HC Deb 20 January 1949 vol 460 cc309-11
6. Mr. Austin

asked the Minister of Health the reasons for the decline recently in permanent house building; and what is the average projected figure per month for the ensuing year.

Mr. Bevan

The number of new permanent houses completed in the 12 months ended 30th November, 1948, was 205,274 as compared with 121,082 for the 12 months ended 30th November, 1947, and the fluctuations month by month have been no more than was to be expected in a programme of this magnitude. The programme has now reached a stage where it can be judged on its achievements better than on forecasts.

Mr. Austin

What is the average projected figure for a month for the ensuing year, which is asked for in the second part of my Question, to which the Minister has not replied?

Mr. Bevan

I cannot give the average for the ensuing year until the year is complete, because the average would be the number at the end of the year, divided by 12.

Mr. Austin

The projected average?

Mr. Bevan

I cannot give the projected average, because it would depend on the actual achievement.

Squadron-Leader Fleming

May we take it that the figures given by the Minister refer to new houses and would not reflect the decline in private enterprise housing?

Mr. Bevan

The figure refers to new houses alone and not any other form of accommodation. In regard to the second part of the supplementary question, that has been answered so frequently that I should have thought hon. Members opposite were tired of the answer.

Mr. Leslie Hale

Will my right hon. Friend also make it clear that these permanent houses are substantially larger than those built before the war, but, in view of the fact that the United Kingdom interim plan submitted to the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation provides an overall expenditure on new house building of 1,000 million dollars for the year 1949–50, will he say if he anticipates that this will involve an increase or a decrease?

Mr. Bevan

I have not the figures to which my hon. Friend refers in my mind at the moment, but obviously expenditure upon one form of social service competes with expenditure upon another part of the social service so long as the global figure remains the same. If we tie ourselves, as I think we must, to the relationship between the total expenditure on social services and the whole capital expenditure of the country, we must then decide how we are to dispose that expenditure over the whole social service claims.

Mr. Piratin

In view of the fact that only last year the Minister of Health projected a figure of 300,000 houses for 1948, why is it impossible to project a figure for 1949?

Mr. Bevan

I have no recollection of a projected figure of 300,000 for 1948 and where the hon. Gentleman gets that I do not know.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Can the Minister explain why there is such good progress in England, but not in Scotland? Is it due to the fact that labour and materials should be diverted to Scotland?

Mr. Bevan

It would be no more an easy task to divert labour from England to Scotland than from Scotland to England and I believe the rate of completion in Scotland is now very satisfactory indeed.

Mr. Hughes

Oh, no.