Schedule. — (Metropolitan Region Out Side Greater London.)

Ballot for Notices of Motions – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 14th April 1965.

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Photo of Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith , East Grinstead 12:00 am, 14th April 1965

I beg to move, Amendment No. 63, in page 24, line 2, to leave out "districts" and insert "district".

I understand that it will be convenient to the House also to take Amendment No. 64, in line 2, leave out "Cuckfield and East Grinstead".

I appreciate that the moment for which we have been waiting has almost arrived, the second of these being the penultimate Amendment if my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) wishes to move the last Amendment before Third Reading.

The points which I wish to raise have been put to me by my constituents. They are worthy of consideration by the House. I hope that the Government will see their way to grant the requests set out in the Amendments. By excluding the urban district councils of East Grinstead and Cuckfield there is hope that the areas of those two councils will be able to develop in the way they wish. They would be able to build offices and provide the light industries which they think necessary. In an area which is fast-growing people are anxious that there should be diversity of employment and proper employment opportunities for the rising generation. The county council of East Sussex and the urban district council of East Grinstead have looked at the estimates of growth in that part of England as made in the South East Study. They consider them to be too low in the light of known factors, such as planning permissions which are still to be exercised.

1.45 a.m.

Developments already been approved by the urban district council would result in a population increase from about 15,000 in 1961 to 20,000 in 1968. That is already in hand. It has already looked further ahead, because it has planned a sewerage capacity for about 40,000 people in the urban district of East Grinstead. One would imagine that there is to be a great deal of residential development to be undertaken in that area. Further, East Grinstead, as an area, has been represented to the Location of Offices Bureau as suitable for office location, and it is interesting to note that inquiries of a substantial nature have been made to the council. It is felt that East Grinstead is on a par with Tunbridge Wells, which was considered as a suitable area for office development.

The council is convinced that an essential planning factor in employment in this district is the provision of office development, land for which is available in the town centre. One site alone would provide office space of roughly 200,000 square feet, and there are other areas which it thinks would be suitable for designation for office development. The council considers not only the job aspect to be important; there is also the question of transportation in the area. It is argued that if office development were allowed to take place in the near future it would considerably ease congestion on the road from East Grinstead to London, and also help to reduce congestion on the railway from East Grinstead to London. Increased congestion has also arisen from the fact that there is a considerable office development in East Croydon.

So much for the arguments adduced by the East Grinstead Urban District Council for exclusion from the terms of the Bill. The other urban district council which would also like to be excluded is Cuckfield, especially as the centre of that area is the town of Haywards Heath. One has only to mention that town, or read about it, and to conjure up a vision of the vast and growing army of commuters who struggle into the trains, packed hike sardines, to realise that there is a serious problem for them. This problem is likely to grow worse. The population of the area is now about 21,000, and it is planned to increase it to about 28,000, and probably more.

In Haywards Heath there are two estates in which light industry has been developed. It has been put to me that they would like to continue with this development in light industry, and also to provide offices for that population. The light industry which has been developed is useful to the country. One of the firms there designed the world speed record holder, "Bluebird", and there is a small firm which makes radio and television parts which wants to expand and a firm which has developed a process of colour printing, which understand is very advanced, and which has been given permission to re-establish itself on the trading estate at Haywards Heath.

It seems not unreasonable that in this area, like East Grinstead, the authorities should want to relieve the congestion, arising from the fact that so many people are travelling to London, by providing job opportunities in the area. I mentioned by way of a small digression that there was a further concern. When it wished to deal with the non-conforming industrial user it was concerned whether or not it would be allowed to re-establish such companies on its estates.

Finally, to support both urban district councils there is the East Sussex County Council, which is, of course, the major planning authority for the area. It should be noted that it has been clear all the way through that both East Grinstead and the urban district of Cuckfield are areas where office development ought to be allowed, and a certain amount of light industrial development, too. One thing of which those areas are conscious—it finds emphasis even at this late hour—of is that, although this area has traditionally been a rural area and still vast areas of East Sussex contain some of the most peaceful and beautiful parts of England, nevertheless it is an area where the population is drifting away from the countryside into these towns, and it is likely that the drift will be accelerated in the light of the agricultural Price Review because much of the farming is dairy farming and the tendency is for people to get out of dairy farming and take other job opportunities in the towns. In other words, with the decline in the population which is working on the land, there is a need for diversity of employment, and there is a growing need on the part of the increasing population in the area—young families of children —for job opportunities for the young.

It is thought wrong that the Bill does not take account of this need and—this is a very important point—that it somehow does not seem geared to harmonise with the policy of the local authorities and planning authorities. What is feared is that no development whatever will be allowed. I hope that it will be possible for the Minister of State to allay, if not altogether remove, these fears.

Finally, in case it is thought that I have been too parochial—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] When the Local Employment Act was going through the House, some hon. Members opposite spoke up well for their constituents, and that is what I am doing tonight. There are other authorities which have come to conclusions broadly similar to those which I have already mentioned. The South East Study refers to commuting. Paragraph 14 on page 43 states: Any prediction of the future commuting rate is hazardous. It mentions certain figures, and comes to this conclusion: This means that we must expect 200,000 more commuters, over and above the number travelling to central London in 1961; though not all of them will travel at the most congested hours. There may well be further heavy demands after 1971. But the pattern of transport needs after that date will depend very much on the success enjoyed by the policy of office decentralisation. I should have thought that that very much strengthened the arguments of the urban district councils to which I have referred because they note that there is already a very heavy strain on the commuting resources of British Railways.

Commenting on the development of offices in the Metropolitan Region, on the increase in the population and on the strain on local services from attracting more employment opportunities there, the South-East Study states in paragraph 31 on page 64: In these circumstances. there are strong arguments for keeping further planned expansion schemes out of this area. In practice, this is not likely to be possible. The difficulty of finding enough centres with the advantages necessary to support strong and rapid growth makes it necessary to look to a handful of places in the outer metropolitan region if enough viable schemes are to be got going. But it may be possible to confine these to the outer part of the area". I think that those were wise words which underline the arguments produced by the urban district councils which exist in the outer Metropolitan Region.

I will quote one other authority—the Standing Conference on London Regional Planning. I will quote from the Bulletin of 25th November last year. I quote from page 34: This conference agreed that while some increase in daily commuting to the conurbation is to be expected and is provided for in the Development Plans, in general, further provisions outside the conurbation should be for locally matching growth of population and employment. This is the argument of the two urban district councils. They know that their population is increasing. This means that there will be a growing need of jobs for young people. They also know that unless further provision is made in the areas these young people will have to commute on lines which are already over-congested. I therefore hope that the right hon. Gentleman will meet some of these arguments and in so doing allay the fears of my constituents. If he can do so, I hope that he will accept the Amendment.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

I am sure that a great deal that was said by the hon. Member for East Grinstead (Mr. Johnson Smith) about East Grinstead and Cuckfield is wholly true and justified, but I do not think that it makes his case for keeping these areas out of the Schedule.

As I have advised other hon. Members, this is not a Bill to ban all office development in the areas mentioned, but a Bill to restrain and control it; indeed to bring it under some sort of general plan for the whole of the metropolitan region. If we intended to prevent any offices from being built in any of the areas mentioned in the Schedule, I could well sympathise with the hon. Member in advancing all those reasons for excluding East Grinstead, but that is not what we intend to do. It is clear from the South-East Study, and will be even clearer from the revision of the South-East Study now proceeding, that some form of restraint and some form of planning of this sort of development in the whole area is needed, but in the course of executing that plan and using the powers in the Bill we shall take account of the fact that there are areas outside central London saich require office development to a greater or less degree, in some cases for the reasons which the hon. Member advanced. That will be the spirit in which the Bill will be administered. There will be no absolute ban on office development, and I think that many of the considerations which the hon. Gentleman advanced would certainly be relevant to the method by which these powers are used.

Photo of Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith , East Grinstead

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for that reply and beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

2.0 a.m.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I beg to move, Amendment No. 66, in page 24, to leave out line 10.

I will be brief in moving the Amendment in view of the remarks of the President of the Board of Trade when replying to the last Amendment. May I say, first, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, how glad I am to see you back in the Chair since we have, in fact, now arrived at Southend? It might be helpful if I begin by quoting a passage from the South-East Study, on page 76 of which we read—and this was referred to in Standing Committee: In the South-East itself, many of the places proposed for office expansion in this chapter will be very suitable for office dispersal. and have been chosen with this in mind. A little later it stated: Of the bigger ones, Southampton. Ipswich, Ncrthampton and Peterborough should be particularly attractive to employers; and among the others Aylesbury, Chelmsford, Hastings. Maidstone, Norwich, Reading and Southend. I suppose that most of the places mentioned would not come under the provisions of the Bill. The President of the Board of Trade is aware—from the views expressed in Committee and today—first about the problems of commuters and secondly about the problem of trying to get offices out of the centre of London.

I congratulate the Location of Offices Bureau for the work it has done. At present there is substantial office space available in Southend, but the Bill covers seven years and at the end of that time the supply of office space will probably have dried up in that area. When that happens the Government will have to consider how to administer the provisions of the Bill.

I was pleased to hear the President of the Board of Trade say that the Measure would be administered in a flexible way. This is important, because it is always difficult to persuade people to move east of London. Southend is an extreme example of this. Some people believe that it is inconvenient to move their offices east of London. That has been the experience of the Location of Offices Bureau. However, Southend—and this applies to many other towns east of London—is an ideal centre for office expansion, in view of the Borough's excellent means of communications.

This is a probing Amendment. In support of it, I will quote the advice of the Standing Conference on London Regional Planning. That suggested that Southend would be an excellent place for office expansion. Following the publication of the Government White Paper, the Standing Conference issued a pamphlet in which it stated in paragraph 3: As regards offices outside the conurbation, the Conference decided to recommend member-authorities that in the Metropolitan Green Belt (including proposed extensions) additional offices beyond present commitments should not, in general, be permitted, while beyond. although some new office employment was needed for local population growth, caution on the scale and location of offices was needed for the present. That is probably sensible advice indeed. The Conference recommended Southend and Ashford as places for major office development, although it pointed out that other towns would be suitable for growth in this respect. It stated: Southend is already the largest town in the original Conference area outside the conurbation; with its immediate environs it has an urban population of over a quarter of a million, and this population includes a strong office-employee content; it has fast communications by road and rail to the City of London and a busy airport in its hinterland. Those were some of the reasons which led the Conference to recommend these areas.

I am sure that the President of the Board of Trade will say that when he considers future applications for office development in Southend he will not take an unnecessarily restrictive view of them, in view of the fact that it is obviously necessary that there will have to be office expansion somewhere in the metropolitan region, and will agree with the recommendations of the Standing Conference on London Regional Planning that Southend is an excellent example of the sort of district in which it should take place. He will, I hope, say that he will bear this sympathetically in mind.

Photo of Mr Douglas Jay Mr Douglas Jay , Battersea North

I think that what I said to the hon. Member for East Grinstead (Mr. G. Johnson Smith) applies mutatis mutandis to Southend. There is much force in many of the points which the hon. Member for Southend, West (Mr. Channon) has advanced, and in his quotations from the South East Study. I assure him that we will have these in mind, and after the speeches we have had from the hon. Member in the House and in the Standing Committee I feel that there is no danger of Southend being overlooked.

Photo of Mr Paul Channon Mr Paul Channon , Southend West

I am most grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his assurance and beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Order for Third Reading read.—[Queen's Consent on behalf of the Crown, signified]

Motion made and Question proposed, That the Bill be now read the Third time.

2.5 a.m.

Photo of Sir John Hall Sir John Hall , Wycombe

There is no doubt that we have scrutinised this Bill very thoroughly, and I think that the House will agree that as a consequence it has been improved—although not as much as we on this side of the House would have liked. I said at the conclusion of my Second Reading speech: We have sympathy with the objective of the Bill, although we believe that the measures which were being taken by the previous Government were beginning to bear fruit. The Bill will have to be explained very much more fully before we are convinced that we should support it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st February, 1965; Vol. 705, c. 754.] We have had very full debate and explanation. I must say that the explana- tions have been produced largely as a result of our many probing Amendments, both in Committee and today. Some of our Amendments have been accepted, and the Government themselves have put down a number which have resulted from our examination of the Bill in the Standing Committee. We can say that the Committee and the House have played a very useful part in improving the Measure, although I must confess that we have not been very much helped by back benchers opposite either tonight or during our previous sittings.

I quite sincerely express our appreciation to the Ministers who have taken part in our debates for the sympathetic way in which they have treated most of our Amendments, and for the good-humoured way in which they have put up with our sometimes rather lengthy discussions. I also express my appreciation to my hon. Friends who have worked so hard to prepare Amendments which have improved the Bill. To that extent, I welcome the Third Reading.

2.7 a.m.

Photo of Sir Albert Costain Sir Albert Costain , Folkestone and Hythe

On Second Reading, I said that this Bill was like taking a steam hammer to crack a nut, and produced figures to show that 4 per cent. of the building industry was employed in building offices. The hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson)—whom I am glad now to see in his place—claimed that 25 per cent. of the building labour force operating in Greater London now and during the past few years has been employed on speculative office building. have made the most extensive inquiries but cannot find any official statistics at all.

When we raised this question in Committee, the Minister of State promised to produce some figures as soon as he could to substantiate that claim. I hope that we may have it substantiated soon, because we feel that there has been a great deal of exaggeration connected with the bringing in of this Measure. That became further obvious during the debate on the Milner Holland Report on 22nd March last, when the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Mellish)—the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government—put forward some remarkable figures.

The hon. Gentleman said: We further discovered that office building in London alone in 1964 represented 23 per cent. of the whole of the office building in the whole of Britain and that over 10 per cent. of the total building labour force in Britain was employed in the London region building offices in that area."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd March, 1965; Vol. 709, c. 175.] If those figures are correct, it means that 110,000 men were building offices in Great Britain, and I challenge the Government to say where they stood—never mind what they have built.

I am glad to have this opportunity to correct two misleading statements which were made in the course of the introduction of the Bill.

2.10 a.m.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , Oswestry

During the Committee stage of the Bill some reference was made to my constituency by the Minister of State and others. I am grateful for the terms in which the hon. Gentleman spoke about the problem which had been raised by a number of local authorities arising from Part II of the Bill concerning industrial development and the possible use of industrial development certificates in areas of rural depopulation such as are characterised along the Welsh border.

None the less there is one point which still worries me in connection with Clause 16. As it stands, and certainly in the terms in which the Minister of State spoke in Committee in column 717, the implication was that the hon. Gentleman believed that there was quite a good case for industrial development of a relatively modest character in Shropshire, and possibly in areas along the border country; but he completely overlooked the point that the development of Dawley New Town has been and will continue to be a powerful magnet for that kind of industrial development, unless the enterprise of local authorities in the Welsh border area is not to be in any way frustrated by the operation of Clause 16.

Therefore, I hope that when the Minister of State replies to this debate my fears will be put at rest.

2.12 a.m.

Photo of Sir Harwood Harrison Sir Harwood Harrison , Eye

I should like to reinforce what my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) said about some of his fears. I expressed my fears at an earlier stage about the control that the Minister will have over small businesses in small rural villages in places like East Anglia, the counties of Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridge.

We shall watch how the Bill is administered, because we do not want the small enterprising men who have started businesses to be held up for development by lack of space, particularly those in rural areas who serve the local communities and who badly want a good deal of industrial space for machinery and vehicles.

2.13 a.m.

Photo of Mr George Darling Mr George Darling , Sheffield, Hillsborough

The hon. and gallant Member for Eye (Sir H. Harrison) asked me one or two questions earlier, and when I rose to reply I found that he had left the Chamber.

Photo of Sir Harwood Harrison Sir Harwood Harrison , Eye

I apologise, but I was called away urgently to attend to a matter elsewhere.

Photo of Mr George Darling Mr George Darling , Sheffield, Hillsborough

The hon. and gallant Gentleman was talking about local services which, obviously, cannot be taken away from their localities, and I replied to this point briefly.

In reply to the points made by the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen), what we were discussing, as he will appreciate, was the extent of the Midlands area. When one looks at it on the map, and thinks of it in terms of industrial congestion, one realises that right throughout Shropshire and going down the Welsh border that stretch of country in the Midlands region will not feel the full effect of the Bill.

But one must work with the present regions, and I expressed the view that the places in Shropshire, which were mentioned by the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr. More), are areas which one must take into consideration for industrial development, because of their local circumstances. We can use the Bill to help them if we can squeeze more and more employment out of the over-congested area in the centre of the Midlands region.

I take the point which the hon. Member has raised about Dawley New Town, that this ought to be and will be, we hope, able to attract not only population but industry away from the overcrowded Midlands.

I gave an undertaking to the hon. Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) that I would look into these figures. I do not think that the House would want me to go into detail, but I found a terrible amount of confusion about how many building workers are engaged on building, as distinct from maintenance and repairs, and so on, in the London area, and about how many are actually engaged on office building. The estimates run from a much higher figure than that my hon. Friend gave of 33 per cent.—which I cannot believe—down to 10 per cent.

I do not know whether we can take any guidance from the fact that, of all the orders for new buildings received by contractors during the year 1964, over 22 per cent. by value were for offices. I do not know whether that gives us a clue to the actual number of workers engaged in office building, or what proportion were engaged in speculative office building.

What I should like to do, if the hon. Member would allow me, is to write to him to set out the various calculations that have come my way. I think that that would be the better way of carrying out the undertaking that I gave, because this is becoming something of a struggle—if I may put it like that—between us, and I think it would be a very good idea to get the figures straight. If the House wants me to do so, I can give a lecture for three-quarters of an hour on the statistical information that I have, but I do not think that would be appropriate at this stage.

As the hon. Member for Wycombe (Mr. John Hall) has said, we gave the Bill a thorough examination in Committee. We did it very well and, as he rightly said, very full explanations of the contents of the Bill and of how the Bill would be operated were elicited by probing Amendments and by searching inquiries. The spokesmen in the Committee for the Government fell in with the wishes of hon. Members and produced all the explanations and all the information that they possibly could, so that the Bill could be sent away this morning as a very well-constructed Measure, designed to carry out the intentions of the Government, which, I know, are shared by hon. Members in all quarters of the House, in that we must do something to control office development in London so that we can stop over-congestion.

Photo of Sir Albert Costain Sir Albert Costain , Folkestone and Hythe

The hon. Gentleman has left the question of the figures, but I should just like to put this matter right. So far as I can see—and I have taken a great deal of trouble in working out the calculations—it is impossible to tell what speculative offices have been built. There is no record. Therefore, I am telling the hon. Gentleman that he has no right to make such a statement. So far as the percentage is concerned, the Parliamentary Secretary made a great slip of the tongue when he said that 10 per cent. of the total building labour force in Britain was employed in the London region. The figures of the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) are even worse.

Photo of Mr George Darling Mr George Darling , Sheffield, Hillsborough

I am prepared to go on arguing this if the hon. Gentleman wishes me to do so and the House will allow me, but, as I say, on one series of calculations we are told that one-third of the Labour force in London is engaged in office building. I cannot accept that. It does not make sense when one looks around at office building in London as compared with other forms of building.

Anyhow, the Committee proceedings and today's proceedings have been conducted, as the hon. Member for Wycombe said, in a good-humoured way. We have tried to respond to the searching inquiries and the Amendments put down by hon. Members opposite and, in turn, I would like quite sincerely to thank them for their co-operation in Committee, after we got over our first few early battles, in order to get the Bill through in satisfactory time.

2.21 a.m.

Photo of Sir Peter Emery Sir Peter Emery , Reading

I thank the Minister of State for the kind things that he has said about hon. Members on this side of the House. On the whole, it would be fair to say that, in Committee and today, the House dealt with this matter in an entirely co-operative manner without any animosity.

There has only been one major problem about which we had considerable argument and which I do not think we are entirely satisfied about yet. This, of course, concerns the figures quoted by the hon. Member for Willesden, East (Mr. Freeson) in his Second Reading speech. I do not want to prolong the debate unduly, but there are two points should make. When one takes the larger figures, one is misinterpreting statistics about the building firms with headquarters in London by crediting to their headquarters staff office building whether in London or anywhere else. That is the only way in which one can reach such a figure as suggested by the hon. Member for Willesden, East.

I ask the Government whether they believe that the hon. Member was right. We do not think that he was. I do not want to introduce a note of animosity at this hour, but it is not good enough that this claim by the hon. Member has not been withdrawn. I appreciate that the Minister of State has said that he will write to my hon. Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Costain) but I would point out, in passing, that this matter was raised in Committee on 2nd March, so that the hon. Gentleman has had some time in which to look into the point.

We accept the wish of the Government that there shall be limitation on the movement of population to the South-East. That is a principle we have stated ever since Second Reading, and we have not deviated from it. From that point of view we welcome the Bill. Nevertheless, we believe that the Bill still needs a great deal of improvement.

It contains no compensation; no return on reasonable expenditure; no special provisions to deal with applications under the Shops, Offices and Railway Premises Act; no appeal procedure against decisions by the Board of Trade. The Government have refused to include the provision suggested by the Franks Committee—that when permission is refused the reasons should be stated. We attach great importance to that and we must emphasise that it is the Government who have decided not to include it. Indeed, there is still no limitation of the power to introduce this Measure to other areas.

On Part II of the Bill, dealing with industrial development certificates, we believe that if the Government pursue the proposal to reduce from 5,000 to 1,000 square feet in the large area they intend to cover, this will stifle a considerable amount of modernisation of industry and the fostering of the growth of smaller firms. Indeed, we believe that the limitation of these smaller industrial estates which have encouraged firms to grow will, in fact, cease, or be very strictly limited.

I do not want to rehash the whole of this, but it must be right and proper that we on this side of the House, although we accept the Bill, should say quite frankly that even now there are these weaknesses which I have enumerated.

To conclude, may I turn to what I hope may be a much more pleasant and reasonable approach. I should like to thank the President of the Board of Trade, the Minister of State and the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. They have had a very hard task, not least in keeping their own back benchers quiet in Committee so that they might get the Bill through at even greater speed.

I thank them for the extremely pleasant and reasonable manner in which they have tried to meet the points we have raised, and for that reason I would urge my hon. Friends not to vote against the Bill on Third Reading.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.