HC Deb 27 September 1944 vol 403 cc307-8

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."

Captain Duncan

Sub-section (3, b) says: the said aggregate shall be repaid by ten equal annual instalments, of principal and interest combined, … The fact that this money has to be repaid to the Exchequer by ten annual instalments does affect the rent which has to be paid for the Portal house, and as this £150,000,000 is being raised out of the Consolidated Fund and handed over to the Ministry of Works, it would seem that it would be better to give that money away in order to reduce the rent, instead of getting some of the money back by ten equal instalments of principal and interest combined. I do not know what effect repayment will have on the rent, but it is bound to have a fairly considerable effect and as this should be, in my opinion, a grant from the Government to the local authorities for doing a purely temporary emergency job, it would seem much better not to ask for the money back at all, but to use that money for making the rent more reasonable. Could my right hon. Friend explain the finance of the scheme and show to what extent that could more easily be done?

Mr. Willink

I think it is sufficient on this rather difficult matter which my hon. and gallant Friend has raised, to say that the provisions of this Clause represent something that is a purely book-keeping transaction, and will not affect the rent to be paid, or the payments to be made by the local authorities in any way whatever.

2.30 p.m.

Captain Duncan

Is that really so? I am sorry to press this, but the whole success of housing, as I see it, after the war, both temporary and permanent, is the rent that will be charged. The statement by the Minister of Production yesterday, and which went out through the B.B.C. last night, was that the rent of the Portal house would be 10s. a week, exclusive of rates. That will kill the Portal house from the point of view of the public. In London, we are used to higher rents but country people are not and local authorities will not get any applications for Portal houses if the rent is to be 15s. a week or more. This bookkeeping system is bound to have an effect. We are giving art emergency grant to Jamaica in order that growers there can replace their banana groves, following the hurricane which blew away their crops. Why not give an emergency grant in order to reduce the rent of Portal houses? In that way the demand for temporary houses will be greater, and we shall be able to do something substantial to meet the terrific housing shortage not only in London but in other parts of the country.

Mr. J. J. Lawson

We admire my hon. and gallant Friend's enthusiasm about these rents—

The Chairman (Major Milner)

I am not sure that that question arises on this Clause.

Mr. Lawson

But may I point out that the hon. and gallant Member opposite was allowed to make his speech?

The Chairman

That may be but that is no reason why the discussion should be continued. The hon. Gentleman can make his remarks on the Third Reading of the Bill.

Mr. Muff (Kingston-upon-Hull, East)

I want to console the hon. and gallant Member for North Kensington (Captain Duncan). If he will look at the Clause he will see that it states clearly that money can be borrowed at 2½ per cent. I have vivid recollections of local authorities having to borrow at 5 and even 6 per cent. after the last war. To-day, many are still paying 6 per cent. for their past housing programmes. I say that in order to dry the hon. and gallant Gentleman's tears.

Question put, and agreed to.

Clause 8 ordered to stand part of the Bill.