HC Deb 14 June 1945 vol 411 cc1763-5
32. Mr. David Eccles

asked the Minister of Health whether he is in a position to make any further statement with regard to Government assistance to house building by private persons.

Mr. Willink

Yes, Sir. The Government intend, if returned, to introduce legislation early in the next session to enable local authorities to make grants in respect of small private houses built for sale or letting. These grants will be by way of either one lump sum payment or payments spread over five years and the Exchequer would bear the whole of these grants up to the first £100, and half of any grant in excess of £100, subject to a maximum from the Exchequer of £150. Payment of the grant would be subject to strict conditions as to size, construction, selling price, and rent. The size to be allowed would range from 800 to 1,000 superficial feet for houses and from 730 to 930 superficial feet for bungalows or flats. The controlled-contract or selling price would be according to the size of the house, subject to an over-riding maximum of £1,200, including the cost of land, roads and services.

The purpose of the grant is to assist the purchaser or tenant of the house by contributing towards the present high cost of building, and the Government contemplate that the grant would be paid not to the builder but to the owner-occupier or the purchaser of the house. When a house is begun under a licence issued in accordance with the decision which I announced on 7th June and conforms, or can be made to conform, with the conditions of the Act when passed, the Government intend to provide in the Bill that the position of the owner-occupier or purchaser of the house shall not be prejudiced merely by the fact that its erection was begun before the introduction of the Bill. My Noble Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland asks me to add that it is intended that similar arrangements shall apply to Scotland.

Mr. Eccles

While thanking the Minister for this very welcome statement, may I ask him if the same financial assistance will be open to local authorities?

Mr. Willink

It will not be on the same basis. There will, of course, be subsidies for houses built by local authorities but, as I have said before, the associations of local authorities have agreed that the exact figures should not be fixed until we have a clearer knowledge of the level of building costs, and they have been promised that the subsidies, when fixed, will be retrospective for all houses in their post-war programmes.

Sir J. Lamb

Does the Minister realise that many of the houses to which he referred will be in rural and semi-rural areas; and does he realise the importance of trying to get back into those areas the small builders who, unfortunately, have been taken away?

Mr. Willink

That is the reason why I made this rather full statement.

Mr. Montague

Can the Minister give some closer indication upon what initial principle the limitation of prices will be settled?

Mr. Willink

No, Sir, not in answer to a supplementary question. I stated the over-all maximum price, which is to include the cost of land, roads and services.

Sir P. Harris

Will the Minister make clear to the House how in this scheme it is proposed to arrange for the selling of these houses by the owner-occupier? Will he be able to sell at an increased price or at a loss, or is there any limitation?

Mr. Willink

The details will be for consideration by Parliament when the legislation is introduced, but, as I have said, the grants will be subject to strict conditions as to size, construction, selling price and rent.

Sir H. Williams

I gather from the Minister's answer that the subsidy is to be granted to the man who is to own the house after it has been built. Do I understand that the builder who builds the house with a view to letting or selling it is not to have any subsidy?

Mr. Willink

The reply to the latter part of my hon. Friend's question is "No." This subsidy is intended to ensure that those who desire to buy or rent small houses will not suffer unduly from the high cost of building immediately after the war.

Mr. George Griffiths

Is not this subsidy which has been announced this afternoon, put out for vote-catching?

Mr. Willink

No, Sir; this is an expansion of a policy which I announced on behalf of the late Government in July of last year.

Mr. Kirby

Docs it not mean that instead of the Government granting a subsidy to the builder of a house, the subsidy will go, in effect, to the owner-occupier who, instead of having the full benefit of the subsidy paid to him, will have to pay interest?

Mr. Willink

No, Sir—exactly the contrary; because the price of the house will be fixed and the whole scheme is to be within the administration of the local authority. It is simply for the purpose of saving those who desire to own small houses from having to stand the high cost of building immediately after the war.

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