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Class X

Volume 645: debated on Tuesday 25 July 1961

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Pensions, National Insurance And National Assistance


That this House doth agree with the Committee in the outstanding Resolution reported in respect of Class X of the Civil Estimates.

put and agreed to.

Estimates For Revenue Departments And Supplementary Estimate, 1961–62


That this House doth agree with the Committee in the outstanding Resolution reported in respect of the Revenue Departments Estimates,

put and agreed to.

Ministry Of Defence Estimate, 1961–62


That this House doth agree with the Committee in the outstanding Resolution reported in respect of the Ministry of Defence Estimate,

put and agreed to.

Navy Estimates, 1961–62


That this House doth agree with the Committee in the outstanding Resolution reported in respect of the Navy Estimates,

put and agreed to.

Army Estimates And Supplementary Estimate, 1961–62


That this House doth agree with the Committee in the outstanding Resolution reported in respect of the Army Estimates,

put and agreed to.

Air Estimates, 1961–62


That this House doth agree with the Committee in the outstanding Resolution reported in respect of the Air Estimates,

put and agreed to.

Navy Expenditure, 1959–60


That this House doth agree with the Committee in the Resolution relating to Navy Expenditure, 1959–60.

put and agreed to.

Army Expenditure, 1959–60


That this House doth agree with the Committee in the Resolution relating to Army Expenditure, 1959–60,

put and agreed to.

Air Expenditure, 1959–60


That this House doth agree with the Committee in the Resolution relating to Air Expenditure, 1959–60,

put and agreed to.

Ways And Means 24Th July

Resolution reported,

That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty for the service of the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1962, the sum of £3,125,425,646 be granted out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom.

Resolution agreed to.

Bill ordered to be brought in upon the said Resolution by the Chairman of Ways and Means, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Sir Edward Boyle.

Consolidated Fund (Appropriation)

Bill to apply a sum out of the Consolidated Fund to the service of the year ending on the thirty-first day of March, one thousand nine hundred and sixty two, and to appropriate the supplies granted in this Session of Parliament, presented accordingly and read the First time; to be read a Second time Tomorrow and to be printed. [Bill 160.]

New Towns Commission

9.46 p.m.

I beg to move,

That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that the Commission for the New Towns (Appointed Day) Order, 1961 (S.I., 1961, No. 1162), dated 22nd June 1961, a copy of which was laid before this House on 27th June, he annulled.
The Commission for the New Towns deals, admittedly, with a transitional stage in the life of the new towns. It is important for the purpose of this debate that we get that point quite clear and I want to quote from what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Postmaster-General, then Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government when the 1959 Act on which this Order is based was having its Second Reading. He said, on 1st December, 1958:
"I want to make it perfectly clear to the House that the Bill is strictly limited to the second stage,"—
that is, the second stage in the life of new towns—
"that of consolidation."
Later, he said:
"We believe that the question of ultimate ownership"—
that is, ultimate ownership of the assets of the new town corporations—
"is one which it would be premature to try to settle at this stage."—,[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1958; Vol. 596, c. 849.]
We are dealing, then, with something for the transitional stage in the life of new towns.

We are moving the Prayer because we on this side of the House believe that the Commission should not come into being when the Government are not yet clear about what is to come after the transitional stage and when we have reason to fear that when they do reach a decision on that point it will be a wrong decision. We take that view for specific reasons based on this Bill and not merely on a natural general assumption about any decision that might be taken by the present Administration.

The hon. Member is always very quick to follow what is in my mind. I quite follow what he means by the words based on this Bill ", but what seems to arise is whether under the Bill, which the House has already made into an Act of Parliament, the appropriate date to start the Commission should be the 31st October, 1961.

Yes, I think that I used the phrase "this Bill", Mr. Speaker, when I was quoting from what the then Parliamentary Secretary said on Second Reading of the Bill which ultimately became the 1959 Act from which this Order springs. I entirely agree that we are dealing here with whether the Commission should come into being on a particular date. I am arguing that we think it should not come into being at a time when the Government have not yet made clear what is to come after the transitional stage for which the Commission is intended.

Surely that must be wide of what we may properly discuss on this Order, which assumes apparently, that there should be this kind of Commission, which is created by the Act? This Order raises the question, as I understand it, whether, assuming that there should be such a Commission, it should be, pursuant to that Act, brought into existence at this particular date.

May I put it like this, Mr. Speaker? If the Government were to make a statement that removed some of our anxieties about what is to be the nature of the Commission's work and what is to follow its administration, we might then decide that it would be proper for the Commission to come into being, but we are reluctant to agree to the proposition that it should come into being on 1st October because we have as yet had no reason to suppose that the Government will make their mind clear to us before that date.

I am sure that the hon. Member will wish to help me. I do not wish to be tiresome, but is not that from my point of view extremely difficult? Surely that is saying that no date which would be appropriate can be specified until the Government have made a statement about the future intentions beyond what has already been proposed. Surely what we are here concerned with, assuming the Act to be right and the existence of the Commission to be right, is whether the October date is or is not the right date to set up the Commission.

May I put it like this, Mr. Speaker? I think that we should take the view that, possibly, 1st December might be a more suitable date—I do not, of course, press that particular date, but I think that this would bring it into order—because it is more reasonable to suppose that by then the Government will have removed the anxieties that we have about the Order. I think that I can develop that point.

I do not want to be unduly restrictive. I know that the hon. Gentleman will help me. I do not think that we could on this Order, within our rules and principles, discuss future policy beyond the existence of the Commission. I think that we can discuss whether or not 1st October is the right date on which to bring the Commission into existence, assuming, as we must postulate for the purpose, that it is right that it should exist.

I think that I made the point at the beginning that the Commission deals with the transitional stage in the life of the new towns. I think it reasonable for us to say that we are doubtful whether it is desirable for it to embark on that transitional stage on 1st October. I respectfully submit, Mr. Speaker, that it is very difficult to discuss that if one makes no reference at all to what the transition is to lead to. I appreciate that one ought not to attempt to develop that in any detail.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. To make the point clear, I want just to refer to the episodes that led up to the creation of this Commission and face us now with the proposition that it should come into being on 1st October. All this began with the New Towns Act, 1946, which brought the new towns themselves into existence and provided them with development corporations, whose work will, of course, cease on 1st October, 1961, by virtue of the coming into existence of the Commission proposed in the Order.

It is clear that when the 1946 Act was under discussion both sides of the House took the view that ultimately the ownership of the assets of the development corporations would pass into the hands of local authorities. We are now faced with the proposal that on 1st October they shall pass into the ownership and control of the Commission for the New Towns. If we ask why—

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government
(Sir Keith Joseph)

I should hate this debate to get off on a wrong statement about fact. Nothing happens about the development corporations on 1st October. There has, under the Act, to be a new Order. That is thought to be likely to be made on 1st April next year, probably for two of the new towns. Only then will any new town development corporation cease to exist and be replaced by another body.

I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. I was, of course, skipping a stage in that process. The Minister first makes this Order to bring the Commission into existence, and then makes subsequent Orders which transfer the assets of the development corporations to the Commission.

Yes. I am a little startled to hear that the Government have selected 1st April for that particular operation, but no doubt they have their reasons. Why has there been this change? The view was universally held that the transition ought to be from development corporations to local authorities. Why have the Government changed their mind and now ask us to bring into being this new body, the Commission for the New Towns?

Several reasons have been given for that. The Minister of Housing and Local Government, when charged with inconsistency on this matter, argued, in effect, that inconsistency was almost a virtue in itself. That does not carry very much conviction. The Times, more candid than the right hon. Gentleman, threw more light on the matter. It said that it was a good thing to bring the Commission into being, rather than for the assets to pass to the local authorities, because a good many of the local authorities in the new towns would be controlled by the Labour Party. The Times regarded that as sufficient reason for this change. It is a good deal more convincing, if not more creditable, than anything that the Minister gave as a reason for the change of policy.

Pressed on this matter, the right hon. Gentleman argued that it was necessary to bring the Commission into being because the local authorities concerned were, as he put it, "young". I thank that he meant that they were young in comparison with the size of the responsibilities and problems that they would have to bear. We are asked, in effect, on the Minister's second argument, to bring the Commission into being on 1st October, because on that date he does not think that the local authorities will be in a position to approach taking over the responsibilities of the development corporations. Let us examine that argument.

Let me say at once that I agree that there is a transitional stage in the life of a new town. One can see three such stages. The first is the development when its population is growing, largely by immigration. That is essentially the period of the development corporation—the period which this Order is the first step to ending. Then there comes a second stage, in which the growth of population is rather by natural increase than by immigration, and that natural increase, of course, will be exceptional owing to the young age composition of the town. Then, presumably beyond that, lies a stage where, in age composition and in other matters, a new town more closely resembles an ordinary community.

In asking us to bring the Commission for the new towns into being as early as this, the Minister is taking the first step towards that final stage that lies even beyond the Commission itself. Without, as you, Mr. Speaker have warned me, going into detail on that, I think it will be legitimate to say that if we are to start on that road on 1st October we should have some idea, in general, of where it will lead us in the end.

I wonder whether the Parliamentary Secretary will be able to answer this question: is it the intention of the Government that, ultimately, the assets now owned by the development corporations, after passing through a period of ownership by the Commission, shall ultimately pass into the hands of the local authorities? It is reasonable that the Government should be clear about their intentions on that point. It is either that, or these assets are to be sold off to private persons.

The Commission we are asked to bring into existence on 1st October will have power to dispose of assets in that way. We know from subsections (5, a) and (4, d) of Section 2 of the 1959 Act that, subject to direction and control by the Minister, the Commission can have power to dispose of its assets in that way. If we are to assent to the Commission corning into being on 1st October, are we then taking the first step towards local authority ownership of the assets, or the first step towards the disposal of those assets, houses, shops, factories, and so on, to private persons?

All these consequences of which the hon. Member is speaking may follow from the setting up of the Commission, but I do not understand why they follow from the setting up of the Commission on the first day of October, or the second day of October, or the third day of October, or the first day of November. The issue raised by the Order is very narrow, I am sorry to be tiresome.

I think that you would agree, Mr. Speaker, that it is not as narrow as between, say, the first day of October and the second day of October. What I am suggesting is that it would be wiser if the Commission came into being a little later, when the Government themselves are a little clearer about where this is going to lead us. I do not propose to develop the question of the ultimate destination of the assets of development corporations any further.

I think that I shall be on surer ground from your point of view, Mr. Speaker, if I now ask how the Commission will handle the transition stage. Have we, by a date as soon as 1st October, arrived at the transition stage at which it is reasonable to ring the death knell of the development corporations, which is what this Order does?

To answer that question, we have to look at some of the problems which the development corporations are now handling. I think that I shall certainly be in order here, because we all agree that, sooner or later the development corporations will stop handling the problems which they are now handling, whether their powers and properties ultimately go to the local authorities or the new Towns Commission.

The question at issue is whether we should begin the process of putting them out of business at this date. To answer that question, we have to look at some of the problems which the development corporations have to handle. They have to handle the problem of the actual provision of houses, of course. Even when migration into the new towns has stopped, there is an exceptional housing problem arising from the exceptional natural increase of population.

Secondly, even when, as a result of the work of the development corporation, enough industry has been attracted into the area to start the new town, the development corporation still has the problem of an exceptional number of young people in the new town. As the years go by the number of school leavers increases. The problem of the employment of youth, of apprenticeship training, and, therefore, again, of the attraction of industry to the new towns will still be there. There is further the problem to which frequent reference has been made in the Press, the provision of sufficient social amenities in the new towns. All these are tasks on which the development corporations are engaged at the moment and will continue to be engaged until both this Order and the subsequent Orders to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred have been passed.

Why should we suppose that these problems will be particularly well handled by a Commission of the kind designated in this Order? They are all problems which require the local knowledge of each particular town, yet it is proposed that the solving of them for all the new towns should be dealt with by a single Commission all of whose members are appointed by the Minister, and none of those members are elected.

Consider the size of this undertaking. The Commission, when we have brought it into existence and completed the process of transfer, will own about 90,000 dwellings, in which dwell about 350,000 people. It will own about 250 factories and 2,000 shops. When we debated land, a few days ago, the Minister was very critical of certain proposals that we made on the ground that they would lead to an enormous bureaucracy. But surely it is an extraordinary measure of bureaucracy that this varied range of undertakings, the proper administration of which requires so much local knowledge peculiar to each particular town, should all be handled by a single nominated Commission?

I see that while I have been saying that the Parliamentary Secretary has been busy making notes. I expect that the words he has written down are, "local committees", because it is proposed that the development commission shall appoint local committees to assist it in its work, but every one of the members of those committees will be nominated by the Commission. Not a single one will be elected by a local authority.

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I think that that is going rather beyond the scope of this Order, which is concerned merely with the date. No doubt the hon. Member heard what Mr. Speaker said earlier.

Yes, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I think that what I have to say now will be entirely to the point and in order.

The Government are asking us to bring this Commission into being on 1st October, 1961. Have they considered the principles on which that Commission will act in the nomination of its committees? Have they asked the local authorities for their views on the matter? Is there any possibility that, although neither Act nor Order provides for representation of the local authorities on the local committees, the Commission will appoint people suggested by the local authorities?

Before we assent to this Commission coming into existence on 1st October, we are entitled to know whether the Minister already has cleared up this point about the Commission's attitude towards the appointment to the local committees of people in fact, though not in law, recommended to it by the local authorities, or whether he will do so between now and 1st October. I think that many of my hon. Friends would regard that as a point of considerable importance.

What we have is a proposal to take, on 1st October, the first step towards wiping out the development corporations and the transfer of the assets to the Commission. We are asked to take that first step on 1st October, before the Government have made clear to us what is their view of the ultimate destination of this property and these responsibilities and before we know anything definite or detailed about the way in which the local committees, which are supposed to be an important part of the scheme, will function. It would be wiser for the Government to fix a later date and, in the interval which would provide itself, to consider an alternative solution to the problem.

I think that the solution should be on the following lines: first, it should be clear that the ultimate destination of the assets of the corporations is into the hands of local authorities. It is important, in that connection, to notice that we are not talking about houses which will be sold to the people living in them; there will be a considerable owner-occupier population in the new towns. We are concerned with the ownership of rented houses.

One reason for our reluctance to take this course, which is to be started upon on 1st October, is that it has been suggested earlier by Government spokesmen that there is something undemocratic about a number of rented houses in a town being owned by a local authority. I cannot see why that should be regarded a undemocratic when the Government apparently regard as satisfactory that rented property should be owned and managed either by a Commission or by a local committee under its control, none of whose members are elected—or, alternatively, that the houses should be sold off to private landlords.

I doubt whether people who do not own the houses in which they live consider it more democratic to have a private landlord than to be the tenants of a local council. We are reluctant to take, on 1st October, the first step on a road on which the Government's ultimate intentions are so obscure. A better solution, to which the Government could address their minds if they would agree to bring the Commission into being rather later and give themselves more time for reflection, would be to keep the development corporations in existence for the present, recognising that their responsibilities must ultimately go to the local authorities, and to begin a process of gradual transfer of their responsibilities.

The local authorities would undertake to deal with an increasing measure of the housing problems of the area while the corporations would continue to deal with the problems of industry and employment. The membership of the development corporations could be broadened by the inclusion thereon of certain representatives of the local authorities, and, not necessarily all at once, but possibly neighbourhood by neighbourhood, the property and assets could be transferred from the corporations to the local authorities.

The Minister wants us to take this step on 1st October, because he says that local authorities are "young, and not yet ready for the responsibilities and problems involved". What do we do with young people in order that they shall grow up and be able to bear responsibilities? We devolve duties and responsibilities on them, not all at once, but bit by bit, and that is what we believe should be the process between the corporations and local authorities.

The date of the Order-1st October, 1961—will be watched with an almost painful interest by the staffs employed by the corporations. Therefore, before we consent to take a step which implies a great deal for the employment of a considerable number of very useful public servants, we are entitled to hear from the Minister what are the present arrangements about redundancy among the staffs of the corporations.

From time to time bits of information have been available and there have been discussions through the appropriate machinery. But I hope very much that before we allow a Commission of this kind to come into being on 1st October we shall know how the matter now stands regarding giving proper notice where necessary and, one would hope, the retention of a good many members of the staff in the service of the proposed Commission.

The other question to be asked in that respect is whether the Government realise that, however generous and sensible are the arrangements about the staffs now employed by the development corporations, they will have to dispense and intend to dispense with the services of a good many members of the staffs. Have the Government realised that had they been a little more forthcoming regarding the creation of further new towns there would have been a continuous useful employment ahead of many of these people?

Ths Chair has been very indulgent to me throughout this debate and I have tried not to abuse that indulgence. But the matter is of very great importance both to the dwellers in the new towns and to the future of local government as a whole. By no means least it is important to the staffs now employed by the development corporations. I trust, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you will feel it right to extend equal indulgence to the Parliamentary Secretary so that the House may be informed on these matters.

10.17 p.m.

My intervention will be very brief. We are all obliged to the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) and to the Opposition for praying against this Order. As the hon. Member rightly said, the Order is of very considerable importance in what I regard as one of the great social experiments of the time. I certainly am not prepared to adopt such a narrow and bigoted view as to withhold from the party opposite their very considerable share of the credit.

I am proud, to share with one or two of my hon. Friends the privilege of representing a new town. I represent what is possibly the youngest of the new towns, namely, Bracknell. Though I realise that the hon. Gentleman was merely quoting from The Times—and what he said was by way of an aside—it is worth recalling the all the London overspill new towns are represented by hon. Members who sit on this side of the House. That, perhaps, disposes of the view expressed earlier about the local authorities.

While keeping strictly and resolutely in order, I wish to suggest to my hon. Friend at least one reason why he should stick firmly to the date of 1st October. Admittedly, my new town will not be affected by this Order for some considerable time. Only yesterday my right hon. Friend made an announcement which means that it is to be doubled in size. That was a very welcome announcement. But in dealings with the staff of development corporations, and in talks with my hon. Friends representing Crawley and Hemel Hempstead, I have found—it may be that my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason) will confirm this—that among the staffs of those corporations, including even the staff of my own new town which has some years of work ahead, there is a considerable doubt about the future, and the firm coming into force of this Order will do a great deal to remove that doubt. I believe that is a very good reason for the selection of this date. I am dealing exclusively and directly with the date, 1st October. I believe that any further delay, any further prevarication, would lead to additional lack of continuity within the corporations' staffs to whom, as the hon. Member for Fulham so rightly said, we owe a very great debt for the work they have done.

You, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, were very indulgent to the hon. Member and he pleaded that you should be equally indulgent to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. I must not seek to stray out of order, but he sought to introduce into the argument, and you allowed him briefly to develop it, the view that there was something undemocratic and undesirable about an Order which on 1st October seeks to bring into effect the New Towns Commission. The hon. Member, as always, argued his case with lucidity. I can tell him that I made a particular point in the new town which I represent of placing very clearly before the electorate of that town—it is a small one at the moment—the particular and narrow point we are arguing tonight. I believe he genuinely misunderstands the temper of the inhabitants of new towns if he supposes that they want to become tenants of a council house town.

With due respect to those many people for whom it is right that the country should provide council houses, I say that the predominantly young people now inhabiting these wonderful new social experiments want, frankly, to do better than that. As I say this, I realise that I am liable to misconstruction and that I might appear to be pouring odium on council house tenants as such. That is far from my thought, but these are new experiments with young people of the modern generation and the old shibboleths and solutions of council house towns will not do. I went out of my way to explain this in detail. I am satisfied that within the context of 1st October—which you, Sir, are about to remind me is the Order we are discussing—they had no doubt that this is what they wanted to do.

In this rather interesting discussion with his electors, did the hon. Member put before them the choices, one, that they might be tenants of the local council, two, that they might be tenants of a local development corporation and, three, that they might be tenants of a Commission controlling the whole of the the new towns and with its seat in London?

It is most regrettable, but I must instantly obey your Ruling, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I hope that the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) will do me the honour of discussing it with me on a more convivial occasion when I can give him the background, but the short answer is, yes.

I realise that in the discharge of your duty to the House you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, have to keep us within very narrow limits, which makes it difficult to discuss this matter as we would wish, but I respectfully suggest to the hon. Member for Fulham that in relation to the Commission which by this Order, if it is not successfully prayed against. is to come into force on 1st October, he was not entirely fair—unwittingly I feel sure—to the local bodies which will be subsidiary to the Commission which is affected by this Order.

I realise that they are not elected bodies, but, after all, it is the intention of the Minister that the Commission, which comes into force by this Order, shall include the chairman or other representative of each of the new towns. He stated publicly that the local bodies shall be as widely representative of the life of that town as he can make it. I hope he will resist any attempt to make the local authority representatives elected representatives. I believe that they will be better able to discharge their duties as nominated members. I am precluded from developing that theme only by the look of disapproval which is now apparent on your face, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.

Therefore, with some emphasis, I say to my hon. Friend, limiting myself, first, to the necessity for an early decision, and second, to the general principles which I have sought to enunciate, that I hope he will resist the Motion which has been moved.

10.26 p.m.

I have the honour to represent the division of Hemel Hempstead, but I have some difficulty to contend with in explaining that I am not solely the Member for that borough but, in fact, represent a very much wider area. Nevertheless, in Hemel Hempstead we have one of the two new towns which are chiefly affected by this Order, which, in April next year, will come under the New Towns Commission. This is a very great experiment, and one which we earnestly want to succeed. We have the great benefit in Hemel Hempstead of being an extremely old borough. Henry VIII gave its charter to Hemel Hempstead. It might well have had it before, but, nevertheless, it got it only a matter of 400-odd years ago.

I will pass rapidly from that point to my particular point, which is that the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) said that the local authorities were not capable of carrying out certain functions which would pass to them from the organisation which will be set up under this Order. I wanted to dispel that idea, because we have a truly efficient organisation in Hemel Hempstead, at least. One of the three points which the hon. Member for Fulham particularly made concerned social amenities, and he said that they could not be carried out by local committees and would not be satisfactorily carried out by the New Towns Commission. I suggest that they can be very efficiently carried out by any efficient borough council.

I am interested in the point which the hon. Gentleman is making, and I agree with him. The hon. Gentleman says that the local councils could provide these amenities, but how can they when the Chancellor has announced today a reduction in loan sanctions for local authorities?

I doubt if the councils have had time to do their arithmetic, but my right hon. and learned Friend made it clear that this is only a very temporary measure in regard to Bank Rate.

In view of the comment made by the hon. Member, would it not be in order to argue that the date should not be 1st October but rather such date as the Bank Rate comes down again?

Hon. Members can argue against the Order or for it. but not for an amendment.

Returning to the points made by the hon. Member for Fulham, there was also the question of responsibility for housing and natural development and also that of providing jobs, particularly for school leavers. These are two points which, quite clearly, concern something which can be forecast. They are not matters of day-to-day administration, but can clearly be forecast, and therefore, can reasonably be left to the New Towns Commission. The Commission for the New Towns, which will come into being on 1st October, will be capable of forecasting general trends and will therefore be able to make proper arrangements.

It is very doubtful if it is necessary for local committees to be elected. The hon. Member for Fulham said that they must be democratically elected. I hope that I am still in order.

I was refraining from interrupting. I was going to interrupt in about one minute's time.

I am merely trying to follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Fulham. He said that he was worried that local committees would be undemocratic. I remind the House that the Commissioners of Crown Lands have been with us for many years and they are not unreasonable landlords. The Church Commissioners have been with us for many years and, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) said, people are happy and proud to be the tenants of such extremely reasonable landlords.

I am a tenant of the Church Commissioners, and I assure the hon. Member that I would rather be the tenant of a dozen borough councils.

I should stray far from the point if I followed that up. A little question of subsidy comes in. I will not strain your patience, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, by straying on to that point. We have this system of absentee landlords, but it has worked well in this country so far, and I believe that it will work well now.

I am particularly concerned about the staff of development corporations. They have had very little warning of this change. We in Hemel Hempstead are particularly affected as one of the two towns which will so rapidly change their status. Their staffs have had little time to be warned of what will happen to them. It is a matter of grave concern to them that within a year they may be out of a job. It may be that they will be taken on by the local committees, but they do not even know that. I should be very grateful if my hon. Friend would tell us something about security of tenure or help for those members of the staff who will be displaced or who at any rate do not know anything about their future.

10.33 p.m.

The hon. Member for Woking-ham (Mr. van Straubenzee) made it clear that his reason for arguing that there should be no postponement of the date, that 1st October was a proper and good date, and that the Parliamentary Secretary should rebut any arguments to the contrary was that the staffs of development corporations would and should know where they stand as soon as possible. He expressed deep concern about the staffs, as did the hon. Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason). It is obviously true that they have been specially trained in work of this type, that they would not be easily replaced, and that if they are lost they will not easily be brought together again at any time in the future should they be needed for new experiments of this remarkable social type.

I felt that the hon. Member for Wokingham was pleading the exact opposite of what he wanted. If his argument he correct and his concern is well-placed, as I am sure it is, surely my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) is right when he says that this is not the correct date but that it should be later in order that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary should have an opportunity to reconsider not only what is to happen in this transition stage, not only what is ultimately to be the end result, but also—and this is the important point—whether there will be a declaration about further new towns so that the staffs should know where they were and could be absorbed. They would know that they would not be dispersed and that they could continue, if not in one place, in another which has not yet been decided.

I understand, though I do not necessarily agree with, that part of the hon. Gentleman's argument which relates to those who have been concerned with development. After all, there are a large number of staffs who are concerned with what I might term management. New towns do not necessarily refer to them. The point of this Order is that it gives that part of the staff in particular a certainty which I would have thought they had not got up to now.

It would seem that at least we are all equally concerned to do the right thing by these people who work so well and ably for the new towns. We are all concerned that any of them who are perturbed now should know what their future is to be, and it would seem that we are divided on the question of the date. 1st October.

I must say that my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham received very courteous treatment from the Chair, and, having listened to him, I am keeping strictly in order. Concerned as we are, we are divided only by the fact that there is some disagreement as to which would be the best way to help these people and give them reassurance.

One minor point is the question of the local committees which it is proposed should be appointed by the Commission as from 1st October. The question is, should it be 1st October or later? Is it not possible that my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham is right and that there should be an opportunity between 1st October and, say, 1st December, which he suggested as an alternative date, for some new thinking on this question of the local committees? If that were so, then stage 3 of handing over fully to local authorities could be brought nearer. I hope that when the Parliamentary Secretary replies he will give some heed to our feelings about these small but very important matters.

10.38 p.m.

I am sure that what the hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Dr. Stross) has just said, that we are all concerned to see that the greatest possible help is given to the new towns, is true.

These new towns, one of which I am privileged to have in my constituency, Basildon, are bubbling with vitality and life. Like all new developments of this kind, they need a sense of stability and certainty. It is because I sense, as I am sure many hon. Members do, the need in these new towns for a progressive and certain view of the future that I urge the House to support this Order which will put the date at 1st October this year.

I ask my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to bear in mind what has already been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason), that the staffs of the corporations of these new towns should be very seriously considered. They are people who have shown a devoted—one is tempted to say a dedicated—sense of duty over the years in which these new towns have been developed and they deserve to have their futures considered when we come to the question of appointing the Commission.

Of course, one of the big advantages of having an early and a final date is that we should have the time, which we shall have between now and 1st October, to see that the Commission is properly appointed, and I have no doubt, if I may say so, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, without, I hope, going outside the narrow limits of this debate, that what my hon. Friend the Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) has said is true, that these people in the new towns want to find themselves with a settled and certain future as soon as possible. I believe that this Order is a material and progressive step towards that end.

10.42 p.m.

I am not sure that the hon. and learned Member for Billericay (Mr. Gardner) is right when he suggests that the passing of this Order will bring to the minds of the staffs of the development corporations a sense of certainty and settlement. Actually, of course, the setting up of the Commission will again disturb the peace of mind of the staff of every development corporation in the country because, as we know, the setting up of the Commission is the first step towards the liquidation of the development corporations and to the scattering of their staffs in, possibly, many directions.

May I just explain that when I referred to certainty and stability these were advantages which I envisaged would be enjoyed by the people of the new towns, not necessarily by the staffs. I was asking my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary if he could give some assurance that the interests of the staffs of the corporations could also be looked at.

We all agree, of course, that the staffs should be properly cared for and that the termination of their services should be accompanied with as generous treatment as possible. The hon. and learned Member was not a member of the Standing Committee which dealt with the Bill which is now the Act, but I think that I am within the bounds of order in informing him that we on this side of the House did our utmost in that Committee to secure that the staffs were protected when the development corporations were swallowed up and their assets handed over to the Commission.

We know that in bringing this Order before the House the Minister is acting under the provisions of the Act. We know that Section 2 (12) of the Act provides that the Commission shall come into being on such date as the Minister may by Order appoint. The Minister is doing that. He has mentioned 1st October in the Order. Suppose, however, that he did not simply think out the date of 1st October. It probably is not his birthday or a red-letter day for him. We must presume that he has good and adequate reasons for choosing that date. Those reasons must have some connection with the state of advancement of the development of some of the new towns.

Presumably, the Minister is not bringing the Commission into being on 1st October for no reason at all. He and the Joint Parliamentary Secretary must know that one at least of the new town development corporations is nearing the end of the work that was assigned to them by the Minister at the time. It would have been more helpful had the Minister laid before Parliament details of those development corporations which are nearing the end of their work, so that we could more fittingly judge whether the date of 1st October is suitable.

We are rather in the dark about this. We do not know the ground upon which the Minister chooses 1st October and not another date. I am surprised that the Minister failed to tell us in advance that the development corporation at Crawley or elsewhere had nearly finished its work. In his intervention, the Joint Parliamentary Secretary mentioned the names of one or two corporations and said that they would finish their work by 1st April next.

The Commission can have no function until one at least of the development corporations has finished its work. It begins to operate only when the assets of one at least of the corporations is handed over to it to manage. Although it is rather late in our discussion, we hope that the Parliamentary Secretary will give us detailed information about which of the new towns are nearing completion.

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will tell us to what extent the new towns are short of their optimum population, what provision is yet to be made to ensure an adequacy of housing accommodation for all the people in the new towns and what provision is being made by the development corporation which will be handed over to the Commission for housing the growing part of the population which will soon become adult and require its own houses. I also hope that he will assure us, in regard to those corporations which are finishing their work, that all has been done that is required to be done in the development of the new town in the way of amenities, facilities for social life, and so on.

We are entitled to know tonight which of the development corporations is now ripe to go over to the Commission, because it will have no function unless one at least of the corporations goes over to it. We are entitled to be told which of the corporations is finishing its work and to be assured that that work is complete, that the end of the corporation's work is satisfactory and that the new town will be complete by 1st April next when it is handed over to the Commission.

I think I shall be in order in asking the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to say something about the length of life of the Commission—

We are not appointing the Commission tonight, but we are giving the Minister power to set it up and to appoint its members. One would have thought that the Parliamentary Secretary would be in a position to tell us something about the periods of appointment of members so that we should get a better idea of what the House is agreeing to. I agree that the Order is very short. It is so short that if one were to keep strictly to its terms one would talk about 1st October and not 1st September, and that would be the end of the discussion.

I trust that you will agree, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that with the setting up of the Commission it would be normal Parliamentary practice to ask something about the terms of the appointments. I think it is in order for me to put these questions to the Parliamentary Secretary about the membership of the Commission and for how long the members will be appointed. The Minister is on record as having said that the Commission will last 10, 15 or 20 years; he has stated that on more than one occasion. At the end of the period, whatever it may be, we shall come to the time when Parliament will have to decide what the ultimate future of the new towns is to be.

As has been mentioned, the taking over of the new towns by the Commission is merely one phase in the process of settling the future of the new towns, and it will not be until the Commission has run its time and done its work and been dissolved that the House will decide the final and most satisfactory form of organisation for them. My hon. Friend the Member for Fulham dwelt on this point. It is well known that the two sides of the House take contrary views on whether or not the new towns should be under municipal control, but it is clear from what the Minister has said on previous occasions that the setting up of the Commission on 1st October is not the final decision about the ultimate form of organisation of the new towns. I am sure that we shall bear that in mind and that when the time comes and the Commission is dissolved—

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will not pursue this. It is beyond the Order.

I am just concluding, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I have only three or four more words. Only when the Commission has run its course will the House be in a position to decide whether or not these magnificent new towns, created as a result of the initiative of the Labour Government, will be under municipal control and management.

10.54 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government
(Sir Keith Joseph)

I am grateful for the opportunity of giving the House some information about this most important matter. I will try to answer all the questions that have been asked, except for one—the question posed by the hon. Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) about the alternatives that were theoretically before the House when the New Towns Act, 1959, was passed. As has been pointed out, what we are discussing here is merely the date when the Commission for the New Towns, which was laid down by that Act, is to be set up, and, therefore, it is not open to me to discuss the alternatives that were then available but are no longer available.

It is true that, as the hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) said, there will come a time when the further stage for the new towns will arrive, a stage when they are indistinguishable from normal towns. But we cannot now decide what the proper pattern for the management of those towns will be then. I shall seek to say no more about that at the moment, except to reassure the hon. Member for Fulham and his hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, Central (Dr. Stross) that there is absolutely no intention whatever that the Commission should go in for any sort of wholesale disposal of assets. When the time comes for a decision about the final stage for the management of these new towns, obviously a policy will have to be proposed to Parliament. New legislation will be involved, and that now legislation will not be prejudiced by any wholesale disposal of the assets in the meanwhile.

I should like to start, as was so rightly suggested by the hon. Member for Islington, South-West, by explaining that the date of 1st October for the setting up of the Commission for the Now Towns was reached by working backwards from the date when, the Commission believes, new towns—in this case two—will have finished the development chapter of their lives. The two new towns concerned are Hemel Hempstead and Crawley, and their main development stage will have come to an end by about the spring of next year.

The House may like to know that by that date Crawley will have a population of about 55,000 of its ultimate target population of 75,000 and Hemel Hempstead will have a population of about the same size out of an ultimate target population of 80,000. The House scarcely needs me to remind it that the gap in population will, of course, be accounted for over the years by the natural increase stemming from the existing population of the new towns. That is why, although there is still development to be done, housing and some additional amenities to be provided, and employment found for the new population, it is nevertheless true that the main development phase in these two towns will by then be about complete.

Obviously, the Commission for the New Towns will need at least some months to familiarise itself with its task, to gather together what will in the first place be a very small headquarters staff, to set up its office and its form of accounts and to arrange its procedure and pattern of delegation. For all that preparatory work, six months is by no means too long. That is why my right hon. Friend suggests 1st October for the setting up of the Commission.

The hon. Member for Islington, South-West also asked about membership. The Act provides for a membership of up to 15. but that looks forward to a time when there is a large number of new towns under the wing of the Commission, and it is certainly my right hon. Friend's intention that for as long as possible the Commission shall be as small and as workmanlike a body as is compatible with the range of experience which will be needed upon that.

The actual names of the chairman and the deputy-chairman and the terms and conditions of employment are under consultation at this moment, and T have no announcement to make an behalf of my right hon. Friend; but I know that it is his intention that on the Commission there shall be a representative of each new town taken over and, so far as possible, by that means or another, someone experienced in financial affairs and someone experienced in estate management.

As several hon. Members have said, especially the hon. Member for Fulham, the Commission will have to handle what are essentially local matters, but I remind the House that by Section 2 (2) of the Act and certainly by the intent of my right hon. Friend the Commission will bear in mind the purposes for which the new towns were set up and the interests of their inhabitants. We can therefore count on the Commission being a sympathetic body.

My right hon. Friend accepts that the Commission will in fact he a very large landlord, but he expects that it will act as a first-class landlord working to the very highest of standards. As for the handling of local matters, the Commission will no doubt conduct much of its business by delegation. The Act requires that it must manage the houses in the new towns by way of local committees and may delegate to those local committees any of the day-to-day business it thinks proper. What it thinks proper is essentially for the Commission to decide, but my right hon. Friend hopes that in its nominations to the local committees—and I remind the House that it is bound to consult local authorities before making nominations to my right hon. Friend for his confirmation—it will heed the advice given it by local authorities and that one or more members of the local committees will be chosen from names suggested by local authorities. My right hon. Friend also hopes that the local committees will maintain some sort of continuity, however partial, with the existing new town development corporations.

I was asked to guarantee that there will be no lack of power to provide housing for the increase of population in the new towns which will be taken over. I can certainly guarantee that. The Commission will have power to provide housing, if necessary. If necessary the local authorities concerned will be able to provide housing. I say "if necessary" because what these communities have in abundance is subsidised housing, and it may well be that the need—

I was seeking to answer questions, but I will pass to the question asked by most hon. Members, which was about the staff. My hon. Friends the Members for Hemel Hempstead (Mr. Allason), Billericay (Mr. Gardner) and Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee), and the hon. Members for Stoke-on-Trent, Central and Fulham spoke feelingly and appreciatively about the work of the staff and were most anxious that they should know their prospects and be given as much security as possible. When an Order is made under the Act bringing a new town under the Commission—and it is proposed that Orders will be made for Crawley and Hemel Hempstead about the spring of next year—the staff of those development corporations automatically become the staff of the Commission. It is not expected that the establishment of the Commission will itself create any immediate redundancy. The Commission will have only a very small headquarters staff, and all the work being carried out by the development corporation will carry on just as at present, though under the direction of the Commission, which will simply step into the shoes of the development corporation.

The whole subject of the future of the staff has been discussed with the appropriate Whitley Council, and the result of those discussions has been communicated to the development corporations and through them has been made known, or shortly will be made known, to the staff concerned.

The prospects of the staff are essentially matters for the Commission but because, obviously, the staff of Hemel Hempstead and Crawley are anxious to know what those prospects are, my right hon. Friend has anticipated the setting up of the Commission and has made at least short-term arrangements about the staff of those two new town development corporations. All the staff of those two new towns have been guaranteed that they will be given at least twelve months' notice. All the staff of those new towns have been guaranteed that no notice will be given before the end of 1961. All the routine management and maintenance men of those two staffs have been guaranteed that no notice will be given before the end of 1964.

We must leave it to the Commission, working on principles already discussed with the Whitley Council, to inform the staff of other new towns nearer the time when they may be taken over, which is not in the immediate future, about their prospects. I hope that I have explained to the House fully the answers to the questions which were asked me and have explained why—

How many members will form the Commission? I have an interest in the question of new towns.

As regards the new towns of Newton Aycliffe and Peterlee in the County of Durham, will a member of the Commission be appointed to the local committee of each town to look after its interests?

As a new town is taken over, it is intended that a representative of that new town development corporation will join the Commission. It is normally likely that that representative will become the chairman of the local committee of that new town.

I was explaining that in the first instance my right hon. Friend hopes to keep the Commission very small and workman- like. I hope that I have answered all the questions, and that this Prayer will not be pressed.

11.05 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary has not convinced me. But that is perhaps not surprising, because I am against the Commission coming into being on 1st October of this year or any other year.

I have no intention of arguing that, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. I am merely stating a fact. It does not need argument. It is so obvious that it does not have to be argued. The Bill has gone through, and we are, therefore, in a position to discuss only this Order tonight.

The date of 1st October has been chosen because, as the Minister said, it is estimated that by early spring of next year these two towns will be ripe to be handed over to the Commission. He said that in Crawley there was a population of 55,000, or there would be about that time, out of an expected total of 75,000, and that in Hemel Hempstead there was a population of 55,000 out of an expected total of 80,000.

The population of Crawley is expected to increase by 20,000, presumably spread over about 15 or 20 years. This will come about by natural growth as well as by a number of people coming in from outside. The population of Hemel Hempstead is expected to increase by about 50 per cent. of the existing population. I cannot accept that at this stage in the development of a new town the direction of it should be taken away from the development corporation intimately connected with the town and handed over to what the Parliamentary Secretary said would be a very large landlord. I go further and say that it will be an absentee landlord, a remote landlord, which will not be able to bring to the development of towns like Crawley and Hemel Hempstead the originality and single-mindedness which the development corporations have been able to bring to them by being on the spot.

I do not think that the time has come when we should take the development and expansion of Crawley and Hemel Hempstead away from those towns and put them in. the hands of a body which has other responsibilities and which will be situated somewhere in London. A few more years ought to go by—

The implication of the hon. Gentleman's argument is that instead of leaving the natural growth of these towns to be taken care of under the supervision of the local authorities and the local planning authorities, they should be regulated by the Commission from Whitehall. Apparently the hon. Gentleman prefers that even during the period of natural increase.

Completely the opposite. I want the new town development corporations, which have so far successfully developed Hemel Hempstead and Crawley, to be allowed to carry on that job for a few years.

The development corporations are responsible to my right hon. Friend in Whitehall, not to the local authorities.

The new town development corporations have offices in the towns. They meet there regularly. They are in day-to-day contact with the local authorities. They employ rent collectors, and other social workers in the towns. They run housing lists for accommodation in the towns, and those bodies should carry on doing that work for some time. The time is not ripe to hand that work over to a central organisation which will have offices in London and which will not have the day-to-day contact and the day-to-day experience of the towns which the development corporations have at present. I am not so sure that the time will ever come for them to be handed over to this type of commission. but I am certain that the present moment is too early for that transfer to take place.

Having said that, I go on to say that I am surprised that we should be discussing this Order tonight. I notice that it was first laid on 22nd June—about five weeks ago. Things were rather different then. But we have been told today that, amongst other things, all our embassies throughout the world will be sacking their office boys and cutting down their garden parties in order to save money—

I submit, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that money is involved in setting up this new Commission. Up to 15 members can be appointed, and they are all going to be paid, by the Minister, under paragraph 7 of the First Schedule,

"such remuneration in respect of that office as he may with the consent of the Treasury determine."
The Parliamentary Secretary has told us that negotiations are still in progress as to the number of members to be appointed and the salaries to be paid to them. Not only has a salary to be paid to the chairman and the deputy-chairman, and such members as may be appointed—and we can safely assume that there will be five appointed in the beginning, giving a total of at least seven to start with—but this money must be voted by this House. There is also to be a staff taken on. The Minister said that it would be a small staff, but these things have a habit of blossoming out. Offices must also be found in London for the Commission to hold its meetings. There will be travelling expenses for the staff and members of the Commission billeted in the new towns. This must add up to a substantial amount of money.

It is suggested that this amount of money should be incurred, completely unnecessarily, on the same day that we have been told that all our embassies throughout the world will have to look at their expenditure and cut it by 10 per cent.—presumably by sacking the office boy at the embassy in Montevideo, and cutting down the number of garden parties at the embassy in Rome, in order to find the money to appoint a chairman, deputy-chairman and commissioners to look after new towns in this country.

This Order was originally laid before the House when the Government were still under the impression that the majority of people in this country had never had it so good and that everything was going so well that we could afford the extra £20,000, £30,000 or £40,000 that the Commission will cost, but circumstances have changed rapidly in the last five weeks. We have had a second Budget today, and will spend two days discussing the expenditure of money and cuts in Government expenditure, and I must point out that we could save some money and take some of the burden from the shoulders of the Chancellor of the Exchequer by not bothering to set up this Commission on 1st October, as the Order enables the Minister to do.

If we are now in the middle of another financial crisis we should not go blithely ahead setting up commissions to do unnecessary jobs, or jobs which are being done adequately by bodies which already exist.

11.13 p.m.

The hon. Member for Islington. North (Mr. Reynolds) was wide of the mark in two respects. First, when 1st October comes and the Commission is set up, it will be the beginning of the running down of the existing development corporations, particularly Crawley and Hemel Hempstead—

The hon. Member shakes his head, but what is all the fuss about existing staffs if it is not clear that as the development stage begins to come to an end the corporations will begun to run down? The hon. Member for Islington, South-West (Mr. A. Evans) treated us to a repetition of some speeches we had in Committee in the last Parliament, pointing to the need to preserve the interests of the staffs.

I am sure that if the hon. Gentleman had listened he would know that I did not quote any such speeches.

With your sharp ears, Mr. Speaker. I am sure you will remember that the hon. Member referred to those speeches and said that a special effort was made on behalf of the staff. When the function of rapid development changes and eventually comes to an end, and a new disposition of people is made, it is not necessary that the State should go on employing people unnecessarily. They would not wish to be so employed. They would be idle, which is not good for them or for the taxpayers. The hon. Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds) has tried to relate all this to garden parties in Montevideo—

If I may interrupt my hon. Friend, I would say that the vast majority of routine management staff will be needed for the new town whether it be run by the Commission or by the Development Corporation.

Yes, but what will not be necessary will be the development staff.

The second point is that the hon. hon. Member for Islington, North talks about the time of natural growth as being a time when the development corporation continues in operation, but the longer it is in operation the longer is the situation perpetuated whereby the new town continues to be a rather special subject of an unusual nature, not integrated into the normal life of the country. It is still a place which has not taken upon itself the mantle of an ordinary, normal town.

As has been said tonight, the existence of the Commission at a time when the period of rapid development has come to an end provides the means for tiding over to the time when these towns cease to be "new" and different from other towns. The hon. Member for Islington, North seems to me to want to perpetuate the present artificial situation. It may be all right now while the period of rapid development is still going on, but I think we shall find that after lst October not only will more new towns be coming under the wing of the Commission, but more new towns will be designated.

The setting up of this Commission is a logical step in the process of making the new towns into ordinary towns, which certainly was the purpose envisaged by those who first conceived them. I share hon. Members' enthusiasm for new towns. They represent a great experiment, and I hope there will be more of them!

11.19 p.m.

We are grateful to you, Mr. Speaker, for having made it possible for us to have a full discussion on this Prayer. In particular, we are pleased to have extracted two very important statements from the Parliamentary Secretary: first, that there is no intention of disposing of the assets by the Commission within the life of the Commission; and, secondly, unlike the rather cold-blooded and even truculent attitude in evidence when the Bill was passing through the House, the staff, as a result of pressure brought to bear upon the Government, apparently is to have adequate promises made to help them. Unfortunately, as so often happens in such cases, the time is now too late; the damage to morale has already been done.

Although you have been generous to us and allowed us to have a wide debate, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, we cannot help feeling that what happens when we discuss Orders is very different from what happens when these matters are discussed when Bills go through Standing Committees. We are always told when a Bill goes through Committee that we need not worry, that there has to be an Order, that we shall be able to have a Prayer, and that we need not discuss the matter in Committee because we shall be able to discuss it fully later. However, when we are faced with Orders our experience is that it is only with the greatest kindness and co-operation from the Chair that we are able to have any kind of tolerable discussion.

There are two reasons why we should not fix a date. The effect of defeating the Order would be that a date would not be fixed. That would not wreck anything. It would simply mean that for all new towns the same arrangements would go on as will in any case go on for the majority of them, namely that corporations will continue to run them satisfactorily and economically as at present. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North (Mr. Reynolds) that this is not the time to make a sudden administrative change of this sort. It is not the time to start setting up new bodies when a body already exists with experience and staff. There is bound to be a waste of manpower if a transfer of this sort is made at the moment. To make this change at present will be completely inconsistent with what was said earlier this afternoon.

The other reason why it is desirable not to make the change immediately is that the later the date fixed for setting up the Commission the more likely it is that the corporation can proceed with the assimilation of its housing with that of the local authorities. I completely disagree with what the hon. Member for Wokingham (Mr. van Straubenzee) said. The indication seems to be that there is something non-U about being a council tenant and that people in the new towns do not want to be council tenants. That is nonsense. The fact that a new town resident becomes a tenant of the council does not even mean that he necessarily gets a subsidy. There is no real reason why new town residents should not become blended into the new town. It is mischievous to try deliberately to provoke snobbish distinctions between those new town residents who are owner-occupiers, those who have the State as their landlord, and those who have the local authority as their landlord. The only effect of this will be to damage the social development of new towns. I entirely dissent from this attitude.

I did not gather that there was any suggestion that the people who found it rather socially humiliating to have a local authority as a landlord would be landed with a private landlord. From that point of view we are grateful to the Parliamentary Secretary. That is something, at any rate. We gather that the choice is between one kind of public landlord and another.

I was called to order just as I was about to explain that the Commission will certainly hope that many of the houses that are needed will be built by private enterprise.

I do not know where they will get their finance from. I am not clear now what the Parliamentary Secretary is telling us about the procedure. This is relevant to the Order, because it is relevant to the question whether the Corporation or the Commission is to make the decision. That is fixed by the date on which the Commission comes into being. Does the Parliamentary Secretary mean that houses will be built for owner-occupation, or is it intended to sell off chunks of land to development operators to start private landlords—

I have been blamed for allowing the House to have a wide debate on this issue. I am not with the hon. Gentleman in understanding how this matter can possibly arise on the Order.

If it is due to any halting words of mine, Mr. Speaker, I will respectfully and humbly try to rephrase them, if I may be allowed to do so.

May I put it in this way? The point is that the choice before us is the date. The date determines whether or not the corporation continues or whether or not a new body takes over. Therefore, it is vitally important to know whether or not we ought to allow the Commission to be formed and to know whether the Commission will adopt a different policy from that of the corporation. However, I will not develop that point any further.

I will only say that I feel that the case for having this precipitate date

Division No. 258.]


(11.26 p.m.

Ainsley, WilliamHunter, A. E.Reynolds, G. W.
Albu, AustenHynd, John (Attercliffe)Rhodes, H.
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Irving, Sydney (Dartford)Roberts, Albert (Normanton)
Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)Jay, Rt. Hon, DouglasRoberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Awbery, StanJohnson., Carol (Lewisham, S.)Robertson, John (Paisley)
Blackurn, F.Jones, Dan (Burnley)Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)
Blyton, WilliamKelley, RichardRogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)
Bowden, Herbert W. (Leics, S.W.)King, Dr. HoraceRoss, William
Bowles, FrankLee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)Short, Edward
Braddock, Mrs. E. M.Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)Skeffington, Arthur
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Lewis, Arthur (West Ham, N.)Slater, Mrs. Harriet (Stoke, N.)
Brown, Alan (Tottenham)Logan, DavidSlater, Joseph (Sedgefield)
Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)Loughlin, CharlesSmall, William
Butter, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Mabon, Dr. J. DicksonSorensen, R, W.
Cliffe, MichaelMacColl, JamesSoskice, Rt. Hon. Sir Frank
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)McKay, John (Wallsend)Spriggs, Leslie
Grossman, R. H. S.Mackie, John (Enfield, East)Stewart, Michael (Fulham)
Cullen, Mrs. AliceMacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)Stonehouse, John
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda. E.)Manuel, A. C.Stones, William
Davids, Hsrold (Leek)Mapp, CharlesStrachey, Rt. Hon. John
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Marsh, RichardStross, Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent, C.)
Dempsey, JamesMendelson, J. J.Sylvester, George
Diamond, JohnMilne, Edward J.Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)
Dugdale, Rt. Hon. JohnMitchison, G. R.Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)
Edelman, MauriceMoyle, ArthurThomson, G. M. (Dundee, E.)
Evans, AlbertNeal, HaroldUngoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn
Finch, HaroldOram, A. E.Wainwright, Edwin
Foot, Dingle (Ipswich)Oswald, ThomasWatkins, Tudor
Forman, J. C.Owen, WillWhite, Mrs. Eirene
Galpern, Sir MyerPaget, R. T.Whitlock, William
Grey, CharlesPargiter, G. A.Wilkins, W. A.
Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)Parker, JohnWilliams, LI. (Abertillery)
Hamilton, William (West Fife)Parkin, B. T,Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)
Hannan, WilliamPavitt, LaurenceWillis, E. C. (Edinburgh, E.)
Hart, Mrs. JudithPentland, NormanWinterbottom, R. E.
Hayman, F. H.Plummer, Sir LeslieWoof, Robert
Herbison, Miss MargaretPopplewell, ErnestYates, Victor (Ladywood)
Hill, J. (Midlothian)Probert, Arthur
Hilton, A. V.Pursey, Cmdr. Harry


Houghton, DouglasRandall, HarryMr. Charles A. Howell and
Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Redhead, E. c.Mr. Lawson.


Agnew, Sir PeterCarr, Robert (Mitcham)Dalkeith, Earl of
Allan, Robert (Paddington, S.)Channon, H. P. G.d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry
Allason, JamesChataway, ChristopherDonaldson, Cmdr. C. E. M.
Atkins, HumphreyChichester-Clark, R.Drayson, G. B.
Barter, JohnClark, Henry (Antrim, N.)du Cann, Edward
Bidgood, John C.Cleaver, LeonardDuncan, Sir James
Biggs-Davison, JohnCooke, RobertEden, John
Bishop, F. P.Cooper, A. E.Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)
Bourne-Arton, A.Cooper-Key, Sir NeillElliott,R. W. (Nwcstle-upon-Tyne,N.)
Box, DonaldCordeaux, Lt. Col. J. K.Errington, Sir Eric
Boyle, Sir EdwardCordle, JohnFarr, John
Braine, BernardCorfield, F. V.Fisher, Nigel
Brooman-White, R.Costain, A. P.Fletcher-Cooke, Charles
Buck, AntonyCritchley, JulianFoster, John
Bullard, DenysCunningham, KnoxFraser, Ian (Plymouth, Sutton)
Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)Curran, CharlesGardner, Edward
Carr, Compton (Barons Court)Currie, G. B. H.George, J. C. (Pollok)

for setting up this Commission, the case for having it set up and presumably its composition announced before the House meets again, is something with which those of us who watch the new towns carefully and anxiously will not wish to be associated, and we shall wish to express our dissent from the proposal.

Question put:

The House divided: Ayes 119, Noes 182.

Gibson-Watt, DavidLitchfield, Capt. JohnSeymour, Leslie
Glover, Sir DouglasLongden, GilbertShaw, M.
Glyn, Sir Richard (Dorset, N.)Loveys, Walter H.Smith, Dudley (Br'ntf'rd & Chiswick)
Goodhart, PhilipLucas-Tooth, Sir HughSmithers, Peter
Goodhew, VictorMacArthur, IanSpearman, Sir Alexander
Cower, RaymondMcLaughlin, Mrs. PatriciaSteward, Harold (Stockport, S.)
Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R.Macmillan. Rt. Hn. Harold (Bromley)Stodart, J. A.
Green, AlanMacmillan, Maurice (Halifax)Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir Malcolm
Gurden, HaroldMaddan, MartinStudholme, Sir Henry
Hall, John (Wycombe)Markham, Major Sir FrankSumner, Donald (Orpington)
Hamilton, Michael (Wellingborough)Marten, NeilTalbot, John E.
Harris, Reader (Heston)Matthews, Gordon (Meriden)Tapsell, Peter
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)Mawby, RayTaylor, Edwin (Bolton, E.)
Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere (Macclesf'd)Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. c.Taylor, W J. (Bradford, N.)
Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)Mills, StrattonTeeling, William
Hastings, StephenMontgomery, FergusTemple, John M.
Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir LionelMore, Jasper (Ludlow)Thomas, Peter (Conway)
Hiley, JosephMorgan, WilliamThornton-Kemsley, Sir Colin
Hill, Mrs. Eveline (Wythenshawe)Mott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesTiley, Arthur (Bradford, W.)
Hirst, GeoffreyNabarro, GeraldTurner, Colin
Hobson; JohnNicholls, Sir HarmarTurton, Rt. Hon. R. H.
Holland, PhilipNoble, Michaelvan Straubenzee, W. R.
Hollingworth, JohnOsborn, John (Hallam)Vane, W. M. F.
Hopkins, AlanOsborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)Vosper, Rt. Hon. Dennis
Hornby, R. P.Page, Graham (Crosby)Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W,)
Hornsby-Smith, Rt. Hon. PatriciaPannell, Norman (Kirkdale)Walder, David
Howard, Hon. G R. (St. Ives)Pearson, Frank (Clitheroe)Walker, Peter
Hughes-Young, MichaelPeel, JohnWall, Patrick
Iremonger, T. L.Pilkington, Sir RichardWard, Dame Irene
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Pitman, Sir JamesWells, John (Maidstone)
Jackson, JohnPitt, Miss EdithWhitelaw, William
Jennings, J, c.Powell, Rt. Hon. J. EnochWilliams, Dudley (Exeter)
Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)Prior, J. M. L,Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)
Johnson, Eric (Blackley)Proudfoot, WilfredWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Joseph, Sir KeithPym, FrancisWise, A. R.
Kaberry, Sir DonaldRawlinson, PeterWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Kershaw, AnthonyRedmayne, Rt. Hon. MartinWoodhouse, C. M.
Kimball, MarcusRees, HughWoodnutt, Mark
Kirk, PeterRidley, Hon. NicholasWoollam, John
Leavey, J. A.Ridsdale, JulianWorsley, Marcus
Legge-Bourke, Sir HarryRoberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)Yates, William (The Wrekin)
Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Robinson, Sir Roland (Blackpool, S.)
Lilley, F. J. P.Roots, William


Lindsay, MartinRussell, RonaldMr. Finlay and Mr. J. E. B. Hill.
Linstead, Sir HughScott-Hopkins, James

Coal (Cynheidre And Abernant Mines)

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[ Mr. Gibson-Watt.]

11.35 p.m.

I am glad to have this opportunity for a short debate on the question of capital investment in the anthracite mines at Cynheidre and Abernant. I should explain that for some time past rumours have been circulating in parts of South Wales that all was not going according to plan at these two collieries. To ascertain the position, I decided to try to put down Questions to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power in the normal way, but owing to the regulations regarding nationalised industries and Questions I found that this was not possible and that I should have to get the information from the National Coal Board instead.

As a result, I addressed exactly similar questions that I had wanted to put down to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Power to Lord Robens, Chairman of the National Coal Board, little thinking that in so doing I should be disturbing something of a hornets' nest, for since I received what turned out to be a forthright and revealing reply from the Chairman of the Coal Board I have received a number of letters and messages of encouragement from West Wales, on the one hand, and a certain amount of criticism from political and National Coal Board sources, on the other hand.

The first criticism came from the Chairman of the South-Western region of the Coal Board, who appeared with me on a television programme. He pointed out that he did not know what qualifications I had to deal with mining. It was also suggested that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary made similar comments, but I understand that they were the result of a misunderstanding. I am sure that all hon. Members will agree that if we had to have specialist qualifications before putting Questions or making comments on various subjects, we should have great difficulty in pursuing our normal Parliamentary duties. I freely admit that I have no mining qualifications, but neither, as far as I am aware, has Lord Robens, who, after all, is Chairman of the Coal Board.

The second criticism came from the hon. Lady the Member for Carmarthen (Lady Megan Lloyd George). I am sorry that she is not here this evening. I wrote reminding her of this debate, but I understand that she was detained for an engagement in Wales. In a recent speech, the hon. Lady described my inquiries as a "rash and ill-advised intervention". At a later stage, she invited me to withdraw what she then described as
"these wild statements which he has made without any justification".
I find both of the hon. Lady's accusations rather bewildering in the light of the facts contained in the letter from the Chairman of the National Coal Board.

This is a three-paragraph letter. The first paragraph deals with the capital authorisations of nearly £13½ million for Cynheidre and nearly £9½ million for Abernant. The third paragraph deals with the production target of Abernant and says something of the expectation of production this year. I will refer to that later. I wish at this stage to draw the attention of hon. Members to the second paragraph, which states:
"Cynheidre is more advanced in its development and we expect it to produce some 150,000 tons of anthracite this year. Although the original scheme and authorisation of expenditure was based on an output of 1 million tons a year, the difficult geological conditions have led us to review the commitment and to reduce the immediate objective for this new colliery to 550,000 tons a year. It is possible, however, that more favourable conditions will allow us at a later date to expand the output of the colliery to something nearer the original intention."
I cannot for the life of me see why when I express concern, first, that the target of I million tons, on which a capital expenditure of some £13½ million was authorised, has been slashed by half, and, second, when the actual amount of anthracite that it is expected to produce this year amounts to only a fraction—just over one quarter, to be exact—of the reduced target figure, I should be accused of making wild statements without any justification.

I submit that they are not wild statements. On the contrary, they are statements of fact, and there is every justification for concern, the more so because, unlike loans to the private section of industry, to which the hon. Lady also referred—Cunard, Richard Thomas, and Colviltes—all of which have been the subject of lengthy and hotly contested debates, followed by a vote, on the Floor of the House, capital sums expended by the National Coal Board, I believe, are authorised under the Coal Mining Industry Act, 1956, and, therefore, do not come before hon. Members for their close scrutiny and debate.

By far the most disturbing feature of all this, in my opinion, is that several of my correspondents from West Wales with wide experience of mining maintain that the Cynheidre project, as an economic proposition, was doomed to failure from the start—

I will give way in a moment. These correspondents also maintain that the warnings of the wise old men of mining were ignored when they referred to the geological difficulties in the area, and that I have only scratched on the surface in regard to wasteful expenditure by the National Coal Board in Wales.

How does the hon. Gentleman explain the fact that since, first, Cynheidre is in my constituency, and, second, that I am an anthracite miner and have spent all my life in the coalfields, I have not had a single word from anyone, wise or otherwise, about this? I wonder why they wrote to him and not to me.

I think the answer to that is in the publicity relating to this subject. I have a cutting here dated 7th April, 1956, which states that the right hon. Gentleman referred to a total aggregate output of 700,000 tons. If Abernant is to produce 720,000 tons and Cynheidre, on the reduced estimates, 550,000 tons, that is 1¼ million tons. So that the right hon. Gentleman appears to have had doubts about the situation as far back as that.

Anyway, I hope that these allegations are wrong, but I have an uneasy feeling that some of them at any rate are true, for certainly the reactions of senior Coal Board officials to my recent inquiries—which I can describe only as being rather like that of a patient when the dentist is drilling on a nerve—are not likely to inspire confidence in this direction.

The geological problems associated with the anthracite field in the area of Cynheidre and Abernant are already well known. The disturbance of the strata was referred to in a leaflet which the Coal Board issued on the Cynheidre project as far back as January, 1957, and it was given as the reason for the adoption of the horizon principle of mining, as it is called, which I believe is widely used on this project and other major projects throughout the South Wales coalfield.

I appreciate that these geological difficulties can be very considerable indeed, and that they may cause great variations in production, but is the Minister really satisfied that in the full knowledge that these difficulties existed, sufficient borehole drillings and tests were made before this expensive project was started, and, if he is, that the right conclusions were reached as a result? Does mining have to be such a hit-and-miss affair in this modern day and age?

It is common knowledge that, for example, production of coking coal at Nantgarw falls far below expectations which were current when the capital expenditure was authorised, but in the case of Cynheidre the significant fact is not so much the disappointing production figure which is expected this year, but rather the halving of the target, for if the original target had been 550,000 tons and not 1 million, presumably the scheme as we know it today would not have been authorised in the first place.

What we ought to be told is what circumstances made it necessary to reduce this target so drastically that this was taken. Quite obviously, in a new colliery like Cynheidre it will take time to reach the full production figure of 550,000 tons a year. The Divisional Chairman of the South-Western Region estimates that it will take at least two years. I shall be interested to know whether my hon. Friend agrees with that estimate and what further capital expenditure he expects will be required before this full production is reached.

What are we to expect from Abernant? Capital expenditure was based on 720,000 tons a year. That, I am glad to say, is still the target, but I hope that this decision will not he adversely affected by the unexpected difficulties which my hon. Friend mentioned on his recent visit to Cardiff. Whether they do or not, it is obvious that the production of anthracite in South Wales will fall far below expectations over the next few years. How, then, is this deficiency to be made good?

I see from a cutting from last Friday's Western Mail that the National Coal Board has already authorised an increase in opencast mining for anthracite and coking coal in South Wales. Perhaps my hon. Friend will tell us whether he expects that supplies from opencast mining will be sufficient to bridge the gap and to keep our overseas customers happy in the meantime until Cynheidre and Abernant are in full production.

Then there is the all-important question of manpower, which is causing concern not only in South Wales but in other parts of the country. I am getting my share of the blame for that, too. I should point out, however, that the drift from the mines has been going on for some years now. It is not a new problem but it has certainly been aggravated by the wave of prosperity which we have experienced in Wales in the past couple of years. It is surely a matter of economics, but if by encouraging new industry to come to Wales we are responsible for creating a manpower shortage, then I must take my share of the blame, together with other hon. Members for Welsh constituencies, and not least the right hon. Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths). I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman is the last person who would want to see men obliged to work in the mines because no alternative jobs were available.

At a time when Government expenditure as a whole has to be contained, or even reduced, it is more than ever necessary that the nationalised industries, whose capital expenditure is not subject to Parliamentary control in the usual way, should be especially careful to avoid extravagance and waste. There are indications that something of this sort may have been going on in South Wales coalfields in recent years. Tonight I have posed some of the questions that the people of South Wales are asking about this capital expenditure. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to put our minds at rest, but, if not, I hope that he will seriously consider whether a full inquiry should be made into the circumstances surrounding capital expenditure on these mines at Cynheidre and Abernant and elsewhere in South Wales.

11.50 p.m.

I have given an assurance that I will be very brief in this intervention, but I am glad that I have caught your eye, Mr. Speaker, because the Abernant Colliery is in my constituency. The hon. Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) referred to rumours and expressions of opinion. The mining community which I represent is proud of the technical achievements at Abernant. The hon. Member dealt at some length with Cynheidre and made a brief reference to Abernant, and I will refer only to the latter. He referred to a discussion which he had on television with Mr. Kellett the South Western Division manager, but he has not told us something which Mr. Kellett said. With the greatest respect to the hon. Member, he said that he did not have enough knowledge of the industry to draw the right conclusions from the information which he had received.

I put it to the hon. Member, with respect, whether he thinks that he is doing a service to the coal industry at this difficult moment by making the statements which he has made and casting any kind of doubt upon the successful conclusion of these projects. I will leave it there, because my right hon. Friend the Member for Llanelly (Mr. J. Griffiths) and other hon. Members are anxious to hear the Minister's reply. I emphasise, however, the confidence of the mining community which I represent in the successful outcome of the projects at bath Cynheidre and Abernant. In conclusion, may I say that I deplore the hon. Member's action in bringing forward this matter without informing me that he intended to do so, since my constituency is affected, thus breaking a normal courtesy shown in this House.

11.52 p.m.

I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, North (Mr. Box) for having forewarned me of some of the points which he has raised, and I am also grateful for the restraint with which he has handled a delicate matter of great importance not only in South Wales but elsewhere. A large sum of public money might be at risk, and it is right and proper that he should seek information. I will try to give him the fullest available information and will deal first with the direct questions which he put at the end of his speech.

The first was about the rephasing—not the slashing—of the target at Cynheidre from 1 million tons to 550,000 tons. This was decided early in 1960. To have any meaning, targets must cover only a few years. It was obvious early in 1960 that geological disturbances were certain to frustrate the original objective of 1 million tons in 1966. Psychologically, it was unwise to leave this original target alive. A figure of 550,000 tons by 1964 therefore substituted as a more realistic figure. But this substitution of a new short-term target does not mean the final abandonment of the original target, and the fact that the geological disturbances had been forecast, as my hon. Friend said, by wise old men—who always forecast difficulties in any new mining undertakings anywhere in Britain—does not mean that they should have been foreseen. Geological difficulties are not revealed in their entirety until the exploration is made. This is no condemnation of any of the planners employed by the National Coal Board.

My hon. Friend asked about the Abernant target. He mentioned that the original figure for Abernant remains. The difference is that we hoped for 720,000 tons by 1961. It is now forecast for 1964, with no change in total. I will deal with that later.

He asked about future capital expenditure. The further capital expenditure authorised for each colliery is: Abernant, a further £3 million, Cynheidre, a further —1·6 million. The last question was, how is the shortfall in output resulting from the unrealised expectations to be made up in the short and in the long term? In the coming winter Cynheidre and Abernant will be producing at an annual rate of 200,000 tons; this is additional to last year's anthracite output. In addition, the National Coal Board is seeking to increase output from open-cast sources of anthracite. While little will be obtained this year, in 1962, open-cast, Cynheidre and Abernant should produce together 500,000 tons of new output. Both these collieries, plus open cast sites, should make a rising contribution to market supplies.

With regard to the long term prospects resulting from the alteration in target at Cynheidre, it is far too early to assume that Cynheidre will not move on from 550,000 tons in 1964 to higher outputs in later years. I re-emphasise that Abernant is expected to reach the original target in 1964.

I now turn to the broader questions which my hon. Friend raised—the soundness of both projects, whether they were wisely conceived, efficiently planned and executed, and what are their prospects of success.

We must look back to 1951. Then the shallow coals were nearing exhaustion but the demand for anthracite was rising. The reserves remaining were at great depths, requiring heavy capital expenditure. But the market could not be ignored and the employment of thousands was involved. The reserves of are the two proposed collieries a estimated to be 150 million tons of the finest, quality anthracite coal, enough to supply the nation with its demands for anthracite for 50 years at current consumption, I have tried to estimate the cash value of the reserves, and at modern prices I assess them at £800 million. The market, miners' jobs and immensely valuable reserves of the highest quality coal demanded that the development should proceed. Decisions were taken to develop both collieries, using the most modern techniques and equipment.

What has been the course of events since then? I will deal with the facts and not with rumours and old men's tales. Facts are all that count in serious issues such as this when charges are made against the National Coal Board and the people who do its planning.

Cynheidre was approved by the National Coal Board in 1954 at an estimated capital expenditure of approximately £12¼ million. Previously, in June, 1951, the Board had given preliminary approval to a total of £7 million so that work could start on the sinking of the two new shafts. This was no more than a very approximate estimate made at the time when boring had not been completed.

This was in no way comparable with the firm estimate of £12¼ million in 1954, by which time rising prices had increased the expected cost of the two new shafts by £2½ million. As my hon. Friend perhaps knows, the scheme included the sinking of two new shafts to a depth of 800 yards, the deepening of an existing shaft, and the provision of surface buildings of the most modern type to handle the expected output.

Because difficult conditions were expected at the face, the method of mining had to be the most efficient devised by mining engineers to reduce the cost of transport of the coal from the face. The surface buildings had to be the most efficient obtainable to meet the cost of handling the coal at the surface, thereby equating the cost to something like an economic figure.

What has happened since then? Two new shafts were sunk as planned, and the development of the surface buildings has proceeded normally at Cynheidre. Underground development, however, encountered unusually difficult geological conditions which delayed the progress of the scheme and led to substantial increases in costs for this part of the work.

In the light of the conditions encountered underground, the Board revised the target to 550,000 tons in 1964, instead of 1,000,000 tons in 1966. The fact that geological difficulties were encountered is no condemnation of the planning. Mining cannot be, and is not a hit-and-miss game as my hon. Friend suggested. It is impossible, however, to so prove a deep coal field as to avoid the chance of geological difficulties being encountered. It is economically impossible, particularly in the case of anthracite, and in the difficult fields of South Wales and Scotland. They cannot be economically proved so as to avoid troubles when operations commence. Therefore, there is always a risk. It is a risky venture at the best, and the fact that we have discovered the troubles here was not unexpected, and is the fault of no one. It does not represent a waste of capital assets by the Board. It does not mean, either, that the pit is condemned or doomed to failure. Almost any colliery of any size has had high outputs and low outputs. That is a characteristic of the mining industry. Cynheidre may come through to calmer waters and achieve the original purpose.

The Board believes that the geological proving was adequate under the circumstances. It had detailed information relating to the workings of old collieries round the field. The northern boundary is composed of a number of mines which have extracted the coal and have proved its existence and also proved the difficulties. They gave a good guide and a mass of information in relation to what could be expected at Cynheidre. But the Board was not content with that. It put down two deep and exploratory borings and brought in the Geological Survey to make a special examination and to collect all information in order to give the engineers a reasonable picture of what Cynheidre would look like after development. The Board is satisfied that the proving done was sufficient. The difficulties encountered were not unexpected. It has no doubt that this colliery will in future prove to be a good addition to the anthracite coalfields of South Wales.

Turning to Abernant, the picture is not so disturbing. This colliery was approved in 1953 at an estimated cost of 5¼ million. Now the full scheme is estimated to cost just over £8 million. Again, this consists of two deep shafts sunk to a depth of 880 yards. The target of 720,000 tons for 1961 has been altered, and is now 720,000 tons in 1964. The progress of the scheme has been excellent, but serious unexpected and perhaps unique difficulties have been met with in the shaft bottom. Excessive rock pressures not previously recorded have been encountered, and the massive excavations now necessary fora modern pit bottom have been pushed in to such an extent that they have had to be completely remade before a ton of coal could be produced. It must be appreciated that these happenings took a very long time to repair. In fact, the target has been delayed by three years, mainly because of the excessive rock pressures which were entirely unexpected and almost unique.

This colliery has had no other deviation from its plan. It has had very little increase in capital expenditure from the estimated figure. Everything indicates that, as at Cynheidre, it is in a difficult geological field and will have these difficulties and troubles, but the Board is satisfied that it has used all sensible methods of proving the field. It has provided the best possible equipment on the surface and underground. It has designed the roadways in such a way as to make for economic working and thus counterbalance any troubles at the face. The Board is confident that this colliery, as in the case of Cynheidre, will prove to be an asset to the anthracite coalfields of South Wales, and it looks with confidence to its future.

My hon. Friend talked about extravagance. The new mining facilities on the surface, placed in an old coalfield, are such as have never been seen before, and they give the uninformed an impression of extravagance. But these new, majestic structures are essential if coal is to be handled efficiently and economically. They give the wrong impression, but time will show that the Board's actions are justified, and that the coal will be handled economically and treated in the best possible manner for the market. Underground, the new horizon method of mining is mystifying to the older miners. They are used to straight roads into the coal, and straight roads leading away. In Cynheidre there are fourteen miles of tunnel, and everything is changed. There is change on the surface and change underground, which confuses and bewilders those who have seen nothing like it before. It is quite wrong to attribute extravagance to the National Coal Board—

The Question having been proposed after Ten o'clock on Tuesday evening and the debate having continued for half an hour, Mr. SPEAKER adjourned the House without Question put, pursuant to the Standing Order.

Adjourned at five minutes past Twelve o'clock.