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.