To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what steps he intends to take to secure the orderly completion of the new towns initiative in England.
I have been discussing with Sir Neil Shields, the chairman of the Commission for the New Towns, the scale of the task remaining to be completed to enable the commission to dispose of the bulk of its remaining assets and make provision for disengagement from its current liabilities, and we have agreed that this should be achievable within a five-year period. The Government therefore intend to wind up the Commission for the New Towns by no later than 31 March 1998.We have also agreed that provision will need to be made for the longer-term management and sale of those assets which it would not be prudent to dispose of within this time scale, and for the on-going management of any remaining liabilities. Discussions will continue on the best ways of providing for these.I should like to place on record the Government's appreciation of the excellent work undertaken by the commission in completing the biggest and most significant exercise in urban planning ever undertaken in this country. From their origins in the garden city movement, the new towns have been highly successful in promoting local economic growth while, at the same time, providing excellent employment opportunities and living conditions for people of all backgrounds. I have every confidence that the commission's substantive remaining tasks can be brought to a successful conclusion within the next five years.