§ 44 and 53. Mr. Ellis Smith
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government (1) what steps he will take by grant or otherwise to facilitate the construction of 6,000 houses which are urgently required in the City of Stoke-on-Trent;
(2) what action he proposes to take by grant or otherwise to enable the City of Stoke-on-Trent to carry out its desire to clear the slums left in the city.
§ Mr. H. Brooke
It is for the City Council to decide what houses it needs to build. Subsidies for particular purposes, including slum clearance, are available and these, with its own resources, should 176 enable the council to continue building houses as necessary.
§ Mr. Ellis Smith
Is the Minister aware that this city, relatively speaking, had the best housing record in the country until the Government's new policy prevented the building of houses which are urgently required? Is he aware that a great deal of capital was invested in the locality to provide bricks, and that these are now piling up in thousands, and that hundreds of people are without employment? In view of the urgent need for housing, will the Minister reconsider his policy?
§ Mr. Brooke
My information is that in Stoke there are more than 1,300 houses under construction; that further housing tenders have been approved but not started, and that tenders for nearly 200 houses were approved in January. That suggests that building is going on at a considerable rate.
Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that in Stoke-on-Trent the problem is a large one, even though the figures which he has quoted are correct? The number of houses being built at present does not by any means solve the slum clearance problem, and is the right hon. Gentleman aware that it is due entirely to the financial policy of the Government that this lag in building is taking place?
§ Mr. Brooke
In all these matters relating to the finances of local authority housing one must look both at the Exchequer grants and at the rent policy pursued by the local authority.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the effect of the high rate of interest and the removal of the housing subsidies is making it increasingly difficult for local councils to build the houses which are required? Will he reconsider Government policy on both these points?
§ Mr. Brooke
I know that a considerable number of local authorities could improve the position of their housing revenue accounts were they to adopt, for instance, differential rent schemes.
§ Dr. Stross
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that my hon. Friends and I will endeavour to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible opportunity.