HC Deb 23 June 1943 vol 390 cc1157-60
46. Major Lyons

asked the Prime Minister whether, in order to avoid the delay and Departmental overlapping, as evidenced by the protracted time-lag between the authorisation and commencement of construction of the 3,000 rural cottages, he will consider deputing to one Minister the task of directing and coordinating the work of the several Departments in any way concerned with any form of authorised emergency building construction in the war need?

The Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee)

It is already the policy of His Majesty's Government that the responsibility for the various types of emergency building work required for war purposes shall be concentrated as far as practicable in the hands of the Minister of Works. But the reference, in my hon. and gallant Friend's Question, to the 3,000 rural cottages betrays some misapprehension. These cottages, though they will go to meet an urgent need which has developed under war conditions, have been planned to take their place as a contribution to the rural housing programme of the future. This building work had, therefore, to be undertaken in accordance with the provisions of the Housing Acts, under which the primary responsibility rests with the local authorities. After the decision was conveyed to local authorities, some time was necessarily spent in selecting the sites, adapting the plans to suit local needs and circumstances, and making arrangements with contractors; but this initial period of planning is now past and I am informed that the actual work of construction will now proceed rapidly. In order to help local authorities to overcome some of the special difficulties of building under war-tune conditions, the Government have arranged that the Ministry of Works will make available certain materials and fittings and, where necessary, will arrange for contractors to undertake the work in areas where satisfactory arrangements cannot be made locally.

Major Lyons

While thanking the right hon. Gentleman for that answer, may I ask him whether, in view of the appalling time lag which has been manifested in the matter, some machinery ought riot to be available whereby one Minister, without any procrastination, will have the power to put into effect at once the promises which have been made?

Mr. Attlee

I think the answer I have given shows that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is mistaken in imagining that the provision of these houses is just emergency work, to be swept away at the end of the war. I do not think it is possible to disregard local authorities in putting up local buildings.

Sir A. Southby

As regards the arrangement to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, will he see that small contractors, as well as large, are given sufficient manpower and materials to enable them to assist in this vital and necessary work?

Mr. Thorne

Can my right hon. Friend say whether any arrangements are being made in rural areas for old age pensioners?

Mr. Attlee

That is another question; perhaps my hon. Friend will put it down.

Sir I. Albery

May I ask whether cottages of the type now exhibited in the Library are to be regarded as emergency or long-term cottages?

Mr. Attlee

I am not aware of what the hon. Gentleman is referring to; I have not been in the Library lately.

47. Major Lyons

asked the Prime Minister whether, in order to ensure the early reconditioning of damaged houses and the making of preparatory plans and financial arrangements for rebuilding the devastated areas, he will consider handing over to one Minister sole and overriding responsibility for arranging and supervising, in conjunction with local authorities, all such new buildings and reconditioning in both urban and rural areas?

Mr. Attlee

My hon. and gallant Friend may rest assured that, in framing our plans for post-war reconstruction, we are keeping prominently in mind the importance of making as simple and straightforward as possible the procedure for enabling local authorities to obtain the guidance and assistance which they require from the central Government in discharging the duties laid on them by Parliament in this connection.

Major Lyons

Will such information be conveyed in short, intelligible language to local authorities, so that they may know what is the position?

Mr. Attlee

I hope so, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows the difficulties of making legal language intelligible to the layman.

Sir H. Williams

Will the right hon. Gentleman also give an assurance that all avenues will be explored?

49. Mr. Bossom

asked the Minister without Portfolio whether he will confer with the Ministers of Health, of Town and Country Planning, of Works and the Chancellor of Exchequer with a view to preparing jointly and announcing an approximate time and progress schedule of the legislation they propose, affecting post-war building regulations, planning and construction for the building industry, so as to ensure that no essential details are omitted and that it moves forward with uniformity?

The Minister without Portfolio (Sir William Jowitt)

I am continuously in touch with my colleagues on the numerous aspects of reconstruction which have a direct relation to post-war planning and building. Some of these will certainly involve legislation, and I am very conscious of the importance of orderly progress in such matters, but I could not undertake at present to accept my hon. Friend's proposal.

Mr. Bossom

Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that no large industrial concern would ever dream of going forward with such a huge programme as this without a time and progress schedule? In the circumstances will he reconsider his answer?