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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 Henry Brooke Mr Henry Brooke , Hampstead 12:00 am, 28th November 1957

If we go back over the centuries we might have quite a number of things to say to each other. Let us now concentrate upon the present and the future, and let us be profoundly thankful that the men and women, and particularly the children, are having the opportunity to grow up in conditions that we want to see. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am grateful for the cheers from the Opposition side for the housing policy being pursued by the Government.

It was arranged that the debate should stop at nine o'clock and there are two or three more things which I want to say about the new towns. I thoroughly agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Horsham who would like to see the time come when the word "new" could be dropped, and when these towns would be normal towns. The last thing that he wished was that they should be freak towns. Everybody, regardless of party, has recognised that one of the dangers of the new towns might be that they would remain permanently one-class towns. Nobody believes that a one-class town is a wholly normal town. I am grateful to the efforts which the corporations have been making to secure a middle-class development, to get privately-built houses put up and to establish real variety throughout the town.

One hon. Member said that little progress had been made in that respect. That is not true of certain of the new towns. In Crawley, already about 800 privately-built houses have gone up, and I believe that land for another 700 such houses has been made available. Other new towns, such as Welwyn, have made some progress in that direction, and I hope that all the corporations will pay increasing attention to that need.

In the matter of industrial development the new towns generally—certainly those in the South of England—have been reasonably fortunate. Some have more industry than they require. I know that Peterlee and Basildon would like more than they have, and I hope that in time the additional industry required will go there. In particular, I believe that to achieve the variety and diversity which the new towns require we should welcome more office development there. Hitherto, there has been disappointingly little. It is true that one firm has gone to Hemel Hempstead; McAlpines, I think, have gone to Hemel Hempstead. There is a branch of the D.S.I.R. established at Stevenage, and there is another building for fuel research there under construction. The Meteorological Office is moving to Bracknell.

Everything of that kind will strengthen the social structure of the new towns. I am convinced that a number of large firms could help themselves as well as the country by decentralising some of their office work to the new towns. I trust that there would be universal approval that that is the sort of further development which the new towns at this stage require.

The hon. and learned Member for Kettering spoke about amenities in the new towns. Certainly, we are nowhere near what we should desire in this respect. The churches have done magnificently in the new towns.