HC Deb 12 July 1955 vol 543 cc1742-4
53. Mr. J. Johnson

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government the estimated figures, respectively, for 1955 for houses to be built by private enterprise, and local authorities.

The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Duncan Sandys)

During the first five months of this year local authorities in England and Wales completed about 68,000 houses and private enterprise about 39,000.

Mr. Johnson

Is the Minister aware that his policy of building houses for sale is taking labour from council estates, and that many local authorities, such as the Buckinghamshire County Council, cannot even get tenders for building council estates? Is it the doctrinaire policy of the Government slowly but surely to kill building by local authorities?

Mr. Sandys

So far as any action by the Government is concerned, there is no reason why local authorities should not be able to build this year as many houses as they did last year. There has been a certain amount of difficulty owing to the weather in the earlier part of the year, but apart from that there is no reason why the work should not be done.

Mr. Gaitskell

Is the Minister aware that many councils controlled by Labour majorities have been told by his Department that they may not build as many houses as they wished? If he further aware that, compared with a year ago, there are now some 40,000 fewer houses under construction? Is he prepared to do something about that, and to relax the restrictions which he has imposed on the Labour councils?

Mr. Sandys

What the right hon. Gentleman has said really does not affect the reply which I gave to the hon. Member for Rugby (Mr. J. Johnson). I think that the right hon. Gentleman is referring to authorisations. The authorisations that have been issued up to date are quite sufficient to allow local authorities to build as many council houses—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Then let me repeat it. The number of authorisations which have been issued is quite sufficient to enable local authorities to build as many houses this year as they did last year.

Mr. Johnson

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my Question? Can he confirm or deny that there are local authorities today which cannot get tenders for building the council houses for which he has given them an allocation because the necessary labour has been "stolen" by builders building houses for sale?

Mr. Sandys

I do not know of any particular cases, but if the hon. Member wishes to draw my attention to any I shall be glad to look into them. But there are other things to build apart from council houses.

Mr. Jay

Can the Minister give us an assurance now that no single local council this year will be prevented by his Department from building as many dwellings as it did last year?

Mr. Sandys

That is a quite different Question.

Mr. Alport

Is my right hon. Friend aware that for the last three years the party opposite has accused us of concentrating on houses at the expense of schools and hospitals, and is not this a curious attitude which it now takes up?

Mr. H. Morrison

Is it not rather new for the Government now to take the line that there are other things to do besides building council houses? Is it not the case that in fighting the Election of 1951 they rather implied that there was nothing else to do but to build houses? Why are the Government now getting a more spread-over outlook on building?

Mr. Sandys

In the Election of 1951 we gave an undertaking that we would raise the level of house building to 300,000 houses a year. We built a lot more than that last year, and this year we shall do the same.

Dame Florence Horsbrugh

Is my right hon. Friend aware that only a short time ago the party opposite was saying that we were taking too much labour and materials from school building to house building and that we should cut down house building in favour of schools?

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