HL Deb 20 February 1969 vol 299 cc915-44

3.22 p.m.

LORD WOLVERTON rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they accept the recommendations of the East Anglia Economic Planning Council's Report, 1968, with special reference to transport and communications. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in rising to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper, I should first like to express my thanks to the noble Lords who are supporting me in this debate and also to the Minister. Lord Winterbottom, who is to reply, because under the Unstarred Question procedure I have not a right of reply to the debate. I wish also to thank Mr. Keith and his Council for their Report, the East Anglia Study, and I am sure that in doing so I shall be expressing also the appreciation of the House.

I have been much concerned lately that if East Anglia is to have a large increase in population, as planned, and if the ports are to be expanded, the road communications must be greatly improved to cope with the increase of traffic; and this means stepping up considerably the capital investment in the roads of the region in the 1970s. I should like to quote short extracts from the Reports of the East Anglia Economic Planning Council and the East Anglia Consultative Committee. On page 12, paragraph 66, the East Anglia Study 1968 states: The Council has repeatedly advised the Minister of Transport that the capacity of the road system is quite inadequate for the traffic it carries today. We have urged that the Government should give a much higher priority for road investment in the national allocation of resources, and maintained that East Anglia's share is disproportionately low. Furthermore, unlike most regions, East Anglia does not get any share of the separate public investment allocated to motorways. We do, of course, recognise the serious economic difficulties facing the country at the present time and the consequent need to restrain public expenditure, but unless there is a very much larger investment in the improvement of roads than has been announced so far, the economic development to which the region has been committed will be retarded. The Minister has assured us that present methods of investment appraisal are being re-examined to see whether regional needs could be taken more fully into account, and that the importance we attach to the prior existence of adequate communcations as a con- dition of new development will be borne in mind. That is the end of that quotation, my Lords.

The next quotation I should like to make is from the Report of the East Anglia Consultative Committee on Road Communications in East Anglia, 1967. On page 3, in paragraphs 2 and 3, it states: In recent years priority has continued to be given to the construction and improvement of roads radiating from London and of the north-south routes like the M.1 and the Great North Road A.1. The improvement of cast-west routes essential to the prosperity and development of East Anglia has been neglected. It is time that this trend was reversed. If East Anglia is to make its full contribution to the national economy, if it is to assist in relieving the pressures on London and the South-east by expanding its towns, if its industry and its ports are to develop and flourish, it is imperative that there must be a much larger investment in the improvement of the primary routes of the region and especially of the east-west roads linking the Midlands and the North with the eastern counties.

My Lords, may I just quote one other short extract to support my case? It is from The East of England—a Tory Study, made in 1968, in which on page 25, paragraph 1, it states: The main impression left upon our minds by the evidence we have received throughout the entire area of our Study is the crying need for improved communications east to west and south east to north west. As fast as development takes place so new demands for rapid transit of freight and people arise. Indeed, they often precede the actual development, which itself gives rise to the need for ready access by contractors' heavy equipment…".

I should like now to turn for a few moments to the financial aspect of this problem. In the East Anglia Study, on page 14, paragraph 80, under the heading "Public Investment", the Council recommend that a total expenditure of between £250 million and £295 million will be necessary up to the year 1981 to modernise the main road system of the region. This amount, which is recommended, is some two and a half to three times the present rate of investment. I think I am right in saying that the present rate of investment on road improvements in East Anglia is about £4,500,000 per annum. This recommendation was reinforced by the East Anglia Consultative Committee's Report, which stated that the sum of £362 million would be needed up to 1981 for this purpose, and this would be at least three times the present rate of investment. Although there may be disagreements about some aspects of the recommendations in the East Anglia Study, there was complete unanimity within the East Anglia Consultative Committee on the need for improved road communications, a view which was also shared by the East Anglia Economic Planning Council.

I have already given notice to the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, that I intend to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are in agreement with these recommendations in the Report of the East Anglia Economic Planning Council. I have also asked the Minister whether Her Majesty's Government agree that priority ought to be given to major improvements, including by-passes of towns on the trunk roads A.45 (Ipswich to the Midlands); A.11 (Norwich to London); A.47 (Great Yarmouth via Norwich to Birmingham); and A.17 (King's Lynn to Newark). If the Government agree, I should be glad if the Minister could give the House some indication of the date when it is expected that these major works on the modernisation of these routes will be put in hand. To give your Lordships some idea of costs, I may say that the dualling of A.11 and A.45 throughout the region including by-passes of towns, will cost about £48 million. If the town expansion at Ipswich goes ahead, a further sum amounting to £22 million will be needed for the construction of an urban motorway for the A.45, as Ipswich now has only an inner ring road which would be completely inadequate for the future. I should like to draw the Minister's attention to the need for the improvement of road connections between East Anglia and the Midlands, which are notoriously inadequate West of the region.

I should like to conclude by saying that on whatever basis the present expenditure on roads in East Anglia is compared—per head of population, per vehicle registered or per mile of road—it is clear that expenditure in East Anglia is very low in relation to other regions. This is not understandable when one looks at the sum of money collected in East Anglia from vehicle licences. In the last ten years the total has amounted to approximately £70 million, whereas the central Government expenditure on roads in East Anglia during that same period was only £44 million, or 63 per cent. of the amount of money collected from licences. In the country as a whole, some 94 per cent. of the amount of licence money collected was spent on the roads. This shows that in the past motorists in East Anglia have substantially subsidised road work in other regions. This trend, in my opinion, should now be reversed.

3.32 p.m.


My Lords, I am particularly glad that the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, has initiated the debate on the East Anglia Economic Planning Council's Report, since it offers an opportunity to consider some of the implications of this Report while planning is still in a preliminary stage. The noble Lord's Question refers in particular to transport and communications. The transport and communications which will be needed for this region clearly depend on the acceptability or otherwise of the major recommendations as to the future size and future distribution of the population in East Anglia envisaged by this Study; and it is about this that I should like to speak, for it is basic to the Study as a whole.

First, I wholly agree with the Council's approach in recognising the need for a level of planning which looks at an area larger than any single local authority but a good deal smaller than the country as a whole. I would also agree that this certainly does not mean a "tyranny of planning." The business firm, the individual looking for a place to which to retire, the private citizen who wants and is able to commute to work, all organisations serving the community, and certainly the Churches, wish to have as clear a view as is possible of the future pattern of development and will welcome the intention of this Study to provide it. The Council responsible for this Report have emphasised its preliminary character. It provides for the first time a mass of invaluable information necessary for any planning in this area, and I would associate myself with the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, in expressing the debt owed to Mr. Keith and to the members of this Council for the work contained in the Report. But I take it that, this being a preliminary Report, the Council, in their subsequent reports, and the Government, in considering them, may be ready to have second thoughts on certain aspects of the planning which is proposed.

The Study appears to be based on the situation arising from the 1952 Town Development Act and from the 1965 New Towns Act. These two decisions are creating ten areas of intensive growth in the region, in addition to the four city areas. The Report, in paragraph 223, speaks of the 1952 Town Development Act as one in which: There was no plan for selecting the most suitable towns for expansion: the present town development programme grew up from the sum of the decisions of local authorities. These ten towns are to provide homes for 75,000 Londoners. No mention is made of the provision of jobs or other facilities, and it is clear from paragraph 386 of the Study that not enough jobs were available in the growth areas to cater for this overspill population. In short, the provisions of this Act appear to have been concerned to answer the question, "What do we do with the London overspill?" rather than, "How do we create a community at this place or that? The 1965 New Towns Act was based on studies undertaken by consultants to provide homes, jobs and other facilities for 70,000 people, mostly Londoners, in each town by 1981.

The Study that we are discussing this afternoon assumes that these two developments were right and necessary. It makes no explicit attempt to evaluate them, to compare them or to criticise the spirit in which they occurred. The attitude of the Study to the increase in population seems to follow the lines of the 1952 decisions and to be asking this question: "Given the influx of people into the growth areas, and given the fact that adequate jobs do not exist for them in these growth areas, how do we create the jobs?" And, less persistently, "What effect will the growth areas have upon other parts of East Anglia?" Whereas I submit that it could be more usefully asking the question: "Given the heterogeneous nature of East Anglia's growing population, analysed into indigenous inhabitants, voluntary migrants and planned migrants, how is it possible to make human communities?"

The Study envisages the provision of jobs as a primary concern—namely, as a means to furthering the national economy. This thinking seems to be right and logical enough but it is less than adequate if it assumes that man's primary needs are economic, that he has secondary and less important needs called "amenities" for after-work hours and that he has a subsidiary need called "social services", which are available to pick up the pieces if he gets tired of doing a job which he sees is purposeless and when he gets bored with artificial amenities. The Study appears to give little understanding to the fact that man's real first need is a community in which all three of these factors are integrated, balanced and given context. Although I do not doubt that these considerations have been in the minds of individual members of the Council, many of whom are known to me personally, and their views, I do not find that this is expressed in the Study itself.

In other words, the Study's assumptions appear to me to be based first on economics and the siting of populations to meet these requirements and not on communities in which the necessary economic factors are provided compatible with the needs of the communities. East Anglia is therefore regarded as an area whose prime need is economic growth. I appreciate the fact that the Study is an economic study. Nevertheles, without a far stronger emphasis on community and environment, the economic emphasis can stand in danger of providing a repetition in a dangerous form of the soulless urban conurbations or the new housing estates of recent decades. There is, as I would judge, insufficient awareness of the problems of overspill towns of such a kind as to avoid a repetition of these problems in later developments.

The other question which exercised me, if I am interpreting the thought of this Study correctly, is the fate of a large number of the market towns and villages in East Anglia. Naturally enough, I think particularly of those in Norfolk and of the area in North Norfolk to which reference was made recently in another place by Members representing that area. I am not convinced that a proportionate amount of thought was given to the future of these as was given to the new areas of intensive growth.

The problems of the rural "grey areas" (and that in itself is a rather depressing but unfortunately rather accurate account of what can so easily happen) are analysed in Sections 58 to 61, and in Section 64 it is stated explicitly that: there are many market towns which cannot provide a satisfactory range of community facilities necessary for a full and satisfactory life and where employment opportunities can never be broad. Many people will be disposed not to question this. But no criteria are given for saying this, and the implication of this sweeping statement is that these towns are simply not worth preserving. The authors of the Study fail to appreciate that these small market towns may have something to offer which larger industrial conurbations do not.

As I read the Report, I cannot find any real effort to look at the viability of such market towns as might be saved, apart from those which might be considered as domitory areas. The Study assumes that industry just will not come to these towns. No evidence of this is given, and there are obvious exceptions—for example, the Lotus Works at Hethel. I would submit the need to investigate whether small, specialist industries would come to smaller towns. I believe that this would be the case.

I do not believe that it is false sentiment to emphasise that the smaller market towns may have something to offer to the quality and variety of life which industrial conurbations do not, even though the cost effectiveness may not be high. In this connection, one has to take into account the considerable number of voluntary migrants who have been moving into this part of England. Of the 92,700 new arrivals in East Anglia between 1961 and 1966, no fewer than 50,000 settled in rural parishes. Since planned migrants mostly settle in towns, it is probable, given the proportionate breakdown of population growth, that something like 26,500 of these 50,000 were voluntary migrants. No exact analysis of voluntary migration is given—an indication that the authors of the Study have not taken this segment of the population as seriously as they ought.

Given the fact that East Anglian incomes fall well below those of Great Britain, as a whole, why should there be this migration to rural East Anglia? It can only be because these voluntary migrants are trying to get away from big city life. Allowing for the creative contribution being made by such persons as artists and writers—and we are fortunate in Norfolk in having a number of these, many of them living in country areas—the greater proportion of these voluntary migrants are presumably retired people, and one could therefore envisage a situation in rural East Anglia where most of the able-bodied adults have disappeared, and where there is a consequent decline in basic services. This, in fact, is already happening, and will be exacerbated if the intensive growth areas develop in the way the Study envisages.

The three questions, therefore, that I hope may be looked at again in planning this area are, first, to consider whether planning focused so largely and almost exclusively on the ten intensive growth areas established in the 1952 Town Development Act, in addition to the four city regions, is necessarily the best answer for the establishment of the most favourable community life in East Anglia, even if, on the face of it in the short term, it is likely to produce the best economic result. There is a growing body of research which indicates the dangers that a sense of rootlessness, especially if it goes hand in hand with job dissatisfaction, results in loss of man hours, sickness and increased strain all round. In other words, the short-term economic advantages may soon be overtaken when this occurs.

Secondly, consideration should be given to whether the needs of rural Norfolk, taking into account the reasons why there is voluntary migration into rural Norfolk, need be neglected to the extent to which this Study apparently does neglect them: and side by side with this, whether market towns cannot provide the region with certain assets from which this part of England would derive considerable advantage, including benefits of a rather different type (and not without an economic return) from that of the larger towns and cities. Thirdly, in view of the fact that the Study states explicitly that employment opportunities do exist in Norfolk away from the large towns, consideration should be given to whether the attention of overspill migrants cannot be directed to these jobs to a greater extent.

I hope, my Lords, that these considerations may he borne in mind in the interests of the type of community life for which we are now planning. If such considerations could lead to some modification of the planning envisaged in this Study, it would naturally affect the type of transport and communications which will be required.

3.46 p.m.


My Lords, I beg the indulgence of your Lordships' House to one who is addressing your Lordships for the first time. I want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, for initiating this debate, thereby giving me the opportunity to speak. Maiden speeches are, I believe, usually short, and I hope that my speech will commend itself to your Lordships, if only for its brevity.

As a Norfolk man, I welcome the Report, with certain reservations, and wish to confine my remarks to one or two aspects concerning this county, rather than East Anglia as a whole. It has been suggested that improvements to the A.47 (Norwich—King's Lynn) road are of secondary importance to the improvements to the A.11. I cannot entirely agree with this; I should have thought that they had equal merits. With the expansion of the eastern ports and the port of King's Lynn, bearing in mind the tremendous potential of the suggested Wash Barrage scheme and the industrial development in Norfolk, and to a lesser extent Dereham, with the excessive and ever-increasing volume of holiday traffic from the Midlands and the North, a modern East/West route through the northern part of the region is essential.

Incidentally, even though the Government had previously decided against authorising a feasibility study, I am delighted to learn that there is now a possibility of the construction of a hydraulic model of the Wash Barrage to evaluate the natural resources development potential, and I feel that, irrespective of the probable solving of the complex water supply problems, there could be derived many additional economic benefits in the way of greatly extended port facilities which would undoubtedly assist the growth and industrial expansion of the well-situated and progressive town of King's Lynn.

One problem which faces the Norwich City region, with its proposed 30,000 overspill population scheme, is the difficulty of its road communications with the Midlands. The distances involved are exaggerated by the poor quality of the link roads, and journey times are correspondingly lengthened. An example of this is the road between Norwich and East Dereham. Improvements have been made, and I wish that I could say that they were satisfactory. I often travel on this road and it is a harrowing experience. Accidents frequently occur, due in no small measure to the frustration of drivers in the queues building up behind the heavy traffic along the many bends and inclines still prevailing on the improved stretches.

Road works have obviously been done piecemeal as and when funds were available, and specific local factors taken into account, but I still consider that some of the alterations to our trunk roads are not as good as they might be. Surely it would be better to retard the programme if need be and set the target for 1985 as opposed to 1981, but I would urge the Government to make full provision to ensure that the roads when completed are absolutely safe and adequate for the volume and types of traffic envisaged in the future, rather than being too hasty and finding them inadequate in a few years' time.

Industry is expanding in the East Dere-ham district. One factory produces some of the largest road trailers in Europe which must be conveyed along the A.47. The colossal reinforced concrete girders manufactured in another factory in the area are also forced frequently to use this road. I have seen vehicles carrying these girders travelling in an anti-clockwise direction around traffic islands in order to negotiate the turns. The future of the branch railway line which transports 30 per cent. of this firm's products is under review. The withdrawal of many of the branch line rail services is a distinct disadvantage in promoting industrial growth, and it is to be hoped that the remaining branch lines such as these, carrying the heavy freight they do, will not be closed. Otherwise great congestion on the roads in the area must inevitably follow.

The Report shows a necessity for new industries to provide employment to a growing population and the need for rapid transport amelioration to facilitate their establishment and subsequent maintenance; but I consider it rather underestimates the value of agriculture, which in this area is undoubtedly the greatest industry of all. I hope that any major overspill schemes will be confined to existing urban and industrial areas or to areas of lower agricultural value. Newly developing industries, with their accompanying housing requirements, must be built outside these existing areas only if it can be proved that their anticipated export trade is greater than the import saving the land already achieves. I will not go into all the facts and figures of the great import-saving role of agriculture, or of the tremendous output of the industry in Norfolk, but it is a fact that the sale of cars in 1967 to ten countries from which we buy food was valued at £104 million, as compared with the £918 million we spent on the food we purchased from them. These facts speak for themselves, my Lords, and we must safeguard as much of the good fertile land as we can, for each year we are losing half a million acres throughout the country for other purposes.

It was particularly pleasing to read of the commendable alacrity with which the Ministry of Housing and Local Government acted last week in sanctioning a grant to enable a local authority to purchase property in order that a new food packing factory could be started in the small town of Fakenham. Apart from the fact that locally grown produce will be marketed, some 60 people will be employed and this will alleviate the unemployment problem in this district. This is the kind of enterprise we need to encourage in the predominantly agricultural area of North Norfolk.

My Lords, I trust that in the Price Review discussions now taking place, and in all such discussions subsequently, the Government will appreciate that it is essential that it be made economically possible for the industry to become competitive and for farmers to pay their employees wages more closely related to industrial earnings. The number of farm workers has dropped by 50 per cent. in the last ten years, and even with increasing mechanisation that number must not drop much lower if maximum production is to be ensured. My Lords, I should like to conclude on this note. There are several industrial enterprises in East Anglia at present and there will undoubtedly be many new ones whose prosperity is ancillary to the prosperity of agriculture. Whatever careful deliberations or reasoned proposals are made for the future of the area, it must not once be forgotten that East Anglia is the granary of Britain.

3.55 p.m.


My Lords, your Lordships will have much enjoyed the maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Wise, to which we have just listened. For those of us who come from East Anglia, some of the telling points he has made, particularly those on agriculture, warm, as it were, the cockles of our hearts. Many of your Lordships will remember with affection the noble Lord's father, who in Norfolk, I know, is remembered with pride and with respect. From the time when he worked with Lord Attlee in the East End of London until the end of his life in Norfolk, the late Lord Wise was concerned with service to people among whom he lived. And what a pleasure it is, if I may say so with respect to the noble Lord who has just spoken, that he obviously thinks as his father did. East Anglians will appreciate the fact that the noble Lord has chosen this afternoon, in a debate on an Unstarred Question, to make his maiden speech because it was on East Anglia. We all hope that we shall hear from him again very soon.

My Lords, it was in 1966 that a separate Economic Planning Council was formed for East Anglia. The Chairman, Mr. Kenneth Keith, fully justifies that decision by observing in his Foreword that: Our Region is likely to see the biggest and most rapid changes of any in the country". May I echo the thanks which have already been given to Mr. Keith and to his Council for this first Report? Thanks are also due to my noble friend Lord Wolverton for initiating this debate, and to the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, himself an East Anglian, who originally suggested that it might be desirable and has ensured that he has come here personally this afternoon to reply for the Government.

A stranger to East Anglia once observed: The Angles all settled in this part of England; but after a time the acute Angles moved away to the North and West. The obtuse Angles just stayed where they were, in Suffolk". Certainly for the Region as a whole the mid-20th century has changed all that. Paragraph 15 of the Report tells us that Since 1951 the Region has experienced the fastest rate of population growth of any region in the country"; and this trend is expected to continue. But dramatic population increase leads to one general but vital question posed by the Report. Probably the most "underprivileged communities" in East Anglia, from the point of view of amenities, are the small towns to which it is never easy to attract new industry because of the small labour pool available.

The words of the noble Lord, Lord Wise, in his speech about small towns in North Norfolk and heavy freight nearby, and the speech of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, encourage me to draw noble Lords' attention to the "cumulative effect" (to quote the words of the Report) of railway closures on the economic chances of some of the rural areas; and of course here one thinks particularly of North Norfolk. I would ask the Government whether they would consider the recommendation in the Report that all lines proposed for closure in this area be reconsidered by the Minister. I would ask also: do the Government agree with the Council's apprehension, expressed in paragraph 30, that if unemployment further increases, the attractions of employment in development areas may cause serious difficulties for the least prosperous areas and the expanding towns of the region? Let us not forget, my Lords, that the expansion of Peterborough shortly, and possibly of Ipswich, will provide further potent counter-magnets for employment.

We in East Anglia are proud, I think, to shoulder our part of the nation's population expansion. But until the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich spoke, I felt it had been said far too seldom that these proposed city regions may leave the small towns out in the cold. I would ask the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, whether the Government will look sympathetically at the recommendation in paragraph 60, that a few selected towns be chosen as what are called employment sub-centres—presumably to include the towns already being expanded under the Town Development Act 1952—and also with the greatest care at the speech of the right reverend Prelate, who of course in his words went a good deal further.

One further general observation. Paragraphs 530 and 518 of the Report refer to difficulty in recruiting teachers and to the low proportion of pupils at school who are staying on beyond the school leaving age. All local education authorities may have particular staffing problems, but I am not aware that evidence of recruitment was given by local education authorities in the area, so the first statement should be treated with reserve. The reason why many pupils do not stay on is that our secondary schools often have too small an entry to make a fifth year course a viable proposition. It is for that reason that Table 53 of the Report clearly shows that the percentage of all school leavers in East Anglia going on to full-time further education is above, not below, the national average. This point is important, so that there shall be no misapprehension at all of the desire for knowledge and for skills inherent in our region.

May I then briefly draw the attention of your Lordships to four areas of activity, full of promise and challenge for the future and, I hope, related to communications? It is perhaps fitting that Norfolk, where a revolution in farming began, should now, as the noble Lord, Lord Wise, has reminded us, with the rest of East Anglia be known as "the granary of England". Possibly "Turnip" Townsend would approve that we grow over 50 per cent. of the nation's sugar beet, and over a year ago it was merciful that the scourge of foot-and-mouth avoided East Anglia, where nearly 20 per cent. of the nation's pigs are reared.

But an expanding industry with a contracting labour force means heavy mechanisation and progressively greater demands on trunk and principal roads. In addition, some of your Lordships may be familiar with dust roads overseas which rely for their stability on a deep rubble base. But on the minor roads of this country the tarmac is the road, and once punctured by tracked or heavy machinery (particularly at the present time in adverse weather conditions) the whole surface of such a road is in jeopardy. One East Anglian surveyor has put this cost of minor roads at up to £20,000 per annum, a factor which has to be faced by the highway authorities in the region.

The right reverend Prelate has dealt so fully with the rights and wrongs of the city region strategy that nothing more need be said on that point to-day. All I need to report is that the East Anglian Consultative Committee assess the cost of providing adequate primary urban roads in the region, including an expanded Peterborough and Ipswich, at £130 million.

Thirdly, holiday traffic. Paragraph 108 of the Report refers to sports and pastimes—sightseeing, walking, bird-watching and many water sports, which can so readily be gratified in the Eastern counties. In 1967 over 2 million holidaymakers came to our region, which in itself makes strict demands on our communications inland. But there is a collision course "here, to which the Report openly refers, between the increase of visitors and the convenience of inhabitants. The coasts of Norfolk and Suffolk are of great natural beauty. Recently the Countryside Commission has designated a large part of the Norfolk coast as "art area of outstanding natural beauty ", and they now propose to do the same with the whole of the Suffolk coast. But we are careful people in East Anglia, and I take the opportunity of saying: never let any Government or local authority contemplate a coast road North of the haven ports. The American author, Paul Gallico, once referred to the East coast as "one of the last of the wild places of England", and if any man walks the coast between Bawdsey and Aldeburgh, Dunwich and Caister, he may learn the secret which draws men back time and again to the coast of which we are so proud.

Lastly, the 1960s have seen the East Anglian ports claiming an increasing share of the country's foreign trade. Undoubtedly—and this was a point which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Wise—increasing traffic through King's Lynn, Yarmouth and Lowestoft must call for improvement to the A.47 and its extension, the A.17, across Norfolk, parts of which were severely overloaded in 1966. But immediate urgency for road improvements comes from the amazing increase in trade at Felixstowe and plans for the future at Ipswich. The latest figure given by the Report for gross tons handled at Felixstowe was over 800,000 in 1966. Last year the port handled over 1,500,000 tons—nearly double—of which 46 per cent. was container traffic; and this year Felixstowe hopes to top the 2 million tons mark with over 62 per cent. containers. This is a proud record, but your Lordships will have seen the great container lorries, sometimes 50 ft. long, which are "murder" to traffic without a dual carriageway. About 45 per cent. of Felixstowe's traffic is going to the Midlands, mainly along the A.45 road, along the total length of which there is about three miles of dual carriageway.

Ipswich was already handling over 2 million tons per annum in 1966. The port has immediate plans for two more roll on/roll off and container services, and two more conventional services, all claiming more traffic along the inland roads. It also has a new deep-sea general cargo service facility which is almost ready, which alone could mean 480 more lorries per week, about 50 per cent. of them bound for the Midlands and the North. At the moment British Rail is helping to the tune of about 10 per cent. of Felixstowe's container traffic, but I understand that at Ipswich there may be a connection with a freightliner service from Harwich, and I would say to the Government that I know that the much keener rates now being offered by British Rail in this area are being appreciated.

Like Shakespeare's Henry V long ago, perhaps your Lordships will agree that these two haven ports are putting "Cheerly to sea", but the burden on roads westwards increases. A further complication is that for six years now the great town of Ipswich has been starved of money for roads, and has even been refused the normal 50 per cent. grant for a land-use transportation survey by the Ministry of Transport. on the ground that possible town expansion would come under the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.

I hope your Lordships will forgive this background to the case put so ably by the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Winter-bottom, will not require details of industry in East Anglia, but may agree that traffic flows should speak for themselves. Between 1960 and 1966 the Ministry of Transport, Eastern Division, had the largest national increase in urban traffic, at 51 per cent., and in rural traffic, at 47 per cent. For those who picture East Anglia as "sleepy", the Road Research Laboratory's Report L.R.206 shows that the vehicle mileage per day of heavy goods vehicles on trunk and principal roads in the Eastern Division is higher than the national average.

Your Lordships have been made aware this afternoon that East Anglia's links westwards run via Bedford, Huntingdon and Peterborough. All these roads are substandard. As an absolute priority what is so desperately needed is dual carriageway on the A.604 via Huntingdon, to link with the motorway system at Calthorpe, where the M.1 and M.6 meet. Such a road would join East Anglia with the Midlands, provided that the roads within the region could be improved to the same standard. This could be effected very simply by giving priority treatment to the A.45 running like a spine across the region, and to the A.11, which was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Wise, which links Norwich with Newmarket. These two roads provide vital interior links with the A.604 to the Midlands. The cost, of which Lord Wolverton has given details, would be £70 million.

But, my Lords, these two roads are the absolute priorities. It is startling, but true, that in 1966 over half the 380 miles of rural trunk roads in the region were carrying 20 to 100 per cent. in excess of their desirable maximum capacities. To meet this the Report shows that £250 million is the minimum needed to prevent road congestion worsening on urban primary and rural trunk roads up to 1981. The Report shows that the expected rate of expenditure up to 1981 is probably going to be about £110 million. Thus, as Lord Wolverton has told the House, two and a half times the money is needed, or an annual investment of about £15 to £19 million. Even these figures, I regret to say, are already out of date. On December 14, 1968, the paper, The Surveyor, gave details of expenditure actually authorised up to 1971 in eight economic planning regions, showing that, out of a total of £975 million allocated, East Anglia's share was only £15 million, or just £5 million a year. Of course certain areas need special consideration, but on any count it is hard to see how this region's share can be so small. For instance, the vehicle mileage of the trunk and principal roads is on a par with that of Yorkshire and Humberside, where the proposed expenditure to 1971, according to The Surveyor, will be five times greater.

One of the ways of evaluating priority is the Road Research Laboratory formula for economic assessments. Recently an assessment on a £2 million improvement scheme on the A.45 running down to Felixstowe was completed. It showed that the return on capital would be 55 per cent., or repayment by increased efficiency in less than two years. Yet this part of the A.45 is not even a trunk road. This is a serious example of why this case is presented to your Lordships' House to-day.

The besetting problem for local authority surveyors is financial uncertainty, and I am sure that the weekend speech of the Minister of Transport giving notice of a forthcoming £2,000 million road plan will be welcomed. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Winterbottom, may feel that the case we present this afternoon agrees with the Minister's speech in two particular respects. The first is that a future criterion for the Minister is not, apparently, to be motorway speed but journey time from A to B. if this is forward-looking it will be so because of, not despite, the motorways programme initiated by Mr. Marples; but it is a plan into which East Anglia, with no motorways envisaged and so many towns to be bypassed, readily fits. Secondly, the Minister drew attention to the national importance of the total strategy for roads, and it is to be hoped that he will be impressed by the part which the region is playing increasingly in the country's affairs.

But, my Lords, I must admit that it is with divided loyalties that some of us take part in this debate on this unstarred Question to-day. The strength of East Anglia is the fine agricultural land. Its glory is the clear light and the ever-changing scene. It is not for nothing that some of the greatest English landscape painters have been ours—Gainsborough and Constable, John Crome, of the "Norwich school", Sir Alfred Munnings and the brothers Smythe, some of whom, with a touching simplicity, rarely foresook the countryside which their work has left to posterity. Any programme which seriously threatens the ability of East Anglian agriculture or the safety of the landscape is criminally shortsighted. But this afternoon we base our claims on existing needs, I trust on prudence, and on hope for the future.

4.15 p.m.


My Lords, it gives me very great pleasure to be able to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Wise, on his maiden speech to-day, in which he has shown his judgment and eloquence and his loyalty to our region. I am sure that his contributions to your Lordships' deliberations will be of great benefit. I am particularly pleased to be able to do this since it was his father some years ago who encouraged me after I had made my maiden speech.

My Lords, the terms of reference of the East Anglian Economic Planning Council are interpreted thus: to assist in the development of planning in the region, to advise on the implementation of regional policies, to advise the central Government on the regional implications of national economic policies, and to advise the central Government on regional public investment programmes. I repeat those because they are not absolutely clear to everyone. My noble friend, Lord Ilford, exactly a year ago to-day asked a question on this subject, and the powers of these Councils were put forward, but rather vaguely. They have no executive powers, but obviously their power to criticise is a very considerable one. If they have no executive powers, I am not absolutely clear how they assist in the development of planning in the region, except perhaps to be a forum, rather like this House is, where one can put forward one's views. They are put forward in this Report; they may well be torn to pieces.

The city region idea, as has been said this afternoon, leaves a large gap in the centre of the region in the South Wet part of Norfolk. Living as I do in that area, declaring an interest, being a member of the Thetford Borough Council, I would draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that Thetford is bang in the centre of this region and is the one present local government organisation which has four boundaries, one in each of the four city regions. Its old claim to be the capital of East Anglia is therefore, I think, justified.

I appreciate how people feel, and I myself felt when I heard that these bodies were to be set up. I thought, "Why do these people in central Government load more and more committees on the vast number existing?" One feels that we are over-planned and over-catalogued. But when one reflects on the task given to the Economic Council, one concludes that it may be that they can, by their example and encouragement, have a great co-ordinating effect on the process of living in our region, producing. I hope, an individual, artistic pattern of rival areas rather than a pastel-shaded whole. One could pick holes in this Report of what the Council have said, but what they have said has had to be carefully worded because of the difficulty of supporting these claims or intentions with facts and not just by intuition.

It has been said that agriculture is not treated with importance, but it obviously has a great part in the economy of the region. In fact, paragraph 270 just says that agriculture and horticulture and the industries that support and flow from them occupy a leading position in the economic and social life of the, region. The further paragraphs, 277–9, go fairly deeply into the trends in agriculture. The Report does not go into the economics of it, but it does go into the trends of production. One of the interesting things is that East Anglia contains 2¼ million acres of arable land, which is about one-seventh of the total of England and Wales. It is of interest to note that while wages are reported as lower than average, capital employed in agriculture is between £25,000 and £40,000 for each man; and the new capital per man being invested is at a greater rate than in manufacturing industry.

No doubt wisely, the Report keeps clear of the controversial question of how the increased production that we have talked about in "little Neddy" is to be financed, but surely we can criticise the Council in that they should have faced up to this under the third of their assumed responsibilities, which is to advise the central Government on regional implications of national economic polices. The suggested increases in output will put a further strain on the road system, as my noble friend Lord Belstead has said. The majority of farm produce is moved by truck, and the processed produce from the factories is also moved by truck; and with efficiency thrust upon the industry in each Price Review, these monsters will become larger and larger. I am surprised that my noble friend Lord Belstead did not mention this figure—which I think is rather an amusing term, a P.C.U.—but at the moment, for the sake of statistics, they are translated into three passenger car units, though one often sees a car transporter carrying six P.C.U.s. Perhaps modern mathematics can explain this.

The Report pronounces quite clearly in paragraph 63 on the less controversial, but as worrying to farmers, incursion of overspill, in the form of the ten development schemes on which we have had the comments of the right reverend Prelate. It should please farmers to know that population expansions will be confined, if the Report is accepted, to no further expansion than that already programmed, except at Haverhill, Thetford and in the city of Norwich, where a further expansion of 30,000 people is suggested. Paragraph 234 suggests a minor expansion of 5,000 in Haverhill and a more considerable expansion in Thetford. These schemes for overspill, which were quite voluntarily entered into, have in many cases been extremely successful, and are bringing new jobs and opportunities to the recipient towns. They have made a big contribution towards the housing problem in the Greater London Area.

It may be of interest to your Lordships to know that for every London family received, 2.7 jobs are created. Assuming that 1.7 of these jobs are filled by the newcomers, and one job is filled by a local person, the effect on employment locally is dramatic, as one can see; and as the catchment area spreads, local communications become much more important, as regards both the roads themselves and their servicing. The surrounding villages and towns derive enormous benefit from these overspill schemes, and the area they cover is continually increasing. By "servicing" the roads, I mean keeping them open in fog, frost, flood and blizzard conditions, because now that the railways have definitely taken such a secondary position in transport in this area, roads are important as our main arteries, and it is important that they are kept open.

I was in a factory a fortnight ago when the blizzard struck, and the manager had to make the decision to send out the bus for the night shift workers, because they must make every effort to get their produce out to their customers. Equally, if the customers are to be serviced, so should the authorities serve their electors, since the roads are of such importance to the production in these areas. Indeed, that evening the ploughs were out for a time and the blinking lights were a great source of comfort, as I know myself, having had to go out on the road in the blizzard.

The snowballing effect of expansion will continue for some time, and the suggestion in paragraph 37 of some coordinating team to keep the different amenities and utilities in step is of paramount importance, as I have said before in your Lordships' House. This is becoming more important now as the provisions of the Town Development Act run out, and yet the receiving towns will carry on growing under their own momentum. This is a problem which will make itself apparent during the next ten years, and no doubt the Council will be reporting on it. If only an attractive mortgage scheme could be devised so that in these towns the occupation of a council house could be but a stepping stone to ownership of one's own house, as is envisaged in the great expansions in the New Towns of Ipswich and Peterborough in paragraph 238. If East Anglia is to contribute to solving London's housing problems, surely we can ask for some help in this direction.

As the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, has said—and I am indeed grateful to him for raising this matter as for those in East Englia it is most important we do something about the roads—in paragraph 66 the Economic Planning Council has repeatedly advised the Minister that the capacity of the road system is quite inadequate for the traffic it carries to-day. This comes under the fourth heading of their terms of reference. My noble friend has spoken about the allocation of funds to improve particularly the two important main roads, the A.11 and A.45. Just the other day I heard somebody talking about the B.11; I wondered where it was until I realised what they were talking about. It was an excellent road twenty years ago. It has changed little since then, and I add my plea for the construction of the Cringleford, Heathersett, Wymondham, Attie-borough, Thetford and Newmarket bypasses on this road, and the Stowmarket, Eden Mark, Bury St. Edmunds and Cambridge by-passes on the A.45.

To understand the necessity for these roads, and in due course the A.47 and A.17 route as well, I should like to draw your Lordships' attention once again to the great increase in the frozen food market, and the very large refrigerated trucks which feed exports from the processing factories to the small but growing Continental container roll-on and roll-off traffic. I call it small, because the volume of traffic is not great compared with the London, Manchester, Liverpool docks traffic, but for our roads and for the size of the docks it is very great indeed.

There is a1so the growing industrialisation of the fastest growing region of England, and its attendant calls for quick transportation, whether to the dock or to the airport, and last, but not least, the concentration of amenities and necessities which is required nowadays in order to keep down overhead costs—for example, the hospital services, where fast access to the widely scattered district general hospitals which are planned could make a difference between survival and death. It is necessary equally to make full use of those regional facilities such as the regional sports centres which are now planned—not only are they planned, but if money was available I think they would start building soon—and also for the weekly traveller, the people going to their market centres. It is, in fact, the city regions plus the old-established county boroughs.

One criticism I would make of this city region concept is that it leaves out Bury St. Edmunds and King's Lynn, which are two very old-established market regions. I was fortunate the other day to go to a meeting where somebody demonstrated, by use of colours on maps, the areas to which people went for their weekly shopping. Bury St. Edmunds and King's Lynn were the only two discordant notes when the plan at which I was looking was seen against the plan put for- ward by the Economic Planning Council. The Economic Planning Council appear to have left blank the area in the middle. There are some very advanced high-speed radio-communication systems being installed in this region, and I hope that in the near future one will be able to say the same about road communications when the improvements so repeatedly asked for are at last put in hand.

I particularly draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that we are not just a holiday region. Many people come to the area from the Midlands for their holidays, but the Norfolk January traffic volume (I quote from the Stationery Office publication, Traffic Predictions on Rural Roads) is 58 per cent. of the August volume, against a national average of 56 per cent. Two per cent. may not be large, but it is the straw that breaks the camel's back. I add my plea to those which have been made by my noble friends in asking for an improvement to the essential arteries of the A.11 and the A.45.

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, that we are indebted to the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, for initiating, by his Unstarred Question, this debate on the East Anglia Study. I would also add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Wise, on his maiden speech. He certainly knows his Norfolk, and I am sure that your Lordships will look forward to hearing many other interesting contributions from him on this subject in the future. Then I should like to pay my tribute to Mr. Kenneth Keith, the Chairman of the East Anglia Economic Planning Council, for what I consider to be a magnificent Report, although there is more to come. I pay my tribute as one who represented an East Anglian constituency for more than twenty years and as one who was ambitious enough to produce an East Anglian plan when nobody wanted planning—except Sir Will Spens, who was the Regional Commissioner, when we had some form of economic planning in East Anglia. Now at long last—in fact since 1966—East Anglia has been designated.

This great area of East Anglia has almost everything. It has space, good climate, good soil, and much character, as the right reverend Prelate said in his interesting speech, and it has its large coast-line. But I fear that if more industry does not go to East Anglia, the drain of population from the land will continue. The East Anglian agricultural worker, by reason of his vocation to-day in mechanised farming, makes a good engineer and he is listening increasingly to appeals for workers—appeals coming from the towns, in which he can get much higher wages. The figures which were referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Fisher, are perfectly correct. More and more of these fine Suffolk and East Anglian people will leave the area, unless we can attract into the region more light industry of the kind to which reference has been made in the area of Thetford. A planned agriculture in East Anglia could save millions in imports. It grows wheat, barley, and sugar beet, to which the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, referred and which for many years saved it when certain parts of East Anglia were almost depressed areas. If the region were given full Government support, I believe that it could do a great deal to save imports, thus helping the balance of payments. The area has been referred to as the "granary of the United Kingdom"; I have also heard it called the "Ukraine of the United Kingdom". With its wonderful soil for food production, it could be a very fine granary indeed.

The great need of the area is investment, and this great expanse of the Eastern counties of England should certainly attract investment. There is space, and there is opportunity. It should also attract new towns—towns which are not just a hotch-potch overspill, with one dabbed here and another there, but really planned new towns. If there is one area in the country which could take them adequately, it is the Eastern counties. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, referred to roads connecting the East Coast with the Midlands. They are an absolute necessity if the area is to be developed in terms of the recommendations by the East Anglia Economic Council. It needs a link with the Midlands, better port facilities and better airports. There is no doubt that this wonderful area, which so badly needs development and has needed it for so long, is not going to secede; it is not going to ask for self-government. It needs the Government to show some initiative on this Report, and the one which follows it, to take some bold steps to see that the Report is really implemented and, above all, to do what is vital if any plan is to succeed: that is, to "sell" it to the local authorities. If you do not do that, your plan will be still-born.

4.38 p.m.


My Lords, I know that the House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, for initiating this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Belstead, was kind enough to give me some credit for having a certain hand in the parenthood of to-day's discussion, but I must disclaim it. The whole credit must lie with the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton. I am sure your Lordships will agree that the discussion has been most valuable.

Before replying to the debate, I should like to make two comments. First, I would join with the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich, and two other noble Lords, in their congratulations to the Chairman and members of the East Anglia Economic Planning Council for their excellent Study. Secondly, I would echo the congratulations expressed to the noble Lord, Lord Wise, on his maiden speech. I knew his father for many years and I remember him with affection. I know that we are all looking forward to hearing further contributions from Lord Wise along the lines of his concise and pungent speech to-day.

My Lords, one theme clearly runs through the whole discussion. It is that as certain areas of the region grow—and it is a most rapidly growing region—the East/West communications are inadequate to cope with the load which is falling upon them. The rapid development of container traffic, which I think has surprised many of us, is an unexpectedly complicating factor in this problem. Nevertheless, a great many of the suggestions made by noble Lords in today's debate are already approaching reality. Some noble Lords were thinking as far ahead as 1980, but if I may draw your Lordship's attention to Appendices 19 and 20 in the Report, and to Figure 2 on page 13, you will see that dual carriageways are in fact foreseen by 1975, running from Ipswich to beyond Bury St. Edmunds; then comes a gap, then Newmarket, then another short gap before the A.45 and the A.11 join up with the double-tracked A.604, which is one stretch of road that has been stressed to-day as having particular importance for double tracking. This gives the region its first East/West route, finishing up on the A.1, which of course links the rapidly growing port of Ipswich with the Midlands.

Clearly, there is no ground for complacency, bat something is being done. Noble Lords will be interested to know that the work to be started this year includes the Peterborough inner relief road, on the A.45 the Chesterton bridge and approach road at Cambridge, on the A.12 the Lowestoft bascule bridge and the ending of the final single track on the A.1 in the East. Anglian region at Eaton Socon.

Some noble Lords argued that East Anglia as a region was not receiving its fair share of the national expenditure on road building, and their arguments were cogent. But techniques are being developed for striking a reasonable balance between the demands which are general throughout the country for the limited resources which can be allocated to roadbuilding to-day. A system of priorities must be applied, and the aim of the Government is to undertake improvements where economic loss caused by bad communications is at its worst. Overloaded roads, high traffic and accident losses are the primary indications of unsatisfactory roads, and however unlikely it may seem in the light of to-day's discussion, many roads in East Anglia are less in need of urgent improvement than roads elsewhere in the country. That does not mean to say that improvements are not necessary. It simply means that certain other areas and regions of the country have equally important demands on resources.

There is an important factor which I should like to bring to your Lordships' notice. A major road outside a region may, in fact, bring considerable benefit to the region, even though only part of the work, or even none of it, actually takes place within the region itself. I suppose the most important development in relation to this region is the building of the M.11 motorway which stops just short of Cambridge, to its South, but which must improve the flow away of traffic from the region very substantially.

I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Wise, who stressed the equal importance of railways in the region. He urged that closures should not be precipitate, and that while roads were unsatisfactory railways should wherever possible be kept open. This is a point which is already grasped by the Government. My right honourable friend the Minister of Transport announced on January 28 this year his intention to grant aid under Section 39 of the Transport Act 1968 to a number of unremunerative railway passenger services, which include several in East Anglia. He undertook to pay in grant in 1969 to a total of about £.1.6 million. I will write to the noble Lord and give him details if he is interested, because it is rather an extensive list.

May I turn to another aspect of the debate stressed by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Norwich and the noble Lord, Lord Belstead, which is simply that man cannot live by planning alone. I know the rather special beauties of this not very spectacular but very harmonious part of England, and it would be a tragedy if industrial development, increasing tourism and a growing flood of traffic destroyed a great deal of the rural calm which is such a delightful part of the East Anglian scene. I should he very sorry to see it go and I am certain that the planners—planners in the best sense—cannot forget the need for a high quality of life in the new world which they are trying to create in East Anglia.

The noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, in his very courteous letter to me, in which he gave indications of the line he was going to follow in this debate, asked me whether Her Majesty's Government agree with the Reports of the Economic Planning Council and the East Anglia Consultative Committee. I cannot answer that, because, as I am certain he will realise, the publication of the Study is the starting point of a period of consultation between the Government, the Council and local authorities, and of course it must include the sounding of public opinion in the region. But I am sure the noble Lord will be glad to know that the Secretary of Sate for Economic Affairs and other Ministers concerned will be meeting members of the Economic Planning Council on March 3 to discuss the study.

The Government's formal reply will be sent to the Council fairly soon after the meeting, but I should not like to be tied down to a precise date. However, it will be a matter of weeks rather than months. The reply will take into account the discussion at the meeting and reactions in the region to the Study, and I give your Lordships an undertaking that the Report of to-day's debate will be forwarded to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs. Your Lordships' views will, of course, be an important element in the discussions which will take place.

Your Lordships will be glad to know that one recommendation has already been implemented. After a review of the operation of the office development control, the President of the Board of Trade announced on January 30 his proposal to exclude the East Anglia planning region from the area of control. This is in accordance with the Council's recommendation. I do not know how important this will be, but I should have thought the ability to place offices away from London, but with good communications with London, must bring important developments in the field of the decentralisation of offices from London to an important region of the country not too far from the capital.

I hope that what I have been able to say to-day indicates that the Government take these studies very seriously and find them useful. I feel they are probably one of the best products that have come out of the Department of Economic Affairs. I find them excellent reading. They are beautifully produced and, for someone who is a regional patriot, they are extremely worth while having for themselves alone. But at the same time they enable a regional view to be taken of what is really a homogeneous part of England and must, I think, improve the general standard of planning in the best sense throughout the country.

When I took part in the discussion on the Humberside Plan I found it extremely interesting and stimulating. As a local inhabitant of the region under discussion I have found to-day's debate well worth while and most interesting, and I would certainly endorse the thanks of your Lordships to the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, for having initiated the debate and for having given your Lordships' House an opportunity of bringing to the notice of those taking part in the discussions that are about to take place between the Government and the Planning Council the views of this House.