Amendment proposed, in page 1, line 8, at end insert:
(not being such a dwelling as is mentioned in subsection (5) of this section)."—[Mr. Mitchison.]
§ Question again proposed, That those words be there inserted:—
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
When the Committee discussed this matter on 1st December, we had barely 15 minutes in which to put the point of our proposal to the Minister. Therefore, I propose to refresh hon. Members' minds about the purpose of this Amendment. Briefly, it proposes to exempt from the Minister's policy of reduced subsidies, and, finally, the extinction of subsidies, those dwellings built by local authorities which have within their boundaries a new town development corporation. We believe that if our proposal were not accepted it would lead to the gravest anomalies.
It is important to realise that when the right hon. Gentleman thinks of creating a new town, he designates an area, and, having done that, he appoints a development corporation. The next step is the preparation of the master plan which lays down not only the way in which the development corporation will develop the area entrusted to its charge, but also the exact form of the development to which a local authority within the area must, at the same time, conform. Therefore, in areas already designated as new towns, we have not only the development corporations functioning in the matter of development, but also the local authorities as well.
In some of the designated areas, the local authorities have been, and still are, carrying out fairly substantial housing development. In the cases of dwellings erected by development corporations, the Minister proposes to increase the subsidy upon houses from £22 1s. to £24 per dwelling, and they will, of course, receive other rate fund contributions as well from 1216 exporting authorities. But in the case of dwellings erected by local authorities in precisely the same overall area, the Minister proposes to reduce the subsidy per house from £22 1s. to £10, and, at the end of 12 months or so, to terminate the subsidy altogether. That will mean, in effect, that the development corporation will be building houses in the area with a subsidy of £24 per house, plus any rate fund contribution, but that the local authority will receive no subsidy whatever on the houses which it may build in that part of the area allocated to it for the purpose.
We think that a very serious anomaly, because, in an area where a new town development corporation is functioning, the local authority is in a very special situation. It is inevitably affected by the activities of the development corporation, and, therefore, the problem of its own housing is accentuated much more on account of the demands that inevitably arise from the existence of the development corporation and the gradual growth and expansion of dwellings, factories, and other enterprises within the boundary of the corporation.
We feel that, in view of the important part which such local authorities must play in the development of such areas, acting as they do as very important auxiliaries to the development corporations in matters of housing, they should not be called upon to lose the subsidy. It must also be borne in mind that development corporations are temporary bodies and will, sooner or later, go out of existence, when their responsibilities will be handed over to the local authorities.
We are entitled to ask what the local authorities will inherit. Unless the Minister accepts our Amendment, the local authorities will inherit a number of houses built by development corporations with the benefit of the subsidy, and they will also have their own dwellings which hereafter will attract no subsidy whatever. One can imagine the confusion that will exist when a local authority has two different types of housing estates with different bases of rental. It will be presented with the very considerable problem of how to handle the question of differential rents as between those paid in the development corporation area and those which the local authority will be 1217 forced to charge its own people for houses built without the benefit of the subsidy.
We on this side of the Committee feel that local authorities should not be denied the benefits of the subsidy and that, in fact, they should continue to receive the £22 1s. per house in order that they may go on assisting the development corporations in their work by carrying out, in certain parts of designated areas, housing schemes to meet the needs of their own people and also of people not immediately in their own area. As I said before, the existence of a development corporation must automatically stimulate the activity of a local authority in the same area. Other people in neighbouring ones, perhaps living in congested or over-populated areas, may wish to live in the area of the development corporation and the local authority may wish to provide housing accommodation for them as well as for their own purposes.
If the right hon. Gentleman does not agree to maintain the subsidies for local authorities under such circumstances they will have to bring their housing development to an end, because the rents they will have to charge for their houses will be far too high for the local people or for anyone from outside to afford to pay, and that must react detrimentally on the progress of the development corporation itself, which would be a bad thing.
On the other hand, if the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to make an exception of local authorities in the areas of new towns and to allow them to continue to receive the advantage of the subsidy, they will be able to assist the development corporations in their work, thus bringing their period of life to an end much sooner, so that the local authority can resume responsibility for the entire area. If that policy is achieved, it will be wisest for all concerned.
The right hon. Gentleman has had nearly a fortnight to consider this matter and, having listened to what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) in moving the Amendment on 1st December, I hope that he has come here today to announce to the Committee that he realises the special position in which these local authorities are placed, that he is anxious to speed the work of the development corporations, that he is anxious that local 1218 authorities shall carry out to the full their responsibilities for the development of the areas, and that he will at least exempt them from his edict of bringing to an end subsidies for general housing purposes in such areas. In all the circumstances, I hope the Minister will give some good news to the Committee.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. W. F. Deedes)
As the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) has reminded us, the effect of this Amendment would be to continue the existing subsidy for new houses provided by local authorities or housing associations in the areas of new towns. I will deal, first, with the specific points raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) just before we adjourned this debate a fortnight ago, and then I will deal with the more general problem.
I did not attempt to make a hasty reply after his speech and I have looked carefully into what the hon. and learned Gentleman said, especially in relation to the new town. The principal point he made was concern that similar houses built by two authorities in the same town should have different rents because some were built by the council and some by the corporation, and he felt that this disparity was wrong. To deal with his own problem, it is true that Corby has built a great many houses. I think the total is about 2,500 since the war compared with only 126 before the war, but that programme is now drawing to a close and that decision was taken a long time before the subsidy proposals were announced.
In the other new town districts the house building is relatively modest compared with the work of the development corporations and with their existing stock of houses. There is no need for these districts to stop building. They remain in the same position here as almost every other local authority. They have the existing stock over which to spread the rent increases resulting from the Bill. I do not quarrel with the general point of the hon. and learned Gentleman that ideally council rents and new town rents should be alike. In fact, there is a greater disparity than he indicated, an average of about 7s. a week. There are various reasons for that, the main one 1219 being that the development corporations have practically no houses built before 1950—a fact limiting their ability to pool rents.
Certainly, it might ease the problem of the ultimate future of the new towns if the rents of these two bodies were more in line. The hon. and learned Gentleman was perhaps not aware that the difficulty is that it is the new town rents which are the higher. To give the special rate of subsidy to the district councils, as the Amendment suggests, would increase the disparity between the two levels of rent. What the hon. and learned Gentleman wants would be less likely to be achieved as a result of his Amendment. If he means what he said, he should be proposing to give the new town corporations a much higher rate of subsidy, retaining the £10 general need subsidy for the districts. That is what would lead to a levelling up of the rents of the two authorities.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
If I may interrupt the hon. Gentleman, so far he has added nothing to what I told him the other day. I said that the council rents are lower than the development corporation rents. The point is that what he is doing in this Bill will increase the divergence between the two rents. What I would like him to do would be to treat both bodies in the same way, but if he will introduce a tight Money Resolution, this is the most we can put forward.
§ Mr. Deedes
The point I was making was that the effect of this Amendment would not be to achieve what the hon. and learned Gentleman said he thought would be the ideal situation in respect of rents if we could get it.
Now I turn to the more general point arising out of the Amendment. Broadly, we have no evidence that the housing requirements of district councils in new town areas have increased greatly by the existence of the new town. The hon. Member for Acton spoke of stimulating the activity of the district authorities and suggested that the existence of a new town might attract more people there. The fact remains that the local authority is solely responsible for the housing needs of the existing population. It may well be that more people are attracted to the new town area but that is the responsibility of the 1220 corporation, and, therefore, whatever validity there may be to his hypothesis, it does not affect the load upon the district authority.
In the Bill, my right hon. Friend has given a higher rate of subsidy, namely, £24, to the new town corporations because they have no large pool of existing dwellings built at cheaper prices and they have big building programmes for the future. That is the main point of the £24 subsidy. But the situation does not generally apply to the district councils in the new town areas. They should be in the same position as any other local authority and the dwellings they build in the future should be in modest numbers in relation to the existing dwellings. Therefore, a spread of the rent increases should be possible. For that reason we do not see the case for this Amendment, and we are unable to accept it.
§ Mr. Granville West (Pontypool)
I am sure that hon. Members on this side of the Committee will be disappointed at the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary, who has dealt with the position of new towns which were established to set up new communities, to develop new industry, and to develop housing estates.
The hon. Gentleman knows full well that the Cwmbran new town is in a special category. It was established for the purpose of meeting the needs of existing industry, and, therefore, the problem about which my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) has spoken specially affects Cwmbran. Both the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister know that many representations have been made from time to time about the abnormally high rents which were charged by the new town corporation of Cwmbran. I believe that the Minister realises that the level of rents there was higher than the average throughout the country. The Minister proposes not to give assistance to the new town to enable it to reduce its rents, but to deal with the problem by compelling the local authority so to increase its rents that these become comparable to the new town rents.
That is not the approach that ought to be made to this problem in that area. Cwmbran is a special case, needing special assistance, because it has not the increment derived from industries, like new town corporations in other parts of the country. Cwmbran is essentially a 1221 housing estate. The Bill will make it impossible for the Cwmbran Urban District Council to fulfil its functions as a housing authority.
I hope that the Minister will give further consideration to the matter, which is disquieting to those of us who are trying to help areas in which new town have been set up.
§ Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)
The Parliamentary Secretary was a little unfair about the position of new towns and the responsibilities they carry. I would agree 100 per cent. with him that, in theory, the job of a new town development corporation is to accept the new populations that move into the area with the transfer of industry. It is the job of the local authority to deal with the normal increase of its own population.
I am delighted that in all the new towns it is not only the married person who comes in, either with industry, or with the building industry, or is attracted because of the development of work. In all the new towns a number of single persons, and those who have no family and would normally go into rooms, are attracted. As soon as the single persons marry, or there are married people with no family, whom the development corporation do not house but who assume partial occupation of another house, these people become the responsibility of the local authority.
In the new town in which I live, one of the things that worry the Welwyn Garden City Urban District Council is that it has had to accept upon its housing list a considerable number of persons who have been attracted directly as a result of the increased activities within industry of the development corporation. The council, quite rightly, says that these are persons who, before the activities of the development corporation, were, a few years ago, the responsibility of some other local authority. A special load is placed upon a new town development corporation.
Equally, in the majority of new towns, the pool of houses available to local authorities is not very large. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) has a special case, inasmuch as in the urban district of Corby the number of pre-war council houses was, I believe, about 80. A large number of company houses was provided by the 1222 steel companies. In other new towns, apart from Welwyn Garden City, there was only the normal rural development of housing within the areas, and it was not extensive.
New towns where there are extensive trading estates have an added case because they have had a considerable extension of industry. In the pre-war years some of these areas had an extension of industry. The incidence of derating hits new towns like Welwyn Garden City and a trading estate area such as Slough very heavily indeed. Even in the pre-war years the number of houses, built in that kind of area was restricted more than in other areas (a) because of derating and because the financial resources in the area were lower and (b) because, in common with other local authorities, they were without subsidy assistance after the 1933 Act. Therefore, we feel very strongly on this side of the Committee that there is a special case for new towns.
I would ask the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary to reconsider this point. I think I have shown that the load is larger for new towns and that their financial resources are less, because of the incidence of industrial derating and because their pre-war pool is much less in the normal circumstances of the development of the comparatively virgin area of a new town. It results that they are not even in the position of an ordinary urban authority of having the larger pool that those authorities usually have. I hope that we shall get a concession on this point for the new towns.
§ The Chairman rose—
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
Is not the Minister proposing to make a reply to my hon. Friends on this point about subsidies? Unfortunately, Clause 5 casts its shadow over practically all these exceptional circumstances. I was wondering whether Clause 5 was intended to provide an umbrella in circumstances of this sort.
New town corporations have made a very substantial contribution to meeting local problems, which would have arisen if the new towns had not been created. That was one of the reasons why they were created. We wanted to have a balanced community and, if industry went 1223 to certain places, housing accommodation to be provided at the same time. Thus we should not have a repetition of the Corbys, the Sloughs, the Dagenhams, and places like Hayes, where there was hardly any community provision and where we had growing up, many of us thought, a most appalling social and physical environment for the people. We tried after the war to prevent the re-creation of the Sloughs and the Dagenhams.
My hon. Friend has pointed out how the housing activities of receiving authorities will be aggravated by this Measure. In the past, when there was very great industrial activity and industrial property was fully rated, the local authority had a pool of rates from which it could meet social problems created by the incoming industries, which was a very important consideration. That cushion has now been removed. The local authority is only able to impose rates of one-fourth on industrial hereditaments in its area, so its resources for meeting social problems arising from specially stimulated activities in its own area are reduced. That is the first and most important point.
When housing subsidies came to the help of local authorities to some extent, they were added to the financial resources of local authorities and went some way to compensate them for their loss of industrial hereditaments. It is now proposed that those local authorities whose areas might be artificially stimulated by the activities of the new town corporation are to receive less than they were getting before, although their problems were greater.
My hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) gave a striking illustration the other day of what happens when we have chaotic industrial and popular migrations without any proper provision of the services. The fact that the basic services were not expanded resulted in Slough having to wait for some years before it could provide houses on a sufficient scale.
These are all special cases, but, unfortunately, the measures proposed by the Government exacerbate the special difficulties rather than relieve them. We should have thought that we might have had from the Minister some idea, if these problems exist, how they are to be 1224 dealt with and whether Clause 5, which is there all the while as a stop-gap, a cushion, a buffer, call it what we will, is considered by the Minister to be his resource in circumstances of that sort.
§ Mr. Sparks
The Minister is quite wrong if he tries to place on an equal footing people who live in local authority areas and those who enter the new town itself. There is a vast difference in the wage standards. Wage standards are lower in the area under the local authority than in the area of the new town and wage rates in the new town are lower than in London. There are enough difficulties in getting people to go to London from new towns, for wage rates are lower and rents are higher. Local authorities suffer a handicap, first of all, through lack of rateable value and, secondly, through the lower rates of pay for local people, many of whom are not engaged in industrial enterprises but are, for instance, shop assistants and workers in other trades where wage rates are low by comparison. Such local authorities stand in greater need of the continuance of the subsidy than many authorities with a high rateable value.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
On a point of order. May I have your guidance, Sir Charles? Several references have been made to my constituency in this short discussion. I wanted to raise that problem on a later Amendment—not so much a matter of new towns as a matter of estates in the border areas. May I have an assurance that that Amendment will be taken later?
§ Mr. Mitchison
Perhaps I may interrupt my hon. Friend for a moment. I think he has in mind two groups of Amendments, one to Clause 3, page 4, line 15, leave out from "the" to "or" in line 21 and insert:local authority's area in which the dwelling is situated.and another to the same Clause, in page 4, line 23, leave out "some other area" and insert:outside that area or by some other local authority for the purpose of accommodating persons coming from that area and in either case for the relief of congestion or overpopulation within that area or.
§ The Chairman
It is my intention to call the Amendment in page 4, line 15 and to suggest that it be discussed with the four Amendments immediately following. It is also my intention to call the Amendment in line 23 and to suggest that the five following Amendments should be discussed with it.
§ Mr. Deedes
In reply to the question by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) about Clause 5, I deliberately did not bring it in as a general umbrella on this Amendment. We can discuss Clause 5 when we reach it. The fact remains that in the case of any undue financial strain being placed on any particular district in a new town area, Clause 5 would bite. I did not wish to use it in respect of the general argument as an umbrella dealing with this Amendment.
The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) admitted that the new town corporations deal with all immigrants. The right hon. Gentleman said the activities of the district councils were liable to be stimulated by the existence of the new towns. That may be so, but the fact remains that there is no evidence that they are required to build a higher ratio of houses as a result of activities stimulated by new towns than a district unattached to the new towns. There is no evidence that the ratio of houses which a district authority has to build in relation to its existing houses is increased by the proximity of the new town, and that is the sort of evidence which would be necessary to justify the Amendment.
Derating is not an immediate and relevant factor in the current or future building activities of the district councils concerned, which is what we are discussing now. The suggestion that they have been placed at a special disadvantage in relation to other district authorities where there has been industry did not convince me. There is no difference in respect of industry and derating between those district authorities and other district authorities. The right hon. Gentleman has not proved that these district authorities are in a different position from others, either in respect of the number of houses they must build or in respect of industry.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The hon. Gentleman quite rightly pointed out that a consider- 1226 able number of houses in Corby were built by the district councils. I dare say that the same thing happened in other new towns. I do not know. These houses were built for people coming into Corby to work at Stewarts and Lloyds. This has had to stop because they have not a sufficient pool of former council houses. They would not have had to stop if Stewarts and Lloyds had been fully rated.
§ Mr. Sparks
A point which the Parliamentary Secretary is inclined to overlook is that many of these new enterprises, retail shops and other businesses, draw some of their labour from local sources. To that extent there is an additional need for that local authority to provide housing accommodation. Had there not been a new town in the area, quite a number of young men and women would have migrated from the area, because in many of these small towns there is little future for them. There has been an exodus of young men and women from the land for other remunerative enterprises.
Even more would leave these areas but for the existence of the new town which draws into it young men nad women and encourages the population to stay in the area. The hon. Member will find that a number of these new towns are serviced by local shops and other undertakings outside the new town area. I do not know what evidence he has to show that the existence of a new town does not create a demand upon the local authority for more houses than otherwise would have been the case. It is certainly true in my experience—and I have taken a great interest in this matter for a long time—that an extra demand is made on them.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Frank Tomney (Hammersmith, North)
Surely the problem centres around the capacity of the people to pay the rent, whether in the established towns or in the new towns. The historical position, especially in Hertfordshire, in places like Letchworth, Welwyn Garden City, and Hemel Hempstead, which, formerly, were quite small village towns, is that the population used to travel to work daily in places like Luton, and even London, enjoying a low rental as a result of a full subsidy.
The Minister now proposes to reduce the subsidy and, as a consequence, to put up the rents. He can do one of two 1227 things. He can either turn over the whole of the building programme to the development corporation, who would reap the benefit of the full subsidy, or he can retain the subsidy to the local authority at the present level.
People usually go to new towns on the promise of employment within those towns, and the population already established in the receiving towns has been in employment for, in some cases, many years. The Minister is penalising the people at both ends. Together with the increased cost of travel to and from neighbouring towns and sometimes to London, the removal of the subsidy and the consequent high rents will cause
§ added difficulty for the people already established in these towns. I ask the Minister to think again about this problem.
§ Mr. West
Will the Minister not say something about the special position of the new town of Cwmbran, to which I drew attention? He knows the problem very well and I am surprised that he has treated the Committee and my constituency with such discourtesy as not to attempt to deal with it. I hope that he will express his views about it before we go into the Division Lobby.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 205, Noes 252.1231
|Division No. 81.]||AYES||[4.30 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Lindgren, G. S.|
|Albu, A. H.||Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Logan, D. G.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Mabon, Dr. J. D.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||MacColl, J. E.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||McGhee, H. G.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Fernyhough, E.||McKay, John (Wallsend)|
|Balfour, A.||Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||McLeavy, Frank|
|Bartley, P.||Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Gibson, C. W.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mahon, S.|
|Benn. Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S. E.)||Greenwood, Anthony||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)|
|Benson, G.||Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)|
|Beswick, F.||Grey, C. F.||Mann, Mrs. Jean|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mason, Roy|
|Blackburn, F.||Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mayhew, C. P.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Mellish, R. J.|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hale, Leslie||Messer, Sir F.|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Mikardo, Ian|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S. W.)||Hamilton, W. W.||Mitchison, G. R.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Hannan, W.||Monslow, W.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Moody, A. S.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Hastings, S.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Healey, Denis||Morrison, Rt.Hn. Herbert (Lewis'm, S.)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Moyle, A.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Herbison, Miss M.||Mulley, F. W.|
|Burke, W. A.||Hobson, C. R.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Holman, P.||Noel-Baker, Francis (Swindon)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Holmes, Horace||Oram, A. E.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Orbach, M.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Hubbard, T. F.||Oswald, T.|
|Carmichael, J.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Owen, W. J.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)|
|Champion, A. J.||Hunter, A. E.||Parker, J.|
|Chapman, W. D.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Parkin, B. T.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Irving, S. (Dartford)||Paton, J.|
|Coldrick, W.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Pearson, A.|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Janner, B.||Peart, T. F.|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Plummer, Sir Leslie|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jeger, George (Goole)||Popplewell, E.|
|Cove, W. G.||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St.Pncs,S.)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Probert, A. R.|
|Cronin, J. D.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Daines, P.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Rankin, John|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Reid, William|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Kenyon, C.||Rhodes, H.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Deer, G.||King, Dr. H. M.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lawson, G. M.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lee, Frederiek (Newton)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Dodds, N. N.||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Ross, William|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Dye, S.||Lewis, Arthur||Short, E. W.|
|Silverman, Julius (Aston)||Sylvester, G. O.||Willey, Frederick|
|Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Slater, J. (Sedgefield)||Thornton, E.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Snow, J. W.||Timmons, J.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Sorensen, R. W.||Tomney, F.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Sparks, J. A.||Viant, S. P.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Steele, T.||Warbey, W. N.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Stewart, Michael (Fulham)||Watkins, T. E.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Stones, W. (Consett)||Wells, Percy (Faversham)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Strachey, Rt. Hon. J.||West, D. G.|
|Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)||Wheeldon, W. E.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C)||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)||Mr. J. Taylor and|
|Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)||Mr. G. H. R. Rogers.|
|Swingler, S. T.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Kirk, P. M.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lagden, G. W.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Lambert, Hon. G.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Farey-Jones, F. W.||Lambton, Viscount|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Fell, A.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Finlay, Graeme||Leavey, J. A.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Fisher, Nigel||Leburn, W. G.|
|Ashton, H.||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Fort, R.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Freeth, D. K.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)|
|Banks, Col. C.||Gammans, L. D.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)|
|Barber, Anthony||Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.|
|Barlow, Sir John||Glover, D.||Longden, Gilbert|
|Barter, John||Godber, J. B.||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Cough, C. F. H.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Gower, H. R.||McAdden, S. J.|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Graham, Sir Fergus||Macdonald, Sir Peter|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Grant, W. (Woodside)||McKibbin, A. J.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Grant-Ferris, Wg. Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Green, A.||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.|
|Body, R. F.||Gresham Cooke, R.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Grimond, J.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)|
|Braine, B. R.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)|
|Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Gurden, Harold||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Hare, Hon. J. H.||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.|
|Bryan, P.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Markham, Major Sir Frank|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Mathew, R.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Maude, Angus|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Mawby, R. L.|
|Butler, Rt. Hn. R. A.(Saffron Walden)||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr, S. L. C.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Heath, Edward||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Carr, Robert||Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter|
|Channon, H.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Moore, Sir Thomas|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Morrison, John (Salisbury)|
|Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Mott-Radclyffe, G. E.|
|Cole, Norman||Holt, A. F.||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Hope, Lord John||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Nicholson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hn. H. F. C.||Howard, John (Test)||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Hulbert, Sir Norman||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Hutchison, James (Scotstoun)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Davies, Rt. Hon. Clement(Montgomery)||Hyde, Montgomery||Osborne, C.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Page, R. G.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Partridge, E.|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Keegan, D.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Kerr, H. W.||Pott, H. P.|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Kershaw, J. A.||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Profumo, J. D.||Stevens, Geoffrey||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Raikes, Sir Victor||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Ramsden, J. E.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)||Wade, D. W.|
|Rawlinson, Peter||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Redmayne, M.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Remnant, Hon. P.||Storey, S.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Benton, D. L. M.||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Robertson, Sir David||Studholme, H. G.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Robson-Brown, W.||Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)||Whitelaw, W. S. I. (Penrith & Border)|
|Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)||Williams Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Roper, Sir Harold||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard||Thomas, Rt. Hn. J. P. L. (Hereford)||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Russell, R. S.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Sharples, R. C.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Speir, R. M.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)||Mr. R. Allan and|
|Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)||Turton, Rt. Hon. R. H.||Colonel J. H. Harrison.|
§ Mr. Arthur Henderson (Rowley Regis and Tipton)
I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, at the end, to insert:(not being such a dwelling as is mentioned in subsection (6) of this section).
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. H. Hynd)
I suggest that it will be for the convenience of the Committee if, together with this Amendment, we discuss the Amendment in page 2, line 20, at end, add:(6) Contributions shall continue to be payable under the said section one, subsection (2) or subsection (3), as the case may be, in respect of any new dwelling, as regards which the following conditions are fulfilled, that is to say that—
- (a) each such annual contribution is not less than the annual Exchequer subsidy payable under this Act in respect of such dwellings as that dwelling, and
- (b) that dwelling is provided by a local authority in exercise of their powers to provide housing accommodation or, in pursuance of authorised arrangements with a local authority, by a development corporation or housing association and for the purpose of rehousing persons displaced in order to abate overcrowding.
§ Mr. Henderson
Yes, Mr. Hynd. The Amendment seeks to remove what we consider to be one of the fundamental defects of the Bill. We are well aware that it is the policy of the Government to concentrate upon slum clearance, and to that extent we do not differ from them; we are just as anxious as they are to get rid of the slum conditions which infest our country today. But it is surely as unjust, morally and in every other way, to compel men, women and children to live together in overcrowded conditions as it is to compel them to live in houses which are structurally unfit for habitation.
1232 In our view, the twin problems of overcrowding and slum clearance should be dealt with together. They should receive the same financial assistance from the Government, in a great concerted attempt to remove these social evils from our midst as quickly as possible. Surely it will be agreed that both overcrowding and slum conditions constitute a breeding ground of disease, and are contrary to the best interests of the nation—and certainly of the families who are condemned to live in them. We believe that both are anti-social and should be got rid of as soon as possible.
It is worth remembering that the relationship of these twin problems has long been recognised by Parliament. As far back as 1930, Section 7 of the Housing Act of that year stated that an unhealthy area was one in which housing conditions were injurious to the health of the inhabitants, not only because they were structurally unfit for human habitation but also by reason of overcrowding. The Housing Act of 1936 made similar provisions for dealing with these grim problems. I should, however, like to quote a non-parliamentary authority in support of the submission which I am making. A recent leading article in The Times has already been quoted in the debates upon this Bill, but not the part to which I am now going to refer. The leading article said:Before the war dwellings built for both purposes"—slum clearance and overcrowding—but not for general needs attracted subsidy. Both duties remain, but only slum replacement is to get a subsidy.… For the next 1233 five years or so this aspect of the new policy can be stoutly defended, but Mr. Sandys's"—that is, the Minister'sstout defence of it is still to be heard.That is correct even at this moment. We have not yet heard any stout defence by the Minister of the omission from the Bill of provisions for dealing with overcrowding conditions.
I do not propose to attempt to give any precise definition of the term "overcrowding." Both the 1930 and 1936 Housing Acts laid down permitted numbers beyond which conditions of overcrowding were reached, but no attempt was made to define the term. Most people, however, would regard densities of two persons or more per room as constituting overcrowding. I should like to quote from a Political and Economic Planning publication, which, I think the Minister would agree, is produced by some very able research workers. That publication, for the month of October of this year, draws attention to the fact that:The Housing Act of 1930, dealing with the rehousing activities of local authorities, lays down provisions which approximate to a standard of one person per room. And indeed, the One Per Cent. Sample Tables of the 1951 Census show that, in England and Wales, those households having dwellings to themselves were housed at an average density of 0.6 persons per room. Even those which shared dwellings were housed at an average of 0.9.It is, therefore, safe to say that most people would regard densities of 2 persons or more per room as constituting overcrowding. There were 217,700 households living at these densities at unshared dwellings, or two per cent. of all such households.… Using either criterion (either over 4½ persons per room or two persons per room) the Northern region stands out with a rate of overcrowding almost twice as high as any other region (8.6 per cent. at over 1½ persons per room). This is particularly interesting, since by the first criterion already examined this area did not appear to have had an outstandingly bad housing situation.It then refers to an area about which more of us are directly interested—the Midland region. It says:The Midland and East and West Ridings regions have also overcrowding rates appreciably above average (both 4.7 per cent.). All the other regions have rates below the national average of 3.9 per cent.In my own constituency, in Tipton, it is estimated that the rate is 5 per cent., although in my other Borough, Rowley Regis, it is much lower—about 2 per cent.
1234 These conditions suggest that this is a problem which cannot be put on the shelf. It is an urgent social problem, and I hope that the Minister will show courage and tell us that this policy is not incapable of reconsideration by the Government. Surely there cannot be a more vicious form of economy than to economise at the expense of the happiness and health of large sections of the community.
I am not suggesting for one moment that the problem is a new one or that for the first time the responsibility for dealing with overcrowding rests upon the present Government. What I do suggest, however, is that for the first time the Government are undertaking a policy which separates this very urgent and vital problem from the other aspects of the housing situation.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman make the point quite clear, so that we may be able to reply to it effectively? When he uses the word "overcrowding," does he mean the Amendment to be confined to statutory overcrowding within the terms of the 1936 Act, or does he mean overcrowding in general, the problem of people sharing houses, and so forth?
§ Mr. Henderson
I do not think it would be beyond the wit of the draftsmen to provide a formula, once there was agreement on policy, which would provide that the subsidy would be attracted to any rehousing carried out by local authorities which would have the effect of reducing the existing overcrowding in their area. I am not going to argue the drafting of the Clause. If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to reconsider his policy and bring forward another Clause which would provide for the subsidy to be paid in all cases where overcrowding exists, similar to the concept in the 1936 Act, I do not think that there would be any great difference between the two sides of the Committee upon the approach to the problem.
What I do say is that this is a fundamental defect in the Bill. We are dealing with a great social problem which confronts the nation, and it is a policy of despair that we should pass the Bill and completely ignore the existence of the need for grappling with the problem of overcrowding at the earliest possible moment.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Might I suggest to my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) that in this context "to abate overcrowding" probably has the same meaning as in the 1936 Act, and, therefore, means "to abate statutory overcrowding"? Might I let a cat out of the bag and say that we deliberately did not put in a definition to that effect because my hon. Friends and I are always hopeful, though we have not had much encouragement, and we trusted that the Minister would say "Of course, I will accept the Amendment, but perhaps 'statutory overcrowding' is rather too stiff a standard. Let us put in a more charitable definition of 'overcrowding'." Anyhow this will arise under Clause 11, and we have not reached that yet.
§ Mr. Sandys
May I take it that the right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton is referring to statutory overcrowding within the meaning of the 1936 Act, and that he is not asking for a special subsidy for other forms of overcrowding of a more general character?
§ Mr. Henderson
What I have in mind, as I said a moment ago, is overcrowding as defined, for example, in the 1936 Act. However, if that is too narrow, all I am saying is that no one on this side of the Committee will object if the right hon. Gentleman comes forward with a much wider definition to enable the country to deal with the problem on its wider concept. If we cannot get that, I for one—I hope I am speaking with the approval of my right hon. and hon. Friends—would be prepared to accept what the Minister calls the statutory definition as contained in the 1936 Act.
At any rate, I move the Amendment in the hope that the right hon. Gentleman has not bolted and barred the door permanently in respect of the purpose of the Bill and that we shall have a reply to indicate that he agrees with the views which have been expressed, and will be expressed, from this side of the Committee.
§ Mr. Julian Snow (Lichfield and Tamworth)
I should like to support my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson), but in the slightly wider context of what I believe to be the 1236 variable nature of what is meant by "overcrowding." I do not believe that pre-war concepts of overcrowding have particular application today. Indeed, my chief complaint about the way this matter is being handled arises because I think there has been a lack of phasing between Government Departments which has resulted in the post-war period—it is becoming increasingly more dangerous—in overcrowding.
I refer particularly to the introduction of new industries into towns which are not necessarily new towns, not being subject to industrial housing association work, and so on, and where new industries have been organised, employment has increased, and work has attracted more people to those places. I believe that there has been a lack of planning by the regional housing committees. I have the impression that during the last three or four years the functions of the regional housing committees have gone by the board, and that the committees do not seem to be as active as they used to be.
The result is a situation in which important new industries have been organised and workers have been attracted to these places, and there simply has not been the housing to meet the demand. From the human point of view, the situation has become very tragic. Migrant labour has been coming in, and men have had to leave their families behind, and in many cases families have had to be separated for three, four or five years.
The Amendment ought to be supported not only because of a past and, indeed, predominantly pre-war problem, or a problem arising from pre-war conditions, but because of the variable nature of the housing demands as the result of the introduction of new industries.
§ Sir Leslie Plummer (Deptford)
The impression has got around in the country that our urgent housing problem is that of dealing with slum clearance. While I agree absolutely that that has its place in the priorities, I submit to the Minister that the problem of overcrowding, in London in particular, is a much more serious one and, indeed, carries with it much more unhappiness than even the problem of slum clearance.
The Government have made it clear, or tried to convince the people, that the purpose of the Bill is to get on with slum 1237 clearance. That may be so—we shall discover that in the future—but it is necessary to point out that, in south-east London particularly, slum clearance is not the problem that overcrowding is. My constituency has 614 houses which are condemned as slums, but it has thousands of cases of overcrowding.
There is nothing that sears the human soul as much as having constantly to share common services with other people. At 4.30 p.m. today I was talking to a woman who became a widow a month ago. Her husband, a young man, died of coronary thrombosis. She and her husband and their two children had been living in two bedrooms and a scullery for seven years. The woman says that her husband died because of anxiety about the fact that they were constantly being criticised, nagged and attacked by the landlady.
I do not know whether that is so, but I do know—it is an experience which I share with every single colleague of mine—that the thread running through all the letters that we receive from people asking for assistance in housing is "My wife's nerves have gone as a result of it." Wives' nerves do go. That is not a cliché. When they come to see us they are nervous, pale and shaky, and their physical condition has been reduced by the dreadful fight that goes on all the time about who is to use the sink or who is to use the gas stove, by complaints about the use of the toilet, rows about hanging out the clothes, and about children making a noise and playing in the garden at the wrong time. The happiness of these people is being destroyed. There are many of my constituents—and I share this view with them—who say, "I would rather live in a slum with a hole in the roof than share living accommodation with someone else under conditions in which I am constantly being criticised, probably for no fault of my own."
In London, as a result of the war, we have overcrowding of a kind of which we must be ashamed. In the constituency which I have the honour to represent, it is a rare thing to find a family living in one house alone. The percentage of persons living over two per room is 1.7, and in one of my wards it is 6.3. How are we to deal with this situation?
1238 Here is this urgent problem, to get these people away from each other, so that they can live peaceful and quiet lives, so that when they have shut their front doors they are inside their own premises. Then, if there is a row, it is a family row and nothing to do with the people upstairs or downstairs. They will not be helped by this Bill. The determination of the council to build on the sites left in the borough for the purpose of dealing with overcrowding will be hampered by the way in which the right hon. Gentleman proposes to deal with these subsidies. I ask him to consider most carefully the Amendment of my right hon. and learned Friend.
I know that it is an attractive thing to say that we are dealing with slums. I know that it has all the glamour of a great successful enterprise to say that we are to have a great drive against the slums. It may not be so dramatic to say that we are going to do something for the comparatively dull purpose of stopping overcrowding, but, in the end, the sum total of human happiness will be added to more considerably in that way than by dealing with the minority of slum houses which exist in the London working-class constituencies. Because all of us are saddened by the situation which prevails in our constituencies, I support the Amendment and hope that the Minister, in the interest of humanity, will accept it.
§ Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
I am astonished to find that none of the hon. Members who support the Government is taking part in this debate, although there are cases in which Conservative Members do, oddly enough, represent rather overcrowded areas. It seems rather strange that they are not putting forward any contribution this afternoon, although perhaps we may have it later in the course of our proceedings. Some of them may then feel an urge to mention the conditions, or express the views, of their constituents on this issue.
I make no apology for rising to support the Amendment. As he will recall, I have been asking the Minister some Questions on the problem of overcrowding, as it affects the north-eastern area of the country—Tyneside, in particular. He suggested that this was a matter which was eminently suitable to be discussed during the Committee stage of the Bill, so I am availing myself, Mr. Hynd, not 1239 only of your kind invitation to me to speak, but also that of the right hon. Gentleman. There are no doubt many other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on this side of the Committee who received similar invitations from the Minister during the last few days, all of whom I am sure will be glad to avail themselves of any opportunity open to them.
I am particularly concerned about this matter because, as I think the Minister knows, the problem of overcrowding in the whole of England and Wales is perhaps most severe in the North-East, especially on Tyneside. If the right hon. Gentleman has a copy of the county census returns for 1951, recently published, he will see that it shows very clearly what a serious problem—an exceptional problem—this is for the North-East of England. I think I can best explain that by pointing out that in Northumberland, including the county boroughs, we have the exceptionally high proportion of about 39 per cent. of dwellings with not more than one to three rooms, whereas in England and Wales as a whole the proportion is 15 per cent. That is to say, there are about two and a half times as many very small dwellings in Northumberland as there are in the country as a whole.
It is very largely because of this exceptionally high proportion of smell dwellings—the upstair and downstair flats which are so common on Tyneside—that we have this serious overplus of overcrowding in our midst. That is one of the relics, no doubt, of the right hon. Gentleman's forebears, but we have to suffer. This is not local authority housing, but private housing—the kind of housing which the right hon. Gentleman is eager to encourage for the future in place of local government housing, which he is doing everything he can to suppress where that is practicable.
Because the proportion of small houses is so great—I see that the right hon. Gentleman is smiling—
§ Mr. Sandys
It is always dangerous when people say, "The right hon. Gentleman is smiling." I want to make it clear that I was not smiling at any distress in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, but at the misrepresentation of my intentions as expressed by him in his speech.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
We shall be glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman's reason why he is specifically withdrawing rehousing for the relief of overcrowding from the general subsidy provision, with certain minor exceptions, which we will discuss at a later time and which it would not be proper for me to discuss at the moment.
I was going on to say that in view of this very high proportion of very small dwellings on Tyneside and in the North-East in general, we have these very severe overcrowding figures. Some of my hon. Friends will no doubt be mentioning the figures for other parts of the country. Quoting the figures given in the 1951 census, we find that the percentage of persons living more than two persons per room in Newcastle is over 7 per cent. and when we contrast that with other parts of the country we find that it is a very high percentage indeed.
I am not denying for a moment that despite that very high figure there has been a very great reduction in the figure as compared with the 1931 census. In 1931, it was as high as 23 per cent., which shows the appalling character of the problem which we have to face in an area like this. There are other areas of which we all know that have very serious housing problems of a different character—Liverpool, and areas like that—where their problems are especially those of slum clearance. But here the overcrowding figures that I have mentioned show what a very serious problem still remains for local authorities in Newcastle and the other urban areas on the outskirts of that city and, indeed, throughout the country.
The problem which we face now is that unless we can get some provision of this kind the local authority is in a very real danger of not being able to complete its task. In view of the cut in the housing subsidy—to some extent it depends on how much we can get out of the overspill arrangement, and how much can be obtained in extensions of further definitions of the Bill—with the best will in the world we shall be obliged to leave a very large part of the overcrowding problem in Newcastle unsolved. As my hon. Friends have said, it is a problem, as we all know, which involves acute human issues. It has been said by the right hon. Gentleman—and it is proper 1241 to raise this topic at this point—that a good deal of the problem of overcrowding could be overcome if a better use of existing accommodation were made. That has been said on many occasions.
No one would doubt that a contribution to solving the problem can be made in that way. I have often said so myself, but so far as we can understand it the right hon. Gentleman's intention is to try to secure that redistribution of accommodation by raising rents all round. There is a danger, almost a certainty, that by this means, and by further legislation in forcing up not only council but private rents, there will not be better use of existing accommodation, but an increase in overcrowding—particularly among old people having to share accommodation already overcrowded, or at least on the verge of overcrowding—in order to save rent charges.
In considering the Amendment, it is very important that we should realise that we are not dealing with a static problem, as the right hon. Gentleman seems to think, a problem already solved. We are dealing with a problem that will become more acute as the proposals are carried out. The Amendment is very much more important than at first sight might be thought. I have noticed that many of those who have made their assessment of the right hon. Gentleman's policy have assumed that he feels that not only has the back of the overcrowding problem been broken, but that there will be no such problem within a few years, and that for that reason—he will no doubt give his own explanation—he is proposing the withdrawal of the subsidy.
Far from that being the case, we may find an increase rather than a reduction of the problem. I urge the Committee, on this vital matter, which affects the homes of so many of our constituents, to give it fresh and further consideration. The Minister may tell us that he is prepared to make some changes in his interpretation of later Clauses which may be of some significance, but I believe that unless he can give some undertaking on this Amendment, none of us will be satisfied. I appeal to him most earnestly to take account of the very serious appeals being made, not only from us and the Committee, but, as he well knows, from local authorities up and down the country 1242 who realise only too clearly how much they still have to tackle.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Deedes
Without in any way seeking to curtail discussion on the Amendment, I will at this juncture take the hint of the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop), who wanted to hear a speech from this side of the Committee. Perhaps I might address myself to some of the points made on the subject of overcrowding. We certainly accept, as have all who have spoken so far, that overcrowding is still a social evil. The four speeches which have already been made, each from a different standpoint, gave examples from different parts of the country.
The right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) spoke of his own constituency and the findings of P.E.P. The hon. Member for Lichfield and Tamworth (Mr. Snow) spoke of the effect of industrial expansion on existing needs and the hon. Member who has just spoken for Tyneside referred to overcrowding there. The extent of overcrowding is very difficult to measure accurately, as the survey to which the right hon. and learned Gentleman referred makes clear. It is fair to say that it is certainly a great deal less than it was. A great deal has been done during the last ten years and at least one can be sure that the problem of overcrowding, bad though it may be in certain places, is now less acute than it was ten years ago.
§ Mr. A. Henderson
Will not the Parliamentary Secretary agree that in some areas it is still very acute?
§ Mr. Deedes
I acknowledge that. A great many local authorities, in selecting tenants for the 1½ million houses which they have built since the war, have given preference to families who are sharing accommodation. In deciding that slum clearance should have a special stimulus, we have certainly not closed our eyes to what remains of overcrowding, nor pretended that it no longer exists. In view of what has been said, it is important to stress that.
What we must try to do, and what we are seeking to do after ten years of general needs housing, is to ensure that a reasonable proportion of the new houses now 1243 go to rehousing families from slum clearance. We believe that the only way we shall achieve that is by financial incentive. My right hon. Friend has rejected the only alternative, which is that of direction. If that stimulus were not applied, as long as the housing shortage existed local authorities would have a very natural reluctance to pull down houses, however unfit they might be. There are, no doubt, many who feel that overcrowding should have an equal place with slum clearance. The right hon. and learned Member referred to slums and overcrowding as twin problems. Other hon. Members, as the Notice Paper makes clear, have suggestions for other things to have equal places with slum clearance.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
This is just an instance of how the problem varies from one part of the country to another. The kernel of the argument is that by cutting down one form of subsidy some areas have been benefited, but not others.
§ Mr. Deedes
That is exactly the point I made.
Some hon. Members, due to local circumstances or other reasons, feel that overcrowding should be given an equal place with slum clearance. In that suggestion, one is up against nothing more nor less than the logic of priorities. That is a matter on which other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen have had more administrative experience than I have had. We experienced the logic of priorities and the difficulties of that logic certainly, during the war and immediately after it. It comes to the fact that if we are to give something priority, it involves giving it first place absolutely and exclusively and giving the other thing, however much we might like to give it first place, second place. If all are equal first, there is no priority.
I would make this point specifically in reply to the suggestion that slums and overcrowding form a twin problem. There could be—I put it no stronger than that—a danger in running slums and overcrowding in dual harness. If overcrowding is put equal first, there is a natural reluctance to pull down any house, even if it is a slum. The point which we have to meet is whether the policy of giving first place to slum clearance is justified. We know from the returns which have been made that 850,000 slums have been 1244 earmarked by the local authorities in their survey, now completed. We do not know the number of dwellings in which there are overcrowded conditions. It would be accepted by the Committee that the total must certainly be less than 850,000. Since the war about 100,000 slums have been cleared. That is about one-fifteenth of the 1½ million houses which local authorities have built.
§ Mr. Sparks
The hon. Gentleman tells us that slum clearance and overcrowding are separate and isolated questions, when in fact they are not. Overcrowding exists to a considerable extent in slum areas and the inhabitants of those slum areas have been rehoused as overcrowded cases.
§ Mr. Deedes
I am coming to that point in a moment. I was trying to say if we take the figure one-fifteenth as the total amount of slum clearance out of 1½ million houses built by local authorities, then it is fair to say that overcrowding, both directly and indirectly, has had a better share in the last ten years than that. The right hon. and learned Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton asked what happened in the 1930s. What was done then offers some parallel to what we are doing now.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves that very interesting statement, in which group of figures does a house appear if it is both in a slum and overcrowded? There are such houses.
§ Mr. Deedes
Perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman has not followed the point. It is obvious that out of the 1½ million new houses built since the war, broadly speaking, slums have had a much smaller share of overcrowding.
§ Mr. Deedes
That may well be so, but I do not think it alters the point which I have just made. In the 1930s, when housing activities were primarily centred on the elimination of slums and overcrowding together, slum clearance was given priority. It was started on a large scale after the Housing Act, 1930, and not until the campaign was running was it found possible to add the abatement of overcrowding to the duties of the local authorities. That was in the Housing Act of 1935. It is fair to add that even then, 1245 in Circular 1500A, October, 1935, local authorities were told,If, by reason of local circumstances, it is necessary to give priority to one of these tasks, the priority should be given to slum clearance.I suggest that that is partly the answer to the point made by the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks).
It is fair to add here one word on the administrative side, to which no hon. or right hon. Member has referred. I think it is questionable—I do not want to exaggerate the importance of this factor—whether a specific drive against overcrowding, giving it the special emphasis which we are to give to slum clearance, could be achieved without some administrative preparation by the local authorities, possibly involving a special survey. That was done before.
§ Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that in assessing their points schemes and priorities many local authorities have already collected all this information in their town hall?
§ Mr. Deedes
Many local authorities are aware of the extent of the problem and others are not. In certain areas it might be necessary for certain local authorities to undertake a special survey, and for such administrative work there would be required principally the services of the medical officers and the sanitary inspectors, who are also parties concerned with the slum clearance campaign.
It is a fair point to make that there is a danger of local authorities requiring these categories of officer to do too much at once. I do not seek to exaggerate the importance of this administrative side, but it must be borne in mind. It therefore seems to us that socially and administratively there is a case for the policy which we are carrying out, and that is why we cannot accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Mitchison
By a most remarkable use of language, the Government go on talking about their "slum clearance drive," and they oblige me to remind them of the facts. The facts are that on being asked, before the Bill was introduced, how many houses they could deal with in a year by way of slum clearance, local authorities provided a figure of 375,000 over five years. That amounts to 75,000 a year.
1246 As a result of this remarkable "drive," the Minister now expects not to raise that figure but to lower it to 60,000 a year. What he is doing by way of a Conservative incentive to the clearance of the slums is simply to maintain a subsidy which already exists. If that is the way in which the Government and others whom they represent think it right to deal with a grave social problem, I hope that the country will take note of it and kick them out hard next time, because that is a misuse of language and a bogus form of political propaganda with which I have remarkably little sympathy.
That is the position about slum clearance. What we are now asking the Government to do is not to give priority to this, that or the other, but simply to refrain from taking away existing subsidies in cases in which the houses are intended to provide for those who have been turned out of overcrowded houses. That is perfectly plain English, and what the Government are doing under this cloak of "incentives," "drives," "priorities," and "administrative difficulties," is simply to cut the subsidies in cases in which houses are provided for those who have been turned out of overcrowded houses. That is the plain English of the matter. To say that what the Amendment proposes cannot be done, that for some reason or other it is administratively difficult, that it involves questions of priorities, that it really could not quite be managed and the rest of it, is simply the most lamentable failure to face facts.
I am not going to try to make any nice comparisons between the number of overcrowded houses and the number of houses in respect of which the subsidy would be maintained by virtue of the rather curious definition of slum clearance which appears in this Bill. "Slum" clearance, by the way, has never appeared in a Bill before, although of course "clearance" has. I am not going to try to assess that kind of thing, but the fact remains that by any standard of overcrowding there are still a number of houses in this country which could not be condemned as insanitary houses or dealt with from that point of view under the Housing Acts, but which are not fit habitations for the people in them because there are too many people in each house.
1247 No doubt there are other houses which are both insanitary and overcrowded and in respect of them the former subsidy will be allowed to continue. That is the drive of the Government in aid of slum clearance, but in respect of the overcrowded houses the subsidy will be reduced: the Government subsidy will be reduced by £10 to the figure which we have been given. I quite agree that some may be caught up by other provisions of the Bill, but in most cases the subsidy for them will be reduced. At the same time the obligation on the local authority to contribute what it has formerly contributed is to disappear.
Let us look for a moment at the problem. I am not going to pretend that it exists in every part of the country. I dare say that I could go to the constituencies of the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary and find comparatively few slums and comparatively few overcrowded houses, but both hon. Gentlemen know that the problem exists, and that in even comparatively prosperous areas there is some of it.
In other areas from which we have had really shocking figures today—in the north of England and in the east of London—overcrowding is just as serious as slums. To try to preserve the subsidy in one case and not in the other is to make one's actions depend on some nice verbal distinction which does not really correspond with facts. One cannot say that there is not a grave social problem so long as those sort of figures can be given for Tyneside and for London.
I will add another type of case, which has not been mentioned so far. In the rural constituencies there are old country cottages which can sometimes be condemned and sometimes cannot. It is only too common to find those cottages overcrowded. I say to right hon. and hon. Members opposite, "If you do not face this question you will be found out. It is no good talking about administrative priorities. It is no use pretending that you can escape facing this problem and cut the subsidies simply because you have graciously omitted to cut some other subsidies. You will be found out."
Surely it is recognised by now that decent housing for the family is not merely a duty of the Ministry, the duty of this Committee and this House, but 1248 that it is also absolutely essential if we are to have a reasonable social standard in this country and stand comparison with other countries. Stockholm, in Sweden, is a city in which I should not think there is a single house—or, if so, very few indeed—which would be condemned as insanitary, to use the phrase of the Housing Act, but, if one looked at the figures for the centre of Stockholm, one would find that the trouble there is great overcrowding, which is quite as bad as anything we have in this country. One may find the same in many other countries. Those countries know it and are facing the problem. I cannot imagine any civilised country, except one under a Tory Government, which would cut housing subsidies in respect of houses to relieve overcrowding.
The Minister asked me some questions about what we meant. I will tell him outright what the Amendment means. The narrowest, strictest, most cruel definition of overcrowding is the statutory one. We had some hope until the Parliamentary Secretary spoke. We wanted to leave the way open to him to show for once that the Tory Party had at least some appreciation of social problems and did not want to confine the maintenance of subsidies merely to the very worst cases which arise over statutory overcrowding. One can indulge in verbal quibbles and talk about this, that and the other difficulty of administration, but no one can tell this Committee, and be believed, that it is not possible to refrain from cutting the subsidy where it is intended for houses to relieve overcrowding.
That is plain English. I hope right hon. and hon. Members opposite will muse a little upon it, search their individual consciences, remember the individual cases in their constituencies and their duty to them, and their duty to people in this country, who have a right to a free, independent existence in a decent home of their own.
§ Mr. George Chetwynd (Stockton-on-Tees)
We have had a very powerful speech from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) after a disappointing effort by the Parliamentary Secretary. The Parliamentary Secretary seemed to justify his attitude towards the Amendment by saying that the Government are quite right in giving what he calls a financial 1249 incentive to deal with slums, but that incentive, of course, is only relative. It is only made to appear as an incentive because the other incentive has been taken away. There has been no absolute gain to a local authority because of the action of the Government.
The hon. Gentleman said that we are quite right at this stage—ten years after the end of the war—when so many people have been rehoused, to give a priority to slum clearance, but that priority only becomes a priority because the Government have depressed and made impossible all other forms of local authority house building. He gave figures to show that in past years many slums have been cleared. After all, this wonderful priority and incentive will only improve matters by about 60,000 slum clearance houses in a year. Spread over the whole of the local authorities, that is a quite derisory number.
I agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson) that a fundamental defect of the Bill is the failure of the Government to face the serious menace of overcrowding. My hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) pointed out that in the northern region there is a very serious problem, and the P.E.P. booklet gives figures showing that the total is twice as high there as in any other region. Representing an industrial area in the North-East, I can say from experience in my constituency how grave that problem is. In certain cases if there is only one family living in a house in a slum, and one which is rather house-proud and takes good care of their house, they can make it quite tenantable, but living in overcrowded conditions is quite intolerable. To go on from year to year living in those conditions is completely heartbreaking.
Now we have to tell people who come to see us and say they have been on the housing list for four, five, or six years and describe the conditions, with harrowing details, "I am sorry but until your house becomes a slum nothing can be done." Of course, this very Bill will create the slums which the Minister is trying to take pride in removing.
We had a Measure, which is now an Act, dealing with "Operation Rescue," which I thought was to be the Government's answer to the problem of dealing 1250 with the slums—patching up. I take it that they have abandoned that idea more or less completely, and now we shall see this Bill creating slums. I should have thought the Government would have been just as anxious to prevent the creation of new slums as to deal with the problem of the old ones; and the only way in which they can do that is to give the local authorities the necessary financial assistance to rehouse people living in overcrowding conditions.
There are two types of overcrowding with which the Government must deal. First, there is the overcrowding arising from the fact of a single large family living in a small house. We know that local authorities just will not build four-bedroom or five-bedroom houses to accommodate families of that type. It is an impossibility. Then we have the overcrowding—and this is by far the most common and dangerous to health and all other good standards of life—arising out of shared accommodation.
The twofold danger of the Government's proposal, as I see it, is that the increases in rent arising from this Bill, and measures which have been foreshadowed, will inevitably encourage people to "double up." It will be impossible for them to live on their own and pay the high rent required, and therefore there will be an inducement for people to live with someone else, to take one room and share the kitchen, and to live like that for as far ahead as we can see.
The cut in local authority housing, which is inevitable upon this Bill, will prevent people who are living in overcrowded conditions from leaving that accommodation. In the provisions of this Bill these is no plan for dealing with overcrowding, apart from the overcrowding which happens to take place in accommodation which comes under a slum clearance scheme.
I doubt whether the Government's proposals to abolish rent restrictions later will prove a help. They seem to think that a cure, and that if rents are increased things will sort themselves out. Surely, the effect will be just the opposite, that people living in private houses will look round to find someone else to live with them to help meet the increased rent burden. I do not think that we shall find that there are any 1251 larger houses available to help to meet the problem of overcrowding.
I do not wish to go into all the details of cases which have come to my notice. Every hon. Member who goes to his constituency regularly will have such cases brought to his attention every weekend. I was told recently of a case where every night people had to move everything out of the scullery into the back yard in order to put up a bed in the scullery. In the daytime they had to move beds into the coalhouse, or places of that kind, and put everything back into the scullery. They are now condemned to live in that way for as far ahead as we can see.
A contributory factor to this overcrowding which the Government must face, and which occurs particularly in heavy industrial areas such as my constituency, is that there is not sufficient land on which to build, not even to carry out private building. Even if people wished to buy their own houses—though we know that few can afford to do so—there would not be the space to build the houses.
Two other points must be borne in mind. Today people are marrying much younger and they are also living longer. There is pressure on the family to keep their married children at home or to look after parents, and in many cases this creates conditions of serious overcrowding. I assure the Minister that hon. Members on this side of the Committee will not be content with the miserable proposals advanced to deal with this overwhelming problem. It should be known throughout the whole country just how much the Government are to blame for refusing to face these grave social problems. We in this Committee should not rest content until every family in this country has a separate home.
§ 5.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Denis Howell (Birmingham, All Saints)
I am glad of the opportunity to speak for Birmingham, for the facts about overcrowding in that city have not been voiced so far. In Birmingham our experience completely contradicts the remarks of the Parliamentary Secretary. We have found it possible to have a housing programme during the last ten years and at the same time to have a slum clearance drive. We pride ourselves, although 1252 with some humility, that we are giving a lead to the country. For several years, certainly for the last five years, we have allocated 25 per cent. of our new houses for slum clearance, and we felt it essential to do so.
So far as this Bill goes—it does not go far enough—we are glad that there is to be some drive to clear the slums. But no responsible member of any local authorities ever thought for a moment that in any large city or urban area we should have a drive to clear the slums at the expense of the alleviation of conditions of overcrowding. Yet that is apparently what is to happen under these arrangements.
Several interesting reasons were advanced by the Parliamentary Secretary to explain why these twin problems of slum clearance and over-crowding could not be dealt with together. We were told that there would have to be a great deal of administrative work. I say, with respect, that that is absolutely untrue. I do not know of any local authority in this country which could not state at any moment exactly the conditions under which the people on their housing register were living. Every local authority of which I have had any experience could supply such information; and if the Minister knows of any local authorities which could not, we should be interested to learn which they are. It is possible to find out how many families are on the register, how many families live in each house, indeed, how many families occupy each bedroom. All this information and a wealth of other detailed information, is available from each city in the country, if the Minister desires to have it.
It is not true to say that there must be all these administrative inquiries before overcrowding can be dealt with. In Birmingham it is our experience that when slums are being cleared overcrowded conditions must be dealt with at the same time. Every time we clear three houses, we have to provide accommodation for five families. That shows that the overcrowding position is extremely serious, and there is no reason to think that the experience of Birmingham is any different from that of other large cities.
We may be told by the Minister that local authorities can deal with overcrowding in the normal way in their housing programmes, by housing people without a subsidy, or rather with a 1253 reduced subsidy and eventually with no subsidy at all. If that is the attitude of the Ministry, I can only suggest that it is completely out of touch with what is happening in Birmingham and in other places.
It is unfortunately the fact that there are hundreds of families at present unable to accept a new house when it is offered, because of the high rent. People who, from any point of view, are entitled to have a new house are unable to accept it when offered because they have not the financial resources to meet the present high rent. That social problem already exists. This Bill will accentuate it, which is an argument against the Government, if they intend to reject this Amendment.
Some of my hon. Friends have dealt with cases of overcrowding which have come to their notice but I do not think that we need to go into them in great detail because I am sure that each hon. Member could quote worse experiences than the previous speaker. We must have some regard to the generalities of the matter. There is the problem of people of opposite sexes sharing bedrooms. The Minister is saying that if it comes to a question of getting rid of overcrowding which entails the mixing of the sexes, the Government are not prepared to do anything to help.
I am concerned, too, with the question of health. Many local authorities have certain priorities in their housing schemes, and one class of priority is the class of houses which are falling down. In many areas the rate of obsolescence is far greater than the rate of house building. Certainly in Birmingham more houses are falling down in a year now than we can build in a year. That is an ever-growing problem, and it has to be faced.
The general overcrowding has also to be considered; and we have to concern ourselves with health, with the sick people living in overcrowded conditions, tubercular people, asthmatic people and people with rheumatism who live in overcrowded conditions. The medical officer may say, "You ought to rehouse this family for the sake of their health." He may say that of a family living in overcrowded conditions in a house which is not affected by any slum clearance scheme.
We have to rehouse tubercular people living in overcrowded rooms, but the Minister is, in effect, now saying that we 1254 can do that only if they pay a much higher rent. To the extent the Minister says that he is putting a tax on the sick of this country. It is a shocking thing indeed that local authorities cannot now, to the extent they have been able to, rehouse tubercular people and others with grave illnesses because now they can do it only with houses the rents of which will be greatly increased by the Bill.
General overcrowding includes the plight of families each of which has to live in a bed-sitting room. Most local authorities give a high priority to people who have to live, sleep and carry on all their activities in one room, a bed-sitting room. Families in that plight to whom we give priority in points on a local housing register will not receive any help unless they have considerable financial resources. All this means more and more difficulty for the local authorities.
So I say that this is certainly a black day indeed for thousands and thousands of overcrowded families with little means in the large cities of our country. I notice an hon. Member opposite seems to find some enjoyment and amusement in the situation. I can describe that only as disgraceful. I do not know what sort of constituencies hon. Members opposite represent, that they can be amused by the plight of unfortunate people. I associate the hon. Member's amusement with the further disgraceful fact that not one Conservative Member on the back benches has attempted to utter a single word to the Committee on this most important Amendment. I can only hope that the country will draw the right conclusion.
§ Mr. Howell
I hope that the Minister will further consider the matter in the light of all that has been said, and in the light of experience in Birmingham, which shows that side by side with slum clearance there can and must be an effort to relieve the lot of the overcrowded people. There is an instrument for measuring overcrowding, although it is not a satisfactory instrument; statutory overcrowding can be measured by any medical officer of health. If that is the least we can get out of the Government I think we should be prepared to accept it, on the principle that half a loaf is better than no bread. I hope 1255 the Minister will not abandon these thousands of unfortunate people, and that the Amendment will be accepted.
§ Mr. John Hall (Wycombe)
The hon. Member has made a reference to hon. Members on this side of the Committee, and, speaking for myself, I would point out to him that I represent a constituency in which the local authorities try to help the less fortunate people who cannot afford full rents by adopting a differential rent scheme, and I would commend that idea to the constituency of the hon. Member.
§ Mr. Howell
The hon. Member's suggestion is a red herring. I would inform the hon. Member that we have a rent rebate scheme, which is a much more respectable method of dealing with the matter than a differential rent scheme.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
I think that where the Parliamentary Secretary went wrong, when he was taunting hon. Members on this side of the Committee for selecting this subject rather than another for this special treatment, was in not realising that the illogicality of the position is the fault of the Government. It was not we on this side of the Committee who tried to introduce a wholly unworkable method of trying to select certain types of housing. It was not we who said to the local authorities, "Whatever your local situation may be, whatever may be the number and size of families in your area, whatever may be the size of houses in your area, no matter whether you are in a rural district or an urban district, whether you are in the north or the south, it makes no difference. You have to conform to the set scheme which the Government have decided to lay down."
That, however, is the effect of the financial stranglehold in which the housing activities of the local authorities are gripped, accept those about which the Government wish to make a move. The difficulty here is that the right hon. Gentleman thinks that the gentlemen in Whitehall know best. He is the worst type of planner, who is planning in an unsympathetic and thoughtless way, without any consideration at all for local conditions. Why should he force a choice of this kind universally upon the country?
What, in general, we on this side have suggested is that the only people who 1256 really know the situation are the local authorities. The Parliamentary Secretary himself said that, and he seemed to think he was making a clever remark when he said, "We do not know how much overcrowding there is in parts of the country. We have no means of measuring it." That is his own fault. He has not troubled to find out. Any local authority faced with the problem can immediately judge how far the problem is mainly one of overcrowding, how far it may be one of the other evils in the housing situation which we have to tackle. The purpose of this Amendment, and of others that follow it, is to try to save the discretion of the local authorities from the cataclysm the Government are intent upon.
I thought that the Parliamentary Secretary seemed to think he was making a shrewd point when he recollected that it was in 1935 that abatement responsibilities were placed upon the local authorities. Why was it that in 1935 abatement responsibilities were placed upon the local authorities? Because it had been found in practice that they could not tackle slum clearance by itself. Local authority after local authority found that it was creating social and housing problems if it merely applied the short yardstick of slum clearance to a given area. It found it could not solve the problem of that area that way, but that it had at the same time to deal with the problems of the large families, the problems of the small houses, the problems of the small rooms in houses, if it was to deal with the social problem of overcrowding.
As hon. Friends of mine have already pointed out, it is very difficult to have a sort of calculus of choice of one type of house over another, and yet if we have to have that sort of thing it is the right hon. Gentleman who makes us, because he is forcing this choice upon us. Can we truly say that the evils of insanitary houses are worse than the evils of overcrowding? It is extremely questionable.
It is very unpleasant to have a leaky roof or a damp house. It causes physical ill-health, but overcrowding very often causes moral and spiritual ill-health. I see that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Stoke Newington and Hackney, North (Mr. Weitzman) is present. I can assure him that I happen to know a great deal about the social problems of 1257 Stoke Newington and Hackney, because I am chairman of the juvenile court which deals with that area.
The worst cases of moral difficulty, of problems of immorality, and of moral failures in the family do not arise from the physical conditions of bad housing but from different sexes sharing sleeping accommodation, adolescents having to share their parents' bedroom and young children having to do their homework where there is no separate room for the purpose. These are problems which arise in cases where the houses themselves, in terms of brick and mortar, do not come within the ban of the sanitary inspector, but where overcrowding conditions urgently need attention.
This is what made the Minister who was responsible for housing in 1945, a Minister more humane, more imaginative and more knowledgeable about housing problems than the present Minister, see that we must place upon the local authority the legal responsibility for abating overcrowding. It is still a legal responsibility resting upon local authorities that they should deal with overcrowding where they find it, but although that responsibility remains upon them the means of carrying it out is not given to them. The financial pressure from the Government in the form of reduced subsidies and rising rates of interest is making it more and more difficult for local authorities to build houses in order to get rid of overcrowding.
The Amendment puts in a nutshell the real complaint which we on this side of the Committee have against the Bill—that it is a rigid Bill lacking the flexibility which is necessary to solve the housing problem. A wide freedom of judgment and responsibility is required on the part of the housing authorities to adapt their programmes to the conditions peculiar to their areas and to the problems which they in their wisdom feel to be the most important. As has been pointed out, the problems of Newcastle might be quite different from those of a town somewhere in the South of England. Those in the London region are different from those on Merseyside. Each locality has its problem to face. Why cannot the local authorities be given the real power and opportunity of dealing with their problems without putting upon them the terrible brake of reduced subsidies?
1258 It is no use the right hon. Gentleman asking, as I am sure he will, "What is to stop their building houses to house people who are overcrowded?" The answer is that with the tremendous financial burdens now placed upon them, the programmes of the local authorities will inevitably be distorted. It has been suggested that it is necessary to encourage slum clearance, but it seems to me that what is happening is not that slum clearance is being encouraged but that any and every method of local authority housing is being completely frustrated and obstructed.
Surely the Government can accept the Amendment. Speakers representing all parts of the country have pointed out that their particular problems are special problems. This is not a case of axe-grinding on behalf of one's constituency. It is part of the problem that the situation differs from one place to another. The wise thing is to recognise that fact and to give a little opportunity for initiative and discretion to each local authority.
§ Mr. John Dugdale (West Bromwich)
I do not think that the Parliamentary Secretary can convince anybody but himself about the extraordinary phrase "logic of priorities," coming from this Government of all Governments, who have refused to plan anything at all, who have gone out of their way to scrap any existing plan and have decided now, and only now, to start to plan—in favour of overcrowding. This is the first plan that the Government have taken up.
I rise to speak because I believe, as my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) has said, that it is not a piece of special pleading when each hon. Member talks about the problem in his own constituency. I know that of all the problems facing my constituents there is none that is above the problem of overcrowding. The problem of slum clearance is nothing compared with it. One constituent after another brings to one a housing case involving overcrowding.
The Government say that the houses will be built by private enterprise. I know that in my constituency houses are being built by private enterprise, of a lower standard, incidentally, than those built by the local authority, but they are being built for sale to people who in the main come into the constituency from 1259 Birmingham. Those houses will not help our own problem, yet 10 per cent. of our population, or 8,000 out of 80,000, are on the housing list. I do not think that there can be a much worse proportion than that anywhere in the country. This is because people come into the Midlands when they see industry growing up there. It is inevitable that it should happen. One of the faults which we on this side of the Committee may have had in the past, as well as the present Government, is that we regarded housing as an overall problem for the whole country and did not realise that the problem is very much worse in some areas than in others and different things have to be done in different areas.
The Government's proposals make the situation more rigid than before. My hon. Friend the Member for Widnes has expressed our view very clearly. We believe that local authorities who know the situation far better than the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary should have the opportunity of saying which problem they want to solve. Is it slum clearance or overcrowding? If it is slum clearance, let them clear the slums. If it is overcrowding, let them tackle that first.
We on this side of the Committee realise, partly from the Ministers' speeches and partly from the lack of speeches by hon. Members opposite, that hon. and right hon. Members opposite are not seized of the problem. They do not realise its urgency. Because we do realise it and we know that it is one of the most serious problems facing thousands of people, we press the Amendment. We hope that even now the Government may agree to some change in their policy, although we fear that that is not very likely. If the Government do not agree, we shall press the Amendment to a Division.
§ Mr. Robert Jenkins (Dulwich)
The right hon. Member said that the Government might concede something and also went on to say that we on this side of the Committee were not concerned with overcrowding. Is it not a fact that every family placed on a housing list has been placed there for one purpose only?
§ Mr. James Simmons (Brierley Hill)
On a point of order. Is it not competent 1260 for hon. Members who want to make speeches to make them instead of making interruptions?
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
I agree. If the hon. Member for Dulwich (Mr. Robert Jenkins) wants to make a speech he should wait his opportunity of making it.
§ Mr. Julius Silverman (Birmingham, Aston)
Like my hon. Friends, I have been dismayed at the answer given by the Parliamentary Secretary. After the intervention of the Minister we expected that he would make a concession, but it now seems that the Government are barren of any intention to give assistance to local authority finance.
The Parliamentary Secretary tried again to develop the argument that the Bill is intended primarily to promote a slum clearance drive. I say frankly that I do not believe this. The Bill is simply an excuse to justify an attack upon housing and local authority finance and I believe that it is intended deliberately to limit the activities of local authority housing. If the Government were anxious to have a drive for slum clearance they would not have partially hamstrung the local authorities by raising the cost of houses through the rate of interest which puts up the cost of dwellings—
§ The Deputy-Chairman
Those matters do not arise on this Amendment, which seeks to expand the subsidy.
§ Mr. J. Silverman
I was merely dealing with a point made by the Parliamentary Secretary, Sir Rhys, and I do not intend to pursue it. Local authorities know their own problems of overcrowding and what the Parliamentary Secretary has said is an insult to every local authority in the country. The presumption is made that local authorities do not want to clear slums, and that to make them do so we must hold over them the financial whip. That is untrue.
My hon. Friend the Member for All Saints (Mr. D. Howell) has already mentioned the position of Birmingham. It has a great overcrowding problem, more than 60,000 families being on the housing list. That problem has been accentuated by an inflow of people to the city because of its industrial position. People go there to seek employment and the local authority can do nothing to prevent that. Yet 1261 the local authority has to face the problem and also to finance any scheme, whereas that should be the responsibility of the Government.
Notwithstanding this, Birmingham has been anxious to proceed with slum clearance and every year is devoting 1,000 houses to that purpose. In this respect, Birmingham is neither better nor worse than other local authorities, who are anxious to get on with slum clearance and do not need what are described as financial inducements, though they deprive the local authorities of a large section of their housing plans. They do not need to be induced to clear the slums as quickly as possible, but the question of priorities arises.
The Parliamentary Secretary said that in the first years after the war only 100,000 houses had been cleared. The rate has been accelerated now. It is easy to understand why. A large number of houses were destroyed by the war. But where there is great overcrowding no local authority is anxious to pull down houses which are badly needed for relieving the housing shortage, so that until the acute edge of that shortage has been blunted, and until the demolished houses have been rebuilt, no local authority has felt that it should undertake substantial slum clearance, though as soon as it is possible, this will be done.
This is a priority which the local authorities must decide. They have as much social conscience as the gentlemen from Whitehall. They understand the problems and hardships of the people who live in slum areas as well as those who are trying to foist on to them a system of priorities. I represent a mixed area, a large amount of which consists of municipal estates, so no question of slum clearance arises. Many of the houses have been built in the last twenty years and yet in them there is an acute and serious problem of overcrowding resulting in much human hardship. Are we to say that these people are not to be dealt with until all the slums are pulled down? No, both have to be dealt with. Why take the subsidy off one category? It will not assist the people in the other.
Birmingham's problem applies equally to every other area, so I hope it will not be too late even now for the Minister to announce a concession. He has listened 1262 to the many speeches made from this side of the Committee and to the few made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are enforcing a disciplined silence on themselves. This is an acute and widespread problem and I hope that the Minister will make a concession which will abate the attack upon local authority finance and housing.
§ Mr. Simmons
I support the Amendment which has been moved by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. A. Henderson), whose constituency adjoins mine, because in that conurbation of South Staffordshire known as the Black Country our housing and health problems are much the same. The Parliamentary Secretary knows, because I have taken deputations from Brierley Hill to see him, that my constituency has a good record of housing and that it started on shim clearance before the policy of the Government was announced realising that this was a problem which had to be tackled.
If we support an Amendment which asks the Minister to do something about overcrowding, it is not because we underestimate the problem of the slums. Looking back on recent social history, I would say that the man who did more for slum clearance than almost anyone else was the late Arthur Greenwood, through the Slum Clearance Act. So hon. Members on this side of the Committee cannot be charged with disregarding this acute problem.
If, however, the slum problem is regarded as the main cause of unhappiness, discomfort and suffering, we shall not be seized of the seriousness of this problem, because overcrowding brings in its train as many, if not more, acute social problems as the existence of the slums themselves.
Seventy-five per cent. of the people who come to my "surgeries" are concerned about housing problems, and probably 75 per cent. of those cases relate to overcrowding. I meet the housing problem at the three corners of my triangle—in the House, in my constituency and at home. My wife is the Chairman of the Birmingham City Council Housing Management Committee, and from the first-hand information that I get from that source I am convinced that overcrowding ought to be tackled with the utmost urgency.
1263 People who live in slum houses have at least lived in houses and had homes of their own. Those who are most harshly dealt with by the housing problem are those who have been on housing registers from ten to fifteen years and have never in their lives had a home of their own. Also, these people, through force of various circumstances, are having their hopes of getting a home reduced. In Birmingham, 50 per cent. of the houses built every year have to be used not to house the ordinary applicants but to relieve special cases such as those involving tuberculosis and eviction. The ordinary applicant is being pushed back all the time. There are about 60,000 families on the Birmingham housing register, and 40,000 of the cases are ones of acute hardship, and the majority of these relate to overcrowding.
During the past four years, during her chairmanship, my wife has spent every Wednesday morning from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. meeting these people personally. It has not been a matter of leaving it to the gentlemen in Whitehall or the gentlemen in the council offices. I have first-hand knowledge of the problem, and I speak with feeling on the matter. There are cases of daughters-in-law and their families, living with old people who ought to be enjoying the eventide of their lives in comfort and quiet; and these people grow to hate each other, although they are of the same family, because of the circumstances in which they are forced to live. This is a problem which the House and the nation ought to face. In Birmingham, there have been cases of overcrowding where, in desperation, parents have actually obtained eviction orders against their sons and daughters.
I beg the Minister to look with favour upon our Amendment. I beg him not to be too miserly in his interpretation of "overcrowding." It is not a problem of the slide rule and the tape measure; it is a human problem. He should look at the problem not from the point of view of how many there should be to so many cubic feet but from the point of view of the human, psychological circumstances of people herded together in one dwelling for an intolerable number of years.
It is not a political question. It is not really an economic question, although economics enters into it in that rents which are too high tend to keep people 1264 overcrowded. Above all, it is a human question, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman to look upon it as such, to accept the principle of our Amendment, and, on Report, to give us generous acceptance of the Amendment in the widest sense of the term.
§ Miss Jennie Lee (Cannock)
We are all agreed that one of the worst aspects of overcrowding that we are asking the Government to consider is that of different generations living together. Every kind of appeal has already been made from these benches on human grounds in terms of the happiness and well-being of individual men and women. I am sorry to say that, so far, I see no sign that the Government are lending sympathetic ears to what is being said.
Ministers pride themselves on the fact that they are concerned about the country's economic welfare. I want to put before the Committee a most serious and urgent inter-relationship between overcrowding and economic hardship, and to give an illustration from the heart of my constituency, which is an expanding coalfield. I have a most alarming recent account of the drop in output and of losing men from the most sensitive part of the pits, the coal-face. Everyone who knows this subject at all realises that we have to depend in the main on the younger men, very often the single men, but sometimes the young married men, for the hardest work at the coal-face.
I have here some figures from one corner alone of the coalfields. They show that, compared with a year ago, there were 453 fewer face workers, a decline of more than 7 per cent., and the total labour force fell by 589, or 3.7 per cent. I can say from personal knowledge that a high percentage of the face workers that we are losing are being lost because they are young married men who have been unable to find homes of their own, are living in lodgings, or living with in-laws, and, with their wives, are finding the combination of disagreeable working conditions and disagreeable domestic conditions intolerable. I am not saying that coal miners are the only people who ought not to be subjected to over-crowding—
§ Miss Lee
I have no intention of widening the debate, Sir Rhys. I understood that the Amendment sought to influence the Government's policy so that they will give higher priority to overcrowding problems and greater financial help in solving them. Overcrowding has been dealt with from these benches in many aspects. Because of problems with which I am dealing every day, I am simply seeking to tie together overcrowding occurring at one of the most sensitive economic nerves centres of the nation's life—
§ Miss Lee
I realise, Sir Rhys, that the later Amendment will cover a very much larger ground than the limited point which I am making. The Minister may seek to reply on the lines that he does not wish to embark upon further financial expenditure, and he may say that he wishes to reserve his priority for slum clearance alone. I want him to consider, before he finally makes up his mind about the Amendment, whether we can afford not to grant the request that is being made. Not only in mining but also in the heavy industries, we have a combination of circumstances which is driving some of the most important younger workers in the community into other parts of the land. I urge the Minister to consider that before he rejects the Amendment.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
I hope that by rising I have not prevented the Minister from making a gesture to this side of the Committee on this Amendment. If he was about to say that a series of moving, impressive and logical speeches, based on hard social facts, have led him to make a concession, I will willingly give way so that he can make an announcement. I should be glad if I might have his attention when he has ceased being "got at" by somebody else on the Front Bench opposite.
I hope that the Minister, who is being charged with carrying through some of the most unpleasant aspects of legislation of the present Government, will not, during the course of his career as a Minister, mistake stubbornness for strength. It would be a most unhappy rôle for him 1266 to perform. I believe that he is capable of human understanding—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—and I hope he shows it on this occasion. Some of my hon. Friends doubt that tribute which I have paid to him. One of the testing points will be the nature of the right hon. Gentleman's reply to this debate.
There is a statutory obligation on local authorities to deal with the problem of overcrowding. The effect of this Bill will certainly be to reduce their power to fulfil those statutory obligations. That is rather a legal approach to the matter, and I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Brierley Hill (Mr. Simmons) that the essential approach to this problem is the human approach. We readily agree that a problem of social priorities is involved. But I do not know how one establishes which is the most urgent social need—to remove slums or to remove gross overcrowding. I do not know what the standards are. If the standards are unhappiness, evil social influences or a likelihood to lead to crime, I am not sure where the line should be drawn.
We, as Members of this House, know very well from our weekly or fortnightly "surgeries," depending on the degree of our assiduity, the gravity of this overcrowding problem. In my own constituency, we have two or three thousand families overcrowded to the point of hardship. I am sorry that one hon. Member on the benches opposite, who was in the Committee for a short time and who appeared to be on the point of contributing to the debate, has left the Chamber, no doubt for some very important purpose, because it would be valuable for us to know where are the hearts of those who occupy the back benches opposite. Do they not know of the existence of the problem of overcrowding? Are they not aware that their own Government, by this Bill, are increasing the difficulties of local authorities in tackling the problem?
One aspect of this matter which is frequently brought to our attention by our constituents is the bad effect of gross overcrowding on marriage. I understand that the Government, in principle, support the institution of marriage, and I understand, also that even on the other side of the Committee the family unit is agreed to be the basis of the social well-being of our community. Overcrowding hits hardest the young married people—the parents of the young generation which is growing 1267 up, the best capital that this country has got, the capital which matters most for our future.
What is the atmosphere in which babies and young children are being born and brought up in overcrowded homes? They are the unwanted children—not by their mothers and fathers, for all the devotion in the world goes to the children from them, but unwanted in the sense that in so many houses they are regarded by others as a nuisance. That cannot be a good social atmosphere for our children to grow up in. I think that being unwanted in an overcrowded home, with three or four families living in five or six rooms, produces as much happiness as is produced for one family in a slum. I do not know where the line of greater misery is to be drawn.
Overcrowding gravely undermines the married happiness of many thousands of families in our community. Someone has said that wives only make "better halves" in comfortable quarters. They certainly do not make "better halves" in conditions where they have to share kitchens, washing accommodation and other limited facilities. It is those conditions that turn their lives into a misery. Therefore, from the social point of view, the problem of providing housing quickly to deal with this question of overcrowding is of urgent priority.
Then there is the effect of overcrowding on the health of those who have to put up with these conditions. In this century we have built schools, hospitals and great social services, and yet we get this sort of situation: a child with tuberculosis, a condition aggravated by overcrowding, goes away to benefit from one of the admirable means of treatment and recuperation which are provided by various authorities, both national and local. The child is cured and then returns to the overcrowded conditions and has to go back again as a tuberculosis patient. I am sure that my medical friends, of whom there is none in the Committee at the moment, will confirm that fact. Overcrowding, therefore, is a grave contributory factor to ill-health among hundreds of thousands of families. I cannot understand how, by this Bill, this problem can be dealt with, in view of the indifference that has been shown on the other side of the Committee.
1268 As one of my hon. Friends has said, this problem also has an impact on social behaviour. It is my privilege and onerous duty from time to time to deal with criminals, and especially with young offenders. Time and again one has found that the fact that a child has been brought up in an overcrowded home has been a contributory factor to juvenile crime. The misery of the home and the driving of children into the streets are undoubtedly factors contributing to the making of young criminals, which anyone concerned with the day-to-day work of the criminal courts, and especially the juvenile courts, will readily endorse. From that point of view, therefore, this matter calls for high priority.
Under the Bill as it stands, after the interim period there will be no subsidy available for houses built to relieve overcrowding, unless this coincides with slum clearance or a redevelopment scheme within the narrow meaning of that term in Section 34 of the Housing Act. That is what I understand the position to be, and if I am wrong I hope the Minister will correct me. In its present form the Bill will be a setback to local authorities in dealing with this grave problem. As one of my hon. Friends has said, it is the grossest impertinence for the Government to assume that local authorities have no sense of social priorities in their housing programmes, and that they will wilfully overlook the problem of slum clearance if subsidies are provided to enable them to deal with overcrowding.
Local authorities have social consciences. Even if they did not, their representatives have the need for them visited upon their own doorsteps almost daily by calls from those whom they represent on local councils. It is quite wrong, therefore, to say that there should be sanctions against local authorities in this matter. There is an overwhelming case for giving not only the previous basic subsidies, but the greater subsidies now proposed for the limited purposes of slum clearance, in respect also of overcrowding.
We on this side regard the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman as a Minister in this matter as one of the tests of the sincerity of the Government about improving the housing conditions of the people. The effect of the financial measures of the Government so far upon the community which I represent has 1269 been the exact opposite of the protestations of the Government that they are leading a campaign for the betterment of housing conditions.
In one of the most badly housed areas of the country, the effect of the Government measures that have been put into operation already, quite apart from any ill effects of this Bill, has been that the local authority of West Ham has had to reduce its housing programme for the next year by 100 houses. That is a community about one-quarter of whose houses were destroyed in the blitz, a community which grew up in the 'eighties and 'nineties of the last century, when the welfare of the people living there and their conditions were about the last consideration of those who established the industries which attracted them there. That community, by the Government's measures, has been penalised already in its effort to provide houses fit for human beings to live in, human beings who happen to be citizens of our own country. The effect of Government action already is to discourage gravely the rebuilding programme of that local authority.
That picture can be reflected by most of my hon. Friends on this side. Added to it will be this calculated discouragement by the Government of the relief of overcrowding. I beseech the Minister to show humanity and a social conscience by acceptance in some appropriate form of the terms of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Sparks
I trust that the Minister will pay heed to our appeals to accept the Amendment. The problem of overcrowding cannot be separated from the problem of slum clearance. In the first place, the Minister is quite incorrect in his assessment of what has already been done in the post-war years to rehouse people living in slum areas.
The right hon. Gentleman said that in the post-war years only 150,000 people from the slums have been rehoused, although 1¾ million new dwellings had been provided. I challenge that figure it is not correct. If the right hon. Gentleman was referring to slum clearance schemes in the post-war years and relating those figures to houses actually demolished in slum clearance areas and families rehoused, he might be somewhere nearer the mark, but he seems to have confused two things. He has confused persons with structures.
1270 It is true that in the post-war years the main burden of the housing programme has been to provide the maximum number of dwellings for people to live in. Those people have been drawn practically wholly from overcrowded families, and overcrowded families are to be found in slum clearance areas as well as any other areas, although that is where overcrowding is most serious. Local authorities have housed considerable numbers of people from slum clearance areas in their general housing schemes, but it is true, also, that the slum house has remained and has become occupied by somebody else.
To stimulate and develop slum clearance throughout the country is a laudable aim. Where we part company with the Minister is that in what appears on the surface to be an endeavour to stimulate the clearance of slum houses, he is encouraging the development of a very serious evil in overcrowding, which has existed for a considerable time and still exists now. In addition, the Minister is being very unfair to some authorities. It may well be that some cities whose slum clearance problem is acute may be able to concentrate more of their resources on removing the slum areas, but in many areas, particularly in and around London, technically there are no slums, but there is as serious a housing problem as in the areas where technically there are slum clearance areas.
The problem in my constituency is typical of practically all the Metropolitan boroughs as well as of the Greater London area. Technically, we have no slums, but we have a serious overcrowding problem. My constituency is not a very large one, but it has over 500 factories of one kind and another. There is always a shortage of labour and people are constantly pressing into the area. Young men and women come up from the country because they think that the streets of London are paved with gold. At any rate, there are jobs for them at higher wages than they would get in the remote areas.
They come to places like my constituency not only to seek work but, in course of time, to marry and settle down. Consequently, as a result of the large number of factories in the area, overcrowding is a problem which has existed with us for 1271 the last thirty-five years. We can see no solution to it whatever as long as there is this great industrial concentration, not only in my constituency but spreading right down to Hayes and on to Slough, and including Wembley and other parts of West Middlesex.
What the right hon. Gentleman is doing as far as the people in my constituency are concerned is to bring housing construction to a complete standstill. If he means what he says—that subsidies on general housing schemes are to be withdrawn completely at the end of 12 months, or so—the local authority will have seriously to consider ceasing to build any further dwellings, simply because without the aid of subsidy we could not construct dwellings for the people who live and work in the area except at rents which are fantastic and which people simply cannot afford.
If we lose the subsidy on the flats that we are putting up at the present time—even the typical three-bedroomed ones—we shall have to charge a rent, inclusive of rates, between £3 10s. and £3 15s. a week, and that is on the assumption that the rates of interest on housing loans do not rise above their present rate of 5 per cent. We find that very few people can afford to pay £3 10s. or £3 15s. a week in rent. Consequently, although we have such a problem of overcrowding on our hands, we just would not find people who were able to afford that rent.
That means that the overcrowding problem will be intensified, and the people who will feel the effects of the Government's policy most of all will be the young married people, or the young men and women who are getting married and who, in sheer desperation, when they see a chance of renting even one small room, think, "We will get married now and hope for the best we can get—a larger flat or a house or something else." Consequently, they go into that small room, and we all know the familiar story; it is not long before a family starts coming along. If they are in furnished accommodation they are then put out into the street, without compunction, by the landlord. In other cases, the young married couple may go to live with their in-laws, and in such a case it very often happens that they get on each other's nerves to such an extent that their parents 1272 have to take action to secure an eviction order.
If the subsidies are allowed to remain in Acton and throughout the Greater London area, not to mention Birmingham and other great cities, it will greatly help overcome the overcrowding problem. As things are at present, even with the benefit of subsidy, the rents which we are having to ask are fairly high; we are already finding some difficulty in getting tenants. The right hon. Gentleman is storing up a great deal of trouble for whatever Government are in power in the next few years by completely running down the general housing schemes of local authorities in the way he suggests.
I know he will say, as he has said before, that he is not preventing local authorities from continuing to build new houses for families living in overcrowded conditions. It is very nice of him to say that, but he must realise that in this case the determining factor is the level of rents. There might be one or two local authorities who have a good pool of pre-war houses, but there are many others—and this applies more especially to the Greater London area, which has developed in the last 20 years—which have very few prewar houses available to be thrown into any kind of general pool.
Middlesex, in particular, has developed very rapidly since 1945. Prior to the war it had begun to develop a little, but its major housing schemes have been brought into being since 1945, and there is no pool of any size worth talking about upon which local authorities draw for rent purposes. Even if they could do that, there is a point of saturation. It is not possible to go on indefinitely, hoping that the high rents of new houses are going to be offset—
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present:
§ House counted, and, 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. Sparks
The problem of overcrowding is reflected in the figures of marriages. Comparing the years 1954 and 1938, although the population has increased between those two years by 3,290,000, whereas the number of marriages in 1938 was about 409,000, the number of marriages in 1952 was 399,000; in 1953 it was 395,000; in 1954, 1273 it was 392,000, and when the 1955 figure is available it will be seen to have dropped to below 390,000. This is very significant. Although our population has risen by more than 3 million since 1938, the number of marriages is shrinking and is dangerously below the 1938 level.
That is due mainly to the fact that young people hoping to be married find it impossible to get living accommodation. Many of them, realising that the alternatives are to live with in-laws or crowd themselves into one small room, prefer to defer their marriage from year to year, in the hope that things will become brighter as time passes. The right hon. Gentleman will make serious trouble not only for himself but for the country if he endeavours to divide what he regards as the sheep from the goats, that is, to separate slum clearance from overcrowding; if he regards those as separate and isolated phases of the problem when, in fact, they are indissolubly intertwined, one with the other, and cannot be separated in the way he is trying to do.
I therefore appeal to him to accept the Amendment. If he is anxious to wage war upon the greatest social evils of our time, which arise in the main from overcrowding; if he desires to help young men and women to marry, set up homes and have families of their own, there is no way in which he can do it except by supporting the Amendment, and giving these young people at least a chance, through local authorities, to acquire homes for themselves and their children.
§ Mr. Sandys rose—
§ Mr. Herbert Butler (Hackney, Central)
If the Minister is about to suggest that he is willing to concede that for which we are asking, I am quite prepared to sit down. I feel that we should all have great sympathy with the Parliamentary Secretary. He springs to the Box to give us a reason why the Amendment cannot be accepted. Of course, it is impossible for the Parliamentary Secretary to tell us—although we know it—that while it is claimed that the Bill is to give an incentive to slum clearance, there is in fact no advance on the subsidy which existed before this great incentive. An examination of flat building in London will show that in many cases the subsidy for flats, whether used for slum clearance or not, will in some cases be lower than at the 1274 moment. However, we shall deal with that matter at a later stage.
The effect of the Bill is to give not an incentive to slum clearance, because the figure remains exactly at what it was before, but a disincentive to the improvement of the position of people living in overcrowded conditions. That is the dilemma of the Parliamentary Secretary. The Parliamentary Secretary spoke about administrative difficulties. He appears to believe that local authorities are not aware of what is happening in their own areas. I am not speaking merely as the representative of a small Metropolitan borough, although in my area 6,000 people have their names on the waiting lists.
The application forms themselves are a true indication of the general situation, and there is the fact that people have to be classified into categories and have to make statements about the conditions under which they live. At all times we have an up-to-date view of the situation. Another reason which the Parliamentary Secretary advanced was that local authorities would try to do too much. I should have thought that the job of the Minister of Housing and Local Government was to encourage the desire of local authorities to do as much as they possibly could and not to use every opportunity for crabbing their activities and forcing them to stop doing what was necessary.
Another worry of the Parliamentary Secretary was that sanitary inspectors would be overworked. Those are the arguments advanced against the claims of people living in overcrowded conditions. In my area, before 1939, we had practically come to the end of slum clearance, and but for the intervention of the war we should have completed rehousing the people who were living in sub-standard property. Of course, that was sixteen years ago.
Generally speaking, our problem today, as in many other places, is not that of slum clearance. It is the problem of young people, ex-Service men and women who served in the 1939–45 war, and whose interests this Government promised to look after. When they returned from the war and had the natural desire to get married, they were unable to find accommodation and so they 1275 parked themselves with their parents and in-laws. Eventually a family arrived.
That is the problem which we are facing in my area. The medical officer of health is continually looking at the slum parts of the borough, and he advises and reports on them to the housing committee and the public health committee. They are dealt with in the ordinary routine of borough council activity. I say that only to indicate that the problem varies from place to place. The problem in Birmingham is different from that in London. Thousands of people in my small Metropolitan borough suffer virtual torment because of inadequate accommodation and through living with people with whom they are incompatible—two generations being forced to live together and share lavatories and toilet facilities.
Is that the sort of thing which is to be ignored in order to chase a mythical incentive? Do we say that, because the Government are maintaining the subsidy for the erection of dwellings to house slum dwellers, we must therefore ignore the claims of people who are living in slums? I do not expect that the Minister will agree that his Bill is an absolute facade of deceit. If he accepts my point of view, he will obviously accept the Amendment. The Bill is not an incentive to slum clearance, and I hope that we shall divide the Committee.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am happy to have caught your eye, Sir Charles. Obviously, the request made at Question Time yesterday is beginning to bear fruit. Hon. Members opposite have been showing great restraint and devotion to duty in remaining away from an important party election meeting, but I understand that the result has worked out as was generally expected and forecast in the newspapers.
The debate has been one which has given an opportunity to many hon. Members to express their natural disquiet and anxiety about conditions of overcrowding which persist in our towns and villages throughout the country. All unsatisfactory conditions, whatever they may be, breed ill health, unhappiness and broken marriages. The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop), who is just returning to his place, suggested that I thought that the problem of overcrowding had already been largely solved.
§ Mr. Sandys
Perhaps the hon. Member's mind is on other matters. I understood him to say—perhaps I misunderstood—that he thought that I considered that the problem of overcrowding had already been largely solved. I can assure him I am quite as well aware as he of the serious overcrowding which still exists. Of course, it varies from area to area. In some districts the most urgent needs will largely be met in the next few years, but in others, particularly those where there is a large slum problem too, it is not likely that the housing shortage will be overcome for fifteen or twenty years, or, in some cases, even longer.
The hon. Member for Deptford (Sir L. Plummer) stressed the depressing effect and the strain on the nerves of two families having to share one home. We are all aware of what that problem involves in human suffering and in generally increasing the stress and strain of life. We can all agree about that, and particularly about the aspects of overcrowding mentioned by the hon. Member for Cannock (Miss Lee)—children of mixed sexes sleeping in the same bedroom as their parents, which is an acute and serious social problem.
But I do not think that everyone will agree with the hon. Member for Deptford that people would prefer to live in a slum than to share a home with another family. That is a generalisation which I could not necessarily accept.
The hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) criticised the Government's policy in giving preferential subsidy treatment to slum clearance. He criticised it on the ground that it would stimulate local authorities to concentrate more attention on slum clearance.
§ Mr. MacColl
The right hon. Gentleman is confused. The Parliamentary Secretary said that it would stimulate local authorities and I was dealing with his argument. I did not make the statement.
§ Mr. Sandys
I thought the hon. Gentleman criticised the giving of preferential treatment to slum clearance.
§ Mr. Sandys
He said that it was wrong to give priority to one category of housing need over another on a national scale and that we should be setting a pattern from Whitehall. That is an understandable point of view, but if we look at the whole series of Amendments to the Clause we find that that is precisely what each one of them seeks to do. It seeks to give preferential treatment to a particular class of housing need. The right hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Key) has tabled an Amendment to give priority to houses in replacement of requisitioned houses. Other Amendments seek priority for old-age pensioners and miners. These are doing precisely that of which the hon. Member for Widnes complains—giving preferental treatment in subsidies to particular classes of housing need.
§ Mr. C. W. Key (Poplar)
The right hon. Gentleman is entirely misinterpreting what we are trying to do. We have the power to table only those Amendments which are in order and we can take only one problem at a time. We do not think preferential treatment should be given to this, that or the other; we think that all our Amendments should be accepted, thus bringing us back to the present position, in which the general housing subsidy will cover all the activities of local authorities.
§ Mr. Sandys
That is an admission. I had suspected that that was the intention. As the right hon. Gentleman, with his long Parliamentary experience knows, if all those Amendments were to be put on the Order Paper together, and were to be accepted, the effect would be to restore the present position. I believe that that would be regarded, in accordance with Erskine May, as a wrecking Amendment and, therefore, would be out of order.
§ Mr. Mitchison
This is comment by the card. We are tied by the Second Reading decision that some subsidies must be reduced. We do not believe that any of them should be reduced and we are trying to save, bit by bit, anything we can out of the wreckage which the right hon. Gentleman is making of local government finance.
§ Mr. Sandys
The right hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Key) made the position perfectly clear and I will pursue it no further.
1278 7.15 p.m.
The right hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) said local authorities should be left to decide for themselves the priorities between housing needs. Nothing in the Bill ties the hands of local authorities. The Bill gives them an incentive to pay more attention to slum clearance than hitherto, and, rightly or wrongly, the Government believe that that is a proper thing to do.
Another hon. Member opposite said local authorities were not unnaturally reluctant to pull down slum houses as long as the housing shortage continues, and that is precisely the problem. As long as there remains a substantial housing waiting list in an area, there remains a natural and very understandable reluctance among local authorities to pull down even slum houses, because it creates a further rehousing problem for them.
§ Mr. Key
The right hon. Gentleman will find that practically every application made to the London County Council for housing accommodation at present is answered by the Director of Housing, "We cannot grant you these premises as we are reserving practically everything we have for slum clearance." What does the right hon. Gentleman mean when he suggests that local authorities are not dealing with slum houses?
§ Mr. Sandys
I did not say that. I said we thought it right to give a special incentive to local authorities to pay more attention than hitherto.
§ Mr. Sandys
I did not say that. The right hon. Gentleman is reading words into my speech. As I explained on Second Reading, and as the Parliamentary Secretary explained today, there is no doubt, in our view, that the families living in these slum dwellings have not had what we consider to be a fair proportion of the new houses. In the early years after the war it was inevitable and unavoidable that house building should be concentrated on providing homes for people who had no homes, but the time has come, ten years after the war, when, we feel, the people who live in these wretched slum dwellings should have a larger share of the new houses. Rightly or wrongly, 1279 that is the policy which the Government are pursuing and the principle behind the Bill.
§ Mr. Mitchison
If that is so, why does the right hon. Gentleman propose to reduce the number of houses to be built per year for slum clearance?
§ Mr. Sandys
I was coming to that point. The hon. and learned Gentleman has quite a good debating point there and do not grudge it to him. He has pointed out that before the announcement of the Bill, local authorities sent in returns in which they gave it as their intension to demolish 375,000 slum houses in the next five years. That figure, divided by five, comes to 75,000, and the Government, in their Election manifesto, undertook to see that 200,000 people would be rehoused from the slums each year. It may be 60,000 houses a year, it may be 70,000, but it is not very different from the figure which the local authorities have given.
Then the point made by the hon. and learned Member is, why do we need the Bill and this special incentive to get local authorities to do what they say they will do? All I would say is that I agree that there is this natural reluctance to pull down a house, even if it is a slum house, so long as there is a housing shortage. There is that reluctance.
It is quite a different thing to put in a return to a Government Department saying that it is the intention of the local authority to clear so many slums in the next five years. It does not necessarily follow that that will be done. When the authority draws up its programme each year and the pressure of public opinion and the length of the housing list and all sorts of things crop up, there is a great temptation to whittle down the programme. We do feel that the incentive we are providing in this Bill will be a very great help in keeping local authorities up to the good intentions they have recorded in the report they have sent in.
§ Mr. Mitchison
May I tell the right hon. Gentleman that he has rather misstated what I said? I did not refer to any Election manifesto. I have long given up looking at Conservative Election manifestos to find what the Conservative Party will do. What I looked at in relation to the 60,000 houses was what the right hon. Gentleman expected would 1280 be the result of this Bill. So far as I can see, the result will be to reduce the building of slum clearance houses by 15,000 in a year. The right hon. Gentleman asked whether I say that a special incentive is need. I am not concerned with that. This Bill is not an incentive, special or otherwise; it is just the opposite.
§ Mr. Sandys
I think I did answer precisely that point a moment ago. We feel that while local authorities may put in returns of their intentions—which, in many cases, are not much more than hopes—there is every advantage in giving them a real financial incentive to live up to the returns put in. Even so, I think many will find that with the target they have set, their work will be cut out to implement it.
It seemed to be suggested by several hon. Members that owing to the reduction in the general needs subsidy from £22 to £10 local authorities would be prevented from tackling the problem of overcrowding. The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East said that Newcastle City Council would be prevented by the subsidy cuts from providing houses to relieve overcrowding.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
I said, except in so far as the city council can make use of some of the other provisions of the Bill.
§ Mr. Sandys
It is absurd to say that a large city with a great pool of existing houses cannot build houses because the subsidy on part of its programme is reduced from £22 to £10. It would be wholly neglecting its statutory duty and its human duty if it decided it could not build houses with a £10 subsidy.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that Newcastle City Council will be facing, in three years' time, a deficit of £400,000 because of the increase in interest rates, quite apart from the reduction in housing subsidies?
§ Mr. J. Silverman
Surely the whole point made by the Minister is that the Government are to build fewer houses for overcrowding in order to build more houses for slum clearance? Therefore, to suggest that he is not deliberately trying to reduce the number of houses to relieve overcrowding is quite wrong because, according to what he says, that is the basis of the Bill.
§ Mr. Sandys
The basis of this provision is to increase the number of houses which are built to rehouse people from the slums. That is the object.
§ Mr. Sandys
We are not working to a precise ceiling. We are seeking to give an additional incentive. [HON. MEMBERS: "Incentive?"] "Additional" was perhaps the wrong expression; I should say a definite incentive. [HON. MEMBERS: "What incentive?"] The incentive is that local authorities will get a higher subsidy for houses built to clear slums than for houses built for other purposes.
§ Mr. Charles Royle (Salford, West) rose—
§ Mr. Sandys
I am sorry, but I cannot give way again.
It was quite absurd for the hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East to say that the City of Newcastle cannot build houses with the reduced subsidy. If it spread the reduction in the subsidy and the increase in the interest rates over all its houses, on the basis I have explained on earlier occasions, it would involve an all round annual increase in rents of about 10½d. Who is to say, on those grounds, that it is impossible for the City of Newcastle to build any further houses for general need? I cannot conceive that the council would dream of taking that line.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that his figures are quite incorrect? I understand that there are proposals before the city council at the moment which, in view of the interest rate increases, plus the increased cost of house building, will amount to 3s. 6d. extra a week spread over the whole of Newcastle housing.
§ Mr. Sandys
I just do not believe that that is correct. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I am sorry, but that figure does not follow from this Bill alone. Rent increases are being made in different places for quite different reasons. The L.C.C. made a rent increase within a day or two of the Bill coming out—quite unrelated to the Bill. Rent increases are taking place quite independently. I know nothing of the figure of 3s. 6d. in Newcastle, but I suggest to the hon. Member for 1282 Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East that if that is the figure by which rents are being increased there it is related to other things as well as the provisions of this Bill and other things apart from the recent increase in interest rates. I am prepared to discuss it with the hon. Member, but we cannot do so across the Floor of the Committee.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am sorry, but we are dealing with the provisions in this Bill in relation to the situation which exists before the Bill is brought into operation. That is to say, a reduction from £22 is, to £10. On that basis, including the rise in interest rates during the period, my information is that the City of Newcastle would be involved in an all-round annual increase in rent of about 10½d.—at any rate, the figure of 3s. 6d. would be very far from the mark.
The change in the subsidy rates will, we hope and desire, ensure that slum dwellers get a fair share of the new houses being built. We have had speeches by hon. Members stressing the aspect of "statutorily overcrowded," as defined in the 1936 Act, and speeches from other hon. Members who referred to overcrowding in general, which is more or less the problem of general housing needs. Families who are statutorily overcrowded, or otherwise seriously overcrowded, will still get their high priority. I am now answering the point about priorities. Families suffering from serious overcrowding are, as hon. Members know, and as the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) has just said, normally very high on the housing lists of local authorities. The hon. Member for Holborn and St Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) confirmed that in her speech.
1283 We are considering an Amendment which, if accepted, would give a special preference to houses built to relieve overcrowding. I am dealing now with overcrowding in the strict legal sense—"statutorily overcrowded" within the terms of the 1936 Act. If there are any families suffering from such acute overcrowding and they find that other families are above them on the housing list, it can mean only one thing—apart from the question of residential qualifications which, so far as possible, we are trying to minimise—that in the opinion of the council the need of the family highest on the list is even greater than that of the people who are statutorily overcrowded.
We have had a number of speeches from hon. Members opposite expressing the view that the local authority is the best judge of relative hardship and urgency of the housing needs of different families. The hon. and learned Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) referred to cases of tuberculosis. Those kind of cases and people suffering from infirmities, or people in special circumstances of that kind, are sometimes put higher on a housing list, and above people who are living in extremely overcrowded conditions. By giving a special subsidy for statutory overcrowding we should, in fact, be providing a financial incentive to local authorities to rehouse overcrowded families, in preference to others who, in the opinion of the council, are more urgently in need of accommodation. We should be doing the opposite to what has been recommended to us by several hon. Members today.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am referring now to overcrowding in the broader sense as distinct from the rather narrow sense of statutory overcrowding. Were a higher subsidy paid—the full £22 as suggested—on houses built to relieve overcrowding in the general and wider sense of the term, and not merely statutory overcrowding we should—and no doubt this is what hon. Members opposite really want—be restoring the subsidy for general needs.
§ Mr. Sandys
If we restore the subsidy for general needs, we should remove the whole incentive for slum clearance which 1284 it is sought to create by this Bill, and that would defeat the whole purpose of this Measure. For that reason it is impossible for us to accept the Amendment. It would be inconsistent with our policy of encouraging and stimulating a real and effective drive for slum clearance.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The statements of the Minister reveal his complete lack of knowledge, not only of the housing problem of this country, but of the operations of local authorities as a whole. He has completely overlooked the callous manner in which the Tory Government has, since 1951, dealt with the problem of housing the people of this country. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite—I am glad to see them in the Chamber because we have missed them all the afternoon—are starting to laugh. I hope that they will begin to speak as well.
What has been happening? Immediately the Tory Government came to power in 1951 they increased the interest rates on borrowed money. Because of their small majority, and because they never knew when they would have to go to the country, they immediately countermanded the effect of that increase on the rents by raising subsidies. These were raised to £26 10s. from the centre and £8 14s. from the local authorities.
The Minister has referred to an incentive, but that subsidy, £26 10s. and £8 14s., a total of £35 4s., was reduced in April of this year to £22 1s. from the centre and £7 7s. from local authorities. We are not talking about a reduction in subsidies from £22, but from the figure of £35 which was arrived at on the basis of the interest rates as increased by the Tory Party in 1951.
The Minister has referred to the London County Council increasing rents this year. That was due, not to any problem of housing at the moment, but because during the last year the interest rates have been increased four times. We are dealing with a continuous addition to the burden on local authorities of increased costs arising from increased building costs; increased costs arising from increased interest charges and increased costs arising from subsidy reductions. The Minister's talk about increased charges being spread over and costing 10d. increase in rents is fantastic. No local authority in the country would support his figures. If the Minister will give 1285 me his attention for a moment, I would ask whether he can say that any local authority in the country agrees with his figures, either the 9d. to which he referred at one time, or the 7½d. which he mentioned before or the 10½d. which he is now talking about. It is just sheer nonsense, and the Minister knows it. Why he repeatedly uses those figures, goodness only knows.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman know that the building programme of a local authority is continuous; that after contracts have been let, particularly in the course of the last year, the normal rent would have had to be increased, because of the difference in the interest charges at the start and at the completion of the scheme; that the figure used by the local authority when it starts a scheme would be completely different at the end of last year from what it was at the commencement of the year? The figures which the Minister is now using have no relation to the facts.
The Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary said they were giving an incentive to slum clearance. Where is the incentive? Until 31st March this year a local authority, whether it was dealing with slum clearance or the ordinary general housing need, got a subsidy of £26 10s. from the Treasury, and it had £8 14s. from its own local rate fund. On 1st April those sums were reduced to £22 and £7 7s. All that the Minister is saying is, "If you continue slum clearance you can continue to have the reduced subsidy rate operating from April last." There is no incentive in that. For general housing need the subsidy has gone down to £10, and after one or two years it will be nothing at all. To make that offer is not to talk the language of priority for slum clearance.
What the Minister and his right hon. and hon. Friends are trying to do is to do what they said they were going to do. They said they would give an opportunity to the private builder to build. I agree that when the Minister gave freedom to the private builders they at first started extensive housing schemes, buying plots and preparing to build houses for sale, but now in my constituency—and I doubt whether it is different in this respect from most other constituencies—the private builders are reducing building because people cannot afford to buy the houses, 1286 because they cannot afford to pay the higher interest rates on the mortgages. So now there are no incentives to undertake that sort of building.
Building for sale is dropping, building for general housing need is to drop, and, as has been admitted by the Minister, even the slum clearance programme building will drop. So in every one of the several branches of housing activity, private and local authority, there will be a reduction. Where is the incentive? I thought that incentive was an inducement to a spurt in development, but the Minister's so-called incentive is not having that effect.
Let us consider for a moment what the local authorities have been doing since 1945. I am surprised that a Minister of Housing and Local Government who has been in office for some time should need to be told. I doubt very much whether the local authorities of places like Harrogate and Bournemouth have any slum clearance problems, but there is scarcely a local authority which has a slum clearance problem which has not been dealing with it at the same time as it has been dealing with general housing need. That has certainly been so in my constituency.
It is true, of course, that general housing need has taken a larger portion of the houses built. The Minister has said that the case for the Amendment does not exist because local authorities can still go on providing accommodation to meet the general housing need in their areas. I do not know where the right hon. Gentleman and other right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite get their information or with whom they mix in their off-duty hours, but they do not seem to realise that even under the subsidy at £26 10s. and £8 14s. rents rose above what ordinary people could afford to pay.
I live at Welwyn Garden City, not an unduly poor area, an area in which the industrial wage rates are not lower than they are in other parts of the country, but there the rent for a two-bedroom house is now 33s. and for a three-bedroom house 35s. 6d. Because of the difficulty of many of the tenants in paying those rents the local authority has had to shift the tenants around. It is true that there are varying degrees of affluence amongst council house tenants, and many have 1287 moved from the lower-rented to the higher-rented houses, but the Bill will mean that those rents will have to go up again by another 10s. a week.
It is all very well for the Minister to talk about 10d. This is an increase of 10s. a week a house, and it has to be paid for either by the tenant or by an increase in the rent of every local authority house in the area. Let us face the fact that the vast majority of local authorities are not prepared—and I doubt very much whether they will be prepared—continually to increase the rents for every hundred houses they build. Of course, the natural tendency of every local authority in these circumstances will be to curtail building. Perhaps one of the reasons for that will be the effective demand from the people on the lists will dwindle, and the effective demand will dwindle because of the inability of people to pay these rents.
That used to be the problem in pre-war years. Hon. Members can rightly say that, as compared with the 'thirties, overcrowding generally is lower. The fact that tenants had to huddle together in cities like London, Birmingham and Manchester was not due to their not wanting houses. The fact was that all they could afford was 10s. or 12s. or 15s. a week for two or three rooms. As and when their wages increased and they had purchasing power with which to obtain a decent standard of accommodation, they bought it, and under the Labour Governments, from 1945 to 1951, they were continually doing so.
Now the Minister is saying, "We will force the ordinary worker back into the conditions where he existed, and lower his standard of housing." That is in effect what he is saying by proposing big rents for the houses to be provided. The Minister gives freedom to local authorities that can show they have approved need. There is a year's time limit. Of course, there is nothing like increasing rents for reducing the numbers of tenants and decreasing housing demand.
§ The Minister has admitted that overcrowding still exists and that the general demand for housing still exists which comes from those in overcrowded conditions. Member after Member on this side of the Committee has stated the problem, and the Minister himself must know it, if only from his correspondence. For every letter an hon. Member has from a constituent complaining about the problem of the slums—and we all have such letters—he receives five, six, seven or ten dealing with the general problem of overcrowding, with people having to share accommodation and desperately wanting new homes for that reason. The Minister admits that overcrowding exists, that it is still a social evil, and yet, to use his own words, it will be many years—so he says, and I hope I am not being unfair to him—before the general conditions of overcrowding are dealt with. If that is so, why reduce the opportunity of coping with it, why put a handicap on local authorities dealing with the problem, which is just as essential a problem of local government as is slum clearance?
§ We all want to get on with slum clearance. Local authorities have been getting on with it, but why deprive them of the opportunity of being able to deal adequately with the general problem of overcrowding in their areas? The removal of the subsidy and the increase in interest charges mean that local authorities will not be able to provide future accommodation at a rent which the worker can afford to pay. Therefore, unless the Minister is prepared to reconsider his decision my hon. and right hon. Friends will certainly have to divide in favour of the Amendment.
§ Mr. Martin Redmayne (Lord Commissioner of the Treasury)
rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.
§ Question put, That the Question be now put:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 239, Noes 206.1291
|Division No. 82.]||AYES||[7.48 p.m.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. C.||Baldwin, A. E.||Bidgood, J. C.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Barber, Anthony||Biggs-Davison, J. A.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Barlow, Sir John||Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Barter, John||Bishop, F. P.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Body, R. F.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Bossom, Sir A. C.|
|Ashton, H.||Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)|
|Braine, B. R.||Holland-Martin, C. J.||Osborne, C.|
|Brooman-White, R. C.||Hope, Lord John||Page, R. G.|
|Bryan, P.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Partridge, E.|
|Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Howard, John (Test)||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Campbell, Sir David||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Carr, Robert||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Pitman, I. J.|
|Cary, Sir Robert||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Channon, H.||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Pott, H. P.|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Iremonger, T. L.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Cole, Norman||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Profumo, J. D.|
|Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Corfield, Capt, F. V.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Redmayne, M.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hn. H. F. C.||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Kaberry, D.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Keegan, D.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Cunningham, Knox||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Kerr, H. W.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Kershaw, J. A.||Russell, R. S.|
|Davidson, Vscountess||Kirk, P. M.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lambert, Hon. G.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Deedes, W. F.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Sharples, R. C.|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Leather, E. H. C.||Shepherd, William|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Leavey, J. A.||Simon, J. E. S. Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Leburn, W. G.||Smyth, Brig J. G. (Norwood)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Speir, R. M.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn||Longden, Gilbert||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Storey, S.|
|Fell, A.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Finlay, Graeme||McKibbin, A. J.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Fisher, Nigel||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Summer, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Thomas, Rt. Hn. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Fort, R.||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Freeth, D. K.||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Gammans, L. D.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Maddan, Martin||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr.R.(Croydon, S.)|
|Glover, D.||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Gower, H. R.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir B.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Grant, W. (Woodside)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. U. (Nantwich)||Marples, A. E.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Green, A.||Marshall, Douglas||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mathew, R.||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Maude, Angus||Vosper, D. F.|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Mawby, R. L.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Gurden, Harold||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Molson, A. H. E.||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Whitelaw, W.S.I.(Penrith & Border)|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Nairn, D. L. S.||Williams, Pau (Sunderand, S.)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Neave, Airey||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Nicholls, Harmar||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Hay, John||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Heath, Edward||Nugent, G. R. H.||Yates, William, The Wrekin)|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co.Antrim, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Mr. Godber and Mr. Robert Allan|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Orr-Ewing, Chares Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Balfour, A.||Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)|
|Albu, A. H.||Bartley, P.||Blackburn, F.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F.||Blenkinsop, A.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Blyton, W. R.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Benson, G.||Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Beswick, F.||Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Hunter, A. E.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Brock way, A. F.||Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Probert, A. R.|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Proctor, W. T.|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Irving S. (Dartford)||Pryde, D. J.|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Burke, W. A.||Janner, B.||Rankin, John|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Reeves, J.|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jeger, George (Goole)||Rhodes, H.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St.Pncs,S.)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Jones, Rt. Hn. A. Creech (Wakefield)||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Carmichael, J.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Champion, A. J.||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Ross, William|
|Chapman, W. D.||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Royle, C.|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Coldrick, W.||Kenyon, C.||Short, E. W.|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|King, Dr. H. M.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)||Lawson, G. M.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Cove, W. G.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Cronin, J. D.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||Lewis, Arthur||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Lindgren, G. S.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Logan, D. G.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||Mabon, Dr. J. D.||Steele, T.|
|Deer, G.||MacColl, J. E.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||McGhee, H. G.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Delargy, H. J.||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Stross, Dr. Barnett (Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||McLeavy, Frank||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Dye, S.||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Swingler, S. T.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||Mahon, S.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Fernyhough, E.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Thornton, E.|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mason, Roy||Timmons, J.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mayhew, C. P.||Tomney, F.|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Messer, Sir F.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mikardo, Ian||Usborne, H. C.|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mitchison, G. R.||Viant, S. P.|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Monslow, W.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Moody, A. S.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Grey, C. F.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Weitzman, D.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mort, D. L.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Moss, R.||West, D. G.|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Moyle, A.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Hale, Leslie||Mulley, F. W.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Oliver, G. H.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hannan, W.||Oram, A. E.||Willey, Frederick|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Orbach, M.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Hastings, S.||Oswald, T.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tilery)|
|Healey, Denis||Owen, W. J.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Padley, W. E.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Palmer, A. M. F.||Willis Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Hobson, C. R.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Holman, P.||Parker, J.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Parkin, B. T.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Hubbard, T. F.||Paton, J.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Pearson, A.|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Popplewell, E.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)||Mr. Holmes and Mr. Arthur Allen.|
|Question put accordingly, That those words be there inserted:—|
|The Committee divided: Ayes 206, Noes 243.|
|Division No. 83.]||AYES||[8.0 p.m.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Beswick, F.||Burton, Miss F. E.|
|Albu, A. H.||Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Blackburn, F.||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Blenkinsop, A.||Callaghan, L. J.|
|Allen, Scholefield (Crewe)||Blyton, W. R.||Carmichael, J.|
|Awbery, S. S.||Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Castle, Mrs. B. A.|
|Bacon, Miss Alice||Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Champion, A. J.|
|Balfour, A.||Brockway, A. F.||Chapman, W. D.|
|Bartley, P.||Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Chetwynd, G. R.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Coldrick, W.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)|
|Benton, G.||Burke, W. A.||Collins, V. J. (Shoreditch & Finsbury)|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Rhodes, H.|
|Craddook, George (Bradford, S.)||Kenyon, C.||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Cronin, J. D.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A.||King, Dr. H. M.||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Lawson, G. M.||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Ross, William|
|Davies, Stephen (Methyr)||Lee, Miss Jennie (Cannock)||Royle, C.|
|Deer, G.||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Lewis, Arthur||Short, E. W.|
|Delargy, H. J.||Lindgren, G. S.||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. John (W. Brmwch)||Logan, D. G.||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Dye, S.||Mabon, Dr. J. D.||Simmons, C. J. (Brierley Hill)|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||MacColl, J. E.||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly)||McGhee, H. G.||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||McLeavy, Frank||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||MacMillan, M. K. (Western Isles)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Fernyhough, E.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Sparks, J. A|
|Fletcher, Eric||Mahon, S.||Steele, T.|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Gibson, C. W.||Mallalleu, E. L. (Brigg)||Stones, W. (Consett).|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C.||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfd, E.)||Stross, Dr. Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent, C.)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Grenfell, Rt. Hon. D. R.||Mason, Roy||Swingler, S. T.|
|Grey, C. F.||Mayhew, C. P.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Messer, Sir F.||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Mikardo, Ian||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Mitchison, G. R.||Thomas, Iorwerth (Rhondda, W.)|
|Hale, Leslie||Monslow, W.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Moody, A. S.||Thornton, E.|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Timmons, J.|
|Hannan, W.||Mort, D. L.||Tomney, F.|
|Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Moss, R.||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Hastings, S.||Moyle, A.||Usborne, H. C.|
|Healey, Denis||Mulley, F. W.||Viant, S. P.|
|Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Warbey, W. N.|
|Hewitson, Capt. M.||Oliver, G. H.||Watkins, T. E.|
|Hobson, C. R.||Oram, A. E.||Weitzman, D.|
|Holman, P.||Orbach, M.||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Oswald, T.||West, D. G.|
|Hubbard, T. F.||Owen, W. J.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Padley, W. E.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Paget, R. T.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Palmer, A. M. F.||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hunter, A. E.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Willey, Frederick|
|Hynd, J. B. (Attercliffe)||Parker, J.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Irvine, A. J. (Edgehill)||Parkin, B. T.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)|
|Irving, S. (Dartford)||Paton, J.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Pearson, A.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Janner, B.||Popplewell, E|
|Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Jeger, George (Goole)||Probert, A. R.||Wilson, Rt. Hon. Harold (Huyton)|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena (Holbn & St.Pncs, S.)||Proctor, W. T.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Jones, Rt. Hon.A. Creech (Wakefield)||Pryde, D. J.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Pursey, Cmdr. H.||Zilliacus, K.|
|Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Rankin, John|
|Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Reeves, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Reid, William||Mr. Holmes and Mr. J. T. Price.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Dance, J. C. G.|
|Altken, W. T.||Braine, B. R.||Davidson, Viscountess|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Brooman-White, R. C.||D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Bryan, P.||Deedes, W. F.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Digby, Simon Wingfield|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.||Dodds-Parker, A. D.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Burden, F. F. A,||Doughty, C. J. A.|
|Ashton, H.||Butcher, Sir Herbert||Drayson, G. B.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Carr, Robert||Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Cary, Sir Robert||Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.|
|Barber, Anthony||Channon, H.||Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David|
|Barlow, Sir John||Chichester-Clark, R.||Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)|
|Barter, John||Cole, Norman||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.|
|Beamish, Maj. Tufton||Cooper, Sqn, Ldr. Albert||Emmet, Hon. Mrs. Evelyn|
|Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Farey-Jones, F. W.|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Fell, A.|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hn. H. F. C.||Finlay, Graeme|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Fisher, Nigel|
|Bishop, F. P.||Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.|
|Body, R. F.||Cunningham, Knox||Fletcher-Cooke, C.|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Currie, G. B. H.||Fort, R.|
|Freeth, D. K.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Gammans, L. D.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Glover, D.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Godber, J. B.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Robertson, Sir David|
|Gomme-Duncan, Col. A.||Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. Q.||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Gough, C. F. H.||Longden, Gilbert||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Gower, H. R.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Russell, R. S.|
|Grant, W. (Woodside)||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Mackeson, Brig, Sir Harry||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Green, A.||McKibbin, A. J.||Sharples, R. C.|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Shepherd, William|
|Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middesbrough, W.)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Smyth, Brig. J. G. (Norwood)|
|Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Speir, R. M.|
|Gurden, Harold||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain (Enfield, W.)||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Maddan, Martin||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A.V. (Macclesfd)||Maitland, Cdr. J. F. W. (Horncastle)||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Hay, John||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Storey, S.|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Stuart, R. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Marples, A. E.||Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Heath, Edward||Marshall, Douglas||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Mathew, R.||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Maude, Angus||Thomas, Rt. Hn. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Mawby, R. L.||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Hope, Lord John||Molson, A. H. E.||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr. R. (Croydon, S.)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Monckton, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Howard, John (Test)||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Nairn, D. L. S.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Neave, Airey||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Nicholls, Harmar||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th,E. & Chr'ch)||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Vosper, D. F.|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Nugent, G. R. H.||Wade, D. W.|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Oakshott, H. D.||Wakefield, Edward (Derbyshire, W.)|
|Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Osborne, C.||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Page, R. G.||Watkinson, H. A.|
|Kaberry, D.||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)||Whitelaw, W.S.I.(Penrith & Border)|
|Keegan, D.||Partridge, E.||Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)|
|Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Peake, Rt. Hon. O.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Kerr, H. W.||Peyton, J. W. W.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Kershaw, J. A.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Kirk, P. M.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Lambert, Hon. G.||Pitman, I, J.||Woollam, John Victor|
|Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Pitt, Miss E. M.||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Leather, E. H. C.||Pott, H. P.|
|Leavey, J. A.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Leburn, W. G.||Profumo, J. D.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mr. Studholme and Mr. Redmayne.|
§ The Chairman
It may be for the convenience of the Committee if we discuss also the following two Amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks): in page 1, line 8, at end insert:(not being such a dwelling as is mentioned in subsection (20) of this section).";in page 2, line 20, at end add:(20) Contributions shall continue to be payable under the said section one, subsection (2) 1296 or subsection (3), as the case may be, in respect of any new dwelling, as regards which the following conditions are fulfilled, that is to say that—1297 and the further Amendment in the name of the right hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Key): in page 2, line 20, at end add:
- (a) each such annual contribution is not less than the annual Exchequer subsidy payable under this Act in respect of such dwellings as that dwelling, and
- (b) that dwelling is provided by a local authority in exercise of their powers to provide housing accommodation or, in pursuance of authorised arrangements with a local authority, by a development corporation or housing association and for the purpose of rehousing persons displaced from a structure made available to that authority under the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act. 1944.(7) Contributions shall continue to be payable under the said section one, subsection (2) or subsection (3), as the case may be, in respect of any new dwelling, as regards which the following conditions are fulfilled, that is to say that—
- (a) each such annual contribution is not less than the annual Exchequer subsidy payable under this Act in respect of such dwellings as that dwelling, and
- (b) that dwelling is provided by a local authority in exercise of their powers to provide housing accommodation, and for the purpose of rehousing persons displaced from a derequisitioned house.
§ Mr. Key
This Amendment affects only a limited number of local authorities but it deals with a problem vital to them. Earlier this year the Minister persuaded his colleagues to agree to impose upon local authorities the responsibility for properties which had been requisitioned in order to provide housing accommodation for those whose homes had been destroyed or rendered uninhabitable during the war. What had, during the war and for years afterwards, been regarded as a national responsibility was now to be passed over to the local authorities to be dealt with solely by them, though not of course to all local authorities because the majority had not been concerned with it.
When introducing the necessary legislation, the Parliamentary Secretary said:A high proportion of requisitioned property is now concentrated in the hands of fifty authorities. They are the hard core of the problem, and some of them face quite exceptional difficulties.To show his appreciation of those exceptional difficulties the Minister said, in effect, to those local authorities, "I will now put upon you the burden of 25 per cent. of the administrative costs of those requisitioned premises but will give you also a 100 per cent. responsibility for solving the problem in five years, getting the people rehoused and all the premises derequisitioned." And the authorities, with their great rehousing difficulties, are now told by this Bill—with typical Tory sympathy—that because they are needy they are helped by the Minister adding to their burden. In other words, he will increase their chances of success by reducing their power to act.
1298 The Parliamentary Secretary also said in the same speech:As, I think, all the London Members will know, the load bears heaviest on London, and that will not surprise anyone who knows what the war inflicted on London. We have recognised throughout that the problem of these London authorities is exceptional and deserving of special sympathy and every consideration."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th February. 1955; Vol. 537, c. 194.]Note the words "special sympathy and every consideration." This Bill shows what is that "special sympathy" and what" every consideration "has resulted in. "We know," says the Minister, "that a large number of houses will have to be built and we will show you our consideration and our sympathy even before the operative date of 1st April next. Full responsibility becomes yours by making a drastic cut in the housing subsidy straight away and securing its total abolition in a year or so." That is how a Tory Minister fulfils his promises.
The Minister recognises the seriousness of the situation by making it more and more difficult for those with the greatest problem to do the job that he has forced upon them. Faced with that increase in their own financial responsibility, the local authorities will find it increasingly difficult to provide the alternative accommodation that will be necessary. That they should provide it was what the Minister considered was the essential way in which the council should tackle the problem, for he said in Committee, on 3rd March:There are authorities which might be able to allocate an increased number of new council houses for the rehousing of families who are now living in requisitioned houses.Of course the way to help them to do it was to cut the housing subsidy—
§ Mr. Sandys
Has the right hon. Gentleman got with him the part of my speech from which he is quoting?
§ Mr. Key
I am coming to that. The way to help them do it was, as I said, to cut the housing subsidy and make inevitable a fall in the total number of houses which the local authorities can provide. Give these hard pressed local authorities responsibility, reduce the financial assistance for general housing purposes which they now receive from national resources, and from the lessened accommodation they are able to provide, expect them to give an ever-increasing number of their houses for derequisitioning. "Of course," says the Minister, "I am not pressing them to do it." Oh, no. On that same day he is officially reported as saying:I have not attempted to bring pressure to bear on local authorities to increase these allocations, although I hope and expect"—notice, please, "hope and expect"—that they will continue to provide at least as many council houses for this purpose as they have done in the past. I believe that many of them will increase the number as the building programme advances."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 3rd March. 1955; c. 441Yes, and the way to get that increase, the way to ensure that a building programme will advance, is to cut drastically now, and abolish entirely soon, the housing subsidies designed to help authorities in their task.
I know that the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary said, in our discussion of the first Amendment today, that the council can spread the cost of this extra building by raising the rents of all existing council houses. Surely he will not say that the expenditure arising from what, when they were asked to act as Government agents the authorities were told was recognised as a national problem to be nationally borne is now to be governed by the limited number of people in a given area who happen to be inhabiting council houses, and that the necessary finance needed to build houses now wanted in connection with derequisitioning will be found by increasing the rents merely of council tenants.
As one who spent long years in local government, I am distressed by the lamentable betrayal of which the Minister has been guilty in his treatment of local authorities. He is undermining their confidence in his Department and destroying the co-operation and trust which many of us have for half a century been 1300 doing all we could to strengthen and develop. I beg him to accept the Amendment, for by maintaining the existing subsidy for houses needed in connection with derequisitioning he will help to restore the faith of distressed authorities, not only faith in his own honesty and sincerity and the things he has said, but faith in the prospect of continued co-operation from the central authority.
§ Mr. J. Silverman
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Key) said, the problem of requisitioned houses is primarily a London problem, but not entirely, for other local authorities are affected, and it certainly affects Birmingham, which recently had as many as 1,800 requisitioned houses.
The Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act imposed upon such authorities an enormous physical burden in rehousing people, and it means that over the next five years a significant proportion of those on the ordinary registers will have to wait longer—perhaps indefinitely—for a house by virtue of the priority given to rehousing those thrown out of their accommodation by the de-requisitioning Measure. To that burden is now added the extra financial burdens represented by the increase in interest rates and the withdrawal of the subsidy. It represents an intolerable burden for local authorities with large numbers of requisitioned houses.
When the Minister introduced the Bill we asked: what will happen to the people who are turned out of their houses? The Minister was very coy in replying. We asked: will they be turned out into the street? The Minister knew the answer perfectly well. He knew that local authorities, who have a greater sense of social responsibility than the Ministry, axe obliged to rehouse these people, and the consequence is that other people will, unfortunately, have to wait. Again, we ask him: what will happen to these people when they are thrown out of their houses? The Minister must admit that some, at any rate, will be rehoused by the local authorities. If none is, the Amendment will cost him nothing.
If it is true, as the Minister says—or if he persists in the pretence—that the Bill is simply intended to stimulate local authority slum clearance, how can that object be adversely affected if the local authorities continue to receive a subsidy 1301 in respect of people whom they have to rehouse anyway, because they are thrown out of requisitioned houses? I invite the Minister to answer the question: what has the withdrawal of the subsidies from houses to be provided for these unfortunate people to do with the question of slum clearance?
If the Minister's sole idea is to stimulate slum clearance and he does not wish otherwise to impose any burden on local authorities, I advise him to consider the Amendment. It can have no effect on slum clearance, because it is clear that people who are turned out of their houses will have to be rehoused anyway by their local authority. I urge the Minister to consider the Amendment very seriously. I do not know what burden it will impose on him, but if his optimistic account during the proceedings on the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act of what is to happen to these people is correct, and if very few go to the local authorities and most of them are rehoused in other ways, it cannot impose a very considerable financial burden on the Ministry.
In any event, it is a burden which has to be borne. Already, local authorities are being asked to bear a physical burden. It is monstrous that they should also be asked to bear a severe financial burden, for it is thoroughly unjustified and it bestows no benefit upon the community.
§ Mrs. Joyce Butler (Wood Green)
I support the Amendment. It is true that the Amendment affects only a comparatively few housing authorities, but most of them can be said to be authorities which have the most acute housing needs, the areas being congested and already having very serious housing problems.
My constituency covers the areas of the Tottenham and Wood Green housing authorities. Tottenham has more than 1,000 requisitioned properties. Wood Green has a much smaller number, only 210. It is a serious problem for both authorities to find alternative accommodation for the licensees. When the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act was passed, local authorities were asked, as they had been asked previously, to approach owners of requisitioned properties to inquire whether they would accept the licensees as their tenants. It may interest the Minister to 1302 know that only 27 of 527 owners approached in Tottenham have agreed to accept the licensees as their tenants. Only eight out of 130 owners in Wood Green have agreed to do so; nineteen have asked for further particulars, but it is practically certain that most of the inquiries will prove to be abortive.
I stress that point because it means that, somehow or other, local authorities will have to find alternative accommodation for most of these families. When figures are given of the numbers of requisitioned properties, it is important to remember that many of them, if not most of them, house more than one family. When a requisitioned property is released, more than one family has to be found alternative accommodation.
Another important point is that many of these families are large. They have found requisitioned properties eminently suitable in many ways because some of those houses contain a large number of rooms. When these people are rehoused they will not fit into these two-bedroomed "boxes" which local authorities have been compelled to build nowadays. They will need larger accommodation than is normally built, and this £10 subsidy will make the rent one which these people cannot afford. If they go into the larger houses they need, the cost of building will be much greater and the rent will, therefore, be higher than most of them can afford.
Many of these families went into requisitioned properties during the war, sometimes from very poor areas, and they are poor families. They cannot afford high rents. We were told by the Minister on the Second Reading that many of the figures which were given to illustrate the high rents were purely hypothetical. I have received today from the Town Clerk of Wood Green the information that a small block of eighteen fiats which we are proposing to build, the Tents of which on 1st November we estimated to be £1 14s. 11d. a week, will now, it the rate contribution is not made and they only attract the £10 subsidy, be £2 15s. 6d. a week—an increase of about £1 a week. Those are not hypothetical figures. They are actual figures which will be reported to the housing committee at its next meeting.
1303 This small block of flats cannot be made into a four-storey block because of the nature of the subsoil in this locality. It is all very well to say that larger blocks of flats will attract the higher subsidy. It is not always possible to build the larger blocks of flats because of local conditions.
I stress the importance of this Amendment because, while local authorities may to a certain extent please themselves whether or not they undertake general housing, they have to find means of housing families from requisitioned properties because the Minister has imposed that obligation on them and, therefore, they have no choice in the matter. Since the Minister imposed that obligation on them when the subsidy was at the higher level, I feel that he has a moral obligation to maintain the subsidy at that higher level for these requisitioned families.
The Amendment is different in substance from many other points which the Minister has said would make the Bill meaningless. This would not do anything of the kind. It would merely bring fairness and equity to a section of the population for which the Minister has given local authorities the responsibility of rehousing.
§ Mr. Sparks
I understand that the Chair has agreed that we shall deal with the Amendment in my name, in page 2, line 20, to add a new subsection (20) with the one that we are now discussing, and I will therefore say what I want to say about that Amendment—
§ The Temporary Chairman (Mr. H. Hynd)
To get the matter clear, I will inform the hon. Member that we are also taking the Amendment in his name, in page 1, line 8, to insert:(not being such a dwelling as is mentioned in subsection (20) of this section)and the Amendment in page 2, line 20, to add new subsection (7).
§ Mr. Sparks
The Amendment to which you have referred, in page 1, line 8, standing in my name, is really a paving Amendment to the Amendment to which I have referred, to add a new subsection (20), which relates to temporary accommodation. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will see fit to accept that Amendment.
1304 In 1944, the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act was passed by this House and its main purpose was to erect a limited number of dwellings as quickly as possible in order to give the local authorities a little breathing space in organising their permanent housing schemes. Consequently, in the succeeding two or three years, the local authorities made use of the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act to erect approximately 150,000 temporary dwellings, which are commonly known as "prefabs." These dwellings have been erected in all sorts of places—the housing problem was, of course, severe and acute in those early years—a good many of them in parks and open spaces, some on cleared bombed sites and others on pieces of waste ground wherever they could be put down quickly and with the minimum of time and labour.
The Act intended that these dwellings should not last longer than about ten years. When local authorities agreed to erect them, their attention was directed to that fact and that by the end of ten years the "prefabs" should be ready to come down and the local authorities should arrange for the rehousing of the people living in them.
The right hon. Gentleman has recently taken up this matter with the local authorities and has directed them to show cause why they should not pull down these "prefabs." In most cases, local authorities have had to put up to the Minister suggestions or schemes for dealing with these "prefabs," indicating those which it was intended to pull down immediately and those which it was preferred should remain a little longer. As a result, local authorities have in suitable cases agreed—presumably, with the Minister's approval—that some of the "prefabs" will be demolished and others allowed to remain for a further limited time. I understand that the latest date to which they will be permitted to remain is sometime in 1965, or, roughly, ten years from now. By that time, they are supposed all to have been disposed of.
As I have said, many of the "prefabs" have already been pulled down or are in course of being taken down. Therefore, we are asking the Minister not to withdraw the benefit of the housing subsidy from local authorities who, in the main, are carrying out his direction and 1305 are demolishing the "prefabs." He should not deny to them the benefit of subsidy in arranging to rehouse the people who are living in the "prefabs." Obviously, if they are pulled down, the families cannot be put out on the street; a housing scheme must be developed and alternative accommodation prepared to which the families will be transferred. Then the "prefab" can be demolished and the site made use of.
It is unfair for the right hon. Gentleman to withdraw the subsidy in these cases and to put upon the remaining tenants the burden of the increased cost of providing new dwellings. As has already been pointed out from this side, there is not simply the loss of subsidy, but there is the other important factor of the increased cost of interest on housing loans, which may rise even higher than it is now. Added to the proposed loss of subsidy on rebuilding schemes, this will inevitably place an increased burden upon existing tenants and also upon those who at present live in the "prefabs."
In view of the fact that the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act was really a wartime Measure—at least, it passed through the House in the closing stages of the war, and was regarded more or less as an emergency Measure—the right hon. Gentleman should face up to his obligation to maintain the subsidies upon this limited number of temporary dwellings. It is not playing the game by local authorities to withdraw the subsidy now and leave them with the extra burden because, had they been made aware at the beginning of the operation that they would very likely lose the benefit of subsidy at this time, many of these temporary houses would not have been erected. They were erected by local authorities in perfectly good faith, on the understanding that the subsidies would be available at the end of ten years, when they had to be demolished and local authorities had to develop housing schemes to rehouse the occupants. The right hon. Gentleman would be letting them down very badly if he now withdrew the subsidy.
The right hon. Gentleman—I think it was during the Second Reading debate—mentioned something about Portal houses. I cannot see what Portal houses have to do with the Housing 1306 (Temporary Accommodation) Act. I was under the impression that only a few prototypes of the Portal house were erected, and that it was found quite impossible to continue their erection owing to the fact that the necessary steel was not available. I do not know whether we are getting confused with terms and names. After all, there are 150,000 "prefabs," which are called by all sorts of names.
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not think that we want to talk at cross-purposes. I thought that I had explained what I was referring to. When I referred to Portals I was trying to differentiate between the temporary houses built upon the Portal plan—though not in steel—and the substandard hutments of the Nissen hut type, which we regard as unsatisfactory dwellings whose demolition should be treated as part of the slum clearance problem.
§ Mr. Sparks
If the right hon. Gentleman regards those dwellings erected under the Act as being of the Portal type to which he has referred, I do not think there is any difference between us, but I rather thought he implied that he was not prepared to extend the benefit of subsidy to rehousing the tenants of these "prefabs" when they are demolished. I am told that he did say that.
§ Mr. Sparks
In that case, a wide gulf remains between us. The right hon. Gentleman is apparently prepared to maintain the benefit of subsidy upon the mythical Portal type of house—
§ Mr. Sparks
Well, the right hon. Gentleman is presumably giving the name of the Minister to those dwellings.
§ Mr. Sandys
Let us be quite clear about this. I thought I had made myself clear. I believe that the right hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Key) is clear about it. There are two types of temporary house with which we are mainly concerned. One is the temporary house built under the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act, 1944, and the other is the Nissen hut type, to be found in camps of hutments, of which many have already been pulled down but quite 1307 a number are still standing. The subsidy for slum clearance is available for their replacement and the rehousing of the families now living in them.
§ Mr. Sparks
I now understand the right hon. Gentleman. The subsidy is available for rehousing people living in camp hutments, but not, presumably, in respect of "prefabs." I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will change his mind about that. If we were asking him to continue the subsidy upon an indefinite number of dwellings he might have a case for resisting our argument, but we are speaking of a very limited number of dwellings, whose demolition will be spread over a period of about ten years from now.
We are not asking a lot from the Minister. He can well afford to make a concession in this case. His agreement to our proposal would receive the thanks of local authorities, because their housing problem in the large towns and cities is large enough without having to carry the problem of rehousing people from prefabricated dwellings without the benefit of the subsidy. As the number would be strictly limited, and demolition will be spread over a period of years, I hope that the Minister will be able to include this with the provision for rehousing families in requisitioned premises. It would be an injustice to the local authorities for him to withdraw the benefit of the subsidy.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
The Minister will not be surprised, if in supporting the Amendment. I draw my examples from conditions in the Borough of Paddington, part of which I represent. He knows that Paddington's record in this matter is that the cost of the requisitioned buildings in Paddington is higher than the cost of those in any other housing authority. He will also know that we have 2,400 families in requisitioned dwellings, and that constitutes a very great problem indeed.
However, I do not wish to treat this subject as if it were a local matter concerning one borough. We have here an opportunity to examine the effect of the Bill upon the future type of building in London and upon the chance of providing reasonable accommodation at reasonable rents for the sort of people who need to 1308 live in London. There will be opportunities later to pursue the contrast between the two schools of thought, those who think in terms of overspill, new towns and garden cities and those who advocate much higher building in the city.
My constituents are not really concerned with the niceties of these different points of view. For the most part they are concerned with the fact that they have jobs in London and that London needs people to do those jobs at moderate rates of wages. They must be found homes in London. It is absolute nonsense and a waste of money, whatever the view one might take about the desirability of creating new balanced communities, to put aside these interesting plans for the development of new communities and use up accommodation at a distance from London by filling it with people who merely have to travel back to London to work.
That is the type of person who lives in my constituency and who needs to live there. There is one more point which I should like to make, in case it invokes an echo of sympathy in the Minister's heart. I am not speaking on behalf of some recalcitrant and rebellious Labour council.
§ Mr. Parkin
The Borough of Paddington is very respectable. It did not know very much about council houses before the war. It has been rather abruptly brought into contact with the realities of life in the last generation.
The majority party on the Paddington Borough Council has done its best to satisfy the Minister. It senses his policy in advance, and there has been an almost fawning, crawling willingness to fall in with the Minister's plans for requisitioned premises. There has been virtually no rehousing in Paddington. Those of us who attend advice bureaux and listen to the troubles of our constituents know that for months and months there has been no rehousing whatever, except that of people from requisitioned properties in order that those properties might remain vacant.
I am not suggesting that this is entirely a political matter. We have the advantage of the advice and help in municipal 1309 affairs of a number of estate agents, and doubtless they can look after their interests and those of their clients very effectively, but there has not been a single case in the last few months where anyone has been able to offer any help to the ordinary people who come to us with their troubles.
Perhaps I might quote one case to show the ridiculous lengths to which the Minister's policy has gone. A constituent of mine suffered from tuberculosis and, using all the provisions of the National Health Service, the Ministry of Health spent thousands of pounds on having him cured. He went to Switzerland and came back cured, and he then went into a convalescent home. He was released from that home only on the assurance that he was to be properly housed—and that assurance was a letter from Paddington Town Hall which went as near as possible to saying that he was very high on the housing list and could expect to be rehoused in the near future. It was not a promise, because wise officials do not make promises, but certainly no one imagined that there would be an absolute stop on rehousing.
That man has been left with the choice of breaking up his family or leaving his work. After efforts to find accommodation over a long period, he has in fact given up his work—which his employers were anxious that he should continue—and has had to leave the district. That is one of the most pathetic and desperate cases which I could quote. I will not quote the hundreds and thousands of normal overcrowding cases which are so familiar to my hon. Friends.
I suggest to the Minister that if he were prepared to make a concession on this Amendment, he would start something with which his name might be very honourably associated for a long time. Under the provisions of the Bill, as outlined, the Minister offers considerable help towards the type of building which is in accordance with modern technological progress and modern architectural ideas—high buildings with a reasonable amount of open space.
If building is to take place in London to rehouse the working people who have to live here, we must bear in mind that the result will affect the face of London 1310 probably for a century. This is an opportunity to do the job properly. I will not get involved in the arguments about density, although it is obvious that if we are to build high we must clear a number of spaces in order to avoid shadows and to provide sunshine, fresh air and so on. There is no doubt that modern technological progress offers the prospect of very much more pleasant and more agreeable living conditions if the blocks of flats are high and not too wide.
Unless boroughs such as Paddington can get this problem of those dwelling in requisitioned premises out of the way, they can make no progress with rehousing whatever. At the moment they are quite heartbroken. There is no incentive to go ahead with new schemes because they cannot touch the normal housing needs of the borough until they have cleared these requisitioned premises off their hands and handed them back to their owners.
If the provisions in this Bill applicable to slum clearance were also applicable to rehousing occupants of requisitioned premises, boroughs like Paddington would be given an incentive. With buildings of more than ten storeys on sites where the cost of the site is at the highest, as it is in Paddington, there could be more in the way of subsidy for slum clearance and overspill than under previous conditions. I have not worked out how far that would offset the very grave burden of the increase in interest rates, but at least it would be better than nothing.
I do not want to pursue arguments for high building in discussing this Amendment. I have no doubt, Mr. Hynd, that you would rule me out of order if I did so, but I want strongly to point out to the Minister that he can not only give fresh hope to a borough which has none at present—and can have none until the ordinary casual vacancies in council properties have absorbed occupants of requisitioned properties—but can give the incentive of extending the subsidy to cover those cases, especially if he matched the financial concessions with personal drive and leadership. He might start a process of building for rehousing people who need to live in the centre which would then be of great service to this capital city and affect its beauty and amenities for many years to come.
§ Mr. Sandys
I should like to congratulate the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) on having been able to discuss, within the scope of this Amendment, the desirability of erecting high buildings in London. I must say that I have very considerable sympathy with some of the views the hon. Member expressed upon the architectural aspects of this problem, but the two Amendments with which we are dealing are concerned with very specific and restricted points, as the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) said.
One of those points is the question of the prefabricated temporary house and the other is the question of requisitioned houses. The question is whether the subsidy of £22 should be available for dwellings which are built to rehouse people out of dwellings in those two classes. I will deal with the temporary houses first. I should draw the attention of hon. Members to the terms of the Bill, because the hon. Member for Acton seemed to be rather confused. Clause 3 (3, b) makes clear that the subsidy of £22 is available for dwellingsprovided by a local authority for the purposes of rehousing persons coming from such camps or other unsatisfactory temporary housing accommodation as the Minister may designate for the purposes of this paragraph; …
§ Mr. Sparks
It would save a lot of time if the right hon. Gentleman would say that the houses referred to come within that definition. Could he designate them?
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys
My purpose in intervening was to try to explain what is the position. Those are the terms of the Bill. In other words, to come within that paragraph, the dwelling has to be a temporary construction and, in the opinion of the Minister, unsatisfactory. I have already indicated that, without exception, I intend to designate all these temporary hutments to which I have referred—the Nissen hut type and other similar extremely substandard dwellings which were intended only as a makeshift when the housing position was acute at the end of the war and immediately afterwards.
§ Mr. Sandys
I hope we may be clear about this. Those who have had experience in this matter, such as the right hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Key), understand what I am saying. There are two classes of temporary dwellings which were erected. One was an extremely small, sub-standard, unsatisfactory hutment. There were Service camps and hutments in the London area.
§ Mr. Sandys
Yes, that is right. I intend, without exception, to designate them as being unsatisfactory for the purposes of this Bill. Any dwelling built to rehouse people coming out of those hutments will qualify for the full £22 subsidy.
On the other hand, the prefabricated temporary house, which I describe as the Portal model to distinguish it from the two-year hutment, is in a different category. I think it wrong for the hon. Member for Acton to say that if, in 1945 or 1946, local authorities had known that in 1955 or 1956 the subsidy was to be reduced—a subsidy which did not then exist in this form—they would have erected fewer of these hutments, and that it is an act of bad faith to deny them the full subsidy now.
That is a very far-fetched argument. In the first place, the local authorities knew nothing about the £22 subsidy, which did not then exist. Secondly, the cost of erecting these dwellings and of the dwellings themselves was provided entirely by the Exchequer. At that time the local authorities got something for nothing, and I have no doubt that they were glad to have these houses provided quickly when there was an acute shortage of housing accommodation.
§ Mr. Sparks
The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that not all of these houses were erected in 1945. In some cases the schemes were not completed until 1948 or 1949.
§ Mr. Sandys
Whenever they were erected, it was because the local authorities wanted them, and the cost was borne by the Exchequer. So I do not think one can say that the local authorities let themselves in for some big financial commitment which they find difficulty in discharging.
1313 However, that is not the point. The point is that although these temporary houses are not ideal, they provide conditions, particularly for small families, which are quite as comfortable as those provided by many permanent houses which have many years of life yet. I am not suggesting that the temporary houses should have many years of life, but they do provide comfortable accommodation for small families. While the housing shortage continues, I think it would be an unsound policy to accelerate the demolition of these houses if they are still structurally satisfactory and providing good and convenient homes with modern arrangements for a considerable number of families.
If, on the other hand, for one reason or another they are unsatisfactory and cannot be repaired at reasonable cost, then there is nothing to prevent the Minister from designating those houses as coming within the category covered by the Clause. Therefore, any houses built to rehouse the families from unsatisfactory temporary houses would qualify for the larger subsidy. I hope I have made the position clear. I think that hon. Members in all parts of the Committee will agree that it would not be sound public policy to stimulate the demolition of these houses in any area while a shortage still continued there.
§ Mrs. Butler
In view of what the Minister has just said about the temporary bungalows, with which, I think, many hon. Members will agree, will he release local authorities from the undertaking to pull down the bungalows, many of which are structurally sound? Many of them have been pulled down already. Will he release the authorities from having to continue this process of demolition?
§ Mr. Sandys
That is a separate issue. I think the hon. Lady is referring to temporary houses erected on open spaces. I think it has always been the feeling in all parts of the Committee that we want to restore the open spaces in our towns as soon as we reasonably can, and, therefore, we have—and I think it is right—to encourage the local authorities to remove those houses, certainly in preference to other temporary houses. Extensions of time have been given. There was a statutory time limit—speaking from memory, I think it was ten years—to the existence of the houses on open spaces. 1314 [HON. MEMBERS: "For all of them."] There was no statutory limit put upon the other houses. It was put upon the houses to be erected on open spaces, because, quite rightly, in my opinion, special permission had to be given to erect them there.
Where there have been special difficulties in an area, to my regret it has been necessary to give an extension of time for the existence of a number of those houses—an extension for a certain further period of years. I think that we have to be jealous of our open spaces in all our towns. We have all too little open space. I think that the hon. Lady will probably agree that this is not a controversial, party issue.
I shall come in a moment to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Poplar, but I want straight away to deal with a remark of the hon. Member for Aston (Mr. J. Silverman). He spoke about people in requisitioned houses being thrown out. He said that the local authorities had to go to their rescue by rehousing them, and that that placed a heavy burden upon the resources of the local authorities. He implied that this resulted in further prejudice to the people on the waiting lists. I would remind the Committee that the only circumstances in which people can be evicted under the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act are those in which the court has decided that the hardship to the owner in being kept out of his house is greater than or as great as the hardship to the occupants in being asked to leave. Those are the only circumstances in which that can arise. There are very few of those cases.
§ Mr. Victor Collins (Shoreditch and Finsbury)
I think that the right hon. Gentleman is dealing with the situation now, but what about the situation in 1960 when, if the matter has not been seen to earlier, about two-thirds of the people now living in requisitioned dwellings in my constituency will have to be rehoused by the local authority?
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not want to go through all the proceedings on the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act which we discussed at great length. The hon. Member will remember that in the very last resort that Act provides powers to the local authority to purchase all the remaining houses 1315 still requisitioned at the end of the period in 1960. Therefore, there is absolutely no excuse for anybody to say that that Act can result in anybody being evicted from the requisitioned house in which he is living, except where the hardship to the owner is greater than the hardship to the occupant.
To be doubly sure, and not to place this extra burden on local authorities, I was careful to include in that Act, as hon. Members may remember, a provision that local authorities were required where necessary to retain a pool of requisitioned houses which had become vacant in order that they might have some reserve in which to accommodate people who might be ordered by the court to leave requisitioned premises.
§ Mr. Sandys
In 1960, in the last resort, there is the power to buy these houses and, therefore, I think that we have looked after these people pretty carefully.
§ Mr. Parkin
Is the Minister now saying that in his view no hardship need be caused through the operation of that Act? Will he therefore say that a council which refuses to fill casual vacancies in its own housing accommodation from the general waiting list but fills them with the occupants of requisitioned premises, in order that these premises should be handed back, will be going far beyond his policy?
§ Mr. Sandys
The right hon. Member for Poplar (Mr. Key) was good enough to read a passage or two from the speech I made on the subject earlier this year. It seems to me that the passage which he read strengthened my case rather than his. In case hon. Members have forgotten it, I should like to read it again. I said:Therefore, I have not attempted to bring pressure to bear on local authorities to increase these allocations,"—that is, of new houses for rehousing people who come out of requisitioned houses—although I hope and expect that they will continue to provide at least as many council houses for this purpose as they have done in the past.
§ Mr. Sandys
The right hon. Gentleman did, but I was so pleased that he read it that I wanted to make sure that hon. Members did not forget it. Later, I said, and this is the important point:… the Bill … does not rest upon the assumption that there will be any great increase in the allocation of new council houses for the purpose of rehousing the occupants of requisitioned dwellings."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A, 3rd March, 1955; c. 44.]That was the important point which I wanted to emphasise. The hon. Lady the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) said that the Minister imposed upon local authorities the obligation to rehouse families living in requisitioned houses. That is not correct, as I pointed out.
§ Mr. Key
If the right hon. Gentleman says he did not impose upon local authorities the job of rehousing, what he is going to impose upon them is the job of buying, in 1960, all the houses inhabited by those accommodated in requisitioned premises, and he will do that without any subsidy towards the buying and with a very reduced subsidy for building to avoid the necessity of buying.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys
The right hon. Gentleman is not correct. As I have explained, the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act does not rely primarily upon local authorities building new houses to accommodate these people. It relies mainly upon other methods. The three principal methods upon which it relies are: first, the release of requisitioned houses as and when they become vacant—that does not involve the building of new houses; secondly, the agreement of owners to give tenancies to existing occupants in return for compensation—that is a financial matter; not a question of building more houses; and, thirdly, the leasing or purchasing by the local authority of the requisitioned house, if it still requires it.
The right hon. Gentleman has suggested that this great burden has been placed upon local authorities, that it will involve them in very serious financial difficulties and that this Bill—after all, we are, discussing not the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act, but the Housing Subsidies Bill—will add to their burden in an altogether intolerable way. 1317 If I am right in saying that the policy embodied in the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act does not rest upon the assumption that additional houses are to be built by local authorities in which to rehouse these people, but, that they will be rehoused primarily by other methods, then, of course, this Bill does not add to the burden of local authorities except to the extent that they are building houses for rehousing people from requisitioned dwellings. The number which they have been building has not been very large, and, frankly, I am not expecting any great increase in that number.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am very glad to hear that. What I am saying is that I do not expect any large increase in that number.
I now come to the other point made by the right hon. Gentleman about how the costs of these other methods are to be borne. They should not normally amount to more than 1d. or 2d. on the rates. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the total cost of the various measures for dealing with the question of the compensation of owners—the question of leasing or buying houses—should not amount to more than a 1d. or 2d. on the rates.
§ Mr. Sandys
That is not possible, because under the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act an additional grant is available which has the effect of fixing a ceiling of about 3½d., beyond which it cannot go. Therefore, it is not possible for it to be fourpence, but, if it is, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will bring the matter to my notice, because it can only mean that his local authority has not applied for the grant to which it is entitled.
It is generally agreed, I think, that since the war requisitioned houses have been treated by local authorities as part of their general pool of housing accommodation, and have been used in the same way as council houses to meet general 1318 needs. Therefore, in the Government's opinion there is no justification for giving a different subsidy for houses built to accommodate families from requisitioned properties. I think that I have explained the position fully, and I hope that the Committee will see that this Bill is not related to the problem of requisitioned houses. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite will not press their Amendment.
§ Mr. Michael Stewart (Fulham)
It is difficult to be convinced by all of the reply of the Minister. When he was speaking about prefabricated houses he carried a number of us with him part of the way, but when he referred to prefabricated houses built in parks and open spaces he said that we ought to encourage local authorities to get the "prefabs" out of the parks and off open spaces. By all means we ought to encourage them, and that is the point of the Amendment; but the Minister dropped the argument at that point. Having said we ought to encourage them, he will not make use of the possible method of encouraging them which my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) is offering in his Amendment.
§ Mr. Sandys
If I used the word "encourage," it was wrong because there is no need for encouragement. It is a statutory obligation upon the local authorities to remove these temporary houses from open spaces. The only function I have is to decide whether to give authorisation for them to maintain those houses for a longer period than the law otherwise permits. So there is no need for financial encouragement to get the houses removed. All that is necessary is not to give authorisation to allow them to be retained.
§ Mr. Stewart
If that was what the Minister had in mind, surely the other part of the atrgument advanced by my hon. Friend the Member for Acton applies, because, if we are to accept the position that local authorities have to clear away these houses, then the duty to rehouse the tenants from them is a special separate problem apart from any other housing responsibility that the local authority may have. We ought to consider, therefore, whether there should not be special assistance, and the fact that, compared with the whole housing problem, this is a very limited matter is an additional 1319 reason for the Minister making this concession to local authorities to enable them to deal with a problem which, as he has just admitted, they have to deal with. He cannot say that by refusing this concession he is in any way encouraging local authorities to concentrate their resources on slum clearance and not, as he would consider, to use some of them unnecessarily on purposes which they ought not to regard as so urgent; because here is a purpose which, on his own showing, they cannot choose to regard as urgent or not, but one which they have to fulfil. In view of other anxieties which the Minister has been causing local authorities he might have been prepared to make this moderate concession.
§ Mr. Sandys
As I explained, where the housing situation is acute in a certain area and there are difficulties, I can authorise an extension of the period during which these houses can be retained on open spaces—and I feel obliged to do so in a number of cases. I do not like it but I have had to do so in a number of cases, and that will probably cover some of the places which the hon. Gentleman has in mind.
§ Mr. Stewart
Yes, but it seems to me that the Minister now, in stork-like fashion, has decided to stand on the other leg again. To begin with he said we ought to encourage local authorities to get these houses off the parks and open spaces and then, when he did not like my quoting that against him, he advanced the other difficulty which local authorities have and said he would allow them to stay. So when he said we ought to encourage local authorities to remove these buildings from parks and open spaces, he was really reminding the House, when he used that remarkable phrase, that he has power to enable them to keep these houses longer on the open spaces.
I cannot understand why the Minister will not make this moderate concession. I concede that he might not want to accept the Amendment as it stands, but perhaps he could concentrate his attention on those "prefabs" which are in parks and open spaces and which either the local authorities are obliged to remove or it is very desirable socially that they should remove. Why cannot he make a concession in that case?
1320 I turn to the other Amendment, on requisitioned property. I listened with great interest, as did most of us, to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin), which dealt with a number of matters. The Borough of Fulham, which I represent, has, in common with Paddington and no doubt many other London boroughs, a very grave housing problem, but if I understood my hon. Friend correctly, our way of dealing with that problem is not quite the same as that which they have in Paddington. Their practice with regard to requisitioned property, if I understood him correctly, was to use as much new council housing as they could for tenants now in requisitioned property in order to derequisition those properties as quickly as possible. My hon. Friend implied that this has caused considerable gratification to a number of estate agents who, as he said, helped them in their municipal government.
In Fulham, and no doubt in a number of other boroughs, we have taken a rather different view, and in consequence we have been faced, as a result of the Minister's earlier Act, with a different problem. Consider the case of a family in a requisitioned house who have been there, as many have, for some time. Either because the family has become larger or because it has become smaller, or possibly because of a change in the health of the members of the family, they are in urgent need of a transfer to other property. The property in which they are living might suit the needs of some other family very well but it has become seriously unsuitable for them.
The problem which faces a conscientious borough is that if it transfers them it runs the risk of losing that property and having one less place with which it can hope to satisfy the terrible needs of those on its long housing list—long even in a borough which has to its credit thousands of people rehoused out of its slender resources and in its very limited area since 1945.
I stress these points to show that the Minister has some responsibility in the matter. His policy on requisitioned housing has imposed that kind of anxiety on conscientious boroughs. It is not the only problem, and it entails, as was urged on him very powerfully by my right hon. Friend the Member for Poplar (Mr. Key) 1321 and others, very serious anxieties about what will happen in five years' time—anxieties which are by no means dissipated by the Minister's reply.
My hon. Friend the Member for Wood Green (Mrs. Butler) pointed out what has been the result of asking landlords to what extent they are prepared to accept the licensees as tenants. It does not look as though that way of dealing with the problem of where people now in requisitioned property are to live will provide a large part of the answer; and the burden, or a considerable part of it, must therefore fall on the council.
We and the Minister might dispute exactly how much of the problem must fall on the council, but if we are being over-pessimistic, at least we can claim that he is being over-optimistic; and if he reminds us that in the last resort the council can deal with the problem by acquiring property, that will impose on them, in view of some other aspects of Government policy, a very heavy financial burden.
I wonder whether the Minister realises how slender are the resources of some of the Metropolitan boroughs. I am not sure that he does. Whether the Minister and the council like it or not, this will mean that they will have to provide some council housing to rehouse people now living in requisitioned properties. I do not believe all the Minister's ingenuity can argue away the fact that they will have to provide some housing for that purpose, and many of them, who have been building as hard as they could since the war and have not very much space left in which to build, regard as serious any slice taken out of the future council housing they can provide.
Thus, we have a burden which must fall, at least in some part, on the councils. It is a burden which they have to carry. Once again the argument applies that as that is so, the Minister cannot say that by depriving them of subsidy on this part of their responsibilities he is encouraging them to devote resources to slum clearance, because they cannot do that. It is not a question whether they provide these houses or provide houses for people from slums. They have to provide a certain amount of housing to meet the needs of people coming from requisitioned houses. 1322 The only question is: are they to do that with or without subsidy?
Once again, if the Minister is correct in his view that it is only a small problem, and he feels that his optimism is really justified, surely his case for rejecting the Amendment disappears. Let him grant us that there may be, at any rate in some boroughs, a need to provide some council housing to meet the needs of people now in requisitioned property. I submit that, if we are right in thinking that, it is really an unanswerable case that in equity the local authorities should receive subsidies in order to be able to do that. If the Minister is right in thinking that they will not have to provide any council housing for that purpose, putting the Amendment into the Bill will cost him nothing. Will he look at the matter again with regard to "prefabs" in parks and on open spaces, and with regard to the problem of requisitioned houses?
A very grave anxiety is overshadowing both councils and the people living in requisitioned property. Very often it is not at all a happy matter to be in requisitioned property. It is usually property the age of which does not make it very attractive. It is very often property into which one has been put because of certain special circumstances, and one has been living in it for six, seven, eight or nine years—everyone agrees that it is merely a makeshift solution of one's difficulties—and living there on sufferance.
Other hon. Members, who have far wider experience of council work than I have, have described much better than I can the anxieties of local authorities. I would merely add to those anxieties the anxieties of the people living in requisitioned property. There really is a case in humanity, logic and equity for acceptance by the Minister of one of our Amendments, and for him to say that he will introduce into the Bill the principle of half the other Amendment.
§ Mr. Collins
The Minister will recall that we had very much the same kind of discussion as we are having now on the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act, and that he assured those of us who represent London constituencies that our fears that his proposal represented an extra burden upon local authorities were groundless. He recited the various ways in which this could be avoided, such as owners taking 1323 over the licensees as tenants, and he told us that it would be a very small problem. We assured him that it would be a considerable problem. The experience of only a few months has shown that we were right.
Every time I have heard the Minister speak on the subject I have felt that he was completely divorced from reality and had no idea of the real nature of the problem. A fortnight ago I invited him to come to some of our constituencies and see conditions for himself. I hope that before long he will accept that invitation, for he will find it an education. Speaking of requisitioned properties, the Minister talks as if they were desirable residencies. I do not know what they are like in Paddington or Fulham, but I can assure him that there is not a single requisitioned property in Shoreditch and Finsbury which any of us here—least of all, the Minister—would consider a desirable residence.
The other day I put it to the Minister that some local authorities, having to pay five times the economic rent plus dilapidations, would be involved in expense far greater than the property was worth. The Minister replied—not an unreasonable answer in the circumstances—that he could trust the local authorities not to do things like that.
Now, the Minister is saying that in 1960, if the people are still not rehoused, the local authorities can buy the property. No self-respecting or responsible member of a local authority would ever put his hand to buying some of the property that people are living in now. I do not suppose that the Minister has made any kind of analysis at all. If he has, it is a false analysis if he is basing his remarks on the Amendment upon it.
We assured the Minister when discussing the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Bill that it is a London problem. Yesterday, in answer to a Question. he confirmed that there are 45,000 requisitioned properties in London and only 9,000 in the rest of the country. In other words, more than five out of every six are in the Metropolitan area. Even then, the concentration is largely in a few of the boroughs. In other words, it becomes a major problem in a minority even of the Metropolitan boroughs. But in those boroughs—they 1324 are, unfortunately, those which in the main have the greatest housing problems—the problem of requisitioned properties is greater still. We do not, therefore, have to generalise but must realise that this is a very serious problem.
Two or three hours ago, a large number of my constituents came to the House of Commons and put in my hands a petition signed by thousands of my constituents. It points to the fact that although 4,000 new flats have been built in the constituency since the war, 7,000 families still desperately need accommodation and fear that because of the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act and because of the present Bill, they will lose all chance of a decent home because there can be no building other than slum clearance. Their fears are not groundless.
§ Mr. Tomney
The position is even more serious in London. If the basement of a requisitioned house is condemned on the authority and advice of the local medical officer of health and the family in the basement has to be provided with another dwelling, surely the case should rank for full subsidy.
§ Mr. Collins
I agree with my hon. Friend. The situation is even more tragic when so many medical officers of health dare not carry out their responsibilities, because if they determined a tenancy or part of one it would be literally impossible to find accommodation for the family thereby needing to be rehoused.
As my hon. Friend has said, this is a London problem, and I was dealing with that aspect. I do not want to press the claim of one constituency in front of others; the problem affects not only my constituency, but others, and, perhaps, to an even greater degree. We are all in the same very unfortunate boat, which is being steered very erratically by somebody who has not charted a proper course, does not know where he is going and will sink the ship unless we can persuade him otherwise. An earnest plea was put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart).
In my constituency we have in good faith made an analysis of what is likely to happen with the requisitioned properties. Of the 21,000 dwellings in my constituency, 1,055 are requisitioned houses with 1,774 families in them. In other 1325 words, nearly one-tenth of the whole population at present lives in requisitioned properties. The Minister has said that the requisitioned property is being used as a housing pool. Of course. Faced with a problem which is nothing less than the rebuilding of practically a whole borough, one has to hang on desperately to any kind of available accommodation. That problem faces many London constituencies.
We are now called upon to decide what is to happen, within the next four years or so, to the people living in those requisitioned properties. In some cases something has already happened. In various cases, which I need not detail, many people who had been living in two or three rooms in requisitioned properties have, for one reason or another, moved out. Those two or three rooms have been withdrawn from the pool. The Minister will not allow them to be re-let. He said to me, "If you like to shift people from two or three rooms in one requisitioned building to two or three rooms in another, and thereby make a whole house empty, I might be prepared to consider that," but when I pointed out that that would merely subtract another dwelling from the pool he said, "It is the wish of Parliament." It certainly was not the wish of hon. Members on this side of the Committee, because we know better
Now that the Minister has returned, I should like to tell him what, as far as they can determine, the Boroughs of Finsbury and Shoreditch estimate will happen to the 1,774 families living in requisitioned dwellings. First, they think that one-sixth of the houses will be condemned. That will not present any problem within the context of the Amendment, because if they are slum dwellings they will qualify for the appropriate rate of subsidy. We can, therefore, wipe them off the list. Another one-sixth will be handed back to the landlords with vacant possession and the councils will have to find accommodation for the 300 tenants concerned. In the case of one-third, the licensees will be taken over by the landlords as statutory tenants. It is estimated that another one-sixth of all the houses will be purchased from the landlords. The local authorities estimate that only one-sixth of all those requisitioned properties are fit for purchase, because of their condition.
1326 I hope that the Minister will accept these figures as a serious estimate made by responsible local authorities. In the case of that large number of houses they would both feel it right and proper to ask the Minister for his agreement that they should purchase one in every six. That means that by the end of the day about 700 families who are now living in requisitioned properties in Finsbury and Shoreditch will have to be rehoused.
The councils also estimate that with slum clearance, and the most favourable interpretation of the Bill which we are now discussing, they may build 1,150 more dwellings in the next three years, every single one of which will be required to house somebody from a slum clearance area. There will be no net gain of accommodation; this is a common experience in slum clearance schemes. Those 700 families cannot have housing accommodation offered to them unless the Minister makes some provision such as is asked for in the Amendment.
The Minister caused this trouble by introducing the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Measure, which we fought all the way. We told him that this trouble would be caused. What we said would happen has happened. We are now offering him a second chance to put right at least some of the damage which he has caused. I hope that the Minister will accept what I and my hon. Friends have put forward as an accurate picture from people on the spot and those who, unhappily, week after week have to meet the unfortunate people who ask for assistance in being rehoused. I suppose that it is an experience which at some time or another all hon. Members have, but it is an experience to which, unhappily, we on this side of the Committee are more accustomed. We have much larger numbers of such cases. I assure the Minister that we are speaking from experience. I hope that he will accept—
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Sandys
The large numbers of people who are asking the hon. Member to help them get rehoused are not people who have been evicted from requisitioned houses, are they?
§ Mr. Collins
I do not know whether the Minister asked that seriously, or whether he feels that this is a humorous subject. I do not. I am quite aware of 1327 the position with regard to evictions from requisitioned property. I am quite aware that if the local authority cannot or does not move them out before 1960, they will still be there; but there are many people living in requisitioned properties who come to see hon. Members, because, as I have indicated, it is completely impossible to live in the properties because they are falling down. I told him that one sixth of these houses in my constituency will inevitably be condemned.
§ Mr. Sandys
The hon. Member has answered my point. Nothing in the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act, 1955, alters that position. If the houses are decrepit, the fact that we passed that Act has not altered the situation in any way.
§ Mr. Collins
I said that in precise terms, but apparently the Minister did not hear me at the time. The people about whom I am concerned are the 700 families now living in requisitioned property out of about 1,700 for whom it is estimated that new accommodation must be provided. It is impossible to provide such accommodation, because it will all be required for slum clearance. We can provide additional accommodation only if the Minister provides the facilities. We are asking him to provide the facilities by accepting the Amendment.
§ Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)
I should like to refer to something the Minister said about bungalows in public parks and open spaces. He rather gave the Committee the impression that he was not pressing very hard to get the bungalows out of public parks and commons. In the Borough of Wandsworth, which he and I represent, we have Clapham Common, on which a number of these bungalows were built. They are very well built and are much appreciated by the tenants who live in them.
However, if he will come that way tomorrow morning on his way to the House, he will find about a dozen empty, I am told, because of pressure by his Department on the London County Council to remove them. The Minister has power to sanction their retention on open spaces for another ten years. In view of the tremendous waiting list in London of people urgently wanting 1328 homes, but who are not living in slum properties, it seems difficult to find any justification for pulling down one of those bungalows wherever they are, even though we are all anxious to see all our public spaces as they were before the war.
The housing situation in Wandsworth is so serious that for the next four or five years we ought not to pull down any of those bungalows. However, I am informed that under pressure by the Ministry they are being closed and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will ease that pressure so that the remainder can be left. Every one of the families moved out of the bungalows on Clapham Common robs a family on the waiting list of a chance to get a home. I do not know what the right hon. Gentleman's experience is, but I hear of such cases every week. Last Friday, I heard of two eviction cases from furnished accommodation. Both of them had been told that neither the local borough council nor the county council could possibly find them a home. Yet, in this situation, we are closing bungalows not only on Clapham Common but on a number of other open spaces. They should be retained at any rate for a few more years.
§ Mr. Gibson
I was trying to relate it to the need to encourage local authorities to provide homes by giving them a subsidy for houses provided for families now living in requisitioned properties, and I was about to point to the experience in my borough of dealing with requisitioned houses. The local authority is politically sympathetic to the Minister—in other words, it is run by a Tory majority. So Tory is the authority that it rushed in to operate the Act dealing with the derequisitioning of houses before it was through the House. It has been trying to operate the Act, and the council agenda for this week reports:On October 18th, when we reported upon the steps being taken to bring requisitioning to an end, we undertook to report progress on the general invitation being extended to owners of requisitioned properties to accept licensees as tenants. By 23rd November, 1,044 invitations had been dispatched; 136 owners have accepted the invitation.Thus, of those invited to accept licensees as tenants, only one-eighth have 1329 accepted. Even that is a slight improvement on the previous report of this borough council.
If we are to put these people, now in requisitioned houses, into houses built by local authorities in London, or into those which become empty when families move out, we shall be robbing tens of thousands of families, whose need the Minister admits, of their chance of having a house at least for the next ten or fifteen years.
By giving the full subsidy to a local authority for every house which it provides for a family from requisitioned premises the Minister would encourage the authority to build a little more than it will be able to build under present arrangements. It looks very much as though building of all kinds will slow down tremendously in the London area during the next eighteen months or two years. I hope that in his desire to please his own borough the Minister will reconsider this matter. We can all give illustrations of the situation from our constituencies, and we know that if we are compelled to get rid of requisitioned properties by 1960, that can be done only by putting the families into houses which have been built to house those on the urgent waiting list.
I am not now making an appeal for the general waiting list. There are about 170,000 names on the London County Council list and 50,000 of them, after careful consideration, have been scheduled as very urgent cases where accommodation ought to be provided at the earliest possible moment. The more we do the kind of thing which councils are expected to do under the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act and under the present Bill, the less will be the opportunity of families to be rehoused.
If the Minister will soften his heart a little and give this matter further consideration—come to us on Report and say that he agrees with the good case we have made—that will be a slight encouragement to local authorities in London who have really tried, since 1945, to solve the housing problem. They did their best—a very good best—with the assistance of the Ministry of Works to get bomb damage repaired. They have built tens of thousands of new flats and cottages, but we are told that by this Bill all that goes for nothing and that the subsidies are going, except for £10 for 1330 the next eighteen months or two years. All these groups of families in requisitioned houses, who, in my borough, form a big group, are to be pushed into new houses—or into houses which become empty by removal—in place of people on the more urgent waiting lists.
If he cannot agree to accept this Amendment, the Minister should at any rate give London councils very much more encouragement to go on with their work of housing their people than he has given them so far.
§ Mr. MacColl
I think that there is a dispute of fact between the right hon. Gentleman and this side of the Committee, but I do not think it is really a dispute of fact which goes to the root of the trouble. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman really denies that it is his intention, and has always been his intention, that some quite substantial part of the annual new house production of the boroughs should be used for rehousing people displaced from derequisitioned property. I think the right hon. Gentleman questioned how much should be used, but there can be no doubt at all that it was and always has been a part of his policy that some of it should be used.
On 26th July, I asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he wouldgive an assurance that he will sanction all applications for increases in house building made by local authorities affected by the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act, 1955.The Minister replied:This is, of course, one of the factors which will be taken into account when considering applications."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1955; Vol. 544, c. 964.]It is quite true that the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he did not think the part Which could be played by rehousing and new accommodation would be as great as the part that the leasing or purchasing of derequisitioned houses would play, but he agreed that one of the factors to be taken into account was the responsibilities of local authorities under the Derequisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act.
The reason I asked that Question was that I had been told by friends of mine on housing committees in Metropolitan boroughs that in fact the Ministry was going very much further than that and, 1331 behind the scenes, was putting considerable pressure upon housing officers and committees, asking them to speed up and increase the proportion of their new housing used for derequisitioning. I do not know whether that is true or not because I have no means of finding out. I daresay the right hon. Gentleman does not know what sometimes goes on over the telephone between Whitehall and the town hall.
I say that the impression was left upon members of housing committees that it was the wish of the Minister that they should use some of their new housing allocation for displaced people. If that is true, the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) is sound and valid—that housing authorities, acting on the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman, set out upon this course of conduct, the rehousing of people in new property. The Minister says, "It is perfectly true that I have been caught robbing the till, but, in fact, I only robbed it of £50 and not £5,000." But that does not take from him the responsibility of having misled local authorities.
Has the right hon. Gentleman forgotten his pink paper? Has he forgotten the Report of the Standing Joint Committee which he brandished in the Standing Committee? Does he remember how he laughed at us because he said that he had the support of the local authorities for the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act, and that we were acting out of sympathy with the majority of the Metropolitan boroughs? I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, when he got that pink paper, he told the representatives of the Standing Joint Committee that he proposed to abolish the subsidy for new housing within a few months. After all, the Act received the Royal Assent just before the Dissolution, so that the right hon. Gentleman must have known what he was proposing to do should he be returned to office. He must have known that one of the major undertakings of his Department would be to introduce a Bill abolishing the subsidy on new additional building.
If the right hon. Gentleman knew that, as he must have done, at the beginning of this year, was he playing fair with the local authorities, whose support he was anxious to obtain and to use in the 1332 Standing Committee, and whose pink paper he wished to brandish in defence of his Measure? Was he right in getting that support by suppressing a vital piece of information of which he must have been aware? Although it is sometimes difficult to anticipate the next move of the right hon. Gentleman, no one can believe that he was not aware of that before the Election and that he knew that if he could manage to bamboozle the electorate, the first thing he would do on being returned to office would be to get rid of this subsidy.
I do not know what would be a Parliamentary word to use about that. It is not a course of conduct on which I would care to venture, and I should be ashamed if I tried to lead the local authorities up the garden in that way. Now that Bill has become an Act of Parliament, and local authorities have to undertake responsibility for dealing with requisitioned property. Having safely got them "in the bag" the right hon. Gentleman says, "I am going to take away the subsidy." What does he wish the authorities now to do? Does he want them to stop altogether derequisitioning property?
Are we to regard the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act as much a dead letter as the Housing Repairs and Rents Act; as something which has served its purpose? It was quoted extensively during the London County Council election campaign by the Conservative Party—
§ Mr. MacColl
With respect, Sir Rhys, I do not think that it is. I am saying that, by this Clause in the Bill which we are seeking to amend, the right hon. Gentleman is taking away a subsidy which dealt with the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act and an integral part of the working of that Act, and that Act was used for election purposes during the London County Council election. Having made my point, I will merely add that perhaps the wisest thing for local authorities to do is to stop derequisitioning.
There is no reason at all why, by accepting this Amendment, the right hon. Gentleman should not disperse the unhappy impression which he has left. It 1333 may be that he is a misunderstood person. It may be that the local authorities misunderstood what he wanted them to do. It may be that he at no time intended that they should use new housing to provide accommodation for these people. Perhaps this was all an unfortunate mistake, and perhaps the pink paper was extracted from the Standing Joint Committee through a series of unfortunate coincidences. If so, the best way for the right hon. Gentleman to rehabilitate his reputation with the local authorities is to accept the Amendment.
It will not amount to much in expense. As he said, only a small amount is involved. This, however, is a matter with which his honour is bound up. This is a matter different from the matters with which other of our Amendments are concerned. This is a matter which goes to the root of the relations of the Minister with the local authorities. Unless the Minister accepts the Amendment, local authorities, and especially local authority associations, will feel in future, when negotiating with the Minister, when they are asked to express support for what the Minister is doing and to allow themselves to be used politically for the purpose of discomfitting the other side, that they ought to have a very long spoon indeed.
§ Mr. Sandys
I really must interrupt the hon. Member. He is talking an awful lot of nonsense. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] We are talking now about requisitioned houses which are deliberately derequisitioned by the local authorities. It is to those that the hon. Member was referring, and to houses built to accommodate people who have come out of the requisitioned houses. First, the number derequisitioned by the local authority is entirely a matter for the local authority to decide. It was a matter for the local authority's decision before the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act was passed, and it still remains their decision. Even if the Act had not been passed they would have been in exactly the same position so far as any subsidy is concerned in regard to those houses.
I do not know whether the hon. Member follows me. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Before the Act was passed local authorities were releasing a certain number of requisitioned houses and were building 1334 new houses to accommodate those people, and the subsidy they received was whatever was the subsidy of the day. It varied at different times. The position remains the same—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—that is to say, the local authorities will have to decide how many of these houses they will release and how many new houses they will build. They will receive the subsidy which is current at the time for that purpose. In the talks that we had on this matter, this was not an issue. It was quite clear that would be the position, and it remains the position. I think that I have made myself quite clear.
§ Mr. Royle
The intervention of the right hon. Gentleman shows how very much he has been shaken by what my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) has been saying. My hon. Friend has made his argument very clear, and has shown that the Minister led the local authorities up the garden path. A short time ago, when my hon. Friend the Member for Fulham (Mr. M. Stewart) sat down, I felt that the right hon. Gentleman was ready then, at all events, to consider giving way on this very important point. I watched him in consultation with the Parliamentary Secretary, and I could not help but notice that conversations were going on behind the Chair. I hope that the arguments advanced by my right hon. and hon. Friends have impressed the Minister and that, if he is not going to give way at this moment, he will give us an assurance that on the Report stage the matter will be put right.
The right hon. Gentleman quite rightly said that this is a small matter. It is small relatively, but in a debate which has been almost entirely one for hon. Members representing London constituencies I want to point out that this is quite a problem in some of the large towns and cities in the provinces. I admire my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes for making a powerful speech without referring once to his constituency. I cannot resist the temptation of making some reference to my own constituency in the City of Salford.
The Minister knows the problem which faces that city. I think I am fair in reminding him that the Salford City Council and its neighbour, the Urban District Council of Worsley, were pioneers in this matter. The problem which faces Salford 1335 in relation to derequisitioned houses and prefabricated bungalows is only one more part of the tremendous burden which the city has to face. During the next four years, by resolution of the council, the city is committed to giving up all the prefabricated bungalows in his area. It was always suggested that these prefabricated bungalows should not remain in use for much above ten years, but in a city like Salford, with the weather which, for want of a better word, we enjoy in that part of Lancashire, added to the density of smoke and sulphur fumes, these "prefabs" are now little more than slums. We are faced, therefore, with the immense problem of replacing them.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
That seems to me to be going beyond the subject of requisitioned houses, with which the Amendment deals.
§ Mr. Royle
With respect, Sir Rhys, we are discussing two Amendments, one of which deals with prefabricated houses and the other with requisitioned houses. I wanted to deal with the prefabricated houses first before saying a few words about requisitioned houses. I wanted to impress upon the Minister the need to consider that cities in the industrial North are faced with the problem of replacing prefabricated houses very quickly indeed.
It is an added burden to cities with rates of 26s. in the £ to be faced with this replacement at this time, and without a subsidy. If the Minister is not prepared to give a subsidy in full under that heading we hope that he will consider the matter in the light of his powers in Clause 3 (3, b) to designate these premises and that he will designate them as premises entitled to receive a subsidy.
I agree that my council has not relatively a great derequisitioning problem, but we have at least 200 houses which will have to be derequisitioned before 1960. That figure represents probably 500 families, an important proportion in a city like ours. It could be—I will put it no higher—that many of the owners of those houses would not accept the licensees as statutory tenants. And, even if they would, it does not solve the problem. If they do not, then the corporation is faced with the tremendous problem of trying to purchase those houses at enhanced prices, and of having to do so 1336 without subsidy or any assistance at all. I suggest, therefore, that these are added burdens on an industrial town and problems which the Minister ought to be helping to solve. Indeed, he is doing everything but that.
In the course of his remarks today, as he did in his speech in the last debate on the question of overcrowding, the Minister rather suggested that everything must go so that there may be an incentive for clearing the slums. He is saying, in effect, "Here is a great social problem and we have got to do something about solving it. For years, subsidies have been given to this end. Now slum clearance must have priority, so we are going to reduce all subsidies in the spring-time, and when we get to December we shall scrap the lot, except in the case of slum clearance."
I repeat what has been said by many of my hon. Friends. We are not asking for something new. We are merely trying to retain that which is there. If it is only a small cost to the Treasury, then let the Minister give way. If he does, he will save a bit of time. It will probably save a couple of Divisions, and that in itself would help the right hon. Gentleman to make more progress with the Bill. I hope that the conversation which is going on now on the Government Front Bench is an indication that the Minister is ready to tell us that he is willing to accept the Amendment.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
I thought that the intervention by the Minister at the end of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) was a singularly unfortunate one. First, when the right hon. Gentleman says of my hon. Friend that he talks an awful lot of nonsense, let me give him fair warning that if he begins to talk like that there is going to be an awful lot of time spent on this Bill. It is not the kind of language that we will countenance with regard to my hon. Friend, or, indeed, with regard to any other hon. Friend, without some form—subject to your Ruling, Sir Rhys—of retaliation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Salford, West (Mr. Royle) has tried his inimitable charms upon the hard-faced Minister, obviously without effect. I do not know what technique will rouse the 1337 right hon. Gentleman to ordinary human sympathy and understanding in these matters. I wonder if a few facts might. The Minister's intervention just now seemed to suggest that the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act really did not alter anything that existed before, that really things are very much the same as they were before that Act took effect. But there is one very important distinction. I note, Sir Rhys, that you are looking at me with some anxiety, but I think that what I am about to say has a direct relevance to the Amendment which we are discussing.
One important difference which has come into being by reason of the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act is embodied in Section 1 (2) of the Act. It is the provision thatthe local authority in whom the right to possession of a requisitioned house is vested under this section may retain possession of the house until the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and sixty, and no longer.The operative words are the words "and no longer." They mean that after that date the requirement of alternative accommodation for tenants displaced from requisitioned houses will be overwhelming.
It is with apology, Sir Rhys, that I again mention the constituency which my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) and I represent; apology only in this respect, that it would be much more attractive to be able to argue in the general terms of my hon. Friend the Member for Widnes. Unfortunately my hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North and I represent a constituency which seems to have all the social problems of England in a very uncrackable nutshell and, in particular, it has the requisitioned housing problem very much on its doorstep.
Although I agree with the Minister that theoretically the local authorities had power to deal with requisitioned houses before the introduction of his Act, in West Ham they did not do so, and they did not do so by reason of the desperate situation of those on the priority housing lists. The present position in West Ham is that there are 2,265 families living in requisitioned houses. How fortunate Salford is to have only 200. We have ten times as many in a community with a not very much larger population, so that there is a huge con- 1338 centration, in West Ham, of this problem.
I am informed by the local authority that it is not likely that more than 400 of those families will stay on after 1960. I warn the Minister that his optimism as to the numbers of requisitioned houses which would be available for tenants was unfounded. He thought that most of the tenants living in them, or a substantial proportion, would stay on, whereas, according to my information, only about one-sixth will stay on. So between now and 1960 there will be a necessity for the local authority to rehouse about 1,800 families in this category alone. When I point out that the authority has built only about 3,000 houses since the war, the nature of the problem will become obvious. Therefore my submission is that there is a clear case for the continuance of subsidy in respect of houses built to provide accommodation for these 1,800 families who will be displaced from the requisitioned houses.
I hope the Minister will look at this matter again. It is not enough to say, "Oh well, they will go on the priority list and be able to take their turn." If the Bill goes through as it stands, and if there is no modification before 1960 of the Requisitioned Houses and Housing (Amendment) Act, it means that those living in slums at present will have no opportunity of being rehoused, because the law will compel the local authority to rehouse the tenants of requisitioned houses and so they will of necessity go to the top of the list, taking precedence over the occupants of the foul, squalid hovels which exist in abundance. So this Measure, coupled with the previous Measure of this Government, will have an effect opposite to that of a campaign for slum clearance; it will have the effect of being legislation for the perpetuation of slums.
There is another aspect of this matter about which I would also like to say something. I refer to the question of the temporary hutments. We have about 550 of these 10-year bungalows occupying valuable building land at a very low density. These temporary houses were provided solely to deal with the effects of the terrific bombardment of the London area. Surely there is a very substantial case for saying that the Exchequer should make some contribution towards the burden of providing a permanent 1339 solution to one of the consequences of the war. Surely there ought to be a subsidy in respect of accommodation provided for those living in temporary dwellings, these 10-year hutments. There is a terrible danger that these buildings will exist for decades, and that we shall have a repetition of what happened after the 1914–18 war, with temporary hutments remaining for two, three and four decades.
There is a very strong case for the Minister at least going this far. Will he undertake that, if a case for their demolition is made to his satisfaction, he will designate these 10-year buildings as unsatisfactory temporary accommodation so that they may attract subsidy? Will he make some half-way gesture of that kind? We are getting tired of the wooden, Molotov-like attitude of the Minister about all these reasonable Amendments. He is driving local authorities to distraction, just as he is driving my hon. Friends and myself to distraction. Let him spare us and make some concession before the Bill is very much further debated.
§ Mr. Sandys
The reason why I intervened earlier, when the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl) was speaking, was that I very much felt that I ought to make it clear immediately that I could not accept the suggestion that there had been a breach of faith of any kind between myself and the local authorities.
If I spoke with roughness, I am sure the hon. Member will understand. He suggested that some lack of honour was involved in the matter. I am just as well aware as any other hon. Member of the position of local authorities, particularly in the London area, about requisitioned houses. I should not like to give any assurance that I can do anything to meet the points which have been raised about requisitioned houses, but I will certainly read very carefully what has been said during the debate.
I should feel inclined to consider whether something could be done if I felt that the result of it would be to increase the number of houses which local authorities were likely to make available for rehousing people from requisitioned dwellings. But I do not wish to say anything in that connection which might mislead hon. Gentlemen opposite into thinking that I was giving any sort of 1340 assurance in the matter. Also, I should not like to deprive them of their Division, for which I believe they are ready.
On the question of temporary houses, I thought there was a general feeling among hon. Members who spoke—with one exception—that there was a differentiation to be made between temporary houses which are on ordinary housing sites and temporary houses which are on open spaces. I thought there was the general feeling that we should like the open spaces in our cities to be restored within a reasonable time, though, as I say, there are in many cases very strong arguments for allowing the extension which is permitted by law.
I was asked to make a concession before the end of this debate, and I should be very happy—and here I might have more prospect of being able to do something—to look between now and the Report stage at the possibility of amending the Bill in such a way as to enable the higher slum clearance subsidy to be available for temporary houses on open spaces which are demolished.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Sparks
Before the Minister sits down, might I ask whether he is aware that, apart from parks and open spaces, many local authorities have taken leases for limited periods of time, on land upon which to erect these "prefabs," and that they will, therefore, be under an obligation when the leases expire to demolish these temporary dwellings in the same way as those on parks and open spaces?
§ Mr. Sandys
I thought I had made myself clear. There did seem to be a point there, and I should like to consider it and see whether I can do something to meet hon. Members. I do not want there to be any misunderstanding. What I am going to look into is whether we could amend the Bill in such a way as to give the slum clearance £22 subsidy in respect of houses built to rehouse people who come out of temporary houses which are on open spaces That is the point.
As regards the other temporary houses, the reason why I do not feel disposed to concede the point is that I do not feel it is in the general interest that we should accelerate the demolishing of these houses which are satisfactory dwellings, sited in 1341 proper places and giving people reasonable homes at a time when the housing shortage continues.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
Now that the Minister has opened the door slightly in respect of "prefabs," I wonder whether I might try to push it a little further open. I agree with his last remarks on the value of "prefabs" and the folly of destroying a good "prefab" if it is providing a home for somebody and is lasting, as most "prefabs" are lasting, much better and longer than we dreamed they would when they were first set up. I would, however, remind the Minister and the Committee of just what this prefabricated housing problem means in size to blitzed towns like the one I represent.
We in the blitzed towns got the majority—indeed, almost the whole—of the 175,000 pre-fabricated houses that were put up shortly after the war. We were very grateful for them; it was an act of generosity on the part of the Government of those days to give us what was so desperately needed to provide accommodation for people whose houses had been destroyed by enemy action. It will, however, interest the Committee, and give the Committee some measure of the problem that confronts a blitzed town like Southampton, when I mention that we have 1,760 pre-fabricated houses there.
So far, in his approach to this side of the Committee, the Minister has said that he is willing to look only at prefabricated houses that have been dotted about on open spaces, but in the blitzed towns our aim in the first post-war housing programme was to set out, as far as we could the prefabricated houses in well-designed estates. So I would ask the right hon. Gentleman not to limit his generosity to the very small number of "prefabs" to which he has already referred.
While we appreciate their present advantage, we realise that at some time we shall be faced with the terrific liability of replacing 1,760 prefabricated houses by 1,760 permanent houses. Indeed, it may happen that, like the famous "wonderful one-hoss shay" in the American poem, all the 1,760 will have to be replaced almost at the same time: they were all put up at the same time.
As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. 1342 Elwyn Jones) has pointed out, their existence is due to a war-time national calamity, and I plead with the Minister to accept, as a matter of principle, that in the replacement of the prefabricated houses he should take that into account. He need have no fear of any local authority rushing to pull down a satisfactory prefabricated house merely to earn a subsidy. Nobody will tamper with a prefabricated house unless it is absolutely necessary.
I urge the Minister to accept the principle of the Amendment for all prefabricated houses so that when the blitzed towns are called upon to replace their prefabricated houses by permanent ones they will attract for that special rebuildtng programme the old rate of subsidy. I plead with the Minister to follow up the approach which he has made on the prefabricated houses issue by giving us an even more generous and wider assurance than he has given so far.
§ Sir L. Plummer
May I ask the Minister to consider, when he is reading our speeches, as he has promised to do, the possibility of the subsidy being continued for the replacement of unsatisfactory hutments, the curved asbestos hutment? It is about the worst thing in which anybody could be housed. It is quite unsatisfactory. It oozes moisture all the time. There are 109 of these hutments in my constituency and they are not on normal open spaces in the sense in which I think the Minister used the phrase "open spaces." They are on sites which are designated for the building of flats. It is essential to get rid of these really quite unsatisfactory hutments.
They were a mistake in the first case. They were dumped on areas where the bomb damage was very considerable, and it would be proper to assist in pulling them down. I ask the Mnister to give an undertaking to look at the position of constituencies which have these hutments not on open spaces but on spaces which could be used for the building of flats, and consider this as justifying the continuance of the subsidy.
§ Mr. H. Butler
I want to thank the Minister for what he said about the 10-year bungalows on open spaces. I hope he will remember that often these bungalows now occupy parts of sites which are being developed with blocks of flats. It 1343 is true that these bungalows were handed over to local authorities who were responsible for site development. Many of the rents which have been charged to the occupants have been absorbed in the maintenance costs of these bungalows. I ask only that the Minister should consider the position of those authorities which have had to demolish very many of these bungalows on bombed sites in order to secure reasonable housing sites.
§ Mr. Mitchison
I do not propose to add to the debate at this hour, beyond asking the right hon. Gentleman to consider the point which has just been put to him. We are not satisfied with the right hon. Gentleman's answers and attitude
§ tude about requisitioned houses and we propose to divide the Committee. We have not yet come to the Amendment about the "prefabs," if I may so call them. Upon that we should like to wait and see what the Minister will produce at the Report stage. We leave ourselves in his hands to this extent, and only to this extent, that we rely on him to give us, as best he can, an opportunity of returning to the matter on Report. It is not entirely in his hands, but we prefer at this stage neither to accept nor reject what was offered.
§ Question put, That those words be there inserted:—
§ The Committee divided: Ayes 181, Noes 220.
|Timmons, J.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Tomney, F.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N. E.)||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn||Willey, Frederick||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Warbey, W. N.||Williams, David (Neath)||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Watkins, T. E.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (Ab'tillery)||Zilllacus, K.|
|Weitzman, D.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|West, D. G.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Wheeldon, W. E.||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)||Mr. Pearson and Mr. Wilkins|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P. G.||Grimond, J.||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hon. Sir R.|
|Aitken, W. T.||Grimston, Hon. John (St. Albans)||Marlowe, A. A. H.|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Marples, A. E.|
|Alport, C. J. M.||Grosvenor, Lt.-Col. R. G.||Mathew, R.|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maude, Angus|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Mawby, R. L.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Medlicott, Sir Frank|
|Ashton, H.||Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Molson, A. H. E.|
|Atkins, H. E.||Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Nabarro, G. D. N.|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Nairn, D. L. S.|
|Banks, Col. C.||Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Neave, Airey|
|Barber, Anthony||Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Nicholls, Harmar|
|Barlow, Sir John||Heath, Edward||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)|
|Barter, John||Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E. & Chr'ch)|
|Bidgood, J. C.||Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Nugent, G. R. H.|
|Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Hinchingbrooke, Viscount||Oakshott, H. D.|
|Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Holland-Martin, C. J.||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Anrim, N.)|
|Bishop, F. P.||Hope, Lord John||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D.|
|Body, R. F.||Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Bossom, Sir A. C.||Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)|
|Bowen, E. R. (Cardigan)||Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Osborne, C.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Howard, John (Test)||Page, R. G.|
|Braine, B. R.||Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewisham, N.)||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Paton, J.|
|Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry||Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Bryan, P.||Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.||Hutchison, Sir Ian Clark (E'b'gh, W.)||Pott, H. P.|
|Burden, F. F. A.||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Butcher, Sir Herbert||Iremonger, T. L.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Carr, Robert||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Channon, H.||Jenkins, Robert (Dulwich)||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Redmayne, M.|
|Cole, Norman||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Robertson, Sir David|
|Cooper-Key, E. M.||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Jones, A. (Hall Green)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Kaberry, D.||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Keegan, D.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hn. H. F. C.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Crowder, Sir John (Finchley)||Kerr, N. W.||Sharples, R. C.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Kershaw, J. A.||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Kirk, P. M.||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Lagden, G. W.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lambert, Hon. G.||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Deedes, W. F.||Lambton, Viscount||Steward, Sir William (Woolwich, W.)|
|Dodds-Parker, A. D.||Leather, E. H. C.||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Leavey, J. A.||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Drayson, G. B.||Leburn, W. G.||Storey, S.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Studholme, H. G.|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Erroll, F. J.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Fell, A.||Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.||Thomas, R. Hn. J. P. L. (Hereford)|
|Finlay, Graeme||Longden, Gilbert||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Lucas, Sir Jocelyn (Portsmouth, S.)||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr.R.(Croydon, S.)|
|Fort, R.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Thornton-Kemsley, C. N.|
|Freeth, D. K.||McKibbin, A. J.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Glover, D.||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Gower, H. R.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||McLean, Neil (Inverness)||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Grant, W. (Woodside)||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Green, A.||Madden, Martin||Wade, D. W.|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Watkinson, H. A.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Whitelaw, W. S. I. (Penrith & Border)||Wood, Hon. R.||Mr. Edward Wakefield and|
|Williams, Paul (Sunderland, S.)||Woollam, John Victor||Mr. Godber.|
§ Mr. Mitchison
I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again.
I do so to ascertain the intention of the Government about the time-table. I wish to point out that we have disposed of three matters of considerable importance. The first was, no doubt, a comparatively short point, but both the question of overcrowding and the question about the requisitioning of temporary prefabricated houses are of great importance and affect a number of people all over the country. The finances of local authorities are also affected. I hope that the Government will agree that we have made good progress with a Bill which involves a number of questions of considerable importance.
§ The Lord Privy Seal (Mr. Harry Crookshank)
The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) has pointed out that in his view we have dealt with three matters of considerable importance, and with that the Government agree. But it is also the fact that it is after the normal time of rising on the second day of the discussions on this Bill, and we have dealt with only about half the Amendments to Clause 1; so, taking the larger view, we have not made much progress—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] I did not say none, I said not very much, and I think that is a parliamentary term quite well understood by those of us who have had to deal with the Committee stage of Bills which turned out to be contentious.
It is also true that the Government have never any desire to inconvenience the Committee, and I recognise, as well as do other hon. Members, that when we get towards eleven o'clock we approach a rather tricky period of the evening—we need not go into the reasons; it can be accepted that it is. Against that, and I must balance the arguments for the benefit of those who are good enough to listen to what I am saying, the Committee must take note that this is an important Government Bill, and that we cannot spend an indefinite time discussing it.
While all the points of importance must be brought out, it is the intention of the 1348 Government to proceed as rapidly as may be with this Bill. I hope that the Opposition accept that as a reasonable proposition. However unreasonable the Opposition may consider the Bill to be, the Government, having decided to introduce this Measure, are not unnaturally, anxious to proceed with it.
I should like to know if the right hon. Gentleman opposite would be prepared to consult my right hon. Friend about what would be reasonable in the way of time for the consideration of this Bill. I think it would be very useful if talks could take place on that subject, and to see how they get along. If right hon. Gentlemen were prepared to accept that suggestion, perhaps tomorrow or whenever is convenient to my right hon. Friend and himself to discuss the matter, realising on the one hand the desire of the Opposition to debate important points, and on the other that we really must proceed with this Bill as quickly as may be, for the many reasons which I need not go into now—if that were possible as an arrangement between ourselves, I should not want the House to sit very much longer.
§ Mr. Bevan
The Amendment which we are about to discuss is a very important one, and if we start discussing it I am afraid that the discussion will go on for a very long time, and we do not want to start at a time of the night which is not congenial for serious consideration of an Amendment of such status as this. Therefore I hope the right hon. Gentleman will allow us to go home just now.
I am perfectly prepared to talk with the Government about the future course of the Bill. We should, of course, take with us a very long spoon. Nevertheless, we are always prepared to discuss these matters, and we hope that we shall find the Government in an accommodating mood, because this is a very important Measure. It affects all the local authorities of Great Britain and almost all the population. It is not a trivial matter. There is also a further point which the right hon. Gentleman should bear in mind, and that is that the Government really have got the Measure already. 1349 They have the appointed day, so we are not holding up Government business. Their policy will, in fact, be in effective operation from the beginning of November, so there cannot be all that need for hurry in that respect. I do not know of any legislation which the Government have that would arouse any other than the anxieties of the whole population, so I do not know that we are holding up anything of very great importance in that respect.
The next point which I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to bear in mind is this: he ought not to judge the future course of the Bill by progress made on Clause 1, because it is really the fundamental Clause of the Bill, the matrix of the whole Measure, and when we have dealt with that, all the others, as it were, come off the presses. Therefore, I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will be accommodating, and let us go home. It may be that when the cushion of the Recess has been put between us and the present situation we shall all find each other more accommodating.
§ Mr. Crookshank
The right hon. Gentleman says he is coming to these talks with a very large spoon—[HON. MEMBERS: "A long spoon."]—very well, a long spoon, but it is quite a large pudding that has to be stirred up, if I may use a Christmas phrase tonight. However, I take it that from his point of view it means that he is prepared to enter into conversations about the future conduct of the Bill.
§ Mr. Bevan indicated assent.
§ Mr. Crookshank
The right hon. Gentleman says that we must not judge the time it will take by the length of time spent so far on Clause 1. I know it is often the case that the first Clause of a Bill raises the bigger issues which the others do not, and I accept that as a general proposition. When he says that 1350 my right hon. Friend has secured the essential point by having already got the appointed day, that is true. I hope the Committee will not lose sight of the fact that undue delay in passing this Bill wilt be a considerable inconvenience to local authorities. It would be a great inconvenience for them not to know where they stand on the other issues apart from the appointed day. But the right hon. Gentleman wants us to rise now because, he says, consideration of the next Amendment will take a long time. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman means that it will take a long time because it is eleven o'clock now or that if we started it at, say, the next time the Committee meets at 3.30 p.m., perhaps at that hour of the day the debate might be slightly shorter. Is that the implication, because it is a possible implication of what the right hon. Gentleman said?
§ 11.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Crookshank
I think I have probed the mind of the right hon. Gentleman without needing to have a spoon. On the understanding that there will be talks with a genuine desire to find a reasonable solution about the time which consideration of this Bill ought to take—
§ Mr. Bevan indicated assent.
§ Mr. Crookshank
I see the right hon. Gentleman nods in agreement. So I take it that that is understood between us, and I am prepared, on behalf of my right hon. Friend and the Government, to accept this Motion now.
§ Question put and agreed to.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again Tomorrow.