Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
The hon. Member for Horsham (Mr. Gough), who is not now present in the Chamber, referred in the opening words of his speech to the fact that several hon. Members from north of the Border had been called earlier in the debate. While not wishing to enter into any argument about that, I hope that all hon. Members will recognise that, while we all have special knowledge of the areas from which we come, quite naturally, we are discussing a problem and a principle which is nation wide in its effect and application. We should consider it in that context. The criticisms I am about to utter of Government policy on new towns in Scotland applies equally to their policy in respect of Birmingham, Liverpool and other large cities.
At the conclusion of the eloquent speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) on behalf of his area, he pointed out that the Government must bear in mind the problem of industry first in respect of new towns. The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland knows that in the recent debates on the Housing and Town Development (Scotland) Act one of the points giving rise to the most heated discussion was the argument that the Act would not succeed because it did not provide for industry to go into the new towns. I want, therefore, to preface what I have to say by urging the Government, once again, to reconsider the provision of new towns to deal with the overcrowding which is now prevalent and becoming a national disgrace. I shall refer later to the particular places I have in mind.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State referred to the deficit on general revenue account—in respect of the new towns in Scotland, I presume—and he quoted a figure of £300,000. It is true that, with a wintry smile, he said that this was money well spent none the less; but as my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Mr. Hamilton) said, while speaking highly of new towns, the hon. Gentleman went on, nevertheless, to say that there were to be no more. If one reckons these things in terms of money, that deficit of £300,000, in the benefit it has brought to Scotland and its people in rehousing and in new buildings, bringing a new atmosphere into life, has been one of the best investments which the nation has made. Nobody would deny that.
The hon. Gentleman went on to say that in the new towns 7,000 houses had been provided, 5,000 in East Kilbride. Those 5,000 houses are not assisting Glasgow to the extent that they should. My information is that only 1,500 of those houses are occupied by people from Glasgow. All of us join in the tribute which my hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Airdrie (Mrs. Mann) paid to Sir Patrick Dollan and his staff for the magnificent work they are doing. Here are the idealists of years ago now having the opportunity to carry into practice many of the things in which they believe; I am sure that they must be enjoying themselves very much more, perhaps, than some of us here who are talking about it.
But if the claim is made that East Kilbride is doing something to help to disperse the population of Glasgow, I think that that is a wrong claim. While it is true that, to the extent of 1,500 families, it has done so, it is not fulfilling the true function which was intended for it. The situation at East Kilbride is proof, if any wore needed, that more new towns are vitally necessary. To talk about dispersing the population to deal with Glasgow's overspill—dispersing 2,000 here, 3,000 there, and 5,000 elsewhere—is merely to tinker with the problem.
Why cannot the Government read again the terms of the debate which took place here in 1946 and 1947? Let them try to put some greater drive, energy and idealism into planning the thing on a far bigger scale than they are attempting now.
I should be glad if the Joint Under-Secretary of State would tell me how much of the sum now being spoken of is now being devoted to Scotland.