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Orders of the Day — New Towns Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 28th November 1957.

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Photo of Mr Martin Maddan Mr Martin Maddan , Hitchin 12:00 am, 28th November 1957

I want to tell the hon. and learned Member something about the background of the occasion to which he refers. It had not been my original intention to do so, because it is not a very noble history, but I shall do so since the hon. and learned Member has referred to it.

The fact is that an increase in rent, which happened to be combined with a supplementary rate, created a difficult situation for tenants. I want to refer to the resistance and agitation. Anybody resists having to pay more for anything, but the agitation took the form of demonstrations which were far from orderly, which caused the police a great deal of trouble, which resulted in damage to property, in children in prams being pushed across the High Street in front of traffic to hold it up and stop it, and in local dignitaries, such as the vicar, making protests, as the vicar did in his sermon the following Sunday.

It is perfectly clear that the resistance apparent from that sort of thing was synthetic and had been worked up by people whose interest it was to work up agitation. As the corporation reported, and it was perfectly clear from the fact that when it came to the point people did pay up, the resistance was not nearly as strong as one might have been led to suppose.

I was saying that people do not lie awake at nights thinking about increased rents and I said that that was my view after having spoken recently to many people living in the new town. I was about to add that in one respect things are very much better now than they were five years ago. Five years ago, the provision of schools was a very pressing problem, but now, although the position is by no means perfect, it is certainly not a matter of great concern.

There are, however, still some matters which affect the Second Reading of this Bill, because it is no good voting money for a certain purpose if other purposes ancillary to that are not achieved. It means that the main purpose is undermined. In particular, I want to point out that Stevenage has no hospital and no out-patients' clinic, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will put all possible pressure on his colleague the Minister of Health to hasten that work—