Barrow to the M.6 from 38 miles down to 20. This would bring benefits to Furness industry and also increase the leisure possibilities of the area. So I do not think the belief that insufficient study is being made of the impact of such a scheme on the amenity of the neighbourhood is justified. This Group is now sitting.

However, on the general question of co-ordinating, to which Lord Bowden drew attention, in one sense I could not agree more. I do not, however, think that setting up a co-ordinating committee of people without authority would help, but I agree that there is a basic difficulty in having four, five or six Government Departments getting together to work out a solution to a problem. I think- we are here faced, not with a pissing fault of a particular Government, but with the dereliction of a subject—the subject of organisation—by our society up till now, and its dereliction by the universities. Tell me a university to-day which is studying organisation, setting up decent definitions so that it can even be discussed, studying the form of social institutions, even taking the work of Bagehot and his study of Parliament a little further. I do not know any university, except one with which I am associated, that is making any attempt to investigate this matter.

The trouble is that Government, in a changing society, have a lot to learn, along with every other form of organisation; and until we know far more about organisation we shall be troubled with the problems of co-ordination and getting speedy and right decisions in our society in every institution. I agree with him in that sense, but I do not think that a committee to bring together six Ministries in Manchester would do much good. They would be little more than postmen. So I think he must grin and bear it until we can bring as much expertise to this as we can to other matters. We shall then be able to solve some of these problems of government and co-ordination.

I was delighted that the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, was able to speak on the subject of the arts. I shall not refer too much to the contributions made by the noble Lord, Lord Simey, the noble Lord, Lord Bowden, the right reverend Prelate, the Bishop of Chester and others, because I think the noble Lord, Lord Goodman, really dealt with this subject on my behalf. I am thankful for this, since I should have found it difficult to deal with it. I admire the noble Lord's always cogent contributions.

My Lords, we have had an extremely interesting debate. There is no question that this particular area of the country has appalling problems, which are a heritage from the Industrial Revolution, and that the work of the Planning Council is exposing them, and no doubt helping greatly in drawing the attention of the Government to them. As a result of this debate they will benefit, in one way or another, because they will get more sympathy from the Government and, perhaps, marginally more support as time goes on. I think the situation in the North West is an indictment of overemphasis on freedom from controls and on private enterprise—and God forbid that private enterprise should ever again be allowed to run riot in an area such as the North West! This means that we must give public enterprise a showing; and that is what this debate has called for—more public enterprise. I should like to congratulate the North West Economic Planning Council and their Chairman on the document they have produced.

Finally, I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rhodes, not only on his appointment as Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire but on giving us the opportunity to have this interesting and valuable debate on one of the most productive and serious parts of our country.

7.34 p.m.


My Lords, this has been not only an interesting debate, but a serious debate, because those who have taken part in it are living what they have been talking about in their ordinary everyday lives. And when a serious subject such as this is spoken to by people who are articulate and knowledgeable, it means that we must think seriously about the kind of reply that it deserves.

It has been a far-ranging debate, and it would be a total impossibility for any one Minister to get "on his pins" and answer thoroughly all these aspects of North Western life that have been touched on. We thank the Minister for what he has been able to do, but we would suggest that on another occasion, on serious matters such as this—which, although they may not look so important from Whitehall, are important to us two Ministers would perhaps be able to give a more adequate answer. However, we are thankful for small mercies, and I should like to thank everyone who has contributed to this debate. It has been a serious debate, which has enabled the Report to come to life. Now, to protect myself from what could be a lurid load of paper, after moving for Papers at the beginning of the debate, I would ask permission to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

House adjourned at twenty-four minutes before eight o'clock.