Development in Rural Areas

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 7th February 1964.

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Photo of Mr Henry Brewis Mr Henry Brewis , Galloway 12:00 am, 7th February 1964

I am grateful to the hon. Member for that information. It shows that there is room for considerably increased efficiency on the railways. As someone who travels on the main railway routes a lot, I have noticed that since the entry of Dr. Beeching there has been a considerable increase in efficiency, particularly on the main lines. It should be made clear that the real solution to the problems of our rural areas lies in a much better population distribution and the prevention of congestion in London and the Midlands. We will be discussing this next Monday and these are really twin problems.

I feel strongly about the way in which some secondhand factories are reoccupied by new industries, particularly in the metropolitan areas—that is, areas outwith the development districts. Only £8 million was spent last year under the Local Employment Act, although the N.E.D.C., as the hon. Member for Devon, North pointed out, has stated that a minimum expenditure of about £20 million is needed. Government grants in the growth and development areas are extremely good, but we must tackle the other side of the I.D.C. problem and the occupation of secondhand factories.

A few months ago the Government made what I considered an imaginative decision by deciding that Woolwich Arsenal would not be used further for industrial purposes but that it would go over to housing. It should be possible for the Government to begin a policy whereby when factories become vacant they are visited by a Government inspector and, if found to be too old, insanitary or not in accordance with factory legislation, they are bought up and the sites turned over for housing, particularly in areas where housing land is in short supply. I do not suggest that this should be done with every factory. If a factory has been erected for only a few years it is economically right that it should go on being used, but more should be done to prevent the expansion of industries in the metropolitan and Midland areas. This would be bound to redound to the credit of the more remote areas, both in a better population distribution and a better distribution of industry.