I beg to move,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) (New Town of Cumbernauld) (Special Development) Order, 1960 (S.I., 1960, No. 1305), dated 27rth July 1960, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27th July, in the last Session of Parliament, be annulled.
Many of us who have visited the new town of Cumbernauld, and I have visited it regularly over the last three or four years, are impressed by the excellent work which has been done by the Development Corporation. In many respects the architectural design and layout strike us as being of an excellent character, but, naturally, in such a development as this in a new town there are critics of the layout of some of the houses and of some of the designs. That is to be expected. It is no doubt because of those criticisms that the Secretary of State for Scotland felt impelled to introduce this Order.
We feel, and I am sure that this is felt also by many local authorities in Scotland, that the taking away from the local authority of the function of approving or of being consulted about, the lay-out of this new town is a blow at the functions of elected bodies. After all, although the Development Corporation is, as it were, an agent of the Secretary of State for Scotland, or an agent of the Government, in creating this new town, the town has, nevertheless, been developed within the planning area of the Dumbarton County Council.
From the point of view of our town and country planning legislation, any development in that county is subject to approval by the planning authority, which is the county council. If a private developer wished to develop some properties within the County of Dumbarton, he would have to seek the approval of the county council. If the county council did not approve the plans, or the layout of the properties to be developed, the private developer would have recourse to an appeal to the Secretary of State for Scotland. If the appeal were accepted, there would be a public inquiry. People independent of the local authority and independent of the State Department in Edinburgh would be called before the inquiry. There would be a reasonably impartial inquiry into the objections by the planning authority and the reasons put forward by the private developer as to why he should proceed with the plans he had laid down.
As I am sure happens in most cases, such a public inquiry would satisfy the general public that democracy was at work and that no one was being steamrollered over rough-shod by the central Parliament, that is, by the Government, whether it were in Whitehall or in St. Andrew's House.
Although many people appreciate the splendid work being done in the new town, they nevertheless feel that the county council and the district council have today, and increasingly in the future, to provide and manage many services in the new town, and that it is therefore wrong to withdraw any powers from such authorities. They feel that these authorities should be consulted before decisions are reached about the architectural layout or development of a new town.
I know that when the development corporation sets out plans for the development of various housing schemes or for commercial buildings within a new town it has to get the approval of the Secretary of State for Scotland, and having got his approval, it has to submit its plans to the planning authority. But if the planning authority, which is the Dumbarton County Council, turns down some aspect of the planning, the Development Corporation then appeals to the Secretary of State for Scotland, and it seems to me that the Secretary of State for Scotland is obliged to support the Development Corporation because he has previously approved the plans submitted to him.
I have always thought that that is an extraordinary situation. I think that the same thing should apply to the Development Corporation as applies to a private developer. There should be a local public inquiry into why there is controversy over some aspect of the planning.
During my visit to Cumbernauld I received many complaints from residents. I received hundreds of them and I took them up with the management in Cumbernauld. The complaints were invariably dealt with in a reasonably short time. However, I do not remember receiving a single complaint from the residents in the new town about the houses. Most of the people whom I met liked the houses which the Development Corporation was building. Obviously people living in one style of house in one part of the town may not like some other style of house in some other part, but one will always get that. Different people have different ideas of the sort of house in which they want to live, but I can honestly say that I did not receive a serious complaint by the residents in the new town about the houses being built for them.
The complaints were mostly about the provision of shopping facilities and general amenities. Those facilities are not easy to provide at the beginning of the development of a new town. They come in as the town grows, and as the town grows the amenities improve.
There are, however, some aspects of the development of the new town which must concern the Dumbarton County Council. There is the siting of schools and the lay-out of them. The provision of playing fields and various social amenities must also be considered. Are we to understand that in future, because of the operation of this Order, the Development Corporation will be able to site playing fields or social amenities or a health centre where it likes, and ignore the views of the county council about where they should be sited?
I have here a copy of a letter dated 2nd September, 1960, addressed by the Department to the County Clerk of Dunbartonshire. It includes a paragraph couched in certain terms. Many people who have to deal with Departments of State and Ministers are getting tired of this sort of expression. I sometimes wonder whether it is not likely to become a sort of rubber stamp. The letter states:
I would like to stress, on this, the first occasion on which we have had consultations under the new procedure, that we do value the experience and knowledge which the County Council and its officers can bring to bear on these questions and that, because these three developments have been approved—
That is, the three housing developments at Muirhead:
it does not follow that the County Council's comments will never find favour.
The county council's comments have not found favour so far, and I have a faint suspicion that, notwithstanding this excellent language, this beautiful phrasing—it is all very courteous—once the Secretary of State has approved the proposals of the Development Corporation and the county council raises some objection, that phrase will crop up every time. The man in St. Andrew's House will know best.
Many hon. Members from time to time have tried to get planning permission for all sorts of people who want to develop, but more often than not we fail hopelessly. In this case, when a State corporation—and the Development Corporation is an instrument of the State—comes up against some difficulty with the local planning authority, the county council, the officers of the State use a heavy steamroller to eliminate it.
This goes very deep, indeed. We all complain—and in a democracy we should complain—when the general body of citizens are apathetic at elections. Here we have a town and country planning committee in Dunbartonshire appointed from the elected representatives. That planning authority performs its function—and I am not concerned whether it is misguided or correctly guided. In performing its function it runs up against a big corporation set up by the State. That causes the corporation some inconvenience—I do not doubt that. The corporation having been caused that inconvenience, the Secretary of State looks through the legislation and finds that he has power to stop hese elected people exercising their democratic rights.
That is very dangerous. Democracy is very important in these times. We in this country boast that we stand and fight for freedom, and for an attitude of freedom to individuals, or groups of individuals who organise together to pursue a legitimate purpose. Surely, it is legitimate for this county council to make its views known, and to insist that its voice is heard on what is happening in a development area such as the Cumbernauld New Town.
Houses in that area are being built 40 ft. apart. It is a new style of development. They are separated from each other by huge wooden fences. When I first saw them I wondered whether I had, by mistake, got into the married quarters of the Highland Light Infantry. That is what they looked like to me. They are very good houses. Many Army officers would like married quarters like that, but a great number of citizens would not like to live in them for the next fifty years of their lives.
They are not attractive, although there is no difficulty in letting them because they are attractive to many people. For instance, I can quite understand that many people from certain parts of Glasgow would be delighted with them, and I do not doubt that those who have moved into these houses are delighted.
The houses are developed in such a way that there is no provision for vehicular traffic of any kind. They are serviced by walks and by very narrow pavements. The idea is that in the ultimate development of the new town the vehicular servicing will be done by means of a large arterial road system. The lay-out is wonderful, as many hon. Members who have seen the model will agree. The cost will be anything from £3 million to £4 million. The efficiency and the ultimate advantage of this form of development now going on is absolutely dependent on that large arterial system and central development being carried out at some time in the future.
It might turn out, however, that at some time in the future a Chancellor of the Exchequer may say to the then Secretary of State for Scotland, "I understand that you intend to spend £3 million or £4 million on some magnificent development in the centre of Cumbernauld. It is too expensive. The country is in a bad way." That might happen just after an election—it certainly would not happen before.
The voters in the new town, who regularly see this beautiful model—it is a beautiful model, and a wonderful concept—may be tempted to cast their votes in the wrong direction, in the expectation that the work will be done, but experience has shown us, as democrats, that Governments very often change their mind once they are in office. If that concept were to break down, if that development were curbed or seriously cut, this type of housing lay-out in the new town would not be satisfactory. The one is absolutely dependent on the other.
It was, perhaps, from that angle that the local planning authority was so concerned. I do not know—I only surmise. It may be that the planning authority was afraid that at some time in the future, knowing what a raw deal Scotland so often gets from the central Government, this proposed development might be curbed, and a difficulty would arise with this high density building—and I know that the architects have a big problem there because of difficult contours.
We feel that the Secretary of State should withdraw this Order, and that an effort should be made by the Development Corporation and the county council as the planning authority to reach agreement on the form and style of planning and development, particularly in the provision of social amenities for future residents. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will take back this Order, and reconsider the proposals he is making.
I find myself, or perhaps more accurately, I found myself, when I first read the case which has been presented to hon. Members by the Dunbarton County Council, very much in sympathy with the proposal which has been made by the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence).
It seemed to me—I will be quite frank with the House because I have undergone a change of mind—to be somewhat cavalier treatment of the local planning authority, the Dunbarton County Council, which has approved the outlined development plan of the Cumbernauld Development Corporation and has shown itself perfectly willing to give planning approval for about nine-tenths of the planning applications which were made to it for neighbourhood units in the new town area, that, having raised objections on the ground of the space between houses being unacceptable by the best modern standards, or on grounds of amenity, and so on, and having referred back a few cases where it disliked the proposals that had been made, it should be, as it were, elbowed aside and told, "We quite understand that you, as the planning authority, object to some of the proposals that are made in respect of this new experiment in high density planning. We are, therefore, going to absolve you from your responsibility as a local planning authority, and we shall put the whole responsibility of the planning of the new town on the plate of the Development Corporation. While we would always be glad to consider any representations that you may make to us and to consider your views, we will absolve you of responsibility for any part of the planning within the new town area."
That seemed to me to be somewhat cavalier treatment, particularly since it has been done in the case of Cumbernauld but has not been done in the case of East Kilbride and Glenrothes, the other two Scottish new towns. It seems to me reasonable that the elected representatives of the people in that county should feel themselves slighted by treatment of that kind.
I have followed the case put by the hon. Member and I think that he put it very clearly, if he will allow me to say so. He posed the dilemma with which we are all faced. It is that the New Town Corporation is a creature of the Secretary of State. The plan, as the hon. Member has reminded the House, has been drawn up in close consultation with officers of the Department. This new conception of landscape, of having pedestrian precincts with few access roads, while making full use of the contours so that although houses are very close together they do not directly overlook each other—at least, the main windows do not—has been carried through at every stage with the officers of the Department.
So it would be natural if the county council, as the planning authority, objected to any single aspect of what is proposed that there should be a feeling that it is no good having a public local inquiry, no good the Secretary of State appointing a commission to go to Cumbernauld to hear both parties to the dispute because, in the end, the decision has to be made by the Secretary of State, who has approved the plan and, therefore, he is bound to do obviously what he will do, which is to support the authority when it comes to a public inquiry. That is the dilemma.
I think that the Secretary of State has, for many purposes, to be two people. In his capacity as head of the Department and in approving the development plans and associating with his officers very closely in every stage of the planning he is occupying one of his capacities. Then, if the local planning authority were to object to perhaps a minor detail in that plan and could not resolve it by meeting the Development Corporation officials, as so often happens in practice, and it comes to a public inquiry, I think that when the report of the commissioner comes on his table at St. Andrew's House he assumes a judicial capacity and has to judge fairly between two points of view.
I have been as fair as I can in pointing a very difficult dilemma which I think the House and my right hon. Friend are facing. I say now, as I said at the outset, that at first I allowed my sympathy to be with the Dunbarton County Council which believes that what is being done is wrong. Then I inquired in some detail into the practice in England and Wales—and although I do not think that we in Scotland should always slavishly follow what is done in England and Wales—I found that the procedure which will be brought about in the case of Cumbernauld, if this Order is carried into effect, is, in fact, the procedure which has been followed for many years in the case of many new towns in England and Wales and which is, in practice, working very smoothly indeed.
It appears that whereas, at the outset, there was friction in some cases between county councils as the planning authorities and the development corporations, the threat of delay because of that conflict of opinion having been removed by the introduction of the same kind of Order as the House is considering tonight has led to a better feeling between the planning committees of the county councils and the planning officers of the development corporations, who have not, in any case, I think, had serious difficulties in getting together and resolving differences of opinion around the table. I hope very much that that may happen in the case of Cumbernauld.
I believe that it could happen once this initial question is settled of who should ultimately be responsible for planning. I believe that it would be best for Dunbartonshire and for the new town of Cumbernauld—which, after all, is an exciting and interesting experiment—if these parties could get together, as sensible men can, to try to resolve their difficulties.
I do not think that there is any doubt that a number of people—I confess that I am one—do not like the idea of dense development. I think that there is a compromise which is possible and I do not think that development need be so dense that houses are within 30 feet of each other as, I understand, is likely in some cases to happen at Cumbernauld. I can quite understand the county council's planning authority not liking to see this departure from recognised and approved planning principles. If it made a case as strongly as it liked to the officials of the Development Corporation I feel sure that accommodation would be reached, as it is always reached between sensible men and women in such cases.
I am at a loss to understand why this is being done in the case of Cumbernauld, but not in the case of Glenrothes, which, I understand, has asked for it and made representations to the Secretary of State. I do not know why it should not be done for East Kilbride. If this is the right procedure for Cumbernauld which, with some reluctance, I am prepared to believe is the case, why is it not the right procedure for Glenrothes or East Kilbride?
We welcome the speech of the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley). I think it an indication of the concern about this matter that the hon. Gentleman is prepared to support us. I feel that this is a different matter from other new towns either in Scotland or south of the Border. During the course of my speech I will deal with some of the points made by the hon. Gentleman, but I should like to begin by drawing attention to the fact that we always criticise the Explanatory Note in such Statutory Instruments as this. The Explanatory Note in this case does not make clear what is the purpose of the Order. It is misleading because it gives the impression that the Order gives planning permission for the development of land in accordance with proposals approved by the Secretary of State when in fact the real purpose is to dispense with the need for the Cumbernauld Development Corporation to seek the permission of the Dunbarton County Council for its plans and development proposals.
All that it does is to take away from the committee of the Dunbarton County Council the powers which it already possessed. It is not for us to make long speeches tonight in support of this Prayer. It is for the Minister to justify the Order. The hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns referred to what has happened South of the Border. In 1950 the then Government decided to bring in such an Order for the English new towns, but they wrote to the County Councils' Association in England and Wales asking for its views. The association opposed such an Order which it thought was totally unnecessary. Despite that the Order was laid.
The Secretary of State for Scotland at that time did not take the same view. He did not lay a similar Order. All Secretaries of State, particularly those in a Tory Government, tell us that they believe in trusting the local authorities and that the local authorities should have the necessary powers. But that is what happened, and the first question we have to ask is why has this Order now been laid?
I wish also to ask the Minister whether he inquired from the County Councils' Association of Scotland about its attitude. Did he seek the advice of the association and did the members express their views to the Minister? Or are we to be told that such an item as this, which takes away planning powers from the local authority, will go through this House without any inquiry being made from the association which represents the local authorities in Scotland? We must have an answer to that question.
We must be told why this Order is limited to one new town. Why has Cumbernauld been singled out for this distinction. Whether we like it or not, there is an implied criticism of Dunbarton County Council because the Secretary of State for Scotland is not introducing a principle. If he were, it would apply to all three new towns in Scotland. If something has gone wrong; if the county council has failed in its obligations; if it has not discharged its responsibility, the Minister must tell us and explain why this Order is laid.
The county council never raised any objections to the new town of Cumbernauld. Can the Minister tell us where there was a lack of co-operation? The county council was conscious from the beginning that this meant that new obligations would be placed upon it. Even before members of the Corporation were appointed the county council wrote to the Secretary of State suggesting that all applications for planning within this area should be sent by the county council to the Secretary of State to get his observations, so that it would not give permission for some plan which might affect the new town. To this the Secretary of State agreed and surely that is an indication that the county council was co-operative.
I have examined all the correspondence in connection with this matter and tried to find out why the Government have laid this Order. The only evidence I can see is contained in a letter from the Secretary of State to the county council, referring to a meeting which took place on 14th June, which said:
I refer to the Minister of State's meeting with representatives of the county council on 14th June, when he intimated that, as it was unreasonable for the council to be asked to approve, as local planning authority, proposals by the Development Corporation with which they were not in sympathy, an Order would be made under Section 3 (2) of the New Towns Act, 1946.
So, because it was clear that Dunbarton County Council was not prepared to approve certain schemes, the authority it had has been taken away from it.
I agree with the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns that if one wants unity one can get it by having a dictatorship. This is what is happening, when Dunbarton County Council has its powers taken away. It is evident from all the correspondence I have had and from my inquiries that there is a clear difference of view between the county council and the corporation. Therefore, it would seem right and proper for the Secretary of State for Scotland to use the machinery under the 1947 Act, to allow both sides to put their case and for the commissioner to listen and to give an unbiased view to the Secretary of State. This opportunity ought to have been taken in the first instance, despite the difficulties and problems. I agree with the hon. Member that this could have been done. Then the Secretary of State could have had advice in that way.
We should bear in mind that it is the general practice of all authorities in Scotland—Dunbarton County Council is no exception—that, if planning application is turned down and the matter goes to the Secretary of State on appeal, and he accepts the case and allows the appeal, that is taken as a precedent. They do not go on turning down applications of this kind. There is no reason why that practice should not have been followed in this case.
Did the Secretary of State believe that this would involve delay? It has been said that a great deal of delay was created by what happened. Let us look at that situation. Take the case of the first scheme which was started. At that time the houses were urgently required. It had been agreed that Messrs. Burroughs were to build a factory and that houses were urgently required for their workpeople. The county council assisted the corporation, and the county council officers selected this site and got on with the job. The site was at Kildrum Farm and was to provide 355 houses.
By 3rd June, 1957, planning permission had more or less been agreed to, but what is the situation today? Only half those houses are occupied, a quarter are under construction and detailed plans have not yet been submitted for the other quarter. The Burroughs factory has been built and workers are in it. The firm had to go to other places to get workers for the factory before the houses were built. Those workers are still having to travel to work. I think that they will find it difficult to get houses in the new town, because they are being provided for the overspill population of Glasgow. I do not blame the corporation because many of the delays associated with this scheme were caused by difficulties with the contractors. There is no doubt about that.
Further schemes for planning were put forward. Could the Minister tell us if in any of those schemes planning permission was not given within two months? The main difficulty was pressure. The corporation is under pressure from the Government to build houses. The corporation members are under pressure from their planning officers and I do not believe they have enough time to consider plans sufficiently. The town and country planning committee is under pressure in looking at the plans, because it does not want to hold up building of houses. These plans were accepted and none was under consideration for more than two months.
Although the plans were agreed to, informal discussions took place. Private conversations were held because the members of the committee were not happy about the plans. The planning officer was having informal talks with the corporation and indicating to it the faults which the committee felt were in the plans. Lack of space, lack of amenity and lack of privacy—these were some of the main features to which they objected. Despite those informal talks and private conversations, the corporation continued to send forward schemes with exactly the same faults which the committee saw.
Latterly a different situation has arisen, because the lay members of the committee were able to see some of the schemes for which they had agreed to give planning permission and, having seen the houses, they began to have doubts. Whether I or anyone in this House agrees with the committee, this is the unanimous view of the committee. The committee said to the corporation, "We have had enough. We have advised you, we have pleaded with you, we have not held up these schemes because we know you are anxious to build the houses, but the time has come, now that we can see for ourselves what is happening, for us to say, 'No, you have to do something else about it'."
My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) speaks for me in this matter as well as for other members of the planning committee. They do not wish to make a wholesale condemnation of the corporation in the task that it is performing. Some would pay tribute to the new ideas which are being brought to some of the problems it has to face. I hope that other hon. Members will take the opportunity to see this new town, because it is on a completely different basis from any other I have seen. It is not built on the neighbourhood theory but will have one centre where, in theory, everyone can walk without crossing public roads.
What is the basic fault in this conflict? I think that when the new town was planned it was planned for a population of 50,000, and on that basis with the land which had been acquired there would have been a higher density than existed in East Kilbride or Glenrothes. It was only marginal, and I would not lay any great stress on that point, but that was the position.
After the Development Corporation started, it advised the Secretary of State for Scotland that the population could be 70,000. The Secretary of State accepted that on the same land as had been planned for 50,000 there could be a population of 70,000. There is no doubt that the higher density has been accepted.
This brought great problems to the Dunbarton County Council, because immediately it had to replan its services, its schools and all the requirements for a town of 70,000 in the same area as had originally been allotted to 50,000. The county council did not object; it accepted it. What it has objected to is the method by which it is being carried out. When the county council was told that it was likely that an Order of this kind would be made, it immediately asked for a meeting with the Secretary of State for Scotland. This was agreed, and a deputation met the Secretary of State in July of this year.
The members of the deputation were very happy with that meeting. They found the Secretary of State very attentive, and they felt that he had listened with care to what they said and had been impressed by their case. They left the meeting confident that the Secretary of State had listened to their case and would give it further consideration, but they had hardly reached home in Dunbarton—it was only two days later—when they received a letter saying that the Order had been made.
At the meeting with the Secretary of State the county engineer and planning officer brought forward alternative Plans to handle this problem of density. Let us all agree that in this new town of Cumbernauld there is to be a higher density of population than any of us wants. There is no doubt about that. It provides problems. But it does not necessarily follow that the plans put forward by the corporation are correct. The county council understood that the Secretary of State for Scotland agreed with this view when he looked at the plans put forward by the county engineer and planning officer for Dunbarton County Council, who had gone to all this trouble of showing alternatives. He himself did not say that he had necessarily the correct answer. His view was that this is a great problem, that no one had any experience of it previously and that it ought to be given careful consideration.
Despite that, the Order was laid. Despite the fact that the Order says that consultations will take place, this letter from him shows that the Secretary of State for Scotland has approved the schemes to which the Dunbarton County Council refused to give permission. In this letter, which the Secretary of State sent to the county council, he thanks the members very kindly, in most pleasing words, for their advice, but he goes on to reject it. It follows that even the words in the Order indicating that the county council will be consulted mean nothing.
This is not a problem met by new towns in England or in East Kilbride or Glenrothes. This is an entirely new and difficult problem, and I do not think that it will be solved by making this Order tonight. Clearly there is conflict, and in my view it requires further investigation. I believe that this conflict is bedevilled by the pressure of Lord Craigton, who has brought as much pressure as possible on the corporation and its members to build houses as rapidly as possible because he wants to see the overspill problem in Glasgow solved. But I have grave fears that even the officers of the Cumbernauld Development Corporation will have their hearts broken in this matter, because I cannot see the Government providing the financial assistance necessary to ensure that the new town has the amenities and facilities which even the Corporation desires.
I am sure that this Order in itself will solve nothing, and I hope and trust that the Minister will withdraw it and allow the county council, the corporation and his own officers to get together to find some other method of solving the problem.
As the Secretary of State referred to who started this business in Scotland, I would point out that the problem of difficult relations between a county council and a new town is not novel. I tried to solve it at that time by having cross-directorships, as it were—having enough members of the county council on the directorship of the new town to ensure an exchange of ideas and some chance of reaching agreement.
Where we have a new town, a great imaginative conception, it is sometimes difficult to blend it with the rather fixed ideas which have existed for many years in the county council. When we have this conflict of the arty-crafty people, so to speak, who come in to design a new town, with the more established views of the people who have been working on certain principles for a number of years, it is difficult even for a Secretary of State to reconcile these two points of view. If they exist, as they have existed, there is a continual argument between these two points of view. It goes on all the time. As a former Prime Minister said, it is "Jaw-jaw", and work is held up. Therefore, I can understand it in certain circumstances. It is the Secretary of State's duty to cut the cackle and get on with the job.
My hon. Friends the Members for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) and Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) have obviously studied the details. They have good reason for asking that the Secretary of State should justify the new step. It is not the case that other new towns have always flown free. In Lanarkshire there was very little difficulty, because there were reasonable people on the county council and on the development boards. But the late county clerk in Fife, who was put on the development board there, was not exactly as co-operative with Mr. Hector McNeil as one would have liked. There was a tendency to push the interests of the county council against the interests of the new town. In that case, the Secretary of the State had a duty to ensure that there was not any frustration of the development of the ideals inherent in the conception of a new town. These things were overcome by conciliation, and Glenrothes and East Kilbride have gone ahead fairly successfully.
I understand that there is a conflict of view between Dunbartonshire and the new town. It is a conflict of conception about the purpose of the new town. Perhaps they are both right in their way, but they cannot both have their plans carried out. Eventually there will come the question of which plan is to be carried out. If there is a pattern in the scheme for a new town, it makes it difficult, once the pattern is approved, if someone else comes along, takes a little away from the pattern and leaves it more higgledy-piggledy. The whole conception of town planning is that there should be a pattern so that everything fits into everything else in a preconceived way. I agree entirely that the pattern may be wrong.
As for the details, if the management of a new town is appointed, it is very difficult if someone forty or fifty miles away starts interfering with or objecting to details. Someone has to make the decision.
My right hon. Friend should not confuse the issue. I was thinking in terms of the wide conception of the plan. In speaking of details, I did not mean where the sewers have to be. I was thinking of much more important details.
There are two conceptions. Obviously the Secretary of State then becomes a judge and has to decide between the two conceptions.
At the moment, the new town is presumably developing its plans, which it submits to the county council. If the county council objects, all the plans have to go into the melting pot again. What I gather is now being suggested is that the new town will make its plans and that the local authority will be able to make its suggestions and appeal, if necessary, to the Secretary of State for his decision.
These are matters which we cannot tell until the Secretary of State gives an explanation. I am very much against preventing the new town developing in the best possible way. There are occasions when it is a personal matter. One person on the county council or one person on the local authority can upset the whole apple cart. If he has preconceived ideas about what should be done, the whole thing is held up and there is continual argument.
When that situation arises, someone has to cut the cackle. It is desirable that, as far as possible, there should be complete co-operation between the local authority and the new town. It would be a waste of public money to have two sets of engineers and two sets of architects in the same county, if the county authorities were able to take on the job. That is the best way to secure co-operation.
We persuaded the Midlothian County Council to consent, without building a new town or making a New Town Order, to take on the responsibility of building houses which were equivalent in number to a new town. It was, therefore, done by the local authority much more economically than it would have been if we had established a new town corporation. Even in Fifeshire and the other new towns, we in Scotland manage this much more economically by securing very close co-operation between new towns and county councils. I take it that for some reason or other, about which we shall probably hear, this close co-operation has broken down in Dunbartonshire. It would be quite improper for me to pass judgment as to who is responsible, but, clearly, if an impasse has been reached the Secretary of State must break it and get on with the job.
Perhaps when we have the reply to this debate the Secretary of State will be able to justify or otherwise the step he has taken in introducing the Order. I agree with my hon. Friend that it implies that something has gone wrong in Dunbartonshire which has not gone wrong either in Lanarkshire or Fifeshire. We had difficulties in Fifeshire for the reason I have mentioned. We did not have to take these powers. It will be interesting to have the Secretary of State's explanation of why, in this case, he has taken them.
I am impelled to enter this debate partly because of the somewhat sad and depressed demeanour of the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley). To find such a mild hon. Member of this House so consumed with righteous indignation that he is prepared to face the cohorts of the Tory Party majority and rise in his place and oppose them, shows how righteous his case must be. Apart from that, as a former member of the Glasgow Corporation, I recall that the corporation, for which the new town of Cumbernauld has largely been built and which will be the exporting authority, instructed its representative at one stage to oppose certain recommendations in the development of this new town.
We in Glasgow also have experts. It is most unfortunate that the medical officer of health of the City of Glasgow has within the last few days seen fit to protest that the views which he has expressed have been shelved and ignored in preference to those of so-called experts. Who are the experts? As medical officer of health of the second largest city in Britain—I hope that nobody from Birmingham is present—we have a most capable man of integrity, conscientiousness, knowledge and experience. He is supported by the Dunbarton medical officer of health. Experts seem to be all too ready nowadays to change their views and opinions according to the exigencies of a situation and according to the demands made upon them by people who may be their controllers or employers. It is unfortunate that our own medical officer of health in Glasgow, who has some excellent ideas about town development, has had to realise that all his knowledge and experience are regarded as being absolutely valueless.
Why has the dispute arisen? When we get a body of men and women who compose the Dunbarton County Council expressing opposition to a certain viewpoint, it is because they feel that, if they were called upon to live in certain conditions, they would not accept. One of the great tragedies is that the great and desperate need for new houses—which, evidently, according to his speech in the House the other day, the Prime Minister does not seem to recognise—leads to the fact that local authorities are dragooned into accepting anything that may provide at least a temporary shelter for people who practically have no place in which to live.
We shall pay the penalty for that within a very few years because, I regret to say, we have seen growing up in Glasgow, as a result of this constant reduction of our standards of decency and public health in the interest of meeting the urgency of the situation, which we should deal with in an entirely different fashion, the very nuclei of slums and difficulties by way of delinquency, and so on, because the amenities are not provided. In the years to come, this will lead the people to condemn, and rightly so, those who are responsible for these schemes. Unhappily I believe that it is possible that we shall still get something of the same nature.
When we find members of a county council in rebellion and offering their viewpoints as ones in which they firmly believe and are conscientiously prepared to prosecute, then, if we allow the Secretary of State to step in and to sidestep them, and to a certain degree remove from them responsibilities which rightly belong to them, we are doing something in addition—removing the whole value and purpose of local representation. We already have enough difficulty in attracting men and women of the right type to come into public service. The more we keep denuding local authorities of powers which have been vested in them, then the greater will be that difficulty and the more acute will be the shortage in that sphere of public service.
I am with the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns. I think that we may have in him a better ally probably than my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence), in that probably the view of the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns will weigh more with the Government, with the result that we may anticipate the withdrawal of the Order. That may be largely due to the intervention of the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns. Therefore, I am glad that he had the courage to intervene tonight.
In concluding, I should like to express the view that there is a very definite need for the retention of the powers of the local authorities, and that they should be removed or reduced only in very exceptional circumstances. I believe that in this case these exceptional circumstances do not arise. I would ask the Under-Secretary of State for an assurance that under the Section which we are discussing—Section 3—not only has the Secretary of State a duty to consult the local planning authority within whose district the land is situated but he has also the duty to consult any local authority which appears to him to be concerned.
It is from that angle that I especially wish an assurance that Glasgow Corporation, which is vitally, fundamentally and deeply interested in this problem, will receive—if the hon. Gentleman is not going to listen to the plea of the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns and withdraw the Order—a guarantee that it and the medical officer will be consulted at every stage to ensure that the best possible type of housing will be provided and that the people will not be condemned to live in something which, in my opinion, will become slums at too early an age in the near future.
I am very disappointed that the Joint Under-Secretary of State has not risen before this to say a word or two in justification of the Order. When my hon. Friends the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) and the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) were speaking, I recollected that they took the view that at this stage it did not lie with those who were criticising the Order to make a case against it, but that, since it was something quite new in Scotland, and since it applies in particular to only one of our three new towns, it was the responsibility of the Secretary of State to justify making the Order.
I am sorry that the Under-Secretary of State has waited so long, because if he waits till all hon. Members who wish to speak have spoken, they will then have exhausted their right to make further contributions and, as a result, the Under-Secretary of State's case will go uncriticised further in the House tonight. From that point of view, as I think he will himself recognise, there was much to be said for his getting up as soon as possible after the Prayer was moved.
I have sought to inform myself about this matter by consulting some of the local authorities. I have read the material sent out not only by Dumbarton County Council but by other county councils and, in particular, by the county council of Lanark in whose area the new town of East Kilbride is situated. I have found it extremely difficult to discover any justification for the making of the Order at all. I appreciate the point made by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley) about the dual capacity of the Secretary of State in these matters. I recall also that towards the end of his remarks the hon. Member said that in the circumstances he, too, wondered why the Order should be confined to one new town and should not apply to them all.
It is a great pity that the Order has been brought forward. If the Government's defence is the one that was offered by the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns the Order ought to have applied to all three towns. Since it does not apply to all three, one must imagine that there is some other defence for the Order than the one offered by the hon. Member—which is the only one that I could imagine—unless, of course, it could be said that the planning committee of Dumbarton County Council had behaved so badly over a period that it would be unthinkable to continue to develop this new town against the impediments put in the way of that development by the planning committee. But I understand that there is no possibility of the Joint Under-Secretary of State offering that as a reason for bringing forward the Order.
I understand that the planning committee of Dumbarton County Council has been extremely helpful ever since the inception of the new town, and that its opposition, its criticism and its reluctance to agree with recent proposals are based solely on the grounds that standards are being very considerably lowered. The planning committee is supported in this objection to recent proposals by Glasgow Corporation and by the medical officer of health for Glasgow who has the responsibility for re-housing more people than any other medical officer in Scotland. It is his people who will largely occupy the new houses in the new town of Cumbernauld and who will make a substantial contribution towards the cost of those houses of £14 per house for ten years.
We have, therefore, the local authority in whose area the houses are being built offering objections to what it regards as a quite disgraceful lowering of standards, and we have the objection of the authority from which the new population of Cumbernauld is being very largely drawn. It would appear also that the Secretary of State, having decided that this new town will accommodate ultimately 70,000 and not 50,000, will undertake the job of putting a quart into a pint pot. He cannot trust the local authority to handle plans that will enable him to put 70,000 people in where 50,000 were originally going—and even with 50,000 this was going to be a high-density town.
I perfectly well understand that the Secretary of State will have to have regard to many considerations. He is to have regard to the cost of the new town and to the cost to the taxpayer over a period of years. I can well understand that he will be reluctant to seek another Order to increase the designated area. I appreciate also that he has endeavoured with differing degrees of success to induce the local housing authorities, let alone the planning authorities, to reduce the standard of houses that they would build. I realise also that he will be most anxious to get these houses of lower standard, with their congestion and the lack of privacy mentioned by my hon. Friends. Some of the houses are virtually of the old back-to-back type condemned thirty years ago.
The Joint Under-Secretary of State shakes his head, but these houses have been so described because they are inferior houses. I understand that the Secretary of State will want all these things to go through with the least possible objection to them, and as the new town corporation consists of persons appointed by the Secretary of State its officials are really his servants one step removed.
Inasmuch as the right hon. Gentleman wants certain proposals to be given effect to, it would be very much easier if his plans went first to the new town corporation and then came back to him, when he would consult Dunbartonshire County Council and Glasgow Corporation. He is only obliged, under Section 3 of the New Towns Act, 1946, to consult them. Inasmuch as these would be his proposals in the first place, they would very likely be put into effect with only the minimum of modification after he had had these consultations.
In building a new town in Scotland or anywhere else it is desirable to move forward with the maximum possible agreement. So far there has been very considerable agreement in building the new town of Cumbernauld. If the Secretary of State and the Development Corporation have proposals which are objected to at first by the planning committee, and the corporation therefore appeals to the Secretary of State, I have no doubt that he would inquire into these proposals—perhaps appointing a commissioner and having a report made on them—and that when similar proposals were put forward in the future the planning committee would have regard to what the commissioner had said on the last occasion.
The difficulties that lay in front of the Development Corporation and the Secretary of State in the development of this new town under the pre-existing arrangements did not seem to be great, but under this Order the Secretary of State has taken all these powers to himself, and it will be exceedingly difficult to get the Dunbartonshire County Council or the Glasgow Corporation, which have been advised by their experts that standards are being lowered, ever to agree to his proposals. He will have a running sore in the continual objections to the building of what might become known as an inferior type of town.
That would be a bad thing. There may be an absence of truth in the assertion that it is an inferior type of town, but if one has authorities like the Dunbartonshire County Council and the Glasgow Corporation taking this view, then it is bound to gain currency. From that point of view it would have been better to have left things as they were and not to have this Order.
In these circumstances, I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will feel that he is empowered to withdraw the Order tonight. I realise that Under-Secretaries are very often given instructions, and that perhaps the Secretary of State has told him that he must get the Order through and that he feels that he cannot therefore withdraw it. I hope, however, that he feels able to listen to what is being said in this debate, and if he feels that the weight of opinion in the House, as expressed by Members who are very anxious that this new town should be a success, is in favour of withdrawing the Order and returning to the pre-existing position in the summer of this year and earlier, then I hope that he will withdraw it.
I want this town to be a success. I am not thirled to any particular population density. I appreciate that we have to vary the densities here and there. I see some very good town development in London to a very much higher density than one sees in most parts of Scotland and which would be quite intolerable in my constituency. I am prepared to see a higher density for Cumbernauld than for East Kilbride. I sometimes think that East Kilbride is a little too spread out. It would not be a bad thing if we had the low density development in East Kilbride and not so very far away, on the other side of Glasgow, the new town of Cumbernauld with a higher density development.
The Dunbartonshire County Council has agreed to a higher density development. Let us have it, but with a type of dwelling and a layout of streets, including widths of road and paths, which are seen by all our planning authorities in Scotland, except apparently by the Secretary of State, as being reasonable and in accord with modern thinking. I am sure that we can have it if the Joint Under-Secretary will withdraw the Order and let the new town of Cumbernauld grow up as the other new towns in Scotland will.
In conclusion, the other authorities concerned—Fife, on the one hand, and Lanarkshire County Council, on the other—are scared at the moment. They have had the best possible relations with the new town corporations within their own areas, but they feel that if a case is made out for the Order there is no reason why the Secretary of State should not come along at a very early date and say that what is good enough for Cumbernauld is good enough for Glenrothes and East Kilbride.
I think that it will be agreed that it is very difficult for me, as one of the Glasgow Members of Parliament, or any other Glasgow Member of Parliament, to remain unconcerned during this debate. Behind the Order and all that has been said tonight, there are 300,000 people looking for new homes. To me, that is of paramount importance.
I recognise that there are other aspects. I do not want to see undue interference with the powers of local authorities, but if it should happen that the powers of local authorities interfered in any way with the proper rehousing of the people of Glasgow, then I should not be on the side of the local authorities, and I want to make that quite clear.
I agreed completely with my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) when he said that it must be part of our business to ensure that in Cumbernauld we do not have what may become an inferior new housing development. However, there is one factor which puzzles me. Not many weeks ago a group of Members of Parliament visited Cumbernauld. I suppose that I saw as many houses as I could during the visit, and I confess that I had no complaints from any tenant to whom I spoke.
I met many people, some of whom had come from Glasgow, who were very glad indeed to be in Cumbernauld, and who found it a welcome change. I do not profess to be an expert on houses I may have my own ideas about design and planning and all that sort of thing, but I cannot walk into a house and point out all the faults that may be in it. Nor can the experts, as I have discovered in one case to my own cost.
The houses appear to be good houses, and the people in them to whom I spoke were satisfied with their housing situation. I agree again with my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton that I should have liked perhaps to see Cumbernauld a little nearer East Kilbride, but I think that he will agree with me that it is probably true that Scotland will never be able to afford another East Kilbride. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] All right, as a result of our visit there, when my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton considers the extent to which East Kilbride is subsidised, he will realise that the cost of that subsidy is a problem that will face any Government, whatever its complexion, if they choose to go ahead again with that type of scheme.
Not that I personally am opposed to it. I am quite prepared to spend money, particularly other people's money, and I would like to see more East Kilbrides. Perhaps Cumbernauld is the answer to East Kilbride if what has been said tonight approximates to the possibilities of Cumbernauld's ultimate deterioration, which did not appear to any of those to whom I spoke when visiting the scheme.
Not only did we see particular types of houses, but saw the layout of the Whole concept, and there did not seem to be any expressed objection to it, at least so far as it was made in my presence. What I did discover was that there was trouble between the Development Corporation and the local authority. It happened that I had the company of the Chairman of the Corporation all the way from Glasgow to Cumbernauld, and, therefore, had the chance of a longer conversation than perhaps normally would have been possible. It was on that journey that I discovered that the scheme was in some difficulty.
The rights and wrongs of that I never sought to weigh, because I did not hear the other side. I heard the Chairman's side, but if there was any truth in one of the things that I was told it seemed to me that, on the face of it and as I heard it, there was a somewhat undue delay in the progress of the scheme, because of the attitude of the local authority.
But did not my hon. Friend travel back from Cumbernauld to Glasgow in a car which he shared with the convenor of the Dunbartonshire County Council and the chairman of the planning committee? Did he not establish the other side of the picture?
Unfortunately, it was one of my disadvantages that, as the guest of the Corporation, I knew only those to whom I was introduced, and it was only when the gentleman to whom my hon. Friend refers left the car at a point which my hon. Friend the Member for Gorbals (Mrs. Cullen) can substantiate, that I made a casual inquiry. I was then told who he was. I had not known him before and I could not ask a question of persons with whose local status I was unfamiliar.
If it is untrue, it will no doubt be denied later, but I was told that the corporation had been hindered because a sub-committee of the county council found it necessary to interfere in the matter of the colour of the paint to be used on the lamp-posts in Cumbernauld. I heard that that argument went on for a long time before it was finally decided that the lamp-posts should be painted white. That may have been an important matter, because one wants to be sure that the colour of lamp-posts will fit into the general design. The rights and wrongs may have been exaggerated, but it still seems unfortunate.
I am interested in this story of the painting of the lampposts. The important thing was that the lampposts should have been put up to give the people light. Surely the question of erecting them did not have to wait for a decision about colour.
There are many matters to be considered. I do not know whether dogs have a particular partiality for a certain type of paint, or whether that was considered by the sub-committee, but one has to look at these things in their widest aspect. It may have been that all aspects were considered, but it is evident that these things have boiled up until those who are charged with building the new town have found their work slowed down.
Before the Recess, I put down a Question about the apparent slowness with which houses were being built in Cumbernauld. That Question was mentioned on our visit and it was pointed out that the corporation felt itself somewhat circumscribed by what it considered to be the attitude of the local authority. Those are the things which we cannot afford to to ignore and it appears that the Order is the result of the bickering between the local authority and the corporation on certain aspects of the development of Cumbernauld which have led to a slowing down of the building of houses beyond what the City of Glasgow, with its housing problem, is entitled to expect. I hope that if the Order is accepted, after the Secretary of State has justified it, we shall see a speeding up of the building of houses in Cumbernauld.
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) on the very moderate and persuasive manner in which he moved the Motion. I am sorry if I offended the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr T. Fraser) in not getting up immediately after that to put the Government's case. It seems that Ministers can never do the right thing. Either they get up too soon, or they get up too late. All I can say is that I did not intend any disrespect to the House.
I should like to begin by stressing some of the general considerations, which I hope will put into proper perspective the circumstances which led to the making of this Order, and that is what the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele), in seconding the Motion, asked me to do.
Some of the speeches seemed to imply that the making of this Order was a reflection on the capabilities of the Dunbarton County Council. The hon. Gentleman used the phrase, "a blow at the local authority". He indicated that he thought that this local authority had been treated rather roughly. My hon Friend made the same point.
I assure the House that an intention to treat the local authority roughly has never been in the mind of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. Both he and my noble Friend the Minister of State have had meetings with the county council, some of which have been referred to this evening, and they have both been at pains to emphasise that they recognise that the council was fully within its rights in refusing planning permission for the particular development which was the immediate occasion of the present difficulties. Indeed, one might go so far as to say that, holding the views which the local authority held in the light of the advice which it received from its officers, no other course was really open to the county council.
I should like to emphasise and reaffirm quite clearly that we recognise that the county council was right to do what it believed to be right, and I should like to take the opportunity of saying how much we appreciate the help and the co-operation which the Dunbarton County Council has shown on so many aspects of the Cumbernauld project since it was initiated five years ago. I hope that that will go some way towards setting at rest some of the doubts which were expressed by the hon. Member for Glasgow, Govan (Mr. Rankin).
Indeed, my right hon. Friend hopes that this spirit of co-operation will be maintained in the new situation. Certainly he intends in the very fullest sense to consult the county council on all development proposals put forward by the new town corporation. I hope that that will satisfy the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East who had some doubts—or seemed to think that there would be no consultation in the future. There will be consultation.
I assure the hon. Gentleman that it is my right hon. Friend's intention that the consultation will be valuable, and what goes for my right hon. Friend also goes for my noble Friend.
Having stressed these considerations, I should like to come to the root of the matter, which was referred to very persuasively by my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Sir C. Thornton-Kemsley), which is the simple question of where the responsibility for the planning of this new town really lies. Basically, the situation which existed until the Order was made was not logical, and might indeed have been expected to produce the practical difficulties which have now arisen at Cumbernauld and to which the right hon. Gentleman referred.
As the House knows, the Cumbernauld Development Corporation was appointed by the Secretary of State under the New Towns Act to plan and develop the new town. All its development proposals have to be approved by my right hon. Friend, and the planning of the new towns, both generally and in detail, is subject to his direction. There is thus constant discussion at all stages between my right hon. Friend's Department and the corporation on the design, lay-out and general appearance of the town.
In the situation which obtained prior to the making of the Order, the corporation's proposals also had to be submitted to the local planning authority, and if the proposals were disapproved by the local planning authority they were liable to be the subject of appeal to the Secretary of State. In these circumstances, my right hon. Friend would clearly have been in a very difficult position, in so far as he would be asked to adjudicate between the views of the county council and the proposals of the Development Corporation with which he had already been directly concerned.
Furthermore, the Dunbarton County Council was faced with the dilemma of either giving planning permission automatically to the corporation and, in effect, being a kind of rubber stamp for proposals with which it did not agree, or, alternatively, of incurring the blame for holding up development that was urgently needed to meet the grave housing problems of Glasgow——
It seems that the hon. Gentleman has posed a dilemma that does not really exist. For instance, the Secretary of State will still have to judge on representations from the county council concerning any proposal made even by the corporation for his Department's consent, in the same way as he would have had to do in the circumstances of an appeal against any decision of the planning committee.
A Secretary of State does not himself make these plans. He has continually to judge in his own Department between, say, agriculture and forestry. An appeal comes to him, and he has to sit as a judge, because the local authority is also, in a way, an agency of the public. He has to take all these people's views into consideration and make a judgment upon them, and I am quite sure that he would always judge fairly once something was brought to his notice.
It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that—he has been a Secretary of State, and knows the difficulties—but this seems to me to be rather different. The Secretary of State and his officials have been in the thing from the beginning, and then they are suddenly asked not to consider the views of the local authorities but to act in a quasi-judicial capacity. I think that that is a very difficult thing to do.
However, when the right hon. Gentleman interrupted, I was not talking about the Secretary of State's difficulties but of those of the county council, which either had to give planning permission for something with which it did not agree—rather like a rubber stamp—or, alternatively, to incur the blame for holding up development that was urgently needed to meet the grave housing problems of Glasgow. In fact, what it comes to is that the ordinary system of local planning control was not designed to deal with the situation that inevitably arises in the planning and development of a new town.
The planning of a new town is, perhaps, more akin to those major projects in which the Secretary of State, as planning Minister, requires applications for planning permission to be referred directly to him; as happens, for example, with the development of trunk roads or in the provisional National Park areas. Indeed, it was for this very reason that Parliament enacted the special provisions in Section 3 (2) of the New Towns Act empowering the Secretary of State, by Order, to exempt new town development corporations from the need to obtain planning permission from the local authority.
It would certainly be my right hon. Friend's intention to make a similar order, right at the outset, for any further new town that may be built in the future, as has already been done for all new towns in England and Wales—and, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns pointed out, these arrangements in England and Wales have worked very well.
The hon. Gentleman asked why it should be only Cumbernauld that was picked out. I think that I should tell the House that my right hon. Friend also intends to review the situation with regard to East Kilbride and Glenrothes—in consultation, of course, with the Development Corporations of those towns and the local authorities concerned. In brief, therefore, by this Order we are simply placing the planning responsibility directly where it really belongs. After all, all these new town projects are really the job of a specialised agency—the new town corporation—working with the approval, and subject to the direction, of the Secretary of State.
Indeed, the proper rôle to be played by the local authority is that provided in the New Town Act itself, that it has to be fully consulted at various stages of the new town development. For the reasons I have already given, my right hon. Friend is convinced that it would be wrong to keep the local authority in the false position that prevailed before the Order was made of holding, as planning authority, a direct responsibility which is not really theirs in fact.
The hon. Gentleman made a statement which inferred that the local authorities should be consulted at each stage of the new town development. I am anxious to know what that stage is, because the difficulty of the Dunbarton County Council has been that it has asked the corporation that it should be brought in consultation when the plans are being prepared and considered, and the corporation officials have said that it is impossible to do this. They cannot possibly consult the local authority until they have approval for all their plans from the corporation members. I would have thought that at that stage consultation is unlikely to be fruitful. If consultation is to take place it is at the formative stage of the plans.
The consultation to which I have been referring has, of course, been a consultation by the Secretary of State after he has seen what the Development Corporation intends to build. That is where the consultation is to take place.
I do not think this is the place to go into details on the merits of the particular scheme of 282 houses which presented the immediate difficulties leading to the making of this Order. I ought, perhaps, to tell the House that these particular proposals were essentially similar to other housing projects of the Development Corporation which the county council had previously approved.
That is exactly the point. The hon. Member is now claiming a right on behalf of the corporation and the Secretary of State for Scotland that, because the Dunbarton county planning authority agreed to something being done previously, this was justification for it being done now. Surely the hon. Gentleman did not listen to what I had to say. In fact, I pointed out in my speech that, during the time when these plans were being agreed to, there were informal, private conversations taking place pointing out this very thing, and it was only at the end of the day when no notice was being taken of this that the Dunbarton county council took this view.
The hon. Gentleman has interrupted me several times. I hope he will allow me to develop my argument, because it is difficult to do so when he frequently interrupts, though I recognise that he has a perfect right to do so.
I was saying that although the county council was perfectly entitled, on reflection, to reach the conclusion it did and not to grant permission, its decision to do so in May of this year was certainly not expected by the Development Corporation and that created a serious difficulty for the corporation. So the corporation could complain in exactly the same way as the local authority, through the hon. Gentleman, has been complaining this evening.
In fact, without the Order, the corporation's building programme would have been retarded by at least six months. At this stage of the development of the town, when industry is expanding and the demand for homes for Glasgow families is becoming increasingly urgent, that was a very important consideration which could not be ignored by my right hon. Friend. I am glad that the hon. Member for Govan realises the practical importance of this point.
I wish to turn to one or two detailed points raised during the debate. I am glad that the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East found, as the Member for the constituency—perhaps the hon. Member would listen to what I am saying because it was an important point he made—that all the occupants were very satisfied with the houses in which they were living. The hon. Gentleman did, however, refer to privacy and the fact that the proposed development in Cumbernauld is less than that allowed under the model building byelaws which prescribe at least 60 ft. between houses on either side of the road. This point is important and may have led to some misunderstanding. The byelaws provide for a lesser distance to be approved where appropriate, and my right hon. Friend considers that in the circumstances of Cumbernauld—in particular, the special design of the houses and the hilly nature of the site—there is no need to insist upon uniform minimum distances. Where one row of houses, for example, is at a different level from another, quite different considerations apply from those which apply when all the houses are on the same level. Moreover, my right hon. Friend is satisfied that in the project which he approved the standards of daylight, sunlight and privacy are fully adequate. The individual houses and lay-out have been designed specifically to meet these requirements in relation to the particular site.
The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West referred to an alternative plan. I have had an opportunity to look at it, and it seems to me that it suffers from one great drawback. It is that a certain number of houses face northwards and do not take advantage of the sun. I think it important that in Scotland one should try to get houses facing towards the south-west, and the alternative plan fails to do that.
Yes, but I wanted the hon. Gentleman to realise that the plan had been looked at very carefully. He gave the impression that we had taken the plan and cast it on one side without considering it. I should like the hon. Gentleman to realise that that is not so.
Both the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West and the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East referred to the town centre and wondered what was its future.
No, in the front doors. It is very confusing, I know.
The hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East spoilt his case when arguing about the town centre. He intimated—and here he became rather party political—that he thought there was no chance of anything happening while this Government were in power. He seems to have forgotten all about the development at Ravenscraig, the B.M.C., and at Linwood. It is the intention of my right hon. Friend that the Corporation should proceed with the town centre at a stage much earlier than normally is possible. The Corporation, I am glad to say, is considering plans for the town centre even now and is building a group of shops which, eventually, will form part of the centre.
In conclusion, I wish to emphasise that the Cumbernauld Development Corporation is well fitted for its task and has a vital and essential job to do. Its plan is bold and in many respects it presents novel features. It would not be appropriate for me to go into them in greater detail this evening, although I have referred to them already in reply to the hon. Member for Hamilton. I agree that some people may not like them, but, if we are building a new town, I think we ought to see that it really is a new town, of the 1960 version, not the 1948 version. Certainly the new town of Cumbernauld has excited great interest, and indeed admiration, in many quarters both here and abroad, as well as the criticism we have heard tonight.
The hon. Member for Glasgow Shettleston (Sir M. Galpern), I thought, suggested, although I may be doing him an injustice here, that this town was a kind of planners' dream and that the planners would not like to live in the houses that were being built there. All I can say is that if I had to choose between living in the houses which have been built in the outskirts of my City of Glasgow and in those in Cumbernauld, I have no doubt that I would choose those in Cumbernauld.
My right hon. Friend is convinced that the corporation must be given a full opportunity of showing what it can do. I hope that in view of what I have said tonight, and particularly the fact that there will be the fullest possible consultation with local authorities, the hon. Member who moved this Motion will feel disposed to withdraw it.
The hon. Gentleman said that if the Order had not been made the building of 282 houses would have been delayed by six months. It is now four months since this Order was made. Has a start been made on the building of these houses?
The hon. Member is pretending to be more simple than he really is. He knows that houses cannot be built until they have been planned and the site laid out and that it would not be possible to go ahead with that work if it were thought that there was a chance that eventually permission might not be obtained.
I warn the Joint Under-Secretary, in view of what he said about extending the provisions of this Order to Glenrothes, that the battle will have much more cannon when he deals with Glenrothes. In the number of years in which Glenrothes have been developing there has been very little difference existing between the county planning authorities and the Development Corporation. I should like to know, therefore, why the Secretary of State intends to use these provisions in respect of Glenrothes.
The hon. Gentleman said that the Secretary of State would be consulting the Corporation before he did so. I should like an assurance tonight that he will also consult with the county planning authority before making any observations. If not, I can assure him that there will be great difficulties before he gets away with this in Fife.