HC Deb 19 February 1952 vol 496 cc22-5
26. Mr. S. S. Awbery

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if he is aware that the Bristol Corporation is obliged to construct nine-storey flats to house its people, many of whom were rendered homeless as a result of bombing during the war; that these flats require steel which cannot be obtained; and what steps he is taking to see that an adequate supply of steel is made available to the city for this purpose.

Mr. H. Macmillan

Because of the need for the utmost economy in the use of steel I asked local authorities in my Circular No. 9/52 to build flats with load-bearing walls and not in frame construction. I regret that I cannot at present approve schemes which involve the use of a large quantity of steel.

Mr. Awbery

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is just as essential to provide steel for the building of houses as it is to provide steel for the protection of houses after they are built? Will he see that progress in house building is not retarded in blitzed areas where these houses are required?

Mr. Macmillan

This is a question of building these nine-storeyed flats. In my view, at the present time it is right to build them either with load-bearing walls or by other forms of construction which make the minimum demand on steel.

Mr. Gibson

Will the right hon. Gentleman provide the steel required for the revised form of housing?

27. Mr. Awbery

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what alterations have been made in the allocation of capital to each of the heavily war-damaged cities for the current as compared with last year.

Mr. H. Macmillan

The progress of reconstruction in the blitzed cities will depend upon the amount of steel which can be provided for this purpose. I hope to be able to allocate sufficient capital for all work for which steel can be made available.

Mr. Awbery

Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the allocation of capital to the blitzed sites will be given in proportion to the damage done by bombing?

Mr. Macmillan

What seems to me more important than allocation of capital is the allocation of actual physical things with which this work can be done, and I think that a sounder basis on which to work than to stick rigidly to the capital investment system.

Mr. Michael Foot

When the right hon. Gentleman says that steel is the only factor affecting progress of rebuilding on blitzed sites, how does he make that conform with the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer which referred to capital investment as the main factor causing the hold-up in building?

Mr. Macmillan

The Question asked me about providing necessary steel, and I said that I was prepared to allocate capital to meet the steel that is available. I am happy to say that in case of Bristol, if the hon. Member for Bristol, Central (Mr. Awbery), has that city in mind, there has now been allocated all the steel necessary for the 11 works in progress.

Brigadier O. L. Prior-Palmer

Will my right hon. Friend give wide publicity to the possibility of using pre-stressed concrete in place of steel in many cases?

Mr. Macmillan

Yes, of course the development of the building programme depends upon the economical use of steel.

Mr. Awbery

On a point of order. I was asking Question No. 27, which refers to the allocation of capital. Question No. 26 referred to the allocation of steel.

Mr. Macmillan

I hope there was no misunderstanding. I said that I hoped to be able to allocate sufficient capital for all the work for which steel can be made available.

Mr. Ernest Popplewell

Will the Minister ensure that where local authorities do change their plans and provide for load-bearing walls, there will be sufficient steel made available for them to complete the erection of that type of flat?

Mr. Macmillan

We will certainly do our best.

Mr. Hugh Dalton

Can the Minister tell the House whether or not there is a reduction in the provision for the rebuilding of blitzed cities this year as compared with last year?

Mr. Macmillan

I cannot tell the right hon. Gentleman until we come to the end of the year.

Mr. Dalton

Is it then not without significance that the term "planning" has disappeared from the right hon. Gentleman's title?

Mr. Macmillan

It appears to me to be much more sensible to make capital and material continually available as conditions improve, rather than to fix a figure for the whole year and never under any conditions to alter it.

28. Dr. A. D. D. Broughton

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government when he intends to satisfy the needs of Batley Corporation in respect of an allocation of steel necessary for the construction of a reservoir, without which additional water supply the building of houses in Birstall cannot be resumed.

Mr. H. Macmillan

The town council's requirements are being considered along with other urgent requirements, but, as there are large outstanding demands, I cannot give an immediate decision.

Dr. Broughton

Does the Minister agree that the concession which he has granted since this Question appeared on the Order Paper is really no more than a vague half-promise? Does the Minister understand that there is an urgent need for houses in Birstall, and that house building is at a standstill until the water supply can be improved?

Mr. Macmillan

Yes, we are very conscious of the importance of that.

39. Mr. A. Edward Davies

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what reduction has recently been made in the allocation of steel to his Department for housing and ancillary work; and what complaints he is receiving of shortages.

Mr. H. Macmillan

Steel for these purposes is being made available, subject to the exercise of proper economies in its use.

Mr. Davies

But that is not an answer to the Question on the Paper, which asks what reduction is being made by his Department so that the many works, including provision against subsidence and work for the blitzed cities, can be dealt with. Will the Minister tell us whether a lower allocation is being given to his Department as compared with last year?

Mr. Macmillan

No, Sir. But it is clear that what we are doing is the sensible thing to do. We hope to get a greater use out of the steel that we have available by the adoption over a wide field of steel economising methods.

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