§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ Mr. T. Fraser
I do not want to say much about the Clause. We on this side generally agree with the payment of higher subsidies in respect of the houses that are built by the local authorities for members of the agricultural population. I wonder, however, whether a spokesman for the Government could take this opportunity of saying how the local authorities are getting on with the provision of houses for that agricultural population.
I know that there are many obstacles in the way of local authorities fulfilling what was in 1947 a programme of, I think, 5,100 houses. I should not be surprised if that programme has not yet been fulfilled, but I think that the Government will want to tell us whether they are making good progress now with the construction of those houses, or whether—
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. George Thomas)
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I think he will find that the Clause deals with the contributions rather than with the programme. I am sorry to have to ask him to limit himself to the question of the contribution.
§ Mr. Fraser
I think you will agree, Mr. Thomas, that if there were not a programme, there would not be much point in having a contribution. What I was seeking to find out was whether the Committee were being wise or unwise in agreeing to an increased contribution at this time, and what size the programme to be financed under this contribution was likely to be. In talking about the desirability of paying higher subsidies generally we have discussed the size of the housing programme that is to be encouraged by the provision of housing subsidies.
I am a little alarmed about the provisions in the following Clause, although I must not discuss that now. I wondered, however, whether the following Clause was inserted because the Government wish to bring the local authorities' agricultural programme to a speedy end. I 325 should have thought it was highly desirable, and would be agreed on all sides of the Committee, that local authorities should continue to build houses for members of the agricultural population, and I should have thought that we would all want to see Clause 2 being very widely used for that purpose. I wonder if the Secretary of State or the Under-Secretary will say a word or two about the agricultural programme under the auspices of the local authorities, the programme which is being financed under Clause 2.
§ Mr. J. Stuart
As the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) indicated, Clause 2 deals with the increased rates of Exchequer contributions in respect of housing accommodation for the agricultural population. In reply to his question about progress, I can tell him that to date approximately 2,600 houses have been completed. I cannot give him any precise information at present as to the future, but if I can at a later stage give him any information which will be of use to him I shall be glad to do so.
The Clause replaces the variable subsidies by axed subsidies. I believe this will be simpler in administration. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that in 1949 there was criticism by the Public Accounts Committee of certain items under the previous system. I hope that this will be an improvement. It will certainly mean a simplification in administration not only for the central Department but also for the local authorities.
§ Clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.