§ Considered in Committee under Standing Order No. 84 (Money Committees)—[Queen's Recommendation signified.]
§ [Sir CHARLES MACANDREW in the Chair]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed.
§ That, for the purposes of any Act of the present Session to make provision with respect to contributions in connection with housing accommodation, it is expedient—
- A. To authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament to a local authority or to a development corporation in respect of each new dwelling, and in certain cases in respect of the site of a building consisting of or comprising one or more new dwellings, being in either case a dwelling or dwellings approved for the purposes of the said Act of the present Session by the Minister of Housing and Local Government (in this Resolution referred to as "the Minister") and provided by, or provided in pursuance of arrangements under section ninety-four of the Housing Act, 1936 with, the authority, or, as the case may be, provided by the corporation otherwise than in pursuance of such arrangements, of an annual subsidy for a period not exceeding sixty years of the appropriate amount hereinafter specified, that is to say—
- (a) in respect of a dwelling provided for the purpose of re-housing persons displaced by slum clearance or re-development in accordance with a re-development plan within the meaning of the said Act of 1936 or coming from camps or other unsatisfactory temporary housing accommodation designated by the Minister, or for the purpose of accommodating persons from outside the local authority's area in which the dwelling is situated, an annual subsidy not exceeding—
- (i) in the case of a dwelling other than a flat in a block of flats of four or more storeys, twenty-two pounds one shilling or, where that dwelling is provided for the purpose of accommodating persons as aforesaid, twenty-four pounds;
- (ii) in the case of a flat in a block of flats of four storeys, thirty-two pounds;
- (iii) in the case of a flat in a block of flats of five storeys, thirty-eight pounds;
- (iv) in the case of a flat in a block of flats of six or more storeys, fifty pounds, increased by one pound fifteen shillings for each storey by which the block exceeds six storeys;
- (b) in respect of any other dwelling, an annual subsidy not exceeding—
- (i) in the case of a dwelling other than a flat in a block of flats of four or more storeys, ten pounds or, where the Minister thinks fit so to determine in the case of a dwelling provided for the agricultural population of a county district, nineteen pounds;
- (ii) in the case of a flat in a block of flats of four storeys, twenty pounds;
- (iii) in the case of a flat in a block of flats of five storeys, twenty-six pounds;
- (iv) in the case of a flat in a block of flats of six or more storeys, thirty-eight pounds, increased by one pound fifteen shillings for each storey by which the block exceeds six storeys;
- (c) in respect of the site of a building consisting of or comprising one or more dwellings, being a site as determined in accordance with the said Act of the present Session the cost of which as developed, expressed as a cost per acre, exceeds four thousand pounds, an annual subsidy at the rate of sixty pounds per acre, increased at the rate of thirty-four pounds per acre for every thousand pounds or part of a thousand pounds by which the said cost exceeds five thousand pounds.
- B. To authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of the sums necessary to increase any annual subsidy aforesaid in respect of a dwelling provided by a local authority, if in the opinion of the Minister the provision of that dwelling is urgently needed but would impose an unreasonably heavy rate burden or necessitate the charging of unreasonably high rents, to any amount not exceeding, in the case of a dwelling other than a flat in a block of flats of four or more storeys, thirty pounds or, in the case of such a flat, forty pounds.
- C. To authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of any increase attributable to the provisions of the said Act of the present Session in the sums payable under any other enactment out of moneys so provided.
- D. To authorise the payment into the Exchequer of all sums received by the Minister of Housing and Local Government under the said Act of the present Session.
§ In this Resolution, the expression "new dwelling" means a dwelling—
- (a) the tender or estimate for the erection of which was accepted by a formal resolution of a local authority or development corporation passed on or after the third day of November, nineteen hundred and fifty-five, not being a tender or estimate which was submitted to the Minister for approval before that day; or
- (b) provided in pursuance of arrangements under section ninety-four of the Housing Act, 1936, made on or after the said third day of November.—[Mr. Sandys.)
§ 11.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Eric Fletcher (Islington, East)
There is one important question which I hope the Financial Secretary will be able to clear up on this Money Resolution. Clause 5 of the Bill gives the Minister power, in certain circumstances, to increase the subsidies. As Clause 5 is 1191 drafted, it appears to confine rigidly the circumstances in which the Minister can have power to make these increased subsidies. I hope the Financial Secretary will be able to assure us that the terms of the Money Resolution are not so narrowly drawn as to make it impossible in Committee, during the Committee stage, to put down Amendments to enlarge the scope of Clause 5.
I am sure the Minister will be aware that there will be a widespread demand by local authorities that the Minister should exercise his powers to increase the subsidies on the ground that a large number of local authorities will be adversely affected by the provisions of the Bill. As Clause 5 now reads, it seems that the Minister can act only if he is satisfied both that there is urgent need for more housing accommodation in a particular locality and that such additional accommodation cannot be provided without imposing an unreasonably heavy rate burden or necessitating the charging of unreasonably high rents.
The words do not seem nearly wide enough to enable the Minister to deal with the large number of hard cases that will arise and cause acute hardship, particularly in overcrowded boroughs like Islington where there are no longer available any housing sites and where there is an immense housing problem still to be tackled. A number of my hon. Friends and I will necessarily seek during the Committee stage to amend the provisions of Clause 5. Therefore, this is an appropriate time to make sure that we are not told then that the terms of the Financial Resolution are drawn in such a way that such Amendments will be out of order. I hope that we shall have a clarification of that point.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
I rise to associate myself with what has just been said. I was amused from one point of view and slightly shocked from another to listen to speaker after speaker in the course of the debate which has just ended urging that his constituency at any rate should be included for all purposes in the scope of Clause 5. "Me-too-ism," jumping on the band wagon, or whatever one calls it, has hardly ever reached such a stage before, and so far 1192 as I can see from the Money Resolution—I hope that I shall be corrected—there is not the least prospect of enlarging in any way the terms of the Bill. That does not apply only to Clause 5; it applies to, the Bill as a whole.
An understanding was restated in the House soon after the war that Money Resolutions on Public Bills—and I include the present Bill as a Public Bill—should be so drawn that their terms would be wide enough to give the Opposition a reasonable opportunity to put forward Amendments. I suggest that this Money Resolution is oppressive and so tightly drawn that any debate that arises afterwards is bound to be academic and will, in practice, be confined to Motions, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
The powers of the Government and of the Treasury ought not to be exercised in this way, to stifle debate and restrict Amendments on a matter of such immense importance as this Bill, important financially, from the point of view of the housing policy, if any, of the Government, and from the point of view of human needs of thousands of people whom we represent. It is altogether wrong, and I trust that I can be told that I am mistaken and that the Money Resolution will admit reasonable Amendments and allow the continuation of Committee proceedings to be something more than the somewhat dreary and restricted business which my reading of the Money Resolution would make it.
I therefore beg the representative of the Treasury or of the Ministry to tell me that I am wrong and that some line of Amendments is possible and that, by this Money Resolution, the power of the Executive in this House has not once again been abused by the Tory Party.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
Clause I provides that, on and from 3rd November, the reduced rates of subsidy shall apply unless, prior to that date, the local authority has already approved a tender or estimate for a housing scheme and has submitted it to the Minister. I think it is most unfair to stipulate the termination or reduction of these subsidies to the actual approval of tenders and estimates. The right hon. Gentleman has given the House the impression that he is very much concerned about slum clearance, but he must know that 1193 the procedure for slum clearance is a very long one, spreading in many cases over a period of two years before a start can be made.
A good number of local authorities, both for any slum clearance they now have in mind and for development of housing schemes under Part V of the 1936 Housing Act, have first to obtain the permission of the right hon. Gentleman to acquire the land before they can think of preparing plans and getting estimates. Many local authorities have been committed to spending or raising substantial sums of money in the acquisition of land but have not yet had sufficient time to prepare plans, to secure the Minister's approval of them and then to invite tenders and to submit them to him for final approval.
Therefore, I feel that if he wants to cushion the blow, as he tells us he does, he should in fairness accept, regarding this date, not the approval of estimates or tenders, but should consider in its place his approval of the acquisition of land for this purpose; because surely the responsibility of the right hon. Gentleman commences at the point where he authorises the acquisition of land for housing purposes. That is where his responsibility starts, and, in fairness to local authorities, they should be incorporated in Clause 1.
I am not quite clear whether it is possible in Committee to put down an Amendment to ask the Minister to do that. I should rather think the Money Resolution in its present form will put out of order any subsequent Amendment designed to achieve the point I am emphasising. I am asking the right hon. Gentleman to indicate whether the Money Resolution is so tightly drawn, or whether it would be possible to rectify this obvious injustice regarding the date of application of the new and reduced subsidies.
I should also like to protest against the Money Resolution in so far as it leaves out of consideration the important housing schemes developed by local authorities under Part V of the Housing Act, 1936. Many of these schemes are just as important as slum clearance, because they are in part being used to house families from the slum areas. They are not going to divide these families into the sheep and the goats and allocate a slum 1194 family to one flat and someone from an overcrowded area to another flat. The problems of overcrowding and slum clearance cannot be separated. They are the same problem. Therefore, local authorities cannot be expected to develop two separate types of scheme, one earmarked for slum families and another for other families not technically in the slums.
What will happen will be that a local authority, developing its housing schemes, will use all its houses to rehouse not only families from the slums but those living in overcrowded conditions and living in many cases in just as bad conditions as a good many people in the slums. If the right hon. Gentleman is anxious that the local authorities shall make a success of this proposal, he cannot do that by leaving out of the Money Resolution provision for the full rate of subsidies for housing schemes of local authorities, irrespective of whether they are for slum clearance or whether they are erected under Part V of the Housing Act, 1936. Therefore, before we part with this Money Resolution we ought to be told quite clearly by the Minister that it allows us in Committee to ensure that housing schemes, apart from purely slum clearance schemes, are going to receive the benefit of subsidies that should be allowed for slum clearance.
This question of the reduced rate of subsidies is going to have a very considerable effect on the progress of slum clearance. The right hon. Gentleman is actually reducing the scale of subsidies_ The subsidy scale that he has got in this Bill is less favourable than the old subsidies even for slum clearance, and that, with a general increase in interest rates on housing loans, inevitably means that the rents of slum clearance schemes are going to be very much higher. I feel, therefore, that the scale of subsidies for slum clearance are far too low.
Perhaps I may give one or two illustrations of the added burden that will be placed upon local authorities and the slum families, most of whom are poor people. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate how inadequate they are. For instance, in a constituency like mine where land is very expensive to buy, with a scheme with a site area of one acre, 1195 costing £10,000 to acquire, upon which it is possible to put between 32 and 45 flats, it means that if on such a site my local authority were to erect thirty three-storey flats to house people from slum houses or overcrowded conditions, the reduction in subsidy per flat of three storeys amounts to £34 5s. 8d. per year. That is not merely for one year. It is for sixty years—the period of the loan—and that is a very considerable loan. For four storeys the loss of subsidy is £24 5s. 8d.; five storeys £22 5s. 8d.; six storeys £16 5s. 8d.; seven storeys £15 12s. 7d.; eight storeys £14 14s.; nine storeys £11 15s. 9d. per flat per year for sixty years.
I do not believe that the scale of subsidies embodied in this Money Resolution is one which will enable local authorities to achieve the purpose the right hon. Gentleman thinks it will achieve. He must realise that quite a number of families who live in slum areas—and it is impossible to say what the number is—whose incomes are low, who are among the poorest people in our country, have very low rents, so that the problem is not a question of designating slum clearance areas, of demolishing the houses and saying to the people "Go along. You go into a new flat." The problem for them is one of rent. In a constituency such as mine, adjacent to the London area, the rents of some of these places, the poorest of the houses, may be very low.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about rents of 6s. or 9s. a week for which he said some council accommodation is let. The rent in this poor slum property is very low, and these people are being forced out of low-rented slum property into high-rented council property, where the economic rent will be, not 6s. or 9s. a week, in a constituency like mine, but for a three-bedroomed flat, on the basis of this Money Resolution and the ultimate extinction of the subsidies, £3 5s. a week. The normal rent charged to people in my constituency with full benefit of subsidy is somewhere in the region of 35s. and over a week. Although in my constituency we technically have no slums in the generally accepted sense of the word, we are rehousing people with low incomes, occupying very poor properties, 1196 and we find the greatest difficulty in adjusting our rents at a level which enables people to take advantage of the new accommodation.
If the right hon. Gentleman is anxious that his slum clearance proposals shall succeed, he must be prepared to give a far more generous rate of subsidy than he is proposing in this Bill, otherwise it will defeat its own object and will arouse a great deal of resentment against himself and his Government—which will help us when the people living in these slums realise that he is forcing them out of low-rented properties into other accommodation where there rents will double, treble and quadruple in consequence. He might avoid these snags if he cares to do so; if he cares to increase the rate of subsidy laid down in the Money Resolution he can overcome that difficulty.
If the right hon. Gentleman's scheme is to succeed, it must be financially favourable. As far as I can see, at present it does not make for success, first because the scale of subsidies is too low, to say nothing about the general rise of interest rates on housing loans, and second, because the right hon. Gentleman is leaving out of his calculation redevelopment under Part V of the Housing Act, which is just as important as redevelopment under Part III. Unless he is prepared to bring in Part V redevelopment and entitle it to the same rate of subsidy as that under Part III of the 1936 Act, he will find in the long run that his proposals are not likely to succeed.
I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he would be prepared to reconsider the basis upon which the reduced rates of subsidies are to apply; whether he will, in fact, take the date of his approval of acquisition of land—where his responsibility begins—rather than the date of approval of tender or estimate. Secondly, I ask whether he will agree to include within the benefit of the subsidies laid down for slum clearance, redevelopment under Part V of the Housing Act, 1936, which is just as important as slum clearance and assists slum clearance in so far as families from slum areas are entitled to be considered with other people on the housing list for accommodation in general housing schemes. In view of the fact that they come from slum areas in redevelopment 1197 schemes under Part V of the 1936 Housing Act, I think the right hon. Gentleman should be prepared to bring Part V of that Act within the scope of the Money Resolution.
§ Mr. A. Fenner Brockway (Eton and Slough)
Before we pass this Money Resolution, I want to ask certain questions about some of its specific paragraphs. The first question is in relation to the definition of a new dwelling. The Resolution refers to 3rd November as the date on which the new house shall be accepted in the form of a tender. I ask the Minister to reconsider the date. I support what has been said by my hon. Friend the Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) on this subject. I suggest it is manifestly unfair to have given local authorities such short notice in this matter.
I can illustrate a case from my constituency where the advertisement for tenders had actually been issued for 130 houses. Those tenders were to be received on 4th November, one day after the date in this paragraph. As a result, my borough council will lose £94,000 over the sixty years. I suggest to the Minister that, at the very least, he should say that where tenders have already been issued for contracts the borough council should not lose the advantage which otherwise it would have had.
I wish to ask whether, if we pass this Money Resolution in its present form, it means that when we come to the Committee stage it will be still possible for us to put forward an Amendment to make the date from the enactment of the Bill rather than from 3rd November—even before we have passed the Bill. I ask the Minister to give very sincere consideration to that point.
The second point to which I draw attention is subsection A, paragraph (a), which starts with the words:in respect of a dwelling provided for the purpose of re-housing persons displaced".This refers both to the rehousing of people in slum areas and to what has been called the special provision for overspill. Before I am prepared to accept this Resolution, I should like the Minister to make perfectly clear what is intended by this wording.
1198 11.30 p.m.
I might almost say that all of my constituency is a spillover area. It has increased in population from 17,000 to 65,000 in 30 years by spillovers from the great distressed areas of the country. They were described graphically by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) in his speech. Will the Money Resolution cover the needs which arise in such towns as Slough, Luton and similar places?
We had exceptional problems because of the rapid growth of our town by this invasion from Wales and the North, from Durham, Scotland and Belfast. We needed to build but we could not build because we did not have the drainage. I recognise that the Ministry of Supply, in both the Conservative Government and the preceding Labour Government, was helpful in enabling us to proceed with that drainage scheme, but during those years we could not build. We now have the problem under the Bill that we have to make up for those lean years.
The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon suggested that the current contracts for houses are comparatively small compared with the total number of houses built, but in Slough they number 40 per cent. of the houses which have been constructed by the council. Current contracts are for 1,684 houses out of a total of 4,128. Unless the Money Resolution covers that kind of situation, many of us will not be content to pass it. Particularly on these two grounds, I ask for some response from the Minister.
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)
My hon. Friends the Members for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) and for Acton (Mr. Sparks) and others who have spoken from this side are to be congratulated on keeping the Committee at this early hour to discuss a vital matter which has not been fully discussed during the Second Reading debate. It is right that the few of us who remain and who are interested should try to get from the Minister clear information as to how far we shall be able to put forward constituency points in the Committee stage. I tried to interrupt the Minister during the Second Reading debate when he dealt, in part, with a point raised by one of his hon. Friends about war damage in blitzed towns and cities. However, the 1199 right hon. Gentleman never attempted to deal with the major part of his hon. Friend's argument, which was, "Do the blitzed cities come within what might be called the special extenuating clause—Clause 5—so far as assistance is concerned?" If they do not, then will it be possible, under the terms of this Money Resolution, for us to put down Amendments during the Committee stage?
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), who has sat through the whole of the debate, and whose opinion I value very much, has told us that, as the Money Resolution now stands, it will be impossible for my hon. Friends the Members for Acton and Islington, East and other hon. Friends to put down Amendments. This is a most important matter to those of us who represent the most constituencies in the country—and I refer to London and its surrounding area—because the matter to which I have referred is especially concerned with constituencies such as those.
§ Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
May I point out to my hon. Friend that what he is saying also affects many constituencies outside the London area?
§ Mr. Lewis
I agree. I listened to my hon. Friend's remarks on the Second Reading and only regret that I did not have the opportunity of making such a speech. I agree with what he has just said, but may I emphasise that, as the Money Resolution stands at the moment, it would appear that the blitzed cities, which have been sadly neglected, particularly by this Government, are going to be in an even worse position in the months ahead so far as financial assistance is concerned.
My hon. Friends make no comment on the amount of the subsidy for the slum clearance programme. It is typical of this Government to be mean and miserly, even after the Minister's explanation that, in view of the depreciation in the purchasing power of the £—
§ Mr. Lewis
Yes; well, the maintenance subsidies are not worth so much because 1200 of the depreciation in the value of the £. However, I am not so much concerned with slum clearance as with points raised by my hon. Friends the Members for Acton and Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway).
When is the operative date for the new subsidy? As matters stand, it would appear that the subsidy will apply only to tenders approved by a local authority after 3rd November, and that any future reductions of the subsidy, made under Clause 2 of the Bill, will apply only to tenders made after the date of the order effecting the reduction. In other words, local authorities—and there are many of them which will be thus affected—particularly those in slum areas, have to go through a long procedural rigmarole before they can obtain final approval for development schemes. They get the initial approval from the Minister, and we feel that they should not suffer financially because they may not, perhaps, have the formal tenders agreed by the specified date.
If my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering is right, then if in Committee on the Bill we want the opportunity to provide authorities such as those with maintenance of the subsidy for a longer time, we shall not be able to have it, because the Money Resolution is too restrictive. We should like an assurance on that matter.
Another matter on which the Minister merely touched in passing was the exclusion of the temporary hutments, the "prefabs." Does that description include those frightful hutments my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) can speak about so eloquently here and which I call "railway arches"—the Nissen huts? We want to know whether that type of building will come within the exceptions. Then there are the Army hutments, as they are officially and technically described, which I would call rabbit holes, in which people in blitzed areas have had to live and are still having to live at the present time.
Then there are the surviving homes, some of them isolated, in bomb-damaged areas, and there is the question of their clearance. Perhaps their removal will not technically come within slum clearance, but I hope the Minister understands that there are areas which the blitz completely 1201 or almost completely cleared of buildings, but in which a few houses or a few dozen houses remain, and that they ought to be pulled down for redevelopment purposes, even though that redevelopment may not be slum clearance within the meaning of the 1936 Act. It will, of course, be necessary to clear them away if proper development is to take place in such areas, yet it appears that the local authorities concerned with such work will not get any financial assistance with it under the present arrangements. Moreover, if the Money Resolution is not amended it will, it appears, preclude us in Committee from putting forward our proposals for including redevelopment of that sort in the financial provisions of the Bill, although that redevelopment will be necessary in bomb-damaged areas for rehousing purposes.
There is also another matter that affects a number of London boroughs like East Ham and West Ham, which suffered greatly in the blitzes and which, because of the limited amount of available land, have had to create their own overspill areas elsewhere and themselves build houses there. I believe that, as the building authorities, they will not be entitled to the special additional subsidy. It will be the receiving areas, not the exporting areas, which will receive them. Before we approve of the Money Resolution, therefore, we should be careful to safeguard the interests of blitzed areas which suffered so much for so long during the war and which, it would appear, are to suffer again.
It is all very well to say that we shall help the slum areas. I would not attempt for a moment to under-estimate the problems created by overcrowding and slums, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) has referred, but the difficulty in constituencies such as I represent is that a third of every type of available accommodation was destroyed in the blitzes. We therefore have a grave housing problem. If we go forward with our plans for clearing and rebuilding, the Minister will say that, under the terms of the Bill and the Money Resolution, we cannot have any subsidy, because the work is not slum clearance. In all probability the Minister would be correct in saying that we could not have an additional subsidy 1202 as things stand. I had a word with the Minister on the point. I believe that on Second Reading he said that he would deal with such cases on their merits if there were exceptional hardship.
§ The Deputy-Chairman (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
The hon Member id now confined to the Money Resolution. He cannot discuss the terms of the Bill.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
I did not refer to this matter in my speech on Second Reading.
§ Mr. Lewis
I withdraw if I am wrong, but I understood the Minister to say to one of his hon. Friends that under Clause 5 there would be an opportunity for any authority which was experiencing exceptional circumstances to approach him.
I was saying before you took the Chair, Sir Rhys, that the Money Resolution debars our putting forward in Committee Amendments to increase the rate of subsidy and to vary the type of housing to which it should apply. I was proceeding to say that it would be wrong to allow the Money Resolution to be passed without expressing our objections. I was asking for some clear explanation from the Minister, and I was saying that there were various types of new building which my hon. Friends felt ought to attract subsidy. Subject to the Chair accepting them, we shall propose Amendments in Committee.
I was going on to say that I wanted some clear explanation from the Minister. It is not clear whether, as the Resolution stands, the Minister could use it to give exceptional treatment to an exceptional authority under Clause 5. It is not clear whether the Money Resolution would permit this for areas such as my constituency, West Ham. We claim that we have an exceptional problem. We have a rate of 28s. in the £. The interest rates have gone up, and we have to find another £30,000, which is a 6d. rate. This Money Resolution says,(a) in respect of dwellings provided for the purpose of re-housing persons displaced by slum clearance or re-development in accordance with a re-development plan within the meaning of the said Act of 1936 or coming from camps or other unsatisfactory temporary housing accommodation designated by the Minister, or for the purpose of accommodating persons from outside the local authority's area in which the dwelling is situated, an annual subsidy …1203 I want to get clear whether under the Money Resolution the Minister will have permission, or authority, to extend the subsidy, subject to suitable Amendments being put down and carried in Committee, to cover such areas as West Ham. There the rate of 28s. in the £ will go up to 28s. 6d. to cover the reduction, and eventual abolition, of the subsidy, which is proposed.
We need some clear, definite explanation from the Minister that the Resolution, as drawn, is wide enough to permit us to deal with these matters. I am not going to argue who is right, the Minister or my hon. and learned Friend. I have great respect for my hon. and learned Friend's view. He tells us that the Resolution will preclude hon. Members from putting down Amendments. I challenged the hon. Member for Plymouth, Sutton (Mr. J. J. Astor) to support us when we put down an Amendment. Unless we can see that the Resolution is drawn widely enough, the hon. Member will not be able to support us.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones (West Ham, South)
My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) is to be congratulated, Sir Rhys, on having caught your predecessor's eye, because he has brought to the notice of the Committee a number of important matters directly related to the Money Resolution. Some of them are of immediate concern to our constituents in West Ham.
There are one or two aspects of the Money Resolution about which the Committee is entitled to further elucidation and I should like first to refer to the provisions of Subsection B, which are:To authorise the payment out of moneys provided by Parliament of the sums necessary to increase any annual subsidy … in respect of a dwelling provided by a local authority, if in the opinion of the Minister the provision of that dwelling is urgently needed but would impose an unreasonably heavy rate burden …Can the Minister give the Committee some indication of what kind of moneys it is contemplated that the Exchequer will be involved in paying under that heading?
I know that it is impossible to state a specific sum. Of course, at this stage the exact sum is unascertainable, because it is not yet precisely known how many and in what circumstances local authorities will apply for this additional 1204 assistance. But it would be of some assistance to the Committee if we could get some idea of the amount involved. Those of us whose local authorities regard Clause 5 as their lifeline, will then be able to know whether it is a lifeline to which they can cling with confidence, or just a little straw cast upon a flood of Ministerial eloquence and ingenuity. I should be grateful for some indication of whether, say £10 million or £20 million is to be put into the kitty for the purposes of special aid, or whether this is merely a face-saving device for the purposes of this unhappy Bill.
Another matter which is of some importance is the terms of subsection A (a) of the Money Resolution. That is in respect of subsidies payable in respect of dwellings provided for the purpose of rehousing persons coming from camps or other unsatisfactory temporary accommodation. My hon. Friend the Member for West Ham, North has already asked some very pertinent questions about that. I understand from the Minister's speech that he has already decided in his Ministerial discretion that two-year huts at any rate are to be designated as unsatisfactory temporary housing accommodation.
Does the Money Resolution enable the Minister to go even further in his designation? I have two particular classes of property in mind, one is requisitioned premises the occupants of which will not be acceptable to the landlords as tenants after 1960. That is a matter of very great concern—if I may handle the parish pump once again—to my constituency where about 1,800 houses will be involved. I should like the Minister to tell us whether he is satisfied that the terms of the Money Resolution will enable us at the Committee stage to draft appropriate Amendments, if they be necessary. I hope that he will say that we need not worry about that kind of temporary accommodation, and that rehousing these tenants of requisitioned premises will attract the full subsidy. But certainly I think that is a matter on which we are entitled to information at this stage.
Another class of unsatisfactory temporary accommodation is the class of ten-year bungalows, or "prefabs." The year is 1955. These bungalows were erected almost precisely ten years ago, so their allotted span of life is over. I wonder, 1205 therefore, if the Minister can tell us whether, where a case is made out by the local authority that the class of ten-year bungalows, which are not uniform in quality or maintenance, is unsatisfactory, he will feel able, under the terms of this Money Resolution, to say to the local authority, "Yes, that also shall come within the ambit of the financial provisions of this Bill."
My hon. Friend has also mentioned the problem of provision for the areas of war damage, which is a matter of particular concern in the borough which my hon. Friend and I represent. It is one of the worst blitzed areas in the country. I would like the Minister to say where provision is made in the Money Resolution for what I feel sure he must recognise as a class of housing well worthy of the assistance of the community. I find it difficult, in reading the terms of the Money Resolution, to appreciate where it is dealt with specifically, but this is the kind of problem we have in mind.
We have considerable areas of war damage, and the redevelopment of those areas will involve, first of all, the demolition of a number of houses. Unless those houses can be condemned under the Housing Act, it would appear that no subsidy would be payable on the houses built to rehouse the occupants of these houses condemned as part of the process of redeveloping a war-damaged area. I would like the Minister to tell us whether the Money Resolution is drawn up in terms adequate to deal with that class of rehousing.
The matter is one of considerable concern in my constituency, and I feel it would be wrong to let it go unclarified. I feel that the whole class of temporary accommodation provided in West Ham was the product of a national danger and catastrophe, and those of us who represent the area feel most strongly that it is intolerable that time and again this burden, which should be borne by the nation, is cast on the shoulders of an impoverished and hard-pressed community.
I therefore hope that in dealing with this Money Resolution we shall have assurances that these matters will be dealt with. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison), in what was no doubt intended to be a helpful interjection, has asked whether 1206 there is not a sewer to rate. That does not arise directly within the terms of the Money Resolution.
§ The Deputy-Chairman
I think it would be in order to ask the Minister what the Financial Resolution includes or excludes, but I do not think hon. Members should go into all the details.
§ Mr. Elwyn Jones
I respectfully accept your Ruling, Sir Rhys. It was only the seduction of my hon. and learned Friend which brought me back to an age-old and familiar theme, namely the derating of the Outfall Sewer, on which I can assure the Minister I shall be returning to the attack at the earliest possible opportunity.
§ Mrs. Lena Jeger (Holborn and St. Pancras, South)
I should like some guidance on the relevance of this Money Resolution to blitzed areas. This is the sort of problem which I have in mind and on which some assistance is required from the Minister. In the Borough of Holborn, if I may be forgiven for being parochial, we have not yet overtaken our war damage. We are still several hundred dwellings short of the number that were lost during the blitz. We are not alone in this.
I have read the Resolution through carefully, and I cannot find any hope for a local authority in this position. In cases where these tenements have been destroyed, the previous owners have collected the war damage compensation and have happily retired somewhere. Our problem is to consider what is to happen to the people who used to live in those bombed tenements and who are now living in overcrowded conditions in very great difficulty. We must have some guidance, otherwise the local authorities will be placed in a most unfair position.
A local council may be trying to continue a housing programme, which is not an expansionist one but one which is 1207 intended only to bring up its supply of housing to something near the pre-blitz level, and it may find that there is going through this House a Bill which will make it impossible for any special help to be given to such a bombed area. The urgency of slum clearance has been emphasised, but this Money Resolution will frustrate the efforts of the central London local authorities to carry out slum clearance, because the prerequisite of any slum clearance programme is decanting, and if we have already been prevented from even catching up on our war damage we are never going to be able to decant our slum dwellers anywhere, so that the one acceptable purpose which I believe hon. Members opposite have recommended is itself going to be defeated.
I hope that the Minister will be able to dispose of this point quickly by giving us an assurance that he regards the blitzed areas of central London and the suburban blitzed areas to which some of my hon. Friends have referred as coming within the category of special hardship to which he will give a little more generous attention. If we could have that assurance, we would know where we stood. As this Resolution is drawn, I cannot see that any thought has been given by the Minister or his advisers to this very urgent problem. These areas which suffered so heavily in the war will be liable to face an ever-increasing rate burden—a burden which is to fall upon people who I should have thought had suffered enough from the bombing itself without now being told that they have got to put their hands deeper into their pockets to pay for the bad luck of having been bombed.
If I am told that it is the intention within this Money Resolution that the central London authorities should take advantage of the overspill provisions and send their people somewhere else, again I find no comfort because we have to consider the position of men and women whose contribution to the life of our great community involves them living in central London—people like the Covent Garden porters, the Smithfield porters, men and women who work at our railway termini, and the printers who at this moment are producing our newspapers in many streets which border my constituency.
1208 I realise that I am in grave danger of overstepping the bounds of order, but I do ask the Minister to help Central London authorities over this, because the problems are all interconnected, and if this Money Resolution goes through in its present form, with no assistance or guidance from the Minister, all these problems, which it would be out of order to discuss at this moment, will accumulate and add to the intolerable burden, both financial and social, of the housing authorities in the Central area. The Committee need not be detained very much longer if only the Minister would, quite simply, give us a little attention and give us the assurance that would help us.
§ Mr. Albert Evans (Islington, South-West)
I hope that my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) is, for once, incorrect in his interpretation of this Money Resolution. In an earlier intervention he seemed to suggest that it would not be possible to amend Clause 5 of the Bill, which is covered by subsection B of the Money Resolution. Subsection B empowers the Minister to give especially heavy subsidies in certain circumstances, and if Clause 5 were amended to widen that discretion the Minister would be paying out more than he would have paid out had Clause 5 not been amended. I therefore hope that subsection B will allow for the amending of Clause 5 so that the Minister's discretion can be wider than it appears to be at present.
The Minister will know that the discretion given to him under Clause 5, covered by subsection B of this Money Resolution, is a discretion which is vital to his attempt to deal with slum property. He knows that the amount of discretionary moneys he pays to the hard core areas will largely determine how far he is successful with his slum clearance problem. I therefore hope that my hon. and learned Friend is incorrect about Clause 5 of the Bill and subsection B of the Money Resolution, and that it will be possible for us to amend Clause 5, and that subsection B will cover wider discretions than Clause 5 at present allows.
Now I wish to say a word or two upon the slum clearance subsection of the Money Resolution. Subsection A gives, in due form, the different categories of building which will be provided for under the slum clearance arrangements, which 1209 will receive the slum clearance rate of subsidy. Paragraph (a) says:in respect of a dwelling provided for the purpose of re-housing persons displaced by slum clearance.Perhaps the Minister would tell me exactly what that does cover. A problem which has already been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) is that in slum clearance in the inner urban areas, where the hard core of the slum clearance problem lies, the authorities will have great difficulty in claiming the slum clearance subsidy under the slum clearance arrangements if it is not possible under the Money Resolution for them to get the slum clearance rate of subsidy for the clearances they do on decanting sites.
The Minister will know that it is vital to a solution of the slum clearance problem in the hard core areas in the centre of cities that the subsidy should be made available. If the Resolution does not make it available, I ask that it be made available to the decanting areas. If we assume that the subsidy is applied to the decanting areas, they will displace people and room must be found for them. I ask the Minister to see that the slum clearance rate of subsidy should apply not only to the decanting areas but to the small isolated areas which must take people from the decanted sites. That is vital for authorities in the older urban areas which are faced with the hard core of this problem.
I wish to emphasise the point made by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) about the phrase:or other unsatisfactory temporary housing accommodation designated by the Minister.I ask whether or not requisitioned houses are to be designated as "unsatisfactory temporary housing." That is vital to many hard-pressed authorities, particularly my own. The Borough of Islington, part of which I represent, has probably the most grievous housing burden in the country, with smaller resources than almost any other part of the country. The slum clearance rate of subsidy is vital to that authority to enable it to proceed with the task of clearing slums.
Will the Minister designate underground rooms as unsatisfactory housing 1210 accommodation? Believe it or not, in my borough there is the colossal total of 14,000 underground rooms occupied illegally by human beings because there is no alternative accommodation. I ask whether, under the Money Resolution, the slum clearance subsidy will be payable for dealing with those underground rooms, which are unfit for human habitation, but in which our fellow mortals have to live. I do not wish to detain the Committee unduly, but I feel that on these points—which I know are causing great concern to my local authority and to others—I am in duty bound to put these questions to the Minister.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. W. F. Deedes)
A good many questions have been asked about the Money Resolution. If I were to answer them all, I might be in danger of anticipating the later Committee stage, but I appreciate the anxiety of hon. Members as to the drawing-up of the Money Resolution and its narrowness, which, they fear, may preclude discussion at a later stage. The Resolution is admittedly tightly drawn. A subsidy Bill is essentially a Money Bill, and I do not think that in the way we have drawn it we have in any way changed sound precedent for a Money Resolution of this kind.
The hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) said that the Resolution should be wide enough to enable a good deal to be done in the Committee stage. That is nearly always the view which is expressed from that side of the Committee, but there is the precedent of what happened at the last comprehensive review of the subsidies—that is, in the 1946 Bill. There are precedents, and good ones, for the Money Resolution to be drafted in this form.
§ Mr. Deedes
No. It was the last comprehensive review of subsidies. It had a Money Resolution, and it will be found that it stated, as this one states with great precision, the amount of the subsidy which should be paid in each particular case, and so on.
§ Mr. Deedes
I am not talking about what it did. I am saying that it was the last comprehensive review of the subsidies.
Within those general considerations, may I now try to answer some of the main questions which have been put by hon. Members as to how the Committee stage may be affected by the Money Resolution—
§ Mr. Mitchison
I think it was after that Bill that my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) restated the proposition that Money Resolutions on Public Bills ought to be drafted as widely as possible. In so doing, he was merely repeating—this has not always been the Opposition case—what appears on page 681 of the last edition of Erskine May. After a long controversy, in 1937 or thereabouts, the Prime Minister of the day, on 9th November, 1937, announced that instructions were to be given to the Departments and the Parliamentary Counsel's Office that Money Resolutions in respect of Bills should beso framed as not to restrict the scope within which the committees on the bills may consider amendments further than is necessary to enable the Government to discharge their responsibilities in regard to public expenditure, and to leave to the committee the utmost freedom for discussion and amendment of details which is compatible with the discharge of those responsibilities.Since, in effect, this Money Resolution repeats the whole language of the Bill, it leaves, so far as I can see, no scope whatever for any amendment. Does the hon. Gentleman consider that a Money Resolution in that form is really consistent with what was arrived at after that dispute in 1937? I hope he will not answer me with a bit more of "1946 and all that".
§ Mr. Deedes
I will deal in a moment in a little more detail with what is covered and what is not. What I was stressing was that on the last occasion that there was a comprehensive review of subsidies, the Money Resolution appeared very much in the form in which we are presenting it now. It was then defended by the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale as being, for a Money Bill, an appropriate Money Resolution. All I am saying is that there are respectible precedents for the Money Resolution which is now before the Committee.
1212 The hon. Member for Islington, East (Mr. E. Fletcher) asked about Clause 5; and I know that that has also been a matter for concern on the part of other hon. Members. That Clause, which is governed by paragraph B in the Money Resolution, is one about which hon. Members have spoken, and I should like to say a word about paragraph B. The important words in that—perhaps I might call them qualifications—are,… would impose an unreasonably heavy rate burden or necessitate the charging of unreasonably high rents. …These words are a repetition of what appears in the Bill, and once the Money Resolution is passed these words cannot be altered. What would be open to hon. Members in committee would be to obtain a definition of both of those expressions.
§ Mr. Deedes
I should like to help the hon. Member, but it is not for me to suggest such interpretations as might be put upon it. I have to point out that in the Committee stage, which all hon. Members will be able to attend, such definitions as the Committee might then think fit would not be ruled out of order. But, as I say, the limit of my duty tonight is to explain how we stand in relation to the Money Resolution once it has been passed.
The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) and his hon. Friend the Member for Eton and Slough (Mr. Brockway) referred to the expression "new dwelling" and the definition of that which is found in the middle of paragraph D of the Money Resolution. They thought that that was an unreasonable arrangement. I have to tell them that the definition of "new dwelling" cannot be altered in the Committee stage, but we do believe that it is right on its merit. Without that, the purchase of a site could never be a satisfactory project. Sites are often purchased years in advance, but if they have been so purchased, they can be used for houses in replacement of slums with no loss of subsidy.
The hon. Member for Eton and Slough also spoke about overspill, and wanted to know if that expression would cover 1213 Slough or Luton. I attempted to cover the point in our first day's debate and to show where we might stand on that, but it is something which cannot be defined quickly. But I do not think we shall be altogether precluded by this Money Resolution, since the categories are open to discussion during the forthcoming Committee stage. Here I should like to stress that, although the Money Resolution is specific as to the amount of the various subsidies, it is, in various respects, more general than the Bill itself in the matter of the different dwellings which attract subsidies. That is a point of substance.
The hon. Members for West Ham, North (Mr. Lewis) and for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mrs. L. Jeger) raised the question of the blitzed cities. I can only repeat what I have already said about paragraph B and the words… would impose an unreasonably heavy rate burden or necessitate the charging of unreasonably high rents …We are committed to these words, and I make no secret of the fact. Any definition which the Committee may be able to add to those words is open to hon. Members to suggest; but it is no part of my duty to say what such definition might be. I think that I may say that it is not impossible to define both these expressions in relation to the blitzed cities, but I do not think that I should go further than that.
The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for West Ham, South (Mr. Elwyn Jones) wanted to know what difficulties might be involved because of Clause 5 of the Bill. He said Clause 5 would be the life-line and he hoped that I should be able to give a figure showing that it would be of substance. I do not think we can have too many people on the same life-line, if I may use the hon. and learned Gentleman's designation. There is not a figure, and there is no figure I should be prepared to give at this stage. I should not be prepared to commit my right hon. Friend to any estimate, however broad, at this stage.
Another question has been asked about unsatisfactory temporary accommodation. The words "temporary" and "unsatisfactory" are all-important. If such houses are to be included, both words must apply. I am advised that it would 1214 be possible to designate, for instance, Portals, in addition to hutments, as unsatisfactory. That is a matter of policy which, as such, may be discussed in Committee on the Bill. I am not making any commitment about it, but the answer is briefly that accommodation must be shown to be temporary and unsatisfactory, and within that description it is a matter within the Minister's discretion.
I have done my best to answer the questions I have been asked, and I hope that the Committee, though it may not be altogether satisfied by the drafting of the Money Resolution, will appreciate that it has respectable precedents and that, as far as possible, we have left the Committee, if not scope on the subsidies themselves, flexibility in discussing the various categories of dwellings which may attract the various subsidies.
§ Mr. Lewis
Would the hon. Gentleman deal with the question raised by several of my hon. Friends, the development of blitzed areas? Such development may not be town development or slum clearance, but there may be a large blitzed area with, perhaps, a dozen or so houses left in it, which must be pulled down if the area is to be properly developed. Will the local authority, or will it not, be able to claim subsidy for that work of clearance? Shall we be able, in Committee, to put forward Amendments to the Bill on that matter?
§ Mr. Sparks
I understood the Minister to say that houses erected under the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act are not included for subsidy. He referred to Portals and unsatisfactory hutments. The Minister has been engaged recently in instructing local authorities to demolish certain of their temporary houses. In my constituency, for instance, the Minister has insisted that certain of those "prefabs," as they are generally known, shall be pulled down within a certain period, and he has authorised the retention of certain others for an additional five years. The "prefabs" were all intended to last ten years only, and then they were to come down, and the people in them were to be rehoused by the local authorities. I would ask the hon. Gentleman if he does not think it fair that subsidy should be maintained on rehousing people from those temporary "prefabs," in view of the fact that the Minister himself, by administrative action, 1215 is compelling local authorities to demolish those dwellings, and forcing the local authorities to rehouse those tenants by general housing schemes.
§ Mr. Deedes
To reply to the hon. Member for West Ham, North, I was anxious not to mislead the Committee as to what might or might not happen during the Committee stage as a result of the Money Resolution, and I therefore avoided making sweeping generalisations without being sure of the facts. I am rather anxious not to give the hon. Member a snap answer for that reason. The reply to the hon. Member for Acton is that it is a matter of policy as to what will happen in that case, and discussion of it at a later stage is, as I am advised, not excluded by the Money Resolution. That is the best opinion that I can give the hon. Member now.
§ Mr. B. T. Parkin (Paddington, North)
I am sorry to raise a question at this hour, but I should be grateful for the courtesy of a reply from the Minister. I hope that by giving it to a Committee of the whole House he might possibly shorten discussion at a later stage. I ask about the implication of the Money Resolution in connection with high building, a matter of intense importance to the Borough of Paddington and one which, if the Minister gives the right lead, may mean the beginning of a new chapter in the history of English architecture. The Minister knows that I have taken various opportunities to try to lobby him and ask questions on this subject.
If one did not know much about the Government policy and one saw only the Money Resolution, one might say, "Here is an opportunity for those who have been seeking the chance to experiment with high building in London and other great cities as the next chapter in the history of English dwelling houses and as an alternative to the policy of overspill into distant areas." If encouragement is to be given by special subsidies to overspill, it seems, from the terms of the Resolution, that the Minister offers the choice of overspill to distant territories or overspill upwards.
I would ask the Minister a question on behalf of those who read into the Money Resolution exciting possibilities of increased subsidies for blocks exceeding 1216 six storeys in height in the offer to continue special subsidies for expensive sites and in the reference in paragraph B of the Resolution to that kind of encouragement of higher building. The question is whether the Minister intends to match the Resolution with administrative vigour, and intends it to be a lead to local authorities to get moving at once on proposals for the kind of high building of which he has had examples in the plans for High Paddington, and for Perkins' Heights, which unfortunately he was obliged to turn down.
If the Minister will say tonight that he meant what he said on Thursday when he referred to local authorities and said they could build as high as they like. and if he will give his personal backing and drive to this new vision of architectural development, I am sure that that will be one thing in the Money Resolution from which the country can obtain some encouragement. It would be rather nice if the Minister could take the opportunity of giving this lead to the local authorities so that his own name may be associated with encouragement of this new development of the English dwelling-house in great cities—this alternative to overspill to new towns.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Marcus Lipton (Brixton)
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government dealt rather cursorily with the question of 3rd November as the limiting date. It was raised by several of my hon. Friends. The hon. Gentleman merely said in reply that the date on which the site was acquired could not be regarded as a satisfactory jumping off ground from the point of view of excluding subsidy, because it might well be that the site was first acquired some considerable time before actual building commenced. That is not the whole story.
I do not think that my hon. Friends were suggesting that the zero date, or the basis of calculation, ought necessarily to be the date on which the site was acquired, because it must be known that a local authority could be well advanced in the preparation of schemes on which it has embarked to meet declared commitments to those on its waiting list, in addition to having acquired a site. It would be hard that a local authority which had embarked on a number of schemes additional to the acquisition of a site, but had 1217 not yet received a tender, should be penalised by rigid adherence to the date of 3rd November. The Parliamentary Secretary dealt with this matter in one sentence. I do not think he did the arguments justice. He claimed that the Money Resolution is flexible. Here is one respect in which he can show himself to be a little more flexible than he has been so far.
§ Mr. Deedes
If I may be permitted to do so, I will reply briefly to the two points raised. I know that the hon. Member for Paddington, North (Mr. Parkin) feels strongly about high building. I hope that he has opportunities in Committee to make some of the exciting speeches which can be made on the exciting possibilities. I have to point out that in the Money Resolution, in paragraph A, are clearly specified the rates for the flats in respect of each storey. I do not want the hon. Member to be under misapprehension about what the Resolution says. Subject to that, I am sure that the Minister will be glad to hear from the hon. Member about high building. I hope that he will take part in our future discussions.
Regarding the point raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Brixton (Lieut.-Colonel Lipton), we do not think that this is an unreasonable definition. Any dateline must cut into someone's programme: it is bound to fall on either one side or the other. The best answer I can give is, as the Minister said earlier, that there are 1218 250,000 houses, that is a quarter of a million, in the pipeline which will receive the old rate of subsidy. I hope that that will acquit the Minister of having brought down the guillotine at an unreasonable point.
§ Resolution to be reported upon Monday next.