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I am glad of this opportunity to make my maiden speech in a debate about London. I have lived most of my life in London, much of it in inner London, and since 10 June I have had the privilege of representing Feltham and Heston, an outer London constituency.
I do not think that there is need for me to give the House great details about my area because it is the same constituency that was for nearly 10 years represented by Mr. Russell Kerr, and before that he represented Feltham for seven years. Both of us share the circumstance that we were elected to Parliament on our fourth attempt. I am sure, even from what I knew of him as a candidate, that he made a valuable contribution in this House, with his knowledge of the nationalised industries, and he was a congenial companion. Whatever our differences politically, we had no personal disagreement and in defeat he behaved with a generosity and magnanimity which I hope in such circumstances I would emulate.
I have an interest in the subject under debate in that since 11 January I have been representing the Greater London council at the terminal five inquiry at Heathrow. Having been told that maiden speeches should be non-controverial, I shall not enter the debate about the GLC, expect to comment that I shall need to be persuaded that the strategic planning and road functions and overall position concerning regional planning are in good hands after any changes are made.
I have a general point to make about London which is of fundamental importance and which was mentioned by the right hon. Member for Brent, East (Mr. Freeson) and the hon. Member for Woolwich (Mr. Cartwright), and that concerns the relationship of London with the south-east region. The present relationship is based upon plans which were made as long ago as 1967, which were last reviewed in 1978, and which assume a growing population in the south-east, a static population for London and growth to be accommodated in a number of defined growth areas outside London. It was assumed that there would be growth of population for the south-east of no less than 2 million. Instead, there has been a static population in the south-east, a sharply falling population for London—it has fallen by 13 per cent. — and a notable increase in population in some of the growth areas notably to the west of London in Berkshire. Growth in the growth areas has been no less than 13 per cent. This has all happened without any growth of population overall.
The growth areas can be seen to be attracting population out of London. That may be because Londoners, like other members of the population, want to occupy more space. The level of occupation of houses in London is certainly still higher than that in the south-east generally. To a Government who are committed to control of the borrowing requirement, there could well be attractions in the idea of reconsidering the strategy for the growth areas, which are extremely expensive in terms of new infrastructure. I suggest that in the near future the Government should review their strategy for the southeast, particularly for the growth areas, in view of the uncertainty of government in London.
I shall refer briefly to three matters that concern the quality of life in west London. I disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Richmond and Barnes (Mr. Hanley) in only one respect. I contend that a Boeing 747 makes as much noise on take-off as a Trident. I do not accept that the new and larger planes are any less noisy than their predecessors.
At Heathrow only a handful of passenger flights leave or land between 11 pm and 11.30 pm and there would be no serious disadvantage to the air transport industry in bringing the ban forward from 11.30 pm to 11 pm. I suggest that that would be of great benefit to the people of west London. The time may soon arrive when a total night ban will be considered. That is already the position in many countries in which our air transport industry competes.
There is considerable pressure on open space and parks in west London. A regional park very near to my constituency has been said to suffer from
the almost overwhelming use of space for formal and informal recreation and problems of over-use.
There is great pressure on open space in west London and temptations to develop it. Since the law was changed in 1980, local authorities have been under pressure to allow development of public open space.
Finally, I refer briefly to the standard of development in Feltham, which is in my constituency. I should welcome the intervention of the Greater London council and the Secretary of State in the decision on the station development at Feltham, where it was found that there were too many offices and that the standard of design was too low. Continued attention to the number of offices in new development and the standard of design will be greatly welcomed by my constituents.
All those features are of some importance when London government is going through a period of uncertainty. I urge that, in the next two or three years, the Government should take a particular interest in those matters in view of the uncertainty that is created by the constitutional debate on the GLC.