HL Deb 07 December 1978 vol 397 cc278-91

Declaration of industrial improvement area. —(1) Where a report with respect to a predominantly industrial area within the area of a local authority is submitted to that local authority by a person or persons appearing to them to be suitably qualified and it appears to them, upon consideration of the report and of any other information in their possession, that conditions in the area ought to be improved by the improvement of the amenities of the area or of buildings therein or both and that such an improvement may be effected or assisted by the exercise of their powers under this Part, the local authority may cause the area to be defined on a map and by resolution declare it to be an industrial improvement area. (2) Not less than twenty-eight days before passing a resolution declaring an area to be an industrial improvement area the local authority shall—

  1. (a)publish in two or more news papers circulating in the locality a notice of their intention to pass a resolution identifying the area and naming a place or places where a copy of the proposed resolution, of the map on which the area is defined and of the report mentioned in subsection (1) above may be inspected at all reasonable times and specifying the name and address of the person to whom any inquiries and representations concerning the local authority's proposed action should be addressed;
  2. (b)take such further steps as may appear to them best designed to secure that the local authority's intention to pass a resolution is 279 brought to the attention of persons occupying or owning property therein and that those persons are informed of the name and address of the person to whom any inquiries and representations concerning any proposed action to be taken in the exercise of the local authority's powers under this Part should be addressed.
Alteration of industrial improvement area. —(1) A local authority may by resolution—
  1. (a) exclude from an industrial improvement area any land for the time being included therein; or
  2. (b) declare an area to be no longer an industrial improvement area.
(2)Where it appears to a local authority desirable in the interests of the improvement of the amenities of an area which has been declared an industrial improvement area that any land adjoining the area should be included in the improvement area, they may by resolution include the land in the improvement area and cause the improvement area to be re-defined accordingly. (3)Not less than twenty-eight days before passing a resolution in pursuance of subsection (2) above, the local authority shall publish in two or more newspapers circulating in the locality a notice of the local authority's intention to pass the resolution, identifying the land intended to be included in the area by the proposed resolution and naming a place or places where a copy of the proposed resolution, and of the map on which the improvement area is re-defined, may be inspected at all reasonable times and specifying the name and address of the person to whom any inquiries and representations concerning the local authority's proposed action should be addressed. Duty in relation to industrial improvement area. Where a local authority have declared an area to be an industrial improvement area it shall be their duty to bring to the attention of persons occupying or owning the property in the area the action they propose to take in the exercise of their powers under this Part and the assistance available for the improvement of the amenities of the area or of the buildings therein by publishing from time to time, in such manner as appears to them appropriate, such information as is in their opinion best designed to further the objects of this Part. Power to carry out mprovements. .(1) Where a local authority have declared an area to be an industrial improvement area they may, for the purpose of effecting or assisting any such improvement as is mentioned in section (Declaration of industrial improvement area) of this Act, with the consent of all persons having an interest in any land or building within the area, carry out or cause to be carried out works thereon or therein or assist (whether by grants or loans or otherwise) any owner or occupier of land situated within the area in the carrying out of such works. (2)Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, for the purposes of this section, "works" shall include the following:—
  1. (a) the construction of fencing or walls;
  2. (b) the exterior repair or painting of buildings;
  3. (c)landscaping and the planting of trees, shrubs and plants;
  4. (d)the demolition of structures or buildings;
  5. (e)the construction of parking spaces, access roads, turning heads and loading bays; and
  6. (f) the conversion, improvement and modification of factory premises.
(3)Nothing in this section shall authorise a local authority to carry out works for the provision, extension or improvement of services which it is the function of statutory undertakers to provide, extend or improve. Duration of Part. .This Part shall cease to have effect at the end of 1984.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg leave to move certain very closely linked and interdependent Amendments to this Bill. If your Lordships should find me more than usually dull-witted in my presentation, I hope that out of your Lordships' charity I shall be excused part of it on the grounds that I flew back from Rhodesia today from a visit consequent upon a debate in your Lordships' House a few weeks ago, and I now turn my attention protectively northward to my own home county of West Yorkshire. Certain metropolitan districts in that county of West Yorkshire have found themselves inequitably treated under the provisions of the Inner Urban Areas Act 1978 in comparison with other metropolitan districts in Yorkshire and, I suppose, in other parts of the country. The purpose of these Amendments is to correct that inequality, which was in fact recognised sympathetically by the Select Committee of your Lordships' House sitting on this Bill.

Under provisions contained in Section 262 of the Local Government Act 1972, an obligation was placed on local authorities to review local legislation within their areas. This presents a convenient opportunity to obtain powers which at this time are not the subject of public general legislation. At the present time the local authorities within West Yorkshire are promoting this Bill, which has already been considered in detail by a Select Committee of your Lordships' House, as has been explained by my noble friend. It is one particular aspect of this Bill that I now wish to raise, concerning industrial improvement areas. In speaking today I seek to redress a position which has occurred under the provisions of the Inner Urban Areas Act 1978. .

However, before: I make particular reference to the matter of industrial improvement areas, I feel it is appropriate to say a few words to your Lordships concerning the Bill itself. The local authorities in West Yorkshire have been considering the form and content of their Bill for almost four years. During that period it was subject to much pruning by the local authorities themselves, so as to consist only of provisions which it was considered could be fully justified. It was the smallest of the three Bills relating to metropolitan counties considered by the Select Committee. The Bill at the present time has some 100 clauses, and, of these, the various industry clauses are regarded as being of the highest priority. Your Lordships' Select Committee allowed those clauses giving local authorities in the county power to assist industry in various ways, including the making of grants and loans to firms, but inserted a requirement that these clauses are to cease to have effect at the end of 1984. That will require the need for the powers to be reviewed at a time when similar powers granted to other authorities cease to have effect. The Select Committee did not, however, allow the clauses permitting local authorities to declare industrial improvement areas.

The Select Committee, consisting of my noble friends Lord Aberdare and Lord Cathcart and the noble Lord, Lord Jacques—three men as thoughtful and considerate as any in your Lordships' House—decided to remove from the Bill the provisions concerning industrial improvement areas, and it may be of assistance to your Lordships if I am permitted to read verbatim from the report giving their reasons for that decision: The Committee are very sympathetic to the objectives of this part of the Bill, but they reiterate what was said in relation to the industrial assistance clauses in the proceedings on the Common Clauses, namely, that matters of this kind should be enacted by public general legislation. Given that the matters covered by Part II of the Bill are dealt with, albeit more selectively, by the Inner Urban Areas Bill, which has now passed all its stages in another place, and has passed its Second Reading, Committee and Report stages in this House, the Committee do not feel able to allow these clauses". That was the action and the opinion of the Select Committee expressed in sympathy for what we are trying to do, and were trying to do then.

Under the provisions of the Inner Urban Areas Act 1978, two of the metropolitan districts within West Yorkshire —that is, Leeds and Bradford—have been given various powers, but the remaining three (namely, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield) have received none. Your Lordships will recall that I referred a moment ago to the fact that the Bill has been under consideration for almost four years. I feel it is appropriate to point out to your Lordships that from an early date the industrial provisions were included in the Bill, and as such were under consideration a considerable time before the Government introduced their Inner Urban Areas Bill in December 1977. What has happened, as your Lordships will now see, is that two pieces of legislation dealing with this particular subject were passing through Parliament almost simultaneously, and, unfortunately for the metropolitan districts of Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield, the three noble Lords, noting an apparent duplication of powers, disallowed the clauses comprising Part II of the Bill.

As I have indicated to your Lordships, Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield have not been granted powers under the Inner Urban Areas Act 1978. It is, therefore, proposed to seek the reinstatement of Part II of the Bill as deposited in order to correct an inequality introduced by the Inner Urban Areas Act 1978. However, the Amendment now proposed contains a substantial qualification which, had it been submitted to the Committee, would, I feel sure, have commended to them this Part of the Bill; that is, the inclusion of a clause that this Part of the Bill, like the other industrial provisions, will cease to have effect at the end of 1984 so that the need for them will then have to be reviewed. This, as your Lordships will observe, is to accord with Clause 8 of the Bill, as amended in Committee.

I would ask your Lordships to accept that the clauses contained in Part II of the Bill as deposited would not in any way conflict with the relevant provisions in the Inner Urban Areas Act 1978. The 1978 Act is concerned with the regeneration of major inner city areas while the industry clauses, and particularly the industrial improvement area clauses, in the Bill are concerned with small-scale encouragement to industry within West Yorkshire. The powers sought under Part II of the Bill were to enable local authorities either to facilitate, by way of grants or loans, works on land or to put in hand such works themselves in co-operation will local industry. I would mention, by way of example, such works as the construction of fencing or walls, exterior repair or painting of buildings, landscaping and the planting of trees, shrubs and plants, construction of car-parking spaces, access roads and loading bays, and the demolition, conversion improvement of structures and buildings.

It may be of assistance to your Lordships if I describe some of the problems prevalent within the metropolitan districts of Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield in order that the position can be seen in its proper context. The basic problems in all three metropolitan districts are those of poor access and loading arrangements, old and obsolete buildings and underused and degraded land giving rise to a general air of environmental decay; and the object of the clauses in Part II of the Bill when deposited was to enable the authorities to overcome these problems on a local basis.

The problem of old and obsolete buildings is particularly prevalent in Calderdale and Kirklees. In Calderdale, for example, 80 per cent. of industrial buildings and 90 per cent. of existing floor-space had been constructed prior to 1914. The Preliminary European Regional Development Programme, published by the Government in 1977, states that in the textile areas of West Yorkshire, largely outside the major centres: … obsolete stone-built, multi-storey factory buildings are ill-suited to modern production-line methods, but their removal is expensive and their sites are often too small for modern development, while the fact that the industries are situated in the narrow Pennine valleys precludes development on alternative flat sites. In these areas, net outward migration, often of young people, remains a serious problem, although unemployment percentage levels remain deceptively low. However, between 1965 and 1975, nearly 60,000 jobs in the West Yorkshire wool textile industry were lost". That is the end of the quotation.

The problem of outward migration is a crucial one and one of great concern for the West Yorkshire local authorities, who see the promotion of the West Yorkshire Bill industrial powers as a potential weapon in reversing this damaging trend.

Although a great deal of both public and private investment has taken place in housing and industry over the last decade, the areas of poor environment have been consistently shunned by private investors and, obviously, the availability of the powers contained in Part II of the Bill as deposited provides an incentive to improve the environmental position, and thereby attract private investment. The regional strategy of the Yorkshire and Humberside Economic Planning Council emphasised this point and made particular reference to the Castleford area, which is one of the typical mining communities situated within the Wakefield district, and, as it happens, within a mile or two of my own home.

My Lords, my own observation bears witness to the statistics I have been given: that there are 651 hectares of derelict land from all causes in Wakefield District, representing 2 per cent. of the total area of that district. Only two local authorities designated under the Inner Urban Areas Act 1978 have a larger proportion of their area which is derelict in relation to their total population.

While the metropolitan districts of Calderdale, Kirklees and Wakefield do not present the continuous areas of industrial and environmental decay which characterise the so-called Inner Urban Areas of cities like Bradford and Leeds, which are the two local authorities within West Yorkshire designated under the Inner Urban Areas Act 1978, similar economic and social pressures are manifest in the smaller towns and more scattered communities and give rise to obsolete industrial buildings and layouts and to derelict and degraded land. In some communities this decay dominates the total environment.

I would point out that in the metropolitan district of Wakefield, in which I live myself, much of the decay can be attributed to the activities of the coal mining industry over the past 100 years. The district is characterised by large scale tips, both active and disused, by pit-head machinery and coking plants, and by continuing opencast workings. At least 12 of the collieries within the district contain tips approaching 100 ft. in height, with one reaching nearly 200 ft. in height. Some 21 collieries are active in the district, together with three opencast sites, the latter constituting half the total for West and South Yorkshire.

The dominance of the mining industry in the local economy and the fact that the mining industry has lost 10,000 jobs in 15 years contributes significantly to the unemployment figures of 6.7 per cent. for the Castleford area and 11.3 per cent. for the Hemsworth area—both typical mining communities—taken in November this year. The latter is the second highest level of unemployment in the whole of Yorkshire and Humberside region. More significant appears to be the longer-term trend: over the 12 months to January, 1978, the rate of increase in the number of unemployed in the metropolitan district of Wakefield as a whole was more than double the national average.

The powers now sought do not confer or encourage the right to embark upon grandiose or extravagant projects. They are confined to the modest necessities of carrying out such works as I have already mentioned. There exists a perfectly respectable and cogent precedent in the Tyne and Wear Act 1976; so that we are not asking for anything new or exclusively favourable to West Yorkshire. The granting of the powers contained in Part II of this Bill as deposited cannot, in my humble submission, in any way detrimentally affect the powers contained in the Inner Urban Areas Act 1978. I therefore move the Amendment standing in my name the effect of which, if agreed, is the reinstatement of the original Part II of the West Yorkshire Bill subject to the limitation which I have indicated. If it is considered that more than one Amendment is comprised, dealing as it does with five clauses, then I beg to move that these may be considered en bloc.

3.48 p.m.


My Lords, I think I have a reasonable claim on the attention of the House for a few minutes on this Bill because in another place I represented for 25 years the Sowerby Division of Yorkshire, the whole of which is within the district of Calder-dale, one of the authorities which is hoping that this House will support the Amendment. I wish to carry my argument to the report of the Select Committee, and, if it is not a disrespectful thing to do, cross swords with them.

They give two reasons in their report for disallowing that part of the Bill which this Amendment seeks now to reinstate. The first reason—and it has been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Saint Oswald— was that matters of this kind should be enacted by public general legislation. If this part of the West Yorkshire Bill was seeking to extend the powers of a local authority far beyond the generality of powers given to local authorities, if this was breaking significantly new ground in the granting of powers to local authorities, the Select Committee would be justified in saying that this is so i mportant, so novel, and may create such a precedent that it is desirable for anything of this kind to be subject to general legislation. But that is not the position in this case.

If you are able to study the second page of the Amendment which the noble Lord, Lord Saint Oswald, has just moved, it will be found that it seeks to grant to the county authority power to use its own resources—not to come for any grant from central funds—in applying to areas not covered by the Inner Urban Areas Act which, were they within that Act, would qualify for the provisions within it. To try to make myself a little clearer, it is intended in the Amendment to be able to use the resources of the county authority to do to land and buildings and derelict areas outside a designated area what the Inner Urban Areas Act allows to be done inside a designated area. The reason for this in this particular district is that the designated areas of Leeds and Bradford do not cover anything like the areas that the West Yorkshire county has to face of the ruins of the Industrial Revolution. They are really depressing to see.

That area requires enormous cleaning up. The debris of collapsed industries, of mills that have been left deserted, is spread over a very wide area. Townships which I know so well, such as Hebden Bridge, Sowerby Bridge, Todmorden and Ripponden, which are subject to this dereliction, are not to be covered, so it seems, under the provisions of the Inner Urban Areas Act because they will not fall within the designated area or within the catchment area provided for in the Act.

I suggest that this power is really an extension outside the central inner areas which are provided for in the 1978 Act to outlying areas outwith the designated areas, because they too are in a worse condition than the inner areas themselves and action should be taken to clear and clean them up using the resources of the county itself. That is the proposition. It is scarcely justified to say that a matter of this kind should be covered by general legislation. It is marginal; there is no new principle, it is only a matter of extension of area.

The second reason mentioned in the Select Committee's report has a bearing upon the first because they concede in the Select Committee's report that the Inner Urban Areas Act is more selective. They concede that it does not cover everything that the West Yorkshire county would wish to have. On the grounds already stated they think this Part of the Bill should be disallowed. My submission to your Lordships is that this is a matter of great importance to the elected representatives of the areas concerned. I humbly suggest that by far the best thing we can do is to agree to this Amendment and let another place go into this with, if I may say so, a closer association of the facts and circumstances of this matter than is possible for us in this House to have.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask whether it is right that this Amendment was actually embodied in the Tyne and Wear Bill, very rightly? When it was put into the Tyne and Wear Bill was there any argument about it or was it just accepted, as the noble Lord so rightly wants this accepted?


My Lords, I am afraid that I do not know.

3.55 p.m.

Baroness VICKERS

My Lords, may I take the opportunity of supporting the noble Lord's proposition. I support this not because I come from Yorkshire but because when I came to the House in May 1975 my first speech was moving something similar on behalf of Plymouth City Council. I have listened to the noble Lord's speech very carefully and I suggest that the noble Lord, Lord Aberdare, may have second thoughts. As I understand it, it is true that the powers overlap the 1978 Act; but to enjoy those powers a local authority has to pass through two doors, the doorkeeper in each case being the Secretary of State. The first door is to be made a designated district. That is done by order of the Secretary of State. He has designated 43 districts in England of which only two are in West Yorkshire. The second door is to declare by resolution a particular area to be an improvement area. The resolution has to be sent to the Secretary of State and he can notify the local authority that all or part of the area is not to be an improved area.

This gives a very considerable control over the local authorities' powers whereas the Bill does not contain that control. It is the local authorities which are most aware of the needs and consider that they should have the powers and the discretion to exercise them. Having been a member of a local authority for many years, I stress this. In the speech of the noble Lord he suggests that the Committee anticipated that the districts of Wakefield, Kirkless and Calderdale would be designated under the 1978 Act, which was then a Bill. I understand that means the Committee did not come to the conclusion on the wrong facts. I gather it seems likely that it will be said that they did. The House is however being asked to look at the Committee's decision in the light of two further features. First, the designation order has been made, even though it contains basically what was expected. It was made on 5th September.

Secondly—and this is important—the Amendment is limited to end at the end of 1984. That was not a proposal considered by the Committee. That is as I understand it, but perhaps the noble Lord will correct me. This means that the House is being asked to allow an experiment for only five years. It would be very advantageous for other areas to consider a similar problem. If it shows that the powers of the Act are being eroded, then in five years' time it will then cease. If, as is thought likely, it proves a very modest way to be successful—and the way the noble Lord has put it today it should be successful— and indeed to supplement the powers of the 1978 Act, further legislation could be promoted to continue the powers.

Therefore, I would have thought that what the noble Lord has put forward is advantageous to the area concerned. Five years in the history of Parliament is not very long and if it is not advantageous this can be corrected. It can be used for guidance to local authorities and to Parliament for the future.

4 p.m.


My Lords, it is not with any pleasure that I rise to speak against any local government. I spent 25 years in local government in which I attempted to halt the decline of their powers in regard to the infrastructure they were responsible for. So it is with some sadness that I find myself up to now being the only speaker against the Amendment. I rather suspect that if in fact the districts mentioned by the noble Lord had been included in the Inner Urban Areas Act perhaps we should not have seen this Amendment and perhaps we should not have seen the clause. The noble Lord, kindly enough, agrees with me.

On the other hand, if it was true, as my noble friend said, that this is only marginal, then of course no one in this House or in the other place would have opposed this Amendment. Is it marginal? Is it of no moment to the economy of this country?—because we are really not talking about the powers of West Yorkshire just to give assistance to industry. We are talking about the powers of local government, because one could not resist the spread of these powers to other local authorities. Every argument that is used in favour of West Yorkshire can also be used in the Greater London Area. Let me say with more force that it could be used by many local authorities in the North-West of England who themselves have been disadvantaged by not being designated under the Inner Urban Areas Act. If that were to happen, then it would not be marginal because it would mean that these two Houses of Parliament would be faced with a demand from the whole of the local government structure to have these powers.

My noble friend said that there is nothing wrong with the transfer of resources to private industry provided the local authority gives the money itself. Is that the real way we look at the transfer of resources? Does it mean that because a local authority raise a rate it has the right to say; "These are our resources and we will determine where they go"? Of course not. If you accept that argument it means you are equating resources with cash, and the real purpose of the Inner Urban Areas Act was not just to give assistance to certain people and certain areas; it was to pick up the major problem of the decline in our productivity and in our system of industry at the places where it is most needed. If it had been possible for any sensible Government to have given this assistance over the length and breadth of the land, of course it would have done so. But it was not possible, and a sensible Government had to be selective as to where they would place their resources.

In this case the resources were raised by the taxpayers but there is still a transfer of resources; and if West Yorkshire pursue their Amendment, and if they are successful here today and successful in another place, they will be followed by other local authorities. The case cannot be resisted and I believe that would mean there would be no selectivity by central Government to apply resources where they are needed most in our industrial organisation. If that situation arose then sooner or later central Government would have to put a limit on the amount of money that would be spent by local authorities.

I sympathise very much with Wakefield and Kirklees. I know the area and I believe they should have been designated under the Inner Urban Area Act. That surely is the way that the West Yorkshire authority should proceed in this matter. It should not begin to establish principles that could be picked up by any district council in the London area. I believe that the transfer of resources—that is what we are talking about—is not just on a local government basis, because local government is notoriously unsuitable to determine priorities in the industrial field. The only body that can really determine those priorities is central Government.

I believe that at this very moment central Government have made many mistakes in the designation of areas. They are making a greater mistake still when, in spite of the drift to the South-East of the resources of this country which leaves the rest of the country almost poverty-striken in some cases, they are still ploughing more money into the capital and the South-East of this country, where people have not yet begun to feel the real brunt of the economic problems of this nation.

What is required in the northern part of this country is that we should look at the question of the transfer of resources in terms of real priority measured against the national demand. If we really get priority there, it is not about the amount of money spent by local authorities in improving industrial areas. The priority is that once and for all this nation should set itself to the task of making sure that all the untapped potential for productivity and all the rest of it in the North of England, as opposed to the South-East of England, where congestion prevents it, should be tapped and it should be used for the benefit of this country as a whole.

I believe that West Yorkshire are wrong and that they should join with fellow authorities North of the Midlands and then ensure that central Government determine priorities for industrial investment and that when they do the voice of the North should be heard with such force that there should be a transfer of resources from the South and the South-East to the North of the land.