§ 3.37 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Address, at the end, to add:but humbly regret that the Gracious Speech makes no reference to the grievous and growing distress in town and country arising out of the continuing decline in the number of new houses built each year and contains no indication that the Government intend to take more effective measures to deal with the situation.When the House concluded its business last week the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Craddock) had delivered his maiden speech. By a singular piece of misfortune he had been only two days in the last House before he had to stand for election again. He delivered his maiden speech with great agreement to all sides, and it was a valuable contribution to our Debate. We shall be glad to hear from him again, all the more so since he felt it necessary to touch upon the subject which the House is about to Debate.
Our Amendment on this subject cannot be thought by any stretch of imagination to be either factious or fractious. It brings in the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health, who I understand is to speak in this Debate. We are glad to see that he is completely over his recent chill and has reappeared with what I hope without offence one might describe as his usual rude health. I am sure he will agree that the Debate on the Address can scarcely relate to a more important subject. Indeed, we need to go no further than the testimony of many of the 755 Government speakers themselves. It was evident at Question time today, and it has been evident in several of the speeches, including that of the hon. Member for Bradford, South.
The hon. Member for Ayrshire, Central (Mr. Manuel) in one of the very first speeches delivered in this Parliament said:I am rather dismayed that there is no specific reference in the Gracious Speech to our main human problem in Scotland, and that is the specific problem of the lack of housing … I am aware that the problem is felt in Britain as well, in the rural areas as well as in the industrial areas. Consequently, we should have unanimity on both sides of the House in examining the ways and means of how best to tackle the problem."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th March, 1950; Vol. 472, c. 100.]That opportunity we propose to afford him.
§ Mr. Moeran (Bedfordshire, South)
On a point of Order. I am the Member for Bedfordshire, South, and I have not yet made my maiden speech.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
It is unusual for those of us from north of the Border, particularly from Clydeside, to be accused of not sounding the consonant "r," but if I did not sound it sufficiently strongly, let me repeat it was Bradford, South, to which I referred.
The Minister will also agree with our action, because on 14th of July, 1948, when we debated housing, he said:The Opposition are very naughty. Why have they not had a Debate before? Really, this is shocking neglect on the part of the Opposition. It is a year since we had a Debate on housing, and we have had it now only because the Opposition have been taunted into it."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th July,. 1948; Vol. 453, c. 1313.]We try to oblige, and I take it that the Minister in the course of this Debate is going to announce some substantial concessions following the admirable example of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Labour. If not I can promise him that he will hear more of this subject, and he will have many other opportunities of making his voice heard.
The size and the urgency of the problem are matters on which there will be little dispute. On the size of it, the Minister last week, by a judicious—from his point of view—written answer, explained that it would be misleading to publish any figures of the waiting lists centrally as the result of the requests 756 made to local authorities. He said that preliminary consultations with the associations of local authorities are to be undertaken to decide the form that the new survey would take. All this will take a considerable time, let us say till after the next General Election. How rash it was in these circumstances—by his own statement, he is little apprised of the size of the problem—to give the pledge he did in this House on 16th March, 1949:We are now within sight of providing for every separate family the comfort and privacy of a separate household."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 16th March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 2124.]Moses the prophet saw the promised land, but it is not on record that he ever entered into it. The 40 years in the wilderness is certainly no longer than, by the testimony of some hon. Members opposite, will be required to work off the waiting lists in some of the great cities. The hon. Member for Lady-wood (Mr. Yates) suggested that even double the present rate of housing would mean 30 years before the waiting lists in Birmingham were worked off. There is no sign of double the present rate of housing. In fact, it is rather declining, and it is to that aspect of the situation that we desire to direct the attention of the House this afternoon.
It is not necessary to have an inquiry to ascertain what we all know, which is that the problem is urgent and poignant. I do not think that justice is done in the estimates of the White Paper drawn up by the predecessors of this Government, who were, after all, largely this Government themselves. The Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council were equally responsible for the White Paper with any other hon. or right hon. Member. However, I am glad to note that the Minister made it clear that the White Paper envisaged not 750,000 houses, as has been so often stated, but 1,250,000. To this figure has to be added an allowance for a further 400,000 houses, making a total of 1,650,000 houses. These in their turn, were under-estimates. The Scottish Committee on housing, in its report for 1945, gave the figure for Scotland alone as some 470,000 houses. No doubt hon. Members will wish to give lists for their own areas. Therefore, we must compare like with like.
If the Minister wishes, he can have figures which I have compiled; and I 757 have no doubt that other figures will be supplied to him in the course of the Debate. I only wish to give him the figures for Glasgow. In 1945, the waiting list in Glasgow was 86,000. In 1950, the waiting list had risen to 94,300. That does not look as if rapid progress were being made in the fulfilment of the pledge which he gave to the House on 16th March.
How do the Government propose to deal with this problem? They propose to deal with it by a heavy cut in housing. That is the proposal which has to be debated and voted upon in the earliest days of this Parliament. It is the proposal which we shall ask the House tonight to resist. We shall resist it ourselves, and we shall ask every Member in every quarter of the House to resist this proposal for a further cut in housing. That is what we are discussing today and that is what we are voting upon tonight. Those who vote against our Amendment are voting for a cut in housing.
This is the only occasion on which such a proposal can properly be debated. It is a Government decision which involves many Ministers, I do not deny. It is not the sole responsibility of the Minister of Health. It is the Government whom we indict tonight, and it is a Government decision which we desire to ask the House to overturn. It is a decision involving the Ministry of Supply as well as the Ministry of Finance. It involves the authority of the head of the Government himself. This is the time when it has to be debated. Why? Because building weather is now beginning. This is the time when the fine building weather runs. The decision was an administrative one by the Government. It can be altered by the Government. What is done tonight will affect the whole construction problem for the rest of this year. Tonight it can be speeded up. The Government ask for retardation, but we ask for acceleration. We cannot believe that the House will refuse our demand. Those who do so will take upon themselves a heavy responsibility.
The fall begins already to be manifest. In October, 1948, the houses constructed were 19,741, but in October, 1949, they were 16,433. In November, 1948, the houses completed were 18,866. In November, 1949, they were 16,492.
758 In December, 1948, the houses completed were 19,321. In December, 1949, they were 17,436. It is that process which is lengthening the waiting lists, and of which we ask the House to disapprove. This is a cut upon a cut.
The round number of permanent houses produced in the United Kingdom in 1948 was 228,000. The round number produced in the United Kingdom in 1949 was 198,000. The intended number for 1950, according to the statement of the Government, is 175,000. That is a fall, a cut, in two years of between 20 per cent. and 25 per cent. That is what we mean by the words "continuing decline in the number of houses built each year." That is the position which the Government have to justify here tonight.
It will, of course, be felt both in the rural areas and in the urban areas, but as the problem is larger in scale in the urban areas it will be felt more bitterly there. Those of us who represent urban areas know well how bitterly that problem is felt, and we know well how the dwellers in those areas will resent a decision by this House that facilities for solving that problem should be diminished. The figure of 175,000 is far less than, is nearly half, what have been built before the war in the days of Tory misrule. The Government say: "All that is unfair. There has been a war." Had there not been a war in 1947? Had there not been a war in 1948? We do not ask them to compare their record with ours.—our achievement is so much better as to be beyond comparison. We ask them to compare themselves with themselves. How do they justify falling so far below their own figure?
Of course we shall be told, as we were told by the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) and others, that one must compare the post-war records of each Government. We are perfectly willing to take on the Government on that also. After the 1914–18 War the Government of the day inherited a machine which, under the Liberal-Labour Coalition of the day had been allowed to run down to practically nothing. It is unjust perhaps to call it a Liberal-Labour Coalition. Let us say that it was a Liberal Government supported with singular faithfulness by the Labour Members of the day, and in whose Cabinet a former Labour Member, 759 Mr. Burns, played a nominal part. [An HON. MEMBER: "So did the Opposition."] I am not denying that there are episodes in his past about which we do not entirely agree.
However, let me come to the point with which we are dealing, that is to say, the action taken by the Government of which my right hon. Friend was an honoured Member after the 1914–18 war. In two years we brought up the number of houses to within 4,000 of the number which were being built before the war. [Laughter.] Yes, and hon. Members are still 180,000 behind the numbers which were built by us before the war.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
No, but I will give hon. Members a figure in which they and my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition will be interested. The figure which the Government propose is only 30,000 houses a year more than were being built during the Boer War. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Crimea?"] I think they beat the Crimea, but not by very much. This is a figure which we are asked by the Government to accept as progress—30,000 above the Boer War. That is the figure which the Government ask us to vote tonight, and that is the figure which we say is a derisory figure and which we ask the House to reject tonight with contumely.
We were building in the five years from 1900 to 1905 145,000 houses a year and the population of Great Britain was then some 37 million. Today the population is 11 million more, 48½ million, and the Government ask that only 30,000 a year more should be regarded as adequate to deal with that increased population. Is it to be wondered at that the waiting lists grow? Is it to be wondered at that complaint is widespread? Is it to wondered at that from every quarter—from hon. Members' own supporters—comes the request that a new Minister with new drive should be secured to deal with this problem?
There is no need to enter into recondite explanations about extra marriages, 760 people living longer, less unemployment. Eleven million more people and 30,000 more houses to deal with them! That is the Government programme. We do not need to look far to find the reason for the shortage, the admitted shortage, in the housing provision for the people. Does the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd-George) think that a justifiable figure? Does the noble Lady think that her father would have accepted that position? Does she think that in the days of the Boer War—
§ Mr. Porter (Leeds, Central)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker, is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman in order in addressing direct questions to another hon. Member and not addressing himself to you, Sir?
§ Mr. Speaker
I was not aware of that. I thought that the right hon. and gallant Member was addressing the Chair.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
I think the ears of the hon. Member must have deceived him or he would have heard quite clearly that that question was addressed through the Chair, as questions can and should be addressed by any hon. Member of the House—as I am addressing questions to the Minister through the Chair, questions to which we shall demand an answer from the Minister.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George (Anglesey)
The answer that I would make to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman is that my father was an exception to most rules, and that I do not think he would have accepted either the figure of the present Government or the figure which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's Government, if it were in, would be likely to achieve.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
It has been said by a friend of mine that women have a very poor grasp of excuses, but that does not apply to the noble Lady. The House, and indeed, the noble Lady, has often treated the Minister with indulgence in the hope that some of those promises were about to be fulfilled. The noble Lady in 1948 made many excuses for the Minister—
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George indicated dissent.761
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
She said then:The programme has come out of the capital investment cuts, in the main, unscratched and unscathed …The programme has started to gather speed …The Minister did not disabuse her mind on that occasion. Yet since then it has fallen by 50,000 a year. She said:To use the words of the Leader of the Opposition, … this is the end of the beginning, and I would add that it is a good beginning and a sound beginning."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th July, 1948; Vol. 453, c. 1229 and 1232.]Is it a good beginning and a sound beginning to have a figure which has diminished by nearly 50,000 houses a year which is showing the fall I have just quoted to the House, which is intended to show a further fall by the programme of the Government itself? Is that a good beginning or a sound beginning? I shall leave the Minister to justify that statement.
These are the figures for new construction of permanent houses, but the situation is worse than those figures show. These figures have been reinforced, not only by a great programme of temporary houses of one kind or another, but by a large amount of repairs and conversions. In 1945, 9,799 unoccupied war-damaged houses were repaired. In 1949 only 4,844 were repaired. The creation of new flats and dwellings by repairing old houses is also running out as a source of supply. Some 47,000 dwellings came from that source in 1947, 28,000 in 1948, 14,784 in 1949. And remember, houses do not stand still. If they are not maintained, they begin to fall down. During our administration 1,000 people a day were being moved out of the slums. That has stopped. [Laughter.] I do not know why hon. Members laugh at the thought of slum dwellers being moved out of the slums. The slum dwellers do not laugh at it, neither will the House, and neither will they when they see the action of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite tonight.
Two million houses in Britain today are more than one hundred years old. [An HON. MEMBER: "You built them."] What other operatives have to operate with so much obsolete plant? The housewife has been singled out by the Government for a cut in her working plant of nearly double that of anyone else. The over-all cut in 762 capital expenditure is a cut of some 7 per cent.; the overall cut on housing is 16 per cent. What is it that the Minister and the Government consider is of a greater priority than housing? What is the plant which more vehemently requires renewing? We were renewing that plant at the rate of 1,000 houses a day before the war. We on this side have no reason to be ashamed of our housing record. Let the Government look to it. Their housing record already stands in grave jeopardy, and if the programme of cuts, which is all that is before the House, is continued, it will stand in graver jeopardy still.
Meanwhile, the labour force which was sufficient to produce that great programme of housing is still maintained. The labour force which produced 1,000 houses a day, as well as schools, hospitals and other buildings, is still maintained. In 1939 there were roughly one million men in housing; in June 1948, as in June, 1949, the number of people employed in housing was still one million. By the end of that time the state of full employment existed in the key trades of the bricklayers and the plasterers. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes. The number of unemployed plasterers in Scotland, for instance, in 1938 was registered at under 100. Today, with full employment, it is 61. Of course, a certain number of people change their jobs, but the key trades of the bricklayers and plasterers were in the past very highly employed. Indeed, if they were not, would it not be all the more astonishing that we could build 367,000 houses a year and maintain all the other capital development of the country with the same forces—[Interruption]—with the same forces as today and half of them unemployed? It would be an even greater achievement than we are asking the House to give us credit for doing.
§ Mr. McGovern (Glasgow, Shettleston)
Is the right hon. and gallant Gentleman aware that, according to the official figures, from 1921, the earliest on record, until 1939 there were never fewer than 86,000 unemployed building trade workers and as many as nearly 250,000 for many of those years?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
The hon. Member ought to know better than that. One of his first actions in coming into the House was to introduce a Private Members' Bill, with Sir Oswald Mosley, for an increase in the construction of houses.
§ Mr. McGovern
On a point of Order. A false statement has been made. [HON. MEMBERS: "That is not a point of Order."] False information has been given and a false statement made. In 1930 I introduced a Bill to provide £500 million for the building of houses. It was a Private Member's Bill and had nothing to do with Sir Oswald Mosley; the right hon. and gallant Gentleman went into the Lobby against me.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
The hon. Member knows very well that he introduced the Bill because of the gross unemployment among building operatives at that time under the Labour Government. As for his association with Sir Oswald Mosley then and later, he will remember very well that he was associated with Sir Oswald Mosley's group when Sir Oswald Mosley resigned from office in this House—
§ Mr. McGovern
if you want trouble you can have it. Mr. Speaker, the only association I had with Sir Oswald Mosley was when he was a member of the Labour Party.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
The important point is that the unemployment to which the hon. Member refers reached enormous heights under the Labour Government, that the unemployment was gradually worn down under the National Government [Interruption]. Yes—and that before the outbreak of war, in the key trades, we had got it far below what the hon. Member and his friends desired in the introduction of the Bill to which I referred. The figure which the hon. Member gives is, of course, swollen by the inclusion of a great many men who were not in the key industries at all. A house cannot be painted if it has not been built; therefore, the key industries are the important ones. The hon. Member will know—and if he wants trouble he can have it too—that part of the shortage of housing in Scotland is due to the action of the building unions in Scotland who would not allow labour into those trades.
The difficulty is serious enough, heaven knows, to require the attention of all of us, and the careful attention of us this afternoon. That is why it is difficult to contain oneself, to refrain from indignation when the Government propose to cut housing and ask the sanction of this House to carry it out. There is, 764 obviously, a maldeployment of labour; the labour is being badly applied. There is a shortage of material. These are the two excuses which the Government give for their failure in this matter. The Prime Minister today gave a statement that labour in Scotland is already fully employed. "Fully employed"—when the Laidlaw Committee in its Report says of Scotland that it takes three men to do what two men did before the war. There can be full employment—
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
That may be. There may well be full employment without full production. The right hon. Gentleman will find a good deal of difficulty in justifying the demands which he is making upon the labour force compared with the output he is securing from them.
There are too few houses and they are costing too much. The reports of the Girdwood and the Laidlaw Committees are the most recent we have had, but no doubt there has been a speed-up since then. We ask the Minister to tell us how much it has been speeded up. I have no doubt that the figure that was given of 14 months for local authority house building has since been improved upon. It may be 11 months, or even less. Again, we wish to know. Prewar, it was often as low as six months. Has the figure been brought as low as that?
Those figures are, of course, reflected in the costs. The costs of a house nowadays are out of all proportion to what they were before the war. What is more, they have risen since the Minister first took charge of this matter. In 1946 the cost of a three-bedroomed house was estimated at £1,100; in 1947, £1,242; in 1949, £1,323. That is exclusive of land and so on. The all-in cost in 1949 was something like £1,500. The Chancellor's figures at the time of the cut were equivalent to £1,400. It was two and two-thirds as much for an exactly corresponding house in post-war as compared with pre-war. The Minister is wont to claim that these houses now being built are larger and more commodious and that, therefore, we are not comparing like with like. But, compare like with like exactly and we find a figure of two and two-thirds.
765 The excuse given by Ministers is timber. Timber, they say, is short. Timber, the Lord President of the Council said in his broadcast, was the only thing which was holding him back. He said:We are today building every single house that can be built. No Government could build more.He went on in a rather disingenuous manner to taunt Lewisham Borough Council for not building more houses, houses which he himself as a Cabinet Minister had forbidden them to build. Is it really true that timber is holding up the whole housing effort of this country? If so, what an indictment of the management of our affairs by the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Even if all the extra timber had to be purchased in dollar areas, under £10 million would provide enough timber for another 100,000 houses.
Is the Minister going to assure us that it is impossible for the Government to obtain exchange to the extent of £10 million for the housing of the people of this country? That is a question which requires an answer. Even if it is impossible to obtain dollars to buy timber because of other priorities. It would be interesting to know what priority the Government place above this. Let them look at the soft currency countries, let them look to the Baltic countries. It is surely true that if some of the unrequited exports going to other areas went to the Baltic it would be possible to obtain a large supply of softwood from the Baltic countries.
Whatever the cause, it must be remedied. The country cannot continue with the housing allocation on these figures. The new allocations have spread dismay in all the local authorities, and I have telegrams and messages from everywhere requiring that something should be done. I have a telegram from Dundee saying:Housing conditions in Dundee require immediate alleviation, 495 families are squatting in condemned properties, many children in most undesirable environment, urge action now.That is from the Housing Convenor of Dundee Corporation. It is one of many instances which can be given. I say the Government cannot maintain the position under which they say we cannot afford even the sum of £10 million to procure 766 the timber necessary to increase the housing programme in Great Britain. The difficulties before us are undoubtedly grave enough, but they can be met and should be met by the positive constructive action which we have repeatedly urged upon the Government.
First, let there be an ample supply of raw materials and, if necessary, let all our efforts be devoted to obtaining the materials which should be brought from abroad in ample supply, and to obtaining home produced materials in proper quantities as they are needed by the programme. Owing to these expansions and contractions very often when the houses were going up the output in the brickyards was going down, and often when the output in the brickyards was going up the numbers of houses were being cut.
Secondly, let the deployment of labour be more efficient. In that certainly the private builder, building for the private citizen, must be allowed to take a share. For the first time it is an offence, punishable by fine or imprisonment, for a man to try to build a house for himself or family in certain parts of this country. A great part of the housing was done for the private citizen by the private builder before and it could be done again. It is not just to say that houses built under those conditions were only built for wealthy people.
Whenever hon. Members say, "built for sale" they bring up the picture of some wealthy man putting down some vast sum of money, jumping the queue and getting ahead of poorer citizens. Yet, before the war, in 1939, a three-bedroomed house, semi-detached, could be bought for £40 down and 14s. a week for 25 years. Does anyone suggest that 14s. a week is an undue sum to pay for a house, especially when at the end of 25 years the house was the man's own instead of being the property of the local authority for ever and ever?
Does anyone suggest that it is a bad thing for a man to try to get a house for himself? Surely these figures for private enterprise could again be improved upon if the Minister even brought them back to what they were originally. That would be an improvement. If the Secretary of State for Scotland could bring them back to the figure allowed for many areas in England it would be 767 an improvement. The private builder, building for the private citizen, produced a vast mass of houses and it was no disadvantage to the country that this vast mass of houses was produced without subsidy from the rates or subsidy from taxation.
The Minister's right hon. Friend in Scotland will not allow houses to be built for private citizens and the Minister has cut it down to a trickle. For a time he stopped it altogether. The result is that the lists are swollen by many people not necessarily desirous of taking a house, which will mean that citizens far worse off, those living in far worse housing conditions, will subsidise them, perhaps indefinitely, by large sums, in some cases by a pound a week. Does the right hon. Gentleman wish to interrupt?
§ Mr. Bevan
Certainly, I wanted to ask if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman would arrange that his right hon. Friend who winds up for the Opposition tonight, would give a firm figure from the Opposition of what they think should be the proportion between houses to be built for sale and to rent, because, in the last four years, we have had six different sets of figures.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
In the course of our numerous debates I should have thought the right hon. Gentleman would have learned better than that. As I have said time and again, let him make a start. We do not ask everything of him—we know he will be slow and hesitant in these matters—but let him make a start and first restore the figure to what it was originally. Then it can be extended—
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
The right hon. Gentleman is so eager to justify himself that he will not wait until the end of the sentence. He has a difficult enough task already before him to justify the cut in housing which is before the House of Commons tonight. We do not wish unnecessarily to complicate that task. All we say is that the private builder building for the private citizen has played and can yet play a great and useful part in housing, and that building directly for the private citizen, not necessarily for the 768 local authority, is one of the oldest established traditions in the world, a tradition which the Labour Party are breaking at great cost to the country and with very little credit to themselves.
The re-deployment of labour by means of allowing the private builder to build for the private citizen will, we believe, speed up the process of housing. [An HON. MEMBER: "How?"] The hon. Member may not have been listening. Let him not intervene without listening. There has to be an adequate supply of timber, and that is available if the Government can find exchange for it; and if the Government cannot find £10 million of exchange it is a greater condemnation of themselves than has ever been uttered on this side of the House. Buy the raw material, produce the raw material, redeploy the labour and allow both the private builder building for the private citizen and the local authority to play a reasonable part in the production of houses. Let us make sure that we do not underestimate the initiative which the ordinary citizen of this country will develop if given a chance.
The Government ask for the Conservative policy on housing. We can give it in a single sentence. It is, "On to the sixth million, and let nothing stand between the citizens and the houses." We believe that if hon. and right hon. Gentlemen will set themselves that as a task, they will do better than coming before the House tonight and asking for a vote to cut house building to one of the lowest figures we have ever had in this country, and to cut it by 50,000 below what they themselves were building two years ago when we were closer to the end of the war.
§ 4.23 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Blenkinsop)
I do not think that this House has ever been treated to such an ineffectual speech on this subject as it has heard today from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot). We in this House, and indeed the country generally, might have expected, after the recent General Election, at least some clear indication of policy from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, but instead we had a typical remark at the end of the speech to which we have just listened, full of synthetic 769 spleen—a noteworthy remark that Conservative policy on housing could be expressed in a single sentence. He has certainly not been able to tell us much more about Conservative policy on housing this afternoon.
I should have thought that we and the country might at this time have expected a really clear elucidation of Conservative policy on housing in some detail because of the claims and misstatements that have been made in the country throughout the election period. I have before me the election address of my Conservative opponent, who also did not consider that housing policy required any lengthy statement. He did say that:We intend to reduce building controls on small houses, and loans up to £95 in every £100 will be available to help intending owners.That was at least some sort of statement, but we have not had even that from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman. I shall in a moment or two deal with this practical proposal towards helping to solve our housing problem. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has painted a picture of the serious housing position in the country, and every Member in this House must surely appreciate the very difficult circumstances in practically every large town in the country. One would have expected all of us to be at one in the aim of securing the alleviation of this problem as rapidly as possible.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman has gone back a long way into past history in order to take credit for Conservative achievement. I particularly noted his great delight at the figures for house building in the early 1900s. There are a lot of those houses in my constituency, and it is not at all surprising that about 100 per cent. of their occupants vote Labour at elections. If that is the type of house building programme which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman and the Conservative Party offer to this House and to this country today there is no question as to what answer they will get both from the House and from the country, because those jerry built private enterprise houses of the early 1900s are largely tumbling down to rack and ruin today and require a wholly disproportionate amount of materials to try to hold them up. Is that then the Conservative proposal for our consideration today?
770 The right hon. and gallant Gentleman went on to express his sorrow at the way in which labour was distributed. I shall deal with that point in a moment or two. He expressed the view that houses were costing too much, though he made no reference whatever to the comparable increases in costs in other industries. Of course, he made a heavy attack upon the cut in the house building programme which was included in the White Paper submitted to the previous House of Commons some months ago. That is rather extraordinary. I do not at this moment wish to develop that point very far, but it is worth recalling that hon. Gentlemen opposite have been pressing vigorously for severe cuts in capital expenditure, and it comes ill from their mouths now to seek to secure a little party political advantage out of the most unhappily necessary cut which was recently imposed and which will only become effective next year.
It is right that at this time we should have some clear statement of facts about the housing situation. I shall, therefore, try to deal in a serious spirit, and not in the rather flamboyant manner of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, with the real problems that confront us in this housing problem. Let me first make clear once again the basis for the consistent policy of the Government on housing since 1945. In the first place, it has been to allocate to building as much of the national resources as we can afford in the circumstances arising out of the war. It is no use hon. Gentlemen opposite trying to dodge that issue. It is no use for them to try to pretend that there is only one demand upon those capital resources, because that is just not true.
Secondly, it has been our policy to ensure that those resources available for buildings are used in the first place for the most essential purposes, and that they are not wasted upon luxuries. We know, not only in this country, but in other countries abroad where the Conservative policy has been adopted, that there are not so many of those signs on vacant plots of land saying, "Site for luxury cinema," because they are being built—to the detriment of house building for the masses of ordinary people. Lastly, it has always been our policy to ensure that the resources available for housing are used to secure houses for those in greatest need.
771 Here we come to the clear issue with the Opposition. The only brief statement of policy we have had from the Opposition has been that the private house builder should be given greater scope in building houses for sale. That would obviously mean that there would be fewer, and not more, houses for those who need them to rent. Whatever hon. Gentlemen opposite may say, it is still a fact that those who can afford to buy houses in this country—even with the assistance of low rates of interest from local authorities or from building societies—are in a comparatively privileged position as compared with the vast mass of people who just cannot afford the amounts involved. We occasionally hear from hon. Members opposite of cases where people cannot afford to pay the rents of local authority houses. Yet those are the people who, presumably, are to be asked to buy a house; to put down a sum of money on deposit and then pay the comparatively heavy charge for repayments and interest which would be involved. What a ludicrous position the Opposition are in.
I propose to devote some time to the facts of the situation. Since the end of the war we have built in Great Britain a total of additional homes, excluding Service camps and temporary huts and requisitioned properties, of 1,063,000, of which 638,000 are new permanent houses and 157,000 are temporary houses—[An HON. MEMBER: "Steel boxes."] If anyone talks about steel boxes they need only remember the proposals of the Leader of the Opposition, who unfortunately is not present at this moment, who conjured steel and other boxes out of his mind without trying to work out how he was to get the materials for them. That is a matter which should be remembered by my interrupter.
In addition to this building work, we have had war damage repairs carried out to some 775,000 houses. These are minor repairs which did not require whole rebuilding, but nevertheless took a very large part of the repair work needed in this country. We can estimate that those will be equivalent to something over 100,000 new houses. I think we should pay a tribute to the work done by local authorities up and down the country. We 772 have published more information upon the work being done by local authorities in the matter of housing than any previous Government have ever done. We have done so in the hope of keeping up a good competitive spirit among local authorities, and that is something which I am sure hon. Members opposite would be pleased to encourage.
We are very glad to see, for example, that one urban district, which holds the trophy for the most houses built at the moment in relation to its population, has built one house for every 15 of its population. That is the most successful urban district council. It is invidious to pick out individual local authorities, because one knows the widely different circumstances of individual cases, but the figures shown by these local authorities prove clearly that there is nothing to prevent local authorities from going ahead with great developments in house building; and many of our authorities show by their figures that they can carry out immense programmes of house building to the great benefit of our people.
There is one further fact which I wish to bring to the attention of the House, and that is the proportion of house building in rural areas as against the urban areas. It has often been said that little attention has been paid to the rural areas. That is a very fair criticism to make of past Governments prior to the war. Indeed, they did precious little in the rural areas. But in the period ending 31st December, 1949, from the end of the war, the rural authorities in England and Wales have been responsible for 120,936 permanent houses; and other authorities have been responsible for some 437,000. That means, in relation to the population, that there have been more houses provided in rural areas than in the urban areas, which is a point of some importance in considering the problems in the rural areas and in the towns.
A frequent complaint which is made by hon. Members opposite is that the builders are not allowed to build. Well, of course, the immediate answer which occurs to one is, "What on earth have they been doing?" There has been a very small proportion of direct labour building taken over, and there, presumably, the private builder can claim that the work is being taken from him. The proportion of direct labour building is only about 7 per cent. of the houses built.
773 But what annoys hon. Members opposite is that the private builder is building on account of the local authorities, and there are strict controls and regulations over the amount of profits they can make. That is the real basis of the criticisms from hon. Members opposite.
Let us look at a typical case to see what is the demand for houses for purchase. I will take a case already mentioned, that of Birmingham. There we would willingly admit the seriousness of the housing situation, and we shall certainly do everything possible to assist in getting a better housing programme in Birmingham than has been possible recently. But what happened in Birmingham? I understand they sought to strengthen the case for increasing the proportion of privately built houses, from the proportion of one in five then existing, by inviting applications from those who wished to buy houses. They received applications from 6,000 persons. About 3,000 of those were on the waiting list of the local authority. But that waiting list comprises a total of something under 60,000 names.
That simply means that if we go by need there is no doubt at all that a ratio of one in five for private building for purchase is wildly out; that we are being far too generous to the private builder for purchase and we are not giving enough houses in proportion to those who need a house to rent. Therefore, let hon. Members opposite beware. This case no doubt is typical of many parts of the country where also there is no doubt whatever that the urgent need we have to meet is for more houses to rent.
Another point we must consider is that, if, indeed, it were true that there is some pool of labour available that is not being used at the moment and which should be brought into house building, then hon. Members opposite might have a better case to make. What again is the fact? The fact is that from the last figures we have, for 16th January, 1950, the total number of building and civil engineering workers in England and Wales unemployed at that date—a date when one might expect a comparatively high figure —was something like 35,000, of whom 10,000 were craftsmen.
That figure should be compared with the pre-war figure of December, 1938, of some 187,000 unemployed building and 774 civil engineering workers. The total labour force in the building trade is somewhere about one million, which means, therefore, that the total unemployment at the latest date was just over 3 per cent. So far as craftsmen are concerned the figure was only about 1.7 per cent. at a time of the year when one would expect a comparatively high level of unemployment. That shows that there just is not available this general pool of workers to come into house building.
Let me take the case which has been made about the low rate of building from the present building force. It has been pointed out that, very roughly, the total labour force in the building and civil engineering trades was about the same pre-war, in 1938, as it is today. It has been argued by hon. Members opposite that considerably fewer houses are being built today with the same labour. Of course, to some extent that is perfectly true because, thank heaven, we are building better houses. We are building houses of a much higher standard than those approved by hon. Gentlemen opposite. We have no wish to go back to the standards of those days. We must maintain much higher standards which we consider necessary today.
§ Mr. Duncan Sandys (Streatham)
We cannot allow that to go by. Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that the improved standards on which he is now congratulating himself, were standards laid down by the wartime Coalition Government?
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
In fact they are higher, but the great point is that one hears always a great deal of talk from the Opposition about what they were going to do in times of national emergency, and when it comes to carrying out those proposals it is another matter altogether. The issue is that we have in fact ensured a higher standard—certainly with the advice of the Dudley Committee and of others.
Let us take these figures and break them down. In actual fact, as far as we can estimate the position, in 1938 there were about 330,000 workers employed on new housing as compared with about 220,000 in 1949. For all other new constructional work the figure was about 375,000 in 1938 compared with 236,000 in 1949. The figure for repair and maintenance work, both for housing and for other constructional work, in 1938 was 775 325,000 and the figure in 1949 was something over 500,000. Therefore, we ask hon. Members opposite whether they would enforce the movement of workers from repair and other constructional work to new housing. This is a valid point. They already complain that our controls are irksome. They wish to sweep away many of these controls, particularly in connection with housing. How will they ensure the better use of our labour force? How will they move workers from repair work which is urgently necessary, to new house construction without effective and strict controls—which they say they are not prepared to use—over the labour?
I must say that the arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite are completely fictitious. They just do not hold water. It is true that today, with something like one-third less building force we are building per worker, bearing in mind the quality and standards of amenity of houses today, very roughly at a comparable rate to pre-war. That means that there has been a great improvement since the Report of the Girdwood Committee in 1947. It has been due partly to the more balanced programme that we now have in operation, partly to the greater effort by all those concerned and partly to the incentive schemes which have been most valuable in many cases in bringing extra production.
A further point which is often raised is the question of traditional and nontraditional houses. Sometimes it is said, "Have you done enough to try to find ways of building with the use of materials which do not raise quite the same problems of shortages that you find in the case of the average traditional house?" It is sometimes alleged that not enough attention has been paid to new methods of construction. I should like to point out that nearly 100,000 nontraditional houses had been completed up to 31st December, 1949. These are permanent houses built by non-traditional methods, many of them with the assistance of grants made available to local authorities to encourage new developments in house building. In addition, to this figure should be added some 13,000 permanent aluminium bungalows.
The special grants referred to amount to £26,500,000 paid to local authorities 776 to encourage them to help in the building of non-traditional types of houses. Those grants have now come to an end, because it was felt at the end of 1947 that it should be possible after that period of time for those using the non-traditional methods to compete on equal terms with the builders of traditional houses. Very largely they have been able to do so. There is no doubt that the wide variety of houses which are being built in different parts of the country are providing us with a valuable addition to our house building programme.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove mentioned the question of costs. He seemed to think that it was something extraordinary that my right hon. Friend had not prevented building costs of traditional houses from going up at all since he took office in 1945. My right hon. Friend would be something more than a Welshman if he had succeeded in doing so; but what he can fairly claim is that while there has been an increase in costs for traditional house building, based upon tender costs, of only from 100 to 115 during the period from 1945 to the present day, the industrial material costs have risen from 100 to 145.
I do not say that we should not take every possible action to attack high costs throughout the building industry, for it is clear that the policy of effective control in the house building industry has been of the utmost value in keeping down, comparatively, the costs of house building as against the costs in other industries. If right hon. Gentlemen opposite are going to press for a withdrawal of these very controls, we can only assume that we shall be faced with further soaring costs, to the disadvantage of every man and woman in this country.
Now let me say a word about the problem of rents, which is very often raised in the House and over which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman skated lightly for a while today. It is important that the House should realise that, from surveys made, the average rent, excluding rates, in 1949 for post-war houses appears to be approximately 14s. 3d. per week, which works out at 10 per cent. of average wages. P.E.P., in a survey published about a month ago, quoted a figure of an average rent, inclusive of rates, of 21s., which does not greatly disagree with 777 the figure I have given. When we come to the post-war rents of pre-war houses, we find that the average in 1949 was about 9s. 3d., which works out at a percentage of wages of something between 6 and 7. On the other hand, if we take the pre-war estimates made by Mr. Seebohm Rowntree, taking an average pre-war income of 67s., we get an average rent of 7s., which again is a percentage of 10.
All I suggest is that, while it is true that the rents of these houses have gone up, they have certainly not risen out of proportion to the income of the majority of the tenants, and it is always important to remember that local authorities are no obliged to use their subsidies equally over the whole block of their houses, but that it is a matter entirely for them to decide.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
As I understand it, the hon. Gentleman's first figure was the average rent for the post-war local authority house. Has he got further figures to illustrate the rentals of houses finished during the last 12 months and let for the first time?
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
All I can give are the figures from the survey. I do not pretend that this survey is of great value, but the figures appear to be confirmed by the report of P.E.P., which suggests that the rental quoted is a reasonable average. The rents, of course, vary from very much lower figures to very much higher ones.
On the question of standards, I gather from the speeches of hon. Members opposite that they feel that the standards of house building today are too high. I hope they will make the point quite clear during this Debate. We feel that the standards of post-war houses, while undoubtedly higher than they were before the war, are not too high to meet the needs of our people. I therefore believe that it is vitally important that the Opposition, in considering this Debate today, should clearly express their view and say whether they would themselves reduce the existing standards and attempt to achieve economies in that way.
I believe that this whole housing problem is very largely a moral problem, and that it is immoral at this time to ask that a part, even a large part, of the limited resources available should be 778 devoted to providing accommodation for those who do not need accommodation as urgently as do others. We insist that the policy which the Government has followed during the last four and a half years, and which they intend to follow, shall be directed to the needs of the people as against the policy of enabling individuals to buy higher standards of house accommodation. We have always recognised the right of a limited number of people to build houses. What may be in question is whether the proportion which we have hitherto established has been the right proportion or not. The estimates which we have made suggest that, if anything, we have been too generous in our allocations to private house building and not to the opposite.
I must insist once more, in concluding my remarks on this matter, that the whole House has a right to be disgusted at the failure of the Opposition to put forward any constructive proposals before this House and the country.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George (Anglesey)
I was very glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say, at the conclusion of his speech, that the Government have no intention of lowering the housing standards set up by the Dudley Committee during the war. They are certainly not too high, but only just adequate, and the real danger is that once they have been debased it will be extremly difficult to raise them again.
I am sure that hon. Members in all parts of the House are glad to have an opportunity, at this early stage in a new Parliament, to discuss a problem which affects the social life of the whole country. No hon. Member, no matter in what quarter of the House, can possibly say that they are satisfied with the progress that has been made and is being made today. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove, (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), in his opening speech, gave us some striking figures of the waiting list for houses in Glasgow, and told us of telegrams and messages which he had received from all over the country expressing dissatisfaction with housing conditions. Of course, there is no hon. Member in any part of the House who cannot quote distressing cases of overcrowding, of appalling housing conditions and of the tragic social consequences that too often come from the 779 failure to provide a separate home for every family in the country. It is true that local authorities in every part of the country are haunted by the long waiting lists for houses, which never seem to grow any less. I know of a small country town with a population of 2,000, which has a waiting list, even in that small community, of 250, and that in spite of the fact that 100 new permanent houses have been built there, in addition to a number of temporary houses. The Minister knows the case perfectly well. It is a very invidious task for local authorities to have to choose tenants from a queue most of whom are equally deserving. I think we can say that the great proportion of local authorities discharge that difficult and distasteful task conscientiously and well. But we all know of cases where that function is not discharged in the best interests of the people. It is not only vital that justice should be done, but that justice should be seen to be done.
§ Mr. Ronald Mackay (Reading, North)
Will the noble Lady permit me? We have had this question over and over again. If the 250 waiting list in the town of 2,000 people which the noble Lady mentions is to be satisfied, over six million houses will have to be built in this country.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
Whatever the target, it must be a target which produces houses for the people who are in need of them. At the moment, it is perfectly true that all the housing lists are not, in fact, accurate. Many people have their names on one or more council housing list, and one of the things we would urge the Minister to do is to instruct local authorities to revise their lists at the earliest possible moment so that we may arrive at an accurate figure of the real families requiring accommodation. But even when we have done that, even when we have pruned those housing lists, there is surely no one in any part of this House who does not believe that there will still remain an immense and formidable problem of new housing. At the present rate of progress it will take years to catch up with the shortage.
We recognise, therefore, the gravity of the housing situation, but we on these benches, also recognise some of the 780 practical difficulties that have to be considered and overcome. I believe it would be neither responsible nor honest at this moment to say that we could launch tomorrow, within a week, or within a few months, a great new housing drive which would satisfy the needs of the whole community. That is a suggestion which is implicit in the policy of the party above the Gangway, as expressed at the Election, in their manifesto, in their broadcasts and in the Amendment which they have put before the House today.
In that Amendment, the Conservative Party speak ofthe grievous and growing distress in town and country arising out of the continuing decline in the number of new houses built each year.But there has been "grievous distress" in this country for a very long time both as a result of overcrowding and of families having to live in sub-standard and slum houses. It is not a problem which has arisen in the last four and a half years; it is a problem which has been accumulating unchecked for 30, 40 or 50 years, and during that time it has causedgrievous and growing distress in town and country.First of all, there are about four million obsolete houses in this country over 60 years old. That is not a problem which has suddenly arisen, It is a problem which was present in an acute form before the war. We may say, of course, that it has grown since, and naturally so, because, during the war, it was impossible for any party to tackle that problem. The neglect therefore, has, of course, made it more acute. Certainly, none of us can be satisfied with the conditions as they are. Questions were raised today about housing conditions in Scotland. I cannot speak about them, but I can certainly speak about conditions in Wales, not only in the industrial but in the rural areas, where the slums are as appalling as anything one can find in the great cities of this country. In many cases they are even worse, they are not spectacular, and therefore it is not so easy to get local authorities to tackle them or to rouse public opinion to make it difficult for local authorities not to tackle them.
We are certainly not satisfied, but that is not the question on which we are asked to vote tonight. That is a vote of censure which carries with it the assumption that 781 we believe the Conservative Opposition would, in fact, tackle the housing problem better than the present Government. That I am certainly not prepared to accept for a single moment. We certainly do not consider that, in this instance, it would improve matters to put Charles out in order to make this James king. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove went back some way in considering housing conditions in this country; he went back to the Boer War. That is a very lively and fascinating period from a political, if not from a housing, point of view, particularly to an hon. Member who sits on these benches.
The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that he was not anxious to compare the record of the present Government with the record of the Conservative Party before the war. I should rather like to consider that comparison for a moment. I well remember that in the last housing Debate the right hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke with some pride of the 365,000 houses a year built before the war by a Conservative Government, and how he compared that figure most favourably with the record of the Labour Government. But is that really comparable? Are the circumstances comparable? Then there was no shortage of materials; there was plenty of labour available, and there were none of the scarcities or economic conditions which always prevail in post-war periods. At that time the cost of housing was a quarter of what it is now, and, may I add, there was no acute dollar problem then.
Yet, with all these advantages—plenty of materials, plenty of labour, and no dollar difficulties—the Conservative Party were able to produce only 140,000 more house a year than did the Minister of Health with all these difficulties. Is that really a prospect that will make hon. Members agree to flock into the Lobby to say, "Do let us have another dose of a Conservative housing policy such as we had before the war"? I do not think so.
The Conservative Party speak in their Amendment of more effective measures to deal with the housing situation. We have heard very little in the Debate of these effective measures which they propose to put in hand. What are they? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said that they did not intend to cut expenditure on housing programmes—at 782 least, that is what I understood him to say. I do not remember that he made any complaint at all when the housing expenditure was cut by £35 million during the last Parliament. I do not remember any protest coming at that time from the benches above the Gangway. Will they restore that cut? Will they increase the expenditure on housing? Are we to have another example of more economy, increased expenditure and reduced taxation simultaneously?
What else do they put forward? They say, as the Parliamentary Secretary reminded us this afternoon, that they wish to free the private builder. But at this moment the private builder is already constructing houses for local authorities. If he were to switch over that would be that fewer local authority houses were built, and the people in the greatest need of houses in this country today—those whose need was least satisfied in the interwar period when we had a Conservative housing policy—would again suffer. That would be the first consequence.
Of course, there are small firms in different parts of the country which, at the moment, are not fully employed or are employed on non-essential work. I hope very much that the Minister of Health will rope them all in because, in the aggregate, they will provide a powerful reinforcement. But in the main, private builders today are building for local authorities. We on these benches are certainly eager and anxious to see the ratio of private building restored and increased when circumstances permit. But we must remember that local authorities are now empowered to provide houses, not only for the working classes, but for other sections of the community, so that there is really no reason why there should be cases of hardship which cannot be satisfied by the local authorities.
I think that the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove, was less than fair this afternoon. He took little or no account of the practical difficulties with which any Government—and I do not care what party it is drawn from—would be faced today if they were to accelerate considerably the housing programme. There are limiting factors. The principal limiting factor is timber. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman did not tell us where we are to get greatly increased supplies of timber. I believe timber is in 783 shorter supply this year than at any time since the war.
I was very glad to hear that the President of the Board of Trade is now engaged in negotiating with the Swedes for further supplies; I do not think that, in this instance, it makes any difference, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman suggested it might, whether the buying is in private or in public hands, because it is really largely a dollar question. It is also a question of getting more supplies from the Soviet Union, and it would not make very much difference whether a private or a public buyer approached that particular source.
I hope the Government will scour the world for timber, and particularly the soft currency areas. I hope also that the utmost economy will be exercised in the use of timber. I believe instructions have been sent out to local authorities already, and I hope that, if necessary, those local authorities will change their designs to fit in with those instructions. I also hope the Government will undertake scientific research to see whether it is possible to have substitutes for timber. They may have done that already. If so, I hope we shall hear more about it.
Above all, do we hope the Government will give housing the first priority. I think that hon. Members in many parts of the House are still a little afraid that that is a principal and that it is not practised in Government policy. We hope no materials will be made available for places of entertainment or Government Departments—not at all the same thing —and other non-essential premises, such as in the case of the vast expansion of commercial premises—which was raised by the hon. Lady the Member for the Exchange Division of Liverpool (Mrs. Braddock) at the end of the last Parliament. We trust we shall have nothing like that again. We hope that schemes of this kind will not be allowed to take precedence, or even to take their place in the queue at all. We hope, too, that the Minister of Health will do his utmost to see that restrictive practices in the building industry, on both sides, are not allowed to impede the housing programme.
I was sorry to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that non-traditional houses were rather coming to an end, and that 784 the Government no longer intended to build either aluminium houses or the Airey houses.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
I was merely saying that the special grant procedure had been adopted to give encouragement to new types of building. It came to an end at the end of 1947. I did say that the non-traditional types were able to hold their own with traditional building.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
I am glad to hear that. Every encouragement should be given to the building of these houses. Every advantage must be taken of all available means in order to increase the housing programme. Finally, we hope that the Minister of Health will put all the energy, all the Celtic fervour of which he is undoubtedly possessed into a renewed housing drive to bring us at any rate within sight of the solution of this intractable problem.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. McInnes (Glasgow, Central)
By universal consent, housing is the most pressing of all our social problems, but I shall endeavour to observe the tradition of this House in being non-controversial in a maiden speech. When I read the Amendment to the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech, I naturally expected that we would be told this afternoon what the Conservative Party would do that is not being done now. That is the acid test of the Amendment, and I was somewhat astonished at the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) producing nothing but comparable figures during the Crimean and the Boer Wars as indicative of what the Conservative Party accomplished.
I represent a constituency in the City of Glasgow, a city which, despite its having built almost 70,000 municipal houses, is. still the worst-housed city in this country. It is a city with a mass of festering slums, a city with a high incidence of tuberculosis, a city with the highest overcrowding record in the country, and a city with over 100,000 applicants desiring municipal accommodation. These conditions are not the result of the failure of the local authority to build houses. They are not the outcome of a policy pursued by a Labour Government. They existed before the advent of a Labour Government, and before the outbreak of war. These conditions are the legacy of the 785 failure and neglect of successive Conservative Governments, particularly during the inter-war period.
We were told, during the election campaign, that the nation was getting 1,000 houses per day before the war. We had that number for something like four or five years out of the 20 years of the interwar period. It is rather unfortunate that that figure was not reached during the whole of the inter-war period. Had we achieved that, we would have had over six million houses instead of the 42 million that were built. I am satisfied that hon. Members opposite know, within their hearts and souls, the reasons why we did not get that figure of 1,000 houses per day. It was due to the absence of planning, and the absence of any properly conceived policy. Nothing but indecision and infirmity of purpose characterised the attitude of the Governments of those days, so far as the housing problem was concerned. I reiterate what the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) indicated that it was a tragedy that in those years, when there was an abundant supply of labour and materials, we had between 150,000 and 180,000 of our building trade workers almost continuously unemployed.
The second reason why we failed to achieve the figures was the abolition of the greatest piece of housing legislation that was ever introduced into this Assembly, namely, the Wheatley Act, 1924. I consider that the abolition of that Act stands as an imperishable monument to the inefficiency of the Opposition in their handling of the housing problem. With all these things in mind, therefore, I have the utmost difficulty in appreciating precisely what prompted the Amendment to the Gracious Speech. I recognise that, despite unprecedented difficulties, despite the devastating impact of war on the national economy and the physical destruction created by the war, this Government is making progress, but nevertheless I feel that there is much still to be done. I think that that progress will require to be considerably accelerated.
With a view to that acceleration I want to suggest three points for the consideration of the appropriate Ministers. I should like the Government to consult with the industry in order to ascertain 786 all the implications that would be involved in the granting of a guaranteed week of 44 hours for the building trade worker. It is unfortunate that in that industry the worker should be to a considerable extent dependent upon the climatic conditions for his livelihood. Secondly, I should like the Government to inquire into the organisation of the building industry. To my mind the demand on the industry is far beyond its capacity. The industry is hampered by the number of small uneconomic units which comprise its whole.
I find, for example, that in this country there are 136,000 firms in the building industry. Over 60,000 of them employ no one and over 40,000 employ only from one to five operatives. In point of fact, out of 136,000 building firms, only 129 employ over 500 operatives. Despite the important part which the building industry plays in the economic life of the nation, we must all realise that the industry is the most backward of all our major industries. The development of the building industry towards mechanical, modern and mass production methods is lamentably slow. In research and scientific development, the building industry is just not quoted.
Finally, I should like to suggest to the Government, following the point made by the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey, the abolition of the present licensing system and the introduction of legislation which would be calculated to limit or restrict for the next year or two all building operations in this country solely to housing, factories and social services. Since licensing was introduced in August, 1945, in the City of Glasgow alone over f16 million worth of work other than housing has been licensed. While I realise that much of that relates to factories and social services, there is also a considerable amount relating to nonessential building. I hope that from that point of view the Government will consider the abolition of the licensing system and, if we are really serious and earnest in dealing with this tragic problem, confine all our building activity to the building of houses, factories and such like. I am satisfied that only by such a concentration of all our resources shall we overcome this tragic problem of housing—a problem which is a grave reproach to our modern civilisation.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Marples (Wallasey)
This is the first occasion in this House on which I have followed a maiden speaker. I think I should be voicing the sentiments of hon. Members on both sides of the House if I said that the hon. Member for Glasgow Central (Mr. McInnes) spoke with a sincerity which we expect from all Scots; also, if I may say so, with a fervour which is not dissociated from those people who come from north of the Border. I thought he delivered his speech in a very clear way, which I certainly understood. As a building employer and one of those employing more than the 500 he mentioned, I am very glad that he has made those researches into the industry. When the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Works publishes the report of the working party on the building industry, no doubt the hon. Member for Glasgow Central, and myself will get together and analyse it as best we can. I should like to say one more word about the hon. Gentleman; I hope I shall be here some time when he makes a controversial speech, because it will be most interesting.
I was going to refer to the Liberal Party, but they are not thronging their benches with their customary enthusiasm. The reason I was going to refer to the Liberal Party was that for about 20 minutes the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) denounced the Tory Party, stating that they had no policy, and made a few criticisms of the Labour Party, but entirely omitted any reference to the Liberal policy. It would indeed be interesting, if the Liberals are hoping to get into power at the next election—provided Lloyds is not bankrupt—to know what their policy is.
I am never quite sure what are the rules of this House as to how often a person should declare his interest in a particular industry, but as this is a new House I should like to declare my interest by saying that I am a building contractor, mostly in the heavy civil engineering line now and erecting fairly large buildings, but in the past erecting a great number of buildings for local authorities. Incidentally, one of the buildings my firm is erecting is a power station at Leeds. When I listened to the hon. 788 Member for Leeds, North-East (Miss Bacon), who seconded the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech, I was surprised to find that I could not reconcile my knowledge of Leeds with the picture of the æsthetic beauty of that city which the hon. Lady presented to this House. It may be because the power station we are building is next to the sewerage works and that our technical job is to use the effluent from the sewerage works to cool the power station. Be that as it may, I was quite unable to reconcile the two.
This is a serious time in the nation's history. It is necessary for every Member to be as constructive as possible, and I intend today to be constructive. If by any chance my natural ebullience and exuberance run away with me, I ask hon. Members opposite to forgive me because it is only near the end that I shall be exuberant. There is misapprehension in the minds of the people when discussing housing, and to my mind the reason is as follows. Unless housing is divided clearly into two separate categories, we shall never have a rational discussion. The first category is the social aspect, dealing with the disposal of a house when it is erected; who shall own it, and occupy it; and what rent is to be paid. That is the first aspect.
The other aspect is the technical aspect of deciding what shall happen from the virgin soil to the completed building. I maintain that social reasons should decide the social aspect and that technical reasons should decide the technical aspect. Therefore, if the Parliamentary Secretary will follow me on the social aspect, I believe that as far as the occupation of a house is concerned there should be two guiding rules. The first is that physical needs provide physical possession. In other words, if a man has no legs and six children and comes from the Army, he is more entitled to the house than a man who has just married, but who comes and asks for it. Physical needs should give physical possession.
My second point is that financial need should secure financial assistance. When local authorities are building nine out of every ten houses, I do not think it is right or proper that every occupant of those nine houses should receive a subsidy. [An HON. MEMBER: "They do not"] There are many Labour councils, 789 and Conservative councils for that matter, under which, in fact, they do receive it. I will refer to a specific example in Macclesfield. There is a trade union official in Macclesfield who decided to study politics in order to advance the lot of his fellow men and himself. He did it very successfully. His fellow trade unionists get £4 13s. 6d. a week and he gets £60 a week on the North-West Gas Board.
I do not complain about that; possibly he is worth it. In addition, in between his political studies, he was moderately prolific and had three children, so that he also has a council house. I do not object to that either, because possibly he is entitled to it. What I do object to is the fact that he is receiving a subsidy from the ratepayers of Macclesfield and the taxpayers of this country towards his rent. If I asked any person in this House earning less than £60 a week this question—" Do you think it right and proper that you should pay a contribution towards the rent of a man earning £60 a week? "—I wonder what the answer would be?
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
It is entirely for the local authorities to decide whether they wish to do this or not.
§ Mr. Marples
It should not be; it is a matter of principle. It is no use the Treasury benches farming out responsibility on to local authorities; this is a matter of principle. They are giving Exchequer money here, collecting money from the smokers of the country, and in Purchase Tax from the people who buy clothes, and are giving it towards the rent of a trade union official earning £60 a week. I say that that from the central Government is wrong.
§ Mr. Collick (Birkenhead)
But surely the Macclesfield Tory Council can control that, and—[HON. MEMBERS: "Order. Stand up."] What the hon. Member must appreciate in the instance he has given is that it is quite within the capacity of the Macclesfield Tory Council to control the position.
§ Mr. Marples
It is exactly the same position with regard to the Central Glasgow Labour Council and their control over the £60 million of building licences.
790 The principle is wrong where an Exchequer grant is given to a man earning £60 a week. No matter what the local council can do, no matter whether they are right or wrong, it does not make the central Government right in this respect.
My main theme, however, is connected with the technical aspect and I must not permit myself to be drawn on to one side. Let me deal with the technical processes of building from the virgin soil to the completed building. The objective is fourfold. It is to build at a high speed; to build at a low cost; to build a large number; and to keep to a reasonable quality. I maintain that technical reasons only should decide that aspect, and this is where the disagreement between the two sides of the House is apparent. Every time hon. Members on this side of the House state that these technical reasons should decide, hon. Members opposite allege that we are saying that because we are also going to decide the disposal of the building. It is not so. It is the framework within which a builder works which enables him to build either cheaply or dearly.
I build only for the local authority. I have never built speculative building for sale or to let, but my friends who do build that way can build 10 to 15 per cent. cheaper and 10 to 15 per cent. faster than I can. What I say is directly contrary to my financial interests, but what I am trying to get the Government to do is to get the best of both worlds—the best of the technical side of building, and also to use whatever methods they like in disposing of the house, so long as they bear in mind those two rules I have mentioned.
To some extent we have to analyse the industry itself, and I must say I am grateful to the Minister of Works for coming along this afternoon. I gave him notice and asked him to come because I believe he holds the key to building houses in this country. I believe that the analysis of the building industry is of paramount importance. In the last 50 years the building industry has developed from the man who was a craftsman and had his own yard, his own labour, and his own material. Development has produced two major features. The first is the growth of the specialist sub-contractor. When hon. Members opposite criticise the builder—that is the builder who actually 791 is the main contractor—they should remember that, generally speaking, in the large building something like 80 per cent. of the main work is let out to specialist sub-contractors, so that the builder has within his control only 20 per cent. of the building.
The second feature of the building industry is that the contractor is an organiser and a financier and must get a rhythm into his work. If he does not, he will never be able to interlock the 80 per cent. of the sub-contractors' work on the site. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Works will appreciate that I am dealing with a production problem and not with the problem of the disposal of the houses. From the point of view of my argument what happens after they have been erected is irrelevant; I do not care if they are burned down or given away. I am concerned here simply with the question of building them from the virgin soil to the roof.
Against that background let hon. Members bring their minds to what happens in the case of a shortage of timber. Take, for example, doors from a sub-contractor. In my constituency we have the firm which turns out the largest number of panelled doors in this country. Before the war they turned out a door for 7s. 6d. Now they turn one out for 33s. There are several reasons for that. The first is that the price of timber has increased from £22 to between £110 and £117 a standard, but the second reason, and possibly the major reason, is the fact that the factory is working only at half-cock.
Before the war they turned out 3,000 doors a day with 400 men, which meant that each man was turning out 7½ doors a day. At the present moment they are turning out 600 doors a day with 300 men, which means a rate of production of only two doors per man per day. Hon. Members opposite must not suggest that I am criticising the workers; I am not. The reason for the low productivity is lack of timber. Timber is coming in "from hand to mouth," which is a bad policy, and the production line cannot be kept going. The entire overheads of the factory, including sanding machines standing idle, must be spread over 600 doors instead of 3,000 doors. Whatever happens, therefore, more timber must be obtained, not only to build more houses 792 but to make the houses which are already being built much cheaper. Whatever happens we have to get more timber.
Now I turn to the question of the number of houses. I reckon that it will cost about £6½ million of foreign exchange to boost our present house building programme by 50 per cent., as far as timber is concerned. The Government have recently concluded an agreement with Finland whereby they are to obtain 225,000 standards of timber at, think, £43 a standard f.o.b. The Government have to decide whether they will alter the priorities of their foreign currency expenditure in order to build more houses and I respectfully suggest that they must do so, not only in order to build more houses but in order to make those they are already building cheaper.
The Minister of Health has already spent £98 million more on the Health Services than he expected and I should have thought that a mere £6½ million was not a great deal to the right hon. Gentleman. Take, for example, the tobacco we are buying in this country. I reckon that an 11 per cent. cut in the tobacco we buy from the dollar area would be sufficient to give us a 50 per cent. increase in house building, as far as timber is concerned. What we have to ask ourselves is, Do we want tobacco or do we want houses?
§ Mr. Marples
I do not, because I am a non-smoker.
Let us look for some way to increase the supply of timber. I want to make some constructive suggestions. The first is to alter the priority of spending foreign currency. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may ask, how and why? We have recently allowed a lot of tourists to go to Sweden and spend as much foreign exchange as they like. Would it not be much better if we spent a little less foreign exchange on holidays and a little more on getting timber? Would it not be better to have homes in this country, than to have people going to Sweden from this country for holidays? Surely, that is not an unreasonable question to ask the right hon. Gentleman to answer when he winds up the Debate.
The second point is this. The noble Lady the Member for Anglesey referred 793 to the use of substitute materials. Well, one can carry the use of substitute materials for timber too far, until it becomes uneconomical. For example, in Volume II of the Report of the Committee for European Economic Co-operation, dated September, 1947, it is said:An increase in production costs, leading to an increase in the cost of living and demands for higher wages and other symptoms of inflationary pressure, comes from using articles in lieu of timber.Let me tell of a personal experience here. I was engaged in some building on the Thames, and I was authorised and instructed under the specification to use steel instead of timber for shuttering purposes. For that particular type of shuttering I had to use steel because it was technically possible and not because it was economically profitable. The ton of steel I used in substitution for timber could have bought three tons of timber in Canada if it had been sold to Canada. We have this anomalous position, that we are using substitute materials here which would fetch more dollars if sold in the dollar area than the timber it replaces would cost. The Board of Trade are going into this; but they have been going into it for something like nine months now, and yet there is still no decision. I do suggest that the Minister of Health should press the Board of Trade on this timber question.
The third way to improve our timber position is to abolish bulk buying. Whatever we may say about price and quantity when the buying is done by private buyers instead of Government buyers, there can be no doubting that the quality will be better if the timber is bought by the private buyer, because he will buy the right quality and size, and in timber one has to be selective in buying and should not buy indiscriminately. The firm in my own constituency to which I have referred could go across to British Columbia now and buy precisely the right timber for its doors; but they have to accept what Timber Control gives them, and that is most unsatisfactory.
Having dealt with timber, let me come to the next matter, which is related to what the Parliamentary Secretary said when answering my right hon. and gallant Friend. The Parliamentary Secretary said that direct labour was building only 7 per cent. of the houses and that 794 93 per cent. could be built by private enterprise. He knows perfectly well that private enterprise has two functions to perform and two methods of building. The first is to build for local authorities under a rigid specification and contract. In that case the local authority is the boss and the builder is the employee. The second is for the builder to build for speculation houses to let or sell. In that case the builder is his own boss and makes his own decisions. In the first case he is not his own boss.
Assume that my contention is right, and that the builder of his own account can build cheaper than if he is building for the local authority, then I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite this question. Would they, if disposal of the houses could be satisfactorily arranged according to their ideology, still insist on using the most inefficient form of building? The answer is that they could not possibly insist on it. Therefore, let me make this suggestion. Let us put this controversy to the acid test. Do not let us argue about the respective merits of building under contract or building for private enterprise and speculatively. Let the right hon. Gentleman arrange for 400 houses to be built as an experiment by a large private firm under the system I advocate. Let him dispose of those houses precisely as he wishes. Let the Minister of Works have his technical staff on the site, and look after the costing.
Then we shall resolve this controversy once for all, because if my system—or the system I advocate—is best, then there is no reason why we should not get the best of both worlds, because if they can build 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. cheaper and 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. faster, surely they should be allowed to, because surely that is what we want today.
§ Mr. Marples
Not for 400 houses. The small builder would never have enough staff to build 400 houses and keep a flow of material from one end of the site to the other. The small builder can build two or three, or three or four houses, and sell to the local authority. 795 The private enterprise builder, if he is to get the full value out of his materials, must have a clear run for about 300 or 400 houses, a clear site, and a fair chance. One thing is quite certain. The right hon. Gentleman said that the private contractor should find his purchaser first, and that once he had found his purchaser he could build the house. One cannot possibly build cheaply that way. It may be socially desirable, but technically it is inefficient.
§ Mr. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
Is the hon. Gentleman's contention that the private 'builder on competitive tender, is building cheaper than the local authorities houses of the same type and size?
§ Mr. Marples
If private enterprise is allowed in the way I suggest there will not be building on competitive tender. There will not be a tender. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] I am sorry if hon. Gentlemen did not follow me. I was saying that if the private contractors can build 10 to 15 per cent. cheaper than the local authorities I do not see why they should not. I will tell hon. Gentlemen why.
If, for example, a local authority specifies that the end of the roof should be gable ended, timber of certain lengths is required. If the timber of those lengths is not available—and frequently it is not available—then the builder has to go to the local authority and ask if he may build, say, a hipped ended roof. It is three or four weeks before there is an answer. If the building is being done by a private contractor the decision to alter the specification from a gable end to a hipped end can be made in a morning, because the contractor goes every day to the site to make his decisions about the work. In a hipped ended roof the timber used is slightly less than in a gable ended roof, and also—and this is the most important point of all—it is of shorter lengths. In a gable ended roof long lengths are used. In local authority building the short lengths go on the watchman's fire, though the private contractor would use them for a hipped ended roof.
The next question is that of the functions of the various Departments. There was a document issued in 1945 when the party opposite were peering into the future, and it said that there must be a 796 Minister of Housing. I am not going to argue today that there must be a Minister of Housing, but I am going to suggest that the Minister of Works should take over the technical side of housing from the Ministry of Health. I believe that the Ministry of Health is a powerful body administratively but I think it is weak technically.
We on these benches have made from time to time constructive suggestions during Debates here on housing. One of the constructive suggestions made was that there should be a working party for the building industry. That suggestion was made on 28th July, 1947. It took the Government 10 months to appoint it, and it was appointed on 10th May, 1948. It reported in January, 1950, and the report should be in the Minister's hands now. It is common knowledge in the industry that it is in the right hon. Gentleman's hands. Shall I give the reasons which prompted this side of the House to suggest that there should be a report? In discussions in this House, inefficiency is, generally speaking, put down to one or two reasons. The first is the idle tea-drinking operative, mid the second is the wicked cigar-smoking contractor. Discussion never ranges outside those two points. Those two points are probably costing the country money, but I was convinced that the Government Departments were mostly responsible for bad outside circumstances which do not allow the builder to build efficiently.
For instance, there is an hon. Friend of mine who is shortly to make his maiden speech, and he has a case in his constituency in Portsmouth. He is the hon. Member who was responsible for removing the right hon. Gentleman's P.P.S. from those benches. He will probably go down to posterity as one of its unworshipped heroes. In Portsmouth, a man wanted to build a lock-up shop. He applied to the local authority for permission, and they said that he could build it if he had a flat over it. He did not want to do that very much, but he decided to agree. He prepared further plans of the flat over the shop. The Ministry of Health then said, "You can build it if you take the flat on top of it." This sort of thing goes on every day.
§ Mr. Bevan indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Marples
The right hon. Gentleman indicates that it does not, but bless 797 my soul, it does. If when he is walking to his own house and passes my house he cares to drop in and have a drink with me, I will show him some of the difficulties that I have in building a mews flat next to my house. I have been trying to get permission to build it for 18 months, and at the present time I have had to plan to shore up the party walls at a cost of £100 to make it waterproof because I still have not had permission from his own Department to build the flat. If he wants details I can give them.
I suggest that there are too many architects passing judgment on the remainder of their profession. May I refer to my own maiden speech of 17th October, 1945. I suggested then that there should be one Government Department responsible for the issuing of licences, and that they should collect and collate all the information from the other Government Departments. There should be one Government Department which is responsible. Do not let us have this multiplicity of Departments.
My second point was with regard to the functions of the Department. The Ministry—I am referring to the Ministry and not to the Minister—is weak technically. May I give an example of that? The by-laws of the Ministry of Health require a standard of building, and by standards I do not mean the amenities. In some cases specifications for concrete are 50 or 60 years old, although there have been great advances technically in the manufacture of cement in the last 50 years. For example, in the case of floor skimmins a compulsory mixture of 6 to 1 uses a great deal of cement. The floor takes no weight and 10 or 12 to 1 would be sufficient. I believe that two tons of cement could be saved in the construction of every house, without bringing down the standard at all. Ten tons of cement is normally used for a house, so that means a 20 per cent. saving of cement. That is why I suggest that the technical side of housing should be given, as is the technical side of other building, to the Minister of Works.
I have made three suggestions. The first is that we must get more timber in order to build more houses and with which to build those that we do build more cheaply. The way to do it is to alter priorities in soft currency and hard currency, to go carefully into the use of 798 substitute materials and to end bulk buying. I have suggested that on the private enterprise side there should be one experiment carried out in a big way with the costing clerk of the Ministry of Works resident on the site and going into the figures. I have also suggested that permission to build should be given by one Government Department, and that the technical side should be given to the Ministry of Works.
The Ministry of Works has this report of the working party. I have a Question down asking when it will be published. It may follow the classical example of the Girdwood Report, which was killed by its late publication. The same thing must not happen with this report, which, I believe, will deal with the points I have mentioned. I believe that the Government have failed in their housing programme. Many comparisons have been made—[Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen may laugh, but comparisons have been made about pre-war and post-war building, but to my mind the best comparison of all is to take the countries in Europe which have been ravaged by the war and compare the present rate of building in those countries relative to the pre-war rate of building. This was done in the Economic Survey of Europe in 1948 by the United Nations.
They took the amount of building in each country in Europe and compared it with what each country did pre-war. They gave each country in Europe an index figure of 100 pre-war. These figures, given in 1948, show that Belgium was 127 as against 100–27 per cent. up; Denmark were 83 per cent. up on their former effort, the Netherlands 85, Norway 96, and Sweden, which was not in the war, 126. Last of all, was the United Kingdom, with a figure of 68. Relative to our pre-war effort we were the worst country in Europe with regard to houses—
§ Mr. Marples
There has been a certain amount of progress made in other 799 countries, too. I am comparing like with like, inasmuch as I am comparing what each country did after the war with what each country did before the war. We hear of what a magnificent Government we have today as compared with pre-war, but the United Nations do not think so, so far as housing is concerned.
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. McNeil)
Quote the end column of Table IV of the same report,
§ Mr. Marples
Comparing the new buildings as a percentage of existing buildings, Norway is 2.1, the United Kingdom 1.9, Sweden 2.4, the Netherlands 1.6. The right hon. Gentleman says, "Why peer into the crystal when you can read the book? "There is the book to read. The right hon. Gentleman who said that his party were going back to those benches with an increased majority was somewhat mistaken, and he will probably go down to posterity as the wildest Welsh crystal-gazer of all times. It is quite hopeless to ask the Prime Minister to remove the right hon. Gentleman. That is not because of his ability but because of his musical value. The same applies to the Minister of Town and Country Planning. I think I would agree with the Prime Minister; he must give him a job somewhere.
I suggest that there is here a great chance for the Minister of Works who, as we have seen in this House, has imagination, a great deal of gusto, and a knowledge of production problems. I assure him that I wish him well in his appointment, and I personally will try to do everything possible in my power to give him a fair crack of the whip in what is a most difficult job. Our people will never get houses unless the task is tackled by reference to technical problems, unless there is competition amongst builders, and unless political prejudices and hates disappear altogether. Then, and then only, will our people get the houses they deserve.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Mrs. Rees (Barry)
I am encouraged to ask for the indulgence of the House this evening because of the courtesy that has been shown by hon. Members to those who have already made their debuts in this Debate in the last week, even though I believe that contrary to the traditional 800 rules of the game, the realm of controversy has been entered in some of those speeches.
I am constrained to speak this evening because, as a member of a local authority since 1934, and chairman of a public works committee during these difficult post-war years, I feel that I know something about the problem and the need of people for homes, and about the administrative end of providing those homes. It is true that, unlike the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), I cannot make any contribution towards solving the technical problem, but from my own personal experience I think I may have something to say which will be of value in this Debate.
The town from which I come is fortunate in not having been a blitzed town, so that we did not have that kind of housing problem to contend with. Nevertheless, we have a serious housing problem, as is evidenced by the fact that there are more families occupying military hutments in that town than in any other town in Wales. I am privileged to represent a South Wales constituency—the new constituency of Barry, and part of the old division which was represented in the last Parliament by Mr. Lynn Ungoed-Thomas, K.C., whose advocacy on behalf of the South Wales ports was very much appreciated by the people of South Wales, and by the people of Barry in particular.
I married a sailor, a man who became a sea pilot, and I therefore have a great regard for the people among whom I live, those who get their living in and around the seaport of Barry— "… port to be where outbound sailor, sailor coming homeward greets"—to quote the Barry school song. The people of Barry welcome that phrase in the Gracious Speech which says that the Government will not hesitate to ensure full employment, though such action may be controversial. They would express the hope that that phrase means that the port facilities and trade which are so vital to the life of our community will be maintained and expanded.
It is fortunate for Barry that Government policy and planning in the development areas have secured for us some new factories, thus ensuring diversity of occupation and the prevention of severe unemployment in the port; but it is this policy of bringing employment to the workers, for which our people are grate- 801 ful, that has contributed to increasing our housing problem in two or three ways. First, we have had to provide houses for key workers essential to the new industries. In the last eleven and a half months 30 out of 95 houses have been given to key workers—roughly, one in three. That, of course, has meant that local people on our housing lists have had to wait longer for houses.
Full employment in our town has lengthened the list of our applicants who can now afford to pay the rents. In Barry, we have for some time had a points scheme for the allocation of houses according to need. Before the war—and, indeed, during the war—and for a short while after the war, we had two lists, one of those who could afford to pay more than 14s. a week rent, and the other of those who could not afford to pay that amount. During this period of full employment we have found that people have dispensed with the question of ability to pay the rent, and so the lists have been merged.
The provision of factories has affected our building programme, too, because the building labour and materials available have had to be shared between the building of factories and the building of houses; but without the factories we fear that we should not have needed the number of houses. There are, of course, other factors affecting the long waiting lists for houses, which I feel should be mentioned in this House. Both housing and welfare authorities are embarrassed by having to find a solution of the problem of evicted persons—and this applies to both our urban and our rural areas—people evicted, either from tied cottages or from those houses where the owners have obtained possession through the courts, and often under a pretext, with a view perhaps to selling those houses ultimately at an increased price.
This is a point I would wish to make but not to elaborate, except perhaps to say that it embarrasses the welfare authorities. Under the National Assistance Act, they have to provide temporary accommodation for these people, which, in a county area such as that from which I come, cannot be provided in the vicinity in which the evicted man is employed. It means that the family unit is broken up, that is all. It also embarrasses the housing authorities because, in 802 order to provide a house for the evicted people—who are, frequently, not even applicants on the waiting list—priority has to be given to them over those people waiting for houses, and in dire need of them. There have been many such cases in my own area.
Another factor to be taken into account is that old age pensioners, with their increased pension and rent allowances under National Assistance, are now able to continue to live in their own houses, instead of having to take in other people to live with them or live with their relatives, as they did in the past. During the election campaign my Conservative opponent suddenly found that many of the houses in Barry were in a terrible condition. It took an election to draw his attention to the fact, although the local council had been trying to do something about them for many years. He was describing houses built 50 or 60 years ago, which were hurriedly erected to house the builders of the docks and dockworks when Barry Docks were first started. Unfortunately for the Conservative candidate, he was describing houses that belonged to members of his own party, and the people of Barry knew that well.
Barry is one of those towns which has co-operated with the Ministry in the building of houses, and has succeeded in building up to its allocation by direct labour. There is a history to that. It is no new thing for Barry to build by direct labour, and it was not a Labour council which started that method of building. It was started before the war, because it was found that the cost of building houses through contractors and the cost of the maintenance of those houses was too high. The then council resorted to direct labour, and built a large direct labour undertaking.
Every means has been used in Barry to obtain alternative materials for the scarce materials in building. I am glad to say that the standard of houses produced at present is higher, and, like the hon. Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George), I was glad to hear the Parliamentary Secretary say, this afternoon, that there was no intention of lowering that standard. Women—and I speak as a housewife—appreciate the fact that the houses have better accommodation, better fitments, better kitchens, 803 better bathrooms, and better floor finishing. Though that is appreciated, it must be remembered that it all adds to the time of building of a house, and makes women desire houses more.
"Let the builders build your houses now" is a slogan that we have seen and heard in the last few months and weeks on Conservative platforms and posters. In Barry, several months ago, the council decided to take the builders at their word. There was a bigger allocation of houses to Barry from the Welsh Board of Health because factory building is drawing towards completion and labour has become available. The council invited the builders to tender and ultimately to negotiate. In December, the Welsh Board of Health approved a scheme of building some 90 houses by private builders, but the tenders were too high Negotiations have been prolonged, and up to the present not a trench has been dug nor a brick laid.
When a letter was sent to the builders, which asked them to come to some finality about the negotiations, a reply was received from the Federation of Master Builders. The letter has the significant date of 23rd February, and reads:Dear Sir: I am obliged by your letter of the 20th. Unfortunately, activity over the General Election has prevented the builders who tendered from meeting. I am hoping they will be able to meet early next week, and I will then write you further.The letter is signed by the secretary of the Master Builders' Federation. They were not building polling stations, and, apparently, neither were they building houses. It seems as though they were not very greatly concerned about the urgency of the house-building problem in Barry, but were concerned about the political aspect of the General Election. The housing situation is serious, and we urge that it shall receive priority. It leaves no room for complacency either on the part of the Government or on the part of local authorities, but neither should it be exploited by vested interests.
§ 6.16 p.m.
§ Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith (Glasgow, Hillhead)
It is my very pleasant duty to congratulate the hon. Lady the Member for Barry (Mrs. Rees) on an extremely audible and well-reasoned speech. I particularly want to congratulate her on her easy manner. It is less than a year since 804 I had to undergo the ordeal which she has so successfully come through, and I hope that now that she has cleared this first hurdle she will contribute on many occasions to our Debates. I hope she will forgive me if I do not follow her arguments, because this evening I want to direct my attention mainly to affairs in Scotland and to Scottish housing.
The former Secretary of State for Scotland said that in Scotland about 500,000 houses would be required to satisfy the demand. At the present rate of building, it would take more than a generation to build that number of houses. We believe that progress is far too slow, and that in this matter of housing Scotland has not been fairly treated. In everything else except housing, the Goschen formula of eleven-eightieths applies; but in housing, materials are allocated on the population basis, which is one to nine. Although the basis of one to nine is less favourable to Scotland than the Goschen formula, I would not complain if the condition of housing in the two countries were the same, but in Scotland the housing position is infinitely worse than it is in England. A comparison between the City of Birmingham, which has already been mentioned this afternoon, and Glasgow, one of the divisions of which I have the honour to represent, will bear this out. The two cities are approximately the same size.
§ Mr. Galbraith
In Birmingham the waiting list is only 56,000. That is bad enough, but in Glasgow it is 94,000. Almost twice as many people are awaiting houses in Glasgow as are waiting in Birmingham. What is true in Glasgow in this respect is also true of the rest of Scotland. The need for houses is far more acute and far more desperate than it is in England. I believe that one of the maxims of the Socialist Party is: "From each according to his ability and to each according to his need." The need for houses exists definitely in Scotland. Therefore, I ask the Secretary of State to consult with the Minister of Health to see whether it is not possible to increase the proportion of houses which are being built in Scotland. As both these gentlemen are advocates of the policy of fair shares, I do not see how my request can be refused.
805 The housing position in Scotland is aggravated by factors which do not exist to anything like the same extent in England. First, there is the problem of overcrowding. Last April, when I was visiting my constituency, I came across a family which consisted of a husband, a wife and eight children. When I went back during the General Election, there were nine children. Those 11 people were living in conditions of almost indescribable squalor. There are whole streets with conditions almost as bad, and all this occurs in a constituency where housing is regarded as being good. Altogether there are 29,000 people living in overcrowded conditions in Glasgow, and there are another 36,000 people who have no homes at all. That makes a total of 65,000 people who are in urgent and desperate need of houses. In case any hon. Gentleman opposite may think that I am exaggerating the position in Scotland, I will refer him to page 371 of their own "Speakers' Notebook," where it is stated that overcrowding in Scotland is six times as bad as it is in England. That indicates a clear case of need, if ever there was one.
The second problem which is peculiarly acute in Scotland is that of tuberculosis. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland admitted during an Adjournment Debate last week that it is a very much commoner disease in Scotland than in England. Undoubtedly one of the contributory factors to this disease is the lack of adequate housing. I have with me the case of a man and three sons, two of whom are married, living in four rooms, a total of 11 people in one house, and one of the wives has tuberculosis. In spite of that fact, the family were not considered eligible for rehousing because other families were even worse off. It is no wonder, when conditions like that exist, that tuberculosis should spread and that the deaths due to it should increase. The tuberculosis situation in Glasgow is so serious that one-fifth of the houses erected last year were given to tuberculosis patients who were waiting to be rehoused. In spite of this, there are still 1,000 of them waiting, and it is estimated that after they have been catered for 600 houses will be required each year in Glasgow to rehouse T.B. patients; that is about one-seventh of the houses at the present rate of building will be required for tuberculosis patients each year. That 806 means a very considerable strain upon the housing resources of the City of Glasgow.
I cannot help feeling, when I think of this overcrowding and of the very heavy incidence of tuberculosis, that a great deal of public money is being mis-spent. I do not know how the Minister of Health can justify such a large expenditure on the Health Service when housing is, by comparison, being neglected. It seems to me to be a case of putting the cart before the horse. Prevention is better than cure. I do not believe that until we have good housing we shall ever have satisfactory health.
I come now to the third problem which is peculiar to Scotland. It is the rapid deterioration of existing houses. The houses that I am talking of are not jerrybuilt, as was suggested this afternoon by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health. They were built in the nineteenth century. I am advised that there are 30,000 houses, or one-sixth of the houses available to let, which are being insufficiently maintained and have been insufficiently maintained for the last 10 years. I believe that the Secretary of State is well aware of the existence of this problem. I want to ask him what he is going to do about it. Is he going to take action on the Sorn Committee's Report? Does he expect rehabilitation to be undertaken as a result of the reconditioning proposals in the Housing (Scotland) Act, 1949? If he does, he must be an optimist. I do not think that anyone in Scotland expects anything to be done under that Act. The present alarming condition of disrepair of so many houses in Scotland is undoubtedly due to the inaction of the present Government. I therefore ask the Minister to apply his mind to this pressing problem before it is too late and the houses fall into decay.
Quite apart from any new approach to the housing problem, I ask the Secretary of State whether he is quite satisfied that the existing sysem is working properly. So far as I can see, all is not well. I have with me particulars of two schemes, at Clydebank and Johnstone. They were scheduled to be finished in a period from 18 months to 2 years. The Clydebank scheme took more than four years, while the Johnstone scheme is not yet finished. Are those delays and the cost to which they give rise really unavoidable? I ask 807 the Minister whether perhaps specifications are not being enforced too rigorously and whether a great deal of time is not wasted through too detailed a supervision from Edinburgh, particularly in the case of the larger local authorities. I must confess that it came as a great surprise to me to learn that as late as 6th March, Glasgow had had no indication at all of the number of houses which were to be allocated for the year 1950. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense.") If the Secretary of State denies my statement, I am prepared to discuss with him afterwards my source of information.
Working on a hand-to-mouth basis like this, it is impossible to get a balanced programme or an efficient production of houses. What we are getting in Scotland is niggling and frustrating interference and a complete absence of real planning. We hear a great deal today in Scotland about the new town of East Kilbride and the wonders that the planners are going to produce there, but we hear very little about a new town which is being erected within the boundaries of the City of Glasgow, at Pollok and Houdewood. Already 8,000 houses have been built there, but there are hardly any shops. There is a complete absence of public halls and only a few temporary primary schools. Children have to be transported to other schools at a weekly cost of £800. It is clear that the Department of Health are trying to do too many of the wrong things and are unable to do enough of the right things. Until the Department gets itself into proper balance, housing in Scotland will never prosper.
I will now turn for a moment to the past. I know that much of the comparison between what is happening today and what happened before the war is largely irrelevant because the conditions have changed entirely. However, something can be learned by studying the ratio of building houses which exists between Scotland and England today and the ratio which existed between Scotland and England in the years before the war. By studying those figures, I think the House will realise that they bear out the conclusions of my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples).
In Scotland today, as well as before the war, there was little private building, most of the houses being put up by local 808 authorities. In England to day it is mainly the local authorities who are building houses, whereas before the war most of them were put up by private enterprise. Therefore, in this matter Scotland is the constant. It had local authority building before the war and it has local authority building today. England, on the other hand, is the variant. It has experienced both kinds of building; today it has building under the control of local authorities while before the war building was carried out by private enterprise. Today, when there is local authority building in both countries, England is producing approximately nine times the number of houses that Scotland is producing, which is exactly what one would expect on a population basis.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Thomas Fraser) indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Fraser
If the hon. Gentleman will look at the Housing Return, he will see that in the year just completed, Scotland built one-seventh of the houses built in England and Wales.
§ Mr. Galbraith
Naturally I have been taking not one year but the period from 1945 to 1949, as indicated in the Housing Return issued in December, 1949. If the Joint Under-Secretary will only study these figures, he will see quite clearly that the ratio is one to nine.
§ Mr. Galbraith
If the hon. Gentleman will let me finish my argument, he will see the point. The ratio since the war, when local authorities are building in both countries, is one to nine. Before the war, when local authorities were building in Scotland and private enterprise was building in England, England was producing not nine houses to every one house produced in Scotland but 13 houses for every one house produced in Scotland, which is an increase of 40 per cent. over what England would have had if there had been local authority building such as existed at that time in Scotland.
I know that hon. Members opposite do not like private building, but I cannot believe that they are not extremely glad to have the benefits of private building, 809 without which there would be one million more on the waiting lists in England today and conditions would be as bad as they are in Scotland. The relative prosperity of housing in England is due entirely to private enterprise building, and I cannot understand why hon. Members, who are now enjoying the fruits of that, are so anxious to deny its benefits to future generations.
This should not be a subject for stupid ideological arguments. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey pointed out, it does not matter who builds the houses so long as they are built, and built quickly—[An HON. MEMBER: "Who for? "]—I had a letter the other day from one of my constituents whose name has been down on the books of Glasgow Corporation for 18 years but, in spite of this long wait, and though she is living with her husband and a son of 17 in one room without any modern conveniences, she is not qualified for a council house because there are so many people worse off than she is. It is a dreary prospect for young people-18 years and still no house. It is too often forgotten that we have only one life to live, and that unless we get a thing soon there is not much point in having it at all. I believe that this lack of housing is largely responsible for the tremendous amount of marital discord which is a feature of the country today.
§ Mr. Shurmer
Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that we allow the builders to build houses for sale on the basis of the purse rather than of the need?
§ Mr. Galbraith
My policy in regard to housing was admirably expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey. I am merely pointing out the difference between employing a private builder and employing a local authority. The figures I have given indicate quite clearly that, if it had not been for private enterprise building in England, there would be a million people without houses who have those houses today. I am convinced that the hon. Member would not go back to his constituency and say that he would rather those houses had not been built.
I have here a letter from a man whose wife has left him because he could not get her a home. He says:My wife's nerves must be shot to pieces with the worry of not having a house. She has told me"—810 and this is the serious part—that she does not love me any more.[Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen may laugh, but here is stark, human tragedy. I do not understand how hon. Gentlemen opposite, and particularly the right hon. Gentleman, can have the slightest satisfaction at the condition of our housing problem today.
§ Mr. Bevan indicated dissent.
§ Mr. Galbraith
We all know that the right hon. Gentleman is an able debater, skilled with figures, but this evening we are dealing with far more than dialectics. We are dealing with a problem where what is at stake is human happiness and human welfare. Therefore, I ask him not to fritter away his energies on coining some new phrase which will bring him a temporary triumph in this House, but to concentrate on this grave problem and have the courage to make the change which must be made if this generation is to get the houses which it needs and which it has been promised so often.
§ 6.38 p.m.
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. McNeil)
It might be for the convenience of the House if at this stage I intervened briefly to try to deal with some of the points made about Scottish affairs First, may I associate myself with the congratulations which have been offered most fittingly to the maiden speakers Perhaps I might be permitted particularly to express my congratulations to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) and to deal with the points he made.
I should also like to take a little time to deal with the speech of the hon. Member for Hillhead (Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith). Of course it is right and proper that he should remind us that we are not dealing with figures, that we are dealing with human problems, but it is 811 not unfair to suggest that it has taken his party—and his party in the city which he represents—a surprisingly long time to come to that conclusion. Talking about tuberculosis he reminded us that prevention was better than cure. That too is quite plain. The disastrous history of tuberculosis in the great city of Glasgow is a history of bad housing and of inadequate provision by repeated Tory central governments, and of not very well applied operation of even the limited facilities that were available by repeated Tory administrations in that great city.
§ Commander Galbraith (Glasgow, Pollok)
Would the right hon. Gentleman be good enough to tell us how it is going today, particularly as regards Glasgow.
If the hon. Member for Hillhead (Mr. T. G. D. Galbraith) is as well informed about the general progress of housing as he is about the figures he offered for Glasgow this evening, he is distressingly ignorant. For example, he based his argument and his criticism of the Government on the flat assertion that the allocation had not been made for the current year. That, I say flatly, is complete and utter nonsense.
Let me finish this. I will show how complete and utter the nonsense is. The allocation to the city of Glasgow for the current programme was made, I think, in May of last year, and was certainly made no later than June of last year.
§ Mr. Galbraith indicated dissent.
The hon. Gentleman must not shake his head in such an insensible fashion. How could building be proceeding inside the existing programme if it was otherwise? I will go further, and ask the hon. Member to explain this. I cannot tie myself offhand to the figure, but I think it is in excess of 2,000. At any rate, a partial allocation has already been given to the Corporation of Glasgow for its 1951 programme. I will stake my reputation on that.
§ Mr. Galbraith
I think we must be arguing at cross purposes. Of course, houses are being built now, but I am talking about the allocation for houses to 812 be begun to be built in 1950. The allocation for 1950 had not been received by Glasgow on 6th March.
§ Mr. Galbraith
It is not nonsense. I do not feel at liberty to disclose in public the source of my information, but I shall certainly tell the Secretary of State for Scotland in private about it afterwards, I think he will realise that some mistake has been made.
It is distressing and bordering upon the dishonest to make such a savage and substantial attack upon a Ministry and then to refuse to give the source of alleged information. I repeat that the information is 18 months off the target. I seek not to claim any credit here for myself, but for my predecessor who did the job. Not only has the allocation for this year been made, and made at that time, but in addition a partial allocation has been made for next year. This kind of assertion is in line with much of the cheap misleading and mischievous Tory propaganda we met during the General Election.
§ Mr. Galbraith
The information which I gave to the House I have on the authority of the town clerk of Glasgow.
I know the distinguished town clerk of Glasgow. I have worked with him, and I take leave to suggest that he did not supply that information. Let me give my explanation and—
Let me say to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who, quite properly, is looking after his little chick—
The hon. and gallant Gentleman, who, quite properly, is looking after his little chick at this moment, knows perfectly well from his own practical experience as a member of that same corporation that the programme could not be proceeding on any other basis than that approval of the allocation had been given at an earlier date, otherwise the whole proceedings would come to a standstill. Let me look at another point, about which, I confess, I have not 813 the figures with me. I hope that that letter was not taken over the telephone. It was, I suspect.
The hon. and gallant Member must allow the young hon. Gentleman who represents Hillhead occasionally to speak for himself.
Some figures were offered about Clydebank and about a scheme there which took four years to complete. The House will quite understand that I do not have those figures at my fingertips, but I want to say this; the reputation of Clydebank in relation to the completion of houses is outstanding, and my recollection is that Clydebank has completed more houses per head of population than any other authority in Great Britain. I should be very surprised, therefore, if this statement proves to be accurate; but if it is accurate there will be some pretty obvious explanation.
As my right hon. Friend has already indicated, none of us wants to be thought in the least complacent about these figures or these proceedings. The noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd-George) more properly expresses my attitude. If hon. Gentlemen opposite are to be righteous and certain about their attitude, they must stand comparison with the efforts which they made in much better circumstances.
Look at the extraordinary position—if I am not encroaching upon the obvious preserves of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health—of the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvin-grove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) seeking to justify the policy and attitude of his party in relation to house building by comparing the efforts in the years 1945 to 1950 with what was built during the Boer War. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman will find much to interest him in the building of that period if he is really interested in prevention as a form of cure and the history and antecedents of tuberculosis. [An HON. MEMBER: "What kind of houses were built during the Boer War?"] I can tell what were being built in the West of Scotland—oneroomed and two-roomed houses; and in 814 Lanarkshire, "but and ben," single end, back to back. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman leading the case for the Opposition proudly bases himself upon the assertion that more houses were built at that time than in the last five years.
§ Mr. Molson (The High Peak)
I do not expect the Secretary of State for Scotland is familiar with the law relating to housing in England. Back-to-back houses became illegal in 1873.
I have seen some house in Scotland being built by private enterprise which were not in conformity with law and regulation. Then again, in the speech by the hon. Member for Hillhead, we had the worry that too much attention was being paid to specification. That is not a new point. That is a grumble by every speculative builder of this century. At any rate, it is quite clear, whatever was the law relating to Lancashire, that at the beginning of this century private enterprise by its efforts was building up a heritage of disease from which in Scotland we have not yet escaped.
§ Colonel Gomme-Duncan (Perth and East Perthshire)
Would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that, although he may be talking about certain houses which appear bad and were bad, a vast amount of housing at that time was excellent and still is? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, it is.
When the right hon. and gallant Gentleman was speaking I was reminded vividly of a publication, which the hon. and gallant Member for Pollok will also remember, by a very distinguished man named Russell, who was chief medical officer in Glasgow at the beginning of the century, in which he addressed himself to the people who had houses and compared their position to the typical working-class situation with the single-roomed house, where everything from birth to death took place in the one room. That is the kind of comparison upon which, apparently, the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove was anxious to base himself.
815 I insist that while we are far from satisfied with the programme and have never disguised our lack of satisfaction, it did not take an electoral situation to make us aware of the limitations. We also know that, compared with previous efforts, there is not cause for satisfaction, but cause for a sober admission that the job is going ahead at a quite remarkable pace.
If in Scotland it is compared by any fair comparison with figures put up by Tory Governments in comparable years, it is outstanding. I do not want to push the point, but in the comparable four years following the last war it was four to five times as much. I want to take the four best years that the Opposition can offer in Scotland—1933–34–35–36. As the hon. Member reminded us, the full effect of the whittling down of the Wheatley subsidy was felt and it will be seen that in that period, when there was no shortage of exchange, no shortage of materials and no shortage of labour, they did not reach the figure which the Scottish Department has overtaken in the last four years. That is not a matter for congratulation, but it is a remarkable comparison, that since the war Scotland has provided accommodation for more than 112,000 families.
I should not have intervened if I were merely going to offer figures which place the Opposition in a very poor light indeed. There is another feature which is worrying us a little. For some months we have been completing houses at a substantially greater rate than that at which we have been starting new houses in Scotland. It will be quite plain that I do not want any quarrel with the local authorities. I have had the honour of being a member of a local authority and I am anxious that this essential and traditional feature of our public life should be continued and that they should be the primary agents for building.
But the figures are a little disturbing. In September, 1949, we completed 2,353, whereas local authorities started only 1,720; in December last year 2,960 were completed and 1,299 started; in January 1,655 were completed and 755 started; in February, the most recent figures, 2,047 were completed and 1,181 started. I repeat that I am most anxious to avoid being thought critical of local authorities, 816 but I am sure that in the national interest and in their interests it is essential that these figures should come back to some kind of parity. As I have pointed out—and that is why I knew the Glasgow figures—we have been attempting to arrest that process by approving allocation as far in advance as we can. But, rather opposite to the argument offered by the hon. Member for Hillhead, in respect of some 9,000 of these houses allocation of which had been approved, we have not yet received tenders and that is a disturbing situation.
I therefore hope that local authorities which have been authorised to start houses and have not yet done so, will complete their preparations and place contracts at the earliest date. We have asked for that action by the end of this month. Similarly, I hope that preparatory work for the next stage in the programme will also be undertaken by local authorities.
I wish to reply to another point raised by two hon. Members who represent Scottish constituencies. That is on the question of private enterprise. I insist that it is quite wrong to accuse anyone on this side of the House of having a rigid and doctrinaire attitude towards the part that private enterprise is playing. It is quite wrong and nobody who has yet spoken has offered any evidence in support. What has been said is however true, that sometimes from the opposite side of the House there seems to be anxiety to see, not that the private contractor is fully engaged, but that he is fully engaged at terms that suit him.
I say for myself that if anyone can show me a place or a point at which private enterprise can be used to extend the capacity or answer more quickly the pressing needs of housing in Scotland, I shall be glad to examine such a proposition. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health offered surprising figures to illustrate this point. As everyone knows and must publicly admit, the greatest and most urgent need in Scotland is among people who cannot occupy houses other than rented houses, unless we are going back to the shabby days when shabby contracts were offered to people who were tricked into houses which they were really never able to occupy. I repeat I am not doctrinaire on this subject, but it is quite plain that the local authority must continue to be the 817 primary agent in sustaining the Scottish figures at the level at which they are and I hope that figure may be pushed still further.
I repeat that, while the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove may find some satisfaction with his comparison with the Boer War, a comparison of Scottish figures in the years between the wars will show that the Scottish administration is doing the job and we will press on with it. I suggest that, unless anyone has a precise and factual case to offer showing methods by which these figures can be improved, and improved quickly, it is not only slightly irresponsible, but is misleading to trifle with the people to whom the hon. Member for Hillhead drew our attention by suggesting that something can be done immediately to improve the not inconsiderable progress we are making.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Will the right hon. Gentleman say why he cannot get back to the figures his Government were producing earlier on in the post-war period?
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mrs. Hill (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
I almost hesitate to get up at this late hour in view of the many comments that have been made on this most important subject. I should not have done so but for the fact that we are discussing a very much reduced programme which the Government are offering to us, and it is that much reduced programme which is going to cause very considerable pain and suffering to the people who are waiting for houses.
It has been said during the Debate that we are making comparisons. How else can we prove the ineptitude of the present programme if we do not compare it with the results obtained in other years? It is true that we have lost our lead in the re-housing of our people. We have lost that lead because of the controls which are being inflicted on us. We are finding at present that housing lists are becoming longer instead of shorter, and people who are on priority standards see no hope whatever for years of being accommodated in houses. In Manchester we have a waiting list of over 27,000 families, and when we speak of families we must remember that every family on average 818 consists of 3.5 people. That is a considerable number of people who are waiting to be placed in good housing, and over 6,000 of those families are on the priority list. With a waiting list like that in our large cities, we have something to be worried about.
The trouble has been that we have had too much planning to try to show what was to be done, and the reason for the worry and distress of the people is the fact that they were given such promises in 1945, only to see those promises whittled down to the total of 175,000 houses which we are discussing today. Much play has been made with the question of costs. Private contractors cannot be blamed for costs. Local authorities are not producing at any less price, even with direct work, than are private contractors. It has been stated today that direct work does not get the houses up as quickly as do private contractors. That is perfectly true, as I know as a member of the Manchester housing committee.
Various reasons have been advanced in the last few years to account for the lack of progress—shortage of labour, lack of materials and the weather. But last year was an excellent year for building, and yet the number of houses was less than in 1948. We are now faced with this new low peace-time production figure by the Government. I am not happy at the statements that have been made about the wonderful non-traditional building. It has been my lot to see a considerable amount of this non-traditional building on the estate which is on my division and, while we may have got the houses up, I am very concerned about what maintenance will cost.
To cut down the production figure at a time like the present is the greatest disservice that any Government could inflict upon the people. To ask for more money for medical services and to cut down the money for housing seems to me completely illogical. I look upon good housing as a fundamental to establishing good health. That is not a new statement, it has been made previously today, but it is nevertheless perfectly true. It is preventive medicine. There will be a still greater demand on medical services the longer this difficult housing situation lasts.
819 It is not exaggerating to say—and I am not claiming to be the only one who knows this, for it has been mentioned by several hon. Members—that there are many couples who are suffering the greatest mental agony because of their present housing conditions. A matter which is disturbing to those of us who deal so closely with this matter is that we have not a yardstick with which to measure mental suffering. We can easily assess physical overcrowding, but mental distress is not so easy to assess.
I am not overstating my point in suggesting that the possibility of happy married life is swept away from many couples who feel it morally wrong to bring children into the world to live in their congested and unwholesome surroundings. They are therefore denied the right of fulfilment of their marriage because of not being able to have a family, and, on account of the fact that they have not a family at this stage of affairs they have no chance of a house. Others who have a family know full well that their children are frequently ill owing to unhealthy congested living accommodation. If they have only one child they have little opportunity of having their requirements satisfied.
Reference has been made to cases of tuberculosis. That problem occurs in Manchester. We cannot get the cases into hospital because we are short of nurses, not because we are short of beds. Neither can we separate such cases from the rest of their families because we have insufficient houses to make that possible. The result is a further spread of a disease over which, prior to the war, we were getting the upper hand.
I wish also to make a plea for our old people. We are a little inclined to forget them, to forget their years of work and the fact that in the evening of their days they would like something rather nicer and perhaps smaller and better than they have had in their younger days. They do not all want to live in hostels. They wish, while they are able, to feel themselves to be a part of the community, and they do not want to be segregated while they are able to look after themselves. We have provided insufficiently for those people over the years. Single people, too, are often forgotten, and it must be said that they contribute largely 820 to the country's wellbeing. Also, it must not be forgotten that they pay rates and taxes.
Whether it displeases hon. Members opposite or not, I must make a plea for those people who wish to own their own house. I am not pleading for the person who wants to spend thousands of pounds on a house, but for the person who is in dire need of accommodation and who would like to help himself but who, owing to rules and regulations, is being forbidden to do so. Those people who are willing to help themselves even though they have not large incomes, are helping to relieve a burden and a cost which falls on those people who for long years to come will have to live in small houses and are contributing to the Exchequer either in rates or taxes.
I look upon these housing subsidies, especially for people who could well afford to provide their own houses, as nothing but a millstone not only round our necks but round those of our children and the children to come. I look upon the limitation of licences for private building as an economic boomerang.
In Manchester a few licences were allowed—it was slightly better when the ratio was one to four—but we now have many people awaiting permission for a licence based on need, not because they want to step over other people but because of their desire to own their own house. Building societies can help them; other local authorities can help these people to raise the money, and therefore prevent them from being a cost on general taxation.
There is another point which I feel is being overlooked at this stage in the great insistence on building by the local authorities only. Those in close touch with town planning realise that large areas which are being developed in the way in which large areas in my division are being developed, are having all too much of a large conglomeration of local authority building where we might have had a mixed community. We, in my constituency, would be very glad indeed if we could have more licences, not for expensive houses but for houses which would be a little different from and a little bigger than those provided by the local authorities, in order that we might get that balanced development.
821 We have to remember that the houses now being built by the local authorities, especially in a place like Manchester —which has large slum areas which we wish to clear—cannot be disposed of en masse. Quite a large proportion of the houses which are being built have to be given to people living in slum areas and in properties condemned before the war which are now tumbling down round their ears. That means that people on the housing lists have to wait for a longer time before they can be accommodated.
We on this side of the House have no option but to ask for an enlightened policy on housing. We must agree that we have had one very helpful and constructive speech this afternoon of which I hope that the Government will take notice. A Government which has long professed to have the interests of the lower income groups at heart should alter its decision to have a much reduced housing programme. The basis of good citizenship is for the housing programme to progress and to give the people the right surroundings in which to bring up their families. Then good citizens and good morals will be the result.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Mulley (Sheffield, Park)
In rising for the first time in this historic assembly, I crave the indulgence which the House so graciously affords to the inexperienced new Member. I must confess that I feel very much as though I were in a dentist's waiting room, much against my better judgment and on the persuasion of my friends, who assured me that the longer the waiting, the greater the agony would be when the occasion came. I had wished to speak on the subject of full employment and also, as I have the privilege and honour to represent the Park Division of Sheffield, I should have liked to say something on steel; but in view of the lateness of the hour, I will confine myself to the question of housing which I believe is the greatest single problem of domestic policy facing the country at the present time.
In my constituency there are very many distressing conditions. Families are living six in a room There are streets of back-to-back houses, many of them condemned. One woman, who is paying 25s. a week for one room for her family, in desperation asked me if the local authority could not provide caravans on empty sites as a temporary expedient to 822 deal with the worst cases. It is an immense problem, and I ask that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, the local authorities and the building industry —because the building of houses is a tripartite operation, although my right hon. Friend gets more than his share of the cane—to press forward with the building of houses as fast as, and with the utmost vigour that, the national economy will permit.
In the last five years a good deal has been done, but a great deal more remains to be done. For the first time, the provision of houses is being considered as a social and not as an economic problem. It is a revolution of thought, that needs and not means should determine priority. It is a revolution as large as that in the sphere of employment, for today if a man loses his job he looks to the Government and no longer regards it as an act of God or as due to the inefficiency of his employer. These are two great responsibilities which we on this side of the House will do our utmost to discharge. But the shortage of decent houses is no new matter. My own father was for 20 years on the waiting list of a local council and we never got a house. He spent the whole of his married life of 25 years in rooms in somebody else's house. This was not in a distressed area. It was in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden).
I wish to examine the claims made by the Conservative Party that private enterprise did then and could now provide new houses for the people. Other hon. Members have stressed the comparison between the record of the Conservative Government in the five years after 1918 and the record for the period from 1945. I wish to consider, on the territory of the enemy, as it were, the situation in the building peak of the 1930's. and to ask what sort of houses were built and for whom they were built. For example, in 1935 there were 327,000 houses built, 287,000 by private enterprise and 40,000 by the local authorities —a ratio of seven to one. This, I think, was the peak year of private enterprise. This building was financed largely by building societies and insurance companies, and I wish to explode the myth that the building society movement is a working-class or lower middle-class movement.
823 What are the facts? On the saving side, on the only figures available, those of one of the largest societies, in 1932 only 6.8 per cent. of the share capital was in accounts of less than £100. I ask hon. Members, how many working-class or lower middle-class families had £100 to their name in 1932—or at any time in the inter-war period? On the loan side, the average of loans in the whole period never fell below £500, and since the loan is only 75 to 80 per cent. of the cost of the house, the average value of houses financed was nearly £700. In one large society only 7 per cent. of the loans in 1932 were below £400, and in 1939, only 47 per cent. were below £600, representing an £800 house. The average rate of interest varied from six per cent. in 1930 to 4½ per cent. from 1935, and the maximum period of repayment was 20 years. Therefore, on the most favourable terms of the late thirties, at £600 for a house at 4½ per cent. for 20 years, the weekly rate of repayment was 18s. exclusive of rates, insurance and repairs. If we make an allowance for those items, the amount per week was in the region of 25s.
For the very cheapest jerry-built houses—and some hon. Members will remember the strikes and legal battles which the people in those houses had with some societies in the late thirties—the cost was about £400. That represents, on the best terms, a weekly comprehensive cost of 17s. 6d. The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) quoted a figure of 14s. Actually, I think that he could have gone lower on the mere point of the repayment of capital and interest, but that is exclusive of rates, compulsory insurance and, of course, an allowance for repairs.
At this time the average earnings of an adult male worker were about £3 a week and there were 1,500,000 people who had no wages at all. There were no food subsidies and no family allowances then. It is common sense that the rate of saving involved in buying in 20 years a house whose life is spread over 60 years, is beyond the scope of a working man. What is the position today? At an inclusive price of £1,500 and a rate of interest of four per cent., which is quite 824 favourable, the repayment is £2 2s. 6d. per week. Then there are rates and insurance of about 7s. or 8s. to be considered. A figure of £2 10s. over 20 years purchase is the minimum possible to become an owner-occupier today. How many people can afford that? The interest alone over the period of 20 years represents £700 over and above the cost of the house. The conclusion is that private enterprise cannot provide, and never has provided, houses for working-class and lower middle-class people, except the cast off houses which the owner-occupiers vacate when they go to new houses. If that is the policy of hon. Gentlemen opposite on housing, I ask them to tell us so fairly and squarely.
This is an American experience, too. There it is impossible to build a working-class house, despite the many technical advantages and the absence of foreign exchange difficulties, without a subsidy. I talked to an American housing official during the weekend, and he told me two rules of thumb which they operate there and which I recommend to hon. Members as a guide in this discussion. The first is that no 'one can afford to pay more than 20 per cent. to 25 per cent. of his income on interest and repayment for accommodation. The second is that no one can afford to borrow more than twice his annual income. How, therefore, would setting the builders free solve the problem of housing in this country?
Hon. Members opposite may protest that they would also give priority, as does my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health, to local authority building on which subsidies are paid and the repayment is based on 60 years which, of course, reduces the weekly economic rent. But they cannot have it both ways. They must consider housing in the light of their deflationary policy—their alleged reduction in costs and in the price level. Deflation means a higher rate of interest, and a rise of only one per cent. in the rate of interest over a 60-year period adds £12 a year to the economic rent of the house—nearly 5s. a week. I ask hon. Members opposite whether they would increase subsidies by an amount to offset that 5s. and, if they would, how would they at the same time reduce Government expenditure?
For example, if we take a £1,500 house, inclusive of land and all charges, which 825 is the average cost today, we find that at three per cent. the economic rent over 60 years is £54 a year exclusive of rates, insurance and repairs. At four per cent. the economic rent is £66. The total interest on the original £1,500 at four per cent. is about £2,500, and at three per cent. it is £1,750. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may protest that they will cut costs. I will not inquire how, because building is a private enterprise industry and is presumably efficient, so that cost reductions must come either from wages or profits. I will not attempt to guess from which they would come.
But I will assume, for the sake of argument, that costs could be reduced by 20 per cent., which is five per cent. above the maximum advocated by the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples). I will assume that costs could be reduced to £1,200. This at four per cent. would give an economic rent of £53 per annum compared with the £1,500 house at three per cent. with an economic rent of £54. Thus the building economy of £300 would be frittered away to a mere £60 by that one per cent. rise in the rate of interest. If anyone can explain how we can secure deflation without a rise in the rate of interest, I shall be most grateful. I should, in fact, be surprised if the rise in the rate of interest were as little as one per cent.
I shudder to think what it means in terms of local authority housing finance if there is a rise of two or three per cent. I would remind hon. Members that the Public Works Loans Board's rate in 1939 was 3¾ per cent. Since the war it has been as low as 2½ per cent., and that has provided a great economy in the cost of house building. In addition, one cannot get deflation unless one cuts investments. If hon. Gentlemen opposite do not wish to cut house building, I wish for my information as a new Member that they would tell us what investments they would cut.
Private enterprise cannot provide the houses for those who need them, and local authority building on Conservative lines would give less value and cost more. I submit, therefore, that the housing policy of the Opposition does not stand the test of close examination. We learned by bitter experience between the wars that one cannot eat "the pie in the sky." If hon. Gentlemen opposite had their way, we should learn also that we cannot live 826 in houses on hoardings or in election manifestos.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Derek Walker-Smith (Hertford)
It is always one of the most pleasant duties of a Member of Parliament to have the privilege of congratulating hon. Members upon their maiden speeches, and on this occasion I discharge my pleasant duty with all the more enthusiasm in that it falls to me with an objectivity appropriate to such a duty to congratulate two hon. Members. It is the more pleasing because those two hon. Members represent the two great cities of Manchester and Sheffield. The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken sits for the Park Division of Sheffield and takes the place in this House of an hon. Member very much respected by us all and now translated to another place. The hon. Member has made a speech which will appeal greatly to the House by reason of his appropriately masculine grasp of his figures. On the other hand, the hon. Lady the Member for Wythenshawe (Mrs. Hill) was appropriately concerned rather more with the human aspect of this great problem, but she did show by her very concise and logical marshalling of her facts what a slander it is to say that women are not logical. I am sure the House would join with me in congratulating both hon. Members on their maiden speeches and in expressing the hope that we shall look forward with much interest to hearing them in the future.
I took part in the last Parliament in a great many of these housing Debates, and I must say that, looking back, my main feeling is of a sense of contrast and paradox—contrast between the brilliance in debate and ineffectiveness in administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member really wants to say anything, although I do not want to be longer than I can help, he should know well enough by now that I do not shirk interruptions, and if he will be good enough to rise to his feet and say what is in his mind, I will certainly answer him. If he is not going to do that, he will perhaps excuse us from his sedentary interventions.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
The hon. Gentleman may take this consolation—that he will be hearing it a good deal more, or it may be in his case that he will not hear it a great deal more in the House of Commons, because circumstances may bring it about that we may not have the pleasure of his company here for very much longer.
As far as the right hon. Gentleman is concerned, I am within the recollection of the House when I suggest that there has been in his conduct of his office a contrast between his performance in Debate and in administration. In Debate, he has been flexible and adroit; in administration, rigid and obdurate. His formulation of housing policy goes back to 1945, and from that point he has never made any voluntary deviation. Of course, it is right to say that, since in the formulation of that policy he overlooked so many of the basic economic circumstances, his policy has been continuously buffeted and changed involuntarily. There has been a constant missing of targets, a constant revision of programmes and a constant moving about of the ratio of private enterprise house-building, all of which—
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
The hon. Member really must try to distinguish between a change in policy which comes as a considered and voluntary action based on logic, and a change of policy which comes involuntarily because that policy is shown to be impossible in the light of economic events.
The right hon. Gentleman—let us do him this credit—did not voluntarily miss all the housing targets which he set for himself. He did not voluntarily withdraw the housing programme for 1947 almost before the ink was dry on the paper. That was the effect of economic circumstances, and economic circumstances have a most irritating habit of imposing themselves even upon Socialist Ministers, however brilliant they may be in dialectical performance. The basic defect of the right hon. Gentleman's housing policy in 1945 was that it took into account only one relevant circumstance. It took into account what he considered to be the right method of allocation, and little or no attention was given to economic circumstances or to technical 828 considerations. It paid little or no attention to the vital factors of speed and economy in house-building.
That may seem a very strange thing to hon. Members in 1950; but in 1945 the right hon. Gentleman was very close in point of time to the making of that remarkable statement in which he said that exports were a will o' the wisp of the Tory imagination, and it was in that sort of mentality that he formulated in 1945 his housing policy from which he has never voluntarily deviated. But, because the Minister overlooked the technical and economic considerations in 1945, time has brought about very considerable revenges. The only sad thing about it is that time has not executed its vengeance upon the right hon. Gentleman, in which there might have been considerable poetic justice; but instead the burden of that vengeance has fallen upon the house-hungry people of this country.
The result of that is that, in the postwar period, houses have taken longer to build and have cost more to build than would have been conceivable in the prewar period. [Interruption.] I think it is true to say, and perhaps even the hon. Member who interrupts so much would himself concede, that in 1950 economic circumstances have a good deal to say in the matter of the production of houses in this country. Perhaps it was less clear to him in 1946, but even the most starry-eyed Socialist—if I may include the hon. Member in that category without pointing the comparison too closely—would now agree that our having the maximum housing progress in this country is dependent upon speed and economy of construction, as well as on the method of allocation.
The second matter in which time has taken its revenge is that failure to hold housing costs in this country has resulted, and is resulting, in the failure to hold local authority housing rents, and that means that the whole social purpose of housing—as defined by the right hon. Gentleman in those words of his about the provision of houses at a reasonable rent for those in need of them—the whole of that social purpose is today in jeopardy. The question of cost was less fashionable in 1946 than it is today, but I may perhaps be allowed to make some reference to it now, since I did so in those less fashionable days of 1946.
829 The financial framework to the Minister's policy is to be found in the Act of 1946, and, in that Act, provision is made for an Exchequer subsidy of £16 10s., and a rate contribution of £5 10s. a year, and these together mean an enormous liability for the 60-year period on the ratepayer and taxpayer. The intention was that, in exchange for that enormous liability, we should have 10s. a week rents in the urban areas and 7s. 6d. a week rents in the rural areas. I prophesied at that time that this policy would fail. In the Second Reading Debate on the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1946, I gave to this House a detailed analysis of the importance of equating the proposed subsidy with the proposed rents at the building costs then prevailing. A few months later, on 30th July, 1946, I said in this House:I entered into this question during the Second Reading Debate on the Housing (Financial and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill on 6th March. I argued then that the right hon. Gentleman would not be able to rent houses at 10s. per week on the present subsidy, without directly increasing the subsidy or giving a concealed subsidy, that is, by placing a heavier burden on the rates … I submit that this Government are faced now, or they soon will be, with this dilemma; either higher rents, or higher subsidy, or, most probably both."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th July, 1946; Vol. 426, c. 846.]I put that forward not to indulge in what is at best the melancholy satisfaction of saying "I told you so," but for this reason. If I could say with the limited information at the disposal of a private Member in 1946 what was in store for us, surely the Government, with their much wider information, should have seen what the future held in store, and how that policy was going to be impossible of fulfilment. After all, the 1946 assumption was—and let the right hon. Gentleman challenge this if he will—a building cost of 23s. a foot super, a £22 annual subsidy, and a 10s. rent.
§ Mr. Bevan
I merely interrupt the hon. Gentleman now because I am quite sure that owing to the fact that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland has had to intervene in the Debate, we shall not have as much time as normally in which to reply, and, therefore, I may not be able to pick up the point. But the hon. Member has left out the other part of the sum, and that is the general move- 830 ment of prices and wages in the meantime, so that the figures remain roughly where they were in 1946.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
That defence would be more impressive if it were put forward by anybody other than by a Minister in a Government who stand for a controlled economy. It is a peculiar defence to say, "Of course the costs are rising, but under Socialism everything else is rising too. We have this inflationary tendency, but it is the less obnoxious because it is only part of an inflationary policy working to the detriment of the people."
On Thursday last I asked the Minister for the present costs of housing building, but he declined to give it, and advised me to wait for the next issue of a report of the Girdwood Committee. But there are other sources of information available and I see that Sir Thomas Bennett, who is not only a brilliant architect, but a most able administrator, has been giving the benefit of his experience in these matters to the conference of the National Housing and Town Planning Council. Sir Thomas gives the figures of housing costs today at between 28s. and 31s. a foot super, that is to say, 5s. to 8s. more than the assumption in 1946. Giving a figure for site development and a figure for the necessary fees, and so on, he arrives at the following conclusion; that the cost with site development is £1,879 for a three-storey local authority house of 1,116 sq. ft. over all, and that the loan charges, maintenance and management involve an annual cost of £84 on that figure. Taking from that the subsidy of £22, it leaves a net rent of £62 per year, that is, 23s. a week as exclusive subsidised rental.
It is perfectly true that this compares unfavourably with the figures given by the Parliamentary Secretary this afternoon, but, as I pointed out at the time, his figures, of course, are related to the overall average since 1945. He has no figures showing what local authority houses, built at the current housing costs can be let for today; and in the absence of any information from the Minister I am inclined to accept the figures given by a man of the great experience and knowledge of Sir Thomas Bennett. I say that if 23s. is the exclusive subsidised rental, then it is clear that the whole economics of the housing policy of the 831 present Government are in disarray, and that it is quite clear also that the social purpose is in grave danger of defeat.
We have now come to the dilemma which I prophesied in 1946. Either it is necessary to raise the rents of these houses, which the tenants cannot afford, or it is necessary to raise the subsidy which the nation cannot afford. The statutory duty of the local authorities involves slum clearance and the provision of houses for the working classes. The 1949 Housing Act removed the reference to the working classes. That may well have been a cynical act of realism, because it is becoming increasingly clear that the Government and the local authorities are unable to fulfil their statutory duty of housing the working classes. They can only supply houses at a rate which the working classes cannot afford to pay. There we have the result of five years of unrealism and obstinacy in the housing policy of the right hon. Gentleman and the present Government.
What is needed today, surely, is to build a great number of houses at high speed, low cost and of good quality. [Laughter.] I should have thought that an unexceptionable definition of our aim. Surely hon. Members opposite know, though they manifestly did not in 1946, that we can only get this great number of houses, and can only reduce these enormous waiting lists, if we can build at high speed and at low cost. We cannot get it by a policy of 90 per cent. local authority and only 10 per cent. piecemeal private enterprise building. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] I have given the answer many times in this House and I cannot give it in detail again tonight. Hon. Members opposite had better be a little careful. If I had more time at my disposal I would give the details as I did in the Debate in 1947, when I analysed in very considerable detail the reasons why under this sort of building we could not get rapid progress or low cost. Some of the reasons have been given with great skill this afternoon by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), as he has done previously in this House, but the local authority building is at the double disadvantage of the cumbrousness of local authority procedure, superimposed upon the cumbrousness of contract building procedure.
832 In the Debate of 1947 I analysed, as I had on other occasions the reasons for the cumbrousness of contract building procedure. They are the over-rigidity of specification, the diversity of forms of contract and the over-elaborateness of bills of quantity, and the like. Those are the reasons—[Interruption.] The interruptions of the hon. Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Shurmer) have all the point, the elegance, and the precision of a series of ping pong balls being driven across a chess match. For those reasons—there are a great many others I have given in this House on other occasions—it is impossible with that form of building to get the high speed and low cost which is necessary.
§ Mr. Harrison (Nottingham, East)
Will the hon. Gentleman please break down those nebulous terms he has been using into a real practical description of how houses may be built more cheaply? It would be so helpful to all sides of the House.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I do not know whether on account of the wealth of gesticulation the hon. Member found necessary to employ in putting that point, that I understood what he had in mind. So far as the complexities of building contracts are concerned, I have had a great deal to do with them in my professional capacity. I could go on for some time about their complexities. There can be no doubt that they do introduce a cumbrousness, a slowness and costliness into the simple matter of house building which has added to the cost and has reduced the speed. The hon. Member may get a simple, but clear, picture of it if he realises that contract building is suitable for making one large specific building but private enterprise building is much more suitable for large-scale repetition work. It is precisely the same as the difference between making a large ship and making a fleet of Ford cars in a Ford assembly shop. The technique of house building is more suitable to private enterprise building than is the more cumbersome form of building by a local authority.
Experience goes to show that it is possible to cut down the cost of house building if a bigger opportunity is given to private enterprise to deploy the technique with which it can most efficiently build. The figures for the years after the 833 First World War were quite startling, involving a reduction from 20s. 9d. a foot super in September, 1920, to 9s. a foot super in July, 1922. I do not say that we can get down to that figure again, but we can get a substantial cut in the cost of house building and an increase in the speed if the Minister will give private enterprise house building the chance to deploy the technique which enables it to make the best progress.
It is surely time that that chance was given, more particularly as, following the Minister's policy, the whole social purpose of house building is already in danger, whether he admits it or not. The present licensing system is of very little use from that point of view. It would be just as sensible to employ the Ford motor works to produce individual motor cars, one at a time, as to expect the house building industry to get as good results from this individual piecemeal licensing system as they could get by development of their large-scale technique.
We have come to a position where the present policy is already in ruins. The housing policy of the right hon. Gentleman has led to large waiting lists, high costs, and slow speed in house building. That policy is held up today only by the pride and the political nuisance value of one man. In my first speech in this House I said that the housing of the people was infinitely more important than mere party advantage.
§ Mr. Walker-Smith
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman agrees with me in words. He has an opportunity, given to few, to show in deeds as well as in words that he believes in the truth of that. He has only to tender his resignation to give the Prime Minister the best chance of applying a practical and realistic housing policy. If the Prime Minister is wise, faced with the alternative of losing the chance of housing progress and of losing the right hon. Gentleman he will take the risk of losing the right hon. Gentleman. If he does not he will have to answer for it at the bar of public opinion.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Moeran (Bedfordshire, South)
I beg the indulgence of the House for a maiden speech, and I utter my maiden's prayer all the more eagerly, knowing that, 834 as they say in the spring sales, it is an opportunity not to be repeated. I have always deemed it to be the function of the Opposition in a democratic country to put forward constructive alternatives to the policies of the Government in power. I have listened attentively this afternoon to discover whether I could learn of these alternative policies. I am still listening, and I shall resume my attitude of attentive listening when I have finished my remarks.
I have heard it suggested that from some unspecified source we might, with unspecified allocations of sterling, buy more timber. But, in the last four and a half years, we have achieved a very substantial saving of timber. Whereas before the war, for substantially similar houses, we used 3.2 standards of timber in the average house, we have cut that figure to exactly 1.5 standards on larger and better houses—a good example of sound Socialist planning. The hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) said that we could simplify building contracts. That may well be a matter for the consideration of the Town Clerks' Association, or for the Law Society, but as an article of major Government policy it does not carry us very far.
There is no Member of this House who would not want to build all the houses that we need, but there are bottlenecks other than those that have been mentioned. There is the supply of bricks. Bricks are still the biggest single item in the construction of a house. Today in brick kilns—the exclusive domain of private enterprise—there is a waiting period of between three and four months. This is likely to increase to six months. There is hardly a labour exchange in this country which has not registered vacancies for bricklayers and other labour in building; and there is hardly an exchange in the country that has a single man registered in those categories.
The only building category where there is a supply of labour is on the decorative side. In my own constituency that is accounted for by the greater readiness of local authorities to grant licences for decorative rather than for constructive work. But the bottleneck of labour is a problem created by the very success of the late Government. In a society where virtually all resources are now fully employed—all our factories 835 and materials and manpower—the only way we can build more houses is to divert labour from some other source.
I have been listening for that constructive plan to come from the benches opposite, and I wonder from where they would divert that labour supply. We heard during the election which has lately terminated that they believe in a bigger and better health scheme, conveniently forgetting their previous voting record on that scheme. Perhaps they now want to go back to their opposition to such a scheme and reduce the building of hospitals, clinics and other buildings for the purpose of that service. But if that is so, surely we are entitled to know about this policy of retrenchment on the social services.
Or perhaps the Opposition would have the Government cut down on the building programme for schools, where a large measure of the labour force is now employed. If so, surely we should have these suggestions put before us. Or perhaps they would discover some other source of employment of the building force. Is it not a fact that this problem of manpower for the building trades is the major problem with which we are confronted? It is a problem of the planning of our resources to provide the proper priorities.
That brings me, if I may be indulged, to the second point from the Gracious Speech with which I want to deal. That is the closely connected problem of the control of atomic energy and the prospects of peace and war. They are closely connected in the demands which they make upon the manpower of this country. The best speeches, of course, are always kept in one's pocket, and one goes home with them afterwards. I will not detain this House by any lengthy dissertation as I had hoped to do three days ago when I wrote my maiden speech, but I will say this. Unless and until we can find the ways and means of diverting a substantial fraction of our manpower towards housing, or whatever else may be deemed a major priority, we cannot proceed faster than we are now doing. If we were to revert to the old planlessness which we knew in the 20 or so years between the wars, we should go not faster but slower than we are now doing.
836 This problem, which I only name in order to leave it, because I am conscious that there are many others who wish to speak, is the real crisis of our times; it is the discovering of means by which we can cut down and curtail that great drain on the manpower of our country and, by doing so, show the world what a country devoted to the ends of peace can do in the interests of peace, and not in the interests of death and war. I would only say—and I am not going to make that magnificent speech which I have got in my pocket—that if we could find the vision and the wisdom to make that saving, and show the world where the path of peace could lead us, that would be the greatest contribution to those great problems of housing.
If we could show the world that we can flood the men and the materials into this great need, so that we could really build all the houses we require, we would show that we can really provide a home for every family—a home consistent with standards of humanity and human dignity, and not with the sub-human standards we knew before the war. If we could make that diversion and that contribution to our building programme, it would not only solve this great and human problem, but would be the greatest contribution to the peace of the world which this country could make.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Lionel Heald (Chertsey)
In craving the indulgence of the House upon rising to address it for the first time, may I explain why it is that I rush in at this very early stage of my first term as a "new boy"? I do so only because during and since the election I have been pressed very strongly by a number of people to ventilate their anxiety on the subject of housing. They are members of local authorities, constituents of mine of all parties—not only of one—ministers of religion and people engaged in social and public work of every kind. All of them express the view that at the present time the housing shortage is a social evil of a terrible kind, and anyone who has engaged in the administration of justice will be able to confirm that there are many distressing cases in which we are told that the man concerned comes from bad housing conditions. Therefore, I feel that one can speak upon this subject in a non-controversial way.
837 It is, indeed, a sad thing that this subject cannot be treated as a non-party subject. In my constituency we have examples of all the housing troubles except those which one finds only in the great cities, and one particular example that I should like to mention is the condition of those who live in the hut camps, the disused prisoner-of-war compounds, and places of that kind. It would not be right for me to waste the time of the House by describing those things which we have all seen, or ought to have seen, for ourselves. It is sufficient to mention one case. It would be quite enough to satisfy anyone if he saw the conditions as I saw them in the wet weather at the beginning of February. I recall a man and wife with 11 children in a hut of which the roof was beyond real repair, and with practically no sanitary accommodation or arrangements of any kind. For people living in those conditions we have got to do something; I believe there is no one who would not agree to that.
I think it is desirable to mention one thing. It is not fair to blame the local authorities for people having to live in these places. I have done all I could to satisfy myself that the local authorities in my area have built and are building every single house they can build, subject to the regulations at present in force. It is very unfair to blame the local authorities in these circumstances. For example, in my area one large local authority have recently put a very large scheme to the Ministry of Health. They have been unable to persuade the Minister to accept their plans and suggestions, but I hope very much that we may be able to persuade him to take a more favourable view of the matter before very long.
There is another council which is partioularly anxious to be able to take advantage of the numerous cases of people who want to build their own small houses. They are unable to do so at the present time because of their inability to obtain licences, and therefore these people swell the waiting list. They are hoping in due course to get one of the houses or to be put upon the list to get one of the houses which should really go to other people. That sort of thing is familiar to everyone. We are also familiar—only too familiar, I am afraid, after the many speeches that have 838 been made, to which I shall not add—with the answer. There is only one answer. I believe we can all agree that there is only one answer—to build more houses and at prices which will justify rents which the people can afford. On the other hand, we must enable people to build and to buy houses themselves.
That is the view which we hold on this side of the House, and in fairness I should like to point out that I always told people during the election that I would make no promises of any kind to them. When I was visiting people during the election, I said I could make no promise to do something for them if I was returned; I consistently refused to make such promises. I told them it would not be honest to do so. There was only one thing I could do and that was to promise them a new and unprejudiced approach to the whole problem of housing if we got in. That is what we promised them, and I must not enter into controversial matters about it. These people now tell me—and I have talked to them again recently—"We have read the King's Speech and we find no reference in it to housing." That is a thing which is causing a great deal of comment and discussion, and I have been asked to express that view in this House.
We on this side of the House take the view that the Government have refused to recognise the public reaction to what was described in "The Times" today as one of the main issues in the General Election. Last Thursday, as a new Member, I was very surprised to hear what was said about this housing Amendment by the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister. I regret to say that he used some very strong expressions. He described it as a party manoeuvre and as an irresponsible action, and he said that those of us on this side of the House who supported it would not be genuine. Finally, he said that there was something inherently wrong in supporting an Amendment to the Address.
I should like to pass over the words "not genuine." The use of those words could, perhaps, be explained by the heat of the moment. A much more serious suggestion, however, was surely the suggestion that there was something wrong and unconstitutional in an Amendment to the Address such as that which is being debated this evening. I yield to no one 839 in my ignorance of Parliamentary practice and procedure, but I do profess to know a little of constitutional law and I have always been brought up to believe that one of the ancient rules of Parliament is that redress of grievances precedes supply. I respectfully maintain, therefore, that if any hon. Member feels that there is a grievance of a serious nature agitating his constituents, he is not only entitled but he is bound to see that it is raised, and I maintain that it would be a dereliction of duty on the part of those sitting on this side of the House if they were to fail to take notice of the housing problem.
I was sent here by a majority of the electors—not by a minority—of the Chertsey division. I was sent here to oppose the Government, and I cannot accept any qualification upon that duty, apart from one, and that is that I should not indulge in fractious or irresponsible action. I do not believe that in his serious moments the Minister of Health would really suggest that this Amendment is fractious or factious. I would say that tonight, unless there is some indication that, after all, the Government do intend to give some lead towards a new and unprejudiced approach to the housing problem, it is the duty of all of us who sit on these benches to support this Amendment and in doing so to give wholehearted support in that respect to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition.
§ 8.15 p.m.
§ Mrs. Middleton (Plymouth, Sutton)
It is my pleasing privilege to offer congratulations on behalf of the whole House to the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Moeran) and the hon. and learned Member for Chertsey (Mr. Heald). They have both addressed the House with sincerity, with simple eloquence and with logic, and at the same time with a good deal of charm and modesty. I am quite sure that the congratulations we offer are sincerely tendered and we all look forward to hearing both hon. Members often in debates on future occasions.
I have listened to every word of this Debate so far, and one thing is quite clear to us all—there is no doubt in the minds of anyone that housing still remains our major social problem. I think 840 there is no reason to assume that the waiting lists of our local authorities are an incorrect guide to the housing needs of the people of this country. There may be, as the Minister pointed out in his reply to a recent Question, overlappings between certain authorities; there may be reductions that can be made in any global figure, but nevertheless, speaking from my own experience in the part of the country which I have the honour to represent, I would say that there is no reason whatever for assuming that these figures are to any large extent misleading.
We have to face the fact, therefore, that during the next 10 years the housing needs of this nation, given full employment, which is an important proviso, will be in the region of some four million to five million new dwellings. I understand that that was the figure given to the Conservative Party in August, 1948, in reply to a questionnaire, a copy of which I have with me, which they submitted to the National Housing and Town Planning Council. That figure must, therefore, have been in the minds of hon. Gentlemen opposite when they were making election speeches. They knew that that reputable authority had given that estimate of the country's housing needs.
We have heard a good deal in the Debate about the restrictions upon the building programme as a result of the fact that there is not a sufficient supply of timber. But when the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition came to Plymouth to take part in an election meeting—not in my constituency but in the adjoining one—he did not tell the electors of Plymouth that he wanted dollars spent in order to provide timber for the building of houses. What he told the electors of Plymouth was that he wanted dollars employed in order that more petrol should be supplied to the motorists of this country. I think it is quite scandalous that a right hon. Gentleman of his experience and standing in the country, knowing full well what the housing needs of this country would be in the next few years, should voluntarily choose that much needed dollars should be spent upon petrol and not upon the timber which is needed for the housing programme.
In considering housing needs we have to face the fact, too, that housing standards have gone up as the result of the 841 actions of the Government during the last four and a half years. Let me give one or two illustrations. I mentioned just now full employment. Full employment has given the workers of this country a security which enables them to demand a more decent standard of housing than many of them have ever been able to demand before. There is, too, the fact to be considered of increasing population.
There is discontent, particularly among our womenfolk, with the sub-standard dwellings with which many of our people had to be content before the war, and which were accepted by many as inevitable. Those sub-standard dwellings were bad enough in urban districts. As a result of electoral redistribution, I have had added to my constituency a small rural area. I have never seen in any urban district such shocking houses as I saw in that rural district during the last election—houses that should have been condemned as unfit for human habitation at least 50 years ago, even if, indeed, at the time since they were built they were fit for human habitation at all. Then there are the dilapidations in buildings that have occurred during the war. As was mentioned by an hon. Friend of mine previously, there is the desire of young people getting married to have families. All these factors have heightened the housing demand, and so I think that the estimate of the National Housing and Town Planning Council is not largely adrift.
How are these houses to be provided? I suggest that they will only be provided for the people who really need them by the activities of the local authorities. I made inquiries while I was in Plymouth as to the number of applications the Plymouth authority had received under the new facilities provided in the Housing Act, 1949, for the purchase of houses under the Small Dwellings Acquisition Act. I think that thus one may have an indication of the number of people in a badly blitzed town who feel they can afford to buy a house. The town clerk assured me—so far as his information went, and he felt sure no applications had missed him—that there was not a single applicant yet for a loan under those statutory provisions.
That, again, is in line with another question which was put by the Conservative Party to the Housing and Town 842 Planning Council in the questionnaire they submitted. Among other things, they asked the Council the question: what percentage of houses would be in the ordinary way houses that would be bought by the people who live in them? The Council replied: possibly one house in three. That was the maximum they thought would be required for private ownership. If that estimate is correct, and if we are to reach, say, four million houses in the next decade, it means that 2,666,000 houses must be provided by the local authorities if the people are to be re-housed.
House ownership depends upon a number of conditions. There must be, first, security of income. There must be a reasonably high level of income. There must be a permanent job in a specified locality. Something was said by the right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) about whether we wanted people to own their houses, and whether it was not a good thing that they should. Well, it is not an unmixed blessing that people should own their houses. We have to remember that, in this period of civilisation, very rapid industrial progress is going on. There are frequent changes of productive processes. We want largely what has been termed a "foot-loose" population—a working population that can at need move easily from place to place, and that is willing to move to jobs in another district. Private house ownership is likely to act as a deterrent, and to restrict people from moving from place to place, even if the exigencies of their work demand that they should.
So we must assume that a high proportion of the houses to be built in the next 10 years must be built by the local authorities, and must he houses to let, because of the simple fact that the private building of houses to rent today is not a sufficiently remunerative thing to attract any large capital investment. From my experience I think that the people who are clamouring to get licences to build houses for themselves are, in the main, people who have no chance at the present time—so long as there is a policy of fair shares, and so long as need is the criterion of allocations—of jumping the local authorities' queues; so they want to build 843 houses for themselves, because they happen to have the means to afford the costs of building a house for themselves, in order that they should not take their place in a local authority queue.
I want to pass on to one other aspect of this housing problem. I sit for one of the divisions in the worst bombed provincial city of this country. In those blitzed cities we have very real housing problems. This matter was raised last week in two excellent maiden speeches on this side of the House, one by the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King), and the other by the hon. Member for Coventry, South (Miss Burton). There is no doubt that our blitzed towns are in very much greater need of houses than any other places in the country, with the single exception of those towns where there has been a phenomenal increase in population in the post-war years. In saying this, I am not trying in any way to indict the Minister. He has been most generous to the blitzed towns within the available limits, and in most of our wardamaged cities the number of houses built under his Administration is a great deal in excess of the number destroyed.
Southampton is one exception. In Southampton, I understand, there were 4,269 houses destroyed and there have been 4,080 provided, so that even there the figures of the number destroyed have been nearly reached. In Plymouth we had 3,754 houses completely destroyed. Under my right hon. Friend's administration we have been enabled to build 6,444 houses, and still we have nearly 12,000 people on our waiting list in the City of Plymouth. In Exeter, 1,478 houses were destroyed; 1,490 have been built. In Bristol, an outstanding example, there were 3,250 houses destroyed, and 9,622 have been built. I happen to know the Bristol area very well, and I know that despite that fact they still have a very long waiting list in the City of Bristol. In Coventry, the number destroyed was 3,911 and 5,363 have been built.
In these towns we have to look elsewhere than to war damage to find the reason for the extent of the housing lists that exist at the present time. Of course, we have not been able to keep up with new buildings and replacements to the same extent as in other undamaged towns.
844 I think, too, that the dilapidations and necessary repairs have been larger, even among houses not directly affected by the war, because of the fact of bombing.
Here I shall speak for Plymouth alone, but I dare say it is not very different in the other towns that I have mentioned. The main reason why in Plymouth we have such a large housing problem still is the sheer neglect of the Tory administration in the city and in this House in the years before the war. In Plymouth, before a single bomb had fallen or a single shot had been fired in the war, we had a waiting list of 4,000 families. In the City of Liverpool, another war-damaged town, they had a waiting list of 14,000 families, before the war started. It is that fact which has so greatly added to the difficulties that we have to face in the blitzed towns, in that we not only have to make up for the depredations of the enemy but also for the gross neglect of Tory administration in past years.
One of our major problems in all these towns is that of labour. I made inquiries this week-end as to the disposal of our building labour within the City of Plymouth, and this is what I find. There are some 7,000 building operatives in Plymouth at the present time. Thirty to 40 were unemployed this weekend because they are changing their job. Probably, before I rose to my feet to speak, those 30 or 40 had already been found employment. The building force is disposed of in the following way: On Corporation house building 1,600, on other house-building 400, on flats and war-damage repairs 150 to 200. That means that approximately 2,000 of the 7,000 are engaged in housebuilding. On central reconstruction and the re-building of our destroyed businesses and commercial premises, 3,000 are employed.
I should have liked to have agreed with the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) when she said that we ought to give housing an absolute priority over everything else. I wish that we could; but those who sit for the blitzed towns know that there are other factors which have to be taken into consideration, such as the re-creation of rateable values to enable our cities to function; and it is essential, therefore, that alongside our housing problems we should go ahead with the reconstruction of our central areas. Three thousand of 845 our building operatives in Plymouth are engaged on that work. On jobbing work there are approximately 1,000, on maintenance another 1,000, and on miscellaneous work about 500.
From this I think it is obvious that if housing and reconstruction are to be expanded with the present labour force, there must be a tighter control of the licensing system, especially in blitzed towns. I ask my right hon. Friend to give consideration to the question whether it is not possible so to restrict licensing that at the present time more work can be done in the way of housing and central reconstruction. If that is not done, more men must be brought in from elsewhere, and if that is done, it means the payment of subsistence rates. As the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr. King), pointed out in his maiden speech, if subsistence rates have to be paid, they should not fall to be paid by the local authority but should be a central charge.
Therefore, I ask the Minister to look at that problem to see whether he can help our war-damaged cities even further than he has done by meeting the additional cost of housebuilding in those areas. In my own city, the under-building of houses in many areas because of the undulating sites costs £200 to £300 in many instances before ground floor level is reached, which means that the cost of house construction is very expensive indeed.
Labour must be attracted into house building by means of larger contracts. I am informed by those best able to know, that men like the longer job, and they will take the longer rather than the shorter one. The figures that were given by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) as to the number of building firms in this country and the number of men who are employed by those firms adds point to that consideration. We should try to get the larger contracts taken over by larger firms or by an association of firms in order that men may have the security of a longer job in a particular area.
In thanking the Minister, as I do most sincerely, for all the help that he has given, particularly to our war-damaged towns, in the past four and half years, I ask him to continue that assistance and if possible to increase it, because the solution of our housing problem is still in 846 our distraught and desperately overcrowded war-damaged cities one most important problem.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Squadron-Leader A. E. Cooper (Ilford, South)
I ask the indulgence of the House on this occasion. If my speech is coached in terms which are stronger than is customary at such times, my excuse must be that I have long experience, as a member of a local authority, of this subject of housing and I am appalled by what I see around me. Housing is a great social service. Indeed, it is the greatest social service, for our homes are the rock upon which our civilisation is built; and, conversely, lack of housing can be the rock upon which all our hopes and dreams for the future will be wrecked. The capital cuts which were recently imposed represent a cut in the social services in precisely the same way as the increase in the cost of school meals, the stand-still in new canteen buildings and devaluation represent a cut in social services. Hon. Members 'opposite would do well to ponder that fact, since all those cuts will bear heaviest on the poorest section of the country.
For some time I have been a member of the housing committee of the local authority of the division I now have the honour to represent in this House. We have a good record, as the Minister will allow. We are a strong Conservative council, and we are first on the Minister's unofficial list of houses built by non-county boroughs in this country. Notwithstanding that, the division which I represent sent me here to oppose the Government with perhaps rather greater emphasis than my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Mr. Heald). I had the honour to defeat a sitting Socialist. As the Minister will allow, we in Ilford are in the van of progress, and I am tempted to contrast that with His Majesty's Government, who tend so often to be in the cart.
We have done well by the Minister's standards but we have done badly by our own records. In the past four and a half years we have only built in aggregate a total of houses we built annually in the years before the war. Hon. Members must realise that houses are built, not by legislation, but by the simple physical, process of putting bricks on top of one 847 another—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I appreciate the applause from hon. Members opposite because certainly the policy of their own Minister would appear to take the opposite view. Rules and regulations can and do hamper this process very considerably, and I am driven irresistibly and inevitably to the conclusion that the policy of the Minister of Health at this time is slow, cumbersome and costly and is primarily responsible for the conditions which exist in our country today.
I believe that it is the sincere wish of the Minister to build houses. I believe it is the sincere desire of hon. Members opposite to build houses, but I must ask in all sincerity, is the Minister and are Members opposite really aware of the tortuous paths that local authorities have to tread before they can even start to build a house?, Is this House aware that from the time a local authority wishes to start until the builders actually get on to a site and start building probably something like 18 months to two years have passed? I can see some shaking of heads on the other side of the House.
I have a detailed schedule prepared for me by the borough surveyor of my own town which gives chapter and verse—[An HON. MEMBER: "A Tory?"] It may be a Tory council, but I am not concerned with the politics of the borough surveyor; he builds houses remarkably well. We have to go through all the business of compulsory purchase and submit plans, and when the Minister has them they stay in his "In" tray for a long time and finally they go back to the local authority. Very rarely do they come back in the form in which they went out. They have been amended and we take no objection to that. But, the local authority is the recognised instrument of the Minister for building houses. One would imagine, therefore, that the Minister would trust his accredited agent, but, on the contrary, he succeeds in putting every possible obstacle in the way of their doing the job. We send the plans back to the Ministry and they are kept there and then come back finally approved and we go out to tender, Having got our tenders approved, we submit the first three to the Minister. Back they come again, sometimes accepted, sometimes not, and the 848 process sometimes takes between 18 months and two years from the word "Go" until we finish.
In fairness to the Minister I must say that recently he has become aware of these tortuous paths and has issued a new circular to local authorities. We have not had very much experience of the working of this new circular, but I am advised on good authority that it is expected that something like four to six months will be cut off the time now taken. I ask the Minister in all seriousness, does he still consider that it is proper for local authorities to wait more than 12 months for their plans to start before they reach fruition and are not some of the hold-ups causing some dreadful tragedies in our towns and cities?
Restriction of private building is indefensible, but it follows naturally from the false assumption on which the policy of the Minister rests, namely, that the majority of people wish to rent houses. They do not, but the desire to own one's home is very strong in the people of this country. Today many people are in council property, enjoying subsidised rents, who have no desire to be in such a position. The result is that not only are they enjoying a subsidy which they do not need, but since they are unable to buy a house they are keeping out of council houses other families whose need is probably very great. For this reason alone the right hon. Gentleman should relax his regulations on private building and restore full freedom to the industry. This will not only provide more houses but prices will be reduced.
This brings me to the question of rents and finance. I would ask hon. Members opposite to remember that I am not having to draw deeply upon my imagination for the facts which I now present to the House. I am and have been for many years a member of a housing committee. Day in, day out, we receive letters. of a tragic nature from all sorts and conditions of people, and we have to introduce some degree of priority in regard to these very distressing cases. Costs are high and are higher than they need be. The Minister's policy of using local authorities as the sole agency for building means that council staffs become inflated at the architectural level and that cost can be met only in one of two ways, either by an increase in rent or an increase 849 in the rate demand on the local ratepayers.
An increase in rent is impossible since housing committees of most authorities are today finding it difficult always to let the houses which they have available because people cannot afford the rents which are being charged. To make any increase in rate demands is to throw an additional burden upon those people who are already shouldering a very heavy share of the penal taxation which afflicts this nation today. Again I say: Release the pent-up energies of the building industry and private enterprise, and costs will come down. Productivity in the industry is lower than before the war and for that there appear to be two reasons—restrictive practices in the unions and the high level of taxation. Restore the incentives, make the reward of extra 'effort worth while and production will increase.
I turn to the question of finance for housing schemes. I ask the Minister to give his attention to this very important aspect. At present local authorities borrow their money through the Public Works Loan Board at the moment at a rate of interest of 3 per cent. We all know that that rate is below the value of money in the London market today, and there may come a time in the not too distant future when the Board may have to increase the rate of interest they charge the local authorities. Under the previous Chancellor of the Exchequer interest rates were 2½per cent. but when there was a change in Government policy in that direction, the interest rate went up by ½per cent. The effect of this was to increase the council rent on a £1,500 house by 2s. 3d. per week, which is a considerable sum of money to people in very low income groups.
The Minister has recently put out a circular to local authorities which pre—eludes them from borrowing money in advance of their needs, a step to which they have had to resort in recent months to cover themselves against any possible future increase in interest rates. How is housing financed? Is it done by borrowing week by week in the London money market or is it done out of the Exchequer surplus, in other words out of annual taxation? Do the Government get this money free, that is to say without interest, and charge local authorities 3 per 850 cent. for it? In that case the Government would have no difficulty in providing money for local authorities by that means at a substantially lower rate of interest.
I suggest that the Minister should seriously consider the possibility of allowing local authorities to borrow their money on a year-to-year basis; that is to say, to decide a certain rate of interest for the whole of 1950 and then in the last quarter of the year decide what interest rate local authorities shall be charged for the next year. That would enable local authorities to fix their rates and not to be subject to these wild fluctuations which can take place and have taken place in the past.
From all quarters we learn of growing waiting lists for houses and crises of the first magnitude confront the Minister. Daily we read of a growing crime wave, and juvenile delinquency has reached very high figures. Separations and divorces also are maintained at an alarming rate and all of this has its genesis in bad housing. I must for the second occasion today say that I am amazed, and somewhat shocked, at the levity which seems to afflict hon. Members opposite when this question of the growing figures for divorce and separations is mentioned in this House. This is not the time for smart debating points, but for serious consideration of the facts now brought forward. A large body of responsible opinion in this country would agree that the housing policy of the Minister has failed and that the thousands of people at present on our housing waiting lists are being sacrificed on the altar of political doctrine.
I beg the Minister to lift this subject out of the cockpit of party politics, and to re-examine the present machinery in the light of experience gained by local authorities. The need is for houses and not for brickbats and for the utilisation of all our resources to solve this present problem. A great opportunity awaits the Minister, has he the courage to take it?
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Major Sir David Maxwell Fyfe (Liverpool, West Derby)
The whole House will agree that we in our corporate capacity have been very fortunate in the speeches which have come from those on both sides of the House who today have addressed us for the first time. We 851 have had from the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) and the hon. Member for Barry (Mrs. Rees) on the Government side, and from my hon. Friend the Member for Wythenshawe (Mrs. Hill) and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Squadron-Leader A. E. Cooper) examples of the advantages that experience in local authorities gives to hon. Members who can then come here and pass it on to us. The hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South (Mr. Moeran) and the hon. Member for Sheffield, Park (Mr. Mulley) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Chertsey (Mr. Heald) have shown an ability to relate the present problem before the House to other great problems which will come before us for discussion; and I venture to say that all hon. Members wherever they may sit, will look forward with interest and expectation to hearing from these seven hon. Members again.
It is common form for supporters of the Government to say that this Amendment is a political manoeuvre, or, if they are feeling less unkind, a political necessity. I am sure that every one who has heard this Debate knows in his heart that it is a human necessity; and that aspect has been underlined by the intensive lesson in the feelings of our constituents which we had in the General Election. If the House will bear with me, I should like to give my personal experience. I ask this indulgence only because I know that it could be exemplified hundreds of times over by hon. Members on both sides of the House.
Like hundreds of others, I am "at home" to my constituents to hear their troubles once a fortnight. The number varies from 75 on a light night to 150 on a heavy one; but the point that one must remember is that, whatever be the number, 80 out of over 100 who come to see me bring to me a terrible housing problem. I do not mean a pernickety disapproval of their surroundings. I mean the sort of problem of young couples who are now in the position that if they are lucky the wife and perhaps two children live, eat and sleep in a front bedroom in her mother's house and in many cases the husband is not able to sleep under the same roof. Many of these couples got married on the assertion 852 of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health that he confidently expected that there would be no housing problem by the time we had reached the General Election. This is a problem of human tragedy and human misery from which none of us can get away, whatever our political views.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
If I may take the example of last Friday—three days ago—150 people came to see me and, of all these, only six came on a question other than housing. I have had the honour of representing the division for which I sit for some 15 years. That is my experience since the war. Before the war it was surprising if one person in 12—it was more likely one person in 20—came to me with a housing problem. These are the facts. The position is that housing in Liverpool has deteriorated to the extent that we have 42,000 on the waiting list. I know that that is not as many as Birmingham or Glasgow, but it is enough to make everyone interested in the conditions of our people determined to see whether enough is being done to put the position right.
We must examine very carefully whether the present position provides excuses or whether or not it requires drastic and immediate action to put it right. I confess that I was slightly surprised at the—I will not say admiring—uncritical attitude of the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) because in a Liberal paper today I saw a quotation from the report of her party on housing which was issued on the eve of the General Election. It beganIt is evident that the Government and Aneurin Bevan …I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon, but I am quoting verbatim—… have failed even to appreciate the extent of the country's housing problem. Both the Ministry of Health and the local authorities would appear to be frightened of facing up to the problem squarely. There is muddle and complacency among those who should provide the houses. There is frustration, despair and dismay among those wanting houses.The noble Lady's speech today but faintly repeated the strong feeling that 853 found expression in that report, and I notice that, even when she made comparisons, she said that under a Conservative Government 365,000 houses were built, and then, as a comparison with that, she took the figure of 220,000 houses built in 1948. The noble Lady was quite oblivious to the key point of this Amendment, which is that since 1948 there has been a double cut. In 1949, they went down to 198,000, and today we are dealing with a fresh cut that will reduce the figure to 175,000. I ask the noble Lady to consider that difference of 190,000, to consider her party's report and to ask herself whether she can really give the support to this state of affairs which her speech undoubtedly did this afternoon.
If the hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McInnes) will allow me to deal with one point in his speech, I should like to say that he mentioned the destruction of the Wheatley Act. I do not want to argue this point on a maiden speech, but it is on record that, between 1925 and 1934, there were 504,000 houses built under the Wheatley Act and that three-quarters of them were authorised by a Conservative Government. If I may just make that point, I would suggest that the hon. Member should not draw too strong a conclusion from the point which he interestingly put before the House.
We are left, as a matter of comparison, with the figure of 1,000 houses a day built before the war, and the point which has been made on many occasions that one million "accommodation units" have been built since the war. Of these, of course, 150,000 are prefabs, 142,000 are unoccupied war-damaged dwellings repaired, and 126,000 conversions and adaptations. In view of the limitation of time, I shall not go into detail over the Minister's estimate of prefabs as being better than pre-war permanent houses. I am not even going to ask for an explanation of "steel boxes," but I do want to remind him on the point that he already knows of the complaints put forward by the Association of Municipal Corporations, and he has, at their request, offered assistance towards half the cost of repairs. He knows the small amount of the superficial area, and I think we must, if we are to consider the point fairly, consider these dwellings as they were originally intended to be considered—as an interim device to be used until the permanent house-building industry got under way.
854 With regard to the unoccupied houses repaired, the right hon. Gentleman knows that there is a net loss on these houses of 102,000 from the 250,000 that were rendered uninhabitable by bombing, and, with regard to conversions and adaptations, I frankly and at once give him the conversions. I think that consideration shows that adaptations in many cases produced a lower-than standard dwelling. So that when one comes to the figure of just over 600,000 permanent houses, one has to consider —and this is the problem before the House—whether an excuse has been made out for producing 800,000 or 900,000 fewer of such houses than were produced in the corresponding period before the war.
There are about four lines of excuse which are generally put up. The first is, "Well, at any rate we have done better than after the 1914–18 war." It puzzles me to realise the value of such a comparison. If one is going to ignore the general advance and the learning of lessons as mankind moves on, one might as well take the period after the Napoleonic Wars, if hon. Members want to go back into history. The only difference is that it would be slightly unfair to the Government after the 1918 war to compare a Government which had the liability of Dr. Addison, with a Government which had the great advantage of Mr. Huskisson.
But we must really face up to the position as the facts establish it. There is no disputing that, first of all, housing was at its lowest ebb at the quinquennium 1910 to 1915, but, apart from that, a Socialist pundit in these matters—I think he must be a pundit because he is a Socialist peer, Lord Simon of Wythenshawe—in the "Daily Herald," which adds to the authority of his pronouncement, pointed out that before the 1914 war local authorities had no organisation for building; that they produced only 5½ per cent. of the houses that were built, and that the difference which struck him after this war was that during the inter-war years local authorities gained experience and organisation.
Then, of course, the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister puts it, with, I confess, some lack of gratitude to his own party colleagues who were also members of the Coalition Government 855 that they started from scratch. That, of course, is completely inaccurate and untrue. The Coalition Government, of which the right hon. Gentleman was a member, had kept the building material industries in good order.
§ The Prime Minister (Mr. Attlee) indicated dissent.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The right hon. Gentleman indicates dissent. I would remind him of a speech by a Socialist colleague of his, Mr. George Hicks, then the Member for East Woolwich, which he made in the House of Commons on 21st October, 1946, in which he pointed that out. If the Prime Minister suffers from a convenient failure of memory, I would remind him that the passage that I have in mind begins:I do not know what information the Minister of Health has had given to him, but I can assure him that it was not left like that at one period."—OFFIcIAL REPORT, 21st October, 1946; Vol. 427, c. 1367.]Perhaps that will remind the right hon. Gentleman that his party colleague made the point which I am making as to the state of the building industries, as to the acquisition of sites, as to the arrangement for the expansion of the building labour force, as to the expert committees on technical problems, and as to the planned temporary housing programme. Of course, if, for party advantage, the right hon. Gentleman casts over one of his colleagues, that is a matter for the right hon. Gentleman to consider with his own conscience. But that was a colleague who was qualified on the subject, and it would be ungracious and ungrateful to throw him over in this way. That was the difference in the position and, of course, it is a difference which is quite apparent to any fair-minded observer.
The second excuse which is made—and that was reinforced in her supporting speech by the noble Lady the Member for Anglesoy—is that the fault lies in the shortage of building materials. It is quite true, of course, that the building materials industry has been one of the most planned sectors of our economy and, therefore, has had to suffer accordingly. If one takes bricks, for example, the average stock in 1945 was 990 millions. The Government failed to realise the importance and necessity of getting the brick-makers to mobilise. It was not until February, 1946, that 856 the Minister of Labour came forward and told us that he had made arrangements from 31st December, 1945, to achieve that mobilisation. Even then, in 1947, and again later on, one had that variation and substitution of programme which made it difficult for the brickyards to produce. When they had got into a flow of production they had to pare down their work and in some cases had to close. When the demand came again, the industry could not be rapidly expanded.
I am not going to deal with cement, because that is simply a question of how much is allocated for the export programme. I think one ought to say a word about timber, because a number of hon. Members mentioned that. The consumption of softwood timber in 1949 was one million standards, compared with 2½ million before the war. If I may put it to the hon. Member for Bedfordshire, South, who mentioned economies, the Keith Price Committee estimated 1½ million as (being an "austerely low" basis. It is extraordinary how the influence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer can spread itself even into reports of committees on subjects outside his ken. One has seen the example in 1947 of the placing and the reversal of a contract with Canada.
The point which we must realise, and it is an answer to a great deal of the argument which has been forcefully put from the other side of the House, is that even if one admitted—and I can put a strong argument the other way—that the greater proportion of our timber supply had to be obtained from the dollar areas, the sum required is very small indeed. To get 100,000 more houses the requirement in money for timber from Canada is only £9,600,000, which is under 2 per cent. of our imports from the dollar area. Admitting as we all do in every quarter of the House the human tragedy of this problem and the need to solve it, is it going to be said that we are to be prevented from dealing with it because of £9,600,000 imports from the dollar area? I say we cannot.
As I said—and hon. Members opposite are waiting for it in a very kindly way—there is the other side of the argument. The noble Lady the Member for Anglesey was quite wrong in saying that there was a shortage of timber in Europe. In fact, there was an increase of 200,000 857 standards in the timber available in Europe during the last year. I believe that, as hardwoods have been taken off control, better results would be obtained by taking softwood purchase away from the Timber Control too, and giving people a chance of a better and more competitive way of buying. I have considered—I will say this shortly, but I should like the right hon. Gentleman to know that I have considered it—both the statement by his colleague the President of the Board of Trade and the answer in the "Timber Trade Journal" by the president of the relevant association. I consider that the answer is really a complete reply to the electioneering speech of the President of the Board of Trade.
The noble Lady the Member for Anglesey thought that the answer was substitutes. [Laughter.] The object of this House is to debate, and if people put up arguments I do my best to answer them, as I am sure the Minister would agree. He will do so when his time comes. The noble Lady pinned part of her rather attenuated faith to the use of substitutes. There are two answers to that. Substitutes invariably increase prices generally, and therefore the cost of living, and they always result in withdrawing steel or aluminium or cement, or whatever it may be, from use as exports. Therefore, I am not very intrigued by that suggestion. Whether we consider bricks or whether we consider timber, the slightest forethought and imagination would have prevented the difficulties in which we are today.
It takes a great deal of anything that the right hon. Gentleman says to surprise me, but he did surprise me in my own city when he said that one of the reasons for the shortage was that old people were living longer. I do not think that he would have appreciated the reaction to that remark among a number of people throughout the country, but the immediate answer is perfectly clear. He could perfectly well have foreseen that this was going to happen. He had got the experience of London County Council housing estates, like the Becontree Estate, which his Department must have brought to his attention, and I submit that he ought to have planned a greater diversity in houses, with a greater number of small houses into which old people would have been not only prepared but very willing to go, 858 leaving the bigger houses free for young couples with children. The Girdwood figure of 86 per cent. of three-bedroomed houses demands consideration from that point of view.
The fourth excuse, apologia pro vita sua, which the right hon. Gentleman offered—[Laughter]—well, I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is very pleased to be compared with Cardinal Newman even if his supporters are not—is, "We are doing better than any other country in the world." In fact if I may quote his own words, used at the Blackpool Conference, he said his housing record was:a record that no nation in the world, in the war or out of the war, has been able to come near.The Secretary of State for Scotland put on a somewhat dingy white sheet and abjured complacency. How can anyone say that that remark does not reek of complacency? Of course it was based on a passage in the Socialist handbook which contains one of the best examples of combined suppression of truth and suggestion of falsity that I have ever seen in a political document. It gives a list of the countries but, in the first place, it omits a footnote with regard to Denmark and Switzerland which shows that these figures were only in regard to a portion of the houses built in those countries, and by means of that suppression it disposes of Switzerland, of course, as being in line with ourselves.
The result of that showing was that, whereas Britain was building one house to every 205 of the population, Sweden was building one to 128, Switzerland—on the corrected figures which the compilers of the Socialist handbook could have obtained with the greatest of ease from the Swiss annual statistics—was building one to 205 and Norway one to 213. How the right hon. Gentleman, knowing these facts, could have said that no nation had been able to come near our performance I cannot think.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), in the course of a speech in which, if I may say so, he put forward some most constructive suggestions, dealt also with the aspect, which I think we ought to have in mind, that today under Socialism Britain has lost that unchallenged lead in housing progress which she held. Perhaps I may take the figures of two years just to show that. 859 In 1930 it was stated that this country had done more to deal with the housing situation than any other country in Europe. That was not said by any one from these benches but by the right hon. Member for Wakefield (Mr. Arthur Greenwood). In 1938 Britain was building one house to 134 of the population. As my hon. Friend showed, in 1948 Britain had come to only 68 per cent. of pre-war and Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark were all ahead.
I have taken the comparison with prewar figures and I have now taken the comparison with other countries, and if both of those comparisons show that we have not come nearly as near our pre-war performance as these other countries, then indeed it is time we examined the matter and adopted a new line of dealing with it. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have asked for proposals. I have made two which, I believe, would both be important—that is, the withdrawing of soft wood from the control and, if necessary, allocating or making arrangements for that £9.6 million worth of dollars to be available for the purchase of Canadian timber.
We have, however, had a discussion, and I want to face up to it in the time that I have, on the question of whether we ought to restore the competitive element in building. I believe that it is essential in order to attack the problem of costs which at present threatens the whole future of our housing programme. I believe that if the builder is building houses for sale he knows that the sooner he finishes the sooner he sees his money, and he has, therefore, an incentive.
§ Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe
The hon. Gentleman says "jerry-built houses." I do not agree. If the hon. Gentleman examines, not in party controversy, the accounts of the building trade in the 'thirties he will find that the vast majority of the comments upon them are complimentary. However, I must sit down at half past nine, although I do want to deal—[Interruption]. I am sorry if I am overrunning the time.
I want to put this point. What we are suggesting is that there should be a reduction in the amount necessary for a cash 860 deposit to 5 per cent. The Parliamentary Secretary developed the point as to the difficulty of finding it, and as to those that could find it. I answer him first by saying I would reduce the amount of the deposit; secondly, I would arrange—and I believe it could be arranged—that the amortisation period be lengthened; and in that way I believe we could get, even on a £1,200 house, the figure reduced to a reasonable level—for this reason. The Parliamentary Secretary took £7 a week as the average wage. That was his statement. That means that there must be—if that is the average wage—a considerable number of wage earners above that figure. One must take into account that they would be prepared to purchase; and in that way they would remove the pressure on the waiting lists. That would clear the waiting lists for council houses of those who are at present forced to swell them.
The other points I must simply state. The right hon. Gentleman will deal with them. I give him carte blanche to do so. I am sorry I have overrun my time. I have made the point as to diversity and variety and size of houses. I believe that he has got to improve and make steadier the directions and requirements which he demands from local authorities. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey gave a very good example in Portsmouth as to the difficulty that arises. Finally we must give encouragement, if necessary by relief through taxation, to further conversions.
I do not suppose for a moment that everyone will agree with all the suggestions, but there are six practical suggestions by which the matter could be improved, and I do ask the Minister and the House to look at this problem from the human point of view. There is a danger in office. After all, I have been in office myself, and I recognise the danger. I am not referring to the "insolence" of which Shakespeare speaks. I am referring to a sort of hardening of the arteries of the mind which prevents people in office seeing the humanity of the problem and makes them regard men and women as means to their political ends instead of as ends in themselves.
I take my full share of the responsibility for this Amendment, endeavouring to break through the glass roof with 861 which office has surrounded the outlook of so many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I say that I could not have faced my constituents if I had not struck a blow against the reduction of their chance of comfort and decency of existence, and of their power to give of their best to their country.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Aneurin Bevan)
I should like to join with the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby (Sir D. Maxwell Fyfe) in offering my congratulations and felicitations to those Members who have spoken in the House for the first time this evening. I think that all who heard them enjoyed their speeches very much, and I must say, casting my mind back over more years than I care to recollect, how very much higher the standard of maiden speeches is than when I made my own in this House.
I know that after a General Election there must be a temptation when any Member of Parliament opens his mouth to start making his election speech over again. As they used to say about the old Trojan cars before the war, if they got on to the tramlines they went straight to the depot. I was hoping that we should not hear the same pre-election speeches over again. I have listened to most of this Debate, and I can assure hon. Members who were not in the last Parliament that practically all the speeches we have heard from the other side of the House were an almost exact repetition of what we have had before.
As a matter of fact, the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith) was so bard put to it that he treated us to a repetition of his own speeches. If he will look at HANSARD tomorrow he will find that most of his speech consisted of a recitation of what he said in 1946—[Interruption.] I do not wish to be discourteous, but the right hon. and learned Gentleman had 40 minutes and I have 30 minutes, and I think that I am entitled to make my speech. The same kind of speech fell from the lips of the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples). He has made it over and over again. His speech consisted in proving conclusively that private enterprise left to itself cannot serve an overriding social purpose, but must be allowed to pursue the profit 862 motive otherwise it will not work efficiently at all.
We have had that speech from him over and over again, with the exception that today he gave us an explanation of what was responsible for the extraordinary appearance of private enterprise houses that were built along the great speedways before the war. He said that when a private enterprise builder goes short of a bit of material, he alters the design of the house. If he went short of a bit of wood, he just altered the design of the roof. This is the one and only credible explanation of what has been called the marzipan-period of architecture. Indeed, right hon. Gentlemen opposite have, during the last four and a half years, been trying to persuade the people of Great Britain that the best service that can be rendered to the face of Great Britain is to let The speculative builder do in the post-war years what he did in the years between the wars.
I notice that right hon. Gentlemen opposite, when they can avoid it, do not live in those houses, or near them. They always select the most delectable parts of the country to live in, and they do not live in the areas where they let loose the speculative builder. If the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, who, as we know, is a most versatile artist, wishes to leave something to posterity as a living monument of what the speculative builder has done, he ought to paint some of those houses. I assure him that that would be a first-class example of rococo architecture. That may not be as good as some of the architecture, of which I know he is very fond and in which I delight, but I want to say this and to put it on record here, that if I go down in history for nothing else, I will go down at least as a barrier between the beauty of Great Britain and the speculative builder who has done so much to destroy it.
I am surprised at hon. Gentlemen once more doing what they did before the devaluation Debate. After all, we have some justification in taking pride in the fact that in Great Britain we have succeeded in making more progress since 1945 than any other nation in the world. Is there anything wrong in that? I know very well it has some party advantage about it, but we are surely entitled to mobilise the truth on our own behalf 863 It happens to be a fact—and it is not a fact upon evidence of partisans in this country but as witnessed by other people in other parts of the world—that, apart from Sweden, the housing record of Great Britain is better than that of any other nation in the world. We might as well claim it for ourselves as a nation, and it happens to be a fact that Sweden has a Socialist Government, too. It also happens to be a fact that the average house in Sweden has got 600 superficial feet and ours has between 900 and 950. If we take these facts together, they show that as a piece of administrative organisation the housing programme of Great Britain is the best in the world. The trouble with the Opposition is that they will persist in coming to the House of Commons inspired by the headlines of their own newspapers. The result is that when they come face-to face with the actual fact, they are taken by surprise. They find it difficult to learn that the country is as good as it really is.
We have left that and we are now in a different condition. We have left what might be called the administrative complexities of the housing problem. My hon. Friends will cast their minds back to 1945 when we had a position of the utmost complexity. I hope the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition will not again in this House speak about the necessity for taking forethought, for we were not guilty of the incredible folly of spending £100,000 in two and a half years in planning steel houses to be built with steel that was not there, I will pursue that no further because I do not want to rub it in any more, but the Leader of the Opposition, when he made his speech over the radio, had not realised the extent to which private enterprise in the British steel industry had failed Great Britain. Instead of having steel in Great Britain to rescue the population from the housing difficulties after the war, we had to buy steel from America, and we are still buying steel from America. As this is not a discussion about steel, much as I would like it to be, I just remind him that that is a fact.
What we are now in is not what might be called the administrative difficulties of the housing programme. We are now in what might be regarded as the priority stage. What has first demand 864 upon our national resources? This is where, speaking quite frankly, I find the attitude of the Opposition so profoundly immoral. They have put up placards all over the country—financed by secret sources, financed by sources they have never disclosed—in which they say, "Let the builders build you a house now."
That was a very cruel poster, because it led those people who needed houses to believe that all that stood between them and a house was Government policy. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is true."] Now, no one knows that is a falsehood better than do the party opposite. Everybody knows very well that in fact the size of the housing programme is not decided by even the quantity of timber available, because even if we had more timber we would still find ourselves up against labour difficulties in the housing field; but we are up against the disposal, in a prudent way, in the interests of the nation as a whole, of the total national resources of the country.
I wish to ask one or two questions. They are not the same questions as I have asked before, so my hon. Friends will not be apprehensive. We have had so many different stories from the Opposition that we should like to know now where they stand. Whenever there has been a semblance of a financial crisis in this country, the Opposition have immediately come to the House and demanded a reduction in the capital investment programme. I should like to ask the Leader of the Opposition this question. I am bound to tell him that I did ask it during the General Election, but the newspapers did not report the question. Lord Woolton said in 1947:I ask in these days of over-full employment for the postponement of all works of a public nature and for the discouragement of all capital expenditure, whether by Government, or by private industry.Did that represent the policy of the Opposition in 1947? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] This means that in 1947 the whole of the housing programme of Great Britain was to be brought to a standstill. I am going to ask one or two questions and I think the House and the country are entitled to know the answers, because the Opposition will not be able permanently to escape from this dilemma by the consistent lying of the Tory Press. Is that a fact: did Lord 865 Woolton express the point of view of the Tory Party?
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
I thought we had been waiting for quite a long time this evening in order to hear the right hon. Gentleman give his answer to his gross failures.
§ Mr. Bevan
That really is not worthy of the right hon. Gentleman. If we had accepted the advice of the chairman of the Conservative Party in 1947, the people of Great Britain would have been deprived of all the houses built since that time. But I wish to go on to an even more eminent authority because it was only last October that we had a discussion about the capital investment programme in this House, and we were addressed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, whom I do not see in his place at the present time. [An HON. MEMBER: "He is ill, like you were."] He said:The problem we have to consider is whether these proposals—that is, the reduction of £250 million—detailed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer today, some of them still so sketchy and indefinite, most of them only effective in the distant future, all of them adding up to a sum which is very small when compared with our vast expenditure, have in fact no relation … to the needs of the hour."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th October, 1949; Vol. 468, c. 1354.]In other words, the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) was then saying in the House of Commons that the reduction in the capital investment programme of the Government was not sufficient. Did he mean that the reduction in the housing programme was not sufficient? What part of the investment programme were the Opposition intending to cut? Was the housing programme to make no contribution? It was only a little later that the right hon. Gentleman said that we ought to have a reduction not of £250 million but £500 million, just a few short months before this hypocritical Amendment. Did the right hon. Gentleman intend to cut schools, or factories, or power stations, or maternity homes or old peoples' homes? The right hon. Gentleman did not tell us at that time what part of the capital investment programme was to be cut. He merely used 866 these stratospheric figures without facing the intellectual and moral discipline of saying where the cuts should fall.
I do not enter into a political courtship with the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey, although her personality is so agreeable; but may I say that I thought her speech was very much more realistic than the speech which we have just heard from the right hon. and learned Gentleman. She did at least, on behalf of her party, face up to the obligation of asking "If you are going to restore the capital investment programme in respect of housing, what are you going to take that amount away from?" She did face up to that, but not a single speaker on the Opposition benches has faced that fact in the whole day.
Is there not something rather wrong about the Opposition? I have come to the conclusion that they expect to be an Opposition permanently because any responsible statesmen having to face the collective result of the individual proposals would be very careful in making them. They would not make each separate proposal on its merits alone. They would try to add the sum up and then see whether the adding up of the sum amounted to anything practicable in terms of national resources. But they have become very fond of plebiscites recently, separate plebiscites on each issue. More houses?—yes; higher expenditure—yes; lower Income Tax?—yes; each a single plebiscite. I warn the Opposition that plebiscites can be very dangerous instruments in the hands of political parties.
I can suggest a number of other interesting questions for plebiscites if hon. Members want them; but perhaps this is not the occasion to suggest them—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on.''] It would be an interesting subject for a plebiscite as to whether this nation is in favour of being ruled by a man merely because he is the son of his father. That is a very good one. Or are we really in favour of millionaires? It is the duty of people who expect at some time or another to assume office to face the collective consequences of individual demands. So that we are in fact in the position of saying this evening that the amount of the national resources that we have given to housing is what we consider we can, in the circumstances, afford.
867 Then I come to the third aspect of this matter. The amount of the housing programme having been determined, the question then to be answered is: for whom are the houses to be built? That is the old question that we have faced in this House over and over again, and I have tried to get an answer from the Opposition. Once more I will ask them just this one question. I have asked it for 4½ years. May we have the answer finally this time?
Assuming there should be a total—I suppose they would agree there should be a total? They would not let the builders all free to build where they like anywhere. Assuming there is to be a total of houses, then I would like to ask the Opposition what number of houses do they consider should be built on licence for sale? [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] Really, they have been telling us all day long that the speculative builder could build much more cheaply and much more quickly if he was only allowed to build for the private buyer; and we ought to know from the Opposition how many private buyers do they think there ought to be? Is there no answer?
§ Mr. Bevan
Oh, I am giving the answer —one in ten. That is the answer the Opposition is having; and that represents far more than applied for licences in Birmingham; far more than applied for licences in Wales, or Hammersmith—[HON. MEMBERS: "Or Bermondsey"]—or Bermondsey. In fact, far more than applied for licences in those parts of Great Britain where most of the work of the country is done.
That is the situation, and therefore we are laying down as a proposition that so long as the housing programme of this country has to be curtailed, and every programme has to be curtailed so long as we have full employment—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"]—certainly, because one of the consequences of full employment is that if we want to have more of a particular thing we can only have it at the expense of some other thing. That is why I describe the proposition of the Opposition as immoral, because they never told anybody who badly needs something that they cannot have more 868 of it unless somebody else is told that they are going to have less of what they want. That is why the whole of the propaganda of the Opposition during the General Election was the lowest form of propaganda ever seen in the history of politics—because they promised everybody something.
May I say that I do not need to be told here about what are the consequences of living in bad houses. I was born in a bad house—[Interruption]—yes, I was born in the middle of a street of a hundred houses, and the family of 10 of which I was one was brought up in four rooms.
§ Mr. Bevan
We do not need to be told from hon. Members on the other side of the House what it is to live in a slum. The fact of the matter is that the right hon. and learned Member for West Derby, who spoke last for the Opposition, gave his whole case away. He revealed not only the hollowness of his own case but the hollowness of his own mind, because he said with an air of surprise that before the war hardly one in 12 came to him with a housing problem. What a give-away. What a remarkable demonstration of sociological ignorance that was. Does he not know why? They did not apply for houses because they could not afford them. Before the war there were two million unemployed. That is why the estimates of housing needs by the party opposite went wrong. One could solve the housing problem of Great Britain tomorrow in a Tory way. All one would have to do would be to produce two million unemployed and there would be no waiting list for houses. That is exactly what happened before the war.
In fact, the housing problem of Great Britain today is an expression of higher housing standards. Indeed, that is one of the reasons why it is necessary to have an exhaustive house-to-house survey by local authorities in order to find out what the housing problem is. Large numbers of people are applicants for houses because they would like to have council houses because those houses are better than their houses. That is one of the reasons why we asked the House to pass the Housing Act of last year. It was to enable old and sound houses to be reconditioned in order to take some people off the housing list who otherwise would not be there.
869 The Government's programme has been announced and it will be persisted in. We shall build this year—because 1,700 local authorities do not have their programmes changed overnight—something in the region of 200,000 permanent houses. We shall build next year, if our programme is adjusted to the capital investments cut, something in the region of 175,000 to 180,000 houses. We shall go on building houses largely for rent. In the meantime, we shall go on providing the means of employment at the same time. We shall provide the power stations, the factories, the hospitals, and the maternity homes
§ and houses for the people. Before many years are over, we shall provide a far higher standard of life than the Tory Party ever dreamt of for the people of Great Britain.
§ I ask the House to reject this Amendment as being unworthy of a decent Opposition and as being merely an attempt to exploit the emotions of people who are in dire need of houses.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 289; Noes, 314.873
|Division No. 2.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Davidson, Viscountess||Howard, S. G. (Cambridgeshire)|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Davies, Nigel (Epping)||Hudson, Sir A. U. M. (Lewisham, N.)|
|Amery, J. (Preston, N.)||de Chair, S.||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)|
|Amory, D. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||De la Bère, R.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)|
|Arbuthnot, J. S.||Deedes, W. F.||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr N. J.|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Digby, S. Wingfield||Hurd, A. R.|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Hutchinson, G. (Ilford, N.)|
|Baker, P.||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord M.||Hutchison, Lt.-com. Clark (E'b'rgh W.)|
|Baldock, J. M.||Drayson, G. B.||Hyde, H. M.|
|Baldwin, A E.||Dugdale, Maj. Sir T. (Richmond)||Hylton-Foster, H. B.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L||Jeffreys, General Sir G.|
|Beamish, Maj. T. V. H.||Dunglass, Lord||Jennings, R.|
|Bell, R. M. (S. Buckinghamshire)||Duthie, W. S.||Johnson, H. S. (Kemptown)|
|Bennett, Sir P. (Edgbaston)||Eccles, D. M.||Jones, A. (Hall Green)|
|Bennett, R. F. B. (Gosport)||Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter||Joynson-Hicks, Hon. L. W|
|Bennett, W. G. (Woodside)||Erroll, F. J.||Kaberry, D.|
|Bevins, J. R. (Liverpool, Toxteth)||Fisher, N. T. L.||Keeling, E. H|
|Birch, Nigel||Fletcher, W. (Bury)||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Fort, R.||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Black, C. W.||Foster, J. G.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D. C. (Wells)||Fraser, Hon. H. C. P. (Stone)||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Boothby, R.||Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Fyfe, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P. M||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Bower, N.||Gage, C. H.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Lennox-Boyd, A. T|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Galbraith, T. G. D. (Hillhead)||Lindsay, M.|
|Braine, B.||Gammans, L. D.||Linstead, H. N|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr. J. G.||Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)||Llewellyn, D.|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W.||Gates, Maj. E. E.||Lloyd, Rt. Hon. G. (King's Norton)|
|Brooke, H. (Hampstead)||Glyn, Sir R.||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Brown, W. Robson (Esher)||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Browne, J. N. (Govan)||Gridley, Sir A.||Lockwood, Lt.-Col. J. C.|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Grimston, Hon. J. (St. Albans)||Longden, G. J. M. (Herts, S.W.)|
|Bullus, E. E.||Grimston, R. V. (Westbury)||Low, A. R. W.|
|Burden, F. A.||Harden, J. R. E.||Lucas, Major Sir J. (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Butcher, H. W.||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Lucas, P. B. (Brentford)|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.|
|Carr, L. R. (Mitcham)||Harris, R. R. (Heston)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O|
|Carson, Hon. E.||Harvey, Air-Codre. A. V. (Macclesfield)||McAdden, S. J.|
|Channon, H.||Harvey, I. (Harrow, E.)||McCallum, Maj. D|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Hay, John||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S. (East Grinstead)||Head, Brig. A. H.||Macdonald, Sir P. (I. of Wight)|
|Clarke, Brig. T. H. (Portsmouth, W.)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||Mackeson, Brig. H. R|
|Clyde, J. L.||Heald, L. F.||McKibbin, A.|
|Colegate, A.||Heath, E. R.||McKie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maclay, Hon. J. S.|
|Cooper, A. E. (Ilford, S.)||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Maclean, F. H. R.|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Higgs, J. M. C.||MacLeod, I. (Enfield, W.)|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||MacLeod, J. (Ross and Cromarty)|
|Craddock, G. B. (Spelthorne)||Hill, Dr. C. (Luton)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon. Harold (Bromley)|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||Hirst, G. A. N.||Maitland, Comdr. J. W.|
|Cross, Rt. Hon. Sir R.||Hogg, Hon. Q.||Manningham-Buller, R. E.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hollis, M. C.||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Crouch, R. F.||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Marples, A. E.|
|Crowder, F. P. (Northwood)||Hope, Lord J.||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)|
|Crowder, Capt. John F. E. (Finchley)||Hopkinson, H||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)|
|Cundiff, F. W.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss P.||Maude, A. E. U. (Ealing, S.)|
|Cuthbert, W. N.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Florence||Maude, J. C. (Exeter)|
|Darling, Sir W. Y. (Edinburgh, S.)||Howard, G. R (St. Ives)||Maudling, R.|
|Medlicott, Brigadier F.||Roberts, P. G. (Healey)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Mellor, Sir J.||Robertson, Sir D. (Caithness)||Thompson, K. P. (Walton)|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Robinson, J. Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Thompson, R. H. M. (Croydon, W.)|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Sir T.||Rodgers, J. (Sevenoaks)||Thorneyeroft, G. E. P. (Monmouth)|
|Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Roper, Sir H.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Morrison, Rt. Hon. W. S. (Cirencester)||Ropner, Col. L.||Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F|
|Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Ross, Sir R. D. (Londonderry)||Tilney, J. D.|
|Nabarro, G.||Russell, R. S.||Touche, G. C.|
|Nicholls, H.||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D||Turton, R. H.|
|Nicholson, G.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Nield, B. (Chester)||Savory, Prof. D. L||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Noble, Comdr. A. H. P||Scott, R. D.||Vaughan-Morgan, J. K|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Shepherd, W. S. (Cheadle)||Vosper, D F.|
|Nutting, Anthony||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W.||Wakefield, E. B. (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Oakshott, H. D.||Smith, E. M (Grantham)||Wakefield, Sir W. W. (St. Marylebone)|
|Odey, G. W.||Smithers, P. H. B. (Winchester)||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||Smithers, Sir W. (Orpington)||Ward, Hon. G. R. (Worcester)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Ward, Miss I (Tynemouth)|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Snadden, W. McN,||Waterhouse, Capt. C.|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles I. (Hendon, N.)||Soames, Capt. C.||Watkinson, H.|
|Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)||Spearman, A. C. M.||Watt, Sir G. S. Harvie|
|Osborne, C.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Webbe, Sir H. (London)|
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O||Spens, Sir P. (Kensington, S.)||Wheatley, Major M. J. (Poole)|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. O. (Bristol, W.)||White, J. Baker (Canterbury)|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M.||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Ft (N. Fylde)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Pickthorn, K.||Stevens, G. P.||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Pitman, I. J.||Steward, W. A. (Woolwich, W.)||Williams, Sir H. G. (Croydon, E.)|
|Powell, J. E.||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Wills, G.|
|Prescott, Stanley||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Wilson, G. (Truro)|
|Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W.)||Storey, S.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Profumo, J. D.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J. (Moray)||York, C.|
|Raikes, H. V.||Studholme, H. G.||Young, Sir A. S. L. (Partick)|
|Rayner, Brig. R.||Summers, G. S.|
|Redmayne, M.||Sutcliffe, H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.|
|Remnant, Hon. P.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)||Mr. Buchan-Hepburn and|
|Renton, D. L. M.||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)||Mr. Drewe.|
|Roberts, H. (Handsworth)||Teeling, William|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Chetwynd, C. R.||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)|
|Adams, Richard||Clunie, J.||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)|
|Albu, A. H.||Cobb, F. A.||Ewart, R.|
|Allen, A. C. (Bosworth)||Cocks, F. S.||Fernyhough, E.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Coldrick, W.||Field, Capt. W J|
|Anderson, A. (Motherwell)||Collick, P.||Finch, H. J.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Collindridge, F.||Fletcher, E. G M. (Islington, E.)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R.||Cook, T. F.||Follick, M.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Cooper, G. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Foot, M. M.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Cooper, J. (Deptford)||Forman, J. C.|
|Bacon, Miss A.||Corbel, Mrs. F. K. (Peckham)||Fraser, T. (Hamilton)|
|Baird, J.||Cove, W. G.||Freeman, J. (Watford)|
|Balfour, A.||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Freeman, Peter (Newport)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. A. J.||Crawley, A.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.|
|Bartley, T.||Cripps, Rt. Hon. Sir S.||Ganley, Mrs. C. S.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Crosland, C. A. R.||George, Lady M. Lloyd|
|Benson, G.||Crossman, R. H. S||Gibson, C. W.|
|Beswick, F.||Cullen, Mrs. A.||Gilzean, A.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Daggar, G.||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)|
|Bevin, Rt. Hon. E. (Woolwich. E.)||Daines, P.||Gooch, E. G.|
|Bing, G. H. C.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon P. C|
|Blackburn, A. R||Darling, G. (Hillsboro')||Granville, E. (Eye)|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Davies, Rt. Hn. Clement (Montgomery)||Greenwood, A. W. J. (Rossendale)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Davies, Edward (Stoke, N.)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Wakefield)|
|Boardman, H.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Booth, A.||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Grey, C. F.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Davies, R. J. (Westhoughton)||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)|
|Bowden, H. W.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Griffiths, W. D. (Exchange)|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Grimond, J.|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M.||Deer, G.||Gunter, R. J.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Delargy, H. J.||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)||Diamond, J.||Hale, J. (Rochdale)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Normanton)||Dodds, N. N||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Donnelly, D.||Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Donovan, T. N.||Hall, Rt. Hon. Glenvil (Colne Valley)|
|Brown, T. J. (Ince)||Driberg, T. E. N.||Hamilton, W. W.|
|Burke, W. A.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon. J. (W. Bromwich)||Hannan, W.|
|Burton, Miss E.||Dye, S.||Hardman, D. R.|
|Butler, H. W. (Hackney, S.)||Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C||Hardy, E. A.|
|Callaghan, James||Edelman, M.||Hargreaves, A.|
|Carmichael, James||Edwards, Rt. Hon. N. (Caerphilly)||Harrison, J.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Champion, A. J.||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Hayman, F. H.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Tipton)||Mann, Mrs. J.||Silverman, J. (Erdington)|
|Herbison, Miss M.||Manuel, A. C.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Simmons, C. J.|
|Hobson, C. R.||Mathers, Rt. Hon. George||Slater, J.|
|Holman, P.||Mellish, R. J.||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Holmes, H. E. (Hemsworth)||Messer, F.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Houghton, Douglas||Middleton, Mrs. L.||Snow, J. W.|
|Hoy, J.||Mikardo, Ian||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Hubbard, T.||Mitchison, G. R.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, N.)||Moeran, E. W.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayr)||Monslow, W.||Stokes, Rt. Mon. R. R|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Moody, A. S.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Hughes, R. M. (Islington, N.)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Morley, R.||Stross, Dr. B.|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Morris, Lt.-Col. H. (S'ffield, Neepsend)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Taylor, H. B. (Mansfield)|
|Isaacs, RI. Hon. G. A.||Mort, D. L.||Thomas, D. E. (Aberdare)|
|Janner, B.||Moyle, A.||Thomas, I. O. (Wrekin)|
|Jay, D. P. T.||Mulley, F. W.||Thomas, I. R. (Rhondda, W.)|
|Jeger, G. (Goole)||Murray, J. D.||Thomas, T. George (Cardiff)|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W. (St. Pancras, S.)||Nally, W.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Jenkins, F. H.||Neal, H.||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Johnson, J. (Rugby)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon. P. J.||Timmons, J.|
|Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||O'Brien, T.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G.|
|Jones, D. T. (Hartlepool)||Oldfield, W. H.||Tomney, F.|
|Jones, Elwyn (West Ham, S.)||Oliver, G. H.||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Jones, J. H. (Rotherham)||Orbach, M.||Usborne, Henry|
|Jones, W. E. (Conway)||Padley, W. E.||Vernon, Maj. W. F.|
|Keenan, W.||Paget, R. T.||Viant, S. P.|
|Kenyon, C.||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly)||Wallace, H. W.|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Watkins, T. E.|
|King, H. M.||Pannell, T. C.||Webb, Rt. Hon. M. (Bradford, C.)|
|Kinghorn, San.-Ldr. E.||Pargiter, G. A||Weitzman, D.|
|Kinley, J.||Parker, J.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|Lang, Rev. G.||Paton, J.||Wells, W. T. (Walsall)|
|Lee, F. (Newton)||Pearson, A.||West, D. G.|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Pearl, T. F.||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Ed'nb'gh, E.)|
|Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Poole, Cecil||White, Mrs. E. (E. Flint)|
|Lever, N. H. (Cheatham)||Popplewell, E.||White, H (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Lewis, A. W. J. (West Ham, N.)||Porter, G.||Wigg, George|
|Lewis, J. (Bolton, W.)||Price, M. Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Proctor, W. T.||Wilkes, L.|
|Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.||Pryde, D. J.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Logan, D. G.||Pursey, Comdr. H.||Willey, F. T. (Sunderland)|
|Longden, F. (Small Heath)||Rankin, J.||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|McAllister, G.||Rees, Mrs. D.||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Reeves, J.||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Macdonald, A. J. F. (Roxburgh)||Reid, T. (Swindon)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|McGhee, H G.||Reid, W. (Camfachie)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|McGovern, J.||Rhodes, H.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Huyton)|
|McInnes, J.||Robens, A.||Winterbottom, I. (Nottingham, C.)|
|Mack J. D||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Winterbottom, R. E. (Brightside)|
|McKay, J. (Wallsend)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Wise, Major F. J.|
|Mackay, R W. G. (Reading, N.)||Robertson, J. J. (Berwick)||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A|
|McKinlay, A. S.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Woods, Rev. G. S.|
|MaLeavy, F.||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)||Wyatt, W. L.|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Yates, V. F.|
|McNeil, Rt. Hon. H.||Royle, C.||Younger, Hon. Kenneth|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Shackleton, E. A. A.|
|Mainwaring, W. H.||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.||Mr. William Whiteley and|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Mr. R. J. Taylor.|
Main question put, and agreed to.
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as follows:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom
of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.