§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Marples (Wallasey)
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Address, at the end, to add,But humbly regret that the Gracious Speech shows no resolve to ensure a steady increase in the rate of house building up to at least 300,000 houses a year.I am quite sure there is not a Member in the House, irrespective of party, who, in his own heart, is not deeply worried about the shortage of houses. My main task this afternoon is to devote myself to the technical problem of seeing whether these houses can be built, and the question I ask myself is—is it physically possible to build 300,000 houses a year and, if so, how? For that purpose I must make one assumption, and it is that what happens to the house is irrelevant, at any rate for the purpose of my argument. I am solely concerned with the erection of the house from the virgin soil to the last tile. My task is solely to show that there is no technical reason to prevent their being built. In order to do that I pro- 606 pose to divide my speech into four parts. First, I should like to deal with the main Socialist criticism. Secondly, I should like to discuss the question of building materials. Thirdly, I want to deal with the question of labour; and fourthly with the methods by which the extra 100,000 houses could be obtained by marrying, as it were, the labour and the materials.
First of all, the Socialist criticism. Socialists ask this question: if we build more houses, what building are we to do without? Is it the building of hospitals or schools which we shall cut? That question is based on two assumptions: first, that it is impossible to build more houses with the existing labour force and that efficiency is at present 100 per cent. and is static; and secondly, that we shall always build the same type of house in the same way. We do not accept those assumptions. I shall give the House the reasons why we do not accept them.
There are some very interesting building statistics in connection with the school building programme. Suppose in 1949 a distinguished Member on the Government Front Bench—suppose the Lord President of the Council—had asked us if we proposed to increase the number of primary school places by 50 per cent. Would he have asked, "If you do that, what other building are you going to do without?" If he had asked that question the answer would have been that the efficiency of the school building programme has increased by almost 50 per cent. in the two years from 1949 to the end of this year, and that the cost of a primary school place in 1949 was £195 and that it had been reduced to £140 in 1950. That means that 10 seats in 1949 cost £1,950, and that 15 seats today would cost only slightly over that figure. In other words, the school building programme has increased by 50 per cent. for almost the same expenditure of money. Therefore the question would not have been irrelevant, and we say that what has been done in school building must be done in house building.
On the question of building materials, the shortage has been the greatest single factor in the loss of productivity in the building industry since the war. In 1946 we had the disastrous experience of the Minister of Health overloading the building industry with a programme of houses 607 for which there were insufficient materials. Materials must not only be there: they must be seen to be there by the men on the site. That is one of the most important factors in building today, because labour will simply not work itself out of a job, and I say, quite frankly, from my own experience of building houses, that I do not blame the men at all. Unless the man on the site sees ever-increasing piles of materials he will not be able to give of his best work.
Let me divide materials into the three main items—timber, cement, and bricks. Let us take timber first. The first point about timber is that there is not a world shortage. Timber is physically in existence, and the world output of cut timber in 1948 was 3 per cent. higher than in the record pre-war year of 1937. Therefore, the world supply of sawn timber is greater, and we are getting an ever smaller share of an ever larger cake. The second point is the quantity of timber that would be required to deal with the extra 100,000 houses. The President of the Board of Trade considers that 145,000 standards would be sufficient. For the purpose of my calculation I must reject that as being unsound technically, because the 1.6 standards per house includes 10 per cent. for waste on a 1,000-foot house. The President deducts that 10 per cent.—he did so in answer to a Question in this House—and says that only 145,000 standards would be needed. That is not so. A hundred thousand houses, in my opinion, would require not less than 160,000 standards.
I go further. I think we ought to buy more than we need. Look at the good results which would flow from that. I mention this because timber is the key. We could stockpile for strategic reasons, and we could get reduced prices for timber throughout the world; because unless we have full stock yards our buyers will never be able to purchase timber at competitive prices in the world market. The only time we shall get prices down is when we can say to the sellers of timber, "Our stock yards are full. You can keep your timber." If we could say that to them, prices would come down, without politicians on either side having to negotiate the matter at a high level. Not only should we benefit by reduced prices, we should benefit immensely by 608 reduced building costs and by increased building speed, and we should eliminate waste of timber.
The recent hold up of the completion of houses is entirely due to the break down of timber supplies in the summer, and what happened was this. The rafter size is, generally speaking, four inches by four inches. When orders went to the merchants they did not have well-balanced stocks and they took larger sizes, and cut them down. In order to supply the four-inch by two-inch rafters which were necessary, they cut them from two-and-a-half inches by seven pieces of timber. That left the merchant with a piece of timber six inches long and half an inch wide, and there is virtually nothing he can do with that except put it on the watchman's fire. So, unless we have a large range of stocks in the timber yards of this country building will always be difficult.
We on these benches propose to do two things with the timber situation. The first is to allocate dollars—as many dollars as are needed—for the timber for the extra 100,000 houses, because we consider that houses are the highest social priority, ranking second only to defence. Secondly, we propose to abolish bulk buying in every quarter of the globe, and not merely in those parts which suit the President of the Board of Trade. We propose to abolish it not for price considerations mainly, not for doctrinal reasons, but mostly for practical reasons. I shall tell hon. Members opposite why, as they rather doubt that statement. Pre-war, if any building firm in this country wished to buy timber from abroad they would send precise specifications and the sizes which were required to Canada. The timber would be cut to that size. It would be shipped back to this country. It would arrive at these shores cheaper than it does now, because under bulk buying we ship from Canada gross timber, and there is waste in freightage, in dollars, and in shipping space.
I come to the next material, which is cement. Before the war we used two and a half tons to four and a half tons on a house. Now we use eight and a half tons, and 100,000 houses would require, at the present extravagant rates, something like 850,000 tons. The first way in which I should tackle the cement problem would be to effect economies, and I think if economies were effected 609 most of the cement we require would be saved. I go so far as to say that it could be saved by the advice of the excellent memorandum prepared by the Minister of Works, if it were carried out by other Government Departments. When we were in the Army we learned that it was not enough to give orders and instructions, but that one must see that they were carried out.
The Minister of Works has got two excellent pamphlets out, one on the saving of cement on houses and the other on saving cement on civil engineering works, and so on; but, in point of fact, no other Government Department is taking the slightest notice of them. Let me read a quotation from the memorandum regarding houses. It says:The applications of the recommendations should result in the use of not more than 6 to 7½ tons of cement.… This recommended range is considerably below the average of the cement actually specified in the bills of quantities examined.In other words, six tons to seven-and-half tons would be used, and we are using eight-and-a-half tons. I know for a fact that it is still being carried on, because some local authorities are issuing bills of quantities on 1890 specifications, based on 1890 cement and 1890 building techniques—in the year 1950, when cement is very much better in quality and building techniques are very much better than they were 60 years ago.
My view is that most of the cement could be saved and we must remember that increased timber stocks would automatically make a great saving in cement. For example, a solid concrete floor takes a ton of cement, but if timber is used for part of the flooring, there would be an automatic saving in cement.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Aneurin Bevan) indicated assent.
§ Mr. Marples
The Minister nods his head. All I can ask is, why have they not carried out these economy measures? I hope this debate will not degenerate into the normal rough and tumble we have had with the Minister of Health on previous occasions. I say so, because I believe this problem is far too serious for that kind of thing and if I address myself to some serious arguments, I expect that when the right hon. Gentleman replies he will deal with those arguments on their merits. If we cannot get enough 610 cement from the actual savings, the expected annual increase in cement for 1951–52, or a very small proportion of it, will be sufficient to build the houses without impinging in any way on the export of cement, but the export of cement can be kept in reserve as a cushion and in that way there should be no difficulties in regard to cement.
Now I come to the question of bricks. A house requires 20,000 bricks—that is a rather extravagant estimate—which means 2,000 million bricks for 100,000 houses. The output of the industry is now 6,000 million, but pre-war it was 8,000 million. I would suggest two methods for overcoming the brick shortage. The first suggestion is one of economy where bricks are employed in parts of the house where it is not necessary to use bricks, in internal walls where breeze blocks and other materials would be just as suitable. I am sorry that the Lord President of the Council is not in his place. If he tours his constituency of South Lewisham he will find that a direct labour scheme is being spoiled by using bricks on internal partitions. The first method is to economise on the use of bricks by using such suitable substitute materials as are available where it is technically possible.
The second method is by increased production, which I think is the key to the whole of the building materials problem. Labour is the limiting factor. The capacity is virtually the same as it was prewar. I am allowing for the fact that some old yards have dropped out of existence, but the present larger yards, with increased mechanisation and greater efficiency, make the capacity about the same. The raw material of clay is the same while, to a large extent, the coal is the same, although perhaps it is not of the same quality. I estimate that we require 5,000 additional workers in the brickyards to give the extra production needed for another 100,000 houses.
I wish to make two suggestions on how this could be done. If necessary we could allocate, or consider allocating, more houses to the local authorities in whose areas there are brickyards, because mobility of labour is grievously affected by lack of housing. I make the suggestion because it is easier and cheaper to build a house next to a brickyard, than to build it elsewhere. A brick 611 doubles in price if taken 100 miles. Therefore, it would be reasonable that houses should be built next to brickyards in order that the workers can be housed. [Laughter.] I do not see what is wrong with that suggestion and if the hon. Member opposite wishes to make any interjection, I will give way to him.
I hope that will provide the necessary labour to do the trick, but, if it does not, I would not exclude the possibility of getting in some foreign labour from Italy, where they have some quite good brickyard workers who are at the moment unemployed. I do not exclude it, although I would rather have British workers making British bricks. I was much impressed by what was said by the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) in moving the Address in reply to the King's Speech. He said that at the Chorley labour exchange they had to have an interpreter for 18 different languages. If they can do that at Chorley, I should think it not an unreasonable suggestion that some Italian labour should be brought over to help to provide the bricks.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
I am interested in the hon. Member's argument, because I have some brickworkers in my constituency. Would he address himself to the desirability of raising the wages of brickworkers and to the effect that would have upon production of bricks?
§ Mr. Marples
I am not responsible for the wage freeze and the hon. Member should put that question to his Front Bench. Secondly, there is the question of lack of confidence in the industry generally. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) will agree with me that the industry has had a difficult time in the last 10 years. During the war it was concentrated and after the war there was tremendous expansion. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about before the war?"] If we are to get interjections about what happened before the war it is highly unlikely that we shall be building the houses after the war.
Quite frankly, the lack of confidence in the industry is mainly due to the treatment it received at the hands of various governments. First it was concentrated and then, in 1946, it was expanded. The present Minister of Education, 612 whom I see in his place, went to the industry and indicated to them that every brick they produced could be used, but, six months later, in 1947, the headlines in the newspapers were, "Brickyards choked with millions of bricks." When the Minister of Education—who was then the Minister of Works—increased the production of bricks, he was not able to use them and there were 1,000 million bricks choking the yards, sufficient to build 50,000 houses, and production was slowed down. That was because of the extraordinary inconsistency with which the capital cuts were applied. Having been bitten once, brick makers are very shy at the moment and the only way to give them confidence is by a long term programme of five years, or, better still, 10 years, so that they can plan their work to produce bricks with a very smooth rhythm.
Having dealt with the raw materials of timber, cement and bricks, I hope that I have proved that there is no reason why those three materials should not be supplied in sufficient quantities to builders. I now come to the question of building labour. The Socialist Party ask, "From where are we to get the labour?" I believe there are two ways in which we can get the houses. The first is by increasing the output and the second by increasing the number of people in the industry.
Taking the question of increased output first, I would point out that the Minister of Works has carried out a works survey of payment by results in the direct labour schemes. Some 96 local authority schemes were examined and 83 showed an increased output of up to 43 per cent. and, on specific trades, the increase varied from 22 per cent. to 112 per cent. Finally, the report said:In some cases reduction of 25 per cent. on the labour costs were claimed representing over £100 per house.Our view is that payment by results is difficult to apply in the building industry. It is an intricate job and gives a headache to anyone in the industry. Both sides of the industry—and I speak as a member of one side now—will dodge the issue as long as they possibly can. I do not want to allocate blame to either side. I believe that it is six of one and half dozen of the other. It is up to politicians in this House to unite to express the will of the people and to get houses by creating a 613 public opinion which makes the two sides realise that they have to have payment by results whether they like it or not.
On the question of increasing the number of building workers, let us look at the monthly average employed on housing. It dropped from 264,000 in 1947 to 230,000 in 1950. In the last three years, there has been a steady drift away of labour from new house building to other types of building. Every hon. Member in this House knows that that is true. Every hon. Member knows of cases where that is so in his own constituency. That drift must now be stopped; it must be reversed. I do not care whether people are building Labour Clubs or Conservative Clubs—it ought to be stopped and the men ought to go back to building new houses.
§ Mr. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)
Will the hon. Gentleman tell us how he is going to do that without controls?
§ Mr. Marples
We do not need any more controls than we have already. We can perfectly easily build houses with the controls which we have.
Another method of getting labour could be explained by the Lord President of the Council. He got his labour for the Festival of Britain, and he got some of it by attracting it from the power station which I was helping to build on the other side of the Thames, by giving the workers higher wages. You can get them either by scheduling them under civil engineering or under building. Under one method you pay them a higher rate of pay or a higher rate of subsistence allowance whichever will attract the workers away.
I come now to the second method of increasing the number of workers in the industry. We claim that in 1950 education is much better than it was in 1910 and in 1890 under the wicked Tories and the rather wicked Liberals. But it still takes five years to train a craftsman. If education has improved to the extent claimed, surely it is possible in an emergency to train craftsmen in four years instead of five. It would be quite easy to do away with a lot of tea drinking and tea carrying. I put this forward as a practical suggestion. There will be resistance from both sides of the industry, but I think that in the interests of house building some pressure must be brought to bear.
614 As to the methods of marrying the labour and the materials to produce the houses that we require, my first point is that no single method will produce the houses. It must be a judicious selection and combination of a large number of methods. Perhaps I may be allowed to give some idea of how it can be done. My first heading is "Efficiency in the industry itself." At the present moment, it is running at 75 per cent. of pre-war. If we could get it back to 100 per cent. it would mean, in the words of "The Times," an extra 50,000 houses. I believe that nothing must stand in the way of getting that efficiency back to pre-war level. I am reinforced in that view by a speech made by the Minister of Works,—who has a vast Government Department behind him—when he said that "he saw no real difficulty in raising considerably the rate of house building without extra total cost in 1951." I support the Minister of Works in that statement. It can be raised considerably without any extra cost.
I now come to the first method of increasing efficiency, and it will raise a shout from benches opposite. The first thing that should be done in the industry to increase efficiency is to allow private enterprise to build more houses.
§ Mr. Manuel
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that practically every local authority is employing private enterprise to build houses?
§ Mr. Marples
There has been so much misconception on this issue that I shall take this opportunity of putting it right. The ordinary contracting firm builds in two ways. It builds either for a local authority under specification and contract, or it builds for itself, either to sell or to let. I have here a typical specification, which I shall refer to later and which a local authority sends out to a builder when it asks him to work for it. These are the main differences between a builder working for a local authority, whom I should like to call the contract builder, and the private enterprise man working on his own, whom I would call the private enterprise builder.
§ Mr. Manuel rose——
§ Mr. Marples
Let me finish my point, and if it is not clear I will willingly give way.
615 In the first case, the local authority has the status and the control. It is the boss and the builder is the servant. The initiative and the drive come from the local authority, and the private enterprise contractor does what he is told. When the private enterprise builder builds for himself, he uses his own initiative, his own planning, his own drive, and, what is more important, he suffers a penalty when he fails. The relationship is this: in the first case, the contract builder is the servant of the local authority. He works to a definition of duties, rigidly and comprehensively drawn up in large documents. In the other case, an ordinary bricklayer, who is perhaps a master builder, with some other people can build a house, using his own initiative. That is the main difference.
If the hon. Member for Central Ayrshire wants to know another difference, I will tell him. When a contract builder for a local authority starts to build a house, it is when it is politically desirable, not when it is economically desirable. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] The Minister of Defence, when he was Minister of Fuel and Power, came to a site, on which I was working, to lay the foundation stone. Everyone had to get a move on with that site, not to start operations, but to build up a foundation on which the right hon. Gentleman could lay the foundation stone. He laid the foundation stone, and as soon as his back was turned, after he had made his speech—a rare speech in which the insulted no one—the foundation stone was knocked down and men moved to another site. No private enterprise builder could afford to do that. If the hon. Gentleman wants to ask anything, I will give way.
§ Mr. Manuel
I do not know what the last observation of the hon. Gentleman has to do with building houses. I wanted to take him up on the question of specifications. He will agree that there are specifications in both types of houses which he has illustrated. Whether the specification for the private house, directly originated by the private builder, is the proper specification or not, I am not prepared to say. I say that there ought to be a standard of building, and that the standard ought not to be decided by the private builder erecting the house.
§ Mr. Marples
I quite agree; there is one. The standards are laid down when the local authority passes the plans, and the district surveyor is there to see that there is adherence to those standards. The hon. Member displays an appalling ignorance of the building industry, although I did not want my aggressiveness to come out on this occasion.
Therefore, the first thing we must have is more private enterprise. I am so tired of arguing this point that I suggest we do what was suggested in the housing debate of 12 months ago. Let us build 400 houses as an experiment. Let private enterprise build them, and let the Minister take them over and let or sell them, or do what he likes with them, and let there be a series of costing clerks on the job to see which method is the cheaper. If I am proved to be wrong, I will humbly apologise publicly, but if I am not, I suggest that we include this method in the building of houses. My second point is that payment by results must be increased. In 32 schemes, the Minister of Works reports a 27 per cent. increase in efficiency.
My last suggestion is that we should have a long-term programme of nontraditional houses, so that the inventive genius of our people can be got to work, which will not be the case if it is a short-term programme. The last programme of prefabricated houses was a short-term programme, and it failed because it was a short-term programme. The Minister is looking worried. He knows that when the capital investment cut was introduced, anyone engaged on producing permanent prefabricated houses had all his orders cut off.
§ Mr. Marples
That is exactly what I said—it was a short-term programme. I was saying that there should be a long-term programme. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman that my firm spent £80,000 on putting up a factory for the building of non-traditional houses, but that when it came to producing them all the orders were stopped and the plant and factory had to be sold. Does he think 617 that I, or anyone else, will go in for nontraditional houses on that basis? If he does, he has greater faith in human nature than I have.
I come to my second method, which concerns the type of houses. By that I mean whether the houses are to be of one, two or three bedrooms. We are still building houses of three bedrooms to an extent of over 50 per cent. of the total programme. I believe that, so far as the type of house is concerned, we should bear two considerations in mind.
First, we should have regard to the view of the people who are on the waiting lists. After all, they are interested parties who ought to have a great deal to say as to the size and type of house we build. It was Chesterton who said:The true idealist is a man who first asks what the other wants.I believe that the people on the waiting lists should be taken into consideration.
Second, we ought not to fall below the Dudley Committee recommendations. My view is that the present situation demands a far larger proportion of our building to be devoted to the requirements of old people—that is, to houses with two bedrooms. That, in itself, would create many more units. It would mean that we should get more houses, because these houses would be smaller in area. Also, we should be able to reduce the rents, which is a very important consideration these days. Further, people in large houses would move into smaller houses, thus enabling the larger houses to be let.
§ Mr. Marples
A relative of mine is living in a house which is 1,600 feet. She is a married woman, 60 years of age, and she wants to get a bungalow or flat and to let the other house, which is rent restricted. At present, she cannot move out of the house because the local authority will not accept her on the housing list as she already has a house.
§ Mr. Marples
I give the hon. Member my word that that is the position. She is a close blood relative of mine. I do not know whether or not it is a Tory council, although I do not think it can 618 be from the way they are behaving. This lady cannot get on the local authority housing list, nor can she get a permit to build a house.
§ Mr. Marples
This case concerns a relative of mine, and I have given the case as an illustration. I will not tell the hon. and learned Member where it is now, although I shall do so privately outside the House, as I do not wish to give the case publicity.
§ Mr. Turner-Samuels rose——
§ Mr. Marples
There should be greater freedom for the local authorities. York is not the same as Yeovil, and Brighton is not the same as London. If democratically elected local authorities express a strong desire to erect a large number of small houses instead of a small number of large houses, that request should be sympathetically considered, subject to the standards not falling below the recommendations of the Dudley Committee. The local authorities are much nearer the centre of the problem than centralised Whitehall. The wishes of the local authorities should be taken into consideration much more than at present.
Third, simple houses should be completed at once on the basis of adding any additional items later. These modern items of equipment do not always work very well. Those of us who have been in this Chamber during the last week know that to be the case; at one moment it is like being on the bridge of a destroyer, and the next moment it is like being in a brick kiln, although we know that everything will be adjusted later. So far as houses are concerned, some of these unnecessary items could be postponed until a more favourable moment. I shall give the House an example, although the Minister of Health has 619 already moved in this respect. The Gird-wood Committee, on page 15, paragraph 65, state:A second W.C. is now included on the advice of the Ministry of Health.I believe that a second lavatory and an outside tool shed are very desirable things.
§ Mr. Marples
Not only for the rich, but for everyone. But, taking a broad view of the country's position, I should have thought that at this moment we could leave this until later, when these additions can be made without any extra cost.
§ Mr. Marples
Certainly. The hon. Member has got me quite wrong. I may have been aggressive in places, but I do not care on which side the vested interest is, whether it be on the employer's or employee's side, or on the landlord's or the tenant's side. What I am saying is that we should be unanimous on both sides of the House in abolishing some of these restrictions. If we stop the lavatories and outside toolsheds it would mean we would have a row of 13 houses instead of a row of 12. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes, it would, because each costs £100. If hon. Gentlemen opposite object to that, they have to ask themselves whether they want to house 13 families with one lavatory each, or 12 families with two lavatories, leaving one family homeless. It is a choice of evils, and we must decide where the balance of advantage lies.
I have mentioned three matters which together would give us a considerable number of houses. I come to the last method, and that is the alteration of priorities. In balance that must come, in our view, from altering the social priorities. We believe that housing is the first social priority, subject only to the overriding needs of defence. We must decide on those priorities according to the position at a particular time. When they are decided upon they must be adhered to and not altered. They must be decided in relation to the building programme as a whole. For example, it is no use cutting out a social 620 industry which does not use the materials and the labour that are wanted in house construction. Cuts must be selective according to the method, building and construction that is going on.
In that respect I should like to quote one other example—I believe that some of the building we are carrying out in our capital investment programme could be cut without injuring that programme. I refer to power stations. I believe we ought not to have a single unit of electricity less than we are having now. If anything we want more. The civil engineering work and the electrical equipment on power stations ought, if anything, to be increased, not reduced. We ought not, however, to be building "cathedrals" to house our power stations. In America they build power stations, and leave them in the open. They do not put anything round them. In this country some of the building work above ground, some of the superstructure is far too extravagant and far too expensive. If the Minister wants any private information on that I am quite prepared to give it to him afterwards.
§ Mr. Marples
Yes. I want to make it quite clear that it applies to anything—Government offices, cinemas or anything taking materials which should be used for housebuilding. It includes Labour Clubs, Conservative Clubs, Liberal Clubs or whatever they may be. These should be cut out. [Laughter.] When hon. Members opposite ask for constructive sugestions apparently they do not want them. We are asked to make suggestions and when we give chapter and verse, hon. Members opposite jeer and criticise. What we on these benches want is not any violent controversy. [Laughter.] At least, I do not. I want the right hon. Gentleman, when he replies, to answer some of my points chapter and verse.
After being fairly constructive there are two points of criticism I should like to make, because, after all, this is, in effect, a vote of censure. The first is concerned with the number of houses built, and the second with the cost of those houses. What are the net additions to our stock of houses? Two factors to be taken into consideration are obsolescence on one hand, which is reducing the stock, and on 621 the other hand, the new houses built, which is adding to the stock. The Minister of Health, in 1944, estimated that annually obsolescence accounted for 200,000 houses. He is now building, annually, slightly fewer than 200,000. Therefore, we are not making the slightest dent at all in our housing problem. The stock remains the same. No slum clearance has been affected, and as far as I can see, we are not in new houses replacing the war damage; we are not replacing even the obsolescence which takes place. I believe that the Government are being complacent and lack drive and energy in this respect.
One of the last points of criticism concerns costs. This has to do with the Minister of Health—if I could have his attention for a moment—for in 1945 his intention was to bring costs down. I was a newcomer to the House, and I listened to the right hon. Gentleman making a very stirring speech on this matter. He said this:As a result of a tug-of-war that has been going on between the Ministry of Health and building contractors for the last four months, housing costs have been held and in some cases tenders are coming down.The right hon. Gentleman was asking at the time for £100 million, and he added… by the same scientific organisation of material supplies we shall progressively reduce the costs of building.He said later:We are going to be judged by results."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th November, 1945; Vol. 416, c. 1,000–1.]In the OFFICIAL REPORT it is recorded that Members said, "Hear, hear."
What are the results? Take the period between 1947 and 1949 on the Girdwood Committee figures. Costs came to £1,159 in 1947, and £1,321 in 1949. That is a 12½ per cent. rise in two years despite a reduction in the Ministry of Education Estimate. The right hon. Gentleman promised to reduce costs and he agreed to be judged by the results. Does he think that an increase in costs is implementing the promise he made? If not, what percentage increase does he consider constitutes failure? Costs, in my opinion, will rise further unless we get an adequate supply of building material.
I have taken longer than I ought to have taken. I have given some indication of the kind of measures which should have been taken much earlier. I hope 622 they will be taken now, and I hope the right hon. Gentleman or someone else will announce a new housing policy, thereby giving way to some of the pressure which comes from Government back benchers as well as from hon. Members on this side of the House. Anything that remains short of a long-term rate of 300,000 houses a year is, in our view, inadequate.
Our censure on the right hon. Gentleman is for building far too few houses, building too expensively, and building too late. I have sought to prove that 300,000 houses can be built, and unless these arguments can be knocked down, then a vote against the Amendment is a vote against the building of 300,000 houses a year. There is no technical reason, in my opinion, why these houses should not be built. I want hon. Gentlemen opposite to get this quite clear—we on these benches believe it can be done. We shall allow nothing to stand in the way of the houses being built, but the initiative, drive and example must come from the top—from those in power. We have one settled purpose which is to build these houses. I remember a quotation from Disraeli, with which hon. Members opposite do not probably agree. It is this:I have brought myself by long meditation to the conviction that a human being with a settled purpose must accomplish it; and nothing can resist a will which is prepared to sacrifice even its own existence in its fulfilment.We have that settled purpose, we have that will, and, given the opportunity, we shall build those houses.
§ Mr. McAdden (Southend, East)
I beg to second the Amendment.
As I was fortunate enough to have been able to express my views on this subject a few days ago, I will obey the injunction of Mr. Speaker that we should keep our speeches short, and will content myself merely with seconding the Amendment.
§ 4.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Gibson (Clapham)
All the way through the speech of the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) I wondered when he was coming to the subject of the Amendment. Right at the end of his speech he said that the Opposition wanted to reach a target of 300,000 houses a year. The hon. Member has had some practical experience of the building industry. I hope he will forgive me for saying that 623 he did not once attempt to explain how, assuming that his party were in office, they would build the extra 100,000 houses. He made a lot of minor suggestions for increasing output and for increasing the number of workers in the industry. One was to increase the number of apprentices and to reduce the training period to about four years; but that would not provide building trade operatives during the next four years. On his own argument, the apprentices would not be ready to build until they had had four years' training.
It is a fact that the reason the apprentices agreement, to which all the unions in the industry have agreed, is not being implemented is that the contractors will not take on the apprentices. Even in London, where we have done fairly well, there is a very great shortage of apprentices in all the trades to replace the natural wastage in the building industry. There are joint agreements and joint committees the purpose of which is to find apprentices to do this work, but the employers will not take them on in many cases. Understandably, it is a bad economic proposition. That is not the way to build these mythical, additional 100,000 houses.
Towards the end of his speech the hon. Gentleman said that this Amendment is a vote of censure. Hon. Members opposite would like the country to believe that they could do this extra building without impinging upon vital building operations in other directions. It is essential, therefore, that the country should know what has already been done. The impression which it is attempted to create in this debate is that very little has been done to build houses in this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Apparently there are Members of the Opposition who agree with that.
The facts were put into the hands of hon. Members only a few days ago in the Housing Returns for September, which showed that in Great Britain since the end of the war 1,259,729 families had been housed. [An HON. MEMBER: "In how many houses?"] That means that five million people have been housed. That is not bad for any Government in the provision of additional housing accommodation of one kind or another. If we 624 must not include requisitioned houses, bomb-damaged houses that have been repaired, and so on, we are left with a figure of 927,658 houses, which means that there were provided completely new permanent and temporary houses for a population of 3,700,000.
The fact is that this Government, although not doing as much as any of us would have liked in this direction, have already housed more than one million people each year since the end of the war. It is really too bad of hon. Gentlemen opposite to try to prove that the country is in an uproar. I remember the uproars which occurred after the First World War. I took part in them. I am sure that but for the terrific drive by local authorities, contractors and trade unions to provide additional housing accommodation we should have had a social outburst in this country long ago. The only people who do not realise the truth of that are Members of the Conservative Party in the British Parliament. Everybody else does. I should like to quote an American newspaper. In April last the "New York Herald Tribune" said:The British have perhaps the most successful housing record of the whole lot. Up to September 30, 1949, the British programme of subsidies had produced 556,000 permanent post-war dwellings and 171,000 temporary ones. Another 262,000 have been repaired or converted into dwellings from something else. Between September and the end of February this year, were added 250,000 permanent houses, bringing the post-war total well beyond the estimated 851,000 houses destroyed or badly damaged during the war.The hon. Member who moved the Amendment had the audacity to say that we were not catching up with the bomb-destroyed houses. We are well in front of the number of bomb-damaged and destroyed houses in this country. It is true to say, taking the country as a whole, that there are actually more houses in this land to day than there were in 1939. That is certainly true of London. Let me give some figures: In London we had 80,000 houses completely destroyed. We have built in one way and another, by permanent and temporary houses and by the repair of bomb-damaged dwellings, 165,000 houses in London since the end of the war. Excluding from that figure 80,000 houses destroyed, we find that there are actually 9,500 more houses in London now than there were before the 625 war. That is in addition to the fact that the population of London has dropped from 4¼ million to 3⅓ million.
§ Mr. Gibson
I am saying that the number of houses provided is so great that we have exceeded the number of houses which existed in London before the war. That is true of the whole country. When the Minister of Health makes a public speech in which he says that, he is speaking the truth.
It is not going to be easy, however, because the housing problem is not solved. Nobody has said that more frequently in this House than I have. No one has suggested from these benches that we have reached the end of the road and that there is not need for a very large number of houses still to be built. After all, 100 years of jerrybuilding and speculative building take some catching up with, and until we do that we shall always have a large number of houses to be built. I hope, therefore, that the House will realise that something has been done of a very considerable nature., and that whatever Government were in power, they would be entitled to credit for their work.
Why are the waiting lists so large? It is true that all over the country the waiting lists are still very large, and even larger than ever. They are larger than ever because the Labour local authorities, having control of housing in their areas, have kept their lists open, whereas the Tory local authorities between the wars closed their lists, making believe that there was no housing problem and giving a completely false impression. Who are the people on the lists? I agree with the hon. Gentleman that a very large number are young married people who are looking for homes, many of them living with "in-laws," with all the family troubles which that brings for most young families. There are still many families overcrowded. No one with any knowledge of the housing problem would dispute that.
But there are very many people on the waiting lists who are there because they want something better than the house in which they are living now and not because they are overcrowder or living with "in-laws." [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."]
626 Hon. Gentlemen opposite may not like that, but I meet my constituents once a week and I know what they tell me, and I also know what my experience has been in another connection. It is good that these people are on the lists. It is one of the by-products of full employment. People can afford to go to a better house and pay a little more in travelling expenses or a little more in rent. I hope that we shall not attempt to close the lists but will go on increasing the output of houses.
I will show some of the ways in which it can be done. I think that from what I have said the House will agree that I am very concerned that there should be a substantial increase in the number of houses built. How are we to do it? At the moment every operative in the building industry is employed. We cannot fill the gaps with men who are unemployed as we did between the wars, when 14 per cent. of the building trade operatives were often out of work. We must, therefore, come to some decision as to priorities. The hon. Member for Wallasey dodged the question entirely. We must decide whether we are to have fewer schools so that a few more men may build houses. Are we to have fewer power stations? The hon. Member did not suggest that we should not build power stations; he wanted them to be less artistic. I have looked at some of the power stations and I am afraid that I do not agree with his view that they are very artistic. However, that would not produce any more bricklayers.
We have to decide whether we wish to continue building factories which produce goods for export. Unless hon. Gentlemen who support the Amendment are prepared to deal with that point, they are not facing the issue, and unless they do that, the Amendment stands condemned as a piece of pure political camouflage which is an attempt to mislead the people of this country. It will, no doubt, be given further publicity in the Tory newspapers during the weekend.
In order to get an additional 100,000 houses, the Tory Party must find an additional 125,000 building trade operatives. Experience shows that if we are to build a house in between nine and 11 months, we need something like one and a quarter men per house. Are those men 627 to be taken from the building of schools, special schools, factories and health centres?
§ Mr. Gibson
Are we to stop these operations in order to release the men to build a few more houses? If so, we must face the fact that the economic interests of the country are bound to suffer for a year or two. Unless hon. Members face that, they are not being honest with the electorate or with their own party. This is what "The Times" says. I do not suppose that hon. Members opposite love the editorial which "The Times" published on this subject, but it ought to be repeated. This is what was said in "The Times" on 17th October:So great an expansion of house building, to be sustained 'over a period of years,' would, indeed, be difficult to achieve. It was not attained after the 1914–18 war until 1933"—When we argue about the period just after the First World War, we get sneers from the Opposition. Of course, they will not sneer at "The Times." It is "The Times" which says that it took 15 years after the First World War to build up to anything like the 300,000 mark. "The Times" goes on:and it is doubtful whether there is any early prospect of returning to the conditions which made possible the housing boom of the 1930s."The Times" wound up the editorial by saying:In short, the Opposition have not yet found a completely realistic alternative to the Labour policy of strict regulation, discouragement of private building, and disregard of the difficulties caused by rent control and subsidies. There can be no abrupt winding up of all controls, nor can there be any firm pledge that a much larger volume of house building, or a substantial reduction of costs, can be achieved, except gradually over a lengthy period and in favourable economic conditions.That is exactly what some of us have been saying in this House for a long time. It is quite unreal for the Opposition to put down an Amendment of this kind asking for a target of 300,000 houses without at the same time telling us what other building work they would stop.
628 I agree with the hon. Member for Wallasey that there are at least two methods by which output can be increased. The last time I had the honour of speaking on this subject in the House I argued—I still believe I was right—that it would be possible to increase the number of houses being built without increased capital cost. I gave some facts to show how that was possible. But I am sure that unless the industry itself carries out the recommendations made by the Productivity Council, it will never reach anything like the degree of efficiency which the hon. Member said it ought to reach. I do not propose to quote all the recommendations of that Council, but one or two are so important that they ought to be mentioned briefly. On page 64, the Report reads:The attention of the general contractor, and of all others concerned, is drawn to the following recommendations, aimed at the improvement of contract organisation … constructional work should not be started until the organisation of the job has been worked out to the most advanced stage possible.I know from experience how difficult it sometimes is to get contractors to do that.
§ Mr. W. J. Taylor (Bradford, North) rose——
§ Mr. Gibson
I am afraid that I cannot give way. The Report goes on:General and positive use should be made of simplified time and progress schedules, which should be circulated widely throughout the job.The last few words are very important. The men on the job must know what are the time and progress schedules to which they are working. The Report also says:The encouragement of the maximum economic use of mechanical aids of all descriptions, and the wider spreading of information appraising the merits of machinery and plant available.I believe that a wide extension of the use of these kinds of mechanical aids in the British building industry would substantially increase the output of all kinds of building—not only housing—and reduce the overall capital cost. Until the industry is prepared to adopt these recommendations in the widest sense, it will never reach the stage of efficiency it should.
I want also to plead for the operation of incentive bonus schemes. The hon. Gentleman referred to this, but was dubious about the possibilities. He suggested 629 that both sides of the industry were responsible for the fact that bonus schemes are not as widely operative as they might be. That is true in the part of England he comes from, but it is not true over the rest of the country. The unions have been ready and willing to apply bonus schemes, and in London in particular have done so with great success. The London County Council on its own building works has had an increase of output of over 40 per cent. since the end of 1947, while at the same time increasing the earnings of the operatives by between 20 per cent. and 30 per cent. In spite of the increased earnings, and because of the increased output, they are getting a reduction of £68 in the labour cost of every house built. I believe the widest possible extension of that would produce more houses at a cheaper rate.
It is being done in other parts of the country. In a recent issue of "Housing," there was an article by the building works manager of the Wolverhampton Corporation showing that the building of both houses and flats can be carried out at a cheaper overall cost by joint consultation with the men on the site while paying them more wages. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that, if we can succeed in getting a successful bonus scheme going, we can reduce charges.
§ Mr. Marples indicated assent.
§ Mr. Gibson
In the case of the Wolverhampton scheme, they have reduced their overhead charges from 27.25 to 25 per cent. Therefore, the industry must be encouraged to adopt the incentive bonus scheme as widely as possible. It is the laggards in the employers' organisation who have not taken it up. It requires some close attention and a little more staff in the office to set it going but, if they will do it, they will get a larger output, more satisfied building operatives, and the housing problem of this country will soon be solved, though I do not expect to see it solved during the next five or 10 years.
If the Opposition decide to force this Amendment to a Division, we ought to be told before we vote, which of these other building projects they propose to cut out in order to provide the necessary labour to do the job. The hon. Gentleman talked a good deal about material. The material can be found. If we cannot get 630 timber, there are alternatives, as some of us know from experience. But if we had all the material that the hon. Gentleman dreamed of, and did not get the extra labour force, we could not increase output. Therefore, we have to solve this key difficulty of providing labour, and in view of the present position we can only do so by stopping the building of other urgent projects.
It was interesting to note that recently the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton) said:We cannot do everything at once. We may have to do with fewer technical colleges;"—Is that the policy of the Opposition?—we may have to postpone the educational programme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1950; Vol. 480, c. 327.]Is that the policy of the Opposition?
§ Mr. Gibson
That is exactly what hon. Gentlemen opposite did with the Fisher Act; they passed a beautiful Act of Parliament and then refrained from implementing it. Fortunately, this time the Butler Act has got through and we are carrying it out. Unless we are prepared to spend money on building the necessary schools, particularly technical schools, this country will never be able completely to overcome its economic difficulties.
I believe that the output of the industry can be increased by the application of brains to it, by the adoption of new methods, by increasing the use of machinery. If we had half the horsepower on our sites that the Americans have, we would increase output tremendously. Output can be increased by efficient site organisation, by incentive schemes, and by bringing the operatives fully into joint consultation over all that goes on at the site. If that is done, we can secure the co-operation of all sides of the building industry, which will lead to an increase in the number of houses built, but it cannot be done by trickery and what I regard as deceitful slogans such as that which the Conservative Party have adopted.
§ 5.7 p.m.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George (Anglesey)
The hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) has spoken with intimate knowledge of the building industry. I should 631 like also to congratulate the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples) on what I think we would all agree was a distinguished Parliamentary performance. He, too, has an intimate knowledge of his subject, though not exactly from the same standpoint as that of the hon. Member for Clapham. He spoke with considerable moderation and made a plausible, although from my point of view not a convincing case.
There is not one of us who does not believe that broken homes, ill-health and misery, caused by the shortage of houses and the bad slum conditions in our cities and villages does not constitute today a challenge to all political parties and also to this House. The more desperate the housing situation becomes the more urgent is it that we should make housing a top priority in our social services, and the more vital does it become that we should use all methods, orthodox and unorthodox, to solve it at the earliest possible moment. But it also becomes equally important to see that we do not raise the hopes of the people who are waiting in the queues unless we are absolutely convinced that we have the resources and the materials available to provide the houses and to reach the target which we set ourselves.
What is this target which has been put before us today? In the Debate a year ago the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) said he would give us the Conservative policy on housing in a single sentence. The Conservative Conference at Blackpool this year went one better and gave it to us in a shout—from the floor. As a result we have today this Amendment in which the party above the Gangway gives a guarantee and a pledge to the country that it will build 300,000 houses a year. At least a minimum—I think that was the phrase—of 300,000 houses a year.
It may be good electioneering—I am not even sure of that—but I still remain unconvinced after the adroit and persuasive speech of the hon. Member for Wallasey that it is a target which it is not difficult, perhaps impossible, to achieve in present circumstances. The hon. Member made many constructive suggestions, but they do not add up to an additional 100,000 houses a year. The hon. and 632 gallant Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) said at the conference at Blackpool that what he wanted his party to do was to quote a figure which the electorate could grasp. What is really wanted, if I may say so, is a target figure we can reach in the circumstances of today.
I should like to look at this target of 300,000 houses and to measure it by the yardstick of what was actually achieved before the last war. The average number of houses produced in the 20 years before the war was 200,000 houses a year—that is, at the rate at which we are building today.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman; that strengthens my case. In fact, the average number of houses built before the war was less than the number which are being built today. Even in the peak year of building before the war—1937—only 347,000 houses were built.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
I am open to correction, but I think that if the right hon. and gallant Gentleman checks the figure he will find that in 1937 it was 347,000 houses.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
If the noble Lady is speaking of the peak figure she will find, I think, that she has omitted Scotland, and that the figure of 200,000 which has been given is the figure for England and Scotland.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
If I was omitting Scotland I quite agree that it was a serious omission and one which I could not possibly hope to get away with.
I accept, then, the figure which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has given of 367,000. But those houses were built in circumstances very different from today. I will give the right hon. and gallant Member those extra 20,000 if only he will take into account the different circumstances. There was then no shortage of materials; there were over 100,000 building operatives out of work. We were 633 spending £197 million on armaments, instead of over £1,000 million as we are faced with spending today. In 1937 there were no restrictions and no licence system. The building industry was free to build to its heart's content as many jerry-built houses to the acre as it possibly could—and how it packed them in! In fact, there were all the conditions which the hon. Member for Wallasey and his party say, if they were restored today, would enable them to accelerate to an enormous extent the amount of building. Despite favourable conditions of those pre-war years, the Tory Party say that they could build to within 60,000 houses of that target in the conditions of today.
There was one thing which the hon. Member for Wallasey never mentioned, from the beginning to the end of his speech, and that was the international situation of today. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes, he did."] He did not take into account the conflicting——
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
The hon. Member certainly said "subject to defence," but I do not think he made any reference to the worsening international situation. I do not know whether in the face of all these conflicting claims of defence and of the export trade, and particularly in face of the international situation, which has become much more grim in the last 48 hours, the party above the Gangway still adhere to their pledge and guarantee of 300,000 new houses a year.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
The hon. Member says, "Yes." His party are going to adhere to that target without regard to the new commitments to the number of new factories which may have to be built to meet the new defence commitments which may be imposed upon us in an increasing degree. I am very glad, however, to know their intentions.
How do the party above the Gangway propose to achieve this new target figure? The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) explained the new Conservative policy to the delegates in Blackpool on the night before the target 634 was fixed. He said that the keynote of that policy was that, "We cannot do everything at once." That is a very admirable expression of opinion, and admirably suits the sanity of the right hon. Gentleman. But that is not what we have had today from the hon. Member for Wallasey.
We are told that there are to be no cuts. There was a time when we were told about cuts in capital expenditure—we were told that they were absolutely vital, and must be effected without delay. What we have now, however, is not a cut—it is an increase in capital expenditure. The economics of the policy have not yet been explained to us. I hope we shall hear more about that before the end of the Debate. Where is the additional expenditure to come from? From a cut in the schools or in the hospitals programmes? That is what the House is entitled to know if it is to be asked tonight to accept this target of an extra 100,000 houses.
But this is not only a matter of capital expenditure. As everyone knows, and as the hon. Member for Wallasey has already said, shortages apply an even greater limiting factor upon the housing programme than does expenditure. He spoke about timber. He said that there is plenty of timber, and sawn timber, in the world, but he did not tell us exactly from where we were to get the supplies. I am told, for instance, that France has stopped exports of softwoods and hardwoods and that Austria has practically shut down on exports. The new tax in Sweden, I am told, will, for the moment at any rate, stop shipments and supplies from Yugoslavia are coming through very slowly. Where are these additional supplies to come from?
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
I wonder. Hon. Gentlemen will no doubt say that we should get them from the dollar areas.
The hon. and gallant Member for Pollok said, I think, that this extra 100,000 houses would cost only £11 million more in terms of dollars. Are they still going to do everything at once? What about all those other little dollar accounts for additional newsprint and for more food supplies? Have they too been cut out of the policy of the Conservative Party? Have they abandoned those claims? Or do those small sums which 635 we need not bother about, but which will add up to a formidable total, which this country will have to face, still stand?
When I listen to some of these speeches of hon. and right hon. Members of the Opposition it seems to me that they are accusing the Government of failure in their housing programme on doctrinal grounds. There is the sort of suggestion that if they had been in power they would have adopted some very different policy from the outset. But I am not so sure. I do not think they can get away with that one either, because when in 1945 Mr. Willink, who was then Conservative Minister of Health, made the position of his party quite clear, what did he say? He said:The Government must control the private work—building and repair and decorative work done on private account—the Government must control the price of materials, standard components, and fittings for houses."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd March, 1945; Vol. 409, c. 1020.]There was not very much free enterprise about that.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
I know it was six years ago, but that was the policy they were going to adopt in the post-war period——
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
That was in the days when the Conservative Party was responsible for the practical job of building houses, and not engaged in building sand castles in the heady air of Blackpool. I say that in fact the Minister of Health has been surprisingly orthodox in his housing policy—sometimes too orthodox for me. If he had been as revolutionary in his actions as he has been in his speeches I think that some of the criticisms from this side of the House might have been justified; and I am not sure that we might not have had more houses. But his bark has been worse than his bite.
The Conservative Party have made it quite clear that they have abandoned what I call the Willink policy, and they are now back to a free industry, subject only to the limitation that in future no house should exceed a maximum, I do not quite know 636 what the maximum is. I think it is a financial maximum, the limit that they may spend upon the house. That would mean a free for all. It would mean a preponderance of houses for sale; and it would mean a jolly poor look out for the workers who cannot afford to buy a house. We on these benches want to make it clear that, as far as we are concerned, the first priority is to provide houses for rent, for those whose need is by far the greatest, for those whose need is by far the most poignant, and for those whose needs were the least satisfied in the years between the wars.
There are one or two things which I should like to raise with the Minister. This fixed target cannot be accepted, but we nevertheless believe that the number of houses can be increased. We should like to see the first priority in civil building most definitely given to housing. I do not think we are assured of that today. Many cases have been raised to illustrate it. The hon. Member for Liverpool, Exchange (Mrs. Braddock) mentioned a £35,000 licence given for a dance hall. There are many Government buildings of a rather sumptuous character going up; I do not know whether such buildings are releasing additional accommodation. We have heard from the hon. Member for Wallasey about clubs being erected. I have been informed—I hope it is not true—that a licence has been granted for the renovation of the Carlton Club—if I may say so, a difficult task at any time——
§ Mr. Bossom (Maidstone) rose——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Colonel Sir Charles MacAndrew)
If the hon. Lady does not give way the hon. Gentleman must resume his seat.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
I am quite sure the Minister would agree with me that this is work of a non-essential character.
§ Mr. Bossom
On a point of order. Unfortunately, the hon. Lady has made a misstatement. It is entirely untrue to say that the Carlton Club has been granted such a licence.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
It is within the recollection of the House that I said I had been informed that such was the case. I have not stated it as a fact. The hon. Gentleman can see it in HANSARD tomorrow, if I am incorrectly informed, nothing could give me greater pleasure.
We believe that number of houses could be increased if there were an improvement in administration. We would like to see Ministry of Works and Building established. I think it would make for greater efficiency if those two functions could be under one roof, and we should welcome the adoption of such a proposal. After all, ever since the First World War it has become the practice, carried on by successive Governments, that whenever a matter is top priority in this country, it becomes the single function of one Department of State. I believe that housing has now most certainly reached that stage.
I hope that the Minister will examine the question of restrictive practices, from whatever quarter they come. I hope he will use his persuasive eloquence, of which he has an abundance, to put over incentive schemes in the building industry. Where they have been tried they have been extremely successful. Where they have been tried they have rarely, if ever, been abandoned. I hope he will look at that. In conclusion, I say that we on these benches are not satisfied with the present housing programme. Who is? We certainly believe that with incentive schemes, if licences are withheld for non-essential work, and—housing for the people becomes priority 1A, with greater co-ordination of administration, a greater number of houses could be built. But that is very different from accepting a firm target of 300,000 houses in present circumstances, which the party above the Gangway proposes to do.
The Amendment which has been moved today is not so much a vote of censure on the Government as a vote of confidence in the Conservative Party. But I should find that an insuperable difficulty anyway. Let us make no mistake about it; all those who vote for this Amendment tonight are pledging themselves to a target of 300,000 houses. All those who vote for 638 it are expressing their conviction that these 300,000 houses could be provided by a Conservative administration. That I cannot and will not do.
§ 5.31 p.m.
§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Aneurin Bevan)
I had hoped that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition would attach sufficient importance to the Amendment to move it himself, but the right hon. Gentleman undoubtedly felt himself under a slight disability because, as all the House knows, he knows little or nothing about the subject. Indeed, it is evident that the whole Opposition Front Bench, by their own admission, were incapable of opening this Debate. Indeed, in the last five years—there are hon. Members sitting opposite who have not had our experience—we have had a whole host of opening batsmen from the Opposition on housing, and they have now all abandoned the field. They have left it to the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), who is able at least to use the nomenclature of the building industry accurately, even if he is a little blurred about the principles.
Let me try, if I can, to trace the origin of this Amendment, because the curious thing about this Debate, both in the House of Commons and in the journals and newspapers outside, is that it is not the Government housing programme which is on trial but the Opposition's. "The Times," the "Economist," journal after journal, after hearing of this target, have been asking how the target is to be achieved, and we have all been listening very carefully to what has been said in order to learn.
Of course, it was not at first a target—oh, no! I have before me a very vivid description of the scene at Blackpool. I have been present at many party conferences, and have taken part in a few. I read this with considerable interest. I have extracted this report from a newspaper which I am quite certain would not he challenged by the Opposition as being friendly to the Labour Party. It is the "Daily Graphic." It states:After the speeches, the acting chairman, Mrs. Lorne Sayers, put the motion and an Amendment which did not include the figure of 300,000.Immediately the 4,000 people in the hall began to chant 'We want 300,000.' The chant rose to a great swelling roar.639Then Lord Woolton stood up and raised his hands above his head. 'This is magnificent.' he said. 'You want the figure of 300,000 put in?' One lone voice piped up with 400,000.''Those of us on the platform,' said Lord Woolton, 'would be very glad to have such a figure as 300,000 put in.'Then another lone voice shouted: 'A minimum of 300,000.'Immediately they all shouted: 'A minimum.'A very obedient conference, I am bound to say. I hope that the Lord President of the Council will note how docile the conference was. They all said the same thing.
Then, of course, after this, the minimum figure of 300,000 was withdrawn. It has now become a target. Now, in the language of the Amendment, they are to work up towards it. It was 300,000, it then becomes a target, and now they are going to work up towards it. When the right hon. Gentleman comes to speak, as I understand he is to do, at the end of the Debate, will he tell us when the Opposition propose to reach the 300,000? Has he any idea of it, and if it is a target, how does he propose to aim at it, because if one selects something as a target then one tries to aim; otherwise, it is not a target? I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman a number of questions because if he is to make this a target it is necessary that he should select the necessary instruments to be able to achieve it. Does the right hon. Gentleman intend that there should be any proportion as between the capital investment on, say, power stations, schools, factories, hospitals and on housing?
In other words, is the licensing system to be retained? It is a very important question because at Blackpool the Opposition asked for the abolition of licences. If one is not going to canalise, to take steps to focus, to deny certain activities building materials and labour, then one cannot take an aim. One can only take an aim if one is accepting the obligations of attempting to canalise labour and building materials. In other words, one cannot have an aim or a target unless one has a licence because if one does not have a licence it ceases to be a target. It is only a prophecy. It is very important indeed that when the right hon. Gentleman speaks he should tell us, so that his party 640 may not be covered with turpitude, because, so far, all that we have been told, all that we have heard from the right hon. Gentleman, is that the Conservative Party proposes to solve the housing programme by setting the building industry free.
One does not set them free with a licence. A licence is not only a permission; it is a prohibition. It is not only an assurance that one person can do one thing; it is a denial to somebody else to do something else. So the first thing we want to know from the right hon. Gentleman is, is this a genuine target? If it is a genuine target, are we to have licences? In other words, is there to be an overall gross licence? That is to say, will the Conservative Party—if ever the country has the misfortune of seeing them back in office—make a distinction between that part of the building and engineering force devoted to houses and the other forms of building activity? If not, how does the right hon. Gentleman ensure that labour and building materials will not follow the highest rate of profit?
As a matter of fact, we have it on the authority of the right hon. Member for Aldershot (Mr. Lyttelton). We had a very interesting speech from him last week, a speech which, in point of fact, is germane not only to this Debate today, but to the Debate tomorrow also, because this is only a special instance of a general case. The right hon. Gentleman said this, and I want to know from the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) whether this represents the social policy of the Conservative Party:The only way to find out what industrial production is likely to be profitable is to find out if people are willing to pay the price for putting up the plants which make the products. If the industrialist thinks that a 5 per cent. interest rate for borrowing his money will still leave him with a profit, the plants will be built, but the marginal capital investments will be discarded."—OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1950; Vol. 480, c. 332.]If there is no canalisation, if there is no plan, if there are no licences, if there are no controls, house building becomes a marginal capital investment. It has always been so. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) said, in a very able speech last week, it has always been the experience that capital has never flowed into 641 house building until it has failed to find profitable employment elsewhere—[HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense!"] It is no use hon. Members merely shouting that. They should study the facts. I deny, and anyone who has any knowledge of prewar house building, either here or in other countries, would deny, that we have ever had a substantial period of small house building until we reached the end of a boom in other forms of construction.
The question that remains is: Is this the policy of the Conservative Party? Is the use of our capital resources to obey the rate of profit? Because that is what the right hon. Member for Aldershot said last week. He said that he believed it was not possible to have planning in a free society—[Interruption.] That is what he said. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to plan house building? Is he? If he is going to plan it, is he going to abandon freedom? Does he believe that he can plan the target and still be free?
The right hon. Member for Aldershot does not think so. He sees nothing between the jungle and the prison house. If, therefore, the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) is to plan, is to aim at this target, he must overthrow his right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot. I know very well that the right hon. Member for Saffron Walden has overthrown him. We all know there has been this curious schizophrenia among the Opposition in existence all the time, and that the right hon. Gentleman has had very great embarrassment in trying to decide between the two. But so far, during the last five or six days, we have had two mutually opposing statements from the Opposition.
We have heard from the right hon. Member for Aldershot who says, "You can plan nothing. If you do you at once surrender your freedom and, therefore, the only sort of impulse that the distribution of national resources should obey is the impulse of a higher rate of profit." I say at once that if the Conservatives adopt the policy of setting the builder free, and if they do not have a system of licences, it is not 300,000 houses that they will get—they will not get 200,000, they will not get 100,000. All they will get will be housing riots. That is all it will be.
642 I can tell the right hon. Gentleman this, that if the policy which he has been advocating for five years had been followed, if this nation had had the misfortune of having him as Prime Minister in 1945 and if he had followed the housing policy he has been advocating up and down the country ever since, his Government would have fallen with ignominy from office, with housing riots all over Great Britain. Because what would have happened would have been that people with long purses would have bought houses. In fact, it is very doubtful whether houses would have been built at all, because they have not been in other countries that followed—if I may be allowed to say so—the "Churchill policy." As a consequence of having prevented him from being Prime Minister, we have therefore saved his reputation for history—and given him time for his memoirs.
No one in any part of this House who has any experience of the working conditions of the people in this country will deny the seriousness of the housing problem. And we do not require to be told about this seriousness by hon. Members opposite. We know a lot more about it than they do. As a matter of fact, when the Conservative leader said at Blackpool that, had it not been for the war, the Conservative policy would have wiped out slumdom, I should like to know how many slum landlords are contributing to the Woolton million.
I am quite certain that the slum landlords are not afraid of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman and his party. Indeed, in the meantime they have been enjoying the rents that Hitler conferred upon them. They have not denied them. They have been keeping them all the time, and probably used some of those rents to support the finances of the Conservative Opposition. The Opposition can easily dispute what I am saying by publishing their acounts. So I say that we are fully aware of the fact that this housing stringency is a very great burden and a source of unhappiness for hundreds of thousands of people. But is it more so than it was? Can hon. and right hon. Members suggest that the housing problem in Great Britain today is worse than it was before the war? They know very well that there is not a single statistic that will support that contention.
643 There are far more houses per head of the population today than there were in 1938—far more. If this be not the case, then I should like to hear from hon. Members opposite what the figures are. All the figures I have got, not only from my own sources but from sources entirely objective and international in character, show that the houses per head of the population in London and in almost every city, town and village in Great Britain, exceed what they were before the war. So that before the war the housing question produced an even greater amount of human misery than now.
What did the Tories do about it? In 1928 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford was Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Bishop of London made a report on overcrowding. In the course of an address at St. Martin's Ludgate Hill, he said:We have had a census taken of such places as Shoreditch, Hackney, and Chelsea. At Hackney the figures are astounding. There are 24,859 people living more than two in a room; 3,559 more than three in a room; 521 more than four in a room; 110 more than five in a room; 45 more than six in a room; 17 more than seven in a room, and nine more than eight in a room.The Bishop said he thought this state of affairs to be appalling. The natural cure for unemployment, he said, was emigration to the Colonies and he was sorry to say that the Church had not supported emigration as it ought to have done.
In that year, 1928, with those figures, with that sum of squalid misery, with the right hon. Gentleman as Chancellor of the Exchequer, there were more than 100,000 building workers out of work and 1,200,000 people out of work in the country as a whole. What did the right hon. Gentleman do? Did he set them to work building more houses? Are the techniques of building better than they were? The hon. Member for Wallasey reminded us this afternoon that they had hardly improved at all; so we had the same techniques then as we have now. But these hundreds of thousands of people overcrowded in slums could not make their demands known. They were too poor to make their demands known. They were unemployed and, because they could not clamour, because they were not insistent, because they did not have the 644 necessary political power at that time, the right hon. Gentleman was indifferent.
But now, by putting the people in work, by raising their standards, they are able to demand a home. The causes of the housing problem in Great Britain today are the higher social standards of the people. Therefore, it does not lie in the mouth of the right hon. Gentleman or of his hon. Friends to reproach us on this side of the House for the fact that there are still large numbers of people who are in need of a home of their own.
The hon. Member for Wallasey has had experience in the building industry. When he opened the Debate, he told us that he believed that the highest priority, next to defence, was housing. Why has he deserted housing, then? He is a builder. He reproached me for the fact that I had not given sufficient assistance to unorthodox prefabricated building, and that his firm had had to abandon it. He abandoned it because, unfortunately, the hon. Member has not got enough enterprise, enough industry or foresight.
As he was so anxious to reproach me, I will give the House the facts. These are not facts about his private life. I think that his private life and his private affairs should be left untouched: so should mine. In his speech he said, quite rightly, that one of the illustrations he was using was about a close blood relation, and he felt—and everybody agreed with him—that his relatives ought not to be dragged into politics. Neither should mine. But the scurrilous newspapers upon which that lot—those on the Opposition benches—depend have seen fit in the course of the last few months to persecute people who are not associated at all, either with me or with anyone else, in my public activities. They should be ashamed of themselves for some of the things that their rotten newspapers have been doing.
I want to come to the hon. Member, because no one has, in his public activities, so clearly shown that he does not attach the first priority to housing as the hon. Member. He was engaged in housing——
§ Mr. Bevan
Yes, but I must give the facts to the House so that they will know the depths of hypocrisy to which the 645 Opposition descend. The hon. Member was director of a firm called Kirk and Kirk. They were interested in a house called the B.S.C. house—the British Steel Construction house, or Smith's system. This system is still operating satisfactorily at Wednesbury, Birmingham, and Cannock after the hon. Member has left them. He had so little confidence in the future of this house that he abandoned it and went into building power stations. In other words, he abandoned his priorities to follow his right hon. Friend the Member for Aldershot. He followed the higher rate of profit and abandoned house building, although we were in fact subsidising his house by £50 per house. What was his complaint today?—that we did not go on subsidising it. But, after he has left them, his colleagues are building the house satisfactorily in competition with traditional building, whereas he is building power stations. Those are the hon. Member's priorities.
The fact is that what he required from us was a guaranteed programme. Here is the one who fully believes in private enterprise. Here is the champion of speculative building. Here is the one who says, "Let's take a chance." This is the individual whom the Opposition put up to move their Amendment. This is the one. It was not sufficient for him to do what he is now recommending the whole building industry to do; that is, produce houses competitively and take a chance. No, he wanted from the Ministry of Health a guaranteed programme and subsidy, in addition to the ordinary subsidy, of £50 per house. This is the man who poses as an authority on house building. If the hon. Member wishes to deny any of these facts, I will sit down.
§ Mr. Marples
The firm of Kirk and Kirk never built a single house. They built a factory costing about £80,000 at Thurrock for producing prefabricated houses. Orders were to be given by the Ministry of Health, and, on the verbal assurance of one of the right hon. Gentleman's officials, we built that factory. When it came to orders, we were told that there was a cut in capital expenditure, and there would be no houses.
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Member is entirely inaccurate. It happens that the Ministry of Health do not put out contracts for building houses. That is the hon. Member's first major inaccuracy. The 646 Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Works sponsor certain systems of construction as being technically desirable, recommending them to local authorities, and the contracts are placed by the local authorities. Therefore, it was not possible for the Ministry of Health finally to have given any such guarantee. It was not done with the B.I.S.F. house. There were 35,000 houses built by the British Iron and Steel Federation and it was not done there. It was not done with the Airey houses, of which 20,000 have been built. The only guaranteed housing programme by a Government Department since the war was the temporary house programme. All the others had been put out to contract by the local authorities.
The hon. Member had such little faith in the future of the house which he was sponsoring that he deserted it, but now the houses have been built. So much for the hon. Member's reputation as a house-builder. Of course, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition laughs. There is no Tory who ever makes any correspondence between public and private morality. They always think they can privately abuse and distort what they publicly utter.
The hon. Member for Wallasey, in his speech, made a number of what he called constructive suggestions. What he succeeded in doing was to take up almost everything that we have been doing and state it from the benches opposite. For example, he spoke about the brick industry and said what we should do in 1950. This is the brainwave which he has had, this is the inspiration, this is the great built-up—that we should get Italians into the brickworks. We have had Baits, Italians, Poles, Lithuanians, Esthonians, Latvians—we have had practically every race under the sun since 1945—and that is the only contribution which the hon. Gentleman can make.
This is in order to mobilise the labour resources of a private enterprise industry, but we have had to do it—not hon. Gentlemen opposite, or the industry's profit-making, private enterprise people, who saw the whole of the building programme of Great Britain before them as a great opportunity and were too lethargic or unenterprising. We had to kick them into action, and mobilise the labour force for them. The same thing is true of other parts of the industry. In 1945, 1946 and 647 in 1947, we had to inject confidence into the building industry by placing stock orders and bulk orders of various kinds. Hon. Members opposite do not seem to realise that, if we had not placed these bulk orders, we would not have had the building materials.
The hon. Member opposite has now become an authority on softwood buying. He is going to do two things at one and the same time. He is going to step into the world softwood market competitively, and let them all loose on it—all these international buyers of timber are to be let loose on it—to do stockpiling and, at the same time, keep the prices of timber down. That is a remarkable operation. This is a business man. One of the causes of rising prices in the world at the present time is the stockpiling which is being done by the United States. But the hon. Member—and this is the pillar upon which the Opposition are going to rest their additional 100,000 houses—is going to step into the market, buy for stock, keeping up a stockpile, and for current building requirements, and the prices are going to fall. I have never heard a more absurd statement.
I want to ask a further question about stockpiling and softwood timber. I want to know from the Opposition whether they are going to limit the number of standards to be consumed in a house. Is that the hon. Gentleman's proposal? Is there to be any limitation by licences? Is the builder to be allowed to consume as much softwood as he likes. It is very necessary to have answers to these questions. It is no use asking the Leader of the Opposition, because he would not know enough about it, though I will admit that the hon. Member does know. Is there to be licensing for timber? I will sit down if the hon. Member wishes to interrupt. So, if there are to be no licences, it is to be free. Is the builder to be allowed to use what amount of softwood he likes? In that case, the 11 million dollars spoken of by the right hon. Gentleman is nonsense. It might be anything. It might be an additional 750,000 standards. In other words, it is not a target; it is not even a prophecy, it is necromancy.
As hon. Members know, we were only able to keep the housing programme going, in 1946 in particular, by reducing 648 the number of standards per house. It was because we had to reduce the number of standards of softwood timber in a house that the consumption of cement in a house went up. The reason was because we had to have hard floors. In those difficult years, if I had accepted the consequences of smaller softwood supplies and had not altered the design of houses all over the country, the housing programme would have been halved. We were able, before the war, to put 3.3 standards in a house; in 1945, I reduced that to 1.5 standards per dwelling by using hard floors and cutting out a good deal of timber in the roof trusses, and kept the housing programme at its old level.
These were technical changes and alterations in design, decisions that could only be carried out by rigid controls, because we could not make an anarchist industry behave itself. It is the most anarchist industry of all. It is the one industry that has all the qualities of unrestricted private enterprise and yet is the most anarchist and inefficient of them all. Anyone can enter the building industry when he likes or can leave it when he likes. There are no standards. The number of firms in the industry represents, I think, about one and a half men to a firm; no, I understand it is under one man per firm. It is only possible to carry out these great operations in the industry by having controls of the kind that I have described. Therefore, the hon. Member is repeating this afternoon, with an air almost of discovery, merely what we have been doing for five years.
For example, he went on to make another of his valuable, constructive suggestions. I like the modesty with which the hon. Member described his own speech. He suggested that we should have more piece rates and bonuses in the building industry. We have been saying it for three or four years, and we have had them in some cases. Let hon. Members opposite tell us how to get them. Do we make them? Hon. Members opposite have just been talking about a free society. How do they propose to make the building industry have a bonus system? [HON. MEMBERS: "You answer."] This is the plan; this is how they are going to get the 100,000 extra houses. We on this side have not 649 said we are going to build an additional 100,000 houses, and we have not said that because we are putting up real houses. We are building houses, not votes.
There was a further suggestion from the hon. Member, and here he was coming to the centre of his case. He said that, of course, we should lower our standards. If there is one thing that I am going to set my face against, it is the lowering of housing standards at the present time. We can always build more houses by building smaller houses. Anyone can do that. Anyone can build a house today which will be a slum tomorrow, but we insist upon building houses for people which they will want to live in today and which they will want to go on living in 10 years' hence, as otherwise we should have these houses on our hands. Therefore, I will not reduce building standards.
Then the hon. Member went on to make another of his concrete suggestions. The right hon. Member for Woodford may not be aware of the fact, but his voice has great carrying power, and I do not want to be embarrassed by hearing the confidential conversation which is going on, although I agree it is very difficult to avoid that happening on occasion. As I was saying, then the hon. Member went on to make his real suggestion, although it was blurred, which was that we should set the private builder, the speculative builder, free to build houses for sale to the local authorities. But we have done that. That suggestion has come up in debate after debate. [Interruption.] The Oxford Union at its best. Naughty boys of Form II. The fact is that years ago we arranged for small private builders to build houses to their own specifications for sale to local authorities. We have already bought 35,000 houses of that sort from them, and I am bound to tell the hon. Member that they were not built any more quickly, they were not any cheaper, and they were not as good. So, in point of fact, we have been doing all that.
We have also heard, over and over again, from hon. Members—and I am being as concrete and practical as I can because this is a very concrete and practical debate—that what we ought to have for our housing programme is continuity of building. That was the big thing. If only the builder knew and if only he could 650 see his way ahead, then he would go ahead. Well, we have a perfect illustration of where that happened. The right hon. Member for Saffron Walden, in his speech last week, spoke about the housing conditions of Birmingham. Well, unfortunately for the City of Birmingham, it carried out a Tory policy. It did exactly that thing; it concentrated its building contracts on six builders and said, "If only we get those six all together, those six big builders, and say to them, 'There you are boys, here is your programme year after year, no interruption, no re-tendering, only negotiation,'" everything will be all right.
But Birmingham housing programme is a great disappointment. They have built far fewer houses in the last four and a half years than I wanted them to build. Because they listened to the hon. Member for Wallasey, they got fewer houses. We implored them, over and over again, not to concentrate their building resources on six builders, but on large numbers of other builders, because it is a fact in the building industry that the operatives cluster around a contractor, and if one does not get the contractor on the job one does not get the operatives. I am glad to see that the Birmingham Corporation, by listening to our advice, have increased the rate of completion, and that it is very much better than it was last year. That is the other answer to the hon. Member. The fact of the matter is that by using technical language, hon. Members succeed in persuading other people that they know an awful lot about their profession. If they only used liberal English, we should all understand what they are saying, and how little they know what they are saying.
Then there was a very sinister suggestion which we have had from the party opposite over and over again, and here the hon. Member comes to the centre of his case. What he says is this. He has written it and he has said it. He says that it is a desirable social objective to build houses to rent, but, unfortunately, the speculative builder does not want to do that. Therefore, he says, our social objective should be adjusted to the technique of the building industry. That is his case. In other words, what the Opposition are suggesting is that we should abandon the local authority programme and let people with the longest 651 purses buy the houses. Obviously, if the licensing system is abandoned, and if there is to be no discrimination in favour of the rented house built by the local authority, then the house-building resources will go to building those houses on which the highest profits are going to be made.
Therefore, I really must ask, for the sake of the nation as a whole—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I warn hon. Members opposite that they are handling dynamite here. They really must be frank with the country. Are they going to abandon the ratio of private houses to rented houses? Is it to be one in five? Is it to be four to one? I think we ought to have an answer, and if the right hon. Gentleman is not able to answer it this evening, then we will know that his policy is dishonest. He laughs, but I am bound to tell him that if the miners, the steel workers, and the factory workers up and down the country saw, as they would see if there were no ratios, local authority housing estates unmanned, and if they saw houses going up all over the country for spivs with plenty of money, then he would not hold those men in work. So be very careful.
Therefore, in addition to the other questions I have put, I want the right hon. Gentleman, when he replies, to tell us whether there is going to be any ratio between local authorities' rented houses and licensed houses; or is he going to allow the building industry to build for whosover is able to buy the house? That is what we had at Blackpool. They said, "To rent and to sell." How many are going to be rented and how many are going to be sold? If this policy had been carried out, the whole of South Wales, the whole of the distressed areas would have had hardly any houses at all. Houses would have gone to the southeast of England and some parts of the Midlands, where there are people rich enough to buy the houses.
We come, therefore, to this: that from the hon. Member's speech and from what we have heard from the Opposition so far, there has emerged no clear idea whatsoever as to how these additional 100,000 houses are to be obtained. I have been looking at the capital investment programme. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aldershot told us how he would do it. He would abandon schools 652 and, most extraordinary, he would abandon the technical schools. We are informed by anthropologists that, when man settled down in agricultural communities, it was, at first, very difficult to persuade primitive people not to eat the seed. There were always a number of acquisitive and aggressive men in the tribe who wanted to eat the seed necessary for the next harvest. They were the Tories of the tribe. I cannot imagine a more topsy-turvy sense of priorities than to close the technical schools to build houses. It is most extraordinary, because upon those schools depend all the prospects of a rich industrial community.
Then, of course, we have had from the right hon. Gentleman, as we always have, a sneer at the Health Service.
§ Mr. Bevan
A sneer at the Health Service, which always shows how much he hates it—"Don't have wigs or false teeth, and make masons out of dentists."
Assuming that all the items of expenditure that are grouped together under education, including university education, welfare services, local authority miscellaneous services were added together, the result, if we stopped them, would be that we would still be 40,000 houses short of the 100,000. In other words, if we stopped all of them, what a situation that would be—no new schools on housing estates at all. Then we would have to carry the children in buses and build more buses to carry them there. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford shakes his head——
§ Mr. Bevan
I beg pardon. I am saying we would have no new schools on housing estates; therefore, we would have to leave the children uneducated, which we know would be desirable to a Tory, or we would have to carry them in buses. The fact is the Government believe that the priorities are reasonably arranged at the moment. It was only last October that, when we suggested a capital cut of £250 million immediately after devaluation—and the country should remember these things—the Tory Opposition said. "That is nothing. That is not enough: we want £500 million."
It was in 1947 that Lord Woolton, this great auctioneer, suggested that we should 653 stop all capital investment. Now we were told last year that we should cut £500 million. One cannot have a cut of £500 million out of the capital investment programme of Great Britain without mutilating the housing programme completely. It would have been absolutely impossible. Now, when we have to rescue the country from the economic chaos which we inherited from them, the Tories feel strong enough to go on.
Let me remind right hon. and hon. Members that we made that year a cut of £35 million in the housing programme. They did not ask us to restore it. They did not say it was too little or too much. They wanted more than that. But when we discovered that, fortunately, our worst fears were not realised, and that productivity was higher than we had dared to hope and that the price level had not risen as much as we had feared, the first thing we did was to restore the £25 million. We made the housing programme the first beneficiary of increased productivity. And we think the 200,000 programme a year—and we have said it, as distinct from what the Opposition say—is a first priority.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer announced, in April this year, that the rest of the capital investment programme must adjust itself to a programme of 200,000 houses per year. I have already announced in another place, and I will do so here so that there shall be no doubt at all about it, that, despite the demands upon our national resources for re-armament, we propose to hold the housing programme at 200,000 houses a year. We propose to do that despite the fact that the re-armament programme this year will make another £35 million demand upon the building and civil engineering resources of the community, and it may be more next year.
The Opposition said that they would put re-armament first. One cannot put anything first like that. Things must bear a certain relationship to each other, and we have said that, having regard to the manner in which our national resources are mortgaged at the moment with various commitments, 200,000 houses per year—good houses—is a reasonable programme. But, of course, it is not fixed at that figure for all time.
The noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) 654 was perfectly correct in italicising the seriousness of the international situation. I cannot imagine how hon. Members opposite can be so irresponsible. It demonstrates once more their unfitness for responsible office when, at this moment, when everybody realises that the international situation is so grave that we do not know to what extent our resources may be further committed, they should come along with this demagogic statement. We hope that the international situation will ease, that the demands it makes upon our resources will decline, that our productivity will increase, and then we shall look at the target of 200,000 houses again.
In the meantime, it represents what we consider it should be. It represents a better housing programme than that of any other nation in the world. [HON. MEMBERS: Nonsense."] The figures are there. Although it has been admitted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe that Great Britain has devoted more of its national income to capital development than any other nation in Europe, it is also true that inside that capital investment programme Great Britain has devoted more to house building, with the exception of three other nations in Europe—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] Yes, two of them Socialist nations—not France, nor Belgium, not Italy—[An HON. MEMBER: "Holland."] No, not Holland—it is much less in Holland.
The fact is that we have afforded since 1945 a very high priority indeed to investment in housing because we know what an important part it is of the capital equipment of the country and the contribution to the social well-being of our people. But we are not prepared to deceive people. We are not prepared to buy votes by playing on people's hopes. In fact, I agree with the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey: I do not believe that the people of Great Britain take the Tory policy seriously. They know rather more about the facts than the Tories give them credit for. Their programme, and the manner in which it has been conducted, justifies the description which one great man gave of the Tory Party some years ago—an organised hypocrisy.
I therefore ask the House to reject this Amendment and to support the Govern- 655 ment in the furtherance of their housing programme.
§ 6.33 p.m.
§ Captain Soames (Bedford)
The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Health, who had the ground most perfectly prepared for him by the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George), made just the type of speech which this House and the country expected of him. Only one important fact has materialised from it, and that is that while the present Government remain in office they do not intend for who knows how many years to build at the rate of more than 200,000 houses a year. I do not wonder that they feel that way, for the right hon. Gentleman said that the building industry was the most inefficient of them all. If that is his opinion of the building industry, I do not wonder that he does not think they are capable of producing more houses.
The same old taunts came tumbling out; the Tory Party was irresponsible in even mentioning that they consider that the house building programme should be speeded up. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Hon. Members opposite say "Hear, hear." They said "Hear, hear," when it was suggested that we were irresponsible over the petrol issue. The same old taunts came out, including the one about leaving the children uneducated, which would be desirable to the Tories. The right hon. Gentleman said that since the war in this country more houses had been built in relation to the population than in any other country in the world. In the Economic Survey for 1949 one finds that in Denmark there are 186 inhabitants per dwelling built; in Belgium 247 inhabitants per dwelling built; in Switzerland 252 per dwelling built; and in the United Kingdom 261 per dwelling built.
The right hon. Gentleman jeered and tried to make an electioneering point in a manner which I do not think is worthy of the issue on hand, by quibbling over the word "target" and "minimum." The figure of 300,000 houses a year is, of course, a target, but it is in no way a limit. Even building at that rate it will be many years before every family has a separate home. We on this side of the House will be delighted when the time comes and we can improve on that figure 656 and when more houses than 300,000 a year are built in the country. We are quite prepared in time to set our sights higher. I am sorry to see that the right hon. Gentleman has not had the courtesy to remain in his place. I have not been in this honourable House very long, but I did understand that there were certain customs and traditions which were followed by all Members. If it pleases the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends, I would say that 300,000 a year is a minimum target at which we should aim if we on this side of the House had the power, and at which we think they should aim now they have the power.
The fact that we have tabled this Amendment is in itself a sign of the measure of the failure of the Government's economic policy over a wide sphere. It is no good the Chancellor of the Exchequer reiterating a series of figures and percentages in an attempt to prove that the country has benefited from five-and-a-half years of Socialism. Surely the real test of the success or failure of a Government is whether the people of the country are better or worse off as a result of its administration. There is no doubt that the trend in the country goes to show that people are beginning to rely more and more on the facts as they see them in their every day lives than on detailed statistics given to them from the Government Front Bench.
The two chief worries which are gnawing at the people today are undoubtedly that during the past two years the cost of living has been steadily rising and the rate of house building has been steadily declining. No amount of detailed statistics from the Chancellor of the Exchequer or glib oratory from the Minister of Health can possibly evade those two stark and highly unpleasant facts. Last Tuesday the Prime Minister informed us of the greatly improved economic position of the country. What we are really waiting to see is when the people of this country are going to reap some benefit, their just reward, from this improvement, if improvement there be.
For a long time now all sections of the community have been putting up with all sorts of unpleasant personal sacrifices. There has been the wage freeze, crippling taxation, and low priority for goods for the home market. What benefit have the 657 people gained from these sacrifices? Have they been all in vain? Are they to remain as a permanent feature of our life? Of course, everyone realises that all restrictions and all sacrifices could not be relaxed at once, but surely, now that, according to the Prime Minister, our finances are so much stronger, the Government have no right to resist the overwhelming demand of every family in the land to have a home of its own in which it can have a degree of privacy and in which it can bring up children in an atmosphere of happiness as good British citizens.
Hardly a day passes without my receiving a heartrending letter from a constituent painting a terrifying picture of personal suffering due to the lack of housing. I shall not weary the House with examples, for I know that every hon. Member, on both sides of the House, has the same experience, to a greater or lesser degree, and probably suffers the same feeling of utter frustration as that which I suffer. In the Borough of Bedford, which forms part of my constituency, the housing list has grown from 2,100 in 1945 to 2,300 today, and I know that there are many constituencies where conditions are worse than that.
In other words, far from making good the arrears of building from the past, and the arrears due to bombing and to the fact that there was no building during the war, the Government house building programme is barely even keeping pace with the inevitable annual increase in demand. While the present rate of building continues, lists will get longer each year and this horrible social evil, which carries with it illness, overcrowding, and juvenile delinquency, which prevents so many young couples from getting married, and which is the cause of so many broken marriages, will beset the people. These things will beset them for who knows how many years? Certainly the Minister sees no chance in the distant future of being able to increase the building rate from 200,000.
Even if we build at the rate of 300,000 houses, it will take a long time before the back of the problem is broken. Building at the rate of 200,000 houses the problem will become more unmanageable, more vicious and more powerful as the years go by. The Prime Minister told the House last Tuesday that he did not 658 consider it was possible to increase the rate of building. Surely it should not be within the realm of impossibility. I do not intend to go into detail with the figures which were so ably and cogently given by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), but it is common knowledge that the building of another 100,000 houses would involve the restoration of brick production to the pre-war level, would consume one-seventh more of our present timber supply, would consume one-tenth more of our cement production and although the Prime Minister does not like us talking in terms of money on this issue would represent 6 per cent. of the total national investment programme. Surely these cannot be considered as impossible demands which would cripple the country economically.
Even if such a programme were to involve sacrifices in other spheres, what finer motive for sacrifice could possibly be found; what finer national investment could be made than to build more homes, so that the family circle, which is, after all, the very foundation of our society, might play its full and all-important part in our life?
§ Mr. Diamond (Manchester, Blackley)
Would the hon. Gentleman be good enough to define the sacrifices which he says ought to be made in the rest of our economic life in order that these houses might be built?
§ Captain Soames
If the hon. Gentleman thinks I am going to be drawn on to such an issue, he is wrong. He expects me to be able to say, here and now, exactly what are the sacrifices which should be made.
§ Captain Soames
It is not until one can see the whole broad picture as it stands that the question can be answered. The right hon. Gentleman talks about cutting the building of hospitals and health centres. How many health centres have been built? One health centre has been built. In such a programme as this, which would undoubtedly have the support of the whole country, no obstacle should be too great. I must say that I feel sorry for many hon. Members opposite today for, like myself and my hon. Friends, they must feel deeply 659 the human sorrow which they see in their constituencies, and they know as well as we do that 200,000 houses is not enough and that that figure could be increased to 300,000. They know as well as we do that any hardship which might be inflicted upon the nation by raising the number to 300,000 would be in no way comparable to the hardship caused at the present time to the nation as a whole by the shortage of houses. Yet they will march through the Lobby this evening, drilled and regimented by their party caucus, to vote against this Amendment.
It is not as though it were an unrealistic Amendment which was asking for the achievement of the impossible. It regretsthat the Gracious Speech shows no resolve to ensure a steady increase in the rate of house building up to at least 300,000 houses a year.It asks, in fact, for some earnest of appreciation by the Government of the importance of the problem. It asks for some earnest of a resolve by the Government to attempt to tackle the problem. Of course, hon. Members opposite realise how necessary is that resolve. I wonder that their consciences and their sense of responsibility towards their constituents permit them to walk through the Lobby to vote against this Amendment.
Finally, I venture to prophesy that the Minister of Health will go down to history as a man of undoubted ability who, by virtue of the high office and the responsibilities which were vested in him, had an overwhelming, an outstanding chance of doing the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people; but he has failed to take that chance, he has let the people down, and, in so doing, he has forfeited the respect of the nation and, I should not be surprised, his own self-respect as well.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Porter (Leeds, Central)
I have just one thing to say to the hon. and gallant Member for Bedford (Captain Soames). It is that I, for one, will not be regimented, drilled and taken into the Lobby. The reason I shall vote against the Amendment is because, unlike the hon. and gallant Member, I know something about the building industry and about house building. It is because of his ignorance of the subject 660 that he will be drilled and regimented and taken into the Lobby opposite to that through which I shall pass.
I view this problem from the point of view of one who has devoted practically the whole of his industrial life to the building industry. If I were still working with the tools, I should be one of those who are the only people to produce houses in this country. No matter what may be said on this side of the House; no matter what may be said by hon. Members opposite about the possibilities of the ultimate total of houses which may or may not be built, the irrefutable fact remains that the only people who will build the houses are the workers in the industry concerned.
I want to consider for a moment the situation in which we found ourselves when the war finished. During the war, workers in the building industry were taken out of the building industry and put into various armament industries for the purpose of carrying out war-time jobs. When the war was over, we, like everybody else, hoped we were going to return to peacetime production. We hoped we should find ourselves in the environment in which we could make our greatest contribution to the economy and welfare of the State. But we found that those responsible for organising the work that we were going to do deemed it advisable that that work—namely, first-aid repairs to property blitzed in the war—should be carried out under the cost-plus system, and for two years or more the major portion of the craftsmen and of the semi-skilled people in the building trade were working under conditions whereby they were entitled, for the reasons of their employment, to take as much as they liked out of the kitty and to put as little into the kitty as was possible.
Free enterprise was responsible for organising that industry. The employers in the building industry were part and parcel of the organisation, and they were taking more out of the "kitty." I should like to quote what "The Times" said in regard to the actual situation in which the industry was at that particular time. I have quoted this before, I believe. It was at a time when we were coming back to the industry after the war—coming back as artisans, as members of the craft, to 661 endeavour to build up the economy of this country as far as we could. On 18th June, 1947, "The Times," in a leading article, said:The building industry stands out amongst the nation's leading trades today as the poorest in output and in general efficiency.It went on to say:The industry as a whole still retains the position it has held for several generations as one of the least progressive and most wasteful of British industries.That was the situation in which the individual workers in the building industry started to face the programme of building houses for the people of this nation. The two points that want emphasising are: the action of the employers immediately after the war in not having any desire to concentrate on efficient production, and the fact that, even if they had had it, the developments in the industry then, as they had been for years before the war, were such as militated against any increase in house building.
I have in my hand a pamphlet which was issued by the Conservative Party on housing and written by the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. Walker-Smith). After discussing the situation immediately after the 1914–18 war he said:When Mr. Churchill's Government made its long and short term building plans it was facing a problem even greater in magnitude than that which existed in 1919.In the same pamphlet there was reiterated what has been said so often here today, that the output, so far as this Government are concerned, in five years after the war, is considerably better than that which was produced under the Coalition Government in the period of five years after the 1914–18 war.
I wonder if anybody has taken notice of the position in which the majority of the workingclass people found themselves just before the war. We have had the Opposition priding themselves on what was achieved in house building between the wars, and on the fact that they were actually building over 300,000 houses a year. The fact remains that statistics, which are available to everybody who takes the trouble to go into them, show that, in spite of the fact that, at the time, they were actually building the biggest percentage of houses ever built in this country in any year, in London 32 per cent. of the people living in the houses that were then available were living more 662 than three families per house. That was in spite of the contribution being made to house building. At that time 4,000,000 of the houses out of the 12,000,000 in existence were over 80 years old. That was the situation we had to face when we started to rebuild. Nobody denies the irony of the situation which faces those in local government or in public life at all, that at the present moment, in spite of the number of houses being built, thousands and thousands more people appear to be going on the waiting lists for homes, and demanding individual houses for themselves.
A lot has been said by the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), in moving this Amendment, about what his party would do, if the Opposition were in power, to change the situation altogether. Let me, as one who has been viewing the building trade position for some considerable time, suggest to him what would be a rather better idea in regard to increasing the possibilities of house building. Let me call to his attention and to the attention of the House the fact that today what, in my opinion, are militating more than anything else against the possibility of increasing house building, are the price rings which are controlling the essential commodities for house building.
Price rings control, as everybody knows, metal windows, manufactured woodwork, asbestos goods, electrical goods, light castings and rain-water goods. All these things are controlled by price rings. As an instance to show the operations in regard to these things, let me take the case of tanks—ordinary tanks which are used for water storage in a house. No person can purchase tanks from 95 per cent. of those responsible for their production except by going through the ordinary trade channels of the builders' merchants. Whether the builders' merchant gets the order for tanks, or whether the order goes direct to the producer of tanks, the builders' merchant, because of his geographical situation in relation to the delivery of the tanks, will get the same rebates.
According to an agreement for tanks between manufacturers and builders' merchants, the price being fixed by the manufacturer, the price to the dealer is less 32½ per cent. trade discount, less 5 per cent. for payment within a month, less 5 per cent. because the builders' 663 merchant is a member of a price ring and agrees to buy from no other source, and less 5 per cent. because the builders' merchant is a member of the trade association. The trade rings operating in these commodities essential to house-building are, in my opinion, greatly retarding an increase in the number of houses built.
At the present time too many licences are going in the wrong direction. I have in my pocket now a letter sent to me only today. It is marked "Strictly Confidential"; it contained a photograph also marked "Strictly confidential," and I am in a quandary as to how to deal with it. A person apparently obtained a licence to put a new roof on a bungalow and the job has been done so as to add another storey. That sort of thing is going on everywhere. Reference has already been made to what Lord Woolton said about reducing capital expenditure, while at the same time Lewis's have been granted licences for £1¼ million to redevelop their shops in Liverpool. That is happening continuously.
The building carried out under these licences does not always mean the use of materials or labour which could be used in housebuilding, and I therefore disagree with those who say that everything but housebuilding should be stopped. That is a physical impossibility, because the building labour is not sufficiently mobile. There is engaged on that work, to which some object, a considerably larger percentage of unskilled and semi-skilled labour in proportion to craftsmen than is used on housing. If it were possible to take all the craftsmen off that work and put them on to housing, alternative employment would still have to be found for those who normally assist the craftsman on commercial building.
I hope that those men, of whose craftsmanship we are so proud, who built this Chamber in which I now speak, will not be directed to a type of labour which will mean the eventual loss for ever of their craftsmenship and skill. The Press have reported that the metal, wood and stone craftsmanship which went into the building of this new Chamber came only from old men. They were able to develop that skill because continuity in that work was 664 afforded to them. If those craftsmen are directed to other labour, not only will they lose their skill and craftsmanship, but the lads who are coming after them, and who should be trained to play their part in such development, will not have the opportunity.
I have made the point I started out to make, that those engaged in the building of houses are doing a fairly good job in the circumstances in which they are allowed to operate. No matter what may be determined as a target politically by either side of the House, it is an undisputed fact, in which we in the industry can take pride, that although conditions have been against them the artisans in the industry have progressively, year by year, brought about greater productivity. When the building target is set, whether in this House or elsewhere, those building craftsmen of the industry upon whom the stern responsibility will rest to build the houses, will be there to meet the nation's need.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Dr. Hill (Luton)
The hon. Member for Leeds, Central (Mr. G. Porter), who spoke with such an intimate knowledge of the practical side of the industry, will excuse me, I hope, if I do not follow him immediately or directly in the points he has made.
I want, if I may, to put three main points before the House. From all sides of the House today we have heard what is the daily and intimate experience of hon. Members in their constituency work, of the mass of human unhappiness and difficulty—elements which are difficult to measure. I should like to add one element, because it is capable of measurement. It is that overcrowding—as distinct from slum dwelling and insanitary dwellings—in houses of good and bad quality, has been demonstrated in terms of the mortality and sickness rates. I want to call the attention of the House to the fact that it has been established beyond all doubt that overcrowding, as such, increases substantially the death-rate of children between one and five, to a lesser extent of children up to the age of 15, and to some extent of people of all ages, particularly women between 20 and 65.
The calculation of the Government statisticians, reported in 1944, was that 665 if overcrowding were eliminated there would be in this country an annual saving of some 15,750 lives amongst children under five, and of 33,000 people of later ages. It has been authoritatively calculated that some 50,000 lives are lost because of this margin between the overcrowded accommodation which exists today and ideal conditions. I will not weary the House with the "breakdown" of the figure, but I wanted to draw attention to the fact that even over and above unhappiness, domestic discord, the appalling lack of privacy and all that overcrowding and bad housing mean, there is a mass of unnecessary deaths, and of course a much greater mass of unnecessary sickness arising from the single factor of overcrowding.
I want to refer particularly, as did the Minister, to the argument used by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget). In essence, the argument was—I hope I do him no injustice—that with a state of planned economy and full employment, a larger target than 200,000 houses is impossible. I have his actual words. He asked, having asserted that building was made possible before the war only by inflation and unemployment, if hon. Members opposite did not propose to revert to the economic circumstances which created three building booms, how did they propose to build 300,000 houses within the framework of planned economy and full employment. I think that we should know from the Government whether in fact it is their assertion that within a planned economy and full employment a larger accomplishment of house production is impossible.
The essence of the Debate today seems to me to be this: on the one side it is the Government's assertion that they cannot manage to produce more than 200,000 houses, and on the other side, the Government say quite properly to the Opposition: How do you propose to achieve the target which you have announced? The doubt in my mind is this: We accept the general conception that what men can do with materials represents the total production, which must be divided under the various headings. I am not referring to the question by what moral or other standards the allocation is made between the various objectives. I am referring to the lesser problem of the assertion that because 666 there are so many heads and so much material, we are incapable of building more than 200,000 houses a year.
The Minister of Health today referred back to the speech in which he replied to the Debate following the announcement of the restoration of the target to 200,000 houses. Quite properly, the Opposition, having had the poser put to it before, said to him: "What did you do to make this restoration of the programme possible?" He then replied, as he did today, that it was due to increased production. That is a perfectly fair answer, but in May he said something more. He said that we had decided not to import the petrol which the wicked Opposition wished us to import; we have decided to import the timber instead. That was a debating trick, no more and no less. A few days afterwards petrol went off the ration—[Interruption.] I repeat that it was a few days after that, petrol went off the ration—his speech was delivered on Monday, 22nd May, and on the Friday of that week the announcement was made——
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Mr. Blenkinsop)
The whole point at issue was the spending of dollars, and the whole issue about the importation of petrol into this country was whether or not it was involving us in extra expenditure.
§ Dr. Hill
I readily accept that it was a question of dollars. The argument was about dollars, but the point that I am making is that under the influence of this mystical planning it is possible for the Minister to say one thing on Monday, arising out of dollar conservation, and for another to be done on Friday. That is sheer nonsense.
The second point, by which I will illustrate it, is this: It has become necessary, to the regret of all, and with the support of all, that there should be an enormous increase in our expenditure on armaments, a substantial part of which will be in terms of men and material of the same kind as those involved in the building industry. It is an odd situation that once we are faced with international danger from without, that once there is a whiff of powder in the air and a sense of real urgency, calculations go out of the window. That is the effect of what the Minister told us today.
667 I do not know what is going on behind closed doors, but he told us today that, whatever else happens, his present programme of 200,000 houses will remain undisturbed by further expenditure in terms of men and material as a result of rearmament. If that is the case, then there was a reserve for house building months ago. If men and material can now be produced without affecting the housing industry, then it could have been done before. But it was beyond the ken of those who advise as to the programme to accomplish the mathematical process of adding it up. We need to know from the Government whether this economic planning as they describe it, does limit the target. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton stated that it did quite clearly, and the right hon. Gentleman expressed his approval of the able speech of the hon. and learned Member. If that is the position, the country should know it; that within the imprisonment of overall planning which is imposed by the Socialist Government they cannot produce more than 200,000 houses a year.
I shall not deal at length with the subject of materials because, forgetting party differences for a moment, I think that we all agree that it was a very able and informed speech which opened this Debate; but I want to make one comment on the subject of materials. The brick situation seems to me to be more difficult than many people imagine. On the timber question, I confine myself to the comment that it is available in the world and we have not got it. The brick situation seems to be more serious. I understand from information given by those adjacent to my constituency that there has been a substantial closing down of brick plant. One of the difficulties of one of the larger brick works has been their desire to build tied houses for their workers—like 10, Downing Street—houses to go with the job. It has been their natural, but no doubt naughty, desire to provide the houses for their workers, so as to increase the output of bricks, but that has been denied then.
On the subject of men, we are faced with a human problem. If it is true, as stated in the second Girdwood Report, that today it is taking five men to do the work of four men before the war, this is a serious situation to which the minds of all 668 should be applied. I am not one of those who assume that human nature has changed, or that one man is worse than another. That is a human problem.
§ Dr. Hill
Doctors have their human problem in dealing with a number of difficult patients. Of course, I know that some doctors can be difficult—and I have my difficult moments, too. I am certain that there is great force in the argument used today for the encouragement of incentives and bonus schemes, a task which falls upon the industry and the operatives themselves. I am certain that there is great importance to be attached to the visible existence of materials on the site. Wherever I go among builders, I hear that men, being human, do not intend, seeing an inadequacy of supply of materials on the site, to work themselves out of a job.
Naturally, the right hon. Gentleman dealt with great vigour with the question of the fate of the licensing programme. Like other Members, I tried to think out the position for myself, and I shall speak for only myself on what I think the position should be. I believe that our objective should be to do away with the licensing system, if and when there is an amplitude of materials, but not before, and even then—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Please allow me to develop my argument and set out my case in my own way, whether Members opposite like it or not. At the outset, we need not only a limit on size, but on the number of houses in the private sector. We also need, which may be very much more difficult, the existence of local agreements between the builders and the local authorities, to the effect that local authority contracts will be tendered for and honoured.
We must secure what is a first priority in terms of numbers, that is an adequacy, of houses for rent. There is an immediate change that I should like to see, which was outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples); that is, instead of applying rigid formulas to the public and private sectors, we should scrutinise the waiting lists of local authorities to enable a proper local formula to be evolved, and for people locally to obtain their licences in an order of priority on the basis of a points assessment scheme.
669 On the subject of size, I heard the Minister say, with great dignity, that he was not going to be responsible for lowering the standard. But, he has done it. My own local authority got permission from the region a few weeks ago to build a house which is 150 square feet less in area than the houses they have been building. It is a house of between 900 and 950 feet. Why is this? It is because the rent of new council houses in my constituency is between £1 7s. 3d. and £1 8s. 6d., and the rent for a 900 super-foot house will cost some 3s. 4d. less.
The point I want to make is that it is no good the Government waxing indignant and righteous about this question of what they call sub-standard houses, because, I am glad to say, they have begun to permit experiments in houses of a smaller size to see if a good house can be devised, and whether the people like it. I support the view, whatever may be its political consequence, that we can wait a little for outbuildings, such as outside lavatories, bearing in mind that these can come later, provided it is established that it means an appreciable increase in the number of houses built.
The Minister then proceeded to deal with a target of 300,000 houses. I must remind him—I am sorry he is not in his place—of his own promise.I confidently expect that before the next Election every family in Great Britain will have a separate house.That is what the Minister said on 24th May, 1946. That goes far beyond 300,000. It goes to the ideal, to the millions of houses that are needed, and I think that the Conservative Party is to be congratulated on bringing a breath of fresh air on the position—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Members opposite may not like it, but it has brought a new hope to the people of the country. Why should we not raise our sights, instead of accepting the inevitable?
§ Mr. Ivor Owen Thomas (The Wrekin)
How can we get a breath of fresh air from an organised hypocrisy?
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
"Organised hypocrisy" is what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) has said.
§ Dr. Hill
I thank the hon. Member, but it is completely irrelevant. Perhaps I shall now be allowed to complete my speech. No one doubts the capacity of the Minister for brilliant speeches, for a wealth of imagery and for a torrential flow of inventive and abuse which goes in all directions. Many of us have winced under the lash of his tongue, including myself on more than one occasion. However, I am in good company, because the Lord President of the Council has been described by the right hon. Gentleman not as a "first-class" Tammany boss, but as a "third-class" one. We have all had it, and sometimes, when the passion of the moment has led the right hon. Gentleman to select in description of his opponents a term which is taken from the language of zoology, it has induced dismay on the benches around him and behind him, but some satisfaction on the benches opposite.
The Prime Minister has advertised the fact that the right hon. Gentleman is to wipe the floor with the Leader of the Opposition in this Debate, but the people of the country are more interested in the building of houses than in the wiping of floors. Now that the cheers have died down and the voices on the Government benches have recovered from their unaccustomed exercise, let us ask ourselves whether any contribution has been made by the right hon. Gentleman to the housing problem. The people want houses and not histrionics. When the right hon. Gentleman reflects, I hope he will agree that he has made little or no contribution to the problem that confronts the country at the present moment.
§ Dr. Hill
I notice how touchy Members opposite get. The problem is the margin between the houses we have and the houses we need, and the human misery, ill health and mortality that result from bad housing. In my opinion, that problem confronting the Government is, next to rearmament, the biggest problem. The margin that now exists between the houses we have and those we could 671 build is in no small measure an indication of the failure of the Government and the right hon. Gentleman.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Shurmer (Sparkbrook)
Over the past five years, in this House and in the country, we have listened to many statements criticising the Government for actions taken for the benefit of the people as a whole. To listen with any attention to such statements would lead one to think that this Government was gradually bringing the country to chaos and ruin. We have been told on numerous occasions that next year we would have a reservoir of unemployed. That is but one of the many wild statements that have been made. None of them has caught on. It is cruel, diabolical, and low-down hypocrisy to play upon the people in the way the Tories are doing on the question of building more houses, particularly when the majority of Members opposite know full well that it cannot be done. [HON. MEMBERS: "It can."] All right, I should like to give an illustration of what I mean.
Some 30 years ago I left a decent district in Birmingham to live right in the slums, and I live there to this day. It is in the district which I represent in this House. I am my own M.P. I remember quite well that after the First World War—hon. Members opposite do not like to hear this—it was several years before we started at all on house building. In fact, ex-Service men were walking the streets idle and homeless. I was in the Civil Service at the time, and this state of affairs brought me into public life. There were thousands of working-class houses in that district of the great city of Birmingham which had only oil lamps and one lavatory to 20 houses, one common wash house, and one tap in the middle of the yard. That was in the great city of Birmingham after the First World War, the city where the Chamberlains lived. We have thrown them all out today, including Mr. Amery.
It was many years before there was much house-building. Let us be quite frank. I know the position in Birmingham, because for 28 years I sat on the City Council. The number of houses built pre-war by the local authority in that city was 50.000 in 25 years—2,000 per year—and that at a time when there was 672 plenty of material, labour and money, and much could have been done in sweeping away many of the slums. Despite the fact that this country was bombed heavily during the war, if, between the war, there had been slum clearance and the construction of houses when the men, material and money were available we should not be in the bad position we are in today.
I remember in the year 1922 inviting the Press to Birmingham. I got photographs shown in the national Press revealing that several families were living in one room, with a coffin in that room in which they lived, ate and slept. Bad as things may be now, I have not seen anything like it at the present time. One would think, after reading the statements in the Press and listening to hon. Gentlemen opposite, that this Government were not caring about housing and were not organising along the right lines. Let us have a look at the position for the moment.
I have already stated that no hon. Member on the other side of the House can deny that immediately after the First World War private enterprise exploited the position with its "rings," to prevent houses from being built when the workers required them, preferring instead to construct jerrybuilt houses for sale. Immediately after the Second World War thousands of workers and thousands of tons of material were sent from many of the great cities to London to deal with bomb damage, because London had been bombed from the commencement to the end of the war. Despite those and other difficulties, we have housed over one and a half million families. Hon. Members opposite forget that. We cannot count in the new houses such things as reconditioned dwellings, bomb damage repair work and so on. If we had been in the position to start from scratch, as was the position after the First World War, the number of houses would be far in excess of what it is today.
Let us be quite honest. Many hon. Members opposite do not speak for themselves but for those behind them. They know full well that after the 1914–18 war the position was exploited in the interests of the building "rings." Then came the Second World War, when the whole of the energies of the nation were thrown into the fight for our lives. After that 673 war this Government got in and stopped what happened after the First World War happening again. That is what many hon. Members opposite think is wrong. This Government refused to allow the private person with the purse to get the houses that were available.
In Birmingham we have something like 60,000 people on the register of the estates department. I remember that my colleagues and I, in the group of Birmingham M.Ps. interviewed my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health on the question of housing for our city. He pointed out that houses started in Birmingham in 1945 were not completed in 1948. They were being built by private enterprise. A year ago the Birmingham City Council, which two years ago at the elections turned over from a Labour majority to a Tory majority, decided to issue an advertisement asking how many of the 60,000 on the waiting lists would like to buy their houses. They wanted some information to put before the Minister to prove that private enterprise could build the houses.
I am making a statement which will appear in the Birmingham Press tomorrow, and if I am not speaking the truth, the facts will soon be revealed. [Interruption.] Hon. Members opposite should not bother. I live in my constituency. Let them bring down anybody they like to fight me. I shall be back the next time. I doubled my majority the last time. As I said, the Birmingham Press will correct this statement if I am wrong. Out of the 60,000, only 6,000 sent in their names, and half of them, or 3,000, were living in houses, while half of the remaining 3,000 were young unmarried couples. Every Member of this House holds a "surgery" once a week or once a month. Mine is held once a week, each Friday evening, and the experience of all of us at these interviews with our constituents is that the majority of the homeless people would clutch at anything.
§ Mr. Shurmer
I do not know the houses they were in. In all probability they were the type of people who are already living in a house, and who could afford to buy one. I am pointing out that the number of people who could afford to buy houses, out of the 60,000, were those I have stated. We know that people will clutch at any straw if they are drowning. People living in rooms would be prepared to say, "Get private enterprise to build houses for sale and we will have them," because they want to get homes. It proves that if we allow the building industry in this country to get hold of this matter, then the people with the biggest purses will get the houses, and the other people will not get a chance.
We are told that the Labour Government have aggravated the shortage of houses. Between the two wars a young man and a girl who were courting would consider marriage. Perhaps the man would say: "I am not getting married. I am out of work." The young girl would say: "I have got a cheap job. We cannot afford to get married." Today, in the city of Birmingham, there are more than 100 marriages taking place every week in the register office alone. Could hon. Members cope with that position? That is what is aggravating the situation. If there is any possibility of more houses being built, I am confident that my right hon. Friend and the Government will build them. If it were possible for any party or any "ism" to build houses, I would be only too pleased to support that party, but I think it is hypocrisy that right hon. Gentlemen opposite and their party are putting forward.
Major Hicks-Beach (Cheltenham)
What about some of the hon. Member's party?
§ Mr. Shurmer
The majority of the Members of my party know far better than do hon. Gentlemen opposite the conditions of the people who live in the slums and of people who are living in rooms.
I want to ask the Minister now whether it is not possible to put into force the rigid requisitioning of every house that is empty. Every night, in the "Birmingham Mail" as in probably every other town and city newspaper, there are columns of houses for sale.
675 There is a gang of people in this country exploiting the position and getting as much money as they can. Let me tell my right hon. Friend a story. In my "surgery" for the last four or five weeks it has been made clear to me that there is a gang in Birmingham—I repeat there is a gang in Birmingham, and I hope that the Press will get that—who are going around buying up property and then going along to the tenant and spreading the rumour that if they do not buy the houses, those houses will be sold to somebody else who will turn them out. They are actually not collecting the rents. Some of the tenants are having a very difficult time. Old couples are being told: "You can't stay here any longer. People with larger families want your house and unless you buy it, we will turn you out."
What else is happening in the city of Birmingham? The Minister must look into the position. There are far too many evictions in Birmingham. There are hundreds of evictions taking place every month in that city. They are aggravating the position, too. I seriously suggest to the Minister that he should put into operation again requisitioning powers to allow the local authority to go forward and take over every possible house. We talk about requisitioning and converting large houses into flats. I am not a builder or in the building industry, but I think that in spending money upon converting large, dilapidated houses with large rooms into flats we are wasting money and material which would build houses. I very often tell people: "Wait a little longer and have something that will be worth while."
On the question of building materials and men, there is one thing I forgot. In Birmingham we have five re-development areas. Some of those areas should have been taken over before the war when there was plenty of unemployed labour and material. The area which I have the honour to represent, and for part of which I was a councillor for many years, is in the hands of the city council. More than 160 men are working hard every day to repair property that private landlords have refused to repair. The houses have got into a terrible state of disrepair. If those houses had been properly looked after, the material could be used for building new houses. Not only are we building new houses, but in every great town and 676 city we are doing repairs that have not been done for many years.
It is often said that this is not a party matter. We want to do what we can to rehouse our people, but let us not bung them into the slums again, into back-to-back houses, or terrace houses. Let them have houses that will be a credit to the Government and to the nation in years to come. I have lived in back-to-back houses during the last 30 years. We grumble at the people who built those shacks. Let us now build decent houses for the people. I would rather see people wait a bit longer and get all the amenities that the better-class people have, than put up with something inferior. Never mind about voting against the Government. We know that if the present Government were defeated and if the Opposition were back in power, it would be "God help the people." The houses would not be built for them. I hope that the Minister will take note of what I have said about requisitioning, evictions and the sale of houses. I feel confident that we shall go on from success to success in rehousing the people for the benefit of the children yet to come.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Harmar Nicholls (Peterborough)
I do not think that it would be expected that I should follow the line of argument taken by the hon. Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Shurmer). He made it clear that he was not talking to Members of this House but was talking to the "Birmingham Gazette." Quite apart from that, his was a contribution quite unique, and I think it should be left untouched in its virgin state.
I think it would be also generally agreed that the Minister's contribution earlier this evening was a disgusting performance. If it is not agreed that it was disgusting, it would be generally agreed that it was a performance. It was certainly not an attempt to deal with the vital problem which is the subject of this Debate. Following the detailed speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) said that he did not gather how we were to achieve our target. I should not have thought there could be doubt in any part of the House, after a speech as detailed and clear as that of my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey, how we would achieve 677 the figure of 300,000. I should like to follow on the same lines as those of my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey, in replying to that question. If our minds are directed along those channels again, it will be for the good of the people who want houses.
There is no need to labour the urgency of the housing problem. We all know about frustration and hardship, and how they are undermining Christian civilisation because normal families cannot carry on. We ought to concentrate tonight upon deciding which political point of view represented in the House is most likely to produce the goods so that we may face up to that dismal situation. I believe that we must face it along these lines. First of all, we must have a short-term policy to meet the accumulation of arrears over the last 10 years. It is quite clear that in framing this emergency policy we must face the necessity of either spending more dollars or of asking other services—schools, industry, and so on—to make their contribution for the time being. Running alongside that, there must be a longer-term policy designed to increase the supplies of materials and increase productivity in the building industry so that these sacrifices may be of only short duration.
The Amendment states categorically that at least 300,000 new houses must be provided if any new inroad at all is to be made into the tragic queue of homeless.
§ Mr. Nicholls
I should have thought that, in view of the rate of obsolescence, there would have been no doubt in any part of the House that we dare not risk one house less than that. I should have thought that we would agree that we are not really winning the battle for the homeless unless we are producing more than 300,000 houses. How can this be accomplished?
For the short-term policy, three methods are open to us. The first is to revise the priorities of all building materials and labour so that first call on the general reservoir of materials and labour is given to 300,000 houses. The second one is to agree upon a smaller house—not necessarily a poorer quality house—and to allow farmers and industrialists throughout the country to help the 678 capital expenditure programme by building these for their work-people. The third method would be to expend more dollars on vital housing materials.
As to the revising of priorities, can this do done, and is it reasonable? As to timber, last year we imported softwood at the rate of 1,080,000 standards, and only one-third of that was used for new houses. So from the remaining two-thirds all we want is an extra one-sixth from the total import in order to achieve the extra 100,000 houses. If, as the Government suggest, the import of softwood next year will not be as good as it was in 1949, it is an indictment of their own bulk-buying policy, because before the war we imported nearer two million standards than the amount I mentioned. There is a precisely similar argument in the case of cement. The expected production of cement for this year is 9,750,000 tons. Of that no more than two million tons is being allocated for new houses. So all the extra cement we want for housing is one-tenth of the total production, and then we shall reach our target.
It is much the same with bricks. The annual production is between 6,000 million and 7,000 million bricks. Only 165,000 of the present 200,000 houses a year are the traditional brick-built houses, 35,000 being non-traditional types of prefab. Only about half the present brick production goes to the new housing programme. As regards the other component parts of a house, such as the sanitary fittings, the kitchen fittings and the metal window frames, the manufacturers have made it clear that within a very few months of having notice that Government sanction would be behind the suggestions that I am making they could produce the extra quantities which are required.
As a first emergency plan, we ought to revise these priorities and in the first stringent stage the new allocations should be provided by the other social departments which are making claims on the various materials. They would have to bear their share. I emphasise that it would only be a share because I know full well that one of the propaganda arguments that hon. Members opposite will be taking back to their angry constituents will be that the Tories want to cut down all school and hospital building, stop all industrial development, and have no regard 679 for any of the defence problems. What I am asking for is a share in an amount of one-sixth of the timber which they would otherwise have to share amongst themselves, or one-tenth of the cement, or a few more of the bricks. I am suggesting that the other services, the schools, hospitals or defence services, should have 600,000 standards of timber instead of 750,000, 7,000 tons of cement instead of 8,000. That is the contribution which we are asking them to make.
§ Mr. Nicholls
If the hon. Member does not mind, I shall not give way. Even at this emergency stage, the schools and industries might not need to make a contribution if we could spend more dollars, and even if they do have to make it—because houses should come first—it is not wasteful expenditure even looking at it through the eyes of those departments because we know that in spite of the terrific expenditure on education today the real effects of education are nullified by the horrible home conditions of the children. We can ask any school teacher about that.
§ Mr. Nicholls
I cannot think of a more appropriate moment than the present at which to ask education to make that contribution. The Burnham Committee has, quite rightly, just recommended that school teachers should have a rise which will amount to about £20 million a year, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told us that we are to have no more increases in capital expenditure. If £20 million is to be spent on higher wages for the teachers, it is an appropriate time to economise on brick-built permanent schools in favour of houses. That is not to say that there should not at the same time be a vigorous programme of prefabricated schools. It would not be wrong, looking at it through their eyes, for the educationists to make that contribution during this period.
What about industry? Every employer of labour will say that his greatest difficulty in maintaining or increasing production is finding houses for his workers. Hon. Members should go to industrialists 680 in their constituencies who have plans for extending their factories and ask them which they would prefer, the extension of their factories or the provision of 20 houses for their workers. Every time the answer will be "Give us the houses." Let me produce my evidence. In my own constituency of Peterborough only last week 40 representatives of local firms examining this problem said that the development of industry in that city had outstretched the ability of the city to man the machines, and that to obtain maximum results from existing plants more houses should be allowed. I have no doubt that is the position also in most of the industrial towns throughout this country.
Indeed, for the last 10 years factories have had their extensions when no houses have been built. So if for two years they make some contribution towards the essential housing need, I am certain that by more efficient internal arrangement of their existing space they would not miss such a contribution in terms of their output. For instance, they could fetch some of their bags out of storage spaces and put machines in there. We know that as far as industry is concerned, for the last 10 years it has been a matter of taking the line of least resistance, of putting in plans to get an extension to meet a particular need. So for two years, or perhaps more, efficient re-arrangement should provide ample room without interruption of output. Today an extra 1,000 houses allocated to productive workers in the factories would so improve the psychology of disgruntled and frustrated workers that their capacity to produce would improve and we should all benefit.
If the right hon. Gentleman wants to suggest that defence needs and rearmament could not make any contribution, then I would ask him to think again. For if the result of such a contribution is more houses, I believe this would be one of the best contributions that could be made for the better defence of this country. We cannot expect worthwhile soldiers unless they have a reasonable stake in the country which only a home of their own can provide. I say to hon. Members in all seriousness that it an international crisis occurred which warranted an extended call-up, the despair and bitterness arising from the existing housing conditions possesses the 681 seeds of mutiny. I do not believe that is any exaggeration. In the event of such a call-up of the 22-year olds, 23's and 24's who are married, we ought to face up to the bitterness and the despair that has arisen from the failure of the right hon. Gentleman on housing.
So the first emergency measure that could be taken is to revise priorities, and it need not be a bad thing for the departments making the contribution. But that is not the only, nor is it necessarily the best, way of meeting this first emergency problem. We have said on this side of the House, and we shall repeat it because we believe it to be true, that greater freedom ought to be given to builders to carry out their private contracts in addition to the local authority programme. Of course we know that the local authority must still be one of the instruments, but it should not be the only one, and I do not think it is the best one. I speak as one who has been a councillor for 12 years and the head of a local authority for 12 months as recently as last year.
But even as far as the local councils are concerned the Government do not make the best use of the machine. Let me give an example of the alternative I would suggest. If, instead of saying to a local council, "Your allocation for next year is 200 houses"—which at the present cost of £1,500 each is an expenditure of £300,000—the Government said, "Your allocation for next year is £300,000," and let the local authority, knowing the local needs, spend this in a way which would meet its housing list, it would be incumbent upon the authority because of the size of its list to get the best possible quality and the highest possible number.
I can see the Minister of Health smiling a little at that suggestion. As an ex-local councillor perhaps he is disdainful of the outlook and ability of the local councillor to do this important job. But it should not be forgotten that the local councillor has to go back every three years, which is more frequently than some hon. Members, and his majority is sometimes not as big as those of the right hon. Gentleman and of hon. Members, so he is much more sensitive to injustice in housing allocations or quality. I have been connected with the building of houses for the last 20 years and I estimate that if £300,000 is spent in the way I have sug- 682 gested, local authorities could build a two-bedroom type of house which would meet their local need and they would get not 200,000 as under the present system but 225,000 or 230,000 houses. And as the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Hill) said, we should get a cheaper house for rent as well.
§ Mr. Nicholls
Hon. Members opposite say "Nonsense." It is borne out by the Girdwood Committee Report on housing costs.
§ Mr. Harrison
The hon. Member accused me of saying "Nonsense" but he seems to have forgotten completely——
§ Mr. Nicholls
I knew it would not be a point of order when I heard the interruption, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The Gird-wood Committee on housing costs made this point quite clearly when it said that on the size of the prewar house of 800 square feet as compared with 1,000 square feet now, there would he a saving of £200 a house which, on the present capital expenditure figure, would be a saving of £40 million. If we translate £40 million back again at the same £1,300 figure for 800 square feet house, they say that there could be an increase of 30,000 houses for the same outlay. I should have thought that would have commended itself to the Minister of Health, particularly when the main saving involved in this smaller house affects the bricks, the tiles, the plaster and the wall boards, the very things that are in short supply.
I was sorry that the Minister had to produce his old bogy that we would encourage poorer standards. From a Government who have made the slogan "Fair shares for all" one of their main props, it comes rather oddly that they want certain people to have two W.Cs. while so many have not got even a house. If the right hon. Gentleman will remember that for every 24 W.Cs. he can save, he is giving somebody else an extra house, it might be a line of thought worth pursuing.
§ Mr. Nicholls
I am arguing seriously—[HON. MEMBERS: "Central Office brief!"] This is one of the occasions when I am hoping that I can persuade Central Office to work to one of my briefs, because I believe that if they will follow this line, they would produce what is wanted, that is the extra houses. It is for the local authorities knowing the local need, to decide how they can make this vital contribution towards the essential houses. If the Minister wants to suggest that we cannot make these special emergency allocations because they would affect the unemployment figures, I would take that as a sign of weakness. If their full employment boast about which we hear so much is held together by such fragile cord that the expenditure of £9 million worth of timber would break it, then it is time that the country knew about it so that people could see this boast on its real foundation.
These, then, are the practical means which I suggest we ought to adopt to obtain these extra houses, and I hope that the hon. Member for Clapham will understand now, the line of thought which my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey was submitting in his excellent opening speech. We should revise priorities, build slightly smaller houses, or expend more dollars; and it depends on the success of the long-term policy how long these contributions will have to be made. It may be that we would not take from any of those ways, or that we might take a little of all three, so that the contributions made by other Departments would be almost negligible.
Running parallel must be a long-term policy which ends bulk buying and frees cement and other industries from the perpetual political threat of interference. We must make brick-making a more attractive job by giving it the attention that other hon. Members want to give only to miners and to dockers. As far as the building industry is concerned, we must encourage incentive schemes and payment by results, and we ought to deal immediately and without any hesitation with interference of any sort which stops voluntary overtime or restricts or slows down the rate of building, because this sort of interference is an act of sabotage against the happiness of honest people.
684 We still have the best building operatives in the world. Before the war they showed every other country how to get on and do the job. It was not without significance that 20 years ago teams of men came from America to see how we did the work, and now we have to send committees back to America to relearn the very methods that we taught to them. If building operatives are left alone and relieved from the present stringencies and restrictions, I am convinced that they could redeem that great reputation for the benefit of everybody.
The noble lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George) said that whoever voted for the Amendment would be voting for 300,000 houses and virtually saying that the Conservative Party should give effect to that proposal. The inverse of that is true: those who vote against the Amendment are voting against 300,000 houses; they will be admitting by their vote that they are satisfied with today's figure of 200,000. We saw the long faces of hon. Members opposite when the Minister of Health sat down. Those on the benches behind him had come here today with panting breath and hanging tongues for some good excuses to take to their angry constituents, and all they have had once again is the old froth and splutter that produces nothing. Those who recognise the urgency of the housing problem will be playing with language if they merely show sympathy and vote against a practical Amendment such as we have put down on the Order Paper.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Diamond (Manchester, Blackley)
The hon. Member for Peterborough (Mr. H. Nicholls) really misunderstands what is to happen in the Division this evening, if he thinks that those of us who vote against the Amendment—of which he has some right to call himself the father, if I understand aright what happened at a recent particular conference—if he thinks that we who vote against the Amendment are doing so because we believe that a practical proposition for building 300,000 houses has been put forward. Nothing could be further from the truth. We shall vote against the Amendment because we are satisfied as to the motives of those who put it forward—I speak as plainly as I can—and secondly, I shall vote against it because I am satisfied of the complete 685 impracticability of the plan put forward by the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), with which I shall attempt to deal.
The hon. Member for Peterborough urged us all to pay attention to the practical suggestions and to the speech of the hon. Member for Wallasey. I wish that he had listened to it himself. He missed the entire point of what his hon. Friend said. His hon. Friend was making a speech endeavouring to show that the extra 100,000 houses could be created without any sacrifices anywhere else, and without forgoing anything in the short term. His proposition was that they could be created out of the air. But the hon. Member for Peterborough said nothing except that there should be a long-term plan for improving the rate of building houses. Is there anybody on this side of the House who would not accept that?
The hon. Member for Peterborough said, of the short-term plan, that we should forgo all sorts of other things in order to get the houses now. That is a matter of opinion, but it is not what we are concerned with on this Amendment, and it is not what we are concerned with according to the speeches of right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite and the speech of the hon. Member who moved the Amendment. What we are concerned with is the possibility, without endangering our defence programme, without upsetting completely all the other vital social building which is going on, of making it possible in the very near future for an extra 100,000 houses to be built.
I am delighted that there is this common platform from which we can all start, that we are all concerned with the housing problem. I am delighted to have heard the Leader of the Opposition refer to this freedom from slumdom which he is so anxious that we should all have. I took the opportunity of finding out from my constituency—or, rather, from the City of Manchester—what was their particular problem. At the end of the late war, Manchester made a plan. They worked out the number of houses required for, in their own words, "normal housing needs." They estimated that they would need 7,000 houses to meet normal demand. Then they gave the figure of houses that were needed "to replace those which were unfit for human habitation"; 686 that figure is 70,000. They needed, therefore, 7,000 to meet normal demand and another 70,000 to replace those which were unfit for human habitation.
In Manchester we have long since passed the 7,000 rebuilding figure, but we are still short of houses. I am sure I shall be told that it is very bad form to refer to the bad old days when those houses were built; yet we are getting pressure from hon. Members opposite—the hon. Member for Peterborough, who was the last to speak, repeated it—for a reduction in standards.
§ Mr. Diamond
Either that is a reduction in standards or it is nonsense. In talking about housing people, either they are given accommodation——
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North) rose——
§ Mr. Diamond
Just a moment. If we reduce the amount of accommodation—the area per person—we reduce the standard. If we do not reduce the area per person, we are not achieving anything; and as I gather that the second of these points is what the hon. Member wanted to make clear, I am quite happy, for his suggestion achieved nothing.
§ Mr. Diamond
I have already made the point. The hon. Member for Peterborough made a speech which was quite the opposite to that of his hon. Friend, and both of them made speeches opposite to the views expressed by the hon. and gallant Member for Pollak (Commander Galbraith), who at the Conservative Party conference took responsibility from the platform for accepting this resolution. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said something quite different, and made it perfectly clear that the builder would be set free. If I am challenged about what he said, let me read it:Commander Galbraith detailed the policy of the party. This was to abolish licensing, subject only to the limitations that he had mentioned;"—687 That is the limitation on maximum, which is indefinite—to free the private builder and allow him to build houses in number and not piecemeal, to sell and not to let.That is the report in a weekly circular prepared by the National Council of Building Material Producers and issued to all those interested in the building industry. I want to make the simple point that this was a complete abolishing of licensing, but the hon. Member now says we should have more priorities. I think he will be in a little difficulty with his own Central Office.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Wolverhampton, South-West)
Probably the hon. Member is not aware that the report he is quoting was a misprint—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—which has since been corrected, and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pollok (Commander Galbraith) did in fact say "houses to sell and to rent."
§ Mr. Diamond
The hon. and gallant Member for Pollok had second thoughts and wrote a letter to "The Times" saying what he thought he had said at the conference, but as "The Times" and many newspaper reports, all said he said "to sell and not to let," I can only assume that the recollection of the hon. and gallant Gentlemen was at fault. [HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] I do not wish to complicate the matter with further figures, but I, am as interested in housing as anybody in this Chamber; I have spent a number of years in carrying out responsibilities in a firm of contractors, and I have already given the matter very serious thought. I have a target. I have a target of 301,000 houses. That is my target and I propose to go through the possibilities of achieving the target of 301,000 houses.
I must first decide on the type of houses and I decide in favour of the existing standards, because I am as anxious as the Leader of the Opposition is to be "free of slumdom." I remember how quickly the sub-standard house becomes a slum and I am anxious to maintain the standard of housing. In order to give a correct comparison, therefore, the 301,000 houses I propose to build are equivalent in pre-war terms to 360,000 houses. That is a considerable target, slightly more than 688 the best ever achieved in the peak year before the war when there were between 200,000 and 400,000 unemployed building workers and enormous stocks of bricks and other materials. This is a very considerable target I have set myself, but I shall examine the possibility of achieving it.
The first thing I have to decide is the date when I can put my target into effect. There is no point in giving a vague and indeterminate date in the future. Any fool can get up and do that, and it would not be doing myself any justice to say that we shall have to build up to 301,000 houses sometime or other. I have to say it in terms people can understand, the immediate future. I make that my "immediate aim," just as the Leader of the Opposition is quoted as having said it was his "immediate aim." It would be a shocking deception if that "immediate aim" did not mean at the most a year's time from now. Anything from four or five years ahead will not be of any help to any of us.
How am I to achieve my target of 301,000 houses? I can either do it from the existing resources in the industry or, as the hon. Member for Peterborough thought, from resources outside the industry. First, I consider the resources within the industry, and I think we ought to get this straight. Without going into too many technical details, there are two things without which we cannot build houses. The first is bricklayers and the second is bricks. There is no need to go into any more technical detail than that. First as to bricklayers; anyone engaged in building knows there is a drastic shortage of bricklayers and there is great difficulty in building even what is at present under programme satisfactorily because of the falling numbers of bricklayers. It takes five years to train a bricklayer, and if we adopted the suggestion of the hon. Member for Wallasey the most we could bring it down to would be four years. Therefore, we would have a minimum of four years from now until we could create a force of bricklayers capable of improving the present rate of house-building if we are to rely on resources within the industry.
As to bricks, in spite of what the hon. Member said, the figures are available in the Digest of Statistics and we are run- 689 ning on the lowest stock of bricks this country has ever experienced. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] Because we are using a lot of bricks to build houses. We are carrying 10 times fewer bricks than before the war. As everyone knows, the first essential for efficient and speedy building is large stocks. That argument is accepted on both sides of the House. We cannot possibly increase the number of houses unless we increase the number of bricklayers and bricks, and we cannot do either of those things in the short term.
We know the very great difficulty there has been in encouraging men into brick-making as it is, and to a very large extent we have to rely on men from the Continent. It has not been possible, in view of pre-war experience, to get anything like an adequate number of men into the industry. If we cannot get the necessary increase out of existing resources, what one is compelled to do, as the hon. Member for Peterborough pointed out, is to go to outside resources. There are only two ways of doing that, as the hon. Member indicated. The first is the most stringent form of licensing—the re-introduction of the most stringent form of licensing to prevent resources from going elsewhere.
I want to make clear once more that the Conservative policy has been clearly pointed out in regard to this position. It is to abolish licensing, subject only to the one limitation of a maximum on each house. What that maximum is, one does not know.
§ Mr. Iain MacLeod
May I point out that this tremendous discovery that the hon. Member has made about the restrictive licensing system and the limitation on the size of the house, was indicated in "This is the Road" in February of this year?
§ Mr. Diamond
I do not dispute that for a second. I was only asking hon. Members opposite whether they adhere to that statement, which is "freeing the builder," or to imposing a system of licensing so as to channel all building resources other than housing into the housing field. We have had both statements from the party opposite, both in this Chamber and at the Conservative Conference, and it is really getting a little difficult to know which is the policy hon. Members opposite are putting forward. If they are merely saying that they are contradicting themselves 690 and that we should not pay great attention to what they say, that is something I can well understand.
Therefore, if we are to get resources from outside the industry, the first thing would be a tremendous increase in licensing. The other thing, as far as I can see, would be that quite one-half of every other type of building at present going on would have to stop, because it is perfectly clear that approximately half the bricklayers in the industry are engaged on housing. If we are to increase that output by one-half, we must accordingly stop one-half of all building at present going on outside housing. It is no use the hon. Member for Wallasey or any other hon. Member opposite suggesting that we can carry out our defence programme and even attempt to carry on a reduced programme of social services if this accent is to be placed on house-building in the immediate present. That would be quite impossible.
I feel, therefore, that we are bound to come to the conclusion that the Conservative Party have not given this matter the slightest thought. They have not attempted to consider in any practical detail how this is going to be done. They have not solved the first problem as to whether the additional houses are to come out of the house-building industry or out of other building operations, and they have not given any attention to the problem of whether we are to have freedom from licensing or increased licensing. In fact, they have only considered what, in short, is going to be the best system of getting more votes for the next General Election.
I think it is a great pity that so early in our deliberations in this new Chamber, representing as it does so much of the true meaning of democracy, we should be forced into a debate which has been merely produced by the other side in order to carry out some very cheap vote-catching practices. The Amendment is really suggesting that if people vote for the Conservatives, those who are without a house at the present time will all get one in the very near future. But from what has been said by hon. Members opposite this afternoon, it is clear that they have paid very little attention to the matter, and, in any case, it could not be done. I do not call that an Amendment, but a McCarthyism, and I call it that because I recently read 691 in the "New York Times" a definition of McCarthyism. It said that McCarthyism is defined asthe use of lies or partial truth to score a political point regardless of the consequences to personal reputation or to the public trust.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
The hon. Member for Blackley (Mr. Diamond) seemed, so far as I was able to follow his argument, to be somewhat diverging from the party lead in addressing himself to the merits of the subject. I am bound to say that it seemed to me that he raised many interesting points in the course of his speech. Of course, one quite realised the strength of feeling behind his condemnation of vote-catching in any form. That is certainly greatly to be deplored. On the other hand, we must not forget what votes are. Votes are the means by which the poorest people in the country and all people in the country can make sure that they get their vital needs attended to. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]
I am very glad to begin upon a note which receives such universal approbation because I had, after all, been led to expect that I was to undergo very unpleasant ordeals on this day. The Prime Minister—he is not here at the moment—expressed his confidence that the Minister of Health would "wipe the floor" with me. As I have only just taken the floor and he has already exhausted his right of speaking, I naturally feel a sensation of liberation and relief. But I cannot feel that this prospect, or the language of the Prime Minister, did justice to the grave issue open between the two parties and still less to the housing problem.
The suffering caused to millions of people by the want of houses throughout the island is a tragedy, and this is on quite a different level to any clashes that may occur across the Table, or across the Floor, between individual Members of the House. I think this Debate should end, as it has largely been maintained, upon a serious note, and I was very glad that my hon. Friends on this side of the House did not allow themselves to be provoked by taunts or abuse from an embarrassed party or a guilty Minister.
During the whole of the last Parliament the need for houses and the failure to supply them was constantly debated, and the outlines of the controversy are familiar 692 to us all. It is necessary, however, to restate the salient points on the verge of an important Division. They may be summed up as follows: First, the expectations aroused by the Government's assurances and pledges in 1945; secondly, the extraordinary shortfall in their fulfilment; thirdly, the gravity of the position and prospects now before us; and, finally, the need and the hope of a new constructive effort. It is on these points I shall venture to dwell tonight.
The House knows only too well the catalogue of pledges and promises which were made to the people by the Socialist Party during the Election of 1945. All were renewed on many occasions by the responsible Ministers after they had obtained power and were fully acquainted with official facts and figures. A few examples will suffice—I do not wish to burden the House with them. The former Minister, Mr. Charles Key, said on 12th October, 1946:Six million houses are needed in the next 10 years. To get that figure we shall have to build 600,000 a year, but I believe that by temporary prefabs and things of that sort we shall be able to do it.The present Minister Health said on 24th May, 1946:I confidently expect that before the next election every family in Great Britain will have a separate house.Again, two years later, on 24th April, 1948, he said:By the next General Election the back of the housing programme will have been broken.Contrast all this—and it could be multiplied to any extent; whole budgets of quotations are available—with the actual performances of the Socialist Government. In 1948 they had reached a total of 227,000 permanent houses. Since then, instead of getting better, things have got worse, and in 1949 the total of permanent houses was only 198,000. These results are indeed deplorable when we consider the crying need, the vehement demand and the immense subsidies now being paid, and when we compare the results with what was being done with hardly any subsidies, on a very small scale, before the late war broke upon us.
The Prime Minister said in the Debate last week:We consider that the 200,000 houses a year is an actual programme, a programme which is being carried out, and it is as nearly 693 as possible the number of good houses which can be built with the available resources of labour and materials …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 31st October, 1950; Vol. 480, c. 41.]I must say that I think that statement cast a chill on the party opposite. On the other hand, it has certainly been endorsed today by the Minister of Health. He has confirmed it and in every way associated himself with it. That is his duty, and any exhibition of loyalty on his part to his chief might well excite approbation even beyond the limits of the Government Bench.
What a strange position we find ourselves in tonight. The Conservative Party ask for the house building to be raised to a rate of 300,000 a year at the earliest moment. The Prime Minister, the head of the Labour Party, supported by his most ardent champion, declares that 200,000 is the most that can be done. Our demand, which represents the wish and the will of the nation, is dismissed in contemptuous terms and brushed aside with all sorts of aspersions on our motives. One would have thought it would have been welcome, and it might even have afforded a basis for common action.
The prime basic fact which stares us in the face tonight is that building at the rate of 200,000 a year in no way solves the problem. We do not make any progress with rehousing the people. We only keep level with houses which are already falling or have fallen into decay. The social evils affecting every aspect of our life, which are connected with the present housing shortage, are now presented to us by the Government as bound to continue, so far as can be seen, indefinitely. Sir, that situation is obviously intolerable.
Take the argument about comparing what was done in the five years after the First World War. There is this great difference between them. The first is that after the First World War there was no American aid. [HON MEMBERS: "Cheap."] On the contrary, a hard demand was pressed upon us for the repayment of war debts. The second is that there was practically no destruction by bombing in the First World War. Thirdly, the local authorities were virtually without experience of building in 1918. This time they had all the practical experience gained by the prewar slum clearance and other municipal 694 housing schemes. And finally, far more preparations were made by the war-time Government on this at the end of this war than were ever thought of in 1917 or 1918—[Interruption.] I am talking of the National Coalition Government and, on this occasion, there are still one or two representatives of it on the Front Bench.
What stood out dramatically at the end of this war was the need to rehouse the people after the devastation of the bombing. We all recognised it in the National Coalition. I will read to the House what I wrote at the time to some of my colleagues—on 5th April, 1944:The whole of this emergency housing scheme must be viewed in relation to a 10years' plan for the steady, full-time employment of a considerably enlarged building trade for permanent houses instead of a fever for three or four years and then a falling off. The building trade should have a broad and steady flow giving all its members a good assurance of employment and thus encouraging piece work.Everyone realizes, of course, that what is given for one purpose may, to some extent, have to be taken from others. The Government supporters naturally seek to obtain from us a list of reductions or economies which we would make in order to use these for electioneering purposes. That is quite natural in the unhappy conditions in which we have lived for a year and which seem likely to continue. I have no intention of making any piece-meal propositions. [Laughter.] I have a feeling, listening to the debates and watching hon. Members opposite, that their anxious consciences find relief in laughter. No one would grudge them any solace they can get from giggling.
Naturally, I have no intention of making piecemeal propositions. There is no obligation on a party in opposition, without access to Government machinery, to produce a detailed scheme. That can only be done where they have the power to act. But it is on such a definite, general design alone that changes of a large character of this kind can be judged. It may well be that a general design for an increase in housing would contain some features unpopular in themselves, but when presented in its entirety and harmony it would be greatly in the interests of the nation and would be generally welcomed.
695 In this matter of housing there are two questions: first to get the houses, and second to allot them. Do not let us quarrel too much about the second point. Do not let us quarrel so much about it as to prevent us from achieving the first, without which the second would not arise. Mrs. Beeton and, I believe, her predecessors in the cookery book, begins the recipe for jugged hare, "First catch your hare." One of the reasons for the Minister of Health's failure is that he mixes up these two processes. In order to make sure that nobody who was well-to-do could get a house, he has in fact prevented large numbers of houses being built for the ordinary wage-earners.
I listened to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman tonight with sorrow, because—here I make an admission—I do not believe he is as bad as he makes himself out to be. But I will say this to him. Hate is a bad guide. [Interruption.] I have never considered myself at all a good hater—though I recognise that from moment to moment it has added stimulus to pugnacity. People who have been denied an opportunity in life are deeply embittered, but the Minister of Health does not belong to that class. No man's services in the war were accorded such a wonderful reward as he received.
With the mood, and the need, and the ruins in the country glaring at us all from day to day, and with the piling up of arrears of house building, could there have been a task so plain and so inspiring as that which was offered to him? It was one which any man of vitality and vigour, in the prime of life, and gifted with abilities of a high order and Parliamentary gifts, would have embraced with joy, and gratitude to the land in which he lived. With the immense powers at his disposal under war-time regulations and with the long five years which have been granted to him, he might have left a mark upon the social life of the British people, and rendered them a service which would have made his name at once famous and beloved. I cannot understand how this did not appeal to him, and how it did not drive out all hampering passions and prejudices, the indulgence of which have led to the present unhappy plight that he is in.
696 It is not only a question of building houses, not only a question of numbers but the cost has risen to a point which, despite subsidies on an enormous scale, involves rents which many of those in most need of houses cannot afford. The rents charged to the tenants have risen remorselessly. Before the war the average rent of a local council house was 7s. a week. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] In many places now £1 a week rent is charged. In some cases, 25s. is charged by councils.
§ Mr. Bevan rose——
§ Mr. Churchill
No, I really cannot give way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] I do not want to be—[HON. MEMBERS: "Give way."] We can always shout each other down. I do not want to be involved in a personal altercation.
§ Mr. Churchill
We gave the right hon. Gentleman a patient and courteous hearing. There is no use in having a state of rowdiness, as if rowdiness paid any party. I do not want to be involved in an altercation with the right hon. Gentleman. However, if there is a point on which I am in error and upon which I am open to correction, I will gladly give way.
§ Mr. Bevan
Yes. As representatives of local authorities who saw me the other day will confirm—and there are hon. Members now sitting on both sides of the House who were present with the deputation—the average rentals in Great Britain upon which the subsidies are based are rents of between 14s. and 15s., including the repair allowances, as against the net—[Interruption.] Perhaps hon. Members will just listen. The rents upon which subsidies are paid are net rents, and the 7s. compares with the 14s. to 15s. post-war rents.
§ Mr. Churchill
The other day the Chancellor of the Exchequer showed us how all the rise in the cost of living was a delusion. The Minister of Health now proceeds to show us that there is no appreciable rise in rents. I am told that in some cases they have gone up to 25s. and 27s. a week, and that is clearly a level which ordinary working people cannot pay out of their wages. So much for the cost, which has certainly greatly increased in housing.
When we complain that houses have not been supplied in the necessary quantities it is said: "Half a loaf is better than no bread." But half a house is not a good plan. We could usefully use more two-bedroomed houses, and more small flats for old people enabling them to move out of their large houses to make room for families. Any habitable house is better than no house at all, or a house so dear that the poorest class, for which it is built, cannot afford to pay the rent which the local authority is bound to charge. There are many cases of that of which we know, and the richer class of people take the houses because those for whose needs they were specially designed and intended are unable to reach the level of rent. It is no service to the lower income group to offer them prizes which are beyond their reach; indeed it is a mockery.
Before the war, the size of a house was 800 square feet. The Government raised it to 1,050 square feet. That is more than the figure that rules in the United States, whose economic position is vastly more powerful than our own, and from whom we have received such immense assistance. The amount of space is less important than how it is used. I am assured that there may well be scope for improved design within the existing compass of housing.
It is necessary also, I think, for the Government to understand the peculiar position of house-building labour. I said some time ago how a bricklayer and his mates engaged in building a house were like people living on a raft of which they had every day to burn a plank or two to cook their dinner. That is the feeling which is in their minds. They ask themselves what is going to happen to them when it is finished. In the present circumstances there is a field of employment for the house builders unlimited for many 698 years except by Government decision. As I said earlier, I thought that we should give them an assurance of a 10-years' guaranteed programme. Free from the anxiety that their work may end with the job, they could go ahead with piece work without fear or stint and all the incentives, including the bonus system, could apply.
Here alone might be a 20 or 25 per cent. increase in the building effort. There is really no reason why the output per man in the building trade should be lower than pre-war or so much lower than in the United States. Make them a fair and attractive proposition and we will get surprising results, but this policy of the Prime Minister that 200,000 is the limit, endorsed by the Minister of Health—I dare say to his regret—is bad for the rate of output—even within that limit.
There is no trade in the country which can more readily adapt itself to a static condition than the building trade. They would like a progressive condition but they are quite ready, after the rough time which they have had in the last generation—I have seen it: the first to be called up for mobilisation and so on and the first to be turned off when building slackens and so on—[Interruption.] I am the author of the labour exchanges and the first Unemployment Insurance Act. I was in these matters years before many hon. Gentlemen opposite were able to take an adult interest in them. I say that the building workers are quite ready, after their experiences, to settle down into a static condition.
The Government limit of 200,000 houses—it was only 175,000, as the Minister reminded us, until this new Parliament forced the restoration of the cut—undoubtedly has most evil and discouraging effects. How long it is to last, we cannot tell. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose absence from our councils we deeply regret and still more the reason for it, told us in the Budget that this limit would last for three years. Such a limit, or anything like it, must reproduce the deterrence of efforts, enterprise and piece work which ruled in the days when the building trade had always an unabsorbed tail of unemployment.
Therefore, when I endorsed as a resolute aim of the Conservative Party the raising of the rate of building to 300,000 a year, I did not mean that to be the static limit. We shall thrust towards it 699 with all our life, strength and wit, but once this figure gleams upon our horizon—"forward again" must be the policy and the order. So much for the Government's policy and the Prime Minister's statement. I am sure that the Prime Minister's statement represents the rigid attitude of planners who understand only about half of what is really going on.
Now I come to the question whether the proposal we make is possible and practicable, or whether it is all moonshine. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad to carry Members opposite with me. I said that 100,000 houses would cost £150 million a year from an annual income of over £10,000 million. The Prime Minister's reply is that houses are not built with money. Money, of course, is only a fairly well known method of expressing effort and resources. I am surprised it has not occurred to the Prime Minister, because it has been known in quite a lot of countries for quite a long time.
Let us look at the additional effort and resources required. Judgment on this kind of enterprise depends on two conditions: are they so big that they are beyond our power, and, secondly, if they are within our scope, are there bottlenecks which prevent them? Several constructive speeches have been made today. We have also made, in our own research department, a considerable examination. My personal experience of Government machinery is considerable, and I must say that I have never seen a major task which I was more sure of as being within practical limits. I would not fear to take responsibility for this achievement. I offer my assurance that it is a reasonable objective, and that, should we be called upon to exercise power, it would receive the highest priority and the most vehement effort jointly with national defence.
That is what I have to say on the proportion, but let us now look at the bottlenecks. My hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), in his admirable speech today, dealt with these details. I was very glad that with his technical knowledge he was able to put this subject before the House as a practical matter of detail and on its merits, instead of trying to reduce it to the ordinary bang and slam on one side and the other of party 700 politics. I was sorry that my hon. Friend, a private Member speaking from a back bench, should have been made the victim for so prolonged a personal attack by the Minister of Health. I really thought that the Minister would have done himself much more good—though he is the judge of that—if he had devoted himself to the merits of the question, and tried to give the House the feeling that his heart was burning to conquer in this struggle to find homes for the British people. I shall not attempt to go into details. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] If I did so, I would trespass on the reply to this Debate.
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. McNeil)
If another five minutes would furnish the House with any details, I should be delighted to give up that time.
§ Mr. Churchill
Eight billion bricks were made before the war, but we are now making a little over six billion. Of this six billion a little more than three billion are used for the construction of the traditional brick dwelling house. Out of them are built about 160,000 houses. To build another 100,000 houses would need about two billion more bricks. That is well within the range of the pre-war brick fields. If these had not been restricted and jogged about by changes of policy, there would be plenty of bricks. But the brickfields are already running at 80 per cent. of their pre-war capacity, and there should be no great difficulty or delay in restoring them to their pre-war normal output. So much for bricks.
More cement will also be needed to achieve our target, but this need present no great problem. An extra 900,000 tons would produce 100,000 houses. The industry already produces 10 million tons, and it would be producing more if it had been allowed to go ahead with the expansion plans it had in 1945. Next year this industry plans to produce 10½ million tons. As a temporary measure, we could, if necessary, reduce for a time the exports, which are running at a rate of 1,600,000 tons. Certainly by the end of next year the cement industry if not nationalised, will have caught up with all our demands, including rearmament.
Then there is timber. We have been told that if no timber can be got from sterling area countries like Norway, it will affect the dollar position. But here again 701 I am sure that the quantities and proportion would have their say. I am assured that about £9¾ million worth of dollars or less than half of our last year's tobacco bill, would give all the dollars necessary to buy from Canada the extra timber. I do not believe it would be necessary to go so far, because I am sure a good deal can be got within the sterling area. Far greater elasticity will come from the abolition of bulk buying by officials. Anyhow, the whole timber transaction is one well within our compass. The improvement in the dollar exchange would more than justify such a step. We lose at home by the higher prices for raw materials, but in the exchange we gain, especially by the sale of tin and rubber. It may well be that we could find a partial compensation for Britain at home in using our improved dollar position to buy more timber, and thus help to solve the housing question.
I am asked, "Are you for or against controls?" But what a crude and absurd way to state the issue. Government speakers talk as if there were no middle course between the universal regulation of a Socialist State administering all the means of production, distribution and exchange, and what they call the anarchy of the jungle. But the vast majority of the human race dwell in the temporate zones which lie between the burning heat of the Equator and the freezing cold of the Polar regions. Our belief is that the fewer the controls the better; that the more freedom and enterprise can play their part the more chance there is of a fertile, prosperous and progressive community.
We also think that private management is far more economical and resourceful than management by State officials. We are sure that the completion of the Socialist aim of substituting State industry for every form of private industry would reduce our standard of life and would reduce the present number of our population. In the United States, where a capitalist competitive system prevails and where war-time regulations were practically swept away until recently—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."] Well, there is a war in Korea. What about that "Ah" now? The United States have three times our population, so, according to Government standards, they ought to be building 600,000 houses a year. They are actually building more than a million.
702 Now, when rearmament casts its shadow upon the world and upon our country, there must evidently be a maintenance or even a renewal of some war-time regulations. We have agreed that the Supplies and Services Act should be renewed on an annual basis, but our hope of establishing full freedom under the well-known and long-established laws of our country remains our goal. The difference between the two sides of the House is that the Socialists aim at the maximum of controls and the Conservatives aim at the minimum. Both seek to progress in those opposite directions for different reasons as fast as they possibly can. Can we now accept that as a summary of the differences between us?
If we apply that mood of thought to the position of the building industry at the present time it means that we should, of course, use the local authorities as well as the private builders, and that we should only alter the system of licences steps by step. The Minister of Health has suggested that under a Conservative Government a great number of houses would be built for sale to the well-to-do, by speculative builders and that few houses would be built to let for the ordinary man. It is our intention that, under a Conservative Government, the priority given to houses built by local authorities will be maintained. This obligation will be scrupulously honoured in our housebuilding programme.
§ Mr. Churchill
We want the local authorities to be able to reduce their waiting lists and to resume the process of slum clearance which was interrupted by the war.
§ Mr. Churchill
I said that I had no intention of stating exact details. Give me the power and I will give you the figures. We have to indicate our principles, and I am indicating some very clear principles. Over and above that commitment, to which we are all pledged, we should expand output so as to make it possible for free enterprise and renewed impulse to build large numbers of additional houses, both for sale and to let. So 703 long as the housing shortage continues, the Government must restrict the ceiling on price or size of houses built for sale, and this must be dependent upon the prevailing, and sometimes upon the local, conditions. We shall take steps to prevent the diversion to any kind of luxury building, whether public or private, of the resources of men and materials—[Interruption]—a great deal is being taken for public building—which could be devoted to the housing of the people.
I listened to the speech of the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd George. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I hope that the applause from the other side of the House will assure her of any immunities which she may be seeking. I need not say that I speak as a life-long friend of her father and her family, but I feel that she should have verified the facts before making the statement about the Carlton Club claiming a licence to rebuild the bomb-damaged premises. We have given up all hope of ever rebuilding the Carlton Club and no application for a licence has ever been made. The site is being disposed of. Speaking as one who lived in her father's generation, I do not consider that prefixing the words "I am informed that" relieves one of all responsibility.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but when I was informed that that was not the case, I withdrew the statement. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Certainly I did so.
§ Mr. Churchill
I was here at the time but I suffer a little from deafness and did not realise that the charge had been withdrawn.
§ Lady Megan Lloyd George
I said that I was very glad that it was so and that no licence had been granted.
§ Mr. Churchill
Honour is completely satisfied on both sides.
We say that the emphasis should be placed upon new houses. In 1935 new housing absorbed 48 per cent. of the building industry's output. In 1947 the figure was only 34 per cent., and in 1948 31 per cent. We have no later figures, but I am informed—[Laughter]—I must be careful—that it might well be only 30 per cent. today.
704 I think that the Government have been at once ambitious and ineffectual in their building plans. They have dispersed, instead of concentrating, their resources. They have been very loose in their application of principles of selection in regard to their objectives. The need above all is to establish in this sphere, as in many others, the right priorities. They ask, for instance, whether we would cut the new power stations. The answer is "No." Without power we cannot build houses, carry out our defence programme or expand our industrial output. But the question of whether the necessary electrical supply could not be obtained with fewer bricks subtracted from the housing programme is still open, and my hon. Friend the Member for Wallasey drew our attention to American practice on this subject, which certainly seems to deserve study.
I am grateful for the five minutes extra which the right hon. Gentleman has granted me, and I shall draw to a conclusion the remarks I have ventured to offer to the House.
We must not let this "wiping the floor" mood of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health blot out from our minds the pathos and the tragedy of the shortage of houses. The life of the nation and the happiness and virtue of the human race are founded upon the family and upon the home. Empire, ideologies, party struggles, class warfare, all present their attractive temptations to the active mind, but the foundations of all our health and honour lie in the home and the family.
It was John Bright who spoke of his supreme pleasure in seeing little children playing upon the hearth. I cannot understand why this result should not be won. Let us have less chatter and planning and scheming for future Utopias. Let us get on with this imperative job of housing the millions who ask so little and get so little for all their efforts. The family requires a home and the home requires a house or, if you like it, an "accommodation unit"—something, at any rate, where a man has his own front door.
Outside is the great. bewildering, tumultuous world; inside, the family can plan what is best for themselves, what it is best to aim for, what it is wisest to give up. And in so deciding they create 705 at once the foundation and the motive power without which all the super planners are only chasing shadows. Where does the family start? It starts with a young man falling in love with a girl—[Interruption.] No superior alternative has yet been found! Look at the number of couples who, as the statistics show, either cannot get married because they cannot get a house to live in, or have to live with their parents, or jam up in the sort of collectivist squalor of Communist lands. I see that a judge in Plymouth said the housing shortage was the principal cause of divorces. Then what of health? There is no doubt that tuberculosis thrives on bad housing conditions. In Scotland it has actually gone up since the war. Then comes the sharp issue of children not having a home they love, or a family circle which commands their loyalty, and of the many forms of consequential juvenile misconduct of which we read.
The Minister of Health cannot brush all this aside and escape from this Debate without incurring blame and condemnation outside for not having offered us a constructive statement and words of encouragement. All his critics will not be on one side of the House. I have a number of quotations, some very moving, from speeches made last week from the Benches opposite, one particularly from the hon. Member for Kirkdale (Mr. Keenan) who said:What is the good of having fine schools or even fine hospitals if there is no home in which the children can rest? … I believe in bedrooms before schoolrooms. … It is certainly a fact that not all building trade workers who are capable of house-building are engaged on house-building.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st November, 1950: Vol. 480. c. 200 and 201.]It astounds me that the House has not rallied to this proposal which we make and resolved that it shall be carried into effect by every priority to other issues except self-preservation.
But, Sir, you may be sure that the nation will not endure this mismanagement and misdirection much longer. They will not agree to a system of British life and society which means that no progress is being made to overtake the housing arrears, that as many houses are falling into decay every year as are being built, that slum clearance is static like all the rest of it, that all the personal stresses 706 now endured by hard-working couples are to continue, and that even to raise these issues in the House of Commons is to incur the insulting charge of vote-catching and partisanship.
Early last week there came cross my mind some lines about our island life which Charles Masterman used to repeat to me. Oddly enough, while I was seeking to verify the quotation it was used in the House by the hon Member for Oldham, West (Mr. Leslie Hale). The poet and the teacher, as he was—William Watson—speaking of the hard social conditions of the life of the people, asked:Is there no room for victories here,No fields for deeds of fame?But I have found another verse of William Watson, which I remembered at the same time:The England of my heart is she,Long hoped, and long deferred,That ever promises to be,And ever breaks her word.Why should she always break her word to those who love her so well and defend her safety and honour with their lives? Now is the time, here is the occasion, and this housing issue is the deed to sweep that hard reproach away.
§ 9.32 p.m.
The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. McNeil)
The right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) never need feel that he is under any debt to me if I offer him five minutes of my time, but I know him normally to be an honourable man and I am sorry that he has not kept his bargain tonight. There was a price to the five minutes. The price was that I hoped we might have more facts offered by the right hon. Member than the other side had so far found. Indeed, it would be very rash of me to offer much advice to the right hon. Gentleman, but occasionally the simple things are obvious, and if I did not get more reward from my research department than the right hon. Gentleman has done this afternoon, I would sack it.
I do not intend to attempt to follow the right hon. Gentleman in the potted history of this subject which he has offered us. It is quite true that all of us can have figures brought against us. I remember a White Paper—which, let me confess, impressed me—issued by the Coalition Government, of which the right hon. Gentleman was the head, when he, 707 with many others, pledged themselves on a programme of 750,000 houses. We are a long way past that. We have had provided since that Government departed about 1,200,000 dwellings. [HON. MEMBERS: "Accommodation units."] If hon. Members opposite had listened, they would have heard even their leader commending accommodation units in the speech which he has just completed. In that time we have provided 1,200,000 dwellings for the people, and still they demand more——
§ Mr. McAdden
If the right hon. Gentleman would come with me, I could show him some of the dwellings.
We know how poor they may be, but they represent almost twice the figure to which the right hon. Gentleman with other distinguished Members of this House committed themselves in 1945. All of us should be very careful about offering predictions upon this involved and important question. Whenever I am the least bit tempted, I look at the right hon. Gentleman and console myself with one of his vivid phrases which he uses so frequently and which came back to my mind tonight when, at the height of his passion, he said, "If I see the glimmer on the horizon of these 300,000 …" I remember he stirred us all by saying in relation to a certain project:They will grow all over England like mushrooms in a damp meadow.The right hon. Gentleman was then displaying his expert knowledge about housing and was talking about the Portal house! There would be no reward to any of us in going over this old story, where we have all made mistakes but where we have constantly and continuously put forward a passionate desire and co-ordinated effort to meet the needs of the people. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Yes, and do not let any hon. Member opposite think he can tell the people on these benches, or those who send us here, anything about the passion of their hopes in the miseries they endure.
These are curious crocodile tears from a party which had power unchallenged for 25 years and which permitted and encouraged the building industry of this country fully to occupy itself, not for those most inadequately housed, but for those 708 who could pay most for them. [An HON. MEMBER: "The houses were there."] The houses were there for those who could pay for them. No one denies they could have 300,000 but what we are considering is to whom were those houses made available.
I hope that there is ample evidence that there is no reward in going over this old history, and I plead with the right hon. Gentleman, when he is canvassing and publicising his case still further, that he will resist that temptation. If I might offer further advice; however noble and dearly loved the right hon. Gentleman may be—and he is—he will scarcely permit himself to be disentangled from the suspicion which reaches from Land's End to John O'Groats in relation to the Tory Party's housing programme, and today our suspicions have not been allayed.
The hon. and gallant Member for Bedford (Captain Soames), when one of my hon. Friends asked him to indicate some details about the Opposition's proposal, brushed my hon. Friend angrily aside saying, "This is not the time for detail; detail comes later." Tonight the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) pursued the same line. He said that it would be unreasonable to expect an Opposition to publish the details of its scheme. Is it unreasonable to expect that His Majesty's Opposition, which moves a motion of no confidence in the Government, should substantiate their case with some facts? Is it unreasonable for the people of the country, who are led to believe that His Majesty's Opposition have a detailed plan worked out, to want to know how they propose to fit it into the capital investment programme? The truth is, as everyone in this House knows, that it is not a carefully weighed and formulated programme. It is a gust of understandable anger from the floor of the Tory Party conference which swept the platform away. Of course it is, and no one here dare say otherwise——
—and no one opposite has offered any evidence to the contrary. I listened carefully to the speech of the hon. Member for Wallasey (Mr. Marples), and I shall be putting some points to the hon. Gentleman.
I shall put some points to the hon. Gentleman, and I shall make some comments on his curious statements. Any Government is naturally grateful for constructive criticism, and I say, on behalf of my right hon. Friend and myself, that the few points that were offered today will be most carefully studied. But it is really a little exasperating to be treated by the Opposition as a pack of fools when they have not even taken the trouble to examine what is happening.
The hon. Member for Wallasey said in his modest way that he had a valuable suggestion to offer. He told us the story of his relative, and I have every sympathy with his relative. I am not criticising that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Hon. Members must wait for a second. He then went on to advise us, with a great surge of insight and wisdom, that we should build a proportion of one- and two-apartment houses. What a discovery!
The hon. and gallant Member for Renfrew, East (Major Lloyd) wanted to talk about the surge of anger in Scotland a second ago. There is a surge of anger that derives from the fact that when private enterprise was last let loose in Scotland, 50 per cent. of our dwellings were one- and two-apartment houses. There is, of course, a place for the one- and two-apartment house in our new building programmes, but there is no great place for it. The essence of our difficulty arises from the high proportion of these one- and two-apartment houses. But my right hon. Friends and myself, in our recent programmes and in our next programmes, have asked local authorities to build a proportion of these houses precisely for the specific purpose of housing aged people and aged couples so that, in turn, accommodation may be freed.
The issue in this Debate turns on the fact that there are at least three essential questions which not only have not been answered but at least one of which the Opposition, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford, have taken great care to avoid answering. The right hon. Gentleman waved aside the question of labour in, I think, one sentence. The hon. Member for Wallasey 710 would not address himself to it either. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Yes, when he was challenged he said he would adopt the same method as had been adopted in other circumstances of offering higher wages; but he did not tell us what that would mean in the cost of the house, and the cost concerns the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford greatly, as he has already confessed.
If the present proportion of operatives to houses completed is to be maintained in this programme of an additional 100,000 houses, then about 115,000 more operatives will be needed. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I cannot shut my eyes to existing facts. These facts are derivable by anyone who looks at the figures published. In the 115,000, about 30,000 would have to be bricklayers and about 7,000 plasterers. I go further. If right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite fancy that they have some strange ingenuity in this business of providing additional labour, they can start now, because there are at present 9,000 unfilled vacancies for bricklayers and about 1,000 vacancies for plasterers.
I do not want to suggest that anyone on these benches is satisfied with our present productivity rates—not for a second. Nor am I suggesting that we have no obligation to keep constantly on top of this problem. Where we have got employers as well as operatives and their organisations to accept incentive schemes, we have got results. In some parts of Scotland I have seen recently most encouraging results, where we get about 1,000 bricks per man per day. That kind of figure is always possible where one has a smooth-running, well-applied scheme. But however well the scheme may run, it does not make a substantial difference to this figure of the missing 30,000 bricklayers and 7,000 plasterers; and to this question no one has addressed himself with any thoroughness.
There are other allied questions. The hon. Gentleman told us about timber. I must say that I am really distressed to hear such a cavalier dismissal of this subject. If the hon. Member for Wallasey means that there is now a greater overall availability of all kinds of woods sawn, then he may be right. I do not know. I never thought it one of my jobs to try and visualise how I should build houses with mahogany walls and 711 walnut roofs. [An HON. MEMBER: "Softwood"]. An hon. Gentleman says "Softwoods." I do not think the hon. Member for Wallasey did. If he did say it, he is not aware of the figures, because the availability of world softwoods is far down. The figures are available to anyone who cares to look at them.
Softwood exports from all sources before the war varied between four million and five million standards. Since the war in only one year has the amount of three million standards been exceeded. The hon. Gentleman may have more knowledge about availabilities in Soviet Russia than I have, but I heard one hon. Member on the benches opposite who seemed to suggest that we should pursue something very like an economic boycott of that country. We are pursuing the matter of softwoods in hard currency areas. I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to accept my word when I say that we are giving special dollar treatment in this respect, but there is already great competition and a comparative scarcity of softwood even in the dollar areas. I saw in the publication of housing statistics reference to an unfilled order for four and a half million softwood standards in the United States in May of this year. There is great competition, primarily for the reason to which my right hon. Friend has already referred, that so many nations are at this time pursuing a policy of stockpiling.
We propose to increase our cement production next year. That, of course, must be related to our defence requirements, but we cannot hope to produce out of a bag the extra cement which would be needed for an additional 100,000 houses, and, of course, if we are going to get down to the measure of 1.6 standards per house to which the hon. Member for Wallasey referred, then our cement needs will be proportionately higher. I do not say lightly that these are examples of gross irresponsibility on the part of the Opposition. They cannot expect the country to take their claims at all seriously if they will not inform this House how they propose to tackle the problem.
My right hon. Friend asked "Where will you cut into the capital programme?" The right hon. Gentleman referred to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Kirkdale (Mr. Keenan). I understand 712 his argument, even if I do not accept it. I understand that he means that he would rather see school building come to a standstill if that were a necessary condition for increasing house-building. But none of the hon. Members opposite tell us that. We are offered this one idea, which is again taken up by the right hon. Gentleman, that we should create valuable power houses which are essential, and leave them open to the four winds of heaven—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, I misunderstood the right hon. Gentleman. I must apologise if I did. I understood him to say that in the United States he had seen power houses left open. I must say that I never have; nor has the hon. Member for Wallasey, I imagine. What is possible in building in the southern part of the United States is not at all relevant. That was the only idea offered by the Opposition in relation to the capital programme during the course of the day's Debate. If hon. Members opposite wish to be taken as earnest and responsible, they must face up to this problem boldly and meticulously, and they must tell us where they intend to cut, if indeed they are going to cut.
There is a third question which was not answered and which I do not expect will be answered. How far is the licensing system to be continued? No answer—a series of evasions, but no answer. An evasion upon another point, twice put to the Opposition—what proportion is to be built for sale and what proportion for letting? If the right hon. Gentleman hopes to attract those people up and down the country who figure most largely in these housing lists, he must bear in mind that they will want to know, because they have lived through the period when houses were being built—but not for them. At any rate, it is very easy to answer the query. It is the easiest matter in the world to meet the anxieties of these people. The Opposition merely need to say what proportion—and they have not done so. My guess is that they will not.
Nobody on this side of the House thinks there is anything sacrosanct in this figure of 200,000. My right hon. Friend has already assured the House why we used that figure and in what circumstances we can improve upon it. If I may say so with great respect, the most honest and in many ways the most moving speech of the day was that of the noble Lady the Member for Anglesey (Lady Megan Lloyd 713 George). It was persuasive, because everyone in this House knows that in relation to such a subject as this those would be the warm and instinctive reactions of the noble Lady. She might have told the House that if we were going to fix a figure according to the dictates of our hearts, we should not confine ourselves to 300,000.
I can understand people at a conference shouting such a figure, but I cannot understand how responsible, experienced, skilled and informed men could ever commit themselves, their party or the public to such a figure without examination.
§ That is what the noble Lady demanded of them. Anyone with any experience of public life, who walks into the Lobby in support of the Amendment, whatever they say with their lips, and whatever they say in public, we shall know that in the depth of their minds and perhaps in their hearts they have not squared their claim with the facts of the situation as they know it exists.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 288; Noes, 300.717
|Division No. 1.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Davidson, Viscountess||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)|
|Alport, C. J. M||Davies, Nigel (Epping)||Hudson, Rt. Hon. R. S. (Southport)|
|Amery, J. (Preston, N.)||de Chair, S.||Hudson, W. R. A (Hull, N.)|
|Amory, D Heathcoat (Tiverton)||De la Bère, R.||Hulbert, Wing-Cdr N J|
|Arbuthnot, John||Deedes, W. F.||Hutchinson, Geoffrey (Ilford, N.)|
|Ashton, H. (Chelmsford)||Digby, S. Wingfield||Hutchison, Lt -Com. Clark (E'b'rgh)|
|Assheton, Rt. Hon. R. (Blackburn, W.)||Dodds-Parker, A. D||Hutchison, Col. J. R. H. (Scotstoun)|
|Astor, Hon. M.||Donner, P. W.||Hyde, H. M.|
|Baker, P.||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord M||Hylton-Foster, H. B|
|Baldock, J. M.||Drayson, G. B.||Jeffreys, General Sir G|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Dugdale, Maj. Sir T (Richmond)||Jennings, R.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L||Johnson, Howard S. (Kemptown)|
|Baxter, A. B.||Dunglass, Lord||Jones, A. (Hall Green)|
|Beamish, Maj. T V H||Duthie W. S.||Joynson-Hicks, Hon L W|
|Bell, R. M.||Eccles, D. M.||Kaberry, D|
|Bennett, Sir P. (Edgbaston)||Elliot, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Walter||Keeling, E H.|
|Bennett, R. F. B (Gosport)||Erroll, F. J.||Kerr, H. W. (Cambridge)|
|Bennett, W. G. (Woodside)||Fisher, Nigel||Kingsmill, Lt.-Col W. H|
|Bevins, J R. (Liverpool, Toxteth)||Fletcher, W (Bury)||Lambert, Hon. G|
|Birch, Nigel||Fort, R.||Lancaster, Col. C. G|
|Bishop, F. P||Foster, J. G.||Langford-Holt, J.|
|Black, C. W||Fraser, Hon. H, C. P. (Stone)||Law, Rt. Hon. R. K|
|Boles, Lt.-Col. D C (Wells)||Fraser, Sir I. (Lonsdale)||Leather, E. H. C.|
|Boothby, R.||Fyle, Rt. Hon. Sir D. P M||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H|
|Bossom, A. C||Gage, C. H||Lennox-Boyd, A. T|
|Bowen, R.||Galbraith, Cmdr. T. D. (Pollok)||Lindsay, Martin|
|Bower, N.||Galbraith, T. G D. (Hillhead)||Linstead, H N|
|Boyd-Carpenter, J. A.||Gammans, L. D.||Llewellyn, D|
|Bracken, Rt. Hon. Brendan||Garner-Evans, E. H. (Denbigh)||Lloyd, Rt. Hon G. (King's Norton)|
|Braine, B.||Gates, Maj. E E||Lloyd, Maj. Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Braithwaite, Lt.-Comdr J. G.||Glyn, Sir R||Lloyd, Selwyn (Wirral)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col W||Gridley, Sir A||Lockwood, Lt -Col. J. C|
|Brooke, H. (Hampstead)||Grimond, J.||Longden, G. J. M. (Herts, S.W.)|
|Browne, J. N. (Govan)||Grimston, Hon. J (St. Albans)||Low, A. R W.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T||Grimston, R. V (Westbury)||Lucas, Major Sir J (Portsmouth, S)|
|Bullock, Capt. M.||Harden, J. R. E.||Lucas, P B. (Brentford)|
|Bullus, Wing-Commander E. E||Hare, Hon. J. H. (Woodbridge)||Lucas-Tooth, Sir H.|
|Burden, Squadron-Leader F. A.||Harris, F. W. (Croydon, N.)||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Butcher, H. W.||Harris, R. R. (Heston)||McAdden, S. J|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R A. (S'ffr'n W'ld'n)||Harvey, Air-Codre A V. (Macclesfield)||McCallum Maj. D|
|Carr, L. R (Mitcham)||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||McCorquodale, Rt. Hon. M. S.|
|Carson, Hon. E.||Hay, John||Macdonald, A. J. F. (Roxburgh)|
|Channon, H.||Head, Brig A. H.||Macdonald, Sir P (I of Wight)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. W. S.||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir C.||McKibbin, A.|
|Clarke, Col. R. S. (East Grinstead)||Heald, L. F.||McKie, J. H (Galloway)|
|Clarke, Brig. T. H. (Portsmouth, W.)||Heath, Edward||Maclay, Hon. J. S|
|Clyde, J. L||Henderson, John (Cathcart)||Maclean, F. H. R.|
|Colegate, A||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W||MacLeod, lain (Enfield, W.)|
|Conant, Maj. R. J. E.||Higgs, J. M. C.||Macmillan, John (Ross and Cromarty)|
|Cooper, A. E. (Ilford, S.)||Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Macmillan, Rt. Hon Harold (Bromley)|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Macpherson, N. (Dumfries)|
|Corbett, Lieut.-Col. U. (Ludlow)||Hill, Dr. C. (Luton)||Maitland, Comdr J. W.|
|Craddock, G. B. (Spelthorne)||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Manningham-Buller, R. E|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hirst, Geoffrey||Marlowe, A. A. H|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H F. C||Hollis, M. C.||Marples, A. E.|
|Cross, Rt. Hon. Sir R.||Holmes, Sir J. Stanley (Harwich)||Marshall, D. (Bodmin)|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E||Hope, Lord J.||Marshall, S. H. (Sutton)|
|Crouch, R. F.||Hopkinson, H. L. D'A.||Maude, A. E. U. (Ealing, S.)|
|Crowder, F. P. (Ruislip—Northwood)||Hornsby-Smith, Miss P.||Maude, J. C. (Exeter)|
|Cundiff, F. W.||Horsbrugh, Miss F.||Maudling, R.|
|[...]bert, W. N.||Howard, G. R. (St. Ives)||Medlicott, Brigadier F|
|Darling, Sir W. Y (Edinburgh, S.)||Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Mellor, Sir J.|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Robinson, J. Roland (Blackpool, S.)||Thomas, J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Moore, Lt.-Col Sir T.||Robson-Brown, W (Esher)||Thompson, K P (Wa[...]ton)|
|Morrison, Maj. J. G. (Salisbury)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Thompson, R. H. M (Croydon, W.)|
|Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Roper, Sir H.||Thorneycroft, G. E. P (Monmouth)|
|Nabarro, G||Ropner, Col. L.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Nicholls, H||Ross, Sir R D. (Londonderry)||Thorp, Brigadier R. A. F.|
|Nicholson, G||Russell, R. S.||Tilney, John|
|Nield, B (Chester)||Ryder, Capt. R. E. D.||Touche, G. C.|
|Noble, Comdr. A. H P||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D||Turner, H. F. L|
|Nugent, G. R. H.||Savory, Prof. D. L.||Turton, R H|
|Nutting, Anthony||Scott, Donald||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Oakshott, H. D.||Shepherd, W. S (Cheadle)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Odey, G. W.||Smiles, Lt.-Col. Sir W||Vaughan-Morgan, J K|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir H||Smith, E. Martin (Grantham)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.||Smithers, Peter H B. (Winchester)||Wade, D. W.|
|Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Smithers, Sir W (Orpington)||Wakefield, E B (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Smyth, Brig. J. G (Norwood)||Wakefield, Sir W. W. St (Marylebone)|
|Walker-Smith, D. C|
|Orr-Ewing, Ian L. (Weston-super-Mare)||Snadden, W. McN||Ward, Hon G. R. (Worcester)|
|Osborne, C.||Soames, Capt. C.||Ward, Miss I. (Tynemouth)|
|Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Spearman, A. C. M.||Waterhouse, Capt. C.|
|Perkins, W. R. D.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Watkinson, H.|
|Peto, Brig. C. H. M||Spens, Sir P. (Kensington, S.)||Webbe, Sir H. (London)|
|Pickthorn, K.||Stanley, Capt, Hon R (N Fylde)||Wheatley, Major M. J. (Poole)|
|Pitman, I. J.||Stevens, G. P.||White, J Baker (Canterbury)|
|Powell, J. Enoch||Steward, W. A (Woolwich, W.)||Williams, C. (Torquay)|
|Prescott, Stanley||Stewart, J. Henderson (Fife, E.)||Williams, Gerald (Tonbridge)|
|Price, H. A. (Lewisham, W)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Williams, Sir H G (Croydon, E.)|
|Profumo, J. D.||Strauss, Henry (Norwich, S.)||Wills, G.|
|Raikes, H. V||Stuart, Rt. Hon. J (Moray)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Rayner, Brig. R||Studholme, H. G||Winterton, Rt. Hon Earl|
|Redmayne, M.||Summers, G. S.||Wood, Hon. R|
|Remnant, Hon. P||Sutcliffe, H.||York, C|
|Renton, D. L. M.||Taylor, C. S. (Eastbourne)|
|Roberts, P. G. (Heeley)||Taylor, W. J. (Bradford, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Robertson, Sir D. (Caithness)||Teeling, William||Mr. Drewe and|
|Acland, Sir Richard||Collick, P||Freeman, Peter (Newport)|
|Adams, Richard||Collindridge, F||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon H. T. N.|
|Albu, A. H.||Cooper, J (Deptford)||Ganley, Mrs. C. S|
|Allen, A C (Bosworth)||Corbet, Mrs F. K. (Peckham)||George, Lady M. Lloyd|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Cove, W. G.||Gibson, C. W.|
|Anderson, A (Motherwell)||Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Gilzean, A.|
|Anderson, F. (Whitehaven)||Crawley, A||Glanville, J. E. (Consett)|
|Attlee, Rt. Hon. C. R||Crosland, C. A. R.||Gooch, E. G.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Crossman, R. H. S.||Gordon-Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C|
|Ayles, W. H.||Cullen, Mrs. A||Granville, E (Eye)|
|Bacon, Miss A||Uaines, P.||Greenwood, Anthony W J (Rossendale)|
|Baird, J.||Dalton, Rt. Hon. H.||Greenwood, Rt. Hon Arthur (Wakefield)|
|Balfour, A.||Darling, G. (Hillsboro')||Grenfell, D. R.|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon A J||Davies, A Edward (Stoke, N.)||Grey, C. F.|
|Bartley, P.||Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Griffiths, D. (Rother Valley)|
|Bellenger, Rt Hon F J||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. J (Llanelly)|
|Benson, G.||Davies, R J (Westhoughton)||Griffiths, W. D. (Exchange)|
|Beswick, F||Davies, S O (Merthyr)||Gunter, R. J.|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||de Freitas, Geoffrey||Haire, John E. (Wycombe)|
|Bins, G. H. C.||Deer, G.||Hale, J. (Rochdale)|
|Blackburn, A. R||Delargy, H. J.||Hale, Leslie (Oldham, W.)|
|Blenkinsop, A||Diamond, J.||Hall, J. (Gateshead, W.)|
|Blyton, W R.||Dodds, N. N.||Hall, Rt Hn. W Glenvil (Colne V'll'y)|
|Boardman, H||Donnelly, D.||Hamilton, W W|
|Booth, A.||Dugdale, Rt. Hon J. (W Bromwich)||Hannan, W.|
|Bottomley, A. G.||Dye, S||Hardman, D. R.|
|Bowden, H. W.||Ede, Rt Hon. J C||Hardy, E. A.|
|Bowles, F. G. (Nuneaton)||Edelman, M||Hargreaves, A|
|Braddock, Mrs. E. M||Edwards, John (Brighouse)||Harrison, J.|
|Brockway, A. Fenner||Edwards, Rt Hon N (Caerphilly)||Hastings, Dr. Somerville|
|Brook, D. (Halifax)|
|Brooks, T. J. (Normanton)||Edwards, W J (Stepney)||Hayman, F. H.|
|Broughton, Dr A D D||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Henderson, Rt. Hon A (Rowley Regis)|
|Brown, George (Belper)||Evans, E. (Lowestoft)||Herbison, Miss M.|
|Brown, T J (Ince)||Evans, S. N. (Wednesbury)||Hewitson, Capt. M|
|Burke, W A||Ewart, R||Hobson, C R.|
|Burton, Miss E.||Fairhurst, F.||Holman, P.|
|Butler, H W (Hackney, S.)||Fernyhough, E.||Holmes, H E (Hemsworth)|
|Callaghan, James||Field, Capt. W. J.||Houghton, Douglas|
|Carmichael, James||Finch, H. J.||Hoy, J|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A||Fletcher, E. G M. (Islington, E.)||Hubbard, T|
|Champion, A. J.||Follick, M.||Hudson, J. H. (Ealing, N.)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Foot, M. M.||Hughes, Emrys (S Ayr)|
|Clunie, J||Forman, J C.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Cocks, F S||Fraser, T (Hamilton)||Hynd, H. (Accrington)|
|Coldrick, W.||Freeman, J (Watford)||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Morgan, Dr. H. B.||Smith, H. N. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Irving, W. J. (Wood Green)||Morley, R.||Snow, J. W.|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon G A||Morris, P. (Swansea, W.)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Janner, B.||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Lewisham, S.)||Sparks, J. A.|
|Jay, D. P. T.||Mort, D. L.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham, E.)|
|Jeger, G. (Goole)||Moyle, A.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Jeger, Dr. S. W (St Pancras S.)||Mulley, F. W.||Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Jenkins, R. H.||Murray, J. D.||Strauss, Rt. Hon. G. R. (Vauxhall)|
|Johnson, James (Rugby)||Nally, W||Stross, Dr. B|
|Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Neal, H.||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. Edith|
|Jones, Frederick Elwyn (West Ham. S)||Noel-Baker, Rt. Hon P J||Sylvester, G O.|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||O'Brien, T.||Taylor, H B (Mansfield)|
|Jones, William Elwyn (Conway)||Oldfield, W. H.||Thomas, D. E (Aberdare)|
|Keenan, W.||Oliver, G. H.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Kenyon, C.||Orbach, M.||Thomas, I. O (Wrekin)|
|Key, Rt. Hon. C. W||Padley, W. E||Thomas, I. R. (Rhondda, W.)|
|King, H. M.||Paget, R. T.||Thorneycroft, Harry (Clayton)|
|Kinghorn, Sqn -Ldr E||Paling, Rt. Hon. Wilfred (Dearne V'lly)||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Kinley, J.||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)||Timmons, J.|
|Kirkwood, Rt. Hon D||Panned, T. C.||Tomlinson, Rt. Hon. G|
|Lang, Rev. G||Pargiter, G. A||Tomney, F.|
|Lee, F. (Newton)||Parker, J.||Turner-Samuels, M|
|Lee, Miss J. (Cannock)||Paton J||Ungoed-Thomas, A L|
|Lever, L. M (Ardwick)||Pearson, A.||Usborne, Henry|
|Lever, N. H. (Cheetham)||Peart, T F.||Vernon, Maj. W F|
|Lewis, A. W. J. (West Ham, N.)||Poole, Cecil||Viant, S P.|
|Lewis, J, (Bolton, W.)||Popplewell, E||Wallace, H. W|
|Lindgren, G. S.||Porter, G||Watkins, T. E.|
|Upton, Lt.-Col. M.||Price, M Philips (Gloucestershire, W)||Webb, Rt. Hon. M (Bradford, C.)|
|Logan, D. G.||Proctor, W. T.||Weitzman, D.|
|Longden, F. (Small Heath)||Pryde, D. J.||Wells, P. L. (Faversham)|
|MacColl, J. E.||Pursey, Comdr. H||Wells, W T. (Walsall)|
|McGhee, H. G.||Rankin, J.||West, D. G|
|McGovern, J.||Rees, Mrs. D||Wheatley, Rt. Hn. John (Edinb'gn, E.)|
|McInnes, J||Reeves, J.||White, Mrs E. (E Flint)|
|Mack, J. D.||Reid. T (Swindon)||White, H (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|McKay, J (Wallsend)||Reid, W (Camlachie)||Wigg, George|
|Mackay, R. W. G. (Reading, N.)||Rhodes, H||Wilcock, Group-Capt. C. A. B.|
|McLeavy, F.||Richards, R||Wilkes, L.|
|MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Wilkins, W A|
|McNeil, Rt. Hon H||Robens, A.||Willey, F. T (Sunderland)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Roberts, Emrys (Merioneth)||Willey, O. G. (Cleveland)|
|Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvonshire)||Williams, D. J. (Neath)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Robertson, J. J (Berwick)||Williams, Ronald (Wigan)|
|Mann, Mrs. J.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Manuel, A. C.||Rogers, G. H. R. (Kensington, N.)||Williams, W. T. (Hammersmith, S.)|
|Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A||Ross, William (Kilmarnock)||Wilson, Rt. Hon J H (Huyton)|
|Mathers, Rt. Hon. George||Royle, C.||Winterbottom, I (Nottingham, C.)|
|Mellish, R J||Shackleton, E. A. A.||Winterbottom, R. E. (Brightside)|
|Messer, F||Shawcross, Rt. Hon. Sir H||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Middleton, Mrs. L||Shurmer, P. L. E.||Woods, Rev. G. S.|
|Mikardo, Ian||Silverman, J (Erdington)||Wyatt, W. L|
|Mitchison, G. R.||Silverman, S. S. (Nelson)||Yates, V F|
|Moeran, E. W||Simmons, C. J.|
|Monslow, W.||Slater, J.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Moody, A S||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)||Mr. William Whiteley and|
|Mr. R. J. Taylor.|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ It being after Ten o'Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ To be resumed tomorrow.