HC Deb 21 July 1953 vol 518 cc204-7
49. Mr. Fernyhough

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government if, in view of the still unsatisfied need and the numbers still remaining on council housing lists, he will reconsider his decisions to curtail the housing programmes of local authorities in the north-east.

61 and 62. Mr. G. Jeger

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government (1) why he has withheld approval of the erection of 72 houses in a council estate in Knottingley;

(2) what limitation he has placed on the number of houses to be built by private builders in Knottingley.

63. Mr. Higgs

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what measures he is adopting to keep the housing programme in step with the availability of materials.

64. Mr. John Hall

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will make sure that the housing programme is maintained at its present high rate.

Mr. Marples

I would refer hon. Members to the reply which I gave on this subject on 14th July to the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) and others.

Mr. Fernyhough

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that every authority on Tyneside believes that he has set out to reduce their housing programmes? Is he further aware that many of these local authorities have their own public works department and are very much afraid that unless they can get permission to carry on with their building programmes, they will have to disperse the forces they have built up and that it will be a very difficult task to reassemble the team as and when they once more get the signal from the Minister to go ahead as fast as they can?

Mr. Marples

There is some misapprehension. There has been no cut whatever in the housing programme, which is now running at the rate of 300,000 houses a year. The bricks and cement which are being produced will not support a figure higher than that. It would be absolute folly to start more houses than there are materials to finish

Mr. Higgs

Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the best use is being made of the supplies of bricks that are available? In particular, can he assure the House that full consideration is given to the difficulties of individual private builders when small orders for bricks are often difficult to obtain in view of large orders placed by other concerns?

Mr. Marples

In reply to the first part, I am quite satisfied that the bricks are being used in an economical way. A circular has been issued to local authorities, which they are following, whereby substitute materials for the inner skin of houses, instead of bricks, can be used. In reply to the second part, if my hon. Friend has any case in mind and writes to me, I will do my best to meet the point.

Mr. Fernyhough

Will the Minister give an assurance that no local authority will be prevented this year from building as many houses as it built in the last 12 months?

Mr. Marples

The rate at which we are now building in 1953 is 300,000 houses a year. The rate for 1954 is not less than that figure. In all the circumstances, it is a remarkable increase on what we were building in 1950.

Mr. Fernyhough

Answer the question.

Mr. Jeger

Is the Minister aware that some local authorities which have embarked upon plans for completing or extending housing estates and have invested large sums in building the roads and laying the sewers, are now being prevented from building the houses and, therefore, capital investment is lying idle and going to waste?

Mr. Marples

The hon. Member has a Question on the Paper about Knottingley. He will find that in 1953 it is estimated that Knottingley will have a 100 per cent. increase in the number of completed houses compared with 1951 and they now have under construction one and a half times what they will complete in 1953. All things considered, it is a remarkable increase, even in that constituency.

Miss Ward

Is my hon. Friend aware that all the local authorities in the North-East region do not agree with the hon. Member for Jarrow (Mr. Fernyhough), and that Jarrow is politically minded and is out to "have a go" at the Minister?

Mr. Moody

Will the Minister introduce elasticity in the administration of this new order, which restricts the allocation, and will he give special consideration to cases like that of Gateshead, whose applications for 150 houses on the Wardlow Estate have been held up by his Department for nearly 12 months?

Mr. Marples

We pay attention to all the circumstances of any local authority. All the circumstances—whether they have a direct labour force, whether they have a large number of non-traditional houses which do not use bricks—will be taken into account. It is difficult by question and answer to give the hon. Member details about a specific local authority.

Mr. K. Thompson

In view of the fact that the availability of supplies is the limiting factor, what steps are being taken to obtain more bricks and cement?

Mr. Marples

Since this Government came into office, there has been a 20 per cent. increase in brick production and an increase also in the cement production. This increase of building materials, which is the result of great work by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Works, has been utilised by the same number of building trade operatives.

Mr. Fernyhough

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the answers, I give notice that I shall raise this matter at the earliest possible opportunity on the Adjournment.