§ 36. Mr. Gibson
asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what steps he proposes to take to ease the burden of interest charges on capital for local authority housing schemes in order to encourage them to build larger numbers of houses to accommodate applicants on their waiting lists.
§ Mr. H. Brooke
Given proper use of local resources, the provision made by the Housing Subsidies Act, 1956, is adequate to enable local authorities to build the houses they need to build.
§ Mr. Gibson
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that that Answer is all nonsense, and that in fact all the housing authorities are building fewer houses now for cases on their general lists than they 971 were building four or five years ago? Is he aware that the main difficulty is shown by all their reports to be the tremendous increase in the cost of interest, details of which he has avoided giving us here today by putting the Answer in HANSARD for tomorrow? Further, is it not a fact that such an authority as the London County Council, which is still building a fair number of houses but less than half of what it was building eight or nine years ago, is finding it impossible to house from the housing list—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech."]—I am sorry, but hon. Members are going to have it—that the London County Council is finding it impossible to house from its general housing list more than 2,000 families in the next three years? Is not that a scandal and disgrace?
§ Mr. Brooke
According to the returns received by my Department, local authorities are continuing to build and to plan to build at a high rate. What we have done is to reorganise the subsidy system so as to give local authorities an incentive to concentrate on slum clearance, which is the most urgent need of all.
§ Mr. Mitchison
Does the right hon. Gentleman not know that housing authorities cannot, without housing subsidies, carry out their duty of providing houses at the present rates of interest, or is he quite blind to what is happening?
§ Mr. Brooke
I know that a number of housing authorities which are complaining about the abolition of the general need subsidy are in fact fixing rents which subsidise large numbers of tenants at rates higher than are really needed.
§ Mr. Stokes
In view of the Answers which he has given earlier today, may I ask the Minister whether it really is beyond the wit of the Government to devise a means whereby posterity will not have to continue to pay these ridiculously high rates of interest based on a 5½ per cent. Bank Rate? Is it not really preposterous to have total interest charges amounting to the kind of figures which he has already given at the Box this afternoon?
§ Mr. Brooke
The right hon. Gentleman may not be aware that local authorities have, within the last couple of years, been given freedom to borrow for a period shorter than 60 years for housing purposes, if they think fit.