§ 5.14 p.m.
§ LORD CLIFFORD OF CHUDLEIGH rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the need to keep under review the problems of the South-West. The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is with no little diffidence that I rise to ask the Question standing in my name on the Paper to-day, mainly because there are so many noble Lords who are more competent than I to do so. I am glad to see some of their names on the list. When the enormity of what I had done hit me, I made a thorough examination of my conscience and came up with the answer that the motivation for what I was doing was one of the most loathsome of human failings, in that, speaking region-wise, I had a most colossal chip on 1109 my shoulder. In your Lordships' House we have heard discussed the problems of the North-West, the North-East, Wales, Scotland—every week—and East Anglia, but never heretofore those of the South-West.
A couple of months ago I left the depths of darkest Devon to visit a couple of your Lordships North of the Border—I see one of them here this afternoon. I went up the East side of the country and came down the West, and there was not a sign, not a sniff, of a motorway until one reached North of Bristol. And what a nice complex they have in South Wales! In Scotland (I do not know whether or not they were boasting about how good they were at extracting from the central Government) they led me astray with the colossal amount they were able to get for roads, compared with those of us in the depths of the South-West. Perhaps it is somewhat our own fault. I was brought up to understand that the definition of "a gentleman" was a chap who considered other people's feelings at all times. I think that heretofore we have been far too gentlemanly. It is now time that we made some vulgar noises.
Owing to the form which this discussion is taking I shall not be allowed to speak at its conclusion, so I should like, if I may, to thank the noble Lords who have come along to support me in putting this Question to-day. I cannot of course refer to them all, but I think that a couple of ex-Ministers are very kind to condescend to come along. The noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, who was on the C.L.A. Committee for the South-West Region, which produced an excellent report and had long and intricate discussions with the Economic Planning Council for the South-West, should have a valuable contribution to make. The noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, is very forgiving, because in 1941 I was a young company commander and I had my company billeted in his house; I had an officers' mess in his agent's house. Then we went away to the war in the Middle East, and when I came back I heard that he had had to pull the place down. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton, is to make his maiden speech to-day. Your Lordships should not be misled by his natural humility, for he is a valued member of the North Devon community, a justice of the peace, with large 1110 land-owning and woodland interests and expertise especially on forestry.
Hardly anyone can discuss the area in which he lives and works without declaring an interest of sorts, and I hereby declare mine. I am a member of the National Farmers' Union, an official of the C.L.A.; I own farmland in Devon and land in Somerset. My family no longer have land in Cornwall; we have married five times in the last hundred years into Dorset. I think that that more or less covers most of the far South-West. My last but one Territorial Army appointment, before our rulers decided that reserves were no longer necessary, was as deputy-brigade commander of the South-West Brigade Group, which took me from Somerset to Land's End.
My Lords, what is the South-West region? Going back to the area I have just mentioned, which was that of the 43rd Wessex Division, it came its far East as Berkshire, and included Oxford, Wiltshire. Hampshire and Gloucestershire. The Government's South-West, as per their tome, is mainly Gloucester, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall. My South-West would be the old Kingdom of Dummonia plus the latter Kingdom of Wessex. That gives us roughly, I suppose, a line from Southampton to Bristol. Before I go on further with a definition of the region, it may interest those who have not studied their atlases recently to be reminded that the Eastern part of Devon is as close to Land's End as it is to Hyde Park Corner. Many people, I am sure, do not realise that.
Our problems come under many headings. The most important are the three main headings on which we in the South-West depend: agriculture, tourism and the extractive industries. Talking about the problems of the South-West, I may say that I do not go along with a certain Tory politician friend of mine who said, "What! Problems of the South-West? There is only one problem in the South-West." I said. "What's that?". And he replied, "The Liberal Party". I think that our problems are of far greater substance, and I will deal with some of them. I should like to re-emphasise that my remarks are based mainly on the part of the region that I know best and on those parts in which I have what might be called a vested interest. 1111 Let me deal first with roads. If we take the map which is at the back of the Government's Green Book on roads and we draw a line across the South-West, as I have just been describing it, there will be seen the minimum amount of colour of that or any other region. In addition to that, as the South-West peninsula narrows so these minimal roads get more crowded. Not a motorway to be seen; and in any other county but Devon—and also perhaps Cornwall—the 700 miles of trunk and class I roads would not, with few exceptions, justify an "A" classification. With a few notable exceptions, all other roads should also be downgraded. It is my bet that the bureaucracy which briefs Ministers responsible on this occasion went first of all to find some sort of excuse for the country's long and continued neglect of the roads in the South-West. For over twenty years we have been hearing what is supposed to be done. So far as Devon is concerned, what have we? The Honiton bypass and the Cullompton bypass.
My Lords, this roads racket is strangling the South-West more than anything else. A "crash" programme for a motorway or dual carriageway from London to Penzance, say on the line of the A.303, A.30, A.38, joined by the promised M.5 from Bristol and the Midlands is the first priority. That should be followed by additional financial grants so that the counties can bring the minor roads up to a standard where they can be used by rural buses and milk tankers. Anything less, and we shall come to a grinding halt. I think that everybody knows about the continued rail closures in our part of the world before adequate road services had been provided, and I will not labour that point for the moment; but under every sub-heading with which I am dealing to-day there is bound to be a "moan" about road communications.
Let me illustrate how badly we in the South-West have been treated, and are being treated, by quoting just a few comparative figures. I will quote the example of the amounts spent, in the last reportable years, in the West Riding, Lancashire, Durham and Devon on major road projects. In 1965–66, the figure was £5 million in the West Riding, £2½ million in Lancashire, £2¾ million in Durham and £800,000 in Devon. In 1966–67 the 1112 comparative figures were £13 million in the West Riding, £4 million in Lancashire, £5 million in Durham, and £965,000 in Devon. In the year 1967–68 the figures were £17¼ million in the West Riding, £10 million in Lancashire, £l1 million in Durham, £2½ million in Devon. The reason why we in the South-West have been treated so badly is that Whitehall operates its road priority system on an out-of-date formula known as "E.R.R." —economic rate of return. This is wrong, because it leads to an excessive rate of concentration which is in itself expensive to the nation. An example is the London Box. Unless this system is abandoned the Government might as well close the borders of the South-West peninsula and permit travel only by buggy and stage coach.
I now come to agriculture, which is our main interest in the South-West; we are all mainly agricultural people. But, more than that, the South-West is predominantly an area of medium and small farms, a large percentage of them being owner-occupied. That can be illustrated by the fact that the C.L.A. membership in Devon is the highest for any administrative county in the country. Basically, the main problem is that over the last few years the gross income of farmers has increased by only 2½ to 3 per cent., whereas the gross expenditure has gone up by about 50 per cent. My Lords, this state of affairs cannot go on. Three of my tenants have given up the unequal struggle in the last few years. I have amalgamated, as the Government suggest, and carried on with their farms in that way. However, I do not think it is the right social answer, because I believe that it means getting rid of the first step in the farming ladder.
We in the South-West are predominantly a dairy farming area, and I would say that the first essential is that the dairy farmer should get nothing less than an increase of 2d. a gallon on milk. The next essential, of course, is roads to get our fertiliser in and our produce out. How can a farmer modernise with bulk milk supply if we have not got a road that will take a bulk milk carrier?—and most farms are on minor roads.
It is not only the small farmers who are going to the wall. In the last year six large farmers, knowing of my interests 1113 and connections in Australia, have approached me for advice (not that I am a good one to give advice) on how they could move their agricultural interests out to that part of the world. What they are worried about more than anything else seems to be the taxation side of farming. I venture to suggest that a wealth tax such as is proposed by the Labour Party, starting at even £50,000, would hit the 150-acre farm—which is not a large farm— right from the beginning. And I think that, were such a tax introduced, the exodus would then be immediate.
We have a great many problems: those of our hill farming, of cubic measures, and of people who would take our land for a hundred and one uses for which we do not think they should take it. There are present to-day many noble Lords who are experts in the agricultural side of the South-West, so I will leave it to them to dot the i's and cross the t's. But I should like just to mention a few examples of what we are up against. Of all sections of the community I believe that the dairy farmer is the hardest hit by credit restrictions and the high rate of interest. I should have thought that we must have a land bank where farmers could borrow at a reasonable rate of interest, such as the 3 per cent., or lower, in Western Germany, the 1½ per cent. in Belgium, the 1 per cent. to 3 per cent. in Italy, or the 1 per cent. to 3 per cent. in France. I confess that those are all 1966 figures. But look at the rates at which we have to borrow in this country.
In a generally depopulated area specialist enterprises like horticulture are unable to carry on, once an area like the North Devon Development Area is designated, because the farmer who has to employ a great many people in the specialised activities will lose his labour. Farmers who are unfortunate enough to earn their livings in a National Park are particularly unfortunate—and we have two well-known National Parks in Exmoor and Devon. The Biblical exhortation praising him who makes two ears of corn grow where before only one grew is to be put into reverse. In fact the Lord's Prayer for them should be re-written to read: "Give us permission this day to earn our daily bread", let alone grow it. The example of a moorland farmer who was not allowed to 1114 put in mains electricity unless he put it underground at a cost of £6,000 is, to my mind, scandalous. If the country wants amenity it should pay for it, and should not penalise the farmer who happens to live and work within the boundaries of a national park.
While on land use and amenity, we feel that the Government should get their priorities right and make certain that productive farm land is never used for roads, reservoirs and so on, even though some of these parks are beloved of a very small minority, if there is any alternative. Flooding people's land and homes is indefensible in these circumstances. On this subject, I have declared my interest and am speaking as a farmer in this day and age and as of now. However, I must say that from 1980 onwards the authorities must really look to desalinisation and barrages instead of to the more traditional type reservoirs which takes agricultural or national park land, with the accompanying tribal warfare which will probably put the noble Lord. Lord Foot, on one side of the fence and myself on the other in our part of the world.
In all aspects for farmers' communications are vital, and they have been scandalously neglected. Given good road and rail services we could get our produce out. As it is we are hampered. North Devon particularly has need of a new main link road and no more rail closures. Recently it has been reported that cattle transported by rail from that area face a 50 per cent. increase in charges. "Take it or leave it", seems to be the attitude of British Rail. I think it should be repeated ad nauseam that the industry has been forced by successive Governments to use the benefits accruing from increased efficiency to offset cost increases, most of which are due to the Government failing to control inflation. In 1968–69 farm income was in real terms only one half per cent. higher than in 1954–55, whereas net output was up by 45 per cent.
We are small farmers in the South-West, and I think we should remain so. In social terms the amalgamation scheme is a questionable step. The trouble is, I confess, that some of the small farmers, especially since the recent pay increase, are getting a smaller take-home wage than their men. I know that speaking farm-wise it is certainly so in my case. Perhaps 1115 we could make ourselves slightly more viable by cashing in on the tourist industry. I know some of my tenants do. Government taxation policy over recent years has made it increasingly difficult to get any money from the borrowing point of view, and it is now more expensive than ever.
Perhaps I might finish on the agricultural scene so far as I am concerned by saying that it seems to me that farmers and soldiers are only appreciated in time of peril and the rest of the time we have to battle against the inertia of the rest of the country. Perhaps your Lordships know the story of the Dartmoor farmer who at the end of the last war had saved a bit of money. He was an old bachelor. He went to his builder in Tavistock and said, "Look, George, come out and build us one of these 'ere pull and let go's. I'm getting a bit fed up with going down the garden path in winter." This chap built it for him. He only had one near relative, a niece who was married to a city slicker in Plymouth; she used to come and visit uncle once a year. When she came he said "My dear, you know about these things. You go down and see if it's all right". When she came back she said, "Yes, everything is lovely uncle. There's only one thing, there's no lavatory brush, but don't you worry, when I get back to Plymouth I'll send you up one." A year passed and she came again, and she said, "Uncle, didn't you get that lavatory brush I sent up?" He said, "Oh yes, my dear; I tried it for a while but I found it a bit rough, so I went back to the Western Morning News."
That brings me to the Press. I think we have some of the best provincial Press, so there is nothing to worry about there. Under the same heading as agriculture might come the fishing industry, and the Western Morning News recently had an article entitled "Devon crabbers' war". One irate fisherman commented:
What a state of affairs! We have to keep 12 miles off France but they creep in six miles off Devon. Why don't they come right in—they could get free teeth and medication, and if they haven't got any fish from our waters, perhaps we could give them National Assistance as well".
Seriously, my Lords, we should protect this industry from losing their gear and
having their pots fouled. May I suggest that in this House your Lordships have the answer. Could not the admiral of the Brixham Trawlerman's Race Association, who is none other than the Captain of the Yeoman of the Guard, lead his combined forces out to protect this industry in which we know he has such an interest? Perhaps he could change his uniform every eight bells.
I come now to the holiday industry. The West Coast of Somerset and the South Coast of Dorset and both coasts of Cornwall and Devon are the biggest holiday areas in the country: one-fifth of all United Kingdom holiday expenditure goes there. I do not want to labour the point too much, but if there is one factor which has depressed the holiday industry more than anything else it is the incidence of S.E.T. What was meant to divert labour from service to productive industries might work well in Walsall and Birmingham but it is plain lunacy in Torquay. One medium-sized hotel I know of had an extra £2,000 to find when the last increment was made, so they cut down service and sacked some of the staff. But there are no local industries to which these people can go. So what do they do? They go on to the employment exchange, National Assistance benefits and so on. In a proper accounting system I do not think this pays, especially in that part of the world. Our local industries are few and far between, and those there are, like Centrax in Newton Abbot, seem to be at the moment on strike or else laying off men as well.
The South West Travel Association, which covers Devon, Somerset, Dorset and Cornwall, have produced an annual report for 1968–69 which highlights the effect of things like British Rail closing the Swanage-Wareham line and the 10 per cent. Saturday surcharge on fares. The latter is surely the meanest thing one industry could do to another in the same country. Day return first-class has been abolished. Carpark fees at Exeter Station have gone up 33⅓ per cent.; and booking fees are practically double. I do not think they do anything to help the holiday trade. Worst of all is the increasing difficulty of travelling by car. More and more people are crying off, or so we are led to believe, because of the Exeter By-pass and Telegraph Hill 1117 snarl-up, bottlenecks which have been national headlines for twenty years, and getting worse.
I am glad to hear the Tories say that they will abolish S.E.T., but I am always dubious about any taxes being abolished by any Government. One of our local stories which was going the rounds was of a garage which was mainly employed in repairing heavy agriculture machinery which was paying the S.E.T. in full; it was next door to another factory which was making plastic Dartmoor pixies and gnomes and which was receiving the bonus.
I come now to the extracting industries. This is a subject in which I have an interest, but I feel that with such an expert as the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, in your Lordships' House there is no need for me to go into details. My interest is purely from sand and stone, which I have in both Devon and Somerset. The clay industry is a most important industry to both Devon and Cornwall. Now there is a resuscitation of the mining industry. There are many hindrances, especially in the South-West, to this mining resuscitation. First of all, there is the inability to acquire tenure of land owing to the mineral rights position not being certain and the landowners being put in a position where it would not pay them to let the land because of betterment levy and capital gains tax. May I quote one case of which I know? An owner refused to allow an operating company to have an extension, as he would have had, as the rules then stood, to find £15,000. He said that it would have been much easier to lose £3,000 a year, taxed at the highest rate, than try to find £15,000. Your Lordships may remember that I asked the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, a Question on the subject, which he later kindly answered satisfactorily by letter.
Secondly, local authorities, generally speaking, are unfamiliar with mining and tend to fight shy even of discussing something that they know little about. Moreover, in Devon the area of geological interest is around the edge of Dartmoor, and the amenity societies are, generally speaking, vociferous against any mining at all. Thirdly, taxation is too severe for a high risk, high investment industry to consider developing in the area. Depletion allowance for income tax and reduction in tax during the early part 1118 of the mine's life is essential to allow the recovery cost of investment and prospecting. Fourthly, as there is no general policy on minerals there is no help which an operator can obtain from Government sources. The Institute of Geological Science exists, but the staff are not mining people. I look forward to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, on this subject.
Before leaving the extractive industries, I should like to mention the ball clay industry with which my family have had a long connection, although we have no financial interest. The first ball clay came from our area. By 1785 the tonnage shipped—this all from the small port of Teignmouth—was already 10,000 tons; by 1949 it was 73,000 tons, and by 1968 it was 330,000 tons. Shipments are made everywhere: to Finland, Greece, the Lebanon, Israel and Egypt, arid by trans-shipment in Holland all over the world. This is all done through the port of Teignmouth.
Is this not a success story and would it not be good Government policy to follow the old military precept of reinforcing success? That could easily be done in this case by making Teignmouth into a harbour into which something larger than small coasters, which can get in only at high tide, could go and so cut down on the cost of transshipment. If the road between Kingsteignton and Teignmouth were improved, again it would help this industry. One plan is to improve the area at the same time as increasing the amount of beach that is available for the holiday industry. That would kill two birds with the same stone. I may add here that if the Plymouth area had been given the same development status as Cornwall, as suggested by Professor Tress and reinforced by the Hunt Committee's Report, the clay industry there could have greatly assisted prosperity in that area.
The general economic situation in large areas of the South-West is not healthy. Away from the coastal and tourist areas the villages are dying, whereas many of the coastal areas, owing to the introduction of S.E.T., suffer from large seasonal unemployment. There is also a large measure of hidden unemployment and under-employment compared with the rest of the country, though the households have to carry the average weight of rates 1119 and taxes. North Devon, for example, has now been made a development area, but I cannot see that that will really be effective unless there is a good dual carriageway, spur link road, and the ceasing of railway closures. Moreover, why was the Okehampton area left out? Without the Service camps on the edge of Dartmoor, it could be in a poor way economically.
The whole of this area cannot grow at the moment because of the lack of adequate water, sewerage and roads. The rest of Devon can be, and is being, helped by the Board of Trade with industrial development certificates. The holiday industry is going through a bad period because of S.E.T., and the amount of run-down is concealed (this applies all over our area) by the large influx of people who come into the area to retire. That brings other problems which are peculiar to our part of the world. The increasing number of old people who are getting poorer and poorer as the value of their savings decreases through inflation, and the increasing number of young people who are leaving the area, creates an unbalanced society, both in structure and age. The local community cannot be expected to go on bearing the cost of carrying this increasing burden. It is estimated that the elderly population of Devon increases by many thousands a year, by reason of old people coming there to retire. What happens is that the husband dies and leaves a widow; the savings are not enough to carry on with, and we get this increasing geriatric problem.
Statistically, the area as a whole is slightly phoney, because Bristol and the Gloucestershire area, where they have a higher standard of pay, makes our position seem a little better than it really is. The Western Morning News recently displayed a couple of headlines. One read:
October Jobless Highest Post-war Figure".
The figure for the region was then 35,583, and I have explained how that is a little out of balance. Another heading from the same paper said:
£6 million State aids for jobs, but one for West. Protest by Dunwoody.
I should like to use those two headlines to explain why I think it is important for us to consider the South-West to-day.
Only three days ago in another place an announcement was made that there were more jobless elsewhere. I do not believe it. Yesterday, there was announced a record figure of persons jobless in our part of the world: in Ilfracombe alone it is up to over 11 per cent., and in Bideford it is up to 5.4 per cent. I should like to know whether the areas to which this money has been allocated by the Government have a higher rate of unemployment percentagewise than that.
We are the Cinderella of the United Kingdom. I think this can be proved by official statistics relative to Government assistance in development areas. If the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, would refer to Appendix 2 of the Ninth Annual Report of the Board of Trade for the year ended March 31, 1969, I think he will get the answers: that in each of the three years examined the numbers wholly unemployed in the South-Western Development Area were higher than in any other development area, being 4 per cent. in 1967, 4.6 per cent. in 1968 and 4.7 per cent. in 1969. For the period April. 1960, to March, 1969, the South-Western Development Area had 1.6 per cent. of the total spent on new development, whereas the percentage of population was 3.6 per cent. This, I think, compares with the Northern, Merseyside, Welsh and Scottish Development Areas.
I quote these figures only to reinforce my main point; namely, that we are the Cinderella, that we have been the Cinderella for too long, and that it is about time that the situation was changed. A recent economic and social survey on North Devon, sub-titled "Rural Depopulation" has suggested a sort of Highlands and Islands Development Board for North Cornwall, North Devon and West Somerset. Have the Government any views on that suggestion? Has the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, who lives in that part of Somerset?
My Lords, I leave the economic side and, just for a moment, come to the question of law and order, the matter of the police. The main problem of the police in the South-West can best be illustrated by a quotation from Autocar in 1962, under the heading "A Western Canute". It said:
If there is one job I would not have it is that of Chief Constable of Devon. His summer traffic problem is appalling.
That was seven years ago. As we have the most neglected-by-Government roads in the country it follows that the police traffic problem is the most intractable in the country. That is bad enough in the winter, but what about the summer? Our police force area, now Devon and Cornwall, has a population of about 1¼ million, and every summer 7½ million people take a holiday in the South-West. We reckon that one in five of all holidaymakers come to the South-West and that one in ten come to Devon; and the level of car ownership among the holidaymakers is 65 per cent., compared to 45 per cent. elsewhere.
The whole of the peninsula is dotted with holiday resorts, all of which must be policed, allowing no possibility of reinforcements from one part of the area to the other. Should adequate recruiting be permitted by the Government, the answer would be to have a mobile reserve which could be sent to reinforce the hard-pressed summer resorts. But when will the Government permit adequate recruiting? To emphasise the recruiting problem, I may say that the reduction of police working hours from 42 to 40 per week will necessitate another 100 men to maintain even the present level of policing. But, my Lords, crime apart, traffic is hell; and even if the modest plans of the Green Book are carried out, will things be any easier? The answer is "No", unless corresponding improvements of roads within Devon and Cornwall are also carried out. When it rains in the season the holidaymaker just gets into his car and drives round and round in ever-decreasing circles. Unfortunately for us residents, he does not meet the end portrayed in the Rugby club rhyme that somebody wrote.
Crime itself gives the defeated police force no respite. From 21,000 reported cases in 1963, the number rose to 29,000 in 1968. In 1965 seven persons were prosecuted for dangerous drug offences; last year the number was 103. Over the years there has been a 700 per cent. increase in disorderly conduct in Torbay, compared to a 50 per cent. increase of police. And so one could go on. One improvement for which we can thank the Government is the decrease in the number of escapes from Dartmoor Prison since the Mountbatten Report: only three have occurred this year. But I 1122 ask your Lordships to visualise the extra strain on the police forces when the worst of the country's criminals escape in a local area, and of course, the extra cost to the locality involved. The problems under this heading could be solved eventually if more finance were made available; and that would enable us to sleep more soundly in our beds.
But, my Lords, as always nowadays, our troubles, or most of them, seem to come back to the neglect of our roads. An immediate motorway from London to Penzance joined by a Midlands motorway, as planned, is the minimum requirement. The recent police planned holiday routes had one major effect in that we local yokels can no longer get about in the lanes which heretofore have been our summer lifelines.
I was going to mention the Services, but I think I will leave that out, except to say that we in Plymouth, particularly, are very anxious that the dockyard is riot run down. We are very frightened that, with the abolition of the aircraft carriers it might be. Also, we in Devon and Cornwall believe that we have always produced the best sailors and the best pirates, and we are rather annoyed that the C.-in-C., Plymouth, was downgraded.
To end, I should like to make just a couple of remarks on the countryside and local government. If I were speaking from a personal and entirely selfish point of view I should dig a metaphorical moat around my own particular county and allow in only those of your Lordships who would come and keep me company for a bit of sailing, shooting, fishing, hiking or whatever it is. However, I recognise that that would be a selfish attitude, and neither right nor fair to the rest of the population. Basically, if land has to be found for new roads, new towns, and new reservoirs, then the land taken must be the least valuable land from an agricultural point of view. The beauty of the English agricultural counties— and there is none more beautiful in the whole world—is due to the work of the landowner and farmer, and his men, over the centuries. The trees in their clumps, and on the hillsides, that I now enjoy were planted for me by my great-grandfather. Would that those I am planting now could be enjoyed by my son, let alone my grandson! 1123 I personally feel that we have far too many organisations and petty bodies telling us what to do and what not to do. One example is that of a friend of mine who bought a place near us. He found an old design of the place and he started to cut down trees here and plant trees there. Along came a local official who asked him, "What are you doing?" When he replied, "I am only trying to make it more like Capability Brown intended", the answer he received was, Who is he?" I have another example, a local one, of what happens when the planners run riot—as they often seem to me to do. For twelve years we have fought to get the Chudleigh bypass from the A.38 put to the North of the town, where the agricultural land is not so valuable as that to the South. We won that battle, only to read in the papers a week later that they are now planning to increase this village of 2,000-odd people to 10,000. And where are they going to put them? On the very land that we have saved from being a bypass. Consequently, we are not particularly enamoured of too many planners.
My interests, as I have shown, are in and of the countryside, and when we are discussing the South-West we are discussing mainly, I think, the countryside. It will therefore come as no surprise to your Lordships to hear that I am not enamoured of the Maud Report. I think that we are lucky in that we have county councils slanted towards the rural population—but that situation will not necessarily last for ever. Before finishing. I would remind the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, that when we were discussing in this House the Torbay Order, one argument I used was that the Government should not go ahead with the Order, because we should wait for the Maud Report. That argument was laughed out of court. I find it rather interesting, or ironical, that that argument which was then laughed out of court is now being used by the Government as an excuse for their constituency boundary—but I will not use the word. To summarise, I am of the opinion that the South-West has got the dirty end of the stick, whether it be in agriculture, development area treatment, taxation or mining. The experience of other regions suggests that they complain more and get more, and the object 1124 of my exercise to-day has been to do a little more complaining in the hope of redressing the balance in the future.
§ 5.58 p.m.
My Lords, it is a great honour to have been asked by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, to take part in what is now a marathon debate upon an Unstarred Question. The honour to me is more so because, after hearing him, I must confess to him that I live 40 miles the Edinburgh side of Bristol, which I suppose is a very long way from where the noble Lord and many of his colleagues live. Your Lordships will have noted that the noble Lord is wearing a Wessex tie that seems to be of some original design. It is not in fact an original design, but it is indeed the tie of the Wessex Division to which he referred. There are a good many noble Lords who could come to your Lordships' House "armed"—if that were allowed— by that tie, and no doubt the honorary leader would be the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Harding of Petherton, who is sitting next to the noble Lord. The wearers of that tie in five or six years' time will require the Government, of whatever political colour, to do something about the implementation of the Report which is the subject of the noble Lord's Unstarred Question.
The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, as a loyal supporter of his Party and Prima Minister, I am certain will be keen to see that this country goes into the European Economic Community, into the Common Market. All three Parties are united in that view, but some of us are keener than others, and if we can see that there is advantage to the country as a whole we shall be very keen indeed. At present the only advantage that I can definitely see of joining the E.E.C. will be that £500 million to £600 million will be spent by the English housewife towards supporting one agriculture policy or another in Europe. That is because of the levy principle. The temperate foodstuffs that we require in order to keep up our standard of living will have to support that amount of levy. It will not be spent in this country; it will be spent in Europe. Many of us on the C.L.A.—and I have the honour of being a member of the committee to which the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, referred—are firmly of the opinion that the more temperate foodstuffs that can he produced in our own 1125 country, the less will be the amount of levy that will go overseas to Europe. If prices of food must increase, why not keep the results of those price increases at home? Governments of various political colours have ways and means enough of taxing that money back into the Exchequer, but abroad it would be lost.
The reason I introduce this subject is that there will be a levy system if we join the Common Market, and although it is operating with almost embarrassing success so far as their own agricultural interests are concerned, there are no doubt "nuts and bolts" problems which might be lessened by the noble Lord's Party and by others. This would be of help to the Common Market people if negotiations were got going to allow us in. The levy system will mean that dumping of livestock products and horticultural products, in particular, which are of special interest to the South-West region, will not be possible during glut market times. If that dumping is not possible, the market prices will rise and agriculture in the South-West region will be at the benefit end, instead of at the "dog-and-stick" end as we tend to be at present when dumping takes place.
Many of us believe that the present system of price support is out-dated and that a levy system should be gradually brought in to tie in with the Common Market system if we join them. If that is done, there will be little wrong with the price structure of the livestock products and horticultural products, which are creating such a problem within the region and which mean that the earnings of the region are considerably lower than those of the industrial regions elsewhere in the country. A small unit increase on agricultural products means a very large increase in prosperity for the agricultural industry within the region.
The noble Lord, Lord Clifford, mentioned the taxation system of the agricultural industry in relation to the system in the E.E.C. countries. The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, and his Government pay good lip service to prosperous agriculture and so forth, but how, by its very nature, can agriculture survive against competition by such dumping as is happening now and against the levy system if we join, if there are all the effects of the capital gains tax and estate duty in particular—making for smaller units instead of bigger units which Her Majesty's 1126 Government purport to support—and also the betterment levy? Many of us agree with the noble Lord, that a completely new system of taxation peculiar to the agricultural industry alone should be developed, as indeed has been done in Europe in those countries which will no doubt one day be our immediate competitors.
The noble Lord has mentioned the service industry. There are more people employed in the service industry and the construction industry in the South West region than in any other region in the country. The noble Lord also mentioned S.E.T., which causes more hardship, not only to employees but to employers in the service industry, than any other financial measure which this Government have introduced. If that tax were removed the problems of the hotel and catering industry would not disappear overnight, but they would be alleviated to an enormous degree. Furthermore those old people who wish to find part-time jobs would be able to find them far more easily but for the effect of the S.E.T.
As is brought out in paragraphs 68 and 69 of the Report, the holiday and tourist industry in the South-West region is in a difficult position. Less money is being spent on holidays at home. Perhaps this year the position will be reversed, but every further difficulty which is put on to the industry makes it harder to stop currency from going out of the country for holidays abroad. The industry is encouraged to make itself attractive to visitors from abroad. It must be one of the only industries which, to a very large extent, can earn foreign currency without previously having bought its raw materials from another country; in particular, from a dollar source. Why in the world the hotel and catering industry in all its branches cannot be treated taxation-wise, grant-wise and in every other way on exactly the same footing as a manufacturing industry is beyond the ken of almost all of us in the South-West region, and certainly those in the hotel and catering trade.
We are low on industrial population, and there is a reason for that. Obviously, there is not so much industry, but there are something like 408,000 people employed in all classifications of manufacturing industry. But the industry which is prospering is modern industry and 1127 industry which employs relatively small numbers of people. That trend is going to spread all over the country and all over the world. Production industry, manufacturing industry, is getting out of date. The machine and automation will take over to a very large extent. It is the service industry, the construction industry, and all that goes with it which is the industry of the future. Anything that the present Government or any future Government can do to foster something which is not a manufacturing industry must be of benefit to the people who are working now, or who will seek jobs in years to come, and it will be of benefit in particular to the South-West region.
The noble Lord, Lord Clifford. mentioned roads, and there are expert Members of your Lordships' House who will speak specifically on that subject; but we believe that the spine road is essential, and money spent on it will help to solve many of the problems which are expounded in the Report. Of course the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, will say, quite rightly, that the cash is not available. My Lords, what is there to prevent the imposition of a toll on whatever route the noble Lord and others consider it necessary? Why cannot we have toll roads, so that if people wish to spend five shillings, or whatever the sum may be, and have a quick and easy trip, they may do so, whereas if they do not wish to do so they can go on the minor roads and the by-ways? We already have one of the greatest modern bridges in the world—we share this honour with the North Country and Scotland—the Severn Bridge, and I understand that the toll figures for that bridge are such that it is paying its way far better than had ever been expected.
The problem of old people is dealt with in this Report at great length, and with much sympathy, and there is no doubt that the population in the South-West Region is older than the average in the rest of the country. But that does not present an altogether true picture. The birthrate of the younger people there, of the families already there, is level and equal to that in the rest of the country.
The noble Earl says, "Hear, hear!" That is perfectly 1128 true, and some assistance is being given to those figures, no doubt. But the reason is that, while there is good education in the South-West Region—probably as good facilities as exist anywhere outside London—the jobs are not available. so the younger people tend to move out. But even if the jobs are available, there are no means of getting to those jobs or back home again. Moreover, the sort of people who will work at them, the younger people, wish to have some sort of entertainment in the evenings or weekends. Yet there is no public transport to enable them to attend that entertainment.
Practically all our motor-bus system in the South-West region is run by rather quaint-sounding and very patriotically-named companies. In fact, as the noble Lord well knows, they are all under a British Transport subsidiary of one sort or another. One can admire British Transport's aims and objects, to provide a service, and we can sympathise with the extraordinary problems they face in rural areas. But do they really try to serve the small communities, the villages and the outposts which the noble Lord and ourselves are describing? I should like to see the brakes taken off the ordinary person in this respect. Why cannot anyone— of course he must be of good character and repute—run a minibus or his own car for hire and reward, under certain conditions laid down by all the controlling factors in connection with passenger transport at this present time? At present, people cannot get to the railway station from a village, or from the bus station to the railway station, except by taxi—at vast expense. Would it not be possible for a rural taxi proprietor to have a special concession in some way or another? That was the view which some of us put forward; but, of course, it is not referred to in the Report, although the problem which I believe it would solve is referred to at great length.
As to the provision of jobs in rural areas, almost all our villages are especially quaint, preserved, of historic interest, or in one category or another which practically precludes development. We should like to see more positive planning put forward in these areas— with, I admit, great discretion—where it is considered necessary for provision to 1129 be made for jobs, so that the countryside is not despoiled. I believe that it can be done by proper planning; but it is difficult to attract light industry into these areas so that extra jobs can be obtained by the very people who are moving out, as the noble Lord has mentioned.
All these problems are referred to in this Report, and I should like to give credit to Professor Tress, the first chairman, and in particular to Mrs. Humphries, the Secretary of the Committee who drew up this Report, who is a most remarkable woman. She worked as nobody has worked before to produce the Report, and to make it such a constructive document. I would also thank all those members of the Committee who worked so hard to produce this document. Their hands, however, were very considerably tied behind their backs. All these problems which the noble Lord has mentioned, and which I have mentioned—agricultural prices; S.E.T. and industrial treatment, so far as taxation for the tourist trade is concerned; the roads, which the noble Lord has mentioned; the bus services and positive planning in rural areas—are matters of national policy; they do not come within the orbit of the South-West Regional Planning Committee. I do not believe that the noble Lord opposite and his Party will be able to loosen the restrictions on the policies that are required in order to solve these problems which we have mentioned. If they can, they will receive all the credit due. But I do not believe that they will be able to do so, simply because it is not national policy that is tying the region but, the dogma of the Socialist Party, of which the noble Lord is a member.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ LORD CLINTON
My Lords, I rise for the first time in your Lordships' House. It is with pride and honour that I follow a long line of ancestors who have had the honour and privilege of being Members of your Lordships' House from the 13th century. As is the custom in your Lordships' House, I declare my interest, as other Members have done, as a landowner, farmer and forester. The South-West of England, which we are discussing this evening, is, like the rest of our nation, changing very fast, and I believe for the better. However, my con- 1130 cern on this occasion is with the two primary producing industries—that of farming and of forestry.
As to agriculture in the West Country, I should like to draw attention to two factors which give some cause for concern. In my opinion there is at present a lack of the necessary confidence. For the future, we lack a long-term plan. This makes it impossible for the farmer to know what best to produce, and we have the position of one product being very popular one year and another the next. If only long-term prices could be fixed against costs over a longer period than one year, I am sure that it would be to our advantage and would give us that confidence and stability which are needed.
Secondly, livestock play an important part in West Country farming. The dairy cattle produce the nation's milk; there is the rearing of beef on the poorer land; and, thirdly, there is the raising of stock, especially pedigree stock. I pay tribute to the two local breeds, the North Devon cattle, which produce beef—which I myself believe is second to none—and the South Devon cattle, which are used as dual-purpose cattle. Both breeds are exported. In this connection, we are experiencing extreme difficulties in the eradication of brucellosis. Due to the regulations here there is to be a restriction on the free movement of animals between breeders, and with this in mind I would appeal to the Government to try to speed up their scheme and get this disease wiped out. I believe it has been suggested in farming circles that this could be done area by area, and I feel that the South-West peninsula would be an ideal area in which to start.
Turning to forestry, I would point out that the South-West peninsula has an ideal climate, wet and suitable for growing conifers. These grow extremely fast and well, and already large areas have been planted throughout the South-West. These areas are increasing yearly as land which is uneconomical for agriculture is being planted with trees. This, I believe, is in the best interests of the forestry industry and should be encouraged, since there are still large areas of land unsuitable and uneconomic for farming. I believe that it might be possible to have some encouragement in the form of grants on these new lands planted. With 1131 this also in mind, and with the increase in the volume of timber coming out of the forests, now and in the future, I believe that some form of pulpmill or chipboard mill situated in the middle of the West Country, preferably further westward, should be contemplated. One of our weaknesses in the South-West peninsula at present is the long distances and expensive transport needed to take our supplies to the present markets further up the country.
Secondly—and this is a very important thing in forestry—the wages, which as your Lordships know are controlled by the Agricultural Wages Board, have risen at least 53s. since 1967. These have had to be paid by the forestry industry without the compensating increase given by the Annual Price Review for agriculture. I know that there has been very little increase in the price of timber sold since the war. To conclude, I believe that agriculture and forestry should go more hand in hand and should not be forgotten in discussing the future of the South-West.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ EARL FORTESCUE
My Lords, it is a great privilege to follow the noble Lord, Lord Clinton, who has made an excellent and well-informed speech. I can say from personal knowledge that he is regarded in the West as an absolutely first-class landlord and agriculturist. I take greater pleasure in congratulating him because his grandfather was my godfather. I must apologise to the House that I shall not be able to stay until the end of the debate, because I am due to take the chair at a charity meeting in less than a quarter of an hour. For that reason I shall be brief.
Many of my points have already been covered by other noble Lords, but there is one thing that I should like to reiterate. It is that communications are the only thing that can bring real prosperity to the South-West. I speak mainly for Devon, but this applies also to parts of Somerset and Cornwall. There is no good railway going farther than Exeter; and branch lines all over the area have been abolished. That has driven all the traffic on to the roads—and the roads are lamentable. We hear about a motorway going to Exeter; but that is a long 1132 way off, and it is a very long way from Exeter to Penzance.
An outstanding feature of the West Country is the magnificent port of Plymouth. I very much question whether enough has been done to develop that town as an industrial area. In the day,, when we had a bigger Navy the Naval Dockyard absorbed the local labour; but nowadays big business is not going down to Plymouth as it should. Good roads and an improved railway would go a long way towards helping that. The other feature of the peninsular is on the North side, the Bristol Channel where the high ground goes up to the sea in many places. There are few ports: Bridgwater, Bideford, and Padstow—that is about the lot. There is not much development from the sea to be had on that side. Also, the hills go up to the sea and this makes good beaches rare—and on those good beaches bathing is more hazardous than it is on the South Coast because of the suck of the tide up the Bristol Channel. This, as I learned to my terror on at least one occasion, makes bathing most hazardous.
The development of the tourist industry presents difficulties. Until you get to South Devon, there is not much scope for the big glossy-type hotel. The small intimate one is much more suited to the neighbourhood and money for developing that type of hotel is hard to come by. There are grants to be had, but those grants are not paid until the money has been spent. In these days it is very difficult to get money from the banks for the extension of an hotel merely on the prospect of being able to repay it if and when a grant comes along. Making North Devon a development area has not really done the area very much good.
A certain amount of light industry has been developed; but there has always been some light industry there. Its development now has attracted labour away from the farms, and there is one conspicuous case where a very large market gardening and nursery business has had to close down entirely because all the men were going away either into local light industry or further East where they thought prospects were better. Farming is very much held up by want of suitable labour in the South-West. Many of these farms, as we have heard, are family farms and as the owner or tenant gets older he probably finds that he cannot 1133 get around so well as he could; the rest of the family have gone off elsewhere; and that is doing fanning no good over large areas. As the noble Lord, Lord Clinton, said, the development of forestry in the less productive areas seems to be the answer.
In South Devon there is undoubtedly considerable scope for the tourist industry if only communications could be made a good deal better. Climate plays a part, and the climate in South Devon is definitely equable and suitable for people who go there in the winter. But the climate in North Devon is much harder and winter resorts there would be more difficult to develop. Also, the proximity of the mountainous country to the sea makes it difficult to find congenial occupation in other fields of sport in North Devon in the winter. I would conclude by again congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Clinton.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ LORD FOOT
My Lords, it is with some diffidence that I follow the previous four speakers in this debate, all of whom hold such distinguished and ancient West Country names. I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Clinton, who obviously is able to bring to your Lordships' House very expert knowledge in the field of agriculture and forestry. I should like to thank him for his contribution to our debate. I am not going to attempt to follow the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, and try to review all the manifold problems which beset the West Country; though I was glad that he recognised that the Liberal Party is one of them. As one who has, I hope, made some modest contribution to exacerbating the problem presented by the Liberal Party in the past, may I assure him, and I hope that he will take it from me, that this problem of the Liberal Party in the West Country is likely to become more intractable and more tiresome as time goes by.
I also do not feel able to follow the noble Lord in the way he approached the problems and difficulties of the South-West, because, as I understood him, he was attributing most of them to the neglect or wickedness of this or preceding Governments. I do not share that point of view. I think that the problems—and they are very real—which beset us in the South-West arise not from any 1134 wickedness or ineptitude on the part of Governments but from the nature of the area. This morning I looked at the Maud Report to pick out certain particulars and figures about the South-Western area. As your Lordships will know, the Maud Report proposes that there should be a South-Western Province which would extend from Land's End up to Gloucester and as far, I think, as Bournemouth in the South. I looked at the figures of the population and the square mileage of the area and I think that they disclose and identify the problems of the South-West.
The population figure for this proposed South-Western Province is some 4 million. The square mileage is not far short of 10,000. Those figures contrast dramatically with the figures for all the other proposed Provinces given in the Maud Report, apart from the South-East, which stands out by itself. May I take, by way of comparison (I do not want to weary your Lordships with a lot of figures and these are the only ones with which I shall trouble you) the figures for the North-Western Province, where we find that the proposed square mileage is something like 5,500 and the population figure is close on 7 million. Therefore if you compare the South-Western Province with the North-Western Province you find that the South-Western Province is almost twice as big in area but has a population of not much more than half as much. It seems to me that it is figures of this kind which identify the problems with which the South-West is faced, because our problems arise fundamentally from the size and shape of the district and from its geographical relation to the rest of the country.
I should like to try to illustrate to your Lordships how it is that the size and shape of this area create our problems for us. First, its shape and size results in its not being a homogeneous area. The distances within the area are enormous. For example, the distance from Land's End to the North of Gloucestershire is roughly comparable, I believe, to the distance from London to the Scottish Border. That is the length of the area with which we are trying to deal as a single unit. Not only is it shaped like that and is it of that extent, but it cannot really be said in any common-sense way that there is any identity of interest between people living in Bristol and people living in Cornwall, or between people in Plymouth 1135 and those in Swindon. There is no sort of identity of interest between these extreme ends of the region. Indeed, I would say that Devon and Cornwall are a quite distinct entity in the South-West and have problems and difficulties of a kind which are quite different in general from those presenting themselves in the area as a whole.
The only real point of identity of interest between Devon and Cornwall and the rest of the South-Western Province or region is simply an interest in having a right of way by good communications up into the North country and up to London. That really is the only interest that we have in what planning is done in the counties of Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset and Gloucestershire. That is the second reason why we have these particular problems. The third reason is, as I said just now, the extreme isolation of Devon and Cornwall from the rest of the country. I think it was the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, who quoted the figures of comparative distances between Land's End and the eastern border of Devon and the eastern border of Devon and London. It is further from Land's End to the eastern border of Devon than it is from the eastern border of Devon to London. That is an illustration of the peculiar problems which arise in this area and which will arise and be with us for a long time, whatever sort of Government are in power and whatever measures may be taken to try to alleviate them. I hope, therefore, and it is my wish, that when we are considering the South-West we shall not ask for special preferential treatment; but rather that we shall ask that the Government and those in authority should realise that we need different treatment; and that in particular the problems confronting the extreme South-West of Devon and Cornwall are not necessarily at all of the same nature as those that trouble the rest of the region.
The particular problem to which I wish to draw attention is this. Everybody is agreed that the first difficulty and problem besetting the South-West is that of communications. I agree that it is only when we get an adequate system of road communications that we shall be able to see the economic and industrial development which we all want to see, par- 1136 ticularly in Devon and Cornwall. But this question of the improvement of communications has another aspect. One of the other great interests of the West Country, particularly in Devon and Cornwall, is tourism and holidaymaking. In Devon and Cornwall, and partly in Somerset, we have two National Parks and a vast coastline which is the great magnet for holiday visitors every summer. After agriculture, and, I should have thought, possibly in economic terms before agriculture, tourism is the biggest industry in Devon and Cornwall.
As we improve the communications—and improve them we must—and as we open up this new spine road from the Midlands down into the heart of Devon, use will be made of it not only by people for economic and industrial purposes, but also by the holidaymaker. And what will follow in the wake of the opening of that road will be an increasing invasion of the West Country by the holidaymaker—that is to say, the motorised holidaymaker —and already in the West Country, in looking after the National Parks and these holiday areas, we are confronted with the problem of being choked up by the motor car. This is a grave problem, particularly in the Dartmoor National Park.lb/> The dilemma is that if people pour into these areas in great numbers in their motor cars, spreading all over them, they will destroy the very thing which they go to see; that is, the natural beauty of the countryside, its isolation and so on. We are in that dilemma already, but once you open up a great spine road which will make it possible for people from the great populated Midlands to descend upon Dartmoor and Cornwall in their millions, and be able to reach the West Country within two hours of leaving their Midland homes, then you will be confronted with a problem of considerable magnitude. That is one of the things that I think we have to anticipate.
If I may say so, when I first read the way in which the noble Lord had phrased his Question:To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the need to keep under review the problems of the South-West",I thought that, on the face of it, it was a little naive in its expression. I thought that we might get from the noble Lord, Lord Kennet, when he came to reply to 1137 the debate, the simple answer, "Yes". But I am not at all sure that the Question is not rather well framed, because it seems to me that the problem of the invasion by tourists, with which we are already confronted in the West Country, will become an increasingly urgent problem and one that Her Majesty's Government should keep under review; indeed that they should be taking what steps can be taken to try to anticipate the difficulties which it will create.
§ 6.43 p.m.
§ LORD ARWYN
My Lords, as the first speaker in this debate from this side of the House I should like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Clinton. When we hear sincere speeches of the quality of his speech, made by one who is an expert on the subject, one wonders what inducement we could offer to a noble Lord of this calibre to attend the House more frequently. I should not have liked to miss this debate, and I wish to thank the noble Lord for the scope of his questions. I am going to speak chiefly of problems affecting Cornwall. We have heard about the problems of Wales and Scotland, but seldom about the third of the Celtic fringes which bind this island. I have lived in Cornwall twice as long as I have lived in Wales, and I therefore claim on this occasion to be a Cornish Welshman and not a Welsh Cornishman. I agree with Lord Foot's description of the difference between Cornwall and Devon and the rest of the country, especially in a political sense.
The Question before your Lordships' House is whether the Governmentare aware of the need to keep under review the problems of the South-West.If our telepathic faculties were greatly developed we should, as the noble Lord, Lord Foot, suggested, hear a great shout of, "Yes" from all Government Departments, and perhaps from many Ministers. But using a different wavelength, we should hear the Cornish: "Me dears, down West yon, we be thinking zum different." Thank goodness! my wife is not present, as she is Cornish, and I am sure she would question my accent.
It is true that an affirmative could be accepted, with few qualifications, from some Ministers, but not from others. For instance, we have been appealing for 1138 over twenty years for a more enlightened policy to encourage base metal mining. At last I hope there is a ray of light, now that the Ministry of Technology have taken over the responsibility for base metal mining. Twenty years is a long time for any industry to feel frustrated. There are several other matters which fall within the scope of this Question, and I will leave that one to the last.
Human nature being what it is, negotiations with any Ministry can vary according to the nature, the training and the experience of the people involved. We are also further handicapped by the fact that too many Ministries each have some degree of control over one industry. We have the same trouble with trade unions. The Fulton Report will, I hope, provide greater facility for fitting pegs in the right holes, so far as the Civil Service is concerned. It is extremely frustrating for an industrialist to explain his views to the technically illiterate, who are often charming people but who are obliged to become sublimely evasive. If I may use a term which a noble Lord used yesterday, they use "figleaf language". There are others, especially in the Board of Trade whose attitude is helped by the fact that they are familiar with specialised vocabularies. I had one delightful experience recently. Not only did this official understand our problem, but he was technically very literate. This, together with natural charm, altered the whole picture. He was not hidebound by Departmental philosophy; he was eager to solve our problem, and he did. The setting up of the Parliamentary Commissioner's Office, and its further expansion, is an event to be welcomed by the dedicated civil servant, as well as by his counterpart in industry. The hindrance to better understanding is the natural bureaucrat in both spheres whose life is bound by the rule book. In order to bring the millennium nearer for all those who carry the can, and for all who strive in political life to achieve a better existence, and who are frustrated by the machinations of all who misuse power, I should like to see your Lordships' House become known as "the House of the Ombudsmen". I suggest that the very first Ombudsmen were the Barons who extracted Magna Carta from that patron saint of bureaucracy, King John. My historical knowledge is rather sparse, I 1139 admit, but that is how I look at it; and every time the itch to air the idea comes over me it becomes more convincing. Now that I have aired it, I find no remorse. The idea, you will find, is one that grows on one.
Perhaps that feeling of fruitlessness, and even of masquerade, which we sometimes feel will disappear. We shall no longer make careful but futile speeches. So many are masterpieces of prose, and the time spent in preparing them and in their delivery is very precious. Secretly, and very cautiously, I have tried out this idea of the House of Ombudsmen on the few top men I know in Government service and industry. The first reaction was a chuckle, and then a roar of approval. When getting down to the question of how to do it, I admit that we got bogged; but if any idea is sound, it is only a question of time before it is accepted. If it were accepted, we could then say that the House of Lords is amply justified. In your Lordships' House at the present time we are wasting precious assets. We have a galaxy of experience and talent which would be hard to match anywhere. We do not have to look over our shoulders and wonder what we have done or said that will affect our majorities. Our scope is not confined to a parochial constituency; we can discuss regions. Some weeding out will be necessary, we know that; but to be proclaimed as the modern inheritors of those who stuck their necks out at Runnymede will be sufficient to inspire us to safeguard democracy against Communism or any other bureaucratic control system.
The noble Lord, Lord' Clifford of Chudleigh, quoted an example of bureaucracy in the case of a farmer who was deprived of his rights to obtain electricity unless he paid £6,000. You may rightly ask, "Why this outburst?" It is the result of a rapidly growing feeling by those of us who live on the fringes of this Island. There is a strong resentment from the years of frustration. We educate our young people, and they have to leave their homes in order to earn that which their training and ability justifies. They help to cram even more the overflowing industrial towns. No wonder we feel second-class citizens, and no wonder we are joining organisations which it will 1140 be hard to disperse! Regional government may be the solution, but it is already too late for any further justification of the ostrich tactics which Whitehall found so good in the past.
My Lords, I think it is fair that I should now confine my observations more within the scope of the Question. Our object is to develop such industries in the South-West as to stop migration and, later, to provide for those who want to escape from the present overcrowded industrial areas. First we pray for the continuation of the Board of Trade's and local government's excellent efforts to bring light industry down to the West Country. I have the greatest admiration for the senior officers who have done so much good work. But we are fast catching up with a snag in maximising this type of development, and I should like to deal with this snag now as part of my first observation. It is the problem of transport, and I wish to suggest a short time solution to bridge the next ten years.
One of the big handicaps in developing the maximum light industry, for instance, in the South-West is communication, a matter which has already been referred to earlier. Many of the companies now setting up extra factories in Cornwall complain bitterly about the time it takes to travel to the West Country from the industrial Midlands and London. where their main factories are situated. One of the most disgraceful acts of bureaucracy posing as efficiency experts was the dismantling of our railway system, especially in Cornwall and Devon. It will be 10 years, 15 years or maybe 20 years before we see a 115-mile motorway from Exeter to Penzance, and it will cost at least £115 million if it is put in now—at least £1 million per mile.
Recently I had occasion to talk with one of the managers of B.E.A. Helicopters, and we began to play around with figures and times. First, we found that the time to fly a helicopter from Exeter Airport to Penzance is 53 minutes precisely. It takes over three and a quarter hours by through train and more by nerve-wracking travel over narrow roads, especially in the summer. Two Sikorsky helicopters would cost, with spares and amortisation. over £1½ million. 1141 The running cost per annum would enable passengers to make the return journey for £12 per head on a 60 per cent. loading. This would be paid usually by business executives: the money would not come from their own pockets, but their time would be very precious. The machines would enable the business executive to leave Birmingham or London, change to a helicopter in Exeter, do six hours work in his Cornish factory, and be back the same night, all for the capital cost of less than two miles of motorway. B.E.A. Helicopters pioneered the service to the Scillies and it is a success. Why cannot they be encouraged to expand it to Exeter? Or are we to wait ten years for adequate roads? The helicopter has been proved ideal for this country. I have been able to use it myself on occasion. Small and medium-sized businesses, however, cannot afford the cost, as any big industrialist can.
My second observation is about the need to establish a polytechnic college in Cornwall instead of adding to the size of the one set up in Plymouth. This would be in line with the 50 per cent. increase we expect by 1981. There are strong reasons why a polytechnical college should be established in Cornwall. Educational facilities are an important consideration for industrialists, in addition to rapidity of communication. During 1968, 14 new firms started production. In addition, 11 firms have decided to establish undertakings, and six of them have factories under construction. Seven firms already established have proposed extensive expansions. I mentioned these figures under this observation to emphasise my admiration for the work done earlier by the Board of Trade and by local authorities. This means a rate of expansion which we have reason to believe will not only continue but increase.
There is already an established nucleus of higher education. We have the new Cornwall Technical College, the Cam-borne School of Mines, which has a very high international reputation—if not the highest reputation. There is the Falmouth School of Art, and I think they have a National Diploma course, and a St. Luke's outpost. The conditions are very favourable for the siting, staffing and housing of a high-standard polytechnic. 1142 This suggestion might be considered too early at the moment, but in twelve months' time the picture will be different. What we want to avoid is a hasty scramble when the need becomes not only obvious but urgent. The Department of Education and Science is another Ministry who have gone a long way to help Cornwall, and they still do so, and they keep the need for a polytechnic for Cornwall as part of their programme.
My next point is to draw as much attention as possible to the South-West's ideal position in catering for the need of our youth to satisfy their inborn urge to indulge in trials of the kind which increase their self-respect. They must have an outlet for their energy and one they can respect. The country which can treat this increasing need as of major importance will emerge as one of the major leaders of the future, and the most respected leader. The coasts of Devon and Cornwall can provide all the adventurous sailing anyone can experience. Sailing, either alone or with a crew, arouses the best in one. I would call it one of the most cleansing exercises and I bracket it with climbing. We have splendid estuaries, of which the Fal is world-famous. We have the moors where there are sites for all sorts of adventure camps to suit all ages. This problem of diverting energy and providing leisure occupation is a growing one, and its importance is not yet assessed.
The next subject is one which affects the one I have just mentioned and is the last subject, which is mining. I ask the Government to keep under review their priorities when judging the claims of the more vociferous members of amenity preservation organisations. It is quite true that these people can produce dangerous reactions from others of us who have different priorities. First, we must earn our wealth from the earth before we can enjoy any glorious views. Compared with the need to promote economical security, the claims of a small minority can be of very secondary importance. We have to provide work, and adequate relief from its boredom, in the computer age which lies ahead by ample facilities for leisure. Of these, work comes first. We shall have to decide whether winning the metals on Dartmoor, mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, for instance, has a higher priority than its use by the 1143 Army or as a holy sanctuary for minorities, and thus contribute nothing to the national economy.
Too many people are jumping on this bandwaggon in the South-West. There must be an overriding priority. The accusation that industry does not care about despoiling the countryside was very true in the last century—there was plenty of it within three miles of my home. That accusation is no longer true. Neither is the one which accuses the industrialist of being profit mad, of having thoughts only for his shareholders. To-day we have different priorities. We are first responsible for the welfare of all the men and their families within our organisation. Time after time we hear of this consciousness in speeches by those involved in industry in your Lordships' House. There are too many suspect interests involved in this emotional powder keg, and the effect of these continual explosions, whether justified or not, must be minimised.
I come now to my old grouse: the development of our base metal industry, especially tin—the subject of my maiden speech on March 18, 1965, and pursued in detail and in various ways and speeches ever since during the last four years. I speak on behalf of professional organisations and mining companies of the highest standing and of international reputation. My first involvement was in 1937, some 32 years ago, as President of the Institute of Cornish Mining Engineers. I became involved again immediately after the last War. The first Cornish Mineral Development Association's Memorandum of Policy was addressed to the Government in August, 1948. The bombardment has continued and been increased by the Cornish Chamber of Mines, the Cornish Institute of Engineers and the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, besides the efforts of individual international mining companies and mining journals throughout the world; articles on the subject have been written all over the world. We also had a Mineral Development Committee's Report in 1949. I was a member of the Committee.
The fight has always been with the Treasury. All we ask for is that base metal mining risks should be treated here as in other mining countries. We were 1144 accused of seeking a "tax holiday". These two words have stuck in the gizzards of all of us who are connected with mining. They imply that we seek total relief from taxes for producing priority minerals for industry which can be bought from other countries. It is a distortion of the truth. All we seek is a mitigation of high initial risks, the terms to be comparable with those of other countries. It will not cost the country one penny more than it does now. I want to emphasise this because we have been accused in a snide way of seeking some favours which we are not entitled to. In your Lordships' House I could not use language strong enough to express my own views about it.
Let us now examine the risk run by a mining company and compare it with that incurred by, say, a machine tool company. First of all, the mineral has to be located at varying depths, down to 2,000 ft. This means expensive geophysical and geochemical surveys and the investigation of all geological characteristics from records and reports, and then diamond drilling starts. It is a very expensive operation. This can take three years and easily cost half a million pounds for a moderate set of mines. Then the shaft is sunk and cross cuts are driven to the lode. The whole period between prospecting and production will take some eight to ten years and will cost around £5 million before it is certain that it is a profitable venture. If it is not, it will take at least another year of expensive diamond drilling to prove that it is; otherwise, the whole of the £5 million is lost and perhaps another £1 million as well.
Has anyone at any time ever succeeded in selling a hole in the ground—just a hole, lined as it might be with concrete and reinforced with steel? It is not only the shaft and its equipment which cost money. From the bottom of the shaft extensive tunnelling in solid rock has cost a huge sum. If the mine fails, there is a whole series of holes to sell, plus special machinery and equipment of little, if any, use but for scrap. I emphasise the words "if the mine fails". I should not like to tell your Lordships the number of failures I have seen in my life.
There will be for ever a demand for minerals and the men to find and win 1145 them. So far as we can see, there will also be a long-time demand for machine tools. But here the risk is one of management in assessing the supply and demand and then producing, at a competitive price, an efficient tool. The great difference lies after the machine tool manufacturer has made his market survey. He builds a factory and equips it with modern machinery, all valued at, say, £5 million, in one year. If he fails—and it might be solely due to market conditions, or bad management, which may not be foreseen—he still has the factory and equipment, both valuable assets and readily saleable. They are real, tangible, saleable assets; not holes in the ground. But if the machine tool company is situated in a development area the manufacturer can claim, while the grants exist, a 40 per cent. investment grant, and therefore his very saleable factory costing £5 million has been built and equipped for £3 million, although as a realisable asset it may be worth Over £5 million.
The mining company also have their prospecting, drilling, shaft sinking and development costs cut to £3 million, because they also enjoy the 40 per cent. investment grant in a development area. But if they fail, all they have to sell are holes which can be partly proved only after a year's production. This is a high risk capital. Machine tool production, which I have taken as an example, like other industries outside mining, is not a high risk. Yet both enjoy the same 40 per cent. grant.
I referred in my maiden speech in March, 1965, to the Prime Minister's brilliant analysis of the position in base metal mining in a speech in another place in 1961. I do not think for one moment he altered his mind about the analysis, but I realise that some time might elapse before the effects of some eight Ministries who had their hands in the pie could be eliminated. Now it has been done. The Ministry of Technology are responsible for the development of base metal mining. The first essential step has been taken, to be followed soon by the second essential step in the proposed legislation on mineral rights, which should solve some of the prospecting problems referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh. I hope that at last we shall be able to start on investigations to precede nego- 1146 tiations on incentives needed for a longterm programme and comparable with those existing in other base metal mining countries. The Ministry of Technology can rely upon the utmost and enthusiastic co-operation from those who know that the development of the industry is one of the greatest importance to our economy. I have been asked to state that very definitely in your Lordships' House.
The terms need careful negotiation, and there should be no reference to the 40 per cent. investment grant being comparable with terms long established in other countries. That 40 per cent. can vanish overnight once other industries reduce the unemployment figures. We want to build a permanent base metal mining industry to attract redundant mining labour from all over the country, not only to solve our own labour problems but to help to reduce others and to safeguard vital base metal supplies.
We are now producing some 1,500 tons of tin per annum, and we in this country use over 20,000 tons per annum which we buy from other countries that could become politically unstable in less than ten years. And if that happened where should we be? We could develop tin production in Cornwall to 6,000 to 7,000 tons, but it will take time to bring mines into production. I have not made any assessment of other minerals, such as copper and wolfram, all of which we buy from overseas. It is therefore essential that we base our incentives on a twenty-year programme.
My Lords, I hope that a new dawn is now approaching and that the Ministry of Technology will achieve that which others have failed to do. The first two important steps have been taken, and I hope that it will not take long. Time is not on our side. Before I sit down,, I should like to declare that I have no financial interest in tin mining, either as a shareholder or as any kind of adviser. The same applies to any other industry which might be concerned with the suggestions I have made. I am concerned only with the future welfare not only of Cornish people but of our country as an economic unity.
§ 7.14 p.m.
My Lords, we must all be grateful to the noble Lord, 1147 Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, for having introduced this subject to-day in such a wide-ranging and interesting speech. He said that he was once in my house which subsequently had to be pulled down. I think this was typical—he was in a unit called the Northumberland Fusiliers, whose nickname was the "Fighting Fifth". He said that in his speech he would make vulgar noises. In fact, he did not make any vulgar noises, but he lived up to his soubriquet of the "Fighting Fifth".
I should also like to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Clinton, on such a very good maiden speech. It was short—something that I have never been able to achieve. The noble Lord, Lord Clinton, is a large landowner in Devonshire and there is no one better qualified to speak on Devonshire and its problems. He really knows about farming and forestry there, and we hope that he will address us again on many occasions.
If I may, I should like to refer once more to the Report of the South-West Economic Planning Council. Nobody has yet quoted its title, A Region with a Future. I believe it is important that we should not forget that that is the conclusion they came to. This Report, I may say, was produced in March, 1967. Another Report which is of great interest was the Report of the National Parks Commission on the coasts of South-West England. This was produced as a result of a conference in July, 1966. Time is running on, my Lords, and many of the figures and statistics in these Reports are now getting out of date.
It is interesting to see which figures are getting out of date and which are not. The figures that are increasing are those of the population, and the number of motor cars and tourists. The figures that are decreasing are those relating to the amount of land still left, either for agriculture or its natural purposes, or for amenity. The figure that remains constant is the area of the region—9,000 square miles. This is an enormous region, larger than the whole of Wales. And this surely poses the problem very fairly: how do we develop this vast region, which is larger than the whole of Wales, so that we can produce work and standards of living for the people living in the region, comparable with those in other parts of the country, with- 1148 out destroying what in the long term may be its greatest asset, its amenity value? The competing demands of residents, tourism, industry and mineral exploitation create the problem with which we are faced. It is easier to state this problem than to suggest a solution to it. Many a politician starts off his speech by stating a problem very clearly but he finds it difficult to solve it.
However, before I state the problem I should like to go back to this Report and very gently take issue with the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, because in a way I believe that his Question could almost have been phrased:To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they are aware of the need to keep under review the problems of the far South-West".The noble Lord, Lord Foot, also made the point that this is a region that is far too large to talk about as a whole or in terms of averages. Those who prepared this Report realised this and they divided the region into four sub-areas. The Eastern end of this region and the Western end are utterly dissimilar and need utterly different treatment. One always has tremendous suspicion about averages and statistics, and about mathematics. If you take the temperature of the North Pole and that of the Equator, and then add them together and divide them by two, I suppose that you have the average temperature of the world; but it really does not do you much good. If you take the population and industry in the Bristol area and then that in the middle of Dartmoor, add them together and divide them by two you likewise have an average which is meaningless. I do not think that point can be overstressed.
Despite the lateness of the hour, I should like to ask your Lordships to look at Appendix 4 in this Report, which is an interesting one, on the population of this area. We see from this that the population has continued to rise until in 1961 (the latest figure we have) it had reached 3½ million, but as a percentage of the population of the country the figure continues to fall. Whereas in 1821 the population of the South-West was 14 per cent. of the whole country, in 1961 it was only 7 per cent. The absolute numbers are rising but the percentage of the country as a whole is falling all the time. I think that is most 1149 interesting. If you go through the figures given in those regions— although it is much too late to go into figures now—you will see that this is borne out all the way as you go further from the East to the West. Of the employed population in manufacturing industry, 38 per cent. is in the Northern region, 26 per cent. in the Central region, 22 per cent. in the Southern region, until you get down to 13 per cent. in the far Western region. And only 5 per cent. of the manufacturing employment as a whole in the region is in this far Western sub-region.
Therefore it is difficult to talk about this region as a whole, for it really falls into two halves. You could draw a line from Gloucester in the North down to Poole and Bournemouth on the English Channel and call that your Eastern boundary, and your Western boundary would be somewhere like Minehead to Exeter. In your Eastern region just think what you have. You have Bristol, the eighth largest city in the country, the Gloucester-Cheltenham complex, Bath, two universities, Avonmouth, the Severn-side development, one of the most exciting things that has ever happened; it has not yet happened but it is beginning to happen, and we are tremendously looking forward to the Severnside Report. You have what I may call old Bristol, with its aircraft, tobacco, paper and shoe industries, and you have what I might call new Bristol, out on the Channel side, with its oil-based chemical industry, its gas-oil industry, and I.C.I. and Fisons. It is all laid out and all brand-new. You have this complex of roads coming in from the Midlands and London. Whether or not we get the new port at Portbury, we at least have a bridge being built over the Avon at Avonmouth. There we extend the whole strip that goes down to Portishead and beyond, and you will not have to go up to Bristol to go further West. This is an exciting and interesting part of the world. I would suggest that this area running from Gloucester and Cheltenham out to Swindon, the new town, North Wiltshire, North Somerset down as far as Avonmouth and Portishead, Bristol, is perhaps one of the most exciting developments in England, perhaps in Europe.
Therefore, you cannot talk in the same language of this area, of this great region, as you can of the far more remote areas, the culm measures around Barnstaple 1150 or the moorland areas and so on. I do not think I need stress the point any more, but it is an interesting one and I commend the Report of Professor Tress to people who are interested in this problem of the development of the South-West, because as he divides his Report up into these regions you see how the character changes and how very important the distinctions are.
I live in the Eastern area—on the Mendips, which is quite close to Bristol. That is my centre of gravity, although with other things with which I am connected I go right out to the Scilly Islands. I have to deal with the Duchy of Cornwall and other things which take me through the whole region. But I live on the Mendips, and "Mendips" is of course "mine dips". We have been mining there since Roman times: lead, zinc—perhaps we will find nickel, I do not know. We had some coal, but not much is mined now. North of that, on this new Severnside development and all round this area, we are not going to reconstruct some tumbledown relic of 19th century laissez-faire mismanagement. We do not have back-to-back house slums to pull down or old factory chimneys, with the smoke and grime and bitterness and past troubles to wash out. We are starting on a virgin site, and the people are going to live in a carefully preserved Green Belt roundabout it. The Cotswolds of the noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, are just behind on the higher ground, and I am sure they will be most carefully preserved. My own country, the Mendips, is now an area of special beauty.
We have a great problem. We are not mining lead now, but we are extracting limestone. The limestone from the Mendip Hills is going out as far as Kent; it is going on roads all over England. I believe our region produces something like 20 per cent. of the road stone for the whole country; that is about 10 million tons, and something like 7½ million tons are coming from the Mendips. Yet we have somehow or other to keep that an area of natural beauty, and I think we are doing so.
As you move down the slope further West to the foot of the Mendips, you suddenly come on perhaps the most wonderful mediæval gem that still exists in England, the Cathedral City of Wells, a quite tiny city which is surely an 1151 educational and cultural and touristic centre. This is what makes one feel that the Maud approach may not be so far off, because it would be quite wrong if the worthy citizens of Wells had to look for rateable value—that awful phrase—by trying to get industry into that little city. Industry is already in the surrounding cities which are small industrial towns; Street, where they make shoes, Shepton Mallet, where they make Bahycham; Keynsham and North Radstock, where they used to mine coal. That is why those unpopular fellows, the planners, are so important to-day, and we must back them up. This is where the industry should go while we try to preserve in the middle somewhere where we can shop, somewhere the tourists can go and see, somewhere which is worth preserving, and in this struggle for extra rateable value we must not try to turn the whole thing into something else.
What a city like Wells needs above all else is a by-pass. But we cannot afford it. It is absolutely useless to take all the traffic going to Penzance, and all the road stone going all over the place, through a little tiny high street in a small cathedral city—because it is not a big industrial city which can have a great by-pass round the side. This is a problem we must tackle and I think it will be tackled. As we go further West a little (I hope that your Lordships will bear with me for one moment) we see that an important and interesting thing is happening in that part of the country which I know so well, the centre of Somerset. Many people do not realise that, other than East Anglia, the centre of Somerset is the largest peat area in the country, and that the whole of this area was under water from Roman times. Then there occurred one of the great tidal surges. Down under the peat, and before you get to the blue clay, you often find Roman remains. This huge peat area is now being worked most admirably by one of the great companies, whose name one ought not to mention in this House, but its chairman is often to be seen here sitting on the Cross-Benches. He is not here at the moment. This is admirable development. This peat is being worked for the horticultural industry. Ultimately it will cover thousands of acres and. we believe, will leave a large 15 ft. hole 1152 which will fill with water to make a large recreational nature conservation reservoir (I am a waterworks director among other things) which would be most useful.
This is the kind of development that is needed in the West, in an area of great natural beauty, where it is possible to bring about industrial development without spoiling the natural habitat—in fact, almost improving it by developing the archaeology by ultimately having a recreational reservoir there and not taking any good agricultural land. This is all 30 years in the future, because peat goes slowly. But it is a place where boating and sailing could take place.
Continuing still further West, I am bound to say that, coming to the moors and to the culm measures— to Dartmoor, Exmoor and Bodmin Moor—apart from the ball clay and the tin (if that comes back again) we must surely rely on the wonderful coastline for tourism, and agriculture and forestry. I think we must have more forestry. This is a most difficult matter, because the natural forest there is the oak scrub, which is very beautiful but which does not pay. As the noble Lord, Lord Clinton, said, we shall have to have more conifers. Then if we are to have more conifers, we shall need a pulpmill to utilise the conifers.
Agriculture will be difficult, as it is everywhere in the country, because the area is a long way from markets. In many places upon the moors there is not the best of soil, there is a lot of rain, and the crop which must be grown there is the crop in which we are behindhand throughout England—that is, grass. Grass is the best crop of the West Country. We must learn to grow the grass and turn it, not only into milk but into beef and into sheep. In fact, we must turn it into meat as well as milk. But it must be a grass-based farming. Of that, I am quite sure. If you have a grass-based farming and forestry you can keep your rural population, and you are not inimical to tourism. The two fit in together. Grass-based agriculture and good forestry fit in together. This, I think. with fisheries and horticulture in small warm patches. like Mount's Bay, and so on. will more and more be the pattern of development there.
But, my Lords, let us remember that this, as a whole, is a region with a 1153 future. It has a great industrial future; a modern industrial future at its Eastern end, as I have tried to explain. It has a great recreational, amenity, agricultural and forestry future in the West. It is most interesting that the present Reith Lectures on the radio are about man's environment. Fraser Darling is giving those lectures now. We must learn to develop our country to-day so that we do not outrage the environment in which we live. I believe that we have great hope of doing this in the West Country. We have it all before us. To end, I would say simply that the one thing we must never do in this development of the West is to give way to short-term expediency.
§ 7.35 p.m.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, of late there has been some impression that a move to restore the heptarchy is in full swing; and to-day it is a pleasure to come and support the Thane of Chudleigh (if that is a sufficiently respectful term) raising in this House the standard of Wessex, or at any rate that part of it which we have so far recovered.
I join previous speakers in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Clinton, on his speech, particularly on having chosen to mention the pulp or chipboard factory as a key factor in forestry management in that part of the country. I remember how painfully at the end of my forestry activities I struggled to find a place to take chipboard from the Devon border in the North. I delivered all the way by road to the hardboard people in North London and to the paper people at Rochester. Even then, they would not take any conifer. We are still in that position. This is a key factor.
My approach to this subject to-day is, for the whole of the Wessex region, almost entirely on one subject—roads. Almost without exception, every speaker—even those who deplore the loss of land which dual carriageways and motorways necessarily involve—has stressed the need for them. The Wessex boundary stretches from North of Cheltenham to Poole Harbour, 80 miles away from us and 100 miles in depth. So far as I understand them, the Minister's plans are to push through from London, or from somewhere nearby, strategic roads of high quality, four of them pretty well spaced evenly apart as they cross the frontier 1154 of Wessex. There are the A.40, which goes via Oxford, Cheltenham and Gloucester; the M.4, as it is to be, which I think is to start somewhere neat Kew, to go to Reading. Swindon and Bristol; the A.303, from Basingstoke, Stonehenge and Exeter; and, fourth, a road which it is harder to trace precisely at the London end, because it may branch off at Basingstoke or go down to Portsmouth and then connect up the big South Coast resorts and then, finally, reach Exeter.
All these roads will go into a motorway, the M.5, which I hope is to connect up with the M.6. Until lately there has been a great hiatus at Wolverharnpton, but I hope that the new motorway will connect with the M.6 somewhere near Birmingham, so that there will be a continuous motorway running right away through to the South-West, having its terminus at Exeter and dual-carriageways continuing thereafter down to Penzance.
I want to digress for one moment to refer to Brentford, which might become another terminal of a new and exhilarating method of transport that could possibly be of the greatest service to us in the peninsula of the South-West. I refer to the lighter-aboard ship, "Lash", or its modification, barge on board, called "Bob". I understand that the first "Lash" ship delivers its tenders, barges, in the Medway before long, and that the furthest point it can get to up-river is Aylesford. What are the prospects, I should like to ask, of this brilliant idea of distributing barges from a bigger ship all around the smaller ports of the South-West peninsula, thus saving something in roads and railways?
May I now go back to the motorway, the M.4, via Swindon to Bristol. I was going to call attention to what is obvious when you get to Bristol, but the noble Earl. Lord Waldegrave, has brilliantly expounded what is there—an area of intense development on a great scale. Nothing compares with it elsewhere in Wessex. It is the cross-motorway place; it has industrial hinterlands in Wales as well as in Wessex; it has this great arterial way. Our main traffic line these days is not with London, but with the North or the North-West. The railway comes down, and there are three nuclear power stations not far away. It is an area of power, communications, and people, 1155 without compare anywhere else in the West.
Now we turn down the motorway, as it goes along the popular kind of amenity that is Weston-super-Mare and other places, to Taunton, the small administrative capital of Somerset. There it leaves the North coast and goes down to Exeter, where it is to be met by two more dual-carriageways at Exeter. That is the last great focal point on the way down to Penzance: there is no other. Exeter is incomparably a better centre of communications than Plymouth. The Tress report suggests that Plymouth must cease to look outwards and must look inwards. Plymouth, it seems to me, is in the wrong place, while Exeter is in the right place. However, we go on with the two planned dual-carriageways, one North of Dartmoor and the other through Plymouth, meeting at Bodmin and going on in a single final carriageway to Penzance.
What does all this amount to, if and when it is done? It amounts to this, my Lords. We get in a motor car at Brentford or Kew, or whatever is the terminal of the motorway. If it is a true motorway it will be properly connected up with the M.5 at Bristol, and we shall drive comfortably in the afternoon from Brentford to Penzance in five hours—because 60 m.p.h., hour after hour, is comfortably possible in a 1,500 c.c. car—no 3-litre vehicle required. In Italy some of the lorries go at the same pace. So a motorist will be able to leave after a snack luncheon and have dinner with the pirates in Penzance at 8 o'clock. On one occasion I had to do most of the journey by night, and it took me nine hours. If I had done the whole journey it would have taken 11 hours or more. It was so difficult, such a strain, that I spent the whole of the next day and night sleeping, trying to get over it. This motorway movement is relaxing, comfortable, and involves no strain. Unless it is overcrowded—as is possible—we can hardly dream of the consequences, the effect and impact that it will have on the way people move. What American would not go from Park Lane to Penzance, stop off for the night and come back again? That is the kind of thing they like to do.
How near is this prospect, or any part of it? I have tried from my small posi- 1156 tion to find out. My most down-to-earth contact is the chief engineer of the construction unit on part of the road in Somerset, and referring to the M.5 between Bristol and Exeter and the dual carriageway onwards to Plymouth, he said: "Everything is in the pipeline. No political action, no prods at the Ministry, will hasten this by one single day or hour. Everything is in train, and I shall be very disappointed if the whole thing is not finished by 1975". That, I believe. He is a man I have known and relied on for 15 years and more, and what he says is the truth—so far as one can predict the future, of course. I would not ask confirmation from the Minister unless in transmitting this man's words to me I have got it wrong, which is always possible. But what I should like to ask is, first, how near that date will the motorway from Kew to Bristol and the connecting links upwards from Bristol to Tewkesbury and that hiatus at Wolverhampton be completed? Once that is through we shall have a stream of traffic which will come upon us; and all the traffic coming down that pipeline, if you like to call it that, will focus upon Exeter.
I find myself in entire agreement with all these plans of the Ministry. It is not so much that I find fault, as the noble Lord. Lord Clifford of Chudleiah, rightly did, with the past all the way from Dan to Beersheba; I find that a brilliant future is opening up for us in roads if they are built. I have asked the question about the motorways, and I am sure that the answer regarding the rest of the strategic ways is that they will be completed later than 1975. Can the Minister give us any sort of date such as the chief engineer gave me for these particular sections of motorway so that we may have some idea when this will be completed? I agree with what everybody has said, that communications by road are vital to any successful development of the area. It seems to me that a motorway from here to Penzance is not many years ahead, and that most of it is in the pipeline, and that some of it, unless there is some national disaster, is virtually irrevocable. The deed is virtually done, so I am looking into the future rather than complaining of the past. But knowing something of administration, I am aware how long it takes, with our procedure of public 1157 inquiries and heaven knows what, with hundreds of objectors, to get things through.
There is one omission in what I believe are the Minister's plans which saddened me, although I see the reason for it. He has not chosen to follow the recommended North Devon "strategy" road, the A.361, which runs from Taunton to Barnstaple and Bideford and all the way down the coast. I am wondering whether, as a start, some tee-off to that magnificent area of Barnstaple and Bideford—that really choice area of river estuary, sand dunes and surfing bays, which amount to a real place for an enjoyable holiday—could be made from Okehampton or Exeter. I have no interest in the place. I occasionally bathe in one of the bays, but I do not own any property. The noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, did not ask for it, but perhaps somebody else will support me in thinking that that area of North Devon should have one dual carriageway running from the dual carriageway that is going down, if not one from the motorway. Okehampton is the nearest spot. and I was thinking of possibly taking it up by Torrington and Bideford.
The part which invites some criticism is this. When you have got to Beersheba, what do you do? There are many A roads, and A roads are principal roads if not trunk roads. I can think of one A road in particular close to where I live—although I would not ask to have any priority given to it—where there is not only no dual carriageway but no single carriageway; there is only half a carriageway. Between Minehead and Porlock there are eight places where motor coaches cannot pass, and that is an A principal road. There are two hairpin bends, and at one part the traffic going up the hill swings into the carriageway of those coming down, while at the other end those coming down the hill swing into the other carriageway. On the other side of the village there is a hairpin bend—again, on a one-in-four hill—where half the motor coaches cannot get round on one lock.
I am not asking that anything should be done to this area. I am quite content to leave matters to our own county people, although I do not think that they will give us priority. Indeed, I entirely agree with the Minister's having by 1158 passed the A.39, the coastal road between Bridgewater and Barnstaple, because it is an utterly impossible road from an engineering point of view, and it could be spoiled. Therefore the by-passing is a most satisfactory negative in the Minister's actions. But we want something else. What. I understand happens is that the Minister contributes 75 per cent. to these A roads and the local authority contribute 25 per cent. But again and again the local authority are willing to contribute their 25 per cent. for their various schemes and cannot get the rest of the money.
Then there are the internal relief roads for some of the major towns. They are not major in any industrial sense, but they are sufficiently large to need an internal relief road. I understand that such a road is one which goes outside the town and produces internal relief. It is a kind of ring road or by-pass, as the case may be. I am informed, I believe reliably, that a reasonable improvement of these bottlenecks is not likely to occur, at the present rate of allowing county councils what they want, in the lifetime of anybody present. Therefore, I think there is going to be a thrombosis in all the veins, when the arteries are flowing swiftly and smoothly down upon them. It is a problem. I hope that the Minister can confirm dates a little better than has been done. In conclusion, may I say that there is something brilliant in the planning of our road system; something which inspires me anyway.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ LORD DIGBY
My Lords, so much ground has already been covered that I shall restrict myself to considering the problems of the South-West from the point of view of Dorset, and I am reminded of the old song, "I'm just an in-between". Officialdom does not know where to place Dorset. We were in the South-East Study, but Maud places us firmly in the South-West. The weathermen call us "Central Southern" and the Milk Marketing Board call us "Mid-Western". The I.T.A., with its policy of pleasing all people, gives us Southern, Westward and Harlech. Economically also we are in-between. We do not have the heavy industry and high employment of the Midlands, and we are not a magnet for office and light industry like the South-East, but also we do not have the 1159 fading industries and unemployment of the development areas. Dorset has a high rateable value per head of the population and an economically viable county council. We have a prosperous farming industry, prosperous light industry and prosperous market towns catering for the agricultural population and for those who wish to retire to the beauty, peace and welcome which Dorset can give them.
Is it then surprising that Dorset does not wish to be carried, kicking and screaming, into the 20th century of high-density housing and industrial giants? We feel we are already an essential part of the 20th century and are moving forward steadily to keep our economy strong. This does not mean that we want to stand still. We want to continue our steady progress, but without the traumatic effects of huge doses of industrial legislation and overspill housing. Our agriculture will continue its increase in productivity, which has outstripped industry in the past and will continue to do so in the future. Our very efficient local building industry will continue to expand to meet the necessary demand, particularly by newcomers to the district who, though not individually wealthy, have done so much to beautify and improve the housing of our villages. Finally, our light industry must continue to develop to provide employment for the young working population of the county and for those Dorsetmen who become redundant owing to the increased productivity of agriculture.
This is where I would ask the Government to help: by providing industrial development certificates for light industry. At present industry is deterred by the belief that I.D.C.s will not be available outside development areas. In fact, very few have been refused, but the belief still exists. I am not asking for a large diversion of new industry from development areas, but only for a very few firms to provide a reserve of employment. A typical firm of this type is Marglass, which came to Sherborne some years ago and draws its work force from a radius of some fifteen miles. Working on a basis of the traditional rural silk industry, they have trained local unskilled labour and have doubled their work force and trebled their output in the last three years. This firm alone puts more than £1 million per 1160 annum into the economy of Dorset by way of salaries, rates and payments for services. In particular, this type of firm provides employment for married women whose children no longer require their full-time attention, and for their sons and daughters on leaving school. A handful of such firms spread over the county would deal with Dorset's employment problem for several years. The Hunt Committee on intermediate areas recommended selective granting of I.D.C.s, and I urge the Government to reconsider their rejection of this policy and to give us the small development we require.
Another facet of industry that would be welcome in Dorset would be industrial research units which employ highly-skilled and paid scientists, engineers and technicians. The attraction to these men of being able to live and bring up their families in beautiful countryside, without the horrors of commuting, will ensure to any such establishment the best men available. The Plessey Research Unit at Templecombe is a most successful example of this, and they have found that the ease of recruiting has given them the pick of top-class men. Although only one-third of their staff are local, the spending power they bring is a very important factor.
Dorset County Council was a pioneer in local government computer development and is now operating the first of the new generation of computers. We can provide the clean air so essential for computers, and a peaceful environment to attract the highly-paid ana highly-skilled staff required. But all these developments require good communications. The county council is doing its part by acquiring and developing Hum Airport in a joint venture with Bournemouth, and I hope their enterprise will be rewarded by the establishment of this aerodrome as a gateway for the South-West. With regard to railways, the electrification of the Bournemouth line has given a boost to South and East Dorset; but it is in the realm of roads that most needs to be done. The recent Green Paper, Roads for the Future, provides for the improvement of two East/West roads, but no North /South link which is so much required to connect Dorset to the motorway system of the Midlands. This link is essential to the long-term prosperity of the county. 1161 Another area in the field of communications is causing us grave concern at the present time. I refer to the B.B.C.'s plan for broadcasting in the 1970s. Since the end of the war, the South and West of England have been admirably served by the B.B.C. Regional Broadcasting Service based in Bristol, to which we have looked for news, views and entertainment of a very high standard, entirely free from political and commercial pressure—a standard which has made the B.B.C. the envy of broadcasting services throughout the world. It is through our region that we have been able to make our voice heard at national level, and many of our programmes— "Any Questions?" and "Going for a Song". for example—have achieved great popularity and have entered the national network. Now we are told that this invaluable medium of communication is to be swept away and replaced by a few local broadcasting stations run on shoe-string budgets. The subsequent lowering of standards and usefulness which will result is little short of a disaster for communications in the South-West, and I would therefore press very strongly that the B.B.C. should look again at their policy in this respect.
Dorset is a prosperous county which needs to develop to retain its young men, on whom our future depends. At present they end up in the tourist industry, with its seasonal unemployment, or leave the county. So I ask the Government to take action on three points: first, to assure employment for our young people by granting selected I.D.C.s for light industry; secondly, to revise the Green Paper Roads for the Future to include a North/South road link; and, thirdly, to retain our regional broadcasting system, to foster the identity and pride of the South-West.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ LORD ILFORD
My Lords, I rise to make a few observations—and at this hour they will be very few—upon the mundane and unromantic topic of water supplies, and in particular the affairs of the North Devon Water Board. I regret to say that there is among persons engaged in the waterworks industry a widespread sense of apprehension that the procedure which is followed in this House and by the Minister in determining the powers of water undertakings is unduly protracted, involved and expensive. An 1162 application is made for powers to construct works, weeks turn into months, months turn into years and still no decision is forthcoming.
I think I can illustrate very well what happens by recounting the experience of the North Devon Water Board. May I give your Lordships a brief chronology of what happened? In 1962 the Board decided to construct a new reservoir at a place called Meldon, which is in a corner of Dartmoor—not, I think, a very beautiful corner, but a corner of Dartmoor—and that undoubtedly aroused considerable opposition and apprehension. I need not say anything about that to-night, because all that has been set to rest by the Minister's having made his Order. In 1962 the Board decided that they required further supplies of water—and indeed they did; they were about one million gallons a day short of their requirements. Accordingly, they decided that they would construct a new reservoir at Meldon. The first thing that happened was that they were refused town planning consent on the ground that the town planning authority did not like certain bore holes which had to be constructed during the course of the preparation of the site. The Board decided to appeal against that decision, and in 1964 the appeal was heard. The decision given by the Minister was in favour of the Board.
In the following year, 1965, the Minister held a local inquiry into the Board's application for an Order. The Order was objected to by, I think it was, eight societies which represented different forms of amenity, so it was quite a complicated procedure. The inquiry took place in 1965, and the Minister gave his decision in 1966. He decided to give consent for the construction of the reservoir. In 1967 the Order was laid in Parliament, and there were Petitions against it; but it was held that the Petitioners had no locus standi. When that decision was given, the Petitioners moved to annul the Order, and eventually the Order was withdrawn by the Government. The terms of the Standing Orders in your Lordships' House were then altered so as to enable the Petitioners to have a locus standi and to be heard. There was a Joint Select Committee in 1968, and they were accordingly heard. The Joint Select Committee decided to confirm the Order, but they suspended its 1163 operation for, I think, about eight or nine months. The purpose of suspending the operation of the Order was to enable an alternative site to be investigated. That was done. At the local inquiry the Minister rejected the alternative site as being too expensive; it was going to cost about £1 million more than the reservoir at Meldun and it was felt, rightly, that the expenditure on the alternative would not be justified.
I think I have said enough about the affairs of the North Devon Water Board to show that the procedures we follow can be very protracted and very delayed. Meldon is not the only place where works have been caught up in our intricate and involved procedure. There are a number of other cases in fairly recent history in which the delay in getting a decision has been protracted and involved. What I have said to-night will not, I hope, be interpreted as reflecting on anybody, least of all on the officers of the Ministry of Health or of this House.
There must be some way in which we can escape from the net of our present procedure without unnecessarily or needlessly infringing upon the rights of individuals who may be affected by our procedure here. I am not suggesting any change which should be made which would have that effect and which would perhaps shut out somebody who desired to make an objection. That does not seem to me to be necessary. But there must be some way by which we can escape from the present arrangements for our procedure, leading to a more expeditious and more effective procedure than that which we follow to-day. It may be that the Minister of Health could telescope some of these inquiries which in this case were two, but which sometimes run to three. I should have thought one would be sufficient, but I do not know. It is a matter that calls for consideration. It may be that we should make greater use of Joint Select Committees than we have been accustomed to do in the past. Again I do not commit myself; I do not know; but it seems to me a matter that ought to be investigated.
All I am going to do tonight is to invite the Minister to say that he will bring the attention of his right honourable friend to this matter and invite him to give it consideration. I hope that it may also be considered by the Lord 1164 Chairman of Committees. I hope that this may result in our existing procedure being substantially amended—at any rate amended so that decisions can be given with greater expedition than is possible at present. I hope that the Minister will give us some assurance that this matter will receive consideration.
§ 8.12 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT FALMOUTH
My Lords, at this very late hour I will try to be as brief as possible. First, I should like to say how glad I am that my noble friend Lord Clifford of Chudleigh put down this Question to debate this very important part of England. I should also like to take the opportunity of congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Clinton, on an admirable maiden speech. His estates and forests are a byword in the South-West of England. I know that his opinion will always be given great value in this House.
My home is in Cornwall, and it is largely of Cornwall that I am going to speak. Set right out into the sea, we have developed a unity through the ages; but what I shall say touches on a number of diverse points. This is because we are so often bewildered by the volume of Government proposals in so many fields. I must declare an interest first as a farmer and landowner, and I start with the subject of farming. Our farmers are obviously a long distance from the markets of Covent Garden, the Midlands and the North. They fear, naturally, that if we enter the Common Market we shall be further handicapped. I therefore make this plea to the Government: that they will do all they can to see that no action of theirs will directly or indirectly lead to increases in freight charges which are so costly because of our distance from the markets. Furthermore, because they cannot make up for the increased costs at each Price Review, our farmers also fear that the standards of husbandry are falling. Cornwall is a land of hedges, farm roads, ditches, gates and roofs at risk to the strong West winds. The less our higher costs are recouped the more neglect there is in this sphere.
In Cornwall last month I was at a presentation of prizes won in a competition called "Farm Buildings in the Landscape" run by the Country Landowners' Association. Farmers in Cornwall won three prizes out of the 12 awarded for the 1165 whole of England and Wales. A very good effort. In our beautiful county a proper blend of farm buildings with fields and trees needs the greatest care. Undoubtedly those prizes in Cornwall were won because there was the right choice of materials. This is an age-old problem. In the old days in Cornwall, one simply opened a quarry and got one's mason to build a farmsteading from the local materials. Nowadays it is not so easy to hide a tower silo or the sharp outlines of a grey asbestos shed. But by taking much care a great deal can be done by properly planning the site and using the right materials. I have been told, strange to say, that the right colour for a tower silo is yellow.
This is a problem; but I do not think we ought to solve it by total planning control over all farm buildings. Far better is the system of voluntary control linked with applications for grants under the Farm Improvement Scheme. Cornwall leads in the number of applications in schemes for farm amalgamations under the 1967 Act. We have a very large number of smallholdings; but on this subject I would make two points. First, the administrative work for one amalgamation scheme roughly equals the time and administrative work involved in five farm improvement schemes. The second point is that the continuing farmer, when he has bought the land from the man going out, may have spent nearly his all. It may be that there is a case here for his having recourse to a cheap form of borrowing for stocking the enlarged holding.
I now turn to the subject of minerals, which has been dealt with by the noble Lord, Lord Arwyn. Here I must again declare an interest. I am a mineral owner and also the chairman of a china clay producing company. Your Lordships will all know the definition of a mine: a hole in the ground anywhere in the world with a Cornishman at the bottom of it. Cornwall is a very old mining field with a large number of rights of all sorts. A mining company operating or prospecting in Cornwall cannot expect to have the same degree of freedom as obtains in the virgin reefs of South Africa, Australia and Canada. I shall not enlarge further on that beyond saying that the present law is the very recent 1966 Act and I submit that at the 1166 moment no new legislation on this subject is necessary.
I pass to the great china clay industry —and it is a great industry. Perhaps we should call it the paper clay industry, for as well as the china in your Lordships' tea-room the glossy magazines in the Library are all coated with china clay. This industry must surely be among those that are doing their very best in the export drive. In the first nine months of the year 75.6 per cent. of our products were exported—a most magnificent record. The granite hill which, in geological parlance, forms the matrix for the clay is very near our ports in Cornwall, and I hope that no hastily thought out scheme, arising from the Government's declared intentions as to the ports, will in any way affect our industry by increasing dock charges and freight costs. It is vital to transport. this bulk cargo as cheaply as possible to compete in European and American markets. There are other sources of foreign supplies in America, Czechoslovakia and other places.
The noble Lord, Lord Arwyn, spoke about the taxation of minerals and I do not intend to go into that subject beyond saying that the depreciation allowances for the exhausting of minerals for new and long established companies are very small compared with those abroad. The 1963 Act gave small allowances which compare most unfavourably. We have not heard much to-day about the report of the Committee of the noble Lord, Lord Redcliffe-Maud, and about their Report I have mixed feelings. We are delighted to read in the Report that the highly distinctive character of the Cornish people is recognised; and Cornwall. with its history, traditions and geographical position, and a population of over 300,000, should be a strong and effective unitary authority. We are worried, I must confess, that if Provincial Councils are given executive powers we shall have little or no control over provincial action in Cornwall, for we should have only three votes out of 29 in the Provincial Council.
I will not talk about the wholesale slaughter of our local councils, but I will say that we are very worried at the possible loss of part of Cornwall to Plymouth. At the risk of being compared 1167 with that most famous American backwoodsman, Henry Thoreau, about whom it was written that he was worse than provincial, he was parochial, I must say that there seems no reason for the loss of Saltash, Tor Point and part of the rural district of St. Germans to Plymouth, on the other side of the River Tamar. I think that Governments should do their best to foster local loyalties which are good and, as in Cornwall, are rightly focused on our own famous counties. In the words of a former Lord Falkland (an ancestor of the noble Viscount who is about to address your Lordships' House) speaking in another place at another time, "When it is not necessary to change it is necessary not to change".
§ 8.24 p.m.
My Lords, most of the problems to which I wished to draw attention concerning the South-West have already been dealt with very fully by noble Lords who have spoken before me, so I can cut out two-thirds of what I intended to say. All I seem to be left with are a few grumbles—and very old ones at that. They underline much of what noble Lords have already said. I have lived in the South-West, on and off, for more than thirty years, and for a great many of them have had an interest in the tourist trade, mostly as a boarding-house keeper or as a proprietor of a guest house, to use the more refined phraseology of the day.
I have to complain, first, about the overcrowding of the roads in the summer months. The pressing need is for a motorway down the spine of Devon and Cornwall. That is very "old hat", and your Lordships know all the pros and cons as well as I do. But perhaps one more voice crying in the automobile wilderness may do some good for the future. Tourism has become one of our chief sources of income and it is getting increasingly difficult for visitors to get there and back without delays and discomfort. As time goes on, I feel that we are up against the vast inertia and bumbling of uninspired bureaucracy, and we must have some imaginative longterm plan now or, as was said by the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, we shall come to a grinding halt, in the not very distant future. At present, the only amelioration seems to be piece- 1168 meal and haphazard plans for fiddling with short stretches of road, as for instance the Honiton by-pass. These leave serious bottlenecks on either side and do little good.
I can give an example of the present frustration and delay. One day last summer I was foolish enough to try to drive from near Newton Abbot to Exeter along the new dual-carriageway, I think for some 20 miles. I was stuck for two hours before I could reach a turning to the lanes and by-ways that I know and which I should have taken. I must say, my Lords, that the newspaper men and ice cream merchants did a very good trade while we waited. I eventually arrived at my destination more dead than alive. These delays were caused by bottlenecks further North, between Exeter and the Honiton by-pass; and North of that, on the A.303 and the A.30. Much has been said and written about the A.30 and the A.38 roads and, in all fairness, priority must be given to the A.38 from Bristol to the West, since it serves a greater population: the South Devon resorts and bigger industries. This road continues into Cornwall over the Tamar Bridge and joins up with the A.30 at Bodmin. Roads in Cornwall are reasonably adequate for everyday traffic, but with the huge influx of visitors in the summer they are totally inadequate. So a first priority should be a trunk road into Cornwall, leaving intact all the side roads to the South and the North.
Another complaint I had from visitors last summer was about the "take it or leave it", "couldn't care less" attitude of many garages in Cornwall. I feel that the abolition of selective employment tax or some help, as for hotels, boardinghouses, and so on, could put this matter right. In a great many cases boardinghouses are family businesses and can give service early and very late at night. Most garages are not family concerns and cannot afford to employ staff for round-the-clock service in the same way. I myself have no complaint about garages, as I live only 35 miles from Plymouth and usually travel towards London. But visitors do not always realise that the distance from Plymouth to Penzance is 79 miles, which is a very long way to travel on crowded roads in summer, with the garages overworked and often, because of S.E.T., under-staffed. 1169 Among my friends in Devon the particular grumble is about the lack of service and the expense of the railways. lf, for instance, someone—not an important customer, by commercial standards—wishes to send flowers to London, the railways cannot say to a day or two how long it will take; and it is quicker and cheaper, and more reliable, to send them by road. When I was living in South Devon before the nationalisation of the railways, the Great Western Railway and the Southern Railway vied with each other to give good service for the conveyance of flowers to London from the point of view of both price and speed of delivery. Because of railway closures, large communities in the West have to travel long distances at unnecessary expense. My own station is a case in point. People who live in Fowey are now dependent on buses or taxis to get to St. Austell. Could not there be a "re-think" in respect of rural areas? I understand that the Western and Southern National bus companies are both applying for fare increases—and fairly substantial ones at that. And these, if granted, will cause further expense and hardship.
An air link is needed in the South-West and must be planned; but more industry is required before it can become a viable enterprise. Why not have a hovercraft service on the disused railway tracks in the meantime? That is the only original.suggestion that I have to make. Perhaps it may be worth looking at seriously. I know nothing about the likely expense—it is probably prohibitive. Another way of easing congestion on the roads would be to make more use of various ports in the West Country. Many of the huge loads carried by road could easily be water-borne and the authorities who give permission for the conveyance of these loads by road should be encouraged to look into the possibility of routing them by sea. It might be more inconvenient for a load to be sea-borne but this must be weighed against the present inconvenience caused to road users.
I see that Southampton has been selected as a container port. Plymouth has been allowed to become sadly neglected and, no doubt, could be better utilised. I also feel that, for the good of the economy, publicity should be stepped up, especially from the point of view of boarding-house keepers and the tourist 1170 trade in general. More effort to advertise the area should be made by the West Country Tourist Board. The librarian at Plymouth library has been flogging the historical interest of the area for some time now, but so far as I can this aspect has been completely ignored by the tourist agencies. Out of the large number of foreign visitors to this country each year only a very few, in proportion, visit the West. I think it important that a tour should be made of all hotels and boarding houses in Devon, Somerset and Cornwall, and a register compiled containing a full report on their advantages. The better publicity would produce a larger increase of foreign visitors and a greater turnover in cash. We have visitors from all over the United Kingdom, but it seems that these clays they are not spending the money that they did in past years.
Finally, I should like to give my three priorities which might go a long way to improving the amenities and to solving some of the more pressing problems of the South-West. First, the pollution of the rivers in Cornwall by English China Clays, Limited, and other industries should be cleared up within the next twelve months. Secondly, I urge the abolition of selective employment tax for hotels, boarding-houses and garages and, thirdly, much more use of broadcasting and television to advertise the area. In the past. the coastal scenery of North and South Cornwall has never been nationally advertised, and greater emphasis should he placed on international photographs.
§ 8.31 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (LORD KENNET)
My Lords, we have had a long and interesting debate marked by many extremely worthwhile speeches. Let me say at once that everything that has been said will be studied by me when it is my business, and by other members of the Government when it is their business. Of that I can assure the House. Having said that, I think I must remark that just about half of those who have spoken have thought it worth while to remain until the end of the debate. and the number of noble Lords who have spoken in this debate and are still present is precisely equal to the number of officials who have been in the Box 1171 throughout, advising me on the answers which I could give to the questions that have been asked. I think this may be something of a record in the annals of our House, and, that being so, I take it that what remains of the House will not wish me to detain it very much longer.
The problems of the South-West were, I think, well put by the noble Lord. Lord Foot. when he said that it is a difficult shape. Of course it is. His complaint was against God rather than against the Government, and that was a relief. It is one of the promontories. and it is difficult to maintain economic life on a promontory unless that promontory happens to be on the way to somewhere else, like Kent, which makes life easier there.
I would join with those noble Lords who have already congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Clinton, on his maiden speech. I hope he will speak many times on wider topics than this. I would take up only one point in what he said, when he asked for a three-year price fix for farmers. There is much to be said for that, but I know that my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture will have to bear in mind being able to change quickly if circumstances change. He will have to weigh the benefit of farmers' remaining where they are during the three-year period with the fact that they may suddenly wish they were somewhere else if world circumstances change. The Government ought to be lightfooted and ready to meet them in their difficulties.
I suppose that if one topic has dominated another in this debate it is the matter of roads, and I should like to say a few words about them. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, who is unfortunately no longer with us, though he apologised to me for it, asked when the links between the South-West and the rest of the world outside would be complete. He feared that they would be completed later than the road plans in the South-West. On this nobody need have any fear. The M4 from Reading to Bristol should be completed by 1972, and the M5-M6 link, which he also mentioned, should be completed by 1972. The overall road pattern is dominated by the proposal to carry the M5 as a motorway to Exeter and beyond to motorway standards, and all things being well, this road should 1172 be complete or in an advanced stage of construction as far as Plymouth by 1975. As all those interested in the South-West will know, from Plymouth westwards to Penzance there is a programme of dual carriaging, double tracking and bypassing which is to go forward at the same time.
I think the great question mark which hangs over all this is: What about roads to North Devon? That is something that has been recommended by many of those who have studied the matter and published reports, and it has also been recommended in this debate. All those recommendations are before my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport, and he is considering them at the moment. He knows well the arguments in favour of adding this to the programme.
I now turn to agriculture. It seemed to me that most of what was said about agriculture in this debate could have been said about other parts of the country. Among the difficulties raised, I was struck by the lack of special difficulties in South-Western agriculture and by the prevalence of general agricultural difficulties. So far as that is concerned. I think we might remit a general discussion of the matter to a positive debate on agriculture at a later time. As to farm credit restrictions, which I think the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, raised, I would confine my reply to the point that although you get lower interest rates on the Continent of Europe you do not get grants in the way you get them here. That is an historical difference well known to all those interested in agriculture. On the Continent they do it by special concessionary loan interest rates, and we do it by grants. It is fair to say that most noble Lords mentioned agricultural difficulties, but not one mentioned the existence of the Agricultural Mortgage Corporation, which is in operation for this purpose and does quite a lot of business in the South-West.
The noble Earl, Lord Bathurst, touched on the uncertainties about the Common Market, and I will say what I know he would expect me to say; namely, that it would be wrong for anybody at this stage to think that he can make even the wildest guess at what effect joining the E.E.C. will have on farm prices, farm products, food prices, 1173 subsidies, levies and the rest of it. However fast we go, we are not going to join for a great many months yet, and during these particular months—more than has been the case in any months during the last ten years, perhaps—the Community countries themselves are going to be locked in negotiations on their own farm price structure, and it would be a wise man indeed who could say what will come out of that. So there is no point in our worrying about that until we know where they have got to before the time comes when we can join them.
Several noble Lords touched on the large numbers of old people in the South-West. On this point there is only one thing of which I would remind the House. If old people choose when they retire to go and live in the South-West it is because the South-West is a very nice place to live in. One may, on the one hand, regard this as a problem, because it gives a different age balance in the population figures from that shown up in other parts of the country. On the other hand, one may regard it as an indication that the South-West is doing very well; that it is a nice area for old people to live in, and probably nice for people of all ages to live in—as we know it is.
It may, of course, throw an extra burden on the hospitals. This is a point, true enough. But, equally, the mere presence of people coming to live there provides a source of revenue and of prosperity: they buy food, and they go shopping, like anybody else; it increases rateable value and increases the population. In other words, my Lords, it is far from clear that the fact that a large number of retired people live there because they desire to do so should be regarded as a disadvantage to that part of the country: it might be regarded as an advantage. It is true that there is also a loss of young people, and a certain exodus; and that you get a top-heavy age structure in the population returns. But if young people go out, that means less for children's education, and that is a relief on the rates burden which may to a certain extent compensate for the additional burden of looking after the old people and their health.
I should like to say how interested I was by Lord Waldegrave's wise and really enthralling speech about this region, and 1174 how much I personally thought he had an imaginative grasp of the whole sweep of the problems, from the top right-hand corner to the bottom left-hand corner. It is of course of the essence of the nature of the South-West that it is divided between a very rich bit, growing like billy-ho, and the bit down on the promontory where God, not man, has created problems, but problems which man is doing his best, in the form of central, regional and local government, to resolve.
Lord Ilford touched upon the point of the history of the Meldon Reservoir. I fully take his point, for it is a subject of which I am very well aware and seized of at the moment. I know that it is the intention of the noble Lord, Lord Molson, to promote a general debate on how proposals for reservoirs should be advanced through the machinery from local to national level. I hope that Lord Ilford will agree with me that we might defer consideration of these difficulties until we can do so in a national context in a few months' time rather than in the regional context of the South-West. I would say only this about Lord Falmouth's intervention. I do not know who told him the right colour for tower silos, but it certainly was not the recent and, I think, admirable publication by my Ministry, the Countryside Commission and the Ministry of Agriculture together, which has some useful suggestions about what colour to make tower silos. Yellow is not on the list. They favour rather darkish greys, shading off toward, very pale greys, if the silos happen to be on the skyline. But whoever told him to make his silo yellow had no Government backing.
In the long run one must look at the record of what this Government, and Governments in the past, are doing and have done about the South-West; and one must look at the record of what the Government are doing for parts of the country which have special difficulties in general. This is only one such part among others. The difficult part, economically, of the South-West—that is, the extreme South-West, as it has been called, and North Devon—is and has been for three years now a development area. This means that in that part of the region they enjoy the full benefit of the preferential payments that are made by Government to industry in order to get 1175 it to go there and not somewhere else. Generally speaking, it is around 40 per cent. paid straight out of the Government's pocket for setting the industries up. They enjoy the preferential benefit of the negative treatment given to industry in other parts of the country by the operation of I.D.C. policy, which means you get a certificate much more easily if you are ready to go to a development area, and you do not get one if you want to go somewhere else. That is an outline of the broad policy, not the intricacies and details.
Not a single noble Lord has mentioned the fact that there is at present legislation before the House of Commons, following the Hunt Report, to make Plymouth an intermediate area. As you know, intermediate areas are something half-way between development areas and the rest of the country. They get preferential benefits, but not on such a scale as the development areas. This, I hope, will do a great deal for the future development and prosperity of the City of Plymouth itself, and the parts around it.
In the long run Government should probably rest—and I know of no better thing on which to rest—upon the record of the creation of jobs directly attributable to Government policy. Here I should like to give a few figures. I should like to quote the figures of jobs created by the issue of industrial development certificates in North Devon and Cornwall—that is, the development area in the South-West; not the region as a whole, but the really difficult development area—on a preferential basis to the development area in two contrasting periods. The first period is three years, 1960 to 1963, and the second period is three years minus one month, because that is as far as we have gone: 35 months, 1966–69.
In the first period, 1960 to 1963, the total jobs created in the development area numbered 2,760. In the second period, which was one month shorter, they were 10,260. I will be the first to admit that there is a long way to go in the scale of creating economic prosperity there. I would point out to the House that in a period the mean of which is only eight 1176 years, we have increased five-fold the rate of creation of prosperity by direct Government intervention in this development area. I believe that is a good record. I know there is a long way to go, I know that there are special problems in the South-West which even some of the other development areas do not share, but on the other side of that coin I must remind the House that the general difficulties, the general level of historically-determined depression, is very much worse in some of the Northern development areas, the Scottish and Welsh development areas, than in the South-West. I think it was the noble Earl, Lord Waldegrave, who emphasised the title of the Regional Economic Planning Council's Report. He was right to do so; it has a bright colour on the cover—he has just shown it to me—and it has a bright title upon it. The Government are with the brightness, both of the cover and the title, and will pursue the policies which are already yielding such good results down there.