§ Order for Third Reading read.
§ 3.42 p.m.
§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government (Mr. J. Enoch Powell)
I beg to move, That the Bill be now read the Third time.
The large amount of time which the House has devoted to the consideration of this Bill has not been disproportionate to its importance, for it represents the opening of a new phase in post-war housing finance and policy. Hitherto, that finance and policy have been based in the main on the 1946 Act, which, introduced just after the end of the late war, provided for the payment of a subsidy on every house built by local housing authorities. It was implicit in the thinking both of the Coalition Government before the end of the war and of the Labour Government which succeeded it in 1945 that the circumstances of the building industry in the months and possibly years immediately following the end of hostilities would be entirely abnormal, and that to get the building of houses to let going again on a substantial scale, it would be necessary, at first at any rate, to subsidise generally the rents of those post-war houses.
Probably Members of all parties were influenced very much by their recollections of the course of events following the end of the First World War, when building costs rose to fantastic levels in the first year or two, with practically no building work being done, and then fell away again sharply towards levels which were not very far out of touch with the cost of building before the First World War broke out. There was never propounded, nor do I believe at that time entertained, the idea that the subsidising of all rents of all new houses would be a permanent feature of our economy or our social services.
This had not been the view of the Labour Party. The Greenwood Act of 1930 was accompanied by a circular which stated the opposite principle explicitly. That circular said of the subsidies which were introduced by the Act of 1930: 2370The clear intention of Parliament is that the new grant shall not enure to persons for whom it is not needed. The grant, together with the prescribed rate charge, should be regarded as a pool out of which such abatements or other special arrangements in regard to rent as the local authorities propose may be financed. … Rent relief should be given only to those who need it and only for so long as they need it.The 1946 Act itself provided for a reduction of the subsidies, and clearly anticipated that such a reduction would be made almost immediately, if possible.
Now, in 1956, at the distance of almost a decade, we can see more clearly. The relationship between building costs, on the one hand, and costs and wages generally, on the other, has proved, in fact, to be fairly stable, and if one may hope for, and indeed expect, a certain favourable modification of that relationship, it would be quite unrealistic to refuse to accept it, as more or less the post-war norm. Against that background, looking back over these ten years, we are able to see that the continued payment of large subsidies on every new house has ceased to be defensible, and indeed the public at large regard it as increasingly anomalous.
It was the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) who, at the 1950 conference of his party, observed:You must always remember, when you are talking about council rents, that the rate subsidies are being paid by the people that have worse houses to keep down the rents of people who have better houses.Those words might serve as an apt description of the growing public attitude towards the house-by-house subsidies in general as they are paid under the system established by the 1946 Act.
By now, the vast majority of local housing authorities command large amounts of subsidy payable upon their stock of pre-war and post-war houses. In the Government's view, this should be adequate to enable them to let, not only their existing houses, but all they are likely to wish to build, without either charging unreasonable rents to tenants or placing unreasonable burdens upon the ratepayers, by way of the rate contribution, which will henceforward be optional.
Exceptions from this general principle there undoubtedly will be. Some local authorities quite certainly will not have anything like the average proportion of existing subsidised houses, and it is the 2371 intention of Clauses 4 and 5 of the Bill to cater for these exceptions; the general proposition remains unchallenged and unchallengeable. Indeed, it was put very well by a recent editorial in the Municipal Review. This is the organ of the Association of Municipal Corporations, which recently issued a document referred to more than once in our debates on this Bill, in order to have-and I am quoting from the document—placed on record their serious concern at the possible adverse effect which the raising of the rates of interestand the withdrawal ofall housing subsidies for general housing may have upon the ability of housing authorities to carry out their statutory obligations to provide for the housing needs of the people.That is what the Association of Municipal Corporations said—it placed on record its serious concern at this possible adverse effect.
But the crux of the matter was very well put by the editorial of that journal —it was the issue for December, 1955— which read as follows:If it is felt that the discontinuance of the subsidy will make local authority housing rents unreasonable then the most effective answer to the Government is to publish figures showing the rents which would have to be charged assuming that all subsidies and local authority houses are pooled, and subsidies used only for tenants who need them, and only to the extent of their need.—an echo, conscious or unconscious, of the wording of the Greenwood circular a quarter of a century before.
Not only has that challenge not been taken up, but the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in a paper upon these matters which he presented to a discussion in his party a few weeks ago, himself agreed—I quote his words— thatnet rents of existing houses could be increased in many cases … without causing undue hardship.Nobody, in fact, believes that local housing authorities will find themselves unable except at the cost of high rents or high rates to go on building for general needs. This was really the conclusion to which the Leader of the Opposition came, and I should like to read his summing up to the House. He said: 2372This paper has been designed round the question: Should local authorities continue to build houses for normal needs, despite the fact that no subsidy will be received on them from the Exchequer in future?He continued:Any Labour Group, especially those in a majority, which answers 'no' to this question when they have persons living in overcrowded conditions in their area, is in effect saying to the families on their housing list, 'We are not even going to try to meet your needs.' We must surely do our best as a Party at all levels to help the homeless and overcrowded families in the country"——
§ Mr. Powell
Oh, yes—and the answer surely should be, 'yes, wherever there is need.'This is the conclusion to which the right hon. Gentleman came. He did not say anything about it being impracticable, or about this Bill bringing building for general needs to a stop. On the contrary, he said thatLabour groups should press for the continuation of ordinary house building for general needs wherever there is a demand for such houses, even if it does mean agreeing to increases of rents for existing council houses.which he had just conceded were, in many cases, possible without undue hardship.
The principle that local housing authorities in general—I have referred to the provisions contained in the Bill to meet the exceptional cases—can and will finance their future housing operations for general needs with the pool of subsidies already payable has an important corollary, namely, that where a local housing authority is expected to build upon a relatively large scale not to meet the general needs of its own inhabitants but in implementation of the policy of urban de-congestion—which I believe all hon. Members, whatever their personal reservations, regard as inevitable and, indeed, essential—that local authority must be provided with extra help. That is the reason for the overspill subsidies mentioned in paragraphs (c) to (f) of Clause 3 (3).
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves his quotations from the speech of the Leader of the Opposition, will he declare that it is also Conservative policy that local authorities should build houses wherever there is a need?
§ Mr. Powell
Yes. That has been repeatedly stated by my right hon. Friend. He has asserted time and again that the Bill will in no way disable local housing authorities from continuing to build for the general needs of their areas upon such scale as they may think appropriate.
§ Mr. Bevan
We are not talking about the influence of the Bill upon the policy or otherwise of local authorities to build; we are talking about what it is desirable to do. Does the hon. Member now state that in Conservative opinion it is desirable that where local authorities have Conservative majorities they should still go on building houses for general needs?
§ Mr. Powell
Yes. That is accepted. Time and again in these debates my right hon. Friend has emphasised the statutory obligation which rests upon local housing authorities to provide, where necessary, for the housing needs of their areas. There is nothing novel in that; it is embedded in a Statute which my right hon. Friend has quoted upon three or four occasions and which was passed by a Conservative Government with a large Conservative majority.
§ Mr. Powell
Then the right hon. Gentleman can quote the passage and draw the opposite deduction from it later on.
I come back to the question of local housing authorities building for overspill, and for which the provision in the Bill for additional assistance is a corollary of the general principle which underlies it. Housing authorities who build for overspill will not have to do so at the expense of their own domestic pool of subsidies, but will receive a higher Exchequer subsidy than at present and a contribution either from the exporting authority or the Exchequer, according to the circumstances of the scheme. So the overspill subsidies are in no way the exception to the general principle upon which the Bill is founded.
One real exception there is, and for that exception I make no apology. The Bill retains the existing rate of subsidy for all houses built to rehouse families displaced in the course of slum clearance operations. The result of this will be that authorities who clear slum houses will be assured that their pool of subsidies will expand pro rata with their building 2374 for slum clearance purposes. This provision is, and is intended to be, an inducement to local authorities to make slum clearance a first priority. The Bill will not mean that local housing authorities will cease to build for general needs. That has been dramatically confirmed by the ex cathedra statement of the Leader of the Opposition. The Bill should mean that a greater proportion of the building of local authority houses than in the past is devoted to slum clearance.
So far, this provision has been tiny; indeed, in the last year—which showed a better figure than any previous year since the war——
§ Mr. Powell
As indeed it should; that is in the nature of things—the proportion of local authority houses which went to rehousing the occupants of demolished houses was only about 10 per cent. Her Majesty's Government believe that this proportion ought now to be a really substantial one, and that public opinion is in favour of making the removal of unfit houses the nation's first objective in the field of housing policy.
It was as long ago as March, 1949, that the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale was saying, in introducing the Second Reading of the 1949 Housing Act:The next stage is to raise housing standards. That must be done first of all and most importantly by slum clearance. It is pleasing to be able to recall that slum clearance has already started in one or two parts of the country, where local authorities are in the happy position of having practically cleared their housing lists and can now consider rehousing. So the first main activity will be slum clearance."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 16th March, 1949; Vol. 462, c. 2129.]That was seven years ago. Since then, despite a 50 per cent. increase in the rate of building, with the construction of a further 1½ million houses since the right hon. Gentleman spoke, he might well use the same words today. The Government accept the challenge. They do not believe that 10 per cent. for slum clearance will do for 1956 and the following years. This Bill puts the emphasis, where, in our opinion, it ought to be—upon the earliest removal of unfit houses; and it gives the local housing authorities the incentive and the means to do the job.
When the Government went to the electorate nine months ago they promised— 2375 and I am now reading from the Conservative Election manifesto:Now that the construction of new homes is going ahead so well, we shall be able to devote a larger part of our resources to the elimination of slums and the modernisation of the older houses.There has been only one full-scale slum clearance drive in British history, and that was when Conservatives were in office in the late 'thirties. Now, under a Conservative Government, there is going to be another. We shall root out the slums at an increasing pace, and aim to rehouse at least 200,000 people a year from them.This Bill, Mr. Speaker, is the earnest of our determination to carry that promise into effect.
§ 4.2 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Lindgren (Wellingborough)
The only point of agreement there will be between the two sides during this debate is that we agree with the Parliamentary Secretary when he said that this Bill opened a new phase in housing finance and policy. That is true. Nevertheless, it is a very retrograde Measure, which hits at the living standards of the mass of the people. The hon. Gentleman's peroration consisted of reading with pride from the Tory manifesto issued at the last Election. He spoke of the manifesto's reference to the emphasis that a returned Tory Government would put on slum clearance, but nowhere in that document was there any indication whatever that the return of a Tory Government would mean the abolition of housing subsidies and the raising of the rents of the people.
Had the Tories gone to the electorate with a policy which included those two matters they would not have been returned. They were, therefore, returned on a deliberate fraud. So much is that fraud now known, or becoming known, that the results, announced today, of the by-elections in areas favourable to the Government, show that the Government are on the way out. I am certain that this Bill will help them a little further on that road.
What does this Measure set out to do? In spite of what the Parliamentary Secretary has said, it means—to put it into plain, ordinary language—and not to rely on quotations out of context from what other people have said—that the rate of local authority building for general housing need will diminish, and diminish very substantially. That is the 2376 intention of the Bill—that local authorities shall be discouraged from providing housing for local need. It places the cost of Tory economic and financial policy on the backs of the ordinary working people. The hon. Gentleman did not mention the increased cost of providing the normal type of house, nor the increased interest charges, both of which have taken place since the Tory Government came into power.
He did not mention that the best of local authorities will have to cut down their general housing programmes. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition acted in a responsible manner, and not in the irresponsible manner of the Tories whether in or out of Government. He said, "Here we are in a situation in which the Tory Government are attacking the living standards of the ordinary people. We can mitigate the worse effects of that attack by carrying on local authority building despite the fact that the Tories are doing their worst —or their best—to ensure that it shall be diminished."
In the best of local authorities, the Labour-controlled councils and those in which there is an effective Labour group, there will be pressure to continue to build houses, but in reply to an interjection by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) the Parliamentary Secretary said that the Tory Government's policy would be to encourage local authorities to build for general need. Had I known that the general trend of the debate would have gone this way today I could have brought with me scores of cuttings from local newspapers saying that, in the last few months, local authority after local authority has decided, in the light of the Government's views on housing, to discontinue building for general need.
The Minister's Department has a very effective and efficient Press service which can get the cuttings, but perhaps I may be permitted to read just one which I happened to see in the Evening Standard last Saturday evening. It reads:Council Stops Building Houses.Because of Government policy and the absence of any slums in its area, East Ashford (Kent) Council has decided not to build any houses this year. The council has a waiting list of 106 and, since 1945, has built 500 houses in 20 villages.2377 In view of the period of time given the vast majority of those houses must have been built under the Labour Government, and most of them during the time when my right hon. Friend was Minister of Health.
Is the Parliamentary Secretary, the Minister, the Government—are hon. Members opposite—proud that these Tory rural district councils have decided, because of Tory legislation now before the House, not to build houses? It is sheer hypocrisy for the Parliamentary Secretary to say that there will be no cessation of local authority building because of this Bill.
§ Mr. John Hay (Henley)
I do not think that my hon. Friend said that. He said that there was no reason why local authorities should not go on building if there was the need, but he did not say that there would be no cessation of building at all.
§ Mr. Lindgren
Then let us deal with this concrete case of the East Ashford Rural District Council. It has a housing waiting list of over 100 and has already built 500 houses in 20 villages in its area. That authority states that because of Tory policy, because of this Bill, it has decided to cease building. As I have said, there are hundreds of other authorities doing the same thing.
The greatest possibility of mitigating the worst effects of the Bill will be in the large cities and larger urban areas. The authorities which will be in the worst position to deal with the Bill will be the rural district councils, with their sparsely spread population, low rateable value and small pool of houses. It is to the credit of the Labour Governments between 1945 and 1951 that the first houses for the ordinary people in the countryside were built during the life-time of those Governments in hundreds of villages from Land's End to John o'Groats.
Hon. Members opposite are always talking about rural depopulation. They became very excited last night because we have a little overspill into the rural areas; they talked about the absorption of rural land and the disadvantage of putting industry into rural areas, attracting workers from the land. Nevertheless, under the Bill they are refusing to allow rural district councils to provide adequate housing for rural workers.
2378 Lack of adequate housing is the first cause of depopulation of the countryside. The agricultural worker's wife will no longer tolerate conditions which she tolerated in the inter-war years. She says to her husband, "In spite of the fact that you want to stop on the farm, I want a house with tap water—a decent house in which to bring up a family. If that means that you must go into the town and work in a factory, then into the town and into the factory you go." Most husbands submit to their wives, from time to time at any rate, and the rural worker is no exception. He therefore follows his wife's dictates in order to provide his family with a reasonable standard of life.
It is equally humbug for the Parliamentary Secretary and the Government to talk about this Bill providing an opportunity for the pooling of rents. That opportunity has existed ever since 1936 and the pooling of rents has been going on ever since then, even on houses built since 1936. If I may say so without undue pride on behalf of my hon. Friends, it was largely because of pressure from Labour groups and Labour authorities in the country that the provision enabling pooling was included in the 1936 Act. The Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister will remember that spate of housing legislation which followed the 1914–18 war, starting with the Addison Act of 1919, followed by the Chamberlain Acts of 1922 and 1923 and the Wheatley Act of 1924.
Houses under this legislation were built with varying standards of subsidy and varying rates of interest. Many who were associated with local government in those days had to pay 6 to 6½ per cent.—the rate of interest in 1922–23—to build houses under the Chamberlain Act. That is rather strange, because we now have a Tory Government and we are getting towards that stage again. Under the previous Housing Acts we had had to keep the housing revenue account of each Act separate and the result had been that we had houses of a similar type and with similar accommodation being let at varying rents because of the variation in rates of subsidy and interest rates.
Local authorities pressed the point on successive Tory Governments and finally persuaded them to include in the 1936 Act power to pool rents. Local authorities throughout the country have been 2379 doing this ever since 1946, when they again resumed housing functions under the Act of my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale and under the 1949 Act; they have been pooling rents so as to enable any variation in conditions during the building to be borne over the schemes generally.
This Bill does not provide for a pooling of rents, but for a withdrawal of the subsidy; and it places the cost of that withdrawal, plus the cost of the increased interest charges, on the rents of existing houses, even houses built as far back as 1922–23. There has not been much opportunity for hon. Members on the Government back benches to take part in our debates, but I have yet to hear from them a justification for placing the cost of the withdrawal of the subsidy, and the cost of the increased interest charges on schemes now proceeding, on the rents of a house built at 6½ per cent. in 1922–23; yet that is what this Bill does. It places on all those other schemes the cost of the withdrawal of the subsidy on future schemes.
The Tory Party plays politics even at the cost of endangering the well-being of the country. It is playing politics with this Bill at the expense of the health and well-being of the people. Let us look at what has happened. During the whole of the period of the Labour Governments, interest rates were from 2½ to 3 per cent. and never more than 3 per cent. During that period the rate of subsidy paid by the Treasury was £16 10s. Under normal conditions of payment of subsidy, as agreed with local authority associations, there was a local rate charge of £5 10s., making a total subsidy of £22.
The Tory Party came to power in 1951 and its first act was not to consider the welfare of the ordinary people of the country but to make a pay-off to its paymasters, the bankers. The interest rates rose overnight from 3 per cent. to 4 per cent. The Tory Party then had a majority in the House of only twenty, and because it knew that at some time in the very near future it would have to go to the country, it dare not go to the country on the basis of increased rents arising from increased interest charges. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer—and, my goodness, his sins are coming home to him now—who was then the Minister of 2380 Housing and Local Government, persuaded the Treasury to increase the subsidy rates from the modest rates, under a modest rate of interest prevailing during the Labour Government, to £26 14s., with £8 18s. from the local rates, making a total subsidy £35 12s.
When hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite talk about the increased cost of subsidies compared with that of 1951 they should bear this in mind. I will admit straight away that in the last year of the Labour Government those subsidies cost only £78 million whereas in the last year of the Tory Government for which figures are provided the subsidies had risen to £107 million. But that increase to £107 million was not because of additional houses, but because the rate of subsidy had increased from £22 to £35 12s. through the increase in interest rates. A major portion of the money which has been paid in extra subsidies has gone straight into the pockets of the financiers and has had no effect on the general housing provision for the ordinary people.
If it was ethical in 1951 for the Minister's predecessor to increase subsidy rates from the Treasury from £16 10s. to £26 14s. because of a 1 per cent. rise in the Bank Rate from 3 per cent. to 4 per cent., why is the Minister now reducing the subsidy from £26 14s. to £10 when there has been a further increase in the Bank Rate, this time of ¼ to ½ per cent.? Local authorities now have to borrow at the rate of 5¼ per cent. and some of them at the rate of 5½ per cent.
Let us see what the Minister is doing. He talks about an increase in rents of 7d. per week. If we take only two factors, and ignore the increased building costs, which are themselves a considerable factor, we get a much different figure. Let us take the two factors over which the Government have direct control—interest rates and subsidy rates. The increase in interest charges on a £1,500 house since the 4 per cent. rate in 1951 has increased the cost of the house over 1951, when the subsidy was agreed at £26 14s., by the equivalent of 7s. 6d. per week on the rent.
The subsidy has been reduced by £25 12s. which increased the rent of the house by 10s. a week. Ignoring increased building costs and increased land charges which by virtue of amendments made by 2381 the Government to the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, local authorities are having to pay—they pay enhanced values on land which the Tory Government have given back to the landlords—17s. 6d. more has to be paid on each house.
We are always very modest on this side of the House and never overstate the case. For every local authority house built in future, 17s. 6d. will have to be found. Whether or not the cost is spread over a number of houses, that 17s. 6d. extra has to be paid even compared with the conditions under which local authorities were building shortly after the Tory Party took office in 1951.
To us, of course, housing is a social service. The Government just do not accept that the housing of the people is a social service, but we do. We believe that is a fundamental of good health and good living. Pre-war, the inability of people to pay a decent rent because of low incomes meant that vast sections of our community in poverty had to double up and there were two or three families living in a house. By this Bill the Tory Government are pushing whole sections of workers back to conditions of the 1920s and 1930s. Once again, because of tenants' inability to pay higher rents which local authorities will have to charge, there will be that doubling up of two families in one house, which is a social evil and has a detrimental effect on health.
By this Bill we are going back to prewar housing policy. The Tory Party only accepts local authority housing on the basis of the authority providing a low standard of housing, and for the lowest income groups of the country. That is the only category in which the Tory Party sees any opportunity for local authority activity. That is shown again when we consider that the houses built under the Labour Government with subsidies were houses of a decent standard. They were houses of which the building trade worker, the tenant and the local authority could be proud.
Over and above the raising of rents and withdrawal of subsidies, the Government are lowering housing standards. Those which are to be built will be smaller houses, with lower ceilings and fewer amenities available and they will be more thickly grouped. There are to be higher rents for a lower standard of housing and, 2382 if the Government have their way, anyone in a local authority house who at present has an income above that of the lowest is to be encouraged to get out.
Not only are my right hon. and hon. Friends in this House opposed to the Bill. It has no friend anywhere among any group of people who have any knowledge of working-class housing, of local government, or local authority responsibility—no friend at all. Having had a long experience in local government and having been in this House for more than ten years, I have never known a Measure which has had such wholesale opposition for local authority associations.
My last experience of a Measure which met with some opposition was the 1929 Act, but on that occasion all the local authority associations were prepared to say—and said publicly—that, like the curate's egg, that Act was good in parts. Some parts of that Act were accepted wholeheartedly, but not a single Clause of this Measure is accepted by any local authority association.
I challenge the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary with that statement. The Parliamentary Secretary quoted, and glossed over, the opposition of the Association of Municipal Corporations. Will he say that that Association is a local authority association whose views can be taken lightly? The late Sir Miles Mitchell, who, until his death, was chairman of the A.M.C. and associated with Manchester City Council over many years, was not in any way politically associated with hon. Members on this side of the House. He did a remarkably fine job in attempts to improve housing standards. So did the A.M.C. The A.M.C. is a very responsible body, with great knowledge of housing conditions over the whole inter-war period. It is also one of the bodies which has some experience of conditions prior to the 1914–18 war.
This Government are flying in the face of a body such as the A.M.C. The A.M.C. has been a little more restrained in its language than has the Urban District Councils' Association. I have been associated with the Urban District Councils' Association for over thirty years, in local government service. Although it has had the power to do so, never in my experience before has that body called a special conference because of a spontaneous revolt of its membership throughout the country— 2383 urban districts—who signed a requisition for the calling of such a special conference on this Bill. I have not the exact figures, but I would emphasise that roughly three to one of the urban district councils are controlled by Tory majorities.
The Urban District Council's Association, the vast majority of whose members are Tory urban district councils, demanded the withdrawal of the Bill and asked the Minister to receive a deputation. So far as I know the Minister has not received that deputation, but I am sure that he has had the request. Now that the Bill is to be given its Third Reading, I suppose the right hon. Gentleman will invite the association to send a deputation to him and will then tell the members of that deputation that the Bill has had is Third Reading and has been sent to another place.
I have always understood that even with Tory Governments, national government and local government worked in partnership; Parliament made the possibilities and the local authorities took advantage of those possibilities. Local authorities, because of their experience in this field, advised the Government of the day of legislation which was desirable in order to improve local government services. That partnership has been broken by this Bill. All the local authority associations are against it and the Government are taking no notice whatever of the views of those people who have all the experience in this matter. They are familiar with the working of the housing Acts and the conditions under which people in their areas live. They know the effect which this Bill will have.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, South)
Would the hon. Gentleman be fair and acknowledge that any organisation or body, public or private, which has been a recipient of Government money and is no longer the recipient of so much is bound to make formal objection, and that part of its opposition is formulating a formal objection?
§ Mr. Lindgren
I agree with the noble Lord, and I shall agree with him a little more before I have finished.
I agree with him that anyone who is having anything withdrawn from him which he previously had makes formal 2384 objection. But this is not formal objection. It is an unusual condition of affairs when a body, such as a local authority association, during the course of a Bill going through this House, asks for its withdrawal, asks the Minister to receive a deputation for its withdrawal and is continually informing the Minister that the effect of the Bill will be detrimental to the responsibilities of its members for housing.
Let us look at the field in which the Parliamentary Secretary suggests that this Bill will be really effective. Here again, it is just sheer humbug. The Parliamentary Secretary says that the purpose of the Bill is to place emphasis on slums and on overspill. In both these fields of activity it is exactly the same as building for general needs—activity will decrease and not increase.
§ Mr. Powell
Is the hon. Gentleman prophesying that this year, next year and in the following years fewer slum houses will be cleared than in 1955?
§ Mr. Lindgren
The Parliamentary Secretary takes the view that so far as actual slum clearance is concerned—that is actual demolition of housing—it has only been 10 per cent. of the actual provision in the past year. That is the trouble with the Minister and with the Parliamentary Secretary. They are very able at playing about with percentages and figures.
What has been happening since 1945 is that slum clearance has been going on all the time. A very high proportion of the people who have been rehoused since 1945 were those who were overcrowded in the slums. What has happened is that where these persons were lodgers, so to speak, in the slums in those areas, the local authorities, because these people were the lodgers in the houses and not the actual tenants, have cleared the tenants and housed them elsewhere; but because the local authorities still have housing difficulties they have left the sitting tenant in the house under better conditions and less overcrowding, and so there has been slum clearance from that point of view.
§ Mr. Powell
May I get the hon. Gentleman's prophecy absolutely clear? Is he saying that fewer slum houses will be cleared this year and next year than in 1954 and 1955, or that the proportion of rehousing from slum houses will be lower in those years than in the last two years?
§ Mr. Lindgren
No I would not say that. The proportion of houses built for general need is going down very considerably, but because the local authorities want to do some building they will still clear some of the bad slums.
§ Mr. Lindgren
They will do more, but it will be proportionately less if one takes into account what would have happened if it had not been for the Bill. [Laughter.]Hon. Members opposite may laugh, but they do so because they do not know how the ordinary people live and the conditions under which they are housed.
Why is it that people are living in slums? In the great majority of cases they are not living in them because they want to do so. I know that there is the odd case, which a Tory newspaper or a Tory candidate picks up, of someone who would not move from a slum if he had the opportunity. The vast majority of people are in slum properties, first, because of the lower rent and their inability to pay a higher rent, and, secondly, because of close proximity to their work. A shift worker perhaps might not mind living five or six miles away from his work if he has to clock in at nine in the morning, but the man who works in a market or at a railway station at five or six in the morning wants to be as near his job as possible.
§ Mr. Powell
I gather that the hon. Gentleman has agreed that more slum houses will be cleared in the future than hitherto. Is he now asserting that the number of replacements for slum houses demolished will be a smaller proportion in the future than hitherto, or a higher proportion?
§ Mr. Lindgren
I will put it this way. The number of slum dwellers who will be rehoused next year and under this Bill will be far fewer than the number rehoused under the Acts each year since 2386 1945–46. The Government are not concerned with human beings; we on this side are concerned with human beings. The people who are being rehoused are human beings. They often come from large, overcrowded slums, and there are still those who have to be dealt with in the actual slum areas.
As the Minister knows, week after week and month after month prior to the announcement of this Bill, local authorities had been sending to him requests for clearance orders to deal with certain areas which they wanted to clear. Those will be going on, but the actual number of people rehoused and the actual number of houses built will be much fewer.
I will explain how local authorities will again slow down on their previous intentions for slum clearance. They will do it in this way. This Bill is not giving them any encouragement for slum clearance at all. It is maintaining a subsidy at £22 1s. instead of £26 14s. which it was last year. There is a reduction of subsidy, and an increased interest charge of l¼ per cent. If the indications of the Press are correct—and I am not saying whether the financial editors or correspondents of newspapers are accurate or not—they are expecting the Chancellor of the Exchequer to announce a further increase in interest charges.
Those people who have to deal with slums have to do so on the basis of reduced subsidies and greatly increased interest charges for the people who are already in the lower rented properties because they cannot pay any more. How can they provide houses when, under the Bill, all that they can do is to take into account a subsidy of £22 1s. on a house which is to be built at an economic rent of about £3 5s. a week? On the basis of slum clearance it is, of course, impossible; it is even worse. It is less difficult if the local authority is in the position of being able to rehouse people more or less on the site.
But most local authorities, in the initial stages of slum clearance, at least, will not be able to rehouse them on those sites. They will have to rehouse them some distance away. If they rehouse them some distance from the site those people will have to pay, in addition to the increased rent, increased transport charges, which, again, are a direct result of the financial policy of the Government. 2387 The person who is affected by slum clearance, who has a lower rent and lower income, will have to pay the higher rent and increased transport charges. The knowledge of that will deter even the most enthusiastic of local authorities from going ahead with a slum clearance programme.
The Parliamentary Secretary talked about overspill. In exactly the same way as local authorities have been dealing with slum clearance, and dealing with it effectively up to now, they have been dealing with overspill. Authorities like the L.C.C., with their out-county estates, from 1945,onwards have done a magnificent job of work not only in the scope and conception of their schemes but in the architectural standards and layout which they have adopted in those schemes. They are a credit to the London County Council and a credit to local government activity. Hundreds of thousands of people have been rehoused outside the area of the London County Council, and this has been going on all over the country too.
As a Londoner, I am, naturally, very proud of the L.C.C., although even I had to go out into Hertfordshire at the end of the war before I could get housed; but the same thing has been going on in other areas, for example, in Lancashire and Staffordshire, where there has been magnificent co-operation between, If I might so term them, the minor authorities —the rural, urban and borough councils —and the county council itself. In these cases the county council, because of the lack of enthusiasm by the Tory Government, has taken on responsibilities which are not normally accepted by county councils. I hope that many other county councils will adopt a similar course.
I am sorry that the noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) is not in his place, because I am paying him a compliment. He is at least open and honest I would far rather have a man who says what he thinks, so that we know where he stands, than somebody who is sanctimoniously hypocritical, such as the Minister and the Government on this matter.
§ Mr. Lindgren
If that is unparliamentary, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, I withdraw it. May I say that I much prefer the attitude of the noble Lord to that of the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary? I say that because the noble Lord says what he means, whereas the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary say one thing, but mean another.
During the Committee stage, the noble Lord said that the Bill which became the Town Development Act, 1952, was found on the desk of the Minister of Housing and Local Government when the Minister took office in 1951, and that it was a Bill which was intended to be introduced by the Labour Government had it remained in office. That is perfectly true. The noble Lord said that the Government never had any enthusiasm for the Town Development Bill. I can confirm that, for it was my privilege to have a considerable amount to do with its Committee stage. It was obvious, at least to those of us with local government experience, that the Government introduced it only as a piece of window dressing, even in 1952; and that kind of thing has happened since.
There has been large-scale argument between the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and various local authorities. Certain authorities, such as the London County Council, who have done good work in normal out-county schemes, and others who have done good work in out-borough schemes, who have been anxious to use schemes, have been trying to negotiate with the Ministry of Housing and Local Government reasonable terms on which to undertake the work, but it was only a comparatively short time ago that they got even the concession of the 50 per cent. towards water and sewerage.
I can quote the instance of the borough with which my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) is concerned. I have a cutting from the Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph of 10th February—again, I am certain it will be in the files of the Ministry—in which some remarks by the Chairman of the Kettering Borough Council are reported—not that I believe that everything reported in the Press is correct, but for the purposes of this debate we will assume that this is correct; certainly, as it suits me to do so. The Chairman of 2389 the Kettering Borough Council is reported as saying that the overspill plans are now "frozen."
I say quite frankly to the Minister—I hope he will deal with this when he replies —that the London County Council in particular has been negotiating with more than a score of authorities and has reached the point of agreement, but that only one of those authorities is now still biting. That is Swindon, because it has the great resources of the borough that it is. It is not that the smaller rural and urban districts have any antagonism towards the L.C.C., for there has been very happy co-operation between the L.C.C. and the receiving authorities; they have been anxious to take the people and the L.C.C. has been most generous in its terms to them. What worries these local authorities is the increased interest charges going up to 5¼ and 5½ per cent.
It is true that in the Bill the subsidy of £22 1s. or the £24 is being maintained, but it must be remembered that this is a reduction on what was previously available. Over and above this, however, there are all the other developments such as water, sewerage, roads, lighting, expansion of services, refuse collection and the rest, on which there is considerable expenditure by local authorities and on which they must pay the higher interest charge of 5¼ and 5½ per cent. These smaller authorities simply cannot afford to risk taking the overspill and bearing the rate burden that is likely to arise in the first ten or fifteen years at these higher interest rates. So we find that the overspill scheme is already dead, except in the case of an odd scheme such as that I have mentioned between the L.C.C. and Swindon.
Borough councils like the Kettering Borough Council, whose Chairman admits his concern that the scheme is "frozen," are anxious that schemes should go on. Their failure to continue with them is not due to any lack of desire or unwillingness on the part of the London County Council or the Kettering Borough Council to participate but is because of the lack of enthusiasm and help given by Government Departments. To be fair to the Chairman of the Kettering Borough Council, he does not single out the Minister and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government alone for his criticism. His criticism is equally 2390 against the Board of Trade, which shows no enthusiasm for giving assistance in regard to housing.
To sum up, this is a shocking Bill. It is an attack on the living standards of the working people. It means higher rents for existing houses. It means an even further attack, I am certain, on the standards of housing construction. It puts a penalty on the provision of housing for general need by the most wealthy of authorities and makes rural house building almost prohibitive for those authorities who already have the greatest number of houses.
Equally, the Bill means that there will not be the emphasis on slum clearance that the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary have asserted and it will mean an increased expenditure in dealing with overspill. It will mean that overspill will be almost at a standstill and we shall go back to the old conception, which those of us associated with local government do not like, of out-county and out-borough building.
I close as I began. The Government have no authority for this Bill. It is not acceptable to those—the local authorities —who have to operate it. It is not acceptable to the people of the country, and in the by-elections whose results have been announced today we see that the Government are losing face even in the areas which have been most favourable to them. I suggest that the Government should resign so that we can put in their place a Government who have the welfare of the country and of the people at heart.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. John Hay (Henley)
In a rather lengthy but, as we expect from him, vigorous speech the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) has manifested the fact that the Opposition have still not learned during all the proceedings on the Bill any of the compelling reasons for the appearance of the Bill in the first place.
The hon. Gentleman concluded his remarks by saying that we had no authority to bring the Bill forward, but, of course, we had. We had the compelling authority of the economic situation which, unless it is dealt with, will mean the continuance of inflation further, a deterioration in the standard of living of our people, and an open-ended commitment for the Treasury, 2391 which must be met by the taxpayers, and which we can, none of us, look on with equanimity. That, I suggest, is the real reason not only for the Bill, but also for the other economic measures affecting local authority expenditure, and particularly expenditure on housing.
I want to answer some of the criticisms which the hon. Member has put forward today. The first I take is one which was prevalent in the speeches made by Members of the Opposition on Second Reading, during the Committee on the Bill and upon Report of the Bill. It is the argument that the Bill means the end of building by local authorities for general need. I thought it was rather interesting to notice that the hon. Member for Wellingborough, who was so vigorous and so dogmatic about this on Second Reading, had changed the tune somewhat. On Second Reading he was most categorical that the Bill would mean "the complete end" of general need building. Today, he told us that it would mean that general need building would only "diminish."
I think that the hon. Member has realised during the weeks that have passed since Second Reading, and, no doubt, as a result of a perusal of the paper by the Leader of the Opposition to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred, that the Bill certainly does not mean the end of general need building but means a reasonable check upon building for general need in accordance with what any local authority thinks is necessary in its own area. The hon. Member quoted the case of a local authority—in Kent, I think it was.
§ Mr. Hay
He pointed out that there was a waiting list of more than a hundred people and that the local authority intended to stop general need building altogether. I hope that that council has second thoughts about it, but even if it does not, it would be interesting to know how many of the hundred people on the waiting list are waiting in what are called, for the purposes of this argument, slums —slums and other unfit houses.
§ Mr. Lindgren
So that there may be no misunderstanding, let me explain that it was indicated in the Press report, in the Evening Standard, that it was because of the Government's present housing 2392 policy, not because there are any slums in that area.
§ Mr. Hay
My point is that there are a great many local authorities which have what appear to be long waiting lists, but that many of the people whose names are on the waiting lists are people housed in unsatisfactory conditions. That may well be so in the case of East Ashford. 'Whether that argument is right or wrong, L think the point to be made is that it is for the local council itself to decide whether it should continue with general need building or not.
We heard a fine capitalistic argument from the hon. Member just now, when he was talking about the local authorities, saying that the amount of the subsidy is to be so much reduced, and that the interest charges they would have to pay would be so heavy, which would make it more or less compulsive on them to stop building for slum clearance. I have always understood—I think it is perfectly true—that most local authorities do not act in these matters on financial grounds alone. If a local authority—say, a large town—has an acute slum clearance problem, then, if the local councillors are worth anything at all, they will put their full weight behind a slum clearance drive because they know there is an urgent social need to be met, and they will not add up with such nicety all these figures the hon. Member has mentioned, to make quite certain that they are going to break even without putting a penny on the rates.
I think there is another argument we can use in support of the claim that general needs building can continue, namely, that it is perfectly open to any local authority which wishes to go on building for general need to make up either the whole or some part of what it loses in the Exchequer subsidy out of the rate fund. The other part, I suggest, it can make up by pooling rents, by spreading rents, and by introducing a differential rent relief scheme. As my right hon. Friend made perfectly clear on Second Reading, this Measure does intend that the local authorities should pool subsidies where they can and should introduce such rent relief schemes.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The hon. Member keeps talking about pooling subsidies, but they are not pooling subsidies. Subsidy is already pooled. What they are doing 2393 is to spread the consequence of lack of subsidy and the increased interest charges over the houses which already exist.
§ Mr. Hay
That is the same point as I was making. Perhaps I put it badly, but that was What I had in mind. I do not think, therefore, for these reasons and for a number of others, that the Bill will mean the end of building for general need.
I turn now to another argument that was put by the hon. Member for Wellingborough, one of which we have heard much during these debates. It is that the Bill and the increase in interest charges, and so on, is some sort of "bankers' ramp."[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Apparently, that remark meets with the approval of hon. Members opposite. It is a contemptible charge, and when the hon. Member for Wellingborough thinks about these things a little more carefully he will realise, I am sure, that the Government have not introduced increased interest charges to put money into the pockets of their friends but because the credit of this country has been getting out of hand, too much public money has been spent and is continuing to be spent on investment, and that some halt must be called wherever possible.
§ Mr. Lindgren
Will not the hon. Member agree that the Labour Government recognised the need for some measure of control, and that they did control the resources of the country and directed them to the best means, and yet were able equally to maintain the interest charges at reasonable rates for the sake of the service which money provides for housing, and so on? The Tory Party had a policy of, "Set the people free," and in so far as that policy has set free the bankers it has meant increased charges. Is it accidental that in the time of the Labour Government interest rates were from 2½ per cent. to 3 per cent. and that under a Tory Government they are now 5½ per cent. and look like being 6 per cent.?
§ Mr. Hay
That intervention serves only to underline the fundamental fact that the approach of the party opposite to these questions is so different from that which we on this side of the House take. The hon. Member and his hon. Friends would try to control an inflationary situation, such as that in which we are living today by all manner——
§ Mr. Arthur Lewis (West Ham, North)rose ——
§ Mr. Lewisrose——
§ Mr. Hay
The hon. Member knows perfectly well that it is not necessary for every hon. Member of the House to be in the Chamber all the time.
Let me get back to the hon. Member for Wellingborough. He underlined the difference of approach which divides the two sides of the House. The party opposite would try to control an inflationary situation by physical controls, as it did with inconspicuous success when in office, whereas we on this side of the House prefer the more successful method of monetary and fiscal control.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
On a point of order. Is it in order, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, to discuss inflation on Third Reading?
§ Mr. Hay
I am much obliged, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) seldom gets to his feet without being inaccurate.
This is no "bankers' ramp" which has increased interest charges. The Bill is intended to provide a piece which will fit into the general structure of control of inflation and reduction of taxation. I am certain that the ordinary man in the street, when faced with this whole question of housing subsidies, will have considered a figure of £107 million a year to be rather in excess of what we 2395 ought to pay. The Government are at present under pressure from a number of quarters to reduce Government expenditure. The Bill limits an increase in subsidies. We are not making substantial reductions. [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] No. Hon. Members should remember the facts. We are imposing a limit on further increases of subsidies which would have taken place had the Bill never seen the light of day. That is worth remembering.
A point of which we have not today heard very much from the hon. Member for Wellingborough, though his hon. Friends have made it frequently, is that the net result of the Bill will be enormously increased rents which the people cannot afford to pay. I had the opportunity the other day of getting hold of a copy of the National Income and Expenditure Accounts for 1954. The figures for 1955 are not yet fully available. I found that in 1954 the nation spent £842 million on alcoholic drink, £855 million on tobacco, and £297 million on recreational goods, that is, books, newspapers, magazines, and other things. It spent £187 million on entertainments. The total that it spent on rent, rates, and water charges together was only £811 million. I say that those figures should make anyone think when it is said that people cannot afford to pay a little more for their rent.
§ Mr. Lindgren
The hon. Member is including in his figures the whole expenditure and forgetting that that represents expenditure not only by persons occupying rented properties but by those in higher income groups, who are generally owner-occupiers. Those with higher incomes tend to spend more on these things than do the workers. The council house tenant has a pint of beer when frequently the owner-occupier has a double whisky, and that makes a difference to the cost.
§ Mr. Hay
It takes many double whiskies to reach a total of £842 million. There is no evidence that the people have not the money or that they will be hard put to it to pay more rent, while they are spending money on that scale on nonessentials.
We need to get back to some order of priorities. The three important priorities in an ordinary family should 2396 be, first, enough money for food, then enough money for shelter, and, finally, enough money for clothing. These are the ordinary priorities which we all observe in our daily lives, but we are getting into a situation in which people are looking not to those priorities but to whether they have something left over for their shelter after they have paid for everything else. This may sound hard doctrine, even Elizabethan, as was said on the benches opposite last night of the words of my noble Friend the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinching-brooke). But we must get back to it before we can reach a stage at which our prosperity and national standard of living are soundly based.
I do not believe, therefore, that the hon. Member for Wellingborough is right when he says that the tenants of council houses will not be able to pay increased rents which may result from the Bill. The capacity to pay is there, and it can be done. I also believe that the fact that the Bill enables the differential rents schemes, to which the Minister has frequently referred, to be brought into effect rapidly will help to mitigate the worst burden on those least able to bear it.
The Bill has four major objectives which should commend it to the House. First, it is designed as a useful Measure to check the rising level of subsidies and bring something towards the relief of taxation. Secondly, it is designed to concentrate the subsidy on the real objectives. We have been in danger in our debates of forgetting that the purpose of subsidies is to help those who cannot afford to pay an economic rent. Therefore, if the Bill does something to bring reality closer, it is a Measure which the House ought to pass.
So, thirdly, the Bill relates the subsidy to the ability of the person to pay, because it enables subsidies to be spread. Although there is a reduction, that reduction is graduated in such a way that the general effect is not one of hardship. There are powers in the Bill to enable the Minister to make special grants in special cases. Further, it should be remembered that the Bill will help to contribute to a fall in building costs.
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary said something about this on 2397 Second Reading. It will be found that when one reduces the level of subsidies, efficiency is created and building costs fall. The hon. Member for Wellingborough complained that building costs were going up. He gave that as a reason why local authorities would find it more difficult to carry on with their general building. He will, I believe, find that the converse will be the case. In 1920, 1927 and 1933, when subsidies were decreased, building costs fell. I think that we can repeat that process now.
All in all, I regard this as a Bill to inject some measure of realism and health into our housing finance and for that reason I support it. I hope that it will have a speedy passage through another place and reach the Statute Book quickly.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Blenkinsop (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East)
The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay), that "overcrowded" constituency, has made a much more realistic speech than the Parliamentary Secretary did in moving the Third Reading of the Bill. I apologise for not having been able to take as much part in the earlier stages of the Bill as I should have liked, owing to family illness, but I find the Bill on Third Reading just as objectionable as I found it on Second Reading. Very little change in it has been made. The hon. Member for Henley has very rightly pointed out the major purpose of the Bill. I regard it as having being sired by a Chancellor of the Exchequer of the present Government, whether the past or the present Chancellor I could not care.
The Bill is intended, above all, to reduce public expenditure and to attack inflation by means of an attack on public capital building, namely, housing. What nauseates me is the Minister and the Parliamentary Secretary attempting to make out a case for this wretched Bill on the ground that it heralds a great new campaign for general house building which really aspires to all the decrees of famous propagandists of the past, and not very long past either.
It is undoubtedly true that this is part of traditional Tory policy of dealing with the inflationary danger by attempting by direct financial measures—and by physical measures as well if the former do not suffice—to cut down the public element of expenditure wherever possible. It is 2398 as part of that policy that I regard this Bill as so thoroughly objectionable. The hon. Member for Henley rightly dispelled much of the cloud of fairy talk that we have heard from the Front Bench opposite when he made clear what were the financial intentions of this Bill. After all, the Bill was announced as being part of a series of financial measures, and, therefore, it is not surprising that it should fit in so tightly and closely with the pattern of Government policy in relation to restraint on public development.
Of all the nauseating things we have heard from the Government Front Bench nothing has been more nauseating than the reiteration in almost every other sentence by the Minister of his claim that he is providing a new incentive for slum clearance. As my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) said, this is an utter misuse of terms. One has to go back to "Alice in Wonderland" to get any comparison for the misuse and new definition of words as used by the Minister in this connection.
Humpty Dumpty used words for his own purposes and so does the Minister. What he means when he talks about incentive is that he is not reducing one subsidy in the same respect as in others. That is the positive incentive. I think there is a danger if in this House we fall into the habit of misusing well-known expressions in our language and such defamation of it ought not to be tolerated. Yet the Minister simulated indignation whenever he was interrupted with suggestions that the use of the word "incentive" was wholly misleading in these circumstances.
The Minister is certainly a born actor, whatever else he is, and no doubt a great advantage to the Government Front Bench in that respect. The fact remains that to carry out the major purpose of the Government this Bill is designed to cut down as severely as possible general house building for general housing needs.
I was interested in the interchange between the Parliamentary Secretary and my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) when the hon. Gentleman was challenged as to whether the Conservative Party still believed in the necessity for building for general need. The Parliamentary Secretary said 2399 that he still so believed. But I think the Government benches interpret that word very differently from the way in which we interpret it on this side of the House. We have always taken the view that it is the responsibility of the local authorities not merely to concern themselves with the needs of a certain narrow section of the community, but with the housing needs of the community as a whole. We believe that local authorities should not be concerned purely with those who are in the direst financial straits, but with the broader housing needs of the community which they are there to serve.
That was fundamental and was emphasised when my right hon. Friend introduced the 1949 Housing Bill, by withdrawing the words "working classes" from previous legislation. No one could easily define the term "working classes" except to say, perhaps, that it does not apply to certain hon. Gentlemen opposite, but that would be rather too offensive to say.
It is clear that this Bill attempts to narrow the scope of local government housing work. In effect, it attempts to tell the local authorities that they should concern themselves only with a limited sphere of housing work, the kind within which private enterprise housing cannot hope to make any individual profits, the kind which is bound to be a dead loss to the local authorities. That kind, together with the drains, the local authorities can cheerfully continue to carry out according to the Bill. But the broader scope of housing responsibiltiy, that of tackling the housing needs of those in different spheres and occupations, is not regarded by hon. Gentlemen opposite as being the proper function, duty and responsibility of local authorities.
It is clear that the Bill attempts so to narrow the functions and responsibilities of local authorities in housing as to make them little more than the providers of localised slum clearance estates. That is the danger of withdrawing subsidies, either in whole or in part; and I would regard the present slum clearance subsidy as being in part a withdrawal because it is to be at a reduced level at a time when charges and costs are going up at the instance of the Government.
If local authorities are to be limited narrowly, is it not obvious that they will 2400 also be under strong pressure steadily to reduce standards of accommodation? If the available subsidy is reduced, if they are not able to undertake the wider scope of housing provision which they were able to undertake before, is it not inevitable that they will be faced either with stopping house building altogether or if they are anxious to continue it, as in most cases we hope they will, they may be-more and more under pressure to reduce standards?
Already there are plenty of complaints about the reduced standards from which we are suffering as a result of Tory party policy, so that in addition to a limitation of the proper scope of local government activity there is also continuous driving pressure upon local authorities to reduce standards.
The most tragic thing of all is the obvious lack of concern by Her Majesty's Government for any wide social approach to the problem of housing and housing need. All the time an effort is made to look at certain elements of housing policy in isolation, whether slum clearance or other features. One cannot isolate slum clearance problems from related housing problems such as overcrowding, repair and improvement, and redevelopment. They are all part of one problem. A local authority which attempts to deal with one in isolation from the others is not giving its community proper service.
In fact, a local authority has a wider issue than that before it. It ought not to be looking at its housing problem in isolation from the general welfare, health and other services which it has to provide. Time after time in our debates we have been given instances to show how the Government's attitude towards housing is unrelated to any appreciation at all of the health needs of the community. For example, reference has been made in Committee to the problems of old people and our great fear that one of the results of the Bill will be a limitation of the activities of local authorities with regard to housing for old people, not merely the building of bungalows for them but the provision of housing together with other necessary services for old people.
That might well constitute a vital contribution to the solution of the problem of some old people who are at present, unhappily, in hospitals, overcrowded as they are, when they might be better cared 2401 for without hospital attention at all. The Bill does not recognise the existence of such problems. The fact that there is in our hospitals such a very high proportion of single people compared with the number of married people who are in hospital shows the value and importance of providing family or community services to meet the needs of people whom might otherwise be stranded on their own and forced to make a call upon hospital accommodation, which may be the last thing that they ought to have.
Those are part of what I regard as the social needs of housing policy, which the Bill simply tears to bits. I am grateful to the hon. Member for Henley for stripping the Bill of a lot of the unnecessary wrappings and reminding us that it is a Measure designed to reduce Government expenditure and make an attack upon public capital expenditure. That is the object of the Bill, and that is why I hope that hon. Members on this side of the House will vote unanimously against it and why I dare to hope that one or two hon. Gentlemen opposite who have some social conscience will join us in the Division Lobby.
§ 5.25 p.m.
§ Mr. Graham Page (Crosby)
The hon. Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne, East (Mr. Blenkinsop) simulated surprise and gratitude at both the commencement and end of his speech at discovering that the Bill is a financial Measure. Of course it is a financial Measure, and, as such, it will bring considerable advantage in the present economic situation. The point is whether, in bringing about economic advantages, it will cause any hardship to the people particularly concerned, those in overcrowded housing conditions, those living in slum conditions, and those on long housing waiting lists.
Reading the arguments put forward during Committee by hon. Gentlemen opposite on the score that the Bill will create great hardship, I feel that a lot has been made of very little. If one examines the figures, the Bill will not have such a tremendous effect on actual house building or on rents as many hon. Members opposite have suggested. It is estimated that more than 300,000 houses will be built in Great Britain this year.
§ Mr. Page
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to go steadily through my figures. I said "houses" and "Great Britain." I appreciate the desire of the hon. Member to interrupt me when I mention the figure 300,000, of which my hon. Friends and I are rather proud.
It is estimated that 300,000 houses or more will be built in Great Britain this year. Of that number, about 260,000 will be in England and Wales, and it is those with which we are dealing in the Bill. Of the 260,000, some 150,000–160,000 will be local authority built, with about 100,000 being built by private enterprise. The Government have expressed their determination that 60,000–70,000 of the 160,000 shall be replacement of slum houses; that is to say, they will have the full subsidy.
I obtained the figure of 60,000–70,000 houses a year to replace slum houses as a result of the promise read out by the Parliamentary Secretary in his peroration to the effect that the Government are determined to rehouse 200,000 slum dwellers a year. On the basis of an average of three persons per family, one obtains a figure of 60,000–70,000 houses a year in England and Wales qualifying for the full subsidy.
The response of the local authorities to the Government's expression of determination was to produce their own figures to show that they would demolish 375,000 houses over the next five years. Hon. Members will recollect the document entitled "Slum Clearance," in which the figures for each local authority are set out, and which shows a possible total slum clearance over the next five years amounting to 375,000 houses. That is a little better than the Government promise. It works out at some 75,000 houses a year to replace demolished slum houses and to qualify for full subsidy.
If the local authorities continue at their present building rate of 160,000 houses per year, 75,000 of which will be subsidised at the full rate, we are left with 85,000 houses on reduced subsidy. Of course, many of the 75,000 will receive an enhanced subsidy under the special provisions of the Act. It should be borne in mind that the subsidy is not payable only for the replacement of slum houses but is also payable under the special provisions relating to flats and expensive sites.
2403 To return to my figures, if we deduct 75,000 from 160,000, we are left with 85,000. In addition to the 75,000 houses a year which will attract the full subsidy, we can estimate that the new towns will continue to expand at approximately the present rate, which is about 20,000 houses a year; and these houses, too, will receive the full subsidy under the Bill. If the hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) is still following my figures, he will see that we shall have 95,000 houses a year on the full subsidy.
§ Mr. Page
That is the position under the Bill as it stands. The hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) may be prophesying some future change in the subsidy, but let us deal with the figures for this year.
We have, therefore, 95,000 houses a year on the full subsidy, plus a few more under Clause 3 (3, c) which the House discussed on Report yesterday. This leaves us with 65,000 houses a year on a reduced subsidy, if local authorities continue to build at their present rate of 160,000 houses a year.
That figure may not be correct. It may need to be very much less, because, first, there has been a rapidly increasing rate of private enterprise building. Since 1952 the average increase in private enterprise building in England and Wales has been about 25,000 houses a year and there is no reason why that should not continue.
§ Mr. Lindgren
Has the hon. Gentleman seen the statement made by the building societies yesterday that private enterprise building of new houses is decreasing and that the price of existing houses is increasing because of the increased cost of new houses and the diminishing number of new houses?
§ Mr. Page
The hon. Member for Wellingborough will recollect that the figures on which the building societies base their statement were greatly reduced last year by reason of the fact that the building societies held up advances for two months. It is also common knowledge that building prices rose last year. The hon. Member may not have noticed, however, that an announcement was made 2404 by a very large building firm of a reduction of £300 in the price of the £2,500 class of house.
§ Mr. Page
I do not recollect the name off-hand, but I am told that it is the Co-operative Building Society. It is an example of what my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) said a few moments ago—that if we take off subsidies there will be a decrease in the cost of house building. That has been shown to be the case on previous occasions and it will be the case on this occasion.
§ Mr. Sparks
I do not think the hon. Gentleman is correct in that statement, because he is leaving out of consideration one of the most important factors in the capital cost of house building—the rate of interest. The increase in the rate of interest in the last year has led to a rise equivalent to an increase in rents in my constituency of 8s. a week. These are still rising. Even private enterprise housing schemes which have to borrow capital for this purpose are paying much more in interest than they paid in the past, and that is bound to be reflected in the cost of new houses and in rents.
§ Mr. Page
The hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Sparks) can express his opinion. He is prophesying about the future. I express my opinion that there will be a reduction in the cost of private enterprise house building and that this will be reflected in the cost of local authority building so that local authorities will be able to build at lower rates.
May I return to the argument which I was endeavouring to follow out? I said that private enterprise building had increased at a rate of 25,000 houses a year, that there seemed to be no reason that it should not continue to increase at that rate, and that in a short while it will take over a great part of the 65,000 houses a year which local authorities need to build for general needs.
This Bill does not prevent local authorities from building for general needs. The intention of the Bill is to persuade local authorities to concentrate on building for those who are now living in slum conditions. Perhaps it is simplifying the matter a little too much to say that private enterprise will take over the greater 2405 part of housing for general needs. It may be said that private enterprise does not erect the small house which is so necessary for those on the waiting lists, but the record of private enterprise in that respect has not been too bad in the last few years.
§ Mr. Simon Mahon (Bootle)
The hon. Member represents a neighbouring constituency; Bootle adjoins Crosby. I followed his figures with interest. Would he tell the House what percentage of the 100,000 houses provided by private enterprise are provided for sale, what percentage for letting and what percentage for slum clearance?
§ Mr. Page
I have taken the advice of the hon. Member for Wellingborough and not "played about" with percentages. I therefore would not give the percentages for which the hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Mahon) asked if I knew them. I have not those figures at my finger tips.
The hon. Gentleman has, however, raised a most interesting point in saying that he comes from a neighbouring constituency. In fact, we have swapped an urban district council; the Litherland Urban District Council which used to be in his constituency is now in mine. In that urban district there is no private enterprise building; all the building is concentrated on rehousing those from slum or near-slum conditions.
§ Mr. Page
In the neighbouring constituency of Crosby entirely different conditions apply. In the Borough of Crosby, which is only next door, almost the whole of the building programme can be carried out by private enterprise. There are entirely different conditions.
I want once again to return to the probable increase in the rate of private enterprise building over the next few years, provided that local authorities are prepared to be reasonable over mortgage advances and the guarantees of building society mortgages. Some local authorities have been reasonable, but some have not. If they are reasonable, then the purchase of a house built by private enterprise is a good proposition, not only for the builder but for the family on the waiting list.
§ Mr. Lindgren
Would the hon. Member agree that a person who accepts an obligation to repay a loan over 20 to 30 years ought to be assured that he is in a position to meet that obligation? If so, how is a wage earner to be assured, particularly with Tories in Government, that next week, next month or next year he will still be employed?
§ Mr. Page
Certainly he does; so does the man who takes a rented house have to guarantee paying the rent. He could go to another rented place, but he would have to pay the rent there. What is the difference between entering into an obligation to pay rent and entering into an obligation to pay mortgage instalments?
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
Surely, the difference to hon. Members in his profession and mine is perfectly clear; in one case one loses all one's invested capital, which may have taken years to save, and in the other one loses no capital.
§ Mr. Page
The legal difference is perfectly clear to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) and to me, but there is no practical difference between paying rent and paying a mortgage for 20 years.
May I once more endeavour to return to the points I was making? The slum clearance estimates which were given by the local authorities were, of course, made prior to the publication of the Bill. The estimates gave the figure of 375,000 houses to be demolished over five years and gave a further figure of 850,000 houses which could be classed as fit for demolition and, therefore, in the slum class. When these figures were drawn up, there was no incentive to local authorities to stretch themselves to clear the slums.
§ Mr. Lindgren
I am sorry to keep interrupting the hon. Member. It is very good of him to give way. We should get this clear. He talks about incentives, when these slum clearance programmes were accepted by the local authorities, they were accepted on the basis of a subsidy of £26 14s. from the Treasury. They will now get only £22 1s. How can that be called an inducement? It is a reduction of £4 13s.
§ Mr. Page
I am not ashamed to call this a stick and not a carrot. It is true that the carrot has been taken away from one type of building and left on the other. Local authorities will especially study Clause 3 (3) and see how they can bring their programmes into that provision and so get the full subsidy. Undoubtedly, they will again consider whether it is advisable to clear more slums and use more of their building programmes as replacements of slums.
May I for a moment return to the two local authorities which I mentioned a short time ago, Crosby and Litherland, both of which are in my constituency, but whose housing programmes are so different? The Crosby Borough Council listed 122 houses as unfit, a very small figure when compared with that of some constituencies. Crosby is predominantly an owner-occupier area, and private enterprise can cope with practically the whole of the building programme. Next door is the Litherland Urban District Council, which has listed 331 unfit houses. It has said it will deal with only 171 over the first five years. When the effect of the Bill is realised, I believe that the Litherland Council will say that it will clear all 331 unfit houses in that five years.
Furthermore it will also be encouraged to replace them by building on the same sites. Hon. Members will note that Clause 6 gives certain advantages to rebuilding on the sites. I hope that local authorities will appreciate the advantage and that builders and local authorities will develop the technique of progressive demolition, a technique of building one end of the street while pulling down the other end. Many families do not want to move from the areas in which they and 2408 their parents have lived for generations. As the hon. Member for Wellingborough said earlier, they live in those areas because they are near their work. Some may be on shift work. They also live there because they have been there for many years and do not want to move into the country. I hope that local authorities and builders will develop the technique of building on the site, without disturbing more families than absolutely necessary, so that those families can be rehoused on the same site. The sort of development of which I am thinking is in those areas where there are two-storey terraced houses which could be redeveloped into five-storey flats so that one can rehouse these people right away on the site where they have lived.
May I return to the "skirmish," shall I call it, over paragraph (c) during the debate on the Report stage yesterday. That is the paragraph dealing with overspill and is closely related to what I have been saying. In hoping that that paragraph might have been taken out of the Bill hon. Members on this side of the House did not want to prevent genuine slum clearance and the rehousing of slum dwellers. If that paragraph is intended for that purpose, to rehouse slum dwellers, perhaps at a distance, and is not meant to provide a loophole in the principles of the Bill—is not intended to be used for housing for general needs— we should have no objection. But at the moment it seems just a loophole, and there would appear to be a possibility that it could be used to defeat the main object of the Bill which is to concentrate the efforts of local authorities on slum clearance. I ask my hon. Friend to inquire of my right hon. Friend whether he will give an undertaking that paragraph (c) will be used only for genuine slum clearance.
§ Mr. Sparks
Paragraph (c) may or may not apply to slum clearance schemes. It may be possible for a local authority to acquire land in the area of another local authority in order to develop its slum clearance scheme. But it would retain possession of the land and the tenants would be responsible to it. A number of local authorities object to that. They say that if people are coming into their area, they want them to be integrated with the whole population. The Town Development Act achieves that purpose, 2409 among other things. It means that the importing and exporting authorities agree to send a certain number of people to a new area and the local authority to whose area they are going controls the houses and rents by agreement.
§ Mr. Page
I appreciate that procedure. I was saying that I wish to see this Bill operated so as to concentrate the efforts of local authorities on slum clearance and the rehousing of slum dwellers.
I believe that if paragraph (c) is used to excess, it will defeat that object. That is why I asked whether the Minister will give an undertaking that it will be used only for slum clearance schemes, or in the case of exceptional congestion such as was referred to on Report stage by the hon. Member for Ince (Mr. T. Brown). I wish to see the provisions relating to overspill used only for that purpose so that local authorities may concentrate their efforts on the social welfare of the clearance of the slums.
§ 5.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Simon Mahon (Bootle)
It is a pleasure for me to have the opportunity to follow the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) in this debate. He mentioned house purchases and slum clearance schemes in areas adjacent to his, and I wish to say that there is no comparison between living conditions in my constituency and in his. Is there any reason why the people of Litherland should be housed in flats of six, seven, eight, nine and ten storeys, while two miles away, in Crosby, there are buildings with not so many storeys and the houses are built six or seven to the acre? I cannot see the reason for the difference. The people are no different. They are merely unfortunate enough to have to live and work in that place. The basic difference between hon. Members on this side of the House and those on the Government benches is made clear by our different attitudes towards these people. I regard the housing of the people of this country as a Christian duty which is to a great extent the responsibility of the Government.
I congratulated the Government when they achieved their target of 300,000 houses even though I said that I abhorred the reduction in housing standards. In my own town we have not been able to build houses for sale. Since the war only 2410 50 houses have been built for sale in Bootle. At present, there are 4,000 postwar houses built to let by the local authority. There are practical reasons why we cannot build houses for sale or depend on private enterprise to help to solve the problem of slum clearance.
A house built for sale costs £1,800 and a young married couple need a deposit of £180 which, in many cases, they do not possess. With mortgage and interest repayments the total to be paid amounts to £2,711, which has to be earned by the man with his hands or brain. He does not receive it by way of rent interest or profit. The weekly repayment works out at £2 12s. 2d. and the estimated weekly rates are 10s. 6d. making a total of £3 2s. 8d.
I would ask the hon. Member for Crosby whether he knows the average wage of a docker living in his constituency. The hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) referred to whisky drinking— that gives an indication of the level of the debate—but I wish to ask the hon. Member for Crosby whether he knows what is the average wage of a docker in his constituency.
The average basic wage of a docker is about £8 10s. a week, but there are few who go home with less than £15 in their pocket.
§ Mr. Mahon
I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has said that. At least he has committed himself. I say that the average is £10 a week.
With all the difficulties facing a young married man, including the heavy cost of furniture, how can he be expected to pay £3 2s. 8d. a week for a house? It is just impossible. Therefore, we must dismiss the possibility of relying on private enterprise to provide houses to meet the general need and slum clearance schemes.
§ Mr. Page
I am in entire agreement with the hon. Member that in his constituency and in part of mine it is impossible to rely on private enterprise to build small houses for sale. I was trying to point out that right next door there is a different type of area where it is possible to rely almost entirely on private enterprise and, to a great extent, that has been done. Of course, there must be local authority building in the Bootle area, but I suggest that in Clause 6 of the Bill there are special provisions for flats.
§ Mr. Mahon
I do not intend to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument. I am making the point that it is impossible for us to rely on private enterprise to any great extent to extricate our people from their great housing needs.
There are 13 million houses in England and Wales, of which 847,112 are estimated as being unfit. Local authorities estimate that 375,000 houses should be demolished. This is 75,000 houses a year, 15,000 more, as the hon. Gentleman said, than the Minister stated in reply to a Question which I addressed to him. The right hon. Gentleman said 60,000 houses and 200,000 people.
Out of 308,000 completions in 1954, 199,000 houses were built for local authorities and 88,000 for private owners. In addition, 21,000 were built for special purposes. With each succeeding year the number of houses built for local authorities is decreasing while the number built for private owners is increasing. Who gave the private entrepreneur social absolution? Is there not as much moral responsibility on the private builders of 100,000 houses to ease the circumstances of our people as there is on the local authorities who have to build 160,000 houses in order to meet their overall housing needs? We have had the position where the local authority with a total of 18,000 houses within its boundaries has had to meet all the social difficulties arising with its municipal building. The hon. Member for Crosby should not debate the question of housing again, because he does not understand it.
I had my nose to the grindstone of housing when I came to this House. I know that people might say that I am being parochial, but housing is a parochial matter. It is a matter for consideration of the individual family. The people in the slum clearance area of Merseyside represent one-eighth of the total population of slum dwellers. About 350,000 of them are living in unfit houses. That places a tremendous burden on the local authorities of Merseyside. There is social absolution for private landlords and an absolution from slums in Bournemouth and Brighton. They have no responsibility, whereas Merseyside bears one-eighth of the total slum clearance problem.
The financial aspect of slum clearance is, of course, important, but it is not 2412 nearly as important or difficult as the social aspect. When one embarks on slum clearance, one uncovers things which it was never thought existed. When we let in the social sunlight, problems appear which would never be apparent in the dark. Slum clearance is a serious social problem. I suggest that the average wage on Merseyside is £10 a week, but there are all sorts of people living in slum clearance areas. Some are barely existing. It is impossible to make a social success of housing by doing what is suggested here. One simply cannot move people paying 10s. and put them into the £2 5s. category. It will not work. As one hon. Member said, all that will happen is that they will double up. It defeats the social purpose.
Housing is a subject nearest the heart of local government. I did not want to remain on the question of housing, but the people who sent me here expect me to say the things that I am saying. I will give some figures for 6th September, 1955, which was before the Government embarked upon the recent increases. For 83 houses, we paid an average of £1,264, plus £152 for site works, making a total of £1,416. That is about the average cost of an A.3 house. The estimated rateable value of an A.3 house is £20. After taking account of local government subsidy and of the central Government subsidy, the rent of an A.3 house is £1 4s. 7d. a week, plus rates of 9s. 11d. a week. After deducting the subsidies we were left with £1 14s. 6d. a week clear for rent and rates. The people talk about"£1 15s. clear."
To make the financial proposition a success, we had to charge £1 4s. 5d. clear for the A.3 house, because it was all that the people could afford. Local authorities do not indulge in excessive charity, but they desire to make their efforts a social success. On an A.1 flat, the local authority was giving an annual subsidy of £10 1s. in addition to its own subsidy; £18 12s. 8d. on an A.2 house; £26 4s. 4d. on an A.3 house, and £41 7s. 11d. on an A.4 house over and above the normal £9 subsidy. That means that in Bootle —and this applies to a very great extent in Liverpool—without the panaceas which the Government are giving us, we should have to give an extra £1 a week on every house in order to make it a financial and social success.
2413 We should not under-estimate the difficulties facing local authorities at the moment. Though they are concerned about the removal of the general subsidy, they are even more concerned at the fact that the £10 given for general needs has already been offset by the increase in rates of interest. It has just gone, and the local authorities are saying, "You gave it to us, and then you raised the rate of interest until the £10 has been practically wiped out."
We have made an examination of the position, and we find that on 1st June, 1946, the Public Works Loan Board rates for loans for five years, 5–15 years and 15 years plus were 1½ per cent., 2 per cent. and 2½per cent. On 3rd January, 1948, they were 2 per cent., 2½ per cent, and 3 per cent. On 10th November, 1951, they were 2 per cent. 3 per cent. and 3¾ per cent., and we were then getting a subsidy of £16 10s. On 9th February, 1952, the rates were 2¾ per cent., 3f per cent. and 4¼ per cent., and the subsidy was still £16 10s. These are important figures.
On 20th October, 1953, the rates were 2⅝ per cent., 3½ per cent. and 4 per cent. On 4th June, 1954, they were 2¼ per cent., 3¼ per cent. and 3¾ per cent. On 1st March, 1955, the rates were 2⅛ per cent., 3¾ per cent. and 4 per cent., and the rate of the subsidy was then £26 14s. We had a reduction to some degree, and on 6th September, 1955, the rates were 4½ per cent. for five years and 5 per cent. for over five years, while the subsidy was £22 1s.
Now we find ourselves in the position that the local authorities do not know where they are going. Last Friday night, I attended a meeting of a local authority —and I want the House to appreciate this—which for five years after the war could do nothing owing to the lack of sewerage, and yet had one of the gravest housing problems in the country. That authority lost those five years of building when it might have built at low costs and high standards.
It is now faced with the situation that this year it has 1,060 houses in various stages of construction, which is a very great achievement for a town of 76,000 people, and it is a very extended building programme. The authority is not worried about this year. It is bound to get 850 2414 houses completed this year, but it is already considering the prospect that next year it will have to cut down considerably, because it will be unable to afford to proceed with them.
I want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether, if he was going to consider the slum clearance problem, which is quite a severe social problem, he would not have to consider especially places like Merseyside and Glasgow. These are the figures for Liverpool. There are 204,000 houses in the city, and 88,000 of them are regarded as slums. In face of those figures, in my view, the whole of the argument advanced by the Minister completely falls to the ground. When local authorities are faced with such a position, they naturally ask the Government to assist them, because the Government are supposed to give them the tools with which to do the job. That is the position regarding the relationship between local and national Government; the Government of the day is supposed to assist the local authorities.
We have an enormous problem on Merseyside, but all that I am able to say to the people of Merseyside is, "You will be in your slums in 25 years' time." The physical problem alone—-that of getting 350,000 people out of the slums—is big enough, without any financial restrictions on the local authority trying to do the job. I could extend this argument, but I just want to ask the Parliamentary Secretary a few questions.
§ Mr. Mahon
I now want to ask a few questions. Here we have this Bill in its amended form. I had the pleasure of speaking on Second Reading, and I 2415 have listened with great attention to the details which have been given, from the technical point of view, as well as having a social interest in the first Bill to pass through this House since I came here. I am indebted to the House and to hon. Members in it for giving me an example of Parliamentary procedure in legislating so early in my Parliamentary career.
What I want to know now is whom does this Bill help? Does it help the local authorities? Let the local authorities themselves answer, and they say, "No." Does it help the people who are on the waiting lists generally? They also answer "No." Does it help the ever-increasing number of old-age pensioners, who in a few years' time will be one-eighth of the people, who are faced with many pressing needs and difficulties and who should be allowed to retain their dignity in their old age?
These are the people who are now living in back rooms and holes and corners, after making a solid contribution to the progress of this country. We are not doing the right thing by these people. Does this Bill help the people with requisitioned property, who also have difficulties of their own? It does not even help them, and I can speak with some authority in that matter.
That is all I want to say. I can only describe the Bill as a Measure designed to extricate the Government from their financial difficulties, and as a hypocritical piece of class legislation.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Dr. Horace King (Southampton, Itchen)
After the magnificent speech which my hon. Friend the Member for Bootle (Mr. Mahon) has just made, it seems to me that the best thing the Government can do is to throw this Bill out of Parliament straight away. I sincerely congratulate my hon. Friend on stating so clearly and so movingly the practical housing problems of local authorities, and particularly the problem of local authorities in the industrial areas, in tackling the problem of slum clearance.
I want, first, to return to what the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) said about the Bill. The hon. Gentleman tried to show that the Bill was not quite so bad as we had anticipated and that the subsidy cut was not universal. I hope 2416 that the hon. Gentleman will intervene if I am misrepresenting his argument. He said that the old subsidy still remained for slum clearance and certain types of new housing development, and that, by and large, he was not troubled about the likely reduction in new council house building, as distinct from slum clearance building, because private enterprise was gradually taking up the slack and private enterprise could cope with the housing problem, outside slum clearance and the new towns.
As my hon. Friend has shown, the hon. Member for Crosby is being very optimistic about the financial benefits and the encouragement which the Bill gives to local authorities to clear away slums. Let us be quite clear, even in a Third Reading debate, that the whole of this Bill has to be seen against a pattern of rising costs and everything else, when housing subsidies ought to have been going up, not down. The utmost the Bill does is to prevent the subsidies for slum clearance from being slashed as all the other housing subsidies are to be slashed. My hon. Friend has stated in detail the difficulty which every local authority will find in coping with the slum clearance programme even with the subsidies provided in the Bill. The subsidies for slum clearance ought to be much higher.
We might ask hon. Members opposite why they always concede that private enterprise must not be expected to cope with slum clearance. It is quite certain that there is not a private enterprise builder in the country who wants to tackle slum clearance—even with the Government subsidy—and let at a reasonable rent the new houses which he builds to people dispossessed from the slums. Having built the slums, private enterprise builders say, "We take away from ourselves all responsibility for slum clearance. Allow us to have the profitable part of new house building."
The position is even worse than that, because private house builders will not be able to provide any houses for the workers at a reasonable rent. However, the steadily increasing interest charges and other charges which have been imposed on the cost of private house building under the present Government make it impossible for the worker to afford the high mortgage interest involved in buying himself a house. We fear that the Bill 2417 is as bad as we have tried to prove throughout the debates, despite the fact that the slum clearance subsidy remains.
I now want to revert to one or two remarks made by the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay). He carefully proved that the workers can afford any new rent increases which the Bill makes possible because they are spending so much money upon tobacco and beer. He quoted figures in support of his argument. I do not want to make the debating point that the bulk of what they spend upon tobacco and beer goes in taxes to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and that it is unfair to mention the gross expenditure upon beer and tobacco without also mentioning the fact that beer drinkers and tobacco smokers are making a major contribution to the Exchequer. I regard that kind of argument as impertinent when it is put forward by a member of a party which protests at every Election that it believes in letting the people spend what they have just how they like, and which argues consistently that the rich man—who himself spends as much as he wants to upon beer and tobacco—is paying far to much in taxes.
The hon. Member for Henley gave the Opposition the whole of its case against the Bill. He argued that the Bill's main purpose was anti-inflationary. The Bill can be anti-inflationary only if it reduces the number of houses built. If it does not do that—if, despite the Bill, the same number of slum clearance houses and other council houses are built, the only effect of the Bill will be to re-divide the respective contributions to the cost of those houses. It will shift some of the burden off the taxpayers and on to the tenants who rent the council houses.
It will also alter the respective burdens of old council houses rentors and new council house rentors. This mere redistribution of income, which is the main purpose of the existence of the present Government, certainly has nothing to do with inflation. If the hon. Member for Henley is right in labelling this an anti-inflationary Measure, it can only be so because it prevents some council houses from being built. We believe that that will be its effect.
There are two general patterns of Third Reading debates. In one the Opposition says that the Bill came to the House with certain good features but certain very 2418 shocking blemishes and, thanks to the patience and determination of the Opposition and the good sense, kindness and reasonableness of the Minister, the Opposition has licked the Bill into shape. The Minister then rises and thanks the Opposition for its contribution towards making the Bill the excellent Bill it is, and the whole debate ends in an atmosphere something like that in Shaw's "Apple Cart," where the whole Cabinet, except Proteus, sing "Auld Lang Syne."
This is not one of those debates. This is one of the other kind. For this is a bad Bill. It came to the House a bad Bill, and it leaves the House almost exactly as it came in. Far from tidying up and remedying the defects in the Bill, the Opposition have had to fight a desperate battle in trying to shield little areas of housing development from the worst effects of the Bill. We have pleaded on behalf of blitzed cities, planned housing development, prefabricated houses, and so on, but the Minister has conceded surprisingly little.
Even accepting the main purpose of the Bill for what it is, the cases which my right hon. and hon. Friends have argued so reasonably for special relief from the burden of the Bill—some of which any human Minister would have conceded—have been argued in vain. The Minister has reiterated again and again the basic principle of the Bill. It is, "This is a Bill to cut housing subsidies. This is a Bill to raise council house rents." Within two years the Bill will raise the rent of an ordinary council house by between 7s. and 10s. a week.
§ Dr. King
Yes. As my hon. Friend says, we shall be lucky if it is as little as that.
The defence put forward by the Minister, again and again, is that although it is true that the Bill adds to the rent of every new council house about 10s. a week, that increase must be shared among the older council houses, so that the increase will not be so much.
§ Mr. Powell
I want to tell my right hon. Friend what the hon. Member has been saying. Did he say that over the next two years the Bill will raise the rent of the average council house by between 7s. and 10s. a week?
§ Dr. King
If the hon. Gentleman is at all worried, I will make my point clear. First of all, I said that by the end of two years—because by then the subsidy will have entirely gone—the rent of a new council house will have gone up by exactly the amount of the subsidy which is completely disappearing, which is between 8s. and 10s. a week.
§ Dr. King
The hon. Member must know that we have been debating the Bill now for some months, and that each side knows the exact position. I can understand the misunderstanding which he is endeavouring to fall into. I have already said that the Government's argument is that the burden of between 7s. and 10s. a week on a new council house will have to be distributed over local authorities' present stocks of houses, which gives the hon. Member the comfortable argument that he wants, namely, that the average council house rent will not necessarily be raised by the amount imposed by the Bill.
As I argued at an earlier stage, the simple fact is that the municipal housing programmes undertaken before and since the war will cushion the workers from the nakedly cruel effects of this Measure. Were it not for the vast pool of council houses that have been built its effect on the worker taking a new council house would indeed be calamitous.
I am afraid that one of the possible evils of this Bill is the danger of creating in selfish council house dwellers a vested interest in not building new council houses. It is literally true that, while the first new housing programme under the Bill will not materially affect the rent of old council house dwellers, the more successful local authorities are in building council houses despite this Bill the more the tenants in old council houses will find their rents going up. That is a very alarming feature.
A second grave evil of this Bill is that it discourages local authorities from building new council houses. Even while the Bill has made its tortuous way through the House, reactionary authorities up and down the country have declared that they cannot afford to go on building new council houses under its terms. In the case of many local authorities the fact that there is no subsidy for council 2420 house building simply means that no council house building will be undertaken. As will be known within the next few weeks, every local authority is this year faced with a dramatic increase in its rate burden.
Increased costs of materials, increased costs of labour, increased costs of staff salaries—negotiated because of the increased cost of living—increased cost of interest—all these make every finance committee of every local authority face a bigger increase in one year than has ever been known before. It is at this time that the Government, having savagely added to the interest burden of local authorities during the last two years— and possibly about to add to that burden within the next two days—choose to put through this Bill which, of itself, imposes a new financial burden on any local authority which has the social conscience to go on building houses.
This Measure has to be judged with the rest of the Government's attacks on local government—the slashing increase of interest charges, the failure to check inflation. I believe that it is linked with the long-expressed desire of the reactionary wing of the Tory Party to free private houses from rent control. It creates the climate necessary for the Government's next major move, their next major attack on the standard of living of the workers —the raising of the rents of private houses. Through rates, through rents, through successive Budgets, and now, through this wretched Bill, the Tory Government run true to form, and are continuing in their chief aim of redistributing the wealth of the country as between those who labour and those who live on rents and investments and the like.
Today is the last House of Commons stage of a bad Bill produced by a bad Minister for a bad Government. I am only sorry that a young Parliamentary Secretary, making his first Ministerial appearance in the House, should have been associated with a Measure which will haunt him when he faces the electors at the end of this Government. I shall vote against the Bill with deep conviction. During the next two years I shall watch its evil effects, particularly on the blitzed districts of Southampton which we have sought to shelter from its provisions. During the next two years I shall watch its effects with sorrow and with anger, and, when the effects are steadily 2421 revealed in the increased rents for council houses, my only consolation will be that the sorrow and anger that I feel will be shared by an ever-increasing number of British electors.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Monslow (Barrow-in-Furness)
In opening this debate the Parliamentary Secretary would have had us believe that this infamous Measure was welcomed by every section of the community. Such an attitude is a clear indication that by this Bill the new Toryism about which so much has been prated recently has been stripped of all its pretence. The party opposite, now undoubtedly stands exposed in all its nakedness as a class party. It stands for making the rich richer and the poor poorer.
The object of the Measure is clearly to divide and conquer, to put non-council house tenants against council house tenants, to create the greatest measure of friction possible and by that means ultimately to reap rich dividends for the private landlord class. What better method could be adopted than to try to convince those living in privately-owned houses that they are paying in taxation and rates towards the rents of those living in council houses? In my own constituency, council house rents have ben increased during the past two weeks by 4s. per week as a consequence of the Government's increased interest charges. That is a clear indication that the enactment of the Bill will mean an intensification of the attack on the standard of living of the industrial masses.
This legislation has a dual purpose. It is an attack on the Welfare State. Good housing is vital to good health, and if health is impaired the Government stand condemned. The Bill cripples local authority facilities for the building of council houses—of that there can be no doubt. For the year 1955–56 the housing allocation in my constituency was 350. It has now been reduced by 140, which of itself gives an indication of the Government's attitude. We have heard today of decisions being taken to stop building because the local housing authorities find the new financial conditions, burdens and penalties too much to be sustained.
Let me cite the comparative cost of council houses built under the Labour 2422 Government, when the rigours of immediate post-war conditions were most severe and those built today. On a three-bedroomed house the loan charges in 1945–46—at 2½per cent.—amounted to £44 12s.; repairs contribution was £5 17s., and management cost was £1 10s. 6d. That made a total of £51 19s. 6d. Under the Tories, with the interest rate increased from 2½per cent. to 5 per cent., the loan charges have gone up to £86 10s. 2d.; the repairs contribution to £8; and the management cost to £1 15s.; making a total of £96 5s. 2d.
Let us look at the subsidy position. Under the 1945–46 Government, the Exchequer subsidy was £16 10s. The rate contribution was £5 10s,, making a total of £22. Let us take the present situation. The Exchequer contribution is £10, and, incidentally, the authority need not contribute at all. The rent, exclusive of rates, in 1945–46 was l1s. 6d., but in 1955 under Toryism the rent is £1 13s. 2d. One could go on citing other examples. Rentals in the region of £2 or £3 are possible—that has been clearly indicated by the many speeches which we have heard from this side of the House this afternoon— imposing a burden that many will have to reject.
In effect, this is rationing by the purse. It is the most effective form of rationing, and the Tory Government are using it. By higher rentals the Government intend to solve the housing problem. They will say that the demand has been met, for the rentals will force applicants out of the present housing queues.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said that the interest rates on loans by the Exchequer will obviously be increased and brought into line with those charged in other quarters. An increase in the interest rates of one-quarter per cent. means a rent increase of 1s. 4d. per week. The Minister has recently said that unless local authorities exercise more discrimination in giving rent relief to their tenants, there is bound to be a continual misuse of public money. I regard that as a very grave reflection upon the administration of all our local authorities.
A reduction in rates of subsidy will tend to encourage local authorities to charge rents more in line with current wages and the present-day value of money. Is that not proof that the Government insist that rentals shall and must 2423 go up? In my view, the Government policy will make the rich richer and the poor poorer, and by this Bill the tenant will be the sufferer.
I hope that hon. Members opposite can hear what I am saying because I am speaking under the disability of a heavy cold. I say to them that it is quite clear from the nefarious Measures which have recently been, and are being, brought before the House that the Government are using the machinery of Parliament for the express purpose of making the rich richer. It cannot be wondered at that the great industrial mass of Britain assume the equal moral right to defend their standards of living by taking industrial action. So long as we continue in this way, we shall certainly create a situation which may well be catastrophic to our social and economic well-being. If this policy is to continue, the writing is on the wall. That has been clearly indicated by the trend of the by-elections the results of which we have had today.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mrs. Harriet Slater (Stoke-on-Trent, North)
During the course of the rare speeches which we have heard from the benches opposite—and from their appearance one realises how little hon. Members opposite are interested in this Bill—we have been struck by the fact that hon. Members opposite view housing very differently from the way in which we on these benches view it.
Having heard the speeches of the hon. Members for Henley (Mr. Hay) and Crosby (Mr. Page), one wonders whether they realise that housing consists of more than merely putting up four walls and putting a roof over someone's head. If we can build houses for people and take them out of the slums it means that for the first time we can give them a decent water supply, and provide the women with hot and cold water to do their housework, decent lighting and sanitation. But local authority housing means more than that. It means that we give an incentive to people to provide real homes in which to live, and, above all, it means that we give to the children who previously have lived in slums a completely new opportunity in life.
I remember a new housing estate being built in Stoke-on-Trent immediately 2424 before the war, to clear some of our slums, and there was a lot of opposition to that. There was also a lot of opposition to the building of a very fine secondary modern school on that housing estate. I lived in a suburban residential area and often on the bus I heard people say, "Fancy building houses like that for slum people! Fancy building a school like that for them!" But that housing estate and the school have justified every penny spent on them. Juvenile delinquency in that area is much less than among other parts of the city. I maintain that that is due to two factors—the provision of new houses and the new school, and the better environment into which those children have been put.
The hon. Members for Henley and Crosby have tried to show, as Tories often do, that there are reasons why we should not give housing subsidies or help in various directions to working-class people. Reference has been made to expenditure on drink, smoking and entertainment. I suggest that hon. Members opposite should look at the London evening newspapers and read reports of coming-out parties held by some of the wealthy people. They spend as much on one coming-out party as will keep a working-class family for many months.
When Measures such as this are being discussed and economic debates are taking place, it is sheer impudence for hon. Members opposite to submit figures like that in order to argue that we should not continue to pay subsidies and render help to working-class people who need better conditions than they have at present. There may be some working-class people getting good wages, but there are also large numbers of people receiving basic wages which by no means meet the increased cost of living during the last two years.
When I do my shopping on Fridays and Saturdays, and find what it costs to buy groceries, I wonder more and more how old people can live and buy the bare necessities of life. They are entitled to decent houses. They are entitled to be moved from slum areas where they live close to factories in the smoke and grime and dust from which many of them have suffered for many years.
Last night, the hon. Member for Crosby was urging that we should be careful 2425 about where slum clearance houses are built and asked that they should not be built in the country. The noble Lord the Member for Dorset, South (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) said that we ought to push up higher and higher, building to five, six or even ten storeys.
§ Mrs. Slater
Yes. May I respectfully suggest that those who live in very large houses with large gardens and estates around them should be the last to suggest that working-class people should not be able to look at trees and have grass around their homes, or be able to enjoy flower gardens.
In large industrial areas and cities like mine, like Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and London, large numbers of people live in houses which are a legacy from Tory Governments. They are in houses immediately adjoining factories and houses, such as those in my area, which, although they may not be scheduled as slum houses, are certainly substandard houses. They are houses in which people should not be asked to live.
On the suggestion that we should not spoil the countryside, but should condemn people to live near factories and on pit banks, or should push higher and higher with buildings, I will tell a story about my city. In a slum clearance scheme we cleared people from an area in Hanley adjoining what we call the deep pit. There were factories all round it. The only little piece of open space was the old Port Vale Football Ground. As I represented that area on the local authority, I visited some of those people. I asked one old woman who had been moved, "How do you like it here?" She said, "It is a bit strange; there are only trees to look at," but, within two years, that woman would not have gone back if we had tried to make her. She had got used to looking at trees and enjoyed the fellowship of people living around her.
This Bill will mean that local authorities in industrial areas will only be able to concentrate, in the main, on slum clearance rebuilding. None of us wants to see people go on living in those conditions, in damp, bad structures with no water laid on, with old-fashioned lavatories and with not a breath of fresh air coming into the house, but we are also 2426 very conscious of the fact that other people also need houses.
In my area and parts of Lancashire there is the problem of mining subsidence. One has only to go to places like Wigan and Stoke-on-Trent to see houses which are just held up. Many people will have to go on living in those circumstances and there is no hope for them under this Bill. We have to say to those people, "We really think you need a house, but perhaps you earn a living from the coal." Coal owners of the past have taken the very foundations from under those houses and we ought to be considering the people who have to live under such conditions.
The question of old people has been mentioned time and time again. It is a growing problem in every local authority's area. When people have earned their living in industry under very difficult circumstances, made great sacrifices and suffered great injustice, at least in the last few years of their lives they are entitled to live in comfort. Such a person needs a small house which an old person can manage, but it should be one which has modern facilities. Those people will get no help from this Bill.
Then there are folks living in overcrowded conditions, particularly young people. We were told by the hon. Member for Crosby that they can build their own houses; private building could go on. Such people cannot put millstones round their necks in order to get houses which would cost £2,000 or £2,500, with very high interest rates. Those young people not only have to face high interest rates, but the uncertainty that under the present Government those interest rates may not go up even higher. They have gone up considerably in the last few months. In many cases those people also face the uncertainty of full employment. That uncertainty is just beginning, but it is possible that it will continue to grow. In such a situation it is absolutely impossible for many married couples to face the problem.
The hon. Member for Henley gave four good reasons for the Bill. He said one was that it would help to contribute to a fall in building costs. That is sheer nonsense. It will not do that at all. The hon. Member was right in one respect— it will check house building. That is the only thing that the Bill will do. We 2427 have been repeatedly asked to consider Clause 5 and the special conditions under which a local authority could appeal to the Minister, but that does not mean anything at all.
In view of the present outlook of the Government local authorities could put up special reasons—difficulties on sites in mining areas, where a lot of money has to be spent on foundation to prevent houses falling down, difficult sites because there are marl holes and very bad levels —but, when those authorities go to the Ministry, their applications will be turned down. The Clause does not mean that help will be given to many local authorities. This is an attempt to pull the wool over our eyes and the carrot of Clause 5 is held out to local authorities.
I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to inquire of his right hon. Friend whether he has considered the questions put by my hon. Friend the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South (Mr. Ellis Smith) last week. My hon. Friend asked the Minister to consider the question of building up reserve funds by local authorities. I should like to know how far inquiry has been made into the question whether the Ministry could claim some of the reserve funds built up by authorities such as mine, which has taken great care to keep its housing revenue account in a very good condition.
Like my hon. Friend the Member for Itchen (Dr. King) I shall vote against the Third Reading of the Bill because I am convinced that it is part of Tory policy and hits below the belt at the working class. In every respect it is a bad Bill, and we on these benches could not possibly support it.
§ 7.0 p.m.
Vice-Admiral John Hughes Hallett (Croydon, North-East)
I feel that I must begin by making an apology to the House for intervening in this debate because, as a result of other engagements and other work, I have not attended nearly as many of the earlier debates while the Bill was in Committee as I should have liked to have done. Also, like one of the earlier speakers in the debate, I am suffering from a cold.
I assure the House that my lack of attendance at the earlier stage was not due to any lack of interest in these problems, because no one could represent a 2428 constituency such as mine without being made painfully aware, week by week and day by day, of the very serious housing problems which confront so many of our population. I think that we are all agreed on that on both sides of the House.
It seems to me that the hon. Lady the Member for Stoke-on-Trent, North (Mrs. Slater) was claiming a sort of monopoly on the part of her hon. Friends and herself of interest in housing. All that I can say is that our record as a party on this side of the House, not only since the war but between the wars, has not been unsatisfactory. Although I was not in politics at that time, I could read before I came here and add up the figures. When the hon. Lady says that most of the bad houses today are a legacy of Tory rule, I feel bound to be unkind and to say that they could hardly be a legacy of Labour rule because they have not enough of them.
It is perfectly true that there is an enormous number of houses in this country which by modern standards, and even by the standards, I should say, of when they were built, are disgraceful. No one can deny that. Most of them were put up at the height of the Industrial Revolution, and anyone who cares to look at this matter in a reasonably impartial manner and in the light of the rate which the population was not only expanding but moving into the towns at the same time must be fair and ask this question: was the problem one that any Government could have coped with in those days? However, all this belongs to a past which is too remote to concern anyone in politics today or, indeed, even his father or grandfather.
The hon. Lady had a good deal to say about the wretched condition of the slums, and with what she had to say on that subject I found myself to be in agreement, although I would not accept some of the deductions which she drew from it. Surely one of the main objects of this Bill is to remedy this very evil and to divert the rebuilding efforts to slum clearance.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
The hon. Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren), who spoke first for the Opposition, said, among other things, that the Bill would affect the living standards of 2429 the people as a whole. I do not see how that can possibly be true, because the Bill neither increases nor decreases the actual expense of building houses. What it does is to alter the way in which the money is spent and where it comes from. It is open to hon. Members opposite to say that this redistribution is unfair, but I cannot see how they can maintain that it will increase or decrease the living standards of the people as a whole.
The hon. Gentleman also said that my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House made no reference during the recent Election to our intentions with regard to the housing subsidy. I do not blame him for not studying the rather humble speeches which I make myself, but I honestly say that, at most of the meetings I held, I set forth my views to some extent on housing. I invariably made it quite clear that I believed that a Measure to change and reduce the housing subsidies and to increase the scope and range of differential rents would be introduced, that I believed that such a Measure would be right and that I should support it.
§ Mr. Lindgren
As the hon. Member has made reference to me, may I say that what is taken as an intention of Government policy is not the speeches of certain individuals made in the country, but the manifesto issued by the party at the Election as to the programme on which it fights that Election. Any Government on either side which was tied to the speeches of individual Members might find themselves in difficulty, but we are, I think, entitled to look at the programmes or manifestos of political parties as indicating intention of Government policy.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
The hon. Gentleman is, naturally, entitled to his view on this matter but, none the less, I am sufficiently old-fashioned as to believe that when a candidate, in his speeches in his own constituency, says something which is strongly opposed by the electorate, that will be reflected by the way in which the votes are cast at the ensuing Election. I hope that that is so, because, otherwise, we should be in a serious position so far as our democratic way of life is concerned.
§ Mr. Gerald Nabarro (Kidderminster)
I rise to try to assist my hon. and gallant 2430 Friend in his argument. Is he aware that Her Majesty's Government, in November, 1953, in a White Paper, entitled, "Houses: The Next Step," used these words:…the ever-growing burden of housing subsidies which, in the interest of the general body of taxpayers, cannot continue indefinitely at the present rate.I suggest that that is a conclusive forward indication of policy.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend for his support, but I am bound to say that, unlike the hon. Gentleman opposite, he, like I, believes that many of the electors go by not only what is said in White Papers but also by what is said by the candidates at the hustings.
After all, does anyone seriously doubt that the payment of subsidies to people who could perfectly well afford to pay the full rent was becoming a public scandal. I should have thought not. I should have thought that the great majority of people fully support any Measure to ensure that the very poor people, living sometimes in very poor accommodation, are not either directly or indirectly financing people living in very much superior council house property.
§ Mr. Charles A. Howell (Birmingham, Perry Barr)
Would the hon. and gallant Member not agree that this major scandal to which he has referred is no greater than that which puts money into the pockets of speculators and industrialists under the Derating Act?
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
It still remains a major scandal, but as we are debating the Third Reading of the Housing Subsidies Bill, I will confine myself to that subject, more or less.
As I see it, one of the main objects, if not the main object of the Bill, is to divert building effort to slum clearance once again. In so far as that is the case, it seems to me, as a non-expert on this subject, that there is a remarkable parallel between the position which we have reached today and what was done by a previous Conservative Government, I think, in 1933. Hon. Members opposite will remember that the measure then taken not merely greatly increased the rate of slum clearance, but also was followed by the most tremendous boom in house building in the inter-war years.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I am not saying that that will necessarily happen again. I do not pretend to have knowledge of this subject, but I think that if hon. Members opposite deny that it will have similar results, the onus is upon them to give more reasoned and convincing arguments than they have yet done for supposing that it will not have that effect. I cannot help thinking that the true future rate of house building, no matter who builds the houses, whether they are built privately or by councils, will—other things being equal and the credit squeeze apart—be determined by the actual shortage of houses. One of the most difficult things to judge today is the exact housing shortage in the country as a whole.
One thing of which I feel perfectly certain is that we would not get the correct figure merely by adding up the waiting lists of all local authorities. That would not give the right figure any more than one would have got the right figure of the shortage of, say, the cheaper motor cars if, at the time when they were still semi-controlled, after the war, one had added up all the order lists of car dealers. As far as motor cars were concerned, it will be remembered that by what seemed to the ordinary layman to be a miracle, the shortage vanished overnight.
I do not suggest that any such happy outcome will follow the housing shortage after the passing of the Bill, but I suggest that there is a very close relationship between the Bill and the future of rent controls. [HON. MEMBERS: "That lets the cat out of the bag."] There is no bag and there is no cat. That is a matter which has been raised by a number of hon. Members opposite, and, indeed, by a number of my hon. Friends on this side.
Speaking for myself, at practically every Election meeting I held I was asked to explain my attitude on this subject as well as on housing subsidies. I always gave exactly the same reply: that subject to safeguards to ensure that people who could not afford other accommodation should not be thrown out on to the street, and so on, obviously the time had come for some easement in those restrictions. The matter is closely related to the subject matter of the Bill.
2432 If I may quote two figures concerning my own Borough of Croydon, the waiting list for council houses at present numbers between 3,000 and 4,000. It is a carefully pruned waiting list and I have not the slightest doubt of its genuineness. I am, however, assured that there is at any given moment, and has been for some time, an average of between 1,000 and 1,500 empty privately-owned houses. I cannot vouch for the figure, but that is what I am told.
Of course, the reason for those houses being empty is a direct result of rent control. They are houses which have become vacant through the death or departure of the statutory tenant and the owner cannot afford to re-let them at the controlled rent. Therefore, he puts them up for sale, and even if he has to wait a year—in some cases, I have heard, two years—until he can sell with vacant possession, he does so.
This shortage is purely artificial and would be ended overnight if rents could be charged for such houses which would render their maintenance and repair an economic proposition. I cannot understand how hon. Members opposite oppose a measure which, to me, anyhow, seems so obviously necessary and which, when put into effect, would not raise the rent for such houses any higher than, if as high as, the rent of the average council house today.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
My information is to the contrary. I am not, however, joining issue with the experts on a matter such as this. My hon. Friends who know a great deal about this subject will be able to put the hon. Member right on that issue.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
If the hon. Lady will allow me, I must get on, for I feel that I am detaining the House too long.
There is, of course, another factor. I do not suggest that the present Measure 2433 will necessarily, if at all, help in this matter. Its relevance—it is relevant to the question of general shortage—lies in the fact that 900,000 old-age pensioners live alone in houses which both they and the local authorities feel are too big for them and have their rents paid with the help of National Assistance.
I am not offering any simple solution, but I think no one would deny—hon. Members opposite referred to this problem on more than one occasion when they were in power—that it artificially augments the housing shortage. When people talk about checking the general building of council houses, we must bear in mind that the councils must be careful in some areas already, not to commit themselves to more building than in, say, ten years' time will be needed, otherwise they will become involved in extremely serious financial difficulties.
I should like to put to my right hon. Friend the Minister a question of detail. In the case of people who either pay because they are made to pay, or pay, perhaps, because they elect to pay, the full economic rent for a council house, is there any reason why in return they should not be allowed to have an ordinary contract lease, giving them a little more security and freedom? I know that hon. Members opposite may not agree with me, but my view is that a distinction is to be drawn between the person who occupies a house part of which is paid for at public expense and the person who occupies a house and meets the full bill himself.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I would prefer not to give way. I am putting that only in the form of a question.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
I am asking whether there is anything in existing legislation which prevents that. That is my question.
As I have endeavoured to indicate, the Bill deals with only one facet of the housing problem. I would have said that at present our main task in housing is to arrest the decay which is taking place in the centres of our cities and large towns. Since the Bill will go a long way towards helping that progress, I shall give it my full support.
§ 7.18 p.m.
§ Mr. James MacColl (Widnes)
The hon. and gallant Member for Croydon, North-East (Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett) suggested that we on this side of the House had failed to make our case against the Bill. Had he given us a little more of his time while we were examining the Bill in some detail, he might have gathered a little bit more about the Bill and our objections to it, neither of which he appears to grasp.
To take one example, the hon. and gallant Member quoted the case of under-occupation by old people and the need, therefore, to deal with that matter as an important problem in housing management. I quite agree; but where was the hon. and gallant Member when we divided on the Amendment to provide a subsidy for building old people's accommodation? The only way to tackle this problem structurally is to provide cheap municipal accommodation for old people. This was said not only by hon. Members on this side, but by the hon. Lady the Member for Tynemouth (Dame Irene Ward), on the other side. I did not notice that the hon. and gallant Member was in the forefront of that particular struggle.
§ Vice-Admiral Hughes Hallett
Whatever the wholly desirable cause may be, this is no time to start yet another subsidy.
§ Mr. MacColl
That is only a roundabout way for the hon. and gallant Member to say that he does not want to do anything about the housing of old people. As long as we understand that, I am quite happy.
§ Mr. Speaker
I understand that that Amendment was defeated and that, therefore, it is not in the Bill.
§ Mr. MacColl
I turn my attention for a moment to the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page). I am sorry he is not here, and I am sorry he has had so much battering about, but he is one of the few hon. Members opposite who have taken the trouble to speak not only in this debate but during the consideration of the Bill on Report. I am sorry that he, like the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay), has retired in shame. I am not surprised that those hon. Gentlemen have left, after what they said. I can quite understand that they now find it intolerable to remain 2435 here, to face us and feel how badly they behaved.
However, the hon. Member for Crosby let the cat out of the bag. He made it perfectly clear that he was supporting the Bill because it would clear the way for private enterprise building. He even went so far as to say, "Of course, that will be of use in my constituency but not in Litherland urban district or in the County Borough of Bootle, for private enterprise building is not a practical solution of the housing problems there, but it is a practical solution to the housing problems in other parts."
In other words, where property values are high, and where it is possible to obtain high rents and high sale prices for houses, let the private enterprise builder go in and make his pile, and leave the dirty work, leave the rebuilding of the core of the city, leave the housing accommodation for the old people, leave the provision of low-rented houses for workers, leave those problems to the County Borough of Bootle and other parts of Lancashire and to the wretched public funds, the wretched local authorities and to the public purse. That was the very clear and very explicit statement of the real argument behind the Bill.
What the hon. Gentleman did not seem to realise was that we cannot treat these problems separately. The Urban District of Litherland, the County Borough of Bootle, the Borougs of Widnes and the Borough of Whiston are all around Crosby, and they all compete for the same building resources, the same labour supply. One of the things the Bill does not do is to make any attempt to say how we are to give adequate social priorities in the important job of providing housing for the people in those areas where, as the hon. Gentleman himself admitted, private enterprise has no solution to offer. That is the criticism of his argument both on practical grounds and on principle.
There has been some discussion whether or not general house building will go up or whether it will go down because of the effect of the Bill, and questions have been asked about how it will affect local authority building as a whole. There has been a certain amount of difference of opinion in some of the few speeches we have heard from the benches opposite. 2436 I would quote The Times. When the proposals were first made they were bruited in the financial statement of the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, and commenting on his speech on 27th October, The Times said:The Government are giving a lead by curtailing their own building. It is on the local authorities that the real pressure will fall. And that is also as it should be, for the large increase in local authorities' expenditure and in their drawings from the central Government has been the worst feature of public finance this year.In other words, from the point of view of The Times, what we call the social need of the people, the building of houses as homes for the people, the great capital development of the social services for the benefit of the people, are the worst features of Government activity during the past year. The Times went on:The reduction in housing subsidies, on the other hand, may well have a significant effect on their building programmes.In other words, The Times welcomed the Bill as a very effective way of cutting down local authority building programmes.
Both the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister ought to be frank and say what they really think will happen and whether the Bill will cut down the local authorities' building programmes or whether it will not, and, if it is not going to cut them down, what the immediate solution is of the many difficulties of over-investment in which the Government have managed to land the nation.
I am sorry to be rude to the Parliamentary Secretary, but I think he was a little cheap in making what he obviously thought was a slick party point when he said that there would not be any reduction of general building by local authorities and added, "Look at what the Leader of the Opposition said in addressing a conference composed of Labour members of local authorities." He quoted the speech of my right hon. Friend dealing with the question of general building.
I happened to be at that conference, and a very fine conference it was. It consisted of representatives of some of the great county boroughs, of some of the great cities that have lead the world in housing, Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester, and so on; and there were also there representatives of lesser, but biggish, towns and of little country villages; and some, coming singly, as representatives of 2437 small districts trying to keep some decent, civilised standards in the public administration of their areas. It was a wonderful collection of different types of people.
It would have been easy for my right hon. Friend, as it would have been easy for anybody else, addressing that conference to have made some party capital, to have said, "Make things hard for the Government by not building. Do not do any building. Give it up. Chuck your hand in. Say that the Government cannot expect any building when the Government are trying to sabotage your work. Throw in your hand and let the Government carry on with it, and then blame them for the consequences." That, from a narrow, cheap, political point of view would have been the wisest thing to have done, but, of course, my right hon. Friend, like others of our party, is not without some sense of patriotism and a sense of duty. Also, he has a sense of the vital importance of struggling to carry on with housing even in the face of terrible odds, the odds of increasing costs and of the dragon's teeth we are reaping from the policy of the Government. My right hon. Friend said to them, "You must try to fulfil the duty you owe to the people who elected you, the duty to build houses for them."
Yet the hon. Gentleman brought in that speech as an excuse for the Bill and as one of the justifications for saying that the Bill is not to have the hellish effect it is intended to have. That, I thought, if the hon. Gentleman will forgive me, was a particularly cheap and superficial kind of flashy argument.
§ Mr. Powell
At least we have this recommendation that it is practicable to carry it out. I quoted the right hon. Gentleman's words as evidence that he thought it practicable for local authorities to carry out building for general needs.
§ Mr. MacColl
I do not think anybody can measure whether it is practicable, because no one yet can measure the full effect of the Bill or of the Government's financial policy in the middle of a headlong career down the economic precipice. It is impracticable to strike a balance at the moment and to say what the local authorities will be able to do or what they will not be able to do. All the Government can say is what they hope their policy will achieve. It will not be 2438 practicable or possible for local authorities, except at great public expense, without a great burden of rates, to provide the houses which the people need. The hon. Gentleman says it will do no great harm, because the extra cost can be spread by means of rent pooling or rent rebates.
Somebody on the other side of the House suggested that rent rebate and rent pooling would be achieved by the Bill. Where the hon. Member imagined he found it in the Bill I do not know. As it is not in the Bill, I had better not say too much about it.
I should like to quote the case of my own local authority, the Borough of Widnes, which has a good housing record and a vigorous and progressive housing programme. In trying to arrange a pooled rents system, it has already found that it has to charge a net rent of £1 per week for a three-bedroomed non-parlour house. That is in an area where, as is common in the north, the general level of rents is low. It is the net rent without allowing for the payment of rates, and it is before any attempt is made to carry on the future programme of housing for old people, general needs, and so on. In many instances it has amounted to more than duplicating the rents which people have been accustomed to pay.
People ought not to be too glib in saying, "We can raise the rents and put the responsibility on other tenants on municipal estates." In fact, authorities which are trying out the method find that they have very often to more than double existing rents. That is bound to upset household budgets. As my hon. Friend the Member for Barrow-in-Furness (Mr. Monslow) said, it will create considerable dislocation in the industrial market because it will completely change the balance of people's expenditure if overnight their rent is to be doubled.
I have another point to make about slum clearance. Here I want to return to what the Parliamentary Secretary said on Report. We were criticising him on the ground that this was really a Bill to destroy and not a Bill to rebuild. We said that it was designed not to redevelop areas but just to demolish houses without others being built to take their place. The hon. Gentleman quoted Section 27 of the Housing Act, 1936, and said we were talking nonsense because our legislation already contains adequate 2439 provision for redevelopment. He said that, under Section 27, when making a clearance area a local authority could add to it adjoining property which was not in itself unfit, and:…any adjoining land the acquisition of which is reasonably necessary for the satisfactory development or user of the cleared area.That was the quotation which the hon. Gentleman made, and when he was challenged as to whether that was a new statement of policy and the Government would use that power to secure adequate modern development, the Parliamentary Secretary said that there was nothing new in the Measure. However, if an hon. Member on the Government Front Bench makes a statement in the House in a certain context, he is, whether he likes it or not, saying something which is new.
§ Mr. MacColl
The Parliamentary Secretary cannot just quote an Act of Parliament when he is using it as an argument against what has always been the practical experience of local authorities carrying out slum clearance, that one cannot always get an adequate area for redevelopment merely by adding grey land to one's clearance area.
It is the Minister who controls the size of the clearance area, because it is his inspector who holds the inquiry. Consequently, it is a question not of what the Act says but of the policy which the Minister will adopt when local authorities make applications to him about their clearance areas. The Minister owes it not only to the House but also to local authorities to tell us clearly whether, if local authorities put forward very considerably extended clearance areas, and say that they consist of areas of adjoining land within the meaning of Section 27 of the 1936 Act and they are necessary in order to provide adequate redevelopment according to modern standards relating to new schools, new open spaces, new streets, and so on, the Government will accept such schemes and grant the subsidy. If the Government do not intend to do so, the Parliamentary Secretary made a most unfortunate remark and has put his foot in it. If the Government do intend to do so, that will meet a great 2440 deal of the criticism that has been uttered.
I join all my hon. Friends who have denounced the Bill as reactionary and narrow-minded. It is based on old-fashioned, out-of-date, obsolete ideas of what is required in housing. It is a mean-spirited Bill. In trying to secure miserable economies in the expenditure of public money, it seeks to throttle down and sabotage the housing drive, and is calculated to break the hearts of the people in our town halls who are trying to do a good job.
§ 7.35 p.m.
§ Mr. John Baldock (Harborough)
I trust that I may be forgiven if I do not follow too closely the remarks of the hon. Member for Widnes (Mr. MacColl), because many of his arguments were of a rather technical kind. I wish to detain the House for a few moments only to welcome the intentions of my right hon. Friend and the Government to transfer, by the Bill, the emphasis in council house building in future from housing for general use to housing to replace slum dwellings.
This change of emphasis is no less necessary in the countryside than in our great cities. During our debates on the Bill emphasis has, naturally, been placed more upon the problem in our large towns, for that is where the bulk of our people reside, and, consequently, it is a matter which must concern the majority of hon. Members. However, there are in the rural areas a great many sub-standard houses and cottages many of which are far older than the urban dwellings, because they were built long before our present large and newer towns were built and certainly long before the Industrial Revolution brought about a very large amount of the building with which we now have to deal by way of slum clearance. Some of the older houses and cottages in the countryside are deplorable places to live in, and that has probably been so for a very long time.
My right hon. Friend and the Government are to be congratulated upon tackling the problem, upon remembering that the problem extends to the rural areas, and upon allowing rural and urban district councils to take advantage of the subsidies to provide houses to accommodate people at present living in houses which are condemned and many of which 2441 have been condemned for a considerable number of years. That is an admirable step forward in the right direction.
My one regret about the Bill is that there is not enough emphasis on the problem of the old people. I have been rather impressed by the arguments which I have heard from both sides of the House and from my own constituency about the advantages which would result from the provision of more small units of accommodation for the older people——
§ Mr. Speaker
There is nothing in the Bill as it now stands about the older people. There was a discussion on the subject in Committee, but the Amendment was defeated. On Third Reading, hon. Members must confine their remarks to the contents of the Bill.
§ Mr. Baldock
I am sorry if I have gone away from the Bill in that respect, Mr. Speaker. I was merely regretting that there was not enough emphasis on that subject, because it seemed to me that that would be an economical use of housing units.
Apart from that, I believe that the Bill will do a job which really requires to be done. Four or five years ago the majority of families on waiting lists were living in single rooms or in furnished accommodation with other families and desperately needed more space as well as better accommodation. Now, the majority of those on the lists are people who are already housed and have plenty of space, but whose accommodation is well below standard.
Therefore, the majority who want houses are those who need to be provided with better houses. Hon. Members opposite may disagree, but that is the case in a great many local authority areas. The balance has completely swung away from families crowded into rooms and small accommodation and it is those in sub-standard accommodation who want to be provided with new houses. The Government are wisely and courageously tackling that problem by changing the emphasis in this way.
I am sorry that the rules of order prevent me from referring to old people. Other than that the Minister is to be highly commended for introducing the Bill and I hope that he will continue to tackle this very great housing problem courageously, because there is little doubt 2442 in the country as a whole that there is a good deal of wasted accommodation. I hope that he will soon turn his attention to providing for the many families who want more space and better houses.
§ 7.41 p.m.
§ Mr. C. W. Gibson (Clapham)
We must congratulate the Government's Whips in having persuaded one or two Members opposite to enter the debate in the last hour and a half. They have not been very helpful, and some have been a long way from the point, but in the large last hour and a half we have not had a one-sided battle. Unfortunately, two Government supporters to whom I wish to refer have left, but the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) made such an awful blunder in his quotations from the Blue Book on National Income and Expenditure that even in his absence I must put him right.
The hon. Member quoted a number of figures, one of which showed the very large sums of money spent on drink. He suggested that the working people of this country spent £800 million on drink last year. Had he studied the footnote at the bottom of that page, he would have seen that the consumption of beer had gone down and that of wines and spirits had gone up, so that it was not the workmen's fourpenny pint that caused the increase in total expenditure. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is not 4d."] I do not drink it; it costs too much money.
That has no relevance to the point which was then under discussion. It was whether the people who will be affected by these changes can afford to pay the greatly increased rents which we say the Bill will inevitably create. Had the hon. Member for Henley studied another page of that Blue Book, he would have found that 18 million working people have total incomes of less than £10 a week after the deduction of tax. That proves the statement of one of my hon. Friends earlier that the average wage is something less than £10 a week.
If the Bill results in rents of 50s., as has been said—and it was suggested that in Bootle it would be £3 a week—it will be producing a rent level which the average working-class family in this country will find impossible to pay. Such families will pay those rents if they are pushed into so doing. But they will suffer in the amount of food they get, the 2443 clothes they wear and their enjoyment of the amenities of life, because their incomes will be so restricted after having paid the rent. That fact should have been enough to kill the Bill with any Government that had a social conscience, which is apparently not possessed by the present Government.
The justification for the Bill appears to be that we are spending too much money in subsidies and that the national economy cannot stand the millions of £s of subsidies paid on housing. The figure is about £100 million a year. What is £100 million a year with a national income of more than £8,000 million, when we are thinking of the enormous benefit which millions of people would get as a result of being moved from bad to new and modern accommodation? A nation which can spend the money which this nation is spending on armaments of all kinds—money which we are told by hon. Members on both sides of the House is wasted because it is buying the wrong kind of weapons—should not quibble at spending £100 million, or even more, to get decent housing accommodation, especially when it is remembered that the Slum Clearance Report listed more than 800,000 houses which should be pulled down. Other experts have said that there were more than 2 million houses which should be pulled down.
In London alone there are more than 200,000 houses over 100 years old. Many are structurally sound and will do for a year or two, but they do not qualify for the slum clearance subsidy, although they should be pulled down because they are draughty, uncomfortable, cold and inconvenient.
§ Mr. Gibson
I am coming to that. They should be pulled down when the situation so justifies, and I say that in a situation where scores of thousands of families are on urgent waiting lists that point has not arrived.
One hon. Member opposite said that the vast waiting lists which undoubtedly existed all over the country were unreal, and I think that they are. The overall waiting list in London is unreal because it contains a good deal of duplication, yet that list has been scientifically sorted and 2444 we know that on the urgent waiting list in London are about 50,000 families who must be dealt with as soon as possible. There are all sorts of reasons; because the house is not fit to live in, very often because it is grossly overcrowded, even because three or four families are living in a house that should accommodate only one, and sometimes because it is beginning to fall down. None of those people will get a house in 18 months' time, because general housing is to stop. The Minister has said so. He is reducing the subsidy now to £10 and hopes to eliminate it entirely in a couple of years.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Member said that my right hon. Friend has said that general housing is to stop. Will he please verify that statement?
§ Mr. Gibson
Yes. I shall prove it by telling the House what we have been telling the House through the whole debate, that if subsidies are abolished for general housing, general housing will stop.
§ Mr. Powell
That may be the hon. Member's opinion, but he attributed to my right hon. Friend the statement that general housing is to stop. Will he either withdraw it or verify it?
§ Mr. Gibson
It is a result of his policy. We are supported in that contention by the resolution of the Urban District Councils' Association specially called to discuss this point. It almost unanimously condemned the Bill and, in the middle of our discussions, asked for the Bill's withdrawal.
The Parliamentary Secretary referred to what he called a Labour conference a week or two ago at which the Leader of the Labour Party made a speech. The hon. Gentleman quoted extracts from that speech, but what he did not tell the House was that the outcome of the conference was a resolution, carried unanimously, which condemned the Bill, lock, stock and barrel, and asked that it should be withdrawn. The Association of Municipal Corporations has gone on record against the Bill. Every local authority has condemned this Measure. Yet, in spite of that, the Government have pushed it through this House. I suppose they hope that local authorities will do their best to make it work.
2445 This Bill is a denial of the responsibility of the Government for the housing needs of the people. I do not believe that the housing needs of our people can be met except with the assistance of State action. All the history of housing legislation— this is what I wished to say to the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page)—from the days of the first Lord Shaftesbury prove that unless the power, strength and finances of the State, as well as of local authorities, are brought in to aid the task of providing houses for the common people of the country, the houses are never provided.
It is significant that even now no one expects private enterprise to tackle the problem of the slum areas. But why not? There are huge estates in London, huge areas which are owned by house agents, some of whom I could name. There are housing companies who have taken enormous profits in days gone past. Since the war they have taken their 5 per cent. and their 10 per cent., which is a pretty good return on their money. Why should they not rebuild out of their profits in those areas which they have so exploited in the last 20 or 30 years? But no one suggests that that should be done. It is accepted that the clearing of the slums must be the responsibility and duty of local housing authorities, and the Government are to continue the subsidy for that purpose.
This is no new thing. This is no new additional spur to local authorities to get on with schemes of slum clearance. So far as London is concerned, it is six years too late, because the London County Council started a slum clearance programme six years ago and is well ahead with it.
§ Mr. Powell
Will the hon. Gentleman state how many houses the London County Council has demolished up to the present time?
§ Mr. Gibson
If I had been given notice of that question, I could have brought the figures with me. The hon. Gentleman will find them in the minutes of the London County Council meeting a couple of weeks ago.
If the Parliamentary Secretary knows his job, he will also be aware of the next point I wish to make. Slums are not cleared by a stroke of the pen. It takes at least two years to get through the whole 2446 complicated and involved machinery of the slum clearance law before it is possible to put one brick upon another —as I know from bitter experience in trying to get slum clearance schemes going in London both before and since the war.
There are 300,000 or 400,000 slum houses which are supposed to be pulled down within the next five years, but they will not be pulled down. Many of them will not get through the first stage of declaration, because of the trouble which arises over declaring and public inquiries. I have a case in mind of a slum clearance scheme in the East End of London in an area which everyone who saw it said ought to be cleared. That scheme was held up for two years because one owner objected and claimed that the action of the Minister was ultra vires. We won in the end, but as a result of that objection more than two years were lost, and Stepney, the area in which that scheme was to be carried out, remained a festering slum for those two extra years.
The same thing will happen now. There will be some owners who will object. Public inquiries will have to be held, and it is misleading people to try to make them believe that because a list is made of houses which it is hoped to deal with in the next five years, the areas will be cleared and new homes built for the people. In many cases it is physically impossible to do that. There is nothing in this Bill which will push on slum clearance programmes or the campaigns of local housing authorities.
All the large towns have been busy for months—some for years—preparing slum clearance schemes, getting the necessary resolutions passed and going through all the procedure. They will not be bothered very much, but those who have not yet started will find that it will be at least two years before they can put one brick upon another. The Government are misleading this House when they try to create the impression that this is some great new spurt to pull down the festering slums of England. I wish it were, because then I should be the first to back it.
One of the inevitable results of getting rid of the subsidy will be to put up the cost of house building to local authorities. We shall not have a sudden drop in house building because there is a drop in the subsidy. But judging by all the reports 2447 which one reads in the trade journals, prices will still go up. It is significant that in the Sunday Times last Sunday there was a middle page article dealing with costs in the building industry. It was headed, "Building's Lost Millions," and contained a good deal of sense. One of the statements in the article was:Though formal collusive tendering may now have disappeared, collusive arrangements unquestionably remain.But the Monopolies Commission condemned all that months ago. We were told by the Minister that it would be stopped and that the trade had agreed to give up this attempt by collusive tendering to keep up the price of tenders to local housing authorities. In another part of the article it stated:The price rings of the building industry are very probably the largest single example of restrictive practice in the country.Those who have had anything to do with the industry know that to be true, and that also has been condemned by the Monopolies Commission. Reference was made in the article to a point which I have several times raised in this House, the need for greater mechanisation of the building industry and the adoption of more modern methods of building. Referring to the failure of the industry to do this, it stated:As a result the building worker has half a horse power of mechanised assistance as against the three-and-a-half horse power of the factory worker.I say——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Rhys Hopkin Morris)
The hon. Member seems to be going far beyond the scope of a Third Reading debate.
§ Mr. Gibson
I am trying to show that the Bill is unnecessary; that the subsidy ought not to be cut and that there is another way to deal with the problem. I will not develop that further, except to say that if as much attention had been paid to keeping down the price of building as has been paid to trying to prove that subsidies were being paid unfairly and in an extravagant way to families who were not entitled to them, and so on, we should now have a much healthier building industry. We might even have been able to get rid of subsidies by agreement, because the cost of housing building would have been reduced to the point 2448 where subsidies were no longer needed. Surely that is what we should aim at.
In the meantime prices are still rising, and by cutting the subsidies the Government are merely making things more difficult for local housing authorities all over the country. As has been stated already, that is beginning to show itself by the reduction in the number of houses being built.
I will conclude by recounting to the House the figures published in this month's Housing Returns which show that the number of houses under construction by local authorities in September last was some 157,000, whereas on 31st December it was only 151,000, a reduction of 6,000 houses. Houses built by private builders, about whom we have heard so much today, dropped by 3,551. Houses built by housing associations and by Government Departments have also dropped, and the total reduction in the number of houses under construction is over 10,000.
It looks as if the Government's policy has succeeded even before this Measure has begun to operate. This, I anticipate, is the result of the very substantial increase in interest rates. By the time this Bill becomes an Act, with the removal of the subsidy, local government housing is bound to go down to the point to which it went before, with the inevitable result that there will be a revolt and a new Government will have to reintroduce the subsidy.
§ 8.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Osborne (Louth)
I strongly agree with the hon. Member for Clapham (Mr. Gibson) when he says that we ought to get rid of all subsidies by agreement on both sides of the building industry so as to reduce the cost of building.
§ Mr. Gibson
I think the hon. Gentleman has it the wrong way round. I said that if we could reduce the cost of building we should get rid of subsidies.
§ Mr. Osborne
I understood the hon. Gentleman to say that he would like to do that. I agree with him wholeheartedly. I dislike subsidies of all kinds because they mask the true cost of production. I would much rather see those in need given straight monetary add than be confused and hoodwinked by a false price.
The hon. Member for Clapham stated twice that my right hon. Friend had said 2449 that, as a result of this Bill, general house building would stop. The hon. Gentleman was challenged to produce the reference, but failed to do so. I think that in fairness to the House he should either withdraw his statement or say that his memory was at fault.
§ Mr. Gibson
If the interpretation of my words is what the hon. Gentleman says it is, then I withdraw them. I say that the policy now being pursued will result in the stoppage of municipal housing.
§ Mr. Osborne
The hon. Gentleman is very fair. It was his interpretation of what my right hon. Friend said and not what, in fact, he said. I think it rather important to clear up that point.
§ Mr. Arthur Moyle (Oldbury and Halesowen)
I was present when my hon. Friend was speaking, and it was very clear to me that what he was arguing was that it was intended by this Bill to foist upon local authorities the responsibility for housing, and, therefore, that whatever general building was done would be done by the local authorities.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I see no point in pursuing the matter, because the hon. Member has withdrawn it.
§ Mr. Osborne
I am much obliged to him for so doing, Mr. Deputy-Speaker.
It seems to me that the complaint about the Bill is that it reduces subsidies at a time when, as one hon. Member said, building costs are rising and when, therefore, subsidies ought to be increased. The hon. Gentleman also said that even from the time of Lord Shaftesbury it has always been the Government who have had to undertake the housing of the poorest people, that it was a matter for the State and not for the private builder. Historically, that is not quite true, but, even if it were, I would point out that the State can only provide whatever is thought desirable within its own financial capacity. I think the hon. Gentleman will agree with that.
§ Mr. Osborne
I prefer that, too. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that this objection could have been raised against the action taken by the Labour Government in 1948–49, of which he was 2450 a distinguished member. At that time we were providing food subsidies as now we are providing housing subsidies. It is a perfect analogy, and I hope that it is in order to use it to rebut the charge made from the benches opposite.
In 1948 or 1949—I have forgotten the exact date—our food subsidies had risen from £410 million to £560 million. Sir Stafford Cripps said that the State could not afford such a sum, and he set a permanent ceiling for food subsidies of £410 million a year. He did that for the same reason that the present Government are having to cut housing subsidies. I beg hon. Members opposite to read the speech of Sir Stafford Cripps at that time. I remember it very well. He said that we could not afford to pay such large subsidies because we were then in an economic crisis not unlike the one facing us today. The Government of the day had to say that they were going to spend the money more wisely.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It seems to me that we are getting a little wide of the Third Reading of the Bill.
§ Mr. Osborne
The objection to the Bill is that it cuts subsidies. My argument is that it cuts them because that is part of the general economic policy of the Government by which they hope to control inflation. It is as important a part of the general economic policy as the credit squeeze and the increase in the Bank Rate. To justify what I believe to be sound economic policy, I am reminding the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan) that, in a parallel case, he himself took the same action and that, therefore, he cannot now condemn what the present Government are doing. The only difference is that then it was food whereas, today, it is housing. When the Labour Government cut the food subsidies so viciously the right hon. Gentleman made no protest at all.
§ Mr. Osborne
I am not arguing that at all. All that I am saying quite seriously to the right hon. Gentleman is that his objection to the Bill is simply that it cuts subsidies.
§ Mr. Osborne
In certain respects. But the right hon. Gentleman, supported by many of his hon. Friends, took exactly the same action when the Socialist Party was in power. Do they think that housing is more important to the people than food? If the cutting of subsidies was justified in the case of food, is it not equally justified in the case of housing?
May I deal with that point? The hon. Gentleman, for whom I have a high regard, said that they did not commit themselves to 300,000 houses. They never built 300,000 houses. Indeed, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said that 200,000 was the maximum.
§ Mr. Osborne
I come back to the Third Reading, because there are two other points I should like to make on it.
The Hon. Member for Bootle (Mr. Mahon) said that in the Merseyside area there were 350,000 people requiring rehousing. He made the very important point that finance alone, whether under this Bill or outside it, would not quickly solve that problem on Merseyside. He said that it was the economic aspect of the problem that was so baffling, and it was so much more important than the merely financial problem.
In reply to what he said—and I listened to him closely, because he obviously knew what he was talking about when referring to conditions on Merseyside—may I put this to him? Whatever may or may not be in the Bill, the problem of the economic problems involved in the rehousing of 350,000 people on Merseyside is one on which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen 2452 opposite could help. I know I am getting out of order in saying this, but if they could use their influence to stop, in particular, the restrictive practices in the building industry, we could build cheaper and better houses.
§ Mr. Osborne
I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. Gentleman. I tried to write down what he said, and if I have misinterpreted what he said I apologise. I think the hon. Gentleman also said that the Bill would result in an increase in the rents of council houses, and was, to that degree, an attack on working-class standards.—[HON. MEMBERS: "And will send up the cost of living."] Let me try to deal with that point. Do the hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends feel that in no circumstances people living in council houses who could afford to pay a higher rent ought not to pay the proper rent? Does he think that they should be subsidised for ever, no matter what their income may be? Does he think that they should have a kind of squatters' right to big subsidies, or does he think, as does his leader, the right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale, that there is a case for differentials in rent according to income?
§ Mr. Mahon
I would rather that the hon. Gentleman was a bit more positive. The case was made by the hon. Member for Crosby (Mr. Page) on the same ambiguous lines. What I suggested the Government should tell us is what is the earning capacity of the Liverpool workers and then tell us what they can afford. I say that they cannot afford any more than they are paying at the moment, and that the average wage of the Liverpool worker is £10 a week. I base my social estimates on that.
If it is said that he would pay a rent of up to £3 a week out of an income of only £10 a week, I should say that that was scandalous. But I do not think that it is true. [HON. MEMBERS: "It is true."] I do not think it is. I do not think it is a fair comparison.
§ Mr. Sparks
It is a positive fact that in my constituency the building of houses for general purposes without the subsidy will mean charging rents of from £3 10s. to £3 15s. per week for three-bedroom flats. That is not a fable; it is a fact.
§ Mr. Osborne
Does the hon. Gentleman say that the rents will be £3 10s. to £3 15s. per week already, without this Bill and without a subsidy, and that on an income of £10 a week, because the two things must be related? Taking the one without the other makes no sense at all.
It was also said by an hon. Member opposite that this Bill was class legislation—nasty, Tory legislation—and that it was a real direct attack upon working-class standards. That is sheer nonsense. I put this to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Do they think that it is socially more unjust to put up the rents of council houses than it is to compel the same householders to pay, let us say, twice or more than twice as much for the coal they use? The cost of coal in the last eight years has gone up on the average from 79s. to 165s. 8d. per ton, and it comes from a nationalised industry in which there is no profit at all.
§ Mr. Osborne
The complaint of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite is that the Bill will tend to put up rents. That is nonsense. If the objection is made to it on social grounds, I think I am entitled to say that it is no greater social evil—and even to ask if it is even as great—because rents will not go up double, whereas already the price of coal has gone up more than double, without one word of protest from the other side of the House.
We have to face the fact that this Bill is part of the general economic policy of the Government, as I understand it. We are now, as we were in 1947–48, living as a nation beyond our income, and the problem before us is either to increase our income or cut our coats according to our cloth. Therefore, what I should like to see on the economic side is not a cutting down, but an increase in income— that is my policy—but that means more work. If the parties on both sides of the House are not prepared to face the unpopularity of demanding more work and, therefore, greater production, the 2454 inevitable result that we shall have to face will be a cutting down somewhere.
I say that this cutting down of the amount of the subsidies being given on housing is by no means as savage or as anti-social as that which hon. Members opposite agreed to in the cutting of the food subsidies by the late Sir Stafford Cripps, and that, on that ground, I am fully entitled to support the Bill.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Mr. Arthur Probert (Aberdare)
It is very difficult at this stage to introduce anything new; indeed we have heard for some months now the arguments that have been advanced from this side of the House against many parts of this Bill. I am not going to weary the House by repeating the arguments that have been put before, although I am amused by what was said by my right hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). My right hon. Friend said he was delighted to see so many hon. Members opposite taking part in this debate, and, indeed, we welcome it. I have sat through the discussions on this Bill, not perhaps as long as everybody else, but as long as most people, and during that time I have found the benches on the other side of the House mostly empty while very long arguments have been put from this side on the demerits of this Bill.
It is significant to me that the Minister and his Parliamentary Secretary have had to bat on a lonely wicket—and it says much for their diligence and patience that they have done it—and now seem to think that they have countered all our arguments successfully. Some of our arguments must have been correct, but in not one single instance has the Minister or the Parliamentary Secretary been forthcoming in the slightest degree.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Member will agree that a number of Amendments— some desired by local authority associations as well as hon. Members on both sides of the House—have been made to the Bill. For example, some have been made in Clause 8.
§ Mr. Probert
For the sake of my argument the case quoted by the Parliamentary Secretary is wholly insignificant.
Ostensibly, the Bill is intended to encourage slum clearance. How does the Minister propose that it will be done? He adopts the most negative approach 2455 possible, which is merely to slash housing subsidies. In other words, in order to encourage local authorities to clear their slum areas we must stop housing for general needs.
An hon. Member opposite said that the result of this legislation would be that the number of houses built would be maintained at their present level. He quoted in support of his argument what happened in the 1930s. Quite by chance I was able to obtain the statistics relating to that period, as given in the Statistical Abstract of the United Kingdom, 79th and 83rd issues. Reading those statistics we find some results which are rather interesting, if considered together with the figures which he quoted.
In 1930, approximately 60,000 houses were built by local authorities, and 91,000 by private enterprise. I will not weary the House with any more details, except to say that in 1933—which is the date the hon. Member mentioned—private enterprise built about 142,000 houses, and local authorities 55,000. The figures in respect of local authority houses for the following years are as follows: 55,000 in 1934; 41,000 in 1935; 52,000 in 1936, and 71,000 in 1937. The figures for private enterprise houses were as follows: 207,000 in 1934; 286,000 in 1935; 272,000 in 1936, and 273,000 in. 1937.
Since 1946 not a single house has been built for rent by private enterprise in the Aberdare Urban District Council. I cannot understand how hon. Members opposite—who must have to face desperate people who come to their "surgeries" and ask what they can do for them in their search for a house—can adopt the attitude they do in the circumstances.
An hon. Member opposite quoted certain figures in relation to slum clearance. His figures were quite correct, having been obtained from the Summary of Returns for Slum Clearance, 1954. If we study those returns we find that the number of individual houses to be demolished is 103,000 and the number of houses in clearance areas to be demolished is 272,000, making a total of 375,000 houses. That is in respect of a period of five years, which means that the average rate should be 75,000 per year. That is almost the figure that the Minister desires. I believe his target is 80,000 per year.
The Government have boasted of their ability to produce 300,000 houses a year. 2456 I accept that figure; in fact they built over 350,000 houses in one year. In 1953–54 local authorities built approximately 200,000 each. If the Minister were really bent upon slum clearance, and was also sympathetic towards housing for general needs, why could not he say to local authorities, "Right—if you will build in the ratio of one slum clearance house to two for general needs I will not alter the existing subsidies"? That would have been a simple solution to the problem. We would surely all agree that no local authority would refuse an offer under such conditions.
I am sure that many hon. Members will be astonished to hear that one local authority in my area—the Mountain Ash Urban District Council—has only 78 houses to clear in the five-year programme. I am very pleased about that. That means that it will have to clear approximately 16 houses per year. The Aberdare Urban District Council has 180 houses to clear in five years, or 36 houses per year. Upon the experience of postwar years we find that each of those local authorities can build between 100 and 300 houses per year. The Aberdare Urban District Council has, in fact, built 350 houses in one year. Surely those councils could meet this slum clearance problem with the existing subsidy rates for general purposes as well, with the simple condition that they incorporate within their present programme 36 houses in the case of Aberdare and 16 in the case of Mountain Ash.
Instead of that the Minister is ruthlessly slashing the subsidies and, ultimately, abolishing them altogether. I do not want to be demagogic or too emotional, but I must point out that by this action he is returning thousands of people into a hell of despair, where they will have to wait year in and year out for a little missive to come from the town hall telling them that they will be given what is their right in this society—a home of their own.
There is one question of detail which I should like to ask, to which I failed to get an answer from the Minister during the Committee stage. In common with many of my colleagues, I am interested in Clause 5. I know that it is merely an escape Clause and has been included in previous legislation. My two local authorities have told me that they know 2457 of no instance where they have benefited from this escape Clause in previous legislation. Can the Minister tell us specifically how the Clause will work? Perhaps I may assist him to some degree. The average weekly earnings for April, 1955, are given as £10 17s. per week. According to the figures given to me by the Mountain Ash Urban District Council, the economic rent of the houses it is now building is £2 11s. per week. That is a fair figure based upon present-day costs. It is a figure we can at least assume to be correct for the rent in two or three years' time, when housing subsidies are demolished and the council has either to charge tenants the economic rents, or pool the rents of all houses, old and new.
The Mountain Ash Council is one of the many small authorities which have not a large number of pre-war houses to work on. It has about 250. The relationship of that rent to earnings of £10 17s.—and in my constituency earnings like that are very high indeed—is 23 per cent. Does the Minister think that that relationship is high. Or does he think that it should be higher—say 25 per cent.? Or does he think it should be lower—10 or 15 per cent.? If he thinks that 23 per cent. is high, would he agree that local authorities in such circumstances could benefit under Clause 5?
§ Mr. Powell
I wonder if the hon. Member could supply another figure, which, I think, is relevant? He mentioned that there was a small number of pre-war houses—and, presumably, a larger number of post-war houses. Could he say whether that rent has been calculated which would be charged to the tenant on the assumption of a pooling of rents and subsidies?
§ Mr. Bevan
No, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I think that I am entitled to put this point to the hon. Gentleman. He has suggested that before there could be any relief under the Clause we are considering a calculation should first of all be made which would include the pre-war houses. 2458 In other words, he is now insisting on differentia] rents before Clause 5 is applied.
§ Mr. Powell
I have not said a thing about differential rents. I asked the hon. Member if he would supply a figure, which I am sure is relevant, because any local authority would make that calculation. If the hon. Member cannot give the figure now, I should be obliged if he could supply it later.
§ Mr. Probert
I think that I can give it in round-figure form. This rent is the economic rent. At the present moment the council has a system of pooled rents, and taking into account the present scheme of 233 houses, the number of postwar houses is, I think, 750 houses. I am open to correction, and if the Parliamentary Secretary wishes to take this further, I am quite prepared to correct any figures which I may have given incorrectly.
I shall not delay the House any longer except to say that the Bill is, as the Minister himself has said, an expression of the alarm felt at the growing increase in subsidies. The Minister has said that the removal of the subsidies will not mean great increases in rents, and he has quoted the quite nonsensical increase of 7d. a week. We all know that one of the easiest ways by which he could have assisted council house rents would have been to have told the Treasury to charge interest rates of 3 per cent. instead of 5 per cent. Such a reduction would have reduced rents quite fantastically. I shall not delay the House longer, but I do wish for an answer to the specific question I have asked.
§ 8.33 p.m.
§ Mr. Norman Pannell (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
A good deal of misplaced indignation has been engendered in this debate, and there has been an attempt to dramatise a situation which is capable of calm appraisal. I intervene chiefly because remarks have been made about Liverpool, and I represent a Liverpool constituency which has a housing problem probably as bad as any in the country.
A great deal of the property there is scheduled for slum clearance and the problems of those living in the slums are very grave indeed. Those people do not qualify for houses as of right. It is true 2459 that they are living in sub-standard accommodation, but they are not living in over-crowded conditions and their claims are always postponed pending a slum clearance programme. Now at last, by this Bill, those people have some hope. There is an emphasis on slum clearance in the Bill which will be of very great benefit to my constituency.
In considering the burden that will fall on the tenants of council houses as a result of this Measure, I do not think that enough attention has been given to a point which has been stressed often enough during the debate—the spread of the burden. I fully admit that if the full burden is to be placed on the tenants of new council houses it will be an intolerable one. If the spread is made then it is a very slight burden.
In view of the fact that a number of figures have been given, I will give some for Liverpool. I have made a study of this as I am a member of the Liverpool City Council and of the Housing Committee. The Corporation owns 60,000 houses and is building at the rate of 3,000 a year, which is 50 per cent. more than during the period of Socialist administration. In relation to the total number of houses owned by the Corporation, the number being built is relatively small. If the effect of the Bill is to increase the rent of new houses by 10s. a week, then it is clear that if the spread is made over the 60,000 houses and there are 3,000 built every year, that burden is reduced to one-twentieth—from 10s. a week to 6d. a week.
That is the calculation which I have made of the effect which the Bill would have in Liverpool if the burden were spread over the whole pool of houses owned by the Corporation. It is not an onerous burden. At the end of five years, assuming that interest rates remain high, it would amount to 2s. 6d. a week.
Of the 60,000 houses owned by Liverpool Corporation, over 40,000 were built before the war and about 20,000 have been built since. The houses built before the war were a model of their kind— a very fine type of terraced house, built fairly close to the centre of the city in pleasant estates. They compare not unfavourably with the houses being erected today. Obviously the costs were 2460 much lower; they were built at an average cost of less than £500 a house, compared with £1,500 today. The rents are based on the cost of those houses and not spread over the whole pool. Consequently, we find that tenants in these mature houses, conveniently placed near the centre of the city, pay rents of about 14s. a week, whereas in the raw estates on the outskirts of the city tenants have to pay 30s. a week and more.
It does not seem to me that the principle of fair shares is being applied in this instance. Very often the people in the older estates were placed in those houses before the war, when they had large families of small children. The children have since grown up and the houses are often occupied only by the parents. These people, perhaps fifty to sixty years old, have their children off their hands and have reasonable incomes, but their rents are 14s a week. Those who now have large families and who have burdens to carry quite beyond comparison with the burdens of the older people I have mentioned are sent to the new estates on the outskirts of the city and have to pay rents of 30s. a week. If the Bill were applied and the burden fell only on the new houses these tenants would have to pay up to 40s. a week.
I think it is within the power of the corporation to equalise the burden, since the average rent in Liverpool for the 60,000 houses is less than £1 a week and need not be more than that figure for anybody if the burden were spread. As a result of the Bill the average rent could eventually rise to 22s. 6d., but in present conditions that is not an unfair burden. A lot of the drama which has been introduced into the debate is quite irrelevant, and if hon. Members opposite would apply themselves to the figures involved they would come to a different point of view.
Another point which is relevant to the debate is that there is not so much a shortage of houses in Liverpool as a great deal of under-occupation; many of the houses are under-occupied. On the estates old people are left in possession of three-bedroomed houses, and no attempt is made to put larger families into those houses, although there is ample accommodation. Sometimes there is only one person in a three-bedroomed house, and no attempt is made to move that 2461 person to other accommodation. It is not so much a question of lack of accommodation as of maldistribution of accommodation. That applies equally to privately-owned houses.
Never does a house become vacant in my constituency without it being put up for sale. I have endeavoured to get landlords to rent such houses to people in need. Occasionally I have been successful and they have let them at a restricted rent, but it has been pointed out to me—not in bitterness, but as a matter of factual record—that it is impossible for an estate to continue ownership of those houses if they are to be let at the rents to which they are restricted today. It is quite impossible; they are not in business to lose money and have no pride in keeping houses they cannot maintain in good repair. Until that problem is solved we shall not break the back of the problem as a whole. If, in view of the large number of houses built since the war, Which has accounted for the houses demolished during the war and the increase in population——
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
I think the hon. Member is now going beyond the limits of debate on Third Reading.
§ Mr. Pannell
I will wind up by saying that if all relevant factors are taken into account and the Bill is regarded without prejudice, hon. Members will come to the conclusion that the burden falling on tenants need not be in any way onerous. I conclude by giving my support to the Bill.
§ Mrs. E. M. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)
Will the hon. Gentleman inform the House that Liverpool has on its housing register at the moment 45,000 applicants for accommodation? Will he also tell the House that, fortunately for the people of Liverpool, the Labour Party has control in that city at the moment?
§ Mr. Pannell
I do not share the enthusiasm of the hon. Lady for the method of control in the city, but I agree that there are 45,000 on the housing list and Liverpool is building 3,000 houses a year. There is no possibility of solving the problem at that rate. When there was a Socialist Administration in the country there was a waiting list of 55,000 and the authority was building only 2,000 houses a year.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. J. A. Sparks (Acton)
Those of us who heard the speech of the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) have come to the conclusion that he really and truly let the cat out of the bag about the real purpose and intention of the Bill.
This Measure, as the hon. Member said, really originated from the Budget policy of the Government as laid down in the autumn of last year to meet the national emergency. He said that its intention was to halt inflation. That means to reduce expenditure—not only to reduce the Exchequer contribution to housing, but to reduce the expenditure of local authorities for the same purpose. He said quite the opposite from what the Minister said. The right hon. Gentleman has been misleading the House throughout by telling us that his policy is to encourage local authorities to build more and more houses, not only for slum clearance, but for general purposes.
If in fact local authorities build more and more houses, then, on the policy of the Government, they will be increasing the inflationary tendency in the country. Therefore, if the Bill does not result in a reduction of expenditure on housing— to say nothing about other local authority expenditure—it will have failed in its purpose. The intention of the Bill is precisely to run down the housing schemes of local authorities and to reduce the amount of capital investment in this social service.
A number of statements has been made by the Minister as to the merits of this Measure, and throughout the Committee Stage he and the Parliamentary Secretary tried to give the impression that it was designed to provide an incentive for and to stimulate slum clearance. That is a complete and utter fallacy. There is no incentive whatever, unless he assumes that an incentive to build houses for slum clearances is provided by reducing and abolishing the subsidy on houses for other purposes. That is not an incentive. It is not even a financial incentive, because the right hon. Member himself, when he made a statement to the House on housing subsidies on 27th October last, said:At present, the basic annual Exchequer subsidy is about £22 per house. That figure was fixed a year ago. Since then rates of interest on loans have risen appreciably, and if we were to follow the previous practice of adjusting subsidies to take account of such 2463 changes the basic subsidy would now have to be raised to well over £30. But the Government do not consider that such an increase is either necessary or desirable."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1955; Vol. 545, c. 379.]If he were truly providing an incentive for slum clearance, he would not be offering a £22 subsidy but a £30 subsidy. Therefore, he is offering a lower subsidy for slum clearance and taking no account whatever of the increased costs arising from increased interest rates on housing loans, which adds many shillings a week, dependent on what part of the country one is talking about, to the rents which have to be paid.
The problem for many people who live in the slums is not merely that of getting a better home. The majority of those who live in slums do not live there because they like it. They are driven there because, in the main, they are in the lower income group, and, as a general rule, the rents which they pay are rather below, and often well below, the average.
The financing of the slum clearance schemes must cause the slum dwellers to face increased rents, often twice as high as those they are now paying. That increase in rent will be brought about because the right hon. Gentleman is not paying the proper rate of subsidy for slum clearance. He is putting up the rate of interest on loans and sending up costs and he is abolishing subsidies on other forms of housing, which will raise the general level of rents, including the rents of slum tenants rehoused in other places. The net result is that he will be placing an intolerable rent burden on people who are to be rehoused from the slums.
There is no incentive in the Bill for local authorities to pursue schemes of slum clearance. I should like to give the right hon. Gentleman one instance of the effect of the Bill upon a scheme in my constituency. We have heard much talk from hon. Members opposite to the effect, "Well, this does not involve very much in increased rents—7d. a week," and a lot of silly nonsense of that kind. These are instances of two schemes, either under construction or about to be constructed, in my constituency and the effect which the Bill will have upon rents. They relate to flats in four-storey blocks. The reduced subsidy will mean a rise of 9s. 6d. a week in the rents of the flats. In addition, the result so far of the increase in 2464 interest rates to 5 per cent.—and the rates are now running at 5½ per cent., and not merely 5 per cent.—means an addition of l1s. 3d. a week for interest charges alone.
If all subsidies are to be abolished on this type of construction, as the Minister says is his intention, because these are flats for general housing needs—technically, my constituency has no slums, but it does have intense overcrowding and these flats are being built to relieve overcrowding—within a year or two the abolition of the subsidy will raise the rents by £1 2s. 6d. a week, in addition to the increased costs due to increased interest charges on housing loans of l1s. 3d. a week. The rents of the flats in these four-storey blocks will, therefore, increase by 33s. 9d. a week. I have not time to elaborate or to relate the many examples in which the increase of rent will be much higher.
The right hon. Gentleman says that for a year or two we may be able to spread the load amongst all the other tenants, but my constituency does not have a very big pre-war pool of houses. Even in those that exist, the rents are very high compared with country districts, and there is a saturation point which will be reached in about 12 to 18 months' time. When we arrive at that point, we shall find it physically impossible to continue our general housing schemes on the same scale.
The Bill is one of the most reactionary Measures ever to come before this House. The housing problem is as acute today as ever it was. The Minister has tried to make out that, because over 2 million houses have been built since 1945, the problem has eased, but it has not eased at all. The number of marriages since 1939 is 6,493,000. If we deduct the number of family units who have died during that time, totalling 2,900,000, we are left with a net figure of 3,593,000 married couples since 1939 for whom housing accommodation has to be provided.
Since 1939, we have built about 2,061,000 houses. This leaves a shortage of approximately 1,500,000 houses for the accommodation of those who have been married since 1939. In addition, however, 200,000 inhabited houses fall out of use every year through decay. They have to be closed and their occupants have to be found other 2465 accommodation. If we add the annual 200,000 to the deficiency of 1,500,000, we get some idea of the present-day housing problem.
Since 1938, the population has increased by 3,290,000. The significant fact is that, although the population has increased by more than 3 million, the number of marriages is less than in 1938. For the last three years, the number of marriages has been progressively falling. In 1954 the number of marriages was about 392,000, as against 409,000 in 1938. This signifies that young men and women now are hesitating to get married because the problem of getting a home is becoming more and more difficult. Hon. Gentlemen opposite may think that is a good thing for the country, but we on this side of the House think nothing of the kind. Therefore, I hope the House will reject this Bill tonight because of its reactionary nature, and because it will perpetuate social evils throughout the country, I hope we shall demonstrate our feeling about it in the Lobby.
§ 8.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Aneurin Bevan (Ebbw Vale)
We have reached now the final stage of this Bill in this House, and I want to make one or two observations about what has happened since the Second Reading. The Minister will recall that discussions took place through the usual channels in order to come to some arrangement about the time to be allotted to Committee. I am not complaining that we did not have sufficient time. I think we had plenty of time—at least, plenty of time for the right hon. Gentleman to have changed his mind on several occasions. We decided for the convenience of the House to adopt a rather novel experiment. It was that we should have a self-imposed timetable, self-imposed on the Opposition, by which we would allot to the various Amendments what time we considered the Amendments themselves deserved. This was in my Parliamentary experience, which goes back over many years, an unusual device. We are now in the position to assess whether the experiment was justified or not.
The purpose of the experiment was not only to allow hon. Members to go home at 10 o'clock. It was not only to meet the convenience of Members of the House, but was also to try to find out 2466 whether such an arrangement would induce in the Government a more accommodating disposition. I am bound to say it was a complete failure. I have rarely seen a Bill less amended than this one— an important Bill of this sort which arouses intense opposition throughout the country, which has been opposed by all the local authority associations, which has been hotly debated in every council chamber in Great Britain, which, as my hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lindgren) said in opening the debate for this side of the House today, has given occasion for unprecedented opposition by some local authority associations. Nevertheless, at the end of the Committee we had to recall that, apart from a triviality, there had been no Amendment of any sort accepted by the Government.
That is a pretty sorry picture, and I want to tell the right hon. Gentleman that it is nothing to be proud about. Anyone can sit there nowadays, in the present state of the party machines, with empty benches behind him. Throughout the Committee hardly any attention at all was given to the Measure by his followers. I believe they had to take some steps to whip up a few spokesmen today. It was obvious from the nature of the speeches they made that they had not had time to think about them very much. They had to make a show, and they made it, and we are grateful to them, because, after all, it is better to see threadbare limbs than no limbs at all. As far as I can see, a repetition of this experiment is not likely to be any more successful than this one has been. I state my own personal views without consulting my colleagues, but when we come to consider Bills of this stature in the future we shall have to reconsider the whole of this procedure, and whether we ought not to give hon. Members opposite a more uncomfortable time to make them a little bit more sensible.
I now turn to my second point, and I make it in all seriousness. This country is passing through a very grave crisis. We are in a very serious situation. In fact, in my opinion, we are in a worse position than at any time in the last twenty years. It is all the worse because of the fact that we are supposed to be prosperous. However, it may be that in a week or so we shall have a discussion on the economic situation.
2467 Everyone is waiting to hear what the new Chancellor of the Exchequer has to propose in order to undo the mischief for part of which he himself was responsible. The reputation of one statesman has been used up in. the course of the last few years by attempts to produce the policies which his back-benchers wanted him to produce. He produced them—no one can say that he did not—and he has produced an economic crisis at the same time.
This Measure, which is a major Measure, has to be considered against the background of the country's economic and financial circumstances. It also has to be considered against the background of the fact that for this Measure hon. Members opposite possess no mandate at all. I want to remind them once more, because they will now hear about it very much more than they have done, that at the last General Election they deliberately deceived the country. They withheld from the knowledge of the electorate the proposals which they knew they were hatching.
The right hon. Gentleman told the House on Second Reading that he made up his mind about this Measure after the General Election. I tell him, frankly, that I do not believe him. I think he was telling an untruth. When he says that the Government did not have a Measure of this sort in mind before the General Election, I do not believe him. We know very well from speeches made by hon. Members opposite here and in the country that attacks on housing subsidies have been in the minds of the Conservatives for the last three or four years. Therefore, when the right hon. Gentleman tries to pretend that at the last General Election the Conservatives did not state their intentions to the electorate because they did not have such intentions, we just do not believe it.
We know very well that at the last General Election the Conservative Party put no policy before the country in this respect or any other. All hon. Members opposite said was "We have done very well so far. Send us back, and we will keep on doing it." They have kept on doing it. They went to the country without a mandate to do any other than they had been doing. Parliament resumed un-refreshed, unrenovated and as lethargic as it had been before the General Election. 2468 However, having won their majority, hon. Gentlemen opposite then proceeded to use it to do other things which they had concealed from the electorate. Having done so, they do not even bother to attend the Chamber. They do not bother to listen to the arguments. Having won a majority by sleight of hand, they do not even worry their heads about working out the matter. And then they begin to wonder why it is that in this financial and economic crisis there are strikes all over the country.
Have hon. Members not yet come to realise that when they undermine the stature and authority of Parliament people outside try to redress wrongs in their own way? Do they think that there is no connection whatsoever between the present wave of industrial unrest and the cynical deception of which they have been guilty? Do they imagine that those circumstances have nothing to do with the fact that industry after industry is deeply disturbed with strikes, on or pending, and with wage negotiations of the most massive kind involving hundreds of millions of pounds? Yet the Cabinet proposes to Parliament a Measure whose effect is to raise rents all round.
What do they think industrial organisations will do? I want to know from the Minister whether he really believes that at the end of this Measure he will have saved a brass farthing. If it is a fact that the present Measure is intended, as the Parliamentary Secretary said it was, to raise rents to the point where it would pay private enterprise to build houses for rent—[HON. MEMBERS: "Quote."] The Parliamentary Secretary has been promoted——
§ Mr. Bevan
I must say that is a pretty weak one. It had no malice or wit.
I do not want to quote too much, because the Parliamentary Secretary can look after his own speech. He said:Another feature which we have to take into account is that today, owing to full employment and the opportunities for women to be employed, the average family income has risen much more steeply than the average earnings of male wage earners. There is, therefore, a considerable margin to play with between the average family earnings today as compared with 1939 and the current cost of building today as compared with 1939 …2469In view of these facts, it seems to me impossible to claim that for the majority of families in this country it is unreasonable to expect that they should be able to pay the current economic value of the accommodation which they reasonably require.If that means anything at all, it means that rents must rise to the point where it would be economic for private owners to build houses to rent. If it does not mean that, it means nothing, and I give the hon. Gentleman the credit that when he speaks it does mean something, however unpleasant it may be. He went on:Or, to put it another way"—so there will be no misapprehension—that they cannot or will not demand decent accommodation for themselves and their families, and that the building industry and the existing stock of houses are not capable of complying with that need and that demand.To make doubly sure, he goes on:We on this side of the House"—he meant hon. Members opposite— [HON. MEMBERS: "Where are they?"]— they are beginning to come in a little better—We on this side of the House believe that, in conditions in which the country can demand and obtain an ever-rising standard in all other fields, essential and inessential, it is absurd to say that the British people cannot, or will not, house themselves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1955; Vol. 546, c. 1091–4.]That means that they will rent houses from the private landlords. It does not mean that they will go to the local authority, because his whole argument was that there was no reason why private enterprise should not build adequate housing for rent.
The corollary of that is that therefore rents must rise to the level where it pays landlords to build houses at a profit to rent. Everybody knows that that position has not yet been reached, and therefore the policy of the hon. Member is to let rents rise until that position has been reached. But, of course, since then he has been promoted. Now he is in the Government and now, as a member of the Government, he says something different. I do not quarrel with him. He is entitled to earn what he can get.
He has now changed his views. He said today in the speech with which he opened this debate, "We expect that local authorities will go on providing houses for general need." That was his 2470 statement today. Indeed, he went on to say that he did not expect—and the right hon. Gentleman has said this too—that they do not expect that the housing activities of local authorities will be reduced. Oh, no. What they said was that they expected that housing activities would be at the same level but more resources would be diverted to slum clearance and less to housing general needs. Is not that what they said? I am prepared to give way if I have misrepresented them. I understood them to say that the whole emphasis of this Bill is for local authorities to build less houses for general housing need and more houses for slum clearance. Is that right? I should like to know. The whole House would like to know.
Is it intended that the expenditure of local authorities on housing activities should be undiminished? We should like to know. The right hon. Gentleman has his opportunity, is that what he means? Has the right hon. Gentleman consulted the Chancellor of the Exchequer? We should like to know whether one part of this Government knows what the other part is doing. Again I repeat that there can be no misunderstanding because the hon. Member for Louth (Mr. Osborne) is quite clear—[HON. MEMBERS: "What?"] Oh, yes, he is quite clear. He can see the precipice yawning before him, and he unhesitatingly marches towards it.
§ Mr. Osborne
The right hon. Gentleman is quite unfair. May I say that I do not want any one to stab me in the back and push me over it?
§ Mr. Bevan
The hon. Member is in no danger, he is showing every sign of receeding life. What did he say just now? He said that he believed it was desirable that there should be a reduction of housing subsidies in order that there should be a reduction of house building. That is what he told us. He said that it is necessary that there should be disinflation, that it is necessary that there should be a reduction in capital expenditure. Now he disagrees with the right hon. Gentleman——
§ Mr. Osborne
On a point of order. The right hon. Gentleman has just said that I used the word "disinflation." Is it in order for the right hon. Gentleman 2471 to state that I used the words "disinflation" and "reduction in capital expenditure" when I never used such terms at all?
§ Mr. Bevan
I am bound to warn the hon. Gentleman that if he interrupts me I shall take it out of the Minister's time. My hon. Friends on this side of the House —of course there was hardly anybody on the benches opposite—will recollect that the whole of the hon. Gentleman's argument was that there should be a reduction in the amount spent on houses and, therefore, in the number of houses built. He quoted the analogy of my late right hon. Friend Sir Stafford Cripps on food subsidies. Therefore, there was no sense in what he said unless he was talking about a reduction in capital expenditure.
That is what he said, but the hon. Gentleman does not agree with his right hon. Friend the Minister because the right hon. Gentleman is convinced that, even if there is a reduction of housing subsidies, the local authorities will not diminish their housing activities. I hate to see this disagreement on the other side of the House. Not only is there confusion between the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. Friend, but it is nothing like the confusion between him and his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and not only this Chancellor but the last one as well.
What has been happening, of course, is that since these measures were framed and since these intentions were gestated, a change has taken place. The Conservatives have discovered that the free-for-all to which they pin their faith is now bringing the country to disaster. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] They are now discovering that everything that they have been saying for the last four years was utter nonsense, that Great Britain is in a very dangerous and difficult position from which she can only be rescued by bold and imaginative action by the Government and not by leaving it to the "pull devil, pull baker" in the market place, and not by leaving it to personal and private greed and to private economic venture, but by Government action, in fact by Government interference and by Government intervention.
2472 All that hon. Members opposite are worried about is what form that intervention takes. So far, of course, it has taken the clumsy form of an increase in the Bank Rate which has put local authorities everywhere in difficulty. That is a clumsy, indelicate instrument which falls quite often upon the innocent and which puts upon the bank managers the obligation that the Government ought to discharge.
So far it has been left to that instrument, and that instrument has failed. Now the Chancellor has to consider some other method. But the right hon. Gentleman is not co-operating with him. He said, "Oh no, I am not going to reduce the capital expenditure; I am only going to switch it from general housing to slum clearance. I am going to give the local authorities incentives to do more slum clearance and to build less houses for general needs."
Of course, the right hon. Gentleman's idea of incentives is not to lighten the burden of one runner in the race, but to put clamps on the other. If one leads the one down, the other will win the race. It is the most extraordinary description of incentives that I have ever known. The right hon. Gentleman might have kept the housing subsidies and so allowed the local authorities themselves to decide freely how they would dispose of their resources for slum clearance or general needs.
The right hon. Gentleman has talked much about leaving the local authorities free. Why did he not leave them free? There was no need to reduce housing subsidies in order that local authorities might clear more slums. On the contrary, the right hon. Gentleman could have retained the subsidies and the local authorities would have done this. In any case, he has all the loan sanction powers he needs. He did not need this devious trick of transferring burdens from well-to-do taxpayers to council tenants in order to enable more slums to be pulled down. He can either sanction or not sanction the scheme.
Capital development is in the right hon. Gentleman's own hands in his Department. In any case, hon. Members are deceiving themselves. The local authorities intended to do more slum clearance than this Bill allows them to do. This 2473 is not a slum clearance Bill at all. The former Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has left his high office and has taken an office even more onerous at the moment, on 26th October last year said this:In the next 18 months or so, however, the capital expenditure of the local authorities may be expected to fall.Is it to fall? We should like to know whether there are to be fewer houses for general need or less slum clearance. Then, he said this:It is probable that the reduction in housing expenditure will continue;"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th October, 1955; Vol. 545, c. 214.]But the hon. Member today said the opposite—that it is going to go up. I do not like to see this confusion of counsel in the Government, and I hope that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes to read his language tomorrow he will regard it as merely the foolishness and a slip of the tongue of an inexperienced Under-Secretary.
But the fact is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer expects the Minister of Housing and Local Government to cause the local authorities to build fewer houses, and this Bill is the financial instrument by which that is to be brought about. So it would be very much better if the Government were really clear about it, because it really is not good enough to face a crisis of these dimensions by such legerdemain as that. It would be much better for the country to know how many houses the local authorities are expected to build; in other words, it would be much better if the resources of the nation were applied intelligently. [Laughter.]
Hon. Members may laugh, but it is perfectly true, and I have been chided on more than one occasion when we stated the number of houses which we thought —[An HON. MEMBER: "TWO hundred thousand."] Certainly, of course. Is the hon. Gentleman just waking up? That has been said over and over again. We said that in our view at this moment the housing programme of the country should march at that pace, and that capital expenditure on schools, hospitals, factories and elsewhere should also march with it. What did hon. Members opposite say? They said "Not march, but scramble," and the result is that they have scrambled and we are faced with the present situation.
I said at the beginning that I wanted to give the right hon. Gentleman the 35 2474 minutes for which he asked. Let me end by saying that we have always regarded housing as a very important part of the social and economic activity of the country as a whole. We have always believed that housing could be used not only to swell or to diminish the total volume of capital expenditure, but also to guide the nation's resources where these are most needed in the nation's interests; that we should, in fact, build houses where they were most needed and where they would make the biggest contribution to the nation's economic survival.
We believe that we cannot measure the success of housing merely by the number of houses that are built but by where we build them. I will give hon. Members a clear illustration of that now. It does not make a contribution towards the nation's recovery, it does not help us to get out of our difficulties, it does not help the balance of our trade when we find that very large numbers of bungalows are being built by building societies on the edges of our towns and cities, when hardly any building has been done at all in the deep rural areas, where we need to produce food in order to reduce our balance of payments difficulties.
In other words, the Government have abandoned housing as an instrument of national planning. The consequences are coming home to roost. Hon. Members opposite can grin as much as they like, but they will be grinning on the other side of their faces in a fortnight's time, when the Chancellor tells them the price they have had to pay for their stupidity in the last four years.
§ 9.25 p.m.
§ The Minister of Housing and Local Government (Mr. Duncan Sandys)
I am sure that we have all listened with enjoyment to the characteristic speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. Bevan). We have had some very long debates on the Bill and have explored every Clause and paragraph over and over again—so much so that you, Mr. Speaker, had to explain how it was that on the Report stage the Amendments which were being accepted for discussion were all upon points which had been fully discussed during the Committee stage.
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale yesterday referred to his own amiability in the course of the debate, and I should 2475 like to thank him for it We appreciate the amiable way in which the debates have been conducted, and not least the amiability of the right hon. Gentleman. I am grateful to hon. Members on both sides of the House for their co-operation in seeing the Bill through all its stages without causing us to resort to time tables or Closure Motions.
The right hon. Gentleman made a rather unworthy allusion, however, to my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary. He said that my hon. Friend was entitled to earn what he could by being a Parliamentary Secretary, or words to that effect. If there is an underpaid job in this country it is that of a Parliamentary Secretary.
§ Mr. Sandys
I take this opportunity to pay my tribute to the contribution made to these debates by my hon. Friend, whose mastery of this subject has more than once impressed hon. Members. I would also like to express my appreciation to his predecessor, who helped me during the earlier stages of the Bill.
§ Mr. Sandys
The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale said that he made no complaint about the amount of time allotted to these debates. I am grateful to him for saying that. He accused me—I did not altogether understand him—of changing my mind on several occasions, and yet, almost in the same breath, he said that his complaint was that an insufficient number of Amendments had been accepted, and that the Bill had gone through with practically no worth-while changes. It is no good the right hon. Gentleman looking so surprised—the whole House has heard him. If this Bill has gone through with very few Amendments it means that it has stood up well to the scrutiny of the House in ten days of discussion and debate.
This Measure contains three main provisions. It reduces the subsidy for general needs from £22 to £10. Once again, I wish to make it quite clear that it is our intention to abolish this subsidy for 2476 general need altogether within the next year or so. At the same time, the Bill maintains the subsidy at the existing level for slum clearance, and it increases it slightly in respect of houses for overspill and for certain other purposes.
The object of the Bill is to provide a new and more realistic structure for our housing finance. In doing that we are pursuing four aims. The first is to ensure that, as far as possible, subsidies are provided to the extent that they are needed—and only to that extent. The second aim is to encourage local authorities to devote a higher proportion of their building effort to the task of rehousing families from the slums who have not been getting their fair share of the new houses. The third is to ensure the continued progress of new towns and town expansions in order to accommodate overspill population from the congested areas. The fourth is to make special provision for the housing of work people coming into an area to meet the needs of an important industry which is short of labour.
Those are all objects which, I should have thought, would have commended themselves to every responsible person. I have no doubt that, in their hearts, hon. Members opposite know that what this Bill sets out to do is sound, right and fair. Whatever hon. Members opposite may think, the Labour Party has decided, as a matter of political tactics, to issue instructions to their supporters all over the country to miss no opportunity to put the blame on the Tories. We did not expect otherwise. We are quite prepared to wait and to allow this policy to be judged by its results. We are confident that those results will prove to be wholly beneficial.
In announcing the introduction of the Bill on 27th October last I said that, in the Government's opinion…the amount of subsidy which the Exchequer is now paying out in respect of existing houses is unnecessarily large and provides a margin which could properly be used for financing some part of the future house-building programme."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1955; Vol. 545, c. 379.]In other words, provided local authorities pool all the money they receive in subsidies and spread it over all their houses, there is absolutely no reason why, except in certain special cases, they should find 2477 any difficulty in building the houses they need and letting them at rents which the tenants can afford to pay.
§ Mr. Lindgren
Since the Minister made that statement, as a result of the increase in interest rates the rent of a normal £1,500 house has risen by 1s. 8d. a week.
§ Mr. Sandys
I will not use the expression "nonsense," which the hon. Member used. Nothing has been said in the course of the ten days' debate to disprove the contention which I made. It has been said, although I notice that it has been said less and less as the debates have proceeded, that as a result of the Bill local authorities will stop building houses. That is not only an absurd, but, I think, a thoroughly unworthy suggestion. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] It is unworthy because it implies that local authorities will shirk their responsibilities.
§ Mr. Sandys
I do not see what that has to do with it. Nobody has ever suggested that the Government are asking local authorities to stop building houses. As my hon. Friend the Member for Henley (Mr. Hay) said earlier this afternoon, local authorities are not actuated solely by narrow considerations of finance. Housing is one of their main duties, and they will go on discharging it even if the Exchequer assistance is reduced.
§ Mr. Sandys
I was asked by the hon. Member for Wellingborough to look up my Department's Press cuttings and to see how many local authorities had, since the introduction of the Bill, decided to stop building houses. As far as I know, apart from East Ashford, which the hon. Gentleman himself mentioned, only one authority, the Kingswood Urban District Council, has announced a decision to stop house building. I can see no reason why either of those two authorities could not well continue to build houses if they so 2478 desired, and I have little doubt that when these authorities see that other local authorities throughout the country intend to carry on building the houses which they need, they will reconsider their decision.
I explained to the House that the subsidy reductions embodied in the Bill, together with the increase in interest rates since the subsidy was last fixed, would involve an annual increase in the average weekly rent of no more than about 7d. Reference has been made to the fact that since then interest rates have risen further. The further recent rise in interest rates would raise the figure of 7d., which I quoted before, to about 8d. That is the effect of the increase.
Figures quoted all the time have been merely of the additional cost of a new house without reference to pooling of subsidies. Apart from a few exceptional cases, such as the small rural districts referred to by the Leader of the Liberal Party, no hon. Member in the whole course of these debates has quoted figures to show that, if subsidies are pooled, council house rents would, as a result of this Bill, have to be raised to any inordinate extent. I cannot believe that those figures, if they were forthcoming, would not have been produced during the ten days of debate.
§ Mr. Sandys
All the figures which have been quoted—figures of 14s., 15s., 16s., and so on—merely express the additional cost of the new dwellings on the assumption that the subsidies on existing dwellings are not pooled and spread over all the houses. Since the point has been pursued again today, it may interest the House if I give a few examples of how this 8d. calculation works out in some representative local authority areas. I have chosen constituencies of hon. Members who have taken an active part in our debates. I will read the figures. In the case of Kettering, the amount will be 8d.; in Wellingborough, 9d.; in Ebbw Vale, 8½d.; in Cannock, 6½d.; in Manchester, 5d.; in Birmingham, 6d.; in Salford, 7d.; in Henley, 9d.; in Newcastle, ll½d.; in Crosby, 10d., and in Southampton, 1s. 1d.
§ Mr. Blenkinsop
As the right hon. Gentleman has referred to Newcastle, will 2479 he make it clear that these are cumulative increases each year? Does he realise that already in Newcastle 4s. 6d. has to be added as the increased rent which will have to be demanded and that further increases are threatened?
§ Mr. Sandys
I did make that clear. I said that it is the annual increase in the average weekly rent. That could not be clearer.
I will now give the other figures: Widnes, 8d. and Liverpool, 7½d.
§ Mr. Sandys
The position in Metropolitan boroughs is complicated by the fact that a lot of the housing is done by the L.C.C.
§ Mr. G. R. Mitchison (Kettering)
The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to refer to my constituency, but if he goes to Corby, where there is no room to pool, he will find that council house rents —not corporation houses—will have to go up in proportion to the cost of each house. Of course, it depends on the size of the pool in different areas. What the right hon. Gentleman has also not said is that this will go on increasing year by year.
§ Mr. Sandys
I cannot object to the hon. and learned Member for Kettering (Mr. Mitchison) not listening to me, but, if he would listen to his hon. Friend the Member for Wellingborough (Mr. Lind-gren), who asked me to make it clear that it was an annual increase, he would know that I have said so. I repeat it once again for the benefit of the hon. and learned Member.
§ Mr. Sandys
These calculations are made on the basis which I explained in the Second Reading debate. If rents are, in fact, put up by more than these amounts it will be for other reasons, and responsibility for that cannot be attributed to the provisions of this Bill, or to the increase in interest rates.
§ Mr. Mitchison
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that it is most unfair to local authorities to say that. He has just told us that these increases 2480 are cumulative and he knows that they depend on the size of the pool in each area, even if the local authorities do choose to pool, as most of them do.
§ Mr. Sandys
Of course, they depend on the pool in each area. That is why the figures which I read out vary from area to area. What I said was that if rents are put up by an extent which is greater than the result of the calculations which I have given, this is due to some other reason.
§ Mr. Sandys
How many more times have I to say that? However, as I have myself pointed out, there are bound to be areas where conditions differ widely from the general average, and, while basing our policy upon the circumstances which prevail in the overwhelming majority of areas, we are taking power to provide additional financial assistance in cases where it is needed. Authorities which are faced with an exceptionally difficult financial problem will be able to apply for special grants under Clause 5, referred to during the debate.
There is, therefore, I maintain, absolutely no justification whatsoever for anyone to say that this Bill will prevent any local authority from building the houses which it needs and letting them at rents which the tenants can reasonably afford to pay.
§ Mr. Sandys
If such a local authority qualifies under the conditions of Clause 5, it will be included in the same way as any other local authority.
§ Mr. Sandys
If their financial circumstances are such as to qualify them under Clause 5, they can, of course, apply. 2481 Because an area has been blitzed, it does not necessarily follow that it will be in greater financial need than some other areas. There are different circumstances which arise in different areas which may cause financial difficulty. Therefore, I repeat that there is no justification whatsoever for advancing the view that as a result of the Bill any local authority will be prevented from building the houses it needs and letting them at rents which the tenants can afford to pay. Anyone who asserts to the contrary is either being ignorant or mischievous.
There are certain indirect effects which will flow from this Bill to which I should like to refer. One is the introduction of differential rents. The Bill does not require local authorities to adopt differential rent schemes. These are not mentioned in the whole of the Bill. However, when local authorities come to review their rent policies——
§ Mr. Speaker
If they are not included in the Bill, the House is not allowed to mention them. The House is really bound by the contents of the Bill on Third Reading.
§ Mr. Sandys
I thought it was in order to mention the effect of the Bill. Its effect undoubtedly will be to encourage local authorities to adopt differential rent schemes.
§ Mr. Speaker
If what the Minister says is right—and I am bound to take it from him that one effect of the Bill as it stands is to concentrate attention, or whatever the phrase may be, on differential rents —I should think that that would be in order. But the fact that there are no specific provisions for differential rents would prevent the right hon. Gentleman from mentioning sums and matters of that kind.
§ Mr. Bevan
Mr. Deputy-Speaker has been ruling very narrowly indeed on 2482 Third Reading. It might easily be argued that as a consequence of the Bill, local authorities will build such small houses that people will not be able to keep even rabbits in them. Can I argue the desirability of keeping rabbits?
§ Mr. Speaker
If there were more time and the right hon. Gentleman had leisure to develop his argument, I think it would be in order.
§ Mr. Sandys
I am extremely surprised at the right hon. Gentleman's point of order considering the extent to which HANSARD is filled with his own remarks on the subject of differential rents during the course of the Bill—[HON. MEMBERS: "In Committee."]—during the Committee stage, when considering Amendments which had nothing whatever to do with differential rents.
When local authorities come to review their rent policies, as they will now have to do, I have no doubt that many of them will decide to adopt some form of differential rent schemes. There has been a remarkable—probably that is why hon. Members opposite are a little sensitive about it—change of heart in the Labour Party on the subject of differential rents. Only a few months ago, hon. Members opposite were hotly opposed to the principle of differential rents.
§ Mr. Sandys
The hon. Member says that his party is still opposed to it; but, as I understand, not only do hon. Members opposite now support the principle of differential rents, but they have given their blessing to rent rebate schemes with a means test.
§ Mr. Lindgren
This is the closing stage of the debate, in which this point has not been dealt with because it would have been out of order. This is grossly unfair and I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that at this stage of the debate, as it is outside the scope of the Bill, it ought not to be included, particularly as the statements made by the Minister tend to mislead the statements previously made.
§ Mr. Speaker
I am told that one effect of the Bill is that it will lead to these things—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—or will lead people to consider them—[HON. MEMBERS: "NO."] Order! I think the House is entitled, on the Third Reading of a Bill, to consider the effects of 2483 the Bill as it stands. What the House cannot do is to go into matters that are not in the Bill and have no connection with the text of the Bill.
§ Mr. Bevan
For the most part of the evening, we have been in the hands of Mr. Deputy-Speaker and on several occasions when hon. Members have gone outside the terms of the Bill they have been called to order. This is the last speech. There is no mention of differential rents in the Bill whatsoever. I respectfully submit, Mr. Speaker, as one with some experience of the House of Commons, that this is entirely out of order at this stage.
§ Mr. Speaker
The right hon. Member and myself, I think, have the same experience of the House of Commons. We came in in the same year. I do not know what happened when I was out of the Chair. I have myself had occasion to check hon. Members for bringing in matters which have been excluded from the terms of the Bill by the defeat of Amendments. That is all very well, but I cannot quite follow the stage we are at now. I thought the Minister was arguing that as the result of the Bill many local authorities might go in for differential rents. It seems quite reasonable to me to mention the effects of the Bill. The right hon. Member for Ebbw Vale might have said—in fact, did say in his speech—that as a result of this Bill local authorities will stop building houses. These things might happen, and it is in order to mention them.
§ Mrs. E. M. Braddock (Liverpool, Exchange)
Further to that point of order. I have been trying to find out
§ what is in the Bill. [HON. MEMBERS: "Read it."] This is the Third Reading. I can quite understand that the Minister, in view of what is supposed to be in the Bill, wants to talk about anything else but what is in the Bill, but I am anxious to hear what he has to say about it, and I cannot understand him.
§ Mr. Speaker
I suggest that in the few minutes that remain for this debate the House should listen to the right hon. Gentleman, and then, perhaps, the hon. Lady's curiosity will be satisfied.
§ Mr. Sandys
I shall not pursue the question of differential rents any further except to say that we now know that differential rents and rebate schemes can henceforth be regarded as accepted articles of bi-partisan housing policy.
As I explained on Second Reading, this Measure forms part of a coherent and comprehensive policy to build new houses, to preserve the old houses which are sound, and to speed the clearance of the slums. The success of any housing policy depends upon its having a sound financial basis. I commend the Bill to the House because I am confident that it will help to put the structure of housing finance on to a fairer, surer, and more realistic footing. We know that the party opposite will do everything it can to throw an unfavourable light upon this Measure and the policy which lies behind it. We are prepared to face temporary unpopularity and misrepresentation, for we are confident that the local authorities and the public at large will, before long, recognise the necessity for this reform, and will respect the sincerity of our motives.
§ Question put:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 294, Noes 246.2487
|Division No. 109.]||AYES||[9.59 p.m.|
|Agnew, Cmdr. P, G.||Baxter, Sir Beverley||Brooke, Rt. Hon. Henry|
|Allan, R. A. (Paddington, S.)||Beamish, Maj, Tufton||Brooman-White, R. C.|
|Alport, C. J. M,||Bell, Philip (Bolton, E.)||Browne, J. Nixon (Craigton)|
|Amery, Julian (Preston, N.)||Bell, Ronald (Bucks, S.)||Bryan, P.|
|Amory, Rt. Hn. Heathcoat (Tiverton)||Bennett, F. M. (Torquay)||Buchan-Hepburn, Rt. Hon. P. G. T.|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major W. J.||Bennett, Dr. Reginald||Bullus, Wing Commander E. E.|
|Arbuthnot, John||Bevins, J. R. (Toxteth)||Burden, F. F. A.|
|Armstrong, C. W.||Bidgood, J. C.||Butcher, Sir Herbert|
|Ashton, H.||Biggs-Davison, J. A.||Butler, Rt. Hn. R.A.(Saffron Walden)|
|Astor, Hon. J. J.||Birch, Rt. Hon. Nigel||Campbell, Sir David|
|Atkins, H. E.||Bishop, F. P.||Carr, Robert|
|Baldock, Lt.-Cmdr. J. M.||Body, R. F.||Cary, Sir Robert|
|Baldwin, A. E.||Bossom, Sir A. C.||Channon, H.|
|Balniel, Lord||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Chichester-Clark, R.|
|Barber, Anthony||Boyle, Sir Edward||Clarke, Brig. Terence (Portsmth, W.)|
|Barlow, Sir John||Braithwaite, Sir Albert (Harrow, W.)||Conant, Maj. Sir Roger|
|Barter, John||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. W. H.||Cooper, Sqn. Ldr. Albert|
|Cordeaux, Lt.-Col. J. K.||Hylton-Foster, Sir H. B. H.||Page, R. G.|
|Corfield, Capt. F. V.||Iremonger, T. L.||Pannell, N. A. (Kirkdale)|
|Craddock, Beresford (Spelthorne)||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Partridge, E.|
|Crosthwaite-Eyre, Col. O. E.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Peyton, J. W. W.|
|Crouch, R. F.||Johnson, Dr. Donald (Carlisle)||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Crowder, Petre (Ruislip—Northwood)||Johnson, Eric (Blackley)||Pilkington, Capt. R. A.|
|Cunningham, Knox||Johnson, Howard (Kemptown)||Pitman, I. J.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Aubrey (Hall Green)||Pitt, Miss E. M.|
|Dance, J. C. G.||Joseph, Capt. Sir Keith Sinjohn||Pott, H. P.|
|D'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Joynson-Hicks, Sir Leonard||Powell, J. Enoch|
|Deedes, W. F.||Kaberry, D.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Keegan, D.||Price, Henry (Lewisham, W.)|
|Donaldson, Cmdr. C. E. McA.||Kerby, Capt. H. B.||Prior-Palmer, Brig. O. L.|
|Doughty, C. J. A.||Kerr, H. W.||Profumo, J. D.|
|Dugdale, Rt. Hn. Sir T. (Richmond)||Kershaw, J. A.||Raikes, Sir Victor|
|Duncan, Capt. J. A. L.||Kirk, P. M.||Ramsden, J. E.|
|Duthie, W. S.||Lagden, G. W.||Rawlinson, Peter|
|Eccles, Rt. Hon. Sir David||Lambert, Hon. G.||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Eden,Rt.Hn.SirA(Warwick&L'm'tn)||Lambton, Viscount||Remnant, Hon. P.|
|Eden, J. B. (Bournemouth, West)||Lancaster, Col C. G.||Renton, D. L. M.|
|Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||Langford-Holt, J. A.||Ridsdale, J. E.|
|Errington, Sir Eric||Leather, E. H. C.||Rippon, A. G. F.|
|Erroll, F. J.||Leavey, J. A.||Roberts, Sir Peter (Heeley)|
|Farey-Jones, F. W.||Leburn, W. G.||Robertson, Sir David|
|Fell, A.||Legge-Bourke, Maj. E. A. H.||Robson-Brown, W.|
|Finlay, Graeme||Legh, Hon. Peter (Petersfield)||Rodgers, John (Sevenoaks)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Lindsay, Hon. James (Devon, N.)||Roper, Sir Harold|
|Fleetwood-Hesketh, R. F.||Lindsay, Martin (Solihull)||Ropner, Col. Sir Leonard|
|Fletcher-Cooke, C.||Linstead, Sir H. N.||Russell, R. S.|
|Fort, R.||Llewellyn, D. T.||Sandys, Rt. Hon. D.|
|Freeth, D. K.||Lloyd, Maj. Sir Guy (Renfrew, E.)||Schofield, Lt.-Col. W.|
|Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.||Lloyd-George, Maj. Rt. Hon. G.||Scott-Miller, Cmdr. R.|
|Gammans, Sir David||Longden, Gilbert||Sharples, R. C.|
|Garner-Evans, E. H.||Low, Rt. Hon. A. R. W.||Shepherd, William|
|George, J. C. (Pollok)||Lucas,P.B.(Brentford & Chiswick)||Simon, J. E. S. (Middlesbrough, W.)|
|Glover, D.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Smyth, Brig, Sir John (Norwood)|
|Godber, J. B.||McAdden, s. J,||Soames, Capt. C.|
|Gower, H. R.||Macdonald, Sir Peter||Spearman, A. C. M.|
|Graham, Sir Fergus||Mackeson, Brig. Sir Harry||Spence, H. R. (Aberdeen, W.)|
|Grant, W. (Woodside)||McKibbin, A. J.||Spens, Rt. Hn. Sir P. (Kens'gt'n, S.)|
|Grant-Ferris, Wg Cdr. R. (Nantwich)||Mackie, J. H. (Galloway)||Stanley, Capt. Hon. Richard|
|Green, A.||McLaughlin, Mrs. P.||Stevens, Geoffrey|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Maclay, Rt. Hon. John||Steward, Harold (Stockport, S.)|
|Grimond, J.||Maclean, Fitzroy (Lancaster)||Stewart, Henderson (Fife, E.)|
|Grimston, Sir Robert (Westbury)||Macieod, Rt. Hn. lain (Enfield, W.)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. M.|
|Gurden, Harold||MacLeod, John (Ross & Cromarty)||Storey, S.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Macmillan.Rt.Hn.Harold (Bromley)||Stuart, Rt. Hon. James (Moray)|
|Hare, Rt. Hon. J. H.||Macpherson, Niall (Dumfries)||Studholme, H. G.|
|Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)||Maddan, Martin||Summers, G. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maitland.Cdr.J.F.W.(Horncastle)||Sumner, W. D. M. (Orpington)|
|Harrison, A. B. C. (Maldon)||Maitland, Hon. Patrick (Lanark)||Taylor, William (Bradford, N.)|
|Harrison, Col. J. H. (Eye)||Manningham-Buller, Rt. Hn. Sir R.||Teeling, W.|
|Harvey, Air Cdre. A. V. (Macclesfd)||Markham, Major Sir Frank||Thomas, Leslie (Canterbury)|
|Harvey, Ian (Harrow, E.)||Marlowe, A. A. H.||Thomas, P. J. M. (Conway)|
|Harvey, John (Walthamstow, E.)||Marples, A. E.||Thompson, Kenneth (Walton)|
|Harvie-Watt, Sir George||Marshall, Douglas||Thompson, Lt.-Cdr.R.(Croydon,S.)|
|Hay, John||Mathew, R.||Thorneycroft, Rt. Hon. P.|
|Head, Rt. Hon. A. H.||Maudling, Rt. Hon. R.||Thornton-Kemsley, C. M.|
|Heald, Rt. Hon. Sir Lionel||Mawby, R. L.||Tiley, A. (Bradford, W.)|
|Heath, Rt. Hon. E. R. G.||Maydon, Lt.-Comdr. S. L. C.||Tilney, John (Wavertree)|
|Hicks-Beach, Maj. W. W.||Medlicott, Sir Frank||Turner, H. F. L.|
|Hill, Rt. Hon. Charles (Luton)||Milligan, Rt. Hon. W. R.||Tweedsmuir, Lady|
|Hill, Mrs. E. (Wythenshawe)||Molson, A. H. E.||Vane, W. M. F.|
|Hill, John (S. Norfolk)||Moore, Sir Thomas||Vickers, Miss J. H.|
|Hinchingbrooke, viscount||Morrison, John (Salisbury)||Vosper, D. F.|
|Hirst, Geoffrey||Mott-Radclyffe, C. E.||Wade, D. W.|
|Holland-Martin, C. J.||Nabarro, G. D. N.||Wakefield, Sir Wavell (St. M'lebone)|
|Holt, A. F.||Nairn, D. L. S.||Walker-Smith, D. C.|
|Hornsby-Smith, Miss M. P.||Neave, Airey||Ward, Hon. George (Worcester)|
|Horobin, Sir Ian||Nicholls, Harmar||Ward, Dame Irene (Tynemouth)|
|Horsbrugh, Rt. Hon. Dame Florence||Nicholson, Godfrey (Farnham)||Watkinson, Rt. Hon. Harold|
|Howard, Gerald (Cambridgeshire)||Nicolson, N. (B'n'm'th, E, & Chr'ch)||Webbe, Sir H.|
|Howard, Hon. Greville (St. Ives)||Nield, Basil (Chester)||Whitelaw, W.S.I.(Penrith & Border)|
|Howard, John (Test)||Noble, Comdr. A. H. P.||Williams, R. Dudley (Exeter)|
|Hudson, Sir Austin (Lewlsham, N.)||Nugent, G. R. H.||Wills, G. (Bridgwater)|
|Hudson, W. R. A. (Hull, N.)||Nutting, Rt. Hon. Anthony||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Hughes Hallett, Vice-Admiral J.||Oakshott, H. D.||Wood, Hon. R.|
|Hughes-Young, M. H. C.||O'Neill, Hn. Phelim (Co. Antrim, N.)||Woollam, John Victor|
|Hulbert, Sir Norman||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. W. D,||Yates, William (The Wrekin)|
|Hurd, A. R.||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.|
|Hutchison,SirlanClark(E'b'gh, W.)||Orr-Ewing, Charles Ian (Hendon, N.)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Hutchison, Sir James||Osborne, C.||Mr. Redmayne and|
|Mr. Edward Wakefield.|
|Ainsley, J. W.||Harrison, J. (Nottingham, N.)||Pargiter, G. A.|
|Albu, A. H.||Hastings, S.||Parker, J.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Hayman, F. H.||Parkin, B. T.|
|Allen, Arthur (Bosworth)||Healey, Denis||Paton, J.|
|Allen, Scholefleld (Crewe)||Henderson, Rt. Hn. A. (Rwly Regis)||Peart, T. F.|
|Anderson, Frank||Herbison, Miss M.||Price, J. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Awbery, S. S.||Hewitson, Capt. M.||Price, Philips (Gloucestershire, W.)|
|Baird, J.||Hobson, C. R.||Probert, A. R.|
|Balfour, A.||Holman, P,||Proctor, W. T.|
|Bartley, P.||Holmes, Horace||Pryde, D. J.|
|Bellenger, Rt. Hon. F. J.||Houghton, Douglas||Pursey, Cmdr. H.|
|Bence, C. R. (Dunbartonshire, E.)||Howell, Charles (Perry Barr)||Randall, H. E.|
|Benn, Hn. Wedgwood (Bristol, S.E.)||Howell, Denis (All Saints)||Rankin, John|
|Benson, G.||Hoy, J. H.||Reeves, J.|
|Beswick, F.||Hubbard, T. F.||Reid, William|
|Bevan, Rt. Hon. A. (Ebbw Vale)||Hughes, Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Rhodes, H.|
|Blackburn, F.||Hughes, Emrys (S. Ayrshire)||Robens, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Blenkinsop, A.||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Blyton, W. R.||Hunter, A. E.||Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)|
|Boardman, H.||Hynd, H. (Accrington)||Robinson, Kenneth (St. Pancras, N.)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hon. A. G.||Irvine, A. J. (Edge Hill)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Bowden, H. W. (Leicester, S.W.)||Irving, S. (Dartford)||Ross, William|
|Bowles, F. G.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. G. A.||Royle, C.|
|Boyd, T. C.||Janner, B.||Shinwell, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Braddock, Mrs. Elizabeth||Jay, Rt. Hon. D. P. T.||Short, E. W.|
|Brockway, A. F.||Jeger,Mrs.Lena(Holbn & St.Pncs.S.)||Silverman, Julius (Aston)|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Johnson, James (Rugby)||Silverman, Sydney (Nelson)|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. George (Belper)||Johnston, Douglas (Paisley)||Simmons, C. J. (Brieriey Hill)|
|Brown, Thomas (Ince)||Jones, Rt. Hon. A. Creech(Wakefield)||Skeffington, A. M.|
|Burke, W. A.||Jones, David (The Hartlepools)||Slater, Mrs. H. (Stoke, N.)|
|Burton, Miss F. E.||Jones, Elwyn (W. Ham. S.)||Slater, J. (Sedgefield)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Jones, Jack (Rotherham)||Smith, Ellis (Stoke, S.)|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Snow, J. W.|
|Callaghan, L. J.||Jones, T. W. (Merioneth)||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Carmichael, J.||Kenyon, C.||Sparks, J. A.|
|Castle, Mrs. B. A.||Key, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Steele, T.|
|Champion, A. J.||King, Dr. H. M.||Stewart, Michael (Fulham)|
|Chapman, W. D.||Lawson, G. M.||Stokes, Rt. Hon. R. R. (Ipswich)|
|Chetwynd, G. R.||Ledger, R. J.||Stones, W. (Consett)|
|Clunie, J.||Lee, Frederick (Newton)||Strauss, Rt. Hon. George (Vauxhall)|
|Coldrick, W.||Lever, Harold (Cheetham)||Stross,Dr.Barnett(Stoke-on-Trent,C.)|
|Collick, P. H. (Birkenhead)||Lever, Leslie (Ardwick)||Summerskill, Rt. Hon. E.|
|Collins, V. J. (Shoreditoh & Finsbury||Lewis, Arthur||Swingler, S. T.|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Lindgren, G. S.||Sylvester, G. O.|
|Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)||Lipton, Lt.-Col. M,||Taylor, Bernard (Mansfield)|
|Cronin, J. D.||Logan, D. G.||Taylor, John (West Lothian)|
|Crossman, R. H. S.||MacColl, J. E.||Thomas, George (Cardiff)|
|Cullen, Mrs. A||McGhee, H. G.||Thomson, George (Dundee, E.)|
|Daines, P.||McGovern, J.||Thornton, E.|
|Darling, George (Hillsborough)||Mclnnes, J.||Timmons, J.|
|Davies, Ernest (Enfield, E.)||McKay, John (Wallsend)||Turner-Samuels, M.|
|Davies, Stephen (Merthyr)||McLeavy, Frank||Ungoed-Thomas, Sir Lynn|
|Deer, G.||MacPherson, Malcolm (Stirling)||Usborne, H. C.|
|de Freitas, Geoffrey||Mahon, S.||Viant, S. P.|
|Dodds, N. N.||Mainwaring, W. H.||Warbey, W. N.|
|Dye, S.||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Watkins, T. E.|
|Ede, Rt. Hon. J. C.||Mallalieu,J.P.W.(Huddersfd. E.)||Weitzman, D.|
|Edelman, M.||Mann, Mrs. Jean||Wells, Percy (Faversham)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. John (Brighouse)||Marquand, Rt. Hon. H. A.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Edwards, Rt. Hon. Ness (Caerphilly||Mason, Roy||West, D. G.|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Mayhew, C. P.||Wheeldon, W. E.|
|Edwards, W. J. (Stepney)||Messer, Sir F.||White, Mrs. Eirene (E. Flint)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Mitchison, G. R.||White, Henry (Derbyshire, N.E.)|
|Evans, Edward (Lowestoft)||Monslow, W.||Wigg, George|
|Evans, Stanley (Wednesbury)||Moody, A. S.||Wilcock, Group Capt. C. A. B.|
|Fernyhough, E.||Morris, Percy (Swansea, W.)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Fienburgh, W.||Morrison,Rt.Hn.Herbert(Lewis'm,S.)||Willey, Frederick|
|Finch, H. J.||Mort, D. L.||Williams, David (Neath)|
|Fletcher, Eric||Moss, R.||Williams, Rev. Llywelyn (A'b'tillery)|
|Forman, J. C.||Moyle, A.||Williams, Rt. Hon. T. (Don Valley)|
|Fraser, Thomas (Hamilton)||Mulley, F. W.||Williams, W. R. (Openshaw)|
|Gaitskell, Rt. Hon. H. T. N.||Neal, Harold (Bolsover)||Williams, W. T. (Barons Court)|
|Gibson, C. W.||O'Brien, T.||Willis, Eustace (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hon. P. C||Oliver, G. H.||Wilson, Rt. Hou. Harold (Huyton)|
|Greenwood, Anthony||Oram, A. E.||Winterbottom, Richard|
|Grey, C. F.||Orbach, M.||Woodburn, Rt. Hon. A.|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Oswald, T.||Woof, R. E.|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hon. James (Llanelly)||Owen, W. J.||Yates, V. (Ladywood)|
|Griffiths, William (Exchange)||Padley, W. E.||Younger, Rt. Hon. K.|
|Hale, Leslie||Paling, Rt. Hon. W. (Dearne Valley)||Zilliacus, K.|
|Hall, Rt. Hn. Glenvil (Colne Valley)||Paling, Will T. (Dewsbury)|
|Hamilton, W. W.||Palmer, A. M. F.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hannan, W.||Pannell, Charles (Leeds, W.)||Mr. Popplewell and Mr. Pearson.|
Question put and agreed to.
|Bill accordingly read the Third time and passed.|