HC Deb 21 May 1946 vol 423 cc196-8

The following Question stood upon the Order Paper:

122. Mr. J. J. ROBERTSON.—TO ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will now make a statement on his plans for dealing with the housing problem in the rural areas in Scotland.

The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Buchanan)

Mr. Speaker, with your permission I propose to answer this Question.

I have completed arrangements for the provision of 3,000 Cruden houses for erection in rural areas and small burghs in Scotland. This is a four-apartment house of the double storey cottage type, constructed with a steel frame and concrete slabs. I shall shortly communicate full details of the house to the local authorities concerned, at the same time offering them an allocation of the houses for then respective districts. It is intended that the houses will be built in rural areas in quite small groups for occupation mainly by the agricultural population and in numbers up to 20 or 24 in the burghal areas The programme contemplates that the 3,000 which it covers will be completed by the end of August, 1947.

Mr. Robertson

I thank the Join. Under-Secretary of State for his very encouraging statement. I should like to ask if his plan for housing is part of a comprehensive plan to deal with water, electricity, and other services connected with community life in the countryside.

Mr. Buchanan

Those other questions are not before me now. The hon. Gentleman can take it that the Government are seeing to it that all these other amenities, such as water and electricity, are supplied to the areas where they are required.

Mr. Boothby

May I ask the hon. Gentleman, first, whether this scheme is quite separate from his other plans for the erection of permanent houses; second, whether it is to be confined to 3,000, because that hardly touches the fringe of the problem?

Mr. Buchanan

I could have made it more but I am not going to repeat the mistake made by others, namely, of laying down a figure that cannot be undertaken by the firm which has to do the work. I much prefer to name a smaller number, to be reasonably sure that some people get houses. I refuse to be bound to an extra figure which, in fact, will not be carried out. This is in addition to the other programmes which are now progressing.

Mr. Bossom

Could the Joint Under-Secretary say if an estimate has been made of the cost to be allowed for each of these houses and the ancillary services as they come along?

Mr. Buchanan

I entered into these contracts with the firms concerned, and I have examined them all, including dealing with local authorities in regard to any extra cost that may accrue as against the orthodox, traditional house.

Mr. Gallacher

In view of the cost of erecting temporary houses in the burghs, will the Minister see that everything is done to keep the rents for houses in the rural areas as low as possible?

Mr. Buchanan

The rents will be fixed by the local authorities, not by me. The local authorities will be responsible for it. Meantime, I want to, see rents kept at a reasonable level. My job is also to pursue the policy of building as many houses as I can, because I think that is the most important thing of all.

Mr. Willis

Has my hon. Friend satisfied himself that adequate supplies of steel will be forthcoming during the period that he has mentioned?

Mr. Buchanan

I have entered into commitments for 5,000 British Iron and Steel Federation houses, and now these 3,000. I have seen the persons concerned, and as far as personal assurances and other inquiries I have made are concerned I have been guaranteed the supplies of steel for them.